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This post was revised and updated on 11/8/12 to include a review of the fifth andFINALbook in this series:Ghosts of Memories.That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and summaries and/or reviews of the first four books:
BOOK 5: Ghosts of Memories
As the story opens, Eleisha's group is living quietly in Portland, Oregon, in an old church that they have renovated into apartments for themselves and any future vampire boarders they can find. When Wade and Seamus locate a pair of vampires in Seattle, Wade, Eleisha, and Philip head off to investigate. Meanwhile, Julian's ghostly minion, Mary, has been spying on Eleisha's church-home, and Julian is soon on their trail.
Mary is still enraged at Julian for killing her lover, Jasper, in the previous book, but Julian has calmed her down by promising to send her back to the gray realm so that she can be reunited with Jasper. But first, Mary has to complete this job. Mary isn't sure that she believes Julian, but she does what he tells her—for awhile, at least.
The two vampires in Seattle are Christian Lefevre and Ivory Daniels. Christian is an Elder—one of the powerful vampires that Julian is tracking down—and his gift is to be able to plant suggestions into both human and vampire minds. Christian is Ivory's sire and partner, and they travel around the country scamming rich people into believing that Julian can communicate with ghosts and make them speak through Ivory. Both he and Ivory are powerful telepaths.
When Eleisha and her group meet up with Christian, Eleisha attempts to convince him and Ivory to return to Portland and live at the church. Christian, however, has other plans, and he begins using his gift against our team of good guys. Since this is the last book in the series, you already know that a final showdown with Julian is in the offing, but Christian's devious activities create some twists and turns in the plot line.
This series has been so strong all the way along, that I wasn't at all worried that the final book would be any different. Unfortunately, there's one big—gigantic, really—hole in the plot that spoils everything. The reader is aware of Christian's gift because it is made quite clear early on in the story. But all of Christian's nefarious plans can work only if Eleisha and her crew don't know what he is capable of. Then, Christian allows Eleisha to read his memories, and she sees several instances in which he planted suggestions into other vampires' minds. But she doesn't seem to realize or to act on what she has seen. She is shocked by some of his memories, but she shows no sign of having seen Christian using his gift—which is impossible to believe. Eleisha is a smart woman with a deep understanding of vampiric gifts, and she has read other people's memories any number of times. There is no logical reason that she would somehow forget or not notice the power of Christian's ability to plant mental suggestions. She is already uncomfortable with him and is not sure why. So...this is a authorial manipulation that turns into a huge glitch in the logical flow of the story. I wish I could be more positive about this book, but this plot malfunction is just too big to ignore. Of course, if you've been reading the series, you'll probably still want to read it just to see what happens to Julian and to find out if everyone makes it through safely. I suggest that you get it from your local library.
This series comes from one of the authors of the NOBLE DEAD SAGA, but this one takes place in the present-day Pacific Northwest rather than in Medieval Europe.
In this world, vampires originally followed four laws that helped them live as harmoniously and inconspicuously as possible among humans. Here are those laws as they are summarized in In Memories We Fear (pp. 238-239):
1. No vampire shall kill to feed.
2. No vampire shall make another until reaching the age of on hundred years as an undead, and no vampire shall ever make more than one companion within the span of a hundred years.
3. No vampire shall make another without the consent of the mortal.
4. The maker must teach the new vampire all methods of proper survival and all four of the laws in order to protect the secrecy of our kind.
Most vampires generally have, or can develop, varying types of telepathic powers, and they use those powers to glamour the humans they feed from. Unfortunately for Julian Ashton, the series villain, his father broke vampire rule 3, and Julian was born without any psychic abilities. Therefore, he couldn't hypnotize his human prey to make them forget about his feeding, so he had to kill every one of them. The other vampires decided to kill Julian because of his inability to follow their laws, but Julian discovered their plans and killed (beheaded) most of them instead. Julian is still on the look-out for older vampires who follow and might continue to spread knowledge of the hated laws.
