Seriously, what the fuck. Aside from the rampant, rapey sexualization of a 14 year old by every man who comes into contact with her, the main characte...moreSeriously, what the fuck. Aside from the rampant, rapey sexualization of a 14 year old by every man who comes into contact with her, the main character is annoying, and the writing style drove me crazy. Ugh. (less)
2.5 stars This might've been better with a little tinkering. I don't dislike it as much as some of my friends seem to, but after the intriguing first...more2.5 stars This might've been better with a little tinkering. I don't dislike it as much as some of my friends seem to, but after the intriguing first few chapters, the story really does wander all over the place, with repetitive attacks on the Prince without much cohesion.
It's also annoying that a faery guardian that is hundreds of years old and can fight off attackers (except when the Prince saves her, of course) falls so easily in love. Especially for a guy who's kind of bland and uninteresting. The romance is the central thing in this book, so if you aren't into that, it's unlikely you'll enjoy the story.
Still, I thought some of the non-romantic scenes were decently written, and though the story ends as you'd expect (I read 200 pages and skimmed the last couple of chapters or so), I thought the ending chapter (view spoiler)[ with her talking about mortality (hide spoiler)] was interesting. It probably would also have helped if this wasn't set in England (very little attempt is made there), if Richard wasn't a Prince, if "Embers" was younger or supposedly less experienced, if Embers didn't have that awful nickname, if this were more tightly plotted, if the characters had better arcs, and if the book was about 150 pages shorter. That's all, hah. Not awful, but not great either.
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review. Which only appears here because my coblogger is already scheduled to cover this book for the blog.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
With most Book Sevens, I am usually checking release schedules and making all kinds of martyred noises about how series should quit while they're ahea...more
With most Book Sevens, I am usually checking release schedules and making all kinds of martyred noises about how series should quit while they're ahead. By that point, authors are usually stuck on rules they've set for how the relationships play out, or they're having trouble coming up with new problems without changing the nature of certain characters.
That's not the case with Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampires, however. This series shows no signs of slowing down or relying on tired, recycled story lines or forced conflict to move the action forward. In this particular installment, the vampires' Cadogan House is in a state of flux as its status among the other Houses is called into question. On top of that, vampires are disappearing--and a face from the past comes back to make trouble for Merit and Ethan.
The series' trademark humor, great action sequences, and complicated political intrigue are all here, in ways that feel familiar and yet still fresh. I love that Merit is such a kickass character, but who still struggles with her vulnerability. The question of doing what is honorable comes up again and again in this series, particularly in this installment as she's faced with a new allegiance she's made with the Red Guard that may threaten her standing as Sentinel and protector of her House. I love that Ethan is true to the character we've come to know, and proves again what an admirable Master he is, as well as a good match for Merit. I love that we get to see Jonah, albeit all too briefly--someday he really must get a spinoff series, I think! And I love that awkward Jeff gets some cool moments as well.
There are also some, um, pretty hot scenes in this book. Vampires eyes' get silver when they get angry or excited and let's just say there is a LOT of silvering of eyes and pouncing in this one. :D
If I had to quibble about anything, I'd say that I do wish the author didn't feel the need to use so many of her characters in every single book. While I appreciate the sprawling and memorable cast of characters, as well as how easily she works back story into the narrative, having to explain so much does slow down the momentum of the beginning of each book. And please, let's have these vampires suck a little more blood!
But those are minor points when I enjoy so much about these books--somehow the Chicagoland Vamps just work for me every single time. I'd recommend this series to: anyone who enjoys adult urban fantasies, or to mature YA readers who want to try out books with a similar feel but more adult conflicts. Chicagoland's Merit is a lot like Vampire Academy's Rose, actually. Both strong, principled characters who get into all kinds of trouble, but have a hell of a time fighting--and reasoning--their way out of it.
