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review 2017-12-16 18:27
#Audiobook Review: Mercy Blade by Faith Hunter
Mercy Blade: Jane Yellowrock, Book 3 - Audible Studios,Faith Hunter,Khristine Hvam

Mercy Blade opens a month after the conclusion of Blood Cross. Jane and Rick are back at her mountain home, packing up her belongings so she can move to New Orleans to take on the job offered by the Vampire Council when the world finds out that Weres (shifters) are real. Meanwhile, Leo has been accused of murder by the U.S. werewolves and Jane has a mystery to solve.

 

So here’s the thing… I really, really enjoy the parts of the Jane Yellowrock books that revolve around the book-specific mystery, and this is especially true with Mercy Blade. I became immersed in the detective work surrounding the death of the mysterious panther-were. Following Jane’s thought process and the police procedures as Jane tries to put together all the pieces is fascinating. I love how she finds little threads and pulls until she unravels the truth. However, I have issues with almost everything else.

 

First, I feel the world building is a bit forced. We are three books into the series and no mention of the weres or the Mercy Blade before now? Maybe it was meant to be, but then, the fact that EVERYONE keeps Jane in the dark so completely is irritating and annoying. She’s supposed to be in charge of security, and I agree with her that both Leo and the police should have informed her of what is happening in NOLA. I was okay with this in the first couple books, but by now, having Jane know nothing when she starts the book and has to pull teeth for information is old.

 

Next, Jane nearly dies too often in every book. She gets mauled, shot at, and destroyed multiple times now in each book. This is old. I know she works in a dangerous profession, but can’t she just get nicked from time to time, rather than knocking on death’s door?

 

Finally, I am not a fan of Jane’s “love life.” While I don’t need romance in my urban fantasy stories, if it’s going to be included, I don’t want this… I’m too much of a romantic to follow Jane’s mish-mash of emotions and sexual cravings. I don’t like when Beast controls her - pushing her to mate with someone other than her boyfriend. I don’t like cheating. I can embrace multiple partners, but it needs to be consensual and in the open, and I feel like what happens in this book was neither. I’m greatly simplifying what is going on in Mercy Blade, but needless to say, I have issues with it.

 

On the bright side, Khristine Hvam continues to provide excellent narration. And while I was annoyed with some of her accents and male voices in the beginning of the series, I find she’s settled down and firmed up many of the voices.

 

So in the end, while so much of Jane’s story calls to me, I find myself overly irritated and frustrated far too often. Mercy Blade has some fabulous moments, but unfortunately, they are overshadowed by messy and irksome complications. 

 

My Rating: C/C-

Narration: B+

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review 2017-12-13 23:51
Flame in the Dark (Soulwood #3) by Faith Hunter
Flame in the Dark (A Soulwood Novel) - Faith Hunter

Nell continues to work with PsyLED, the supernatural crime fighting organisation. And more and more she is drifting away from her insular church routes, leaving behind its thinking and training. Her magic is also growing as her insight and power is becoming more and more of an asset to PsyLED

 

But when they become embroiled in a supernatural murder case that involves a United States Senator, Nell may have to draw on her power more deeply than ever before: with the risk she may lose all of the new freedom and experiences she has discovered


I do like more of Nell’s self-growth and awareness this book; her acknowledgement and clear labelling of her experiences as abuse and how that has changed her. How this affects her views of current relationships, how it has scarred her and how it colours her interactions in real life.

 

I also like how she’s even applying this to the “saviour narrative” that she learned and is more and more challenging. Like she acknowledges her family tried to save her from abuse and that marrying John saved her from a far worse fate. But she equally can see how her relationship with John was abusive and twisted her own experiences and expectations of relationships. Just as she loves her family and knows they tried to help her, equally she has little faith in them keeping her little sister safe against the church. Her whole complicated relationship with her family is fascinating- her love and faith in her family tempered with her deep, wary awareness of what they’re part of. And even the family recognises that - the confines they live in that they can’t seem to break: they rely on Nell with her outsider ways to do things they will

 

Then there’s the love triangle - and for once a love triangle I actually like: because of what it recognises for Nell. The conflict of old versus new, safety and familiarity over what could be and, ultimately, who Nell is and who she has become

 

Equally I love how Nell is both fiercely confronting anyone else who would treat her in a patronising or sexist manner, and challenging her own church instilled attitudes while also realising that not everything that’s happening around her fits in that lens: especially with the wereanimals and other supernaturals.

