Only the most recent posts pop up on the HOME page. For searchable lists of titles/series reviewed on this Blog, click on one of the Page Tabs above. On each Page, click on the series name to go directly to my review.

AUTHOR SEARCH lists all authors reviewed on this Blog. CREATURE SEARCH groups all of the titles/series by their creature types. The RATINGS page explains the violence, sensuality, and humor (V-S-H) ratings codes found at the beginning of each Blog review and groups all titles/series by their Ratings. The PLOT TYPES page explains the SMR-UF-CH-HIS codes found at the beginning of each Blog review and groups all titles/series by their plot types. On this Blog, when you see a title, an author's name, or a word or phrase in pink type, this is a link. Just click on the pink to go to more information about that topic.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Kristina Douglas: THE FALLEN SERIES

Author:  Kristina Douglas (Pseudonym for Anne Stuart
Plot Type:  SMR
Ratings:  V4-5; S4-5; H1-2
Publisher and Titles:  Pocket
        Raziel (1/2011)
        Demon (5/2011)
        Warrior (4/2012)
        Rebel (3/2103)

     This post was revised and updated on 4/25/13 to include a review of the fourth book in the series, Rebel. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of the first three books in the series. 

            BOOK 4:  Rebel            
     As the fourth book opens, Martha, Sheol's seer, is having a vision/sex dream about a dark and dangerous man who will soon come to Sheol. Moments later, the star of her dream arrives on the beach in a fiery blast. That man is Cain, who was the first of the Fallen to hook up with a human woman. Way back at the beginning when the Fallen were still full-fledged Angels, they were forbidden to take human mates, but Cain broke the rule and mated with a human woman. When Uriel found out, he killed the pregnant woman and forced Cain and the other Angels to watchjust to teach them a lesson. After Uriel dragged Cain off for further punishment, the other Angels didn't pay much attention to Uriel's lesson. Instead, they mated with their own human women, and eventually all of them were kicked out of the ranks of the Angels to become Fallen. Ever since the death of his human mate, Cain has blamed the rest of his fellow Angels (now Fallen) for not coming to his mate's aidfor standing by and letting Uriel kill her. Now Cain is back in Sheol, determined to undermine and demoralize the Fallen by proving to them that everything they believe is false.

     Martha was married to Thomas, a Fallen who was killed in the big Nephilim attack seven years ago (in book 1). Since then, she has lived alone in an isolated apartment, notifying the Fallen when she has a vision, but generally avoiding contact with most of Sheol's inhabitants. Martha's visions are erratic in their reliability, and the leaders of the Fallen aren't always sure whether to believe or act on what she has to say. Martha is sexually attracted to Cain, partly because she is having hot dreams about him (which he has put in her mind) and partly because she is a sex-starved and lonely woman. The relationship between Cain and Martha reminds me of a teen movie plot in which the handsome, sexy quarterback bets his buddies that he can bed the shy, chubby, president of the chess club. From beginning to end, Cain is an arrogant, sarcastic jerk who thinks of women only in terms of how quickly he can get them into bed, and Martha is a demure shrinking violet (aka doormat) who allows him manipulate her at his will, even after she realizes exactly what he is doing. Cain plans to use Martha by putting false visions in her mind, thus making her visions completely undependable and leaving Sheol's leaders with no way to anticipate future dangers. (Note: Using the definitions on the web site, Martha could be categorized as a Stoic Woobie, and Cain fits the description of a Magnificent Bastard.)

     As the story moves along, Cain and his co-conspirator, Metatron, continue to make and adjust their plans, but then Cain develops some feelings for Martha, so Metatron decides to take things a step further on his own. The action part of the plot mostly involves Metatron's dastardly actions, but there is also the inevitable battle at the end when Uriel and his troops attack Sheol. A secondary story line follows the final days of Allie's pregnancy.

     The problem I continue to have with this series is that the "heroes" are all  rude, arrogant, chauvinistic louts who treat their soon-to-be mates like dirtright up until they marry them, at which point they become model husbands. In the case of Martha and Cain, near the end of the book, just as Martha dares to believe that Cain loves her and that they are truly mated, Cain announces to all of the Fallen that he does not believe in the mate-bond concept and that he has been using Martha as a toola means to carry out his own plans. Does this turn Martha off Cain? Absolutely not. She just keeps coming back for more because her lust has apparently overcome any bits of good sense she ever had. Martha is portrayed as a sex-addicted door mat who (like the typical abused woman) keeps believing that her man will change his behavior if only she can make herself more adaptable to his needs. To my mind, Cain, the dishonorable "hero," is really just a brute who treats Martha like a mindless whore, and Martha, the foolish "heroine," is nothing more than the willing object of his emotional abuse. This continuing characterization pattern spoils the series for me. It's such a shame that this inventive, well-constructed mythology is wasted on such worthless characters.

