Jenre's Reviews > Exploring Savage Places

Exploring Savage Places by K.Z. Snow
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Aug 13, 09

bookshelves: m-m, futuristic, romance, urban-fantasy

Exploring Savage Places is the third book in the Utopia X series. A word of warning: The books in this series are not stand-a-lones and must be read in order as each book follows on directly from the previous one. Many of the terms and labels in this review refer to the world building in the previous books and, as I don't have space to explain those terms here, those who haven't read the previous two books and read the following review may not understand everything that follows!

The previous book in the series, Seeking Something Wicked, followed the beginnings of a relationship between Tole, an Exceptional Being, Alterationist and one of the 'Powers' of Regenerie and Ridley, who is a vampire. The book ended as the men began a tentative relationship. Meanwhile, Zee, another one of the 'Powers' had also begun a relationship with a woman, Miranda. As this new book begins we see how these relationships are developing about four months later. Zee is not doing too well with Miranda. She has found a new lover, someone who according to her is less 'boring' than Zee. This leaves Zee angry at both her and himself. He knows that she is right because, in a sense, he is safe and not likely to take risks. When a problem arises in the pleasure city of Xanandru, Zee is determined to have an adventure and prove to himself and the world that he isn't dull and sets off to spy on the city.

Meanwhile, Tole and Ridley are also having problems. Ridley has to feed every day but he can't feed from Tole. This is mainly because he is worried that his feelings for Tole will result in him taking too much blood and also Ridley is worried about infecting Tole. Tole feels hurt that Ridley won't feed from him but is also keeping secrets from Ridley. He hasn't yet told him that he is one of the Powers, or that he is so much more than just an OtherBeing. In an attempt to distance himself from Tole, Ridley decides to visit an ex-lover, Andrew, the man in change of Xanandru who has sent Ridley a mysterious email.

So as you can see, Exploring Savage Places is made up of two initially divergent storylines which eventually meet and cross in Xanandru, a city built and run on the pleasure industry. Seen through the eyes of the main characters it initially comes across as a mix of delightful and tawdry. However, as the characters discover some of its less savoury secrets the city becomes dangerous and nowhere more so than the ice-palace where the ruler, Andrew, lives. The descriptions of the city were so vivid and well drawn it was easy to picture the setting. Despite the fact that there are many and varied settings and scenes, I didn't once feel overwhelmed which is testimony to KZ Snow's skill in drawing the reader into the novel and describing her settings so well.

As with the previous two books, this story contains many different characters. Not only do we have Tole, Zee, Ridley and Miranda but Win and Pablo are present for some of the book and we are introduced to a number of new characters, most notably Andrew and his strange half-gnome servant, Tweet. I have to admit I did wonder how well Zee would come across compared to the beautiful Win and the aggressive Tole. Zee, like all the powers is a hybrid, made up of part angel, part demon and part human. In Zee's case he is mostly human and angel which means that he is even tempered and generally a nice person. This is what he finds most frustrating, especially after he is dumped by Miranda. He then spends quite a lot of the book trying to be someone he isn't before something happens to make him accept himself for who he is. I was glad that he didn't come across as dull and also that he didn't need to change in order to find happiness.

One of my complaints about the previous book was that we didn't really get to understand Ridley very well. I was delighted that this book takes Ridley's point of view on a number of occasions and we also get a lot of his backstory especially in his dealings with Andrew. This meant that as Ridley and Tole grow closer and begin to cement their relationship, I was happier as to the reasons why Ridley is attracted to Tole. Andrew reminded me very much of the character played by Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator. He had the same decadent disregard for anyone other than himself and yet many of the characters refer to his once brilliant mind and business acumen. He was certainly not a pantomime villain but rather came across as a mixture of greedy, pathetic and desperate for love and acceptance - especially from Ridley. Unfortunately, as a shadow of his former self, this is impossible, even if Ridley reflects often and rather sadly on the way Andrew used to be.

Like the other two books it the series Exploring Savage Places is about the push and pull of relationships and how the past connects and affects each person in the book. What was surprising was also how each main character is forced to face their past, either through their experiences with other characters or through the expectations that others place on them. By the end of the book each character is happy and settled having faced and beaten their external and internal demons and so I will be very interested to see where KZ Snow takes this story into the fourth book.

Once again KZ Snow has delivered a diverse, complex book with solid world building and unique characterisation. Each character and situation added layers to what has become a compelling UF series. This gains a grade of 'Excellent' and I highly recommend that you read this book, especially if you have already read the previous two books in the series.
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