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review 2017-05-22 19:18
"Kitty Saves The World - Kitty Norville #14 - last in the series
Kitty Saves the World - Carrie Vaughn

"Kitty Saves The World", the last Kitty Norville book, reflects my experience of the series as a whole, strong on good guys, albeit sometimes flawed and haunted good guys, but weak on really evil villains who are a terrifying threat to the world.

 

Still, if you enjoyed the first thirteen books, the lack of palpable evil will neither surprise nor disappoint you.

 

The book read like a fond farewell, bringing back some of my favourite characters, having Kitty give another great performance on "The Midnight Hour", showing Kitty and Ben as a strong and loving couple and finally resolving the conflict with Roman so that Kitty can indeed, save the world.

 

I liked Kitty in this book. She continued to be strong and brave and witty, even when deeply afraid, but she was also willing to lead and to accept her right to take the help offered by her friends.

 

The resolution with Roman was clever, original and plausible, within the context of the series. It was drama rather than melodrama. I enjoyed it partly because it felt like something that Carrie Vaughn had been carefully leading up to for some time, rather than a "how am I gonna end this so I don't have to write any more of them?" ending.

 

It seems to me that Carrie Vaughn has never quite known what to do with the pack that Kitty and Ben lead. She had one book, after Kitty took over, where the pack dynamics were important but mostly, Kitty's pack have been passive elements in the story. Sadly, this remained true for the final book, although there was a good explanation for it.

 

I ended the book and the series very glad to have spent time with Kitty and watched her grow from a frightened victim of terrible abuse into a strong and compassionate leader who inspired loyalty and created hope.

 

I think the final book honored Kitty and her readers by staying true to the spirit of the series and by bringing many story arcs to satisfying conclusions without closing everything off so neatly that it became too "happily ever after".

 

I'm sure the Kitty books are over but I have a suspicion that Carrie Vaughn isn't quite done with Cormac yet. Which is a very fine way to end a series.

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review 2017-05-15 16:37
"Cold Reign - Jane Yellowrock #11" by Faith Hunter.
Cold Reign - Faith Hunter

"Cold Reign" was a fun read that brought the series back to form.

Finally, the evil European Vampires have arrived. We've been waiting for them for what feels like forever. Their arrival picks up the pace, challenges existing relationships, reveals long-planned treachery, and unleashes lots and lot of violence.

I enjoyed seeing Jane moving with more freedom now that she no longer has to hide her true nature. I was glad to see Beast playing a significant part in the action. I always enjoy seeing the world from her unique point of view.

The story made sense (at least in part - there's more to come) of the various additions to Jane's household, the alliances that she's made and the magical objects she's acquired. It's clear that she's going to have to draw on all of them to survive the arrival of the European Vampires.

Jane's powers continue to evolve in useful ways and she, perhaps more importantly, she continues to grow and to make better connections with the people around her and the "family" or clan she has built for herself.

"Cold Reign" casts-off two problems that I'd been having with earlier books: Jane was losing her humanity and she was spending her time protecting some not very nice vampires. In this book, Jane leaves her humanity behind and accepts that she has become something else. Something that she relishes and that those she cares about accept and value. Protecting the vampires is put in a more positive light now that the "take over the world and kill them all" European vampires  have arrived. They are a threat worth fighting against.

This book is about as good as it gets in the Jane Yellowrock universe: vivid battle action with blades, bullets, stakes, fangs, claws and lots and lots of blood, snarky humour, byzantine plot, new players and new magics and, at the heart of it all, a set of people worth protecting.

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review 2017-04-16 21:31
"Blood Bound - Mercy Thompson #2" by Patricia Briggs
Blood Bound - Patricia Briggs

Mercy Thompson is becoming on of my favourite Urban Fantasy series, partly because Mercy herself is exceptionally likeable without being in the least bit saccharin and partly because the books can be read as entertaining adventure or as an extending insight into the complexity of dealing with abusive power from a position of weakness without becoming abusive yourself.

 

"Blood Bound" is the second Mercy Thompson book and follows straight on from "Moon Called".

 

This time I read the ebook version as, for some obscure copyright reason, audible won't sell me the audiobook version in Switzerland. To my surprise, I enjoyed getting back to text, which gave me more control over how I read and engaged my imagination less passively.

 

In "Blood Bound", Mercy becomes more deeply involved with the local vampires and werewolves as they join forces to hunt down something truly evil that is preying on people in the area.

 

The plot is satisfyingly complex and generates lots of intriguing and original world-building material. The dialogue always work and there is enough humour to lift me out of the dark and keep me hopeful.

 

Those things would already make this an above average Urban Fantasy but what I enjoyed most was being in Mercy Thompson's company and seeing her reaction to the, often violent and abusive, power structures she encounters amongst the vampires and the wolves.

 

What is it that makes Mercy good company? Well, she's compassionate, generous and brave. She's a motor mechanic with a degree in history and has the hardened hands and extended vocabulary to match.  Most of all, she accepts that she is responsible for her own choices. She makes no excuses for herself. She lives with the consequences and takes for granted that, if your choices make you who you are, then who you are should determined your choices. She is capable of great loyalty and yet strongly values her independence.

