After fleeing from his abusive father at age sixteen, Vulcan finds himself apprenticed to Dain, a master blacksmith and craftsman whose main clientele are paranormal beings. As Dain teaches Vulcan the craft, he also teaches him to keep his distance from the creatures to whom they provide services because, at the end of the day, humans are prey to their kind—a lesson Vulcan takes even further when a tragic loss shows him that caring too deeply for anyone isn’t worth the risk. However, his resolve to keep himself removed from emotional attachments or close relationships to the predators he surrounds himself with is tested when he meets the ancient vampire, Cassius. The oldest known living vampire, Cassius has been alone for fifty years, but Vulcan’s infectious enthusiasm for history strikes a spark in Cassius and the two become friends, albeit reluctantly on Vulcan’s part. Soon, Vulcan must choose between relying on old habits or learning to trust his well-being and heart to a predator.
I enjoyed the relationship between Vulcan and Cassius in Eye of the Beholder. Few vampire stories in which the vampires have the power to enthrall humans, as well as being inherently seductive as part of their predatory nature, feature relationships that grow out of friendship and camaraderie. Cassius doesn’t rely on his inherent charm or Vulcan’s attraction to him to overwhelm Vulcan’s barriers; he treats Vulcan as an equal. I also enjoyed that Vulcan is an unrepentant history nerd that has to keep himself from fan-boying all over Cassius. Both MCs are nicely developed for the length of the story, as is their relationship. Along with making Cassius and Vulcan’s relationship progression atypical among vampire stories, M.D. Grimm also adds an interesting element to the vampire mythos that I have only encountered a handful of times, adding another unique layer to Cassius’s character and the MCs’ bond
Occasionally though, the writing is a bit uneven. There are threats that introduced as if they will be important to the plot and the MCs, particularly one in which Vulcan is being targeted, but they go nowhere until a “big bad” is mentioned, a person who plays no role until the end. They may be there to underline the inherent danger in Vulcan’s world, but they are given so much buildup and anticipatory alarm on the vampires’ part that compared to the underdevelopment of the true threat, it’s a bit jarring. Also, I felt there could have been fewer flashbacks to Vulcan’s past as explanations for his hesitancy to trust in Cassius’ feelings as the later ones and the ensuing dialogue feel a bit redundant given the length of the story. However, the plot flows well enough and there is plenty of paranormal action and fighting to keep the story lively and showcase Vulcan’s skills and Cassius’ predatory nature. Most of the action and danger to the MCs is handled well (although there is the inevitable “MC makes an illogical decision when in danger” cliché that definitely affected my enjoyment).
(I’m sorry, but there is just NO reason for Cassius to demand Vulcan come to his unprotected condo when Vulcan LITERALLY lives on a reinforced compound equipped with cameras and booby traps. As protective as Cassius is, it just makes more sense for Cassius to go there, so I was disappointed Grimm decided to take the easy way out in order to damsel Vulcan.
Despite, a bit of a stumble at the finish, Eye of the Beholder is an entertaining, enjoyable read that features a rarely seen slow burn dynamic when it comes to vampire/human courtships, some underwear-dropping singing, harrowing action, and two people dedicated to being each other’s anchor no matter what hardship the future brings.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.