Graphic/detailed: Blood/gore, violence, murder, child abuse, captivity, torture, cheating, and death of a loved one.
Mention of: rape, sexual assault, pedophilia, child abuse, cannibalism, and death of loved ones.
I have a confession to make…I haven’t read many alien romance novels. Although they’ve achieved a huge wave of popularity, thanks to a few series going viral on Tiktok…I’ve only read a handful.
Gena Showalter’s Otherworld Assassins [which I desperately need her to write more off because 2 novels and 2 novellas just aren’t enough] and the first Alien Huntress novel is the extent of my alien romance knowledge. Trust me, Janessa almost lost my number after hearing this dark secret, and I’ve promised to start exploring more alien romance to make up for it.
Having heard some hype for this series, and its author, I knew that I wanted to give it a go. When I heard that Elizabeth is a master world builder, as well as a WOC, I knew right then I needed to jump in. So knowing nothing of the actual story, aside from the back of book description, I was excited to see where this story took us.
Set in our world, years after aliens invaded and took control of our planet, we meet a woman who has few memories of the world before, who fights hard to protect herself and those she cares. Having already lost so much to the aliens, and ruthless human gangs and scavengers, she follows a list of twelve strict rules…until she meets Kane.
From the information, the summary gives us I wrongly assumed this story would be a dual narrative going back and forth between the woman we meet and the alien that has her changing, and sometimes breaking, the very rules she uses to survive. Although this book does a great job of portraying emotions in other characters, emotions that even Abel, the woman we meet, isn’t able to understand herself, I really wish we had a dual narrative. It would have been great to hear Kane’s inner monologues during certain situations or to be able to fully understand his actions, and interactions, from a first-person perspective.
I love that the author gave the alien blood the ability to heal but makes sure to not fall victim to the horrible “magical healing” trope. Instead, she makes sure we know that the blood can only heal new wounds, that would naturally heal over time, just faster due to the ingestion of alien blood. Now don’t get me wrong some of the fights Abel survives I’m like damn…she really just walked away from that? Broken bones and cuts heal naturally, in general, so really the alien blood just speeds the process up so instead of being stuck in bed for weeks/months she’s only down for hours or a few days. So although the alien blood heals broken bones and cuts that Abel receives her deaf ear remains, as it was caused by an injury she was dealt years ago.
It was amazing to see so many references to Abel not having full hearing and sometimes struggling to hear words or sounds, that other characters could. Some authors have a bad habit of mentioning a disability/illness/neurodivergence when they introduce a character but then fail to show how it affects how they do/see things compared to their able-bodied/neurotypical companions.
I found myself deeply immersed, and invested, until just over halfway through the book when it felt like the story tried adding way more than it needed to. Reading this, at the same time as a friend, I started checking in with them to see if they felt the same sense of confusion that I did during the second half of the story. The beginning had a strong start but it feels like the second half added elements that created unnecessary conflicts and loose ends that are never fully tied up. There are two more books, in this series, that could potentially explain all the loose ends but I currently don’t see myself picking them up anytime soon.
Having enjoyed the world-building elements as well as having the main character be a badass WOC whose partially deaf, I look forward to reading more of Stephens’ work. Janessa has said great things about Elizabeth Stephen’s Xiveri Mates series which I’m excited to read, as Janessa has always given fantastic recommendations.