Series: Dark Dynasties, Book 3
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Length: 361 Pages
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Forever publisher Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
I Love This Series!
He's a thief. He's an assassin. He's a dissolute rogue. As a Cait Sith and Shade of the House of Shadows, Damien Tremaine is all those things. Mostly though, he's really bloody bored with his long, long life.
The contract to find a missing member of the House of the mysterious - and freaky - Grigori at least provides a bit of a challenge. And if he's lucky, an opportunity to poke someone with something sharp. That's always fun.
Sure, he'd been informed of a rogue female Grigori roaming around, but if he's not getting paid for it, he has no interest in a female who probably resembles her obscenely large and ridiculously manly brethren. Then he actually meets the woman, and even as she's endeavoring to separate his head from his shoulders, Damien is struck dumb by her ethereal beauty and fierce determination. Suddenly boredom is a thing of the past and he can't stop purring long enough to convince her to stop trying to kill him.
All Ariane wants to do is find the only friend she's had in her centuries-long existence. She's fled her desert home and broken most of the Grigori's stringent rules, all in the hopes of locating Sammael. She's certainly not going to let some gorgeous but lowborn, cat-shifting vampire impede her on her quest. Even if she has no leads, no contacts, and no way of knowing where to find either.
He could use her knowledge of her people to aid him in his search. She could use his connections and his experience with a world from which she's been completely sheltered. And when a dark, insidious secret of the Grigori comes to light, a secret they've hidden from the world at large until it's poised to rise up and destroy them all, they will need each other more than either one of them could have ever dreamed...just to survive.
Only three books in and this series is already one of my favorites in paranormal romance, and this book is my favorite of the three. I am a total sucker for antiheroes, and Damien is just my kind of bad, bad boy. Snarky, irreverent, cynical, shallow with the capacity for casual cruelty, he's also loyal and honorable in his own way, and he's his own harshest critic.
And when he meets Ariane and turns into a big purring mess, I was totally sunk. I adored him.
Ariane was great, too, though she's not quite my preferred type in the genre. Her naivety, innocence, and lack of experience didn't thrill me. Combined, they made her character strike a little too close to the virginal heroines most often found in historical romance, but Castle balanced her with the kick-ass fighting skills of a warrior and gave her a pair of killer wings (I love wings). And her easy acceptance (once she stopped trying to skewer him, anyway) of the flawed, complicated Damien endeared me to her quite a lot.
The chemistry between them was instant and hot, and I loved how their relationship evolves as the plot progresses. Though the heat between them was fast, there was quite a lot of natural contention in their relationship at first, and as the story progressed, their partnership grew into a strong romance in a nicely organic fashion.
One of the greatest things about this series in general and this book in particular is the robust the world building, layered plot, and fantastic ancillary elements. The poor, maligned Cait Sith make wonderfully original protagonists. They are all so flawed and damaged, rife with internal conflicts that add delicious layers to their individual characters and subsequent romance arcs. Damien was a perfect addition to their ranks.
I loved finding out more about the Grigori, too. They've been mentioned before in the series but not much was known about them. The revelations were quick, rich, and fabulously intriguing once Ariane was introduced, and the mythos surrounding them built throughout the narrative, creating the foundation for the external conflict and cascading into a shocking climax.
The ending did feel a little abrupt to me, and even after rereading the denouement, I'm not entirely sure what happened, or how things ended up the way they did. There was a big climactic scene, then it was over and the dust settled, but the fallout was noted, not explained. I found it odd that no one questioned it, and I'm still not clear on how the good guys came out on top or what made the bad guys' ending so...simultaneous and inclusive. Perhaps that will be revisited in a later book, but it left me with several questions in this one.
That was the only issue I had with the story, however, and frankly, it didn't really dim the glow all that much. I just love this series and the characters in it who I've come to know and appreciate. One of my favorite secondary characters, Vlad, is in quite a lot of this book, too, so I was all kinds of happy while I was reading. In fact, with two excellent main characters, a fantastic romance, great surrounding story with an entire stable of memorable secondary characters, and just enough plot threads left untied to guarantee more fun reading in future books, what's not to love?
He was charming, damn it! She was supposed to notice!
"Unless I'm missing something important, yes, the man is dead," Damien finally replied. "I think his head is over there behind the desk, if you need further proof. Are you finished being overly dramatic yet?"
"His head?" The vampire gave a pitiful moan, his eyes rolling.
"Ah, apparently not. Lovely."
Ariane reached behind her and drew her blade.
And not just any blade. It was the sort of sword no vampire had any business carrying. The sort of sword that said, "I am ancient and terrible and I don't have time to let those who annoy me live."
"So this is how it ends for me. Afflicted with a plague of Grigori. If anyone else around here grows wings, I'm going to stab them in the head and light them on fire. I've had it."