Picoreview: well, that was fun, and yeah, I'm ready for the next one now.
A big chunk of my brain is now rather more loudly lamenting, "But, but, but,...morePicoreview: well, that was fun, and yeah, I'm ready for the next one now.
A big chunk of my brain is now rather more loudly lamenting, "But, but, but, Luna already HAS an urban fantasy set in Seattle, and it's a good one, so how can they possibly also want my urban fantasy set in Seattle?" Grf! I have more than a bit of sympathy for Plucky And Tall Heroine Joanne, lamenting about the marvelousness of Cute Little Blonde Marie. ;)
Definitely liked Joanne. Very butch and very sympathetic, and I liked the whole cars thing she has going on. It lent a very earthy feel to how she approaches her rising powers. I was also genuinely surprised by the Deep Dark Secret that eventually comes out about her, which was an added layer of depth I hadn't expecting.
I was charmed seven ways from Sunday by Gary. I mean, geez, how can you not giggle at a sidekick who's an old ex-linebacker-turned-cabby, and who is firmly lodged into your brain as Ernest Borgnine?
And the rest of the characters are equally colorful and likeable: Billy Holiday, cross-dressing detective; Henrietta Potter, who lent more amusing Character Actor/Actress mileage to the cast by bearing (IC, even) a striking resemblance to Katherine Hepburn; Jen; Morrison. Yeah, I liked Morrison. I liked the description of him as "good-looking, in a superhero-going-to-seed kind of way"--very evocative, Kit! And I loved all the arguments he had with Joanne, interspersed with Gary's periodic sideline commentary of "He likes you." Snicker.
A bunch of familiar tropes in the story, but hell, that's hardly a bad thing when the story's fun--and I used a great number of these tropes in my own story, which is why I'm now lamenting my chances of Luna wanting mine. ;)
And that isn't stopping me from having enjoyed this read immensely. Congratulations, tribesmate! It was fabulous seeing your prose again--and this time, in print!(less)
**spoiler alert** C.E. Murphy's Thunderbird Falls is the second full-length novel in her Walker Papers series--though it's actually the third installm...more**spoiler alert** C.E. Murphy's Thunderbird Falls is the second full-length novel in her Walker Papers series--though it's actually the third installment, since "Banshee Cries" in the anthology Winter Moon is sort of book 1.5.
Picoreview: a mostly solid followup to both Urban Shaman and "Banshee Cries". Seattle-area residents, especially anyone who's lived in or around the U-district, will find some good local color detail here, though there are also a few liberties taken with local geography, so come in with the awareness that this is a Fantasy Novel Version of Seattle. No real surprises in the plot--this time around you do pretty much know what's coming long, long before it actually arrives, and Jo's stepping up to the plate to finally accept her shamanic powers provides almost more interest than the actual conflict at hand.
Okay, first, let's get this out of the way--Kit, babe, are you trying to make us all wish Gary was forty years younger, or what? Cause that dangling of much-younger-garden-version of Gary in front of us all made him way, way more charismatic and interesting than Morrison, and made me almost wish you've got something up your sleeve to rejuvenate the sly old dog somehow. Or, ahem, sorry, 'tortoise'. ;)
Which, I think, leads me into being able to make the remark that the supporting characters of this cast continue to be almost more colorful and entertaining than the leads. Gary by far is the most vibrant of the supporting cast, though Billy and his wife and children are bright spots in the plot as well. They are necessary foils to Jo and her piles of angst.
Though I must also say that I did like that Jo herself was getting tired of her "waaaaaah but Ben I don't WAAAAANNA go to Alderaaaaan!"--ahem, er, "waaaaaah but Coyote I don't WAAAAANNA be a shamaaaaaaaan!" angst. ;) And yeah, given that she had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the whole notion of possessing such power in the first place, I'm good with the whole idea that it took a city-sized cluehammer to really drive the point home that she needs to Get Over It. I'll be looking forward to seeing how she progresses now that she's shaking this out of her system.
And all of that really was actually more interesting to me through most of the book than the central conflict--pretty much from the first moment we hear about Virissong, I was thinking, "Okay, when is this going to go horribly, horribly wrong?" Especially the part about the coven spouting their line about how they want to bring Virissong into the world to correct everything that's wrong with it, which Jo rightly questions. There's just enough uncertainty here about the coven's intentions as well as Virissong's to keep things interesting--we, the readers, all know things are going to go splody, so the interest becomes more exactly when Jo will find out. And I genuinely didn't see the attempt to use pregnant Mel as a sacrifice coming, nor Colin's becoming Virissong's host. So good job there! I also didn't see coming that Jo's new teacher was a fraud for quite a while there, so good job there as well!
(One side note re: Virissong--heh. I have to admit the name was a touch too Elfquestian for me, but this is a direct result of spending thirteen years on an Elfquest game where you couldn't swing a stick without hitting a character whose name ended in -song. Especially since I also knew a character named Viresse on that game for the longest time as well! But I digress.)
I loved the bits with the thunderbird, both in its initial appearance on one of Jo's spirit quests and later on in the final conflict with the serpent. Lots of gripping description there.
Local-color-wise, I found myself quite pleased with the description of Seattle's weather patterns--both how they're normally supposed to be and how the exercise of Jo's power has screwed them up. I also really liked seeing the Ave appear in the story, since I lived in the U-district for the longest time and the Ave was a frequent hangout spot for me and mine. The only local-color detail I'm less comfy with is the creation of what gets dubbed Thunderbird Falls--oh sure, having Jo cause a 6.2 earthquake right there by Lake Washington? Pretty cool. But I'm having a hard time trying to figure out exactly how the geography of this could work, given that the lake is pretty low-lying in comparison with surrounding terrain. I need to re-read that scene, doublecheck where Jo is when it happens, and see if it still feels weird to me. But this is what I mean when I say that one has to keep in mind that this is a Fantasy Novel Version of Seattle, and since this new waterfall is a pretty nifty way to have magic leave a lasting impact on the city that people can't help but notice, I'm cool with that.
But I think my favorite bits in the whole book were all the scenes with Jo and Morrison, and I say this with clear cognizance that I did say above that Gary Forty Years Younger would be way more charismatic and entertaining than Jo's captain. Which isn't fair to poor Morrison, because he's a much quieter kind of guy than Gary, and I do like him a lot! I really, really like how Jo and Morrison begin to dance around the changes in their relationship that they both know are going on but which neither wants to acknowledge. I especially liked Jo's waffling about what to call him--since "Captain" and "sir" start feeling wrong, and she cannot bring herself to call him Michael. AND! The scene where she confesses her entire real name to him is equally excellent. And there are lots more small but nifty details: Jo realizing that why yes, Morrison is handsome. Morrison taking her to the funeral. Morrison looking at her like she's grown a second head when she doesn't yell at him. Morrison charging up to her after the earthquake in frantic worry to make sure she's all right, and then commencing to yell at her full throttle.
