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REVIEW: On the Edge by Ilona Andrews

On the Edge by Illona AndrewsInsert Aerosmith Joke Here – On the Edge by Ilona Andrews

I’m not completely sure what to say about On the Edge, but then according to Ilona Andrews’ website I’m in fairly good company, because her publishers didn’t seem to be either. It’s not really urban fantasy because it’s not set in a city (although part of me thinks this is just being picky), it’s not really PNR because everybody in it is basically human, it’s not really straight fantasy because it’s got too many real-world elements. One of her editors apparently took to calling it “rustic fantasy” which more or less fits. Anyway the series (of which On the Edge is the first instalment) is set in a narrow no-man’s-land between the everyday “real” world (the Broken) and the crazy world of magic shit (the Weird). The residents of the Edge (Edgers) have a foot in both worlds but truly belong to neither.

Oh, I should add that because On the Edge is quite a twisty book, and I want to talk about the plot, there will necessarily be spoilers in this article. Sorry.

The book tells the story of Rose Drayton an Edger living between the Weird and Broken manifestations of … umm … somewhere in America? My US geography is really crappy. I think they’re near Savannah, which puts them in … Georgia? I’m not sure, but I get the impression that the book assumes a bit more familiarity with the area than I really had. It seemed to be trying to evoke quite a specific set of images, and I sometimes found myself lacking reference points (my knowledge of the American South is basically limited to True Blood, American Gothic and Gone with the Wind).

Anyway, Rose Drayton had a rough time growing up because everybody picked on her for being the daughter of a sexually promiscuous woman, and as a result she spent her free time learning to get really good at … umm … flashing. There seems to be a rule that every secondary world romance I read contains at least one piece of terminology that I can’t quite take seriously – if it isn’t “buggers” it’s “scribe virgin” if it isn’t “scribe virgin” it’s “flashing”. “Flashing” in the world of On the Edge is the technique of emitting a bright “flash” of magical energy for use as a weapon, or as a demonstration of power and without – as far as I know –  showing anybody your tits or your cock. The more powerful your magic, the brighter and hotter the flash, and like stars flashes go through a spectrum of colours the hotter they get, so the weakest are a kind of dull brick red and the strongest are bright white (my inner science nerd wonders if the really strong ones are ultraviolet). When she was 18, Rose flashed white at some kind of school leavers’ flashing ceremony (that sounds really wrong) which – because magic is partly hereditary in this world – led to every family in the Edge (and several in the Weird) trying to drag her off for use as breeding stock.

Since then (I think it’s been four years but I’m honestly not sure) she’s been raising her two younger brothers (her mother being dead, her father absent) and fending off legions of men who literally want to abduct her and force her into marriage.

One such man is our hero, Declan.

Now I really thought I’d seen some dickhead hero introductions in my time but “Hi, I am here to drag you away and turn you into my personal baby factory” is pretty damned close to taking the cake.

I should probably say (spoiler alert) that Declan isn’t being entirely honest when he lets Rose believe that he’s rocked up out the Weird in order to stake a claim on her uterus, and a lot of his earlier alphole behaviour turns out to have been a bit of a bluff designed to obscure his real intentions, but I spent the first half of the book thinking “wow, this guy is the biggest dickhead I’ve read about so far, and let me tell you that is a pretty freaking high bar.”

Declan slowly grew on me, mostly as a result of his relationship with Rose’s two younger brothers, Jack and Georgie. The family dynamic between Rose, Jack, Georgie, their grandmother and (later) Declan is by far the strongest part of the book. The boys are believably childlike without being cutesy or stereotyped, and their viewpoints provide a fresh and interesting perspective on the unfolding story. I was very slightly bothered by the implication that the boys reacted so positively to Declan because they were Boys and therefore it was Good For Them To Have A Man In Their Lives but in the end their relationships seemed sufficiently genuine that I was able to get behind them.

Rose’s family situation – indeed her whole social position – was probably the element of the book I found most unusual and (for want of a better term) challenging. It is (in my experience) rare for protagonists in contemporary-set fiction (in any genre) to be anything other than stalwartly middle class. Even relatively blue-collar characters tend to work in skilled professions and own their own houses. Rose, by contrast, is properly dirt poor. Like doesn’t-know-where-her-next-meal-is-coming-from poor. Indeed the whole population of the Edge is literally marginalised – existing as they do in the cracks between two worlds that have no place for them. A large part of Rose’s motivations are to do with basic survival – not wanting to upset her neighbours (who could seriously hurt her), needing to earn enough money to buy groceries, and of course avoiding abduction and forced pregnancy.

I was torn about Rose’s poverty. On the one hand, it meant that the book could engage with some interesting and complex social issues (like the difficulty of interacting as an equal with a person who has vastly more social power than you, or the ways in which a community outside of the protection of mainstream society would regulate itself). On the other hand I felt that it sometimes descended into unhelpful stereotypes. Towards the end of the book, when Declan is explaining why he behaved like such an asshole when he first showed up, he explains that he tried to go to the people he presumed were the local authorities (the Church and the largest house in the area) and was met with active hostility each time. Rose then explains to him that the local priest is insane, while the largest house in town has a meth lab in the basement and its owners are afraid of the Broken authorities catching them. Now on the one hand, this can be read as Declan’s blueblood arrogance leading him to assume that the Edge works the same way as the Weird, him coming unstuck as a result, and Rose putting him right. On the other hand, it can also be read as the Edge being populated almost entirely by maniacs and criminals, and I’m really not sure what side I come down on.

Basically I spent a lot of the book feeling vaguely uncomfortable, because it always seemed to be on the edge of equating social privilege with practical merit or moral virtue. With the exception of the villain, all of the bluebloods we see (which are, admittedly, restricted to Declan and his immediate family) are basically utterly lovely people who immediately like, trust and respect the heroine (Declan makes it very clear that his earlier asshole behaviour was all an act). Edgers, by contrast, are very frequently a mixture of criminal, petty, vicious and obsequious. I should probably stress that this is only a very mild tendency, and one that could be read in a variety of ways. Rose frequently calls Declan out for his failure to recognise the validity of the Edger lifestyle, and for his habit of treating it as a sort of inferior reflection of his own society, so it’s not like the book is just saying poor people suck. On the other hand the book ends (spoiler) with Rose running off to live with Declan in the Weird, and this seems to be presented as an unambiguously happy ending.

So yeah it’s umm … complicated. Read charitably, the book provides a sensitive, nuanced, and non-judgemental portrayal of people who live in extremely crappy circumstances (and again, Rose is very quick to defend her people from outsiders). Read uncharitably, it presents a problematic mix of stereotypes which make poor people look like a bunch of gun-toting, meth-dealing, sex-slave-trading assholes.

