(A Novel of the Elder Races #3)
Available October 4th
Received from publisher for review
Rune Ainissesthai is a Wyr and a man who would do anything to save the lives of his friends. This unwavering loyalty and love for his fellow sentinel Tiago led him to agree to a bargain with a Vampyre queen known and feared for her magical abilities. In exchange for Tiago's life, he promised her a favor of her choosing.
A week after the bargain is struck, Rune finds himself called to her home on a remote island in the San Francisco Bay. He goes in aware he placed no stipulations on the terms of the deal, and knows she could ask for something that will take hundreds of years to complete. What he finds waiting for him there is not at all what he expected though. Carling asks only for him to kneel and bow to her and then releases him from his debt, demanding his immediate departure.
Rune senses there's something going on with Carling however, and he refuses to leave until he figures out what it is. When he learns her Power is becoming increasingly unpredictable–something indicating the end of a Vampyre's extraordinarily long life–he vows to help her find a way to reverse the symptoms of her old age and save her. And so what began with a favor owed turns into a life-altering, time-bending race to cheat death and an epic fight for love.
Third in the Novels of the Elder Races, Serpent's Kiss continues to entertain us with its richly layered characters and increasingly tense political situation while further fascinating us with a rather unique set of problems for our protagonists to overcome. With each book in this series, Ms. Harrison proves the limitlessness of her imagination and the brilliance of her creative abilities, ensuring we read on in rapture as her characters waste little time making a home for themselves in our hearts. Our minds are also kept delightfully occupied in this installment, trying to unravel the knots in the temporal and spacial relationship causing Rune and Carling so many issues. We find ourselves deep in thought yet are never confused, we laugh at the banter between our hero and heroine yet never forget the seriousness of their circumstances, and we relish the physical nature of their partnership yet glory equally in the power of their emotional connection.
One of the highlights of these books is the extreme care Ms. Harrison takes in crafting her characters, excelling at writing alpha men with possessive streaks thousands of miles wide but also never failing to give us women of tantamount strength and skill who rise to whatever challenges face them. Carling is one such woman, a Vampyre feared by many for her gifts with spells yet one who slowly reveals to us the flesh and blood individual behind the infamy and reputation. We start out thinking she will be as cool and reserved as she seemed to be in Tiago and Niniane's story, however Rune's presence imbues her with a comforting warmth that destroys the distance she tries to put between her and the world, forcing us all into close proximity as a figurative pulse begins to beat in her undead chest. She is smart and regal while at the same time unexpectedly playful, taking charge when necessary but also listening to Rune's input when the answers to her problems aren't clear to her, and we find ourselves falling more in love with her as Rune is with each page we read.
Rune is a bit of a deviation from the prior two heroes in this series, his more laid back attitude and his mirth and mischievousness enchanting after the immensity of Dragos's personality and the intensity of Tiago's formidable presence. He can absolutely switch gears into fiercely protective and possessive mode, but his ability to charm a laugh out of a woman who can barely remember how to do so has our limbs liquefying and a dopey grin taking up permanent residence on our faces. For being the half of the couple unable to sense the emotions of the other he reads her remarkably well, knowing just when to push and when to comfort as well as when to seduce and when to grant space between them, allowing him to take ownership of all our hearts as though he has every right to it and would settle for nothing less.
While Rune and Carling's story is undeniably intriguing and the nature of their bond a curious puzzle with ever-multiplying pieces, notably absent is Ms. Harrison's stunning set of secondary characters. This tale centers almost entirely on Rune and Carling exclusively until the end, and while their isolation does add a layer of intimacy to their relationship we can't help but miss some of the vibrant personalities we've met in previous books. Overall however, Serpent's Kiss is a book that gives us a taste of everything we could ever ask for, and is led by two characters who we can only hope we'll catch a glimpse of in future installments.