*sighs happily* For those bits alone, this book was well worth the price of admission as a light, somewhat fluffy urban fantasy entree. Not quite as heavy on the death and destruction as Urban Shaman, but I was okay with that; it was oddly fitting with the summery cover and the time of the year, and how the overall real progression was Jo accepting her powers.
Plus, there's the mystery of What Happened to Coyote--for which I'll be looking forward to the third novel. Good job, Kit! Keep 'em coming!(less)
I have of course expressed my fondness for this series in past posts and am happy to say that this one was a nice addition to the ongoing storyline. T...moreI have of course expressed my fondness for this series in past posts and am happy to say that this one was a nice addition to the ongoing storyline. This story's all about our plucky car-loving heroine Joanne Walker finally getting her metaphysical feet under her in more ways than one, complete with some sardonic self-awareness about how she's even tired of her own whining about having to suck it up and deal with the supernatural. After the first two "ZOMG what am I doing?!" sorts of stories, it's good to see her growing in that direction.
And we're thrown a few interesting wrinkles in the romance department for Jo as well. A new guy shows up right out of the gate, along with the now-recurring half-serious, half-tease about whether Jo is actually involved with her septugenarian friend Gary--and Jo's growing torch for her boss, Captain Morrison. There's definitely some satisfying mileage in that last direction, too.
The thing Jo's up against this time around is a refreshingly unusual thing for fantasy novels, and so is how Jo handles said challenge--i.e., she does it in such a way that she really does prove she's getting her shit together. All in all a quite entertaining read--I zipped through it across the course of today, reading on the bus from home to work, work to chiro, and chiro to home again. Four stars.(less)
Y'all already know I'm digging C.E. Murphy's Walker Papers. Heart of Stone is the first of an entirely unrelated urban fantasy series, and while I'm a...moreY'all already know I'm digging C.E. Murphy's Walker Papers. Heart of Stone is the first of an entirely unrelated urban fantasy series, and while I'm a fan of Joanne, I have to admit that this book's a refreshing change of pace from the Walker ones.
First and foremost, the heroine is refreshingly able to immediately deal with learning about the supernatural aspects of her world. Margrit's not without an appropriate level of WTF--but she very quickly gets past it and moves right into dealing with it. Also, points for a heroine of color, still a rarity in fantasy novels--hell, in any novels, really.
Second, I like the connection of four of the five Old Races to the elements, and the little bomb dropped about where vampires come from. Not that this gets explained, but that's entirely as it should be. And I like that it's a genuinely hard call between Janx and Daisani as to which of them is the bigger conniving badass; they're both fun in different ways.
And third, the romantic tension between Margrit and her off-again, on-again lover Tony and the gargoyle Alban is nicely murky and complex. Anybody who's read Tanya Huff's Blood books will find the dynamic here familiar: human woman with an established mortal lover (who's even a dark-complected cop with an Italian last name, which made me grin) and a newly introduced potential supernatural lover. I'm looking forward to seeing how things between Margrit and Tony vs. Margrit and Alban develop.
The book's not without problems; the heroine's nickname of Grit didn't quite ring right for me, and there were a few copyediting glitches that made a stretch about halfway through a bit bumpy. Also, the passing not-quite-right Doctor Who reference will probably make Whovians go *tsk*--but then again, I suspect that's also unavoidable. But all in all, a fun read, with the same brisk pacing I've come to enjoy from this particular author. ^_^ Three and a half stars.(less)
House of Cards, Book 2 of C.E. Murphy's Negotiator series, took me a bit to read. It has less overt action than Book 1 of this series, and a lot more...moreHouse of Cards, Book 2 of C.E. Murphy's Negotiator series, took me a bit to read. It has less overt action than Book 1 of this series, and a lot more emphasis on the politics between the various Old Races as well as the shifting relationships around the heroine, Margrit. It's not an easy book to read when you're not at the top of your game, since there's a lot to keep track of in here--and with me having the Martian Death Flu going on, I spent quite a bit of time going "wait, what?" and having to double-check what I'd just read.
That's not a bad thing, though. The plot does take a while to build, and spends a lot of initial time on Margrit testing the new status she holds among the Old Races--as well as what her exposure to them will mean for her human relationships. There are casualties both literal and figurative; there are accords reached and accords broken. And there are interesting actions all around from the major power players among the Races, all of whom do a decent job of being intriguingly murky without being evil, a tough job to pull off in an urban fantasy with a cast of this size. Well done, Kit! Four stars.(less)
Reading urban fantasies these days is a little odd to me because I have one of my own I want to sell. And with powerhouses like C.E. Murphy, Jim Butch...moreReading urban fantasies these days is a little odd to me because I have one of my own I want to sell. And with powerhouses like C.E. Murphy, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, and Kim Harrison to contend with, it's rather daunting--because I keep having these flashes of "erk, I need to do mine better"! And yet. I read these books because I love this kind of genre so, and I'm hoping to learn something from how the pros are doing it these days. With examples like Ill Wind from which to learn, I'm full of hope that I can eventually beat my own story into shape. ;)
Reactions, in no particular order:
I am deeply amused that both this book and Urban Shaman have heroines named Joanne who groove on cars.
The book throws you headlong into the setting with that sort of breathless "okay, we're running out of the gate now, KEEP UP" feeling to it. We not only are thrown right into the middle of the conflict embroiling our heroine Joanne, we are lobbed all the data we need about the setting and who the Wardens are and what's going on at a fast pace, with a minimum of exposition. Very, very good.
I was vaguely disappointed that Lewis turned out to have less on-camera time than I wanted. Since he's the main other character mentioned in the back cover blurb and the initial chapters set him up as the only person who can save Joanne's bacon, I was expecting him to have more participation in the plot than he did--especially after the neat backstory scenes between Lewis and Jo that gave us glimpses of their past history. Especially that scene in the lab. WHUFF. And yet, he wound up being an almost peripheral character. After the buildup he got I felt vaguely let down--yet at the same time I kind of liked it as well, because I didn't expect the story to go in that direction, and I enjoyed being surprised.
DAVID. Again I say, WHUFF. I totally didn't see what he really was coming, nor who he had once served. I should have, too! It made total sense, and I had a big ol' feeling of "well DUH" once that came out in the plot. It also helped make David's attachment to Jo make a lot more sense. Also? WOW, he was hot. :D
I wonder if any other Lost fans besides me were mentally casting Star as the chick who plays Ana Lucia on the show. Heh. I also didn't see her part in the story coming--and again, I should have. So kudos to Rachel there as well for making that surprising and different.
