Strong Second Book in an Entertaining Series It's good to be home again. For about five seconds, anyway.
She's fresh off a plane and back in LA after aStrong Second Book in an Entertaining Series It's good to be home again. For about five seconds, anyway.
She's fresh off a plane and back in LA after a long trip to New York, but magic null and Old World cleaner Scarlett Bernard doesn't even make it out of the airport before LAPD Detective Jesse Cruz is dropping a new case in her lap and glaring at her like she caused it all. Dragging her out to the crime scene, questioning her as if she hadn't just gotten back in the state, the gorgeous detective definitely seems to still have an issue with Scarlett's occupation and her connection to the vampires, werewolves, and witches who comprise the Old World presence in Los Angeles.
Though that's not really a surprise, given how their single date had gone prior to her trip.
Unfortunately, Jesse is also correct about his take on the crime scene. It definitely looks like it has been cleaned, indicating at least some Old World connection. Scarlett just hasn't been back in town long enough to know what sort.
Pressed into investigating a crime she didn't commit...again...doesn't exactly thrill her, but Scarlett soon realizes she's got bigger concerns. Two witches are already dead, and two humans with an eerie connection to Scarlett's past are killed. That's more than enough carnage to let Scarlett know her formerly dead (now undead) mentor Olivia has decided three months of reprieve is long enough. She's coming for Scarlett, and leaving a trail of blood and death in her wake.
If Scarlett can't figure out what game Olivia is playing and stop it quickly, everyone she cares about could fall victim to the same batshit-crazy psychopath who killed her parents.
I liked Olson's series debut Dead Spots. By the end of that book I felt optimistic about the potential for this series and pleased with the world and the characters. Trail of Dead furthers that potential by taking several more strides in the right direction. I think it was a slightly stronger book all around, with a more personally significant external conflict for our heroine, and some of my more minor issues with the first book didn't carry over into this one.
With all her apathy, moral ambiguity, and emotional immaturity intact, Scarlett is back in LA just in time to land herself in trouble once again. There are still moments in the book when I didn't like her. She's a young twenty-three in a lot of ways, and suffers from an appalling amount of emotional immaturity too often to be consistently appealing at this point in the series, but I do still think she's a very unique heroine.
Her lack of a strong moral compass and her questionable ethics make her interesting. It never occurs to Scarlett to do the right thing just because it's the right thing, or out of some inherent sense of honor or concern for the community at large. She's just not that sort of heroine. That's more Jesse's style, and I love that contrast between their characters. Scarlett does only what she needs to do to stay alive in a deadly world and be moderately comfortable while doing so. No more, no less.
She's been living in an emotional vacuum since the death of her parents, torn apart by (misplaced) guilt and barricaded against any and all emotional vulnerability, but that's been slowly changing since Jesse came into her life. Olson is keeping the evolution of her character very slow so far, but it has seemed very organic given the situations in which Scarlett has become embroiled. Sure, sometimes it's frustrating - like when I would prefer Scarlett be a nicer, more mature person in general - but I can't fault the evolution itself.
Jesse, as he was in the first book, is a bright spot in this read and the perfect complement to Scarlett. I like him both as a character and as a man in Scarlett's life. He's the good, decent, kind, honorable sort...and sometimes I just want to gobble him up with a spoon. I'm so happy that Olson maintained the fluid shifts in points of view between Scarlett's first person narration and Jesse's third person. Olson does that exceptionally well and her transitions are flawless. The unique style also allows for more depth and definition for Jesse's character beyond his interactions with Scarlett, increasing his presence in the story. I really love it.
Eli, on the other hand, is just as much a non-entity for me in this book as he was in the first. For all the relationship angst between him and Scarlett, I just don't think his character has been around enough, or has a large enough role, to really impact my feelings about him one way or another. I found his character to be far more effective as a source of conflict and catastrophe late in this book than he's ever been as a love interest or supporting character. Which, frankly, disappoints me, because I think I'd like him - even root for him - if I just got to know him a little better.
Not that I want to perpetuate the love triangle between Scarlet and Jesse and Eli. I don't. I hate love triangles, and think they are agonizingly overused in the genre.
I loved the plot arc of the conflict with Olivia in this book, though more so in the second half, when the crises really started to go critical and puzzle pieces started to lock into place. It was a far more personal conflict for Scarlet than that of the previous book, and that added emotional impact in several tense, gripping scenes. I can't say all the pieces of the puzzle fit together for me, and I was left with a few question marks about Olivia's actions and motivations, as well as confusion about the intended end game for the other Big Bad, but overall, I found it very satisfying.
I did start to question the timeline in some of the backstory though, and I'm not entirely sure some plot points didn't contradict established history. Scarlett has been adamant about blaming herself for her parents death (I won't even get started on how I feel about that nonsense this time), and I could have sworn it was established that her guilt was what impacted her relationship with her brother since their parents' death five years ago. But Scarlett only found out Olivia killed her parents the week before Olivia "died," which was less than a year prior to the events of the first book and about a year before this one.
Because of that appearance of contradiction, as well as some other confusing timeline issues later in the story, some crucial scenes didn't track as well for me as they might have. I also had a hard time buying the purported timeline of Olivia's partnership with the other Big Bad in the story, and elements of the external conflict strained my ability to suspend disbelief during the climax and resolution because of it. I just couldn't completely believe everything we're told given Olivia's mental instability and her obsessive relationship with Scarlett.
Honestly, though, those were more minor grievances than true stumbling blocks for me. As a whole, this was a great installment for the series. I liked it even more than I did its predecessor, and would rate it four and a quarter stars if I could. I'm in love with the world and I adore Jesse. If Scarlett continues to evolve into a more consistently appealing heroine in future books, I can easily see myself falling absolutely in love with this series.
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Amazon.com through the Amazon Vine program. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own. ~*~*~*~ Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another....more
Breaking The Rules Is Such Fun Forget the Greeks, beware CEO's bearing gifts. Of all the rules of negotiation that lawyer Tori Anderson lives by, that'Breaking The Rules Is Such Fun Forget the Greeks, beware CEO's bearing gifts. Of all the rules of negotiation that lawyer Tori Anderson lives by, that's the one she should have kept in mind. A tricky contract deal on the cusp of being signed is suddenly altered and improved, and not at the request of her client, but by Brit Bencher, CEO of the corporation procuring the acquisition. To say that's an unusual occurrence would be an understatement.
If that didn't make her wary enough, Brit tosses his company's lawyer out of the room and starts...flirting with her? What kind of Bizzaro world has she suddenly stepped into? All Tori knows is that it's making her defensive and wary. She has no idea what Brit wants with her, especially when he asks her to dinner.
Brit has an ulterior motive, it's true. One look at Tori, though, and he knows she's a worthy opponent. His plan is simple and his motivation is well-intentioned. What could go wrong? He doesn't see the glimmers of vulnerability beneath Tori's fierce exterior. He's not looking for that, it would ping his conscience too much. After all, when a man is planning to woo a woman in order to get an in with another of her clients, he's not exactly acting honorably. It's justified, though, if he can help his sister. Anything is.
Except there's a fly in his oily ointment. Playboy Brit isn't expecting the connection that springs up between him and Tori. He doesn't expect to like her as much as he does. He's unprepared for the pull of intense attraction. And suddenly Brit's wavering between grinding desire and crushing responsibility, relieved that Tori at least doesn't know why he first pursued her.
And we all know how long that's going to last.
