Cassie Alexander's debut novel, Nightshifted, was one of the more memorable and creative urban fantasies I've read in a long time. Needless to say, I was thrilled to get my hands on an early copy of Moonshifted, Nightshifted's fast-paced and riveting sequel.
Moonshifted picks up shortly after the events of Nightshifted, in which nurse Edie Spence finds herself embroiled in a terrifying battle with supernatural creatures, barely escaping with her life. Edie is still a nurse on Y4, the secret ward for paranormal beings of all sorts, as part of a deal to save her brother from addiction. She's still broke, she's still lonely and she's still self-destructive. The only thing that's changed is that she's started to form connections with her follow Y4 indentured health care workers, all of whom have a story about why they're trapped in a dead end job caring for the paranormal.
Floor Y4 catered to the supernatural creatures that no one else knew about: werecreatures in their mortal phases, the daytime servants of the vampires, the sanctioned donors of the vampires, and shapeshifters that occasionally went insane. And sometimes zombies, whom nurses occasionally dated, with poor outcomes. At the thought of my now twice-dead love life, my urge to make small talk chilled.
While on her lunch break with one of those co-workers, Edie witnesses a man being struck by a hit and run driver. Except the man isn't actually a human--he's a werewolf. Edie and her coworker save the werewolf, but it lands her in the position of caring for the werewolf who's in a coma on Y4. Meanwhile, in the midst of this, Edie's also roped into further involvement with Anna, the teenager vampire she saved in the previous novel.
It's not long before the injured man's werewolf pack descends on the ward and Edie finds herself entangled in an internal conflict within the pack, and with her interesting piqued by Lucas, who is in line to becoem pack leader, should Edie's patient die.
Edie tries to remain level-headed within the chaos swirling around her, but once her apartment is ransacked by vampires, she has no choice by to align herself with Lucas in order to save herself.
This is why I like this series and Edie's character so much: she does what she has to do, even when the choices are terrible.
Despite that Edie is in a pretty lousy situation, she's very aware of herself and the impact of her actions. Even when she makes bad choices (as in the first novel with her self-destructive behavior related to men), there's awareness about the potential for really bad things to happen.
I’d just pledged my help to a teenage-looking but hundred-year-old vampire whom I knew had a temper and a half. There was no way this could end badly, right?
This is refreshing considering that in so much urban fantasy--and even more so in its cousin paranormal romance--the female leads don't have a tremendous amount of agency, nor do they suffer the consequences of their actions and decisions. For Edie Spence, consequences are a daily reality.
“Can your friend in the friend zone make a friendly suggestion?” “Certainly.” “This time. For real. Get the fuck out of town.” I bit my lip and looked at the hardwood floor. “I still need my job to protect Jake, Asher.” “He looked pretty clean to me.” “Yeah, he’s good at that.” I put my hands up to my head and ran them through my hair. “There’s just never any guarantee it will last.” “You know, some people who knew you might say your life was worth a little more than his.” I lifted my head up and glared at him. “Asher—” “You’re a nurse, you help people, you give back to the community—you pay taxes. What does he do?” “He’s my brother—” I protested. “A lot of people start off life with siblings. But when you die, you die alone.” I inhaled and exhaled a few times. “I’m not ready to give up on him yet.” “I bet. It’s fun feeling needed, until it gets you killed.”
But that's not to say Moonshifted is all serious and angsty. Because Edie's finally making connections with other people (besides her ne'er-do-well brother), the humor that was present in the first book is even more pronounced in the sequel.
I thought about asking him for inappropriate things— then briefly remembered the naked men I’d just seen and Gideon’s parts at home. I really didn’t need any more random genitalia in my life, and Gina and I needed to go.
Particularly fun is Edie's growing closeness with Gina, a coworker from Y4, who has paranormal problems of her own.
“Let me get this straight. You were dating a were . . . bear?” She nodded sorrowfully, her face cradled against the side of the porcelain bowl. “I have to ask. Were there any brightly colored insignias on his chest? Like a rainbow, or an ice cream cone?” “What?” she said, peering up. “You know. Like a Care Bear.” “Fuck you, Edie.” She closed her eyes, like that would make me disappear. “I’m just saying that if I were dating a were- bear, I would carefully check him over for any lame tattoos. Like of candy canes. Or sunshine.” “Fuck you and fucking were-bears.” She snorted.
