Samantha doesn't really do dangerous. She's smart and super careful, but she just could pass up a kiss from her secret crush. But then things started...moreSamantha doesn't really do dangerous. She's smart and super careful, but she just could pass up a kiss from her secret crush. But then things started to feel different, like she was always hungry. And not for food. Part of her is missing. Then she meets Bishop, a confused street kid look-alike with loads of secrets. But something's moving into Trinity, and Bishop might be the only one who can help Sam before she loses herself to the darkness.
Dark Kiss wasn't the book I expected when I first started reading. I knew there would be mystery and intrigue, loads of teenage girl angst and confusion, but I didn't expect the urban fantasy tweak that I ended up with. Rowen put enough of her own spin on angels and demons to keep me interested, to keep me turning the page. Coupled with funny one-liners, this book was enjoyable to read. It's something I prefer, characters with sass and snark when facing down angels, demons, and the prospect of having your soul sucked out of your body.
Readers are given a rather authentic misfit teenage girl voice when they meet Sam. She's intelligent and careful and oh so cautious, right until that kiss, right until she meets Bishop and everything does a massive 180 degree turn. There was a moment in the book where a discussion got a bit serious and Sam, after asking a question and getting an answer, went and freaked out like a normal teenage would. That moment was great. No false bravado, no faking it. Characters who realize their fears, who know they have them and still struggle to keep on going, are awesome. Everyone's afraid of something, but you still have to man up, or girl up in Sam's case, and face it.
There's nothing new these days in urban fantasy, but twists and tweaks and unique interpretations are always welcome. Rowen took angels, demons, and the idea of stealing someone's soul and changed it just enough to stand out. In a way, it reminds me of Leah Clifford's A Touch Mortal, but it other ways is doesn't. I don't think this series will be as dark.
I kept reading this book all the way to the end because I wanted to know what was going on. I needed to know. At times there was just enough information to fill in some blanks, at others there were hints and guesses. I always wanted to know where the story was going, what made Sam so special, what had happened to Bishop, and why everything was happening. At the end, I was left cursing the fact that, while the book had an ending, I still have to wait for the next book in the series.(less)
Mia's ordinary life is disrupted in the worst way possible when she's suddenly possessed by a powerful and dangerous demon, only to be saved by distan...moreMia's ordinary life is disrupted in the worst way possible when she's suddenly possessed by a powerful and dangerous demon, only to be saved by distant relatives from Italy. Now her cousins say the only way to keep her safe is to take her back to Milan, to live and to learn Italian, and to master the family trade: fighting all kinds of demons with bells, books, and candles. Milan is not what Mia expected to find, but it will change her forever, her ancestral home the only place she can find salvation.
The Demon Catchers of Milan is mysterious and feels old world, the cultured setting of Milan adding depth to the atmosphere. It features a different take on demons, ones who possess innocent people and are exorcised through tradition passed down through generations, and while it was well-paced with good tense moments, there wasn't a lot of action.
The beginning was interesting enough, a glimpse into Mia's life in Milan, but then it went back in time to her possession in her home in the US, back before she ended up in Milan. My hopes that it was just a brief flashback sunk when it continued. While it did provide backstory and set up Mia's character, as well as those around her, I wasn't that interested, and I was never sure when that initial moment in Milan actually occurred.
It is a unique twist on demons and possessions, on spirits and exorcisms. Not necessarily heavy on religion but more on tradition, more on history and ability, the ability to free the sufferers and trap the demons, to see the messengers and go where they are needed. The demons mixed with Milan's historical setting and the rich Italian history made the book fresh and interesting in that sense.
Unfortunately, there were moments when Mia wasn't working out as the main character for me. Even though she understands why she has to go to Milan, understands (in some way) why the Della Torre family do what they do, she whined too much at times for my liking. She didn't know how to speak Italian, didn't know how to read it, didn't know any history, didn't know how to defend herself after the possession, but when she was told what she had to do, she complained about all the studying. I do understand that it's part of the teenage mentality, rejecting massive amounts of dry and boring texts that have been pushed on you to study, but still, she was a bit of a whiner until she figured some things out. And it wasn't all her fault, the family purposely kept her in the dark, waiting until she figured it out on her own, and kept her in the house.
It wasn't until the ending that I realized that this book is clearly the beginning of a series. Once I got to the ending, everything before felt a little like a set up, like Mia first had to come to terms with her possession, with being in Milan, with being a demon catcher and all it entailed.
This book reminded me very much of Flirting in Italian, both with the Italian setting and culture and the way the story flowed into a semi-ending kind of ending, an internal resolution ending that's set the reader up for the next book. That being said, I did enjoy this book for its setting and its twists on demons and possession. Maybe not Mia, but perhaps it was just how I saw her that I had issues with. Perhaps, if there is a second book, Mia will be much stronger and take a stand instead of complaining a bit too much.(less)
Six weeks after the end of City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels starts back in New York. Everyone's getting back to normal. Well, as normal as it gets...moreSix weeks after the end of City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels starts back in New York. Everyone's getting back to normal. Well, as normal as it gets for Clary, who's trying to fit a relationship with Jace into her Shadowhunter training. Simon's also trying to cope with being the only vampire that can walk in sunlight. Plus, someone's killing Shadowhunters that once aligned themselves with Valentine, and something's going on with the vampires in the Downworld.
