As night falls, Claire Roth flees, driven from her home by a fiery threat that seems to come from hell itself. Then, from out of the flames and ash, a vampire warrior emerges. He is Andreas Reichen, her onetime lover, now a stranger consumed by vengeance. Caught in the cross fire, Claire cannot escape his savage fury–or the hunger that plunges her into his world of eternal darkness and unending pleasure.
Nothing will stop Andreas from destroying the vampire responsible for slaughtering his Breed brethren . . . even if he must use his former lover as a pawn in his deadly mission. Blood-bonded to his treacherous adversary, Claire can lead Andreas to the enemy he seeks, but it is a journey fraught with danger–and deep, unbidden desires. For Claire is the one woman Andreas should not crave, and the only one he’s ever loved. A dangerous seduction begins–one that blurs the line between predator and prey, and stokes the flames of a white-hot passion that may consume all in its path. . .
ASHES OF MIDNIGHT starts around 3 months after we left Andreas Reichen at the end of VEIL OF MIDNIGHT, devastated by the loss of his family and hell-bent on revenge he seeks retribution for those who were taken from him. One by one he is executing the ones involved in the attack on his Darkhaven, slowly but determinedly working his way up the chain of command to the one who ordered the attack: his archenemy, Wilhelm Roth. And he is willing to take everyone down who surrounds Roth, until he stumbles upon his first love, Claire Samuels, who is now Roth’s wife and mate. He decides to use her to get to Roth, but doesn’t know she and Roth live estranged and things are more complicated then they seem. Before long danger and loyalty are overridden by an all-consuming passion and love that never died when they went their separate ways.
Reichen is consumed by hatred and his need for vengeance. So much so that he has transformed into someone totally different from the charming, easy-going and rakish Berlin Darkhaven leader I met in MIDNIGHT AWAKENING, save for some rare occasions and those occurred well into the story. Reichen’s Breed talent is pyrokinesis; he has the power to summon fire at will, from small fireballs to complete annihilating infernos. But this talent is taking over, every time is manifests, he is losing more control over it, however, he doesn’t care because all he cares about is his revenge on Roth.
I still feel a bit ambiguous about Claire. She didn’t impress me. She is described in the book as independent and spirited but I didn’t get that vibe from her actions and she makes some strange decisions at some points in the story. Ironically, those were the moments she felt less bland and a little feistier to me. Despite the insecurity, at some occasions she showed that she could be tenacious and brave but these occasions were as rare as the ones where Reichen’s charming personality would surface. Even Claire’s Breed talent, dream walking, seemed bland to me for most part of the book. No, Claire is definitely not making the favorite heroines list.
Roth is a secondary character whom I disliked immediately but still he made more of an impression on me emotionally than Reichen and Claire could together. Okay, they were negative emotions because Roth is coldhearted, calculating arrogant and self-serving. But hey, negative impact is impact and better than no impact at all.
I have been a fan of Lara Adrian’s Midnight Breed Series since the second half of the first book. I needed the first half of that book to get into the world and the story but from that moment on the warriors of the Order and their Breedmates reeled me in one by one and kept me hooked on an ongoing plot with surprises around every corner. Needless to say I was anxiously anticipating ASHES OF MIDNIGHT, certainly after the way VEIL OF MIDNIGHT ended. This could be nothing else but really good. As I started in the book the dedication in the beginning of it immediately caught my attention and I was even more eager to start:
To the phoenix that lives in all of us:
Strong, glorious, indestructible.
Well, unfortunately I can’t be as enthusiastic about ASHES OF MIDNIGHT as I had expected, at least not with the first 3/4 of the book. And it has everything to do with the characters of Reichen and Claire and their story. Do not get me wrong; Lara Adrian knows how to write stories that are definitely set up well and there was nothing wrong with her writing. It was as engaging as the previous books but for me the emotional connection with Reichen and Claire was totally missing.
Reichen was so different in his own book from the way he was portrayed in the other books he appeared in. Of course I understand that something horrible happened to him at the end of VEIL OF MIDNIGHT but still it was such a radical change of character it didn’t work for me. He actually started to annoy me at some point. Reichen is so consumed by his thirst for vengeance and at times literal blood-thirst that at some points in the story all I could think was: Oh come on and get it over with: kill Roth and feed on Claire already! This is not the way I want to engage and experience a hero in the books I read.
