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Sunday, March 30, 2014



I have just updated a previous post for Anne Bishop with a review of Murder of Crowsthe second novel in her OTHERS SERIES.  

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Saturday, March 29, 2014



I have just updated a previous post for Patricia Briggs with a review of Night Broken, the eighth novel in her MERCY THOMPSON SERIES.     

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Friday, March 28, 2014


Author:  Paula Altenburg (aka Taylor Keating)

Plot Type: Post-Apocalyptic Soul Mate Romance (SMR)     
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality3; Humor—1 
Publisher and Titles:  Entangled Publishing
          The Demon's Daughter (3/2013)
          Black Widow Demon (11/2013)
          Demon Creed (e-novel, 5/2014)  

     I have finally gotten around to reading Altenburg's series, so this post includes a brief overview of the world-building followed by reviews of the first two novels. The third book (currently being advertised as an e-novel) is due in May.

     The series is set in a post-apocalyptic world 300 years after civilization has been nearly destroyed in a war between thousands of demons and twelve goddesses. The ruins of the great cities of the past are now barely visible under the shifting sands. The goddesses have fled, leaving mortal Earth in the malevolent hands of the demons. A handful of the goddesses' priestesses remain, but most of them perished at the end of the war. In the first novel, we learn the truth about the cause of that war.   

     As the series opens, it is the year 330 PD (Post-Demon Occupation), the year in which the demons set fire to the goddesses' mountain, forcing them to flee from the physical Earth. The mythology is a bit vague about the events of the first 300 years of the demon occupation. This is the only explanation provided (in book 1): "For the goddesses,…this world...provided a chance to escape [from the demons]. They came first, a dozen of them, a long time ago. They traveled the old world in its entirety, bringing life and prosperity with them, and it brought them great pleasure in return. Then the demons arrived, numbering in the thousands, to scour the world with demon fire in their hunt for the goddesses. Mortals tried to protect the goddesses from them, and fought back with fire of their own. Before they fell, they decreased demon numbers to the hundred or so that we know of today." (Demon's Daughter, chapter 2) The surviving demons are currently confined to the Earth's desert because they cannot cross the boundaries built by the Goddesses. At this point, no one knows if any of the Old World still exists outside the boundaries. For these demons, water and sunlight can be fatal, so they hide under the the dry desert sands during the day and prey on humans at night. 

     The surviving human world looks like a mash-up of Mad Max (but no motorcycles) and any Old-West film (but no horses). People travel either on foot or on hrosses (black-feathered, horse-like animals with long legs and enormous, thick-hoofed feet). The hero of book one rides a sand swift (huge, razor-tongued lizard) named Sally. Settlements are widely scattered, towns are few and far between, and travel conditions are both primitive and dangerous. No one goes out at night because that's when the demons are active. The demons are attracted to mortals, primarily women, and when they impregnate a woman, their spawn tears her apart at birth (at least that's the case in the opening novel). The demons are driven into mad blood lust at the first scent of blood, and they view the settlements and cities as their demonic playgrounds (and food supply).

     The geography of this world goes like this: the city of Freetown in the East; the Borderlands in the West (near the end of the world); the Godseekers' mountains and gold mines in the North; and the sea in the South. That's how it is explained in book 1, but book 2 presents a slightly different geography. The Godseekers are a cult of men who were favorites of the goddesses (mostly in the bedroom), and most of them are anxious for the goddesses to return to mortal Earth. 

     Women have essentially no rights in this world, and they are frequently sold as slaves or are unwilling participants in the "entertainment" industry, if you get my drift. "Women, owned by men in this world and used as they pleased, were one of three thingswives, daughters, or whores." (The Demon Creed, chapter 1)

     Characters have one-word names that pertain to their some aspect of their lives. For males, this might be their occupation (e.g., Hunter, Blade, Armor, Gauntlet), a cultural connection (e.g., Justice), an important event from their past (e.g., Siege), or the way they live their lives (e.g., Roam, Runner). Women seem to be named for their physical characteristics or for plants or trees (e.g., Raven—for her dark eyes and hair; Willow; Laurel). Some names are impossible to figure out—for example, Crevice.

