Plot Type: Soul-Mate Romance (SMR)
Meanwhile, the Guardians are dealing with a new threat. Someone is turning highly skilled military men into vampires and sending them out to capture one or more of the Immortals. These new vamps are extremely strong and well-trained in hand-to-hand combat. Plus, they are armed with darts filled with twice the normal amount of the vampire tranquilizer—enough to knock out an Immortal for days. Lisette finds this out the hard way one night when she is hunting vampires with Zach and gets hit with a dart. Zach fears that she is dying, so he grabs up Lisette and the two uber-vamps and smashes his way into David's house in the middle of a major meeting of the Immortals. It is at this point that Seth and Zach make peace with one another and the reader learns how and why they became estranged in the first place.
Although there are a few too many repetitious vampire-hunting scenes, on the whole, this is a tight, suspense-filled plot with some major twists and turns. Each time Seth believes that he has identified the traitor, new information surfaces and his search continues on to the next suspect. There are two climactic scenes near the end of the book: one with lots of guns and explosions and one with a long-overdue, bitter encounter between ancient enemies. Both are connected with the search for the true traitor, who is still on the loose. Once again, we don't find out exactly what or who Seth, Zach, and the Others are, but I keep adding up the clues—attractive, winged men who were originally tasked with observing humans—and this leads me to the Bible, specifically to the Book of Enoch. Somehow, this situation has to include angels, fallen angels, and/or nephilum in some way, shape, or form. Perhaps we'll get the full story in the next novel.
The romance plot line follows the usual lust-filled path, but with fewer bumps and less angst than some of the romances in previous books. Although Zach has lived for thousands of years, he is still a virgin, but don't worry, he has either been reading sex manuals or watching porn because he knows all of the right moves.
In the primary sub-plot, the Immortals are worried about the birth of Ami's child, which happens towards the end of the book in one of those screaming birth scenes with major complications. The suspense builds throughout the scene because no child has ever been born with the combination of alien DNA (Ami) and vampire-infected blood (Marcus).
Although this novel runs long (425 pages), it moves along quickly, with the action scenes and the romance scenes interweaving in a natural manner. Zach and Lisette are a well-matched couple, both strong, brave, and highly skilled warriors who would lay down their lives for one another. Readers who are keeping up with this series will love the fact that we get a bit more information about Seth's tragic background and a few more vague hints about his true identity.
Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read an excerpt from Night Unbound. Click HERE to read an interview with Dianne Duvall on pp. 24-25 in the September/October issue of BTS Book Reviews, an e-magazine
Click HERE to go to a page on the author's web site where she provides a glossary of terms and a list of character descriptions. Click HERE to go to a page on the author's web site with links to excerpts. Click HERE to go to a page with links to character interviews and free series-related short stories.
Here are the soul-mate couples (so far):
> Roland and Sarah Bingham (novel 1)
> Marcus Grayden and Amiriska (Ami) (novel 2)
> Sebastien (Bastien) and Dr. Melanie Lipton (novel 3)
> Richart d'Alençon and Jenna McBride (novella 3.5)
> Etienne d'Alençon and Krysta Linz (novel 4)
> Lisette d'Alençon and Zachariah (Zach) (novel 5)
Sara is the usual paranormal heroine, with a tragic childhood and an inability to sustain a romantic relationship. Roland, the Guardian she saves, has a reputation for being a gruff loner, refusing even to have a human assistant to guard him during his day sleep. Naturally enough, it's lust at first sight for this couple, even after she finds out that he is a fangy bloodsucker. Sara has absolutely no second thoughts about their relationship, so there is zero angst—which is highly unusual for a paranormal romance (and rather disappointing). As Sara and Roland get to know one another, they must contend with continual attacks from a mysterious vampire named Bastien, who wants Roland dead for reasons that we don't learn until the end of the story. As the attacks continue, Roland's fellow Guardians arrive to help him out, and we meet the rest of the cast of characters for the series: Seth, the all-powerful leader; David, Seth's second in command; Darnell, David's human second; Marcus, Roland's best friend; Richart, Étienne, and Lisette d'Alençon—a sibling team of French Guardians; and Chris Reordan, a human in charge of computer data gathering, clean-up, and daytime security for the Guardians.
Also—SPOILER ALERT—Sara's "gift" comes out of nowhere. We hear nothing much about the content of Sara's dreams at any point during the story—just that she has trouble sleeping. Then, bam! Her dreaming ability becomes a life-changing talent. I don't think so...For me, the most enjoyable character is Nietzsche, Roland's 40-year-old vampire cat, who takes on raccoons and opossums twice his size. He has more depth than some of the humanoid characters.
Click HERE to read an excerpt from Darkness Dawns (scroll down a bit to find it).
