3 star review

Unlikeable Demon Humter

Bridesmaids meets Buffy with a dash of the seven deadly sins.

The age-old story of what happens when a foul-mouthed, romance impaired heroine with no edit button and a predilection for hot sex is faced with her worst nightmare–a purpose.

Ari Katz is intelligent, driven, and will make an excellent demon hunter once initiated into the Brotherhood of David. However, this book is about his twin Nava: a smart-ass, self-cultivated hot mess, who is thrilled her brother is stuck with all the chosen one crap.

When Nava half-drunkenly interrupts Ari’s induction ceremony, she expects to be chastised. What she doesn’t expect is to take her brother’s place among the–until now–all-male demon hunters. Even worse? Her infuriating leader is former rock star Rohan Mitra.

Too bad Rohan’s exactly what Nava’s always wanted: the perfect bad boy fling with no strings attached, because he may also be the one to bring down her carefully erected emotional shields. That’s as dangerous as all the evil fiends vying for the bragging rights of killing the only female ever chosen for Demon Club.

Odds of survival: eh.

Odds of having a very good time with Rohan before she bites it: much better.

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

I would call this a Kate Daniels Buffy mashup with a train wreck and a side of new adult stupidity. So maybe more like Buffy than I would like to admit, the only thing is I was at A VERY different life phase when I was so enthralled with Buffy, and even then I sometimes got irked with the BS.

But this? This is a hot mess on so many levels, just like the dislikeable heroine. The premise was excellent; a secret society of Jewish demon slayers so blinded by their misogyny they missed their chosen one was the female twin? Sheer catnip. The writer’s voice which was clear and full of snark (excepting the sex scenes both solo and two player which were both just not great to me-particularly Nava’s name fer her vagina, bleck). Perfect.

The characters and what they do though? Stupid, and not often in a fun-loving way. You know how they say of young soldiers that they have to be young, dumb, and full of… to throw their lives away like that? Yeah, these kids (even though ones who are ostensibly full adults) struck me that way. Which just screwed with the plot for me, since I couldn’t get behind their motivations so much of it didn’t make sense. Don’t get me wrong there was some deep stuff going on, but for me it was overshadowed by exclamations of “damn it, are these @ssholes 20 or 12 for crying out loud.”

I don’t know though. It was like a freaking train-wreck that I COULD NOT look away from. I read it in one sitting, just devoured it, I had to know what would happen next. So that has to be worth something. And I remind myself the Kate Daniels series didn’t exactly set my world on fire that first book either. So I am going to give this a cautious 3 stars, see what happens next, and maybe suggest that this might be more of a hit among firm lovers of the New Adult paranormal genre.

The Unlikeable Demon Hunter (Nava Katz, #1)
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4.5 star review, Miscellaneous

Review – The Unyielding by Shelly Laurenston

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The Unyielding

Stieg Engstrom, Angriest Viking Ever, has got big problems. The human Viking Clans of earth are in danger of being obliterated—along with the rest of the world—and the only one who may be able to save them is a super pain-in-the-ass Crow. Most people annoy Stieg, but this is the one woman he really can’t stand…

Erin Amsel loves being a Crow! Why wouldn’t she when the other Viking Clans are so hilariously arrogant and humorless? She’s not about to let all that come to an end! She just didn’t expect to be shoulder to shoulder in battle with Stieg. Then again, he’s so easy to torment—and also kind of cute.

With the future of the world riding on them, Stieg knows he’ll have to put aside his desperate need to kiss the smirk right off Erin’s face. Wait. What? He didn’t mean that—did he? No! They have one goal: To conquer the idiots. Because nothing bugs Stieg more than when idiots win. If only he can keep himself from suddenly acting like one….

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

Erin “Fire Hands” Amsel is a bit of a dick, ok, not just a little bit, but a real dick. She messes with people because she can, She’s A.D.D. extreme with a snarky attitude and a puckish sense of humor, and I ADORE her like the sun!. Of course being that we share a name, I was predisposed to favor her, but I have enjoyed her offbeat worldview from the start of the first book, and this one just makes it better. This is book 3 in the series, and while perhaps they can be read as standalones (I mean each book has its own story arc that is complete), I discourage it in this case because there is an overall arc Laurenston is building, and relationships that won’t exactly make sense without reading them in order.

