Lady Ayla is threatened with either marriage to the powerful, conquering lord Margrave von Falkenstein or for her lands to be confiscated and...more Synopsis
Lady Ayla is threatened with either marriage to the powerful, conquering lord Margrave von Falkenstein or for her lands to be confiscated and her people killed in war. With her father ailing from a long-term degenerative condition, she has assumed command of his lands in his stead. She refuses the Margrave's offer of marriage, knowing that it will mean war, because she realizes giving into him is the wrong decision to make for herself and her people. On a trip through a nearby forest to notify her vassals of her need for men to protect Luntberg Castle and its villagers, she is robbed by the fearsome, dreaded, red-armor-wearing Robber Knight, who dares to take her money, property and her beloved horse, although he spares her life and doesn't harm a hair on her head. Lady Ayla vows to see him caught and hanged.
When Ayla and her steward find a sole-surviving, wounded man in a field of bloody, mutilated bodies, they bring him back to the castle. His name is Reuben, and he claims to be a merchant, but he is really the same Red Knight. If he reveals his identity, he will be hanged as a thief. And he is too weak to flee for his life from his wounds and a subsequent fever and infection. As he is nursed back to health by the beautiful Lady Ayla, his cynicism and overpowering self-interest gives way to love. Can Ayla keep her people safe from a deadly siege, and avoid falling for a man below her station who she believes is not telling her the whole truth about his identity?
The Robber Knight is an entertaining trip back in time to the medieval era. The narrative voice is lively, with subtle humor and vivid characterizations. Reuben is the perfect rogue character, a man who hasn't decided if he wants to take the trouble to be a better man again, until Lady Ayla shows him he is capable of it. Ayla is sweet and determined, a woman of her times. Beneath her ladylike exterior, she has the heart of a lion and a backbone of steel. The secondary characters, such as the old vassal but still capable knight and fighter, Sir Isenbard, are well-developed.
Mr. Thier clearly has a background in medieval history, and a talent for writing a story that is enlightening about the period, but in a very entertaining, readable fashion. The depiction of medieval castle warfare is lifelike and realistic without being overly graphic. The reader learns the ins and outs of protecting a castle against invaders alongside Lady Ayla, and her people, most of whom have lived in a time of peace and whose war skills are limited to non-existent. I cheered along with them as they survived numerous assaults due to the advice of the injured Reuben.
Readers who enjoy romance stories will appreciate the slow build of attraction and feelings between Ayla and Reuben. The author makes the most of their every moment together to show romantic tension and growing love between the characters.
The Robber Knight is a story that will appeal to readers who have interest in the medieval period. It's an edifying read, flows and keeps the reader's interest with engaging characters and a well-paced narrative. This reader recommends it, despite the fact that the cliffhanger ending pricks at one of the biggest pet peeves of mine.
This was a fast-paced, involving read. I liked the frequent action scenes and the globe-trotting, caperish narrative. While Nicholas is quite dashing,...moreThis was a fast-paced, involving read. I liked the frequent action scenes and the globe-trotting, caperish narrative. While Nicholas is quite dashing, the antiheroic Fox really steals the show. I would continue reading this series.
This is the first book by these authors that I’ve experienced. This one was on audio at my library, so I took the opportunity to read it.
Unfortunately...moreThis is the first book by these authors that I’ve experienced. This one was on audio at my library, so I took the opportunity to read it.
Unfortunately, I don’t think this book was very good. At the most, it was somewhat entertaining, but the writing was just odd and didn't succeed with me. Gideon is a strange character. He never quite comes off as completely competent. Instead, he seems to bumble his way through situations. He is a fast talker and has a way of getting people to tell him what he wants to know, but I didn’t really count that as a significant skill. He's intelligent, but still slow on the uptake at times. I know that as a reader, we often have oversight in a situation that the character lacks, but I like to think that the main character can use the brains the Good Lord gave him. And I hate when the villain continually out-thinks him.
