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REVIEW:  Night Broken by Patricia Briggs

REVIEW: Night Broken by Patricia Briggs

night broken_front mech.inddDear Patricia Briggs,

I’ve long been a fan of both your Mercy Thompson series and your Alpha & Omega series (which is set in the same world but follows different people in it).  I’ve read them all in print and listened to them all on audio as well.  Which series I like best most often depends on which book I read most recently. Right now it is the Mercy series.

This is the 8th book but readers would be mostly lost to start here.  All of the books have been B+ or higher for me, so I don’t feel bad saying that to potential readers.  (For those who haven’t read the series before, start with Moon Called and be aware there are spoilers for this and the Alpha & Omega series to follow.) I read the first five books in a marathon of about three-four days, so I’m kind of jealous of those people who could start at book one and read all eight in a row.

I admit I’m finding it difficult to summarise the plot without giving away spoilers.  It almost seems to me that to say anything much is kind of spoilery but I’ve gone with the rule of thumb that anything in the first third of the book is pretty much okay.

For readers who don’t want to be spoiled, here is the short version:  it is really good, the ending is rather abrupt and I am already salivating for the next book in the series.  Also I still adore Adam Hauptman – he is one of my favourite heroes and Mercy Thompson Hauptman (she insists on the additional surname these days) is awesome and kicks ass once again.

Now for the long version:

When Night Broken begins, two important things happen: Mercy is visited by Alistair Beauclaire (the fae Gray Lord who, in Fair Game (A&O 3) all but declared war on the US after the justice system failed his family).   The walking stick, the fae artifact which has been following Mercy about since early in the series and which has come in very handy from time to time, was made by Beauclaire’s father.  He wants it back. Now. The problem for Mercy is that, after the events of River Marked, she “gave” the walking stick to Coyote – and she doesn’t know where he is or how to get in touch with him quickly.

The other thing is that Christy, Adam’s ex-wife calls, terrified and traumatised by a man who is stalking her.  She asks Adam for sanctuary and because she is the mother of Adam’s child (Jesse) and because Adam is who he is – a protective, care-taking Alpha – he says yes.  This puts a strain on Mercy’s relationship with Adam to some degree, but more so with her relationship with the Pack.  Mercy has to balance her own jealousy and her desire to smack Christy down fast and furious and her (most of the time) stronger desire to put the well-being of both Jesse and the Pack first.  The stalker, Juan Flores, is a Very. Bad. Man.  Actually, he’s not a man.  I think I won’t say what/who he is.  Finding out is part of the fun of the book.  Essentially, the rest of the story is Mercy and her compadres trying to identify, locate and defeat Flores – the walking stick and Coyote play a part in the whole thing.  And then there’s Christy.

I’m not usually a fan of the “evil ex-wife” trope.  I don’t like one-note characters who are only there to make the heroine look good.  Christy certainly fit the stereotype but I found her well developed enough that it made her more than a caricature.  She has been a consistent though bit player throughout the series.  She’s not a bad person per se, but she’s very selfish and takes care of herself first (and possibly second), and others after.  Series readers know that she hurt Adam deeply by rejecting him, his wolf and his Pack (she left him – whyyy? *flails*) and that she is unreliable when it comes to visits with Jesse. I felt there was some attempt to make her more than just a thorn in Mercy’s side, while still keeping her character consistent and I don’t think she was demonised (although I also think there might be robust debate on this issue).  It was completely understandable that Mercy would not be Christy’s biggest fan – and the book is told from Mercy’s first person POV so that was always going to be the flavour of things. That said, Mercy is not an unkind person and she tried hard not to hate Christy and to see good in her. I don’t think many women would cope so well with her husband’s ex-wife coming into her house – the house said ex-wife decorated and used to live in no less – and basically taking over.

Mercy is worried about what it will do to Jesse if she and Christy are openly at odds as well as the effect it would have on the Pack.  The Pack was damaged by the death of their only submissive wolf, Peter, and things haven’t yet settled.  Mercy does her best to keep the peace under great pressure from Christy.   Christy is just about everything Mercy is not.  Christy is a girly-girl with beautiful nails and wonderful cooking skills and she “needs” someone to take care of her.  She also “threw Adam away.”  Mercy is none of those things and she would never, ever, throw Adam away.  Christy brings out insecurities Mercy was aware of and some she didn’t previously know about.

