Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia, Gabriel Picolo (Illustrator): An Updated Look into the Empath’s Past

Teen Titans: RavenTeen Titans: Raven

by Kami Garcia, Gabriel Picolo (Illustrator)
Series: Teen Titans, #1
Paperback, 168 pg.
DC Ink, 2019

Read: August 2, 2019

I’ve talked here before about my love of The New Teen Titans, the 1980-96 series created by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez. They were my real first (and probably deepest) comic love. It informed and shaped my tastes in ways I probably can’t realize and definitely can’t articulate. It’s practically sacrosanct to me. So the idea of DC Comics hiring Kami Garcia (as much as I might like Garcia) to write modern takes on the origins of Raven (and, apparently, others)—whether or not Wolfman signed off on the idea—both repelled and attracted me. At least it had to be better than that Teen Titans Go! monstrosity.

You know what? I liked it.

Here’s the official blurb, in the interest of time (saving my time that is):


When a tragic accident takes the life of 17-year-old Raven Roth’s foster mom–and Raven’s memory–she moves to New Orleans to recover and finish her senior year of high school.
Starting over isn’t easy. Raven remembers everyday stuff like how to solve math equations and make pasta, but she can’t remember her favorite song or who she was before the accident. And when impossible things start happening, Raven begins to think it might even be better not to know who she was before.

But as she grows closer to her new friends, her foster sister, Max, and Tommy Torres, a guy who accepts her for who she is now, Raven has to decide if she’s ready to face what’s buried in the past…and the darkness building inside her.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Kami Garcia and first-time graphic novel artist Gabriel Picolo comes this riveting tale of finding the strength to face who you are and learning to trust others–and yourself.

This retains enough of Raven’s original origin story (I have no idea what her post-New 52 origin is) to satisfy me, but tailored for a contemporary (and YA) audience. It feels fresh, as if Garcia had created Raven herself. Of course, Daddy (un)Dearest is waiting in the wings for a reunion with his daughter, providing the lingering threat that leads to the assembling of the Titans (or, bringing the Titans Together! as one might say). This is, of course, assuming that Garcia is heading in a Wolfman-esque trajectory, it seems that way.

Slade Wilson’s also around in a vaguely menacing way, but we’re going to have to read further installments in this series to get a strong handle on why. It’s gotta be nefarious, because it’s Wilson.

Picolo’s art is nice and dynamic. It pretty much screams motion and youth. Don’t ask me to elucidate that, when it comes to visuals, all I can do is give vague impressions. But I dug it. Picolo’s not Pérez, but who is? I’m glad he didn’t try.

The fact that I didn’t throw this across the room in disgust says a lot for me, that I enjoyed it and am looking forward to Beast Boy says much more. If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool fan or even just someone who likes non-Avengers/Justice League superheroes, you should give it a shot.

—–

3 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge

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A Few Quick Questions With…Christy J. Breedlove

I talked a little bit ago about, Screamcatcher: Web World and now I have the pleasure of sharing a Q&A I did with the author, Christy J. Breedlove. I liked the book and I like what she had to say here (there seems to be a theme…). I hope you enjoy and I hope this helps convince you to give Breedlove and her work a shot.

Tell us about your road to publication — was your plan/dream always to become a novelist and your education/other jobs were just to get you to this point, or was this a later-in-life desire?
                     My early writing accomplishment were multiple hits within a few years: In my first year of writing back in 1987, I wrote three Sf short stories that were accepted by major slick magazines which qualified me for the Science Fiction Writers of America, and at the same time achieved a Finalist award in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. This recognition garnered me a top gun SF agent at the time, Richard Curtis Associates. My first novel went to John Badham (Director) and the Producers, the Cohen Brothers. Only an option, but an extreme honor. The writer who beat me out of contention for a feature movie, was Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. My book was called Dinothon.

A year after that I published two best-selling non-fiction books and landed on radio, TV, in every library in the U.S. and in hundreds of newspapers.

I have been trying to catch that lightning in a bottle ever since. My YA dystopian novel, The Girl They Sold to the Moon won the grand prize in a publisher’s YA novel writing contest, went to a small auction and got tagged for a film option. So, I’m getting there, I hope!

