Pub Day Repost: Flame in the Dark by Faith Hunter


Flame in the DarkFlame in the Dark

by Faith Hunter
Series: Soulwood, #3eARC, 352 pg.
Ace/Roc, 2017
Read: September 22 – 27

Rookie Agent Nell Ingram and her PsyLED team start this novel in a multi-agency investigation into an attack on a political fundraiser — with a focus on one family in particular. There’s no obvious paranormal aspect to the attack, so PsyLED isn’t in the lead, but there’s enough to keep them hanging around the investigation. If for no other reason than the local vampires are interested in what’s going on. Soon, other attacks occur, making it even clearer that one family is the target. As the team starts to investigate that family, more questions are raised and secrets are revealed. But it’s a long while before the secrets and questions lead to anything useful for preventing further loss of life.

The presence of the vampires is a nice bonus — they were present a little in Blood of the Earth, but not really in Curse on the Land. Nell’s still struggling to make up for a faux pas in her initial exposure to the vampires — and a couple of them seem to be enjoying her discomfort. I enjoy seeing Hunter’s particular brand of vampires running around without Jane and her stakes, as long as she doesn’t return to this particular well too much in this series, the Vamps’ presence will be a plus.

The PsyLED case itself is a little on the tepid side — it’s far easier for readers to figure out what’s going on than it is for the characters, and that always hurts the stories somewhat. But — wow. What’s actually going on when the team finally puts all the pieces together? Wow — just wow. It makes putting up with their earlier slowness utterly worth it (also, the reader won’t be as correct as they thought they were for a long time). Basically, if you find yourself getting annoyed with this story, your patience will be rewarded. Probably more than rewarded.

Speaking of patience, Nell needs to exercise a good deal of it with her family, who are still struggling with understanding just what’s going on with her (and they don’t know it all!) and her move for independence from the cult she’s left. It’s clearly, and understandably, difficult to continue to distance herself from the ways and practices she was raised in, while trying to strengthen the ties with the family members still in the church. Meanwhile, the church does seem to be trying to change their practice — moving to orthopraxy, without much of a move towards orthodoxy. That kind of thing isn’t really going to work in the long run — but then again, Hunter’s not writing a realistic account of a movement in a religious group — so it’s not anything to get worked up over. Anyway, Nell puts her foot down on a couple of fronts and draws on some of what she’s learned in working with others, to be able handle her family in a way that hopefully gets through to them. She’s also making some smart moves regarding her sister, Mud/Mindy, who seems to share a lot of abilities and inclinations with Nell. I can’t wait to see what Hunter’s got up her sleeve with this.

While this is really Nell’s book (and series), there’s a great ensemble of characters here. Particularly in the PsyLED team. I’d have preferred a better use of the team, and for the second book in a row, I wondered why Hunter didn’t use some of the characters as well as she did in the first book. Maybe this is just me asking for more for Tandy to do.

There’s some satisfying development on the Brother Ephriam/foreign entity in Soulwood front (that’ll make sense to readers of the series), and regarding the “Vampire Tree.” Which just might be the creepiest floral entity I’ve ever read about — and it’s creepier than a lot of fauna, too. I’m particularly glad about the Brother Ephriam development, I was afraid that things were going to go on too long with that without any real shift in the status quo.

There’s also a stronger look at Nell’s romantic life here — her taking the first steps in exploring a real romantic relationship (in contrast to that marriage she was in), and maybe even getting her first “Improperly Proper Kiss.” There’s just enough romance story allow the reader to see her grow in this way (in addition to all the others she’s growing in), just one more step towards her fulfillment — but not so much that it’s the novel’s focus.

One of the pluses (and minuses) about this series all along has been how hard it is to simply say what Nell Ingram is. With most UF you can summarize things briefly: She can see dead people, he’s a wizard PI, she’s a skinwalker vampire hunter, he’s the world’s oldest living druid, she’s a changeling PI, she’s a ridiculously named werewolf who has a radio talk show, and so on . . . Nell’s a, um. Well. There’s magic, and powers over growing things, but no real spells, per se. See what I mean? This is a pain when trying to describe it to others, or even in knowing what to expect from her stories. And Hunter takes full advantage of this, she’ll have Nell do whatever at any point in time, and as long as it sort of relates to what she started off doing in Book 1, you buy it. By the same token, I can imagine that might be too much of a blank slate for Hunter — there are no well-established strengths/weaknesses/tropes to play with. There are things that Nell does here that just blows me away — and that has a lot to do with Hunter creating this magic creature/race on her own.