            NOVEL 1:  The Demon's Daughter            
     The first novel begins with a prologue that takes place on the very day that the demons burn down the goddesses' mountain. Allia, the last goddess, is in the throes of childbirth, and she commands her priestess, Desire, to kill the child as soon as it is born. That's because the little girl's father is the Demon Lord, and Allia fears that her child will exhibit extreme demonic traits. When Desire sees that the infant is a lovely human-looking baby girl, she talks Allia into allowing her to keep the child alive. At this point in the mythology, demon spawn are always male, so Desire assumes that the baby will be completely human in nature. Just before Allia dies, she agrees that Desire can raise the child. Allia gives Desire two amulets: one with the symbol of a lightning bolt and one crafted from a stone containing all the colors of the rainbow. Allia instructs Desire that the child is to wear the rainbow amulet as a remembrance of her mother and that Desire herself is to wear the lightning bolt amulet to protect herself from the child in case she turns out to be demonic. The lightning bolt amulet has been invoked by the Demon Lord to protect its owner against demons. As soon as Desire determines that the baby is not demonic, she is to throw the lightning bolt amulet into the river so that the child's Chosen will find it and become her protector. Desire names the child Airie—a name meaning rainbows and lightning.   

     Fast forward 22 years. Hunter (ask Demon Hunter) has been summoned to Freetown by the local priestess, the villainous Mamna, who wants him to capture a female thief who has been waylaying travelers on the Goddesses' Mountain. Mamna claims that the girl is a demon spawn who must be delivered to the Demon Lord—a death sentence. Hunter suspects that Mamna isn't telling him the whole story, but he despises demons and needs the money, so he takes the job. Hunter's first demon kill was the demon spawn forced on his sister by a demon lover, followed swiftly by the death of the demon himself. Now he travels the world as a mercenary demon assassin.

     When Hunter arrives on the Goddesses' Mountain, Airie tries to rob him of his packs, and the two of them get into a fight, during which Airie uses her fire powers, thus proving to Hunter that she really is a demon spawn. After Desire forces Airie to calm down, she tries explain Airie's situation to Hunter, but before Hunter can take in the entire situation, Desire dies and the mountain implodes. Hunter grabs Airie and they escape just in the nick of time. Even though Hunter knows that Airie is half demon, she is also is a gorgeous young woman. As they journey towards Freetown, Airie saves the life of Sally, Hunter's sand swift, and rescues a dying boy on the trail. These are not the acts of a demon, so Hunter is very confused, both about what Airie is and about whether he should condemn her to certain death by delivering her to Mamna.

     The plot follows the couple as they get to know each other and fall gradually in love. Meanwhile, both Mamna and the Demon Lord have their own nefarious reasons for getting their hands on Hunter and Airie. The Godseekers also want Airie, mostly because they believe that she is the Chosen goddess who will lead them to the goddesses who fled the Earth three decades ago. They also want Hunter so that they can steal his amulet. Oh yes, Hunter is the one who found the lightning bolt amulet after Desire threw it in the river. That's why he is the Demon Hunter—because the amulet protects him from demons, and that's why fate places him on the Goddesses' Mountain at the very moment that Airie needs a new protector. The story ends with the requisite showdown scene in which Hunter puts his life on the line and Airie is forced to make a life-changing choice.

     I give the author credit for creating a fresh and inventive world with an interesting mythology and some quirky supporting characters. Unfortunately, she doesn't do quite as well with her lead lovers. The two lovers are cardboard characters who fall into the stereotypical roles of über-alpha hero and feisty but naive, virginal heroine. She even throws in a clichéd TSTL moment for Airie. The story is told in the third person voice, mostly from the viewpoints of Hunter and Airie, but also including the Demon Lord, Mamna, Blade (Hunter's best friend), and a handful of others. The most interesting and mysterious character is Scratch, the little boy that Airie rescues. Scratch never speaks, and he appears to have the magical ability to appear and disappear at will. Who (or what) is he? Hunter suspects demonic influence, but the boy always steps in to save them, never to harm them. It will be interesting to see how Scratch's story plays out. The Black Widow Demon will tell Blade's story, and I'm hoping that the author's characterization skills get better in that book. Just one more nit-pick: What's with the weird hat-over-face cover art? Click HERE to read an excerpt from The Demon's Daughter.  