What a nifty bite of sexy, fun, touching romance! I love the characters that Scott writes, they have realistic issues and very human failings and they always strike a chord in me. It's not so much a matter of them being realistic or believable so much as it is the real sense of genuineness about them. They make sense to me. They're exactly who they should be given their backstory and their life, and they act, speak, and think accordingly.
I'm probably explaining that badly but it's a very good thing, and something I find surprisingly rare in romance fiction.
The plot of the book didn't seem groundbreaking to me, but Scott's sharp writing and my appreciation for her characters made it quite a tasty little read. Not only did I really enjoy Brit and Tori as individuals, they had a chemistry that was sometimes contentious, but always spicey and hot. They fit very nicely together and I enjoyed seeing them go toe-to-toe as much as I did when they were lip-to-lip.
I really loved Tori. Her intelligence and the blend of emotional insecurity and steely strength really worked for me. I loved how she figured Brit out and the actions she took as a result; I respected it and got a chuckle out of that whole morning at the ball field. Call me twisted, but few things tickle me more than a male who's royally screwed up...and who is completely oblivious to it.
The secondary characters were great and added quite a bit to the story despite an economy of attention. Seeing Brit's brothers and sister, niece and nephews helped explain a lot about who Brit is and what he's spent his life focusing on - and why. The sibling relationships felt very natural and organic...and charmingly frustrating as only sibling relationships can be. It also created a bit of a vacuum on Tori's side, highlighting how barren her life is. Which, really, is the point.
I do wish that Tori's fanaticism with her work had been even more clearly delineated throughout the book and I wish her mother's storyline had evolved a bit differently so the end didn't feel quite as conveniently timed. That said...there were some gut-wrenching, tear-inducing moments late in the book concerning some journal passages. Wow - they packed a hell of an emotional punch. I have to admit, it had me in tears and touched my heart. Nicely done.
In fact, the whole read was nicely done. Sexy, sweet, with moments of humor, tension, and sorrow, the emotional gamut was well-run throughout. I liked it very much. And for the record, I'm not at all surprised that Scott wrote something that charmed me, entertained me, and made me smile. In my experience, that seems to be a habit she has. May she never break it.
In London in 1882, peerage is decided based on magical ability, and shape-shifters, immune to magic because they are magic, guard the royal family andIn London in 1882, peerage is decided based on magical ability, and shape-shifters, immune to magic because they are magic, guard the royal family and serve as baronets to His Highness Prince Albert. Terrence Blackwell, one such baronet, is a spy for the crown and is on a quest to search out and destroy all relic-magic, a dark and insidious magic imbued into thirteen stones by Merlin centuries before. Relic-magic is the only true threat to the magical power of the royal family and is responsible for Terrance's brother's death so he's ever-vigilant against it.
Duchess-of-Honor Felicity Stonehaven has a problem. Her magical trial is today and she's painfully aware she has no magic - or so little magic that she won't be able to hold onto her family's land and title. Her powerfully magical parents died at sea years ago and since their death she's been the ward of her Aunt and Uncle, but if she can't hold onto the Duchy, they will all be cast out. Most of the time no one even seems to see her, few remember her within moments of meeting her, and fewer still give her any thought at all, so mousy is she, and yet she's got all this responsibility weighing painfully heavy on her shoulders. It doesn't really seem quite fair to Felicity when all she wants to do is lead a private little life, perhaps marry, and be responsible only for herself.
When Terrence sees Felicity, he's bowled over by her beauty and rocked by the scent of relic-magic clinging to her. The beast in his heart just roars 'Mine!' and keeps wanting to rub himself against her. Which can actually be a little dicey when in public, but still. Despite the instantaneous and nearly feral reaction to Felicity, Terrence must get close to her, must court her, until he discovers if she is wielding relic-magic, and if so, find the relic and destroy it. He is, of course, strictly doing his part for crown and country. Truly. It has nothing at all to do with the irresistible pull of her gorgeous eyes or the charming nature of her winsome smile or the sharp, humorous crack of her intrepid wit. Really.
So begins the start of the Relics of Merlin series, and with a mix of gentle humor and a bit of angst with a touch of mystery and intrigue thrown in, Kennedy has taken historical romance and tossed it with some unique, fresh ideas to come up with a...well...enchanting read.
I liked the spin, actually, and thought the magical aspects fit surprisingly well into the age of Victorian England. The issues of class are touchstones in the genre, and here speciesism is added into the mix, as none of the magical lords and ladies are too comfortable with shape-shifters immune to the spells that would protect them should the shape-shifter population run amok.
I enjoyed Terrence and his manservant Bentley, and was particularly pleased with the almost befuddled helplessness against Felicity's charms that tripped Terrence up time and again. I was less fond of Felicity, as she is truly a lady of her time, and lacked the sort of fierce independence and self awareness that I admire most in heroines. Her nature was far more go-with-the-flow, no matter how bad her situation got, than rally-and-fight-injustice, and more than once she was a damsel in distress. Her character was well drawn, fully fleshed out and three dimensional, but simply wasn't to my personal taste.
The plot was a bit predictable but well-paced and though there was little surprise by the time of the climax and big reveal, the journey to it was pleasant and really allowed for some neat scenes between Terrence and Felicity. That's where the book really shined for me, actually. I got a kick out of them. Felicity is utterly oblivious to her worth and beauty and Terrence is struck dumb by them. The back and forth between them charmed me.
There were a few familiar historical romance cliches and a couple of characters' actions and decisions that I found to be questionable, but overall, the story unfolded nicely and had a nice balance of action and description. The historical romance genre isn't a favorite of mine and yet I definitely enjoyed enough of what I've read so far in this historical paranormal romance to continue the series, so I'm glad I picked it up while it was offered as a free Kindle download.
~* 4.5 Stars *~ When I pick up a G.A. Aiken or Shelly Laurenston book, I know a few things about it even before I start to read. It'll make me laugh an~* 4.5 Stars *~ When I pick up a G.A. Aiken or Shelly Laurenston book, I know a few things about it even before I start to read. It'll make me laugh and it'll provide a decent story while doing so. If the book is under Laurenston's name, it'll be crass, bawdy fun...with some dismemberment tossed in for kicks. If it's Aiken, outlandish and hysterical familial one-upmanship that takes sibling rivalry and family squabbles to a whole other universe...with some dismemberment tossed in for kicks. There's a whole dismemberment theme, really. I know something else before I even start reading, too: I'm going to love it.
In Last Dragon Standing we return to Aiken's land of dragons and warrior queens and spend time with the Lightning dragon Ragnar the Cunning. He's been summoned by Queen Rhiannon after their two year alliance and though he's not happy about it, conscripted to bring her son Eibhear - the baby of the family - home for a visit after spending two years with the Lightnings during Ragnar's war to unite his people's clans. She's also commanded him to bring with them her suspected traitor of a sister from her home in self-imposed exile for a face to face. Little could please Ragnar less than that, for sure.
Well...there's one thing that could. One dragoness, in fact. Keita the Viper. Two years ago the queen's daughter...and a princessly bundle of vain, vapid insipidness...with a nasty streak a mile long...had left her mark in his chest and he hasn't had relief since, so when he comes upon her while making a dramatic execution speech before the law in the town executes her for killing their Lord, Ragnar realizes his life just went from complicated but manageable to...absolutely out of control.
He hates her, she hates him. He wants her, she wants autonomous freedom. He's Cunning and she's...something else entirely. Soon truths reveal a new danger threatening the Southland dragons and Queen Annwyl's Dark Plains both - an unbeatable foe and a terrifying invasion that threaten the lives of them all and perch both kingdoms on a teetering precipice of survival. Ragnar and Keita have to work together to protect throne and country, and with the help of family and friends, prevent an impending war. Or start one.
