Fangs for the Fantasy

Fangs for the Fantasy is run by Renee from Womanist Musings, and Sparky who love all things Urban Fantasy. While we do love Urban Fantasy, we're also social justice bloggers and we try to be aware – and look at the genre from a social justice lens. Whether we love a series or hate it, we look at it through this lens – and critique it in part based on its treatment of marginalised people and issues affecting them. It doesn't mean we don't love the genre – but even the books and programmes we adore have problematic elements and we refuse to ignore that even while we enjoy them..

 

In addition to this blog we also have a weekly Podcast on Mondays

 

Full details can be found on our blog, Fangs for the Fantasy 

 

 

The Alchemist's Illusion (The Accidental Alchemist #3) by Gigi Pandian

The Accidental Alchemist - Gigi Pandian

Zoe Faust has lived for centuries as an alchemist, wandering the world to hide who she is. But since arriving in Portland and with her new housemate, Dorian the immortal living gargoyle, she’s starting to put down roots, make friends and even a family.

 

But one of the cornerstones of her wandering is that her old friend and mentor, the alchemist Nicholas Flamel, abandoned her. Now she learns he may have been imprisoned over the centuries - centuries waiting for her to rescue him. She has to act, even under the shadow of a suspicious death and through some very shady art dealing



This series probably epitomises “cozy mystery”. It’s not action packed. It’s not full of death defying feats and we don’t even have a huge amount of scary tension - albeit still with a few to maintain the stakes and not remove from the fact it is a murder mystery

 

That’s not because it’s boring - far from it - but because it’s story doesn’t rest on blood fizzing and massive drama even while we still have carefully maintained threads. It’s not a book that nails you to your seat, but it is a book you can coil up in your seat and relax

 

I really like how Zoe and co manage to be pulled into the murders of this series. A lot of the time with cozy mysteries it’s a little weird how we get these protagonists involved in the mystery - and why the police even tolerate their presence - or why they don’t mind their own business, especially when Zoe has such a big secret to keep - her immortality and, therefore, fraudulent identity.

 

But by linking the murders to Alchemy and, more importantly, giving the characters a mystery that is more relevant to them (the abduction of the famed Alchemist, Nicholas Flamel) we get a  lot more personalised motive to actually get involved in the mystery. At times it seems odd compared to the rest of the genre - because there’s a murder and Zoe & co all seem far more interested finding a painting which may lead them to Nicholas than they are about the dead man. It almost feels callous - until you remember just how ridiculous it is for the man in the street to decide to just muscle their way into a police investigation (especially lacking appropriate investigative skills despite Dorian’s enthusiasm). Instead they involve themselves where they should be and where they are the most invested and where they have the relevant skills

 

Zoe and Tobias struggle with protecting their secret identities and have a very good reason to avoid police scrutiny with them being decades or hundreds of years old and Tobias’s identity definitely frays around the edges. This book also follows on the previous two books of Zoe trying to put down roots, make friends and have an actual home. We saw this building over the last two books and this time it grows further - but Tobias is a walking warning as to how hard that can be, newly bereaved after the death of his wife, grieving but having to desperately do so in secret or at least hiding the identity of who his elderly wife was. Zoe herself is opening her life considerably - with old friends coming back, with Tobias present and with her secret being known by more people, Zoe’s life is changing a lot. But how much in her control and how much safely is still to be seen. Zoe is definitely launching into a very uncertain future.

 

 

I do like how the age of these characters factors in - we have Zoe’s suspicion, inability to necessarily connect with modern technology along with her many memories that interspace the story. We have Tobias and his history as an escaped slave and the scars he still lives with. Even subtle elements like Dorian not accepting the idea that a teenager is a child and shouldn’t be treated as an adult or assume the dangers as an adult. We also have some really interesting flashbacks which address alchemy, art - but also class and gender as well.

 

This all combines with some really beautiful writing about art (which I found fascinating despite my general disinterest in art) and a general artful pacing which managed to not be full of action and tension but is still compelling and interesting and fun to follow.

 

Tobias is a Black man as well as Zoe’s old friend and fellow Alchemist with different skills. What I like especially is not only is he a prominent Black character and a clear and valued friend of Zoe’s but he also doesn’t always follow her lead, will sometimes do his own thing and will often not feel the need to consult or otherwise work with Zoe when pursuing his own leads. We also have more expansion of Max’s role, Zoe’s boyfriend and an Asian man, including his very excellent mother and sister. What is less ideal is that these two women actually feel far more fleshed out than Max himself. I get that Max loves Zoe… I get that Zoe loves Max and I get that Max is moderate sceptical when it comes to the supernatural. But that’s kind of all I know about him and it feels like he’s still a blank slate. I feel more connected to the new female detective who teamed up with Zoe and was more than a little awesome.

 

There are no LGBTQ characters

 

This series continues to be fun. It’s an amusing read with great characters and a really original concept - from the sentient gargoyle to the very idea of basing the series on alchemy. Having a supernatural system with very little in the way of overt magic but a more subtle low key use of power - and on the third book we are opening up new directions of investigating, widening the series which I think is very necessary when a book series begins to develop. I look forward to see where this develops from here. I’m still following this series and enjoying it immensely

 

 

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Source: http://www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2018/10/the-alchemists-illusion-accidental.html

Dead Handsome (Buffalo Steampunk #1) by Laura Strickland

Dead Handsome: A Buffalo Steampunk Adventure - Laura Strickland

Clara has a gift - she can raise the dead. It’s not a talent she uses often - but when she needs a husband to keep her home and protect the children she keeps safe she can think of no other way to get a man quickly

 

Though he turns out to be far less pliable than she imagined.



Steampunk! Sign me up

 

Steampunk with magic! Sign me up twice! I do so love a paranormal steampunk.

 

This is a moderately low-key steampunk and magical setting though. The central premise is that Clara does have the power to raise the dead. And I can see you looking at me now and questioning how “low key magic” and “resurrection and necromancy” can actually co-exist - but this, so far, seems to be the sum total of the magic of this book. Clara doesn’t have an army of zombies in the basement, but she can raise the recently dead so long as they’re not too beat up. And she uses this ability, for the first time, on Liam - because she needs a man. But after that she doesn’t use it much nor does she have other magic to fall back on to help her in her hour of need. The battle instead rests far more on the limited resources they have at their disposal with a lot of that limited by the prejudices and injustices of the world and time they live in

 

Clara has turned her house into a haven for the dispossessed. Most of them are children- abused by parents or employers, poor, injured and disabled from industrial accidents and generally desperate in a time when there’s no support and no care for the weakest and most vulnerable in society - including child labourers and the extremely lethal factories that were so common in the Industrial revolution. We also have Georgina, a Black woman and a former slave who has also joined the household - who is clever, honest, tough and deeply valued by Clara. She also has a whole side storyline of her romance with Clara’s lawyer and the whole scandal of that atr the time

 

Liam himself is Irish and is considered both inherently criminal and utterly disposable by many of the wealthy and powerful characters in this book.