Moonshifted raises the stakes for Edie in the next book, Shapeshifted, and because of the events at the climax of Moonshifted, I can't even begin to guess where this series is headed. (Incidentally, I would not characterize the ending as a "cliffhanger," because the story in Moonshifted is resolved, but Big Things happen at the end which left me internally screaming that I want Shapeshifted NOW!) I'm particularly curious how Edie's relationships (both with her friends from Y4 and her maybe-something with Lucas, the werewolf leader) will play out, given that her life is in such tumult.
Alexander is ruthless with Edie, never really giving her a break and pushing her to the point that I wonder how she'll find a way to be happy and "normal." Things look bleak for Edie, and I wonder what other obstacles will be thrown into her path--and if a certain zombie will return. Naturally, I cannot wait to follow her journey.
Cassie Alexander's Edie Spence series, along with Jenn Bennett's Jenn Bennett's Arcadia Bell books, stand out among a sea of new urban fantasy series as distictive, creative and as striking the right balance between action and character drama. If you're a fan of urban fantasy and your not reading both, you're missing out.
FNL Character Rating: Tyra Collette
Disclosure: A review copy was provided to me by the publisher.
Initial reaction: Can I have book three now, please? Good grief, poor Edie.(less)
It was strange being there, eating dinner with them. They knew that I knew, and I knew that they knew, and there we all were, a zombie, an assortment of werewolves and/or weredogs, and me, a nurse who was getting used to dealing with vampires. I was struck by how completely normal it felt to be with them, for all of our differences.
Dragons and vampires and zombies… oh my!
Cassie Alexander’s debut urban fantasy novel, Nightshifted, hits a sweet spot with an appealing mix of action, imagination and humor, with just the right dash of romance.
I picked up Nightshifted on the recommendation of Angie, whose taste in Urban Fantasy seems to be pretty similar to my own. She promised that this book featured a jaded heroine who’s easy to root for and a gritty world, and did Nightshifted ever deliver.
Edie has taken a nursing job in a secret ward, Y4, at a run-down county hospital. The patients there aren’t quite… normal. They’re paranormal beings of all sorts, and many of them are very, very dangerous. Despite the low pay and occupational hazards, Edie works there as part of a deal with some unsavory characters who promise to use their magical mojo to keep her addict brother off of drugs following a near-overdose.
Things get a whole lot worse when a “Daytimer” (a semi-vampire thing—it makes sense, trust me) dies during Edie’s shift, and she goes looking for Anna, a name he uttered with his dying breath. She stumbles upon some bad stuff, and accidentally kills a very nasty vampire in the process of rescuing Anna, who appears to be a teen girl (trust me, no one in the Nightshifted world is as they appear). As a result, Edie finds herself wrapped up in the paranormal underground, trying to save her own life.
Edie is a fantastic narrator—she’s real and funny and prickly. Unlike a lot of Urban Fantasy heroines, she’s relatable in a lot of ways—she doesn’t have super strength, or awesome fighting skills or some sort of recently-discovered supernatural ability. She’s a nurse and her superpower is cynicism. She screws up and gets lucky to escape some pretty dangerous situations. And her commentary about her job left me giggling—because she sounded like some nurses I’ve known,
Nurses are natural kleptos. You don’t want to be in a room without enough supplies, so every time you walk past the med-cart you pocket another saline flush. By the end of the shift you can look like a chipmunk if you’re not careful. Some days it’s hard to remember that the gum at the end of the grocery checkout aisle isn’t there just for you.
Besides the humor and well-developed world, where Nightshifted stands out the most for me is Edie’s tenuous connection with Ti, a zombie (not the gross kind), who moves her out of her comfort zone and forces her to make a bit of a connection with another person.
“Because. I don’t want to die alone.” I separated myself and looked at him. If I blinked right, and fast, I could see him there, looking like a soft yellow haze beside me. “My whole life I haven’t been good at making connections. There was me and my brother, yeah, but other than that? No one else really. And most days he doesn’t even count. I do all right at work, but no one really gets me. School was lonely, except for the times that I was taking care of patients, because they were happy to see me, you know? I either talk too much, or tell too much, and it scares people off, and I’m not sure what to do about that.” I looked up at him, and saw his expression momentarily cloud. “Like now.”
It’s funny, because the romance element in Nightshifted is a relatively small part of the novel. But, it’s what softens the grittiness just enough for me. Sometimes, I struggle with the rougher, tougher urban fantasy (I’m a lightweight, okay?) and Nighshifted struck a great balance for me. The same can be said for the minor plot point of Edie’s devotion to, and tough-love attitude with, her brother, who has serious problems. She’s not so jaded that I didn’t care about what happened to her—I not only rooted for her to—you know—not die, I rooted for her to be happy.
