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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kasey Mackenzie: SHADES OF FURY

Author: Kasey Mackenzie 
Plot Type: UF
Ratings: V-4, S-4, H-1
Publisher and Titles: Ace
     Red Hot Fury (6/2010)
     Green Eyed Envy (6/2011)
     Blackhearted Betrayal (6/2012)

     This blog entry was revised and updated on 7/23/12 to include a review of the third book in the series, Blackhearted Betrayal. That review comes first, followed by an overview of the world-building and brief reviews of the first two books:

        BOOK 3:  Blackhearted Betrayal         
     Although the author claims that each book in this series can be read as a stand-alone, I wouldn't recommend reading this book if you haven't read the earlier books, especially book 2. Many of the critical events from earlier in the series are referenced here, and you'll be lost if you don't have some background. The author does some back-story information dumping in an attempt to fill in the gaps (which helped as a memory jogger for me, since it's been a year since I read book 2), but I'm not sure it's enough to give a new reader a grasp of what's going onand especially who's who in the vast cast of characters.

     As the story opens, Marissa and her mother (with whom she reunited in the previous book) are summoned to a meeting with the three powerful deities who form the Triad and are appointed as their Nemeses (i.e., investigators with enforcement powers) to find proof that Anubis, the Jackal-Headed Egyptian god, has broken a number of immortal laws. In fact, the Triad suspects that Anubis is at the heart of the rift that has developed within the Fury Sisterhood. If Riss and her mother find proof of Anubis's wrongdoing, they are to bring him to the Triad for punishment. The main story line follows Riss as she and her team head for Anubis's realm in the Underworld, battling Anubis's magical forces every step of the way. The plot is so complex that it defies summarization. I'll just say that Riss can't trust anyone because friendly bodies are being possessed by unfriendly spirits, and people who pretend to be on her side sometimes reveal themselves to be enemies.

     As Riss pushes on with her quest, she finds answers to many questions: Why is Nan (Riss's grandmother) acting so crazy? Is Stacia (Riss's former mentor) really dead? What part does Medea (Nan's long-dead sister) play in Anubis's schemes? What ever happened to Scott's weaselly brother, Sean? Riss also learns some truths about herselfspecifically whether she is willing to sacrifice personal love for Fury honor. Some of the mythology of this book, especially the whole concept of the possessions, is not fully explained and sometimes strains credulity. By the end of the book, Rissa, Scott, and Trinity (Rissa's human partner) must deal with huge changes that have been made to the very essence of their being.

     The author handles the first person voice better in this book than she did in the first two, and Riss comes across as a likable heroine: smart, clear-headed, and (thankfully) non-whiney. She has matured as the series has progressed, particularly in this book. Although the plot of Blackhearted Betrayal is much more complex than the earlier books, I was able to keep up with the help of the back-story inserts that were sprinkled throughout the book. The fact that the villainous Anubis didn't show up until the big climactic scene at the end was a bit strange (and disappointing), but I guess the gods just don't do their own dirty workthey leave it to their minions. As with the earlier books in the series, I'd give this book an average grade.

     Blackhearted Betrayal ends with a few loose story threads still to be tied up, but according to the author's FAQ page on her web site, Ace contracted with her for just three books. At this point, I can't find any evidence that more books are coming. We'll just have to wait and see.

    Marissa “Riss” Holloway is a Fury—once human but now morphed into a magical being serving as Boston’s chief magical investigator, part of the mortal Boston Police Department. Riss has two snake tattoos—one on each arm—that become live venomous serpents when she calls on them to help her fight or to heal her wounds. Rissa can shapeshift into various disguises, and when she is full Fury form, she sprouts wings. She has super strength and speed, and when she lets her inner rage rise, she can boil the blood of her enemies. If that rage gets out of control, however, she will turn into a Harpy—a hyper, crazier version of a Fury. The Furies are the peacemakers of the supernatural world; they try to protect mortals from villainous supernaturals. 

     Click HERE to read a page on the author's web site that includes a history of the Furies and definitions of the three Fury classes: Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. Riss is one of the Tisiphone, the class that is responsible for investigating murders.

        BOOK 1:  Red-Hot Fury        
     In Red Hot Fury, Riss must find and stop the villains who are kidnapping and/or magically altering the supernaturals of Boston. Marissa’s love interest is her ex-boyfriend, Scott Murphy, a shape-shifting Warhound, related to the Egyptian god, Anubis. In a related plot thread, Riss's mother has been missing for many years, and in this book Riss learns her mother's fate. Angst levels for Riss and Scott are at a continuously high level throughout.

     The cover art for Red Hot Fury is terrific—green-eyed Riss in her red leather “uniform” with her snake tattoo curled dangerously around her arm.

        BOOK 1:  Green-Eyed Envy        
     As Green Eyed Envy opens, Riss is investigating the serial murders of a mounting number of Cat shifters, all found with lethal doses of a hybrid form of catnip in their veins. Riss is now the Chief of the Magical Crimes Unit of the Boston Police Department. She has full charge of the investigation and hires Scott's Shadowhounds to assist her. The investigation gets complicated when Riss learns that all of the Cats have a past romantic connection with her friend Harper (who is one of Scott's former flings). Harper is now engaged to Scott's cousin, Penn, who looks down on Scott because he is part human. As the bodies continue to pile up, clues point to one, then another, of the old boyfriends. In a separate plot thread, Riss's grandmother, who has been in a coma for many years, suddenly wakes up, but acts in an uncharacteristically violent manner. Soon, renegade Furies begin to attack Riss and her sister's family. This thread barely gets started in Green Eyed Envy and will no doubt be the main plot in the next book.

     This is a so-so book in a middle-of-the-road UF series: not the best that I have read, but not the worst, either. Mackenzie's use the first person voice is somewhat clumsy and Riss's narrative does not have a natural feel to it. Riss gets a bit whiny in this book and makes some of the hugely illogical leaps in thinking that we sometimes find in UF heroines. For example, when it looks as if the murderer might be a man Riss is somewhat attracted to, she thinks to herself, "If I had misjudged him so drastically, did that mean I was wrong about Scott as well? Ugly self-doubt wormed its way inside my soul...." (Green Eyed Envy, p. 252). This is crazy illogical thinking! She misjudges a guy she has known for only two days and then jumps to the conclusion that if she can be wrong about him she can be wrong about Scotta man she has known and loved for years and years. This makes absolutely no sense, even for a guilt-plagued, neurotic, self-esteem-deprived UF heroine like Marissa. The cover art continues to be terrificlove the green outfit to match the title. 

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