Book Review: Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

8573642Title: Incarnate (Newsoul #1)
Author: Jodi Meadows
Genre: Dystopian, Utopian, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: January 31st 2012
Rating: 3,5 stars
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley.

NEWSOUL
Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.NOSOUL
Even Ana’s own mother thinks she’s a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she’ll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are suspicious and afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?HEART
Sam believes Ana’s new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana’s enemies—human and creature alike—let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else’s life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?Jodi Meadows expertly weaves soul-deep romance, fantasy, and danger into an extraordinary tale of new life.

I have trouble making up my mind about this book. On the one hand, I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline and thought it was highly original. And with highly original, I mean probably the most original book I’ve read all year. Sure, considering the year has only just begun, but I’m sceptic about any other book released this year surpassing this one when it comes to originality. Don’t believe me? Let me introduce you to the world of Ana.

In Ana’s world, souls are reincarnated, but they keep the memories of previous lives in their new lives. As such, the current one million minus one souls on the planet have all known each other for over fivethousand years. Everyone is familiar with each other, everyone knows how to read from the start of their new life, they know how to do housechores, how to garden, etc. On top of that, mosto f them are excellent in at least one profession as well, something they have perfected over the years. People die of course, but whenever a child is born then, it holds the soul of the deceased, ready for another reincarnation round. That is, until Ana came around. You see, Ana is a newsoul, or a nosoul as her mother occassionally names her in a hateful fit. She has never been born before, nor has she been reincarnated. And the soul who was supposed to be born on the day Ana came to this world? Gone. Lost forever.

Ana is forced to grow up with her mother, Li, caring less than nothing about her. In fact, Li’s hate for her daughter is so predominant that on the day of the latter’s departure to the big city of Heart, in hopes of finding an answer to all her troubles and to who she really is, Li sabotages Ana’s compass. Ana naturally gets lost – unlike the other souls, she doesn’t know these lands – and runs right into a sylph trap. Sylphs are vicious creatures who burn you, and an encounter with them is almost always lethal. In a desparate attempt to escape from the sylph, she jumps into a river filled with ice-cold water. Ana is convinced this is the end for her, but then somebody manages to pull her out of the river. Meet Sam. From point one we know that he’s going to be Ana’s love interest for the rest of the story. And although his name implies that he might be a boring, ordinary, laid-back fellow (sorry to everyone out there called Sam, but when I hear that name, it just reminds me of the stereotypical boy-next-door. Not exactly ideal for a character in a book in this genre.), he proves to be at least somewhat entertaining. While Ana recovers from her injuries, manages to save Sam’s life a little later, and gets over her fear of being not-worthy enough to walk on this very earth, Sam and Ana grow closer together. When it’s time to leave for Heart, Sam decides he will show Ana the way.

But once they arrive in Heart, Ana is less than welcomed. She is put under strict surveillance, and it’s obvious that not everybody likes her. Some people openly detest her. Ana must struggle to find out more about who she is and why she’s here while she must also try to find her way in this new city, surrounded with strangers, allies and foes alike.

Well, that’s the best I can do for summarizing this story. And till that point in the story, I must admit that I was thoroughly enjoying Incarnate. I loved the idea of souls incarnating with all their memories intact, and the history of the world and the city of Heart itself was intriguing as well. Dragons and sylphs roaming the place occassionally added an odd, but delightful mix of fantasy and dystopian/utopian to this novel. However, from the moment Ana arrives in Heart, the entire story goes downhill. It’s so peculiar for the author to suddenly throw everything she built up so carefully behind, and focus solely on a romance story, that I could hardly believe this was the same book. I mean, you have every potential in the entire world to make the best story ever out of the material Jodi Meadows presented her readers with, a story epic enough that movie makers would beg her for the film rights. We have a girl who’s entirely new in a world where everyone’s been aroudn for five thousand freaking years. Instead of diving into the library searching for clues for her existence, and hopefully enlightening us with some more interesting history details of this strange world, or looking for reasons behind things that Ana finds undeniably odd, like the Temple suddenly having a door nobody noticed in the last millennia, Ana is too busy doing other stuff. Other stuff like learning how to play the piano. Learning how to dance. Going to Masquerade Balls. And most importantly…falling in love.

It’s like at some point the author decided “Let’s throw everything I’ve built up out! I want something new, something fresh, something…romantic.” And then the book went entirely downhill. The majority of the second part doesn’t focus on any substantial life questions, as it should (for instance, how is it that people keep their memories from the previous times they’ve reincarnated? How does society work, do they always choose the same person to be the leader?, and I have like a million more questions I won’t bother you with now), but it focuses on the blossoming love between Ana and Sam. It’s not that they’re not a cute couple. I mean, I sort of like Sam – he has mood swings, he’s afraid of dragons, he plays music, he’s kind-hearted and generous, so he’s not exactly your stereotypical love interest – but I simply don’t understand why Ana, instead of looking for answers she has been craving for her entire life, is happy just doing things with Sam. Sure, the author could’ve squeezed some romance in if she had to, but this book didn’t really need it. It’s strong enough on its own. Additionally, focusing more on the romance than the storyline was a bad move. Thank god there isn’t any mention of a love triangle yet, or I probably would’ve stopped reading alltogether, no matter how much I liked the initial premise.

As the second part focuses mostly on Sam and Ana, there are no major discoveries to be made. Their love is sweet, romantic and all about the “I don’t want to admit I have feelings” part. Generally I would understand this, Sam being a five thousand year old man with all the memories of those lifetimes, not to mention the many times he was reincarnated as a woman, and Ana being barely eighteen years old. Then there’s also the question, if Sam falls in love with Ana and she dies, will she return or not? I mean, if she returned, all would be merry and happy, but if she doesn’t, he would be seriously heartbroken. But nah, these aren’t the kind of things our main characters worry about though. The only thing they’re really concerned about is the other person returning their feelings. Ah, children. (Except that Sam is bloody five thousand years old, and not a little kid anymore!)

The ending is a bit disorienting. A lot of things happen at once, big secrets are revealed and all of the sudden we have answers to just about half the questions that have been burning in the back of my mind since page one. It’s a bit of an anticlimax really. Also, I thought some parts in the final chapters weren’t really clear, and I had to reread a lot of sentences to actually get who was where at the time and what exactly was happening to them. It would probably make a nice ending if this was a movie, but for a book, I would have liked the answers to come at a slower pace, and not all in the final chapters. The big answer left me going: “whaaaaaaaaat….” and I was, needless to say, very dissapointed. I saw that one coming from page one, but dismissed the idea because it would be just too cliché. At least I’ve learned another valuable life lesson: nothing is too cliché. Additionally, it felt like some plot elements didn’t add up in the ending sequence. The writing, which was enjoyable so far, was erratic and all over the place. It’s like the author wanted everything to happen at once, but that just doesn’t work in literature.

Also, and I forgot to mention this before, when they arrive in Heart, Sam sneaks out a couple of times. Although Ana says she will confront him about this, no explanation is given whatsoever throughout the entire novel as to why he left the house in the dead of night, and plot-wise, it doesn’t seem of much value as well. It’s like Jodi Meadows forgot this alltogether by the time she got to the end. Or, maybe she will use it in her second novel. But I’m afraid that’s wishful thinking on my part.

As you probably gathered by now, Incarnate is a mix of genres as well. Science fiction, dystopian, utopian, romance and fantasy with dragons and sylphs. This will probably not work for everyone, but I have to admit that I liked it. I thought it was brave to mix fantasy with a dystopian setting. I have to applaud the author for her bravery, and I must say that, in my opinion, the mix worked very well.

As you can see, I have a lot of trouble classifying this book. I liked the premise and the world-building, and if I’m being honest, I thought the main character was enjoyable as well. I certainly did like her and felt for her, especially in the beginning. Sam is decent for a love interest, but he didn’t really catch my interest. I’m not sure if he’s the kind of guy you want to take home and show your parents. His personality is fine – glad it’s not a bad boy type for once – but it’s the reincarnation fact that might be a bother. In this dystopian/utopian world however, he is definitely one of the good guys. However, action, mystery and suspense are lacking greatly in this novel, especially in the second part, where romance is the main focus. The ending is all over the place and confusing. But in the end, the story isn’t necessarily bad. It could have been much more, but eventually it is what it is, and what it is, is entertaining and enjoyable. If you’re not a big fan of romance, I would say, skip this one. But if the world-building and premise has intrigued you enough, I would say, go for it. If you’re a fan of dystopian/utopian, you should at least give Incarnate a try.

