Warning, warning! The Forbidden is not a stand-alone book; author L.A. Banks unapologetically picks up the action exactly where the previous book ends. Not having read any of the previous four books in her Vampire Huntress Legend series, I was immediately and completely lost. The plot starts in the middle, there are no clues to the back-story of the main characters, and there’s a barrage of supporting characters. After sloughing through 70 pages, I gave up and skimmed to the end, then went back and did a thorough second reading. I was glad I made the effort, for this is terrific vampire fiction and terrific fiction, period.
A brief plot summary of The Forbidden can’t be given without revealing the ending of the previous book – my apologies. The Forbidden opens with Carlos, a powerful council master vampire, dying under the rays of the sun, but through an incredible, unexplainable act, regenerating from the ashes and becoming alive again. His lover, Damali, and her teammates of Guardians and the Covenant, hustle Carlos into a plane going to Algeria to hide him from the forces of evil that believed they had killed him. Carlos is not reborn unscathed: he is disoriented, confused, frightened. Damali is damaged, too; the Chairman of the Vampire Council had ripped her and Carlos’s baby from her womb. Carlos nearly breaks down when he discovers his vampire fangs are gone, realizing that he no longer is a vampire. However, he has new powers that he is not aware of.
Deep below in level six of hell, the Vampire Council is nursing the loss of the five master vampires and three council vampires killed by Damali, the Neteru or Vampire Huntress. Beings from the lower levels of hell have raided the council’s blood reserves, weakening the Chairman, and the two surviving council vampires have been ravaged by tortuous interrogations conducted by level seven, the realm of the Supreme Evil Being, the Devil, himself. The Chairman’s sole consolation is that he thrust Carlos into the sun to die a smoldering death.
As the Chairman plots to repair his empire, an unexpected visitor arrives. Lilith, the Devil’s wife, seeks the Chairman’s help in finding and killing the male Neteru that the forces of good may have created. While male Neteru are unheard of, she suspects that the Light brought Carlos back to life as a human Neteru. If she finds and kills the male Neteru, she will be rewarded with the reign of lower levels of hell. Eager to seek revenge on Damali, the Chairman agrees.
Further details would mean spoilers, but The Forbidden is an exciting thriller with paranormal/vampire elements. The world of vampires built by Banks built is quite fascinating. Master vampires prepare for fighting by “bulking up,” which sounds like strapping on Schwarzenegger-sized muscles. Master vampires also harness winds to create a “transport cloud” to travel long distances. Vampires live with each other and even feed on each other as another source of blood.
There is not much romance; Carlos and Damali are already a couple, and they spend the first half of the book hiding. They’re even separated for about 180 pages while they individually develop their new powers. They do have a couple of love scenes near the end of the book. One is a rather hot scene with a surprise twist; if you blink, you’ll almost miss the twist revealed very subtly later. The second scene is a bout of angry sex after they have argued, which is my least favorite type of love scene. But because I consider this vampire fiction and not vampire romance, the minimal romance didn’t bother me.
There is an intriguing love triangle involving the vampires which added an extra dimension to the novel, and with showcases of exotic locales such as Algeria and Ethiopia, refreshing and snappy urban dialogue, sharp characterizations, and some great action sequences, I was engrossed and entranced. This is one of the most entertaining action thrillers I’ve read, even if it takes a while to orient to the story and the characters.