Blood and Feathers

Thank you, oh thank you Literary Gods! I was terrified that BLOOD AND FEATHERS by Lou Morgan would turn out to be Twilight with angels standing in for vampires. Why read on with the threat of a sparkly-vampire guillotine hanging over my head? Well in case you hadn't noticed I have become a big fan of Solaris Books. So far this is a publisher that has done little to steer me wrong. Oh and there is a quote by EBR favorite, Sarah Pinborough that goes a little like this...

"Dark, enticing and so sharp the pages could cut you, Blood and Feathers is a must-read for any fan of the genre."

High praise indeed, and the more cynical I become with my reading, the more I have come to rely on author blurbs. So what is BLOOD AND FEATHERS about?

Alice is a pawn in a conflict that has been waging since the Lucifer broke faith with the heavenly host. Under the tutelage of a hard drinking, hard fighting Earthbound angel by the name of Mallory, Alice must gain control over her blossoming powers and choose a side before the balance is forever tipped in the wrong direction.

So Lou Morgan actually manages to pull a sort of Anti-Twilight. Instead of making vampires seem really lame, Morgan takes angels and makes them dangerous and more than a little frightening. I'll stop with the Twilight comparisons there though, the two books have nothing important in common. What you need to know is that BLOOD AND FEATHERS is not paranormal romance. This is urban fantasy, colored in plenty of shades of blood-spattered moral gray. Morgan's angels are vengeful, ferocious, and downright psychotic. It's not their job to save the souls of humans. They are soldiers in an unending war against the brothers who have betrayed them.

This is a portrayal of angels that appeals to me. And if you think about it, it makes a sick sort of sense. After all, if Lucifer fell from grace and took a third of the angels with him then that obviously means that angels are far from perfect (at least in this story). So even the "good" guys have their flaws, and after thousands of years of fighting a losing battle they have become desperate as well. This is where Alice comes in.

Alice is a plucky young woman and that's good because she will need all that spunk to survive what she's got coming. She has an attitude and a sarcastic mouth to match but once you learn more of her history you can start to see why. Alice has not had an easy life and a lot of the blame could be placed on the Angels and the Fallen. Alice endures hardship and horrors that would have most grown men crying in the fetal position, and she keeps on going.

Mallory the Earthbound angel is the other main character. A hard drinking, hard fighting angel. Who could have expected? So at first Mallory strikes me as a bit of a cliche, but after a while the drinking is explained and it makes every bit of sense. Mallory has a legitimate excuse to be bitter about his station in life, and still he copes.

The Fallen could use more characterization. As is, the real bad guys sometimes appear to be the angels. Motivation aside the angels can be every bit as callous and sociopathic as their enemies. This ambiguity is a big bonus but I would still like to see more villainy from the Fallen in future entries. Much of the time I found myself mentally siding with the Fallen and were it not for the mind-control of Lucifer that is probably where I would stand.

There are some really creepy and powerful moments, not to mention a huge cataclysmic battle that takes place in the very bowels of Hell. I'm not sure why Lucifer risks losing dominion over Hell just to turn Alice rather than simply having her killed. That was really the only major question I had regarding the plot. I understand why Alice was so important to the angels but I feel like the threat she poses to the Fallen outweighs any utility she may offer. Other than that BLOOD AND FEATHERS is a solid debut novel, and promises a beginning to what will surely be an interesting series.

Recommended Age: 15+
Language: Nothing too explicit but it is certainly there.
Violence: Plenty to be found, but it's not all that gory.
Sex: None - to my utter surprise.

Want it? Buy it here.

Caliban's War

Where are the great Science Fiction series? It seems like there are dozens of fantasy series out there. A new fantasy book doesn’t come out that isn’t part of a series. It’s actually getting the fantasy authors to finish their series that’s the problem now a days. But Science Fiction? Where are the series? You could make a case for a few. John Scalzi has written at least four books in his Old Man’s War universe (depending on how you count THE SAGAN DIARY, and QUESTIONS FOR A SOLDIER). Robert Charles Wilson just last year wrote the last book in his Spin “trilogy”. But neither of them was a series. A book would come out and it would be a self-contained story written in the same universe. Neither were set up from the beginning to be a small part of something larger.

Good thing we have The Expanse.

CALIBAN'S WAR (the book we’re reviewing just in case you didn’t know), is the second book in The Expanse, and the sequel to last year’s excellent LEVIATHAN WAKES. LEVIATHAN WAKES was great and was amazing. It is currently on the Hugo nominee ballot for Best Novel, and was such a success that Orbit (the publisher of the series) ordered three more books and a series of novelettes. That means we’re getting (as best as I can count) six books in the series.

Folks, that’s good freaking news, cause this series rocks!

I’m gonna talk about the book now, which will inevitably spoil the previous book. So if you haven’t read LEVIATHAN WAKES, STOP READING! You’ve been warned.

CALIBAN'S WAR picks up a year after LEVIATHAN WAKES left off. The protomolecule has crashed into Venus and strange structures are sprouting up out of the atmosphere. Tensions between Earth, Mars and the newly former Outer Planet Alliance are high. On Ganymede a strange creature tears through a unit of Martian and Earther soldiers possibly sparking a war. Instead of just two viewpoints as was the case in LEVIATHAN WAKES, here we have four. Jim Holden is back, leading his crew trying to figure out what is going on with this strange creature and generally making a nuisance of himself. He is joined this time by Bobbie who is the lone surviving soldier when the creature attack. Avasarala, a diplomat from earth trying to keep the sides from war and figure out what is really happening. And Prax a scientist on Ganymede who, in the wake of the creatures attack and the disaster that follows, is trying to find his daughter who may be the key to everything that is going on.

I’m gonna come right out and say this. I think Daniel Abraham is setting the standard for the industry right now. His fantasy book THE KING'S BLOOD (book two in his fantasy series, The Dagger and the Coin) was probably the best thing I’ve read this year. He also co-wrote this book with a friend of his Ty Frank (they write together under the pseudonym James S.A. Corey). So he is writing some of the best fantasy series and the best SF series out there. This guy is unstoppable.

My review of THE KING'S BLOOD could almost just be copied and pasted here with some of the names changed. What Abraham did so well in that book, he and Ty Frank do just as well here. The characters are well thought out and interesting. They feel like people making real decisions, and most of the time the enjoyment in the books comes from watching those decisions have effects on other characters. The interplay between the viewpoints is a joy. The world we got a glimpse of in LEVIATHAN WAKES just got a bigger and more interesting. It all works.

