Friday, January 30, 2009

Kiss of a Demon King by Kresley Cole

This book sparkled from the first sentence. Love the lead-in with introducing Sabine's character. I finished this book yesterday and I loved it. It was dark in a way that the others weren't quite dark. The usurped kingdom of Rothkalina has some dark happenings under the helm of Omort the Deathless. I believe this is also do in part to the fact that the heroine is supposed to be evil in this story. I wouldn't exactly call her evil. I'd call her pragmatic. She's had a rough life that taught her to look out for Number One and her sister. She died several times, and faced enemies out for her blood innumerable times. She was raised in a environment where kindness was considered weakness, and where she always had to be on guard. In that context, she didn't come off as evil. But juxtaposed to virtuous King Rydstrom, she probably does seem amoral. I admired Sabine for her survivor traits and for being down to earth about who she was. She was a sensual being, she liked her gold, and she liked to dress dramatically. And she was do what was necessary and wouldn't hesitate in the doing of of it.
That is the great thing about this story. Rydstrom and Sabine are soulmates. They may not view life the same way, but I felt they were a great pair because their strengths complemented each other. And although Sabine is not exactly what Rydstrom thought he wanted in a queen, it turns out she is exactly what he needed, and vice versa.
I hesitate to call this story a redemption story, because I don't believe that Sabine is actually redeemed all that much. She does learn to let others into her heart and to allow herself to care, but she was never a person who killed for no reason or went out of her way to hurt others. Merely, she was a person who was hardened to others. And we see that she does grow in her ability to feel for others. It was nice to see her bond with the demon orphan Puck, despite the fact that she has no use for children, and her kind is raised to look down on demons. She will always be a bit of a wild card, who has moral flexibility, yet it is clear that she won't harm innocents, and is devoted to her King and would do anything for him. I truly believe she will be an excellent Queen for Rothkalina.
A purist would find some of the happenings in this book somewhat objectionable. This story has a lot of bondage, control, and captive themes. The pages get flipped around and the captive becomes the captor. I didn't have issues with the way things unfold because it was very true to the characters and the storyline. Although Rydstrom is a boy scout type hero, every person has their limits as to what they will take, and he is also a Rage Demon who has been under lots of stress for millenia. So it made sense that he would explode or implode at some point. And Sabine was following through to her nature as an extreme pragmatist of a morally flexible disposition. Considering what Sabine did to Rydstrom in the first part of the book, I felt that it was fair what Rydstrom did to Sabine when he got the opportunity. The term parity was used. I believe there was definitely parity in his treatment of her. The great thing is the huge lie that he told Sabine was acutally laughed off by her and she was proud of him for doing it. It was an interesting moment to read, as I was expecting the stuff to hit the fan, but Sabine laughs and says that she is proud of him for doing what he did. So in the end, they were a very interesting couple with a unique dynamic between them for a romance.
I really liked how the relationship issues were resolved between Ryd and Sabine. He didn't feel that he could trust Sabine to stay with him, and he had to learn that she would stay with him out of choice, so he had to learn to trust her love for him. Sabine had to learn to do what she said she would instead of lying all the time, which she did. She had to learn to trust someone to take care of her, as she had always taken care of herself or her sister, and vice versa. And she had to learn to allow herself to be loved and to trust in that love. She wanted a strong man, but then she had to realize that a strong man would want to protect his woman. For a woman used to being in control, surrendering control must have been extremely difficult. I can understand having those issues, because I don't like depending on others or being under someone's control. So in that way I could identify with her, due to my own trust and control issues.
The world-building and fantasy elements in this story were excellent. It was exciting to keep reading and to see more of the Lore world that Cole has written. Fundamentally, this is a very steamy paranormal romance, but it is also just as good as fantasy on the sword and sorceror side, if the readers doesn't mind lots of steamy, descriptive sex scenes. The humor is also excellent, and I found myself laughing out loud many times. I really admire the way that Cole can combine humor and intensity in her books. She is the queen of great one liners. This along with the sexy men and their devotion to the women they love, is what keeps me coming back to her books, and the Immortals After Dark in particular. Not to mention the wonderful, mythical world she has created, using her imagination, and the old folklore and myths that I grew up hearing. And I love that her heroines are strong and real-life, with their share of flaws and admirable traits.
It was great to get inside of the Demon King's head and to see his conflict with Cadeon from his viewpoint. To see what his struggle has been. And his loneliness waiting for his true female. You feel for him because all along, having a woman to love was probably just as important as regaining his throne, but he couldn't wear his heart on his sleeve since he was a King. Thus issues are deeper than it seemed on the outside. Yes, Ryd was upset that his kingdom was lost, but he also was upset with the way he felt that Cadeon was wasting his life. I was glad to see the brothers make up and come to an understanding of each other. Rydstrom turns out to be a three-dimensional character with a good and a bad side, and with scores of passion locked inside of his methodical demeanor. He is as intense as they came, and boy do I love the intense heroes. I loved his fixation on Sabine, although at times, it seemed quite out of control, but then Sabine was a pretty maddening heroine to deal with for a man/demon like Rydstrom. I was glad that in my opinion, he never truly hurt her or did anything beyond the pale, based on their unusual relationship.
It's also great to see appearances by other members of the Lore, such as Nix, who always has a rather pivotal role, Holly, fighting off some massive morning sickness, and a brief appearance by Regin. It's like seeing old friends again, and catching up. We also get to meet some new characters that I hope to see more of. I feel that there is much to be resolved between Sabine's sister Melanthe and Thronos, who is out for her blood. Future couple? I think yes. I am also intrigued by Lothaire, a Fallen vampire, who seems like he may not be as evil as one would think.
So when this book ended, I was sad. I wanted to read more, and experience more of this universe. But I enjoyed every moment of the reading. I hope that Cole continues to write these books long into the future, and I can't wait to see how the Ascension goes down, as we see the formidable Lore being paired up and forming the force for the good.

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