Now, if they can just keep from killing each other...
There's so much to like about Last Dragon Standing that I don't honestly know where to begin. I was thrilled with the intricate, layered plot and complex characters - in fact, Keita and Ragnar may be the most complicated individual characters that Aiken/Laurenston have penned. They're no more simple than their relationship, and it works for this book, which almost had a feel of a transitional piece in the series.
Back are all the characters we've met and grown to love in the previous three books, and a new and mysterious threat to Annwyl and Fearghus' two children add an additional layer of tension and delicious plot to the story. So, too, the growing conflict between Eibhear and Izzy, which provided several poignant and interesting scenes. The family moments will always be my favorite parts of each of the books in this series - I just can't get enough of the characters and family dynamic. In part because each of the characters are so brilliantly unique and flagrantly individual, and in part because Aiken excels at maintaining character definition through each book, falling into a new book in the series is as decadently satisfying as a healthy supply of Godiva...and far less fattening.
I wasn't totally thrilled with the journey from the north to the south with Ragnar and his brother and cousin, along with Eibhear and Keita and her companion Ren once they joined them. Keita hasn't been my favorite of Rhiannon's hatchlings, and while I was of course looking forward to her story, I was a little disappointed in that journey. It had humor and much dischord between Keita and Ragnar, but it lacked some of the interpersonal relationship zing of similar travels in other books and the pacing seemed a little slow. That was resolved for me when Keita and Ragnar met with Queen Rhiannon. From that point to the end it was a roller coaster of humor, intrigue, mystery, danger, and intensity that I adored.
I have to admit, though, this book doesn't provide the sweeping and incendiary romance that was so prevalent in previous books. There's a relationship between Keita and Ragnar, but that relationship is far more subtle and less encapsulated in this novel than those in the others. I can understand where that may bother some readers, but after I thought about it for awhile, I can't say I was disappointed. In fact, quite the opposite. I actually commend Aiken/Laurenston for keeping tight reign on the relationship between Ragnar and Keita and staying true to something more in keeping with both the characters' nature and the goings on around them. Because of who Keita is in particular, and what she does, anything more than what was offered between these pages would have seemed forced and inorganic, and nothing kills my appreciation of romance faster than that.
There's also less of a conclusion to this book than in the others and that was a bit of a surprise. Not a cliffhanger, by any means - I loathe those - but definitely a more open-ended conclusion than I was expecting. I didn't find that unpleasant or tedious, as I took that to mean that the series is not done. My sincerest hope is that it won't be done for quite some time, because I'm nowhere near tired of the ribald and rambunctious antics of the dragon kin and their human and not-so-human mates, friends, cohorts, and adversaries. Nothing makes me laugh like a Laurenston/Aiken book...and I'm not ready to stop laughing.
Wow! I Wasn't Expecting That! I've never been so pleased to have stumbled across a book written by an author I'd never read before and given the book aWow! I Wasn't Expecting That! I've never been so pleased to have stumbled across a book written by an author I'd never read before and given the book a chance based on nothing more than the genre (romantic thrillers are a favorite of mine) and the reviews. Fade to Black is one of the better ones I've read. I'm very happy I found it!
The genre itself presupposes a small amount of formula - there has to be a bad guy (or group of bad guys) that do bad things who need to be stopped from continuing to do those things as soon as possible. Given how many romantic suspense/thrillers I've read, I'm perfectly okay with the formulaic requirement. Often what separates the grain from the chaff in this genre isn't what's happening, it's how it happens and who it happens to.
That's truly what puts Leslie Parrish's Fade to Black a head above others I've read - especially recently.
Well-paced, carefully plotted, and not excessively gruesome while still being horrifying, Fade to Black offers up a solid cast of characters that don't feel like new characters. In fact, I was truly surprised this is a first book in a loose series, because the secondary characters in particular - the Black CATs - and their history seemed solid and fleshed out, and gave me more of a sense of history between them and in their work than I would expect for a first book. Very well done, because reading Fade to Black felt like sliding on a pair of really comfy jeans already broken in.
And about those characters - thank you, Leslie Parrish for giving your book and your readers a male lead who wasn't an overprotective, chest-thumping troglodyte and a female lead who wasn't a neurotic victim-in-waiting. Maybe I haven't been reading the right books, because lately I've been stuck in books with whiney, self-absorbed female leads who manage glaring moments of stupidity and self-destruction with males falling all over themselves to either save or protect them, no matter how much nicer it'd be for the reader if they just got dead.
And for the record there is a wide, thick line between "strength" and "bitch," people, and women can have one without being the other. I wish more authors would realize that. Parrish does.
Fade to Black's Sheriff Stacey Rhodes is an intelligent, competent, professional woman who handles herself and her job with aplomb. She has depth and carries some baggage, but nothing that cripples her...or the reader by being hammered over the head with it over and over and over. Stuff she needs to work through. Special Agent Dean Taggert is a better man than he thinks he is, and is also good at what he does, and his baggage from his recent divorce hasn't turned him against women or made him bitter against women in general. And he loves his son.
When these two meet under circumstances I'd image no law enforcement agent would ever want to contemplate, the sparks are instant, but the acting on them completely realistic and refreshingly adult. As their relationship strengthens and deepens, it does so in a healthy, real way that was such a...relief...after some of the overwrought emotional tugs-of-war that I've read. It was surprisingly satisfying and gave me something to smile about.
And believe me, given what's going on around them, I needed something to smile about. I've read darker in the genre, but Parrish doesn't pull any punches - she just keeps most of the gore from those punches off screen. If I had to guess, I think some people may be disturbed by aspects of this book, and the way in which certain scenes are dealt with. Personally I found it dark, but craftily written. Nothing damaging or haunting (I've read one or two that have given me nightmares...and I don't scare easy), but dark, so be warned if you don't like dark.
Though...if you don't like dark, perhaps this isn't the genre for you.
All in all, a solid read that I enjoyed very much, and I've already downloaded Pitch Black, to be read soon. I'll be keeping my eye out for anything else Parrish has written or will write. I really like how she does it.
Note: Originally reviewed on Amazon.com on 8/25/09.
Light and Fun When her boyfriend David dumps her three weeks before her sister's wedding, Minerva Dobbs mostly feels annoyed. She knew there was a reasLight and Fun When her boyfriend David dumps her three weeks before her sister's wedding, Minerva Dobbs mostly feels annoyed. She knew there was a reason she never had sex with the man. In a quirky show of support, her two best friends convince her (goad, really) to take the gorgeous hunk that she sees talking to her ex by the...horns...to show the weasel up. The only problem is when she gets close, slipping in from behind them, she overhears David betting the handsome beast Calvin Morrisey that Cal can't get her into bed within a month!
Min's not a thin, hot redhead like her best friend Liza and she's not a petite blonde cutie like her other best friend Bonnie. No, Min's under no illusions. She's chubby, she hates her body, and the only risk she takes with her statistics-minded self is on shoes that express far more personality than her boxy, conservative clothes. She's just been dumped and she's feeling a bit vindictive after hearing about that bet, so when Cal approaches her not five minutes later, she's intent on making him pay a little for being the shallow, callous jerk he is.
