Review: Shift in Time — by Mercy Celeste

shift-in-timeOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This is an advance reader copy given to me by the author for an honest review.  As with all of my review, these are my own opinions.

One of my favorite books is Mercy Celeste’s Behind Iron Lace.  While the book was fairly short with lots of sex, it managed to pull me quickly into the story and the accurate description of the muggy deep south summer weather had me smiling.  So, when asked to review this book, I hoped that I would enjoy this book just as much.

Basic Plot:

Morgan Monstros comes from a family of witches, but is considered a “normal”.  And in this case, normal is not good.  Morgan has always felt like his life was bland in a world of flavor, but never felt he deserved a chance to thrive.  While taking care of his sister’s cat, Morgan discovers something unusual:  he can understand him!  What we discover is that the cat’s name is Fane — who is really a human.  Will Morgan be able to have a normal relationship or will outside forces hamper it?

Morgan Monstros:

From the start we feel badly for Morgan.  He is a “normal”, a word that demonstrates how beneath he is from the rest of his magical society.  He remains on this isolated island taking care of the family inn.  He has no protection from magic and we can see how vulnerable this makes him feel:

“I thought you weren’t poking around in my head.”  Betrayal, that’s what it was.  He had none of her talent, none of any of his sisters’ talents.  The one true normal in the family, and they all used it against him.

We can easily relate to Morgan, someone who feels like he disappoints his family and will never fit-in.

Fane Llewellyn:

Celeste did an excellent job with her depiction of Fane’s change from cat to human.  In science-fiction so often the extreme situations are so impractical that the reader will roll their eyes.  But the confusion and frustration that Fane goes through makes sense.

“I am fine.  I am cat.  I play at night.”  Fane replied, knowing he wasn’t cat anymore.  Most nights he really preferred a warm place to cuddle.  The past few nights had been with Gan.  Tonight, he didn’t know why  he felt the need to run.  “The moon calls to me.  Gan should not sleep in short johns.”

I loved how we understand how Fane struggles both by time, but also by the curse of the shift.  This struggle with the curse is something we can compare with the theme of sexuality.

Theme Summary:

I see the theme of Morgan and Fane’s struggle with not fitting into their society as a metaphor for those who struggle with their sexual identity.  We have two men who can not control their differences with their society and because of these differences they are shunned.  In fact, their lives are in danger.  While dramatic here, look at teen suicide and sexual identity.  Early on we see Morgan’s struggle:

“I had no choice.”  Morgan’s voice broke as he spoke.  He cleared his throat.  “Males are rare in our world.  We must marry a female.  We must have children.  We must carry on the magick into the next generation.  I was made to choose that or chastity.  To spill my seed in the body of a man is an abomination.”

In addition, Fane, has been “forced” to change (by the curse) and his quality of life is less than what it could be.  He has loss his specialness (I do not want to spoil part of the plot), but by Morgan breaking the curse, he is allowed to find is true shape/spirit.

I would actually recommend this book to those who struggle with their sexuality.  It is not a book that has any ground-breaking teenage moments, but I think that someone who does grapple can relate to the uncertainty and despair.

Strong Points:

I enjoyed the building of the “mystery” and how we, as the reader, slowly come to understand the background of Morgan and Fane.  The initial struggle seems silly until we understand the true struggle of our heroes.

What could be better?

There is a lot of sex, and while the sex was awesome, toward the end I actually skipped it.  The balance of sex and plot is a delicate one, and Celeste tends to write a lot of sex in her novels.

Conclusions:

I truly enjoyed this book.  I have a feeling that I got a lot more of out of the theme than some other reviewers on Goodreads, but that’s ok.  Sometimes you have to understand that while a book might be short and have a lot sex, it does not mean that there is not more complexity.  I would certainly recommend this book and I will go and check-out some more works of Mercy Celeste.

Bea

Review: A Desperate Arrangement — by mikkimouse

Other Reviewers: Goodreads

Fan-Fiction.  It has become something that I read 75% of the time now.  I keep going back to my Goodreads list of to-reads and no of my published books look interesting enough to spend money on.  Maybe I am getting burned out.

So, I have been checking out Archive of Our Own, checking out my favorite worlds:  Sterek, Larry, and Drarry.  I found a historical royalty AU for Sterek and it looked very interesting, it is always great when we get to see our characters in a new setting (and actual plot).  For some other Sterek fan-fiction recommendations see this review.

