Be Still and Know that I am With You

Biting Cold by Chloe Neill: A Very Spoilery Review

With major spoilers about Hard Bitten, Drink Deep, AND Biting Cold

Review by Zee the Terrible and Barbara Bones

We've been waiting a long time for this one. It seems like forever! This was either going to be IT, or a disappointment. Why you ask? Because Ethan is back, baby! And this time, well, this time he means business. Merit and Ethan's journey has been progressing at some rate or another from the very first book. Even though sometimes it seemed like they were taking one step forward and two steps back, I had faith. I wholeheartedly agreed with Ethan when he told Merit that she was...:
“Procrastinating,” he said. “Avoiding the inevitability of you and me.”

So I waited.  Patiently.  I knew the heartache would be worth it.  But then came the STAKING. And seriously... the world (CLV world) came crashing down around me. I made it through, with a lot of therapy. I didn't want to continue but I did. And then came Drink Deep. I won't lie, persevering through that book and all of Merit's heartbreak and anguish, not to mention those dreams, was agonizing. But I carried on. And then, miracle of miracles, Ethan walks out of a magical fog and I swear...I cheered. From that moment, IT WAS ON. That was the beginning of THE journey. FINALLY. We got our seat belts on for Biting Cold. THIS was the one we were waiting for, on edge for, practically begging for. This was the one we were holding our breaths for and pinning our hopes on. Was it worth it? Let’s see.

Awesome, but not perfect

While the book did have a lot of great moments, which tied up loose ends and resolved some important issues, there were things, that were less than perfect.  The second night of the book seemed to last forever.  It really was way too many events for one night, and because of that, some of the events of that night felt a bit rushed, like the journey from Omaha back to Chicago.  Which was just the beginning of that night!  A few other events seemed rushed as well, including meeting Claudia again and Merit’s ordeal with Dominic.  These were dramatic events that could have had a bit…more to them.
My most irritating irritation with the book was a silly consistency problem.  While on the plane from Omaha to Chicago, Ethan had Merit served a steak dinner and a thermos of blood.  Then, upon arrival in Chicago, Merit got Paige settled in her room, took a long and well-earned shower, then went to her kitchen for a snack and some more blood, because, “even steak only went so far.”  It’s silly, I know. I shouldn’t even notice, but these little things are the kind of oops that pull me out of a story.  And, frankly, Chloe Neill is better than that.  I’ve never been pulled out of a CLV story before, so I was a smidge disappointed.  I expect that from some other authors, but not Ms. Neill.
My major issue with the book, however, was Merit's behavior when it came to Mallory and Catcher.  Whereas I never thought Merit would withhold forgiveness and not help Mal with salvation, I did not think it would happen this fast.  Or this easily.  Mallory has tried to kill Merit and others, destroy the city she loves, bring back the man she loves as a familiar, a slave, and yet...Merit is more than kind to her.  I felt like there should have been time for anger, phases to forgiveness, to accepting that Mallory was truly repentant.  Yet we go from her being the psychotic baddie in the beginning, to her standing in line with the good guys and helping save the world in the end.  I didn't love it.  I thought she didn't deserve to be in the ranks on the winning side.  She hadn't earned it yet in my opinion.
And Catcher... Catcher has been a complete ass to Merit most of the time, from the very beginning, especially when it came to him and Mallory and giving her crap about Ethan.  The hypocrisy of it all.  I felt Merit's sympathy for Catcher was a bit much.  I can't help but feel he is at least partially to blame for being such an ignorant fool, that he didn't even know what the hell was going on in the house he lived in with the girl he supposedly loves. Ugh.

Merit, I get it.  You love Mallory.  She was/is your best friend.  I so get that need to find redemption for a loved one who has wronged you.  Not all of us have that strength though, and sometimes, anger just conquers whatever positivity we might have to share.  I truly believe Merit is an expression of the best of us, the person we don't always have the strength to be because sometimes anger and resentment are just so much easier.  It takes real strength to forgive and move on.  I cannot boast that ability.  Merit can.

