Cass Rant on Demand: Wild Embrace by Nalini Singh

Cass Rant on Demand: Wild Embrace by Nalini SinghWild Embrace (Psy-Changeling, #15.5) by Nalini Singh
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: paranormal romance
Series: Psy-Changeling #15.5
Pages: 400
Published by Berkley on August 23rd 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

The “alpha author of paranormal romance”* presents a stunningly sensual collection of four all-new Psy-Changeling novellas, in which taboos are broken, boundaries are crossed, and instincts prove irresistible...

Echo of Silence
In a deep-sea station, Tazia Nerif has found her life’s work as an engineer, keeping things running smoothly. But she wants nothing more than to break down the barrier of silence between her and her telekinetic Psy station commander...

Dorian
A changeling who can never shift lives a life of quiet frustration—until he learns how to let his leopard come out and play...

Partners in Persuasion
Still raw from being burned by a dominant female, wolf changeling Felix will never again risk being a plaything. But for dominant leopard Dezi, he’s the most fascinating man she’s ever met. She just has to convince this gun-shy wolf that he can trust the dangerous cat who wants to take a slow, sexy bite out of him…

Flirtation of Fate
Seven years ago, Kenji broke Garnet’s heart. Now the wolf packmates have to investigate the shocking murder of one of their own. And the more Kenji sees of the woman Garnet has become, the deeper he begins to fall once more. But even his primal instincts are no match for the dark secret he carries...
*Booklist, starred review

Hello again! Long time, no see. Who’s up for a Cass Rant On Demand™? Clearly the person who baited me with another dip into the Psy-Changeling world. An anthology this time. Be warned, there shall be spoilers and snark ahead.

Anyone want to place bets on how many stories involve a psychic woman being saved by the mighty powers of the changeling cock?

Echo of Silence: Now wait just a moment here. What atrocity is this? A poor woman being left alone in the world to fend off the attentions of this nightmarish man-creature that respects her culture. Be warned, the following exchange may shock you.

“I can’t discard who I am like it’s an old coat.”

“I understand,” Stefan said, having already guessed at Tazia’s value system after so carefully noting every single thing about her in the year they’d worked together. “Your cultural mores are no more or less irrational than the protocol under which my people are conditioned.”

To add insult to injury, he takes this a step further by valuing her talents as an engineer.

“Your skills are necessary.”

Typical Psy. Without exposure to Changeling packs, he hasn’t yet learned that it is his job to threaten his crush (Lucas), violate her bodily autonomy (Vaughn), belittle her life choices (Clay), and piss all over her loyalty to her family (Dorian). Though I guess the latter isn’t necessary since her brother seems to have missed out on the Riley Kincaid Lecture Series: Your Sister’s Vagina is Your Property. 

Of course he’s a former Arrow. Apparently the only school on this planet that teaches how to respect women is the one with a regular torture regimen.

“No grease streaks for once,” she said, nervous.

“I have a confession.” He rose from the bed. “I only used to say that to have an excuse to speak to you. Sometimes you didn’t have grease on your face. I lied.”

Stefan, Stefan, Stefan. Pick up the phone, and give DarkRiver a call. Nate will be happy to explain to you how to infantilize the woman you are romantically interested in. Then you won’t need to worry about conversational icebreakers. (+)

Dorian. This entry is an absolute joke. It’s basically deleted scenes from prior novels, loosely compiled and told from the POV of one racist misogynist fucktard.

Anyone interested in the first time Clay met the pack? Or want to see Dorian briefly interact with the sister that was fridged before the first book? Maybe you want to know how Lucas feels about Dorian being able to shift? Anyone? Bueller? (-)

Partners in Persuasion: Here we have a recently retired supermodel, who is really into fashion and flowers, but just can’t seem to relate to women. In fact, he is so shy around them that he refuses to even make eye contact. Thankfully he has no trouble whatsoever relating to or engaging with men, so when a butch woman puts the moves on him, he tentatively agrees to give it a shot. She’s mannish enough for it to work out.

She tried to shift closer, was stopped by the way they were seated, his upper body twisted to meet her kiss. Placing her hand on his throat,  she—

He wasn’t there any longer, having jerked away to the other side of the trunk. Reeling, she tried to think what she’d done,

I hate to break it to you Dezi, but you didn’t do anything wrong. He freaked out as soon as you got close enough for him to realize you didn’t have a cock.

We’re 15 books into this series, and there hasn’t been one single queer-identified character. All we get is a shy,flower-arranging fashion model who, contrary to pages of internal monologue about how it’ll never work, deciding to hook up with Idgie Threadgoode. Give me a fucking break. Is there an previous entry in the series I missed that covers how the Psy discovered the “gay gene” and managed to suppress it from appearing in the population? (-)

Flirtation of Fate: One self-centered man baby, who firmly believes his feelings outweigh those of any and all females in his life. They will get over their shit. He is the only one who can wallow.

“You knew how awful she was to me, how she made my life a living hell, and you not only took her to prom, you dated her for a year!”

A befuddled expression on his face. “I know you two didn’t like each other, but I thought it was, you know, girl stuff.”

Let that be a lesson to all you menfolk out there. It is completely acceptable to bang a hot bully, even as she is emotionally tormenting your best friend. Teenage girls aren’t at all prone to depression and suicide in situations like this. It’s just girl stuff. Feel free to ignore it.

wild-embrace-uk-editionThe – ahem – romance between these two only appears to deepen with time. After man baby gets his jollies plowing her nemesis, he leads her on, ditches her at her birthday party to bang another girl, spends years tormenting her professionally, and ultimately decides for her that her only purpose in life is to breed. Because yeah. That is how you demonstrate your love for your true mate. Fuck this noise. (-)

In sum, only bother with the first story.

Before I move on to the grading, I need to spend just one moment addressing the cover-shaped elephant in the room. What is with the US covers?! The US cover screams P-O-R-N. Which it really isn’t. There is sex in every story, but it’s only painful when the author is forcing two clearly queer characters into a hetero-normative relationship. If you decide to buy this anthology for the first story, order it from the UK. Even man-baby’s pink hair is preferable to Mr. Nipples.

Escape Rating: D for Down With the Douchebaggery!

 

Marlene’s Notes: Cass is absolutely right about the UK vs. US covers. I always hate the US covers. The UK covers are always lots better.

Howsomever, much as I agree about the covers, I disagree about the series in general and this book in particular. For a considerably more positive take on Wild Embrace, check out my joint review with E over at The Book Pushers.