This book has this 'off' feeling that never goes away. I had hoped things would come together, but it stayed weird, and not in a good way, over the course of the book. I would use the term 'half-baked' to describe this book. Ingredients in this novel could have come to a good finished product, but they just don't.
While I don't like paper tiger villains, I felt that the villain was way out of Gideon's league. I didn't get this David and Goliath feeling where you have an unlikely hero who has the odds stacked against him and triumphed. Instead, I felt as though Gideon didn't have a chance against Nodding Crane. I was actually wincing at how inept Gideon was at times. I really hate being so harsh in my criticisms, but it's how I felt. I always hope for the best when I read a book, and this book never got to be better. It's just barely at 2.5 star read.
The saving grace was that I did listen to it on audio. The narrator, well-known actor John Glover, brought this story to life with his clever vocalizations and personifications of the dialogue. This is one of those cases when a good narrator can stave a sinking ship from going down, or mostly. While this book is not a good one, it was at times entertaining because of the narration.
I might seem foolish, but I want to try the next book, since it is also at my library on audio. My hope is that Gideon does get his act together and has learned something from his experience in this book. I'd like to see that Gideon has something to offer as a hero in future books. Maybe the authors have a better grasp on his character for his next outing. I'm holding onto my hopes! (less)
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.
I give the author credit for putting a lot of heart, soul and energy into this story. It has a lot of authentic-feeling details, although I had troubl...moreI give the author credit for putting a lot of heart, soul and energy into this story. It has a lot of authentic-feeling details, although I had trouble with the initially slow-moving narrative. I really liked the intricate infusion of The Divine Comedy into the story. I would like to rate this higher, but it was just too hard for me to get into the story initially, and I didn't love the conclusion overall.
For that reason, I'd have to rate it 3.25/5.0 stars. It's hard when you don't love something someone has written with love. However, I have the feeling that this book will resonate with some readers.
This was an interesting book, although some aspects were rather off-putting. I liked the vision of a post-apocalyptic Russia. This isn't a book where...moreThis was an interesting book, although some aspects were rather off-putting. I liked the vision of a post-apocalyptic Russia. This isn't a book where you can say, "Wow, that's a really good person!" Everyone is highly flawed. This is one of those books I'd love to sit down the author and ask what he was thinking when he wrote this.
An omnibus of three different books, it took me forever to read this, but it was very good. Lots of fantastical elements and a great show of the autho...moreAn omnibus of three different books, it took me forever to read this, but it was very good. Lots of fantastical elements and a great show of the author's imagination. It's a poignant story that will stay with me for a while, like an ache inside that I can't message away. I recommend it to fantasy readers.
Dragon Bound was an awesome book. I loved just about everything about it. I'm not even going to pretend that my favorite element wasn't Dragos, 'cause...moreDragon Bound was an awesome book. I loved just about everything about it. I'm not even going to pretend that my favorite element wasn't Dragos, 'cause it was! I have an unnatural attraction to possessive, jealous, stalkerific heroes who are scary as heck, and Dragos is going on my list of favorite heroes of this type. I liked that although Pia started out as a thief who dared to steal from him, she became his own personal hoard. He acted like a dragon of old, used to having his way in all things. Even though he came on kind of strong, it was clear that he wouldn't do anything to hurt Pia. He cared enough to make sure that Pia was happy! He brushed her hair all the time! He was actually a softie underneath all that hard scaly dragon armor! Ms. Harrison knows how to write this kind of hero very well!
Dragos is like a Harlequin Presents hero done well (with an intensity times one hundred). He is unbelievably wealthy, prominent and gorgeous. He is also immensely powerful. And he was done so well, there was never that incredulity factor where I have this sarcastic cheerleader moment in my head: "Yay, he is so awesome!" (rolls eyes). Dragos truly was awesome! Sick girl that I was, I liked that even though Pia found him hot and fell in love with him, she could still see he was a scary guy. Who doesn't like a guy who would give you the world, but he could also slaughter a whole army of enemies for you? Who's so jealous, he doesn't even like his crew touching you? (PSA awareness moment: Not okay in real life, but I like it in books. So shoot me!)
