Wednesday 20 February 2008

Embrace the Darkness by Alexandra Ivy


Embrace the Darkness is the second in the Guardians of Eternity series. Following the events in When Darkness Comes (Book 1), Viper (chief of a vampire clan) buys the Lady Shay (last of the Shalott demons, though technically she's half human) at auction. This annoys her more than a little as in the previous book she did save his life. Way to show the gratitude. Though Viper's motives may appear nefarious, he actually wants to protect Shay. However, unknown to both of them, she's actually in a lot more danger than they suspect. To survive, they'll not only have to depend on each other, but also their friends - both old and new.

I have a problem with this book, and to be fair, it's probably not so much to do with the book itself or how well it's written. But I think I have moved away from being able to appreciate Paranormal Romance. After reading Iron Kissed and Another One Bites the Dust, this was just so nice. Too nice. The bad guys were bad, the good guys were good. It was well written. There were nice (there's that word again) comic touches from Levet, the heroine's gargoyle companion. But I don't think it's quite for me any more.

Shay and Viper have some strong dialogue and a great chemistry. I found Viper to be the more well-rounded character of the two, Shay was not quite so interesting. Maybe I'm biased.

Levet is the little gargoyle with the big heart. He works as both a sidekick and a conscience and has some of the best lines.
...a moment of blessed silence before Levet was shifting impatiently. "What's in the box?"
"Obviously, we don't know yet."
"Is it going to take long?"
"It will take as long as it takes."
"Are we having snacks?"

There are some inconsitencies in the plot, or maybe I didn't pick up on all the subtleties. Specifically relating to Shay's curse. It's said if she injured Evor (the troll who owned her) she felt pain. So why doesn't she know when Evor is injured during his kidnap? Is it only when she attacks him that she feels pain. This wasn't clear to me.

There's also a tendency to pull back from things, for example when Viper talks about the time before he was a clan chief how terrible things were for him. Shay questions him, but he just says - 'you don't want to know'. Also about the powers of each vampire clan chief - it's confidential. I'll make allowances for this once in a story, but more than that and it starts to annoy.

Alexandra Ivy does know how to keep her readers interested. New vampires are introduced here - Styx and Santiago. And there's mention of a 'young and fierce werewolf'. She puts in just enough to keep you interested in where the story is going. I also like that she makes the bad guy a little more three dimensional than your standard evil overlord. We get a glimpse of the hero he might have been in the past.

I'll also mention that we're also kept up to date with Abby and Dante from Book 1. I'm glad we didn't spend too long with Abby as she seems to have become one of those all-powerful characters.

It's a pity that the most interesting characters for me were Levet and Styx. In the same way I found Viper to be the most interesting character in Book 1. Somehow when the characters are the main focus of the book they fall a little short of expectation. I hope that Styx who will be the hero of book 3, will live up to his introduction in this book.

It's a nice story, well written with engaging moments. Slightly too light for me. The humour, and chemistry between the characters lifts it above a lot of the other paranormal romance out there. Recommended for fans of Jacquelyn Frank and Alyssa Day.

Book 1 - When Darkness Comes (available)
Book 3 - Darkness Everlasting (May 2008)

Thursday 7 February 2008

Another One Bites the Dust - Jennifer Rardin

Second in the Jaz Parks series. Apropos of nothing, I noted this time the series is sold under the Orbit Horror line.

Jaz and Vayl's latest mission finds them pursuing some stolen biotechnology, and saving the world...again. :) Also along for the ride are Cole, Bergman and Cassandra. The group goes undercover at the Corpus Christi Winter festival - fighting reavers, human extremists and dragons. Jaz is still dealing with her unresolved issues and once more the ultimate villain (Samos) proves to be elusive.

It's slightly worrying (as I think I've said before :) ), when you've really enjoyed the first book in a series. Will the second maintain that level, or even surpass it? To be honest, I had a bit of a hiccup at the beginning of AOBTD, when I wasn't sure. However, this was the first book I'd read after finishing Iron Kissed, which was always going to be a tough act to follow.

The thing I adore about this series is the relationship between Jaz and Vayl. They have great chemistry together, but the situation doesn't feel forced or rushed. They are still having misunderstandings, very realistic as he's over 300 years old. At certain points in the book Jaz is somewhat self-involved, and thus there's a delay between Vayl's actions and her grasping what he's about. Unfortunately by the time she's up to speed, he's brooding. It's realistic though, that she's still dealing with the death of her fiance. She's trying to resolve the issues in her sleep, so you have to pick up the cues when surreal stuff starts happening, as she doesn't always realize she's dreaming. Very well written.

The dialogue is again snippy, sarcastic, witty and self-depracating. The banter between the characters means you are racing through the pages whilst at the same time not wanting it to end. There are so many quips to choose from. I have my favourites shortlisted to seven quotes, but that's too many, so here are a couple.
"Where are you going?" demanded Vayl.
Quick, think of a marvelous excuse he'll totally swallow.

Something was stuck in my throat. If I was a guy, I'd have sworn they were my testicles.

"Your brother called. He was worried about you."
..."What did he say?"
"He said you were a goddam mess!"

Okay that's technically three. My favourite is the 'snippy' comment on p59 of the UK issue. Just like book 1 the story is peppered with moments that make you laugh, wince and surprise you. And for those of you who've read book 1 and remember the hula dancing quote, p3 'belly dancing'. nuff said.

We learn more about the other members of the team in this book. Especially Bergman and Cassandra. Though it's not necessarily in what they say, but more in their behaviour and actions towards each other. There's a definite friction between them which makes for some snippy dialogue. He's very much of the technological and Cassandra is of the magical.

There's also stuff that's left unresolved here. So pay attention! I think it will be important in upcoming books. Especially Cassandra's vision, and there's also stuff going on with Jaz's dad. Speaking of Jaz's dad, he's great, see above quote, but I'm glad not to be related to him. Of some concern is that it's hinted Jaz might be developing new powers. Always a bit of a worry in urban fantasy that your hero/heroine is going to be 'The One', become super-powerful and boring. But that's a concern for a future book.

I think a lot of whether or not you like the Jaz and Vayl books will depend on whether you like Jaz's voice. In case you haven't guessed I love it. And will probably switch to FANGIRL ALERTS for future reviews as I'm clearly biased. I find her internal commentary hilarious, it takes the story to a different level for me.

Also available:-
Book 1 - Once Bitten, Twice Shy
Book 3 - Biting the Bullet