When Nadia’s family moves to Captive’s Sound, she instantly realizes there’s more to it than meets the eye. Descended from witches, Nadia senses a dark and powerful magic at work in her new town. Mateo has lived in Captive’s Sound his entire life, trying to dodge the local legend that his family is cursed – and that curse will cause him to believe he’s seeing the future … until it drives him mad. When the strange dreams Mateo has been having of rescuing a beautiful girl—Nadia—from a car accident come true, he knows he’s doomed.
Despite the forces pulling them apart, Nadia and Mateo must work together to break the chains of his family’s terrible curse, and to prevent a disaster that threatens the lives of everyone around them. Shimmering with magic and mystery, New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray’s new novel is sure to draw fans of the Hex Hall and Caster Chronicles series, and fans of the hit CW TV show The Secret Circle.
SPELLCASTER, by Claudia Gray, is a hard one for me to review. It’s one of those books that looked really great on paper, got good reviews from various sources I trust, and featured a dark New England town, witches, and angsty teens. With my recent YA obsession, I thought this was going to be a real winner. Blame it on high expectations but I came away with an overwhelming sense of, “meh” when I finished this one.
The strength of SPELLCASTER can really be found in its plot and its world of magic. Let’s start with plot. A young girl from Chicago, Nadia Caldani, moves to a small New England town, Captive’s Sound, with her father and her younger brother. Her mother basically abandoned them and Nadia is filled with hurt, bitterness and a fierce determination to take her mother’s place by protecting and caring for her father and brother. Nadia is also a witch and she immediately recognizes a darkness lurking underneath the small town exterior, a darkness that only seems to be growing stronger. Banding together with two unlikely friends, Mateo and Verlaine, Nadia decides to go to battle and use all her witchy strength to defeat evil and save Captive’s Sound. The plot moved at a good pace and there were several nice reveals that kept me turning the pages and reluctantly putting down the book at night.
However, by far the most original aspect of this story is its magic system. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen this before. Witches can only be women, educated and empowered through female relatives and coven sisters. This adds another bitter pill to Nadia’s abandonment by her mother – without her, Nadia has little hope of advancing in her witchcraft. Here’s the real gem – spells are cast through pure memory and emotion.
The sight of something wondrous, never before seen.
The breaking of a bond that should never have been broken.
Cold beyond desolation.
Loyalty beyond life.
In order to cast this spell, Nadia must call on memories that evoke these strong emotions and then feel them purely and deeply. Is that brilliant or what? This was such an original approach to magic that it made the paranormal aspects of SPELLCASTER feel very fresh.
Though well-written and plotted, the major weaknesses for me in SPELLCASTER were its main heroine and hero, Nadia and Mateo. They were so cardboard that it was hard for me to, well, frankly, care about them. Both are motherless, both dealing with adult size issues for such a young age, yet both lacked an evocative depth of emotion. Nadia shined when casting but other than that, I had a hard time connecting with her. It’s not a good sign when the side characters completely steal the show – Verlaine, the spunky, sharp, and funny friend; Liz, Mateo’s enigmatic best friend; and Asa, the demon, who is the major reason why I want to read the next book. All of these characters held my interest five times more than Nadia and Mateo. And the lukewarm romance between the two didn’t help.
I do want to give major props to Gray for giving us a diverse cast of characters. There’s color in this world and a non-traditional relationship with Verlaine’s two fathers. Though this was not a major part of the story, I appreciate Gray’s creation of a town that had a level of diversity not often found in many YA paranormal books.
With SPELLCASTER I vacillated between a two and three howl rating. I decided to give it three howls for two reasons – great magic and an ending that piqued my interest. A side character, Asa the demon, seems poised to play a bigger role and the mystery and conspiracy at the heart of the dark magic buried in Captive’s Sound hasn’t been fully understood, which does make me want to know what happens next. With these borderline reviews, the deciding factor is always, “would I read the next one?” The answer is, yes. But, honestly, I might borrow it from the library.
**A review copy of this novella was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.**
A lady with a penchant for pets meets a sexy fireman in this magical and saucy steampunk eNovella from the author of Wicked as They Come.
In a world ruled by blood, live pets are rare and kindness rarer still. London pet shop owner Frannie Pleasance has a mysterious way with animals and keeps her charges (and heart) locked in a veritable Eden. She thinks Casper Sterling is just another stray…until she takes in the troublesome lodger (and unwelcome suitor) and becomes the victim of a series of strange and dangerous occurrences.
When an unexplained fire threatens to destroy Frannie’s carefully guarded world, firefighter Thom Maccallan is there to extinguish the blaze and help gather the lost creatures. The heat between Frannie and Thom begins to burn,but someone’s still after the lady. Could it be Casper himself, or is Frannie’s new lodger just another victim of fate? Will they be able to figure out who’s pursuing Frannie—and stop them—before she loses everything?
