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Saturday, September 15, 2012


Author:  Jeaniene Frost 
Plot Type:  Soul Mate Romance (SMR) with an Urban Fantasy (UF) slant
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality4; Humor—2-3 
Publisher and Titles:  Avon
          Once Burned (6/2012)
          Twice Tempted (3/2013)
          Bound by Flames (1/2015)
          Into the Fire (2/2017) (FINAL)

This ongoing post was revised and updated on 3/15/17 to include a review of Into the Fire, the fourth (and FINAL) novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and a review of the first three novels.

      FAIR WARNING: This review of Into the Fire     
      contains spoilers for the previous two novels.      
                       NOVEL 4:  Into the Fire                       
     In the explosive finale to Jeaniene Frost’s NIGHT PRINCE series, Vlad is in danger of losing his bride to an enemy whose powers might prove greater than those of the Prince of Vampires. In the wrong hands, love can be a deadly weapon.

    For nearly six hundred years, Vlad Tepesh cared for nothing, so he had nothing to lose. His brutal reputation ensured that all but the most foolhardy stayed away. Now, falling in love with Leila has put him at the mercy of his passions. And one adversary has found a devastating way to use Vlad’s new bride against him.

     A powerful spell links Leila to the necromancer Mircea. If he suffers or dies, so does she. Magic is forbidden to vampires, so Vlad and Leila enlist an unlikely guide as they search for a way to break the spell. But an ancient enemy lies in wait, capable of turning Vlad and Leila’s closest friends against them . . . and finally tearing the lovers apart forever.

     Nothing has ever been easy in Vlad and Leila's year-long romance. (Yesunbelievably—all of the NIGHT PRINCE action takes place within a single year!) Leila, in particular, has been through a lot: kidnapping, torture, romantic rejection, familial rejection, betrayal, and more. When Leila gets her hair burned off (late in this novel), she muses, "Mencheres knows a hair-growing spell, I reminded myself. This was the second time this year that I'd need to use one. Between the tortures, the gas line explosion, the skinning, getting shot, and now this, if my body could talk, it would probably tell me it wanted a divorce."

     In a spell-gone-wrong in the previous novel, a necromancer named Mircea accidentally linked himselfbody, blood, and mindto Leila. That means that if one dies, so does the other. Now, some unknown perpetrators have kidnapped Mircea, and they are threatening to kill Mircea (and Leila) unless Vlad does them some horrendous favors. As Vlad and Leila attempt to find Mircea, they enlist the services of several of their allies (not Cat and Bones, although Vlad's group does use their mountain cabin as a hideout). The group hops around the globe from Romania to North Carolina to Los Angeles to Belarus to Bavaria and finally back to Romania. During their travels, they are forced to deal with demons, necromancers, good and bad vamps, and one of Leila's long-lost ancestors. Each episode has some degree of danger and suspense, so the action moves along at a compelling pace, with lots of magic-filled battle scenes. Of course, Frost also provides plenty of explicitly sexy bedroom scenes to balance things out.

     This story answers all of Leila's questions about the source of her magical powers, the true circumstances of her mother's death, and the facts about her genetic heritage. Eventually Vlad and Leila are placed in an untenable situation that seems to spell the end for both of them, but you and I both know that Frost would never kill off her starring couple at the end of their series. So, hold your breath as you read those final, thrilling, scary chapters as Leila finally comes into her own and takes full control over her magic.

     Frost's new NIGHT REBEL series (also set in this world) features two characters who make appearances in this novel: Veritas, a Law Guardian with mysterious magical powers, and Ian, a playboy vampire whose sire is Mencheres. In Into the Fire, Ian plays a major role because he is one of the few vampires who have been taught to practice magic, and Mencheres orders him to assist Vlad and Leila in breaking the spell that binds Leila to Mircea. Veritas doesn't appear until the final battle that climaxes the novel, but it is obvious that she has some mysteries in her past that should be fun to explore. 

     Because this is the final novel of the series, Frost fans won't want to miss it. 
Click HERE to go to this book's page to read or listen to an excerpt by clicking either on the cover art or the "Listen" icon.

One final note: This novel is being published a year later than promised, and in Frost's introductory "Acknowledgements" essay, she explains the tragic family events that led to the delay. My heart goes out to Frost and her family at this difficult time.

FULL DISCLOSURE: My review of Into the Fire is based on an electronic advance reading copy (ARC) of the book that I received from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I received no promotional or monetary rewards, and the opinions in this review are entirely my own.  

