The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 11-30-14

Sunday Post

I’m prepping this on my laptop, and remembering how much I love my double-screen desktop machine. Which has already been shipped to our new home, so laptop it is.

My reviewing schedule for next week has changed three times since I originally prepped this post.. Three posts are for blog tours, and the show, as they say, must go on. But the other two days are “dealer’s choice” and my first thought did not survive actual experience, even anticipated experience. THANK YOU CASS for agreeing to do reviews this week and next week!

The movers are packing us on Monday, loading the truck on Tuesday, and we hit the road Wednesday. We are experiencing another “adventure in moving,” made even more adventurous by the decision to drive from Seattle to Atlanta with three cats in the backseat.

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving. We spent the holiday in Vancouver, BC, where they may not have a Thanksgiving Thursday, but all the stores definitely celebrate Black Friday. And speaking of celebrating the post-Thanksgiving shopping weekend, there are still a few hours left to get into the Gratitude Giveaways Hop and the Black Friday Book Bonanza.

Black_Friday_Book_Bonanza_button-40x400Current Giveaways:

$10 Amazon or B&N Gift Card in the Gratitude Giveaways Hop
$10 Amazon or B&N Gift Card in the Black Friday Book Bonanza
4 ebook copies of Falling from the Light by Regan Summers
Lots of prizes, including an Amazon Kindle, in the Bewitching Book Tours Hot Holiday Giveaway


pure heat by ml buchmanBlog Recap:

B- Review: Falling from the Light by Regan Summers + Giveaway
B+ Review: Pure Heat by M L Buchman
B- Review: Wildfire at Dawn by M L Buchman
Guest Post by Galen: Thanksgiving Day 2014: a small reading list
Black Friday Book Bonanza
Bewitching Book Tours Hot Holiday Giveaway



christmas wonderfinalComing Next Week:

Christmas Wonder Giveaway Hop
Full Blaze by M L Buchman (blog tour review)
Firewall by Sonya Clark (blog tour review)
Festive in Death by J.D. Robb (review)
Emissaries from the Dead by Adam-Troy Castro (review by Cass)
The Highland Dragon’s Lady by Isabel Cooper (blog tour review)

Bewitching Book Tours Hot Holiday Giveaway

bewitching holiday giveaway 2014

Bewitching Book Tours is running their second annual holiday giveaway, and it is massive! There are lots of prizes, including a Kindle Fire, Amazon gift cards, and ebooks by Bewitching authors! For a chance to win, use the Rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Black Friday Book Bonanza


Welcome to the Black Friday Book Bonanza, hosted by the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and BookShelfery!

Are you braving the holiday crowds, or do you do all your Black Friday shopping online? Or do you go crazy and go out on Thanksgiving night to get a jump on the season?

This Black Friday, instead of pushing through the crowds, let you fingers do the walking down the list of participants in this blog hop. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to fill a lot of Christmas stocking with books and gift cards.

Or maybe you’ll just find a few great reads for yourself!

I’m giving away a $10 gift card to winner’s choice of Amazon or Barnes and Noble!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more chances to win, visit the other sites on this blog hop:

Thanksgiving Day 2014: a small reading list

Galen here, taking advantage of Marlene’s incipient tryptophan poisoning to do a holiday post on her blog.

Very Large Turkey by rickpilot_2000 on Flickr (CC-BY-SA)
Very Large Turkey by rickpilot_2000 on Flickr (CC-BY-SA)

Behold the national bird of the United States of America! That is, if Ben Franklin had had his way.

Quoting good old Ben:

“I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

Of course, had the turkey become the national bird, we might feel inhibited against eating it… and I really don’t think eagle would be a good substitute. So it all works out.

Here is some reading for the day:

Happy Thanksgiving!