Cal thinks Minerva Dobbs is the worst date he's ever had, but he doesn't lose bets he makes. He bet that idiot client of his back at the bar that he could take Min to dinner and by God, that's what he's going to do. Sure, he knows David was drunk, and there was no way he'd ever agree to any bet to get a woman into bed, not even for $10,000, but he didn't hold it against him. He'd maneuvered the man and the bet to take the caustic and snippy Min to dinner (woah, when she smiles at his friend Emilio she's like a whole other person...but she's still snippy) and then he'd walk her home (seriously, how come she's so nice to Emilio? Cal knows he's more charming than Emilio but she's not being nice to him), wish her a good life (oh, wow, she's got the sexiest shoes - and toes) and never see her again (despite the fact that the way she eats food is the most erotic thing he's ever seen).
Cal and Min couldn't be more wrong for each other. Cal's a superficial hit-and-run player and Min is a practical actuary who spouts statistics about...everything...all the time, hates her body, and thinks happily ever after is a fantasy for suckers. But they keep running into each other. And despite the pummeling his ego takes from Min's caustic wit...and despite the headache from all the eye rolling that Min does to combat charm boy's superficial smarm, a spark is born...and then flames...and then an inferno. The romp is long and riddled with potential disasters, but it's the most fun either Cal and Min will ever have. Bet me.
What a light, fun read this was! I'm not saying that just because chicken marsala is my favorite meal of all times, either, though that certainly didn't hurt. After a particularly dark reading experience just prior to this, I went looking for something that would make me smile and warm the chill from the last book. I found Bet Me and couldn't be happier that I did.
Full of quirky, funny characters and zany, endearing situations, I quickly fell for Cal and Min, despite their peccadilloes - or maybe because of them. Cal, the darling, starts out like a superficial (but charming) guy who's tired of the dating scene and just wants some peace and quiet in his life after his last girlfriend tried to race him to the alter. Min is sharp as a tack and intelligent, but her body image sucks and she dresses to hide the curves her mother's been nagging about since her childhood. To say I know someone just like Min - and her mother - would be a gross understatement.
Together they're an incendiary mix of humor, heat, and frustration and their evolving relationship is adorable, with deeper undertones that start to show themselves as the reasons for their initial character traits start to become apparent. Crusie does a fantastic job of keeping the message light, but there are a few good messages there for women who put too much emphasis on body image for their self esteem.
The message stays light, and the book is firmly entrenched on the more humorous side of romance, and I, for one, am very grateful. For a long book, it read very quickly, as the narrative is butter smooth and the dialogue fast, intelligent, and wickedly sharp. There's not a lot to complain about here if you're looking for a nice bit of brain candy.
There are one or two aspects that kept my appreciation for Bet Me in the four star range, like the blow up at the wedding that seemed a bit out of character for Cal and Min so it sort of felt like conflict for conflict's sake instead of organic story development. So, too, a big confrontation scene at the end including both sets of parents, which went way beyond ridiculous. Who acts like that? There were a few other issues similar to those, issues that didn't bother me too much as long as I kept my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, but they did prevent me from rating the book higher.
That's okay, though. It didn't keep me from downloading a few other titles by Crusie and it won't prevent me from going back and rereading this one. I enjoyed Bet Me. Very much. And it was just the fun, light romance that I desperately needed when I needed it.
Lately, the criteria for whether a new urban fantasy series sinks or swims with me has primarily been centered around the main character, with supportLately, the criteria for whether a new urban fantasy series sinks or swims with me has primarily been centered around the main character, with supporting characters and plot of equal but secondary importance. That's mostly because there's just not all that much that can set apart the first book in a UF series when you've got vampires, were-animals, sorcerers, and Fae in the world. Some Girls Bite is no exception in that regard. Vampires have come out of the closet, so to speak, and are working a wicked PR campaign to keep the human population from turning into the next incarnation of the Spanish Inquisition. The main character is attacked and turned without being given a choice (that's actually an important distinction from "against her will," though). Much angst and adjustment abound. That's a VERY surface summary, but on that surface, it's just not that new a premise.
If you go no further and decide not to read Some Girls Bite based on the surface appearance of "just another vamp urban fantasy," you're going to be doing yourself a disservice, because this book and the main character, Merit (it's her last name and she's sort of touchy about her first one - to the point of not letting us know what it is), develops all sorts of layers below the surface. She does go through her fair share of recriminations and angst, but from the first page of the book, you know it's not going to last, and by the last page it seems to be over, so I'm okay with it. It seemed natural instead of mind-numbingly repetitive, as with so many other "woe is me, I'm a kick-ass heroine and still bemoan my very existence" heroines. You know the ones I mean.
Where Some Girls Bite sets itself apart is in the development of the many layers of supernatural life you just truly start to get a glimpse of in this debut. Vampires aren't your typical...well...actually, they aren't your typical anything, and I wouldn't call them undead if I were you - more like "Otherwise Alive." Their internal political and social structure is a rather amusing (when it's not disturbing in its antiquity) blend of a collegiate Frat Row and feudal England. As diametrically opposed as those two things may be, it actually works in this book and I thought it was sort of a nifty new take on an old standard. You don't get much of a glimpse of the other supernaturals in this world, but there's enough to interest you with the teasers and the allusions to their importance, particularly the order of sorcerers that the dark and delicious Catcher had belonged to and is preparing blue-haired, ad design maven, best friend Mallory for.
And I really really liked Merit. She has moments of brainlessness (well...okay...days of them, actually - but getting changed apparently isn't the easiest thing), and that usually turns me off a main character, but she acknowledges those with her best friend, and given her education, her independence despite moneyed, emotionally distant, social-climbing parents, and how she ends up pulling things together towards the end of the book, you know she's never going to be one of those TSTL protagonists.
The secondary characters are fun and dangerous at turns, but utterly believable and delightfully real, and I liked and appreciated the time taken to flesh them out and give them more than two dimensions. And Ethan's just an absolutely fantastic anachronistic delight - driven by the weight of historic responsibility yet intensely interested in Merit, the antithesis of everything and everyone he's ever known. Their scenes together are searing tugs-of-war that thrill and amuse and titillate.
I did think that the beginning started out slow (pre-commencement), and there were a few times when Merit did annoy me a bit more than I would've liked, hence the four stars, but what truly impresses me is the exceptional potential that this book gives to the upcoming series. I recommend this book and can't wait to get my hands on the next installment, Friday Night Bites.
~* 4.5 Stars *~ Parrish is Fast Becoming a Favorite of Mine in This Genre! Leslie Parrish does it again! She's given us the second installment of what I~* 4.5 Stars *~ Parrish is Fast Becoming a Favorite of Mine in This Genre! Leslie Parrish does it again! She's given us the second installment of what I've heard is a Black CATs trilogy (though they're so good, I can't help but hope they continue), and in keeping with the first, Fade to Black, she's knocked the romantic suspense genre on its butt with the well-paced, finely-crafted, and emotionally taut Pitch Black.
Alec Lambert is an FBI profiler who's a bit on the outs with the Bureau after a bust went bad and left an agent dead and put Lambert in the hospital with gunshot wounds. He's still on some emotionally shaky ground, doubting his own abilities as he starts his latest assignment working for Wyatt Blackstone's Cyber Action Team (CAT). Unfortunately for a pair of teen boys, best of friends to the very very end and victims of an old nemesis of Alec's, Lambert has to hit the ground running on his very first day with the team in a race against time and cyberspace to catch their killer, the notorious Professor. That ground leads Alec straight to Samantha Dalton, divorcee and near recluse, and definitely a woman with a mission against all things cyber crime. She was the last one to have any contact with one of the victims, and her world is about to blow apart when she realizes she may not just hold the key, she may actually be the key to the Professor's capture. If she lives through it.
