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84K by Claire North
Published by Orbit on May 24, 2018
Genres: Dystopia, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 480
Source: NetGalley
Sexual Content: TW: mentions of rape and sexual assault
Reviewed by: Rebecca


What if your life were defined by a number?

What if any crime could be committed without punishment, so long as you could afford to pay the fee assigned to that crime?

Theo works in the Criminal Audit Office. He assesses each crime that crosses his desk and makes sure the correct debt to society is paid in full.

But when Theo's ex-lover Dani is killed, it's different. This is one death he can't let become merely an entry on a balance sheet.

Because when the richest in the world are getting away with murder, sometimes the numbers just don't add up.

Is it still a revolution if it’s too late? 84K is a dystopian novel where the UK is controlled by a unified regime called the Company, who has remodelled society with a profits-first mentality. The novel pushes the idea that ‘some people are worth more than others’ to a cost-based extreme. Everyone has a price, a price paid or a price owed. Theo works for the Company, auditing crimes for criminals to pay in restitution. Some crimes are worth more than others based on the worth of the victim. For most of his life, Theo has kept his head down and carried on. When he learns about the possible existence of a daughter, Theo’s eyes are opened and he can no longer stomach the Company.

84K shifts between time periods and perspectives. The passages are almost written like memories, veering from one thought to another, often without completing the sentence. Although the writing is lovely and there are poetic elements to the style, I can’t help wishing for more structure to the book. The novel also feels like it’s about 100 pages too long, opting for over-description and settling into different character’s heads. It only ever resolves the past-plotline instead of the present.

The book switches between Theo as an old man, who is saved by Neila -- a female boat captain who dabbles in tarot cards and believes that there is a moral code that boaters should all follow -- and Theo as the middle-aged corporate shlub. In the present, Theo and Neila learn to trust each other and share their value systems as Theo describes his mission and path of vengeance. Neila could have been a greater focus in the novel; often it felt like she was just reacting to Theo or waiting for him to return. Her progress in the story is subtle, but I wanted to learn so much more about her.

There’s a lot to love about 84K. There's heists, imposters, ageing characters, and interesting side characters. However, the novel is also incredibly dark. There is a lot of death, starvation, and assault. The veering between time and characters also distracts from the main plot which is never ultimately solved. I love books with frank depictions of revolution but 84K never answers if it was worth it. I ended up reacting and caring far more about the one-liner side characters than I did for Theo or Neila. If you’re OK with a novel that focuses more on style, 84K is the grim but poetic dystopian novel for you.

Series Titles:

N/A

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For another profit-based dystopian novel, check out Company Town by Madeline Ashby

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Furyborn by Claire Legrand
Series: Empirium Trilogy #1
Published by Sourcebooks on May 22, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: eBook, Mass Market Paperback
Pages: 516
Source: NetGalley
Sexual Content: Kissing, sex scenes
Reviewed by: Tacoma


When assassins ambush her best friend, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing herself as one of a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light, and a queen of blood. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven elemental magic trials. If she fails, she will be executed...unless the trials kill her first.

One thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a fairy tale to Eliana Ferracora. A bounty hunter for the Undying Empire, Eliana believes herself untouchable—until her mother vanishes. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain and discovers that the evil at the empire's heart is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world—and of each other.

FURYBORN is an ambitious book that mostly succeeds. With its beautiful cover and intriguing, action packed start, I was immediately drawn into the epic story. Readers looking for a sizable fantasy trilogy with two female heroes, will no doubt enjoy the 500 pages that make up the first book in the Empirium saga.

FURYBORN works as a dense introduction to future books. Because such a wealth of information is presented, scenes are often too short to be fully immersive and character development is left on the wayside in an effort to keep the plot careening forward. This issue is highlighted by an over reliance on short chapters that end on cliffhangers.

While I greatly enjoyed that FURYBORN is written from the POV of two women, their voices are too similar--snarky and overconfident. They are both strong, capable women, but I would have liked to see more development and difference between the two.