I think my reading here wasn’t helped by the fact that when it came to the portrayal of the Weird, Andrews often seemed to be trying to have her cake and eat it. The Weird is a parallel Earth, and its history and society parallel Earth’s history and society. Andrews seems to have been in a bit of a bind about the society of the Weird. She seems to have wanted  Dukes and Earls and hereditary nobility because those things are cool, romantic and sexy. But she also seems to have realised that hereditary aristocracy is a totally fucked up system of government. This leads to a slightly peculiar situation in which Weird society is run by blueblood aristocrats who are trained to rule from birth and whose power is hereditary, but at the same time is utterly meritocratic and ruled by aristocrats who are granted their positions only after passing a rigorous set of examinations (which any member of Weird society is allowed to sit) and years of distinguished service in either the civil or military sector. It’s difficult to talk much about this because we see very little of the Weird in this book, and it’s possible that the setup is deliberately self-contradictory and hypocritical – the nobility telling themselves that their society is entirely fair and equal when it’s actually rigidly class-based. But again, you could also read it as more evidence that rich people are just better than poor people. Notably, Rose is normally very quick to call Declan on his condescending bullshit, but when he explains that anybody in the Weird could become nobility if they work hard enough, she takes it perfectly at face value (despite the fact that she has been working her ass off her entire life and has basically nothing to show for it except a white flash and desirable ovaries).

The other slightly strange cake-and-eat-it feature of the Weird is its parallel history for the colonisation of the Americas. In the Weird, it was the people of the Americas who had the technological (or perhaps magical, or technomagical) advantage, and they regularly raided Europe. And then they … umm … mysteriously wiped themselves out.

The thing is, I do get that the colonisation of North America is a thorny issue to deal with, particularly for US writers. Very few people will deny that tremendous atrocities were committed against the indigenous peoples of the Americas during the process of colonisation that ultimately led to the existence of the continental United States. But (for perfectly understandable reasons) very few US writers are quite willing to bite the bullet and say that the existence of their nation constitutes a historical injustice. This leads to a tricky tendency in some secondary-world fiction for writers to try to imagine a sequence of events in which white people of European origin wind up dominating the land that makes up North America without having any of that uncomfortable genocide in the middle.

This is something which, as a white man from England, I am really not in a position to be making judgements about. I absolutely see that American writers would want to write fantasies set in America – and in an America that looks more or less like the America they live in, rather than precolonial America, and why they wouldn’t want to deal with the less savoury bits of colonial history (just as most medieval fantasy glosses over – or worse, glamorises – the worst elements of feudalism). But I can also see why, for some people, having the Native Americans simply vanish (or never exist at all) is problematic in a lot of ways. Again, I’m not trying to make proclamations about issues I’m ill-equipped to understand, but to me the backstory of the Weird version of North America had uncomfortable undertones of Manifest Destiny about it.

So … umm … yeah. In the alternative history of the Weird, the indigenous peoples of the Americas managed to sort of … slip and fall on a weapon of mass destruction. Specifically they somehow discovered, or created, or were attacked by a magic egg that makes killer dog monsters. The killer dog monsters are some kind of magical hegemonising swarm, consuming magic from within living organisms to create more dogs. The villain of the book (a blueblood from the Weird who passed the nobility exams but failed to complete his required terms of service – again this seems to me to support the reading in which Weird society is supposed to be genuinely meritocratic, rather than messed up and hypocritical) somehow discovers, and bonds with this device, and proceeds to unleash it on the citizens of the Edge for reasons that never really become apparent.

For me the plot was probably the weakest part of the book. While I was very interested by it, I never really found myself interested in it, if that distinction makes any sense. By about halfway through the book it was clear that there were these mysterious dog things that were swarming all over the Edge, and that they were controlled by somebody who had some kind of connection to Declan and then … not a lot really developed. We find out that the villain has a name and a backstory, but that doesn’t really illuminate anything, we find out that he is in some way connected to the mysterious man who spent the first few chapters trying to get Rose to date him, but nothing really comes of that either. It’s just sort of dogs all the way down, and it didn’t really come together for me in a satisfactory way.

As I’ve often found with this type of book, On the Edge seemed to be telling too many stories at once. There was the love story between Declan and Rose, the family drama between Rose, her brothers and her grandmother, and the extrinsic threat posed by the evil dog monsters. Of all of them, I felt that the family drama was the best realised, and the evil dog plot worked best when it was a way of raising the stakes in Rose’s relationship with Declan and her brothers. I’m not sure I was totally sold on the romance. Declan lies to Rose about who he is and what he wants for most of the book, and she spends most of her time trying desperately to avoid having to marry him. It’s also made pretty clear that Rose is very unused to people treating her with basic levels of decency (her last boyfriend literally tried to sell her) so while I could see why she was attracted to Declan once he started acting like a human being (and treating her like one), I couldn’t help but think that she was taking things a bit fast.

This is partially addressed at the end, in that she agrees to go with him to the Weird, but insists on waiting a reasonable length of time before they get married, and gets him to sign citizenship papers for her and her brothers, so that she will be able to live there without him if everything goes wrong. Unfortunately (and again this might be a cultural difference I’m not aware of) this very sensible precaution is undermined by the fact that the time limit she sets on their engagement is … umm … a month. Now perhaps I’m just unromantic, and I do get that marriage is kind of part and parcel of the HEA in a lot of cases, but to me “one month” isn’t a reasonable cooling off time. I mean a month’s trial is the sort of thing you sign up for with an MMORPG or a fresh fruit delivery service. I’ve bought packs of toilet roll that have lasted longer than a month. One month is only enough time to decide whether you want to marry somebody if your primary concern is that they might be a werewolf.

I should probably stress that I’m not dissing the whirlwind romance as a trope, and I’m absolutely not condemning people who do get married after they’ve known each other for a very short length of time. What threw me is that Rose’s one month trial period seemed to be presented as her being actively cautious.

I realise I’ve criticised a lot about On the Edge, and I really didn’t mean to because it is – overall – an enjoyable, engaging book that does something that (as I am given to understand from my limited experience) is unusual in the genre. And I think a lot of my problems with it come from uncertainties about things which there simply isn’t space to address in the first volume.

Everything I learned about life and love from reading On the Edge: Showing off at school can get you into big trouble. Two swords are better than one sword. Electricity kills everything. Let your kid brothers pick your boyfriends. Don’t build a hegemonising swarm, it never helps.

48 Comments

  1. Mary
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 12:09:40

    I am a crazy Ilona Andrews fan girl, I love their books so much (husband and wife writing team) but I do think that on the edge is the weakest of the edge series and that as a whole I prefer the Kate Daniels series even though its less romancey and more urban fantasy…
    I don’t know if you are planning to read more than what is on your list but I would definitely say to at least try the sequels which give you a better since of the weird and of different parts and people in the edge who are depicted better.

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  2. pamelia
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 12:34:20

    I agree with Mary. Love the Kate Daniels books to bits (although the first book IMO was the weakest of the series) and I really really loved the 2nd Edge book — something about a family of badass con-artists living in a swamp was just beyond good to me. The 3rd Edge book didn’t really enthrall me though so I would say if you’re going to read the best that the Andrews writing team has to offer it would be Kate Daniels hands down.
    Like you, AJH, I was a little bit perplexed?/let down? by how much this book tried to handle and didn’t quite get across. I obviously enjoyed it enough to continue the series though!

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  3. Anne
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 12:47:26

    @Mary:
    I completely agree with @Mary.
    I have read everything by Ilona Andrews, but On the Edge, if it had been my introduction to them rather than about the 5th of their books I’d read, would not have lead me to read on. And I also agree that the Kate Daniels series by them is MUCH stronger [starting with the 2nd in that series, *I didn't care for the 1st-- except when read after book 3 to see what I might have missed in the setup*] and more engaging , to me, on a whole.