I thought the world-building was really good. I loved the fact that this book has a strong fantasy element, equal to the romance. It wasn't just a backdrop for paranormal loving (which was verra nice, mind you). There was a lot of thought put into creating this world in which humans live alongside Wyr (shapeshifters) and Faerie folk of all kinds, and old magic is alive and well in this world, and into the adjacent magic realms. It seemed eminently plausible that one of the most powerful economic figures could be an ancient dragon. Don't I wish?
Dragos is an awesome hero, and Pia is an equally awesome heroine. She is gutsy, intelligent, funny, and sweet. She never gave me the urge to ignore her and focus on the hero because I didn't like her. I loved her a lot. I could see myself having similar reactions to the strange circumstances she faces. I loved how utterly fearless (although inwardly quaking) she was when faced with the very scary Dragos, and especially at the end when she finds herself in a very rough situation. I loved her self-deprecating, humorous way of looking at the world, very down to earth and resourceful. I loved her secret heritage, and how Dragos cherished that part of her, and all parts of her. I felt tears brimming when she discovers what she truly is. (You have to understand that I was the little girl who was in love with Pegasus, Unicorns, and all mythical creatures. It was a sweet moment for this little girl who has never truly grown up inside).
I loved Dragos' crew, especially Graydon (who reminded me of Butch from the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by JR Ward), and Tricks (a very hip elf who works as Dragos' PR rep and happens to be the true heir to Throne of the Dark Fae). How cool was it that his sentinels consisted of four gryphons and a tough female Harpy (she reminded me of my girl Xhex from the Black Dagger books). It was funny how Dragos came to life when Pia came around, and seeing how his crew reacted to the new Dragos.
I don't think my review can really add anything because there are some great reviews out there of this book. I really did love everything about it. It was just hip enough (but not annoyingly so), the story and the fantasy elements were fantastic, there were many laugh out loud moments (this book was really funny), and some poignant moments. I loved the relationship between Pia and Dragos, and how they had to work at some things, but they weren't going to give up on being together. (view spoiler)[ And my being a romance reader who likes babies, I was so happy that she even had that element. Not enough PNR books have pregnancy and babies in them for me (I know some readers hate that, but not me!) So I was glad she did have that in this book, and it was so cool how she did it. Definitely some 'aww' moments there. (hide spoiler)]
I know I want to hug this book tight to my book-loving heart. I will put this out on my favorites shelf for a frequent reread. I can't wait to see what Ms. Harrison does in the next Elder Races books. She has a fan in me!
My friends who said I would love this were right. High five!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
The Crown Conspiracy is perfect for readers who enjoy epic fantasy, but in a smaller package. When you have the time and energy for a 500 or more page...moreThe Crown Conspiracy is perfect for readers who enjoy epic fantasy, but in a smaller package. When you have the time and energy for a 500 or more page epic, why not? But if you want a good historical fantasy tale that is shorter but doesn't lack what you enjoy in the genre, then it's great to find one. This is a good choice if you have encountered that dilemma. When I developed a renewed taste for fantasy as an adult reader, I looked at different fantasy novels that many established fans of the genre recommended, and this one continually came up. I've had this on my to read pile for years, and fortunately, my library had a copy. I had a ball reading it.
A good writer can use an economy of words and bring a character to life. Most of my favorite authors are ones who excel at this. I would say Sullivan acquitted himself very well in this area. The portrayal of characters in this novel gave me what I need but also left some mystery. Some characters more than others. He reveals most of their personalities through what they do and say, instead of in long descriptions of them or telling their histories. That's okay with me. I like a story that keeps moving.
