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..
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When Gwen’s mother died she was claimed by the Mythos Academy. An Academy that teaches young, magically gifted warriors to be ready to fight Chaos as has been their solemn duty for centuries
But Gwen, with her powers of psychometry and no magical history or culture felt very out of place among the affluent, strong and powerful valkyries and spartans of the Mythos Academy
And never did this rift loom so large than when one of their class is killed and her war torn peers seem to not even care. It’s left to her to investigate and find the actual truth
I can’t even begin to review this book without addressing the great big elephant in the room and the problem is it underpins a lot of the whole book.
A core concept of this book is that the magical kids in this school are have magical gifts based on the mythological, legendary warriors of the past. This works for the valkyries with their super strength. And the Amazons with their super speed. But then we have the Romans, Celts and Spartans… these are actual people? Also I question why your legendary super-warriors for men are actual historical people. While your magical warrior women are mythological? I don’t think it’s intentional and there’s no actual sense that there’s a magical divide between men and women: but I think it kind of sends a weird message that awesome warrior women are… well… fictional… while awesome warrior men are historical.
But then there’s Gwen. Gwen’s magical gift is psychometry - she can touch things and get sensation and images off it. Her mother and grandmother also had psychic gifts like this. And they are called Gypsies.
Argh, no. First of all that word is not neutral, it’s a slur used to denigrate, demean, insult and perpetuate no small number of myths against the Romani people. And Romani are not legendary, mythological or even historical people - they’re an ethnic group, a highly discriminated against ethnicity that faces incredible amounts of persecution as well as really damaging stereotypes. One of which is this pervasive fortune teller/woo-woo depiction - this is damaging
But to top this off, I honestly think the author may not know this. And by “this” I mean that Romani actually exist. There is no suggestion, not one tiny suggestion, that Gwen, her mother or grandmother are Romani. There’s no suggestion that them calling themselves “Gypsy” applies to anything BUT their woo-woo. There’s even a line:
“I didn’t know exactly what made us Gypsies. We didn’t act like any Gypsies I’d ever read about. We didn’t live in wagons or wander from town to town or cheat people out of their money.”
I… no… just no. Really, appropriating a slur and then trotting out of all of these insults and stereotypes while completely ignoring actual Romani people is beyond not ok.
Getting past this is difficult, but when you do there is a somewhat intriguing story and world here. Though I would like more development of this world. We have the concept of the pantheon and the big bad god spreading chaos which isn’t exactly original. Which is why I would have quite liked to have examined what all these gods - or what all the individual powers were and meant.
There were some excellent moments of examining the idea of these very spoilt, privileged kids who, at the same time, were so innured to loss and conflict, which in turn expanded on the idea of why they are being so very spoiled; indulgent parents who are very aware their kids may not reach adulthood.
When Morgan’s fellow student committed a terrible crime against the fae, Morgan retreated to a relatively quiet, isolated life. She certainly didn’t spend as much time with her sister as she’d like - not after she married a fae lord and became an ambassador to Underhill.
But when her sister begs for her help shielding her half-fae nieces, Morgan can’t say no and plans to be a bigger part of their lives… until all the gateways to underhill close ujknown to all, even Falcon, a fae she finds trapped on Earth… and casters start dying.
This world setting is fun and, better, really well presented. I won’t say it has never been done before - fae in a close realm, portals, witches, magic - these are definitely not unknown
But the way this world is put together, the very careful exposition, the lack of info dumping is all really well done. This is a world that manages to avoid the temptation to throw it all at us. It lays out lots of potential to many many many more things in this world in a perfect balance of hinting. And that can be hard, so many authors have this Really Cool Thing and decide they must must must share this with us!
The characters know their world and never feel the need to explain it to each other - they experience it and through them we experience it, showing everything we need to enjoy this book
I think it also lays out a lot of ominous yet epic hints to encourage future novels, promising a big big series.
And it is fun, it wasn’t super twisty due to the length, but it was fun and well paced without any convoluted elements of padding. Morgan is an interesting characters, she has reservations about the fae but they’re reasonable without being over dramatic or based on some fantasy world bigotry. We have a nice amount of history and development to give everyone character - and a magical organisation which isn’t THE WORST. Honestly that is such an over-used trope.
