The Sixth Annual Science Fiction Romance Galaxy Awards will be announced today. Below is the schedule for the release. You can follow throughout the day by clicking here: https://sfrgalaxyawards.blogspot.com
SFR GALAXY AWARDS ANNOUNCEMENT SCHEDULE
For your info, the judging rounds are scheduled as follows:
10:00 AM EST – Round 1, Chris Stock
11:00 AM EST – Round 2, Heather Massey
12:00 PM EST – Round 3, Marlene Harris
1:00 PM EST – Round 4, Riley Moreland
2:00 PM EST – Round 5, Jo Jones
3:00 PM EST – Round 6, Lee Koven
4:00 PM EST – Round 7, Anna McLain
More About the Awards
The SFR Galaxy Awards is an annual, multi-award event for science fiction romance books. The 2017 awards marks the sixth successive year the awards have been presented.
The theme of the SFR Galaxy Awards is inclusiveness. Instead of giving an award to a single book, this event will recognize the worth of multiple books and/or the standout elements they contain. The basic philosophy behind this approach is to help connect readers with books.
Each of seven judges may name one to multiple awards for standout science fiction romance, creating award categories based on their own criteria. They may also opt to provide additional details about the selectee and why they have made the selection. Authors do not enter to win and are not aware they have won until the awards are announced.
The focus is on award year titles, however the judges may also make a selection from a prior year and one selection can be a science fiction romance film, television series, video, graphic novel or game. (Further information about guidelines and eligibility can be found on the About the SFR Galaxy Awards page.)
Today I’d like to welcome Kristan Higgins, the author of the recent Now That You Mention It as well as the absolutely marvelous Blue Heron series. (Anything for You was my personal favorite).As this is a Blog Tour for Valentine’s Day recommendations, Kristan is here to tell us her favorite Valentine’s tradition. And don’t we all remember the dread of having to give Valentine’s to every kid in the class?
Pizza, Books & Valentine’s Day
by Kristan Higgins
Here’s a little secret I’m somewhat loath to admit—I hate Valentine’s Day. When I was a kid, we’d have to give every single one of our classmates a card, and I’ll confess: Joey L. did not deserve a Valentine from me, no sir. Nor did Kate M., who was always mean.
Even then. the holiday smacked of forced good cheer. When I was in college, the poor lad I dated would give me a gas station rose, or worse, write me a poem and then read it to me, and I’d sit, twitching, waiting for the recitation to end.
As a young married couple, McIrish and I once made a Valentine’s Day reservation at a lovely Italian restaurant. That night, the servers were harried and forgetful, and the restaurant was mobbed with couples feeling the pressure to be romantic. No one was proposed to, though I’m pretty sure one young woman was waiting, because she got more and more tense as the night went on (eavesdropping is one of my great gifts). The food, which was usually so good, was mediocre, and McIrish and I decided not to go out anymore. These days, I usually draw McIrish, my sainted husband, a cartoon of the two of us. Some grown-up snuggling may ensue. Sometimes I make him pudding or crème brulée in the heart-shaped ramekins we got as a wedding gift.
Truthfully, the best Valentine’s Day I can remember was when I was living alone, working in a strange city, no friends. A bouquet of flowers arrived at my workplace, signed “From Your Secret Admirer.” I immediately called my dad to thank him, and, bless his heart, he played dumb.
When I got out of work, I went home to my little apartment, got a pizza from the restaurant below, and read a book. A romance novel, of course. No pressure, no expectations… just me with two of the great loves of my life: pizza and a good book.
About Now That You Mention It
One step forward. Two steps back. The Tufts scholarship that put Nora Stuart on the path to becoming a Boston medical specialist was a step forward. Being hit by a car and then overhearing her boyfriend hit on another doctor when she thought she was dying? Two major steps back.
Injured in more ways than one, Nora feels her carefully built life cracking at the edges. There’s only one place to land: home. But the tiny Maine community she left fifteen years ago doesn’t necessarily want her. At every turn, someone holds the prodigal daughter of Scupper Island responsible for small-town drama and big-time disappointments.
With a tough islander mother who’s always been distant and a wild-child sister in jail, unable to raise her daughter–a withdrawn teen as eager to ditch the island as Nora once was–Nora has her work cut out for her if she’s going to take what might be her last chance to mend the family.