When I say that Hunter takes full advantage of this — I should say I thought she had been for the past two books — she really lets loose with it this time.

Let me try to sum up this rambling post: this is a slow burn of a novel — it puts down roots and grows like Nell’s plants, and eventually blossoms into something that’s great to look at. Be patient with it, watch the growth, and you’ll be rewarded. Because when things get going — they really get going, and it’s almost too much to take in. I vacillated a lot about what to rate this — I argued myself into 4-Stars and then into 5 and back into 4 and so on a few times. but because I really don’t place too much weight on the stars, really, I just stopped and split the difference. For those who’ve been around for the previous two books this is a must read — if this was going to be the last in the series, it’d be a decent way to leave (thankfully, Soulwood isn’t a trilogy); for Yellowrock fans who haven’t tried this series yet, you’ll appreciate it; and if you’ve never tried either — take a dip into this world, but I’ll warn you: you’ll end up reading all the others.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this. Thanks also to Let’s Talk! Promotions for the opportunity to take part in this book tour. My opinions about the book remain my own.

—–

4 1/2 Stars

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Flame in the Dark by Faith Hunter


Flame in the DarkFlame in the Dark

by Faith Hunter
Series: Soulwood, #3

eARC, 352 pg.
Ace/Roc, 2017

Read: September 22 – 27


Rookie Agent Nell Ingram and her PsyLED team start this novel in a multi-agency investigation into an attack on a political fundraiser — with a focus on one family in particular. There’s no obvious paranormal aspect to the attack, so PsyLED isn’t in the lead, but there’s enough to keep them hanging around the investigation. If for no other reason than the local vampires are interested in what’s going on. Soon, other attacks occur, making it even clearer that one family is the target. As the team starts to investigate that family, more questions are raised and secrets are revealed. But it’s a long while before the secrets and questions lead to anything useful for preventing further loss of life.

The presence of the vampires is a nice bonus — they were present a little in Blood of the Earth, but not really in Curse on the Land. Nell’s still struggling to make up for a faux pas in her initial exposure to the vampires — and a couple of them seem to be enjoying her discomfort. I enjoy seeing Hunter’s particular brand of vampires running around without Jane and her stakes, as long as she doesn’t return to this particular well too much in this series, the Vamps’ presence will be a plus.

The PsyLED case itself is a little on the tepid side — it’s far easier for readers to figure out what’s going on than it is for the characters, and that always hurts the stories somewhat. But — wow. What’s actually going on when the team finally puts all the pieces together? Wow — just wow. It makes putting up with their earlier slowness utterly worth it (also, the reader won’t be as correct as they thought they were for a long time). Basically, if you find yourself getting annoyed with this story, your patience will be rewarded. Probably more than rewarded.

Speaking of patience, Nell needs to exercise a good deal of it with her family, who are still struggling with understanding just what’s going on with her (and they don’t know it all!) and her move for independence from the cult she’s left. It’s clearly, and understandably, difficult to continue to distance herself from the ways and practices she was raised in, while trying to strengthen the ties with the family members still in the church. Meanwhile, the church does seem to be trying to change their practice — moving to orthopraxy, without much of a move towards orthodoxy. That kind of thing isn’t really going to work in the long run — but then again, Hunter’s not writing a realistic account of a movement in a religious group — so it’s not anything to get worked up over. Anyway, Nell puts her foot down on a couple of fronts and draws on some of what she’s learned in working with others, to be able handle her family in a way that hopefully gets through to them. She’s also making some smart moves regarding her sister, Mud/Mindy, who seems to share a lot of abilities and inclinations with Nell. I can’t wait to see what Hunter’s got up her sleeve with this.

While this is really Nell’s book (and series), there’s a great ensemble of characters here. Particularly in the PsyLED team. I’d have preferred a better use of the team, and for the second book in a row, I wondered why Hunter didn’t use some of the characters as well as she did in the first book. Maybe this is just me asking for more for Tandy to do.