OH MY the ending. I didn't see that coming at ALL. Quite the slam-bang conclusion to the first book in a series--KILLING OFF THE HEROINE and then transforming her into something totally non-human. Wow. Well done.
Definitely, DEFINITELY looking forward to picking up Heat Stroke now.(less)
**spoiler alert** Rachel Caine is an evil, evil temptress, and she does not let up for one single minute in the third book of her Weather Wardens seri...more**spoiler alert** Rachel Caine is an evil, evil temptress, and she does not let up for one single minute in the third book of her Weather Wardens series--and proves she had surprises and then some waiting for me as I tore my way through this installment. Browsing her site today, I spotted someone's comment that her books are just like M&M's--you rip right through them, and while they're a fluffy, snack-y sort of read, they are oh so tasty.
I have a huge morass of conflicting reactions to the tail end of this story. The fangirl reaction: "Nooooooooo! Rachel! You EVIL, EVIL TEMPTRESS! How could you give us David making sweet love to Joanne, murmuring words of fire into her ear, getting her pregnant, and then getting ripped to shreds by Rahel-turned-Ifrit? AIE! HE MUST BE ALL RIGHT!" The reader reaction: "Good gods, I need to get the next book NOW. NOW. NOW." The aspiring writer reaction: "Ahem. Muse? Hey, muse? You're taking notes on this, right? On How to Make One's Hero As Swoonable as Possible, and Then Even More Swoonable? Not to mention How to Set a Breakneck Pace and Keep Your Readers Coming Back For More?"
Because holy crap, that was a hell of a read. I don't even know where to begin, aside from sniffling over the aforementioned ripping apart of the aforementioned David (sniffle!). Okay, I will admit I'm just a trifle confused as to what exactly Lewis might have done that let David come back out of the bottle, even briefly, as himself rather than as Ifrit-David--but I'm sure I'll find out as soon as I rip into book four.
And how about that secret-society-founding Lewis, huh? Anybody besides me think "Ra's Al Ghul"? 'Cause all that talk that the Ma'at were giving Jo about restoring the balance of the Earth sure did spookily remind me of the speeches Liam Neeson kept giving Bruce Wayne in Batman Returns. And yet... Lewis seems better than that. We do get reminded that along with being The Most Powerful Warden Ever, Lewis does get a hefty dose of compassion as part and parcel of the Earth Warden section of his powers. On the other hand, I did want to smack him around a bit for giving Jo shit about David. On the third hand, I also wanted to hug the poor man for that last question he gave Jo: "Does he make you happy?"
Why do I smell a sacrifice to David of some of his own power on Lewis' part, hrmm?
I'd like that, and it'd be pretty neat if that's what's going on. There is still clearly Something There between Lewis and Jo, David all aside... and Jo is clearly aware of it. Clever, clever Rachel, keeping that in there just to keep things really interesting. ;)
What else? The beginning sure floored me with a whole bunch of "what the hell?" Very effective--because we as readers had no idea what was going on any more than Jo did, which was exactly the right way to go about doing that as Lewis sneakily arranged to "kill" Jo and then dump her inside Vegas.
And I really, really liked that Jonathan was way more in charge of the situation than Kevin was--that Jonathan, as Most Powerful Djinn Ever, wasn't about to let a pipsqueak teenage boy seriously take advantage of him. I still take a bit of issue with the convenience of how somebody snatching the bottle of a bound Djinn makes them the new master of that Djinn. (But thinking more about it, I wonder whether that was deliberately done by the Wardens if they set the whole thing up in the first place with enslaving the Djinn. I could see it causing the Wardens a fuckload of problems if someone could command a Djinn no matter where the bottle might happen to be. If a Warden goes rogue, that leaves too much power in their hands if their Djinn can't be snatched out from under them. Hrmm.)
And how about that Quinn? I should have known that the new character who got the most lines and who seemed likeable to Jo would in fact be the actual bad guy. Hee. A trifle too convenient that he was also the person who tortured the secrets of the Djinn out of Jo herself six years ago--but a forgiveable convenience, as far as I'm concerned, because see previous commentary on these books being oh so tasty. ;) Not to mention that it also led into some nice little revelations about Marion--apparently Sekrit Love Affairs With One's Djinn are more common among the Wardens than Jo might otherwise think, huh? Whee!
And OHMIGOD, Jo's got a Djinn bun in her oven! Oddly appropriate, given that 2006 in my experience thus far has been Year of the Baby--it's even leaking into the fiction I'm reading. ^_^ I wonder how long the gestation period is if you're carrying the child of a Djinn?
And that last note with Jo telling off Paul and his backup and walking off the job--nice. It will be very, very interesting to see if this situation gets repaired at all in the next book or two!(less)
First and foremost, re: the fate of David the Uber-Hot: AIE!
Okay, yeah, fine, no real surprises there--anybody who is...more**spoiler alert** In a word, WOW.
First and foremost, re: the fate of David the Uber-Hot: AIE!
Okay, yeah, fine, no real surprises there--anybody who is familiar with a long-running urban fantasy series these days is pretty much not going to be surprised if the lead character and his or her love interest don't get to maintain a stable relationship the entire time, especially if one or both parties are supernatural in some way. It's happened in the Dresden Files. It's happened in the Anita Blakes. It's happened in the Sookie Stackhouses. I totally expect it to happen in Patricia Briggs' new series that started up this year. And gods know it was all over both Buffy and Angel on TV.
If you want to keep your readers (or viewers) on edge and anxious for more, romantic tension is one of the biggest and easiest ways to do it, and this is almost inevitably going to mean that your protagonist is going to have more than one love interest. Sometimes sequentially, sometimes in parallel. And chances are extremely high that your protagonist and the most obvious love interest will have some sort of tragic separation, which may or may not lead to an eventual reunion. The whole idea of One True Love? Not so big in long-running urban fantasy.
But all this said? AIE! Not that I didn't totally expect that David would get cured of being an Ifrit, since we had that telegraphed loud and clear due to seeing two prior cases of this happening--with Sarah and Rahel. Nor was I surprised by David having to take out Jonathan--or really, when you get down to it, David becoming Biggest King Badass of the Djinn in his place. This is, after all, an urban fantasy, and our heroine's love interests pretty much are obliged by Tradition to be the Biggest Supernatural Badasses of their individual types--David in the Djinn and Lewis among the Wardens (and hold that thought on Lewis, I'll get to him in a minute ;) ). But what I didn't see coming was the Djinn all suddenly becoming the Agents of the Vengeance of Mother Earth. I totally should have seen it coming, since we had this telegraphed too--with all the commentary in the previous book about how the Ma'at were really big on the idea of balance and how they had arisen in part because the Wardens, in their use of their power to save human lives, were actually really throwing the Earth out of whack. And we also know that the Earth in these books is enough of a sentient entity to have pitched a fit when Jonathan had his mortal death--so no big surprise, really, that "the Mother" got pissed when Jonathan had a Djinn death as well.
