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REVIEW: The Bleeding Dusk by Colleen Gleason

Dear Ms. Gleason,

I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer religiously when it was still on the air. So when I heard your 045122326801mzzzzzzz.jpgGardella Chronicles described as Buffy in Regency England, I knew I had to read it. I think that’s one of this series’s strengths, as well as a weakness. If you loved Buffy, there’s a good chance you’ll like this book. But if you hated Buffy, there’s a good chance you won’t.

The other thing that works against it is the paranormal romance label on the spine. I know authors don’t control marketing, that it’s a publisher’s decision, but I can’t help but wonder how that’s worked out for the Gardella Chronicles. The first book, The Rest Falls Away, ended with a decidedly not-HEA and while I believe Victoria will find her HEA at the end of the fifth, and final, book, we’re not even getting HFNs at the end of each installment. I can see how that would annoy some romance readers. But I’ve said in the past that I take marketing labels with a grain of salt, and I do love cross-genre stories. This third installment in the Gardella Chronicles does not disappoint.

The Bleeding Dusk picks up where Rises the Night left off, with Victoria Gardella assuming the mantle as leader of the Gardella vampire hunters. Having defeated Lilith’s son, Nevas, in the last book, things have been quiet on the streets of Rome. Or they are until Victoria discovers the would-be successor to Nevas’s throne has allied himself with demons in order to unlock a legendary alchemist’s secrets. Now Victoria has to find the alchemist’s scrolls before the vampires do while eluding an ancient vampire’s unwanted attentions, coping with her frustrating relationship with the mysterious Sebastian Vioget, and dealing with the return of fellow vampire hunter Max Pesaro.

What I like about the Gardella Chronicles is that the storylines unfold over multiple books. (This is also a quality that will frustrate some readers, depending on your preferences.) Victoria’s character arc is not truncated or rushed for the sake fitting within a single book. Here, we see how the losses she’s suffered over the past two years have affected her and her grief is a palpable thing at times. She’s come a long way from being the Regency miss we first met in The Rest Falls Away, and in some ways she suffers for it because she hasn’t yet learned how to cope. Victoria’s become the kind of person who’s lost people, doesn’t want to lose anyone else, but knows she will have to because it is her destiny as the vampire hunters’ leader. That kind of desperation and griefstricken anger leads to costly mistakes, and I think we start seeing that here.

I might be alone in this opinion but I’ve never liked Sebastian. After what he did to Victoria in Rises the Night, I truly can’t understand why Victoria considers having a relationship with him. A man who has sex with you and then immediately hands you over to the enemies who want to suck your blood and kill you? That’s quality boyfriend material right there. It frustrates me that Victoria’s aware of Sebastian’s untrustworthiness and yet succumbs to him time and time again. Maybe I just don’t get the overwhelming attraction.

One thing I am glad for is Max’s increased role in this book. I missed his presence in the last one, so his interactions with Victoria were more than welcome. What I find interesting is that we’re set up for a love triangle, and as readers I think we can see it, but as far as I can tell, Victoria has yet to acknowledge Max as a potential partner. Or vice versa, for that matter. I do think, however, that in terms of Victoria’s ultimate HEA, her inexplicable attraction to Sebastian nonwithstanding, Max is the one to watch. But whether I’ll be right remains to be seen.

And that brings us back to where we started. The Gardella Chronicles is structured like the best seasons of Buffy. Each book has a complete plot but storylines and character arcs carry over from one novel to the next. And it’s those continuations that keep me reading because I want to know what happens. I need to know what happens. It’s the same pull that keeps me reading The Black Dagger Brotherhood series despite all its flaws. Things take a darker tone in The Bleeding Dusk, with Sebastian finally accepting his birthright, and bad things befalling both Victoria and Max. And I can’t wait to read what happens next. B+

My regards,
Jia

This book can be purchased in mass market or ebook format on February 5, 2008.

Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at [email protected]!

28 Comments

  1. Kaitlin
    Feb 02, 2008 @ 15:21:57

    I can’t wait to read this book. I just hope my local bookstores have it (unlike The Last Twilight by Marjorie M. Liu book that I just got YESTERDAY). I happen to love to continuing arc of each book. It allows growth of characters that aren’t allowed in one book.

    I didn’t actually care for Victoria all that much in book 1, but by the end of the book she’d grown on me. I like the fact that slowly but surely she’s becoming a woman and not a girl anymore.

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  2. Tammy
    Feb 02, 2008 @ 16:16:05

    I too love the arc of Victoria (and all the major players). You really get to see her evolve over time as anyone thrown in that position would.

    And I LOVE Max. LOVE LOVE LOVE Max. But hey, Sebastian’s some pretty nice eye candy. Can’t wait to see it all resolved!