As far as characters that stood out the most:
I definitely want to see more of Esrahraddon. But then wizards have that effect on you. The more mysterious the better. Besides Hadrian and Royce, the lead characters, I have to say my favorite was Myron. His sense of wonder about the world (which makes sense considering he was in a monastery for over 30 years and most of his life at the age of 36). He has some of the funniest lines in the book. He's utterly captivated by horses, for instance. He's never seen one before, and he thinks they are brilliant. The same goes for women. You can't help but laugh at him, but it's in a gentle way, because he's really a sweet guy.
Other characters grow on you, such as Prince Alric. He's pretty much a pompous jerk initially. But he comes into his own. You realize that he's not different from Myron. Merely a person shaped by his experiences. He comes to realize that being King is not just luxury and privilege, but also a lot of responsibility and discomfort and self-sacrifice. He learns that the hard way. He also learns who he can trust, and that is not always who he might initially think.
Hadrian and Royce are two of those amiable rogues that make fantasy so fun. They are thieves and proud. But they have honor, in their own way. I like how they end up saving a kingdom, the unlikely heroes of this piece. Although they might be criminals, they are never the bad guys in this book. I liked that distinction. Sometimes you can be on the wrong side of the law and not be a bad person (I am not advocating breaking the law, mind you). Sometimes that law isn’t necessarily fair across the board or makes it hard for you to do what’s right. Or maybe you’re just a criminal who is otherwise a decent person. I don’t see why it can’t happen, at least in theory.
I liked that the characters’ motives aren’t necessarily crystal clear initially. You have to read to see the story develop (sounds like a no-brainer) and what choices the characters make that will define them ultimately, or at least elucidate who they are. There were some nice twists and turns along the way that I wasn't expecting. While some of the secondary characters are less developed, that’s only to be expected, unless you want a 1000 page book, and I definitely don’t.
The World of this Novel and Magic:
What could have been complex world-building instead is simply explained, which is a relief. I like books that have good world-building, but I don’t like things so complicated that I can’t figure out what’s going on or I am drawn out of the story and get bored. The political themes are a constant undercurrent of the story as there is a struggle between the imperialists, nationalists, and royalists, and the main characters get caught up in this struggle on a personal level. The religious foundations and spiritual beliefs of these countries also play a role in the storyline, since the governments are more or less based on the founding/creating gods worshiped. When Myron explained all this to Royce and Hadrian, I admit I was captivated. It made sense, and at the same time, it was rather sophisticated how the ancient past related to the present of the world at the time of this book. Albeit subtle in rendering, magic is part and parcel of this world, used as another instrument to wield for everyday uses. I especially loved Esrahaddon's prison. It was unnerving and yet fascinating that magic allowed such an invention. And the fact that they would go to so much trouble just to keep one person locked up made me long for more information about this unique individual. I wish that Astria had been able to demonstrate more magical ability. She only got to do a couple of simple magical things, and with her role being so important to the story, it would have been nice to see more of her. Perhaps Sullivan didn’t want magic to be a fix all in this book. With that as a presumption, I can understand why he kept magic low key in the story overall.
Overall, I was quite satisfied with this story. I think it was a very good fantasy adventure tale. While I have read some epic fantasy stories that have more wow factor, I think this is one that sneaks in on you and delivers in a way that can’t be questioned. It harkens back to the older adventure tales, such as Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser by Fitz Leiber or even Elric of Melnibone’ by Michael Moorcock. Shorter stories that are great reads in their own way even if they don’t seem as majestic as Tolkien. From reading this work, I would say that Sullivan definitely has a love of this genre, and he created a story that treats it with respect.
I definitely want to follow this series, and it’s gratifying that these books were written in such a way that they are self-contained despite being related to each other. I would recommend The Crown Conspiracy to fantasy readers, and those who want to give the genre a try.
