StarCrossed 4: In the Blink of an Eye takes us back to Salem, Massachusetts, where the town is evolving from openly making amends for its witch-burning past to something darker. While some people choose to lock their doors and pretend those who are Other don’t exist, some decide to use them to turn a profit.
For years the home of vampire Gennady Zaitsev has been a refuge to wayward supernatural boys. Taken in at the age of four, werefox Fallon Demeter has grown up with the love and caring of his blended, surrogate family. As the fragile peace enjoyed by the supernaturals begins to break down, Fallon draws the unwanted attention of a vicious enemy from Gennady’s past. Plunged into a harrowing adventure that brings his forgotten past back with horrifying clarity, Fallon becomes lost and alone in the brutal outside world.
As the buffer the supernaturals have enjoyed for so long continues to erode, Salem may no longer be their safe haven.
The secret is about to get out…
“Vampires sleep to kill time, nothing more, and sleeping vampires have no dreams. Precognitive visions sneak in, mostly of inconsequential things: a flat tire, a busted water heater flooding the cellar, guests dripping blood on the carpet, the children frolicking through the house and breaking a vase. Things that could be fixed, restored, or replaced.
But there were exceptions.
Visions clear and terrifying images of broken things, bleeding things, missing things.
Things that couldn’t be fixed or restored or replaced.”
In The Blink of An Eye by Reno MacLeod and Jaye Valentine is the fourth book in the StarCrossed series and focused on the story of werefox Fallon Demeter, how he becomes part of the Zaitsev family and Gennady’s lover and partner, and how he is almost lost to them when he’s abducted. In Book 4, the authors turn out another well-written, multi-layered and captivating story that, in addition to featuring Fallon’s tale, takes the reader deeper into the dynamics and relationships of the Zaitsev family, grows the StarCrossed world and prepares the way for the next book in this continuing series.
The story takes place a few weeks after demon Jace Barton, one of Gennady’s sons, narrowly escapes death when he’s called by two religious fanatics from his past, and Gennady remains unsettled. He’s having disturbing premonitory dreams about Fallon and doesn’t want to let him out of his sight. But when Fallon goes out for his daily run on the vastly forested Zaitsev property thinking he is safe, he falls prey to someone from the past seeking revenge. Fallon’s abduction plunges the entire household into a state of fear and upheaval. The Zaitsev family bands together and with the help of their friends, sets out to rescue Fallon and bring him home. Meanwhile, Jericho, another of Gennady’s sons is missing and involved in something that could get him arrested if the Salem Council finds him first.
Spanning some two decades, the story is divided into three parts. The authors begin Fallon’s tale in the present well establishing the circumstances leading up to his abduction and the abduction itself as the main plot. In the second part of the book the reader is taken back in time to Gennady’s rescue and adoption of four-year old Fallon. MacLeod and Valentine then return us back to the present and to Fallon’s dark journey of survival without interrupting the rhythm and flow of the narrative.
The refined descriptions of the co-authors through which they achieve extremely strong imagery in their stories is a staple of their combined writing talents, and In The Blink of An Eye is no exception. What struck me most was how vividly the writing captures the nature and essence of Fallon as a werefox – his physicality, his natural curiosity, his cleverness and mischievousness and his quickness and intelligence. This imagery was particularly strong in the writing of Gennady’s rescue of a young Fallon, Fallon’s abduction and his journey of survival the latter of which I found to be quite compelling.
“The furball screeched in terror, and the needle-sharp teeth of a tiny fox snapped down on his hand, breaking the skin. The fox let go, only to shriek again and attempt another bite. Gennady shifted the fox in his arms, grasping firmly under its forearms, and he held the small animal away from his body. He needed to see its eyes. Something felt off about this situation, and Gennady wanted to confirm his brewing suspicion as correct.
He held the animal at nose level. ‘Let’s take a look at you.’
The fox continued to cry, its back legs drawing up in an attempt to kick Gennady, but the exertion only served to tire out the furry bundle. Exhausted, the fight went out of the poor thing and it hung limp, meeting Gennady’s gaze. Its blue eyes reflected the trauma of the evening with frightening, human intelligence, and Gennady had no doubt those pretty eyes were studying him.