So, a quick primer: imagine a world where are the gods are real, albeit flawed creatures. Powerful, but unable to act on the world except through their human intermediaries. And I mean all of them, Christians, Hindu, and most importantly; VIKING. Yes dear gentle readers we have Viking mythology on steroids…and probably some LSD. And needless to say based on the Nordic Pantheon, their human clans are NOT the best of friends.

And once upon a time, while the Viking clans were doing what they do, Skuld-Norn of Fate, occasional Valkyrie rider, she who cuts the thread and sometimes unweaves what her older sisters make, decided to dip her hand into influencing the humans. Of course, being sometimes bent of humor, as little sisters tend to be; she didn’t pick pure bred rape loving Vikings. Nope, she picked only women, only slaves and the abused who had mostly been killed, with a motto of “Let rage be your guide.” whose avatars are crows. Who says fate can’t have a sense of humor?

Now the purpose of the human clans is to prevent the end of days (Ragnarok for the vikings, but if any one religions end times come it would actually create a cascade of all religions end times), and to find the gods lost items of power, and to train as warrior when Ragnarok does come. Basically, they are all hitmen and women for their respective gods. The Crows, due to their history are just a bit more of hot messes than the rest of the clans though, but seeing as how rather than being born into the life, they are REborn into their second lives, they make the most of it.

So there is an overall big baddie they are trying to fight who we meet in The Unleashing; along with the first heroine Kera (a former Marine) as well as the Ravens who are hot as hell burly Vikings and owe their fealty to Odin-and which sets you up to understand the Clans and all the mythology. In the next book, The Undoing, we get to know Kera’s teamate Jacinda Berisha (former cult leader’s wife and Berserker), as well as the Protectors, who are OCD book loving Owls owing fealty to Tyr-and which sets us up for an upcoming showdown. And now we have the The Unyielding, which pairs up the meanest of the crows with the angriest of the Vikings-a pairing guaranteed to set sparks firing.

Seriously, these two can’t STAND each other, and it is hilarious. But with the fate of the world hanging in the balance, of course they both have to step up, and of course they fall in love and discover the secret things hidden in each other. (Dude, the angriest viking ever is so freaking adorkable!)

Here’s the thing, and why I adore Shelly Laurenston. Her heroines aren’t demure, or sweet or any of that. They are large and in charge and take no crap from anyone. And the snark; it abounds. So don’t expect sweet romance or angsty “will we wont we”, these are women who know what they want and will damned well TAKE it if they want it. I LOVE these women and I reread Laurenston’s books regularly. All I can say about this story, like I say about all of them, is buckle up for a violent and hilarious ride full of crazysauce along with the plot pets (this one has goats!), and prepare to have a good time.

So the world is saved for another day, hero and heroine are happy-ish (I mean come on, you can’t expect hearts and flowers for the dick and the angriest viking-but they seem to enjoy it), and prepare to get ready to save the world all over again tomorrow.

Interestingly, I have absolutely NO clue who the next book will be about, which is unusual for me. Will it be the former sociopath turned psychologist Crow Annalisa? The socially awkward and OCD Owl, Bear. The hypochodriac Crow Maeve? The booty shaking, dancing man and accountant Raven Siggy? Some odd and hitherto never guessed combination? Honestly, I have absolutely no clue, but with a cast of characters like this all I can say is I am so ready and will be thrilled no matter who it is, because Laurenston never disappoints.

The Unyielding (Call Of Crows, #3)

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5 star review

Review – Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs

Silence Fallen

In the #1 New York Times bestselling Mercy Thompson novels, the coyote shapeshifter has found her voice in the werewolf pack. But when Mercy’s bond with the pack—and her mate—is broken, she’ll learn what it truly means to be alone…

Attacked and abducted in her home territory, Mercy finds herself in the clutches of the most powerful vampire in the world, taken as a weapon to use against alpha werewolf Adam and the ruler of the Tri-Cities vampires. In coyote form, Mercy escapes—only to find herself without money, without clothing, and alone in the heart of Europe…

Unable to contact Adam and the rest of the pack, Mercy has allies to find and enemies to fight, and she needs to figure out which is which. Ancient powers stir, and Mercy must be her agile best to avoid causing a war between vampires and werewolves, and between werewolves and werewolves. And in the heart of the ancient city of Prague, old ghosts rise…

Glorious! I devoured this book in record time. How a series that I initially gave no chance to, could so quickly become one of my absolute favorite series is a bafflement to me. But it is true. Patricia Briggs has a gift for writing strong, ferocious heroines that still engender empathy in her readers.

