REVIEW: Crown of Ice

Crown of Ice by Vicki L. Weavil

Thyra Winter is the Snow Queen, her powers gifted to her by Mael Voss. Her fate is bound to his task of assembling a magic mirror before she turns eighteen or else she’ll become one of the disembodied wraiths that haunt her frozen castle. Thyra suppresses her emotions to deal with the oppressive nature of living with Voss and with the seeming impossibility of her task. The premise is interesting, but the focus veers away from all of that and delves into Thyra immediately trying to recruit a local yet somehow brilliant boy, Kai, to help her construct the mirror. This is a problem because Thyra’s struggle with Voss and his old mentor, Sephia, could’ve made an interesting story if it would’ve been the focus.

Spoiler: it wasn’t. Instead of this more interesting book, we get Thyra chasing a boy, Kai, and adopting a puppy, Luki. I ended up enjoying Luki as an animal companion, but the fact that the dog is the most interesting character in the story says something for how shallow the remaining characters are. Thyra’s character veers into Frozen fanfic territory. No, really, it’s Frozen fanfic. She uses the phrase ‘Let it go’ too many times for this to be a coincidence. This served to limit Thyra as a character for me, and she doesn’t step beyond being a shadow of Elsa’s (more vibrant and fleshed out) personality.

We get a lot of Thyra chasing after Kai and not so much of Thyra trying to build the mirror puzzle early on. There’s a lot of talk about equations and math involved in sovling the mirror, but this is never fleshed out; it’s poor world building and lacks convincing details. There’s a bit of burying the conflict early in story, which could’ve been helped if the setting and world buliding aspects stepped up to fill them in, but they don’t. For example, a scene with Mael Voss transforming the reindeer would’ve done a lot to make him scarier. The earlier portion of this book, up until Sephia’s addition, probably shouldn’t have involved any of the weaker characters like Kai or Gretta at all. I would’ve been completely okay exploring Thyra and her limited world; it would’ve made her seem more lonely instead of fixated on some boy.

 

This story was boring. The writing isn’t bad, but I kept asking myself why I was so freaking bored reading this. A large part of it, I think, has to do with the setting. Thyra’s setting–the uniqueness of her world and situation–should’ve been explored in depth. Instead, there’s a fixation on Kai, who adds nothing to this story. Thyra and Kai had no chemistry, and the story hangs so much on that element. I found myself hoping that this wasn’t a romance because it lacked romantic tension or any type of special spark between the characters.

There are other characters, but there’s always something lacking in them. Everything feels one-dimensional, and this snowballs throughout the story. By the time Thyra hunts for the shard, I was bored for so long that even the mid-book climactic moments couldn’t save this book for me. This story has one note, and it’s not an exciting one. If you like the first two chapters and can tolerate Kai, this might work for you, but the fairy tale retelling aspect wasn’t enough to hook me.

 

Notes:

  • There’s nothing wrong with fanfiction or taking story ideas from it, but without the fleshed out world of the movie, the Elsa expy characterization falls flat here.
  • Bae the reindeer is great. I liked all the animals in the novel, which adds to the fairy tale feel, and I’m a sucker for animal companions. They were the best characters.
  • Was that the most boring ball in the history of paranormal fantasy? TVD wants a word with you.
  • Greda is supposed to love Kai. If I felt anything about these two other than cardboard cutouts, I might care.
  • Kai beats Bea. I have a feeling for him now: dislike.
  • Kai likes math, but all we get is ‘equations’. It’s hard to convey a love of math and make it part of the world when it’s so vague. This might be a sci-fi bias speaking, though.
  • The real relationship in this novel is the one between Thyra and Luki, the wolf pup. It might’ve been a better story with just the two of them.

Rating: 2 stars

There’s so much in this premise for a unique retelling, but very little of it delivers. Something in this story needed to be stronger (characters or setting) to elevate the basic plot into something special and exciting. Still: magic animals.

