Posts Tagged ‘supernatural thriller’
Grave witch Alex Craft can speak to the dead, but that doesn’t mean she likes what they say.
Like in several other urban fantasy fictions I have read, Grave Witch uses the literary device of a society transformed by the coming-out of paranormals or, in this case, the fae. Magic was awakened in the world, allowing some humans to better understand and practice it. There are the usual spell casters who can create charms ranging from homing origami messages to complexion charms. One of the rarest forms of ability was communicating with the dead, called grave witchcraft.
Alex, a talented grave witch, is hoping to get a break by helping the police solve cases and DA get convictions through the shades she calls up. A favor for a sister gets her into more than she can chew. She gets attacked by a shade and then shot at. Death saves her, pushing Alex out of the way. That she has been seeing and talking with a soul collector since childhood is another of Alex’s idiosyncrasies. A detective who is more than he seems starts tailing her, suspecting she knows more than she lets on. Which is true.
After Queen of Shadows, Grave Witch is a treat. I love the love triangle formed between Alex, Death, and detective. The relationship between Alex and Death reminds me of Tanya Huff’s The Last Wizard, where Crystal and Death form a rare friendship; they can never touch and he can never claim her, as wizards’ souls are off-limits to him. The detective may seem at a disadvantage, in terms of mystique. I thought so, but not for long (read to find out why). I don’t know who I’m rooting for actually.
There are shades of the Greywalker series here, too, in how both heroines can interact with different levels of reality, from the physical to the ghost world. Very Twilight Zone. That sort of stuff always appeals to me.
I can do with fewer interrupted dialogue, though; it’s a literary device that’s more irritating than intriguing. There must have been over a dozen examples where the character go, “I’ve got to, uh…” Argh.
Leather does not a kick-ass heroine make.
With the avalanche of urban fantasies these days, it’s difficult to be precise in one’s book selection. The story blurb on the back cover can be so deceiving, pushing all the right buttons, hitting all the right kiliti nerves. I don’t know how others do it, but I oftentimes let my self be just carried away and regret later the hole in my wallet from a wasted purchase.
I’m afraid I have to list Queen of Shadows under misses. The excess of clichés and bland characters did nothing for a formulaic story, in which vampires are real, very much a part of society, they hate us, they love us, they kill us, they save us. There was no major effort to make this story stand out from the pack.
The story was sufficiently intriguing, of a musician with the power to manipulate her audience’s emotions, in a city secretly ruled by an army of vampires, where head vampire falls in love with a fragile human after he finds her brutalized by thugs. He mentors her on shielding and helps her to heal, while fighting against his attraction to her. She was also attracted right away alright but then she struck me as someone easily pushed willy-nilly anyway.
It wasn’t that bad, I guess. The fact that this is a published book tells us that the author has risen from the ranks of wannabes to actually making a name. I can respect that, but I also have to be honest that I am in a comparing mood right now, and I find this book unremarkable compared with the likes of the Kate Daniels and Greywalker series. Queen of Shadows received the brunt of my disappointment over finding ok instead of great. That my introduction to the female protagonist was when she was busy whining and absorbed in self-pity did not help any in creating a good first impression. It was down the drain after the first chapter, actually.
Kiliti – Tagalog slang word meaning, roughly, something causing excitement, often used in connection with romance situations
When a mysterious worldwide plague starts putting millions of people into deadly comas, Earth’s foremost expert on the bizarre, John Constantine, steps in with the “cure.” After traveling from the dreary alleys of London to the glittering boulevards of L.A., Constantine realizes that a cadre of wicked demons and hellish monsters is behind the outbreak, and he’ll have to sacrifice more than himself to put an end to the nightmare.
But will the cure be worse than the disease? Thus am I reintroduced to John Constantine, trench coat-clad antihero, magic junkie, and master manipulator. I first saw him in the film version starring Keanu Reeves. I rather enjoyed the movie never mind the critical lambasting. I guess, as usual, a movie failed to live up to the graphic novels. I had never seen the books so I only had my own enjoyment of other movies as basis for comparison.
I acquired the All His Engines through Bookmooch, a site where you can trade books like a book barter using points sending to other members as currency. Thinking it was an urban fantasy novel I mooched it, very surprised at receiving a glossy hardbound of a sallow, poisonous world in graphic details, a world where Constantine pits demon against demon.
I may understand a little now why the movie received such flak. Hollywood requires more than a few redeeming qualities in its heroes. The movie character was too noble when the graphic novel character was a conman, thief, and hero-as-a-side-effect more than anything else. From the background essays at the back of the book, I learned that Constantine is addicted to magic and would do anything to be able to practice it, even sell his soul and endanger his friends.
