Friday, September 27, 2013

Review: Monster on the Hill by Rob Harrell

Title: Monster on the Hill
Author: Rob Harrell
Genre: Fantasy Graphic Novel
Release Date: 6 August 2013

In a fantastical 1860s England, every quiet little township is terrorized by a ferocious monster - much to the townsfolk's delight! Each town's unique monster is a source of local pride, not to mention tourism. Each town, that is... except for one. Unfortunately, for the people of Stoker-on-Avon, their monster isn't quite as impressive. In fact, he's a little down in the dumps.

Can the morose Rayburn get a monstrous makeover and become a proper horror? It's up to the eccentric Dr. Charles Wilkie and plucky street urchin Timothy to get him up to snuff, before a greater threat turns the whole town to kindling! Monsters of all ages are sure to enjoy this tale about life's challenges, the power of friendship, and creative redemption, packed with epic battles and plenty of wild beasts!

I have a special weakness for graphic novels, especially fantasy stories that look to play with conventions - and Monster on the Hill most definitely did.

Rob Harrell's penned an incredibly fun, quirky, and silly story about Rayburn - the monster that belongs to Stoker-on-Avon. I loved the whole subversion, right off the bat, that the monsters terrorize the town and the townsfolks LOVE it. They run and scream, and when it's all over, they are absolutely delighted. Unfortunately for Stoker-on-Avon, Rayburn has a bit of depression going on. He doesn't want to do much of anything, and his sighs and grumblings are bringing down the whole town.

When a disgraced doctor, and a plucky kid go to help him out of his funk, it's a surprise to all of them what they find along the way to getting Rayburn's monsterly abilities back! Friendship and adventure await them as they travel to visit an old school buddy of Rayburn's. I really enjoyed the interactions between Timothy, the Doctor and Rayburn. More than once I laughed out loud, chuckled to myself, and just grinned about something they'd done or said.

The story and dialogue tickled me with it's sly, dry, and slightly sarcastic humor; propelling me through the book. Though we're in the 1860s, there's plenty of anachronistic mentions that made some of the jokes even funnier. By the end of the journey, I was simply delighted to have been able to read this book. If you like silly, goofy, quirky and plain old fun - no matter your age - I'd definitely recommend this.

Grade: B

Amazon | BN | kobo | Goodreads

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Review: The Art of The Last of Us by Naughty Dog Studios

Title: The Art of The Last of Us
Author: Naughty Dog Studios
Release Date: 28 June 2013

Naughty Dog Studios and Dark Horse proudly present the essential companion to The Last of Us, a richly detailed and compelling game set in a post-pandemic world where humans have become an endangered species.

Featuring concept art, character designs, and astonishing settings and landscapes, The Art of The Last of Us provides a unique look at one of the gaming world’s most eagerly anticipated titles.

Admittedly, I've never even glanced at a concept art book such as this, and definitely not one for a game I'd never played; but I've been anticipating this game since I first heard about it. When I saw this on NetGalley I immediately requested it.

There is some great art in this book, and it only makes me more excited for the game - which I've managed to log about 40 minutes in - but it also has a lot of MAJOR SPOILERS for the game. So if you haven't played, you're definitely going to learn some things about characters that you might not have wanted to know previously. I began skimming so I could look at the pictures by the time I was spoiled for the second time.

However, before that I loved learning the little tid-bits about how they developed the story, and why the changes of the evolution of the characters. Because the best thing to speak for this book is the art itself, I'll end this with those.

Grade: A

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Review: Bound by Marina Anderson

Title: Bound
Author: Marina Anderson
Serial: The Dining Club, Part 2
Release Date: 27 August 2013

Grace has surprised herself by falling hard for the breathtaking financier David. But now she knows that in order to keep this man, she will have to explore his darker side.

Grace is shocked by her body's instinctive response to the private club David has introduced her to: the Dining Club - a secret society where members can explore their most forbidden fantasies. David got her through the Club's exclusive doors - but to stay she must pass a series of erotic trials.

Wrapped in a luxurious dress of chiffon and lace that David gave her for her first challenge, Grace is anxious and excited to enter into the heart of the Dining Club. Little does she know that one of its members, the dazzling and domineering Amber, has every intention of keeping David all to herself...

