Born of Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Okay, I think I am an official futuristic/space romance convert now. I loved what Ms. Kenyon did with this concept. I thought she did a very good job with the world-building, but I caught a couple of 'slips' where she would describe things that I really had trouble believing they would have in a futuristic setting on another planet. But then I have no creativity when it comes to making up technological devices and futuristic settings, so I can hardly judge her. Overall, I was happy and I didn't find those rare instances jarring. I think she did a great job coming up with the different cultures and races. It wasn't to the degree that I got bored, and neither was the technological references. I don't like my sci-fi to be top heavy with this kind of stuff. Just enough to make me believe the setting, thanks very much.
Some of the aspects with the League of Assassins Academy and the political structure aspects reminded me vaguely of Star Trek, but this book is not very much in that vein at all. If anything it is more like Firefly. Sigh. Yes, I definitely had happy reminders of the short-lived but brilliant show Firefly with this book. The characters aren't that similar but some of the aspects of the universe and the social/political structures are. There is the whole fancy politically-structured universe paired to the backwater planets theme that is prevalent in the Firefly universe. Also the group of smugglers and outlaws that Nykyrian associates with reminds me of heavily of the crew and passengers of Serenity, and some of the folks they encounter in the various episodes. That's where the similarity ends, because this story is Classic Sherrilyn Kenyon. Sorry, Malcolm Reynolds lovers. There is no Mal character in this book. But we have Nykyrian, and he rules this book.
A newbie to tortured heroes? Meet Nykyrian Quikiades. This man takes the cake for this hero archetype. Was that a bad thing for this reader? Certainly not. I love tortured heroes. Nykyrian earns his spot on my hero to die for list. I found myself rooting for him, crushing on him, and almost crying for him, and deeply feeling for him. That's a good sign.
And Ms. Kenyon reaffirms to me why I love her books with this novel. She writes romance novels that read like my favorite action/adventure movies (with the amped up romance that is usually missing from some of my cinematic fare of my choice). I know I talk about movies a lot when I review books. I can't help it. I am a Movie Buff and a Bookworm. Those areas often overlap for me. Anyhoo, there is a bit of Cleric John Preston in fair Nykyrian. Oh, yes. That is a good thing, since Cleric John Preston from Equilibrium is a Certified, Grade A Badass. So is Nykyrian. He is absolutely lethal and he doesn't have to concentrate to be that way. His lethality is actually hard for Kiara to deal with after he goes futuristic/medieval on some badguys who were trying to kill her. I had a little bit of a "I want to slap the heroine of this book really hard" moment when she treats him like garbage afterwords. I told myself to calm down and remember what she went through. She had been kidnapped and was tortured, had to watch her mother be tortured and killed, was almost murdered herself, and had survived several other attempts on her life. I could understand her dislike of violent people. However, there are some instances where violence is the answer for other violence. In other words, she lives in a shades of gray universe, not a black and white one. She should have been more conscious of that before she started condemning Nyk and his colleagues. There are many instances of violence towards her and the other characters, that really did demand a response in kind.
I was really glad that Nykyrian's friend Syn told her off. She needed to hear that because she had badly misjudged Nyk. I a not a fan of cruel bullies and conscienceless murderers (despite my love of antiheroes and assassins). It was clear to me early own that this was so not Nykyrian. I think that Kiara really needed a reality check on Nyk. She has a couple of moments where she shows some emotional immaturity that irked me, but overall, she really comes through for Nyk. So I guess she can have him (even though I want him all to myself).
He's got so much damage and pain in his past, present, and future. Ms. Kenyon says in the introduction that she added back the parts that the publisher would not allow in the first publication since they were too intense. Yup, they were intense. She definitely didn't pull her punches with this one. I haven't read Acheron yet, so I don't know if Ash had it worse, but gosh I don't know if I'll be able to stand it if he did. Nykyrian really had a crap life. Some really awful things happen to him, so the reader should be warned that some of this is not pretty at all. But it really helped me to understand the person that he is. No wonder he doesn't trust anyone and is cold, isolated, and lethal, or maintains a facade to this effect.
Kiara was a good heroine. She had her moments where she annoyed me, but she turns out to be the right woman for Nyk. Ms. Kenyon doesn't seem to do tormented heroines, and Kiara isn't exactly one. But she's had some bad stuff happen in her past that flavors her and gives her added depth. I liked the aspects of her career as a dancer. I think Ms. Kenyon must have known a dancer or have been a dancer, because this felt very authentic.
The love scenes are very light, so don't read this expecting a lot of steam. But I didn't mind that at all. I liked them, because they showed the tenderness and the connection between Nykyrian and Kiara.
I'm loving Nyk's friends and sidekicks. They were all very interesting, adding to the flavor of this book. The dialog between them was great. Kenyon certainly knows how to turn on the snark and have you laughing. My favorite secondary character was Syn. I'm excited to read Syn's story. He's funny and interesting, and he's got a lot of anguish that should make for an interesting journey in his novel. I also really liked Darling. I hope he gets his happy ending (although it wouldn't be the traditional boy/girl kind of romance).
I don't want to give spoilers, but readers will find that Nyk's past intersects very heavily with his future, giving him closure and opens a door for new beginnings. I must say I enjoyed that aspect of this story.
I'm very glad that this League series came back into print. I love the setting and the characters, and it meets my sci-fi-loving needs, with some great romance and action in a wonderful combination. I look forward to reading the rest of the books in the series.
FYI: The short story in the Man of My Dreams anthology is about Nykyrian and Kiara's son. It's awesome.
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