Basic Plot:

The kingdoms of McCall, Hale, and Argent are in a battle for control and land.  The tentative treaties are not holding and war is imminent.  Now there is a possible treaty between McCall and  Hale — the solution?  Marriage between Stiles and Derek.  But can this loveless marriage truly be happy and can it stop war?

Stiles Stilinski:

The personality of Stiles is consistent with the character on the TV show.  Stiles love his father and his brother (actual brother in this universe), Scott.  Stiles is the illegitimate brother of King Scott and acts as his advisor and magician.

The reminder stung, and Stiles bit his lip and turned away.  He and Scott had been not-so-subtly playing matchmaker ever since Queen Melissa’s official mourning period had ended, and Stiles didn’t want to take that chance at happiness away from Scott’s mother or his own father.  But… “So you’d ask me to be trapped in a marriage instead?”

Scott had the decency to look a little guilty.  “I know what I’m asking, ” he said, “and I swear I wouldn’t be asking it if I didn’t think you’d be at least content in the end.”

So we see Stiles sacrificing his own personal happiness for the good of the country.  This action demonstrates his sense of duty and integrity.

Derek Hale:

Derek’s character has alway been a complex one.  In A Desperate Arrangement,  Derek is the second son who already had a horrific engagement to Kate Argent which ended with Derek’s father’s death.  The guilt has beaten down Derek so much that he is a shell of the man he was before.  It certainly does not help that his brother, the King is a big ‘ol A-HOLE that I want to beat silly.  But to Derek, pack is everything and he is willing to destroy his life (based on his experience in the previous betrothal) to save his country.

Now, he rested in the corner of the courtyard after a grueling training session, doing his best to burn off excess energy and get his mind off everything.  Like his father, who would be scarcely three months dead when Derek was married.  Or the getting married, which reminded him of the rules Stiles had set down.  Or Stiles himself, whom Derek had done an equality good job of avoiding because he didn’t trust himself to be around his betrothed for five minutes without attempting something abominably stupid, like tracing the outline of those blue tattoos with his tongue.

I feel badly on how Derek has been treated, like an asset to be used, even by his family.  You get the feeling of how trapped he feels, which is even more powerful due to the werewolf nature.  The author does an excellent job of describing the inner animal and his PTSD reactions.

Theme Summary:

A simple theme of “Don’t judge a book by the cover” could be applied here.  Stiles is a bastard son, but he is loved and deeply valued member of the court and family.  He is easily discounted, but his verbal acuity has made him an asset.  On the same hand, Derek is a fierce warrior who has a sensitive soul that only wants to be of value to his family and country.  His sensitivity is also hidden, and his relationship with Stiles brings that to the surface as he heals.

Strong Points:

The world building in A Desperate Arrangement had me turning the page to learn more.  I loved how the author turned the Teen Wolf tension and character profiles and made it into an alternate world.  The author did a great job of describing the action scenes:

Derek immediately went on the defensive, but the captain seemed to know how to turn each parry into another attack.  If Derek pinned the staff to the ground, the captain slid forward to kick Derek’s knee.  If he knocked the staff to one side, the captain rolled it across his back and came at him from the other.  And when Derek aimed his staff at the captain’s legs, trying to knock him off-balance, the captain slammed his staff into the ground and used the momentum to swing himself around and kick Derek in the hip

I also enjoyed the chemistry between Stiles and Derek and their dialogue.

What could be better?

The only improvement I would suggest is that the mystery/adventure plot was to be expected and was tropey.  To be fair, this is due to the fact that all of the characters are from the TV show, so we can expect certain people to behave in the way that they did.  It did not dampen my enjoyment of the story, but I could see that if it was not so much fan-fiction the author would have had room to create more original side characters.

Conclusions:

Overall, I enjoyed the book, it was different that many of the other Sterek fan-fiction out there.  I will certain keep this author in mind for other works.

 

Bea

Review: Paws of Fury — by Veritas03

Other Reviewers: Goodreads

This week is another fan-fiction review:  Paws of Fury by Veritas03

I am a big fan of Fan-Fiction, and now in TV series like TeenWolf, I am frustrated with their inconsistent plot lines.  In Fan fiction, we get the freedom to not follow these lines, but create a whole new world or expand on an established one.