 

The central conflict of the book - trying to fulfil the legal requirements to keep the house feels a little… odd. I mean the terms her grandfather set is that she has to be married by the age of 21 or she is evicted. Granddad clearly wants this and will maliciously pursue kicking her out… but… why? I mean, why set the condition in the first place? Why even stick to these conditions? I want to see these legal papers that the grandfather has signed that legally compel him to give a house AND annual income to his granddaughter which he doesn’t have the power to just tear up and declare “nah”. And if he was so against his daughter’s husband and his granddaughter, why even give them anything at all? If it’s social status and a fear of being seen kicking his family out onto the street, why doesn’t he fear this still? I mean, in these sexist times, a wealthy patriarchy kicking his unmarried 21 year old granddaughter into the street doesn’t exactly look good either.

 

Still running with it isn’t hard and it’s still fun if you don’t dwell on that which isn’t hard as it isn’t overly that central. The internal logic of the McGuffin doesn’t matter so much as the journey

 

An element I just can’t get past is the examination of Clara’s morality. It’s very good that we have this moral hand wringing from Clara about whether she is a terrible person in how she decided to use Liam for her own well being. Treating him as a blank slate because she needed him to keep her home rather than viewing him as a person or considering whether he has any kind of history at all. I mean this is all extremely good debate and we see Clara repeatedly make some really difficult decisions as she considers the easiest path that would save them all but be morally reprehensible. There’s one thing she doesn’t consider

 

 

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Source: http://www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2018/10/dead-handsome-buffalo-steampunk-1-by.html

Lake Silence (The World of the Others #1) by Anne Bishop

Lake Silence - Anne Bishop

Vicky DeVine has just manages to escape a viciously abusive marriage and in the settlement she was granted ownership of the Jumble. A house and a collection of dilapidated cabins on the banks of Lake Silence. A beautiful location for a holiday - but she only owns the cabins. The terra indigene own the land and have set strict rules on how it can be used.

 

Vicky DeVine, building her new life is learning and adapting quickly to what that means.

 

But other people have seen her land and all the potential it has - and all the money they can make if they can just get Vicky out of the way… but you ignore the Others at your own peril



This book has a lot of parallels with original The Others series. And I’m torn. Because I do wonder if perhaps there are too many close parallels…?

 

The protagonist is Vicky Divine. She is a very vulnerable woman who is also inclined to breakdowns. She is threatened by a human force that want to use, abuse and threaten her but she makes connections with the Terra Indigene, the Others, who are willing to protect her. She is acting, in some ways, as a liaison between the Terra Indigene and humanity, her position as landlord of the Jumble, a Terra Indigene settlement/human holiday resort, brings her into close contact with the Others. She’s also being used by the Terra Indigene who want to learn about humanity and what it means to be human. Alongside we have some police desperately trying to stop some foolish humans from provoking the Others into violent retaliation

 

Which sounds a lot like The Meg… a vulnerable woman who is inclined to breakdowns who was threatened by humans that want to use, abuse and threaten her. She makes connections with the Terra indigene, living in a Terra Indigene settlement,as their liaison with humanity, helping humans coexist with the Others and allowing the Others to learn more about humanity. Along side there were police desperately trying to stop some foolish humans from provoking anti-human genocide (and… kind of failing)

 

The parallels are… really strong

 

But is that a problem? I mean, while there are issues, I love The Others series. I really love it. It’s one of my favourite series and Renee and I both looked forward eagerly for the next book of The Meg. This book having many very similar elements to a series I already loved feels like something I SHOULD consider negative but honestly I kind of love it. The Others series is over… it’s gone. But here it is, rising again and the series being very similar feels like a good thing to me.

 

I love this book. I love the old series. I love Vicky learning about the idiosyncrasies of the Others around her. I love them learning about her. I love the focus on Aggie Crowguard who is so much fun. I love Grimshaw trying to stop something happening that will provoke a lethal response from the Others in the lake and wild country.

 

There is less focus on the interaction between The Others - Ilya Sanguinati, the main force in the area is far more aware of humanity than Simon Wolfguard was - he’s a lawyer and he even tries to work within human law to fight against those encroaching on Vicky’s land and the wild country. It’s an excellent, exciting and really funny balance between “here is my injunction” and “the fire elemental will turn you to ash.” And it works, it really works. That balance is struck.

 

 

It’s also quite unique how it works - along with how The Others worked in that our protagonists’s allies are so powerful that I was reading away gleefully waiting for the bad guys to be killed and eaten. And that isn’t a spoiler, from the very beginning we know that’s an option. This series is never about “will the Terra Indigene win” so much as “how bad will the fallout be”? In some ways it’s why the police in these series are such fascinating characters - upholding the law, while also knowing that all that law will be irrelevant if the Terra Indigene decide they are Done. Dealing with humans who you are literally trying to stop from killing themselves with their own damn foolishness, always aware that another extinction level event could easily happen.

 

I think it was stronger in this book because we had far less of the confusion between Vicky and the terra Indigene, far less of them learning about humanity and Vicky learning about them than we had with Meg and Simon Wolfguard

 

I also like that the book acknowledges the previous events of the first series - how the culture of the Terra Indigene has changed from generally ignoring humanity to paying way more attention. And there suddenly being a lot more demand for Terra Indigene to understand humanity more. And there being radically changing culture in human settlements as so many people died or moved. Even the core - that humans who were used to ignoring the rules, rules the Terra Indigene probably didn’t care all that much about before and are now SHARPLY paying attention.

 

Another excellent commonality this book had with The Others series was how the protagonist is vulnerable and weak but not derided for that. Vicky is a woman who has left an extremely abusive relationship - emotionally abusive not physical. She has no self esteem, she hates herself, she’s very very nervous and she suffers from severe anxiety attacks. She can easily be broken or manipulated by angry, violent, shouting men and is easily intimidated. She also doesn’t feel like the most intelligent of women, being quite naive and even quite slow at times. But that isn’t used to present her as useless: she is capable of doing her job, she has friends who respect her and the fact she can’t handle conflict isn’t used to belittle her. I also like how her reaction to abuse is also mirrored in Julian Farrow, ex-cop, who has his own stress and anxiety from their terrible experiences. Grimshaw, Julian, Ilya Sanguinati and even good friend Ineke (who is awesome in her own right) are all protective of her without it feeling belittling. Ilya is actually concerned that his protection may be seen as disrespectful or implying she’s helpless.

