I know when I open a book by Marcus Sedgwick that I’ll be sucked straight in to his masterful prose style, and it was no different with She Is Not Invisible.
The book begins by delving straight into the action, with sixteen-year-old Laureth Peak having somewhat abducted her seven-year-old brother, Benjamin, to board a plane from London to New York. She has used their mum’s credit card to book the flight, and withdrawn cash to use when they get there, all with the aim of tracking down their father. Their whirlwind scheme is made all the more difficult by the fact that Laureth is blind, and relies on Ben to guide her and make it look as though she can actually see where she’s going.
This scheme was hatched on a whim, as their father is an author and Laureth is responsible for responding to his emails. When she receives one from a Mr. Walker in New York, claiming to have found her dad’s beloved notebook, she knows something is not right, and that he couldn’t possibly be in Switzerland as he is supposed to be. Her mother is seemingly uninterested, dismissing her questions as nonsense and refusing to entertain the possibility that their father could be missing.
With her father meant to be on a research trip for his next novel, Laureth knows that he wouldn’t go anywhere without his notebook and the ideas it holds. He has been working for a years on a book about coincidence and particular numbers which keep cropping up, telling Laureth his ideas every step of the way. She has become as attuned to spotting these coincidences as her father, and will stop at nothing to put the clues together and bring him home.
It may seem like Laureth jumps to farfetched conclusions easily, especially with the snap decision to jump on a plane with her younger brother, but she does have very good instincts and is quick to put together clues as to where her father might be. She is very aware of how others might see her if they learn she’s blind, and is scared that they might not even let her on the plane – despite not being able to find a regulation against it. Her blindness is by no means the central theme of the book, but at the same time it cannot be forgotten as it is a factor in every decision she makes for both her and Benjamin.
As a protagonist, Laureth is a very strong character and is well-developed by Sedgwick, who manages to define every nuance of her personality as the book goes on. She is smart and brave, determined to look after her brother despite the guilt of bringing him on such a journey. We get to see her fear at being in the big city of New York with just a seven-year-old to rely on, as well as those instances when the clues are running out and she must think of new solutions on her feet. It was clear that she had a close connection with her father, and felt guilty at being unable to channel his thinking and find the much needed solutions to their problems.
At the heart of the book was the ongoing debate over coincidence, the topic which has absorbed her father’s mind for years and which is holding him back from writing his next book. He is obsessed with finding an answer to coincidence, and whether it can ever really be explained or understood. There are passages from his notebook interspersed with the chapters, which gave a good insight into his thinking considering we hadn’t met him as a character. These notes are intriguing and pose noteworthy questions about the world, as well contemplating known mathematicians and philosophers, such as Carl Jung.
With time (and money) running out in the search for their father, I thought the conclusion of this book was wonderfully written and engaging, with more than a little coincidence added for good measure. The book gripped me, and I read this in little over a day as I simply couldn’t put it down. It was fast-paced with several surprises along the way, and I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Laureth and Ben, as he is bright for a seven-year-old and doesn’t seem to mind guiding his big sister around. His attachment to his toy raven, Stan, was especially amusing, providing dashes of humour at just the right moments. This book is an example of Sedgwick at his best, and I cannot wait for his next YA title. Verdict
A fast-paced mystery that completely drew me in and left me unable to put it down until I’d reached the final page. Laureth is an understandable narrator and one which gives an insight into how the world is perceived by the blind, especially with her reliance placed on a seven-year-old. I loved watching the clues unfold, and the book really makes you think about coincidences in your own life, and how they affect the world around you. Rating: 4.5 Stars
She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick Thriller, Young Adult Indigo (3 July 2014) Paperback: 354 pages
A series first released in 1971 and now enjoying an ebook release, Created, The Destroyer by Warren Murphy & Richard Sapir is a ruthless action series about an assassin who no longer exists.
The book begins with ex-police officer Remo Williams awaiting the electric chair on death row, framed for a crime he did not commit. A known criminal was found beaten to death in the street with Remo’s police badge next to him, rendering his defence appeal insignificant and the death row decision rushed through the courts. Having accepted his fate, all Remo is waiting for is that final walk to the dreaded chair.