This review also appears on The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
Searching for another kick-ass urban fantasy heroine? Look no further, because McKenzie Lewis has arrived. Caught in a fascinating war between the fae...moreSearching for another kick-ass urban fantasy heroine? Look no further, because McKenzie Lewis has arrived. Caught in a fascinating war between the fae king and the rebel faction, she is kidnapped by the rebellion, who wants to use her special cartography skills for their own means. McKenzie fights to escape in some seriously great action scenes, but gradually she starts to wonder whether the truth behind the war is even more complex than she ever imagined.
What's intriguing about McKenzie is that unlike most other urban fantasy heroines, she's not a warrior. She has no magic sword, she doesn't have mad martial arts skills, and hell, she can't even fire a gun. But she is an exceptionally gifted shadow reader, a person who can see the trace imprints left behind when one of the fae has teleported to another location. The author does an amazing job of showing us how special McKenzie is, particularly in scenes involving a tracking test that's set up for her by the rebels. This girl is fierce and determined and fearless and funny, and I liked how she actually thinks and reasons. You know how sometimes you want to yell at the page because something should be occurring to the heroine, but it doesn't because the author wants to let the story drag on? It's like McKenzie hears you yelling loud and clear and answers you immediately in her actions. But I also like that she's so very human in the middle of all the powerful magic and power plays exhibited around her. She miscalculates, she doesn't know whom to trust, and she actually bleeds and feels pain in a jarring, wince-inducing way. And I like that in the middle of a blistering attack when her own life is in danger, she stops to rescue a little squirmy kimki animal.
And yeah...there are a couple of really sexy guys in this book. McKenzie's been waiting 10 years for something to happen in her forbidden relationship with the strong and principled Kyol, the king's swordsman; but her rebel captor, Aren, is also strangely compelling, with awesome healing powers and a pesky habit of making her feel things for him that she shouldn't be feeling. (Oh, and he has disheveled, sexy hair, too. :D ) Love triangles are usually equal parts agonizing and annoying, but the romantic entanglements are handled incredibly well here. It's like the Dorian-Kiyo thing (view spoiler)[without the murderous deceptive part (hide spoiler)] but done in a much more sophisticated, non-icky, non-frustrating way. I like that everyone behaves honorably and that fae politics and war add so many complicated layers to the situation; while everyone has secrets and agendas, it's clear why both men are so attractive to McKenzie, because both are certainly very attractive to us. The electricity running under her skin whenever she's touched by one of the men is incredibly hot, especially considering that there is no actual sex in any of these relationships. Yet.
Aren holds on for a moment more, his lips and hands lingering as if this is his last breath. As if this is the only breath in his life that has ever mattered.
"Fine," he says, his words coming out breathless. "I'll save your precious sword-master, McKenzie. But I will never, ever give you back to him."
I'm really happy to find another great series, especially one that features such a smart and funny heroine and a well-plotted story. If you're a fan of Richelle Mead, Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, or Chloe Neill, don't wait another minute! This is urban fantasy series you've been waiting for.
P.S. If you're still not convinced, let me just say that I made the mistake of starting this book when I went to bed late at night and I was so hooked, I couldn't put it down until I finished it at 6 am. By the time I woke up a few hours later, a few of my friends had already purchased it..and it looks like they really enjoyed it, too. Yay!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I didn't really think I'd enjoy this book as much as Dragon Bound, because how could a fairy princess and an eagle possibly be as appealing as a drago...moreI didn't really think I'd enjoy this book as much as Dragon Bound, because how could a fairy princess and an eagle possibly be as appealing as a dragon and a--don't read this if you haven't read the first book!--(view spoiler)[unicorn (hide spoiler)]? Besides, so many great debuts turn out to be one-hit wonders. But that's not the case here. Somehow Thea Harrison has pulled off another smart, sexy paranormal romance novel that's completely original and completely fun.
"Tricks," who made a brief but memorable appearance in the first Elder Races book, is the central character here, as is Tiago, one of dragon lord's sentinels. He turns out to be a big Thunderbird, and darned if this relationship doesn't turn out to be almost as appealing as Pia and Dragos', with lots of crazy animal sex (hee hee) and strength and humor between them. The kidnappings and fight scenes were pretty good, and all in all this was another extremely readable novel with strong characters and an interesting central plot.