 

I do think the antagonists in this book are… a little cartoonish. I can see why - when your “good guys” are monsters who are literally going to eat people over a property deal you have to make those property developers pretty damn terrible to stop the readers thinking “ok… is breaking planning laws really worthy of a terrible death?”. And I think the book does kind of gloss over things like the death of employees or police who are not directly responsible for the whole badness but are still brutally murdered. I think that them being terrible and murdered is more SATISFYING to read on an emotional level, but that the book could be more thoughtful - and darker - if we’d looked at these deaths more closely or saw the terra indigene hunt people that maybe we wouldn’t see as deserving of it. Like the teens who tresspass on the lake to swim and manage to escape with, at most, minor injury. It’s played off as a joke but that stops us examining “hey, some kids nearly got eaten for swimming…” element. The terra indigene are this big, terrifying threat but they’ve never FELT threatening to me because you have to be TERRIBAD AWFUL for them to murder you. The fact that the dead all so richly Had It Coming removed the horror from it

 

We do have several poc in the small town of Sproinging though there is little examination of this are we’re far more focused on human vs vampire/evil fish monster/avatar of the concept of fire. Still, only a very bit part music teacher sticks in my mind. We have no LGBTQ people (someone is running to the comments to mention the euphemistically referred to Simple Life men. Don’t).

 

 

 

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Source: http://www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2018/09/lake-silence-world-of-others-1-by-anne.html

Chaos Unleashed (Chaos Rises #2) by Pippa DaCosta

Chaos Unleashed - Pippa DaCosta

Gamma, half demon, raised in a lab by humans to hunt down and destroy demons, needs allies to rescue her brother

 

And there can be no greater ally than the Demon Prince of Pride. If you can trust a Demon Prince. And the irony of the Demon Hunter allying with the Demon Prince isn’t lost on her

 

Gem has a goal - but does she even know what she wants? Or who she can trust?



This book series has a fun world (and this book overtly links Pippa DaCosta’s two worlds)  with demon princes and an array of different demons: from various lesser demons that are animalistic through to a range of elementals. We have half demons, a demonically scarred real world reeling from a major demonic incursion and lots of magic, battles and exploration

 

It’s an excellent world. The parts of the world lost to demonic power and incursion, demons trying to find their place in the world of humanity or in these little demonic lands. And even the animalistic demons are interesting in their differences and how they are used

 

But we don’t explore all that much of them. Oh we use a fair bit of it to explore magic and powers and, like the previous book, there is an ongoing sense that there’s a whole lot more to this world than I get to see (I like the merging of the book series because it adds a lot more weight and context to this world building. Argh I like this world but give me more!) but I have to concede that isn’t the point of this book

 

This book is all about identity - who people are and what they want to be. Oh we have an excellent plot with great conflicts, some interesting relationships and loyalties and some really really really nifty fight and action scenes.

 

But identity is the core here. Obviously we have Gem herself, the demon, the weapon created by the Institute, the human… something more? She struggles back and forth between human feelings, demonic violence the weapon’s hatred of all things demonic. And this constantly makes her doubt who she is, what she wants and even what feelings are real

 

There’s her brother Delta, and what is he to her? Can she see him for what he is, what their relationship actually is - can she see past what she wants him to be?


Around her is Torrent, another half demon who has the same demon/human conflict but also his own battle over what he wants to be. How will he grow, which will he preserve - what actually matters to him the most. And can you decide to be something you’re actually not because you value this identity so much?

 

 

Then the Demon Prince of Pride - and the conflict over what he is. After all, he is supposed to be the most deceptive, manipulative being on the planet so you can you trust anything he says about what he wants, who he is etc? Can you even trust yourself around something this manipulative? 

 

 

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Source: http://www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2018/09/chaos-unleashed-chaos-rises-2-by-pippa.html

The Black God's Drums by P. Djèlí Clark

The Black God's Drums - P. Djeli Clark

Jacqueline is a teenager living on the streets of the Free City of New Orleans, scratching a living in the only free city and independent city in the Confederacy. She is helped by her constant companion - the Orisha Oya, lady of winds.

 

She doesn’t want to stay - she wants to see the world and Anne Marie, agent of Haiti and the Free Islands, may be the ticket out there on her airship.

 

But first they have a city to save…. As a Haitian scientist has been captured and with the secret of their most powerful weapon: the Black God’s Drums.

 

Oooooh, yes, yes this is me intrigued

 

This is an alternate world, a steampunk world - honestly I don’t even know why I’m calling it a steampunk world because i think there’s only one airship to give me that hint, but the whole sense of this is really evocative of steampunk. In fact the whole book has an incredibly powerful sense of of place and setting. It’s surprising because this is done with very neat language. Normally when I describe a book as evocative and with a strong sense of place it’s a very positive spin on “really overwritten” or “in need of an editor with a big pair of scissors”. But this isn’t overwritten - it’s short and the writing is wonderfully concise at giving this sense of the entire world with minimal info dumping despite a massive amount of information to impart

 

And this world is fascinating. We have the standards of steampunk with the airships et al. But we also have a mix of magic and religion with the yoruba gods and loa having direct effect on the world and clear other magic systems being powerful influence. The United States is divided, the civil war still ongoing for years albeit with a truce. New Orleans is a free city, fiercely independent with strong allies allowing it to be independent from the Confederacy despite forces trying to undermine that. The Caribbean is independent, the Free Islands, following Haiti’s revolt now aided by powerful technology and divine intervention

 

It’s a fascinating world setting to take a steampunk setting and then outright addressing and combating the themes of colonialism which are almost inherent to this genre - or completely ignored by this genre. By openly addressing this, addressing the bigotry and oppression and then taking the magic and technology of the setting and using it to overturn some of that, it really does subvert so much of this genre. And any historical genre - there’s so much ”alternate history” fiction out there which basically replicates exactly the same modes of oppression that exist today - and the exact same victors, despite throwing in all kinds of supernatural elements. There’s no reason to repeat the same reality we have today when so much else is changing.

 

Our protagonist is Jacqueline (known as Creeper), a classic Urban fantasy orphan who lives on the streets of New Orleans. Her mother, a sex worker is gone - but despite that still has multiple maternal figures - from a collection of subversive spying nuns, to the madam at a brothel (and both she and Jacqueline are clear in combating and resisting any sense of shaming of sex workers) who are there to try and grab her off the streets and still look out for her. She also has a deep relationship with the goddess Oya, orisha of the winds, storms etc which is a fun relationship with powers and visions - albeit at Oya’s will not Jacqueline’s - I think Oya definitely has her own agenda

 

 

 

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Source: http://www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2018/09/the-black-gods-drums-by-p-djeli-clark.html

Defying Fate (Descent Series #6) by SM Reine

Defying Fate - S.M. Reine

James Faulkner, the most powerful witch in the world is facing some pretty bleak times. Elise has been taken by her worst enemy and greatest nightmare - and he is at least partially responsible

 

She seems beyond rescue, but there’s at least his family he can take care of and get to safety… and some old friends who he definitely owes

 

But when even that derails he turns back to Elise - even is rescuing her may mean walking through hell itself



The last book saw a massive change in the direction of the series with the transformation of Elise and the exploration of her past, her purpose and all the plots around here

 

And this is the one that really follows those plots and tells their story by not even including Elise. Elise is lost for this book, a prison of the very god she was designed to slay. This story follows James and his early history with Elise, what the whole deal is with his cover anyway, their links to Netarayon and what they were actually doing all along

 

I… can’t say I especially like it. Though James showed a whole lot of growth and development from his early days, the fact the whole coven had a less than great history with Elise and that James in particular had a very fraught history really puts a whole very negative slant on all the previous books and the relationship between James and Elise which was such a central concept of the story

 

This was kind of the one thing Elise had. When everyone else died or fell short, she had her relationship with James was still there… even strained. And now it’s been very badly stained and I’m not sure it can come back from that. We learn that James has been magically fascinated by her since he first rescued her from the garden, from when she was 16 years old, vulnerable, terrified and traumatised. Yes it’s presented as magic compulsion but honestly there’s no way “I’m sexually enthralled by a fragile, helpless 16 year old who is dependent on me” can ever be a good look.