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  4. Has
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 13:01:42

    I really liked this series. The world-building worked for me although I also agree with Mary about the sequels which the world is further explored – The humour and tone was so different and the characters really engaging.

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  5. Lada
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 13:20:38

    I love me some Ilona Andrews but not The Edge series. I DNF’d this one and then tried the second in the series when everyone said it was so much better and didn’t care for that one either. I never warmed up to the characters and it left me frustratedly feeling like I was supposed to like the book more. While the basic premise of an “in-between” society appealed to me and I thought I’d like reading about characters dealing with real poverty (as opposed to the billionaires that abound in romance), their execution of these ideas just didn’t work for me.

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  6. Estara Swanberg
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 13:42:58

    I think the second and the fourth book are much stronger in plot and romance – I didn’t think the romance in the third book worked on an equal basis (I had the feeling the heroine ended up with the short straw and when the hot passion died down the hero would take up his devil-may-care life again) – and I think you might enjoy the slow development and much more urban fantasy strains of their Kate Daniels series much more, but I can totally see where you’re coming from.

    Some background info, though: Ilona Andrews are a husband and wife team, Ilona grew up in Russia and met her husband Andrew Gordon, a former soldier, while studying at college in the US. I think his family came from Georgia and I know they used to live there for a time (since the Andrews team has had a longtime LJ and blog), then in Portland for a bit and now in Austin, Texas.

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  7. Leah
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 13:48:51

    Interesting. I always had trouble getting into the Kat Daniels series, but I highly enjoyed this one.

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  8. Janine
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 14:17:28

    @Leah: Me too. I read the first Kate Daniels (Magic Bites) and all the Edge books. Magic Bites was by far my least favorite, and On the Edge is my favorite. I’ve read it twice and liked it even better the second time.

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  9. Jenna
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 14:17:43

    I too found some of the elements of On The Edge a little strange. The second one was definitely better so if you didn’t completely hate On The Edge I would suggest you pick up Bayoo Moon.
    There is one thing you were confused by that I thought I could help you with. In rural America things are a little…..odd. I grew up in a town of about 600-800 people. There are no real jobs that aren’t already being filled by someone else who wants to keep them. If your family owns a ranch/farm you have something in your future. Even then it’s a fairly marginal existence. Most kids with any kind of talents or drive get the heck out of dodge very early on. That leaves you with only two types of people staying behind. The first is the screw-ups/losers/wierdos/just flat out fruitcakes. They’re the biggest faction. I was amazed when I moved to the big city to see how few people had severe mental illnesses. The other is the ones who have a reason why they can’t leave. Pregnancy, family illness/business, or just a mild case of agoraphobia applied to a geographic area instead of their house. Then they breed.
    Without getting exceptionally more whiney/graphic I can assure you that having an insane priest and the richest people in town being meth dealers is very realistic. As you might have guessed I now live in one of the largest cities in the US and couldn’t be happier.

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  10. Isobel Carr
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 14:53:27

    I adore the Kate Daniels books, but this one was DNF for me. After reading what was to come, I’m glad I didn’t try to push through.

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  11. DeeCee
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 14:54:40

    I’ve bought packs of toilet roll that have lasted longer than a month. One month is only enough time to decide whether you want to marry somebody if your primary concern is that they might be a werewolf.

    :) Loved this quote and liked the review.

    I was a bit disappointed with OtE after reading the Kate Daniels series. I pushed through this one which took me a month and got a quarter of the way through Bayou before DNFing it.

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  12. MrsJoseph
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 15:24:57

    Being a ridiculous Ilona Andrews fangurl, I totally loved this book and missed most of the things that bothered you. That being said, now that you mention them, I can see why they annoyed you.

    Also, like Jenna, I’m from the rural South. It is ummm…a little odd there. Sometimes. Ok, most of the time. I mean, yeah. I’m from a town that the people who want to do something with their lives get OUT early (18). If not…you’re there for the rest of your life. You end up dealing with the same assholes you went to high school with and you live a (mostly) marginalized existence. Unless your family already had money.

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  13. FD
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 15:35:41

    On The Edge suffered a bit from a combo of first-series book-itis and page count constraints imo. I liked it, but like Estara, I thought 2 and 4 were the better Edge books. I’m going to predict, based on you being a crossover reader, that you’ll probably prefer the Kate series better. But again, echoing commenters above, be warned, Magic Bites the first book, is very much a first novel with all that implies. Also they (the authors) really gotta sort the denouement issue out in the next one. Fingers crossed.

    Re the month deadline: I actually saw that as underlining the issues Rose has; she really thinks she’s being sensible and boundary setting by insisting on a month… and the rest of us? Not so much!

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  14. MarieC
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 15:52:43

    @FD: I totally agree about ‘first-book-itis’. A lot of world building info may have detracted some readers from bonding with the characters.

    While I really enjoyed On The Edge the first go-around, I ended up loving it second time. I especially love how the secondary characters are written so robustly.

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  15. leslie
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 16:15:31

    Another Ilona Andrews fangirl who liked On the Edge.
    I find myself curious as to why you picked this book and not one from the Kate Daniels series.
    Disappointed by your review to say the least…..many snarky retorts that I can’t quite articulate. Oh well.
    But……William the changeling isn’t even mentioned!

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  16. Kris Bock
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 16:27:47

    I just want to say that I love your reviews. I always get a chuckle, and you also make me think a little deeper about genre/cultural/whatever assumptions. Thank you!

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  17. MissE
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 17:06:16

    @Jenna: Wow. So small towns in the US are populated by mentally ill fuck-ups and all smart, driven people flee to cities. That’s so highly offensive, I have no words.

    I’m kind of disappointed that this was the Andrews book reviewed because I don’t think it’s one of their best. However, the Kate Daniels series really hit its stride with book 3, but starting with book 1 is necessary and may be a bit disappointing too as it was their first published book.

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  18. Divya S
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 17:10:30

    Declan is kind of an asshole at first, but that never really bothered me mostly because Rose never let him walk all over her. He eventually endeared himself to me, but I definitely always admired Rose throughout the novel. But even when he was at his most assholeness (is that a word?), I found him entertaining and enjoyed his banter with Rose. Believe me, I have read MUCH worse heroes.

    Reading this review totally opened up my perspective – when I read the book, the poverty thing never gave me a pause! I think it’s interesting how different readers see so many things in the same text. :D

    While the plot itself (as you said) wasn’t that great, I found that the subplots were enough to hold my interest. The best part, IMO, was Rose’s struggles with her brothers (especially Georgie).

    What did you think about William?

    Thanks for providing another thought-provoking review! What’s for next week? BTW, I just realized that I’m now dying for you to read/review Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh. I’m curious to see if you get sucked into the Psy/Changeling series with the rest of us!

    Divya

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  19. bamaclm
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 17:14:15

    Hi AJH. I hope you review here forever, I’m hooked.

    I’m curious why the Kate Daniels series wasn’t suggested too. I’m much more invested in it than the Edge series. Magic Bites may have been their first published book, but the world building was amazing and I quickly became invested in the characters.