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REVIEW: The Blood Sigil

The Blood Sigil by Kevin Hoffman

I enjoyed the fantasy sci-fi magic blend that’s The Fifth Vertex. This is a sophomore slump in the series. The three main characters, Urus, Cailix, and Goodwyn are still as well fleshed-out as they were in the first book, but there are pacing problems that hampered my interests in this follow up book. The world building is still solid, but some of the new characters don’t work, which is a problem for the plot.

The story starts when Urus is going to a council meeting to determine if he lives or dies. He’s sentenced to death, but he’s saved by another sigilord, Lu (or Luse). Lu wasn’t as fleshed out as the main three cast members, and she had LOVE INTEREST plastered on her from page one. Her relationships with the characters, even Urus, never felt fleshed out enough. She’s a huge character early in the book, which is what I think drags it down.

Cailix starts on an island with the shepherds. She’s bored and sneaking off to use blood magic. She develops a relationship with farm-boy Colin, and their relationship develops more naturally, and her coming to care about Colin worked well to grow her character. Cailix caring about her adopted family and being the most ruthless character is interesting. Anderis returns and gets stabbed with a pitchfork is excellent.

In general, this moves slower than the first book. Having all the characters split up so early on makes it feel fractured. Goodwyn is chasing hellhounds, but these scenes lack the interests of Urus and Cailix’s chapters. Goodwyn felt more relevant in The Fifth Vertex. His scenes feel so disconnected from the rest of the action, which is a shame, because I liked his character so well in the first book when he was more connected to the plot.

The story picks up momentum when Urus gets back to Kest. The first book relied on Kest, and the second book lacks that central thematic location and driving cultural force of the first story. As the characters come together and the plots connect, the story gets new life when Murin and Goodwyn are united. Autar is the best addition to the series, and his arrival automatically engaged me again, but it just takes too long to get there (about two-thirds of the way through).

Notes:

  • The blood magic is back, and it’s still the best. I don’t care for Anderis’s dues ex machina powers.
  • Cailix is the star character of this novel. She’s a well-rounded character this time around, and she has the greatest struggle with her blood magic and the corruption.
  • Lu is a bore. It’s unfortunate so much of the early story hangs on her character.
  • Like it when the space/fantasy elements show up again. Reminds me of Andre Norton a bit.

Rating: 3 stars

The series has some interesting world building elements in it, and those come into play towards the end of the book. However, the beginning of this book drug on and on for me, which hampered the solid characters in the series.

Book Review: Counterpoint

Counterpoint (Song of the Fallen, 1) by Rachel Haimowitz

Humans and elves are at war and have a mutual species hatred for each other. The humans think the elves (there’s no confirmation, however, that the elves did this) released the ferals–roided up wild animals–onto human lands. The ferals have one purpose: to kill all humans (Bender would be proud). The story begins with Ayden, an elf ranger, cheering on the ferals from a distance while they harass some humans. However, Ayden’s sister, Ella, goes to see a human friend, Ayden follows, and they both get captured. Upon capture, they’re brought to the prince, Freyrik, and he takes more than a little bit of a liking to Ayden, who becomes his slave.

In many ways, this book is very simple: it’s a BDSM romance between a king and his reluctant slave. In other ways, I found myself surprised with how much care is taken to build that relationship into something that wasn’t creepy. There’s a lot of back and forth between Ayden, and the slowing down of the main plot (the imminent attack of the feral surge) gives Ayden and Freyriks’ relationship time to grow into something more mutual and less coercive. Yes, there is a lot of erotica here, maybe more than some readers want, but there’s enough other plot that the story shows as much restraint as Freyrik in focusing on the more sexual aspects of the relationship. (That said, it’s an M/M adult romance; expect dicks.)