Random Delights

While these few things were minor irritations in the book, overall, this IS the book CLV, Merit, and Ethan fans have been waiting for.  It was full of win, and overflowing with moments of FINALLY.  Moments we have been waiting for, for six books.

Gabriel, I do love that man. He made a serious impact on me the second he was introduced.  Each scene of his has always had me mesmerized.  His speeches to the pack and other meaningful things he says give me chills.  I swear.  He is one of the most compelling side characters I have ever read.  Therefore it comes as no surprise that one of my favorite things in this book was how he decided to deal with Mallory.  Granted, you can't compare all the havoc Mallory wreaked to a child's tantrum, but that girl needed to be knocked down a peg or two.  And Gabe was JUST the shifter to do it.  He treated her as the selfish, petulant, idiotic teen she was acting like.  Working in a kitchen washing dishes with a fifteen minute break every hour?  Seriously... BRILLIANT.  Miss, “I’m a fucking sorceress, hear me roar and ruin everything”, how do you like them apples?
And while we are on the subject of awesome shifters we love, Jeff Christopher.  He is such a surprising, loyal, funny, smart friend to Merit.  He has been there for our girl since the day they met, and we love him for it.  Personally, when Merit’s tale is told, I want to have a story focus on Mr. Christopher.  This exchange from Biting Cold is one of a million reasons why Jeff’s story needs to be told:
Merit: “That’s tough. Anything I can do?”
Jeff: “Just stay in play as my backup.”
I nearly swerved the car off the road. “I’m sorry—your backup?”
Jeff: “You know, in case it doesn’t work out with Fallon.” Merit: “And what about Ethan?”
Jeff chuckled, “I just figured he was your backup for me.”

I adore Chloe Neill’s sense of humor. Merit and Lindsey, and early Mallory, sound just like me: snarky, sarcastic, funny. I’ve loved that about these books from the beginning. And while the humor was a bit more subdued in Biting Cold, there was still witty banter. But my favorite bits of humor weren’t dialogue at all.

First of all, the gnomes. As soon as Todd said, “Gnome, yes. Clearly. Obviously.” I was in love. I have a weird love of gnomes, and this just tickled me. I could hear the collective groan coming from the readership, but I thought this addition was clever and unique, and the gnomes were a feisty addition to our existing supe roll. In all of my U/F reading, Todd was my first gnome. I loved it, and him, and am so glad Chloe Neill went there.

And speaking of wonderful silliness: the Order’s archivist is named “Paige”.  That is all.

So many FINALLYs

But most of all, this IS the book we’ve been waiting for, and time and again I, we, shouted FINALLY, at the actions and words of our hero, our heroine, and the characters we’ve grown to love.  Biting Cold was all about the culmination of the Merit and Ethan’s growth over the past five books, with both of them coming to terms with who they are separately, and who they are together.
Although Merit is now the powerful vampire Ethan always suspected she would be, he is a bit taken aback by just how good she is; a good vampire, a good friend, a good leader, a good Sentinel.  Her grief forced her to grow into her roles in the two months Ethan was gone, and upon his return he is probably expecting the hesitant, frightened baby vampire she was.  But that woman is gone, and the new Merit is a force to be reckoned with.
Ethan, however, is still the stubborn, demanding, oh-so-alpha Master of Cadogan House (even if unofficially) that he was before he died. Only now, he is finally the man, the partner that Merit wants, and deserves. His third chance at life allowed him to see that he can’t push away everything else for the sake of his House, and that he can balance his love for Merit with his responsibilities to Cadogan. In fact, he spends a good bit of the book placing Merit and her safety above his own wants, but she quickly helps him see that she is his equal, his partner, and that they can tackle anything, as long as they do it together.
  • I knew Ethan was determined to FINALLY stake his claim, in all seriousness, the second I read:
    "Do you have a room preference?" I asked Ethan.
    "Whichever you prefer," he said," since I'll be staying with you."

