Also by this author: The Prince, The Shadow, Gabriel's Promise
Series: The Florentine #1
Published by Berkley on February 3rd 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal, Romance
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From the New York Times bestselling author of the Gabriel series comes a dark, sensual tale of romance in a city shrouded in mystery . . . Raven Wood spends her days at Florence’s Uffizi gallery restoring Renaissance art. But an innocent walk home after an evening with friends changes her life forever. When she intervenes in the senseless beating of a homeless man, his attackers turn on her, dragging her into an alley. Raven is only semiconscious when their assault is interrupted by a cacophony of growls followed by her attackers’ screams. Mercifully, she blacks out, but not before catching a glimpse of a shadowy figure who whispers to her . . . Cassita vulneratus. When Raven awakes, she is inexplicably changed. Upon returning to the Uffizi, no one recognizes her. More disturbingly, she discovers that she’s been absent an entire week. With no recollection of her disappearance, Raven learns that her absence coincides with one of the largest robberies in Uffizi history—the theft of a set of priceless Botticelli illustrations. When the police identify her as their prime suspect, Raven is desperate to clear her name. She seeks out one of Florence’s wealthiest and most elusive men in an attempt to uncover the truth. Their encounter leads Raven to a dark underworld whose inhabitants kill to keep their secrets . . .
Karen’s Two Cents Worth
I love books that explore the paranormal and urban fantasy genres; they are my favorite genres. I also love the writing of Sylvain Reynard; I worship his brilliance in the use of descriptive narrative that has my mind envisioning all nuances of his books. He combines art, literature, food, scripture, and music into an exquisite tapestry of a novel.
Reynard has wiggled his toes into the paranormal world with his first book in his Florentine Series, The Raven. You might wonder why I didn’t use the world leapt or immersed himself into the genre. It’s because Reynard has taken characters from his contemporary series, Gabriel Trilogy, and used them as a jumping off point for a his new paranormal series. The inclusion of the Gabriel Trilogy characters (Julia and Gabriel) actually drew me out of the story each time they entered a scene. I would have much preferred that the two genres/series would have never been combined by the author. I hoped that a prequel novella’s (The Prince) inclusion of the Emersons was going to be the last we saw of them.
This doesn’t mean I don’t love Reynard’s contemporary romance novels–I do! I didn’t need them thrust into this new series or this new world that Reynard has built, as they added nothing to the plot of the book. The lines between genres can be blurred–but completely crossed just left me perplexed as to the reasoning why the cross over. Was it necessary to the plot of the book? Each reader will have to draw their own conclusions. For me, I thought the insertion of the Emersons was irrelevant in the overall plot of the book. I felt that they distracted me from the story; I wanted to focus on the new characters of this series. Unfortunately, their inclusion in the story actually brought down the star rating of this book.
Now, to the paranormal novel which Reynard has written; Florence Italy is the backdrop, where vampires rule a clandestine feudally structured world where historical figures are also supernatural characters. I adore when authors weave historical and paranormal worlds together, and Reynard does a superb job in meshing the two. Why, you ask, is this allowed? In my estimation and not the blending of genres, historical figures are dead and with their deaths comes a myriad of possibilities.
The protagonist of the story is Raven Woods an art restorationist working on loan to the Uffizi Gallery and restoring the Birth of Venus by Botticelli. Poor Raven encounters the ugly side of city life (lack of humanity) and is rescued by The Prince. Well, I am not going to give the plot away; so if you want to know more, then buy the book, as honestly reading the book and discovering the story is the magical part of reading. When the Emersons disappear from the text, the story picked up, as the characters of Raven and William were very engaging.
I know that reading a Reynard book will be a philosophical journey. The themes of faith, love, and beauty are explored in The Raven. In faith Reynard compares both Raven and William and how they perceive the divine or lack of the divine, as both characters have had hard existences.
In the novel Reynard weaves the thread of a theme of beauty and what beauty is. I was confused as to why a woman’s self-worth is tied to her weight. Why the skinny, prettier Raven was included in the book? Why was the transformation of her physical appearance necessary? Plus, would you not freak if you woke up and did not recognize the woman staring back at you in the mirror? This transformation of her physical self is a large leap of faith. I felt that something was missing, as she was deposited back into her own life.
…In my world everyone is the villain.
When it comes to the love story between William (The Prince) and Raven, you feel the sexual/ physical pull between the two characters, but the deep emotional connection that I expected from a Reynard book was missing. They have awakened something in each other–him, his humanity and empathy and for her, her self-worth and that of having someone to rely on. But I didn’t feel the spark between the two. The couple didn’t capture my imagination; I didn’t feel that these two characters could not live without each other.
The Vampyres (vampires) that Reynard has imagined are along the lines of those written about in folklore and myth–no sparkling vampires in this novel. I will say honestly that the vampires in Reynard’s book will bring strong comparisons to the Volturi of The Twilight Books by Stephanie Myers. Not because Reynard wrote in Twilight fan fiction, but because Reynard’s vampires are just as void of humanity and empathy as those of the Volturi. The lack of humanity even in a paranormal creature is a deadly thing; if a being doesn’t have humanity, then they are just an animal. How should an animal be judged? Do you not expect to get bitten by a snake, as it is in their nature? Same can be said for Reynard’s vampires. They have the superpowers of the standard myth/lore vampire of speed, longevity, strength, along with the same diet. These are the vampyres of legend, the monsters that live in the collective nightmares of humanity. Reynard left a lot of wiggle room for him to establish more of his world building. I am still trying to figure out the curative properties of vampyre blood. I am still trying to figure out why the physical transformation of the cured is so radical? Why it didn’t affect Bruno, as it did Raven? Are the vintages The Prince used on Raven the reason?
I will be reading more of these novels because I do want to know where the story leads. Reynard, I don’t believe is done with his world building, and like an onion, he is a very layered writer. Reynard has purposely left thread hanging, and I hope he fleshes out the various factions of both Hunters and the Curia.