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REVIEW: Any Given Doomsday (Phoenix Chronicles-Volume I) by Lori Handeland

Dear Mrs. Handeland,

I hope the inhabitants of your newest urban fantasy series never meet up with the Jager Suchers from your previous one or there’ll be a lot of fur flying. Since the J-Sers are sworn to hunt down and kill strange beasties and the “Phoenix Chronicle” series seems to be splitting at the seams with them. Lots of creatures, lots to learn about them, lots to be told about them in little drips and drabs and be left to wonder if the characters passing on their knowledge in any particular scene are telling the truth, their version of the truth or just what they think will get them what they want. It’s very confusing.

In “Any Given Doomsday,” the world is again filled with creatures, monsters and those who hunt them. It’s a brand new world in which seers direct Demon Killers to hunt down lots and lots and lots of different things. Demons, shapeshifters, vampires, chindi, berserkers, and Lord knows who else in the next book. Then there are dhampirs, fairies, skinwalkers and good shapeshifters, empaths, telepaths, and the directors who guide them – the seers.

The heroine is another first person, wisecracking, tough talker who has always had the ability to “sense” things about people by touching objects. Her foster mother once sent her to someone to try and learn about her gift – and she did – but obviously not enough. Now all hell is breaking loose and a world that up until now has been unseen and unknown to her has just become very seen and but still fairly unknown. And if Lizzy Phoenix can’t get a grasp on her powers and lead the home team to victory, not only will evil prevail but all life on the planet will stop worrying about the stock market and global warming because it’ll be – literally – hell on earth.

I started reading the book and was immediately sucked into it. All your books seem to do that to me but it remains to be seen if I’m still being sucked by the end. For one thing, I need to like or just respect the one telling the story and Lizzy gave me oodles of trouble. Now, I like a good kickass heroine who can talk trash as she gets the job done. Bring it, I say. But she’s also got to have some common sense and be able to back up what she says. Lizzy holds her own with her former police officer coworkers when they begin to investigate the crime that jump starts the story. She keeps her head on straight and starts to work the situation. But very quickly she finds herself way out of her depth.

She’s thrown together with a man from her past. One whom she loved and was loved by but also a person who hurt her deeply. I can understand she’s not thrilled to have to depend on him. She’s still hurt by the brutal death of a loved one and totally confused by what’s going on. Okay, no problem. When she begins to catch on to what is happening and what will be expected of her, she wigs out a little. Again, totally cool that she wants to pull the covers over her head and hope it’ll all go away. For a little while that is.

But she’s told plenty of times that she is needed not only to fight the good fight but that she’s got to lead everyone. Whoa, yeah, a lot to handle but she’s an adult. She’s already come face to face with evil and quickly gets more of it shoved in her face. A whole heaping helping of pure-ty bad to the bone “just because it’s fun to torture and kill innocents.” So even she admits she needs to go train with another man from her past who scares the sh*t out of her. So why doesn’t she pull up her big girl panties and deal with it? After a certain amount of time, she needs to stop wavering, stop getting jealous, stop acting like a petulant child and get on with it. The world is depending on her.

And for someone who is the leader of the forces of good, she needs a better handle on when and where she can boss people around. “Don’t touch me!” and “Don’t leave me!” and “Don’t do this!” are quickly followed by people doing just what she ordered them not to do and she ends up looking weak. I was also really ticked off by something that happened with her trainer when they were out on her vision quest. She accuses him of something that I happen to agree with. Now the one who did it is unrepentant but that’s the way you’ve constructed him and he never wavers in his personality or actions. So I’m actually sort of okay with him. But Lizzy goes from a strong accusation backed up by rage to getting turned on by this man and seeking him out to do a little more. WT major F?

I was also disappointed by the endless number of different types of characters who suddenly are revealed to have additional powers or abilities just when the plot demands it. And no we’re not supposed to believe old wives tales – except when they’re true. Need to know how to kill a creature? Um, check back later right in the nick of time. I don’t mind complicated plots and important clues being casually tossed out to see if I pick up on them. But I would like the feeling that the plot isn’t being made up as you go along and suddenly discover you need an out. I’m sure that’s not what you did with the story but it sure felt like it.