This book counts towards the Debut Author Challenge 2012, TBR Reading Challenge 2012 and The Dystopia 2012 Challenge.

Book Review: Pride’s Run by Cat Kalen

510iRoQ8o9LTitle: Pride’s Run
Author: Cat Kalen
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Young Adult, Werewolves
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: November 1st 2011
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Author Website
Review copy provided by Bewitching Book Tours.

Seventeen year old Pride is a tracker—a werewolf with a hunger for blood. Taught to trick and to lure, she is the perfect killing machine.
Kept leashed in the cellar by a master who is as ruthless as he is powerful, Pride dreams of freedom, of living a normal life, but escape from the compound is near impossible and disobedience comes with a price.
When she learns her master intends to breed her she knows she has to run.
Pride soon learns if she is to survive in the wild, she must trust in the boy who promises her freedom, the same boy she was sent to hunt.
With life and death hanging in the balance the two find themselves on the run from the Paranormal Task Force—officers who shoot first and ask questions later—as well as her master’s handlers.
Can Pride flee the man who has held her captive since birth and find sanctuary in the arms of a boy who has captured her heart? Or will her master find her first?

I’m usually not a big fan of werewolf stories, although I have to admit I enjoyed the Clair de Lune series as well. But werewolves just don’t give me the same vibe as vampires, fallen angels or even witches do. All alpha werewolves are the stereotype of a dominating, rough and forceful leader, and on top of that, I just don’t get the appeal of people being able to shift into wolves. I mean, it might be nice and all, but if I had to choose, I would say fangs top over werewolf shapeshifting any day. Wings do too, by the way. But it seems like Pride’s Run touched a soft spot deep within me. It casts off most of the stereotypes easily, and instead it installs its own werewolf lore, diverse and entertaining characters, and a background story so sad and disturbing I couldn’t help but like it.

Pride is a caged werewolf, locked up in the mansion of her master along with about a dozen other werewolves. They are treated badly, malnourished, beaten and kept in line by microchips and collars. Food is scarce, and whatever food they do receive, they are forbidden to share with their fellow wolves, although that is one of the rules Pride occassionally disregards. Her master is a cruel and vicious man who only cares about power and money. He even killed Pride’s mother when she tried to escape to find a better home for her child. But what makes Pride decide that enough is enough, is the fact that on the next full moon, she will be forced to mate with Stone, an alpha werewolf who obviously detests her. The master wants her to have puppies, because he’s convinced motherhood will dissolve all her thoughts of running away. Pride, however, isn’t about to let it get that far.

As luck has it, on her next assignment – she is forced to work as a mercenary for her master – she meets another alpha werewolf called Logan in a bar. Although Pride instantly feels attracted towards the hot alpha werewolf, she doesn’t trust him at all. He’s also the target she’s supposed to kill. But as they are both being attacked, Logan and Pride team up to make their way out of the bar and into the woods. Logan gets rid of Pride’s microchip and together, they run off. Although Logan acts nothing but cvilized towards Pride, and threats her more like a girl than like a wolf, she can’t bring herself to trust him just yet. Because now, after she’s escaped the clutches of her evil master, her survival is at stake. She’s certain the master will do everything in his power to track her down, and to kill her if needed.

I liked Pride. She’s an intriguing main character. As she often states herself, she acts and fights with her intelligence and her head, not with her heart, like many other wolves do. She has learned throughout life – and what a hard life it has been so far – to trust only on herself, to rely on her intelligence alone and to suppress any rebellious thoughts. Her only concern is her survival, and the survival of her fellow wolves. The fact that Pride doesn’t trust anyone, and that she’s genuinely surprised by the kind and considerate way Logan threats her works in her advantage, as it made me feel sorry for her even more. Although she’s technically a werewolf, the emotions and troubles she goes through can be compared to those of a regular human girl whose been held captive practically all her life. They have trust-issues and trouble believing anyone would threat them like a real human being. Pride’s personality is definitely complex, but that’s part of what makes her so fascinating, and what kept me to turn page by page of this book.

Logan, Pride’s potential love interest, well he’s definitely an alpha wolf with a heart. Instead of the regular dominating and forceful alpha wolves we usually meet when we read books about shapeshifters, Logan is actually a caring, loving and kind young man. He wants Pride to trust him, and the last thing he will ever do is take advantage of her. I liked how he could both take the lead and let Pride believe that she was the one in charge at the same time. I also loved how he told Pride he wants them to be equals. He really gets some additional points for that.

The other love interest – yes, love triangle going on here – is less straight-forward, and for some perhaps unexpected, although I personally saw it coming from say, chapter two. Stone, the alpha wolf who was held hostage by the same master as Pride, is madly and utterly in love with her. The fact that he pretends to hate her, is basically just a show. His plan was to help Pride escape the day of their supposed ‘mating’. I have to admit, that out of both potential love interests, I’m definitely on Team Stone here. Logan is nice and all, but Stone was willing to risk his life for her. On top of that, Logan has only known her for what, three days or something? Meanwhile, Stone has been there her entire life. He watched her grow up, they were playmates when they were younger, and it seems only logical that at some point in time he fell for her.

The story itself was amusing and thrilling. As Logan and Pride try to escape through the woods, the master sends his troops after them, and of course, his most skilled tracker now that Pride is out of that picture. Take a wild guess who said tracker is. Yes, Stone. As he’s forced to hunt down Pride, he must decide how far he’s really willing to go for love. Pride on the other hand, has to come to terms with the fact that yet another person might get hurt simply because he loves her.

I’m really impressed by this debut novel by Cat Kalen. I loved the characters and their relationship. Plus, for once, there’s a love triangle in a book that I don’t think is inappropriate, stupid or boring, so that’s definitely saying something. Pride makes for a wonderful and intriguing main character, and both her potential love interests, although different, each have their own set of unique, fascinating qualities. The storyline itself was fast-paced and well-developed. I can’t wait to read what happens next, in Pride Unleashed, which is coming in February 2012. Can I have a review copy, pleaaaaaaaase?

I recommend Pride’s Run to everyone who loves reading about werewolves or young adult paranormal romance. Even if you’re not exactly a fan of shifters, you should definitely give this book a try. Cat Kalen’s writing style is surprisingly persuasive, and her characters are highly addictive. My only request? I want some Pride/Stone love scenes!

This book counts towards the Speculative Romance Challenge, Go Indie Challenge and The Immortal Reading Challenge, category werewolves/shifters.

About the Author

Cat Kalen is a multi published author in the romance genre under two pen names, Cat is a wife, mom, sister, daughter, and friend. She loves dogs, sunny weather, anything chocolate (she never says no to a brownie) pizza and watermelon. She has two teenagers who keep her busy with their never ending activities, and a husband who is convinced he can turn her into a mixed martial arts fan. Cat can never find balance in her life, is always trying to find time to go to the gym, can never keep up with emails, Facebook or Twitter and tries to write page-turning books that her readers will love.

A maritime native and former financial officer, Cat has lived all over Canada but has finally settled down in her childhood hometown with her family.

Cat Kalen | Facebook | Twitter

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Book Review: The Wedding Gift by Kathleen McKenna

12995185Title: The Wedding Gift
Author: Kathleen McKenna
Genre: Paranormal Mystery, Supernatural Thriller, Horror, Romance, Adult
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Publication Date: October 3rd 2011
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Author Website
Review copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley.

17 year old Leeann Worthier is the perfect girl in town – or so she says.
George Willets is the heir to a booming petroleum business.
When they announce their engagement, George’s controlling mother is unimpressed and Leeann absolutely refuses to live with her mother-in-law. So George gives his new wife a house as a wedding gift.
Thirty years before, the same house had hosted a grisly scene: George’s uncle and cousins had all been slaughtered, his aunt Robina accused of both murder and suicide.
The house is a gorgeous, well-maintained mansion but has stood empty since the tragedy. It’s intimidating, but who is Leeann to turn down a free house? When the ghost of Robina begins to haunt Leeann, she realizes she’s made a huge mistake…

The Wedding Gift wasn’t what I expected at all. For starters, I thought that this book was going to be a horror story based primarily on the ghost of Robina Willets as she haunts Leeann and George as they live in what Robina still considers her own home. I was convinced that Leeann would slowly discover more about Robina’s past and find out why exactly Robina killed her entire family thirty years ago and why her spirit still lingers on. I was expecting a horror story that would make shivers run down my spine, and a page-turner thriller that kept me breathless. Unfortunately, this book doesn’t contain a scary story that will make you look underneath your bed and search for the boogeyman, or terrify you to death when you notice your closet door is still open in the midst of night. In fact, I didn’t think The Wedding Gift was scary at all, which is particularly strange since it does deal with ghosts – my number one scary thing that goes bumping in the night.

