Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Bookish Thoughts: Book 1, 2 & 3 of the Immortals After Dark Series by Kresley Cole

 

A Hunger Like No Other (2006, Pocket Star; 384 pgs) 
No Rest for the Wicked (2006, Pocket Star; 384 pgs)
Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night (2007, Pocket Star; 384 pgs)

Tasha from Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books and I got into a discussion on Twitter after I read her post "Why I Don't Read Literary Fiction: A Case Study", about my lack of excitement when reading romance novels.  I mentioned that I am always on the look out for a good romance novel that will win me over.  I don't want to not like the genre as a whole, but I do tend to shy away from it.  I have said before that I like romance in books, just usually when it's a side story and not the main story line.  I used to be able to say all those hot and heavy sex scenes bothered me as a whole (as in "What's the point? Get on with the real story already."), but even I've come to appreciate a good sex scene now and then.

I actually once was ga-ga over romance.  I read a lot of it in high school and during my early years of college.  Even then though, I tended to prefer the romantic suspense novels to the straight up romances.  So, maybe it's more a matter of burn out?

The truth is, these days novels with romance as the main story line tend to bore me (please don't throw tomatoes at your computer screen--it's messy).  I have come to realize I like more conflict than a romance-focused novel provides.  Like Tasha not especially liking to read Literary Fiction, I just don't care for romance unless it is mixed with mystery or magic or some other sort of drama.

Somewhere in that conversation, Tasha recommended the first book in Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series, A Hunger Like No Other.  She knew I liked urban fantasy and have read quite a few books that straddle that urban fantasy/paranormal romance line.  A Hunger Like No Other definitely fits more in the paranormal romance camp--heavy on the romance with a touch of mystery/thriller.  My experience with books like this (romance-focused) hasn't been all that great, so I was a little leery.

I liked A Hunger Like No Other more than I thought I would.  I had to get over my initial disgust at the male lead, whose idea of forcing himself on a woman is the way to win her over.  It was one of those situations where I had to separate my reality from the context of the fantasy I was reading.  His world is not my world.  He is from a different era, where the roles of women and men were different.  He is a different species, with animal instincts that override reason.  Once I got past that, I felt better about him, and actually came to like the big guy.  

I have to say, I really liked Emma, the female lead.  She is half vampire, half Valkyrie.  Raised by the Valkyrie as one of their own, she was raised to hate and kill vampires.  She never knew her mother and has no idea who her father is.  She wants to know him though, at least who he is, and it is why she finds herself in Paris--right in the path of LaChlain MacRieve when he escapes from his imprisonment in search of her, his Mate.  What I liked most about her character was the amount of growth she made over the course of the book.  She learns much about herself and also gains confidence as the story unfolds.  By the end of the book, she is a much different person than the one she began as in terms of courage and strength.

Kresley Cole has created a complex and interesting world, a world in which supernatural beings, all a part of the Lore, live along side the unknowing humans.  The Horde, the vampires who prey on humans and other supernatural beings, are the enemy of all, while the other supernatural beings, the immortals, seem to just tolerate each other.  

One thing I really like about Cole's immortals is how rough around the edges they are.  While gorgeous on the outside (of course), they definitely have their dark sides.  The whole good versus evil is more grey than anything else (except when it comes to the Horde).  It adds complexity to the characters as well as the story.

The common theme in the series seems to be that certain immortal beings have only one soul mate out there.  For vampires, it is their Brides.  For the Lykae, it's their Mates.  Obviously, this love connection isn't restricted to like beings, often crossing the divide, attracting immortals who aren't exactly fond of the others race.  Getting over that prejudice for love can be mighty difficult.

In LaChlain's case, he hates vampires.  Vampires imprisoned and tortured him for hundreds of years.  How is it possible his Mate would be part vampire?  He struggles internally with this dilemma, wanting both to hurt and protect Emma.  It explains his harsh behavior with her one minute and gentleness the next.  Of course, Emma doesn't understand.   She's struggling with her own feelings and preconceptions about the Lykae, and has no idea why this man is so intent on keeping her his prisoner.  

I came away from A Hunger Like No Other wanting more, always a good sign, and so jumped right into the next book in the series, No Rest for the Wicked.  Each book in the series features a different couple, so reading in order isn't necessary.  However, many of the characters appear in each of the books, and they seem to run in chronological order, so it seems safest to read the series in order.

