I should have known better. THE DARK HEROINE began as Twilight fan fiction in the mind of then fifteen year old Abigail Gibbs. Three years later, hot...moreI should have known better. THE DARK HEROINE began as Twilight fan fiction in the mind of then fifteen year old Abigail Gibbs. Three years later, hot on the heels of another Twilight-fan-fiction-turned-huge-best-seller, Harper Voyager is publishing this sloppy, poorly written, and often upsetting mess. Violet witnesses a vampire attack, and the vampires decide to abduct the witness and keep her at their family estate until she dies or agrees to turn. The Cullens they are not. They intimidate, threaten, and assault Violet regularly. Kasper is basically a sexual predator with fangs. He tells Violet that he will have sex with her eventually whether she wants to or not. He has has loud, wall shaking sex every night in the room next to her. At one point he even breaks down her door and attacks her when she thwarts his “date” plans one night, pins her to the bed–in front of his ‘date’–and threatens to ‘use her instead’:
In a blur he launched himself across the room. He collided with my side to take me with him, and I was sent rolling across the bed, coming to a halt when my head hit the bedside cabinet. I let out a scream as he landed on top of me, pinning me to the bed. I winced through gritted teeth as the corner of the cabinet dug into my spine. “Get off me, you horny git!” I screeched, kicking and flailing, revolted at his closeness. “Why, am I making you uncomfortable? Maybe I will use you instead!” he snarled, a tormenting smirk twisting his face. His eyes were devoid of any emotion—he meant it. Straddling me with one leg either side of my stomach, he forced me deeper into the mattress, pinning my hands above my head. He began to pull my shirt up, and I heard squeals of protest from Charity, which merged with the protests of the mattress as I tried to fight free.
The breaking point for me comes when Violet is brutally attacked, and sexually assaulted by another vicious and psychotic vampire. He says and does truly abhorrent things to her including detailing his plan for necrophilia. A scant second before he rapes her, she is rescued by Kasper. Days later, they have their first sexual encounter when Kasper attacks her in her sleep:
He snarled, hastily clamping a hand down over my mouth. I attempted to bite at his fingers but found myself quickly subdued. “Play nicely now,” he mocked, pressing himself closer. I caught sight of the deranged, lustful glint in his blood-red eyes. My eyes widened and I was hushed to silence, terrified. “Come on, Girly, just a little drop of blood. I’m so hungry. You’ll enjoy it.” I scowled and thrashed about as he lay draped across me, pressing his crotch hard into my stomach.
COLD FIRE reads like an intricate puzzle, each layer of the story unfolding on another layer of intrigue, magic, and passion. Elliott’s characters are...moreCOLD FIRE reads like an intricate puzzle, each layer of the story unfolding on another layer of intrigue, magic, and passion. Elliott’s characters are flawed and genuine, moving through a world as nuanced and uncertain as our own. I’m not usually interested in politics, but the way COLD FIRE ferments with different cultures and ideas seduced me.
I’ve read criticisms of COLD MAGIC that didn’t like the ambiguity of Cat and Bee, two young heroines that aren’t always likeable or right. Cat gets a lot of solo time in COLD FIRE, allowing her to develop as the clear heroine, and while I didn’t fall in love with Cat and Vai’s pained and awkward dynamic in COLD MAGIC, it set the stage for a fabulous story in COLD FIRE. Though Cat is interested in Vai, their romance is by no means a foregone conclusion. Both characters are still human enough to err, and Cat goes through changes that made for an arresting adventure and a sweet romance. By book’s end I was so invested in her happiness that a few plot twists had me shouting and vilifying a few other characters that dare stand in Cat’s way (bastards, all of them).
The end of COLD FIRE is not so much a cliffhanger as the inevitable pause required to give this epic more space to play out. COLD FIRE is definitely my favorite of the series to date, with fantastic adventure, romance, and character growth. I’m very excited to read the last piece of this trilogy, COLD STEEL, and see where where all of this upheaval will take these characters and their world.
Zombies fiction can be either too grim to stomach or too far from mythology to seem anything like the walking dead. Petrucha’s Hessius Mann series man...moreZombies fiction can be either too grim to stomach or too far from mythology to seem anything like the walking dead. Petrucha’s Hessius Mann series manages to skirt that middle ground between immutable realism and fascinating possibility to create one of my favorite zombie series of all time.
This series is a departure from what I normally read, with the male protagonist, limited romance, and pretty grim reality of our hero’s life. But I love the biological mechanics of the chakz, using bleach, super glue, and thread to hold themselves together, and Mann’s dogged detecting never fails to keep the story moving. I love how the chakz have physiological issues long before “going feral” and munching on the living. And I love how Petrucha mixes science, human nature, and social commentary to create a world that is endlessly fascinating. DEAD MANN RUNNING changes Mann’s world in hopeful increments, without sacrificing the gritty reality that makes Petrucha’s world building so impressive.
