My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is the first in what appears to be a popular series judging by the shelf in Barnes & Nobles. It’s first person point of view (since that matters to some people for some reason I don’t understand). The first chapter is a little rough, a bit too much information dump, not enough action. Once it gets rolling, the story is a pretty good urban fantasy.
The main character is Cal (short for Caliban) Leandros and one of the things that adds to the roughness of chapter one is that Cal is a bit on the whiney and lazy side (admittedly so). Cal lives poorly in NYC at the moment with his older half brother, Niko. Thanks to Cal they’ve lived life on the run for the last four years.
Their fortune-telling shyster alcoholic mother would never have won mother of the year. She didn’t care much for Niko and that was head and shoulders above what she thought of Cal. She named him Caliban after Shakespeare’s famous monster for one reason; she had slept with a demon and he was Cal’s father. He really is half a monster. Four years prior to the opening of the novel, Cal’s demonic father, creatures that Niko and Cal have taken to calling ‘Grendels,’ found them, hauling Cal off to their demonic homeland. When he reappears a few days later, two years had passed for Cal (now making him functionally two years younger than Niko rather than four) but he has no memory of it.
Now in NYC, Cal is working in a dive bar and Niko is a bodyguard, both of them ready to bolt at a moment’s notice. Their only acquaintances are Georgina, a true seer that Cal has a crush on and Rafferty, the healer out on Staten Island. It’s a rough life but it is at least a life, which is more than they’d get if Cal’s demonic relative catch up with them. So when Niko gets wind of a Grendel in Central Park, he wants to run.
Cal doesn’t. He doesn’t want to leave Georgina or Samuel, the musician who has sudden taken to playing at the dive bar. Cal also never tells his humorless brother about “Alice,” the humming in the mirror and the hint that something is in the glass. Cal is more worried about keeping the monster inside him tamed and feeling guilty that his brother has no real life other than keeping him safe. Niko is bright, winning a scholarship to college when Cal was first taken and Niko threw it all out to keep his brother alive. He wants Niko to have a real life.
Niko, having none of it, makes him go to the used car dealership with him since their vehicle doesn’t have much left to it. They run across a used car dealer that Cal can smell isn’t human. The dealer, Robin, turns out to be a mythological creature, while having crazy amounts of sexual energy and complete bisexuality, isn’t evil, isn’t a Grendel but he knows what they are.
Cal manages to stall his brother for a while, using Robin’s thousands of years of knowledge to figure out what his is, half auphe as it turns out, and why he is so important to them that they keep chasing him down. But the thing Cal didn’t tell his brother about comes back to haunt him and things go from bad to worse and the latter third of the book becomes can Niko save Cal from his demonic side.
It was pretty enjoyable. Cal does whine a lot but it’s tolerable. I liked the brothers but there is a bit of two dimensionality to them, especially Niko. It’s tricky giving the non-point-of-view characters depth when writing in first person and it takes Niko until the end to really begin to develop. All we know is that he’s martial arts guy with severe dedication to health food and keeping Cal safe. In some ways, Robin has more personality to him.
There were a couple of things that bothered me but most especially was where did Niko learn his skills? Did he start before the time Cal was taken (since it wasn’t a secret mom diddled a demon)? If not then after? His skill level doesn’t really square with the poverty of life with Mom or life on the run but okay I’ll put on my suspicion of disbelief glasses for that. I was more worried (Spoiler alert) that they stayed in NYC after what happened with Cal. Fingerprints? Video security? DNA? This isn’t set in 1985. I’d think that would be an issue for Cal for reasons that will be obvious if you read this. I was going to check for book two at the library but I went into B&N last night with my blood sugar sky high and riding the happy wave after seeing the Avengers (not a mix that will give you good decision making) and bought number two. So I guess that’s enough to recommend this to others.
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Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
When Deadlocked came out, I realized I had somehow missed the two Sookie books before it so I went back to get this one. I’m rather sorry I did. I’ve never rated a Sookie book this low (and I’m being generous here). In fact consider this whole review a giant spoiler since I really need to pull this sucker apart.
The real trouble with it is it has no plot. Nothing. It’s just an semi-coherent tying up of loose ends from the last few books. It felt like Harris suddenly realized she has way too many characters in this universe and needs to tidy up. None of it hangs together well as we flip flop all over for over three hundred pages. Worse, a lot of it reads like bad fanfiction (Not the good fanfiction that you bookmark and reread many times), especially the sex scenes. And frankly in the entire book Sookie only does about one smart thing and the rest of the time, she has to choose between telling Eric something important or having inappropriately timed sex that could have waited until after the important stuff was dealt with. Every time she chooses the sex and then to not tell him the important stuff.
In no particular order the various plots were:
1. Sookie healing from her fairie war wounds
2. Claude moving in with her
3. Strange fairies in woods even though all of them should have been walled up in the fairy world with her grandfather
4. the jerk off FBI agent from last book trying to cause trouble
5. Alcide’s pack uncovering a Debbie Pelt’s body on Sookie’s land
6. One of Eric’s vampires uncovering a fresh body on Sookie’s land
8. Bill possibly dying of silver poisoning from the war
9. Victor, Eric’s new boss, trying to destroy Eric
10. Eric’s maker returning with Eric’s ‘brother’ who is losing his sanity and he hopes exposure to Eric will help.
And we have the subplots of Andy’s mom dying and her relationship to Bill that they don’t know about, Sookie caring for Hunter, her telepathic 5 year old cousin, spies are everywhere and the all my friends are pregnant but me boo-hoo I’m so old and didn’t have kids. (you’re 27. get a grip).
