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Once Burned - Jeaniene Frost

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Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages / Publisher: Avon Books / Published: 5 July 2012

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      02.01.2013 16:43
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      First in a new series featuring Vlad, who's more into burning than impaling these days.

      Leila is living a life of isolation following a horrific childhood accident which resulted in her being badly scarred. She received a massive electric shock which, by rights, should have killed her but which has resulted in her being unable to touch anyone without causing them injury so she has to wear a special glove to prevent this happening. As if that wasn't misery enough, Leila only has to touch someone or something to be able to see associated past and future events. Now an adult and estranged from her family, Leila has assumed the name of Frankie Dalton and is working in a travelling carnival where she can hide amongst the other so called freaks who earn their living as circus acts.

      She hasn't hidden herself well enough, however, and Frankie's abilities come to the attention of a very unpleasant being who arranges her kidnap in order to use her as a weapon against his enemy, Vlad Tepesh. Although he doesn't fully understand Frankie's true powers, he knows she's the key to destroying Vlad. Frankie's captor has underestimated her, however, and she has no intention of helping him destroy the one person who seems to have an ability similar to her own.

      Jeaniene Frost writes the Night Huntress urban fantasy series and due to its success has also expanded the series to tell the stories of some of the most interesting of her secondary characters. This novel tells Vlad Tepesh's story and, yes, this is that Vlad, also known as Vlad the Impaler, Eastern European folk hero or villain depending on one's point of view. Although this book is part of the wider Night Huntress world, it's possible to read it as a stand-alone as any relevant information from previous books is incorporated into the story.

      Vlad has popped up from time to time in several of the Night Huntress books and I've always found him to be something of an enigmatic and alluring character so I was delighted that Jeaniene Frost was dedicating an entire novel to him and I was really looking forward to reading this book where the main focus would be on him. Sadly, I found that she didn't really do him justice with this story. This may be a strange thing to say about a fantasy novel but I had problems believing much of it.

      The book began well enough, I suppose, and the storyline was also intriguing enough to keep me reading but from the very beginning I had quite a few issues with the way Vlad's story was being told. Firstly, it's told in the first person from Leila/Frankie's perspective so we never get to truly understand Vlad's point of view as all his thoughts and emotions are filtered through her and I didn't really like Frankie that much.

      She's feisty, which isn't a bad thing in itself but considering in the early stages of the book she's being held captive and her life is in jeopardy, she was just so blooming sarcastic with it and I don't mean just occasionally but all the time; even her thoughts are sarcastic. My tolerance for all that sarcasm wore thin very quickly. It doesn't take her long to figure out that the people who have kidnapped her aren't human. This doesn't faze Frankie at all and neither does the fact that the person they want her to track down also isn't human but her general air of insouciance in the face of all this non-humanity is pretty irritating and highly unrealistic.

      Vlad is a powerful vampire with the extra ability to control fire which results in him using his hands like a couple of flame throwers from time to time. His character is pretty much the same as it's been in the previous books in which he's made an appearance: arrogant, controlling, alpha male who is absolutely irresistible in a novel but from whom most right thinking women would run a mile in real life.

      Once Frankie makes contact with Vlad telepathically, it's just a matter of time before he's riding to her rescue and it isn't giving too much of the plot away to say that this is executed without too many problems and before Frankie knows it, she's whisked away to Vlad's palatial home in Transylvania. Vlad's enemy isn't about to give up that easily though and he's soon hot on their trail still bent of Vlad's destruction. The why and wherefore of this dogged pursuit are drip fed to the reader throughout the story and the identy of Vlad's enemy is a mystery for most of the book.

      And that's just about all there is to this story. Electricity girl meets a vampire boy with fiery additional powers and they get to know each other whilst joining forces to defeat unknown enemy. This is the first book in what is to be a new series featuring Vlad and Frankie as the main protagonists so I'm hoping that the rather flat and lacklustre nature of this story is due to the amount of print taken up with scene setting which has certainly been to the detriment of the story.

      I didn't totally dislike this book and there is much to enjoy in the story. I did manage to keep reading to the end but it just wasn't as gripping as I'd have like. If there were half stars available, I'd give this 3½ as it's definitely not good enough for a 4 in my opinion. I shall certainly buy the next book in this series when it's published in the hopes that it will be more action packed than this one and that further development of Frankie's character will make her more likeable. As things stand at the moment, I think she needs to work on that sarcastic attitude of hers.

      This book is currently available in paperback for around £5 or for £1.99 in Kindle format.

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