Review: Wildfire at Dawn by M L Buchman

wildfire at dawn by ml buchmanFormat read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: contemporary romance, romantic suspense
Series: Firehawks #2
Length: 170 pages
Publisher: self-published
Date Released: May 19, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s WebsiteGoodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Johnny Akbar Jepps, lead smokejumper for Mount Hood Aviation, is always first out of the plane, first into the fire, and first with the ladies. But the last thing he ever puts on the line? His heart. Until he meets a woman who simply rides away with it. Laura Jenson, wilderness guide and expert horsewoman, leads tourists from the Mount Hood Timberline Lodge into the wilds of Oregon. She knows the game and has no interest in some lady-killing, full-of-himself smokejumper. Not until Johnny lights her heart on fire. They both must take care not to get burned by the Wildfire at Dawn.

My Review:

full blaze by ml buchmanI rearranged my reading schedule in order to have a Firehawks marathon. I definitely enjoyed yesterday’s taste of this author’s combination of romance, adrenaline and suspense, so I wanted to continue with the rest of the series. (Book three, Full Blaze, will be up on Monday.)

The universe of wildlands fire fighting is utterly fascinating, which is a good thing, because one does emerge from each book having acquired a surprising amount of information about this dangerous, deadly and exhilarating profession. If you don’t walk away from these stories genuinely impressed with these utterly necessary people who fight fires in the middle of nowhere because they need to, and because we need them to, check for your heart because it must be missing.

The excitement of the story should have jolted it to life, in case you needed a jolt.

pure heat by ml buchmanWildfire at Dawn is the second book in Buchman’s Firehawks series. And I will say that it is necessary to have read the first book, Pure Heat, in order to really get the most out of this one. Wildfire at Dawn takes one of the secondary characters from Pure Heat and makes him the hero of his own romance, as well as the solver of a particularly nasty mystery.

Johnny “Akbar the Great” Jepps is the lead smokejumper for Mount Hood Aviation. He got that promotion at the beginning of Pure Heat, so events do follow.

Johnny is not looking for Ms. Right. He’s spent his 10 years as a smokie looking for Ms. Right Now on every break, and he’s had pretty good luck finding her – over and over. His pickup line of “I jump out of planes to fight forest fires” is a surefire winner.

When he meets Laura Jenson in The Doghouse, the MHA home bar, he’s captivated until he finds out that she’s a local. It’s hard to love ’em and leave ’em when they stick around. On that other hand, Laura is a wilderness guide, which makes her one of the few people who really get what he does (and why) who isn’t involved in the job. He keeps her wilderness safe, and she’s very aware of that.

She’s also perfectly aware that Johnny is a player, and she’s not interested in being played. He’s totally upfront about what he wants, but she’s just not into casual sex. She’s not looking for a relationship either, but neither is he. She respects that he is upfront, she just doesn’t want to play.

But instead of doing all the obvious things, Johnny seems to be interested in her. Not just interested in the obvious way, but interested in general. After a bunch of mixed signals and hurt feelings, as well as a nasty interfering fire, they move toward friendship. Especially after he helps her deal with a particularly obnoxious client who thinks that buying her guide services means buying her.

They drift into a relationship that neither one planned for. It throws Johnny completely out of his element. He never expected to feel so much, and doesn’t know how to deal with his emotions. So he hides from what he feels, pushing Laura away in lots of subtle ways, and driving his friends crazy as they see him throwing away the best thing that ever happened to him.

Until Laura finds herself caught in two forest fires, one right after another. And Johnny finally gets his head out of his ass and figures out just how much he has to lose.

Escape Rating B-: I would rate this one higher, but it is just plain too short. Johnny and Laura are both a bit shy of relationships because of messes in their respective pasts, but we didn’t get a clear enough picture of what happened, especially in Laura’s case.

In her case, it isn’t parental trauma, because we meet her parents and they are an absolute hoot. George and Jane Jenson named their daughter Laura Judy. For anyone who remembers the Jetsons animated series fondly, the jokes around their names is delightful. George Jenson really does work in the space age, his company builds the drones that Merks introduced in Pure Heat.

