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Jessica "Illume the mind within" (England)

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The Darkest Kiss (HQN)
The Darkest Kiss (HQN)
by Gena Showalter
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh Lordy their back!, 7 Jun 2008
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The Darkest Kiss is thrilling, dark and touching; the leads are brilliant together and this second book in the Lords of the Underworld series builds wonderfully on the first; the characters deeper, the action faster, the romance lovelier, I'm in no detracting from the first but I've got to say, Lucien's and Anya's story is a damn fine read, Showalter masterfully enhances the world and draws you into future books.

Anya is the goddess of anarchy (minor) and since entering into the Lords lives a couple of weeks ago to save Maddox's and Ashlyn's lives, she has become obsessed with the scarred and multihued eyed Lucien, Keeper of Death. This strong, capable, free willed, free spirited, fun loving warrior wants more than anything (curses, death threats, prejudice) for Lucien to notice her and to experience his kiss. But recently she's had to fit into her cloaked ogling sessions, running from the ever persistent Cronus, king of the Titans, he's after our heroine and not just because of her wild nature. She's eager to help in Lucien's and the other Lord's search for Pandora's box but he's infuriately resistant to her swearing, lying and stealing ways.

Lucien who holds the demon of death inside him has struggled to keep the scent of strawberries and cream from his thoughts ever since his verbal encounter with the strange female that helped him and his friends. Now after finally meeting Anya in person and sharing a searing kiss with her, he is enlisted to kill the woman who, unlike any other after so long has brought both him and his purring demon back to life. Resisting the order to kill this passionate, sparkling creature, whose deviousness makes him smile, Lucien tries to put distance between them, until the time when he ultimately will have to kill her, after all she must be playing him, for how could such a beauty want him?

Both characters have myriad secrets and threats hanging over them as well as insecurities and fears aplenty, all of which develop perfectly as Lucien follows the clues to the artefacts needed to locate the box with Anya in tow, in an exhilarating treasure hunt across the world. Their interactions are both intense and touching, their sparring great to behold.

I was marginally unconvinced about the threat the hunters posed in the first book, as Anya says "...what kind of moron wants to kill the Lords rather than make out with them a little?" he he But I've got to say the relentless presence of them coupled with the fanatical single minded workings of such sects...dangerous. The goal of finding the box also proves to be more complex as others intentions become known.

Although not much space is given to the other Lords in this book as it very closely follows Lucien and Anya but what we do get of them and their developing stories is shockingly good; I liked seeing more of Strider, but oh my Paris's tale is gripping and unexpected also Reyes and Danika's plight is added too as well as us hearing some news about Maddox and Ashlyn.

I would definitely recommend The Darkest Kiss; you will love it if you felt the same about the first. This, you don't want to miss if you like darkness, thrills and romance, great characters and sharp writing.


The Darkest Night
The Darkest Night
by Gena Showalter
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hooked, 25 May 2008
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The Darkest Night is dark, compelling, interesting and passionate; the pacing and characters are flawless. Showalter has created a whole myriad of fascinating characters, now these are my kind of men; scarred, tattooed, blue haired, earring wearing, they are all different and I can't wait to hear each of their stories! But above all the book appears original and fresh and was a real joy to read.

Many mythical beings feature, including the Greek Gods and the Titans; `The Greeks' as their called created immortal warriors in the dawn of time to serve their interests, some of these would become `The Lords of the Underworld'. Showalter also seizes upon the myth of Pandora, rewriting it to good effect. She relates that `The Greeks' entrusted Pandora to guard the dimOuniak a box carved from the bones of a god in which they had trapped the foulest demons in hell. The other immortals feeling spurned captured the box and opened it, hoping to teach the God's a lesson. In an act of vengeance the god's cursed them all to put an end to the mayhem caused by the demons escape thus each had to hold one of the demons inside themselves; violence, death, pain, disease, promiscuity, wrath, doubt, lies, disaster, secrets, misery and defeat. They learnt an important lesson themselves: don't cross the god's. For millenniums they headed this, living in conflict with their demons each other and `hunters', humans bent on destroying their demons and therefore the warriors, but events start to enfold that could mean they'll have to break their own rule.

The book focuses on Maddox or `violence', who lives in eternal conflict with the dark urges of his demon. He's a man not only processed but damned, as he suffers a second curse, placed upon him after he viciously murdered Pandora whilst blinded by violence, he's therefore stabbed six times each night and his spirit is sent to hell by two of his companions (pain and death), where he is burned over and over.

