REVIEW: Raphael by D. B. Reynolds
Dear D. B. Reynolds:
Angela James recommended I give this series a try and since it was “free” as part of my Scribd subscription, it seemed like a no risk proposition. It turned out to be a good choice. The series is one part vampire politics and one part investigative mystery with a sexy romance as an overlay but the romance takes place over the course of two books.
Cynthia Leighton is a private investigator and former cop who is called upon by Raphael, a powerful North American vampire lord, to ferret out a new human threat to his people. Raphael has this edge of ruthlessness that I like to see in the old and powerful because it makes sense that it takes a certain type of person to become a ruler over feral creatures. Fail him and actual death is your reward, no matter if you are vampire or human.
Vampires like Raphael look upon many humans with disdain. They are weak and humans are good for serving vampires and providing food. This type of portrayal works for me because it makes logical sense but the coldness vampires show toward humankind might be unpleasant.
At the change of guard between the vampires and humans at dawn, a woman important to Raphael is kidnapped. All of the human guards are killed. Because the hit occurred during the day when the vampires are the most vulnerable, Raphael decides he’ll need a human investigator.
When Cyn was a police officer, she saved the life of a vampire and became the investigator of choice to the west coast vampire population. A made vampire of Raphael’s recommends that Cyn investigate the human side of the mystery.
Cyn is smart and clever. She has financial resources of her own and views Raphael and his clan as dangerous but viable sources of income. Because of her financial independence, her quick mind, and her self confidence, Cyn makes a good foil for Raphael. She treats him as a dangerous creature and while she is attracted to him, she acknowledges that attraction is problematic.
Raphael isn’t as quick and clever as Cyn. In fact, a fair reading of him would be powerful and fearsome but not terribly insightful. It was obvious early on what type of vampire would be threatening Raphael but he doesn’t think it through. And frankly much of the mystery and suspense toward the latter half relies a great deal on Cyn forgetting to mention something to Raphael because she assumes he would know.
Given her position as investigator, her assumption surprised me and was the one time in the book where she wasn’t true to her character which was set up as this savvy, observant individual. For instance, when Raphael arrives to hire Cyn he tests her by pretending to his bodyguard, Duncan, is the master vampire. Cyn knows immediately by the way Duncan holds himself in front of Raphael and how Raphael hangs back that Duncan is the bodyguard.
If the book is read more as a mystery then the romance works better. As a straight up romance, it isn’t satisfying, particularly because of the relationship cliffhanger ending. The ending is rather abrupt and Raphael’s actions aren’t well telegraphed (and kind of poorly explained in the next story).
Jabreal is the second book and the romance is completed in that story. Together I’d give the two a B- but individually Raphael is probably a C+. I give it high marks for an intriguing mystery and a strong heroine.