Showing posts with label Meljean Brook. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Meljean Brook. Show all posts

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Riveted, by Meljean Brook - Review

Information: 
Author: Meljean Brook
Publisher: Penguin
Imprint: Berkley Trade
Series Name: The Iron Seas
Reviewing: Advanced Uncorrected e-Proof provided by publisher (please note that the quotes I have pulled may differ from those in the final edition)

Reason(s) for Reading:
Because I love Meljean Brook.  I requested the eARC from Berkley and was pleased that they provided one for me. (In fact, my reaction may have included high-pitched squealing sounds unbecoming of a dignified person such as myself.  Possibly.)

Series Handicap Factor
While this is the third book of the series, I would say there is  no dependency at all on previous books for anything about the characters.  I think the world-building stands on its own but it's a bit harder to say since I do have the background information from other books already in my head.  Aside from a very brief mention of The Blacksmith and Archimedes Fox, this could easily be the first book of the series or a stand-alone.  Riveted seemed like a faster, somewhat less dense read than The Iron Duke. As a refresher, the series premise is that the Mongol Horde overran Europe and Britain about four centuries ago, and introduced nanoagents in their conquered territories.  The nanoagents provide supplemental strength and the ability to attach mechanized prosthetics to those who are "infected," but when the infected are in range of a radio control tower, the agents can control their behavior to an extent - normally the towers suppress emotions, but can incite Frenzies, where the infected copulate madly in order to ensure new generations of labor for The Horde.  In the areas where the Iron Seas stories have taken place so far, the towers have mostly not been in operation, but the fear of external control remains.

The Premise
Iceland! Ship-swallowing mechanized whale! Volcanoes! A centuries-old secret women-only town! Runes! Victorian sociopath villain with lobotomized genius father!  If you're not intrigued, then you have no sense of adventure and should probably go read a tax manual or something.

"I've never understood it.  That is always the first thing someone asks: Where are you from. Not 'What do you like?' or 'What do you believe?' or even 'What is your mother like?' which all have more bearing on the person I am.  And if I don't tell them where I'm from, they try to guess. Even though there are other people with my color spread all over the New World, they assume that I'm Liberé-- until they hear me speak. They know by my accent that I'm not black Irish, and not from Manhattan city-- though that is partially correct-- and not from Lusitania or Castile or the disputed territories. It drives them mad, as if to know me they need to know where I am from."
This rant from Annika - and it's just the beginning of the rant, mind you - is terribly ironic because the secret Icelandic community that Annika grew up in informs her whole character: what she knows, what she doesn't know, what she thinks she knows.  She is on a quest to find her sister Källa, who was wrongly exiled from their town of Hannasvik.  The crime? Carelessly lighting a beach fire which resulted in the town narrowly missing being discovered by outsiders.

Keeping their origins a secret is the "prime directive" for any citizen (or former citizen) traveling in the outside world.  This puts Annika in direct conflict with David, who has made a deathbed promise to his mother to return to her homeland.  Only problem is, he has no idea what or where that might be, until he overhears Annika and connects her accent with his dead mother's.

In the meantime, David's coincidental occupation as a vulcanologist aligns his path with Annika's: on an airship bound for Iceland.

The Plot
Partway into the story, the airship makes a terrible discovery: an entire town of dead, humans and animals, with no evident signs of violence or illness.  As Annika, David, and the airship crew become tangled up in the happenings on the ground, Annika and David are thrown together more and more despite their uncertainty about each other and their own feelings. I've focused this review on the romance, but the monomaniacal scheme they unravel is more than a little bit epic in scale and larger-than-life characters.

Oh, The Romance!
I like urban fantasy just fine.  And I don't mind if a book can't seem to make up its mind whether or not to be a romance in the genre-defined sense.  I recall that some readers felt that the romance took a backseat to the steampunky gearworks of The Iron Duke.  Now, I didn't have a problem with that.  But readers who want romance in the front seat will find their wish granted in a big way with Riveted. Right from the beginning, this entire book is absolutely permeated with the longing and uncertainty and thrills and insecurity of that first big romance.

Annika's world view is so unique.  Growing up in a town of only women, where children are brought into the fold either by adoption or temporary heterosexual affairs, she is very unknowledgeable about men, anatomically and emotionally.  This is a common historical romance trope ("it was so big! it would never fit!") but turned on its head in classic Meljean style. When women leave her hometown and do not return, it's usually because they prefer men and/or have male children that they don't want to leave behind.  For Annika, this is not something she views with scorn or judgement, but even more natural-seeming to her are the lifelong two-women couples she has grown up with.

David is also unusual.  He's not what you'd call an alpha male. He has several mechanical prosthetics - both legs, one hand, and one eye. While the fellow on the cover up there is pretty cool-looking, he is not how I picture David: the lenses are attached to his skull, not bound on with a leather band. His hand is a steel hand, not a wimpy plate laying over flesh. (Also, hello, it's ICELAND. All that bare skin on the cover made me giggle a little).  None of these attachments have made him particularly successful with the ladies, as they - and the nanoagents required to make them work - are not common where he lives and travels.  His forays into sexual experimentation have been unsuccessful and left him with a few misconceptions.

While we're on the topic of appearances, I have to say this is one place where the narration failed me a bit.  There were several references to both Annika's and David's brown skin, black hair, (Annika's curly, David's straight) and the ethnicity of the name "Kentewess." I felt like I was supposed to be able to peg both of them into an ethnic "look," but I was a little confused on what it would be. Hispanic? Arabic? Not African, because of the straight hair and "aquiline" nose.  "Kente" sounded African to me, or British, but "-wess" ? Maybe a derivation of the German "weiss" ? "-wass" could be Swiss or German or Welsh or Cornish, but I had to google to find that out, and the brown skin didn't fit.  And for Annika, the description came a bit later in the story-- between her name and speaking Norse in the first couple of pages, I imagined her blonde and Nordic at first.  A small distraction.

The really touching thing about David and Annika's romance is how much innocence and naivete they both bring to it.  Annika believes that it will take years to truly fall in love, and that only then will she really desire a full consummation (to put it circumspectly).  Their love story has the nostalgic feel of a First True Love, with tentative gestures and misunderstood reactions. 
Extending a friendship was all well and good, but Annika knew that her attraction to him could easily deepen, she *knew* that a part of her longed for more... and he didn't. Continuing their acquaintance would only serve as fodder for her silly daydreams. For her own sake, she should end this now.