But as some relationships crumble around her, others unexpectedly strengthen. Balancing loss and opportunity, a dark event from her past with hope for the future, Nora will discover that tackling old pain makes room for promise…and the chance to begin again.
In the middle of an alien invasion, a bad boy berserker collides with a spunky mechanic on a dangerous sabotage mission.
Levi King has always lived rough. Raised by a biker dad, he fought for everything he had—including being president of the Iron Kings motorcycle club. But when the aliens invaded, he lost it all. Now he wades through the muck with his fellow berserkers, fighting to protect the last of the human survivors. He fights hard and parties harder, and follows no one’s rules but his own. But then he finds himself fascinated by a mouthy, auburn-haired mechanic who isn’t afraid to give him a piece of her mind.
Chrissy Hagan survived months of alien captivity and now she’s found a purpose at the Enclave—as mechanic in charge of the armored Hunter vehicles. She keeps her babies purring…and hates every scratch the soldiers put on them, especially when a certain arrogant, cocky, and annoying biker is responsible. Did she mention annoying? What about tattooed, man-bunned, and far too sexy? Chrissy and Levi do more than strike sparks of each other…they start full blown infernos, and she isn’t afraid to use her wrench on his hard head when required.
But then a vital mission requires Chrissy to step out of the safety of the Enclave, and sabotage and steal an alien vehicle. Working side by side, desire burns white-hot. Levi discovers he will give everything he’s got to keep Chrissy safe and claim her as his…if they both get through the deadly mission alive.
OK, we’re now 15 books into the Hell Squad series. And it’s still pretty damn awesome.
This is a post-apocalyptic science fiction romance series that will even work for people who don’t generally like post-apocalyptic science fiction. Like me. In a way, the series is kind of an extended version of the first Independence Day movie. The aliens have landed, and they are determined to wipe out humanity and strip the planet. (Or absorb humanity and strip the planet, as the Gizzida definitely have some Borg-like features).
Unlike the movie, instead of the happy ending where the aliens get kicked off Earth with extreme prejudice happening relatively quickly, and before all of the planetary-wide organization has been wiped out, the Hell Squad series stretches out over a relatively long period of time. At this point in the series we’re definitely a couple of years into the mess, and the human population has been decimated, using something closer to the original meaning of the term. But instead of one person in ten being wiped out, the results of the Gizzida invasion have been more like the other way around – one person in ten has survived.
The series focuses on one group of survivors in Australia. The inhabitants of the Enclave have been taking the fight to the Gizzida, and the aliens are determined to wipe out this last bastion of resistance by any means available. And they are unfortunately very, very inventive at thinking up new ways of targeting the remaining human population.
While all of the books in this series are definitely romances, there is an overarching story about the ongoing resistance to the Gizzida as well as the neverending search for a way to kick them off our Earth. (I’m really, really looking forward to that story!)
In each story in the series, the romances have featured different people among the resistance. While the original story (Marcus) was all about the romance between one of the soldiers and the squad communications officer, as the series has unfolded the romances have featured every sort of person who would be needed to keep a place like the Enclave running.
In the case of this particular story, the romance is between Levi, one of the members of the Berserker Squad, and Chrissy, an ace mechanic in the equivalent of the motor pool. If it has an engine, Chrissy can fix it, armor it up and keep it running, no matter what.
But as a woman who has always worked in a man’s world, she’s kept her heart to herself. As someone who was once a prisoner of the Gizzida, she also highly values her freedom. That combination has meant that she keeps herself to herself, does her job, and is not impressed by the high-testosterone members of the Squads. Not until Levi breaches her defenses.
As with many books in the series, a situation arises where the noncombatant partner has to go on a mission that will put them directly in harm’s way. In this case, the Gizzida have flooded an area near their Sydney Airport base, and are obviously building something that they don’t want the humans to see. It’s up to Chrissy to help steal one of their amphibious vehicles and help drive it into the underwater compound so that the Berserkers can investigate at close quarters.
And of course the mission goes pear-shaped. Until Chrissy saves the day. And her man.
Escape Rating B+: The first third of this book, while a lot of fun, felt a lot like previous books in the series. A lot of patterns have developed over the course of the series and they are pretty easy to spot. Still fun to read, though.