Nightshifted is also full of consequences—which is a big plus for me. Edie makes some big-time mistakes throughout the novel, and she pays for them. She rushes into dangerous situations, and she gets hurt. She makes a bad deal with some bad folks to save her brother and finds herself in a pretty lousy work situation.She makes a stupid decision at a nightclub and she has to face the results of that decision,
Sure, nurses were all trained on STDs. That hadn’t stopped me from having unwise and unprotected sex with a British stranger two nights ago, though. Shit.
Regret and coulda-woulda-shouldas are big themes in Nightshifted. And nothing is tied up with a bow. I was frustrated in the first half of the novel, however, because there is quite a bit of meticulous world-building and a fairly complex setup for the story that it takes some time for the plot to get rolling. Because character development is a big priority for me, it wasn’t a deal breaker, but if I’d been one to quickly abandon a book because of a slow-moving plot, I would have been pretty unsatisfied. Much of the action takes place in the Y4 ward where there’s an engaging and colorful assortment of colleagues and patients that help keep the first chapters from lagging. But be forewarned if that’s an issue for you.
I’m hoping that because the world and circumstances were well-established in this first novel in the series, that the subsequent books will move at the fast pace of the second half of Nightshifted. The second half of the book is very action-oriented, with moments of poignant connection between Edie and her zombie love interest—if the series keeps up that momentum, I’ll be very happy.
I am concerned that there’s a hint of a possible love triangle in future books. Y’all know how I feel about triangular love—I do not like it. At all. Ti steals the show in this novel, and I’d hate to see a love triangle introduced just for the sake of adding conflict—there’s enough conflict as is, without introducing an unnecessary second suitor (the aforementioned British stranger) vying for Edie’s attention.
Finally, I have a very important and urgent question: Is Ti’s name pronounced, “Tie” or “Tea”?
I must know this ASAP. It makes an enormous difference.
Nightshifted brought me back to E.R. (RIP)—which I loved in all its angsty drama, despite that it jumped the shark well before its cancelation—with the added fun of paranormal creatures, minus helicopters crashing into buildings and such. While it started out a bit slowly for my tastes, because it is a fresh voice and premise among the crowded shelves of Urban Fantasy, I eagerly anticipate what’s in store next for Edie and her colleagues when Moonshifted is released this November.
FNL Character Rating: Tyra’s jaded attitude and loyalty to the few people she really cares about fits the bill for Edie.
I spent the first half of this book thinking it'd be a mediocre 3 star book. But then the second half of the book happened, which was extremely badass. So, I'm giving it a tenuous four stars and am definitely planning on reading the next installment.(less)
Karen Marie Moning's Fever series is a favorite of Urban Fantasy fans--and I can see why--but I was left both intrigued and frustrated.
The Fever serie...moreKaren Marie Moning's Fever series is a favorite of Urban Fantasy fans--and I can see why--but I was left both intrigued and frustrated.
The Fever series has been recommended to me by a number of folks, most recently Tatiana of The Readventurer and Goodreads fame, who answered my desperate plea for a good adult read (I get sucked into the YA rabbit-hole easily). Darkfever follows southern bell, aspiring Barbie MacKayla (Mac) as she travels to Ireland to pressure the local authorities to further investigate her sister's murder. She stumbles into a hidden side of Dublin, and eventually (albeit under duress) teams up with the mysterious Jericho Barrons. Together, they seek out the seediest of Dublin's fae underbelly while Mac discovers her own unique abilities.
The world, atmosphere and setting in Darkfever is top-notch.
If I'd known that this novel was set in Ireland, I would have likely read it a long time ago. I went to grad school in Dublin, and the city is absolutely perfect for a creepy urban fantasy. It's wet, it's dark, it's old, it's full of legends and weird cobbled streets. Dublin has a quality that's just plain eerie, and with Moning's fabulous description, I completely believed that evil fae were wandering around creating havoc on Dublin's streets.
Who knew what lurked behind those broken windows? Who knew what crouched beyond that half-opened door?
Seriously eerie, right? Whenever the narrative focused on description of the city, of its environment, I was completely swept into the story.
Unfortunately, I spent a lot of time wanting to shake some sense into Mac.
Mac is younger than a lot of Urban Fantasy leads--early twenties--so it's expected that she'd be lacking in some maturity. However, she drove me nuts all the time--it felt like her brain was full of rainbows, unicorns and Aqua Net. Not that there's anything wrong with those things, but the book is written from Mac's point-of-view, and as a result, I felt stuck in a headspace that wasn't entirely enjoyable.
