Renegade (The Captive Series #2)
Trade Paperback, 204 pages
CreateSpace, June 17, 2012
Dystopian Fiction, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
The second novel in this fascinating new series is just as hypnotic as the first. The author brings in more details, more depth to her characters, and introduces some new ones, as well. Although the world-building is still not as complete as I would have wished, it was roughed in enough for me to be able to get the feel of the dystopian setting, and thus, suspend my disbelief long enough to become totally immersed in the story. I think the strongly detailed characters made all the difference here. Stevens makes it extremely easy to bond and empathize with her protagonists -- Braith and Aria. However, she makes the other characters just as real, just as likable -- the good ones, that is. As for the villains, they have so far remained more vague, especially Braith's father. What information we do get about them indicates that they are totally vicious and cruel.
Aria has been brought out of the Imperial palace by Jericho, Braith's youngest brother. He has been working with the rebels against the rule of Braith's tyrannical father, and is known as 'Jack' to them. Aria had not wanted to leave; she had fallen in love with Braith, but Jack was able to get her away after he told her that Braith was engaged to be married. This was enough of a shock to convince her to escape with Jack.
The past two months have not been easy for Aria. She longs for Braith at the same time that she hates him. She truly believes that he used her, although he had been nothing but kind to her during her imprisonment at the palace. Braith, for his part, also believes that Aria used him, that she lied when she told him that she loved him. Once he finds out she's gone, he goes on a rampage, in his rage and despair, but he simply cannot forget her. So he decides to go looking for her. Thanks to a bloodlink between the two of them, he is easily able to locate her.
When they finally meet again, in the forest, Aria thinks he will kill her for leaving him. She attempts to escape by climbing up into a tree, and then swinging from one branch to another, one tree to another. He finally catches her, but far from giving in to his need for revenge, he gives in to his need for her. The kiss he gives her is full of all his pent-up passion and longing...
This is an intensely romantic story, just as much as the first volume. The relationship between these two is passionate, turbulent, even obsessive. Braith is simply driven by his consuming need to protect Aria. Nothing is more important to him than that. No one can get in his way, for they will be destroyed. Even though Aria frequently defies him, disagrees with him, annoying him to no end, he can't get enough of her. As for Aria, she has never felt this way before; she knows she must be with him at all costs. This, of course, sets up an internal conflict for her; her family has been fighting against the vampires for years, and her father is the leader of the resistance. Her loyalties are torn. Braith, too, must choose between his duty as the heir to the throne, his duty to marry a woman he despises, and his love for Aria.
Of course, this is the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet, paranormal style. There are the two warring families, the forbidden love, the impossible circumstances... Does this make the novel -- as well as the entire series -- trite or boring in any way? Not in the least! The Shakespearean play is an archetypal story, one that resonates strongly with the subconscious mind. As such, it has had, and will have, many literary reincarnations, and I am delighted by this! Most tales of vampire/human love fit into this category. One of my favorite series, The Twilight Saga, is a prime example. Most of these novels have and will continue to find readers who, like me, will eat up every word, eagerly turning pages to get to that elusive happy ending. For, unlike The Bard's play, there will be a happy ending. We want love to win out in the end, simply because it should. We want it to overcome all obstacles, simply because it deserves to. (Interesting, how I've personalized an abstract force....)
And so we want our poetic justice. We want Romeo to have his Juliet in the end. We want Juliet to be able to sigh in Romeo's arms happily ever after....
I wish this book, too, had been longer, just as I did with the first one. Perhaps Stevens felt that, by concentrating on the two protagonists, she would be able to bring an immediacy to her story that would not have been there, had she made it longer. It's nice to speculate, though, on what the novel would have been like, had it been longer.
We do get to see more of Max, as well as Jack, in this novel. Both of them are devoted to Aria, but in different ways. Max has been in love with her for a long time, although Aria only considers him a good friend. (This does remind me of the tension between Edward Cullen and Jacob Black, in The Twilight Saga.) He wants to protect her just as much as Braith does. Jack, on the other hand, considers her like a sister, and, of course, is concerned for her welfare, as well.
In this novel we meet Melinda, one of Braith's sisters, who is in love with Ashby, a vampire formerly married to Natasha, another of Braith's sisters. Melinda and Ashby have a bloodlink, as well, so they are as devoted to each other as Braith and Aria are.
We also learn more about the death of Aria's mother, as well as Melinda's. Stevens creates an emotional bond here, between Aria and Melinda. This is a preview of what could become a growing connection between vampires and humans. As Aria knows, not all vampires are evil. She is hoping that her family, and other humans of the resistance, will discover this, too.
This is an immensely entertaining series, with sharp, witty dialogue and great characterizations. I think that most lovers of paranormal romance will be swept away! If you haven't heard of it, or started it, then I strongly recommend that you do so as soon as possible!