 

Nell is the gem of this story: her growth her, experiences, her interactions with the others really makes this series. And on top of that we have her unique supernatural nature, how her powers control and lure her, the dangers of them, the alienness all add up to something quite unique.



On top of this we have an excellent world setting with some intriguing supernaturals that do not occur in many other places - but at the same time the plurality and breadth of the world doesn’t impose on the story. The focus is far more on the current unknown than the hugeness all around and it is an excellent setting to have a the police investigation, with a lot of grunt work, following evidence, dead ends, red herrings, more grunt work and general, despite all the woo-woo, a very realistic look at an actual investigation

 

On top of this I like that Nell actually lives in between her investigation. She is concerned with food, she cooks, he has family commitments, she gets stuck in traffic, she commutes. She sleeps.

 

Which also brings in the supernatural and the complexities that came from this revelation, including conflict within Psyled and the difficult questions about what to do with dangerous and potentially hostile supernaturals: can you even judge an entire species? I like this, I like it a lot. But… yes, there are moments when I stopped and thought “hey, wait, what just happened? Who is this? Why? What?”. Sometimes I did get lost in the cast of characters.

 

We do have some diversity as well - in addition to Nell’s battle against partriarchal norms, she has a number of women around her: 3 members of Psyled are women, including the second in command of the unit, JoJo, a Black woman (who is, interestingly, the only member of of the group who isn’t a supernatural. Her usefulness to the group isn’t special powers - but intelligence and accomplishment and education. This is particular noteworthy because her value is one that is literally based on her own achievement rather than the special magical woo-woo she happened to luck into and it’s a wonderful subversion of the POC-as-source-of-woo-woo trope), the ultimate head of Psyled Soul, a witch and Nell herself. We have a female Asian vampire who doesn’t play a major role but is definitely an influential force because of what she represents

 

 

 

Read More

 

 

Source: www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2017/11/flame-in-dark-soulwood-3-by-faith-hunter.html
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review 2017-12-13 16:14
"Flame In The Dark - Soulwood #3" by Faith Hunter
Flame in the Dark (A Soulwood Novel) - Faith Hunter

The Soulwood series is probably the most original Urban Fantasy series that I've come across.

 

It shares the same world as Jane Yellowrock and was introduced through a Jane Yellowrock short story but, over the course of the first three books, it has established a strong, independent identity.

 

Nell Ingrams, the main character in the books, is not human, at least not anymore. Fighting for her freedom from the polygamous church she was born into and from men who wanted to seize the land she inherited when she became a young widow woman, has caused her to draw upon her connection to Soulwood, her land, in ways that have made her less and less human.

 

She is a now a probationary Special Agent in the part of the FBI set up to deal with parahuman cases. The cases themselves are fascinating but the power of the books comes from Nell's development as a person, living in a world where she has to make hard choices that will define who she will become.

 

"Flame In The Dark" sees Nell and the other members of Unit 18, faced with a series of attacks that may be political or parahuman or both but which always include fires at the scene of the attacks and are committed by an attacker who scorches and kills the land he steps on.

 

Discovering what this is about and trying to bring the bad guys down provides an entertaining, action-packed mystery that is the source of about half the pleasure I got from this book. I didn't guess where the mystery was going but I did believe the outcome. This is the hallmark of a good mystery for me.

 

The rest of the pleasure I got from the book was watching Nell grow and change in unique and unpredictable ways while still remaining recognisable as the Nell I met in the first book. In this book, Nell confronts the fact that she is not human and works through what this means. She starts to build closer links to the people in Unit 18 and becomes more confident in her work. She also makes some decisions about the relationship that she will have with her family, especially her younger sister who is the same kind of non-human as Nell, and with the Church she left but cannot fully leave behind. As the book progresses, Nell's non-human nature becomes more apparent, yet her appeal as a person gets stronger.

 

I think Faith Hunter has struck gold with this series. I hope she gives us many more opportunities to follow Nell's path through life.

 

I recommend listening to the audiobook version of "A Flame In The Dark" which is skillfully narrated by Khristine Hvam.