The main character of this book is called Leeann and she’s supposed to be your typical southern Oklahoma girl and she talks exactly like a hillbilly. Talking like a hillbilly or whatever it’s called is one of my personal pet peeves in books. I would have liked The Wedding Gift a lot more if Leeann spoke like any other regular American girl, and not with an accent appropriate for people living a century ago. Moreover, Leeann is not a likeable character. She is extremely vein and continues to indicate her beauty to everyone who wants to her. Supposedly she’s the most beautiful girl in town. And poor George Willets, her husband-to-be falls in love with her based on looks alone, the perfect ingredient for yet another disastrous marriage in the making. Moreover, she has the brains of a mouse. No, scratch that. I’m pretty sure a mouse has more intelligence than Leeann has. The only thing she’s clever about is finding out that a ghost is haunting her new home, and what to do about the ghost. Apart from that, she spends most of the book being clueless about just about everything. She has no morals whatsoever and goes as far as to drink and do drugs while being pregnant. And sex without a condom? Of course Leeann isn’t bothered by that at all, because George makes up some lame-ass excuse no self-respecting young woman would ever believe. No, in terms of morality, Leeann definitely is no expert.

George Willets on the other hand, Leeann’s love interest, well he certainly got more respect for me than Leeann did. I actually liked him better. Sure, he’s not better than Leeann as in the fact that he allows her to use drugs or get drunk, but at least he steps up and does the right thing when he finds out she’s pregnant. Additionally, it’s quite clear to the reader that although Leeann certainly doesn’t love George the way she should when they get married, George does love her. Perhaps it’s not perfect, but at least he’s willing to commit to his marriage fully. Leeann threats George like crap even though he carries her on both hands. She even goes so far as to cheat on him with her childhood crush. Well Leeann perhaps it’s a bit late to think about your supposed true love when you’re newly wed to another man, and with newly wed I mean you’ve been together for two weeks.

I always thought that if the main character of a story had as many flaws as Leeann – to be honest, I can’t say one good thing about that girl except that she’s funny when she’s completely clueless, plus I have absolutely zero respect for her – I would never be able to like that book. The Wedding Gift proved me different. Although the narrative, told with a southern accent that is more than just annoying, is odd and annoying at first, it gets better as the story unfolds and you get used to it. At its core, The Wedding Gift offers quite a mesmerizing story, filled with intrigue and excitement. Not horror though, but still quite the enjoyable paranormal mystery. I couldn’t help but continue reading until the very end, so it must have been doing something right. Unfortunately though not enough to score highly on my rating chard, but I was impressed anyway.

As I already mentioned, I liked George Willets. Oddly enough, I liked the house as well. As the story progressed I began seeing the house more and more as a character on its own. I wouldn’t have minded getting a mansion as a wedding gift, even if it’s haunted. Moving on to the haunting…The haunting is, to put it frankly, over-the-top. The ghost of Robina is not your ordinary poltergeist or vengeful spirit. She is far more powerful than you could ever imagine – even so powerful that she would put the ghosts of Paranormal Activity to shame. She can kill people. Yes, she can actually kill people by stabbing them, clawing at them or throwing them out of trees. Actually she was the one who killed Leeann’s older brother Charlie, in what the police deemed a freak accident. Like that’s not enough, Robina can contact Leeann even when she’s not at the haunted house, she can pull Leeann’s soul out of her body when she sleeps, etc. That’s kind of the problem with this story. It starts out grand, with the right amount of tension and terror, but it turns ridiculous from that point on. I had to keep reading to solve the mystery and because I did enjoy the story, but the terror element dissapears completely as the ghost’s powers are presented as totally and utterly ridiculous. Robina’s ghost can do virtually everything. I’m more of a fan of a subtile ghost story, where things go missing, eerie noises can be heard in the middle of the night, doors open and close on their own, and eventually a phantom appears stalking the house’s owners. A ghost who just wants to rip your throat out right away? Hilarious, but not scary.

To its credit, the story is enjoyable and has enough twists and turns to keep me reading. But Leeann isn’t a likeable character at all, and her morals are questionable at best. The supportive cast is nothing special as well. Leeann’s father is a drunk who couldn’t cope with the death of his son Charlie, her best friend at least has an ounce of brain cells – she would actually make a way more interesting main character than Leeann – and Leeann’s crush is just as stupid as she is. The only character I really liked is George, and I felt terribly sorry for him. I don’t want to spoil this book for you, but at some point something happens to George and although it’s tragic, it’s also quite hilarious, because it doesn’t make any sense and gives our resident ghost superpowers.

The Wedding Gift isn’t a terrible read, but it’s not a wonderful book either. The writing, although annoying at first, was compelling as well, and the story was intriguing enough to make me read it in one setting. Although the main character is vain, stupid and lacking any morality whatsoever, I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing. At least it’s original, and an author needs to have a lot of nerve to present their readers with a main character with such a terrible personality, so I have to congratulate Kathleen McKenna for that. The story wasn’t necessarily scary to me, but it does make a good supernatural thriller and it offers some original elements. People who aren’t that experienced with the horror genre might even get scared while reading this book. In short, if you’re a fan of paranormal mysteries, you will probably enjoy this book. It’s definitely not the worst out there, but I would have enjoyed it more if the tension had built up slower and if the ghost didn’t have obvious superpowers. Overall a good read, but nothing extraordinary.

This book counts towards the Horror and Urban Fantasy Challenge, the TBR Reading Challenge and the Mystery and Suspense Challenge.

Book Review: Everneath by Brodi Ashton

9413044Title: Everneath
Author: Brodi Ashton
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Young Adult
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: January 24th 2012
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon | Author Website
Review copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley.

Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she’s returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld… this time forever.
She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can’t find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.
Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there’s a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he’ll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.
As Nikki’s time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she’s forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole’s..

Everneath is the debut novel by author Brodi Ashton, and what a debut it is. In this book you will find originality, intriguing characters with complex and sometimes addictive personalities, a love story so tragic it makes Romeo and Julia look like a hilarious comedy and a story and mythology so compelling that they pull you in from the very start. Brodi Ashton did some impressive worldbuilding before starting this book, and although original in its concept, it relies heavily on the myths of Hades and Persephone and Orpheus and Euridyce. But the author mixes these elements of Greek Mythology with new and refreshing ideas and the outcome is an entirily new world next to our own called the Everneath, where the immortals called Everlivings have to go once every hundred years to feed. And guess what they feed on? Well, humans. That’s to say, human emotions at least. Now if that concept isn’t thrilling enough to pick up this book, then I don’t know what is. Although impressive, the worldbuilding isn’t too complicated, and you don’t have to study numerous terms to discover what everything means. It’s all pretty straightforward, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting.

The story starts of with the heroine of this book, Nikki Beckett, waking up from a century-long sleep in the Everneath, still partially attached to Cole, one of the Everlivings. Miraculously enough, Nikki hasn’t age in this entire time, which equals six months on earth. Normally the Forfeits age significantly, turning to old hags by the time they return from the Everneath. They also loose all of their memories, the happy ones and the painful ones. But when Nikki wakes up, the memory of a brown-haired boy is glued inside her mind. Since she didn’t age, Nikki gets to choose, and instead of death or the life of an Everliving, she chooses to Return to earth. Unfortunately this Return is on one condition: she only has six months before the Shades come and get her. That doesn’t mean she will die. No, her fate when the Shades get her will be much worse than death. It will include an eternity in nothingness. But Nikki is willing to take that risk as long as she gets to see that brown-haired boy one last time.

As she returns to Earth, her memories return as well. Turns out that brown-haired boy is her ex-boyfriend Jack, whom she loved deeply. Now let me say that the “Missing Adult” syndrom is heavily present in this book, since everyone, including Nikki’s father accepts her reasons for dissapearing for six months with ease. No significant search parties. No long police reports about where she was at, no scoulding for ever dissapearing. Putting that aside, Nikki goes back to school as if nothing happened. But things did happen. She is estranged from her class mates, her former best friend and of course, from Jack. But she’s determined to stay on earth and to at least say goodbye to every one, something she couldn’t do the last time. As we see Nikki struggling to get her old life back and to apologize to her old friends, we are occassionally shown how her life was prior to everything that happened and that brought her to the Everneath. Turns out that she and Jack had a sweet albeit short-lived relationship, complete with little moments that make you go ‘aaaah how cute’. Nikki’s life was far from perfect, but she was happy. It makes the reader wonder how and when that happiness got smatched into smithereens, causing her to leave everything behind and leave for the Everneath. Let me just say that it’s not as cliché and stupid as a relationship gone wrong; at least that’s not all there is to it. But as to what else, you’ll have to find out for yourself. This dual perspective, of the narrator Nikki before the Everneath – an ordinary, hopeful, cheerful young girl who already had her fair share of trouble in life but is willing to cope with it – and then Nikki afterwards, an empty shell of her former self, a zombie-like girl who lets life just wash over her in a sense, but is on the other hand also fighting desperately to keep hold of her own life before the Tunnels come to devour her.

