Believe it or not (and I can't), this is the first book I've read by Shira Anthony. I have several and...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Believe it or not (and I can't), this is the first book I've read by Shira Anthony. I have several and there are many of her books that I've really wanted to read, but somehow never found the time to. So when I saw this on the Dreamspinner Coming Soon page I made sure that I made room for it in my schedule. It wouldn't only be a chance to try out this author, but also a book about mermen! Just like unicorns, I'm really an 8 year old little girl who loves the cute and cuddly fantastical creatures. Except, you know, when they have gay sex and aren't as cuddly anymore, except maybe in a post-coital fashion.
I'm glad that I made room for this book, it was quite fun to read. The whole book takes place over a somewhat short amount of time -- about 8 weeks -- but the book starts with Taren at a young age and the first few chapters traverse his teenaged years as he's sold and stolen as a slave and passed through several masters' hands. The journey that Taren takes in this first book of the series is pretty big. He learns quite a bit about his life and goes through many transitions of change before the end.
Taren doesn't know anything about his parents, save that his master told him they gave him away. He longs for the open sea and though he's just a rigger for his master's shipyard, he hopes that one day he'll be able to travel the seas and be a proper sailor. When he's sold to pay off his master's debts, Taren becomes a slave to a man who runs an inn. He's not sure how old he is, though he thinks around 18 or 19. He's been mostly sheltered in his life, so when a handsome captain introduces him to his sexuality in a room full of watching sailors at the inn, he finds himself excited rather than scared and violated. He's submissive and clings to the safety he feels in a man like the captain, whom he later knows as Rider, because of the man's kind, yet firm dominance.
Stolen by the sailors of the ship that night, he wakes to find himself the captain's prisoner and introduced to indentured slavery of the sexual kind. But, for a young man like Taren who has always been a slave, sexual slavery aboard a ship on the open ocean is a kind of freedom that he's never known. Taren revels in it, especially when he comes to be a loving presence in Rider and his lover's bed and allowed to put his knowledge of sailing to use aboard the ship.
But there is so much that Taren doesn't know or understand -- why he has such vivid dreams and the extra-sensory feelings that he has in reading the water and weather at sea. When he's knocked unconscious and lost at sea, he washes up to their rival vessel, captained by Ian Dunaidh. Ian is enamored of Taren immediately and their connection, once he wakes, pushes and pulls between them as they sail to Ian's home island where a shadowy presence called The Council awaits to judge Taren as a spy in their war against a resistance group of their own people who live on the mainland. Living through the hell of their torture, the betrayal between Taren and Ian and the possibility that he might never be free takes everything in him. All he knows to get him through is that he is destined for a higher purpose than this, if it is true that any higher power is guiding them.
I went pretty far in summarizing the story for you, but that is because there is such a long and twisting plot in this story. Taren goes through so many changes, homes, and relationships with other people for only 70k words. It makes me curious how many books this author has planned for this series because I didn't feel as if I started to understand the larger picture until the very end of the book. I have no doubt that that was intended for the reader, that we should pull the pieces together at the very end, but it also meant that I had to wait through the whole book to really understand what was happening. Which, ultimately, meant that I really had to enjoy the story for the present, for what was happening to Taren in the moment without understanding where the story was headed to really enjoy the book. Sometimes I felt as if I was right there with him and Ian and I was really sucked into the present of the story. But, sometimes I wasn't and I felt as if the story lulled, perhaps because the relationship between Taren and Ian is so freaking complicated. For much of the book they're separated, though not for any very long pieces of time. It takes the whole book for them to really reach the same page, relationship-wise, because they each needed this book to progress themselves. Taren is searching for his destiny, a shadowy purpose that we and he knows is there, somewhere, for him to understand one day, and for him to understand his race and his history. Ian is battling his own demons -- regret and guilt -- that stand in the way of his happiness.
So once again I say that while I really enjoyed this book, it's as a first book of a series. I still feel as if I don't know much about where this series is headed. In a way, I like that because it means that this author is doing a fine job of withholding information until the correct (and perhaps most artful) time to release it. On the other hand, I fear not knowing enough to keep me interested in the big picture, and that it makes my reading experience different. So, I'm excited to read the next book and hoping that the ending of this one -- seeing the formation of a more solid relationship between Taren and Ian -- will carry forward through the rest of the series.
**There is a pretty big imbalance in the heat level and sex frequency in this book, as far as trying to rate it goes. The first several chapters are hot and heavy, with m/m/m scenes (spitroasting, exhibitionism) that really raise the heat, and frequent sex in those chapters. The rest of the novel has little to almost no sex at all and what intimacy there is is very romantic and tame (the underwater mermen sex).(less)
I believe this is the first book by Madeleine Ribbon that I've read. I was excited about this book because it has...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I believe this is the first book by Madeleine Ribbon that I've read. I was excited about this book because it has a great premise -- a man cursed by his brother at a young age who repulses everyone and everything around him until a man who excels at breaking curses and has his own natural resistance to others' magic is the first man who can get close enough to him to try to remove it. And indeed, that is what immediately drew me into the story when I picked it up. We first see David as a young boy. He's completely jealous of his older brother Todd (by one year). Todd has more magic than David; David can only do Blessings, not Curses and Charms like Todd and just about everyone else in the magical world. And Todd has friends. When Todd goes away to a magical camp one summer where David cannot follow, David finds that despite what his brother told him, Todd's friends are happy to play with him. But when Todd comes home to see David with his friends he get's jealous, and in a typical move towards his younger brother, he curses him. Only this time David tries to protect himself with a blessing and the combination of the magic creates what will become known among the magical world as the impossible curse, and David as The Impossible Kid.
David feels the curse himself. He's uncomfortable, full of fear and feels the creepy crawly feeling across his whole body. But that doesn't compare to how other people feel in his proximity. The closer they get the more they want to run away, the more they're afraid of him. And because of that impossibility of touch and interaction with all except for his brother Todd who is immune (as the curse caster, and subsequently has devote his life to his care because of his guilt), David has lived a life devoid of physical affection, even from his own parents. Those who take the time to brave their discomfort and get to know David fall in love with him. He's shy and awkward around people because of his curse and his lack of experience relating to others.
David still has his magic and though he feels it's rather lackluster in relation to so many other people's gifts, he admits that he has a real talent for Blessings. It is when he's fulfilling his promise to be in attendance of his brother Todd's wedding (and to bless the cake for the couple) that he meets Vaughn. He's confident, sexy, intelligent and talented and David has no idea what Vaughn sees in him -- other than the challenge of breaking his curse. Nevertheless, Vaughn can't seem to stay away from David. While it started out as a professional interest, Vaughn finds that the man himself is more intriguing than the horrible curse he bears. Getting David, a man who has never received any kind of positive attention from another handsome gay man, to realize that David is worth more than his curse looks to be almost as challenging as finding a counter to the curse itself. But the more time that Vaughn spends getting to know David -- wooing him in baby steps the whole way -- the more important it is to him to find a way to keep David for good.
I liked this novella but I think that it mostly only kept my interest because of it's length. It's short enough that when my initial interest, which covered the first few chapters and maybe the first 25% of the book, started to wane there wasn't a whole lot left to read. I won't say that it turned me off in any way, but I did feel like the book stalled a bit and it never really regained the magic even until the end. The premise of the book is really interesting, but once the initial meeting between David and Vaughn at the wedding finished they went into a long and slow courtship, because of David's fear of forging a connection with someone who he believed would ultimately be turned away by the curse. It made sense for the characters, but it slowed down the pace somewhat. That bulk of the story was really only driven by the internal conflict. And I hate to say it, but for me that really slow courtship which was much more like friendship killed the passion. I'm not sure why I reacted this way because I usually am a big fan of the slow burn. I think that's why I slowly lost some interest in their relationship -- I didn't feel the "burn" in the slow burn.
There is a side plot throughout the story. Over the months of their courtship is a small mystery keeping the two on their toes. Someone, what seems to be a scrawny kid, is trying to break in and steal a blessed plant from magical shops around town and is quite good at escaping capture. The plant in question is only used for suppressing magic, which leads David to believe that someone might be cursed similarly to him and hoping to stop it's effects. Vaughn, who works for the Magical Enforcement department of Arcana, the magical government, is involved with the case. This side plot could have remedied the problems that I had, diverting the focus to something else to drive the plot forward. But, ultimately while the conclusion was interesting in it's own way I didn't feel like it carried the story through those parts.
