I'm not going to lie. When I grabbed this book to read, I never made it past the cover (Gawd, I love a fit man's back!) and the first sentence of the...moreI'm not going to lie. When I grabbed this book to read, I never made it past the cover (Gawd, I love a fit man's back!) and the first sentence of the blurb. "In his breakout novel, K. Murry Johnson combines two never before paired genres: black gay and vampire fiction." Yep, that was enough for me. Some racial and sexual diversity in a PNR/UF book? Hell yeah, I'm all for that! A black, gay vampire...*happy sigh.*
My hopes were sky high. I really wanted to love this book. I really wanted to finish it and rush out to recommend it to all my friends. The thing is that I just can't. I still think it deserves tons of accolades for filling a niche that is in desperate need of attention, but it suffers from what I'll call first-time-author syndrome.
The writing is very simplistic. It's of the Eric did this, Eric said that, Eric went here, Eric thought that and THEN (big surprise) Eric felt something else sort. It's functional. The book is even well edited. But it's painfully straightforward and almost impossible to immerse yourself in.
I strongly encourage Johnson to keep writing though, because IMO a lot of the detractors of this book are things that will improve with practice. I'm no expert, but the anecdotal evidence of reading hundreds of books a year (many by new, Indie or SP authors) is that the too frequent use of names, stiff dialogue, understanding that some regional dialectic speech is good, while anything past some fuzzy ill-defined line of more is bad, too many unnecessary details and personal histories cluttering a narrative, annoying internal dialogue, anachronistic (if idealised) language, beliefs and behaviours, the unfailing need for a character to be involved in every historical event in recent history, and the ability to let a joke stand on its own, without the need to explain it all eventually smooth themselves out with more experience.
So, I was generally disappointed in the mechanics of the book. I was also disappointed to discover that this is a Young Adult novel (maybe New Adult). Phooey. I wanted some hot, chocolate, vampire sex. Yes, I did. And I just didn't get it. Instead, I got a trash-talking, teen genius coming to terms with his own sexuality. It wasn't the book I hoped it would be. Oh well.
It was however very obvious that Johnson put a lot of himself into his story. And I always make an effort to be cognisant of myself as a reader, especially when I'm probably not the intended audience of a text. Because Johnson's acknowledgements page makes it plain that he is writing for men like himself, not women like me.
Johnson claims to have written this book for young, gay men of colour. That's the target audience and I'm not an African American gay youth. If I was and was looking desperately for a character, any character, even just one measly character that I could relate to in the PNR/UF genre this would be about as close as I can imagine easily coming. So I have to be careful to not criticise the book for simply not being another M/M book targeted at me—a straight, white woman.
I think it probably accomplishes its goal of contributing some much-needed diversity to the PNR/UF genre. The writing and story just needs to be smoothed out. And I think the public service announcement aspects of it needs to have been dropped.
Turning a novel into a PSA is a personal no-no. This book addresses gay marriage, AIDS exposure among the 15-25 age cohort, the importance of safe sex if abstinence isn't a realistic option, identifying possible racial discrimination, etc. These are important issues. However, each is shoehorned into the plot unnaturally. It felt just like what it probably was, an attempt on the author's part to get the message out to young readers. A fictional novel just isn't the place.
So, I'm torn. The book wasn't the hot vampire romance I hoped it would be. In fact, the vampire aspect played very little part in the book at all. It was predominately a coming of age story and a lot more time was spent with Eric and his school, friend, family and band issues than the romance or the vampire aspects. It made me pout. However, for someone who is looking for that type of book and is comfortable with plain, straightforward, unembellished writing this is a good candidate.
2.5, but I'll round up in honour of what it could so easily have been
This could have been a good story, if it was a complete anything. It's not. It is...more2.5, but I'll round up in honour of what it could so easily have been
This could have been a good story, if it was a complete anything. It's not. It is, in fact, apparently the first five chapters of a much larger work. Why do authors do this, publish part of a book? A full quarter of it is a flashback and nothing in it concludes. What's the point of reading it then?
The writing itself is fine, if a bit stiff. It suffers from a painful dearth of contractions, as is common in a certain sort of sword and sorcery book. The story seems really interesting and I was falling in love with the characters. Too bad I didn't get to see them accomplish anything. All in all, disappointing, but only in it's incompleteness.(less)
A fun enough read, but not as good as the Fever books that it is a spin off of. Dani is annoyingly oblivious for such a smart girl and some of the way...moreA fun enough read, but not as good as the Fever books that it is a spin off of. Dani is annoyingly oblivious for such a smart girl and some of the ways she rationalises the obvious away is just plain stupid. New side characters are introduced but not fleshed out. (I suspect they are there for future books.) There is a lot more fantasy-like descriptions of stuff. Exploring the library, for example, felt very Harry Potter. The plot seems to drift a bit in the middle and the one major thing left over from the last book, that is hinted at throughout this one, is finally addressed on, literally, the last page and left as a cliffhanger. RUDE.
