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Friday, January 24, 2014


Author:  Alexandra Ivy (aka Deborah Raleigh)
Plot Type:  Soul-Mate Romance (SMR) 
Ratings:  Violence-4; Sensuality-4; Humor-2-3 
Publisher and Titles:  Zebra
          "Out of Control" (.5 novella in Predatory anthology, 5/2013)
          Born in Blood (novel 112/2013)
          Blood Assassin (novel 21/2015)
          "On the Hunt" (2.5 novella in On the Hunt anthology, 8/2015)
          Blood Lust (novel 3—5/31/2016)

This ongoing post was revised and updated on 5/30/16 to include a review of Blood Lust, the third novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of all of the previous novels and novellas.

                         NOVEL 3:  Blood Lust                         

     Blessed and cursed by their hidden abilities, the Sentinels have no choice but to live, and love, on the edge of humanity…

     The Sentinel assassin, Bas, is facing the greatest challenge of his outcast existence. His young daughter, Molly, has been kidnapped. But her disappearance has brought the return of her mother, Myst, whom Bas has never forgotten–or forgiven.

     Haunted by a vision that she’s destined to create a weapon that will destroy thousands, Myst was never impulsive–until she met the irresistibly handsome Bas. But with the Brotherhood, the enemy of the high-bloods hunting for her, Myst had to stay on the run, to keep her child, and the world, safe. Now, with the most important thing in both their lives at stake, she and Bas must embark on a treacherous journey to save Molly, to confront the truth of Myst’s fate–and to face their fierce desire for one another.

     Bas Cavrilo is a wealthy and powerful witch who has always lived outside high-blood law as a mercenary and a Sentinel Assassin. In the previous novel, Bas's four-year-old daughter, Molly, was kidnapped, and Bas got himself in trouble with the Mave by kidnapping a psychic Sentinel to find Molly. Now Bas is on Valhalla's to-be-captured list, so he's hiding out in one of his well-secured hotels. As the story opens, Molly tells Bas that her mother is coming to visit, which shocks Bas because Myst—Molly's mother—disappeared on the night of her conception, returning only onceto abandon Molly on Bas's doorstop nine months later. Bas has always believed that Myst has to be a hard-hearted, uncaring person to abandon her infant child and never look back, but then Molly tells him that Myst has been talking to her telepathically throughout her entire life. His shock magnifies when Myst easily bypasses Bas's security system and walks into his living room.

     As it turns out, Myst had some very good reasons for leaving Molly with Bas, and soon Bas realizes that Myst is a great mother, that he is still madly in love with her, and that she feels the same about him. Before long, they bond over their shared stories about their terrible parents and horrible childhood experiences. The plot follows them as they sort out Myst's problems, which center on a prophecy that she will produce a weapon that will destroy the world, beginning with Valhalla. The Brotherhood gets involved as its new leader, Stella (who murdered the former leader), plans to steal that very same weapon and use it to destroy all of the high-bloods. 

     In the background the Lana/Wolfe relationship simmers along, getting closer and closer to boiling over into its own angst-filled novel, which should be coming soon. Kaede, too, will almost certainly be getting his own novel as he prepares to confront his past by traveling to the high-blood temple that was uncovered in Blood Assassin

     Although Ivy is a great story teller, she makes the clues to all of the plot mysteries so obvious that she pretty much erases all of the suspense. I recognized each clue as soon as it was introducedeven the nature of the weaponso the only "suspense" was to read through to the end to ensure that I was correct. Also, Bas makes several rookie mistakes that lead to severe injuries and plot snags that serve only to lengthen the story without adding anything of consequence to the plot. Bas is much too smart and experienced to be making these implausible TSTL mistakes.

     Regardless of these weaknesses, this is still a good story. Molly is delightfully charming and self-sufficient, and Bas makes us forget about all of his past transgressions as he keeps both Myst and Molly safe from the villainous Brotherhood. Regular readers of the series won't want to miss this one because it reveals that Molly has a very special magical talent that will certainly affect future plots. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Blood Lust

FULL DISCLOSURE: My review of Blood Lust is based on an electronic advance reading copy (ARC) of the book that I received from the publisher through NetGalley. I received no promotional or monetary rewards, and the opinions in this review are strictly my own.

