Yay! By far my favorite of the series to date, and the first time I can say I truly hope this series continues. I LOVE the characters in this book - aYay! By far my favorite of the series to date, and the first time I can say I truly hope this series continues. I LOVE the characters in this book - all of them - and enjoyed Thane and Elin's story - and even though I had a few issues with some elements, I'm very pleased to say that I didn't feel proselytized to death like I did in the previous book.
This is the first time in the series I felt things starting to click in that old and much adored Showalter way, and this is my favorite of Showalter since...wow...well, lets just say it's been many years since I read a Showalter story I enjoyed as much as I did this one.
~* 3.5 Stars *~ The humor and the characters are what made this book tolerable. I loathed and felt vaguely insulted by the message, wasn't impressed wi~* 3.5 Stars *~ The humor and the characters are what made this book tolerable. I loathed and felt vaguely insulted by the message, wasn't impressed with the overall plot, and question the apparent contradiction in angel mythos introduced in the first book. That said, I can't get enough of the Trio of Terrible that are Thane, Xerxes, and Bjorn. They steal every scene, and the only reason I'm planning on reading the next book in this series is because I know Thane's story is next. Overall, though, this wasn't even as consistently entertaining as the first book, and I wasn't totally sold on that one, either.
Note: Though I read this book in its series parts (1-4), I couldn't figure out a way to review those parts individually without making myself nuts, soNote: Though I read this book in its series parts (1-4), I couldn't figure out a way to review those parts individually without making myself nuts, so this review is for the book as a whole.
More Flash than Substance
When MI5 agent Denae Lecroix was sent on a mission to infiltrate Draegan Industries, she knew something was off with the assignment. She just didn't know how off it was until her partner turned on her and tried to kill her after they'd pushed deep into Draegan's land. That betrayal cut almost as deeply as the knife wound she took before she...ended the partnership.
Waking up from a sleep that spanned over a thousand years to find two humans battling to the death in his cave, Dragon King Kellan was so surprised by their trespass that he was able to curb the instinct to kill the interlopers.
And he remembered his responsibility. Good thing for the surviving female that he did, too. No matter how much he loathed humans, a race full of murderous, wretched betrayers, his word was a bond, obligating him to take the surviving human female to the King of Kings before he could wash his hands of the race and sleep once more.
What Kellan learns when he takes Denae to his King changes everything. With old enemies allying with humans and the Dragon Kings being targeted in a way they have never been before, their fate could very well rest in the hands of one not-quite-dead MI5 spy and her willingness to embrace a world that she couldn't have ever dreamed existed alongside her own.
It was nice reading a spin-off series opener that truly didn't require me to have read the series from which it spun. Grant did a really nice job introducing the Dragon Kings and their world in such a way that gave a nod to what came before, but didn't depend on it too heavily. There were a few scenes that would probably have had more of an emotional impact on me if I'd been familiar with their backstory, but nothing that confused me or made me feel lost.
There were several elements of Denae and Kellan's story that I liked quite a lot, and a couple of characters (Rhi especially) who endeared themselves quickly and deeply. I also thought the world and backstory were well-conceived, the history of the dragons tragic but, odd as it may sound, believable, and the dynamic between Dragon Kings, humans, and Fae - both Light and Dark - was fascinating. It all meshed together well and provided a solid framework for the story's foundation.
Plus, dragon shifters. I'm a sucker for dragon shifters.
Those were all lovely pieces of the story puzzle, but I can't say I was completely won over by the way it all came together. There wasn't quite enough focus on a cohesive plot for me and too much of the story got hung up on Denae and Kellan's attraction to one another to the exclusion of other necessary story elements.
Instead of laying groundwork for the arc of the series, or offering a sophisticated evolution of characters and story, too much of the narrative was spent telling me again and again how smart, strong, independent, gorgeous, etc. Kellan found Denae (despite his hatred of humans) and how unimaginably sexy and fierce and amazing Denae found Kellan. Unfortunately, there wasn't a whole lot in the story that evidenced either of those things to me as a reader, so it came off as a repetitive Tell versus Show situation unsupported by the reality of the content.
There were a few opportunities for plot progression, and scenes that made me think the book was getting into the nitty-gritty, especially during battle scenes or moments of suspense and tension. Instead of broadening and expanding on those points of conflict, though, the scenes tended to start and end quickly and were very sparse in description or definition. And far, far too many elements were introduced as teasers that never got anything even approaching explanation, let alone resolution.