I don’t want to ask “where do you get your ideas?” But out of all the ideas floating around in your head, why’d you latch onto this one — what was it about these characters, this idea that drove you to commit months/years to it?
                     I was always under the illusion that everything hasn’t been done. I fool myself into think that because premise is my number one priority. If it isn’t unique, out-of-the-box or distinctive, I won’t attempt it. We have a dream catcher in the living room, and one day I stared at it and remember some of the legend behind it. Then I looked up the lore associated with the dream catcher. That really started a fire within.
What kinds of research went into the construction of this concept and the world? What was the thing you came across in your research that you loved, but just couldn’t figure out how to use? (assuming there was one)
                     It all started with the dream catcher. This iconic item, which is rightfully ingrained in Indian lore, is a dream symbol respected by the culture that created it. It is mystifying, an enigma that that prods the imagination. Legends about the dream catcher are passed down from multiple tribes. There are variations, but the one fact that can be agreed upon is that it is a nightmare entrapment device, designed to sift through evil thoughts and images and only allow pleasant and peaceful dreams to enter into consciousness of the sleeper.

I wondered what would happen to a very ancient dream catcher that was topped off with dreams and nightmares. What if the nightmares became too sick or deathly? What if the web strings could not hold anymore visions? Would the dream catcher melt, burst, vanish, implode? I reasoned that something would have to give if too much evil was allowed to congregate inside of its structure. I found nothing on the Internet that offered a solution to this problem—I might have missed a relevant story, but nothing stood out to me. Stephen King had a story called Dream Catcher, but I found nothing in it that was similar to what I had in mind. So I took it upon myself to answer such a burning question. Like too much death on a battlefield could inundate the immediate location with lost and angry spirits, so could a dream catcher hold no more of its fill of sheer terror without morphing into something else, or opening up a lost and forbidden existence. What would it be like to be caught up in another world inside the webs of a dream catcher, and how would you get out? What would this world look like? How could it be navigated? What was the source of the exit, and what was inside of it that threatened your existence? Screamcatcher: Web World, the first in the series, was my answer. I can only hope that I have done it justice. The readers can be the judge of that.

Who are some of your major influences? (whether or not you think those influences can be seen in your work — you know they’re there)
                     Oh, like what I consider stylists: Poul Anderson, Virgin Planet, Peter Benchley, The Island and Jaws, Joseph Wambaugh, The Onion Field and Black Marble, Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park, Alan Dean Foster, Icerigger trilogy, and some Stephen King. Anne Rice impresses with just about anything she has written. I think it’s the humor and irony that attracts me the most–and it’s all character related As far as Ya material, I was really floored when I studied Jo Rowling’s world building. As far as dangers, toils and snares, I was attracted to the action in The Hunger Games—a real mind changer for me.

What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
                     Totally off the spec genre, I was captivated by Rocketman, the story of Elton John, and Bohemian Rhapsody, the story of Queen. I’m a sucker for bio-dramas, like Cinderella Man, and such. There is something about the human struggle to fame and fortune that fascinated me. I get emotionally involved in the character/characters. It’s true to life, and I’ve a similar life picture painted with such ups and down.
I see there’s another Screamcatcher volume on the way, are there more to come after that? Or have you latched on to some other idea for what’s next, and can you tell us a little about that?
                     Two more Screamcatcher books are finished and sold to the same publisher. The second in the trilogy is called Screamcatcher: Dream Chasers. The third and final is called Screamcatcher: The Shimmering Eye. By the second book, the kids have formed the Badlands Paranormal Society. The fancy themselves as true paranormal investigators since they escaped alive from the first Web World in book 1. The third books, via the blessings of George Knapp, investigative reporter out of Las Vegas, is my fiction account of what really happened at Skin Walker Ranch, the most haunting tale I’ve ever heard in my life.
Thanks for your time—and thanks for Screamcatcher, I enjoyed it, and hope you have plenty of success with it.
                     I’m honored, H.C. Newton to grace your pages and thank you for your time and consideration of my life and work.