    Alexandra Ivy has created a fresh and inventive world in which most of the supernatural population lives in isolation in a domed metropolis located just outside Kansas City. These supernaturals refer to themselves as high-bloods, and they call their city Valhalla. The high-blood population includes people with a variety of magical talents, including witches, healers, psychics, necromancers, telepaths, and clairvoyants. Many humans (aka norms) fear and hate the high-bloods, calling them freaks and referring to Valhalla as the Funny Farm

     The high-bloods are led by the Mave (aka Lana Mayfield), a powerful witch. Within the high-blood community, law enforcement is handled by the Sentinels, who are big, strong, handsome, alpha males with varying types of magical talents. The Sentinels are lead by their Tagos, Wolfe, and are divided into three different sects: 

> the Hunter Sentinels: They are "born with superior senses and reflexes as well as innate strength but no magic. They were made into hunters since they were easily able to 'pass' as human and were often used…to track down renegade high-bloods." (Born in Blood, p. 17)

the Guardian Sentinels: They are born with superior physical abilities plus varying types of magical talent. Their bodies are covered with magical tattoos, and they are assigned as bodyguards to high-bloods who travel outside Valhalla.

the Assassin Sentinels: This group was disbanded years ago, but a few have managed to survive. They had only one purpose: delivering death.

     Unsurprisingly, the distrust and hostility between the high-bloods and the humans percolates continually, with occasional violent flare-ups. One human group that is quite proactive is the Brotherhood, a secret society that hates the high-bloods with a passion. In general, high-bloods and humans do not intermingle, but whenever human law enforcement discovers a crime that may involve magic, they call in a high-blood to assist in solving the case. 

    If the magical crime is murder, a high-blood necromancer is called in to find the killer. In this world, necromancers are different from the traditional reanimators of other mythologies; in fact, they prefer to call themselves diviners. Most of these necromancers do not have the ability to reanimate a corpse. Instead, their talent is to delve into the mind of a newly dead person and replay the victim's final moments. 

     Not all high-bloods live under the dome, and not all of them believe in the prevailing "separate but equal" doctrine that currently maintains a steady, if uneasy, peace between the humans and the supernaturals. A few renegade high-bloods believe that they should dominate humans, and that is the case in the first novel of the series. Click HERE to read the cover article that introduces this series in the January 2014 BTS Book Reviews (page 15).

     Alexandra Ivy writes standard paranormal romances with simple, straightforward plots and insta-matic romances between impossibly handsome alpha heroes and gorgeous, feisty (but sexually submissive) heroines. Click HERE to read my reviews of Ivy's GUARDIANS OF ETERNITY series. Click HERE to read my reviews of her IMMORTAL ROGUES series.

                    .5 NOVELLA: "Out of Control"                    
     This review was originally posted as part of my review of the Predatory anthology, which also includes novellas by Nina Bangs, Dianne Duvall, and Hannah Jayne. Click HERE to go to my complete review of Predatory

FIRST PARAGRAPH: "Valhalla was the stuff of myths. Named for the home of the Norse gods, the sprawling compound was a safe house for those people too 'special' to be mainstreamed into society (a nice way of saying an orphanage for the children and adults unwanted by their families). Everyone knew that it was a home for freaks."

     This novella serves as an introduction to Ivy's new series, THE SENTINELS, which will revolve around the warriors (Sentinels) who protect people called high-bloods, who are "gifted" with special abilities. As this novella explains, "Sentinels were raised and trained by monks in mysterious arts that were never spoken of outside the monasteries. [Most were] heavily tattooed to protect them from being controlled by psychics or attacked with spells." (pp. 15-16) The high-bloods are born with various sorts of mutations that manifest themselves in talents that include psychic abilities, necromancy, spell-casting, and other magical abilities.

     In this novella, the Sentinel Nikolo (Nik) Bartrev has been shadowing Angela Locke, a young and beautiful genetics researcher who is not nearly as human as she thinks she is. Nik is certain that an escaped sociopathic high-blood named Dylan is planning to kidnap Angela, and he swears to prevent that from happening. What Nik doesn't plan on is falling head over heels in love with Angela. When Dylan shows up, Nik rescues Angela, but then loses her. The rest of the story follows Nik as he handles the situation with Dylan, laying his life on the line to save Angela

     With its mostly male Sentinel team, fragile human heroines, and lots of threatening bad guys, this series looks to be similar (at least on the surface) to Ivy's GUARDIANS OF ETERNITY as well as lots of other paranormal romance series that feature immortal warriors. Ivy always tells a good story, and this series will probably be just as successful as GoE.

