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review 2014-07-28 00:00
Blade to the Keep
Blade to the Keep - Lauren Dane Dane delivers an excellent sequel to Goddess with a Blade

Blade to the Keep by Lauren Dane, the second Rowan Summerwaite book, picks up after the crisis in Las Vegas is over. 

Rowan and Clive have moved on - together for now - and are working on a treaty between the Vampire Nation and the Hunter Corporation. With vampire representatives from around the world, they’re gathering for a summit at the fortress-like home of Rowan’s guardian, The First. He’s one of the oldest vampires in existence (hence his title) and leads the Vampire Nation. 

There’s conflict, deception, and traitors to root out, but the real question is will Clive and Rowan survive? If they do, will they stay together? 

I really enjoyed Blade to the Keep as I was so curious about The First, who made a few interesting appearances in the first book. This story explains why Rowan is so tough. What her early life was like. Why she has such mixed feelings about The First. It ROCKS! Plus, Clive just keeps getting more interesting. 

If you love urban fantasy/paranormal romances and haven’t already read the Rowan Summerwaite series, DO! It’s excellent. Plus this summer is the perfect time to catch up (or reread these stories) as the the third book, Blade on the Hunt, will be released in mid-November.

Four-and-a-half stars

(I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley for use in this review.)
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review 2014-02-22 08:52
Blade to the Keep (Rowan Summerwaite, #2) by Lauren Dane
Blade to the Keep - Lauren Dane

Rowan Summerwaite is actually one of my favorite UF/PNR heroines. She's a bloodthirsty bitch and makes no apologies about it. But she's not hardhearted or unfeeling. Rowan will cut out a vampire's heart and turn around to make out with Clive in the same breath. I'm not sure she actually does that in the book, but she would totally do that.

I enjoyed the political workings in this second book. If Rowan was just running around Vegas killing methed out vamps, I would have still read it. But I was really pleased that we instead went to The Keep in Germany. While Rowan certainly killed some vamps, we also got to meet the other Scions, witness more of Rowan's relationship with The First, and see the slow, but intense development in the budding relationship between her and Clive. Clive and her. Whatever. It opened up the world Lauren Dane built but hasn't really explained.

And that's something I kinda like about this series. The world isn't built up. You just go with it, jump right in. Various species of Others are mentioned once in passing, without an infodump explaining their origins and political standings. Maybe they are mentioned so the author can use them in future story lines, I dunno. But the story isn't bogged down with back story on anything that doesn't actually matter.

The romance is, oddly enough, tender and sweet. Between two bloodthirsty superbeings, that sounds really odd. But it's the icing on the cake. This story would work without the romance, but it would be bland and Rowan's personal growth would be nonexistent. Clive makes her better and visa versa. I adore their scenes together and Lauren Dane really throws down some great verbal sparring between the two of them (including the first book in this series).

So I look forward to the next book in this series, Blade on the Hunt - which I think comes out in November.

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text 2014-01-20 01:42
Audiobook Challenge for 2014 is off to a good start
This Case Is Gonna Kill Me - Phillipa Bornikova
A Hidden Fire - Elizabeth Hunter
Blade to the Keep - Lauren Dane
Fountain of Secrets - Anita Clenney
Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell
Full Throttle (Fast Track) - Erin McCarthy
Lost in You - Lauren Dane
The Perfect Play - Jaci Burton

I found the audiobook challenge that was posted by The Book Nympho & Hot Listens and I committed to the 

"My Precious (I had my earbuds surgically implanted) 30+", 

level and so far I have 7 done and am currently listening to the 8th....while I know I will surpass the 30 audiobooks it will be interesting to see how many I actually listen to in a year, I have never tracked them separately before....I'm going to take a wild guess that I will end the year at 75-100 audio books listened to.


To sign up visit the original post at  http://thebooknympho.com/2013/11/sign-up-2014-audio-book-challenge/

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review 2014-01-04 14:52
Blade To Keep
Blade to the Keep - Lauren Dane

Really good follow up to the first book in the series.


Our players:


Rowan -  Human vessel of the goddess Brigid, main vampire executioner for the Hunter Corp. Bad Ass.


Clive - Vampire, the Scion of Las Vegas who is very high in the Vampire Nation hierarchy, Rowan's lover.  Starchy Brit.


Theo - 9,000 y.o Vampire known as The First.  Head of the Vampire Nation.  Rowan's foster father.