 

In this book, Mercy continues to navigate her way through the archaically male-dominated wolf pack power structure, which is based on dominance and submission, with a constant, involuntary, edge of violence, which the female werewolves often get the worst of. Mercy grew up with werewolves and deeply understand this structure. She has no expectation that it will change. She chooses not give herself up to these mores. She choose to prioritise personal power and responsibility over positional power and pack rules.but rather manipulates them whenever she can, to make things closer to how she thinks they should be.

 

The only place where she remains unclear on what to do is when she puzzles over whether giving in to a latent desire for sexual submission would be a surrender of independence.

 

Mercy also get more involved with the vampires, this time getting to meet with some of the people in their "menageries". These are human members of the vampire household who are bound to them by blood and who serve as a kind of living larder.

 

I thought one of the most powerful sections in "Blood Bound" was when Mercy meets the people in Stephan's menagerie, Mercy likes Stephan but she is not blind to his predatory nature. When she visits his household, I was impressed by her ability to see beyond the "human cattle" tag and see individual people making choices. Stephan, like all vampires, lives off his people but the choices he has made and the choices that the people in his menagerie make, go a long towards turning horrible abuse into a voluntary power exchange.

 

I'm hooked now. I've prescribed myself a diet of one Mercy Thompson book a month for the rest of this year.

 

 

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review 2017-04-01 23:53
"Low Midnight - Kitty Norville #13" by Carrie Vaughn - Cormac gets his own book
Low Midnight (Kitty Norville Book 13) - Carrie Vaughn

"Low Midnight" is the first book in the Kitty Norville series that ISN'T about Kitty. We see everything in this book through Cormac Bennet's eyes.

 

It was this fresh vision that I enjoyed most- The plot is slight but fun; a fairy-tale quest in order to win access to information about Roman and a shoot-out with characters from Cormac's past.¨

 

The story is unfolds with skill, keeping a nice balance between action and mystery.

"Low Midnight"is a pleasant read rather than a compelling one but it's a must for the fans.

 

Two things made the book for me: getting to see Kitty as Cormac sees her rather than how she sees herself and finally getting an insight into how Cormac deals with the having the consciousness of Amelia, a wizard executed for a murder she didn't commit, living inside him.

 

There are only a few scenes with Kitty in the book but they are what energises Cormac on his quest. Kitty has changed Cormac's world. First she talked him out of killing her, making him question his belief that all werewolves needed to be put down, then she folded him into the circle she thinks of as family, refusing to let him retreat back entirely into his silent-loner lifestyle.

 

When Cormac looks at Kitty he sees boundless energy, unconscious power and influence and inexhaustible altruism. She makes him want to be a better man. Despite her strength, she makes him want to protect her. Cormac brought Kitty into focus in a way that explains the impact she has on other people more clearly than Kitty has ever been able to explain it to herself.

 

Cormac has played a strange role in the past few Kitty books. Suddenly this silent hunter of werewolves and vampires has stopped hunting and started protecting and he's been using magic to do it.

 

I understood the explanation of how this came about - Cormac agreed to host the disembodied consciousness of Amelia, a dead  Edwardian English gentlewoman with magically abilities. In return, Amelia kept Cormac from harm in prison - but I had trouble understanding what it meant. Cormac didn't talk about it and Kitty couldn't decide whether Amelia was ally or parasite or friend or something entirely new unique.

 

in "Low Midnight" Carrie Vaughn does a great job of breathing life into both Cormac and Amelia. I was fascinated by their relationship. I loved the idea that they would meet "face to face" in the memory of meadow from Cormac's past, when Cormac went to sleep. The characters are so compelling that I could easily imagine a spin-off Cormac and Amelia series.

 

"Low Midnight" moves the "Long Game" story arc forward by gaining new information on Roman that should help Kitty.

 

 

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review 2017-03-21 09:36
“Breeds” by Keith C Blackmore
Breeds - Keith C. Blackmore

The main thing I enjoyed about “Breeds” is Keith Blackmore’s muscular writing style. He gets you up close and personal to the action. You feel fully present even when things get bloody, which they often do. Yet there’s nothing gratuitous or exploitative here. There’s just a situation that has consequences and things that have to get done.

 

The situation is set up to be tense and tightly focused. An old, disillusioned werewolf, living on a remote Newfoundland island, goes rogue and starts to draw attention to himself. He knows this will bring the wrath of the werewolf Wardens on him and prepares a surprise for them that threatens everyone on the island.

 

The story is told from multiple points of view: the rogue werewolf, one of the wardens sent to put him down, an islander caught up in the action and even the unwilling participants in the rogue’s surprise.

 

The story takes place mostly within a single day and night in the midst of fierce snowstorm. Blackmore summons up the sense of isolation and vulnerability of the inhabitants of the Newfoundland island and uses it to raise tension without making the islanders seem weak or stupid.

 

Although there is action on almost every page and a blockbuster/video game scale body-count, Blackmore manages to generate some empathy for everybody involved from rogue, through warden, through predators and prey. I found myself being swept along by the powerful narrative thrust of the tale and enjoying myself much more than I thought I would.

 

This is great entertainment for blowing cobwebs away. I’ve already ordered the next book in the series, even though it’s called “Breeds 2” – I wonder how long it took to arrive at that title?

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