As I was with Fade to Black, I was extremely impressed with the mature development of the relationship between the romantic leads, Alec and Sam. It's such a delight to see a relationship that has both sparks flying and realistic progression given the surrounding story line. To me, this aspect really sets Parrish's books head and shoulders above many many others I've read. And there's so much depth given to each character, deftly and subtly woven into the plot instead of seeming at odds with it. Such a treat to read.
A caution, though, as Parrish has another unique skill that doesn't lead to the warm fuzzies. Her skill at bringing the reader right into victims' experiences gives us a disturbing insight that sets her apart from others I've read in the genre. It's also, I feel, what brings true darkness and horror into her books. They're not particularly gory - in fact, Fade to Black in particular could have been and wasn't - but they do touch a deep chord and leave no room for doubting a human monster's capacity for depraved cruelty. Not by languishing in the mind of the killer, but by humanizing the victims and familiarizing us with them even as they die.
It's dark stuff at times, and may not be for all readers. I have a pretty much love/hate relationship with it, myself, actually - love it on an intellectual level, but it resonates a sorrow deep enough in me that I can still feel it days later.
All in all, I highly recommend Leslie Parrish's Fade to Black and Pitch Black. I did like Fade to Black just a wee bit more, as Sheriff Stacey Rhodes and Agent Dean Taggert are two of my all-time favorite characters in this genre, and there was one part of Pitch Black where Sam's actions struck me as almost stereotypical-victimish, doing something she should have known better than to do, though I do understand her reasons for doing them. Still, that doesn't detract too much from my enthusiastic enjoyment of this book and the ongoing trilogy.
Note: This review was originally published on Amazon.com on 8/25/09.
Solid Urban Fantasy Series If you're looking for a paranormal romance, Eileen Wilks' World of the Lupi series may not be quite your cup of tea. While tSolid Urban Fantasy Series If you're looking for a paranormal romance, Eileen Wilks' World of the Lupi series may not be quite your cup of tea. While there are romantic elements in the book - more in Mortal Danger than in Tempting Danger, the series opener - those elements are not the driving plot of the book. If you like your books more along the lines of urban fantasy, then give Wilks a try. You won't be disappointed.
Lily Yu is no longer a homicide cop, but her life and her job as an agent for the FBI's Magical Crime Division certainly hasn't gotten any easier. Assaulted at her sister's wedding, trying to come to terms with her Were mate, Rule Turner, the prince of wolves himself, and still trying to find the ever-elusive Reverend Harlowe...and more importantly the big staff of necrotizing badness introduced in the series premiere Tempting Danger, she hardly has the energy to deal with the bodies that start piling up. Or the note left one one: This one's for Yu. Deal she must, however, and with the gritty determination and force of personality that is inherently Yu. She can't help it though, when events in her life put her positively beside herself.
I really enjoyed Mortal Danger. It lacked most of the pleasing police procedural of Tempting Danger, but it did introduce more of the fantasy side of the world that Wilks is creating. It's a well drawn and complex world, and I like seeing it unfold a little at a time. I also very much enjoyed the both the re-acquaintance with established characters - I'm a huge Cullen fan - and the introduction of new ones. Cynna Weaver is an enigma and a treat.
It wasn't quite as much a self-contained thriller as Tempting Danger, and it's certainly not anything I'd consider stand-alone, but it was a definite bridge for the series and a significant step in world building. The only minor complaint I have is that the plot was sort of split between worlds and the more urban parts were dealt with disappointingly quickly. The fantasy parts, however, were well written and interesting, and I very much enjoyed seeing more of the Lupi clan dynamics and politics in action. There's a lot of depth and a sense of history in this series that totally appeals, so it balances everything out nicely.
I'm not entirely sure where the series is going yet in its overall arc, but I'm enjoying the hell out of getting there. Nicely done.
There are a plethora of kick-ass urban fantasy series with kick-ass heroines out there today. The genre is rockin' and sockin' like a frat house on aThere are a plethora of kick-ass urban fantasy series with kick-ass heroines out there today. The genre is rockin' and sockin' like a frat house on a weekend bender after a football championship win. Every author has created a slightly different world, with slightly different mythos, slightly different characters, etc...the emphasis on slightly. That's not a criticism; it's more like a statistical probability. I believe the key is finding those authors and series that present a world or mythos or characters that appeal to your personal tastes. As urban fantasy is one of my favorite genres, and I have a very eclectic palate for it, I read a lot of UF series. Some set themselves apart, some don't. Few make it to my "Oh my god...new release?? Get it! Get it! Get it NOW!!" category.
Chloe Neill is, in my opinion, utterly unique in that she's created a series that, arguably, isn't the most original in location (the awesome city of Chicago) or in world building (vampires have come out of the coff...er...closet to humans and are working a wicked PR campaign to keep themselves from being turned into crispy critters and other supernaturals are eying them intently, concerned about the potential power shift and threat), or, honestly, in mythos (not really sure what the vampires' origins are, but they've had their fair share of genocidal cleansings that sound quite a lot like witch trials of old and of the inquisition), yet Neill has managed to catapult herself and her series into that category I mentioned. Yes, I actually have an "Oh my god...new release?? Get it! Get it! Get it NOW!!" category. I never said I was well balanced. Moving on...
What Neill has managed to create that is unique and appealing, is Merit, Sentinel of Cadogan House and kick-ass heroine of a kick-ass series. Bright, independent, stubborn, maturing Merit is one of my favorite UF heroines in any and every series I'm reading or have read. I absolutely love her. She's a novitiate vampire, new to the world and the House, and she's been forced into positions as both political pawn and weapon for her liege and master Ethan Sullivan, yet she remains relatively poised and strong willed as she grows within her House and her position as Sentinel. I am completely appreciative of a heroine that I can relate to and admire and, frankly, not want to strangle...because there are so many other UF heroines that I'd like to take a two-by-four to for so very many reasons, even when I like the series they're in (annnnd we're right back to the unbalanced issue...moving on). The Chicacoland Vampires series is told from Merit's perspective in a smooth, contemporary, first person narrative that is at turns humorous, griping, and caustic with sharp wit. Twice Bitten: A Chicagoland Vampires Novel in particular shines with zippy dialogue and internal monologues, and Merit is almost solely responsible for that fantastic aspect of the book.
In Twice Bitten, which picks up mere days from the events of the second book in the series, Friday Night Bites, and just a few months from the first, Some Girls Bite, Merit is still dealing with the potential threat of Celina Desaulniers, former Navarre House Master and total power hungry wingnut, still training with Ethan, and still exceptionally drawn to him. The fireworks between them are incendiary and in this book, extra...fireworky...um, yeah. So anyway, the shapeshifters are on their way to Chicago for a convocation concerning their next move as a species and the Apex of NAC pack, Gabriel, is tentatively willing to extend a paw to Cadogan House and Ethan and Merit in particular. The foresight-gifted shifter has seen a future that includes pack and House affiliations he's not too specific about, but one that features Merit heavily. Ethan is practically salivating for the opportunity of an alliance because...well, because he's a politics junkie, for one, but he's also very aware that a war is brewing and the only hope of survival of both species against a planet of humanity may be joining forces with a past nemesis. Unfortunately, not all of the pack agrees with its progressive thinking Apex, and soon politics turns to bloodshed and death and assassination attempts. Will any tentative hope for an alliance go up in flames or will two races at odds be able to unite against a common threat? The cost for misstep will be paid in blood.