If I had to point to an area of the book that is weak it would be Falcon’s motivation - or maybe Falcon entirely. I never quite understood why Falcon became as invested as he did. Perhaps if we were more in his head we could see him, for example, respect Morgan‘s dedication to her nieces. Maybe see more of his respect for what she’s doing and more concern for what has happened with the fae gates. Maybe even identify with her nieces more because of their similar heritage
Blue, Gabe, Grayson, Joe, Charlie and Ruby have survived. They’re not happy, there’s the shadow of Eli’s corpse to clear up lying over Blue and Charlie and Ruby have a somewhat tumultous relationship. There’s the swamp wolves lurking over Joe and Grayson - and being a werewolf is never easy besides that
But Gloria’s last act seems to have taken Yael, the deep, dark, massive, dangerous spirit, finally out of their lives and out to sea
Until he is drawn home - and this time the depleted Keys pack is missing Gloria, their heart, their soul, their true Alpha, their wolf-witch. To face Yael there’s only Blue, brand new to this and reeling with both revelations from the past and Yael’s desperate yearning to be human
So… this book… this entire series puts me in one of those very very awkward ones to review.
I am impressed. I am deeply impressed by the writing. I am even more deeply impressed by the characterisation, their lives and how they react to the world around them. And I’m really impressed by the world.
The whole concept of werewolves and their struggle has permeated these books. These are beings from very poor backgrounds who rarely, if ever, get the chance to complete their education or get regular work (all those days off every month). Changing is painful, traumatising and hell on their bodies to the point where most of them are pretty damaged by the time they hit 30 and 40 is the far reaches of old age - 50 completely unattainable. The life of a werewolf is grim and painful and short.
And the Wolfwitches, even if not werewolves themselves, live among that. The same poverty, the same desperate, hurting people around them, and even if not directly affected, they’re the ones who clean up. They’re the ones who put the damaged, suffering wolves out of their misery when their bodies finally turn on them.
This permeates the whole story. Even when we see things like Grayson and Joe who are deeply in love and managing to carve a sense of happiness for themselves there’s still that underlying question: still the constant nag that Grayson is old for a werewolf, even his most loving moments undercut
It permeates the past of Yael as well - Yael and Gloria, their whole history laid out here needs to be seen in this context. Gloria, the poverty, the difficulty and in comes this spirit snaring her when she’s young and desperate and then being a constant shadow - adding deeper burdens but always coming with just enough power to be useful - until he’s just the burden, the predatory force
I like this in many ways because it humanises Gloria: she as the heart and soul of this series, the foundation, the one with Yael, the great evil spiritual force that everyone is afraid of - we see how it happened, how she first succumbed: and it’s such an easy, simple, human temptation. No woo-woo nothing like that - but simply a devil’s bargain offered to someone with few options
And I see a lot of great parallels for her in Ruby - a powerful, determined, intelligent woman who, nevertheless, is young a little foolish and seeking short cuts out of her grim situation. I think there’s a reason why these characters are presented next to each other. It also shows another reason why Gloria got rid of Blue - not just to save her from Yael possession but to save her from the temptation of Yael when she’s young. Because when you’re young and poor and angry in a very unfair life Yael looks very attractive. And how, even the best of us, at our worst moments, can wish for terrible terrible things.
Aden is the leader of the Arrow Squad, the most dangerous and highly trained Psy on the planet. When he and his fellow Arrow, Zaira, wake wounded and captured they know there’s a new enemy out there they have to stop
Of course, holding an Arrow isn’t easy.
While bringing down this new enemy is a focus of the squad, Aden has a deeper mission: how to help his Arrows, his damaged, dangerous, Arrows, adapt to this new world without Silence and hope they can finally find a future and a home; an idea that has become alien to them.
There’s a lot about this book I loved - because this is a story that has been brewing for a while - the story of the Arrow Squad. We had an introduction with Vasic but this really does take their story to the next level of detail.
With the Fall of Silence and with the Arrows going from whispered, almost mythological, force hiding in the shadows to being very open and involved in dealing with the problems of the fall of silence it’s such a huge shift for them
The Arrows themselves are such an excellent representation of the challenges of Silence. All of them have lethal, terrifying powers and were given the strictest and most brutal of training and the most rigid Silence to actually survive them. If anyone cannot live without Silence, it is the Arrows - not only are they powerful and dangerous but they’ve also been deeply traumatised pretty much from birth because torture is how they’re trained
Damaged, lethal, rigidly controlled - it’s going to be hard for them. What I really liked in particular was Aden and Zaira learning how to even behave around children, how to raise children, how to learn the basic thing about them. With all Arrows recruited as very small children and tortured by the program since then the very alienness of play is perhaps more stark than any depictions of the torture they suffered
From that I also liked the little offshoots of concern - like how the older Arrows will manage with this changing world they don’t seem to fit in. Or what to do with those members of the squad who have been so utterly hurt that they’re not entirely functional.
