This is by far the darkest book in the series so far, which is saying something. I think it might also be my favorite. I loved the magic and the super...moreThis is by far the darkest book in the series so far, which is saying something. I think it might also be my favorite. I loved the magic and the supernatural entities in the book, and Nate when he's peeved is something to watch out for. This would make a great action movie, although I'd cringe on some parts. Nate is the man!!
It was great to read the story of how Gideon and Savannah met. I must say that they are one of my favorite Breed couples, and I always wondered how th...moreIt was great to read the story of how Gideon and Savannah met. I must say that they are one of my favorite Breed couples, and I always wondered how they got together. Overall, I enjoyed this book. I didn't like it quite as much as I wanted to though. I think that was because Gideon is so sex-bombalicious nerdtastic in the other books, I wanted to see more of his oh-so alluring geekiness. Instead, he was much like the other Breed males in his demeanor although there was a cool part about him creating a precursor to the laptop we know and love today (cause guess what I'm typing this review on right now?). Thus, this book didn't really stand out that much from the other books. That was probably my biggest issue and why this wasn't higher rated. Also, I didn't like (view spoiler)[how Gideon promised not to fight in the field because of Savannah's fear of it. To me, it makes her into the bad guy to take that away from him. Fact is, they live in a world with a lot of violence, and I think that Gideon's status as a warrior is honorable and something to be proud of. Yes, there is risk, but he's very good at what he does. I wouldn't want to take that away from him. It does answer why he doesn't fight, but since he had a bullet stuck in his head, that was just as good a reason for him not to fight (hide spoiler)]. Even though Gideon wasn't as geeky, I still liked him a lot. I love his typical British colloquialisms, which we see in this novella as well.
What I loved was getting to know Savannah. I really, really like her. She's very young, but she has a maturity that I respected about her. She's a very intellectual person with a keen mind, and I could see part of why they were drawn to each other. Also her strong sense of right and wrong, and that traditional heroic urge, which is addressed in the novella. When she gets a vision of Gideon by touching his sword, you could instantly feel that bond begin between them, and when they meet, the rest is inevitable.
One thing that stood out to me was that Adrian stays grounded in the 70s setting throughout this book. The scene when Gideon tells her to call the Order, she has to grab coins out of her purse and run outside to a pay phone. That was really well done. At first, I expected her to pull out her cell phone, and I would imagine that would be Adrian's gut instinct to write that, but she remembers that they don't have cell phones at that time. I was instantly reminded that this is set about thirty-odd years in the past. She didn't have to keep hitting me over the head with descriptions of bell-bottoms and stuff like that either.
Ultimately, if you're a fan of the Breed series, I don't see why you wouldn't like this. It has the same feel and intensity of the other books. I think the biggest draw was getting to see Gideon and Savannah's backstory on paper, and although it was a short novella, it was well done and I believe in their love, past, present and future. Of course, it was awesome to see more of Tegan, 'cause I just love him!
And I'm really happy to see a popular paranormal romance novelist who is upfront and comfortable with depicting a loving, committed interracial relationship in her books. Kudos for that, Ms. Adrian.
A respectable four star read for me. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This was more creepy than Baltimore: The Plague Ships, and that's saying something. Baltimore is still on the hunt for his one-eyed, scarred vampire n...moreThis was more creepy than Baltimore: The Plague Ships, and that's saying something. Baltimore is still on the hunt for his one-eyed, scarred vampire nemesis, but he comes across a cult of demented nuns who follow an occultist bent on rebirthing a powerful sorceress.
I think this series is for readers who loved the Monster of the Week type programs such as Night Gallery or Thriller, or even episodic television like The Incredible Hulk where our lone hero conquers a different situation each week. I could see this as a good television adaptation in the right hands.
The artwork is as beautiful as The Plague Ships, and the writing just as atmospheric. Although this was more scary. It delves deeper into the themes of diabolism and occult dealings with dark entities, and this town that Baltimore goes to is full of a sense of wrongness, death and murky secrets. I did read this at night and I didn't have nightmares, but that was because I read something else before I went to sleep.
Baltimore has to balance his selfish need for revenge against the greater good, and he teams up with an American journalist who is writing a book about vampires after discovering they were real in the Great War. I thought the reporter looked a lot like Edgar Allen Poe, and I wouldn't be surprised if that was a deliberate choice of the creators of this graphic novel. Part of the narrative even includes as passage from "The Bells" by Poe.
I think this was just as good as The Plague Ships if not better, but it's more disturbing and disarming than that prior book in the series. I know that's because it focuses on occultism, black magic, and people who trade the lives of others for ultimate power. Those subjects are inherently more affecting to me than, say zombies and vampires.
Baltimore is a very effective dark hero with an antiheroic bent. He is the dark hero that fights against the darkness, and strives to recover his own lost soul in the process. Those kinds of heroes always get me.
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 am torn about this one. I almost gave it four stars, but it seems a bit too much like the story arc of one of my favorite paranormal couples, and I...moreI am torn about this one. I almost gave it four stars, but it seems a bit too much like the story arc of one of my favorite paranormal couples, and I had a hard time getting past that. I did like the relationship dynamic between Gray and Dillon. How her jaguar nature is drawn to him and sees him as her mate, but she continually fights it. I liked them both, although Dillon was annoying at times. The sexual language is too raunchy for my tastes, another drawback. Overall, a pretty good installment in this series.