Screamcatcher: Web World by Christy J. Breedlove: Get Caught Up in this YA Fantasy’s Web

Screamcatcher: Web WorldScreamcatcher: Web World

by Christy J. Breedlove
Series: Screamcatcher, #1


Kindle Edition, 218 pg.
Melange Books – Fire and Ice YA, 2019

Read: July 31, 2019

I don’t have a lot to say about this one, my views are pretty straightforward and most of the analysis I’d give would be spoiler-heavy, but I do want to try to say enough to entice someone (preferably a few someones) to read this satisfying YA Fantasy.

I really prefer to come up with my own synopses, but I’ve failed to think of a succinct way to give one for this book (well, I had one that was too succinct and was really unsatisfactory), so I’m just going to appropriate the official blurb:

           When seventeen-year-old Jory Pike cannot shake the hellish nightmares of her parent’s deaths, she turns to an old family heirloom, a dream catcher. Even though she’s half blood Chippewa, Jory thinks old Indian lore is so yesterday, but she’s willing to give it a try. However, the dream catcher has had its fill of nightmares from an ancient and violent past. After a sleepover party, and during one of Jory’s most horrific dream episodes, the dream catcher implodes, sucking Jory and her three friends into its own world of trapped nightmares. They’re in an alternate universe-locked inside of an insane web world. How can they find the center of the web, where all good things are allowed to pass?

I don’t pretend to have an extensive, much less exhaustive, familiarity with uses of Native American symbology, imagery, spirituality, or anything. But I’ve come across my share over the years, and I don’t remember anyone using the dreamcatcher in any significant way before. And I don’t know why — this is an awesome idea.

The first few pages (maybe the first chapter or so) were a little rough, and my expectations lowered a little bit. But once Breedlove had established the world and things started happening, the book became a lot more enjoyable and I got sucked right into it. Breedlove does a great job of balancing the fantastic elements of this dream world (I guess nightmare world would be closer to the truth) and reality to make it easy to understand, but still following a nightmare logic ad full of the stuff that dreams are made of (just without the statuary from Malta).

There was a love story that was established early on, and I really had no interest in it, but it eventually won me over and I started pulling for it. Making it on two fronts that Breedlove got me to invest in both the story and the characters when I wasn’t in any frame of mind to do so. I can’t tell you what ineffable quality there is to her writing that accomplishes that, but call it what you will, I like it when someone can do that.

There was a little suspense concerning the fate of some of Jory’s friends/companions, but by and large, you get the feeling early on just how things will turn out for almost all involved, the pleasure (for the reader, not the characters) is in the journey. There’s some self-discovery and personal growth to go with the monster fighting (fighting and/or avoiding).

It is written for a YA audience and certainly will appeal to that sensibility, but it can easily be entertaining for those of us with gray in our beards or on our heads (assuming there’s anything to gray). I’d like a little more depth to the primary characters, but that wasn’t in the cards, and it’s not like they’re not three-dimensional, I just think those dimensions could be a little deeper.

I did expect a lot more Native American imagery and myth (something akin to Riordan maybe, at least like Craig Johnson). I don’t think what we got was incompatible with it by any means, but it certainly wasn’t steeped in it. I’m not complaining, I don’t think the story needed it, but it might have made things a bit richer.

I don’t see how this leads to a sequel, in fact, I’d have thought it precluded one. But the end of the book tells me it’ll be available this year. Color me curious.

Imaginative and compelling with an unusual focus/motivating hook. For a fast, fun YA fantasy, Screamcatcher: Web World will satisfy.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for this post, but I read it because I wanted to and the opinions expressed are my own and not influenced by the receipt of the novel.

