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.

Pub Day Repost: Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter

Blood of the EarthBlood of the Earth

by Faith Hunter
Series: Soulwood, #1eARC, 384 pg.
Roc, 216
Read: July 5 – 8, 2016

Nell Ingram had her life turned up side down by Jane Yellowrock when she came through her land on a vampire hunt. Months later, a PsyLED team — led by good ol’ Rick LaFleur — comes to her for help and to offer her a job. Nell had been raised in a cult that seems to be involved with — on some level, anyway — with an anti-supernatural terrorist group who seem to be kidnapping local girls.

God’s Cloud of Glory Church, the cult that Nell was raised in (and that her family is still immersed in) is involved with some petty harassment of Nell — although some leaders are leaning more toward horrifying harassment. LaFleur, Paka and Pea help her get out of one tight spot. But that won’t be enough to stop them, it did however, lead to the line: “[Pea] she looked like something out of a fairy tale, one of the old stories that was fluffy on the surface but dark and bloody underneath.” Nell’s magic takes a major step further in development at that point, too.

Nell coming to grips with the fact that she has some sort of magic is the heart of the novel. Well, that and her doing a better job of leaving the cult. Technically and geographically, she’d moved on — but her mind and lifestyle are largely conditioned by the Church. Her involvement with the PsyLED team (and their crappy diet) leads to some of the most entertaining parts of the book — her introductions to Krispy Kreme donuts and pizza are fantastic.

There really aren’t that many ways that Nell and Jane are similar — they are both deliberately and stubbornly independent, they both start out not understanding really who or what they are, and both of them are really good at ignoring the one vital, pivotal and fairly obvious thing until it’s almost too late. But things kept moving well enough that I was able to ignore it (although I probably talked back at the book a lot every time this point came up).

But it’s not just about Nell — LaFluer’s got a whole team with him. While he’s prominent, he’s really a secondary character (Paka and Pea are more so). Frankly, I was relieved by that — I really expected this to be Ricky-Bo and his Amazing Friends — I would’ve read that, but I’m not sure how psyched I was for it. Instead, Nell and the others on the team are great characters to meet and spend time with — and I want to spend more time with them all. It’d take too much space to talk about the PsyLED team as individuals, so let’s leave it with the aggregate: a very promising and entertaining ensemble.

Nell’s family are a strong presence (even before we met them) and should prove to be good fodder for character growth and even future plot (I just hope it’s not a well they go back to too often). The same can be said for the rest of the world we’re introduced to here.

The plot involving the church, the terrorists, the kidnappings is pretty strong and moves well. The resolution is violent, but not as much as it would’ve been in a Yellowrock book. Nell’s magic is different (and her team uses fewer firearms and knives). I’m not sure how to talk about this pre-release, maybe in book 2, it’ll be easier. Let’s just leave it with Nell et al. deal with things in a way that’s true to the genre, but doesn’t feel like every other UF around. Nell’s what Atticus O’Sullivan might be without his sword (maybe).

There were two pretty glaring errors that I noticed: Nell at one point identifies someones actions as stemming from their being postmillennialist (I’ve never met a postmillennialist like this, I think she meant post-tribulation premillennialist) and she identifies a Biblical quotation as from Acts, when it was from Romans. There are three explanations that I can think of for this: 1. Honest mistakes that will be fixed between the ARC and official release; 2. It’s been long enough since Nell’s been involved in the cult and her memory for details like this is foggy; 3. It was a cult, and they’ve mis-educated their people. I could be convinced of #2, but it’d take some work; #1 or #3 I could completely buy.

Why do I continually underestimate Faith Hunter? It’s only been in the last few Jane Yellowrocks that I pick them up with high expectations and I came to this curious, but unsure that she could do anything distinctive from Yellowrock. That ends now — Hunter blew me away with this one, yeah, it’s in the Yellowrock ‘verse — and it fits in it — but it couldn’t be more different. I’m not sure how this is a series, it’s a great stand-alone, maybe a duology. But I don’t see how this keeps going (but Hunter’s better at this than I am, so I’m willing to believe it is one — especially with these characters). I really want to give Blood of the Earth 5 stars, but I’m going to hold off going too far in my raving over this series until I see how Hunter follows up. Which may be stupid, but it’s what makes sense to me.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC via NetGalley with major thanks to Roc, I appreciate this greatly.