    “Here kitty, kitty” anyone? :-)

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  20. Susan
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 17:32:08

    I’m a huge Ilona Andrews/Kate Daniels fan, but struggled with this series. I actually ended up liking OTE more than I thought I would, but can’t say I’ll ever reread the series even once, much less a multitude of times (like I have the KD series). From what I’ve heard other fans say, it appears that there’s a pretty distinct division between readers who prefer one series over the other.

    The “flavor” of the Broken was very Appalachia to me (even tho that wasn’t the correct geography). Not your run of the mill setting, but not alien from my personal perspective so I didn’t find it jarring or perplexing.

    Kids in books are normally very problematic for me, but I have to admit that I loved Jack and George. Their scenes were the best, IMO.

    You raise a lot of interesting points in your review, most of which totally whizzed right by me when I read the book. Definitely food for thought.

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  21. MD
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 17:46:56

    Interesting… I totally love Ilona Andrews, and “On the edge” is actually one of my favorites. I see what bothered you, and I see why it would be bothersome. And yet… I found the edge inhabitants and situation totally believable. Makes me wonder if this is because Ilona and I share a background (both former Soviet Union girls?). Why the setting is US, which is very different, it rang the bells of how things can be in a poor and marginalized community, made sense to me given some things I have seen while living in fairly poor neighborhoods after the fall of Soviet Union. So I didn’t perceive it as stereotyped, but as true to life.

    And Declan annoyed me horribly to start with, but I was able to forgive him once he started treating Rose differently. I can’t quite tell why, usually I have low tolerance for such behavior. My guess is that because I liked the setting so much, and liked Rose so much.

    The 1 month limit is ridiculous, agree completely, but these days it’s so difficult to find a romance that doesn’t happen over a way-too-short time period, I just get happy it’s not 1 week ;-) Seriously, though, I so wish there were more books where a relationship took at least 6 months to develop, or more. I can’t believe in how many books the characters talk about having learned each other’s habits, or doing something “out of character”, after having known each other for a week. I mean, really? I often feel like I have to substitute more reasonable time periods mentally, and I just hope that the author does not remind me too frequently about the “real” book timeline.

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  22. msaggie
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 18:28:10

    Thanks AJH for another illuminating review. I am also an Ilona Andrews fan, and liked On the Edge better after the second reading. I wonder if the things which struck you, and didn’t irk us that much, arise from the fact that we tended to just go for the ride without analysing things that much. Many paranormals and urban fantasy books out there have rather implausible set-ups – but I suppose it’s down to how much suspension of disbelief one can tolerate. Or how much white-washing of actual history you can bear when reading about an alternate world which is too like the real world. I don’t mind the fact that this book (and the whole series) don’t fit exactly into any fiction subgenre, romantic or otherwise – but I liked the terminology of “rustic fantasy”. The next book, Bayou Moon, is about the strange bloke in the beginning of On the Edge who tried to date Rose, and is a better book, I think.

    Your comment that the book assumes some reader familiarity with not only US geography, but various stereotypes of certain aspects of American communities was something I had not noted. I wasn’t thrown by it, probably because I have a lot more exposure to American culture than you, as I lived in the US for several years (despite having spent most of my adult life in the UK). But I think you are right that this book would resonate best with US readers. I suppose all writers of fantasy/alternate world tales would create a semi-recognisable community based on those known to have existed – e.g. Tolkien’s Hobbiton was a pre-industrial rural England.

    And you are right that most romances would have the main protagonists rise up the social ladder as part of the HEA. I can’t remember a romance where the HEA has the hero and heroine being destitute. Some stories may have them being not-as-rich as at the start (“having love in your life is more important than being rich”), but they wouldn’t be “dirt poor” at the HEA. I presume this is because most authors and readers would consider financial security of some form being important for a believable HEA. In general fiction, adventure and fantasy tales, on the other hand, you could have an ending where the main protagonists remain soldiers of fortune or wanderers in search of the next adventure, having no guaranteed income, etc.

    And to echo everyone else, I hope you read Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series. Like everyone said, the first book isn’t that great, but it picks up very well from Book 2 onwards.

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  23. Mandy
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 18:42:10

    I’m so sad that you found this book an unlike-able mix of racism, classism, sexism and wording that makes schoolboys snicker. It’s funny how differently books make us react. The book you describe above is so not the book that I read and enjoyed.

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  24. Joy
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 19:00:22

    This was a really interesting review, and enjoyable as always to read. I agree that there are kind of too many stories going on to give any one of them quite enough time in the space of one novel. I thought the Broken was *genius*, though. It really resonates with southern rural US as far as attitudes and relationships between people sometimes.

    Have you ever read “My Side of the Matter” by Truman Capote? It is a very charming yet slightly chilling short story set in the rural south US, peopled by insane people who do not realize that they are off their rockers. I always think of it when I re-read the Edge books.

    Also, I liked the Kate Daniels books as well, which everyone is recommending to you, but I find that I try to start with something more standalone by an author recommended to me by a bunch of people, before I jump into a series with several books in it already. So I read the Edge first, too. If you are looking at reading something by Patricia Briggs but don’t want to jump straight into her Mercy Thompson series, her Dragon Bones + Dragon Blood are a fantastic read!

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  25. leslie
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 19:03:25

    @Mandy: Thank you Mandy…..well said.

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  26. Susan
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 20:07:40

    @Joy: “If you are looking at reading something by Patricia Briggs but don’t want to jump straight into her Mercy Thompson series, her Dragon Bones + Dragon Blood are a fantastic read!” Totally agree. My favorite Briggs books are the Hurog (Dragon) and Raven duologies.

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  27. hapax
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 20:50:35

    @Leah: I’m with you. I never really was interested in Kate Daniels, but the Edge series hooked me from the start.

    Not so much for the romance (I think this book has the weakest romance, mostly — and ironically — because it is such an archetypical trope, going all the way back to King Cophetua and the beggar-maid) but for the interesting political and social ramifications of the Broken / Edge /Weird society that the OP alludes to, and made AJH so uncomfortable.

    (I guess I *like* worldbuilding that makes me a little uncomfortable; it gives me something to chew on along with my happy romantic fantasy!)

    Also — true confessions — I am SUCH a fangirl for Jack and George. It makes me sad that the Andrews team will never get around to telling their stories.

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  28. Heather
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 21:13:35

    MissE
    JUN 28, 2013 @ 17:06:16
    @Jenna: Wow. So small towns in the US are populated by mentally ill fuck-ups and all smart, driven people flee to cities. That’s so highly offensive, I have no words.

    Oh I had many, but none that I could print here. I agree what Jenna wrote is beyond offensive.

    Heather

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  29. Janine
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 21:52:08

    That is an excellent point about the Native Americans.

    However as to this:

    Basically I spent a lot of the book feeling vaguely uncomfortable, because it always seemed to be on the edge of equating social privilege with practical merit or moral virtue. With the exception of the villain, all of the bluebloods we see (which are, admittedly, restricted to Declan and his immediate family) are basically utterly lovely people who immediately like, trust and respect the heroine (Declan makes it very clear that his earlier asshole behaviour was all an act). Edgers, by contrast, are very frequently a mixture of criminal, petty, vicious and obsequious.

    I thought the slave traffickers from the Weird were mentioned in On the Edge. Do I have that wrong? If you keep on with the series, you’ll find plenty of blue blooded villains as well as some heroic Edgers.