Christy uses tactics I’ve unfortunately seen in real life (used by women and men) which makes one appear petty and small to argue with them.  One inevitably feels drawn down to their level to engage at all and they are very frustrating to deal with.  Because I know people like that, I was prepared to give Christy’s characterisation a pass here.  Not everyone will.

There were some things in the plot which didn’t seem to go anywhere and where I felt the story lost momentum. Perhaps they are part of the setup for a future book in the series, but here, the Cantrip agents felt out of place and Zack didn’t seem to have much to do.

I love the romance between Mercy and Adam and I think there is a lot of it for romance readers in Night Broken. While, Adam and Mercy aren’t seriously threatened by Christy’s machinations, there is some minor damage to be cleared up from time to time and they take the time to attend to those small wounds throughout the book so that they don’t fester.  Adam knows who and what Christy is, even though he can be manipulated by her along with everyone else it seems.  Maybe that’s a bit odd given who and what Adam is, but I put it down to the long history he had with Christy and the thousands of little wounds that left weak spots when it came to her. Plus, I think it has been consistent in the series that one of the surefire ways to get to Adam is to suggest he is a poor caretaker/protector.

I had heard that the book has an abrupt end.  It does. There is no reason to be scared by this *shifty eyes* (My lips are sealed).  There are a couple of things which aren’t tidily cleaned up, a new spanner in the works which could be pretty interesting (or not) and Coyote is his usual cryptic self – there’s more about he and Mercy to be learned in future books I feel – but the story doesn’t have a relaxing epilogue to allow readers to catch their breath.  Because of that, there is a sense of ending on a gasp but I can’t really complain about it.  I’m always happy to read more Mercy (and Adam) so I would have liked more but I’m not sure the book needed it.

There was a part, near the end, which had me teary – it was one of those “darkest before the dawn” moments and everything was looking pretty dire.  Mercy and Adam just about broke my heart and I was seriously wondering if – well, perhaps I shouldn’t say anything more about it because: spoiler.

Mercy and Adam work together in this book (I feel like it was more so than in previous books which seemed fitting given the progress of their relationship), but Mercy is her usualy resourceful, clever self and she remains front and centre in the story.  She doesn’t foolishly put herself in danger; she realises her strengths and weaknesses but she fights when she has to and she fights hard and well.  Her actions in this book did a lot to garner her more support/respect within the Pack.

I love this series and I devoured this book in one day – I plan on getting the audiobook too (the narrator, Lorelei King is wonderful) and it will be one of those few books/series I will re-visit.  Night Broken gets an A- from me.

[Kyle Warren] frowned at me. “Before Christy came, I never thought about how much you manipulate the people around you—it doesn’t feel like manipulation when you do it.”

“The difference is,” I told him, “that I love you and want everyone to be happy. And”—I lifted a finger—“I know what’s best for you.”

“And,” said Adam, “Mercy’s not subtle. When she manipulates you, she wants you to know you’ve been manipulated.”

I’d already crossed the living room toward the wing with the bedrooms, but I turned around to stick my tongue out at Adam.

“Don’t point that at me unless you are going to use it,” he said.

I smiled until I was safely out of sight.

Regards,
Kaetrin

 

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REVIEW:  Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews

REVIEW: Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews

Clean-Sweep-Cover-Small

On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast. But Dina is…different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, “normal” is a bit of a stretch for Dina.

And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night….Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved. Before long, she has to juggle dealing with the annoyingly attractive, ex-military, new neighbor, Sean Evans—an alpha-strain werewolf—and the equally arresting cosmic vampire soldier, Arland, while trying to keep her inn and its guests safe. But the enemy she’s facing is unlike anything she’s ever encountered before. It’s smart, vicious, and lethal, and putting herself between this creature and her neighbors might just cost her everything.

 

Dear Ilona Andrews,

“It doesn’t matter where you are from. You’re here now and it’s my job to protect you and everyone here. I’m doing my job and I don’t appreciate the drama. Something isn’t right with you and this property. Strange things happen around it. I don’t know what’s going on, but I will find out. You could make it easier on yourself by coming clean.”
“Sure. This is a magic bed-and –breakfast and the two guys in my kitchen are aliens from outer space.”
“Right.” Officer Marais turned. “I’ll let myself out.”

