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

Guest Reviewer

96 Comments

  1. Ellan
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 12:16:04

    Am reading the series and Loved your review. Still laughing. I will carry some of your thoughts with me for a while.

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  2. Meri
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 12:21:09

    I’m still debating whether I want to read this one – I’m not really a PNR reader – so I only read the intro to avoid spoilers. But I just have to say that titling the review “I’m Lovin’ Angels Instead” is hilarious and now I’ve got Robbie Williams stuck in my head, which I am sure was not Ms. Singh’s intention :D

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  3. DeeCee
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 12:29:45

    Awesome review! It’s nice to get a gentleman’s perspective and some points were spot on. Thank you for a great start to my day!

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  4. Mo
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 12:34:38

    I greatly enjoy both of Ms. Singh’s series, starting with her Angels and moving on to her PsyChanglings. You have ever so wonderfully and accurately described her amazing world building skills. I recommend these series every chance I get.

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  5. j3nny
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 12:36:02

    I’m a Nalini Singh fan and I loved your review. It’s nice to see what others think about the book. Looking forward to your next review as I’ve never read anything by G.A. Aikan before.

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  6. Bethany
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 12:46:17

    omg, I am CRYING. needle-threading school. . . .lets just say, I look forward to your reviews more than is probably healthy.

    I was also really interested to read this because while I’ve read every Psy-Changeling book, I’ve not yet read the Angel’s series by Singh. I will also add that while you do have a TON of potentials on your list, everything about the psy-changelings gets better after Slave to Sensation.

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  7. Angela
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 12:54:11

    I should really know better than to read your reviews while I’m at work. Luckily most people are at lunch and didn’t hear me bust out laughing – needle-threading – OMG, hilarious.

    Great review! I love Nalini Singh’s worlds. They’re so incredibly detailed and well-built. That she manages to get great characters in there too just leaves me in awe of her.

    In case you didn’t know – Elena and Raphael’s story continues in the next two full length books in the series (Archangel’s Kiss and Archangel’s Consort). :)

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  8. Olya
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 12:56:49

    Thank you for yet another hilarious review!

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  9. Anna Hackett
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 12:59:52

    I am still wiping the tears away. Thanks for the huge laughs! A seriously entertaining review of a book I love….cross-stitch a quilt, OMG, I think I’ll be laughing all night.

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  10. Joy
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 13:02:11

    This is the book that reeled me back in to reading romances last year after 10 years or so of avoiding them because I was sick of weak, save-me heroines. I was browsing my library’s e-books and it was listed under “Fantasy.”

    I loved this book, and your review made me laugh so hard I cried. Can’t wait to see what you think of Dragon Actually.

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  11. pamelia
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 13:02:35

    OK. Reading this review at work (where I sit in my cubicle surrounded by other cube-dwelling co-workers) and CRACKING UP LAUGHING!! I’m sure that if they don’t think I’m nuts already, I have just crossed over that line. Thanks! Awesome review.
    I love these books and especially because of the power dynamics — which do a lovely job of ratcheting up the old tension.

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  12. Isobel Carr
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 13:03:10

    Nice Jayne reference!

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  13. MaryK
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 13:09:52

    They so are vulcans, aren’t they? That never occurred to me before.

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  14. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 13:11:50

    @Ellan:

    Thank you so much, really glad you enjoyed the review and I hope I’ve done justice to the book. I hate to think what thoughts you carried with you… ;)

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  15. carmen webster buxton
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 13:14:06

    I don’t think I can keep reading your reviews at work. It is pretty obvious to anyone walking past my office that I am not reading about legal or regulatory matters, and I am going to hurt myself if I try to hold in the laughter.

    Guffaws aside, it is especially nice to hear a male reviewer worry about things like the power dynamic and women being nice to other women.

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  16. samalamadindong
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 13:15:37

    i really like nalini singh’s psy-changeling series, but i could not get into this book at all. i really, really tried. i enjoyed your review of the book about 11,000x more than the actual book. and i can’t wait to read what you come up with next!

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  17. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 13:17:36

    @Meri:

    It’s not massively spoiler heavy, to be honest, I just wanted to put the warning in because people have hugely different levels of spoiler tolerance. It’s a romance so it doesn’t really constitute a spoiler to say the hero and the heroine get together at the end and it’s the beginning of a series so it’s a pretty safe to say Elena doesn’t die ;)

    Paranormal is probably the sub-genre I’m most comfortable with – maybe because there’s fighting and monsters as well as, y’know, love ‘n’ shit ;) Obviously I can’t really offer a good overview of PNR in general, or this book’s place in the canon, but I really enjoyed it. However, I think if you don’t like PNR then it’s full the sorts of things you find in PNR (albeit done really well). To paraphrase Lincoln, people who don’t like this sort of thing may find it to be the sort of thing they don’t like.

    I had a slightly embarrassing amount of fun trying to come up with a title for this one, though not as much fun as I had with Dragon Actually :)

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  18. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 13:18:59

    @DeeCee:

    My pleasure, glad you enjoyed it. If you day starts with a cock joke, it can only get better from there ;)

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  19. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 13:24:26

    @Mo:

    I liked Slave to Sensation but not quite as much as Angel’s Blood (angels > panthers, no contest) and I do really enjoy the sheer cracktasticness of the world building. What I think I find interesting about Ms Singh’s worldbuilding is that it sort of works on two levels. There’s the big in your face stuff that grabs your attention as you go in but there’s a lot more detail under the surface which just supports everything else. You don’t really notice it while you’re reading but it would be a real problem if it wasn’t there. And the relationships tend to be grounded in the world, rather than just floating on top of it, which means you don’t get that thing I’ve sort of noticed a bit where it’s almost like the world only exists as an excuse for the romance.