     This is a spin-off of Frost's NIGHT HUNTRESS series with Vlad Basarab Dracul (aka Vlad Tepesh or Dracula) in the starring role, along with his soul-mate, Leila (aka Frankie) Dalton. Their love story is too complex to be told in one book, so at least two are planned. This series shares the same mythology that Frost created for NIGHT HUNTRESS. Click HERE to read more about the various supernaturals of this universe. Click HERE to read my reviews of the books in the NIGHT HUNTRESS series. Click HERE to see where the NIGHT PRINCE books fall in the reading order for all of Frost's series. 

                       NOVEL 1:  Once Burned                       
     Vlad is a familiar character from the NH series, where he sweeps in every once in awhile to assist the good guys and to serve as a nemesis for Bones. Vlad's soon-to-be soul-mate, Leila Dalton, is a mortal with the requisite tragic history. When she was thirteen, she touched a high-voltage power line and awoke to find her body indelibly altered. Here is one character's summary of what happened to Leila: "You touched a downed power line..., nearly died, and then, later, your body began giving off electric voltage and your right hand divined psychic impressions from whatever you saw." (p. 16) As a result of her power-charge, Leila has to beware of touching anyone. The scar left by the electrical shock runs from her temple to right hand and is the reason she calls herself "Frankie"—short for "Frankenstein," which, cruelly, became her childhood nickname. Leila left her childhood home as soon she could and has been earning a living as a circus performer, doing gymnastics with her vampire partner, Marty. 

     As the story opens, Leila gets some undesired publicity when she accidentally touches a woman and "sees" that the woman's husband plans to kill her. When the police find that everything Leila predicted about the husband's murder preparations is true, the newspapers have a field day. Shortly afterward, some vampire thugs kidnap Leila and force her to "read" several objects and lead them to a powerful vampire they plan to kill. That vampire is, of course, Vlad Tepesh, an ancient and powerful vampire with fiery talents. As Leila—who is in fear for her life—reads the kidnappers' objects, she is (for the first time) able to connect mentally with Vlad, and she warns him about what her kidnappers plan to do. Vlad sweeps in to save Leila and punish the bad guys. He then carries Leila off to his Romanian castle because he wants her help in tracking down whoever hired the kidnappers. At this point, Leila learns that Vlad, because of his abilities with fire, is immune to her electrical powers. This is a huge event in Leila's life, because since her accident, she has never been able to touch anyone without badly shocking them. At this point in the story, the reader can see the red-hot romantic writing on the wall.

     The action plot involves tracking down the mystery man who is trying to kill Vlad. The romance plot is very rocky because Leila finds it hard to get used to Vlad's cold-hearted approach to life. When Vlad tortures Marty to be sure that he's telling the truth, Leila is outraged. Later, though, she discovers that she has a streak of darkness within herself as she gets revenge on some vampires who hurt her and her friends. Both the action plot and the romance are left open-ended after the climactic showdown scene with the villain, who may or may not have been killed. 

     Frost is a great story teller, and she has always been able to create fully developed characters with just enough flaws to make them interesting. Vlad continues to be an inimitably watchable character as he makes cold-blooded decisions but still manages to come across as a good guy. Cat and Bones show up in this book in one short scene, but their characters are not really necessary to the flow of the story. The book can be read as a stand-alone because it does not rely on any NIGHT HUNTRESS history for its plot points. Click HERE to go to this book's page to read or listen to an excerpt by clicking either on the cover art or the "Listen" icon.

                       NOVEL 2:  Twice Tempted                       
     The primary focus of the second book is the rocky romance between Vlad and Leila. As the story begins, commitment-shy Vlad refuses to profess his love for Leila. Demoralized by her long-standing lack of self-esteem and feelings of self-doubt, Leila fears that Vlad is no longer attracted to her because she has lost her psychometric ability to "read" objects and is now of no use to him. When Vlad makes a shocking and unexpected public announcement that he wants to bring Leila into his family by turning her into a vampire, she leaves him and heads back to the U.S. to rejoin Marty's carnival. She is devastated because she believed that Vlad was going to propose marriage—not vampirism. Leila's take on the situation is that "Vlad thought my humanity needed an upgrade, and he'd decided to inform me of that with a roomful of vampires as witnesses." (p. 27) Of course, Vlad has no idea why Leila is so upset because in his world a public acceptance into his family is a great honor. He tells Leila: "I shared my house, my bed, and my blood with you, as well as offered you a place in my life forever. What are words compared with that?" (p. 94) He's got a point there.

     When someone sets off a bomb that destroys much of the carnival and kills a number of people, Leila is saved by Maximus, who accompanied her as a bodyguard on her trip from Romania to America. Maximus is still in love with Leila and hopes that he can win her over now that Vlad is seemingly out of the picture. As we all know, however, Vlad is NEVER out of the picture. When he believes that Leila was killed in the attack, he takes actions that prove his love for her, even if she doesn't find out about them until much later in the story.

