This month’s entry for SLWendy’s TBR Challenge, “series catch up” (oh dear)
A few years ago I read Ms Cole’s A Hunger Like No Other, the first full length novel in her Immortals After Dark series. While I had issues with the novel, I liked well enough to think I would immediately devour whichever other books in the series were out at the time (four, it turns out) and be ready for imminent release of the next one. So I went out to my trusty used book store and managed to find them all, brought them home and added to the humongous, infamous TBR Mountain Range.
Fast forward almost five years…
As it happens, No Rest for the Wicked is only the second title in the series.
Apparently, my issues with the first book were more serious than I thought (more on this below).
Anyway, here’s the back cover blurb:
A vampire soldier weary of life…
Centuries ago, Sebastian Wroth was turned into a vampire—a nightmare in his mind—against his will. Burdened with hatred and alone for ages, he sees little reason to live. Until an exquisite, fey creature comes to kill him, inadvertently saving him instead.
A Valkyrie assassin dispatched to destroy him…
When Kaderin the Cold Hearted lost her two beloved sisters to a vampire attack long ago, a benevolent force deadened her sorrow—accidentally extinguishing all of her emotions. Yet whenever she encounters Sebastian, her feelings—particularly lust—emerge multiplied. For the first time, she’s unable to complete a kill.
Competitors in a legendary hunt…
The course will take them through ancient tombs and catacombs, seeking relics around the world, and the price for victory is powerful enough for Kaderin to change history and prevent her sisters’ deaths. Sebastian competes as well, and begins winning—her. But when forced to choose between Sebastian and reuniting her family, how can Kaderin live without either?
Once again, Ms Cole chooses to start the story in the past, in 1709, when Sebastian was turned—by his own older brothers—into the cursed thing he loathes most: vampyr! While the scene doesn’t have the same impact as that famous first line in A Hunger Like No Other, it’s pretty powerful nonetheless.
Fast forward three centuries, give or take a couple of years. We find Sebastian willing and ready to be killed. He has spend the centuries pretty much sitting there gloomily (old castle, unidentified country), doing his best to be unobtrusive and inoffensive to the villagers nearby, and waiting to die. So far, no luck there. But then, lo and behold, here comes a small woman armed with a sword who seems willing to oblige.
Kaderin is a Valkyrie, daughter or Wooden/Odin, and her mission in life is to kill vampires. She’s very good at her job, in good part because for the last thousand years she has not felt—following an extremely traumatic event, her emotions disappeared. There is no sorrow, no joy, no love, no hatred. There is…void. Kaderin may or may not kill other creatures of the Lore, depending on the circumstances, but mostly it’s all about the vamps, and it has been so for a couple of millennia, give or take a decade, so a lone gloomy bloodsucker should a) take no time at all from her busy schedule, and b) not be remarkable in any way.
However, a couple of unexpected things happen.
First, Sebastian heart starts beating again—which indicates that Kaderin is his Bride. (Aside: in this universe, when a turned human finds his Bride—does this mean that only straight men and lesbian women can be turned? Not sure, actually—he becomes fully vampire, and apparently there are heavy benefits to it. At any rate, vampires feel an incredibly strong attraction—not just lust, though there’s plenty of that—to their Brides, and are pretty determined to claim and keep them.)
Second, Kaderin starts feeling emotions. And boy, does this wrecks havoc with her balance!
Turns out she can’t kill him—blasted emotions!—which starts a delicious chain of events spanning a number of weeks and pretty much the entire globe.
Kaderin wants nothing to do with Sebastian, and she would rather not keep on feeling when she’s around him. Not only does she have a reputation as The Assasin of her coven to maintain, the Talisman’s Hie is about to start, and one cannot go around the globe eliminating one’s fellow competitors and finding treasure for the goddess Riora if one is distracted by feelings—particularly lust.
I found myself as engrossed by this novel as I did by the first, reading it pretty much without stopping for anything other than the dreaded job. Ms Cole knows how to grab the reader and not let go for the duration. There’s a lot—and I do mean, a lot—of action, but it was mostly Sebastian I was reading for.