There’s some satisfying development on the Brother Ephriam/foreign entity in Soulwood front (that’ll make sense to readers of the series), and regarding the “Vampire Tree.” Which just might be the creepiest floral entity I’ve ever read about — and it’s creepier than a lot of fauna, too. I’m particularly glad about the Brother Ephriam development, I was afraid that things were going to go on too long with that without any real shift in the status quo.

There’s also a stronger look at Nell’s romantic life here — her taking the first steps in exploring a real romantic relationship (in contrast to that marriage she was in), and maybe even getting her first “Improperly Proper Kiss.” There’s just enough romance story allow the reader to see her grow in this way (in addition to all the others she’s growing in), just one more step towards her fulfillment — but not so much that it’s the novel’s focus.

One of the pluses (and minuses) about this series all along has been how hard it is to simply say what Nell Ingram is. With most UF you can summarize things briefly: She can see dead people, he’s a wizard PI, she’s a skinwalker vampire hunter, he’s the world’s oldest living druid, she’s a changeling PI, she’s a ridiculously named werewolf who has a radio talk show, and so on . . . Nell’s a, um. Well. There’s magic, and powers over growing things, but no real spells, per se. See what I mean? This is a pain when trying to describe it to others, or even in knowing what to expect from her stories. And Hunter takes full advantage of this, she’ll have Nell do whatever at any point in time, and as long as it sort of relates to what she started off doing in Book 1, you buy it. By the same token, I can imagine that might be too much of a blank slate for Hunter — there are no well-established strengths/weaknesses/tropes to play with. There are things that Nell does here that just blows me away — and that has a lot to do with Hunter creating this magic creature/race on her own.

When I say that Hunter takes full advantage of this — I should say I thought she had been for the past two books — she really lets loose with it this time.

Let me try to sum up this rambling post: this is a slow burn of a novel — it puts down roots and grows like Nell’s plants, and eventually blossoms into something that’s great to look at. Be patient with it, watch the growth, and you’ll be rewarded. Because when things get going — they really get going, and it’s almost too much to take in. I vacillated a lot about what to rate this — I argued myself into 4-Stars and then into 5 and back into 4 and so on a few times. but because I really don’t place too much weight on the stars, really, I just stopped and split the difference. For those who’ve been around for the previous two books this is a must read — if this was going to be the last in the series, it’d be a decent way to leave (thankfully, Soulwood isn’t a trilogy); for Yellowrock fans who haven’t tried this series yet, you’ll appreciate it; and if you’ve never tried either — take a dip into this world, but I’ll warn you: you’ll end up reading all the others.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this. Thanks also to Let’s Talk! Promotions for the opportunity to take part in this book tour. My opinions about the book remain my own.

—–

4 1/2 Stars

A Few Quick Questions With…Faith Hunter


I’ve gotta say, I was pretty intimidated when I got the word that Faith Hunter was going to participate in this, but it ended up being a lot easier to come up with questions to ask her than it was for many other writers. The main problem was cutting them down to five! Anyway, I enjoyed this — hope you do, too.

