A Duel with the Vampire Lord is the third book in Elise Kova’s Married to Magic series.
I’ve known Elise Kova for a few years now.
The fantasy indie author community is a small, tight knit group. Having written a few books, I count myself among their number, though I haven’t written a new book in quite some time.
We’ve talked on occasion, I’ve had her in for a live Q&A in my Facebook group (YA Fantasy Addicts), but I’d not read one of her books until recently.
Air Awakens is probably her most popular work, and I own the whole series in both ebook and audio form. I just haven’t gotten around to reading them yet.
But a few years ago, A Deal With the Elf King came out and everyone in my FB group was making a big deal out of it, so I had to read it. I was hooked. I’ve purchased every Married to Magic book since, and I’ve already pre-ordered the 4th book, A Duet with the Siren Duke.
Each book has been an amazing fantasy romance, and A Duel with the Vampire Lord is no exception.
A Duel with the Vampire Lord Review
The Married to Magic series is a set of standalone novels that all share an interconnected world. And while the characters do not overlap at all (yet!), the places and major events of the world’s history are familiar with each story.
The basic premise of each book is that a woman is taken, against her will, through varying circumstances, across the Fade (a barrier between the human and magical worlds). Eventually, or sometimes right away, the heroine and her counterpart get married.
What makes the books unique is the situation in which these marriages come about.
In A Deal with the Elf King, marriage was expected to hold up a peace agreement between humans and elves. The heroine was shocked to be chosen, had plans of her own, and didn’t want to go, but did so dutifully and learned to love her husband.
A Duel with the Vampire Lord is different than the previous two. It’s more enemies to lovers than the others. Make no mistake, they’re all enemies to lovers in that humans and the magical races don’t necessarily get along.
But Duel (that’s what I’m going to call it for short) is more enemies than either of the previous two books.
In the other books, you’ll remember that the Vampires are a mysterious race that keep to themselves that no one has heard from in thousands of years. They are weakened, and don’t have a part in the magical Court of Kings.
Now we know why.
Three thousand years ago, a cursed was placed on the vampires that turned them into mindless beasts, not unlike zombies. To stave off this transformation, they must drink the blood of humans.
But there’s a problem, the Fade prevents their passage into the human realm except once every 500 years and humans can’t survive in Midscape. So every 500 years the vampires attack on the Blood Moon and take as much blood as they can to store up.
The Blood Moon is only a day away and our heroine, Floriane, must watch her brother go off to battle with the full expectation that none of them will return and that the vampires will destroy the whole village, even taking her own life.
Her brother has been training her to fight in secret, so when she kills a vampire that’s entered her home, she takes a magical potion to give her strength. This potion always raised her awareness, and she senses her brother is in trouble.
She races off to find him and discovers their leader is dead at the hands of the vampire lord and her brother is next. She fights off the vampire lord, but not before he takes captive and returns to his castle across the Fade.
But not everything is as it seems.
The Vampire Lord isn’t some wicked monster, he’s a beautiful man not much older than herself. And he doesn’t want to destroy the humans, he just wants to end the curse, but he needs her help.
They strike a deal that if she helps, the vampires will never again cross the Fade. But in order for her to survive in Midscape, she must become his bloodsworn, a very intimate process. She has no choice and makes the deal.
As you can imagine, Floriane and Ruvan (the vampire lord) have many challenges to overcome. They’ve both been through decades of conditioning against each other.
Though Ruvan was born three thousand years ago, thanks to the ‘long night’ in which most vampires were placed into stasis to stave off the curse he’s really only 24 years old.
Floriane spends the whole first quarter of the book trying to figure out how to kill Ruvan. The bloodsworn oath prevents her from harming him in anyway, or vice versa. But as soon as her promise is complete (end the curse), the oath will end and she can make her move.
Slowly, Floriane comes around to understanding that there’s more to this handsome lord of the vampires than his sharp fangs.
Their romance becomes a sort of Romeo and Juliet retelling. Where they fall hopelessly in love with each other, but humans still hate vampires and vampires still hate humans. Even Ruvan’s own friends only put up with Floriane because of the oath between them.
Whereas Romeo and Juliet cared nothing about their external circumstances except the desire to be together at all costs, Floriane and Ruvan’s journey is not so simple.
Each of them deal with inner demons and prejudice that prevent them from devoting themselves fully to the other person. Leading to lots of intimate moments followed by “I shouldn’t have done that” regret and anger scenes.
Watching their romantic journey is both frustrating and satisfying at the same time. It’s not quite as emotional or lovey dovey as the previous two books, but it is no less captivating.
Ending the Curse
With any romance story, there always has to be something else going on in the background and the primary plot in A Duel with the Vampire Lord is finding an end to the curse.
To get there, Floriane’s own magic will play a crucial role. She can see into the past of people’s whose blood she’s consumed.
It is made obvious this is her own power as she did it before ever entering into a pact with the vampire lord.
This enables her to untangle the history of the vampires and humans and find out what really happened more than 3,000 years ago.
When the truth is finally revealed, you’ll never see it coming. I pride myself in guessing what’s going to happen and I fell hook, line, and sinker for all of Elise Kova’s misdirects. I believed exactly what the characters believed, albeit I came to those deductions earlier than the characters.
However the real twist is something I hadn’t seen coming until the moment it happened, then suddenly it all made sense.
Elise Kova is a master storyteller and a hopeless romantic which makes for a wonderful combo of love and fantasy. One might even say she’s married to magic.
Final thoughts on A Duel with the Vampire Lord
It goes without saying that I love the Married to Magic series and can’t get enough of them. While A Duel with the Vampire Lord isn’t my favorite of the three published books, it’s still absolutely fantastic and well worth the read.
I give A Duel with the Vampire Lord 5 out of 5 stars.
For more reviews, check out my review of A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik.