Braylin Academy isn’t like other colleges. For one thing, it’s located in the Carpathian Mountains, and for another, it’s built like an old castle. Camron’s father sent him here to, well, to get rid of him. Perhaps it was because of the car he drove into the fountain, or the hundred and one other small acts of willful attention-seeking Cam did … or perhaps it was because he was a lasting reminder of his wife, Cam’s mother, who had faded away owing to an illness no doctor could name, and no one could heal. At least Cam’s getting a good education. He spends most of his time in Braylin’s vast and ancient library, futilely searching for some answer as to what happened to his mother. Instead, he finds himself falling asleep.
There’s one rule in Braylin that most of the students tend to obey. Everyone has to be off campus by sundown or risk expulsion. When Cam wakes up, it’s well past curfew and he can’t find anyone to ask for help, except for a group of strange students in archaic clothing, whose skin is pale and whose eyes are the bright, cold calculating of a predator. All Cam’s bravado and wit isn’t enough to charm them, or to get him away, but the tall, dark, and devastatingly handsome young man who commands them to silence, is. Troyan commands Cam, as well, to return to his dorms and to not return. It’s like he doesn’t know Cam at all!
Cam isn’t one to let things go, especially when they interest him the way Troyan interests him, so, the next night, he deliberately stays late again. Not only does he find the hidden staircase Troyan took him down the previous night, but he finds himself in a strange, new, and decidedly supernatural world where nothing is as it seems. Troyan — and the rest of the night class — isn’t human (though it takes Cam longer than he’d like to admit before he figures that out). Troyan’s Inshari, a race of beings humans have called vampires. He’s also a prince, and a betrothed one, at that.
Between politics and plotting, mad scientists and a dying people, between two princes, one as dark as midnight and one as fair as sunlight, Cam will have to make a choice, a choice that could either end humanity as he knows it, or see the end of the Inshari.
The Inshari aren’t your traditional vampires. For one thing, as Gaige — Troyan’s brother — points out, blood isn’t all that nutritious. Flesh on the other hand, well that’s just downright tasty. Fortunately for Cam, it turns out that there are ‘vegetarian’ alternatives, a sort of manufactured fungus that the Inshari use that is a suitable replacement for human flesh. For those sensitive to medical horror (lots of needles, injections, blood samples, and vomiting of blood), you might want to skip this one as Cam undergoes several medical experiments throughout the course of this book.
Camron was probably the sort of kid who’d stick his hand in the fire twice. Once to see if it was as hot as you said, and the second time because you told him no. It’s the sort of attitude that gets him sent as far away as humanly possible from his father, and then has him sneaking around in the middle of the night trying to find out the truth about the people who come out at night. He’s stubborn, reckless, loyal, and not that quick to put two and two together. But he is the sort who would stand up for a kid being bullied, or sit down to lunch alongside a kid with no friends.
Troyan is a dutiful son to a dying father, a dutiful prince to a dying people, and more than a little bit of an introvert. He isn’t the sort to give loud declarations of love or show up with a bouquet of flowers. Instead, Troyan would simply show up right when Cam needs him, and then lock him away in a tower in the hopes that Cam will sit still for five minutes so he can get some work done. Let’s just say … Troy doesn’t get much work done. Cam brings out the best in him, pushing him out of his shell of dignity and isolation, even if he does so by getting into trouble.
Zaire is gold where Troyan is black, shadowed and lost where Troyan is determined and motivated. Zaire, too, lost his parents young, and something in Cam’s joy and delight in everything Inshari calls to a part of Zaire he hasn’t enjoyed in some time. More, Cam brings out flashes of the old Troyan, and Zaire finds that almost as much fun. He’s more fascinated than enamored, but he’s more than willing to sneak a kiss or two, and not to get a rise out of Troy. He’d rather get a rise out of Cam.
The world building is the true star of this book, and I won’t ruin it by listing out all the splendid little touches that make the Inshari interesting. If you’re a fan of supernatural stories, melancholy princes, or intrigue and court politics, you should definitely consider giving this story a read. It’s quick, with a tight, fast-moving plot and some really well-written scenes. However, there are a few nitpicks, but they’ll be hidden behind a spoiler because they involve the motivation behind certain actions taken by the three principle characters that are integral to the plot and the resolution of book one.[spoiler] Cam has this idea in his head that because Troyan was interested in the travel stickers on Cam’s ereader that Troyan wants to travel the world and doesn’t want to be prince, or king. This is never something that came up either in conversation or actual context as Troy is very adamant that he wants to be a good prince to his people, but Cam won’t let it go. So much so that he asks Zaire — who happens to be the rightful heir, who stepped down from his position due to guilt at how he got the crown — to step up and be prince so Troy doesn’t have to. He never asked, and doesn’t seem to care whether or not Zaire wants this, it’s just seems that Cam wants Troy to travel with him rather than stay and uphold his duty to his people. It’s as shallow as any 17/18 year old, and it’s in character for Cam — who leaps first and then wonders … wait, what am I jumping in to? — but it’s alarming how Troyan gives up his life and his own goals to suit Cam’s needs. [/spoiler]
One last compliment for this book, because I think this point deserves a special mention: Troyan and Zaire are supposed to be thousands of years old. While they don’t feel quite that old, they are more mature, both emotionally and intellectually, than Cam, while still coming across as young men. I often have a problem when books have a thousand-year-old vampire who (for lack of a better word) feels like a twenty something; I really enjoyed seeing alien/vampire characters who actually felt as though they had both an otherness and an age to them. I am so looking forward to book two.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.