That being said, I’m not sure I liked it as much as its predecessor. The book is good, it set up some truly big and wonderful things, but it felt more like a set up book than a payoff. It was good and great and I love the series, but the stakes seemed a bit higher last time around and the action a bit more intense.

Those are small problems really. The book is still great, the series advancing wonderfully. And as for the ending? I won’t spoil it here, but when my dad finished reading the book (he finished a day or so before me) he called me right away wanting to talk about it. He’s certainly set us up for something special.

Age Recommendation: 14+ Depending on how you take to the language. There’s a fair bit of it in here.
Language: A lot. Three fourths of the time there’s nothing there, but one character likes to swear like a sailor and she does it well.
Violence: A bit but not much. A few scenes of monster action and a few other standoffs.
Sex: Referenced more than shown and not much.

What are you waiting for? BUY THIS SERIES!!!


And don't forget the bonus piece of short fiction:

Interview with Jeff Salyards

Every once in a while a debut author jumps out from behind a corner and surprises us. Really, really surprises us. Jeff Salyards is one such author, having completely blown us away with his Sword & Sorcery novel SCOURGE OF THE BETRAYER. The fact that this man can directly compete with the likes of Joe Abercrombie and Richard K. Morgan is just astounding. After writing the review of SCOURGE OF THE BETRAYER it hit me that there were a lot of things I forgot to mention about how awesome this book is. Luckily Mr. Salyards took the time and effort to answer some questions. If our review wasn't enough to convince you to start throwing money, this interview certainly is.

As usual, our questions are in "bold".

***The Interview with Jeff Salyards***

In one sentence describe Scourge of the Betrayer to a potential reader.

Scourge of the Betrayer is a hard-boiled, character-driven fantasy that involves shady and profane soldiers, intrigue, a nasty cursed weapon, and a clueless scribe trying to make sense of it all.

Scourge of the Betrayer is very narrow in scope but hints at large things to come in the Bloodsounder’s Arc. What brought you to choose this approach?

I knew from the beginning that I wanted the series, especially the first installment, to be more intimate than epic in scope, where the setting and larger world would get fleshed out gradually and the focus would be squarely on the characters. So I opted to go not only with first person narration, which lends itself to the intimate, but a narrator who had no idea what he was getting himself into (Arki, the scribe who accompanies the foreign military company without knowing their true mission). I wanted to highlight the stark contrast between the young and generally unworldly archivist and the rough and tumble group he’s signed up with, and for Arki to serve as a proxy for the reader in a sense as he struggles to find his footing.

Admittedly, this is a bit risky, for a number of reasons. Not all fantasy readers like first person, and this focus ensured that the plot points were largely hinted at for the first part of the book as Arki slowly puzzles things out for himself, and I knew some readers might get impatient with this strategy. But I gambled that the characters and their interactions would be compelling enough to keep readers engaged.

Given the structure and narrator, I also wanted to avoid those deadly-dull and stilted info dumps. You know, where the narrator spends five pages describing something he would be terribly familiar with only because the reader is totally unfamiliar. You have a bit more latitude with third person, but even there, plenty of fantasy novels bog down in exposition. Some writers pull this off with aplomb, so deftly you barely see it happen—wonderful history and detail delivered seamlessly. Other times, well, there’s a reason “dump” is part of the descriptor. . .

Don’t get me wrong, I loves me some deep world building. Big fan. Lush, varied, intricate, rich. Good stuff. But given that I was committed to this particular narrative/narrator, I knew I was going to have to really check myself. Arki does comment on the setting, and hopefully provides enough detail on a scene by scene level to ground the reader, to flesh things out and provide a sense of place and reality. But this was the last big risk, because it means the world building elements were going to come a bit slowly, and that some of them are only hinted at in the first book.

I know this approach could potentially alienate some readers, but I figured it was worth the risk. What’s the worst that could happen-- the book tanks, the publisher drops the rest of the series, and my name is like gonorrhea and I never get published again?

Oh. Hmmm. Maybe I should have thought this through some more. . .

As an author what would you cite as your greatest influences?

I firmly believe that part of a writer’s job is to keep the antennae up at all times, to be receptive to good wordsmithing and storytelling elements wherever you find them. Fiction, memoirs (wait, that’s fiction again), plays, blogs, screenplays, poetry, cereal boxes (also fiction), car ads, whatever. In your genre, outside, and then way, way out there, you can learn lessons about building tension, or smart dialogue, or conveying something economically (or elaborately and with ornate detail, for that matter), or just discover a different creative approach to something, a method or tack you hadn’t considered before.

But even if I narrow the field to fiction writers, or go real crazy and try to limit it to fantasy writers who have impacted me, the list is still ridonkulously long. Roger Zelazny, Edgar Rice Burroughs, K.J. Bishop, George R.R. Martin, Robin Hobb, Richard K. Morgan, K.J. Parker, Joe Abercrombie, Tad Williams, Scott Lynch, Daniel Abraham and dozens more have all taught me something about the craft of writing.

Lloi the Grass Dog is a rare gem as far as female protagonists in Sword & Sorcery goes. What was your approach to writing her?

I’m glad you asked about her, because she’s one of my favorite characters. In your review, you mentioned that strong female characters that are complex can be hard to come by in fantasy. And that sucks (not your observation, but the fact that it tends to be true). So I really tried to come up with an interesting female that wasn’t a sex object, a victim, or a pissed off Amazonian.

Lloi has ridden a pretty rough road—ostracized from her family on account of some spoilerish skills I won’t go into here, one hand horribly mutilated (again for plot points I won’t spoil), sold off to a silk house (that there’s fancy talk for a whorehouse, son). Plus, factor in that she hails from a nomadic tribe and is a woman riding in an all-male military company, so she has dual-Othership going on, and she could legitimately have a lot to be ticked off, withdrawn, anxious, depressed, or hateful about. I didn’t make things easy on her at all.

Which is precisely why I went in another direction with how she responds. I wanted to show that she doesn’t succumb to all the awful crap thrown her way, and in fact manages to be almost Zen about the whole thing. She isn’t bitter or vengeful (which surprises Arki, when he learns about some of her past), though she has no problem standing up for herself. She’s as demure and delicate as boot leather, even going toe-to-toe with Mulldoos, who’s a pretty hardcore badass.

She’s unpolished, profane, and has no social grace, which is sort of disquieting to Arki, but given that she is also an outsider, they form an unlikely bond. And that was important —I wanted to give him someone to connect with that didn’t threaten, bully, or confuse him, as the Syldoon are wont to do.