However, his world is turned upside down when he is whisked away after his supposed ‘death’ and trained by the Korean martial arts master, Chiun. He is shaped into the ultimate assassin for CURE, an organisation which aims to remove enemies of democracy using any means possible. With his death row performance rendering Remo an officially ‘dead’ man, he is beyond the reach of suspicion and the perfect undercover operative for the organisation.
His first mission leads him in pursuit of ‘Maxwell’, a person or organisation at the head of organised crime in the city. With few leads to follow, he is lead to seduce the daughter of criminal Norman Felton, in the hopes that Felton will lead him to his goal. As the body count begins to rise, will Remo achieve his goal or become the dead man he is believed to be?
I really enjoyed the opening to this book, as Remo’s fate on death row seemed all but sealed when he was waiting in his cell. Although it was obvious that he would be freed, I had no idea how it would happen or what awaited him afterwards. The build up was so well-written that I was hooked immediately and couldn’t put the book down until I found out what would happen next. However, it was after this that the plot went downhill for me.
From the moment of his transformation, the narrative began to feel more clumsy and action-packed, as if the authors were trying to cram too much action into too short a space. The goal of the story seemed to become lost, as Remo had been transformed into this assassin but was not sure of the purpose or end goal of CURE. With little explanation he seemed to become ruthless and cold, not afraid of seducing the twenty-year-old daughter of Felton and taking her virginity from her. It was these scenes that I found slightly uncomfortable to read, as he had no trouble in making her believe he loved her, despite only knowing her a matter of days.
As a hero, I found Remo a strange one to follow as I really liked him at the beginning on death row because his feelings came through a lot more. After his rescue it became increasingly difficult to associate with him, as he became cold and hard, determined to do his job as an assassin without questioning why or what purpose he had. The organisation he worked for viewed him as expendable, yet he put his all into working for them regardless. We seemed to be given less and less of his personal views, with the third-person perspective distancing us from Remo and only giving us an outsider’s view of the action.
On the whole, for a quick action story that you can easily read in the space of a day, this book is definitely worth a read. However, if you like your characters to have more emotional depth then this book is not the one for you. It is more concerned with the ever-increasing body count and action scenes than building up character relations, but this may well change in future instalments. Verdict
This book has an amazing opening sequence that is sure to draw you in, but then slowly begins to fall by the wayside as the plot continues. Remo Williams makes for a unique hero, but we learn little of his emotions regarding his death row sentence or of his life afterwards. He becomes an emotionless enigma, seemingly ruthless in his approach to his targets and who gets hurt along the way. If you like cutthroat action scenes then this series is one for you, with the body count increasing with every chapter. Rating: 3 Stars
Created, The Destroyer by Warren Murphy & Richard Sapir (The Destroyer #1) Thriller Sphere (21 Aug 2014) Ebook: 187 pages
The first in a new fantasy series, The Godless by Ben Peek is an action-packed tale of rival nations in a battle over the territory of a buried God.
The book begins with cartographer’s apprentice, Ayae, in the city of Mireea, where she lives a content life with her partner, Illaan. Mireea is built atop the burial ground of the god, Ger, who many believe to be dormant rather than dead, waiting for the time to rise once more. As a result, the ground is believed to be infused with his magic, and can ‘curse’ a selected few with new abilities or powers. When the cartographer’s is set on fire and Ayae does not suffer a single burn, it becomes apparent that she has developed the ability to control the flames.
With the town turning against her, as they do against all who are ‘cursed’, Ayae finds guidance with Kaifyr, an ancient individual who is believed to be a god. He has lived for thousands of years, but we are only given a little insight into the how or why this happened to him. His powers are equally dubious, but he can talk to the dead, or ‘haunts’ as he calls them, using their spirits as guidance for hidden locations and such like. He is desperate to avoid the war Mireea faces with their neighbours, Leera, preferring to remain impartial to avoid the prospect of seeing all the dead spirits.
Somewhat separate to this action in Mireea is the perspective of Bueralan, an exile and mercenary from his nation of Dark who is commissioned by the ruler of Mireea to go behind enemy lines and sabotage Leera’s attempts to attack. This does not go as planned, and instead Bueralan is captured and forced to watch exchanges between Leeran leaders from the sidelines. He is determined to get a message to the people of Dark to protect them from the upcoming war, but there is little he can do from the inside of a cage.
