REVIEW: Poisoned Kisses by Stephanie Draven
Dear Ms. Draven:
I admit that I haven’t read a book in the Nocturne line since it debuted a couple of years ago. My experience had been that the shorter length category books weren’t very well suited for the paranormal genre because it takes time to build a believable world and still fit in a compelling emotional arc. Yet, when Jeannie Lin recommended this book, I wanted to give it a try. I’m glad I did.
The hero, Marco Kaisaris, is a hydra, a being of a thousand faces and poisonous blood. He became a hydra through his unconscious lust for war but he is unaware of this. He was a peacekeeper for the UN and became enraged by the number of people he saw die in front of him. As a peacekeeper, you can only observe and not take action even if innocent people are slaughtered in front of you. When he gets out of the UN, he starts dealing arms, sending them to citizen militias believing that at least through this he can protect the innocent, even the odds. His family turns their back on him and he lives a very lonely life but he’s fervent in his “cause.”
The heroine, Kyra, is the half human daughter of the god of war, Ares. He makes her into an immortal by giving her shots of ambrosia. Kyra despises war and wants nothing more than to destroy Ares but she is not powerful enough so she does what she can to thwart his plans. The problem is that Ares grows stronger all the time because humans worship war more than they do nearly any other god like premise. Ares views Kyra’s “rebellion” toward him with rueful amusement. He doesn’t appreciate that he is the target of the destruction that she wreaks but he does view her talents and skills with fondness. Ares believes that at some point, he will win her back to his side.
Kyra’s intent is to destroy the hydra. She believes it is her destiny because she has retained her powers when so many other immortals have not. Kyra picks up Marco at a bar and proceeds to his penthouse with a plan to kill him. They fight and he hits her. I know some readers may have a problem with this but Kyra is an immortal being about to knife Marco in the chest. I think a little physical violence wasn’t untoward here. When Kyra cuts him, his poisonous blood begins to weaken her and eat away at the ambrosia induced immortality.
Suddenly, Kyra decides that she cannot kill him and decides that she will hide him away until Ares forgets about him. Weakened by the poisonous blood, however, Kyra’s plans go awry. She has one option left: to enter Marco’s mind and try to seal off the hydra. Kyra has tried only once before to do this resulting in terrible consequences. Marco is a weapon, though, that is desired by the gods. His poisonous blood can destroy even the immortal and could possibly wipe out whole continents.
Part of the love relationship that develops between Marco and Kyra occurs during periods of deception. At one point, Kyra impersonates an old girlfriend of Marco’s. The fact that I didn’t have a huge problem with this is a testament to your skill as a writer. I didn’t believe that Marco still held a torch for the old girlfriend but rather he was hungry for acceptance and love. Kyra’s true identity is revealed to Marco about half way through and together they search for a solution that would not require Kyra to kill Marco.
Kyra is truly kick ass. She does what she thinks she has to do to achieve her end goals. I ended up caring quite a bit for Marco despite the fact that he was an arms dealer. For me, his path from UN peacekeeper to hardened war criminal made sense and I sympathized with him (within the safe confines of the book of course). Kyra and Marco were a good match. Neither of them wanted war but both used violence to try to tamp it down, not realizing that their own actions were contributing to the furtherance of war.
The plotting was very tight in this book. The sex scenes meaningful and hot. And the writing voice was strong. While not everything worked for me in this story, the writing carried me past barriers that I might not have been willing to step over with other writers. More importantly, I didn’t feel like I was getting the short shrift in either the worldbuilding or the romance, although I wouldn’t have minded a longer book either. B-