Ever watch a movie and wonder, 'What if the villain ran off with the femme fatale?' Then you might like this book. I sure did. I love dark romance. So...moreEver watch a movie and wonder, 'What if the villain ran off with the femme fatale?' Then you might like this book. I sure did. I love dark romance. Sometimes I ask myself why I enjoy seeing the dark side of this genre, not depravity and kinky deeds, cheating heroes, and bickering, but heroes and heroines who are more like antiheroes and villains, who find love and their happy ever after. I think it's my unassailable belief that love does conquer all. Like Fox Murder, I really want to believe.
Ava Gray has written an excellent offering for those of us with a taste for the noir. In this book, we have a heroine who lives for the next con, moving from town to town, and relieving fools of their money, feeling no remorse about it. But, at least she only takes money from those she thinks deserves it. On her tail is a hero who kills people for a living. Yes, an assassin. Like Kyra, he plys his trade on those who he feels deserves killing. Now, to like this story you have to be willing to read about people who are morally flexible, or at least, those have a different view of morality than the norm. I think that Ms. Gray brought these characters to life in such a manner that I could feel enough respect and empathy for them that their dark ways didn't offend me. I admit, I don't like the idea of stealing for a living. But, Kyra managed to be a heroine that I could like, although I didn't always agree with the choices she made. She had her own sense of honor, which endeared her to me.
I freely admit that I am intrigued by the idea of an assassin hero or heroine. Don't ask me why. It's morbid, but there is an appeal to seeing what motivates them to do what they do. Reyes is probably one of my favorite assassin heroes so far. He truly believes that he does a service to the world. The only reason he took Kyra's contract was because he was decieved into believing she was a bad person who needed killing. Fairly soon after he takes up with her as her apprentice in the con game world, he comes to realize that she's not the person he'd been led to believe she was.
Both Kyra and Reyes struck me as intensely lonely and somewhat sad characters. After Kyra's father was murdered, she had no one (other than her friend Mia), and lived a lonely life, seeking only the sexual satisfaction of one night stands as she travels. Although she's suspicious of Reyes at first, she ends up taking him into her solitary world, and falling for him.
Their first intimate encounter is all about lust, but Ms. Gray turns things around, allowing us to see a somewhat slow-building, and in some ways, innocent courtship between these two lonely people. They both start to hope that they have found someone who they can possibly love. However, Reyes knows he's on borrowed time. He has a job to perform. His reputation is built on always completing his kills. He doesn't want to kill Kyra, but he doesn't see a way around it. I found this a little disturbing that even halfway through the book, Reyes was still contemplating killing Kyra. I think that was a brave move on Ms. Gray's part. I held my breath, hoping that Reyes would realize that he couldn't hurt Kyra, because he loved her. Soon, this dangerous man turns his formidable skills to protecting the woman he has been hired to kill.
Skin Game is more suspense than action. I liked the fact that we were able to see the viewpoints of various characters: Kyra and Reyes; the fascinating Addison Foster, who is the security head for the man who wants Kyra dead; Mia, Kyra's friend; and Serrano, the man that Kyra used, humilated, and stole millions of dollars from, who will stop at nothing to see her dead to save his face. It gave a greater depth to this dark story, turning this book into noir romance for the thinking woman.
Skin Game is as gritty as it gets. It has some moments that made me wince a few times, as Kyra and Reyes have to deal with some enemies they make along the way. The love scenes are hot and earthy, and the love between Kyra and Reyes was believable and deep. I truly enjoyed reading this story. I was sucked into this dark tale with a silver lining. I wouldn't want to live the kinds of lives that Kyra and Reyes lead, but I liked the fact that they were able to find each other and hope for the future. They didn't really get the best hands in the poker game of life, but they managed to play a killer game with the ones they are dealt. I like the idea that even in the dark, there are those who do have motivations that show some degree of honor. Skin Game couldn't have been an easy book to write, but Ms. Gray did it very well. This one goes on my keeper shelf. (less)
What do you do when you want to gain possession of something that's nearly impossible to obtain? You hire a thief who can steal just about anything.