 

I mean he doesn’t take it to a romantic or sexual level at any time when she was so vulnerable and he did stop her when she did kiss him. And ultimately he did definitely develop real affection and emotional connection with her after several years together and we’ve already seen how powerful it is - it has been a cornerstone of these books. But because this is something of a revelation it means we’ve missed James fighting his “duty”, resenting his oath, trying to find loopholes et al that would have made this… an onerous duty rather than something he seems comfortable going along with

 

 

We also can’t ignore that he did end up having sex with Elise… and he didn’t tell her the truth first. Oh he agonised over it, apparently, but it remains that he didn’t - he slept with her without ever telling her he was magically compelled by her presence, he slept with her without telling her he was sworn to hand her back to god one day, he slept with her without telling her that far from being her saviour, he had been her warden for about a decade and he slept with her knowing he was going to betray her

 

I can’t see that as not undermining this whole epic relationship. I can’t help but feel like an epic part of these books have been betrayed and fatally wounded by this. That doesn’t mean the series is - but it means James now has some consequences to face and to come back from this.

 

I also don’t like what it added to Hannah - especially given how she is so disposed of in this book which felt less like a plot or character moment and far more about getting an inconvenient character out of the way (which along with Betty’s death and Elise’s mother being a not prevalent or great character and the generally male world that Elise already lives in adds to problems). In the last book we had James building a relationship with her, willing to defy this whole epic legacy to be with her. And then it’s like “magic Elise, what does Hannah look like again?” and that’s like, a line or two. And so ends Hannah’s part in James’s life? I mean, is that it? Is that all she’s worth?

 

While I’m not exactly thrilled with the wrecking job on Elise and James’s relationship, I do very much like James’s adventures, even with Malcolm (I actually like how they bounce off each other - clearly neither likes each other much, but there’s respect there and Malcolm is growing on me). He’s often somewhat in the background - but here we get to see what the often repeated “most powerful witch in the world” actually means with James and his likely even more powerful son. It was nice to see James step out and show just what all that power means and set the Union back hard before jumping on various dimension hopping quests to find Elise

 

But I also liked that the epic quest of isn’t-James-awesome was tempered - by both Nathaniel’s obviously equal if not greater power, him needing help and his own moral conflicts because the Union is far from an evil organisation - and the people who make it up cannot be killed with impunity. And I liked Alison - a witch he regarded with considerable contempt as being far beneath him managing to set back his ego quite perfectly. Yes he’s powerful, incredibly so, but even he has his limits.

 

 

 

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Source: http://www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2018/08/defying-fate-descent-series-6-by-sm.html

Hard to Handle (Gargoyles #5) by Christine Warren

Hard to Handle (Gargoyles Series) - Christine Warren
Like her brothers before her, Ash bursts to life immediately aware that something has gone terribly wrong in the world and that this is why she has been summoned. Normally, when a Guardian awakens, a Warden is present to inform of them about what the danger is and to help formulate a plan to keep the Seven in check. Like her brothers before her, Ash must deal with the fact that her newly minted Warden doesn't have the slightest clue about what is going on, or even that he is a person of power. With a threat looming, Ash barely has time to think about the ramifications that she is the first female Guardian ever and that she is developing feelings for Michael. The fate of the world is at risk and Ash and Michael are simply unprepared to meet it. 
 
Unlike the other books in this series, Warren tried to infuse a little more humour into the story. Anyone who has siblings and has retained a close relationship with them into adulthood should be able to see themselves reflected. Sure, Michael and his four sister are all adults now and are living active and busy lives but that doesn't mean they won't rat each other to their mother or engage in puerile games to get what they want. At times, this approach had me laughing and thinking about my own younger brothers. 
 
 
As a male love interest Michael was as crotchity as an old man. I understand that he would have been overwhelmed by a honest to goodness gargoyle coming to life and learning that the forces of evil were aligning but the way that he treated Ash throughout the novel was truly disturbing.  I don't think that Michael actually ever moved past sexualising her and so when he declared love, which is the habit in paranormal series, it didn't fit for even a moment.  Michael barely saw Ash as human let alone an individual person with feelings which could be hurt. This of course was magnified by the fact that the evolution of Michael's relationship with Ash mostly happened through internal monologue rather than shared experiences.
 
One of the things that I have loved about the Gargoyles series is that it felt explicitly feminist and I am sad to report, it seems that Warren decided to drop this approach in Hard to Handle. While it was funny to see Michael's interactions with his siblings and mother, it was particularly problematic the way that gender was treated. Warren actually sought to frame Michael as a oppressed by having so many women in his life. Really? Being surrounded by women is hard? If that were not enough, Michael constantly used the feminine as a pejorative. 
In the retelling, he imagined he would change the scream to a hoarse, manly shout of surprise; but in the moment, the high pitch of his girlish exclamation sounded like a harmony to the unearthly shriek that shook the air around them.  (pg 7)
He might have soiled himself, or at the very least, whimpered and cried like a little girl. Very bad for his image. (pg 15)
He screamed, a small part of his mind shaking free of the error to wonder whether or not he sounded like a little girl. (pg 95)
He opened his mouth to release another, girly wordless scream and heard instead his own voice bellow in an unfamiliar tone of command. (pg 98)
Michael's very understanding of masculinity itself is extremely problematic
 
 
 
 
 
Source: http://www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2018/08/hard-to-handle-gargoyles-5-by-christine.html

Dire Blood (Descent Series #5) by S.M. Reine

Dire Blood - S.M. Reine

Elise died in the last book. But she’s not going to let that stop her - she’s back and she’s a demon. Much to James’s concern

 

But the most powerful witch in the world doesn’t have time to adapt to this. Nor can he focus on his newly found, magically powerful son (and budding Elise sidekick) or reconnecting with his ex-fiance. Because he’s been kidnapped and taken to hell to stand trial for breaking the Treaty of Dis

 

Elise is not going to stand for this.



I expect a lot from the Descent Series


I expect lots of awesome action scenes. I expect lots and lots and lots of epic.