Readers that enjoy romance with their fantasy may be pleased with the intensity of emotion and time spent focused on the relationships in the novel. There's also a lot to unpack plot-wise, especially since the narrative jumps back and forth 1,000 years. So readers looking for a puzzle to put together will no doubt be intrigued by what the Empirium Trilogy offers up in this first introduction.

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If you're looking for another hefty YA series featuring entwined fates, check out An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir.

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Planet Dragos by Thea Harrison
Series: Elder Races #9.8
Published by Teddy Harrison on May 14, 2018
Genres: Paranormal Romance, Romance, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 130
Source: Author, Publisher
Sexual Content: A sex scene.
Reviewed by: Julia


From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Thea Harrison comes the final novella featuring Pia and Dragos…

Pia’s latest pregnancy has become a daily challenge, her relationship with Dragos strained with argument. That hasn’t stopped them from achieving a compromise and traveling to Las Vegas to celebrate their friend Rune’s wedding to his mate Carling.

From the moment they arrive, the trip goes awry. Death walks in Vegas, and Pia is kidnapped as an ancient enemy makes a move to destroy the Great Beast once and for all.

But the Great Beast has other plans.

On Planet Dragos everything goes the way he arranges it—unless someone decides to cross him, and God help them then, because he doesn’t know how to back down, and he doesn’t ever, ever let up….

The sweet icing on top of the Elder Races cake are the delightful interstitial novellas that take readers back into beloved characters' lives.  Despite a larger than life mating bond, Pia and Dragos still have to deal with communication, self-esteem, career choices, and an adult child.  And in PLANET DRAGOS, you can add a mysterious brother-in-law, centuries old vendettas, secret identities, and a son who should be a toddler but is instead in college.

These novellas are more than just getting a glimpse behind the scenes with the worlds loveliest power couple, Harrison uses these shorts to move the ball plot-wise.  While the main conflict can be expected to be introduced and resolved in rapid order, the character development and life changes are indelible.  There is no reseting back to ground zero by story's end, making seeking out PLANET DRAGOS a worthwhile endeavor for fans of the series.  I did feel like Liam's story felt mildly out of order (I feel we are owed a glimpse of his sexy collegiate year at Elder Races Hogwarts), but enjoyed Pia's pregnancy arc thoroughly.

While not a standalone (new readers owe it to themselves to go back and start with DRAGON BOUND), PLANET DRAGOS is another in the catalog of satisfying Elder Races novellas. It's main downside is that it whets the appetite for more Elder Races with no clear next full length novel on the schedule.

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  • My favorite Urban Fantasy short writer is Patricia Briggs, who manages to hook readers on whole worlds and new characters with every story. SHIFTING SHADOWS is a gorgeously organized treasury of Briggs's short fiction in the Mercy Thompson world. - 4/5
  • Another couple that develops beyond their initial Paranormal Romance happily-ever-after is at the center of Nalini Singth's Guild Hunter series.  While new characters find their own HEA, but the series often circles back to the Archangel Rafael and his Guildhunter Elena, both of whom are introduced in the series opener, ANGEL'S BLOOD.

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Earth Calling by Kelsey Shannon, Miles Gunter
Series: Dark Fang #1
Published by Image Comics on May 15th, 2018
Genres: Adult, Comics & Graphic Novels, Graphic Novel, Horror, Humorous, Urban
Format: Paperback
Pages: 120
Source: Publisher
Sexual Content: Non-explicit nudity, cam girls.
Reviewed by: Kim


Her name is Valla. She is a vampire who has resided on the bottom of the ocean for a century. When her aquatic paradise is destroyed by a dark liquid plague, she travels to the surface in search of answers. What she finds is a world threatened by climate change and a civilization powerless to stop it. Eventually mankind will be wiped out and Valla will have no food supply. If she is to survive, then the fossil fuel industries must fall.

Collects issues 1 through 5.

