Night Life
by Elizabeth Guest
(Berkley, $6.99, PG) ISBN 978-0-425-21482-4
There are only three things wrong with this book – three small, almost insignificant, quibbles. But read the details below; one reader’s small three is another reader’s insurmountable three.

Today, Adrian King is a mysterious, gorgeous, big shot casino/hotel owner in Las Vegas. In 1192 B.C.E., he was King Merneptah Seti, big shot pharaoh and owner of, well, all he surveyed and then some. By the end of the prologue, this pharaoh is dead of less than natural causes; in chapter one, he is surveying the action on the casino floor of his hotel. Seemingly alive but not quite human, (the) King is able to literally smell the emotions of the humans around him. His Royal Palace casino/hotel is steeped in an Egyptian motif, dominated by artifacts real and replicated. Adrian appears to be at the top of his game, but he is aware that he is actually undead, and he fears becoming an Eater of Blood and a Breaker of Bones as described in the ancient Book of the Dead. He is concerned about the others like himself out there, those who are neither dead nor alive, who aren’t real fond of sunlight, and who are a wee bit thirsty for hemoglobin.

Into his Royal Palace (the casino, not the one in Egypt) comes Dr. Christine Day, attending an academic conference on all things Egypt. Christine’s grandfather and his grandfather were both Egyptologists like her, archeologist/adventurers who spent their lives searching for the tomb of… Merneptah Seti. In addition to her unsurpassed academic knowledge of this period, Christine has always had an uncanny way of just “knowing” things about Egypt, and about Seti III. She wears a scented oil made from the special formula created by the pharaoh for “his secret,” a woman who appeared to him only in his dreams, dreams he did not share with his priests for interpretation.

Christine has dreams as well – incredibly detailed, erotic, fantastic and fascinating dreams – but she has them while she is awake. She falls into one of these waking dreams at the Royal Palace, and when she comes out of it, she is face to face with her dream man. Although neither initially admits it to the other, they both recognize the other as the other subject of their dreams.

Even though Adrian knows that he cannot let Dr. Day discover his real identity, he is unable to stop himself from developing a relationship with her. And Christine knows that Adrian is far outside anything she can really handle, but she is similarly powerless to stop herself from falling headlong into his arms and heart. But the other “undead” about whom Adrian was concerned? Good reason for that concern. The evilest of the evil is coming for him, and Adrian must protect himself, Christine, and maybe even the entire civilized world.

Wow. This is a “big idea” story. Yes, there are standard vampire issues here, but the scenario is far grander in scope and magnitude. Thus the predictability is minimized and the opportunity for fresh perspective is limitless; this magnifies the compelling, sucked-you-into-it quality of this book. Page turning, cannot put it down compelling.

It is also gruuuuuu-eeeee-some. Seriously, unbelievably gruesome. The “how to embalm a pharaoh” lesson alone – which comes in the first few pages of the prologue – will turn even a relatively strong stomach. And when the “evil” appears on the scene, it is a dark, brutal, cruel, evil that is seriously fear provoking. Shiver. This is not for the faint of heart, and it may be more than a small quibble for many readers.

Also to recommend it: great principal characters. Adrian King is fabulous. If you are going to be an alpha, what better to be than a god-on-earth? (Referring here to the pharaoh, not the casino owner, although this whole scenario explains so much about Las Vegas, doesn’t it?) He is a true warrior king: strong, smart, noble, and, well, a wee bit entitled (which turns out to be way more attractive than it sounds). He is well matched by Christine Day, who is more than a standard issue geek scientist. Her “specialness” has certainly benefited her professionally, but it always set her apart from others, from the ordinary. She has all this secret knowledge that she never understood, but always guarded. And Adrian and Christine together? Hot, hot, hot.

Here are my three quibbles: First, the climax is somewhat anticlimactic. Building, building, building… then poof. Surprisingly, this doesn’t really matter; it is almost a relief, as the buildup is beyond intense. Second, for an inexplicable reason, honorifics are not abbreviated, so it is “Doctor” this and “Mister” that. It is beyond annoying; it is deeply distracting, especially as it is so inexplicable and unnecessary. Finally, there is the amount of space in my head taken up by endless loop of “Oh I, I love the nightlife/I got to boogie/On the disco 'round, oh yea…” A small price to pay for a thrilling read.

--Laura Scott

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