Series: EARTH WITCHES
Plot Type: Urban Soul-Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings: Violence—4; Sensuality—3-4; Humor—2
Publisher and Titles: Signet Eclipse
Viper Moon (7/2011)
Vengeance Moon (6/2012)
BOOK 3: Vicious Moon
The plot centers around Nyx's search for Marisol and the complications that arise as she carries out her investigation. The main complication is Etienne, a sinister, ruthless, and sexy former mercenary soldier with a worldwide criminal record—he is on everyone's most-wanted list Nyx and Etienne are immediately attracted to one another, but their relationship runs into some seemingly insurmountable problems. First and foremost, Etienne despises witches—all witches—because of a horrific experience he had with a witch several years ago. Also, he is completely immune to magic. In fact, when Nyx touches him very gently with her magic, it rebounds on her with a hundred times the power she used. Nyx and Etienne never really seem to connect as a couple, partly because we see little of Etienne's inner emotions. All we see is his tough, masculine, non-emotional side, so when he grabs Nyx for a kiss, it kind of comes out of nowhere. I admit that readers would be expecting some romantic action just because this is a paranormal romance, but it would have been helpful if the author had provided some emotional foreshadowing prior to the hero's romantic actions.
Unfortunately, the identity of the villain—the person who knows where Marisol is—is obvious from the very beginning, and the reason for Marisol's disappearance is rather strange and implausible. In fact, the details of Marisol's disappearance feel thrown together without much thought. The plot actually consists mostly of scenes featuring Nyx either stumbling through a search for locations based on clues she finds in Marisol's grimoire or riding around with Etienne exchanging side-long glances but not much conversation. Except for one of the final scenes, there isn't even much suspense. This series continues to be just adequate—but not top notch.
It seems that the author loves to include an "ewwwww" element in her books. This time it is Herschel, Nyx's 200-pound canine familiar, who spends most of his time eating, drooling buckets of slime, and farting. We are treated to many, many repetitive descriptions of these actions (especially the sliming and the farting), resulting in this reader's slight annoyance in the first chapters and intense irritation as these scenes abound in the remaining chapters of the book.
Roland still struggles with her first-person narration, just as she did in the first two books. As a consequence, we learn are privy to all of Nyx's innermost (sometimes melodramatic) thoughts, but we don't learn much about what drives Etienne or Darrow, Nyx's old friend from her mercenary soldier days. Had this book been written in the third person, or in alternating first person (Nyx and Etienne), it would have been a much stronger novel. Having just read Seanan McGuire's latest OCTOBER DAYE novel, I was especially sensitive to the difference between McGuire's elegant handling of the first-person voice and Roland's rather awkward attempts.
Vicious Moon should definitely be read in the context of the series—after reading books 1 and 2—in order to appreciate and understand the backgrounds of the supporting characters in Duivel and the mythology of the earth witches. You probably won't comprehend much about the powers of the Earth Mother, the eccentricities of the Barrows, and the significance of Aiakós, the King of the Drows, if you haven't read the first two books. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Vicious Moon.
In this world, the Earth Mother selects various young women to be her Huntresses—to rescue abused innocents and punish evildoers. As the series opens, the Mother's high priestess is Abby, who operates as a psychic for hire in small-town Duivel, Missouri. As a trade-off for dedicating her life to Mother, each huntress receives extra strength, speed, and stamina. Plus, she gets to live a dangerous existence on the brink of poverty.
Here, one Huntress describes the Earth Mother to another Huntress: "She's not human. She plots, plans, and schemes, never consistently. She sees possibilities of things to come and dumps one of us into the fray in hopes that things will turn out okay. There's not much you can do about it. She considers you hers, even if you never took a vow to serve her. She thinks meddling in your life is her right." (Vengeance Moon, p. 72)
Duivel is separated into a mortal section and a dark, scary magical section called the Barrows. At the center of the Barrows is the Zombie Zone—the darkest, most dangerous part of the Barrows. Within the Barrows, the Mother has imprisoned her mortal enemy, the Darkness (aka Aiakós, the King of the Drows), who has no physical form (at least not until the end of book 1).
