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review 2015-02-09 10:29
“Physics: not just a good idea, it’s the law.”
Flex - Ferrett Steinmetz

There’s something about urban fantasy. While scifi looks to the future and high fantasy escapes to a different realm, urban fantasy finds enchantment in the everyday and transforms it into pure magic.

And Flex takes it to a new level.

In the world that Steinmetz creates, magic is born of single-minded passion:

“‘Mancers believed so thoroughly in their obsessions that their belief wore a hole through the law of physics.”

As a result, there are gamemancers. Musclemancers. Illustromancers. Collectomancers. Huntomancers. Junkomancers. As one of the characters points out, somewhere out in the world, there are probably even polkamancers. But as harmless as all those reclusive cat-hair-covered felismancers might seem, they’re explosions just waiting for the match. ‘Mancers have the ability to “flex” reality, but reality can only be bent so far before it bends back. And when the “flux”--the reaction to flexing reality too far-- hits, disaster inevitably follows. After Europe melted down in an apocalyptic breach in the folds of reality, America cracked down on its ‘mancers, capturing them and forcing them to join their creepy troop of brain-burned Unimancers.

Now that he’s left the police for the Samaritan insurance company, Paul Tsabo spends his days doing paperwork. Since insurance doesn’t usually cover magic-related injuries, much of his work involves linking disasters to ‘mancers or to sales of the ‘mancy-made drug Flex. But even paperwork has its perils: Paul’s obsession with his holy grail, the “Universal Unified Form,” has turned him into a bureaucromancer. His magic allows him to rearrange schedules, magic cars out of rental agreements, and find almost anyone--as long as he has an identifier to start with. He even has magic desk drawers: one gives him access to every type of form; the other, once he submits the right documentation, allows him to access any paperwork, no matter how secret.

Paul himself, “the guy who turned DMV into an art,” is a likeable character, a nerd who wants to be a superhero without the spandex. He’s adorably uptight and usually doesn’t even realize it:

“Not that Paul ever dressed down. He liked suits. And crisp ties. They were armor for the civilized man. At best, he’d roll up his sleeves, and that only because it looked totally badass.”

At the same time, Paul is complex and flawed; as one of his friends tells him, he tends to think up “good reasons to justify the things you want to do anyway.” Paul’s belief in a predictable, organized, reasonable world is so strong that it is enough to bend reality. What could be more deliciously ironic than that?


I still think his motivation for brewing up Flex was weak, especially in bringing the Flex to Gunza.At what point did making Flex for drug lords seem like a good idea? Honestly, I think that mostly served to push the plot into adrenaline moments. But I loved the way Steinmetz explored the other side of those scenes:

“He thought he’d been calling in faceless SMASH soldiers to distract Gunza. ut now, he realized, he’d called in brain-burned victims to be slaughtered for his convenience.

One of my favourite Paul moments was when he started yelling at the Broach and the buzzsects, and his bullheaded beliefs warp reality yet again.

“You,” Paul said to the buzzsects, “are not aerodynamic.” They dropped from the air, twitching helplessness.

I loved the denouement; the evolution of mancy is a perfect ending:

“The magic he loved was no violation of the natural order- it was the natural order’s way of evolving. The ‘mancy wasn’t a flaw in the contract but a hidden clause for bargaining. [...] ‘Mancy isn’t a bad thing; it’s the proof that if you care enough about things, the world listens.”

(spoiler show)


This is one of those books that just hit me perfectly, and it’s really hard to explain precisely why. I loved the idea of ‘mancy, even though the apostrophe drove me nuts. One of the most interesting parts of magical systems is the cost, and in this case, the consequences of magic are fully explored. The world was a little like a cross between Myke Cole and Kate Griffin; I know that’s a rather bizarre mix, but then so is the book. There are a lot of action-packed moments, many of them involving gamemancy. As a non-gamer, most of the references flew right by me, but I loved that part where they pull out a Portal gun. (The cake is a lie.)

