Reviewed: September 16, 2013
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Hearts of the Fallen, Book 2
Rating: 3 Stars
Length: 232 Pages
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Covet publisher Entangled Publishing via NetGalley.
This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
As the sister of the vampire king and a behind-the-scenes co-ruler of Terra Noctem, Drusilla has spent her two thousand years existence supporting her brother and protecting their people from danger, whether that danger comes from without or within. In the two years since several of the Fallen escaped from hell and agreed to defend Terra Noctem in exchange for sanctuary there, one Fallen in particular has been a bane to her people. And it's the one who in Dru's opinion has always been the most frustrating, volatile, unapproachable...and, okay, fine...gorgeous of them all: Meresin.
Lately, though, Dru has noticed Meresin is becoming even more erratic and hostile. The fallen angel who commands lightning has always had the habit of electrocuting any vampire who annoys him, but recently everyone seems to annoy the angry, standoffish Fallen. Just by existing, apparently. It's beginning to create an untenable situation, one her brother is threatening to solve by banishing Meresin from the underground city forever. For all that she loves her brother and her people, the thought of Meresin being banished lights its own fire in Dru.
But how can you save a fallen angel who, by all indications, couldn't possibly care less about saving himself?
I'm a huge fan of Kendra Leigh Castle's books, especially her Dark Dynasties series, but this one wasn't as wildly entertaining to me as I'm used to from the author. I had a firmer grasp of the world and characters than I did in the preceding book, so that was a plus, but the plot seemed a little two-dimensional and flat to me and because it centered around Meresin's very internal conflict with himself it wasn't as compelling to me as a story with a more three-dimensional plot and extensive external conflict.
It didn't help that I didn't like Meresin all that much.
I could have, I think, if his character had evolved a little differently throughout the story. I'm a huge fan of tortured heroes, and Meresin is definitely tortured...but he was never my idea of a hero. My biggest problem was his attitude about his issues. It sucked. He's surly, self-destructive, defeatist, and pissed off at the world, and while I think he had good reason for all his self-pity and angst, at least initially, wallowing in it and focusing on it for eighty percent of the book while he pushes away any expression of concern, kindness, or affection with bitter fury did not make for fun reading.
And it didn't make for a very satisfying romance.
Meresin reminded me very much of a wounded animal, so broken by life that he lashes out at the slightest provocation, so damaged and self-loathing that even a touch of kindness feels like a slap of pain. And so damned alone, so starved for a single wisp of some measure of goodness despite it all that he's dying inside.
Oh yeah, that's usually right up my alley. Some of my favorite heroes in the paranormal romance genre are the most damaged and wounded male in a brotherhood of alphas, but what separated Meresin from those others was a combination of the utterly defeatist attitude and ambivalence towards changing the inevitability of his fate. Not to mention a preponderance of whining about how no one understands his pain.
Even if that were true, dude, you're thousands and thousands of years old and one of the most powerful beings on the planet. Man up and learn a coping mechanism or two for pity's sake. Get a dog. Provide free electricity to a few low-income families. Do something besides brood and wallow and piss off everyone who could possibly give a damn about you.
The shame of it is, I liked Dru a lot. I actually liked her a whole lot. Strong, independent, intelligent, she's exactly the sort of romantic heroine that I find most appealing. She's a pretty impressive chick for someone who's older than dirt. Two thousand years hasn't mired her in stagnant elitism, like so many vampires of her age in so many other books. She was a completely solid heroine who dealt with Meresin - and her feelings for him - surprisingly well and with much patience and persistence, and even a little fire when it was called for. She fits into the world and the story very well.
I just wish she'd had more to do besides tag along as Meresin's unwanted sidekick for so long into the book. There simply wasn't enough in the plot to give her to do beyond that, what with the sole focus of the narrative locked on fixing Meresin. There was a very minor thread about her own bad memories, and that area could have benefited by a more complex backstory, but it wasn't bad. When it came to her relationship with Meresin, though, and the evolution of it throughout the book, it felt way too much like she was doing all the work and he was doing little more than spouting off why she shouldn't bother.
And then there was the big story climax.
For a book so locked onto redemption as the end-goal in a series dedicated to exactly that, I was disappointed and surprised at the abrupt catalyst and conversion here. There was so little actual evolution in Meresin's character throughout the book that when the climax arrived, his about-face was lacking in almost all foundation and the subsequent conclusion felt anti-climactic as a result. In a book of this length, it was especially jarring because there was plenty of room for a more subtle change in his character over time.
This just wasn't as great a KLC read for me as others, but it did have it's moments and I'm not finished with this series by far. Castle's writing style is wonderfully rich in personality and vitality, and while I wasn't sold on the romance between the two characters and thought their relationship arc suffered from Meresin's issues, they did have a satisfying amount of chemistry. Plus we get to see more of the enigmatic Levi, who has interested me - a lot - since the previous book. He's as deliciously inscrutable as ever.
It may never be Dark Dynasties, but even with my lukewarm feelings about this book, this series isn't a bad way to spend some reading hours.
Do you have any thoughts, feelings, and/or questions about this review?
This is your chance to express yourself. I would love to hear from you!