This is book 10 in the series, and these are NOT, I repeat NOT standalones. So, unfortunately, spoilers for the previous books may occur. But let me tell you, if you have any interest at all in urban fantasy/paranormal romance, this is a series that will suck you in. We have a Volkswagon mechanic named Mercedes, a daughter of chaos who plays merry hell on the stoic werewolves around her. A coyote shifter is so very different than the other big bads in this fantasy setting. It is completely worth the read, and I highly recommend the series as whole.

This book in specific though plays a nice symmetry with the beginning of the series, Mercedes alone and ostensibly friendless. Of course Mercy has always had a knack for managing the chaos in her life. But it was interesting to see how different of a person she is by this point in time, even when she is on her own.

Following the events of the previous books, the consequences of the Columbia Basin’s power plays in making their territory neutral for both humans and the supernatural alike have shown up in an interesting way. And while our main protagonists, and us readers, have had a view from the inside, it was very interesting to see how those on the OUTSIDE have interpreted the events that unfolded. Needless to say they got it all wrong. Which opened up all sorts of doors to conflict.

Enter stage left- The Master of Milan, Iacapo Bonaparte. He is the biggest, baddest vampire in Europe. And ever if there was a canny, crafty, bastard of a villain, this jerk is it. I never thought I could sympathize with some of the vampires who have been making Mercy’s life hell in the previous books, but Briggs managed it. Surprising revelations changed the entire COMPLEXION of events that I thought I understood before, and in such a way that it seemed completely natural to me. The landscape back home is going to end up very different once our stalwart heroes make it back.

Of course, despite Bonaparte’s machinations, things are very much not what they seemed, and forces were at work that even he couldn’t comprehend. Turns out there is even more to Mercy than we had already realized….I think she finally discovered her “42”.

Adam and Mercy though, at this point are just rock solid, but it was nice to see how even apart they are still each the others touchstone. But it was also nice to see a few secondary characters shine, and get to understand them better. I think going back and rereading with some of this new information is going to give me a deeper appreciation of some of the other characters. And I know that events from this book are going to perceptively color future events.

And of course the reunion between Mercy and Adam was sweet, and sexy, and full of the turmoil only these two characters can bring to one another. Briggs had a description in the spinoff series that everything here made me think of, about how opening up was like opening an umbrella that had been shut a very long time and how parts creak and groan and threaten to break…only in this case it was like someone then oiled all the moving parts so that everything will now function like it should. That is what this book felt like. It may hurt to open things up that have been closed a very long time, but sometimes you have to so you can use it the way it need to be used.

Another note though, this book is somewhat nonlinear, so I think I will need to read it at least one more time to truly get it all together in my head. But it was excellent enough that I would have wanted to regardless. This was one of those books that was absolutely worth the wait and more than exceeded my expectations even though it was nothing like I was expecting, if you see what I mean.

Silence Fallen (Mercy Thompson, #10)

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5 star review

Review – Ashwin by Kit Rocha

Ashwin

The first book in the follow-up to Kit Rocha’s bestselling BEYOND series…

Gideon’s Riders, Book One

Lieutenant Ashwin Malhotra is a Makhai soldier–genetically engineered to be cold, ruthless. Unfeeling. His commanding officers consider him the perfect operative, and they’re right. Now, he has a simple mission: to infiltrate Gideon’s Riders, the infamous sect of holy warriors that protects the people of Sector One.

He’s never failed to execute an objective, but there’s one thing he didn’t anticipate–running into Dr. Kora Bellamy, the only woman to ever break through his icy exterior.

When Kora fled her life as a military doctor for the Makhai Project, all she wanted was peace–a quiet life where she could heal the sick and injured. The royal Rios family welcomed her like a sister, but she could never forget Ashwin. His sudden reappearance is a second chance–if she can manage to touch his heart.

When the simmering tension between them finally ignites, Kora doesn’t realize she’s playing with fire. Because she’s not just falling in love with a man who may not be able to love her back. Ashwin has too many secrets–and one of them could destroy her.