But the book isn’t just about drug-filled magical escapades; it’s also about Paul’s struggles to balance being a mancer and a father:

“That was the stupid thing about parenting: the mundane stuff took up so much of your life, you forgot all this pointed towards the future. You spent your days strapping your kids into backseats, reading them bedtime stories, making them bowls of cereal. That’s what you did as a parent: create routines to make the world seem safer.
If you weren’t paying attention, you’d forget the tasks were not the job.”

It’s also about dealing with pain and loss. It’s about the struggle to not be defined by a disability or deformity, to be a person rather than a victim.


As Aliyah says,

“All they ever talk about is my burns. I’m not a burn.”

(spoiler show)


I delayed writing this review for a couple of weeks because I just can’t really explain why I enjoyed the book so much. I loved the idea of bureaucromancy, the burgeoning relationship between Paul and the other main character, the humor and the absurdity. I can't wait to find out more about the world. It’s not a perfect fit for everyone, and I’d have a hard time figuring out the right audience, but for those it fits, Flex is pure magic.
Make that pure ‘mancy.

**Note: this review is of an uncorrected advanced reader copy. While the included quotes may not reflect the final phrasing, I believe they speak to the nature of the novel as a whole.**

I received an advanced reader copy ebook through Netgalley from the publisher, Angry Robot Books, in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

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review 2014-12-08 08:08
“This is a tide... it’s building, and I don’t know where it stops.”
Gemini Cell - Myke Cole

Gemini Cell

by Myke Cole


The Reawakening--the rebirth of magic in the modern world--has begun, but the world is still pushing the snooze button.


Jim Schweitzer has his feet planted in the nonmagical world. He has a nice home, a four-year-old son, and a wife whose art career is beginning to blossom. He also kills people. Professionally. But when an assignment goes terribly wrong, Schweitzer’s life takes a turn for the weird. Suddenly, he finds himself in a world where death is no longer the end and where magic is a contagion that the U.S. government is determined to stop.


In general, I’m not particularly fond of prequels. They tend to tell a story whose outlines have already been sketched in the “real” book, and most of the suspense is killed by the author’s need to paint within the lines, both in terms of plot and characters. However, Gemini Cell is definitely an exception. It takes place long before the events of Shadow Ops, Cole's other series in the same worldWhile Schweitzer runs into Shadow Ops magics such as Renders, Cole also introduces jinns: human spirits that can reanimate corpses and co-inhabit with the original soul.  Gemini Cell takes place during the birth of the Supernatural Operations Corps, before magic is acknowledged, before the terms of “Latents” and “Probes” and “Selfers” have come into usage. But at the same time, elements of the future are present. From the government’s initial reaction to magic, the writing is on the wall. As one character explains,

“You wouldn’t let a private citizen have possession of a nuke. [...] That’s what magic is. That’s why we have to keep it under control.”

The big question of the Shadow Ops series is the balance between freedom and security, and that struggle begins in Gemini Cell.

It’s interesting to note that the government is already using force, threats, and the deaths of innocents to recruit Latents. They’re already giving them the option between coming in or being hunted down.

At the same time, this book created more questions than it answered. What was up with the body farm? Why are there no jinns by the time Britton's story comes around?

(spoiler show)


I originally became interested in Cole after reading his blog post on PTSD. This is, finally, the PTSD book. Several of the characters go through traumatic experiences that leave them hypervigilant, unable to find safety or reassurance in the world they find themselves thrown back into. There are also several beautiful descriptions of loss from characters consumed by grief:

“She’d stopped going to the gym, whiled away the hours in front of her laptop, scanning emails she couldn’t bring herself to answer, watching her social media scroll by, a flowing current of a world that kept on turning as if nothing had happened, as if her life hadn’t been suddenly snatched away from her, crumbled into a lumpen ball, and handed back with a note attached that read, FIGURE THIS OUT. GOOD LUCK!”

