It’s been 10 days since the battle at Blackriver, a devastating fight between the Guardians and vampire prince, Alexei Vasiliev. Alexei managed to make off with a group of the Guardian’s young Channelers. Michael did all he could to fight with the Guardians against Alexei, but can’t help but blame himself for not managing to save the Channelers. The demonstration of Michael’s incredible powers as the Whisperer has also made him an outcast among many at Blackriver. They fear his abilities and distrust his motives, particularly given that Alexei can call Michael to him.
Fortunately, Michael does have some allies, including his lover, Gabriel Flanagan; his best friend, Laasya; and his mentor, Quinton. The fact that Flanagan is the Commander of Blackriver helps keep some of the enemies at bay, but it is still not easy to convince people that Michael’s motives are pure, particularly as he knows he isn’t always in full control — the vial of Alexei’s blood that he keeps hidden and can’t quite get himself to destroy is proof of that. But Flanagan is by his side, helping to ground Michael’s Flame and keep him stable. In fact, Michael finds himself falling hard for Flanagan and wanting to open up to him about what he has learned about his past. But he also worries, knowing that Flanagan has a duty to the Guardians and may not be able to keep the truth about Michael’s ancestry to himself, which would lead to Michael’s imprisonment or death.
As Michael learns more about his past, it becomes more difficult to know who to trust. There are a variety of factions, each with their own goals and motives, and Michael seems caught in the middle, his mixed ancestry pulling him in multiple directions. He is also determined to help rescue the young Channelers, feeling responsibility for their abduction. And as he learns more about who has taken them and why, even more horrors are revealed. Things are becoming increasingly dangerous and war is brewing on many fronts. Even as Michael wants to turn to Flanagan, he also fears their association is putting his lover at risk. Yet the bond between the men is strong, and neither one is willing to let the other go. They must trust each other and work together if they have any hope of defeating their enemies and both making it out alive.
Dark Fate is the second book in Kat Silver’s wonderful Flame Born series and directly follows Dark Flame, so you are definitely going to want to read these books in order. I really enjoyed the first story and was quite impressed that it was Silver’s debut work, as the world building is so detailed and creative. As much as I enjoyed that first book, I found this one even better and really couldn’t put it down. Silver continues her excellent world building here, further developing the lore established in the first book. We got some big revelations in the first story about Michael’s ancestry and here we are seeing the aftermath. We learn more about the various groups that are vying one another for control and how they all interconnect and play into Michael’s past, as well as his role for what is to come. I am a big urban fantasy fan and I always love when an author can create a world that is so new and original like Silver has built here, and I am completely caught up this series.
One thing I particularly enjoyed here is that sense of being a little off balance, never knowing quite who to trust. The first book establishes two real sides — the Guardians versus Alexei and his vampires. But here the story gets nicely twisty, as we learn about more factions at play. We also learn more about various motives and people we thought were enemies may end up being allies, and those that it seemed like Michael could trust become more suspicious. I loved how this story twists and turns and keeps the reader never quite sure how it all will play out. While the first book sort of sets the groundwork for the series, this second book really takes the story and runs with it in all kinds of fascinating ways. We are in Michael’s first person, present tense POV, which I think gives some great immediacy and helps to convey that sense of uncertainty about what is going on and who to trust. As with the first story, we get some wonderful battle scenes and a lot of intensity, particularly toward the end, and the excitement and tension builds so well.
While the first story starts to build the connection with Michael and Flanagan, here things really take off, particularly sexually. Michael starts out the series under the influence of his Flame lust, and so while Flanagan helps him through it, their sexual relationship is off page and meant purely to take care of Michael. But by the start of this book, the men have developed a romantic interest and so this story is much more high heat than the first. These guys are really wonderfully intense together, and Silver manages to convey both the insane sexual need they have for one another, but also the deep romantic and emotional connection they are building. They are both willing to risk everything to take care of and protect one another, and even though the timeline is short here, I could really feel the bond between the men and what they have come to mean to one another.
A few odds and ends here. First off, this story resolves the main conflict of the kidnapped Channelers, but does end on what I’d consider a soft cliffhanger. Basically, there is more to come and you are going to want to read on after this book. Second, I want to give a trigger warning for attempted gang rape, so be aware if that is a sensitive area for you. There is also a dubcon element here, as Michael is driven very much by his Flame and the lust it induces and there are times he isn’t fully in control of his desires. I’ll also note that this story does include some sexual interaction outside of the main relationship, again a result of Michael’s Flame, as well as his vampire nature. I actually think it works quite well in the story, and opens up all kinds of interesting threads that I am dying to watch develop. But since I know some folks are very much against sex outside the relationship, I wanted to mention it.
Overall, I found this one incredibly exciting and totally engrossing. It is a long story, but I just raced through it, unable to put it down. As much as I enjoyed the first book, I think Silver has given us something even more engaging here and I am completely caught up in this story. I can’t wait to see what is next for the series.