Review: City of the Gods: The Betrayal by S J McMillan + Giveaway

city of the gods the descendant by sj mcmillanFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: fantasy romance, paranormal romance
Series: City of the Gods #2
Length: 322 pages
Publisher: Createspace
Date Released: March 24, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Centuries ago, Damian was betrayed by his best friend, fiance, and the Gods of his civilization. He vowed vengeance against them all. He studied and mastered the dark arts. All he needed after that was patience… Damian’s ex, Vivian, now feels like her world is crashing down around her. His curse is threatening her brother Tristan’s life. The only way to save him is to trust a stranger who saved her from a fate worse than death. Marcus had no idea saving Vivian’s life would put him in the middle of an ancient battle between good and evil. All he has to do is figure out which side he’s fighting for.

My Review:

Saying “The Betrayal” makes it seem like there’s only one. In this second book of the City of the Gods series, (see review of book 1, The Descendant, for more details) there are many, many betrayals. At some point in the past or present, it seems as if every character has betrayed everyone else.

That doesn’t mean that some of those reversals weren’t justified, but right and wrong are often in the eye of the beholder. When your civilization is dying, it can seem like everyone is out to get you, even your friends.

city of the gods descendantThis story picks up where The Descendant leaves off, and it is necessary to read the first book in order for this story to make sense.

What we have are the survivors of the Aztecs hunting for the evil priest who caused most of their problems way back when. In the first book, the lines between friends and enemies are clear-cut; in this new installment, all the relationships blur with the introduction of new friends and enemies.

It started out clearly; Kat was the Redeemer, prophesied to bring the former High Priest to divine justice. Tristan was her fiance, and Sabine and Vivian were Kat’s teachers and guardians. Vivian’s former fiance Damien was the face of evil.

Nothing stays the same. Damien dies, somewhere unknown, and his last magic trick is to force Tristan to live through all his evil memories. Tristan is in danger of becoming the enemy.

Vivian is their healer. She has the power and skill to get Damien out of Tristan’s soul, but in order to do so she needs her tools; special herbs from the nearby forest. Her quest to save her brother leads her to a powerful warlock, and a man bent on killing all witches and warlocks, including Vivian.

Marcus hides both darkness and light. His introduction to the tight circle of Kat, Tristan, Vivian and Sabine leads to both disaster and possible triumph, as he first prevents Vivian from achieving her mission, and then consents to help the group in return for supplies for his own hunt.

But it all goes horribly wrong. As Vivian and Tristan are temporarily overtaken by evil forces, they let the dark half of Kat’s personality, her alternate ego construct Lina, take over Kat, endangering them all. In Tristan’s re-living of Damien’s memories, they discover that Damien has been under a curse for centuries. He wasn’t responsible for all the evil that he did, just as Kat isn’t responsible for the irresponsible acts that Lina commits.

The results of those actions mean that all the players shift position. Kat loses her place as the Redeemer. The ruling council believes that Marcus is better suited to meet the threat of the High Priest. Finally they discover that the warlock Vivian and Marcus first encountered IS the High Priest, still bent on their destruction and conquering the world.

At some point, every single person changes sides on everyone else. At then end of the story, the reader is left with a lot of destruction and only a glimmer of hope that this motley crew will get their acts together, and just plain get together, in time to battle the evil they face.

It’s absorbing, and harrowing, to watch this story unfold.

Escape Rating B: The Betrayal is definitely a middle book. You can feel the story turning darker and darker as every situation goes from bad to worse. To put it another way, “Things are always darkest just before they turn completely black.”

The Descendant was Kat’s story, as she discovers who and what she really is. The Betrayal is more Vivian’s story, both because some of the key betrayals are hers, and because hers is the romance that gets resolved. Also because one of the initial betrayals, all the way back, was Damien’s betrayal of her. She finally gets a somewhat fresh start.

We also get the explanation for why Damien turned to the dark side that I wanted in the first book. It makes more sense now. It doesn’t necessarily excuse everything, but it makes more sense.

It’s also still Kat’s story. Watching her deal with, basically, the nastier sides of her self is something that was left from the first book and needed resolution.