Gennady smiled. ‘I thought so.’”
The writing also gracefully transitions Fallon’s physical and emotional maturity, from the tiny and terrified kit that Gennady rescues to the adult Reynard that becomes Gennady’s lover and partner, and in between well explores the dynamics of the individual relationships that Fallon forms with not only Gennady but also with his older brothers – Jericho, Jace and Konnor. Some of the funniest moments in the book are of Fallon’s antics as a kit-child involving his brothers, in particular Jace.
There are two secondary story lines in the book that I found to be equally compelling but written in such a way so as to not detract from the drama of the main plot. The first is the relationship between Jace and Jericho and the second is the delving into the character of Jericho.
Through the back story exploration of the family dynamics, the authors reveal Jace’s susceptibility to his vampire brother Jericho and the ensuing tensions this creates with Jace’s twin, lover and partner Konnor. Those familiar with the StarCrossed books know of the imposing presence in the series of the character of demon Jace Barton. He is a predator, seductor and fierce protector of those he loves who has survived the threats of the human world and by all appearances is virtually indestructible. I found the exploration of Jace and Jericho’s early relationship decadently erotic but also quite fascinating because it reveals that Jace does have vulnerabilities.
One of the standards of this series is the authors’ treatment of the concepts of good and evil as personified through the supernaturals. Whether angels, demons, or vampires the authors present the inherent nature and instincts of these creatures without judgment and they are portrayed as being part of the natural order of things. In Book 4 the authors give us insight into Jericho and a glimpse into his natural proclivities and activities as a vampire, both sexual and other. The character of Jericho has always struck me as somewhat of a loner, living on the periphery of the family and keeping his distance. In Book 4, Jericho is once again away from the family, possibly missing and could be in trouble with the authorities when he returns to Salem. This secondary plot is quite enticing and gives the reader a taste of this character in anticipation of his story, which I believe will be the next book in the series, entitled Panacea.
The StarCrossed series was my introduction to the writing of Reno MacLeod and Jaye Valentine, and as I have previously mentioned in review of the preceding books and short stories, I consider the series to be much more than erotic horror or paranormal romance, but also a metaphor for how those who are different, whether by virtue of physical appearance, sexuality, beliefs or way of life, are treated in the real world. In this sense I view the underlying themes and subtleties of the series as being socially and politically relevant.
A recurring symbol used by the authors in this and other books that has strongly resonated with me is that of the cage, which serves as a symbol for not only capturing and imprisoning the supernaturals but also in rendering them powerless and helpless. Another more subtle theme that also has political and social resonance for LGBT and other marginalized peoples pertains to the question of conformity and assimilation as a means of acceptance by the broader society. These issues are brought to light in Book 4 when Gennady admits to himself and others that assimilation and working to change things from within the human world has come at a great expense. While the supernaturals have negotiated a level of co-existence with the humans, and on the surface they appear to live freely among them, in truth they are regulated and do not necessarily enjoy the same freedoms or rights. Gennady’s admission foreshadows an uncertain future for the supernaturals in StarCrossed Salem. There are enemies both within and outside of their ranks and the peaceable co-existence that they have managed to achieve with the humans is a tenuous one and likely cannot be sustained.
I very much enjoyed reading In The Blink of An Eye. The overall feel of the story takes on the essence of Fallon who is much more of an innocent than some of the other characters that have been the focus of previous books and therefore the story is not as dark – but this is only by degrees. As with the previous books, the authors do not hold back in their writing of the violence in the StarCrossed world nor of the injustices the supernaturals experience. They also continue to push boundaries with their exploration of the organic natures of the characters, including their sexual appetites and relationships. Well-written, intelligent, gritty, provocative and darkly erotic continue to be adjectives that describe the latest installment in this series.
While In The Blink of An Eye can be read as a single title, in order to fully appreciate the StarCrossed world that the authors have crafted, the continuing story lines, the primary and secondary characters and their relationships I recommend the books be read in sequence of publication.