Jane is working to a deadline to improve Leo’s security before a delegation of likely hostile European Vampires arrive on an official visit – and possible invasion
She never expected it to be tested early – when the Satan’s Trio arrive in town, vampires that frighten even other vampires, every contingency she’s put in place is going to be sorely tested
And that’s without the near-invisible dragon rampaging through town. No-one saw that coming.
We do have a lot of world building in this book. We’re introduced to the European vampires visiting and why that’s a problem (this was partially introduced in the last book – the expansion includes some interesting concepts of vampire history but also raises the unlikely concept of European vampires coming to the US to avoid religious tensions… which seems somewhat out of touch with the state of religion and politics in western Europe and the US in general, especially a vampire territory in the deep south) and a whole lot of vampire history and why magical artefacts are so important and vital to them. It’s quite deep and meaty
At the same time we have introduced the Arenciel, what they are, where they come from and picked up the whole thread of liminal lines (which had been introduced very briefly in a past book), other realms and an expansion both on Soul (a minor character who has returned on repeated occasions) and Gee DiMercy, the Mercy Blade; both of these were extremely mysterious characters and the little extra building on them was very welcome.
On top of this we had an extension of Jane’s powers and how they changed with she and Beast integrating more closely and the effect of being messed with by an angel (this happened several books ago but hasn’t really been developed since then). This is very involved and some of the descriptions lost me in places since it involves time effects that weren’t always ideally described.
All of this could combine into a very confusing, overly full book and lose the reader – but it’s balanced by a relatively simple plot line. Bad guys are here, bad guys are coming, bad guys have to be defeated. Of course, defeating them is not exactly simple or easy because of the powers at their disposal and there’s a lot of conflict over exactly what the bad guys want and how best to stop them – there’s also a lot of extremely well written, fun and exciting fight scenes. And yes, I do love me a good fight scene – and it’s always a good sign in a book when an author can make you see the action and the excitement of the battle. I’m not saying the plot was simplistic, because it wasn’t, but it wasn’t excessively elaborate to allow the rest of the information through more time to be absorbed without us having to juggle too many things at once. It was nicely done.
Leo continually presses Jane and, to a lesser extent, so does Bruiser. Leo always tries to dominate her, make her toe the line and there’s still the underlying problem of him pinning her down and taking her blood with, at best, a back hand apology. In this book he continues and, again, grossly steps over the line (which really puts a big question on the value of even that backhand apology) and Jane, rather marvellously, refuses to tolerate it and hits back with some much deserved forced.
Then everything is shelved because of the action. I can understand that, Jane is a professional, a dedicated professional and she isn’t going to let even an extreme disagreement with her employer stop her when they’re effectively in the middle of a war, especially with so much at stake. But what I’m worried about is a repeat of last time – Jane being a little huffy for a time and then letting Leo’s abuse slide, yet again. Already there has been a token backhand apology and that seems to have buried the issue.
Bruiser and Jane’s relationship is developing and, while I can’t say I’m a huge fan (I just can’t picture Bruiser or his personality, I always see this cardboard cutout with “love interest” stamped on it), it’s considerably less annoying than Jane’s awful relationship with Ricky which I’m glad to see die and never ever ever return.
What I do like is the sense that characters have their own motivations. Not just Jane and Leo – but we have Soul and Gee DiMercy with their own agendas, Bethany with hers even Derek, Leo’s new Enforcer, is definitely doing things for his own reason. These characters are fleshed with their own motivations that may conflict – it’s not as simple as “they’re all on the same side, all together now.”
This book, like the rest of the series, has a number of POC main characters. Jane is Native American – Cherokee. And while a lot of her woo-woo stems from that there are also Native Americans who don’t have woo-woo and in addition to the woo-woo there’s a lot of history and culture that goes into Jane. It’s not just a “she’s Cherokee so she can have the shiny powers), it’s an integral part of her culture. Derek, Leo’s enforcer, is a Black man and most of his men are also Black. Eli and Alex who both work with Jane in her security agency (Eli is a partner) are both POC – it also helps a lot that Alex is a tech guru because it breaks up the lineup of Black soldier, Black soldier, Black soldier. Eli is also a decent character in his own right. Bethany, the ancient, powerful and slightly-out-of-control vampire priestess is Black and Sabina, the even more ancient, mysterious and frightening vampire priestess is a POC. In fact, in exploring vampire history since vampires in this world have their origins in the Middle East, it expressly says most of the older vampires ARE POC (and second wave of vampires was from North Africa, again, expressly stating a large POC present). I think the only really prominent White characters in the book are Bruiser, Gregoire, Katie and Leo.
There are several female characters beside Jane though I think male characters definitely eat more “screen time”. She’s good friends with Adelaide and I’d like to see more of them together. She isn’t friendly with the other women – but not hostile particularly either. Katie is Leo’s second, his heir and extremely powerful, both the priestesses and Soul are all powerful and, in their own ways, very scary people – all four of these women are also highly unpredictable for various reasons.
LGBT inclusion in this book (and series) is… fraught, to see the least. We have one actual, unambiguous, gay character, Deon. He’s a black gay cook who appears for a millisecond to serve Jane food. I feel someone’s taken Lafayette from True Blood, decided this character needs to be far more flamboyant and stereotypical and ramped up as much clowning around as possible in the teeny tiny time he actually appeared. This is not good.
On top of this we have lots of hints that various vampires MAAAAAY be bisexual, but Jane is just far-too-prudish to mention it (straight sexuality never seems to involve such “prudery” which makes me think “prudish” may not be the accurate word here). Which is very similar to a previous book where people just couldn’t discuss the shocking fact of *gasp* lesbians, putting such discussion on par with swearing. Then we have Derek, being fed on by Leo as his new enforcer. Having vampire drink your blood feels good and he’s having the screaming meemies over the terrible awfulness of feeling good with another man due to blood donation. To help deal with the dreaded spectre of the gay haunting this poor poor straight guy, Jane suggests Derek speak to Leo so he can turn off the feel good and make it hurt instead (because actually suffering is preferable) and if he feels so bad about the “gay stuff” he can speak to a priest or therapist. Because it’s just so traumatic.
Much as the general lack of LGBT characters in this series have annoyed me, if this is what we’re going to get the please go back to ignoring LGBT people.
This book has problems, but it also has an action packed storyline, a deep compelling world that is unfolding beautifully, a lot of character development, some nice complexity and history, brilliant writing and a lot of original concepts. I like this book, I love this series – despite it’s problems.