First of all, to read this book and/or trilogy you don’t necessarily need to be familiar with Craig Schaefer’s other series, but it can give an extra perspective if you’ve read his Daniel Faust or Harmony Black books (characters from both will play a part in the events described in the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy), but especially the Revanche Cycle, where Nessa and Marie appear as characters. I’ve only read two of his Daniel Faust books and I had no problem following the story, but it definitely added a bit of extra understanding to Daniel’s character.
Sworn to the Night starts off as a regular detective novel. Marie Reinhart and Tony Fisher are trying to get to the truth of serial killings that’ are happening all over New York. The victims are prostitutes and aside from Marie no one thinks the murders are connected. She is determined to find the latest missing girl, Baby Blue and is convinced she’ll be dead in two weeks if they don’t save her. The evidence first lead to an Ink storage house in Monticello, then to a wealthy businessman with connections, Richard Roth. This is where Marie meets Nessa Roth and her life turns upside down. She has to question everything she ever knew about herself or the world and has to pay the price for it.
“My momma, she said there comes a time in everyone’s life when the Lord gives you a test. That moment when you go up against the wall and you find out what you’re really made of, deep down inside. It ain’t about winning or losing, it’s about learning. Because once you’ve seen the truth of what you are, you can’t never run away from it.” – Harlow
Being the first book of a trilogy, Sworn to the Night was a really great set up for the rest of the series, but it also had its own story arc for which I give kudos to Schaefer. What started out to be an interesting mix of mystery and urban fantasy, soon turned into total craziness. What seemed to be simple serial murders, was, in reality, a fun activity for a pack of wealthy guys aiming to belong to the inner circle of the Network, with some rituals on the side. And a booming business of drug dealing, namely ink which spreads through America like a wildfire.
Meanwhile The Lady in Red, Dora and the Mourner set some events into motion to help Nessa discover her powers and also to bring into play Daniel Faust and Harmony Black. Their motives aren’t quite clear yet, but there are still two more books to settle these matters. Another major player I need to mention is Savannah Cross, whom I feel will play an important role in the future. She is also a bit crazy, and has some cool equipment on her disposal.
“That’s the thing about life,” Janine said. “Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, you find out that it can always get weirder.”
How true. Now that we have most major players out of the way, let’s focus a bit on our two main characters, Nessa and Marie. To be perfectly honest, I have conflicted feelings. On one hand their romance happens too fast, it’s too close to insta-love for my taste, and that annoys me. It still has some build up, and I actually enjoyed reading about the way they get to know each other (the whole dinner scene where they share stories about their life is just pure awesomeness), the insecurity, all the thrilling and at the same time terrifying feelings that accompany a new relationship. I probably could sympathize with Marie the most in that situation. At the beginning Nessa seemed like a timid, intelligent but oppressed woman who only needed a little push, a surge of confidence to find herself. What she had become was nothing that I have expected, and I’m still not sure I like the way where this relationship heads. At the same time I can understand why Marie feels drawn to Nessa, her need to finally let the control go out of her hands a bit and allow herself to be spontaneous and wild, let go of the pressure of being the strong and dependable one. To allow herself to be vulnerable after a long time. And that takes courage. I know this all too well. Even so, subordinating herself completely is not something I can make my peace with, and don’t think she will either in the long run.
“I believe that we all have two faces. Our public face – the mask we wear, the persona we want the world to see – and our true face. The person we really are, when we’re completely unguarded and our defenses are down. There is no greater intimacy than the truth, Marie. You can stand utterly nude before your lover and never show him anything at all. Nothing that truly matters. I know, I’ve done it. Your body isn’t who you are.” – Nessa
Sworn to the Night has several plotlines and not every one of them gets an ending, but you still don’t get that unfinished feeling when you turn the last page. Just anticipation and excitement to get your hands on the next book and learn what’s going to happen. Which says a lot, especially since this book really has everything you can think of: a murder mystery, magic, super evil villains, a secret underground community which deals with a drug called ink, forbidden romance, countless dead (and mutilated) bodies, unforgettable scenes and a few twists you never see coming. A wonderfully intriguing and delightfully brutal story after which you won’t be able to resist grabbing the sequel. Schaefer brings urban fantasy to a whole new level mixing it with mystery, classical fantasy elements – witches and knights – and wrapping it into a brilliant, although totally crazy read.
8.0 / 10
-- Timy Takacs
Having powered through Craig Schaefer's Daniel Faust and Harmony Black books, this was an obvious next step. Set in the same world and forming part of the overarching storyline that links all three series, this features Marie Reinhart, an NYPD Detective we met in HB book Glass Predator and, Nessa Roth, a college professor with a troubled mind. Their love-at-first-sight meeting brings chaos to their ordered but unfulfilling lives, throwing them into the fight for the future of the whole world.
