This post was revised and updated on 5/2/14 to include a review of Shadowbound, the fifth novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of the first four novels.
This novel begins about ten days after the final events of book four and is divided into two sections based on a of tarot-card reading: Part 1, "The Eight of Pentacles," and Part 2, "The Ten of Swords." The identities of the characters represented by these two cards are critical to the novel's plot, so when you come to the tarot card scene, read it carefully and keep it in mind as the plot thickens.
The primary problem facing Prime David Solomon, Queen Miranda, and their allies is a series of attacks by the Order of the Morningstar, a cult-like group whose goal is to exterminate every vampire in the world. As this novel opens, the Morningstars have learned that if they kill a Prime and destroy the Signet, they can drain his or her power and use it to create powerful human soldiers. As one Prime after another is murdered, David tries to convince the more conservative Primes around the world that they need to beef up their security and take extreme precautions. Unfortunately, they are so arrogant that they refuse to believe that mere humans can possibly be a danger to them…and so the killings continue.
In the previous novel, David and some of his allied Signets became part of a magical Circle who are descendants of those who subdued Morningstar centuries ago: Devon (Prime of the West) and his consort, Jonathan Burke; Jacob Janousek (Prime of Eastern Europe) and his Consort, Cora; and Olivia (Prime of the East). They need one more member to complete their Circle: a consort for Olivia. Once they have all eight members, the powers bestowed on them by Persephone will fully develop and they will be unbeatable. At that point, Persephone, the creator of the first vampires, is expected to manifest herself on Earth. Meanwhile, most of the Circle members are already demonstrating new powers—especially Miranda, David, and Cora.
As usual, the novel follows a number of interwoven story lines:
> Miranda: She and David are both dealing with the consequences of their new powers, particularly their need to drain (i.e., kill) a human at every new moon…for the rest of their immortal lives. This is particularly difficult for Miranda because her feelings of humanity are still quite strong. She also has to deal with a tragic situation involving her long-estranged sister. As if that's not enough, Persephone keeps sending Miranda dreams about a silvery web. (Miranda's web reminded me of Nalini Singh's PsyNet in her PSY CHANGELING series).
> Deven: The Prime of the West is trying to recover from a deep depression that threatens his life. Late in the book, Deven makes a major change in his relationship with his Consort. He also has a tragic run-in with the Morningstars.
The two main story lines are the ones that involve Devon's mental condition and Morningstar's escalating terrorism. When asked to describe what's wrong with Deven, Nico responds, "Entropy. A vampire's soul is different from a human's, but it was made from a human's, and one characteristic both share is a limited life span. You simply aren't made to live this long. Essentially the Prime is falling apart as if he had already died, but he hasn't, and the dissolution is driving him mad. In most deaths the body and mind die together. Not so here." (p. 22)
As the plot plays out at a fast pace, the Morningstars become stronger and more numerous and make some direct hits on members of the Circle. Sylvan handles the multiple story lines well, with few missteps, but the reader must pay attention because the point of view (POV) changes very frequently and there are no print cues for the POV changes—just a few extra line spaces. Sometimes I had trouble figuring out the identity of the characters as new POVs popped up. This was particularly true of the first scene with Miranda's sister.
This is another solid addition to a series that I am enjoying more and more. In fact, it is a much stronger novel than some of the earlier ones. The Morningstar story arc is just in its early stages, so I'm sure that we'll be learning much more about them in future novels.
NOVEL 2: Shadowflame
David blinked, mouth opening slightly, as though he had no idea how to respond. Then he said hesitantly, "I thought Faith told you."
"Told me what." Now he looked actively sheepish.
"That Deven and I were lovers."
She knew she must look like a stranded fish, but she couldn't help it. "When?"
"When I was in California...[for] about ten years...."
"Ten years?....And it never occurred to you to bring it up?"
"As I said. I thought you knew. I didn't realize it would be such a problem." (p. 104)
NOVEL 3: Shadow's Fall
I won't be too specific about plot points in this review because there is too much of a risk of accidentally giving you a Spoiler. I'll just say that the bonds connecting the good-guy Primes and their consorts are becoming stronger and stronger, and some of them are gaining some wild and crazy powers.
The story follows Miranda and her allies as they try to figure out why their bonds are getting stronger and stronger. Meanwhile, Jeremy is out for vengeance against Hart and his cohorts for murdering his wife and kidnapping and torturing his daughter. The Morningstar lurks in the background through most of the story, but at the end, we learn why they were so eager to break into Hart's Haven and what dastardly deeds they are planning for the near future.
This book has a huge emotional range: from agony, grief, and heartbreak to compassion, joy, and hope. The ending leaves most of the good-guy characters in positive circumstances, with the possible exception of Deven, who is afraid that he is going mad. To his rescue comes a brand new character (from a very different species) who seems ready and able to help him through his troubles.
We learn a lot of new information about vampire history in this book, along with an explanation of Persephone's role in their creation. Specifically, we learn what happened to the first generation of vamps and why the second generation was created to replace them. We also see the creation of the first two members of the third vampire generation.
As always, the plot is fast-moving and complex and each character plays an important part in the development of the series story arc—which, by the way, is defined in much more detail in this book. We can finally see where the action is taking us, and it looks like we have a wild ride ahead in the next book. This book is a real page-turner, and I highly recommend the series. Don't start with this book, though. Go back and read the first three installments before you read this one. Click HERE for an excerpt from Of Shadow Born. Click HERE for a second excerpt.