Rhi's former relationship with a Dragon King. Con's hatred of Ulrick. And Rhi. His questionable actions in the past and conflicted ones now. The Silvers. The identity of the Bad Guy. Why that Bad Guy wanted Kellan. The MI5/Dark Fae alliance. Tristan's transition into a Dark King. The impact of human mates on the dragons. The dissension in the Kings' ranks.
And that's just off the top of my head. There were more things, sources of conflict or questions raised, that added to the pile of things that remained completely unresolved or unanswered by the end. The only thread that was resolved, in fact, was the relationship between Denae and Kellan.
Unfortunately, as characters, I couldn't quite garner much more than ambivalence for either of them. Their story just didn't give me enough reason to do so. Denae was too inconsistent. She kept reminding Kellan that she could handle herself and was a well-trained spy, but I don't recall many instances after the initial fight with her partner where she acquitted herself well in that regard. In fact, she had to rely almost exclusively and more than once on Kellan's help just to survive with both mind and body intact.
Kellan, on the other hand, was perfectly consistent...a perfectly consistent jerk. Between his oft-mentioned hatred of the human race and his unmitigated sense of superiority, I found him hard to take in the first half of the book and only marginally more palatable in the second.
There was a scene where he completely dismisses Denae's grievous personal losses because, as a dragon, his are so much more significant - then he jumps her for some wild monkey sex. That pretty much slammed the door closed on any lingering feelings of sympathy I had for him, and it severely damaged my respect for Denae's strength of character, because though she called him on his insensitivity, she sure doesn't hold him off or demand an apology for his galling opinions. He's apparently just too awesomely male to resist, regardless of his crappy attitude.
Adding in my issue with the too-abrupt (for my tastes) relationship timeline, and the romance elements of the story didn't work so well for me.
There were definitely parts of this book that shined brightly, but they just weren't given enough room to really gain a toehold in the narrative. Those good parts were fresh, original, and eminently entertaining, but neither the romance between Denae and Kellan nor either character individually worked well enough for me to convince me to stick around to see if all those teasers eventually get explained or all the unresolved issues eventually get their resolution. At best, this was an okay read for me overall, but not one I wish to follow up on with future books.
Disclosure: An ARC of parts 1-3 of this book were provided to me by St. Martin's Press via Netgalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own. ~*~*~*~ Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another....more
Wickedly Nice World Nicole Bonham knows she and her sisters aren't normal. She doesn't know why that's so any more than she knows where their unique taWickedly Nice World Nicole Bonham knows she and her sisters aren't normal. She doesn't know why that's so any more than she knows where their unique talents come from, but with her ability to manipulate wind and her sisters' talents with fire and water, the three of them are definitely not like the rest of humanity.
She can accept that. Has accepted it. Never once in her life, though, did Nicole ever doubt she was human. It never crossed her mind that was even a possibility. Then she meets a gorgeous guy in a club. There's no arguing he's smoking hot and, man, he can dance like a demon. As far as Nicole is concerned, it's her lucky night...right up until the guy tells her he actually is a demon.
If that isn't freak-out-worthy enough, the guy, Gunnar, admits he saw her use her power to help someone earlier that night and he wants to know what sort of supernatural being she is. Yeah, that's pretty much when the freaking out started.
As a Lash demon, Gunnar is very good at hunting down dangerous demons and keeping them from making a deadly mess in the human realm. After more than two centuries of doing just that, he's gotten very good at identifying supernaturals by their power signature alone. Nicole's power, though, is like nothing he's ever felt before.
Knowing how the bad guys work leaves him no doubts, either. If any of them find out about Nicole and feel what she can do, they won't bother asking questions, they'll either take her to use her, or they'll destroy her. And that's not something Gunnar is going to let happen. Not when the proud, stubborn female makes him feel things he never knew he could feel and want things he's never wanted before.
This series debut has several really good things going for it. I liked the world quite a lot and appreciated the detailed world-building. There was a nice amount of the story dedicated to fleshing out not just a few of the demon races, but other supernaturals as well. And I loved Gunnar and Nicole's trip to the demon realm, Torth. That was a whole lot of fun.
There was also a lot of heat in the relationship between Gunnar and Nicole. The chemistry between them was strong from the moment they meet and I liked that a lot, and Kay can definitely right sizzling sex scenes.
