Read my review of the first book in the Garden of Fiends series, Crimson Halo.

Though the author has chosen to set this book in the same series and world as his previous vampire novel, it can be read as a true stand-alone, even with an excellent cameo appearance. In fact, one of the things I loved about this book is that though it does exist in that same world, there are significant differences to the vampire society in which Cassio and Bonifacio inhabit. This indicates a multifaceted vampire society that is much more realistic than some sort of worldwide, monolithic power structure. And while that intrigues me, I was completely swept away here by the specific adventures of these two disaster vampires without necessarily needing more.

These men have the definition of a complicated relationship, even at the beginning of the book when they don’t actually have one. May evokes the weight of their shared history in their tiniest interactions, using scant actual details to craft a compelling connection between the two men. The surface-level humor of some of the tropes explored in this book (such as “only one coffin”) excellently balances the intricately mingled love and hate between Cassio and Bonifacio, including the attachment issues caused by both. These men don’t have angst so much as a visceral agonized longing, and the new type of connection they both work toward forging is much more satisfying than a simpler “happily ever after” would have been.

This not-quite-romance arc all develops amidst the scope of a larger adventure that definitely leans this book toward the darker end of dark fantasy (especially since the nominal heroes are plenty dark all on their own). Along the way, May both adds to and strips away various layers to both the vampires and their foes, creating especially amazing transformations in how I viewed both Bonifacio and the slake, the story’s original terror. This book kept me up long past my bedtime, and I hope to lose more sleep in the future if May continues to create such fascinating, nontraditional vampire stories.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars
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