Rating: 3.75 stars
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Malachi Denali was born to be the king of the vampires, raised and trained his entire life by the angel Laziel. Lachi has now assumed his position as king and the two men are strongly bonded. Laziel serves as protector, guardian, and advisor to Lachi, and the men are virtually inseparable. As the years have passed, Laziel has fallen in love with his vampire. But he also knows that despite how strongly Lachi feels for him, he has locked away the part of himself with the capacity to love. Still, the men are fiercely protective of one another, deeply connected, and willing to kill or die for each other. Having Laz in his life helps Lachi deal with the stress and the anger that builds inside him from the demands of his job.
Things are even more stressful for Lachi than normal as it becomes clear that an enemy is after his throne. Darklon has hated Lachi for years, and now seems to be taking advantage of the unrest between the vampires and the nephilim to cause chaos and destruction. Darklon hopes to build enough strength and gather enough enemy forces to overtake Lachi and assume his throne.
Lachi and Laz are determined to find out what Darklon is plotting and things become even more complicated when Darklon produces an heir who he manages to get into a position of vampire authority. It remains to be seen if Roman is just a puppet of Darklon or if his allegiance might be swayed to Lachi’s side. Darklon is also stirring up trouble with his continued attempts to find an old friend of Lachi’s, a man Darklon turned into a vampire and tortured until Laz and Lachi helped him escape. Vischeral has managed to evade Darklon for years, but Lachi still worries for his old friend’s safety.
With all the threats surrounding his kingdom and his claim to the throne, Lachi needs Laziel more than ever. Having the angel at his side is the only thing that keeps him calm and centered. Though Laz knows his love is unrequited, he also will do anything for Lachi, even as it pains him to know Lachi can never love him. But when Laz is threatened, Lachi may be left without his angel to help him when he needs him most.
So this was an interesting book for me, as I found myself sort of split on my feelings about it. I really enjoyed the storyline and think the authors developed a really rich and creative world. But on the other hand, I found myself really struggling with the writing style and the editing at times, which took away some of my reading pleasure.
Ok, so let’s start with what worked here. I think the authors have really created an interesting world here, and certainly it is well developed and fully imagined. The story is primarily set in the vampire world, but we also interact with other creatures, such as angels, nephalim, and even werewolves. We see the traditions and the structure of the vampire hierarchy, learn about the kingdom and the different enclaves, and, of course, the political dealings between Lachi and Darklon. It is all quite well done and the world building is sophisticated while still being easy to follow. I enjoyed the battle between the old guard represented by Darklon, and then Lachi who works to modernize the vampire world. So the authors really do a great job creating a detailed and really well developed world.
I also enjoyed the relationship between Laz and Lachi. Laz helped to create Lachi, who is born to become the vampire king. At first Laziel is a trainer and mentor, preparing Lachi since birth to take over his role as king. Yet with time, Laz falls for Lachi and they ultimately become lovers. We can see the intensity of the feelings these men have for one another. Their need for each other is palpable, not just in a sexual way, but also in this intense connection they have. The men are barely apart, are fierce protective of one another, and are so closely bonded they live and die for one another. At the same time, Laz is in love with Lachi, but his love isn’t returned. Lachi has locked that part of his heart away, sure that he can not love and fulfill his role as king. So there is this constant pain in Laziel as he loves Lachi dearly, but knows those feelings won’t be returned.
I also liked the way the authors play with Laziel’s dual gender. As an angel, he can be both a man or a woman. When he is with Lachi, Laz almost always manifests as a man. Partly this is because Laz can protect Lachi in his bigger and stronger form, and partly it is because Lachi prefers the sexual connection he has with Laz as a man. But there is pressure for Lachi to take a mate, and sometimes Laziel appears in his female form, Loz, as a way to give the impression Lachi is dating a woman. As Loz, the angel’s emotions are much closer to the surface. Laziel can’t hide his emotions as well in his female form, and it is interesting to see the way these two different sides of himself interact with Lachi, and ultimately the problems it causes. I do wish the authors hadn’t fallen back so much onto the stereotypes of the female side being emotional and weak versus the strong and stoic man. But I do think it is an interesting plot device and really allows us to see the pain of the angel’s love in a way we don’t always get to in his male form.
