REVIEW: Blade Song by J.C. Daniels
Dear Ms. Daniels,
I have grown more and more cautious in my approach to new (to me) urban fantasy series. I love the genre with a fierceness that sometimes surprises me, but recently I’ve noticed it’s becoming harder and harder for new heroines and worlds to live up to my favorites. Kate Daniels and Mercy Thompson are at the top of the list, for what it’s worth. It is a silly, to say nothing of unjust, way to look at it, I know. But there it is. I read a couple of your romantic suspense novels (written as Shiloh Walker) awhile back and enjoyed them just fine, so when I realized the same author also wrote urban fantasy under a different name, I decided it sounded like just the thing for fall. It didn’t hurt that the protagonist was an assassin half-breed. I have something of a weak spot for reluctant rogues. Also gleeful rogues. Really just rogues in general. And I have to say, Kit clawed her way to the top of my list within moments of meeting her.
Most days Kit Colbana can be found holding down the fort of her somewhat dilapidated private investigations agency on the rougher side of East Orlando. Half human, half aneira, Kit is descended from a mystical race of female warriors. Trained as an assassin, she was exiled from her home as a teenager for being too slow, too stupid, too human. Happy to be free of the chains that bound her, Kit blew from place to place until a ragtag group of rebel shifters took her in and gave her a reason to stay. Now she flies solo, running her own PI operation in the neutral zone between the human and non-human sectors of Orlando. Kit takes most jobs that come her way, but she works best alone. Which is why she finds herself in such a difficult position when the notoriously insane alpha of the local cat clan sends her top enforcer to present Kit with an offer she can’t refuse. Damon Lee prowls into her office on a cloud of arrogance and ill-concealed contempt. His alpha requests Kit’s assistance tracking down her missing nephew. The job pays well and promises to boost her rep. Unfortunately, the alpha insists she take Damon with her as a bodyguard. Just in case things go south. It takes all of Kit’s paltry restraint to swallow her objections and agree to the terms. Not only does she need that money, but she has a sinister vampire with serious anger management issues breathing down her neck. And so she takes the job. Because for all Damon Lee’s imposing presence and insufferable attitude, Kit consoles herself with the knowledge that she has a few tricks up her sleeve should push come to shove.
Kit had my allegiance from the word go. She’s scrappy as they come. And her aneira “family” were not kidding around with her training. The few flashbacks she allows through the cracks were more than enough to convince me she had earned the right to be as cagey as she liked. As a result, Damon barging into her life, manhandling her like one of his subordinate cats rubbed me just as wrong as it did Kit. And so as it became clearer that he was indeed cast in the role of love interest, I worried I wouldn’t be able to get past the violence and the ego. It was such a relief to have these fears prove unfounded. Because if I’m sure of anything in this cold, hard world, it’s that Kit and Damon are one hell of a match. What initially set my teeth on edge evolved into the most entertaining (and surprisingly touching) relationship I’ve had the pleasure of reading in quite some time. These two personalities are forces to be reckoned with. This is not to say that they’re indestructible. By definition of her partial heritage, Kit is more fragile than Damon (than most of the supernatural big bads she has to deal with on a daily basis, to tell the truth). But the skills she does have are honed to an unparalleled degree. I gleefully enjoyed watching her throw her pursuers off her tail with her mad sword fighting and hidden talents. There is little of peace or joy in Kit’s life. For as long as she can remember it’s been kill or be killed. She has a solitary witch friend here, a shifter who owes her a favor there. But by and large, no one looks out for Kit but Kit. Here and there, though, the darkness is leavened by a punch of light:
The intensity in the air faded and instead of two angry shifters hovering nearby, there was only one.
He looked at me and then jerked his head as he headed outside.
There was a car waiting.
Es had said it was on loan.
It was long, lean and black, a throwback from the days of those old muscle cars and it looked like it might have been made just for him. As he leaned back against it, he stared at me with fury dancing in his eyes. “You had to do it, didn’t you?”
“Yeah.” I thought it all through one more time. Then I nodded. There wasn’t anything I would have taken back or changed. “Yeah, pretty much.”
