Eos, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-178313-5
Back in the early 2000s, every publisher and author wanted to hop on the urban fantasy bandwagon and to call that situation “complete global saturation” would be an understatement. Today, there is still a market for such things, but fortunately, after that bandwagon crashed, the urban fantasy scene is less cluttered as those bandwagon-hoppers have since moved on to young adult and other genres that can make them money with minimal effort.
Not that I am saying that Tracey O’Hara is a bandwagon-hopper – honestly, I’ve never heard of her until now. What I am saying is that Night’s Cold Kiss is a symptom of the problem that eventually derailed the bandwagon: it feels very formulaic to a tedious degree, and worse, it has trappings of fanfiction that make it hard for me to take the story seriously.
Just look at the names alone. Our heroine is Antoinette Petrescu and her brother is Nicolae. The vampire boyfriend-to-be of Antoinette is Christian Laroque, and he is one of the civilized vampires called the Aeternus. This means that he only pays women to come over, and he’d then have sex with them and puncture their throat with his fangs during the climax. A woman can’t ask for a sexier kind of john, I tell you. This is unlike the dreniacs, bad and mean vampires who drain and then kill people without paying, oh the horror. Don’t ask me why dreniacs is italicized while Aeternus gets a capital A – maybe it’s a good guy thing. There are werecreatures called Animalians, and yes, I laugh too. The treaty signed between humans and Aeternus to ensure that the relationships between the two factions is confined to that of prostitute and john is called the CHaPR, Just what is with these names? They are seem like the product of a teenage girl’s imagination after too many marathons of LJ Smith’s books.
The plot here should be familiar. Our heroine is the katana-wielding Venator, the fancy name for a dreniac slayer, who is trained by some Japanese dude to be all hi-ya and ha-choo on nameless dreniac mooks, all the while completely oblivious to being spied on by Christian. What’s the use of having a Venator force when they can’t detect the presence of vampires… or is Antoinette just special in this regard? Not that it matters – after the initial taking down on insignificant mooks to show me what a feisty kick-ass woman she is, Antoinette quickly morphs into a more familiar heroine: an insecure and overly-emotional heroine whose entire existence revolves around being the placeholder for readers who just want to imagine what it’s like being ravished by a hunky vampire who will offer a big tip after he’s stuck the tip in. In addition to doing all kinds of wrong moves thanks to her being an emotional creature, the climax of the story sees Antoinette being escorted by a coterie of capable, hot, and naturally male woo-woo action figures; she’d point out how screwed they are and these men will then step up to resolve the issue at hand. Yes, this is our heroine – I’m sure it won’t be long now before she gets her own Netflix special.
Christian is a familiar overpowered fellow with no discernible flaws or weaknesses. Then again, he’d better be one as Antoinette will always need a babysitter if this story is anything to go by. The romance is still brewing by the end of this book, but already it is shaping up to be another familiar fake feisty heroine and overpowered brooding-dangerous lord of all vampires thing.
There are also many secondary characters here that exist solely to take up space or be convenient problem solvers for a particular scene – I don’t know why the author can’t take her time to introduce most of these secondary characters instead of unceremoniously dumping them all into one book like a bad case of diarrhea. Like most problematic urban fantasy stories, this one also suffers from way too much exposition dumping. This and the clutter of secondary characters all bog down the momentum of the story. It’s too easy to put this book down and forget about it after, because it drags at many instances due to all these things.
In the end, Night’s Cold Kiss comes off like another generic flawed first book in yet another generic flawed urban fantasy stories. Worse, when read today, the tropes and the names come off as even more hilarious than they probably would be should I read this one back in 2009. So yes, it’s not only flawed and forgettable in the most generic “Wait, haven’t I read something like this a hundred times already?” way, it’s also dated. There’s plenty of cringe here to go around, so dive in if you are looking for some.