While it was good to see Vivian have some good stuff happen to her, the vehicle for that “good stuff” wasn’t as fleshed out of a character as I’d like for the romantic side of the book. We need to know more about his strengths as a leader and as a hero. He starts out pretty mercenary and single-minded, and I need more to be certain that he really is on the side of the angels now.

The Betrayal was a non-stop thrill ride of a second book. Now that the rollercoaster is plowing down the hill fast, I can’t wait to see how the story gets wrapped. I’d like to see everyone get their “just desserts,” good, evil and mixed-up!


City of the Gods Button 300 x 225

S.J. is giving away a whole bunch of prizes in this tour. Enter the Rafflecopter for your chance at one of two signed print copies of either book 1, City of the Gods: The Descendant or book 2, City of the Gods: The Betrayal. She is also giving away 5 ebook copies of the winner’s choice of book 1 or 2.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Interview with Author S. J. McMillan: Dancing Terribly but Writing Well

After reading (review here) S.J. McMillan’s new urban fantasy City of the Gods: the Descendant, I was very glad to have the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her book.  I’m also incredibly happy to find out it’s definitely a series, because The Descendant ends hanging off a cliff! Let’s see just what Ms. McMillan had to say.

First, tell us a little bit about who S. J. McMillan is when she’s not writing.

First and foremost I’m a wife and mother. I’ve been happily married to my wonderful husband for 13 years. We have three awesome kids. I have a full time job as an administrative assistant to a financial advisor. I stay pretty busy when I’m not writing, just taking care of my family and spending time with them. When I have a bit of me time to enjoy, which is rarely, I waste time on Facebook or Twitter, read, and watch singing and dancing competitions. My favorite is So You Think You Can Dance. Those dancers are wickedly talented!

City of the Gods: The Descendant, is an urban fantasy. What drew you to urban fantasy in particular?

I wanted a story and characters that people could relate to. I want readers focused on the situations the characters find themselves in and not preoccupied with rules, laws, or scenery. This being an urban fantasy all the same rules and laws apply in the story as they do in real life. If a crime is committed in the story, the police are still going to come out and investigate and do their best to catch the bad guy. The fantasy part is more about the certain abilities the characters have.

Where did the inspiration for City of the Gods come from?

As I was researching for a place for the ancient civilization to come from, I stumbled upon the city of Teotihuacan, Mexico. Little is known about how the city was created, which civilization created it, and what caused the downfall of such a large civilization. This intrigued me. I searched the internet like crazy for as much information as I could possibly find. It seemed like the perfect place to base the history of the book in. Teotihuacan means ‘birthplace of the gods’.

The cover of the book is gorgeous! It really blends the historic opening with the modern. What’s your favorite scene from the book, and why?

My favorite scene would have to be in the last chapter. It introduces an important character to the series in an epic way. I can’t say too much more than that without spoiling it for the reader.

Who first introduced you to the love of reading?

My mom, grandma, and great grandma. I was entertaining them once when I was 11 or 12 years old, with a little song and dance. While they loved my performance they thought I should also broaden my interests to reading as well. Before that time I really didn’t read unless it was for school. My mom took me to the local library and found a love for the popular YA horror novels like the Fear Street series. I’ve been reading ever since. I’ve also broadened my reading genres as well.

Who influenced your decision to become a writer?

I had an English teacher my senior year that I absolutely loved. At the time I was just writing poetry. She asked if she put some of the poetry in a school publication. I was surprised by her request. I didn’t start trying to write a book until a few years after that, but still to this day continue to write poetry whenever inspiration hits me.

Do you plan everything or just let the story flow?

I do a little of both. I start with an outline for every chapter, but usually end up having to revise the outline because I add or change things up as I write. I always have to go back to the outline to make sure I’m staying on track with how I want the story to flow. I also have piles of post-it notes everywhere with ideas that I want to include in the story and don’t have time to add it to the outline. Then I have to pray I don’t lose the notes with my disorganization.

Do your characters ever want to take over the story?

