Monthly Archives: June 2014

Review of Coyote’s Creed & Lightning Rod (Broken Mirrors, #1&2), by Vaughn R. Demont

It appears to be Vaughn R. Demont week around here. First, I read and enjoyed House of Stone. Then, this happened, resulting in this and this. (Proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that when a community, even one stretched across the globe, decides to move a mountain that shit shifts.) Then I decided to give the Broken Mirrors series a try as well.

Coyote's CreedDescription from Goodreads:
If con games were taught in high school, Spencer Crain would be on the honor roll. As it is, he’ll be riding the edge of failure to graduation next month. Then Spence gets the news that his long-gone father is not only dead, but was a Coyote, one of three clans of tricksters in the City.

With a near-catatonic mother on his hands, Spence couldn’t care less about the Coyotes’ ongoing feud with the Phouka and the Kitsune—until it lands on his doorstep. Suddenly he’s thrown headfirst into a dangerous world he knows next-to-nothing about. His only guide is Rourke, dashing King of the Phouka, plus a growing pack of half-siblings, a god, and Fate herself.

As Spence embarks on a journey to learn the Coyote’s creed, the truth about his heritage, and how to handle his growing attraction to Rourke, he wonders when his life turned from TV sitcom to real-life danger zone. And what price must he pay to survive the next roll of the dice…

Funny, funny, funny…maybe a little on the lowbrow side, with the endless blond jokes and such (and I say that while admitting that I liked it, so I don’t mean than in a snobby way). It fit the character so no complaints here. I found myself reading with a goofy smile on my face more than once.

I have to agree with some of the other reviewers who have pointed out that Spencer had a tendency to speak beyond his years, showing a knowledge a self awareness that isn’t particularly realistic in an eighteen year oldthe type of knowledge and introspection that is only possible with a little age under your belt so that you can look back at your ignorantly self-assured teen self and see your own faults. But he was still a loveable rogue that I enjoyed spending time with.

Spencer’s sexuality played a large role in this book. Not in a pornographic way, but it was still an important aspect of the plot. I adored the fact that he was completely at ease with who he was in that respect. There was none of the angst or shame or just weighty significance to his bisexuality that is so often seen in literature. His ability to say (or not say, as the case may be, since even saying it wasn’t a necessity) ‘I am what I am, so what?’ gave it an easy naturalness that is usually reserved for heterosexual relationships. This was really a pleasure to come across in a character. I’d love to see more such depictions.

I was a little lost in some of the supernatural aspects of the book The idea of different mythologies existing beside eachother is an interesting one, but it left plenty of gaps for a reader to wonder how things really worked. Especially as relates to the destruction and reformation of worlds, placement of the gods and their relation to the paranormals of the book.

But despite these few niggles I generally really enjoyed the read. I enjoyed Spencer’s quirky, media soaked, libidinous personality. I enjoyed seeing him learn new things, without him feeling baselessly naive or taken advantage of. I enjoyed Demont’s ability to maintain a breathtaking pace without leaving the reader feeling rushed. I enjoyed the fact that the book is relaxed enough to let a series of stupid riddles carry a scene and still leave me laughing. All in all, well worth the read.

Lightning RodDescription from Goodreads:
Sorcerers have always been feared in the City, their origins as unknown as the nature and extent of their power. When James Black, a young man fleeing an abusive lover, becomes a sorcerer, his old life is erased from existence, and his new life is indebted to powerful entities.

Escaping the man who abused him was supposed to be the end, but the very magic that freed him has put him on a collision course with the gods and the Sorcerer King himself.

And only one of them can survive.

Hmmm, how to start with this one. You see, I’m a little uncertain of my footing. I really enjoyed book one of this series (as well as House of Stone, by the same author) and, while this seemed an OK read, it just didn’t stand up to the other two books by Demont that I’ve just plowed through. So where does that leave me and my need to review it?

