Friday, October 1, 2010


Regular readers of this space know that Apprentice Writer has recently struggled with lacklustre enthusiasm for sequel volumes of urban fantasy series.

Does the problem lie within herself, she wonders? Overall genre fatigue? Too great a familiarity with individual author style after the first one or two volumes? Can, perhaps, the dreaded 'sagging middle' of a book (which authors strive so hard to avoid after hooking a reader's interest with great beginning and closing on a rousing end) also transfer to a dreaded 'sagging middle' of a series, with great opening volume, fantastic planned closing volume, and possibly not-quite-as-strong volumes in between?

Being apparently incapable of walking by a UF title on her library's New Release table, AW found herself in temporary possession of DARK AND STORMY KNIGHTS, edited by P.N. Elrod.

Perhaps, thought she, the trick would be to find some new UF authors to read and love.

Ilona Andrews, A Questionable Client
First Line: "The problem with leucrocotta blood is that it stinks to high heaven."
A very Kate Daniels sentiment; her emphasis isn't on the astonishing presence of a mythological beast in her neighborhood, it's on her irritation at having to clean its body fluids off her boots after she cuts off its head. Good opener and fun story.
Premise/Author style: Liked and liked (but this was no surprise as the author is 1 of 2 from 9 with whose work AW was familiar).
Novella did its job? Yes - shall read more as Book 4 in series picked up again.

Jim Butcher, Even Hand
First Line: "A successful murder is like a successful restaurant: ninety percent of it is about location, location, location." Excellent first line.
Premise/Author Style: Liked and liked.
Novella did its job? Yes - would consider seeking out more of author's work.

Shannon Butcher, The Beacon
First Line: "There were ten rounds in Ryder Ward's Glock, but he was going to need only one."
Unremarkable first line.
Premise/Author Style: *snooze*
Novella did its job? No - uninterested in pursuing more of this author's work. Which is sad and unfair for the author in case she is much stronger at full-length than novella writing.

Rachel Caine, Even a Rabbit will Bite
First Line: "I got a letter from the Pope in the morning mail." Intriguing first line.
Premise/Author Style: Interesting /Competent but not so powerful as to draw in on its own.
Novella did its job? Partially. Not opposed to reading more, but didn't find self googling backlist either.

P.N. Elrod, Dark Lady
First Line: "My name is Jack Fleming. I am owned by a nightclub." Funny first line, creates positive anticipation.
Premise/Author Style: Premise had similarities to the Jim Butcher story so AW expected a twist at the end, too, was not forthcoming. Enjoyed the noir style.
Novella did its job? Partially. AW appreciated that the story was well-written, but she is not a vampire person so wouldn't seek out more.

Deidre Knight, Beknighted
First Line: "She'd nearly freed him on three separate occasions, coming so close that she could practically touch the mail of his armor." Creates interest in the story to come.
Premise/Author Style: Interesting premise, but style felt muddled and unconvincing. Multiple instances of brand-name dropping in what is supposed to be a future or alternate world were alienating. Didn't get the motivations and backstory of any of the three characters. Female protagonist had some oddly dim moments. Frustrating that not enough was made of what was an intriguing idea.
Novella did its job? No. Uninterested in pursuing more.

Vicki Pettersson, Shifting Star
First Line: "Skamar left her so-called Mediterranean-style apartment as she always did; after first sniffing the air to make sure there were no mortals about." Meh.
Premise/Author Style: Didn't grasp by time decided to stop reading / Was so difficult to grasp backstory and so uninterested in characters to make the effort to do so stopped reading.
Novella did its job? Might have, if had been hooked enough to find out, but now we'll never know...

Lilith Saintcrow, Rookwood & Mrs. King
First Line: "I need to kill my husband." Dramatic, but feels like it's been done before.
Premise/Author Style: OK/Competent overall and well-done in spots. Of the new-to-AW authors, she was most interested in this one due to following her online posts at the grog 'Deadline Dames'.
Novella did its job? Partially. The writing was fine, the story ended with a twist, but again, it is vampiric. If the author branched out into other territory would take a look.

Carrie Vaughan, God's Creatures
First Line: "Cormac waited in the cab of his Jeep, watching each car that pulled into the rest area on I-25 north of Monument." Seriously: not impressing in the least.
Premise/Author Style: Been done (in this antho, in fact) / Competent.
Novella did its job? Partially. Story was fine, but the content was werewolfic (as is the author's full-length work, of which AW has read the first of series). So AW doesn't anticipate reading more.

of 2 Known authors - this reader's expectations were confirmed.

of 7 Unknown authors - this reader is interested to read more of a total of 1.

It really is time to give UF a break and read something else.


Rachel said...

Do you often read short stories? I have discovered that I have a problem really getting into them. I end up getting emotionally fatigued with trying to get into a new set of characters every 75-100 pages. I think I need spread the stories out rather than reading the entire volume in one sitting.

In other incredibly mundane words, I have not read anything truly inspiring recently or else I would make some non-UF suggestions for you. I think the last 10 books I read will be quickly forgotten. Ah well, onward and upward... Loretta Chase has a new title out...

M. said...

I don't actually often read short stories, not really sure why I did this time either since i have a checkered antho history.

Oh - the Loretta Chase - I'd so looked forward to it, yet I'm 20 pages in an not madly in love with either hero or heroine yet. Could still happen but I'm a little bit afraid.... Undistinguished cover and heinous stepback (did I mention I despise stepbacks?) not helping.

Rachel said...

ah, nuts! I loved the boy in Lord Perfect. He cracked me up. You said nothing of the stepback. Why do not like them? And, er, what is it exactly? Can think of several possible definitions. :)

M. said...

Rachel -
1. Peregrine and Olivia were fab in LP. Their first reintroduction as adults shows them to be... a little too convinced of their respective rightness on all occasions, shall we say. It's early yet so I'm hoping there will be signficant character growth, but I was dealt a blow in that the moment of first seeing each other (again, in this case) is usually so well done in a Chase and here it was kind of boring.

2. Hee.
A stepback cover is the kind that has the 'real' cover slightly narrower than the rest of the book, leading to a secondary cover thingy with art that supposedly is the next step from that depicted on the front. And I have never, ever, EVER seen one that I thought was welldone. One and all, they tend to confirm unpleasant stereotypes non-romance readers have about the genre.

Rachel said...

aha! i iz edumacated now. :)

I hardly look at those things but I did just take a peek on this latest and it is so awful! I give props for the clearly nude male (refreshing!) but must he be so heinously displayed? And are his biceps larger than his head? It didn't work in Resident Evil: 5 and it doesn't work here. 'Roids much? Yuck!

I am so glad to have this stepback name now. Pretty much the only time I look at them is when the DH and I have fun captioning them. Now I will have nice fancy words for showing off next time we entertain ourselves with said activity.