Ashlyn can hear all conversations that have ever been spoken in a location, whilst in Budapest she hears tell of men with strange powers `angels', she travels to their fortress seeking help and meets a fearsome man, covered in blood....who stops the voices. She begs to stay with him but when she reaches the fortress she's confounded and appalled to witness Maddox's death as the night reaches 12. Accused of being a hunter and more specifically bait (a seductress who lure the Lord's into a trap) she's locked away by the other Lord's.

Their attraction to each other is immediate but their story is believable and touching. No fated mates are eluded to here, but you've got to wonder why are they all finding their perfect partners now? But the crux seems to be can man and demon be made whole? Can violence be tamed? And should these rather naughty men find salvation? I think so.

It's important to acknowledge that this does have clichés; strong male, beautiful female consumed by an instant attraction that develops into a powerful love. But the reason this doesn't feel tired is because of the inventiveness and quality of Showalter's writing style and the wonderfully complex and interesting characters. She understands and obviously has a love for the mythology that she is working with. I think it's also interesting that although some aspects may seem simple I think this is intentional as the sources that Showalter uses are in many ways simplified to heighten their resonance; the tortured hero, the against all odds quest, myriad threats, complex foes and fellowship, all of which are present here.

Showalter definitely keeps a few secrets, like what is the meaning of the butterfly tattoos and if you visit her website there's mention of another Lord not in the book, Galen `keeper of Hope'....Hmmm. All the characters are brilliantly complex and a little bit devilish; particularly the Greek Warriors and I love Anya, the goddess of anarchy. There's just the right amount of teasing for future stories as well that will have you obsessing about the next two books, both Reyes and Lucien's heroines are introduced and their stories promise to be very good.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 23, 2008 11:34 AM GMT


The Magic of Recluce (Saga of Recluce)
The Magic of Recluce (Saga of Recluce)
by L. E. Modesitt Jr
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The good and the bad, 6 May 2008
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L.E Modesitt Jr's `The Magic of Recluse' revolves around a society of magic users. In the world he creates order magic and chaos magic exists. Order magic creates things and keeps them together, prolonging life. Conversely chaos magic is used for destruction and its users suffer from a shortened life. Though they are opposites the nature of magic requires a balance. In this there is no sense of right or wrong only that the two forces must exist in harmony. The book follows Lerris, a young man on the cusp of adulthood, he isn't content living in the perfection that is recluse, because of this he and some others must leave recluse immediately or partake in the dangergeld and earn the right to come back to recluse.

There are many aspects of this book that I found rather interesting; it's compelling how Modesitt uses the eastern ways of thought concerning the balance of good and evil but uses structures from western thinking also. His story is reminiscent of the Eden myth; recluse is paradise, the brotherhood - god and the dangergelders, the fallen. Though their crimes aren't evil, they must venture to the outside world, so as to be worthy to come back to recluse. Only they find the `real' world is a better or more interesting place to live. Modesitt is questioning the rules put in place by the church to ensure passage to heaven. Should good people be punished? And is that punishment so bad (life on earth). Through this exploration Lerris comes of age, discovering magic and himself.

I find myself split over this book, there's some good scenes that really resonate and as I've mentions some good undercurrents but equally so much is just lame. Subtly is one thing but there's huge sections that are merely boring, chiefly the repetitious woodworking scenes. Not just these but long, long, long travelling scenes, followed by taverns, followed by travelling, followed by taverns etc. Sometimes Modesitt's long exact descriptions create vivid scenes, that are slightly edgy and provocative and at other times they simple fizzle out. The action scenes are again, no other word for it but lame, there isn't much action and that's not the problem but the fact that they are rubbish, in one there's much build up for a fight between Lerris and a warrior spectre on a horse that culminates with him simply trotting up to it and tapping the horse with the flat of his sword at which point it disappears. Another major turnoff is how the author constantly (and I mean constantly) uses sound effects, were talking 10 on a page. It's off putting and unnecessary to use this bizarre technique for a novel in conjunction with the amount of description he employs as well. Not to mention the fact that I loose all respect for a story that ends with someone getting laid.

So there are things I like and things I don't about this book, some of its intellectual weavings redeem aspects that I really don't favour. But if you like a slow, meditative and reflective feel to your fantasy and my irritations don't faze you then this might just be for you.


