Heart Search 3- Betrayal
I received an ARC of Carlie Cullen's HS3-Betrayal to review, having read and reviewed the first two books in the trilogy.
One nice thing about trilogies is the opportunity to watch story arcs unfold over a longer period than a single book gives you, and Carlie exploits this to its full advantage.
In brief, in books one and two we were introduced to a paranormal world running in parallel to our own, with covens of vampires living a nocturnal existence alongside our lives. New vampires- neophytes- are created from inoculation of venom into a human's system. Vampires have the usual enhanced senses and physical prowess, and also latent abilities (sometimes several) which resemble superpowers in many places. The ruling caste are the Commissioners, the oldest of the kind, who the covens owe allegiance to.
At the end of book two, when Remy found Joshua ( who had turned in bk1 at the outset), she became a vampire and took her twins to live with Josh and best friend Jakki, in a neighbouring mansion to the main coven. During these events, Josh had found a bomb planted at the mansion, placed by Liam- a neophyte created in a reckless moment by one of the coven.
Book three takes these two plot strands forward. Remy is getting used to life with Josh and the twins, but struggling with her new identity, the remnants of her old life ( being very close to her twin) and Josh's altering dominant persona. Liam's plans to attack the coven are facilitated by a traitor, whose identity is kept secret until the final chapters.
This disquiet and distrust makes the book very enjoyable, as you try and second guess who the traitor is (codenamed Phoenix) and the tension strains relationships, and also puts a previously minor character into a hostage situation.
Of the three key characters, Jakki shines the most for me. Her personality, her independence and challenge to rigid tradition in the coven, and her precognitive ability make her great to read. Remy, whose story I loved in books 1and 2 wasn't as strong for me this time, although the struggle with her past life is a key element. I do like the way her chapters continue to be written from a 1st person POV as in previous books- it gives a more personal style to her story.
Finally, Josh is a tricky character to take to. He's clearly awesome at everything, but the prior rise to dominance in the coven has created an arrogance and irritability that I didn't like. His manner of speaking to his men is midjudged, and his relationship with Remy complicated.
The book raised some intriguing ideas with me. I like the formality of the coven, the way they address one another and interact. It can make dialogues drag out too much, but it complements Carlie's very detailed prose. Their disregard of human life as a food source is disturbing in places, and leads to some very dark humour as they kill their victims. The involvement of the half -vampire toddlers in the proceedings treads the line between inspired and bonkers, and their acceptance of feeding on prey touches the edge of disturbing.
Yet why shouldn't it be disturbing? The current spate of Vampire teeny paranormal series dance around the darkness of the subject. These aren't clean nice model vamps, these are predators who munch their way through half of Essex by the end of the book. They swear, they fight, they murder, and they have sex. In fact the sex scenes in the book pull no punches- with graphic detail that would push this book into Adult category (and make HBO keen on filming it!!!).
The end comes with great pace and excitement, with twists and surprises galore. The conclusion felt a little rushed, and there were some loose strands that didn't resolve to my satisfaction. I think Erika's ordeal and it's consequences could have been explored, as well as Josh and Uppteon's dagger. Yet these are small points in an otherwise excellent conclusion to the trilogy, and I do wonder (and hope) one day Carlie will return to the paranormal world she has created.