Series: DEADGLASS TRILOGY
Plot Type: Urban Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings: Violence—4; Sensuality—4; Humor—1
Publisher and Titles:
Hearts of Fire (e-novella prequel, 6/2013)
Hearts of Darkness (7/2012)
Hearts of Shadow (5/2013)
According to an ancient Kivati prophecy, "the Crane will bring a great light. The people who lived in the land of the shadow of death all rise up and the Harbinger will lead them. Cast off your shackles oh Changers! See, oh you blind ones! Follow the Crane to destiny, for behind her lies ruin." (p. 10) The story in this novel follows this prophecy quite literally. Lucia is supposed to be the Crane in the prophecy, which is why she was selected to be Corbette's mate. Throughout the series, their story has been percolating in the background. Corbette stalks around giving orders ("Let me handle it." "I know what I'm doing."), while Lucia is expected to be a perfect lady and do whatever Corbette tells her to do. In a previous book, she rebelled against her monastic, over-controlled life and became involved with a really bad Kivati warrior who put her and the rest of the supernatural community through a horrendous experience, one that unleashed the evil Babylonian god, Kingu, into the world. The effects of that battle are still being felt.
As the novel opens, Corbette is furious that Lucia and Kai disobeyed him and took his soldiers to fight alongside humans and Drekar against Kingu and Tiamat. She refuses to apologize or back down, and when she asks to be released from their engagement, he angrily agrees. Soon, though, all of their lovers' quarrel nonsense gets shoved to the back burner because Tiamat begins her rise to power, marching with the Maidens of Ishtar to take over the Kivati stronghold. Corbette and Lucia head for the Underworld (home to Tiamat's sister) to retrieve the Scepter so that they can defeat Tiamat. The remainder of the book moves back and forth between the horrors that Tiamat is wreaking above ground and the adventures and romantic interludes between Lucia and Corbette that are going on in the Underworld. Early in the story, one of the supporting characters gives Lucia the Deadglass, "a small brass spyglass…that pulls back our preconceived notions of reality to let us see beyond the veil. It provides true wisdom, and wisdom, without throwing a single punch, can stop armies and end wars." (p. 73) The Deadglass becomes Lucia's only weapon in the Underworld.
Unfortunately, reading this novel soon feels like slogging though deep, thick mud, particularly the Underworld scenes. The couple must face a series of tests before they are allowed to pass various points, and those tests include several monsters, a wall of fire, a wall of thorns, a seemingly endless sea, blindness (for Corbette), and a lot of nakedness (for Lucia). To me it seemed as if the author just picked these "tests" out of the air, keeping her page count in mind as she did it. The final half of the book really drags. Even though there is lots of action, it all has a repetitious, been-there-done-that feel to it.
We know from the beginning how the story will end, so there is no real build-up of suspense. About two-thirds of the way through, the author places the lovers into quite a few situations that end with lots of melodramatic, metaphorical moralizing about the importance of trust and love and faith. For example, at one point, Corbette's dead girlfriend doubles up on the metaphors as she says to him, "Love is an all-or-nothing game. And if you try to halve it, to stick it where it's convenient, you will end up with nothing but sand trickling through your fingers. You will find yourself a broken shade caught by your own bitterness." Corbett responds, "A bit melodramatic—" (pp. 214-215) So…even the characters think that this preachiness is melodramatic—and it gets more and more platitudinous as the story moves along. Here's another example: "Violence will never be strong enough to hold together the threads of the universe. Violence is a brittle thing, easily made, quickly broken....There are bigger divides between the hearts of man than there are between the Lands of the Living and the Dead. Hate and violence can't bring them together….Only love….Yes. Love is the web that connects us all, god and mortal alike." (p. 288) And this pontificating just goes on and on and on.
Through most of the story, Corbette maintains his lifelong arrogance, downplaying Lucia's strength and abilities and insisting that only he knows the right thing to do. Then, when he is blinded and must rely solely on Lucia, he learns his lesson. I just wish that the Corbette's transformation hadn't been done in such an obvious, heavy-handed manner.
In the end, the good guys and gals make sacrifices, put their lives on the line, and win the day—just as we always knew they would. Corbette becomes more touchy-feely, and Lucia develops self-confidence. She also learns some shocking facts about her true genetic heritage. Kai and Zetian have their own special ending, which isn't as predictable as the rest of the plot. In the epilogue, the author leaves the door open for further stories set in this world—tales involving the next generation.
For me, the mythology has always been the weakest part of this series. The blending of the Native American shape shifters and the soul-sucking dragons might have worked. But when the Babylonian mythology got dumped into the mix, things got complicated—even convoluted, and the world-building overwhelmed the story lines. Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read an excerpt from Hearts of Chaos.
In this alternate Seattle, an outbreak of wraiths has destroyed the electrical grid, so everyone—both humans and supernaturals—must rely on steam power. And for no apparent reason, many of them wear Edwardian clothes. Even though the Native American supernaturals are all giant shape-shifting crows and raptors and the Norwegian supernaturals are all giant shape-shifting, flame-breathing dragons, the humans have no idea that they exist—at least not as book 1 begins.
Click HERE to go to Brady's map of her alternate Seattle and background information on the Drekar and the Kivati.
The third mythology in the series is Babylonian, and it is referenced just once in this novella, when, with absolutely no explanation, the Maidens of Ishtar appear as courtesans in a Drekar saloon. Why are the Norse dragons hooking up with Ancient Babylonian ladies instead of with women of their own nationality and mythology? Who knows? (Maybe they don't like blonds.)
The romance is of the shallow instant-love type that we find all too often in paranormal romances. The moment that Brand Haldor meets the gaze of Alice Corvette across a muddy Seattle street, their mutual attraction kicks into high gear. Brand is a Drekar glass blower (apparently an early, alternate version of the famous Washington State glass artist Dale Chihuly, as he dreams of creating grand blown-glass chandeliers that look like icicles). Alice is the daughter of the Kivati leader (aka the Raven Lord, an ancestor of the Kivati leader in novel 1). Their romance is built solely on physical attraction as they rhapsodize repeatedly and at great length about each other's beautiful hair, gorgeous eyes, stunning physique, etc. The story takes place over a period of a day or two, so the couple barely gets a chance to introduce themselves to one another before they are tumbling naked on the forest floor in wild passion. The climactic ending provides an alternate incarnation of the real Seattle fire of 1889, which actually destroyed much of the city.
The narrative is full of overblown, melodramatic, clichés as Brand thinks thoughts like these: "Now he knew how the poets felt. Felled by an arrow straight from Cupid's bow. Stars aligned for this moment." Alice's hand is "light as a bird's wing." In the middle of their one big sex scene, Alice says things like this: "The blood of the Great Goddess runs in my veins. I am more than a woman; I am Kivati...The elements are my handmaidens." Moments later, she muses that "her love went on and on, eternal and everlasting, stronger than the blackness inside of him aching to be filled." She has spoken briefly to him just twice, but she already is quite sure that she can cure him with her love. All in all, this is a sample of the type of writing you'll find in novel 1 of the series, so let that be a warning to you. This novella is only worth reading if you plan to go on to the main part of the series. In that case, it does serve as a nice introduction to the Drekar and the Kivati. Unfortunately for me, I read novel 1 first, and I had a tough time wading through the world-building.
Hearts of Shadow contains the full text of the prequel novella, "Hearts of Fire," which was originally available only in e-book form. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Hearts of Shadow (scroll down a bit to find the excerpt).