Taking the time to build into the main relationship allowed both Ayden and Freyrik to develop characters of their own. While they mostly interacted with each other, the best parts of the book were when they came into conflict with other characters. Unusual for high fantasy, there weren’t that many characters of note in this book. The three that stuck out, besides Ayden and Freyrik, were Ella, Kona, and Lord Lini, who didn’t seem to have much of a personality anyway. The ferals were the main antagonistic force, but the story kind of suffered for that because the personal stakes for Ayden and Freyrik’s relationship center around Ayden’s acceptance in the human court, where he’s forced to sit in chains at Freyrik’s feet. Yes, it’s really that heavy on the BDSM elements.

Kona’s character provided a much needed human antagonist; she forces herself on Ayden and is the only person who seems capable of throwing Freyrik off his mental game. Ayden and Freyrik’s characters worked best for me when they had to interact and confront other people, not just deal with their own internal relationship problems. The ferals provided a solid action set piece, but there should’ve been more court intrigue in this story. I suspect that that’s being saved for the next installment, but that personal antagonist threat was really lacking outside of the middle part of the book where Ayden and Freyrik are both challenged by Kona’s appearance.

At times, I found the story slow. This ultimately works to build the relationship between Ayden and Freyrik, but I couldn’t help feeling that Haimowitz was holding something back for the next book. The plot just needed a little more in it. This could’ve been achieved by fleshing out or giving more book time to some of the side characters, but it didn’t feel that Ayden or Freyrik had many meaningful relationships beyond each other, save Ayden with Ella. That’s something that ultimately ended up confusing me because the two characters are so passionate with each other, and interacting with other characters should’ve deepened who they were for me.

Random Thoughts:

  • The cover is super ridiculous. Kind of pretty, but very smutty. You know what you’re getting.
  • This is definitely a BDSM adult romance.
  • I didn’t like Kona as a person, but the story desperately needed her.
  • The world building didn’t feel overwhelming, but then, it kind of felt non-existent. I ultimately preferred this to info dumping.

Read If: You want high fantasy with more erotica in it. It’s basically an elf/human version of Loris/Renly fanfic.

Beware If: You want your high fantasy with more court intrigue and less penis.

Rating: 3 stars.

Book Review: The Hollow March

The Hollow March by Chris Galford

I picked up this book initially because the cover is seriously beautiful; it reminded me of the Alan Lee illustrations for The Lord of the Rings, which are the editions of that series I own. I was looking for a new epic fantasy that combined the high adventure elements of a travel quest with something new and different. The strength of The Fifth Vertex was in its characters, and it’s a book that does just this. This story, however, has all the setting of epic fantasy, but none of it feels grounded in the characters, and this kept destroying my reading experience.

As a reader, I better be able to tell what the main character(s) want, and the early, driving action in a story needs to bring that into lazer focus. This is, essentially, what the book is about: what the character wants or needs. The main problem in The Hollow March is that I kept struggling with what Rurik wanted. He wants to fight his father because of backstory, okay, but what else? This is also a story that could’ve benefited from only focusing on one character, too, because a single well-developed character can make a book, but a weak main character will only get their perspective diluted in a multi-POV story. Essa’s character rose above the rest, and maybe the story should’ve been about her, but trying to make the story about the band of sell-swords didn’t quite work, either. I didn’t hate any of the characters, but I just didn’t feel much of anything for them, which is much worse, honestly, than if I’d hated them. I’ve read books where I’ve spent the better part of the book loathing the main character, but I can hate them because there is something there to hate. It just doesn’t feel like there’s much behind Rurik & Co.

The other issues I had with this novel might’ve not occurred at all if I didn’t have such a lackluster experience with the characters. There’s a lot of telling about the backstory and the fantasy world, but in epic fantasy, the world building exposition tends to be heavier because it can be essential in helping the reader understand the story. There’s still a tad too much telling here for my liking; a bit more sticking to the action vs. explaining backstory could’ve done the first several chapters of this book a lot of favors. The story, in many ways, should’ve opened with Rurik or found a way to do so and make him interesting. I honestly think that’s often the way to know if an author has written the story about the wrong character–if they can’t find any interesting way to open said story with the main character. Are there exceptions to this? Yes, but they are highly exceptional, and those stories do have to work extra hard to convince me that the main character should be the protagonist. It takes a level of story-telling finesse that, not gonna lie, most authors (including moi) don’t have to successfully open a story without the main character any where in sight.

