Pocket / November 27, 2012 / $7.99 print & digital
Trehan Daciano, known as the Prince of Shadows, has spent his life serving his people—striking in the night, quietly executing any threat to their realm. The coldly disciplined swordsman has never desired anything for himself—until he beholds Bettina, the sheltered ward of two of the Lore’s most fearsome villains.
Desperate to earn her guardians’ approval after a life-shattering mistake, young Bettina has no choice but to marry whichever suitor prevails—even though she’s lost her heart to another. Yet one lethal competitor, a mysterious cloaked swordsman, invades her dreams, tempting her with forbidden pleasure.
Even if Trehan can survive the punishing contests to claim her as his wife, the true battle for Bettina’s heart is yet to come. And unleashing a millennium’s worth of savage need will either frighten his Bride away—or stoke Bettina’s own desires to a fever pitch. . .
Shadow's Claim is the first book in a spinoff series of Kresley Cole's popular Immortals After Dark series, which focuses on the Dacians and the Realm of Blood and Mist. In this first book, however, Cole does not take us to the Realm of Blood and Mist; instead, she takes us to the Abaddon, the land of Death Demons, the Deathly Ones.
Prince Trehan Daciano, the Prince of Shadow, has followed the demon Caspion here. By law, otherlanders who come to Dacia can never leave, which prevents their returning with an army to take over their secret mountain lands. By leaving Dacia and returning to Abaddon, Caspion has sentenced himself to death at the hands of Trehan, the sword of the kingdom and the keeper of the law.
Once Trehan arrives in Abaddon and is awaiting his chance at his target, he is inexplicably drawn to a room in the castle spire. Vampires being a curious sort, Trehan goes to investigate what is drawing him about this room. There he finds the lovely Bettina Abaddon, half demon/half sorceri, and all drunk on demon brew. As Trehan approaches Bettina, his heart begins to beat for the first time in almost 900 years, which indicates (in Cole's world) that Bettina is his Bride. Now we know that a vampire becomes quite obsessed with his Bride and the very drunk Bettina and Trehan have quite the sensual tryst. Things are going very well until Trehan realizes Bettina thought he was Caspion come to bed her and save her from her fate.
Raw instinct burned inside Trehan, aggression overwhelming him. The need to mark his mate grew irresistible, not necessarily for blood but for dominion.
For possession. She’s mine.
Biting simply wasn’t done—but his control faltered. Goaded over the edge by jealousy, he knew he would answer the call.
She wants another. My female craves another male in her bed.
“Bride? V-vampire?” she cried, fighting his hold on her wrists. “Wait, wait!”
He’d frightened his Bride. Because I’m not Caspion. Yet another reason to kill him.
The hand of the virginal Princess Bettina has been offered, along with the crown of Abaddon, as the grand prize in a blood fight to the death. Bettina has long been in love with the handsome and charming Cas and hopes that he will agree to divest her of her virginity, thereby saving her the humiliation of being handed over as a prize. As romantic as this gesture may seem, it is not just an attractive selection of studly demons who have entered the contest; most are homeless outcasts who have entered to win the crown and not the elfish looking Bettina. Her choices of suitors include an alligator shifter with scaly skin, Cerunnos (a snake like humanoid), an almost rabid lykae, and even a pus demon, and those are some of her better choices. She wants more than anything to spend her life with Cas.
As you can imagine, the very obsessive vampire does not like that his Bride is in love with another man and wants to give herself to him. Trehan has to choose between entering this contest and fighting to the death for the right to have his Bride or returning to his home, because once he is seen by otherlanders he too is prohibited ever from returning to his secret home realm. As a trained killer and the enforcer of Dacia’s laws, Trehan has no doubt he will emerge the victor.
“I enter for the hand of Bettina.”
He can’t lie? Then he’s not here jus to kill Cas? He wants to marry me?
Still holding her gaze, the vampire dragged the blade across his palm, blood welling. Without hesitation, he signed, never looking down at the contract, never taking his penetrating eyes off her.
Bettina could tell Morgana was glancing from the vampire to her and back, but didn’t acknowledge her godmother’s curiosity.
“You don’t appear to be an afterthought with that one, dearest freakling. You appear to be the only thought.”
Trehan has learned one thing watching his cousin Lothaire and that is how to bargain to get what you want. As the contests begin, Trehan convinces Bettina to grant him a boon for each contestant he dispatches—lady’s choice. Bettina gives in to remove some of the more loathsome suitors. Trehan uses his boons to negotiate private time with Bettina so that he can seduce her heart from Cas. He had better work quickly since Cas too has entered the contest. If Trehan can’t win her heart before he has to kill Cas to win her hand, his Bride’s love might be lost to him forever.
In a story that bounces between bloody fights to the death, and sensual encounters between Trehan and Bettina as Trehan tries to seduce her heart, it's hard to decide which parts of this story are more exciting.
Shadow's Claim is a spin-off of the Immortal After Dark series, but doesn't feel at all second best. I look forward to Cole's next in the series.
Lucy Dosch writes book reviews for her blog http://ebookobsessed.com. Her e-reader has turned her love of reading into an obsession. When she is not reading, she likes to spend time with her husband and two daughters.