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  20. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 13:26:21

    @j3nny:

    Thank you for the kind words – I think I’m probably a Nalini Singh fan too :)

    I feel slightly bad because I’ve just realised it’s Aiken (with an e) not Aikan but I’ve asked Jane to fix it – to be honest, I found it bit, well, difficult. It’s quite rompish but Nalini Singh is a hard act to follow and I worry I was a bit negative towards it because of that :(

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  21. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 13:29:53

    @Bethany:

    *offers handkerchief*

    As long as you don’t hold your breath between reviews, you should be fine :)

    And, thank you, I’m so glad you like reading them. I really like writing them, and I’m pretty excited to discover all these new books. Well, I say discover. Have other people very kindly introduce me to them :)

    If I ever have any time ever again, I’d probably like continue with both series. I think if you liked psy-changeling you’d really like this one too – in my partial, prejudiced opinion I think it’s slightly stronger (but that might just be the angel thing).

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  22. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 13:35:33

    @Angela:

    I’m really glad to have enlivened your lunch break and/or frightened your colleagues ;)

    I’ve also been very impressed with Ms Singh’s world-building. My genre of choice is usually fantasy which is obviously quite big on world building but not so great on characters, so it’s nice to get both. Also, again, with my fantasy reader hat on (I don’t know what a fantasy reader hat looks like, maybe a pointy purple wizard hat or some stick on elf ears), it’s really nice to a well-constructed, well thought through world that isn’t rammed down your throat and doesn’t come in a 900 page epic.

    Archangel’s Consort, eh? Guess we know where this is heading ;) Actually, I’d be genuinely interested to see how the power dynamic develops over the next two books, given how things end in the first.

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  23. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 13:36:26

    @Olya:

    Very much my pleasure – and I really should thank the 80 million people who recommended the book, it was an awesome choice.

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  24. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 13:37:44

    @Anna Hackett:

    Thank you. And I think laughter is probably the sanest response to that mental image ;)

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  25. MaryK
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 13:38:22

    @AJH:

    I can’t really offer a good overview of PNR in general, or this book’s place in the canon

    IMO, the Angels series is a standout in PNR. It’s hard hitting and unflinching like you’d expect to see in UF but don’t often find in PNR.

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  26. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 13:43:54

    @Joy:

    Really glad you enjoyed the review – and I can see why the book would reel you back into the genre (just when I thought I was out … they pull me back in, sorry I had to make that joke).

    I’ve actually been pretty lucky with heroines on the Big List of Awesome so far. Heather was kind of a wet blanket, but I heart Jessica Trent with a big cartoon heart (and she is not remotely ‘save me save me’, she’s more sort of ‘dick me around I’ll shoot you’). Elena kicks seven kinds of arse. Although I was kind of so-so on Dragon Actually, the heroine is basically Lucy Lawless. And then it gets complicated again so I’ll stop ;) But, so far, Heather has been the only one I’ve actively wanted to throw into the sea.

    I’m feeling a bit bad about Dragon Actually because my response wasn’t particularly positive but the thing about reading a lot of books in quick succession is that context becomes quite dominant – and I wonder if Singh just casts a long (awesome) shadow.

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  27. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 13:49:52

    @pamelia:

    Any time – I am always on hand to help people look silly in front of their co-workers ;) Very glad you enjoyed the review. I did find the power dynamics absolutely fascinating, I think particularly because – and apologies if this sounds like a generalisation I’m not qualified to make – they tend to be quite important in these sort sub-genres (where you get people with incredible power dating people with less power or, basically, no power), but end up being kind of unexplored. What’s interesting to me about Elena/Raphael is that the question isn’t really ‘will they get together?’ it’s ‘what will it even mean for them to get together?’

    I love these books and especially because of the power dynamics — which do a lovely job of ratcheting up the old tension.

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  28. CD
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 13:50:09

    “I’m plagued by a little voice at the back of my head that says “wow, I have been doing this seriously wrong for, like, a decade.” ”

    Well, now you know – the truth is hard. Ahem. Although reading romances made me realise that there are 19th century virgins out there who give better head than I do, in a moving carriage no less, so inadequacy shared ;-). Also, as these novels are mostly written by Americans, I’ve come to the conclusion that they just must have much better sex than the rest of us poor benighted mortals. Or maybe it’s just the romance writers…

    Although, biting nipples through clothing is a definite no-no – what if you were wearing silk or an evening dress or something? You’d deserve to be shot for that.

    As for ANGEL’S BLOOD, I remember liking it but not really connecting to either Elena or Raphael on an emotional level, which is what I normally go for in a romance – basically, it didn’t really give me the warm fuzzies. I read a couple of other books in the series (with different couples) which I liked a lot better. If you’re interested in a relationship across a huge power dynamic, then I would highly recommend Michelle (Sagara) West’s THE SUNDERED series starting from INTO THE DARK LANDS. I’ve gone on about this series loads of times but, despite being nominally fantasy, I actually see it as one of the best love stories I’ve ever read.

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  29. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 13:50:47

    @Isobel Carr:

    Well, it was either that or go out in a really embarrassing hat.

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  30. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 13:53:18

    @MaryK:

    Only without the Amok Time. And I guess that makes Sascha a Romulan.

    *coughs*

    /nerd

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  31. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 13:59:19

    @carmen webster buxton:

    Legal and regulatory information isn’t funny? My world reels :)

    Obviously, writing as a dude puts me in a slightly odd position because it’s important to pay attention to these things but I very much don’t want to go down the road of telling female writers they’re doing feminism wrong. And I’m as much here to listen to what other people have to say as anything else.

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  32. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 14:00:50

    @samalamadindong:

    Oh bless you, it’s not a personal failing :) One of the things I’m learning about romance is that reactions to books differ very strongly. I honestly think most of the reason I liked this more than Slave to Sensation is, essentially, I prefer feathers to fur.