Nikki is a very dual-sided character, which makes her interesting and a lot more intriguing than ordinary YA heroines. She isn’t some kick-ass warrior-type fighter, or some extraordinary powerful witch or goddess or whatever. No, in fact, she’s quite the opposite. Nikki Beckett is ordinary. She’s about as ordinary as they come. And even though she got tricked into going to the Everneath, there she’s nothing but food to feed on for the Everlivings. But what does Nikki do that makes her more than ordinary? It’s not some secret power she inherited through generations, or some ancient magic that lives up inside of her. It’s love. Love makes her hold on. Love makes her hope. A love so powerful that she, unlike everyone else in the Everneath, does not let go of her memories. She cherishes them instead, she leans and supports on them, and they pull her through in the very end. Nikki Beckett has a special power for sure. She loves. And when she does, she does so wholeheartedly, with her entire being. And it’s that unconditional, powerful love that gave her the strength to survive the Everneath and to make the decision to Return to the Surface, even though only for six months. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Nikki Beckett’s only superpower. I found it so amazing and refreshing to read about a heroine who is both completely powerless and completely powerful at the same time. Nikki has no extraordinary abilities like magic or anything of the kind, not like most YA heroines who suddenly discover that they’re excellent witches or talented vampire slayers. But Nikki isn’t one to sit around and be powerless either. She takes control of her own life, and she basically gives Hell, the Everneath, the Everlivings and all the rest of the world the middle finger. She will certainly die within six months, but she isn’t about to be bullied into choosing the easy path by anyone, no matter how hard they try.

Nikki Beckett is one of those people who fight blindly for love and who do so with their very being. That’s the only thing that makes her extraordinary, but it’s more than enough. It makes her unique. It makes her a lovable and enjoyable character, a person of whom we all wish we could be more like her. Additionally, there is a giant gap between the Nikki-before and the Nikki-after, and it’s interesting to see the changes the Everneath has had on her. As she regains more and more of her humanity and actual human emotions seem to slip through, we also find out more about her journey. She returns from the zombie-like state she was in first, with as only wish to say a proper goodbye, to a girl willing to fight for her own destiny and her own life. She sheds of the feeling of defeat and “I can’t do anything about it anyway” and instead she gets off her butt and goes and tries to do something about it. I have to admit she might have never gotten to that poin if it weren’t for Jack and the fact that he’s the sweetest boyfriend in the world, but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that she isn’t willing to give up nor is she willing to back down. Without superpowers. That, my dear readers, makes her a true kick-ass heroine.

Jack, the male protagonist on the other hand, well he reminded me pretty much of Xander from the Buffy The Vampire Slayer series. Jack is a jock though, quarterback of the football to be precise, but he’s a soft cookie when it comes to real love. He was supposedly the town’s lady killer before he fell head over heels in love with Nikki, but I have trouble believing that. He seems way too soft-hearted and kind for that behavior. I liked Jack I suppose, but he wasn’t my favorite guy in the love triangle, that’s for sure. And yes, that’s another cliché in this book. There’s a love triangle. Mind you, Nikki doesn’t exactly express her feelings for the second member of this alleged love triangle, but if you ask me, it’s pretty obvious.

Meet Cole, the Everliving who brought Nikki along to the Everneath, boy number two in the love triangle. He is by far my favorite bad boy character in the last two or three years. He is wicked and downright evil at times, but sometimes we see an entire other side of him. You can’t just add this character to the ‘good’ or ‘evil’ categories, because he balances inbetween. His feelings for Nikki obviously show, but on the other hand he was the one who dragged her into the Everneath and nearly killed her. And his feelings might just have to do with him needing her to overthrow the current queen of the Everlivings as well. But even though so, I had the idea that his feelings for her were genuine. Confused yes, because it’s generally accepted that Everlivings can’t fall in love, but real nevertheless. The love triangle in Everneath doesn’t make me cringe, like I do in most other love triangles. Some are well-executed and add all the more tension, but some are just lame. Definitely not the case here. But I’m all Team Cole. Sorry for that Jack. I like you as well you know, but it’s that bad boy vibe really.

The plot is well-structured and the characters are so complex and three-dimensional that they make this novel really intriguing. Brodi Ashton throws most of the highschool stereotypes overboard and instead of stereotypes she provides us with real, honest people. Awesome job in that department. On the downside though, the ending is one large cliché mess I saw coming from hundred pages prior. It also ends with a major cliffhanger. Cliffhangers do two things to me: for starters, they make me all the more eager to read the second book in the series, but also…they make me extremely agitated and nervous. I want to know what happens. Like right now. Please? Pretty please?

Everneath is definitily one of the better YA novels of the last couple of years. Fans of the paranormal romance genre and mythology will certainly be pleased with this one. The worldbuilding is impressive and refreshing, the characters are well-developed and intriguing and the plot is unbelievably tidy, with no loose strings except the cliffhanger at the end. The flashbacks don’t slow the story down, and if anything, they offer more insight in the characters. As a bonus, this book offers a believable love-triangle with two boys who each have their assets, and the classic love-conquers-all theme. There are some clichés, but you can easily overlook and forgive them. Recommended to all fans of the paranormal romance genre. You will not be dissapointed.

This book counts towards the Debut Author Challenge, the Speculative Romance Challenge and YA Mythology Challenge.

Book Review: Death In The Traveling City by Nathalie Mallet

51N5frnb1MLTitle: Death in the Traveling City (Prince Amir Series #3)
Author: Nathalie Mallet
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery and Suspense, Romance
Publisher: Createspace
Publication Date: July 6th 2011
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Author Website
Review copy provided by the author.

Amir is glad to have followed his friends, Khuan and Lilloh, to the Anchin’s traveling city. The long trip might not have totally healed his heart, Eva’s decision to marry Lars still hurts, but thanks to Khuan’s teaching, in particular how to build mental barriers against the supernatural world, Amir’s mind is now at ease. Once they arrive at the traveling city, Amir is shocked by the amount of magic being used all around him. He hates magic and has tried to suppress his own magical powers from the moment they’ve arose. But after being viciously attacked by a murderous demon, Amir realizes that only by using magic will he defeat it. Amir must make a life-changing decision, either he accepts his gift and uses it or denies it and suffers the consequences.

I previously reviewed the two previous books in the Prince Amir Series, The Princes of the Golden Cage and The King’s Daughters.

So far, I loved the Prince Amir Series, and the moment I read the back blurb of Death In The Traveling City, and I realized what was actually meant with the traveling city – as in, an actual, traveling city – my love for the series tripled. If that was even possible. I mean, so far, author Nathalie Mallet has presented me with treacherous brothers of the royal blood trapped in a cage until their father, the sultan dies, their lives at risk on a daily basis. She also presented me with the kingdom of Sorvinka, a place where old magic still lives, the Baba Yaga roams freely and princesses can simply dissapear. She showed me double-crossing nobles, evil schemes, magic, mystery, death and originality that totally blew me away. I hadn’t expected her to go above and beyond that, especially in the originality department, with this third book in the series. I had never expected to be presented with a thing as strange, unusual and utterly fascinating as a traveling city.

The first thing you have to understand is that this city actually travels. Its inhabitants descend from nomadic people, and the tendency to travel all through their empire, the empire of Anchin to be more precise, has remained in these people’s blood. They can’t function well without traveling. Additionally, this is a good way for the emperor to see his entire empire occassionally, and to communicate with his people from all the corners of this extremely large country. But the concept of a traveilng city is unique, and complex. How does one deal with moving all the time? For instance, if the houses were made completely out of stone, or even wood, moving such buildings would be next to impossible, especially since the time period we are stuck in here seems to be the middle ages, meaning no fancy machinery. Instead the author found solutions for these valuable problems, inserting ‘paper’ walls for example. Although I think I’ve heard of the concept of a traveling city before – perhaps a legend in one or other religion? or in history? I can’t recall it, definitely not in a fictional novel though – this is the first time I’ve actually seen it executed. And I have to say that it works well. Extremely well, actually. Not only is it beyond fascinating, it’s also strangely fitting for the people living in Anchin, to have a capital that moves.