Howsomever, at about ⅓ of the way in, the book suddenly grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. I have no idea why, but once I hit that point, I was all in for the rest of the wild ride.
One of the things that I love about this series is the way that the author keeps expanding the base. It’s not just soldiers, and the women are never damsels in distress. We see all the people who are needed to keep a place like this, and a resistance, up and running and taking it to the enemy. Every single person is busy, and everyone contributes something to the fight.
Chrissy is a terrific heroine for this series. Like many of the women, she’s both strong and vulnerable. That she was a prisoner of the Gizzida and was rescued gives her a different perspective on life in the Enclave. She never mourns what she lost in the invasion – only who she lost. But after her imprisonment, she sees every tiny luxury as a gift to be grateful for. And she is.
I liked Chrissy as a character quite a bit, as was happy to see her find her Happy for Now. All the romances in this series are all HFNs, not for the usual reasons, but because the Now is so precarious.
I hope to see them all become HEAs when the Gizzida get kicked back into space – or into Hell – for good. Hopefully in the not too distant future.
A groomsman and his last-minute guest are about to discover if a fake date can go the distance in a fun and flirty debut novel.
Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn't normally do. But there's something about Drew Nichols that's too hard to resist.
On the eve of his ex's wedding festivities, Drew is minus a plus one. Until a power outage strands him with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend...
After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible, Drew has to fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she's the mayor's chief of staff. Too bad they can't stop thinking about the other...
They're just two high-powered professionals on a collision course toward the long distance dating disaster of the century--or closing the gap between what they think they need and what they truly want...
This is a rom-com for readers who love rom-coms. It’s also a rom-com for readers who don’t necessarily gravitate to rom-coms. Like moi.
It begins with a meet-cute to end all meet-cutes. Drew and Alexa get stuck in an elevator together, at the fabulous Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. She’s there to catch up with a friend, and he’s there to be a groomsman at his ex’s wedding to one of his friends. Trapped in the elevator with Alexa’s purse-full of snacks and time to kill, they have a much better time together than either of them ever expected. So when Drew asks Alexa to be his “fake date” for the weekend at the wedding he’s attending as penance, she agrees.
And tries desperately not to overthink it.
Their fake date turns into an entire weekend. And it turns out to be anything but fake, even if neither of them is willing to admit it. But as they live in nearly opposite ends of the state (she’s in Berkeley, he’s in LA) they both figure that it’s a one-time fling.
Until it turns into the next weekend, and the next, and the next. And Alexa starts needing to figure out what it really is – while Drew tries to avoid thinking about what it really is.
They both went into this thing believing that it was short-term at best. But as that string of weekends turns into a couple of months, Alexa realizes that she’s in a relationship she hadn’t planned on, while Drew believes that whatever they have has to end sooner or later, because he always ends his relationships before they reach the commitment stage.
This time, it’s too late. It always has been.
Escape Rating A: I loved this one. I say that and I don’t normally like rom-coms. But The Wedding Date just worked for me, and I couldn’t put it down.
One reason that rom-coms don’t normally work for me is that there is so often a misunderstandammit somewhere in the pages. That the crisis is usually wrapped around a big secret that could have been revealed in a simple conversation that never happens.
This time, it felt like all the things that Drew and Alexa weren’t saying, and the reasons that they weren’t saying them, were organic to their relationship and their personalities, and not forced by the need for a crisis. I think we’ve all been there, where we feel that we’re deeper into a relationship than the other person, and are scared to mess up a good thing by pushing for too much too soon. And that usually that instinct means that if we push, the good thing will be over before its time.
As this was a relationship that began with a short shelf life, Alexa’s hesitation is not surprising at all. And Drew is completely blindsided. He never lets himself stick around for anything to develop into a relationship, so he’s unwilling to see that this time it’s happened before he has a chance to back out.
Part of what makes this story so much fun is how likeable both of the characters are. Drew is a pediatric surgeon, so he’s a doctor who works with children. And he’s both cute and caring about it. But Alexa is the character who really shines. She’s the Chief of Staff for the Mayor of Berkeley, and her job is fascinating, adrenaline-inducing, all-encompassing, extremely professional and headache-producing all in one. She loves it and it consumes her life until Drew steps into it. At the same time, she does not stop working or stop being professional or stop loving her job because she’s in a relationship. She does what we all do, she juggles, and she does it well. With a little help from a marvelous coterie of friends.