Laura is a terrific heroine, she’s smart, funny and professional. She’s part of the wilderness world without also being a firefighter like Johnny, so we get to see what its like to have a relationship (or try to) with someone who gets called at a moment’s notice to throw himself in harm’s way.

Johnny’s a bit more of an enigma. He started as a hotshot back when he was still in high school, and he’s never wanted to do anything else. He’s Indian (Asia not North America) and his background has some effect on his choices, but it doesn’t seem to be a big deal. More important for some bits of the story, he’s shorter than Laura and doesn’t care, although it does bother her a bit at the beginning. Still, it made him different, we don’t often see romantic heroes who are not basically “whitebread” and it’s rare for the heroine to be taller than her hero.

The most important relationship Johnny has (besides whatever is happening with Laura) is his smokejumping partner Two-Tall Tim. The way that they rely on each other, while at the same time not taking any shit from each other, is an excellent portrayal of friendship.

The mystery was a bit obvious, because the leading factors were kind of a “Chekhov’s Gun”. Something was introduced at the beginning that had to come back and bite someone on the ass. The climax still had me on the edge of my seat.

Good fun, high adventure, and a sweet romance. Just right (especially at 4 am when I finished!)

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Pure Heat by M L Buchman

pure heat by ml buchmanFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, mass market paperback
Genre: romantic suspense
Series: Firehawks
Length: 350 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date Released: May 6, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

These heli-aviation firefighters battle more than flames.

The elite fire experts of Mount Hood Aviation fly into places even the CIA can’t penetrate.

She lives to fight fires

Carly Thomas could read burn patterns before she knew the alphabet. A third-generation forest fire specialist who lost both her father and her fiancé to the flames, she’s learned to live life like she fights fires: with emotions shut down.

But he’s lit an inferno she can’t quench

Former smokejumper Steve “Merks” Mercer can no longer fight fires up close and personal, but he can still use his intimate knowledge of wildland burns as a spotter and drone specialist. Assigned to copilot a Firehawk with Carly, they take to the skies to battle the worst wildfire in decades and discover a terrorist threat hidden deep in the Oregon wilderness–but it’s the heat between them that really sizzles.

My Review:

Pure Heat is a story about the people who live to fight wildfires; and especially about two people who have been damaged by that love.

Like any kind of drug, adrenaline is addictive. Fighting a forest wildfire is a special kind of addiction – it rewards its junkies with adulation – providing they survive. Even if they don’t always survive intact.

Steve Mercer, “Merks” to his friends and colleagues, used to be a smokejumper, until his leg was permanently damaged in a smoke jumping accident. While it isn’t the kind of accident that anyone could possibly have expected, the damage makes it impossible for him to run either towards or away from a fire, skills that smokejumpers need to survive. The accident took out a significant part of the muscle mass above and below one knee. What’s gone won’t grow back. Steve is lucky he can walk.

But he couldn’t get the need to fight forest wildfires out of his system, so he trained to fly drones over fires, using the data and his experience to spot trouble. He starts his new job, and first outing as a drone specialist, with Mount Hood Aviation as the book begins.

light up the night by m l buchmanHe’s not the only newbie on the crew. Retired SOAR Majors Henderson and Beale have also joined MHA, fresh from the events in Light Up the Night (reviewed here) the last book in the Night Stalkers series. Henderson is in command again, and Beale is still flying Firehawk helicopters. The difference in their lives is that one of them has to stay out of the fire, with their infant daughter.

Henderson and Beale’s presence guarantees that there is more going on than just fighting fires. But it isn’t their story.

The other person invited to this particular party is Carly Thomas. She’s also been mauled by the flames she fights, only the blows that she has taken have burned through to her heart. Her dad raised her in the middle of Mount Hood Aviation after he mother died when she was a child. He went out the way he lived, trapped by a fire he was fighting when she was 16. Her fiance was taken from her a year previously, also consumed by the fire he was fighting. The difference is that her fiance only became a smokejumper because firefighting in the Oregon woods is Carly’s entire life. He loved her, but didn’t love or understand the fire.