I have found it exceptionally difficult to sum up the plot of this book, as I found it very confusing to read the whole way through. I expected Ayae to become more of a protagonist, but the book switches between the three perspectives of Bueralan, Kaifyr and Ayae, leaving little space for each character to develop fully. Admittedly, I think Ayae was given more of a back story and personality than the others, but it was still difficult to connect with her or to understand her power in more detail. The book seems to be prioritised with the politics between the two nations and establishing the battle more than anything else.
For me, the characters were one of the main problems in the book, as not enough time is spent establishing them or developing them to a point where the reader should care. I had times where I admired each one for a certain action or speech, but these were fleeting as the characters were lost beneath the weight of the too-serious plot. As the chapters switch rapidly between perspectives, I found that often they don’t flow smoothly, as there is little common ground to pinpoint time or place. With Bueralan in a separate city, his views had nothing to do with Ayae or Kaifyr, and felt as if they were taking place in a completely different span of time to the others.
It was the discontinuity of time which also made this a hard read for me, as it became increasingly hard to tell how long the action was taking to happen – whether it was days, weeks or months. I also found that chapters would jump backwards in time with no warning, flashing back to a character’s past suddenly and leaving a feeling of disorientation. It wasn’t always immediately apparent that they were back in the past, which made it very confusing to read and led me to keep putting the book down in frustration.
Some of the battle sequences and political disputes are well-written, but this book definitely was not my cup of tea. I had expected more of a heroic protagonist than I received, and thought that there would be explanation of the god’s deaths which had occurred years previous. All we really learn about Ger is that he is buried beneath Mireea, and not how his power chooses people to ‘curse’, or even if this is the root of the power. I think more establishment of world building and plot was needed in this series, so I don’t think I’ll be reading the sequel. Verdict
This book just didn’t grab my attention enough to keep me interested, and as a result I found it to be a very difficult read. The timeline seems to be all over the place, jumping backward and forward with little warning and making it difficult to understand what’s going on at any given time. The characters take a lot of hard work to understand, especially as the chapters flit between three perspectives which often share little or no connection with each other. Rating: 2 Stars
The Godless by Ben Peek (Children #1) Fantasy Tor UK (14 Aug 2014) Ebook: 448 pages
Despite the first instalment not having grabbed my attention as I hoped, I decided to take a chance and pick up the second book in the Midgard series by Susan Krinard, Black Ice.
Set in the streets of San Francisco, Valkyrie Mist and her crew are back on the hunt for the relics of the gods, having already secured three of them. Her nemesis, Loki, the trickster god, is still at large and threatens to take over Midgard (Earth) if he can reach the relics first. With Mist’s crew growing ever larger and now including a biker gang, she looks to stand a good chance, but there is the added difficulty of her mother, goddess Freya, who continues to keep her secrets closely guarded.
Added to Mist’s list of worries is her companion, the Alfar, Dainn, who seems unable to control his beastly side. His curse of the beast is becoming stronger and more difficult to control, especially with his instincts to protect Mist. He knows she is unlikely to return his affections for her, but stays loyally at her side to do her bidding and protect her from Loki. Regardless of this, he always seems to be keeping some kind of secret from her, or failing to inform her when Loki visits him alone.
Loki’s secret weapon this time around is his son, Danny, a quiet boy whose powers are yet to be explored. All we know is that he will be strong, but the identity of his other parent is kept secret until the end of the book (although it is very easy to predict who it is). As well as Loki’s secrets, there is the appearance of Anna, a woman descended from one of Mist’s old lovers and in possession of one of Odin’s ravens. The raven seems to have an important message to bestow, but no-one can get him to talk besides Anna.
With a whole host of mysteries set to be uncovered in this book, I was hoping that the plot would shape up to be an exciting tale full of action and intrigue. However, I felt disappointed that the plot didn’t pick up until after the first hundred pages so. Until this point, I had completely forgotten about the search for the god’s special relics and for Mist’s Valkyrie sisters, as the focus is purely upon the relationship between Mist and Dainn and the battle with Loki. Albeit, the plot does pick up after this, but it just didn’t have enough at the beginning to hook me into the action.
Once again, I had problems with Mist as the protagonist, as we are given very little insight into her personal feelings about what’s going on. To some extent we are told what she is feeling rather than being made to feel it ourselves, which just didn’t work in the same way to build up a relationship with the character. She always seems distant from those around her, not exactly letting anyone in or trusting completely. Admittedly, with the number of times she has been betrayed this is understandable, but at the same time she expects others to trust her completely and doesn’t grasp that this is not a one-way street.