In Paws of Fury, we are in the Harry Potter world again and we have a romance between Harry and Draco.

Basic Plot:

Harry is full of anger and it shows.  Finally an angry tirade is interrupted by an old lady and she tells him: “Bellow, bluster… your rage is insignificant. No more than the mewing of a kitten. Do not be afraid. He will save you. Calm you. Love you.”  Now, Harry finds himself turned into a black kitten at the feet of Draco Malfoy.  Is this relationship real or just a result of a curse?

Harry Potter:

Harry’s character is much of what I would expect from the movies.  He is once again put into a position of undergoing an unknown threat and he rises to the challenge.  He has been crushed down by this angry he can’t control:

“The evil … it’s like this malignant force.”  Harry sighed deeply and looked at Draco.  Receiving the encouraging smile that he needed, he continued.  “I’ve been struggling with… these feelings of anger for a long time.”

Now Harry has found someone he can rely on and while being a kitten, he can stop being the hero.

Draco Malfoy:

Draco’s character is a matured version of what we saw in the movies.  To be fair, I have not read the books, so I can only go on the character we found in the movies.  But Draco is forced to mature and has left the past where it belonged.  But we still see him as his sassy self:

The door slid closed as he realized that Harry Potter, rather than getting off at the floor for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, still stood in the lift, stabbing him with a glare.  This might have intimidated someone who didn’t know the Auror as well as Draco felt he knew Potter.  Or someone who hadn’t hosted the Dark Lord of Terror and Insanity in his home.

Draco understands where Harry is in his life, dealing with these curses.  He understands unexpected anger and Draco is the perfect person to help him heal.  I love his nurturing character, something that shows growth from the character we saw from their past.

Theme Summary:

This is mostly a love story, a light fluffy romp in the city.  But this is also about accepting people for who they are, understanding the past is there and learning to love the person they are now.  For Harry, he has been feeling anger and sadness for years because of the curse.  He had almost felt like giving up, but his friends and work kept him going.  For Draco, his family and work kept him going, but he still had not found someone who he was properly matched.  With this conflict and what feels like fate, they are pushed together and find that they are more alike than they thought.

Strong Points:

I love when I open a book and can have a simple, warm love-fest.  While there are problems and conflicts, the relationship is not really one that we need to worry about.  This gives the author time to focus on the actual mystery story.

The scenes between Draco and Harry were great, there was a sweetness between them that we obviously did not have in the Harry Potter world.  Making characters that resemble, but are not exactly like who they were in the books/movies is a risk.  What happens when they are so different from the “bible” so to speak?

What could be better?

The plot is fairly simple.  What concerns me the most is that Draco’s character is really nothing like what was in the series: he is no way a selfish asshole.  Which makes this book entertaining, but makes the character more of “inspired” rather than developing an established character.  At the same time, we see the author has created a character of their own, which is what is expected.

Conclusions:

I love fan-fiction, and I certainly love being able to see established characters and seeing someone else can do with the basic ideas.  This book is a nice fluff-fest, which if you need to feel happy and light, then this book is for you.  No real drama here, just lots of cuddling with a cute black kitten.

Bea

Review: Life Renovations — by Windseeker2305

Other Reviewers: Goodreads

I am tired and burned out.  For the last 7 months I have been working my ass off at a new job, trying to fix my new house up, and weave into a new community and friends.  My entire life has changed, including what I do to relax and unwind.  After a little more of a year, I have lost 85 pounds, much of this is due to limiting my desk / bed activities.  Which means that I spend less time being depressed and reading.

Thus my slowing down at blog posting.  And the good news, my blog site is getting tons of book requests.  The problem? I have not posted a book review in months that I wanted to read originally.  Not that I did not enjoy the books, just that it becomes “homework” and I do not want to jump at reading them.  And then my busy schedule hits and I put things off.

And now here we are, over a month later and I am finally getting to a post.  I feel badly for authors that I have scheduled to review, but I just have felt such a huge level of burn-out at every point of my life.

So, not to digress too far, I decided to post a review that I WANTED to do.  This week is a series I have not finished, but I have been reading non-stop for over a week.  And this series is MASSIVE.

When I say this series is massive, I mean massive:  at 1,376,466 words, you get your fill.  It is Harry Potter fan-fiction, which as you know, I love me some fan-fiction.  If you want to check out the direct link go here.  Archive of Our Own is a wonderful place, and if you are in need of great free reads, this is a great place to start.  I have been reading some One Direction, Sterek, and Harry Potter fiction like crazy.