 

I expect an awesome, conflicted, struggling characters dealing with their own dark issues while handling

 

I expect major stakes, the world in the balance and all kinds of epic, dangerous figures appearing to assail Elise and her band

 

I expect an amazing, complex, connected world with extreme originality.

 

And I got all of that - and so much more because this is a vast turning point for Elise and the world.

 

What, surprisingly, I found rather interesting about this book is what a dramatic difference it makes to Elise. Not that she’s actually that different a person but that she’s… optimistic? Maybe optimistic is a strong word but after 2+ books of Elise moping in a corner, slowly spiralling into self-destruction. And I have to repeat what I’ve said before - said self-destruction isn’t BAD. Elise is deeply traumatised and handling some major, heavy issues in utter despair. It was a GOOD portrayal but it was a hard one to enjoy. Similarly her relationship with Anthony was just… awful. Again, not badly written awful, but awful because they’re in an awful relationship with two characters awfully out of their depth and hurting and lashing out. The whole thing was a great portrayal but not a fun read - which isn’t a bad thing. But it is nice to move away from it at times because the bleakness can build

 

Elise has transformed a lot this book - not just dying and coming back to life but gathering a whole new set of powers and even species. But the main change I think is looking at who and what she is - no longer feeling the need to defend Reno, not having the ties she had in Reno, the duty weighing on her, no more concerns about the Union and, even, to a degree not being a kopis any more seems to have freed Elise to set her own agenda to a degree. While she’ll never be a light hearted or sunny character she certainly feels much less worn down and spiralling as she focuses more on James. It feels like she’s going for the priorities she actually has rather than those she thinks she should have.

 

This change of direction doesn’t just move the character but also the world. We’ve had book after book of my chuntering away “I love this world but more world building!” well, this greatly changes the focus: after last book with the mother and father of all demons we definitely opened up a lot of the mythos. This book takes Elise into that mythos - and in more detail and more understandable detail than I could follow before. Ethereal cities and portals confused me a lot in the past but here we have Elise, in hell, much more examination of the Treaty of Dis and why it matters, and what is at stake, the various dimensions, who James is - what James is - and why that matters. Not only does this expand the book but also more of Elise’s purpose as the Godkiller and her parentage - even seeing more of Isaac and Ariane, Elise’s parents. While with James we see more of his history, his coven, his power and what that added to the world. It made all this vast world building (with some really original and fascinating elements with angels and demons and the nature of Hell (and the really fascinating different demons and the original elements of the hell dimension which is really well done like so much of the world building here)

 

 

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Source: http://www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2018/08/dire-blood-descent-series-5-by-sm-reine.html

Immortally Yours (Argeneau #26) by Lynsay Sands

Immortally Yours: An Argeneau Novel, Book 26 - Michael Rahhal, Harper Audio, Lynsay Sands
Beth has had a thing for Scotty, the Scottish laird for as long as she's been an immortal but unfortunately, Scotty has proven time and time again that he's far from Beth's number one fan. With most of the North American hunters in Venezuela, Scotty shows up in Toronto to lend a hand to the North American hunters. Beth's libido might be happy to see Scotty again but she's not exactly pleased to be working with a man who thinks so little of her.  Scotty and Beth become intertwined when they are forced to travel to B.C. to deal with the daughter of the head of the Russian Council, exposing Beth to a second attempt on her life. Knowing someone is trying to kill you is a tough thing to deal with but Beth is actually more uncertain about the fact that Scotty seems to have changed his mind about how he feels about her. 
 
This is the twenty-sixth novel in the series and so by now, it's pretty formulaic. Unlike the previous books, Sands doesn't try to add anything new to the world.  Immortally Yours, is entirely predictable with no real twists and turns. Sure, Sands tried to turn the identity of the person trying to kill Beth into a mystery but a two year old could have figured out who the antagonist is from the very beginning. Because the mystery is so uninteresting, the only real thing to draw the reader is the relationship between Beth and Scotty.
 
As a female protagonist, I like Beth very much which is not something I often have to say about Sands's female characters. Beth is very strong, independent, smart and most importantly, she's a survivor, who has no interest in being saved or having her past erased. Beth has completely accepted who she is and the path that led to her current identity. Beth was sold into prostitution by her father, had her virginity auctioned off to the highest bidder and was beaten regularly until an immortal intervened in her life. For most of Beth's life she worked as a prostitute, determined to be self reliant until the end.  I absolutely love that she pushed back against the shame society and even Scotty tried to make her feel. 
 
This review wouldn't be complete if I didn't take the time to talk about Sands's treatment of sex workers in this novel. Sands floated back and forth between the socially constructed hooker with a heart of goal, and the money grasping evil whore.  It would not be understating it to say that Sands's treatment of sex workers is absolutely toxic and misogynistic. Scotty spends much of the book disparaging Beth because of her past as a sex worker.
Now that he was being forced to confront his feelings on the subject, he admitted that before meeting Beth he'd always thought prostitution to be the lowest of trades. He'd been raised to believe prostitutes were shameless, deceitful whores who cared only about coin... and he couldn't bear knowing that Beth had once been one. (pg. 200)
Odilia, in part based her hatred of Beth on the fact that Beth was once a sex worker.
"You are a prostitute! A whore! You probably spread your legs for half of London back in the day, and half of Toronto since you got here. He will believe it, and he will see how cheap a slag you are and how unworthy you are of him and the love he proclaimed for you. (pg339)
Even characters like Magnus are more than happy to make excuses for Scotty's slut shaming by suggesting, "We come from an earlier era, one that forged our morals and opinions. We were taught prostitution was an abomination to our Lord God. Of course you would struggle with it." Even when Scotty does do a turn around, it's only because Beth has redeemed herself in his eyes with her willingness to care and sacrifice herself for others. It was further cemented by him realising that Beth chose to continue her profession because she didn't see that she had any other options. By telling her story, Scotty came to realise that not all women prostitute themselves because "it was easy coin, or because she enjoyed the power of controlling men with her body." 
 
To make matters worse, we learn that Scotty's disdain for sex workers is because of his hatred of his cruel mother. 
 
 
 
 
Source: http://www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2018/08/immortally-yours-argeneau-26-by-lynsay.html

Shadowmancer (The Circle #1) by Lee Isserow

Shadowmancer - Lee Isserow

Jules is a powerful magician… but has spent much of his life avoiding the greater magical community living as normal a life he can with his husband and child

 

His magical skills are rare - and when a new supernatural threat those are in demand. The Circle needs his magic and his help - the world needs it. But Jules’s grandmother warned him about the Circle and how it was falling to selfish corruption… can Jules work with them even for the sake of humanity?



This book had a really excellent foundation, especially with some really good characters and world. We have Jules, a Black gay man with a strong grounding in social justice and considerable suspicion of authority. At this point it would be easy to create a shell character who exists more as a PSA than a character - but he isn’t; his opinions and vehement beliefs are worked well into the character and his story. We also have some really neatly incorporated world building through children’s stories which does an excellent job of introducing the world, his family - both his son and his infamous grandmother - and giving us some insight into magic. It was really neatly done and is an excellent example of how good the writing is

 

The actions scenes are fun and excellently written, well paced and nicely knife edged and in even the brief time we have we do get surprisingly amounts of information about the characters. Again with brief words we get a better shape of the world, the circle and the how magic works.

