Monthly Archives: February 2014

Review of The Emperor’s Edge Collection, by Lindsay Burkoer

The Emperor's Edge CollectionI grabbed book one of Lindsay Burkoer’s The Emperor’s Edge series off of the KDP free list. Because I enjoyed it, I then purchased the compilation for books two and three. (Though, honestly, at $7.69 I would usually call it too expensive and move on.)

A side note: You know, I wish that when book one of a series is perma-free the compilations could come books 2-4, instead of 1-3. That way I wouldn’t always end up with two copies of the first. Wouldn’t that be great?

The Emperor’s Edge:
Imperial law enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon is good at her job: she can deter thieves and pacify thugs, if not with a blade, then by toppling an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters onto their heads. But when ravaged bodies show up on the waterfront, an arson covers up human sacrifices, and a powerful business coalition plots to kill the emperor, she feels a tad overwhelmed.

Worse, Sicarius, the empire’s most notorious assassin, is in town. He’s tied in with the chaos somehow, but Amaranthe would be a fool to cross his path. Unfortunately, her superiors order her to hunt him down. Either they have an unprecedented belief in her skills… or someone wants her dead.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s not flawless. The incident that sets the whole thing in motion is ridiculously small and therefore the consequences unbelievable and I found some things really quite predictable. However, even with these gripes I just plain had fun with it. The writing is sharp, the dialogue witty, the characters amusing and the world interesting.

I especially liked Amaranthe and Sicarius. I’ll admit that the clean-freak, OCD organised woman and the silent killer of a man are pretty cliché character traits, but they are so often used because they’re amusing. So I’m going to call them classic instead. I love a strong-willed woman and I have to admit the emotionally distant warrior is one of my favourite character archetypes. Regardless, their repartee worked, as did their tenuous partnership. The rest of the group also contributed to the fun. The way they sniped at one another, but still got the job done was a laugh a minute.

Some books you just love, warts and all. This is one of those books for me. I’ll definitely be on the book out for more of Buroker’s works and I’m definitely reading book two…now.

Dark Currents:
It’s been three months since former enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon and the notorious assassin Sicarius thwarted kidnappers and saved the emperor’s life. The problem? Nobody knows they were responsible for this good deed. Worse, they’re being blamed for the entire scheme. With enforcers and bounty hunters stalking them, and the emperor nursing a personal hatred for Sicarius, it’s going to be hard to earn exoneration. When Amaranthe’s team discovers mutilated bodies in the city aqueducts and a mysterious illness incapacitates thousands of citizens, she and Sicarius see an opportunity to solve the mystery and prove their loyalty. But they’ll have to defeat vengeful shamans, man-eating predators, and deadly mechanical constructs, all while dodging imperial soldiers who would rather kill them than accept their help. Nobody said exoneration would be easy.

Oh, I’m still just loving this series! I’m not generally a raver, but I’m afraid the crew of the Emperor’s Edge makes me squeal a bit like an excited fangirl. I love the writing, the characters, the snark, the world, the slowly budding romance, etc.

It did feel a bit like a 2nd book, in that all the characters and their roles are pre-established so there’s little need for a lead in. But the book does have a beginning, middle and END—no cliffhangers here.

I know I usually have more to say about a book, but ‘I like it. I like it a lot’ is about all I’ve got for this one. I look forward to the rest of the series and I’m beginning to think I’ll be forced to invest in it all.

Deadly Games:
When you’ve been accused of kidnapping an emperor, and every enforcer in the city wants your head, it’s hard to prove yourself an honorable person and even harder to earn an imperial pardon.

That doesn’t keep Amaranthe Lokdon and her team of outlaws from trying. When athletes start disappearing from the Imperial Games, they may finally have an opportunity to show the emperor that they’re on his side. If she and her comrades can get to the bottom of such a public mystery, they’re sure to get the credit.

But plans go awry when Amaranthe’s own men start plotting against each other, the new ally she’d hoped to acquire tries to turn her in, and her best fighter—and closest friend—disappears. 

