Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Wenches Discuss Blood Games by Chloe Neill

 A VERY Spoilery Discussion by Zee the Terrible and Barbara Bones

Blood Games, the tenth installment in the Wench favorite Chicagoland Vampires series, released two weeks ago, and while Barb told you that it was fantastic in her review, she kept the details to a minimum. Well, we've been dying to discuss those details ever since, and we can't hold back any longer.

So come with us through the jump, and we're going to dish on all of the glorious details.


There will be many, many spoilers. Click through at your own risk!


Right Out of the Gate!

Ethan STILL makes us swoon!
We ADORED how the book started--the race for a good cause was just an amazing start. The friendly banter, the stakes (ha), the Cadogan vamp fangirls and fanboys. (Can you blame them?) Loved it all! Chloe Neill sure knows how to make the reader feel like they are AT the events taking place. Zee swooned big time when Ethan kissed Merit in front of everyone before the race. It never ceases to amaze us how much he just wants to show the world his love for Merit. *sigh* It's always great to read. 

Just reading the first chapter was an interesting insight into how much Merit has matured, how she's thinking for the House, and for the city, and putting aside her competitiveness for the good of everyone else, and her maturity and the extent to which she's grown into her role are front and center throughout this book. 

In typical Chloe Neill style, the scene seamlessly shifts from celebratory after the race, to a kick ass, action packed scene where Merit stands up to and stares down a very angry muscle car. Yes. You read that right. Our Merit has come a LONG way. 

Grab Your Popcorn

As has become the pattern with CLV book, there were three main problems. The murder mystery in Blood Games was pretty interesting right off the bat when Chuck calls Merit to tell her about the first murder and asks for the Cadogan vamps' help. Then the entire Darius story line was very intriguing. The obviously drugged Darius, the missing money, Lucsey & Methan's double date op (more on that in a bit), the weird goons guarding Darius and their run-in with Merit and her ass kicking team. Fast paced and fun to read!

The third problem, Ethan's challenge to Darius's reign, did not turn out at all how we expected.  The new nemesis, Nicole, was unlikable pretty much from the start, although not as petty and hateful as Lacey. But pretty effing horrible. And clearly does not know how to play fair. Her attempts at manipulating Ethan and winning the tests had us wishing for a sharp aspen stake to meet her, pointy end first. We still don't understand how Nicole won the GP testing round, when Ethan beat her soundly at both tests. She didn't even finish the strength test. WTF?

We REALLY weren't!
That being said, we were AMAZED at what Nicole did in the end. Dissolving the GP was a brilliant move we did not see coming. While we don't get how she beat Ethan at all, we were impressed. And ONLY Chloe Neill can make us admire the actions of a character we hate. I love her. (Chloe. Not Nicole.) From the moment Lakshmi asked Merit to convince Ethan to challenge Darius, we saw quite clearly Ethan as king. It was perfect, it made perfect sense, Ethan would be an exceptional king. We did not see this coming, and we love CN for throwing us a curve ball.


Friends and Lovers

We are loving the Jonah page time. While we never saw him as a romantic interest for Merit, he is an awesome friend! And come on: "You're not the only one who uses sarcasm to cope. Unfortunate tendency." It's like Merit! In a HAWT body. How can we not love him?
Merit and Jonah banter has become a true delight. We think she fights better with Ethan by her side, but friends are always a good thing, and he's clearly a friend. A suitably sarcastic friend.

Protective Ethan... AND protective Merit. We love how balanced their relationship is. 
"You're my world," he said, putting down the glass. "You're mine to protect."
"And I'd say the same about you."
His eyes went hot again, and he stared back at me from across the room, magic roiling off him in hot waves. "Will you stop being so goddamned stubborn?"
I kept my eyes on his, my tone even. "No. Will you?"
"I want to keep you safe."

"And I want to keep you safe. I did keep you safe."