These moments of understated humor save the reader from succumbing to the horror of Kit’s past and grim reality of her present. As does the sizzling attraction between Kit and Damon. There is little to no smooth sailing between them, and they give each a few new scars to add to the old ones. But they’re both so compelling that I, for one, couldn’t look away. The writing itself is clear and fast-paced, though the copy-editing in my copy left something to be desired. Peopled with clever witches, nightmarish vampires, wild shifters, and one half-human girl who can handle herself, this ruthless world is one I cannot wait to return to. B+
I loved this book too and like you I was a little shocked that I loved it (what with the UF/Paranormal Kickass chick fatigue I was feeling when I read it.) I would warn you that the second book is really really really good as well, but oh so heartwrenching and awful and you might want a bottle of wine and a box of kleenex when you read it. I am very anxiously awaiting book three — in fact I broke my own rule and pre-ordered it months ago when I usually force myself to wait until about a month before publication to pre-order a book.
This first book was a great beginning to a series, though like pamelia I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy it as much as I did, and the second book really solidifies it into a must read series.
Me three. I just discovered JC Daniels and Kit several weeks ago while jonesing for a new paranormal series to feed my addiction. The two Kit Colbana books were offered at reduced prices in late summer, so I jumped on them and was glad of it. As mentioned above, the second of the series, Night Blade, packs heat. It takes readers into territory as challenging as JR Ward or Sherrilyn Kenyon. I tend to shy away from that level of intensity unless it sneaks up on me, and in this case I was glad of it. I love ’em all: Mercy Thompson, Kate Daniels, Kit Colbana, some of Nalini Singh’s heroines, Chloe Neil’s Merit, Moning’s MacKayla and Dani, each with unwavering determination in the face of impossible odds, they all deliver a fantastical catharsis that’s welcome to my world weary soul.
It’s going to be a tough wait until the January 6 release date of Kit’s next adventure. I dearly wish that I had another well-written series with a kick-butt heroine waiting for me in the wings. (Sigh)
This is only $1.99 on Kindle ATM…bought! Sounds great, loved your review, Angie!
I wasn’t as big a fan of this book. For me, it was a C. I think what it mainly came down to was that I didn’t think Kit was as smart or instinctual as everyone else seemed to think she was. I felt like there were some really glaringly obvious clues that it took her a while to put together, and then when she did Damon was like, “wow, you’re such a genius!” I wouldn’t have minded it taking her a while to put two & two together, if it weren’t for others (Damon especially) repeatedly saying what great instincts she had.
I appreciated that she had the self-awareness to acknowledge that she had some pretty big issues from her extremely difficult childhood. Sometimes she veered into TSTL territory for me, with self-destructive reactions to things; but I did give her more of a pass because those reactions seemed to be based on real emotional issues.
Very cool to see you posting here, Angie!
I’ve this book in that massive TBR pile of mine – will have to dig it out and give it another go. I’m pretty sure I started reading but then the Kit/Damon relationship rubbed me the wrong way – I obviously gave up too early.
I loved this book as well. Kit is such a scrappy fighter! I have the 2nd book in my tbr, I may have to bump it up!
@pamelia: You are so, so right about the second book! I finished it the other night (my review will go up tomorrow), and I was NOT OKAY when I was done.
@Amanda: I completely agree. Book 2 solidified my fangirl status.
@Mzcue: I love so many of those women, too. Which Singh heroines are your favorites? I’ve only read one.
@KMont: Harooya! Hope you enjoy it, Kenda.
Thanks for this review! I have been on the fence about this book so your review plus the $1.99 pricetag convinced me to get it. My fav UF heroines are also Kate and Mercy so this should be right up my alley.
Wait, what does “NOT OKAY” actually mean? Like not okay in a GOOD I-went thru-a-box-of-kleenex-and-it-was-worth-it WAY or is this going to be one of those series that kills off characters (hate you Karin Slaughter) or breaks-up relationships? Also, is there any hint of a love triangle, ’cause I’d rather chew glass than read another UF with a kick-ass female who just cant choose between the two hotties stalking her. Oh, and while I’m asking all the questions, are there cliffhanger endings? Wont start a series with cliffhangers until the series is actually finished. Thanks in advance for any answers.
