Thu
Aug 22 2013 4:30pm

Living Book of the Lore: The Worldbuilding of Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark Series

New Orleans French Quarter picture by David Paul Ohmer via Flickr Creative Commons~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?

Lightning Strikes

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.

A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley ColeWe’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?
 

“Cast-Iron Balcony and Shadows” image courtesy of David Paul Ohmer via Flickr Creative Commons

 


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.

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18 comments
apdreadful
1. apdreadful
The humor. Oh dear lord, I have more quotes from Kresley Cole on my Goodreads than any other. I have laughed so hard I've snorted reading her books. And I love/am in complete slack jawed awe at how she manages to interweave these stories. Her story boards/brain must be a thing to behold.
Jennifer Proffitt
2. JenniferProffitt
@apdreadful Yes! I have laughed so much--the T-Shirts, the dialogue--it's a great balance between serious kick-butt action, deeply flawed characters, steamy romance, and hilarious dialogue. Love it! Nix and Regin were always good for adding some levity. And I'm always amazed by Cole's complex stories too. I remember when I saw that the second book was going to be Sebastian instead of Bowen and I had an internal moment of "WTF, Kresley! Why are you doing this to me!" But as in all things, there's a master plan on she has executed it to a T. Not to say there aren't a few storylines that I wish she would tell, but I must trust in her, I suppose!
apdreadful
3. lisa jung
As a Louisiana native-I love all the refrences to The Big Easy!!!
But I am always disappointed that i havent meet any vampires-werewolves or Valkyriesin my visit to the city!
Jennifer Proffitt
4. JenniferProffitt
@Lisa Jung, when I went to NOLA I kept hoping that I would run into a vampire in a bar on Bourbon Street, Rydstrom when I went to the Garden District, hell, I would have even taken a ghoul when I toured Saint Louis Cemetery! Keep me updated in case you ever find anything and I'll take the first flight down!
Wendy Lewis
5. wsl0612
I really admire how she juggles the storylines, bringing in "same-time" references to others and keeping it consistent and non-boring! I mean there are series authors who feel the need to regurgitate from book to book, because they're trying to assist the newbies who didn't start from book one, but it's really annoying to the loyal fans. I think Cole does a great job of letting you know what's happened to other characters in the series without doing a "copy/paste".
Kelley Anderson
6. luvthekellster
I love this series and LOVE all the New Orleans references in it. The rich culture of that city is unparalleled, so it works perfectly as the backdrop for her books.

Also one of my favorite things is the connections between all the characters and how all the stories relate to one another. I especially enjoy it when my favorites, Mari & Bowen, show up.
Jennifer Proffitt
7. JenniferProffitt
@wsl0612 and @luvthekellster, I think the appearance of other characters in the other books is key to the interweaving plotlines that Kresley has created. Every sentence she writes, every character that she introduces has a purpose--and it's usually far greater than what it first appears.

I think the fact that every so often she introduces a person who is completely new to the Lore (Thad, Holly, Chloe, among others) allows her to reintroduce some facts about her universe for new readers without it seeming tiresome to long-time fans certainly helps. Also that she writes a few books under one story arc and then moves on is also helpful for that same reason. She had the Talisman Hie arc, the Prison arc, and now what will look like the post-prison/warlock arc. It makes it very easy for people to jump into the plot and still have some back information without being totally overloaded.
apdreadful
8. dawn Jennings
The stories make you wish for more Valkyries (Nix), Vampires (Lothaire), Lykae (Garreth), Half-breeds (Malkom), Berserkers (Aidan aka Declan Chase), Demons (Rydstrom) . They make me smile, laugh, giggle, cheer and always leave me wanting more. When it's been a rough day at work, I look forward to my reading time. I just wish they would all come out on audio (so I could listen while running on my treadmill). I'm grateful that its close to the Accession time, I want them all to fall in love. It's fun reading about the things they have to go through to finally get their significant others. Keep up the Great Work Kresley Cole!
apdreadful
9. Tiona
Oh, there is so much to like about KC's world, isn't there? The humor, gotta have. The consistancy, definately love. The unexpected but great things that always happen, oh, yeah! The kick-but action, you know it! Too much to love here to list them all! All I can say is, keep up the good work, Kresley Cole!
apdreadful
10. Felicia Edwards
The absolute brillaint dialogue and humor. Her books make me LOL so much!! The story line is fresh and the characters are old in a new light which I love. I read about 10 to 15 authors right now and she is included in my favs such as Ilona Andrews, Nailini Singh, Patricia Briggs, Jasmine Galenhorn, Marjorie Lui, Evangeline Anderson, Lora Leigh, Jory Strong, Jaid Black, Laurel K. Hamilton, Charlene Harris, and Christine Feehan. I may have forgot a few ( I honestly read all their books) but Kresely Cole is now one of the GREATS!!
apdreadful
11. dracoangelica
I think my favorite part is the parity between the couples. Sometimes you read a paranormal romance with a 'fated mate' subplot and one of the characters ends up being lessoned or weakened by the match in the name of 'twuu wub' or two people that you really don't see together get bonded in the name of 'fate'.