If Sandy B can do it,
why not Merit?
We saw Ethan pretend to propose in both Biting Bad and Wild Things, so it's not surprising that he does it regularly, something some of us think is hilarious and some think is just mean. But we can all agree that his assurances that it's going to happen are...well, there really aren't words, are there? He continues to sweep us off of our feet. "You do realize, don't you, that the proposal won't always be fake?" We don't know if they've had conversations about their future off-page, but Ethan's complete faith in Merit, in them, is pure bliss after all they've been through together. "I'll have my ring on your finger." Knowing this is coming doesn't make the anticipation any less sweet. When he does propose it's going to be amazing. He is Ethan Sullivan, after all. We only have three books left, though.  We know we'll see the proposal, but we desperately wish for us to be guests at the wedding. We'll be sad if we're not. (Anyone else think it would be kinda awesome if Merit steals the proposal and goes down on one knee? As much as I am DYING for Ethan to ACTUALLY propose, I can see Merit going for it. And it being epic.~~Zee) (Nope. I want Ethan to do it. I want to see him throw his whole uber-romantic self into it and make it the best damned proposal I've ever read. Because he can. ~~Barb)

Forever is a LOOOONG time
 when you're a vamp.
Luc and Ethan being silly boys and fighting was ADORABLE. We love seeing the more regular aspects of Ethan's relationships with Malik and Luc. Malik teasing Ethan in the last book, and Luc being pissy with him in Blood Games kind of made my day. Even sexy, centuries old vamps get into pointless tiffs with their bffs and are excessively bitchy to one another over seemingly petty stuff, and that's okay! Merit handles it beautifully, and we love that she'd rather have them mad at her than at each other. That's my kind of gal! Fixing the BFFs was her first priority.

The Methan/Lucsey opp. So much delight. Luc needing to drive in the event of "exigent circumstances". Oh, god, the knife collection! The spangled knife and the pink camo knife! Hilarious! Merit and Lindsey's snark was fabulous, and Barb admits to laughing out loud, a lot, when Ethan told them they were no longer allowed on ops together.

Barb is still amazed that she lost her loathing for Catcher in this book! She still doesn't like him, but she can see that he's not a complete waste of hotness after all. And calling Mal "Mallocake" was damned adorable. (Zee still hates Catcher. Sigh.) 

We finally, finally loved Mallory again in this book after many books of her awful behavior, then her working to make amends. Mallory was finally worthy of our Merit again. The guts it took to tell Merit that she missed her, that she was jealous of the new people in Merit's life staggered us. Mallory being awesome and figuring out the connection between the murders when even big, bad magic man Catcher couldn't. Hehe. We LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, that Mallory FINALLY sort of apologized to Merit for basically kicking her out of their home for some random dude she JUST met. And owned up to her double standards at that time. We also love that she's working to find a way to use her magic without losing her mind, and wanting to do something helpful, noble, with it. What a beautiful arrival after a long redemptive journey. Brava, Mal.

Also, and very importantly, Ethan found forgiveness for Mallory, and while we would not have blamed him one bit if he had never been able to let it go, we love that Merit's two worlds, two loves, can get along. She deserves that. When Ethan, Merit, Mallory and Catcher watched The Evil Dead together, we were very happy. (We won't spoil the whole thing, which was amazing to read and made us tear up.) We'll just share this bit:


"I love you guys," Mallory randomly said at intervals. Catcher and I took turns at responding until Ethan beat us to the punch.

"We love you, too, Mallory."


Amit can visit Chicago anytime!
After ten-and-a-half books, we finally met Amit Patel. He is everything we thought he would be. And so much more. Merit's magic liked him, which we thought was kind of awesome. He is a great friend to Ethan, and we love people who love Ethan. His strength is palpable yet very zen, something Merit totes needs to see. Bottom line? He is pretty fucking swoonworthy. More, please.

We were very excited to visit RG headquarters again and meet more guards. They're obviously good people, and it's good to know that they are actually doing stuff. They've seemed rather unimpressive thus far, through Merit's eyes. We especially loved Merit meeting (and talking nerd to) the RG's Jeff!