Ms. Hunter, before we begin, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to provide some A’s to the Q’s here. I’ve been reading the Yellowrock series since 2011 and have been become a big fan of your work. I want to ask about a dozen questions about the last two or three chapters of Flame in the Dark, but I don’t think you’d want to answer them — and if you did, you wouldn’t let me post your answers. Here are their replacements, which should be spoiler-free, and hopefully you haven’t been asked too many times.
Thank you for that. And I am glad to be here!
First off, what’s been the reaction from your fans toward this spin-off? Anything surprising about the reaction (hopefully positive surprises, but I’ve been online long enough to not know to assume that).
I was not expecting the fans to love Nell or the Soulwood series in any great numbers, but the sales figures for the most recent books are nearly the same — Soulwood #2 (Curse on the Land) and Jane Yellowrock #11, (Cold Reign). And they really adore Nell. They root for her and they pull for her and they want her to get that all important Improperly Proper Kiss!
Each book comes with its own particular set of challenges. What were the particular challenges of Flame in the Dark?
Mostly keeping Nell heading in the right direction. She came from a very restrictive background, so while I want her to experience life in all its sensory and emotional delights, I also want to keep her on the straight and narrow in terms of being true to herself. I want to make sure that she doesn’t lose sight of who she is, and what made her strong. She is a multi-faceted character with a lot of depth and I want to make sure she is never a Milquetoast.
For me, one of the highlights of the Soulwood books is Nell’s reaction to the food (mostly of the “junk” variety) her colleagues are introducing her to. It’s such a subtle and effective way to remind/demonstrate just how far away her life was from the world we all know before she joined up with PsyLED (and so fun to watch this farm-to-table type woman revel in processed foods). Assuming I’m not reading too much into that — why food? Why not . . . the Internet or music? Was it a conscious choice, or just something that started that you ran with? Is the research for it just dreadful? How many Krispy Kremes do you have to eat to make sure you get it right? 🙂 [sorry I babbled a bit there . . . ]
(laughing) The Internet was something she had already learned about through the library system in her town of Knoxville. So while her knowledge of the databases has expanded dramatically, the concept wasn’t brand new to her. As to music, Nell grew up listening to mostly old-fashioned acapella church music. I’m honestly not certain what kind of music she would like, so I haven’t gone there yet. I feel that music will need a deft hand for Nell, and I don’t have that yet. But FOOD! Part of the reason why food, is that I can’t eat many kinds of processed foods anymore. I’m allergic to all corn products and so that means I no longer get pizza or commercially made doughnuts. I miss all that great stuff!!! I am living through Nell’s taste buds, while becoming much more the farm-to-table eater myself now.
The religious lives of Jane and Nell play a more significant role in the novels than any other Urban Fantasy series I can think of, where does that come from? How do you approach bringing their faith (understanding that Nell’s is in flux given her past) into the stories in a way that seems authentic?
My dad taught me to look at EVERY subject from EVERY side, and to work to understand why people think and believe as they do. He also made me look at the ways those thought systems and belief systems contributed to their strengths and weakness as individuals and as members of society. He was a wily man, my daddy was. And what I’ve discovered is ALL people are people of faith, whether that faith is a religious one or a rational one, a spiritual one or a physical one, a churchy one or a scientific one. Therefore, addressing faith (for me, as a writer), becomes a part of each story and character on some level. Nell is struggling with faith, because for her, faith is all messed up with sex and abuse and cruelty. For Occam, faith is all tied up with betrayal. For Nell’s mother, faith is all about surviving and growing through life’s difficulties into strength and forgiveness. For Rick, faith is all about forgiving himself for stupidity that led to pain and lost relationships.
What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
Robin McKinley’s Sunshine was a masterpiece.
Devon Monk makes me intensely jealous. She is SUCH a talent!
Chloe Neill’s Devil’s Isle series is spectacular!
/td>
Again, thanks for your time and participation. I hope Flame in the Dark is as successful as it deserves to be, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for either Jane or Nell.

Flame in the Dark by Faith Hunter Book Tour

Welcome to our Book Tour stop for Flame in the Dark. Along with this blurb about the book and author I’ve got A Few Quick Questions with Faith Hunter, coming up in a little bit here. Later this morning, I’ll post my 2¢ about the book.

Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of this post for a chance to win Soulwood books and more!

Book Details:

Book Title:  Flame in the Dark by Faith Hunter
Publisher:  Ace/Roc
Release date:  December 5, 2017
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Length: 352 pages

Book Description:

Nell Ingram has always known she was different. Since she was a child, she’s been able to feel and channel ancient powers from deep within the earth. When she met Jane Yellowrock, her entire life changed, and she was recruited into PsyLED—the Homeland Security division that polices paranormals. But now her newly formed unit is about to take on its toughest case yet.

A powerful senator barely survives an assassination attempt that leaves many others dead—and the house he was visiting burns to the ground. Invisible to security cameras, the assassin literally disappears, and Nell’s team is called in. As they track a killer they know is more—or less—than human, they unravel a web of dark intrigue and malevolent motives that tests them to their limits and beyond.

Author Bio:

Faith HunterNew York Times and USAToday bestselling fantasy author Faith Hunter was born in Louisiana and raised all over the south. Altogether she has 40+ books in print under the names Gary Hunter, Gwen Hunter, and Faith Hunter. As Faith, she writes two contemporary Urban Fantasy series: the Jane Yellowrock series, featuring a Cherokee skinwalker who hunts rogue vampires, and the Soulwood series, featuring earth magic user Nell Ingram. Her Rogue Mage novels are a dark, post-apocalyptic, fantasy series featuring Thorn St. Croix, a stone mage. The role playing game based on the series, is ROGUE MAGE, RPG.