The sex scenes are definitely not typical romance ones. In fact, they’re rather sleazy at times. Which is I guess more common in Urban Fantasy novels but just not something I expected from one of your books based on past reading experiences. The blood and gore quotient is about normal though, given how creatures routinely got killed in the “Nightcreatures” stories. I will give you points for the fact that once the final action section was in motion, you built on what you’d told us to allow Lizzy to triumph over her opponent. And the idea of her opponent still needing to fund his empire of evil with a balanced stock portfolio was deliciously funny.

Will I follow you to the next book where Lizzy hopes to find her special someone? Yes, I’ll be there. Your books are like crack for me. There. I’ve admitted it. The imagery is intense, the action is nicely spread through the story and I do want to know what happens next. I just hope I’ll like it a bit more the next go round. C

~Jayne

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells. No ebook format.

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

8 Comments

  1. Nicole
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 16:09:23

    I got this one with LT’s Early Reviewer program and couldn’t finish it. I just thought it was so scatterbrained.

  2. DS
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 16:28:38

    Jayne, I started reading some of Handeland’s Jager-Suchers books after you reviewed one of them here and it sounded intriguing. I started at the beginning of the series and never did get to the book you reviewed because I kept noticing the same problem you mentioned about making things up as she went along. The deus ex machina gets old fast. The three books by her I read had strong beginnings but sputtered out after a while.

  3. Jayne
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 20:32:40

    Nicole, I think with the first book in a new series, especially one where there are so many elements to be introduced, that it’s going to come off as very busy and scattered. I was willing to go with that — for book one. I’ll be upset if this continues but to be honest, I’ll probably keep reading. I know I made grand pronouncements about not continuing with the Nightcreatures series and yet always ended up reading the next one as soon as it came out. Crack, I’m telling ya. ;)

  4. Jayne
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 20:35:29

    DS, I didn’t get the ‘sputtering’ feeling in the Nightcreatures series until about halfway through, so if you did from the beginning, I’d say Handeland’s paranormals aren’t for you. She has written some category and full length historicals you could try if you like her voice and want to keep trying her books. I’ve never read any of them (though I do have some bought in UBSs) so can’t give any recs.

  5. RfP
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 20:58:47

    Sounds disappointing. I tried for one through LibraryThing–they gave away 1,000 copies, but my name wasn’t pulled from the hat. Hope your crack habit will be rewarded with the next book!

    I liked a couple of Handeland’s earlier Night Creature paranormals (I think before the Jager Sucher aspect came to the fore; I’ve only read one in which I recall the Jager Sucher being explicitly mentioned). They were compact like category romance, with atmospheric settings. I have trouble imagining Handeland making the leap from that to the complicated world you describe; maybe I’ll skip these.

  6. E
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 22:50:27

    The sex scenes are definitely not typical romance ones. In fact, they're rather sleazy at times.

    That’s one way to put sex that I considered borderline rape.

    And I know I won’t be checking out the next book, or anything else by this author. Just my humble opinion.

  7. Jayne
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 07:44:15

    E, I should have been clearer in this paragraph. The sleazy sex scenes were the later ones with the ‘hero’ after Lizzy gets to New York. I totally agree with you about what happened with her mentor – see the end of paragraph seven.

  8. Michele Lee
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 02:53:11

    I finished the book because I was given it to review, but I could not get past a) the non-consenting sex (and so much of it! And there was an attempt to make it seem romantic, which is just bad bad bad in my book) and b) yet another UF heroine that gets all the powers and gets power through sex. Give me a break. I want real human limits on my heroines. I’m so exhausted of tough situations being solved with add-a-power.

    But I do have to admit the writing on a prose/technical level was better than those OTHER magical power giving vagina series.

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