Backstory is never as interesting to the reader as it is to the writer. I love my character’s backstories and think they’re terribly important, but readers prefer the here-and-now, which can make it tough to get the necessary info into the story. Epic fantasy tends to just dump it in there, but even that’s not the specific problem I had here. It felt like the story was about the backstory and not about the current action; it’s just that the explanations about who did what never let up. The action got lost in all of that, and there simultaneously needed to be more action and less. It’s a confounding book, and a problem that I usually don’t find outside of fantasy books with literary aspirations, or at least, that’s where I’ve experienced this feeling before.

Random Thoughts:

  • I don’t like to rag on books or authors, but I thought I should post something that I bought with the intention to enjoy, but for reasons, couldn’t get into it.
  • The cover is really great, and I seriously wish the story itself could’ve been half as good.
  • This book is long, and while that doesn’t specifically turn me off, there has to be a lot there for me to be convinced the entire story is worth it. (I’ve never been able to finish a Neal Stephenson novel because I find I just don’t care enough to spend the time, but lots of people seem to love his stuff.)

Read if: You have a lot of patience with characters.

Beware if: You wanted epic fantasy with a little more action.

My Rating: 2 because I just couldn’t get into the story. There’s a lot of explanation with much story, IMO.

Book Review and Giveaway: The Younger Gods

The Younger Gods by Micheal R. Underwood

The Younger Gods - cover

Jacob had what could understatedly be called an unusual upbringing by an occultist family in North Dakota. But these aren’t just any crazies living off the grid–Jake is from the Greene family, a group of fanatics who believe they’re going to be the ones to bring about the Apocalypse by releasing the Younger Gods of the Deep into the human world and ushering in the last age of man. This–and a graphic incident where Jake’s only childhood friend is tricked into getting his heart cut out on prom night–causes Jake to flee from his family and move to New York City. Jake hopes to leave all of his occult baggage behind him, but when his sister, Esther, begins committing ritualistic sacrifices in Central Park, he knows he’s the only one who can stop her.

Jake enlists the help of his Nephilim roommate (Carter), the daughter of a voodoo high priestess (Antoinette), an ex-NYPD cop turned supernatural soldier (Dorthea), and a smorgasbord of other denizens of New York that are involved in the supernatural community. During the best moments, the complex supernatural network is reminiscent of what I loved about Neil Gaimen’s Neverwhere; we’re treated to what feels like the tip of the iceberg of a vast and complex world. The aspects of supernatural New York are deftly woven with the aspects of what makes real New York unique, and this story definitely feels like it couldn’t have taken place anywhere else but New York. That said, you’ll enjoy this story more if you like New York or buy into the mystique (and what I personally consider the myth) of what makes New York special. If you’re a bit ‘meh’ on New York in general, then the little details of this book might just make you role your eyes. The major plot of the book is Jake & Co. going around to each burrough to alert and then help protect the five hearts of New  York. If you just rolled your eyes at that line, you probably shouldn’t read this book because this plot consumes the majority of the story.

There’s a lot going on in this novel, and it’s never lacking in action. There were points where I almost felt that too much was happening too fast, but this is intentional because Jake & Co. are always one step (or in some cases, a hundred steps) behind Esther, who’s an incredibly powerful sorceress. The many action set pieces are inventive, so the story never drags, but it deprives the story of the space to do a bit more character building. There is so much in this novel–so many characters, so many set pieces–that I found myself wishing that the ‘less is more’ approach had been taken; Dorthea, Antoinette, and Carter are integral members of Jake’s team (and the only thing he has comparable to friends), but it takes nearly half the novel to get any sense of who they are and really begin to root for them. The relationship and understanding that develops between Jake and Carter is subtle and well-done, but it’s the only major character development that any of the side characters gets in the story.