     The action part of the plot involves the person behind the bombing—someone who keeps coming after Leila all through the book. The bomber's identity is not revealed until the end of the story, but the ultimate villain—the evildoer behind the scenes—is identifiable almost from the beginning (if you have read book 1 of the series, that is). 

     This book is definitely heavier on the romance than on the action. Leila spends much of her time in angst-filled interior monologues agonizing over Vlad's unwillingness to verbally admit that he cares for her. If he can't say the words, she reasons, then he must not feel the emotions. We don't get much Vlad time in this book. Too bad about that, because he's one of the most fascinating characters that Frost has created—certainly much more interesting and complex than Leila. Vlad appears only in a series of combative scenes with Leila in which they keep misunderstanding one another (and then having hot make-up sex, or as Vlad calls it, "angry sex").

     Frost is a master at plot development, and she doesn't disappoint in this book. The action sequences are compelling, and the suspense is always high. Character development, though, isn't as successful. Leila frequently comes off as a whiny adolescent, and Gretchen (Leila's sister) continues to be an unappealing brat who needs to curb her narcissism and acquire some self-discipline. Leila has allowed her father and sister to treat her like dirt for decades, but it's really time for her to stand up to them and stop taking their emotional (and in Gretchen's case, physical) abuse.

     The book ends in yet another cliff hanger. Click HERE to go to this novel's page to read or listen to an excerpt by clicking either on the cover art or the "Listen" icon.

      FAIR WARNING: This review of Bound by Flames     
      contains spoilers for the previous two novels.      
                       NOVEL 3:  Bound by Flames                       
     Now that Vlad and Leila are married, Vlad's over-protectiveness shifts into high gear, leaving Leila feeling stifled and under-appreciated. The struggle between their equally stubborn wills continues throughout the story, although Leila gradually comes to realize that Vlad's actions are rooted in his deep fear that if he loses her, he will lose his mind. Early on, Leila decides that she has to teach her ancient, powerful, stubborn vampire husband to compromise, an almost impossible task.

     Along with her marital problems, Leila is also struggling with the loss of some of her powers. After being changed into a vampire, Leila can no longer link mentally to anyone, and Vlad can't hear her thoughts anymore. She does have new vampire skills (super senses, instant healing), and her body still has the high levels of electric voltage that make her right hand a weapon. Throughout the story, Leila's powers ebb and flow erratically for various reasons, leaving her at a disadvantage in some dicey situations. As Leila tries to survive, her mean-girl inner voice continues to denigrate her, chipping away at her self-confidence and reminding her that she is and always has been a loser who will never find happiness. 

     The action continues to revolve around Vlad's bitter enemy, Mihaly Szilagyi, who has been trying to kill Vlad and Leila ever since he reappeared recently after having been presumed dead for three centuries. Szilagyi continues to outwit and outgun Vlad throughout the story, even managing to kidnap and torture Leila and destroy Vlad's home in the process. No matter what Vlad plans, Szilagyi always manages to stay one step ahead of him, even after Vlad forces his former friend, Maximus, to go undercover in Szilagyi's camp as a spy. I have to warn you that the torture scenes are graphic in nature and difficult to stomach.

     When Vlad works out a plan to rescue Leila from Szilagyi's clutches, he calls in all favors, particularly from Cat and Mencheres. Cat's scene (with Fabian and the Remnants) is brief, but very important to Leila's rescue. That rescue, though, comes only about halfway through the book, so there is still plenty more action to comeall leading up to a slam-bang ending that leaves Vlad with one enemy vanquished, but another one on the run. The only quibble I have with this plot is that the motives the two villains give for their dastardly deeds are very weakdefinitely not strong enough to have served as the catalysts for such long-standing personal hostility and for their never-ending attempts at violent retribution. Their mindless hatred for Vlad and their senseless slaughter of innocents turns them into one-dimensional psychopaths without any depth or nuancethe least interesting type of villain in my opinion. 

     In the final scenes, Vlad learns the truth about some of the events in his earlier lifetruths that involve a powerful necromancer whose hatred for Vlad equals that of Szilagyi. Unfortunately, that necromancer has accidentally forged a dangerous connection with Leila, so we'll have to see how that turns out in the next book.

     This book is typical for the series: lots of bedroom scenes, plenty of angst, and scene after scene of violent action. If you are a Frost fan, you won't want to miss it. Click HERE to go to this book's page to read or listen to an excerpt by clicking either on the cover art or the "Listen" icon.

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