In my review for Desire;, the first part of this serial, I mentioned that I had some reservations regarding David. These concerns have increased with each paragraph I read in Bound.

David is not only distant and emotionally manipulative, he's cold, and demanding, and a jerk, and seems to have a weird double-standard, and is even kind of elitist. There's just not much there for me to like.

Early in the book Grace is talking about what it means to be 'nice' to someone you care about - caring about their feelings, making them feel loved and cherished. David responds with: "There are other ways of making a woman feel loved and cherished..." I don't disagree that there are many ways to make someone feel loved and cherished, but caring how your partner feels should be at the top of the list in any relationship.

I think my main problem with this is that the book is trying to act like it's BDSM - more about domination and submission than any other aspect, so far, and one of the most important things in that type of relationship is the trust and communication between partners. There's no communication here. Grace is thrown into situations, expected to react in a way that passes the 'trial' and the whole while with the ultimatum hanging over her head of if you don't pass, we're through. The first trial: For one hour five people will take turns teasing her, attempting to bring her to climax (though only three actively participate) and "If you climax more than twice, then you will fail the trial." It's hard to gain that kind of control over your body - harder for some people than for others. One hour of people actively trying to make her climax and she's supposed to have instantaneous control? I was more than a little outraged. Especially when he brought up the whole 'you know what happens if you fail,' crap again.

Then there's the fact that the whole time Grace is going through this trial David is distant and aloof - she remarks on it more than once. What-the-ever-living-hell? You bring her here to do this, ostensibly to prove her love for you, and then you aren't even emotionally involved with her while you've turned her over to complete strangers to pass a test that you've demanded? Kick to the head - repeatedly.

On top of that women are apparently just objects - set dressings to be replaced as needed.

"She disobeyed and order last night and had to be punished for it. Amber has had problems with Laura before, but the twins [Laura and Amy] add something to the Dining Club. I hope we don't have to let them go." [said David]

"Did Amy cause a problem too?"

"Not that I know of, but aesthetically it would be the same to keep one of the girls. The Dining Club would have to train up another pair of twins if Laura doesn't improve."

(emphasis mine)

Are you *($*)@#*)@ kidding me??! I can't. I just can't.

The sexy times, meh. Just not that sexy to me. I don't know what the obsession is with squeezing the 'globes' of their breasts so hard it leaves marks, over and over and over again. Everyone does it. Actually squeezing at that level is pretty much done all over. I'll grant this is likely a personal preference thing for me, but it just doesn't work. When someone pressed hard on Grace's pubic bone, I cringed in sympathy. That hurts...

At this point, I'm sincerely hoping that Grace gets through the trials, dumps the asshole David and rides off into the sunset with Andrew.

With Andrew what you saw was what you got, and she liked what she saw. David didn't let you see very much, but she realized that was probably why she was so obsessed with him.
(emphasis mine)

Obsessed, not in love any longer, obsessed. Yup, I'm good with her dumping David and going with Andrew who actually seems to care and is kind and maybe just plain old nice.

Grade: D- 

Amazon | BN | kobo | Sony | Goodreads

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Review: First Bite by Dani Harper

Title: First Bite
Author: Dani Harper
Series: Dark Wolf, Book 1
Genre: Paranormal Romance / Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 15 October 2013

Geneva "Neva" Ross doesn't want to die. But now that she's been turned into a werewolf against her will, she'll do anything to protect her family and friends...even if that means taking her own life.

After witnessing Neva's leap from a high ledge, Travis Williamson — a Changeling with a dark past — uses his powers to save her life. He feels a connection to the strong-willed woman whose eyes flash that familiar Changeling green. While Neva is hospitalized, Travis risks everything to kidnap her, knowing the approaching full moon will put everyone in jeopardy.

Bickering constantly to hide their growing attraction, Travis and Neva run from the authorities...and from Neva's sinister sire, Meredith de la Ronde. Meredith delights in creating new shape-shifters and compelling them to do her dark bidding; now Neva must join Meredith's murderous wolf pack...or die.