That doesn't happen in the Cole-verse. If one of her heroes is a rat bastard he is punished for it. The heroines come out strong, respecting themselves as women. It's like they say, "Hell yeah I'm a romance heroine. And I'm effing proud! Bite me!" I really love that.
Jennifer Proffitt
12. JenniferProffitt
@Felicia Edwards: Her dialogue is really what propels the stories and makes them so readable. She can just have two characters for the majority of the book but those two characters bring enough warmth, wit and hilarity to make it very compelling to read! She's in my top as well for that and many other reasons. I'm a bit of a Kresley Cole fangirl.

@dracoangelica: I like that as well. Like I mentioned I think that some authors can just sweep away everything with "fated mates" but Cole still makes them work for it. They don't want to be fated mates or they have lots of obstacles. It's really great how she does it and keeps me coming back for more.
apdreadful
13. Nucking Futs Sabs
You have to have romance for a paranormal romance book...hence all the fated mates. KC's IAD books are the greatest. I love the smart as* wit of the Valkyries and how they are strong characters. Usually in romance novels, women are shy and timid, but not these chicks, they kick butt!! KC also sets up characters in her books to continue with their own stories so it's not hard to follow one book after the other. Like the MacRieve Lykae twins "Hot" and "Hotter". Can't wait to see what her next book has in store for the "Hotter" twin and his fated mate. Or Regin's story...I can't wait for that one to come out on audiobook. If you haven't listened to an audiobook from KC, please download it immediately! Robert Pekoff, the narrator of her books will take you to another level. He really makes the characters come to life. Can't wait to see when the accession comes to a head. We'll see who survives and who doesn't.
apdreadful
14. DeniseH
Kresley Cole is one of my favorite authors! The world she has created is one the best and I love the interaction between the different factions and even within each faction. Nix is awesome! The only issue I have is it seems like Nix used to have more "scenes" in these books and she makes me laugh the most. I love how KC can make me love stories that I'm positive I won't. When Lothaire came out, I thought WTH, but I couldn't not read it. She pulled it off and made me love it like all of the others.
apdreadful
15. Rockii
Once again, I LOVE this blog! Ok, anyways, when it comes to the whole "fated mate" thing. I think KC's approach has been the best I've seen in a loong time. because generally they have an idea who their mate actually is. Then she makes them work for it. I love this because in most paranormal romance books they fall in love in like ten minutes. KC's wit is awesome. She has to be my new favorite author. I hope
she doesn't e
Jennifer Proffitt
16. JenniferProffitt
@DeniseH, I recently (as in today) got into a conversation with someone about how great Cole did with Lothaire turning him from the villain to the hero. She did a phenomenal job, I think. I think MacRieve marks a return of Nix though. Since Nix is such an enigma, I think it's best to give us a taste every so often but we don't want to lose too much of the mystery before her own book--part of her appeal is that she's crazy but we don't know anything about her. This makes her inevitable HEA more appealing, I think, but I do REALLY want to see her again.

@Rockii, thank you!!! I totally agree. I think in PNR, we see the fated mates and they're all happy and snuggly and basking in post-coital bliss and then the conflict of the story comes from an outside source--like an evil vampire's evil plot, or revenge or something. Rather than with Cole who gives us an internal conflict between the hero and the heroine (even when they ARE fated!) as well as the external one which is necessary to keep the plot going and the reader engaged. The rest of your comment got cut off but I hope it read something along the lines of "I hope she doesn't ever stop writing..."
apdreadful
17. rockii
The rest of my comment did in fact get cut off. Yes, I do hope she never stops writing! Also I hope she never becomes predictable like Sherrylyn Kenyon or Lynsay Sands.
Jennifer Proffitt
18. JenniferProffitt
@rockii, I'm glad I guessed that right then ;) I think that's how Kresley continues to be a knock out--she has yet to be predictable. Sure on my kindle I see 80% coming up and I say "ok, she's going to have the heroine go kick some ass now and stand her ground against the alpha male hero" but it's never the same and it's always in a unique way that it's more like "ok, what is she going to make the heroine do now? oh no she DIDN'T just (cut off her middle finger, kill her father....die!)" I think it's great!
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