After the Poison Princess disaster, I'm glad that I had the opportunity to read something that reminds me that I actually like Kresley Cole. I like the world of the Lore, how diverse it is and how many different sorts of creatures reside in it. I like how incredibly sexy her romances are. I like the humor that she incorporates, which gives us permission not to take everything too seriously. And yet, the plots and pacing always keep me invested. This book is all of those things, and though not without flaws, it has restored my faith in Cole's work.
Following a brutal attack that robbed her of her powers and left her feeling helpless, Bettina agreed to a tournament that would decide who she married. A series of bloody battles to ensure that only the strongest male will possess her. She hopes that her best friend and long time crush, Caspion, will enter the tournament and win her hand. Trehan Dacian is shocked when he encounters Bettina by chance and finds that she's his Bride--his fated mate. Entering the tournament to win her hand would mean losing his rightful place in his kingdom. Bettina and Trehan are forced to choose--between what is familiar and safe, and the growing love between them.
The tournament premise was actually fairly entertaining, offering interludes of action in what could otherwise have been a very dull story. Trehan is an easy hero to cheer for. He's an introvert and very intelligent, but nevertheless willing and able to kill. Even more intriguing than his fighting prowess, though, was his determination to do right by Bettina. He drives most of the relationship development directly, pursuing his Bride with his brain and his heart open.
My primary issue with this book was Bettina. She's way too passive for my tastes. Her reasons for letting the tournament happen in the first place made her seem weak. Makes sense--she is physically weak, and she did recently lose her power. But the fact that her feelings of insecurity somehow translated to: "I'll just marry an enormous brute, and that will solve everything,"--that is unpardonably short-sighted and weak-willed. Couple that with her crush of Caspion, and she comes off as a woman-child who has no idea what she wants. Everything that happens to her, all of the development she undergoes, is orchestrated by the other characters. She doesn't take revenge on her enemies, she doesn't get her power back on her own, she doesn't take responsibility for the consequences of the tournament--you get the idea. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate Bettina. But when I compare her to some of Cole's other heroines, the ones that kick ass and stand up for themselves and have their own place in the Lore? She falls so short of all of that, I'm embarrassed for her.
I'm really excited to see what else Cole has in store for the Dacians. This particular spin-off series has a lot of potential, and I'm so happy that I didn't hate this. 4 stars.