Series: UNBOUND TRILOGY
Plot Type: Soul Mate Romance (SMR) in an urban setting
Ratings: Violence--4-5; Sensuality--4; Humor--2
Publisher and Titles: MIRA
Blood Bound (7/2011)
Shadow Bound (6/2012)
Oath Bound (5/2013) (FINAL)
Sera grew up in an extremely sheltered atmosphere and has absolutely no knowledge of the ruthless violence that ruled her biological father's life. She was raised by her mother and step-father—the only father she ever knew. Just three months ago, her parents and her sister were murdered in a home invasion, and Sera wants revenge. That's the favor she asks from Julia: the death of her family's killer. Now, she's been kidnapped by a sexy guy who Travels through the shadows, and he's taken her to a house with no exits—all of the doors and windows are screwed shut. Of course, Kris and his friends don't need doors because so many of them are Travelers, but Sera knows nothing about Kris and his associates (all of the lead characters from the previous two books), and she's terrified that they will kill her when they find out that she is Jake's daughter.
The story follows the group's efforts to rescue Kenley and to track down the killer of Sera's family. Both Kris and Sera feel a mutual attraction right from the beginning, but there is so much distrust and so many secrets standing between them that it takes a very long time for that attraction to burst into flame, if you know what I mean (and I think you do). Unfortunately, this relationship takes many, many more unhappy twists and turns than one would hope, making it difficult to understand how the tiny flame of their attraction keeps burning. The two spend most of their time arguing and misunderstanding one another, and there is really no trace of romantic undercurrent throughout most of the book. Some of the Kris' friends and family seem to see the mutual attraction, but the reader (at least, this reader) doesn't see much evidence to support that.
The action part of the plot is suitably dark and violent. Julia is just as cold-hearted and brutal as her brother ever was, and she plays some Machiavellian games with Kris and his crew. Once again, Binding is an important part of the story line as Sera realizes that as Jake's true heir, all of his Bindings now go to her. At first, she wants to free everyone, but eventually she has to consider what happens to people who have been Bound for decades and then are suddenly freed. Who protects them from other syndicates? Where do they go? Sera is really the only true innocent we have seen in this series, and she makes a lot of mistakes as she learns the real truth about life and death in the big city under the shadow of the crime families.
Although this book is billed as the final installment, the author definitely leaves the door open for further adventures. Jake Tower may be dead, but there is still another crime family in town—the one run by Ruben Cavazos, and Ruben still has Cam and Olive Bound to him. So...maybe some day Vincent will finish the story, but in the meantime, this trilogy has plenty to capture your interest: an inventive mythology, well-developed characters, and compelling plots.
On her blog, the author explains her inspiration for the world-building: "What if a person's word really was his or her bond? What if, once given, a promise could never be taken back? Would you be more careful what you way?...If the spoken word carries that much power, how much more would the written word carry? What about words written (or sealed in) blood? What about words written (and sealed in) flesh? Tattoos and graffiti take on a whloe new meaning, huh?"
This urban world is as different from life on Faythe's Texas ranch as it could possibly be. In the BLOOD BOUND world, there are no shifters or vampires or demons. Instead, there are the Skilled—people who are born with special magical Skills. Here is a partial list of the Skills:
Liv's love life has been terrible for the past six years, ever since she was forced to dump her long-time boyfriend, Cameron (Cam) Caballero. Cam is also a Tracker whose specialty is Name Tracking. If Cam has a person's full name, he can find them anywhere. We don't discover why Liv left Cam until deep into the book, but, trust me, it's a big payoff.
Cam is still deeply in love with Liv, and he'll do just about anything to win her back. Here, Cam muses about his attraction to Liv: "Over the past six years, living and working in this city had turned the funny, charismatic girl I'd loved with every cell of my body into a jaded, hard-edged loner I still couldn't look at without catching my breath....Olivia was a wire wound too tight, always about to snap, but she lived on excitement and thrived under pressure. Being with her was like holding a bomb in both hands, watching the numbers tick back toward zero. I knew she'd eventually explode, and this time it might kill me." (Blood Bound, pp. 81-82) The chemistry between Liv and Cam is sizzling, with just the right amount of sexual tension running through all of their scenes. Both Liv and Cam are keeping a lot of secrets from one another, and some of the revelations could be devastating to their future relationship.
Early in Blood Bound, Cam shows up at Liv's office with Anne, one of Liv's childhood friends. Anne and Liv, along with two of their friends, accidentally bound themselves to help one another back when they were teens, and Anne uses that binding to coerce Liv into tracking her husband's murderer. She also forces Liv to partner with Cam for the investigation. As the plot thickens, Anne's daughter is put in jeopardy, and Liv and Cam are caught in a confrontation between the Tower and Cavazos crime syndicates. Liv and Cam must try to get around the various oaths that bind them so that they can rescue the girl and begin to trust—and love—each other once again.
Blood Bound is told in the first person, switching back and forth in point of view (POV) from Liv to Cam. This is confusing the first time it happens (Chapter 3), but then you get used to it. Vincent handles the difficulties of first person narrative with the ease of a veteran. Shadow Bound will also feature a dual POV: Liv's childhood friend, Kori, and a new character named Ian. This time she plans to label the chapters with the name of the narrator, which should clarify the switches in POV.
Vincent has created a terrifically inventive world in this series, a world in which seemingly simple oaths can change people's lives. All of the characters are well developed. Each one has a back story that creates empathy on the part of the reader. No one is all good or all bad—just as in real life. Liv and Cam have flaws. They have made wrong decisions in their lives, but they are basically good people. Even Cavazos and his crazed wife, who are awful human beings, are shown to have some good in them. The plot is intricate, and it plays out in a compelling manner. I have to say that I figured out the big plot point (can't tell you what it is though) about 3/4 of the way through, but that still didn't spoil the story for me. The ending is a bit of a cliff hanger, with Liv on the verge of making a decision that will change her life for many more years. I can't wait to read Shadow Bound.
BOOK 2: Shadow Bound
The heroine of the story, Korinne (Kori) Daniels, is a Traveller—a shadow walker, which means that she can walk into a shadow in one place and emerge in shadows or darkness far from her starting point. As the story opens, Kori has been tortured and sexually abused for more than six weeks for her role in the battle that climaxed book 1. During that fight, both she and her boss, Jake Tower, were shot. Jake punished Kori by locking her up and leaving her at the mercy of his psychotic brother, Jonah. As part of that punishment, Jake commanded Kori, "Don't fight back." Since this was Jake's direct order, that made it part of Kori's binding and she had no choice but to accept Jonah's abuse without opposition. When Jake finally frees Kori, he assigns her as an escort and recruiter of Ian Holt, an extremely powerful blinder who can pull darkness even in the daytime to cover himself from view. Jake is determined to bind Ian to him and he tells Kori that she must do anything and everything that Ian asks her to do. If she doesn't convince Ian to sign the binding oath, Jake promises to torture her sister (Kenley) and then kill Kori. Kenley is an incredibly strong binder who acts as Jake's sealer: "A Binder like Kenley seals [an oath], with ink, blood or spoken promise. Or some combination of those. A verbal promise is the weakest. A blood binding is the strongest, whether sealed on paper, flesh, or any other surface." (p. 102)