    I had a more positive view of the Edgers than you do. To me they are the most interesting characters in the series because many of them have more shades of gray than the folks from the Weird (who tend to be either noble or evil) and the Broken (we see very little of people who lack magical abilities in these books). And even the less appealing Edgers have understandable, reltable reasons for being the way they are, which I can’t always say about the villains from the Weird.

    Book 3 has a hero and heroine who are both Edgers and both con artists. There isn’t a counterpart, a book with both protagonists being Weirdos (my term, not Andrews’!) and I have a hard time imagining one. That’s because weirdly, the Weird isn’t odd enough. The quirks are what make the Edge and its inhabitants interesting and worth reading about, IMO. Book 4 is set in the Weird (though its hero is from the Edge) and I thought it was on the bland side.

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  30. Janine
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 21:55:11

    @hapax:

    It makes me sad that the Andrews team will never get around to telling their stories.

    Is that a definite thing? I didn’t think it was.

    ReplyReply

  31. msaggie
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 23:00:14

    @Janine: Jack and George do make a cameo appearance as adults in the free serial at Ilona Andrews’ website, the Innkeeper Chronicles (Clean Sweep). I think Ilona has mentioned in their blog that they have to write the books they are contracted for first – Kate Daniels, and the new series. In fact there may be two new series (I vaguely remember an announcement a few weeks back on their blog). But I don’t think follow-ons about George and Jack and Lark are totally off the cards evermore – the caveat being their stories may be something very different from Edge-type stories, as they would be set in a Weird-world to do justice to their magical powers.

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  32. AJH
    Jun 29, 2013 @ 05:16:15

    Apologies for the slow response – I was at a stag do. And apologies for the block o’ me that is likely going to occur.

    @Mary:

    Obviously I’ve got an awful lot of books to read but I was intrigued enough by ON THE EDGE that I certainly wouldn’t mind have a looking at the sequels to see if some of things that confused me become a bit clearer. I’d probably like to take a look at the Kate Daniels books as well, but I’m a bit scared to committing myself to a huge long series right in the middle of the reading project.

    @pamelia:

    I don’t think my confusion at some of the elements of the story stopped me enjoying the book, and there was a lot I really liked, like the family dynamics and I thought it was genuinely refreshing to see something so different. The only thing I really felt let me down was the central plot which just never quite came together for me. I kept expecting one final reveal that never came.

    @Anne:

    I think people suggested ON THE EDGE because it was kind of different and because the first book of the Kate Daniels series is generally agreed to be weaker. I probably need to get over my start stuff at the beginning thing, but I’m not sure I can let go enough to do that. I really like knowing what’s going on. I get confused enough as it is, without missing out on two books worth of set up.

    @Has:

    I’d broadly agree with that, actually. There was a lot I really liked about this and I think many of my problems with it came from an unfamiliarity with the sort of things it was trying to evoke. Also world building, in general, is really difficult when you’ve got to set everything up from scratch so I imagine I’d have a better grip on the setting if I carried on to book 2.

    @Lada:

    It’s tricky because the book obviously has a lot of strengths but it seems to be quite hard for some people (like me) to get a grip on. As I mentioned in the review, I wonder if part of it is because the hero is so opaque about his motivations for so much of the book so you don’t really get any sense of what he’s like or why Rose might be interested in him (I mean, except for the fact he’s hot).

    I weirdly wish I’d liked it more because the premise is genuinely quite intriguing and, as you say, it’s nice to have a break from billionaires.

    @Estara Swanberg:

    Is the second one BAYOU MOON? Or am I making that up? I remember lots of people telling me they really liked it but, you know me, I have to start at the beginning *twitch*. It came down to a bit of a coin toss between this series and the Kate Daniels books but, some reason, I got a sense people were encouraging me more strongly towards this one. I think it was partly a series thing – at least this stands alone as its own story, whereas obviously series require a greater investment. Also this is probably more interesting in a lot of ways, also Kate Daniels – as I understand it – seems more straight down the line urban fantasy (which I’m also pretty into, but have already seen a lot of).

    I did look at their website (I think husband and wife writing teams are really cool – how much fun must that be?) but I didn’t realise Ilona was from Russia. I’m not sure that would have changed my perspective on the book but it’s an interesting data point.

    @Leah:

    I think there’s a lot to enjoy about it and I think if I’d been a little bit less unsure about the basic setup I’d have got a lot more out of it. It seems to be one of those books that people react to strongly, one way or the other, and I can sort of see why.

    @Jenna:

    I definitely didn’t completely hate it – there’s a lot in there I really liked – but I was just a bit thrown by some elements of the setting and the structure.

    Obviously I have exactly zero experience of small town American life and part of what I had trouble with in the book was a vague awareness that one person’s realistic portrayal of the problematic elements of an environment is another person’s harmful stereotype. One of the things I was very uncertain about with ON THE EDGE was the extent to which it supported a multiplicity of lifestyle choices – Rose’s decision to get the hell out is presented as an unambiguously positive one, but at the same time her grandmother, for example, has a lot of ties to the community and seems to value her lifestyle. So, yeah, it’s tricky.

    @Isobel Carr:

    I’m afraid my article has come across as overly negative, which was far from my intention as I did actually quite enjoy the book, I was uncertain about how to react to large portions of it.

    @DeeCee:

    Thank you :)

    They do seem quite polarising books. I found this one a little bit of a slog until about half way when the plot sort of kicked off and Declan stopped pretending to be a complete arse. Then I found it a bit disappointing again because the plot kind of fizzled. But, overall, I’m glad I read it and I thought it was interesting in a lot of ways.

    @MrsJoseph:

    I think ‘annoyed’ is a slightly strong term. I don’t think I’d go further than ‘bothered.’ And, a lot of the time, a lot of what bothered me was not being quite sure how to react to things. I find portrayals of the American South especially difficult because I’m very aware I know nothing about it, and obviously fictional portrayals tend to be very skewed one way or the other. It’s either lost glory or nutters with shotguns, and either way one group of people are going to feel that their world has been depicted unfairly.

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  33. AJH
    Jun 29, 2013 @ 06:11:46

    @FD:

    I think you’re right about first-book-in-the-series-itis. There was a lot going on and a lot of things felt that they were resolved very abruptly, for example there’s a subplot that I quite liked about George and his self-destructive habit of raising things from the dead, which Declan manages to sort out literally over night by building a magic computer simulation. Presumably, once there’s less to establish about the world itself, you’re in a better place to actually tell stories set in that world.

    Re the month thing, I can see how you read it that way but I didn’t get that. I think as someone else points out below that, because romances in, well, Romance, happen at such an accelerated rate anyway, a one month cooling off period really does seem slow and steady by comparison.

    @leslie:

    I picked this book over the Kate Daniels series because it seemed to get more recommendations. I’m afraid it’s not a very scientific process.

    I don’t really know what disappointed you – I’m sorry if you felt I was unfair on the book. As I said in the review, I quite enjoying reading it, I just wasn’t sure how to react to certain elements of the setting, which I thought might be interesting to discuss with other readers.

    I’d very much like to hear to your thoughts.

