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Friday, February 4, 2011


Author: Lili St. Crow
Plot Type: UF
Ratings:  V-4; S-2; H-2
Publisher and Titles: Razorbill
     Strange Angels (2009)
     Betrayals (2009)
     Jealousy (2010)
     Defiance (2011)
     Reckoning (2011) (Final Book)

     This blog entry was revised and updated on 1/8/12 to include a review of the fifth and final book in the series: Reckoning. That review is located at the very end of this entry, following this brief summary of the series so far:

     Lilith Saintcrow (writing here under her Young Adult [YA] pseudonym) gives us a compelling story that easily stands up against any adult UF series. Here is the cast of supernatural creatures in this world:      

  > vampires (wampyr): Also called suckers, they're 100% evil and have a variety of powers—some can produce fire. They can also enslave other supernaturals. Enslaved werwulfen are called Brokens, and one of them plays a major role in the series.

  > djamphir: Half-human, half-vampire males who have super strength and some magical powers (e.g., teleportation, production of magic fog), djamphir are primarily vampire hunters and generally belong to the Order (the ruling council for supernaturals that is, of course, corrupt).

  > svetocha: Half-human, half-vampire femalesvery rare. Just before they "bloom" into their full powers, their blood is irresistible to vampires and djamphir. They are considered to be queens of the supernatural world. Our heroine learns  (much to her initial dismay) that she is a svetocha. 

  > werwulfen: Werewolves, who are generally allied with the djamphir against the vampires, but they don't get along well with the djamphir on a personal level (too much testosterone on both sides).

  > loup-garou (skinchanger): Having been partially imprinted with werwulfen characteristics, they have super strength and other werwulfen traits (they love raw meat!) but don't get hairy like the werwulfen. They are considered to be the princes of the werwulfen world.

     Strange Angels: As the series begins, the teenage heroine (Dru Anderson) has accompanied her monster-hunting father to a small Dakota town where Dad is on the trail of a big-time bad guy. When he is killed (in the first pages of book 1), Dru is suddenly on her own. Mom and Gran are already dead (Mom's death becomes very important as the series continues), so Dru is truly an orphan. Dru and her new Goth-boy friend, Graves (also an orphan), try to make the best of their tattered lives, but the bad guys keep interfering, and Dru really wants to find out who (or what) killed her dad. Not long after Graves has a life-changing encounter with a werwulfen, a new guy enters the picture: Christophe, a djamphir who looks like a teen but is actually about 100 years old. Christophe claims that he wants to help Dru, but can she trust him? By the end of book 1, Dru has had a face-to-fact encounter with her dad's killer, has learned that she is a bit more than human, and has been whisked away to a special school where she is to be trained to handle her future powers. 

     Betrayals begins moments after book 1 with Dru and Graves at the New England schola, which is run by the Order. Christophe is sure that there is a traitor in the Order, and it soon appears that there is also a traitor in the schola. The vampires keep attacking and heading straight for Dru, and by the end of the book Dru's little group is on the run, heading for the main schola in New York City. Oh, by the way, Christophe is kind of an outlaw. He comes from an unsavory family and is suspected of some nefarious activities, so Dru is never quite sure whether to trust him. 

     Jealousy begins at the Schola Prima, days after Dru's arrival. Dru soon learns that the beautiful Annathe only other svetocha in existenceis the head of the Order's Council and seems to hate Dru with ever fiber of her being. Since Christophe has disappeared again, Dru and Graves are on their own, defending themselves against a variety of dangers and becoming more and more attracted to one another. As the suspense deepens, the vampires come searching for Dru, but Christophe shows up and runs them off. Unfortunately, in all the excitement, Graves disappears. By the end of the book, Dru has been badly injured, and the Council has two new members. 

     As Defiance begins, Graves is still missing, and Dru's relationship with Christophe is heating up, even though she sleeps each night wrapped in Graves's tattered black coat. This book doesn't have quite the charm and action level of the first three. Dru continues to train as she waits impatiently for her "blooming." Although Dru keeps after Christophe and the Council to find Graves, Christophe keeps putting her off, telling her that she must focus all of her energy on becoming a better fighter and that there is no information as yet on Graves's location or situation. Finally, Dru catches Christophe in some lies, and she has had enough. When she gets some new information about Graves's whereabouts, she strikes out on her own to rescue him, knowing that she will have to face down the terrible Sergej, King of the Vampires, if she wants to survive. By the end of the book, Dru has turned her back on the Orderand on Christophe, and she has put her life on the line for Graves by facing down Sergej. At one point in mid-story, Dru is attacked by a many-tentacled red monster, but that incident appears without context and seems to have no connection to anything else in the story. Perhaps it will be explained in the upcoming fifth and final book, Reckoning, which is due in the fall.

     Now, let's get to the love interests. Dru and Graves have a deep attraction to one anothera gentle attraction. Dru and Christophe have more of a smoking hot attraction, mixed with a healthy dose of Dru's distrust, of course. No explicit sex for either couple, just simmering undercurrents and heavy breathing. Graves and Christophe, naturally enough, hate each other with a passion (kind of a Jacob/Edward relationship). 

     As Reckoning begins, Dru, Graves, and Ash (a werwulfen who was Broken by Sergej and saved by Dru) are on the run from Sergej and his vampires. Ash is no longer Broken, but he's not entirely normal either, so his presence complicates their escape plans. The relationship between Dru and Graves blows hot and cold. Although Dru loves Graves, she feels deeply guilty for being the cause of most of the pain in his life, and she is also afraid that he is disgusted with her after seeing her drink Anna's blood. Graves is just as mixed up as Dru is. He loves Dru but thinks that he isn't good enough for her and fears that what Sergei did to him during his imprisonment has damaged him permanently. When Christophe eventually shows up, he makes it clear that he also loves Dru. Graves and Christophe, naturally enough, hate each other with a passion. 

     Dru first guides her small group to her grandmother's abandoned farm, deep in the Appalachian Mountains, but when Sergej's vampires attack them there, the group must move on, this time with Christophe on board. After more attacks, Dru is forced to go off on her own as she tries frantically to escape from the vampires who are scouring the countryside for her. Most of the story follows the various segments of Dru's desperate road trips. The climax is, not surprisingly, a final all-or-nothing showdown between Dru and Sergej. The book's ending is ambiguous, with no real resolution of either of the two major conflicts of the series: the vampire vs. Order situation and Dru's romantic triangle. Even at that, though, the conclusion is satisfying, with Dru in a position to live out the next few years in comparative safety while she tries to decide how she wants to spend the rest of her life—and with whom. In this book, Dru learns that her ancestry includes yet another set of supernatural genes.

     If you're looking for a solid UF series with strong plots and interesting characters, give this one a try. I know, I's YA. But really, the characters have all of the adventures any typical UF character has, with plenty of bruises and broken bones and a bit of veiled sensuality. This is a UF series that concentrates on the story rather than on the sex, so if you're as tired of endless, repetitive lust scenes as I am, this series is a refreshing change.

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