Another thing that makes this story a bit different is that Alexa is black and Drew is white. She does a really deft job of opening Drew’s, and the reader’s, eyes to some of the issues she faces everyday while never breaking the flow of the story or lecturing either him or the reader. The way that she gets Drew to see his privilege while explaining a program that she is working on at her job works on multiple levels. That he gets it without getting offensive or defensive is part of his character’s charm. That we get it too is part of the author’s charm.
If you’re looking for a book that will make you smile and just plain brighten your day (or even week!) The Wedding Date is a real treat! It’s every bit as delicious as the doughnuts that Alexa is addicted to – without the calories.
Reviewer’s Notes: First, I almost find it impossible to believe that this is the author’s first novel. It is completely polished and utterly marvelous from beginning to end. Second, while I don’t normally have a visual in my head for characters in books I’m reading, every once in a while, I do. For some reason, I kept seeing Drew as Justin Trudeau. It worked for me.
I clearly need to look at page counts when I’m deciding what to read in a single week. Back to back to back 400+ page books fail somewhere along the line. Not that the books don’t look good, but even I have to sleep sometimes. My brain got a bit fried this week.
There’s still plenty of time to enter the Best of 2017 Giveaway Hop before it closes on Wednesday. And then January will come to an end. Can spring be far away? I hope not. The whole thing of getting snow days in Atlanta is just plain weird.
Early in the week it seemed like I wasn’t seeing anything interesting. So, when the Amazon thingie of “if you liked this you’ll like that” popped up with Books Can Be Deceiving as a read-alike for Twelve Angry Librarians, I thought I’d take a look. One of the reviews for Books Can Be Deceiving was from a friend who passed away a couple of years ago. If she liked it, I’m sure I will too. And I miss her. And her grade-A snarkitude.
A painter of fiery, nightmarish visions throws herself into the sea—but she leaves her secrets behind . . .
Seattle gallery owner Virginia Troy has spent years battling the demons that stem from her childhood time in a cult and the night a fire burned through the compound, killing her mother. And now one of her artists has taken her own life, but not before sending Virginia a last picture: a painting that makes Virginia doubt everything about the so-called suicide—and her own past.
Like Virginia, private investigator Cabot Sutter was one of the children in the cult who survived that fire... and only he can help her now. As they struggle to unravel the clues in the painting, it becomes clear that someone thinks Virginia knows more than she does and that she must be stopped. Thrown into an inferno of desire and deception, Virginia and Cabot draw ever closer to the mystery of their shared memories—and the shocking fate of the one man who still wields the power to destroy everything they hold dear.
When I reviewed When All the Girls Have Gone, the first Cutler, Sutter & Salinas book last year, it read like a stand alone, so I assumed it was. In fact, I was downright thrilled that it was a standalone, because that meant I wasn’t waiting with bated breath for the next book in the series.
I should have remembered that Jayne Ann Krentz, under all of her various pennames (Amanda Quick, Jayne Castle) writes very, very few standalones these days. Because now we have the second book in the series, and I believe there will be at least a third. After all, Max Cutler got his HEA in Girls, and now it’s Cabot Sutter’s turn in Promise. Not only is Anson Salinas entitled to his chance, but Max and Cabot have a brother who deserves his own HEA at some point as well.
So I’m hoping for four books.
The story in Promise is only loosely tied to Girls. The series is following the guys, and it relates to a long-ago trauma that they shared with the heroine of Promise, Virginia Troy. Because that shared-trauma is far back in the past, it is possible to read both books as standalones, and you could read Promisewithout having read Girls. But it’s certainly creepier if you read both.
Once upon a time, there was a cult lead by sociopath/psychopath Quinton Zane. Both Virginia Troy and Cabot Sutter were children of the cult, and local cop Anson Salinas was the one who saved them when Zane set his compound on fire as part of his disappearing act.
While Cutler, Sutter & Salinas do not believe the reports of Zane’s death, it’s only when Virginia Troy shows up in their office that they have hard evidence that Zane is still alive. And as evidence goes, it really isn’t very hard, unless one is a member of the Zane conspiracy theory club, which they all definitely are.