Gunnar and his Lash demon cohorts were fairly typical for the genre and not unlike the main characters of several similar-type paranormal romance series, but that's never been downside to me. I happen to like that particular formula of a brotherhood of alpha-male warriors and they worked for me here. It helped, too, that we met several who intrigued me and kept me entertained beyond just the main characters.
I enjoyed Nicole through most of the book. Romantic heroines are very often the weak link in books for me, and truthfully, Nicole had her moments, too, most notably late in the book, but I loved her bond with her sisters and she was a strong, independent woman who definitely knew her own mind. I was enamored of her from the moment she decides to use her talent to help people, long before she even knew what she is.
What she and her sisters are is probably my favorite aspect of the book. I totally dug the idea that they're so rare, even other supernaturals don't believe they are anything but myth. That tickled me, especially when Nicole keeps meeting supernaturals who express their disbelief. That made me grin every time. It was great.
I have to admit, though, I wasn't sold on the plot of the external conflict. Part of the problem for me was the limited amount of time given to it in the story. The Big Bag doesn't show up until the 67% mark and that was just too late in the book for his plot threads to really offer significant contribution to the story as a whole. It didn't help at all that Nicole had a few TSTL moments that led, in a painfully obvious manner, to a climax that seemed both predictable and abrupt.
There were also a few too many breakaway scenes for my tastes, scenes that focused on secondary and ancillary characters. I didn't mind Kai's. I liked him a lot and I loved the acrimony between him and Nicole's sister Brooke. It may be easy to see where that's headed, but I adore that sort of conflict, so I'm totally on board with their impending tale and loved how it was set up in this book. And as his story is up next in the series, it made sense that he and Brooke had some groundwork laid here.
Raniero's, on the other hand, was a problem for me on several different levels.
I would much rather have had the story offer more depth and definition to the bad guy and his plans instead of pages of excessively detailed information about Raniero's past. And that's not even touching the issue I had with his supposed endless love and relentless search for Ashina - given that he's spent all his free time since he last saw her, and I quote, "buried between the willing thighs of beautiful females." Made it hard to feel anything at all for the pages of tragic history that preceded that little gem and it didn't exactly endear me to Raniero as a character.
Plus, he wasn't a significant enough character for any of that to be necessary in this book to begin with, so all of it just completely turned me off.
The meat of the overall story seemed to focus more on the sexual and emotional relationship between Gunnar and Nicole than on the bad guy doing bad things, and that was really my biggest issue. There was a lot of sex in the story. It was very hot sex, for sure, but for me to really enjoy that much in a book I need other story elements to be given equal attention, and that didn't quite happen. My preferences lie with a more robust external conflict and a more plot-driven narrative. To me, the relationship between the main characters overpowered everything else and the romance itself got a little too schmaltzy for me by the end.
The good points in the story didn't quite outweigh my issues, but to be fair, the majority of those issues are a personal preference thing. For fans of paranormal romance with more attention on the R than the PN, the very things that didn't work so well for me would totally appeal. And because of those good points, not to mention the delicious teasers for Kai and Brooke's story, I'm looking forward to revisiting the world and seeing how Kay deals with a different character dynamic.
Disclosure: A copy of this book was provided to me by the author for review. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own. ~*~*~*~ Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another....more
Man, I hate to say this, but this one didn't work for me at all. A lot of that is absolutely no fault of the book's, though. This is a PNR that focuseMan, I hate to say this, but this one didn't work for me at all. A lot of that is absolutely no fault of the book's, though. This is a PNR that focuses much more heavily on the R than the PN, and I prefer a more balanced narrative with a a complex and well defined external conflict. I'm sorry to say I spent most of this one annoyed by both MCs and their seemingly never-ending worry about what they were feeling for each other when there was some pretty heavy stuff going on around them that didn't get half the development or attention.
I just prefer any potentially catastrophic demonic dominion to be a serious enough threat to occasionally draw the hero and heroine's attention away from their lusty-yummy thoughts and recurring angst about whether or not they really care for each other.
Full review to come, but I'm glad to see my opinion is in the minority. This wasn't my favorite effort by the author, but I'm happy that I'm the statistical outlier on that....more
Too Many Issues Ty Duncan is a Special Agent with the FBI...on paper, anyway...but since being tortured and turned into a vampire against his will sixToo Many Issues Ty Duncan is a Special Agent with the FBI...on paper, anyway...but since being tortured and turned into a vampire against his will six months ago, he - and a small group of specialized agents - work for the covert group called the Belladonna Agency. Belladonna has a specific purpose: stop Rogue vampires at any cost.