I can’t stress how extremely surprised I am that every time, Nathalie Mallet comes up with another interesting idea to work around. First we have a golden cage at the court of a Sultan, where princes live as prisoners, and death lies around every corner. Then we have Baba Yaga witchcraft, and now we have a traveling city. I can barely wait for what she has waiting for us in the next Prince Amir book. Anyway, we’re not there yet. By the start of Death In The Traveling City, Amir has figured out more about who, or perhaps what, he really is. He is a shal-galt, which means that he can sense magic and demons. On top of that, he’s more like a rogue shal-galt, since he wasn’t officially trained, although Khuan – the foreign emissary we met in The King’s Daughters- has started giving him some basic training on their journey to the Traveling City. Other familiar faces present are of course, faithful servant Milo, and the other emissary, the peculiar and fascinating woman Lilloh.

Since Amir doesn’t meet any other woman in the first half of this book, it was fairly easy for me to figure out that Lilloh would be the next potential love interest for our beloved main character. Although Lilloh offers a lot more personality than Princess Eva, love interest number one, I’m not sure if I like her that much. She is a complicated person, with a lot of mood swings and more secrets than imaginable. Although she threats Amir initially as if he’s foolish, stupid and cowardly, the reader soon realizes that her demeanor is simply a way for her to hide her true feelings. I’m not sure if I would like to see Lilloh and Amir spending the rest of their lives together, but as for now, they make an interesting pair. I can’t wait to see how their relationship evolves.

Once again, Amir has to adapt to changing circumstances. Back in his home country, Telfar, he was constantly threatened by his fellow brothers, but at his core, he remained a pampered prince. When he traveled to Sorvinka later on, he was forced to rely on himself and his servant Milo only to solve the mystery at hand and remain alive. For a man as paranoid and distrusting as Amir, that’s an entire accomplishment. But now, in the even stranger country of Anchin, who has Amir really to rely on? The two emissaries he hardly ever sees and has only known for a brief period of time? The Traveling City seems to be even more filled with traps than the entire kingdom of Sorvinka. On top of that, the threat waiting for him in this city, is the most dangerous threat he has faced so far. People are dying gruesome and unexplicable deaths. Whoever – or whatever – is behind it has his claws deep into the very foundation of the traveling city, and takes advantages of the obvious differences between the various races inhabiting the city. All Amir knows is that his enemy is powerful and influential, and that stopping the murders on the people of Anchin, might come at the cause of Amir’s own life…

I liked the storyline of Death In The Traveling City. The author’s writing becomes more and more solid and profound as the series progresses. But I have to admit that, taken in mind story progress, background information and setting, I enjoyed The King’s Daughters more than this current installment. Don’t get me wrong, this book was an intriguing page turner from beginning to end, but I just like the style and setting of the previous one more. I’m convinced this is a completely personal choice though – and I’m sure a lot of people owuld prefer this book above the previous ones. The mystery at hand here is, once again, a murder mystery, but it works quite well. By now I’m used to danger following Amir everywhere he goes, and that he’s usually right in the middle of it, even when he doesn’t quite realize it yet. Plus, I’m not tired of the mix of fantasy and mystery yet, and I don’t expect to be anytime soon.

The supportive cast in this book is nothing short but impressive, and remarkably larger than in the previous books. We have master Cha’tas, proverbial ruler of the underworld of Anchin, and his entire gang of evil menaces who are perhaps not as evil as first expected, Uncle Sho, and Mokoi, who turns out to be more than seen at first glance. All of these characters portray uniqueness and originality. Whereas Uncle Sho is the epitome of what you want every uncle to be like – kind, wise, generous – and Cha’tas is the evil mastermind with a certain grandfatherly charm to him, I considered Mokoi to be perhaps the most interesting side character of all. It’s obvious from the start that he has an entire story to tell. His obvious animosity towards Amir, his despise for rogue shal-galts,…There’s more to this man than meets the eye, and I was eager to find out what.

Nathalie Mallet doesn’t cease to amaze me by adding intriguing and fascinating concepts to her stories, altering them to fit into a fantasy setting and throwing her main character, Prince Amir, right in the middle of them. Surprisingly enough, this works every time. Even though I know from the start that I’m going to get a mystery and suspense story, I can’t wait to dive into the middle of it and find out what happens next. Prince Amir is an amusing character, and I enjoy seeing his personality change throughout every novel. The supportive cast in this book is extremely impressive, and the setting is undoubtably fascinating. The writing style, once again, is sublime and pulled me right into the book from page one. I read this book in one sitting. I recommend Death In The Traveling City – and the entire series for that matter – to all fans of the fantasy genre and the mystery and suspense genre. I personally can’t wait for the next book in this amazing series!

This book counts towards the Mystery and Suspense Challenge, TBR Reading Challenge and the Epic Fantasy Challenge.

Book Review: The King’s Daughters by Nathalie Mallet

2204426Title: The King’s Daughters (The Prince Amir Series #2)
Author: Nathalie Mallet
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery and Suspense, Romance
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Publication Date: July 18th 2008
Rating: 4,5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Author Website
Review copy provided by the author.

Far to the north of the hot desert land of Telfar lies the frozen kingdom of Sorvinka. Prince Amir has traveled there, leaving his sultanate in the hands of his half-brother Erik as he seeks to ask the king, the father of the beautiful Princess Eva, for her hand in marriage. But Sorvinka has grown dangerous during Princess Eva’s absence, as she and Amir discover to their terror, when their force of guards and eunuchs is cut down by ruthless brigands. And upon their arrival, their welcome to Eva’s family stronghold is as bitterly cold as the land itself. Accustomed to the golden cage of his upbringing, Prince Amir must navigate his way through the strange and cold-blooded customs of the Sorvinkans, and somehow find the truth behind the kidnapping of the king’s youngest daughter, the Princess Aurora, by the Sorvinkan’s traditional enemies, the neighboring Farrellians. But what can a stranger in a foreign land do?

I have to say that I’m totally entranced by Nathalie Mallet’s fantasy series involving Prince Amir of the faraway land of Telfar as a main character. I loved the first book, as you can read in my review, and I instantly dove into the second one. I admit that I probably enjoyed The King’s Daughters even more than I enjoyed the previous book in the series. On the one hand, I liked the setting better. Telfar, Amir’s homeland, reminded me a lot of Arabia, and although that is mysterious and refreshing, the setting of this book, Sorvinka, a country reminding me a lot of Russia or Romania, made me even more intrigued. I’ve always loved Russian/Romanian folklore, and tales of witchcraft, superstition and the Baba Yaga, and I got all of that in this single book. Additionally, there is something strangely intriguing about a country covered in ice and snow, with harsh winters, impressive mountain ranges and foreign customs. The second reason of course, is the fact that I already knew some of the characters, in particular the main character, Amir. I already knew how he was at first, what journey he went through in The Princes of the Golden Cage, and the person he turned out to be by the end of the book, so I was excited to read more about what happened to him next.

Unfortunately, Amir’s arrival in the cold country of Sorvinka is anything but pleasant. In an attempt to get back at him for ruining her plans, Princess Livia gave him the worst presents imaginable for the king and his daughters. So when the King upon return threats him cold-heartidely and without any respect, it’s not a surprise. But Amir feels threatened in this strange and foreign land. One misstep on his behalf could practically cost him his head. On top of that, the king’s daughters are dissapearing, one by one. It’s only a matter of time before Eva is next, and Amir isn’t planning to let that happen. But when Amir goes out to investigate the strange happenings, along with his faithful servant, the eunuch Milo and his new-found friend, a dancy called Diego, Amir must solve this riddle and save the kingdom of Sorvinka from losing all the potential heirs to the throne.

