Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Review: Refugee, by Erica Stevens

(The Captive Series #3)
Erica Stevens
Trade Paperback, 234 pages
CreateSpace, November 23, 2013
Dystopian Fiction, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Stevens has given us yet another highly compelling installment, in this, her Captive Series!  The fourth and final volume, Salvation, will be out this June, and I can hardly wait....

Braith and Aria set off to find allies to fight the war that will topple Braith's cruel father, the current king, from his throne. As the next in line, Braith is the one expected to take over for the king, and bring an end to the brutal practices his father has had in place for years.  Chief among these is the practice of vampires owning humans as bloodslaves.  Max, Aria's best friend, has not gotten over the experience of being owned by the female vampire who claimed him as her bloodslave in the first book, Captured.  Aria herself has seen first-hand just how cruel this practice can be, although, in her own experience, she was treated with kindness by Braith, her captor, who ended up falling in love with her, and then joining the resistance to fight against the king. 

The problem is that Braith, who refuses to acknowledge that he's a natural leader, does not want to be the next king.  He is only willing to lead the allied forces -- aristocratic vampires who are outcast from the Empire, together with the human resistance -- in the assault on the Imperial palace.  After that, he wants to relinquish the reigns to a worthy successor, and go away to live in peace with his beloved, the human Aria.

Braith's brother, Jericho, now known as "Jack", is frustrated by this.  He wants Braith to not only lead the rebellion, but to rule as king afterward, as well.  Braith's friends and allies agree.  But Braith knows that his fellow vampires will never accept a human as his Queen.  He could turn Aria into a vampire, but, since many humans do not survive the change, he's afraid to take the risk.  This is very sweet of him, and strongly reminds me of Edward's dilemma in this regard, in The Twilight Saga.

Now that I've mentioned my beloved series, I want to emphasize that the books in the Captive Series are not carbon copies of Stephenie Meyer's books.  Yes, they're just as romantic as Meyer's great series.  Aria and Braith are a wonderful couple, and all three of these books were an addictive read for this paranormal romance addict!  However, there are many differences between the two series.  For one thing, the vampires in these books are able to have children, whereas Meyer's vampires are not.  Stevens has also added a dystopia to the mix.  The present society is the culmination of years of wars between vampires and humans.  Technology as we know it today has been all but obliterated, and humans, except for those in the resistance, live in slavery to their vampire masters.  "Free" humans are those who have submitted to vampire rule, and trade with them, also providing them with information on the resistance, if possible.  They are thus traitors to their own kind. 

This novel details all the preparations necessary for the final war against the king.  Braith seeks allies amongst the outcast vampires, as well as a human settlement that lives in peace with these outcasts.  There's a lot of emotional conflict involved here, as Braith's friends attempt to convince him that he must eventually assume the throne and give up Aria.  Of course, this sends Braith into frequent rages, and nearly proves the undoing of at least one of his would-be allies. 

For her part, Aria must also wrestle with the problem.  She loves Braith just as much he loves her, and she can't bear to be parted from him.  This is because they share a blood bond, known as a "bloodlink".  Thanks to this, Braith will always be able to find her, wherever she goes.  Aria knows that Braith is a great leader, and will also be a great king.  Where his father is cruel, Braith will be merciful.  He will rule with justice and compassion.  How can she take that away from him?  She's willing to become a vampire for him, but he refuses to turn her, and she understands the risks. 

This angst-filled novel is also full of great adventure, not to mention great romance, and well-delineated characters that the reader really gets to know.  More details about this futuristic world are revealed, as well.  Although Braith's and Aria's story predominates, there are other relationships (not necessarily romantic ones) detailed as well. 

As the main characters, Braith and Aria are exceptionally well-rounded ones.  Both are very strong emotionally, although of course Braith is stronger physically, since he's a vampire.  I love their interactions, even when they argue.  Aria insists on being an equal partner in the relationship, although she does realize that Braith wants to protect her from harm at all costs.  This reminds me of Edward Cullen's similar concerns about Bella Swan, which definitely endeared Braith to me!

Don't get the idea that every page of this book is drenched in drama and tortured love, however.  There's also quite a bit of humor in it.  The characters all get along beautifully, once they realize that they're on the same side, and do engage in some very funny dialogues from time to time.

I found myself reading this book just as voraciously as I did the first two.  Although I do wish each had been longer, containing more detailed world-building, I'm paradoxically glad that they were relatively short reads.  Since I'm not a fast reader, I was able to consume each of them non-stop!

If you love the idea of the vampire as a tortured romantic hero, as well as strong human heroines, then you are sure to become addicted to these books!  You'll be swept away by the romance, and join in the fight against the evil vampire king. 


Purchase Links

Erica Stevens

Author Bio
(from her blog)

Though my name is not really Erica Stevens, it is
a pen name that I chose in memory of
two amazing friends lost too soon.  I do,
however, live in Mass. with my wonderful husband
and our fish Sam, Woody, Hawkeye, Klinger,
and Radar.  I have a large and crazy family that
I fit in well with.  I am thankful every day
for the love and laughter they have brought
to my life.  I have always loved to write
and am an avid reader.

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