Hungers of the Heart

Jenna Black
2008, Vampire Romance
TOR, $6.99, 370 pages, Amazon ASIN 0765357186
Part of a series

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Warm

Hungers of the Heart is the fourth in Jenna Black’s Guardians of the Night series. At first I was so lost it wasn’t even funny, but as I continued to read, I began to put the pieces of the puzzle together. However, I never really got my bearings and I’m sure someone who has read the entire series will get more out of this book than I did.

In Black’s world, there are two kinds of vampires – Killers who attack humans and drink their blood, and Guardians of the Night, who protect humans. Standing outside is our hero Jonathan Drake. Drake is a Killer, but one with a conscience. He only kills humans who are evil. That sets him outside both camps of vampires.

Each large city has a Master vampire, and the story begins when Gabriel, the Master of Baltimore, goes missing mysteriously. Drake is the most powerful vampire in the area and the fledglings (newly made vampires) and humans who were under Gabriel's protection now need Drake’s protection. A delegation of European vampires comes into Baltimore looking for Gabriel and a power struggle breaks out. Born vampire Brigitte and her mother, who is one of Les Vieux - the most powerful of vampires - are locked in a fight for supremacy. More European vampires come in, most notably Armand Durant, his concubine Faith, and her human sister Lily. Drake is caught in the middle of it all. He needs his Killer powers to save the ones he is charged to protect, but he is scared to death to lose the spark of humanity he still possesses.

There was so much intrigue; backstabbing and murder going on in this book that there were times I felt like I was in the middle of a war between the Borgias and Tudors. Since most of the characters were introduced in earlier books, I know there are nuances I didn’t get, but just from reading this book I can tell that Jenna Black has created a very interesting and complex world. While there is a romance between Faith and Drake it is not the focus of the book; the author and publisher are marketing this book - and series - as paranormal romance, but it reads like urban fantasy (which she writes for another publisher).

The main characters – Drake, Faith, and Durant - are complex, and Black presents them in shades of gray. They are larger than life, but they are not heroic, at least not all time, nor are they all least not all the time. Durant especially seems to be a hateful character at first, but there is more to him than meets the eye. Drake, who is the hero, has a very dark past and he reminded me of some of the characters from the movie, Gangs of New York.

Hungers of the Heart intrigued me enough that I will probably go back and read the first three in the series. I have no doubt that once I do, some of the parts of this book that were vague will be cleared up. Jenna Black has written a very interesting story, and I think fans of paranormal romance and urban fantasy will be most pleased with what she presents.

-- Ellen Micheletti

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