Website: www.faithhunter.net
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/official.faith.hunter
Twitter: @hunterfaith
Yellowrock Securities: http://www.yellowrocksecurities.com
Gwen Hunter: www.gwenhunter.com

GIVEAWAY!

The tour giveaway is for 3 sets of the 1st 2 Soulwood books (BLOOD OF THE EARTH and CURSE ON THE LAND) and one $50 Amazon gift card (US residents only)!

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My thanks to Let’s Talk! Promotions for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

Pub Day Repost: Cold Reign by Faith Hunter

Cold ReignCold Reign

by Faith Hunter
Series: Jane Yellowrock, #11

eARC, 384 pg.
Ace, 2017

Read: March 6 – 9, 2017


Lee Child (and others, I’m sure) has said something along the lines of the key to writing a long-running series is that in each book you give the readers exactly the same thing, only different. Here in book 11 of the Jane Yellowrock series, that’s exactly what Faith Hunter has delivered — Jane Yellowrock up to her neck in revenant vampires, schemes within schemes within schemes, and dealing with the Big Cat that shares her body — but in a new way, with different (yet the same) schemers, a different kind of revenant, and new challenges and revelations about her Beast.

The tricky part of this is coming up with something to say . . . I mean really, the fact that I’m still reading the series 11 books in pretty much demonstrates that I’m a fan and that I’m predisposed to like this — both in its sameness and differentness. I like spending time with Jane and the rest (particularly Eli, Alex and Bruiser), seeing her navigate through this wold, and beating people up/taking out vampires. The “same” stuff is as good as always (maybe even a little better), so what about the “different” stuff?

There’s a lot to cover on that front, actually — I can’t cover it all, that’s Hunter’s job (and she’s so much better at it). But I can do a little. This book takes place sometime after Curse on the Land (yay, multi-series continuity!), and long enough after Shadow Rites that Jane’s started to come to terms with her expanded household and all that it entails (please note the use of the word, “started” — I’m not sure she’s quite finished even at the end of this one). But that’s just the beginning. There are a handful of revenants popping up — but they’re not the kind that Jane is used to dealing with. And their presence might be signalling something significant.

The Youngers have evolved somewhat — Alex is maturing, and even getting out of the house a little — but he’s still the same dude. Eli — wow, we see so many sides of him here that we hadn’t before (maybe saw hints of, but not like this), I loved every bit of the Eli material here — and man, did he make me laugh. He also made me get a little bleary eyed at one point — something I couldn’t ever imagine that I’d say.

Beast does something that I don’t think we’ve seen before — she has something going on that she’s keeping from Jane. There’s something she knows, maybe something she did, that she’s blocked Jane’s knowledge of . That’s scary — kinda cool — but mostly scary. The repercussions of Beast doing things without the human part of her knowing, there’s a couple of books right thee.

Naturally, the biggest differences come from growth and changes to Jane herself — at one point, she says

My life was so weird I scarcely recognized it.

The only reason readers can recognize it is that we’ve followed the series — if someone made the strange decision to read Skinwalker and then jump to Cold Reign, I bet they’d barely recognize the protagonist. The changes in her abilities, her shifting (but not totally shifted) feelings towards vampires and their practices, her love life, her friends, her understanding of her past, etc., etc. — she’s come a long way, mostly for the good, I think. There’s even a sentence I identified in my notes as “possibly the sweetest, sappiest thing to come out of Jane’s narration.” I decided not to include it here, but fans will gush over it. I just know it.

None of that means that when it comes time for bringing the pain that Jane’s not up to it — in fact, thanks to recent events, she’s better at it than ever. Her use of the Gray Between (which is bordering on being over-used), is improved here — she’s able to handle it better and uses it to her great advantage. Yeah, she might be not be that recognizable, but she’s a better character for it.