One of the two grown-up women who survived Zane’s fire either just committed suicide, or just left Virginia evidence that Zane is still alive and was stalking her. As scarred and traumatized as Hannah Brewer was, Virginia doesn’t believe the suicide theory, no matter how much the local cops do.
And neither do Cutler, Sutter & Salinas. Which throws Cabot Sutter and Virginia Troy together as they investigate not just what happened to Hannah Brewer in the recent past, but what happened to Quinton Zane and his cult long ago, in order to figure out why that past has suddenly become a dangerous piece of the present.
Before it’s too late.
Escape Rating A: This is a very hot, slightly creepy, stay up late to finish story of romantic suspense. I pretty much loved every page of it, and can’t wait to see what happens next. While Cabot and Virginia seem to have found their HEA, the hunt for Quinton Zane is far, far from over.
The story, as so many of Krentz/Quick/Castle’s stories do, rests (or rather stays up late) on the portrayals of the two principals, Cabot and Virginia. They are both scarred, and by the same trauma. It gives them an instant bond, because there are things that they understand that can only be understood by people who shared that same experience. They are both driven to make themselves secure however they can, and they have both given up on most relationships. It’s impossible to get close to someone when you either have to keep part of yourself back, or when the other person constantly minimizes an experience that is foundational to your experience, even if its something as terrible as what happened to them. Or even worse, is someone you are attempting to form a relationship with believes that you’re crazy.
So their trust in each other is instant, but convincingly so. Everything else takes a bit longer, but they begin very much on the same page. They are, as it is said in the story, intimate strangers from the outset.
They also work together as partners. Cabot may be the one with the investigative expertise, but Virginia knew Hannah Brewer and the art she produced as her way of dealing with her own demons. When it becomes obvious that whoever was after Hannah is after Virginia, even though they don’t initially know why they do know that Virginia’s insights are crucial to solving the case. As they indeed turn out to be.
The case they end up solving is not actually the one that they thought they were pursuing. And it keeps the pages turning as they uncover more and different secrets under more and more rocks. By the end, they are closer to resolving the mystery of what happened back when they were children, and they have removed the current threat.
But as the story ends, it is obvious that there are more threats coming for them. And I can’t wait.
Smart Cats know what they want. And on the world of Celta, they are very smart. They can be Familiar Animal companions, bonded with a person.
These stories are seen from the cat’s very own eyes, and are six never before published Cat Stories, including the first Top Cat of Celta, Peaches; as well as a trio of stories about that favorite Fam, Zanth.
Peaches Arrives on Celta, Plenty of problems for Peaches to fix: challenges to his status; people lying about Peaches’ human companion and Peaches himself; Grandma’s acting mean...and there’s that very real concern that the Ship just might not land safely, fear he must overcome…
Zanth Gets His Boy, Zanth’s meeting with a noble boy running from evil people changes both their lives in ways he couldn’t imagine
Pinky Becomes A Fam, Pinky is a smart enough cat to know that there is a difference from being a regular cat and a Familiar Companion Cat, and bonding better with his boy. He’s determined to make the leap from cat to Fam, but didn’t realize exactly what that meant…
Zanth Claims Treasure, Yes, the southern estate smells great, even better smelling is the glass orb full of magic that he finds, and will fight to keep…
Baccat Chooses His Person, Life on the streets in the winter isn’t what Baccat deserves, and he’s determined to find a good person to take care of him. After all, he has so much to offer…but does he really deserve what he gets?
Zanth Saves The Day, A FamCat on a beach just can’t sleep with all that odd hatching and squeaking going on. Zanth finds new friends and defends them against bullies…
I’m still looking for comfort reading. When I heard the FamCats of Celta meowing my name, I decided to answer.
This is likely to be what a blogging friend refers to as a “short and sweet” review. This is not a big book, the stories do not have big messages, but they are a whole lot of fun, particularly if you like the Celta’s Heartmates series. The stories in Celta Cats illustrate bits of backstory or side story of events that are referred to in the main series, but are told from the point of view of the FamCats, the Familiar Companion animals of Celta who happen to be cats.