She couldn't find the words to do it. Each one seemed to catch in the ache beneath her breast and refuse to surface. Perhaps they didn't have to. David seemed to take her silence as a response and looked away from her with a weary nod.

Her throat tightened. This wasn't what she wanted, either.
Fortunately, the forced proximity of their journey and adventure prevents them from giving up too easily.

Bottom Line:
Annika and David's romance is full of the tender innocence of first love, and the adventurous backdrop will remind readers of an old-school Jules Verne tale. There's also a message for current social politics here too, giving the story all the more relevance. I loved the first two books in this series, but I think this is the best one yet.

Around the Blogosphere:
Dear Author
Smexy Books
Fiction Vixen
Clear Eyes, Full Shelves (a new favorite!)
Happily Ever After

Sunday, January 30, 2011

I Swear

Because I'm a word nerd, one the things I've been noticing lately are the words that an author chooses for a character to swear with.  These are the words that come out of a character's mouth when emotions are at the highest, when the action is peaking.  They can add period authenticity in historicals and subtly reinforce elements of a paranormal world.  In a contemporary, they can serve to peg the character into a class, region, or ethnicity.  Swear words have a lot of power and they tell you a lot about a character. James Lipton likes to ask his famous interviewees what their favorite curse word is.

The book that sent me down the path of this post is Meljean Brook's The Iron Duke, and Mina's favorite oath: "My blue heaven." It just fit so perfectly into the world where the skies are clouded with smog; and there's this one moment when she sees an actual blue sky, possibly for the first time:
Rhys watched her face as she stepped down from the car, and saw that her first glance was in the same direction as everyone else who journeyed from London-- up, where the sun hung high in the brilliant blue sky, rather than shining like a dull coin embedded in a shark's belly.  Her lips parted and her face softened, and Rhys vowed that he would see that expression again.
I swear I'm not that old, really, but I knew that "My Blue Heaven" was the name of a song; I thought maybe from the 40s or 50s, but when I looked it up, the original is even older than I thought -- 1927.  Not quite the right era, but it does kind of evoke the motorcars and early era of technology that fits in with the steampunk aesthetic, yes? No? OK, maybe that's a stretch


.
I don't know, maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it's just one of those little authorial choices that seems to add so much to the story, at both a character and world-building level.


************



Then came Anne Stewart's, Reckless, which opened a bit shockingly:

"Move yer bleedin' arse," Miss Charlotte Spenser's maid, Meggie, said to her.


The contradiction of formal title and the rude language and particularly that the maid says it to the lady, is a great hook and pulled me in to the character quickly.  Unfortunately, it ended up being a bit gimmicky as the whole schtick about the "Bluestocking Ladies" learning how to swear was dropped right away.  It was a decent introduction but it could have added a lot more to the story if the author had wanted to work it a bit more.

But... I can't let this one drop without observing that it can't possibly be a coincidence that it's exactly the same line that Eliza Doolittle lets loose with in My Fair Lady, can it? (Well, technically, Eliza says "bloomin'," rather than "bleedin'". Still.)


********

I already talked a bit about how Kim Harrison uses the phrase, "By the Turn" in her Rachel Morgan/Hallows series.  I found it a bit heavy-handed (though that could be a cumulative effect of multiple books) and it lacks the delicious subtle layering of Brook's "my blue heaven," BUT it does reinforce the otherness of the Hallows world and the cultural magnitude of the event that "outed" all the paranormal beings.

********

So tell me about your favorite use of profanity in fiction - how do authors use it to make a point about their characters?  For you writers lurking out there, feel free to jump in with any of your own favorite examples.

And finally, I leave you with this, just because it's hilarious (it's heavily bleeped but you might want to have headphones on if you're at work or have rugrats in earshot)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Forged: A Random Word Association Post

Forge, as per dictionary.com:
–verb (used with object)
1. to form by heating and hammering; beat into shape.
2. to form or make, esp. by concentrated effort: to forge a friendship through mutual trust.


It's just such an evocative word.  It makes me think of fire and heat and sweat and dark smoky places lit with glowing orange; of  mysteries and caves and middle earth; of volcanos and lava and brute force.

"To form by heating and hammering; to beat into shape..."  That works on so many levels, doesn't it?  The raw material is tested by fire, pounded on by great force -- and emerges stronger, less brittle, able to be honed and sharpened; potentially deadly.

Then there's the notion of forging on, forging ahead, forging a path -- strong phrases with strong imagery; the implication of challenging barriers.  You never hear about someone forging a retreat.  One who forges is almost by definition a hero, right?

This post was inspired by the title Hellforged by Nancy Holzner-- which I'm liking; and which reminded me of Demon Forged by Meljean Brook which I totally loved.  It almost makes me want to go hunt for titles that use the word "forged" (except as it turns out you need to really enjoy reading World of Warcraft books if you want to go that route).

Is there a powerfully evocative word that's been catching your attention lately?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Iron Duke, by Meljean Brook - Review

I have yet to dislike anything from the genius pen of Meljean Brook, and The Iron Duke is no exception.  But I had some trepidation.

I know a lot of people are excited about the trend, but to be honest, steampunk romance doesn't particularly do anything for me in and of itself.  I enjoy alternate history, fantasy, romance and highly imaginative stories of all stripes, but a cover with brass clockworks on it isn't going to automatically get me going.  As a category, the danger point where steampunk risks losing me is exactly the same as sci-fi or futuristic romance -- a tendency to dwell on the tech at the expense of the character or the storytelling.

Then there's the second-series syndrome.  This is a tough one -- I really would prefer that an author kick off a brand new series rather than beat a successful one to death, even if it makes me sad to see the end of a beloved world (Sigh.  Keri Arthur, I'm lookin' at you).  Even so, sometimes I'm reluctant to start a second series, because how can it measure up to the awesomeness of the first? (cf J.R. Ward).

But Meljean's world-building chops are pretty damn tight from the Guardian's series, and rather than a weak imitation of that world, she turns her considerable talent to an entirely different kind of alternate reality.

I rather think the best thing about this book is that the characters take center stage, but the world-building continuously informs the characters, their voicing, the narration -- without anything like an infodump.  The surreal, literally dark and smoky physical world lends a tremendous amount of texture to the story without ever taking over.