There are times when a character tries to go off on a tangent, but I try to bring them back to where I want the story to go. Sometimes their interference is a good thing. They give me ideas or extend a scene and make it better than I could have hoped for. There are a few scenes that I loved where the characters took over, but I had to edit them out because they didn’t move the story forward. I like to think of those like scenes from a movie that were cut. Maybe one day I will share those edits with the reader.

What’s your favorite book, or who is your favorite writer, and why?

For me to pick one favorite book or author would be impossible. I have read several books multiple times. Most of my favorite books were ones I read in high school. My favorite author include Michele Bardsley, Christine Feehan, Lynsay Sands, and Katie McAlister. These authors create strong characters, interesting plots, and add a bit of humor to their books. These are the authors I buy books from no matter what.

What projects do you have planned for the future? The series continues?

Yes, the series does continue. I’m currently working on the second book for the City of the Gods Trilogy. After that I will start on the final book. I also have plans to write another urban fantasy book and a ghost story. Who knows where I will go from there…

On your website, you said your guilty pleasures included singing loudly and dancing terribly. So what’s your favorite type of music to dance terribly to? And just how terrible?

Do I actually have to answer the how terribly part? I get embarrassed if my husband or kids walk into the room while I’m shaking my groove thang. They think it is hilarious! I’m just glad we don’t own a video camera, or my dancing would be on display for all to see on youtube.  As for the music, give me anything with a good beat. Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, Jessie J, Rihanna, and Katy Perry are a few I’ve been known to boogie to. The singing loudly music tends to be done more with artists like Adele, Evanscence, Paramore, and Flyleaf. The list could go on and on.

Coffee or Tea?

I hate the way coffee tastes, even if I add loads of sugar, so I gotta go with tea on this one. I like sweet tea or green tea.

It’s always good to talk with another tea drinker! Thank you so much for talking about City of the Gods with us. I’ll be looking forward to book 2. And you’re right, the character you introduce at the end is a shocker. Book 2 can’t come soon enough. Write fast!

City of the Gods: The Descendant

Maybe the Mayan calendar is right, and the world really is coming to an end. They just had the date a bit off. And things aren’t quite hopeless, or there wouldn’t be a story in it.

One other tiny detail, the ancient civilization involved wasn’t the Mayans, it was the Aztecs. But there’s still the whole “end of the world” deal. Except that in this case, there is one person, a Redeemer, who can prevent it. If she’s not stopped.

And the forces of evil definitely pull out all the stops trying to keep the Redeemer from fulfilling her mission. Even before she finds out she has one.

Katalina is that Redeemer. But she doesn’t know. Of course she doesn’t, because the story of The Descendant is Katalina’s journey.

The story begins with Kat at a crossroads. This is not an uncommon beginning for a hero’s (or heroine’s) journey. Not only has Kat just been fired, she came home to find her fiancé moving out of their apartment, with the help of his new girlfriend. Heated words were exchanged.

But when Kat meets her best friends at their neighborhood hangout, everything changes. First, it turns out that her BFFs are not quite what they seem. Sabine and Vivian are Kat’s bodyguards, although Kat doesn’t know that yet. Second, the club has gone upscale in the last week, and the new owner turns out to be hot for Kat.

And third, Kat goes out into the alley to get some fresh air after running into her recent ex — and her split personality evil side kills two drunks who try to rape her. Yes, you read that right. Kat has multiple personality disorder, and her dark side, a nasty piece-of-work named Lina, takes over whenever Kat can’t handle things. Drunken rapists definitely qualified.

Kat created Lina when she watched her parents die in an auto accident. Lina has nothing to do with being the Redeemer. At least not yet.

But the evil dude who watches the drunks attack her does. He’s the sworn enemy of Vivian and Sabine. His name is Damien. Once upon a time, he used to be Vivian’s fiance. Back in Teotihaucan.

Damien has been chasing the Redeemer forever, waiting for her to be born. Vivian and Sabine have been watching forever, waiting for the Redeemer to be born. Tristan, the new owner of the club, is Vivian’s brother. He has been hunting for the Redeemer for his entire life, waiting for her to be born. They’ve all been waiting since 700 A.D. Just for Kat.