The crossover aspect works well enough for those that have read everything that’s come before, though it makes me wonder how the author is going to pull it all together. Is the big final battle going to be in this series, spread out between them, or individualised by main character, which means three separate versions of the same ending? Considering I like this a lot less than the others, it’s a bit of a pisser if I have to read the other two books in this trilogy to get info on the characters I do want to see again. Here, we get both Faust and Black thrown in for side jobs, perhaps to introduce them to readers who haven’t read their series, but to get the fullest understanding of what’s going on with the plot of this novel alone, theirs should be read before starting this one. Most of the characters we’ve seen before. The Kings? The Network? All revealed in previous instalments. I haven’t read The Complete Revanche Cycle so can’t speak to what that adds, if anything, but I haven’t felt the lack so maybe that’s not been as necessary until now. Of course, there is an almost independent storyline in this book that probably feels understandable as a standalone, but which is enhanced by things that have already happened. As a police procedural investigation into the disappearance of a young prostitute, Baby Blue, it’s pretty uninspiring, with a used-to-death scenario of ageing frat boys hunting human prey. Yawn. Everything is slowly, slowly step-by-step, with zero surprises, and little real action. The twist is even reused from Cold Spectrum. Poor form, Schaefer. A decent final battle by the end but otherwise it’s light in every fashion.
Now character is where it really lost points for me. Separately, these two women do ok. But together, what we have is one super dominant woman and her knight, I mean slave. Now this is no doubt a personal preference thing but I cannot stand it when a woman who seems to be confident, competent, and full of agency, a Detective no less, suddenly morphs into this dithery, where-am-I, who-am-I, can-I-go-for-a-wee-miss?? type of person, but only while in the company of their special other. And i’m not talking about a person who willingly chooses a submissive role in sexual play thing, I mean a change-your-whole-personality and become a piece of wet lettuce thing. The hark to a Knight-in-shining-armour fantasy makes this more romantic than either of the other series and while I’m a fan of the two women as a couple, I’m not convinced by Nessa as Mr Grey Fifty Shades of Grey. Her whole you’ll-submit-to-my-every-demand-with-no-complaint spiel is waaaay too much, put the book down or skip the section too much. Otherwise, I quite like her bad attitude, it gives her magic some serious bite, and even without the knowledge given by the Revanche cycle, it’s quite clear she’s riding the villain line.
It’s not all bad news, there are some excellent Aha! moments for those who have been paying attention. The Owl Lives. Faust lives. Ink production and distribution is explored some more. The larger story, that Great Theatre production with its repetition of Roles and Lives over the ages, is ever more tantalisingly revealed. These women get on my nerves as they’re portrayed now, but i’m hoping there might be some change in the future.
In any case, I need to know what comes next. Damn you and your addictive world, Schaefer.
7.0 / 10
-- Emma Davis
Kerry Smith from New Zealand
I'd never read a Craig Schaeffer book & im not an overly enthusiastic urban fantasy fan (too much alpha males - how about some matriarchal werelemurs or werejackels - & century old vampires going for young girls - i DONT care if the vamps still look 20, i wouldnt want my 19yr old going out with a 208year old dyke BUT I DIGRESS; SORRY!) but i do like a good cop thriller to read in my down time & i wanted to finish the rest of the SPFBO books & Sworn to the Night had a cop (Marie)hunting serial killers & some crazy addicits on latest drug - Ink in the investigation then the staunch lady cop meets her soulmate, a battered wife (Nora)but she reads fairytales & she's always pictured herself as the heroine knight/saviour (After a month of SPFBO finalists + my personal reading of a few Ben Galley books & some heavy grimdark novels i needed a fairy tale & Craig delivered.) okay, its a bit brothers Grimm where nothing seems to go right for heroiines. . ...anyway, the problem with this fairy tale it has been played out before since early time - now its time to change the ending. The story has same characters everytime so they track some down but trying to stop them is Noras exhusband & a loony scientist who designed the drug Ink. The chasing/killing hunters of humans & chasing druggies in a park reminded me of the last 2 Jack Reacher novels but it was a welcome wee tangent (which you wont notice if you dont read Lee Child) but it open book to meet other majorplayers - Faustian characters who have wishes to fulfil contract, a stunning but a bitch of a demoness called Nyx. There are other characters who feature in this tale but their past is hinted at from other books but theyve all intrigued me so ive brought books 2&3 to Wisdoms Grave (which ive finished) Im halfway through theHarmony Black series & Ive brought bk1 of Daniel Faust. Id recommend. Craig. Schaefers book if you want a fun read with criminals left right & centre but some are the good guys even while been bad. i had fun reading these. Didnt seem to make everythig. WAY too serious. - lighten up the grimdark with a bit of levity. i enjoyed this... i wanted to give it 7.5 but it woulldnt let me do i gave you an 8. im enjoying Harmony. & onevday id really. like to.meet. Nyx's mother
7.3/10 from 2 reviews