shadowkingsRating: 4 stars
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Length: Novel

Lucca’s always been different from other young men his age, from his disregard for the laws of the church, his bloodlust, and his ability to commune with nature, to his strong attraction to his twin brother. He’s comfortable living as an outcast as long as Gabriele, his twin, never shuns him. When their family home is attacked and destroyed, and everyone they know and love dies except each other, Lucca flees with Gabriele. On his journey he meets up with mysterious friends who show Lucca that he may not be an outcast as much as he’s just destined for different, greater things.
Gabriele is still reeling after the death of his family and the loss of his home and it doesn’t help that he no longer has the will to fight his attraction to his brother. When their new friend Lorik turns out to be a vampire and offers to change Lucca to a vampire as well, Gabriele thinks that this is more change than he can bear. But Lucca’s change and his love push Gabriele to follow his twin in all things, just as he always has, and he has Lorik turn him as well. Thrown into this world of darkness, blood, and strong bonds, Gabriele slowly learns to let go of the rigid beliefs of the Church he’d always held so close and accept the love and companionship Lucca is offering. But with their enemies gathering strength and threatening them, Gabriele may have accepted Lucca into his bed and into his heart too late for them to have a chance at a life together.

With everything crumbling around them, Lorik is kidnapped by the vampire hunting them and Lucca and Gabriele must mount a rescue of their sire. During the preparations, Lucca learns that he’s not just an ordinary vampire, but a Shadowking—the virtually all-powerful lords of all vampires thought to only be a legend. This new revelation validates so many things from his past for Lucca, but it’s also just one more thing between him and Gabriele. Lucca must figure out how to harness these new powers to save Lorik all while making sure he doesn’t lose Gabriele in the process.

So, if you couldn’t tell by that summary, this book contains explicit incest. It also contains strong themes of a religious nature. Those are a no-go for a lot of readers and if that’s the case for you, bail now and I’ll catch you on the next one. For those of you who stuck around I’m going to assume that incest is your thing, since in my experience it seems to be one of those kinks that you’re either really into or it really turns you off, with little to no middle ground. If incest is your kink, I have to say this is a pretty good offering and I enjoyed it.

Overall, I liked the characters here even though they all felt a little flat—very stock and stereotypical. Other than the fact that they were attracted to each other, there wasn’t a whole lot going on with the main characters. Lucca was enjoyable as the outcast who was really just misunderstood, but there wasn’t anything that really made his character come alive. Gabriele was less enjoyable for me personally, just because my personal views aren’t very sympathetic to those who struggle with the restrictive bonds of faith, but I understand why he was written that way—as the perfect foil for Lucca and he was okay enough as a character.

Their romance felt a touch formulaic in that it was classic, “we shouldn’t do this” followed by “let’s do this to comfort each other after tragedy” with the obligatory freakout followed by eventual acceptance. That’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable, just not really mind blowing or deep, or fresh in any way. I do have to say though that their mindsets were just what I want from my incest stories—the guilt and uncertainty and one brother really questioning it and the other way past caring. Their non-sexual, non-romantic interaction wasn’t quite as up to par in my opinion though. I don’t know about you, but when I read incest part of what’s so enjoyable is that they’re not only lovers, but brothers (or other relation) and the best incest stories are the ones that don’t forget that, that show the characters still acting like brothers even though they’re now sleeping together. Unfortunately, here Lucca and Gabriele start acting like nothing more than lovers as soon as they commit to each other and forget that they’re also brothers. It really just felt like something was missing for me.

I do have to say though that the sex scenes were pretty hot though. From their first time, which is also Gabriele’s first time with a man, where Lucca patiently guides him through it, to later scenes with a BDSM flair, it was definitely a fun journey with these characters.

There are also a lot of side characters in this that play big roles in the story. Most of them work and in fact I’m hoping very much for a book later in the series where Vel finds love because his story was really interesting for me and I sympathized with him greatly. I was less enthused about the arrival of Dorian. He’s a human Lucca and Gabriele save when they rescue Lorik who becomes a vampire and then Lorik’s lover. He’s a likable character and I’m pretty sure his story arc in this book was just to set up the next book in the series, but that felt really heavy handed and it just took away from the focus of this book—Lucca and Gabriele—and it confuses their romance when they both develop an attraction to him. Which—side rant—felt incredibly unrealistic to me. Lucca and Gabriele have been lusting after each other since they developed hormones and they finally get their shit together and fall into bed and all of a sudden they’re inviting someone else in there with them? Not likely. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have even looked at anyone else for at least a decade to make up for all the years of denial, but whatever.

The plot of this book, in all honesty, was largely uninteresting to me. Most of what happened seemed like little more than an excuse to get the characters into bed together. The prologue gives away a lot of what’s going on and instead of drawing the reader in, it just made you not care what was happening because you already knew that Lucca was going to end up a Shadowking and who the bad guy targeting them was. Nothing here really came together for me. Also, there just seemed to be a lot of pointless movement in this book. This happens and then they all go here, and then something else happens so they go somewhere else, and then another fight happens and they go back to where they started. It was a little ridiculous. The villain never really felt threatening, a lot of what was going on made little sense, and the ending comes with a mild cliffhanger that will hopefully be resolved in the next book. The plot here was a real miss for me.

As a last note, the writing style in this book is pretty theatrical and over-the-top, and at first I found it kind of hard to get into, but eventually it just became part of the book’s charm. Kind of like how you wouldn’t go to the opera for subtlety, you don’t read a semi-historical vampire incest novel for the simple, straightforward prose. It worked here for me, but it is a little much and might turn some readers off.

All in all, this book is little more than incest with vampires and for those of you into that, I’d say it’s worth looking over some of the other pitfalls here.

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