 

Unfortunately in addition to all that it was also… really short? And kind of undeveloped because of it. Like I love that Jules is gay and has a relationship with Akif and a son. But Akif is a name, I think he has three lines in the whole book. Yes there wasn’t a lot of chance to showcase this relationship but that, again, is part of how short this book was. The actual chance to develop Jules, Akif, his relationship, his history, who he is, who they are are all somewhat missing. We get Jules’s history with his grandmother and a brief reference as to why they’re in London but then we kind of hit the ground running, Akif is forgotten which is a shame because it clearly should be a major part of Jule’s life. It would have been nice to build more of a base line for Jules and Akif et al before the plot got moving, maybe introduced his powers, some concepts of magic etc. Because the author already did a really good job with the stories he tells his child (giving us some magical world building) which makes me think the that more world building would be really well done

 

Albeit there’s just a little side line of gross-out and obsession with orifices in the magic world we could probably do without.

 

 

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Source: http://www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2018/08/shadowmancer-circle-1-by-lee-isserow.html

Marking Time (The Immortal Descendants #1) by April White

[ { MARKING TIME: THE IMMORTAL DESCENDANTS } ] by White, April (AUTHOR) Nov-05-2012 [ Paperback ] - April White
Saira Elian grew up moving every two years and so she has learned to be independent. At this point, Saira is pretty sure that she can handle anything that life throws at her but she didn't count on falling through a graffiti tag and ending up back in Victorian times.  The 17 year old Saira suddenly finds herself gearing up to battle Jack the Ripper and learning that the world is so much more complicated than she ever thought it was. Being a descendant of immortals and in her case, a descendant of Time  and apparently the one fated to bring the families together, means that Saira is going to have to race against time if she is going to save her mother. Thankfully, for the first time in her life, Saira has friends that she can count on and a vampire who has loved her for well over 100 years. 
 
I have never been a fan of YA, so I had my doubts when I picked up Marking Time but I'm happy to report that I quickly fell into the story and cannot wait to find out what journey White takes her characters on. I will admit to having my doubts about Saira at first but as White reminded us how stark and independent her childhood was, it makes sense that she would chafe under the suddenly imposed rules of a relative that she had never met, and being forced out of her comfort zone to embrace things like dressing for dinner and attending an exclusive boarding school. 
 
There is a strain of romance running through this story. When Saira first meets Archer, she has no idea who he is and how much he will come to mean to her.  It would be a mistake going into this believing that it is a paranormal romance because while the love story is important to the entire narrative, it isn't the point to the story.  I have to admit to not being a fan of teenage girls being paired with vampires hundreds of years older than them but this is mitigated somewhat by the fact that when Saira develops a relationship with Archer in the past, he is human and actually not much older than her. It's one of the few iterations of vampire/teenage girl that doesn't feel completely predatory. 
 
I'm absolutely fascinated with the world that White built.  There are shifters, vampires, werewolves, time travelers and people who can see the future.  I really cannot wait to learn more about the immortals who created these unique descendants. Because the world is so rich, there are so many directions that White can take the story, particularly if she chooses to focus on the war between the descendants themselves, or take the story into the future. 
 
I know I've gushed just a little bit but there are a few problems with Making Time.  The first book in every series sets up the universe and establishes the rules for what the characters can and cannot do but I do believe that White got bogged down with the details when she started discussing DNA and creating a scientific explanation for how and why the descendants are the way that they are. It was the only time I found myself skipping the page and I really felt that it added nothing to the story to speak of.
 
Being in Victorian England meant that Saira found herself in a world in which men and women were forced into rigid gender roles. I love that she didn't instantly comply with what was expected and stayed true to who she is - a modern woman.  Every time that Ringo and Archer worried for her reputation, she was quick to push it aside. I further love that Saira dressed in a masculine fashion in order to have the freedom that she required to what she needed to do. White made it clear that the choice to pass as male is something that many an enterprising young woman chose to do in order to free themselves from strict moral and gender codes. Marking Time easily passed the Bechdel test and it was good to see Saira form relationships with men and women equally, even if the routine at the schools sometimes weighed down the story.
 
White used Ringo to do a small interrogation of class.  Far too often when we have time travel books, they focus on the upper class but in this case, White decided to look at the precarious lives of the poor in Victorian England.  Ringo actually had to sneak into his home each nigh because it wasn't a legal lodging and he could only have a fire to stave off the cold at certain times.  Ringo also couldn't read and so Saira and Archer had to teach him. Even Archer, who did have some class privileges was forced into the seminary simply because he's the second son. 
 
 
 
Source: http://www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2018/08/marking-time-immortal-descendants-1-by.html

The Beast in Him (Pride #2) by Shelley Laurenston

The Beast In Him (The Pride Series) by Laurenston, Shelly (2014) Mass Market Paperback - Shelly Laurenston

Back in high school Jessica was awkward, lonely, bullied, helpless and desperate

 

Many years have passed since then - she’s now successful, powerful, rich, has an awesome network of friends and an amazing pack. Of course she has some old scores to settle and is perfectly willing to give old crush Bobby Ray Smith the run around.



I love Jessica. And I would love this entire book to be the story of her awesome life. Jessica was an orphan and grew up almost friendless, ostracised and severely bullied. Her family lost through a plague that hit so many were-wild dogs (and I like that the world building includes elements like that - that a disease can his one population and what that does to their culture and survival). We then have the gap to adulthood

 

Jessica is wealthy, successful, snarky and she has a pack. And while I am a complete and utter cat person and would never ever ever have a dog, I absolutely love the wild dog pack. I love how they have fun. I love how they rely on each other. I love how they constantly support each other. I love their bonds, I love their karaoke, I love their family and how important it is to them. I love how they support other lost orphans and work closely with them to help them feel belonging and connected.

 

I just want the story of Jessica. I want the story of her and her four closest friends. I want their fun, I want their complete lack of embarrassment over everything (they’re not wolves - they’re dogs. And since when do dogs care about being silly?)

 

And I want the story of her claiming her power; not just wealth and success but how she built her pack and staked out territory and her pack together. There’s some excellent, awesome scenes where this wild dog pack showed just how much they are contenders and excellently take down the packs who look down on them.

 

Jessica is also a Black woman. She is completely lacking in stereotypes or tropes or other elements that so often make us cringe when we see a Blackety-Black portrayals. On the downside I reached page 163 and read “get my Black, Wild-dog ass out of there” and said “wait, she’s Black”? Which is almost a little odd because one of her pack is Asian and that’s very clear; we also have another Japanese wild dog who visits and is a major business partner which is very overt.