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  3. Dawn
    Feb 02, 2008 @ 17:27:42

    Personally, I like Sebastian, and I think he’s a good match for Victoria because he makes her break out of her shell in a way she would never allow herself with Max, or any other male with rigid social mores.

    Of course that’s just my opinion, but I’ll stick with it, and assert that a woman carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders, figuratively speaking, needs an outlet and I wonder if anyone else would be able to give that to her.

    Sebastian is not afraid to push Victoria’s buttons and make her expand her boundaries and, though, he has done some things she certainly has a right to be angry about, he is not a man without principle. In fact, I would dare say Sebastian’s principles are not entirely dissimilar to Victoria’s. He has a love for family and that love leaves him walking a fine line between good and bad. Is he wrong to walk that line? Perhaps. But the heart is not a logical organ and feelings and loyalties sometimes cloud right and wrong. Once the fog is lifted, however, things change quickly.

    To be honest, Sebastian very much reminds me of a certain Southern gentleman penned by Margaret Mitchell. He is not so much a rake as a man of the world, who doesn’t always conform to what society deems gentlemanly behavior nor keep the company some deem fashionable but has a genuine sense of honor, despite appearances, and is underneath it all honest about who he is — and honest with Victoria about who she is. And I think Victoria knows this and it’s why she trusts him even when she believes she shouldn’t.

    Whatever else, Sebastian does not expect Victoria to be anything other than who she is. In fact, he’s fascinated by her and puts no demands on her to be a savior or great battler of vampires. He is fascinated by the woman and wants her as such — and for a woman who’s always pressured to meet everyone else’s expectations that is an incredible allure.

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  4. Caitie
    Feb 02, 2008 @ 18:55:55

    I’ve heard lots about this series, but have yet to read one…I know they’re a continuing story arc, but would you say they NEED to be read in order?

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  5. Dawn
    Feb 02, 2008 @ 19:05:44

    I would recommend they be read in order. The story arc is a continuing one, each book leading into the other.

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  6. Jeaniene Frost
    Feb 02, 2008 @ 19:14:24

    I really enjoyed THE REST FALLS AWAY and RISES THE NIGHT, so I can’t wait for the THE BLEEDING DUSK to come out!

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  7. MaryKate
    Feb 02, 2008 @ 19:16:47

    I loved this book. Personally I’m a Max-girl all the way. What I liked about the story was that it moves Victoria’s arc ahead as a whole, while also adding layers to both Max and Sebastian. They both became richer characters as the story advanced. I do think that those who are in the Sebastian camp will remain there. As for me, a Max fan, well, me certainty that he and Victoria belong together was only made stronger as his part in the book unfolded. I think that it’s to Gleason’s credit that she has created two such interesting, yet vastly different potential heroes.

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  8. Jia
    Feb 02, 2008 @ 20:09:27

    Caitie: Dawn’s right. While you could read them out of order, I don’t recommend it. The story arc has even a tighter continuity than the Black Dagger Brotherhood books, if you’re familiar with those, and reading in order is best to fully appreciate the character growth.

    MaryKate: I really like how Victoria grows and changes with each book. That should be a baseline expectation within the paranormal and urban fantasy subgenres, but I’ve found this isn’t always the case. Sometimes the heroines of said books tend to stagnate, so it’s really refreshing to read a series featuring flawed characters who make mistakes, learn from them, and grow.

    While I don’t care for Sebastian, I do appreciate his role in the books and I like the fact that he really is different from Max. Different personality, different set of principles, different outlook on life. And Gleason wrote the dynamic so that I’m still really in doubt as to who Victoria will end up with. I know who I want her to end up with (Max, in case it wasn’t painfully obvious) but I can see her ending up with Sebastian too. I can see how that’d be stressful to some readers but it’s really a talent to make that uncertainty so clear and strong.

    But I do agree with MaryKate, that if Victoria ends up with Max, the foundation for that is laid down in this book.

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  9. Janine
    Feb 02, 2008 @ 20:19:00

    Is there a Spike equivalent character in this series? If so, I might have to give it a try.

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  10. Jia
    Feb 02, 2008 @ 21:08:21

    Janine: While I think Buffy in Regency England is a good description of this series, I don’t think there are clear analogues in terms of the male characters. Max is the sarcastic, experienced vampire hunter and Sebastian is the mysterious man who’s dangerous and somewhat off limits.

    Maybe someone else who’s read the series has a different opinion on the matter?

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  11. stephanie feagan
    Feb 02, 2008 @ 22:00:19

    Best part of this whole book is on pg. 266. That’s where I make an entrance. Along with Avon author Anne Mallory.
    No, really. Not kidding.

    It kicks ass to be in a book – like, literally. :)

    Yay, Colleen! You knocked another one outta the park!

    Stef, who was up way too late with this one….