—–

3.5 Stars

LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Cowboy Joel and the Wild Wild West by The Gagnon Family

Today I’m pleased to welcome the Book Spotlight Tour for Cowboy Joel and the Wild Wild West by The Gagnon Family. It looks like a cute, fun read. Before you leave, be sure you scroll down to the bottom of the post for the givewway — or just go buy it. Either way…

Book Details:

Book Title: Cowboy Joel and the Wild Wild West by The Gagnon Family
Publisher: JPV Press
Category: Children’s book
Release date: June 1, 2019
Format: Ebook/Hardcover
Length: 48 pages
Content Rating: G

Book Blurb:

Cowboy Joel and Blackbeard find themselves face to face with El Maton, the most feared desperado in theCowboy Joel and the Wild Wild West West. When El Maton mocks him for the way he looks, Joel must confront his biggest fear; a tongue-slingin’ with the outlaw. Can Blackbeard convince Joel to do it? Will Joel find the courage? Note to Mom and Dad: Cowboy Joel will teach your child that it’s not always about punching the bully. It’s about being confident in who God made them to be, and using those truths to fight the battle in their mind.

Book Trailer:

Purchase Links for Cowboy Joel and the Wild Wild West:

Amazon ~ Add to Goodreads

About The Gagnon Family:

The Gagnon Family

The Gagnon family is an atypical, hodgepodge mix of humanity. The entire family enjoyed writing this book, with each one contributing their own input. Every child in the family has their own special story, and every one faces their own unique challenges. Stacey, the mom of this bunch, also has a blog called Ransom for Israel. She presents an honest assessment of the orphan crisis and the desperate need for families willing to adopt. After the adoption of their youngest daughter, the Gagnons started a non-profit called Lost Sparrows. Lost Sparrows is dedicated to improving the lives of orphans and those with special needs through education, proper medical care, and adoption. Their current focus is in areas of Eastern Europe and Bulgaria.

Connect with the authors:

Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram

GIVEAWAY:

Win 1 hardback copy of Cowboy Joel and the Wild Wild West (USA only) (one winner)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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(if the Rafflecopter script isn’t working, just click here — it’s not as pretty, but it works)

My thanks to iREAD Book Tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

The World’s Greatest Mousetrap by B.C.R. Fegan, Fanny Liem: A Cute Little Story about a Bookshop under Siege

The World's Greatest MousetrapThe World’s Greatest Mousetrap

by B.C.R. Fegan, Fanny Liem (Illustrator)

Kindle Edition, 44 pg.
TaleBlade, 2019
Read: June 4, 2019


I can’t believe I did this, but I noticed a couple of months ago that there was a new B.C.R. Fegan book out and since TaleBlade didn’t offer one to me, I ponied up a little cash for it. Clearly, TaleBlade’s following a tried and true business model, get someone hooked on some free samples and they’ll pay for more (and I’ll happily do it again).

This is the story of Reginald, a pleasant-seeming bookstore owner who loves to read in quiet when not selling books. One day he hears a mouse in his shop and goes about setting a series of traps, each more complicated than the last, to catch it. He can’t have a little animal ruining his peaceful reading time. The mouse is cleverer than any outside of animation or children’s literature so it evades the traps — up to and including a Rube Goldberg-esque device—leading to calamities for Reginald and his customers. Whatever will Reginald do? How will he enjoy a book?

Maybe it’s just me, but the text seems a bit denser than is typical for a Fegan book. Not dense as in complicated, don’t worry, this is still picture book territory. But there seems to be more of it—a more involved story than usual. That’s not good or bad—just an observation. I didn’t find it as full of whimsy as usual, but it’s an okay story.

Liem’s illustrations are beautiful, incredibly detailed, and will likely keep young readers captivated. I’m not sure if it’s different in the hard copy or not, but it seems to me that they don’t always sync properly with the text—sometimes depicting events the text hasn’t gotten to for a couple of pages. That bothered me a bit, but it’s not a deal-breaker.

A charming little tale, but didn’t seem to have the typical Fegan magic. Which isn’t to say it’s a bad book, just not a great one. Not every hit has to be a home-run or triple, a good on-base single gets the job done, and that’s what we have here (and probably a month’s worth of sports analogies for me). A cute little book that will be a favorite of some kids, I have no doubt, but that didn’t have the magic some of Fegan’s others do. I recommend it, but I know he’s done better, so get those, too.