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review 2017-12-11 15:13
#Audiobook Review: Blood Cross by Faith Hunter
Blood Cross: Jane Yellowrock, Book 2 - Audible Studios,Faith Hunter,Khristine Hvam

Beginning shortly after the conclusion of Skinwalker, Jane finds herself working for the Vampire Council of New Orleans (NOLA), trying to track down a rogue-making vampire. Her best friend, Molly, and her two children are staying with Jane, and she’s got the head of the NOLA vampires, Leo, after her for killing the creature he believed to be his beloved son. Things are dangerous and crazy, and I wouldn’t want it any other way!

 

Starting Blood Cross, I was unsure how I felt about the Jane Yellowrock series. Mostly I liked the first book, but something about it still didn’t click with me, or rubbed at me. However, after finishing the story, I was eager to begin book three. I think part of the issue is that the world is huge and even in this second book, the author continues to add and build upon both the mythology and the political structure of the vampires. There are times I was lost trying to follow the detailed history of the vampires or had trouble recalling the political alignment of each character and clan. The world is detailed and full, making it both exciting and enjoyable, but also a lot to take in.

 

Once again, I enjoyed the base story of the adventure. Jane is solving a mystery, one that has been covered up for a while, and I enjoy watching her put the pieces together, not necessarily caring if she upsets the apple cart in the process. She pulls apart the status quo and gives readers the inside scoop as she discovers the truth behind the vampire myths and legends. The action-packed storyline is interesting, albeit a bit gruesome. I did take issue with the number of times Jane nearly dies - she’s been at this for years and now she makes mistakes that nearly cause her death several times in a short period. It felt repetitive and unnecessary after the first time.

 

The author seems to narrow down amount of side characters central to the story. I was disappointed that Katie is still MIA, with little explanation of how long her recovery will take. I did enjoy the complexity of Leo and seeing the different parts of his true nature. Beast was also featured a bit less, as was Jane’s heritage, although we do get some of both. 

 

One thing that annoyed me at first was the issue of Jane’s sex life. Granted I’m a romance junkie, and Jane’s story has nothing to do with love and everything to do with scratching an itch; satisfying Beast’s need to mate. But the oscillation between Rick and Bruiser is a game and I found it annoying. Also, the constant pull of Beast to mate clouded the first half of the story. I’m not one for triangles, so I was eventually pleased with Jane’s thought process and the outcome by the end of the book.

 

As far as narration, I don’t have much to add that I didn’t say in my review of Skinwalker. Ms. Hvam nails Jane’s tough attitude as well as her surprisingly tender moments with Molly’s kids. Since I am now familiar with her work and the characters this second time around, I didn’t notice as much of an annoyance with her accents. Her projection of each character is solidifying in my head. 

 

Overall, while I started off unsure about the series, I found myself fully invested in Jane’s journey by the conclusion of Blood Cross, and I look forward to seeing what adventures lie ahead.

 

My Rating: B/B-

Narration: B

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review 2017-11-23 02:21
A jaw-dropper of a winner with Nell and the PsyLED team.
Flame in the Dark (A Soulwood Novel) - Faith Hunter

This was posted as part of a Book Tour Stop that included a Q&A with Faith Hunter -- drop by and check it out!

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Rookie Agent Nell Ingram and her PsyLED team start this novel in a multi-agency investigation into an attack on a political fundraiser -- with a focus on one family in particular. There's no obvious paranormal aspect to the attack, so PsyLED isn't in the lead, but there's enough to keep them hanging around the investigation. If for no other reason than the local vampires are interested in what's going on. Soon, other attacks occur, making it even clearer that one family is the target. As the team starts to investigate that family, more questions are raised and secrets are revealed. But it's a long while before the secrets and questions lead to anything useful for preventing further loss of life.

 

The presence of the vampires is a nice bonus -- they were present a little in Blood of the Earth, but not really in Curse on the Land. Nell's still struggling to make up for a faux pas in her initial exposure to the vampires -- and a couple of them seem to be enjoying her discomfort. I enjoy seeing Hunter's particular brand of vampires running around without Jane and her stakes, as long as she doesn't return to this particular well too much in this series, the Vamps' presence will be a plus.