On the whole I just didn't find many surprises with this story. It is good for what it is despite the few problems that I had with it -- the premise is wonderful and I liked the characters quite a lot. David is cute in his geeky, online gaming and need-to-be-rescued kind of way, while Vaughn is charming and dashing, popular and sexy and loyal and caring. But after the initial introduction to the story and between the characters, I pretty much had the story already figured out.
This would be a good book for those of you looking for something not too involved, that won't take up a whole lot of your day and is a relaxing and light book to read. It's heartwarming in a knight-in-shining-armor kind of way. But if you're looking for something more intense or more exploration of the magical world and a deeper study of the characters, this might not be for you. Though I enjoyed the experience, I fell into the latter camp.(less)
I got this book for review on a whim, and I am so happy that I did because it completely took over my life yester...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I got this book for review on a whim, and I am so happy that I did because it completely took over my life yesterday. I started reading it in the early morning and I couldn't put it down -- I read all day. And to be honest I was a little worried after I requested it because I had previously read a book by John Tristan that I DNF'ed and I think it might have been his first book. I just couldn't get into the writing and I kinda liked it but also didn't. So I couldn't believe that I had none of the same issues with this book that I did with that earlier book. And if this author keeps writing books like this then I'll definitely stick around and keep reading!
When his father dies with a multitude of debts, Etan is forced to sell his home and all his belongings and travel to the capital city of Kered to look for work. His only skills are his ability to read and write, and while those are rare abilities for a country boy, with no money to garner an apprenticeship, his only choice is manual labor, something he's unable to do because of a sickness as a child that stunted his growth. He's pale and petite, and saved by a man in a rickshaw when beaten in the street. The man offers to send him to a place to stay, where he learns after a few days is a home for indentured servants. His only option thereafter is to sign away his rights and work for this man in trade for a place to stay and food to eat.
When the man sees Etan without bruises and washes he almost doesn't recognize him, but he has an even better idea of work for him. Etan is introduced to Roberd Tallisk, a tattoo artist whose patron is the head of the Council, run by the Blooded, the ruling class of Kered society who possess magic believed descended from the gods themselves. There, Etan's slave bond is bartered between the two men when Tallisk agrees to take Etan on as his new work of art, an Adorned. The Adorned have always mystified those of the lower classes. They're those of beauty who are tattooed by master tattoo artists with enchanted ink to become living works of art for the pleasure of the Blooded. Their art is not allowed to be seen by those who aren't Blooded or the artist. And no one else but the tattoo artists are allowed to wear ink.
Etan's new life seems wonderful and exciting. He's protected now for life with gifts of riches from patrons and by the ink he wears on his skin. But there is also an aspect of being Adorned that he never expected. He soon learns the hard price to pay when he starts to mingle with the elite of Keren society and exactly what they expect from him. And he finds himself a pawn, a sort of Mata Hari in the political play between two warring factions for the future of the Keren society.
There are two things that I love most about this story and they go behind the tattoo art (which is super cool) and a lot of the other little details that made this story come alive for me. First is the epic quality of the story. We really get to see Etan's life played out over a lot of major changes in his life that also herald major changes for the whole world. We meet Etan when he's young, still living at home with his father and before he's had to completely depend on himself and we get to see how he changes over time. I typically prefer characters who are alive, present and very decisive about their lives in fiction, especially in fantasy worlds. Etan is alive and present, certainly, but he's also like a piece of detritus in a massive current once he makes it to the city. He's buffered on all sides by those making choices for him. I can't see him acting any other way certainly, as someone who has very little choices, but he's also very internal and cautious. I didn't see those parts of his personality changing until much later because it was such a slow change, but Etan grows as the world changes around him and as he needs to take more of his own care for himself.
The second thing I really loved was the cast of characters. We meet a multitude of secondary characters, most of whom are a good sort, and a faction of those who are good people who make some bad choices. As the world in the story changes, it reveals the best and worst of the characters and each of them are made to understand their regrets, in particular Isadel and Lord Haqan Loren. All of them, however, are well rounded characters that we get to know rather well. And this was done sometimes in a rather subtle fashion. The writing requires the reader to be present and active in piecing the world together and in drawing connections, and I can't tell you how often I find myself wishing for writing like that.
You might not find this story to be perfect, or it might not impact you as much as it did me. Part of how you feel about it, in the end, will depend on what you like most in your romance books. The relationship between Etan and Tallisk is very slow to build and it takes almost the full length of the novel for the two to really come together. The bulk of the story is rather Etan's journey and finding himself, someone who still feels like a country boy, realizing that he's a good person with heart amid vultures who would pick at him until there's nothing left. He has to realize what he really wants out of life, if it is security or love and if those things are separate.
I finished the book wanting more, sad that the story ended and hoping there was a way a sequel could be written, lol. I don't think that's really possible. But I know now that I'll definitely keep my eye on book by John Tristan and I hope that it isn't too long from now that I find another book that I get so lost in.(less)
Oh Carole… I just had so much fun reading that. You know, Carole has said several times that she thanks...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Oh Carole… I just had so much fun reading that. You know, Carole has said several times that she thanks Fen for this book. Fen, for those of you who might not know, is her main character from the Wolf's-own series and his head is just a mess of angst. It's all for good reason because Fen lives in a really messed up world, but back to Carole. She has said that she needed to go somewhere happy, somewhere carefree after spending so much time (4 novels!) in his head. And I'm glad she did. This book is definitely the antithesis of those, of course with the exception of writing talent. I'm glad that I knew that about this book going in, because otherwise I might have been expecting a more serious style than her previous two series.
The book opens with one of the most hilarious chapters I've ever read. It is so easy to become endeared with Lucas, especially in the inner drunk ramblings of his mind at his first visit to a tavern. Trouble doesn't really come until he's had one too many and decides that it wouldn't be too unseemly to have a pee outside, where he promptly becomes entangled with a bush. In a cruel twist of fate, someone seems him -- pants partially open and wrestling with the arms of his coat -- a man with long silver hair and speaking a lot of nonsense. It doesn't seem too strange in his ale fuzzy brain when the man simply disappears after a whole lot of yelling words that neither understands back and forth but well, he's still stuck in the bush.
When the man starts turning up in strange places to again shout incomprehensible words at him, Lucas starts to become alarmed. Especially when the man starts stealing his books. But it isn't until his sister's suitor disappears and Lucas is begged to find him that he runs into the man again, this time speaking some words Lucas understands. What he hears alarms him, especially because it appears that the man wants something from him and in the meantime intends to kidnap his cousin the prince as a trade. Lucas is so dead for losing the prince, but he knows that he has to do something to get Laurie back.
Really, the best part of this book are the characters. There is such a wonderful cast of characters that all have their own well-rounded personalities, characteristics and motives. But they have such a great banter. In reading the prior work from Carole Cummings, I always admired her writing which is at the same time intelligent and accessible, but I also never knew that she could write in such a playful way! It is really a delight to read. And just the same as it was for her, I think this is a really good book to read when you need a break from something, or from reading a more intense book. When I first talked to her about this book she referred to it as fluff, to which I immediately replied that I thought she could probably never write fluff. But I know exactly what she means now. This is a book you should read just for the pure enjoyment of getting out of your own head and into someone else's for a while. And Lucas' head isn't a bad place to be ;)
There is quite a lot of banter between the characters, but mostly in the narration. Carole has written Lucas to have an imaginative mind that often banters with itself. That's why I think this is a good book to read when you really need a break, because while the plot in this story is interesting in and of itself, sometimes the focus wavers from it to Lucas' own thoughts, and those often take precedence over the action. Now, if you followed my advice then this is just a nice detour, but if you're really focused on the plot and pacing then you might find yourself swept away on the tide of his thoughts. Sometimes the banter -- Lucas' runaway thoughts -- seem to get in the way of the action a bit. And while I always enjoyed what he was thinking (and occasionally talking about with Alex) sometimes the timing is inopportune. Occasionally I wanted to smack him and tell him to pay attention!
Still, that is minor criticism on my part and I really, sincerely hope that Carole continues to explore this quirky side of her writing. Hopefully in the future we can get those style alternately -- a book like Fen's that rips out your heart and completely sweeps you away and then something later to cool you down and look on the sunny side of life.
**I didn't categorize this as a romance. This is really a fantasy book to me. Sure, Lucas is madly in love with Alex and vice versa, but the story isn't about their relationship. Their relationship is part of the story.(less)
To see my review of And So It Begins from last Friday, click here.