The story opens like so many historical romances, with Our Heroine reluctantly attending a ball, knowing that she isn't a belle, knowing that she's not dressed right, knowing that she isn't going to enjoy it.  But instantly the Other-ness of this world is apparent from the smoky dark atmosphere and the reversal of the social order:

...everyone's togs were at the height of New World fashions. Mina suspected, however, that forty of the guests could not begin to guess how dear those new togs were to the rest of the company.
Further description goes on to reveal a desperately poor gentry that reminded me a bit of the American Reconstruction South, with an intricate undercurrent of moral judgment, fear, and social stratification.  Also, I love the way Brook re-casts ordinary English words-- bounder, bugger (!!), the Horde.  She has an instinctive feel for one of the recently explicated Laws of Fiction:


All of this is interesting enough, but then throw in the unique twist on nano-technology, which tosses elements of the Six Million Dollar Man, McGyver, Night of the Living Dead, steampunk machinery (of course) and a dash of free-floating Jungian free-will angst into a blender, and presses frappée -- not with the gleeful abandon of Blendtec, but with the easy elegance of a tuxedo'd James Bond preparing a pefect martini: shaken, not stirred.

The result is a perfectly crafted, imaginative, surreal world that effortlessly suspends your disbelief from the first page to the last.  I loved this world.

And you know, that's not even the best part.  I love character-driven stories, and while there is always mad plotting to be found in a Brook story, it takes well-built characters to stand up to all that and the world too.  Mina and Rhys deliver; Mina in particular. 

Mina has this armor-- literally, she buckles herself into and out of it throughout the story.  She wears it always, even over a ballgown--uncomfortable and inappropriate though it may be. She wears it by land, sea and air; and in retrospect, the scene where she gives it away is more meaningful than it seems at the time.  I really loved this thread of Mina's character.

As for Rhys, well, I did not know that Wellington (the real one) was called The Iron Duke until I googled the title looking for the cover image.  There are some interesting parallels, I guess, although I don't know as much about the real Wellington as I might.  In any event, it pretty much went over my head until after the fact .  I found Rhys to still retain some mystery even at the end -- I don't know what's coming next in this series but there is still plenty to be discovered about this not-so-modern-day Ironman to support additional books.  Something tells me the Horde isn't done with the Brits just yet.  I also muse that the Blacksmith might make an interesting protagonist, although his mechanized appearance might make it challenging to cast him as a romance hero.

This is a really nice cross-over book that should appeal to readers of steampunk, sci-fi, fantasy, as well as romance -- it has a little bit of everything, and all of it is just wonderfully well-executed.  I hope you read it and I hope you love it.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Short Story Saturday: First Blood

Last of the Backlog
Clearly, I'm going to have to step up my short story game. I'm almost out of material after only five posts. So I'm going back in time, to January of 2009.

I picked up First Blood just about this time last year, but I was pretty burned out on anthologies after my big antholopalooza event, so it took me awhile to get around to reading it. Even then, I homed in on the Meljean Brook story and just skipped the others. Maybe I'll cover one of those next week....

Anyhoo, Meljean's short stories were some of my favorites from last year's event. Between "Falling for Anthony" (Hot Spell) and "Paradise" (Wild Thing) Brook made a huge leap in the art of the novella. FFA wasn't a bad story by any means, but as I said in my review, there were places where it felt a bit like stuff was missing, like it had been intended as a full-length book and then stripped down. And the series proper seemed to depend more on events that happened in FFA which left me a little confused, because I read the full length books first and then caught up on the shorts.

Paradise, on the other hand, was a tight story that not only stands on its own, but if you skip it, the full length books don't contain confusing references either and that's a lesson learned that carried on over into "Thicker Than Blood."

Thicker Than Blood
You don't have to be a Meljean devotee to enjoy TTB. Although the story fits seamlessly into the series arc, the world-building is just enough to set the scene for this story, and if you only like the full length books, and skip it? You won't be left wondering about references.

While this story is full of details about what it's like to be a vampire in Brook's world, the really stunning part is the romance. Like most novellas, the conflict is simplified: how do you make it work between a "normal" human (whatever that is) and an undead vampire? TTB is an intensely emotional story about love lost and then found again; about how to be strong and how to be vulnerable; and-- since it's a paranormal-- also about kicking some powerfully evil ass against staggering odds.

Annie is a character I fell in love with. She needs to protect the human family she loves but aches every day for what she lost with them. She faces the Really Big Bad with no real expectation of surviving, but has a powerful need to protect others weaker than she is. It's hard to explain, but my heart just broke for how sad and lost she was at the beginning of the story.

Bottom Line
If you like Meljean Brook, or good short fiction, or fun PNR/UF stories--and of course, wonderful romance-- this one has you covered on all fronts.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Scattered Thoughts

I mentioned earlier that I've had the cold from hell. Seriously, I feel like I've been sick for months, and not just a little sniffly. It's been distracting and tiring and unfortunately the blog is behind kids and job in priorities, and there hasn't been much left over. Fortunately, I'm finally starting to cautiously think that maybe I'm almost better. Almost. I mean, I am much better, but not quite all the way better. You know?

As I look over my last few posts, I keep thinking of things I meant to talk about but forgot while I was actually writing. Rather than go back and do a lot of editing, I thought I'd do a little round up.

Giveaway Deadline
First order of business is my giveaway. I uh, forgot to put a deadline on it. How about, midnight Friday (the Thirteenth!) and I'll announce winners over the weekend. Sound good? OK.

Linkages
I really wanted to get some posts up but I was lazy about linking in the last several posts (as they say in the scrapbooking world, "Done is better than perfect" -- and I got them done!). I've got nothing to Amazon, nothing to the author sites, nuthin' to nowhere. I'll go ahead and add in links to reviews around the blogworld, and as always, if you have also reviewed the book, please feel free to leave your perma-link in comments.

More Thoughts on Demon Forged

Next up, I wanted to go back to the Demon Forged review for a minute. I meant to point out a couple things about Irena's names. So first of all: Irena... Iron... get it? I got it. <grin> . And while I was reading about her talent for metalworking, my mind did wander over for a moment to the Dirk & Steele story about another heroine with a psychic metalworking ability -- Dela Reese, from Tiger Eye. Short snip, pulled from Marjorie Liu's webpage :
Those weapons offered her nothing. She knew quality when she saw it, age and history when she felt it. A simple thing, when one worked with steel as much as she did. When it sang its secrets inside her head.

I had the pleasure of hanging out with Ms. Brook one evening recently, and one of the things we talked about was Liu's writing and worldbuilding, so I know she's a fan. And you know how sometimes rockstars give each other little nods in their songwriting? Like how the line in Hotel California that goes "they stab it with their steely knives, but they just can't kill the beast" is supposed to be a tribute to Steely Dan? Anyhow, it made me wonder if Irena's fake FBI identity -- Irena Steele -- was a little shout-out to Marjorie Liu. It made me smile, anyway, to think it might be.