Mostly however, my issues with the book stem from Dani being 14 years old. Like the previous books this is a dark and at times sexual book, so why have we thrown a 14 year old into the mix? I'm not one of the readers who believes that minors and sex can never cross in a plot. That wouldn't reflect reality and just because a minor has sex in a book doesn't make it automatically pedophiliac. So, her actual age itself ins't actually the problem. But if an author is going to place a minor (and not a 17 and 359 day old minor, but an innocent, barely 14 year old minor) in a sexually charged plot it needs to be particularly dealt with. It wasn't here. It was carefully dealt with, don't get me wrong, but not in a way that worked for me and it compromised the whole plot. Here's why:
Dani's spunky and bright. That's great. And two dark dangerous men are in love with her. OK. But one of the men is literally turning into an Unseelie prince (what is referred to as a death-by-sex fae), i.e. an elite member of the eviler of the two fae courts. The other has been a mercenary for millenia...you know rape, pillage and murder. So why, why exactly am I supposed to believe that these two men are willing to voluntarily abide by some antiquated and unenforceable (in post-apocoliptic, lawless Dublin) idea of the age of consent?
I might have believed they didn't find underdeveloped females attractive, except that the Unseelie in general appeared to prefer perversions and both men are shown to have physical, sexual responses to her. (They basically walk around with constant hard-ons.) So, they obviously are attracted. What exactly is supposed to have held two morally unfettered men, who generally take what they want, to the moral high ground? The answer should be nothing, which means the very premise of the book, that these two men are staking their claim for the day she turns 18 untenable and unbelievable.
(I should note that in an interview KMM has stated that neither Roydan nor Christopher is supposed to be sexually attracted to Dani. They just have constant erections. Their love of Dani and engorged penises shouldn't necessarily be seen as correlative. It's true that men look at nubile young women all the time, IRL, and don't act on it. In our culture that idolises youth, it's not even considered pedophilia to do so. I appreciate what she's after in writing the book and characters the way she did. I even think it's far more realistic than when people either write only one of two scenarios--one in which minors are either wholly devoid of sexuality and sexual awareness or victimised by it. I just didn't feel these men were the sort to behave in the reserved mature way they do. Some men, maybe even most men would. But would a death-by-sex fae and a man who grew up in an age when 14 year olds wed and bred?)
They're fun series. I'll no doubt read more of them. I've been consistently impressed with the way KMM slips surprisingly erudite social observations into the books, but this new incarnation was a bit disappointing. (less)
I'm not going to bother with a review of a 4th book in a series. What's left to say, but I like it more or less than the previous ones? But I will...more3.5
I'm not going to bother with a review of a 4th book in a series. What's left to say, but I like it more or less than the previous ones? But I will make a comment.
I was wary about reading this book, as it seemed to be predicated on the main character being raped and turning into a simpering sex slave. Which is dangerously close to reducing a woman's value to nothing but sex, while allowing male characters to remain in control of themselves and her (and being worshipped for it). This is a trope that runs fairly close to the surface in a lot of romantic/erotic novels, if cleverly disguised, and it turns me into a seething ball of indignation.
However, here, the 'rapes' (which were of the, 'I control your mind and make you want it' as opposed to brute force type) were not graphic or detailed, the sexual savant only lasted a couple chapters and Mac was more inclined to demand sex than beg for it, allowing the whole scenario to not feel as sordid and disempowering as it could have. My point is that it wasn't that bad.
Edit, as an additional, related thought: Why, why do soooo many of the strong female heroines on UF/PNR eventually have to have their power and control stripped away by rape at some point in a series? It's almost beginning to feel like an expectation of the genre and that kind of disgusts me in general. I promise, it's not the only way woman can build strength of character and internal resilience. It's not the only way to prove we really are strong survivors and it's not the only plot device available to authors to provide a challenge to overcome. I really would like to see some variety in the genre and less insistence that rape is so common that all female characters have to encounter it eventually in order for readers to relate to her. It's a fallacy, a falsehood, a myth. It's disappointing. (less)
3.5 A pretty middle of the road, all right read, marred by an extremely annoying heroine. I didn't hate her. She wasn't TSTL or anything, but she was B...more3.5 A pretty middle of the road, all right read, marred by an extremely annoying heroine. I didn't hate her. She wasn't TSTL or anything, but she was Barbie. I often complain about the lack of diversity in UF/PNR heroines. And more than once I've referred to a character as generically Barbie-like. I think this is the first such book that I've read that openly described the character that way, as Barbie. Not just as a slender, busty blond with a love of all things shiny, pink and soft, but as "Barbie."
The character is well aware of her appealing physical attributes too. It felt a bit like seeing the most popular girl in school get to be the world-saving hero too—just unfair really. And I'm not just being judgemental either. I could have handled all that, if I didn't find her bouncy personality (and often described step), pearl-draped, pink cashmere clad Princess Pastel Rainbow voice so darned annoying.
On the other hand, the dark, dangerous maybe-hero Jericho was nearly enough to redeem the book for me. Too bad he spent most of the book being such a dick. By the end, I was starting to warm up to him. But it took a while.
In the end, I'm torn. My local library has all these books, so I have easy free access to read them. And I'm curious about what might happen. But I don't know if I can really be bothered. (less)