With over 200 volumes under his belt, Constantine has gone through changes. I saw from the information at the back that five writers have taken turns telling his story. This particular volume is a standalone, while the 14 other titles I saw were collections of comics issues. His long-time friend Chance is a grandfather here, which makes Constantine pushing, what?, 60? But still at the game of high-stakes poker with Hell, where if he loses Hell-on-Earth will enjoy enough souls to finance franchises worldwide, starting in Hollywood.
Whatever his motivations were, Constantine did succeed to save the world again and again. If a few innocents were sacrificed, maybe that’s just collateral damage. Because the world I got a glimpse of through this volume would certainly lose more than a few souls if there was no self-serving antihero using his smarts for a magic fix from Hell’s denizens. Am I sympathizing with him? Maybe, but not enough to want to be his friend; I’ll welcome chances to read his previous con-jobs with the Devil though.
Face off. The demon Beroul wants to set up a Hell franchise on Earth. His best work on display here. Remind me never to have a facial.
Constantine always smoking. Lung cancer didn’t faze him. Caught between two demons. A deal is brokered.
Private Demon ties up neatly with If Angels Burn, the more-than, not-quite paranormal romance I discovered in the used book-bins of Booksale. I discovered this title first actually and couldn’t get into the book right away, probably because it was the second in a series. Continuity is very strong in this series, no matter who the central couple is currently. I recommend that this series be read in order to truly appreciate the excellent world-building, plot twists, and multidimensional characters. Dr. Alex and Michael along with other characters introduced in the first book are important to the overall plot, Alex specially as she may hold the cure to the Darkyn’s curse. Characters take turns enjoying the spotlight, but continue to develop their relationships in succeeding volumes. John Keller, a troubled priest and Alex’s brother, enjoys quite a lot of attention. I don’t understand why the author is building him up to this degree but maybe the reason will be revealed in future volumes.
Jaus could have used the services of Hitch.
Even if a reader finds the current focus not very likable it still pays to complete the series to follow the story of favorite characters. I was rather disappointed myself with how the romance in this volume turned out. I preferred Jaus over Thierry, and this isn’t a spoiler because blurb on the back cover makes it clear who gets whom. Before I go on further into the romance, here is a bit of a backgrounder on the Darkyn-Brethren mythos.
The Darkyn believes they were cursed 600 years ago. They died but they rose from their graves hungering for blood. Several tumultuous centuries followed where they sought to control their urges. Maybe their enemy, the Brethren, a secret organization of vampire-hating humans had just cause for their vendetta in the beginning. Now, they use their powerful Church, business, and government connections to abduct and torture Darkyn.
Thierry Durand and his family were the latest victims. In the previous volume he believed his wife tortured to death, driving him mad. In this volume, he seeks justice for a rape victim. His investigation leads him to the Brethren, and to the dying Jema Shaw. Jema works for a museum and part time as a forensic science expert for the coroner’s office. Her juvenile diabetes is taking its toll on her body and she may not live to see her 30th birthday. In love with her is Valentin Jaus, head vampire of Chicago. He has watched over her since she was a baby, since he found her lost and crying in his backyard. One of the Darkyn’s most powerful lord, he is strangely powerless when it comes to Jema.
Thierry also falls in love with Jema, as he enters her dreams to find out what she knows about the Brethren. By sharing dreams with one another the two somehow heal one another of past hurts and become very close psychically. To Jema, Thierry is a dream lover but after several dreams she suspects he is more than that.
Each of the Darkyn has a special ability, by the way. Michael can make one forget; Alex when she turned can sense the thoughts of killers; and Thierry can enter dreams.
I’ve already said I really liked this series overall. But I’ve got pet peeves, some of which I mentioned in my review of If Angels Burn. Here is another: for such powerful creatures the Darkyn are too easily abducted and infiltrated. Nevermind betrayals, it still should not be this easy. Surely, they would not have been able to establish strong power bases in many cities in Europe and America if smarts were not part of their package? Yet, again and again the Brethren outsmart them, people who don’t strike me as that smart to begin with.
To end on a positive note, I hear that Lucas and a cop are starring in the third volume. How interesting. Lucas is the Darkyn’s cold-blooded assassin. I wonder how hard he will fall when he falls in love. Dark Need, please don’t be hard to get.
Is hell so overcrowded that they are coming back? Even if they are, they can be outsmarted, but no character managed to. If I were in the book, I’d hire someone to knock me out, and take me to the nearest plane. I’d be in Tahiti by the time I wake up.
It’s Halloween on my mind; when I saw Apartment 16 advertised in Fully Booked’s newsletter I could not help but rush to the bookstore to buy it, and read it–never mind my TBR challenge where I listed books gathering dust on my shelf and never mind my tight budget, almost exhausted by my recent trip to Hong Kong and Macau. A success story of book pushing, to my wallet’s detriment but my Halloween’s wicked glee.