I will admit that I'm a little bit confused. This review came down to the wire, writing this right at 7am Monday morning because I wanted to get the review up for release day. So, I didn't have time to look around and try to find out more about this series. So, if anyone does know and I make a mistake in my review, please let me know. From what I can gather only from reading these two books, they were one book that was broken in two. For some reason I had assumed that there were more after this but from the way this ended, which pretty much everything wrapped up and with and HEA, this is the final book in the Prince and Trader series.
We left And So it Begins with Kherin in Gravlorn at the northern border of Llarien in a war against the people of the Northern Plains. They have been sneaking into the Defender camp seemingly at will and no one, including the princes, can figure out how. Or, more importantly -- why. And then after their confrontations no one can figure out how they slink away back across the border. Kherin's plan, while his brother Adrien is still getting better from his own run in with the northern tribes, is twofold: either try to figure out what is going on and get some information from the northern prisoner he captured, or try to sneak across the border with a small contingent of Defenders to find some information about the people they're fighting.
In the meantime, Kherin's new relationship with the King's trader, Derek, is on the rocks. Though they committed to one another on the eve of Derek's departure to gain more information in the seaside port of Dennor, where a revolution has been stirring among the children of the city officials to find the magical power of the ancient people to use for themselves, Kherin and Derek's separation leave them both unsure of the other's real feelings. Still, Derek has his duty to the King, Kherin's father, to find out all the information he can and no one has a better idea of how that information might help Kherin's current war more than Derek. The information he finds in Dennor is more than he ever expected. The scholar Dar is there, waiting for him in his alley way and still denying the uprising their information. But, Derek meets another man there he never expected, Tristan. The man who was fired from his job in the royal stables because of his sexual relationship with the prince has grown violent in his anger, and may pose a threat that the trader and prince never expected.
It is only when the two can find themselves reconciled and able to share information that they might finally understand what is going on and find a way to save Llarien for good.
As I mentioned before, I do think that some of my enjoyment of this book was robbed. Maybe that's a harsh word. But, all I know is that because this was labeled as a series I suppose I had the idea that this wasn't the end. So my mind kept expecting the book to go farther than where it did. I don't lay the blame for that anywhere in particular. I certainly could have done more research to find out if this was just really one book that was broken up and I wouldn't have had that problem. But I will also say that I probably wouldn't have had that problem if this book was presented as just a standalone book, even if it was around 150k words in the end. Maybe that's a hard sell, such a long book for Dreamspinner. I don't know all the reasons that went into the choice to split this book up into two, it might be something else completely that I don't know. So, it's fine and I understand. But, I would like to see more from this couple. Because even though my expectations weren't met, that doesn't mean that I didn't really like this book (counting as one, of course). The writing is simply beautiful and I've already gone back to find the books that I've missed by RG Green to read.
Because of the split, I did feel like I lost a bit of the romantic momentum in the second book. The first book is continuous in the relationship between Kherin and Derek, right up until the end where their relationship solidifies. I think that the split in the book added with their separation in the book for the first half of this sequel lost some of those momentum and I never quite found the same tension between them. This book, the second half of the story, was almost entirely about the external plot. And while it did come together nicely, I think I did feel a bit of a letdown because I was expecting the book to go further than it did, so the wrap-up seemed a little too nice. I'm not letting that affect the rating, because as I said before I don't want to place the blame for that in any specific place, especially when I could have, hopefully, found out that information myself, but it is the way it is.
But this book really made me appreciate this author's writing. These two books are the first I've read by RG Green, and I'm looking forward to reading more in the future. Hopefully, she'll continue writing fantasy as well even if she's finished with this couple and world. It would be nice to see their journey's however, if she does have anything more planned for them :) So, definitely, I recommend these books. I really liked them and I had a great time with this story. Just make sure you have both books handy to read back to back ;)(less)
After reading and reviewing the first book in this series, The Prince of Galerir in February of this year, I was excited and interested to see where Anna Lee would take this story. I had quite a bit of criticism for her then, even though I really enjoyed reading the story, and I was particularly interested to see the writing in this sequel. I wasn't disappointed :)
We left Tomas and Griffin in the end of the first book in the capital city of Galerir and in the castle. Tomas has been accepted by the people and crowned as Crown Prince Tomas, nephew of King Antony of Galerir. Tomas didn't know his uncle for all of his life, and only learned about his real heritage and family in the first book, after the events were set in motion for war for Galerir from a lost descendant eager for the throne and the weakened health of Antony. Until then, he was the son of a lord and his best friend is Griffin, now his knight. The two grew up together and fell in love. And only when it was the choice of a life married to a girl he doesn't care about (and he's gay) or running away with Griffin did the two admit their feelings -- with a little help from a baby dragon they found and bonded with that helped them share their true emotions. But then, Tomas found out that King Antony was really his uncle and that he'd been hidden away until he was needed to secure the lineage and the throne.
This sequel carries forward in the outside plot more than the romantic plot. Tomas and Griffin are quite in love and committed to one another. They are engaged, and ready to change the laws that say one man cannot marry and love another, and eager to come out to the people themselves. Until that time however, they have a lot to deal with. Galerir is preparing for war from the lost descendant of one of the past kings and the rogue, evil dragon named Ator that he convinced to help him in his cause. King Antony is growing weaker and may be dying if they cannot find a cure to what is ailing him. And that means that Prince Tomas has even more duties than normal, acting as interim Regent while his uncle Antony is bedridden. Can they find those across the border that once had to flee Galerir when magik was made illegal? Will the elves, centaurs and dragons there help them in trying to unite Galerir as it once was? And will it be in time to stop the war that is coming?
I was really, really pleased with the writing in this story. I thought that Anna Lee's writing grew leaps and bounds between the first book and this book. Perhaps it is also that Griffin and Tomas have been together a while and now are committed rather than very new lovers, but I also felt that the overly sweet and constant declarations of love were way toned down. Their relationship is still very sweet, but most of the tension and conflict in this series is not internal, but rather external. However, I really liked that their relationship grew in this book, and that was partly done because they, at times, but heads and argue. I loved that. I liked seeing a more dynamic relationship between them. The other reason that they grew together was the appearance of Griffin's family, especially his father whom he has a rocky and abusive relationship with.
I got confused a few times. I'm not going to really spoiler you here, but I will tell you that this book ends with the end of the war. At least, I assume that's the case unless the next book is going to introduce an even bigger villain that we didn't know about. But, a few times I wondered if I had it wrong and this wasn't the second book in a three-part series. Was this a duology and the battle and the end of the war was the end of the series? That is typically the end of the series arc in fantasy stories. But, according to the info at the end of the book, the third book Reuniting Galerir is to continue and I assume finish the series with Tomas and Griffin's adventures to visit the magikal creatures I mentioned earlier to reunite the country. If that's the case, then I'm really excited for the third book. The structure of the overall plot arc was not what I was expecting at all, but I'm excited by it. The forte of this story isn't the politics of the world and the war, those act simply as a catalyst to explore the magikal world, creatures and people and mostly the relationship between Tomas and Griffin. It is, if I could describe it well enough, a more sweet and gentle exploration of a fantasy. I like that. I liked the first book okay, but after reading the second one I'm really interested and hooked on the series.(less)
Skylar Jaye is a new author for me, and probably will be for most of you as well. From what I can see, this autho...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Skylar Jaye is a new author for me, and probably will be for most of you as well. From what I can see, this author only has a couple of short stories in anthologies and The Flame is their first solo publication. In a way, that shows in this book, but I also saw a lot that I liked and overall, I enjoyed reading the book.
Jeremy Ashe is a sophomore at Samuin College, the mage college where almost all magi train. He's a private guy with just a couple of solid friends. He also has a secret… one that involves his family and all the trouble they have brought upon him, simply for being related to them. It's a drag, and so something he has kept secret from everyone. Jeremy is at the college studying runes, though he has an innate wind elemental ability, something that he clashes on in fundamental theory with his family and the general mindset of the magical community. He sees it as another way to work his magic, through the runes he casts rather than using his wind ability directly. And it does show in his versatility. It helps, of course, that he's a pretty serious student, but his arcane course of study is one of the least popular, and in a world where power is measured above all else (including even family lineage), he's seen as an unwanted castoff of a larger system of more important magi.
"The Flame", or better known as Marcus Smith, is a fire elemental and a prodigy at the school. A senior and a TA, he's the most popular guy in school and it isn't really unwarranted. His looks and personality help, of course. But, owing to the nickname, his talent shines above all. He's one of the most powerful fire mages alive in the world, giving him unparalleled choices about his direction in life, though everyone knows that he's going straight to the top. It's enough for the magical community to overlook his non-magical parentage, a rare and sudden ability, especially for one so powerful.
