Kaderin is a Valkyrie, and for centuries she has been known as "Kaderin the Cold-Hearted". Ever since Horde vampires killed her sisters on the battlefield, she has been unable to feel anything- not sorrow, or joy or love or laughter. In a way, the blessing of being emotionless has helped her-in addition to giving her relief from the intense sorrow that afflicted her after the deaths of her sisters, it has helped her to slaughter numerous vampires along the way, allowing her to punish the vampire race for her loss.
Now, even though the Hie, a magical contest that combines aspects of "The Amazing Race", a scavenger hunt and a free-for-all brawl held every two hundred fifty years by the Goddess Riora, is coming up, Kaderin still has time to hunt down and kill vampires to accomplish her vengeance. But when she travels into Russia to eliminate a vampire who has been living in the same castle for hundreds of years, she is shocked that the vampire welcomes her killing him, even as he falls in love with her beauty. Worse, the Blessing that has eliminated her emotions all these years abandons her in his presence, and she finds herself filled with pity for the vampire that hates his existence, and she ends up committing an indiscretion with him, and finding an orgasm in his arms as he kisses and strokes her.
Once the pleasure has left her, though, she is shocked and disgusted by what she has done and leaves as quickly as possible. The vampire, Sebastian Wroth, who was turned against his will, along with his family who were dying of the plague, finds that with the memory of Kaderin, and his lingering love for her, no longer wants to die. Although he has hated and scorned his own existence for years, he couldn't find it within himself to kill himself and subsists on a diet of animal blood bought from the local butcher- and because he has never drunk from a living vessel, he is not a Horde vampire. And he also knows that Kaderin is his Bride, the one who has started him breathing and living, as much as a vampire can live, once more.
In his desire to find Kaderin, he manages to achieve something previously thought impossible and to trace to a living target- in this case, Kaderin. But he finds her in Riora's temple as the Hie begins and offers to compete along with her- only each competitor must compete alone. and they also must be backed by one of the races of the Lore, and Sebastian has no one to back him, so instead, he offers to compete for Riora, and this pleases the goddess enough that she agrees to let him compete in her name. And the prize for this Hie is a key that will allow the user to manipulate time... twice. Kaderin immediately wants it to bring back her sisters and prevent them from being killed, while Sebastian thinks that with it, he can prevent his brothers from turning him into a vampire and die with honor- but he cannot believe in something that can do that, as he is scientific-minded and knows about the time paradox effect.
But in reality, he only wants to compete because it can bring him closer to Kaderin, and perhaps find him a way to win her over to his love. But the Hie, and the members of the Lore competing in it, are brutal, and none less so than Kaderin, who has won the last five Hies. As she meets him once more, the Blessing dies completely and does not come back. But does the return of her emotions mean a weakness that those other Lore creatures in the Hie can exploit? Or are the feelings she feels for Sebastian, the mingled attraction for the man and loathing for what he is, the greater weakness? And can Sebastian win the affection and love of a woman who has dedicated her life to wiping out his kind, or will her utter ruthlessness wipe out any affection he feels for her?
This book, like several others by Kresley Cole, happens concurrently due to one of the heroes being a participant in the Hie. We've had the story of Mariketa the Witch and Bowen the Lykae, and now Kaderin the Cold-Hearted. At this point, there aren't that many named players in the Hie left- some nameless Demonarchy participants and Lucindeya of the Sirens are the ones who I really remember- and the Demonarchy Demons get taken out early (like Mariketa), so I doubt they will turn up in future books.
But I loved the struggles that the two main characters went through, and the feeling of warmth I got when Kaderin finally realized that despite being a vampire, that Sebastian was a good man and a fierce warrior at heart. We also got to see his brother Nicolas again after his vanishingly tiny appearance in "Dark Needs at Night's Edge", and since he has a mate in this book I can see he is being sequel-baited for us. But it's a sequel I'd like to see, I confess.
I really enjoyed the book, which was full of the excitement and turmoil of the Hie, along with the experience of competing in it and gathering the many items that Riora wanted. We get to see exactly how grueling and dangerous it is, and to experience the love that comes over Sebastian and Kaderin as they compete. Highly recommended.