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Kresley Cole’s ‘Poison Princess’ a dark, racy thriller for adults and YA October 8, 2012

Posted by Diana McCabe in Authors, Book picks, Reviews/summaries.
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If you like Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series for adults, you’re going to love POISON PRINCESS, her first   paranormal YA novel.

The story is dark — very dark — but Cole’s witty dialogue, creative new world and characters based on Tarot cards — the Arcana — and just the right amount of weird teen angst make this a page turner. Here’s Cole’s description from her website: (And scroll to the bottom to see YouTube video of her talking about the book!)

22 Arcana cards. 22 young assassins. May the best hand live.

Sixteen-year-old Evie Greene’s horrific hallucinations predicted the apocalypse, and the end of the world brought her all sorts of new powers. With the earth scorched and few survivors, Evie teams up with handsome and dangerous Jack Deveaux in a race to find answers. They discover that that an ancient prophesy is being played out, and Evie is not the only one with special powers. A group of teens have been chosen to reenact the ultimate battle between good and evil. But it’s not always clear who is on which side…

Her heroine is Evie — a popular Southern belle in high school who is dating a hunky quarterback and who seemingly has the world wrapped around her finger. But when we meet Evie, we are not in her cheerful high school world — but  in a different world — one that’s been laid to waste by something called the “Flash” with loved ones killed. It’s a world where lawless groups  roam the countryside. Zombie-like creatures are everywhere. And it’s literally every man – -because most women died in the “Flash”  — for himself. But when the story opens, Evie is being lured into an old house by a young man named Arthur, who is exceptionally cruel and evil — and a total mystery.

And that’s how Cole tells her tale. She alternates between the sadistic Arthur  and Evie’s past until we are caught up at the end and back in Arthur’s house. We go back in time to find out that her idyllic teen life wasn’t so perfect because Evie had visions of the end of the world. Her mother put her in an institute for the summer because she was worried Evie would follow in her grandmother’s footsteps — insanity. Or what Evie’s mother thought was insanity.

As Evie struggles to mainstream her way back into school and with friends, she meets bad boy Jackson Deveaux, a Cajun from the wrong side of the tracks who is fascinated by Evie and what is haunting her. They tug at each other — both repulsed and yet attracted to each other at first. It’s a pretty intense and hot relationship — just right for this story.

Cole weaves in the story of Evie’s visions — the strange creatures she sees. A witch, Death, a girl who shoots arrows and a boy who beckons to her as a friend. Bloody battles from ancient wars.  Evie sees desolate landscapes, death and oddly enough — plants. Evie is called the Empress in these visions and later on after the “Flash” but she doesn’t understand who or what she really is. Without giving too much away, I will say that Cole has based her characters on Tarot — what she calls the Arcana — cards. In the end, the story and subsequent books in this series will amount to a sort of THE HUNGER GAMES among these card characters. But the relationships are more complicated in this frightening post-apocalyptic world.

And then there’s Jackson — who is dark and handsome and not part of the Arcana — at least that we know in this first book. He seems to want to protect Evie, who — fast forward into the world after the “Flash” — is determined to find her grandmother, who was put away somewhere in North Carolina. Evie is convinced her grandmother is still alive and can help her figure out what her role as Empress should be in this new world.

Suffice to say, Cole leaves us with a giant cliffhanger and it’s going to be a long wait between this book and the sequel. But if the second book is anything like the first, it will be well worth the wait.

KMM’s ‘Fever Moon’ has some interesting deets but characters look too old! September 23, 2012

Posted by Diana McCabe in Reviews/summaries.
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I wasn’t going to buy Karen Marie Moning’s FEVER MOON because I’m just not a big fan of book series I’ve read being turned into graphic novels. But my friends over at SookieStackhouse.com liked the novel so I thought I’d read it.

