Sam has always been alone, used by men for his abilities, but cared for by no one. Now that Sam has been turned into a vampire, he has been taken in by a family of witches and his new sire, Gabe. Gabe is trying to teach Sam the way of vampires, but Sam is angry and resentful and not sure this is an existence he even wants. After his traumatic past, Sam isn’t sure he can move forward, especially with this dark new life.
When Gabe suggests Sam find a regular blood donor to help satisfy his endless hunger, he meets Luca, a vampire/human hybrid. Luca is gorgeous and sexy and could be just what Sam needs, if he can get past his anger and his determination to be alone. Even as Sam finds himself more drawn to Luca, he also can’t stop thinking about his roommate, Constantine. Sam would love to explore things with Con, but Con has had a traumatic experience with vampires and isn’t so comfortable with Sam feeding, not to mention Sam doesn’t want to ruin their friendship if things don’t go well.
Even as Sam begins to develop his relationship with both Luca and Con, he is struggling to hold onto his control, and a vampire darkness is coming to the surface in him. On top of that, the vampire world seems to be going crazy, with rogue vampire attacks all over the city and no one knows why. Plus, his friends are dealing with their own personal crises, and with their powers, every danger could lead to end-of-world consequences. As Sam tries to navigate all the chaos, he is finding that Luca and Con are the constants that are helping him to hold it all together.
Absolution is the fifth book in Lissa Kasey’s engaging Dominion series. The first four books were first published in 2011-2012, then re-released as self published books in 2015-2016, which is when I read them. It has been almost four years since the fourth book in the series, Ascendence, was released and Kasey has now republished the whole series again. (I am not clear if/how the stories changed from the 2015-2016 versions to now.) I remembered this series fondly from when I read it, so I was really excited to see Kasey had expanded the series with Absolution, as I find this world really interesting and I was eager to return to this world and these characters. The earlier books focused primarily on two couples — Seiran and Gabe, a powerful earth witch and a vampire; and Jamie and Kelly, two witches (and Seiran’s half-brother and good friend, respectively). Though Seiran is really the focal point of the series given his immense power and major role in the politics, this series has a nice found family element that I really like. I have enjoyed seeing the growth of these characters, as well as the political intrigue and changes in the magical world they are a part of.
Absolution gives us three new main characters with Sam, Con, and Luca, though we have met both Sam and Con in previous books. The blurb for this book says that this story can be read as a standalone, but I am going to come down quite firmly on the side that it can not. As I said, I read the original books four years ago and I also re-read my reviews of the series before starting this one. Even with that, there were areas that I remembered fairly well, and many aspects and characters I didn’t remember at all. So I wasn’t coming into this with solid memory of the earlier books, but certainly much more than a new reader, and I will admit that there is a lot here that I didn’t follow. This series has had some complex events that have happened and a lot of political maneuvering and dangerous situations with various bad guys. Even re-reading my past reviews, there were characters and situations I couldn’t remember that were discussed here without a lot of backstory to catch up readers and remind them what happened. I think given the original books were published 8 years ago (or at least 4 years ago depending on which version you read), there needed to be a LOT more effort to catch folks up who may not have chosen to re-read all the books. And like I said, definitely not a stand alone.
I think the other reason I had issues following the story completely is that there is a lot here that is magical and metaphysical and not totally literal. This is a story about magic and often people are feeling others’ thoughts or shifting forms or doing other things that aren’t totally tangible. On top of that, there are a few points where Sam loses it to his vampiness and his understanding of what is happening to him is not actually real. So we are left in quite a few cases to sort of piece together what things really mean and what is actually happening. I am not sure if this book was more confusing than the others, or just my interpretation since I read the first books fairly close together, but either way, I found things not always easy to follow here.
All that said, the story itself is engaging and the characters are great. I really enjoyed watching Sam make his transition from someone who is brooding and alone and hating on life, to realizing he has a fresh start and it is time to focus on moving forward (“get busy living or get busy dying” as one of my favorite movies says). There is a nice darkness to Kasey’s vampire world and we see that Sam is lost and angry and being a vampire is not romantic in the least. But there is a point where things change for him, where he becomes happy and re-engaged and really starts to find his way and the transition is so rewarding. This story is foremost Sam’s journey and I did feel that Luca and Con mostly served as support for him. We get to know next to nothing about Con here, and while he had a role in a prior book, almost none of that backstory was repeated here. I don’t feel like I got to know him at all beyond nice guy who is super hot. We get a bit more depth on Luca, as he is more connected to the vampire world and the bigger issues Sam is facing. I would have like to get to know these other to men better to really flesh out the relationship dynamic here. We also catch up with Seiran and Gabe, and Kelly and Jamie, and I enjoyed reconnecting with these men. Seiran and Gabe are a major part of the action, as well as having their own subplot. Things are left open ended on that front, though I assume we will get resolution in the next book.
One of the things I have really enjoyed in this series is the world building and the politics of the Dominion and the Tri-Mega, as well as the various threats these guys have faced. This story is more focused on the characters than some of the big picture aspects, though there is a key element relating to what is going on with the vampires. This sub-plot really didn’t end fully satisfactorily for me in that I don’t feel like we ever really learn just what is happening or how this person managed to enact these plans. It feels like things just end without really clearing everything up and revealing all that was going on.
So this wasn’t my favorite of the series, but I also still quite enjoyed it. I think I would have liked it even more had I read the books back-to-back, and if I had to do it again, I’d at least skim through the earlier books. So I can definitely recommend this series and find it a really creative and engaging urban fantasy. I am so glad to see Kasey has picked it back up and am looking forward to more.