This was another beautiful addition to Delilah S. Dawson’s wonderfully original Blud Series. In THE PECULIAR PETS OF MISS PLEASANCE, Dawson takes us out of Criminy Stain’s caravan and sets us in the London of the Blud world. Here we meet Frannie Pleasance, a pet shop owner, dealing with the loss of her family and trying dearly to protect a secret.
What I love about this series is the world. Every time I open one of Dawson’s Blud stories, it feels like sinking into a dream. The world is dark but whimsical, and through her characters there is always a tenderness and pure romanticism that is achingly beautiful. In this particular story, we see this through the budding relationship between Frannie and Thom Maccallan, a fireman that helps save her house and shop from burning down. He’s also Scottish and wears a kilt, which are always big plusses in my book. Their connection is immediate and he sees in Frannie someone who may need his protection and so begins the very sweet dance of two lonely hearts coming together.
In the background is Caspar, a side character in the first book in the series, who is also interested in Frannie. I was hoping that Dawson wouldn’t make this into a novella about a tired love triangle. What Dawson does is better and I love that Frannie knows her mind, doesn’t fall for the wrong guy, and is just so darned independent that it makes you smile and cheer for her.
Frannie’s desperate to protect a secret and when you find out what that secret is, it’s an enchanting moment, a bit of light in the murkiness that is Dawson’s London. In a way, I think you may have to read WICKED AS SHE WANTS, the first book in the series, to fully appreciate what Frannie is protecting only because in that book you get a better sense of the darkness that is the Blud world.
Someone is out to get Frannie and you’re not sure why. The novella is well-paced in uncovering the mystery of it, and opening up a new one, and the conclusion is definitely satisfying.
If you haven’t read this series, I really wish you would. I am honestly swept away by the whimsy and the darkness of this world every time I read one of its stories.
**A review copy of this novella was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.*
I recently finished reading LOVE IS DARKNESS by Caroline Hanson and really enjoyed the relationship between its heroine, the snarky Valerie Dearborn, and her dark and mysterious vampire…blackmailer? It’s sexy and dysfunctional and intriguing all at the same time. I jumped at the chance to ask Caroline some questions about the book and series as part of her Bewitching Book Tour.
Please welcome Caroline to the blog as she discusses the first book in her Valerie Dearborn series,
LOVE IS DARKNESS.
1. For those who haven’t yet read LOVE IS DARKNESS, can you tell us a bit about the story and the Valerie Dearborn series as a whole?
Id love to! My goal was for Valerie to be relatable. I had read a lot of urban fantasy where the heroines were always brave and willing to die and that didnt seem to bother them. To me that didnt make any sense because I wouldnt react that way. If a vampire threatened me Id be terrified and probably wet myself. I’d own stock in Depends if vamps were real.
Anyway, Val is a normal girl who is expected to join the family business of hunting vampires. She has no desire to do that and leaves for graduate school which pisses off her father and the guy she’s been in love with for years. That’s when Lucas shows up. He’s hot, afraid of the sun and emotionally unavailable.
He also blackmails her and tells her hell kill her family if she doesnt help him. She gets drawn into vampire politics and learns that she has a little bit of her own supernatural ability. Shes part empath which means that if a vampire drinks her blood hell feel emotions. Empaths scared the crap out of vampires and Lucas spent centuries killing them all. Hes drawn to her because he hasnt felt anything in a very long time and yet hes also enough of a realist to know that the best thing to do would be to kill her.
I wanted him to have a weakness because he is the King of all vamps and basically indestructible. She’s his weakness. There’s action, sex and swearing. It was the book I was waiting to read having exhausted all the vampire books.
2. Do you already know the arc of the series? How many books are planned or are you keeping it open?
Ugh. I had hoped I was done with the main series after completing the trilogy, but its no longer looking that way. There will be another book and from what little of it I have written, I think the fans are gonna be happy.
3. What was your inspiration for the world and what came first – the world or the characters?
The initial idea was Lucas as the vampire villain and he had Valerie and Jack in a dungeon. The story that emerged had absolutely nothing to do with that scenario, but that was the image I saw first.
4. I loved Lucas. Hot, cold, mysterious, dangerous and hard to trust in a very real way. What do you think are the ingredients for a strong vampire-hero-love interest and why does Lucas stand apart from the pack?
Thats a great question! I like my vampires Anne Rice style. Smart, ruthless, worldly, maybe even wise but amoral. Theyre not heroes or good. Whenever someone has to die so that they can live, that has ethical murkiness. I love that. They’re monsters but deep and tortured. I love exploring that.
5. Roanoke. This really intrigued me. How did you come to the idea of including the lost colony in your storyline and will it play a larger role in the next books?
Ive always been fascinated by the idea of the Lost Colony and it just made sense in my mind. It’s one of those weird things where my brain sorted it out and I was just kind of taken by surprise. Oh yes, we see more of Roanoke.