                         NOVEL 1:  Born in Blood                         
     Sergeant Duncan O'Conner is one of the rare heroes in paranormal fiction who comes from a happy family, although his recent, bitter divorce does add some angst to his life. Duncan is a (seemingly) human homicide detective with the Kansas City Police Department, and he has the hots for the beautiful, but aloof, high-blood necromancer who occasionally assists on his cases. Callie Brown was abandoned in a dumpster when she was a babyrejected by her parents and taken to live in Valhalla. She lives a relatively quiet life, but feels her heartbeat quicken every time she comes in contact with Duncan. So…the scene is set for them to fall into instant lust/love when they are thrown together during the investigation of a case that involves reanimated corpses and a dangerous, power-mad true necromancer, one who plans to raise enough of the dead to build an army.

     The crime that kicks off the plot and brings the soul mates together is the murder of a beautiful exotic dancer. She is found dead in her home, but there are no injuries, no blood, and no apparent cause of deathexcept for the fact that her heart is missing from her intact chest. When Callie enters the dead woman's mind, she is shocked to find someone else therethe killer, a coldly handsome man who recognizes her and calls her by name. (Note: Pay close attention to characters' eye color and texture if you want to figure out one of the key plot elements before it is revealed on the page.) The rest of the story follows the usual two paths: the romance and the action, as Callie and Duncan follow the clues and fall deeply in lust/love along the way. About 2/3 of the way through, the plot gets a bit woo-woo when it dips into ancient Sumerian time-travel magic, but mostly, it stays grounded in the present day.

     The author tells the story in the third person voice, alternating among the perspectives of the hero, the heroine, and the villain. Although the plot has a few glitches (e.g., Callie speaking the name of a villainous witch when she's never been told the witches' name, p. 220), it's the big hole in the plot resolution that is the most serious. Without giving away a spoiler, I can just say that Callie is seriously injured near the end of the book, and when her friends figure out a way to save her, we don't get to see exactly what they do. In one paragraph, we are privy to the bare bones of their plan, and in the next paragraph, Callie is alive and well. I don't know what happened there. Either the author had a limit on the number of pages or she just didn't bother to provide the pertinent details. In any case, the scene switch is extremely abrupt and frustrating to the reader. At first, I actually thought that some pages were missing from my book.

     The lead characters are not developed much beyond their paranormal romance stereotypes of handsome, possessive alpha hero and beautiful, brave heroine, so they are not very interesting (particularly the bland heroine). Rather than long, angst-filled interior monologues, the story mainly comprises police procedural elements interwoven with sensuous love scenes. I found myself much more interested in the four high-blood supporting characters who will (I'm guessing) be the stars of ensuing books: the Mave and the Tagos (aka Wolfe), who share some simmering glances, and Fane and Serra. Fane is Callie's Guardian Sentinel and Serra is her best friend. 

     Even though this will probably be a standard paranormal fiction series, Ivy is a good story teller, so if you love alpha heroes who sweep willing heroines off their feet and straight into bed, with a bit of conflict thrown in to liven up their stories, you will probably enjoy this series.

                       NOVEL 2:  Blood Assassin                         
    In this novel, Ivy tells the love story of two high-bloods: Fane, a brusque, taciturn, lethal Sentinel and Serra Vetrov, a beautiful, curvaceous psychic. (We met Fane in the first novel when he was Callie's guardian Sentinel.) Serra sees Fane as "250 pounds of pure muscle and raw male power." Fane describes Serra as "having "glossy black hair…pale, ivory skin…lush curves...generous breasts…pale green eyes…and…lips so sensually full they gave the impression of a sex kitten." So…it's obvious that they are attracted by each other's intellectnot!

     As the story opens, Fane has decided to turn his back on Valhallaand Serraand move back to the monastery in Tibet where he spent his childhood. Although he lusts for Serra, he believes that it would be wrong to bond with her because of his dangerous Guardian Sentinel duties. Serra, of course, is furious that Fane is turning her away once again and vows to find another man, even though her lust-filled heart truly belongs to Fane. Almost immediately, Serra is bespelled by Bas Cavrilo, a wealthy and powerful witch who has always lived outside high-blood law as a mercenary and an Assassin. Bas's young daughter, Molly, has been kidnapped, and Bas needs Serra's psychic powers to find her. Bas uses a compulsion spell to force Serra to leave Valhalla and come to his office. He warns Serra that he has injected a deadly poison into her body and that if she doesn't find Molly and bring her safely home within 96 hours, he will withhold the antidote and Serra will die. By this time, Fane has tracked Serra down, and he insists on staying by her side so that he can help and protect her as they work together to find Molly. The bulk of the novel follows Fane and Serra through the ups and downs of their relationship and their investigation. Soon they have an additional problem when the kidnapper begins sending men with lethal weapons
 to ambush them

     Meanwhile, a sub-plot surfaces, one that is related to events in the early history of the high-bloods. That story line focuses on Wolfe, the Tagos (leader of the Sentinels), and Lana Mayfield, the Mave (leader of the high-bloods). Wolfe has had the hots for the Mave for decades, and now that they are off on an adventure together, his thoughts run constantly to lust (although he doesn't follow through on them in this book).

