Okay, now on to Pretty When She Dies, by Rhiannon Frater
By the way, I'm going to try to review these with limited spoilers, because much of the genius of the novels are their unexpected twists and turns.
Let me first start by saying that I normally don't read Urban Fantasy novels -- I prefer vampires set in earlier times (The Tale of the Vampire Bride). However, this is one series which I will definitely follow to the end.
It's amazing how Frater fleshes out her characters -- you read a few pages, and it feels as if you've known the character for quite some time. Even characters that only appear in one scene -- you get a very good sense of who they are, just for those few paragraphs. You can see the scene unfolding in your head as you read -- it takes a very talented writer to create those images in your mind (IMHO).
Amaliya is likable -- tough, yet she makes mistakes, and she admits to them. There's a love triangle that is SO REFRESHING because it's not one that's been done to death before (Twilight...). Frater takes a familiar trope and turns it around (to my satisfaction, I admit). I think the thing I enjoyed most in this book was the ensemble of characters -- time is spent in the book as each of the characters does what they need to do, moving the plot forward (and at times, being a welcome comedic interlude), and at the end -- it's an ensemble ending. I'm partial to these, and Frater did hers very well -- there's just the right amount of comedic, horrific, and magical qualities in there to make it stunning.
Then, I quickly devoured the sequel, Pretty When She Kills
Usually, novels are either plot-driven or character-driven. PWSK is unusual in that it is both, and that definitely works to the book's advantage.
Back again is Amaliya, and although you might think her life would be just ducky, considering how things ended in the last book, nothing could be further from the truth. Frater does a great job moving Amaliya's character forward into new predicaments, maintaining the character's strength, yet not forgetting her flaws. There's a good cast of supporting characters, and it's nice to see former enemies develop alliances, while others who are afraid to step into their legacies go forward anyway, because it's the right thing to do.
This book is riveting -- there's no other word to describe it. While the characters are well-developed, it's the plot that amazed me -- I had no idea where it was going next, and what you thought was going to happen didn't, and the people you thought you shouldn't trust, well, you were sort of right but for "whoa -- didn't see that one coming!" reasons. It's just phenomenal. It's difficult to take such a host of characters, some who are supernatural with different abilities, and make everyone mesh, but Frater does it very, very well. It's just incredible. The writing provides perfect visualizations, and there's a brilliant mix of ordinary, mundane, human world stuff (waking up, getting coffee), then -- zowie! Big magic scenes. It's incredibly well-done, and I cannot wait for Pretty When She Destroys, coming 2013.