And then there’s those whose Silence did actually cover up a monster - the emotionless killers who secretly enjoyed it. How do you find them and what do you do with them?
I do think that, perhaps, this was just a little but simplistic in some issues, especially in relation to Psy with dangerous powers. I mean, we had Psy literally fearing their own extinction due to their rates of suicide, mental illness and violent crime as well as uncontrolled dangerous powers - this is while Silence was enacted. So introducing their hyper-dangerous Arrow children to having to write essays as punishment just seems… well if that worked then why would the Psy have ever enacted Silence. I think it would have been better if we had seen them incorporating more of the lessons, mental exercises etc of Silence to show WHY these tactics work now.
Throw into this the greater public role of the Arrows - Aden as the publically acknowledged leader, considering both the PR elements of that and how it makes him a target. The idea of striking the balance between public figure and hidden enforcers all the while maintaining their independence but still making friends and gathering allies in their own right is nicely done
There’s still some pesky gender issues clinging here that I can’t look past when we see that this is the 14th book in the series which has had these gender issues since day one
One of the reasons why Zaira is afraid of losing control and causing carnage is the moment when she sees another woman touch Aden and nearly loses control and attacks the woman out of jealousy. I laughed. Oh gods how I laughed. This is terrible? This is the BASELINE for not just most of the men (especially the Changeling men) in this series, but pretty much a significant part of the genre as well.
We also have yet another damaged/hurting woman who resists a relationship and has to be persuaded into it by a determined, persistent man who heals her along the way. Which, again, is so very very very very common in this series. Romance happens because the men wear down the women (I think Sierra and Hawk is the only real counter-example of it happening the other way and even then it’s dubious since she retreats into “I’m broken and dying and need to run off and die” with him chasing her).
And for a moment there, a brief moment, I really thought we were going to have a female character who was more dangerous and powerful than the male - albeit, of course, with Aden as the leader clearly established. But hey, he isn’t a leader because of his dominance so this is a major change from previous books and there’s a strong suggestion (despite repeated reminding us that Zaira’s a lot physically smaller than Aden) she could take him in a fight. Until he pulled out his super power
And don’t get me wrong that moment is awesome. And I love Aden as leader of the Arrows, I love how his leadership is based on him caring and valuing the squad and wanting a future for them - all of them - and making them more than the weapons they’re seen as. I love how he is the leader of the squad despite the fact that most of them by far think they could easily defeat him - they don’t follow him because of his strength or power and that is never emphasised.
Really the issues with this romance would be very low key and probably not mentioned much because the gender roles aren’t as bad as many - but it’s those previous 13 books which make so much of this a pattern.
Sophia was a barmaid in London. She had a life, friends, a job, a family
And then her sister died. Sophia fell into a deep, dark depression to which she is sure only vengeance against her sister’s murderers can possibly release her.
The hitman she reaches out to is a daemon - and though he is able and willing to do what she asks, in doing so she risks dragging herself, mind and soul, even further into the darkness
This book is a somewhat hard one to review - which is appropriate because it is a hard book to read.
The book is… powerful. Powerful is a good word: because it’s not fun. It’s not an easy story to read. It isn’t packed with action or even, for that much of plot or world building. Both are certainly there and create the setting and background for Sophia, but this book is about Sophia and her journey
Sophia does not lead an easy life. She suffers from extreme mental illness - depression, schizophrenia. She is pulled down by alcoholism. Most of this is triggered by the tragic death of her pregnant sister and her inability to get over this as well as her rage at the men she considers responsible for this. Sophia is a deeply damaged and hurting person and a lot of the book examines this. Her struggle with her mother, her struggle with mental illness, her alcoholism, self-harming, pushing friends away who care for her, her house denuded of all furniture for fear of invoking her sister’s memory while still maintaining a shrine to her sister.