She’s important for other plot-related reasons as well, especially to Captain Braylar Killcoin, but I really tried to develop a character that was intriguing and brought a lot of unexpected heart and grit to the table all on her own, not dependent directly on her relationships with the males in the story.

Captain Braylar Killcoin’s main weapon is a flail titled Bloodsounder. Firstly, thumbs up on weapon choice. Secondly why do you suppose flails and maces don’t get more love in fantasy novels? What are the merits of such weapons over the standard blade?

Well, first, I’d like to take a crack at explaining the choice. My dad was my only real hero growing up, but Indiana Jones was a close second. Smart, calculating, no qualms about fight dirty. But one reason for the draw was his signature weapon, the whip. Good for swinging over crevices, hanging from the undercarriage of German trucks, and oh, yeah, flaying some skin off someone. I just thought that was a great choice, not just on account of utility or cool factor, but simply because it was very unusual. It stood out.

Flash forward more years than I want to count, and when I was working up Braylar’s character, I knew he was going to possess a cursed weapon of some kind called Bloodsounder, and when I was considering what kind of weapon, Indiana Jones unexpectedly jumped to mind. Instantly, I knew Bloodsounder would end up being anything besides a sword, because that’s so ubiquitous or iconic as to be kind of a cliché (or at least a super uninspired choice). I needed something a little out of the box.

Swords get a lot of love across a lot of cultures for a lot of reasons: symbolic (the cruciform/cross dealio with religious significance to the Western European knight), status bling (Vikings, Lombards, Gauls, etc. had a history of naming weapons, but particularly swords, as they cost more to build and were passed down for generations), mystical (Excalibur, vorpal swords, Tyrfing, Durendal, Stormbringer, the Sword of Truth, shoot, one even showed up in Harry Potter for crying out loud!). They were also the first weapon that had no other purpose besides ending life—an axe could cut wood, a spear or bow could be used on hunt, a dagger to carve off a chunk of the thing that was hunted, etc. Swords are designed to look badass and to cut up the enemy. That’s it.

So I started thinking about and discarding other weapon choices: polearm like a halberd (cool, but difficult to conceal, and Braylar is a sneaky bastard); axe (second in popularity in most fantasy milieus, so not a real adventurous choice); bow (uh, Legolas, nuff said); crossbow (Bloodsounder really needed to be up close and personal anyway, so that eliminated blowguns, javelins, Lawn Darts, etc.); messers/falchions (still too swordy); etc.

I was getting frustrated, but then good old Indiana provided the second push. Not a whip, but something whip-like. My first thought was a Hussite flail, but passed over for the same polearm reason, but then I thought, what about the single-handed variety. . . Rare? Check. Can strike from some sneaky angles, especially against someone not used to facing one? Check. Deceptively fast and still packs a centrifugal force wallop? Check. Almost as dangerous to the user as the opponent? Double check! That was a perfect choice for a cursed weapon that exacts a serious toll on the user.

Choose one character from popular science fiction or fantasy that Braylar Killcoin would beat in one-on-one combat, and one character that would beat him.

I’ve seen this sort of thing play out several times on message boards and it’s tremendously entertaining (especially the inevitable arguments that erupt), but I never had to do it with my own character before. Captain Killcoin is a consummate badass, but not in the sense that he dispatches ten foes in a row each with a single well-placed blow. He gets injured in Scourge, and would have fared worse if he hadn’t been wearing armor. And I tried to establish in the book that armored combat sometimes ends with a body on the floor in short order, but it can also be a slug match, where endurance, experience, and the willingness to do whatever it takes to make it out alive often decide the contest. Skill, speed, and strength count for a lot, but so does savvy and grit and flat out meanness. And in this respect, Braylar is one of the best: smart, fast, trained, ruthless, and will kick dust in your face if things start to go south.

Fantasy is just brimming with awesome fighters. . . Fafhrd, Logan Ninefingers, Jaime Lannister (before getting chopped down to size), Druss, Conan, Sandor Clegane (or his big bad brother) and on and on. And then there are those with pronounced advantages (breeding, magic, hundreds or thousands of years to get dang good, etc.) that approach the superhuman: Skilgannon, Elric (provided he didn’t drop Stormbringer), Kelhus, Anomander, half the dudes in Malazan, really, etc.

It would be awesome to see a fight between Gregor Clegane and Braylar. Gregor isn’t necessarily the greatest swordsman, but he is monstrously huge and strong, absolutely remorseless, and a pretty terrifying force of nature (not quite on the same level as The Feared, but for a mortal, about as intimidating an opponent as they come). Braylar is smaller and weaker, but faster, more mobile, and calculating. The Red Viper’s undoing when he fought the Mountain was presuming the poison had done its business and prematurely thinking the fight was over. Thanks to Bloodsounder, Braylar knows when the fight is over. And while his weapon is cursed and exacts a brutal toll on its wielder, that’s after the battle, and without spoiling anything I’ll say that it does also occasionally provides a very brief advantage in combat. So Braylar might get knocked around suffer some serious wounds against Gregor, but thanks to his natural viciousness, speed, and weapon, he would dance out of reach long enough to whittle the monster down.

By the same token, if Braylar came up against someone with ridiculous prowess like Icarium or Kelhus, he might land a blow or two or draw the thing out with a bit of help from his fickle flail, but in the end he’d fare no better than Cnaiur—he’d get his ass kicked.

Say you are purchasing a recently released book for a dearly beloved friend and avid reader of SF and Fantasy. What would it be?

So many to pick from. . . Daniel Abraham’s The King’s Blood would be a fine choice, presuming my beloved friend has already read The Dragon’s Path, otherwise it would have to be a two-fer too). Richard K. Morgan’s Kovacs series might not qualify as “recent,” but those are some of my favorite science fiction books I’ve recently come across.

If I’m thinking debuts, stand-alones, or the start to a new series (and let’s be honest, with all the princess crap I have to buy for my three daughters, purchasing one book is easier to bear than two-plus, unless we’re talking a wedding gift for a bibliophile), Paul Tobin’s Prepare to Die! is tons of fun, and deeper than expected, given that it’s about superheroes and supervillains. The Killing Moon by N.J. Jemisin is getting crazy raves, but I haven’t picked that one up yet, so maybe I’d just get that for myself.

Wait, do-over! Would it be totally narcissistic and make me look like a self-promoting asshat to say Scourge of the Betrayer? You bet it would! SCOURGE OF THE FRICKIN’ BETRAYER!!