NOVEL 2: Night Reigns
The action plot centers around the mysterious set of new villains who turned up at the end of book 2. Emrys, the leader of that group, is determined to create an army of mercenary super-soldiers using vampire blood, so he has put together a black-ops tactical force to stake out the city and capture vampires for experimental purposes. Emrys is the man who tortured Ami in book 2, so all of the Guardians are determined to take him down. In an effort to weaken Emrys' efforts, Bastien proposes that the Guardians try to win some of the vampires over to their side. He takes the lead, locating Stuart, a young vampire who agrees to sign on with the Guardians. Unfortunately, that plan doesn't end well, particularly for Melanie. A major battle scene late in the book is full of bloody action and drama, but the requisite climactic showdown at the end is a bit too short and too neat. The story line involving Emrys is resolved by the end of the book, but new problems crop up in the final pages.
Once again, we get a bit more information about Seth when he meets up with Zach, another of his kind, and we learn that for some reason Seth has distanced himself from the rest of his people. We also learn that David has some magical powers that he's been keeping under wraps.
This book is much better than books 1 and 2. The characters of the hero and heroine are more fully developed, and we're getting the back stories of the rest of the supporting cast. Melanie is an intelligent heroine, who doesn't have a single TSTL moment; the flip side is that she is a bland heroine. Thankfully, the environmental theme of the first two books has been scaled way back in this one, with just a few references to the Guardians' diet of organic food and no references at all to the their gas-saving cars, although the narration does draws attention to the fact that the bad guys drive gas-guzzling Hummers. There's no time travel in this story; it's a straightforward paranormal romance with an action-filled plot. This is not a stand-alone novel. The author doesn't provide much of a summary of past events, so a new reader might be confused by all the hatred for Bastien. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Phantom Shadows (scroll down a bit to find it).
NOVELLA 3.5: "In Still Darkness"
Then, the unexpected happens: One night, just as Étienne jumps in to help Krysta fight off a large group of vamps, someone shoots a tranquilizer dart into his neck and then begins banging away at both of them with high-powered guns. They escape with the help of Krysta's brother, and the main action plot is underway.
Krysta and her brother, Sean, each have a magical talent (thus we immediately know that they are Gifted Ones): Krysta can see people's auras, and Sean can heal with a touch of his hands (although all of the injuries he heals transfer from the injured person's body to his own—and that's a huge problem for a healer). Since the two are Gifted, Seth agrees to allow them entry into the Guardians' world.
Krysta and Sean are soon adopted into the extended family of the Immortal Guardians as the the group attempts to figure out the identity of their new attackers. Supposedly, all evidence related to the tranquilizers was destroyed after the big battle that ended the previous book, but somehow this new group not only has the formula, but an army of mercenaries as well. The previous group (under the command of Emrys) captured vamps and immortals in order to cut them apart and try to figure out the secret to their super powers. Seth and David (leaders of the Immortal Guardians) destroyed all computer files, research records, and equipment as well as wiping the memories of the two men who were Emrys' top lieutenants. So…what's going on here? How has this new group learned to make the tranquilizer (which is the only drug that will incapacitate an immortal)? Why is their secret headquarters identical to that of Emrys? Could there be a traitor in the Guardians' ranks? The action plot follows the Guardians as they follow the clues and take down yet another enemy.
In the meantime, the primary romance plot takes Krysta and Étienne from immediate attraction to lustful glances and sighs to hot love scenes—and finally to their HEA. In a side story line, Étienne's sister, Lisette, is falling for the mysterious Zach (and vice versa). And in yet another story line, the Guardians are worried about Ami's pregnancy and about her friendship with Zach.
As usual, the author spends too much time on the whole eco-friendly, organic theme, as she has the characters explain to Krysta that their highly developed senses result in extreme sensitivity to pollution and to artificial food additives and chemicals. That's why they drive hybrid or electric cars and eat only organically grown food. Still, why bother discussing this at length in every book when it has absolutely nothing to do with the plots?
By now, the cast of characters is so large that if you haven't read the previous books, you may get confused as to who is human, who is immortal, and who has mated with whom. Therefore, I don't recommend this novel as a standalone. With its interesting characters and suspenseful plot, this is another strong installment in this ongoing series. The characters of both Étienne and Krysta are well developed, and their chemistry is obvious from their first meeting. The single problem I have with their relationship is that Krysta's (and Sean's) distrust of the immortals dissolves much too quickly. After all, the siblings have been hunting (and despising) vampires for years, ever since some vamps butchered Krysta's fiancé right in front of her. Yet, it takes only a day or two for both of them to believe the whole Guardian mythology and trust them as good guys. Other than Krysta's very brief initial distrust, her relationship with Étienne goes very smoothly, with no bumps, no misunderstandings, and no angst. After having over-the-top heroes like Roland and Bastien in the past, Étienne comes across as rather bland and almost too nice to be real. The only small bit of romantic drama comes in the Lisette-Zach story thread, and that romance hasn't even really bloomed yet.
Everything considered, though, this is a strong addition to the series, and it ends with a cliff hanger involving the identity of the traitor. The next book will no doubt turn inwards for its villain rather than outwards toward external enemies as has been the case in the previous books. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Darkness Rising (scroll down a bit to find it).