Title: Agamemnon Frost and the House of Death (Agamemnon Frost #1)
Author: Kim Knox
Length: 26k words
Genre: m/m Steampunk Romance
Heat: 2 – Tame
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Series, Netgalley, Alternate World Historical, Aliens, 1890s, Victorian, England, ex-Military, Class Differences
Rating: So So
Decorated artilleryman Edgar Mason was forced to find new work when the British Empire replaced its foot soldiers with monstrous machines. Now he waits on the Liverpool elite as a personal servant. He has just one rule: he won’t work for fashion-addled dandies.
Agamemnon Frost, however, is far from the foppish man-about-town he appears to be. He’s working to protect the Earth from an alien invasion being planned by a face-changing creature known as Pandarus. And on the night he plans to confront the aliens, he enlists Mason to assist him.
For a man to love a man is a serious crime in Victorian England. But when Mason meets Frost, his heart thunders and his blood catches fire. And when Pandarus drags the two men into the torture cellars beneath his house of death to brainwash them, Mason’s new passion may be all that stands between him and insanity.
This is certainly of a different pace than what I’ve been reading lately, and if you consider the steampunk nature of the story, then certainly different from what I usually read. In a way, I found that refreshing. On the other hand, this is such a short first part of a trilogy, that if it holds to a similar word count pattern as the first two, will only (in all) add up to around 75k words. I had a bit of a difficult time getting into the rhythm of the prose and piecing together the confusing details. And once I did, the story ended just as it was coming together.
Mason has given ten years to the army, marching through Afghanistan and India, only to return to England with so many of his other comrades that it is difficult to find a job. Sent to an estate to be the valet for one of the home’s guests for the night is work — so he’ll take it — even though it isn’t permanent and he’s warned right away that Agamemnon Frost is a bit, er.. peculiar.
In Agamemnon Frost, Mason finds a clear candidate for a mental hospital, yet at the same time a curious intelligence and the spark of a different personality under his foppish exterior. What at first seems to be a typical dandy, Mason soon sees a man underneath using that exterior in a game of sorts, though Frost’s make believe players don’t offer him much trust. But if it is a game that Mr. Frost wants to play, it is only his job for one night — though the undercurrents may promise he serve the magnanimous personality in another way.
That still may come to pass when Mason quite quickly realizes that the stakes in the game are real and that the world has he knew it has been ripped away from him completely. Suddenly he doesn’t understand anything of what is happening save that he’s on the run from aliens. And later, that he’s being pulled in both directions, with only Agamemnon Frost as his anchor to reality.
The official blurb gives you quite a bit more information that my summary did, but I like to think that my summary gives a bit more of the confusion that I felt. The thing is, it’s not terribly confusing, it’s just that when the story does finally start to come together and you finally put more of the pieces together about who is what and the myriad of different creatures there really are, the story ends. I was finally ready to settle into the story only to be ripped out again. So my rating of So So really has to do with the way this story is separated into a trilogy. If I had been able to read the second one right after the first, I might have been more into the story. The writing itself is fresh and inventive pulling humor through the social mores of Victorian England, as if Mason and Frost are at once playing their game of same sex attraction amid an outdated structure, but at the same time poking fun at the grander scheme, the aliens in their midst. The writing showcases that fun through lots of little detail like their body chemistry amid something as simple and yet sexually charged as bathing or shaving.
So, for the most part, I’ll save my feelings about this story until I read the next and can get a better picture of the story as a whole. I’m certainly intrigued to find out what is next for Achilles and Patrocles 😉
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 3 So So, Authors J-L, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Romance, Sex Freq 1 - None, Steampunk Tags: 1890s, Agamemnon Frost, Aliens, Alternate World Historical, Carina, Class Distinctions, England, Ex-Military, Kim Knox, Netgalley, Series, Victorian England
Author: Hayden Thorne
Publisher: JMS Books
Length: 76,977 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal YA Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Homophobia, Coming of Age, Self-Discovery Focus, Single Moms, Awesome Moms!, Bullying, HEA, Alternate Reality/Otherworlds, Ghosts/Spirits, Ghouls, Zombies, Vampires, First Times (Kisses Only), Magic, Mystery, Magical Realism, Nerds/Geeks
Rating: Pretty Good
All fifteen-year-old Noah Hipwell wants is to go through high school in peace. Yet he finds himself suspended after a bully pushes him too far, and Noah’s forced to defend himself. His mother, fed up with the school’s indifference to his plight, pulls him out completely and leaves Noah uncertain of his future while they look for a good and safe school for him.