I should have trusted my gut. Didn’t care for it. Here’s the book blurb:

In Fever Moon, we meet the most ancient and deadly Unseelie ever created, the Fear Dorcha. For eons, he’s traveled worlds with the Unseelie king, leaving behind him a path of mutilation and destruction. Now he’s hunting Dublin, and no one Mac loves is safe.

Dublin is a war zone. The walls between humans and Fae are down. A third of the world’s population is dead and chaos reigns. Imprisoned over half a million years ago, the Unseelie are free and each one Mac meets is worse than the last. Human weapons don’t stand a chance against them.

With a blood moon hanging low over the city, something dark and sinister begins to hunt the streets of Temple Bar, choosing its victims by targeting those closest to Mac. Armed only with the Spear of Destiny and Jericho Barrons, she must face her most terrifying enemy yet.

The cool thing about the novel is you get the back story on the Fear Dorcha. But that’s it for me. The rest is — as billed — a retelling of some events that occur during SHADOWFEVER. And that’s OK.

But my biggest complaint? The characters are — well — drawn way out of character. Both Mac and Dani look too old. Mac looks like she’s a hard-bitten 30-something. And Dani — who is supposed to be a teen — looks like a 20-something. And I know graphic novels like to sex things up but some of the outfits they put Mac into — they are not Mac. Oh — and big continuity problem in one chapter. Mac sets off going to Chester’s in a green dress — and then we switch to a flashback scene — but when we return to the present Chester’s scene, she’s not wearing the green dress. She’s wearing a red dress. Maybe I missed something but it’s more likely someone missed something in editing this?

As for Barrons? Not a thing like I pictured. He sort of looks Asian at times. I was perfectly happy with his monster appearance though! I thought Inspector Jayne was handsome and I didn’t think of him as good-looking in the novels.

The artwork isn’t bad. It’s just that most of the characters looked too harsh and hard bitten. Even the Fae who are supposed to look shiny and gorgeous look like oafs.

Not sure I’d recommend it. I suppose diehard fans will go out and read it anyway! I did. Maybe you’ll like it. (Of course — these graphic novels are super fast reads. A plus!)

Here’s hoping Dani’s story — ICED — which comes out Oct. 30 — will be a more satisfying read!

‘Dragon Bound’ is for those who like their paranormal romance by the book September 16, 2012

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I was excited to read DRAGON BOUND by Thea Harrison because it won top honors from RITA for best paranormal romance. And if you like the formulaic alpha male stuff — complete with sex scenes —  this book is for you. If not, there is enough world building to keep it interesting. But I was surprised it was the top pick.

Harrison starts out with a good idea. Pia Giovanni is running for her life. Her ex-boyfriend blackmailed her into stealing something from Dragos, a very powerful dragon. We don’t know exactly what Pia is other than she is half-human/half-wyr. And we know she is some sort of special supernatural because her mother — who died — taught her to hide her magic.  This part of the story and the friends in her supernatural world she half lives in — is interesting.

And  then we meet the mighty hero — Dragos, who is a powerful, ancient and rare dragon shifter. He is a big-time businessman in his world, too, so no one messes around with him. So he’s horribly ticked off when Pia steals something — and gets away with it — from his stash of goodies. What ensues is a cat-and-mouse game between the two.

Dragos finds Pia fascinating with her human world of Slurpees and Twizzlers. And Pia falls for the big, powerful Dragos. It definitely will remind you of Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series. The hero is super possessive with all of this “mine” stuff and the heroine — while somewhat independent — can’t help but be attracted to him. Still — she has no clue about her own powers, which Dragos eventually helps her discover.

In the background of this story is a bigger plot. A power struggle between  a dark fae king and the world of Dragos. And the poor humans who have no clue what is going on.

If Harrison develops these other worlds and power struggles — this could be a cool series. But can we please make the characters have a sense of humor? The caveman hero stuff wears thin. But the discovery of other supernatural characters, their allegiances and Pia’s background made this an easy read.

