A Hunger Like No Other, by Kresley Cole

>> Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I tried. I asked Cindy if I could read Kresley Cole's No Rest For The Wicked without having read A Hunger Like No Other and she said yes, but I just couldn't do it. I think it was the glossary that did me in. It all sounded so complex and confusing that I figured I'd better just start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. Though this wasn't really the very beginning, because it seems this world is introduced in a short story in the Playing Easy to Get anthology. But still!

A mythic warrior who'll stop at nothing to possess her...

After enduring years of torture from the vampire horde, Lachlain MacRieve, leader of the Lykae Clan, is enraged to find the predestined mate he's waited millennia for is a vampire. Or partly one. This Emmaline is a small, ethereal half Valkyrie/half vampire, who somehow begins to soothe the fury burning within him.

A vampire captured by her wildest fantasy...

Sheltered Emmaline Troy finally sets out to uncover the truth about her deceased parents—until a powerful Lykae claims her as his mate and forces her back to his ancestral Scottish castle. There, her fear of the Lykae—and their notorious dark desires—ebbs as he begins a slow, wicked seduction to sate her own dark cravings.

An all-consuming desire...

Yet when an ancient evil from her past resurfaces, will their desire deepen into a love that can bring a proud warrior to his knees and turn a gentle beauty into the fighter she was born to be?
A wonderful romance. Unfortunately, what surrounds the romance wasn't as good and didn't really go well with the tone of the rest of the story, which made the last sections fizzle somewhat. Still, the very strong relationship between Lachlain and Emma in the first parts was enough to make me give this a B.

Cole creates a world in which all kinds of fantastical creatures coexist with humans. Seriously, think of any mythical or paranormal being, and it's probably in here. Maybe slightly modified, but it's here. Vampires? Check. Werewolves? Check. Sirens? Check. Ghouls? Check. Witches? Check. Gods? Check. Valkyrie?? Even that, check!

These groups (collectively called The Lore) are constantly fighting among themselves, forming and breaking alliances. But there are two groups which are mortal enemies and always will be: the vampires and the Lykae (basically werewolves, with some twists). So what better conflict than to have a hero who's Lykae and a heroine who's half vampire?

The book starts with an incredibly intriguing scene. Lachlain MacRieve, king of the Lykae, was captured by the vampires 150 earlier, and rather than kill him outright, the bastards preferred to torture him for all eternity. They chained him in the catacombs under Paris, right next to some kind of hell fire that periodically flares out and burns him to death. And yes, I said periodically. Because as a Lykae, Lachlain is pretty much an immortal being, and can only be killed in some very specific ways. Burning isn't one of them, so each and every time he is burned to what would be "to death" in a normal person, he comes back, ready to be burned yet again. Nice people, these vampires, eh?

Anyway, so there Lachlain is, chained in the catacombs and minding his own business, when he perceives the scent of his mate close by (yes, this is a fated mates story, but bear with me, because Cole writes it well). See, in this universe, many of the species have some kind of predestined partner who somehow "completes" them, a partner they can't help but go after. Vampires, for instance, have their Brides, while Lykae have their mates.

Lachlain has been seeking his mate for hundreds of years, and had almost given up hope when he smells her. So badly does he need to be with her, that he somehow manages to rip off his chains, and when the last one just won't budge, he rips off his leg and leaves it behind. Yep, his actual leg. But don't worry... immortal, remember? It grows back.

Emmaline Troy is in Paris trying to find more information about her father. All she knows is that he was a vampire, and that he and her Valkyrie mother lived in Paris for a while. It's Emma's first time alone away from Val Hall, the Valkyrie residence in New Orleans, and she's growing desperate. She hasn't managed to find out anything, and even worse, she's growing hungry, because she hasn't been able to secure a source of blood (drinking directly from someone's vein is not an option. Her Valkyrie aunts have always forbidden it). Emma is known among the Valkyrie for being a bit of a wuss, and so she doesn't want to go running for help at the first sign of trouble and confirm their predictions.