The Bloody Chamber And Other Stories (Vintage Magic)
The Bloody Chamber And Other Stories (Vintage Magic)
by Angela Carter
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars dark and beautiful, 5 May 2008
Carter reworks traditional European folk/fairy tales here, exploring their dark and cautionary nature; her stories dig into the darkness of the pre18th/19th centuries tales, as well as mirroring the ones of that time, theres therefore many layers to what she creates, she just adds (in a successful way) to subjects that are already complex. I love how she gives preconceived stories and morals a little twist, giving it new life and making it her own and much more. Her stories are written beautifully, they just flow, catching you up in a wonderfully dark and sensual rhythm that you loose your self in. I suppose what Carter does is make what is simple in the children's fables complicated. In the Bloody Chamber the girl does the sensible thing and it very nearly gets her killed, the `right' choice opens up a new and dangerous world of sex and death. Her characters contrast strongly with fairy tale stereotypes, giving women power in their desires and nature.

In terms of what she looks at: vampires, werewolves, feral children, all are steeped in ambiguity and mystery and are things that are looked at time and time again because authors like Carter understand the potent power they hold and readers like me like to delve into the possibilities that such things hold. If you like these reworking of fairytales I would recommend looking at Marina Warner's writings and Paula Rego's art.


Embrace The Night
Embrace The Night
by Karen Chance
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.88

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A feast of mad, magical action and darkness, 20 April 2008
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This review is from: Embrace The Night (Paperback)
This latest instalment continues with a similar format to the pervious books; set within a few days span and about a week and a half after the last book. You can therefore expect like the others to be taken straight into the action and to have the pace maintained throughout the book. The opening chapters are particularly good; thrilling and interesting.

It begins with Cassie searching for a counter spell to the evermore troublesome geis - the spell that Mircea placed upon Cassie when she was very young that binds her too him. To finally have control over her life she must be rid of it and the only way to do that is to find a very complicated spell, in a very dangerous spell book, written by Merlin himself - the codex Merlini. Enlisted to help her is the unpredictable John Pritkin.

Cassie has more allies in this book, one of its roles seems to be setting up the sides for the impending interspecies war and through it we learn that she has even more enemies...gods, demons, mages, the fey, Rasputin and her old master Tony, throw in an uneasy alliance with the vampires, fun, fun, fun. Chance really isn't picky about the paranormal and mythical creatures she writes about, these books have pretty much everything magical, mythical and paranormal in, but I in no way see this as a bad thing, it puts me in mind of the convoluted, combustible Roman and Greek myths she draws heavily from; with the love triangles, betrayals and her huge panthenon of characters. In fact much of her research is very true to the original myths she palys with; Apollo leading the war and her touch of using Merlin's original name, nice.

There are some good surprises and developments with the characters as well as there being quite a few references to the first book, that didn't much sense at the time as Cassie jumps all over the place through time, making all sorts of new problems (as is her way) but righting some others as well. Prikin's story is very good, the scenes which are about him or have him in become the more interesting and unexpected ones. His scenes with Cassie are therefore a nice contrast to hers with Mircea as they have become monotonous, you always know how they're going to end. I've never been a fan of Mircea, he just seems vaguely slimey, he's got a lot going against him. But this is I think deliberate; what I love about these books is the characterisation given to the non-humans, particularly the vampire's, its very clear that they are a different race with different motivations, it's handled very well.

This isn't really a love story but I'd like to think there's one developing, in fact I'm starting to feel a bit sorry for Cassie as she only seems to get intimate with anyone when it's necessary or because of some spell or other. But there is a love triangle of sorts, though the three characters emotions, motivations, decisions and reactions are incredibly complex and nothing is really concluded, this gives it a sense of realism, but at the same time there are some really touching and tense scenes between Cassie and Pritkin that are scrumptiously good (I think the way their relationship has developed over the three books is really special). But I've got to say I do like Cassie's narrative when she's alone, this is often when she's at her most fresh and funniest. Especially in her scenes with Mircea I find her reactions are rather repetitive and because of this I much prefer Pritkin, theirs is the partnership and hopefully the relationship (come on Chance give the people what they want!) I want to see.

Cassie is a more enjoyable character in this book, she's less of an airhead, more strong, capable and focused, although there were still points when I didn't understand her thinking but what I've always liked about her character is how she picks her moments, she doesn't fight everything and everyone but is interesting in her actions. One of the books key roles is bringing to a conclusion her journey in accepting her powers as Pythia and the ending really has this sense of starting something new.

Embrace the night is thrilling with a few good quirks and often rather funny. I recommend all three books, and am looking forward to the next one entitled Curse the Dawn (April 2009), which it has been mentioned by the author will form another trilogy, focusing on the war and Cassie as the accepted and reigning Pythia. Also look out for Midnights Daughter, Dory's book (who is Mircea's daughter) which starts a new series set in the same world.