@JJPP: I can definitely see how it wouldn’t fly for you if you weren’t sold on Kit. I agree, her emotional issues felt real and her reactions corresponded to them, even (perhaps particularly) when those reactions were less than wise. She avoided TSTL territory for me. I may have given her the benefit of the doubt because of her past and because I could see her trying to fight her demons and form friendships and somewhat permanent bonds with a few of the people in her life. As far as Damon and Co. referencing her great instincts, you have a point. It did feel as though they were basing their comments on a reputation she earned before the events of the book take place and we don’t get to see that. Have you read the second book? Curious if things improved for you at all.
@Li: *waves* Hi, Li! So I know some people were turned off by his pet names for her and I kind of went in thinking I might be, too. But I gotta say, he won me over. So help me.
@Pamela: Oh, Pamela. If you loved this one, bump the next one up STAT!
@Angie Re: Nalini Singh’s heroines…I don’t think that there’s a weak one in the bunch. I worked my way through the Psy/Changling series, where there are shape-shifters vs. Mr. Spock-like beings who have foresworn emotion, along with humans beings in the middle. As an ardent series fan, I just start at the first one and work on through to the most recent. One that I particularly enjoyed came about half way through the series, entitled Branded by Fire. Its heroine, another Mercy, is from the leopard pack, while the hero, Riley, is from the wolves. They’re both lieutenants in their respective groups, so there’s a lot of prickly fitting together, figuring out between them how their gender roles and martial lives can mesh. The Singh series that I started more recently is about Guild Hunters and Angels. I’m not a big fan of mixing religion into my paranormal fiction, but it turned out that there’s no religious context to these stories, so it worked out for me after all. The heroines are each capable, determined women, so I’d recommend starting at the beginning of that series, too.
On a side note, I’m finding that many of the characters in the paranormal vein, like Kit Colbana in the review above, are struggling to overcome unimaginably dreadful childhoods, and it occurs to me that eventually that’s going to get old.
You are posting at Dear Author now! How fun! Loved this review and since it is so cheap, of course I already went and bought it.
Kit’s in Orlando? As in Florida? As in where I live? How does the author deal with the setting? Does she go into detail, or is it generic? I’ve got this in my TBR, but if she gets all the local stuff wrong, it’ll irritate me to no end, no matter how good the story is.
@DeeAnn: Such a great price tag right now! That was part of what induced me to give it a go as well. If you love Mercy & Kate then we are friends already.
@CG: LOL. The latter. Definitely arms rigid holding the book too tight, can’t believe what is happening, not sure I’ll be able to sleep I’m so wound up over the whole mess. But SO worth it. A lot of pain, but I have faith. Also, no love triangle. That’s one of the things I love about the series. They’re a couple from the first book, and she explores the pitfalls and challenges that are par for the course when two such dominant personalities commit. More on this in my review of the second book tomorrow. The end of that one is not a cliffhanger. But it is a game changer. Also triggers. As I said, it’s a violent series. But it has so much heart.
@Mzcue: I believe it was the first Guild Hunters book I read and enjoyed. Branded by Fire sounds awesome, might have to pick that one up soon. Hard to resist a good Mercy. It does seem as though most have horrible childhoods. Or if not, they have their rosy illusions shattered well and good at some point not too far into the series. This may be part of why I’ve gotten pickier with my UF and found favorites fewer and further between. Kit’s story does have many of the familiar tropes, but somehow the gusto with which they were thrown together hit the right note for me.
@Michelle: I am! It is rather fun. I thought immediately of you when I got into this one. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did, Michelle.
@Sandra: The very same! So I’ve only been to Orlando once and can’t speak to it authoritatively, but I loved the setting. I thought it started out strong and am looking forward to returning in the coming books. But I would love to hear how it plays for a hometown girl.
I thought I had this on my kobo but can’t find it there – it is held by the local library with e book lending. I am 2 of 2 to put a hold on to be told when it is available.