I felt very much the same about Dainn, as he keeps secrets from Mist throughout the entire book, and is very rarely honest with her about his encounters with Loki. He uses the excuse of ‘she’d never believe me’, but he never gives her a chance despite claiming to love her. What I did appreciate is that we got more of an insight into his struggles with his inner beast, as he is scared of himself and what he could be capable of. This resulted in a lot of angst from his character, as he does repeatedly ask Mist to kill him rather than let the beast thrive.
Unfortunately for me, this series did not pick up in book two as I had so hoped it would. It was still an enjoyable read, and the action scenes are written well, but my issues with the characters were too large to ignore. I feel that there are a lot of unanswered questions and characters with loose ends that are yet to be tied up, so the sequel could have a lot of work to do to bring all this together. I admire Krinard’s research into Norse mythology and the dedication to bringing out Loki’s trickster nature in all its glory, as Loki is what makes these books interesting for me. His character is probably the most explored and detailed of them all, so I’m hoping to see a lot more of him in the sequel – preferably at his despicable best. Verdict
Once again, this series failed to grab my attention in the way I hoped it would. On paper it has everything – the mythology, action, romantic tension – but it is still missing that crucial spark. It seems like the plot to regain the god’s relics is strong, as is Loki’s character development, but Mist and Dainn are falling by the wayside as protagonists. This series has a great premise, but I’m just looking for a little bit more in terms of character engagement. Rating: 3 Stars
Black Ice by Susan Krinard (Midgard #2) Urban Fantasy Tor Books (12 Aug 2014) Ebook: 400 pages
After enjoying the first two books in the Faerie series, I was looking forward to getting my hands on book three, The Magic Between Us, by Tammy Falkner.
The previous two books in the series were concerned with faerie women falling in love with human males of the ton, so I was interested to see how this book would turn out when the tables were turned slightly. The main character in this book was Marcus Thorne, another fae sibling of the Thorne family who occupies a difficult position between the fae world and the human one.
Six months ago, he left the world of the fae and his childhood sweetheart, Cecelia, to join his parents and siblings in the human world. He has usurped his younger brother, Allen, as the heir to their estate amongst humans, and is struggling to adjust to his life with Cecelia and his new world of pomp and ceremony. There are frequent cameos from his family members of the previous books, all of whom are incredibly loved up and happy.
In a stark contrast, back home in the land of the fae Cecelia is struggling to carry on with her life without Marcus. After he left her six months ago, her mother passed away and her father has been struggling to cope with the loss ever since. He has descended into the world of drink, getting foxed every night and lashing out at the staff, occasionally at Cecelia too. She is desperately missing her best friend and her love, but at the same time despises him for leaving her in the interests of pleasing his family.
When she turns up in the human world on a mission, Marcus realises that he has always loved Cecelia and regrets ever leaving her side. He is desperate to win back her trust, returning to the fae world in pursuit of her. It is here that he discovers the truth of what happened to her family in his absence, with him being forced to step in and sort out her father’s alcohol dependence. As he slowly starts to win her back around, will she agree to be a part of his life once more and settle in the human world? Or will Marcus be forced to give up his family’s dreams for him and live once more in the land of the fae?
I found it hard to sum up the plot of this book, as not a lot actually happens in the course of the novel. The book is primarily about the romance between Marcus and Cecelia, with any other occurrences being passed over at best as a subplot. For example, the family are supposedly concerned about the return of the Earl of Mayden, who featured earlier in the series, but he is forgotten about for the majority of the book and only reappears to add drama to the climax. I found it difficult to connect with the book because of this lack of ongoing plot behind the romance, as I found that the previous instalments had more substance.
Marcus was a decent male protagonist, but I wouldn’t describe him as an outstanding lead or one that you could easily fall for. On one hand he was caring and protective of Cecelia, but on the other it seemed to be his way or no way at times, with his forceful male nature coming through. I thought this was most prominent in the sex scenes, with some instances being cringey rather than romantic and slightly forced. He was somewhat overprotective by the end and became sex-obsessed, which I didn’t find very appealing.