    It was a statement. Not a question. Oh lord... THANK YOU. THIS was what I wanted. No more questions, no misunderstandings, no other "priorities". Just the inevitability of Ethan and Merit. At-fucking-last.
  • I thought it was absolutely adorable, and showed how determined he was to woo Merit, that Ethan cheekily reminded her, repeatedly, how he died saving her life. All's fair in love and war I say, and I totally agree with Ethan’s:
    “One uses the tools at one’s disposal, Sentinel.”
  • Between that, and indulging Merit's love for food, even I fell in love with Ethan all over again. My heart melted a little each time he said sweet things and took care of Merit's needs. As always, Ethan made me sigh and swoon more than once.
  • I think we all thought that they had had sex at the end of Drink Deep. I know I did. So finding out that they hadn’t was a bit disappointing. But then it was going to happen as soon as they went to bed at Paige’s house, right? RIGHT? Nope! So it seemed like a reeeeeally looooong time before they finally did. But when they did…Uh Muh Guh….it was so worth the wait. It was perfect and wonderful, so unbelievably HOT and FINALLY!
  • I’ve learned that words aren’t everything, and actions are so much more important. Everything that Merit and Ethan have done to and for one another proves to me, unequivocally, that they love each other. They belong to each other and have since he rescued her on that campus. So I was not dying for them to say the words. But when they came, I was thrilled. In that moment, when everything hung in the balance and no one knew how it would end, it was important to Ethan that he tell Merit how he felt about her. In the simplest, most perfect words, he expressed her importance to him. And she reciprocated, without hesitation. FINALLY!
  • I’ve been annoyed many times by Mallory insulting Ethan, telling Merit that he wasn’t right for her, questioning Merit’s judgment, and claiming that Merit dropped her for Ethan (while letting Merit move out of their home so that her new boyfriend could move in). And through all of that, Merit allowed Mallory to say whatever, never standing up for herself or Ethan, simply accepting her criticism and wondering if Mal was right. Finally, FINALLY, Merit put Ethan first with this thought:
    “I’d given Mallory chances she hadn’t earned; Ethan had earned chances to spare.”
  • The decision about whether Cadogan House would remain a part of the Greenwich Presidium had been brewing ever since they allowed a psychopath to go free to continue wreaking havoc in the second book. It intensified when the GP refused to allow Ethan to defend himself against unfounded accusations, and came to a head when their representative actively sought to have a member of the House removed. I had hoped that Cadogan would choose the side of vampires, rather than sticking with the status quo of an outdated bureaucracy. With the House’s vote, they did just that. FINALLY! I am so looking forward to Ethan and Merit fighting together against the GP! That fight is going to be epic (and we will meet Amit Patel before it's all over!)
  • My favorite finally of Biting Cold was contained in a small, burgundy box. Upon their second meeting, Ethan offered Merit the position as his consort. Thoroughly modern Merit was shocked and appalled, while ancient Ethan could not fathom why she took that offer as an insult. Now, after all of their ups and downs Ethan gives Merit the key to his suite. HIS home. Not the consort suite next door. Not remaining as they are, with her keeping her room downstairs. With that one, tiny gesture, he offered Merit what she wanted from Ethan from their first meeting: equality, partnership, love. FINALLY!

Bottom Line

After all was said and done, I loved the way everything just fell into place beautifully in the end.  Especially when it came to Ethan and Merit. I think we all, as CVL fans, had been waiting for certain moments from day one. And it has been a long, hard, albeit worthwhile journey.  Rarely have I been so moved by the whispered expression of someone's love on page, seldom have I felt so strongly a man's need to use his third miraculous chance at life wisely and to have no qualms about his desires and ambitions, hardly have I ever felt the need to forgive a character, who so utterly and completely destroyed my faith in her, for the sake of another character who I loved and respected (I did try... I just couldn't).  And never before did I realize just HOW badly I wanted these two committed to each other.  Chloe Neill's trick with the burgundy box was the perfect way to symbolize that commitment. 

