I did finish it. But I did not like it. Oh, it's more of the same: layer after layer of romance novel (and other popular fiction of page and screen) cliche, with some humorous banter and blah blah bleeping blah. But I did not like it. And I was pretty sure I was not going to like it. I did not finish it because it was addictive. I finished it because I actually care about the plot independent of the development of the romance and it is my intention to continue with this series.
I like banter, and I don't mind a bit of conflict in a relationship. I don't mind a spot of teasing, a little tying up and tying down. I don't mind a bit of tit for tat. But this wasn't a little. This was a decently long book full of drawn-out rape sequences. They may not have ended in tab P slot V style sex. The parties to the act may have both been highly aroused. But this was mean, punishing, vicious, non-consensual craziness and lots of it.
Rydstrom (the tightly-wound Woede brother who lost his kingdom to Omort), as you may recall, was kidnapped by Sabine the Queen of Illusions in Book 5, and by the end of the Book, she was yelling her head off that she was being held against her will. This book overlaps in time with Book 5 and then extends somewhat after it. While Rydstrom is locked up in the dungeon of Tornin being tormented by Sabine, various characters are getting updates on what happened in Book 5 so you can more or less keep the sequences straight if you are so inclined.
There's a ton of backstory on Sabine and her older sister Melanthe and their half brother Omort. A lot of it is as one would expect of a Big Bad Who Is About to Be Redeemed: big trauma, the survivor had to do vile things to make it, oh, and she's a vegetarian. There is, however, one really nifty bit (and this almost makes slogging through the nasty sex scenes worth it): Omort is the offspring of the previous Accession's Vessel. He's the powerful warrior who is All Evil. So when Rydstrom is willing to sacrifice the Vessel this time around to get the sword to kill the offspring of the last round's Vessel, he's basically saying, sure, make another Omort (or worse) as long as I get to kill Omort.
Yeah. That's great planning.
Kidnapping and near-, attempted and actual rape are long-term themes of romance. And Cole knows this, or she wouldn't have named Sabine Sabine. But while on the one hand, you could think about giving Cole props for gender bendering the kidnap and rape (woman kidnaps and rapes man, when the reverse is so much more typical of, well, you find me an instance where it's not more typical), on the MUCH MORE IMPORTANT hand, it's NOT consensual. Not cool. Sure, Cole's message is abundantly clear: don't cross "the line", don't do anything "irrevocable", you can't "force" someone to love you, you can't "control" someone with sex. Actually, that last one is kind of cool. Jayne Ann Krentz has way too many novels in which someone attempts to "control" the someone else with sex, and it's annoying.
As the relationship develops between Sabine and Rydstrom -- after they've achieved parity in tormenting each other -- things get marginally better, but it isn't enough. The sense of humor is almost entirely driven by Sabine's outrageousness, which isn't particularly funny to me. Her relationship with the orphan demon Puck is clearly intended to be charming, but it struck me as creepy and abusive. Having Sabine advocate for women's rights, roads and other modernization is lovely -- but not lovely enough.
I'm betting there's someone -- maybe a lot of someones -- out there that find this book enormously appealing, sexy, funny, an emotional roller coaster. That someone might further point out things like, hey, this book gives us more insight into Nix than we've _ever_ gotten before. And hey, if you think you are that someone, I'm glad you're happy.
Me, this was just a necessary evil to get to the next book in the series.
ETA: Okay, _that's_ lame. That's the most recent entry. *sigh* There's a prequel in an anthology, _Playing Easy to Get_, which has the Nicholas Wroth/Myst story.