Tag Archives: dark fantasy

a kingdom of flame and fury

Book Review: A Kingdom of Flame and Fury, by Whitney Dean

I accepted a review copy of Whitney Dean‘s A Kingdom of Flame and Fury through R&R Book Tours. The Book was also featured over on Sadie’s Spotlight. So, you can hop over there for an excerpt, author information, tour schedule, and (if you hurry) a chance to win a copy of the book.

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At ten years old, Raven was mysteriously willed to be the next ruler of Seolia, a kingdom nestled within the realm of The Four Kingdoms. Orphaned as a baby, she has spent fifteen years ruling over a kingdom she believes she did not earn all while hiding secrets: she possesses dark magic and she thirsts for blood. Now at almost twenty-five years old and with a sudden addiction to stealing life, Raven must fight through her new procured darkness to save her soul, but when a mysterious stranger arrives in her kingdom, she starts experiencing vivid dreams that detail who she truly is. As she slowly starts to unravel her story, what she uncovers at the end of the spool will change the course of her life and her kingdom forever.


my review

I went into this book with such high hopes. But it honestly just strangled them, one extra page at a time. I’ll give the author that the writing is mechanically competent, editing pretty clean, and the world is interesting. I didn’t even hate the characters. But the book is far, far, far too long for the plot that it contains. The middle just draaaaaaags and then the whole thing finishes on a cliffhanger. So, there’s not even any payoff after sticking with it until the end.

I might have been able to tolerate that if it wasn’t paired with constant whiplash changes in character attitudes and behaviors. “I won’t do this.” Does it. “You can’t do that” Does it. “I’ll do the thing.” Doesn’t do it. “I love this man.” Hates same man. “I don’t sexually love this man.” Has sex with him. Back and forwards, back and forwards, back and forwards, back and forwards. I’m talking a full half of this book is just characters flipping between opposing attitudes/opinion/actions. And I was just completely done with it far before the book was done with me. Yes, I understood that the author was trying to show that the characters were conflicted, but it just felt contradictory and exhausting.

Even the narrative is contradictory. Here’s an example. The reader is told no one ever goes in the woods and there is virtually no crime on the island. Raven walked into the woods and was immediately accosted by a serial rapist. If no one goes in the woods and there’s almost no crime, he’s two rarities at once. He contradicts two pillars of the world as the reader has been told it exists. Exhausting.

Further, this is labeled a dark romance. I don’t think it’s a dark romance. It’s a freaking tragedy. I recognize the elements that Dean was trying to paint as dark romance. But it’s just toxic, abusive behavior without enough shading to make it an actual dark romance. Lastly, and this

a kingdom of flame and fury

              Special edition cover

one was just an annoyance, but it really annoyed me. Nothing about Raven—her situation, her attitude, her demeanor, her kingdom, her training, her history, her interactions with others or them with her—felt queenly. Nothing. The book isn’t even clear on what she rules. Was it a country, an island, a town, or a village? Village is used more often than anything else. So, she’s queen of a village? Linguistically, it doesn’t even make sense.

I think this book will find an audience. Exhausting whiplash aside, most aspects of it aren’t bad. I am just apparently not that audience.


Other Reviews:

Bookworm Bunny Reviews: A Kingdom of FLame and Fury

A Kingdom of Flame and Fury

 

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Book Review: Dark Fate, by Karley Stafford

I accepted a review copy of Karley Stafford‘s Dark Fate as part of it’s book tour with Literary Book Tours. It was also featured over on Sadie’s Spotlight, earlier this year. So, you can hop over there for further information.
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I am the alpha’s daughter, the alpha apparent, heir to our pack. A position I never wanted. I wish I could relinquish it to Cole, my shadow and second. But my father would be devastated, and the pack would surely ostracize me.

My world goes to hell when my father makes a deal with the Cavell Wolves, known widely for their cruelty. The deal in which I will marry Jasper, the heir to the savage northern pack. The last thing I need is a male to be by my side to become the Alpha my father raised me to be. What he doesn’t know, I’m already in love with a witch whom I would burn the world down for.

