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3.5 Stars - This World Blows Me Away
on August 14, 2014
This is probably only my second or third read of this book, I'm re-reading the series in preparation for the release of the fourteenth book in the series - someone's book that I've been looking forward to for a few years now. But I won't spoil that here.
Kresley Cole is a master of weaving together an intricate tale that involves overlapping storylines, and many, many characters. The Immortals After Dark world is populated by the Lore - immortal beings that have managed to hide themselves from humans, for the most part. There are Lykae - not the standard werewolves you may be thinking of; Witches, Vampires, Demons, Ghouls, Phantoms...and my personal favorite: Valkyries. All these factions fight for themselves, looking for their other half - whatever they call it, Mate, Bride, etc - and living their lives. Every five-hundred years comes the Accession to mess that up. As told in the book, the Accession...
"...Bringing prosperity and power to the victors, the Accession wasn't an Armageddon type of war--it wasn't as if the strongest factions of the Lore met on neutral turf after an invitation to "rumble." About a decade into it, events began to come into play, as if fate was seeding future, deadly conflicts, involving all the players at a startling rate. Like windmill vanes on a rusted spoke, it began creaking, creeping to life, only to gain momentum and soar with speed every five hundred years.
Some said it was a kind of cosmic checks-and-balances system for an ever-growing population of immortals, forcing them to kill each other off.
In the end, the faction that lost the fewest of their kind won."
So here we are; at the beginning of what many in the Lore are starting to believe is the start of the Accession. A time when immortals find their mates - sometimes in very unexpected places, alliances are made or discord is sown between the different factions of the Lore.
I'm speaking a lot about the world, because after thirteen books it's still my favorite thing about this series. The world and overall plotting is masterful. Kresley Cole blows my mind time and time again with the way she casually ties things together, references events we won't hear about for books to come, and never once have I caught a slip or mistake in these books. I'm awed by the ability she has to keep it all straight. There's a side reference in this book, Book 2, that doesn't get fully explained until Book 9! All of these events are taking place so close together as to be on top of one another. You're always right in the middle of it, hoping that these characters you come to love will make it through.
The other thing I can guarantee you, in every book, is that Kresley Cole loves to put her heroes and heroines through the wringer before giving them their HEA. Not just at the hands of others either - she pushes these characters to the very limits of what they might be able to forgive their fated other-half...and for some it might step over the line. I struggle with this from time to time. I read these books, I love these books, and even still I wonder if I shouldn't be objecting more to some of the treatment the characters do to one another.
I suppose I should talk about the main characters of this book: Emma and Lachlain. Emma is the half-breed daughter of a vampire and a valkyrie. She's been raised by the valkyrie, hidden from the vampires, her entire life. Lachlain is the lykae king - imprisoned for 150 years (by vampires), he finally breaks free to find his mate.
As you can imagine the fact that Emma is (part) vampire is a source of tremendous torture to Lachlain's fragile sanity. He can't imagine why he's been mated to one of his hated enemies, but still he fights to protect her, even from his own rages. I definitely understood what Lachlain was struggling with, and honestly his recovery is really, really quick - just the hell that he puts Emma through in the meantime can sometimes be cringe-worthy. I like him a lot. He's like the prototype of 'bash-em-over-the-head-and-drag-her-back-to-the-cave' type. But he's also all - and I do mean ALL - about making sure his mate is happy. He makes mistakes, so it's a good thing he's got Emma to call him on it, and bring him into line.
Almost as much as I hate to say this, everything that happens to Emma just makes her stronger, more sure of herself, and more able to handle everything thrown at her. She starts the book as Emma the Timid. The most exciting thing she's ever done is go to Paris by herself to search for the father - whose name she doesn't even know. And even then she was protected by the money she had from the coven to protect her. She continues to think of herself as this in some small moments for about half the book. The truth is something far more complicated. Emma's been conditioned to think she's not good enough, not strong enough, not brave enough. It wasn't intentional, it wasn't anyone's fault, but the consequences of growing up with those that she did - the strong, brave, and fighting valkyries. She shows from very early on that she's not afraid to defend herself, think for herself, and stands up against Lachlain over and over again.
I admit the first time I read this I didn't love Lachlain or Emma. I liked them both, but I was irritated with how Lachlain treated Emma (especially in the beginning), and Emma's timidity. I'd bought too much into her own image of herself instead of seeing what was shown to me. I loved Emma on this re-read. She's fantastic. She continues to grow and evolve as a character throughout the book, and kicks ass along the way. Lachlain I still have some problems with. He does some pretty neanderthal things, especially in the beginning, but I understand too. He's coming out of fifteen decades of torture, and has finally found his mate and is terrified that she might leave him. By the time Emma reached the end of the story I felt that Lachlain was a good match for her, and that they'd be great together.
In the end, I ended up loving this book so much more than the first time I'd read it. the main characters are great, the world is phenomenal, the plot is amazing, and the secondary characters continue to make me wish for many, many more stories in this series!