Review by Cass: The Beautiful Ashes by Jeaniene Frost

Review by Cass: The Beautiful Ashes by Jeaniene FrostThe Beautiful Ashes (Broken Destiny, #1) by Jeaniene Frost
Format: ebook
Source: borrowed from library
Formats available: paperback, library binding, ebook, audiobook
Genres: paranormal romance
Series: Broken Destiny #1
Pages: 384
Published by Harlequin on August 26th 2014
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

In a world of shadows, anything is possible. Except escaping your fate.
Ever since she was a child, Ivy has been gripped by visions of strange realms just beyond her own. But when her sister goes missing, Ivy discovers the truth is far worse—her hallucinations are real, and her sister is trapped in a parallel realm. And the one person who believes her is the dangerously attractive guy who's bound by an ancient legacy to betray her.
Adrian might have turned his back on those who raised him, but that doesn't mean he can change his fate…no matter how strong a pull he feels toward Ivy. Together they search for the powerful relic that can save her sister, but Adrian knows what Ivy doesn't: that every step brings Ivy closer to the truth about her own destiny, and a war that could doom the world. Sooner or later, it will be Ivy on one side and Adrian on the other. And nothing but ashes in between…

When I first began doing book reviews, I quickly learned the importance of screening titles before agreeing to read them:

  • Did this book have an editor? (I don’t care if you self-publish, but you better run a goddamn spelling and grammar check.)
  • If part of a series, have I read all previous entries? (Ever tried to jump into an epic fantasy series on book 4? Not recommended.)
  • Is this book a bullshit “rewrite” of a previously published book with minor tweaks in an attempt to make it trendy? (Looking at you Michelle Maddox.)
  • Are there substantive differences between this book and the edition published in Australia or the UK? (I order the Obernewtyn books from AUS because the publishers were worried we stupid Americans couldn’t handle long books.)

Thanks to The Beautiful Ashes I now have a new question to add to my checklist:

  • Did you read the Acknowledgements prior to starting the book?

I’ve read the first couple books in Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series, and one of the Night Prince spinoffs. They were fun! Quick reads, engaging, well-written, and I loved the expansive world-building. So when I discovered she’d actually started a new series, I thought I’d hit the jackpot.

Couldn’t have been more wrong.

Which leads me back to my new screening process.

Before anyone else, I have to thank God….

Translation: READER BEWARE!!! You are about to be subjected to a religious morality tale – wearing a PNR suit – that has all the subtlety of that Old Testament coloring book your homophobic grandmother got you for your 8th birthday.

If the blurb enticed you because you wanted to read an engrossing story about a woman who was cruelly forced to believe she was insane for years discovering that all the things she saw/experienced were real then MOVE THE FUCK ON. You aren’t getting that here. Pick up a copy of  Precinct 13 by Tate Hallaway.

What was that? You wanted to read about a pair of devoted siblings who will stop at nothing to protect one another in a deadly world? Don’t worry! You’ll get three amazing sibling-powered adventures in the Newsflesh trilogy by Mira Grant. Here? Not so much.

If you are only here because you missed Cat & Bones & Vlad & Co. ….well I hate to disappoint, but as the man said, these are not the droids you’re looking for… Just re-read Halfway to the Grave

The Beautiful Ashes opens with a TSTL protagonist that, by all rights, should be dead a dozen times before you even hit Chapter Three. She has the emotional range of a lizard and all the intelligence of a hamster. Oh, my entire family died/disappeared at this exact location. I’ll just to wander around aimlessly to see if I can stumble on a clue. Oh, a bunch of people just tried to kill me, I’ll head back to my hotel now and chat up this hot dude that broke in. Oh, I’m being kidnapped. I should cooperate. What could go wrong? This couldn’t have anything to do with my parents’ recent deaths. Or my sister’s disappearance. Or those people who just tried to kill me. 

Apparently Stockholm Sydrome is still the perfect way to get some, as Dumber Than Rocks (aka The Virgin) instantly starts falling for her kidnapper/guy-that-warned-her-not-to-trust-him.

Do you know why she shouldn’t trust him? Because he is a BETRAYER. He BETRAYS. It is in his DNA. Ever since Jesus walked the earth his family has BETRAYED. (Hmmm, I wonder who he might be descended from?)

After being kidnapped by The Betrayer, Dumber Than Rocks (aka The Virgin) meets some angels and demons and learns she’s The Last Scion a descendant of King David and is now on a quest to find his Holy Slingshot so the Power of Faith can bring down Giant Evil.

Are you bored already? You should be. It’s a predictable plod through your standard bible story, with a brief stop to praise Dumber Than Rock’s virginity.

I’m guessing she’ll finally give it up to The Betrayer in the last book in this truly horrific series, at which point it will be SO MUCH WORSE when he gives the appearance of Betraying her, before coming back at this last minute to save the day and prove that her holy virgin vagina excised all that Betrayal in his DNA.

Escape Rating: F for FLEE! Save yourselves! I can never get those hours of my life back, but there is still hope for all of you!

Review: Third Claw of God by Adam-Troy Castro

The Third Claw of GodFormat read: paperback (purchased by reviewer)
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: science fiction
Series: Andrea Cort #2
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Date Released: February 24, 2009
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Andrea Cort became a “war criminal” at the age of eight when an unexplained darkness invaded her soul.

Now, decades later, the Devil is calling her.

Employed by the Diplomatic Corps but secretly aiding the AI masters of the universe, Counselor Andrea Cort despises the powerful Bettelhines—unrepentant death merchants who have prospered from the annihilation of civilizations. Now curiosity compels her to answer a cryptic summons to their home world, where the only law is Bettelhine law. But a murder attempt greets her arrival at Xana’s orbital entry port—and far graver peril awaits aboard the elevator transport meant to carry Andrea to the planet’s surface.

Trapped miles above Xana—surrounded by suspicious Bettelhines, their slavishly loyal retainers . . . and a corpse liquefied by a 15,000-year-old weapon—Andrea must unmask an assassin or die an equally hideous death. But the true reason for her summons—and sordid secrets weaving through her own dark past—threaten to destroy Andrea Cort more completely than the Claw of God.

My Review:

Andrea’s life has drastically improved since Emissaries From the Dead. She is no longer alone in the universe, having found happiness (or as much happiness as can be expected from someone who has endured what Andrea has) with the Porrinyards. She now knows who was really responsible for the massacre that labeled her a war criminal at the ripe old age of eight. Last but not least, she “earned” an unprecedented promotion from her jailers/owners in the Diplomatic Corps and now has the first taste of freedom since her childhood.