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  33. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 14:02:40

    @MaryK:

    I’ll leave this one with you :) Obviously I haven’t read much of either sub-genre (though I’ve quite a bit of YA paranormal / urban fantasy) and, honestly, the lines blur a bit around the middle to me. I couldn’t honestly put my hand on my heart and say I’m clear where one ends and the other begins.

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  34. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 14:08:30

    @CD:

    “Although reading romances made me realise that there are 19th century virgins out there who give better head than I do, in a moving carriage no less”

    Okay, that’s hilarious. And I’m glad it’s not just me.

    Some day, somewhere an angel is going to meet a 19th century virgin, they’re going to share a carriage, she’s going to gag and he’s going to miss.

    I’m glad the clothes thing isn’t just me as well… I mean lots of the women I know put some care and consideration into what they’re wearing, and if I started eating it I think they’d rightfully be upset.

    Back to Angel’s Blood, I can see why you wouldn’t get into it if you were looking for emotional warmth, because they’re both damaged, closed people. It’s not really a warm fuzzies kind of book. But, I agree, I was engaged more intellectually than emotionally but, uh, I didn’t really notice at the time of reading. Whoops.

    More recs, omg, I shall drown, but drown happily :) As you know, I’m a big fantasy reader so anything that bridges romance and fantasy intrigues me.

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  35. victoria paige
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 14:26:32

    I’ve been debating whether to start this series. The psy-changeling books were a bit hit or miss for me, but I do agree about the world building in that book.
    I was cracking up at the “thread needles with the damned things”, and I can assure you that “one deft thrust” is not the way to go {i’m grinning here from ear to ear} but it has more drama I guess and I am guilty of writing something like that.
    It’s great to get a guy’s perspective on this so thanks for this entertaining review. :)

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  36. erinf1
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 14:35:29

    Bwahahahaha…. Luckily it’s just me and one other person in the office today so no one to really wonder why I’m laugh-crying :) Love, love, love this review! And yeah, the sex scenes for most historical, parnanormal, suspense, whatever romances are bit “out there”. But it’s hysterical to have it broken down into real life :)

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  37. Karenmc
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 14:47:49

    I was working away, trying to leave the office early, so I lost track of Friday being Glorious Guest Reviewer Day until just now. Boy howdy, am I glad I thought to check DA before shutting down the computer. Another wonderful review, AJH, and this is from someone who doesn’t read paranormal books. Thank you from the bottom of my hilarity-starved heart.

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  38. LethalLovely
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 14:49:45

    *LL creeps out of lurker hidey-hole* I must say that I find your reviews from the male perspective completely and utterly awesomesauce, AJH. I wish more men would read romances because, as my Intro to Sociology professor once said “Women love that cheesy shit. If you find out what we like, we’ll want to have sex with you & stop pretending we’re asleep when you try to feel us up.”

    I love everything about your reviews including your sense of humor, which makes me laugh harder than when I watch people trip & fall (I know, I’m such a bad person). Keep up the good work!

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  39. Lada
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 15:17:27

    I’m another reader who tried to like this series (since I love strong female leads and Singh writes good ones) but was put off by the over saturation of violence in the books. I felt like every 3rd page was soaked in bloody memories, anticipation of future maimings or actual present gore, it all became too much. Especially when coupled with emotionally dark characters (of which I’m normally a fan) and lack of humor to add balance. (I can enjoy the grittiness of In Death or flat out horror of Kate Daniels because there is lots of humor to balance it out.) I accept that Elena’s past was important to understand but the descriptive repetition of it made the series unreadable for me.

    Probably you won’t ever get to this since angels>panthers (heh) but one of the best power balances in romance I’ve ever read was Singh’s Tangled In Need which has a she-leopard getting together with a he-wolf. I know, right? But they are both strong alphas and it’s fun to watch them work things out.

    Your male insights are informative, creative and hilariously fun! After freaking shoveling heavy snow for the past few days (it’s April for God’s sake), the laughs are much appreciated. Look forward to next week’s addition.

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  40. Muneera N.
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 15:53:21

    I’ve read the book before, but I wanted to see another perspective on the book. I’m so glad I clicked on this. I’ve never laughed this much while reading a book review. Thank you!

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  41. cleo
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 15:56:04

    Awesome, awesome review. Have you read any of Sharon Shinn’s Samaria books? She writes my favorite angels.

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  42. Darlynne
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 15:56:11

    Just when I thought your review couldn’t possibly get any better:

    Some day, somewhere an angel is going to meet a 19th century virgin, they’re going to share a carriage, she’s going to gag and he’s going to miss.

    You’ve made my day again. And I agree with the other poster who couldn’t get into the book, but thoroughly enjoyed your take on it. Bravo.

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  43. cleo
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 15:59:40

    @Lada: I think you mean Branded by Fire – Mercy and Riley’s story. That’s my favorite psy/changeling story. And it’s a little more stand alone than some of the other psy/changeling books.

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  44. Julie James
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 16:04:05

    I wanted to join the others and say how much I’m enjoying your reviews. It’s always interesting to get the male perspective on romance novels, but more specifically, you have a great voice! I laughed out loud reading this.

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  45. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 16:10:46

    @victoria paige:

    I’ve only read one book of each series so I can’t really tell you how they line up against each other – I get the feeling the psy-changeling books were a bit more standalone so you’d be less likely to know what you were getting with each book, hence hit ‘n’ miss. But I could be completely off base on that. I think the Guild Hunter books spiral out a bit later but people are telling me that the focus is on Elena / Raphael, at least for the first three. I’d be quite interested in seeing that development but, of course, it very much depends how invested you feel in those characters.

    As for deft thrusting, I think like any sexual technique mileage may vary ;) Although I kind of joked about it, I can see why it goes down that way (if you’ll pardon the unfortunate word choice). I mean:

    He fumbled about a bit. ‘Are you okay down there?’ he asked politely.
    ‘Down a bit dear, no NOT THERE,’ she said.

