My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Initial reaction: Definitely not as good as the first book, and there were times when I sincerely though I would be better off forgetting about this book’s existence entirely, and just keeping to what I liked about the first one. I think what I can say on an overarching note is that neither the writing or plotting of this particular work were sound and it really bothered me. There were sparks momentarily of good things here: Vicken was cool, and some interesting twists toward the end, but they weren’t really enough to save the book in my experience, and I felt very, very disappointed with Lenah’s characterization.
Still trying to decide whether to give this 1 or 1.5 stars. I’m more inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt, but at the same time, I really didn’t enjoy this at all.
To commence this review, I’ll admit I read “Infinite Days” last year and while I had certain qualms about it, I still really enjoyed the experience, especially in the audiobook form. The premise in itself for that book was very interesting and complex in insinuation – considering Lenah is a 500 some year old vampire who, by a measure of a sacrifice, becomes human teenager again. There’s a bit of self-discovery elements in that book which I adored watching, and Lenah juxtaposes her former life as a vampire to her newfound human qualities with surprising and intimate clarity for a YA work. True, the romance in that book seemed quite formulaic, but I still really liked watching Lenah’s developing relationships with Jason and Tony, watching her internal conflict with those spectra, even considering the latter parts of the book where tragedy strikes and there are no share of hearts left unbroken by the events that transpire. The action sequences were well drawn, the stakes were high, and overall I just went along for the ride in that book and would not hesitate to re-read it again.
Yet reading “Stolen Nights” seems to undo all the positive elements of the previous book and then some. I had to ask myself if this book was written by the same person because not only were the descriptions in this book repetitive (the descriptions of apples among other things) and lacking intimacy, but it was also so infuriatingly cliche and did so many things to undo what made the first book work. I’m having a difficult time knowing where to begin because I wonder why this book got so many things just…wrong. I think the first mistake was bringing back the deceased lover and sidelining the main love interest of the previous book. It didn’t make any kind of sense.
Long story short, Lenah has a particular challenge when her former lover, Rhode (who purportedly sacrificed himself so that she could be human), turns out alive in the mix of a new wave of vampire attacks that leave students that Lenah knows for dead. So what do you think Lenah does after one of her friends is killed and she discovers Rhode is alive? She goes running straight to Rhode, declaring her love for him and leaving her current lover (Jason) stranded on the beach.
That was the first sign I knew that I would have problems with this book. Lenah, for at least a good 2/3rds of the book is a love-sick girl who neglects and uses Jason only in moments of grief, pines after Rhode, and subjects herself to danger to this new villainess (Odette), who just so happens to be one of the vampires that Lenah turned during her days as Vampire Queen.
There’s even a really ridiculous proposition for an all powerful group asking Lenah to choose between her love for Rhode and reversing the course of history/time so that she would never have to become a vampire and undo all the deaths and carnage she had in the wake of her time as a queen up to the present. If they had that much power, why for all the love of things could they not have stopped Odette and left it up to Lenah? Sense this does not make. I really did not feel any kind of romantic intimacy between the characters in this book. All of it felt manufactured, forced, and manipulated for the sake of drama, and it infuriated me. Even the action sequences felt brief, lacking true stakes, and didn’t hold my interest very much.
There were a few sparks of interesting turns in this story, but not enough to save the book for me. I’ll make mention of them though because I think they were worth noting in the context of the story. One of them was Vicken, who, since turning human, became a charming, hilarious aide to Lenah in her quest to stop Odette from killing more students and targeting Lenah in particular. There was also a character death that hit me very hard in the context of the story, and the friend that was left behind grieving really stood out to me, probably one of the few moments in the book where it tugged at my heart. I also didn’t expect a few twists towards the end that probably would’ve been better off if it led to anything more substantial (though some who may follow Jason may seriously question where and when this transition occurred). Then there was the ending, which I somewhat expected and probably could’ve had more resonance to me if the events leading up to that point didn’t feel so contrived.
In the end, I think I’ll choose to pretend this book doesn’t exist and continue to be fond of the first book. I don’t know if the series will continue from here considering that ending, but if it does, I surely hope it has a better jumping point than anything this novel had to offer. It disappointed me that much, and I really think Maizel has more talents and charm in her prose than this work showed. It didn’t even come close to the quality of the first book, in my opinion.
Overall score: 1/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher St. Martin’s Press.