The Life Cycle series is one that begins somewhat  in the Harry Potter universe, but we move quickly into an alternate universe.

Basic Plot:

Harry Potter is rescued by unlikely new allies from his abusive Aunt and Uncle’s home.  From there, Harry discovers that he has a new mate, Draco.  But what other changes in Harry’s life can he expect and is he ready for it?  Can he and Draco rise to the challenges ahead?

Harry Potter:

Harry is good at hiding his problems; he has been hiding them for years.  However, as much as he thinks his body can heal, his spirit is dying.  As he becomes trapped in is own mind, someone, Draco discovers that there is much more to Harry than his fame.

Harry’s head started to move back and forth, and he groaned and started to shake.  Draco stilled his hands.  “Potter?  Can you open your eyes?”

“No, I’m sorry… I know I deserve it, but please… stop hitting me.”  Harry was clearly trapped in his mind, in his pain.

Draco growled deep in his throat, and glared at Harry’s relatives.  “No one deserves to be treated this way!  Especially not Harry Potter!  Do you know who this boy is?”  He yelled, still cradling Harry’s head in his lap.  “He is the Savior of the Wizarding World!  He is the only one who can save us!”

This becomes one of the challenges of the book and the series:  is Harry good enough to have everyone’s faith put on his shoulders?   One of the themes of this book revolves a great deal around Harry’s character development.

Draco Malfoy:

I love Draco.  He is the warrior, the passionate fighter who is completely devoted to Harry and their destiny.  Draco too, matures and becomes who he is meant to be, but I saw less of character development with Draco.  From the beginning of the story we see the connection between the two.  Despite all of the action and subplots, we have a huge theme of love and devotion:

There was something else though.  He knew deep down t his ache was caused by something else, perhaps someone else.  Draco sighed and dropped his forehead against the cool glass of the window.  As soon as his eyes closed, a flash of pained and frightened green eyes flashed into his minds eye, causing Draco to gasp and clutch at his chest with that hand.

“Potter?” he whispered.

What is interesting of this fan-fiction is that we still have the same Draco character we know from the movies and books, yet we see him walking down a different path than what the movies show us.  He is still dark, but his love and devotion to Harry and  Harry’s vision keeps him on the “right path”.

Theme Summary:

This is a large series, with much of it consisting of world building, action, and dialogue.  But all throughout the story and sub-plots, we hear this refrain: We must learn to believe in ourselves before others will believe and follow.  Leaders might be born for their roles, but they must have the heart to pursue their dreams.

Draco and Harry are born with a destiny, one which at first they are not ready for and must have both mental and physical transformations.  The three books step us through this process, moving us from one realm to another.

Strong Points:

The world building in this series is amazing.  The author builds multiple universes revolving around the Ukatae culture.  It is too much to go into detail here, but briefly they are ancient magical creatures.  They once were leaders and plentiful, but inner turmoil and strife has left them all but extinct.  Now, it is up to Draco and Harry to lead and build a new world.

The first book is about Harry and Draco resolving the wizard conflicts we are familiar within the books and movies.  The second book is a mixture of wrapping up that issue and building the tension of the “new bad guy” of the Ukatae plot lines.  Be prepared for a lot of sub-plots.  But, at least for me, I was never bored with them and I did little skimming.  Sometimes with fan-fiction we can see where an editor might be able to cut, and while I can see that with the second book (God was that long), the first and last book are pretty tight.

Keep in mind that you will want to read straight through, so I would go ahead and download all three at once.  Also, accept the fact that you will not be able to read this in a week, let alone a day.  Pace yourself, you will need it.

What could be better?

If anything, the series could use some editing, there is a lot of sub-relationships that we see, both in the wizard world as well as Ukatae.  However, at the same time, they move the plot forward and with every relationship that we see evolve, we learn more about the culture.  So, I would find it hard to eliminate any of the relationships from the books.

Also, these characters are DARK!  If you have any type of problem with ambiguous morality, then this series might not be for you.  I would not say they are “evil”, but they are not “goodie-goodie”.

Conclusions:

This is another example of why fan-fiction is so important.  It is a great place for new writers to get a launching board into creating their own worlds and develop their own voice.  I can see with Windseeker’s imagination going somewhere with their writing.  We need fan-fiction like this and places like Archive of Our Own to give people a place to grow.