But GUH, that King Djinn David is now planted firmly on the other side from Joanne of what promises to be one hell of a nasty conflict in Book Five. And he had just enough time for the obligatory tragic parting commentary to Jo, including a scream for her to run, before he went all red-eyed and scary and GUH! At least he's not an Ifrit any more. Sniffle. :)
Meanwhile, we have Lewis still well and thoroughly in the game when it comes to Jo's potential affections. Most interesting indeed that he had those little exchanges with her about the nature of Djinn love--that it is really not love as humans understand it. I really loved the pot-kettle routine she did with him, and that they actually burst into laughter. That was a fabulous scene and a sign that these two really are good together. Jo does get a lot of super-hot sweet lovin' out of David, but how often do we see them just genuinely laughing together? It's a very human thing, and that alone makes me very, very expectant that Lewis is bound to step in to fill the void left by David the Uber-Hot. Well, that and the fact that he smooched her. Very, very passionately. ;)
What else? Man oh man. I liked the side plot with the sister, though her Mysterious British Boyfriend of course had to be a villain of some kind. I spent most of the scenes he was in just waiting for the shoe to drop there. And I really liked that the cop from Vegas, Quinn's former partner, turned out to believe Jo and ultimately was not an asshole.
And I really liked the side plot with Jo's craptacular job at the TV station--and that we got a neat new side character out of it, Cherise. Very, very cool how Jo got her revenge on Marty.
And I really liked the "Interlude" parts--which were cleverly written, because at first I thought they were from Jo's POV and that she was talking about the storm building up off the Florida coast. Once I realized they were from Jonathan's POV and that the storm was in fact a new incarnation of the ancient storm that had led him to make the deal with the Wardens that enslaved the Djinn, that got cooler. Plus, it was a very nifty way to actually get David's taking out of Jonathan on camera; otherwise we as readers would not have seen it, since Jo wasn't there to witness it. And yeah, it was a suitably tragic and epic kind of thing at the end there. Sniffle.
Last but not least, whoa hey, Jo's Djinn daughter is now alive and kicking! Imara! Well, this ought to be entertaining. ;) And a very interesting question as to why she hasn't gotten drafted into the Mother Earth Djinn Army of Vengeance.
All in all, a non-stop barrage of coolness, and I'm really looking forward to Firestorm now. I do find myself wondering how exactly Ms. Caine will be able to top what's going on in that book in future installments--because really, where do you go from having to save humanity from the very planet it lives on, hrmm?
**spoiler alert** With this, the fifth book in the Weather Warden series, Rachel Caine continues her fine tradition of plots that never let up on the...more**spoiler alert** With this, the fifth book in the Weather Warden series, Rachel Caine continues her fine tradition of plots that never let up on the pace for an instant. I've got to hand it to her, she's got that pacing thing down to an art.
Picoreview: A whole lot of "not what I was expecting" throughout this plot, based on where Windfall left off. Some of it was the "wow, that was pretty cool" kind of unexpected; some of it, more the "who put what in the where now?" variety. Still a riproaring read, but one which didn't play out for me quite as well as earlier installments of the series. This may change as Book Six comes out and I get more of an idea of where we're going with all this, but I don't know yet.
Whoo boy. When last we left off, we'd had Jo running for her life from a cadre of Djinn who'd all gone red-eyed and psycho with the impact of Mother Earth Herself waking up and being pissed. And given that the cadre was led by none other than the Uberhot David Himself, this was shaping up for eight or nine thousand kinds of Oh Shit.
So I was totally expecting a book that was going to be all about the Wardens going at it with the Djinn. This was not what we got, and part of me was disappointed by that. I mean, the fangirl in me was all about the YAY! when David showed up for his first scene and was coherent, and was coherent in all of his subsequent scenes as well, sure. But it also felt like a little bit of a copout. Just about all of the on-camera Djinn action involved the Djinn going after Demonmarked Wardens specifically, not all Wardens in general. And while the whole "hunting down the demonmarked Wardens" thing was great and all, it also really kind of took the sting out of the whole idea of the Djinn as vengeful servants of the Mother about to eradicate humanity from the face of the planet.
Most of the book as well, at least from Jo's perspective, was running around putting out fires. In some cases, literally. And that fire sequence went on way, way too long given that Jo didn't actually accomplish anything, and that the only real reason it needed to be there in the plot was for her to find out that David and the other Djinn had killed Demonmarked Wardens. This kind of thing made the overall plot feel a quite a bit less cohesive to me, and it didn't really feel like it started getting its legs under it until we saw that a Demon Mark had come after the first Oracle--and that Ashan was in alliance with Demons. And by then, we were pretty far into the book.
Also? I kinda liked that Eamon wanted a Djinn to heal this person in the hospital--and I do have some curiosity as to what exactly the story is there--but through most of his on-camera time, my reaction was "yeah yeah yeah, he's a slimebucket, can we get back to Jo saving the Earth now?" It just felt like that was a subplot that was out of sync with the main goings-on, in terms of threat level. Something that would have been a more credible subplot earlier in the series, and which loses a lot of steam when paired up with a "the world is literally about to end" main plot.
But. I really disliked that he lets Sarah go and then she winds up right the heck back in his clutches, presumably while Imara is getting captured and beaten senseless by Ashan. Granted that this all happened off-camera and that therefore it would have been hard to show in a novel told in first person, but it all left me feeling "buh huh what just happened there?" Not to mention that it really left me irritated with Sarah as a character. I didn't like her very much in Windfall, and I like her even less now that this has happened. I'm not seeing any redeeming characteristics in Sarah at all, and no reason for her to be in the overall plot except as a victim for Jo to be obligated to go out of her way for since she's her sister. Bah.
On the other hand, we had plenty of goodness to exult in, so let's get down to that.
While I could have done without the bits involving Emily only half-assedly healing Jo and then trying to take Imara, I did like that Emily had some genuine fear about rumors that Jo was behind all the shit that's gone down in all the prior books. Which makes absolute and utter sense. I mean, if you're some low-level random Warden who hasn't been in on the details of the recent scary shenanigans and suddenly you're alone with the person suspected of causing it all, you've got every right to be absolutely scared. So that was pretty cool. So was Emily backing off once she learned that Imara was Jo's daughter (though one can also argue that she should have had a bigger WTF?! reaction there as well).