And it is just that mix of hope and heartbreak that makes DEAD MANN RUNNING so powerful. While the mechanics of the plot once again got a little over the top by book’s end, the underlying emotion is undeniably powerful. Hessius Mann tugs at my heartstrings even as his world and the issue of quality of life after death fascinates me. I’ll definitely be back for more.
Sexual Content: References to sex and pedophilia, kissing.(less)
After reading THE ASYLUM INTERVIEWS: TRIXIE, I am eagerly anticipating ANGEL’S INK so I can have a full len...moreReview Courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
After reading THE ASYLUM INTERVIEWS: TRIXIE, I am eagerly anticipating ANGEL’S INK so I can have a full length book with Gage and his magical tattoo shop. This prequel introduces us to more of Gage’s friends who range from trolls to vampires to elves.
Considering we learned more about Bronx in his prequel story, I would have liked this story to revolve around Trixie more than it did. She pretty much comes in to help introduce the main conflict and then gets hired by Gage to work in his shop by the end of the story. This was both interesting and frustrating since I wanted to get to know her more. Trixie, an elf, seems like a very tough character with has a mysterious history could turn out to be really cool. I felt like Drake was holding back on Trixie’s story purposefully since I never really learned anything signification about her the way I learned about Bronx in his novella.
Aside from my frustration with wanting to learn more about Trixie, I enjoyed getting to know more about Gage’s world, how it works, and meet some more of his friends. I am eager to see what this new, gritty urban fantasy series can bring in full length novel form when ANGEL’S INK comes out October 16, 2012.
Defining your identity can be hard enough for any person, without magical “extras” making you feel all the more isolated and alone. Kate Griffin puts...moreDefining your identity can be hard enough for any person, without magical “extras” making you feel all the more isolated and alone. Kate Griffin puts the epic and the mundane side by side in STRAY SOULS. As Sharon’s support group bumbles through their neurosis in a crumbling city, a terrible magic is killing those around them.
Unfortunately, it was just this snapshot writing style that made it hard for me to get into STRAY SOULS. 100 pages in, Sharon was still a cypher and I resented only getting spare glimpses of the Midnight Mayor and his fight against the Dog. Sharon is a modern hero, armed with self-help books and Google, but I was more than ready for her to grow out of “overly earnest support group leader” into “kickass shaman” by the time she actually started driving the story.
I had to adjust my expectation from “Urban Fantasy” to “Hapless British Comedy with Magic” before I could enjoy this book. STRAY SOULS is a story of misfits, complete with point of view “confessionals” from supporting characters. I loved the dotty, powerful characters immediately, Dr. Seah (“…drugs are cool – I mean, like medicinal drugs – they’re awesome.”), Sammy the Elbow, and Matthew Swift. The neurotic members of Sharon’s support group took a lot longer for me to warm up to. As Sharon’s patience grows thin and her temper flares, however, I enjoyed her more and more. But even as the characters started to win me over, I still found myself skimming past most of the social commentary and therapy jargon.
This is a book that I liked despite itself. The narrative style didn’t click for me until about halfway through, and Sharon’s self-help schtick never quick clicked, but almost against my will I found myself laughing along with Griffin’s relentless humor. Where I had to be won over page by page, readers who like a little silliness in their urban fantasy will love this mix of danger and humor unreservedly.
It is clear that THIS CASE IS GONNA KILL ME is just the beginning for Linnet Ellery. A quirky mix of privilege and loneliness, I had a hard time bondi...moreIt is clear that THIS CASE IS GONNA KILL ME is just the beginning for Linnet Ellery. A quirky mix of privilege and loneliness, I had a hard time bonding with her as more than just the narrator describing a great world. Still, Linnet is the sort of person who listens to that inner voice that tells to do the right thing (even when that means going head to head with a murderous werewolf with nothing more than hairspray), and I like her and her world well enough to be eager for more.
Linnet’s point of view makes for a unique reading experience. Her pedantic descriptions of how things work would have turned me off if it weren’t so intriguing to try and figure out what was going on beneath the surface. As a vampire fosterling, the way Linnet sees the world is definitely not the whole story. It’s clear that she has the potential to shake things up in future books, and I’m looking forward to reading more about Vampires, Hunters, and the Linnet’s mysterious luck.
While the plot and world building were top notch, they definitely outperformed the heroine for me. Despite some great external dialogue, Linnet’s point of view remains pretty stiff and flat throughout. Despite efforts to give her a well rounded personality, something about her was missing. For every scene where I warmed up to her, there would be a digression that took me back to square one. Her relationships, both good and bad, don’t really click for me. I’m not sure if it was intentional to keep her and her prospective hero a little out of step with each other, but that detracted from my interest in their future.