Delightful Surprises

The nymphs, always entertaining, were in rare form for their elaborate dinner party held in Catcher's gym (am I the only one who didn't realize Catcher owned the gym? ~~Barb). We enjoyed our vamps having to negotiate for an invite, Cassie-the-nymph telling Merit she couldn't sit by Jeff, the nymphs not letting Merit and the Ombuddies dine with the guests. So funny, all of it. Jeff is often a highlight of a CLV book for us, and his joy at Merit's bobblehead gift, hugging her joyfully during dinner, was adorable.

Merit's dance was glorious!
*sigh* Merit dancing. Barb's love for dance runs deep, and it's easy to forget that our Sentinel, now a warrior, a soldier, was once a ballerina. It feels like we've come so far from Merit's dancing days that we truly did not think we would see her dance. That scene was lovely. Perfect.  

WE.LOVED.THE.CON. From the very beginning to the very end. Zee will go to a Con any which way she can, fictional or real, and Ms. Neill had her loving the SpringCon. From Jonah being a model for a comic artist (and Merit reminding herself to get a peek at said comics) to Merit getting advice on how to look like more authentic Merit. It was awesome. We also fell in love with Jonah more than ever before with his appreciation of the energy at the Con. Jonah bugging Merit about all the Ethan merch and underwear. Jonah basically being a really hot nerd. Loved his Diana Prince reference. (Was kinda upset Merit didn't know who Diana Prince was.)

What Keeps Us Coming Back

There are two things that keep us coming back, counting the days until the next one, books after book: Merit and Ethan. Together, separately, whatever. We love them more than we can say. And with every book they get better and better Blood Games was no exception.

Ethan. So much glorious Ethan. Playfulness. Bare honesty about his feeling for Merit, his certainty in her. His power. Holy hell his power. When he shook the House's foundation on the strength of his anger alone! Bloody Hell! His mental/emotional strength during testing, his honor in saving Nicole despite his penalty during the strength testing. His story about his time with Balthazar, the fear that Merit would hate him, leave him for what he's done centuries before her, choosing to live his life every single day making up for his sins. We didn't think we could love him more, but we do. We really do. We suppose it's because our perfect hero has shown us his flaws, and we're a sucker for a damaged hero.


Ethan is pretty much perfection as far as we're concerned. He's gotten hotter, sexier, more Alpha, stronger, more interesting, more EVERYTHING since he's been back. But... in this book, he comes face to face with things he cannot control. And it rattles him. It makes him act in a way we've never seen him act, and it was.... wonderful. Not that he was shutting out Merit, or being secretive, not being open with the woman he trusts and loves more than anyone else. But the fact that Ethan was vulnerable. Than Ethan could still, after all these centuries, be unsure about something and handle it badly in an all too human manner. We lost our hearts early on in the series to an Ethan who learned to change and become better for Merit, and we fell in love all over again in Blood Games seeing this powerful man dealing with his fears, regrets, and insecurities in the only way he can at that moment. 

And Merit... God. Merit impressed us so much in Blood Games. She has evolved and matured so much in the course of this series. And it's never been as evident as it was in Blood Games. Her levelheadedness and maturity while dealing with Ethan's stubbornness, her selflessness in trying to understand his state of mind and trying to be there for him in whatever way she could. We loved seeing her so fully a part of Cadogan House. The vampires have become her family, and the House and has truly become her home. Merit in this book. Everything. It made us so proud. We've always loved Merit, but her growth in this one was a joy to read even when we hurt for her. And let us not fail to mention, Merit took a bullet for Ethan. She didn't think, just jumped between him and a bullet. She's our hero.


And then there's Methan. We could go on and on about how much we love this couple, so we'll rein it in this time. But their relationship in Blood Games felt so, frighteningly, real. It was wonderful. The fear and frustration, pushing one's partner away for fear of what might happen if your deepest shame came out. Refusing to let the idiot push you away because there's nothing that could change what is. It was so raw, so real. But these two are in it for the long haul, and they came out stronger on the other side. As we knew they would.