The world in which Scourge of the Betrayer is set is of the pseudo-Middle Ages European sort but there are some pretty distinct differences. Can readers expect more of this as the series continues?

Absolutely. As you noted in your recent review, I intentionally kept the mystical or magical elements on the periphery in the first book of the series. I wanted to really establish a fantasy world with as much realism as possible—nasty inns, barmaids who aren’t supermodels, watery ale, fights that turn on a dime and not always in the protagonists’ favor, unexpected deaths with no closure or pretty protracted deathbed speeches. Not necessarily ugly, brutish, and short, but not far off the mark either, and decidedly mundane on the surface. The intent was, when the characters (and therefore the readers) encounter the supernatural elements for the first time, they would definitely appear strange, dangerous, maybe even awe-inspiring. But not common, and hopefully they would “pop” more given that I was going for an almost historical fiction vibe in the rest of the book.

Now, I’m sort of stealing a page from Martin (it’s not like he couldn’t spare one, and I say that with fanboy love!), and those elements will slowly become more prominent and important as the series progresses. But I never want to lose that feeling of, “Holy crap—magic is rare! And kind of spooky!”

If Scourge of the Betrayer were an ice cream flavor what flavor would it be?

Blood orange.

What can you tell us of the sequel to Scourge of the Betrayer?

Well, doubling back to your earlier question about scope, it will definitely expand in the sequel. The reader will get a lot more info about the Syldoon themselves, Bloodsounder, The Memoridons, the Deserter Gods, the Godveil, etc. Now, I’m not going to claim it does a complete 180, as the narrative is still filtered through Arki, but for those hoping to see some deeper world building, they should be pretty satisfied.

Also, as far as setting goes, the story won’t be as claustrophobic (that was intentional in Scourge, as I wanted the reader to feel aligned with Arki in some sense), as the characters move on to some different locales.

Also also, the pace picks up now that (some) of the Syldoon agenda is on the table, and Arki is (more) privy to what they are actually doing.

Say Scourge of the Betrayer gets picked up by a major film studio to be turned into a Hollywood blockbuster. What three songs would you insist be included on the movie soundtrack and why?

I always liked Michael Mann’s soundtrack choices—Last of the Mohicans, Heat, The Insider, you name it. He always seems to pick the right soundtrack to perfectly sync with the material, bolstering it without overpowering it. So if he signed on to direct the Hollywood Blockbuster, I would just get the hell out of the way and let the man work. But assuming it’s not him, and in this glorious fantasy I have creative input on the soundtrack, I would have enlisted Basil Poledouris to produce something special (seriously, Conan the Barbarian AND Flesh & Blood, are you freaking kidding me?!), but he’s no longer with us. Since this isn’t A Knight’s Tale , so no Queen, Beastie Boys, Lady Gaga, or any other modern music, I’d probably have to go with something instrumental, dark, and moody, so I’d probably just phone Jerry Goldsmith (The 13th Warrior) or Harry Gregson-Williams (The Kingdom of Heaven) to see what they had going on. Since we’re in fantasy land.

Any final words for potential readers?

Are you inviting me to shamelessly deliver a sales pitch like a snake oil salesman here? Prostituting myself just to get a few more sales? Because I can do that! Scourge of the Betrayer has really well-developed and nuanced characters, great (and super entertaining!) dialogue, and quite a bit of intrigue. If you’re looking for something dark and hard hitting, that has just enough funny gallows humor and sarcastic barbs to balance out the profanity, blood, and guts, this is it!

Also, if you pick up the book, I’ll be incredibly grateful. Not as in, I’ll come mow your lawn or do your taxes or anything (which is good, I suck at doing mine), but still, more thankful and appreciate than I can say.


Christine is a princess of the magical world of Chrysanthe, but at the age of four was kidnapped and taken where she couldn't be found. With no real memory of her former life, she's dismayed at the appearance of Quentin, a knight of Chrysanthe come to take her home. Should she trust this man with a familiar voice? Because her "guardian" will not let her go easily...
The prose in CHRYSANTHE has a lyrical quality with some lovely imagery, and Yves Meynard clearly wanted to write the best he knows how. Every word, sentence, and image is carefully crafted.  He creates setting elements with imagination, taking old cliches and breathing new life into them. Meynard is very precise in the forward movement of plot and storytelling, placing foreshadowing with subtlety.

Unfortunately, he could have chosen a more interesting story to tell.

Christine is a likable enough character, with Quentin as her knight in shining armor. As the story progresses we meet her father, the court sorceress Melogian, various soldiers, sailors, dukes, servants, and the typical villains...and experience most of their PoVs. After seeing her and Quentin almost exclusively for the first quarter of the book, their story fades to allow others into the foreground. As a result of the frequent PoV switches and distant narration of all their back stories, character progression grinds to a halt and never recovers.

A lot of detail, more than was necessary, is spent on the escape of Christine and Quentin from her prison in the "made world" (this over-sharing becomes a theme throughout the book). At first the escape has some interesting action and scenery, but the plot moves forward slowly, becoming predictable and cliche. The interactions between characters is awkward with pages and pages of almost maid-and-butler dialogue. The middle half I don't think I can easily label other than a meandering flow of character movement and the set-up for: the last quarter of the book, which is a tedious and distanced war until the last, exciting 50 pages.

I was confused. Isn't Christine the main character? Then why is she almost absent for the last half of the book? Why does she spend all her time holed up in her palace bedroom reading and taking baths? Why isn't she more involved in the crescendoing plot? Why do we visit these other people in so much boring detail?

All the character PoV switches makes the plot lop-sided. Instead of forwarding the story, character back story is more important to establishing the details necessary to work out a tidily executed climax. In the book it's explained to us that a wizard's magic is created with arcane words, movements, and magical items, all in a complex ritual where every little detail must coalesce for the magic to work. That's how the climax felt to me: Meyard spends so much time and pointless detail just to make the climax work (sure it's cool, but that's beside the point). Wizards are no match for a good editor.

CHRYSANTHE feels like it should be a YA book, the way Meynard writes it from teenage Christine's PoV. Except for the sexual content. Christine has been living with her "uncle" since she was taken from her father for suspected abuse, and is forced to endure memory recovery therapy at the hands of a quack where she "remembers" sexual abuse by her father and others. Clear to the end of CHRYSANTHE it still felt like if Meynard had taken out the sex and the profanity it could easily have been marketed to a YA audience (and not necessarily in spite of the themes of abuse). And he really should have because this kind of story would feel new and fresh to young readers, whereas more widely read SF readers will see it for the re-hash that it is.