THIS CASE IS GONNA KILL ME establishes a very interesting open world where male-only vampires and werewolves live among us. Blending a little bit of old man crotchetiness into the “all powerful creature of the night” archetype really worked for me, and I’m very excited to learn more about their secrets. While Linnet can be funny and admirable, she didn’t quite come together as a character for me. However, I certainly liked her well enough to hope there’s more to come.
CLEAN is a cool book. That’s all there is to it. It has the kind of worldbuilding you can sink your teeth i...moreReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
CLEAN is a cool book. That’s all there is to it. It has the kind of worldbuilding you can sink your teeth into, a damaged anti-hero who falls for an even more damaged anti-heroine, and an investigation to catch a teleporting serial killer.
The procedural aspects of CLEAN are sharp and interesting even for a reader who doesn’t normally go for procedurals. The real hook, however, was the worldbuilding. A small percentage of the population has an Ability. They can be telepaths, telekinetics, or teleportors. Some have a small Ability, others–like our protagonist–have a frightening amount of power. That is until he got hooked on an experimental drug that got him kicked out of the Telepath’s Guild, living in a closet sized apartment devoid of anything he might hock for drug money, and stuck working as an interrogator for the police.
He’s a wonderfully messed up character. Some of the best passages in CLEAN are where he’s wrestling with himself about whether or not to get high. He’ll plot out exactly how he’ll do it, even knowing that it’ll destroy his life and irrevocably sever the tenuous relationships he’s been building at the department with his boss and also Detective Cherabino. The protagonist (whose name we don’t learn until the end of the book) is very much a Harry Dresden type character, and Cherabino is a more angry version of Murphy. There is a romance that they dance around, but there are a lot of pretty significant issues keeping them apart like his drug problem and inability to stay out of her head. But I liked these two messed up characters a lot. I’ll be rooting for them in the sequel.
If you like The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, this series looks to be tailor made for Harry and Murphy fans. Since I can’t read Alex Hughes’s mind, I’ll have to wait for the next book in the Mindspace Investigations series which is titled SHARP and will be published on April 2, 2013.
Sexual Content: Kissing. Mild sensuality. References to rape (less)
I often describe urban fantasy novels as “dark” when there’s violence an...moreReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy See site review for similar titles
I often describe urban fantasy novels as “dark” when there’s violence and pain, loss and mourning. THE BRIDES OF ROLLROCK ISLAND is wrapped in gossamer strands of darkness so pervasive, so heartbreaking and real, I need a new word to evoke the pain of these characters. Lanagan explores the mythology of the seal-wife, a woman taken from the sea and kept by hiding her seal pelt. Through generations, through many different eyes, she writes a first hand view of human cruelty and petty betrayal, of a community imploding in on itself.
This book explores an aspect of human relationships that I’d rather not delve into, the hunger a man can feel for a compliant, nubile girl. The seal-brides of Rollrock are chillingly childlike in their lack of agency, passive and plaintive and wishing for the sea. The writing is beautiful, chronicling each fissure in the bleak little village. Magic as horror, a legacy of heartbreak and otherness in the bloodlines of the village… there’s no way I can do justice to how thoroughly Lanagan ensnared me in her net. I was angry and disgusted and sad and mesmerized, I could not look away.
I had to force myself to finish this book, but I am glad that I did. Lanagan doesn’t flinch from the horror of her seal-brides, the petty selfishness of enthrallment and love, and it is just that unblinking gaze through the generations that elevates this story from a painful exercise to a very realistic and human story. I loved the frailty of Lanagan’s seal-wives. She gives her mythology a loose genetics, where seal mothers impart wildness to their daughters with their X chromosome but the fathers’ Y keeps their sons anchored to the shore. With those sons that grow up under the shadow of their sad mothers, the daughters lost to the sea, Lanagan makes this a story of families and consequences, not just magic and passion. Forgiveness and revenge, frailty and strength, there are tiny acts of heroism and betrayal that shape this story, as well as intimate portrayals of characters that fail themselves, that are hurt and pass on that heartbreak to others.
THE BRIDES OF ROLLROCK ISLAND is not a comfortable book, but it is a beautiful one. Lanagan is utterly realistic in the the world she created, through the rhythm of the characters’ speech, the small pleasures and terrible betrayals of humans to each other. Normally I reference the Brothers Grimm whenever an author explores the consequences of magic in a realistic way, but that comparison doesn’t fit for Lanagan. She added a drop of magic to an entirely human world and the results felt anything but fictional.
Sexual Content: Kissing, references to sex, coerced marriage and sex.
I really enjoyed the whole viral outbreak concept in INHUMAN which had great world building and was a quick...moreReview Courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
I really enjoyed the whole viral outbreak concept in INHUMAN which had great world building and was a quick action filled read. The idea of a virus that wiped out the eastern half of the U.S. leaving the survivors to live behind a giant wall in the west was a fascinating idea. While viral outbreak in a dystopian novel tends to mean zombies rampaging the earth, INHUMAN spins this idea around creates feral hybrids.