@Angie: Thanks for your response. I’m going to give this one a shot and wait for your review on the second.
This was a three star read /(warning: spoilers) for me, I had problems with Damon’s behaviour. I bought the book because I previously had enjoyed the short story where Kit was introduced at tor.com
@Angie: I haven’t read the second one yet, but I do have it — I bought #1 and #2 at the same time. I do think I’ll read it, since the consensus here seems to be that it’s worth it! And I’m always looking for strong kick-ass heroines, so I’ll probably give Kit another shot.
HA! The pet name! I had forgotten about that, and it was actually another thing that kept taking me out of the story. Such a little thing, but every time Damon called her “Baby Girl,” it reminded me of Derek constantly calling Penelope that on Criminal Minds. Don’t get me wrong, Shemar Moore is a gorgeous visual for a hero. But it drives me crazy on Criminal Minds, and it drove me crazy here. :)
yay new urban fantasy/paranormals that I haven’t read yet! Angie I love most of the authors you listed so I’ll be sure to check out some that I haven’t heard of before.
I love the Kate Daniels series (up to the 2nd to the last book). So after this review I was intrigued enough to go check out other reviews at Amazon, particularly the 3stars and lower ones to see if they highlight stuff that would be a turn off for me. They did. The spoiler re the trunk scene between the H/H and other references mean there is no way I won’t look at Damon as an abusive partner and the relationship as one akin to many real life abusive relationships, even if the story makes them magically fall in love with each other later. I encounter real DV cases a lot in my job, and I can’t stomach reading a romance with such obvious elements even in the UF world. I also read Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series and there were some scenes involving violence between Raphael and Elena in the first book, but it was brief enough to make the point the author was trying to make about his character without going into the “this shows the guy is/will be an abusive partner” for me. Darn. I was hoping to find another UF/paranormal romance series to follow.
@Amy re: trunk scene. I don’t think that the incident you refer to can be accurately described as domestic violence. It was indeed violent—IIRC, the aggressive slamming against the car by a shifter pack’s enforcement chief of a contracted employee for noncooperation of some sort. Not acceptable employment practice, for sure, but the violence underlying the shifter pack is part of the story. I find myself balking at censure of the book for that. One of the characteristics of tough heroines in urban fiction is that they have decided to become and act as warriors. That seems fundamentally different to me than a heroine who shrugs off or excuses abuse within the context of a relationship. The two characters were in opposition, and as the story evolves, they come out on the same side. Not the same thing as domestic violence at all.
@Heather: Not too far down the line! Hope it comes in for you soon. I was thoroughly entertained.
@CG: Sounds like a plan to me!
@Estara Swanberg: I saw your review before I read it, Estara. Truthfully, I was not at all sure I could come back from the Damon scene you mention as well. But something about their relationship continued to fascinated me. I still feel as though they’re equals and I was very interested to see if it could sustain itself in believable ways. After finishing the second book, she basically throws down again with regards to their bond and I like that. I like that nothing is easy and they’re both so flawed but they keep trying anyway. I can’t wait to find out if the events of the 2nd book will be at all surmountable in the 3rd. I haven’t read the earl short yet! You’ve got me curious now.
@JJPP: FWIW, the second felt like a stronger book overall to me. Though, fair warning, the final bit emotionally winded me.
LOL. I hadn’t made that connection. I can see where it would be a problem. He really does use it a lot. And I had a great conversation on my blog a little while back about terms of endearment and how individual they are for each person and how grating some can be. Quite a few people said they do not respond well to babe or baby. That particular one doesn’t rub me the wrong way, so Damon and I continued to coexist. Let me know if you do pick it back up. I’d be interested to hear how you fared a second time.
@Tae: That’s exactly how I felt, Tae! New UF that WORKS for me. All the confetti!!
@Amy: Fair enough. I wouldn’t expect anyone to read on if it made them uncomfortable. Our relationships with the characters we encounter is so personal, and I love hearing individual responses. They make me a more sensitive reader, I hope. I read the first Guild Hunter book you reference and agree, Singh handled that fairly deftly. I’ve wondered if I should continue on with that series. I liked Elena quite a bit. Raphael irked me in parts.