Jeremy and Marcus become acquainted through Jeremy's roommate Aiden and from there begin a slow courtship. Jeremy prefers to stay out of the limelight -- making his feelings for Marcus incredibly ill-fated -- and his history with his family has taught him that he's the unwanted shadow not good enough for someone who burns as bright a talent as Marcus. Their relationship seems doomed to fail, simply because Jeremy believes it so, when the two become caught up in an arsonist mystery around the college.
To be completely frank, this story is a good one, but it could have easily been twice as long with the amount of plot involved here and all the various tangents that were brought in. In the shorter novella format this book is in now, there's simply too much extraneous information that really took away some of my enjoyment in the story. There were several details about the magic that were a bit confusing and stated outright without much explanation as if I'd understand them naturally. And there's a couple of plot threads that fizzle out and don't seem to go anywhere. While reading, I wanted this story to either pare down the detail and give a more streamlined plot to give the story focus and more drive, or either take all that detail and fill in the gaps, making a much longer novel. In that case, I would have enjoyed having that extra detail to flesh out the world, but there wouldn't be a rush to get it all in and the details could settle as the story progressed in a slower pace. A lot of this is really just novice writing issues that will flesh out the more Skylar Jaye writes and publishes, and I don't really hold it against them. Assuming that they are still a novice writer anyway, and that Skylar Jaye isn't a new pseudonym for another author, which you never really know, I suppose. Still, this seems like an author who has good stories to tell, such as this one, but which get a bit bungled up in the execution. I'm looking forward to future stories where Skylar Jaye has a bit more practice in getting the story down. Because more than execution problems that I had with this book, the core story was still interesting and engaging for me. And I had fun reading it. That makes this a solid So So read for me.(less)
I shouldn't apologize for my feelings and I try not to usually, but I will, because I tend to do that. Sorry ahea...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I shouldn't apologize for my feelings and I try not to usually, but I will, because I tend to do that. Sorry ahead of time to those who put a lot of love and care into the creation of this book, this isn't really going to be a positive review :(
I have a love/hate relationship with angel stories. I think that maybe people are turned onto angels for a few different reasons, but a lot of it has to do with the loss of innocence. There are so many directions an author can take an angelic character -- an exploration of literary history and popular angelic mythos, playing on the fallen angel theme and the dichotomy of innocence and corruption, angelic and human. Many romance novels place a lot of importance on world building as a backdrop to the reason their angel falls and then some place the romance itself as the focus of their story. Many of those stories are where I find myself not as interested. I like seeing an author's imagination in world building of angel stories. I think that what I really don't like is that I sometimes find angels in romance stories to be somewhat… vapid? without personality? They convey all of that innocence but it seems one dimensional. It's hard to connect with a character like that, and even though it might be a purposeful choice because angels are in fact, not human (who knew?!), that doesn't necessarily make it a good choice for the story.
That's where I started to encounter some problems for me with Angel's Redemption. I like this author's prose, no doubt about that. And that is probably why I continually come back to read her stories even though, in the past, I've not been very kind in my reviews. So for me, taking a gamble on this story for review was… well, a gamble, what with the angel theme and my past history with not liking some of this author's characters so much. The premise of this story is the freedom of an angel who is bound in a statue. Blaine received the statue, which has always mystified and alternately unnerved him, from his father's best friend, an artist who worked on the statue for a long time and for some unknown reason left it to Blaine in his will. When Blaine moves to an apartment with enough space to showcase the beautiful rendition of the male form (au naturel), he puts it in a place where he can showcase it, even adding a spotlight to show it off.
In the meantime, Blaine is trying to make his sucky life better. Ever since the age of 8 he's been terribly unlucky. Prior to that, his life was wonderful. Now that he's 24 and with a band he's proud of he thinks he might be able to master his own luck and make his life happier. There's a chance for his band to play a weekly gig at a popular club, which will give them lots of visibility and even a bit of cash. His life and luck is looking up, if they can actually get the gig. It looks promising, if only his bandmates would get their shit together.
But Blaine is still mystified by the statue of the beautiful angel. Sometimes… he swears that when he walks by the eyes follow him and occasionally he sees a feather ruffle. It can't be true, but further investigation of the statue reveals a strange phrase in latin marked on the base. Blaine's curiosity could be the best, or worst thing that has ever happened to him.
I hate to sit and list the problems I had with this book. I mean, for the most part I still enjoyed reading it and I definitely didn't hate it. But, I also found some things here that have bothered me with past Azalea Moone books and stories. One of those things, and the one of the biggest problems that I had here was the world building. It's almost non-existent. I read through this whole book having no clue what was going on. It wasn't because the characters were purposefully keeping secrets -- they were -- but, we're often given references of things that have happened in the past. This is great because it helps us put the pieces of the story together ourselves, but there has to be a framework in which to fill in those gaps -- a world. I read the blurb again when I finished the book and it had more detail than was in the actual book. Also, throughout the book, Lynsael continually asks Blaine to help him find out what happened with the statue. Both of them don't understand how he broke out, how he was bound, or what the sculptor (Blaine's father's friend) really knew about any of this, including Lyn. Blaine offers to help, about a million times but something always seems to come up to distract him. This is just one of my pet peeves. It didn't seem like a very good reason to stall them, to put off talking about their situation and finding out what is going on. It seemed more like an easy way to stall them until the ending of the story. It was just… frustrating to read, honestly. I would have liked to see them talk, not only to figure out why everything was happening as it was, but also to get to know one another -- their history, their lives, their feelings -- and by extension for me to get to know the characters.
I ended the book feeling like I didn't really understand the story, only the few events that happened but no background at all to fill in the details and gaps. I also felt like I didn't really know the characters well. I understood Blaine a bit better than Lyn, but not well. So I didn't connect with them and I didn't really see a connection between them. In another story by this author that I read and reviewed ("On Clouds of Obsession" in the Fraternal Devotion anthology, reviewed here), I felt like I didn't really like one of of the main characters. And I felt that way about Blaine somewhat too. While he wasn't the kind of asshole like in "On Clouds of Obsession", he still pissed me off most of the book with his words toward Lyn and his refusal to help him and his general attitude of pissy and then, suddenly, he loves him. I didn't get it, really.
I think that pretty much says everything. I didn't really like the book and I feel like it needed more work to fill out the story. That and I just couldn't connect with both of the characters. Unfortunately, I can't recommend this one.(less)
This is the first book by this author that I read, and I was intrigued immediately from the blurb, but I've been...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
This is the first book by this author that I read, and I was intrigued immediately from the blurb, but I've been sitting on it for a month or so now not tempted enough to read it yet when I have so many other pressing reviews to do. But when I saw that I'd have to make a decision to keep reviewing the series with the release of the second book (Find a Way) this week, I decided to give it a try. And I'm very pleasantly surprised by what I found. Just a tease for the other side of the summary ;)
Kherin Rhylle is the second prince of Llarien. At the start of the novel, he's laid up by a broken leg, left to sifting through the books in the royal library while off of his feet. He is supposed to be fulfilling his current post at the border in the north, where Llarien borders the Northern lands. And he is not happy that his older brother Adrien, the Crown Prince, is currently fulfilling his duty at the border, a post that every man of Llarien takes for three months of the year at the start of their seventeenth birthday. Instead, Kherin is left to his idle games at the castle, which include his well-known promiscuous sex life (currently with the stable boy Tristan) and the enmity between his father and himself.
The only reprieve is Derek, one of his best friends and a highly valued trader by his father. Derek is a master trader, traveling Llarien and trading in secrets which he brings back to his father. He's a master indeed at hearing what the people are saying and in plying and bartering for sensitive information. But that also means that Derek is always leaving and rarely staying in any one place for a significant length of time. Derek has brought interesting news, that a northerner was apparently found and killed and of growing instability from the sons of nobles of one of Llarien's most valuable ports. These young men are stirring a rebellion. But it isn't until word travels back to the castle of the injury of his brother Adrien and of the mass simultaneous attacks from large groups of northerners that Kherin really feels useless. A request from his son won't go far to convince him that Kherin needs activity and to do something helpful for his brother and the country, but a stern warning from his trusted trader that Kherin's behavior might spin further out of control if he's given nothing constructive to do is just the thing that Kherin needs to get out of the capital, and to follow Derek on his next trip.
