Chris, newest of the Immortals, may end up being the last. As with all Immortals, Chris has been given a talent, but his is almost more a curse than a gift. As a Seer, he was able to warn the vampires, both Dark and Light, of the dark coven’s plans to unleash magic upon the world. They managed to avoid an apocalypse with the help of Kirtus, an Immortal vampire who serves neither dark nor light, an Immortal with whom Chris has fast fallen in love. While some small magics escaped into the world, it was nothing like the horrors of Chris’ visions.
This time, though, the visions are different. They aren’t just Chris seeing the future. They’re being sent, and sent by a being who shouldn’t exist. Marcel, Juliet’s creator, tells Chris to unite the vampires, to make them kneel before Kirtus as their king, and to do it now or risk losing everything and everyone. He grants Chris visions of a hellscape worse than any he’s ever seen that reeks of blood and echoes with the screams of the dying. Visions of Juliet, the sweetest, kindest, and strongest women Chris knows, ripping out the throat of an infant before feeding on its mother. Visions of humans shooting at Immortals in the street. The end of the world.
The Dark vampires, led by Victor, believe Chris. At least Victor does and, as the strongest of the Dark vampires, that’s all that matters. Juliet believes him, and as the highest ranking member of the Light vampires, her word should be enough. However, there are those who find this all … too convenient. Juliet just so happens to send out a Call for a potential child, who just so happens to be a powerful seer, who just so happens to see that the Council of Light should do as they’re told? And now it’s Juliet’s maker who warns them? Politics may be the death of Chris yet.
This is the second book in The Calling series, and it picks up right where The Calling left off (give or take a week or two.) I really do recommend the first book, especially for people interested in complex world building, as well as the simple fact that this book dives right into the deep end with a lengthy cast of characters and fraught political relationships and diplomatic contrivances. Without the background from the first book, it’ll be hard to figure out exactly whose on what side, but considering sides change as rapidly as seasons, it’s not 100% needed, just highly suggested.
Chris is naive. He sees the world in black and white and it’s hard for him to get his head around the idea that people you like can be bad, and people who side against you aren’t always evil. But he’s not expected to know these things, or even act on them. Juliet is careful with her Called. In order to create an offspring, Light vampires send out a Call; Chris answered and Juliet accepted him — and spends more time training him than talking to him. He needs to know how to feed, how to control his bloodlust, and how to use his gifts. He doesn’t need to know how to placate and soothe the ruffled feathers of the Light Council vampires.
Because his gift is so powerful and so rare, everyone is wary of Chris’s visions. Are they being manipulated? Is he lying about them? Is he only seeing visions that benefit Juliet? The Immortals are powerful, old, and paranoid, and expect betrayal at every turn … because that’s what they’d do if the shoe were on the other foot. So Juliet makes certain Chris is in the limelight as little as possible. After all, the best way to not have to deal with his visions would be to not have to deal with him. And it would prevent Juliet from having a powerful resource to hold over the heads of council, Dark or Light. And this isn’t taking into account the regular shifts of Council loyalty, of people wanting to more power, of games that have been in progress for decades if not centuries.
I really enjoyed the first book and wanted to enjoy this one. That’s not to say I didn’t, but much of what I liked in The Call wasn’t quite the same, here. Juliet, in the first book, had a gravity and mystery that helped support the idea that she was an ancient being over a thousand years old. The blood, the powers, the weight of her presence, and even the scenes with Victor made them feel more alien. In this book, in part because Chris is more familiar with them, all of the Immortals seem more like affluent and entitled mortals. There’s a lack of nuance or depth that I wish had been there.
Chris, too, has changed. He’s less innocent, but still feckless and open. However, there’s also less emotion from him in this book. Because everything is focused either on vampire training or politics, most of Chris’ attention is either on making people believe him, or on trying to keep up. His relationship with Kirtus has settled into comfortable familiarity and he’s happy enough to be with Kirtus, but it feels more like the contentment of a couple who’ve known each other for years rather than a couple who are still in the early dating stages.
So many revelations come as a surprise to Chris because they are a surprise. All the discovery and planning is handled by other people off page, so the dramatic reveals feel more convenient than captivating. While one of them was well handled — with nice clues sprinkled in and a tasty breadcrumb trail set up to follow — it only makes the others suffer in comparison.
A character who can see the future is always tricky, for me, because either they’re believed, but the bad thing still happens, or they’re not believed, and the bad thing still happens, and it ends up feeling more like the seer is there to push the plot along rather than a guide. Neu, however, manages to take that idea and turn it sideways. It’s so nice to see a book where characters see a looming threat on the horizon and make intelligent plans to to fix problems before they happen, to make smart and clever decisions rather than foolish ones, and who — rather than throwing tantrums when a spanner’s thrown in the works — react like mature adults and simply smile and get the job done.
This book is not as strong as the first one, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its own merits. If you’ve read and enjoyed the first book, it’s nice to see how those events and those politics unfold in this second and final entry into the duology. If you haven’t read the first book, then there’s good news for you! You can now read the first book and the second!