To that end, Ty has been sent to Seattle to recruit a new Belladonna member. Seven years ago, Ana Martin was known as Eliana Garcia, street-wise gang member and a favorite of the gang leader. Those gang ties are why Balladonna needs her. They need access to a place run by Ana's former gang leader, a place that may be a front for a Rogue blood slave market.
Now all Ty has to do is convince a very wary Ana to return to the life she's worked so hard to forget while fighting a desire for the feisty woman that stirs all his darkest yearnings - for her body, her blood, and most dangerous of all, her heart.
I had a lot of problems with this series debut by DePaul. The world building is pretty sparse, and what few details are provided stick to the broadest of broad strokes. I would have liked to have had a clearer idea of just how long the FBI have known about vampires (the book says "years" but not how many), how they found out about them, how long before they gave up on the born vampires and decided on trusting Rogues for their turning program (which, as far as I'm concerned, puts the FBI fully in the TSTL category, because really - there was no way that was going to end any way but badly), how many recruits have been turned, and what roles those turned recruits had in the FBI.
Not that having answers to any of those questions would have improved my opinion of the FBI's callous disregard for life or their general idiocy, but it may have given me a better handle on the world and the reason for Belladonna's existence.
Its supposed purpose is to quietly clean up the Rogue problem so the FBI could get back to making their turned vamps. That never struck me as the noblest mission statement, given the FBI's duplicitous and suspect actions, but maybe a clearer picture of their history with vampires and their beneficial utilization of turned recruits would have helped.
And not for nothing, but it seemed odd to me that neither the FBI nor anyone in Belladonna seemed to know all that much about vampires. Not even Ty, who was one. I'd think that at least knowing how to kill one would be one of the first things the FBI would want to learn about deadly creatures they're stockpiling.
There were too many problems and troubling elements with the world, the vampires, the FBI, and Belladonna in general for my comfort, but one point in particular stripped away my ability to willingly suspend disbelief. According to the mythos, the act of turning a vampire is fatal to the maker. At face value that's not a problem, but when I thought about Ty's brutal turning and certain other story elements, that detail created way more trouble than it was worth, making several plot points seem highly implausible.
But my problems with the book extended beyond those weighty issues. As characters, I thought Ty and Ana were the strongest part of the book. I liked them both as individuals. Ty's issues with his vampirism and Ana's ties to her sister gave them each depth and helped shape their definition. Unfortunately, I wasn't nearly as fond of them together as a couple.
Their initial chemistry was strong, and I liked the level of heat between them, but as their relationship progressed it started to sputter under conflicts that were inconsistent and hard to follow. Some of that was a reflection of the two characters who were, themselves, inconsistent at times. I had a hard time figuring out exactly what was bothering each of them with the relationship, or determining from one chapter to the next which one was martyring themselves for the greater good. And when I was able to follow the twists, I didn't like what I found.
Ana, in particular, committed what I consider an ultimate sin for a romantic heroine. At one point she pushes Ty away in a completely unequivocal...and rather hurtful manner, completely repudiating any significance in their relationship, then gets all wounded and insecure when as a result, Ty pulls back and treats her strictly professionally. I hate that sort of hypocrisy.
Secondary and ancillary characters, like the other women recruited to Belladonna, had potential to add positives to the story, but they ended up getting little definition and had almost no impact on me one way or the other. They were just too underutilized. Though I do think the reason they were tapped for Belladonna, once revealed, was incredibly weak considering the importance of the jobs they have been recruited to do and the training that would be necessary to do it effectively without getting themselves killed.
Altogether, there were just too many things stacked against this book for me. Too many elements didn't appeal; too many questions left unanswered. Far too many things that just didn't make sense. As a series debut, it posed too many problems for me to feel any desire to follow the Belladonna Agency into the next book.
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Bantam Dell publisher Random House Publishing Group via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own. ~*~*~*~ Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another....more
~* 3.5 Stars *~ The AMT is Terrifying She is the first-born child of a Feiru mother in a world that hides her kind away in asylums out of a sick paranoi~* 3.5 Stars *~ The AMT is Terrifying She is the first-born child of a Feiru mother in a world that hides her kind away in asylums out of a sick paranoia, fear, and prejudice. They call her elemental magic a threat to the unsuspecting human public. They keep her kind secret.