More Thoughts on Just One of the Guys
You may have noticed that that particular review is a bit of a stylistic departure for me. I asked a couple of friends to look it over for me and tell me if my faux grouchiness was obviously faux or if it just seemed kind of asshole-ish, cuz I can be a little insecure about my attempts at humor (it cracked ME up, but, you know. I can hear my tone in my head, and it's not always a sure thing that you all can, too). Anyhow, I was reassured on that front, but one of them mentioned, um, Nicola? What the hell is the story about?

As a rule I don't spend a lot of space on synopses, but hell, I didn't even put any links in that one. So here ya go. Jeez--I didn't even get the title quite right. In case you were undecided by my review and would like to know more about the book in my own personal words, this is what I told her:
The protagonist is a woman with 3 older brothers, plus a foster brother. Her dad and all the boys are firefighters. She also rows, faints at the sight of blood, has a huge lazy part bloodhound mutt (I don't know whytf there's a beagle on the cover) and works at their local hometown newspaper.

She's had a longtime crush on the foster brother but neither of them think they should act on it.

The secondary romance is about her mom finding someone other than her dad, who is a workaholic and refuses to retire.
I also meant to say but forgot, that the third wheel in the secondary romance? Bowed out with such grace and fineness of character... well. Again with the tissues.

Bringing It Around
Sunday I was at our local grocery store and wanted a magazine to flip through while sipping at my pre-shopping, fortifying latte. And they were having a 3-for-2 sale on paperbacks. AND they had Tessa Dare, whose first book I finally picked up (and loved) so OF COURSE I need the other two. I noticed that a couple of the Guardian books were on the shelf and I was glad to see they were getting shelf space even though I was already caught up. And then I saw Blaze of Memory by Nalini Singh and thought the same thing. It took me two more circuits of the paperback section before it dawned on me that THIS IS THE NEW ONE AND I DON'T HAVE IT YET!! D'oh! Scattered thoughts, people, I'm telling you. Anyway, I started it today and hey! I haven't quite figured out what's going on yet, but there's another psychic metalworking thing going on:
Gritting his teeth, he sought out all the metal in the house. The cool kiss of iron and steel brushed his mind, invaded his limbs. It wouldn't last long, not with Katya's slight form resting trustingly against him--but he'd use the calm while he had it...

I don't know what this means! But I'm intrigued. I'm amusing myself with imagining a reality show where these three characters would get together and have some kind of sculpt-off, or forge-off, or something-- like, one big lump of metal and they have a psychic battle to shape it their way. (Welcome to my brain: it's mostly harmless but mind the gaps). And I'm also wondering if any psychic metalworker could ever possibly top Meljean's scene with Irena's statue. O__O

That's It For Now
There's a strong likelihood that shortly after I post this, I'll think of two or three other Very Important Things I meant to share with the internet. For that moment though, I think that's everything. Thanks for bearing with me!

_________________
photo credit goes to Mary Elizabeth Williams. Isn't she awesome?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Demon Forged, by Meljean Brook - Review

Risk Profile
Do you have a go-to author, one whom you KNOW, for every book, you're going to love certain things? That the heroine will be feisty, or sweet, or the hero will be wounded but honorable, etc. etc.? I don't want to say "predictable," but maybe... "reliable" ?

I think a lot of authors come to be repeat best-sellers by reliably providing what their readers like. Nora Roberts and Jayne Ann Krentz come to mind, to name just two.

The Guardian series isn't like that.

I can see why Brook might be a hit-or-miss author for some readers. Her characters are so different, so extreme, that readers who like a certain kind of hero or heroine are almost guaranteed to a) find that in at least one of her books and b) not find it in others. She goes out on a limb with every book, breaking fondly-held genre rules here, while taking others to new extremes there.

Because Brook is so skilled at bringing her diverse characters to life, I personally find something to love in every book. In Demon Forged, we have Irena, one of the oldest Guardians after Michael, and Alejandro, a dashing Spanish nobleman. ( He's a millenium or so younger than Irena, but that doesn't seem to bother anyone.)

These two have A History. With Baggage. And when your bad guys are actual demons, and you've spent centuries trying to deal without the benefit of a good therapist... well. You wind up with Issues.

One of the themes that intrigues me with every Guardian book is the idea of "humanity." What does this mean when most of the characters are not human? What does it do to a person (or Guardian) to exist for sixteen centuries?

While Brook doesn't explicitly dwell on this a lot, I did find Irena's character to glimmer with small, telling details consistent with an ancient character. Irena is barely literate. Her idea of relaxation is hiking or hunting or sculpting in her forge: elemental. She's blunt, straightforward, lacks subtlety. I loved this exchange:
"No." He straightened. His eyes shuttered. "I will not fight. I do not like the man I become with you."

The words stabbed her chest. Reflexively, her hands fisted. Irena held them at her sides, struggling against the fury and hurt that urged her to batter them into his face. He stared down at her and she thought, prayed, that he might take the words back.

Olek shook his head and turned. "Your vampire friend has gone into the city."

He walked away. Irena watched, her heart hammering.

*I do not like the man I become with you.*

He should have hit her. She'd have known how to respond to that. But this pain, she did not. [chapter end].

Irena and Alejandro/Olek have spent the last 400 years in a state of tension, avoiding each other or relieving the tension in violent training sessions. It's certainly valid to wonder, "why now?" Why is now the moment when this tension comes to a head? Brilliantly, it's because of

The Series Arc
Somewhere around the 5th or 6th book of a series, I tend to start getting series fatigue. Either the stories become repetitious, or the series arc starts to feel artificially drawn out... or maybe I just get bored.

Not so with the Guardians. Every book has revealed Big News about some aspect of the world, and this one is no different, except perhaps that it's more so. The shocking events of Demon Forged shakes the delicate balance of power to its core, and all without the least hint of contrivance. It's not easy to provide an individual book resolution while still building tension for the series, but Demon Forged does it in spades.

Meanwhile, the series as a whole posits our world on the brink of massive change: apocalyptic disaster, Biblical armageddon. The unseen (by humans) tension between Guardians and demons that keeps the realms in balance is threatened by the recent mass Ascension, by power struggles among the demons, and by the release of new powers into the playing field: nephilim and more. Select humans are drawn into the struggle and the Guardians are taxed to keep them safe.

