Archive for October, 2013
Ash Krafton’s “Blood Rush” — Good Characters, Convoluted Plot
Posted by Barb Caffrey in Book Review on October 25, 2013
Ash Krafton’s BLOOD RUSH is the second tale in her Demimonde series, the first being the excellent BLEEDING HEARTS (reviewed here). Sophie Galen, an advice columnist, is now in a better financial position due to her readership climbing astronomically due to becoming the Sophia (an empath and problem solver) of the Demivampire (DV for short), but is not happy as her DV lover, Marek Thurzo, nearly killed her at the end of BLEEDING HEARTS. The DV are a race of beings somewhere between humans and the soulless Vampire and have some characteristics of both races; their main drawback as a race is that sooner or later, a DV is going to become a full-fledged Vampire and the enemy of his own people. And such was nearly the case with Marek, as he came much closer than he’d have liked to “evolving” into a Vampire, which would’ve made him kill Sophie and everything else he knew and loved due to suddenly lacking his soul.
At the start of BLOOD RUSH, we’re told that Marek has left Sophie for good, no reason given. Because this wasn’t Sophie’s decision — and most especially because Marek is the only person left alive who’s close to her, as her best friend Jared, a Catholic priest, was killed in BLEEDING HEARTS as a way to get to Sophie and put Marek in danger — she feels terrible about it. She is lonely, she keeps having to move as werewolves have been stalking her, and she really doesn’t know what to do. Even being the Sophia to the DV isn’t what it’s cracked up to be; while it’s a highly influential position, it’s also a great deal of work. And because Sophie herself is not safe, most of her work has been done through her advice column rather than in person.
Then, out of the blue, Marek’s brother Rodrian (called “Rode”) calls Sophie up. Rode’s daughter, Shiloh (“Shy”), is ill. (Yes, the DV have illnesses, though not many.) Rode wants Sophie to come live with him in his palatial estate in order to keep an eye on Shy.
But of course there’s more going on. First, Rode has been attracted to Sophie from the start, but didn’t want to act. (“Thank goodness,” I muttered.) Second, Rode feels guilty that Sophie’s been put in danger, and wants to help her. Third, Marek — yes, he’s still around — has feelings for Sophie and wants Sophie protected, even if for whatever reason he refuses to come around.
At this point, another complication enters the picture in Sophia-trainer Eirene (pronounced the same as “Irene,” which is important to the plot in a way I’d rather not explain as it’ll blow the ending out of the water). Eirene has heard of Sophie and believes Sophie hasn’t been adequately trained, which is true as Sophie really wasn’t trained at all. Eirene wants Sophie to learn how to guard herself and not be taken over all the time by the needs of the DV — who, as I said in the previous review, don’t have any empaths and don’t realize how strong their needs are. Eirene starts Sophie on a rigorous training schedule, teaching Sophie how to build mental walls (usually called shields in fantasy literature), advising her to “get tough” with the DV and overall to value herself more. All good things, for sure.
But Eirene isn’t the easiest person to deal with. She’s abrupt, rude, cold, likes to see Sophie in the evening after Sophie’s put in a hard day at work, and overall seems extremely self-centered. In some ways, Sophia-trainer Eirene does not seem anything like Sophie herself, yet Sophie cannot put her finger on it.
At this point, a young werewolf, Tanner, enters the picture. Tanner, unlike the previous werewolves Sophie’s known, only wants to do good. He’s not a member of any formal Pack and the only person he’d ever bonded to who knew he was a were is dead. Tanner pledges to protect Sophie and quickly becomes her friend — her platonic friend, something I greatly appreciated.
But Eirene doesn’t like Weres, and counsels Sophie to get rid of him, as Eirene figures the only good Were is a dead Were.
Around this time, Rode decided he should declare his interest in Sophie despite the fact his own brother, Marek, is still alive, still a DV and is still interested in Sophie despite staying away for reasons of his own. This was a very difficult plot point for me to deal with for several reasons. First, it’s almost impossible to understand the appeal of Rode from Sophie’s perspective. Marek is also wealthy, yes, and long-lived, but has many of the same historical interests and enjoys many of the same things, whereas Rode seems much more shallow and far more interested in high finance than the practical Sophie. Second, Rode is Marek’s own brother. Third, the only reason Sophie seems to go for Rode is because Rode knows who she is — the Sophia of the American DV — and is in close proximity. And fourth, Rode is still Marek’s brother.
I wouldn’t have a problem with this nascent romance if Marek was either dead or had turned into a soulless Vampire. But Marek hasn’t. Instead, Marek is still, slightly, in the picture. He’s done something wrong in keeping Sophie out of the loop as to why (for a reason you need to read; I refuse to spoil it), and has marked her so almost no one in the DV community is going to go anywhere near her, while “regular people” who aren’t Weres or DV have no common frame of reference.