    … is just not very sexy.

    Glad you enjoyed the review :)

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  46. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 16:13:23

    @erinf1:

    I was mostly shooting for comedic effect rather than actually complaining – I suspect over-literalising sex scenes in romance novels is the equivalent of being the dude who whinges that guns don’t really work that way in action movies. And I don’t want to be that guy. It is kind of funny though… ;)

    I’m really glad you’re enjoying the reviews.

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  47. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 16:15:31

    @Karenmc:

    Awww, thank you :) I am touched to have brightened up your Friday. I confess my Fridays – always an excellent day in any case – are much improved by exciting conversations about romance over here at DA :)

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  48. MarieC
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 16:26:07

    Thanks for the great review! I love this series (and this author! Autobuy!) and have read it several times over, but your review has made me want to re-read it, with a different perspective.

    For me, each of the books in the series has a different ‘tone’, for lack of a better word, but the setup/world building that Ms. Singh did for this first book is amazing.

    Now, I cannot wait for your review of ‘Dragon Actually’!

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  49. Mary
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 16:27:58

    @AJH:
    I’m bummed you didn’t LOVE Dragon Actually-although I have to say that my favorite book in that series is the third one. IMHO, Dragon Actually and then the fifth one are the weakest in that series.

    But yes. Nalini Singh is AWESOME and I really like this book even if it does do the thing that squicks me out, having 20 year olds and centuries old people hook up. That always seems weird to me, but Singh pulls it off pretty well.

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  50. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 16:29:12

    @Lada:

    I can completely see where you’re coming from. I think fantasy has completely warped my perspective on what counts as reasonable level of violence in a book. I’m used to a genre where people get their fingers sliced off by inches by the actual viewpoint characters.

    Equally, you’re right, it’s not a laugh riot, really, is it? I hadn’t actually noticed this but then I also hadn’t noticed just how violent it is. Honestly, I’m hopeless. And there is a lot of dwelling on Elena’s mother’s extremely bloody death, which did slightly squick me out. It reminded me a bit of Supernatural, actually, which again is quite a violent show and the brothers are largely motivated by the ceiling-related death of their mother. But I think because I’d assimilated death-mothers as a sort of genre trope I didn’t really engage emotionally with how unpleasant it is.

    Tangled In Needs sounds pretty entertaining – although, given my difficulty with parsing panthers, I think two different shape shifter species might come perilously close to the edge of my comfort zone.

    Thank you for the kind words – and good luck with the snow (yeesh!)

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  51. Mary
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 16:29:26

    @cleo: Ahh OMG SHARON SHINN YES
    okay I’m done now

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  52. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 16:30:10

    @Muneera N.:

    Aww, thank you, that’s really sweet :) Hope the alternative perspective was useful to you.

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  53. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 16:32:12

    @cleo:

    Yay, I’m really glad you liked it.

    Weirdly… I think I might have? Something about angels and spaceships? Or was that a dream? I seem to recall they moved quite slowly, the books I mean. Was there a woman called Rachel? Okay, maybe I’m grasping here. But there is something going ding in my memory somewhere.

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  54. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 16:33:34

    @Darlynne:

    Many thanks, I take it you aren’t a Singh fan then?

    And someone clearly needs to write The Virgin’s Angel. Or do I mean The Angel’s Virgin?

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  55. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 16:35:20

    @Julie James:

    Thank you so much, I really appreciate the kind words.

    You’re kind of on the list so I hope you don’t change your mind ;)

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  56. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 16:40:04

    @MarieC:

    Very much my pleasure, I’m so glad you enjoyed the review. One of the things I’m very finding difficult (difficult in a kind of good way) is moving onto the next author on the list because if the book itself hasn’t inspired me to want to read more, usually the discussion does. I actually bought a whole pile of yet more Loretta Chase after the Lord of Scoundrels review and I keep eyeing them hungrily. And now I feel the same way about Singh.

    The changes in tone sounds really interesting actually because maintaining the tension and the cohesion of a long series is really difficult. It’s also very different to what I’m used to in fantasy since most fantasy series are just one big novel somebody has arbitrarily axed into three pieces :)

    I’m feeling a bit nervous about Dragon Actually, err, actually because I didn’t respond very well to it. And although I was pretty harsh about The Flame & The Flower, Woodiwiss is dead so I didn’t have to feel bad.

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  57. AJH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 16:44:01

    @Mary:

    I’m sorry, I tried, I feel really bad about it :( You can come and tell me how wrong I am when the review goes up next week.

    Age gaps in paranormal are really weird, aren’t they? It’s like they go through peaks and troughs.

    She’s 20, he’s 20: Fine
    She’s 20, he’s 40: Borderline to eeesh
    She’s 20, he’s 60: No wai
    She’s 20, he’s 170: Fine again
    She’s 20, he’s 1000: Yep, that’s cool.

    I guess once you become immortal half your age + 7 doesn’t count any more.

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  58. Beth
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 17:25:47

    Great Review.
    Now I want to read it again.

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  59. Lada
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 17:36:57

    @cleo: Thanks for the catch. I realized I had the wrong title after posting but couldn’t get back until now. Branded By Fire is my favorite psy/changeling book, too.

    And AJH, you should think of bumping Julie James waaay up your list. I just finished Love Irresistibly and it’s one of the best contemporary romances I’ve read in a long time. Plus DA book club for this book is on Monday and it would be fun to have you join and add your male perspective in a different way although come to think of it, the timing may not work for you.

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  60. Malin
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 17:37:42

    Absolutely hilarious review. I also loved your review of Lord of Scoundrels. Can’t wait to hear your views on the other books on your list, most of which I’ve read.

