|The fairest thing I can say about this book is that it is consistent with earlier books in this series. If you enjoyed them, you’ll probably like this one and can ignore the fact that I’m underwhelmed.
Long ago, in Camelot, Gawain proved his power and heart as a knight, thereby gaining the chance to drink from Merlin’s Grail and follow Arthur into near-immortality as a Magus. The price was that he must drink blood to survive and watch everyone he knows age and die.
A century later, Arthur and company moved to the Mageverse to live on an alternate Earth with other magical beings. They can move back and forth between universes, though, and our present-day Earth is the scene of a battle the Magekind are waging with evil vampires created by the power-hungry Geirolf using three Black Grails he somehow created.
When Geirolf’s minions attack the Mageverse it’s nearly fatal for Magekind and, hoping it will help protect their less experienced members, newer Magekind are assigned to powerful elders who will protect and mentor them. Gawain’s apprentice is Lark McGuin. (Descendants of Magekind, like Lark, are Latents, who can be given Mage power – if they’re deemed capable of handling it – by repeated sexual contact with a Magus, male vampire, or Maja, a female witch).
The fact that Lark is a sexy little brunette is a sweet bonus for Gawain, a major stud who hasn’t had any for a couple of days. Magi and Majae have a symbiotic relationship in which males need the females’ blood to live, and the energy from her orgasm feeds his magical powers. If the females don’t “donate” blood regularly, their blood pressure spikes until they stroke out. Fortunately for the Majae, apparently only handsome, ripped dudes become Mages.
Unfortunately for Lark, however, during the attack she had her throat torn open by an evil vampire and nearly died, so having anyone sink his fangs into her, even the sexy Gawain, gives her the heebie-jeebies.
While Lark and Gawain sort out how soon they’re going to have sex, they also have to fight off evil vampires, help figure out who controls the extremely powerful magic behind them, and look for the last Black Grail so they can destroy it and thereby destroy the evil vampires who were made with it.
There is also a rather nice secondary romance, a subplot involving the magical dragon trapped inside Gawain’s sword by a (you should pardon the expression) double-edged curse, and occasional side-trips to visit Lark’s grandfather who lives in the retirement home where Mage magic has sent his Alzheimer’s into remission.
As you can tell, this is an incredibly complicated story set in an extremely complicated world, and the author does do an outstanding job of making the world consistent and pulling the diverse story elements into her plot.
On the other hand, because there is so much complexity, the author has to spend a lot of time explaining things to the reader. Readers who are fascinated by the world-building will appreciate this. Those of us who’d prefer more story and less backstory are less captivated.
In my opinion, the characterization also suffers. I thought that, given the symbiotic relationship between male and female Magekind, giving Lark a phobia about being bitten by vampires was a fascinating challenge to give these characters. This problem is all too easily resolved, however, and instead there are too many repetitive fight scenes (Lark and Gawain battle bad vampires to draw, then escape) and too many ‘filler’ scenes – Lark lunching and dishing with her Maja girlfriends, for example. Some readers will enjoy this for the glib, slangy repartee, but I thought it just got in the way.
Although the sex is not terribly imaginative (some light bondage is added to the usual ‘hot romance’ repertoire), the author does do a very nice job of moving the characters from sex to love-making as their relationship develops.
So, I repeat – your enjoyment of this book depends on your taste. It isn’t really to mine, but if you are already a fan of Ms. Knight’s, I think you’ll get exactly what you expect.
-- Judi McKee