Meynard introduces us to some interesting ideas of magic and law and heroes, what's real and what's not, and how magic works. But ultimately CHRYSANTHE is overwrought and cumbersome, and doesn't have a lot to separate it from other fantasy worlds out there.

Recommended Age: 17+
Language: A handful or two
Violence: War-related blood and gore but the narration style gives it distance
Sex: Frequent references to rape, some of which have detail; consensual encounters with brief detail If you want to give this novel a try, here's your link: CHRYSANTHE

Darksiders: The Abomination Vault

I'm one of those guys that plays video games for the story. I much prefer a solid campaign over online multiplayer any day of the week. For this reason I am a huge advocate of tie-in fiction. I love to delve deeper into characters and events that are barely touched upon while playing the game. When I caught word of a prequel novel to the Darksiders franchise from THQ my interest was piqued. When I saw that it would be penned by Ari Marmell, author of the YA Widdershins series, I was sold. May I present you, DARKSIDERS: THE ABOMINATION VAULT.

There exists a vault containing weapons of unimaginable power. The vault remains a legacy of the atrocities committed by the Nephilim. Of the four Horsemen, the last surviving Nephilim and protectors of the Balance, only Death is aware of its being. Now an unknown enemy strikes from the shadows, intent on acquiring the weapons stored within the vault and unleashing a wave of destruction across Creation. Only Death, with the assistance of his younger brother War, has the ability to prevent the coming catastrophe.

I know what you're thinking, how deliciously melodramatic! Oh and it is. I eat this sort of thing right up. As a fan of the Darksiders video games and an even bigger fan of the Darksiders lore, how could I not want to read this book? Combine that with the sharp wit of Marmell and you have a winning combination.

I have to admit, I found myself pleasantly surprised at the level of characterization bestowed upon Death. I won't pretend that he is the deepest of characters but there are levels of complexity beyond super powered Horseman of the Apocalypse. Death's facetious responses to every given question can become grating after a time, but until that time comes it continues to be tongue-in-cheek funny. I found myself laughing every time Death interacted with his craven crow Dust and I very much hope this carries over into the game itself. What Ari does best with Death is pair him up with War. Though both are Horsemen it quickly becomes apparent that they have very dissimilar styles. Death is a subtle and agile assassin with a history so dark he refuses to share it, even with his fellow Horsemen. War is a soldier at heart, choosing the direct approach with overwhelming force. While Death picks and chooses his objectives as he sees fit, War instead follows the Charred Council's missions to the letter. I find this use of comparison a wise move, especially when pairing the novel with the upcoming Darksiders II, where Death will be replacing War (from the first Darksiders game) as the protagonist.

As Death races to prevent the Abomination Vault from being unlocked he crosses paths with faces bound to be familiar to the fans. Anyone who has not yet played Darksiders and is reading this book on its own merits is unlikely to find themselves a fish out of water. The concepts and characters are straightforward enough to grasp in one sitting. The lore itself is only expanded by the novel, providing backstory on Death and other notables while serving as a reminder for what drew me to the franchise to begin with. There are angels and demons and Horsemen of the Apocalypse but the story strays far from Biblical, establishing its own fiction.

Marmell's clever prose is evident but not as distinguishable as it might have been without outside influences. The narrative is more linear than I would prefer, evidently resembling stage progression in a video game. The action is fluid, exhibiting the combat differences between Death and War. Death's shapeshifting scythe, Harvester, is wicked cool and I'm eager to wield it in game. I can imagine THQ developing downloadable content based on DARKSIDERS: THE ABOMINATION VAULT, and I fully approve of the idea.

Tie-in fiction has an undeservedly bad reputation with the literary crowd. DARKSIDERS: THE ABOMINATION VAULT aptly demonstrates that in the right hands, tie-in fiction can be just as good as any other book you will find in the genre. Marmell respects the source material, expands the lore, and boosts anticipation of the coming game. This makes for a successful combo.

Recommended Age: 14+
Language: Nothing more than mildly offensive.
Violence: With characters named War and can do the math.
Sex: None.

Want it? Buy it here

Once Walked With Gods

When I want to treat myself to a good book, or when I desperately need to forget a terrible novel that makes me want to give up on literature entirely, I find that I turn to a very, very small selection of authors.

James Barclay is pretty close to the top of that list.

You see, I know that when I pick up a Barclay novel, I won't be disappointed. Reading Barclay is like having your favorite steak, cooked to perfection. The first book in his Elves Trilogy, ONCE WALKED WITH GODS, is the kind of book where I can forget I'm a critic. I just get to sit down, dig in, and enjoy the hell out of it.

You remember Barclay's Raven novels? This series is a prequel to them involving the Elves. I know, I know. Elves. Aren't we supposed to hate them now? Isn't that the the "in" thing? In most cases I would say yes, but not here. I love the way Barclay writes his Elves, and I was eager to see how he would tackle a book focusing on them almost exclusively. After all, one of my absolute favorite characters of all of Barclay's works was the Auum.

Imagine my childlike glee when a young--and even impressionable--Auum stepped "on screen" in ONCE WALKED WITH GODS. Awesome. Just...awesome.

I'm sorry. I'm getting ahead of myself. I just get so excited when I read a James Barclay novel. Back on track! ONCE WALKED WITH GODS follows the elves as they struggle for an internal identity. They've had a thousand years of peace amongst themselves, and they escaped the Garonin--an event eluded to in RAVENSOUL. But this peace can't last. The different "races" of elves are mired in racial hatred and at the brink of civil war. And embroiled in all of this are the humans. They want the elven continent, and they'll massacre everyone there to get what they want.

At the very beginning, we are introduced to one of my new favorite Barclay characters. The elf Takaar. He is an elf torn by guilt and shame over his actions ten years prior to this novel, and yet he still manages to exude a certain menace as a warrior and respectability as a leader. It's a fine line to walk, and the credit goes to Barclay for not just making it work, but making it awesome.

While I enjoyed the side characters--and they are well done in the limited time they are given--the draw for me as a reader was Auum and Takaar. The dynamic between the two is volatile--due mainly to Takaar--yet it never feels forced. Everything they say, everything they all feels natural. This has been my main observation of Barclay's work. His characters always act like they should. Not once have I ever stopped and said, "Huh. I'm not sure he/she would have actually done that."