This then, not only drives the series forward, but provides the change catalyst for Alejandro and Irena's relationship, as they can no longer afford to avoid each other. I just love how the individual story and character arcs weave in and out of the series arc, always complementing, never competing.

I feel like I should say more about Alejandro, about his and Irena's character arcs, and their romance... but I'm going to cop out and plead illness-- I've had a monster of a cold for over two weeks now and keeping my thoughts collected has been a ridiculous effort. I think it's safe to say that fans of the series won't be disappointed (of course, most of them have already read it by now!) and once again recommend that if you haven't read them? Do.

Series Reading Order:

1. Hot Spell*
2. Demon Angel
3. Wild Thing*
4. Demon Moon
5. Demon Night
6. First Blood*
7. Demon Bound
8. Demon Forged
9. Must Love Hellhounds*

*Anthologies containing a Guardian-universe novella

_______________
Disclaimer: Purchased at retail.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Thrillsville

I heard a rumor that this might happen, but I guess I didn't believe it until I actually saw it. I didn't even remember it was supposed to happen until I'd had the book a couple of days.

Turns out, the rumor was true:



And-- OMG -- did you notice? I'm above ROMANTIC TIMES!!

Does that mean anything? I don't know if it means anything.

But what if it does?

Can't. Stop. Grinning.

So there you have it. Me. In a book. Holy Moly!



I suppose I'd better get busy reading this one, eh? I'm on page 90, love it so far! (the review was for Demon Bound).

Monday, February 23, 2009

Angels and Demons

Ciara thinks the next big thing in romance is steampunk.

I'm a little less cutting edge than that. My predictive powers are weak at best--witness my manufacturing degree, ca 1988 (should've minored in Chinese), and my MBA, ca 1993 -- talk about trend busters! But I think I may have identified a mini-trend already in progress. I'm clearly way better at that.

So while vampires and shifters have been the big story for the last few years, I'm thinking that demons and angels are the next--OK, current-- big wave in paranormal fiction, whether romance, UF, or horror.

Kim Harrison's Hollows series kicked off in April 2004 with some scary-ass demons. I'm only on book 2 so I can't say if they end up being a love interest/hero but at the moment? not. But it could go that way.

While I was a little lukewarm on Jenna Black's vampire world, I really like her Morgan Kingsley series, kicking off with Devil Inside back in November of 2007. Her demon is both sexy and seriously scary. I think she will somehow end up with him romantically (maybe she already has; I'm not caught up yet even though the latest is waiting in my TBR pile!) So, he's kind of a hero, but like Facebook says, It's Complicated.

So romances, with demons as the hero, I didn't start noticing until more recently. The first one I saw was Christine Warren's The Demon You Know, from May of 2007, and Rule is seriously yummy. But demons are only one of a whole pantheon of paranormals in Warren's world, and not the most prevalent.

Then I found Meljean Brook, whose Guardian series features angels most prominently, and a demon as the series' first heroine. Though Brook is kicking off a new steampunk series shortly, the Guardians are continuing-- hot off the presses is the cover for Demon Forged, tentatively due out in October of this year. We haven't gotten a demon hero yet; they're almost by definition bad/evil, but I have to admit I'm intrigued by the demon who plagues Charlie Newcomb and her sister in Demon Night. Since Charlie's sister opts to keep Sammael around, I have to wonder why... coughcoughnovella!cough maybe?

About the same time, I was burning through Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark, and let me just say that Cade Woede can eat crackers in my bed any ol' time.

Larissa Ione debuted her popular "Demonica" series last June with demon heroes. She has a big following but I have to admit I'm not that into them, so no telling if angels will make an appearance. If they do, you won't hear it here first, but you can keep an eye on Literary Escapism -- Jackie always has the scoop.

But wait, there's more.

Nalini Singh, author of the Psy/Changeling series, launches her new Guild Hunter series on March 3 with Angels' Blood. For a sneak peek, an e-novella called "Angels' Pawn" set in the same world will be available tomorrow (check Nalini's site for the right link). Isn't that a gorgeous cover? I love the platinum-blond hair.

And finally (that I know of), last Halloween, J.R. Ward somewhat unofficially announced (read down in the comments) her new series starting off this October, which she describes thusly:

COVET: A Novel of the Fallen Angels is the first of the books and let’s just say it’s all about angels and Harleys and evil and redemption. The tag line’s Destiny’s a witch and then you die… but love always brings you back.

She goes on: So far as I’m aware, the hero of the whole series is a guy named Jim Crane who’s a carpenter and it’s all about him going up against the devil (who’s a very hot brunette, btw) with the help of his two partners, a scruffy dog and his bad attitude. There are other heros who come in along the way and there is a love story in every book. Things may change as I get into the writing, but the bare bones are set and I can’t wait to get started!

Now, I confess, this description kind of gives me bad flashbacks to studying The Red Badge of Courage in sophomore English class with Mrs. Harris in her fluorescent blue eyeshadow, bludgeoning us all about the heads and shoulders with the allegory: "Notice his initials are Jayyyyyy.... Ceeeeeeee...and he sacrifices himself.... What other important historical figure do we know with the initials Jayyyyyy.... Ceeeeeee... ?"

Later on her forum, Ward says that the name Crane was an error and the name is actually Jim Heron. I don't know if she changed her mind or if "Crane" came out instead of Heron because Stephen Crane's analogies got beaten into her by an English teacher with fluorescent blue eyeshadow too or what... but in any event, "Heron" just strikes me as a little weird. Is it an homage to Stephen Crane? It probably wouldn't bug me if I hadn't seen Crane first, but now it's just going to be "Jim Long-Legged-Bird; Heron/Crane/Flamingo etc" in my mind and will probably distract me every time I see it.

Not that I overthink things or anything.

But Ward has me by the short little fan-girl hairs so I will certainly read the first one, and assuming it's better than Phury's book, probably the second one as well. As always, you can keep an eye on my sidebar for the countdown to the next JR Ward book.

Did I miss any good angel/devil series? Chime in!
___________________
angel/devil image used with permission, courtesy of Mark Stivers.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Meljean Brook – Two Novellas – Review

Wild Thing and Hot Spell both contain novellas in Brook’s Guardian universe. I had to double-check the page count on both of them, because in each case there was absolutely a whole story packed into barely 100 pages. Vivid characters, compelling plot, and just enough of her amazing world to tide over the fans between releases.