Hans Bettelhine may have been an infamous merchant of death, whose munitions empire was even now fueling slaughter on a hundred human worlds, but I had to be fair: it was for precisely that reason that I wouldn’t blame him for today’s attempt on my life.

[…]

Still, there was no denying that his headquarters world, Xana, set an entirely new record for the shortest interval between my arrival at a place I’ve never been and the very first attempt on my life there.

I’m talking about minutes. Minutes.

Okay, maybe things aren’t going as well as they could be. Finding love, experiencing freedom, and hunting down the assholes who ruined her life are wonderful – but they don’t change the fact that Andrea Cort is and always will be a universally despised war criminal.

A fact that still bloody infuriates me. What the hell kind of fucked up government labels the 8 year old survivor of a community massacre a goddamn war criminal?! There was no war, so she could hardly be held responsible for violating the standard acceptable practices of wartime. She didn’t wield weapons of mass destruction, or commit atrocities. She just so happened to kill a man who was trying to kill her after seeing pretty much every single person she’d ever known or loved brutally slaughter one another. How the hell is this her fault? Why has she been subjected to a lifetime of assassination attempts, death threats, rape, torture, imprisonment, and hatred from hundreds of worlds? Why has one little girl been singled out for this kind of horrifying treatment?

That’s when he opened the trap door beneath my feet, left me realizing how much of my life had been based on a lie. “How come anybody even knows you’re a war criminal?”

Several seconds passed before I felt my heart beat again. “Come again?”

“What,” he said, “you think you looked exactly the same at twenty that you did at eight? I mean, the Dip Corps could have changed your name, your skin pigment, your nose, maybe your hair color, and a couple of other cosmetic things about you, given you a new ID file and a false history, and nobody but your bosses would have known that you were the same kid.”

But he went on, every word out of his mouth a fresh spike driven into the base of my brain. “Instead, they put you to work as Andrea Cort, child war criminal grown up, and willingly ate all the seven hundred flavors of crap they had to swallow because of the propaganda weapon they had just handed all the alien governments who wanted to paint humanity as a bunch of homicidal bastards who let their own get away with murder.”

I closed my eyes, desperate to shut him out, hating the way his voice insisted on making itself heard through the pounding of my heart.

He asked, “Why would they put themselves through that?”

Stop, I thought.

“Why would they put you through that?”

Please stop.

“And why would you let them?”

EXACTLY! Also, on a slightly related note, it’s a bit disturbing to me that Andrea had to visit an actual war monger’s private planet to get that kind of insight.

In The Third Claw of God, Andrea is invited to a war profiteer’s planet for mysterious reasons, promptly survives an assassination attempt, but is then called upon to investigate another murder. Whereupon she realizes nothing is as it appears when dealing with Space-Faring Stark Industries. A simple murder is only the beginning, and by the end Andrea is going to discover the answer to secrets she didn’t even know existed.

The second installment in the series is even better than the first. It opens with an assassination attempt and does not slow down until the last page. Warning: you will be up till 3am reading this book in one sitting.

Once again, it is difficult to discuss the story in too much detail without spoilers, but suffice to say that Adam Troy Castro’s skills with characterization and world-building continue to amaze…..and disturb. Particularly when he keeps peeling back the layers of society on the Bettlehines’ private planet. You think life on a war monger’s private planet is bad? Just wait until you learn about the employee loyalty program and various perks available to members of the ruling family. Andrea’s treatment by the Diplomatic Corps will seem almost benevolent in comparison.

Escape Rating: A- because Adam Troy Castro’s publisher has refused to continue backing Andrea Cort. They believe there is more money in YA, and so we will never reach a satisfying conclusion to Andrea’s story. INCONCEIVABLE! I burned through The Third Claw of God the night after finishing Emissaries For the Deadand am left hanging, desperately pleading for another installment.

***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: Emissaries from the Dead by Adam-Troy Castro

Emissaries From the DeadFormat read: Paperback (purchased)
Formats available: ebook, audiobook, paperback
Genre: Science Fictions
Series: Andrea Cort #1
Length: 387 pgs
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Date Released: February 26, 2008
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & NobleBook Depository

Two murders have occurred on One One One, an artificial ecosystem created by the universe’s dominant AIs to house several engineered species, including a violent, sentient race of sloth-like creatures. Under order from the Diplomatic Corps, Counselor Andrea Cort has come to this cylinder world where an indentured human community hangs suspended high above a poisoned, acid atmosphere. Her assignment is to choose a suitable homicide suspect from among those who have sold their futures to escape existences even worse than this one. And no matter where the trail leads her she must do nothing to implicate the hosts, who hold the power to obliterate humankind in an instant.

But Andrea Cort is not about to hold back in her hunt for a killer. For she has nothing to lose and harbors no love for her masters or fellow indentures. And she herself has felt the terrible exhilaration of taking life

My Review:

Andrea Cort is considered a War Criminal by the standards of her society. Not because she participated in genocide, created weapons of mass destruction, or otherwise participated in a war. Andrea Cort has been a war criminal since the grand old age of 8, when she dared to survive the homicidal frenzy that whipped through and ultimately decimated her community.

The things that happened one night on Bocai had caused such a diplomatic firestorm that the authorities, including the Confederacy and the Bocaians themselves, had declared the survivors better off permanently disappeared.

I still don’t know what happened to most of the others. I suspect they’re dead, or still imprisoned somewhere. But I’d been shipped to someplace I don’t like thinking about, there to be caged and prodded and analyzed in the hope of determining just what environmental cause had turned so many previously peaceful sentients into vicious monsters.

My keepers spent ten years watching for my madness to reoccur. It had been ten years of reminders that I was an embarrassment to my very species, ten years of being escorted from room to room under guard, ten years of being asked if I wanted to kill anything else. The people who studied me during these years were not all inhuman. Some even tried to show me affection, though to my eyes their love had all the persuasive realism of lines in a script being read by miscast actors. Even the best of them knew I was a bomb that could go off again, at any time; if sometimes moved to give me hugs, they never attempted it without a guard in the room. Others, the worst among them, figured that whatever lay behind my eyes had been tainted beyond all repair, and no longer qualified as strictly human—and being less than strictly human themselves, treated themselves to any cruel pleasures they cared to claim from a creature awful enough to deserve anything they did to her.

Even freedom, when it came, came in a form of a slightly longer leash.