I couldn’t wear a bra because the underwire hurt too much, so I’d layered a lacy camisole trimmed with dainty roses beneath a pink sweater that complemented my Razzle-Dazzle-Hot-Pink-Twist manicure and pedicure. Black capris, a wide silver belt, silver sandals, and a small metallic Juicy Couture purse I’d saved all last summer to buy completed my outfit. I’d swept my long blonde hair up in a high ponytail, secured by a pretty enameled clip. I might be feeling bruised and bewildered, but by God I looked good. Like a smile that I didn’t really feel, presenting a together appearance made me feel more together inside, and I badly needed bolstering today.
I get it Mac, you're blond, attractive and braless. [*eye roll*] Internal monologues like this about hair, clothes and nail polish fill the pages of Darkfever and it drove me absolutely nuts. With that said, it does set up the series in terms of character growth--Mac's got nowhere to go but up, right? [*fingers crossed*] And that was my biggest problem with spending time with Mac--really, really bad stuff happens and she didn't grow or change at all through the book.
While much of the writing is quite good, there are the occasional breaks in the narrative in which Mac addresses what Future Mac thinks about the present circumstances. This is a narrative technique that invariably bothers me, and it was quite disruptive as I was reading, because it never added anything to the plot or to my understanding of Mac's character. And, even more annoyingly, Mac stops and addresses the reader, which is doubly infuriating,
I shut up. I told you pride is my special little challenge.
I was also left perplexed as to how to feel about "mysterious" Barrons.
From stalking Goodreads reviewers, I knew that Barrons was a favorite Urban Fantasy character and after reading the first book in this series, I just didn't get it. We get very little insight into his world and when we do, he seems controlling and cagey. While Moning tells us (later in the book) that Barrons is trying to help keep Mac safe, I never really believed in his motivation,
He nodded. “Obey me, Ms. Lane,” he said, “and I will keep you alive.”
I'm assuming that eventually Mac and Barrons get together, and if that's the case, I'm not sure how comfortable I am with this as the foundation of their relationship. Even if Mac is a bona fide ditz, there's something in this initial dynamic that leaves a bad taste in my mouth,
And I suspected this had been part of Barrons’ plan all along: to shave down my options, to whittle away my choices until he’d left me only one—to need him to survive.
Isn't this the definition of abuse?
Those of you who've read this series: How am I supposed to feel about Barrons? Have I missed something completely?
There is absolutely no resolution to any plotline within the pages of Darkfever.
Even when a series is five novels long, I tend to expect some level of closure on something, even if it's minor plot points. However, so much is left open-ended that the book really reads like a prequel, setting up the next four books. Not knowing this when I started Darkfever, I was pretty frustrated by the time I reached the end.
(Oh, and one more thing: The scenes with Vlane grossed me out. You know what I mean if you've read the book.)
Ultimately, I loved the setting and atmosphere Moning created in Darkfever, and though I didn't care for any of the characters, my interest was piqued just enough that I'll pick up the second book, Bloodfever.
Verdict: Meh, verging on Recommended; I'll definitely check out the second book, however.
Jenn Bennett's debut, Kindling the Moon, was one of my favorite urban fantasy releases of 2011. Her protagonist Arcadia Bell's world of magic, good humor, family and community are what I've dubbed, "Urban fantasy with heart."
Whenever I love the first entrant into a series as much as I did Kindling the Moon, reading the sequel is rather stress-inducing. What if it doesn't live up to the first in the series? What if it's a one-hit wonder?
I'm thrilled to say all my worries were needless--Summoning the Night exceeded all of my expectations and firmly cemented the Arcadia Bell series as one of my favorites.
(Note: the rest of this review contains mild, but inevitable, spoilers for the previous book in this series, Kindling the Moon. Read my review of Kindling here.)
Summoning the Night picks up shortly after Kindling the Moon concludes. Cady is feeling her way through her new relationship with Lon and growing closer to Jupe, Lon's endearing teenage son. They're starting to look a bit like a family. However, things are unsettled in their northern California town of La Sirena as Halloween approaches and the children of members of the Hellfire Club--the hedonistic demon secret society of which Lon's a member--begin disappearing, much like they had decades before. Cady and Lon are called upon by the club's creeptastic leader to help solve the serial kidnappings--all while Jupe's demon powers begin to manifest themselves.