Ge...moreWhat do you do when you want to gain possession of something that's nearly impossible to obtain? You hire a thief who can steal just about anything.
Gen has no disillusions about his abilities as a thief. He's actually named after the god of thieves, Eugenides, as a matter of fact. While his father wanted him to be a soldier, he knew that was not the life for him. Instead, he honed his skills at stealing, until he was one of the best in the land. Too bad he did a little too much bragging about stealing the King's seal and ended up in jail. He's approached by the King's magus and offered a proposition, steal something for the King, and he'll be released from jail. If he refuses, he'll simply disappear (not in a good way). It's not a proposition an intelligent young man would say no to. So begins this story.
Gen is one of those characters that I couldn't help but enjoy. His irreverent, jaundiced, but very insightful view of human nature insinuated him into my affections. I like that kind of humor, so I tend to gravitate towards main characters like Gen. From the beginning, I knew he was a thief, but that didn't make him unlikeable to me. Instead, I wanted to find out what made him tick, and I was rooting for him to come out of this story for the better. I liked that I saw some character growth in him as this story progressed.
The Thief is a story set in an alternate world in which various gods hold the devotion of the populace. I liked how part of the story was hearing the tales of the gods who made this world; and those stories are very smoothly integrated into the plot, playing a crucial role in the narration, characterization, and the unfolding of this story. Reading the extra material at the end of this novel revealed Ms. Turner's thought process. I could see a heavy Greek mythology influence, but there were unique elements about the pantheon and the story-telling that showed the author's specific vision. There are also aspects that surprised me, in that the gods actually play a real role in this story. I liked how the fantasy elements didn't dominate, but the focus is Gen's character and his quest to steal something that has the potential to affect three kingdoms in this novel.
There was an interesting twist towards the end that I was not expecting at all, and I always give my respect to an author who can do that, and surprise me. I'm not a jaded reader, by any means, but I read a lot, and I've seen a lot of common plot devices; so a writer who can throw me a curve ball is always appreciated.
I have to say that this Newbury Award Winner did impress me. It's one of those stories that doesn't try to go elaborate, but has a richness that won me over as a reader all the same. Fortunately, this is part of a series, so I can look forward to more adventures in this interesting world. (less)
I really enjoyed Lie by Moonlight, and I think a huge part of its charm was listening to it on audio. The narrator has a great voice, she speaks with...moreI really enjoyed Lie by Moonlight, and I think a huge part of its charm was listening to it on audio. The narrator has a great voice, she speaks with an English accent, and she modified her voice for the various characters, based on class, gender, and personality. I like how she captured the Victorian feel--both a mystery vibe and a romantic in a classic way vibe. She showed the chemistry that Concordia and Ambrose shared, and also she conveys the sense of family between Concordia and the girls, Edwina, Phoebe, Hannah, and Theodora. How they become a big family along with Ambrose, Mr. Stoner, and Mrs. and Mr. Oates.
The storyline was good. I liked that although Concordia is a woman who carries herself with respect and maturity, she does own up to her rather unconventional upbringing without letting it define her as a person. I really appreciate heroines who are independent, but also rational and thoughtful in their decision-making. Concordia never goes off like a loose cannon, which always seems to invalidate a heroine's intelligence and self-sufficiency to me when I read that in a book. Concordia also showed a lot of heart and integrity in how she protected the young girls in her care. I personally like heroines who believe in doing the right thing and helping those who have been oppressed, disenfranchised, or who are disadvantaged. Although Quick doesn't beat the reader over the head with the history of the Victorian times and how women were treated, especially orphans with no money or status, I could see that as the background for this story. I respected that although Concordia's parents shared one set of values, she didn't feel like she had to adopt their own values for herself when they obviously weren't valid or healthy to her.