It seems that any animal can become a Fam, if they have enough Flair (psi power) and enough intelligence. Fams are intelligent at what we would think of as a human level, but do not think human thoughts. They understand human speech and thought, but as the stories illustrate, they do not change their essential nature. The FamCats, in particular, are always very cat. Particularly in the “dogs have owners, cats have staff” sense. FamCats expect rewards for their service, and are not remotely shy about demanding those rewards. It’s part of what makes them so much fun.
Although this collection features FamCats, in the main series we meet many other animals who have become Fams, including foxes, dogs, birds, and even housefluffs, which seem like a less predatory version of the dustbunnies in Jayne Castle’s Harmony series.
Several of the stories in this collection feature Xanth, the FamCat who owns and protects Rand T’Ash, the hero of the first book in the series, Heart Mate. From Xanth’s perspective, he is the dominant partner. Rand’s perspective may be otherwise. But one of the most interesting stories in the collection is the first meeting between Xanth and Rand, told from Xanth’s perspective. At that point, Rand was a scared and very young man, who had just watched evil men burn out his family home, killing his parents and siblings., while Xanth was a full-grown and battle-toughened street cat. Those same men are hunting Rand, and it is Xanth’s knowledge of Druida City’s back alleys that keeps them both alive until Rand matures enough to come into his full power and exact his revenge.
Escape Rating A-: For adult readers, Celta Cats is a book for fans. The joy in the stories is filling in missing pieces of Celtan history, and especially viewing that history through the eyes of the Fams, who are so often the best part, or at least the funniest part, of many of the stories.
As a short story collection, Celta Cats is being marketed as a children’s book. I have my doubts about that. It’s true that there is no “adult” content per se. These stories are not romances, while the regular books of the Celta’s Heartmates series most definitely are. But what makes these stories special is their connection to Celta. The Xanth stories are particularly fun because they connect to Xanth (and Rand) as we already know them. Whether young readers will find them interesting without knowing anything about the background of Celta is something I’m just not sure about.
But for those of us who love the series, and can’t wait until next year for our next visit to Celta, these stories are utterly charming.
Reviewer’s Note: I read Celta Cats in the wake of Ursula K. LeGuin’s death. If you like the Celta Cats, you will love her Catwings series, which begins with, of course, Catwings. The Catwings stories, are, not surprisingly considering the title, about a family of winged cats. The wings seem to be a mutation, as the stories are set in the contemporary world and everyone, both cats and humans, are aware that the Catwings family needs to be protected from people who will want to study them. The stories are marvelous, the illustrations are lovely, and just like Celta Cats, the stories will be enjoyed by adults who love any intersection between cats and either science fiction or fantasy.
Private Kaylin Neya thought her home couldn’t possibly get more crowded. But when one of her housemates, Annarion, decides to undertake the Barrani Test of Name, his friends refuse to let him face his task alone—and Kaylin’s sentient home, Helen, is the only structure capable of shielding the rest of Elantra from the magnitude of their power.
Annarion and Mandoran almost caused the destruction of the High Halls once already. Add nine of their closest friends, and the danger is astronomically higher—especially since these guests are at the heart of a political firestorm. Imprisoned almost a millennium ago, their recent freedom threatens the rulership of several prominent Barrani families, and the machinations of those Lords make it almost impossible to tell friend from foe.
As political tensions ramp up, the shadows beneath the High Halls are seeking a freedom that has never been possible before. Kaylin must find a way to keep those shadows from escaping, or that freedom will destroy her city, the empire and everything she holds dear.
I originally said that the Chronicles of Elantra series was urban fantasy in a high or epic fantasy setting. Our point of view character is Private Kaylin Neya, a member of the Hawks, meaning law enforcement, in the city of Elantra.
Elantra is populated not just by humans, but also by Leontines, Aerians, Thallani and Barrani (read elves, sort of) and ruled by Dragons. While only the Barrani and the Dragons are immortal, even the non-immortals make the reader think more of epic fantasy than urban.
At the same time, Kaylin’s very lowly position among the local equivalent of the police did put her in the way of solving crimes and mysteries in her city. But even though that’s where she started, that’s not where she is now.
Instead, Kaylin has become a wild card among the political movers and shakers of Elantra. Not because she wants power, but because they began by seeing her as too ephemeral to cause any problems, only to discover that it’s her mortality that makes her so interesting.