I received an ARC of this book from the author, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

Do you know what I have been missing in my reading life? Legitimate joy. Joy which I finally found again. I have been waiting for this man’s book since his very first appearance. He is all kinds of chilly and just my kind of damaged hero catnip. Seriously, I referred to him in my last review as “my cuddly wuddly little Maiko shark“. I am not saying there is nothing wrong with me, I am just saying that Ashwin is one stone cold heart-breaker in the best of ways. If you are a fan of Nalini Singh’s Judd, Kaleb, or Vasic, this will be right up your alley too. He’s colder and more pragmatic like Kaleb, but dropped into the emotional and caring culture like Judd was, with a little more depth like Vasic.

Now, this IS the start of the spinoff series, and I think you CAN read this one apart from the other series (though I think everyone who likes erotica should read the other series), but it does add a little something to it if you have read the other series. However, if the more in depth erotica-ness of the previous series wasn’t your cup of tea, then jump on in over here, because the water is nice and warn…but not too warm. No menages, no voyeurism, none of the overt BDSM elements, just good old fashioned super smexy times romance (but not boring smexy times either if you know what I mean).

So what is going on is this. The previous series chronicled the start through the end of the war in a post-apocalyptic dystopian. It was kind of like the Hunger Games in that there was a greedy capital that sucked the life out of the other sectors and pitted them against each other. Now we are seeing the rebuilding phase of this world. Basically that is all you HAVE to get from the previous series, though Kora and Ashwin were minor albeit integral characters in the other series.

It has been 6 months since the end of the war. Kora had left her cushy but emotionally unfulfilling life in the capital to work as a doctor in the Sectors. Her and Ashwin were parted at the end of the last series and Kora has grieved for Ashwin while she has been working in Sector One. When he pops back up it was, needless to say, quite the shock. And it hasn’t exactly been the most fun 6 months of Ashwin’s life either. Ashwin is there to join up with the Riders, the protectors in the religion that Sector One had come up with and what has turned into the stabilizing new force in the post war culture. Sector Four’s irreverant devli may care attitude was enough to push for and win the war, but what is needed now is more a culture of home and family and peace. This naturally causes some consternation in what is left of the capital, and decisions have been made to monitor and perhaps influence the growing power. So there are intrigues and conspiracies, and the left over power structures in the capital aren’t as neatly severed as one might like. And we can definitely start to see where the future conflicts are going to come from in the world at large.

As far as relationship conflicts go though, this one was kind of a doozy, and Ashwin screwed up royally. Can I blame him? Not exactly, because there is a ton of subtext and personal past history going on, but then, I am not the one he screwed over either.

Dude, I am screwing this review up though, because all I want to do is squee and gush over the entire plotline…which would completely spoil things. So I will just say that I LOVED it. I loved how Kora has plans and hopes and dreams for herself separate from any man-and that she has plans to continue her path even with Ashwin in her life. I love how she gets MAD. I loved Ashwin, from cold and hard to emotional as he changes and grows; and I want to see more of that arc in future books. And I loved how they were together. They were sexy and sweet and they fought and made up, and they knew that it would be building a family, that their relationship would take work. And they are all in on making it work.

I have actually re-read this one already, and foresee rereading this many happy times in the future. So seriously, buy the book, here are the links; I am not an affiliate I just really want people to buy and read it.

 

Ashwin (Gideon's Riders, #1)

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4 star review

Review – Falling for the Highlander by Lynsay Sands + Giveaway

falling-for-the-highlander

New York Times bestselling author Lynsay Sands welcomes readers back to the Scottish Highlands, where a gallant warrior vows to protect a beautiful runaway . . .

Lady Murine Carmichael has known her share of bad luck. But when her debt-ridden half brother tries to sell her off in exchange for a few Scottish horses, it’s the final straw. If keeping her freedom means escaping through harsh countryside alone, so be it. She has barely begun her journey when she lands an unlikely escort—the brawny Highlander who just refused to buy her virtue.