‘Take It Like a Vamp’ — an OK afternoon read but hero is sooooo indecisive …. September 10, 2012

Posted by Diana McCabe in Authors, Reviews/summaries, Vampires.
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On a whim, I downloaded Candace HavensTAKE IT LIKE A VAMP because I’d heard good things about the story. It’s a fast afternoon read and if you like the sexy vampire guy meets human girl and wants to protect her story, then this is for you. Here’s the book blurb:

“Vampire Nick Christos might’ve been born in the Middle Ages, but the good old days seem tame compared to the last eight years he’s spent ruling the Supernatural Council. His only respite is with his cute neighbor Casey Meyers, a woman he wants more than any undead man should. Sure, he’s forced to take a cold shower after every encounter, but there’s no way he’ll test his own strength by getting too close to a human, and he’s not willing to risk her life — not with bloodthirsty family on the prowl out to ruin Nick’s life.

When said Nick’s kin shows up, the innocent Casey is caught in the middle of a centuries old fight, and Nick’s biggest fear is realized. Now, instead of keeping his hands off his neighbor, he’ll risk everything to save the human he’s come to love.”

So Nick the vampire and Casey — who thinks she’s too plump — are neighbors in a condo that he owns. They’re best friends, although both are secretly in love with each other. That part of the story is cute and fun. She thinks Nick is out of her league, and Nick is worried about scaring Casey off. The friendship deepens though as Nick — who is high up on a supernatural council — has to get married. His big problem? He hasn’t told Casey he’s a vampire and he’s got a lot of enemies, including a nasty witch who wants Nick to herself, after him.

And that’s my biggest issue with the book. A lot of time is spent about Nick worrying about telling Casey what he is and why he needs to marry her. It’s totally annoying. I wanted to yell at him — just tell her and stop dragging her around and pulling her into danger! And I also got tired of the heroine who is insecure about her body. In this case, Casey says she has a little pouch instead of a flat belly. I’m guessing this is to appeal to all of us women out there without model bodies but I am sooooo tired of this formula. She’s way too insecure. Of course, Nick and his other supernatural buddies think she’s gorgeous. We so didn’t need to get into women’s bodies issues. (Notice the men never have body issues but I guess the book publishers know their female audience!)

That said, there were some really funny moments in the story. Casey has some good lines — like this: “It’s sad when your best friend makes your panties melt.” And the other characters are entertaining: Her Aunt “Teddy” who used to be a guy is pretty amusing and and Nick’s friend Linc, who is a clothing designer but 100 percent straight and hot. (I’m guessing Havens will write more about these other characters.) Havens also drops in references to current vampire books/movies like TWILIGHT and TRUE BLOOD.

The pace of the story is fast. And that’s what makes it an OK afternoon read despite some of the flaws I found annoying. When I got to the end — I almost wanted an epilogue or something. It just stopped so abruptly. Maybe she’ll write more. But if she does, I hope she sharpens up some of the characters a bit to make this is more of a top-notch read. If you’re looking for a more complex, witty story — like Kresley Cole or Patricia Briggs — totally skip this. But if you enjoy the occasional light stuff, you might like this.

Book pick: ‘Graveminder’ opens up a gritty new world of the dead June 5, 2011

Posted by Diana McCabe in Reviews/summaries.
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Someone has to watch over the dead in Claysville. Feed them. Console them. Make sure they stay put.

And for decades, Rebekkah Barrow’s grandmother, Maylene, did just that. Maylene went to  every funeral in town and performed the same ritual that Rebekkah witnessed over and over. She would take three sips from a silver flask and say “Sleep well, and stay where I put you.”

But Rebekkah, an outsider who only lived in Claysville for a short time and  visited her grandmother as a young adult, never knew why. And now that her grandmother is dead — murdered — the duty to mind the dead falls to her in Melissa Marr’s latest book, GRAVEMINDER, a gritty, urban fantasy that makes you wonder if people really do have a choice about who they love and why.

