Monday, October 25, 2010

Favorites: Thorn Queen (Dark Swan 2) - Richelle Mead

Back cover summary

Eugenie Markham is a shaman for hire, paid to bind and banish creatures from the Otherworld. But after her last battle, she s also become queen of the Thorn Land. It s hardly an envious life, not with her kingdom in tatters, her love life in chaos, and Eugenie eager to avoid the prophecy about her firstborn destroying mankind. And now young girls are disappearing from the Otherworld, and no one--except Eugenie--seems willing to find out why.
Eugenie has spilled plenty of fey blood in her time, but this enemy is shrewd, subtle, and nursing a very personal grudge. And the men in her life aren t making things any easier. Her boyfriend Kiyo is preoccupied with his pregnant ex, and sexy fey king Dorian always poses a dangerous distraction. With or without their help, Eugenie must venture deep into the Otherworld and trust in an unpredictable power she can barely control. Reluctant queen or not, Eugenie has sworn to do her duty--even if it means facing the darkest--and deadliest--side of her nature...

Review (warning spoilers)-

That was incredible!  Definitely one of the best urban fantasy book (if not the best) I've read this year!  The plot was so well crafted, the story was weaved together so elegantly.  The characters were so well layered.  The dialogues were smart and witty.  Thorn Queen is definitely my favorite urban fantasy book this year so far.

At the end of Storm born, Eugenie found herself queen of Thorn land.  In Thorn Queen, she reluctantly comes to terms with her connection to the land, realizing that she heals it and it heals her in return.  Gentry from all over still attempts to rape her to sire the son who is prophesized to rule the world.  That comes to a dark climax probably changing Eugenie in the process.  Throughout the book, she struggles with her love for both Kiyo and Dorian symbolizing her human and gentry sides.

Eugenie is just the perfect urban fantasy heroine.  Beautiful but tough.  She is quite honest with herself about her feelings.  What is good is that she is not so hard headed, maybe even a little bit too indecisive.  Considering that she is supposed to be conflicted between her gentry and human genes, that indecisiveness is forgivable. Her human side loves Kiyo, and her gentry side loves Dorian (who I also love). I guess that is what the series is all about, which side will win. That's why there's all that drama.

Richelle Mead was quite brilliant in her portrayal of Kiyo and Dorian.  She contrasts them quite well.  Kiyo is the animal male, selfish in his needs.  He is selfish in bed and then have the nerve to bury Eugenie  with his cats and dogs. He is all about her understanding him and never bothers to understand what she wants. He would just make her swallow what he thinks is best.  Dorian is different.  He is about artful manipulation. He is patient, like in tying his knots for his binding fetish.  It doesn't mean he is not selfish but he is more artful about it.  He takes his time in bed pleasuring her before getting want he wants. What is good about him is in the process of manipulating Eugenie, first gives her want she wants before taking what he wants. The characterization of Dorian reminded me so much of John Malkovich's portrayal of Vicomte S├ębastien de Valmont in Dangerous Liaisons. Very layered, and enigmatic. Brilliant. He is the kind of character that is made to hunt dreams. At this point, I still don't know if he will turn out to be her biggest mistake (I really hope not) or her biggest treasure.

Thorn Queen is an excellent book!  I am so happy that Richelle Mead is only planning on 4 installments to this series.  I don't think I can handle waiting for 10 years for this series to end.  I can't express in words how much I like this book.

Highly Recommended ***** Favorite!!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Storm Born - Richelle Mead

Back cover summary - Just typical. No love life to speak of for months, then all at once, every horny creature in the Otherworld wants to get in your pants...

Eugenie Markham is a powerful shaman who does a brisk trade banishing spirits and fey who cross into the mortal world. Mercenary, yes, but a girl's got to eat. Her most recent case, however, is enough to ruin her appetite. Hired to find a teenager who has been taken to the Otherworld, Eugenie comes face to face with a startling prophecy--one that uncovers dark secrets about her past and claims that Eugenie's first-born will threaten the future of the world as she knows it.

Now Eugenie is a hot target for every ambitious demon and Otherworldy ne'er-do-well, and the ones who don't want to knock her up want her dead. Eugenie handles a Glock as smoothly as she wields a wand, but she needs some formidable allies for a job like this. She finds them in Dorian, a seductive fairy king with a taste for bondage, and Kiyo, a gorgeous shape-shifter who redefines animal attraction. But with enemies growing bolder and time running out, Eugenie realizes that the greatest danger is yet to come, and it lies in the dark powers that are stirring to life within her...