I will also mention that these are two tough strong guys and the sex between them is intense and physical. It often involves pain, beating, ropes, and blood. It is not a traditional BDSM story, and there is definitely no safeword or true BDSM rules. Lachi has a lot of anger inside him and he lets it out on Laz during sex as an outlet for his emotions. So there is a pretty violent component to their sex that is fairly intense. Laz loves to be the one Lachi uses, and he definitely enjoys their sexual connection and craves the pain Lachi gives him. But this is definitely not sweet and romantic love making between them.
So for the most part, the storyline side of things really worked for me, though I was a little frustrated toward the end of the book. We jump to a new side plot involving Vischeral that takes us away from the key events going on with Laz and Lachi. The Vischeral plot is left unresolved, so I am not sure why we needed to be taken away from the main event for so long so late in the book. I also felt confused at the fact Vischeral is in hiding from Darklon and there is extreme secrecy about his location because Darklon is hunting him. Yet we find him working as a police officer and using his real name. How is he possibly evading Darklon’s massive search like this? I mean, he is a government employee using his own name. This just seems like a slip in logic to me. Along with this detour to focus on Vischeral late in the book, we also get a lengthy sex scene between Lachi’s female secretary and her two male partners. Now I will say this is probably the hottest sex scene in the book, so I did enjoy it. But coming right at the very end of the book when we were right in the height of the action of the main storyline, it seemed out of place and really only there to give us a sexy scene, since it added virtually nothing to the plot.
Ok, so where I ran into most of my trouble here is the writing style and the editing. I will admit, I had a VERY hard time with the start of the book. I truly could barely understand anything that was happening in the prologue and for many of the early pages I had little idea what was going on. The authors use very dramatic and complicated wording, often resorting to 30 words when 10 would do. Things were so complex and overdone I really had a hard time understanding much of what was happening in the early sections. Here is just an example:
In the early years when the dawning realization of Laziel’s feelings for Lachi first surfaced, there hadn’t been an explosion of metaphysical angst wherein the angel declared undying love. Instead of the color expo that came with love’s blessings, his adore simmered and grew in magnitude. It increased in its potency over the multitude of decades spent alongside each other, until the painful yearning for more became almost too much for the angel to bear.
So I’ll be honest, I am not sure I have any idea what they are talking about. My takeaway is that when Laz realized he loved Lachi he didn’t tell him, and over the years it has grown and become painful for him. I think. But this overly complex and dramatic writing just made it so hard to follow things, I often found myself skimming passages just trying to glean key points rather than attempting to decipher each line. Now as the story progressed, I found this problem less and less. As the characters began speaking versus so much exposition, the writing simplified to match their speech. So that helped, and I think the rest was a combination of generally simpler writing and me getting used to it. But honestly, I am not sure I would have pushed past the early pages if I wasn’t reading this for review because this beginning was just tough for me to follow.
I also think this story needed some major editing. It is long and a little unwieldy, mostly because there is a lot of repetition. Ideas are explained over and over, sometimes within paragraphs of each other. The book is quite long, and it takes a while for the action to take off. I think a lot of this story could have been cut or streamlined to make things sharper and move more quickly. There are also lots of grammatical and typographical issues that come up throughout the book. There is incorrect punctuation, wrong words used (guards held “century” instead of “sentry”), and random insertions of ellipses into the text. The latter was the most problematic as it happened frequently and I automatically inserted a pause when I’d come to them and then end up confused when the sentence made no sense.
And lastly, the story jumps back and forth in POV to a variety of characters, which worked fine for me. But we’d often recap the same scenes from a different POV, which frequently left me confused because the story would suddenly backtrack to give us the same scene over again. In some cases, we also got weird time jumps. For example, at one point we leave the vampire kingdom to go to Alaska and several days pass there. Then when we return to the vampires, it is the same night it was when we left. So some weird transitions that needed smoothing.
So as you can probably tell, I found myself with mixed feelings here. I will admit I started off really struggling and wasn’t sure I’d enjoy the book, or want to continue with the series. As the book continued, it grew on me more and more and I found myself engaged with the characters and enjoying the story. In the end, the great world building and really interesting plot is enough to keep me coming back for more. The story ends on a major cliffhanger and none of the plots, major or minor, are resolved here. So be aware if you pick this one up, you are going to also have to read the second book to get any resolution. I think this one has won me over though. I find myself invested in these characters and the storyline and I am really interested to see where the authors take this one. So overall this one comes out on the positive end for me and I am looking forward to reading more.