As for Cecelia, I really liked her as a heroine at first, especially with everything that she had to deal with at home. She was tough and brave to deal with her father in the way she did, but at the same time I thought she was weak when it came to Marcus. I expected some degree of softening because of her love for him, but she seemed to forgive him for leaving very quickly and was soon giving herself up to him. She was thoughtful and passionate about those she loved, so was mainly likeable, but I would have liked to have seen more development between the pair.
Overall, I was disappointed with this book as I have come to expect slightly more from this series. My rating of three stars results partly from some of the minor characters and recurring ones in the series, who provide some much needed comic relief at times. I particularly liked Marcus’ brother, Allen, who was cheeky and forthright and happened to fall in love with Cecelia’s best friend, Ainsley. Yes, this was somewhat cliché, but it was still fun to read and added a touch more substance to a plot that was all about the romance and not much else. Verdict
Unfortunately this series seems to have slipped slightly, as this book wasn’t as enjoyable as the previous two. The plot wasn’t as strong, and the characters didn’t feel as well-defined as those featured earlier in the series. There was still a likeable romance to the book, but if you’re looking for some substance behind it then this isn’t the book for you.
Rating: 3 Stars
The Magic Between Us by Tammy Falkner (Faerie #3) Paranormal Romance Sourcebooks Casablanca (7 Jan 2014) Ebook: 320 pages
Another addition to the paranormal and historical Relics of Merlin series, Enchanting the Beast by Kathryne Kennedy introduces spirits and ghosts into the pre-existing paranormal world of shape-shifters and magic.
Philomena Radcliff is able to see ghosts, and the book opens with her conducting a séance in the vicinity of Sir Nicodemus Wulfson, a werewolf visiting the city. He is impressed by her supernatural talents and commissions her to ghost hunt for him at his home, Grimspell Castle, where his brother is being haunted by nightmarish spirits. Phil agrees, eager to get involved in a hunt, bringing along her trusty shifter companion, Sarah, a were-snake.
Phil finds herself being visited by the castle’s restless spirits, each one taking her down to the mysterious basement which Nico has asked her never to enter. It is clear that whatever has riled the ghosts is to be found within the castle itself, but without Nico’s help Philomena is powerless to explore the full extent of the mystery. She is shunned by some of Nico’s relations and his pack, and is wary of forming an attachment to Nico due to their age difference. Following her somewhat dubious profession has left Phil unmarried at the age of forty, whilst Nico, alpha of his pack, is just beginning at age twenty-seven.
This age difference becomes the root of conflict between the pair, despite the growing level of attraction between them as the book goes on. Like the majority of Kennedy’s couples, they share a lasting will-they-won’t-they tug of war with their emotions. At times it seemed like the plot fell by the wayside in pursuit of the romance, as I found myself forgetting about the premise of Merlin’s Relics, which barely garnered a mention until the end. It was almost as if the focus had been a lost a little in this book, and would not give much of an insight into the Relics unless previous books had been read.
On the whole I did enjoy the ghost hunting plot of the book, as Phil is able to see ghosts from the castle’s history – meaning a variety of different times and costumes, even the odd dragon. Aside from the Relics, I felt that more attention could have been given to Nico’s past, as we learn that his fiancée was murdered and the suspect is still on the loose, but he seems to be completely over the recent death and barely discusses it with Phil. It was a means to an end, to let suspicion fall on other characters in the book, with the conclusion intended to shock more than it did.
I did like Philomena as a heroine at first, as she seemed strong and in touch with her ghosts, caring about them like a mother figure, there to help them over to the other side. However, as the book went on she seemed to grow more subservient to Nico and I failed to understand why she should suddenly lose some of her independence to her relationship. She suffered a lot of emotional conflict when it came to him, as the age difference was more of an issue to her than to him. I could empathise with her worry that he was younger than her and might go on to find someone else, but she did yo-yo a bit too much between rejecting him one minute and being on top of him the next.
With Nico I found that his werewolf nature dominated his personality, as he is the alpha wolf and very much tries to dominate Phil in the same way as his pack. His main emotional conflict comes from trying to keep his wolf in check rather than any issues surrounding Phil, and I began to grow tired of his inner debates over control, as he had never once lost control of his beast side. I did like him with Phil, as their personalities mesh well together, but at the same time I found him to be a bit too pushy, and seemed prepared to go to any lengths to get Phil to stay with him, even some which were too underhand for my liking.