Characterization in Gemini Cell is much stronger than in any of the Shadow Ops books. Sarah, Schweitzer’s wife, is the most rounded and interesting female character that Cole has written thus far. At the same time, Gemini Cell kicks the graphic imagery and violence up about ten clicks. The horrific scenes were intensified by Schweitzer’s own nature. I couldn’t come to grips with the idea of a man seeing killing as a job or an art form, and found his belief that passionless professionalism somehow made his role more acceptable to be profoundly disturbing. Yet although he has the same worryingly rock-hard moral certainty as Cole’s other protagonist, Oscar Britton, I found him more likeable, even though I wasn’t sure I actually wanted to like him.

The scene at the end, where he gives himself up to rage and tears out of confinement, was positively sickening.

Plus, even though I strongly disliked Chang as a character, I was somewhat taken aback at the abrupt ending of his story. As soon as his horror-movie demise is complete, everyone stops thinking about him.

My last little irritation stemmed from the discussion about books. I'm rather offended by the suggestion that all American women are influenced by Alcott. Granted, her A Long Fatal Love Chase has left me with an inability to take lugubriously purple-prosed Gothic novels seriously, so maybe there is some truth to it.

(spoiler show)


Schweitzer thinks of himself as a warrior, a “paladin” whose wars are “sanctified.” Although it isn’t really explored in this book,  I strongly suspect that later books will examine and challenge who is doing the sanctification, and how noble their motives really are. Schweitzer sees his cause as righteous, but he is also driven by a deep-seated desire to be special, someone his wife can admire and his son can look up to:

“When it came to killing, a man could only harden himself so much. There was something deeper that helped you pull the trigger when you had to, and to forget what the round did after. Some people had it, most didn’t.”

As Schweitzer’s world is turned on its end, even he begins to wonder about his own nature. He is a weapon, but is he merely a tool, or something more? He fixes even more firmly upon his identity as a “warrior” and an artist of death:

“It was in the killing that the SEAL distinguished himself from the enemy. Schweitzer killed with a professional’s precision, a cold calculation made holy by its service to his country’s cause. It was what made him an artist instead of a thug.”

Personally, I don’t understand why “professionalism” somehow improves the “killing” bit. How does killing efficiently make him less of a killer? A trigger man? A murderer? Schweitzer’s definitions of “right” and “wrong” are certainly not mine, but that made the book all the more interesting to read. One of the things I like about Cole is the unreliability of the third-person narrators. Even if Schweitzer is currently assured in his own righteousness, that won’t stop the rest of the series from turning his beliefs upside down. This is hinted at in one of my favourite scenes:

“Why do you call them bad guys?” she’d asked.

“Because they’re bad.” [...]

“Do you really believe that?”

“Sure. Sometimes. No. It doesn’t matter. We have to think that.”

“Why?” He felt her head shift, knew she was looking at him now.

“Because you can’t do the job if you’re thinking about their mothers, or their kids. You’ll choke up. You’ll get yourself killed. You’ll get your teammates killed.”

“I don’t believe in bad guys.”


“I don’t think there’s such a thing as evil. Some people are crazy. Others are terrified. Others are stupid or too proud to reverse what they know is a bad course. Nobody’s evil. Not in a mustache-twirling way.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“It does matter.”

“No, sweetheart. It doesn’t. The scalpel isn’t the hand that moves it. You can’t be both the hand and the blade, Sarah. That’s how you get juntas. I don’t worry about the nature of evil. There are no good guys or bad guys. There’s only alive or dead. Mission objectives accomplished or failed.”

If you're interested in trying Myke Cole and looking for a place to start, then Gemini Cell is the book for you. While it contains much more graphic violence than any other book so far, I think it also is a stronger novel than the start of the Shadow Ops series. I found Schweitzer's predicament to be especially interesting in light of the events of Shadow Ops, but I also think the book stands on its own, without any dependencies on other works.The story weaves in elements of thriller, fantasy, and even romance, and ties it together with some troubling questions about our world and our system. I can't wait to see where it goes next.


