Why I read this book: That’s a long story. I have previously read the eBook of ‘Sunset’ in 2013, almost 5 years ago. I remembered the emotional ending of the book and that I loved the characters and the phenomenal world building, but I didn’t remember the majority of the remaining story details. While I LOVED ‘Sunset’, I generally want to know what happens next after the events of the book I just read and when I realized that the second book takes readers to past events, my need to directly read book 2 was not as urgent anymore. I did try the first audiobook versions, but unfortunately they really didn’t work for me and so this series somehow ended on the backburner for me. It is extremely rare for me to re-read a book and after a while I realized that would be necessary, if I ever wanted to continue this series. Instead, I checked out and loved the audiobooks in the Interscission Project series by the same author, starting with Zenith (Check out my review of that book HERE). Then I learned that one of my favorite audiobook narrators, Greg Tremblay, replaced the old audiobooks that did not work for me, with a brand-new and sure to be amazing narration. So I used my audible credit to buy ‘Sunrise’, the second book in the series in audio format to finally give it a fair shot. As I should have known, though, after almost 5 years and reading hundreds of other books, I was too hazy on the events of book 1 to fully enjoy the book 2 audiobook. So I bought the audiobook of ‘Sunset’ as well and having forgotten most of the details, with 5 more years and the experience of reading 100s of books under my belt and with the wonderful narration of Greg Tremblay, it was almost like reading an entirely new story. I have a different perspective and a different focus now, when reading/listening to books and reviewing them. My review of ‘Sunset’ and its companion story ‘Cathedral of the Sky’ (which I previously read in 2014) will contain some of my thoughts from my original GR review from 2013 and new thoughts and opinions from listening to the new audiobook version. My review of ‘Sunrise’ will follow soon.
An unlikely savior emerges to prevent the advent of mass destruction and genocide descending on the world….
Los Angeles, 2040. When the terrorist known as Medusa threatens to kill millions with a stolen nuclear bomb, Nick Jameson makes a fateful decision. He reveals himself on global television as a Daywalker – a vampire with a soul. To save Los Angeles, Nick exposes not only his own gifts but three separate cultures based on millennia-old magic.
The three metahuman races exist in careful balance, working to maintain a fragile peace. Nick and his fellow Daywalkers successfully master their natural bloodlust. The Sentinels, armed with both magic and steel, repress their warlike instincts. And even some Nightwalkers, normally their natural enemies, have deserted the Court of Shadows to join the triple alliance. Nick Jameson is deeply involved with two such Nightwalkers – handsome Lorcan and powerful Rory. Both men love Nick. But neither can protect the new Ambassador to Humanity from the events he has set in motion.
By the sword
Jeremy Harkness was lured into Medusa’s service under false pretenses. A loner with no one and nothing to cling to, he was willing to die for his cause. But the night Medusa tried to obliterate Los Angeles, Jeremy met Nick Jameson, triggering the onset of his own psychic gifts. For Jeremy is the third race of metahuman, a Sentinel, born to kill the Nightwalkers with no quarter asked or offered. And neither Medusa nor the Court of Shadows will settle for peace when they can make war.
Betrayal and treachery lurk around every corner on the road to coexistence, and at every turn, Nick must question who to trust among his metahuman allies, friends, and lovers – before their civilization is plunged into the depths of darkness and bloodshed. With millennia-old magic, emerging romance, and ever-shifting allegiances, this inventive series unveils a scintillating, homoerotic world of Nightwalkers, Daywalkers, Sentinels, and humans, who battle for world dominance in the not-too-distant future.
This book is concurrent with Sunset (Pact Arcanum: Book 1) in story continuity.
Child of Twilight
Venice, Italy, 2039. When Michael Danvers witnesses a vampire attack, his latent ability to shapeshift awakens. Revealed as a Sentinel, the natural enemy of Nightwalkers, 13-year-old Michael must turn his back on his family and his safe, predictable life. But a supernatural battlefield is no place for a child, not even a genius like Michael. Betrayed by his own kind, he leaves Earth behind, hoping to find a new path with the Spacer Guild – and the stars.