Liked me some Cherise, who was around just long enough to provide some interesting mortal viewpoints and then got the hell out of the way. I really liked that she immediately came up with "catering" as a reason to hang around--she may not have superpowers, but by gods, she can organize getting food. And Jo did need the reminder that yeah, while the Wardens may have the power to save the planet, everybody else on the planet has a vested interest in hanging around too, so it's really not fair to tell a regular mortal like her to just fuck off and do nothing. So, kudos there.
How about that Lewis, then, giving Jo the car? This, ladies and gents, is part of why Lewis is still in the game when it comes to Jo's affections. He totally understands her and what she loves. And I liked that we had just enough of a fight between David and Jo about the car to get across just a touch of jealousy on David's part and to hit Jo with the cluehammer that Lewis is in love with her. No more than that, and very quickly moving on, since bigger things are still at stake. Perfect.
David? Oh my yes, still Uberhot even if I'm starting to swing to the Jo/Lewis ship camp. LJ user kisanthe has posited to me that David is really too much of a Dream Guy, a point with which I think I agree. Jo's got tons and tons of hot burning passionate love for him--but you could make a very good case that there isn't much substance beneath it. After all, every single time David's with Jo, he's generally doing one of two things: having hot burning passionate sex with her, or else making grand romantic gestures like oh, say, sacrificing himself on her behalf. Kinda light on the whole "daily existence" connection you need if you want to spend the rest of your life with someone. The ties she has with Lewis still feel like they're more real. See previous commentary re: car. ;)
Raise your hand if you totally envisioned the Earth Oracle as played by the lady who played the Oracle in The Matrix. I kept expecting her to offer Jo a cookie.
Also, raise your hand if you're also an LKH fan (or former fan) and kept reading "Asher" for "Ashan" every time he was on camera. I kept doing that all throughout this book. Hell, I've kept doing it typing up this LJ post. But! Really, really liked that Ashan had teamed up with the Demons in his desperate attempt to purge humanity from the planet. Really nice touch, that, and I hadn't seen it coming at all. His fate was exquisite justice as well--that brief description of his gagging on every breath he took in his shiny new human form spoke volumes.
I'm not sure yet what I think about the whole idea of Jo losing her memory, though. I came out of that ending with a big ol' mental case of whiplash, going, "What the hell just happened here?!" And naturally I read the preview chapter for Thin Air, and I'm all "Timmy's still in the well! AAAAAAH!"
Long story short, shakier work perhaps than previous installments--but keep 'em coming, Rachel. Very anxious to see how this story is going to end!(less)
Now on its sixth book, Rachel Caine's Weather Warden series is still humming like a well-oiled machine. As is her well-established practice, the pace...moreNow on its sixth book, Rachel Caine's Weather Warden series is still humming like a well-oiled machine. As is her well-established practice, the pace never lets up for an instant in this novel; our heroine Jo zooms from one plot development to the next with barely a breath in between.
This time around, we also have the amusing angle of our heroine being amnesiac due to events at the tail end of the last book. This turned out to be a bit of a relief after the unrelenting turmoil of Firestorm--because this time around, even though things were still unrelenting, having Jo without her memories gave just a bit of distance to everything for both herself and the reader. And after the five books' worth of crap she's already been through, a bit of distance was kind of welcome.
Anyway, we get interesting plot developments involving Jo's sister, twists involving the Djinn, and fascinating glimpses into the most unlikely of heads. We also get an ending that is itself a new beginning, and which I think could have worked well for a series-ender if Caine had had to end the series here as I'd previously heard she would. (She isn't--there's a preview for Book Seven, which is full of yay!) Three and a half stars, with half a star off for there being a bit less of Lewis than I would have liked. ;)
P.S. Oh, and also? It amuses me to no end that the cover art on this book makes Jo remind me of Kate on Lost.(less)
Okay, all you Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans on my Friends list, remember Cordelia? Now, think how she might have turned out if, instead of going down...moreOkay, all you Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans on my Friends list, remember Cordelia? Now, think how she might have turned out if, instead of going down to L.A. and winding up joining the cast of Angel as a wannabe-actress-turned-mother-of-an-unholy-horror, she grew up to become an ad exec in Seattle. Keep her keen fashion sense and snarky bitchiness. And oh yes, turn her into a zombie.
Once you've done this, then you have Amanda Feral, heroine of Mark Henry's Happy Hour of the Damned, which is in a word HY-larious.
The zombie thing works on the grounds that in this universe, zombies come in two flavors: those who are "made", and who therefore retain higher brain functions and do not decompose as long as they regularly consume human flesh, and those who are "mistakes", the more traditionally Romero-esque shambling automatons with a hankering for tasty cerebellums. I can't attest to the accuracy of the snark directed at the club-hopping scene in Seattle, but it sure as hell reads well, and it should surprise no one the slightest bit familiar with this city that coffee--and our most famous purveyor of same--is a critical plot point. So are unrepentant depictions of several of the more disgusting bodily functions involved with being a zombie. 'Cause, well, you know, zombies. Don't say you weren't warned!
But do check this book out, and be sure to read the footnotes for additional little gems of snickerworthy bitchiness from our heroine and narrator. Four stars.(less)
It seems like every urban fantasy novel these days with a female protagonist will have heavy sexual elements in it. Succubus Blues is no exception--as...moreIt seems like every urban fantasy novel these days with a female protagonist will have heavy sexual elements in it. Succubus Blues is no exception--as you can of course tell right in the title. But the whole idea of this book is actually a refreshing change. Sure, the heroine is a succubus, but she's a succubus who's weary of her existence feeding upon the life forces of mortal males and who inwardly craves the mortal life she can only pretend to have.
It's a paranormal twist on "hooker with a heart of gold", to be sure. With a hook like this, you can kind of predict exactly where this character's development is going to go--and yeah, most of the book is fairly predictable. For me, at least, it was nevertheless still quite enjoyable. I was particularly pleased that Georgina, our heroine, worked in a bookstore--and that the mortal upon whom she develops a massive crush is in fact a writer, Seth Mortensen. And I've gotta say, Seth totally made me swoon: literate, shy, scruffy, and endearing. ^_^
Extra bonus points for some worldbuilding details I don't see get used often, for being another urban fantasy set in Seattle, and for a major demon character who's a blatant if unadmitted John Cusack fan. Not quite sure yet whether I'll be shelling out trade paperback prices for book two, but at least as of the time being, it's more likely than not. Three stars.(less)
Succubus on Top is Book 2 of the series starring succubus Georgina Kincaid, who continues to amuse the hell (aheh) out of...moreWell, this was a lot of fun!
Succubus on Top is Book 2 of the series starring succubus Georgina Kincaid, who continues to amuse the hell (aheh) out of me as possibly the most ethical succubus who ever lived. In this installment, we have Georgina having to investigate mysterious goings-on with friends and fellow employees at the bookstore, helping out her incubus pal Bastien with his latest mission--seducing a right-wing talk show host--and, of course, trying to figure out how exactly to handle her relationship with author Seth Mortensen when she can't risk putting her hands on him.
