I was of two minds picking up my Kindle to read Vampire Down, the final book in the Blood Skies Series of author Steven Montano (@Daezarkian), which the author graciously offered me in exchange for this review.
First was bittersweet sadness: I’ve had so many hours of reading enjoyment with the six previous entries (see below for links to my reviews), exploring Earth’s blasted landscape After The Black, the cataclysmic event that somehow merged our world with many others. Ever since the remaining humans, most banded together in the Southern Claw Alliance, have battled the vampires and other undead of the Ebon Cities for control and with former warlock Eric Cross as our primary guide, we’ve met and battled all manner of fell beasts and creatures, as well as amoral and ruthless men and women.
But secondly there was a steadily growing sense of anticipation that many Big Questions would be answered. What really is The Black, and can it be reversed, returning the world to what it was? Who or what are the Maloj? The Kindred? What part does Azradayne the spider, bane of Cross throughout the series, play? Who will live and who will die before the journey is done?
This last part is of course important to fans of the series, and I count myself as one. Mr. Montano hasn’t been shy about letting us get to know characters, spend time with them, watch them grow and change, before killing them off. Cross and the members of his group who made it to this final installment — former jailor and mercenary Danica Black, assassin Ronin and the girl Shiv, last of The Kindred — have lost much: friends, family, homes, even their humanity. But with this being the final entry of the series and with the stakes so high, can any one life be considered safe?
Vampire Down picks up shortly after the final events in the previous book, Chain of Shadows, in which Cross and his team defeated at great cost one of the Maloj in far-off Nezzek’duul. Returning by magic portal to more familiar lands, they find great changes have occurred in their absence and, to the reader at least, it becomes apparent timelines have been split. Can it be a good sign that boundaries between realities have thinned so much, allowing such changes? Or that no one seems to know how or why these great changes have occurred? Hardly.
Although some of the team exists in one “now” and the others in a separate reality, one overriding goal becomes paramount to them: finding Bloodhollow, a mythical city unheard of until recently but rumored to hold the key to defeating the vampires and reversing The Black. Of course, Cross and his friends aren’t alone, as the Ebon Kingdom vampires and ruthless human-led mercenaries of the East Claw Coalition are also looking for Bloodhollow.
I won’t spoil any specifics, but Vampire Down absolutely did not disappoint, either as the finale to a wonderfully complex and engrossing series or simply as a dark fantasy adventure. It features familiar and new breasts and creatures, swords and assault rifles, single combat and sprawling battles, triumph and heartbreak, and all told in Mr. Montano’s signature descriptive prose. I highly recommend it, but do yourself a favor and start at the beginning and read them all. It makes this last outing with Cross and crew that much more satisfying.
For more information about Mr. Montano and his writing, visit his website. For more of my thoughts on the Blood Skies Series, see my reviews of Chain of Shadows (Book 5), The Witch’s Eye (Book 5), Crown of Ash (Book 4), Soulrazor (Book 3) and Black Scars (Book 2).