All Dorothy “Dot” Hipwell wants is to go through single motherhood in peace. Yet she and her son are harassed by weekly phone calls from her evangelical family hell-bent on guilt-tripping them both back into the fold. Then Noah’s grandparents ask strange questions about their old van after dropping cryptic references to a group called The Soul Warriors. Fed up, Dot takes Noah away for a much-needed getaway, only to find themselves suddenly transported to an alternate world, where a town called Helleville awaits them and all other condemned souls.
Along with warm-blooded, living human beings, the Hipwells rub shoulders with zombies, vampires, house ghosts, and occasional “green vomit piles” while picking up the pieces and sorting out what could very well be an eternity in a bizarre, fanciful, and humorous world of ghouls and banned books.
When residents suddenly disappear one by one with no trace and for no logical reason, however, doubts being “housed” in an alternate world for their sins are raised, and time suddenly becomes of the essence as Noah and the rest of Helleville’s condemned race to find answers to what’s quickly turning into a dangerous puzzle.
It’s been a while since I read a Hayden Thorne novel and now I remember exactly why I always want to read them! She has a particular quirky brain that makes her books unique in a way that always pulls me in. This wasn’t my favorite of her books, but it might be hard to top the Masks books anyway. Still, by the end of this book, I liked it and I really liked Noah.
Noah is fifteen and out of school. After a bad situation at his last public school, where some kids bullied him and he fought back, getting suspended, his super awesome single mom Dot went ape-shit on the administration for their blatant disregard of the bullying in their school and pulled Noah out. Since then, he’s been staying at home while his mother works two jobs and looks for a new, more inclusive school. Noah and his mom are pretty close, they’re their only family and they stick together. Well, Noah does have grandparents (Dot’s parents), but they really aren’t considered family — more like righteous stalkers. The calendar by the phone with bloody X’s mark the days that they call to harass them about their wicked ways (which include that Noah is gay and that Dot had him out of wedlock). It isn’t until his grandmother threatens to set The Soul Warriors on them that they get a little more worried.
When Noah and his mother decide to take a weekend road trip to a B&B to get away from all the phone calls, they find themselves transported to a strange alternate world that seems to be a ridiculous mockery of Hell — a town called Helleville filled with residents with similar experiences as them, full of banned books like Harry Potter and science textbooks that teach evolution, and weird and strange creatures like ghosts, vampires, zombies and ghouls. The strange thing is that though no one there can really figure out where they are and why they’re there (other than the fact that The Soul Warriors are behind everything), it isn’t the classic representation of hell that you’d expect. They’re well cared for with all the food they want for no money, the kids don’t have to take school (although they can sit in a class with Satan as a teacher if they want), and they’re surrounded by pristine nature with no need for jobs. The people there have formed a community of sorts with a mayor and everything, but they all have time to relax and enjoy the things that they didn’t have time for in life. Dot decides to take up crocheting.
They are, however, haunted by one serious problem. Every so often someone disappears. Soon after Noah and his mother arrive in Helleville, the fourth resident goes missing and no one can ever find them, no matter how many times they organize search parties and a night watch to try to catch anything abnormal. It isn’t until Noah makes a friend named John who loves to take pictures that they start to piece together the strange occurrences and what could be behind it all. But before Noah can get too attached to his new hobby of playing Sherlock Holmes he meets Alex, a boy his own age who seems to like him. Alex invites him to hang out with a few of the other teenagers in Helleville and finds that he’s not the only one with a crush on the nerdy teen. Matt, a cool seventeen, muscular and gorgeous, highly intelligent and the most popular kid involved in the community has a thing for Alex and he doesn’t intend for Noah, who he looks at like a bug under his shoe, to get in his way.
