I’m still bouncing between the Immortals After Dark series, and other, semi-random re-reads.
So here I am, with a review of the novella that set up the IAD universe.
A couple of things to know: there’s a lot of explicit, graphic sex for the page count; both main characters are total dicks towards each other, though the male protagonist’s behaviour toward his mate may be especially triggering for some readers (explained in the review, so…here be mild spoilers?).
Oh, and there’s cursing. Proceed at your own risk.
Also, please note: I’m using the original digital release cover.
This novella was originally released in print, a full decade ago, as part of the Playing Easy to Get anthology, with two other stories; one was Sherrilyn Kenyon’s “Turn up the Heat.” The other was a story by Jaid-I-hate-romance-readers-and-will-sue-blogs-and-their-owners-Black, aka Tina-I-married-a-convicted-murderer-and-harasssed-his-victim’s-daughter-Engler.
If you have read this blog before, you already know how I feel about any of my hard earned money making its way to that asshole’s pockets. If you have not, you may start here, and lose a few hours of your life finding out why. The point being: if you must read the anthology, you may want to buy it used, so the aforementioned asshole gets no royalty money from your purchase. Otherwise, this story is available by itself digitally pretty much everywhere ebooks are sold.
All good? Okay, let’s start.
“The Warlord Wants Forever” by Kresley Cole
The protagonists are Myst, a two thousand plus years old Valkyrie, and Nikolai Wroth, a three hundred years old Forbearer Vampire.
If memory serves, I read this story fairly recently, and only after it was released digitally. At any rate, I had already read at least the first two, perhaps even the first three of the IAD full length novels. Obviously, at this point I knew quite a bit about the series’ world, but I think that this story does a really good job of introducing the series and providing background for the characters’ actions and thoughts, while avoiding infodumping all over the place.
As I don’t have the print edition, I don’t know if there was some sort of story-specific blurb somewhere, but here’s one from Fantastic Fiction:¹
Nikolai Wroth, once a ruthless human warlord in the 1700s and now a general in the rebel vampire army, needs to find his bride, the one woman who can render him truly alive. As a turned human, he doesn’t enjoy a heartbeat or breathing and is consequently weaker than fully blooded vampires. He wants his bride for the power she will bring him and can hardly believe it when his heart beats for Myst the Coveted, a mad, fey, mythological creature.
She eludes him for five years, but he has finally chased her to ground and stolen the jewel which commands her, giving him absolute power over her. While he possesses it, he can make her do anything, and he plans to in order for her to experience firsthand the agonizing, unending lust she’d purposely subjected him to for half a decade. Yet when Wroth realizes he wants more from her and frees her, will she come back to him?
Quick and dirty world-setup relevant to this story: most, if not all, creatures of myth actually exist, and are collective known as the Lore. Among them, the Valkyrie, the immortal daughters of Nordic gods Wóden and Freya, and the brave human maidens who call for courage as they lie dying in battle fields. The Valkyrie may ally, or ignore, most of the rest of the Lore, but they always hunt Vampires.
Vampires are roughly divided into two groups: the natural born and turned humans. Both kinds are immortal. In recent history, there are no female vampires.² Further, vampires belong to two warring groups: the Horde (evil, remorseless killers, the source of all vampire-horror stories; most are natural born), and the Forbearers (most are turned humans, and they follow Kristoff, legal heir to the Horde throne; they don’t drink living blood, and know very little about all the many other creatures in the Lore).
When Nikolai and Myst meet, in the aftermath of a battle between the Horde and the Forbearers, she had been a recent prisoner of the former. Kristoff orders Nikolai to interrogate Myst and, by whatever means necessary, to find out more about the Lore. In the process, Myst ‘bloods’ Nikolai.
In the context of this universe, once vampires become immortal, by whichever means, they do not have a heartbeat (nor sexual impulses), until their find their Bride, a fated mate that they’ll recognize because–natch–their heart will beat again, they will breathe again, and they’ll want to fuck her like bunnies. However, there’s a catch: a blooded vampire cannot ejaculate for the first time unless his Bride touches him; she doesn’t have to grab his junk, but she has to touch him somewhere. Obviously, Myst knows this, while Nikolai doesn’t.
Upon his blooding, Nikolai gets Myst off, and is beyond ready to get it on with her (hello, three centuries of celibacy, anyone?). However, other Valkyrie show up to rescue Myst, and, instead of decapitating him as she had other Vampires she had blooded, she decides to leave him alive–and unsatisfied.
Five years later, when he finally finds Myst again, Nikolai is still aroused, still erect, and pissed off beyond belief.
He captures her, and in the process, gains possession of a mystical item that, basically, gives him absolute control over Myst. The moment he understands this fact, Nikolai takes advantage, and gains his revenge: he makes Myst orgasm on command a couple of times. Then he takes her to his rundown property in Estonia, and orders her to masturbate while kneeling in front of him in the shower.
Now, for me, these scenes are very hot, but a) I had already bought into the series universe, and b) I’m a fan of male dominance games. For other readers, what Nikolai does is tantamount to rape, because Myst doesn’t even have the choice to say no, let alone the opportunity. Also, the fact that she derives pleasure is irrelevant.³
Mind you, considering that Myst knew, when she aroused Nikolai and left him pinned to a dungeon wall by two arrows, that he would remain like that, without any relief, until he managed to find her again–if he ever did–I don’t think that Nikolai’s revenge was anywhere near as vicious as it could have been. Myst’s decision was made with ample knowledge of the consequences, and the state to which she damned Nikolai was downright cruel, as far as I’m concerned.
As I said up in the intro, both of them are total dicks towards each other. But this, as so many other things, is a personal reaction to a problematic setup. Your reaction, gentle reader, may very well be horror. To each, her own.
Anyway, after this, a number of things happen, which involve more world building, and the introduction of several characters whose stories are told later in the series. Nikolai and Myst spend some time together, and their feelings for each other change, and grow, as they get to know each other, though the journey to their HEA is not without its bumps and potholes. There’s a wonderful grand gesture from Nikolai, and Myst gets to save the day–which is always such a plus in my book! Kickass heroines who actually kick ass? All the win!
I enjoyed this journey very much, despite a bit of over the top, campy stuff near the end of the story. “The Warlord Wants Forever” gets a 7.75 out of 10 from me, despite the consent issues.
~ * ~
¹ By the way, Fantastic Fiction is an incredible resource for romance readers; I have no idea who set it up or maintains it, and I’m not affiliated with them in any way, but they deserve a lot of recognition and gratitude. I love how up to date and complete the authors’ pages are. I use it often to check original publication dates for re-released titles, which are often not visible at online vendors, or, indeed, even at the authors’ own sites.
² Except for one very special one, whose story is told in A Hunger Like No Other, the first IAD novel.
³ I cannot find the text of the original paper, but it’s referenced here: sexual arousal and orgasm can happen during rape, even violent rape. Orgasm does not equal consent: “Orgasm during rape isn’t an example of an expression of pleasure. It’s an example of a physical response whether the mind’s on board or not, like breathing, sweating, or an adrenaline rush.”