Tuesday, January 27, 2015

[Early Review] The Raven (The Florentines #1) by Sylvain Reynard

Release Date: February 3, 2015
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher

Pre-Order Links:  Amazon B&N
Author Links: Goodreads | Website

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Gabriel Series comes a dark, sensual tale of romance in a city shrouded in mystery…  Raven Wood spends her days at Florence’s Uffizi Gallery restoring fine works of Renaissance art. But an innocent walk home after an evening with friends changes her life forever. When she intervenes in the senseless beating of a homeless man, his attackers turn on her, dragging her into an alley. Raven is only semi-conscious when their assault is interrupted by a cacophony of growls followed by her attacker’s screams. Mercifully, she blacks out, but not before catching a glimpse of a shadowy figure who whispers to her…  Cassita vulneratus.  When Raven awakes, she is inexplicably changed. She returns to the Uffizi, but no one recognizes her and more disturbingly, she discovers that she’s been absent an entire week. With no recollection of the events leading up to her disappearance, Raven also learns that her absence coincides with one of the largest robberies in Uffizi history – the theft of a set of priceless Botticelli illustrations. When the baffled police force identifies her as its prime suspect, Raven is desperate to clear her name. She seeks out one of Florence’s wealthiest and elusive men in an attempt to uncover the truth about her disappearance. Their encounter leads Raven to a dark underworld whose inhabitants kill to keep their secrets…

My first thought when I finished this book:  How long do I have to wait for the next one?

This book was so much more than I was expecting.  I wasn't sure what this book was going to be - many authors have tried to write both contemporary and paranormal and have failed.  Sylvain Reynard writes a fast paced, intriguing story set in a beautiful and mysterious city with strong and intelligent characters.  The leap from adult contemporary/erotica to adult paranormal was as seamless as the joining of Gabriel Emerson's and The Prince's worlds.

The Prince centers on a vendetta that William York, the vampyre Prince of Florence, has against Gabriel Emerson.  Gabriel had in his possession art work that belonged to the Prince, and the vampyre wants his property returned and Gabriel to suffer for buying stolen art.  Even though Gabriel doesn't know that it was stolen in the first place.  Silly, I know.  But William hasn't amassed his power and ran his principality with an iron fist for hundreds of years by being soft.  Gabriel and Julianne both make appearances in this book, but they are more like extended cameos.  This book belongs to William and Raven.

Raven is an art restorer.  She has studied diligently and has worked through personal demons and disabilities to make it to where she is in a happy place.  Raven is not a typical heroine.  She is heavier and curvier than a lot of characters.  She has a disability that forces her to walk with a cane.  Although she is happy with herself and as accepted living her life alone, low self-confidence rears its ugly head when she is faced with William.  One night, Raven leaves a party to go home and encounters a dangerous situation.  She wakes up completely different in appearance than when she is used to.  

William of York is an enigma.  He is beautiful and powerful, yet cold and harsh.  He has been a vampyre for an extremely long time, and is committed to protected his principality of Florence.  For years he has been somewhat of a loner - never taking a consort or a lover for too long.  He is interested in the human world, yet doesn't get involved in it.  William has a long standing relationship with Aoibhe, a strong and beautiful vampyre that he considers an ally, and somewhat of a friend.  Aoibhe is power hungry and jealous, and a bit of a bitch.  She wants to be William's consort and will stop at nothing to achieve that status.

One of the main themes throughout this book is the idea of mercy versus justice.  Raven is a proponent of mercy.  She even puts her new found happiness on the line in the name of mercy.  William is more concerned with justice.  His brand of justice is quick and impersonal, and often leads to death - a death that William feels is deserved.  Little by little, Raven makes him see that mercy can be just as powerful as justice.

William is quite taken with Raven after he rescues her.  He can't seem to stay away from her.  The more he visits her, the more of a relationship develops.  The more the relationship develops, the more William can't seem to stay away from Raven.  Over the course of the book, we see why William is interested in her - from her inner strength to her intelligence to her kick ass attitude, Raven is quite the heroine!  As she is taken deeper and deeper into the vampyre underground, Raven has clashes with her personal beliefs and her self-image.  There are several miscues and Raven and William find themselves at a crossroads by the end of the book.

While William and Raven are beginning a new and different relationship, there are other plot points occurring.  There are vampyre hunters that are attacking the Florentine vampyres.  New weapons are making it more difficult for the Florentines to survive.  There is also an attack coming against William from inside his own principality.  There is a traitor on the loose that poses an imminent danger to William. 

I couldn't put this book down.  I was a bit sour on Emerson after the last Gabriel book.  I found Gabriel to be arrogant and a bit of an ass.  I was sick of the comparisons to Dante and Beatrice.  How happy was I to see William describing Gabriel as "arrogant?"  I loved the tongue-in-cheek insults towards the Professor!  Although this book has its own comparisons to classic literature, William isn't as pompous as Gabriel.  William has an edge, and I like it very much.  William also has an aura of darkness surrounding him - from his personal darkness, to his choice of wearing the color black, to his preference to stay in the shadows, William is always surrounded by darkness.  Raven is the light that he needs to balance himself.

This book does not end on a cliff hanger.  It answers a question that I was wondering throughout the entire book.  However, there are many questions left unanswered.  Who is betraying William?  How will Aoibhe react once she discovers William's true feelings for Raven?  How will William treat Raven when push comes to shove - and you know it will.  How will the rest of the Consilium react to Raven and the change evident in William?  Will Raven eventually be turned into a vampyre?  How will jealousy from a scorned Aoibhe rear its ugly head?  

This is a very well written book.  I loved the language and the flow.  Reynard's paranormal world is believeable - not sensational.  William's backstory and the vampyre mythology is done very well.  If you are a fan of paranormal romances, then you must give this book a try.  I cannot wait until the second book in this series.  I look forward to the continuation of Raven's and William's story!


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