The shelves at the bookstore are filled with various paranormal series, a sub-genre that abounds with strong characters, wisecracking heroines, and all manner of world-building. Because I see so many of these, I have to really enjoy a paranormal to find myself inclined to keep up with the series. That being said, Ravenous, first in the Dark Forgotten series, certainly meets the standard. This unlikely love story between a witch and a vampire captured my fancy almost in spite of myself.
As the book opens, we meet witch Holly Carver as she seeks to neutralize the magic of an abandoned house. Witches, it seems, draw magic from their homes and the abandoned witches’ home is still a sentient home that has power. Despite what the kick-ass lady on the cover may lead one to think, Holly actually struck me as a rather normal, down-to-earth sort of person. Though she displays formidable( if flawed) power, she has an almost surprising lack of bad-ass attitude. Readers will see her struggle with insecurities throughout the story, but even when she finds her way, she has more of a deep, quiet strength than an in-your-face attitude.
In Holly’s world, some supernatural creatures live alongside humans. Not all humans like this (including Holly’s boyfriend, Ben), but that’s how society works. After Holly defeats the evil house, events transpire that reveal that Holly and her partner, Alessandro the vampire, spark more than a friendly interest in one another and that at least one demon is loose and a danger to the world.
Though he has been a vampire for six centuries, Alessandro seems to find the mortal Holly endlessly fascinating – something that causes him quite a bit of difficulty. Some people allow vampires to feed on them and they grow addicted to the vampire venom. However, Alessandro respects Holly and, though she interests him, he has no wish to enslave her. He is also mindful of the fact that she has a boyfriend, even if he does not like the man. Therefore, he forces himself to hold back with her.
Much of the book centers around the parallel work of Holly and the vampires to contain the threat of evil supernatural creatures unleashed on the world. Though some of their goals are similar, Holly and the vampires do not exactly work in tandem and this causes at least one of the sources of tension in the story. The vampires are ruled by a queen, and Alessandro owes her loyalty. However, his feeling for Holly leaves him torn because he wants nothing more than to work with Holly and protect her from harm. The dual demands of queen and Holly weigh on Alessandro, and his ways of dealing with both make him one of the more interesting characters in the book.
The resulting story sometimes moves a little too slowly. Lots of the world in this book must be explained to the reader and it does not always go seamlessly. In addition, it took me a little longer than usual to feel drawn into the characters’ lives and stories, making it a slower read for the first couple of chapters.
Even so, once I started to see the framework of Ashwood’s world, Ravenous started to really hold my attention. The world comes together in mostly coherent fashion and I particularly enjoyed the author’s use of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth in the story. The leads have one scene near the end (I won’t spoil it) that sent a little chill down my spine as I suddenly realized how well it reflected the legend – and then spun it just a bit. The characters in this book are an intriguing mix of good and evil, weakness and strength, resulting in a book I was glad to read.