This is my first experience with Dani Harper's work, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Typically books that are marketed as 'humorous' don't work for me, but I keep trying them hoping that one of them is going to hit the nail on the head. Lucky for me, the humour in First Bite was perfectly balanced and despite a few rough patches, and first-book-syndrome issues, I had a great time reading this book!

Neva, our heroine, is a strong-willed character, she's compassionate and has a strong sense of right and wrong - sometimes to the point of being stubborn. I immensely liked her, simply put. She didn't have any qualms about doing what needed to be done, and went about them smartly, with planning. Also, she didn't just lose all will when Travis showed up; didn't suddenly become helpless and rely on him for everything. I loved that.

Travis, despite his small bit of tortured-backstory, is probably one of the more well-rounded male leads in paranormal these days. That backstory does come back to beat him over the heart more than a few times in the book, but it's not a constant barrage of abuse he heaps on himself. Perhaps he's trying to atone for that history, but he's incredibly kind and simply dogged (pun not intended). Often, when Neva didn't want to trust him, he'd simply follow her until she was too exhausted to do anything but let him help. I liked how he was low-key about solving things, rarely pushy or demanding, but smart and patient.

There's a lot going on in this world. Though Changelings seem to be the only supernatural creature, magic does exist and it plays a large role. It seems nearly anything can be done with magic, and our villain does each one of those things. Meredith is a bit over-the-top, to the point of madly cackling with glee over our heroes misfortune and mistakes. I do think she's meant to be portrayed this way so it didn't bother me too much, but she could have as easily fallen into caricature.

I have to talk about the humour. I said earlier that it doesn't normally work for me in novels - it feels too forced or something. I hate the humor in the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones. I was bored and rolling my eyes at the humor in Molly Harper's books about being naked with werewolves. Here, however, was refreshingly different. It felt more subtle, more natural to the characters, less imposed on them. There wasn't a laugh every page, but I found myself grinning, chuckling and even re-reading certain things that made me laugh. It was what kept me reading during the slower beginning.

The pacing issues are my main issue I had while going through this book. It seemed like there were too many wayward plot threads, too much going on. There were some threads that didn't really seem to come together until about two-thirds of the way into the book - and then I was invested in all of them and could not put it down! But until then, I was a little bored with some of the side threads and a lot of the story seemed to have pacing issues. Of course this could be simply because I wanted more Neva and Travis, whom I really enjoyed.

I believe that the next book, Ties That Bind (due July 2014), is going to continue telling Neva and Travis' story so I think the multiple storylines now makes more sense. And with some of the decisions made at the end, I'm definitely looking forward to reading more in the series.

Grade: B-

Amazon | BN | kobo | Sony | Goodreads

Review: Desire by Marina Anderson

Title: Desire
Author: Marina Anderson
Serial: The Dining Club, Part 1
Release Date: 20 August 2013  
Young, ambitious theatre director Grace has no time for distractions, but she just cannot resist enigmatic city financier, David. Alluring, charismatic and an incredible lover - David never lets Grace get too close. So when he invites her to a weekend at his private club, Grace is thrilled.

Arriving at the secluded location, and excited by her nerves, David reveals the truth behind the Dining Club: a place where guests are taught to open their minds, and their bodies to erotic challenges. If she passes the tests, she is promised ecstasy beyond her wildest fantasies. If she fails, she's forbidden to ever set foot in the exclusive club again. But even as David's seductive commands make Grace feel more daring than ever before, she begins to fear for their future. What if she fails one of the Club's tantalizing trials? Will David still want her or will she lose him forever?

Desire, being the first part in a serialized novel, is a little hard to discuss on it’s own. It’s an introduction, to the characters and to the set-up of the weekend at The Dining Club. I’ll talk a little about my thoughts in these short thirty-odd pages.

Grace and David have been together for six months and Grace believes she’s starting to fall in love. David’s courteous, attentive, loving, and the sex is fabulous; however she realizes that David isn’t quite in the same place as her. He’s holding something back and she’s not quite sure what.

