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REVIEW:  Bound by Night by Larissa Ione

REVIEW: Bound by Night by Larissa Ione

Dear Ms. Ione:

I enjoyed the “Demonica” series and liked the spin-off “Lords of Deliverance” series even more, but this book, which debuts a new paranormal romance series set in a different alternate universe, just didn’t work for me. I’m having some troubling articulating why, but my biggest clue is that I’m having no desire whatsoever to return to this world or to follow any of these characters into future books.

boundEight year old Nicole knows something’s up. Normally a vampire servant (yes, vampire servants!) would keep his eyes humbly down, but not today: “This time, he looked at her the way her dad looked at the Thanksgiving turkey.” But no one listens to her, and just a little while later, most of Nicole’s family is dead and she is badly injured and severely traumatized.

Twenty years later, Nicole is a scientist at her family’s company, specializing in exploiting vampire physiology for human uses. But she’s aghast when, as the new CEO, she’s accused of ordering the death of numerous vampires — although she’s very frightened of them, the memory of her beloved vampire nanny (yes, her vampire nanny!) keeps her from seeing all vampires as vicious animals. When she’s kidnapped by a vampire named Riker, who needs her to order the release of one of her company’s test subjects, she begins to understand how wrong the human treatment of vampires really is. Also Riker? Really hot.

I think the aim was for something new and interesting here, but for me the mix was just so off. The elements that strive to be new — the worldbuilding — seem confused and ridiculous. There’s all kinds of complicated who-has-to-drink-what-kind-of-blood-when scenarios that made me tired.  The clan names — MoonBound and ShadowSpawn — have an incongruous, off-putting high fantasy sound to them. And enslaved, defanged vampires as nannies and butlers — seriously?  The blatant parallel to American slavery makes no sense whatsoever — though the use of the vampires for scientific experiments sadly does — and it’s presented in a squirm-inducing way. The racist who loved her nanny is such a well-known cliche — perhaps that was the point but if so, it didn’t come across, especially when late in the book Nicole then goes on to think about the enemy clan as “what amounted to a den of wild animals.” Yeah, some real consciousness raised there. There’s also a Native American connection to vampirism which made me uncomfortable. Again, possibly I missed the point, but it felt exploitative.

And then the elements that strive to be the usual enjoyable mixture — the basic characters and relationship — came off as a little stale. Dudes are cruel, violent, and kinda homophobic — until they inexplicably fall for a woman, and then they’re also protective and endlessly horny. Women are tough — especially on each other. I’m having trouble commenting on the relationship between Nicole and Riker because there just isn’t much to say about it. The sex is hot, there’s a bit of a twist caused by Riker’s guilt over his dead mate (the previously mentioned nanny — slightly icky, but that’s probably just me) and it did make my heart happily twinge a few times.  I’d say I mostly enjoyed the relationship — just not quite enough. I never got swept away with fast-paced excitement, which is really what this type of book is for.

In the end, what it all came down to is that neither the worldbuilding nor the romance were captivating enough for me to not be bothered by how intensely violent and upsetting much of the book is. (It’s the same thing that eventually happened to me with the show “TrueBlood” — and the comparison is an apt one.) Other issues aside, there’s a lot of gore, torture, and general awfulness.  I really needed to be swept away to make it worthwhile.

I wish I were sharing this review with another reviewer, because I don’t feel like I’m doing a good job of conveying what other readers might like about the story.  I’m sure there’s an audience for it, and honestly, because of how much I got into other Ione books, I’m surprised and disappointed that it isn’t me. But it isn’t.  C -.



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REVIEW:  Demon’s Fall by Karalynn Lee

REVIEW: Demon’s Fall by Karalynn Lee

She was an angel at the gates of Hell.

When Kenan, an incubus, finds a caged angel for sale in the Hellsgate marketplace, he sees her as a challenge. Certain that his skills in seduction will work as well on a heavenly creature as they do on mortal women, he buys Jahel, intent on having her soul as a novelty in his collection.

Knowing he must gain Jahel’s trust if she is to come to his bed willingly, Kenan treats her more as his guest than as his slave. When she reveals what brought her to the mouth of Hell in the first place–retrieving the soul of a young girl she was guarding–he even offers to help her complete her mission.

Though he has promised Jahel freedom, Kenan soon realizes she has captured his heart instead. And as their passion for one another grows, they find themselves caught in a struggle between Heaven and Hell, one that will lead them to the very edge of the apocalypse…

Dear Ms. Lee,

After my fantastic experience reading “Back Across the Styx,” I went on a Karalynn Lee book buying binge. It didn’t matter that I usually avoid angel/demon books like the plague, if it had your name on it, I bought it at Carina. Then I sat eyeing my new bright, shiny ebooks and, flipping a mental coin, opened this one. Oooh, hawt angel/incubus sex. Now I know you can write some smexy stuff too.

The world building is solid with concrete images, sensible actions, and logical set ups and payoffs. The writing style isn’t quite as elegantly spare as “Styx” yet I enjoyed the time spent wandering through the streets and businesses of Hellsgate. Talking cats and hellhounds are fascinating, quirky characters to meet and as much fun as the image of Jahel feeding Edom, one of the four talking horses of the Apocalypse, the remains of her apple pie.

Demons-FallKenan is an incubus and, as such, not exactly a demon prince so the pairing with an angel didn’t sound “I can’t quite buy this” alarm bells. The fact that he wants to lure Jahel into freely loving him and then giving him her soul, rather than forcing her in any way had me breathe a sigh of relief as forced seductions don’t generally work for me. I needn’t have worried as the angels here are also sexual beings though it’s usually just a physical release and nothing deeper. When Jahel and Kenan get down to business, it’s smoking – and not just because they’re at hell’s gate. Their sex is preceeded by trust which slowly builds a firm foundation beyond the physical and even if Kenan initially uses this as a way to lure Jahel to him, it takes their relationship forward.

I found the concept of an archangel and Lilith working together at first contradictory but then totally plausible. It’s kind of like the Baptists and the bootleggers in the South working to keep counties “dry.” In the story, both the denizens of hell and the inhabitants of Heaven have an interest in maintaining the status quo, so when someone sticks a spoke in the wheels, it’s natural for Jahel, Kenan, Lilith and Balaqiel to end up strategizing and fighting on the same side.

But is there a place for a reformed incubus and an angel who willingly gives him her soul? Yes, there is in this world. With the example already included in the story, the efforts Kenan takes to prove himself worthy and the breathtaking trust exhibited by Jahel, I could totally buy their hand-in-hand walk into their sunny future though I might miss talking with Edom when he’s not saddled for world destruction. B



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