Mostly I feel that the book didn’t have that certain something special the other books did. The main character was a victim, and while he grew in strength and determination, he didn’t have the humor I loved in some of Demont’s other characters. In fact, I found that James never particularly endeared himself to me. I cared little for him by the end of the book.

I also thought the weave of the plot wasn’t as tight. There were a lot of times that I either couldn’t quite visualise what was going on or wondered how something happened. An example: at one point James had to cross into a magical circle and in order to do so he had to go through a fairly elaborate ritual. Shortly thereafter, someone else crossed the same circle with no such ritual. How? Similarly, Heath is stated to have been untrained, however, a very short while later he showed some pretty impressive skills. How?

In every Demont book I’ve read, the side characters haven’t been as richly tapestried as the main ones. No real problem, that’s just the way it is. But here it felt extreme. The primary antagonist only showed up sporadically, had no depth, was unilaterally evil and prone to evil villain speech. I didn’t find him particularly believable.

Then there was the sex…or not sex as it would appear. I’ve really enjoyed Demont’s ability to write a sex scene that is both gratifying and not overly pornographic…no that’s not quite right (I don’t mind pornographic), rather I mean, sexy without also stretching the realms of erotic possibilities to the point of fantasy. However, here the sex was rushed and undetailed. We were essentially just left knowing it happened. Meh.

Now, having said all that, the book does still have Demont’s trademark geektastic comic streak. There’s a Marvin (though I think I would have appreciated him more if the character hadn’t felt the need to explain the reference to the reader). There were Dungeon’s and Dragon’s references. There were potshots at the LARPers. The book is still a fun read. But, honestly, I don’t think it stood up to Demont’s other works. I’m told that the series redeems itself in book three though. So there’s still hope.

Addendum: If you’re interested, I did read/review book three, Community Service. You can see my review here.

Review of House of Stone, by Vaughn R. Demont

House of Stone

I borrowed a copy of Vaughn R. Demont‘s House of Stone. Thanks L!

Description from Goodreads:

A modern knight, a noble quest, and a magical sword. What could go wrong?

Welcome to the City, where gods run nightclubs, goblins hire out as mercs, sorcerers work their magic, the Fae hold court over every neighborhood…and humanity is blissfully ignorant of it all.

For minor Fae noble Richard Stone, life is going well. He has a decent fiefdom (okay, it’s a slum), a budding acting career (okay, so it’s porn), and one of only five magical swords in the City. An arranged marriage is barely a blip on his worry meter—until his family blade loses its magic. The shame of it puts his noble standing in jeopardy.

To regain his status, Richard needs help. Fortunately, his new bride is a sidhe knight and his servant Simaron has, er, his back. Together they embark on a quest to find the demon who slew his father, investigate a conspiracy that goes to the highest echelons of Fae nobility, and discover a secret family legacy that could ruin his House.

All while keeping up appearances to a society that demands perfection. And they say a noble’s life is easy…

I have been entertained. Honestly, there are times that’s the highest praise a book can garner and now is one of those times. From the first page to the last, Richard amused me with his irreverent narrative, ignoble commentary, and ironic observations. This is without mentioning his capacitous ability for internal and emotional growth. I enjoyed him when he was a shiftless cad in the beginning and when he was a noble hero at the end. 

However, I also found this same personal growth problematic, in that it largely invalidated he and Sim’s pre-established love. Richard changes so much from the beginning to the end as to be almost a new man. Sim is shown to be a lot more (and different) that Richard ever knew. I ask then, how they were to have known one another enough to love beyond their lust? They were not yet (or yet known to be) the men they would love the other for being. It felt a little hollow to me.

I also thought that Richard (and to a lesser degree, Rem) were the only wholly fleshed out characters. The rest were likeable enough (or unlikeable when appropriate), but I never felt I knew them particularly well. 

