Author: Kristen Painter
Out for Blood (10/2012)
Last Blood (7/2013) FINAL
Chrysabelle and Mal: At the end of the previous book, all of Mal's love for Chrysabelle was sucked out of him, so now he has reverted to his bestial self and spends his time plotting to kill Chrysabelle, whom he views as prey. Here, one character describes Mal's condition: "Mal's love for [Chrysabelle] was stolen by a fae. Now he is like he was before. A beast. A creature controlled only by his desire to feed." (p. 169) Poor Chrysabelle has to deal with her pregnancy alone, keeping it a secret from everyone in fear that someone will try to take the baby from her or even prevent its birth. Chrysabelle is determined to get Mal's love back, whatever the cost. Meanwhile, Tatiana learns of the split between Mal and Chrysabelle and attempts to use it to her own advantage.
Doc, the varcolai (shifter) and Fi, the ghost: In his new position as alpha of the local shifter pack, Doc must contend with accusations that someone in his pack put silver in the arena sand during the battle in which Fi killed Heaven, the evil wife Doc inherited from the previous pack leader. Heaven's brother, Remo, is making the accusations, and he has some dark reasons for his actions. This story line follows Pete Vernadetto, the police chief, as he investigates the murder.
The Vampire Baby: Both Tatiana and Lola Diaz-White, the mayor of Paradise City, are still trying to retrieve the half vampire/half human baby who is the progeny of the Preacher and Lola's late daughter. As the story opens, the baby (know as both Lilith and Mariela) has been carried off by the vampire ancients, who pumped her full of their powerful blood with disastrous consequences. As Tatiana soon discovers, Lilith is now a grown woman who out-powers the ancients (and scares them to death), but has the emotional stability of a "terrible two-year-old"—that is to say, she is a petulant tantrum-throwing terror who won't take no for an answer and strikes down anyone who tries to rein her in.
Tatiana: When the Ancients make Lililth Tatiana's responsibility, she has to figure out a way to stop her "daughter" from killing her in a blind rage. As part of her plan, Tatiana wants to reunite with Mal and become the leader of the vampires .And one more thing—she wants Chrysabelle dead, dead, dead!
Lola Diaz-White: Now that the mayor is a vampire, she wants to bring the supernaturals into play in the government and security of Paradise City. As she tries to consolidate her power before announcing to the public that she is a vampire, she trusts the wrong people and opens herself to all sorts of danger and intrigue.
Creek: Creek, the half-Seminole Kubai Mata (KM) agent, wants to quit the KM, but the only way to do that is to pay off his bond or win a fight against a basilisk who can turn him to stone if he looks into her eyes even for a second. Creek spends most of the book inadvertently assisting the good guys in the other story threads by providing security support and a few clues.
This book really doesn't get going until the half-way point, when the various story lines begin to mesh, and the action really heats up. The story line with the weakest resolution is the one in which Chrysabelle retrieves Mal's love for her. It goes so quickly and smoothly that there's no real drama or suspense. The resolution of the Lilith and Tatiana story line goes biblically woo-woo—to the point that I was just shaking my head in disbelief. Having said that, I have to admit that the story lines for Creek and for Fi-Doc were full of dramatic surprises. Needless to say, by the end Chrysabelle and Mal get their HEA, and life is safe and peaceful for the rest of the good guys.
BOOK 1: Blood Rights
Chrysabelle and Mac spend a great deal of time just getting used to each other's worlds. Then they and their friends go off on a mission to rescue Aunt Maris, who has been kidnapped by the villainess, Tatiana, a powerful ancient vampire who is in league with the Castus Sanguis—fallen angels with demonic qualities and enormous power. The story is written in the third person, and it mostly jumps back and forth among three points of view: from Chrysabelle to Mal to Tatiania and back again. We also get a few scenes from Maris's point of view. The angst levels are high for just about every character throughout the story. Mal, in particular, is forced to relive some horrific scenes from his past. The book is weakened by its many one-note scenes with the evil Tatiana, as she does one awful thing after another to innocents and not-so-innocents alike. Here is a typical Tatiana moment in which she makes sure that her servant won't tell any secrets: "With a rabid growl, her human features disappeared as her facial bones shifted and her fangs descended fully. She sank them into her servant's throat, his cries filling her ears like chamber music, his blood disappearing down her gullet along with the secret of the missing ring." (p. 5)
And here she is again, making life miserable for a hotel manager, who begins the conversation:
"Is there anything we can do or provide to help you settle in? Anything at all?"