But things go from bad to worse for Emma when a huge Lykae suddenly appears and takes her prisoner, alternately insulting her for being a vampire and making sexual advances (when he's not flying into scary fits of rage and destroying everything around them). Finally, they make a deal. He promises to let her go if she drives with him to his castle in Scotland. And so they go on a road trip that will have their feelings for each other change radically, and teach Emma a lot about herself.

I still can't get over how much I enjoyed Emma and Lachlain's interactions, especially their very early relationship. It's very, very dark and sexual and even a bit violent. We've got Lachlain, newly freed from being tortured by vampires for a century and a half, and when he finally meets the mate he's been wishing for for centuries, she's a vampire herself, one of those murderous leeches. She's his mate, so he goes practically mad with lust whenever she's near, but he doesn't want to feel that way. And Emma is initially scared to death of this guy, and continues to be afraid of him for quite a while.

Hmm, it doesn't sound very good, does it? But for some reason, it worked. Maybe because it made the gradual changes in them so satisfying. Lachlain goes from debating between fucking Emma or killing her to being head over heels in love with her and being willing to lay down his life for her. The contrast between the violence of his initial feelings and the tenderness of the later ones was lovely. As for Emma, I loved seeing the growth in her, from a wimp scared of her own shadow to a much, much stronger woman, a total kickass heroine, in fact!

I also loved how tremendously erotic their relationship was. The scenes from the beginning, some of which practically amount to rape (or should I call it a forced seduction?), and those of later on, which are all about trust and loving, are different in tone, but just as erotic. And my absolute favourite was Emma's first time in drinking from the vein. That was... wow!

Surprisingly, I also liked the chosen mates thing. I thought Cole managed to make it romantic, not claustrophobic. It's probably because this is not a case of "you're my mate, so I love you". Neither Lachlain nor Emma are too happy to discover the other one is their mate, and so we get to see the whole process of falling in love, which is what so often goes missing in mate stories.

So this that I describe is, as Cindy says, the KEEPER, KEEPER, KEEPER! part. Too bad there are a few negatives.

The first thing I noticed was that sometimes, the juxtaposition of the angsty torture and the humour was a bit uncomfortable. I mean, we've got a hero here who's gone through hell, and the events of the beginning of the book, when he first latches on to Emma were very traumatic. The woman was attacked, practically raped and witnessed some very scary rages from Lachlain, and the next minute, she's on the phone wisecracking with one of her aunts. I just couldn't buy it. In the beginning, it was only a slight problem, but after a certain point, especially when we began seeing more and more scenes from the Valkyries' POV, it became much too pervasive. It wasn't really that there was humour, it was more that it was a very silly type of humour. Yeah, there were some funny lines (I did crack up when Emma said that her aunt Myst, who'd had an affair with a vampire general, was now sometimes called Mysty the Vampire Layer), but they were just out of place in this book.

Speaking of her aunts, I thought the incredible complexity and variety of the Lore in this book was a little overwhelming. There's just too much going on around them, too many creatures and too many big concepts I didn't understand and which didn't really add anything to the story (the Accession, anyone?). And most of all, I thought there were too many Valkyries, each with their complex story. Every time the story moved to New Orleans and we got a scene about the Valkyries, I wavered between yawning and wanting to slap the shrill bitches. I've just started the next book, and I think it's the heroine in that one who says Val Hall feels like a sorority residence. I read that and I went "Yes! That was what annoyed me so much!" I was MUCH more interested in Emma and Lachlain's relationship.

But even in that area, I thought the story lost a bit of focus once they got to Lachlain's castle and especialy once they consumated their relationship. First, because we started getting even more scenes of events outside of them, and also, because up until then Cole had created some amazing sexual tension. She'd done it mostly through coitus interruptus, which was kind of annoying, but well, it had worked, so once they did have sex, I found myself wishing they would have interruptused for a while longer.

Finally, a slighter but still real irritation was the accent. Lachlain is Scottish and last lived among other people in the mid-1850s, which apparently means he speaks slang-free American, only saying dinna, doona and no' instead of not. And Emma's language was almost as irritating, with her constant slang and pop-culture references.

God, I'm a grouch. Hard as it may seem to believe, consider the length of my negatives, this book was very good!


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