REVIEW: Unchained by Caris Roane
Dear Ms. Roane:
I’m a big fan of your past work and at time I felt like the only one. The Ascension series featured some of the most cracktastick, over the top, fantastical scenes that I can remember reading.
I didn’t pick up the new series right away and this is actually the third book in the “Chained” series revolving around three vampire brothers. I have not read the first two. While I appreciate there is a difficult balance between catching readers up in a third book so that the flow of the series make sense and not boring series readers, the way in which information was imparted to the reader seemed awkward and stilted. In fact, the whole book read awkward and stilted.
The heroine, Shayna, is a graduate anthropology student. She is basically kidnapped and adducted by the hero, Marius, one of the three brothers because he knows that she is his tracking pair and together they must find a pieces of a weapon that his father is seeing which will destroy all of vampire-kind.
Marius flies her to a posh cave like dwelling in South America where he introduces her to the claiming chains. These chains, when slipped over her head, create bond between Marius and her. He fights off the desire to force the claiming on her and instead simply places them on her chest to aid in her healing. Shayna, despite having no knowledge of the vampire world, instinctively knows how to siphon power through the chains, gain visions, turn invisible, levitate, throw daggers, etc.
Her curiosity as a scientist and observer of cultures is trotted out a few times throughout the book but never in a natural way.
“With a destination in hand, Shayna asked, So what do you know about the caverns in Costa Rica?”
“It’s not a large system, but it holds over three hundred families.”
“What do you mean, families? Are you referring to procreation?”
He laughed out loud. “Anyone else would have said children.”
Neither Marius nor Shayna had a tight character arc or development. Marius, in particular, had almost no color. He was the characteristic brooding vampire who had a few daddy issues and a lingering sense of guilt over a past misdeed, but nothing about was unique or interesting. I almost felt he bordered on being dumb. At one point, Shayna asked him why he didn’t use a gun and he responded that he would learn some day and that his opponent was stockpiling them. Marius never does learn how to use a gun but simply fights with daggers hooked on the end of his chains…in keeping with the chain theme, I guess.
There were some attempts to make Shayna more interesting. She was an anthropology student and had a past relationship with a professor. The relationship ended badly and whenever Shayna confronted an obstacle–like fighting vampires or trying to see a vision with more clarity–we would be treated to a flashback where Shayna would remember something cutting her former boyfriend would say and it would serve to empower her to try harder.
I never felt the world building was consistent. They live in caves in some kind of alternate universe but all the geographic locations are the same (Cuba, Lake Como, Costa Rica). They have vampire Viagra and organic food. And in this parallel vampire world, they have ghostbuster like clean up crews so that there is no evidence left behind of the vampiric fights. At one point, Marius tells Shayna that vampire procreation is rare ““At some point in our long lives, we hope to have children. But conception is rare and sometimes takes centuries. We have slow movers.” But then a few pages later, we find a human woman with three vampire children. When Shayna comes across cuneform tablets, she asks Marius if there is someone in his people who might have any knowledge of this ancient language. He tells her to look on the internet.
I think part of the problem is the attempt to ground this book on reality. When Shayna learns of atrocities inflicted by Daniel, the bad guy, she suggests going to the police. The contrast made the supernatural bits come off as absurd instead of engrossing.
I even found the sex scenes to be rather comical rather than sensual. In an effort to ratchet up the sensuality, Shayna and Marius go to a sex club and are treated to a bondage scene so that Shayna can overcome her fear of being bound because in amongst all the other bad things her past boyfriend would do, binding her to the bed and leaving her for long periods of time was something she was subjected to. So she just had to be cured from that. Because of their mental connection, Shayna couldn’t even have negative thoughts about another person without Marius knowing about it. And she couldn’t allow even a tender memory of another male into her mind without having Marius go ape shit. It took obsessive and jealous into a new, and rather eye rolling, territory.
I think this book could have been more successful if it had focused on building the characters or the world because neither was done sufficiently to engage me. The use of extreme sexual slavery and mistreatment came off as shorthand. See how horrible Daniel is? He enslaves tens of thousands of women instead of just a few hundred. I wanted to like this book and I’ve definitely enjoyed other Roane books in the past but this one, as I said in the beginning of the review, was awkward and underdeveloped. D