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  61. cleo
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 18:06:10

    @AJH: Yes, I think you have read them – you have the main points right. The first book is Archangel – the heroine is named Rachel. She lives on a planet settled by humans who (a long time ago) genetically engineered some humans to have wings and fly up to sing to Jovah and ask for rain or medicine, etc. She’s identified as the next Angelica – she’s supposed to marry the archangel, and together they have to save the world. I thought the series got more interesting after the first book.

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  62. lakaribane
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 18:49:15

    @AJH:

    And someone clearly needs to write The Virgin’s Angel. Or do I mean The Angel’s Virgin?

    Well, if Harlequin publishes it, it will probably be The Angelic Billionaire Playboy’s Time Traveling Virgin…or something.

    Great review. I forgot your gig was on Fridays *tapes note to laptop*

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  63. MarieC
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 21:56:30

    @AJH:

    And although I was pretty harsh about The Flame & The Flower, Woodiwiss is dead so I didn’t have to feel bad.

    BWAHAHA!! I SO CANNOT WAIT FOR YOUR NEXT REVIEW!!

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  64. Janine
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 22:03:13

    @Lada & @Cleo: Branded by Fire might be my favorite Psy/Changeling too. Unless it’s Caressed by Ice.

    AJH — the violence gets worse as this series progresses. I loved Angels’ Blood but really struggled with the violence in Archangel’s Kiss. On the other hand, Archangel’s Blade (Dmitri’s book) is a bloodbath, but it’s also my favorite in the series…

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  65. Joopdeloop
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 02:28:25

    Dude, your reviews are pure mancandy, set off to shiny perfection here at DA. Very easily devoured, so hilarious! Your critique of nipples-through-clothing calls to mind a post by Wendy the Superlibrarian ( hmm, google ‘the soggy bra epidemic’) Singh is an author who sometimes works for me, other times can’t live up to all the stratospheric hype. I am with you on feathers instead of fur. I anticipate with great pleasure future reviews as you make your way through your List o’ Doom. (And now I want to see someone design a Rafael crossstitched quilt… Perhaps it would have some aphorism repeated over and over a la Bart Simpson writing on a chalkboard ‘I will not…’ )

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  66. Aisha
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 03:21:34

    Thanks, again, for a funny yet insightful review :)

    And to add to the inadequacy inducing theme, don’t forget the Romancelandia hero who can go on forever, just like the energizer bunny, and has swoonworthy oral skills to top it off ;)

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  67. AJH
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 04:12:57

    @Beth:

    Thanks so much, glad you enjoyed. I think it’s definitely worth the re-read if you like this sort of thing :)

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  68. AJH
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 04:15:43

    @Lada:

    She’s definitely in the upper third, I think. I was trying to alternate between sub-genres just to, y’know, keep things fresh. I don’t think I’m going to manage to read it before Monday though – I read fast but not that fast, also I’m half way through Bet Me and NOTHING is getting between me and finishing that book. It’s awesome. I’d love to skulk into the bookclub some day though – but I suspect, time zones being what they are, it’d end up with me having to stay up til 2 in the morning or something.

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  69. AJH
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 04:16:43

    @Malin:

    I’m really glad you’re having fun. I guess it’s kind of the big advantage of being late to the party that everyone else has read everything so you have plenty of people to discuss it with :)

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  70. AJH
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 04:18:29

    @cleo:

    Ah hah, yes I have read this. I found the first book slow but kind of interesting. I suspect it’s another one of the cracktastic setting things but I got a little bit impatient with the way information was being doled out. I suspect, if I went back to it, with my new genre eyes, I might get along MUCH better.

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  71. AJH
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 04:19:23

    @lakaribane:

    Well, if Harlequin publishes it, it will probably be The Angelic Billionaire Playboy’s Time Traveling Virgin…or something.

    Omg, I would totally read that.

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  72. AJH
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 04:20:05

    @MarieC:

    I don’t think I’m quite that bad :(

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  73. AJH
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 04:22:36

    @Janine:

    I feel like some kind of de-sensitised oik who spends all his time playing first person shooters and watching Game of Thrones but I am very seldom bothered by violence. I suppose if it feels totally gratuitous, then it just gets a bit boring but I usually just sail through disembowellings and decapitations without really noticing. :/

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  74. AJH
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 04:27:19

    @Joopdeloop:

    I’m really slightly apprehensive about googling ‘soggy bra epidemic’ but I’ll trust you ;)

    I’m really glad you’re enjoying the series, and I’m very grateful to Jane for letting me post my thoughts over here.

    It must be really hard, actually, to be Nalini Singh. I mean, I’m sure it’s great too but the more people rave about your work, the more pressure you’re under to living up the differing expectations of a large and diverse audience. Also, I think if I was invested in an author with a large output I’d much rather they wrote some books I really liked and some I didn’t because that suggests they’re writing a range of material – rather than the producing the same sort of thing over and over again (even if that I like that thing).

    Are you sure Raphael wouldn’t be just stitching ‘my cock serves a very specific purpose’?

    It’s that or ‘I must not make my girlfriend stab herself in the hand’.

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  75. AJH
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 04:30:31

    @Aisha:

    Yay, my pleasure – really glad you enjoyed it :)

    I have actually read 50 Shades of Grey (for my sins) – and I seem to recall Christian Grey was particularly, err, priapic. His erection literally never goes away. It’s like he’s a raccoon or something. And, picking up on the incredibly oral skills of the 19th century virgin CD mentioned above, Ana is just as insanely accommodating. I mean, I remember the first time she gives him a bj she deep throats him like a, um, professional.

    And Twitter has mentioned The Black Dagger dudes in this regard so I guess I have that to … look forward to?

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  76. Caz
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 05:41:33

    Okay, I don’t even read this particular genre, but I knew I had to read your review – Just Because :)

    If there isn’t a romance novel entitled “School for Wangs”, there really should be, and I think you’re just the guy to get the job done ;-)

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  77. Hilcia
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 08:54:14

    I have been enjoying Nalini Singh’s works for years now, but I have to admit that I’ve never read a review for one of her books that made my day the way yours has! Excellent thorough and insightful review. Thanks for the laughs!