“We’ve gotten your latest test scores, Andrea. They’re quite remarkable. You deserve every educational opportunity we can provide for you. But we can’t quite justify letting you go. There are just too many races out there that don’t believe in pleas of temporary insanity, and unless we come up with some solution that stays their hand, they’ll do whatever they can to extradite you. But if you want, you can walk out of here and enjoy Immunity. All you have to do is allow us to remain your legal guardians, for the rest of your natural life.”

We meet Andrea well into her lifetime of servitude to the government that blamed a child for surviving a massacre, and subjected her to a cycle of hatred, rape, and torture before it realized the financial advantages of enslaving her mind in addition to her body.

Andrea is thus titled a Counselor – a Prosecutor for the Diplomatic Corps – authorized to conduct investigations into crimes occurring on various diplomatic bases, and prosecute the identified offenders. All while her supervisor continuously raises legal challenges to her Diplomatic Immunity and the criminals she prosecutes bask in their moral superiority over the Counselor busting them. They may sexually enslave their subordinates or brutally murder their colleagues, but they, at least, are not infamous War Criminals.

The primary plot of Emissaries for the Dead is pure murder mystery, as Andrea investigates the two deaths that brought her to the diplomatic nightmare that is One One One. These murders unexpectedly lead Andrea to uncover the long-buried truths of her past and the massacre that defines her existence. Both plots are skillfully intertwined and engaging, jumping with ease between the two so that we share Andrea’s fatigue and frustration at being forced to simultaneously juggle so many personal, professional, and political issues, but also cannot wait to discover what exactly is going on at One One One.

The supporting cast of characters, ranging from spies to victims to world-weary bureaucrats are as carefully developed as the protagonist. Andrea’s tendency to distrust ensures that she refuses to accept anyone at face value, and keeps digging until we have a full comprehension of each character we meet.

Adam Troy Castro creates an impressively vast world for Andrea to inhabit. There is never any doubt that she exists in a universe filled with hundreds of sentient species, thousands of governments, and one giant bureaucratic clusterfuck that barely manages to pull together the unified human front necessary for our species to navigate impossibly complex interstellar relations. He also manages to skillfully include one of the most apt descriptions (and criticisms) of administrative government that is as true today as it is in the future inhabited by Andrea Cort and the other denizens of One One One (just exchange the futuristic bonds to get off-world for modern student loan debt):

“As far as I’m concerned,” Lastogne said, with weary contempt, “the Dip Corps is a meritocracy in reverse. By its very design, nobody who sticks around is any good. The genuinely talented work off their bonds quickly thanks to incentives and bonuses. The incompetent get fined with extra time and find themselves shunted to more and more irrelevant assignments. Everybody in the great big mediocre middle, and everybody insane enough to fall off the scale entirely, winds up assigned to Management—and Management’s never been interested in really doing the job, not at any point in human history. Management’s true agenda has always been making things more pleasant for Management.”

Perhaps this is why the Diplomatic Corps went to such lengths to enslave Andrea? In the normal course of things, brilliant young minds such as hers flee government servitude, while she has been forced to embrace the slightly larger cage offered by her tormentors. I guess you’ll just have to read Emissaries From the Dead to find out!

Escape Rating A for Andrea Kicking Ass! In the end it is impossible to disclose too much about the plot without spoilers. It is safe to say that this War Criminal Turned Space Lawyer is a riveting read that you will not be able to put down. The world-building is top notch, the characters are fully-developed and consistent. The plot is a page turner that kept me up all night and forced me to immediately delve into Book 2, The Third Claw of God, which I will be reviewing next week. (Spoiler Alert: Loved It!)

***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: Heaven’s Queen by Rachel Bach

heaven's queen by rachel bachFormat read: ebook (purchased)
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Science fiction; space opera
Series: Paradox, #3
Length: 388 pages
Publisher: Orbit
Date Released: April 22, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

From the moment she took a job on Captain Caldswell’s doomed ship, Devi Morris’ life has been one disaster after another: government conspiracies, two alien races out for her blood, an incurable virus that’s eating her alive.

Now, with the captain missing and everyone — even her own government — determined to hunt her down, things are going from bad to impossible. The sensible plan would be to hide and wait for things to blow over, but Devi’s never been one to shy from a fight, and she’s getting mighty sick of running.

It’s time to put this crisis on her terms and do what she knows is right. But with all human life hanging on her actions, the price of taking a stand might be more than she can pay.

My Review:

The titles of the Paradox series did not really resonate with me until Devi herself brought it to my attention.

“Hello, Deviana,” he said, his voice calm and dreamy. “It is always a pleasure to share space with any companion of my darling Novascape and Copernicus. I was just about to start a game. Do you play chess?”

My smile vanished. Why did all these former Eye types keep asking me that? “No,” I said, “I don’t know how.”

I feel you Devi. I’m not a chess fan myself, and I do not enjoy anyone trying to turn chess into a metaphor for life. It’s just a game people. Personally, I hope that by the time human society has expanded into several galaxies, and encountered a multitude of sentient alien life, we would have moved beyond the chess obsession.

Which is to say, that unlike Marlene, the chess comparisons do not resonate with me. Devi’s character does evolve over the course of the series (which I discussed in detail in my review of Honor’s Knight), but, much to my chagrin, she doesn’t mature into a queen in her own right.

However, we’re all forever grateful that Devi booted Charkov off the angst-ridden-love-slave train. I finally started to get behind their relationship once he’d started sharing necessary information about the Eyes, Maat, and the Daughters with Devi. Basically once he stopped waffling and went all in, I could ship it.

Then…well, then I found out why people have been comparing this series to urban fantasy. “Devi, I am a tortured old vampire man, the last survivor of my species planet, who never understood love until you. Alas, my demon symbiont hates you for bringing joy to my soul and will forever try to take you from me. I am so utterly selfishly enslaved by your vagina that I couldn’t bear to leave before, but now, despite always knowing this would happen, I truly know how dangerous I am. Woe. Ennui.”

“The only way you put me in danger was by not telling me this shit earlier!” I yelled, ignoring the pain in my throat as I shot to my feet as well. “If you want to beat yourself up over something, beat yourself up over that, but like hell am I letting you abandon me out of some stupid, chivalrous, self-punishing sense of guilt.”

YES. Of course, being Devi, she immediately solves the problems that Eyes have been plagued with for 90+ years on symbiont control. The Eyes clearly needed to recruit more practical soldier types, and fewer True Believers.

Once we all stop rolling our eyes at the romance hurdles, Rachel Bach decides to use the opportunity to drop a Paradoxian-society-bomb in our laps.