#HungerGames
On the other side was the hottest, most detailed love seen we've read from this couple. The first time Merit and Ethan were together, it was the single most beautiful seduction we had ever read. The actual sex was a bit more subdued, a but more hinted than described. It was perfect for that moment. This. This was something altogether different, something we've not come to expect from this couple, this author. Which made it all the more spectacular. Brava, Ms. Neill. You outdid yourself with this one. *huge grin*

"He didn't make it in spite of you, Merit. He passed because of you. Because that's who you are to him. You may not feel it--not right now--but he's changed. He is happy because of you.

{snip}

Ethan is a man of a type: strong, powerful, honorable. But he has always held himself back from the rest of his vampires. Partly because he's a Master, sure, but partly because he didn't quite fit. With you, he fits. He's no longer alone. He's part of a pair, and that's a really good thing."

Everything about Blood Games
was awesome!

There you have it, Saucy Reader. All of the dirty details about Blood Games. We loved it beyond words and cannot wait for Dark Debt. Have you finished BG? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

4 comments:

  1. Oh Yes! Great post for a great book. I am with you all the way!

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  2. Love this and everything you wrote in it!!

    I fall into the category of loving the fake proposals. I love how Merit freaks out every time!! :D :D

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    1. Also, I'm pleasantly surprised Ethan lost. I think Nicole won because the houses voted for her and that gave her more points. Ethan won the challenges, but she won the houses and their votes. I think... :/

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  3. I can always count on this blog for insightful discussion of the CLV books - excellent job, ladies.:)

    Merit in particular knocked me out this book. Just when you think she's as awesome as can be, she gets even more awesome. What will she be like when she reaches full awesomeness? It boggles the mind.

    Nicole's win over Ethan is a *giant* WTF. It is such a huge WTF that I've got to think its WTF-ery is going to be a future plot point. Because otherwise it's a major plot hole, and Chloe is not known for plot holes. I think Shau is right about Nicole winning on the basis of the voting - but then that raises other questions. Per Luc, her house is 'insular', and a measure of their insularity can be found in the fact that Heart House hasn't even been mentioned in the series up until this book. So: not much mixing with other houses, loses one test and doesn't even complete the other, comes in at the bottom of the ballot - why in the world would anyone vote for her over Ethan, or the other candidates for that matter? The whole thing seems dirty as hell, and what's amazing is that NO ONE within the story questions it. WTF indeed.

    (And I don't think it's a coincidence that Nicole shows up on the scene, uses Ethan's past against him, and then all of a sudden Ethan gets a note from 'Balthasar'.)

    I don't think I can ever 100% trust Mallory again, but I give her massive props in this book for acknowledging something I never thought would be acknowledged - the way she allowed Merit to be edged out of her own home by her relationship with Catcher. And her vulnerability with Merit was very moving. I loved the way their shared dreams came true at Layers.:)

    Speaking of food, how awesome is Ethan for not subjecting Merit to the French meal of her nightmares? Bacon cheeseburgers, fries and shakes - he's come a long way, too.;)

    Jeff/Merit friendship. It is gold.

    BTW, is Ethan's recounting of his past a bit of a retcon? In Twice Bitten, he told Merit he only stayed with Balthasar for a decade, and that he left after another vamp made by Balthasar attempted to take over their group. Here, he tells her there were women for 'decades on end' before he and Balthasar parted ways, and that the death of Persephone was the breaking point for him with Balthasar. It's quite different from what he'd told her before.

    Something I'm afraid of - does anyone else know about the Methan baby now? Lindsey knew, just from catching the 'overflow' of Ethan's psychic battle. Do the psychics who tested him know too? Nicole?

    What's up with security at Cadogan House? First Iain breaks into the master's suite and only got caught because Merit forgot her medal. Then somebody was able to sneak in again, to leave that note at the end. Considering the massive amount of effort Cadogan puts into security, this is very worrying.

    And Zee, it's okay - you can come and sit next to me, because I still hate Catcher too. Sorry, cookie-baking and cutesy nicknames for Mallory do not make up for his past offenses. Nice try though Chloe. :P

    ~ philosopher queen

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