Before all of you m/m romance readers out there get excited, the romance in this story is kept on the back burner. Instead, this story is really Noah’s coming of age tale and his road to self-discovery. Helleville and the alternate reality they’ve been sent to acts as a catalyst to force Noah to grow. Before he was sent there, a lot of his own exploration of himself as a teenager had been stunted because of the bullying he experienced at school. He calls himself an introvert, but he’s really afraid to get back out into the world and try again, making friends and even meeting a guy he likes and taking a change. He has a lot of latent social anxiety and Helleville acts as a skewed kind of microcosm of the real world to get him to open up again. In Helleville, Noah can be someone new. He can meet and go on dates with a boy like Alex, he learns that he can have friends. And most importantly he learns that people can rely on him, that he has worth. Alex acts as part of that self-discovery, of course, and their relationship also is a somewhat significant part of the story, but it never progresses very far on page.
The pace and plot mimic Noah’s journey in a way. The POV is strictly Noah’s, so the first half of the book is quite sedate. I even read one reader’s review on Goodreads before I started reading that said that this book was boring. I wouldn’t say that, I quite enjoyed it. But there were a few times in the first half of the book that I set it down, read some other things and then picked it up later. I think that as long as you don’t go into this book expecting it to focus on Noah’s romantic life and that the story will be more about action than reflection, you’ll enjoy it. Also, if you haven’t read much of Hayden Thorne’s work by now you might not realize that most of her work is cerebral. This book is a reflection of Noah’s life, in almost an allegorical way. If you’d rather just read for fun and not want to focus on the meaning of it all, then you might find this story a bit slow … in the first half anyway, the second half was much more exciting.
So I definitely recommend this one. I really like Hayden’s work and I’ll always pick up her books when a new one is out. She always has a really great point of view coming from gay teenagers that it’s so easy to connect with. That, and sometimes this book just makes you go — What the FUCK?
Posted by Cole in 4 Pretty Good, 76-100k, Authors S-U, Contemporary, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 1 - None, YA Tags: Alternate Worlds, Awesome Moms!, Bullies/Bullying, Coming of Age, First Times, Ghosts/Spirits, Ghouls, Hayden Thorne, HEA, Homophobia, JMS Books, Magic, magical realism, Mystery, Nerds/Geeks, Otherworlds, Self-Discovery Focus, Single Moms, Vampire, Zombies!
Author: Will Parkinson
Publisher: Dreamspinner (Harmony Ink)
Length: 53,637 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary YA Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Debut Novel, High School, Unrequited Love, Closeted, Best Friends, Straight/Gay Male Friendships, Coming Out, Coming of Age, Art/Artists, Sports, Baseball, Athletes, Abuse, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Evil Teenaged Girls!, Secrets & Lies
Rating: Not Feelin’ It
The day Jackson Kern walks into Taylor Andrews’s classroom is a momentous day in Taylor’s life. He’s had crushes before, sure, but as time goes on, this is starting to look a whole lot more serious. Still, Jackson doesn’t return Taylor’s feelings.
Taylor has his own admirers, though. Kevin Richards is used to getting what he wants, and what he wants right now is Taylor, so when Taylor rejects him, Kevin retaliates. At first Taylor’s entourage rallies around him, but then Kevin takes his deception one step further and Taylor sees his support dwindle, teaching him the valuable lesson about who he can truly consider a friend.
I’m always eager to pick up a baseball book and even though I’ve been interested in several and still plan to review a few of them, it has been a while since I’ve picked up a book from DSP’s young adult imprint. From what I gather in the acknowledgements, this is Will Parkinson’s debut novel. Sometimes it’s a gamble picking books to read by a new author or an author I’ve never read, but that’s another part of reviewing that I like. Reviewing gives me the opportunity to read new authors and it feels like I get to enjoy more of the perks, like finding a surprise that’s worth it. Often, it’s different though and while I like some of those books I also don’t like some of them. I’m afraid to say that this book fell into the latter camp for me. While it wasn’t a total disappointment, I just didn’t connect with the book.