6. Who would be in your dream cast for the Valerie Dearborn TV series or feature film?
The tricky character for me is Valerie. For Marion I’d love Florence Welch. Lucas would be Nikolaj Coster-Waldau from Game of Thrones (Jamie Lannister) That’s all I got. The fans keep suggesting Chris Hemsworth. Obviously, I wouldn’t kick him off the casting couch if you know what I mean
7. LOVE IS DARKNESS is your first published full-length novel. How long did it take to write from conception to publication and what did it feel like to finally let your baby out into the world?
That book took me about a year. I wasnt working but my kids were in school and it became a full-time job. I gave up hobbies and anything else I could to work on it. When I finished Love is Darkness publishers were no longer buying vampire books. It sucked. So I self published it. Ive sold about a hundred thousand copies now, so its been a great experience.
8. How did a California girl find herself in London and what about the city made you want to set Valerie’s story in it?
This might be shallow but I loved English music and wanted to move there so I could dance and meet Englishmen. Valeries story is about figuring herself out and learning what’s important in life and to her. What, if anything, is actually worth dying for. I think I started to figure myself out when I was in London so it just made sense. I also love history and London has so much of it that it was a great setting.
9. What’s the last book you read that you would recommend to a friend?
Im a big fan of the cliffhanger. They make me miserable and angry but it also means that something super-exciting is happening. I just finished SE Pacat’s Captive Prince and was smiling when I read the last page. That was a hell of a cliffhanger.
10. I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones where every family has a motto – the Starks have “Winter is coming” and the Lannisters have “Hear me roar!” What is the Caroline Hanson motto?
I thought the Lannister’s was ‘Lannister’s always pay their debts.’ J I’m a huge GOT fan too! Can I steal ‘the night is dark and full of terrors?’ If I have to come up with my own it’d probably be something like, ‘Never out of the woods.’ Neither characters nor authors should ever be complacent, theres always something around the corner and the goal of every author has to be to put their soul on the page and just keep running.
Valerie Dearborn wants a cotton candy life, but it’s more like a puffer fish: pointy, unusual, and—if not prepared exactly right—deadly.
In London for graduate school, Val knows she’s finally free. Her father and ex-almost-boyfriend are back in California and she’s out of the Vampire hunting biz for good. Or is she?
She draws the attention of Lucas, a 1600 year old Vampire, and King to his kind. He’s also wicked hot. As golden as Lucifer, and just as tempting, he makes Valerie an offer she can’t refuse— help him find out if the Others (Empaths, Fey and Werewolves) still exist or he’ll stop protecting those she loves.
Lucas tells her that Empaths were a Vampire’s biggest weakness before going extinct hundreds of years ago. While the Fey or a Werewolf might kill a Vampire, an Empath could enslave them, seducing or harming with emotions at will. The one detail he leaves out? Valerie is an Empath.
And after 1600 years of an emotionless existence, Lucas wants Valerie like a recovering alcoholic wants a wine cooler.
Can she keep those she loves alive, stop Lucas from munching on her, survive a fanged revolution and still find a way to have that boring, normal life she’s always wanted? Probably not, but boy is she gonna try!
The Artist’s Den is a new feature here at SWR where I showcase something I’m obsessed about – fantasy art. Though I’m no expert, I truly appreciate the beauty, originality, and pure creativity of this genre of art.
This feature is inspired by my previous posts under the SHELF CANDY meme which was hosted by the wonderful Maria at A Night’s Dream of Books. I loved doing interviews with cover artists under that meme but found that I often wanted to feature the work of artists who had not done traditional covers but still did work related to fantasy and science fiction. I plan to feature an artist at least twice a month and, while I realize this is not always going to be book related, I do hope you enjoy these posts as much as I do.
Please note that all images are subject to copyright protection and are property of today’s featured artist – Julie Dillon.
To kick off this new feature, I’d like to welcome the Hugo nominated artist JULIE DILLON to the blog. Julie has done incredible work for the Tor.com online series of shorts and for science fiction magazines such as Apex. Recent projects include new covers for the reissue of the Darkness is Rising Sequence from Simon and Schuster and the 2014 Llewellyn Astrological Calendar. Her work is full of energy, vibrant color, and interesting compositions; Dillon’s compelling images always make me want to know the narrative that inspired them.
Please welcome Julie to the blog as she discusses her process and her influences. And stick around for the giveaway at the end of the interview!
1. When did you know you wanted to be an artist? Is there an experience that stands out as being a defining moment for you as an artist?
