Fair Game by Patricia Briggs

Fair Game is the 3rd novel in the Alpha & Omega series by Patricia Briggs. I suggest you start with Cry Wolf

Summary: They say opposites attract, and for werewolves Anna and Charles, this is certainly true. Charles, the pack enforcer, is a dominant alpha – whereas Anna has the power to calm others of her kind. Now that werewolves have dared to reveal themselves to humans, it’s their job to keep the pack in line. The pressure mounts when the FBI requires Charles’ assistance. He’s sent on a mission to Boston with Anna, and they quickly realise that a serial killer is targeting werewolves. And that they’re next on the killer’s list.

My Thoughts: I can always count on Briggs to deliver a fairly satisfying story. What I really enjoy about her progression through her various series (including the Mercy Thompson books) is her ability to continuously evolve her main characters while at the same time bringing in new faces and new kinds of adventures as well as enemies. I think that’s a pretty hard thing to do, especially when you have a series that’s grown to over 5 novels. In this case, anyway, Fair Game is the 3rd in the series begun by Cry Wolf and continued in Hunting Ground.

The growth of character is most obvious in Anna, the protagonist of Fair Game–she’s progressed from a shy, timid, abused young woman to someone stronger and more assertive. I’m glad we got to see more of that in Fair Game. She and Charles have settled into a more comfortable routine for awhile now, but things are starting to slide into the deep end when Charles’ unofficial job as enforcer of his father’s laws begins to wear on him in some scary and deeply depressing ways. That they’re sent on a trip to the East coast to help out the FBI with a serial killer case is almost a blessing, a distraction from everything else that’s been going on.

And there’s a lot going on because the world now knows the truth of what Anna and Charles and their friends are: not human. The so-called “coming out” of the werewolf community to the rest of the world is handled interestingly and fairly realistically, I think, by Briggs. There’s politicking, panic, curiosity, and the whole atmosphere felt a bit like a tension before the explosion–maybe this will be explored more in future books?

The only major criticism I’d have against Briggs is something that I see in a lot of her writing, and is not specific to Fair Game. She will often do a lot of exposition in her novels, where there’s a lot of dialogue between her characters that’s meant to explain some new supernatural concept or relationship to the reader, but it’s done in a fairly heavy-handed way that does not sound natural. It sounds a bit forced at times, but it doesn’t detract from the excitement of the plot.

A good addition to a great series.

Author Website: http://hurog.com/
How did I get this novel?: Ebook!

Immortal City by Scott Speer

Summary: Jackson Godspeed is the hottest young Angel in a city filled with them. He’s days away from becoming a full Guardian, and people around the world are already competing for the chance to be watched over by him. Everyone’s obsessed with the Angels and the lucky people they protect – everyone except for Madison Montgomery.

Maddy’s the one girl in Angel City who doesn’t breathlessly follow the Angels on TV and gossip blogs. When she meets Jackson, she doesn’t recognize him. But Jackson is instantly captivated by her, and against all odds the two fall in love.

Maddy is swiftly caught up in Jackson’s scene, a world of glamour, paparazzi – and murder. A serial killer is on the loose, leaving dead Angels’ wings for the police to find on the Walk of Fame. Even the Guardians are powerless to protect themselves in the face of this threat … and this time it’s up to Maddy to save Jackson.

My Thoughts: Very interesting premise. There’s been an influx of “angel”-related YA fiction in the market recently, kind of tagging along on the supernatural coattails of vampires and werewolves and fae and etc. I’ve tried a few and just been kind of disgusted with the writing quality of some of them. Speer’s novel, however, captivated me from the very beginning with an incredibly intriguing and, might I say it, incredibly “American” (and by “American” I mean extremely capitalist!) set-up for his type of angels.

In Speer’s world, Angel City (aka our own Los Angeles) is populated by Angels who will “protect” you, aka save your life were you ever to be in some catastrophic incident like a car accident, plane crash, natural disaster, for an extremely exorbitant fee. As a result, the only people able to be “protected” are the extremely rich. As well, an entire culture and way of life has grown up around the Angels. They are celebrities, fixtures on red carpet events, and there are reality TV shows that center around normal humans competing against each other in different kinds of tasks (think Survivor) in order to get the chance to be “protected” by an Angel for the rest of their life. Angels are rich and beautiful, the world’s elite–there are tabloids and gossip magazines dedicated to them.

So here we have Jackson, the most famous and hottest and most perfect Angel of all. He lives this glamorous lifestyle, and we learn that he’s kind of “different,” and that he is tired of all the obsession and the craziness and fake illusions that come with his life. This is a premise I’ve read a thousand times–famous celebrity is tired of being a celebrity and having an awesome life, and then oh wow, he meets a perfectly normal, not-special girl (who actually turns out to be kind of special) who sees him for who he truly is.

And I expected to be rolling my eyes by this point. Except that when Speer switches over to Maddy’s narration and point-of-view, I only got more interested. I loved Maddy as a main character. She was down-to-earth and real, and I liked experiencing all the things about the Immortal City from her viewpoint. The romance between her and Jackson wasn’t rushed–it had hiccups and misunderstandings that were realistic and believable.

The evil enemy they have to face together was also a great twist, one I definitely didn’t see coming. Overall, Immortal City was a very enjoyable young adult fiction. I was intrigued and continually surprised by Speer’s plotting, and I definitely enjoyed the last 100 pages when things started getting really exciting. I hope there will be a sequel.