**Note: this review is of an uncorrected advanced reader copy. While the included quotes may not reflect the final phrasing, I believe they speak to the nature of the novel as a whole.**


~~I received this ebook from the publisher, Penguin, in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!~~


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review 2014-11-14 02:05
"Our goal is to secure a rent in the fabric of reality that we have no idea how to close. What could possibly go wrong?”
Breach Zone - Myke Cole

Breach Zone (Shadow Ops #3)

by Myke Cole


Note: although I don’t think this review has spoilers for this book, it is the third in a series, and there are unavoidable spoilers for previous books. If you're interested and don't want spoilers, I reviewed the first two books here and here.


When thousands of soldiers in America’s SOC (Supernatural Operations Corps) suddenly appeared on the lawn outside of the White House, the American public discovered three things: first, there is an alternate world called the Source that that is teeming with magical creatures; second, the American government had invaded it and set up a military base; third, many of the military’s employees at the base were Probes; that is, members of magical schools prohibited by U.S. law.


The indigenous inhabitants would have massacred the human invaders if Jan Thorssen, codename Harlequin, hadn’t disobeyed orders from the President himself and saved the base. Americans have just discovered the existence of an alternate world that is home to whole civilizations of magical creatures. Now, led by an escaped Probe witch, an army of magical creatures has decided to turn the tables and visit NYC, and they’re not going to stop with postcards. Thorssen suddenly finds himself in charge of defending a rapidly devolving city from an invasion  force of sorcerers, goblins, demons, and every other magical creature that can scuttle out of the Source.


If you’ve read the other books in the series, you’ve probably spent a good portion of time wanting to throttle Harlequin. This book attempts to humanize him, and that’s not exactly an easy task. Other than being a jerk whenever possible, Harlequin has acted as Britton’s foil, law-abiding, obsessive, angry cop who goes out of his way to punish anyone who breaks the arbitrary rules of society. As he puts it:

My job isn’t to interpret policy. My job isn’t even to have an opinion. My job is to carry out the will of my civilian masters, who are ultimately elected by you.

This book explores how an idealistic Jan Thorssen was transformed into the vengeful Harlequin. It becomes clear that Harlequin is suffering from compassion fatigue, and this drives him to separate the world into wolves, sheep, and sheepdogs. The only thing that separates the wolves from the sheepdogs, Harlequin believes, is the law, and no matter how broken the law might be, his is not to question why. And some of his other experiences, detailed as flashbacks throughout the story, explain why he now has a whole Ikea shelving system’s worth of screws loose. No matter how hard Cole tries, I’m never going to find Harlequin a sympathetic character, but I did enjoy his ironic commentary on the situation:

“Lighten up,” Harlequin said. “We’re leading a mixed force of police and military, who have almost no experience fighting together and who lack the power to harm half the enemy. We’re outnumbered and outgunned. [...] Our goal is to secure a rent in the fabric of reality that we have no idea how to close. What could possibly go wrong?”

Another exciting change is that Oscar Britton, a.k.a. “the pompous dick,” is no longer a perspective character. In fact, Cole seems to have picked up on his readers’ universal detestation and rechristened him “Oscar Fucking Britton”-- unless that was actually his middle name all along, of course. Even better news, Bookbinder is back, and as terrifyingly optimistic as ever:

“We’ve got a problem,” Rodriguez said.

“Another problem,” Bonhomme added.

“Let’s call it a challenge,” Bookbinder said.

At the same time, I’m not sure how much I liked some of the characters’ arcs. I was sorry to see Crucible join the series' collection of rat bastards, but I guess he has plenty of company.

(spoiler show)


Through Thorssen’s flashbacks, we even get Scylla’s backstory. Given her previous actions and the fact that she’s leading the invasion in this book, I was rather incredulous at this attempt to humanize her.

 I guess the idea that her prefrontal cortex was being melted by suppressor helps a little, but seriously? How do you go from saving the orphan children to torturing people from fun? That stretched the bounds of the character a little too much for me.

(spoiler show)

Awkwardly enough, however, I found myself mostly on her side, even if I didn’t approve of her methods. She has two demands: first, that the US treat the Source as an inhabited land with its own indigenous culture, and second, that the Latents be treated as citizens. After seeing America’s proud history of breaking promises to indigenous peoples, I can understand why the goblins would think that extermination was the only way.


