4.? out of 5I have to admit, I went into this first book in the new Night Prince series from Jeaniene Frost reluctantly. I had problems with Vlad in Eternal Kiss of Darkness and This Side of the Grave. For the first time in these books, his arrogance didn’t seem genuine to me. Something was off, so I didn't know how I would like a story centering around him. Then came the cover for Once Burned. My reaction to that cover was instantaneous and surprising. Hated it. Where was the thirty-something who had lived a hard life defending his land and people before he was turned? Where was his beard, his scars, his arrogance? The cover artist’s representation of Vlad looked more like a twenty-something shirtless cover model. The contradiction between the cover and the character as described by Jeaniene Frost really turned me off. I think this quote from Leila in Once Burned sums it up wonderfully...If he’d looked like one of those effeminate magazine models, I wouldn’t have felt such a powerful swell of lust,but there was nothing boyish or plastic about Vlad. That’s the cover I wish we had gotten. No offense to the cover model, but you’re just a little too perfect to be my Vlad.When I finally received the paperback, I did like the representation of the Order of the Dragon crest used as chapter starts. Nice touch.Now to the book. I liked it. I became completely caught in the story and couldn’t put it down. Vlad and Leila jumped off the page for me. At first I was disappointed that we didn’t get Vlad’s point of view directly, but now that I finished, I think that was a bit of brilliance from Jeaniene Frost. We do get snippets of him through Leila, and the slow unveiling of his thoughts through Leila’s point of view was very effective. I’m looking forward to seeing how far Ms. Frost will go with revealing Vlad’s head and heart as this series progresses.The historical details were well done and the action was quick and crisp. I especially liked that the book wasn’t watered down in terms of Vlad’s reputation for impalement. We get details and insight into Vlad’s human life that we really haven’t gotten with any other male character in the Night Huntress world.Leila was a believable heroine for me. She’s had many challenges, some that have set her apart from everyone else. She does share the trait of impulsively jumping into danger to save those she cares about, like most of the Night Huntress females, but I have to say I didn’t miss any of the Night Huntress gang in this book because both Vlad and Leila easily carried the story. The one very small scene with Mencheres, Kira, Cat and Bones seemed unnecessary to me, aside from the humorous “how to block mind-reading” advice from Bones. I will say that the Vlad-Bones feud, for lack of a better word, is getting a little tiresome, since we don’t really know what that is all about.I went into this story slightly ticked off at Vlad. His treatment of Kira in EKOD just seemed mean to me, and I’ve felt that his brutal honesty applies only to others and not to himself. But after Once Burned, I am even more convinced that Vlad is a vampire that is hiding from himself to some extent. I’m more of the mind that the only way for Leila to get him to say the “L” word is for him to turn that brutal honesty on himself, and I’m hoping Leila is going to get him to do just that. I’m definitely looking forward to the next installment in this series.