New series, but the setting is the same, as is the general feeling that Ward writes male characters better than 98% of female writers out there.
This t...moreNew series, but the setting is the same, as is the general feeling that Ward writes male characters better than 98% of female writers out there.
This time, instead of not-vampires, her characters are a chosen savior of Heaven and a couple of fallen angels, hence the series title, "Fallen Angels". Our main character, Jim, finds himself hanging out at the Iron Mask, left to Trez by the purportedly dead Rhevenge of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. In this bar/club of many sins, he meets a woman who lures him in - only to find out later she's the potential fiancee of his boss. After his accidental death, we discover Heaven's waiting area is populated by four British blokes who are fond of croquet - and they charge Jim with saving seven humans from their sins, to give Heaven one-up on Hell and avert the Apocalypse. Ward compares the battle between Heaven and Hell to a football game, and if I wasn't already a fan, her extended metaphor certainly would have done it. It's less sex-and-romance than her Black Dagger books, so despite the cover (what? don't even get me started there), this is definitely worth checking out for those who may have previously avoided her racy (does anyone really use that word anymore?) Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Her characters are relateable and funny, and I don't know about anyone else, but the Westchester/Hudson area of upstate NY never seemed this interesting before.(less)
Not everyone can be a ballerina and a quantum physicist. But Catherine Asaro seems to balance them pretty well. And she's recently added rock star to...moreNot everyone can be a ballerina and a quantum physicist. But Catherine Asaro seems to balance them pretty well. And she's recently added rock star to her CV, so the woman has a few interesting skill sets to share with us.
While this is the first book in the series, I had started with "Quantum Rose"The Quantum Rose, and luckily that one was enough of a stand-alone to intrigue me into seeking out the beginning while still allowing me to start the series with fresh eyes and meet entirely new characters when I started where I was supposed to.
In a not-too-distant future, the human race reaches out into space, seeking new life. Only instead of the bipedal sentient civilizations we saw in "Star Trek", we found...more humans. Well, they had been human at one time, and now they've evolved past that. The image of a much more powerful civilization picking up a few humans from our early days (I'm thinking shortly after our big ice age) and planting us on a far-off planet recalls the movie "Stargate". This ancient and purportedly wise civilization dropped the developing humans on a planet complete with all the technology they would need to rocket themselves forward. Only because they were given it and did not develop it themselves, this civilization, referred to as the Ruby Empire, rose quickly and collapsed like flan. The second rise meant they lost a little knowledge, and made a few mistakes (including a genetic engineering boo-boo that created an entire race of sadistic anti-empaths), but it's been much more stable.
Human evolution has called for the development of the grey matter. The Skolians (as they call themselves) are our main characters, and they are all telepaths/empaths of some degree. The Allies (that's "us") are neutral in the war with the Skolians and the Traders/Eubians (that would be the sadistic anti-empaths who get their jollies off torturing slaves - really fine folk), so instead of giving anyone guns (which, at this point, they have better ones than "us" anyway), we started categorizing things and studying everyone in a good, intrusive fashion.
The ruling family of the Skolians are the Valdorias, and they are the most highly evolved - Ruby psions, and they have been the victims of their own people (yay, more genetic experiments) in an effort to win the war and make the Skolians stronger. Ruby psions are notoriously rare, and when two with the recessive genes to create these super psions (that would be telepath/empaths of immense power - power so great they basically power a galaxy-wide internet with their brains), they are tagged by the government and basically threatened to reproduce. Attempts to create Rubys in genetic labs are consistently failures, so the threats seem to be the way to go.
And then we meet Soz. Soz is not the oldest, she's not the youngest, but she is one of the last of her family that's left. And she has a war to fight, an empire to defend, and a step-brother to balance out in his rule of the Imperialate - the military branch of the empire. No big deal, right?
Well that's before she finds out that the Eubians have managed to breed themselves a Ruby psion (this is both shocking and disturbing once you get the whole story), and worse, she might be in love with him.
Good thing she's not in the spotlight.
Luckily, this is no "Romeo & Juliet" - I personally always thought they were a little dumb - and ass-kicking lady space soldiers don't just give up and go home when things start to go haywire.
I highly recommend this book even if you're not in it for the romance (which, while light here, will get more predominant in future books). This first volume is chock full of the scifi, including some diagrams on the space travel achievements of the Skolians and Eubians. Only a physicist would make sure we have diagrams.
And only a physicist could write science fiction this accessible and thorough.(less)
Departing entirely from the saga of Soz and the Imperialate (disregarding #2 which takes us so many years in the future that I hesitate to include it...moreDeparting entirely from the saga of Soz and the Imperialate (disregarding #2 which takes us so many years in the future that I hesitate to include it when listing the series for friends), we learn the true fate of Kelric Valdoria, younger brother to Soz who disappeared not long before we meet our cast in the first of the series, Primary Inversion.
Kelric has landed on the planet Coba, a Restricted planet having no communication with the Empire. A matriarchal planet, Kelric is immediately sold into a system of high-class slavery. He is taught Quis, a very intriguing "game" that rules the economy & politics of the entire planet. Regions pit their players against each other to determine allegiances, trade, and myriad other aspects of running a kingdom. Kelric, being exceedingly smart (like mother, father, sisters, brothers, etc - this apple doesn't fall far from the tree), he becomes a hot commodity, and is bought and sold within the slavery system more than any other player in the planet's history.