As expected, the action in ONCE WALKED WITH GODS is fantastic. Remember, this is a prequel to the Raven series. In those novels the elves had magic, and they were a force to be reckoned with both in martial prowess and in magical skill. In this novel, the elves don't have magic. They've never seen it or heard of it. To see Auum's first contact with a human, it was a joy to read. Again, it all feels natural and effortless. Personally, I never get tired of scenes involving the TaiGethen. They are artists in their killing ability, and Barclay writes them as such. While this is the elves first contact with magic, this is also the human's first contact with TaiGethen. The result is bloody, tense, and absolutely brutal.

Just how I like it.

The last thing I will mention is how much I enjoyed the overall tone of the novel. It is dark, with hope dwindling as each page is turned. Don't expect the typical book 1 happy ending. Expect things to be at their near-worst, with a glimmer of hope.

James Barclay has never let me down. Ever. And I don't expect him to. He has written to many awesome novels for me to expect anything short of excellence (no pressure or anything). ONCE WALKED WITH GODS is on par with the best of the Raven books, and we haven't even gotten to the point in the series with the emotional gut punches Barclay is know for.

ONCE WALKED WITH GODS is incredible, and yet I'm left with the feeling that the best is yet to come.

Recommended Age: 16+
Language: Infrequent, but strong in a few places. Mainly with humans.
Violence: All sorts. This is a bloody novel, but the interesting thing is how it is bloody and brutal from the human's PoVs, and artistic from the elven PoVs.
Sex: Rape is mentioned, but never shown.

Import only for you US readers, but when has that ever been an excuse to not buy an awesome novel? Here's your link:



The people who claim Gallantrybanks as their capitol don't have American Idol. They don't have rock stars. Sure there are the rich and famous, but the rich are the nobility. The American Idol of Gallantrybanks are the Trials, and their equivalent of famous rock stars are what they call tregadors.
The tregadors are troupes of four men who work together to create plays using magic--and not with simply images, but with smells, sounds, and whatever else is necessary to draw in the audience. If a young man is lucky enough to have the skill and the group, he can become famous and rich.

Enter young wizard Cade, the playwright for a group that lacks the necessary fourth, which is a glisker who takes the magic Cade imbues into vessels and makes the stage come alive. Cade's already got his fettler, Rafe, who keeps the magic from going out of control, and the handsome Jeska, who serves as the masquer and actor for the group. Then they find Meika, elf in appearance as well as in temperament, and the group finally congeals into Touchstone. And they explode onto the scene with their own brand of showmanship.

TOUCHSTONE by Melanie Rawn is essentially the first act in a three act play. There's not much plot, crescendo of action, or a real climax. Sure there's conflict, but it's more the sort of conflict that arises when a group of four very different men work closely and travel together for extended periods.

Jeska and Rafe are well drawn but are really secondary characters. The relationship that matters here is the one between the uptight, rebellious, self-depreciating Cade and the unruly, flamboyant, mischievous Meika. Their personalities are at odds, and yet they come to depend on each other. Meika's wild personality seems to flame Cade's anger without really trying. Cade's seriousness perplexes Meika. But the complexity of their relationship is much deeper than being just another odd couple. Unfortunately I don't have time to go into it here, but suffice it to say it's how they interact as we switch between their PoVs that moves the story forward.

This means that TOUCHSTONE is slow in its even pacing and even a little boring. Rawn makes up for it in the deeper characterization and the interesting fantasy setting. As far as fantasy settings go, it feels more accessible, a blending of human and elf, and she delivers the details with finesse and subtlety. The population of races of Gallantrybanks and its surrounds have interbred so thoroughly there are no pure humans, elves, trolls, and etc anymore. Depending on the genes one inherits from one's mixed ancestry, a person's magical skills--or lack thereof--aren't necessarily indicative of their appearance. Rawn also takes great delight in finding unused English words to fill the definitions of some of TOUCHSTONE's jargon, and it adds a nice tone to the already smooth prose.

Overall TOUCHSTONE is thought-provoking and its themes of friendship and the freedom of personal choice is a potentially great foundation to the rest of the series. It will be interesting to see where she takes it.

Recommended Age: 15+ although frequent drug use and incessant drinking may concern some parents
Language: A couple handfuls of strong profanity
Violence: Fist-i-cuffs only
Sex: Many references, but they lack detail, and there are no actual scenes

TOUCHSTONE is the first book in a trilogy. You can find it here.

Would you like the copy of TOUCHSTONE we were sent? Here's the rules:
1) US Residents Only.
2) Send us an email with the subject: Pick me! Pick me for a free copy of Touchstone!
3) In the body of the email, list your name and mailing address.
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5) Make sure you are officially following us here on the blog, or over at our Facebook page. Why? Because we said so!
6) We'll pick a winner at random, notify you, and ship you the book via super cheap Media Mail.
7) Contest entries end on the 20th of July.

The Drowned Cities

Young Adult fiction has really evolved from what it used to be. There are a lot more options than there were when I was a kid. It's not just the scope of books that has increased but the depth as well. Authors are examining mature themes that really didn't seem so present years ago. Then again it could just be me, but I really don't remember any YA books that examined the plight of war refugees in dystopian societies. I have to applaud authors like Paolo Bacigalupi for writing books like THE DROWNED CITIES. Teenagers do not like being condescended to in the least and THE DROWNED CITIES offers some very dark, adult themes.

War orphans Mahlia and Mouse spend their days just trying to survive. The two live in a town on the outskirts of the Drowned Cities where armies of child soldiers led by demagogues vie for control of the ruins. They live a stable life but the threat of encroaching war is pervasive. That is, until they cross paths with the genetically engineered war machine named Tool.

So the new trend in YA fiction is "dystopian" and THE DROWNED CITIES has to be one of the most dystopian novels I've read all year. What separates Bacigalupi's companion novel to the award winning SHIP BREAKER from the rest of the dystopian YA fiction is just how real it is. This is a novel that explores the banality of evil and the horrors of war. The thing is, these aren't professional soldiers caught in the meat grinder. These are children. The armies fighting over the sunken remains of America's capitol are composed of kids plucked from the comfort of their homes and bathed in blood and fire. It's sad and disgusting and it's real. Obviously it isn't happening right now in America but it is a fact of life in other places across the globe.