I think I actually liked this book better than Book 1 in several ways. Seth is more assertive than he is in the first story, which plays off quite fetchingly against his intrinsic decency--and he has refreshingly non-stereotypical reactions to a couple of curveballs Georgina winds up having to throw him through the course of this plot. It's fun as well to see Mead's take on an incubus, and in particular some of the backstory that defines Bastien's and Georgina's history as pertinent to the plot. I figured out where the subplot with seducing the talk show host was going about halfway through the book, but this wasn't a bad thing; it actually let me wind up feeling a bit for the poor woman by the end, which I think was part of the point. And I'm very amused by the (aheh) workaround that Georgina and Seth find to their relationship dilemma by the end of the story--and how the most effective sexual scenes in this series continue to be the ones that leave the best bits to your imagination.
All in all, highly enjoyable, and I'm very much looking forward to seeing if certain suspicions I'm harboring about Seth play out in future volumes. For this one, four stars. (less)
Continuing the theme of Seattle-based urban fantasy, I whipped through Kat Richardson's Greywalker with quite a bit of pleasure. Her flair for local d...moreContinuing the theme of Seattle-based urban fantasy, I whipped through Kat Richardson's Greywalker with quite a bit of pleasure. Her flair for local detail really stood out for me; she nailed details of downtown Seattle, Ballard, Bellevue, Lake Washington, and the U-district with a thoroughness that only a local author could accomplish. As a former resident of the U-district in particular, I was specifically pleased to see the gone-but-not-forgotten Wizards of the Coast gaming center making an appearance in this book. ^_^
Story-wise, a PI who has thrust upon her unexpected paranormal abilities is pretty standard fare for urban fantasy, but Richardson does a good job with her heroine, Harper Blaine. We do get the obligatory resistance on Harper's part to what's going on, sure, but I never felt as though she let it get too much in the way of what she needed to do; she only seriously wigs out at a critical juncture at the very end. The assistance she finds in a witch and her researcher husband is a little too pat for me--just once, I'd like to run into an Irish witch who's not red-haired and green-eyed--and with the exception of a likable primary character, most of her vampires struck me as typical archetypes, competently executed. But all in all a good solid read, and I'll be checking out Book Two. Three and a half stars.(less)
The second Harper Blaine novel, Poltergeist, is a very strong sequel to a debut I'd already liked quite a bit. With the introduction of the Grey and h...moreThe second Harper Blaine novel, Poltergeist, is a very strong sequel to a debut I'd already liked quite a bit. With the introduction of the Grey and how Harper got her ability to sense and move through it out of the way, this book can focus upon not only increasing her skill, but laying down some consequences for her further involvement with it. The supernatural setting adds a great edge of interest--but when it comes down to it, the real heart of the plot is the inflamed tensions of the people Harper has to investigate this time around, a group of subjects brought together to create an artificial poltergeist.
Added bonus points also have to be given for very strong connection to Seattle. There's great background here for the International District, a part of the city that's still an enigma to me for the most part, though I perked up at the mentions of Uwajimaya and Kinokuniya. Plus, I was particularly amused by a critical scene taking place in the SF section of the very Barnes and Noble where I bought this book.
All in all, a great read and I'll be looking forward to getting the third installment. Four stars.(less)
Despite having a title like The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, there's surprisingly little actual sex in this book. Which isn't terribly surprising. I went i...moreDespite having a title like The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, there's surprisingly little actual sex in this book. Which isn't terribly surprising. I went in expecting humor, and that's pretty much what you get with the first of Mario Acevedo's Felix Gomex novels. Sure, it's sex-related humor, but it's fairly clean all the same. And the schtick wasn't entirely unfamiliar, anyway--not when my partner owns a copy of Bimbos of the Death Sun. ;)
So, yeah. Felix Gomex is a vampire, and I give Acevedo points for giving his vamp hero an unusual and pertinent-to-current-day backstory: he's a vet of the Iraq war who accidentally kills an Iraqi girl. Horrified by this, he lets himself be turned into a vampire by way of everlasting penance. He refuses to drink human blood because it gives him flashbacks to killing the girl.
Fast forward to his post-discharge, vampiric existence. He's a private detective now, and he's called to Rocky Flats to investigate why all the women employees of the facility there have been struck with an outburst of nymphomania. At the same time, he gets to contend with the disdain of the local vamps over his refusal to touch human blood, a band of vampire hunters with your standard hate-on for vamps, a dryad who doesn't need nymphomania to be interested in him--and even hints that what he's investigating may be tied into Roswell and Area 51.
It's a pretty lightweight read, all in all. Plenty of urban fantasy these days is way more sexually explicit than this book is; what violence is here, with the exception of Felix's backstory in Iraq, is fairly comic-booky. The disparate parts of this plot are all familiar tropes, though they do coalesce nicely at the end. Points to Acevedo, too, for having the love interest be a dryad; that's one of the under-used creatures in urban fantasy, that's for sure. My only beef with the story, really, is that Felix's refusal to drink human blood is resolved too easily. The rest of it, though, is fun. Three stars.(less)
You can't swing a stick in urban fantasy without hitting a book with werewolves in it, all of whom will snarl at you and pitch you out the window alon...moreYou can't swing a stick in urban fantasy without hitting a book with werewolves in it, all of whom will snarl at you and pitch you out the window along with said stick before you can say "fetch". That said, at least so far as I've been able to tell, books where the heroine is a were are still fairly few and far between. I must admit that to date, my experience with these books has been less than positive.
However, many kudos to Kittredge for an urban fantasy where the heroine is not only a were, she's also suitably badassed and doesn't angst overmuch about the traumatic situation that made her a were in the first place. I mean, I'm pretty lenient with my fantasy novel tropes in general, but few things will put me off faster than a whiny werewolf. ;)
So yeah. Nifty badassed heroine, who at the same time doesn't go overboard with the attitude either. And! She's got a love interest who's also a were, and in fact about on par with the heroine in general badassitude. This was extremely refreshing. Luna and Dmitri felt like equals in a way I've gotten very seldom out of a lot of urban fantasy these days, and I really appreciated that. I equally appreciated that neither the sex nor the violence were over the top; all of the scenes involving either had a purpose and flowed naturally along as part of the plot. (Note: the one sex scene between Luna and Dmitri? That, ladies and gentlemen, is how a sex scene involving weres is done. Whuff.)
Plot-wise, we got your basic series of ritual murders in a fictional city. Heroine Luna is a cop, facing prejudice on the force not only because she's a woman, but also because she's prone to turn furry and pissed off every so often. That one of the victims is a were leads Luna to initially suspect Dmitri--but soon enough they're having to team up against bad guys far more hardcore than either of them were prepared for. Very fun all around.