I wasn't as taken with the second book in the series, No Rest for the Wicked.  Kaderin was a hard character for me to warm up to.  Maybe because she had been shut off from her emotions for so long and could be so ruthless in her dealing with others.  I'm not a big fan of cruelty.  She is a Valkyrie, the daughter of gods.  Her sisters had been killed years ago by vampires.  The loss was too painful to bear.  For an unknown reason, she was given a gift of the absence of emotions and has become a vampire killing machine.  Every year, Kaderin competes in a competition called the Hie, in which the goddess pits immortals against each other.  Participants are sent on a scavenger hunt in which each item they retrieve is worth a set amount of points.  The two top competitors then compete against each other for the ultimate prize.  This year's prize is one Kaderin must have at all costs.

She didn't count of meeting Sebastian Wroth though.  He is a vampire long sequestered in his house in Estonia, not aligned with the Horde or the Forebearers (the "good" vampires).  He never wanted to be a vampire and longs to die.  He welcomes Kaderin to take his life.  Only, she is unable to.  The attraction between the two is undeniable.  And Sebastian realizes he's met his Bride (not a spoiler as we know this almost immediately).  

I quite liked Sebastian.  He was ever the gentleman and had a gentle heart.  I felt bad for him the way Kaderin treated him at times.  But I also understood it was a necessary evil as Kaderin worked through the sudden reappearance of her feelings and her attraction to the one type of being she hated most in the world.  

Perhaps reading the two books back to back was too much.  I didn't find this second book in the series to be quite as alluring.  Kaderin and Sebastian weren't as interesting characters as Emma and LaChlain had been.  I didn't feel the chemistry between them as I did the couple in the first book.  Don't get me wrong.  I didn't dislike the book.  I was just glad when I finished reading it so I could move onto something else.

And so, a few books later, I picked up the third book in the Immortal After Dark series, Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night, and found it much more to my liking.  Mariketa is a young mortal, a witch who has yet to turn immortal.  She is an extremely powerful witch but is unable to control her magic.  While competing in the Hie, she comes up against the irresistible Lykae, Bowen MacReive, a Lykae, who is determined to win the contest (the same Hie Kaderin and Sebastian competed in during book 2) at all costs.

Bowen had lost his Mate centuries ago and has never gotten over it.  There's never been any evidence to suggest someone can have more than one Mate in a lifetime, and so Bowen believes the connection he feels with Mariketa when he meets here is a spell she's cast on him.  He places her in mortal danger when he leaves her behind, trapping her, along with several others, in a supernatural prison, in an effort to get ahead in the Hie.  And she wants nothing more than to kill him for putting her in such a position.

Perhaps because I have a special affinity for witches, I was immediately drawn to Mari's character.  She's young and naive in some respects, but she is also smart and ballsy.  She wasn't a damsel in distress by any stretch.

Bowen struggles with feelings of betrayal of his lost love and his growing love for Mari.  A family tragedy at the hands of a witch centuries ago only adds to the conflict in Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night, as Bowen does not trust witches in general.  I liked Bowen quite a bit in the first book in the series and not at all in the second.  In this third book, he renews my faith in his character, and I found myself rooting for him.  He's a rather gruff man, who is clearly much older than Mari, but he's likable just the same.

Of the first three books in the series, I definitely liked Mari and Bowen's story best.  It had characters I could get behind, an intriguing story and a setting I'm enjoying getting to know the more I read about it.

While the love stories in all three books are fairly formulaic (to be expected given the type of book), the characters and much of what they experienced are different enough to make each of the stories unique.  The steamy parts were sufficiently hot and well written.  And each of the books were plenty suspenseful.  I raced through each one pretty quickly.  I'd say Tasha chose well.  And yes, I do plan to read more of the series.  There a few characters I hope to see as the focus in future books!

Reading books that so heavily focused on the romance was a bit of a change for me, but the supernatural and thriller elements gave them an advantage.  I think Tasha realized this when she recommended the first book in the series to me.  Start with where the reader is most comfortable and go from there.

Many thanks to Tasha for the recommendation!



You can learn more about Kresley Cole and her books on the author's website

Source: I bought e-copies of all three books for my own reading pleasure.