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

Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter

You know how long I’ve spent on this thing? How many posts I haven’t written because I’ve been trying to finish this one? The worst thing is that I liked this book and not just a little bit, I liked this one a lot. So why was this so hard to write? Don’t know, don’t care. It’s done…wish it was a little better.

Blood of the EarthBlood of the Earth

by Faith Hunter
Series: Soulwood, #1

eARC, 384 pg.
Roc, 216

Read: July 5 – 8, 2016


Nell Ingram had her life turned up side down by Jane Yellowrock when she came through her land on a vampire hunt. Months later, a PsyLED team — led by good ol’ Rick LaFleur — comes to her for help and to offer her a job. Nell had been raised in a cult that seems to be involved with — on some level, anyway — with an anti-supernatural terrorist group who seem to be kidnapping local girls.

God’s Cloud of Glory Church, the cult that Nell was raised in (and that her family is still immersed in) is involved with some petty harassment of Nell — although some leaders are leaning more toward horrifying harassment. LaFleur, Paka and Pea help her get out of one tight spot. But that won’t be enough to stop them, it did however, lead to the line: “[Pea] she looked like something out of a fairy tale, one of the old stories that was fluffy on the surface but dark and bloody underneath.” Nell’s magic takes a major step further in development at that point, too.

Nell coming to grips with the fact that she has some sort of magic is the heart of the novel. Well, that and her doing a better job of leaving the cult. Technically and geographically, she’d moved on — but her mind and lifestyle are largely conditioned by the Church. Her involvement with the PsyLED team (and their crappy diet) leads to some of the most entertaining parts of the book — her introductions to Krispy Kreme donuts and pizza are fantastic.

There really aren’t that many ways that Nell and Jane are similar — they are both deliberately and stubbornly independent, they both start out not understanding really who or what they are, and both of them are really good at ignoring the one vital, pivotal and fairly obvious thing until it’s almost too late. But things kept moving well enough that I was able to ignore it (although I probably talked back at the book a lot every time this point came up).

But it’s not just about Nell — LaFluer’s got a whole team with him. While he’s prominent, he’s really a secondary character (Paka and Pea are more so). Frankly, I was relieved by that — I really expected this to be Ricky-Bo and his Amazing Friends — I would’ve read that, but I’m not sure how psyched I was for it. Instead, Nell and the others on the team are great characters to meet and spend time with — and I want to spend more time with them all. It’d take too much space to talk about the PsyLED team as individuals, so let’s leave it with the aggregate: a very promising and entertaining ensemble.

Nell’s family are a strong presence (even before we met them) and should prove to be good fodder for character growth and even future plot (I just hope it’s not a well they go back to too often). The same can be said for the rest of the world we’re introduced to here.

The plot involving the church, the terrorists, the kidnappings is pretty strong and moves well. The resolution is violent, but not as much as it would’ve been in a Yellowrock book. Nell’s magic is different (and her team uses fewer firearms and knives). I’m not sure how to talk about this pre-release, maybe in book 2, it’ll be easier. Let’s just leave it with Nell et al. deal with things in a way that’s true to the genre, but doesn’t feel like every other UF around. Nell’s what Atticus O’Sullivan might be without his sword (maybe).

There were two pretty glaring errors that I noticed: Nell at one point identifies someones actions as stemming from their being postmillennialist (I’ve never met a postmillennialist like this, I think she meant post-tribulation premillennialist) and she identifies a Biblical quotation as from Acts, when it was from Romans. There are three explanations that I can think of for this: 1. Honest mistakes that will be fixed between the ARC and official release; 2. It’s been long enough since Nell’s been involved in the cult and her memory for details like this is foggy; 3. It was a cult, and they’ve mis-educated their people. I could be convinced of #2, but it’d take some work; #1 or #3 I could completely buy.

Why do I continually underestimate Faith Hunter? It’s only been in the last few Jane Yellowrocks that I pick them up with high expectations and I came to this curious, but unsure that she could do anything distinctive from Yellowrock. That ends now — Hunter blew me away with this one, yeah, it’s in the Yellowrock ‘verse — and it fits in it — but it couldn’t be more different. I’m not sure how this is a series, it’s a great stand-alone, maybe a duology. But I don’t see how this keeps going (but Hunter’s better at this than I am, so I’m willing to believe it is one — especially with these characters). I really want to give Blood of the Earth 5 stars, but I’m going to hold off going too far in my raving over this series until I see how Hunter follows up. Which may be stupid, but it’s what makes sense to me.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC via NetGalley with major thanks to Roc, I appreciate this greatly.

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