With Crimson Dawn, Ronnie has managed to do something I wasn't entirely sure could be done - she has injected some fresh blood into what has become (for me, at least) a rather stagnant and repetitive urban fantasy genre. First, she's taken the vampire mythos and given it a significant tweak, creating a world populate by both the traditional deadborn (vampires risen from the dead) and the refreshingly original lifeborn (vampires born of vampire parents). I realise she's not the first author to suggest the 'natural' birth of vampire progeny, but she's the first I've read to fully explore the concept and give it some real teeth (if you'll pardon the pun!).
What Ronnie has also done, and this is what really excited me about the novel, is work in a wondrously diverse system of magic and mythology. Her reality encompasses the fairy realm, old-fashioned genies and golems, traditional witches, and contemporary voodoo - all alongside the vampire, were-beasts, and other races that you'd expect from the urban fantasy genre. Under the guidance of a less talented author this could be a mess, but she makes it work so well we never question it.
The trio of Val (pureblood lifeborn vampire), Irulan (fairy princess), and Priest (deadborn vampire) is definitely one of the strongest in urban fantasy. The three play off one another very well, and while it takes a while to warm up to Priest, that's deliberate on Ronnie's part. A professional rival of Val (who also feels a need to prove himself as a deadborn), Priest is the kind of antagonistic jerk you want to hate . . . but can't so easily set aside. These heroes are not friends, not by a long-shot, but there's a measure of mutual respect beneath the almost sibling-like tension that develops as they each, in turn, come to the other's rescue. Any one of the three would be strong enough to carry a story on their own, but Ronnie pays just enough attention to each to ensure none of the are wasted, without allowing any one of them to unfairly dominate the story.
As for the villain of the piece . . . wow! It's in him that everything comes together, and through him that Ronnie is able to make the mix of vampires and magic work so beautifully. Sullen and spoiled, he's also cruel, brutal, and entirely too full of himself. I won't say too much about him, since it's his quest that drives the plot, but the possibility of his success is truly terrifying to contemplate.
Of course, any entry into the urban fantasy genre needs a healthy dose of romance to balance out the horror, and that is where Ronnie really shines. Bloody and brutal at times, this is also a story that's very passionate and erotic at others. The budding romance of Val and Irulan is one that's played out slowly and subtly, engaging the reader in a delightful game of seduction. It's a relationship that has the potential to be slightly creepy, given their age difference and Irulan's role in nurturing Val's early years, but it's handled masterfully. Instead of putting us off, it just adds another element of tension to their frustrated dance of desire. By the time the two women finally come together, it's as much a relief as it is a delight . . . with the unexpected consequences of their passion serving to add a note of perfection to their entire relationship.
There's so much more I could say about this book, but you really need to discover it for yourself. Ronnie keeps things fresh and exciting throughout, with the change in setting for the final third of the book coming at just the right time to eagerly propel us towards the conclusion.
If you absolutely cannot wait to get your hands on a copy, then I urge you to pop by Ronnie's Darkworld Forums to take part in her giveaway. The Grand Prize is a vampire themed goodie basket with a signed copy of Crimson Dawn, a vampire movie, movie poster, and other goodies. There are also two signed copies available to be won (plus various goodies with the book cover on them), as well as two 1GB flash drives with e-book copies of Crimson Dawn and all three DarkLife Shorts.
All you have to do is become a member of the forum to enter.
Trust me - it's worth a few moments of your time!