Here is Julian's tragic history in a nutshell: "One of our most trusted elders lost his reason, and he made three sons in the span of a scant few years. As a result, one of them was born unto us with no telepathic abilities at all. None. His name is Julian. He cannot follow the first law." (Memories of Envy, p. 239)
The story arc for the series focuses on Eleisha Clevon's search for more vampires who can be trained to feed without killing, to use their telepathic powers in a good way, and to live "underground" in the mortal world. The high rating in violence is particularly due to several graphic blood-lust scenes in Memories of Envy.
Barb Hendee proved that she was a great story teller in her venerable series NOBLE DEAD, and she continues that tradition here. The characters are fully developed, and the action follows the trajectory that she sets in book 1: Eleisha's determination to save the vampire race by teaching them the "right" way to live amongst humans. Julian makes a fine villain, tragic in his vampiric flaws and driven by his need to eliminate all of the elder vampires who lived by laws that he could not follow. Much of each story follows the characters as they interact with one another, each coming from a different era of time and each having wildly different histories, but all looking for a family that needs them and accepts them for what they are. The sensuality level for the series is quite low because in this world, vampires feel no strong emotions and definitely don't feel passionate toward one another, that is, until Eleisha begins sharing Robert's memories, first with Philip and then with Wade.
BOOK 1: Blood Memories
The series opens with Edward, a vampire worn down by countless years of darkness, committing suicide by walking into the sun. His spectacular death draws unwelcome attention from human vampire executioners, so Edward's vampire friends, Eleisha Clevon and her ward, William Ashton, must go on the run.
After making a positive connection with one of the hunters (Wade Sheffield, a telepathic mortal and former police psychologist) and with two vampires from her past (Julian Ashton, a remorseless killer who is Eleisha's maker, and Philip Branté, a troubled friend), Eleisha finds her own kind of freedom.
Early on, Eleisha doesn't know about the vampires' four rules because Julian has kept them from her, but she has the right idea about feeding, and she is ecstatic when she learns that she can feed but still leave her human prey alive.
BOOK 2: Hunting Memories In the second book, Eleisha, Philip, and Wade try to make a new life for themselves as they find two more vampires (Robert Brighton and Rose de Spenser) and a ghost (Seamus de Spenser, Rose's long-dead cousin), but they must always be on the alert for attacks from Julian, because Julian is still searching for any of the older vampires who may have escaped his sword. Robert is definitely one of Julian's chief targets because he is 500 years old and was one of the vampires who existed back when Julian began his onslaught.
BOOK 3: Memories of Envy
In book 3, the group now consists of Eleisha, Wade, Philip, Rose, and Seamus the ghost. The plot follows the group as they become involved with Simone, a sinister female vampire who was turned in the 1920s.
The story lines include flashbacks to earlier parts of the vampires' lives, sometimes centuries ago.
Eleisha is definitely the lynch pin of her little group. Wade and Philip worry constantly about her feelings about them; Rose looks to her for protection and safety; and Seamus sees her as his leader, the one who has set them on this mission, which gives meaning to his long, cold existence.
BOOK 4: In Memories We Fear
In this book, Eleisha's group still has the same members as in book 3: Eleisha, Wade, Philip, Rose, and Seamus the ghost. As the story begins, Wade locates evidence of a feral vampire in London, so the group sets to track him down. That feral vamp is named Maxim, and he is on a rampage, terrorizing London.
Julian has sent his ghost, Mary Jordane, to spy on Eleisha's group, and he plans to interrupt their plans and kill Maxim, with the assistance of Jasper Nesland, the vampire he recently created to serve him. Much of the story focuses on Maxim as Eleisha reads his memories in order to learn his history and judge his potential for rehabilitation. In the meantime, Philip and Eleisha clash when Philip decides that Maxim is not redeemable and must die.
Another story line focuses on Julian as he interacts with Mary and Jasper, who appear to have fallen in love with one another and are united in their fear of Julian.
The meaning of the title goes back to book 2, Hunting Memories, when Eleisha read all of Robert's memories, which included the fact that Philip was once as feral as Maxim is now. Philip is afraid that if he allows the horrific Maxim to live, Eleisha will be reminded of how awful he was in Robert's memories and will be so revolted that she will turn her back on their developing relationship. A related plot thread has Eleisha sharing one of Robert's more pleasant and passionate memories with Philip, resulting in deeper feelings between than either of them thought possible.