*Disclaimer*--I have endeavored to make this spoiler-free, but beware anyway.
It’s been a long time coming, but readers of the Black Dagger Brotherhood...more*Disclaimer*--I have endeavored to make this spoiler-free, but beware anyway.
It’s been a long time coming, but readers of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series finally get to see the culmination of the romantic entanglement between Qhuinn and Blay. While I wouldn’t have called myself Team Qhuay, I had hopes that their love story would be satisfying, and I can gladly say that it was! I am very much in love with this series, and each year, I look forward to reuniting with the Brothers and their loved ones, allies, and associates (and antagonists), and spending time in that busy little city of Caldwell, New York. While there was a great deal of nervousness of how this book would hit me, I am a happy reader. I found that I couldn’t give it less than five stars since I enjoyed it so very much. A book that has my eyes and attention stuck to the pages like Super Glue and happily (or otherwise) talking to myself and the book has to be a five star one in my mind.
Qhuinn is an acquired taste. His ‘don’t care’, abrasive personality and highly promiscuous behavior did not endear him to me, although I did respect his loyalty to John Matthew and Blay, and as a result, to the Brothers. He evolved beautifully over the course of the series, growing into the worthy male he always had the potential to become. With this book and the previous two, Ward showed me that his personality was shaped by a childhood of being denied what every person should have in this life, loving acceptance from his parents and family. Qhuinn more or less raised himself. I do have to say that when I take this into account, it’s amazing he turned out so well. Deep down, he is a very wonderful male with a good heart. It’s interesting that some of the gentleness that calls to me from a male of worth was first brought to light in his relationship with Layla. While I never saw them as a future mating, their interactions showed a strong bond of friendship and caring, and the courteous way he treated Layla warmed me to Qhuinn, as well has his loyalty and bravery in fighting for the Brotherhood. With this book, I felt as though my heart was scraped over with sandpaper as I saw truly how it was for Qhuinn in his life. The mindless sex didn’t work for me, and it still doesn’t. But I can see that this was just a way to hide from the pain. In the end, Qhuinn made me cry and showed that he deserved Blay’s love. I was happy to go through his journey or realizing what truly was important in his life, and the one consistent in his life was his friend and beloved Blay, even though he couldn’t admit for a long time that his heart desire to love and be loved by Blay. I literally hurt for him, as he looked back on his past actions with excruciating regret. I know we all wish we’d made different choices, and our hearts cry out for acceptance and unconditional love. I felt so much for Qhuinn as he went through this painful process. At the end of this book, I realized that I truly loved Qhuinn, he has become one of my favorite characters in this series, which is saying something!
I have always loved Blay. I loved him just as much now. He has so much to offer others, and his center is strong and complete. Being around someone like that is so good for you, because we need that pillar of strength in our life. Qhuinn certainly did. Even when he wasn’t being very kind to Qhuinn. I can certainly understand why. It’s very hard to keep loving someone who clearly doesn’t want your love, or at least that is how they act. Despite that, Blay still showed love in his intent and his uncalculated actions, which speaks volumes. The acts he does on behalf of Qhuinn definitely speak of unselfish love, and even when he was being nasty to Qhuinn, I could look past that to the why of his behavior. I didn’t find his viewpoint as strong as Qhuinn, but I guess that Qhuinn is just a more vibrant character in the end. I think that it’s because Blay has known who he was for a long time, and what he wanted. He just had to wait until that person was ready to be claimed. But for what I saw of Blay, he remains a beloved character for me. I feel that his steady nature complements the windstorm that is Qhuinn.
As before, I feel sad about Saxton. I think they both knew it wouldn’t last, because Blay’s heart was elsewhere. But I still pain for Saxton that he had to let go of Blay, even though he had fallen in love with him. It was the right thing to do in the end. I hope high hopes that Saxton will get his happy ending. He deserves it.
If there was a couple who weren’t more meant for each other than Qhuay, then I can’t name them. Their love has traveled some tough roads, with lots of pain and anguish along the way. But anything forged in fire is built to last. I feel that way about Qhuinn and Blay together. Like most of the other Brotherhood couples, they have found their place on the shelf in my heart as I smiled at their happy resolution at the end of this book. I do feel that Ward did them justice.
We get more of a snapshot of all the Brothers in this book than anything else. Instead of focusing on the established characters, Ward spends most of her attention on the newer characters and of course, Qhuinn and Blay. However, I just love catching up with the Brothers. They have me laughing and sometimes crying. They watch out for each other and love each other, even if it’s in a dysfunctional way. To me they are real people. Maybe that’s sad, but I can’t feel any regret about my psychotic belief that these are real people!