Rebekkah Barrow is torn with indecision and guilt over her destined role in Claysville, a town where the native born never leave, but live quiet and happy lives until they turn at least 80 and then they are subject to the same health issues as anyone else. But the price for that so-called peace has been a pact with the underworld that dictates that a Graveminder — a Barrow woman — and the town’s Undertaker — a Montgomery man — work together to make sure the dead of Claysville are buried properly. And if they aren’t — to lead them to the other side, a place ruled by the mysterious Charles — also called Mr. D. If the dead aren’t properly minded, they will walk among the living and kill.

Helping Rebekkah is the Undertaker — Byron Montgomery, an old love who Rebekkah has run away from because — among other things — he used to date her sister. Neither Rebekkah nor Bryon learn of their roles in Claysville until the very last minute.  They must sift through old journals and records and visit the land of Dr. D to find clues to mind the dead.

They also learn that the Graveminder and Undertaker are historically tied and drawn to each other. He must protect her, and she depends on him to guide her from the land of the dead — which she finds immensely attractive. Is it the destiny of the Graveminder and Undertaker the reason Rebekkah and Bryon have always been attracted to each other? Or is it true love? Or does it even matter? With no time to figure out their feelings for each other, Rebekkah and Byron must work together to figure out who killed Maylene and to deal with the dead — who are now suddenly so restless.

This is an urban fantasy, who-done-it mystery with a dash of romance. The story is laced with folklore, and at first — because I was reading so quickly — I didn’t understand how the role of Graveminder or Undertaker is passed along, so read the first chapters carefully. The most interesting  parts of the story occur when Marr takes us into the world of Dr. D. How he and the rest of the dead are connected to the world of the living is fascinating, and she hasn’t revealed all that much in this first book — but there’s enough to make you wonder what she’ll do in the next installment.

Fans of Marr’s WICKED LOVELY series about humans and the fae understand that this author is great at building dark and mysterious worlds where each of her characters must make choices — no matter what their destiny. And she holds true to form in GRAVEMINDER.

Visit Melissa Marr’s website for excerpts from the novel and also some nifty Graveminders/Undertakers history (click the link to download the chart below in PDF format or you can download it from Melissa’s site.)

Image from Melissa Marr's website

Book pick: Ending of ‘Hard Bitten’ makes up for super slow, repetitious start May 8, 2011

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It’s been a while since my buddy Dot has had a chance to file a book pick. She’s been reading a lot of historical romances but jumped back into the paranormal world to bring us this review of Chloe Neill’s latest book in the Chicagoland Vampire series: HARD BITTEN. Here’s what Dot had to say about Book No. 4:

If you have been hiding under a rock then you haven’t heard all the buzz about the ending in this most recent edition to Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires series. It is a shocker and I’m not about to spoil your fun in finding out for yourself. My warning is just be careful reading reviews because many do contain spoilers and it would be a shame if you found out too early.

That said — and you knew I’d have to have a qualification somewhere — the first half of this book deserves a two or three stars, but the last bit deserves five stars. So for an overall ranking, I settled on 4 stars.

There is so much repetition in the beginning that I was truly ready to toss in the towel. How many times does Merit have to repeat the same report? Obviously, to every secondary character in the book. A simple-Merit told the Ombudsman(Mallory, Ethan, Luc, Morgan, Tate, Jonah, Catcher, Jeff, etc.) what went down – would suffice. But with each repeat we are treated(?) to the entire, or almost the entire, retelling all over again.

OK, with that rant out of the way, I think the ending is priceless. It is a testament to the author’s bravery to write it as she has because there will be fallout. I thought it was fitting and will make the fifth book in the series a must-buy. The ending made all that repetition worth slogging through. If you’re a fan, you won’t be sorry if you read this book. I cannot wait to see where Chloe Neill takes this series. So often later books in a series start to wither and we wish the author would end it all and put us and the characters out of our misery. I have a feeling we are in for a real treat with the continuing of this series.

