Category Archives: vampires

Once Bitten by Kalayna Price

Kita Nekai, on the run and the smallest of her shifter clan—a calico cat among lions and tigers—is being hunted. She was expected to accept her role as her father’s successor whether or not her cat was up to the task of leading the clan. She disagreed. Now she’s less than a step ahead of the hunters, bone-tired, cold, and living hand-to-mouth in the city of Haven. And that’s the high point of her day. She’s also drugged, “accidentally” turned into a vampire, and sentenced to death for recklessly creating a rogue shifter who tortures its human prey. She’s got seventy-two hours to find the rogue, evade a city full of hunters, prove she’s not responsible for the rogue, and keep the vampire council from killing her. All while sorting out an apprentice mage, a married ex-boyfriend shifter-hunter, and the vampire who made her.

Once Bitten coverAlright, its Sunday morning and I’m sleepy so I am borrowing the synopsis for Once Bitten by Kalayna Price from Goodreads, which is also the synopsis from the back of the book. I picked it up because I really enjoy Price’s Alex Craft series, and I loved the concept of a shifter that turns into a house cat. It was a good choice, because I really enjoyed the book.

Kita is a well-written, relate-able character, and I was completely invested in her story. Kita was both brave and cowardly – she was brave enough to leave the only home she ever knew and enter the completely unknown human world all by herself, but also cowardly because she did it to escape her responsibilities and run away from heartbreak. She had the guts to stand up to the judge who wanted to execute her, but the whole time she investigated the rogue shifter she planned to leave the friends who helped her as soon as possible. Kita wanted to help her friends, but not get attached to anyone. It was an interesting character trait – you rooted for Kita, but also hoped she would appreciate what was around her and make the right decision. I love characters who aren’t perfect, and Kita fit the bill. Plus she could turn into a calico cat!! Sure turning into a wolf or tiger is probably more impressive, but there’s something to be said for being able to transform into a small, adorable kitty. When Kita was turned into a vampire and lost her ability to shift (which I still hold out hope is temporary) I was genuinely sad and upset.

calico cat

Calico cats are so cute! 

 

The other major characters were Nathaniel, old vampire who “accidentally” turned Kita into a vampire and therefore became her master and protector; Bobby, another shifter and lifetime friend of Kita; and Gil, apprentice mage who is following Kita around so she can write a paper about her. They all try to help find the rogue shifter so Kita will not be executed. Nathaniel was the best of the group – he understood Kita best, and whether she liked it or not did what was best for her. He also had a fairly well-written history and his personality was well-developed and easy to understand. Bobby was a bit more shallow and never grew – no matter what, all he did was ask Kita to go back to Firth with him. He spent the novel threatening Nathaniel and attempting to fight over Kita. The male posturing got old very rapidly. Gil was a haughty mage who appeared to care more about her research and potential fame more than anyone’s life, although I suspect she will become more important in future novels.

Price made a unique world-building choice that I am dying to learn more about. Most shifters live in Firth, a place separate from the human world, which can only be accessed once a month during the full moon. Firth was mentioned quite a few times, but never exactly explained. It reminded me a bit of Faerie, connected to the human world but allowed the Fae race to be separate. I have never heard of a world like this for shifters before though. I really really hope Kita and the rest of the team get to travel to Firth at some point so we can learn more about it.

4 stars 02

Four stars for this book. It was a fun read and I’m looking forward to reading more of Kita and Nathaniel’s store. Price’s entire world-building was great. She used the Show Don’t Tell method, and she did is exceptionally well. We know this world has shifters who come from a separate world which is ruled by Elders. We know there are vampires and a Vampire Council. And apparently there are also mages and demons, though we know the least about them. There is so much to learn about this world, and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, Twice Dead.