One of the problems with being immortal is that everything gets boring after a while. Being around Kaylin is never, ever boring. Often dangerous, frequently chaotic, occasionally life threatening, but never dull, not even for a second. Kaylin is such a chaos magnet that she actually makes boring look desirable in comparison.
The story in Cast in Deception, like all of the stories in the Chronicles of Elantra, is about Kaylin dealing with the unexpected consequences of her previous actions – hopefully before someone gets killed, war breaks out, or both.
But as the events of this story are the results of so many that came before it, this is a series where it is probably impossible to get in at this point. Events, and people, in this series layer upon each other, well past the point where the only way into Elantra is from the very beginning, with Cast in Shadow. Kaylin’s life and her world, or at least her perspective of it, were much simpler back then.
It is also possible to start with the prequel novella, Cast in Moonlight, which tells the story of how Kaylin became a Hawk – which was not what she intended. Kaylin’s actions often result in things which she did not intend, frequently to the dismay of anyone else even tangentially involved.
The scope of events of the series have become epic, but it is epic in a way where the author does not seem to be leading toward some ultimate battle between good and evil. Not that there are not evil forces, but rather that those evil forces don’t seem to be personified, or at least not yet. In some ways, it seems as if the evil force they are resisting is entropy, the winding down of the universe, rather than true evil. This may be resolved later in the series.
The story in Cast in Deception relates directly to events in Cast in Peril where Kaylin rescued a group of young Barrani from centuries of an imprisonment designed to increase the power of their families. It was a ceremony that backfired spectacularly, and Kaylin rescued the much changed young people who emerge.
But that cohort of people have become threats to the High Halls of the Barrani, and there are forces both within and without that are attempting to keep them from claiming their birthrights. Some of those forces are embodied in people that Kaylin thinks of as friends, and others may be part of the dreaded Shadow.
But all of it is politics as usual among the extremely political, immortal Barrani. And if there’s one thing Kaylin hates more than anything else, it’s politics. Which doesn’t stop her (as nothing ever does) from rushing in where angels fear to tread to pull her friends out of grave danger, even if that merely puts her in danger with them.
Escape Rating A-: I absolutely adore this series, and wait eagerly for each installment. At the same time, this is a world creation that has become very, very dense, with lots of characters and epic amounts of backstory, and it always takes me a little ways (and a bit longer each time) to get into the book to feel myself catching up. Then, of course, it takes me an equally long time to emerge from the book hangover. Elantra is difficult to get into, and equally difficult to leave.
As much as I love this series, and this particular entry in it, this particular story feels like it doesn’t take up a lot of “world time” and it feels like not much gets resolved by the end. At the beginning, the cohort of formerly lost Barrani were lost again on their way to take up their birthrights. By the end of the story, they have managed to make their very dangerous and nearly deadly way to Elantra, but the political challenges are all still yet to come. But as always, I was happy to travel along on Kaylin’s journey.
Hopefully in the next book, hopefully next year. And now the countdown begins!
In the tradition of The Red Tent, The Fifth Mountain, and The Mists of Avalon comes this absorbing historical novel that reimagines the life of one of the Bible's most revered women, the prophetess Deborah, and her epic journey to fulfill her destiny.
Deborah's father dreamed that his daughter would one day become a prophet of the God of the Israelites. But the social and religious mores of her time dictated that a woman must marry—even against her will—and obey her husband. When Deborah is forced into an engagement with the violent son of her local judge, the young Hebrew woman rebels, determined to forge a new path.
Captivated by the notion of transforming herself into a man to escape the arranged marriage and fulfill her father's dream, Deborah embarks upon an epic journey across the desert to find a mysterious elixirist rumored to be blessed with the gift of turning women into men. It is a journey that proves increasingly perilous—filled with wild beasts, lustful men, unscrupulous priests, and warring tribesmen. Yet Deborah discovers that she is not alone; an unlikely coterie of lepers, slaves, Moabite traders, and even a dead tiger come to her aid and defense along the way.
Part traditional biblical fiction, part adventure, Deborah Rising is a captivating tale about the early life of one of the most famous figures from the Old Testament—a woman of courage and spirit whose battle to overcome discrimination, sexism, and paternalism speaks to women's lives today.
