The last of the dragons hidden within society, passing as human and trying to live out his life until he becomes embroiled in a mystery? Count me in. Plotwise, this book should have been right up my alley, but unfortunately, it just didn't work for me. If I were forced into conciseness, I think I'd describe Chasing Embers as a take on Neil Gaiman's American Gods written in the style of Wilkie Collins. While it may be sacrilege and I may end up tarred and feathered for it, I must admit that I'm not a fan of American Gods. I do generally enjoy Wilkie Collins, but while the Victorian era does much to excuse his fraught verbosity, the careless sexism, and the thoughtless xenophobic exoticism of foreign cultures, it's rather less understandable in a modern novel. As with all my negative reviews, I'm going to lay out my problems with the book because the things that drove me nuts may be unimportant or even positives to other readers.
The most notable feature of the book is probably the overblown style. A few examples that might demonstrate why I initially thought it intended to be some sort of spoof:
"Flames sputtered. Steer horns flew. Smoke fouled the air. A girder screamed, busted outward. The city peered in through the breach, her distant lights jealous of the fireworks. A hush washed over the bridge, a murmuring tide carrying prayers."
[About a ten-year-old] "Her sore feet tingled on stone and she moved forwards as if through water, a subtle magnetism drawing her on, the sense of little teeth nipping at her budding breasts. Ants swarming in her guts."
"White fire claimed him, closing around him like a cage. A brief, blinding fulmination and he was in the heart of the Star.
The star was falling, falling. The meteor shook off rock at the edge of space, a flaming Cinderella fleeing a ball."
"Blood streaked the horizon, congealing into an ugly purple, the dam of day broken by the encroaching penumbra, the night flooding in. In minutes, the moon had swallowed half of the sun. It was a black eye bordered by gold, scouring the sands with ominous portent. A minute more and it had obscured the sun completely, the sight a blazing ring in the sky, a flaring golden corona.
"Uncurling from his foetus of grief, Ben raised himself on his one good arm."
The sun blinked a ruddy eye, one moment near the horizon, the next half sunken under it. Like a ball released from a catapult, the moon escaped the temporal glue, then slowed in the heavens, continuing her voyage skyward."
The book also demonstrates a cheerful Victorianesque disregard for the proper use of punctuation and cheerfully substitutes em-dashes and semicolons for commas, colons for semicolons. Yeah, not my cup of tea.
Continuing the Wilkie Collins motif, we have a credulous starving native, exotic African magics, and quite imprecise Egyptian history--e.g. ushaptiu described as "bricks"-- as well as a rather Victorian attitude towards women. Women are repeatedly described as animalistic and controlled only by their passions. Those who aren't "all heart, fury bred from spurned love, vengeance from the pain of treachery" want to live out the nineteenth century feminine ideal: "She told him, through pretty tears, that she only wanted a normal life. Marriage. Kids. A future. In no particular order and with possible overlaps between roles to avoid spoilers, this book contains: a damsel in distress, a powerful and magnetic seductress who is the pawn of the man manipulating her, a woman who becomes utterly consumed by revenge against the man who done her wrong, a bunch of evil witches who use sexuality as a weapon, and, to top it all off, a refrigeratored female.
Yes, yes, Rose doesn't actually die, but she is so clearly refrigeratored, mutilated, and dressed as a princess in a tower.
The most over-the-top offensive parts? When one woman is considered valuable, or "invested with power," as the book put it, solely because she is a receptacle for a man's sperm. Literal or metaphorical, a lot of the women end "opened up like a door", to be raped and used as emotional pawns. I had to push myself to keep reading, and I'm glad I did, because there is a certain amount of saving grace at the end.
I really loved that Rose turned out not to be dead and confronts Ben: "I am not... a prize." Yet even there Ben strips away some of Rose's agency by deciding that he can "save" her and "protect" her by staying away, making it his choice, not hers.
I also really didn't buy the basis of the worldbuilding. The basic scenario: King John got all the magical Remnants to make a pact that would leave exactly one of each of their kind in the world and push all the rest into endless sleep. Now, who on earth would agree to that, and in particular, who on earth would elect some leader as the only one to remain alive?
Leaving aside the fact that King "Lackland" John was a pathetic whinging scheming excuse of a king who managed to infuriate the Church, antagonize his populace to the point of war, and lose massive chunks of territory to the French, how on earth would a peace brokered with a weakling king of one measly little island become some sort of universal law to be obeyed by every mortal and immortal being all over the world? At that point, believe me, the sun definitely set on the British empire--on winter days, after less than ten hours. It's that sort of thoughtless exceptionalism that really gets on my nerves.
As as surely become clear by now, this book was not for me. I really wish it had been--it sounded so perfect. However, it was not meant to be. If you are more tolerant than me, or if a cross between Wilkie Collins and Neil Gaiman sounds fun to you, dear reader, then Chasing Embers may be worth a look.
~~I received this book through Netgalley from the publisher, Orbit Books, in exchange for my (depressingly) honest review. Quotes are taken from an advanced reader copy and while they may not reflect the final phrasing, I believe they speak to the spirit of the novel as a whole.~~
Cross-posted on Goodreads.
And here's the unprofessional-professional, and here's where I check out of this series.