The best two characters in the novel by far are Jake and Esther. Jake is an awkward home-schooled kind raised by what are essentially fundamentalist parents (just the Satanic and not the Christian variety), and that aspect of his character is played straight and for laughs. Jake misses the multitude of pop-cultural references the other characters sling around, but there’s a wounded aspect to his personality; this battle is personal to him. Esther is determined to fulfill her life’s purpose as the scion of the Greene family and bring about the birth of the Younger Gods. She’s incredibly powerful and a stone-cold psycho. The best moments in the story are between Esther and Jake; even when they’re just talking, it’s a battle. I wish we could’ve had more chapters from Esther’s perspective because she’s a zealot who’s committed to her cause, and when you get to see how cunning and single-minded she is in her pursuit, everything else Jake & Co. are doing starts to feel less like plot dressing and more like high stakes.

There’s a wonderful twist on the Apocalypse in this book, but even before that, there’s a lot going on under the surface of this action packed story. The diversity of New York is a major aspect of what makes this story work, and Dorthea explaining why she quit her job as a cop to become a supernatural protector of ‘the people who fall through the cracks’ helped focus the aspect of what this novel was really about. There’s no ‘special’ supernatural place for the homeless in New York to hide, though, so they really do need someone like Dorthea around to protect them from literal spirits of garbage and decay. This aspect of the city is deftly mixed with Jake coming to terms with his heritage as he begins to integrate into the NYC supernatural community, revealing that he, too, is a Greene. He questions whether his family really loved him or if people that twisted are even capable of love; he can’t tell the lies from the truth in his childhood.

Random Thoughts:

  • When the first line includes “drastically fewer blood sacrifices with dinner”, I knew this was my type of book.
  • There’s a nice parallel between what it means to work on a group project vs. what it means to really work as a group.
  • I’m really fine being a tourist in NYC. There were parts of this book where I was like ‘yeah, I’m living as close to that city as I ever want to live.’
  • I wanted to eat Indian food after this one scene. So…good…
  • I’ve never read a character who reminded me more of Castiel than Jake did. This is not a bad thing.

Read if: You’re a fan of New Weird. There’s no place more urban than New York, either, and there’s no place else I could’ve imagined this story happening because there are so many people in that city. There’s a lot of different ideas woven throughout this story, and it stands on it’s own while also being the gateway into a bigger series.

Beware if: Books with too much action make you feel like you’re having a seizure.

My rating: 4, and mostly because I kind of don’t get New York, and some of this kept me from connecting with the characters and larger, thematic elements of this story. That said, this book is a ride, and the conflict between Jake and Esther never bored me.

BONUS!

The first two people to reply in the comments get a free ebook of The Younger Gods, courtesy of Pocket Star. You must leave you internet nom de plume as well as a VALID, non-spam email address.

Book Review: Fall

Fall (The Ragnarok Prophesies #2) by A.K. Morgen

Fall picks up about a month after Fade ends, and Arionna is recovering in the hospital from Skröll and Hati’s attack. Arionna is now plagued by nightmares of Fenrir and the twin demon wolves; she’s also starting to understand the darker side of Dace’s nature. Dace is willing to sacrifice anything and everyone to keep her from being attacked again, and Arionna fears this is going to turn him into a literal monster, so she leaves Bebee to go in search of answers to stop the apocalypse.

The story starts out stronger than Fade does, and there’s an urgency to Arionna’s problems in this book that there wasn’t in the first one. Her relationship to Dace is sorely tested, too, and there are good moments where Dace gives off the vibe that he could potentially become abusive. Arionna is smart enough to realize that, if she doesn’t figure this thing out for herself, Dace’s need to protect her is going to lead him to further manipulate her, controlling every aspect of her life. This is a challenge most heroines with alpha male boyfriends face, and Arionna is wise enough to know what the starter kit for an abusive relationship looks like; in a nice twist, she leaves Dace instead of him fleeing to protect her from himself.

