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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Michele Rowen: NIGHTSHADE

Author: Michelle Rowen
Plot Type: UF with an SMR slant
Ratings: V5; S3; H1) 
Publisher and Titles: Berkley
      Nightshade (2011)
     "Bleeding Heart" in Primal anthology (2011)
      Bloodlust (2011)  

     This blog entry was updated 8/11/11 to include the latest book in the seriesBloodlustwhich is reviewed near the bottom of this page immediately following this summary of the series so far:

     In this world, vampires and dhampyrs (human mother-vampire father) exist but are unknown to the human population, except for a handful of humans who act as blood slaves to the vampires and a few fanatic para-scientists who are trying to develop drugs that will kill all the vampires.  

     In the first few pages of Nightshade, Jillian (Jill) Conrad is injected with a poisonous serum called Nightshade when she inadvertently gets between the traitorous chemist who developed it and the scary dhampyr who wants to take it from him. In a last-ditch effort either to escape or get revenge, the chemist sticks the needle in Jill's neck, and the plot kicks off with a bang in the first ten pages. The Nightshade serum was to have been used to assassinate Matthias, the vampire king. When injected into a human, the serum makes that human's blood both irresistible and fatal to vampires.

     Declan Reyes, the dhampyr mentioned above, soon hauls Jill off to his father's laboratory where things go from bad to worse for Jill. Oh yes, Dad is one of those delusional, fanatical scientists who frequently turn up in paranormal fiction. He's absolutely sure that he knows how to make the world rightno matter how much collateral damage he causes along the way, and it soon begins to look as if Jill is going to be one of the casualties. After Dad and his team begin treating Jill like a prisoner and using her for experiments, Jill begins to see Declan as her only friend and protector, and their relationship starts to build, complicated by the fact that Declan's father keeps him injected with emotion-suppressing (and passion-squelching) drugs. The drugs are supposedly meant to allow Declan to control his violent vampire side and keep his human side in control, but in reality, their purpose is to keep Declan under his father's thumb. An underlying theme for the series is that emotional suppressants are harmful for everyone, both humans and supernaturals. The plot eventually climaxes in a showdown in Matthias's underground fortress, where all kinds of long-held secrets and betrayals are revealed.  


     If you plan to keep reading this series, be sure to read the novella "Bleeding Heart" in the Primal anthology next. It takes place just days after the ending of Nightshade and provides an essential piece of the story. If you'd like to read my review of Primal, click HERE.


     Bloodlust begins just two weeks after Jill was accidentally injected with the Nightshade vaccine. After all of the action in book 1, she and Declan are moving from one cheap hotel to another, staying in touch with Noah so that they can maintain a source of the fusing potion that Jill needs to keep the Nightshade from killing her. Early on, Jill and Declan receive the shock of their lives when Mattias shows up—weak, but alive. As it turns out, Mattias has been healing himself in seclusion, but now he's baaaaack, and still very attracted to Jill. (By the way, this isn't a spoiler because it happens in the first scene of the book.) So...this is the situation: Now that Declan is permanently affected by his father's experimental serum, he is back to being cold and emotionless, which definitely puts a damper on his romance with Jill. That soon changes, however, as his dhampyr genetics begin to kick in, and his behavior becomes increasingly unstable and somewhat violent, even, at times, towards Jill. Almost as soon as Matthias reappears, his former minions attack him and steal the key to the chamber in which his crazy brother, Kristoff, is imprisoned. 

     The history between Kristoff and Matthias was explained in the previous book, but to put it in a nutshell, the brothers had significant disagreements on how to rule the vampire kingdom. When Kristoff went too far and killed his daughter for blood that would make him immortal, Matthias locked him up and took over the vampire throne. With Kristoff now free and back in charge, Jill and Declan form an uneasy alliance with Matthias. The trio must take down Kristoff in order to save the world from his impending plans for vampire domination of the world. This alliance becomes increasingly important because Kristoff soon finds out about the power of Jill's blood, and he decides to make her an important part of his evil master plan. Throughout the story Jill, Declan, and Matthias are put into situations where they must make difficult choices that have unhappy, and sometimes unpredictable, consequences for both themselves and others. Jill, in particular, is forced to make decisions that deeply and sometimes tragically affect people she cares about. The plot has so many unexpected twists and hairpin turns that you won't be able to stop reading. Treacherous betrayals and duplicitous intrigue are rife among both the good guys and the bad guys. The ending was totally unpredictable for me, and very satisfying. 


    This is a dark and violent series, so be prepared. The plot is fresh and inventivea different take on the vampire story. For example, Declan is not the usual handsome paranormal hero. His face and body are deeply scarred, and he is missing one eye. He is not the usual passionate, lust-filled hero, either, because of the drugs with which he has been injected. Both Jill and Declan are sympathetic characters who struggle with their emotions, each for different reasons. Another strong point in the series is that the villains are also sympathetic characters, some more than others, of course. They have reasons for what they do, even if their reasons may be misguided (or totally whacked), and the reader has some sympathy for them. In these stories, no one is all good or all bad, and that is refreshing. I'm really enjoying this series, and I'm hoping for more books, but the author says in a 7/21/11 blog entry that she originally planned this as a duology with an interceding novella and has no contract for future books in this series at the present time. Too bad, I'd have liked to read more.

Here's a quote from Jill that sums up the first 100 pages of Nightshade:
     "So there I was, hurtling down the highway in a stolen pickup truck toward a secret anti-vampire research town with a scarred, dangerous dhampyr on the very edge of his self-control holding my hand, comforting me about a failed suicide attempt once upon a time, and proclaiming that he wanted to screw my poisoned brains out.  It was like a f---ing fairy tale." (p. 103)

     Rowen has also written the LIVING IN EDEN series, which tells a somewhat lighter story than NIGHTSHADE. Click HERE to see my review of LIVING IN EDEN

This blog entry was last updated on 8/11/11.

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