Vladimir Tod is a vampire, and the only vampire who was born of a woman rather than created with a bite. This makes him rather special in vampire society, and there is a prophecy about a vampire being born and who is known as the Pravus. But the impact of the Pravus is debated. He is supposed to either rule the vampires or to take over the humans and rule them as a despot.
Vlad is still off-balance from the results of his last year. He drank from the vampire known as Dorian, who may have been mad, but who was the keeper of the prophecy of the Pravus. Dorian saved Vlad from a stake wielded by his supposed friend Joss, a vampire slayer, and was dying anyway. Dorian begged Vlad to drink his blood, the only way he would know the truth of the Prophecy of the Pravus for himself. In the aftermath of drinking Dorian's blood, Vlad nearly beat Joss to death and was only stopped by the appearance of his father, who told him not to kill the boy. Then, his father disappeared.
Now, Vlad tries to stay by Joss's side with his friend and Drudge, Henry, as they wait for the paramedics to arrive. Henry wants Vlad to flee and avoid lots of hard questions, but no one seems to suspect that Vlad had anything to do with Joss's injuries. But at the hospital, Joss's mother tells Vlad to stay away from her son, and Vlad agrees. But as soon as he arrives home, he gets two shocking pieces of information. First of all, Slayers are in town and they want Vlad dead. Vlad knocks out two Slayers disguised as cops who attack him in an alley. But the sight of them in Bathory makes him cautious.
Second comes from Em, a member of the vampire council. First comes the shocking news that D'Ablo is dead. Killed by someone unknown. Second is a summons from the council for Vlad to pay for his father's crimes. To wit: falling in love with a human woman and sharing the secret of vampire existence with her. Em promises Vlad that he will be put on trial for his father's crimes, and she will take pleasure in executing him for them. Vlad tells her that he has seen his father... alive. Em is momentarily taken aback by this news and tells Vlad that he has until the end of the year to bring his father in. Either his father, Tomas, will pay for his crimes, or Vlad will.
Vlad immediately sets off in search of Tomas, without any luck whatsoever. He also tells Ottis about his father's reappearance, and Ottis doesn't necessarily believe Vlad. He thinks that Tomas was a vision that came from Vlad drinking Dorian's blood. And it seems that Vlad has inherited some of Dorian's seeing abilities, but that is nothing compared to the sensation when Tomas reappears, and Ottis sees him as well.
Tomas, it seems, survived the fire long ago, as he had gone to Elysium to spy on it. Even though he was banished from Elysium and the presence of other vampires, his hunger for their society made him spy on them, and to break into their libraries to read what books they had on the Pravus. When he left to do so that day, it meant he was out of the house when whoever it was broke in and set the fire, killing Vladimir's mother. He doesn't know whose body it was that was taken for his own, nor what really happened. By the time he returned, his wife was dead, and the fire was already burning out of control. He hid out of fear, and in hopes that Vlad would not be blamed for his crimes. Obviously, that hope has come to naught, so he plans to stick around to be tried himself and take the burden off of Vlad. It's the only thing he can do for his son now.
Meanwhile, Vlad returns to school for his senior yeat, and, having given up Snow, the girl he loves, he's very much alone. Joss comes to him to tell Vlad he's sorry, and that he didn't have a choice about attacking him. The society of Slayers gave him an ultimatum. Either he kills Vlad or the Slayers will wipe the entire population of the town from the face of the earth. Everyone, humans included. And considering that Slayers train to fight vampires, against humans, the humans would be completely outclassed. Joss hopes to get Vlad to agree to let Joss kill him, because Joss knows that there is no way he could kill Vlad on his own. And he doesn't want his own family to be killed. Joss only has to the end of the year- that's because to kill everyone in town, it will take all the Slayers in the world, and it takes time for all of them to gather.
Vlad can't agree to let Joss kill him, but he can't let everyone in town die, either. And then there is Eddie Poe, the guy who wanted to become somebody by exposing Vlad's secret to the world. Now, he has plenty of evidence to throw Vlad to the wolves, but he's changed what he wants. Now he wants Vlad to turn him into a vampire, or he'll screw Vlad over by exposing his secret to everyone. Unfortunately for Eddie, Vlad doesn't really care any more. With an entire society of Slayers coming to kill him, how much worse could his life get?
But Vlad, who must struggle to forgive his father for abandoning both him and his mother, must soon struggle with a last minute defection by someone he loves dearly. And when the cost is a toll in lives and people he loves, Vlad must come to terms with a battle that could result in the death of everyone he cares for. Is the Pravus a savior or a tyrant, and what choices must Vlad make on his way to discovering the truth? Will everyone he loved desert him, or will he find his own way to be what he must, the Pravus?
This book takes the conflicts and problems of the last four books and ramps them all up to eleven. No longer does Vlad have to worry about being outed or being rejected by his friends. He's pretty much out there and most people have some idea of what he is. But all his bad decisions are coming home to roost and with the kick in the pants that it's not just his own life he is putting at risk any more. Now, it's Ottis and Nelly, Joss and Henry and everyone in town who could die if Vlad fails or turns into a petty tyrant.
I have to admit, that even though I am a pretty suspicious person, I never saw the betrayal of Vlad coming until it nearly happened, and that was quite a trick to pull off. It's not a pretty ending- there is enough death to satisfy any kind of tragedy-lover, and even though the ending was fairly happy overall, it ended up being rather bittersweet. Vlad has picked himself up and gone on with his life, but an echo of tragedy hangs over his life. And I also wanted to see exactly how he will live out his own version of being the Pravus- the ending made me curious to see what he will do with the job/position.
I have found this series quite wonderful and enjoyable. Only one thing sort of nags me about the ending- it seems like the toll in characters was mostly female when it came to real deaths. Vlad's mother really perished, and there were several others it would spoil the ending to name, but it seems to have been largely a female tragedy rather than a balanced one (i.e. more women died than men, even if there was a last-minute save for one of them), and I feel vaguely disappointed because of that. But still, I have no qualms about recommending this book, and this series, most highly. Overall, it is a taut, well-told story that makes you care in some way about all of the characters. Very Highly Recommended.