Yup, it’s kind feast of famine with good UF and paranormal. While no ‘barn burners’ like The Rook or Hounded have hit the shelves this year to blow me away, a few reliable reliable authors have some new releases that are worth the effort. All the books reviewed below were purchased by me from Amazon.
For a writer with a paranormal romance background, Estep has proven very reliable and creative in the UF genre with her Elemental Assassin series. Yes, I am predisposed to enjoy books featuring assassins, but this is one of the few with a strong female lead character I like. She tough, resilient, and not prone to stupid actions. There have been a few angsty missteps along the way, but, with Poison Promise, Gin Blanco is B-A-C-K. And man, did I need a good read.
Gin is going to night school taking yet another course just to keep her brain active, because she finds them interesting. As always, she walks carefully alert to another attempt on her life since she took down Mab Malone. But she’s not the one in trouble, one of her waitresses is. Her ex-boyfriend Troy wants her to use and sell the latest drug and she wants nothing to do with him or the drugs – especially the new drug Burn. He has two vamps, but suddenly Catalina has her boss, Gin there. Troy doesn’t know who she is, neither do the vamps, but Catalina does and tries to defuse things before Gin leaves her usual trail of bodies. Thanks to Catalina, they just get a beat-down and Gin is mystified by Catalina’s attitude and her less than thrilled response to her help.
It’s the events of the following night that start the story. Gin follows Catalina to the parking garage after work and drags her into hiding as Troy and the vamps appear, bent on revenge. Their argument about how to handle Troy gets cut off when drug lord Beauregard Benson show up. They can do nothing but watch as he slowly pulls the very life-force from Troy till he’s nothing but a husk. Catalina insists they call the cops. Gin knows all too well how corrupt the force is, but finally agrees to call her sister Bria, a homicide detective.
And this is where Estep shines. She gets the strain between the cop sister on a crusade to avenge the brutal killing of her young informant Max, who got a little to close to Beau Benson, and Gin – the assassin, who solves these problems more ……permanently. Bria lashes out at Gin because of her own guilt over Max’s death. Catalina, is idealist enough to believe Bria can keep her safe if she acts as a witness to his killing of Troy, a childhood friend and former boyfriend, and is anxious to make the formal report. But with the police report Catalina will sign her own death warrant – and possibly Bria’s too. Gin might be hurt by Bria’s disdain and harsh words, but NO ONE will harm her family if she can stop it.
Like all action type stories, there is a certain rhythm to the events. Like Rocky must almost lose his epic bout before drawing on his inner strength to beat the odds. Estep’s books follow the same pattern of win-lose roller-coaster events, especially her big finale fight scenes. It does not make the story any less interesting because it’s not just about Gin and Benson, but Gin and Bria and family as well.
Poison Promise is one of the best books Estep has done in the series since she killed Mab Malone. While Heart of Venom was the next best, telling Sophia’s story at last, she been kind of cruising for a bit, but with this one set the stage for the next few books. No, it’s not deathless prose, nor as complex and layered as Harry Dresden or The Rook, but it’s damn entertaining and has more nuance than many action series out there. With a fast paced plot and very 3 dimensional characters, Poison Promise earns a B+ (4.3*) and highly recommended read.
Purchased from Amazon and well worth the money. This is one of the few series that seems to be holding up well over time. Good work Jennifer Estep!
Oh just kill me now, please. Why did I buy this? Book one, A Discovery of Witches was decent enough, a bit too ‘literary’ for paranormal, which is entertainment. Book two, Shadow of All Night was pointlessly long and annoying and, well, POINTLESS. Now The Book of Life, the huge ‘BIG REVEAL’ is ……………… a predictable dud. If you did not see this coming in book one, you were blind as a bat and should go back to reading Nancy Drew or something.
I lamented buying Breaking Danger by Lisa Marie Rice, but that was just ordinary tripe. The Book of Life is pretentious tripe, which is wayyyyyyyy worse. Overloaded with too many characters and side plots, with two increasing annoying lead characters, Matthew in a near constant state of bloodlust, and Diana serenely pregnant with twins, then behaving like a teen over her aunt’s death, and the Covenant chasing them, the whole thing becomes a bad melodramatic farce at times. And once again, characters keep not being true to character.
Changing POV is a literary trick many authors use to good effect, but Harkness went overboard having almost half a dozen different first person POV’s, then throwing in third person here and there for luck. Bits of plot were left dangling, the whole ‘Big Reveal’ was so obvious is was just DUMB, the HEA was a given, and the action …………… hummm. No one died of excitement reading this book, it was not and ‘edge of your seat’ type story. It was Dallas or Dynasty without shoulder pads, but with fangs and spells.
Yes, I am an action, thriller reader. Yes, I am a die hard mystery fan. Yes, I realize this book is neither genre. I love well written UF/paranormal/high fantasy. My favorite new authors since 2010 have all been UF/Fantasy authors, Daniel O’Malley, Kevin Hearne, Suzanne Johnson, and Chloe Neill (technically since 2009). I have zero patience for authors who get so lost in crafting words they forget the point of the books is to move along a thrilling plot, unwinding a core mystery that will answer questions that are the very foundation of the Covenant that governs witches, demons, and vampires, not their precious prose.