    Re William, I really wanted to say something about him, but I couldn’t find a way to fit it into the structure of the article. I felt, like a lot of the plot elements, he didn’t really go anywhere. I sort of felt he was mostly there to highlight some things about being a changeling, which I thought served mostly to support Jack’s arc, which I thought played into the wider family arc. There was actually a period about halfway through the book where I thought William was going to turn out to be the villain, and by the end I was just left a bit unsure about where he fit into the whole thing. He’s sort of working for the bad guy, but sort of isn’t, and is sort of part of Declan’s past but not in a way that I quite felt the impact of.

    @Kris Bock:

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

    @MissE:

    I think this is a general problem with series writers – I had similar comments with the Black Dagger Brotherhood and the Iron Seas. Generally, if you’re into a series, the first book won’t be your favourite but, as I’ve mentioned before, I can’t not start at the beginning of these things. I’m actually quite glad I read this one because it’s very different and there’s been a lot to think about in it.

    @Divya S:

    I definitely agree about Declan. Rose’s refusal to deal with his bullshit really helps make his behaviour palatable because it meant I was never asked to find ‘being an arsehole’ sexy. And when he starts acting more like a reasonable person, he becomes a lot more likeable. It just happens late enough in the book that I was already quite confused by that point. I’d spent a lot of time thinking “well, this guy is a dickhead and the heroine seems to actively dislike him” so there was a lot of ground to cover in the last half.
    I genuinely wasn’t sure how to think about a lot of the poverty / setting stuff – it’s largely why I talked about it so much, because I wanted to see what other people thought. One of the things I find very valuable about the discussions here is that you get to see how different people respond to the same text, and I find that really fascinating and, obviously, it feeds into my own thoughts.

    As I said in the review, I really liked the family dynamics as well, and I thought they were really well done.

    I’ve already babbled a bit about William above. Generally, I liked his character but I wasn’t quite sure of his place in the narrative. At times, it seemed like he was supposed to be secondary romantic interest except the heroine is very clearly in no way interested in him. I suppose that’s quite interesting and unusual in itself.

    Next week is … HEART THROB I think. And then I’ve got DRAGON BOUND. And then (oh dear) BARED TO YOU. I have actually read SLAVE TO SENSATION – if I get the time I’ll write up my thoughts on it, though it’s been a while.

    Really glad you’re enjoying the reviews.

    @bamaclm:

    I’m certainly not going anywhere any time soon – not until everyone gets bored of me, and Jane asks me to leave.

    Both series were suggested to me, but I got a stronger vibe for this one. I think people probably thought a stand-alone would be a better introduction to the writer (writers).
    I’m definitely going to have a look at some of their other books – because I don’t have enough to read ;)

    @Susan:

    Even from these comments, I can see how polarising the two series can be. They seem to inspire strong reactions, one way or the other. From my limited understanding, they seem to be quite different types of books, despite superficial similarities.

    American and British history and geography are so wildly different that I just didn’t have anything to ground my reading – I don’t think this is a problem with the book itself, it just left me quite uncertain as I was reading. I don’t think it really matters where your comparisons come from, as long as you have them. And I, well, didn’t.
    I really liked the kids – and I also am not, generally, a fan of kids in books.
    Glad you got something out of the review. :)

    @MD:

    Perhaps it’s my idiosyncratic use of language but when I said something ‘bothered’ me I don’t necessarily mean it’s a bad or that it impinged on my enjoyment, just that it gave me something to think about, or something I wasn’t sure how to react to. I certainly didn’t find the portrayal of the Edge, and the Edger lifestyle, unbelievable – I just wasn’t sure what it was saying. I think it’s difficult because, as I said above, what one person sees as true to life, someone else will see as perpetuating harmful stereotypes.
    My reaction to Declan was pretty similar – I definitely came round on him but it took a while, and by the time I’d decided he wasn’t an arsehole after all, the book was nearly over. It was almost like the book had two different heroes.

    I think my problem with the one month cooling off period was that it fell down the uncanny valley. If characters are making lifetime commitments after two days, then it just feels like a trope, but when the heroine actually stops and says “hold on, things are moving too fast here” and then declares that a month would be plenty of time to decide whether you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, it just sort of lampshades the issue.

    @msaggie:

    Glad you liked the review :)

    It’s not so much suspension of disbelief for me, as I’m quite happy to throw myself into all kinds of gleeful implausibility, but I do read in quite an analytical way and so I sometimes trip up on things that can have multiple readings. We all read books in our way and I know my approach can sometimes annoy people because they think I’m not enjoying the book, or that I’m nitpicking, when it’s just my way of engaging with the text. And often pondering lengthily about something doesn’t actually mean I dislike it.

    Re the whitewashing of history, I read a lot of fantasy so it would be momentously hypocritical of me to suggest that I don’t overlook it most of the time. But, having said that, I’ve sort of tried to get into the habit of paying attention to these things. Because, frankly, I’ve read a lot of fantasy novels about nice quasi-Europeans defending their kingdoms from evil brown people. I think the reason I talked so much about the history of Wyrd America is that it’s an issue that I genuinely can’t find a good answer on. As I said in the review, I can absolutely see why Americans want to write alternate-world books set in worlds that look like their own. It’s just there are some very difficult things to navigate when you do that. I think I’ve also got vaguely in the habit of flagging this stuff because I’d rather people knew in advance if there was something in a book they could be upset or offended by.

    As I think I said in an earlier comment, I don’t feel my ignorance of US geography is a fault in the book. I was just contextualising my reactions and my confusions. As you say, I’m sure Hobbiton makes a lot more sense if you’re familiar with rural England.
    You raise a really interesting point about, for want of a better term, the economics of romance. This goes way back, doesn’t it? I’m mean in Austen they’re all obsessed with how much potential husbands are worth – and you can totally see why. More generally, it’s hard to invest in a couple’s life together if you can’t see how that life would be supported. I think fantasy is very different because it’s often not really about characters, it’s about situations. If a wandering mercenary carries on being a wandering mercenary that’s to be expected because what you want from that sort of character is that they continue to wander and merce.

    I’ll definitely be looking at more Ilona Andrews in the future, though, because – niggles aside – I did actually enjoy this a lot.

    @Mandy:

    I didn’t say I found it unlikeable – on the contrary, I liked it quite a lot and I’m sorry if that didn’t come across in my review. It’s just that a lot of things sort of tripped me up, and I found it more interesting to talk about the parts of the book I had more difficulty with. Obviously, I agree that different people react to books very differently and one of the things I value about being part of this community is the opportunity to see other people’s perspectives.

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  34. AJH
    Jun 29, 2013 @ 06:27:34

    @Joy:

    Thank you – glad you liked the review.

    I thought the too many plots issue was somewhat connected to it being the first book in a new setting. I suspect this would be resolved in future volumes because there’d be less setup to do, and therefore more time for plotting. The thing is, I can’t actually think of anything I’d have taken out of ON THE EDGE with the possible exception of William.
    I have very little experience of America in general, southern or otherwise, rural or otherwise, so I was left flailing a little.

    I’m afraid the only Capote I’ve read is BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (which also has some things to say about the south) but I’ll certainly investigate MY SIDE OF THE MATTER. I think charming but slightly chilling is kind of his mode :)

    I think that’s exactly why people recommend this one over the Kate Daniels series – reading a standalone is often a better introduction to a writer. Mercy Thompson is definitely on the list – I think I was probably going to start with the series. I’ve just finished DRAGON BOUND and, truthfully, I’m slightly dragoned-out.

