~If you read The Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole, then you know the information I’m about to impart is punishable by death if shared with a human, so of course the logical place to put it is on the Internet (I have a “Valkyrie in Training” T-shirt, so I hope you realize the risk I undertake). However, it seems only fair that with the Accession growing closer, and factions fighting to the death that humans should be aware of why their neighbors have all of a sudden mysteriously disappeared, why their friend’s eyes are suddenly growing red (you should probably invest in a sharp blade for beheading purposes), and that when lightning strikes, they should probably cower.
Laissex le Bons Temps Rouler: The Big Presence of the Big Easy
You could talk about Cole’s worldbuilding without talking about New Orleans, but where would the fun be in that? I fell in love with Cole’s New Orleans so much, in fact, that I recently took a pilgrimage there to see the city that seemed like a living, breathing element of her story. Strangely enough, though, very little of the city actually features in her stories. Her characters have gone all over the world from Eastern Europe, the Amazon, Scotland, and even different dimensions. But New Orleans stays present in every other exotic locale Cole takes her characters—from the rolling Southern drawl some of her characters have acquired, to their yearnings to return to the rundown plantation nestled in the bayou.
You walk down Bourbon Street at night and realize that yes, it would be quite simple to blend into the crowd when you have the pointed ears of the Valkyrie, or the elaborate masks of the Sorceri, especially when you stand next to a 60-year-old woman dirty dancing with her dog, and a ghost tour group led by a man in a top hat with fangs to rival any of the vampires in Immortals After Dark.
There’s a deep sense of culture and tradition in The Big Easy. Many of the original houses dating back to the French and Spanish ownership of the city still line the streets, and street signs are just as likely to carry the French name as its English counterpart. In the French Quarter you’ll find Marie Laveau’s voodoo shop just down the street from Saint Louis Cathedral. If you go to Saint Louis Cemetery you can imagine Myst hopping around on the aboveground crypts that are slowly sinking into the ground as she hunts for ghouls. The mix of old and new world, tradition and modernity fit perfectly with Cole’s Loreans—where else could a witch find all of the ingredients for her spells and still buy the latest Xbox game?
KCole didn’t just stick with the typical vampires and werewolves, which still feature heavily in the series, but gave us a whole new creature to sink our teeth into—Valkyries. The Shield Maidens, as they were once known in antiquity, might bring up images of overweight horses and Bugs Bunny in drag, but in the Lore they are a force to be reckoned with, if you can look past their tiny Fae features and pointed ears. Valkyrie were created when the Norse gods, Freya and Woden, heard the cry of a female warrior as she died. As the story goes, the maiden awoke in Freya and Woden’s palace healed and pregnant with a child that would have Freya’s beauty and acquisitiveness (the Valkyrie have a thing for bling), Woden’s strength and intelligence, and any other characteristics from the birth mother’s race.
Unlike many other paranormals out there, Cole’s Valkyrie are typically pretty fierce and don’t believe in the one true mate. They do believe that you’ve found your one true mate when, instead of running off to whatever battle, that you will always run to get within his arms. A nice sentiment, I always thought, and gives the Valkyries some choice, even when faced with Vampires, Werewolves, and Demons who have different instincts.
We’re first introduced to the Lore in the first book in the seris, A Hunger Like No Other, with Lachlain, the long-lost king of the Lykae’s (werewolves) and his mate Emma, a halfling vampire and Valkyrie, who has the unfortunate circumstance of meeting Lachlain right after he escaped from 200 years of being tortured by…you guessed it—vampires.
Instead of taking the usual shapeshifting idea of werewolves, Cole makes the change seem more like a possession. As Lachlain explains to Emma “We call it saorachadh ainmhidh bho a cliabhan letting the beast out of its cage.” When the Lykae change they stay in relative human form but look bigger (which is pretty big to start with), feral, grow fangs and claws, and their faces look like they’ve stepped in front of a projector screen with the face of a wolf flickering over their features but their more human face still present.
One of my favorite creatures that Cole has tweaked are her demons. They aren’t your typical spawn of Satan but rather just muscle-y men with horns that leave many Immortals (like Nix) just wanting to swoon and
maybe lick their horns.
Cole holds on to the creatures we have come to love (and then gotten tired of but then loved again), but she pairs them with creatures that are different to the genre.
It's an Accession, Baby
Finally an explanation of why, after thousands of years, all of these immortals are finding mates at once.
I might be in the minority in this one, (or maybe not, we’ll see how all of you respond to this!) but one of my biggest pet peeves when reading paranormal romance do all of these creatures find love at the SAME TIME. Kresley Cole provides an answer for us.
There’s this little thing brewing in the Lore called The Accession. Every 500 years, give a take, a war breaks out between all of the factions. It’s not a war in a typical sense but, as KCole puts it, more of a mystical checks and balances where certain factions ally and others fight as a way of population control, sort of… Lucky for us, it’s happening right now!
In the past, usually the Horde (vampires who have fallen to their hunger and are usually driven insane) win because they can increase their numbers quickly and show no mercy. I have a feeling this Accession things will turn out differently as for the first time, the Forebearers (Vampires who don’t drink from living things, except their mates because it wouldn’t be nearly as fun otherwise) have married into the Valkyries, Lykae have taken a lot of Valkyrie mates, and even some of the more evil members of the Lore are matching up with “good” mates.
It’s always been a bone of contention for me with paranormal romance, and I am so glad that finally there is an answer that makes sense.
What are your favorite elements of KCole's worldbuilding?
Jennifer Proffitt is a Midwest transplant to New York City. She spends most of her time reading and writing about romance, but you can follow her other adventures on Twitter @JennProffitt. She works for Heroes and Heartbreakers and Criminal Element.