The Vampire Nation and the Hunter Corp co-exist more or less peacefully together on the basis of a treaty.  Humans do not know Vamps exist.  In an effort to keep it that way, there are a series of rules that Vampires must follow.  One of the main ones is that they don't wantonly kill humans.  If they do break any of the rules, the Hunter Corp. calls in their head executioner Rowan to kill the vamp.  In the previous book Goddess with a Blade - Lauren Dane, Rowan had to track down a vamp serial killer.   Because of secrets the Vamp nation kept that would have proven critical to Rowan's capture of him and probably saved the lives of some of the women, the Hunter Corp has now put forth an amendment to the treaty that would broaden some of Rowan's power. 



The Corp. and the Nation meet annually at something call The Tribunal in order to hammer out details of law and governance. So they all converge at Theo's home known as The Keep.  A fortress high on a mountain somewhere in Germany to meet in this year's annual tribunal and vote on the amendment to the treaty.  But not everyone is happy.  An extremist faction of Vampires don't even want the original treaty much less an amendment that they see will further impede the vampire's right to consider humans just food.  An analogous faction in the Hunter Corp don't think the amendment is strong enough and just want to be able to exterminate the vampires at will. And yet some other vamps are trying to create a coup to depose Theo.



By now in urban fantasy it really is hard to create something that feels new.  Especially when you include vampires and vampire hunters in the mix.  At some point while reading I inevitably think something seems familiar or derivative.  And if an author tries something a little too outré, I will inevitably think they are just trying too hard and it comes off as desperate.  I think Dane has built a world that, while seeming very familiar, also feels somewhat unique.  I got very immersed in her world and didn't constantly flash to or need to compare with some other series by some other author (which unfortunately does happen).


The Tribunal is basically what you would imagine a meeting of a supernatural UN Security Counsel session/G8 summit.  They have small group sessions, powerpoint presentations and handouts.  The office wrangling and  the bickering over points of policy and following Roberts rules of order was a nice backdrop to the more typical UF fare of bad ass heroine, sexy hero and big gleaming swords.


But, no fear, there was a lot of that too.  The vampire faction that doesn't want this to happen are particularly vicious and seek to sabotage Rowan at every turn.  While also trying to undermine Theo's authority.  So there is a lot of showing of teeth, and verbal throwdowns etc.  A few great confrontations and a couple of to-the-death  fights.  So a leetle more exciting than your average industry gathering at the Holiday Inn Convention center.


There is also some wonderful relationship drama as well.  Rowan and Clive have a hot sexy relationship that is somewhat scandalous given their respective positions.  I love the two of them together.  She is so brash and he is so proper.  She teases him about the precision of his pocket square in his Savile Row suit.  He gets turned on when she punches a snotty vampire in the mouth.  They are magic in the sack. 

But probably most intriguing is Rowan's relationship with Theo. I loved how complicated their relationship is.  We get a glimpse of it in the first book, but the uneasy/deep abiding love they feel for each other is explored more deeply in this one and we get the root of why/how Rowan was raised as Theo's daughter and how that formed who she is now.  Good stuff.


And the final show-down between Rowan and the main villain in this one was epic and hard to read.  But it sets the stage for the next book.  Which I am looking forward to.

My biggest criticism of this book is the same as the previous one.  The author sells Rowan's bad-assery waaaay too hard.  She keeps telling us how hard, vicious and what a killer Rowan is.  We. Get. It. Now.  Stahp.  Just let it happen.  I like potty mouth Rowan.  The Rowan who is a little vulgar and crude.  Who is also funny and likes to yank Clive's chain and ruffle his proper British sensibilities.  I also like it when the author shows that funny Rowan morph into the dead-eyed killer.  Much more effective than constantly telling us.


But this was a great book and a wonderful start to my 2014 reading!

