Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Twin Non-Laughter Twin Reviews: UF / PARANORMAL

BLOODY GOOD by Georgia Evans (Paranormal)
Book 1 in Brytewood Trilogy

DOOMSDAY CAN WAIT by Lori Handeland (Urban Fantasy)
Book 2 in Liz Phoenix Chronicles

1. Vampires collaborating with the Nazis parachute into rural WWII Britain, and it falls to the supernatural among the villagers to thwart their plans.

2. Bartender turned epic supernatural warrior seeks to avert the Apocalypse with help from like-minded beings.

1. Folkloric art reminiscent of Marc Chagall's style is oddly appealling. Title is a pun as well as pointing to British setting; Books 2 & 3 in the trilogy are 'BloodyAwful' and 'Bloody Right'.

2. Typical urban fantasy female protagonist cover: seen partly from the back, skin-baring top, jeans, equipped with a weapon, only thing missing is a tattoo. Nothing wrong with the art, but nothing distinctive, either. What is clever is the title; Book 1 was 'Any Given Doomsday' and Book 3 'Apocalypse Happens'.

What Works
1. Apprentice Writer has read a great deal of non-fiction about WWII; for obvious reasons, educators take the topic very seriously in Germany, where AW went to high school. She has not read much fiction, though, and that was from the civilian German population's point of view. So a story from a fictitious British civilian POV captured her interest. The descriptions of village life, with people pulling together to combat bombing damage, disruption of regular life due to influx of city dwellers escaping urband danger, and deprivations calling for a black market were evocative. Also enjoyable was the diversity of Others (as they are called in Brytewood) and how they are both forced to recognize their Otherness and reach out to one another despite ingrained habits of either denial or secrecy for the sake of self-preservation. Apart from the Teutonic vampires plus a homegrown one, there is a Dragon, a were-fox, a fairy, and some Pixies. How pixies are different from fairies, elves, or imps she still does not know; perhaps this is explored in future volumes.

2. AW is not very widely read in urban fantasy, and she enjoyed getting her feet more wet in the subgenre, getting to know the various beings, and learning how their individual gifts applied. In AW's opinion, UF authors are among the most imaginative people of all. Her favorite character in the story was a young lionesque shapeshifter whom the heroine hopes to recruit into her army of evil-opposers. His backstory is tragic and lonely, and the theme of oppression experienced due to otherness which he can't help meted out by closed-minded 'regular' people threatened by anyone different from them lent a kind of X-men flavor to the story.

What Doesn't
1. AW won both these titles through the collaborative generosity of and the authors. It is ironic that of all possible people, 'Bloody Good' went to someone who caught the German errors. Not a big deal, and AW actually gives full marks for effort of inclusion of the German snippets, but she made a mental note to herself to always (ALWAYS) have a native speaker check the complete sentences in future manuscripts because in many foreign languages, it is not enough to know the straight translation of the root word. It's correct conjugation may depend on grammatical context, identity of the speaker, and relationship to speakee.

There is much introspection on the part of the vampires as to their innate superiority. Consequently, it was puzzling why one would be defeated by an electric fence (given ability to fly) and the final battle seemed somewhat anticlimactic. Perhaps the battles in future volumes will progress in intensity.

Finally, readers who like loose ends tied up may be frustrated that the explanation of why vampires would ally themselves with a political party is not answered in this volume.

2. This is Book 2 in the series. Though enough backstory was provided for AW to be able to follow along, there is one significant aspect where it is possible that beginning with Book 1 may have made her more willing to accept the worldbuilding altogether. As it was, disclosure of how the heroine gains additional powers released a near fatal 'Oh, come on, now' response.

MODERATE SPOILER!!!!!!!!!!!(for Book 1; if you've read it you're safe)

Imagine, if you will, the standard methods of infection: airborne (as in the common cold), congenital (as in a mother passing HIV on to her unborn baby), introduction to bloodstream via transfusions, wounds, or needles inserted into veins (as in hepatitis), and sexual transmission. One guess as to how things work for Liz Phoenix.

Released all sorts of incredulous questions: does the power transfer still work if a barrier method of contraception is used? Does any type of sexual act qualify? What if the person hoping to gain powers is attracted to others of their own gender?
In the end, AW decided the answers didn't matter to her; willingness to suspend disbelief had been well and truly punctured.

END SPOILER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The heroine also tends to go on about her irritation that a male character (who is in himself fascinating) is involved with so many women. Not a characteristic AW finds appealling in a man, however at the same time that Liz is grousing about this she herself is involved with him as well as another supernatural male character. If it hadn't been for The Big Turnoff (described in spoiler), AW may have simply accepted Liz' blindness to her own hypocrisy as a human flaw. As it was, the combination proved too much for this reader.

1. An entertaining tale set in a fictitiously unusual time period.

2. For readers who can live with the heroine's method of self-improvement, this could well be an entertaining, action-packed series. Readers who can't may wish to seek urban fantasy set in other worlds.

Learn more about the authors here:


Julia Smith said...

I always love your focus on the cover art and what it indicates, as opposed to what actually occurs in the novel.

The urban fantasy cover appeals to me more, while the art style of the WWII book doesn't speak to me of that time period. I feel the same way about the covers for the Charlaine Harris series. They don't evoke anything like the story vibe to me.

Thomma Lyn said...

Another good review! I like how you discuss, for each book you review, what worked for you and what didn't -- I agree about the importance of tight world-building. Always annoys me to find plot holes big enough to steer an aircraft carrier through!

Jenners said...

I have a lot to say!!!

First, I've actually been considering writing a dual review for two books and hadn't seen this done before. Thanks for the help in figuring out how to tackle this. I actually read two books back-to-back that had really similar themes and were actually about twins and I thought "I should review these together." But I've been struggling with how to do it.

Second, your reviews are just so fun to read and have such a personal and conversational tone to it. I love your "notes to self" on what to do if you use a foreign language in your own writing. And I loved your comment about the electric fence.

Third, I want to thank you for all your totally awesome comments on my blog recently sharing various book recommendations. I'm pursuing several of them to find out more and read so THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! : )

Wylie Kinson said...

here's a question for you, M...

Do you find you have lower expections when the book is free as opposed to having shelled out $10 bucks?

I'm not even asking this to be funny...
but because the other day I watched a movie my hubby rented and enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. And I thought "Was it because I didn't have to pay $12 plus the outrageous cost of popcorn and a coke?" Yup.

In reverse... I took myself to see White Out (I mistakenly thought it was based on the Ken Follett book of the same title. Its' NOT.) and found it lacking. Interesting movie premise, but certainly not worth my $20. I bet I would have thought it okay if it was on telly!!! :)

M. said...

Julia - I'm not surprised that you art afficionado take note of covers!

TL - I can actually deal with a certain amount of illogicality (if that's a word) if I really like the story and if it's not massive. in this case - it was massive.

M. said...

Jenners - you're welcome! I've been doing twin reviews for awhile now, with different kinds of unifying factors. Also, in case my read books are stacking up and I'm behind in the reviews!

Wylie - good question. I actually am not sure of the answer, when it comes to books - because whether or not I paid for it, I invested several hours of my time to read it. Whereas with movies, I have said to myself "Not bad for watching on TV but I'd have felt cheated if I'd paid $20". So I get what you're saying.

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