Oh, and those Moonchild abilities Cady discovered in Kindling? She's wrestling with that, too,
Call me a chicken, I don’t give a damn. My ability was unnaturally created by two homicidal maniacs masquerading as parents. What good could come of using it? Too much magick could make even the gentlest of magicians go nutso, and I had crazy genes working against me. If I started experimenting with the Moonchild ability, I was worried some sort of insanity clock would start ticking inside me. How long would it be before it went off? A month? A year? A decade?
Summoning the Night has a much more suspenseful mystery than Kindling the Moon. While I correctly guessed the culprit early on, that didn't take away from suspenseful unfolding of the mystery whatsoever. Lon and Cady make a badass duo, he with his demon powers and she with her magician skills (not a wizarding or witchery, FYI).
While the mystery keeps the book moving along at a nice clip, the characters are what makes novel shine, despite the "mustache situation."
I am staunchly anti-mustache. And yet, Jenn Bennett has managed to do what I previously though impossible: Love a mustachioed character**. Lon, Cady's nerdy/badass* boyfriend continues to charm with his eccentricities and and cranky, yet endearing persona. His banter with Cady is always fun and their good-natured, affectionate teasing is charming.
I held up a copy of the society’s book about coastal farming in the 1800s, taken from Lon’s library. Why Lon owned it, I had no idea. He owned a lot of strange books—and I’m not talking about the ones on demon summoning, either; his avid interest in irrigation and composting was far more peculiar, if you asked me.
And the age difference that caused so much angst in the first installment of this series is more subdued, replaced by a far better angst--the realization Cady's part that she, Lon and Jupe are becoming a family and what that all means.
Lon shook his head. “Only the three of us.” He pointed for emphasis—one, two, three. “This is serious family business.” Us. Family. I was included. My mind raced back to the promises we’d made in the kitchen the other night and lumped it in with Jupe’s casual kiss on my forehead … and now this. Something fragile cracked inside me. My chest felt warm. I blinked away emotion as Lon’s eyes flicked to mine. Get it together, Bell.
I usually find the addition of children in urban fantasy extremely irksome (with the exception of Adam's daughter in the Mercy Thompson series) because kids kind of get in the way of ass-kickery and evil-battling, but even more so than in the first book in the series, Jupe is a well-developed character in his own right; he doesn't exist solely for comic relief of to create tension. Jupe's developing powers and his increasingly close relationship with Cady have the potential, in a lot of ways, to shape much of the rest of the series. (hide spoiler)]
With this second installment, the Arcadia Bell series joins Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series as my favorite in the urban fantasy sub-genre.
It's funny, because the two series have a number of similarities, despite the details of the worlds being quite different. They both have smart, capable protagonists teamed complex, somewhat frustrating--yet endearing--love interests and a community full of intriguing secondary characters. The romance isn't too intense, yet it feels more fully developed than in many other series. But most of all, both series have heart (and I know I keep using that term) that makes them standout amidst a slew of urban fantasy offerings on the shelves these days--I care about and root for these characters. I'll be tapping my fingers doubly waiting for Lon, Cady and Jupe's next adventure.***
*A rare and perfect combination. **Jenn Bennett's recent comparison of Lon to Deadwood-era Timothy Olyphant over on Pinterest certainly helped matters. *ahem* ***My original text for this review was, "This series and book are awesome and you really should read it. But, that seemed a bit too succinct.
I received a copy of Summoning the Night from the author. No "goodies" or other compensation were received in exchange for this honest review.
4.5 stars; I'm loving this series even more... fun urban fantasy with loads of heart. (I'll review it next week)["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Probably more of a 3.5 star read, but the Netherworld continues to be so interesting, so I rounded up. Sophie is kind of a bee-yotch in this series, b...moreProbably more of a 3.5 star read, but the Netherworld continues to be so interesting, so I rounded up. Sophie is kind of a bee-yotch in this series, but she's definitely more compelling in this novella than in the previous books. This is definitely one of the stronger YA paranormal/urban fantasy series I've encountered. Each installment is compelling and engaging.
The first short story was just okay. But I have very, very strong opinions about the whole shapeshifter thing, and this contained some details that bu...moreThe first short story was just okay. But I have very, very strong opinions about the whole shapeshifter thing, and this contained some details that bugged me and didn't have as much of Frost's trademark snappy dialogue. My verdict for "Pack" is probably 2.5 stars. She's so good at what she does in her Night Huntress series, but this story didn't work for me. This one is also the most overtly romancey of the three--the other two are more on the urban fantasy side of the scale.