    @hapax:

    Actually I’d agree that world building that makes you uncomfortable can be quite a good thing and, actually, I did really like the setup of the Edge, the Broken and the Weird. (Also I loved Jack and George too).

    @Janine:

    Oh, you’re right, although the Weird slave traffickers are very much off camera, whereas the Edger ex-boyfriend who tried to sell Rose is in the book a lot, being an arsehole and gets righteously beaten up by the hero (admittedly Rose tells Declan off for this, but I seem to remember that she only half means it).

    I agree that a lot of the Edgers came across as more nuanced and sympathetic than most of the people from the Weird. It’s just a lot of the time being nuanced involved, on some level, being quite horrible. Obviously, a lot of that comes from their circumstances and, as I think I said in the review, I honestly wasn’t sure to what extent I was reading a sympathetic and nuanced portrayal of people living in marginalised conditions and to what extent I was reading a fairytale about a girl who gets rescued from her crappy home life by a handsome prince. To some extent I think it’s sort of both, and that’s probably quite interesting.

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  35. Ilona Andrews
    Jun 29, 2013 @ 07:38:47

    @Janine:

    “@hapax:

    It makes me sad that the Andrews team will never get around to telling their stories.

    Is that a definite thing? I didn’t think it was. ”

    It is.

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  36. Kaetrin
    Jun 29, 2013 @ 07:47:42

    I read this one first and then listened. I liked it much better on the 2nd go round. Once I oriented myself to the world, I really enjoyed it, but the first time I read it, I found the world a bit hard to get into. I think you articulate why very well. I hadn’t thought about those things exactly, but I think they were similar to your issues.

    I was interested in your comment about Declan being popular with Jack and Georgie possibly because it was Good For Them To Have A Man in their lives. Actually, I think, in an ideal world, it is beneficial for children to have contact with both men and women. I don’t mean that same sex parents or single parents are in any way inferior (because of course they are not), but that, generally, having a close relationship, if possible, with not just the one gender is a good thing. Sometimes that is an uncle or a grandma, it doesn’t have to be a parent. Sometimes it can be no blood relation at all, just a close family friend, for example. I think, if Rose had been male and all her family had been male, that the boys would have responded very positively to a female Declan coming in to their lives, just because they were responding to something they hadn’t had before. I didn’t have any problem (not that I’m suggesting you did by the way) with the concept that they got from Declan something they didn’t get from Rose – part of that had nothing to do with gender (I didn’t think) – Rose was very protective of the boys and Declan’s default was to give them more latitude I think. He treated them a little older, gave them more responsibility, etc.

    FWIW I love the Kate Daniels series too. I enjoyed bk1 very much. I have listened to all the books so I don’t know how much that has coloured my experience of them. Renee Raudman does such a wonderful job of the narration.

    I think Bayou Moon is stronger than On the Edge – William makes a wonderful hero.

    I wrote a freaking essay here – sorry! :)

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  37. Janine
    Jun 29, 2013 @ 10:57:16

    @Ilona Andrews: Sorry to hear that! I look forward to your new series, though.

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  38. Ilona Andrews
    Jun 29, 2013 @ 11:38:49

    @Janine:

    Thank you! It has sexy arrogant millionaires, light world-building, and lots of sexual tension. I’m very excited to write it. ;)

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  39. Angie
    Jun 29, 2013 @ 15:22:30

    This is a bit off topic, but can I just mention the cover art?

    Check out the woman on the cover. Wow, hardly any skin is showing! The art doesn’t emphasize her huge breasts, and in fact it looks like she’s rather slightly built. She’s not twisted around in some impossible pose that displays both boobs and butt to the viewer at the same time, nor is she bent over to wave her butt at the viewer, nor are her legs spread, nor is she in some obviously submissive post with respect to the guy, nor, nor, nor….

    She’s just standing there, dressed sensibly for someone who’s about to go out and fight whatever, with a rifle over her shoulder, in a position that’s perfectly normal and comfortable. She could swing that rifle around and blast a zombie (or whatever it is she’s fighting — I don’t read these books and what she’s fighting is irrelevant to my comment) within like half a second from that position.

    In fact, this is the same kind of position that the guys on the covers of adventure books (including adventure romances) are often in. You know, normal action-hero type positions, a position of strength, ready to fight or defend at any second. Strength, competence, and the attractiveness that comes from strength and competence, rather than depending on bare skin and prominent boobs and ass to signal attractiveness.

    Props to the publisher, the art director and the artist. I might actually try this book.

    Angie

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  40. Joy
    Jun 29, 2013 @ 16:49:16

    @AJH – Alright, alright – but if you begin feeling less dragoned-out at some point, it may help to know that there are no love-dragons in the Briggs duology :) The first Mercy Thompson book is also a terrific read and a great introduction to the author.

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  41. MaryK
    Jun 29, 2013 @ 23:00:14

    The South is a pretty big area. There’s plenty of room for all kinds down here. I was going to suggest some TV shows as examples of parts of Southern culture but then I remembered you’re not in the US. Anyway, Duck Dynasty and Swamp People are reality TV shows based around real Southerners. I’m sure there’s some playing to the camera but still.

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  42. AJH
    Jun 30, 2013 @ 07:51:27

    @Kaetrin:

    I suspect it would benefit from a re-reading actually, since I spent at least half the book having basically no idea what was going on.

    I think you’re right that it’s important for children to have contact with a variety of different people from a variety of different backgrounds, but I hesitate to make gender an integral part of that. I think it’s all very complicated – the thing is families are what they are, and what’s important is providing a stable loving environment, and sometimes some people don’t have access to particular sets of chromosomes. I know you’ve said very explicitly that you don’t believe same-sex or single parent families are inferior (and I’m not suggesting you do) but, to me, I’m troubled by the idea that a quality integral to conventional nuclear families and absent from same-sex or single parent families would be considered a necessary part of childrearing.

    To put it another way, obviously growing up never having had close contact with a man or a woman is problematic but, to me, it’s no more problematic than having growing up never having had contact with a gay person or a black person.

    And while I agree that many parents would consider introducing their children to a variety of people to be part of their job (so they don’t accidentally raise bigots), you don’t get the same kind of social judgement behind it. It’s not like anyone says “oh the poor thing grew up without a gay in his life” the way they will if you grew up without a heavily present mother or father.

    That said, I do agree that, in the book, a lot of what the boys get from their relationship with Declan comes from the fact that he just treats them very differently from Rose. I particularly liked his relationship with Jack because there was a strong implication that Declan had more experience of dealing with changelings than Rose did so it felt like Declan had an insight into Jack that Rose didn’t, for reasons of experience, rather than gender.

    And please don’t apologise for essays – I love essays. Also it’d be grossly hypocritical of me to complain about other people being verbose :)

    I’ve heard lots of good things about BAYOU MOON. And ohhh, that’s why William is important :)

    @Angie:

    Please don’t worry, I’m the last person to worry about people going off topic.

    I actually have very little experience of romance novel cover art because I mostly read ebooks but, obviously, I’m aware of the general trend in the media towards the kind of things you describe.

