Monday 25 August 2008

Slave to Sensation - Nalini Singh

So you may remember a few weeks ago I found out I hadn't posted quite as many reviews as I thought I had. As it was the Psy/Changeling reviews that were noticeable by their absence and as Hostage to Pleasure is to be imminently released I thought we'd start with them.

Slave to Sensation is an alternative history paranormal, set in the year 2079 on an Earth populated by three races: the Psy - emotionless and cold, the shapeshifting Changelings who rely on their animal instincts, and humans. Although technically it is alternative history it has a very urban fantasy feel. I think the AH allows certain things to happen that might have been constrained by straight UF.

From the moment that Lucas Hunter (Changeling) and Sascha Duncan (Psy) meet there is a chemistry between them that fairly leaps off the page. This causes conflict as Lucas is a creature of instinct and sensation, whilst Sascha must maintain a facade of logic and efficiency at all costs.

Although it is the love story between Lucas and Sascha that is the driving force behind the narrative. The reason this book works so well is because you can immerse yourself in the world that Nalini Singh has created. The dynamics of both pack (Changeling) and Psy life are well-explained and the book is populated with interesting characters that give the story an added depth. And at the same time leave you wanting to know more about them. :)

One of the things I like is that it's made clear that both species are equally capable of brutality. Psy who don't conform to the acceptable standards of the Silence live with the constant threat of rehabilitation (mind-wiping) at the Center. Whilst the Changelings live under a territorial law that can erupt into violence. However, the reader does come down on the side of the Changeling way of life with its emphasis on family and pack.

Slave to Sensation illustrates not only the division between Psy and Changeling but also the divisions within those communities as well. Different Changeling groups have to fight against their need to dominate in order to work together. Something the Psy have taken advantage of in the past. And the Psy need for perfection, for conformity is equally divisive in its own way.

Looking back on the series five books in, I find I'm preferring the stories with a Psy hero/heroine. Much as some people prefer werewolves over vampires. That's not to say I don't enjoy the other stories, I think Nalini Singh is a great storyteller and I have yet to not be completely pulled into the Psy/Changeling world. But there's something about the Psy falling in love that works for me.

There are one or two slips in Slave to Sensation, but when the standard of storytelling is this high, they are easily forgiven. This is one of the best paranormals I've read and I would rank it along with Kelley Armstrong's Otherworld series and Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson. With each book the strength of the worldbuilding grows and I think a lot of that is down to the foundation laid in this book.

Also available:-
Visions of Heat
Caressed by Ice
Mine to Possess
Hostage to Pleasure

Wednesday 20 August 2008

The Raven Prince - Elizabeth Hoyt

The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt (Published November 2006)

The reason for this being on my TBR pile is that it's a historical. When I was a teenager I think I read every Zebra Heartfire to the point of getting completely sick of the genre. So it's very rare for me to pick up one now. I think I have one more in the TBR which I may read for next month.

The Raven Prince follows the developing relationship of Mrs Anna Wren and the Earl of Swartingham (Edward). Anna becomes the Earl's secretary to earn the money her household needs to stay solvent. However, when she learns the Earl intends to visit a brothel in London, she decides to take matters into her own hands and rendezvous with him there as a mystery woman rather than have him satisfy his desires with anyone else.

I loved this and have already put the next two books on my wishlist. The excerpt at the back for The Leopard Prince definitely caught my interest.

What makes the story for me, are the characters of Anna and Edward. They come alive on the page and you're completely pulled into their world. They are well-matched, (which I really like) Edward has a formidable temper to put it mildly - no china ornament is safe when he's around - but Anna is more than capable of standing up for herself.
He hesitated. "I wouldn't want to intimidate you, Mrs. Wren."
"You don't."
There's also a thread of humour that runs through the book, moreso in the early part before everything goes wrong, though it also pops its head up again towards the end. Edward is very sharp. And I could quote and quote from their snappy exchanges but I'll limit myself and let you enjoy them when you read the book if you haven't already.
"Do you think 'Duke' is a good name?" she asked.
His face blanked for a second before it cleared. He glanced at the dog in consideration. "I don't think so. He would outrank me."
I also love the way that Elizabeth Hoyt manages to make you 'hear' how gorgeous Edward's voice is - usually when he's talking to a horse, even if he's being rude to it. And Coral's dessert description of him, is spot on.

The story is beautifully constructed. I don't want to give anything away, but there are small incidents or things that are mentioned in passing that have greater relevance later in the story. So it's well worth taking the time to savour the story rather than rush through it. The secondary characters are also well written - whether villain or friend, and I think I've picked out the heroes of the following books.

The love scenes are incredibly sensual but it is the relationship between the characters that I love, the little details that have raised this to a keeper for me. I can't say that The Raven Prince has converted me back to historicals, but I'll definitely be picking up the rest of Elizabeth Hoyt's backlist.

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale

And now for something a little different. I read Wicked Gentlemen during my 9 hour train journey back from Scotland and I loved it. Thanks go out to JenB and MaryM who let me know I could buy the book directly from the publisher - Blind Eye Books.

Wicked Gentlemen takes the form of two novellas. The first - Mr. Sykes and the Firefly - is told from the (first person) point of view of Belimai Sykes. Belimai is a Prodigal, a descendent of demons. A drug addict and investigator who is hired by Captain Harper (an Inquisitor) to help in the investigation of several murders.

The second novella - Captain Harper and the Sixty Second Circle - virtually carries on from where the first leaves off, but is told in third person point of view mainly from Captain Harper's perspective. And I love how little incidents from the first novella, haven't been forgotten in the second.

It would initially seem that these men have nothing in common with each other. Essentially they are on opposite sides of the law, and it would also appear that their beliefs and values are polar opposites. However, despite this, a relationship develops between the pair, and throughout the course of the two novellas they learn to trust each other when all their other beliefs and desires fall away. Belimai is not so far gone that he won't reach out for hope, and Harper isn't quite the perfect Inquisitor he first appears.

Belimai is one of the most intriguing and fascinating characters I have read about in a long time. He's been tortured by the Inquisition, left a drug addict and has an almost palpable air of melancholy. He knows himself well.
I am not a good person. I am naturally inclined to lie. Even my mother had thought so.
But is also possible to see yourself too clearly and be blinded.

From the moment Belimai and Captain Harper meet there is a chemistry between the two of them. The love scenes when they take place on page are brief but beautifully written. Rather it is when the two of them are talking or verbally sparring together that you experience the attraction between them.
"Are you still drunk from last night?" I asked.
"No." Harper smiled. "Having my life threatened always makes me a little giddy."
"I have to find my pleasures where I can."

Although I enjoyed both stories almost(!) equally well. I think the first story I liked slightly more. Maybe it's the metaphor of the firefly at the beginning and how that plays through the story. And how we come to understand what's happened to Joan. Also I have a fondness for stories where on a second read through you get something completely different out of the book, because of how your perceptions have changed knowing what's going to happen. Saying that the experiences between Belimai and Harper in the second novella are almost more enjoyable because they know each other so much better. Hmmm. Tough call.

I picked up Wicked Gentlemen after reading several reviews - some on reader blogs, one I think on Dear Author. And I was still slightly preparing myself in case I was disappointed. Instead I've read a book which I know I'll be able to read again and again, and each time be drawn back into the dark world of the Prodigals and the Inquisition. At the end of the two stories, they are complete, you feel satisfied. But I would be more than happy to read more about Belimai, Harper and their friends again, so I hope there are more stories to come.