The core of this book — plotwise, anyway — comes back to the looming summit with the European Vampires, while Leo continues preparing for it, some things start happening that make he and his Enforcers begin to think that maybe the EVs are already in New Orleans and doing what they can to undermine him before anything official happens. Hunter, like many authors, has really taken advantage of the long-lived nature of vampires and how they’ll use that for long-range planning. In Cold Reign we see that used very well — as I mentioned before, there’s a new kind of revenant running around New Orleans — and there’s no good explanation for how that’s happening (there’s a pretty diabolical explanation, however). This brings us back to the first time Jane stuck her toe in the water of Leo Pellisier’s plans, and the early defenses against insurgents that Jane mounted on his behalf. Plots and schemes that we thought we were done with (if only because the plotters and schemers were no more), are brought back up and put into a new light in a very convincing manner. If Hunter said that she’d been planning these moves since book 2 or so, I’d believe her — I’d also believe her if she said that she needed something for this book and took advantage of some of material from her early books. Either way, she does a very clever job of it.

There’s a little bit of Soulwood in Cold Reign. We get a mention or two of Nell Ingram. Rick LaFleur is around doing PsyLED stuff — without the rest of his team, sadly. Soul is seen a few times, but doesn’t do much (but what she does is pretty cool).

I’ve long enjoyed Jane’s calorie-rich dietary needs and the abandon with which she dives into her food — and I think I’ve noted with both books, how fun it is to watch Nell Ingram sample junk food. But I think in Cold Reign, Best trumps them both — she eats her first taco. And I found it delightful, really, literally laughing out loud. I’ve decided that what Hunter’s fans need is a Food Network-style show featuring Jane, Nell and Beast trying various foods — I’d just love it.

The ending came a little quicker than I expected (possibly was confused thanks to the Soulwood preview at the end tweaking the percentage — but even without that, it seemed sudden). Which isn’t a bad thing, and probably says more about me than anything about the book — maybe I just wasn’t ready to say “see ya later” to Clan Yellowrock yet. Without spoiling much, there wasn’t a lot of resolution here — there was enough — but not as much as you might expect. The threat to Leo is still out there, and Jane et al. have their work cut out for them to prevent a European Vampire takeover.

Another winning tale of Vampire Politics, New Orleans weather, Magic, Big Cats and blood — lots and lots of blood. At this point, I’m not sure Hunter can do anything wrong with this series — and I hope she doesn’t prove me wrong anytime soon. Get your orders in now folks so you can dive on it on May 2.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.
N.B.: As this was an ARC, any quotations above may be changed in the published work — I will endeavor to verify them as soon as possible.

—–

4 1/2 Stars

Cold Reign by Faith Hunter

Cold ReignCold Reign

by Faith Hunter
Series: Jane Yellowrock, #11

eARC, 384 pg.
Ace, 2017

Read: March 6 – 9, 2017


Lee Child (and others, I’m sure) has said something along the lines of the key to writing a long-running series is that in each book you give the readers exactly the same thing, only different. Here in book 11 of the Jane Yellowrock series, that’s exactly what Faith Hunter has delivered — Jane Yellowrock up to her neck in revenant vampires, schemes within schemes within schemes, and dealing with the Big Cat that shares her body — but in a new way, with different (yet the same) schemers, a different kind of revenant, and new challenges and revelations about her Beast.

The tricky part of this is coming up with something to say . . . I mean really, the fact that I’m still reading the series 11 books in pretty much demonstrates that I’m a fan and that I’m predisposed to like this — both in its sameness and differentness. I like spending time with Jane and the rest (particularly Eli, Alex and Bruiser), seeing her navigate through this wold, and beating people up/taking out vampires. The “same” stuff is as good as always (maybe even a little better), so what about the “different” stuff?

There’s a lot to cover on that front, actually — I can’t cover it all, that’s Hunter’s job (and she’s so much better at it). But I can do a little. This book takes place sometime after Curse on the Land (yay, multi-series continuity!), and long enough after Shadow Rites that Jane’s started to come to terms with her expanded household and all that it entails (please note the use of the word, “started” — I’m not sure she’s quite finished even at the end of this one). But that’s just the beginning. There are a handful of revenants popping up — but they’re not the kind that Jane is used to dealing with. And their presence might be signalling something significant.

The Youngers have evolved somewhat — Alex is maturing, and even getting out of the house a little — but he’s still the same dude. Eli — wow, we see so many sides of him here that we hadn’t before (maybe saw hints of, but not like this), I loved every bit of the Eli material here — and man, did he make me laugh. He also made me get a little bleary eyed at one point — something I couldn’t ever imagine that I’d say.