Carly is the best Fire Analyst around, but she’s still inside the black zone left after a fire has cleared the forest. Steve waltzes (actually limps) in, and is captivated by the very beautiful and extremely intelligent (also incredibly driven) woman he meets. He doesn’t know her history, or where her broken places are – all he knows is that he wants to get to know her better.

That he continues to put his foot into the wrong place every time they talk makes things easier, at least for her. She’s too busy being annoyed to notice that he’s breached her defenses. She’s afraid to love another man who lives to fight fires.

But as they work together fighting the biggest fire the Pacific Northwest has seen in half a century, they find out just what the other is made of – and that they belong together no matter what it takes.

Escape Rating B+: I loved the Night Stalkers series, so I was very happy to see that the author had found another way to mix romance and adrenaline. The heroes who jump smoke may do different jobs than the pilots and crew of SOAR, but their lives are every bit as dangerous – and thrilling.

And thanks to the presence of Henderson and Beale, occasionally not all that far off from those clandestine missions that SOAR flew. However, their presence as newbies to MHA allows the author to provide readers with a lot of background and information on the history and methods for fighting these devastating fires.  While it occasionally verges on infodumping, the info being dumped is fascinating.

It is unusual to see what happens to the hero and heroine after the happily ever after, so it was great to see how the two Majors move into civilian life. They are absolutely awesome, and it was fun to see Kee Stevenson again and hear how Archie and Dilya are doing. It’s always good to hear that old friends are doing well.

But the primary couple in this story is Steve and Carly. Although the injury that Steve suffered before the book starts was physical, most of the lingering damage is emotional. He’s not sure that he’s still a whole man, or really himself at all, if he can’t still jump smoke. His story is that of finding himself again. Carly helps alot, but he needs to see that what he can contribute in the present is every bit as valuable, albeit very different, than what he did before. He has to feel that within himself, and it’s a long road.

Carly, on the other hand, while extremely competent at the job she loves, is in an emotional blackout. Everyone in MHA knows and loves her, and they do what they can not to touch her where it hurts. Steve wants to know her, and in order for that to happen, she has to reveal what went wrong in her past.

One thought that came to me, about Carly’s fiance. If he’d lived, I wonder if their relationship could have worked in the long run. They may have loved each other, but she can’t live away from firefighting, and he wasn’t suited for it. Eventually, they would have resented each other too much to keep going. But it doesn’t happen that way.

Steve and Carly bring each other back to life. It makes a great romance because they are equal – either they rescue each other or they reach towards each other out of their emotional deserts.

The touch of suspense discovered by Steve’s poor drone was added icing on a very fun (and flavorful) cake.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Falling from the Light by Regan Summers + Giveaway

falling from the light by regan summersFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: urban fantasy, paranormal romance
Series: Night Runner, #3
Length: 278 pages
Publisher: self-published
Date Released: November 24, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Phoenix, AZ

All Sydney Kildare wants is a minute in the slow lane, some time to decide where she’s going with her vampire lover, Malcolm Kelly. But after sitting out the last battle, the powerful Master Bronson is giving orders again, and he isn’t above blackmailing his former courier to get what he wants.

With Mal sent to track a vicious killer, Syd is forced to infiltrate a pharmaceutical company responsible for a drug that turns vampires into real monsters. She’s unprepared and alone, but fiercely determined. If her investigation doesn’t satisfy the Master, Malcolm will pay the price. A wrong turn throws her into the middle of a vampire power play. Caught between twisting forces, with their freedom at stake, she’ll have to decide what’s more important: love, power or revenge. But choosing what feels right might turn out all wrong.

My Review:

The story in Falling from the Light is definitely a reminder that the vampires that have become the heroes of so much of urban fantasy and paranormal romance draw their origins from the horror side of the house.

In this book, very bad vampires do bad things to bad people, and also do bad things to good people. Even good vampires spend so much energy posturing for the nastier members of their group that they spray a LOT of collateral damage among their human and vampire companions.