I did enjoy this instalment to the series better than the last, but I did think there were several plot points which could have been given more attention, or just missed out. For example, we are given barely detail about Phil’s companion, Sarah, and as a result it was difficult to feel any compassion when she was attacked or under threat. Similar instances occur with some of Nico’s family members, who are merely mentioned by name in passing and then suffer later on. I thought the ending was a little unexpected but not very, as the book makes the culprit very obvious quite early on. The epilogue was wrapped up in the usual Kennedy style, so if you like the romance to take the fore rather than the plot, this series is one for you. Verdict
This instalment to the Relics of Merlin series was better than the last, although it still didn’t contain many shocking moments that couldn’t be predicted early on in the plot. The characters were very standard for Kennedy, mirroring those of the other novels. I felt that Merlin’s Relics played less of a part in this novel, so hope that this is rectified in future additions to the series.
Rating: 3 Stars
Enchanting the Beast by Kathryne Kennedy (Relics of Merlin #3) Paranormal Romance Sourcebooks Casablanca (1 Apr 2014) Ebook: 352 pages
Like the previous books in the Relics of Merlin series, Everlasting Enchantment by Kathryne Kennedy can be read as a standalone, without any prior knowledge of the fantasy world.
Again set in Victorian England (this time with cameos from the Queen herself), book three in the series follows the story of Millicent Pantere, a were-panther who dwells in the underground of society and has no desire to enter the high life of the upper classes. She is under orders from the Duke of Ghoulston to acquire one of Merlin’s relics, believed to harbour a vast quantity of magic. The Duke has groomed Millicent to be a lady, training her in the arts of social etiquette and giving her an exact plan to stick to.
She is introduced as a country lady, to explain her social short-comings, and finds herself placed into the company of Lady Chatterley. The Lady has gathered together a group of eligible maidens present at the ball, and presents them with a moonstone bracelet – otherwise known as one of Merlin’s relics. According to Lady Chatterley, it harbours the spirit of a knight who is an expert in the arts of seduction and challenges anyone not to give into him after just one night.
Handing the bracelet around the group, it will supposedly tighten onto the arm of its chosen female and, surprise, surprise, it choose Millicent. She is shocked, expecting her were nature to have deterred the magic of the relic, but it makes her job of acquiring the relic that much easier. However, upon returning to Ghoulston’s manor Lady Chatterley is proved right when a handsome medieval knight materialises before Millicent’s very eyes. He is Sir Gareth Solimere, one of Sir Arthur’s knights who is destined to spend eternity inside the relic, only materialising at night, unless he can find his true love to break the curse.
He has spent the last few hundred years seducing the women who wear the bracelet in the hopes of finding his true love, and is soon shocked to find that Millicent won’t be that easy to convince. She has too much riding on her discovery of the relic, as Ghoulston is keeping her best friend, Nell, a prisoner in return for Millicent’s cooperation. However, with his gentlemanly nature Gareth is not prepared to let Ghoulston be in control of her, and suggests that they work together to free Nell from his evil clutches. However, both are soon to learn that their actions are not without their consequences, and that the spell might not be broken after all…
On the surface, for a paranormal romance this book had an interesting premise, as it’s not every day that a handsome man will materialise in front of you every evening demanding your attention. Unfortunately, aside from this it didn’t seem to hold my attention very well, as there was a lot going on but it didn’t seem to build up to much. It was very systematic and predictable, especially where the romance and the ending were concerned.
As for characters, again they seemed to fall into very stereotypical roles. Millicent was the angst-ridden heroine, plagued by a host of misfortune in her past which left her with Nell as the only one she could rely on. As a result of her upbringing, she is slow to trust anyone and doesn’t let anyone get close to her heart. This makes her reluctant to open up to Gareth, despite her obvious like of him, and makes you question how long it will be until she finally does give herself up to him.
Gareth fulfilled the role of the male hero in somewhat spectacular fashion, always quick to brandish his sword and jump into the fight. He is exceptionally talented with a weapon, proving a valuable asset throughout the novel, but also a bit of a show off at first. I didn’t like how self-assured he seemed of acquiring Millicent’s love, or even of bedding her, as it seemed at odds with his more gentle side of taking care of her and Nell. Another thing I disliked about Gareth was the timing of the sex scenes, as some felt completely of place and unnecessary to the enjoyment of the plot. I liked the moments in which he demonstrates his caring for Millicent, but of course she misinterprets them, a typical trope that causes some tension between the pair.
