Anne Bishop remains one of my favorite fantasy authors of all time. Her worlds are usually female-focused with mat...moreOriginally posted at Nose in a Book.
Anne Bishop remains one of my favorite fantasy authors of all time. Her worlds are usually female-focused with matriarchal societies and pretty powerful female characters. There is also rape and murder, though none of it is graphic. With Bishop, you can expect growling men who speak too softly when angry and women who wear pants to the horror of others. This is the seventh in the Black Jewels world, and I love these later novels because we meet new people while still getting to see and interact with Daemon, Saetan, Lucivar, and Jaenelle. And this one has them all in all their glory with intertwined stories between Queens and Warlord Princes. First of all, let me say that Theran is a dick of the highest order. Like Falonar in the original trilogy almost. He treats Cassidy, his Queen, like complete crap, like she’s beneath him or not worth his time. He treats Cassidy the way males treat women in Terreille, the way they were taught by Dorothea SaDiablo. This book introduces the first time we’ve heard of Jaenelle’s magic storm causing serious problems and hurting more people. It sounded like the perfect solution, but it set another chain of events in motion, one that almost erased Dena Nehele from Terreille altogether.
At first, I was really pissed that Bishop was going to go with the whole total-asshole-degrades-heroine-constantly-but-eventually-sees-her-worth-and-falls-in-love trope, which is horrible and makes me rage like a bear, but I should have trusted her. Theran has a cousin named Gray, who was tortured by one of Dorothea’s puppet Queens thirteen years ago. He’s mentally scarred, not quite in the Twisted Kingdom but not quite out of it either, like Daemon in Heir to the Shadows. He doesn’t care what Cassidy looks like. And that brings me to something I love about Bishop’s books: you don’t have to be pretty to be a heroine, and you don’t have to be ugly to be evil. Cassidy is not conventionally attractive, as Theron points out ad nauseum, but neither is Jaenelle. They are both Witches, but Jaenelle is more powerful. Dorothea was beautiful but thoroughly evil. The women never fall into the “pretty but don’t know it” trope, because that shit doesn’t need to exist in this universe. So it doesn’t.
At nearly three-quarters through the novel, Theron has not changed. He’s been threatened by the Master of the Guard and even the High Lord himself, but he’s still a prejudiced douche. As Gray and Cassidy begin falling in love, Theron feels threatened and starts thinking Cassidy is manipulating Gray. And, I’ll be honest, I was slightly annoyed by the Gray/Cassidy romance. Gray is broken. He flips out for very little reason, he screams and gets violent about Cassidy but doesn’t know the courtship rules, and at one point, he grabs her face and starts screaming. If I were Saetan, I’d smack his fool face. Actually, I wouldn’t, because his mind is broken, which kind of grosses me out. He acts like a boy. He acts “alarmed” when cutting Cassidy’s hair is brought up. NOT YOUR DECISION, GRAY. He doesn’t understand makeup or illusion spells, and I think he’s seriously dangerous as an undeveloped Warlord Prince. He freaks me out.
Something I realized while reading this novel is that this is paranormal romance. Before I always just assumed it was fantasy, and when I started reading these at age fifteen, I had no clue this was a romance series. It is, and it has some of the same annoying “possessive male” tropes that the Psy-Changeling novels have, but I find I can overlook them out of nostalgia. I may have even given it more stars than it deserves out of nostalgia. So, basically, if you’re a fan of the Black Jewels, I think you’ll like this one, but newer readers might roll their eyes. I mean, they made me roll my eyes, but I love these characters and have for over a decade so you’ll have to cut me some slack!(less)
This is suprising to some people, but in addition to YA, fantasy, and sci-fi, I enjoy reading urban fantasy and...moreOriginally published at Nose in a Book
This is suprising to some people, but in addition to YA, fantasy, and sci-fi, I enjoy reading urban fantasy and paranormal romance. I make a distinction between the two, because they are very different genres. Urban fantasy relies more on plot, characters, and is more focused on magic and worldbuilding. Paranormal romance (PNR) focuses on, well, the romance, usually between a shapeshifter and a human or something like that. I really enjoy Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling novels, but the romances in those books (I’m on #8 out of 10) are all starting to bleed together. The men are almost all changeling, which means they’re controlling and dominant and annoying (to me), and the women are almost all Psy, who are like Vulcans. The men teach them to feel. I’m not explaining it well, but the background plot of an evil Psy Council is fascinating. When I found myself skimming the romantic scenes in the last one I read, I knew I needed a new PNR series.