David cares about Grace a lot, and wants to take their relationship to the next level so he suggests a weekend at The Dining Club, an exclusive club at which he’s a member. Here he’ll finally be able to tell her, show her, the things he’s been holding back.   Honestly, I find the chemistry between Grace and David a little…forced. I feel like they’re both saying the right things, thinking the right things, but it just doesn’t feel right to me. At first I wondered if this wasn’t going to be a story where she showed up with one person and ended up with another but now I doubt that.

As you might have guessed, The Dining Club is a place where sexual fantasies can be carried out. A place for members to bring their significant others and be safe in finding out if they can fulfill each other’s sexual needs. They meet once a month and there’s only ever one ‘newbie’. This month is Grace. If they work out on this first visit, they’ll come back to go through several more ‘tables’.

Have I mentioned how much I dislike deception? Six months they’ve been together and the implication is that David has still been going to his club every month. I kind of have a problem with this. There isn’t anything in the text about them promising exclusivity, but it’s kind of been implied, and then there’s the scene with the woman at the club just before he goes to pick up Grace.

Look, I like some of the ‘more unusual sexual needs,’ as David puts it, but I also like openness and honesty in a relationship. I like that a lot. In fact it’s kind of one of my must-haves. I’m reserving a bit of judgment on this, but it did bother me here.

My other problem is the treading-the-line of manipulation that David pulls out near the end to convince Grace to stay. Maybe I’m a bit more sensitive to it because I’ve been in that sort of relationship. The ‘if you love me…’ and ‘I thought you’d want to do this for me…’ sort of comments roll off me badly.

Because of the format, serialized, these sorts of things can make or break a story. Because I have the next three installments I’m reserving my thoughts until I’ve read a bit further – and as they’re so short, it could be I do a complete 180 on my feelings for David, and Grace. But this is one of the downfalls of this format. The first one has to set the tone, and right now I’m not too happy with one of the main characters.

Grade: Due to my personal issues, I’m going to grade this in two different ways:

Writing: B
Story/Characters: C-

Amazon | BN | kobo | Sony | Goodreads

Friday, September 20, 2013

Review: Raven Flight by Juliet Marillier

Title: Raven Flight
Author: Juliet Marillier
Series: Shadowfell, Book 1
Release Date: 9 July 2013

Be warned, spoilers for Shadowfell abound below.

Neryn has finally found the rebel group at Shadowfell, and now her task is to seek out the elusive Guardians, vital to her training as a Caller. These four powerful beings have been increasingly at odds with human kind, and Neryn must prove her worth to them. She desperately needs their help to use her gift without compromising herself or the cause of overthrowing the evil King Keldec.

Neryn must journey with the tough and steadfast Tali, who looks on Neryn's love for the double agent Flint as a needless vulnerability. And perhaps it is. What Flint learns from the king will change the battlefield entirely -- but in whose favor, no one knows.

Map of Alban from Juliet Marillier's website

Last year I read my very first Juliet Marillier book, Shadowfell. It was one of my favorite books of the year and single-handedly saved the YA genre for me. Immersive, smart, peopled with characters I cared about – it drew me in and kept me wanting more. I was more than a little nervous when I picked up Raven Flight; sequels have let me down more often than they’ve impressed me.

I ended up loving it even more than the first book in the series, and my excitement for the concluding volume in the trilogy is through the roof!

But some things did not change...Courage, for instance. Dedication to a cause. Comradeship. When they were strong and pure, when they came from deep in the bone, those qualities could hold fast against all odds.

In Shadowfell Neryn had a goal, just reach the end and all would be alright. She learned a bit differently on her journey, but it was still that singular goal. Raven Flight has Neryn on another journey, this time to hone her craft, learn the skill of a Caller, and be the person who is needed to turn the tide in the war to come against the King.

She is still incredibly reluctant to use the gifts that can cause death and injury to those around her, she feels guilt for those she hurts and those that die. That showed, to me, that she’s conscientious. If those that have the power to harm never consider, worry over, or rail against the consequences, I worry about them being in power. As she journeys to the Guardians part of what I saw in her training was the knowledge and learning to be able to instinctively use her gift in ways that do the most good.

“I like your anger…I like your resistance. It makes you less than courteous, but altogether more interesting.”

