Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Jory Strong

Dear Author

REVIEW: Spider Touched by Jory Strong

Dear Ms. Strong:

I like this book and I think it has great worldbuilding, but my big takeaway was “if I never read cuntlips again, I’ll die a happy reader.” On to the story.

Spider Touched is the second in the urban fantasy series started with Ghostland. I think that my understanding of this complex world was aided by my having read Ghostland. For those not familiar with the series, some of the world building concepts might be confusing.

Araña is a seer with a curse or gift, depending your point of view. She has the mark of a spider that migrates over her body. The mark is lethal and provides both protection and isolation. Protection because no one can touch her against her will and isolation because she cannot control the mark, making her poison for any loved one. Araña found a home with two gentlemen who are a type of privateers and have prices on their head. Erik has contracted a terrible illness and so, risking their lives, the three dock in Oakland to seek help. Araña finds herself alone, separated from Erik and Matthew, and soon she is captured.

Tir is a demon who has been bound through the years to different masters, coerced to do their will. He has one thought and that is to wreak revenge upon those who have sought to use him for their own means.

I thought that there was some play on the concept of submission but it was never fully formed. In other words, Tir who has spent his whole life answering to others wanted dominance over Araña. At some level, Araña and Tir are emotionally simplistic. Both burn for revenge, but Araña’s is touched by the need for affection while Tir is more focused. They both work together to find the key to the sigil-inscribed collar that controls Tir’s life.

There were many concepts that overlay the story: the churches hunt against the gifted, a type of colliseum-like entertainment where the gifted are forced perform to the death for the non gifted, the conglomeration of gifted includes vampires, shapeshifters, demons, angels, witches, (and probably more I am forgetting).

Many of Araña’s successes in this story are convenient. For example, she knows how to win the gifted gladiator entertainment event because she had met someone in her past had told her so many times about his run through the maze and subsequent escape that she captured the maze in detail on paper with ink and lead. Conveniently, Araña’s poison is nothing against Tir for he is Spider Touched in his own way.

The alternate world of Oakland with its complicated politics and magic is well drawn and each time I open these stories, I do feel transported into an entirely different dimension. These stories are a true blend of romance and urban fantasy because the conflict between Araña and Tir rests, in large part, upon the worldbuilding premise itself. In other words, you cannot take Araña and Tir out of this world setting and into a different setting and have the same dynamic. The mystery of Araña’s curse and Tir’s captivity provides the impetus to move forward through the story.

As a further plus, the story is very sexy. My complaint in the previous book was that th sex scenes seemed inconsistent in tone with the rest of the story but this time, i felt that there was a better blending of the sex scenes with the rest of the book. (although, as stated in the lede, I cannot stand the phrase “cunt lips”).

I make this recommendation qualified because there are many flaws but the blending of UF with romance is really well done and I don’t see a lot of this type of fantasy romance tale on the market.   It’s dark and death seems imminent on every corner.   I do think that this is a series that should be read in order because some of the worldbuilding in book 2 could be a spoiler for book 1. There is something building as the power struggle between the higher beings sees itself played out in each individual coupling. Knowing what the power struggle is can be a spoiler.   B-

Best regards,

Jane

This book can be purchased in trade Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers.

Dear Author

REVIEW: Ghostland by Jory Strong

Dear Ms. Strong:

book review Despite the fact you have a long backlist as an epublished author, I hadn’t read you before. To be honest, I was first intrigued by your book because of your beautiful cover, although, the purse thing? That’s strange. The great thing about Ghostland is that it is a wonderful blend of urban fantasy and romance with the worldbuilding conflict resting on the emotional conflict between the characters. And no, I don’t mean that the world is going to end is the two main protags don’t get together, but rather that what separates the two is based on their cultural divide. Yes, it’s all Capulets and Montagues and hated enemies to lovers.

The world you’ve created was complex and, at times, very confusing. The confusion rests to a large degree on elements that are revealed toward the end and thus while most of the storylines were wrapped up toward the end, it did require the reader to be in the dark on big world building issues. I hope I don’t give too much away in the review. Most of the details are those gleaned in the first few chapters but those that are spoiler averse might want to click away!

