Dark Debt - Chloe Neill

Poor Merit...a Sentinel's work is never done. Good thing she's got that stash of mallow cakes. She's going to need them.

First up is a scary vamp from Ethan's past who's bent on revenge & quickly determines the fastest way to get at the Master of Cadogen is through the woman he loves. Then she & Ethan are swept up in the dramas at Navarre House. Morgan is battling a shadowy group known as the Circle, a little "gift" inherited from Celina's tenure as Master. Worse, her cult of personality has only intensified since she died & there are rumblings from within about his suitability as their leader. 

On a personal level, Merit & Jonah are barely speaking after he asks her to do something for the RG. And just for fun, she also has to deal with her father (who continues to invent new levels of jerk-dom) when it turns out he has ties to one of her grandfather's investigations. If there ever was a "Calgon, take me away" moment, it's now.

To be honest, after the last book I was ready to let this series go. The plot lines struck me as variations on previous themes & Ethan's character was really starting to grate on me. He was unrelentingly arrogant & dismissive of Merit's opinion, even behind closed doors. It made her character, always written as a feisty kickass, begin to look suspiciously like a doormat. 

But I have a rule when reading series. One subpar effort has to be forgiven when the number of books hits the double digits. Two in a row, I'm done. So I'm happy to report this instalment puts the series back on track.

The number of story lines has been pared down which allows for clarity & depth. In the last book, it felt like the whole gang was constantly haring around the city, putting out fires but accomplishing very little. Without a multitude of distractions, the reader can actually engage with the plot as there's time & space for the characters & events to be fully developed. 

As for Ethan, he's become...dare I say it...more "human". He no longer comes across as an automaton, mechanically spouting orders. There's no doubt he's king of his castle but this is balanced by his obvious love & respect for Merit. 

As usual, there are tidbits concerning others in the returning cast & the newly formed AAM. Some of the story lines are resolved but it's clear there is still a very worthy adversary on the field. This time, I can honestly say I'm looking forward to the next one to see how it plays out.