I think I found my lost kin. Ice and I must be from the same people, because I think I love the cold as much as she does.
Anyhoo, this was a good book...moreI think I found my lost kin. Ice and I must be from the same people, because I think I love the cold as much as she does.
Anyhoo, this was a good book. Loved the descriptions of Ice's abilities, and Arch was pretty cool too, despite his hellish lineage. I'd recommend this to paranormal fans looking for something a little different.
Jack Walker’s dream was to be a Navy SEAL. He was going to make it through BUD/S training, no matter how much it punished his body. Just four more wee...moreJack Walker’s dream was to be a Navy SEAL. He was going to make it through BUD/S training, no matter how much it punished his body. Just four more weeks. But he’s pulled out of training early, and drafted into an ultra-secret, elite SEAL team, one that has an unusual team number. This team fights threats against the free world that are supernatural in origin. And Jack is specially equipped to be a member. For the dark scars of his youth mark him with a special ability to sense evil.
I liked the idea of this book, a military special ops story with a supernatural twist. Ochse’s attention to detail as far as military ops lends credibility to the writing. I really appreciated the look at how a SEAL team operates and the whole involved procedure of keeping the world safe, top secret-style, with the ancillary support of various defense agency personnel. His focus seems to be more on this than the supernatural component, but he grafts together the two aspects of the story fairly well. Still this book seemed thin to me. Like it was serviceable, but merely scratching the surface of possibilities. Yes, I think that was the big issue I had with this book. It lacked depth.
I wanted more character exploration. While I felt I did get to know Jack fairly well, I didn’t get more than a surface portrayal of most of the others. I realize that the story occurs in a short period of time, but I had this feeling that the characters merely existed to move the story, or to get killed off. That saddened me. The death of a team member and the ritual associated with his passing, had more time spent on it than seeing that team member as a living, breathing human. Of course, death is an everyday experience for these men. They know they could die on any mission they undertake. But I needed to know them better, because knowing someone is part of the process of caring for them, that they live and die for a purpose. Otherwise, our mental health defenses build a wall between us and the suffering of others in the world, because to cry for every person who dies will destroy you. We just don’t have that capacity. But if you know someone, even a little, it breaks your heart to know they have died. To introduce a character only to kill them without much effort to infuse depth makes a mockery of that. I really dislike the tendency towards presenting characters as sacrificial lambs in a story. Just enough to introduce a character and then they get killed off. I felt this was a shortcoming of this novel.
The action is well done. The pace was intense and appropriate. I got the real sense that I was going on ops with these guys. In this case, all in relation to the supernatural threats in this book. If even possible, that brings a higher level of threat to the situation. There’s only so much a gun can do against an undead, immortal threat, or one from a world of strangeness that doesn’t follow the rules that govern this physical one.
The supernatural storyline was intriguing and definitely horrific. Ochse does build the sense of wrongness and weirdness that would disturb an average person. I like a weird supernatural story like nobody’s business, but I had some moments where I was thinking, “That’s just wrong!” Imagine being a SEAL, trained to eliminate lethal threats all around the world, but previously naïve to the supernatural darkness in this world. You have to keep moving and do your job, and you don’t have time for “WTFs”. So yes, that part was very well done. The particular threat they faced in this book felt novel and very intimidating, and the author ties it into things going on in the world arena. While the climax was too abrupt for my tastes, it definitely had impact, and as I said, I enjoyed the action moments.
With this book, I had that feeling that everything was scratching the surface when I wanted things to get deeper. With an intriguing storyline like this, I get excited to see what journey the author will take me on. Overall, this was a book that kept me reading. It was a pretty good book. A nice mélange of spec ops action and supernatural weirdness. I think the author could have given me more as far as characterization, which is the biggest shortcoming of this novel. However, I would keep reading this if it becomes a series.
This was my favorite so far in the series. The idea was interesting, and I liked the leads, Erion and Hellen, and I really felt their love for each ot...moreThis was my favorite so far in the series. The idea was interesting, and I liked the leads, Erion and Hellen, and I really felt their love for each other. Ladd is adorable. This was almost a four star book. But I think I have a high standard for paranormal romance now, so I felt more world-building and some clarity in the storyline would have added to this novel's appeal.
At least there was no butt stuff and she toned down the use of the dreaded c word for the ladyparts. I was relieved on both fronts.
