In Pain and Blood is the first book in the Spellster series, and has all the hallmarks of everything I enjoy - epic fantasy, m/m, romance, action, and adventure. Dylan has spent his life in 'the Tower' learning how to be a spellster. Magic comes easily to him, but his guardian keeps on telling him to stay safe in the tower, and not to make waves. However, one event shoves him to the forefront, and he sees more of life than he expected. Trying to make his way back to the Tower, he becomes part of a ragtag group and sees life in a completely different way.
This should have been a good book. I really wanted it to be a good book, but it fell short for me on a number of different levels. First of all, it's long. And I mean REALLY long. Now don't get me wrong, I love epic fantasy, and regularly read books of a thick volume. However, for this book, it felt like it needed some serious editing to get some of the monotonous repetition removed. Also, this land is supposed to be under attack, but they manage to completely miss any and every member of either army on their two month trek across the land - which we hear about in great detail. How this book started actually had me going back to check on the blurb as I thought I was reading a completely different book. It does change and become the story the blurb describes, but only after a long start. It is only the two main characters who we really meet, and I wouldn't say I 'know' them very well. Even their companions, who they spend so much time with, aren't really fleshed out. It didn't help when one of the main characters spoke to everyone as 'my dear hunter/my dear warrior/my dear spellster'. I know this was supposed to be one of his quirks, but I got it after the first dozen times. It really didn't need repeating multiple times on every page. The ending, such as it was, is the only thing in the book that felt rushed. Big events happen, something life-changing happens to a supporting character, opinions change, a lifetime's enduring love is pronounced, and it happens at the speed of light.
I struggled to finish this book. It was only my sheer stubborn nature and optimistic belief that it would get better (and if I finished it before it ended, I would never know) that kept me turning the pages to the very end. I am glad I've read it, but I wouldn't recommend it.
* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and my comments here are my honest opinion. *
Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!
This sequel to Skinwalker picks up right where the action left off. Plenty of action of the fighting sort, and an almost frustrating lack of any other sort of action. Jane has options, but always higher priorities than sex.
I'm still digging this series. Here, she works more with the police, taking advantage of their archives to do research, and finds some time to connect with her roots even while not understanding much of her heritage. There is also this sort of wonderful domesticity as her friend and her children fill the house with something other than raw steak and knives.
But let's face it, I'm here for the meat and bloodshed. And the action sequences continue to deliver.
Her alliances with humans and mostly humans seems to take the place of her shifting, but at the same time, she's in more communication (if not communion) with her Beast in this one. That's still the most interesting dynamic in the book, no matter how many gorgeous men wander through her path.
Set in the 1800s Australia, the action never stops. John Francis and his brother have organized a heist! Yes! An armed wagon is their target and Morgan, one of the drivers and hired guns, is in on the heist. From the title I was expecting to start out on a ship but I like how the story begins on land and moves us out to the ocean. John finds an odd and strangely enchanting medallion among the wagon goods and decides to take ownership of it.
Later, John and his wife Rose board the Madagascar to set off on a new life. Alas, John’s recent past catches up with him and he’s removed from the ship and jailed. Rose and the mysterious medallion continue on. That’s when things get deliciously messed up. I have always enjoyed ghost ship stories, those tales where obviously something terrible happened to the ship’s occupants. This is a tale that shows us how we get just such a ship.
There’s a few flashbacks showing the ancient tale of Xia whose spirit has since taken residence in the strange medallion. Through that bit of unusual jewelry, her vengeful spirit influences Rose and others. Indeed, the somewhat timid and socially awkward Rose becomes the avatar of the beautiful and dangerous Xia. The scenes with Xia were often dark and very serious and they became the anchor for this tale. Xia put the punch in this horror story.
Obviously, horrible things start happening on board ship. Captain Harris tries his best to be fair with the initial outbreaks of violence but his gentlemanly ways won’t be enough to hold back the tide of tormented anger from Xia. There’s plenty of potential victims or heroes on this ship: Lady Worthington and her son Philip, the First Mate Steven, Mr. & Mrs. Basset, the sailing master Timothy, etc. It eventually became a blood bath but there was hope even then. Not everyone was affected by Xia’s spirit.
To my happy surprise, John Francis wasn’t out of the picture either. He’s joined by a very mysterious but knowledgeable Templeton. He is seeking the medallion and has some knowledge of it’s evil powers and history. Templeton became the most interesting character by the end of the book. I really hope we get another story featuring him. I wonder what other magical or possessed relics he has hunted down.
All around, Seas of Blood is a worthy tale of heists, vengeful spirits, and shady characters taking the higher road. 5/5 stars.
I received a free copy of this book.
The Narration: Terry Self was a perfect fit for this book. He had quite the variety of English and Australian accents, making each character distinct. Also his female character voices were feminine. He excelled at performing Xia’s scenes which were full of emotions. I also loved his voice for John Francis. I could practically see his wolfish grin or quirked eyebrow. There were no recording issues. 5/5 stars.
Venetian Blood does the setting justice. I really felt transported to modern Venice and it was done so well. There were no large info dumps but rather small little things scattered throughout the tale showing me what an average day was like in Venice for Anna and her friends.
I also really like Anna’s character. She’s smart, loves her job, and also has some life behind her. She’s 40, heading into a divorce, no kids, and perhaps wondering if she wants a change in her life or not. While I like that she has a degree in astrophysics, I never quite figured out how she ended up working in an office crunching numbers for the US Treasury. Numbers are neat but analyzing radio waves from distant stars sounds awesome! So, yeah, that was a quirk about Anna that I didn’t quite get but then I also know people who got degrees in one area and ended up working in a totally different field. So perhaps that just makes her more human.
Anna has a few friends in Venice, which is good because she has at least one enemy. I did find Margo a little annoying, especially how loose lipped she was about Anna’s business. Then there was Angela, Margo’s pregnant cousin. Angela doesn’t really appreciate the beauty and history she’s surrounded by in Venice.
Even though Detective Biondi is a bit hard on Anna I still liked him. After all, Anna starts off by lying to him and that can tick anyone off in the best of situations. Biondi suspects Anna of murdering a philandering Count Sergio. He’s well known in the art world and also well known for his wandering eye. Unfortunately Anna didn’t check him out before getting to know him and now she regrets that.
I did find Anna’s part in the mystery to be rather sloppy. She lies to Biondi about things that are easy enough for him to check up on and she’s honest with others about her whereabouts that night, which leaves yet another route for Biondi to check up on her. So, yeah, Anna – what were you thinking? No wonder Biondi wants you for this murder.
There’s a little romance in the tale and some action. Considering Anna’s latest fail in having a fling, I was surprised that she was letting herself wander into another one. Again, it seems that Anna isn’t using all her brain cells. Sometimes, I liked this about her because it made her human. Sometimes, I wanted to give her a little smack upside the head.
In the end, it’s the setting that really shines through. Venice herself is the true star of this story. The murder mystery was decent, Anna was likable and approachable, and the side characters were a colorful bunch. 4/5 stars.
The Narration: Gabrielle de Cuir gave us a most excellent performance with this narration. There is plenty of Italian throughout this story and it was all well pronounced along with plenty of characters with Italian accents. Her male characters sounded masculine and all the characters were distinct. I also appreciated her various US and UK accents, South American accent, etc. 5/5 stars.
I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Christine Evelyn Volker. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.