Layla is a character that many feel conflicted about. I like her. I like her just as much as I did before. I do like that she is taking measures to root herself in newly found autonomy. There were moments in this book that I cheered her on seriously, because she showed the potential I felt she always had. While she is not Qhuinn’s true love, I really like their relationship, how she sees the good in him and loves him dearly. She had faith in him when I didn’t and probably few others did. That means a lot. But more than this, she is her own person with her own destiny to fulfill outside of Qhuinn or her Chosen status. I’m glad she grabbed for that with both hands. I am so glad that things are going okay with the situation that arose out of the last book. I can say no more without spoilers.
When I read a book, I go through a period of wondering where an author is going with a storyline, but I am willing to take the ride. With this book, there was a fair amount of that initially. Especially with Assail and the Band of Brothers. While Assail was intriguing in the first book, he is doubly so now. That male is fierce and very, shall we say, ‘antiheroic.’ His interactions with a certain lady and some of his shameless comments definitely had my heart beating fast. He has that pull I look for in a romantic hero, for sure. Let me just say I am eagerly waiting seeing where things go next with Assail. He is turning out to be quite the character.
The Band of Brothers storyline is another one that is in flux. I wasn’t quite sure what I thought of it, but I am definitely feeling the Xcor/Layla connection. The scene in the car made me feel so deeply for them. The writing was so good on that scene. The imagery embedded itself in my consciousness, and I felt this aching poignancy of that moment. Call me Team Xcor/Layla! As far as the BoB’s war against the Brotherhood, this promises to be intense. I love the Brothers, but I can’t say I want to see the BoB hurt. I am feeling kinda invested in these guys. I don’t think of them as full-on villains right now, but more like antiheroes. Maybe that’s good that they aren’t so cut and dried. But more layered and complex in their motivations.
I am gratified to see Trez’s storyline develop. At the same time, I wonder, what about iAm? I guess Ward has to pick her battles, and she chose to work with his story first. The Shadows have me very intrigued, and I want to find out more about their origins. Trez is definitely in the hot seat. While I don’t like his method of dealing with it, I definitely can understand his feelings of being trapped by his destiny.
Summing Things Up
I haven’t followed reviews of this because I don’t like to let that affect how I view a book. I tried very hard to avoid spoilers before I read this. In all honestly, the new Brotherhood book is a highlight of my year. And I was not disappointed. While many dislike JR Ward’s writing or have become dissatisfied with the series, I am not one of those. I felt that she showed that she cares about these characters as much as I do, and puts a lot of energy and creativity into writing these books. I’m happy with the result. I’m back on the merry-go-round, because now I am starting the year long wait for the next book. It’s hard work being a Black Dagger Brotherhood fan, but there are payoffs! (less)
This was a very good fantasy romance. I loved the dragons, so majestic and beautiful. The world-building was strong, and the magic awe-inspiring. I wo...moreThis was a very good fantasy romance. I loved the dragons, so majestic and beautiful. The world-building was strong, and the magic awe-inspiring. I would like to read more by this author.
Daggerspell is an epic fantasy novel built on the idea of reincarnation. If we have failed to fulfill our destiny in one life, we are compelled to ret...moreDaggerspell is an epic fantasy novel built on the idea of reincarnation. If we have failed to fulfill our destiny in one life, we are compelled to return to this life in another form to do that. As I read this novel, I was confronted with my feelings about that inalienable destiny. There are some people that you have in your life that seem only to bring pain and hardship, and the comfort is that when you leave this life, you leave that pain they cause you behind. In this novel, that is not the case. And more importantly, a person cannot run from themselves and the anguish their own actions will deliver them. In some ways, that was a bitter pill to swallow as I read. The blessing in this novel was that one man, Nevyn, which sounds like ‘no one’ has lived through three lives and walks that anguished road with those people who he failed to help the first time. Another integral part of this novel is the Welsh-like feel to their world. I’m not an expert on Welsh language, so if I’m wrong, I apologize. But it felt as though this novel used some of the Welsh language particulars and it felt pretty distinct and authentic to me. I was afraid that the names and the language would be an issue, but it wasn’t. After I read the novel, I read through the glossary, and surprisingly, I was able to discern what most of the terms meant through context.
The Characters: Nevyn and Jill were standout characters for me. I felt deeply for Nevyn. The huge burden of seeing people he had cared for in the first go-round suffer through their Wyrd (destiny) again and again until they got it right. That was tough. I loved that he had followed his own destiny, not without loss or sacrifice, and had used this incredible skills as a dweomerman (magician/wizard) to help people and to fight for the forces of light. In the first life, he made a selfish choice, and it cost the life of a woman he loved. He had vowed to help her find her destiny, and it took him three life cycles to do it. That’s determination. Jill was young but she had substance and a strong heart. One of her choices in this novel gave me heartburn. For a romantic, I was surprised I didn’t want her to follow that path and go in another way. I’m glad that this worked out despite my apprehensions about it. Cullyn was also a compelling character. He had me worried a few times. He was a man who had one heck of a wyrd to work out, and it was a rough one. What I loved is that he was able to overcome that dark destiny through the power of his integrity and love for his daughter. Rhodry was a character that didn’t quite convince me he was worthy of Jill. He was a decent person, a little spoiled, but I didn’t feel he was Jill’s wyrd, at least not in a good way. I guess the author knows better than me about such things. In the first life cycle, it was like watching a car wreck before it happens, I mean literally. That really took me out of my comfort zones. I was actually shouting at the book, saying, “Please don’t do that.” It took some fortification to keep reading after that, but part of me couldn’t let go of this story because like any good fiction novel, it made me ask the central question. “What happens next?” I’m not a believer in reincarnation, but the way things work out for the characters in that life cycle kind of made me glad that it exists in this novel.
