Sunday 26 May 2013

#CBR5 Book 54. "Shadow's Claim" by Kresley Cole

Page count: 481 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars

Trehan Daciano is a Dacian vampire. Dacia is a realm hidden in mist (so hardly anyone knows where to find it) and Trehan's job, is to hunt down and kill anyone who finds out about Dacia or the Dacians before they can tell anyone about them, or how to get into their super secret realm. Being a Dacian vampire also means that you don't drink blood directly from their victims or some virtuous thing like that, they may even drink only animal blood, it doesn't really come up, but Trehan and his relatives are wicked smug about it. Trehan, one of the princes of the Realm, has lived for nearly nine centuries, and is pretty bored. All he does is read, play with his extensive weapons' collection, occasionally hunt down and with ruthless efficiency kill any threats to Dacia. He and his cousins, all in line for the Dacian throne appear to try to playfully murder one another, but even that seems to be losing its charm.

Then, as he is trailing a demon who visited Dacia and then broke the decree about never leaving, he meets his fated mate (all of Kresley Cole's vampires, and werewolves, and most of the demons have one fated person who they're waiting for, and once they meet them, they can't think of anyone else). Unfortunately she is in love with the demon he is determined to kill, and also the prize in an epic tournament, where the winner gets her hand in marriage, and control of the throne of Abbadon, her kingdom.

Princess Bettina (and yes, she is, at least on occasion, as drippy and dumb as that name makes her sound) is the orphan daughter of the demon king of Abbadon and a powerful sorceress. Unfortunately, her mother was brutally killed by a band of evil winged rival demons (there's a whole host of various demon breeds in Kresley Cole's fictional universe, not all of them unsympathetic) when she was little, and her father died trying to avenge his wife. After a gang of the same evil demons got hold of Bettina, and nearly killed her, her demon godfather and sorceress godmother (who hate each other, but love her) have decided that she, and her kingdom, needs a strong protector, and the best way to find one is to hold an epic tournament, where all the contestants fight in a number of challenges to the death, and the winner gets the kingdom, and Bettina. She is in love with her childhood friend (the one Trehan is there to kill) and hopes that he will enter the tournament, and win, so they can get married, even though her bestie (who's name I seriously cannot remember) only loves her like a sister.

Surprising to no one, Trehan and the best friend both enter the tournament, as do two hundred and something other dudes from various supernatural realms. Will Trehan win the tournament and be able to claim his fated bride? Will Bettina have to watch the man she's starting to have all sorts of tingly feelings for, kill her best friend? Will anyone care by the time they get to the end of the tournament?

I'm not going to lie. I've read a lot of Kresley Cole books. I sort of like the various crazy supernatural races and the extended universe she's created, populated with vampires (both "good" and "evil"), werewolves, vampires, ghosts, valkyries, witches, demons and what have you. The books definitely fit the label of paranormal romance, as central to each book it's all about getting the main couple together. They're also really rather smutty, which I think is one of the main reasons this book was selected as the main read for May in Vaginal Fantasy Hangout, where there's been some complaints that some of the recent books haven't had enough sex.

While Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series currently numbers 12 books (book 13 is out later this year), this is technically the start of a spin off series, about the various branches of the Dacian royal house, which means that each of Trehan's many cousins are likely to get their own stories and fated mates in the next few years. So in theory, it might be a good jumping on point if you haven't read any of the others. Unfortunately for new readers, this book is really rather tedious. The smexy scenes are plenty scorching, no complaints there, but I spent much of the book wanting to slap Bettina senseless, and Trehan isn't much better.

There is very little actual tension in any book that features fated mates. They have to get together. In most of Cole's books, I can at least have fun seeing how they get to the point where they do accept that they're meant to be together for all eternity (yeah, cause all her characters are supernatural beings who live forever - at least at by the end of their respective books). In this book, I mainly finished so I could cross off one square of my Book Bingo card. It doesn't help that the book is nearly a hundred pages longer than your standard Cole book, so there were more pages to get exasperated with the main characters in. One of the few saving graces, is that there are some cameo appearances by characters from earlier Kresley Cole books, most notably Lothaire, who is also a long lost Dacian cousin. If you've read his book, you also know who ends up on the throne of Dacia. Lots of people don't like him, here he threatened to smack some sense into both protagonists and I applaud him for it.

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