This is the ninth book in the Immortals After Dark series, and it will make very little sense to anyone who hasn't read quite a few other books in the series. The book references events in two of the previous novels, and if you're bothered by spoilers for this or any of the other books, you probably want to skip this review. If you're interested in picking up the series, the first book is A Hunger Like No Other.
Declan Chase works for an organization calling themselves the Order, who capture and experiment on supernatural beings in brutal and torturous ways to try to find their weaknesses and develop improved weapons for humankind. When he was 17, a gang of viscous supernatural creatures tortured and killed his family, and left him heavily scarred both physically and mentally. He was saved by an officer of the Order, and has devoted the whole of his adult life to hunting down and eradicating as many supernatural beings as he can. Declan is unaware that he is the reincarnation of a Viking berserker, who died a thousand years ago, shortly after consummating his relationship to the valkyrie Regin the Radiant.
Now he's been sent by the Order to capture her, and take her to their hidden island stronghold. He can't understand why she appears to recognize him just before he incapacitates her, and why he's inexplicably drawn to her, even knowing that she's not human. Regin is shocked to realize that the man who died in her arms a thousand years ago, and who's reincarnated three times to find her and reunite with her, only to die shortly after, is now a brutal and hateful man, completely consumed by his disgust for all creatures of the Lore, whether good or bad. The facility she's been locked up in is full of supernatural beings of all races, and as they are mostly immortal, the Order won't hesitate to vivisect them and then put them back together to find out what makes them tick. But if Regin can make Declan remember their shared past with a kiss, the curse that has taken him from her four times before, will cause his death.
I enjoy the Immortals After Dark series, and while there are similarities in the books, and they reference a lot of characters throughout the series, it's always interesting to see the pairings that Kresley Cole come up with. Several times, her two lovers are very different and frequently start out antagonistic towards each other, only to end up true mates. Declan Chase is possibly the most "villainous" of all her heroes so far - a man who has captured, tortured and killed hundreds and possibly thousands of creatures from the Lore, not all of them evil vampires or demons. He injects Regin with a painful poison while questioning her, and has no problem having people she considers friends or allies sent to hell dimensions or vivisected, then sown back together. As his family was brutally slaughtered, and he himself barely survived, then he was adopted by a military order and brainwashed further, it's understandable that he's so fiercely opposed to all things supernatural, and Cole doesn't excuse his actions. He's probably the most tortured of the heroes so far.
Regin's faithful berserker has been referenced in quite a few of the other books in the series, and it was very cool to finally see how their relationship started, and find out about the other incarnations of her Viking warlord, Aidan the Fierce. As a supporting character in previous books, it was never really emphasized just how much living for over a thousand years, reuniting with her lover every few hundred years or so, only to have him die from her again straight after, would suck for her. While she seems flippant and carefree, in effect being widowed four times in the space of a millennia would be pretty gruelling. Then to realize that in his most recent incarnation, the man is more of a monster than many of those he has devoted his life to hunting, can't be an easy thing.
They don't have an easy way to a happy ending, but it's a very entertaining one to read about. There are some pretty cool supporting characters, and I continue to be intrigued by Lothaire, the evil vampire and Enemy of Old, who Cole keeps throwing teasing hints about, and who's a fascinating antihero just waiting to happen. The big battle between the good and evil factions of the Lore is clearly coming closer, and I can't wait to see who the next lucky couple in her books will be.