Savor (Vicious Feast) - Kate Evangelista

(I was given an e-copy of this book by the author, in exchange for an honest review.)

Having reviewed Taste a couple of years ago, I was intrigued by the premise of this novel, wondering how it tied into it, and what role would the characters play in it. I'll get back to this at the end of my review, but for the moment, I'd simply advise that: if you haven't read the "prequel" yet, it's probably best not to do it right now, and focus on Savor instead.

I'm going to start with one problematic thing for me: sometimes I thought the story was going too slowly. It's nothing too definite, just a feeling I had. Perhaps because of some of the descriptions? But then, I've always had a love/hate relationship with descriptions—and in a paradoxical way, I can appreciate a detailed description while still finding it too long. Don't ask.

On the other hand, those make the photo shoots very easy to picture, and in turn, you realise they must be absolutely gorgeous. At the end of each shoot, I wished I could see Dakota's photos IRL.

I liked Dakota as a protagonist. She's the right amount of sassy, refuses to be victimised and behave like a victim, in spite of what happened to her, she doesn't wallow in safe-pity, and she does her best to place the job she wants to do first... although the temptations around her are pretty strong. She's not perfect, and has her shortcomings. There's that one scene, for instance, where Luka does to her what she did to him before, and she flips out because it's unacceptable to her: double standard alert. However, she also realises that her reaction is unfair, acknowledges it, which made her likeable again after that, uh, unglorious episode. (I really don't do well with double standards.)

The other characters: they all had their little quirks. I really liked Dray and his "fact of the day" attitude, which was funny and ador(k)able. I wish we had known more about Calixta, though. She seemed to have the part of "the one who resents the new arrival in the family", but I didn't really understand why. Was it just instant dislike the way, well, the way it sometimes happens in real life? Or something else? (If the latter, then it wasn't too clear.)

The mysterious aspects: very lightly spread throughout the story. You have to pay attention and not miss them. Once I reached the ending, I started to think in retrospect: "OK, so maybe this and that part actually hinted to that, I must check and re-read those." Personnally, I like when I find myself having to do that.

The romance itself: if you like this genre, you'll probably enjoy it. There's a rather twisted edge to it, but the characters are aware of it, and I didn't feel like they were trying to make excuses, or to pretend everything was perfectly OK. I much prefer when they face the potential consequences, rather than when they're presented as perfect models but are in fact pompous self-righteous judgmental people. There's not mistaking it here: something fishy's going on, we know it, they know it, and I didn't feel myself cheated like I did with many other romance stories.

The writing: I found it more mature than in the previous book I read from this author. (In that book, I thought she used a lot of weird similes; it's not the case here.)

One thing that confused me highly, but that I won't hold against the story nor the author because, frankly, I just didn't do my research about it, didn't read her blog or whatever; maybe this was explained somewhere, maybe not. I'm mentioning it because others might have felt the same, but I want to make one thing clear: this is because I read Taste first. It doesn't bear in any other way on Savor, and the latter is enjoyable regardless. Heavy spoiler ahead.

I'm confused about the way both stories are linked: is Taste a real prequel, or is "The Vicious Feast" series a sort of alternate universe follow-up? Several elements didn't seem to match. In the "prequel", we learn that the whole band, except Phoenix, is from another race, and they're several centuries old; however, Dakota finds a photo album with pictures of them as kids, which prompted me to wonder. Were those fake, touched-up pictures—in which case, shouldn't Dakota be able to tell, considering her own experience? Or is there something else altogether to the story? Also, why is Calixta working with them? How did things change between them?

However, I'm saying it again: I didn't check with the author; nowhere in the blurb does she say that it's a direct follow-up to Taste; and this doesn't detract from one's enjoyment of Savor. This is just me having perhaps missed something, since I didn't read the book all at once, and not always in conditions favouring focus.

(show spoiler)

Conclusion: I'm giving it 3.5 stars. A little too slow at times for my taste, but with beautiful descriptions and ideas for the photos, and an interesting protagonist, flawed in a believable way.