Once Burned is the first book in Jeaniene Frost’s latest series, The Night Prince Novels, featuring Vlad and Leila as the main characters. This series is spun off of the Night Huntress series and there are cameos from Cat and Bones. Leila is a new character and she tells the story as it unfolds. Leila is a circus freak, after having been hit by lightening when she was younger she developed unusual abilities. Leila can channel electricity through her body and zap people with her right hand, which often happens when she doesn’t want it to, and so she tucks away her hand to keep from accidentally zapping someone. But more eerily, whenever Leila touches someone, she sees their deepest secret.
Leila is kidnapped by some vampires who want to use her ability to walk back in time to memories and well as pull on mental threads to find people in the present while she touches an object that person has also touched. The vampires want to find Vlad so they can take him down, dead or alive. Using her mental ability to find Vlad in the present, Leila is hopeful to that if she can find this person her kidnappers want her to find, they will be distracted enough that she can escape. She has no illusions about her life expectancy if she doesn’t prove useful to them. Leila is surprised to find that Vlad has some abilities of his own, he is able to sense her in his head, encase his body in living flame, and make her heart race just by looking at her. More importantly, he is the only being, vampire or human, who can withstand her touch for longer than an hour.
Leila gets caught up in an intrigue between warring vampires who each want to use her for her powers and she decides to stick it out with Vlad because she has seen his darkest secret and knows who he really is. Leila is a decent heroine, she has her flaws, but she doesn’t call damsel in distress when life gets rough. After some initial hesitancy she even begins to explore her powers more in depth and learns to use them to defend herself. She has some family issues which are only marginally explored and then completely resolved in a brief scene that was emotionally unconnected to the story. I wish that Leila’s family issues had been as thoroughly explored as some of her other issues. Also, I was a little annoyed that this fairly emotionally strong woman had not fallen for the prickiest vampire ever. The only good in Vlad is seen through Leila’s eyes and his one sad memory, otherwise he’s a total throwback to stupid old men who can’t get with the newfangled program of not torturing employees when they do something he doesn’t like. I kept hoping there would be something more to like about Vlad than what Leila see with her rose colored infatuated eyes.
But even though I’m not a huge Vlad fan, the premise of the story worked. The two characters were quite different from Cat and Bones, the relationship between Leila and a thousands of years old vampire had the drawbacks you would expect it to have. I did like that Leila was not cowed by Vlad’s temper or unpredictable predictableness. She called him on his outdated decisions, and there were times he even listened to her. Despite his calloused heart, Vlad does care for Leila, in the way one cares for a possession and keeps it safe. I can only hope that Leila’s indomitable spirit breaks through this once (or twice, or two dozen times) burned vampire and they start to have a healthy relationship in the near future. I did like that at the end of the story their relationship was still vague enough that there is hope for it. Hopefully Vlad will begin to show some emotion in future novels because it is hard to connect to a handsome stranger who does nothing more than bark and bite. I bypass those kind of dogs on the street all the time, some of them of the canine variety.
I apologize for my absenteeism from the blogsphere yesterday. I woke up with a migraine which lasted over twelve hours. I spent the entire day on my couch with the blinds and curtains drawn and the soft drone of the t.v. on to override other city noises. Basically I’ve been running full tilt this summer and crashed into a brick wall, and as I lay there on the cobblestones of life, I decided it was as good as any place to stop running for the moment. But I’m back in the swing of things now, and as a show of good faith I posted this review which I wanted to have done yesterday. Oh well.