DARK FANG was sexy, gory and fun. It tackles a serious subject with levity, if you consider bloodbaths and exploding heads light reading. Our heroine, Valla, is adorable, ruthless and out to save the world, whether the world wants saving or not!

The strange thing about Valla is how human she is, for a bloodthirsty vampire who has been living at the bottom of the ocean for the last hundred years. The ocean scenes are wonderful, and Valla lives it up the way you’d expect an all powerful vampire to. She has fun, gets confused, and when she decides to go on her crusade, she cuts a fun, fast path through corporate America.

There have been lots of comics about humans destroying the planet, but few have had such a camp feel to it. She takes out industry leaders, hypnotises others into conserving the environment and even decapitates heads of state on live television. As her efforts ramp up, the efforts of those who oppose her ramp up too, with more and more ridiculous and over the top attempts to kill her.

The cartoony art style fits the tone of the story. For someone who has never read a vampire story this might be called horror, but I see it more as eco-humour with a bloody side. It’s more entertaining than preachy, more amusing than scary. The excellent characterisation and the over the top plot and violence make you want more. With a wicked end to the first volume, I want more DARK FANG and I want it soon!

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What to Expect When your Demon Slayer is Expecting by Angie Fox
Series: Demon Slayer, #8
Published by Moore Island Books on April 17, 2018
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: eBook
Pages: 268
Source: NetGalley
Sexual Content: one sex scene
Reviewed by: Kristina


They say you can’t go home again, but demon slayer Lizzie Brown sure is going to try. However, when she rolls into town with her friends in tow, Lizzie finds her mom in the clutches of a demonic entity they accidentally left behind all those years ago. Now, it’s up to Lizzie, her talking dog, and the Red Skull biker witches to make things right.

With one tiny complication…

Lizzie is pregnant with Dimitri Kallinikos’ baby, and the shapeshifting griffin is hell bent on keeping her safe—at the risk of life, limb, and Lizzie’s sanity. Lizzie must fight for her child and her family, while battling dark spirits, demons, and morning sickness. And when a rival witch offers her unorthodox help, it opens up a whole new world of trouble.

I'm always excited to discover that another book in this series has come out because each book is so fun to read. WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOUR DEMON SLAYER IS EXPECTING is follows its predecessors in the hilarity and heart that I've come to expect from this series. The plot is filled with action, tension, and clever plot twists. While there are a variety of lovable, crazy characters and fun plot shenanigans, I liked how at its core, the plot had a touching message about family, love, and loyalty. I would have liked to have been surprised by Lizzie's pregnancy since I kept wondering when she was going to find out but knowing about it didn't really hurt the story.

I love that even eight books in to this series Lizzie continues to make mistakes in her demon slaying duties and she is willing to accept that she was wrong and adjusts her thinking accordingly to fix the problem. She's always learning and ready to learn. Granted she has a ton of back up to help her out. The biker grannies, her parents, her adorable, food obsessed dog, and her amazing husband, Dimitri. Dimitri and Lizzie's picture should be next to the definition of what a perfectly equal and loving relationship built on respect and duty is. Dimitri continues to be amazing and really proves himself to be in the running for best book husband ever in this story.

WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOUR DEMON SLAYER IS EXPECTING is a quick read and a wonderful cozy paranormal story. This series never fails to put a smile on my face from the first page to the last.

Series Titles:
  1. The Accidental Demon Slayer
  2. The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers
  3. A Tale of Two Demon Slayers
  4. Last of the Demon Slayers
  5. My Big Fat Demon Slayer Wedding
  6. Beverly Hills Demon Slayer
  7. Night of the Living Demon Slayer
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Onyx and Ivory by Mindee Arnett
Published by Balzer + Bray on May 15th, 2018
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Format: eBook, Mass Market Paperback
Pages: 512
Source: Edelweiss
Sexual Content: Kissing
Reviewed by: Tacoma


They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king years ago. Now Kate lives as an outcast, clinging to the fringes of society as a member of the Relay, the imperial courier service. Only those most skilled in riding and bow hunting ride for the Relay; and only the fastest survive, for when dark falls, the nightdrakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: she is a wilder, born with magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals. But it’s this magic that she needs to keep hidden, as being a wilder is forbidden, punishable by death or exile. And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan massacred by nightdrakes in broad daylight—the only survivor her childhood friend, her first love, the boy she swore to forget, the boy who broke her heart.