Also this is a “things are always darkest just before they turn completely black” kind of story. Sydney gets so far down that “bottom looks like up”. In other words, this is the story of how Sydney falls from the light into nearly permanent darkness, and then has to claw her way back. after a trauma that guarantees she’ll never be quite the same.

She’ll be okay, because she’s incredibly tough, but she won’t be the same. The story ends with Sydney and her vampire lover Mal hoping that they can escape the crap that they’ve gotten into for good. Of course, somebody has to die to make that happen. I will leave the “who” for you to find out.

The Night Runner series takes place in a world where the vampires have not just come out of the coffin, but where they seem to have their fangs into a whole lot of the criminal organizations and quite a few private companies. (When you live forever, you have lots of time to compound interest on your investments)

dont bite the messenger by regan summersSydney, and Malcolm, (sometimes it’s the other way around) are pawns in a world-wide vampire power struggle. At first, In Don’t Bite the Messenger (reviewed here) it seems as though the more nasty vamps were using Sydney to get to the vamp she worked for. In Running in the Dark (reviewed here) the more nasty vamps were using Sydney to get to Malcolm.

In Falling from the Light, both sets of vampires (let’s call them more nasty and less nasty) are using Sydney to get to Malcolm and Malcolm to get to Sydney. And since Sydney is the poor squishy human, she’s collateral damage no matter whose agenda is currently in play.

Including, unfortunately for their relationship, Malcolm’s agenda. He pretends to be worse than he is to protect her from the true villains, but nothing quite works like they planned.

The dark at the end of Sydney’s fall from the light is very dark indeed. It takes a supreme sacrifice, blind faith, and one hell of a lot of luck to reach the light at the end of this tunnel. But it’s worth it.

Escape Rating B-: It’s Sydney’s character that makes this series, which makes it very difficult (read that as gut-wrenching) when Sydney finds herself a captive of the nasty and insane vamps. What happens to her is very rough.

She’s also subjected to constant reminders that she and even Malcolm are just pawns in other vampire games, and that the vampires mostly consider her as talking food at worst or an intelligent pet at best. She has no rights, she’s physically outclassed, and her life is so worthless to most vampires that they have no comprehension of her thoughts or feelings. There are no laws that protect her except the law of the jungle, and vampires are excellent at maneuvering that to their own advantage.

Sydney only has one ace in the hole; she is immune to vampire glamour, but no one knows why. At least not until the boss vampire reveals it to her in this book, just in time for her to use those talents to save the day. Or at least the epilog.

But Sydney spends a lot of the first ⅔ of the story being beaten and beaten down, and while it was good to see her finally emerge into the light at the end, it was VERY tough to watch her suffer. The world of the Night Runners isn’t the same without Sydney’s snark, so it was great to see her recover it at the end.


Falling from the Light Button 300 x 225

Regan is giving away 4 ebook copies of Falling from the Light in the winners’ choice of format

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 11-23-14

Sunday Post

I’m not actually sure what I’m reviewing on Wednesday. The Director is kind of a placeholder. I intend to read it, but it isn’t exactly in the holiday spirit. On my other hand, while there are oodles of Christmas books, there aren’t all that many that feature Thanksgiving (except for cookbooks, or course)

We’re winding down the days until our move, and the days for the Gratitude Giveaways Hop are also winding down. So if you want a chance at a $10 Gift Card, this week is it. At least until the Black Friday Book Bonanza starts next weekend!