Compared to a full length book, novellas usually lack something; I mean, there’s a reason for those other two or three hundred pages – character development, intricate plotting— something has to give. Not these. Sure, the plots don’t have quite as many twists and turns, but they’ll still engage you and they don’t have that wrapped-up-pat, oh-crap-I’m-out-of-page-count feel of a lot of novellas. The other signature move of Brook’s that is left out of the novellas is the way each full-length book adds new branches of the mythology in her world-building—which is perfectly appropriate for a short.

I honestly can’t speak to whether these shorts stand alone if you aren’t already reading the series. But does that matter? Are there really paranormal romance fans out there who haven’t fallen in love with the Guardians? If there are, I can only imagine that either of these two novellas would prompt such an under-rock dweller to run out and acquire by hook, crook, or library card the rest of the series. I will say, though, that being late to the party with Falling For Anthony did leave me slightly lost in parts of Colin’s story, Demon Moon; and Demon Bound contains references to events in Paradise. So fans should consider the novellas required reading, not extra credit.

Although Falling For Anthony (Hot Spell) contains references to how Colin was changed, it is the story of his sister and the Guardian she falls for, and explains Colin's connection to the Ramsdell family. I was actually kind of perplexed by the weird sex scene in the beginning of the story. I didn’t understand Emily’s motivations and I’m not sure I ever really did get a grip on them. The first couple chapters read a little bit like a full length novel that had been stripped down hard. I confess I didn’t start to love the story until after Anthony’s transformation.

Now, Paradise… Brook totally has her novella groove on here. Lucas, a self-sacrificing carpenter who bleeds to save humanity – no wait, that’s not quite right… but yes, Lucas is a bit of a Christ figure in this story. Fortunately, he gets a much happier ending with an angel for a consort-- which seems appropriate somehow; that is, if it’s not too weird and blasphemous to find a Christ figure extremely sexy and heroic. I really enjoyed the build-up of tension between these two characters: Lucas’ reluctance to take help from anyone; Selah’s internal struggle with her resentment of the Guardians who ascended, leaving Earth vulnerable and the remaining Guardians with a monumental task – there’s a lot going on here but it never feels rushed or confused. Once again, Brook plays with the notion of free will on multiple levels, adding hope to her dark world of demons and nosferatu, and substance to a genre that is too often dismissed as fluff.

One last note – Brook has a third novella in the collection “First Blood,” released this past August, which I somehow missed. Following my own advice, I’m going to need to pick this up one way or another.

Coming up next: Brook has a short in the upcoming Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance, due out in April of 2009, and the next Guardian book is tentatively titled Demon Forged, featuring Elena, the foul-tempered Guardian with a talent for metal-working. Hopefully we’ll see than in 2009 as well, but I’m not seeing a scheduled release date as yet. Also, if you’re like me and reluctant to shell out $14 for your reading fix, there is more good news: Wild Thing is being re-released in mass-market format next month. Between the double-whammy of Paradise and Marjorie Liu's Hunter Kiss, this was perhaps my favorite anthology of the whole bunch.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hot Spell – Anthology Review

Hot Spell contains stories from Emma Holly, Lora Leigh, Shiloh Walker, and Meljean Brook. Ever since I realized that I was missing some very critical information about Brook’s vampire Colin, I’ve been watching for this one. It’s a couple of years old now, though, so I had to order it from Amazon.

The first entry is from Emma Holly. Remember when I told you that I thought the historical world needed her more than the paranormal world does? Hmmm, I think I was right. This particular story just isn’t up my alley, although the right basics are there. You have a repressed noblewoman, a sexually super-charged “peasant” guy; subtle power exchanges in both directions, lush sensual writing, a decent mini-plot wrapping up with a love-will-conquer-all interracial romance… I dunno. I think the hero just didn’t do it for me. The paranormal, other-world element gives Holly some room to play, and I can see that the layer of creativity kind of juices up the story… but for me, it just didn’t work. I think this is a case where it’s just preference on my part.

Secondly, is my second Breed short story from Lora Leigh. Question for the hard-core fans: do the men all have “eatable lips”? Or is there some kind of streak of cannibalism in the mates they choose? I ask because so far the Leigh heroes are 4 for 4 with eatable lips. Personally I think that’s kind of weird. The first time, I thought, ooo, I kinda like that...By the fourth book I was waiting for it. Which, you know, isn’t right.

Other than that though, I actually liked this little story quite a bit more than the other one, and so far it might be my favorite Lora Leigh. (I’ve read two of the SEALs books and two Breed short stories). The Tarek character was definitely more likeable than Saban but I’m still having a little trouble with the mates-for-life premise.

Blood Kiss from Shiloh Walker cracked me up with the Romeo and Juliet references. Not a subtle lady, Ms Walker, with her Roman Montgomery and Julianna Capiet. The duo bob and weave through the politics of the two powerful but feuding families, and since it's a vampire spin, there's that sort of dying-but-not-really-dying bit, too. This is a romance, so there is a happy ending, and I was a little disappointed that no one had occasion to swear a pox on both their houses, but I suppose it would be boring to follow the formula too closely. Final note: very intrigued by the character of Mikhail. Adding Shiloh Walker to my 2009 authors if for no other reason than I need to read that story.

Review for “Falling for Anthony” coming up separately….

This little collection definitely rates high on the creativity scale, so if you’re looking for something a little different, this could fit the bill. Which for me, also makes it a little hit-or-miss by individual stories. I suspect this is a big YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).

Have you reviewed Hot Spell on your blog? Feel free to post a link in comments or hit up Mr. Linky in the Antholopalooza intro post.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thursday Thirteen, Edition 2







Thirteen reasons to read an anthology this month:



1. Novella is the perfect length to read after the turkey is put away and before you pass out from the tryptophane.

2. Lots of cute holiday-themed books to get you in the spirit.

3. Too busy shopping, decorating, cooking and wrapping to read a full-length book

4. Need to sample some new authors to prep for Jackie’s 50 New Authors challenge in 2009.

5. Can’t miss any of the events in Nalini’s and Meljean’s worlds.

6. Keep one stashed in the car for when you’re waiting to pick the kids or in line at Starbucks for a gingerbread latte.

7. This is a test to see if anyone noticed that I could only think of twelve.

8. Where else can you get demons and werewolves, vampires and time-travelers, minotaurs and sirens, all in one book? (Umm, a Kresley Cole novel? Hmmm, you might be – no, wait, she doesn’t do time travelers. So far.)

9. Obsessed with JR Ward.

10. You *need* more Lady Whistledown.

11. Too tired from NaNoWriMo to read a full-length book.

12. Even if you don’t like some of the stories in the anthology, you still might like others. Therefore, an anthology represents a diversification of risk on your investment of $7.99*. In today’s economy, every bit helps. (“Look Ma, no hands-- I’m usin’ my MBA!”)