     Click HERE to go to Rebel on If you click on the book cover at the top left of that page, you can read the first few chapters.

     This focus of this series is on a group of handsome and sexy Fallen angelsall malewho fell from Grace after giving in to the temptations of love and lust among humans. In a reversal of biblical history, the Fallen are the good guys, and the archangel in charge of the Heavenly armies is the bad guy. The "crime" that caused the Fallen to Fall is their love of humanity, especially the sex part. The Fallen now live in Sheol, a fog-shrouded, isolated land that is located in the coastal Pacific Northwest. Back in the beginning when humans were created, God sent angels to assist them in their day-to-day lives. Raziel, one of the Fallen, explains, "We'd been sent to earth with our appointed tasks....The first twenty each had jobs, and we'd done well enough at first. But the longer we remained on earth, the more human we became. The hungers started, hunger for food, for life, for sex, and we started thinking that we could make this benighted world a better place. We could bring our wisdom and power, we could experience love and dedication. We would intermarry and our children would grow strong and there would be no more wars and God would smile. God didn't smile. There were no childrenthe curse was swift and vicious. We were damned for eternity. Because of love." (Raziel, p. 158)

     The Supreme Being punished the Fallen severely for their perceived misdeeds. Here, Azazel, another of the Fallen continues the story: "When we fell, we were sentenced to eternal damnation, with no hope of redemption. We were cursed to watch our loved ones grow old and die; there would be no children, and we would ferry the dead between this world and the next." (Demon, p. 308) In addition to these punishments, the Fallen are "blood eaters," meaning that they must survive on human blood. Each Fallen has only two choices as to where he gets his blood. If he has a human mate, she can feed him. If he is unmated, he gets blood from the "Source," a human woman who has been somehow mystically designated as having blood that is compatible with all of the Fallen. If a Fallen takes blood from anyone else, he will become very ill and, perhaps, die. The Fallen can be killed by fire or by another otherworldly source (e.g., a demon, the Nephilim). The author's mythology for the Fallen is extremely detailed. For example, we know that the newly Fallen have pure white wings, which grow darker in color and more complex in color pattern the older he getsThe Fallen have only one responsibility. They are occasionally called upon by Uriel to escort souls to their final destinationHeaven or Hell. For unexplained reasons, most souls make that journey on their own, but a few need to be accompanied by a Fallen. 

     After punishing the Fallen for their sins, God sent another angelic army to Earththe Nephilim. But the Nephilim also fell, and they were punished even more severelyby being turned into bestial, humanoid, flesh-eating creatures who can only prowl around at night. Here is one character's description of a Nephilim: "I could see the maggots living in its skin, and the smell of blood and death was enough to make me gag.....The creature had a hideous open hole for a mouth, and the double sets of teeth were jagged, sharklike, made for tearing flesh....Its hands were deformed, more like pincers, razored and bloody." (Raziel, p. 264)

     The primary villain of the series is Uriel, the only archangel who didn't fall. Uriel serves as God's manager of the Fallen. As Michael, the Fallen archangel explains, "For all intents and purposes, there is no God. He gave humans free will and then turned everything over to the archangel Uriel." (Warrior, p. 98) Uriel hates the Fallen, and he hates humans, viewing them as the one mistake made by the Creator. Since Uriel himself can't kill the Fallen, he maintains an army of Nephilim that he sends against them. Here, Raziel explains the situation: "When God gave mankind free will, he left Uriel in charge. And Uriel is....quite unforgiving. His answer to everything that even hints of evil is to destroy it. And he sees evil in everything." (Raziel,  p. 128)

     The series story arc follows the Fallen as they fight off the Nephilim, try to stay hidden from Uriel, and attempt to locate Lucifer: "The first of them, the Bringer of Light, the most favored of God's angels, had been the first to be punished, imprisoned somewhere deep below the earth in an unending silence. Until they found him, they were helpless against the tyranny of the only archangel never to have been tempted. Uriel, bloody, ruthless, and completely without mercy, had been left in charge when the Supreme Being had given the human race free will and then withdrawn, leaving them on their own." (Demon, p. 60) The Fallen believe that if they can find and free Lucifer, he can save them from Uriel and his growing power.