After a night gone wrong, betrayed by someone I trust, I find myself at the mercy of Marrock, my heinous father-in-law-to-be. Learning first hand of the atrocities he’s willing to commit to get what he wants. But I will not let him break my spirit.

my review

I think that the best I can say for Dark Fate is that it was OK. Now, it was OK. I’m not saying it was bad. The writing was clean and easily readable. There’s clear plot progression and I liked the characters. But it’s all about as subtle as a sledge hammer to the head in almost every regard.

The cataclysm was set in motion because the characters just yelled at one another with no actual communication. The main character got angry and stormed around constantly, showing absolutely no capacity for deeper or varied thought. The ‘loves’ were entered into/dismissed all but instantly. The sex scenes with the male characters were blunt affairs that, while not bad, didn’t fit either the places in the book they existed or were the sort of sex to fit the situation or characters (either of them). The betrayal didn’t feel believable, based on the character up to that point or the other coven members after the fact. (And it was a huge missed opportunity to explore several themes that would have added depth and color to the narrative.) The loss that prompted the attitudinal shift in the main character was over the top for what was needed and wasn’t built up to at all. The villain was a generic sexual sadist with no shades grey. And overcoming him happened so easily that one has to wonder why anyone even hesitated to take him on, leading to the events of the book.

Speaking of events leading up to the conclusion—and this is spoilery, be warned—Stafford at no point acknowledges (or even seems to notice) that for all the tragedy and death, or the importance put on how the main character wouldn’t bend to the will of another, etc. She ended up doing 100%, exactly what was wanted from her to begin with, mating Jasper. One conversation with…damn near anyone and there could have been a resolution. (And no, that wasn’t the point.)

dark fate photoHaving said all that. I think it’s all just basically the foibles of a first book. Stafford shows a lot of potential here and I’d read another of their books. The only real, rage inducing complaint I have that I won’t chalk up to First Book Syndrome is what I deem queer baiting in the first quarter of the book. While I appreciate a bi-sexual/pan-sexual heroine and there was actually F/F sex, this was ultimately a MFM menage book and, to me, the F/F start felt like baiting because of how it all worked out by the end. (Though it does very narrowly avoid the Bury Your Gays trope.)

So, all in all, I’m calling this OK. I don’t discourage anyone from picking it up. But I also don’t suggest diving in expecting a well fleshed out masterpiece.


Other Reviews:

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Book Review: Wicked Monsters series, by Skye Jones and Marissa Farrar

I picked up a copy of the four-book compilation of the Wicked Monsters series, by Skye Jones and Marissa Farrar the other day. Then, later, realized I actually already had each individual book. So, it turns out I now have this series twice.

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One girl, five monsters, one hell of a ride.

Taken from the Pit where she was raised, Aisha believes all vampires are horrifying… Then she finds herself in Dashiell’s possession.

Powerful, handsome, and charismatic, Dashiell is not what she thought her master would be.

His dark desires draw her into his world, and things heat up between them.

But with a demon gargoyle scratching at her window, and wolves sniffing at the door, Aisha might not stay in the vampire’s grasp for long.

Danger and temptation surround her on all sides, but Aisha is determined to fight them all.


My Reviews

I did write individual reviews as I finished each book. They’re below.  But I’ll say a few overall words first. This was bad. It started out bad and got worse as it went. As you’ll see, I was so distracted by the authors’ refusal to call sexual slaves, slaves in book one that I barely focused on anything else. But once the cast list expanded this was less jarring. But the sex because less and less feasible and the dialogue more and more atrocious as the series progressed. Until, by the end, I think I was reading in a permanent cringe.

Additionally, the plot only makes even a little sense if Aisha literally has a magical vagina…maybe addictive in some fashion. There isn’t any reason 5 powerful men instantly dedicate themselves to her, above their own self-interests with nothing more than a single sex act. (I mean, her magic pussy even brought a demon back to God. I don’t think I can roll my eyes hard enough for that!) All in all, the only positive thing I can say about this series is that, having read it, I can mark four books off on my yearly Goodreads challenge.

Night Captive

night captive photoI’m both torn and not torn about this book, which I understand is confusing. I’m not torn in the sense that I can 100% say with certainty that I did not like this book. But I am torn in the sense that this is the first of four and that gives the series a lot of time to improve…or at least grow past the things I hated so much in this first book. Should I give the next a chance or not? Decision, decisions.