Magic and Magical Folks: I loved that Jill could see and interact with the Wildfolk. Especially the cute gray gnome who was often her boon companion and her comfort through her tough young life. I liked this idea that those marked by the dweomer are able to perceive the Wildfolk. It was also interesting how many ‘normal’ folks feared the magic and many more didn’t even believe in it. It seemed strange to me since this felt so real, and their lives were deeply affected by the power of the magic around them. I appreciated how within this landscape of humanity there were pockets of legendary creatures, such as a dwarf metalsmith who gives Jill her silver dagger, and the Westfolk, who are actually elves. I really liked the elves!
My final thoughts: I went into reading this cold. I had never heard of this book until it was recommended on the fantasy group. I saw it at the bookstore and thought, “Why not?” And I am glad I read it. I think the writing was strong, the storyline interesting, although a bit on the tragic side in some ways. It felt intricate and complex and deep, and that appeals to me. The idea of having to work out the consequences of the choices you make in life resonates with me, and for a foundation of a fantasy novel, it works surprisingly well. I think I would like to continue this series to see where Kerr takes this story and the characters next. I recommend it to readers who enjoy epic fantasy. (less)
I probably would have rated this higher if I hadn't been so strung out from sleep deprivation and just feeling so tired and worn out this past weekend...moreI probably would have rated this higher if I hadn't been so strung out from sleep deprivation and just feeling so tired and worn out this past weekend. I feel bad about that, because that's the reason why I hoard my favorite authors' books for when I am in a good/receptive mood. Even with my beloved books, I can set the bar high and being moody can interfere with my reading experience. I guess it seems silly to qualify a four star rating. But Anne Stuart/Kristina Douglas is probably one of the authors I will have near my dying bedside, other than the Bible. That's how much I love her books. Anyhoo, let's get to the review.
I was looking forward to Michael's story because he seemed more light-hearted and jocular than the other Fallen. Lo and behold, he is a moody grump in his book. I can sort of get why. He's forced to get married for a prophecy to a woman who will die after he mates with her. He's chosen celibacy and the warrior life over sex, love and marriage (the Fallen variant). It's not that he didn't like sex. He gorged himself on it shortly after falling, and it was just empty for him after a while. He decided he likes his monastic warrior lifestyle better. Plus, he's repelled by the fact that Fallen are blood-eaters. Because of their curse for falling, they must ingest the blood of human women to sustain their lives. Fortunately, Michael can take just enough blood from the Source, the wife of the Alpha of the Fallen, to sustain his bodily needs. Other than that, he's not tempted in the least by women, neither for sex nor for blood. Until Victoria Bellona.
Now I thought the concept of Tory being a goddess was kind of weird. This story is based on Judeo-Christian legends of the fallen angels, although Douglas takes an extreme right turn with some of her theology. I can't say I love some aspects of that, which I have mentioned in my reviews of the first two books in this series. At any rate, throwing in the Roman pantheon just felt weird. She had a good explanation for it, and since it's her book, oh well. Having accepted who Tory was, I got over that, and just experienced her character. I liked Tory a lot. She's feisty and independent, especially considering the way she was raised. She could hold her own against Michael, and often kept him off balance. I loved seeing how she conquered her warrior angel with her personality and just being herself. He had no chance against her! I loved her silly names for him, like "Your Impeccable Angelic Magnificence." I mean, how does a stoic warrior angel confront that? He just has to give in.
While the world-building isn't award-winning (fairly basic), I love the interactions between the characters. How Douglas shows hate turn into love so well. She writes love scenes that evolve as the relationship between the characters evolves, which is the way it should be. You see these hardened heroes turn to slush before they even realize it. You smirk and say, "I knew it!", and enjoy the ride. I also love the description of the angels with their wings unfolded and their majestic beauty. I just love angels! Although Douglas is not a wordy writer, she conveys the heavenly beauty of even the fallen angels with words that say so much and paints such a vivid picture.
In the end, I didn't think much of the suspense elements. I don't care for the idea of Uriel being both the ruler of heaven and the big bad. Nor did I like the concept of Dark City and Beloch. But I did love the angelic romance on display. The interactions between the Michael and Tory, as well as catching up with the other Fallen make up for any world-building/suspense shortcomings. Had I been in a better mood, I would probably have been more forgiving. But four stars isn't bad at all.
Despite the things I don't like about this series, I do love the angels, the snarky heroines, and the romance, dark, although love always wins out, and I am excited for Rebel, because Cain looks to be a very bad boy indeed! Since I know who his love interest is, this should be very interesting!(less)
After reading this entire book, I would say the comparison to Julie Garwood's Highland romance books is apt. Yet, it's good to have a new author who w...moreAfter reading this entire book, I would say the comparison to Julie Garwood's Highland romance books is apt. Yet, it's good to have a new author who writes Highland romance with a lovable heroine and a fierce hero who is not quite tamed, but definitely gives his heart to her. If it works, why not do it?