In some ways, Ms Harkness reminded me a bit of Robert Jordan when he became so involved in his vastly complicated telling of the Wheel of Time, it became a chore to read and I quit. Harkness was mercifully more brief, but she was far less dynamic, talented, and interesting, and she switched from telling the story of Ashmole 782 and Diana taking on her powers, to a ‘forbidden romance’ trope. And therein lies my big complaint – the way the story was written, the most tension came in Book 1 and by Book 3, it becomes about Matthew and Diana. I respect the creativity, her erudition, and the level of detail she used in creating secondary characters, but that doesn’t make me like it or find it less tedious and boring.
Those who got fed up are in the distinct minority, possibly because her audience was more female and enjoyed the whole ‘forbidden love’ trope more than I did. Those who were disappointed, were looking for true UF. Certainly Harkness did not skimp on the last book, if anything she got carried away pulling in past characters for a final curtain call. I’m giving the The Book of Life a C- (2.7*) and accept I am in a distinct minority by doing so. Fans will love it and get their money’s worth. Personally, I just found it annoying.
I know Some Enchanted Eclair is technically a cozy, but with ghosts, psychics, druids, and witches, it is also firmly paranormal. Set in Savannah, the fourth book in the series has a lot going for it, but a couple of real flaws. The core characters, Katie Lightfoot, her Aunt Lucy, Uncle Ben, boyfriend Declan, and the ladies of the coven are now firmly established. Katie is still trying to work out why she is different from the other witches. Author Bailey Cates has her settings down and well established so she tries to have Katie search for more information about what it means to be a Lightwitch.
Katie and her Aunt Lucy get entangled with a film crew doing a ‘rom com’ in Revolutionary War dress and filming in town on location. The caterer got fired after 3 days of being late and production director asks Katie to step in and handle the food – THAT DAY. But the money is too good to resist and she does as asked. Too bad she’s barely started when she the man’s body under the table. Too bad it’s the guy who hired her. The leading lady seems strangely involved with the whole catering thing, the helper for the dead man is a weasel, Uncle Ben is pissed a murder happened on his watch, and the psychic that travels with the erratic leading lady gives Katie messages like, “You’ll solve this’.
Though a cozy, the book is a cut above with a good supporting players, that unfortunately got short shrift here, but filled their role. Katie is still trying to figure out what a Lightwitch is. The psychic turns out to be not just a nice person, but a very real psychic. The solution to the killing ……. well, that came out of the blue. God I hate that.
Bailey Cates failed the ‘fairness’ test for ‘who did it’. Now I did figure out who, but the why was completely out of left field. The other issue is a common one, the author uses a setting conducive to the ‘atmosphere’ they want, then writes the book so generically is could be anywhere, so she fails to make good use of the city itself. A minor, but annoying thing.
Some Enchanted Eclair gets a B- (3.7*) from me, slightly lower than the current Amazon rating. Clearly focused on Katie and the witchcraft angle, Cates needs to move that element along far more quickly than she’s doing. It’s dragging at her plots. A better than average cozy, but I do hate those bizarre, convoluted ‘why’s’ coming from left field at the very end. Bought from Amazon. If you like a good paranormal cozy, it’s worth the price. Barely.
You have to give Chloe Neill credit, she kept up the pace and the interest in this series for 10 books and that is NOT easy to do. No, it’s not as lush or complex as Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden, also set in Chicago, but along with Kevin Hearne and Suzanne Johnson, she’s one of the best of the newer UF authors out there.
Blood Games picks up the story of Cadogan House challenging the Greenwich Presidium for rule of the vampires, but two things happen, first is a series of murders that somehow tie back to a Comic Con going on in Chicago. (By the way, the whole Comic Com thing was a howl, esp the scene were a ‘Merit’ impersonator tells Merit how to look like a ‘vampire sex warrior’ was just great.) Second, is Darius not acting like Darius at all. As Holmes would say, “The games afoot!”
The plot is layered here as Darius West, head of GP was in NYC, yet barely said hello to his old friend there. He’d been in Boston too. And the RG (Red Guard) has it’s own “Jeff” (or McGee for NCIS fans) and they found in each city he visited, money has gone missing from the House General Fund, and withdrawing it requires someone do so in person. He also has some serious body guards. When Darius fails to react to Ethan as he should, given the fact he’s been challenged by him for his position in the GP, they start digging deeper and end up staging a rescue. The find an obelisk that is actually controlling Darius. Now they need to find who made it, why, and get that 7 million back.
Meanwhile, bodies are piling up. CPD and Merit’s Grandfather are trying to find the connection – which is actually found by Mallory, Merit’s best friend and recovering sorceress. Then the GP finally shows up for the challenge, and Ethan isn’t the only challenger. The challenges are interesting, and through all this, one of the challengers is trying to blackmail Ethan into withdrawing and the fact he won’t discuss it with Merit is causing a rift.
I really have to give Ms Neill credit for producing a book that is part mystery, part slice of life about friendship and family, part romance, and overall, an action book. It’s good. Amazingly, the story did not get away from her. All in all, it’s one of the better entries in this series, which says a LOT for a book 10 in any series.
My score for Blood Games is B+(4.2*) and highly recommended read. The whole series for UF fans and this one is a MUST!!!!!!!!!!!!!
My next entry will be a few quick reviews and then I’ll get to work reading August releases.