The Hammer and the Blade is fun sword and sorcery adventure. Kemp has done something interesting here. This book is quite low brow in its use of vulga...moreThe Hammer and the Blade is fun sword and sorcery adventure. Kemp has done something interesting here. This book is quite low brow in its use of vulgar descriptions: constantly describing puking and spitting and other bodily functions. Yet in contrast, I had to look up a lot of words when I read this, for apparently Kemp has quite a vocabulary. Maybe he was trying to prove that just because someone has a potty mouth doesn't mean they lack intelligence.
As far as a buddy story, this one succeeds on that level. Egil and Nix are tight. We don't get to find out how they met, and they are quite different. But that doesn't stop them from being very good friends who watch each others' backs and fight at each others' sides. Egil is a hulking man, who uses two hammers and a crowbar as his weapons. He wears a tattoo of an eye on his head, a symbol of the Momentary God. He is reflective and tends towards somberness. Nix is smaller, the body and persona of a thief. He reminds me of the trickster archetype. He is quick and sly, and fond of sharp, slender blades. He grew up in the slums, and part of him doesn't want to leave that behind. It's a huge part of his identity. He doubts that he possesses any sense of morality, but the quest he undertakes in this book will prove whether that's true.
While sword and sorcery can tend towards sexism, Kemp seems to want to subvert this. While most of the main characters are not women, there are more than a few secondary female characters that show a lot of depth and the complexity of the female gender. Nix and Egil are forced to reexamine their views of women and how women should be treated continually throughout this story. I really enjoyed this aspect of this novel. Yes, I am a woman, so it makes sense that this would be a crucial aspect for me. But I like to think that men can also be dismayed at how women can be sidelined, maligned, and abused in most cultures, simply because they are women. I am glad to see that Kemp seems to struggle with this as well.
The action/adventure part of the equation is well done. Plenty of fighting and escapades. Tomb robbing and escaping mystical booby traps. Lots of demon and creature fighting, and some fights between characters of the human persuasion. Some of the scenes got a little gory, but I guess that's to be expected in a sword and sorcery romp. While I didn't like some of the vulgar descriptions, I didn't think Kemp went over the top with the violence.
As far as the sorcery, that was definitely a strong aspect of this novel. One of the characters is a sorcerer whose family has a dark pact with demons for their power. And I do mean dark. This storyline becomes a very prominent thread that place Egil and Nix at some crucial moments of defining who their identities are as people and where they draw their line in the sand. As I read it, I marveled at the extremes people go to obtain and keep power, and usually they end up making someone pick up the tab for their actions and ill-gotten gains. Definitely the case in this book. Glad we had some unlikely heroes around to try to make things right.
I didn't rate this book higher because it was just too vulgar for my tastes. I felt like this was a hindrance for me to dive deeper since I just can't stand vulgarity. It's a personal taste thing here. There were other things to like about this novel, such as the fantasy world-building and the humor and camaraderie between Egil and Nix and a few other characters. It was a fairly entertaining novel despite the fact that the vulgarity was off-putting. I will probably continue this series.
This was a gusty work, quite interesting and different. Probably one of the most overtly Christian dark fantasies I've read thus far, although I don't...moreThis was a gusty work, quite interesting and different. Probably one of the most overtly Christian dark fantasies I've read thus far, although I don't think it will find favor with a person who is fairly fundamental in their Christian beliefs (ie. avoid anything related to the occult). I was scratching my head at some of the physics concepts, since they were over my head, also some of the occult elements. Either the author did some heavy-duty research or she has a great imagination. Even though I'm not sure it was successful on all levels, I felt impressed with this novel, even as I acknowledge that it won't be for everyone. Thus the 3.75/5.0 star rating.
More thrilling twists and turns and character conundrums for the reader to keep up with. Very enjoyable. I didn't always like what happened, but I def...moreMore thrilling twists and turns and character conundrums for the reader to keep up with. Very enjoyable. I didn't always like what happened, but I definitely was hooked and wanted to keep reading. All in all, a successful follow up to Retribution Falls. I recommend it.
This was a solid four star book until the last hundred or so pages, when it really turned around, and I knew it would get the highest rating from me....moreThis was a solid four star book until the last hundred or so pages, when it really turned around, and I knew it would get the highest rating from me. I must say I think the storyline is very imaginative, artistic and surreal. Ms. Douglas isn't an overly expansive writer, but she somehow paints a very vivid picture of the sights and surroundings, emotions and actions of her characters. Dark City is a nightmarish place, and the imagery rang loud and clear as I read. Sheol has an otherworldly beauty and feeling of peace, and the images of the Fallen appeal greatly to this angel-lover, even in the dark aspects.