As you can gather from the synopsis, this story fits in perfectly well with the story of The Princes in the Golden Cage. It seems as if Amir is in fact some sort of Sherlock Holmes detective avant la lettre. Wherever he goes, he is swiftly followed by mystery and suspense, death and betrayal. But those are the kind of things that make an intriguing main characher. I loved how Amir’s personality changed throughout this novel. In the beginning, we meet him right where we left him at the ending of book one. He’s a bit more trusting than at first, a bit less paranoid and a lot less egocentric. But he’s still arrogant and vain – referring to his family’s flawless profile like a dozen times – and arrogant, but I can’t force myself to find those personality traits annoying. I mean, he is a prince. He is vain by nature, and his royal blood has given him a fair share of arrogance as well, and it makes him all the more authentic for it. Nathalie Mallet is definitely not afraid to add some less than diserable personality traits to her characters, and I applaud her for that. While in real life, I might have a bazillion and more reasons why Amir and I could never get along – I would probably duel him to the death within the hour – but for a book character, he’s interesting, funny – although he doesn’t notice it himself – and totally refreshing. He isn’t someone who does good simply because it’s in his nature to do. He has reasons as to why he does the good thing. Although he is noble and protective, he can sometimes act like a coward as well, especially when it concerns matters of the heart. Like any other normal human being, he often has to choose between two options, and he doesn’t always make the best decision. He’s not flawless, but he’s incredibly enjoyable, and he has a complex personality that kept me intrigued till the very end. On top of that, his personal journey throughout this novel is no less impressive than it was in the previous one. By the end of this book, the prince Amir we see is much more introvert, a lot wiser and less cursed with the impatience and arrogance of youth.

Princess Eva, Amir’s love interest, goes through a very intriguing change as well throughout this book. Whereas in The Princes of the Golden Cage, she appears as a bland, dull character, and the love between her and Amir is less than inspiring to say the least, she transforms into a true, multi-dimensional character by the end of this book. She truly cares for her sisters and her kingdom. In fact, she cares so much that she’s willing to sacrifice her own happiness for the sake of her kingdom. If that doesn’t scream princess-worthy-material, then I don’t know what does.

The mystery at hand is even more complex and stunning than the one we are presented with in the previous book. Whereas The Princes of the Golden Cage still had some loose ends, and a lot of crucial events were based on pure coincedence, we don’t have these issues in The King’s Daughters. The story is well though-through and developed, and the mystery isn’t easily solved. I loved the mixture of folklore with the mystery at hand, and the way everything blends in well together.

The supportive cast is a lot more developed than in the previous book as well. Take Milo for example. Although he’s merely a servant to Amir, we do get to know a lot of his personality as the story continues. I actually liked Milo and found it impressive that for a servant, he really did have a mind of his own. Diego, another one of the supportive characters, a true dandy, proves to be more than expected at first. I thought his appearance brought much-needed humor to this otherwise rather grim story. Additionally, Khuan and Lilloth, the two foreign emissaries present at the court of Sorvinka, were intriguing as well. It wasn’t initially clear whether they were the good guys or the bad guys, and this duplicity added a lot of mystery to them and constantly made me (and Amir, for that matter) wonder whether they could be trusted or not.

I liked The Princes of the Golden Cage. I loved The King’s Daughters. So far, the Prince Amir Series has presented me with an intriguing and outstanding mixture of mystery and suspense, fantasy, history and romance, and I’m loving every bit of it. The more I get to know Prince Amir, the more irresistible and charming I find him. He doesn’t have the typical hero-personality, which gives him an edge that I particularly like. The supportive cast is a varying group of people at well, each with their own unique quirks. The storyline itself is strong and well-developed, and with enough plot twists to keep you on the edge of your seat. As usual, I enjoued Nathalie Mallet’s writing style, which manages to be both descriptive and straight-forward when needed. I recommend this book to all readers who enjoy mystery and/or fantasy.

This book counts towards the Mystery and Suspense Challenge, TBR Reading Challenge and the Epic Fantasy Challenge.

Book Review: The Princes of the Golden Cage by Natalie Mallet

76297Title: The Princes of the Golden Cage
Author: Nathalie Mallet
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery, Suspense, Romance
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Publciation Date: September 5th 2007
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Author Website
Review copy provided by the author.

Prince Amir lives in a lavish and beautiful cage. He lives in a palace with hundreds of his brothers, all barred by law from ever leaving the palace until he, or one of his brothers, becomes the next Sultan. Living under constant threat of death at the hands of his scheming brothers, Amir has chosen a life of solitude and study. His scholarly and alchemical pursuits bring him under suspicion when his brothers begin to die from seemingly supernatural means. Amir finds himself thrown together with his brother Erik, the son of a barbarian princess. Together they must discover the dark secret that is stalking the halls of their golden cage.

Who thought being of royal blood made life easy-peachy never met Prince Amir, his father the Sultan or the Golden Cage. To prevent war and bloodshed between his possible successors, the Sultan has built an enormous Golden Cage hosting all his possible heirs, the total number exceeding one hundred. Like it’s not enough to be locked into a cage – a luxurious cage, but a cage nevertheless – the Princes also look for whatever opportunity they can to murder each other. Why? Because their father is gravely ill, his time of death is nearing swiftly and the last man standing will without a doubt become the next Sultan. Although you have the ‘favorites’ like Ibrahim and Darius, sons of two different Sultanas and high in the succession rank who have their own share of followers, there are also Princes who prefer to stay hidden to save their own lives. Prince Amir is one of them. He is a studious recluse who keeps to himself in his own chambers with his private library, and who cares for his two mentally unstable brothers Jafar and Mir, because no one else bothers to. Amir has made it his life’s goal to blend in, to go unnoticed, so that nobody would mind him the time of day to kill him.

But unfortunately, Amir’s plan goes haywire when his brothers turn up dead in suspicious circumstances. Believe it or not, but they’re actually set rules of how one may kill one’s brothers within the Cage’s boundaries. Duels when one’s honor is breached are not uncommon, but cowardly murder attempts with poison are looked down upon and can actually lower one’s rank significantly. Although Amir at first suspects poison killed his brothers, he soon finds out that this might not be the case. When he goes to investigate the corpse of his first brother found dead in these mysterious circumstances, he notices an icy barrier surrounding the body. Amir can break through it eventually, but this ice barrier seems to have made his brother mummify rapidly. Because Amir is a man of science and not of magic, he goes through all his books only to find out that the solution might not be scientific after all.

Like foul and suspicious murders aren’t enough to worry about, Amir’s new friend – his brother Erik, who turns up out of nowhere and wants to investigate the murders as well – draws a lot of unwanted attention. Whereas Amir wants to remain hidden and unnoticed, whatever Erik does makes people notice him. It’s up to these two rather unlikely companions to try and stop whoever or whatever is murdering their brothers before it goes after them as well. But their unknown opponent isn’t the only one they should worry about. Their own brothers are their enemies and in this game where defeat equals death, they can’t trust anyone. Perhaps not even each other.

The Princes of the Golden Cage has an original and interesting premise. What’s interesting is that the built-up of the harem and the Golden Cage itself in this fictional book is largely based upon true harem hierarchy in the Ottoman Empire. For instance, Ottomanian Princes lived in a Golden Cage called kafes until they were either executed not to pose a threat to the Crown Prince, or until they became Sultan themselves. Although this system prevailed any civil war happening over the succession line, especially in a country where the ruler had not one wife but an entire harem to his disposition and supposed bastard-sons were seen as equal as sons he produced with one of his four wives, the four Sultanas (they ranked lower though, but where equally accepted as possible Sultans if higher-ranking ones failed to claim the title), the system definitely wasn’t flawless. These princes spent their entire childhood and teenage years being more terrified than anything, trapped in a Cage with death as the only possible escape. I loved how Nathalie Mallet used the real harem hierarchy in this book, with the Queen Mother as supreme harem overseer, then the four Sultanas and then the other concubines. The fact that a real Golden Cage much like the one described in the book ever existed is intriguing as well. May I, by the way, point out that traditions like harems and the likes existed not only in the Middle Ages, but well into the 20th century? Now that’s something to think about.

Enough with the history lesson, albeit interesting, and time to return back to the book. The Princes of the Golden Cage is told from the point of view of Prince Amir, which has an upside and a downside. The downside is that, as this is mostly a mystery and suspense novel, Amir gets half of the pieces he needs to solve the puzzle from conveniently eavesdropping at the right moment. I’m lenient enough to accept this can happen once, but I’ve actually encountered three of said occurrences in this book, and there might even be more that I missed. I’m pretty sure that in a place where trust is fairly non-existent, people wouldn’t just talk about conspiracies right around the corner. Amir also happens to be everywhere right at the exact time. I could believe this if he controlled an entire network of spies, but otherwise it’s rather unbelievable. Nevertheless, although the clue-dropping is random and not imaginative at all, that’s one of the only flaws I encountered in this book storywise. The characters are well-developed although Amir doesn’t always hit the ball right when he describes himself – but don’t we all? He claims he is studious and a loner, but in reality he’s neurotic, afraid to trust anyone, and perhaps even more paranoid than his mentally unstable brothers Jafar and Mir. He’s intelligent but apparently not intelligent enough to solve the mystery before I did. I think Darius’ way of thinking about Amir fits the way he acts towards others more properly than Amir’s own speculations on the matter. Albeit his flaws, which are mostly excusable by spending many years traumatized by constant dread and fear, he makes an interesting and even enjoyable main character.