Since I hated the Night Huntress novels, I decided to try out Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark. The summary on this one was a little eye-roll inducing, but since it’s only a novella, I figured, why not? I assume this is modern day, since the characters reference movies and have pretty modern turns of phrase, which is weird, because I assumed Wroth was storming a castle or something. The beginning, with all it’s “pretty nipples” and “clutching thighs” is a little more amusing than sexy, but it didn’t bother me. You know what does bother me? The absolute universality of paranormal men and their overprotective streaks. Seriously. In every single Psy-Changeling novel, the woman is made to “feel safe.” Look, I don’t want to feel safe, I want to get out there and fight some assholes! Seriously! It’s like, the men and the women are paranormal, or have paranormal abilities, but the men need to protect the women from whatever even worse supernatural force out there. PNR likes to use the idea of supernatural villains and paranormal men as a way of showing women they need protecting. ”Well, a vampire is trying to kill her! Of course he should lock her in their house and surround it with six of his best dudes, SHE NEEDS IT.” Boring. Give me Kate Daniels any day.
The problem with (most) romance novels is that authors have realized most modern women don’t really want to read about a damsel in distress, rescued by a werewolf or not, so they’ve come up with a new strategy. They start with an unattached woman who is fulfilled in her career, friends, and life in general. She is strong and doesn’t really even consider settling down with a man. Enter hulking, dominant man. He immediately fills a hole in the heroine’s life (that she was unaware existed), and the woman decides to give up her freedoms for love. Oh, she was a badass bounty hunter before she met him? She’ll stop, because he wants her to, because she’s “precious” to him, because he can’t bear the thought of her going out into danger day after day. You know, while he continues to go out. Into danger. Day after day. I hate that. Screw you, dude, I do what I want, love or not. Respect me, my choices, and my abilities and we will be just fine. There is literally a moment in this novel where Myst wonders if she has finally found a man “strong enough to defeat [her]“. What!? Defeat you from what? Being a badass and not conforming to gender roles? I mean, Cole rolls this into “oh, it’s part of her curse for slutting it up with a commoner’s son” WHICH MAKES IT EVEN WORSE, UGH.
And then we find out that Myst is only considered slutty. In fact, she’s only ever slept with three men. She’s been alive THOUSANDS OF YEARS and she’s some immortal goddess fairy elf person, so I don’t believe this little turn of events. Why can’t women sleep with five hundred dudes and still be intelligent, fierce, passionate, and desirable? They can in real life, but not in romance novels. Nikolai, a freaking hundreds of years old vampire warlord, is agonized by the thought that Myst could have possibly had other lovers in the oh, twenty-seven hundred years she has on him. Shut up, Nikolai. Just shut up.
What really saved this for me were the glimpses of other Valkyrie and, honestly, the sex scenes. Those were awesome as long as the characters weren’t talking, and they lived up to my every expectation. I wonder if the next one will have a better plot, as this is just a novella.
This is why I don’t review romance, you guys. I usually enjoy the story, but then I get all caught up in the feminism and the political implications and I can go on for hours! I will read Cole’s A Hunger Like No Other, the second in this series, because her writing style isn’t terrible and I want to see if this damsel-in-distress thing is a theme. I know that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it takes me awhile to warm up when it comes to romance (wink, wink).(less)
So this one is a like like The Other Countess in plot; Jane pines for James, James doesn’t realize it, et cetera...moreOriginally published at Nose in a Book
So this one is a like like The Other Countess in plot; Jane pines for James, James doesn’t realize it, et cetera. Jane seems more relateable since we last saw her, and James has PTSD like crazy from witnessing the Spanish slaughter of the Dutch. Will, who is now a father, wants to send James to the New World to clear his head and expand the Laceys’ interests. Jane is a widow in an Anna Nicole Smith situation-her much older stepsons are intimidating her and even corner he in a garden at one point. Jane and James spar a bit when they first meet again, as James is under the impression that Jane thinks she’s too good for the Laceys. When Jane admits that she refused Will’s suit for Ellie’s sake, James warms up to her again. So, my predictions as to plot points in this novel were as follows: Jane versus the Rievaulx sons; James versus the New World; and How James and Jane Get Married.
I was right about Jane’s stepsons, but her father comes in to spice things up a bit, and by that I mean he is completely despicable. Jane’s brother, Henry, shows up as well, sleeping with Jane’s maid again and acting generally like the sociopath he is. She is humiliated in court more than once by her stepsons and then again when her father forces her into an engagement with a very effeminate Frenchman. I cringed the whole time for her. Henry is horrible and there’s no redeeming him, in my opinion. He uses the only things Jane holds dear against her to achieve his own ends. She can’t trust anyone, not her maid, not her brother, no one.