As with most series you would do well to start with the first book and proceed through each in turn.

1. SOME GIRLS BITE
2. FRIDAY NIGHT BITES
3. TWICE BITTEN
4. HARD BITTEN
5. DRINK DEEP (coming in November)

Book pick: ‘Darkest Mercy’ fitting ending to ‘Wicked Lovely’ series March 20, 2011

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Fans of Melissa Marr’s WICKED LOVELY series have been waiting for DARKEST MERCY — the fifth and final novel in the saga about the world of the fae and battle between good and evil. Of course, it’s also about  finding out if you’re strong enough to leave the one you love for a greater purpose. Or is love that greater purpose? (DON’T MISS! Check out the interview we did on Last Bite Podcast with Melissa Marr. It should be available HERE later this week.)

DARKEST MERCY picks up where RADIANT SHADOWS left off. Aislinn is fending for herself as Summer Queen because Keenan is AWOL. While she needs Keenan to run the court,  she pines for her true love, Seth. But does Seth still want her? Seth, sworn brother of the Dark King and heir to the High Queen, is dealing with his new powers as a seer and exactly what that means. Donia — like Aislinn — is dealing the best she can with the Winter Court as she longs for Keenan — a love she thinks can never really be. And will Niall find a way to save Irial, who was stabbed with a poisonous knife by Bananach?

Such a lot of story lines to wind up but Marr cleverly handles the pace and plot by writing DARKEST MERCY from several points of view. I liked this approach because the reader gets a chance to really get inside a character’s head and see the story from his/her perspective. So we understand Niall’s anguish after he brings healer after healer to Irial with the same result. And his anger toward Seth, who he believes might have been able to foresee the action and have saved Irial. We feel Donia’s pain, when she realizes to make the Summer Court whole and strengthen her own. she can never have Keenan. We see Keenan’s struggles as he realizes he must make a choice between his Summer Queen and Donia.

The best part for me was watching Aislinn grow. Throughout this series, she’s been tough at times, but mostly she’s flopped about trying to figure out her new role while keeping her true love with her. That’s pretty tough to do with the sexy and worldly Keenan tempting you and evil fae trying to kill or unseat you. But when both her love interests seemingly abandon her, she’s had it. And she takes action She’s determined to get her court back in order and to sort out her love life — no matter what. Yes, at times I found both Keenan and Seth exasperating and wished she’d dump both of ’em (ditto for Donia), but in the end, Ash stays true to herself, as do the other characters.

The most interesting story though involved Leslie, Irial and Niall. I don’t want to spoil it for folks but it was a rather creative ending for this trio. And if you didn’t have a good idea about the depth of love Irial and Niall held for each other — it’s very clear here. You see a different side to Niall — and one that’s not so nice.

Sure, it’s no big surprise that in end, everyone has to work together to defeat War and Disorder. Marr doesn’t flinch though. The Death Man is in town and some favorite side characters die during the battle. It’s a bit bittersweet.  But the entire series has always juggled darkness and cruelty with the  light and sunshine of Marr’s worlds.

What’s interesting about Marr’s work is how her characters grow and make decisions we think they aren’t really capable of making. Some might complain that the ending is too neatly wrapped up for the main characters — Ash, Donia, Seth and Keenan — but many other questions linger for others such as Niall, Leslie and Irial.  (I particularly like how Keenan’s story ends. It’s rather ironic at first but just.) I have to say — I kind of want a bit more. I want to know how things look 100 years from now. But that’s not the author’s intent. The series is about change and growth and how one handles those changes and ensuing decisions. If you look at the entirety of this series, it’s a fitting ending to a story that has so many themes that lots of YA readers — and adults — can relate to in their own lives.

