Friday, July 27, 2018

Immortal Unchained (Argeneau #25) by Lynsay Sands

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Though Sarita has never actually met her grandmother in person, the two have been exchanging letters since she was thirteen years old. When Sarita gets word that her grandmother has taken a bad fall and may be gravely injured, she is quick to book a vacation and head to Venezuela in the hope of comforting her Abuela. What Sarita didn't count on is being kidnapped by a mad scientist intent on learning the secrets of the immortals in order to become one himself. 

Domitian has done many things in long life but Lucian refuses his help to investigate the missing immortals.  Domitian does what he can; preparing food as the expert chef that he has become in the last ten years.  When his life mate Sarita becomes involved, Domitian knows that he can no longer sit on the sidelines to please his uncle because a life mate is too much to risk.  Unfortunately for Domitian, he quickly finds out that he has not been as circumspect with his identity as he had previously believed and quickly joins the ranks of the missing and kidnapped immortals. Domitian knows that he has to find a way to keep his life mate safe and somehow thwart the plans of the evil scientist.

From the beginning of this series, Sands has used the concept of life mates as a tool to justify the insta love that has become a mandatory part of the paranormal romance genre.  For the most part it is an effective tool, particularly because unlike many series, Sands ensures that her female love interests are all grown adults, with some sense of the world and independent identity. In Unchained Immortal however, Sands has Domitian discover Sarita when she is only a thirteen year old girl.  Yes, it's as gross as you think it is.  Domitian however decides to do  the noble thing (please feel free to role your eyes) and wait until Sarita has reached adulthood and worked at least two years in her chosen profession before inserting himself in her life and wooing her. In the meantime, to ensure that he doesn't lose contact with her, Domitian hires a private detective to follow Sarita around for 15 years and send him back monthly reports on her progress.  Domitian actually thinks that he is a moral and decent person for waiting and other yhan a few moments of brief discomfort, Sarita quickly lets him off the hook for this epic invasion of her personal life. 

I really liked Sarita's initial determination that she would not be a tool and made it clear to Domitian that there would be "no sexo".  Unfortunately, that is when the life mate nonsense kicked in and Sarita threw herself at Domitian. Can we just have one female protagonist who sticks to their guns on this note for more than half a page?  It certainly isn't helped by the fact that from almost the very moment Domitian lays eyes on Sarita, he begins sexualising her.  His inner thoughts are all about her breasts and everything that he wants to do to her and only chastises himself because he has a life mate and at that particular moment didn't realise that Sarita is his life mate. Domitian even goes as far as to fantasize about having two life mates at once.  Even when Domitian agrees to Sarita's "no sexo", he decides instead to invade her mind and send images of himself pleasuring her directly into her mind knowing that because of the life mate bond that she would then want to have sex. How is this not only a violation and abject manipulation?

I don't really feel as though we got to know Sarita in this book very much. We know that she's a cop and joined law enforcement because she wanted to help people. We also know that her mother was murdered and kidnapped and that this is why her father moved her to Canada and put her in martial arts training.  All around Sarita are women who have become victims of some sort, even Sarita herself considering that she was tricked into coming to Venezuela and then kidnapped. What we know is that women in Sarita's family have been victimised but we hardly know anything about Sarita herself; she's barely a cardboard cut out.  Even admitting her love for Domitian is stripped from her and she is informed by Eshe that she is just being silly and holding onto moral conventions by wanting to wait until she has a good handle on what is going on. Please keep in mind that Sarita has been kidnapped, witnessed horrible abuse and turned against her will. What is so wrong in that situation about wanting to get a handle on a situation before admitting to loving a man who has been stalking her since she was a thirteen year old girl?  Sands really did Sarita a disservice in this book. 

Even though this is book twenty-five in a series it really can be read as a stand lone without too much confusion.  Sand does however include an update in her world by adding animal hybrids which I am quite certain will have a larger roll to play moving forward.  The early books in this series were actually quite funny but the tone has shifted over time and in Immortal Unchained, Sands has added an element of horror to the story.  This is really going to turn into a case of mileage may vary for hardcore Sands fans on how well the horror is received. I actually liked the turn of events and the evil scientist aspect of it.  Unlike torturing a human being, torturing an immortal would be never ending as long as one had a supply of blood and took care not to decapitate the immortal in the process.  I kind of enjoyed the darkness and Sands took care not to include any moral uncertainty by making the scientist an antihero that readers would root for or empathise with in anyway. 

I always know what I am getting when I pick up a book in the Argeneau series.  Sands sticks to her tried and true formula, even if much of the comedy is absent in this book. The few attempts that Sands tried did fall flat. Are we really supposed to find it funny that a woman is sticking knives in her thong for protection and then cutting her legs in the process?  Along with giving us the expected HEA, Sands was clearly determined to add new elements to world building in order to keep things fresh for long time readers and for the most part she is successful on this front.  I am curious to see what happens with these hybrids and of course, the hunt for the evil scientist continues.  I love the idea of a group of all female enforcers kicking ass and taking names.  I must admit to being surprised that after twenty-five books that Sands still has more in the tank to offer readers.