I was drawn to the cover–an imposing apartment building, the kind that only the rich can afford; brooding; dark sky; with a sort of dust coming out of one of the windows. It could be smoke, the way its movement is depicted, yet I can see individual particles, moving synchronized with all the rest.
The book immediately reminded me of the Stephen King movie, Room 1408, where a grand but aging New York hotel harbors a haunted room. Guests check in, and come out dead or insane. No one knows what happens inside that room. Watching it made me feel claustrophobic, as whatever was inside that room can stretch minutes into days and memories into nightmares.
I don’t think Apartment 16 was scarier, or maybe it just suffered for not having John Cusack and Samuel Jackson in the cast, but it did go a step further than claustrophobia and added agoraphobia to the murkiness coming from one abandoned apartment.
In Barrington House, an upmarket block in London, there is an empty apartment. No one goes in, no one comes out. And it’s been that was for fifty years. Until the night watchman hears a disturbance after midnight.
A young American woman, April, arrived at Barrington House to claim her inheritance. She was left an apartment by her estranged aunt Lillian who died in strange circumstances. She was mad, said many. Yet her diary suggested a horrific event decades ago, which took the life of her beloved husband.
As April investigated, she found out about the death-obsessed artist who used to live in Apartment 16. Practicing the occult, he may have opened a gateway into hell that has since permeated the block’s stone and woodwork. This evil infected everyone with spiritual malaise, making the world seem ugly. Or maybe it just made them see things as they really were? People also became more open to the psychic world; they saw distorted creatures everywhere even in broad daylight. When they tried to go out of London, the creatures that once were human would overwhelm them.
I was surprised by the appearance of three little hairless girls with the strangest misshapen heads, all long and thinnish. They were wearing surgical gowns tied at the neck and they did a horrible little dance on their stick legs, right there on the pavement before my eyes. Under the gowns I think their bodies were stitched together. But it was the way they moved…
Seth, the night watchman, was easily influenced. A struggling artist, he was trying to make ends meet while seeking his muse. His muse found him, unfortunately, and gave him nightmares. Pages were devoted to describing the horrors the death-obsessed artist created, by himself at first and then through Seth. He liked his subjects torn, mutilated, trapped, hanging, decaying, despairing, about to be swallowed up by a vast and seething nothingness. Stagnancy and a descent into a primitive animal state were also favorite themes.
Definitely, the power of the atmosphere put most characters in the shade. Seth was ok, but April was just a device to give the readers important background information. Excited though I was to acquire this book, it took me a while to get into the story. I was slightly bored with Seth’s introspection, not knowing yet of course how it related to what followed. When April learned more about her aunt from the head porter, the pace picked up. I said “most” not “all” because The Friends of Hessen were interesting. Sad rather than scary, and freaky rather than macabre, they have embraced ugliness while pretending they were special. I wished they can be given an opportunity to stay in Apartment 16.
According to the brief author bio, Nevill used to be a night watchman in exclusive apartment buildings in West London. I wonder what he has seen and heard inside those snooty walls inspiring this horror story? I myself daydream about living in an old yet prestigious apartment building. Maybe I should stop not because of ghosts but because only the rich, old and paranoid for neighbors until the end of my days is a truly horrifying thought. I’d die of boredom first before the ghosts can come and get me.
Good thing these vampires keep to themselves. Out on the streets, the way they smell so flowery all the time, they will be mistaken for metrosexuals.
Labels are convenient but they can mislead. If Angels Burn is paranormal romance, it is also a supernatural thriller. If you see it beside other titles with similar covers of gorgeous men with dark passionate eyes you might dismiss it as another vampire romance with more smut than plot. It helps to be familiar with authors so you know you’re getting a good story. It helps if you’re lucky to chance upon it in a used-bookstore and have quick browsing skill that lets you sample sufficiently the flavor of a book before buying.
I was lucky. And I trusted my instinct well enough to risk buying an unfamiliar author. Because I did, I found another series to look forward to. On first impression, the story looked too dark and edgy, with an unsympathetic female character. She wasn’t a heroine I would want normally for a romance: fiercely intelligent, independent but tough to get to know and hardly any ounce of girl.
So how did I end up liking this series? The sum of its parts had a synergistic effect, I realized halfway into the book. How did it begin, anyway? Dr. Alexandra Keller, Chicago’s most brilliant reconstructive surgeon, was abducted and persuaded to operate on Michael Cyprien, New Orlean’s most reclusive millionaire. His face and body were disfigured beyond medical repair. But his body’s ability to recuperate from his wounds bordered on the miraculous. Alex operated but when Michael awakened disoriented from the operation he attacked Alex and almost drained her of blood.
Michael is a Darkyn, an immortal whose kind is under attack by an organization of vampire-hating humans. Alex survived, changed. The story followed her attempts to understand scientifically what is happening to her body. In between Michael’s attempts to persuade–seduce, force, trick–her into accepting his protection the intrigues between the two factions played out, netting Alex’s priest-brother, other Darkyn and troubled humans.