As the journey once again takes a large part of the story, with no small amount of time spent in her lessons, we’re cut off from the greater group of people within Alban. Neryn travels, mostly, only with Tali - her guard. We get some incredibly important glimpses, small moments that are all the more precious, to us and Neryn, because of their brevity, but for the most part this book is the building of Neryn. I have to say, I appreciated this more than nearly anything in the book. Too often in books I’ve read the woman will have some special gift, powerful and demanding, and then she meets a man and becomes dependent on him for the rest of the story. Not so with Neryn. Her thoughts wander to Flint with regularity, but he’s off doing what he must do while she travels with a woman who soon becomes a friend.

I didn’t like Tali much when we first met her. She was brash with little depth, I thought. I was wrong. Tali has layers that haven’t even begun to be shown. She’s steadfast and strong, confident and still slightly vulnerable, loyal and a good friend. Watching the true friendship develop between these two was so incredibly refreshing.

Let there be a time in the future, I prayed, when he laughs with his children, and plays on the shore with them, and spends all his nights in loving arms. Let us have that. To whom I was praying I did not know. The future was in our own hands. If we wanted a world where such things were possible, it was for us to make it.

Flint, oh Flint. I love your tortured soul more with each and every word. Those small glimpses from your point of view were cherished; over too quickly, but all the more special and important because of it. I can’t get enough of this man that walks on both sides of the war and the sacrifices he has to make. The tenderness in his heart, after all he’s done, is amazing and incredible. My heart breaks for him frequently. I worry about him all the time. Sooner or later his secret will be out, I only hope he’s prepared. The moments between Flint and Neryn were heart-wrenching and oh-so sweet. I need more.

”There's a light shining in him, moving him forward: the light of freedom. That's what draws all of us to follow, to take risks, to keep on fighting when we see our comrades fall beside us. But there's no light without shadow.”

In Shadowfell the villain, the King, was little more than a reference. We saw the consequences and actions of his decrees, but none of him. Not so here! We finally get more than a vague reference to the King’s villainy; and it was enough to make me wish I could jump into the book and get rid of him myself!

I should talk about the Good Folk for a moment, or their dialect. I am a reader that, generally, hates written dialect. It’s often distracting and hard to read, not to mention often used incorrectly and stereotypically. While the Good Folk do talk in dialect, and a fairly strong one, it’s very nearly phonetic, easy to read, easy to understand, and completely consistent. It adds depth and something more to both the characters and the world that they’ve lived in for so long. This is one of the few books where I really appreciate the dialect added to their speech.

There’s not a lot more I can say without spoiling a whole lot of the book, but I will say that even with the slightly slower pace than Shadowfell, this book put me through the emotional wringer. There isn’t a character in the entire rebel force, or of the Good Folk that I’m not attached to, all of them are special and distinct.

I said, when I finished, that I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the long year (or so) wait until Caller, the third and final book in this series, comes out. A friend said: “Oh, that's simple. You start her other books.” Lucky for me I haven’t yet dug into Juliet Marillier’s back-list. But I shall, oh yes, I will.

Grade: A-

Amazon | BN | kobo | Sony | Goodreads

Review: Bloodfever by Karen Marie Moning

Title: Bloodfever
Author: Karen Marie Moning
Series: Fever Series, Book 2
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 16 October 2007

I used to be your average, everyday girl but all that changed one night in Dublin when I saw my first Fae, and got dragged into a world of deadly immortals and ancient secrets...

In her fight to stay alive, MacKayla must find the Sinsar Dubh — a million-year-old book of the blackest magic imaginable, which holds the key to power over the worlds of both the Fae and Man. Pursued by assassins, surrounded by mysterious figures she knows she can’t trust, Mac finds herself torn between two deadly and powerful men: V’lane, the immortal Fae Prince, and Jericho Barrons, a man as irresistible as he is dangerous.

For centuries the shadowy realm of the Fae has coexisted with that of humans. Now the walls between the two are coming down, and Mac is the only thing that stands between them.