The book is told from two different time periods - the present when Sophia is confined to a mental institution, suffering from some severe hallucinations and recounting her past while plagued by delusions and hallucinations. The other is the actual past she’s describing, drowning in depression and pain. Both are stark, brutal and very powerful
This continues when she find Henry and she starts to move out of her pain - and I admit I have a big note here screaming “gah, magical healing penis!” because she seems to be getting over her issues quickly. I then crossed it out - partly because of the woo-woo, but mainly because this is the next stage of her rollercoaster ride: obsession with him, abandonment, another addiction and hitting a whole new low of rock bottom as she transmutes her issues from one to another which does an excellent job of subverting the idea of romance healing all mental health issues
I also really like how even the base of her tragedy - her sister’s death and even her mother’s callousness are all just a bit more complex than she initially presents in her complete obsession. I like that, I like that things aren’t as simple as her angry, hurting mind portrays and that there are layers to her experiences which go beyond simplistic villains who hurt her.
Her obsession over Henry leads her to another, far darker place, one of addiction and desperation and again there’s a lot of interesting layers here. On the surface it feels almost empowered, she’s strong and capable and determined, she has friends, she knows what she wats and aggressively pursues it. But her friends are fellow addicts and she would willingly discard any of them if she had to. Ultimately when she is not feeding her addiction her life feels empty and broken and she hits a terrible level which shows just how hollow her apparent strength is. It’s teased out in excellent scene after scene as addiction, obsession and delusion combine toxically for her and bring her down again and again.
Of course, there is a supernatural world - particularly with Henry. An incubus, a creature driven to feed on people, a man trying to find a moral way to do so; a moral way to kill as best he can. Alongside him are appearances from William which sets up a somewhat cliched, old-as-the-genre moral monster vs immoral monster. We have an interesting hierarchy among the demons which suggests a wider and deeper world which may be explored once Sophia moves on to a different chapter of her life. But in this book I think the woo-woo is more an introduction and a backdrop to Sophia and her origin than anything else. Effectively, with relatively few modifications, I think changing Henry to any dangerous man Sophia was obsessed with and her addiction to heroin instead of magical blood and we’d still be telling a story that is very similar to this one - but it wouldn’t be a story that led to what is clearly coming in the series
This is a book of short stories from the Jane Yellowrock world - and it is huge. It may be a collection of all the short stories that there’s ever been in this series.
And it is excellent. It’s excellent because Faith Hunter is very very good at her short stories - the majority of them add something compelling to the main series. They add a little something to Jane’s past, to her relationships, flash out some elements of various characters’ back stories
I’m not saying they’re all perfect by any means - but the general tone of this whole book is to add a lot of richness and value to the whole series, filling in blanks, adding colour, expanding, adding realness - filling in all those things that would bog down a main book or get in the way or be unnecessary but still have value. That is a perfect use for short stories and compiling them all in one book removes the whole treasure hunt feel you can get trying to find a series’ supporting work.
We Sa and the Lumberking previously appeared in Have Stakes Will Travel developing Jane’s history before the series begins and continuing to keep her Native American ethnicity and experiences centreal
Similarly The Early Years also touches on another of Jane’s early moments, we’ve heard repeatedly that Jane was brought up in a children’s home but we’ve never really seen - Jane’s history in the children’s home and the people she met there and her first awareness of Beast and what Beast was beyond the ignorant attempts to explain that she got from the foster home. At the same time we get some excellent expositions of the flaws of the foster system and, really, how little it actually did to set up Jane for a successful life; not just because she didn’t fit - and Bobby due to his disabilities.
This is continued in Snafu her apprenticeship in security and private investigation, how she gained the skillset she had now, how she grew as a person, as a skinwalker, as a professional and as an adult. These three stories make an excellent arc for Jane’s early years and putting a great foundation of them.