So while I understand why Sophie is really upset with Marek, and sympathize with her, I still don’t get why she’d ever want to even think about being with Rode. It just doesn’t make sense on any level, especially if Sophie really is concerned about Marek turning into a Vampire any time soon as any relationship Sophie has will turn Rode into an even bigger target than he already is.
I’ll stop there with a plot summary, as there are a number of twists and turns at the end I refuse to spoil. But suffice it to say that the plot, while convoluted, is mostly quite good.
Aside from the odd romance with Rode, everything else in BLOOD RUSH is fine. The snappy dialogue I enjoyed so much in BLEEDING HEARTS is there and I still adore it. I continue to believe in the DV, as they fit seamlessly into the “otherworld” mythos. Sophie remains a winning character who I couldn’t help rooting for, even as she struggled to learn how to defend herself as a Sophia and dealt with all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
But the romance with Rode was very difficult for me to get past. I actually put BLOOD RUSH down about a hundred pages from the end and let it sit for a month before finishing it up, fearing Krafton was going to do something stereotypical, causing me to throw my lovely ARC across the room. Fortunately, Krafton did not do this and found a way to resolve that plot without further squickiness.
Bottom line: BLOOD RUSH is a worthy sequel to BLEEDING HEARTS. It has a very odd romance with Rodrian I did not care for, but overall was a good read that made sense in the mythos Krafton created. I am still looking forward to book three, coming sometimes during the spring of 2014.
— reviewed by Barb
Treecat Wars — A Beautiful Series Continues
Posted by Jason Cordova in Book Review on October 21, 2013
With their usual wit and candor, David Weber and Jane Lindskold have another winner in their young adult (YA) Stephanie Harrington series, Treecat Wars.
Stephanie Harrington, the discoverer of treecats on the planet Sphinx and newly appointed “provisional Ranger” with the Sphinx Forestry Service, is being sent to Manticore to with her friend Karl to participate in the Service’s accelerated training program. This is something of a shock to Stephanie, but a welcomed one, since she really does want to become a Ranger. However, a problem quickly arises — she cannot be separated from Lionheart, her treecat, due to their intense psychological and emotional bonding. She finds out that he is allowed to come, though not to every class she has, and some of her fears are eased. Her other fear, though, is her relationship with her boyfriend, Anders Whitaker would potentially end. But with his own imminent departure back home, however, it initially appears that everything would work out and they would be reunited sometime in the future.
Ah, like the authors are going to make everything neat and pat for us readers…
In the background, nefarious persons are still working to kidnap a treecat for study off world somewhere (subplots in both A Beautiful Friendship and Fire Season; A Beautiful Friendship is reviewed here). They realize that with Stephanie and Lionheart on Manticore, they will have an excellent opportunity to “prove” that the treecats are nothing more than wild beasts who deserve to be kept in private zoos for their own enjoyment. A plan is set in motion, one that could easily ruin what Stephanie and Lionheart have worked so hard to overcome.
With Stephanie off on Manticore studying to become a Ranger, the viewpoint of the book drifts a bit as the authors struggle to keep the book on point. This is the only part of the book where I was underwhelmed, but thankfully the drift doesn’t happen for too long as treecats, driven from their homes due to the fire season, accidentally encroach upon the lands of another clan. Starving and nearly destitute, they plead for help. However, they are not welcomed and are told to leave. They cannot leave, however, due to so many of their young being sick and weak. They remain, fishing and trying to survive at the edge of their rival clan’s lands. This leads to conflict, and the title of the book.
One of the most heart wrenching things about reading this book is the war between the clans. I’ve been a huge Honor Harrington fan for years, and my first introduction to a treecat was Nimitz, Honor’s treecat. The idea that the treecats war among themselves is a painful yet realistic reminder that even in fiction, life happens. It’s a horrible war, one that delves into the idea of the “mind sickness” that a treecat can suffer from (being natural empaths, it would only make sense that someone with a sick mind would hurt others in his or her clan) and how it affects others.
Stephanie Harrington continues to be the ideal teenage YA star, with her actions showing her bravery, loyalty and commitment to helping others, human and treecat alike. She is the right role model that young readers should be looking for, someone who is not entirely confident but still tries to do the right thing. As I mentioned above, this is the third book in the series, and I still highly recommend it for anyone looking for a new YA series that involves honesty, integrity and bravery. Books like this give me hope while being entertaining and exciting reads, and the young Miss Harrington has plenty to offer for any reader looking for something new and fresh to read. Definitely recommend for anyone ages 10 and up.
–Reviewed by Jason