If you haven’t read any of the books in the series, save this one for the end. The books — in order:

WICKED LOVELY
INK EXCHANGE
FRAGILE ETERNITY
RADIANT SHADOWS
DARKEST MERCY

DON’T MISS!
Check out the interview we did on Last Bite Podcast with Melissa Marr. It should be available HERE later this week.

Book pick: ‘This Side of the Grave’ fun in parts but missing spark! March 8, 2011

Posted by Diana McCabe in Reviews/summaries.
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Longtime fans of Jeaniene Frost’s Cat & Bones series will want to read THIS SIDE OF THE GRAVE, but it’s not the snappy, fast-paced story we’ve been treated to before.

In fact, I found it hard to get into the first few chapters. We knew what the storyline was  one based on the last novel: The ghouls are itching for a war against the vampires, and Cat is the flash point because of the unusual abilities she’s gained. She and Bones head back to New Orleans to meet with Marie Laveau, who juices Cat up with some of her black magic mojo  — and boy are there some interesting results —  and then — well — the gang tries to stop the war from occurring.

Sounds good, but on the whole, you just never get the sense of doom like in the previous stories. There also is a serious lack of tension between Cat and Bones. No danger. No anger. Very little lust. That much-talked about Chapter 21 wasn’t anything  like Chapter 32 of ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE, although I get what Frost was trying to do. Frankly, I was so distracted by  how the wax was manipulated that the atmosphere Frost was trying to create — and she usually does these scenes very well — was totally missing for me. To be fair — the previous novels have featured all kinds of obstacles between Cat and Bones. I guess it might be kind of hard to keep upping the ante in the couple’s relationship. Even Cat makes a remark about how their relationship has settled.

Also, I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read the book yet, but the historical reference to the other half-vamp — made me roll my eyes. Yes, it’s part of the back story but it just seemed — well — almost funny to me that Frost would pick this person.

However, parts of THIS SIDE OF THE GRAVE were fun  and interesting, and I just wish we’d had more of that. The scenes between Vlad and Cat are good. You can’t help but wonder how Frost will write his story — and she is planning a couple of books about him. The storyline with Don is fascinating and I can’t wait to see how that develops. We also get to see Tate, Juan,  Mencheres and Kira, and Denise and Spade, too. But it just wasn’t enough to really keep me riveted as I usually am with Frost’s stories.

That said, most fans will happily soldier through book No. 5 and get to the good nuggets in the story — and that will be enough to keep them wondering about the next book in the series. I still think that this one feels like  a “bridge” book —  that there’s something more coming — and this was a story to keep everything glued together. And I’m OK with that because I like the overall series.

Other reviews of THIS SIDE OF THE GRAVE:

Book pick: ‘Dreams of a Dark Warrior’ — darkest story in the IAD series February 20, 2011

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I usually shy away from reincarnation romance stories, but I couldn’t pass up DREAMS OF A DARK WARRIOR, the ninth novel  in Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series.  But be warned, this is a much darker IAD book than her previous entries.

The story — which is almost a retelling of DEMON FROM THE DARK from a different point of view — follows ill-fated lovers  Aidan the Fierce and Regin the Radiant. Warlord Aidan first meets Regin when she is 12. He is  a berserker, who recognizes her as his mate, and waits for her to grow up before claiming her. But his life — and their love life — is cut short before he can gain immortality.  And that’s their history. Every time the reincarnated Aidan and Regin consummate their love, Aidan  dies shortly after, leaving immortal Valkyrie Regin to mourn his loss and wait for his next reincarnation – where he dies again.

So when the present day story picks up, the cheeky Regin is done repeating history. This time,  she decides not to look for the next version of Aidan — hoping to avoid heartbreak and their cursed history.

Instead, Regin is kidnapped by The Order, a mortal organization that wants to wipe out all immortals. And guess who is a bigwig in The Order and Regin’s captor?  Declan Chase, a bitter, emotionally/physically scarred human who hates all immortals — but who is the latest reincarnation of Aidan the Fierce.

