Month: March 2015

Patricia Briggs: Dead Heat (Alpha and Omega 4)

Patricia Briggs is one of those authors that I preorder, and if it’s a book she’s written I haven’t read I’ll buy it without any further thought. Not because her books are amazing literature, but they are among my favorites in popcorn reading, with interesting characters, a world, and well-paced plots.

That being said, of all her books I tend to like the Alpha and Omega stories the least, and while I haven’t quite identified why that is (since they share the world and to some extent characters from my favorite series of hers with Mercy Thompson), the pattern unfortunately still holds.

The setting is your typical urban fantasy, our world except with fae, werewolves, vampires and the like. The plot is that there’s a fae doing nasty things to children, and our protagonist couple has to save the day.

The pacing is weird, and while the book does wrap up this particular story, the whole affair felt unfinished. I am still not fond of the protagonists, and the longer story arch about werewolf babies does not resonate with me at all.

On the upside, since this world is shared with the Mercy Thompson series and takes place at the same time, it’s obvious that this ties in with some larger meta-plot regarding the fae, so it may be of moderate interest in that respect.

Two and a half out of five.

Posted by Toivo Voll

Rachel Aaron: Eli Monpress

Under another recommendation I just went through the first four books of The Legend of Eli Monpress.

The setting is a medieval-ish fantasy world with magic and (un)surprisingly modern and North American morals and customs, so pretty standard fare. The magic is interesting, in that everything is based on manipulating the spirits that inhabit things; you either con, force or negotiate them into doing things you want them to do.

The titular main character, Eli Monpress, is the greatest thief in the world, or at least he wants to be. He and his two sidekicks wander the lands, and while ostensibly stealing things for their own reasons, end up generally doing a lot more good than bad. Then there are their enemies, or in some cases frenemies, similarly motivated by their ideals, and of course a few caricatured villain or two bent on destruction. That being said, at least a few of the antagonists actually have pretty decent motivations, even if no characters are really all that deep.

The most significant drawbacks are the Marty Stu aspects, and how conveniently everyone always ends up in the same place at the same time, or has rather unlikely connections. They also introduce a number of metaphysical aspects that will become relevant later.

On the upside, the first three books which can be purchased as an omnibus edition, are actually quite passable pop-corn reading in the vein of a good high-energy caper tale. The effortless prose, clever events and interesting characters make up for the shortcomings, and I’ll give them a three and a half out of five. I found them more enjoyable than Nice Dragons Finish Last; Ms. Aaron does not do self-pitying characters well.

The fourth book, The Spirit War, takes the world and begins to go further into the level of gods and creation and total war. While I appreciate the unique and interesting way the world is set up, and the many questions that are raised about how it came to be what it is, it just did not flow nearly as well as the previous three books. Where they made me stay up a bit too late, and insisted I carry them with me to dinner, this become at times almost a bit of a chore. The plot was just not as interesting, despite being a lot more significant, and when very powerful beings begin to use their powers in the context of war, it just always seems like the people getting killed, maimed and destruction is just a backdrop, and that does not sit well with me. The book ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger, although the primary threat to the world will get resolved in the end. I’m not sure whether I’ll pick up the next book. Two out of five.

Posted by Toivo Voll