**SPOILER WARNING** Likely nothing here will be a big spoiler if you've not read it or the series (WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!) but I recommend reading this series without ANY prior knowledge of what happens or is said - so go read my review for Darkfever, which will give nothing away and then get started. We can talk when you're done in a few days. Don't worry, I'll understand the sleep deprivation and manic actions.

Not once in the seven years of me reading this have I been able to pick up one of the books - to look up a reference or read a favorite scene - that I didn't end up reading the entire series from there to the end. It's addicting and will take over your life...at least it did mine. And I count it time well spent, each of the million re-reads I've done.

Although it may not seem like it, this isn't a story about darkness. It's about light. Kahlil Gibran says Your joy can fill you only as deeply your sorrow has carved you. If you've never tasted bitterness, swet is just another pleasant flavor on your tongue. One day I'm going to hold a lot of joy.

I read this series when it first came out. So I can tell you - reading this series, as dark as it gets, I held onto this quote. KMM said at some point later that this quote was her promise, in Mac's words, that Mac would be happy at the end of the story. Over the next 3 years I desperately held onto that promise, memorized this quote, reminded myself of it every time things got darker than I was expecting in even the most pessimistic corners of my mind. This one quote got me through a lot of the emotional heartache that this series brought me while I had the long waits between books. Thank god for it.

There are only shades of gray. Black and white are nothing more than lofty ideals in our minds, the standards by which we try to judge things, and map out our place in the world in relevance to them.

In the first book Mac said: You want to believe in black and white, good and evil... She's growing. She's learning, she begins to understand that not everything is the way she's always known it to be. One of my favorite (if convoluted) quotes below illustrates that beautifully.

Every time I think I'm getting smarter I realize that I've just done something stupid. Dad says there are three kinds of people in the world: those who don't know, and don't know they don't know; those who don't know and do know they don't know; and those who know and know how much they still don't know.

Heavy stuff, I know. I think I’ve finally graduated from the don’t-knows that don’t know to the don’t-knows that do.

Mac stepped off that plane in Dublin fresh, innocent and more than a little naive. I'm not saying she's made a complete 180, but she's gained some significant ground. She's getting smarter - thinking ahead, planning and actively attempting to understand and unravel this world that she's been thrust into. All while not losing herself.

Barrons has something the rest of us don't have. I don't know what it is, but I feel it all the time, especially when we're standing close. Beneath the expensive clothes, unplaceable accent, and cultured veneer, there's something that never crawled all the way out of the swamp. It didn't want to. It likes it there.

Barrons was one of the big enigmas that kept me guessing and reading and speculating from the moment Darkfever first hit the shelves. I won't kid you - you don't learn a lot about him. He can act like an ass, a dick, and a douche; but I've always loved him. He's the one that keeps Mac alive, keeps her safe (as possible), teaches HOW to survive, gives her the tools to survive. Sure he's not giving her everything, not trusting her completely, but he's helping her to become the stronger person she needs to be.

"What are you Barrons?"
"The one who will never let you die, and that's more, Ms. Lane, than anyone in your life has been able to say to you. More than anyone else can do."

I think this is part of what firmly won me to Barrons side early in this series. I was always intrigued, but his actions up to this point, and this simple statement - backed by the truth - made me a huge fan. I've never lost that love for Jericho Barrons.

One day I was going to write a book: How to Dictate to a Dictator and Evade an Evader, subtitled How to Handle Jericho Barrons.

Their interactions are some of the best I've ever read. Silent conversations abound, smart-ass remarks fly, and truth is buried in each and every moment.

Being touched by Jericho Barrons with kindness makes you feel like you must be the most special person in the world. It's like walking up to the biggest, most savage lion in the jungle, lying down, placing your head it its mouth and, rather than taking your life, it licks you and purrs.

And the oh-so slight building of sexual tension. That takes FOREVER for a payoff (be warned - though at least you don't have to wait YEARS :P)

"I'm sorry your pretty little world got all screwed up, but everybody's does, and you go on. It's how you go on that defines you."

This is another reason I love Barrons. He has a very *his* way of living. His own rules, his own acceptable actions, his own lines he will not cross. He knows what it takes to survive, to thrive, and this is the knowledge that he's slowly but surely passing onto Mac.