 

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Greyfriar by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith

Greyfriar by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith, a husband-and-wife writing team, is the first book in the Vampire Empire series. It is an alternate universe novel, set in a time when vampires banded together and essentially took over the world in the late 1800’s. Humanity, which now lives in the cities closest to the equator where there is the most heat and sun, has finally made enough technological advances that they are prepared to start fighting back. The main protagonist in the story is Adele, Princess and future Empress of Equatoria, and land that encompasses most of the former British Empire. While on a diplomatic mission, Adele’s airship is attacked by vampires. She is rescued by the legendary Greyfriar, a human known for his ability to fight vampires. As she travels through Northern Europe and falls in and out of the hands of the ruling vampire clan, her worldview is shattered, and she learns quite a bit about herself and the vampires she has grown up hating and wishing to destroy.

greyfriar coverA unique take on the vampire lore is presented in this novel. Vampires are creatures that a born, not made from humans. They have exceptional senses of sight, hearing, and smell but feel little pain and have a terrible sense of touch that makes it difficult for them to manipulate tools – which is fine, because they are arrogant and find manual labor beneath them, forcing their human “bloodmen” to do it for them. They have retractable claws which they use as a main weapon. They can also fly – sort of? They can change the density of their body, and therefore float and move around with the breeze.

 

On one hand, I had a bunch of issues with this novel. I’m not sure I ever completely bought into the vampire lore. I respect the authors for trying to do something different, but I think it was too different. I believed almost everything right up until the change their body density to float/fly thing. I also found it unusual that the vampires had no interest in any sort of knowledge – they couldn’t read or write, and didn’t care that they couldn’t. They ruled and conquered by physical strength. Perhaps it is just because I have read far too many vampire novels in which the vampires are brilliant, rich and well-read, using the knowledge they gain by living for centuries to their advantage. The fact that these long-lived vampires had no concept of that seemed strange to me. I wanted this new and different take on vampires to be refreshing, but instead it irked me and took away from the story.

 

 

I did enjoy the relationship between Greyfriar and Adele. I felt Greyfriar appeared a bit too vulnerable at points, and it took away from the believe-ability of his character. But I thought their relationship was believe-able and well-written, and that kept me interested in the story. I figured out Greyfriar’s real identity almost immediately, and at first I was annoyed, but then later decided the writers did it on purpose and it worked.

 

There were these few and far between moments that alluded to some sort of magic. Presumably this becomes more important to the plot in the next novel? Otherwise I can’t figure out why it was mentioned. So little information about it was offered, that I found it annoying and abrupt rather than mysterious. I just wanted to get back to the action with Adele and Greyfriar. The mystery-magic either needed to be more developed or removed completely, particularly the secret meetings. I think moving them to the beginning of the next novel would have been more effective and interesting, and just left the readers wondering why Adele’s prayers have an effect on the vampires. This paragraph was a bit vague, but I don’t want to give anything away.

 

Overall, this novel was OK and I do plan to read the next one eventually, being interested in Greyfriar and Adele, and how their relationship will grow and change. I give it 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it to fans of alternate history and steampunk vampire novels. I use the term steampunk loosely though – the novel has airships, but that’s about it for typical steampunk technology.

 

Reap the Wind by Karen Chance

Reap the Wind is the seventh installment in the Cassandra Palmer series by Karen Chance. When I first got into this series, I devoured the books. Cassie was one of my favorite characters of all time, and the world building was right up there witreap the windh the Mercy Thompson series and the Kate Daniels series. I could not get enough…I actually BOUGHT the sixth book, Tempt the Stars (reviewed here). And I was disappointed. The series had reached the point where there was too much action and yet not enough action. Pages of action sequences, like running/fighting/shifting through the demon realms, without any advancing of the plot. I was getting tired of Cassie going round and round with Pritkin and Mircea as well. Reap the Wind was finally different.

**SPOILER ALERT!!** 

I’m not necessarily spoiling the plot here, but I am going to give away some of Cassie’s character development in this novel. Read on at your own risk.

