Reviewed by Tori
“Why do I feel like laughing?”
“Because this is horrible and uncomfortable and the best dark comedy ever written.”
Merit is back for her last showdown in the 13th and final installment of Chloe Neill’s best-selling urban fantasy series-Chicagoland Vampires. Neill takes us out in a style worthy of our favorite Sentinel with some laughter, sacrifice, sweet swordplay, plenty of magic, and lots of love. The whole gang is here-vampires, shifters, sorcerers, and humans-having gathered together to celebrate Merit and Ethan finally tying the knot. When strange events begin to occur around Chicago and they discover sorcerer Sorcha Reed is back and up to her old tricks, Merit and Ethan forgo their honeymoon and prepare for the battle of their lifetime.
Blade Bound starts out footloose and fancy-free as Merit and Ethan begin to prepare for their wedding. Neill salts the storyline with some small and seemingly unrelated clues of what’s to come as we nonchalantly watch the festivities take place.The pacing and energy build together, keeping the story moving along as we learn who and what Merit, Ethan, and the rest of Chicago will soon be facing. The world building remains intact and stationary though Neill pulls in some additional characters (new and old faces) whose actions allow for some interesting scenes.
The Chicagoland Vampire series has always been a whirlwind adventure of magic, chaos, romance, and humor. Confession time…I didn’t actually jump on the band wagon till a little later in the series. Friends raved …I caved…no regrets. Some Girls Bite made me an instant fangirl. The appeal of this series for me has been two-fold. Neill not only writes strong female protagonists but also emotionally complex relationships that stand the test of time. While Merit’s relationship with Ethan has been a focal point of the series, watching her deal with her impotence over her turning and adjusting to being a vampire was the core. Turned into a vampire without her consent, we followed her year-long path as she went from anger, to grief, to acceptance and found a family, friends, and a lover who accept her for who and what she is. Some of my most favorite scenes in each book were of Merit and Mallory. They have one of the best fictional friendships I’ve had the pleasure of reading. No matter what Neill threw at these two, and she threw quite a bit, these two besties always had each other’s backs.
“Your mind is a weird little labyrinth,” I said.
She grinned. “Sometimes the randomness comes in handy. Not always, but sometimes.”
I like that Neill gave Merit relationships that weren’t dependent on Ethan, her vampirism, or Cadogan House. It gave Merit a sense of independence and purpose beyond the storyline.
Overall I was pleased with the balance of this installment. The investigative and action packed main conflict is offset perfectly by the softer feeling of new beginnings as Merit and Ethan walk towards their final path to a new life. Neill highlights how Merit and Ethan have come full circle from their first meeting. Through love, loss, pain, redemption, and acceptance, this couple has triumphed over the odds and the occasional self-erected roadblock to become Mr. and Mrs. Darth Sullivan. While I definitely enjoyed seeing Ethan become even more possessive… Don’t call her Kitten… I also enjoyed seeing a more introspective Merit. Marrying Ethan brings out a sense of caution in Merit that’s both surprising and intriguing.
“This is why you take chances, with love, with life…with children. Because sometimes you lose them…and sometimes you don’t.”
The mystery surrounding Sorcha’s return and her vendetta was as always packed with action, humor, suspense, and a book related solution. Neil adds a few eyebrow-raising elements though the feeling of deja vu was strong and that was disappointing. We’ve been here before with this villain. The magical confusion, the resulting governmental accusations, and the need for the supernaturals to once again throw themselves in front of the speeding train to save humanity. It’s a recycled plotline that received a bit of a facelift.
The ending wraps up this storyline and the arc with the usual drama and mayhem. Neil makes sure we spend plenty of time with all our old friends and get a small peek at where they may go from here. The sense of family and love in this installment is strong and that is a perfect feeling on which to end this series. Mallory and Catcher are strong as ever. Gabriel and the pack are large and in charge. Perhaps Neill will spin off this series with one that focuses on the pack. Luc and Lindsey, Jeff and Fallon, Merit’s grandfather, Malik, along with some others, broadcast a strong presence throughout the story. We are left with a fun and informative epilogue that addresses one final aspect of the series that I know many a fan has waited to get an answer to. Neill leaves some room for future visits though for all intents and purposes this story is done.
While I’m sad to see this series end, it’s been a wild and bumpy ride that entertained and delighted this fan for years. Hopefully, Neill will revisit in the future. As far as Urban Fantasy goes, you can’t go wrong with Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires.