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Tag Archives: paranormal

Entice – Carrie Jones

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Carrie Jones’ YA series about violent pixies takes some interesting turns in this third instalment, but is just as readable and likable as its predecessors (Need and Captivate).

Note: there are spoilers below if you haven’t read the first two books. If you have, it’s safe to read on…

Life in Zara’s icy, isolated, Maine town has taken a turn for the worse, with more teenagers going missing and Zara having to face the consequences of the life- changing decision she made at the end of Captivate.

This book is pretty much all about Zara’s desperate attempts to get to Valhalla and rescue Nick, while trying to convince her friends she hasn’t become their enemy.

One of the things I like about this series so much is the ideological battle Zara faces and the tough choices she continues to have to make to keep her town, her friends and her family safe.

In Need, Zara had to deal with pixie situation in a way that went against her philosophies of pacifism and justice.

In Captivate, she had to deal with the consequences of her choices, and come to terms with the fact that ideals are never as black and white in the harsh light of reality.

In Entice, she has become what she fears most and struggles with the question of whether you can fight evil without becoming evil. Jones also continues to pick at the threads of bigotry, with several characters being forced to question their hatred of pixies and accept that not all are the same – and not all are their enemy.

And yes, there’s still a romantic thread (and not entirely unexpected). With Nick still trapped in Valhalla, the pixie king Astley is centre stage as the main man in Zara’s life, and Jones writes him in a way that ensures he’s becoming a genuine rival for Zara’s affections.

Because, while she’s undoubtedly in love with Nick – and willing to sacrifice just about anything to have him back – it’s Astley she shares some of the most intense moments of her life with, and who helps her better understand what duty and sacrifice really mean.

There’s a lot more action in this book that the first two, all of which seems to be building towards a huge showdown that’s becoming more than just a factional spat among pixies.

It’s hard to tell whether this will wrap up in the next book, or if Jones is setting up for a longer-running series. Either way, I’m still hooked.

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Afterlife – Claudia Gray

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Throughout the Evernight books, Claudia Gray has taken her characters into interesting territory, but she’s saved the best journey until last to deliver a worthy finale to this YA gothic tale.

All the way along, this series’ trademark has been clever plot twists and characters with ambiguous motives. More than one supporting character has turned out to be more than they first appeared. And the (literally) heart-stopping cliffhanger at the end of Hourglass left many readers wondering how Gray was going to resolve all the dilemmas she’d created.

But resolve them she does (well most of them – there’s a spin-off series coming, so a few have to be left hanging), bringing this page-turning series to a satisfying close.

If you’ve read the first three novels (Evernight, Stargazer and Hourglass), this review won’t contain any spoilers. If you haven’t, and intend to, you might want to come back later.

Afterlife is essentially about Bianca and Lucas coming to terms with the fact they’ve both turned into what they hate and fear the most. They not only have to find out if their relationship can survive their new reality – they also have to find out if they can accept themselves.

We also finally find out more about the wraiths, and what they want from Bianca; the significance of the relationships between wraiths and vampires (and vampire hunters); and Mrs Bethany’s hidden agenda.

The gothic atmosphere of earlier books is retained, helped by the fact the action heads back to where it all began, at Evernight Academy, and  the author again demonstrates her skill as a storyteller, setting a cracker pace and building the tension to the inevitable showdown between Bianca, Lucas and their enemies.

The final page of my edition of Afterlife has a teaser for an upcoming novel about Balthazar, one of the most popular characters in this series, so it’s safe to say fans can look forward to more adventures in this nicely textured world Gray has created.  I must admit, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next for that particular vampire…

(In the meantime, Gray has Fateful – a new paranormal story about werewolves on the Titanic – due out later this year.)

Wrapping up the Vampire Academy series

Richelle Mead has set some pretty high expectations as this series has unfolded, and she definitely delivers with the sixth and final novel, Last Sacrifice.

(This post will double as a review for both Last Sacrifice and the fifth book in the series, Spirit Bound.  As with past reviews of this series, this post won’t provide spoilers to anyone who’s read the first four books, but it will for those who haven’t…)

You can read reviews of earlier books (and plot set up) elsewhere on this blog (Vampire Academy and Frostbite, Shadow Kiss and Blood Promise).

First up, a quick look at Spirit Bound, which picks up after Rose’s violent Russian adventure.

A lot happens in this book, with the myriad of plot threads starting to draw together, setting up for some major action in the final book – on a number of fronts. There’s further development in Mead’s detailed mythology, as well as some serious progression in the story of arcs of key characters.

The main plot here is Rose’s continued fight to save Dimitri, even though she’s now with Adrian. She comes up with a crazy plan that also involves Lissa, Eddie and her nemesis, Victor Dashkov. But even when Rose’s plan comes to fruition, the result is not quite what she expects.

Meanwhile, there are major rumblings at the Moroi Court, with paranoid royals wanting to drop the guardian age of service to 15. Spirit Bound ends with a classic cliffhanger, with the Queen murdered and Rose arrested on suspicion of being the killer.

It’s a testament to Mead’s ability to write likable characters and build realistic storylines that she can create a believable love triangle. Yes, even I – the great hater of love triangles – thought this one worked. To the point that (at the end of this book, at least) I would have accepted either choice by Rose.

That changes through the course of Last Sacrifice…

The final novel has two main storylines: Rose’s hunt for an illegitimate Dragomir – whose existence will give Lissa a voice in the Royal Court – and Lissa’s attempts to clear Rose’s name.

This novel is as much Dimitri’s story as it is Rose’s. He helps break Rose out of prison, and goes on the run with her – at first because Lissa asks him to, and then because he recognises he has a chance for redemption (and seriously, who doesn’t love a good redemption story?).

Looking back across all six books, there’s been real character growth for just about every key character, which is one of the things that sets this series apart from others in the YA paranormal genre.

Rose’s relationships with Dimitri and Adrian are complex, and not everything gets tied up with a neat bow. Which works out quite well, given Mead has a new series coming out later this year featuring some of those characters whose issues are yet to be resolved.

All the big questions set up in the series are answered, but there are plenty of others – involving peripheral characters and issues – that give scope for many more stories in this world Mead has created.

Hellforged – Nancy Holzner

Following up a well-received debut novel is always a bit tricky, but Nancy Holzner doesn’t miss a beat with the second book in her Deadtown paranormal series.

Last year, Deadtown introduced us to Vicky Vaughn, a shapeshifter demon hunter, who lives in the quarantined area of Boston that’s now home to the city’s resident zombie, vampire and werewolf population (the Deadtown of the title).

It gave Holzner the chance to set up her fully formed world – complete with paranormal politics – in an action-packed story peppered with wry humour.

In Hellforged, the action picks up again in Boston, where Vicky is continuing to ply her extermination trade while dealing with the repercussions of binding herself to the demon who killed her father.

But she has a few other things on her mind: as well as some troubling political changes in the wind, there’s a series of gruesome zombie murders in Deadtown. And when Vicky realises she may have a connection to the macabre crimes, she heads to Wales to learn more about her family’s shapeshifter heritage.

There, she resumes training with her enigmatic Aunt Mab and meets a “cousin” with a dark agenda. Ultimately, Vicky must face her demons – figuratively and literally – and learn to use a new weapon known as Hellforged to save Boston’s zombie population. Not to mention save herself from a fate worse than death.

One of the things I liked most about Deadtown was the social justice sub-text, where zombies and other paranormals were struggling for equal rights alongside their human counterparts.

There’s still a flavour of this in Hellforged – in fact the checkpoint scenes reflect restrictions imposed by an oppressive regime in a certain part of the world today – but Hellforged also delves deeper into Vicky’s story. The focus enables some interesting plot development and world building, with Holzner introducing more Welsh mythology into her Deadtown universe.

By moving a large part of the story to Wales, Holzner is able to create a new atmosphere, which keeps things fresh. But there’s still plenty of non-stop action and tension.

Supporting characters from Deadtown return, including zombie teenager Tina (slightly less annoying this time around), good guy cop Daniel, and werewolf civil rights lawyer Kane, who finally gets out of the court room and flexes some muscle.

It’s a good addition to the series, resolving a couple major plot issues, and setting up at a few new ones for the next instalment.

Politics of the paranormal in Deadtown

Nancy’s Holzner’s Deadtown is not just another tale about a sexy demon fighter in leather pants (although the cover does feature pretty cool cover art of our hunter in leather pants, brandishing a smoking semi-automatic rifle and a flaming sword).

While it ticks all the usual boxes – zombies, vampires, werewolves, bad ass demons, witches, sorcerers et al – it also has a social conscience.