As with the rest of the series, much of the book is an exploration of the “freedom versus safety” paradox. I admit to a certain amount of evil pleasure in finally seeing the SOC reap what they sowed, and I appreciate the ways in which Cole presented the (human) invaders’ perspectives:

“They see you for what you are, and they know you will never stop until you control every action of everyone and everything that frightens you. They want the same thing I do. To be able to go to bed at night and never have to wake up worrying that you’re out there, plotting to put us in chains again. We can’t get that by negotiating with you. We can only get that by teaching you what those chains feel like.”

I love the ways that the SOC tactics echo reality. For example, the SOC’s replacement of Big Bear is not dissimilar to the FBI infiltration of the Panthers. I’m still deeply disturbed by the way the government enslaves the “legally dead” Selfers. I have a terrible suspicion that this “repurposing” of legally dead citizens is not just a fantasy.


While I was delighted that the US’s brazen colonialism finally backfires, I was disappointed in the portrayal of the creatures from the Source. The goblins are divided with a depressing simplicity into “good” (i.e. subservient to humans) goblins and the “bad” (i.e. defensive) goblins. The Gahe are apparently inherently nasty, as are all the other invaders. Cole spends a tremendous amount of time thoughtfully deconstructing the complexities of the human conflict. It’s a pity he spent so little time extending this to the other creatures of the Source. Even the issue of imperialism is mostly pushed aside in favour of Latent/normal politics. Sadly, somewhere in the novel, right versus wrong devolves into xenophobia, with the invading Sourcers painted as soulless monsters.

Some character arcs, such as Truelove’s, were even more problematic. Truelove goes native in the style of a Victorian explorer. Even worse is the moment that he is pulled back to the human cause:

“These aren’t people, Simon. These are goblins. I’m glad you get along with them, but that doesn’t make you one of them. Your people are on the other side of that gate, and they need your help.”

That is just so wrong that I have no words.

(spoiler show)


Even though I wish that Cole had done more to--ahem-- humanize his Source characters, I love the perspectives that he provides on the conflict between Latents and non-Latents. In this book, the reader is finally placed on the side of the U.S. government against an external invader, but even though the Selfer tactics are savage, Cole continues to question the government’s role in driving them to violence. As one character puts it:

“The only Selfer threat is the one you made for yourself. America is a nation choking on its own hypocrisy.”

Cole has experienced war, and his experiences enrich his book. Even when the SOC are defenders in an invasion, nothing is black and white, and nothing is simple. There is no straightforward victory or glorious defeat.

That was the thing about war, wasn’t it? In the end, someone has to be willing to overlook past wrongs, inequalities. In the end, war had to serve peace, to drive forward toward an end state that worked better for everyone. Otherwise, what were they fighting for?

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review 2014-04-21 05:09
"Every kid dreams that they have a secret family...
Seven Kinds of Hell - Dana Cameron

"...it was just my shitty luck that I actually had a secret family full of threatening, dickhead monsters."


Zoe Miller's life has never been television sitcom material.  Raised by a single parent, Zoe has been moved from place to place by her anxious mother, never able to settle down, never able to make friends, never able to quell the creeping anxiety that something is hunting her.  Zoe's mother hasn't given her many details about her paternal family, but she knows that they're bad news-- and that they're out to get her.  But Zoe's greatest fear is a betrayal from her own mind.  Since the age of 16, when fearful or threatened, she has experienced a creeping temptation to slip into a personality she calls her Beast: an inhuman, vicious, angry, and clearly insane mentality.  Despite it all, Zoe has just managed to piece together an almost normal life for herself. She's made friends, found and lost love, and graduated with a degree in archaeology. But when her mother dies, it all starts to unravel.  Mysterious men are following her, the Beast's call is becoming even more strident, and one of her best friends is about to be used as the lure in a trap that Zoe can't help but step into.  Since Zoe's only hope is through finding a lost mythological artefact, her archaeological background is about to become unexpectedly relevant.