Chase is a real evil dude. He kills and tortures good and evil immortals alike and doesn’t realize that not all supernatural beings are like the evil creatures who  killed his family and tortured him when he was a teen.  As fate would have it (Hint: Nix knows all), Regin ends up as one of his torture victims. This is where the story got a little weird for me. In previous reincarnations, Aidan would recognize Regin as his beloved — just after they kissed — and would do everything in his power to protect her from any harm. But while Chase feels something toward Regin — he refuses to fall for her, fails to protect her and it makes him a very hard Kresley Cole hero to love. This is a guy who has his best friend (Brandr) cut up. (Yuck!) He even guts Regin during the capture and continues to let her come into harm’s way at the compound.

I have to say, Chase is my least favorite hero of the entire series right now. There’s nothing wrong with a few flaws, but he’s beyond just a few. He’s a broken man, at times warring with his personal feelings and brainwashing via The Order. He’s hooked on drugs. And in desperation, he makes deals with other immortals — yes — to help save Regin — but it’s hard to swallow. And the torture stuff. Ugh. Just hard to take that and think this is the guy the spirited and witty Regin will wind up with.  In the end, the author does salvage his character enough that some IAD readers should come around.

He’s not super popular among the Lore either. After he helps Regin and other immortals escape from The Order’s torture camp,  Chase kind of has a price on his head. After all, he captured and tortured so many of the Lore. And even at the end of the story, it’s clear that many in the Lore don’t care if he’s with Regin — he’s not been forgiven for his role in The Order.

DREAMS OF A DARK WARRIOR does have a great supporting cast:  Natalya with her poisonous claws; Thad, the clueless vampire halfling who has no idea what his “talent’ might be,  and Lothaire (evil vampire) who holds a lot of power and secrets. They offer most of the  humor that’s a trademark of Kresley Cole, and they lighten the dark romance between Chase and Regin.  Their escape gives you the “other view” of the collapse of The Order’s compound that we saw in DEMON FROM THE DARK. And if you’ve read that — you definitely already know some of what happens to Regin and her friends. We also get to see Malkom Slaine and Carrow Graie again. (Since this is a retelling)

As with all IAD books there are a lot of sex scenes. This time around, I thought it was a bit much. (Maybe it’s because I didn’t like Chase for most of the novel?)

Still, if you’re reading the series, you don’t want to miss this story. The reincarnation romance  was interesting and even funny at times — plus it had an interesting twist.  And this story also is setting us up for the next book in the series. Nix is nuttier than ever.  What is her connection to Lothaire? And will Lothaire ever get his ring back and who is the “she” he must get back to? (If it’s who I think it is — it will be a real  talker!)

As the Ascension is clearly in full swing, you have to wonder if the rest of Cole’s stories will become even more dark. I hope not. I don’t expect her to write all sweetness and light when the world of the Lore is falling apart, but I want more of the humor and wit and grit from both heroes and heroines that has come to be a hallmark of her series. (OK — and give me a hero who is worthy of our Valkyries!)

Tip: If you haven’t read the IAD series, don’t start with this book. Most of the other novels can stand on their own but the last few in the series are definitely interconnected. And DREAMS OF A DARK WARRIOR should be read after DEMON FROM THE DARK.

DID YOU MISS THESE?

Book pick: ‘Shadowfever’ an epic ending to the Mac & Barrons story January 22, 2011

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Karen Marie Moning wraps up her Fever series with a finale that whipsaws the reader in an oh-my-gosh page turner that never lets up until the last page. (And that would be page 594 — so if you haven’t finished it, be warned: This contains SPOILERS.)

After waiting two years for SHADOWFEVER and debating countless theories on Mac and Barrons, I wondered if KMM could deliver all of the answers her fans demanded. I’d say in some cases she did — and in others she left the door open.