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  12. Brie
    Feb 03, 2008 @ 15:52:50

    I agree with Dawn, I do like Sebastian. Now, I did not care for him in The Rest Falls Away. He seemed shady and just overall untrustworthy, but by the end of Rises the Night I was really in to him.

    What originally bothered me so much about Sebastian was that he seemed to run away in the face of danger, but as we learn more about him we see that he has loyalty’s to both sides in the story, which leaves him toeing the line between good and evil.

    Also, when I take into consideration that Sebastian, unlike Max, has no superhuman strength, I give the guy a break. Victoria is even stronger than Sebastian while wearing her vis bulla. Him, facing off against vampires and demons with only his sword and no extra strength is crazy. At least the man knows his limits.

    I haven’t read The Bleeding Dusk yet, but I wonder if we find out more about why Max did what he did at the end of RTN? I’m having a hard time taking him seriously as a potential love interest for Victoria because of that. I guess I’m not able to reconcile that he did something so horrible with the reasoning that it was for a “good” reason.

    As for the rest of the series I really like it. I appreciate the slow build with Victoria’s character arc as well. It’s good to see her coming into her own more and more with each book.

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  13. Colleen Gleason
    Feb 03, 2008 @ 16:14:28

    Jia, thank you so much for taking the time to read my book and to review it for DA. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    And thanks to those of you who’ve posted here who’ve read and enjoyed the books as well–it’s always fun to hear from readers, and about the different opinions/perspectives on Max and Sebastian.

    Janine, to answer your question about if there’s a Spike-like character in my books: No, there isn’t. Nor is there an Angel character. None of the vampires in my books are good, redeemable or otherwise “hero” material.

    But there are two main male characters that figure largely in Victoria’s life, and, as you can see by the comments here, have both supporters and detractors insofar as shipping with Victoria.

    Thanks again, Jia and DA, for hosting such a great review here.

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  14. Holli
    Feb 03, 2008 @ 16:32:51

    I started out as a Sebastian fan all the way, but Max is slowly winning me over :). I find the ambiguity in Sebastian’s character fascinating, but like Dawn said, he has his own moral code- he might kidnap Victoria and keep her under vampire guard in Rises the Night, but only to protect her.

    The real joy of this five book story arc is that Gleason can slowly unfurl the characters and we see them grow as they’re impacted by the events happening around them. I can’t wait to see how it all ends in book number 5!

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  15. Jane
    Feb 03, 2008 @ 16:33:12

    It’s a bit ironic because I haven’t been interested in reading this series, but discussions like this one (and the one about Tempted) really pique my interest. I kind of wish that my TBR mountain wasn’t five feet high.

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  16. Jia
    Feb 03, 2008 @ 16:46:34

    Also, when I take into consideration that Sebastian, unlike Max, has no superhuman strength, I give the guy a break.

    Brie, I’m curious to see what your opinion on Sebastian is after reading The Bleeding Dusk then.

    Jane: I sympathize. I have a TBR mountain too and sometimes that means missing out on books that sound interesting.

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  17. Jane
    Feb 03, 2008 @ 16:54:40

    Intelligent reader discussion always makes me interested in a book because I think to myself, those people sound smart and thus the book must also be smart. And I like smart books.

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  18. Meriam
    Feb 03, 2008 @ 17:40:22

    Jane, I was going to say the exact same thing before I saw your post – that this discussion is making me want to read the series. Actually, I think I will, but I’m greedy and impatient and hate cliffhangers so I might wait until the fifth one before glomming gleefully.

    And can I just say, I think it’s great that this is a self-contained series ending at no. 5. I’ve really come to hate never-ending series.

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  19. Jia
    Feb 03, 2008 @ 17:48:20

    Meriam: While Victoria’s story ends at book 5, I think Gleason might be setting up another five-book series about another Gardella vampire hunter set in another time period. There’s been a few references to another Gardella hunter in the court of Elizabeth I. But I agree. Self-contained series are rarer these days (and much missed as a result).

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  20. stephanie feagan
    Feb 03, 2008 @ 18:11:23

    Well, Jane, you could do what I did – pick one up, thinking you’ll just check out the first few pages, then get sucked in and stay up half the night.
    I’m supposed to be spending free time reading books I can review over at PBR. Instead, I’m reading books that won’t qualify. (It’s that whole not kosher to review a friend’s book thing.)
    And okay, maybe I’m prone to be prejudiced when it comes to Colleen and her books, but I’m also a seriously nitpicky reader. If I don’t like something of a friend’s, I just don’t comment at all. If I do, and I have always loved Colleen’s writing, I speak up, even at risk of being called to task for favoritism or crony-ism (is that a word?)
    Bottom line: This is an excellent series.
    And I can say this in complete honesty because Colleen may have put me in the book, but she’s never bought the drinks…

    Just sayin’.