These hybrids are victims of the virus who in the late stages have mutated to become human/animal or animal/animal creatures who become super feral and dangerous (think rabies-like symptoms). There were some pretty cool and scary combinations of animals and people in the Savage Zone beyond the wall where the feral hybrids live. This hybridization created an “Island of Dr. Moreau” feel with the humans in the earlier stages of the virus being able to retain their humanity and talk while looking part-animal. While I liked the mutating virus, the idea that a virus could be held back by only a wall with hardly anyone trying to find a cure is a tad far fetched even for a fictional story. Logical mishaps of the plot aside the characters beyond the wall were varied and well fleshed out helping to make this world come alive.
Lane is a fun character who is incredibly smart, self-reliant and able to adapt to new situations very quickly and her adaptability is probably the trait I liked the most as she is thrown out beyond the wall with little to no preparation or guidance which is insanely admirable especially for a sixteen year old. The logic behind sending her out beyond the wall didn’t make too much sense considering there were a many other easier and fool proof methods to retrieve the object she needed to get in the Savage Zone. Aside from her adaptability there were many other traits Lane had that we were simply told she had with no examples. For instance she has martial arts training and some survival skills which she barely demonstrates and I would have loved to see. Most of the time she ends up being saved by other people…mainly the love interests, Rafe and Emerson.
I am not a huge fan of love triangles especially ones in dystopian novels where survival is a tad more important than who the main character is going to kiss. Luckily the triangle between Lane Rafe, and Emerson was kept to the background and Lane was smart enough to actually reprimand herself for crushing on these two in order to concentrate on surviving in a desolate wasteland surrounded by mutated, feral hybrids. Both guys are put into the stereotypical categories with ‘good guy’ traits and ‘bad boy’ traits and they pretty much stick to their specified love interest descriptions which made me even more thankful that this bland love triangle was not emphasized too much.
Some of the plot points seemed to be wrapped up a bit to conveniently and I felt like the last part of the story was too rushed especially when the characters barely get a chance to reflect on what they went through. INHUMAN had some logic flaws and a pretty lackluster love triangle but aside those quibbles it was a decent action filled dystopian YA novel that has a different spin on the viral outbreak idea used in many dystopian novels.(less)
The Chronicles of Elantra are an intricate hybrid of urban and high fantasy, with gritty streets, magical creatures, and medieval elements intwined. S...moreThe Chronicles of Elantra are an intricate hybrid of urban and high fantasy, with gritty streets, magical creatures, and medieval elements intwined. Sagara has created her own “urban” environment, as the City in which Kaylin lives serves as her whole world. Even in CAST IN PERIL, when obligations are going to take her beyond the familiar confines of her home, the landscape outside the City proper consists of danger, magic, etiquette, and inscrutable beings. Kaylin is right at home.
So much has transpired in this series, even having read each book in order, I often have a hard time remembering details of the previous adventures (and prior events are often referenced). If you’re new to the series, I recommend starting at the beginning, and if you’re behind, I highly recommend catching up to enjoy this book. Bare weeks separate most of the books in this series, which means Private Kaylin Neya only has time to change clothes before the next apocalyptic event comes knocking. I love the gruff humor and breathless chaos that swirl around Kaylin on any given day, and CAST IN PERIL offers quip after quip for most of the book. It wouldn’t be a Chronicles of Elantra novel without deadly, mysterious magic, however, and the Barrani pilgrimage to West March offers magical waystations, political intrigue, and insidious infections of Shadow. With both Nightshade and Severn in this story, the romantic subtext was greater than usual, to the point of actually bubbling out into conversation every once and awhile.
Of all the magical mechanisms in fantasy, Sagara’s naming and runes can be some of the most intriguing and frustrating to read. I feel like I can see the runes and symbols floating in the air around Kaylin. Magical theory is always at the heart of the action, and I usually understand less of the mechanisms that drive the battles than I do notice the changes in Kaylin that result. CAST IN PERIL is no different in that regard. I understood less about the Naming and True Stories of the Barrani than I did the relationship dynamics around Kaylin.
The Chronicles of Elantra matches Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse books for the sheer number of events, revelations, and societal upheavals that simmer off the pages of each book, though Sagara uses double the amount of pages with her ornate, mythological rich prose. CAST IN PERIL was filled with my favorite Elantra elements: glimpses of Dragons, Hawks, and Towers, Severn, Nightshade, and Teela, and the hyperbolic humor of Barrani death threats and Kaylin’s stubbornness. Those familiar pleasures carried me through some of the thicker magic at story’s end, to a breathless pause that I cannot release until CAST IN SORROW comes out next year.