13. Be one of the kewl kids playing along for Antholopalooza!


____________
*… or in the case of The Magical Christmas Cat, $14.99. I’m still bitter about that.


Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!



    Sunday, September 28, 2008

    Demon Bound, by Meljean Brook - Review

    Note: this is the latest in a continuing series. Go here for my thoughts on the series thus far.

    Another note: Arachnophobes, beware….

    Like most of Meljean Brook’s fans, I’ve been waiting all summer for Demon Bound, to find out more about the mysterious Alice and “youngster” Guardian Jake. It must be a little nerve-wracking for popular authors, to live up to the expectations of their (possibly rabid) fans… but Ms. Brook should rest easy, because Demon Bound will satisfy the most demanding fan.

    Brook creates the most unusual heroines. Really. I didn’t think she could top Lillith, a two-thousand year old demon, for pure out-there-ness, but Alice comes awfully close. She’s creepy, cold, aloof, and on a mission to kill one of the series’ most beloved characters. She has an extremely creepy affinity for spiders. If that scene in the second Harry Potter movie freaks you out, well. Prepare to be freaked out again. Did I mention that she’s creepy? She’s creepy, that’s definitely the word. At least, she seems that way at first. Developing this character into a strong but vulnerable, empathetic heroine seems pretty unlikely, and constitutes the best part of Demon Bound.

    On second thought, maybe the best part of Demon Bound is Jake. He is awfully good. A youngster in the current pantheon of Guardians, his immaturity at a mere 60 years is something of a theme for his character. Now, you wouldn’t think that “immature” is the best starting point for an alpha hero, but somehow it works. Like all of Brook’s Guardians, Jake has a deep, immutable streak of honor that gives his cheeky, wisecracking, sometimes hesitant personality balance. It’s unrealistic to expect Jake to emerge at the end of the story with the—hmmm, I’m repeating myself—maturity of Ethan or Hugh or Colin, and he doesn’t, but his ebullience and desire to prove himself turn out to be the perfect foil for Alice’s somberness.

    Ah, but wait, the best part of the book is the way they outwit the demon Tequon and the bargain that Alice made with him. I absolutely LOVE this kind of intricate puzzle with the AHA, I-love-it-when-a-plan-comes-together ending. (Those of you who only know of Paul Newman* from the salad dressing need to add The Sting to your Netflix queue.) Seriously, this book has the most deliciously perfect plot twist at the end.

    Now, if you thought you knew everything there was to know about the delicate balance of humans, Guardians, demons, and other immortals in Brook’s universe, be prepared for more surprises and more revelations (really, the appearance of the nephilim in Demon Night should’ve taught you that lesson). I myself am ridiculously ignorant of biblical mythology, so after I finished this book I went on a little wikipedia safari and I have to hand it to Brook, her fictional world is beautifully created from—and is consistent with-- threads of existing lore. She’s not done building this world yet; each book brings another layer of intrigue and possibility.

    Beyond the romance and intrigue that make up Demon Bound, there is another theme here that elevates it out of the category of fluff (not that there’s anything wrong with fluff): both Jake and Alice are able to achieve their Happily Ever After only by facing and overcoming their fears. Alice’s personal Sword of Damocles has informed every aspect of her life as a Guardian, and she has spent more than a century trying to figure out a way to avoid her final impossible choice. Only when forced to work through an active solution does she defeat her demons, literal and figurative. Jake, too, works through issues both trivial and profound in order to help Alice while still acting honorably as a Guardian. His subplot of coming to terms with the remaining threads of his former earthly life is tender and moving – although a relatively small part of the story, it may well be the best part.

    Brook continues to deliver surprising characters, relationships, paranormal elements, and plot twists – the only thing that won’t surprise you is your total inability to put this book down.

    For the series reading order, see my recent post.
    _______________
    *RIP, Paul Newman. For a lovely tribute, see Stacy's latest post. Other than her failure to mention The Sting (heh), her thoughts are very similar to mine. We'll miss you, Paul Newman -- you were one of the good guys.

    .

    Sunday, September 7, 2008

    Series Reading Order

    It’s been pointed out to me that I generally don’t bother to list the reading order for the various series that I review. I figure that it’s usually pretty easy to ferret out from either Amazon or the author’s website, but I’m all about the feedback, so if that’s a service my readers want, I’m happy to oblige.

    So here’s the reading order for a few of the series that I’ve talked about in the past:

    Historicals

    The Bridgertons, by Julia Quinn

    1. The Duke and I

    2. The Viscount Who Loved Me

    3. An Offer From A Gentleman

    4. Romancing Mr. Bridgerton

    5. To Sir Phillip, With Love

    6. When He Was Wicked

    7. It's In His Kiss

    8. On The Way to the Wedding


    The Cynsters, by Stephanie Laurens

    1. Devil’s Bride

    2. A Rake’s Vow

    3. Scandal’s Bride

    4. A Rogue’s Proposal

    5. A Secret Love

    6. All About Love

    7. All About Passion

    8. The Promise in a Kiss

    9. On a Wild Night

    10. On a Wicked Dawn

    11. The Perfect Lover

    12. The Ideal Bride

    13. The Truth About Love

    14. What Price Love?

    15. The Taste of Innocence (wasn’t crazy about this one)


    The Bastion Club, by Stephanie Laurens

    1. Captain Jack’s Woman (prequel—meh)

    2. The Lady Chosen

    3. A Gentleman’s Honor

    4. A Lady of His Own

    5. A Fine Passion

    6. To Distraction

    7. Beyond Seduction

    8. The Edge of Desire


    The Carsington Brothers, by Loretta Chase

    1. Miss Wonderful

    2. Mr. Impossible

    3. Lord Perfect



    Contemporaries:
    Huh. It looks like most of the contemporaries I’ve talked about are not part of series, but more stand-alones. Leave me a comment if there are series that I’ve missed!

    Paranormals:
    Ah, paranormals. So many series, so little time. I’m just going to do a few here, or this post will be ridiculously long.