Favorite aspects of this novel:
*Hands down, I really like Mairin. Who doesn't like a heroine who is genuinely kind and good-hearted? One who is also tough and determined but sweet and innocent as well. *A hero who does truly love her and shows it, despite the fact that it goes against his well-earned, tough-guy reputation to be a marshmallow for his woman. Ewan happily said I love you, which is awesome! (view spoiler)[Even though he married her for her dowry and heritage, in the end, he was more than willing to sacrifice that just to have her safe and sound with him. (hide spoiler)] *The suspense was good. The book starts with a bang, and the tension is well-sustained throughout with threats on Mairin's life. My heart was beating very fast towards the end. I literally wondered if I would get the happy ending I expected. Of course, I was not disappointed. *The bonding between Mairin and Crispen. Too cute how he would sleep in the bed with her and truly adored her. But then, she risked personal injury for his safety. Crispen was a cute kid period. *I felt like the period was well-represented without going too stereotypical "Highland romance." While I don't mind brogue, it was nice that Banks didn't feel the need to pepper the dialogue with Highlander accents. And the hero didn't wear a kilt. He wore trews. A Highland book but I didn't have to constantly be reminded of that in an in-your-face way.
*I think Mairin took more lickings than Harry Dresden from the series by Jim Butcher, and boy does he get hurt a lot! If this was a Charmed episode, she'd be rendered infertile by all the injuries she received (for those who watched, you know I'm talking about Piper). *Evil, evil villain. I did feel cheated that (view spoiler)[ I didn't get to see him get his arse kicked by Ewan, Mairin, or at least someone. My hope is that this is rectified in future books. (hide spoiler)]. *Really like that Rhionna promises to be a bonafide kickbutt heroine. Looking forward to her book. *The love scenes are nicely steamy! (view spoiler)[ I loved how after their first time is abbreviated by a threat, and Mairin does not have much confidence in Ewan's loving skills, he proves her wrong! (hide spoiler)]
Overall, this is a very good book. I am glad to find some newer Highland historical romance novels to read, since I enjoy them. While it wasn't mind-blowing, it was entertaining and had a novel feel to it so that I didn't feel like I was reading the same book again. The characters were well-developed and the humor touches were good. While Ewan and Mairin both have some miss-steps in their interactions with each other, it was clear that they were meant for each other, and I could feel the love. I also loved how Mairin won over the clan's loyalty.
I recommend this book to historical romance readers, especially those who enjoy medieval, Highlander books.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I'm not sure how I feel about this book. It has beautiful writing. The descriptions are lyrical and lush in their imagery. The ideas are very imaginat...moreI'm not sure how I feel about this book. It has beautiful writing. The descriptions are lyrical and lush in their imagery. The ideas are very imaginative. I loved Karou. She's strong and vulnerable. She's old for her years, but full of youthful energy. Akiva has an appealing brokenness and dangerous allure. And of course, I love angels. However, I didn't feel satisfied when I finished this book. I felt rather empty, to be honest. I felt a twisty knot of anguish inside. Maybe that's a sign that it was a very good book. That I felt deeply for both Karou, Akiva, Brimstone, Madrigal. I couldn't take sides easily. That's real though, isn't it? War always has losers and rarely has winners. Even the winning side counts the cost, with the innumerable loss of lives, as much as their way of life in no small part.
Now this is embarrassing for a huge romance fan to admit. I found the romantic descriptions a bit much for my tastes. A little too saccharine for me. It could be because I listened to the audiobook version, and honestly I tend to avoid romance on audiobooks (with some notable exceptions). I think I liked this better as fantasy than as a romance. Certainly the end was a hard slap in the face. Very melancholy!
I can see why this book is so well-loved and highly reviewed. It has a lot to offer a fantasy reader. The storyline is very creative, with the author's building of unique myths just for this novel, and the writing is lush and beautiful. As an audiobook, it's a feast to the ears, and the narrator does a great job. However, since I am an unrepentant emotional reader, I couldn't give this five stars, because I wasn't fully satisfied in some intangible way. Having said that, I am looking forward to the upcoming sequel.
Would I recommend this? Yes. It's a book you don't want to miss. Whether you'll feel the same way I did, I can't say. It's important for you to make up your own mind.(less)
Ascension took me a while to read, when I typically devour most paranormal romances. The writing style didn't grab hold of me and refuse to let me go,...moreAscension took me a while to read, when I typically devour most paranormal romances. The writing style didn't grab hold of me and refuse to let me go, which is a shame. However, I did like enough about this book to keep me wanting to continue the series.