In previous novels, Cassie spent her time being pushed around by various individuals. Whether it was Tony, the vampire who originally “owned” her; Pritkin, who bossed her around in the process of training; Mircea, who sure became her sort-of-husband but was also a high level Master vampire and bossing people around is what Master vampires DO; Jonas, leader of the Circle who believes he should control the Pythia; even Agnes, former Pythia who had a plan for how she wanted Cassie to follow in her footsteps. Cassie threw her power around and expressed some strong opinions, but never really stood up for herself – more so complained when people didn’t do what she thought was right or ethical. Not anymore. Cassie comes to the realization that while she may control the Pythia power, it hasn’t magically (pardon the pun) earned her the respect of all the people trying to boss her around. This major turning point finds Cassie taking charge of her life, making decisions for herself, and forcing the people around her to take her seriously. It was refreshing, and the Cassie I have been looking forward to for several books.

Now the bad news is: Chance leaves us with yet another cliffhanger. Not as bad as the last few books maybe, but a cliffhanger all the same. Worst is that her publishing company announces one date of publication for the next book, and then pushes it off at least 6 months, sometimes longer. It didn’t bother me as much as it may have since I was expecting it, I just sort of sighed and moved on with my life. Maybe someday Chance will actually resolve something in this series. I still love the characters and the world (more Kit Marlowe please!), and I’m going to keep reading them. From a library. I won’t be spending any money on them and I’m not in a hurry to get the next one.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness is the first book in the All Souls Trilogy. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

discovery-of-witchesDiana, scholar of history and alchemy and reluctant witch, is working in the Oxford library when she discovers a very magical book. Having spent most of her life denying her powers, Diana ignores the book and tries to go about her life. But Diana’s contact with the book has attracted the attention of the rest of the magical creatures, including witches, daemons, and one very powerful and attractive vampire, Matthew de Clermont. Witches and vampires have been mortal enemies for as long as anyone can remember, but Diana has no choice but to work with Matthew if she wants to stay safe while she figures out what’s so special about the book and why everyone is after her.

I liked this book because it was so different from what I had been reading, lots of long high fantasy books with complex worlds and magic and I needed something lighter. This book was an interesting take on magic and magical creatures. The story takes place in present day all over the world–England, France, and New York. Witches are powerful beings who can control several different kinds of powers, although it appears each generation of witches is less powerful than the ones before. Vampires are immortal blood-drinkers, generally considered evil and hated by the witches. We don’t learn much about daemons, aside from the fact that they are brilliant, into the arts, and typically go insane. Most importantly, the 3 species of creatures hate each other and never almost interact.

These distinct lines between creatures begin to blur when Diana begins working with dangerous and infamous vampire Matthew to figure out why the book Ashmole 782 is special and why every creature on the planet (except Diana) is interested in it. While working together, Diana and Matthew eventually fall in love, causing even more problems because relationships between different creatures are strictly forbidden. Naturally, this makes all the search for answers even more important and makes even more creatures hate and want to destroy both Diana and Matthew.

While I did enjoy this book, and really sympathized with Diana and Matthew and thought their relationship was interesting and well developed, the plot was tricky. It started out about the mysterious alchemy book, then became about Diana and Matthew’s relationship, then became about Diana learning more about her past, and then a secret and ancient society of vampires became involved, and then it was about Diana learning to control her powers she had been ignoring since she was a child and…. I’m sure I’m missing something. Probably several somethings. Knowing this book is part of a trilogy, I’m sure some of this information could have waited. It was too much. By the end of the novel, I had almost completely forgotten about the mysterious book that started it all, and if I wasn’t so interested in the characters (including all of the “side” characters, who I was equally interested in) I may have given up. I still intend to read the next book, Shadow of Night, but I am hoping it will stay on point and not wander quite so much.

I give this book 4 stars out of 5 and recommend it for fans of urban fantasy and magic who also have an interest in history. I wouldn’t necessarily classify it as “historical fiction” but I did enjoy the mentions of history and secret societies.

Happy reading!

-Branwen

Tempt the Stars by Karen Chance

This review will contain spoilers for the 5th book in the Cassandra Palmer series, Hunt the Moon. If you haven’t read it, don’t read this review!

For real, I’m about to reveal the ending of Hunt the Moon. Here it comes.