 

Such a well written series. I look forward to reading more by this author.

Bea

Review: To The Other Side — by S.J. Frost

To_other_SIDE

Other Reviewers: Goodreads

For me, when I think S.J. Frost, I think either musicians or vampires; so I was immediately interested to see how she worked with fantasy.  Her novels usually contain romance, music descriptions, a world building, sex, and a deep emotional commitment between a group of friends.  When you read a Frost book, you can expect a large cast of characters.

With all of these descriptions, it could easily translate into fantasy.  I believe that she succeeds here.

Basic Plot:

Garrett is a biologist and environmentalist who attempts to save a portion of forest before it becomes deforested.  In his quest in the remote wilds he finds something supernatural and beyond anything he could expect.  Bryson saves him and takes him back to his world where even more danger lurks.  Can they make their relationship work and will they have enough time to save both worlds?

Garrett Evergard:

I suppose that we identify with Garrett as our point of view.  He is just a normal man, no special powers, no special skills, just a simple man who wants to do good.  It really is his heart and human spirit that is so unique:

He’d been to and traveled through every type of land imaginable — deserts, plains, mountains — but no matter the beauty of them all, it was the forests he loved most.  He supposed he was a bit of a nemophilist that way.  Even growing up, every chance he had, he was in the forest, wandering.  There was something about being surrounded by the trees rising so high above him that made him feel calm and safe.  And in the forest, he was never alone.  He was surrounded by the company he preferred much more than his own human race; birds, squirrels, rabbits, and so many other creatures.

What I enjoyed most about his character was his courage and his instinct to do the right thing, even at a cost.  We see that in his passion for animals and the world, and we see it as he crosses over to the other world into Bryson’s.  He is also a bit of a loner, no real connection with friends, other than his boss.  He seems to have difficulty connecting with people, and we see that he uses all of his energy in his work.

Bryson Summers:

I see Bryson as the typical healer, his focus in life is to protect the Gate between the worlds and to take care of those who are in need.  He is a witch, a good witch, but there are magical humans who only want to use the “dark side” of magic for evil called warlocks.  But in Bryson, he is the light side.

“Honestly, it’s hard to meet anyone, being … well, what I am.  I live between two worlds, and even though I go into both frequently, anyone I meet on the Earth-side I can’t exactly bring here.  And on the Terra-side, it’s hard to find someone who really understands me, because of not fully being from their world, having grown up on the Earth-side.”

So we have someone who is an extraordinary person who felt that he would never find someone to live his life with.

Theme Summary:

From a romance perspective the theme surrounds finding your one true love.  Is there someone out there for everyone?  In Bryson’s case, he has plenty of friends, plenty of passion for his job, but has yet to find someone who can satisfy his need for both worlds.  His job as Gate keeper forces him to remain there to protect it, and travel to both worlds.  So, can he find someone who could fit into both worlds too?  We see how Garrett handles learning all about this magical world:

Really, he was sure his acceptance of their existence came from something even deeper; the little boy who’d always searched under logs and peeked in tree holes for gnomes, who would look at the forehead of every white horse he saw with the hopes of spotting a horn.

I wouldn’t say that the fantasy has much of a theme, other than good versus evil and how every good has an equal bad reflection (ex. witch versus warlock).

Strong Points:

The strong points in this novel is in the writing and descriptions.  I love how Frost describes these magical things like dragons and unicorns.  Take this first look at the new world by Garrett:

No larger than a cat, the dragon pushed off its side to sit up, and was scooped into the man’s arms.  Its scales were white, but as the light hit them, an iridescent sheen glistened over them.  Two ivory-colored horns spiraled out from the back of the dragon’s refined, small head, which was held up on a long, slender neck.  Triangular spikes, the same ivory color as the horns, ran down the back of its neck, back, and tail.  The tip of its tail ended in a spear-like point.

Another strong point is something that we see in all of her series, the concept that friends are your family.  In both Conquest series and her Instincts series, she builds families out of friendships.  I love how she shows love and affection easily given between men.  The fact that this friendship is so passionate and strong, but it is not written in a sexual manner, rather in comfort and camaraderie.

What could be better?