The first and maybe most important thing that you really need to know going into this series is how slow the pace is. We're given much time to get to know the characters, which I love, but the plot moves very slowly. In fact, I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to tell you that by the end of the first book much less happened than I thought it would. Still, I was really into it, but I might have been more upset if I didn't have the second book to immediately start reading. The style of writing in this fantasy reminds me a great deal of Ann Somerville's writing in Kei's Gift. That book is a total of 300k words, but it is okay because it isn't broken up. My suspicion is that this is a choice by Dreamspinner, but I really wish that the book was kept in tact. Of course, I'm going on assumption here, but the ending of the first book seems as if it was just the first part of one book that was split into smaller pieces. And while the author did a pretty admirable job to give this first book a climax, it's done in the romance and not the external fantasy plot. That means, of course that you pay more. Now, I hate to say this since I'm getting this book for free in trade of a review, but I would pay for these books, even if I had to pay double. I mean, I pay more for other books anyway. But it does change how you read this series. The fact that only a month separates the release dates shows me that the second book was already written. Anyway, what that means is that I'm really glad that I waited to read this first book until I had the second in hand. And I'll tell you now that the first book is worth it now that the second is coming out. I only hope that it is either the end of the series or that the third and following books will come as quickly.
I'll have much more to tell you about the story when I finish and review the second book this week. But I will say that I think the romance in this story is so far going superbly, with lots of natural tension and angst between Kherin and Derek and the (im)possibility of a future relationship between them because of the king. As for the fantasy plot, well… it's coming. There is still so little known at the end of the first book that I hesitate to really get into it, other than to say that pretty much everything is an unknown and up in the air at this point. As I said before, I like that style of writing, but I also prefer the books to not be so cut up…. but, fair enough. So, if you're a fantasy fan then I definitely recommend you get your hands on this one right away, if you haven't yet, so that you're ready to start the second book, Find a Way, when it is released this Monday. See you then ;)(less)
I was immediately drawn to this book for two reasons. First, I've wanted to read an Anne Barwell book forever. I'...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I was immediately drawn to this book for two reasons. First, I've wanted to read an Anne Barwell book forever. I've bought all of her's as they've come out. They've all seemed rather interesting to me but for some reason I've never had time to actually read them. So I was really excited that she had written another book, which secondly, seemed rather Merlin-esque. You've got a crown prince, a king that has banished magic and is a pretty crappy father, and the fable of dragons which are supposed to be extinct, but really aren't. How could I refuse, right? It's like Merlin, but with gay guys!
And my reading went much like I thought it would, at least for the first half of the book, roughly. We meet Aric, the crown prince living under his father's thumb and doing just about everything he can to make his own way and hold true to his own beliefs under such a stifling reign. His father has banished magic and Aric and his twin sister have grown up with quite a biased education about their history and the history of magic and magical beings in Astria. His beliefs are challenged when he once again sneaks out to visit his aunt, his dead mother's sister -- a forbidden act by his father -- and is instead greeted in a forest glade by an ancient dragon. He's baffled to see it at all (believing them to be extinct) and even more confused when the dragon doesn't show the signs of aggression he was taught. Instead, the dragon speaks to him, the most surprising thing of all, and tells him that to save his kingdom and his sister, he must set out on a quest to seek the sword hidden in Sherwin Forest.
The Sherwin Forest is legend, a dark place said to once be the home of magic and dragons themselves, a place where no living person returns. But Aric must believe that what the dragon said was true. Their kingdom is in danger from their allies and a marriage treaty that would see his twin sister Georgia married off to the son of the neighboring King. Aric doesn't trust them, however. It isn't, as his father thinks, because he won't let go of his sister, but because of a treacherous conversation he overheard, in which Georgia will become a pawn for their so-called allies to take over Astria. Georgia would just become a pawn and her happiness means more to Aric than anything else, even the kingdom he'll one day rule.
My experience reading this book was good and disappointing at the same time. The first half of the book had me enthralled. I love a good sword and sorcery story and the first half of this book started well and continued strongly. Soon after Aric sets off to find his way to retrieve the sword from the fabled forest, he meets a handsome man in the woods that seems to have a special magical affinity, no matter how much he denies it. The man, Denys, is keeping his own secrets, but seems to believe what he says, which only makes him more mysterious. He reluctantly decides to help Aric, of whom he also knows very little. But Denys knows what happens to those who venture into the forest and how strange it is -- how it can mess with your mind and how changed you are if you can make it back out. His strong and confusing connection to Aric make him want to help.
For me, this story really changed while they were in the forest. While I don't begrudge an author a choice in their own book simply because it's a plot device that I'm really not fond of (amnesia), that was the turning point for me in this book because after that the story seemed to collapse in on itself. Before that point, about midway through the book, there seemed to be a clear drive in the plot with their trek through the forest and getting to know each other. Afterwards, the story seemed to explode in different directions and it all became a little confusing for me. I felt like maybe the story wasn't sure where it wanted to go. And yes, while it did eventually come back around, it felt like it was leaving out quite a bit of the story. I mean, it didn't feel finished, which brings me to another issue. I wondered if this was the beginning of a sequel. If it is, then I really wish that Dreamspinner would promote it as such. That has happened before with some their books, where they're the first part of a series but it isn't written about anywhere. And maybe that decision comes later -- it's possible -- but that changes my perspective on how I read the book and it definitely means that I consider the book in a different light. If it isn't a first book in a series, then this story felt greatly unfinished. I didn't particularly feel like the romance was finished but the main plot seems like an early part of a much longer story.
I pretty much knew the direction that the story was going to go -- the main "surprise" if you will -- from reading the blurb and at the very least from the minute that Aric meets Denys just after he speaks to the dragon. It's not a very big leap to assume that is the case. And I was right. I suppose what disappointed me was the confusion in the way it got there. It seemed a bit messy. I have avoided, so far, reading other reviews for this book, but I would be interested now in taking a look or talking to anyone else who read this to see what they think. It's possible, of course, that I just didn't "get" this one and that it wasn't for me. Maybe it's the author's style, as this is the first book of her's that I've read. But part of me thinks not, since I felt such a change between the first half and the second half.
No matter my ultimately feelings, however, I still liked the book okay. I just wanted to like it a lot more.(less)
I've missed out so far on reading any of SJ Frost's non-contemporary books, though I did read the first book of h...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I've missed out so far on reading any of SJ Frost's non-contemporary books, though I did read the first book of her Instincts series. But most of what I've read and really liked by this author has been her Conquest rocker series. This is a bit of a deviation from what I'm used to reading from her, but I still found her touch and sense of humor in it, and I found it to be a book that I really liked and, even more, am looking forward to the further books in the series. Fantasy is one of my favorite genres, and this was a sweet, light-hearted take on the genre, not a dark fantasy by any means, but more along the mood of a fairy tale.
We meet Garrett as he's hiking through a forest bordering the near-by and protected national forest. He works for EarthQuest, an organization that exposes environmental abuses and government action. This forest is being heavily lobbied to be cut, but Garrett is EarthQuest's secret weapon, in a way. He travels to places in danger and, as a biologist, looks for species or plant or animal that could become a mascot for protection. What Garrett finds blows his mind. Capturing the tiny dragon-like birds, Garrett is amazed when he sees a spirit bear, a bear with a recessive gene coloring it white and a heavily revered animal by the First Peoples. He knows he can save the forest now, but in trying to get evidence of the bear, Garrett falls into a ravine.
Bryson is called to the scene of a unconscious man by Koda, the spirit bear. Bryson is a witch, the Gatekeeper between Earth and a parallel, symbiotic world called Terra, and spends his time in both places. He can speak to animals, as well as manipulate the natural forces. And the only way he can save the beautiful and injured man is to take him to his home in Terra. It's against the rules, but Koda tells him that he trusts the man and his confidence as well as the fact that the Floras showed themselves to him leads him to trust the man.
After reawakening in a strange place, the two men get to know each other and at the same time Bryson introduces Garrett to Terra and to his friends, a ragtag group (that will surely become the future main characters of Terra books): Korran, a dragon speaker and protector, Zain, a theif and assassin and all around smartass, and Larkin, a young minstrel who can speak to the dead. Soon, there are not only forces endangering the gate from the Earth side, but also a nearby Duke who is interested in stealing the power of immortality that comes with being it's keeper, enough to summon another witch to help in his ends.