Read contribution #2, In Sheep's Clothing by Meljean Brook, while I was having my tea this afternoon (a habit I can't break), and loved it! So much so that I would looooove to read an entire book or series about the two main characters fighting crime together (I have a soft spot for both crime fighting duos and werewolves, so this would appeal to me). Bonus: it takes place in rural Oregon! 4+ stars
Ilona Andrews' Grace of Small Magic was also very good. Initially, I was confused by the world (perhaps it takes place in a world in another Andrews series?), but the plotting is fantastic for a piece of this length. I love the complexity of the magic in thos story. Very clever and unique. 4 stars
Overall, I recommend this anthology for anyone curious about either Brook or Andrews, as I was. The Frost contribution isn't up to her usual quality (it's also the shortest), so take it with a grain of salt. At 99¢ (in Dec 2011), it's great value.
Hmmmmm... the first, oh, 75% of this one was kind of meh, despite the creative setup and interesting and funny narrator. The last 25% was outstanding....moreHmmmmm... the first, oh, 75% of this one was kind of meh, despite the creative setup and interesting and funny narrator. The last 25% was outstanding. I'll probably give book two a shot, because it promises and even more unreliable narrator, which is one of my favorite tropes.(less)
I will read the next in the series, but there was zero character development in this book. It was all plot from the beginning and all the action got k...moreI will read the next in the series, but there was zero character development in this book. It was all plot from the beginning and all the action got kind of dull. Also: where the hell are the dogs?(less)
You’re not lost, Kaylee. You can’t ever be lost, because I’ll always know where you are. And if I’m not there with you, I’m on my way, and nothing standing between us will be standing for very long.
Despite that I liked Rachel’s Shifters series and love her Unbound series, I was hesitant to start reading her series for the YA crowd about a teenage banshee and her adventures fighting Netherworld creatures with her pals. However, six books in and I’m now a big fan. The first couple of books were mediocre reads for me, largely because Kaylee, the main character, was kind of a frustrating character in terms of maturity. However, around book three (My Soul to Keep), it dawned on me—that’s kind of the point, Kaylee’s growing up, maturing. Now that I get that, I really like how this series has unfolded.
You know I’m huge on the notion of “consequences,” and one of the things I really respect of Rachel’s YA series in particular is that in each book there are major consequences for the decisions Kaylee and her friends make. Nothing is neatly tied up with a bow. Even when they escape the worst fates, they have to suffer. I realize that sounds sadistic, but it’s one of my big issues, and paranormal YA tends to be the worst offender in terms of everyone coming out of a bad situation without any lasting ramifications.
Before I Wake is the penultimate book in the series and it sets the stage for what I imagine will be a pretty intense finale. If you haven’t caught up on this series, I have to say that these last couple installments have been the strongest.
Incidentally, I’m wondering, am I the only person whose favorite characters are Tod and Sabine? Because I love both of them so much.
Not my favorite of this series, solidly in the middle. This is great setup, though, for the conclusion to the Soul Screamers series. I have to say, I have grown to like Kaylee, much like Faythe (gosh, the spellings in RV's books will never not be funny to me) in her Shifters series. Kaylee is such a more interesting character with other characters who challenge her, like Tod and Sabine (who are also my favorite characters), than she was early in the series when she was mostly around Emma and Nash. I'm definitely looking forward to the series conclusion--it should be pretty freaking crazy. Also: (view spoiler)[thank goodness Kaylee finally has sex; she drove me nuts with all her sex angst in the middle books. And, that was actually handled very well--much less weird that in most paranormal YAs. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
By far my favorite of the series. Unlike so many people who write for a YA audience in the urban fantasy/YA subgenres, RV makes her characters suffer...moreBy far my favorite of the series. Unlike so many people who write for a YA audience in the urban fantasy/YA subgenres, RV makes her characters suffer the consequences of their actions--big-time. She also expects them, just like her adult characters, to grow the hell up. All these things happen in If I Die, and it's fantastic and totally unexpected. All Things Urban Fantasy did a great review that summarizes a lot of my feelings on the latest installment of this series: http://allthingsurbanfantasy.blogspot... (Oh, and this book cemented Tod as my favorite character in the series, by a wide margin.)
I enjoyed the hell out of Jenn Bennett's debut urban fantasy novel. I've tried so many new UF series the last few months as I tried to fill the void u...moreI enjoyed the hell out of Jenn Bennett's debut urban fantasy novel. I've tried so many new UF series the last few months as I tried to fill the void until the next Mercy Thompson installment comes out in 2013 (arg!) and so many have been "meh" to me--but this (along with Rachel Vincent's new Blood Bound series and Rachel Caine's new Working Stiff series) is an exception. I would almost give Kindling the Moon five stars, but the resolution came very quickly, and it felt jarring to me as a result.