What I liked *The concept of ascensions was captivating. I loved the idea that there were various Worlds accessible via dimensional gates that only a person who had ascended could pass through. This had some metaphysical aspects that appealed to me as a person with interest in the ethereal and the scientific. *I liked the mix of high tech science with fantasy aspects which are integral to this book. *The romance was strong and involving despite the dense writing style. The steam and attraction elements were well done. *I'm a sucker for a brotherhood of warriors. What can I say? (view spoiler)[I like the way Roane sort of makes fun of the seemingly obligatory aspect of the brothers going out to a club to get drunk, drink blood, and have sex with willing, nubile females. This has become quite a convention of the paranormal genre which I can’t say I’m in love with. I like that Alison talked about how sexist that was with Kerrick, because it’s a thought I often have when I read these books, even as an admitted paranormal addict. (hide spoiler)] *Good action sequences, and the displays of superhuman abilities were well done. I had these images of large-scale, majestic battles between winged warriors. She conveyed this imagery very well. *There's something about winged people that just does it for me. These aren’t angels, but I’d probably lump them into that category because of the whole ascended being with wings aspects. *Endelle is a character that totally stands out. Normally, you don't see these kinds of outre', unabashedly over the top alpha females in these books. She is a good source of humor and I love that her word is law, even to this group of very powerful warriors. *I liked the concept of the breh-hedden. While the fated mate theme is nothing new, I liked the way Roane presents her version. Although I'm not 100% keen on the idea of a hot warrior who is your fated mate smelling like fennel/licorice (Marcus, a secondary character smells like licorice to Havily), at least it's kind of unique.
What could have been better *Honestly, I think that this could have stood a very liberal edit, at least 50 pages. I felt as though there were excessive pages and words used than were needed to tell this story. This was quite striking considering that I had a question mark in my mind over the whole concept until about 300 pages had gone by. A surgical use of words could have conveyed more of what the author intended in a more concise fashion, and made for a shorter, easier read. Admittedly, I'm a reader who prefers more short and snappy writing. I can get past that with a really compelling read. However, in the case of this story, it just felt apparent to me that not all the words she used were needed. *I felt that most of the warrior brethren are still somewhat sketchy as far as characters. I can name them and give brief traits about them, but for all the length of the story, I would have liked a better integration of them in the narrative than I saw. This made the book have a samey feel in comparison to other popular paranormal series out there, when there is more than enough to distinguish this book from others in the genre. *The villain was a bit sketchy too. I couldn't feel his motivations. I was told rather than shown these, and it didn't quite ring through to me. I hope that he is better developed in the subsequent books.
After a rather slow, frustrating read, with some moments of brilliance that spurred me on to keep reading, I can say I liked this book, but I did not love it. I like the ideas, and I really want to fall in love with this book. I hope that I will feel more drawn in with the subsequent books since I have gotten a introductory feel to this world. For a first book in a high concept series, Ascension isn't bad. It is just one of those books that it takes patience and determination to get through.
The Left Hand of God starts out very dreary and grim. It was hard going reading such a dark story, but I found Cale's character compelling enough to k...moreThe Left Hand of God starts out very dreary and grim. It was hard going reading such a dark story, but I found Cale's character compelling enough to keep reading. Reading books in which most of the religious people are the bad guys is difficult for me. Especially when the religion is either Christianity or a thinly veiled, ugly version of what people assume Christianity is. It seems as though Christianity is the religion that gets the most criticism in fiction, and this book is no different. Of course, some tenets are slightly different. But if you are familiar with Christian beliefs, it's clear to see where Hoffman is going here. Think Spanish Inquisition and Mad Monks, and you won't be far off. I won't spend too much more of this review 'ranting' about such things. The churchs of my faith have done enough damage throughout history to draw some negative views from people. But after a while, it's like shooting fish in a barrel, really. Are there bad Christians? Certainly. Are there decent Christians? Certainly. But, more often than not, 'we' get to be the bad guys. Oh well. Despite this unbalanced and rather unfair view of the Christian church, I was still able to enjoy this book, because Cale is a character that draws all this reader's interest back to him. And as magnetic as Cale is, Mr. Hoffman managed to populate this novel with a lot of other interesting characters, from Vague Henry, Kliest, Idris Pook, the Chancellor, Cale's first love, Arbell (who I never grew to like), and the various Matarrazzi citizenry. Also, the humor was very good. Extremely dark and sarcastic, but funny all the same.
One of my friends on GRs remarked that the book seems to have a split personality. I completely agree. The first part seemed like a relentlessly dark story of religious zealotry, and its deleterious effects on young boys. I thought the whole book would be about the boys trying to escape its effect. However, the story turns into a not quite as dark, but still murky coming of age story in which we see a young man go from point A to point Z, and how it affects him. It left me a bit confused at how to take this story. I think that Mr. Hoffman had so much fun writing that he sort of lost his sense of direction. Despite that fact, this was still a very good book. My tastes are odd enough that I can enjoy dark material (depending on the execution), although I am an unrepentant consumer of happy ever after stories. The crucial ingredient that causes me to love a book, or even like it, is a pull towards the characters or the story, and that can overule my desire for happy, sunny reads. In this case, Cale is that sort of character. I listened to this on audio, and I was seduced into a dependence on hearing Cale's story. He's an interesting kid. He scares a lot of people, annoys most others, and inspires a strange sort of loyalty in the rest that they don't quite get, nor does Cale. He's not even the nicest guy. But he shows a sense of honor that causes him to do the right thing, even when his pragmatic nature tells him not to. I hope that he doesn't listen to the junk that the Redeemers seem to want to feed him, about his darkness, his curse, and his true mission. I don't believe that about him at all. I do believe he is a very dangerous person. But why can't that darkness in him be used for good? I think it can.