Beast does something that I don’t think we’ve seen before — she has something going on that she’s keeping from Jane. There’s something she knows, maybe something she did, that she’s blocked Jane’s knowledge of . That’s scary — kinda cool — but mostly scary. The repercussions of Beast doing things without the human part of her knowing, there’s a couple of books right thee.

Naturally, the biggest differences come from growth and changes to Jane herself — at one point, she says

My life was so weird I scarcely recognized it.

The only reason readers can recognize it is that we’ve followed the series — if someone made the strange decision to read Skinwalker and then jump to Cold Reign, I bet they’d barely recognize the protagonist. The changes in her abilities, her shifting (but not totally shifted) feelings towards vampires and their practices, her love life, her friends, her understanding of her past, etc., etc. — she’s come a long way, mostly for the good, I think. There’s even a sentence I identified in my notes as “possibly the sweetest, sappiest thing to come out of Jane’s narration.” I decided not to include it here, but fans will gush over it. I just know it.

None of that means that when it comes time for bringing the pain that Jane’s not up to it — in fact, thanks to recent events, she’s better at it than ever. Her use of the Gray Between (which is bordering on being over-used), is improved here — she’s able to handle it better and uses it to her great advantage. Yeah, she might be not be that recognizable, but she’s a better character for it.

The core of this book — plotwise, anyway — comes back to the looming summit with the European Vampires, while Leo continues preparing for it, some things start happening that make he and his Enforcers begin to think that maybe the EVs are already in New Orleans and doing what they can to undermine him before anything official happens. Hunter, like many authors, has really taken advantage of the long-lived nature of vampires and how they’ll use that for long-range planning. In Cold Reign we see that used very well — as I mentioned before, there’s a new kind of revenant running around New Orleans — and there’s no good explanation for how that’s happening (there’s a pretty diabolical explanation, however). This brings us back to the first time Jane stuck her toe in the water of Leo Pellisier’s plans, and the early defenses against insurgents that Jane mounted on his behalf. Plots and schemes that we thought we were done with (if only because the plotters and schemers were no more), are brought back up and put into a new light in a very convincing manner. If Hunter said that she’d been planning these moves since book 2 or so, I’d believe her — I’d also believe her if she said that she needed something for this book and took advantage of some of material from her early books. Either way, she does a very clever job of it.

There’s a little bit of Soulwood in Cold Reign. We get a mention or two of Nell Ingram. Rick LaFleur is around doing PsyLED stuff — without the rest of his team, sadly. Soul is seen a few times, but doesn’t do much (but what she does is pretty cool).

I’ve long enjoyed Jane’s calorie-rich dietary needs and the abandon with which she dives into her food — and I think I’ve noted with both books, how fun it is to watch Nell Ingram sample junk food. But I think in Cold Reign, Best trumps them both — she eats her first taco. And I found it delightful, really, literally laughing out loud. I’ve decided that what Hunter’s fans need is a Food Network-style show featuring Jane, Nell and Beast trying various foods — I’d just love it.

The ending came a little quicker than I expected (possibly was confused thanks to the Soulwood preview at the end tweaking the percentage — but even without that, it seemed sudden). Which isn’t a bad thing, and probably says more about me than anything about the book — maybe I just wasn’t ready to say “see ya later” to Clan Yellowrock yet. Without spoiling much, there wasn’t a lot of resolution here — there was enough — but not as much as you might expect. The threat to Leo is still out there, and Jane et al. have their work cut out for them to prevent a European Vampire takeover.

Another winning tale of Vampire Politics, New Orleans weather, Magic, Big Cats and blood — lots and lots of blood. At this point, I’m not sure Hunter can do anything wrong with this series — and I hope she doesn’t prove me wrong anytime soon. Get your orders in now folks so you can dive on it on May 2.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.
N.B.: As this was an ARC, any quotations above may be changed in the published work — I will endeavor to verify them as soon as possible.

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4 1/2 Stars

Pub Day Repost: Curse on the Land by Faith Hunter

Curse on the LandCurse on the Land

by Faith Hunter
Series: Soulwood, #2eARC, 352 pg.
Roc, 2016
Read: October 13 – 15, 2016

Weeks after the events of Blood of the Earth, newly-minted PsyLED agent Nell Ingram comes back from the training center, “Spook School,” ready to dive into her new role. It seems she comes back just in time for a case that’s right up her alley — strange and magical things are up, and seem to be tied to land. Something big, something powerful and something no one’s really seen before — which sounds a lot like Nell. So instead of doing the grunt work, the Probie work, she’s in the front of this investigation.