SHADOWFEVER continues Mac’s dark journey of loss and self-discovery as she hunts her sister’s killer and is surrounded by the Fae and other monsters who are overtaking humankind. We  quickly learn that the beast she stabs at the end of DREAMFEVER is Barrons. And this is where Mac starts to wonder if she’s evil  and can’t figure out who or what she really is — beyond a sidhe-seer who can detect Fae objects and is immune to Fae glamour.

In her grief over killing Barrons, Mac decides to join forces with the Lord Master and hunt down the Sinsar Dubh. Once she has the book, she plans to use its magic to recreate time — a time where Barrons and her sister, Alina, exist.

Well — that was her plan. Through a series of plot and character twists, KMM moves Mac in a different direction though, and it’s one that leaves our heroine with a major identity crisis. Is she the reincarnation of the King’s concubine? And in an even more intriguing twist, is she the King?  Or, is she  a vessel holding a copy of the Sinsar Dubh?

I found this to be the most fascinating part of the story. KMM builds her own Fae lore about the queen,  the King and the Fourth Prince as she guides Mac through the White Mansion and the Silvers for answers. This is good, creative story telling.

And Mac’s uncertainty about who she is — at times is touching and funny:

“Was I a woman, obsessed with the woman on the couch? Or was I the male King of the Fae, obsessed with Jericho? I consider myself open-minded about gender preference — love is love, and who’s to say how the body follows the heart? — but both of those scenarios were hard for me to accept for myself. Neither fit me like a glove, and sexuality should. When it’s right, it feels good on you, like your own skin, and the only thing that felt like skin to me was woman to man.”

The best parts of the book are reminiscent of the rest of the series: The witty banter that Mac and Barrons carry on without speaking; the eerie worlds KMM creates as Mac travels in the Silvers and White Mansion, and the development of V’lane — who isn’t exactly a nice Fae after all. (Not that any of us trusted him.) His role in all of this is perhaps the most shocking — and I was delighted to hear his story unfold in such a traitorous way! (I won’t spoil the rest on that story line, but it’s not over yet!)

Karen Marie Moning in NOLA for Shadowfever launch.

It’s also clear early in the story that Barrons just won’t die. We still don’t know who or what he is — only that when he dies he returns to the place of his original death before coming back. That his heart doesn’t beat — until after he feeds. And that he has a son, who is hopelessly locked in his beast state. We also find out just how entangled he is with his men, how ticked off he is at Mac for consorting with the Lord Master and how much his beast really controls him.

Much as I liked large parts of the story, I often found myself reeling with the number of “Ah-ha” moments and characters who stand in Mac’s way. KMM ties up the Rowena story line, the Isla story, gives us more on Barrons,  his men and Barrons’ child, has Dani deliver a whopper of a surprise to Mac, introduces us to K’Vruck (Death), leaves us wondering what the heck will happen to Christian and then includes a slew of characters from her HIGHLANDER series and even involve Mac’s adopted parents  in the big final scene at the end. It was way too much. Toward the end, I almost felt as if I were watching a movie and the bad guys just wouldn’t die — but kept coming back to life!

The very end was a big nod to KMM fans who wanted that happy ending. It was a little too sweet for me, with Mac’s adoptive parents moving to Dublin and getting a house and everyone getting together for a party at Mac’s bookstore — with Barrons grilling steaks. It didn’t have the same fun, edgy tone I felt was the strong suit of the entire series.

In all fairness to KMM, she wanted to wrap this story up in five books. And despite some of my nits with the overabundance of  changing story lines/characters, I still loved reading this story and will keep re-reading it.

We still have a lot of unanswered questions, including who and what is JZB. And we certainly still have questions about Mac, now that we know who and what she is. But KMM will slowly reveal more to us in her next series, which focuses on Dani, Ryodan and Christian.

But yes — when I look back at what KMM has done with the series and this last book, SHADOWFEVER does deliver an epic ending to a great urban-fantasy, which remains a favorite of mine.

So as KMM says on page 594: “The end ….”  and on the next page “…. for now.”

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