Ambrose was a man of mystery and I liked that about him. I liked seeing how his background shaped his future and how he uses his skills to help people, even though he gets a personal high out of shadowy feats of espionage. It was clear that he fell for Concordia fast, but it was also organic how his feelings evolved with each moment he spent with her. I was rooting for Concordia to ask him to marry him, and I loved how he put that ball in her court because he knew she needed to have that sense of authority in her life.
The suspense and mystery elements were good. I didn't truly guess what was going on until the end. I thought things would go in one direction, but with the excellent plotting, Ms. Quick was able to bring the story to a resolution that made sense for the story.
This is my second read by Amanda Quick, Second Sight being the first. I liked Second Sight, but I really liked this one. I am glad I have several other books by Ms. Quick in my collection to read, and I will definitely avail myself of the Quick books on audio at the library when I can.
I do recommend this one on audio. The narrator adds so much to the charm and appeal of this book. Thumbs up from this reader.
I have to say that I was very impressed with this story. The worldbuilding was excellent and distinct to me. The setting of this book was like Pre-Ren...moreI have to say that I was very impressed with this story. The worldbuilding was excellent and distinct to me. The setting of this book was like Pre-Renaissance Italy, with Faerie architectural elements and fantastical magic thrown in, but never overwhelming. I especially appreciated that Mr. Lynch went with a group of characters who were admittedly seedy, but utterly lovable, The Gentlemen Bastards. This whole world is very much on the edge of unpalatability. You can see and smell the filthy and unsavory environments. This story is full of cutthroats and unscrupulous criminals of all kinds. And there is the mafia element. I give the Yakuza (Japanese mafia) and the Russia mafia a free pass, because there is something very fascinating about them to me. But I really dislike the Italian mafia. Maybe this book was therapy for me, because I had to deal with the whole “Made Man” vibe, but it wasn’t the eyesore that I expected. Probably because the Gentleman Bastards are mainly swindlers and thieves, not blood-thirsty murderers with no code. But they walk in this dangerous world, and often face the nasty aspects (and characters) that end up with people dying painfully and in very bloody ways.
I’m touchy-feely when it comes to characters when I read books. I read for pleasure, and I need to have that connection to the characters in books that will end up being favorites. I totally had that with this book. From the beginning, Locke won me over. He’s one of those characters that literally steal their way into my heart. He had this ability to be a thorn in people’s sides, but it’s not from a mean spirited/cruel standpoint. It’s just like he’s a little imp and he can’t help himself. He wasn’t perfect, and I loved him for it. Locke is the planner of the operation. He’s not the muscle, and he’s not even the most book smart. In fact, he’s scrawny and small, and a terrible fighter. Funny, how his personality is so larger than life. Each member of his gang plays an important role, and that’s outside of the fact that they are his friends, his adopted brothers. Locke has to learn a lesson about loyalty as a very young man, lessons that he never forgets.
I do love a good coming of age story, and so I liked how Mr. Lynch starts this story with Locke as a very young boy, and shows him growing up, and how he ends up being the leader of the Gentleman Bastards. He also shows how Locke’s relationships with his boys develop. By the time the story gets to present day, I have already established a bond to these guys. I like how everything ties together in this story, from the flashbacks of Locke and the other Gentlemen Bastards as a boy, the anecdotes about the lands in this book, their beliefs, the way that the criminal and societal structures develop, everything. This is definitely a book where no parts are just throwaway filler. It all ties together, and I appreciated that my attention when I reading was rewarded with a ‘payoff.’
