Review: Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost
Author: Jeaniene Frost
Tittle: Once Burned
Release: June 26th 2012
Series: Night Prince #1,
Night Huntress – Complete World #9
Source: Personal Library
Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository
She’s a mortal with dark powers…
After a tragic accident scarred her body and destroyed her dreams, Leila never imagined that the worst was still to come: terrifying powers that let her channel electricity and learn a person’s darkest secrets through a single touch. Leila is doomed to a life of solitude…until creatures of the night kidnap her, forcing her to reach out with a telepathic distress call to the world’s most infamous vampire…
He’s the Prince of Night…
Vlad Tepesh inspired the greatest vampire legend of all—but whatever you do, don’t call him Dracula. Vlad’s ability to control fire makes him one of the most feared vampires in existence, but his enemies have found a new weapon against him—a beautiful mortal with powers to match his own. When Vlad and Leila meet, however, passion ignites between them, threatening to consume them both. It will take everything that they are to stop an enemy intent on bringing them down in flames.
First, let me just extend a big thank-you to the other Dolls for the invitation to come share with you today, and say how great it is to be back at Paperback Dolls after so long away! I’m excited to be bringing you not only my review of Jeaniene Frost’s latest book, but also some great info I got from Ms. Frost herself! The ever-so-cool lady spent 45 solid minutes answering reader questions about both Once Burned and the Night Huntress world and its other characters. Read all about it, plus the swag I picked up for a pair of lucky winners, in the Book Signing Q&A posting later today!
But back to the book! For those of you that like book trailers, you can see Once Burned here (it’s very cool). It’s the first in a new series spun off from Ms. Frost’s wildly successful Night Huntress series. If you haven’t read them, though, don’t worry (although you’re missing out!), because this story absolutely stands alone on its own merits. Cat, Bones, Mencheres, and Kira have a brief, hilarious cameo, but not knowing their stories won’t impact your ability to enjoy this one.
The hero may seem familiar to you. His name is Vladislav Basarab, more commonly known as Vlad Tepesh (Romanian for Vlad the Impaler). Besides his sideline in magical arson, Vlad is the leader of a large line of vampires, who look to him for leadership and protection. He’s got almost 600 years of accumulated arrogance, engendered by great power and the ruthlessness to use it unflinchingly. Oh, and did I mention that he’s seriously hot in more than the flammable way?
As a minor character, one that almost never existed at all (read the Q&A to get the details!), Vlad could afford to let his wicked sense of humor out to play in the Night Huntress books, mostly to make sarcastic comments at the expense of his frenemy Bones. Vlad’s absolutely lethal and he knows it; without the leavening of his snarky humor, however, his big ego weighs him down a bit and makes readers who already know and love him miss the “old” Vlad a little bit. But in Once Burned, a different, more serious and deadly side of Vlad is at the fore. Now that he’s got his own series, it’s his own people whose lives are on the line; the ruthless arrogance is ratcheted up accordingly.
Ironically, the person most in danger from Vlad’s enemies is a mortal woman whose unusual powers make her either the greatest threat to Vlad or his greatest asset. Meet Leila, one of the most satisfying urban fantasy female leads it’s been my pleasure to encounter recently. She nicely avoids many of the terminally annoying characteristics that can make you want to chuck your book across the room. She’s smart, logical, tough, and can-do, without being overly stubborn, oblivious, contrary, or co-dependent. She’s had some very bad luck in her life, but she’s grown through the adversity and become a woman that is easy to respect and admire (without wanting to smack her upside the head).
Which is good, since the story is being told from Leila’s point of view. Before you get too disappointed about not getting a look-see inside Vlad’s head, though, wait and hear what Leila’s special powers are. She sees visions of the past, present, and possible future of a person, from their point of view, when she touches people or objects with her right hand. So all is not lost, because Leila certainly lays hands on Vlad in this tale.
The story of this first installment in what is currently projected to be a two or possibly three book series, is not overly complex. I’m still trying to decide if this book is a paranormal romance that reads like an urban fantasy, or an urban fantasy that reads like a paranormal romance. The plot is roughly evenly split between the development of a romantic relationship between Vlad and Leila and their joint search for a mutual mysterious enemy. Both halves of the story are skillfully developed, neither rushed nor overly dragged out. Leila’s psychic powers are something new and different for both the reader and for Vlad, which keeps things interesting. The smexy scenes between the two crackle (no pun intended) with Jeaniene Frost’s trademark skill in this area, and she also introduces several interesting supporting characters that readers will look forward to learning more about.
There’s only serious flaw to Once Burned, but it’s a big one. The long story arc for the series and the short story arc for this book seem like they’re going to be pretty much one and the same. This causes the ending of this book to feel abrupt, contrived, and arbitrary. I half-expected to see a “Tune in next time for the continuing adventures of Vlad and Leila!” announcement at the end – it had some of that same unresolved, serial installment feeling that you get from really old TV shows. Not a cliffhanger – no dire predicament was sprung on our two heroes on the last page, and both plot lines reached a plateau that serves as a decent stopping place. But neither of the two plots were completely resolved and cleared away to make room for new plot lines in book two. So, the next book will be more of the same, which begs the question: why split one story into two books? It might be longer, but in the end, it would probably make a more satisfying read.
This book’s release has been highly anticipated by many devoted readers, myself among them. When hopes are as high as they were for this book, it’s a nearly impossible task to fully live up to the hype. So it’s not really surprising that Once Burned falls a bit shy of some rather astronomical expectations. Is it another Halfway To The Grave? No. But hey – it’s an entire book chock a block full of Vlad-y goodness. How wrong could that possibly go?