     The author tells the stories from various points of view (POV). In Raziel,  the first person POV is used for both the hero and the heroine, which can be a bit disconcerting because there are no visual clues as to where one character's voice ends and the next begins. In the next two books, the first person is used for the heroine and the third person singular for the hero, so POV isn't as much of a problem.

            BOOK 1: Raziel            
     As the story opens, Raziel is sent to New York City to escort the soul of Allegra (Allie) Watson to her final reward after she dies under the wheels of a bus. Since Allie appears to be an innocent, Raziel assumes that she will go to Heaven, but when she resists his push at the end of her journey, he looks over the edge and sees that she is being sent to Hell. For reasons he doesn't understand, Raziel pulls Allie back from the flames, getting his arm badly burned in the process. Eventually the couple is rescued by other Fallen, and the story follows the progress of their love affair after they return to Sheol. Not all of the Fallen are happy about Allie's arrival. At first, they accuse Allie of being a spy for Uriel, or even a demon. Of course, the only way to discover the truth is for Raziel to look into her soul while he is making love to her and tasting her blood. (A trip to a hypnotist and/or a medical laboratory might be quicker, but definitely not as erotic.) In the meantime, the Fallen are convinced that they have a traitor in their midst who is working with Uriel and the Nephilim. 

     Although the mythology of the Fallen is fully developed, the same is not true for Allie. She is supposed to be deadher physical body has been crematedbut she continues to eat, breathe, and perform all other bodily functions. Although she is dead, she must be protected from the Nephilim, who can kill her. How can she be killed when she is already dead? Why is her body corporeal? Why is she still breathing? None of these questions is answered. Allie is a typical (stereotypical, really) 21st century paranormal heroine, with an overload of sarcasm, profanity, and general rudeness. She tries to make the best of her fate, but she seems more concerned with adding color to her life (in the form of brightly colored clothing) than she does with trying to understand what's going on around her. Allie's attempt to set the Fallens' paternalistic worldview on its head is entertaining at times, but in general her whiny personality is more annoying than sympathetic. Raziel is the stereotypical cold, closed-off, alpha male hero who has decided to live without the pain of loveright up until he realizes that Allie is his bonded mate. Near the end, the two suddenly flash on some heretofore hidden memories that trace their connection back several decades. Where did that come from? One more mystery: Where did the human wives of the Fallen come from? Apparently, most of the Fallen have been aware of their mates since the women were children. did they get from earth to Sheol? And how/why are they still human? Click HERE to read an excerpt from Raziel

            BOOK 2: Demon            
     Book 2 picks up Azazel's story seven years after he lost his wife, Sarah, in the big Nephilim attack that ended book 1. According to an ancient prophecy, Azazel will mate with the demon, Lilith, and rule over Hell. In order to prevent that prophecy from coming true, Azazel is determined to put an end to Lilith once and for all, but not until he learns all of her secrets. Lilith has gone through numerous human corporeal identities through the ages. Currently, she is living as Rachel Fitzpatrick, a woman who believes herself to be human and who has only fleeting memories of her past. Unfortunately for Rachel, Azazel doesn't realize this when he kidnaps her. As he cruelly taunts her, sneers at her, and calls her an abomination and a whore, she has no idea what he's talking about, and you feel really sorry for her

     The plot follows the couple as Azazel drags Lilith/Rachel to the Dark City where he plans to prove to himself that the prophecy is wrong. Then, he plans to turn her over to the Truth Seekers, who will drain all of her memories through horrific physical and mental torture and then kill her. This is an extremely disturbing book, with Rachelseemingly innocent of most of the crimes she's accused ofbeing constantly humiliated, betrayed, man-handled, and, eventually, tortured nearly to death. Throughout most of the book, Azazel's behavior mirrors that of an abusive spousealways blaming the female for his own behavior and always, then, punishing her in cruel and deplorable ways. Up until the last few pages of the book, Azazel is a cold, cruel, heartless, unfeeling monster. Rachel, in turn, behaves just like a victimized, abused spouse. She allows herself to be constantly overcome by lust for Azazel, and when he finally says, "I'm sorry" she instantly and totally forgives him for betraying her, treating her like dirt, and turning her over to her torturers. The whole story line is stomach-turning and difficult to read. The book is padded with Azazel's endless, repetitive inner monologues in which he tells himself over and over and over again that the prophecy is not true, that he can resist Lilith/Rachel, that he will just bed her and then turn her over to the Truth Seekers (the torturers), and that when she's dead he'll be finally free. (By the way, none of this turns out to be true, of course.) The bedroom scenes have heavy dom-sub overtoneswith Rachel being constantly forced into a submissive role. Does this sound like a romantic relationship to you? No...not to me, either. This series is definitely on a dark, depressing, downhill path. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Demon.

