Reviewed: January 22, 2012
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Royal House of Shadows, Book 3
Line: Harlequin Nocturne
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Length: 288 Pages
Formats: Print, eBook
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Harlequin via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
On the day that his life was forever changed, Prince Dayn was furious with his parents. He wanted the freedom to love whom he wanted, but as second son, his parents the King and Queen had a more political alliance in mind for his future. He hated it.
He was riding his horse hard, racing away from the castle, when the echoes of magic carried to him the screams of pain and bloodshed that heralded a brutal conquering. Horror slammed into his head and ripped open his heart. As he screamed in rage and fear and spun his horse to return to his parents, to take up arms against the evil force that was destroying everything in its path, he was swept up by a cyclone of magic fueled by his parents' death and their intent to save his life and the lives of his three siblings.
He woke in another realm, his homeland lost to him, the memory of a voice in his head telling him that a guide would be coming. When that guide arrived, he would be taken back to the land of magic and the kingdom of Eferem. With his siblings, if they lived, he would fight to reclaim the castle and kill the evil sorcerer responsible for it all.
He waited twenty years.
Reda Weston thought it was a dream...or a hallucination...or a nightmare. Her life had been a nightmare lately, between the guilt and self loathing for freezing that day in the convenience store when her cowardice resulted in the death of her partner and threw her career on the police force into a tailspin. To make matters worse, she'd been having odd dreams and feeling odd compulsions. One caused her to track down a book shrouded in mystery and cloaked in the mists of a child's memory.
Finding the book was a miracle - or a curse. Reading the inscription on the back cover, though, took things to a whole other level of weird. As a magical vortex started spinning around her, the life she knew and the reality in which she had previously been secure were stripped away from her with a chilling ease that matched the ease with which she was stripped from her world. When she regained consciousness, the face hovering above hers was hauntingly familiar. She'd known it since she was a child; she'd dreamed of it often more recently. It was the face in the book, the face of the huntsman in her mother's version of Little Red Riding Hood.
And he had, apparently, been waiting for her for a long, long time. Suddenly, Reda didn't think she was in Kansas anymore, metaphorically speaking.
Three books into the Royal House of Shadows series, I can't help but think back to when I first heard of the series concept. Four books, four authors, four twists on four different fairy tales. It was an intriguing idea. This late into the series, though, I'm still not sure how well it's been executed. Each book has had good points, each has had its problems, but the vastly different styles and strengths of the different authors are creating a bit of a disconnect in me, and I'm not feeling any particular series cohesion. I think that's clouding my ability to fully embrace the individual books. It's not the only thing, though. This book, like the first two, had pluses and minuses.
I knew going in to this book that one of Andersen's greatest strengths is her gift for detailed and creative world building, so I was unsurprised by the depth and complexity of the world and mythos she's created here. I was duly impressed by the creative blending and modernizing of the Little Red Riding Hood tale. The plot of the book was comprehensive and, beyond a slight question about series continuity, I felt it held up its end of the four sibling series quite nicely.
I was less pleased with some of the individual book elements.
Call me old fashioned and provincial, but I don't like when my initial impressions of one of the lead characters in my romance books includes sex scenes with someone who is not the other romantic lead. I find it off putting, especially when combined with an abbreviated timeline for the romance arc. That's a completely subjective complaint, but it tends to cast a shadow on the romance for me.
I liked Dayn well enough, despite first impressions, though he wasn't my favorite of the royal siblings...maybe because of them. I did not like Reda. She was riddled with unappealing neurosis and didn't snap out of her self absorption soon enough to become palatable to me in her relationship with Dayn. Unfortunately, when one of the leads in a romance lacks appeal, the romance can't completely satisfy me, so that aspect of the tale wasn't a complete success.
There were a couple of different external conflicts in the book, and I really liked the one concerning the wolfyn. Andersen's creativity shined here, with a concise yet three dimensional conflict and resolution that climaxed with a surprising plot twist. I found the other major conflict, with the witch as the Big Bad, a bit of a letdown. It had a nice set up and some emotional trauma induced by the casualties, but the climax lacked any real confrontation and resolution. I also thought a couple of the scenes felt a little repetitive in both emotional impact and circumstance.
In the end, I felt fairly conflicted about this book. I think it was more creative and comprehensive than the first two, and it blended the fairy tale into the world mythos quite nicely, but I wasn't fond of Reda and some of the plot elements felt incomplete. The romance wasn't a complete win for me, but the wolfyn storyline was highly entertaining and had the sort of complexity and depth that I felt could have been expanded to happily sustain an entire book on its own. After such extensive buildup for the series arc, though, nothing could keep me from finding out how it all ends.
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