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REVIEW: Elijah by Jacquelyn Frank

Dear Ms. Frank,

ElijahLet me be honest. The first two books in your Nightwalker series didn’t impress me much. So when I received the third book, I honestly wasn’t expecting to like it. But to my surprise, I enjoyed the romance between Siena and Elijah. Unfortunately, their relationship wasn’t able to overcome the other flaws plaguing this book.

Elijah is the demon race’s Warrior Captain. Unlike the Enforcers who punish demons that break their laws, warriors protect their race from those who mean them harm. When he’s ambushed by necromancers led by two traitorous demon women, the lycanthrope queen Siena saves his life.

Lycanthropes and demons once waged a 300-year-long war but when Elijah killed the previous king, Siena assumed power and declared peace between their people. A tentative peace has existed between their races for the past thirteen years. It’s because of this that Siena helps Elijah and nurses him back to health. Since he was attacked in lycanthrope territory, they would have been blamed for his death, sparking a new war between two races still harboring deep-seated prejudices and resentment towards one another. I love this backdrop and how it affected their mutual attraction.

Siena is loved by her people. She fights hard to keep the peace and leads by example, changing the lycanthropes’ belief system slowly but surely. But Siena isn’t a perfect queen; she has her flaws too. For example, lycanthropic society was once matriarchal. It was only when Siena’s mother changed the laws and elevated her consort to the title of king that a man ever held a position of power. But when the previous queen died, it left ruling authority in the hands of a king who loved to start pointless bloodbaths. Because of this, Siena refuses to take a mate, which would result in crowning a new king, and intends to let her younger sister inherit the throne after her death. The way Siena struggles between her devotion to the well-being of her people and her terror of acknowledging the soulmate bond with Elijah was one of the more compelling plot threads running through this book.

The lycanthropes, individually and as a whole, worked well for me. While I’ve never cared for these books’ brand of demons, I found the lycanthropes to be interesting and unique. From the half-breeds to Siena’s harlequin sister, Syreena, to their prehensile hair, I thought they were a nice change of pace from the shapeshifters we usually encounter in urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

Now for the bad part. The Nightwalker books have always suffered from inconsistent pacing. The plots of both Jacob and Gideon didn’t actually start until the middle. When Elijah opened with the ambush, I hoped we would be spared the slow beginnings that characterized those previous books. But while it began with the attack and we were teased with the promise of background manipulations to instigate a new war, it was a lie. The necromancers and the demon traitors don’t reappear until the end when we discover the assault on Elijah wasn’t really an attempt to cause friction between the demon and lycanthrope races but merely a decoy to divert attention from the necromancers’ true purpose for being within lycanthrope territory. Talk about a letdown.

Plot issues aside, what bothered me the most was the writing. I wanted to love this story. I might have forgiven the underutilized necromancer plotline in favor of the romance between Elijah and Siena had the actual writing been better. I’ve always considered myself a story reader. While I can appreciate beautiful prose and writing craft, I will forgive much if the story is strong enough. But in this case, the story could not overcome the constant multi-page infodumps and "As you know, Bob"-type dialogue.

And finally, to address a question Jane raised in her review of Jacob, I do believe the Nightwalker races live on earth, not in alternate dimensions. Given the amount of detail we’re given, it’s very easy to miss that fact and sometimes I wondered if I remembered their various location correctly. The demons live in England. Except for Elijah, who apparently lives in Washington State. I think. But why does he live so far away from the rest of his race? He’s their general. Sure, demons can teleport but as their general, shouldn’t he live closer? In addition, the lycanthropes live in Russian Siberia.

I have no problems with any of that. What I do have a problem with is that for such geographically different locations, they all sound the same. The various races could have lived in Canada, Mexico, South Africa, or China and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. I’m not saying we need in-depth detail but England, Russian Siberia, and Washington State are not the same place, and they shouldn’t read like it.

I do consider Elijah to be better than the previous Nightwalker books. Perhaps it was simply a matter of setting up the world and cast of characters. If this trend continues, the final book in the series just might work for me. C+

My regards,
Jia

This book can be purchased in mass market or ebook format.

Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at [email protected]!

12 Comments

  1. MB (Leah)
    Feb 21, 2008 @ 07:19:25

    Well, crap. I just finished “Jacob,” or to be more correct, I didn’t finish it. One of my few DNF’s. I have this book as well and was hoping it would be better. I still might try and read it, but now it will go to the bottom of the TBR pile. Bummer.

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  2. carolyn Jean
    Feb 21, 2008 @ 09:58:44

    I’d actually never heard of this series, but I see that late plot start a lot. Though like you, I’ll forgive a TON if I’m caught up in the story. Oh, oh, oh, to think what I’ve read just to see what happens. Though it doesn’t sound like this book is all that bad. Interesting and unique characters, like the lycanthropes you mention above, will save a lot for me. I love characters who are interesting and hold together, personality/action-wise.

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  3. carolyn Jean
    Feb 21, 2008 @ 09:59:54

    Gosh, I love this comment edit function, guys!

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  4. Jia
    Feb 21, 2008 @ 11:34:52

    MB: Jacob was a tough book to finish. If that didn’t work for you, I recommend skipping Gideon as well because I thought that was more of the same. That said, I do think Elijah is a much better book, just because Siena is a far more interesting heroine than either Isabella or Magdelegna. (And a far less annoying one when compared to Isabella.) But since you’ve read the previous two, you know what I’m talking about when I refer to the lengthy blocks of exposition.

    Carolyn Jean – I found Elijah and Siena to be more interesting than the previous books’ couples and because of them, now I’m at least curious to see how the final two books will play out whereas if I’d just been basing things on the first two books, I wouldn’t even have considered it.

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  5. Aoife
    Feb 21, 2008 @ 11:39:40

    I can’t decide whether I want to try Elijah or not. I read Jacob, and liked it enough to forgive some of the wordiness and plot and characterization holes as first book issues. I got about 70 pages into Gideon and realized that, if anything, the things that had bothered me about Jacob had actually gotten worse, and gave up.

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  6. Darlynne
    Feb 21, 2008 @ 13:48:18

    I liked Elijah and Sienna as characters, but skipped HUGE sections of description and internal thoughts. There was so little plot or meaningful dialog and I had such hopes for more.

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  7. lisabea
    Feb 21, 2008 @ 14:20:40

    I did try one of these and found it lacked depth. It just didn’t engage me. And because they all look alike, I can’t remember which one I tried!

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  8. K. Z. Snow
    Feb 21, 2008 @ 14:20:49

    That’s a damned shame. I’m always on the lookout for books with unique premises. But if a premise is poorly executed, no dose of conceptual originality is going to redeem it.

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  9. Jia
    Feb 21, 2008 @ 14:22:26

    Darlynne: That’s the biggest disappointment of all. I think if the plot had been better developed and if some of the overwriting were cut back, this book could have been fantastic.

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  10. Janine B
    Feb 27, 2008 @ 16:44:03

    I liked the first two J. Frank books much better than this one. While I liked the strong heroine, I found the hero to be too weak for my tastes. I will get the next one, just to see what happens… though I’ll probably wait for it to hit the library or buy a used one.

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  11. Jia
    Feb 27, 2008 @ 21:39:36

    Janine B: You bring up a good point. This book is different from the first two in the series. I think it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that readers who liked the first two books might find this one not to their taste, but those who didn’t like the first two books at all might find this works for them better.

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  12. Lynn Magni
    Jan 29, 2009 @ 14:44:10

    Hi everyone, I completely disagree with everyone who doesn’t like Jacqueline Franks series. I absolutely love them. I couldn’t put them down.

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