It was these somewhat clichéd moments that made the plot easy to predict, although there was one event which I hadn’t anticipated. I don’t want to spoil this point, but I will say that my shock at this was ruined by the conclusion of the book. It was very much an ending of convenience that has been constructed purely for the purpose of a happy ending. This is great if you want to pick up a simple romance story, but if you want a bit more depth to the love and story surrounding it, then this isn’t the book for you. Verdict
I found it hard to connect with the characters of this book, particularly as there seemed to be much angst throughout the plot. There were also a lot of elements added purely for plot convenience, and which I thought the book would have worked well without. On the whole, the romance was new and intriguing, but I thought the timing of sex scenes could have been better.
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Everlasting Enchantment by Kathryne Kennedy (Relics of Merlin #4) Paranormal Romance Sourcebooks Casablanca (3 Dec 2013) Paperback: 384 pages
Beginning a new series about a kingdom which has far too many daughters, The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory forms a swashbuckling romp on the high seas.
Princess Clarice is the eldest daughter of the king of Swansgaarde, a small principality hidden within the mountains. They have twelve daughters, but the new addition of a son means the kingdom will pass to him. As the nation is only small, they don’t have the money to afford a dowry for each daughter, instead bestowing each one with enough to make their own way in the world.
Clarice is the first daughter to take up this opportunity, desperate to become a renowned swordsmaster and set up her own training school. However, no one will take her seriously unless she has a legacy behind her skills, and her gender makes it even more unlikely for someone to give her a chance. Instead, she disguises herself as the male, Clarence Swann, and buys passage on a ship bound for new lands, the Asesino. The captain is a force to be reckoned with, but money talks and his reluctance to let her aboard soon dissipates.
As a guest on the ship, Clarice is not expected to assist with the day-to-day sailing, and is at leisure to talk with the crew. She takes a particular shine to Dominick, the navigator, with whom she shares a lot in common and learns the ways of the sea. However, when the crew rebels and her sword skills are need in disposing of their captain, Dominick is placed in charge of the vessel. With new lands and treasures awaiting them, Clarice is torn about revealing her identity – would he accept her if he knew she was a princess?
I was expecting a fun-filled and adventurous romp in this book, and I wasn’t disappointed by the ship’s crew. They are frequently involved in bouts of civil unrest, struggles with the weather, and mutiny from a select few traitors. I hadn’t anticipated the dangers they would meet when they finally set down in the land of the Four Winds, but at the same I thought that this was vastly under-used and could have been expanded upon much more. I also felt that, given the excitement when Clarice first boarded the ship, the ending should have matched up to what came before, but I was sadly let down.
I think this ending was so disappointing for me because of the protagonists, Clarice and Dominick. As much as I loved her fiery nature and desire to make a name for herself amongst the men, I also became frustrated at the number of times she tried and failed to tell Dominick the truth about herself. She succeeds in infiltrating each area of the ship, but at the same time doesn’t seem overly attached to anyone on board, except for her navigator. I found her feelings for him a tad trifling, as she claimed to be falling in love with him but it didn’t seem real. Their whole relationship was formed upon a lie, an obstacle which is removed exceptionally easily at the books close.
Similar feelings are shared by my reaction to Dominick, who never seems fully-formed as a character. Yes, we learn his emotional history and witness his struggles as captain, but there never seems to be any depth to him, or any real connection to Clarice. He was an interesting character, but seemed to be more instrumental in filling in gaps of knowledge about sea life than in making his presence felt. Considering his level of intelligence, I also found it hard to accept that he hadn’t suspected anything about Clarice sooner, as the description of her disguise doesn’t seem to be that effective.