Since I'm obsessed with bullet points, here are a few random thoughts on this one:
- Arcadia Bell is a 100% awesome main character. She's not a typical "kickass" urban fantasy heroine. She's smart and funny, but she's not some magic-wielding ninja who can take down an army of werebears with a roundhouse kick and a nose wiggle.* She's vulnerable and loyal and hard-working. She's part-owner of a freaking tiki bar with her legitimately weirdo college friend. Yay, yay, yay! She also has a pet hedgehog, which is a fun touch.
- Lon is an awesome love interest and a nuanced character on his own. (Gold star for that!) He's a demon, so obviously he's kind of a badass, but he's also obsessed with ancient books and is sort of a geeky eccentric who's really funny.
- Jupe is Lon's teenage (13) son and rather than existing as a backdrop to the story, as in so many books, he's a fully fleshed-out character who propels the story forward. From the teaser for the sequel, it looks like Jupe will be important in the next book. Yay.
- I often have a hard time with urban fantasy that have world built on a system of magic. I don't know... I think magic is just too "magic-y" for me a lot of the time--perhaps too close to high fantasy for me or something. However, this novel, like the aforementioned Blood Bound has a multi-layered magical world that's also understandable. I didn't feel like I needed to keep a notebook next to me to understand it.
- There's also an interesting society surrounding the magical world involving creepy secret societies (akin to the Freemasons) which I can't wait to learn more about in the following books.
- Buried within this story are some interesting themes related to the ramifications of zealotry.
- I hate "magic" spelled "magick." Just throwing that out there.
- I feel like I need to get this out there as a warning for folks who're reading this review and considering reading this book. Lon has a mustache. A mustache that can only be describe as "pirate-like." At one point, he actually strokes his mustache like a freaking pirate! If imagery like this disturbs you, don't worry, the mustache only plays a minor role in the book. Thank goodness. Because when he was first introduced I got very, very nervous because of the moustache situation.
When I was reading this book, I updated my Goodreads status to, "A magician/tiki bar owner and a demon/rare book collector solve a mystery--what could go wrong?" And that's really the crux of this story, which makes it so, so, so fun. Recommended, despite that Lon's pirate mustache is profoundly unsexy. I'll definitely be preordering the sequel.
*Okay, I'd totally read a book starring that heroine. Because a magic ninja girl fighting werebears would be kind of badass.(less)
I know this series is deeply divided between people who lurrrrrv it and people who hate it, and I'm definitely in the lurrrrrrv it camp. It's interest...moreI know this series is deeply divided between people who lurrrrrv it and people who hate it, and I'm definitely in the lurrrrrrv it camp. It's interesting, because the main character isn't particularly likable, but she's so interesting and has a glimmer that she could get her act together eventually and actually be a tough, yet likable person... there's some decency about her. The spelling of her name annoys the crap out of me, though: "Faythe." (less)
Note: I have made every attempt to write this review free from spoilage about the first book in the series.
It was with both trepidation and excitement that I cracked open* Shadow Bound, the second book in Rachel Vincent's Unbound urban fantasy series.
Excitement because I adored Blood Bound, the first book in the series.
Trepidation because, well, I adored Blood Bound, the first book in the series.
You know how it goes: When a series starts out strong, it sets the bar high. This was doubly the case with Shadow Bound because the main characters in the second book differ from those in the first. I loved Liv and Cam in Blood Bound, their story was incredibly compelling, and Kori (one of Shadow Bound's main characters) did not impress me in the first novel. She was and unlikeable.
However, I enjoyed Shadow Bound even more than the first book in the compelling and creative Unbound series.
Taking place in world in which some humans are (un)lucky enough to possess highly-valued abilities and mob-like syndicates rule, Shadow Bound finds Kori Daniels, a shadow walker (basically, she can transport herself and people she's touching via darkness), suffering the consequences of her role in the events of Blood Bound. Jake Tower, leader of one of the major synidcates, has deprived Kori of the darkness she craves and subjected her to terrible torture (it's quite painful to read, even though nothing is described in detail--it's just so harrowing).
Kori is finally freed from her dark, basement prison to recruit Ian Holt, whose skill enables him to create darknes and remain unaffiliated with any of the syndicates. This is Kori's last chance to save her own life and protect her sister Kenley from a terrible fate at the hands of Tower's men. Kori is is extremely damaged, but still motivated by the self-preservation necessary to protect her sister. She's still the tough, surly, cursing character introduced in Blood Bound, and she's hanging on by a thread,
"Intact?" I grabbed the desk lamp and hurled it past his head and he flinched when is smashed against the wall at his back. "Do I sound intact? Did you miss the part where Jake tried to drive me insane with solitude and torture? Or maybe you missed the part where it fuckin' worked? [...]"