I don't love the theology here. Earlier on, I choose to view this book merely as fiction and divorce it from my Christian beliefs, which is the wisest choice for me. Otherwise, I think the portrayal of God would be problematic for me. As a believer in the God of the Old and New Testament, I don't think there is a disconnect between the God of the New and Old Testament, as portrayed in this book, although I know many feel this way. God is shown as a vengeful, angry, unfeeling character, which is not what I believe. I believe in a God that is equally loving and equally just. If I view this merely as characters who have their own way of processing their relationships with God and their subsequent choices and actions, I can still enjoy this book very much, and I did. Outside of my disagreeing with some of the theology, I find the storyline very interesting, and the portrayal of angels is majestic and hypnotically appealing and arresting. I feel that Ms. Douglas writes this books in a very visual and cinematic way.
Azazel is not a nice hero by any stretch of the word, for most of this book. He is almost cruel to Rachel in some ways, although his reluctant feelings (and the fact that he is not a woman-hater) holds him back from hurting her physically. He made a choice that led to something very bad happening to Rachel, and I know some readers won't be able to get past that. Although I don't condone his actions, I understand the turmoil that was behind them. I do like his sea change later in the book, and I think he proved he was worthy of her love. I like how I was able to see how he evolves in his perceptions of Rachel, and as he changes in his feelings towards her, this difference is very apparent in his physical expressions of lust and later passion/love towards Rachel. I could understand that he was angry and hurting over the loss of his latest and best loved wife, and how he wanted to blame Rachel for that because of the prophecy.
As far as Rachel, I liked her from the beginning. She starts as something of a blank canvas, and as the story continues, more and more depth and definition is evident with her character. Her latent identity is slowly and deftly revealed, and it was interesting to process this. The myth of Lilith is interesting, although I have never put much emphasis on it. It ties into that pervasive belief that Judaism and Christianity is inherently misogynistic, which I have never agreed with. More than anything this is a manifestation of the way that these beliefs have been used as a tool for control over others, and through human and societal cruelty, and not due to God disvaluing women (take religion out of the picture and people would find another tool to use against others). Having said that, Rachel is a very sympathetic character, and I liked how Douglas gives the Lilith myth a human and emotional (and relatable) feel instead of dwelling on the horrific aspects of that legend.
As I alluded to earlier in the review, the romantic aspects of the story bloom later, because initially, it's very apparent that Azazel mainly has hatred in his heart for Rachel. It was hard to see that possibility of love initially, but by the end of the book, I did see it. I think that took some skill on Ms. Douglas' part. I went from thinking Azazel was a total loss, and hoping he'd just leave Rachel alone and in peace and safety, to wanting him to prove he was worthy of her and for them to be together. I feel that this ultimately was a successful romance because I was able to arrive at the conviction that they should be together. The love scenes were well-written, showing not just the act of sex, but the emotions, good and bad that went along with it. They were integral to the story, because they revealed crucial aspects of both Azazel and Rachel's psyche, and also their healing processes from damaged emotions and hearts from their journeys in life.
Ultimately, I was very impressed with this novel. This is not just from the viewpoint of a lifelong (and therefore biased) admirer of this writer (Anne Stuart). It is because of her obvious and proven skill as a writer. To take a story that somehow shouldn't appeal and make into something that intrigues me and gets under my skin, leaving me thinking about the story long after I finish it. This book won't work for everyone. Although clearly paranormal romance, there is something very atypical about it. The writing has this flavor that puts it into a different and not always comfortable category. However, I found this to be a feast for the reader's senses. This kind of book takes me on a journey and fully rewards me for the time spent reading it. I definitely loved it.
Interesting read. I felt bad for Mr. Jennings for what he suffered, and for so long. Being who he was, it seemed even worse for the poor fellow. I don...moreInteresting read. I felt bad for Mr. Jennings for what he suffered, and for so long. Being who he was, it seemed even worse for the poor fellow. I don't think it was just a nervous condition. I think it's kind of funny that large amounts of green tea seems to open the poor man's 'third eye.' My sister is an avid green tea drinker. I suppose I ought to warn her. Personally, it's a little too bitter for my tastes, but I digress.
Dr. Hesselius is an interesting protagonist, a doctor who treats the spirit and the body. I hope to read more of his stories.
As far as writing style, I found this a little more easy to read than Carmilla. Mr. Le Fanu writes beautifully, although not simply. That's okay. I kind of like the old-fashioned manner of writing of the prior centuries, and this one wasn't a tad dry like Carmilla was.
Like many classic horror short stories, the conclusion is sort of up to one's interpretation. That works for me. I never liked being spoon-fed ideas in literature.
Although not scary, there are some elements that are a bit eerie. Green Tea was a pretty satisfying story--a nice, quick read.(less)