I couldn’t help it. I burst out laughing. It was horribly inappropriate, but I couldn’t stop. He just looked so damn earnest. “You can’t get me pregnant,” I said when I finally got a hold of myself. “I’m Paradoxian, remember?”

The look on Rupert’s face at that moment was absolutely priceless. “What does that have to do with it?”

“I never got out from under the ban,” I said, wiping my eyes. “Honestly, Rupert, what kind of girl did you think I was?”

If Rupert had looked bewildered before, he looked absolutely dumbfounded now. “Ban?”

My smile faded. “The king’s fertility ban.” When that got nothing, I spelled it out for him. “All Paradoxians are sterilized at twelve. Breeding rights aren’t returned until you’ve finished your military service.”

Rupert’s bewildered expression had turned horrified by the time I finished, and I put my hands on my hips. “How do you not know this? The ban’s been in place for over a century. It was all over the Terran propaganda during the Border Wars.”

“Exactly,” Rupert said. “I always thought it was just propaganda.” He pushed up on his elbows, looking me straight in the face. “You’re seriously saying your government forcibly sterilized you?”

“Not forcibly,” I said. “My mom took me in to get it done on my birthday. The whole thing was over in ten minutes. And it’s not like it’s forever. I’ve been eligible to have it reversed for years. I just never saw the point. I mean, do I look like the sort of person who wants to worry about babies?”

I finished with a grin at the ridiculousness of that idea, but Rupert was still staring at me like I’d grown a second head. “I’m sorry,” he said, falling back on the bed as he reached up to rub his temples. “It’s just, it sounds a bit barbaric.”

“How so?” I asked, lifting my chin. “All Paradoxian children are wards of the king. You can’t let just anyone have them. We’re not animals, having babies all over the place. Barbaric, indeed. If you ask me, we’re the civilized ones. You Terrans let anybody be a parent no matter how young or unprepared or undeserving they are.”

As I said this, I was again reminded how blessed I was to have been born under the Sacred King’s prudence. I couldn’t imagine growing up in the Republic with no living saint to watch over you. But while I was feeling rightly superior, Rupert had started to chuckle.

I still love the universe-building in this series, but what the fuck is this shit?!

Devi your creepy religious government has literally taken control of your body as a means of forcing military service and ensuring that only the devout breed?! How are you not bothered by this?! At this point, all my hopes that Devi would take out the so-called Sacred King when she dismantled the Eyes horrifying Daughter system crumbled into dust.

In the end, Devi could never buy into the Eyes’ fervor, because she was already a True Believer. Just a different flavor of devout, and no amount of exposure to other species, races, cultures, societies, and proof that her goddamn Sacred King was willing to sell of any of his (female) wards to the Eyes’ on a moment’s notice was going to change that.

In Heaven’s QueenDevi finally realizes that she has no one to rely on but herself and her Cook. Even Maat is an unpredictable ally. (Though you really can’t blame her. Almost a century of being used, abused, betrayed, and disregarded – it’d be hard to believe in sincerity).

Caldswell, Brenton and company all play a big part in the finale, namely trying (and failing) to put a leash on Devi. The problem with putting a bioweapon inside a sentient being is that person is going to have an opinion on how it is used. And when that person is Devi, said opinions will be expressed with a multitude of firepower and sass.

I can’t really delve too much into the overarching plot without giving things away. But it is safe to say that Paradoxians are creepily brainwashed from infancy, Terrans are moronically unable to think in any fashion that is not directly linear, and together they are both easily duped by and alien race, a psychotic immortal teenager, and/or a gun-happy mercenary.

Escape Rating: C+ for taking me on an exhilarating ride, and giving me the most unsatisfying conclusion. The last few pages of the book are just like watching the last few minutes of Battlestar Galactica. (Wow, that show was awesome….wait so Hera just screwed a bunch of neanderthals? Whaaaaa?). 

***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: Honor’s Knight by Rachel Bach

honors knight by rachel bachFormat read: ebook (purchased)
Formats available: ebook, paperback, audiobook
Genre: Space opera
Series: Paradox, #2
Length: 374 pages
Publisher: Orbit
Date Released: February 25, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Devi Morris has a lot of problems. And not the fun, easy-to-shoot kind either.

After a mysterious attack left her short several memories and one partner, she’s determined to keep her head down, do her job, and get on with her life. But even though Devi’s not actually looking for it — trouble keeps finding her. She sees things no one else can, the black stain on her hands is growing, and she is entangled with the cook she’s supposed to hate.

But when a deadly crisis exposes far more of the truth than she bargained for, Devi discovers there’s worse fates than being shot, and sometimes the only people you can trust are the ones who want you dead.

My Review:

Marlene absolutely loved Honor’s Knight, calling it “Beauty and the Beast on steroids.” Once again I am forced to open my Paradox review by disagreeing with the pop culture comparisons previously tossed around. This is not a book about creepy stockholm-syndrome forced hook-ups. If we’re going to go the Disney route, Devi is more Elsa than Belle.

When we first see Devi in Honor’s Knight, she has no memory of anything important that happened in Fortune’s Pawn, from the big important things (like the ability to kill with an invisible black goo), to the little things (such as the name of that cook guy who is inexplicably repugnant).

On the bright side, this means no one is going to kill her anytime soon. Well….perhaps it would be better to say no one wants her dead for knowing too much. Devi’s still got a big target on her back, except now she’s even less sure why.

The great thing about Devi in this entry is that she starts asking questions. Our favorite ambitious merc has realized she’s stumbling about in the middle of a shit-storm, and she needs to decide how to navigate through it without getting splattered. No more ignoring the weird stuff, or blindly accepting facts as parsed out to her – Devi finally begins to really pay attention to the world around her.

In a way, Devi’s previous disinterest in anything other than shooting things up helps her look at the issues of the phantoms, the daughters, and Maat without any preconceived notions. Everyone else involved in this FUBAR’d “strategy” to “save the universe” is absolutely unwilling to accept that they have utterly lost control of the situation – if they ever even had it in the first place.

What kind of alleged intelligence organization thinks allowing aliens to create an insane immortal out of an angry teenage girl is a solution to anything? Much less to then sacrifice hundreds (thousands?) of other teenaged girls to become disposal insane copies of the original? The father of one such girl sums it up best:

Our children were taken to be fodder for a salvation that was a miracle for everyone except those it destroyed. But the true villainy of the Eyes isn’t that they made a hard choice, but that they never sought to find another. I have been a soldier all my life. I understand that sacrifices must be made. But we’ve known about the phantoms for seventy years now. In that time, the Eyes have become experts at keeping the secret, experts in hiding, in responding quickly to signs of a phantom attack. They even learned to manage the lelgis. But the one thing they have never improved, never sought to improve, were the lives of Maat and her daughters. They had their miracle, their weapon, and they have never sought to find another.