There wasn’t any one particular moment. I’ve always been drawing off and on for most of my life, but I had other interests as well, and it took me a lot time and a lot of soul searching to figure out what it was I wanted to do. For a while I thought I was going to be a computer science major, but that didn’t work out; I then tried technical theater, but that didn’t work either. Each time I kept coming back to art, because I could make a little side money doing private commissions for people. Eventually I decided I’d give art a real try, and I started training and working harder at it. But even after taking classes and eventually getting pro work, I still doubted myself and still wondered if I’d made the right choice. It’s hard to support yourself as a freelance artist, especially when starting out, and there were several times I almost gave up. Even after winning a few awards, I still have a lot of self doubt and have trouble calling myself an artist sometimes. I’m doing okay for the moment and starting to feel like I might have a chance at an okay career, but there definitely has not been any one defining moment that clarified things; just lots of hard work that hasn’t ended in complete failure (yet) X)
To purchase prints of Julie’s work, please check out her store here. And now for the giveaway…one 8×10 print of one of my favorites – Planetary Alignment.
Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below!
Welcome to the second edition of Pack Review hosted by
This is the second edition of the Pack Review, featuring WEB OF LIES by Jennifer Estep. Though one of our pack members couldn’t participate this time around, she’s here in spirit! Rather than divide the review into three portions, we’ve done it in two so please remember to stop by Braine @Talk Supe to see our final verdicts and what we selected as our favorite scenes and quotes from the book.
PLOT & CONFLICT
I just can’t get enough of this series! I mean I’ve only read two books so far but I’m loving the pace and the flow of the plot as a whole. I love how the Mab Monroe arc is steadily throbbing in the background, building up slowly, and I can’t wait until it becomes the main plot. That would be so interesting.
Back to the main plot. WEB OF LIES is carefully and cleverly plotted like its predecessor, Spider’s Web. Again, the story has a feel of continuance because of Mab and Gin’s personal story but at the same time, I also liked how WEB OF LIES flowed and tied up with Spider’s Web. Unlike other series where it sort of jumps, WEB OF LIES to me feels like an actual chapter sort of in Gin’s life as a whole. So Gin is now running the Pork Pit and enjoying her retirement sort of but she really can’t stay away from trouble plus, in a way, she also craves the excitement. I’m just a little bummed about the mystery behind her sister, Bria. There’s not a lot of clues given about her except for Gin’s hazy memories about the night her family got attacked. Other than that, it’s all up in the air.
Man! The conflict is so layered! Even if this was a 400-paged book, it feels shorter because something is always happening. No dull moments and I was simply flying through the pages. You have Mab, you have this dwarf, Tobias, and his beef against Warren T. Fox, Fletcher’s ex-BFF and his granddaughter Violet. Then there’s Donovan Caine and Gin and their insatiable attraction to each other. Then there’s Gin’s flashbacks, father and son, Jake and Jonah McAllister (Mab’s lawyer), who’s making trouble for Gin, attempted robbery and assassination at the Pork Pit and a new love interest. One needs a healthy heart to read through WEB OF LIES.
Lee, She-Wolf Reads:
The plot in WEB OF LIES is not what I expected. I had in mind something a bit more action packed but instead got something a bit more emotional. And I liked it. After the death of her handler, Gin decides to finally take the retirement Fletcher always wanted for her. But trouble seems to find Gin no matter where she goes. We have three plotlines here…the first is the main one, Gin takes a pro bono job to assassin a coal mining tycoon who is terrorizing Fletcher’s best friend, Warren Fox, and his granddaughter; the second is the overarching plot of the mystery of her family’s murder and the file of information Fletcher left her; and then there is the minor plotline that I think is setting the seeds for something in the future of an attempted robbery of the Pork Pit by Jake McAllister, Jonah McAllister’s (a.k.a. Mab Monroe’s consigliere/lawyer) son. Conflict abounds as Gin tries to do right by Fletcher’s friend, give Jake what’s coming to him, and figure out what to do about tracking down her family’s murderer.
The Warren Fox storyline is what really gave me an emotional punch. As Fletcher’s former best friend, Gin sees in him what she saw in Fletcher – family man, a curmudgeon, a “tough old coot.” She connects with him and decides immediately she will help him defend himself against someone trying to takeover his land. I liked that through Warren she is able to understand Fletcher at a deeper level and come to terms with what she thought was at first a betrayal, the withholding of information about her family. We see a softer side to Gin, someone more vulnerable, which in turn created a deeper heroine.
Braine, Talk Supe:
Aside from the ones we’ve already been introduced to, the new and secondary ones are just as vibrant. I love how despite Fletcher already dead, we still get to read about him, his past and how he’s still an active part in Gin’s life. I’m just a little sad about Donovan Caine’s farewell but I sort of liked how his character stayed true to himself so to speak and I appreciate JEstep keeping the detective’s integrity. Now Owen Grayson, this violet-eyed, metal elemental, piqued my interest. I might be wrong but I guess he’s going to be Gin’s new love interest and I’m actually excited how it’s all going to play out. I’m a sucker for arrogant, anti-heroes, and Owen Grayson seem to fit the bill.