—–

3 Stars

A Few (more) Quick Questions With…Devri Walls

Ages ago (it seems), Devri Walls stopped by to talk about her stand-alone The Wizard’s Heir, and gave us a little taste of her upcoming series, Venators (including a cover that I don’t think I ever saw again). Since then, I’ve actually spoken to her at book store events and a comic convention (sat in on a couple of her panels, too). At the book launch for her most recent book, Venators: Promises Forged, (see my earlier post) she did a Q&A that got a couple of questions percolating in the back of my mind. Before I knew it, I had enough for one of these posts and Devri was able to find a time to answer them.

Before I get to the Q&A, a word about that book launch — Devri seems to have a good number of solid fans, it’s encouraging to see — from a wide age-range, too. She had more people in the front row of her reading than were in the audience of the last reading I’d been to at Rediscovered Books (and that author had one of the major publishing houses behind him) — and she had some Facebook live viewers, too. It’s good to see an indie author getting that kind of support.

As is usual when I get a second shot with someone, we got a little more into details of the particular book/series in question—but I don’t think you have to be a Venators-reader to appreciate these answers. Check them out and then go grab her books.

You’ve talked about how everyone’s favorite character is Beltran (I demur), given his appeal/popularity—how hard is it to keep him from taking over the series? How are you going about that?
This book is different in that there really are a lot of main players. This is going to allow Beltran to have a large role, and you’re going to see him really stepping into that in book three. But yes, he cannot take over. I think the key when working with strong supporting characters is that although they can have a heavy-handed part in the story, at the end of the day, they can’t be the hero. They can assist the hero, they can motivate the hero, they can set up a hero, but they can’t actually “pull the trigger”, so to speak. Given who Beltran is this will be tricky, but it has to be done in order for the climax to feel satisfactory to the readers.
Let’s talk about names for a minute: there’s a lot of creativity and strangeness in names (up to Rune from Earth), but then you give us Tate. An oddly Earthy name. Is that just to mess with people? I’ve always wondered, but never asked anyone—how do you come up with character names? Is the process different per series/world/book?
This made me laugh! No, I was not trying to just mess with you. Although I will admit to giving the giant race ridiculously human names because it amused me. However I promise to keep it consistent. With Tate on the other hand, he is part Venator, which means he’s part human. It made sense to me that given the backstory of this world and its connection to earth that there would be human names floating around both in the human villages as well as the Venators.

When it comes to choosing names there is there rare occasion that I will just completely make a name up, but for the most part I lean heavily on baby name websites. People are ever disappointed when I give this answer because they think that we authors pull all of these things out of our heads. The thing I looove about the baby name websites is that I can sort the results. For example, I can choose to look at old Scottish names specifically or only Norse names. This allows me to keep a consistent feel through an entire story, or in a book like Venators, a consistent feel within different species.

Normally before I even start a book I will visit baby name websites. Trying to choose names is both a time suck and a momentum killer for me. If I have a list of names both male and female that I have decided I like ready to go, then I have a very short list to reference when I add a new character.

Talk to me a little more about Arwin the wizard. First, how am I not supposed to think about Liv Tyler/the Lady of Rivendell? Secondly, the brilliant character who probably knows more about what’s going on than anyone, but plays the doddering, clumsy fool is a mainstay. How hard is it to pull that character off convincingly? And why have you gone that route with him—is it just because that’s more interesting than the super-powerful, all wise type?
I think anytime you’re working with a genre like fantasy there’s always going to be things that remind you of other stories. It’s, dare I say, almost unavoidable. But instead of fighting this, I did lean into the tropes on purpose. I wanted to play on the idea that all the stories and legends we tell today originated in Eon. In order to do that some of the threads needed to feel very familiar, while others I purposely twisted. Just like in the game telephone the end result will have some aspects of truth and some other things that have drifted far from the truth. That’s the basis that I was working from when deciding lore and chapter traits to keep or leave.

