Matthew Callahan should not exist. Both incubus and vampire, he is trapped between two worlds and desperate to find a measure of peace. After being turned into a vampire, he abandoned his family to keep them safe and now he isolates himself save when his need for blood drives him to hunt. When a powerful incubus traps him, Matthew’s dual nature is revealed and he learns of the eternal war between the incubus and the vampires. He has the power to be a perfect weapon, but Matthew will have to choose a side sooner or later.
Tarrick is nearly a thousand years old and he has been at war all of his life. He is the High Lord General, commanding an army against an enemy without end. He takes Matthew as a slave, never expecting man to become an integral part of his life. Matthew could put an end to the war if he can only learn to manage his wild and unpredictable nature. Tarrick will use a blend of cruelty and love to forge Matthew into a weapon of incredible power. But freedom claws at Matthew’s soul and while he loves Tarrick, he won’t surrender himself completely. With his loyalty tested, Matthew must find the strength to embrace his true self and break free of his bonds.
The blurb and the cover of Captive left me intrigued and I decided it would be a perfect fit for our Judge a Book By Its Cover Week here at Joyfully Jay. There is a crisp, dark beauty to the cover of this book that certainly matches the storyline. The best thing about Captive, which is the first in a series, is its visceral intensity. The monsters here are truly monsters. There are no glittery vampires or demons with a heart of gold. Matthew kills frequently and while he doesn’t like it, his nature prevents him doing anything else. Tarrick is cruel in thousand different ways and that cruelty is rarely blunted. It may seem odd to praise this kind of darkness, but so often in paranormal books I find the nature of horror is softened by humanity’s need to make things “kinder.” And those gentler stories have their place, but sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves what made us so scared of the dark in the first place. That said, if you don’t like books with a sharp edge, this one might not be for you.
Matthew is, to some extent, a sympathetic character. He is trapped between two worlds, neither of which he fully understands. Added to this his complex relationship with Tarrick and his desire for freedom. He reads as a man who wavers between one desire and another, never comfortable in his own skin and never quite sure who he is. Tarrick is by turns kind and vengeful and he never hesitates to claim what is his. He does appreciate Matthew’s unique nature, but he’s trapped in an endless war with no way out. It’s easier to view Matthew as a weapon rather than a man. There are moments of tenderness between them, but they are always shadowed by the reality of the world in which they live. Neither of them are traditionally easy characters to like, but both are admirable when placed in the context of their world.
Captive struggles with transitions. These tend to be jagged and abrupt and movement from one scene to another is often jarring rather than smooth. There is a slight unevenness in the writing that doesn’t occur on every page, but does become noticeable at times. It is not always clear why the characters engage in specific actions and the constant double crossing and back play can make it difficult to decipher a character’s true intent. And while this is often a positive to Captive, it can get exhausting at times.
Captive, the first in the Beautiful Monsters series, is edgy, dark, and brutal. There are no heroes and it’s hard to like any character completely. But this stark viciousness of Captive makes it intriguing and hard to put down. There are issues with transitioning and occasionally repetitive behaviors that are never fully given purpose, but on the whole this book was a strong read. If you like your horror dark rather than fluffy, then consider picking up Captive.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for Judge a Book By Its Cover Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win a prize pack from Interlude Press that includes a signed, print copy of Not Your Villian by C.B. Lee, plus e-book copies of some of their award-winning books. Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press (a loaded Kindle fire filled with DSP books!). You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on Judge a Book By Its Cover Week here, including a list of all the books in this week’s prize.