Hunt the Moon ended on this epic cliffhanger. Cassie was dying, and Pritkin used his demon powers to save her life. This violated Pritkin’s agreement with his demon-lord father Rosier, and he was immediately taken to the hell dimension, never allowed to return. This doesn’t fly with Cassie, who is furious that Pritkin sacrificed his freedom for her, and immediately shifts off to save him.

tempt the stars coverTempt the Stars picks up almost immediately where Hunt the Moon left off. Cassie is searching for a way to help Pritkin, only it’s tricky because she has no idea how to even get to hell. Cassie spends most of the book whining about missing Pritkin, and running around trying to find a way to save him. She even goes back in time and gets Pritkin to help her find her mother, the goddess Athena, in the past so she can save Pritkin in the future. Talk about confusing. It felt like this book kept leading up to something and never quite got there.

As usual with Cassandra Palmer novels, and actually all the Karen Chance, novels, this book was action-packed and never slowed down. There were some crazy new sorts of magic we hadn’t seen in this world before. And we finally got to meet Cassie’s father. The bad news was, Mircea was almost totally absent from this novel, except for this one weird fantasy shower sex scene. And (don’t hate me) as much as I like Pritkin, I am firmly in the Cassie-and-Mircea camp, especially after reading the Dorina Basarab novels. I really wanted to read more Cassie and Mircea together (and honestly, just more Mircea in general) and I was super disappointed that he was barely mentioned. And then, the ending of this book was no better than the ending of Hunt the Moon. It wasn’t even that I minded that it was sort of a cliffhanger, that’s pretty much to be expected from these books. But it felt like nothing changed from the ending of the last book. There was almost no point to this story at all, from my perspective. I liked it because it was a Cassie Palmer novel, but I didn’t like it because I almost got the feeling nothing happened.

Long wait for a disappointing book. I hope the next one, whenever it comes out, is better, and has more Mircea!

Happy reading,

-Branwen

Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost

After a tragic accident scarred her body and destroyed her dreams, Leila never imagined that the worst was still to come: terrifying powers that let her channel electricity and learn a person’s darkest secrets through a single touch. Leila is doomed to a life of solitude…until creatures of the night kidnap her, forcing her to reach out with a telepathic distress call to the world’s most infamous vampire…

Vlad Tepesh inspired the greatest vampire legend of all—but whatever you do, don’t call him Dracula. Vlad’s ability to control fire makes him one of the most feared vampires in existence, but his enemies have found a new weapon against him—a beautiful mortal with powers to match his own. When Vlad and Leila meet, however, passion ignites between them, threatening to consume them both. It will take everything that they are to stop an enemy intent on bringing them down in flames.

OnceBurnedI love the back-of-the-book summaries for paranormal romance novels. They are always so dramatic. Anyway, I read this book partly on the recommendation of Liza Barrett over at Classy Cat Books and partly because Vlad is one of my favorite characters from the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost and I desperately wanted to read more about him. I have to admit, this book was not what I expected.

The book was told from the POV of Leila. Leila is a young woman (I could never quite figure out how old she was, which bugged me. I thought she was like, 18, and then at other times she acted more like 26. I can’t explain why this was such a problem for me, but it was). After a gruesome accident when she was a teenager, Leila mysteriously gains the power to channel electricity and also read other people’s past and sometimes their future with a touch. Maybe someone can explain to me how touching a downed power line can imbue someone with psychic powers because I couldn’t figure it out. I was able to buy in the channeling electricity thing. But seeing the future AND also being able to “link minds” with other people was a huge stretch for me. This bummed me out, because she was a cool character with a no nonsense attitude that I appreciated and enjoyed. I did think her attitude and reactions to some things was a little stereotypical and I got a “it’s been done feeling” but otherwise she was decently written.

I wish parts of this book would have been told from Vlad’s perspective. We get a very few glimpses into his memories from Leila’s weird power, but that didn’t tell us much. All the descriptions from Leila were colored by her trying to figure out whether or not she was in love with him. It wasn’t very creatively done, and I didn’t feel like I got to know Vlad any better than I already knew him from the Night Huntress books. He didn’t seem like the same character as he did in those books either. I was expecting a bit more of a sense of humor and less evil-vampire type-casting. Seemed a little overdone to me.