Current Giveaways:

$10 Amazon or B&N Gift Card in the Gratitude Giveaways Hop
Handmade bookmarks from author Victoria Vane

mark of the tala by jeffe kennedyBlog Recap:

B+ Review: Temporal Shift by Nina Croft
B+ Review: The Legend of the Highland Dragon by Isabel Cooper
B+ Review: Phoenix Rising by Philippa Ballantine and Tee Morris
A- Review: Slow Hand by Victoria Vane
Guest Post by Victoria Vane on Rakes and Cowboys + Giveaway
A Review: The Mark of the Tala by Jeffe Kennedy
Stacking the Shelves (112)


Black_Friday_Book_Bonanza_button-40x400Coming Next Week:

Falling from the Light by Regan Summers (blog tour review)
Pure Heat by M.L. Buchman (review)
The Director by David Ignatius (review)
Thanksgiving Day 2014
Black Friday Book Bonanza
Bewitching Book Tours Hot Holiday Giveaway

Stacking the Shelves (112)

Stacking the Shelves

If these weren’t all ebooks, I’d need to have my head examined. (Yes, I know, even more than I do now)

We are moving back to Atlanta in two weeks, and the point is usually to reduce the amount of stuff that has to be transported. Instead, I’m stocking up on reading material for the trip. I can’t wait until we start picking out audiobooks for the long drive. We’ll just have to play them loud enough to drown out the complaints from the cats in the backseat!

For Review:
An Affair Downstairs (Thornbrook Park #2) by Sherri Browning
Blade on the Hunt (Rowan Summerwaite #3) by Lauren Dane
The Blue and the Grey (Grand & Batchelor #1) by MJ Trow
Come Home for Christmas, Cowboy (Montana Born Christmas #5) by Megan Crane
The Deepest Night (Longest Night #2) by Kara Braden
Diamond Head by Cecily Wong
Falling from the Light (Night Runner #2) by Regan Summers
Garrett (Cold Fury Hockey #2) by Sawyer Bennett
Hungry Like the Wolf (SWAT #1) by Paige Tyler
Hunter of Sherwood: The Red Hand (Guy of Gisburne #2) by Toby Venables
Hush Hush (Tess Monaghan #12) by Laura Lippman
The Importance of Being Alice (Ainslie Brothers #1) by Katie MacAlister
It Must Be Your Love (Sullivans #11) by Bella Andre
Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy
The Marriage Charm (Brides of Bliss County #2) by Linda Lael Miller
Pleasantville by Attica Locke
Sherlock Holmes, The Missing Years: Japan by Vasudev Murthy
Surrender (Devil’s Den #1) by Violetta Rand
Tales of the Alaska State Troopers by Peter B. Mathiesen
The Ultimate Guide to Sex After Fifty by Joan Price

Purchased from Amazon:
Hunter of Sherwood: Knight of Shadows (Guy of Gisburne #1) by Toby Venables
Thornbrook Park (Thornbrook Park #1) by Sherri Browning

Borrowed from the Library:
Baltimore Blues (Tess Monaghan #1) by Laura Lippman
Black Water Rising by Attica Locke
The Devil in the Marshalsea (Tom Hawkins #1) by Antonia Hodgson
Last Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert

Review: The Mark of the Tala by Jeffe Kennedy

mark of the tala by jeffe kennedyFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: Fantasy romance
Series: The Twelve Kingdoms #1
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Kensington
Date Released: May 27, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Queen Of The Unknown

The tales tell of three sisters, daughters of the high king. The eldest, a valiant warrior-woman, heir to the kingdom. The youngest, the sweet beauty with her Prince Charming. No one says much about the middle princess, Andromeda. Andi, the other one.

Andi doesn’t mind being invisible. She enjoys the company of her horse more than court, and she has a way of blending into the shadows. Until the day she meets a strange man riding, who keeps company with wolves and ravens, who rules a land of shapeshifters and demons. A country she’d thought was no more than legend–until he claims her as its queen.

In a moment everything changes: Her father, the wise king, becomes a warlord, suspicious and strategic. Whispers call her dead mother a traitor and a witch. Andi doesn’t know if her own instincts can be trusted, as visions appear to her and her body begins to rebel.

For Andi, the time to learn her true nature has come. . .

My Review:

maleficent post from imdbI watched Maleficent while I was in the middle of reading The Mark of the Tala, and was amazed at how well the two stories resonated together.

It’s not that Princess Andromeda is anything like Princess Aurora in the movie. It’s much more that King Stefan in the movie is all too much like King Uorsin in the book.