Towards the end of this book, I listened with a very strong sense of dread. I knew that things weren't going to end well, but I couldn't not listen. I just have to know what is going to happen to Cale. He's important to me, and that means I will be reading the next book: The Last Four Things.
Thoughts on the audiobook narration: The British narrator has a beautiful, smooth voice, with a certain element that lends itself very well to the sinister aspects of this story. He has an ability to employ an almost monotone delivery (lending a paradoxically dark, sharp edge to the violent and also the humorous elements) that he employs in quite the right way to surround the listener with an atmosphere that brings this story to life. I would recommend listening to this book on audio if you can find it.
Recommendation: I would advise those who don't like dark subject matter not to read this novel. However, if you don't enjoy dark stories, but you like very compelling, enigmatic characters, you might find yourself compelled to read it anyway, like I was. (less)
What if the only way to save your planet from certain annihilation is to ruthlessly manipulate a young...more**spoiler alert** Do the ends justify the means?
What if the only way to save your planet from certain annihilation is to ruthlessly manipulate a young child into becoming a solder who is skilled enough to destroy billions of your enemy, to make him into a killer?
With Ender's Game, the reader gets to ponder this question. I had many thoughts as I read this story. I didn't always understand what was going on. Like Ender, I questioned where the game ended and reality began. Children in the environment of this book don't get to be kids for long at all, especially when they are genius children. Instead, they become soldiers, training day in and day out to be the best, to win, to conquer their enemies. All for the purpose of defeating the alien race that Earth views as a deadly enemy (called Buggers) in the coming war. I questioned how a six-year-old kid could even grasp this. Even a genius child. As I read, I questioned the ruthlessness of adults who would put a child through these experiences. It takes a certain personality, a particular mindset to able to justify one's actions. It's hard not to judge, but then, I'm not in the same situation. And I was grateful for that.
I just wanted Ender to have some peace and be able to just be a child. I cheered for him to find his way past the many mazes he was manipulated through. I didn't ever lose faith in him, because he had proven himself worthy of my faith. Even though I wondered what was the whole point of everything, I didn't stop believing in Ender. I was glad that Ender managed to find that light that kept him moving forward. Sometimes it was in the form of his beloved sister, Valentine, and other times, it was his fellow students, and sometimes it was the determination not to let them see him sweat. Whatever it was, this kid didn't break. I liked that about the book.
Some things didn't sit well with me as I read. I couldn't always visualize the game setup at Battle School as clearly as I would have liked. Instead of letting this throw me out of the read, I just managed to fill in the blanks around my lack of understanding and keep reading. Maybe Card meant it that way, but it was interesting how warfare became an experience that felt more like playing a video game than a face to face meeting of enemies. I wondered where that was going, but I soon found out, and I was like, "Are you serious?" I don't care much for mind games and boy was there some serious mind-screwing going on in this book. Perhaps his point was that as technology advances, warfare becomes more and more dehumanized, and it takes away the immediacy of the moral questions of taking a life, and using soldiers like pawns on a board to do so. As above expressed, the ruthless treatment of children and its effects hit me hard. They did not make for easy reading for me. On one level, I understand that a lot of psychology goes into training soldiers, and I know that some of it is necessary. I just wonder where the line gets drawn. The aspects of Peter and Valentine's political experiment left me a bit cold. I wasn't sure what Card was trying to get across here. Is the political arena just a big elaborate game in and of itself, a game that has the potential to have very disastrous and wide-reaching effects? Or was he trying to say that age is just a number? Kids aren't really kids, depending on the society and the situation that the child inhabits. Still not sure about either of those conclusions I drew. As close as I can get, anyway. Lastly, the ending got a bit strange. While I appreciated the aspects about Ender gaining an appreciation for the mind (the human-like aspects) of the Bugger civilizations, things got a bit weird and abstract when Ender's empathy with the Buggers became a philosophy that turned into a religion. It felt disconnected from the story to me, and added to a certain lack of satisfaction I felt overall. I appreciate the fact that he examined how war, differing philosophies, external differences, what have you, can separate entities in a way that if we strip down all the differences, there is a lot more alike than we think.
Ender's Game is a well-written work of science fiction that has a lot to say about subjects that can make for hairy discussion. Subjects that I tend to avoid discussing with a ten-foot pole. War is as old as mankind. Literature is a good sounding board to explore those questions of war and humanity. Overall, I think that this novel does a good job of staying in the story and not just acting as a soundboard for the author's opinion. I am sure that others may disagree. For myself, I didn't necessarily feel that it was a preachy work. If it was, I think both sides of the questions were adequately presented in such a manner as for me to feel that this was a book with a story that had some themes that could get a reader thinking. Not mere propaganda for espousing one person's beliefs.