Seven Kinds of Hell isn't a groundbreaking urban fantasy, but it's a pleasant and enjoyable read.  The writing never ascends into lyricism, but it's solid and occasionally sophisticated, and very effective at sucking the reader into the narrative. Zoe is a sympathetic, likeable narrator, and I especially enjoyed the ways in which she brought her knowledge of archaeology into her perspective on the world.  My favourite parts of the book were definitely these historical aspects.  Cameron has a gift for inserting sly little comments and entertaining tidbits about ancient cultures without breaking the narrative flow.  One of my favourites was a description of ancient Greek animal sacrifice: apparently, it was decided that only the bones, hides, and smoke of a sacrifice belonged to the gods, which conveniently left the succulent meat for the hungry worshippers. 


The mythology of the world is also tied into the archaeological aspects.  As might be guessed by the genre and series name, vampires and werewolves factor heavily into the mythos, but their origins and appearances are somewhat different than the standard tales.  Some of the supernatural entities that Zoe encounters supposedly "aren't capable of true evil."  As one explains,

"Some call us 'Pandora's Orphans,' the hope that was left in the bottom of the box when the evil was let out.  Whatever story you believe, we're the good guys."

These "good guys" are basically vigilantes, brutally murdering anyone they deem to be evil, but they solve this little contradiction by specifying a rather peculiar definition of "evil":

"We can't confuse political manoeuvring with real evil. [X] can be willful or wrong about many things. We can disagree, we can do stupid things...we don't thrive on the unhappiness of others, we don't murder or torture for pleasure, which is how I define evil."

In my opinion, this is a rather inane definition: every wicked man has a justification for his actions, good intentions are all too easily corrupted, and the worst evils come from those who convince themselves they are doing good.  While Cameron does touch on this issue, I consider the initial premise so farcical that I was irritated rather than mollified by the simplistic debates.  Requiring an entire species to be inherently good also necessitates removing its free will, but that never seems to occur to anyone within the narrative.


The basic plot is a race against time to find an ancient artefact before the rival gangs of bad guys get hold of it, plus a bit of the save-the-hostage game.  Through her struggles to save her friends, Zoe is also forced to come to terms with herself.  I'm reasonably fond of Indiana Jones/ Tomb-Raider type plots, and, true to the subgenre, Cameron manages to insert quite a bit of absurdist humour.  One of my favourite quotes:

"I fell asleep to a German werewolf in a Speedo joyfully singing 'Midnight Train to Georgia' as he steered us over the choppy waves of the Aegean."

While I enjoyed quite a bit of it, the plot quickly devolves into an unintentional Wodehousian farce. Almost all of the action hinges upon a vast concatenation of improbable coincidences, many of which require utterly unnatural actions from a whole set of characters as well as an impressive bit of stupidity on the part of the protagonist.  In fact, Zoe is so far past TSTL that I think I'm in need of a new term.*


Every plot can be broken down into a set of tropes, and unfortunately, Seven Kinds of Hell used a few of which I'm less than fond.  I'm never big on the "I have your friend"-type situations, because it requires the protagonist to be both incredibly credulous and impressively callous, willing to sacrifice the many for the sake of the one. I can usually tolerate a Hostage-for-McGuffin ploy once in a while, especially if the underlying philosophical conflict is explored, but Cameron actually uses the trope multiple times in one book, mainly as a lazy plot device.  Sadly, the story also requires a Chosen One alert, a Friend-or-Idol Decision warning (although Zoe, remaining in character, never bothers with the thinking part), a Dismantled McGuffin notice, and, of course, a truly impressive amount of Contrived Coincidence, to the point where the characters begin wondering if it is all due to Fate. Last, this book definitely isn't intended as a standalone: in fact, much of the plot is left unresolved, a perfect setup for a sequel.