 

 

It’s going to sound odd but I kind of like that Sassy was one of the girls who bullied Jessica. Because it’s easy to have a cruel bully be a complete monster we’re meant to hate. It’s harder to see that bullies can be people we like and appreciate - but that doesn’t change the terrible, cruel things they do to other people. I like that it challenges the narrative that because someone is nice/friendly/fun with you doesn’t mean they are to everyone. And I like that Jessica is still extremely not happy with her.

 

 

 

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Source: http://www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2018/08/the-beast-in-him-pride-2-by-shelley.html

Immortal Unchained (Argeneau #25) by Lynsay Sands

Immortal Unchained - Lynsay Sands
Though Sarita has never actually met her grandmother in person, the two have been exchanging letters since she was thirteen years old. When Sarita gets word that her grandmother has taken a bad fall and may be gravely injured, she is quick to book a vacation and head to Venezuela in the hope of comforting her Abuela. What Sarita didn't count on is being kidnapped by a mad scientist intent on learning the secrets of the immortals in order to become one himself. 
 
Domitian has done many things in long life but Lucian refuses his help to investigate the missing immortals.  Domitian does what he can; preparing food as the expert chef that he has become in the last ten years.  When his life mate Sarita becomes involved, Domitian knows that he can no longer sit on the sidelines to please his uncle because a life mate is too much to risk.  Unfortunately for Domitian, he quickly finds out that he has not been as circumspect with his identity as he had previously believed and quickly joins the ranks of the missing and kidnapped immortals. Domitian knows that he has to find a way to keep his life mate safe and somehow thwart the plans of the evil scientist.
 
From the beginning of this series, Sands has used the concept of life mates as a tool to justify the insta love that has become a mandatory part of the paranormal romance genre.  For the most part it is an effective tool, particularly because unlike many series, Sands ensures that her female love interests are all grown adults, with some sense of the world and independent identity. In Unchained Immortal however, Sands has Domitian discover Sarita when she is only a thirteen year old girl.  Yes, it's as gross as you think it is.  Domitian however decides to do  the noble thing (please feel free to role your eyes) and wait until Sarita has reached adulthood and worked at least two years in her chosen profession before inserting himself in her life and wooing her. In the meantime, to ensure that he doesn't lose contact with her, Domitian hires a private detective to follow Sarita around for 15 years and send him back monthly reports on her progress.  Domitian actually thinks that he is a moral and decent person for waiting and other yhan a few moments of brief discomfort, Sarita quickly lets him off the hook for this epic invasion of her personal life. 
 
I really liked Sarita's initial determination that she would not be a tool and made it clear to Domitian that there would be "no sexo".  Unfortunately, that is when the life mate nonsense kicked in and Sarita threw herself at Domitian. Can we just have one female protagonist who sticks to their guns on this note for more than half a page?  It certainly isn't helped by the fact that from almost the very moment Domitian lays eyes on Sarita, he begins sexualising her.  His inner thoughts are all about her breasts and everything that he wants to do to her and only chastises himself because he has a life mate and at that particular moment didn't realise that Sarita is his life mate. Domitian even goes as far as to fantasize about having two life mates at once.  Even when Domitian agrees to Sarita's "no sexo", he decides instead to invade her mind and send images of himself pleasuring her directly into her mind knowing that because of the life mate bond that she would then want to have sex. How is this not only a violation and abject manipulation?
 
I don't really feel as though we got to know Sarita in this book very much. We know that she's a cop and joined law enforcement because she wanted to help people. We also know that her mother was murdered and kidnapped and that this is why her father moved her to Canada and put her in martial arts training.  All around Sarita are women who have become victims of some sort, even Sarita herself considering that she was tricked into coming to Venezuela and then kidnapped. What we know is that women in Sarita's family have been victimised but we hardly know anything about Sarita herself; she's barely a cardboard cut out.  Even admitting her love for Domitian is stripped from her and she is informed by Eshe that she is just being silly and holding onto moral conventions by wanting to wait until she has a good handle on what is going on. Please keep in mind that Sarita has been kidnapped, witnessed horrible abuse and turned against her will. What is so wrong in that situation about wanting to get a handle on a situation before admitting to loving a man who has been stalking her since she was a thirteen year old girl?  Sands really did Sarita a disservice in this book. 
 
 
 
 
 
Source: http://www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2018/07/immortal-unchained-argeneau-25-by.html

Justice Calling (The Twenty-Sided Sorceress #1) by Annie Bellet

Justice Calling (The Twenty-Sided Sorceress Book 1) - Annie Bellet
Jade Crow has been on the run for quite some time but she's finally found peace in Wylde, Idaho. The supernatural community is attracted to Wylde because of the ley lines and the town is actually home to a plethora of magical creatures, though shifters seem to make up the majority of the population. Jade has built a fine life for herself, including friends and her own business.  Everything comes to a halt however when a Justice ( the shifters version of judge, jury and executioner) arrives in town, certain that Jade has committed some terrible crime. 
 
Because the Justice is able to read the truth of someone's answers, Jade is quickly let off the hook. Trouble however still finds Jade when a resident is found frozen in their animal form. Jade must now decide whether to help the sexy Russian Justice who just happens to turn into the biggest tiger ever and her friends, or flee before her abusive ex boyfriend shows up and makes a snack of her to gain her power. 
 
Justice Calling shouldn't really be called a book because at best it's a novella. It gives us a peak at the world and the rather large cast of characters, without really giving us a chance to know any of them in depth. Even Jade Crow, who is the protagonist is pretty much a mystery. All we learn about Jade is that she is a sorcerer, is on the run from an abusive ex and is a total geek. It really feels like Bellet was going through a check list when she was creating these characters.  There are LGBT characters, and Crow it seems is a protagonist of colour. Part of the reason why it felt like a check list is because there's no real characterisation to flesh them out, let alone cultural references that situate them properly. Bellet seemed more concerned with geek bonafides because she filled the book with gaming, movie and pop culture references that would have the geeks grinning with glee, even though they didn't really serve well in terms of character development. 
 
There's really not much tension in Justice Calling and I am going to crack this up to the fact that it's a novella masquerading as a book.  There are no twists and turns to speak of. Even the antagonist is so basic that it's hard to give him that label.  There's a budding romance between Jade and Justice but it's so paint by numbers that it's not even remotely interesting and there's no real reason to invest in this relationship.  We don't know much about Justice but I really didn't like the way he accused Jade of not having a life because she was thinking about leaving. It's clear that we are meant to see Jade as an abused woman and having a safe space from a known abuser is not cowardice or even selfishness as I feel that Justice implied but a matter of life and death. 
 