Sycophant. She smiled back, perfectly willing to test his mettle. "Female twins. No blonds. Not older than twenty-five, and still virgins." She glanced at her diamond and platinum Cartier. "Say...half an hour? I'd hate to spend my first night in Paris without a proper French meal." (p. 78)
Chrysabelle is supposed to be 115 years old, but she comes across as a relatively immature 20-something, with lots of whining, sullenness, and general bad behavior. The idea that she is so skilled with all of her many weapons doesn't make much sense. Her comarré life is described as having been very soft and luxurious—the best of everything. Her weapons training occurred during her pre-patron days, when she was very young. Now, that training is a century behind her, but she still has impossibly great skills—hard to believe. The relationship between Chrysabelle and Mal is believable, with both having very different pasts with lots of secrets. For me, this book had a number of first-book weaknesses, but I'll stick with the series for now because of its inventive worldview. One last thing about the futuristic setting: Even though the series is set in 2067, there are no major updates in life styles or technology. Maris does use an iBot wheelchair, but no specifics are given as to its design.
As Chrysabelle and Mal try to get back on a friendly level, a new character threatens to come between them: Creek, who is a member of a mysterious organization called the Kubai Mata (KM). Here is Creek as he muses about the KM: "...he would do whatever the KM wanted and not worry that the KM were part Free-mason, part Templar, part Cosa Nostra, only more dangerous and in charge of some crazy power....The KM might make the Illuminati look like the Boy Scouts, but othernaturals and the humans who served them were the only ones who had anything to worry about." (p. 80) Creek has been sent to Paradise City to retrieve the ring of sorrows from Chrysabelle, but instead, he finds himself falling in love with her, to Mal's consternation.
BOOK 3: Bad Blood
Several separate subplots develop and play out throughout this book with three of them merging in the requisite showdown scene at the end. Here are the three main story lines.
The Vampire Baby: This baby is the progeny of the vampire who calls himself the Preacher and the late daughter of Lola Diaz-White, the mayor of Paradise City (who, by the way, acts like a total idiot in this book). As the book begins, the baby is in the custody of Tatiana and her consort, Octavian. Tatiana has unexpectedly developed protective motherly feelings as she imagines that her new daughter will help her gain more and more power in the vampire world. But Lola wants her granddaughter back, and she is willing to go to unimaginable lengths to do that. The Kubai Mata also wants the child for their own (unknown) reasons. Naturally, Chrysabelle and her crew get dragged into the baby-rescue situation.
Damian: Chrysabelle now believes that Damian, Tatiana's comar, is her long-lost brother. At the beginning of this book, he has escaped from Tatiana and is living on Mal's ship, but he is soon captured and returned to Tatiana's custody, so Chrysabelle and Mal must rescue him as well.
Two additional subplots alternate with the scenes of the three main story lines:
Doc, the varcolai (shifter) and Fi, the ghost: Doc is now the alpha of the local shifter pack, and things are not going well for him in his new position, primarily because he inherited a jealous, spiteful wife (ironically named Heaven) from the previous alpha (whom he killed in book 3). Fi is determined to get rid of the wife, and she does it in her typically stubborn and headstrong way, creating all sorts of mayhem in the process.
Creek: Creek, the half-Seminole Kubai Mata agent who was hot for Chrysabelle in the previous book, hooks up with Yahla, the beautiful Seminole raven spirit woman he rescued from a witch, but Yahla has her own ideas about how Creek should live his life, and she knows just how to get him to do exactly what she wants.
And then there is the romance between Chrysabelle and Mal: The two move further along in their romantic relationship as they try to figure out exactly what the long-term effects of Chrysabelle's new signum will be. Early in the story, Mal gets caught up in one of the mayor's wrong-headed schemes and discovers that he retains one of his vampiric powers that he thought was gone forever. Eventually, Chrysabelle and Mal declare their love for one another and go off to rescue Damian and the vampire baby, who are both in Tatiana's clutches. Near the end of the book, they finally get some bedroom time (but off-page, so no graphic details), and even talk about a future for themselves. But if you think that Chrysabelle and Mal get their HEA, you haven't read enough urban fantasy—because HEA never happens before the very last scene in the very last book. The next book is probably the last one, so we can look forward to Chrysabelle's final showdown with Tatiana and some kind of resolution for Chrysabelle and Mal.
Although the characters are well developed and the story lines move along at a compelling pace, the resolutions of several of the conflicts are relatively predictable (particularly the story lines that involve Fi's challenge fight with Heaven and Octavian's trustworthiness). Still, I'm interesting in seeing how the author brings this series to a close, so I'm looking forward to the next book.