The heroine is a shaman. She can enter the ghostlands, an alternate or parallel plane, and whisper the name of a spirit on the spirit winds and summon that spirit to her. Each summons, though, comes with a price. Usually she is careful to call a spirit guide whose price she can pay but sometimes the price is unknown and very dear.

Aisling was left as an infant with a farmer and she grew up on the farm with no formal training as a shamanness. What she does know she has learned through trial and error and through the help of a familiar which attached itself to her at a very early age. The setting is post apocalyptic California and I get the idea that some natives will be amused with the descriptions of Oakland and surrounding areas. In the rural area in which Aisling lives, normal humans look upon the gifted with suspicion and Aisling is used to hiding her true nature.

Somehow, though, word got out that she was a shaman and leaders of the Church come to collect her and bring her to Oakland. There she is given a discrete task. Complete it and she will be given a small house, food and travel vouchers and a tiny bit of money. Fail, and well, there’s no option. Clearly if she fails, she’ll die, not at the hands of the Church but because failing the task means her death.

She is asked to go into ghostland, this other parallel world, and seek out the lover of a powerful man. They want to know if the lover is dead or alive. She enters ghostland and finds the woman, Elena. Elena is about to become a human sacrifice (or at least that is how it appears). Aisling’s familiar travels with her and at the point Aisling will fail in the task, the familiar whispers her the name and she summons the spirit. The spirit turns out to be a demon and while the demon slays the ones engaging in the sacrifice, it vows to kill Aisling for summoning him.

The demon is the Prince of Serpents, a Djinn, and few people can summon one such as powerful as he. He seeks vengeance upon her but also answers. How is it that she can summon him? What power does she hold? He goes to the house of raven and the house of spiders and the two leaders tell him that if he takes on a task for them, he can have the answer he seeks.

So he agrees to find a tablet that might hold the secret to the ifrit- Djinn whose souls are tainted and cannot be brought into the spirit land for rebirth. Ifrit are demons totally lost. Powerful, important and well loved demons have been lost for years and the djinn seek to reclaim them.

In order for a chance to get out of Oakland and save her family, Aisling agrees to hunt the makers of “Ghost”, a drug that has been created that opens a portal between the ghostland and the mortal world. A drug that placed Elena in peril.

The search for the tablet and Aisling’s promise to find the makers of Ghost coincide and the demon, Zurael, can’t exact his vengeance until the tablet is found for Aisling is the key to finding it so he must protect her, find the tablet and then destroy her.

The world is fairly complicated and I’m not sure I understand how it all works but the Djinn lived on the mortal plane until an alien god came and gave the power of summoning to the mortals. Mortals began to enslave the Djinn so they left and made a new home in ghostland.

The romance between Aisling and Zurael occurred naturally and was well integrated into the urban fantasy based story. Aisling was a natural enemy of the Djinn. She could not be brought into the spiritworld to live with Zurael nor would she want to. Zurael’s people believe that someone with such great power as Aisling who can summon and bind a Djinn cannot be allowed to live.

As an aside, because I have seen some comments about the sensuality level of this book, I’ll address it briefly. Yes, there was explicit language used in regards to the sex scenes and yes, there are several sex scenes in the story. I thought that the sex scenes lacked the lyrical quality of the other parts of the narration and I could see how some would find them jarring, not because of the use of coarser terms, but they did read differently, as if they were written at a separate time than the rest of the book and then inserted. However, I felt that the sex scenes were appropriately placed and advanced the storyline and the relationship and they weren’t at all gratuitous.

Aisling is truly powerful but her power isn’t well harnessed. She relies a great deal on her familiar. Part of the story relies a great deal on Aisling completing spirit related tasks for differing individuals and it’s so convenient that the payment she receives in return comes to help her later in the story. The conveniences and the confusion of the worldbuilding is what rates this a lower grade for me but it is still a compelling read and I am anxious to see what is next. B

Best regards,

Jane

This book can be purchased in trade paperback from Amazon or ebook format from the Sony Store and other etailers.