The action and twists and turns brought me right back into Clary and Simon's world. It almost felt like I hadn't left, that it hadn't been a few months since I read the first three books. Shadowhunters and runes, vampires and werewolves and warlocks, everything totally going straight to hell and messing everything up. It was awesome.
New characters balanced out the old, adding new conflict and a new dimension to old relationships (or totally messing them up). The book was oddly refreshing, something new mixed with something old.
I know that initially the series was going to end after City of Glass and now won't for another two books, but I don't know what other readers were expecting to find when they read City of Fallen Angels. I knew things weren't going to be easy. If things were easy, if Cassandra Clare wrote nothing but 400 pages of Clary and Jace dating like a happy couple, the book would've been outrageously boring. You can't go from 3 books of action and disaster and surprises to 3 books of normal boring life.
I expected a weird new evil person to show up, I expected something to happen between Clary and Jace that might split them up until the end of the series, and I expected Simon to do something because he was tired of being the only special vampire. I even expected part of the city to explode and ruin everything. I won't say if any of this actually happened, those would be spoilers, but I will say that I'm totally satisfied with where the book went and how it ended.
I will say I'm not looking forward to the wait for City of Lost Souls and City of Heavenly Fire. I understand why, though. I'll just have to self-medicate with the first four TMI books and The Infernal Devices series in the meantime. ;)
Cassandra Clare was able to draw me back into her dark and dangerous New York with its Shadowhunters and Downworlders. I was sucked back in so quickly, so seamlessly, that it felt like I hadn't ever left. Classic twists, turns, and secrets mixed with runes and magic, and an ending no one will expect.(less)
The Shima Imperium is on the verge of an environmental collapse: the skies are red with blood, the land is choked with with toxic pollution, and the g...moreThe Shima Imperium is on the verge of an environmental collapse: the skies are red with blood, the land is choked with with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed have departed forever. The hunters of the imperial court have been charged to find a thunder tiger, a half-eagle half-tiger creature. Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessor of a talent that would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the hunt, she soon finds herself stranded in Shima's lost wildnerness, with only a furious and crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, she's sure he'd rather see her dead than help him. Working together, though, they could have the power to challenge an empire.
Stormdancer is lush with inspiration from Japan, its culture, language, and mythology, coming together with a strong heroine to become a compelling new fantasy with steampunk and Asian elements. Even with all the Japanese words, customs, and mythology, it still felt like it was taking place in a different country, on a different world.
Now, fantasy novels often have a tendency to be ripe with backstory and information, which is understandable. World-building, especially for epic fantasy, can be extensive. Unfortunately for this book, I did find the beginning rather slow to start. It stemmed from the combination of elaborate description and establishing the setting and its residents, customs, and culture. Once the book got into the main story, the main plot, it moved along at a much faster pace. There are also a fair amount of Japanese terms, and the alternating back and forth between the Japanese and the English, like Kitsune/Fox, can be complicated if you don't know what the term means. In that way, I wish the author had stayed consistent.
Yukiko is very much a tomboy, a rough around the edges kind of girl, a taking care of her father when he's drunk and high on lotus kind of girl. Odds are she will be a fighter, looking at the cover that features a wicked tattoo going down her right arm and that tattooed arm drawing a sword. Of course, it all depends on whether or not she knows how to use it.
The thunder tiger is a very interesting creature pulled from myth and legend and made flesh and blood by the author. There are a fair number of Japanese myths involving animals, dragons and foxes and cats and the like, but this was a first for me, seeing the half-eagle half-tiger (also known as a griffin) as the main mythological creature. It was refreshing to discover that the thunder tiger had his own personality, as linear as it was. The relationship between him and Yukiko was one of the highlights of the book for me.
The world in this book is rather interesting, and one thing constantly bothered me. The lotus. I wanted to know what it was, where it came from, all I got was that it's taken over a lot of the landscape and it's smoked as a drug like opium. It also doesn't sound like a good thing, even though the Lotus Guild is in favour of it blooming.
The book is marketed as a Japanese-style steampunk fantasy, and it might only be my fault as a reader not connecting things at the beginning, but I didn't realize what the steampunk aspect was until close to the end. It wasn't that it was hidden, I just didn't connect the metal suits of the Guildsmen with steampunk. Perhaps it was Yukiko and the thunder tiger that eclipsed the steampunk parts of the book, making it feel more like an epic fantasy with some random mechanical flair.
Even though the book was slow to start and rather heavy with world-building backstory, I believe that fans of epic fantasy will enjoy it, especially those looking for an Asian twist on the standard epic fantasy that often has British roots. Also, those who enjoy books about teenage heroines who fight with a sword and have a large magical animal companion might want to give it a read.(less)