My disappointment also derives from the fact that with both the romance and plot arc in this book, Lara Adrian has deviated from the original concept and the way she has been setting it up over the first 5 books. She has gone in such a different direction, both romantically and with the world building of the Midnight Breed and I truly hope this was a one-time glitch. Elements of the world building that were set up in the previous installments are left behind and “rules” that were given to define the blood bonds between Breeds and Breedmates seem to be discarded seen as how Claire and Reichen’s romance starts and develops. It think what least worked for me in all this was the fact that Claire was blood bonded to another Breed, Reichen enemy no less, for the majority of the book. In my opinion this definitely impeded the chemistry between Claire and Reichen and I was only able to enjoy and appreciate their chemistry and romance when that other bond was severed. My main issues are all linked with the background for their story and the fact that it doesn’t fit the world as is was established in the previous books.
There is also the ongoing plot arc, so brilliantly set up and then expanded with every next installment. In this book for me it came to a standstill with the exception of the very end (more about that later in the review). I left the Order at the end of VEIL OF MIDNIGHT involved in a battle against a formidable enemy with plans that shook up the entire Breed community and in this book there is little progress or development in this overall and ongoing plot. The plot definitely lost the battle for focus to Claire and Reichen’s complicated love story and Reichen’s quest for revenge. The ongoing plot being one of the things I truly liked and admired in the other books, it was only logical that this had to influence my opinion of this book.
ASHES OF MIDNIGHT really differed in vibe from the previous books in some other ways too. For example Reichen is not an active member of the Order, he is a German civilian Breed out on a solo mission of vengeance. Secondly, he and Claire already have a history whereas the other Breed males didn’t have a history with their Breed mates prior to their story.
These were all things that one their own are not bad or negative. On the contrary; changes, focus on the romance and variety are good things and things I welcome in ongoing series but these altered elements were not in sync with the way Lara Adrian has been setting up this series and that is what bothered me and took away from my overall enjoyment of ASHES OF MIDNIGHT.
With every chapter I was hoping that Lara Adrian would make things right again and restore my believe in the Midnight Breed, that she would offer me an acceptable and believable explanation for the change-over she was pulling with ASHES OF MIDNIGHT. And with every chapter my hope was diminished, to the point that I was on the verge of profound disappointment. Luckily and to my utter relieve, the turning point did come, but only at the very end, in the last last quarter of the book.
From that moment on I truly believed that the phoenix had indeed risen from the ashes and made me a believer again. I do think it’s regretful that it came at such a late point in the book because in spite of the emotional, fast-paced and action-packed end, it was too little, too late to make up for the fact that Claire and Reichen just did not resonate with me for most part of the book and the deviation from the ongoing romance arc as it was set up in the other books.
However, it must be said that from the moment Claire and Reichen joined forces with the Order to find and bring down Roth, who is working with the archenemy of the Order, the story picked up in an impressive way. The pace picked up speed and the action kept me on the edge of my seat. I was getting back that familiar feeling of what I had liked in the previous books. And though it couldn’t make up for the things I liked less in the book, I have to say that in that last quarter Lara Adrian brought everything together for me, even emotionally with Claire and Reichen. More, importantly she made up for the lesser focus on the ongoing plot arc by leaving me with a huge cliffhanger that has my heart pounding with speculations.
“If you were mine,” he murmured low under his breath, “I would walk through the fires of hell itself to keep you away from a man like me.”
(…) wrapped her in his protective embrace, giving her a hundred solemn promises that he was very eager to keep, and loving her with all the reverence and worship of a blood-bonded male who had stared hell in the face and now understood that he was holding heaven in his arms.
Kade shrugged, slanting a grin at Brock, the third member of their patrol. “You wanna see dead clubs, let me take you to Alaska. It’s pathetic, man. We’ve got more moose per square mile than women.”
“Is that right?” Chase grunted. “No wonder you jumped at the chance to get out of there and come to Boston last year. How many months of freezing your nuts off before all those moose start looking like prime pieces of ass?”