First, please pardon the obnoxious “Buy now” link. Until I know what’s up with the images on our server, I don’t want to host broken image links or load new graphics that might later disappear.
In book 3 of the five-part Gardella series, Victoria has assumed the rule of Illa Gardella and is in Rome chasing after the keys to the Door of Alchemy. If she and the other venators get into the chamber first, the good guys win. If the vampires get into the chamber first, it would be bad. Very bad.
The good points: Gleason as usual excels at reminding me of what happened in the previous two books without dumping too much detail on my head, or bringing in a “As you know, Bob” character or conversation. As I’ve often whinged about, my memory is for crapcakes and the easy reminders of past events led me to recall a great deal more than what the reference provided, so I went back into the larger story arc with few holes in my recollection. Furthermore, Gleason has mad skills when it comes to creating flawed characters. Even when I wanted to bash Victoria over the head with something for being stubborn and obtuse, I still liked her, or at worst respected her motivation for whatever action made me cringe. Gleason is particularly strong at creating active, palpable tension through both complicated fight scenes and individual character stories.
The not-so-good points: Victoria becomes Illa Gardella, and administrative details ensue. Thus, The Bleeding Dusk is a lot of transition and in my opinion is lighter on action plot.
The writing is solid but it doesn’t contain as much punch-to-kick action as books 1 and 2, and I was left feeling let down by the story on the whole.
One of the two major conflicts to be resolved in the larger story arc is a love triangle, and I am not rooting for Sebastian. He has more screen time in this book, and perhaps because I’m rooting for a different character pairing, I didn’t enjoy or become more sympathetic to Sebastian as a result of this book. And I’ve been navel gazing about why it is that the fact that *my* choice didn’t get enough face time makes me both disappointed with the present book while simultaneously eagerly awaiting the next because in my opinion? OMG MAX ANGST = HOT HOT HOT. WANT MORE MAX PLS KTHXBYE.
In this book, Sebastian has to settle one of his major conflicts – his loyalty to his powerful vampire grandfather vs. his desire for Victoria – and has to reveal the true nature of his character. By the end of the novel he is only slightly less ambiguous than it has been in previous novels, but still a large and knobby mystery to Victoria, and to me as a reader.
The scenes between them read to me as if they were more carnal, and not so much emotional, which of course gives me real hope for Max, because I’m a pleated-skirt skimpy-top color-coordinated-scrunchie-wearing cheerleader for Team Pesaro. Rah rah rah. But then, I have to ask whether my preference for Max could have colored my perceptions of the scenes with Sebastian, and if any reader who hopes Victoria ends up with Sebastian could have reveled in their hot attraction and erotic chemistry.
In any triangle-based conflict, I have a fear that the author will invent a shallow reason to tarnish the nobility and worth of one of the characters so the other becomes an obvious choice. I don’t think that Gleason will pull such a shabby trick; my big fear now is that I’ll feel genuinely bad for the character Victoria doesn’t choose because the three of them, Max, Victoria and Sebastian, are layered, flawed, and fascinating characters individually. The three of them playing off one another is more than a little sparky as well.
Further, Gleason definitely has her eye on the larger story arc, the development of the Big Bad that will likely return to face Victoria and the other Venators, and the development of Victoria into a female leader who hopes to equal the legacy of her grandmother’s time as Illa Gardella. While this installment didn’t leave me breathless and edgy as the previous two books did, The Bleeding Dusk did cover my curiosity with accelerant and light a big ass match.