This idea of using short stories to tell us how Jane got to where she is now continues with Kits which lays the foundation for one of the most important relationships in this book: Jane and her best friend and witch Molly. Their friendship, loyalty rough times and high times define so much of this series which means this, their first introduction so important. Especially as it really does explain how two people who are, by necessity, so private, managed to open up and really trust one another. Really, it sets the foundation for how Molly and Jane became not just friends, but family, which adds a realness to their relationship throughout the main series. Haints continues this with more looking at the supernatural world, more looking at how Molly fits into it (and, yes, using her witch skills to try and earn some money, even if dangerously. I like this because while Jane charges huge sums for her work, Molly doesn’t and as a mother of two, the extra cash isn’t just a throwaway resource to her). This also appeared in Have Stakes will Travel along with Signature of Death further cementing this awesome relationship and making them almost required reading for the series. But, I have to say like I did in Have Stakes Will Travel that the sheer amount Jane has reached out to Molly makes me even more disappointed when Molly turns on Jane for a couple of books in the same series. Yes there’s good reason - but these short stories show immense life-saving help Jane has given Molly in the past; I feel Jane deserved better than this. Which, of course, makes me even more happy to see them reconciled in later books
Again, this is why this arc is so important - it adds a wonderful texture to these character interactions
In theory, I suppose that it would be good to use short stories to do with Bruiser and Jane what was done with Molly and Jane. Sadly, I think this is a weaker element of this book, First Sight feels like a shallow bit of nothing, cheapening their relationship with insta-love and far far far too much sexual drooling. Which moves on to Dance Master which could be an analysis of Bruiser and Jane’s relationship or a nice snapshot of Jane’s daily life but is from Bruiser’s point of view and comes with more drool drool drool sexy drool, jealousy, sparring with Leo blah blah.
Which, I suppose, is kind of what Cat Tats does for Rick LeFleur which I’m sure would be all good and expansive for the character except I’ve always kind of hated him and that’s never really changed. It’s not so much him but as to what a complete mess Jane became around him. Still this story is essential - because so much of Rick’s story you can follow but not truly understand without this entry: explaining his mystical tattoos which would later cause him so much trouble in shapeshifting. Again we don’t just have one short story but a whole arc of Rick, from those tattoos, to then his initial problems and desperation in Blood, Fangs and Going Furry in trying to survive being turned into a wereleopard but unable to shift. Again, things we were vaguely aware of in the main series gain so much more texture following Rick’s arc and seeing the multiple places where Jane made a difference in his life
Alex, the God of Scales and Silence, has been asked by his girlfriend Shelby to help with a problem in Australia - her home where her family still fights to protect Cryptids
They’re having an outbreak of werewolves.
The Lycanthropy-W disease is one of Alex’s worst fears and one of the most devastating things that can afflict a country; especially Australia that has never had an outbreak before.
Of course, while the 36 society has no experience of Lycanthropy, Alex has no experience of Australia - and he has a very healthy respect for how dangerous the continent can be. And that’s aside from Shelby’s family
This book takes Alex and Shelby to Australia. I was struck with their being one major, vital point about Australia. There are no Aislinn mice in Australia.
I mourned, I sulked, I pouted, an Incryptid novel without Aisline Mice is clearly sadness. Until:
“One foot bumped my rolling suitcase, which gave out a faint cheer.”
Hail! Hail the God of Scales and Silence! Hail the Airline Smuggled Mice! Hail!
Yes, the glee returns!
Obviously, with the InCryptid series, there are a lot of things I’m going to praise every book, repeating over and over again. I will always praise the world building, the concept of cryptids and how they fit into the world and how they fit into the natural ecosystem. I will alway praise how incredibly creative they are but also how they fit so excellently with the cycles of the world - like how hunting therianthopes caused lycanthrope-W disease to spread because of the clumsy hunting of the Covenant, or how hunting unicorns caused the spread of cholera.
I will always praise the writing with its excellent pacing, the excitement of the action, the awesomeness of the personal relationships, the excellently presented world buildings, and the perfect inclusion of humour among the science and fun. I am always torn between both not being repetive in my reviews while still having to mention this every book because it would be remiss of me not to remind everyone of the awesomeness
And the Aislinn mice. Who are awesome
But aside from the standard awesomeness of all of the above, I also like the exploration of a, well, a morality spectrum, how the 36-ers differ from the Price family in power and resources and in attitude, and an examination of Alex’s own morality and how he has reacted to the 36-ers own attitude
It's easy to identify with the fears of all of the characters and put yourself in their place. I don't know however if I would find Mrs.Carmody, who starts going on about human sacrifice all that appealing, no matter how scared I happened to be.
Scarlett does not want to go to Las Vegas. No, not even if there are two vampires putting on a show that may reveal the old world. No not even if Dashiel is paying her a huge sum of money. She’s not going
But Vampires don’t take no for an answer and with Dashiel manipulating her sister-in-law into going she has to try and protect them. But there she encounters something far more deadly than Dashiel expected… she could come home, but who but Scarlett will stop the death toll rising?
