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Post apocalytpic

REVIEW:  Hearts of Shadow  by Kira Brady

REVIEW: Hearts of Shadow by Kira Brady

Dear Ms. Brady:

Last year’s release, “Hearts of Darkness”, was one of my favorites of the year. The post apocalyptic steampunk world building was as unique as I had read in my many years of digesting paranormal romances.  “Hearts of Shadow” is no different in its uniqueness, but it did require a big effort on my part to not only understand the world but fall into it.

Hearts of Shadow (Deadglass #2) by Kira Brady“Hearts of Shadow” picks up almost a year after the end of “Hearts of Darkness”. Another apocalyptic event has occurred, changing the dynamic of the world once again.  I found this to be disconcerting because it felt like I had to learn a new language almost instead of adding to the knowledge base that I had begun to build in “Hearts of Darkness.”  Grace Mercer is a blood slave to a shapeshifting dragon, Leif, who inherited the position of Regent as well as the blood slaves from his now dead brother.

In addition to being a blood slave, Grace also slept with the now dead brother.  It was difficult for me to tell exactly whether she was forced into it and hated herself for that or she was attracted to the now dead brother against her better judgment and hated herself for that.  Whatever it was, Grace’s attraction to the dragon shifters, first the brother Sven, and now Leif, is an aspect of her makeup that she dislikes and tries hard to reject.

In this world, soul suckers called wraiths or aptrangers roam the land as do other stronger beings, all preying on the weaker.  Grace takes it upon herself to defend the humans, fight off the wraiths, and eventually to help train people to fight for herself. In some sense she’s an underfunded superhero equipped only with a magical blade, her own street savvy, and the occasional infusion of dragon’s blood for healing.

Leif is a scientist cum shapeshifting dragon and reluctant new Regent in Seattle. I’m not quite sure what his position of power is supposed to be and Leif would rather spend his time in the lab, building coal works to bring much needed energy to the city, and expending his energy in other ways to better the lives of those who are dependent upon him.

He is instantly attracted to Grace and his attraction causes his baser nature to take control whenever they are together which only serves to make Grace warier.  The romance between Leif and Grace felt forced for most of the book.  Leif is presented as this complex mix of alpha and beta.  He’s a scientist who is a gentleman we are told at one point. Yet, he’s nearly always forcing himself on her from the first moment that they have physical contact in the hallway of a courtroom.  He chastises himself for not having a tighter rein on his lust but, I guess, in an effort to show us how attractive he finds Grace, acts in a multitude of overbearing alpha ways.

Grace’s confused attraction toward dragon shifters in general also contributed to the contrived feeling of the romance.  In some ways, I felt that this was over complicated.  Grace could have easily been attracted to dragon shifters because of their beauty and still hated Sven for forcing himself on her regularly.  Her mixed up emotions toward Sven (did she love or hate him) seemed to be stronger than her emotions toward Leif.  And sometimes I even wondered if Leif was merely a pale stand in for Sven.

Despite the difficulty I had in the romance, I did appreciate the rich and thoughtful world presented and I am looking forward to reading the conclusion of the trilogy which features the romance between Luce, the Kivati princess, and the leader of the Kivati, a story that has been brewing since the very first entry.  C+

Best regards,

Jane

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REVIEW:  Beyond Control by Kit Rocha

REVIEW: Beyond Control by Kit Rocha

Beyond Control Kit Rocha

Dear Kit Rocha:

This is the second book in your post apocalyptic series. My main problem is that the two main protagonists are in a power struggle, but I’m not sure what their efforting toward.

Dallas and his gang of O’Kanes built Sector Four into a formidable territory outside the walls of the protected land called Eden. Inside Eden is medicine, tech, and plenty of goods.  But is also a place of rigid societal structure and oppression.

Sector Three was crushed in the previous book and the power vacuum that is left is making everyone in the outlying territories uneasy.  Dallas is called to a meeting of the Sector heads.  Meanwhile, within his sector the equilibrium is shifting.  Lex, his long time companion and love, is challenging him in ways he doesn’t understand.

The first two thirds of the book addressed the commitment dance between Dallas and Lex and because the two were so head over heels for the other, it was frustrating for me to understand why their communication issues were keeping them emotionally apart and sexually frustrated.

They were so obvious in their utter devotion to each other that it was hard to understand why they were so unsure of the other’s feelings.

Dallas wanted complete control and Lex wanted to give it to him. In this story, having both POVs made the suspense of the relationship hard to understand.  Later it seemed that Lex wanted to give control to Dallas with the understanding that ceding control in the bedroom shouldn’t diminish her ability to be in control outside of it.  Dallas did not appear to understand that Lex had built Sector Four along side of him.  I wasn’t entirely sure if it was myopia or misogyny on Dallas’ part.

Dallas wasn’t as foreseeing as I expected a Sector King to be. Others around him maneuvered his pawns for him in a way that made Dallas appear a little weak. He was good at reading people but I didn’t see what made him a leader.  At one point he refers to himself as crazy or insane but I didn’t see the capricious characteristics of that type of person either.  He did seem power hungry and  that thirst for more control may have come instinctively and it may have also welled from a desire to protect those in Sector Four.

Dallas’ conflicting emotions were interesting but I didn’t feel that they were as fully fleshed out as they could have been.  Lex plays the role of the O’Kane den mother; always trying to help those, particularly women, find a safe place.  She had been raised as a courtesan in Sector Two and escaped the cunning leader. Her exploits are retold as if she was a living legend.

Toward the latter part of the book, I thought I understood the power struggle. Lex wanted to sit next to Dallas, not at his feet.  She wanted to sit next to him because she earned his respect, like he had earned hers, because she had built Sector 4 as well.   But the reconciliation suggests that the power struggle was something different. For me, it wasn’t enough that he said he loved her.  The pain Lex felt was his confusion over what she wanted because her being his equal didn’t enter this mind.

I also wondered at their sexual preferences.  Lexi seemed to like a more polyamourous relationship while Dallas wasn’t much into sharing. It seemed like a bad match at times.

But those issues aside, I did enjoy the eroticism of the story.  It’s very sex positive and female positive.  It showed  women in different stages of power and in different acquisitions of power.  I liked the ambivalence of people’s emotions.  That felt genuine; however, I didn’t know if I was really understanding the text of the story or overlaying my own perceptions which may or may not have been accurate.

In a conversation with Avery and Lex, there is some hint that the story is to be read multiple ways:

Avery blinked and turned to meet Lex’s eyes. “He won’t,” she replied just as quietly. “He’s not a perfect man. But I’ve seen my house sisters go to men who work them or hurt them, who call them whores and break their souls. Gordon wants a pretty girl in his bed and someone to dote upon. How selfish would I be to ask for more in a world where so many have nothing at all?”

“Maybe more isn’t selfish at all. Maybe it’s what you deserve.”

“Deserve?” After an uncertain moment, she looked away. “I don’t like to imagine a world where we all get what we deserve. I think my heart would break to imagine most people deserve what they have gotten.”

In sum, this book really made me think. I’m not sure what conclusions I would draw a second time around.  In truth, I wished that there was more world building and character development and fewer sex scenes.  C+

Best regards,

Jane

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