As far as Arwin’s character is concerned, I did choose to portray him as doddering very specifically. I needed to balance the story. When you look at the council you have a werewolf, vampire, incubus, succubus, elf, fae and wizard. From that list, three characters are very intense and serious. One of the characters is cruel and although she think she has a sense of humor, it’s dark and malevolent. Two of the characters have the ability to break tension in a scene but the sexual themes that run through that tension break is only sustainable for so long. And although all of these characters are much, much deeper than their facades, it’s the facades that they must present at the council house in order to keep themselves and their own people safe. Which means that by default every council scene will become unavoidably stifling. I needed someone to diffuse the situation and add a lightness to the writing. Thus, Arwin’s portrayal was born. Now, we are too early in the edits so I can’t guarantee that this scene will stay, but in book three we get a delightful taste of Arwin dropping that part of himself and showing the reader exactly what he is capable in a Council meeting by breaking up a argument between Dimitri and Silen. I think both you and the readers will be very happy with the result.

Now that you’ve told me about it, the scene has to stay. At the very least it needs to be included as a cut scene in an appendix. Or there will be rioting in the streets! (assuming I can figure out how to instigate one)

Can you tell me about the timeline for this series? A lot has happened in less than 2 weeks in Eon (assuming my memory/math is right), your poor characters have barely been able to catch their breath—are you planning on some kind of time jump? Is it going to keep going at this pace?

I’m a big believer in whatever timeline is natural and working for the story is the timeline that I’m going to use. Most of my work has always been a continual line without a lot of time jumping. For the first few books in the series I expect that will continue with small time jumps added to account for travel days. When we get past book five, I suspect we may need a time jump and some summarization of their day to day life when their world is not completely falling apart. But yes, overall I take it as it comes and I like a very logical and linear progression.
At the book launch, you talked a lot about what you’ve got worked out for the future in terms of plot and character—but I want to look at the world. How much of Eon have you mapped out (mentally or literally), do you know this world’s geography or is it more of a case of “I need an area like X, I’ll put it overrrrrr…here!”
Oh geography, I hate geography. Maps really do hurt my head. By happy accident I made a new writer friend who looooves making maps. So much so that she actually sat down with me and offered to map out the first general idea of Eon. It was very basic. However, as I’ve been writing book three and thinking through the plot points for the next couple of books, I realized that in order to set things up properly the geography absolutely had to be handled. Almost all of the council members areas have now been mapped out with the exception of Tashara and Shax for reasons I will explain in another book. But yes, there is actually a solid map on my wall now and despite the process causing me an aneurysm, I do really like the end result. Having something solid to refer to has been great. I definitely see the advantage to mapping things out at the start of the story and will probably move more toward doing that earlier in future projects.
I’m glad you were able to find some time in your hectic schedule for these answers and hope Promises Forged is a big success (and that you survive the editing process for #3!)

Venators: Promises Forged by Devri Walls: Out of the Frying Pan and into the . . . Clutches of a Life Siphoning Fae?

Venators: Promises ForgedVenators: Promises Forged

by Devri Walls
Series: Venators, #2


Paperback, 428 pg.
Brown Books Publishing Group, 2019

Read: May 3 – 7, 2019

I’m about a month late with this one — every time I sat down to write it, I decided I wanted to chew on things a bit more (and then I arranged to do a Q&A with the author in conjunction with the post and so I bought myself some time to let things stew while she found time to get the answers done). Now that I have her answers in my inbox, I have no excuse to put this off. So, despite some of my thoughts still being half-baked, here we go…

And yes, that was one very convoluted series of food metaphors. That really doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in this post, does it?

So the ending of the previous book (Venators: Magic Unleashed) focused on a dragon being unleashed by the series’ (apparent) Big Bad, the sorceress Zio. Not surprisingly, the series central characters survived the encounter. This book starts with a quick recap of that survival from the point of view of Zio — which is a great way to get the reader back into the moment and build on their understanding of what happened and Zio.

We quickly return to our Earthlings, Grey and Rune and the aftermath of their unauthorized excursion to rescue humans from a werewolf pack, which culminated in the aforementioned dragon attack. Rune’s proving to be a quick study of Council politics and was able to turn things to their advantage and buy them some leniency from the Council. The ways the two humans respond to and interact with Council members is pretty interesting and I suspect will be one of the more interesting developments from this point forward in the series. I suspect the Venator abilities that make these two the warriors they are in this world are in play with Rune’s politicking — no one mentions mental acuity when talking about Venator abilities, but maybe they should. Watching Rune play the games (both successfully and less-so) that the various Council members throw her way is probably my favorite part of the character.

