Tag Archives: dark fantasy


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.

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 sledgehammer 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 of 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 an 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 one 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 no 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—or series, really—not for any deep reason, just in a not-good-for-me way. The whole thing just feels super sick, 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 once and not in reference to Aisha or in acknowledgment 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


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Book Review: Winterset Hollow, by Jonathan Edward Durham

I accepted a copy of Winterset Hollow from the author, Jonathan Edward Durham, for the purpose of review.

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Everyone has wanted their favorite book to be real, if only for a moment. Everyone has wished to meet their favorite characters, if only for a day. But be careful in that wish, for even a history laid in ink can be repaid in flesh and blood, and reality is far deadlier than fiction . . . especially on Addington Isle.

Winterset Hollow follows a group of friends to the place that inspired their favorite book-a timeless tale about a tribe of animals preparing for their yearly end-of-summer festival. But after a series of shocking discoveries, they find that much of what the world believes to be fiction is actually fact, and that the truth behind their beloved story is darker and more dangerous than they ever imagined. It’s Barley Day . . . and you’re invited to the hunt.

my review

Were you traumatized by Watership Down as a child? Well, now you can have that same experience as an adult, with Winterset Hollow. When Winterset Hollow was presented to me for review, is was called dark fantasy. And while there is no denying that anthropomorphized animals is a fantasy element and the book is dark, I’d call this closer to literary horror personally. I’d also call it very good.

The comparison to Watership Down is no doubt no accident. I don’t believe it would have been possible for the author to have written the book without the comparison explicitly in mind. After all, the author doesn’t call it his first book, or even his debut work. No, he calls it his “watershed debut novel.”watershed novelNo accident. I also wondered if Frog wasn’to a little nod to Wind in the Willows. And I wouldn’t even be surprised to find more subtle references too. (Did Rabbit’s twitchy leg have a shadow of Thumper in it?) This is that sort of book, the kind where things mean something. I’ll leave it up to each reader to decide what. I know I have my own thoughts.

But it’s also eminently readable. Eamon was an amazingly relatable character and the friendship between him, Caroline, and Mark was marvelous. I always appreciate platonic, mixed gender friendships and they are surprisingly hard to find in modern literature. There’s some diversity, even in the relatively small cast, and the writing flows nicely.

I did notice a few editing hiccups (like her mouth flew to her cover her hand, which was obviously meant to be the other way and a couple missing or flipped letters/words). But they were more notable in their rarity. This was generally well edited and easy to read.

All in all, I call this an undaunted and unrelenting contribution to the literary genre…whichever it chooses to roost in.

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