I would describe the world building of this book as solid and balanced and… disciplined. That seems like an odd word - but so many books have an anything-goes-magical-world and then decide ALL THE THINGS must be included so you can’t even go to the local shops without tripping over 2 leprechauns, bumping into a kitsune and dodging a Wendigo.
This book is excellently focused on the three major supernaturals - vampires, werewolves and witches, while clearly having a world with more out there but not allowing those swamp the book - instead we have nice additions without losing the focus
And I like how he implications of Scarlett, a null, fits into that - from alleviating the werewolf curse which is such a relief at times, to vampires being disturbed by actually feeling cold/hunger etc. I like the nuance of it.
What did surprise me about this book is the ending. There are elements I didn’t like - but I will say the whole thing completely surprised me - the twists and turns are completely beyond what I expected. Honestly, the ending and what happened with the characters was definitely not anything I expected as I read along. Throughout the book the plot goes in ways I never expected - the culprits were completely not what I expected. The way Scarlett finds the answers, balancing her friends, the threats and getting to the bottom of things is also a really original unexpected direction.
The plot does have moments where I think Scarlett seems to make some pretty huge leaps at times - like the whole Skinners storyline seemed to come from nowhere. Like we went from not even knowing Skinners existed and then suddenly decided they were a major threat without any real indication that they were present.but suddenly everyone focused on them
That aside the twists really make this plot. There’s action which is really well done, but not a lot mainly focusing on the investigation since Scarlett has a very unique power which isn’t necessarily a combat monster but definitely dangerous, following leads and balancing just how much Scarlett actually wants to be involved in this dangerous investigation.
I like Scarlett’s own development - she has that nice balance between her being duly concerned with her safety and the people she cares for alongside her compassion. I actually kind of like how Dashiel pretty much twists her arm to make her go - yes it’s coercive but we’re not talking a love interest here and, let’s be clear, the Cardinal Vampire of Los Angeles is going to be a ruthless user of people because, hey, master vampires, I don’t expect fluffy fluffy niceness. And Scarlett pretty much recognises this and doesn’t expect more. But I do like that she isn’t going to put herself at risk just because Dashiel says so. I like a compassionate protagonist but being a complete martyr is an overdone trope; especially female protagonists who are often not allowed to seek their own advancement.. Compassion moves her, as does threat and money - and it’s ok for a protagonist to be somewhat self interested. Of course that then falls apart because she’s only gathering a huge amount of money to help pay off her brother’s son’s massive medical bills
Nevada knows better than to get involved in Prime politics - and doubly to keep her magic hidden from the powerful families
But when Cornelius pleads for her to find the murderer of his wife, she feels she has to get involved. When a paedophile kidnaps a young girl she feels she can’t not use her magic
And when she uncovers a magical conspiracy that may destabilise the entire city if not the whole country she is again pulled in. More and more Nevada is drawn into Prime society.
I love this world - which goes without saying. It’s Ilona Andrews: it goes without saying that the world is amazing. All their worlds are amazing. In every series. No-one beats Ilona Andrews when it comes to amazing worlds.
But I think more than the magic world building I love how the politics between the Prime families and how they interact, the rights they have, the privileges. The magic is there and underpins everything which shapes both history and politics which in turn shapes the characters and their experiences- but it’s more the maneuvering than the shiny powers that drives their actions.
Though I love how the powers are depicted, especially the subtle and horrifying impact of Nevada’s own power. As well as the comic and scary effects of her sister. Or how the power to talk to animals can render humans socially awkward. These are all excellently put together
I like the thought that has gone into magical intervention as well - how if a powerful magic user intervenes in one disaster they’re then blamed or attacked if a similar disaster strikes and they don’t step forward.
And the romance. This is generally where I say how much the romance is a distraction and how I hates it and, well, if you’ve read my reviews you know the drill of my annoyance. However, here is the mold being broken -ok i do think we, perhaps, spend a little more time on the romance than is ideal considering there is so much plot and world to get through but I can recognise that as a personal preference thing. What I do like is the conflicts between them - because they’re reasonable and sensible and don’t require one or both parties to lose their ever loving minds in order to have a disagreement.
Rogan is ridiculously rich and powerful and he decides he wants to protect Nevada - but in trying to do that he is using his vast wealthy to control her and the land and people around her. He sees this as defending her while she, rightfully, rejects this as it gives her a ridiculous amount of power over her, completely removes any chance of having an equal relationship - it’s not just that he has so much more wealth and power and influence than her but he’s willing to use it without consulting her of helping her.