So much of the action, including a war and a whole lot of death on both sides, occurs because both of the Kings disavowed their own words and behavior; and because they enviously want to possess something that cannot ever be theirs.

Maleficent’s fairy kingdom bears a startling physical resemblance to the land of the Tala as well.

Back to the book. King Uorsin has three daughters, Ursula, Andromeda and Amelia. Ursula is his heir and his warleader. She is his right hand in all things. If the name Uorsin sounds like bear, well, Ursula means little bear. And so she is.

At first I thought that the name Amelia meant the same as Amanda, “worthy of being loved” which the youngest Princess certainly seems to be in this first book. However, wikipedia tells me that Amelia means either “hardworking” or “rival” which look like they will fit for Amelia’s appearances later in the series.

But Princess Andromeda is named for a constellation in the Autumn night sky, and the story behind it is the myth of a woman chained to a rock for sacrifice to a beast. Which pretty much summarizes the way that her father’s people see her fate.

Of course, just like in Maleficent, the story people are told is not the truth. It is certainly not Andromeda’s truth.

Because Uorsin made a deal with the people of the Tala long ago. He took their Princess Salena as his wife, and in return they promised to help him win his kingdom. He promised that the children of this marriage, and Salena herself, would be allowed to return to the Tala when the children were old enough.

Instead, he imprisoned his queen and prohibited anyone in the court from ever speaking of the Tala. He demonized them. It was easy, because the Tala were not only secretive, they were also shapeshifters.

Now the Tala have returned to claim at least one of the Princesses. King Rayfe of the Tala needs the power that he can gain from returning the rightful queen to her kingdom. But he doesn’t know until they finally meet that Andromeda is not just the queen his kingdom needs, but that she is the queen that he needs.

It’s a tragedy that so many have to die in Uorsin’s unjust war to keep his daughter from her destiny, and from the man she comes to love. A man she comes to trust much more than the father who rejected her at every turn for being the rightful Queen of the Tala.

Escape Rating A: The more I think about this book, the more fascinating things I see. This is epic fantasy in a somewhat traditional mode, and yet it turns so many of the conventions on their heads.

The three princesses are not waiting to be married off to handsome princes. Ursula doesn’t look like she’ll marry at all. Andromeda has been invisible most of her life and wants to be free to do what she wants. Only Amelia was looking for the traditional fairy tale wedding, and she got it. (What happens later, is, well, later. Also a spoiler)

I said at the beginning this reminded me of Maleficent. Maleficent turns out not to be the evil villain, King Stefan is really the evil villain. Also mad as a hatter in the end. King Uorsin is a Stefan. He wants to be king of the Twelve Kingdoms, and to do that he needs a lot of help, because at the beginning there is no realm of the Twelve Kingdoms, just twelve independent kingdoms. He gets magical help from the Tala, but is a selfish bastard and won’t abide by the treaty he signed. Instead, he wages a steady war against the Tala, both with troops and with propaganda.

The three princess don’t even know that their mother was Tala. They certainly don’t know that dad probably killed mom. He cut them off from half of their heritage in order to force the military confrontation that fills this book.

Andromeda is willing to sacrifice herself to save her people. In fact, to save both her peoples. But the war and its devastation is all about Uorsin’s unwillingness to give up something that he thinks belongs to him, and his desire to conquer the Tala at all costs. He doesn’t care who or what he sacrifices, and his people pay the price.

In addition to the story of oathbreaking and retribution on a grand scale, we also have the marvelous story of a young woman discovering her true nature and coming into her power. It reminds me a bit of Queen of the Tearling or Third Daughter, both stories of forgotten princesses who turn out to be much stronger than anyone bargained for.

tears of the rose by jeffe kennedyIf you like your epic fantasy with a touch of romance, The Mark of the Tala is an awesome beginning to what looks like a great series. The Tears of the Rose is next, and I can hardly wait to see what happens!!!

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