So ten plots or subplots or whatever you want to call them. It’s too much, it makes for an unpalatable gumbo. Let’s examine each of them. Number one, okay this needed to be there but it was boring and not tremendously realistic. Sookie seems more interested in sunbathing than healing and as a doctor and as someone with more surgerical scarring than is reasonable, she doesn’t come across as someone who has been badly injured at all. In fact this is about the first fifty pages (mixed in with the boo hoo everyone’s pregnant but me subplot) and could easily be skipped.
Number two, Claude moving in with her was at least semi-interesting. He chose to a) forgive her for losing Claudine and Claudette, two thirds of the triplet set b) stay in the human world. He claims he’s lonely and needs fey company. Sookie thinks he might have ulterior motives but does nothing to examine them.
Number three, okay this one makes no sense. She knows there are two fairies who are NOT Claude out in her woods. She knows they all should be in the fairy realm. She suspects one might be her insane Uncle Dermot. What does Sookie do with this information? Nothing. She sits on it for a long time. She puts sex with Eric above this critical piece of evidence more than once. Does this sound like something someone who was nearly pulled apart by fairies last book would do? And when she finally tells him does anyone do anything? Nope. They just wait for the two fairies to stumble out of the woods and do their thing.
Number four, Agent Latesta (might have spelled that wrong, not excited about it enough to look it back up) was uninteresting last book. Him stepping up and threatening Sookie this time was just as uninteresting and then the whole thread just sort of drops, getting referred back to every so often.
Number five, Sookie offers the pack the use of her land because Alcide’s land has fishermen on it that supposedly his father used to let use it (not that anyone seems to believe it) and they do find the scent of the faeries, a vampire (Bill presumably) and a long-dead body, Alcide’s old girlfriend Debbie Pelt who Sookie killed a few books back. Afraid Alcide will figure it out, Sookie stops having sex long enough to tell Eric about it. Eric sends a tracker to investigate and offers to remove Debbie’s body which Sookie does not take him up on. Uh….how dumb is that?
Number six, Heidi, the vampire tracker finds the fairie tracks are very heavy and very fresh (but this is all anyone does, send a vampire out to confirm what the werewolves smelled) and that there is a fresh corpse out there along with Debbie’s. For some reason Heidi doesn’t tell Eric everything and even knowing there are spies and that Victor is out to get Eric, Sookie doesn’t point out this omission to Eric. Only later when she thinks (rightfully so) someone is trying to frame her for murder does she have them dig up the body and find out Alcide has more problems than he knows.
Number seven, eh, who cares. Hate groups, registration of the werewolves, big surprise. Not interesting. I see too much of that in real life.
Number eight, Bill is dying. This is about the only plot that wasn’t flubbed and is about the one time in the whole thing I didn’t want to slap Sookie. She was finally kind to someone in this. She’s worried about Bill. He came to her rescue and got poisoned by silver as a result (last book). He could die. Her fairy blood might help but she turns down sexual healing with him. His maker is dead. He has a sibling but refuses to contact them. Finally, Sookie gets it in her head to help. (why no one thinks to send Claude over, I have no idea. He’d probably have gladly boinked Bill’s brains out).Seriously, this is her one act of kindness in the whole book if you discount taking Hunter for the day (and she was impatient with him there. Claude did a better babysitting job)
Numbers nine and ten hook together and are the most important. Either the Amazon or Goodreads blurb made it sound like killing Victor was the main plot point. It would have been a much more interesting book if it had been. Victor’s death to get Eric free comes up early. Victor makes one attack on Pam and Sookie and after that, it pretty much drops off the radar. It crops up every now and then but that’s it. Wow. How to miss the opportunity for something interesting (I suspect that will be book 11 or 12)
Eric’s maker, Ocella, comes with his other child, Alexei (as in Romanov) and the boy is becoming deranged. Ocella hopes that Eric could help stabilize him or help send Alexei to his final death.
Sookie’s reaction to both Victor and Ocella is just bad. Simply bad and bitchy. She doesn’t like Eric not calling her for a day or two (okay when it stretches to six she should worry but it’s more bitchy annoyance than worry). The Machiavellian vampire politics are well explained to Sookie. She also has first hand knowledge via Bill about how a vampire has to obey his or hers sire. There is no choice and yet she blames Eric for everything, for kowtowing to Victor and King Felipe, for obeying Ocella. He’s “weak” and not “her” Eric. So in a time where he could really use the support of the woman he loves, Eric is left with Miss Bitchy who just keeps piling on the crap. She belittles their ‘marriage’ (how many times did we need to hear that he ‘tricked’ her into marrying him because she didn’t know what taking the knife meant?). She is incredibly rude to Ocella even knowing he could kill her, that he could make Eric kill her and Eric couldn’t refuse and she blames Eric for this.
I kept wanting Eric to tell her to go to hell. Yes, Ocella is an awful person for sleeping with Alexei who is about fourteen (forever). I agree it’s not right but as Eric points out in Ocella’s day Alexei would have been considered a man and it was the norm. The point is, the outright hostility was making Eric’s burden worse. Sookie didn’t once act like a woman in love, she acted like a spoiled brat who cared only about her interrupted sex time with Eric. For someone who talked about the high morals her grandmother instilled in her, apparently not blaming the man you love for things beyond his control never came up. I don’t know what was worse, how she acted around Eric and Ocella or that every time it came to share important, potentially life threatening information, she’d rather have sex and forget about it.
You could almost skip this one and go right into book #11. I wish I had.
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