The high king’s second son, Corwin Tormane, never asked to lead. Even as he waits for the uror—the once-in-a-generation ritual to decide which of the king’s children will succeed him—he knows it’s always been his brother who will assume the throne. And that’s fine by him. He’d rather spend his days away from the palace, away from the sight of his father, broken with sickness from the attempt on his life. But the peacekeeping tour Corwin is on has given him too much time to reflect upon the night he saved his father’s life—the night he condemned the would-be killer to death and lost the girl he loved. Which is why he takes it on himself to investigate rumors of unrest in one of the remote city-states, only for his caravan to be attacked—and for him to be saved by Kate.

With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin have to put the past behind them. The threat of drakes who attack in the daylight is only the beginning of a darker menace stirring in the kingdom—one whose origins have dire implications for Kate’s father’s attack upon the king and will thrust them into the middle of a brewing civil war in the kingdom of Rime

ONYX AND IVORY starts strong. Her father's actions may have destroyed her easy future, but Kate is determined not to let that keep her down. While the initial premise is familiar (magic is outlawed and two brothers are pitted against each other for the throne), I found Kate and Corwin's relationship a satisfying story hook.

Unfortunately, ONYX AND IVORY slows down about a quarter of the way in. Kate's story arch is tied to her father's secrets, and while she tries to take her future by the reins, the driving force of the narrative is the secret of what happened between her father and Corwin's. Meanwhile, Corwin wrestles with figuring out how he can be a prince and also be with Kate.

Kate and Corwin's initial reunion was fraught with well-deserved tension. However, locker room talk during his POV soured my view of their love. And while ONYX AND IVORY shook up familiar fantasy tropes by adding new kinds of dragons and guns, the plot plays out as a fantasy fan would suspect, which is not necessarily a negative. But pacing issues and magic used as a salve to cover potential plot holes are definite weak points.

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If you're looking for another YA fantasy where reunions play a big role, check out Everless by Sara Holland.

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The City on the Other Side by Mairghread Scott, Robin Robinson
Published by First Second on April 24, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Historical
Format: Paperback
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Excerpt: Excerpt
Sexual Content: N/A
Reviewed by: Kate


When a wealthy and sheltered young girl stumbles into a pitched war between two fairy kingdoms, the fate of San Francisco itself hangs in the balance!

The first decade of the twentieth century is coming to a close, and San Francisco is still recovering from the great earthquake of 1906. Isabel watched the destruction safely from her window, sheltered within her high-society world.

Isabel isn't the kind of girl who goes on adventures. But that all changes when she stumbles through the invisible barrier that separates the human world from the fairy world. She quickly finds herself caught up in an age-old war and fighting on the side of the Seelie — the good fairies.

THE CITY ON THE OTHER SIDE is an excellent middle grade graphic novel. With an interesting historical setting, a fun adventure story, and amazing artwork, this book is sure to charm younger readers.

Obviously in a graphic novel the art is responsible for telling a lot of the story. I thought that THE CITY ON THE OTHER SIDE was well done in that regard. The fairies were unique and the colors super vibrant and wonderful. One aspect I really liked was the creative take on the fairy world being a mirror of the human world and each world affecting the other. The way this was shown through the artwork was lovely and I really enjoyed the scenes where we saw what the fairy version of a human landmark looked like.

The story was fun, and I thought it was well paced. Isabel's adventure starts pretty early on in the book, no slow starts here. Then, the action keeps up through the whole book. While I've seen some reviews that say it's a bit predictable, I didn't feel it was predictable as much as there weren't a lot of plot twists and turns, but that seems appropriate for the intended readership. I certainly didn't guess anything that was going to happen! But nothing really surprised me completely, either.