The cameo by Cat, Bones and company was a nice touch but didn’t make much sense. It didn’t help me understand where in the Night Huntress timeline this book fit in (I guess after Night Huntress book 6? I don’t remember if Leila was mentioned in that book or not). Seemed like Frost just threw the cameo in because she felt like she had to. I would have liked more interaction between Leila and Cat. That would have been interesting.

I feel like I spent this entire review complaining haha, but I did like this book. It was action packed and I did like the way Frost added parts of the Dracula and Vlad the Impaler legends, including actual locations that exist in real life. I’m definitely going to read the next book in this series, because even though I didn’t love this book I still can’t get enough of Vlad. I just hope he’s a little more interesting in the next book Twice Tempted.

Happy reading,

-Branwen

Fury’s Kiss by Karen Chance

Dorina Basarab is a dhampir—half-human, half-vampire. Subject to uncontrollable rages, most dhampirs live very short, very violent lives. But so far, Dory has managed to maintain her sanity by unleashing her anger on those demons and vampires who deserve killing… 

furys-kiss-coverDory is used to fighting hard and nasty. So when she wakes up in a strange scientific lab with a strange man standing over her, her first instinct is to take his head off. Luckily, the man is actually the master vampire Louis-Cesare, so he’s not an easy kill.

It turns out that Dory had been working with a Vampire Senate task force on the smuggling of magical items and weaponry out of Faerie when she was captured and brought to the lab. But when Louis-Cesare rescues her, she has no memory of what happened to her.

To find out what was done to her—and who is behind it—Dory will have to face off with fallen angels, the maddest of mad scientists, and a new breed of vampires that are far worse than undead…

Fury’s Kiss is the third installment in the Dorina Basarab series by Karen Chance. I’ll be honest, I read these books because I am absolutely in love with the Cassandra Palmer series, and I like these extra visits with Mircea and Louis-Cesare. They keep me hanging on while I wait for the next Cassandra Palmer book to come out. Which, by the way, came out at the beginning of the month, Tempt the Stars, Cassandra Palmer #6. But since I am not a book buyer, more of a get-books-from-the-library-er, I haven’t been able to snag a copy yet. Hopefully soon! Anyways back to the current book. 

I stole the summary from Goodreads because after reading this book I’m still not entirely sure what happened. I mean, I know Dory was in it. And she was struggling with keeping her “vampire half” under control. And there were lots of portals involved–the kind that went to Faerie, and the kind that connected various places in the vampire world, including the ones in Dory’s house. The house she shared with her half-fey roommate Claire, who is some sort of royalty, and is in trouble because of her royal son and what he’s supposed to inherit. Or not inherit, I wasn’t really sure about that part. Dory’s father Mircea showed up every once in awhile too, to tell Dory to stay away from the vampire problem, and also to use his master vampire powers to read Dory’s mind and figure out what she knows that can help the vampires win their war. So, you can see, this book was a little confusing. There was just way too much happening. I couldn’t keep it all straight. On top of the 497 plot points, a new race of characters, the Irin who claim to be fall angels, was introduced. For no reason that I could discern. I’ll admit, I did read part of this book at night in bed when I was sleepy. But I certainly wasn’t sleepy enough to lose all powers of reading comprehension. There was just too much to comprehend!

There were some things I liked about this book. We did get to read about Louis-Cesare and Mircea, even though it wasn’t as much as I would have liked. More of Mircea and Dory’s past was revealed, and how hard Mircea worked to keep Dory safe and protected from those who thought all dhampirs should just be put down, and also from her own mind. We even saw Dory become closer to Mircea, despite her best intentions and efforts. There were some impression fight scenes in this book, too. Again, the problem was almost the entire book was fight scenes. Some of them rambled on a bit and didn’t make much sense. I was also sort of bored with them by the end, and just wanted to get to the point and find out who the bad guy was. 

This was not my favorite Karen Chance book, but it did get me excited for the next Cassandra Palmer book, which I hope to get my hands on soon. And while I’m excited to read more about Cassie and Pritkin, I have to say the Dorina books have made me love Mircea more. Can’t wait for Tempt the Stars!

Happy reading,

-Branwen