Review (warning spoilers!)-

Storm born by Richelle Mead is a totally absorbing, fast paced urban fantasy.  It has a strong heroin, gorgeous men and heart stopping action.  Probably, this is one of the best urban fantasies I've read recently.

Eugenie was hired to rescue a girl who was kidnapped by Aeston, a fairy king.  Unfortunately, to accomplish this, she needed to go to the Otherworld.  In the Otherworld, she learned about her heritage and the prophecy attached to it which she found very hard to accept. During this journey, she met Kiyo, a kitsune and Dorian, a fairy king.  Kiyo and Dorian of course are her main love interests.  Eugenie slowly learned how to use her powers with the help of the gorgeous Dorian and killed Aeston making her queen of the land that once belonged to Aeston.

There is a plot and I found the characterizations great.  All the characters are very layered and it is difficult to say who the good and bad guys are. Dorian is a very entertaining character.  I can see that he is very layered and unpredictable.  I enjoyed reading him.  One character I also liked is the spirit Volusion.  He was just hilarious!  Great one liners!  Kiyo was okay, I can see that he will be boring me later on in the series.  I veer towards Dorian personally. Kiyo reminds me to much of Richard in the Anita Blake series.

I can't wait to read Thorn Queen (Dark Swan 2).

Highly recommended *****

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Rajmund (Vampires in America Book 3)- D.B. Reynolds

Back cover summary-

RAJMUND GREGOR is a vampire . . . and the undisputed Master of New York City. He bows to no one but his Sire, Krystof, who is the Vampire Lord for the entire Northeastern U.S. Based in Buffalo, NY, Krystof is an old vampire—-too old, it would seem, because he’s slowly losing his mind. Summoned back to Buffalo by his Sire, Rajmund finds his master out of touch and rapidly weakening. He knows the territory will crumble if something isn’t done, and he’s the only one of Krystof’s children strong enough to seize power. But there’s also the matter of some missing women and a rogue vampire who seems to be moving in for the kill.
SARAH STRATTON has a secret, one she’s never shared with anyone–—at least not anyone who knows her now, not even her good friend Cyn. It’s a secret that could destroy her carefully constructed life, but it’s one she may have to share with a vampire, if she’s going to save the lives of the missing women.

Review (warning spoilers)-

Hmm,  I didn't love Rajmund , the latest installment in the Vampires in America series by D. B. Reynolds, as much as Raphael and Jabril  but not because it's not good.  Probably, I am just not as impressed by the story's heroine, Sarah Stratton.  I also can't shake a nagging feeling that even Rajmund, our hero, feels the same.  I have a feeling that he is also not so convinced by her.  She seemed schizophrenic, and unstable, totally unlike Cyn who is quite confident and self assured.  I guess D. B. Reynolds succeeded greatly in differentiating the personalities of her two heroines.

Rajmund and Sarah met when Cyn and Raphael visited Sarah in New York.  They accidentally crossed paths again as Rajmund started his investigation into the disappearance of several young women in Sarah's hometown.  The story centered on two things: 1. the investigation into the disappearance of the young women and 2. on how Rajmund tries to resist Sarah.  Coming very close to being Lord of the Northeastern territories, he felt that he doesn't need more complications in his life.  Of course in the end, he solved the mystery, became the Lord  and then complicated his life with Sarah.

Unfortunately, Sarah made this story weak.  She seemed so unstable, insecure, and  senseless that I really don't see what Rajmund could love about her.  She doesn't seem to know what she was doing and why she was doing it most of the time.  Truly a damsel in a distress of her own making. He also doesn't seem convinced about her most of the time.  He thought of her as a weak link rather than as someone who can strengthen him.  In the end, he did leave her returning to her only after she somewhat forced herself to be with him.

Even if I am not very fond of Sarah, this book is not bad.  The story is quite gripping even if it's quite long, I couldn't put in down. D. B. Reynolds tells good stories. I do love Cyn and I was happy to read about her and Raphael in the beginning of the book.