A well done story with diverse characters and amazing artwork, THE CITY ON THE OTHER SIDE is definitely worth picking up for the middle grade reader in your life.

Series Titles:

N/A

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Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
Series: The Murderbot Diaries #2
Published by Tor.com on May 8, 2018
Genres: Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy
Format: eBook
Pages: 159
Source: NetGalley
Sexual Content: N/A
Reviewed by: Rebecca


It has a dark past – one in which a number of humans were killed. A past that caused it to christen itself “Murderbot”.

But it has only vague memories of the massacre that spawned that title, and it wants to know more.

Teaming up with a Research Transport vessel named ART (you don’t want to know what the “A” stands for), Murderbot heads to the mining facility where it went rogue.

What it discovers will forever change the way it thinks…

In ARTIFICIAL CONDITION, it's hard out there for a Murderbot who just wants to catch up on tv shows and be left alone. Murderbot keeps making friends and allies no matter how much it tries to go solo. When we last left Murderbot, it ditched an opportunity to be contracted to the PreservationAux crew befriended in the previous novella. Murderbot wanted freedom and it's hard to be considered free if you're still legally owned by another person. Murderbot ends up working with a transport ship that's just as curious about television and humanity. The strange friendship that blossoms between Murderbot and the ship, ART (or 'Asshole Research Transport' if you're nasty), is absolutely endearing and carries ARTIFICIAL CONDITION. As much as Murderbot complains about the noisiness of the ship, it's clear that they rely on each other.

To get access to a mining facility and to determine whether it was responsible for a massacre there, Murderbot has to work as a security consultant for three scientists looking to reclaim stolen data from a corporation. Obviously, everything is a trap and humans have far too much disregard for their personal safety. As a security consultant, Murderbot slips a little more toward humanity. It names itself. It wears civilian clothing rather than the power armour. It has to talk out it's plans rather than staring someone into submission. The three researchers were fairly nondescript and forgettable, only one of them plays a vital role in the end of the novella. I would have been happier if the novella just ditched the human characters once Murderbot got to the mining facility.

ARTIFICIAL CONDITION wraps up storylines nicely but always seems to be missing the character work in its humans. The robots are so interesting and personable, while all the human characters feel like interchangeable scientists. I'm not sure it would have made any difference to the plot at all if the human sidekicks ended up being the same characters from the first novella. It also feels like Murderbot is just coasting through the whole novella, it doesn't need to try too hard to protect the scientists. The only time it gets into trouble is when the scientists completely ignore orders.

Murderbot seems to hold different levels of respect for different types of robots, especially for ComfortUnits (or Sexbots as Murderbot calls them). By the end of the novella Murderbot has a little more empathy for ComfortUnits, but it doesn't feel like enough. The novella would have benefited from turning the ComfortUnit into a full side character. There's a lot of drama that can be mined from robots dealing with whether to prioritize their human owners or other robots. ARTIFICIAL CONDITION is a fun follow up to All Systems Red. Like any fun tv show, it's easily consumable if you don't go looking for too much depth.

Series Titles:
  1. All Systems Red
  2. Artificial Condition
  3. Rogue Protocol
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For another book with scientists and robots, check out Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

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The Heartreader's Secret by Kate McIntyre
Series: The Faraday Files, #3
Published by Curiousity Quills Press on April 12, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Steampunk
Format: eBook
Pages: 464
Source: NetGalley, Publisher
Sexual Content: Moderately graphic sex scene
Reviewed by: Kristina


The brilliant engineer Emilia Banks has gone missing.

Deathsniffer Olivia Faraday may be partial to solving murders, but this missing persons case is too personal to pass up -- especially when all the clues lead her and her assistant, Chris, to the sprawling countryside manor where Olivia was born and raised. Their investigation reveals new insights into the political conflict raging in nearby Darrington City, but every step is fraught with mysterious deaths, suspicious stalkers, and players both new and old each harboring dangerous agendas of their own.