"The wisest man is the silent one. Examine his actions. Judge him by them."

Ah, yes. The other quote I took to heart. I judged Barrons by his actions. Sometimes I had to dig deep to get a good picture of what I think was really going on. He's not an easy character to see into. A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma...That's Jericho Barrons.

"One day you will kiss a man you can't breathe without, and find that breath is of little consequence."

A wonderful, intense, thrilling addition to the series. I remember finishing this book and immediately starting Darkfever again when I first read it. Reading it now, I can't even believe that I survived waiting for the next book.

Amazon | BN | kobo | Sony | Goodreads

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Review: Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

Title: Darkfever
Author: Karen Marie Moning
Series: Fever Series, Book 1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 31 October 2006

"My name is MacKayla, Mac for short. I'm a sidhe-seer, one who sees the Fae, a fact I accepted only recently and very reluctantly.

My philosophy is pretty simple - any day nobody's trying to kill me is a good day in my book. I haven't had many good days lately. Not since the walls between Man and Fae came down. But then, there's not a sidhe-seer alive who's had a good day since then."

When MacKayla's sister was murdered, she left a single clue to her death - a cryptic message on Mac's cel phone. Journeying to Ireland in search of answers, Ma is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to master a power she had no idea she possessed - a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae...

As Mac delves deeper into the mystery of her sister's death, her every move is shadowed by the dark, mysteriou Jericho...while at the same time, the ruthless V'lane - an alpha Fae who makes sex an addiction for human women - closes in on her. As the boundary between worlds begins to crumble, Mac's true mission becomes clear: to find the elusive Sinsar Dubh before someone else claims the all-powerful Dark Book - because whoever gets to it first holds nothing less than complete control both worlds in their hands....
You want to believe in black and white, good and evil...but I've learned in the past year that things are rarely so simple.

If anyone hasn't read this series yet (WHY?!) I'm not going to spoil you here. The Fevers are best read, experienced, as they occur. So if you're thinking of diving in (and you really, really should), I recommend you don't even read the blurbs of the future books.

This series. Even now, 7 years since I first read it, I'm still in absolute awe of the brilliance of Karen Marie Moning. So much so that this is the first time I've ever tried, and been semi-successful, in revirwing it. She's created a truly epic story here. I picked it up on a whim. The title got me, the blurb hooked me.

My philosophy is pretty simple – any day nobody's trying to kill me is a good day in my book. I haven't had many good days -lately.

So started an incredibly tense, fascinating, speculation-filled four and a half year journey. I'll never regret picking up that first book when it was initially released. But I will also say that those of you starting it right now, are very, very lucky. The waiting was...intense. KMM ends some of these books with such horrible cliffhangers. And while I had to wait a year between each book, now everyone can devour from book 1, Darkfever to book 5, Shadowfever in a haze of sleepless nights that doesn't lift until you've turned the last page.

The story is told in first-person retrospective POV – definitely my first experience with that type of storytelling, and still probably one of my only. The 'retrospective' part of that description means that Mac is telling the story after she's finished, and there's comments of the 'if only I'd known' sort. I personally loved this, it gave me depth and more to think about, but I also think it will take others a lot of getting used to. The further I got into the story, the more sure I was that this series was going to make me think, and re-read for many years to come. On re-reads something is obvious that may not have been on my first read; KMM had this series so tightly written that clues and asides, notes and building blocks are there from the very start. Five books later I finally realized the significance of some things I'd learned in Darkfever. And even on this time there were little things that struck me anew.

Mac, short for MacKayla Lane, starts out an innocent, na├»ve, girl from the provincial, rural area of Georgia. A lot of people look at her and think Barbie, and they're not entirely wrong. Mac herself doesn't do a lot to subvert this opinion and frequently – in the beginning – doesn't think much beyond this of herself. She likes pink, sunning by the poolside, tending bar, eating her mom's home-cooking and generally leading as simple of a life as possible.