The political and sociological structures of shifters and vampires are brilliantly written here, and while the plot is both less an more than most end-of-the-world-or-some-other-similar-catastrophe UF series, it's fascinating and poignant, and there's a lesson to be learned about the crippling nature of bigotry and prejudice. This book (and series) is far more subtly written than others in the genre, allowing for some truly fantastic character development for a larger contingent of characters than most UF books. Through Merit's eyes we see how similar to humans in some ways, and how spectacular in others, vampires are as we get a deeper and broader view of the people and personalities that make up Cadogan vampires in a more relaxed and natural setting, allowing a more intimate relationship with them as people, and I very much enjoyed that. I've grown quite fond of Lindsey and Luc and the rest of Merit's growing circle of friends.
I did have a few moments where I got a bit troubled with the plot, though. I can't say I totally bought into the motivations and actions of the players surrounding the main conflict and climax of the story. It seemed a little too neat and perhaps a bit cliched. Admittedly, I was more frustrated because the rest of the book had made a lot of excellent strides in laying groundwork for a positively Machiavellian development...though, I suppose I could be looking at it from a more vampiric perspective. That race does sort of epitomize Machiavellian. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there were also moments in the book that I felt attained a sort of sublime truthfulness, most notably with Merit and the guy in the library. There was a scene that pointed out in unapologetic detail that for some, atrocity isn't history - it's memory, and should be respected as such. Humans surely aren't immortal, but atrocity isn't limited to history, either, and the message was a poignant one that struck a chord with me.
As much as I hate to be one of those readers who clamors for more from a favored author, with pleas to write faster or produce more quickly, I have to admit, I'm less than thrilled that Neill is currently writing two books a year and one of them is for her new Dark Elite series (Firespell). Very unfortunately, that means no more Merit for another year. That's more than a little disappointing. Still, I have to say, Merit...and the Chicagoland Vampires series...is worth the wait.
Some time in the future...or someplace just on the other side of the mirror...an alternate Atlanta is slowly decaying as magic and tech war against onSome time in the future...or someplace just on the other side of the mirror...an alternate Atlanta is slowly decaying as magic and tech war against one another in widening waves of ever increasing hostility. Magic is winning.
Kate Daniels, a mercenary for the Guild, is the magical equivalent of the average handyman/pest control person. She's hired to solve other people's problems that crop up when magic or magical beings start creating havoc. Sometimes rude, always vigilant to keep her abilities hidden, and having a major a problem with authority, Kate doesn't play well with others. She's very alone in this dark, urban jungle, and never more so than when she finds out her guardian Greg has been brutally slaughtered. Old loyalties and fierce emotion force her hand and Kate steps forward to find out who and what is responsible for his death. For once, her only investigatory ability - poking her nose into things better left alone until the persons responsible try to kill her - may come in very handy. If she survives.
With an almost disparate blend of lyrical descriptions and rampant brutality, the world of Kate Daniels comes into reluctant focus, though some of the edges remain a bit muddy and confusing. There's not much light in Kate's world, metaphorically speaking, and she seems rather friendless and solitary as she limps through the case of Greg's murder. The big picture and widening danger start to clarify, almost despite Kate's best intentions, and a war brews between the People, necromancers who rule the dead and crave money and power, and the Pack, the free weres of the city, both faction believing the other responsible for deaths of its members. The plot continues to branch off into darker and more dangerous currants and Kate struggles at times to keep her head above water.
At times, so does Magic Bites.
Ilona Andrews, pseudonym for the husband and wife writing team Ilona and Gordon, has created an incredibly complex world with the Kate Daniels series and I'm at times in awe of the thought and attention to detail given to the backdrop of the city of Atlanta affected by magic. While I think the pacing of the plot is a little slow at the beginning as the world is fleshed out for readers, it was a solid start for a series.
One issue that kept me from being totally wowed with it: I was left feeling Magic Bites is a bit too focused on plot and world building and because of that, it falls a little short on character depth and definition. Kate is a relatively stereotypical UF heroine, all kick-ass smart mouth and surface aggression. There just isn't quite enough development or originality in her personality. There are a few mentions of a secret she's keeping and the struggle she's had to keep the truth of her blood hidden, and while that provides some interesting potential in further development, it also serves to keep the reader at a superficial level with Kate as a person throughout the book. The secondary characters, even Curran, never seemed fully individualized and real for me...except, maybe, for Mahon - for some reason I loved the Kodiak of Atlanta, pack executioner. As for the rest, they would have benefited from a bit more attention to their personalities beyond surface feelings and reactions.
Despite the character issues, Kate's interaction with the Beast Lord Curran provides some nice teasers for future development (not to mention some much needed humor) and their scenes were among my favorite in the book, as opposed to the time waster of any scene with Crest, whom I found far more tedious than Kate apparently did.
Overall I really liked Magic Bites, and for a first book in a series, I found it well done, though perhaps not a total success for me because of the lingering issues I have with the characters. The plot was definitely intricate enough and the world detailed to an extent that I remained entertained throughout, but my preferences lean towards character driven stories so I'm hoping the next book delves a little deeper into the characters of Kate, Curran, and the rest.
Destined for an Early Grave, the much anticipated continuation of the Night Huntress series, is a chillingly fun and fast delight. I have to admit, IDestined for an Early Grave, the much anticipated continuation of the Night Huntress series, is a chillingly fun and fast delight. I have to admit, I didn't so much read the book as devoured it (I think my Kindle is still begging for mercy). There were things in this book that positively thrilled me as far as character development and surprising plot twists I in no way saw coming, and I commend any author that can write several books in a series without allowing main characters to stagnate in their personal development. Cat and Bones, who have been two of my favorite lead characters since the beginning of the series - both for their strengths and their...weaknesses - are back and dealing with some big stuff that manages to put a very sharp and silver-filled point on the struggles of two very strong, prideful, and stubborn people (regardless of the status of their pulse) in a long term relationship. Perhaps most of those struggles are unique to Cat and Bones because of what they are and what they aren't, yet Frost manages to make them resonate in this reader's heart as realistic and, ultimately, unavoidable. I loved it.
In fact, I loved much about this book. I expected a fantastic, kick-undead-ass, thrilling read with lots of action, a bit of angst, and a race to the finish just to see who is left standing when the dust finally settles - and I got exactly that.
That being said, not all is well in this particular graveyard. Destined for an Early Grave feels (to me) best categorized as a transitional book for the series. Jarringly so, actually, to its slight detriment. Keep in mind, I flat out loved the first three books - solid five stars from me for each - and there was little doubt at the end of the third book, At Grave's End, that the time had come for a new direction for the Red Reaper and the love of her life, so I was expecting transition, but in this case the transition just wasn't all that smooth.
The first three books showed a gradual and realistic growth of character in Cat, from little more than repressed, prejudiced, and ignorant Vamp hater to savvy and strong military-esque commander in love with a vampire. She was a character who still had lingering issues, though, and those issues were significant stumbling blocks to any long term happiness. Very juicy tidbits for future development, to be sure.
Unfortunately, through one of the worst (IMHO) plot contrivances in a book I've read in recent memory, I wasn't so much drawn along with Cat on her continuing development as I was slammed into it with all the subtlety and most of the discomfort of stake in the chest. This is strictly a personal preference but I think it's a bit insulting to my intelligence to read (with no foreshadowing in the first three books) that a character whose progress I've been following for six years of her life has suddenly realized that there's a full month of her life she doesn't remember and a big bad vamp who played a suspiciously active role in that month. Also that she doesn't remember. And this sudden forgotten memory is the cause of all manner of angst and misery (and the driving force of the main plot).
