No Rest For The Wicked, by Kresley Cole

>> Friday, December 22, 2006

No Rest For The Wicked is the sequel to Kresley Cole's A Hunger Like No Other. I actually read the first one only because I wanted to get to NRFTW and it seemed from the very complicated mythology (which included a very complex glossary) that it might be a very good idea to start at the beginning of this series. It's fortunate I did, because AHLNO was very good, and gave me great hopes for this one, too.

A soldier weary of life...

Centuries ago, Sebastian Wroth was turned into a vampire -- a nightmare in his mind -- against his will. Burdened with hatred and alone for ages, he sees little reason to live. Until an exquisite, fey creature comes to kill him, inadvertently saving him instead.

A Valkyrie assassin dispatched to destroy him...

When Kaderin the Cold Hearted lost her two beloved sisters to a vampire attack long ago, a benevolent force deadened her sorrow -- accidentally extinguishing all of her emotions. Yet whenever she encounters Sebastian, her feelings -- particularly lust -- emerge multiplied. For the first time, she's unable to complete a kill.

Become competitors in a legendary hunt.

The prize of the month-long contest is powerful enough to change history, and Kaderin will do anything to win it for her sisters. Wanting only to win her, forever, Sebastian competes as well, taking every opportunity -- as they travel to ancient tombs and through catacombs, seeking relics around the world -- to use her new feelings to seduce her. But when forced to choose between the vampire she's falling for and reuniting her family, how can Kaderin live without either?
Very entertaining, but with the very same problems the first one had. A B.

Valkyries aren't generally fond of vampires, but Kaderin the Cold Hearted hates them more than any of them. A vampire murdered both her sisters (they were triplets), and so she's spent centuries making it her life's work to kill as many vampires as she can.

All the killing doesn't bother her... actually, nothing does. The pain after her sisters' death was so bad that she wished those feelings would go away, and what do you know? Some deity with a sense of humour answered her unconscious prayer and took all feelings from her. Kaderin doesn't grieve for her sisters any more, but neither does she feel joy, or amusement, or sadness, or even sexual desire.

Things start to change when she answers the request of some Estonian villagers who report a scary vampire is living in the castle nearby. But the vampire in question is not what she expected. For one thing, he doesn't have an objection to her killing him. And for another, she just can't do it.

Sebastian Wroth never wanted to become a vampire, but his brother Nicholas turned him by force. Nicholas meant well (he'd only recently been turned himself, and returned from war only to find all his family dying, which he just couldn't allow), but Sebastian can't forgive him, and he's spent the centuries since alone in his castle, hating himself and what he's become, keeping himself alive by drinking animal blood.

When a Valkyrie comes to kill him, Sebastian sees it as a release and doesn't bother to fight her. But then comes the surprising thing: his heart starts beating again. See, as I mentioned in my review of the first book, many species in this universe of Cole's have some kind of fated mate, just as Lachlain and Emmie were in AHLNO, and for vampires they have their Brides. Until they find her, they're living dead, but the minute they see this woman that's fated for them, they're blooded, which means their hearts start beating and they start breathing again.

So when Sebastian gets close to Kaderin and feels his heart go thump-thump again, that's it for him. He must have her as his wife, because finding her has at last given him something to live for, and he'll stop at nothing to do so. He'll follow her around, even as she participates in a mystical scavenger's hunt called the Talisman's Hie.

And even as she would prefer for him to stop making her lose her concentration, too. Because winning the Hie this time is of the utmost importance to Kaderin, much more than it was all those times in the past when she did win. The price is such that it might help her do something about her sisters' death, and so ruthless Kaderin will be even more ruthless this time, both with the other contestants and with that vampire who's having such a disturbing effect on her, even making her experience some feelings again.

Phew! I meant to write a short summary of the plot, but Cole's stories are such that it's almost impossible to give a good idea of the plot in a few sentences. There's just so much going on! Fortunately, the author doesn't lose control of it. The huge, complex universe, filled with tens of different creatures and species, which had felt a bit pointlessly complicated in AHLNO, is much more relevant here, as the Hie plot gives them all a good reason to play a part in the story.

Speaking of the Hie, that was enormously entertaining, and the reason I was originally intrigued by the book. I loved that it took us to unusual locales, like Antarctica or Tierra del Fuego, in Southern Argentina, and in the very short time spent there, Cole managed to give a good feel for those places. I also liked that this plot allowed Kaderin to show that she really was as ruthless and tough as she'd been billed to be. Sebastian did help her a bit more than I would have liked, but I never doubted that if he hadn't got involved, Kaderin would have had no problem quashing the competition.

But what I loved best of all was the romance. Just as in AHLNO, this was a "mates" story that I enjoyed. This is usually one of my least favourite plot devices, but I don't deny it can work when it's done well, and I think Cole does know perfectly well how to handle it.

The key here is that she doesn't substitute the falling in love process with the simple biological compulsion to be with the other person. Sebastian locks onto Kaderin from the first moment he sees her, yes, and is relentless in his pursuit and need of her, but Cole doesn't try to convince us that this is love. Nope, for a long while, Sebastian admits that he isn't in love with Kaderin. He desires her and feels the need to be with her, and he does like her, but the love comes afterwards, and it comes because Kaderin is Kaderin, not because Kaderin is his mate. This is how a fated-mates story should be done, IMO!

Something else I liked was the characters, especially Kaderin. In too many romance novels, secondary female characters which are supposed to be strong and tough have a way of turning into ninnies, when their turn comes to be heroines. Some kind of fear on the author's part that the readers will be turned off by a heroine who's tougher than the hero, I suppose. Well, Kaderin is not one of those characters. She's not suddenly revealed not to have killed all those vampires, and she doesn't suddenly turn into a eek-eek girly-girl. She was an interesting character, and I very much enjoyed the struggle inside her between her growing love for Sebastian and her determination not to let him distract her in this very important mission of hers.

Sebastian was maybe a bit too perfect, and at first he seems to be yet another woe-is-me vampire, but the self-pity isn't too overdone, and ends pretty quickly. I usually enjoy a determined hero who will do anything to get his woman, but it's always best when he isn't arrogantly sure of himself. Sebastian isn't completely sure that he'll succeed (in fact, sometimes he feels he'll never manage to convince Kaderin), and his lack of experience with women means that he's actually pretty insecure about himself and his attractiveness, but he works through it and I thought this all made the book even sexier.

On the negative side, while as I mentioned above, the huge Lore universe is better integrated, the Valkyrie are just as annoying as they were in AHLNO. No, they were even more annoying, especially at the beginning. They are shrill and juvenile and generally irritating, and their scenes are filled to the brim with annoying slang and pop-culture references. I kept wishing they'd just SHUT UP for a minute. I guess their antics are supposed to be comic relief, because parts of the romance can get pretty dark, but it was a type of comic relief that just wasn't particularly comic to me.

I also disliked the time-travel elements in the ending. I hate time travelling, it makes my head hurt, and what Cole did here, in which the mechanics of it and the consequences that changing the past had on the future, had no rhyme or reason, made my head hurt especially bad.

Cole has been one of the better authors I've tried for the first time this year. I'll have to remember to put her on the list when I start with my retrospective posts!


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