The other characters that benefit from spending more time with them in the sequel are Chelle, who I didn’t have much of a sense of as an individual before, and Ronan, who was the surprise not-an-actual-bad-guy in Fade. The story also nicely sidesteps conflicts with love triangles by having Arionna struggle with herself and Dace, which eliminates the need to use Ronan as a love interest. If you want relationship conflict, a brooding bad boy, but hate love triangles, this sequel is going to make you very happy. I found myself liking Ronan, but I’m a corvid/avian fan, so that’s not a hard sell. Not going to lie, I hope the sequel includes the potential of a new love interest for Ronan because I appreciate romances where the characters come into it with a lot of baggage and no illusions about True Love, only with the feeling that they need each other or are better together than apart. Ronan could benefit from this, but I’m not sure he’ll get it. Arionna and Dace’s relationship is more of the cosmic love variety, and the story does a good job at layering it with conflict despite this fact.

My big time beef with this book is, while I enjoyed the characters a lot more, the ending left the story feeling incomplete, but not in a good way. This book is trying to set up for the big conclusion, but ends up offering very few climactic moments or pay offs of its own, and I went into the ending prepared for a big twist and a surprise via the big mythology mysteries the story teases. There is plenty of new mythology layered into the story, and Fade used its mythology to create a surprising yet satisfying ending, but Fall, well, falls flat on that front. I expected either the visit to the professor or the interrogation of the flower shop lady (it makes sense in story) to result in a major twist or two, but they turned into more frustrating dead ends. The climactic ending happens off page, and it suffers from the fact that, because some of these characters are literal wolves, they don’t always have the same emotional impact as the human characters. There was a moment when I thought something happened to Chelle, and I thought that might be the real twist at the end, but it wasn’t. Instead, Mandy, a character who’s been mostly in the background, goes missing, but this fails to resonate. The big ending moment of the novel could’ve still happened (it’s teased throughout the story and isn’t terribly surprising), but there needed to be something more, action wise, to this ending. This ending is an example of how to write a strong story, deepen the mythology for the final sequel act, but then fail to actually build on anything at the end of this story itself; this wouldn’t be the first second act book to fall flat because it fails to grasp what the middle part of a story could and should do. When it came to Dace’s character and Arionna’s relationship with him, the stakes are raised for sure, but there needed to be more plot outside of this.

Random Thoughts:

  • Arionna cries a lot early on. Fair warning.
  • I can’t overstate how much I appreciated a character like Ronan in this story. It needed the levity of the Debbie Downer, and he delivered. Also, corvids are rad.
  • Like, seriously, guys, Ronan saves a bird, and it’s the sweetest scene in the book.
  • Did you ever want to read a story where flowers invoke horror? This is for you.
  • I personally support ketchup with scrambled eggs; if I lose all my followers/readers over this, then so be it.

Read if: You liked the first book and trust the author is going to deliver on all the delicious mythology she’s setting up. It kind of reminds me of Robin McKinley’s Pegasus in that way; you like the story, even if the ending of the book is anti-climactic and pissed you off.

Beware if: You want pay-off on the mystery front. This is not the book in this series that’s going to do that for you.

Rating: I can’t state enough how I wanted to like this book more, but the ending killed it for me. Something else needed to happen; it was too much set-up and too little pay off. This isn’t the first series I’ve read that’s done this, and it ticks me off every time. Sequels are hard, I know, but book two is where the ugly, miserable parts of your characters and weird, complex world-building can really shine. I am going to finish this series, but 3 stars for dropping the ball on the climax.

Book review: Catch Me When I Fall

Catch Me When I Fall by Vicki Leigh

Daniel is a 200 year old Protector, people who spend their afterlife protecting humans from Nightmares, which are creatures who invade people’s minds and make them go insane. Daniel’s job is a Catcher, someone who stops the Nightmares, and he partners with other Catchers and at least one Weaver, whose job it is to bring humans dreams. When Daniel is assigned to protect Kayla, a sixteen year-old girl in a mental institution, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him—and this goes double when, during his first night on duty, Kayla is attacked by six Nightmares at once. The race is one to find out why Kayla is a special target, but the more Daniel digs into Kayla’s history, the more he finds himself attracted to her.