I don't understand Jericho or what Sherwood is doing with his characterization. She wants me to believe this dude survived eight years in the Marines, four tours in Afghanistan (acquiring a Purple Heart, a Silver Star and a bachelor's degree all in that time), and went on to be a beat cop for the LAPD and eventually made detective. But here's the thing: Jericho's in idiot. He has no balls, no backbone, no brains; he's constantly being shoved around in one direction or another by everyone around him, not just his ubercrush Wade, and he does nothing about it except dig himself in deeper. Oh, but he has authority issues. If that's the case, how did he make it through boot camp? He survived four tours and eight years as a Marine but can't figure out how to get a gun out of someone's hand whose standing a mere three feet away from him? Really? He has authority issues but willingly lets himself be manipulated by Wade even after Wade says straight to his face that's what he's going to do? Jay needs to grow a pair and grow up.
At least Hockley shows some flexibility here and doesn't just keep up the "I'm a fed so I'm a jerkface for no other reason than I'm a fed" nonsense that he's had going on in the last book, but frankly, I'm getting close to being over the "locals vs the feds" nonsense that fiction writers just love to drool all over. There is at least an explanation of sorts in this one about why they're being such major tools. Kayla's tough and decisive where she can be, but really, by the time the feds are done with this town, I doubt she'll have anything resembling respect from her subordinates the way things are going right now.
As for the biker wars story - please. Just...that was the most convoluted plotline I've seen in awhile. And Nikki and her kids - honestly, I don't understand why Jericho gives a crap about any of them, when Nikki is constantly taking advantage of him and the kids are so horrible. Clearly, the only conclusion I can draw at this point is that he's a masochist. Which brings us to:
Wade Granger. Why am I supposed to give a crap about this dipshirt and Jericho's star-crossed obsession with him? If it really is star-crossed since Jericho's just barely pretending to act like a cop at this point. And is Jericho serious about his "if they made drugs legal then they wouldn't be a problem" logic? I guess he's a-OK with elementary school kids being used as mules and pushers, and teens getting hooked on this stuff and people OD-ing left and right and throwing their lives away for a high. But hey, if they're legal, then his ex-boyfriend would have a legitimate business enterprise and it'd be all good for them. Well, except the illegal weapons running and whatnot. Shoot, I guess we're just going to have to make that legal too. (And even if Wade ends up being revealed as being undercover (unlikely) or an informant (somewhat more likely) that still doesn't excuse Jericho's behavior up to this point.)
Writing is still good, but I have get off this stupid train.
Jericho Crewe is back working as under sheriff in the small town of Mosely Montana, town which he left behind fifteen years ago with the abusive father who was up to no good and his first love Wade Granger whom apparently Jericho could never forget. Note that this a second book in the four book series and you cannot read it as a stand alone, no matter what the blurb says, I mean you can start here I guess, but these are not four separate stories just taking place in one small town as a common setting, you would have to go back to get the full background on the characters and their motivations. The motivations we think characters have anyway, because right now I am not sure about the truthfulness of any character except POV one and that would be Jericho.
As we know after the explosive events of the first book Jericho is kind of on loan for six months to Jericho's childhood friend and now town's sheriff Kayla Morgan. I thought from the first book that the guy is the sweetheart and still think so, rough exterior notwithstanding , and you really don't need to go that deep to see that he is one in my opinion.
Yes, he is still helping his half siblings about whom he never knew till he came to the city and learned that his bastard of the father was dead ( murdered most likely). Yes that siblings' mom is still an ungrateful shrew and I am frankly now annoyed beyond belief with her behavior. No Nikki he does not owe you *nothing* and he is not obligated to take care of your kids. Good on you that he feels family obligations, but not everybody would do the "blood thicker than water" thing, so be grateful that Jericho is.
And then there is Wade Granger. Local crime lord/ crime boss/ somebody who only wants to become a crime boss and pretend that he is a bigger fish than he really is and somebody who loved Jericho and never forgot him either apparently. Here is the thing - the love affair between cop and the criminal is by far one of my *least favorite tropes* in m/m fiction and in any fiction really, but I only started seeing it so prominently when I started reading m/m romance. I don't know why so many m/m writers seem so fond of it - I mean I get "opposites attracts", "from enemies to lovers" and all that, I love me some good "from enemies to lovers " myself, but please! It makes cop look stupid at best and corrupted at worst. Not that I mind that, but maybe not in the romantic hero? In any event, while on the surface this series seem to plunge into this trope, I think that it takes the road a little less traveled.
First and foremost Jericho did not hide anything from anybody - he tells his Boss and federal agents about communication Wade has with him, visits Wade makes and all of that. But more importantly I cannot figure Wade out - I still hope, hope to the high heaven that he is not the murderer and not even a criminal no matter how everything appears to be. I mean, couple of times the things he said just made me go, hmmmm. Note that this is not a spoiler of any kind, just my speculation - as I said, right now while it is not clear that Wade is a murderer, everything points out to him being a crime boss and very manipulative one at that.
And if he is a criminal, well, while as I said, Jericho does not hide anything, in this book *anything* already transformed into *almost anything* and I do not just mean sexual tension between them which I would normally really enjoy seeing between the couple. At this point I would have expected him to walk away if he still thinks Wade is a bad guy and he certainly thinks that - too involved, too close to be anything close to objective investigator.
I was still very entertained and enjoyed the investigation and trying to decide who hides what things and will read the next book, but now I am even closer to wanting to slap Jericho. We shall see at the end I guess.