     This novel is very much a formulaic paranormal romance with its anguished lovers who stumble through frequent misunderstandings and miscommunications of their feelings for one another (especially Fane). Also a problem is the constant repetition of their physical descriptions of one another. Yeah, we get it: they're both utterly sexy and totally hot. We don't need to read dozens of nearly identical over-the-top physical descriptions in their angst-filled interior monologues. 

     Surprisingly enough, the only character who brings any originality to this book is the villain, Basone of the few who is not a stereotype. His well-developed character is much more nuanced than any of the good-guy Sentinels. In the beginning, we see him as evil and egotistical (which he is), but then we see his paternal anguish and fear for his child and learn more about his checkered history. Even though Bas has done (and continues to do) some really bad things, we begin to empathize with him. At the end of the book, something happens in Bas's life that will change it forever and will probably become part of the next novel. I wouldn't mind reading a novel about Bas's second in command, Kaede, either. Kaede is a fascinating and complex character who is frequently more interesting than the lead lovers.

     I enjoy Ivy's novels because she is usually strong on plot and action, but this novel is one of her weaker ones (except for Bas and Kaede). There are a few plot holes and a number of word usage errors that should have been caught by the editor and copyproofer, respectively. Here's the worst of the plot problems: Near the end of the book, Serra asks what happened to Anna. I can't tell you who Anna is without providing a spoiler, so I'll just say that Serra never knew anything about Anna and her problem, so how could she be asking about her? 

     If you are a fan of the series or if you love genre romances, you'll probably enjoy this book. Even though there are a few references to events that took place in book 1, you could probably read it as a stand-alone without any problem. Click HERE to go to the book's page where you can read or listen to an excerpt by clicking on either the cover art or the "Listen" icon.

                         NOVELLA 2.5:  “On the Hunt”                
     This review was originally posted as part of my review of the On the Hunt anthology, which also includes novellas by Alexandra Ivy, Rebecca Zanetti, Dianne Duvalland Hannah JayneClick HERE to read my reviews of the all of the novellas in On the Hunt. 

     Mika Tanner has loved Bailey Morrell, a beautiful Healer, since childhood. But his duty as a Sentinel, a supernatural guardian of an ancient race, clashed with her rebellious spirit. Now a dangerous new anarchist group not only threatens life as they know it—but any chance of their being together again. 

     Fun fact about Bailey and Mika: She is a dedicated, tofu-loving vegetarian, while he is a committed carnivore who requires a daily 12-ounce T-bone steak

     In the action part of the plot, Wolfe sends Mika to find Jacob Benson, a young acolyte at the monastery in Louisiana. Joseph has unexpectedly taken a car and disappeared, and the monks are certain that he is in some kind of trouble. When Mika gets to the monastery, he discovers that his former lover, Bailey, is living in a warded cottage in the swamps and that she has healed Jacob from wounds suffered in a car crash and a beating.

     Much of the story focuses on the love story, during which Mika and Bailey reunite and work out the differences that caused Bailey to leave Mika behind in Valhalla without even saying good-bye. In the action part of the story, Mika, with Wolfe's help, solves the mystery behind Jacob's disappearance, but not before Bailey is put into deadly danger by the Brotherhood, a group of humans who despise all high-bloods. It's nice to have another chance to interact with Boggs, the mysterious blind dopplegänger who turns up from time to time to help the Sentinels solve various mysteries. This time around, he warns Bailey that "One that you trust will betray you…Danger stalks you." Of course, Bailey ignores Boggs's warning, and that failure, added to her softheartedness, leads to a major TSTL moment.

     Ivy is a great story teller, and even with this straightforward plot, she does a good job at grabbing the reader's interest and sympathy. Unfortunately, the characters are rather one-dimensional, particularly the villain. In a novella format, character development tends to suffer because the plot takes up most of the space. Fans of the series will enjoy this side trip away from Valhalla to a monastery that sits in the middle of a bayou. Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read an excerpt from this novella. 

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