by T.A. White
Series: Aileen Travers #4
Also in this series: Shadow's Messenger, Midnight's Emissary, Moonlight's Ambassador
Publication Date: December 5, 2018
Source: Kindle Unlimited
A favor owed, a hunt like no other.
A courier for the shadow world no more, Aileen’s former protection is gone. Alone but still defiant, she survives one night at a time. Sure, working a dead-end job isn’t part of every young vampire’s dreams, but it pays the bills.
When the darkly seductive Liam calls in a favor, she’ll find her carefully constructed world tilting on its axis as he draws her into a dangerous game against a wily enemy. The High Fey—creatures as powerful and beautiful as they are deadly—have come to town, their motivations unclear as lines are drawn and shadowy alliances made.
And with them, they bring their Wild Hunt where everyone is either predator or prey. Betrayed and marked as its quarry, Aileen will find surviving until dawn has never been this hard.
The only thing that might save her—are the vampires she doesn’t trust.
Content warnings: View Spoiler »torture, heroine is forced to drink human blood against her will, compulsions are placed on various people to make them act against their will, discussion of side character being forced to kill his young sister « Hide Spoiler
I definitely have some conflicting feelings about this book. Each of these books has stripped more of Aileen’s humanity away, forcing her to face some hard truths, and this book is definitely the culmination of that. Most of this review is my reaction to specific events, so this is a giant spoilerfest!
If last book was the werewolf book, then this is the Fae book. A delegation of High Fae is coming to Columbus, but the vampires may be on the hook for more than just hosting duties. The Fae intend to hold a Wild Hunt to power the formation of a new barrow, and they’ve roped in all of the lesser fae to participate, including Aileen’s ex-boss, Jerry. Now working with Liam and his enforcers, Aileen tries to frantically keep her friends from becoming the Wild Hunt’s prey, but she may have miscalculated who would be the best sacrifice of them all.
“In my world, you didn’t leave friends to hurt alone. They needed to know someone was there—that someone cared, even when they were in the deepest parts of night. It might not make a difference, but then again, it might.”
The plot and pacing are excellent. The Fae are pretty much the urban fantasy standard, but where it shines is the individual characters, from Niamh to the twins to more Niall and Cadell. I loved seeing, once again, the depths of Aileen’s loyalty to those she considers her friends and family. She’s not the kind of person to turn her back on someone when she can help, and I think that’ll serve her well in her new job. I also loved seeing more of Caroline and Aileen interacting. Most of what we see of Aileen’s life is pretty negative – her struggle to make enough money at work, the tensions with her family, her attempts to keep herself out of the vampires’ control, not to mention attacks by demons, draugr and other various things that go bump in the night. It was nice to see her actually happy and having fun.
“There are different kinds of power. You may not desire a leadership role, but you crave control of your own life and your own little piece of this world. You just have a different way of going about it.”
Which leads me to my next point. The first time I read this book, I was beyond frustrated with Aileen’s response to Liam. To go from not wanting to be in the same room with him to sleeping with him in a couple of chapters? What in the world, woman. But one of the effects of this reread is understanding how much Aileen is lying to herself, how much harm she’s causing to herself and others by ignoring that she’s a vampire. Her refusal to drink from humans seems like the only thing still tying her to her humanity, but the vampires know that it’s only hurting her and endangering those around her. Does that excuse Thomas’ – and Liam’s – actions? No. I still for the life of me can’t understand why they can’t explain these things to her instead of trying to force her to take their word for it. Maybe it’s just vampire arrogance, but they definitely show a decided lack of empathy, to the extent that when Aileen empathizes with them (Daniel and his making, and then later Nathan) they’re not quite sure what to make of it. So while acknowledging that what Thomas did was completely wrong, she also finally faces just how much she’s missed – how much she’s been hurting herself – by setting up not drinking from a human as the last bit of her humanity. Because when push comes to shove, it’s not who she goes nom-nom-nom on that matters, but how she treats those around her, even her estranged sister or one of her fellow couriers.
“He’d been an unwavering support at my back, doing what even my family seemed incapable of. I still didn’t know if I trusted him, not entirely, but in certain things, I knew he wouldn’t let me down.
It was enough. For now.”
It’s not that Aileen thinks she’s got some great romance with Liam. She clearly sees his flaws – secrecy, his adamant belief that he knows what’s best for her – not to mention that he’s always going to put the good of the vampires – and Thomas – ahead of her. It’s more like she’s been denying herself so many things for so long, pretending that being able to eat as much black raspberry ice cream as she can stuff in herself somehow makes up for not being able to see the sun or hang out with humans or, well, not be a “monster,” that forcing herself to deny her attraction to Liam is just one more thing she’s struggling to have control over. I have a hard time blaming her for snatching a little bit of happiness for herself, even if it’s temporary. Honestly, though it’s pretty clear that Liam has feelings for her, I’m not sure that the relationship can go anywhere without some major changes on his part, namely less secrets and more explanations. Words, my dude, use them.
“A secret,” Liam murmured. “You know how I feel about those.”
Yes. It seemed most vampires couldn’t resist a secret, going to excessive lengths to ferret them out. Secrets might as well have been the lifeblood of my new species. That, and actual blood.
We’re also left with even more unanswered questions. What led to the estrangement between Connor and Thomas? Who’s the mysterious master that Niamh promised to take over control of the vampires for? Now that Arlan’s established a barrow in Columbus, what will happen with the fae, and what will they do with their knowledge about what Aileen is? What’s up with Aileen’s pixie roommates, and when’s Aileen going to finally figure out that the book is actually helping her? What about Aileen’s dad???
Overall, while I’m still on the fence about Liam and would happily punt Thomas into a volcano, I’m enjoying the heck out of this series, and I can’t wait for the next book!