From all the CVL books, all of which I have LOVED, this one had the ending that had me misty eyed and PROUD of almost all the characters, that had me looking forward to the future WITHOUT any apprehension about the next book.  And that, in itself, is rare.  There are usually so many things one sees going wrong in the next book.  Life is far from perfect when the book ends, but it almost doesn't matter.  There is unity, tough decisions have finally been made, important people are finally back where they belong, and AT LAST, Ethan and Merit are in a relationship.  They are a team in every way.   Whatever there is to come, they will weather through it.  Of that I am confident.   I'm not saying it will be smooth.  Chloe Neill, that magician with words, will put us through the wringer.  But for now, all I can do is be hopeful.  And I love it when a book leaves me feeling like that.  It doesn't happen often.  But thank you Chloe Neill, for this.  For hope.  For Merit and Ethan.  Thank you for a perfect ending to the one we were all waiting for.

"I stood still in the midst of the chaos and kept my eyes on Ethan’s. For a long moment I held his gaze. I thought about how far I’d come and where we might be going next. I thought about Ethan and the life he was intent on giving me, even if that life existed in the midst of a new kind of chaos. A new reality for Cadogan House and its vampires. For now, with his emerald eyes locked on mine, where I was going didn’t seem so scary."

So what did you think of Biting Cold? Sound off below!


  1. Great review Barb and Zee! Your love and enthusiasm for Chicagoland Vampire Series is plain to see. :-)

  2. This review makes me smile, just like the book did. You’ve captured all the reasons I enjoyed this book so much and look forward to the next one. ITA about Catcher and Mallory, too. How awesome is it that we get two new books in this series next year!?!

    1. Yes Kathi!! Can not wait for the next two!! When I saw CN's tweet about the next two releases I squealed out loud!

  3. What can I say?your review says it all!I couldn't say it better.(of course I couldn't).I fell in love with Merit from the first time I met her and never lost my faith in CN even after that horrible disaster.
    Ethan Sullivan,it took me some time to warm to him but I did,I fell under his spell in the third book when he says my favorite quote,don't know if it's ok to quote it here,but it starts with " You undo me Merit,Wholly and completely...",love her writing style.
    Btw,here is what CN said when asked who would she classify as the hottest vampire in fiction ,excluding Ethan,she said probably Zsdizt.

    1. That's my favorite CLV quote!

      As for the horrible disaster, I am just glad I didn't have to wait months to read the next book, like some of y'all. And that I knew ahead to stock up on tissues. I try to avoid spoilers, but sometimes I need a teensy bit of warning.

  4. Great post Barb and Zee! I agree with your thoughts on Mallory. I think Merit should not be so quick to forgive her.

  5. Loved it, ladies!
    I've read so many books after CLV that I actually forgot about the Order. What the hell was the Order? There's a Order in almost every series I've read after CLV. I need to start some encyclopedia or something. Then I remembered Mallory. And HER Order. Oh, that!
    Really. Hated Mallory and all of Merit's attempts to almost kiss her ass. Hated Catcher too and loved your gif about that. You know me so well :D
    I haven't seen that "silly consistency problem". That's why it's so good to have a blog and some saucy wenches to write a review about a book I liked. Well, for that and for keep reminding me why I liked it so much.
    Great post!

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  7. Great post Barb and Zee. You can really tell how much you guys love this series.

  8. I loved, loved, loved your post, I smiled and got goosebumps when reading it *sigh* and you mentioned all the reasons why I love these books so much and BC was awesome! I can't wait for the next two. Chloe Neill is a magician with words.
    Oh, and I loved the new additions... the gnomes!!

  9. Love it ladies! I'm still not the biggest Ethan fan, but this book made it a little better.

    I caught that little inconsistency too. Unfortunately, as a native Chicagoan, that's not the first time that's happened for me. But, Ms. Neill usually does pretty well.


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