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  78. Ann
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 10:32:50

    My favorite line from your review:

    Ms Singh, I do not know what you are smoking but it is clearly making you awesome.

    Brilliant!

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  79. Jen
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 12:40:40

    Argh, typed out a comment and then I think the internet ate it.

    Anyway, brilliant review once again! I loved your comments on the sex. I’m actually interested to hear more about your thoughts on the guys as I don’t know any guys who read romance IRL. Nearly all the romance heroes have godlike penises, even if they aren’t actually gods. They can literally go all night, and they have little to no refractory period no matter their age. They are hard and ready in an instant, and as you point out they have an otherworldly amount of control over their members. Plus, they never finish until the woman does. Certainly there’s some element of women’s fantasy here (though of course what those fantasies actually are is another discussion). Women are pretty accustomed to seeing men’s unrealistic fantasies played out in other media–I’m fascinated to hear about it from another perspective.

    I can’t wait to hear what you think once you read a couple contemporaries. It will give you a whole new perspective–as a fantasy fan you’re used to “other” worlds. Definitely paranormals give you that, and basically so do historicals. Contemporaries are set in THIS world, and they have to create their drama and engagement in other ways.

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  80. Estara Swanberg
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 12:47:19

    @AJH: Fantasy not great on the characters? Awww – you obviously read the wrong authors.

    Okay, I’m biased. After only being able to buy male fantasy authors’ work in my formative years – Germany not being a fantasy stronghold, although we had lots of fairy tales and sagas to be read by impressionable kids – I’ve mostly switched to the ladies and can recommend Martha Wells, Sherwood Smith, Michelle Sagara West, Rachel Neumeier, Megan Whalen Turner, Kate Elliott, Ann Somerville (especially Darshian Tales), Andrea K. Höst (which you already heard of with Hunting), Judith Tarr, Lois McMaster Bujold, early Patricia Briggs, Julie Czerneda’s newest book… and that’s just of the top of my head and mostly writers from the millennium and later ( there were Mercedes Lackey’s early Valdemar books, Jo Clayton, Andre Norton in the 80s).

    Another advantage of those ladies in light of your current obsession is that they usually have no problems also including romantic subplots in their epic or kingdom-level or slice-of-life fantasy.

    SPOILERRRRRRRRRS!

    As to your review, I could NOT for myself find the potential between Elena and Raphael real, there was too much compromise from her side needed and too much abuse taken, so this didn’t work for me and I stopped reading this series (MeganBMoore’s review compares that feather storm that transforms Elena into an angel with aphrodisiac *grin* and I can’t but agree), but I do think some of her Psy-Changeling books are top-notch romances and always fascinating worldbuilding and overarching plot.

    END SPOILEEEEEEEER

    Meljean Brooks Guardian series is more my cup of tea when comparable books are mentioned, or Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson/Alpha & Omega world, or Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels and some of the Edge books. My favourite really perfectly balanced paranormal romance with action plot AND an understanding of how long-time romance works with in a family as well is Eileen Wilks’ World of the Lupi. Considering she’s a long-time Harlequin author focusing on contemporary category romance, I’m impressed that the series just gets better and better, especially
    when it focuses on Rule Turner and Lily Yu.

    Having said this, I really enjoyed your review again and had two LOL moments, thank you ^^

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  81. AJH
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 16:11:00

    @Caz:

    Schools for Wangs?! Sheridan is probably turning over in his grave :)

    But I’m on the case! I suppose it would have to be about a brotherhood of probably Regency gentlemen who all attended a particular … err … school. And then went on to be SPIES because they always do ;)

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  82. AJH
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 16:12:18

    @Hilcia:

    Awww, thank you so much – really glad you enjoyed it and that you thought I did the series justice :)

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  83. AJH
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 16:13:08

    @Ann:

    I am very much hoping that particular quote will make it onto the cover of her next book ;)

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  84. AJH
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 16:20:38

    @Jen:

    Bad internet, no biscuit.

    So glad you enjoyed the review. Regarding the sex, I was sort of playing for laughs. I do understand that this exists within a fantasy space and that literary conventions are what they are, and being overly focused on their literalities kind of misses the point. Cars don’t explode like they do in action movies, real police work is nothing like a detective show, and so on and so forth. I think it was CD who pointed out above that the women are just as … shall we say … amped up as the dudes. Amazing at blowjobs and willing to give them at a moment’s notice. From zero-to-orgasm in nothing flat. Tremendously sensitive and responsive breasts all the time.

    For me, I think I’d like a meeting of realism and idealism because I don’t *necessarily* think realism is automatically a downer. Speaking contemporaries, I just finished Bet Me and the sex scene was pretty sweet and everybody had a good time, but the hero says afterwards something like: “Sorry, I usually last longer than 7 minutes.” And I thought that was really nice because it was human and felt real to me – and, actually, it’s perfectly possible to have good, satisfying sex that doesn’t involve lasting forever and simultaneous orgasms.

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  85. AJH
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 16:28:54

    @Estara Swanberg:

    Yeah, I think I’m probably an unintentionally but still horrendously sexist fantasy reader. I tend to read boy books for the boys :( And actually a lot of mainstream fantasy big hitters tend to be dudes (although I think LMB won a Hugo a little while ago) and, embarrassingly, I don’t think I’ve heard of any of these, except via your Goodreads.

    I will fix this! But probably quite slowly.

    I think I have read one LMB (Paladin of Souls) but it was so long ago I can’t really remember; also it was a sequel to something I hadn’t read, so a pretty stupid starting point now I think about it. And I seem to recall having read a some Mercedes Lackey in my youth – something about a wet gay wizard? Which sort of annoyed me.