On the whole, I did enjoy the plotline of this story, especially after the mutiny left the crew with the fear of being considered pirates and traitors. This is cleverly reconfigured after they touch down on some dubious land, but at the same time left some unanswered questions. I enjoyed the drama onboard the ship after their encounter with the House of the Four Winds, but as a build up to an ending I found it to be rushed and confusing at best. The final stand is over in the blink of an eye, with the ending left a little too open for my liking. Nevertheless, I still look forward to the second book in the series as the world building was superb, and I can’t wait to meet the second sister of Swansgaarde. Verdict
A swashbuckling adventure on the high seas with an added dash of romance, this book had moments of excitement, but was also in need of more character development. I liked both Dominick and Clarice, but their relationship was sadly lacking in romantic development and seemed almost instantaneous. There was a good plotline running throughout, but I found the ending a bit lacklustre. Rating: 3.5 Stars
The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory (One Dozen Daughters #1) Fantasy, Romance Tor Books (5 Aug 2014) Ebook: 256 pages
Dead Silent by Shirley Wells is the follow-up to Presumed Dead, in which Dylan Scott finds himself called back to the Lancashire town of Dawson’s Clough – a place he never thought he’d see again.
This time the private investigator has been called upon to solve another disappearance case, that of Samantha Hunt. Sam was a bright and bubbly young woman with her whole life ahead of her, until she failed to show up for work one morning and was never seen again. She was a tomboy, more at home in jeans than dresses, and a mechanic at the local classic car garage. Her parents seem to adore her, her boyfriend loved her and everyone has nothing but good words about her – so why would anyone want her gone?
Dylan is hired by Rob Hunt, Sam’s father, to track her down no matter the cost, as he has been diagnosed with lung cancer and doesn’t have long left. He and Sam’s mother, Marion, are divorced, so his daughter is all he has left to hold onto. However, there are very little details that he can tell Dylan about her disappearance, and it is clear that he couldn’t stand her boyfriend, Jack.
Jack was one of the last people to hear from Sam, having had a phone call from her before she went missing. He also had an argument with her the night before, making him the police’s prime suspect in the case. Dylan isn’t so sure, as all he can see when he questions Jack is a man who would have done anything for his girlfriend. Jack also reveals some details about Sam that no one else knew, and perhaps some things that were better left hidden.
As for Marion, she is as desperate as Rob for their daughter to come home, but at the same time has accepted the reality that it might be a hopeless cause. After her divorce she married Alan Roderick, a man whom no one seems to have a good word for. He is abrupt, callous and aggressive, seeming not to care about his step-daughter’s disappearance, and not interested in Dylan’s questions. Definitely not a man to be messed with, could he be responsible for disposing of Sam?
On top of this investigation, Dylan is still struggling to cope with family life, as his wife is yet to take him back after their separation. He is dividing his time between Lancashire and London yet again, placing a large strain on his finances. Will he and Bev ever reconcile, or will he be forced to continue sharing a tiny flat with his mother? Needless to say this causes an awful lot of tension throughout the novel, being forever at the forefront of Dylan’s mind.
I really enjoy reading this series, as so far the mysteries have been so well crafted that I’m never entirely sure what will happen next, or where the case will take us to. In book one it was France, and in book two we are taken to Scotland, an amazing gamble for the investigator to take in pursuit of clues. Particularly in this sequel it was unclear for a long time whether Sam would be found dead or alive, which really added to the tension and the desperation to solve the case sooner rather than later.
However, this book did fall down a little from the first instalment as I found that the final revelation was a little predictable. By the end of the book I had long since guessed who was involved, even if I wasn’t quite sure how it had been carried out. Despite this it was still a highly enjoyable read, and like the first book it was interesting to see how all the loose threads would come together. The only other plot issue I had was one of convenience, as the end discovery was incredibly convenient for Dylan, more a case of luck than skill, and I felt that from there everything was rushed.
As for Dylan, he annoyed me somewhat in this book with his comments regarding his wife, as they were borderline sexist and blaming her reactions on her hormones. There were only a few instances of this though, as he grows as a character throughout the rest of the book. Unlike his first adventure, Dylan doesn’t feel the need to drink as much, proving he has matured and is learning to cope with his life.
I can’t wait to see where Shirley Wells takes this series next, as for a sleepy Lancashire town Dawson’s Clough seems to be full of mysteries. I look forward to Dylan’s next investigation, and am particularly interested in how his family dynamics will change after what we learn from the final chapter. Another great mystery that will have you on the edge of your seat! Verdict
A great follow up to Presumed Dead, this series achieves a great balance between the investigation, plot and Dylan’s personal problems, incorporating a vast wealth of detail. The plot of this sequel was a little more predictable than that of the first book, but the conclusion is still fairly shocking and the ending makes me wonder where Dylan Scott will go next.