“Did you know Draziri taste like chicken?” I asked.
Sean glanced at me, as if not sure if I was okay. “I had no idea.”
“Orro told me,” I told him. “We’re besieged by murderous poultry.” (145)
I’m going to preface this by saying I thought this was the final book in the series, so when it screeched to a halt, I was more than a little annoyed because I hate unresolved mysteries (as I ranted in Sweep in Peace’s review). But reconsidering it as book three in a longer series, this was a great book, and I just spent a good deal of time trying to find book four’s publication date. There are so many open-ended questions, and now Dina’s mysterious cat (now named “Olasard, The Ripper of Souls”, per Helen) might be involved! The suspense is killing me.
I know with long running series, books can become dry or repetitive, but Andrews has managed to keep this storyline fresh and exciting with twists I don’t see coming. The emotional elements of this book were brilliantly developed as well, and for that reason alone I would recommend this series. I’m relatively new to urban fantasy, having only read high fantasy before, but I loved the real world snippets, like the random fact that Dina follows Officer Marais’s wife’s knitting blog.
In short summary, Arland and Sean help Dina rescue her sister Maud and Maud’s five-year-old daughter Helen from a restricted section of the Holy Anocracy’s territory. Newly smitten with Maud, Arland requests he stay with Dina as a vacation from his responsibilities. Unexpectedly, a member of the Hiru species, who are currently being hunted to near extinction by the Draziri, arrives to request sanctuary and Dina’s help in gathering parts of an all-knowing being of the universe that will tell the Hiru where they can find permanent refuge. In return for Dina’s help, she will be able to ask this Archivarius one question…the only hope in finding her parents.
I loved the introduction of Dina’s badass sister Maud and her little half-vampire niece Helen. Helen is so fierce, in our first introduction to us she states matter-of-factly that she and Maud hunted down and killed all of her father’s murderers, and Maud is completely independent and doesn’t take bullshit from anyone. When Arland questions Maud’s parenting skills, she challenges him to a fight with practice swords and leaves him shocked, covered in bruises, and completely infatuated. Their interactions and changing dynamic made them my new favorite relationship.
Maud asked him exactly how many stimulants he pumped into himself, and he told her enough to make her lower her sword in surrender. My sister did that narrow thing with her eyes. Now they were beating on each other with practice weapons. (246)
I also loved Officer Marais’s role in this book particularly his matter-of-fact attitude on discovering Dina’s true world and dealing with the Draziri attacks; Andrews did an excellent job building his storyline.
I had issues with Andrews’ lack of build before action scenes in book one, and I thought this was resolved in book two. However, the first half of this book again felt like it was rushing between suspenseful scenes, tripping over its own feet to introduce the next mini climax. I loved how the book essentially opened on the action-packed rescue mission for Maud and Helen (the description of Sean and Arland tearing through the bar full of vampires was perfection), but the dramatic scenes that followed felt diminished because I had been holding my breath only a few pages earlier. I like to imagine a plot line like a mountain, with a couple of mini peaks here and there before reaching a giant climactic peak. This book’s action scenes tracked more like a heart rate monitor at a hospital; there just needed to be a bit more build between suspenseful scenes.
This series continues to make me laugh, but I was much more emotionally invested in the characters in this book. The Hiru’s plea for sanctuary and help tore at my heartstrings, and when Helen offered a Christmas ornament to one of the Hiru who was clearly not expecting genuine kindness, my entire heart was ripped out. Arland’s smittence with and subsequent courting (if you can call beating each other with swords courting) of Maud was amazingly well done as well (props to yet another slow build romance). And when Dina risks everything to save the Inn and its guests, I pretty much spent the next five pages straight crying all over this book.
Sean’s difficulty returning to normal life post-Nexus and his determination to take care of Dina in his new job as her Draziri defense guard added an additional twist to their previously established dynamic. I particularly loved how Andrews used more than just Dina and Sean to build this relationship; Maud’s involvement, including teasing Dina relentlessly, was an excellent angle.
Andrews absolutely knows how to write exciting action scenes, make you laugh, and then crush your heart a page later. These books aren’t high fantasy, but they’re definitely worth reading for the pure entertainment factor. I cannot wait for book four.