Bravo! Encore!

Devi ultimately shares this view, and as the story unfolds, quickly capitalizes on her unique status in the universe as Black Goo Carrier to force the Eyes to start looking for another way.

We spend less time with the inhabitants of the Glorious Fool this time around, which is really for the best. How much insanity can one crew really deal with while credibly maintaining their ignorance? Novascape must be doing an insane amount of space-weed to keep her head so firmly in the clouds.

We do, however, get a deeper look into Paradoxian society. Which, let’s just say, is not for me. Nothing like a theocratic aristocracy to put me off my food.

“Yes, but I need to tell it to the baron myself,” I explained. “Can I see him?”

The guard looked at me like I’d just asked the impossible, which, to be fair, I had. Now that I was back on the king’s land, I was a peasant again, and peasants did not demand to speak to barons. But I wasn’t about to start talking phantoms and plasmex plagues to a door guard.

“I just need five minutes of his time,” I pleaded. “If he doesn’t want to hear more after that, I’ll take the consequences.”

The punishment for wasting a noble’s time could be severe if you put them in a bad enough mood.

[…]

Though my face was now parallel with the floor, I saw the baron wave dismissively through my cameras. “Only idiots ignore unexpected urgent messages,” he said. “Now, sit down and tell me what’s so goddamn important. And it had betterbe important, soldier, or you’re going to learn what it means to waste the king’s time.”

I paled. Threats like that were normal, but I’d never heard a noble curse before. As blood relations of the Sainted King, they were above such vulgarity. But I wasn’t about to tell the baron that.

Is it possible for Devi to emigrate to a society that doesn’t pretend it’s ruling class are made up of gods? Where you can’t be publicly tortured for not bowing and scraping enough? PLEASE TELL ME THE SERIES ENDS WITH DEVI TELLING THE SAINTED KING TO SUCK IT!

Fingers crossed! Devi spends most of the book telling everyone making demands of her – Maat, The Eyes, The Defector Eyes, The Cook, The Captain – to, essentially, fuck off. It’s awesome. I have hopes for a destroyed monarchy in book 3.

Back to the romance, which Marlene seems to think is big part of this book. I think we can all sum it up as the fact that Rupert got some, would like to continue getting some, and apparently is willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. He’s like a teenager blowing off curfew to hang out with his ONE TRUE LOVE FOR REALS MOM I’LL NEVER LOVE ANYONE LIKE HER EVER AGAIN. It’s alternately sweet and annoying. Thankfully, Devi keeps him in his place.

Escape Rating: B+ for not boring me with romantic ennui and allowing Devi to really cut loose this time around. When we leave off, Devi’s cut off from everything and has nothing left to lose. I can’t wait to see her go nuts in Heaven’s Queen.

Review: Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach

œFortune's Pawn by Rachel BachFormat read: ebook (purchased)
Formats available: ebook, paperback, audiobook
Genre: science fiction romance
Series: Paradox, #1
Length: 341 pages
Publisher: Orbit
Date Released: November 5, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Devi Morris isn’t your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It’s a combination that’s going to get her killed one day – but not just yet.

That is, until she just gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn’t misnamed: it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she’s found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn’t give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle.

If Sigouney Weaver in Alien met Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica, you’d get Deviana Morris — a hot new mercenary earning her stripes to join an elite fighting force. Until one alien bite throws her whole future into jeopardy.

My Review:

I picked this up because I was in desperate need of some space opera – and Marlene had nothing but nice things to say. Plus, she reassured me this was a not just an excuse to have tentacle sex in zero gravity. (Before you ask, no I have not read the book I linked to. But when you google “tentacle sex zero g” – it was the first hit.)

First things first, Devi is no Ripley. Particularly not Ripley from Alien (1979). As a die-hard fan of the Alien series, I can assure you that Ripley began as a hidebound rule follower willing to let her crew die in order to follow standard protocol. Basically the opposite of Devi. The Starbuck reference works for me. Just imagine Starbuck with actual career ambitions – though all the self-sabotaging behaviors intact.

Generally, the most important part of any foray into a new science fictional universe is the world-building. Which, to be perfectly honest, Fortune’s Pawn was rather lacking on. There are two primary human governments….maybe? They are allies-ish? Possibly a theocracy vs democracy situation, or is it a monarchy vs corporatocracy dynamic?

In this particular instance, the ambiguity works. You do not get the impression that the universe doesn’t make sense, simply that Devi, our POV character, doesn’t really give two shits about it. Devi is a woman driven by one goal: to become the best-of-the-best-of-the-best, SIR! (Anyone catch that reference?) Politics and sociology are ancillary to her desire to be one of the most feared fighters in her society, so she doesn’t dwell on them.

Which is why it is such a rude shock to her to learn that bureaucracy plays a role in recruitment of Devastators. Following the advice of a friend, she leaps at the chance for a shortcut, resigns her commission, and signs up to work freelance security on the most dangerous ship flying. Devi’s single-minded ambition prevents her from asking questions she really should be asking, and allows her to stumble blindly into the middle of sociopolitical FUBAR that could do far worse than kill her off.

Devi’s colleagues aboard the Glorious Fool each harbor a wide-range of personality disorders that may not lay out precisely why they are on the suicide ship, but definitely imply enough for the readers to explore some possibilities. (Though not Devi, the girl is a bit dense.)

The only thing that fell flat for me was the “romance.” It was a very minor subplot, so it did not detract from the story as a whole….but seriously, is Devi really so damn desirable that a guy would gamble away careers and lives on the chance to hit that? No. She’s really not.

Escape Rating: B+ for blazed right through it and on to books 2 and 3. Fortune’s Pawn is a very enjoyable read, and leaves you, not with an eye-gougingly irritating cliffhanger, but a huge dose of wtf that means you will immediately pick up Honor’s Knight. (Review to follow next week.)

 

 

Review: A Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop

Murder of CrowsFormat read: ebook
Formats available: ebook, hardcover
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: The Others #2
Length: 448 pgs
Publisher: Roc
Date Released: March 4, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, AmazonBook Depository

After winning the trust of the terra indigene residing in the Lakeside Courtyard, Meg Corbyn has had trouble figuring out what it means to live among them. As a human, Meg should be barely tolerated prey, but her abilities as a cassandra sangue make her something more.

