Wicked After Midnight just proves that you never quite know what you’re going to get when you open another installment in the Blud series and journey back into the world of Sang. So far we’ve been introduced to Criminy Stain’s caravan and met his carnivalleos, traveled long distances on land and aboard airships to get a princess back home and now Ms. Dawson introduces her readers to her version of France and the Moulin Rouge.
Demi Ward is bored with living inside the caravan and performing for pinkies night after night. She wants excitement, adventure and acclaim. Or at least the chance to discover those things. Saved by Criminy when she was pulled out of her world and into Sang, she was half dead when he found her and transformed her into a bludman. Since then she’s lived and performed with her best friend Cherie in the Sang version of a circus. But now she’s ready to get out from under her godfather’s thumb and explore the world. After much arguing and deal-making she finally talks Criminy and Tish into letting her and Cherie travel with a chaperone to Franchia. She’s supposed to be traveling to Ruin, a smaller city outside Paris, to attend university. Oh, but Demi has other plans and she ditches her chaperone at the first chance and heads out with her best friend to Paris.
It’s not long before trouble ensues and the girls traveling conveyance is attacked by slavers. That’s when Demi’s real adventure begins. Rescued by a wickedly handsome brigand named Vale and determined to find Cherie, Demi travels to Paris and joins a cabaret. Not just any cabaret, but the renowned Paradis. Filled with daimon girls dressed in beautiful clothing, who perform night after night for rich and wealthy men. Demi finds a way to become the only bludwoman in any cabaret and is an instant success. Success for our Demi is a double-edged sword and she is soon drawn into the dark, dangerous underside of the bright, glitzy cabaret.
I really love this series. Nearly everything about it appeals to me. The world-building is so original and fresh that even as it plays on real people, places and events in our world it’s changed and warped just enough that I always feel like I’m journeying somewhere and discovering something new. The characters are so alive and decadent. They may be slightly darker and more aggressive than in other romances, but in this world they work for me. The heroines aren’t weaker or less, but are just as dominant and predatory as the men. And I love that.
Demi leaves the caravan looking for adventure and she finds it. She finds romance and sex, gets caught up in the glitz and glamour of being a star, her head is turned by compliments and baubles, she discovers alcohol and drugs and lets all of it sidetrack her from her real mission to find her friend. Vale is there for her throughout, a mysterious, dashing man who challenges her and vows to help her. Since this is told from Demi’s POV she comes across as young and cocky at first, then fearless and a bit brash when she is letting fame go her head, but then finally by the end she grows up a bit and discovers herself. Vale remains a bit of a mystery as the reader is left to figure him out by his actions and words, even as Demi is misunderstanding them. And she does this a lot. Part of Demi’s charm, but also her main problem, is that she tends to leap before she looks and doesn’t take kindly to others giving her any sort of direction. She’s comes across at first as childish because of this.
I loved the adventure and mystery plot, while I it was obvious who the villain would turn out to be, I was surprised at the conclusion and how it all wrapped up. In my opinion the romance does take a backseat to much of the action and mystery, but for this couple, in this story, it worked. Vale and Demi are both so unique that their bickering and strangely different romance felt right. Amidst the gritty, dark side of Paris and surrounded by decadence and debauchery Vale and Demi fall in love and ultimately save the day.
And now after finishing another installment in this series, I find myself already looking forward to what’s coming next. Final Grade- B+
I went up on tiptoe to plant a kiss on Vale’s lips.
“I think I love you. Now, shut up and help me kill a bunch of people so we can figure out the rest.”