Oh wow Angie, the list of favorite authors in your bio matches several of my top faves, namely Sharon Shinn, Megan Whelan Turner, Kristin Cashore, Patricia Briggs and Ilona Andrews. The rest I mostly haven’t read. Do you post reviews anywhere else? I’d love to follow them if you do.
@Janine: Hey, Janine! You have excellent taste. ;) As a matter of fact, I do review regularly over at my blog Angieville. So what’s your favorite Shinn?
@Angie: You’re really making me consider reading the second novel much more than before with your two reviews.
However I’m in not such a good emotional spot in rl at the moment, so I’m not going to have myself emotionally put through the wringer right now ^^ – it’s all comfort rereads just now (*cough* which currently means high intrigue with assassins in the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh, heh *cough*)
@Angie:I know Angieville but I didn’t realize that was you!
Favorite Shinn. Wow, so hard to choose! Probably the novella Blood from Quatrain, tied with Jovah’s Angel. But I also love Archangel and Dark Moon Defender, and could probably name more… I prefer her early stuff to her more recent work on the whole, and I wish she’d go back to the Blueskin/Gulden world since her last foray into it with Blood was wonderful.
@Estara Swanberg: *hugs* I’ve been there. No rush. Comfort read until you feel better. And tell me more about the Foreigner series. I’ve never read any Cherryh and have always wondered where to start.
@Janine: Lol. Yep.
Blood was so good. I enjoyed everything in Quatrain. And I adore Alleya and Caleb. I agree her older things are my favorite. Probably a tie between Archangel and Mystic & Rider for me. Those are two of my happy books.
@Janine @Angie – I love Blood! It’s so good. Also the Samaria series.
ETA It’s funny – I read a lot of early UF in the late 80s and 90s – Charles DeLint, Emma Bull, things ed by Terri Windling, etc – but I kind of skipped the last decade or more of UF.
I really enjoyed these two reviews but the books sound too intense for me right now.
@cleo: The Samaria books are ultimate comfort reads for me. I read Emma Bull back in the day, too! And a little DeLint. And then I came back to it with Mercy Thompson and we’ve been thick as thieves since.
@Angie: Hmm, about Cherryh and considering my reviews, I think I’ll direct you to someone much more articulate and having done a full reread of the series – Jo Walton at Tor.com
Here’s the first review of the first book
Here’s the whole reread series
For me… Foreigner is intrigue and anthropologist sf done right, with a clear focus on human interaction in an alien society. I adore the fact that the pov-person (for 10 books, in the recent ones he is joined by one more pov-character) is not a brash hero, but someone who has to finesse via persuasion and empathy and is a translator by training. He also tries his best to influence things WITHIN THE SOCIAL RULES – and Cherryh manages to make it deeply interesting still.
As a matter of fact if Bren Cameron had been made a woman, nothing would have changed in the outcome – the alien society depends on force of personality, I would dare to say, and that is independent of sex.
The overarching eminence grise of the books is a grandmother/greatgrandmother in her 70s/80s? Who has surrounded herself with a bevy of good looking, young, male assassins ^^ – Ilisidi FTW.
Because this is a chunk series we start out with some upheaval (and the first 100 pages – like in Lord of the Rings – of the first book don’t even touch the eventual main character – I think you might skim them or come back to them later to realise why the situation is as careful as it is between humans and atevi at the start) and Bren Cameron at the tipping point of the role he was trained for into something quite different – but over the various novels he really grows with his experience and roles with the punches (figuratively, he is no athlete – he’s got a support team for that and he knows when to let them do their thing).
Comparing that sort of personal and social development with what happens in the way of development in your Eve Dallas series, well, let’s say they probably span a similar time length (around three years?) but Cherryh allows people to change – the reason the series is a comfort reread for me is because in the early books Bren is a fish thrown into shark-infested waters and in the later books he has learned how to swim out of his depth WITHOUT becoming a shark himself AND being respected for it. He sort of turns into an eminence grise himself ^^