 

The PsyLED case itself is a little on the tepid side -- it's far easier for readers to figure out what's going on than it is for the characters, and that always hurts the stories somewhat. But -- wow. What's actually going on when the team finally puts all the pieces together? Wow -- just wow. It makes putting up with their earlier slowness utterly worth it (also, the reader won't be as correct as they thought they were for a long time). Basically, if you find yourself getting annoyed with this story, your patience will be rewarded. Probably more than rewarded.

 

Speaking of patience, Nell needs to exercise a good deal of it with her family, who are still struggling with understanding just what's going on with her (and they don't know it all!) and her move for independence from the cult she's left. It's clearly, and understandably, difficult to continue to distance herself from the ways and practices she was raised in, while trying to strengthen the ties with the family members still in the church. Meanwhile, the church does seem to be trying to change their practice -- moving to orthopraxy, without much of a move towards orthodoxy. That kind of thing isn't really going to work in the long run -- but then again, Hunter's not writing a realistic account of a movement in a religious group -- so it's not anything to get worked up over. Anyway, Nell puts her foot down on a couple of fronts and draws on some of what she's learned in working with others, to be able handle her family in a way that hopefully gets through to them. She's also making some smart moves regarding her sister, Mud/Mindy, who seems to share a lot of abilities and inclinations with Nell. I can't wait to see what Hunter's got up her sleeve with this.

 

While this is really Nell's book (and series), there's a great ensemble of characters here. Particularly in the PsyLED team. I'd have preferred a better use of the team, and for the second book in a row, I wondered why Hunter didn't use some of the characters as well as she did in the first book. Maybe this is just me asking for more for Tandy to do.

 

There's some satisfying development on the Brother Ephriam/foreign entity in Soulwood front (that'll make sense to readers of the series), and regarding the "Vampire Tree." Which just might be the creepiest floral entity I've ever read about -- and it's creepier than a lot of fauna, too. I'm particularly glad about the Brother Ephriam development, I was afraid that things were going to go on too long with that without any real shift in the status quo.

 

There's also a stronger look at Nell's romantic life here -- her taking the first steps in exploring a real romantic relationship (in contrast to that marriage she was in), and maybe even getting her first "Improperly Proper Kiss." There's just enough romance story allow the reader to see her grow in this way (in addition to all the others she's growing in), just one more step towards her fulfillment -- but not so much that it's the novel's focus.

 

One of the pluses (and minuses) about this series all along has been how hard it is to simply say what Nell Ingram is. With most UF you can summarize things briefly: She can see dead people, he's a wizard PI, she's a skinwalker vampire hunter, he's the world's oldest living druid, she's a changeling PI, she's a ridiculously named werewolf who has a radio talk show, and so on . . . Nell's a, um. Well. There's magic, and powers over growing things, but no real spells, per se. See what I mean? This is a pain when trying to describe it to others, or even in knowing what to expect from her stories. And Hunter takes full advantage of this, she'll have Nell do whatever at any point in time, and as long as it sort of relates to what she started off doing in Book 1, you buy it. By the same token, I can imagine that might be too much of a blank slate for Hunter -- there are no well-established strengths/weaknesses/tropes to play with. There are things that Nell does here that just blows me away -- and that has a lot to do with Hunter creating this magic creature/race on her own.

 

When I say that Hunter takes full advantage of this -- I should say I thought she had been for the past two books -- she really lets loose with it this time.

 

Let me try to sum up this rambling post: this is a slow burn of a novel -- it puts down roots and grows like Nell's plants, and eventually blossoms into something that's great to look at. Be patient with it, watch the growth, and you'll be rewarded. Because when things get going -- they really get going, and it's almost too much to take in. I vacillated a lot about what to rate this -- I argued myself into 4-Stars and then into 5 and back into 4 and so on a few times. but because I really don't place too much weight on the stars, really, I just stopped and split the difference. For those who've been around for the previous two books this is a must read -- if this was going to be the last in the series, it'd be a decent way to leave (thankfully, Soulwood isn't a trilogy); for Yellowrock fans who haven't tried this series yet, you'll appreciate it; and if you've never tried either -- take a dip into this world, but I'll warn you: you'll end up reading all the others.

 

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for this post -- thanks to both for this. Thanks also to Let’s Talk! Promotions for the opportunity to take part in this book tour. My opinions about the book remain my own.

 

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2017/11/22/flame-in-the-dark-by-faith-hunter
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