The question of how to keep a long standing series fresh is something authors seem to struggle with. There is no perfect way to end a series and recently we have seen some last too long thus causing the reading to quit reading and we have seen fan favorites end before what we think is their time. Dark Debt is book 11 in Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires series and at book 11 the reader can start to wonder what will be done to keep their interest.
One of the best skills Ms. Neill has is the ability to continue an overreaching plot arc all the while sprinkling in minor conflicts that compliment that overall arc. In the previous book, the three masters of Chicago joined the American Assembly of Masters. The GP was disbanded and a new group of 12 formed. Since the GP had been the enemy for so long, readers were left wondering where the story would go.
Never fear, the action picks up immediately. Ethan’s maker, thought to be long dead, arrives with a flair of magic and drama. He displays an ability to control Merit, something no vampire has ever been able to do. It isn’t long before the dots start to connect to Navarre House (it seems we will never escape Celina and her evil ways), Ethan’s maker and a crime organization called The Circle. Cadogan vampires and their many friends must race to stop their enemies from unleashing disaster on the city of Chicago all the while trying to figure out what connects these players together.
Beyond the plot, the action and excitement what drives this series is the relationship developing between Ethan and Merit. The reader has been through the gamut with this couple and Dark Debt is the book where we see the payoff. There is strength to Ethan and Merit and it really shines. Time and time again in Dark Debt we are shown how this couple has finally made it to a place where they are together in all things.
Below is a quote from my review of Blood Games, the previous book in this series.
I always get this sense their relationship is fragile and that at any moment Ethan could up and decide he doesn’t want to be with Merit. I don’t know why that is because for several books now he has said and done the right things, but I still feel like that. I suppose it could be because the first four books in this series had Ethan choosing his house and other things over Merit and that has made me wary? Once bitten, twice shy? I wish I knew what it would take in order to make me feel these two are completely solid but I don’t know what would make that happen. Maybe something will happen in the next couple of books to change my feelings. A grand gesture (other than the aspen stake, of course), perhaps?
I think Chloe Neill read my review and tailored this book just for me! Ok, yes that is a stretch but Dark Debt was the book I have been waiting ten books for. Everything I have asked of Ethan was done in this book. He showed a dedication and deep love for Merit in Dark Debt, one that answered any questions I had about the depth of his feelings for her.
“You are mine,” Ethan said, opening his arms to me, embracing me when I curled toward him. This time, I hadn’t hesitated, exhaustion at least tempering that fear. “Let me hold you in the darkness,” he whispered, lips against my ear. “Let me fight him for you. Let me keep you safe. The depth of the love in his voice, the feel of his body against mine, made my pulse pound with want.
But while my body was responsive, my brain was not. It was fully in protective mode. Not just that I’d think of Balthasar, but that very new intimacy with Ethan would give Balthasar another bullet to use against us.
“Soon,” Ethan promised, reading me even in the darkness of the room. “Soon, and inevitably. For you are mine, Sentinel,” he said, words slower and softer as sleep overtook him. “Mine.”
Time and time again in this book Ethan does and says the exact right thing. How many times did I sigh aloud while reading this book? Probably close to 20.
Humor was another strong part of Dark Debt. Life is rather challenging and difficult for Cadogan house vampires but the remain upbeat and strong as team. The contrast to Morgan’s Navarre House is a glaring one as we see the Cadogan vampires interact.
“That’s a point,” Luc agreed. “Maybe you should call her,” Malik said. “Acknowledge he is here. Find out what you can. Get it out in the open.”
“That’s what she said,” I murmured, but loud enough for Luc to hear and grin approvingly.
Ethan rolled his eyes. “You two have clearly been spending too much time together.”
“Two-a-days,” we said simultaneously.
“You train more, you bond more,” Luc said. “It’s part of my trademark regimen: ‘Luc90X.'”
“That’s not a thing,” Malik said, “and it’s not trademarked. It’s probably a trademark violation.”
Throw in some shocks for well-liked secondary characters and minor redemption for a couple others and you have one of the strongest books in this series. Knowing it is hard to keep things fresh in a long-standing series, Chloe Neill has done her best to give the reader a book with a strong plot arc and an even stronger main couple. Dark Debt is book 11 in the Chicagoland Vampires series and fans will find this series getting better and better. Final grade- B+
By the way- Jonah is a putz.
“Sentinel,” he said quietly, the words only for me, “I will stand for you as long as I am able.”