Love and deceit rule in a shadowy kingdom populated by lesbian vampires who live on the fringes of society.
Once a year, vampiric Queen Isabel and her lover, Ankit, meet at the Masquerade Ball. Court life isn’t to Ankit’s liking, so their annual trysts are the only time they can share their love for one another. As Lycka’s debut opens, the two lovers have picked up a third: an innocent, human woman named Arrow. Drained and left for dead, she manages to ingest just enough vampire blood to survive, but she wakes transformed into one of the undead. Neither Isabel nor Ankit stick around to help her, so Arrow has to figure out her new life by herself. Being undead has an awesome side effect, though: Weaving exquisite tapestries can now be done in weeks rather than months. Ankit has been watching her, and when the two reconnect, Arrow is exposed not only to court life but to Ankit’s love. Upon hearing this, Isabel orders Arrow’s death, since the queen isn’t quite ready to move past her longtime lover. Isabel dispatches her knight, Gavino, who has love problems of his own: He’s just been bested in an annual tournament by Chastine, the woman he loves; he turned her into a vampire, but once the deed is done, he realizes he can’t stand living with her. He looks forward to taking out his frustrations by killing Arrow, but the new vampire somehow bests the experienced warrior. The ending brings together all the plotlines with signs of Lycka’s impressive writing chops, but the story is ultimately weighed down by typos and too many details—especially those featuring Isabel—that are told rather than shown. Other threads, such as Isabel’s black-market organ dealing, aren’t developed enough, and readers don’t get to see the moment when Isabel realizes she has ordered the death of the same woman who produces the tapestries she adores.
A satisfying ending hindered by a difficult narrative journey.