I liked this book a lot, but I felt the ending took it down from a five star rating for me. Also, my sense of disconnection at not quite getting some of the gaming aspects. I'm sure that others better versed in gaming or military strategy, or better read in science fiction might have visualized and understood those elements better than this reader. For what it was, this was a good book, and I can say that I gained a lot from reading it. I still have some philosophical questions running through my head now, and I feel that I have yet to make up my mind about those things, as there are always two sides to every story. So for me, that's a good experience, getting a good story and something to think about in the end.(less)
I was glad that I went into this book unaware of many of the plot elements. It made for a more exciting read. Despite this, I was still surprised as t...moreI was glad that I went into this book unaware of many of the plot elements. It made for a more exciting read. Despite this, I was still surprised as things turn out to be not as they seemed. I liked F. Paul Wilson's writing voice. It's erudite and sophisticated. He did his research about WW2 and what was going on in Europe at this time. The aspects of the Nazis' treatment of the Jews and the Gypsies made my heart hurt. I can't and never will understand such barbarity, cruelty, and inhumanity. Mr. Wilson doesn't just throw this in for a background historical context. This becomes a very important aspect of this story as it deals very much with the nature of evil, how humanity's actions perpetrate evil and its sickness in the world.
The characters were engaging, making this supernatural story feel very grounded in some respects. I felt deeply for Magda. She was a strong woman hemmed in by circumstances, a sickly father who took her granted in a way that was almost criminal. All her dreams denied because of her need to take care of him, and because she was Jewish. Glenn is an interesting character as well. He's quite enigmatic, something more than human, although he wears the cloak of humanity well for the most part. He has lost touch with some of the human emotions, as he says, but in contrast to the SS soldiers, there is no question that he is a humane person. As for the Germans... I felt sorry for Woermann, and I didn't think he was a bad man. Imagine me feeling sympathy for a German soldier in WW2. The key point that I am glad that Wilson makes clear is that not all the Germans supported or believed in what Hitler was doing. Of course, many did act to thwart Hitler, and lost their lives in the process. Something that one might not choose to acknowledge on the surface, as it's easy to label all Germans as the hated Nazis. It is the truth, none the less. History now makes it clear that there was a strong German Resistance, as well there should have been. One hopes that good men and women will not stand by and watch evil happen, and Woermann felt like he had done too much of that and it destroyed his belief in himself, and the country that he had spent most of his life serving. In contrast, there was the SS commander, Kaempffer, who was a horribly evil, vile human being. It is harder to feel sympathy for him and his ilk, in light of his vicious and unwarranted hatred and persecution of people because they happened to be of a different ethnicity than him. Part of me relished seeing the SS soldiers get their just deserts, but Wilson makes it clear that this only perpetuates the dangerous taint of evil in this story.
There were some touches I liked very much in this story: *A very obvious nod to the Lovecraftian mythos. They find copies of some of the forbidden books of Chthulu, such as De Vermis Mysteriis, Book of Eibon, Nameless Cults, Cultes des Goules and even The Necronomicon. Lovecraft fans will likely appreciate this as I did. *I liked the romance very much. It was good to see that Magda does get a chance to have a 'life' and to be appreciated in a way that she didn't in a man's world, with a father who doesn't respect her as much as he should, and as a member of a group of people who were horribly persecuted against. And Glenn has been alone so long. Now he isn't. *Some parts of this novel were truly creepy! I love a good scare, so I was a happy camper. It was less scary towards the end, but still thrilling and disturbing in a different way. *The history and setting made this WW2 history buff happy, although sad at the same time. The Shoah is a disturbing subject, even in fiction. The supernatural horror of this story pales in comparison to what kinds of horrors really happened, and the fact that behind them was human evil and institutionalized racism. *I like the cosmic scope of this battle between good and evil. I won't go into that, because that would spoil this book, and this is a book that the less you know, the better it reads. Suffice it to say, if you like arcane supernatural fiction as I do, you might enjoy these aspects of this book.
I found myself reading this very quickly on my Kindle. I was immersed in this story, transported to 1940s Romania, and submerged in the gothic feel of this novel. Although I had no expectations, it turned to be a lot more than I even imagined. I enjoyed it a lot.
Ms. Levene managed to write a book here that is an equal mix of supernatural and spy noir. There are many twists and turns here. I thought I had figur...moreMs. Levene managed to write a book here that is an equal mix of supernatural and spy noir. There are many twists and turns here. I thought I had figured everything out, but I hadn't even discerned the tip of the iceberg. The whole storyline that seemed to be apparent turned into something even more sinister. I liked how tense the narrative was. Ms. Levene writes tautly, like a spy thriller, and the well-executed, horrifying supernatural elements pricked me into another level of unease. This story was very dark, with some ugly use of magics and villains who worked for the real bad guy (if you know who I mean), but it was quite appealing and well-written, and I didn't feel icked out as I read it. I liked that there were real heroes in this story, even if they were weary and conflicted (like spies who had been at the game too long, chess pieces acting out their roles in a game that they didn't understand). Even in this dark universe, there were still some people who knew that there were some boundaries that shouldn't be crossed. Although there is a bit of gore, it was not over-the-top, and it was written in a way that was true to the understated espionage tone.
This book is highly recommended for horror/dark fantasy fans who would like some spy thriller elements thrown in and deftly executed, at that. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series, because I like this idea, and I have a real soft spot for Morgan, the protagonist. (less)