In those asylums they are stripped of their humanity and their dignity, used as lab rats, abused, and suffer torturous "medical" testing that often drives them insane, all for that nebulous Greater Good.
Now Kiarra Melini is left with a horrific choice: sacrifice herself to save her first-born brethren or sit idly by while the researchers at the asylum use her blood to strip the elemental magic from every other first-born they have interred in asylums around the world.
A tragic choice. A heartbreaking choice. But an easy one for the young woman who has been a prisoner of the Asylums for Magical Threats for fifteen years of her life.
She hadn't counted on Jaxton Ward swooping into her cell as she was attempting to end her life. She'd long since given up hope of ever being free from the AMT. Being kidnapped doesn't exactly instill in Kiarra a sense of peace and well being, though, even though Jaxton claims he's rescued her. After all, the AMT is the devil she knows. Jaxton and his anti-AMT group may prove themselves to be just a different sort of devil entirely.
Jaxton knew breaking into the AMT to get his brother and Kiarra out wasn't going to be easy, but he never figured Kiarra would rather suicide than be free. Now he's got to convince the woman he means her no harm and the rebel group he works with needs her elemental magic to fight against the very people who held her captive for most of her life. Training her is going to be a study in frustration, though, given the powerful attraction he has for the brave woman willing to die for her race.
Unique and original, this series debut by Donovan has a lot going for it, especially in the first half of the book. Kiarra was fiery, cagey, and keenly intelligent, and Jaxton was intense and sexy...and I'm a total sucker for heroes with a British accent. I enjoyed both of their characters very much, and the story was rich with solid world-building, action, and suspense.
I loved Kiarra's whole attitude and personality from the moment she's introduced as an AMT inmate through her dubious rescue and subsequent struggle to adapt to her new freedom. I think she was maybe a bit more balanced and sane than a person would be given what she's been through in her life, but I can't say I minded that for the purposes of the story. I liked her, and I was very pleased with the direction her character took following her rescue. That all worked for me nicely.
And full credit to Donovan for the creep factor and utter horror that was the AMT. I couldn't help but make comparisons to concentration camps in Nazi Germany and it was truly chilling. I find the sort of subversive, subjugating mentality that went into the creation and use of AMTs to be far more effective as a source of external conflict than an individual Big Bad because it's so damn easy to imagine something exactly like that happening, as it's happened before in humanity's darkest times.
I wish I could say I found the second half of the book as entertaining as the first. While the first half provided a solid foundation for the book, was well-conceived and written with a solid focus on fleshing out the world, defining the various factions and introducing the characters, the story took a turn for me at the halfway mark. As soon as Jaxton and Kiarra made it to Scotland and the external conflict became more significant in the plot, I felt like the book started to lose a lot of the cohesion it had established early.
There's a lot going on and it's happening to and with several different characters and their individual points of view. Between the evolution of the main characters, their relationship and all that entailed, their struggles to evade the AMT, the sinister- and almost ridiculously obscure - machinations of Bad Guy Sinclair, and the addition of Kiarra's brother Gio, who was a pretty big question mark to me and seemed an unnecessary source of ancillary conflict, there was too much to focus on. Too much was attempted and not enough of it had payoff. The plot's pacing bogged down and the story got a bit unwieldy and cumbersome.
At times I found myself getting bored - with Kiarra and Jaxton's relationship, with Sinclair's super secret and oh-so-nefarious plans, and with...whatever it was that Gio was trying to do. There were just too many sources of conflict, big reveals, and murky motivations, so many it all became white noise after awhile. It's a shame, because really, there didn't need to be anything beyond the AMT. The reality of those places and the driving force behind their existence is completely horrifying enough on its own to support an entire series of external conflict without needing all the other story detritus that cluttered the back half of this book.
I do think the series has a ton of potential, though, and there are more than enough interesting characters introduced here to provide fodder for many juicy stories to come. This one just didn't quite keep me consistently engaged beyond the story setup and the world-building, and a general sort of appreciation for the romance between Kiarra and Jaxton. Still, I can't say enough about how nice it is to read something that felt truly fresh and original. That alone is worth a lot in a genre glutted on same old same old.
Disclosure: A copy of this book was provided to me by the author for review. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own. ~*~*~*~ Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another....more