Are the powerful traditionalists or the anarchic reformists prowling the borders of the estate responsible for the sudden disappearance of Miss Banks? And could the elusive engineer's private project truly change the world forever?

THE HEARTREADER'S SECRET is a thrilling paranormal-steampunk mystery. That's a mouthful but that is the description that fits with a story that has elements from all three genres. Technology is powered by magical creatures and the main characters have various sorts of interesting powers that they use to solve a missing person case. This genre mash involves some incredible world building that veers onto too complex especially if you are jumping right into the third book of this series. I really enjoyed immersing myself in this story and its complexities though. There are multiple interesting plot threads woven together that revolve around the main missing person plot. While there is so much going on the book isn't tough to get through as it's just one more fascinating revelation or twist after another that keeps you engaged.

Aside from the plot, the characters are wonderful. I loved how many of the main characters have something about them that makes their movement and interactions in Victorian society difficult yet they succeed and even defy expectations. We have Emilia, a female POC and brilliant engineer, a female detective (Olivia), and a female police officer (Maris) who deal with being women in a society that leans more towards dismissing their gender's intelligence. Chris, while he is a white man, struggles with his sexuality and his emotions against the rigid Victorian societal expectations. All are fully realized, non-stereotypes, with their own flaws and strengths that add to the depth of their character.

THE HEARTREADER'S SECRET like the previous two books in The Faraday Files is imaginative, entertaining, and full of heart. If you like your genres mashed together in a well-written, thought provoking way, I'd say pick this series up.

Series Titles:
  1. The Deathsniffer's Assistant
  2. The Timeseer's Gambit
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Eternal Kiss of Darkness by Jeaniene Frost
Series: Night Huntress World #2
Published by Avon on July 27th 2010
Genres: Adult, Paranormal Romance, Romantic
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Pages: 361
Source: Personal Copy
Sexual Content: Explicit sex scenes.
Reviewed by: Kim


An immortal war has been brewing in the darkness . . . And now one woman has stumbled into the shadows.

Chicago private investigator Kira Graceling should have just kept on walking. But her sense of duty refused to let her ignore the moans of pain coming from inside a warehouse just before dawn. Suddenly she finds herself in a world she's only imagined in her worst nightmares.

At the center is Mencheres, a breathtaking Master vampire who thought he'd seen it all. Then Kira appears, this fearless, beautiful . . . human who braved death to rescue him. Though he burns for her, keeping Kira in his world means risking her life. Yet sending her away is unthinkable.

But with danger closing in, Mencheres must choose either the woman he craves, or embracing the darkest magic to defeat an enemy bent on his eternal destruction.

ETERNAL KISS OF DARKNESS could be enjoyed as a standalone book, but it’s way more fun to read it after the events of Jeaniene Frost’s NIGHT HUNTRESS series. The characters who pop in from the series are a fun addition to a story with already solid characters.

Kira is my favourite heroine from this entire universe. She is mature, responsible to a fault, and stands up for herself and for those she protects. This sense of honor is what gets her tangled up in the world of vampires, when she tries to defend a man being attacked by six others. The man she tries to save is Mencheres, one of the oldest and most powerful vampires in the world. He didn’t need her help, and he’s torn up over her getting injured while needlessly defending him.

Deceit and mind games always play a huge role in vampire dynamics, but Mencheres finds Kira’s frankness refreshing. Having him rediscover himself after so many years of hiding his true self was adorable. There is plenty of action and intrigue to move the book along, but the moments I really loved was when the two main characters were alone, hashing out their feelings and learning to know each other.

ETERNAL KISS OF DARKNESS feels fresh, and has a heroine who can stand up to a much older vampire hero without. She has a few things to show him about strength and honor that even a 3000 year old vampire could afford to learn.

Series Titles:
  1. First Drop of Crimson
  2. Eternal Kiss of Darkness
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