How did this plot fail me?  Let me count the ways.  First of all, Zoe is impressively careless: she leads the killers to Danny and Sean's doors. She carries around the figurines  around with her so that they can be easily seized by anyone she encounters, and even after her stupidity becomes clear the first time they are seized from her, she just keeps doing it.  No shocker when they're seized again.  Then there's the sim card idiocy.  Zoe carries around a phone given to her by Dmitri, and yet seems surprised whenever he manages to catch her.These days, everyone and their mother should know that you can be traced by your sim card.  (To be fair, Dmitri seemed equally lacking in general tech savviness.) In fact, all of the spy moments in the story were laughably gawdawful.  One of my favourites was her introduction to the oh-so-mysterious Adam:

"Adam Nichols. I'm a government official."

...Could she not even think up a title or position?  After that little introduction, they are immediately on firstname terms, which is even more silly.  Then there's the stupid translation thing: given that she immediately goes on the web after hearing it, why didn't she put the phrase into Google Translate? (I did.) The only reason is to add an added wrinkle to the plot, but I hate plot-driven stupidity even more than the standard kind.  Then there are the obvious twists: I guessed Sean's state right after it happened.  How could Zoe, his close friend, not pick up on it? Oh, yes. Plot-driven stupidity.  Sean's death was also problematic.  Zoe and Will grieve a little, have mad passionate sex, and appear to go on with their lives.  No mention is made of what happens with Sean's family, and there's no concept of extended grief.  The whole incident was superficial and stupid, and highlighted Zoe's idiocy for repeatedly bowing to these blackmailers.  While I can kind of get the keeping-the-loved-one-a-prisoner motivation, I expect to get at least a little angsting over it, because it requires the protagonist to sacrifice the good of the many to save the few she cares about.  Zoe is so egocentric that she never really even thinks about it. 


The whole Pandora motivation was rather weak: at first, it's blackmail over Danny, but Dmitri is so incompetent that they would do better just to go after him with the full force of the Fangborn.  Then, everything suddenly becomes apocalyptic and it's a quest to stop Knight, despite the fact that Zoe has the Beacon and Knight wouldn't be able to do anything without her.  Why on earth have the only person who could activate the thing go on the hunt for it if you don't want it to be found? I've never gotten the rationale for the "we must find it first" type plots when the protagonists are the only ones who have the requisite skills to find it at all.  Then Zoe again capitulates to blackmail, even though she could have arranged things to rescue Sean, and even though she knows that giving in is a mistake of apocalyptic proportions.  Still playing off the "I need to get to it first" motivation, which is just as stupid now as it was in the beginning, she finds the thing and puts it together with a whole host of baddies coming down on her.  Why not just wait?  Given that the Fangborn consider themselves (literally) God's gift to humanity, why didn't they try to reason with Knight and put pressure on him?  And how on earth could he be the first corrupt Fangborn in all these millenia? 


Then there are the coincidences; everything from Will managing to join TRG--and I have real logistical issues with the whole TRG setup-- to his running into her to Zoe stumbling in on the "guarded" Beacon. The whole thing depends so heavily on coincidence that even the characters appear uncomfortable with it:

"Is it possible that the figurines have been acting on my Fangborn powers and sort of, I don't know, guiding me to bring them all together?"

I really, really hate that sort of lazy plotting.  The whole plot was so frustratingly idiotic that it seriously decreased my enjoyment in the book.

(spoiler show)


At the same time, I really appreciate how Cameron manages to avoid some of the most irritatingly ubiquitous tropes in urban fantasy.  First, Zoe is far from isolated: although she starts out as a loner, she quickly develops a large coterie of friends and acquaintances.  Second, the romance aspect is kept relatively low-key, and the love triangle is close to nonexistent--at least in this book.  While I didn't find Zoe's main love interest to have much of a personality and thought he came across as a bit of a controlling asshole, he definitely isn't an alpha male--another big plus from my perspective.  Despite her other forms of idiocy, Zoe is able to keep her mind on her problems rather than her passions, something I really appreciate. Last, for all the many plotholes and coincidences, the book kept me reading. Overall, if you're looking for a lighthearted urban fantasy jaunt with a different slant on the standard supernatural creatures, Seven Kinds of Hell is worth a look.


~~I received this ebook through NetGalley from the publisher, 47North, in exchange for my honest review.~~



*I was irritated enough while reading to propose TFSTFD in my kindle notes.

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