Then her sister, Alina, dies in Ireland. And Mac finds out there's a whole lot more to her. She has steel under the pink, frilly clothes and attitude. Watching her evolution, which is one that takes time, is so absolutely relatable. Her struggles as she comes to accept these new things happening, what she can do, and even what she needs to do, really drove the story for me. What we might not have realized at the beginning is that Mac is smart. More than just her looks, she's loves her family beyond any recognizable point, would do anything for them, and has the brains, the guts, and the sheer nerve to continue to push herself past her comfort zone. See Mac bluff… is a frequent thought of hers in this book, a necessary one to keep her alive and able; letting her continue her mission to find her sister's killer.

You may get sick of hearing about the Iceberry pink nail polish, or the pearls, skirts, and sandals Mac wears or misses wearing. You might be annoyed by her wishing she hadn't been pulled into such dangerous and trying times. Or when she goes somewhat reluctantly down this path she didn't even know existed. Maybe you'll want to smack her and make her see what's right in front of her. All reactions I've seen. Not mine though. Mac's reactions to what's around her felt utterly and completely real to me. From a normal world, like you and I live in, to suddenly seeing fae – monsters – sitting at a table in the same bar as her. Everything makes sense, has an order, and suddenly she's dealing with things from myth and legend. Faery tales, worse than any you could ever imagine. She may not always like what's happening to her, she may balk at the changes that are thrust upon her, but she always, always ends up doing what needs to be done. It's not easy, but she's still there. With every single experience she has you can see how it's changing her, affecting her and making her into the person she's to become. Her evolution, metamorphosis from pretty-in-pink Mac is done perfectly right. We get to see as she's pared down, each thing honing, shaping, sharpening. You start to see the person she is under all the glamor and polish. And I love her, too. It all makes me respect her; I don't think there are too terribly many people that could go from the sheltered life she started in, to where she ends up.

"Sometimes...one must break with one's past to embrace one's future. It is never an easy thing to do. It is one of the distinguishing characteristics between survivors and victims. Letting go of what was, to survive what is."

As Mac delves deeper into this complex world, we're right along with her. One of the beautiful bonuses with this is that there's never a moment that feels like an info-dump. Information is doled out, some of it even off-screen, and Mac then records it in her notebooks. Determined to keep an intricate, detailed record of what she's doing in case something happens to her, we see everything from her thoughts on the major players, to the fae species and their history – maybe even some things they forgot. Each piece intrigues; every single bit of information just makes you want more. By the end of this book, I had at least a dozen theories on what was going on, where things were, and who people were. Some of them contradictory, and every one could be supported by the text. One of my favorite things to do during the year wait for the next book was speculate, make grand theories, piece tidbits together. I had some doozies.

You heard me mention those 'other players'. Here's where Jericho Barrons comes in. None of them is more intriguing than the enigmatic Jericho Barrons. I don't even know where to begin. Damn. This man. From the very first moment he walked on the page I was in love with his arrogant, cocky, unapologetic, domineering, alpha male self. He's very used to getting everything he wants, when and how he wants it. Then Mac barrels into his bookstore one dusky evening. Little did they both know that meeting was a line of demarcation – as Mac is wont to call it – in both their lives.

He didn't just occupy space, he saturated it…

Barrons is a man of few words. He doles out information as if it's precious, and won't offer excuses, or reasons for why he does what he does, to anyone other than himself. There are explicit reasons for each action he takes, though. He's very precise, and calculating, someone that plans. He's a strategist at heart, you can tell he enjoys a good game of chess – on and off the board. He's absolutely never going to change to be what you want, he is who he is and makes no apologies, doesn't care what anyone thinks of him. Accept, or go the hell away. And even while I'm wondering if he can be trusted, all I want to do is sidle up closer to him.

He wasn't handsome, that was too calm a word. He was intensely masculine. He was sexual. He attracted.

All of that, all these words in this attempt at a review, and I've barely scratched the tip of the iceberg. This book, this series, is intricate and complex. It's filled with mystery, drama, questions and treasure hunts. There's danger around nearly every corner, and surprises mixed throughout. It's little wonder this is one of my favorite series.

On this re-read, finally, I'm attempting to review each book. Hopefully you'll be seeing the rest of them here soon.

Amazon | BN | kobo | Sony | Goodreads
Related Posts with Thumbnails