Tempered by Moonlight
Relocating to the Citadel, Michael quickly makes a name for himself at the Spacer Guild Academy. But each advancement means less to him than the friendships he acquires, of fellow cadets William and Ariel, even as Michael is promoted above them.
Forged in Starlight
Everyone had plans for Michael’s future: his parents, the Sentinels, the Guild—even his best friend, Will. But Michael takes control of his destiny, and when called upon to make a fateful decision with countless lives hanging in the balance, the only sense of honor that matters is his own.
Marc’s Review of ‘Sunset’ (Pact Arcanum 1) by Arshad Ahsanuddin
The author describes The Pact Arcanum Saga as near-future space opera/paranormal romance. The story starts at the moment when humans find out that they share a world with Sentinals (a superhuman race that was created to fight vampires), Nightwalkers (vampires without soul) and Daywalkers (vampires who have reclaimed their soul). The worldbuilding and mythology are rich and complex, so it’s good that readers learn more about the different races and their history along with their fellow humans. There are several gay relationships in this book, but the story is non-explicit. While there is no sex on-page, though, the author manages to showcase the characters’ vulnerabilities and intimacies in other ways.
I loved this book when I read it almost 5 years ago and I love it even more now, as one of my favorite narrators gives voice to these captivating characters. The story is told from different perspectives; there aren’t just one or two main characters, but an entire ensemble. Thus it was very important for the narrator to differentiate well between the characters and let their unique voices shine through. Greg Tremblay does an amazing job with that and I think it will help ‘readers’ to connect with the characters and the story. However, compared to reading the book, the many, often extended flashback sequences were not as recognizable. I don’t think that this is due to a bad narration, but the unique way the book is written. It’s like a mosaic of important events in the present and the past. The audiobook actually seemed to have a better flow for me, as it always took me some time to readjust when I read the eBook, after the current events were ‘interrupted’ by important and relevant flashback sequences. The downside to this is that it made it even harder to keep the chronological sequence of events straight, at least until you read book two. Personally, I think the sequences were written out of chronological order like memories, so it probably does not matter. Still, if you are the kind of person, who wants to experience all the events in the right chronological order, there is a special Pact Arcanum Integrated Ultimate Omnibus edition for you (Volume One, Two & Three).
I am a big fan of ‘The Song of Ice and Fire’ books (and the TV show Game of Thrones that is based on them), so I am used to a story that is told through different perspectives. It might not be for everyone and if you are not used to it, it could be a bit confusing in the beginning with all the different characters, names and titles, but it is well done in this book and given the complex relationships in this story, it helps readers to understand the full story. It’s like a movie, where you often do not just see the events through a single perspective, but get to see important scenes with different characters as the story progresses and they fit together like puzzle pieces in the end. That’s why the flashback sequences are important, too, even though I tend to prefer to follow the current events in books. They helped me tremendously to understand the dynamic between the characters and the three superhuman races better.
While the story takes place in the near-future and the humans in this saga are not much more technologically advanced that we currently are in the real world, the fact that vampires and sentinels started working together for the first time in history a few decades ago lead to the development of artificial inteligence, the combination of vampire and sentinel magic and the creation of vast technological advances that made things like space travel and space colonies possible. This is something humans have not achieved and do not know about and it shows how many benefits peaceful coexistance and collaboration can have. I loved the seamless integration of magic and technology and felt that the sci-fi aspects of this story are very well-crafted. It was obvious to me that the author has some real-life experience with science and has done extensive research to create a complex, futuristic world filled with magic and technology that feels realistic and makes sense within the bounds of its own rules. The sci-fi aspects of the Pact Arcanum Saga are very creative and described in great detail and made reading this book feel like exploring a different world to me.