The appearance of two addictive drugs has sparked violence between the humans and the Others, resulting in the murders of both species in nearby cities. So when Meg has a dream about blood and black feathers in the snow, Simon Wolfgard—Lakeside’s shape-shifting leader—wonders whether their blood prophet dreamed of a past attack or of a future threat.

As the urge to speak prophecies strikes Meg more frequently, trouble finds its way inside the Courtyard. Now the Others and the handful of humans residing there must work together to stop the man bent on reclaiming their blood prophet—and stop the danger that threatens to destroy them all.

My Thoughts:

Anne Bishop is one of those authors I always enjoy, even though I can’t say I actually like anything she writes. She’s the authorial equivalent of Sharknado. Everything is so goddamn ridiculous that you absolutely must keep reading. Any second, in between the pretentious italics and Super Important Capitalizations, you’ll be graced with the book’s version of the chainsaw vs shark.

Which is what I got when reading Written in Red last year. The first entry in her new series, filled with all her old bad habits. I absolutely loved hating it, and expected to similarly enjoy whatever drinking game I could create from the wreckage to be found in Murder of Crows.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that I truly liked this book. I can’t say it doesn’t suffer from Anne Bishop’s expected stylistic prose. But underneath the goth glitter, rampant italics of emphasis, and Grammar Slaughtering Capitalization To Show You How Important This Word Is – there is an extremely engaging story.

After much insight, I’ve deduced the source of the significant improvement in quality.

First, we are introduced to other blood prophets, which downgraded Meg from The Maryest of Mary Sues to just a powerful prophet who happened to have the strength of character to overcome the mental and physical restrictions both bred and socialized into her. When you learn what some of the other cassandra sangue are enduring, you realize Meg isn’t really all that special. Just damn lucky to have landed where she did.

Meg’s super special status in the Lakeside Courtyard was similarly addressed through the “exploding fluffballs” (as the Courtyard residents nicknamed their brand-new “human pack”). This human pack – an admitted anomaly in the country – provided assistance to the Lakeside Courtyard, much like Meg, and in return received the same protections afforded to Meg. A believable protagonist is key to any good story. Written in Red’s Meg was irritatingly unique. Murder of Crow’s Meg is a trailblazer for her people. Definitely different – but no Mary Sue.

Written in Red by Anne BishopIn addition to fixing the problems with Meg, Murder of Crows begins overwriting the pitiful excuse for world-building haphazardly scattered throughout Written in Red. There is a whole wide world out there, one where a “human pack” becomes a tourist attraction for rural Others, where shooting crows is illegal, and where storms ravage parts of the world that dared to attempt war with the Others thousands of years ago. As the Others interact more and more with humans, we begin to realize that the human population is not, as a whole, so inanely arrogant they think to subjugate a species capable of controlling the very elements, but rather just foolishly arrogant. While the Others remember the history of their interactions with humans – every town and country they’ve evicted, emptied, or outright disappeared for crimes committed against them or their land – the humans forget. Each generation needing to relearn the same lessons as the last.

This led to the final attention-grabbing improvement. Namely, the gore. Anne Bishop amped up the gore this time around, and all I can say is that I heartily approve. There’s really very little I can say without spoilers, but I applaud’s Anne’s decision to set aside her bizarre obsession with sexual sadism and instead go forward with non-sexual ways to horrify her readers. Kudos to you Ms. Bishop! You took human depravity to a different level. Keep this up and you’ll make an actual fan out of me yet.

Escape Rating: B+ for way better this time around. Though you probably do need to read the first installment to understand the interpersonal relationships. For which I apologize.

***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: The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan

TropicSerpentsFormat read: eARC (and hardcover)
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, audiobook.
Genre: Historical Fantasy, Dragons
Series: Memoirs of Lady Trent #2
Length: 331 pages
Publisher: Tor
Date Released: March 4, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Book Depository.

Attentive readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoir, A Natural History of Dragons, are already familiar with how a bookish and determined young woman named Isabella first set out on the historic course that would one day lead her to becoming the world’s premier dragon naturalist. Now, in this remarkably candid second volume, Lady Trent looks back at the next stage of her illustrious (and occasionally scandalous) career.

Three years after her fateful journeys through the forbidding mountains of Vystrana, Mrs. Camherst defies family and convention to embark on an expedition to the war-torn continent of Eriga, home of such exotic draconian species as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics.

The expedition is not an easy one. Accompanied by both an old associate and a runaway heiress, Isabella must brave oppressive heat, merciless fevers, palace intrigues, gossip, and other hazards in order to satisfy her boundless fascination with all things draconian, even if it means venturing deep into the forbidden jungle known as the Green Hell . . . where her courage, resourcefulness, and scientific curiosity will be tested as never before.

My Review:

I previously declared A Natural History of Dragons to be the literary embodiment of draconic perfection, and gave it 15/5 stars. As you can imagine I was a wee bit excited for The Tropic of Serpents. 

As always I am rather less eloquent when I love something, since I would really rather just wave the book around demanding that everyone READ NOW READ DRAGONS RAWR READ!!!! I believe this failing is a byproduct of my profession. I spend so much of my life writing legal pleadings about horrible things that never should have happened, that I continuously suffer from writer’s block when it’s time to be positive. Alas, I shall do my best….

It’s been three years since the events of A Natural History of Dragons, and our intrepid Isabella has grown up a bit. My one major problem with her character last time around was that she was so feminist, and yet so utterly clueless regarding her own privilege as a titled heterosexual married white person. With a few years’ seasoning as a widow, she’s finally opened her eyes to the inherit injustices in both the classist and imperialist natures of her society.

One of my favorite scenes in the book involved Isabella having a heart-to-heart chat with Tom Wilker (the aspiring naturalist she clashed heads with in Book 1 – she was always looking down on his lower-class roots, while he disdained her for her gender), where they honestly assessed the advantages and disadvantages of their respective class and gender lines, and made plans to unite against the oppression of the 1%. For science!

It was amazing, and I look forward to seeing these two defying conventions and pissing off the upperclass with their brilliance and adventures throughout the series.

SuffragetteIn sum, Isabella’s experiences have matured her beyond the dragon-obsessed teenager into a truly brilliant naturalist. She’s applying her observational and deductive skills to her own life, and finally gaining awareness that though she is devoted to science, her position as a Lady Scientist makes her a politically-divise figure and social rebel.

