Rating: 3.75 stars
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Length: Novel


With the environment destroyed and the sun a weak echo of what it once was, the vampyres that used to live shrouded in secret and shadows have been running civilization for a long time. Long enough that most humans are content with their lot…as cherished pets owned by vampyres, as breeding stock or livestock to provide meals to vampyres. Still others are kept for their ability to fight for entertainment and some for beautiful skin to be turned into leather. Cypress was born as a pet, but he never accepted that fate and especially not after what the vampyres did to his mother. He managed to escape as a teen and has since dedicated his life to Veritas, a group of feral humans fighting to wrest control of the world away from vampyres. There’s nothing Cypress loves more than hunting and destroying vampyres. He’s so good at torturing them, bleeding them dry, and finally killing them that he’s made a name for himself as a vampyre slayer. It doesn’t hurt that consuming the blood of a vampyre temporarily enhances his abilities. But all that comes to a harsh end when Cypress gets captured and presented as a gift to Thorne Bathory, a powerful vampyre known for zealously breaking spirited humans.

Thorne, however, has little use for the former vampyre slayer. Instead, he gifts Cypress to his progeny, Haven. Haven is unique among vampires. For one thing, he credits Thorne with saving him from a highly abusive and toxic group of Veritas members back when Haven was still human himself. For another, Haven knows his blood is irresistible to vampyres. That was especially true when he was still a human, but it still holds a unique level of fascination even now that he is a vampyre. Finally, Haven detests being a vampyre. While he can appreciate that Thorne saved him from an excruciating human life, Haven’s introduction into vampyre life left him with overwhelming guilt about killing his first pet—a human who had became Haven’s friend and confidant and ultimately his first victim. All this puts Haven in a terrible position. His sire loves and controls him too much to let him go, and Haven hates his existence too much to keep himself fed and able to engage in the duplicity it takes to survive in Thorne’s vicious household.

When Haven finds himself in possession of Cypress as a pet, everything changes. Haven is reminded so much of the human he killed and that brings so many tumultuous feelings to the surface. For Cypress, he has to contend with a strange physical attraction to the beautiful Haven. But also, he learns that Haven is not like any other vampyre he’s ever met. Together, they have a chance at escaping whatever machinations Thorne has for the power structure of the Vampyre Dominion. But there are enemies around every corner, and there’s no telling who is simply dangerous and who is pure evil.

Nyte is the first book in Hellie Heat’s Vampyre Dominion series. It’s set in a dystopian future where, as a consequence of humans destroying the environment, vampyres have risen to power. This reimagined future is, according to the author, an allegory for how modern humans treat animals. The book mostly showcases humans as pets, but there are mentions of other roles humans occupy (food for vampyres, food for other humans, battle-to-the-death entertainment, etc.) and some of that occasionally comes with gory scenes. But this is background horror to the histories our MCs bring to the story. As a young, human child, Haven was basically trafficked and Cypress was tormented as part of a vampyre’s collection of pets. Sensitive readers should take note of these topics, especially as Haven’s history plays into how he interacts and reacts to his sire’s desires.

There is a lot going on in this story. The premise is cut and dry: nearly all humans have been subjugated by vampyres; Veritas is a small, but powerful force of so-called feral humans plotting to overthrow vampire rule; Cypress hates vampyres for being vampyres; Haven hates everything and himself most of all. Against this backdrop, Cypress and Haven strike up the unlikeliest of relationships. Cypress cannot help but admire how physically attractive Haven is and how unlike other vampyres he is. Meanwhile, Haven is not like other vampyres because of his self-loathing at what he has become. He tries to find the wherewithal to actively hate Cypress, but struggles to do so because Cypress looks so much like the human friend Haven accidentally killed. This feels like a story that’s going to railroad our MCs into seeing things from the other one’s perspective, but I didn’t feel like that was very clearly communicated. Or rather, it was confined to Cypress learning to not hate one specific vampyre and Haven…well, suffice to say, Haven probably has no less reason to hate everything when all is said and done.

As an introduction to a series, I think Nyte does a great job establishing this vampyre-ruled world. With almost the entirety of this book taking place at Thorne Bathory’s castle and narration alternating between Cypress and Haven, readers will undoubtedly get a robust picture of what it means to exist among the elite vampyres. I felt like Cypress’ experiences really highlight the power structures in this world and it’s mixed in with his atypical relationship to and with Haven. Haven, on the other hand, didn’t seem to be a vehicle to explore this new world order. Instead, he feels like an exceptionally tragic character who is only beginning to understand just how ill-used he has been and continues to be. Cypress and Haven may share an attraction for each other, but neither is ready to own it and only reluctantly act upon. Readers should prepare for a huge cliffhanger of an ending, both in terms of where Cypress and Haven’s relationship leads and in terms of where they physically end up.

My one quibble with the story was with Cypress. In the introduction, he’s actively and enthusiastically (and very literally) torturing a vampypre. This is, apparently, par for the course when it comes to Cypress and his role as a vampyre slayer, though this is the only scene in the book where he’s engaging in his slayer role (that is to say, all other violence he engages in against vampyres for the rest of the book stems from his being held captive by vampyres themselves). Plus, he literally harvests the blood from the vampyres he kills. To drink it. I didn’t understand how no one, not Cypress nor any of the vampyres who interact with him, ever points out how Cypress enacts the same violence on vampyres that he accuses vampyres of enacting on humans. He never declares he’s simply taking “an eye for an eye.” No vampypres ever point out the hypocrisy of his actions. I spent the first several chapters expecting someone to bring this up…but it just never does and that seemed so bizarre to me.

Overall, this was an interesting and disturbingly dark take on a dystopian vampire drama. The attraction between Cypress and Haven is present, but there are a lot of reasons why it doesn’t fully manifest into feelings of true affection (Cypress’ hating vampires, Haven’s projecting guilt). However, the seed is very much there. Plus, there are a lot of power plays by the vampires that swirl around Haven and, by extension, Cypress. If you like a little political intrigue, enemies to not-quite-lovers, characters who’ve survived trauma, and messy relationships, then I think you’ll find a lot to enjoy in this book.