 
 
 
Source: http://www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2018/07/justice-calling-twenty-sided-sorceress.html

Archangel's Viper (Guild Hunter #11) by Nalini Singh

Archangel's Viper - Nalini Singh

Holly Chang was terribly victimised by the Archangel Uram. It left her with a lot of trauma, a lot of healing to do - and some supernatural abilities no-one really understands but could be very dangerous

 

She’s done a lot ot put herself back together, made a place for herself in the angelic hierarchy and built a life for herself beyond her trauma - when someone puts a price on her head. Now working with Venom, one of the Archangel Raphael’s chief lieutenants, she needs to fins who put the contract on her head… and perhaps more importantly, discover what she is, what her powers mean and what she is actually becoming




I really like the romance in this book - and yes this is me saying this who is normally not a great fan of romances. I think Nalini Singh has generally done a very excellent job with the Guild Hunter series by working well with many of the tropes that make me despair so in romance - but this book, i think takes it to an extra level

 

I think because Holly and Venom could be SOOO TROPEY. She is wounded and vulnerable and hurting after suffering terrible abuse and *gasp* he may even have to kill her if she turns out to be dangerous *angstangstangst woe!* and he is so much older and more powerful than her. And she doesn’t have clearance but wants to be involved and he is protective and sheltering and there would be Spunky Agency as she does, just, ALL the stupid things and he will lock her up for their own protection and every scene will be full of them hating each other while spending entire paragraphs commenting on each other’s arms/muscles/breasts/eyebrows/belly buttons.

 

And none of this happens! Yes, Holly has had a deeply traumatic past, yes it still haunts her and yes she has flashbacks and nightmares. But that doesn’t mean anyone - not Dimitri, not Venom, no-one - is putting her in a little box to keep her safe nor does it render her incapable of being a valued member of the team. Yes Venom is much older and more powerful than Holly, but he easily recognises the unique power and abilities she has, respects her as a force to be reckoned with, helps work with her to develop those powers (though, even better, Dimitri is the one who assumes the role of mentor and their ENTIRELY NON ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP is paternal) without in any way regarding her as anything but an equal. Young, but an equal - and age is something she can acquire. And yes, her unexpected powers means she may be unpredictable and dangerous which both are wary about - but also mature and sensible and recognise why it this is the case and don’t dwell on it. And while Venom comes to love her not once, not one time, does he decide to put her in a small box and protect her. He will recognise when his skills are more appropriate but he is happy to work with her on operations and doesn’t spend time angsting that ZOMG SHE IS IN DANGER. And he even recognises there are times when she even has skills and contacts and abilities that he doesn’t have.

 

And while they do both acknowledge the attractiveness of the other they spend far far far far more time on banter and sarcastic insults than ever they do on drooling. And it’s so much fun.

 

I can’t stress enough how much this relationship flies in the face of so many established tropes - laying the foundation for all of these and then not running down the same very very very very very very tired paths


Another element I love is Holly’s family - she has one. And not in a “terrible liability I will angst over” sense - but they’re a vital part in her life. She has a sister she loves, two little brothers she cares a lot about and, above all, two living parents (I KNOW! I was shocked too!). They love her, they’re involved in her life and she thinks about them a lot. She calls them often, she spends time with them, she cares about them. They matter and it’s warm and wonderful and I love it. Similarly the digging into Venom’s backstory, though angsty, isn’t used to dump a truck load of angst everywhere in exchange for characterisation but actually gives a surprising depth to a character who could, very easily, have been the silent sexy snake guy

 

We also have some nice moments looking at vampires - and angels - who aren’t super awesome and beautiful and powerful and amazing which is a nice twist considering the super powered awesomeness we’ve seen in the last nine books. It also looks at angel society in a more in depth way, reminding us there is a vampiric underclass: we get to see both the very understandable judgement of those with immense power and potential doing absolutely nothing with all their advantages and life - but also seeing the really brutal cruelty that grinds up and destroys good people who certainly deserve a lot better. Venom’s attitude contrasts very nicely with Holly to both give her experiences outside his but also to show how much the cruelty of society is less “some people abuse the system” and more an accepted part of the system itself.

 

From that I also really love that the moment when Holly starts to melt to Venom seem less after especially witty banter, or his extreme hotness or him saving her - but when he shows kindness to people who are weak, vulnerable and, by their society, completely beneath him.

 

 

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Source: http://www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2018/07/archangels-viper-guild-hunter-11-by.html

Gerard's Beauty (Kingdom #2) by Marie Hall

Gerard's Beauty - Marie Hall
We've all seen Beauty and the Beast.  What if, Gaston had been maligned and was actually the good guy? In Gerard's Beauty, this is exactly what Hall proposes.  Gerard, had fallen in love with Belle, doting on her, and doing her bidding at all times.  Belle however had other ideas and instead of being with the man that was supposedly good for her, she fell for the Beast because he was rich, leaving Gerard alone and in misery.  Gerard was heartbroken and believed his life could not get any worse but then a princess threw herself at him and now the entire kingdom wants to exact revenge for his manwhorish ways. Luckily for Gerard, his fairy godmother has a plan.  If Gerard can somehow make his true love, fall in love with him in thirty days, he can win his freedom and spare his life. 
 
I don't know why I keep punishing myself by reading these re-writes of fairy tales.  I've only read one series that's been good, yet I keep taking another bite out of the apple in the hope that this feat can be repeated.  Gerard's Beauty is an epic failure. I suppose some of this is my fault because what good has ever come from a cover with man titteh?  I know that paranormal romance is all about a couple falling in love but it usually comes with some version of a plot - something to make you want to root for the HEA but I simply couldn't get through this fast enough. 
 
Gerard, the protagonist is an asshole. There's no other way to put it. He's actually not far from being an incel and that's creepy as fuck. Gerard spends a lot of time up in his feelings because Beauty chose another man and made him feel stupid because she is smarter than him.   The man is actually illiterate but because he felt that it was unmanly to read, he never took the time to learn. So, Beauty's biggest crime is simply deciding that she wanted to be with someone else and didn't return the love he felt for her.   Gerard is an empty headed ass who thinks that he's entitled to women's bodies.  Of course, this belief is bolstered by the fact that every woman wants to throw herself at him because of his super hot bod and breathe that smells like brandy (ewww). Even the head fairy godmother is angry at him because of his rejection of her. 
 
Gerard is sent to earth to claim the heart of Betty, who is just getting over a broken heart thanks to getting involved with a playa.  Betty supposedly is taking a break from men in order to regroup but when Gerard shows up outside of the library where she works, looking like a homeless man, Betty suddenly cannot resist him because he's so damn hot.  When Betty realises that Gerard doesn't have a place to sleep and the weather is inclement, she decides to take him home. Look, I get looking out for someone who has less and is potentially vulnerable but who takes them home because they're horny?

 
Gerard is sent to earth by his fairy godmother to buy time while she intervenes with the citizens of fairy world (for lack of a better term) because they are upset that he may have despoiled a princess. Gerard of course claims his innocence and argues that the "coquine" threw herself at him and he rejected her, leaving her purity in tact. Yes, coquine is french for slut. Slut, skank and whore are words that Hall uses repeatedly in this short book to refer to women. In 188 pages, Hall manages to slut shame female characters ten times.