The story in Deborah Rising is the very (possibly very, very) fictionalized account of the early life of the Biblical Prophet Deborah. Deborah was the only female judge mentioned in the Bible, and one of very few female prophets.
Based on this story, one also gets the feeling that Deborah lives up to a saying from The Notebooks of Lazarus Long, the one that goes, “A fake fortune teller can be tolerated. But an authentic soothsayer should be shot on sight. Cassandra did not get half the kicking around she deserved.” In this story of her early life, Deborah certainly suffers from all the kicking around that Long would have wished – and she hasn’t even started to prophesy yet.
Then again, when the story ends she’s only 14. She has time yet. And another whole book (Deborah Calling) in which to start speaking truth to power. And speaking with the power of truth.
But for the course of this book, she is also an unfortunate example of “when bad things happen to good people” and just how those good people react. Not that Deborah’s life wasn’t good for most of her childhood, because it was. But a year before the opening of the story, disaster struck.
Her parents were murdered, supposedly by raiders from another tribe. She and her sister were taken in by the local Judge (read ruler) of their town. Not out of the goodness of his heart, because I don’t think he has any. Rather, because the land their parents owned included a cistern – not merely a well but an underground protected water source. Water is worth more than gold in the dry land of Canaan.
Deborah and Tamar have no brothers. They each inherit a half share in the land, but can’t really inherit it. Their half-shares pass to their husbands when they marry. The Judge has a 20 year old son, and the Judge expects that he will obtain the land by marrying first one sister, then the other – whether they want to marry him or not.
The Judge’s son, Seesya, will let absolutely nothing stand in his way. Not poor Tamar, not Deborah, not the law and not the commandments. He takes what he wants, when he wants and how he wants, with as much cruelty as he desires. And he seems to desire endless amounts of it.
All Deborah wants is to escape. She will do anything to escape. Even, if she can, become a man.
Escape Rating B: In the end, this turned out to be a wow! I felt compelled to keep reading, and could not stop until the end.
But as much as I was riveted to the pages, there were some things that bothered me, often quite a lot.
The comparison is being made between Deborah Rising and The Red Tent. I read The Red Tent many years ago, and enjoyed it, but I do not remember it being quite this grim. Every circumstance is against Deborah all the time. The circumstance that she is female means that she has no power of any kind, and is only supposed to endure every terrible thing that happens to her. While that may have been true, we see nothing but terrible things happen to her. At times it makes for hard reading.
The story of Deborah the Judge may end in triumph, but we do not see any of that here, only one catastrophe after another. For every step forward she makes, she seems to take three steps back, and all of those steps over a bed of nails.
Part of what motivates Deborah in her quest is the Judge’s son Seesya. He makes perversely good motivation, because he seems to be evil for evil’s sake. To survive, Deborah must evade him at every turn, because if he catches up to her she will die.
That Seesya and his father want the land makes sense. That cistern represents untold wealth in the right hands – hands like the Judge’s, that will exploit the precious resource in every possible way.
But Seesya’s pursuit of Deborah isn’t just about the land. It’s personal. He hated her sister, he hates her, and he wants to kill every single person with whom she has contact. As a character, he is so sick and twisted that we can only see the twistedness – we don’t understand why. He’d be scarier if we knew what was motivating him.
One of the interesting twists in the story is Deborah’s quest to become a man. It is not about gender identity as we understand it today. Instead, it is a response to her circumstances. If she had been born male, she could have inherited the land from her parents and protected her sister from marriage to Seesya. She could learn to read and write. She could become the prophet that her parents hoped that she would become. Life as a man, in her time and place, would give her at least power over her own body and her own life. She could testify in court, and she has plenty to say. She could fight back.
Her desire to become male makes sense under her circumstances. However, it feels as if every single person involved in her quest is lying to her in some way, quite possibly for what they believe is her own good, but lying nonetheless. And she is too naive to realize it, or at least to realize it yet.
The story in Deborah Rising does not feel complete – only because it isn’t. As this book ends, Deborah’s quest has just barely begun, and there is no certainty within the story that she will succeed. Also, it doesn’t really feel like it ended at a natural point in the story, which continues in Deborah Calling.
I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of how the author fleshed out this Biblical story. And I want to see Seesya get his just desserts. Or even just see him dead in the desert.