With this second book, Thea Harrison has truly proven she's a star in the often lackluster PNR genre...and I will definitely be checking out anything she chooses to write next. Yay for great authors!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
3.5 stars Oh Eugenie, Eugenie, Eugenie. Throughout all four of the Dark Swan books, I feel like you could have used a good girlfriend you could call w...more3.5 stars Oh Eugenie, Eugenie, Eugenie. Throughout all four of the Dark Swan books, I feel like you could have used a good girlfriend you could call whenever you had the urge to do something silly. Unfortunately, you didn't have my number, and as much as I've enjoyed your company, I still have to fight the urge to shake some sense into you, even after all this time.
In Shadow Heir, Eugenie Markham has her twin babies but hides them away in fear of their safety. She returns to the faery world to find that a disaster has fallen on her land, and she must work together with both allies and enemies in order to save the Otherworld that she's come to love. Eugenie's story has always been a lot of fun from the very beginning, when we first learned she was a half-human, half-fae shaman for hire who learns that she's destined to be part of a prophecy that will wreak havoc upon the mortal world. I've really enjoyed her learning to harness her powers (she can control water elements!), uncovering the truth behind her past, and watching her become a more powerful, more dedicated Queen in the faery kingdom. All of the battle scenes are really fun, and if some of the plot points are a bit on the predictable side, that hasn't mattered as much to me because the characters are all nuanced and interesting, the dialogue is snappy and humorous, and the overall story lines are fast-paced and entertaining.
What's been much less enjoyable has been watching Eugenie bounce back and forth between her two love interests, the half-Japanese, half-fox shapeshifter Kiyo, and the madly flirtatious, deadly ambitious King Dorian. While both men were equally attractive in the beginning, the love triangle dragged out interminably, with pretty bad behaviors from everyone concerned. Both men have their own agendas and secrets that they keep from Eugenie, but in the last book Iron Crowned, one of them made a horribly treacherous and unforgivable move, and I went into this book absolutely gunning for blood. (view spoiler)[ Or a fur coat. :D (hide spoiler)] One really funny thing about this last installment is that pretty much everyone else in the book hates him, too! Different characters kept bringing up the idea of killing the traitor again and again, to my great satisfaction.
I did very much enjoy reading this story and I was happy that many of the threads that were left hanging in the last book were concluded--but I'm not sure I'm happy about the way they were resolved. Eugenie makes some pretty awful tactical errors, seems deliberately obtuse throughout much of the story, and in the end sets upon a course that made my blood pressure go up a few notches. There is just no reason that she shouldn't have learned by now that dishonesty and deception are never going to pay off. Her decisions at the end were illogical, poorly conceived, and completely unfair to everyone concerned. Also...(view spoiler)[I could have used a little bit more makeout time with Dorian. (hide spoiler)]
Richelle Mead's heroines are always strong, dominant women, which is part of what I like about them--but after producing three series which manage to entertain and frustrate readers in nearly equal measure, it's pretty clear to me that the biggest issue is that in trying to make her main character flawed, she so often makes the main character stupid as well. Or at least irrational and thoughtless, which is so frustrating when our heroine usually otherwise behaves with a great deal of courage and integrity and common sense. That's not to say that obstacles shouldn't be thrown in the main character's way or that she shouldn't make mistakes, since that's what keeps things interesting. But there should be solid reasons given for withholding information/not taking action/etc, etc., other than just to extend the story. We can't root for the heroine if we're suddenly rolling our eyes at her all the time.
So this is, once again, a mixed conclusion to a Richelle Mead series. I still enjoy her books quite a lot because they're so darned entertaining--but things never seem to end with my having as much respect for the heroine as I did in the beginning. It is so very disappointing when it appears that readers believe in the characters' self-worth and honor more than their author does.
**My thanks go out to the lovely Flannery for knowing how much I was dying to read this book and being kind enough to share her ARC.**