And also: bonus points for a Ukrainian werewolf hero named Dmitri. Because whuff. Four stars.(less)
I was sadly, sadly remiss in getting Jim Butcher's White Night read in a timely fashion--it's been a complicated year, what can I say--but now that I'...moreI was sadly, sadly remiss in getting Jim Butcher's White Night read in a timely fashion--it's been a complicated year, what can I say--but now that I've finally finished it, I am happy to report that the Dresden Files continue to be solidly entertaining.
It's still a little weird to me to read about an older, wiser Harry; the early books made such an impact on me that that image of him is still very strong in my head. And, of course, it was reinforced by the sadly short-lived TV show. On the other hand, it is satisfying to have an older, wiser Harry in the current books. Any series that runs on past a few books really needs to have long-term character development to hold a reader's interest, and in this, Butcher really shines. Though at the same time, some fundamentals of Harry's character remain constant, like oh, say, the snark. Three words, ladies and gentlemen: BOWLING! FOR! VAMPIRES!
This far into the series I suppose it's inevitable that any given novel will pretty much involve mostly familiar characters. But this time around, we had enough appearances of non-regularly-recurring characters that I kept having quite a bit of deja vu. A character we haven't seen since Storm Front shows up as important to this plot, in addition to several more regularly appearing folks. Lots of followup to previously established plotlines occurs, interwoven with the new story.
Which, not surprisingly, is a problem designed to hit Harry right in the chivalry: women practitioners of magic are getting killed. As per usual, things start with a bang as Harry and Murphy begin to investigate, and they build up to a satisfyingly explosive finale. In this particular book's case, quite literally. ;) Five well-deserved stars.(less)
**spoiler alert** Gale Force, Rachel Caine's latest installment of the Weather Wardens series, is as per usual a very fun ride, albeit with a few mino...more**spoiler alert** Gale Force, Rachel Caine's latest installment of the Weather Wardens series, is as per usual a very fun ride, albeit with a few minor bumps. There's a little less angst here than in previous installments, which is pleasant; there are several interesting little plot developments for the world at large. But be prepared for this episode just sort of stopping rather than reaching a real resolution. This is clearly a storyline meant to span multiple volumes.
Overall, though, Caine's writing remains strong and enjoyable. It's always a good sign when I'm resentful of any distraction that keeps me from finishing up a book, as happened with this one!
I have to admit, I have slid over into the Jo/Lewis camp--which means that a book involving a big ol' subplot about Jo marrying David is a little wistful-making. Don't get me wrong: I still think David is hot from head to toe. Problem is, in seven books in this series, we have little more to go on with David than 'he's hot' and 'he's devoted to Jo'. That's nice and all, but Lewis continues to be a way more interesting character.
And it doesn't help either that Ms. Caine keeps flinging us little hints that Jo still thinks Lewis is smoking hot, too. That bit with her very vividly imagining his hands as he helps her up into the Hummer? Whuff. ;)
That said, you'd know that Jo and David can't just get married all simple-like. Where would be the fun in that? No, we get most of the Djinn pitching a fit about the idea of David opening them all up to being enslaved all over again if he's going to swear vows to Joanne. And, for bonus mileage, we get a new splinter faction of the Wardens, rabidly anti-Djinn, launching attacks on Jo and any other Wardens perceived as sympathetic to their former slaves.
The plot with the Sentinels is the strength of this book. It's a natural progression from the previous Djinn/Warden war; it's entirely reasonable that some number of the Wardens would react violently to that. What really sold this plot for me, though, was the idea that the Sentinels had gotten hold of antimatter--and that the Djinn were all physically incapable of acknowledging its existence, which made it an extremely scary and effective weapon. The explanation for this was very neat, too: that the Djinn, elemental beings of the universe that they are, are simply unable to perceive of anything that doesn't belong in our universe. Which is, after all, the whole point of antimatter. And one of the most effective scenes in the entire story is the death of a Djinn, slain by the stuff, which wipes him completely out of the memories of every other Djinn--including David. It shakes Jo deeply, and it shakes the reader by extension.
It was neat, too, that the demon that turned out to be the Sentinel leader was generating the stuff on his own, sidestepping the need to produce it via normal physical means. So I was down with that. The part about the demon that didn't quite work for me was that he was walking around wearing the shape of Bad Bob, the Warden bad guy from the very first book; that seemed less interesting to me, though it helped that it was apparently a demon in disguise rather than really Bad Bob.
I also very much liked that the existence of the Wardens in this world has been kicked up another notch. A reporter from the New York Times pursues Jo, trying to follow leads that the Wardens are working with the government--and even better, towards the end of the book, Lewis winds up outing the Wardens with a public press conference, by way of outthinking the Sentinels. That was a very nifty development and promises all sorts of interesting ramifications for the world at large.
The David/Jo marriage subplot grabbed less of my interest, honestly, though that's kind of unfair to it. Part of me is actually pleased to see a relationship in a current urban fantasy series progress to the point of actual marriage being involved. On the other hand, see previous commentary re: Lewis; I keep thinking "Jo! Hon! You're marrying THE WRONG GUY!"
However, it was pretty neat to see the wedding turned into a tactical showdown with the Sentinels. Things got a little hard to follow for me at that point, and I may have to go back and re-read that bit... but I was left with a definite hankering to see what's going to happen next. And a definite little hankering to see David have to finally surrender Jo to Lewis. Hey, it could happen! ;)
On a final note, it's worth mentioning that the hero of the soon to be coming spinoff series, Luis Rocha, makes an appearance here: look for him in the initial stretch of the book, joining Jo in investigating the preliminary rumblings of Shit About to Come Down. I noted with pleasure that he seems to be a musician, or at least that his astral form has a guitar on his back. Looking forward to seeing more of him.
I've always rather liked most of Patricia Briggs' books in general and the first two Mercy Thompsons in particular, so I was intrigued when Cry Wolf w...moreI've always rather liked most of Patricia Briggs' books in general and the first two Mercy Thompsons in particular, so I was intrigued when Cry Wolf was announced. This novel's set in the same universe as the Mercy Thompsons, and in fact focuses more on the wolf pack that raised Mercy--and Charles, the son of the Marrok, who has taken a new mate. But Anna's not an ordinary werewolf; she's an Omega, which gives her a special place outside pack structure, and lets her have all the protective instincts of an Alpha without any of the violent impulses.
The beginning of the book is my major problem with it. It kicks in actually just after the meeting of Charles and Anna--a very violent meeting, in fact, that left Charles suffering from several wounds after he tore through the pack that had been abusing Anna. We only see the aftermath of this, and by then Charles and Anna have already met, and the beginnings of their mating bond have already been established. This felt very weird to me, as I was all "wait, what just happened here?" and felt like I was starting the story about three chapters too late.
