I have to admit, I chose this book purely because the setup seemed too ridiculous to be believed: An invincible treasure hunter who’s also guardian to a great charm – as long as she keeps her virginity? Ludicrous! And I thought, no way will it work.
Well. Good thing I didn’t promise to eat my hat, ‘cause otherwise I’d be masticating fedoras right now.
Serena Kelley is the treasure hunter who was gifted with the invincible charm as well as a great treasure when she was only a child. Now twenty-five, her virginity is pissing her off but she can’t scratch her itch – her charm is the only thing between life and death-by-incurable-disease (a relic from childhood). So when a super-, mega-hot guy with moving tats approaches her while on a treasure hunt in Egypt, she knows he’s trouble.
Trouble is named Wraith, a demon-vampire who has been poisoned and now needs Serena’s charm to save his life, his brothers’ hospital, and his brothers’ lives (since all three are magically linked). Problem is, the more he gets to know Serena, the more he likes, respects, admires, and falls for her. Oh, and he really really wants to get nekkid with her too.
Serena and Wraith are good characters, layered and multi-faceted. Serena’s a spirited and strong woman without being stupid. She regrets the limitations of keeping her charm, but doesn’t indulge in self-pity and instead approaches every day sensibly and optimistically. Wraith is a more tortured character and a bit of a bad boy (with good reason), but Serena brings out his innate nobility and honor. I really enjoyed reading through their progression from lust through friendship to love.
On another note, it’s a sad but true fact that anything following a hugely successful and innovative series (like, say, a set of urban fantasies about leather-clad vampires in New York State) is inevitably and often unfavorably compared that series. I’ll only say this – the similarities are there, but that is part of the sub-genre. (Would you put vampires in fur? Seriously.) Otherwise, Ms. Ione has created a world unique to the genre, and (even better, I reckon) that doesn’t seem false, over-processed, or forced. In other words, it makes total sense. (Even the virginity and abundance of sex make sense, and it was nice to see that they had a point and furthered character and plot development.)
In retrospect I’m amazed it all worked. Ms. Ione had a lot to cover this time round: as the third book in a series, she has to satisfy past and new readers to the series, covering all manner of characters, paranormal background and history, primary and secondary (and tertiary) plots, have it all make sense, and not bore the readers. By gads it worked, and huge kudos for accomplishing with style what few authors can do. Bring on book four.