Bacigalupi does a commendable job writing about the dreadfulness of such a pointless conflict. Violence is never once glorified though there is an abundance of it. One of the reasons I felt like THE HUNGER GAMES was such a failure is that it utterly failed to reflect upon the toll of violence upon the characters and the world they inhabited. This is not so with THE DROWNED CITIES. The toll of fighting is apparent from the moment readers are introduced to protagonist Mahlia. This is a girl whose entire life has revolved around, and been demolished by, war. Mahlia is shunned because of her heritage. Her father was a peacekeeper involved in the suppression of warlords throughout the Drowned Cities. Because of his allegiance, Mahlia has had her hand removed by those who consider her a traitor and collaborator.

Mahlia is a strong protagonist. She is a survivor. She quotes and applies the military doctrines of Sun Tzu to her daily life. She has no surviving family and only one friend, fellow orphan Mouse. Mahlia is a strong protagonist but not necessarily likable. She has flaws that are to be expected, but her personality kept me from ever developing a connection. Mouse is the more likable of the two but there is not enough time spent following his perspective for him to develop further than first impressions. Tool, the genetically engineered war machine, is pleasurable to read about because of his unique mindset. Tool was born a slave and a weapon. His genetic makeup consists of all sorts of apex predators and he has only ever known killing. Despite Tool's remarkable nature he also fails to develop past initial impressions. The relationship that develops between Tool and Mahlia is of the predictable, beauty & the beast variation minus the romance.

The real standout character of THE DROWNED CITIES is Sergeant Ocho. Ocho is a war orphan much like Mahlia and Mouse but for the fact that he is a child soldier. Ocho has grown up, not avoiding war parties, but conducting them. He has fought and killed and lost the innocence of childhood at an early age. No matter what he has seen or done Ocho is still a human being underneath all the layers of indoctrination. This is a sympathetic character that adequately displays the evils man is capable of, written in a YA setting. This is a mature character in ways that Katniss Everdeen could never be.

THE DROWNED CITIES isn't a fun read. It is deep. It is dark. It is though provoking. But it isn't exactly fun. With novels of such heavy tone a little humor and levity can go a long way toward buoying the reader. Brief moments of happy respite are crucial to emphasize the bleakness of dystopia and these are largely missing. I wouldn't take THE DROWNED CITIES as a fun beach read. I would recommend that the book be discussed in a classroom setting. If a civics teacher wants to promote critical thinking and discussion on matters of war and politics I can see where this would be the perfect catalyst. After all, Bacigalupi's near-future America is scary because it is so plausible. At a time where political division is at an all time high we are frighteningly close to fulfilling this fictional representation.

If you enjoyed Bacigalupi's THE WIND-UP GIRL and SHIP BREAKER you will most assuredly appreciate THE DROWNED CITIES. If you found those stories to be too heavy and dark for your liking then chances are this is not the book for you. If anything THE DROWNED CITIES strikes me as even darker than THE WIND-UP GIRL just because the characters are so young and the setting strikes so close to home. I recommend this to fans of dystopian fiction (young and old alike) as well as professors of social studies who desire to spark a dialogue with their students.

Recommended Age: 16+
Language: More profanity than I've experienced in any other YA fiction novel.
Violence: More violence than I've experience in any other YA fiction novel, and don't forget that these are kids killing kids.
Sex: Prostitutes mentioned by the term of "nailshed girls" but sex is only vaguely mentioned.

Want it? Buy it here.


LIGHTBRINGER is newcomer K.D. McEntire's first novel in a new YA series. It starts off with Wendy's twelfth birthday, and a terrible car accident that awakens her inherited latent ability--she's a reaper, and can help lost souls to leave limbo and find the Light. But she came into her powers too early, and learning the nuances of guiding the dead has come with a price.

By the time she reaches high school she's already reaped a thousand souls under her mother's strict tutelage. But during the summer mom was in an accident and lays comatose at the hospital while Wendy struggles with helping her dad with two younger siblings, a secret but increasing reaper load due to her mother's absence, and as a result her grades are slipping. Poor girl has no time just to be a regular teenager.

But something is wrong in the Never. A new evil is causing chaos among the dead and Wendy promises new-found friend Piotr her help. Even though he's a ghost and needs help moving beyond a limbo he's been stuck in for many centuries, she finds herself drawn to him, and to their surprise they can even touch. Then she asks for his help to find her mother's missing spirit, and figuring out what really happened to her.

Wendy is interesting as the goth teen with a sense of duty drilled into her by a now absent mother. As the primary PoV character, her voice carries the book; she can be snarky, but she's smart and her responsibility as a reaper has grounded her in reality much more than a normal teen. Piotr's PoV can be confusing, but it has great value in that we see the viewpoint of the ghosts, and how limbo isn't just haunting the house you died in. Unfortunately, when Wendy and Piotr are in the same scene their PoVs can get jumbled, which is confusing. Secondary characters such as Wendy's brother Eddie and sister Chel add depth to Wendy's life, and those involved with Piotr are are all well drawn and McEntire does her best to make them unique and recognizable.

But the most important person in Wendy's life we really don't see in the book: her mother. We see her in a few flashbacks, and Wendy talks about her a little bit. Unfortunately for the story we don't understand the real relationship between them even though it becomes vital to the narrative--and this little tidbit is what tipped the book into mediocre. In order for the entire novel to make sense I needed to understand Wendy's mother and their relationship much more than I did. Sure there are hints, but as a reader who likes subtly in a novel, even I think McEntire was too subtle.

Fortunately McEntire makes up for this failing with a world of ghosts that is much more menacing than we'd expect. Although all the details of life/death, and the exceptions to the rule aren't clear--mostly because Wendy still has a lot to learn--McEntire reveals the background and information steadily without overwhelming her potential YA readers. The plot tends to be a little predictable, and stumbles with the occasional flashback, but it's well paced with events that build on each other and lead to an exciting conclusion.

Easily the best part of the book is McEntire's delightful prose, with lovely imagery and details that really draw the reader in. And it's her prose, fascinating setting, and the engaging characters that will keep readers turning pages despite its flaws.

Recommended Age: 16+ for themes, language, and sexual references
Language: Mixed, with a handful of the harsher stuff
Violence: Scattered scenes with some blood and detail, but not gruesome
Sex: Referenced frequently in crude teenage-talk


The Providence Rider

I a little ashamed to admit that I was late to the works of Robert McCammon (and honestly Horror in general). I mean, what kind of reader worth his weight in books hasn't read McCammon? I was a member of that downtrodden and sad club until a few years ago when I found an excerpt on the Subterranean Press website of a novel titled MISTER SLAUGHTER. If that title doesn't grab your attention, then you should probably go back to reading emasculated sparkly vampires.