Taylor is a gay sophomore in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin high school. His best friend Benny is straight and the only person alive who knows his secret. They’re best friends and always have been and Benny is a rather special guy that is wise beyond his years, intelligent and loyal. Pitch opens on the day that a new student starts at Taylor’s school. Jackson walks into Taylor’s homeroom, looking nervous and totally sexy and Taylor immediately wants to draw him. What follows over the next year is an intense unrequited love that just doesn’t seem to go away, no matter how hard Taylor tries and Benny cautions. No matter how much Taylor is told that Jackson is disgusted by his little boy crush from Jackson’s cheerleader girlfriend, Taylor just can’t seem to stay away.
It isn’t until he and Benny gain some perspective on their problems during the next summer, camp counseling for abused kids, that Taylor starts to grow up. He still has feelings for Jackson, but he’s less likely now to follow him around like a lost puppy. So when a kid from a neighboring school asks him out during their Halloween dance, Taylor decides to take him up on it. He really starts to like Kevin, but he is prey unknowingly walking into Kevin’s trap. It takes some extremely tough decisions and way too much heartbreak and drama to realize that much of what he thought before wasn’t true, about most of the people he knew.
There are two aspects of this novella that I had a difficult time with. The first are the characters. This, especially, is subjective. Part of what oftentimes makes a young adult novel good are the bad choices of the characters. More often than not young adult stories have a moral and it can walk a fine line in the hands of the author between preachy and poignant. The style of this story went a bit over the top and that just wasn’t something that I was really looking for. For high school students, who I freely admit can be some of the cruelest humans on Earth, many of the actions of these characters went beyond immature and foolhardy. I would have appreciated the characters and their decisions (even the bad ones) more if their actions had been more subtle and less ascribed to their particular archetype. Kevin’s actions in particular required me to suspend disbelief a few times.
As I said before, those decisions and your own feelings about them are more subjective than usual. My other problem with this story was in the writing. I applaud this author for writing and writing and sharing their work. But like many new authors I think that there were some fundamental writing problems that this author needs to work on. Mostly it will just take continued writing, so even though this book wasn’t for me, I sincerely hope that this author keeps up with it. Part of the novice prose problems were dialogue and restraint. In a way, the second has quite a bit to do with the first. This book didn’t fall into too bad of a habit of telling rather than showing, but there is importance in letting the characters express themselves in their own ways instead of being a vehicle to express the author’s view. I’m not talking about preaching about issues or anything like that here. I simply mean the difference between the characters’ observations and personality and the author’s. Almost continually there were times while reading this that I stopped and thought that a character wouldn’t say or think that. The dialogue, in a similar way, oftentimes sounded familiar for all the characters and didn’t seem to represent the individual characters. Restraint is important because readers don’t need all the information. It’s a partnership, you know? The readers picks up on the clues the author leaves and pieces them together and in that way one small action tells you more about the character than a whole page of narration.
Ultimately, this book just wasn’t for me because of the more dramatic plot twists. I have seen a couple of 5-star reviews around so I’ll be interested to see if any other readers/reviewers feel the way I do, or if this turns out to be a reader favorite. I’ve been a part of the more unpopular opinion before!
Posted by Cole in 2 Not Feelin' It, 41-75k, Authors P-R, Contemporary, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Romance, Sex Freq 1 - None, YA Tags: Abuse, Art, Artists, Athletes, Baseball, Best Friends, Closeted, Coming of Age, Coming Out, Debut Novel, Evil Teenaged Girls!, Harmony Ink Press, High School, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Secrets & Lies, Sports, Straight/Gay Male Friendships, Unrequited Love, Will Parkinson
Title: The Queen’s Librarian
Author: Carole Cummings
Length: 68,666 words
Genre: m/m Fantasy**
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None (a couple, fade to black)
Keywords/Tags: Established Relationships, Magic, Alternate World Historical, Animals/Pets, Otherworlds, Royalty, Funny Guys
Rating: Really Liked It
All Lucas Tripp wants is prosperity for the tenants of his family’s estate; good weather for the harvest; suitable matches for his sisters; a little money left over at the end of the month; and more quality time with his boyfriend, Alex Booker. That’s not so much to ask for, right?
Wrong. When his sister’s new suitor suddenly disappears, Lucas is drawn into an adventure of a lifetime—kicking and screaming all the way. Magical beings who were allegedly banished hundreds of years ago are coming through portals that were supposed to be shut against them—and that’s only part of Lucas’s problem. The rest consists of missing princes, breaking and entering, suspicious magicians, well-meaning women who are far too interested in Lucas’s sex life… the list goes on. Lucas is decidedly Not Amused, but he’ll get over it someday. Probably. After all, there’s always Alex.