    On an even more tangential note, I’d add that the woman on the cover looks like she could plausibly be the heroine as she’s described in the book (I understand that often, in genre fiction, cover art is produced without any reference to the content of the book at all.) Rose does actually have a truck and a rifle, and she does kind of dress that way.

    Although I’ve got to admit, most of my reaction to the cover was dominated by the hilariously generic mullet dude in the top left hand corner.

    Hope you enjoy the book – I found it genuinely interesting.

    @Joy:

    Love dragon sounds like a terrible terrible euphemism…

    I’m definitely looking forward to Briggs though.

    @MaryK:

    I think that’s why I had such trouble interpreting the book, because I’m aware that areas are big and cultures aren’t monoliths.

    I do have a bit of trouble getting hold of most US TV that isn’t the big stuff because I tend not to pirate things if I can help it. This is basically down to a mixture of ethics and ineptitude.

    I have to say Swamp People does not sound like the title of nuanced portrayal of an under-represented subculture.

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  43. Susan
    Jun 30, 2013 @ 13:01:14

    @MaryK: OMG,Mary!?! SOME playing to the camera? Duck Dynasty, Swamp People, Billy the Exterminator, and the rest of the “reality” shows based in the South are entertainment based on amusing characters (or caricatures) not entire swaths of Southern culture. They’re no more “real” than The Dukes of Hazzard or L’il Abner.

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  44. CD
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 01:10:45

    I barely remember ON THE EDGE to be honest – just enough to remember liking the heroine and her family, and thinking the hero was rather bland. As everyone and his dog has already mentioned, BAYOU MOON is a lot more fun. As for the Weird vs the Edge, I actually really liked the idea of that sort of “in-between” place, and the Edgers definitely sounded a lot more fun and, well, quirky – the Weird just seemed to be a really dull snooze of a place…

    I skimmed through the KATE DANIELS series and have to admit to not getting it. At least annoying characters in the Edge only stick around for one book – I still felt like throttling both Kate and Curran well into the third book, although that could be my own impulse control issues…

    As for Patricia Briggs, I think her paranormal series are a lot stronger than her fantasy in terms of world building and plotting. I do like the HUROG duology, and also MASQUES/WOLFBANE but that’s more because the characters are charming – if you’re a habitual fantasy reader, her fantasy is very light and pretty derivative. If you’re reading Briggs for the purposes of romance, then it would make more sense for you to read her ALPHA AND OMEGA novella followed by CRY WOLF. The MERCY THOMPSON series is more of a normal urban fantasy with the obligatory triangle in the first few books, although a lot better presented and resolved than most.

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  45. Janine
    Jul 03, 2013 @ 11:26:09

    @CD:

    If you’re reading Briggs for the purposes of romance, then it would make more sense for you to read her ALPHA AND OMEGA novella followed by CRY WOLF.

    Agreed. I love the Alpha and Omega series because it’s so romantic. I only liked the first Mercy book and didn’t read further. And yeah, if you go the A&O route, definitely start with the novella.

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  46. AJH
    Jul 04, 2013 @ 10:50:30

    @CD:

    CD! :)

    Most people actually spoke most strongly about BAYOU MOON but I’m pathologically incapable of starting a series at the second book. I did like the whole concept of the Edge – I thought it was different, both as a setting, but also because it was about people who weren’t billionaires or college students.

    I think the thing about the long running series is that if you don’t basically buy into the setting and the characters in the first volume, you won’t get much pleasure out of any of it. I remember having quite an eye-opening conversation with a friend of a friend years ago about how he’d spent ages trying to watch BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER because kept telling him that no, no, no, the *next* season is the one where it gets really good, and he never really found it did. I think if you’re already sold on the basic premise of a series then it can feel like the later instalments are much better than the earlier ones because you’re more invested and because it’s likely to have been refined so that there’s more of the stuff you like in it. But if you don’t get on with the protagonist in book one, or just don’t like the idea of a show about a teenage girl who kills monsters, then no amount of plot developments are going to help with that.

    Briggs is on the list – I can’t quite remember which texts. I do know people keep telling me to start with ALPHA AND OMEGA.

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  47. CD
    Jul 04, 2013 @ 15:30:38

    AJH! ;)

    Sorry – been on holiday. I did read your review of THE WINDFLOWER which unfortunately reawakened my desperate craving for some Cat/Rand slash that got me trawling the murkier sections of the internet. Some things I saw there, I cannot now unsee. Bastard.

    “also because it was about people who weren’t billionaires or college students.”
    The romance genre is much bigger than that – we have Dukes, Angels, SEALs, Vampires and Dragons!!! Give us some credit.

    “I think the thing about the long running series is that if you don’t basically buy into the setting and the characters in the first volume, you won’t get much pleasure out of any of it.”

    Sweetie darling – that’s just your pathology speaking… You gotta live a little – go wild. Next time the the little voices tell you to skip the first book, season, round of medication, court date, do it. And can you honestly tell me that it was worth suffering through Season 1 of BUFFY “to get” the awesomeness that was seasons 2-5 [series ends there as far as I'm concerned]? I think most people would have been put off by the, let’s say, rope-iness of the initial set-up – I certainly would have. Same with (most of) Season 1 of ANGEL, FARSCAPE, CHUCK, etc… And with book series like Andrew’s THE EDGE, you don’t follow the same characters anyway, and most of the rest you can infer from context. So hah – you is wrong.

    PS. If your friend doesn’t understand the greatness that is BUFFY, then I suggest that he’s not actually from Earth but from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse. You’d better check just in case.

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  48. D Cicconi
    Dec 31, 2013 @ 02:18:34

    Interesting review. I am a fan of the writing team Ilona Andrews and really enjoyed the Kate Daniel series and the Andrea Nash novels (want more on Andrea). I haven’t read the Edge series and not sure I will. Your review was thoughtful and thorough but too much of “I enjoyed the book, but I’m going to kick the shit out of it” in tone.

    The main reason I am writing to you, however, is your comments about Americans. You seem to put forth the idea that Americans are touchy about the atrocities committed against the Indians, and you being from the UK are trying hard to understand the “American Dilemma”. Really? By the 17th century YOUR ancestors, the English, were the primary colonists of North America (The French running a slow second), and warred with the Indians with impunity. England was so into enslaving the people of its “territories” that the colonists had to go to war against what many considered their own country to get free of the tyranny. So yeah, most modern Americans are not confused by this issue. Most see that the Indians suffered immensely and many famous movies and documentaries have been made on this issue and the plight of the Indian peoples still remain unresolved. So I don’t see Americans trying to play this down as you indicate by your generalized statement to that idea.

    Then you go and say, “Unfortunately (and again this might be a CULTURAL DIFFERENCE I’m not aware of) this very sensible precaution is undermined by the fact that the time limit she sets on their engagement is … umm … a month.” You seem to pretend that British culture is so different from American culture as if you’ve never watched an American film or TV show and you’re just new to all this . For Fucksake, Americans do not habitually meet and decide in just two days to get married and make life commitments. If you are able, you should visit the US and just try to stereotype the people from places like Boston, New Orleans and San Francisco (you will fail at that). It is a massive and diverse place. You may never love it but you’ll stop making the foregoing derogatory “insights”.

    In the end, these kind of snide underlying ideas hurt your attempt to give a thoughtful if somewhat chatty review.

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