The Restricted status of the planet allows Asaro to completely abandon her Empire, the Traders, and even the Allies and explore the clockwork of one civilization in isolation. The relationships Kelric builds in and outside of the Calayna (the player harems) and the descriptions of the game itself are both rewarding and fascinating. I was so interested in the game and the few rules that are explained that I actually developed the desire to learn more. Too bad I was never that good at math - I suspect it's more for those folks who can finish a game of Go in under an hour.
The threads of this story, while seeming disconnected from the main storyline, do connect very closely later, so this is definitely not one to be skipped over.(less)
I am nothing if not consistent, and each new volume of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series becomes my favorite.
This one features some of my favorite m...moreI am nothing if not consistent, and each new volume of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series becomes my favorite.
This one features some of my favorite moments of the series, and forces me to single out my favorite female, and possibly my favorite Brother. This is the story of Butch, who isn't a brother at all, but who has gotten caught up in the battle between the Brothers and the Lessers. Butch's affection for Wrath's ex-wife Marissa also factors heavily, as everyone involved comes to terms with Butch's place among them. Butch becomes a necessarily evil to the Brothers, which has the potential to sour his blossoming relationship with Marissa - leading to one of my favorite scenes and quotes of the entire series.
Sick and tired of her life as an exiled aristocrat, and fresh off bad news from Butch, Marissa has a breakdown no reader can blame her for. She drags all her fancy dresses into the front yard and sets them on fire...only to discover she has left herself with literally nothing to wear. Beth takes pity on her and loans her pants, which Marissa has never worn in her life. The line is "Well, wasn't this a night for firsts. Sex. Arson. Pants." and it makes me smile on every re-read.
In addition to Butch and Marissa, we delve deeper into Vishous, who is a favorite as well. Vishous was the first to accept Butch into their ranks after bonding over the Red Sox, and continues to room with him on the Brotherhood property after he leaves his human life behind to throw his lot in with the Brothers. Vishous and Butch's relationship develops in future books, most notably Vishous's volume Lover Unbound. If there is something Ward does so well it shocks me, it is her male characters. They continue to be masculine and realistic even while clearly having deeper feelings for each other than most men would admit to out loud. This relationship is fostered by the necessary interaction of Vishous's power with Butch's - and no one begrudges either of them their closeness which seems to transcend any simple definition of friendship or love. It's not romantic, it just IS, and it's one of the most moving and rewarding relationships of the books.
Finally, the battle with the Lessers escalates in this volume - so while it may have been easy to skip the bits about Mr. D and Mr. X and Mr. O in the first three, you may want to start paying attention here.
Overall, a satisfying sequel to the first three, and I look forward to the continuation of the series.(less)
I had high expectations for the enigmatic Phury, so I was a little surprised when this turned out to be my least favorite volume. Aside from a few lit...moreI had high expectations for the enigmatic Phury, so I was a little surprised when this turned out to be my least favorite volume. Aside from a few little moments from the female in the spotlight, one of the Chosen by the name of Cormia, I'd say it was a bit of a struggle to read this one. Strangely enough, I don't actually blame Ward directly - I feel the need to place the blame on the shoulders of the character himself. Ward writes him well, but he just isn't my cup of tea. Even more strangely, it can't possibly be the drug use that turns me off, since Rhevenge is hooked on a thing or two himself, and he frequently competes for my "favorite" and is consistently in the top 3.
As the only unmated Brother, Phury played the hero and saved Vishous from having to spend his time with the Chosen and be the chromosomal supplier for the future of the race. Turns out he doesn't think much of himself, blames himself intensely for his (actual) brother Zsadist's years of torture, and for, it seems, all the ills of the world in general. He is leaning towards mentally ill, and starts out the book speaking to an invisible character who haunts him like an ornery Jiminy Cricket.
Enter Cormia, his First Chosen. She's been prepared for this role within an inch of her life, and turns out Phury is not too keen on the Fertilizer of Many Women mantle he has strapped on. He pushes her away, but she cannot go back without being punished (because clearly she is to blame if he rejects her - I really love how the aristocrats treat the women, but it turns out they're just getting it from their religion), so she sticks around. She's meek, and makes architectural wonders out of peas and toothpicks (a trick previously seen in bars with olives) all while befriending everyone in the household except her intended mate.
Meanwhile, we get a taste of Rhevenge, and this story is almost the tale of TWO instead of one. Again, I hesitate to use the word "vampire" as Ward is far enough off the classic and well-known bullet points of the word that I don't want to lead a reader down the wrong path. Rhevenge I like much better, and this book whetted my appetite for the next volume which was all about him, Lover Avenged.
I put up with Phury for the sake of Cormia and Rhevenge, so the volume wasn't a complete disappointment, but I suppose the idea that every single Brother becomes a favorite had to be proven wrong sometime. And really, if I liked every single one of them so intensely, I'd worry that the pages were laced with something just in case I decided to lick my fingers as I turned the pages (which I sometimes do).
Good thing this isn't the days of Adso of Melk.(less)