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review 2013-12-13 00:28
Blade to the Keep (Rowan Summerwaite #2) By Lauren Dane
Blade to the Keep - Lauren Dane
Hunter Corp and the Vampire Nation are meeting to amend the treaty between their organisations – and hopefully prevent a war. Except there are members of both the Hunter Corp and the Vampire Nation who are positively itching for a fight
Rowan is the representative of Hunter Corp. And the daughter of the First Vampire. It gives her a unique position in the negotiations and makes her ideally suited to ensuring this treaty passes. She has worked extremely hard to make it happen and now is the finally stages – and she’s not letting prima donnas, bloodthirsty vampires or war mongering hunters screw it up. By blessed sword, goddess strength, investigative skills or political wrangling, she will ratify this treaty.
There are a lot of books in the genre, including the book that preceded this one, where we have excellent, powerful female characters who wield weapons, magical power and are combat monsters who can take on all comers. They are lethally dangerous warriors to be feared by even the most deadly creatures in their world – and that’s not a bad thing (so long as they’re not JUST a lethal combatant).
But being a combat monster usually means that is all the character is. Her challenges will be a) sorting out her love life (because combat monster characters are usually socially inept as well) and b) fighting bigger and tougher monsters who are even more lethal!

Then comes Blade to the Keep with this lethal combat monster protagonist who spends the whole book using her brains, intelligence and experience to navigate the shoals of devious political machinations, investigate the shenanigans of various people trying to sabotage the negotiations and generally be clever and cunning and call out a lot of fools for being fools.

And it is EPIC. No, really, a book where she slaps people down for messing with the agenda of meetings and is bustling from meeting to meeting to have discussions about amending a treaty is epic. It’s awesome, it’s amazing and the best parts of this book don’t require her to draw her sword. Yet it still feels exciting, thrilling and action packed. That takes some effort.
Of course, Rowan is the main reason behind this. She’s wonderfully confident – she knows she’s the most qualified for the job. Not because she’s special or shiny or the Chosen One (though, as the vessel of a goddess, she kind of is all those things, but that’s beside the point) – but because of experience. She is the ideal person to be the Hunter’s liaison to the vampires because she was raised by them, by the First himself. She knows vampire etiquette (which is interestingly different from human etiquette as we see wonderfully displayed when Rowan has to slap down her competitor for repeated faux pas) and how a large entourage means “status symbol” to humans and “annoying number of people to house” to vampires. She knows what vampires value, she knows what they’ll not accept, she knows what they will tolerate – she knows what’s negotiable and what’s a deal breaker. She has the knowledge and experience to get this done – so she is in charge, she should be in charge and she knows that.


There’s also the very nature of the debate. The treaty is being challenged in total by a faction of the Hunters who want to scrap it and wipe out the vampires. These Hunters make this decree while sitting behind their desks while expecting hunters like Rowan to go out and fight this war. Those Hunters who are actually active in the field are fully aware of how ridiculous this plan is – and who will be dying for it. It’s a wonderful parallel to who makes the decision to go to war and who actually suffers for that decision that we face in the real world – and how easy it is to be an armchair warrior yelling “kill them all” and talking about “collateral damage” when you’re not going to be the one fighting and dying.
This all combines to a wonderful strength and confidence in Rowan. She knows her skills. She knows her experience. She knows her worth – there’s no doubt to her, no constant self-recrimination, and a solid certainty in the things she’s certain of and in her own abilities which is wonderful to see. She KNOWS when she is better suited to the role – and is not shy about telling people that. She’s also put a lot of work into making this work – months of effort arranging schedules and agendas and meetings – and she demands that work be acknowledged. She isn’t going to let people derail the process now because they have whims when they couldn’t be bothered to involve themselves in the long, gruelling preparation work. They have an objection? They can post that back to 2 months ago when it was relevant – now they will suck it up and deal
Ok, let me grudgingly insert some potential negative here. Yes she dishes out some epic slap down… but the people she slaps down? Kinda set her up. Her opponents are fairly excessive in their incompetence – not to the point of utter unrealism or anything like that – it’s not story breaking. But while I love and adore these scenes and re-read several of them just to bask in the glory of some of the best, epic slapdowns I have ever read – I do have to insert that little caveat. I still loved them though.
It is possible that Rowan will come off as arrogant in this book because she is so confident, she shoots down her opponents so brutally and because she won’t bend and makes her skills and experience abundantly clear (and her opponent’s lack equally exposed). But she doesn’t feel that way. She never shouts her skills in passing, she doesn’t wave a flag of her won awesomeness all the time. But she’s a busy woman and she has zero tolerance for foolishness and no time for it – she’s not going to clear her schedule – planned weeks in advance – for a random, pointless meeting to stroke their ego and she’s not going to tell them why in a nice fashion. They don’t deserve it. More, they should know better, they’re professional people with a job to do that and she doesn’t have time for their shenanigans.



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Source: www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2013/12/blade-to-keep-rowan-summerwaite-2-by.html
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