The presence of Brother Ephriam in the Soulwood she lives is also still around and doing something that also seems to be involving the tree on her former Church’s compound. She needs to address this, she knows, but the threats to the general public and local wildlife take priority. She also seems reticent to deal with this problem and confront the actions that led to his presence in the wood, so she’s glad for the distraction posed by her job.

For all the regulations and devices that PsyLED brings to the investigation of magical goings-on, I appreciate how often those things fail to do anything to solve the problem. They’re helpful in guiding the agents, in informing their actions, decisions and conclusions — but it’s not the be all and end all. Throughout the novel, there’s this interesting intermingling of magic and technology that’s done in a way I’ve not really seen before (although, I think it’s what Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant wants, but he’s a long way from getting it).

Nell’s continued obsession with foods that cannot be found at a Farmer’s Market and her growing familiarity with pop culture (particularly movies) continue to be fun — they ground the character as well as provide much-needed comic relief.

I think Nell could be the best new character I’ve read this year. She’s not your typical kick-ass heroine, nor is she the (possibly more) typical damaged-yet-kick-ass heroine. She’s a strong woman, determined, and stubborn. Her strength doesn’t come from her magic powers, her job, or anything else. She’s always been strong, but the circumstances of her life have slowly revealed to both herself and those around her, just how strong she is (from what I gather, the stubbornness and determination have been evident all her life). Which is not to say she’s all strength — she’s a nurturer (not just of her plants), she’s caring, and she’s nowhere near invulnerable (physically or emotionally). She’s also pretty clever and as her education moves beyond the solely autodidactic, we’ll see that demonstrated more and more.

While this series (at least so far) is ultimately about Nell, the characters she’s surrounded by shouldn’t be ignored. In Blood of the Earth, Nell’s embraced by her PsyLED team as part of a family, an intact and nurturing alternative to her blood-relatives. It almost seemed like an idealized replacement, but the events of this novel make it clear that it’s nowhere near ideal. Several members of the team are effected by the events here in ways that will not be able to be glossed over — both as a result of their work on the case and from arcs that carry over from the Jane Yellowrock series. The latter, I found particularly satisfying, while the former intrigue me and I’m eager to see how they play out.

We can’t forget Nell’s literal dysfunctional family, either. However strange and foreign they may seem to us (odd that these humans seem less familiar than the nonhumans in the books), the efforts on their part to restore and repair their relationships with Nell — while she does the same — are encouraging and heartwarming. Her brother, in particular, is fast becoming a favorite. Their new openness to the culture around them and the . . . lack of overt hostility and aggression to the magic and magical beings in Nell’s life is great to see, while they retain much of their religious/cultic faith. I hope there are a few bumps along the path, just to make it more realistic, however.

I almost forgot to talk about Hunter’s writing — it’s as great as ever. I think her use of magic — particularly large-scale workings — in these two books works better than it does in the Yellowrock books. Her characters, settings, dialogue, and other writerly demonstrations make this world rich and real. She’s among the best and most consistent in the UF field these days and I’m eager to get my hands on whatever she’s got coming out next.

I left Blood of the Earth wondering how Hunter could make this into a series –and I’m still wondering how this works long-term, there are only so many things you can do to the earth/plants/trees in an area, right? Can Nell function hundreds of miles (or more) from Soulwood? Is she much use in a skirmish between rival Vampire clans or the like? Sure, she was able to do some damage to the creatures in the first book, but at what cost? While I don’t see how it’d work for a full novel (this is where Hunter proves me wrong), it’d good to see Nell acting in a more supportive role on the team — getting coffee, filing reports, etc. — while the weres take down some monsters, or something. I do see how these books function as a series when it comes to the characters, however — it’s just how to keep the stories/cases interesting that I don’t see long-term, but I’m looking forward to Hunter educating me.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Roc via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this. And would’ve received it from Let’s Talk! Promotions, too, if I hadn’t already downloaded it. So I guess I should thank them, too.

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4 1/2 Stars