They’re all deeply disturbed, actually. The Darkyn for having died and rising to discover they are monsters. The humans for experiencing some trauma, ending up misguided. There is tension after tension, from the volatile chemistry between Alex and Michael to the politics in human and vampire factions, and their struggle to survive.
I found this book very intelligent, with attention to details that most romances usually ignore. I had fun reading the scenes in the operating room, where Alex tried to stay two steps ahead of the Darkyn’s healing prowess so she can fix them. Of course this book is not perfect. I find the Darkyn’s disconnection with modern times a stretch; their Middle Age characters rather affected; and a jardin of vampires smelling like flowers ridiculous.
This Darkyn world is well fleshed out, nevertheless. If Viehl continues to write in this vein, I expect to follow this series through till the last book.
Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.
I wish I can do this book justice with a great review, but right now I am swamped with so many things to do and cursed with a mind that just wants to go to sleep. For a while, though, I drowned in hilarity. Soulless is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking. How does that work? Believe me it does, a Victorian steam punk led by the highly intelligent and saucy Alexia and gorgeous lord-detective Maccon.
In her society she is considered soulless, not supernatural yet not fully human. In her presence, vampires lose their fangs, werewolves their fur, and ghosts their hold on earth.
When rogue werewolves and vampires are murdered one after the other, she may be the only one who can solve the mystery, to the chagrin of the werewolf Lord Maccon. The interaction between these two are the high points of the book.
Rough around the edges, he is the perfect match for our pragmatic heroine–again to his chagrin and her secret delight. With a highly ingenuous world-building, where vampires set the latest trend in fashion and manners (i.e. deep-brimmed bonnets protect sensitive vampire skin from the light) and werewolf pack behavior influences military tactics, this series just raised the bar in urban fantasy.
By the way, if you like Victorian steam punk, visit this site. Ladies dresses and ensembles, hats and oddities for sale.
Smithback is murdered.
But no zombie did it, as his wife Norah, cop-friend de Agosto, and suave FBI agent Pendergast seem to think in the beginning. For shock factor, a callous disregard for the connection made by the series fans to characters from the first thriller, Relic, over Reliquary to Book of the Dead, authors Douglas and Lincoln kill off NY Times journalist Smithback, and things will never be the same again in Pendergast universe.
Masama ang loob ko, huhu. Pinatay ni Douglas at Lincoln si Smithback.
Going downhill at the Wheel of Darkness, the series reaches a slump with this ninth installment. Where is the sense of connection to previous adventures? What is this detachment that infects the book from page one? I only see token efforts at continuity. In previous books, Pendergast as a character is vibrant with promise. Here he is dead. The entire story lacks energy.
Maybe it suffers in comparison, in particular to the monster factor in Relic, the complex mystery of Cabinet of Curiosities, and amazing thriller of the Stillness of Dead Crows–but for rabid fans looking ever for more and better, how is this an excuse?
For murder, the gallows may be too good. For a lackluster book, the penalty is death. Of my interest.
Ok, I wrote this in the heat of my ire over Smithback’s death. One gets attached. Sorry. Cemetery is still a good thriller, which capitalizes on elements proven wildly successful in previous books. A thriller is afoot, possibly a monster. The heroes crawl through dark passageways searching for clues. Red herrings are thrown left and right. A maddened crowd complicates things and becomes additional fodder for monsters running around. The reader is sufficiently befuddled. The answer is sufficiently logical. Why the heck did they kill off Smithback?! Oops.
The third volume of the popular graphic novel series based on Filipino folklore goes back in time to expand on Alexandra Trese’s origins as well as those of the dagger-wielder’s powerful sidekicks, the Kambal (the Twins). Gorier and edgier, TRESE (13) also finally introduces Anton, Alexandra’s father who died protecting her as she went through the 12 trials, a rite of passage for any aspiring mandirigmang-babaylan (warrior-priestess). For details and more of my impressions on the series, read my previous Trese posts here and here. With this volume, I am satisfied that the series has achieved a neat tie-up to story lines spun from previous volumes, yet apprehensive over the ability of succeeding volumes to live up to the awesome action of Mass Murders (the conclusion was also rather hilarious, a tribute to gaming madness). New premises—the fate of Alexandra’s brothers; her fate; the lost three years, and the ambiguity of her role as mediator between human society and the Underground or as conqueror-destroyer of either world—promise a bigger and more explosive finale or the proverbial carrot on a stick. I hope it’s the later, as I like the idea of an open-ended story. That way the story never ends.
Oh, and in Exhibit 13, my favorite is by Melvin Arciaga.
And, darn it, there goes the binding. VISPRINT, use better glue!!! Or readers will be saying next that someone in your printing press is cheating on the books by using paste for good-quality glue!