    I can see where you’re coming from on the Elena/Raphael thing but, as it was only the first volume, I didn’t see it as a completed arc and, therefore, I wasn’t too worried about the balance because I thought it would shake out later. By the end of the first book, I didn’t read their relationship as twu wuv forever but it did seem to be more or less functional – but I also think I read it in quite a detached way, as a sort of commentary on the power dynamics of the sub-genre.

    Brook, Briggs, and Andrews are all on ahead on the list so I’ll be able to compare and contrast in a bit. Although I read the steampunky Brook not the demony one :)

    Aaaand very glad you enjoyed the review :)

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  86. Estara Swanberg
    Apr 14, 2013 @ 07:57:36

    @AJH:
    I wouldn’t be surprised if I’d done the same, if I were a boy.

    I wanted the girls to be more than arm candy or fridged people or prizes – and I find that the lady writers give me female main characters, or – if its a group effort – females with just as much agency as the boys.

    Of the list I mentioned Lois McMasterBujold, Megan Whalen Turner, Sherwood Smith, Judith Tarr, Patricia Briggs in her Hurog duology, Martha Wells in The Death of the Necromancer and the Raksura books and Ann Somerville (who writes m/m, but the Darshian Tales really are epic fantasy and also have hetero and f/f couples among their important characters) all have published books and series with male characters as protagonists.

    For that matter I just finished reading C.J.Cherryh’s 14th Foreigner book this weekend and that has a man as the protagonist, but it’s anthropological science fiction.

    Don’t worry about how fast you get around to this – I tend to accumulate recommendations and TBR books (especially if they’re on sale) in numbers it’ll take me years to get through as well. Just wanting to point out there’s character driven fantasy & sf out there in not insignificant amounts.

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  87. Caz
    Apr 14, 2013 @ 12:52:58

    @AJH

    Sheridan is probably turning in his grave

    Nah – he’d probably have written it himself, given half a chance!

    And yes – SPIES, definitely spies. And rogues. And pirates. And… men who do derring do. The historical market seems to be dominated by series these days, so I’m sure your new “Brotherhood of the Mighty Wang” series will fit in nicely :)

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  88. Janine
    Apr 14, 2013 @ 17:24:36

    @AJH: How shall I put this without spoilers? It wasn’t so much simple blood and gore, but rather, certain psychological aspects to the violence in Archangel’s Kiss that made it extraordinarily disturbing to me.

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  89. leslie
    Apr 14, 2013 @ 18:10:04

    What a great review!

    When I first read Nalini Singh and Ilona Andrews I had to constantly google for photos of jaguars, panthers, lions and Archangels to get a visual……and now I’m firmly in the cat/fur camp.

    Have you heard of Kate Forsythe’s series The Witches of Eileanan? Good fantasy series with dragons, sea serpents and other odd creatures.

    I’m soooo looking forward to your weekly reviews, thanks a million for the laughs.

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  90. leslie
    Apr 14, 2013 @ 18:12:19

    @Janine: I agree.

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  91. cate
    Apr 15, 2013 @ 12:36:47

    What can I say …That review was the mutts nuts ! I haven’t stopped chortling yet – defo love the nipple nibbling dilemma if nibblee is wearing sequins or wool :)
    As for the knotty headbanger of were panthers – I refer you back to Thundercats – and advise you to think Cheetarah – there’s not one of my Captain Anorak mates who doesn’t love her – and read Branded by Fire ; which is cat & dog ……and will give you a whole new perspective on Roobarb and Custard

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  92. CD
    Apr 15, 2013 @ 17:23:06

    @Estara Swanberg:

    I agree with you – and definitely second many of the authors you mentioned. Fantasy remains my first love when it comes to books even though I do tend to read more romances nowadays. And for a long time, I also started reading mainly female fantasists as I was getting rather pissed off with the generally crap/lazy characterisation from their male counterparts – especially when trying to write female characters. Yes, I’m talking to you David Eddings, Terry Brooks, Robert Jordan, LL Modesit, Raymond E Feist, David Gemmell and Terry Goodkind. And sci-fi writers tend to be even worse. Next to them, the likes of Robin Hobb, Bujold, Michelle West, Catherine Asaro, Jaqueline Carey, Kate Elliot, Lynn Flewelling were a breath of fresh air – not to mention the oldies like Andre Norton, Ursula Le Guin, Ellen Kushner, Jennifer Roberson or CJ Cherryl. Also, I always felt, and still do in a lot of ways, that it is the female fantasists who tend to take more risks with the genre, and write more interesting fantasy as a result.

    However, I think the success of George RR Martin has made it fashionable for male fantasy writers to give good character. Whatever you can say about Martin, he does write good characters – disturbing, twisted and hugely flawed as they may be. I really like Brandon Sanderson – ironically, a MUCH better writer than Robert Jordan – and Scott Lynch is another favourite. I also found myself enjoying Patrick Rothfuss a lot more than I thought I would.

    Like you – Elena and Raphael never really resonated with me. I liked the world and loved ARCHANGEL’S STORM and ARCHANGEL’S BLADE – both with different characters. As I’d grown up with fantasy and graphic novels (SANDMAN, PREACHER, HELLBLAZER), the violence itself didn’t bother me but it just felt rather gratuitous at times – especially with ARCHANGEL’S BLADE.

    I love Brook’s GUARDIAN series and I’ll have a look at the WORLD OF THE LUPI series as well.

    @AJH:

    What the hell are you doing reading romances if you haven’t already read female fantasists?!!! OK, start with Robin Hobb’s classic ASSASSINS trilogy or Lynn Flewelling’s NIGHTRUNNER books – fairly traditional fantasy settings but with a twist, not to mention great characters, realistic endings and very well written. And Hobb’s books have dragons.