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  21. Meriam
    Feb 03, 2008 @ 18:19:53

    Thanks, Jia. An Elizabethan setting sounds quite cool. And at least there would be a fresh set of characters to breath life into the series.

    The other great thing about limiting it to 5 is that it’s not a daunting number: any higher and I might have to rethink.

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  22. In Preparation for Super Tuesday: Out and About on the Web
    Feb 04, 2008 @ 08:28:24

    [...] up, Dear Author reviewed The Bleeding Dusk over the weekend. A bit of a discussion going on over there, too, about [...]

  23. Cory
    Feb 04, 2008 @ 14:42:29

    Well, I can say I already read the book. My bookstore has had it on the shelf for over a week. I read it at the store and I’ll buy it tomorrow.

    I think that this was an awesome installment, and I love some of the stuff we learn about characters, and some of the ways they change throughout this book.

    On the Max/Sebastian topic, I started as a Max fan. Then in the second book I became a Sebastian fan. Now, I think that Victoria needs Sebastian now to help her discover who she is. He really helps her to come out of her shell as a person. However, I think that in the end it might be Max that is really right for her. And I think that he definitely needs her!

    Colleen – Awesome story! I absolutely loved it, even if I spent three times the cover price in coffee while I was reading it!

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  24. Jia
    Feb 04, 2008 @ 14:51:45

    Cory: I definitely agree with your assessment about the Max-Victoria-Sebastian topic. While I don’t care for Sebastian and have always been a Max fan, I definitely agree that Victoria needs Sebastian to help her figure what she needs and wants out of life. To help her evolve and grow as a person. I admit Rises the Night made me think the ultimate pairing would be Victoria/Sebastian but it was The Bleeding Dusk that made me think it was actually going to be Victoria/Max.

    It really is a true sign of Gleason’s talent that she was able to create two very different men who are both viable candidates for Victoria’s affections, even if they do divide readers into two, very opinionated groups. (But like Jane, I think that’s a sign of a great book — one that invites discussion!)

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  25. Dawn
    Feb 04, 2008 @ 15:07:19

    Without a doubt these books are remarkably well written. Ms. Gleason is a real talent, with a gift for character and story. Her ability to maintain suspense and keep her readers guessing is downright uncanny.

    I am one of those firmly in the Sebastian camp, but I do like Max — I’m just not sure he’s who she needs. Okay, and I’ll admit, I’d like one Scarlett and Rhett to get together :D.

    Regardless of my opinion, however, I trust Ms. Gleason’s judgment in the end when it comes to the fate and happiness of her characters. They inhabit her imagination and I have no doubt she’ll do right by them because she understands, reader preference aside, the material must remain true to itself.

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  26. Dolly
    Feb 10, 2008 @ 08:39:58

    I love this series – just finished reading The Bleeding Dusk and can’t wait for the next. The book again was full of surprises. Colleen Gleason is a great writer and does an excellent job of creating the world in which her characters live. And they are very real characters. For some reason, I LOVE Sebastian. I was attracted to him in the first two. But now I am in love with him. In fact, now that I know more about him, I am almost sad for him. Because I believe he loves Victoria and that he might suffer for it.

    The history between Max and Sebastian has become a bit more clear and I think we will see more of that in books to come. I do not like dour Max and do not want Victoria to fall for him. For me, the book becomes much more exciting whenever Sebastian is around.

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  27. Dolly
    Feb 10, 2008 @ 12:22:11

    Sorry for the double-post, but I just wanted to add that the reason I’m so down on Max is probably because I do love Sebastian. And, it seems obvious to me that Max is the one Victoria will end up with. I keep hoping I’m wrong… Sebastian is endearing to me because he is ruled by his heart. It’s true he would love Victoria no matter what she did. But Victoria may need someone who is capable of making the hard choices that Sebastian cannot bring himself to make… It seems that both Max and Sebastian will be different in this next book. It will be interesting to see how they develop. For now, I will continue to root for Sebastian

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  28. razzle
    Mar 22, 2008 @ 11:15:40

    I just finished reading Bleeding Dusk and I got to say I’m a huge Sebastian fan. I been reading the Max vs Sebastian debate on many websites and the poster above (Dolly) articulated why I love him: “the book becomes more exciting whenever Sebastian is around”
    I read a lot of romance novels especailly regency and what kinda frustrates me is that so many male heroes are like Max (brooding). I’m always on the look out for books with male heroes that are more light, humorous, charming, and witty. One of my favorite male leads from romance novels is Colin from Romancing Mr. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn. And thats why I love Sebastian, even though he tortured inside he still is a character thats FUN (you know that if you were to meet him real life you would enjoy yourself, be entertained and have a good time with him)
    I also think that he brings out a different side of Victoria. Max doesn’t really do that.

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