    First up, of course, is JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood:

    1. Dark Lover

    2. Lover Eternal

    3. Lover Awakened

    4. Lover Revealed

    5. Lover Unbound

    6. Lover Enshrined

    7. The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider’s Guide (coming in October 2008)

    8. Dead After Dark* (coming in December 2008)

    9. Lover Avenged (coming in May 2009)


    Meljean Brook’s Guardian Series:

    1. Hot Spell*

    2. Demon Angel

    3. Wild Thing*

    4. Demon Moon

    5. Demon Night

    6. First Blood*

    7. Demon Bound (coming in November 2008)


    Nalini Singh's Shifter/Psy series:

    1. An Enchanted Season*

    2. Slave to Sensation

    3. Visions of Heat

    4. Caressed by Ice

    5. The Magical Christmas Cat* (coming October 2008)

    6. Mine to Possess

    7. Hostage to Pleasure

    8. Branded by Fire (not yet released, but the exerpt is page-meltingly hot)



    Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series:

    1. Playing Easy to Get*

    2. A Hunger Like No Other

    3. No Rest for the Wicked

    4. Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night

    5. Dark Needs at Night’s Edge

    6. Dark Desires After Dusk

    7. Kiss of a Demon King (coming in Feb 2009)

    8. Not That Innocent* (coming in May 2009)


    Lynn Viehl’s Darkyn Series

    1. If Angels Burn

    2. Dark Need

    3. Private Demon

    4. Night Lost

    5. Evermore

    6. Twilight Fall

    7. Stay The Night (coming in Jan 2009)


    *Titles with an asterisk are anthologies which contain a novella or short story within the same universe as the series.

    That help, Erin? I hereby promise to include the reading order for any series I review in the future. :-)

    Tuesday, June 3, 2008

    Meljean Brook – “Demon” (or Guardian) Series

    Here’s what I have to say about book one (Demon Angel): eight hundred years of foreplay.

    Eight. Hundred. Years.

    Get out the ice buckets, readers.

    The way Brook sets up this first book particularly appeals to me because 1) I like longer books and 2) I like character-driven stories. The way these two main characters develop over the centuries is like nothing I’ve ever read before. It’s complicated – as you might expect an affair between a guardian angel and a millennia-old demon to be – and (I think I say this without spoilering anything) Hugh’s fall from angel to human was as thrilling as Lilith’s redemption from evil. God, I love Hugh’s dark side.

    A unique premise is golden in the ever-more-crowded world of paranormal romances, and I looooove the premise for these books. Brook builds a world that effortlessly blends biblical mythology, Good vs. Evil, urban fantasy, and erotic romantic story arcs.

    Entertainingly, this format allows Brook to cover all the bases in terms of archetypical heroes – knight in shining armour? Hugh. Gorgeous GQ model type? Colin. Got a little thang for cowboys? Meet Ethan. Next up this fall is wisecracking Vietnam vet and Fledgling Guardian Jake. Very hip.

    O'Donovan adds: I agree about the archetypes, although the latter two - Colin and Ethan- were imperfectly rendered. What we get in the human/supernatural romances is a snapshot - nearly a caricature - of the archetypes after however many years of modern life.

    Nicola responds: True. But they still have that flavor.

    Nicola continues: The heroines of this series stack up nicely, too. I mean, how often do you come across a heroine who is a consummate liar, with red scaly skin, black horns, and razor-sharp nipples, who's sold her soul to the devil? Not every day, that's for sure. To watch Hugh unhesitantly love Lilith in all her darkness and light, is to feel at least a *little* reassured that the average reader's soft underbelly might survive exposure.

    Her follow-up heroines, human women who are turned to vampires in Demon Moon and Demon Night, are completely different -- one a brainy hacker video-game creator/player, the other a shell-shocked ex-con just getting back on her feet. I like that Brook doesn't try to pack every virtue and every virtue-disguised-as-flaw into every main character. Lots more room for individuality.

    O'Donovan adds: I think the Hugh/Lilith romance is more perfectly rendered because we see them across the swath of history. Eight hundred year of foreplay really, uh, worked for me.

    Nicola continues: Brook constructs unusual, layered characters whose strengths and weaknesses compliment each other perfectly – but only after they solve a rubik’s cube of discovery — of themselves, of each other, of their relationship, and coming to terms with the loss (or recovery) of their humanity.

    There's no lack for wit or humor, either. A favorite snip:

    bearing in mind that Lillith is particularly talented at lying, and Hugh is particularly talented at discerning truth:

    "Making a bargain with Lucifer is completely different than working covertly for the government," Lilith said.

    Silence fell for a moment, then Hugh lowered his face into his hands and his shoulders began shaking. Unable to contain her own laughter, Savi sat down and bent forward, holding her sides.

    "Lilith," he said finally, wiping his eyes. "That's a lie."

    Now, I have to say that these books aren’t perfect… I’m rarely one to complain about a long book, but I did feel like there were places that any one of these three sagged a little. As a nitpick, her fight/action scenes could be a little more clearly rendered—the romance genre has always been a little more forgiving of this sort of fuzziness, but with all the urban fantasy out there right now, I think the bar for a tight action scene is floating up higher.

    After finishing the third book, it’s clear to me that Brook has a very definite vision of how the various categories of non-human beings interlock together (“follow the blood”) but there were times when she sort of lost me. I also have to wonder why she needs vampires in the mix – seems like demons (including the devil himself), angels, humans, & halflings ought to be adequate for any series, and with the biblical roots, the vampires seem like sort of a mis-fit. I’m not really up on my Old Testament, but there weren’t any vampires in there, were there?

    O'Donovan adds: The only other flaw that struck me was a weird teasing about some characters' back stories. In a book where Colin is the hero, one expects to learn his story. Instead, we get bits and pieces strewn across three books. If we don't get the skinny soon, I may start to lose patience.

    Nicola responds: Totally agree. I think though, that Colin's story is complete -- what we were supposed to glean from the bits of his letters in book 2 is that his non-reflective curse was self-inflicted and irreversible. I don't think we're going to see much more. The one that bugged me was about Charlie's scarring. She starts off telling a tall tale about it, but we don't know her well enough to know it's a tall tale. Its cause is alluded to but I thought it was too ambiguous.

    Nicola continues: Generally though, these are thoroughly readable books with a lot of what I want in a romance of any subgenre.

    O'Donovan adds: I wholeheartedly appreciate a new concept in paranormals, especially one that's executed with nuance and a fearless approach to complicated plotting.

    We agree: well worth the read, and will be purchasing Demon Bound when it comes out later this year.

    postscript from Nicola: I’d like to give credit to someone in particular for recommending this series to me, but I think I just sort of picked up the name by osmosis, after reading it on various favorites lists in the blogosphere. I clicked over to Brook’s website and read an excerpt from Demon Night and there was just no going back from there.

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