Deadly Vows – Keri Arthur

I haven’t been sleeping much in the past week: anxiety, kids crawling back into our bed in the middle of the night, scary TV shows –I’m pointing at you, La Révolution— and books to gulp down in one go… The usual stuff we all go through.

That doesn’t happen to everyone, you say? Good for you.

Anyway, my latest read has been Deadly Vows, the sixth installment of the Lizzie Grace series. I’m so accustomed to the world built by Keri Arthur that being back to Lizzie and Belle’s cafe felt like visiting a couple of old friends. Before telling you about this visit, let me warn you –I should write a disclaimer about this somewhere on this blog– that all the major spoilers for this book are hidden in white text, but some minor ones might be inferred anyway. Read at your own peril.

Last time I met Lizzie she was bracing herself for the inevitable arrival of her husband, from whom she’d ran away thirteen years before. Despite being well aware that he only wanted her for her lineage, her father had coerced her into marrying Clayton when she was only sixteen. Thankfully, during Clayton’s attempt at raping Lizzie on their wedding night, Belle –Lizzie’s familiar– rescued her and they both left Canberra.

After years of running from town to town, Lizzie and Belle moved in in the Faelan Werewolf Reservation, where they opened the aforementioned cafe. The magic coming from the wellspring –well, there is more than one, but you’ll have to read the books to know the whole story– forced them to settle down. Lizzie fell in love with Aiden, werewolf and current head ranger of the reservation, and I’m dying to know whether they’ll still be together at the end of the series or not.

Throughout the past five books, Lizzie and Belle solved a lot of brilliantly crafted mysteries, made many friends and reunited with the only relative of Lizzie’s who’s not batshit crazy, her cousin Monty. At the same time, they’ve waited for Lizzie’s father and Clayton to find them.

It finally happened in this book.

Before I start complaining, let me say that Keri Arthur is a great author and an excellent world builder, and I admire her work. Back when I tried to write urban fantasy stories, this was the kind of storytelling I was aiming (and failing) for. Her characters are flawed, they have hopes and dreams, they have fears and limits. Her scenes are seldom gratuitous, everything she writes has its own purpose. Also, she is great at crafting tridimensional villains, such as Maelle the vampire.

This brings me to the first issue I have with this book. Since Maelle is such a great potential villain, I was expecting Clayton to be just as interesting, if not more. Especially after all the buildup in previous books. What I got instead was an enraged, albeit powerful, madman. Did it work? Yes, it did. Did I wish he’d be a more challenging antagonist? Hell, yes. In fact, I feel like I’ve waited for years for a resolution that lasted only a couple of chapters. As mean as it sounds, I wanted Lizzie to suffer more before being free. I wanted her to earn her (well deserved) freedom by outbraining an evil mastermind instead of waiting for him to come back and wreak havoc on her life. I wanted her proactive, I wanted her ready.

On this topic, what would have happened if Maelle hadn’t been there for her? As much as the ending makes sense the way it is, I wish Lizzie had gotten there not expecting someone else to be willing to do something she wasn’t going to do herself. Letting Maelle do all the dirty work didn’t scream heroine to me. Instead, it left me feeling Lizzie could have –and should have– done more to ensure the safety of those she loved. At least, she should have done more to take care of the wellspring instead of asking Maelle to kill Clayton outside the reservation borders.

Now, on with the second pet peeve. The main reason I’m reading this series is the romance between Lizzie and Aiden. Which is stalling, by the way. Yes, Aiden asked Lizzie to move in and she accepted, but what even is the point if he’s going to dump her anyway? I’ve found it hard to buy this living for the moment thing. It enraged me so much that Lizzie had so little self respect that she was okay with being the replacement woman all the while hoping he might change his mind, and it made me even madder that this situation has been dragging for so long now. Let this mystic ex-girlfriend come back for once, please, and stop pretending everything is fine, because it is a lie.

And what’s with this obsession with bloodlines and breeding? The supernatural community seemed so focused on having perfect children that I found it hard to take this novel seriously. This theme makes me nauseous and the only way I might be forgiving is if both Aiden and Lizzie say Screw it, we love each other and we don’t care in the end, because as it is, Aiden, who is willing to fully commit only to someone who can give him the litter of werewolf kids he wants, seems no more than a nicer version of Clayton to me.

So, ratings. Themes aside, the story works well. There is growth in the end, and there is change. And while sometimes it might feel too much like a filler, this novel is a good addition to an already interesting series nevertheless. All things considered, my final vote is 7/10.

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