© 2013, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

18 comments:

  1. Sounds both a case of burn out and also just that you want the sex scenes to have a point to them, which is perfectly understandable. If the best sex in real life is that which develops a relationship further then it makes sense for books to be the same. I think your view of Tasha's method is spot on, a good one, start with a genre the person already likes and then think of ones that are slightly apart from that but still include it. These books don't sound bad, and I liked that you discussed the difficulties you had with the alpha hero, because there are so many ways to view it - completely wrong, wrong but with the context..., etc.

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    1. Charlie - Exactly. I need the sex in books to have a purpose, not just to be gratuitous.

      When I think about it, I realized that I recommend books in a similar way. Especially to new or reluctant readers. I always ask what type of movies or television shows they like to watch or what sort of hobbies do they have, and go from there. It makes sense to do the same with readers looking to explore different genres.

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  2. Glad that you enjoyed these more than you expected. I no its wrong but I'm put off by the covers.

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    1. Tracy - I'm with you. I don't especially care for the covers either.

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  3. I understand your resistance towards pure romance novels. I used to read them in high school too (and what's up with that?) and for a long time, I felt like I had outgrown them. My favorite author back them was Julie Garwood. I tried rereading some of those romance novels as an adult and was left wondering why I had liked them so much as a teen. It probably had more to do with the sex scenes than anything else, lol. I've gone back to reading novels with a more romantic bent but like you, I prefer more than just the traditional romantic formula of boy meets girl and they fall in love accompanied by heaving bosoms on the cover. I've read the entire Immortals After Dark series and really enjoyed them all. I still consider them guilty pleasure reads, but I think the paranormal aspect gives them a bit more depth than a normal romance has. Cole certainly has taken the time to weave an entire world with history and traditions for her series. I also like historical fiction/romance as long as the author has done their research and doesn't fiddle with the history too much. I'd be interested to read your thoughts on the rest of the series so I hope you read and review them. :)

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    1. Trisha - Guilty pleasures--yes, that's how I would describe these books too. :-) It sounds like you and I are not too far off from each other in terms of our romance reading preferences. I really like historical fiction and maybe should try a historical romance on for size again. Got a good recommendation?

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    2. Right off the top of my head, Monica McCarty. She writes historical romances set in Scotland. When she takes liberties with the history, she explains her reasoning in the author's notes of each book. Being as itchy as I am about that sort of thing, it's never really bothered me too much in her books. She has several series and I like to read them in historical chronilogical order and not in the order they were published but that's just my OCD coming out. Her website has a list if you Google her. Oh. And all her books are available in e-formats. :)

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    3. Thanks, Trisha! I'll look into Monica McCarty's books!

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  4. I'm glad you enjoyed them! I totally agree that the second book was a bit of a let-down. The first one is still the best, I think.

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    1. Tasha - Thank you for recommending the series to me! I am relieved you feel the same way about the second book. I worried that it might just be me.

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  5. I read a lot of romance in high school and college as well, and got totally burnt out. It was bad and cheesy romance too, like Danielle Steele, where all the stories are the same, but the situations are different. I have been longing to try some supernatural romance, and haven't found the right ones yet, but I think you have something exciting here with these books. I like that each book focuses on a different set of characters, but they are all in the same world and have the same lore. I am going to get the first one and give it a go because, like you, I am curious, and up for the challenge. Keep reviewing these, they are very interesting, and you write about them so well!

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    1. Heather - It sounds like quite a few of us ate up romance during our younger years! If you do read the first book in this series, I'll be curious to know what you think.

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  6. I'm not a big romance fan but I would enjoy the other elements thrown in and it does sound like this series has them all!

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    1. Kathleen - Yes, this series definitely has a lot going on!

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  7. I don't turn away romance novels but there has to be a bit of meat to them for me to really enjoy it. But with that being said I have to admit to reading some "smut" books purely for the romance and sex scenes :)

    I think I might actually enjoy this series!!!

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    1. Staci - I think you might like it too! Sometimes guilty pleasures are just what we readers need. :-)

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  8. I grabbed this one from the library after seeing your review of these. I've been in the mood for paranormal romance lately so I'm excited to read these. Thanks for sharing!!

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