By Nola Sarina
Nola Sarina’s Vesper series is now three books old and I’m happy to say the that 3rd times the charm. Gilded Destiny and Jaded Touch, books one and two in the series, were fun books to read, written well, with fascinating mythology, and compelling characters. The newest book in the series, Phantom Nights, has all that, but more importantly, it’s the book that pulls the series together, the book that takes the Vespers from being a group of books with the same mythology to a series that’s connected by its characters.
We meet the hero, Sychar, briefly in Gilded Destiny, then again in Jaded Touch when he’s pushed to the forefront of the story as the heroine’s best friend (and more, but you have to read Jaded Touch to find out!). As he races through the pages, we get the first inkling of Sychar’s importance to this series of novellas. I fell head over heels for Sychar in Jaded Touch because of his compassion, charm, and strength and found myself anticipating the next book because of him. The fact that JT and Phantom Nights play-out simultaneously (for at least part of PN) just helped to keep me hooked to my Kindle.
Samantha, Sychar’s human lover, is introduced in JT only by name. We know Sychar’s in love with her and that plays a role in the plot of book 2, but we never meet her. When we do at the beginning of PN, we find a young woman who has been plagued by phantoms her entire life, unofficially diagnosed with schizophrenia. Despite this, she’s strong willed and determined to live her life on her terms. As she refuses to sleep at night, she spends that time in a local park, where she meets Sychar after she’s attacked by a vagrant.
The two are drawn together almost immediately and it’s sweet. Technically they’re both teenagers and they demonstrate an ease with each other that only the young can pull off. Whereas I struggled at times with the instant connection between the couples in the previous books, Sychar and Samantha effortlessly slip into a believable relationship. Their dialogue flows easily and their intimacy feels natural. When their happiness is threatened by outside forces, their commitment to each other is tested. With a novella it’s hard to build a believable relationship and convince the reader that two people care enough to face whatever hardship comes their way. Sarina does it in Phantom Nights.
PN picks up speed about halfway through when the plot lines of it and Jaded Touch converge. I actually loved this plot device even though it means you’ve got to read the books in order. I was surprised, again, by the direction of the story and I can’t tell you how happy that makes me because I’m never surprised! Sarina is a fantastic writer. She’s imaginative, writes clean, crisp dialogue, and never wastes words. The plot moves at a nice steady pace rather than a frantic one and I think this is an important distinction because one lets the reader absorb the story, the other leads to the reader flipping back to see what they’ve missed.
The best part of reading a series is spending time with the same characters and PN does this from page one. We’ve met every character before (won’t say who so I’m not a spoiler!), except for Samantha’s parents, and that familiarity gives the reader a feeling of meeting up with an old friend, which is why you could sell me a book series any day of the week.
4.5 stars for Phantom Nights. Heat level: 3
Phantom Nights was published in 2015 by Nola Sarina
Interested in making Phantom Nights, Gilded Destiny, or Jaded Touch (or all three!) part of your library? Click on their covers for details on how.