Oh Carole… I just had so much fun reading that. You know, Carole has said several times that she thanks Fen for this book. Fen, for those of you who might not know, is her main character from the Wolf’s-own series and his head is just a mess of angst. It’s all for good reason because Fen lives in a really messed up world, but back to Carole. She has said that she needed to go somewhere happy, somewhere carefree after spending so much time (4 novels!) in his head. And I’m glad she did. This book is definitely the antithesis of those, of course with the exception of writing talent. I’m glad that I knew that about this book going in, because otherwise I might have been expecting a more serious style than her previous two series.
The book opens with one of the most hilarious chapters I’ve ever read. It is so easy to become endeared with Lucas, especially in the inner drunk ramblings of his mind at his first visit to a tavern. Trouble doesn’t really come until he’s had one too many and decides that it wouldn’t be too unseemly to have a pee outside, where he promptly becomes entangled with a bush. In a cruel twist of fate, someone seems him — pants partially open and wrestling with the arms of his coat — a man with long silver hair and speaking a lot of nonsense. It doesn’t seem too strange in his ale fuzzy brain when the man simply disappears after a whole lot of yelling words that neither understands back and forth but well, he’s still stuck in the bush.
When the man starts turning up in strange places to again shout incomprehensible words at him, Lucas starts to become alarmed. Especially when the man starts stealing his books. But it isn’t until his sister’s suitor disappears and Lucas is begged to find him that he runs into the man again, this time speaking some words Lucas understands. What he hears alarms him, especially because it appears that the man wants something from him and in the meantime intends to kidnap his cousin the prince as a trade. Lucas is so dead for losing the prince, but he knows that he has to do something to get Laurie back.
Really, the best part of this book are the characters. There is such a wonderful cast of characters that all have their own well-rounded personalities, characteristics and motives. But they have such a great banter. In reading the prior work from Carole Cummings, I always admired her writing which is at the same time intelligent and accessible, but I also never knew that she could write in such a playful way! It is really a delight to read. And just the same as it was for her, I think this is a really good book to read when you need a break from something, or from reading a more intense book. When I first talked to her about this book she referred to it as fluff, to which I immediately replied that I thought she could probably never write fluff. But I know exactly what she means now. This is a book you should read just for the pure enjoyment of getting out of your own head and into someone else’s for a while. And Lucas’ head isn’t a bad place to be 😉
There is quite a lot of banter between the characters, but mostly in the narration. Carole has written Lucas to have an imaginative mind that often banters with itself. That’s why I think this is a good book to read when you really need a break, because while the plot in this story is interesting in and of itself, sometimes the focus wavers from it to Lucas’ own thoughts, and those often take precedence over the action. Now, if you followed my advice then this is just a nice detour, but if you’re really focused on the plot and pacing then you might find yourself swept away on the tide of his thoughts. Sometimes the banter — Lucas’ runaway thoughts — seem to get in the way of the action a bit. And while I always enjoyed what he was thinking (and occasionally talking about with Alex) sometimes the timing is inopportune. Occasionally I wanted to smack him and tell him to pay attention!
Still, that is minor criticism on my part and I really, sincerely hope that Carole continues to explore this quirky side of her writing. Hopefully in the future we can get those style alternately — a book like Fen’s that rips out your heart and completely sweeps you away and then something later to cool you down and look on the sunny side of life.
**I didn’t categorize this as a romance. This is really a fantasy book to me. Sure, Lucas is madly in love with Alex and vice versa, but the story isn’t about their relationship. Their relationship is part of the story.