Nevada is clearly right on this front - his control over her, his arrogantly deciding he knows what is best for her is clearly a problem. He’s right that she’s vulnerable and the political forces that are set to prey on her are more than she can defend against - so he’s not exaggerating or just making up a threat, but equally that measure of command and control without consulting her. There’s an excellent quote:
“For any kind of relationship to work, I have to have the choice to walk away from it”
Which is an excellent point on consent we’ve talked about before and I love to see it here.
On top of that arrogance there’s Nevada’s unwillingness to be a fling to him and his reluctance to push for an actual relationship are red lines for her. There are conflicts between them, but they are not unreasonable or foolish nor do they consume their story or make them unable to work together or co-operate. And when they start to come together it’s only after these issues have been aired and they begin to be addressed as something that matters
Claire continues to split her time before running her family shop out of the Zone - he magic struck heart of New Orleans - and working with Liam as a bounty hunter to bring in lost wraiths to Containment - and their prison for paranormals
Increasingly she sees the injustice of Devil’s Isle - not least because of her own carefully hidden magic. But all of Containment are at risk when a charismatic human preacher starts rallying people against the remaining imprisoned supernaturals. The war ended 7 years ago, but someone is trying to start it again
Like the first book in this series, I have to say what really stands out here is the world.
The concept of a war zone created by magical invaders, of the prisoners of that war - so many supernatural creatures - locked away. Of permanent scars left on the land due to the influx of magic and then people trying to scratch a living in that land, in battle scarred New Orleans, in the shadow of that prison, dealing with shortages and magic and the constant threat of wraiths but also the oppression and intrusion of Containment interference.
The magic invaders themselves are divided, not just by creature type and magic but also by faction - the invading Court and the ordered Consularis who were forced into the fight. Then this book brings in lots of extra complexity around Sensitives - humans who have absorbed magic, gained abilities but now risk imprisonment and worse. As well as human hate groups blaming the remaining imprisoned paranormals for everything that is wrong in the Zone.
That was also something that mildly frustrated me - or not so mildly. Like we’re told there’s a difference between the Consularis and the Court and the Court forced the Consularis to fight - ok, fair enough but can we go to that in more depth? See some actual divisions? Maybe meet one of the court? It’s suggested the Court were ruled by the Consularis - were they escaping what they considered oppressive rule? We’ve already had the words “consularis” and “order” even strict order bandied about a lot - maybe expand?
Or expand a bit more on the numerous supernaturals we see? What are they? What powers do they have? What cultures? We alluded to some having troubles adapting to Earth - let’s see that
Or how Ezekiel and his anti-paranormal movement in part succeeds because there’s a lot of very poor, desperate people living in the now 7 year old refugee camps - can we explore their lives and struggles? Or how some are willing to live in the camps because New Orleans itself is so heavily monitored and policed by Containment.
This book, this world lays out a thousand and one fascinating plot points and they’re strewn around and I beg, BEG to follow any one of them up.
And, like completely unnecessary pineapple on an otherwise delicious pizza, we have Liam and Claire’s romance. And…. whyyyyy? We have this world, this amazing world, an excellent brewing conflict pointing out plenty of other nice hooks and still lots of thing about the world that I really want developing a whole lot more and we have this romance in the middle. And I know I harp on about unnecessary romance a lot - it’s just I’ve seen an awful lot of excellent adventures and worlds fall into the background while we focus on the bland love. Which is what gets me - see if Liam and Claire had met, declared each other hot, decided they were going to work together, found they had similar values, had hot sex, liked each other, agreed with each other, became closer through their adventure, shared interest and mutual passion, I’d be there for that. But instead we have yet another couple brought together through proximity and hotness but NO they cannot be together because CONVOLUTED REASONS and then sexual tension, woe, sexual tension, woe, rince repeat like we’ve read in a 100 other books, introduce another guy who is kinda-sorta competition (hi Malachi) for some jealousy. When they finally hook up then we have drama that splits them up again.
Which is what we have here - it’s such a text book paint by numbers romance (right down the the cajun love interest and if you’re in New Orleans you simply have to have a cajun love interest, it is known) and it stands out as extra cliched because the rest of the book is so imaginative and creative. When you have a world with such original concepts, the central romance being so typical with a love interest who feels so meh just stands out sharply