And she has to do a lot of politicking and game playing here, because her co-Venator and friend Grey has found himself in quite the pickle. After their ordeal with the werewolves, the two Earthlings’ need for training was even more apparent. They get just a little of it (a good, promising start) before getting momentarily side-tracked. Before they get a chance to build on that, Grey is lured into the one place the two have been told they absolutely cannot go. Because forbidding people from going somewhere always works out (how many Hogwarts students stayed out of the forest? How long did Belle stay out of the West Wing? Even the Federation had to know that forbidding landing on Talos IV wouldn’t work for long).

Grey has found himself in the clutches of a powerful Fae, Feena. Feena will spend days/weeks/years sucking the life out of her prisoners to feed her own magics. Given that Grey is more powerful than your typical Eonian, you know she’ll drag it out as long as possible. It’s a torturous experience for Grey, but he does what he can to resist and fight back. On the one hand, watching him stupidly and blindly put himself in this situation was maddening. But after that, watching Grey endure what he has to and struggle in response is pretty cool. As much as I appreciate Rune’s playing politics, I enjoy watching Grey in action.

So the book boils down to this — can Rune get permission to run a rescue mission — or at the very least, find a window in which she can pull off another unauthorized mission? Can Grey survive long enough for the cavalry to arrive? Assuming they do, how can Grey be rescued and the Venators get back to their training without causing a diplomatic incident that will shake up everything?

The actions of the Venators’ guides, teachers, allies confuse me. They’ve got these two kids in a world they clearly don’t understand, with abilities they don’t understand and then expect them to react appropriately in new situations. Even worse, all of them are keeping things from Grey and Rune — telling them half-truths, deflecting legitimate questions and delaying explanations. It’s maddening. It’s bad enough that the Council, who are clearly only using these two for their own ends do that, but the people who supposedly are looking to them to change the world? A little honesty, being a little forthcoming, helping them to avoid the minefields they keep running into rather than saying “oh, you shouldn’t have done that” — it would make it a lot easier for this reader to stomach them.

The Council? I need to see more of them. I have little patience for them as individuals or as an entity at the moment, but as individuals and as an entity there’s great potential for something interesting to happen. Feena’s a good villain — she’s not worth several books, but for one novel? She’s a good opponent. The Fae? It’s simple — any universe, any world, any author — when it comes to Fae politics, Fae dealings with other Fae, Fae dealings with non-Fae? It’s complicated, tricky and messy. It’s good to know you can count on something.

So much is happening in a very short period of time, it’s hard to know what kind of impact the events are having on anyone — it’s been less than two weeks since these two jumped into this world, leaving St. Louis behind. It’s hard for them — or a reader — to really take it all in. We do know that already both Venators are changing because of their abilities (as well as the experiences in this new world) — both are self-aware enough to see how it’s happening (at least in part) and are both resisting and embracing the changes. Both are, naturally, deluded about how easy it will be to resist this kind of thing — denial’s not just a river on Earth.

I’m enjoying these books — I do hope that under the new publisher, they’re able to come out pretty regularly, it’ll help sustain my interest (and, I’m guessing, the reading public’s). I know that Walls has several more books planned, so it makes it okay that I’m still on the fence about the series as a whole — there’s a lot of potential to the series and these characters and she has time to help them reach their potential. There are aspects of the books (the prospective — and lingering — romantic entanglements, for example) that I’m withholding an opinion on until more happens. And I’m not sure if I should appreciate how little we’re getting with Zio and Rune’s brother, or if it should annoy me. Is Walls building suspense, or is she simply being obfuscatory? I’m hoping that after Book 3, I’ll be more settled with my expectations about these books — I know I’m enjoying them, I’m just not sure if I should wait on them getting better.

An interesting world, great characters (even if they frustrate me), good action — and a fast moving plot. This YA fantasy is a crowd pleaser, I’m sure of that — you should join the crowd.

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3.5 Stars
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