Maybe getting involved wasn’t such a good idea after all…

Book three, and I’m still on a high with this series. I’m enjoying all of the characters, especially Sicarius. He’s finally starting to open up a little bit. But it’s nice how the books are told partially from the POV of a side character—this book being dedicated to Basilard. I didn’t feel he got as much attention as Books did in the last book (the last book being dedicated to Books’ inner monologue), but it was still nice to hear his inner voice for a while. It’s a great way to get to know the cast of The Emperor’s Edge.

I do have to admit that, as much as I love the repartee between all the characters it started to feel a little forced here. Like everyone had to be witty all the time, instead of just naturally being that way. But I still laughed at their antics. The book isn’t a cliffhanger, but there is a pretty strong lead-in to book four in the epilogue. And I’m off to buy it now…so much for my monthly book budget.

Review of Severed Bonds (Annwn Unveiled, #1), Kyra Dunst

Severed BondsAuthor, Kyra Dunst sent me an ecopy of her novel Severed Bonds (Annwn Unveiled, #1).

Description from Goodreads:
My life will never be the same again…

Sometimes I wonder if my life would have gone differently if I had been a little less impulsive. Most people would think twice about driving into a snowstorm, but not me. Now I am caught up in all sorts of trouble, and not of the weather variety.

Vampires, werewolves, and the Fae, oh my!

Yup, they exist, all right. And I landed smack dab in the middle of their little dispute. One faction wants to keep everything quiet, and the other? Well, they seek nothing less than total world domination. Or something.

And they both want me. Well, isn’t that special?

Now I am pulled so deep into their world that I can never hope to break free. Not only have I risked those I hold most dear, but I have discovered some things about myself that will change who I thought I was.

It really sucks when you find out your whole life was a lie…

My name is Alexandra Blakely, Lexi for short, and this is how it all began.

Review:
This was an OK book. There wasn’t anything obviously wrong with it, other than I found that I didn’t much enjoy it. This was largely because I never bonded with Lexi. She did nothing for me and I very quickly tired of her ‘woe is me’ mantra (a bad combination). Plus, by virtue of the fact that she continued to survive encounters that the reader is told only strong people survive, one would assume she was a strong character. But I found her limp-noodle-weak, unintelligent and, despite claims to the contrary, far too ready to hand control to others.

She constantly did stupid stuff like purposefully deciding to ignore everything she didn’t understand or insisting that others were crazy for displaying amazing and undeniable feats of magic. If anyone was crazy in that scenario it would be her, but she constantly reminded herself to avoid the crazies.

Worst of all, Lexi was a freakin’ marionette! Seriously, throughout the book her actions were controlled by one man after another (and I mean her physical actions were physically controlled against her will). I found it infuriating. How am I supposed to see a woman who can’t even wrest control of her own body from another strong? Even worse, how am I supposed to respect her when she then willing hands that control to 3rd person? I got seriously tired of hearing, “You’re going to have to trust me,” and then watching her give complete control and responsibility to a man. Further, any time her thoughts/actions were her own she did little more than sleep or fret about the love triangle.

Said love triangle was ridiculous, mainly because the two men were little more than Disney Princes. You know the sort I mean—handsome, ostensibly honourable, etc but TOTALLY characterless. I don’t feel like I got to know them at all, especially Kade. They were just objects for her to obsess over. Plus, the whole thing was a tease. Lexi went on and on about her libido, but there’s barely more than a kiss anywhere.

The writing itself was fine. The dialogue felt a little stiff at times, but it was mostly without issue. There were some editing issues, not too many typographical mistakes but a lot of tense changes and it frequently shifted between first and third person. Annoying, but not hugely disruptive.

All in all, I can see a lot of New Adult readers out there loving this book. It’s a fairly clean read and I’m sure Lexi’s control issues won’t irk everyone as strongly as it did me. But I found myself gritting my teeth a lot. I wanted to backhand Lexi on more than one occasion. I’m not particularly interested in reading the next in the series.