There are numerous reasons I didn’t like this book. But I’ll state upfront that the writing itself seems fine. I didn’t even notice any serious editing mishaps. And I appreciate the bisexual characters. But I just really did not enjoy the overall tone of the book and there were several linguistic quirks that almost drove me to rage. Here’s the biggest one. The authors refer to Aisha and her ilk as serfs. But they aren’t. They’re slaves. These words do not mean the same thing. They cannot be used interchangeably and the characters are not serfs. They are property. They don’t have any of the rights or protections of serfdom. They are slaves. And I found Jones and Farrar’s avoidance of the language reprehensible.

If you are going to be ballsy enough to play with the power dynamic of a master/slave sexual relationship, you shouldn’t skirt around the realities to make it more palatable by wimping out on the language. You need to call it what it is. Anything less is just skeevy.

This is only reinforced by the way that Dashiell is referred to as Aisha’s lover. He is not her lover. She is not his lover. He owns her. There is no equality. There is not relationship outside of his ownership of her.

Look, I’m not ranting that this is a master/slave dark reverse harem erotic novel. I’m not saying these shouldn’t be written. I’m ranting that Jones and Farrar wanted the titillation of a master/slave dynamic without being willing to own up to the fact that that is what it is. They water it down and artificially present is as something other than slavery. And that I have a serious issue with.

When I mentioned this elsewhere someone said, “Sounds like some white supre[macist] bs that re-imagines serfdom as the same thing as slavery.” And that’s just it. It feels supremacist. It feels like someone wanted to snicker and bask in the slavery trope, but didn’t want to truly have to face the atrocity that is slavery.

Again, write slavery tropes, sure. But be honest enough to call it what it is.

But the book ends with Aisha escaping her slave master and there’s a chance of the next book being more tolerable. But I honestly don’t expect much.


Cruel Moon

cruel moon photoThis is very much a middle book. It doesn’t stand on it’s own, FYI. Much more porn without plot than book one. This is basically just a series of sex scenes and Aisha arguing that the wolves want to keep her just as imprisoned as the vampires, which is true. The word slave is still never used, but the wolves are basically just offering a little more illusion of freedom in her enslavement than the vampires did. But it’s also supposed to be luuuurve.

I did appreciate that Aisha was standing up for herself. She made some very good arguments, not that they made any difference. But I continually came up against the question of how and why Aisha is able to articulate herself so well. She grew up in a very limited environment. She’s far too educated and well spoken for the history the authors have given her and I felt it sharply in this book.

I’m also still not particularly enjoying the tone of the book…series really. Not on any deep reason, just in a not-good-for-me way. The whole thing just feels super ick and I’m struggling with it.


Enchanted Dusk

enchanted dusk photoBy this point I’m pretty much finishing this box set/series by grit alone, because I don’t want to leave it languishing in my Kindle Cloud unfinished. But I’m done, toast, really really not enjoying anything about it.

The sex is becoming increasingly ridiculous in an attempt to incorporate all five men. Some of it doesn’t sound at all enjoyable, or like the character herself is enjoying it. I can’t account for all these men dedicating themselves to Aisha by anything but a magic pussy. It’s just stupid really. And I am 100% sick of the hollow Aisha worship. And Aisha is far, far, far, far too knowledgeable about, well, everything, for someone who grew up without experiencing anything.

On a positive note, the word slave is finally used to describe the slaves, though only the once and not in reference to Aisha or in acknowledgement of those who actually held them.

I will read book four, just to finish it. But I don’t anticipate enjoying it any more than this one.


Fierce Light

fierce light photoSo, I managed to read this whole series. I think I deserve an award. So, does anyone else who made it through this drek. It was…not good. The final random plot event was both predictable and poorly done. It was just more people who wanted Aisha’s magic pussy. I got so tired of it.

And look, porn without plot books are a thing and I’m not knocking it. But this didn’t read like that. This felt like the authors (two of them) were trying to write porn with plot and just failing miserably. The dialogue too seemed to get cheesier and cheesier the farther into the series I got, until it felt like full on Stilton here.

God, I’m just glad to be done.


Other Reviews:

Book Nook Nuts: Wicked Monsters