Ugh. I really, really disliked that plot point. For a lot of reasons, actually, not the least being that given how it was developed, I find it ridiculous unlikely (in that "are you kidding me??" sort of way) in light of what we've been told about Cat's early years, her mother's unwavering and vitriolic prejudice, and her now deceased grandparents' uber-stark influences, that that would ever have happened (not to mention how the heck could it have happened). From strictly a reader's perspective, I think it's just a shamefully easy way to make your characters do what you want (or need) them to do, be, behave, whatever. Admittedly, this is personal taste, but I don't like when an author rewrites a character's past to suit story direction to begin with - and unfortunately in this case, I don't even think it was done well. I would've been much more understanding had their been some foreshadowing in previous novels...a tool that the author is obviously not unfamiliar with, as we've seen previously.
That being said, once I accepted that one distasteful aspect of the book ("willing" suspension of disbelief was more like "forced"), the rest was pure pleasure. The dialogue is witty, sarcastic, and wonderful. The action sequences tightly woven and nail-biting. The development and direction of the characters, at the end, gave me a roller coaster ride of wild emotions that run the gamut. And I always respect an author who leaves you guessing in each book as to who is going to survive, because with Frost, you just never know. Perhaps there was a bit of predictability in certain parts relating to Cat and Bones' relationship, but I'm actually really forgiving of that because I find the relationship itself to have really made some significant and surprising steps towards maturing that I appreciate.
I really liked the book, and would absolutely recommend it to all of those people who read for the sake of enjoyment and don't mind so much some plot points that may raise an eyebrow...or a ghoul or two. I'm also excited to see the Frost expanding into paranormal romance with the Night Huntress World series, starting with Denise and Spade's story, First Drop of Crimson.
Updated 1/31/12: I've recently started rereading this series to be able to proceed to the fifth and sixth book, which I've not yet read. In this reread I found myself getting very frustrated by both Cat and Bones, who spent most of the first half of the book incapable of communicating and acting like overly angsty spoiled brats. I've adjusted my rating from 4 stars to 3 stars accordingly.
Strong Urban Fantasy Series Opener Homicide detective and touch sensitive Lily Yu knows she's stepped into a potential firestorm when she's made lead dStrong Urban Fantasy Series Opener Homicide detective and touch sensitive Lily Yu knows she's stepped into a potential firestorm when she's made lead detective on the murder investigation of a human killed by a Lupi. Species relations are slowly starting to improve, but tensions between humans and other magical creatures are still high and there is a long history of persecution and death. This murder has the potential to set progress back to the burning times. If it's not solved quickly, it will definitely threaten the passage of the Species Citizenship Bill, a bill that not only would classify Lupi and others as nonhuman, but would grant them full citizenship rights as nonhuman. The Nokolai clan supports the bill, embraces the changes inherent in its passing, but others are less happy and long to exterminate the Lupi from the planet. Solving the murder of Carlos Fuentes may be the only way to keep both sides from exploding.
Rule Turner, Lu Nuncio and heir apparent to the Nokolai clan is being framed for the murder, of that much Lily is certain, but knowing it and proving it are two very different things, and when a second body turns up and Lily touches the body to feel the magic of the scene, she realizes that a simple murder case has just gotten immensely more complicated and dangerous. The second victim appears to have been killed by a Lupi, like Fuentes, but underneath the "feel" of werewolf magic is the slick, putrid sense of a sorcery so malignant that it can only mean an Old One is meddling in conspiracy, murder, and politics. And in that case, no one is safe.
Eileen Wilks kicks off this solid urban fantasy series with a unique blend of police procedure, werewolf culture, and Asian flavor, throws in a bit of magic, mystery, and romance, and ends up with an original story full of complex, likable characters, and a layered plot with intriguing twists and turns.
Unlike so many urban fantasy heroines lately, Lily is a short, slight woman of Asian descent, relatively new to homicide and aware of the struggles inherent in working with the boys club of the police department. She's not a leather-wearing, shotgun-toting, inked and scarred badass heroine with all the answers. She solves murders the old fashioned way - connecting the dots of evidence and putting in the legwork. A tragic event in her past has molded her into the cop she is today, and family and cultural influence has an impact on the woman she has grown to be. She is a breath of fresh air in the genre, with realistic reactions to difficult and surprising situations. Imperfect, sure, with a stubborn streak a mile wide, an independent streak an inch wider, and an absolute lack of personal life because she eats, sleeps, and breathes the job. She's got trust issues, and she's not exactly in touch with her emotions. For all that, she's a dedicated, compassionate woman who loves gardening, her grandmother, and her cat. She fights for justice, but would die for the people she cares about. She's normal...with a side order of special.
And then there's Rule.
Rule Turner is the playboy Lupi prince, Lu Nuncio of his clan and quintessential PR face for his people. He's the image that women swoon for and men want to emulate. Rule, though, is more than an image, more than a randy playboy. He is governed by instincts, culture, and a noble - if wild - sense of right and wrong. He sees Lily Yu, touches her hand, and knows she is his Chosen. To be so gifted changes his life forever. The cultural and nearly religious significance of his kind and their history is doled out in tasty little bites of story goodness, weighty and juicy, and threaded into the plot seamlessly.
There is a romantic thread through the book, though its certainly not the focal point, but it's enough to satisfy readers of paranormal romance. Tempting Danger isn't a romance novel, however. It's truly an urban fantasy, with a powerful plot full of danger that has significance on their world stage.
The plot is well layered, developing steadily as the characters are introduced and the world defined. The narrative is balanced with satisfying description and exposition, and the police procedural aspects are handled well. There were a few times the investigation felt a little slow to progress, and the pacing dragged a little in places, but overall it was a strong effort. More of a concern for me were the few times when there were abrupt jumps in the story, events beginning, then suddenly they're over and described after the fact. Most notably the final conflict. It's not a particular favorite style of mine, and it tends to disconnect my emotions and upset the story flow.
There were so many good points, though, with strong characters that I grew to be very fond of through the story. I was very enamored with the other aspects, as well, especially the slow world building and information sharing as the book progressed. I loved the evolution of the relationship between Lily and Rule, which was both realistic and sweet. This book is full of characters that I cared about, and I'm very pleased that I'll be able to follow along with their lives and stories awhile.
~* 4.5 Stars *~ I Love this Series! He's a thief. He's an assassin. He's a dissolute rogue. As a Cait Sith and Shade of the House of Shadows, Damien Tre~* 4.5 Stars *~ I Love this Series! He's a thief. He's an assassin. He's a dissolute rogue. As a Cait Sith and Shade of the House of Shadows, Damien Tremaine is all those things. Mostly though, he's really bloody bored with his long, long life.
The contract to find a missing member of the House of the mysterious - and freaky - Grigori at least provides a bit of a challenge. And if he's lucky, an opportunity to poke someone with something sharp. That's always fun.
Sure, he'd been informed of a rogue female Grigori roaming around, but if he's not getting paid for it, he has no interest in a female who probably resembles her obscenely large and ridiculously manly brethren. Then he actually meets the woman, and even as she's endeavoring to separate his head from his shoulders, Damien is struck dumb by her ethereal beauty and fierce determination. Suddenly boredom is a thing of the past and he can't stop purring long enough to convince her to stop trying to kill him.
All Ariane wants to do is find the only friend she's had in her centuries-long existence. She's fled her desert home and broken most of the Grigori's stringent rules, all in the hopes of locating Sammael. She's certainly not going to let some gorgeous but lowborn, cat-shifting vampire impede her on her quest. Even if she has no leads, no contacts, and no way of knowing where to find either.