Kat doesn’t want any of this. She wanted the life she had. But like the Rolling Stones said, we can’t always get what we want. Kat and Tristan are going to have to try very, very hard to get what they need.

Escape Rating B: This could have been a standard paranormal romance, but the author took some twists that definitely made it more interesting.

Choosing the Aztecs as the forebears for this history was a brave choice. The author doesn’t gloss over their historic practices of animal and human sacrifice, nor Kat’s revulsion toward them. Her job is to save the world in the present, not correct the past.

Kat’s psychological response to witnessing her parents’ death was to create a secondary personality, Lina, to handle the hard stuff in her life. Lina is a bad-ass. Re-integrating Lina into Kat becomes a necessary part of Kat’s journey to becoming the Redeemer. Still, that initial scene where Lina emerges was a WOW! The reader isn’t sure whether Lina is the Redeemer, whether she’s evil, or whether she needs to be exorcised.

Although Kat is very attracted to Tristan, she loses her faith in him, and all her friends, when she discovers how much they have concealed from her over the years. No matter how justified that concealment, Kat should lose faith. Talk a about a whopping big set of lies.

On the other hand, I didn’t get Damien’s initial motivation for turning to “the Dark Side”. He definitely was evil, but why it happened in the first place, all those years ago, wasn’t quite clear to me. He turned “bad” because the truly evil dude wasn’t punished enough? He betrayed his friends and his entire belief system for that?

I’ll need a better explanation, or a bigger evil, in book 2. But I definitely want a book 2!

What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand? AKA The Sunday Post 6-17-12

The biggest thing on my mostly virtual nightstand this week is plane tickets. And they are virtual, since no one gets actual plane tickets anymore.

On Friday, I’ll be flying to the original home of Mickey Mouse. No, I don’t mean Orlando. If I were going to Orlando, I’d drive.

I’m going to Anaheim, California, home of Disneyland. But I’m not going to visit Mickey. Or, at least, not on purpose.

The American Library Association Annual Conference is in Anaheim again this year. (We were just there in 2008). What does ALA mean to me? A lot of meetings. And a LOT of opportunities to meet authors and pick up free Advance Reading Copies (ARCs) and books. I expect I’ll see pretty much the same ARCs that the BEA attendees did. I have my fingers crossed.

But while I’m at ALA, this blog will still go on. There’s even going to be a blog hop next weekend. But before that…

The Lovestruck Giveaway Hop is still going strong. Don’t just look at my hop post, but be sure to check out all the hoppers! There are over 125 blogs participating, so hop and take a chance on some great book giveaways.

This week I’ll have two tours with interviews and reviews.

On Tuesday, June 19, my guest will be S. J. McMillan to talk about her paranormal romance City of the Gods, the Descendant. I’m in the middle of this book right now, and she’s used an unusual culture as her starting point. Her heroine is the descendant of the Ancient Aztecs. The battle  between good and evil is shaping up to be pretty epic.

Thursday we’re going into space with Maria Hammarblad. Her heroine is Kidnapped, but lives out that frequent fantasy of traveling those “strange new worlds and seeking out new civilizations”. Even though her kidnapper is a hunk, it turns out there’s no place like home.

Kidnapped is a great lead-in to Friday’s SFR Blog Hop. I’ll be participating, along with other members of the SFR (that’s science fiction romance) Brigade as we provide SFR related book giveaways on all our blogs.

About that traveling nightstand of mine. Especially when I’m on the road, I look at this post to figure out what I should be reading!

I have some books that caught my eye on NetGalley or Edelweiss that are due out next week. Let’s take a look at what they are:

Two sequels to books I reviewed last year. Suited by Jo Anderton is the follow-up to her marvelous science fiction debut, Debris.

And The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton is the second mystery by Elizabeth Speller, after last year’s haunting The Return of Captain John Emmett.

I expect to pick up what my husband calls a “metric butt-load” of books from the conference. After all, I need to give LaZorra a new throne. I dismantled her old one.