Posted by Cole in 41-75k, 5 Really Like It, Authors A-C, Fantasy, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Sex Freq 1 - None Tags: Alternate World Historical, Animals, Carole Cummings, Dreamspinner Press, Existing Relationship, Funny Guys, Magic, Otherworlds, Pets, Royalty
Author: Andrea Speed
Length: 5,323 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: 2013 Daily Dose — Make a Play, Short Story, Sports, Dodgeball, Flirting, Meet Cute
Rating: So So
Reviewed by Sadonna
Luke Diaz signs up for an adult dodgeball league out of morbid curiosity and a love for a crazy movie. After all, sports aren’t his thing. Then attraction to the team captain, Shane Kinrade, keeps him from ducking out of tryouts, and Luke discovers he’s actually rather good at hitting where he aims. Along with his newfound ability, Luke considers the charming team captain to be right up his alley and luckily, Shane shares his interest.
This is a super short story that is really a setup for a possible relationship. If you’re expecting a romance, then you’ll be disappointed. In this story, Luke has gotten roped into trying out for an adult dodgeball league. He shows up for the tryouts, but he decides he might not try too hard to actually make the team – that is until he sees the coach, Shane Kinrade. Shane might just make this silly idea worthwhile. He makes the team and he decides if he gets to ogle Shane then that’s OK with him. He doesn’t even really care whether or not Shane is gay or not, but he’s hoping maybe he is. At the first practice they have some fun and it turns out Shane IS gay. They get together after the practice and learn that they have a lot in common. This could be the start of something good.
I’m a big fan of this writer. Her Infected series is easily one of my favorites. I really liked Luke’s voice in this story. It’s told from his POV and he is a typical snarky, sarcastic Andrea Speed character. This is a nice setup for a story, but I felt like that was all we got – the setup. I would have liked to see more with these guys. We don’t even get a kiss out of this one.
Posted by Sadonna in 3 So So, Authors S-U, Contemporary, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Romance, Sex Freq 1 - None, up to 15k Tags: 2013 Daily Dose - Make a Play, Andrea Speed, Dodgeball, Dreamspinner Press, Flirting, Meet Cute, Short Story
Title: Black Dog Blues (Kai Gracen #1)
Author: Rhys Ford
Publisher: Self Published (Coffee Squirrel Press)
Length: 92,479 words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Series, Urban Fantasy, Fae/Elves, Futuristic, Post-Apoc, California, Graphic Violence (and other…things), Blood & Gore, Dragons, Past Abuse, Action/Adventure, Unusual Creatures, Magic, Tattoos
Rating: Really Liked It
Ever since he’d been part of the pot in a high-stakes poker game, elfin outcast Kai Gracen figured he’d used up any good karma he had when Dempsey, a human Stalker, won the hand and took him in. Following the violent merge of Earth and Underhill, the human and elfin races were left with a messy, monster-ridden world and Stalkers were often the only cavalry willing to ride to someone’s rescue when something shadowy and dark moved into the neighbourhood.
There certainly were no shortage of monsters or people stupidly willing to become lunch for one.
It was a hard life but one Kai liked. And he was good at it. Killing monsters was easy. Especially since he was one himself.
After an accident retired Dempsey out, Kai set up permanent shop in San Diego, contracting out to the local SoCalGov depot. It was a decent life, filled with bounty, a few friends and most importantly, no other elfin around to remind him he wasn’t really human.
That was until a sidhe lord named Ryder arrives in San Diego and Kai is conscripted to do a job for Ryder’s fledgling Dawn Court. It was supposed to a simple run; head up the coast during dragon-mating season to retrieve a pregnant human woman seeking sanctuary with the new Court then back to San Diego. Easy, quick and best of all, profitable. But Ryder’s “simple” run leads to massive trouble and Kai ends up being caught in the middle of a deadly bloodline feud he has no hope of escaping.
No one ever got rich by being a Stalker. But then hardly any of them got old either. The way things were looking, it didn’t look like Kai was going to be the exception.
Pretty much all of you who read my reviews know that for the most part I’m rather reluctant to read anything angsty or intense. My tastes change and fluctuate of course, but for the last year to year and a half I’ve mostly left those alone. So somehow, I suppose because at the time I didn’t really know Rhys Ford’s writing all that well, I got into her writing even though she really flirts with the edge for me at times, no matter how much I end up liking the books. It takes me a bit of mental cheerleading to work myself into the frame of mind to start her books, and really it’s mostly the anticipation; fearing that the book will get too intense for me is more than half the battle, because I usually don’t mind as much once I start reading. But now that I know I’ll read anything by this author, it still means that I’m nervous starting her books. I was actually most excited about this one, mostly because I was really interested to see how she’d deal with urban fantasy when most of her writing that I’m familiar with are contemporary mysteries. And once I started, I was immediately sucked into it. Even though it was in many parts intense — it was just a different kind of intensity than I expected.