Oh Officer Marais, if you only knew. There are so many reasons why I enjoy the books written by Ilona Andrews’ writing team – intricate world building, action, humor, great characters, and have I mentioned humor — but when this story was published as a free serial on their website I ignored it even though it was not an easy task to do so. I cannot handle reading a story in bits in pieces especially if one of those bits and pieces will end up in a cliffhanger. I did not want to get irritated at the book for something which is clearly my issue and not the book’s fault, so I was hoping that one day they would publish this one as a single book. And when they finally did of course I bought it.

The world building in this book was *excellent*. I could not help but compare this book with the first book in my favorite series by these writers, the Kate Daniels series. Of course, that was their first book and it is not fair to compare the writing, but it is clear how far they have come – there is no info dump of any kind in this book. The information about this world is given to the reader when the story warrants it and no earlier, and the information fits the action and moves the action along. I am used to the authors using all kinds of mythologies and fantastic creatures in their books and using them to create original worlds, but in this book they did something even I did not expect. I have read a lot of books where vampires and werewolves played an important role, and I can honestly state that I did not think that it was possible to add anything original to the vampire and werewolf lores. I thought I had read it all. Well, they proved me wrong, apparently I had not.

As you can see from the blurb, Dina is an innkeeper with magical abilities who runs an unusual bed and breakfast. She decides to get involved because something terrible has happened, something which may put not only the lives of her guests but also those of her neighbors and even herself in danger. Apparently innkeepers of this world, which is very similar to the Earth of our time but with some additions have some unusual duties and responsibilities and can do interesting things. These Inns apparently exist in the several dimensions/realities at the same time and serve as Gateways to earth for the guests from other galaxies/worlds. Innkeepers’ first loyalties are to their guests and Inns and if I understood correctly more often than not they are neutral to everything else around them as long as it does not threaten their guests. But I am guessing that in the rare circumstances they can decide that neutrality be damned and join the fight as Dina did.

I thought Dina was awesome. I think the regular and magical part of her nature were blended really well and I just thought she was a very likeable human being, somebody who would be fun to have tea with, if I didn’t end up on her bad side. I liked that Dina was kind enough to try to help knowing that other people and animals could end up dead, but also knew when to ask for help from others. I thought that she had a great sense of humor and I loved her dog.

“Sean grabbed a young oak branch and jerked it off the three. Beast launched herself and he swung the branch like a bat, trying to knock her aside. With a sound somewhere between an upset wolverine and a pissed-off bobcat, Beast clamped on to the branch. Sean jerked it back and forth, trying to get her loose. Beast hung on and went airborne. Four rows of teeth crushed the wood – chomp-chomp-chomp—and Sean stumbled back, a stump of a branch in his hand.
Beast landed on her paws and bared her fangs, “Awwwwwreeeeeeoo!”
“Oh shit”.
*****
“A moment later Beast trotted back, climbed the steps, squirmed through the dog door, and collapsed on the rug, exhausted.
I cuddled her up. “Best dog ever.”
Beast rubbed her face against my shirt and licked me”.

If you were to ask me whether there is a romance in this book, or whether the handsome werewolf and vampire are mentioned just for the fun of it, I would say that there is definitely flirting going on but nothing more than that yet. And yes, there is a Twilight joke at the end of the book.
“I suggest you give up now. According to my research, in a vampire-werewolf love triangle, the vampire always gets the girl”.

The blurb mentions Sean Evans, “the alpha strain werewolf” (I will let you to find out for yourself what “alpha strain” means, because going into that would be revealing some important spoilers), and the vampire soldier Armand, and both of these men seemed to me to be great potential candidates for Dina’s affection. To me it was clear that she was at least a little bit attracted to both of them.

This story is not a romance yet – sparks fly when Dina talks to them, and there is a kiss involved between her and one of the men, but nothing more than that. The guys and Dina are really busy in this book trying to take care of the threat, and there is no Romance ending. However, in the end note the authors say that they will be writing a sequel to this book in 2014, and if they decide to include a romantic storyline I think it would be really easy to throw it in, because I thought Dina had a great chemistry with both guys. Whether it will happen or not, I have no idea though.

I do not know how many books are planned in the series, but there are several potential storylines, because there are so many tantalizing loose ends left at the end, and I can’t wait for at least some of them to be explored. The characters in the story are all interesting, but all of them, even Dina, could use more development .There are some characters mentioned who could make guest appearances in upcoming installments and there are some characters whose fates are unknown, whose storylines could be resolved in the future. In other words, I think this is how a first book in the series should be written.

Grade: B+

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