Our Dragon-Studying-Scooby-Gang is just as engaging as the future Lady Trent. You will come to deeply love Tom (now that he’s pulled the stick out of his ass), and Natalie, the young socialite Isabella is proving to be a horrible influence on. (Though, to be fair, Natalie is an equally terrible influence on Isabella. It’s Natalie-the-theoretical-physicist whose passion is inventing air travel.) My fascination with their adventures was such that I worried about them even when faced with Amazing Draconic Discoveries.

Da Vinci's Sketches  - created without benefit of dragons.
Da Vinci’s Sketches – created without benefit of dragons.

Which leads me to the DRAGONS! We learned a ton about dragons in this book. Breeding cycles. Habitats. The Care and Feeding of. Potentials for Militarization. Stay-up-all-night-reading levels of excitement, and I cannot wait to read about the fall-out in the next book!

Which leads me to my primary disappointment. (Come on, you didn’t think I’d find something flawless, did you?) What the bloody hell was with the illustrations?! Todd Lockwood does amazing work, but, come ON. I don’t care what Natalie or Ankumata look like. I am disinterested in elephants or city skylines. Give. Me. More. Dragons! Every sketch wasted on something not at least tangentially draconic was a throbbing eyesore I cannot get past.

Escape Rating: A+. For reasons I cannot quite explain, I did not love A Tropic of Serpents as passionately as A Natural History of DragonsIt is still, by far, one of the best dragon books out there, and I am already drooling with anticipation over the next installment – so you’d all damn well better go out there and buy as many copies as your budgets can justify  – but I don’t quite feel the need to break Reading Reality’s grading scale. This time. I have every expectation that I’ll be breaking out the Greek Alphabet when grading future installments. Particularly in light of this little teaser:

As I have not yet finished composing my memoirs, I cannot say with certainty that this, the second volume in the series, will be the most gossip-ridden of them all. That honour may belong to a later period in my life, before my second marriage, when my interactions with my future husband were grist for a very energetic mill both at home and abroad. I am still considering how much of that I will share. But this volume will be a fair contender, as it was during these years that I found myself accused of fornication, high treason, and status as the worst mother in all of Scirland. It is rather more than most women manage in their lives, and I own that I take a perverse sort of pride in the achievement.

***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.

Series Shakedown: Terran Times by Viola Grace

STARBREAKERFor thousands of years, aliens have been coming to Earth, waging war over our most precious resource: easily breed-able human women. They appear in our mythology as shapeshifters, vampires, dragons, demons, angels, fae, merfolk, and any manner of other supernatural creatures.

In the Not Too Distant Future, Star Fleet The Alliance will take steps to protect humanity from continued exploitation. Two thousand Terran Volunteers shall be selected to travel forth into the universe, as ambassadors for our planet, earning Earth a full-fledged induction into Star Fleet The Alliance. These are their stories. 

Today, dear readers, we are in luck, because I just so happened to get my hands on a copy of the first draft of The Terran Volunteer Application. Do you want adventure? To travel the stars? To seek out new life and….dance? Well then look no further!

Congratulations! If you answered "yes" to most of the above, you have been selected as a Terran Volunteer!
Congratulations! If you answered “yes” to most of the above, you have been selected as a Terran Volunteer!

Viola Grace has written somewhere in the realm of 100 short stories detailing the sexcapades of the 2,000 women who completely voluntarily relinquished all their rights to an ineffective and inconsistently-written alien governing body. (Why? Because.)

ScorcherThese women go out into the universe fully aware that at any moment they will be ordered to reproduce, that they will have no say in their breeding partner, and no guaranteed rights to the product of the mandated union (unless it’s female, then they are shuffled off to some alien backwater to live in anonymity).

No form of reproductive choice exists. In the event an unintentional (as in, not ordered by the government) pregnancy occurs, the fetus can be transferred to the father and brought to term through other means without the mother’s knowledge or consent. Of course, such advanced technology cannot be utilized to just have the women make an egg donation and let the government match up compatible cross-breeds in the lab. What kind of crazy talk is this? The contract requires that you pass on your DNA in the most physically, psychologically, and emotionally traumatic way imaginable.

EnthralledIf that’s not repugnant enough for you, the volunteers are constantly subjected to genetic, surgical, psychic, and technological body modifications. These are not conducted for the benefit of the individual, but rather the convenience of their employer and/or breeding partner.

Consent? Hah! Informed consent? LOL! That’s a good one! You humans and your ridiculous conceptions of basic rights and liberties. Why would you want those when you can fly around in space ships, meet aliens, and then be raped in the spaceships by those aliens? (Character motivation? What’s that?)

Do you have a feel for the quivering spineless cookie-cutter series protagonists? The collection of women who have no fucking self-respect or brain power? (They sign the damn contract, and are stunned when it’s enforced. What the fuck did they think would happen?) These are first humans to galavant around the universe.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Viola Grace shares the Jack Harkness view of space exploration (so many species, so little time…). Which means she doesn’t bother with things like plot or world-building to compensate for her pathetic protagonists. Why plot when you can play Terran Times Sex Bingo?

Viola Grace BingoTo be fair, I have no proof she plays Bingo to to write her stories. It could be a dartboard. Or dice.

JailedNotice the high probability of a story consisting of nothing but slavery, forced sex, and forced breeding? That’s because the only over-arching series-long plot is slavery and sex-trafficking. Each and every story will mention how humans are a protected species that can not be enslaved. The irony of making such statements to a person who has enslaved you, roofied you, bought sole rights to your reproductive system, is forcing you to marry him, trapped you on his planet where you have no rights, or plans to do any of this above, is apparently lost every character in the series. (It’s like poachers talking about how much trouble they’ll get into for hunting endangered species while they are selling the fur and meat.)

This is not a science fiction romance series. This is a goddamn rapeathon. A rapeathon where the women all ultimately enjoy and embrace the assault, coercion, force, or deceit.

The author appears to be doing well enough with these mini-monstrosities. She’s set herself up to write another 1,900 of them. That’s 1,900 more women (usually virgins) who have no agency, and yet will “decide” to overlook the sexual assault in favor of bright skin colors, pretty hair, and prehensile cocks.

Some of you may see the decent ratings on goodreads, short length, and think “hmm, this might be a good intro for my friend who loves romance/science fiction, but doesn’t really read science fiction/romance.” Do not make this mistake. I can assure you, there is neither science fiction, nor romance, to be found in The Terran Times/Chronicles of Terra. Just rape and mythological creatures and superheroes called aliens. For reasons.

Escape Rating: F for are you out of your fucking mind?!

*My apologies to Nalini Singh for being so harsh last year. I take it all back. I’ll upgrade you to a C, and read your next book to make it up to you.