For the most part, I really liked Daniel’s character, and he was the right choice as the focus on this story. His personality and the world-building is established immediately, and there’s a lot of history between Daniel, Seth, Sam, and Tabbi that is hinted at; I got the impression that these were people who’d been friends for a long time. They shared stories, had that easy lingo that exists among friends, and it simply made them human. These characters are also funny, which is a huge plus for me in a paranormal book. Some of the older characters like Giovanni, Bartholomew, and Trishna aren’t as fleshed out, but they don’t have to be; they serve their given roles well.

But if you don’t like Kayla, this book might not work for you because the stakes of the story are tied up in Kayla, her past, and her budding relationship with Daniel. I personally found Daniel and Kayla’s relationship to be freaking cute, and they share a lot or realistic couple moments. Kayla is the catalyst that raises Daniel’s mission from ‘everyday business’ into ‘life-threatening weirdness.’ Kayla, as a character, worked best for me early on the in the novel when she was institutionalized. After she leaves the hospital, I never felt she grew much as a character, even as her relationship with Daniel progressed. In the end, Kayla was supposed to have a connection to the antagonist that felt hollow for me, which is a shame because it did weaken the finale of the story.

This gets to the larger plot issue in this book: the ending didn’t feel like it had the emotional weight it needed to have. Maybe it happens too quickly or the bonds between various characters never materialized, but the villains ended up feeling weak. There should seriously be an emotionally strong reaction to the climax of this story, but it just rang a bit hollow for me. The ideas are there, and the protagonists are fleshed out, but there’s never a moment when I believed Kayla would go ‘dark side’; it just wasn’t a plot that was set up, and nothing in her character up until that point indicated it would be. Daniel’s battle with the surprise villain of the story also should’ve carried more weight, but there was never a moment where I felt Daniel cared for this character as a person, so the betrayal at the end didn’t register anything more than a superficial reaction.

That said, there are some great twists and battles building up until the finale that are satisfying; Daniel and Kayla face off against a wraith, which really gets the plot rolling. There’s a great feud between Daniel, Seth, and Ivan early on in the novel as well that establishes that everything might not be sing-alongs and hand-holding circles in Protector manor; they’re the good guys, sure, but not all of them are good people. There are copious fights against Nightmares and the witches and warlocks use powerful magic throughout the story, too. Kayla’s flashback showing how she was put in the mental institution is intensely real, and I loathed the way her mother treated her after the incident; that entire scenario felt so real to me.

There’s a lot of good character work with the protagonists in this novel. They’re funny, they’re grounded in an interesting world, and the main protagonists feel unique. The initial plot and premise was very interesting, and it kept me wanting more. However, the plot did fall apart near the end, and the emotional stakes between protagonist and antagonist didn’t quite reach the level they needed to for this story to deliver on its strengths.

Random Thoughts:

  • “Lasso my heart” was a very beautiful line—one of the best ways I’ve seen a budding romance described recently
  • I would read a novella about Seth’s antics with the Pope.
  • The Veronica Mars dream would’ve been so worth having nightmares for.
  • Daniel’s crack about girls liking to shop made me dislike him for a while. Seriously, dude? You’ve been a live 200 years, and that’s what you take away from your time watching women? It’s a joke, but still—UGH.
  • I wanted more Ivan and Nolan because they’re both sardonic a-holes, which are my types of characters.

Read if: You want a paranormal romance with a strong, male romantic lead who doesn’t read poetry or swoon. The relationship in this story is seriously cute but not sappy.

Beware if: You want a story with interesting villains. This story doesn’t have one, unfortunately, even though it has plenty of supernatural monsters.

My rating: 4 stars because Daniel was the main character and the world building is strong, but the villians let me down.