This happened again yesterday, when I reviewed the first book of a new fantasy series (that was Dragon Slayer by Isabella Carter) -- I end up writing a huge summary for the book. I suppose that's to be expected if I was actually going to touch on all the points. First of all, I like having a decent summary. I'm not really spoiled by them because I never remember summaries/blurbs when I start the book and I actually put off reading this for a while because I just wasn't really sure what it was about. Granted, I probably don't remember those blurbs because I don't really read them that closely. That's all my fault! But still, I wanted to give an accurate idea about the book if you're thinking about buying it. Second, as the first book in a new fantasy series there really is a LOT of setup to be done. In this case, not only do we have to learn about Garrett and what he's doing on the Earth side, but then we also have to learn about Bryson and the gate and his home, but also about Terra and a whole different way of life there, including the symmetry between the worlds and how they're connected and why. That's a lot to introduce, so I don't completely blame SJ Frost for the fact that the first half of the book was full of exposition. At least it wasn't dumped on us entirely in the beginning, but drawn out as Bryson and Garrett get to know each other.
No, while I really enjoyed the book and I think that SJ Frost set up a really enjoyable world (though not wholly original still interesting and engaging for those who like lighter fantasy), I still felt like this story was trying to juggle conflicts, between both the Earth and Terra side, which made what ends up to be the major conflict seem slightly underdeveloped. So much time was taken to introduce the world and the relationship that when the conflict started to ramp up I felt like I wished it had been a little more integrated into the story. That isn't to say that it was totally sudden, and it's a relatively minor complaint for a story that I really enjoyed.
This story really reminded me of a lot of Less Than Three Press releases, so those of you who are fans of their fantasies will have to check this one out. I'm very interested in the future books, although it is my own preference that I like to not know who the relationships are going to be before their books start. But then, that's probably bad business ;) I like SJ Frost's writing, and I was actually surprised to find this a lot lighter than I'm used to by her. But then, this is fantasy and those were contemporaries. But she's known for her angst in the Conquest series, and this book was surprisingly light and fluffy, in the best sense of the word.(less)
I really have grown to love Isabella Carter's books. So I was really excited for this one, which not only promise...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I really have grown to love Isabella Carter's books. So I was really excited for this one, which not only promises to be an in-depth story because it's the first of a series, but also that I know she likes to really dig into her fantasy worlds. In many ways you can see that this book is a setup, but if you didn't know it was the first book of a series, I think you'd find that it felt like a whole book. It isn't just setup, but it does a really good job of giving us the story and leaving the ending open. So yes, it's important to know that this is the first of a series so that even though you get some resolution, you won't be surprised that there is a bit of a cliffhanger ending.
Ingram has become the weakling that his father has always accused him of being. Though he's learned that nothing he does can make his father -- the king of Abelen -- proud, he's found his own strengths. They aren't in what a prince is expected to be, strong at swordplay, but he has a fine mind and has shown himself to be an expert strategist with the King's miliary.
Abelen is still growing and recovering from a rebellion little more than twenty years previously. The country and King has become more insular, with the Lords abandoning their keeps to spend most of their time in the capital of Solberg. The royals have grown further apart from their people. But, an old feud lingers from Winterveil, the northernmost region of Abelen. Lord Mallory is a young man, but has inherited the feud. He makes a wager with King Roderick, that if he kills the red dragon who has gone into madness and is killing indiscriminately, that he will wed one of the King's children. When he brings the head of the dragon to court and Roderick casually gives him Ingram, Ingram is hurt and scared to be thrown away to such a dangerous man.
But more is work in such an alliance, on both sides. The King gives Ingram a mission, one that finds him at an impasse when he learns just how wonderful Mallory is, and how much living in a place like Winterveil is more like home than his own family.
There is so much that I could say about this book, but it really should be experienced while reading it and… honestly there is so much going on in the book, so many characters with each one having their own machinations in place that it was a little hard for me to keep up. This is a book that does well as the first of a series -- it holds up. Still, for those of you who like to get a lot of the action and information at once and don't want to wait for the sequel, you might want to do that this time. Because while I really loved this book and I was totally sucked into it, I also feel like there is a lot of subtlety that will benefit from a second or even third read and will also make more sense after I can read the next book in the series. Hopefully, that will be soon!
I know a lot of you who are fans of Less Than Three Press like I am, and this is really their kind of book, the quintessential LT3 fantasy, though maybe a little less sweet than many of them. Ingram goes through quite a bit of angst about his relationship with his father. It's tough to watch, not only because I grew to care about him, but also because it makes for difficult reading at times. I want him to realize what is happening to him. But we're privy to information that he isn't, and he also has to deal with a lifetime of manipulation by the people around him, the people he cares most about. So, while his choices and thoughts are frustrating, they're also true to his character.
There's one more point I'd like to touch on. The relationship between Ingram and Mallory in this book is very light. I imagine that the relationship arc is going to take place over the whole series, so don't expect much romance in this first book. Mallory does court Ingram, in his own way, but it's a very slow getting-to-know-you kind of thing. It's actually very sweet, and it's a very slow-burn romance.
So, I definitely recommend this one. Unless you want to wait, I say go ahead and get this now and read it. I'm so glad I didn't wait and decided to read it right away, because it was a really fun read for me.(less)
Fugue in Gold and Fire - Avery Vanderlyle 3.75 stars Teller of Tales - DK Jernigan 3 stars Weird Magics - EE Ottoman 4 stars Chanson Commencante de Guerr...moreFugue in Gold and Fire - Avery Vanderlyle 3.75 stars Teller of Tales - DK Jernigan 3 stars Weird Magics - EE Ottoman 4 stars Chanson Commencante de Guerre - Lor Rose 2.5 stars Two in the Bush - ER Karr 3.5 stars Finding the Rain - Tam Ames 4 stars Lukos Heat - Megan Derr 3.5 stars(less)
In many ways this was just the kind of book that I love. A solid fantasy (not high fantasy) that plays w...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
In many ways this was just the kind of book that I love. A solid fantasy (not high fantasy) that plays with alternate worlds, gods/demigods, demon-like creatures, a magical war, and a quest between worlds and back. Though I had a few problems with the book as a whole, for the most part I really enjoyed it.
Words of Divinity is told from the opposing viewpoints of Daniel and Liam, a mage and a hunter. We first meet Liam on the streets of the capitol. He's been living on the streets since the age of fourteen, a runaway from an abusive alcoholic father. While wandering the streets at night, Liam is attacked by a giant rat that nearly kills him. But in his fight for his life, Liam is able to kill the rat barehanded, an almost impossible feat that is witnessed by another man who takes Liam to the local regiment's barracks. Liam is extremely distrustful of authority, but he soon learns that he's there to recount his impressive tale and immediately offered into the ranks of a new group of warriors, a special subset of the country's military that has been organized to fight a new menace -- the demon spawn called up from the Underworld by the dark mages of a neighboring country.
Liam finds a place among the hunters. Completing training faster than any of the others, he finds that he's exceptional at something and the center of a group of warriors that look up to him. Maybe it's this new respect that inflates his ego, or more likely just part and parcel of how his experiences so far have molded him -- his abusive father, his early sexual experiences and his casual disregard of how he's been used by both people and authority. Whatever it is, this new and cocky Liam is the epitome of a bad boy -- sleeping his way across the regiment, and then into the group of mages traveling with them and the local boys at every village they pass as they march from battle to battle.
Liam soon finds that not everyone is susceptible to his charms. Daniel is a mage that the other mages avoid. He's held in high esteem by the Crown Prince Erik who accompanies their ragtag company, and they soon grow a friendship, though Daniel shuns any other company. He's secretive, and for good reason. Daniel is their biggest asset because of his ability to hear the thoughts of the demons they hunt. He has more secret abilities, however, that seem to have a mind of their own, constantly wanting to be used. While he's fighting the demon spawn with the other mages and hunters, he's also waging a war among his own powers and his own history, which he keeps locked away among his deepest secrets. When Daniel first meets Liam, he's taken by his charisma, confidence and sexy swagger. Their friendship, though, is brief when Daniel sees some of his worst qualities -- his endless meaningless conquests and his loose tongue. Liam likes to brag about his conquests and getting prudish Daniel to give it up for him is his goal, including spreading the tales afterward to anyone that wants to listen.
Now pitted against one another, they spend quite a long time at odds, only growing in animosity. They're soon thrust into a quest where they have to open up to one another and rely on each other to survive. And even more than that, they are forced to reevaluate their preconceived notions about the other.
