As per one of my goals this year – to write more reviews of books written by indie authors I’ve really enjoyed, I didn’t have far to go to find this one, as I’d loaded it onto my Kindle a couple of years ago, where it was gathering dust and generally cluttering up the place – but I do recall it came with a strong recommendation. Would I also enjoy it?
A phone call from an old friend sets Dr. Giovanni Vecchio back on the path of a mysterious manuscript he’s hunted for over five hundred years. He never expected a young student librarian could be the key to unlock its secrets, nor could he have predicted the danger she would attract. Now he and Beatrice De Novo follow a twisted maze that leads from the archives of a university library, though the fires of Renaissance Florence, and toward a confrontation hundreds of years in the making.
This is a solidly well-written, engrossing urban fantasy by an author who knows her craft – as became apparent when I rootled around Amazon and found that she was an established writer with three series under her belt, along with a number of short stories and novellas. So… we have a young protagonist with a troubled past, in addition to a long-lived vampire with a troubled past. How does Hunter ensure this is more than your run-of-the-mill vamp romance?
For starters, if you are looking for a full-on adrenaline-fuelled adventure that kicks off on page one, this isn’t it. Hunter takes her time to establish the characters, particularly Beatrice, the main protagonist, before everything starts heading hellward. I really enjoyed this approach – having got a tad irritated with the numbers of main characters who take a couple of pages muttering about how unbelievable all this supernatural stuff is, and then get swept along in all the mayhem without another thought. Hunter’s deft, economical style never lets us forget this is a big deal. So we are fully bonded with both Gio and Beatrice when the big nasty roars into town and the fact they are threatened becomes a very big deal.
I also like the fact that Hunter features Beatrice’s grandmother, Isobel, who also has a love story running through the book. What a delightful change to have a granny featured with a love life. In fact, it’s an enjoyable touch for Gio to have a trusted companion who is a sixty-something, and like so much about this book, is one of those additions that when you think about a very long-lived being, he’d be just as likely to have an elderly human confidante, as someone a lot younger.
The vampires in this story genuinely feel different – it’s a trick that many of the better paranormal writers manage to pull off, but a fair number don’t. When everything starts sliding away, there is a real sense they regard themselves above and beyond rules or regulations – and what the consequences of that might be… All in all, this is a thoroughly enjoyable, engrossing read. She handles the pacing very well – after the leisurely start, she steadily cranks up the narrative tension until I sat up reading waaay into the wee small hours to discover what happens at the end. And I’ll be definitely getting hold of the second book in the series. If you still have reading friends who are sceptical about managing to find enjoyable books by indie authors, point them in the direction of this book.