Sidenote: I think it’s fun that the author, Speer, is the boyfriend of Ashley Tisdale (of Disney fame) and his main career is a music video director! He’s directed for some big names. And I found this out after I finished reading, when I googled for more information about the book. I guess he actually knows what “celebrity” really is.

How did I get this novel? I received this as an ARC from the publisher, Razorbill. I haven’t seen very much publicity online for Immortal City, which is strange. There’s not even an official website or even publisher section for it yet, which is odd because on the ARC it details this whole marketing campaign they’re doing for the book release… which is only 4 months away. The website on the book cover, immortalcityseries.com, isn’t even up yet. The author doesn’t have a website for his writing, but he does have twitter, and myspace, and facebook. Also, I can’t even find any other book blog that has reviewed this yet! How strange. I feel like this is something the YA/fantasy world should be all over by now.

Genres: Young adult fiction, science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, romance

Giveaway: I’ll be giving this book away soon! Stay tuned.

The Chart of Fantasy Art: Urban Fantasy

I’m not the biggest fan of Urban/Paranormal fantasy, save for a few great exceptions, mostly due to the deluge of completely incompetent writers in the genre who repeat the same old tired cliches and plots over and over again. 98% of these books feature the same kind of cover, featuring a “sexy, tough heroine” on a dark background, looking mysterious, sexy and tough, often with some kind of werewolf, vampire, or weapon in hand. All of these women have the exact same “ideal” body type, almost all wear some kind of skin tight leather clothing, and have faces that are considered beautiful by usual media standards–as well, all of them are light skinned. But that’s really something for a separate post.

Yeah, yeah, I know, don’t judge a book by its cover, but when I see a cover like that I automatically pass it over and assume it is badly written. Just carbon copies of the same old, same old. It’s kind of depressing what the Urban/Paranormal Fantasy market has become, especially when it used to be the domain of authors like Emma Bull and Annette Curtis Klause; quality writing.

From Orbit Books this week (I find it fairly humorous and interesting):

Here’s another comprehensive chart of cover trends (I assume Orbit is only looking at their own published novels) in pdf form. Also informative.

Midnight Predator by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Midnight Predator by Amelia Atwater-RhodesRating: 7 out of 10
Summary 1: Though she was once a happy teenager with a wonderful family and a full life, Turquoise Draka is now a hunter, committed to no higher purpose than making money and staying alive. In a deadly world of vampires, shape-shifters, and powerful mercenaries, she’ll track any prey if the price is right. Her current assignment: to assassinate Jeshikah, one of the cruelest vampires in history. Her employer: an unknown contact who wants the job done fast. Her major obstacle: she’ll have to mask her strength and enter Midnight, a fabled Vampire realm, as a human slave. Vulnerable and defenseless, she faces her greatest challenge ever. 

Summary 2: An up-and-coming star mercenary in a world of shadowy creatures and naive humans, Turquoise has been offered the task of eliminating a bloodthirsty vampiress named Jeshickah. As a bounty hunter, Turquoise is ready to accept any challenge for the right price, especially when Ravyn — her competition for the leadership of an important Bruja guild — is given the same offer. To accomplish the job, Turquoise and Ravyn must do something unheard of: enter Midnight, a treacherous domain where vampires rule over human slaves, and act as servants until one of them can finish the job. When the two are sold into Midnight, Turquoise is given to the realm’s protective master, Jaguar. But while Turquoise moves closer to him and looks for the right time to complete her assignment, she unexpectedly comes face-to-face with a horrific part of her past — Lord Daryl, an evil vampire who killed her family and was once her master. Now, as Turquoise faces the dark creatures before her, she must deal with the ghosts in her own mind and make a decision that could change her life.

Commentary: It sucks that when you become older and re-read a novel you loved as a younger child, you find so many more flaws and mistakes and it distracts from the magic that made you like that book so much when you were little.

That’s what happened with Midnight Predator when I re-read it yesterday, but I was kind of expecting that. I wasn’t as pulled in by Atwater-Rhodes’ writing this time around (in fact, I was distracted by her purple prose and awkward writing in several spots) but it was still a good read. There’s a lot of new contemporary and urban fantasy out there right now that follows this basic plotline, but what usually turns me off from urban/vampire fantasy is the “kick-ass, snarky, sarcastic, sexy, smart, and clever!” heroine type that is so popular right now–I’m not saying that’s a totally bad thing, but it seems like very single urban/vampire fantasy novel out there has that female protagonist personality, and often it’s not done very well.

What I do like about Predator is that Turquoise is nothing like that–she’s much more grounded, real, and she doesn’t piss me off or annoy me like the aforementioned character stereotype does. I really like her as a heroine. Atwater-Rhodes also focuses less on the steamy, hot, passionate sex scenes (which actually aren’t so steamy, hot, or passionate) that a lot of recent urban/vampire fantasy features, and I like the way she dealt with the attraction between Jaguar and Turquoise. Kind of there but not there, more intriguing.

I thought it had quite a mature ending and I liked where Turquoise ended up.

Anyway, good read. I haven’t liked her recent stuff as much (Wolfcry) and I’ve stopped reading her except for the old stuff.