The paranormal and magical aspects of this story are just as detailed, if not more so. Some humans can turn into super human killing machines to fight vampires, but the price for it is very high and sentinels are still paying it. It’s not really a gift and not seen as something positive, as humans are ripped from their lives and turned into a different being. They might get super powers and genetic race memories, but their normal life is over and their new life is often short. Sentinels are slaves to the gift, have to kill vampires and have to sacrifice their lives to defend humans. While daywalkers have reclaimed their souls and free will, nightwalkers follow their nature to hunt and kill. They have organized themselves into the Court of Shadows and have bound themselves to honor. They strive for power, are possessive and may betray allies for their own gains, but they have to keep to their own word or face the consequences. They are much lke the vampires of old tales, ruthless, merciless, strong, clever, bound to darkness. But sentinels are just as ruthless and bound to their nature, which makes for a very interesting contrast. Inside the Armistice Zone, vampires and sentinels have found a way to coexist, but outside of the zone it is war.
For me as human, it was a bit sad that we did not learn more about how humans as a whole reacted to the revelation of supernatural races. We meet the US president and some of his staff as well as some reporters and some covert forces, but otherwise the humans are almost dismissed. For vampires, they are mostly seen as food and many sentinels are unhappy that they had to sacrifice their own lives to defend humans. Still, the implications of advanced technology and space exploration as well as the existence of a higher and lower power are sure to deeply impact humanity and it would have been interesting if we had seen more of that. Still, we see as much as me need to for the story to work (and work well it does) and it is already a very long story with more than 500 pages or 15 hours narration time. It just does not feel as long, because readers will get drawn into the compelling world building and even with flashbacks, the story is eventful and fast-paced. It’s over before you know it and you might need to listen to the next audiobooks back-to-back.
There is a religious aspect that is important but never feels preachy or out of place. Beyond the religious implications (existence of a higher power, lower power, angels, etc), the author explores ideas like sacrifice, redemption, morality and free will. Especially to the vampires who reclaim their own soul and for the first time since becoming vampires have the hope for redemption and being welcomed by a higher power after the final death, these things are very important. The author also explores the ethics of using power. If someone has the ability to raise the dead, should they do it, whenever someone they love dies? If death gives meaning to life, should anyone be able to interfere? If you have the ability to listen to every thought of others, should you always read the people around you, to make certain that they are not planning something harmful, or is invading their mind always unethical? There are quite a few such questions and the author never gives a clear answer. In fact, when I thought he had lead me to one answer and I accepted it, he introduced events that made me question it again. I like when issues are explored from different sides and sometimes there simply are no easy answer.
That’s why I also loved the characters. They are not just heroes, who do everything correctly. They have flaws, make mistakes, lie, betray and manipulate each other, make decisions that are so horrible, even if neccessary, that they are forever changed by them. The characters feel real and compelling. And of course they also do all the heroic things we want them to do and show love and friendship and truth and loyalty. They are complex. Jeremy is a perfect example for that. When we meet him, he is part of a terrorist group in posession of a nuclear bomb and willing to die for what he believes in and to let so many people die that it is hard to imagine. Especially in current times when the danger of terrorism feels closer to us than ever before and we wonder about the monsters who would do something like that, he seems the most unlikely and unlikable main character. I was SO sure I would not like him. Yes, he is direct and powerful, but he was willing to do something so horrible that there was no chance for his redemption in my mind. Then again, how easy is it for us to forgive all the vampires who spent hundreds of years killing and drinking blood of their victims? In movies and books it is more easy to forgive characters for thinks that I would deem as unforgivable in real life. In the very beginning, Jeremy changes from human to sentinel and this physical transformation is followed by a lot of character development. From an anti social terrorist to a dedicated protector. In the end, he was one of the most interesting characters to me. The story never pretends that any character is beyond reproach. They all have flaws and weaknesses and even the good guys of the story make difficult decisions, can be brutal, wrong, merciless and have to live with the decisions they have made and the consequences of their actions.