That day changed the way I read Horror. It was a Alternate Historical Horror following a "Problem Solver", Matthew Corbett as he embarked on a manhunt to find a vicious killer. There was nothing supernatural about the story other than the way it sucked me in and refused to let me go. I then went back and read SPEAKS THE NIGHTBIRD and THE QUEEN OF BEDLAM. These novels cemented, to me, the notion that Robert McCammon not only was one of the best writers of Horror ever, but one of the best writers of any genre.

To my squealing delight, Subterranean Press then announced McCammon's next Matthew Corbett novel, THE PROVIDENCE RIDER. Naturally I ordered a signed copy. And then McCammon himself sent me an ARC. Every other book got tossed aside to read this one.

People are capable of more horror and evil than any monster. Matthew Corbett knows this, and he relives it every night in his dreams when he thinks about Tyranthus Slaughter. THE PROVIDENCE RIDER, first and foremost, is about Corbett coming to terms with his own role in life, and that he may have to lose pieces of himself in order to deal with the evil in the world. Without delving too far into spoilers, at the end of MISTER SLAUGHTER, Corbett is given an invitation to meet with his nemesis, Professor Fell. THE PROVIDENCE RIDER deals with this invitation.

McCammon's latest starts out with a bang, literally. Explosions in his Manhattan neighborhood serve to implicate Corbett in their execution, and to goad him into accepting Fell's invitation. Where MISTER SLAUGHTER spent the first chunk of the novel recapping the prior two novels in the series, THE PROVIDENCE RIDER does not. You should absolutely not read this as your first Matthew Corbett novel. Do yourself a favor and start from the beginning, SPEAKS THE NIGHTBIRD.

The very first thing that struck me was just how natural and smooth the writing was. Right from the opening chapter, I distinctly remember thinking, "McCammon makes this all seem so easy!" In some places it is a stream of consciousness that feels natural. In others the writing is more coy and teasing. The horror and the humor walk hand-in-hand as each page is turned.

I absolutely loved Corbett's character progression. THE PROVIDENCE RIDER is the novel that really hardens Corbett into the man I think he must become to deal with Professor Fell. Corbett is slowly accepting that he may have to cross the line to take down Fell. I was a bit worried about the mopey beginnings of the novel, but Matthew comes out of it strongly.

Villains. A McCammon novel would be nothing without its villains. Professor Fell, of course, is one of the main ones--and he is AMAZING--but the side villains make the novel breathe. Some are pure evil. Some are very human and are more antagonists than villains. Others...others leave you with a dozen questions for ever answer. The varying shades of gray and the hidden motivations make this cast incredible.

All this being said, I had one major complaint. The book was too short. I mean this both in the way of "It was too short! I could have read forever!" and "This really could have been expanded to lend to the tension of the situation." This novel is just setting the stage for future novels, but I would have loved for the last half of the novel to have been double the size it currently is. The setting there (no spoilers!) was soooo fascinating that I was begging for more and more...and then it was over. Like many of the villains, I was left with a thousand questions. So my only complaint is the length?

Yep. That's it. THE PROVIDENCE RIDER is breathless in its pacing. So breathless that I wish it would have slowed down just a bit to let me soak it in.

THE PROVIDENCE RIDER is a stellar entry into the Matthew Corbett series and is an example of a tight and focused Horror story by one of the best authors in the business.

Recommended Age: 17+
Language: Some strong language.
Violence: Geez. Some of it made Mister Slaughter seem tame.
Sex: One scene (that is also slightly on the humorous side), and a LOT of innuendo from the various villains.

What are you waiting for? Read McCammon! Read this series!



I think Steve was giggling maniacally to himself as he added this book to my review stack. He probably took one look at the cover and assumed it would be bad. Go ahead, take a look at it again. You might make that assumption, as well. And would you be wrong?

OK, who am I kidding...yeah, Steve's unerring taste runs true, even without having read it. Unfortunately I did have to read it.

The title character is Angela, who was pulled from the Hudson River after a plane crash--with her and the baby she saves as the only survivors.  For her heroism she becomes known as the Angel of the Hudson. But she suffers from amnesia and only after the airline works through the manifest are they able to discover her name. An important question the doctors never ask her is when her amnesia began, and that answer is: before the plane wrecked. Yeah, it's important later on. Kind of.

Then she begins hearing things and she thinks she's going crazy. There are voices in her head, and they match the behavior and personalities of the people around her. No, wait, it's just the men. Why is it just the men? I don't know. No, wait again, it's all men, except one: Dante (get it? Angel...Dante?). Dante is the ambitious reporter for a 24-hour online news agency who happens to be in the right place at the right time when the plane goes down and involves himself in Angela's story.

At this point you should be wishing that the plane crashed and everyone died, end of story. Alas.

Morrow takes her sweet time unraveling Angela's mystery. Who she is. Where she gets her magic-like abilities--which are a strange and unexplainable assortment. Why she has these abilities. Why an ability works one time and not another. It never makes sense. And then and BAM in the last two pages there's an explanation for her abilities...but then they're twisted on their head mere paragraphs later. I really don't know how to explain this to you.

As for the plot--well, it moved forward. In a drunken, crazed sort of way, with Angela and Dante eventually teaming up to figure out what happened to her and why she can do the things she can. A problem will crop up, only to have it resolved by the end of the chapter. Characters come and go. It was impossible to tell where this story was headed. I mean, it's supposed to be a thriller, so I suspected something exciting to happen by the end.

They kind of "solve" the mystery. Convenient information appears and they use their convenient resources and new-found colleagues who conveniently believe them so they can help conveniently find what Angela and Dante need to know. There's some shooting and blood and stuff in the last chapter. Angela and Dante get together in the epilogue. But it was really hard to care from all the brain-squeezing I endured.

I know I'm not supposed to include spoilers, but you aren't going to read it anyway. So I'm telling you that we never find out who Angela is or where she comes from or why she even exists. Why was she was on the plane in the first place? WHY?!? I just don't know.

Thanks, Steve. I'll never get those hours back.

Recommended Age: Just...don't.
Language: A couple handfuls of unnecessarily harsh profanity.
Violence: Explosions, bloodied lips, kneed crotches--all for the sake of making it feel like a thriller.
Sex: Angela is one randy creature. The book drips with sex. And when I say dripping I mean like an annoying bathroom faucet when you're trying to sleep.

I'm not linking it. Don't you even think about it.