We have a man with a powerful intellect and an equally powerful curiosity, born in a time of transformation and upheaval. By trade a warrior, by inclination a scholar. Like his brothers, he is big and imposing. Unlike them, he’s also an introvert and almost shy. Slain young, he has little hands on experience of the world—though he continues to be an avid reader, and so is not totally ignorant of world events and technological and scientific advances—and absolutely no knowledge of the Lore. Imagine his shock when the elfin sprite who shows up intent on putting him out of his misery turns out to be his Bride, the daughter of a god, and a cold blooded killer.
And if that weren’t enough of a shock to Sebastian’s system, it so happens that there are a multitude of other mythical creatures that are not, as a matter of fact, myth. We have a host of varieties of demons, we have werewolves, witches, elves, trolls, dragons, sirens, fae, and so on and so forth. Not to mention goddesses hosting the equivalent of a scavenger hunt for priceless magical artifacts.
I absolutely loved the way Sebastian approached his sudden change in circumstances. He no longer longs for death, he wants to live! Mind you, he is not all “I love her!”—in fact, there’s a conversation there were both analyze this powerful mutual attraction and question their feelings for each other. They don’t know each other, how can they love? The fact that Ms Cole has the protagonists questioning the insta-love and the fated mate trope in the novel was full of win.
Anyway, there are a number of obstacles in the path to win fair maiden—or, in this case, cold-hearted Valkyrie—the first of which is the fact that Kaderin has run off into the sunlight without leaving contact information. What does our gallant knight do? He thinks about the problem and finds a way to “trace” (teleport?) directly to her. This, by the by, has always been considered an impossibility, as vampires are only able to trace to places they have been in before, which puts Sebastian in quite the favorable position with Riora, hostess of the Talisman’s Hie and goddess of impossibility.
Throughout the novel, Sebastian spends at least as much time thinking about what’s going on as simply acting and reacting, and I find that incredibly attractive—particularly because it’s done well. He grows as a person, and in the end, he grows up. He has to take out a number of preconceived notions and study them in the cold light of logic, letting go of old resentments and prejudice.
Kaderin was, as far as I’m concerned, quite a bit less well developed. We know that, because she was deprived of emotions for about a thousand years, it is a shock to her to suddenly feel everything, and especially to feel so much for Sebastian. It’s understandable, then, when she overreacts at the beginning, and that she struggles to find a balance. Plus, she does have plenty of reasons to grieve and to hate and to avenge—she was the oldest of triplets, and feels directly responsible for the death of the other two. So I wanted to cut her some slack when she kept acting like a middle school girl—yes, I want you, but not I don’t, wait yes I do…—but eventually it got old.
Still, there were a number of moments where both main characters were so perfectly photographed, bits that allowed me to connect perfectly with both Sebastian and Kaderin. For example, those moments when he hesitates to approach her—he’s a very large man, and she’s so small, and in all of his previous experience, his size has scared and/or hurt women. The moment when Kaderin regrets having to kill the basilisks and is moved that Sebastian spared at least one of them. The torment of Kaderin’s memories/nightmares—a thousand years worth of them.
In the end, I believed that these two people can have a successful and happy relationship, which is always good when reading a romance novel, and I mostly enjoyed the supernatural world Ms Cole has created.
Once again, my problem was with most, if not all the other characters. From Riora, through the other competitors, and down to the last Valkyrie, they are all caricatures. Flat, two dimensional, and utterly uninteresting.
This is exactly how I felt about the secondary characters in A Hunger Like No Other, and it’s probably why five years passed before I picked up the second novel: there is no character in the novel whose story I crave to read. I could not care less about any of them. This disinterest was so deep I actually had to re-read my review and then flip through my copy of the book to try and remember some of the stuff before picking up No Rest For The Wicked.
Then I did and blew through it in about three hours—go figure, right?
No Rest For The Wicked gets a 7.75 out of 10 from me (the Valkyries annoyed me even more this time around)