I did feel some distance to certain characters at times and that might have been because we only experience the key scenes of the story and miss some of the important character development scenes. We just can’t be with every character all of the time, especially as the story spans over several months, or years if we take the flashbacks into account. It is easy to see the changes some characters go through, especially when the way they talk, act and or think changes, but readers do not always see the entire process, just the results of those changes. Additionally, it is difficult to have the same emotional investment in every character. However, all of their journeys were tremendously interesting to me and the story had me at the edge of my seat. I really could not turn off the audiobook, because I needed to know how the story would continue. And that is the mark of a great audiobook and a great story. And then when the story came closer to its end, there was undeniable proof about my emotional investment. During the Pact Arcanum, the angel said “Magic Requires Sacrifice” and in the final act of book one, readers will find out what that means. It is a painful and heartbreaking lesson, but it is beautifully done.
‘Sunset’ is a MUST-READ book for fans of paranormal and sci-fi stories with extensive world-building and well-devolped, complex characters. I can highly recommend the story, especially the wonderful audio version and hope you will give it a try. With the author currently offering this first book in the Pact Arcanum Saga for free on his website as eBook (as well as a free copy of Zenith, the first book in the Interscission Project series) you can even see if this series is for you without paying a single cent. You will either know that it is not for you or will become addicted to the series. Or you can buy the Amazon eBook and audible audiobook together for less than just the audiobook would have costed. It’s 15 hours (or more than 500 pages) of an amazingly captivating and well-written story with a wonderful narration. Your time will be well-invested! ❤
My Rating: 9/10 Pots of Gold (90% Recommended) – Compares to 4.5/5 Stars
Marc’s review of ‘Cathedral of the Sky’ by Arshad Ashanuddin
‘Cathedral of the Sky’ is a companion story to ‘Sunset’ and both stories are set around the same time. You can even start with this novella, before reading ‘Sunset’ and it will work well. The important thing is that you do not skip this story, just because it is not one of the main entires in the saga. It takes the most dramatic and emotional event of ‘Suunset’ and expands on it a lot, giving it new meaning without loosing any of the emotional punch.
For a short time I did wonder if it was necessary to get this audiobook. I was pretty sure that it was not required to understand the next books in the saga (which is true). I felt like three and a half hours of narration were pretty short for an entire credit. In the end, though, I got way more story than usual for one credit when I bought ‘Sunset’, so using another one to get this novella balanced things out a bit and it is no hardship to support the author and narrator for their amazing work.
It is difficult to review this book on its own, because I do not want to give anything away. There is only one main character in this book and readers already meet him in ‘Sunset’. He plays a very important role in that book, even though I would not consider him to be one of the main characters of ‘Sunset’, so it was nice that the author gave him his own novella. He deserves it and it was really interesting to get Michael’S perspective on the event that take place in the end of ‘Sunset’ and to get to know him in a different light.
I knew there would be a sci-fi aspect to this story as Michael is a member of the Space Guild when we meet him in book one, but I did not expect the very unusual love story that can be found in this book. Cathedral of the Sky is a shorter and more direct story; It focusing on one person’s journey. STill, it never feels like a mere bonus story. It can stand on it’s own and is truely beautifully crafted. I loved it in a very different way than ‘Sunset’, but both stories work very well in their own right and compliment each other. In the end, Cathedral of the Sky left me in a melancholic mood. It made me sad, but I had a smile on my face and I knew I had read something truely beautiful.
My Rating: 9/10 Pots of Gold (90% Recommended) – Compares to 4.5/5 Stars
Arshad Ahsanuddin is a practicing hematopathologist, a physician specializing in the diagnosis of diseases of blood, bone marrow, and lymph nodes using laboratory data and microscopic evaluation of tissue biopsies. He is also the author of the Pact Arcanum Saga, a science fiction gay vampire romance series. Yes, he’s a blood doctor who wrote a series of vampire novels. The irony isn’t lost on him. If you enjoyed this story, or if you have questions about The Interscission Project, check out his website at http://pactarcanum.com and leave him some feedback.