James is dealing with a feeling of worthlessness. As I mentioned above, he has PTSD, or at least a serious case of Edward “I’m Not Good Enough For You” Cullen syndrome. He’s in love with Jane, but feels he can’t offer her peace or stability in his present state. I felt for him too, maybe even more so than Jane. There was no real psychiatry in Tudor England and certainly no anti-depressants. He has a bit of a martyr complex as well, if you ask me, which is just exacerbated by the PTSD and the feeling of being cut loose from his family now that Will has an heir.
I loved the little side plots with Diego and Christopher though. Milly seems like a sweet, if underdeveloped, character, and it was cool to see her fighting against medieval racism. I like that Edwards inserted that sort of character and gave the African foreigner a love story. I was also really touched by the scene in which Christopher meets Will and Tobias. It was really sweet and I hope we get Christopher’s story next. I’d be interested in reading less about the court and more about Cheapside and the theater. (less)
This book was written in verse, which was slightly disappointing to me, but it’s not annoying. In lieu of chapte...moreOriginally published at Nose in a Book
This book was written in verse, which was slightly disappointing to me, but it’s not annoying. In lieu of chapters, there are short little poems detailing all manner of things, from Maria’s father’s history to the glassblowing profession. It was incredibly easy to read, and only took me a few hours. I still remember reading a David Eddings novel where a character tells the protag “glass is just melted sand.” I never forgot that, for some reason, and glassblowing has always held some appeal to me. Maria is an artist among glassblowers, and once her family sat with the Doge at church. But then, someone stole her father’s cristallo recipe, and all was lost. When I first started reading, this struck me as very simplistic, less YA and more middle-grade, but that doesn’t diminish it. Maria knows Giovanna resents her, and that resentment comes through very clearly in the poems. Maria very clearly loves glassblowing, but she’s stuck in her role. Eventually, she is no longer allowed to draw, as she must stay clean as a lady. Maria really chafes at being a lady.
After the initial introduction, we start meeting Maria’s suitors. It’s pretty amusing watching Maria bumble around, and the descriptions of the men are hysterical. One of them says Maria’s age (15) is too old and I gagged a little, but that was the only overtly creepy thing I noticed in these chapters. You know what the suitors’ chapters reminded me of? That scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding were Toula’s father keeps inviting weirdos over to woo her. Each one makes you cringe in a different way. The saddest part is how sad Giovanna is and how it makes her lash out at Maria. Maria is only somewhat baffled by Vanna’s behavior and it made me hurt for them both. Vanna becomes almost vicious in her resentment, and it made me glad I only have brothers. And then, Luca shows up. Luca, who is ungrateful and snobby when we first meet him even though he’s from the laboring class, much lower than Maria’s family in status.
Luca, of course, has a story. He’s not just a jerk, he’s a jerk for a reason. I had my suspicions about him from the very first word he spoke, but I won’t spoil anything. He’s got his issues, but he’s like most other YA heroes, really. Aren’t all hero/ines in YA the same in the end? I think they are. It takes a lot to make them stand out on their own. Even some of my favorites (Evie from Paranormalcy, Clara from Unearthly, etc) are cut from a standard cloth. Near the middle of the book, Vanna seems to have a change of heart, though I remained suspicious of her as well. Maria doesn’t really realize what’s happening between herself and Luca, plus she feels this intense pressure to help her family, especially after a storm hits their island. And maybe this is just because of the poems, but I didn’t feel anything between Luca and Maria. We were being told instead of shown, I think. I really didn’t see any passion between them. They hardly see each other at all up to this point.
In the end, there is some of the passion I was looking for between Luca and Maria, but what was really interesting was the sisterly scheming. I really liked the relationship between Vanna and Maria (once Vanna stopped being a jerk). I felt like this was more a story of family and change than a romance, and I liked it better for it. If you like little historical romances, I think this one is going to be for you. It’s short and sweet, and the verse really flows after you get used to it. It comes out in exactly two weeks!(less)
I'm through with these novels. Cat has shown no growth in the 4 years since the first novel, Annette is a caricature, and Cat can't seem to stop calli...moreI'm through with these novels. Cat has shown no growth in the 4 years since the first novel, Annette is a caricature, and Cat can't seem to stop calling other women sluts and bimbos. Cat herself is a Mary Sue in a terrible way. Never again. (less)