Lee, She-Wolf Reads:
“Finn was probably just upset. He tends to be emotional in times of crisis.”
“And what do you do in times of crisis, Gin?” Grayson asked.
I stared at him. “I survive.”
Gin Blanco is, once again, a badass. But I think we see a side of her that we only got a hint of in the first book – her vulnerability. Nowhere is this more apparent than in her relationship with Donovan Caine. They have something, an attraction, but he’s so wrapped in guilt, right vs. wrong, that he can’t look past Gin’s former profession. Through his hot and cold game, we do see how vulnerable and lonely Gin is and how much she craves something meaningful in her life. I, personally, think he’s an a**hole. I was hoping that Estep wouldn’t try to make a tortured relationship with these two over the course of the series. Donovan is not that likeable. Instead, she gave him some delicious competition in the form of Owen Grayson, successful businessman with some magic ability of his own. He’s a great counterpart to Gin. Grayson is smart, uberconfident, and wholly without judgement.
Other characters make appearances – JoJo, Sophia, and Finn. All are back in full force, doing what they do, and showing once again why they’re all family. We also finally get a scene with Mab. She is one unsettling mofo. I cannot wait for the showdown that will eventually happen between her and Gin.
Please stop by and visit my fellow host, Braine of Talk Supe, to read our views on WORLD-BUILDING, and, of course, our FINAL VERDICTS!
with BRAINE, Talk Supe
Curiosity is definitely going to get me dead one of these days. Probably real soon.
I’m Gin Blanco.
You might know me as the Spider, the most feared assassin in the South. I’m retired now, but trouble still has a way of finding me. Like the other day when two punks tried to rob my popular barbecue joint, the Pork Pit. Then there was the barrage of gunfire on the restaurant. Only, for once, those kill shots weren’t aimed at me. They were meant for Violet Fox. Ever since I agreed to help Violet and her grandfather protect their property from an evil coalmining tycoon, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m really retired. So is Detective Donovan Caine. The only honest cop in Ashland is having a real hard time reconciling his attraction to me with his Boy Scout mentality. And I can barely keep my hands off his sexy body. What can I say? I’m a Stone elemental with a little Ice magic thrown in, but my heart isn’t made of solid rock. Luckily, Gin Blanco always gets her man . . . dead or alive.
**Source: Purchased Copy**
Fierce, powerful and nearly immortal, Susannah March is a guardian, a winged protector charged with keeping Biloxi and its citizens safe. For decades she’s resisted taking a partner, a healer who would complement her weaknesses. Then Jason Delacourt shows up.
Jason is everything Susannah isn’t: young, impulsive, and unconcerned with rules. Susannah expects him to flake out within a week, but when a nest of vampires threatens her control of the city, Jason proves he’s stronger than he seems. As she fights to take back her territory, Susannah can’t deny that the healer has his uses—in more ways than one. What started out as irritation turns to lust, and then to something stronger. Susannah is used to risking her life, but risking her heart may be more than she can bear, even with the fate of her city at stake.
**A review copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.**
ANCHORED was an unexpected treat of a novella. It’s a great take on the guardian angel mythology and it introduces us to a new world and heroine that left me wanting more.
Central to this story is the relationship between Susannah Marsh and Jason Delacourt. Susannah is a tough loner, strong and stubborn. She’s a guardian angel charged with protecting the citizens of Biloxi, Mississippi. Susannah likes to work alone but is forced to take on Jason as a partner. He’s a healer, someone who can heal with just a touch. And with a sketchy past of his own, he’s no angel. It’s this partnership that’s one of the more interesting aspects of this world created by Larrieu.
On one level, it’s an interesting worldbuilding element. Guardians are powerful but they need a healer to help them maintain their strength and energy as the city and its citizens can be draining on a guardian’s power. This is a new take on the angel mythology and it adds an interesting dynamic to Susannah and Jason’s budding relationship. Healers and guardians tend to have romantic relationships and it begs the question as to whether or not there is a magical element to their chemistry.
On a romantic level, the chemistry between Jason and Susannah is off the charts sexy. I loved the back and forth between the two and chuckled at Jason’s complete irreverence for Susannah. No intimidation at all. He ruffles her feathers, so to speak, and it’s fun to watch that happen.
My minor quibble with ANCHORED is that this relationship resolves a bit too quickly. I wish it had played out a little more, perhaps even resolving in the next book rather than at the end of the novella.
I know I’ve focused a lot on the relationship but the world itself is also interesting - angels anchored to cities, its citizens feeding the energy and strength of the guardians; vampires and, I assume, other supernatural creatures are kept in line by the guardians; the sultry Southern atmosphere of the setting – all these elements added up to a wonderful first introduction to a new world. There’s also some great action and a very cinematic scene where Susannah has to infiltrate a nest of vampires preying on humans in her city. My favorite image is of her sneaking into a hotel room, the heart of the nest, and a female victim who is tied and gagged, sees her. Susannah holds a finger up to her own lips to let the woman know to keep quiet and she then spreads her wings…there’s something eery about that image. The film version…definitely slo-mo, maybe John Woo directed?