Believe it or not, this is not a 5 star review because there was too much sex.  One of the greatest things about Frost’s writing is that she is not afraid of giving the readers some sexy and hot scenes.  The emotional connection between Jesse and Evan is one of the most intense scenes through sex (Conquest series).  But maybe it’s just my image of fantasy books, but I tend to want a great deal of world building and not a lot of sex.

That being said, I will say the sex wasn’t until about 1/2 through the book, so there was plenty of time for us to get the world building and plot established before they jumped into the bed.  My complaint is just toward the end I started skimming the sex scenes, and I was not overwhelmed with their emotional connection.  To be fair, I could be spoiled by Jesse and Evan.

Conclusions:

Overall, this is an amazing story and I am very excited about seeing this world unfold.  I think that Frost has built a solid foundation for a series and I wonder who the next story will revolve around.  I loved the descriptions, the friendships, and the love story.  The action scenes were incredibly vivid and there were times when I felt like I was watching a movie.

I recommend this book to anyone who has read a Frost book and I certainly think that any fantasy M/M readers will like this book as well.

Bea

Immortals After Dark Series by Kresley Cole

I remember reading somewhere that Kresley Cole began writing romance books because she was so dissatisfied with how a book had ended, that she knew she could write a better ending.

For me, this is a dark series in tone, something that will often have you closing the book to step away for a bit.  I always imagine that I am Joey in Friends; I might have to put it in the freezer for a little while. It’s at times all of these things: scary, horrifying, loving, emotional, heart-warming, and sexy.  To me, this is one of the most complex paranormal romance series out there.

What makes this series so complex?

First off, we do not simply have vampires, but also, witches, valkyries, demons, vemons (vampires and demons), fey, furies, werewolves [Lykae], and phantoms.  All of these beings have individual lore, and Ms. Cole does an outstanding job of dishing out back-story for all.  What I enjoy about this series is that she alludes to something that we might see a book, or even several books ahead.  Always giving us a just enough to make it interesting.  Just think of Kresley as Nix!

The basic world

These mystically beings are generally hidden from humans, and one of the centralized areas for witches, werewolves, and valkyries is New Orleans.  We will often travel over the world (in an instant if we are Vampires or Demons).  The series plot line revolves around The Accession, when basically “good” immortals fight against “bad” immortals every 500 years.  Think of it as immortal population control.  From the Glossary of Terms from the Living Book of Lore:

“And a time shall pass that all immortal beings in the Lore, from the Valkyrie, vampire, Lykae, and demon factions, to the phantoms, shifters, fey, and sirens… must fight and destroy each other.”

The “bad” immortals are known as Horde vampires.  These are vampires that drink directly from the tap (a big no-no in this world).

“In the first chaos of the Lore, a brotherhood of vampires dominated, by relying on their cold nature, worship of logic, and absence of mercy.  They sprang from the harsh steppes of Dacia and migrated to Russia, though some say a secret enclave, the Daci live in Dacia still.”

This series then is building to that great fight (at least 12 books and we are not there yet) as the “good” side builds alliances.

Conclusion:

The books differ enough on character personalities and tone that you might not like every one of them equally.  There are some, like Regin’s book that I really just did not like.  Mostly because I just cannot stand the character of Regin.  The farther along the series, the darker it gets as the over-arching plotline unfolds.  This is not my favorite series, but it is in my top 5 and I have re-read many of these books numerous times.

Bea

The Books:  These should be read in order

  •  The Warlord Wants Forever [#1] (2006) Main Characters: Nikolai Wroth and Myst the Coveted
  • A Hunger Like No Other [#2] (2006) Main Characters: Lachlain MacRieve and Emmaline Troy
  • No Rest for the Wicked [#3] (2006) Main Characters: Sebastian and Kaderin the Cold
  • Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night [#4] (2007) Main Characters:  Bown MacRieve and Mariketa the Awaited
  • Dark Needs at Night’s Edge [#5] (2008) Main Characters: Conrad Wroth and Neomi Laress
  • Dark Desires After Dusk [#6] (2008) Main Characters:  Cadeon Woede and Holly Ashwin
  • Kiss of a Demon King [#7] (2009) Main Characters: Rydstrom Woede and Sabine
  • Deep Kiss of Winter [#8]: (2009) Main Characters:  Murdoch Wroth and Daniela
  • Pleasure of a Dark Prince [#9] (2010) Main Characters: Garreth MacRieve and Lucia the Huntress
  • Demon from the Dark [#10] (2010) Main Characters:  Malkom Slaine and Carrow Graie
  • Dreams of a Dark Warrior [#11] (2011) Main Characters:  Aidan the Fierce and Regin the Radiant
  • Lothaire [#12] (2012) Main Characters: Lothaire and Elizabeth Peirce

Dirk and Steele Series

I consider Dirk and Steele one of my favorite (a tie with Black Dagger Brotherhood) series to read. Marjorie M. Liu has the skill to keep the reader captivated with complex plots, meticulous imagery, and poignant dialogue. There are similar complexity of character development, book plots, and series plots that rival series like Sword of Truth.

