Monday, January 20, 2020

Review - - Wicked Bite

Wicked Bite 
by Jeaniene Frost
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: January 28, 2020
Reviewed by Nancy

Warning: This is a sequel to Shades of Wicked and picks up where that book left off. There are spoilers for Shades of Wicked in this review.

Everyone’s favorite vampire rogue, Ian from Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series, finally took center stage last year. In Shades of Wicked, the first book of the Night Rebel trilogy, he teamed up with a vampire Law Guardian named Veritas to hunt down a demon. Veritas wants the demon, Dagon, dead because he tortured her, repeatedly killing her and watching her resurrect, to gain worshippers and power thousands of years ago. Ian wants him dead because, in a moment of horrible but mistaken grief, he sold Dagon his soul. Veritas and Ian formed a somewhat grudging alliance. As they worked together, however, she realized there was much more to Ian than the horny reprobate he showed to the world. He realized she was vulnerable and insecure under her tough facade. They grew to trust each other and even married.

Unfortunately, their confrontation with Dagon was disastrous. He killed Ian and took his soul. Veritas killed Dagon, then bargained with her father, a demigod, to revive Ian. Her father obliged, but he warned her Ian wouldn’t remember anything. To keep Ian safe, she left him with Cat and Bones from the Night Huntress series and went after Dagon on her own.

That brings us to the beginning of Wicked Bite. When the story opens, Ian has remembered far more than anyone anticipated and is gradually regaining other memories. He knows Veritas is his wife, and he wants her back. She’s avoiding him, however, because she’s still going after Dagon and doesn’t want to risk Ian being killed again.

Ian eventually tires of leaving messages Veritas ignores and sues her employer, the vampire council, for keeping her from him. Forced to appear before the council, she tries to convince them she and Ian are not married. She’s still determined to keep him safe by staying away from him while she hunts Dagon. She also doesn’t think he remembers the closeness they’d built and can’t bear to be with him when their relationship is a shadow of what it was. She repeatedly tries to ditch Ian, only to have him pursue her.

As he tries to win her over and she tries to escape to keep him safe, neither manages to gain the upper hand for long. The twists through this part of the book, with each of them foiling the other’s strategies were a delight to read.

Ian eventually forces Veritas to believe his feelings for her, despite his memory gaps, are as strong as they ever were. The two of them then join forces to hunt Dagon.

Veritas’s insecurities are believably and sympathetically drawn. So is the secret part of her nature she fears to unleash lest it turn her into a monster. It’s doubly dangerous because her other nature is magical, but magic is forbidden to vampires, on pain of death. Throughout the story, Ian works to convince her she can accept and control this part of her. His efforts at that and at building their marriage are loyal and stubborn and loving.

As their emotional bond deepens, they’re also resolutely pursuing Dagon. Veritas learns more about the side of herself she stifles, and Ian develops additional, unusual abilities. Their quest leads to an encounter with an enemy from Veritas’s past. This meeting, while it’s nearly disastrous, forces Veritas to confront her past with new eyes. As Ian points out, it’s hard to cast aside beliefs about yourself that were instilled by someone you loved and trusted. That’s exactly what Veritas had to do, and her emotional struggle is skillfully drawn.

The worldbuilding is, as always beautifully done, with the introduction of new races and an exploration of demon culture. The action scenes include choice details without slowing the pace, and the suspense builds to the end of the book. The fights involve a fair amount of blood, and some of them have gory moments. Readers bothered by that may want to skim those scenes.

The one hitch in the book is the arrival of a ghost who supposedly has been helping Veritas but isn’t mentioned until she appears on page eighty-two. She and Veritas then talk as though they’ve been in touch before. I found this confusing.

Veritas and Ian’s confrontation with Dagon at the end of the book forces her to make a choice that could lead to her execution. It also introduces a new demigod, Phanes. If she survives, he’ll complicate her life immensely.

Wicked Bite is a terrific installment in Ian and Veritas’s story. It’s emotionally gripping and full of dynamic action, with great twists and turns in the relationship.

Highly recommended, 4.5 stars.

~ Nancy