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REVIEW:  Gates of Rapture by Caris Roane

REVIEW: Gates of Rapture by Caris Roane

Dear Caris Roane:

This is the last of the series of books published by St. Martin’s Press in the Guardians of Ascension series. This was a crazy, cracktastic, derivative series and I must have been the only one who enjoyed them.  The series is about the fight over Second Earth.  Commander Greaves is a creature who has been creating an army of death vampires to over take the good vampires, humans, and angel like creatures.  The “good” side is defended by Endelle and her Warriors of the Blood.

Gates of Rapture Caris RoaneThat this is the last book was mildly disappointing because I felt that there were stories left untold specifically the story if the female leader whose role in the books was slowly eroded by the male warriors.  In each successive book, she gave up more and more power to those make warriors until she was almost a figurehead despite her prodigious talents. I had hoped that a book would be devoted to her in which she would fully realize her power and those that served her would honor her.  Alas, no.

In the book prior to Gates of Rapture, the implication was that Grace had two mates, two lovers. One evil and one good. This romantic conflict is presented as resolved by both parties agreeing to an amicable separation. The resolution of some of the most difficult emotional conflicts happens between books.  The love triangle that could have presented an intense emotional drama is over at the start of the book.  Casimir, the so called evil mate, is undergoing a painful purification in another realm.  While he wants Grace to stay with him, he lets her go with no animosity on page 25 and says to her “I want you to know that you taught me about love. You loved me when you had no reason to. I will never forget that.”

Almost as quickly, therefore, as the affair had begun, it had ended, and all Casimir’s energy had turned to the pro-cess of redeeming his life. Yet even though her desire for him had ended, still she loved him. She understood his worth and hoped that in time, he would at last be the man he was meant to be.

The path is cleared, then for Grace and Leto, the spy.  Leto was addicted to dying blood, having been in the service of the megalomaniac Commander Graves who is trying to take over control of Second Earth.  Leto’s recovery is presented as a fait accompli.  He is given someone’s blood that mimics dying blood and his recovery from his deathly addiction is over. “Though the process remained a complete mystery, Havily’s blood had cured his addiction to dying blood.”  Suspense of any kind is killed right there.  No peril will ever cause unease if a mysterious process can cure everything.  Someone else achieves new abilities at just the right moment with the injection of a poison that has almost no adverse side effects other than providing greater power.

Grace also begins the book changed.  She was originally a pacifist, sweet and gentle but now she is a great avenger. It’s not that I don’t believe that observing slaughter and destruction for a hundred of years wouldn’t effectuate change, but let’s see it.  Grace’s return and her evil lover’s redemption, told to us in about three pages in the first chapter was anticlimactic and set the stage for the least interesting book in the series.

Worse was the attempt to redeem everyone including Commander Greaves who spent six books engaging in horrific acts.  I found myself impatient and frustrated throughout the story.  These are not books which can be taken seriously and the sobersides tone heightens the flaws in the worldbuilding and storytelling.  For those who are keeping track, Leto smells like Christmas herbs and fir resin and Grace smells like a meadow. This series is best when it plays up the absurd and there was little of that in this series ending book.   D

Best regards,

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REVIEW:  Shadow’s Claim by Kresley Cole

REVIEW: Shadow’s Claim by Kresley Cole

Dear Ms. Cole:

When I first read the review thoughts of Mandi from SmexyBooks on this book and she sounded, well, bored by a book that she described as a classic Cole, I thought to myself that it was impossible for a book to be a signature Cole and be boring. But after reading the book, I completely understand Mandi’s point of view.

Shadow's Claim Kresley ColeEvery element that I enjoyed in a Cole book (but didn’t get in Poison Princess) was included somewhere in the text. There were funny moments. The intense Cole male. The heroine who isn’t it in the hero right away. The sexiness and delayed gratification.  But there was no urgency that propelled me to turn the page.  The story is entirely predictable.

I believe the problem was two fold. First, the vampire male who must have the Bride who blooded him is a classic Cole hero but there wasn’t anything more of interest to the Shadow warrior. So what that he was a great assassin? Who in the Lore is not a great killer? Even the slyph or phantom that guards the heroine is “ruthless warrior” as is the object of her affection as is Victor, Trehan’s cousin and constant foe. Everyone is the greatest of great. This brings me to the second complaint. The stakes weren’t high enough. In each previous book, there was a truly impossible conflict and I looked forward to seeing how it would be written to conclusion. How would Cole get out of this one, I would ask myself.

In this case, the conflict wasn’t just possible, it was already foretold.  We know from Lothaire how the story unspools already because Shadow’s Claim takes place at the same time. What the reader is supposed to find compelling is that the hero, Trehan, may never be able to return to  his home of Dacia.  But so much of the text was given over to describing Trehan’s life as dull and full of duty that it was hard to see why he would want to return. Particularly when it is discovered on his very first encounter with Bettina that she is his Bride, the special being created just for him.  In the Lore, a vampire’s heart does not beat, his shaft does not become engorged, he does not breathe until blooded by his Bride.  Now that he has found her, we are to believe he gives two hoots about his hidden kingdom?

Bettina of Abbadonae, the heroine, was probably a good match for Trehan given that she is just as dull as he was.  Bettina is  half demon and half sorceress. I don’t recall any traits that she received from her demon father.  Her power is a Sorceri power.  She has no horns nor does she turn red like other demons in the  Immortal After Dark world. She dresses and really self identifies with the Sorceri.  Bettina’s halfling status has no bearing in this book and the failure to use that typifies the world building problems here.

There appear to be an endless number of random kingdoms and creatures in the Lore, as many as there are books to be written, I guess.  This kingdom, like the Dacian kingdom, is remote and largely inaccessible.  Trehan calls it a swampy backwater.  I’m not sure why I am supposed to care about it. It’s like one of those random desert kingdoms in the Harlequin Presents Sheik stories.  The demons in the swamp of Abbadonae are called deathly ones but there are no swamp-like backwater features about them.  They drink, they kill, they have sex. Sounds like every other place in the Lore.  Bettina runs around for most of the book trying to decide whether she truly loves her best friend Caspion or whether she should submit to her growing desire for Trehan.

The main plot is this.  Bettina was captured by an enemy of the Sorceri and tortured. She is saved from her torture when her Uncle uses a summoning spell. (Why he uses it as this particular time is unexplained)  When he sees her beaten and tortured, he and her other guardian, the most powerful Sorceress in the land, Morgana, devise to hold a tournament in her honor.  The winner of the tourney will win the crown of Abbadonae and Bettina’s hand in marriage.  She agrees to this.

The rules of the tourney are so poorly crafted by the guardians that it’s like a preschooler wrote them up. Many creatures enter, one creature wins.  As the competitors arrive, Bettina and her guardians are a little horrified by the types of creatures that enter the tourney. I’m wondering why they didn’t craft the rules better.  When it becomes clear that the Uncle wanted Bettina’s best friend and the subject of her fantasies as the winner, I’m just shaking my head.  Why not just get them to marry then?  The why is, of course, that we wouldn’t have place for Trehan and the big tourney but that is so contrived it’s frustrating. Trehan can easily win the tourney but killing Bettina’s best friend and presumed love of her life would make them enemies. The resolution to this is so achingly obvious.

The elements of a good Cole book are here but nothing much happens. The step toward the Ascension isn’t occurring. I felt like I was a reader in stasis and as Trehan knows, that’s not really a good thing.  C

Best regards,


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