This was part of a book tour stop on my main blog -- you should check it out for a chance to win all the Yellowrock books.
I've stopped reading the blurbs for the Jane Yellowrock books, so I had no idea what to expect out of this one when I started it. I spent a couple of days planning on how this was a rumination of/celebration of family disguised as an Urban Fantasy novel. Don't get me wrong, there was plenty of action and plot and all the things we have come to expect from a Jane Yellowrock book. But, yeah, family was the overarching theme. But then . . .
But then, Hunter kicks it into high gear and the long-awaited Sangre Duello starts. Which I didn't expect -- I figured we'd get an entire novel (minus an introductory and follow-up chapter, maybe) dedicated to it. Man, am I glad I was wrong -- I'm not sure I could've handled more of the tension surrounding it than Hunter gave us. Still, everything I'd planned on saying pretty much went out the window.
I've gotten ahead of myself. This series (like any that has gone more than 5 books) needs a "Previously . . ." section. Things have changed so much since Jane rode into New Orleans in Skinwalker that it's almost impossible to remember everything that's happened. Hunter does do enough in the text to remind you who is who and what they've done in the past, so I'm not saying the book is inaccessible. It'd just be nice to have a reminder just where we are in the story without having to re-read eleven novels (not that I have -- I'd probably pick up a few more nuances).
The book begins with Leo solidifying his organization. Moving people around, giving promotions, and cleaning house (not as much as he should have, but even someone who's as politically savvy as Leo isn't perfect). Part of this is the official recognition and establishment of Clan Yellowrock -- which was just so strange. One of the groups that Leo is dealing with is a werewolf pack from the Western part of the US, who are doing some work for him related to the Sangre Duello, who are pretty interesting, and I'd like to see more of them in the future. There's also a new PsyLED honcho floating around -- Rick's boss and Soul's underling -- and his presence is almost as disruptive to Jane's world as the European Vampires are.
Then before you know it -- there we are, the European Vampires are coming ashore to start the Sangre Duello. Which is basically a series of duels -- some to first blood, some to the death (true death, in the case of vampires) -- and just about everyone connected to Leo ends up fighting at least once. It is clear from the way this is set up, the way it's carried out, the way that just about everyone acts during it -- that vampires act on a different morality than just about anyone else. Jane has a very hard time with it all, and many readers will, too. That's good -- that means you're not a monster. I will say that Leo's psychological games with the EV's are a lotta fun. If you have much of an emotional attachment to the characters in this series, you will stress out during this part of the book. Not all survive. Not all who do survive do so unscathed. Without saying what happens to him, I didn't realize how invested I was in Leo Pellissier's continued existence.
Faith Hunter puts all of her experience, all her skill and talent on display here -- and it works. This is really a tour de force for her and it's just a pleasure to read. On the one hand, I thought the pacing was a bit slow at first and wasn't sure what she was doing -- but at a certain point, I recognized that she knew exactly what she was doing and you needed the slow-burn of a start so that you'd be ready for the almost non-stop action to come. There's some brave choices she makes here -- totally shaking up the series, the status is not quo, as a horrible doctor might say. While that might seem like the kind of thing writers need to do (and it is), it can't be an easy choice -- because no matter what we say, we fans want our comfortable series: where we know that Riker will be Picard's Number One for far too long, Lisa will be 8, and that one couch at the Central Perk will always be available for Monica's friends to sit on.
Jane continues to grow and mature, embracing -- and even expanding -- the emotional ties she has to people in her life, taking on more people to protect and defend. She's not a loner anymore, and has stopped fighting this reality. It's great to see. And everything I wanted to say about family is present here, and you'll know exactly what I was talking about when you read this. And if you're someone who threatens any of those she's decided to align herself with? I pity you, because, well, Beast is best hunter, and there's nothing really that'll stop Beast/Jane from making you regret that threatening.
If I was a better blogger -- or at least one who had better time management, I'd come up with a post just about Eli Younger. I really wish I was that guy -- because Eli deserves more attention. As I write this, I remember that Carrie Vaughn gave Cormac a novel to himself (pretty much) -- Hunter should consider letting Eli have his own.
This would've been a great series finale just as it is. I am so glad that it's not -- Hunter's got things set up so well for the next couple fo books (at least) that I'm as excited about this series as I've ever been. But, Dark Queen could've worked as the end. Which is really just to say two things: 1. If you're looking for a new Urban Fantasy series to start, full of magic, vampires, shape-shifters and more? This series is a great one -- but don't start here, start with Skinwalker. 2. Hunter has tied up a lot of loose ends, a lot of long-going plotlines are resolved (or at least brought to a satisfying resting point), which should satisfy long-term readers. I won't say that they'll all be happy about where everything ends up -- I'm not -- but I will say that it's nice to have some sense of closure and resolution.
I laughed, I got angry, I cheered, I fretted, I got awfully close to letting water leak out of my eyes -- I loved this book from start to finish.
Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for this post -- thanks to both for this.