Rating: ***** Recommended

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Jabril (Vampires in America 2) - D.B. Reynolds

Back cover summary- 

Houston, Texas-Cowboy boots, baseball and journeys to the stars . . . right? Wrong. Because Houston is also home to Jabril Karim, one of the eight powerful Vampire Lords who control all of North America. And as Private Investigator Cynthia Leighton will soon discover, not all Vampire Lords are created equal. For Jabril is the face of evil in the new world, a vampire who values no life but his own, who enslaves those he desires, steals whatever he covets and destroys anyone who stands in his way. Running from L.A. and its seductive Vampire Lord, Raphael, Cyn sees the Houston job as a welcome refuge, a place to get away and heal her broken heart. But Texas will be no vacation. For in Jabril Karim, Cyn will confront a true enemy, one who will go to any lengths to satisfy his lusts, enrich his coffers and expand his power. Fighting for the lives of two young sisters, Cyn's journey will take her through the streets of Houston and back to L.A., where the human police are determined to bring Raphael down for the murder of one of their own. But the danger doesn't end there. For Jabril has set his sights on Cyn, and he will stop at nothing to have her.

Review (warning spoilers)-

Jabril is D.B. Reynold's second installment in her Vampires in America series.  We see the continuation of Cyn and Raphael's story with a new antagonist in the vampire Jabril.  I love this series! Too bad that it's not that famous.   Jabril is a very good follow-up to Raphael.  The story is fast, smooth and action packed.  I read it in one sitting (or lying).

Cyn goes to Houston partly to forget Raphael and mostly to work for Jabril to locate his missing ward.  Unfortunately, Jabril just intended to use her to piss off Raphael.  Cyn realized Jabril's evil plot and foiled it.  Raphael, of course, quickly comes to her rescue, not that she needed it. They kiss and make up and (hopefully) will live happily ever after.

I just have one small comment about the story.  I don't understand why the vampires had to wait for Raphael to arrive to start rescuing Cyn considering that he had to take a plane and all to get to her.  Other vampires of Raphael's were already on hand, so why wait?  I guess it's for dramatic purposes.

I already discussed Cyn and Raphael's characterizations in my review of Raphael.  In Jabril, we see an evolution as they both accept and give way so that they can be together.  I guess that was their main problem as they are both alphas. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I am looking forward to the next one, Rajmund. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Rating: ***** Highly recommended

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Blood of the Demon- Kara Gillian Book 2 by Diana Rowland

Back cover summary-


Welcome to the world of Kara Gillian, a cop with a gift. Not only does she have the power of “othersight” to see what most people can’t even imagine, but she’s become the exclusive summoner of a demon lord. Or maybe it’s the other way around. The fact is, with two troublesome cases on her docket and a handsome FBI agent under her skin, Kara needs the help of sexy, insatiable Lord Rhyzkahl more than he needs her. Because these two victims, linked by suspicious coincidence, haven’t just been murdered. Something has eaten their souls.

It’s a case with roots in the arcane, but whose evil has flowered among the rich, powerful, and corrupt in Beaulac, Louisiana. And as the killings continue, Kara soon realizes how much there’s still to learn about demons, men, and things that kill in the night—and how little time she has to learn it.

Review (warning spoilers!!)- 

Since I really enjoyed "Mark of the Demon", I immediately started "Blood of the Demon".  The second book in this series did not disappoint but left me craving for more.  Too bad the next one will only be out in January 2011.  Kara, Rhyzkahl and Ryan are back with another urban fantasy, criminal homicide adventure. 

The story started about a month after the events of "Mark of the Demon".  Again, there were a series of murders.  Even though the murders didn't seem to be related, Kara with her othersight felt the connection with the arcane and began to investigate.  This central plot was further complicated by her relationships with Lord Rhyzkahl and Ryan.  In this book, we learned that somehow the demons know what Ryan is and have animosity for him.  Us readers will have to wait a few more books to find out what kind of creature he is.  Diana Rowland's world building is smooth and we are slowly guided through how the demon world works.  We also see Kara's abilities increase with her continuous contact with Lord Rhyzkahl.

In Diana Rowland's website she said that it will take 8-9 books to complete her story and she actually knows how it will all end.  This is very obvious in the way she develops her story and characters.  We are merely in the second book and I can already feel the build-up.  I am greatly looking forward to the next books.  Thankfully, this series are getting popular so I am sure that Diana Rowland will get a chance to write a satisfying conclusion.

Rating:  ***** Highly Recommended

Mark of the Demon- Kara Gillian Book 1 by Diana Rowland

Back cover summary - Cop and conjurer of demons, she's a woman in danger of losing control—to a power that could kill....

Why me? Why now? That’s what Beaulac, Louisiana, detective Kara Gillian was asking herself when an angelic creature named Rhyzkahl unexpectedly appeared during a routine summoning. Kara was hoping to use her occult skills to catch a serial killer, but never had she conjured anything like this unearthly beautiful and unspeakably powerful being whose very touch set off exquisite new dimensions of pleasure. But can she enlist his aid in helping her stop a killer who’s already claimed the lives—and souls—of thirteen people? And should she? The Symbol Man is a nightmare that the city thought had ended three years ago. Now he’s back for an encore and leaving every indication on the flesh of his victims that he, too, is well versed in demonic lore.