Like the vampires in Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series and the mutants of the X-men, the assortment of paranormals in Holzner’s world are struggling for equal rights.

Ever since a virus turned a large chunk of the city’s population into zombies (or “previously deceased humans” as they’re known in politically correct circles), life in Boston has changed dramatically. The zombies, and the paranormals who emerged to deal with them when the humans could not, are now quarantined in a part of Boston nicknamed Deadtown, where only those with permits are allowed to leave – and even then under strict conditions.

Among them is Vicky, a shape-shifter, who makes a living hunting demons. She shares an apartment with a centuries old vampire, occasionally goes bump in the night with a white collar werewolf, and is shadowed by an annoying teenage zombie who wants to be a slayer.

She also has a creepy geneticist trying to turn her into a lab experiment, a sister ashamed of their shape-shifting bloodline, and a nasty hellion out for her blood. It’s a complicated and occasionally frustrating life.

Almost as frustrating are the politics the paranormals’ presence has created, which have a habit of interfering with Vicky’s love life. Her workaholic werewolf’s role as a lawyer/paranormal rights activist has turned him into a political animal (the scariest beast around…), and an upcoming election has him fully pre-occupied.

Deadtown has enough action, wit and snappy dialogue to stand out from the crowd and Holzner has created a world that’s cleverly and logically constructed, complete with politics and social agendas.

The author is already busy working on a sequel, and given the warm reception this book has already received online, there’s clearly an eager audience waiting for the next instalment.

(I had to order this in specially at my local bookstore, so let’s hope Deadtown gets the exposure it deserves here in Australia.)

Claudia Gray – the new Stephenie Meyer?

Originally posted on Great stories, 4 July

Given the phenomenal global success of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, there’s a mad rush from publishers and publicists to find “the next Stephenie Meyer”.

Which is ironic, because it was only a year or so ago Meyer was being touted as “the next JK Rowling”.

I’m pretty sure authors themselves cringe at such comparisons, but in the current glut of urban fantasy, paranormal adventure and YA escapism hitting our shelves, they’re unavoidable.

Once author being compared to Meyer is Claudia Gray (the pseudonym of New York-based writer Amy Vincent). She’s currently two books into a planned four-book series about a gothic boarding school and the strange goings on there.

The Evernight series is told in the first person through the eyes of Bianca, a shy newcomer to the school who falls for fellow outsider Lucas.

For the first hundred or so pages, Evernight seemed to be heading into familiar Twilight territory. But then there was a very neat twist I hadn’t seen coming (having not gone out of my way to read too much about the series beforehand), which took the story in a new and interesting direction.

Without giving too much away, the series features vampires, vampire hunters and (in the second book, Stargazer), ghosts. It’s a kind of Twilight, Supernatural and Buffy hybrid, with a bit of Hogwarts thrown in for good measure.

Evernight introduces the main characters, establishes the mythology and sets the lines between the warring vampires and vampire hunters – which Gray then nicely blurs, ensuring the reader is never quite sure who’s “good” and who’s not.

Stargazer then ups the ante with more tension and twists as Bianca and Lucas try to make their relationship work, and new elements are added to increase the sense of mystery and menace. It’s these twists and turns, and the relative complexities of the relationships between a number of characters, that makes this series more than just another teen vampire love story. That, and the fact Gray is a good storyteller.

So … is she the next Meyer?

We’ve talked before on this blog (Great stories) about why Meyer’s novels have struck such a chord with readers. The appeal is undeniably the intense relationship between Bella and Edward, particularly the idea of a powerful, sexy vampire denying his very nature to love and protect the human he craves.

While the Bianca-Lucas romance drives the Evernight story, it’s as much a suspenseful gothic mystery as it is a love story. The relationships aren’t always healthy, and truth is never black or white, which makes the story all the more interesting.

Gray’s author bio refers to her lifelong interest in old houses, classic movies, vintage style and history, and she nicely weaves these elements into her narrative.

It’s not fair to compare Gray to Meyer. Gray is an unashamed fan of vampire stories – particularly those not mired in horror – and Everynight and Stargazer pay homage to that.

These YA books are fast-paced and suspenseful, and while there’s not the underlying sexiness of the Bella-Edward dynamic, there are plenty of hot and heavy moments with Bianca and Lucas (with their own complications, of course).

(See original post on Great stories for past comments)

Update: You can check out my review for the next book, Hourglass, here.