Ian has a secret reason for accidentally-on-purpose exposing his skill to the world--he wants to kill Kenley, the Tower syndicate's best binder (a binder seals the skilled to the syndicates--this is a very important power--and killing a binder results in all of the oaths they bound being broken). The tension between Ian and Kori's competing agendas is palpable from the start--and only grows as the two spend time together.
Despite his ill intentions, Ian is a good guy at his core. That's what makes him such a compelling love interest for Kori. He's loyal. He's kind. He's good-humored.
In the dedication at the beginning of the book, Vincent says that her editor reminded her that,
...shadows cannot exist without the sun. Kori needed balance. She needed Ian.
The juxtaposition between foul-mouthed, angry Kori and even-tempered, good-natured Ian is what makes their journey together so emotionally satisfying. This particularly suits the narrative style (alternating first person point-of-view), as being back and forth in the two characters' headspace is quite the emotional roller coaster.
The marked difference between the two characters does not equal a book about the good guy fixing the troubled woman, however. That's not the story at all. Rather, Ian helps Kori find her own emotional strength and it's that nuance that made me incredibly invested in them. As a result, I was rooting for them the entire book.
Also, Ian is pretty much a badass.
I often struggle with appreciating the romances in urban fantasy novels, because they sometimes feel generic with all the ass-kicking going on. Yet, in both of the Unbound novels, the relationships have resonated as emotionally authentic and made sense for the characters and the story.
(Speaking of which, Liv and Cam--the main characters in Blood Bound--make an appearance in this installment in the series. Fortunately, it's not the dreaded random pop-in of characters from a previous book. The pair are important to the events of Shadow Bound and I suspect we'll see more of them in the final novel.)
Additionally, this is a little thing, but it made me really happy--Shadow Bound features a non-white (half Irish, half African American) love interest. It seems to me that that's a pretty rare occurance, one I'd like to see more often. You can't tell as well in the digital image, but the cover also reflects that description of Ian fairly accurately. More of this, please.
Kori and Ian's story is a tough journey--Vincent throws obstacles in their path throughout Shadow Bound.
Even more so than in Blood Bound, the stakes are extremely high, with multiple lives at stake. I've written quite a bit off and on about how one of my reading deal-breakers is lack of consequences. It dawned on me when reading Shadow Bound, that one of the things that typifies Rachel Vincent's books is that characters always have to face the consequences for their actions. Whether it's Kaylee in Soul Screamers, Faythe in the Shifters series** or these newest characters in the Unbound world--Vincent makes her characters face the results of their decisions, and those results aren't neat and tidy. Shadow Bound is no different.
The last 70 or so pages are full of twists and turns, and I couldn't reach the end quickly enough, as I wanted to know if Kori and Ian would be okay. With Shadow Bound, Rachel Vincent has laid the groundwork for Oath Bound*** (out next year) being absolutely crazy and kickass, and I cannot wait.
Note: I would not recommend reading Shadow Bound if you haven't first read Blood Bound. Most of the world-building for this series takes placein the first book, with Shadow Bound focusing on events that will likely result in some intense action in the final book in the series. You could read it as a stand-alone, but it would not be nearly as interesting without the context lent by Blood Bound.
FNL Character Rating: Tyra Collette. Kori has both the physical and emotional strength of Tyra, as well as her fear of vulnerability. Ian receives our first-ever Coach Eric Taylor rating. Oh. Hell. Yeah.
*Not a figure of speech--even though I prefer digital reading, this title was windowed. I would not have bought the paper copy and instead waited for the ebook if I hadn't had a random BN gift card wasting away in my wallet. Windowing is one of the stupider things in publishing. Arg.
**Oh, Rachel Vincent, you and your wacky character name spellings. Kaylee, Kori, Faythe, Marc... the list goes on. Never change, all right? :)
**You know a book was good when, immediately upon finishing it, you start Googling for any tiny details about the next book in the series. I ended up combing through Rachel Vincent's blog for any tiny clue about what's going to happen in Oath Bound, to no avail.
Initial reaction: Woooooo! So effing good. (I'll review this after I catch my breath.) I was worried after I read a really negative review from a blog I like quite a bit, but I loved this, maybe more than Blood Bound. It's amazing how much RV has developed as a writer since the first Shifters book.(less)