Welcome to Crimson City; the home of vampires, werewolves, and humans.
It was once known as the City of Los Angeles, but a series of fierce interspecies wars – resulting in the streets running red with blood – gave birth to the nickname, Crimson City. An uneasy peace has been established between the three main species: Vampires, humans and werewolves. Each species has their own living area with vampires inhabiting lofty spires 100-200 stories above street level, humans in the typical street levels, and werewolves relegated to the subway tunnels and stations below. Entering Crimson City, despite the peace, we notice an undercurrent of tension that seems to grow as the days pass.
Noted author Liz Maverick teamed up with five other authors to bring us the story of Crimson City, as the fragile peace unravels and how a few dedicated individuals risk their lives trying to hold that peace. We are also introduced to two other species: The mechanicals and demons; who play vital roles in determining the fate of Crimson City. We experience the combination of glitz and grit that is Crimson City in the following books:
Crimson City by Liz Maverick, July 2005
A Taste of Crimson by Majorie M. Liu, August 2005
Through a Crimson Veil by Patti O’Shea, October 2005
A Darker Crimson by Carolyn Jewel, November 2005
Seduced by Crimson by Jade Lee, March 2006
Crimson Rogue by Liz Maverick April, 2006
Anthology: Shards of Crimson, January 2007 – with stories by Liz Maverick, Patti O’Shea, Carolyn Jewel and Jade Lee.
The most recent instalment and the focus of this review is Crimson and Steam by Liz Maverick, which is released on the 29th December, 09.
Per the FTC guidelines, I must state that I received this book from the author for the purpose of this review. I purchased the other books in this series for personal enjoyment. Unfortunately I will not be able to avoid spoilers for the previous books in this particular review because it is the 8th in the series. I will, however, do my best to minimize those.
Each book in the series, while entwined with the others, focuses on a primary hero and heroine. Crimson and Steam draws the reader closer to what appears to be the star-crossed pair of not-yet-lovers: Marius Dumont and Jill Cooper. Marius is the acting head of Clan Dumont, the most powerful vampire clan in Crimson City, and therefore head of the Vampire Council. His clan is trying to pursue peaceful yet powerful alliances by marrying strategically amongst powerful werewolves outside Crimson City. A previous marriage attempt between the two families was derailed due to some unexpected events detailed in Shards of Crimson.
Jill is a freelance human reporter who lost her steady job during Crimson City around the time she first met Marius. The two of them share a mental and emotional connection but Marius is determined to do the right thing for his family and the vampire community as a whole. The right thing does not include a relationship with a human.
We get to see both the determination and the emotional pain experienced by both Marius and Jill as he weds Tatiana, the daughter of a powerful werewolf alpha from New York. That same night Jill stumbles over a gruesomely dead body in one of the rooms in Dumont tower. Her panicked mind reaches out to Marius and he leaves his new bride to investigate. They discover that the dead body used to be a vampire, but it’s missing all of the physical vampire traits. Marius drags Jill and the carcass to an underground research lab – run by and for the Mechs or Mechanicals. They discover that the vampire was infected with a pathogen that looks for non-human parts. Once they are located, the micro-organism attempts to change them back to human. At this time the pathogen does not have an airborne transmission path, but the Mechs have seen three or four other bodies with the same infection…
Ms. Maverick takes a different tact with this book then the previous ones in the Crimson City series. The reader is treated to a series of unfortunate events that occurred in London during 1851 during the height of experimentation with steam, mechanical devices, and unusual creatures from the West Indies. The events in London center around a young lady named: Charlotte, who co-owns a draper shop, and a penniless inventor called: Lord Edward. At first the reader is left wondering about the importance of these experiments and why half the book is spent with those characters.
Ms Maverick seemed to pick the most tension filled moments to switch between centuries. I have to admit the jumps did keep me interested. By the end of the book, I was able to see how all the various threads are interwoven and exactly why a sizeable chunk of time is spent in London. I can’t divulge any of those reasons because they contain major spoilers.
I really, really wanted to like this book. I had been looking forward to Marius and Jill since the last instalment. Unfortunately this one didn’t really work for me. I think the problem was twofold. First, Ms Maverick used a version of a trope that is not one that I personally enjoy. Second, there were too many threads to be resolved. Some of the contrivances were necessary to avoid potentially uncomfortable situations. However, others were not. Compared to the other books in the series, it is hard to become emotionally involved in Marius and Jill’s quasi-relationship with the addition of Charlotte and Lord Edward. Ms Maverick did a good job interweaving her two storylines and answering some lingering questions, but in my opinion it is not at the same calibre of the previous instalments.
I give Crimson and Steam 3 out of 5 stars.