Regardless of my few irritants here and there, I was happy throughout. Demont shows a real talent for timing and dramatic disclosures. I especially appreciated that he could drop a verbal bombshell or subtle joke and leave the reader to furrow out the meaning. Something is lost in a joke if the punchline has to be explained to you. I also was pulled in by the idea of elves being the stuff of dreams. I’ll definitely be seeking out more of Demont’s writing.

As an aside (and personal niggle), if you’re going to describe a sword in a book and then have, presumably, that sword on the cover, they should match. That’s not the Azure Blade as described in the book and I’m annoyed by the discrepancy.

Aside number two: If you follow this link to Mr. Demont’s webpage, you see that he’s crowdsourcing to go to a conference. Wouldn’t it be nice to reward a good writer for his skill and his willingness to put a request out that doesn’t come with any type of expectation. No, ‘I’m asking (read demanding) so the universe (you) must provide,’ but rather a polite ‘would anyone be willing to help.’ Anyone? I’d love to see this guy provided for by a host of strangers. It’d be a great way to let him know his writing it appreciated.

Review of Memory Zero (Spook Squad #1), by Keri Arthur

Memory ZeroThe nice folks over at Random House Publishing Group – Bantam Dell and Netgalley approved a review copy of Keri Arthur‘s rerelease of Memory Zero.

Description from Goodreads:
For Sam Ryan, life began at age fourteen. She has no memory of her parents or her childhood. In a decade of service with the State Police, Sam has exhausted the resources of the force searching for clues to her identity. But all mention of her family seems to have been deliberately wiped off the record. Everything changes the night Sam’s missing partner resurfaces as a vampire . . . and forces her to kill him in self-defense. Now Sam is charged with murder. Suspended from the force, and with no one left to trust, Sam accepts some unexpected help from Gabriel Stern, a shapeshifter who conceals startling secrets.
While investigating the circumstances surrounding her partner’s strange behavior, Sam discovers that Garbriel’s been involved with a dangerous organization that’s planning a war on the human race. More immediate, someone is guarding the truth about Sam’s past—someone who’d rather see her dead than risk her knowing too much. To stay alive, Sam must unravel the threads of her past—and find out not only who she is but what she is.

I had mixed feelings about this book. It jumps right into the action and never stops. And while this is exciting, it’s also problematic. Because with all the go, go, go the characters never once stop and have any sort of getting to know one another conversations. This means that the reader never has access to any getting to know one another conversations. I’ve finished the book and still feel that Sam is a complete stranger; Gabriel too, though to a minimally lesser degree, as we at least got to see his affection for his brother.

Further, I checked again and again to ensure that this is in fact the first book in the Spook Squad series. Once I had convinced myself it is, I started looking to see if the Spook Squad is a spin off of another series. Dark Angels is a fairly large series by Arthur, for example, and dark angels are mentioned here. But as far as I can see, the original release of this book predates the other series, so it can’t be a spin off.

The reason I was so convinced it must be is because there is no world building and a lot of information seems to be assumed or glossed over—What is the Federation, for example, or who/what is this Sethanon everyone seems to know about, the events surrounding the recently deceased sibling, the interspecies war, all of Sam and Jack’s history, why does the SIU and the Federation know all about Jack in the first place, etc. There is a lot of history that is referenced but never directly addressed (and arn’t part of the book’s mystery) and I felt I was missing a very large piece of the puzzle.

I did like that the book was set in Melbourne. I always enjoy finding that books are set in interesting locations. Though, honestly it could have been set anywhere. The setting played very little part in the story. I also liked that though the MCs were obviously becoming emotionally aware of each-other, the book didn’t go there. This is urban fantasy and it remained true to its genre by not straying into romantic territory.

The writing was pretty good, though I do have to admit to thinking the use of ‘kite monster’ was incredibly cheesy. I could have lived it just ‘kite,’ you know, like the bird. But really, kite monster? Would a group of shifters, vampires, shapechangers, etc (you know monsters) really refer to another mythical creature as an xxx monster anyway? Either way, it felt really middle grade to me.

Final say: not a complete dud, but not a big winner either.