What Kayla V-B did best in this novella is in these two characters. At times I wasn't quite sure how I felt about them. In fact, for probably the first half of the book I really hated Liam. We don't quite get a lot of his history until much later in the book so even though we know about his asshole father, we don't quite understand his vulnerability, which just makes him seem like an asshole. I think that Daniel (at least for me) is a bit easier to get close to. It's easier to understand him and to really pull for him because his vulnerability is on the surface… he's extremely tormented. The format of the book (the quest is like an obstacle course they have to maneuver, with tests that manipulate them and their feelings) makes the two come together because, honestly, I doubt they would if they weren't forced to. They're so opposed to one another. In fact, I don't know that I've read an m/m romance in recent history that deals with the enemies to lovers trope where the characters hated and misunderstood the other more. And with the world around them manipulating their actions, they constantly seem to come together to be torn apart. It makes for some nice angst that I didn't feel was too overdone. And I really liked the fact that the characters are who they are with a real fierceness, if that makes sense at all. They're both passionate, and that makes them alternately rub each other the wrong way, while at other times they can co-exist.
I had a bit of a difficult time getting into the story, though. The first few chapters traverse several years in order to set up the story, introduce both characters and a bit of their history, and then show the few years they travel together and how Liam and Daniel grow to hate one another. I think that it all comes down to pacing. At the start of the story the pace is extremely fast. We're given a lot of information while time speeds forward every few paragraphs to chapters and then when the characters are forced on their journey together the pace changes. Also, while this part of the story is interspersed with skirmishes and battles that we're shown in present time, there's a lot of narration to fill us in on the world and the characters. It wasn't until I finished the book that I could see the jog in the pace and I started to think about the beginning. Rather than telling us about their past, I would have rather been shown those scenes. It would have meant adding quite a bit more pages, but I think there would have been more balance.
But, in all, this was quite the enjoyable read and I'd definitely recommend it to fantasy fans. I'm not sure whether the author plans to extend the story at all, but I'd definitely be there, in line to read it if she wanted to. The story definitely ends with a pretty solid HFN, on the line to an HEA. I only doubt the HEA because of their past history and we don't see where their adventures are headed. It's nicely done to either let the story rest or open it again at a future point.(less)
OMG! The best ending ever! Okay, I really don't mean to make people upset, I put up like 1% of books I read early on Goodreads, but even though I'm no...moreOMG! The best ending ever! Okay, I really don't mean to make people upset, I put up like 1% of books I read early on Goodreads, but even though I'm not posting my review until tomorrow, I just want to make sure that all of you preorder this book (and buy the ones before it if you haven't), they're really wonderful.
Okay, straight up… let's get this first thing out of the way. Don't expect this review to be necessarily eloquent or far-thinking or in any way an analysis of the book or series. I just don't have that in me at this point. What this review IS… is an immediate reaction to reading this third and final book of the series; a book which I've been eagerly awaiting for quite a while now. In fact, I've been thinking about this last book ever since reading the first, Mind Magic, back in 2012. Normally that doesn't happen for me, I'm not sure where the story is going. But, and maybe some of you who have read the books can understand me in this, but I felt like (in reading that first book) that the series had a clearly outlined direction, firmly delineated by the names of the books and the separate romances, which mirror the way that magic is first described to us in this world, in a triangle and points of three -- three kinds of magic, three different romances, and three different books. The harmony of all of those things are what the series is working towards and Poppy did a wonderful job in satisfying my need for those things to come full circle.
We start this third book with most of the essentials already firmly in hand, with the base of the story firmly established so that the threads immediately start to come together for the final picture the moment the story starts. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to me to become absorbed in a fantasy (or paranormal, but these series tend to be fantasy) series where I'm pulling the threads together on my own as I'm reading, putting the pieces together, only to have them be swept out of the way in the final confrontation or ending by a deus ex machina or even a plausible ending that is somewhat foretold but doesn't take those threads I pulled together into account. In this series, I felt the planning throughout and that it was important to this book, which I appreciated.
Here's a summation of the first two books: (view spoiler)[Now, back to what I was saying after that tangent. We start this book with two soild romances under our belt and a pretty firm idea that this book will concentrate on another -- Cormac and Liam -- the very much alive ancestor and vampire to Simon and Gray's beta of the High Moon Pack. We know that Simon started this story by rescuing a group of wolf cubs from a demon that was working with his own mage teacher who was stealing his magic, and that by rescuing the cubs he made himself friend to the wolf pack and mate to their alpha, Gray. In the second book, Body Magic, we go further and learn that there is a man with unimaginable power who was directing both those people (for lack of a better word) and that they're in even more dire straits than before. In this book, you'll learn exactly who that person is and what threat they possess. The clues are all there are the start of the book and I bet some of you have already guessed the direction this book is going, in fact may have already guessed who that person is who attacked the pack during the mating ceremony in the second book (hint: you'll get there eventually, knowing that Cormac is the focus of this last book). (hide spoiler)]
But really, even though we get to know Cade and Rocky better in Body Magic and Cormac and Liam better in this book, the main star of this series is Simon, and beside him Gray and their family and pack. But Simon's magic and his exploration of his powers remains the main thread of this story that draws all the others together. I want to mention, at this point, that the setup of this series really pleased me and is something that I'm not sure I've seen very much in the past. I was originally a bit upset at the start of the second book, thinking that we were leaving Simon and Gray behind and moving to a new couple when their story wasn't really finished. But, what Poppy has done with the series is make Simon and Gray the main couple, and even though she introduces new characters and their romances in each book (including their own chapters) she never abandoned that first couple. I really loved that, not only because Simon and Gray and even Gray's son and the alpha-heir Garon were why I originally fell in love with the story, but because Simon's importance to the series means that he can't be abandoned. He's the star.
Now I'm going to go back on my word :)
I think some analysis of the series as a whole is due here. I want to describe why I think I fell in love with this series at the first book and just why it has remained with me. In past, I've equated my intense connection and love of a story with it's length. The more time I spend with the characters, the more I get to know them and the bigger the world is, the more detailed, the more I'm drawn into it and the less I want to leave. That didn't happen here. I was immediately drawn into this world -- three books, which in the fantasy world are rather short novels. And I think, now that I've finished all of them, I know why. There is a clarity of purpose in the writing and a lack of verbosity to get the author's point across. I'm not sure why this is. Maybe it's in planning. But the world is brought through the characters and their love of it. There's very little detail, compared to those others I'm so used to becoming engrossed in, of the world. And there is also, I must point out, what I felt to be perfect pacing. That is what really brought the story through for me. You can't say that it is necessarily action-packed, but you can say that there aren't any needless words. The story is succinct, to the point, and there is a somewhat heavy emphasis on the non-romance plot as opposed to the romance-centered plot, which nevertheless felt quite balanced to me because those characters and their relationships came across to me so clearly.
I hope that come across in the way I intended, and I'd absolutely LOVE to hear from those of you who are fans of this series and how you feel about it, now and after you've read the third book.
Now, I've rambled enough. But I do want to take one last minute to urge those of you who are new to this author or series to take a chance on these books. I can't tell you that you'll love them the way I do, but I do think you'll enjoy them.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Honestly, this was pretty difficult to read for me. I was intrigued by Nikyta's review but I found this to be much darker than...more3.5 stars... I think...
Honestly, this was pretty difficult to read for me. I was intrigued by Nikyta's review but I found this to be much darker than I expected. I was originally swept away by the beginning, the first scene and connection between Genesis and KC, but it soon turned quite dark and threw me a bit for a loop. What came for the next 60% or so of the book was a rather surreal read and I had a very hard time at one point making myself keep reading. I just couldn't take any more of Gene being SO naive and not accepting that he needed to take control of his own life. For a while it made me a bit dispirited with just about the whole cast of characters, pretty much all of whom don't have many redeeming qualities. Reading along with Gene, as he let everyone around him make his choices for him without him knowing anything about what was happening to him and the people around him and him disregarding it all... it felt like being caught in a mosh pit and just letting the crowd sweep you away. It was .. kindof frightening to me.
Thankfully, that changed nearer the end and we started to get some real answers and Gene started to take up for himself, but I felt like it took too long to get to that point. Since this ends with a To Be Continued... then I'm hoping the next book that comes along will present us with a Gene as we saw him in the end of this book, taking charge of his own life and in doing so starting to change those around him. But, even though I could see why the author chose to make Gene act the way he did earlier in the book, it was almost too difficult for me to read...
But, as always I urge you to make up your own mind. In many ways this reminded me of some darker mainstream YA urban fantasy, like some Holly Black or something. And I know that I really liked the style of writing, especially at first. Though it became a bit much after a while... that could be my feelings about Gene though. I will say one thing, however, KC's character is written brilliantly. A brilliantly tortured character.