Kai Gracen is an anomaly among the lower denizens of San Diego. Taken in by Dempsey when only a feral elfin boy, the grizzled and uncouth hunter raised Kai in his shadow, among the human hunters of the black dogs, the spawn of the unsidhe that threaten the human population and whose hides earn money from the government. After a war between humans and the elfin races (both sidhe and unsidhe), the land is split between areas for each race to inhabit, with land specifically designated for the elfin to set up their courts. It also left the world full of monsters and beasties like the black dogs, making travel between those areas often difficult and dangerous.
As a hunter, Kai is skilled and extremely knowledgable about the area, which is why he’s called into the local government depot (where he gets paid for his kills) to take a non-negotiable contract to ferry a new elfin lord up the coast during dragon mating season. The run through Pendle is dangerous even without the complications that the sidhe lord brings, the first being their passenger on return. Ryder, the sidhe lord, is new to San Diego, setting up a new court (the Dawn Court). He needs to retrieve a pregnant human from the sidhe city in Los Angeles and needs Kai to take him, serving as guide and bodyguard.
This book drew me immediately in. It feels… literally jam-packed with action and plot. It’s almost as if there’s no stopping. And after reading the book and then seeing that it’s only just shy of 100k words. Honestly, I felt as if I’d read twice that. There’s so much to this story, starting with the world and the characters. This book does well as the first of a new series to set up the world, but so much of it is in great detail. It is rather smartly done, too. We don’t need a history lesson, because while we don’t really know how the war between the humans and elfin came about or how it played out, it’s fairly self-explanatory by how the world is set up. Both races have their positive and negative qualities, and Kai is uniquely placed to give us perspective on both of them, while having his own unique one about where the two races collide. Over the course of the book we learn quite a bit about his history, which is fairly graphic in detail but shows the evil and the good in the world. And also, there is so much world, plot, characterization that this story really can’t have it all. The romance is really non-existent in this book, except in the sense as a prelude to future stories and in the building of the relationship between Kai and Ryder. But I appreciated that there wasn’t a rush and that Rhys Ford didn’t (perhaps) bow to pressure to include it too early.
I’ve gone the route of deciding to urge you to read this yourself rather than really dig in and explore the book in my review. I would actually love to do that, but there’s honestly just way too much to talk about. And I was really surprised by how well balanced all of that was. I felt like Rhys showed quite a bit of restraint in parts of the book, which makes me eager to see what she’ll write for the sequel… there’s just so much more story left to tell.
I will say that if you might be squeamish about blood and gore this might be a difficult read for you. I was expecting more emotionally intense writing than what I got, but I didn’t expect so many physically intense scenes. There’s one scene that made even me sick to my stomach (which… I don’t know that that has ever happened to me actually), where… Well, all I’ll say is that Kai gets something really nasty in his mouth. And the blood and gore was a few times almost comical, like a Tarantino movie. I really enjoyed that part of it, though some people really might not.
But, in all, this was a really fantastic read. While I applaud the author’s decision to take the romance slow (which is really needed because of Kai’s emotional growth throughout the book), I would have liked maybe a bit more connection between him and Ryder before the ending of the book. It got there, sortof, before the end, but for a book that for most of reading it I wasn’t sure if it even was going to develop into a romance, I wanted a bit more assurance of the direction their relationship was moving in before we left them for a year or however long it takes before the sequel is ready to read.
Beautifully and smartly written. And, I think, one of the best books so far this year. Definitely recommended!
Posted by Cole in 5 Really Like It, 76-100k, Authors D-F, Fantasy, Futuristic, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Romance, Sex Freq 1 - None Tags: Action/Adventure, Blood & Gore, California, Dragons, Fae/Elves, Futuristic, Graphic Violence, Kai Gracen, Magic, Past Abuse, Post Apocalyptic, Rhys Ford, Self Published, Series, Tattoos, Unusual Creatures, Urban Fantasy