Dhampir (Noble Dead Saga 1)
Dhampir (Noble Dead Saga 1)
by Barb Hendee
Edition: Paperback
Price: 19.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, dangerous action and intrigue, 19 April 2008
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Dhampir is a strong read; good pacing, solid narrative, interesting and complex characters. It puts to good use elements of the gothic, medievalism and paranormal/mythical characters.

Magiere is an understated but not underwritten character, clever and resilient she is the strategist behind her and her partner the talented Leesil's con. Magiere plays the Hunter, Leesil her prey. They make much depriving hard done by peasants of the little they have. But Magiere wants peace, she buys a tavern so she can settle and belong to one place. As they begin their journey to the little town of Miska however an encounter with a crazed "peasant" with unnatural abilities starts Magiere down the path to discovering what she really is and who she wants to be. The creature is of course a vampire and is connected rather unfortunately with a group of three vampires - Rashed, Teesha and Ratboy - who reside in Miska, they feel his demise and perceive Magiere as a threat. This begins a game of tit for tat between the two.

This is quite a closed in fantasy, the focus is more on the characters and the social aspect of Miska than a questing epic where the good fight evil. This is definitely not a detriment and makes the hunting scenes all the more effective and thrilling. The world created here is harsh; this is a land of browns and greys, physically and morally. This transcends to the characters, often it is ambiguous as to who we should side with. This is due to their complexity, each has several motivations, the vampires especially. Neither particularly want to fight each other, really there are many reflections between the two; both have travelled to Miska to make a life for themselves, both have created their own businesses and in doing so seek to find a place in society, this is because both are filled with a yearning for aspects of life that will humanise them. This is particularly poignant with the vampires, you really feel drawn into their story, the chapter on Teesha's turning is particularly good. And it makes the decent into their darker natures more compelling. This yearning carries through to their relationships, Rashed, their stoic warrior leader (with a good business sense) thinks of nothing but Teesha in all his plans but is unable to act not because he's a vampire but because of his warrior sensibilities. It is things like this that give this book depth and make it compelling, everything is well drawn. I very much recommend it.


Magic Lost, Trouble Found (Raine Benares)
Magic Lost, Trouble Found (Raine Benares)
by Lisa Shearin
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: 4.69

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Light fantasy entertainment, 11 April 2008
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Yes, the cover is rubbish and the title is stupid but actually 'Magic Lost, Trouble Found' is a pretty good read, 4 stars is maybe a little overzealous but my generosity is for the wit and style Shearin has used to sell her first novel. The pacing is fast, there is much well placed action, some nice inserts of sarcastic humour even a little darkness. This is more fantasy than anything but being set in the murky city of Mermeia it has an urban feel to it.

The book follows a short span of Reine Benares life as she tries to work her way out of a rather tricky situation...She's a seeker, she finds things and has moderate magical ability, this doesn't bother our heroine and the fact that thanks to a friend of hers she gets lumped with a powerful stone that exponentially enhances her magical skills doesn't sit well with her. This book thrives on the difficult and sometimes funny situations are heroine gets into, she lands into one mess after the other but it's her attitude that really makes this book shine; she's a lead that exudes a great deal of control not only in herself but in how she manages to effect the situations she's manpowered into without being in your face and gun-ho, she's clever, thoughtful and her first person narrative works well.

The narrative is descriptive and never fails to give a good sense of the various settings which thus become claustrophobic and atmospheric although the fantasy world itself does seem a bit narrow and although I can't put my finger on why, rather dull.

The secondary characters all have their archetypal places in the book and therefore fit in perfectly. We have the father figure/mentor, a youthful sibling type, an innocent who grows up over the course of the book and - now this formula grates on me - two opposing love interests, one who, you guessed it is dark, the other light. But the characters and plot develop very nicely and the next book is set up whilst giving this a good ending.

This isn't the best out there in the urban fantasy vein; the world isn't inventive enough nor the lead given enough depth to make her truly compelling but all in all it's exciting, fun and quirky, with a decent lead and a witty style that engages, making the experience of reading about Reine and her troubles definitely enjoyable if not when looked at objectively a brilliantly written and inventive novel. My review proberly seems a little muddled but it comes down to this, I'm not blind to the fact that the book isn't original, challenging etc but I choose to read it and liked it because I pick this kind of book to relax and be entertained and `Magic Lost, Trouble Found' exceeded magnificently in this regard.