The Lies of Locke Lamora is not a genteel or gentle read. The language and talk is often quite vulgar and rough. It didn’t bother me, because this is the world that Locke lives in. He might inhabit a dukedom full of rich nobles, but they live up in the clouds, and he lives down in the dirty, rough streets of Camorr. It’s the real world, not the pretty one. This book is about criminals; and while the main character are lovable, admirable men with a highly-developed sense of ethics, they are thieves, swindlers, and liars. However, there is no question that they won my loyalty. This is a book where there are shades of gray, and bonds between the characters are complex. It’s not always just about friendship and loyalty. It’s as much about least cost differential, and do it or die kind of relationships. The people you have to ‘deal with’ because you don’t have much of a choice. You don’t have to like them. Heck, you might hate their guts even. Kind of real life, but ramped up for those of us who are fortunate to live in a saner, safer everyday world. The suspense inherent in this world made for an exciting read. There were also very welcome humorous moments that had me cracking up; and the bonding between Locke and his friends, the sage advice given to him, in a very earthy way by his mentor and leader Chains, and the family they formed was heart-warming.
If you are like me, and you don’t normally like the whole wiseguys/mafia thing, don’t pass this book by just for those reasons. Yes, there are some violent, cruel elements in this story. However, Locke and his boys always had my loyalty, and their actions never made me lose faith in them. On the other hand, if you do like the caper stories where the small guys work together to get their piece of the pie, and you are rooting for them the whole time, you should read this book. This one is going on my favorites list, and I am excited read more of the Gentleman Bastards’ capers. (less)
This is not one of my favorite Christina Dodd books. It was decent, but I expect more than decent from her. I think it's a timing thing. Be...moreWell......
This is not one of my favorite Christina Dodd books. It was decent, but I expect more than decent from her. I think it's a timing thing. Being an extremely moody reader, it's hard when I read something and it doesn't fit what I am feeling at the time.
The Not-So Good: *I never fell in love with the storyline, to be honest. I didn't like how Roberto and Brandi got together. She picked him up to make herself feel better after her fiance dumped her. Imagine her telling her grandkids that story. I don't like the fling/hook-up/one night stand storyline at all. Furthermore, I just couldn't get behind Roberto as a glitzy, celebrity count who happened to be a jewel thief (and the subsequent reveal on this). I couldn't suspend my disbelief on that one. And the connection between that and the men who were stalking Brandi was highly tenuous. *Love scenes were too short, not satisfying to me. Christina Dodd writes good love scenes, but these didn't set this book on fire for me. *The suspense part didn't work for me. It was a bit too thin and didn't come together well. *Roberto didn't blow me away or hit me hard like many of Christina Dodd's heroes. He wasn't a bad hero. He just didn't do much for me, except for his beautiful gesture at the end, and how he stood up for Brandi with her ex-fiance'. Those were a few sigh-worthy moments on his part. It might be that I am just not into the Italian allure when it comes to guys. They don't do much for me. And I especially don't go for the high profile ladykiller type like he was. *Sometimes I didn't get Brandi. She acted in ways that didn't make sense and didn't seem like something a logical, goal-oriented type person would do. She had some esteem issues from her dad and I could see that in her. On the positive side, I respected her for taking control of her life and helping out her mother when her father failed them.
The Good: *This was a quick, fast-paced, breezy read, which is nice if you want a quick pick-me-up. *The humor was good *Interesting storyline *Smart, independent heroine *I loved Roberto's grandfather. He was adorable! *Despite not liking how Brandi and Roberto met, I did like their chemistry together, although it didn't grow as fully-bloomed as I would hope. This read like an expanded short story instead of the full-fledged novel it was. *I thought Brandi's relationship with her sister and mother added to the book, but her father was a full-on jerk. (view spoiler)[ I'm glad she washed her hands of him. He doesn't deserve to have a relationship with her (hide spoiler)]
Would I Recommend This Book?
Honestly, I would say avoid this one if you haven't read any Christina Dodd. I think she has written better. If your expectations aren't very high, you will probably find it to be a serviceable read, and you might enjoy it. I just expect so much more from her, and maybe I wasn't in the right mood when I read this. It's like ice cream. If the ice cream tastes pretty good even if it's not great, it's still better than no ice cream at all. But you'd rather eat really good ice cream if you're going to splurge on those calories. That's how I would describe this book.