In my opinion however, Amir is hardly the star of this book. Prince Erik transforms into the epitome of how one would want a Sultan to be the instant we meet him, and although his calm and confident presence brings out the best in Amir as well, that doesn’t make him the character I liked the best. In fact, Darius is. In my opinion, Darius is more qualified as a possible ruler than Amir or Erik, because he’s not afraid of change and he wants to see the best in everyone. He is convinced Amir thinks he’s better than him and therefore has a difficult time dealing with Amir. Darius transforms from a possible bad guy to one of the good guys halfway through this novel, which makes him the character who went through the greatest changes. As I already mentioned, Erik is sultan-material from the moment we meet him and his qualities neither increase nor decrease as the story progresses, but in Darius’ case we learn that Amir actually totally misjudged him.

Amir’s love interest is not that convincing. When Amir finds a locker holding the picture of a beautiful girl, he falls in love with her instantly. Oh, really? He has an entire harem at his disposal, with the most gorgeous and beautiful women of the entire country, and he falls for a mysterious foreign princess in the blink of an eye, without even knowing her personality? I find that hard to believe and actually pretty lame. One would think that a person who is so eager not to trust anyone at all, who weighs down every decision ten times before he actually makes it, would not fall in love head over heels. It just doesn’t fit Amir’s personality. I didn’t like Princess Eva that much either. She is a make-shift character who adds little or no depth to the story. Her personality is pretty generic. She is described as witty and funny and she loves to tease Amir, but it’s not that convincing. If he hadn’t loved her the moment he laid eyes upon her, I would have probably felt more for their relationship, because it would sound more believable.

Furthermore, there were some minor issues I had with this book. As you know by now, the main character is called Amir. One of his brothers is called Mir, another one Ibrahim. Erik’s servant is a young boy named Rami. A girl named Mira is also involved in the story. See what I’m talking about here? A little more creativity in the naming process of the main characters would be appreciated. Continuously using the name Amir or variations from it could work if characters appeared only once or twice and didn’t play a major part in the story, but if you’re talking about main and semi-main characters, the names should have differed more.

Well, I’m done mentioning the flaws of this book. Time to get ready for the good stuff. Although set in a fantasy world with its roots based on the Ottoman Empire, The Princes of the Golden Cage isn’t your standard fantasy novel, and I applaud it for that. This is not about some farmer boy going on a quest to save the world who ends up learning that he’s either the greatest magician the world has ever known or the Crown Prince who went missing twenty years ago. It’s not about fighting dragons, retrieving magical objects or saving the world. Originality is the key here. Prince Amir actually doesn’t care about being a Sultan or not – all he cares about is saving his own life, which is perfectly understandable of course. He’s more egotistical than we expect in a main character, but this suits him and his conditions perfectly. It’s this real, honest nature of his persona that makes him appealing and interesting as a character as well. He doesn’t care about saving the world – it’s not even necessary, no apocalyptic events for once – and he only cares about saving himself. Well, I say, good for him. The mystery part plays a giant role in this novel, once again making it stand out from the crowd. The mystery in itself is intriguing to say the least and the fact that magic might play a role in it makes it all the more interesting, especially since our main character is skeptic towards the existence of magic.

The feeling of dread, of having to watch over your shoulder and look for people trying to murder you, starts from page one and the tension builds up gradually throughout the book. Because it’s told from Amir’s point of view, the reader instantly relates with the unfortunate Prince and begins to feel the same tension and fear he is submitted to every day in this Cage of Death. Alliances are easily broken, friends are non-existent and death is around every corner. The setting is sublime, perfect for a murder mystery, and reminds me of some of the most classic murder mystery in which a family cannot leave an island/estate until the murderer is found, except that this happens on a much larger scale here.

I enjoyed reading The Princes of the Golden Cage. It’s fantasy with this wonderful layer on top of it, a layer filled with a murder mystery, some romance and the question how much family ties are really worth in a world where nobody is to be trusted. It searches for what drives people to kill their own kin only to save themselves and the effects of such circumstances on the human psyche. Prince Amir is an enjoyable character with a complicated but intriguing personality. The murder mystery is tense and exciting from the beginning and leads up to a most surprising conclusion. The book is well written and fluent, although there are some editing flaws here and there. I easily overlooked them, but if excellent grammar and spelling are your pet peeves, you might cringe occasionally. The story is enthralling and glues you to your chair from page one, making you feel for the characters and their unfortunate living circumstances almost instantly. If you’re a fan of fantasy but you’re in for something new, you definitely shouldn’t miss out on The Princes of the Golden Cage.

This book counts towards the Mystery and Suspense Challenge, TBR Reading Challenge and the Epic Fantasy Challenge.

Author Interview with P.R. Mason

The Books

 

The Interview

 

Thank you for taking the time to answer these interview questions!

Thank you so much for having me on your excellent blog. I appreciate the opportunity to connect with readers.

1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

One of my earliest memories is of regaling a group of my childhood friends with a story I’d created. I believe it featured an excessive number of dragons. My love of story telling continued through my teens. However, my teenage writings were much too angsty and featured characters who whined a lot. I finished my first novel about five years ago, A GIRL, A GUY and a GHOST written under the name Patricia Mason. That book does not feature any dragons, but does have a somewhat whiny, discrimination-obsessed, vampire. Now I write steamy romance as Patricia Mason and YA urban fantasy and paranormal romance as P.R. Mason

2. How long does it take you to write a book?

Every book is different but, if I can get the beginning “right”, it takes about three months for me to write the first draft and about a month to revise. For Entanglements, I must have written the first thirty pages at least five times before arriving at a beginning that felt right. The basic plot points of the story were set but I just couldn’t open the novel in an exciting way. Once I found the right beginning, the whole story flowed and was written quickly. However, there were a few plot points that changed and were added along the way as the characters took over and decided what they wanted to do and not to do.

3. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Probably the fact that I usually need to leave my house and go to a coffee shop in order to write. If I stay at home, my cat overlords, or at least one of them, lies on the keyboard, sits on my lap, meows for treats, demands caressing…. you get the picture.

4. Where did you get the idea/inspiration for your main character, Kizzy Taylor?

Some stories start with the character and some start with the plot. With Entanglements, the idea for the plot came first and then I had to decide what sort of heroine would be caught up in what I’d envisioned. As I said earlier, I wrote the first thirty pages a number of times. The heroine of Entanglements, Kizzy, started out with brown hair but she was too whiney and not bold enough.

She didn’t fully form into a real person for me until I decided she had extremely curly red hair, which she straightened when trying to conform to societal expectations. Her personality soon followed and became as fiery as her hair.

Also, since the novel is an urban fantasy/paranormal romance, I wanted Kizzy, to be engaged in a hobby that reflected the feisty but reckless aspects of her personality. The hobby also had to lead her into a setting that would serve the plot, which by that time I knew would involve Kizzy’s accidentally opening a vortex to a dangerous alternate dimension. The hobby also had to fit with my hero, Rom, an athletic alpha male who is soldier-tough and bent on doing his duty.

The idea for the specific hobby that would fit my needs ultimately came from an anonymous Facebook posting on a page devoted to urban spelunking in NYC: “If you’re interested in going on a spelunk ask yourself these questions: (1) Am I okay with getting arrested? (2) Am I afraid of getting tuberculosis, inhaling intoxicants, etc? (3) Am I okay with getting cut up? (4) Do I know how incredibly dangerous and stupid this is?”

Since Savannah, Georgia—the setting—has a number of tunnels connected to nefarious activity or tragic circumstances, I knew I’d found the perfect hobby for my heroine. I’d found the hobby that would lead Kizzy into an abandoned building, through a reportedly haunted tunnel, and ultimately, into another world.

5. How did you come up with the idea for Entanglements?

I saw something on string theory on the Discovery channel. When I googled the concepts, I came across a quote from Einstein about the quantum mechanics theory of entanglements where he referred to it as “spooky action at a distance.” Scientists had discovered that a particle could be tweaked miles away from another and still cause the second particle to react even though there was no discernable connection between them. The scientists theorized that the two were “entangled” in an alternate dimension or universe of which they believed there are at least seven. Interestingly also, in the world of quantum physics, effect does not always follow cause. Sometimes they are reversed. I began to wonder what would happen if people or beings were entangled in alternate universes? And from this, ENTANGLEMENTS was born.

