From the New York Times bestselling author of the Gabriel Series comes a dark, sensual tale of romance in a city shrouded in mystery…
Raven Wood spends her days at Florence’s Uffizi Gallery restoring fine works of Renaissance art. But an innocent walk home after an evening with friends changes her life forever. When she intervenes in the senseless beating of a homeless man, his attackers turn on her, dragging her into an alley. Raven is only semi-conscious when their assault is interrupted by a cacophony of growls followed by her attacker’s screams. Mercifully, she blacks out, but not before catching a glimpse of a shadowy figure who whispers to her…
When Raven awakes, she is inexplicably changed. She returns to the Uffizi, but no one recognizes her and more disturbingly, she discovers that she’s been absent an entire week. With no recollection of the events leading up to her disappearance, Raven also learns that her absence coincides with one of the largest robberies in Uffizi history – the theft of a set of priceless Botticelli illustrations. When the baffled police force identifies her as its prime suspect, Raven is desperate to clear her name. She seeks out one of Florence’s wealthiest and elusive men in an attempt to uncover the truth about her disappearance. Their encounter leads Raven to a dark underworld whose inhabitants kill to keep their secrets…
I’m always fascinated by an author’s decisions on how they decide to handle long-established paranormal themes to make it their own. Some don’t stray too far from the traditional, while others go way outside the box. I am always delighted when an author brings something unique to the literary table, regardless of genre, and I truly enjoyed the decisions Sylvain Reynard made in writing The Raven. It makes for a wonderful blend of both old and new in the vampyre realm.
We learn quite a lot about Raven Woods in the opening scenes that I found intriguing. Namely, she is not your typical heroine who is either stunningly or innocently beautiful with a to die for body. No, she is plain, overweight, and walks with a pronounced and pained limp. She’s also full of compassion, and it is her inability to look the other way when someone is in trouble that nearly gets her killed, and brings her to the attention of The Prince.
If ever there was an enigmatic character it is surely The Prince himself. He’s not especially likeable for most of the book, yet I was drawn to him, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I’m attracted to the mystery of him. He comes from a dark underworld where power is everything, where desires are immediately gratified and sated, where lies and betrayal earn swift and merciless retribution. Yet, he chooses to save the life of Raven Woods. In so doing he exposes himself and his many secrets to danger. Repeatedly. Clearly, there is much more to this character than one might think in the beginning. During the course of the story I alternate between thinking him wonderful and then thinking he’s awful, sometimes with just a turn of the page. And, if you’ve been wondering as I did if he’ll ever be gifted with a name? Yes, yes he is. I’m going to let you discover that on your own however.
There are many things that I enjoyed about this story, but one I particularly want to mention centers around the physical transformation that Raven underwent when her life was saved. It isn’t a permanent alteration, but it is quite profound, and carries with it consequences that are both good and bad. As her body reverts to what it was she’s given the choice to experience the transformation again. She chooses not to do so, and in a world where beauty and body perfection is so highly prized I found that quite remarkable and inspiring. One of my most favorite quotes from the book comes in regard to beauty and is spoken by The Prince to Raven.
“Beauty is vain. It appears and, like the wind, it’s gone. Remember that.”
Something that nagged at me throughout the story concerns The Prince and his apparent lack of empathy. Because without empathy can any being truly and fully love another? I would say no. But the real question for me as I read was this…is this most basic and vital trait really missing, or has it just been repressed and long-buried out of necessity to both survive and maintain his power and position?
Gabriel and Julia are featured as well. I really won’t say much as I want you to be able to fully enjoy the part they play, but I am still plagued with concern for both of them, although for entirely different reasons. Their inclusion is important, but it still feels like such a gift to be able to read about them again.
This is a must read whether you’re a longtime fan of SR’s or have never read a word he’s written. The writing as always deserves special mention for its style and beauty. The storytelling is crisp and thrilling, humorous, and descriptive. One other thing that I feel the need to mention is that SR has really turned up the sexual heat in this novel. I always considered the Gabriel’s Inferno series to be more sensual than erotic, but I’m fully comfortable in using that definition for this one. I can’t wait for book two to see what happens next, because if I’m sure of one thing… SR has way more surprises in store for us!!!
These are just a few of many…
“You are my greatest virtue and my deepest vice.”
“Prepare to have your universe expanded.”
“I’ll lead the dance, with you in mind. All you have to do is feel.”
**I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review**