Dougall Buchanan was disgusted by Lord Danvries’ shameful offer, but Murine tempts him beyond measure. Even bedraggled and dusty, the lass glows with beauty and bravery. Dougall wants to do more than just help her flee. He wants to protect her—with his life and his heart—if she’ll only let him. For Murine may be pursued by a powerful foe, but nothing compares to the fiery courage of a Highlander in love.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review. GIVEAWAY

This is my happy-go-lucky, light and sappy, happy place. Lynsay Sands is almost always good for a few laughs and a sappy romance, and I have been digging on this series for a while now. In fact, I moved this ahead on my queue after reading a truly angst inducing series, after which I was compelled to go back to the angst which prompted a reread of this whole series. They are that light, happy, and fluffy. The perfect counterpoint to angst.

We had met both Murine and Dougall in the previous books, and Murine had already proved herself to be kind, loyal, and brave. So I was predisposed to like her. She didn’t necessarily exhibit the extreme competence levels of previous heroines, but she was cute and likeable so I was happy to go through her story to happily ever after. And while Dougall was really just one of a bunch of big brash Buchanans, well I enjoy that sort of character, so he worked for me as well. And needless to say I enjoyed seeing the rest of the brothers again too and will look forward to the rest of their stories as well (particularly that of the scarred eldest brother). And while this story itself stands alone, I think it is one where it is best if you have read the series, especially books 2 & 3.

The story itself was a series of pratfalls, misadventures, and misunderstandings (albit small ones which were mostly talked out in quick order-I HATE the BIG Mis). Murine has had horrible disasters befall her, and a really hard life of late, but her stepbrother’s latest betrayal was just one step too far. Escape was in order. And so our fainting heroine rides forth on her trusty steed…a bull. Seriously! That is just the start of the ridiculousness in store if you pick up this book.

Poor Murine and Dougall. They stagger from one calamity to the next, eventually finding love and a life together. It was sweet and left me feeling happy. Though I’ll admit, I saw the bad guy coming from YEARS away, literally, I saw it coming from book 2. But even so, I enjoyed the story.

Now I’ll admit, this isn’t the most earth shaking and moving or memorable story. In fact in probably a week or two I’ll probably remember very little of it except the bull (and maybe the plumber’s crack above that kilt…how odd is that cover?). But that is fine, it is great even. Because that isn’t why I read these books, I read them for that happy little moood lifting buzz, and it provided that in spades. So it not being the most memorable book every just means I’ll be even happier when I go back and re-read it, which I guarantee you I will! I finished it with a big old sloppy/sappy grin on my face, and if you like a good wallpaper highland historical complete with brogue, Sands put out another winner.

Falling for the Highlander (Highlanders, #4)

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2.5 star review

Review – The Hangman’s Daughter by Gavin G. Smith

hangmans-daughter

Four hundred years in the future, the most dangerous criminals are kept in suspended animation aboard prison ships and “rehabilitated” in a shared virtual reality environment. But Miska Storrow, a thief and hacker with a background in black ops, has stolen one of these ships, the Hangman’s Daughter, and made it her own. Controlled by explosive collars and trained in virtual reality by the electronic ghost of a dead marine sergeant, the thieves, gangsters, murderers, and worse are transformed into Miska’s own private indentured army: the Bastard Legion. Are the mercenaries just for fun and profit, or does Miska have a hidden purpose connected to her covert past?

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

They say a change is as good as a rest, and this sounded interesting and just enough out of my usual milieu to be just what I needed. And I am so sorry to say, mostly it didn’t work for me.

It should have. Strong militaristic heroine with a grudge and a plan? A high degree of moral relativity with a somewhat amoral heroine? Fighting and gratuitous violence? All things that SHOULD have made it my catnip.

Unfortunately the author stalled on a couple of key points. I don’t mind a crazy heroine, in fact I adore them. But this one whiplashed from on target-large and in charge, to crazed manic pixie sex bot who randomly exclaims “Pretty!”. It was pointless. I don’t know what the author was thinking. Was it an attempt to humanize her or make her more feminine? To appeal to a particular fan base? To capture romance readers or sci-fi dude bros? I just don’t get it, and it didn’t appeal. And worse than not appealing, it detracted from the story.

And the story itself was good, or at least it should have been. We have a woman out for revenge. We have battles to fight, plots to plot. All of space is the canvas and the scope is potentially enormous. And the fighting and plotting were good, it is where this author shines. But instead of sticking to that, or putting in hints of sexual attraction, the author beat us over the head with something that was completely irrelevant to the story. It broke into the meat of the story making it a slog to get through, I almost gave up at the 60% mark it drug the story down so much.