            BOOK 3: Warrior            
     This book takes place several years after book 2. As the story opens, Martha (the Fallens' Seer) has a vision that Michael will bond with the Roman goddess of war, whose name is Victoria (Tory) Belona. Michael has had only one mate since he Fell, and that woman was killed two days after their bonding ceremony. That was 200 years ago, and since then he has remained celibate so that he can focus all of his energy and power on defeating Uriel and his Heavenly army. 

     The Roman goddess of war has always been born to and raised by a cold and heartless woman who usually kills her offspring when they reach the age of 25and then starts over with a new goddess. This time, however, Michael comes (unwillingly, but dutifully) to claim Tory as a bride. Let me just interrupt this plot summary to ask the author a question. Why in the world would you drop a Roman goddess into the plot of a series whose mythology is rooted entirely in Christian, biblical precepts (albeit slightly twisted)? This just seems weird to me. I realize that the plot needs a warrior woman, but why not reincarnate Joan of Arc or some other strong female from Christian history just to maintain the integrity of the world-building? 

     Tory has been imprisoned for her entire life, living behind bars in an Italian villa with only her television to provide her with an outlook on the rest of the world. She has been trained in weaponry and martial arts, but, except for a short period in a small private school, she has had no contact with people her own age. Tory is happy to escape from her pampered prison, but she plans to escape from Michael the first chance she gets. 

     Martha's vision also includes the sad prophecy that after Michael beds Tory and takes her blood, Tory will die on the battlefield on her 25th birthdayand that is just 29 days away. The battle will be between the Fallen and Uriel's heavenly army, and if both Michael and Tory are not a part of the battle, Uriel's forces will win. Michael hates the thought of taking a mate, but he is determined to do everything he can to defeat Uriel. When Michael brings Tory to Sheol, everyone there knows the prophecy, but no one tells Tory. After a few days of trying to extinguish their mutual lust for one another, Tory and Michael fall into bed, but the next morning, an unknown angel kidnaps Tory and turns her over to Beloch/Uriel in the Dark City. It's pretty easy to figure out which angel did the dirty deed, but his identity is not revealed in the story until the final battle scene.

     Michael rescues Tory from Uriel, but then they must make their way from the Dark City to the Darkness (a hellish place that is full of killer wraiths) before Michael can regain his power of flight. So...two mutually attracted people are thrown together in a dangerous situation. What do you think happens? Meanwhile, all through the story, both Tory and Michael indulge in constant angst-filled interior monologues. Michael keeps telling himself that no matter how much he wants to, he can't take Tory's blood because that would make the prophecy come true. Plus, he doesn't need herhe doesn't need any womanhe's been doing fine as a celibate for centuries and he'll be fine without her. Tory tells herself that she wants only to get away from Michael and the Fallen so that she can have a normal lifethat Michael is a cold heartless brute who could never love herand that she wishes that she didn't lust after him so much. Obviously, both are lying to themselves, trying to talk themselves out of the fact that they're falling in love.

     Once again in this series, the alpha male hero treats his heroine with disdain, humiliation, rudeness, and downright cruelty. And once again the heroine doesn't let any of that get in the way of her lust. The men are dominant in most situations, and the womenalthough they attempt some behind-the-scenes independent movesgo along the the males' program most of the time. Michael isn't quite as brutal as Azazel was in the previous book, but he's close. The world-building in this series is inventive and fresh, but the male-female relationships are positively Medieval. 

     One last nit-pick: When Michael and Tory hide out in a 1950s house while they are in the Darkness, Tory thinks to herself, "It looked like a kitchen out of the 1950s, a perfect ranch house with orange counters and avocado appliances." Guess again, Tory. Orange counters were big in the 1960s, and avocado didn't really hit the scene in appliances until the 1970s. I guess she wasn't paying much attention to the dates of all those old movies she watched on TV back at the villa. Click HERE to take a look at some kitchens from each of those decades. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Warrior.

No comments:

Post a Comment