    If you like SUPERNATURAL, then I would recommend Rob Thurman’s CAL LEANDROS series starting with NIGHTLIFE – actually, I dare you to read the first page and not get hooked (here’s the link http://www.robthurman.net/books/cal-leandros/nightlife/nightlife-excerpt-prologue/). It has two brothers who would destroy the world for each other, and plenty of monsters, gore and snark. What more do you need in life?

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  93. AJH
    Apr 16, 2013 @ 12:30:16

    @Caz:

    Oh dear God. Actually I was playing around delightedly with the Regency madlibs over here and I personally think we’re onto something with Miss Lilywater & The Cross-dressing Count. But then I think Jane Tweeted that Anna Cowan was already there was a cross-dressing Duke… which is comi ng out on the 15th May, so that’s actually in my calendar :P

    @Janine:

    Okay, that slightly worries me … I guess I’m okay with people punching in each other in the face and cutting each other’s hands off but there are limits here ;) I think, weirdly, it might be a similar problem to the one I experienced with THATH – essentially the better a writer is, the harder it is to deal with the nasty stuff.

    @leslie:

    Thank you, though I remain firmly on Team Feathers. Don’t get me wrong, powerful animal predators are beautiful and graceful, I just don’t want to bang them ;) I really glad you’re enjoying the review-thingies and I’ll definitely keep an eye out for The Witches of Eileanan. I’m always looking for a good fantasy novel *eyes to be read stack* Oh dear.

    @cate:

    Hmmm, you raise a very valid point with Cheetara but I was always a She-Ra boy myself. Possibly establishing the pattern of things to come, as I hadn’t quite cottoned onto the fact I was supposed to be liking He-Man (but he’s so boring and unsparkly, what a rubbish role model). If anyone could convert me to, err, cat/dog (and I can’t believe I wrote that) it would Nalini Singh…

    @CD:

    CD, you impugn me most cruelly. Of course, I’ve read Robin Hobb. The Fool is one of my favourite characters, like, ever. I loved the first Assassin trilogy, especially the melancholic way it ended, and, again loved The Liveship Traders but I was slightly ambivalent about the second Assassin trilogy. I don’t know, I sort of felt it was necessary, although I was glad to spend time with the characters again. I had go with The Soldier’s Son and, although I liked the ideas and this very very unheroic central character, I bogged down in fantasy tedium and gave up midway through book 2 when absolutely nothing appeared to be happening.

    I’ve also read Lynn Flewelling – I occasionally have issues with stuff (I thought the Bone Doll’s Twin, for example, didn’t leave up to the sublime creepiness of the premise) but usually I like what she does :) I also really like Naomi Novik (dragons + Hornblower = complete win), Tanith Lee (though, obviously, she’s very very variable – Disturbed by Her Song is lovely though), Elizabeth Bear, Mary Gentle (Sundial in a Grave is one of my all-time favourites – cross-dressing heroine, I can’t resist), Connie Willis, Ellen Kushner, Cat Valente, Carol Berg, and N.K. Jemisin. And from YA, I’m a huge fan of Dianne Wynn Jones, Frances Hardinge, and Kristin Cashore. I think I basically like dragons and swords. I’m clearly a simple fellow.

    But it’s not absolutely dire :) I’m just very aware that I’m much more familiar with male writers than female ones – Estara is always pointing me at people I’ve literally never heard of, which, of course, just makes me want to go out and educate myself better :)

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  94. pamelia
    Apr 16, 2013 @ 13:55:47

    “Mary Gentle (Sundial in a Grave is one of my all-time favourites – cross-dressing heroine, I can’t resist)”
    Yes yes yes! I had to chime in again since you referenced one of my favorite books (adding it to my read-it pile). Love that book.
    I also really loved Mary Gentle’s Chronicles of Ash books and “Grunts”.
    Naomi Novik is another favorite of mine.
    Also, Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel books are fantastic fantasies with a good dose of romance, intrigue, erotica, violence, and all that jazz — if you haven’t read them start with “Kushiel’s Dart”. I would also highly recommend Carey’s “Sundering” duology which is essentially a re-telling of Lord of the Rings from the bad guys’ POVs.

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  95. CD
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 18:48:09

    @AJH:

    I do apologise. I was wondering how the hell you could actually claim to be a fantasy reader without stumbling on at least a few female fantasy writers. But given your reading, I take issue, sir, at your assertion that fantasy does not have great characters. Pistols at dawn!!

    I do agree with you on Robin Hobb. There were moments of brilliance in the TAWNY MAN trilogy, and I loved being in Fitz’s head again and spending time with the Fool, Nighteyes [sniff sniff], Chade, Patience, Burrich et al. But bloody hell, was the pacing all over the place – absolutely nothing happened for huge stretches of time: it only saved becoming a Robert Jordan snoozefest by the fact that the characters were at least interesting. The ending though pissed me off so much: an insulin overdose that undermined everything that was great in the ending of the first series. And after NINE books, Fitz still doesn’t end up with the Fool?!! Grrrr… This is why I read romances – if I’m going to be invested in a couple and if there’s going to be a happy ending, I want them to bloody well end up together. Yes, I know I know, but they were always a couple in my mind.

    Still, reacquaint yourself with Lois McMaster Bujold – she’s won four Hugo awards and two Nebula so she must be doing something right. Go with THE CURSE OF CHALION or BEGUILEMENT if you feel like fantasy, or SHARDS OF HONOUR if you’re in the mood for space opera. On Estara’s list, I would definitely second Martha Wells – she’s similar to Scott Lynch in my mind. Robin McKinley and Sherwood Smith are also very good and quick reads but more YA. Patricia Briggs is better with urban fantasy than trad fantasy – I liked her HUROG books but they’re pretty lightweight. I would also suggest Sarah Monette if you want to see how to properly do gay wizards, with a side helping of trauma for your readers. And then there’s Jacqueline Carey and Michelle West…

    Swords and dragons… Oh yep, Naomi Novik is definitely up your street ;-).

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