I’m not usually much of an anthology fan, but I needed a Meljean Brook fix to tide me over while I wait for Michael’s book, so I jumped at the opportunity to review this book. I was quite surprised to find that I really enjoyed it! Maybe I should try to overcome my anthology dislike and give more of them a try.
Angel’s Wolf by Nalini Singh:
In the spellbinding universe of the Guild Hunters, a vampire becomes obsessed with the seductive angel who rules the Louisiana territory. But in her court, all is not what it appears.
I was surprised to find that this was my least favorite stories in the anthology. I found the read pleasant, but that was about all. I’m a big fan of the Guild Hunter series so I was expecting this to be one of my top reads out of the bunch. Brook may have been my motivation to get the book, but Singh was the icing on the cake.
Despite not loving this book, I enjoyed getting to follow a female angel this time around. Well…a natural born angel, I mean. I was a little surprised to see how nice she was, though. I didn’t want her to be cruel but every other angel out there (except for Illium) seems to flirt with a lack of care for those weaker than them. I expected Nimra to have that edge of inhumanity as well and was a little disappointed to see that she didn’t. It aided the romance development in such a short story, I know, but I was looking forward to seeing a female version of a toned down Raphael.
Noel fell pretty easily for a guy who had the issues that he did, but I enjoyed watching the fall. I felt that he was the more emotionally healthy of the pair, despite the intimacy issues he struggled with. Both Nimra and Noel were dominant personalities, but when they came together they were surprisingly sweet. Especially Noel.
Alphas: Origins by Ilona Andrews:
A woman is kidnapped into a world divided by a superhuman civil war. As the captive of an irresistibly dangerous male, she has two choices: submit and become a pawn, or take hold of her own destiny.
I am shocked–shocked, I say!–to find that this was my favorite story in the anthology. I did not like it at all when I began reading it. I was deeply uncomfortable with the set up and the dynamic between Lucas and Karina. Karina was in the wrong place at the wrong time and ended up being mortally wounded. The “good guys” can tell that she’s a donor (a semi-rare subspecies that contains a hormone needed by subspecies 30—aka Lucas) and offer her a bargain to save her life. This bargain is crap, really. It’s death or slavery. Lucas owns her. He can do whatever he wants to her.
Lucas hadn’t kidnapped her. He hadn’t forced her into human slavery at gunpoint. She’d been attacked by Rishie and the shark-toothed man, and she’s been given a choice to die or to live on Lucas’s terms. She was a victim of circumstance. That didn’t change the fact that Lucas owned her now.
The House of Daryon had stripped every shred of independence from her. She depended on Lucas for everything: her food, her safety, her clothes, the safety and survival of her daughter. He had the power to tell her when to go to bed, where to sleep, when to shower…He was protecting her and Emily from some sort of terrible enemy she couldn’t understand and he could kill them both at a moment’s notice. Any relaxation of the rules became a kindness on his part. A small thing, like a toothbrush, seemed like some great favor. But it wasn’t, she told herself. It wasn’t.
And don’t imagine that he was some sweet guy and that his ownership of her was just a formality. The so-called “good guys” were very scary men. Sick men, really. Lucas strongly reminded me of a serial killer and I got the heebie-jeebies when I realized just how easy it was for him to contemplate raping Karina. He didn’t, but that was just because he respected her for submitting to her part of the agreement without even trying to fight. The reader never had the comfort of assuring themselves that he wouldn’t cross that line. Later in the story he admits to Karina that he was raised in a culture where the only real behavior check was that they couldn’t murder each other just because they felt like it.
So why did I like this story so much? I honestly don’t know. It was dark and sick and the closest thing you’ll get to a romantic relationship is a connection that closely resembles Stockholm Syndrome. But, man, it sucked me in.
Nocturne by Sharon Shinn:
Accepting a position in a secluded and whispered-about mansion, a woman soon discovers the source of its mystery: the blind, tormented angel who lives there, and whose secrets could now destroy them both.
This is the first book I’ve read by this author, so my opinion is of a total newbie, not someone who is familiar with the Samaria series. I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed the world, despite being a little confused by the connection between God and the angels and the humans. Why exactly are angels living with the humans? I get that they need to mate with them to produce more angels, but are they angels-angels? They can sing to Jovah and he can immediately send what they desire (like medicine) to answer their prayers, but it didn’t really have much of a religious vibe to it. So…yeah. A little confused about that.
I really, really enjoyed watching the bond develop between Moriah and Corban. They both initially are drawn to each other for complicated reasons—Moriah from a desire to tempt fate, and Corban from a reluctant interest in something other than his depression. Soon they find themselves growing closer. Corban comes to depend upon Moriah for her aid in helping him overcome his injury, but you can also see the subtle hints that he is beginning to care from her. I say subtle because the story is told strictly from Moriah’s point of view. She’s a strong, abrasive woman at times, but I loved her all the same. She is unceasingly practical and it was fun watching her roll her eyes at herself over falling for an angel. Especially because she has such a bad opinion of angel-seekers!
This was the most emotionally satisfying story of the bunch for me, although I do wish the romance had been expanded more and that the ending had been more leisurely. Regardless, I plan to check out this series to see how I like a full length novel by her.
Ascension by Meljean Brook:
When vampires disappear from a community he’s protecting, a world-weary Guardian doesn’t know what evil he’s hunting, but he’d rather hunt alone than accept help from his ex-lover and fellow Guardian, Radha. But Radha refuses to leave him, because she’s determined not just to help him save the community…but to save him.
I’ve been curious about Radha for a while now—who wouldn’t be curious about a perpetually half naked woman who dyes herself blue?–so it was a treat to find that this story was about her. Learning about her past with Marc made me wince in sympathy for her–Ouch! I thought her present behavior toward him was a little uneven, though. She confused me with her assertive sexual advances while still being hesitant about her feelings. I didn’t feel that I got a good handle on her personality and my enjoyment of their relationship suffered because of it. Marc was a little too placid and boring for me as well, so I found that I didn’t feel much of a spark.
I liked what we discovered about the killer’s identity. I think Brook excels at twisting expectations and playing with the line between right and wrong and good and evil, and this was no exception. Nothing was cut and dried about it and you’ll find yourself wondering where your true sympathies lie.
Although I found the story pleasant, I wasn’t that thrilled with it overall. I don’t think it was able to adequately showcase Brook’s awesome skill with subtle character development and rich world building. She can build a story like nobody’s business, and I think I’m going to have to stick with her full length books from now on, rather than being disappointed in the limitations that a novella length story imposes.