He could use her knowledge of her people to aid him in his search. She could use his connections and his experience with a world from which she's been completely sheltered. And when a dark, insidious secret of the Grigori comes to light, a secret they've hidden from the world at large until it's poised to rise up and destroy them all, they will need each other more than either one of them could have ever dreamed...just to survive.
Only three books in and this series is already one of my favorites in paranormal romance, and this book is my favorite of the three. I am a total sucker for antiheroes, and Damien is just my kind of bad, bad boy. Snarky, irreverent, cynical, shallow with the capacity for casual cruelty, he's also loyal and honorable in his own way, and he's his own harshest critic.
And when he meets Ariane and turns into a big purring mess, I was totally sunk. I adored him.
Ariane was great, too, though she's not quite my preferred type in the genre. Her naivety, innocence, and lack of experience didn't thrill me. Combined, they made her character strike a little too close to the virginal heroines most often found in historical romance, but Castle balanced her with the kick-ass fighting skills of a warrior and gave her a pair of killer wings (I love wings). And her easy acceptance (once she stopped trying to skewer him, anyway) of the flawed, complicated Damien endeared me to her quite a lot.
The chemistry between them was instant and hot, and I loved how their relationship evolves as the plot progresses. Though the heat between them was fast, there was quite a lot of natural contention in their relationship at first, and as the story progressed, their partnership grew into a strong romance in a nicely organic fashion.
One of the greatest things about this series in general and this book in particular is the robust the world building, layered plot, and fantastic ancillary elements. The poor, maligned Cait Sith make wonderfully original protagonists. They are all so flawed and damaged, rife with internal conflicts that add delicious layers to their individual characters and subsequent romance arcs. Damien was a perfect addition to their ranks.
I loved finding out more about the Grigori, too. They've been mentioned before in the series but not much was known about them. The revelations were quick, rich, and fabulously intriguing once Ariane was introduced, and the mythos surrounding them built throughout the narrative, creating the foundation for the external conflict and cascading into a shocking climax.
The ending did feel a little abrupt to me, and even after rereading the denouement, I'm not entirely sure what happened, or how things ended up the way they did. There was a big climactic scene, then it was over and the dust settled, but the fallout was noted, not explained. I found it odd that no one questioned it, and I'm still not clear on how the good guys came out on top or what made the bad guys' ending so...simultaneous and inclusive. Perhaps that will be revisited in a later book, but it left me with several questions in this one.
That was the only issue I had with the story, however, and frankly, it didn't really dim the glow all that much. I just love this series and the characters in it who I've come to know and appreciate. One of my favorite secondary characters, Vlad, is in quite a lot of this book, too, so I was all kinds of happy while I was reading. In fact, with two excellent main characters, a fantastic romance, great surrounding story with an entire stable of memorable secondary characters, and just enough plot threads left untied to guarantee more fun reading in future books, what's not to love?
He was charming, damn it! She was supposed to notice!
"Unless I'm missing something important, yes, the man is dead," Damien finally replied. "I think his head is over there behind the desk, if you need further proof. Are you finished being overly dramatic yet?" "His head?" The vampire gave a pitiful moan, his eyes rolling. "Ah, apparently not. Lovely."
Ariane reached behind her and drew her blade. And not just any blade. It was the sort of sword no vampire had any business carrying. The sort of sword that said, "I am ancient and terrible and I don't have time to let those who annoy me live."
"So this is how it ends for me. Afflicted with a plague of Grigori. If anyone else around here grows wings, I'm going to stab them in the head and light them on fire. I've had it."
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Forever publisher Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own. ~*~*~*~ Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another....more
Hands down, Magic Strikes is my favorite of the first three books in the Kate Daniels series. While maintaining a level of excellence in both originalHands down, Magic Strikes is my favorite of the first three books in the Kate Daniels series. While maintaining a level of excellence in both originality and execution of the plot, a standard for this series, this story is sleeker and more streamlined than the first two, to positive effects. Where the first two books had complexity almost to the point of convolution, the plot of Magic Strikes is cleaner, perhaps a bit simpler, but definitely far more personal to Kate and her friends. As a result, the connection between the plot and characters achieves a level of cogency previously unrealized.
A few months after the events of Magic Burns (Kate Daniels, Book 2), Kate is still working the liaison job between the Merc Guild and the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aide when a phone call from Saiman drops her into a mess that's a bit outside her pay grade. Derek, the boy wonder shapeshifter and Kate's erstwhile protector, had tried to break into Saiman's condo to steal two tickets to an underground fighting bout that Pack are supposed to be banned from. For Derek to do so, to risk Pack law and the Beast Lord's wrath, something very serious is going on, but despite helping Derek out of the cage Saiman stuck him in by bargaining with the sex-focused body changer, Derek remains mum about his issues, and only asks that Kate, when accompanying Saiman to the fights as part of their deal, slip a note to one of the females on one of the fighting teams. Much like the shot heard round the world, that one note sets off a sequence of cataclysmic events that throw Kate into direct opposition of Curran's laws with Derek's life hanging precariously in the balance.
Magic Strikes is a totally kick ass book from start to finish, and the overly-described scenes that tended to bog down the pace of the first two books to varying degrees are blessedly absent in this one. I love the solid continuity of even the minutest detail (blue panties with a bow, for example) that Ilona Andrews brings to this entire series, and the way that these characters develop and their lives intertwine as the stories unfold is fantastic and very satisfying for me as a reader. It builds a solid foundation of belief in these characters and the world they inhabit. In Magic Strikes, the conflict is very personal for Kate, and it shows in the increased intensity of her aggressions and her willingness to put everything on the line. Combine all of that with the fact that I've also always been a huge fan of Derek's and every facet of this book really worked for me.
I'm totally enamored with the slow, yet steady, methodical progression that's being made with issues and relationships over the series arc. What little mystery that is left of Kate's issue with her blood is addressed, though there was little surprise left by the time of the big reveal. The consequences of it, however, and the doors those consequences open for future development were shocking and the scenes surrounding it ultimately satisfying. Kate's growing cadre of friends, however reluctant she is to amass them, continues to ground her and humanize her, and along with her own mordant sense of humor, provide quite a bit of comic relief in this dark, cruel world (the scene with Jim after the first fight was funny enough to make me laugh out loud).
Now, let me pause for a moment and reflect on the ubergoodness that is the Kate/Curran relationship. Oh. My. God. I swear, I could eat them up with a spoon. The tension and slow (water-torture slow) development between those two is going to make me chew my nails down to the quick, but I love every single damn minute of it. It's quite possibly the most frustrating and most amazing relationship I've read in fiction recently, and I have nothing but respect for Andrews (husband-and-wife writing duo Ilona and Gordon) for addressing...in sometimes gut clenching ways...the complexities and pathos of two such individuals reaching for something that could be amazing, despite the risks inherent. Sometimes I want to drop a house on Kate and get her to wake up a little, but in truth, I sympathize with this solitary, tragic woman who has lived a life with burdens no normal human...or even the King of Beasts...could truly comprehend.
Kate is still one of, if not the top female heroine in any of the many, many UF and paranormal romance series I read. The steel spine, deadly habits, and dedication to honesty and honor surrounding that tiny grain of woman who desperately wants to be loved is a supremely appealing combination and I can not wait to see what she gets thrown into...or what gets thrown at her...next. Absolutely fabulous book, and series, that I highly recommend.