Talos is a monster. Ancient and powerful, ruthless and inhuman, the vampyre king has thousands of vampire children obeying his every whim, a beloved brother — the last living sibling; his other brothers and sisters, and his beloved parents were murdered over a thousand years ago — and a devoted army of xolos hounds, human followers, and everything money could buy. But there is still something missing in his life. When Bayne, the assassin sent by the human resistance to kill Talos, steps onto the bloodied sands of the arena where men and women tear each other part, to bleed and die for the pleasure of Talos and his family, everything changes. The fates have finally seen fit to give Talos a mate, and with him, a chance at children of his own flesh and a love unlike anything he’s ever experienced before.
There are two main partnerships in Talos. The first is that of Talos, the vampyre king, and his fated mate, Bayne, along with their third, Kikoi, who Talos turned when he was fifteen. The second partnership is that of Odin, Talos’ brother (in that Talos’ father turned Odin) and Majid, the unicorn shifter. The two of them are also fated mates, but during some dark period in their thousand-year past, Odin killed the third member of their trio, and Majid has had a hard time forgiving him. Majid and Odin are involved in a master/slave relationship,
The primary focus of the story revolves around Bayne being introduced to his new world. Growing up as a member of the resistance — THRUST (The Human Revolution Usurping Supernatural Tyranny) — he was told vampires are evil, and can be killed by silver and sunlight and garlic. He was raised in an underground bunker, trained to a knife’s edge, asked to give regular semen deposits for breeding purposes, and then sent out to kill Talos. But upon meeting the vampyre king, he’s told the world is a different place than he was lead to believe … and in maybe an hour, he goes from being a devoted member of the human resistance to being Talos’ devoted soon-to-be bonded mate.
Bayne is also brought face to face with his idea of Talos as a monster. After all, the man murders, drinks blood, tortures people, and has pit fights where men and women kill one another for his weekend amusements. Some are criminals; others are not. Bayne is (and readers are) being asked to look at this dictatorial, authoritarian rule by a monster and then see that he’s good after all because “he mostly only kills the bad guys.” Why, Talos is practically a saint. And there’s nothing wrong with this idea, but the setup was abrupt and with the indifferent way it came across, it just didn’t work for me. I didn’t buy it because it was both so expected, and so casually and carelessly done that neither the monster nor the noble king persona made an impression at all.
This book seems to want to shock, to titillate the reader with the idea of characters having violent sex, but it never quite delivers. There are mentions of gore, mentions of sex, and a relatively mild master and slave pairing, as well as a thruple where one partner has a daddy kink. There is also shifted sex as one man is mounted by another while in his unicorn form (and a mention of how the man in question can shift just his dick to take the shape and size of a horse for his lovers.) And yet, for all of that … it came off relatively tame. All of the relationships are consensual, and the sex scenes themselves are rather mild, as if the mere mention of public sex, or the idea of a size kink on its own is enough. For some it may well be.
It feels as if the style came before the storytelling, which makes all the vampyre, magical, post apocalyptic combination of elements feel scattered and superficial. I don’t mind unexplained corners in a world; I don’t mind shocking, titillating, or explicit scenes so long as they serve a purpose, either to advance the story or to further examine or shape a character, but in this book everything is given and nothing feels earned. Bayne does nothing to deserve any adulation or admiration. He simply exists. Talos and the vampires are static. They don’t grow, change, or adapt to a new situation, they simply are as they always have been, killing and fucking, and in the end, it just wasn’t enough.
Note: By the time of the story, Kikoi has lived a thousand years or more … but he was 15 when his relationship with Talos began and seems to still behave, mentally and emotionally, very similarly to an adolescent. Though we’re told Kikoi was already an adult by his people’s beliefs, with a wife and two children, I still personally view it as warranting a trigger warning.