As relatively well as the author manages the action parts of the story and came up with a compelling premise, characterization is obviously a struggle yet. It isn’t just the main heroine though. From the start the way the sub characters were thrown at us, the just failed to initially flesh. It was just more noticeable with Miska, which is probably a combination of the fact we spend the entire story in her head…and because I am female.

In any event, there is some good material to work with, and I hope the author gets some help with characterization because I think tightening that up would probably tighten up the story line as well. And I am just masochistic enough that should another book in the series come out, I’ll read it.

The Hangman's Daughter: The Bastard Legion: Book 1
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5 star review, Challenge

#TBRChallenge 2017 -Theirs Not to Reason Why & First Salik War by Jean Johnson

 

Cantankerous and contrary, those are the watch words for this year. The first TBR Challenge of 2017 is short story. Yeah, that ain’t happening. The only thing I have really read, and consequently re-read since the end of December has been Jean Johnson’s space opera series. What we have here EIGHT books, the first five written are one series, and then the second 3 are a second series set in the past explaining the circumstances that lead up to the first series. These books come in at least 3,200 pages depending on which way you count them.

There are two ways to read them. One is to read them in the order they were published, as recommended by the author. The other, the way I did it, is to read them chronologically. There are things you get I am sure from reading them the way the publisher intended, but I am going with chronological.

I suspect though I am going to struggle to articulate precisely what captured my attention and imagination in these books, despite just how deeply I was captivated. I mean seriously, I read them in one great gulp, turned around and immediately started back over, finsished, read one other book, and then started all over again. That puts them in the same camp as Dred Chronicles, Linesman, and Class 5. But oddly, I can not so unreservedly recommend these as I do them. Don’t get me wrong, I DO recommend them, but there are some caveats on this one.

First Salik War describes our world several hundred years into our future. A time when the planet Earth has joined together as one government and essentially one people. We’ve united as one with no differentiation in race, color, creed or religion into one people, a bit pompous and honor bound but essentially well meaning. Psychic abilities have been proven as just another form of energy and can be documented and used in an efficient manner. Which is helpful since it turns out that all those claims of alien abduction were quite true and we have a great an highly technologically advanced enemy in space, the only way which we can counter is through the use of psychics. Meanwhile we are taking our first steps into space outside our own solar system. And the precognitive Psy are ready with a doozy-we are about to meet a whole bunch of aliens, some friendly and some not so much.

Meanwhile in a galaxy far, far away, we meet a people very like our own who have not only their own precognitives, but also a religious icons; The Prophet of a Thousand Years- who foretold this meeting and many other events with directions to save all people as much as possible, and The Immortal-the first Empress of the V’Dan who saved them from a disaster on Earth and brought them to a new planet ruling the under her directions and with directives from the aforementioned Prophet.

So we have Jacaranda MacKenzie, an earth military veteran, politician, and Psy at the head of things for our side. And on the V’Dan side we have Li’Eth, a soldier and Psy for his own people. And when these two meet, sparks fly, worlds collide, and events few could have foreseen (more on that in a bit) unfold.

The V’Dan are not the only aliens out there though. Most of them are friendly and allies, so I am going to give them short shrift in this review because I have a lot to cover, and though they are well done and interesting, I could send a ton of time describing it and not really give most readers anything that tells them whether or not to read these books or not. The one notable exception are the Salik, a creepy frog like carnivore race with a taste for eating sentient species. And that is where most of the conflict comes  from.

There is really only one notable thing that needs to be stated up front about the V’Dan, due to the ecology of their world, The Immortal-to save her chosen people used gene therapy in order to keep them well which resulted in them developing colorful spots. In their culture these spots which come with adulthood are what denotes maturity. This obviously creates a great deal of cultural conflict when they meet the people from their motherworld who have no such marks, and furthermore a people who fought long and hard to NOT judge people based on appearance.

So overall it was very interesting the way Johnson handled first contact. The difficulties in communicating, the cultural SNAFUs, the risks inherent micro-biologically when meeting people from different worlds, all fantastically done. This is where I have my hesitation in recommending. While Johnson includes a variety of POC in her books as a matter of course and the people on Earth and her United Planets tend to treat each other as equals, when it comes to how the respond to the other peoples they meet, even counting in the extreme amount of disrespect they are obviously getting, well there was a slight grating colonialist superiority attitude that on occasion made me uncomfortable with the story in the way that I sometimes get reading historical fiction with a Brit in some foreign clime. It was a very similar pompous attitude of bringing enlightenment to the backwards natives vibe. And it is odd, because I even agreed in this case that the V’Dan were in the wrong, but something really rubbed me wrong in how it was written.