It wasn’t until I had an impromptu Twitter conversation with the author that I learned that in the next book in the series, Susannah and Jason are side characters in a story that takes place in the same world. Color me intrigued. Though I think these two could definitely carry a full length, in fact, ANCHORED could have easily been a full length, I’m definitely curious to see who and what Larrieu has in store for us next.
If you’re interested in a new guardian angel mythology, an interesting world, and a sexy heroine and hero to sink your teeth into, pick up ANCHORED.
As you all know, I’m a big fan of Mary Robinette Kowal and her series, The Glamourist Histories. I love her captivating combination of fantasy and Regency England – a combination that a Jane Austen fan such as myself, who also happens to adore fantasy, can’t resist. I recently read the third book in the series, Without a Summer, and found it to be my favorite to date. Kowal doesn’t shy away from making her heroine, Jane, a flawed character, forcing her to face her own prejudices and biases. It makes for a compelling story – one in which characters are seen in a different light and new layers uncovered, thereby making the reader clamor for the next chapter in the story of Jane and Vincent. I’m excited to have Mary back on the blog (check out her 5 x 5 list of books that inspired her) so without further ado…
Please welcome Mary to the blog as she discusses her new book,
WITHOUT A SUMMER.
1. What inspired you to combine the world of Regency England with the world of fantasy?
I’m a long time fantasy reader. I had just finished reading a giant epic fantasy, and moved on to a reread of Persuasion. When I got to the proposal scene, I wept, as I always do, and also wondered how Jane Austen could move me so deeply when the fate of the world wasn’t at stake. I wanted that level of emotion and an intimate story, but with magic. So I decided to see if I could take fantasy and fit it into a Jane Austen plot mold.
2. What can fans of The Glamourist Histories series expect from Without a Summer?
You get to spend more time with Melody and learn a bit more about Vincent’s past. In fact, I’m hoping that people will reread Shades of Milk and Honey and spot some of the things that I planted there.
There are also Luddites, rioting, and of course Regency standards like visit to Almack’s Assembly, dinner parties, and pretty dresses.
3. Your series has been inspired by the works of Jane Austen, which of her novels is your favorite and why?
Persuasion is hands-down my favorite. It’s a novel about second chances and I think so often we look at life as if we only get one chance to get it right. In this case, Anne Elliot gets her second shot at love by being true to herself and standing firm on her principles. Also, it’s the only one of Austen’s novels where the actual proposal is on the page, and it’s a beauty.
4. There’s definitely a touch of Emma in the Jane we find in Without a Summer. She has her own prejudices that come to the surface and I loved that she was flawed but ultimately redeemed. What was your inspiration for exploring issues of prejudice, with regards to race, class and religion, and placing Jane in the center of it?
In fact, Emma very much inspired the storyline. When I first read that book, I was not a fan. I disliked Emma’s prejudices and the way she meddled. When I reread it, I loved the book because I understood that Miss Austen was using it to talk about class in really interesting ways. She makes oblique references to all the servants required to live as a young lady of quality by having Emma be oblivious to the presence. I wanted to bring those servants on stage.
Structurally, this mirrors the novel Emma in terms of relationships. This meant that Jane had to be Emma, and that meant showing the flaws. What I loved when I reread Emma was the moment when she realizes that she is not the paragon of virtue that she thought she was. We all have prejudices and the moment when we recognize those in ourselves – it rocks our worldview because everyone thinks of themselves as a good person. If I was going to explore prejudices, then that moment of self-recognition seemed like a really important one to experience.
5. The relationship between Jane and Vincent continues to grow from book to book and I love how real the marriage feels with both its ups and downs. They’ve gone through so much that has put their relationship to the test. Any chance the next book will find them relaxing on vacation, sipping Madeira?
Actually… yes. For about five paragraphs and then pirates attack. It’s in the first chapter, so I don’t think it counts as a spoiler.
6. Masterpiece Theatre or HBO calls and they want to adapt the series for television. Who would you want to cast as Jane and Vincent?
Laura Carmichael would make a brilliant Jane.
Vincent would probably be Michael Fassbender, but he’d need contacts to make his eyes brown.
7. What was the last book you read that you would recommend to a friend?
Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells is a YA Fantasy set in wonderful secondary world with strong steampunk elements. I adored this book and ate it in one sitting. Emilie is the sort of resourceful protagonist that you wish you had as a friend. She gets scared when it’s appropriate, then pulls herself together and does what needs doing anyway. This is a swashbuckling tale that would sit nicely alongside Jules Verne, but with all the boring bits cut out. It’s so refreshing to see characters making intelligent choices in difficult situations.