Kara may be the only cop on Beaulac’s small force able to stop the killer, but it is her first homicide case. Yet with Rhyzkahl haunting her dreams, and a handsome yet disapproving FBI agent dogging her waking footsteps, she may be in way over her head...

Review (warning spoilers!!!) - I truly enjoyed this book!  It is a good, solid, kick-ass urban fantasy with a realistic heroine and without much tasteless sex.  There was a lot violence though and they were graphic.  This is one of those books that stays with you after you have read it.  Yes, maybe if it would be food, it would be junk food but then it fills you like a rich chocolate cake.

Kara Gillian is a homicide detective moonlighting as a demon summoner (or vice versa).  While investigating a serial killer, she noticed that the murders are connected to the arcane.  With the help of the gorgeous demon lord Rhyzkahl and and handsome FBI agent Ryan, she was able to solve the murders.

The plot is fast, well formed and plausible (as much as an urban fantasy story can be). It is a good murder mystery combined well with urban fantasy elements.  The cop murder-mystery story is solid.  The world building is smooth and doesn't make you go "huh?".  At the end of it all, I didn't feel like I was taken for a ride.

Kara Gillian is an endearing heroine.  She is a normal woman who just happens to summon demons for a past time.  She admits to being lonely, and to eating too much donuts.  She doesn't wear black leather and is not a know it all.  She is very human and I love her.

Rhyzkahl's characterization is perfect for me as well.  He is an ancient, powerful demon lord who is very true to what he is.  I get that.  It should be like that.  For instance, I find it quite unbelievable for a 200 year old vampire to be concerned about pre-marital sex.  At least, Rhyzkahl should be bad-ass and he is.

Ryan is the good boy FBI agent and he completes the love triangle.  It seems we will find out more about what he is in the next books.  My curiosity is tickled.

I can't recommend this book enough.  This is definitely one of the best urban fantasy books I have read in a while.

Rating: ***** Highly recommended

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Angel's Blood (Guild Hunter 1) - Nalini Singh

Back cover summary-

Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux knows she is the best--but she does not know if even she is good enough for this job.  Hired by the dangerously beautiful archangel Raphael, a being so lethal that no mortal wants his attention, Elena knows failure is not an option--even if the task is impossible. Because this time, it's not a wayward vamp she has to track. It's an archangel gone bad.  The job will put Elena is the midst of a killing spree like no other--and pull her to the razor's edge of passion.  Even if the hunt does not destroy her, succumbing to Raphael's seductive touch just might.  For when archangel's play, mortals break.

Review (Spoilers!)-

A natural born hunter, Elena Deveraux is the best in her profession, that is why Raphael, the fearsome archangel  of new york hired her to track Uram, an archangel gone mad with blood lust.  Of course, it is not only Uram that Elena needs to worry about because Raphael is equally dangerous.  It  doesn't help matters that she is very attracted to him.  At the end of course, Raphael and Elena stopped Uram's madness.

I really liked this book. It is a fresh take on the vampire story and it offers more than sexy vampires but also angels who are higher up in the paranormal food chain.  Angels are beings of incredible beauty and power.  Unlike vampires, they have never been human and therefore they behave with incredible cruelty and savagery.  Raphael, our hero, is not an exception to this.  This angle is also what makes the story refreshing because he is no whining immortal.  He is a savage beast of magnificent beauty and power who is shocked to realize that he loves a mortal woman and would choose to die than live his immortal life without her.  Sweet. Our heroine, Elena, is no damsel in distress.  She is a warrior woman and a born vampire hunter.  She is stubborn but not irritatingly so.  She admitted a few times that Raphael made her feel feminine.

The story is well written and absorbing.  While reading Angel's Blood, I can't help but think that it is definitely in another class.  There is a plot. The world where Raphael and Elena lives is so vividly described that until now I could still see angels flying and landing in skyscrapers. Even though the romance between Raphael and Elena is central to the story is it not forced.  The characters are well developed and well formulated that they are haunting.  I can almost hear Raphael's wings flapping in the air and smell his scent of water and wind.  Great strong hero matched with a great heroine.

Finding an absorbing new series is a real treasure.  I am really looking forward to the next one.

Rating: *****