Eclipse (Twilight Saga)
Eclipse (Twilight Saga)
by Stephenie Meyer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 14.99

17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Classic? - never, obsession inducing? - definitely, 28 Jan 2008
*Spoilers*

Eclipse follows the same grain as the other two books in what is becoming a steadily more stupid series of books. It starts where we left Bella, she's with Edward, she wants to be a vampire and yes she's still obsessed with his eyes. Edward has laid down some rules, grudgingly he will turn her into a vampire at the end of the year, if she applies to college and thinks over her decision. Ah, but our selfish heroine wants everything her own way and the book follows a rather exasperating format, over many pages of the characters renegotiating the outcome. Bella has a lot of decisions to make in this book, there's much teenage angst over her sexual frustration and the balancing act she tries to maintain between Edward and Jacob. There has always been the presence of Jacob's crush but rather blithely towards the end this turns into a proper love triangle as oh wait after two books of Bella knowing she has no feelings for Jacob, she suddenly loves him, completely. This I found utterly unconvincing. Add in the continued presence of the flat Victoria and her new minions, whose only goal is to kill Bella and you've got yourself all the elements for one overly long, poorly written, sloppy excuse for a novel.

On the whole I have problems with Meyer's characterisation; was I the only person who thought that Jacob forcing himself on Bella and hurting her arm in the process while insisting that it's him she truly loves was assault by an obsessive moron? and her dads reaction to this...bizarre. There's some really strange scenes in this, that left me a bit baffled as to Meyers reasoning, like when Jacob tells Bella he'll kill himself if she doesn't kiss him, I can't validate this, it was just so over the top and silly. There is also a distinct lack of strong female leads, whether it's Bella begging for sex, or the domineering and abusive males telling her what to do or how she feels. This is evident in the very natures of the characters; Bella is selfish, Rosalie's shallow, Leah's bitter, even Alice is a bit of an airhead and Esme's only feature is that she's motherly. And the men are selfless heroes, with various degrees of righteousness, even Jacob in the end and Edward is practically tripping over himself to give Bella up. Meyer meant to create Edward as the perfect man but he's just a vagary of her view of what one should be, he's self sacrificing, noble, gallant, a provider, protector and a saviour but not a well developed character, merely a symbol with no depth.

The supposed emotion turmoil is meant I guess to make you connect to Bella, but she has lost all appeal as a heroine. She was always vaguely annoying with her obsessive attitude toward Edward's looks and her stubborn whining. Furthermore this appears to be done deliberately by the author, throughout the book she mentions 'Wuthering Heights', in fact Meyer flat out has Bella drawing direct similarities between her and Kathy's situation, but its presence falls pat for me because Meyer doesn't acknowledge the unsavoury nature of Bella's personality. Kathy and Heathcliff were tortured and dislikeable till the end in a book that generates such poignant and epic pain, the point I'm trying to make is that this classic has such a strong sense of self, Meyers work doesn't have such clarity, no, its entire use seemed juvenile.

Meyers concern was never with action, the main focus was the romance and drama and this book has very little of it; Victoria has been the out of sight threat in all three books, but the danger from her is never astute and therefore not effective, in fact the confrontation at the end was laughable, I got the sense that she would of liked Bella dead but oh dear if she can't get to her. And the big discovery that the amazing Bella figures out but not the 100 odd, more intelligent vampires didn't was simply poor. But then again this isn't a paranormal romance for readers who are interested in the developing vampire myth nor for those who like the mix of darkness and passion evident in many successful PR reads. And if you think a tight and intelligent plot as well as colourful characters are necessary then you may also like to avoid.

The books end is left rather open; I have a feeling that Jacob will be back and there will be more trite complications in Bella's life in the next book, the Volturi have been all fluff and talk so far I don't have high expectations from them. In fact the end of this sets up the next book for teenage marriage, no sex before marriage, all of which is being pressed upon a reluctant and juvenile heroine, who doesn't know what she truly wants, or who she really is, who is being lead in everything she does by an unnatural and destructive love.

I haven't found much in the five star reviews that detail why this is a worthy read, I can only think that people find the characters interesting and appreciate the theme of loss and sacrifice that run through the narratives, this offers some depth but never truly resonate because of the idiocy that accompanies them.

Bella's problems seem to struck a cord with other readers but after my many vices with this book, the series and Meyer as a writer I won't be reading on, the narrative was too inane, the characters whining and melodramatic (even the 100 year old vampires), at one point Bella prepares to kill her self to create a distraction in a fight! What kind of insane writing is this? If you are thinking about reading this series make sure you look beyond the high praise and hype, it won't be for everyone.
Comment Comments (13) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 2, 2012 3:24 PM BST


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