Mortals who live in Duivel stay out of the Barrows because horrible monsters roam the streets and the sewers and the magical atmosphere play havoc with their memories. As one character explains, "The Earth Mother cast the spell over this area to protect outsiders. It's a world of its own now. People might see things here, but as soon as they look away, they forget everything." (Vengeance Moon, p. 32)
Click HERE to read "A Completely Unsanctioned and Unofficial History of Duivel and the Barrows" on Roland's web site.
As Cass begins to investigate, she seeks assistance from Michael, the rich and handsome owner of a fancy exercise spa who has been hitting on Cass for years. Also helping her is the local do-gooder reverend, Victor. Cass believes that Michael is more than human, but she's not sure exactly what he is. She rebuffs his advances, but is still attracted to him, as is every other female in Duivel. In the next few days, Cass and her friends get embroiled in a mystery that involves a mysterious person who is gathering together huge supplies of guns and explosives, all of which keep blowing up when Cass is in the vicinity.
The plot follows Cass as she ricochets from fending off Michael to falling for Flynn to trading sarcasms with Dacardi to bumping heads with the local gangbangers—all without much thought or planning, at least none that we read about. And really, we should get a bit more information from Cass, since she is our first person narrator. Unfortunately, Roland doesn't quite have the knack for writing in the first person, so Cass comes across a a self-promoting narcissist who operates in a choppy, purposeless manner. She tells us that Michael is deeply in love with her, but it's hard to understand why. Then, she and Flynn fall in love (to the point of marriage proposals) in just two weeks. Again, it's hard to understand how this happens since they rarely even hold a conversation that lasts more than a minute or two—almost as if the author had a lot more details in her head that never made it into the book.
All of the characters are about as shallow as a mud puddle. We learn a few facts about them but nothing to inform the plot. The obligatory climactic scene at the end of the book has the characters being swept through a filthy, excrement-filled sewer pipe—inventive, but ewwwww. At this point, I'm not liking the series very much. The earth witch idea is fresh enough, but the follow-through leaves much to be desired. If the excerpt from the second book can be relied on, it will star a different earth witch. Let's hope that Roland has practiced her first-person narration a bit by the time she publishes that one. Click HERE to read an excerpt.
BOOK 2: Vengeance Moon
Michael has an interesting and violent history. As we learned at the end of book 1, Michael is the son of Aiakós, the King of the Drows. That means that although Michael appears to be a handsome and charming human, he actually has a bestial side that comes out when he is angry or when he is forced to defend himself. This romance is one of those instantaneous ones as Michael and Madeline fall hard for each other the moment they see each other for the first time. Most of the action in the book takes place over a period of five days, and the couple goes from their initial attraction to all-enduring love in that very short period of time. This type of romance is always hard for me to accept because there isn't any logic to it. The lustful lovers never really get past the personal biography stage before they're pledging undying love for one another. I know that it's harder to write a romance that builds gradually, but this insta-love is really not very interesting.
The action part of the plot has several story threads. One focuses on a group of Drows who have somehow been teleported to the Barrows against their will, and they just want to go home. Madeline befriends them and promises to help them out. But Madeline must also keep in mind that the Sisters of Justice have assigned her to retrieve a powerful artifact called the Portal that is somewhere in the Barrows. The Portal was ripped from Madeline's mother's neck just after her death by her murderer, so Madeline believes that if she can track down the single remaining killer she will find the Portal. Unfortunately, things are never that simple. The conflicts build up to the requisite violent climax in the Zombie Zone, just as in book 1. There, Madeline and Michael are put in the familiar position of risking their lives for one another to prove the depth of their mutual love.
Once again, most of the characters are shallow and only partially developed, and the plot is a familiar do-over of the missing-artifact story line that we've seen many times before. The manner in which Madeline seemingly pulls the identity of the villain out of thin air just before the climax is a bit off-putting. She makes a huge unsupported leap in logic, which is especially shocking since she hasn't demonstrated that kind of talent up until that point.
This is definitely a middle-of-the-road series that—although it has an inventive premise—continues to falter on the follow through. Click HERE to read an excerpt.