I'm all for starting the story with a bang and all; here, however, we actually started just after the bang. It was I think an interesting editorial decision to start the story where it does, mind you; if I think about it I can actually see an argument that the story being told here is actually not the story of Anna's rescue from her previous pack. However, for me as a reader, it just felt weird. So.
Other than that, I was pretty happy with the story overall. Anna is a good example of how you can do a strong female character without necessarily having her have to be an attitudinal bitch. She's got her issues, oh my yes, but at no point do they ever really get in the way of her responding to the bigger plot situation. Mind you, she does come a bit close to Mary Sue land--she is after all the Special Werewolf, the Omega, and all the big nasty dominant boy wolves just go all puppy-mode around her. The part where this is most effective is where an old Vietnam vet--who's been hiding out in the woods for thirty years because of the war and who's recently been turned into a werewolf himself--quietly and prayerfully murmurs that in her presence, he thinks he might actually be able to sleep. I did however wince a bit at how she defused the big climax, though.
Anna's relationship with Charles is interesting, and I liked that even though she was very skittish around him, she was actually quite confident about having sex with him. Also, points for the one sex scene being not particularly over the top, and for it not magically cementing the mating bond between them.
All in all, a pretty solid read. Three stars.(less)
Blood Bound is the sequel to Patricia Briggs' first urban fantasy, Moon Called, and it continues the story of the mechanic and walker Mercedes Thompso...moreBlood Bound is the sequel to Patricia Briggs' first urban fantasy, Moon Called, and it continues the story of the mechanic and walker Mercedes Thompson. This one is all about a demon-bonded sorcerer on the loose in the Tri-Cities area--with the added wrinkle that he's also a vampire. Called upon by the vampires to hunt this sorcerer down, Mercy gets pulled further into the politics of both the local vampires and the local werewolves, and gets to juggle conflicting feelings for not only the wolves Adam and Samuel, but now the vampire Stefan as well.
Part of me is a little tired of the whole "girl gets caught up in vampire and werewolf politics and juggles several preternatural boyfriends while trying to learn about the extent of her powers" schtick; it's all too common in urban fantasy these days. On the other hand, Briggs' writing is solid, Mercy is tough and yet remains likeable, and Briggs is taking her time developing the relationships between Mercy and Adam, Samuel, and Stefan, all of whom are interesting characters. And, the possible relationships do remain a sidenote to the main plot, rather than dominating it. I hope this trend continues as the series progresses. Three stars.(less)
Give it up for the local library, who quickly provided me a hardback copy of Jim Butcher's Small Favor not too much longer after I'd put it on hold. I...moreGive it up for the local library, who quickly provided me a hardback copy of Jim Butcher's Small Favor not too much longer after I'd put it on hold. I am now officially caught up on the Dresden Files. Go me!
And, as expected, this installment failed to disappoint. As with White Night, so too here: we get a lot of characters we've seen before, all following up quite splendidly on events that have gone before. Ten books in on the series, it's quite satisfying to see this sort of advancement. Harry has matured, which by itself is great to see, but the world continues to change around him as well. In several predictably oh-shit-inducing ways--but in some highly intriguing positive ways as well.
This time around we have the Sidhe making another comeback, as Queen Mab of Winter calls in one of the favors she's holding over Harry's head. Which is to say, demanding that he rescue none other than Gentleman Johnny Marcone, who's gone and gotten himself kidnapped by the Order of the Blackened Denarius. Which of course also means that the Summer Court thinks Harry's gone to the Dark Side. And which means in turn that things are trying to kill Harry every chapter or so... but then, it's all in a day's work for a wizard.
The pacing of this installment was particularly fabulous. Harry barely had time to breathe between the various action scenes, and yet, the flow of it seemed absolutely perfect. Lighter touches including Harry's trademark smartassed pop culture references and some great banter between him and Murphy brought the Funny. And it just makes my heart glad to see an archangel drawing on Tolkien to impart his wisdom. Like ya do. ;)
Five stars all around, and I'll look forward to adding this one to my collection when the paperback comes out!(less)
"Cozily domestic" is not usually a phrase I would think to associate with the living situation of a vampire. It is a measure of Cherie Priest's abilit...more"Cozily domestic" is not usually a phrase I would think to associate with the living situation of a vampire. It is a measure of Cherie Priest's ability as an author to engage me so strongly that I not only was intrigued by her take on a vampire heroine, but was actively charmed by seeing the growing household that Raylene Pendle has pulled around herself as of the beginning of Book 2 of The Chesire Red Reports, Hellbent.
This installment of the series continues one of the big things I liked a lot about Book 1, Bloodshot: i.e., taking a bunch of urban fantasy tropes and... well, it's cliched of me to say "subverting them", but really, it's true. You don't find too many vampires--in urban fantasy proper, at least; if you venture over into paranormal romance, it's a different story--that are neurotic, or needy, or who do in fact gather a whole household of dependents around them without really actively meaning to. Raylene's a refreshing contrast to the vampires I'm so used to seeing, the ones who are all-powerful heads of Clans or Houses or whatever, especially the males who are the all-too-frequent, oh-so-sexy-and-mysterious love interests for associated heroines. Raylene's not remote or mysterious, and this makes her far sexier a character to me than any one of dozens of alpha male vampire heroes.
And oh. My. God. Mad, mad love is ongoing for Adrian, the most badass drag queen who ever dragged. That he exists in the pages of an urban fantasy at all just makes me happy. Gender fluidity for the major, major win.
Now, that said, let's talk plot. I wasn't quite as taken with the plot of this one as I was the previous, just because the A and B plots didn't mesh quite as well as I would have hoped. But that said, there's intriguing followup on the status of Adrian's lost vampire sister. And there's an intriguing and somewhat scary character who shows up, the disturbed mage Elizabeth, who seems to be a way for Priest to explore dealing with a character who has both a) significant magical power and b) significant mental illness. Elizabeth is a bit of a cipher, but the scenes where Raylene reaches out to her in unwilling sympathy are among my favorite in the book. Elizabeth's mental illness is not downplayed, or magically cured, and I have to give high marks for both of those.
Overall, there were also a bit more moments where Raylene went past 'cozily domestic' and a bit too far into 'twee'--adopting a kitten? Not really necessary, we get that Raylene's a lot more of a softy than she lets on! (And I say this as someone in general favor of kittens.) I'm also not really sure I buy Elizabeth's status at the end.
But on the other hand, I did overall quite like this book anyway. And I'm hoping that Priest will get a shot at more of them, given that as per her blog, she was only originally contracted to do two of them. For this one, I'll give four stars!(less)