 

Review of Zaria & Zauran (Neuripra, #2), by Poppet

Zaria and ZauranLast week, I reviewed Poppet‘s Phoebe & Seithe. Afterwards, I was left in indecision since I have a book that I thought might be next in the series, but wasn’t certain because they have recently been repackaged, retitled and republished. To my delight, the very next day, Zaria and Zauran came up on the KDP free list. I grabbed it, even if it might actually be the same as Zauran under the new cover & title. (Though I really do wish for some clarification on how the series relate. I know I can’t be the only one out there that has some of the old and new books and isn’t sure how they line up…or if they line up.)

Description from Goodreads:
In an ancient battle between the neuri of Belgrade and the Vampyre, Zaria is caught in the middle. 

She is hopelessly drawn to Darise but then the neuri Zauran kidnaps her, changing everything. It couldn’t be more complicated. Darise offers unconditional love, Zauran offers rabid passion, throw in the rest of the family and you have mayhem. Then betrayal catapults Zaria into Zauran’s life just when a king returns to cause anarchy. 

Božena is a poisoned thorn in Zaria’s side, and her world comes crashing down as violence, betrayal and death, threaten to rip her from love. A king’s key is the bridge between Zaria and happiness, but for some the intervention comes too late.

Review:
The actual writing here is good and I really appreciate the interesting locations chosen for the stories. This one was set in Belgrade, Serbia. (The previous one was set in Table Top Mountain, South Africa). I also occasionally liked some of the characters. (I’ll get to the ‘occasionally’ issue in a moment). Venix was awesome. Zauran finished up as wonderful. I eventually liked Ryan. Even Sveta had admirable moments. There were definitely parts of this book worthy of praise.

The book felt fractured, however, like it didn’t really know where it wanted to go when it set off on its journey so it ended up wondering aimlessly and then finishing at some previously undetermined location. One romantic arc was established and then discarded for another, for example. Actually, at times it felt like the story had been conceived and originally written as at least 3 different short stories, that were later stitched together into a book. I’m not claiming this to be the case. How would I know? But The way the book introduced new characters and took a fairly drastic left turn at 43%, then did it again at about 60%, combined with the tendency to randomly recap on occasion and the passage of large chunks of undocumented time between sections of the story gave the book that kind of feel. It felt like it would be easy to cleave it into 3 pieces without the loss of consistency. In fact, just the opposite is true. It felt like these three pieces didn’t belong in the same whole, despite containing some of the same characters.

Characters had drastic personality changes (thus my only occasionally liking some of them). One attempted rapist suddenly turned contrite and gentle. A previously loving man turned philandersous and eventually violent and so on. While these inconsistencies were annoying, they were also difficult to accept, as it meant the reader was left feeling betrayed by some characters and/or having to accept that previously despicable characters were suddenly the good guys. Whiplash anyone? Had these been separate stories it wouldn’t have felt so disruptive, but in one book they felt artificial. Especially since the impetus for change wasn’t always clear. I have no idea what happened to Darise, for example.

What’s more Zaria often came across as simply too stupid to live. She took everything said to her at face value and as absolute truth, with no further thought on the matter. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a likeable character and all, but she didn’t come across as too bright.

Lastly, and this paragraph contains a spoiler, some of the truths established in book one seemed to be discarded or contradicted here. For example, in Phoebe and Seithe it was clearly stated that only a person’s ‘chosen’ could redeem him, but Zaria manages to redeem Darius, despite not being his chosen. And Darise didn’t seem to have been condemned as a red eye, even though he killed someone.

All in all, I enjoyed the book but I spent a decent amount of the time confused by it. I’d be happy to finish the series out, but it’s not topping my favourites list.

So, here I am again, finished with Zaria & Zauran. I happen to have Sveta, #1 of the Neuri series (which is the follow-up series to Pravus, as I understand it). Is it the same as Bozena & Sveta (Neuripra #3)? I’m betting it is, but I’d hate to waste my time reading it if it isn’t. Arggg! Congratulations Poppet on being picked up by Thorstruck Press, but could you throw out a clarification for those of us struggling here? Please? I just want to know I’m reading the right books in the right order. I don’t actually care what the title/series is or what the covers look like.

You know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna hold off on reading Sveta. Maybe like Zaria &  Zauran, Bozena & Sveta will pop up on the free list and then I’ll be certain I’m on the right book. Yeah, that makes sense. Right?