But besides that one thing, the stories themselves were fascinating.The way ALL these different aspects were interwoven, the love story, the intriguing hints to the future (or nods to previous events depending on which way the series have been read), the building conflict and eventual (albeit unstable) resolution made for a very satisfying read. And I genuinely like Jacaranda despite finding her a bit pompous.

In fact this has come the closest to reading as “real” to me when it comes to a first contact, building of relationships, and climax of interspecies alliance of probably any space opera/science fiction I have ever read. Frankly, it was that thing I didn’t even know I was looking for and now don’t know if I could live without.

Which brings me to the first five books, 200 years after the First Salik War:

…What if you could see the future? What if you foresaw that, three hundred years from your time, your entire galaxy would be destroyed in an overwhelming invasion? What would you do to stop it, when it would all happen long after you were dead and gone?

These are the questions that Ia must face, and the obstacles she must overcome. Spurred by her teenaged visions of an apocalyptic future, the young heavyworlder woman seeks to set up a series of events, a domino-chain of actions and repercussions that will hopefully stop the coming invaders long after her time has passed. But in order to do so, she must enter the military and engage in a four-front war: an old, barely contained enemy whose twin goals of galactic conquest and lunch terrify all sane sentients; an ancient foe whose technology vastly outstrips anything the Alliance can fling at it; a fanatic, xenophobic religious movement on her homeworld which Ia dares not stop; and her ongoing battle against Time itself.

If Ia fails, the stars and planets of the Milky Way will cease to exist, and so will the countless lives that depend on them. But the odds of her winning the ultimate battle are very, very small, when even the slightest, most innocent-seeming misstep could domino down through time in the wrong way, and doom untold septillions of sentients to a dark and terrifying fall. Bound by the ice of her duty, burned by the fires of her conscience, driven by what she foresees, Ia must become the herald of death herself:

The soldier known as Bloody Mary.

It is so dramatic and teenagery and sumptuously angsty. A fifteen year old girl comes into a blazingly powerful precognitive gift that shows her the end of the universe, with one slim hope of forestalling disaster. And she throws herself into this with all the strength she can muster and develop. A fifteen year old girl forced to grow up overnight in horror…and then really never able to grow up or develop any further, held in personal stasis to this grand and impossible hope as she races against literally Time itself to set up a future that will progress long after she has died.

And that is where I can see this being difficult for some people to get into, because really Ia doesn’t grow or develop as a character, it is definitely a function of who and what she is at the outset…who and what she HAS to be, but it can be a little disconcerting to spend that much time with a character that really doesn’t change.

Nevertheless, I could have hated her, I honestly didn’t expect to like her because on the surface she is the epitome of the special snowflake YA heroine. But it didn’t take too long until I was firmly on her side and completely rooting for her to win. Johnson did a wonderful job of making the special all powerful snowflake a character that for all her powers had flaws that she recognized and owned up to, making her human and thus a character to care about.

The story itself is this pageantry of warp and weft, a breathtakingly complex tapestry woven into the past and present and a future I literally beg Johnson to write, because Ia is the Prophet of a Thousand Years, the one who set The Immortal into play and everything.

On the face of it, the stories are simple, we follow one character’s life as she tries to save the universe, a story that has been told probably a hundred times. But it is just so fascinatingly complex and mind bogglingly complex that it is far away from simple. And the character, I rooted for her, and I hurt for her, and I WANTED her to get more, but knew as well as she did the consequences. Just…damn. It got to me. With a heartbreaking ending. One I keep going back to even knowing what I will be getting.

The author has made some noises that she will write the Fire Girl Prophecies, which would take us further into the future to see how Ia’s carefully laid plans play out, and honestly I need this the way I needed Alexandra Ripley’s abomination of a Gone With the Wind sequel, because I pine. I don’t expect to get a different ending for Ia though, I just really want to read and see the results of her sacrifices, that they were worth it and they mattered. But even if I never get that, I am glad to have read the ones that are here, they moved me.

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