6. Who would you consider your favorite author and why?

I have so many favorite authors some of whom are: Jane Austen, J.R. Ward, J.K. Rowling…Wow I just figured out I have a thing about J names. But I think what they all have in common is that they are able to create a world and transport the reader inside to experience a way of life that is very different from their own.

7. Are you working on something right now? If so, what?

A sequel to Entanglements is in the works. RESISTANCE takes up the story of a fighter in the human resistance who, along with her alchemist/vampire hero, must defeat an army of soul sucking golems. I expect to release the sequel in March of 2012.

Right in the middle of working on the sequel, however, I became obsessed with the concept of predestination and the line between fate and free will. My father always came down on the side of 100% predetestination because he often had vivid dreams that foretold future events in his life. Some of these occurred years after the dream. So he thought every event in his life was “fated” to happen and his choices made no difference. I argued that choices had to matter. I always thought that his dreams were precognitive of an event that would happen if he continued on the path on which he was traveling at the time. And those dreams of events that never happened were forgotten because he changed paths. Anyway, these issues came to the forefront of my mind in relation to two characters and so I felt driven to write their story. The 11000-word paranormal romance novella FATED HEARTS is the result. It was just released. Here’s the blurb:

EVE has always played by the rules, afraid to take chances. HOLDEN wants to change that. She’s certain they’ve never met before…or have they? Holden seems so familiar, but who is he? What is he? Yesterday her biggest challenge was trying not to bomb on her SATs. Today, paranormal forces have transformed an ordinary high school dance into a test of fate vs. free will and loving Holden could be Eve’s end.

It’s available exclusively at Amazon. As a promotion, it will be FREE on January 24th and 25th. I hope you’ll check it out.

I definitely will check it out! Thank you for answering my interview questions!

The Author

 

P.R. Mason writes steamy contemporary and paranormal romance under the name Patricia Mason and young adult paranormal romance and urban fantasy as P.R. Mason. She escaped from the snowy Midwest winters of her youth by moving in 2001 to the strange and wonderful city of Savannah, Georgia to pursue her dream of being a novelist. Pat’s background is eclectic. She was an Assistant District Attorney and for a number of years was the owner of an antique shop which was home to a number of ghosts. Her home is ruled by two black cats, one of whom was rescued from the most haunted cemetery in the southeast.

Please visit www.prmason.net. You can also follow the author @prmason on Twitter.

Book Review: Entanglements by P.R. Mason

51Ktj1WJHsLTitle: Entanglements
Author: P.R. Mason
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Createspace
Publication Date: September 30th 2011
Goodreads | Author Website
Rating: 3,5 stars
Review copy provided by Bewitching Book Tours.

Buy the book on: Amazon (Paperback) | Amazon (Kindle) | Smashwords | B&N

Accidentally opening a vortex sucks!
Fifteen-year-old Kizzy Taylor is just hoping for an evening of fun when she joins her friends in a spelunking expedition through an under-city tunnel. But fun turns bizarre when Kizzy accidentally opens a vortex and her stepsister is swept through to an evil alternate dimension. The only way to rescue her stepsister is to reopen the vortex and go in after her. But will Kizzy be able to return home?

Entanglements starts with introducing us to Kizzy Taylor on what is probably one of the worst nights of her life. Her own father, the man who was supposed to love her and care for her, holds her at gunpoint, ordering her to jump off a bridge. She tried to save herself and her baby brother by running from her, but unfortunately he did fire and killed her kid brother in the process. Now, several months later, Kizzy is still suffering from survivor’s guilt, and struggling to keep on going with her life. She’s no longer the person she was once before, and her old friends don’t seem that appealing to her anymore either.

At school, Kizzy runs into a new guy, named Rom. He’s very strange, but also extremely attractive. Rom acts and talks like he walked straight out of the Roman Empire. Although Kizzy thinks he’s cute from the moment she meets him, she’s a bit wary as to why he talks and acts so strange. When he joins her and her old group of friends to go investigating abandoned houses in the middle of the night – their current target an asylum that has been closed for several decades – things start getting really weird. For starters, something sucks Kizzy’s arm straight into a wall. And then a vortex appears in the middle of a room, sucking her stepsister right in, transporting her to another dimension. It’s up to Kizzy to save her stepsister. That is, if she doesn’t get killed by the nightmarish creatures who escaped from the other dimension first.

I liked Entanglements. The heroine is especially interesting because she holds the middle between being stereotypical and being too weird for her own good. The fact that she’s still struggling from survivor’s guilt adds to her personality. As a reader, you feel instantly sorry for her and what happened to her. If the person who’s supposed to love you most tries to kill you, that’s simply terrible. Kizzy’s friends are intriguing characters as well. We have the stereotypical nerds and cheerleaders squads, but beneath those stereotypes we can find actual people with actual personalities.

Don’t get me started on Rom though. Rom is the whole reason why this book went from a 4 star rating to a 3,5. I just didn’t like Rom; I thought he was the weakest part of the entire story. For starters, he talks like he’s the reincarnation of Julius Cesar, and I’m not a big fan of that. If a guy came to me and began talking like he lived several centuries ago, that would rank highly on my list of turn-offs. The fact that Kizzy hardly seems to bother, even when she doesn’t yet realize who he really is, annoys me. It’s like saying: hey, although this guy is totally insane, he looks hot, so I’ll date him. I’m not a big fan of such behavior or thinking. The good part is though that the romance plot is a subplot, and it doesn’t take too much attention away from the main plot and action. Considering that I didn’t like the potential love interest from the start, I was glad that it only played a minor part in this story.

The storyline itself is interesting, to say the least. P.R. Mason talks about vortexes and travelling between several dimensions/universes. I thought the explanation for vortexes, although a tad bit scientific, was intriguing and original. The moment they were introduced in the story, I wanted to read more about them: what exactly are they and how do they work, etc.

I must also add that the writing pace was fast, and that the book sucked me in from the very beginning. That said, there were some things that could use a bit of work – the love interest, for example, and the relationship between Kizzy and Rom – and I also wished some of the side characters were better developed. Entanglements is really entertaining though, and I would recommend it to all people who enjoy young adult paranormal romance novels.

This book counts towards the Fantasy Challenge 2012, Speculative Romance Challenge and the Go Indie Challenge.

Tour Schedule: Entanglements

January 16, 2012 and January 17, 2012
Review + Author Interview on the 16th and a
Character Intv. on the 17
Breaking Bookshelves

 

Jan 18 Live Radio Interview
ParaYourNormal Blogtalk Radio
Wednesday at 3:30 pm PST (which is 6:30 pm EST)

 

Jan 18 promo and interview
Rai29BookReadNReview

 

Jan 19 Promo
Sapphyria’s Book Reviews
http://saphsbookblog.blogspot.com/

 

Jan 20 Interview and review
I Heart Reading.

 

Jan 23 Guest Blog
Fang-tastic Books

 

Jan 24 Guest Blog and Review

 

Jan 25 Interview
Sarah Ballance

 

Jan 30 Guest Blog
Book Flame

 

Jan 31 Guest Blog

 

Feb 1 Guest Blog
Fictional Candy

 

Feb 3 Guest blog and review
 The Bornean Bookworm

 

Feb 4 Promo
Flutey Words

 

Feb 7 Guest Blog and review
 Lissette E. Manning

 

Feb 9 Guest Blog
Mama Knows Books

 

Feb 10 Guest Blog
Bending the Spine

 

Feb 13 Guest Blog and review
SupaGurl Books

 

Feb 7 promo and interview

 

Feb 12 Guest Blog
Curling Up By The Fire

 

Feb. 15 promo spot & review
Reader Girls

Follow Friday (1)

FF_2012

Follow Friday is a weekly meme created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read. Every week one lucky blogger is featured, and the featured blogger is followed by all participants. On top of that, participants also follow each other. Win win for everyone!

Since this is NOT a blogger blog, I would like to be followed via RSS (which was recently updated to Feedburner), or by subscribing by email (insert your email at the top left sidebar). For people subscribing by email, don’t forget that there is a monthly contest for email subscribers only, and this month I’m giving away a copy of Incarnate, Under The Never Sky or Everneath to one lucky winner.

Question: What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done for a book?

 

What a fun question! I must admit that aside from nagging for my Mom to drive me to the midnight release of one of the Harry Potter books (now the craziness is over, I can’t even recall which one), which was a three hour drive, I haven’t done a lot of absolutely crazy things for books yet. My Mom is a saint really, for putting up with me even as I got it in my mind that I needed to go to the release of Harry Potter in the dead of night. I remember staying up the whole night to read the book as well. Great times!

So what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for a book! Please leave your website address below so I can follow you back! 🙂