The second installment in Lauren Dane’s Rowan Summerwaite series, Blade to the Keep, more than kept pace with the first book. A huge fan of Lauren Dane, I almost feel like she can’t go wrong. Rowan is the perfect mix of tough with an underlying vulnerability. Her tenacity, intelligence, and intuition come to the forefront as she works to amend the Treaty between the Hunters and the Vampires. The Treaty is polarizing and dissenters from both sides are on hand to create as much chaos as possible. There are equal parts political intrigue and physical conflict that I thought provided a nice balance.
Rowan Summerwaite is no ordinary woman. She’s smart and strong and with the power of an ancient goddess in her belly, she’s the perfect candidate to re-negotiate the fragile Treaty keeping the peace between the Vampire Nation and the last line of defense for humanity, The Hunter Corporation. A meeting of the Joint Tribunal, and Rowan’s new status as Liaison sends her straight to the last place on earth she wants to be—The Keep.
Raised at the knee of The First, honed into a weapon by the Hunter Corporation, wielding ancient knowledge from the Goddess within, Rowan must navigate around bloodthirsty opposition among Vampires and Hunters alike to avoid an all out war that puts humanity in the crosshairs.
And she’s got to do it as she attempts to manage a politically awkward romantic relationship with Scion Clive Stewart during a trip back to a place she escaped nearly fifteen years before. No pressure.
Walking the path between her two lives has already made Rowan a pariah. If she leaves it to become something even more Other, she may lose even the shreds of home she has left.
In order for Rowan to do her job and get the Treaty amendment passed, she must go back to her childhood home. It’s obvious that The First (aka the head vampire, Theo) cares for her in his own way, but we also know that Rowan suffered years of abuse at his hands. I mean, he’s three thousand years old, so he’s pretty much crazy. The bittersweet homecoming is just another challenge for Rowan to face. Though, this time, she’s not alone. Clive, vampire Scion (or regional leader reporting to The First) and Rowan’s lover, is part of the meetings. This allows for some really hot sexy times – a great way for Rowan to get rid of frustrations!
Blade to the Keep is centered around the passing of the Treaty amendment. What should be a simple process is turned into something complicated (of course!). Rowan must deal with inappropriate conduct on the part of some Hunter representatives while also combatting bad behavior by a cadre of uninvited vampires (one of which is an ex-lover of Clive, another is an ex-lover of The First). I love Rowan’s take-charge attitude and her ability to sniff out a conspiracy. However, I find it hard to believe that no one else was able to Nancy Drew the pieces of the mystery together. There is a magic user in the midst of the party who is attempting to derail the whole amendment process. We know who the offending party is immediately, but others don’t seem to be able to figure it out.
Another fun part of Blade to the Keep is Brigid’s increased presence. She appears to make use of Rowan as the Vessel when Rowan needs protection. Rowan needs a LOT of protection. Surrounded by vampires and Hunters with in-fighting galore, Rowan is a major target for both camps. Vampires are jealous of her status as adopted daughter of their leader (her seat at the right hand of The First during dinner only reinforces her status), and her Hunter compatriots are wary of her connection to the vampire world. Each faction worries that Rowan will take a side with the other. Instead, Rowan only wants to protect humans, enjoy her vampire lover, and, perhaps, begin to heal some of the damage wrought in her childhood. So much stuff happens, and it’s all great.
Rowan’s irreverent humor, incessant use of foul language, and intimate knowledge of vampire politics create so many layers within the story. Even as I sit here to think back on what I’ve read, I’m remembering so many wonderful details that only served to enhance the story – my favorite is Crazy Carl (I really do love him and, while I have suspicions, am anxious to find out his origins). The unusual, clairvoyant cab driver gives much needed and interesting advice to Rowan. She freely admits that she rarely understands what Carl is telling her until after the events have come to pass. Either way, he is funky, fun, and has a cab full of stuffed dead animals.
At the end of Blade to the Keep, we are left knowing that Rowan has an uphill battle to fight. She’s a survivor and, whether she wants to admit it or not, has many people that care deeply about her. Rowan is growing up, and I can’t wait to see where she goes from here. I like that she’s part of this world of witches, vampires, and humans, yet she’s completely different from them all. Lauren Dane has built a fascinating world in that has me wanting to read more about Rowan and friends.