8. You’re both a professional puppeteer and a professional writer. Does one inspire or influence the other?
I spent twenty years in puppet theater, so it absolutely influences everything. In puppetry there’s an emphasis on specificity. Because a puppet generally has no facial expression, every movement it makes carries the meaning. When I write, I find myself using the same sort of vocabulary of movement. For instance, in puppetry we say, “Focus indicates thought.” In other words, what your puppet is looking at is what it is thinking about.
This is also true for characters on the page. The thing that I have a character notice is what she is thinking about. Added to that is the fact that in fiction I can only show my reader one thing at a time and must rely on them to build a picture based on that. So the order in which I show things also has an impact. I’m essentially manipulating the focus of the character and the reader simultaneously. So, as with puppetry, there’s little ability for facial expression and every movement, thought and action becomes important.
I’m not sure how writing affects the puppetry to be honest. Largely I suspect that it’s because there’s 20 years of puppetry experience, which rather outweighs the eight or so years of writing.
9. Tell us about your upcoming projects.
I’m working on a novella for Audible.com’s Metatropolis, which is a shared world SF anthology.
I’m also just got notes back from my editor for Valour and Vanity, which is book four in the Glamourist Histories. That one is set in 1817 in Venice. We’ve been describing it as “Jane Austen write Ocean’s Eleven,” so there’s a wee bit more swashbuckling. There’s a gondola chase.
10. I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones and the Song of Ice and Fire series in which every family has a motto – the Starks have “Winter is coming” and the Lannisters have “Hear me roar!” What is the Mary Robinette Kowal motto?
It’s for when things go terribly, terribly wrong and would not fit well on a shield but…. “Some day you’ll look back on this and laugh, so you may as well laugh now.”
Oh… and there’s a very small Game of Thrones easter egg in Without a Summer.
I adore this series. If you haven’t read it, please do. It’s honestly one of my favorite series and I highly recommend it. Besides, how can you resist these beautiful Larry Rostant covers?
Up-and-coming fantasist Mary Robinette Kowal enchanted fans with award-winning short stories and beloved novels featuring Regency pair Jane and Vincent Ellsworth. In Without a Summer the master glamourists return home, but in a world where magic is real, nothing—even the domestic sphere—is quite what it seems.
Jane and Vincent go to Long Parkmeade to spend time with Jane’s family, but quickly turn restless. The year is unseasonably cold. No one wants to be outside and Mr. Ellsworth is concerned by the harvest, since a bad one may imperil Melody’s dowry. And Melody has concerns of her own, given the inadequate selection of eligible bachelors. When Jane and Vincent receive a commission from a prominent family in London, they decide to take it, and take Melody with them. They hope the change of scenery will do her good and her marriage prospects—and mood—will be brighter in London.
Once there, talk is of nothing but the crop failures caused by the cold and increased unemployment of the coldmongers, which have provoked riots in several cities to the north. With each passing day, it’s more difficult to avoid getting embroiled in the intrigue, none of which really helps Melody’s chances for romance. It’s not long before Jane and Vincent realize that in addition to getting Melody to the church on time, they must take on one small task: solving a crisis of international proportions.
Some 5,000 years ago an ancient race of immortal beings brought humanity into existence by pulling them from their grass huts and caves and into a modernistic society along the Nile river valleys. For centuries, mankind flourished under the tutelage of these immortals until a group of men became conscious of the power their living gods possessed and plotted to eliminate them… the group, the Masons, nearly succeeded. Since the decimation of his people Warren Alexander has roamed throughout the world feeding on humans in order to conceal his true identity. As one of the few survivors of their ancient immortal race he now walks undetected amongst the humans while he hunts the members of the group of men that killed his family and virtually eliminated his people. When Warren meets the step-daughter of a direct descendant and participating member of these Masons he draws the girl close, in an effort to reach her step-father and access to the Mason organization. Not expecting to, Warren begins to fall in love with the girl as they race to avoid the FBI and the secret Masonic guard that has been trained to capture and eliminate the immortal threat. Now, Warren must not only fight to save his own life, but the life of the girl he has grown to love.
**A review copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.**
TIMELESS CONFLICT is an interesting blend of a Dan Brown-conspiracy like storyline with a heavy dose of the supernatural. Though I liked the originality of the shapeshifter race based on Egyptian mythology, there were elements of the book that kept me from connecting with the characters and the story in general.
The book’s strongest point really lies in its creepiness. I appreciate a paranormal story that’s not afraid to embrace the sheer evil or violence of its creatures. In TIMELESS CONFLICT, we’re introduced to a shapeshifter, based on the Anubis god of Egyptian mythology, who eats people. Loved that idea. Now, this same creature is also the lead romantic interest of a human character. I appreciated the inherent conflict of someone who eats people being in love with a human. I think with vampires you can sexy up the violence but creating a supernatural being who gorges on humans…well, it’s hard to make that sexy. The writer has to work even harder to “humanize” him in the eyes of the readers and it makes for a difficult to redeem main character.
