Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Raven by Sylvain Reynard

I had a love/hate relationship with this book. I love Sylvain Reynard as an author and wanted to love this new series but it was a leap. One I'm not sure I can cross.

This story is both a departure and a link to Reynard's first series which follows the romance of  Gabriel and Julianna. That series was a straight up romance. This is part supernatural, part investigative/mystery, part action/drama with some romance thrown in. The Raven is the first book in the Florentine series. The beginning of The Raven starts 2 years after the end of the Gabriel Series. This creates a plot hole that I find problematic but it's not obvious if you have not read The Prince, novella which acts as a bridge between the two series.

The story is very slow in the beginning. At one point I became so bored I put the book away and considered not finishing it. Even Reynard's exceptional writing couldn't hold my attention. The book focuses mainly on a character referred to only as The Prince, the leader of a group of vampires in Florence. The beginning of the book is mostly devoted to explaining the governmental structure of the vampire world and several story arcs. The two main characters don't really meet each other until about the halfway point, which sets off an awkward love/hate relationship between them. They meet prior to that but the POV shift between the chapters results in time gaps for the reader which makes it harder to follow some of the storylines.

I love the way the vampires are done in this book. Reynard retains much of the traditional lore with a few twists which can be explained as the vampires encouraging an over exaggeration of their abilities in order to scare the humans into not seeking them out. Considering that this came out around the same time or shortly after a series well known for it's "sparkling vampires" I was glad to see that Reynard did not follow that path. The Prince's age grants him more abilities than some of the others as he has had more exposure to the items and has built up a resistance which keeps the vampire race from being one dimensional. The Prince's character ranges from focused violence to awkwardly blunt due to inexperience, or maybe his lack of a need to be gentle, to tender and touching. Despite the extensive range, each element reads as believable.

If you are wondering where the detailed description of the Raven is in this review, then please note that she is mentioned about as much in this review as she is in the book. The main story arc of this book is not the romance between The Prince and Raven. That doesn't start until the second half of the book as a secondary story arc. There are some very touching and well written sexual encounters between the two, but as a character, she's only there to help the main plot which involves several groups trying to unseat the Prince from his throne while he seeks vengeance for a crime that happened centuries earlier. We only see things from her POV when there isn't anything of interest going on in the Prince's main story arc, or if it's needed for the advancement of the main story arc.

What I didn't care for was the extensive governmental system which took half of the book to explain. I know that part of this is because I thought I was reading a romance, not a government based thriller. There is also an unrealistic back and forth as the Prince both saves Raven and condemns her. For someone who has survived thousands of years and keeps his secrets close he really screws up over and over with Raven by continually putting her, and himself, in danger from not only other vampires but also from the human police and a potentially giving her a mental disorder.

The tediously slow start and the fact that the story, despite being titled Raven, is actually about the Prince I might have been able to forgive except for one major issue. The story doesn't end. It literally stops in the middle and requires the purchase of the second book to not only finish the main story arc but the secondary storylines as well. Having read the blurbs for the second and third books in this series, it's quite likely that the second book also does not resolve the story and instead requires the purchase of the third book as well.

I won't be purchasing the next two books in the series because I have major issues with series that forces readers to buy multiple books in order to finish one story arc let alone 2 or 3.