Saturday, April 11, 2015

Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost

She's a mortal with dark powers...

After a tragic accident scarred her body and destroyed her dreams, Leila never imagined that the worst was still to come: terrifying powers that let her channel electricity and learn a person's darkest secrets through a single touch. Leila is doomed to a life of solitude...until creatures of the night kidnap her, forcing her to reach out with a telepathic distress call to the world's most infamous vampire...

He's the Prince of Night...

Vlad Tepesh inspired the greatest vampire legend of all—but whatever you do, don't call him Dracula. Vlad's ability to control fire makes him one of the most feared vampires in existence, but his enemies have found a new weapon against him—a beautiful mortal with powers to match his own. When Vlad and Leila meet, however, passion ignites between them, threatening to consume them both. It will take everything that they are to stop an enemy intent on bringing them down in flames.

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Vlad Tepesh is already well known to readers of the Night Huntress series, but the heroine for his spin-off series is someone we haven't met before. And she's human. She's far from being an ordinary human, however, for as the description tells us, she has some pretty formidable powers of her own. She also has a personality that's capable of standing up to Vlad's formidable ego and presence and is in many ways the perfect complement to his. Watching them butt heads throughout the story is just as entertaining as the story itself, which is as full of action and suspense as one would expect from a book set in this universe.

Leila has been making a living as a carnival performer for the last several years, making use of her gymnastic skills and using the anonymity of carnie life to keep her abilities secret. She knows about the existence of vampires and other supernaturals, but besides her partner and roommate Marty, who happens to be a vampire, she never figured on getting involved with them. Given her powerful psychometric skills, however, it was pretty much inevitable that she'd get drug into their affairs one way or another. She proves right from the start that she has what it takes to survive in their world, quickly managing to outwit her captors and summon help. She also manages to hold her own against Vlad, refusing to be intimidated or bossed around by him. With her keen intelligence, iron-clad courage, and innate wisdom she seems far older than her 25 years.

Vlad may already be fairly familiar to those who have read the previous books in the Night Huntress universe, but he's always been a supporting character. Sometimes a fairly significant one, but secondary nonetheless. Now that he's one of the main players, we finally get to learn more about him and gain deeper insights into his character and motivations. He believes that he lost the ability to love centuries before when his first wife committed suicide, but bit by bit Leila begins to prove him wrong. Her obstinate and defiant attitudes frequently infuriate him, but they also intrigue him, and it's pretty clear that she is exactly the sort of partner he needs. Getting him to admit that may take the rest of the series, however.

This book felt like a thrilling roller coaster ride almost from the very beginning. Not only is the story and requisite action fast-paced and suspenseful, but the personalities at play here are so forceful and volatile you expect an explosion at any minute. And there are several throughout the course of the book, both literal ones and figurative ones as Vlad and Leila's tumultuous relationship develops. One thing that is a bit surprising is how often Leila actually does acquiesce to Vlad's wishes or demands, for you would expect her independent nature to bristle at being given orders more than it actually does. This is rather refreshing, however, for it's one of the traits that displays her sharp intelligence and it also sets her apart from the trope of the strong female character who always balks at being told what to do because "how dare he try to give her orders?" Her ability to recognize when she's out of her depth and realize that objecting to something simply to assert her independence is sometimes simply foolish marks her as wise beyond her years. She knows how to choose her battles, something that will likely stand her in good stead living with Vlad.

Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would most emphatically recommend it to anyone who loves paranormal romance and urban fantasy. While having read the Night Huntress and Night Huntress World books that were published previous to this one would help with understanding some of the things mentioned, it isn't strictly necessary to have that background to understand and appreciate this story. The basics of how this world operates are explained  quite adequately that someone who hasn't read any of the previous books shouldn't get lost. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what happens next with Vlad and Leila, for I'm fairly certain there will be few dull moments between them. 5 glowing stars to a great first book in a series.

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