While I appreciate the boldness of this choice, the rest of the book’s elements didn’t work for me. The main conflict centers around a race of shapeshifters who have spent centuries being hunted by the Masons. A young college student, Rachel, gets caught in the crossfire and her world is turned upside down as her relationship with Warren, a member of the Anubis clan, comes under the scrutiny of the Masons. These two must stay on the run in order to stay alive. By far the biggest problem for me was the instalove between Warren and Rachel. He ate (yes, ate) an acquaintance of hers and she saw him do it. But Rachel is a forgiving soul and is able to look past this and see the vulnerable person inside Warren. Yes, he has a tragic past; yes, he is full of understandable anger towards humans; yes, at one point, he saves her life. But he ate her friend. I can’t see how you look past that and then, several days later, proclaim your love for that very person, someone you barely know. I couldn’t suspend that disbelief. In fact, had that conflict been strung out over the course of the story, this push and pull of feelings for Warren, their relationship would have been far more interesting.
There were also some stylistic issues that bogged down the storyline. There’s a large cast of characters with constantly shifting POVs. These could often shift from paragraph to paragraph which could be confusing. This was particularly true for the first couple of chapters but I eventually got the hang of it. There was also quite a bit of detail in the first half of the book that slowed down what could have been an effective fast pace – for example, there was a lot of brand name details that didn’t add to painting a larger picture of the characters and there’s one scene in particular, several pages detailing Rachel leaving the hospital, that just wasn’t necessary. Editing some of that out would have sped up the pacing of the book quite nicely.
TIMELESS CONFLICT has some strong ideas and an interesting shapeshifter mythology. However, overall, I couldn’t connect with the story enough to give it a high recommendation.
With the end of Google Reader, I’ve started following some of my favorite blogs via the site BLOGLOVIN. Now, here’s a chance to follow my little blog via the same site. If you care to do so, please take a moment and click the link above so that we can be Bloglovin friends!
Alicia Wright Brewster’s new book ECHO just released on April 25th. Take a moment to read an excerpt from the book and then enter for a chance to win a copy! The world-building sounds original and complex. Can’t wait to read this one!
Muscles I’d never noticed before screamed at me as I slid into the transport next to Rey. The suns had set a few minutes earlier. Loken had dismissed us to spend the short darkness hours with our families.
Elis objected to not training all night. Ashara needs it, he’d said. But Loken insisted all of us needed sleep and time to unwind if we were to perform at our best.
I was really beginning to dislike Elis.
Rey flashed me his trademark lopsided grin. “So how was your first day as an Ethereal?”
I considered flinging an ether ball at his smug face. Sadly, I had no idea how to do that. So instead, I leaned back into the vehicle cushion. The leather sighed as it accepted my weight. “I’m the worst Ethereal ever.” The exhaustion that had chased me most of the day finally caught up. I let my eyes drift shut.
“But you are an Ethereal?” Excitement rang in his voice.
“That’s what they tell me.”
The smooth motion of the vehicle lulled me into something that resembled relaxation. It was hard to be completely at ease with my comm pressed against my waist. Its countdown clock ticked closer and closer to the end with each second that passed.
Rey shook me so hard I thought my brain would smash into my skull.
“What?” My eyes flew open and I shoved him away.
“Why aren’t you excited about this?”
“It’s not that I’m not excited.” I yawned and stretched my arms. The yawn went on longer than expected, and Rey stared at me with raised brows as he waited.
“Are you done?”
“Maybe. It’s just that I’m more tired than I am excited. Did you know you have to channel your own energy into elemental manipulations?”
He gave me a blank expression.
“Right, of course. You knew that. You’ve been a practitioner most of your life.” My gaze scanned up and down his body; his excited expression, the nervous drumming of his fingertips against the armrest. “How come you’re not exhausted?”
“You get used to it.”
The countdown clock reads ten days until the end of the world. The citizens are organized. Everyone’s been notified and assigned a duty. The problem is . . . no one knows for sure how it will end.
Energy-hungry Mages are the most likely culprit. They travel toward a single location from every corner of the continent. Fueled by the two suns, each Mage holds the power of an element: air, earth, fire, metal, water, or ether. They harness their powers to draw energy from the most readily available resource: humans.
Ashara has been assigned to the Ethereal task force, made up of human ether manipulators and directed by Loken, a young man with whom she has a complicated past. Loken and Ashara bond over a common goal: to stop the Mages from occupying their home and gaining more energy than they can contain. But soon, they begin to suspect that the future of the world may depend on Ashara’s death.