I was already somewhat interested in this story from the blurb, but I was really excited to read it after I read...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I was already somewhat interested in this story from the blurb, but I was really excited to read it after I read Melissa's guest post here on the blog yesterday. So, when I had time last night, I decided to read it. And I'm glad I did! It was the perfect length for starting a book at night (I just can't seem to make myself start a long[ish] novel anytime after 5pm) and I was drawn right into the story, literally from the first few sentences. Instead of a lead-in to the first real scene, maybe some narration to ease us into the story like I usually find in romance, The Gravemen starts in the middle of a conversation and immediately shows how the two main characters are set against one another. The tension is there from the beginning. And oh, how exciting! I love enemies-to-lovers stories :)
Asdelar and Hinego are thrown together to carry out a mission in the name of the King: search out his great-niece and bring her home. The only thing they have in common is that they're both Gravemen -- members of one of the two warrior sects that serve under the King -- in all the rest they're firmly opposites. Asdelar is a Banam-Hin, one of the warriors known as Blades for their skills with the sword who stay in the capital city as a guard. He's also incredibly handsome and free-spirited, easy with charm and sexual innuendo and quick to laugh. Leaving the city is an adventure for him, he's rarely seen anything but the capital and the palace, but he's always wanted to travel and see the country. Hinego is one of the Imalt-Wor, warriors called Reds because of the color of the sash they wear to assert their authority. The Imalt-Wor travel the country and assert the King's law among the many towns and villages. They're most known, though, for their fighting style that eschews weapons in any form. While Asdelar is a young prodigy with the sword, Hinego can take down a group of mercenaries with just his hands, using precisely placed blows to cause the most harm, even death.
As they travel behind the lost girl, searching for clues of her whereabouts, the two seem to grate on each other's nerves more and more. Because while Asdelar's natural friendly affinity for meeting new people and making new friends has him talking Hinego's ear off trying to get to know him and enjoy his first adventure away from the city, Hinego grows more contemptuous about having to work with him, seeing him as weight he has to carry. Hinego is in his element while traveling the countryside, but he's a natural loner. Often surly and ill-tempered, Hinego holds his duty to his King above all others and see's Asdelar's choice to seize opportunities to enjoy the trip (whether an evening at a village tavern or a night in bed with a woman, or man, he's not picky!) as out of order. And even more than angering Hinego, it makes him undervalue his worth to commit and see their job through to the end. It doesn't help that Asdelar has little skills to make it on the road.
Clues to the whereabouts of the King's niece are thin on the ground, and though Hinego is apt to think along the lines of kidnapping, Asdelar is used to the bratty royal and her frequent attempts to run away to get her way because of his familiarity with the palace and is pretty sure that they'll find the girl in no time at all. Asdelar is trying everything he can think of to try to get to know Hinego, but nothing seems to be working. He's going to have to do something to prove to the Red that he's capable and takes his job and their mission seriously. Sooner rather than later, that opportunity comes when fording a river swelled with spring runoff. Being rather shorter than the tall Banam-Hin, Hinego is swept away and is rescued by the impetuous man, whose quick thinking sees them both to safety. Though things between them are never easy after that, they start to get to know one another.
I think what I liked so much about this story was just how easy it was to read. There's not a whole lot of worldbuilding, so even though this is technically fantasy, the story is character driven and the details (political, cultural, geographical, etc.) are limited only to what it takes to fill out the story satisfactorily. Likewise, while the relationship between the two is never downright chummy, they also aren't constantly at each other's throats. There's quite a bit of gentle banter and a few small arguments, but mostly it's a subtle dance of attraction and camaraderie and bonding that they play, and it is often humorous to watch Asdelar's flirting and Hinego's seemingly prudish embarrassment. Yes, for the most part, this story is really about these two men getting to know one another while traveling through the countryside. And I thoroughly enjoyed it.
While I wasn't wowed by the ending, I wasn't entirely disappointed either. There's a fair bit of action in the last quarter of the story as the two come closer and closer to their quarry and face the inevitable confrontation. I think it depends on whether you wanted more worldbuilding and external story (outside of the relationship, I mean) during the first three-quarters or if you were satisfied, like I was, if you'll really enjoy the ending. Because while it wasn't heart-stopping and it was pretty obvious what had happened to the girl, I didn't really care as much about that part of the story as I did the relationship anyway, so all I really cared about was how they would come to together. On that front, I did wish that it had happened a little bit earlier, so that we could see them together and getting to know each other with all the cards on the table. As for the lack of any sexual scenes, that didn't bother me at all.
This author is new to me, but I really hope that she continues to write and publish. This story was perfect for Less Than Three press, so if you know that publisher as well as I do and like what they consistently publish then this will be perfect for you. I would encourage you to give it a try, though, especially if you're in the mood for something that's light but not without substance or good characters that aren't of stock romance quality. And if you do read it, I hope you enjoy it as I did.(less)
I've been a bit fan of M Raiya's work ever since I read Notice and it's sequels. I like the world's that she buil...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I've been a bit fan of M Raiya's work ever since I read Notice and it's sequels. I like the world's that she builds and her style of writing really seems to draw me in. So I was really excited to see that she was coming out with a new story (hopefully the start of a sequel) that introduced a whole new world. She visited the blog last week to talk a bit about it and after reading the story her guest post made a bit more sense to me (which you can read here). She talks about where she grew up and dreaming as a child and that, specifically, reminded me a lot of this story. It's dreamlike. The plot is less important, I think, than the tone of the story and the characters. Perhaps, as she alluded to in her comments on that post, this will become the first story of a series, and the plot will pick up later. I would very much like that :)
As the story starts, we see Joel standing walking to a clearing in the woods a mile or so behind his farmhouse. He's alone in the world after a terrible attack and rape left him completely shattered and mistrustful of the world around him, and the peace and serenity of the lonely woods is like a balm on his fractured self confidence. He's not sure why he's taken a midnight stroll, something has drawn him deep into the woods. He finds out when a gorgeous and magical unicorn reveals himself and is able to speak in his mind. But even such a beautiful and graceful creature can surprise and upset him and the intrusion into his most sacred space, his mind, is too much to handle. Running through the woods, back to his house, he's confused and can't understand what has happened. A unicorn only reveals himself to virgins, and Joel knows that after what happened to him, he should no longer be able to see such a sight.
The unicorn however, is part of a much larger plan that Joel doesn't understand. When, in the unicorn's pursuit of Joel, a hunter emerges and injures and almost captures him, he makes a drastic decision that bonds the two together into a life that Joel doesn't understand and can't take back.
Apart from the fact that I liked this story and want there to be sequels, I think that this story would actually work better as the start of something much longer. As a standalone story, I think that readers might be a touch dissatisfied. The plot is quite larger than the story can carry, but instead of trying to cram it all into such a short format, the author really just showed us the beginning of the story and an introduction to the characters. It was enough to get me to really like them and want to see more of them, but I think that continuing the story would enhance this story in retrospect, because I do think that there is more to tell and the natural conclusion to the story hasn't come yet.
The unicorns presented here are exactly what you'd expect from such a magical and cherished mythological creature. They're shown with beauty and wonder and there's quite a bit of backstory and worldbuilding presented that we don't often see in m/m romance. Of course, unicorn stories in m/m romance are very few and far between and unicorns are often presented as a less important creature in m/m fantasy romance alongside other creatures that readers are more familiar with, like dragons and wolves. A story about unicorns was what drew me to read the story in the first place and I'm glad that they were treated here as proper creatures and not as little girl fantasy with no real backbone. Perhaps that's why I want to see more of them, because this story offered a bit of fictional authenticity to unicorn lore instead of sparkles and fluff ;)(less)
I really liked this sequel, but I did hope for a little bit more from it. The first book was 80k words and the sequel 50k, and while I know t...more3.5 stars
I really liked this sequel, but I did hope for a little bit more from it. The first book was 80k words and the sequel 50k, and while I know that that doesn't mean that the story isn't complete in and of itself, I wanted to know how far into the overall story it progressed us. I think that the real reason I was somewhat dissatisfied, even though I still liked the story was one, the MAJOR cliffhanger and two, the appearance of new major character Donegh, who seems to disappear from the book. We never learn about him, he's barely there and then gone. It was somewhat awkward and made this story seem, along with the events in the end, unfinished.
Perhaps I just don't trust this author yet. These are the first books of his I've read...
Still, at the same time, this was an enjoyable read, like the first book and I really look forward to the next one.(less)