June 8, 2013

Review - Dark Serpent

Dark Serpent
Celestial Battle Trilogy, Book 1
Kylie Chan

Released: 01 May, 2013

Harper voyager, Trade, 468 p.
ISBN: 978-0-7322-9440-3

Back cover:

When the ancestry of Xuan Wu's fiancee, Emma, is revealed, it threatens the harmony of the whole Celestial realm.  The demons are gathering, powerful alliances are being made and stone Shen are under threat.  However, Xuan Wu is distracted - he must save Emma from the Demon King and give her the elixir of immortality, but at what cost?

I have been waiting on pins and needles for this book, for we finally find out exactly what Emma is!  There is so much I can't say because to go into all my favourite scenes will give away some good surprises.  What I can tell you is that if you have read the previous six books, then Dark Serpent is an absolute MUST!

"I've vowed to Raise Emma and marry her 
and that is all I want from life".

The story picks up what seems like years after book six, but I doubt it's that long ;-D  Emma is in her 40's now, and is still under the punishment that the Celestial handed down at the end of Heaven to Wudang.  No one can refer to her as 'my Lady', etc., nor can they talk to her about Celestial matters.  Quite hard for Emma as she was running the Northern Heavens for all those years that Xuan Wu was absent, but they're all handling it.

Emma gets into trouble again in this book, but this time the consequences are devastating **keep the tissue's handy** and all I will say is that George (our loathsome Demon King) has his hand in it.  There, enough said.  However, we do find out what George's interest is in Emma in particular, and what the appearance of the Western Shen, and East/West Hybrids have to do with George.

I motored through this book.  I just couldn't wait to find out what had happened to Emma and her celestial family.  However, now I have to wait another 18 months or so until I find out what happens next.... darn it ;-D  There was only one small issue I had with Dark Serpent, and that was the change in voices.  From the beginning we have been following Emma, and listening to things from her POV.  However, in Dark Serpent, Ms Chan has decided to add a new voice to the mix.  I was surprised to find myself following Xuan Wu and although novel, the change in POV jolted me out of the groove at times.  Personally, I preferred to see things through Emma's eyes.  But, even though I have had a quick gripe about that, don't let it put you off what is a fabulous book.

If you haven't yet read the series, then you need to start with White Tiger and work your way through the two preceding trilogies.  I would love for you to be able to just pick up this great book, but you do need know whats happened to appreciate, and get the most out of, Dark Serpent.

Review - Written in Red

Written in Red
A Novel of the Others, Book 1
Anne Bishop

Released: March 2013

ROC, Hardcover,  433p.
ISBN: 978-0-451-46496-5

Back cover:

As a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut - a gift that feels more alike a curse.  Meg's Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions.  But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard - a business district operated by the Others.

Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job.  First, he senses she's keeping a secret, and second, she doesn't smell like human prey.  Yet a stronger instinct propels hi to give Meg the job.  And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she's wanted by the government, he'll have to decide whether she's worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow.

I enjoyed this book a great deal, although it did take me a while to shake off the YA fiction vibe I was getting from the book, but after I immersed myself in the story I was fine.

Meg Corbyn, our young heroine, is such an innocent woman.  Having escaped her cage, and unfamiliar with the ways of the world, she somehow manages to see the good in people.  Yet, to say she is totally naive would be a great disservice to her, as Meg's life (before escaping) was not all sunshine and roses.  At first, we find Meg quite skittish and wary where Simon and the Others of the Courtyard are concerned, yet there are glimpses of temper and backbone that hint to the woman she could become.  Meg's interactions with those in the Courtyard range from curiosity to fear, and with Simon it's often both at the same time.  

Simon Wolfgard, being the leader of the Courtyard, is a tough and dominant male who takes in this human waif for no other reason than he needs to fill the position - and doesn't want to employ a certain human.  He feels as though he's made a mistake almost as soon as he's hired Meg, but for some reason, he can't seem to fire her - or eat her - but that doesn't stop him from making a complete arse of himself at times ;-D  Although he is not the most demonstrative or emotional of characters, you get a real sense of his core beliefs.  

Written in Red is mainly told from Meg and Simon's POV, although the flow is occasionally interrupted by POV from Asia, Henry and the local police detective who is trying to forge good relations with the Others.  I loved the 'otherness' of the characters, and the way that there is definitely an us and them mentality.  The mysterious Tess is a real charmer - love the hair! - and Winter and her sisters have the potential to scare the pants off everyone.  I hope to see more of their true natures emerging in the coming books.  The ponies that help Meg deliver her parcels were a nice touch, especially when their true talents are revealed.

As a big Anne Bishop fan, I did notice some fleeting similarities between the characters in this book and those of her much loved other series, The Black Jewels.  No, seriously!   Just think about it...

•  Meg Corbyn/Jaenelle Angelline - both wounded souls who find themselves in a position of power and have to deal with deadly males.
•  Simon Wolfgard/Daemon Sadi - dominant men who both wield power without thought.  Dangerous.
•  Vlad Sanguinati/Lucivar Yaslana - the seconds.  Dangerous fighters who have a lighter side.
•  Tess/Surreal - deadly women who would kill you as soon as look at you.  Very protective of those they take under their wings.

I could go on, but if you've read the Black Jewels books, you'll see what I mean.

My only problem with Written in Red was Meg's nameless, faceless enemy.  We see agents of that enemy, but there is a disconnect between his/her role in the story and the way everyone else deals with the fallout.  Not a huge problem in the grand scheme of things, and will hopefully be addressed in the following books.

The style of writing used in Written in Red is very similar to Kelley Armstrong's YA trilogy - the one with the kids that run away from the mental facility (sorry, can't think of the name).  So if you enjoyed Armstrong's series, then you should love Meg and Simon's story.

UPDATE:  Book 2, Murder of Crows, is scheduled for publication in March 2014.  Yeah!

June 5, 2013

Lots of books to share

Finally, I'm back in the realm of connectivity!  The last week and a half have been oh so frustrating as every time I fire up the laptop to tell you all about the great books I've read, the connection has been slower than a slug.  But fear not, my lovelies! For I shall be changing providers soon, and big lags between posts will {fingers crossed} be a thing of the past ;-D
In the meantime, I'm coming to you live from my smart phone (they may be handy, but its such a pain in the butt to do!).  Anyway, here are the micro reviews of my most recent forays into the world of dead trees....

Written in Red (Anne Bishop) - Love, love, loved it! 4 1/2 stars
Unsympathetic Magic (Laura Resnick) - okay, but could have been better. 2 1/2 stars
Dark Serpent (Kylie Chan) - OMG!!!!  If you've followed the series then you must BUY IT! 5 stars
Dead on Delivery & Dead Letter Day (Eileen Rendahl) - not brilliant, but better than average.  Interesting twists here and there.  3 stars each
God Save the Queen & The Queen is Dead (Kate Locke) - absolutely awesome!  A must read steampunk series. 4 1/2 stars
Discount Armageddon (Seanan McGuire) - a non-starter for me.  Great ideas, but execution left me wanting. 1 star

New in my TBR pile are;
•  3-in-1 volume of Simon R. Greene's 'A Walk on the Night side'.  Can't wait.
•  As Wicked as She Wants by Delilah S. Dawson.
•  Binding the Shadows by Jenn Bennett.  Finally, I have book 3 in my hands, and lastly
•  Dead on the Delta by Stacey Jay (and my 2nd book club title).

Well, that's me done until next time.  I promise to put up the expanded reviews ASAP.  So until then...

Happy reading!