Now, this was everything a good, old-fashioned vampire novel should be: gothic, dark, brutal, bloody, and sexy.
Baggins' writing is visceral and evocative, without ever venturing into purple. She gives us brilliant characters: I fell in love with Nicholas from first sight. He makes a bargain with the devil (so to speak), and yet never loses his snark, his wit, his defiance. Ban is the perfect gothic vampire, torn between his desires, his devotion to his master Sebastian, and his more human side. I loved how the author made both men prime examples for strength and endurance. For perseverance.
Sebastian is evil in pure form, a villain who's actually frightening inside and out. Even the supporting characters turned out to be real gems, from Martha to Grandma Robinson to Dr. Flowers, the van Helsing of this tale.
It was pure pleasure to read Nicholas and Ban's back and forth. Baggins not only wrote some of the best dialogue I've read in a while, but also some very erotic sex. Yes, it could have been a bit bloodier. Nicholas' surprisingly kinky mind already supplied the right idea:Transfixed, Nicholas had a sudden vision of himself: stripped to the waist, flesh cut in dozens of places, rivulets of blood decorating his cheeks, biceps, nipples. Offering himself as a feast, an unfolding banquet for all Ban's senses....
Unfortunately, we never see anything like this. But what I got was more than able to make up for it: a sweet awkwardness and a lush eroticism that doesn't need to be blatantly explicit to be hot as hell. (In other words: None of the cheap porn hyperbole that seems so common for m/m romance nowadays, and that's the exact opposite of “erotic”.)
There were some editing issues: a few anachronisms, „hair“ where it should've been „hand“, present tense where past tense was required, people calling Ban „Ban“ when he still went by his birthname „Hob“... The pacing was a bit uneven too. There's a long sequence in the middle where everything comes to a stop so that Ban can tell about his past. It was a fascinating tale, yes, but the inclusion felt rather heavy-handed.
And then there was the end. Frankly, I would have been happier without the last chapter. But it wasn't as bad as I expected it to be. I'd already spoilered myself – as per usual – and thought I'd be enraged; but in fact I think Baggins handled the thing with an asexual woman and a gay man having children quite well.
Usually I would have retracted a star for the proofreading and pacing issues. But I can't bring myself to: Just like Nicholas was starved for touch, I was starving for a good vampire story. And even more so for well-written m/m with grown-up men (okay, and vampires) having intelligent conversations, and actually erotic sex. It's unbelievable how rare these things are. So, in the m/m world, this is a real treasure.
As I gather, S.A. Reid / T. Baggins has already left the lands of m/m and vanished in a poof of fairy dust? If this is true, it's a real shame le sigh