In most romance books there are formulas, either implicitly or explicitly specified, as standard practices. For example, halfway through the book is the first sex scene, and again probably before the climax of the book. The relationship peaks in the last sex scene as the protagonists discover their love.

But Ms. Liu doesn’t pen a “typical” romance book. When I first read Tiger Eye, I noted the lack of sex scenes compare to other romances. But after reflection, I realized that I was wholly satisfied with Dela and Hari’s emotional connection. Ms. Liu does not rely on sex to illustrate an emotional bond, but on dialogue and interactions. Don’t get me wrong, the sex scenes are still hot and exciting, but not the main vehicle of describing emotional connections in the relationship.

Another non-stereotypical aspect of this series is the darkness in themes. While this series does have HEA endings, the journey that the main characters travel to get there is often dark and painful. There are moments that I “put the book in the freezer” because I am so stirred by a scene. To be so emotionally involved in a character is a sign of an excellent storyteller.

The basic world

It is difficult to describe this series without giving away some of the series plots. So bear with me as I might say, “mysterious thing #1”…

This world consists of magical beings like shape shifters, magic users, and psychics. The private investigation team of Dirk and Steele is a PI agency that is hired for various missions, such as rescue hostages. One of the jokes in this series is “yeah, yeah we know that it’s a silly name, not a 1970’s TV cop show”. The action is not just focused on American soil, but the setting covers countries around the world. Based on Ms. Liu’s twitter, she travels the world frequently and her personal experience greatly enhances the authenticity of the books.

Dirk and Steele is a cover for their agents, who all have psi-gifts of some sort. These agents have psi-gifts like psychokinesis, pyrokinesis, clairvoyance, and psychometry to name a few. Basically, Dirk and Steele is a refuge to use their hidden skills and their differences are accepted. The agency was started long ago by Delilah Reese’s grandparents (William Steele and Nancy Dirk) and is currently run by Yancy (Delilah’s aunt). From Tiger Eyes:

“They found others. None of them did much together, except pat each other on the back and occasionally get married, but when my grandparents took over, all that changed. The organization became an agency. A detective agency of sorts, going by the name of Dirk and Steele.”

Roland runs the west coast wing of the agency in San Francisco and Nancy runs it in New York. The first book, Tiger Eyes brings shape-shifters into their world. In subsequent books we see the two working together. What I love about the Dirk and Steele Series is the connections between books illustrated by the foreshadowing. Ms. Liu is a master storyteller.

In most book series I can just “suggest” you read books in order, but in this case it is really mandatory that you read them in order.

Bea

The Books: These MUST be read in order

  • [Book 1] Tiger Eye (2005) Main Characters: Hari and Delilah Reese AKA “Dela”
  • [Book 2] Shadow Touch (2006) Main Characters: Artur Loginov and Elena Baxter
  • [Book 3] The Red Heart of Jade (2006) Main Characters: Dean Campbell and Mirabelle Lee AKA Miri
  • [Book 4] Dark Dreamers (2006) [Novella] Main Characters: Charlie Hannelore and Aggie Durand
  • [Book 5] Eye of Heaven (2006) Main Characters: Blue Perrineau and Iris McGillis
  • [Book 6] Soul Song (2007) Main Characters: M’cal and Kitala Bell
  • [Book 7] The Last Twilight (2008) Main Characters: Amiri and Rikki Kinn
  • [Book 8] The Wild Road (2008) Main Characters: Lannes Hannelore and Lethe
  • [Book 9] The Fire King (2009) Main Characters: Karr and Soria
  • [Book 10] In the Dark of Dreams (2010) Main Characters: Perrin and Jenny
  • [Book 11] Within the Flames (2011) Main Characters: Eddie and Lyssa