            NOVEL 2: Black Widow Demon            
     This novel takes place three months after the demons are banished from the mortal world, and the world-building makes a sharp U-turn as we learn that demon spawn born to human mothers are not always the monstrous mutations that were depicted in the first novel. Also, contrary to the mythology of the first book, the spawn are not always male and they don't always kill their mothers during the birth process. In fact, the plot of the second book focuses on a small group of spawn, both male and female, who look and act like humans but who have various demonic talents. As this book opens, new demon-related problems are now arising, even though the demons have been banished.   

     The book's hero is Blade, best friend of the hero of book 1. Blade has turned his back on his former life in Freetown and is making his way to the Goldseeker Mountains: "Deep within these mountains was a boundary that the goddesses had created to keep demons confined to the desert regions. He would test that boundary and see what, if anything  lay beyondif any of the Old World remained or if it had been completely decimated during the Demon Occupation more than 300 years earlier." (p. 2) Blade is determined to open a new chapter in his life: "The past was behind him. He was looking ahead. He was no longer a saloonkeeper, an assassin, or a cripple. He was a far cry from the helpless, abused boy he'd once been long ago. He would be none of those things again." (p. 2) 

     When Blade reaches the settlement of Goldrush, he witnesses a Godseeker named Justice attempting to burn his step-daughter at the stake—accusing her of being a demon spawn who tried to tempt him sexually. Justice hates all immortals, both demons and goddesses. He especially hated the goddess who kept him as her sexual "pet," and that hatred has grown to include all women. Raven is definitely a spawn, but she hasn't tried to tempt anyone. She is a beautiful young woman who attracts unwelcome male attention, and her step-father has tried, but failed, to seduce her. In self-defense, Raven stabbed Justice in the thigh. Now he is determined to prove to the citizens of his town that she is a spawn by showing that fire won't harm her. Then he plans to take custody of her and do with her whatever he wants. Raven is determined that will never happen.

     Blade is drawn immediately to Raven (in one of those paranormal romance soul-mate moments), and he immediately begins concocting a plan to free her. Raven, though, suddenly breaks away from her constraints and escapes into the mountains. Blade follows her to be sure that she is O.K., and in gratitude for his help, Raven gives him a demonic amulet that belonged to her late mother (who was murdered by Justice). They agree to travel together until Raven can find a safe refuge. The rest of the story follows the couple as they run, hide, and fight their way to their eventual HEA, with Justice always on their trail. As they travel on their dangerous journey, Blade and Raven try to understand one another, but instead find themselves alternating between passionate sexual episodes immediately followed by lengthy periods of doubt and misunderstanding—in other words, a typical paranormal romance.    

     One of Raven's demonic talents is the ability to "read" the minds of others to ascertain their desires, intentions, fears, and memories, and during the early chapters, Raven is able to read most of Blade's memories and thoughts: "Fractured memories came through to her now, whispers of things of which he didn't speak….Raven knew that while he did not blame her for being half demon, or even seem to hold it against her, he would never forget it. It tangled at the edge of his consciousness with the other memories she knew haunted him." (chapter 9) Raven is able to divine exactly what Blade is looking for in life and is able to read all of his memories about his earlier life, right down to the smallest details, like "seeing" the name of his former lover, Ruby, the woman in Freetown to whom he gave his saloon when he left town. Later, though, Raven is frequently (and implausibly) unable to read Blade's emotions. Sometimes she can, but other times (when the author needs to create a heartrending emotional scene), she can't. At one point, late in the story, Raven agonizes: "He wanted more, but she did not know what it was, only that it was something she could not give him." (p. 252) At another point, she muses, "She could not tell what he thought or how he felt…" (p. 297) The instability of Raven's mind-reading with Blade occurs suddenly and without explanation—creating a huge flaw in the plotting.

     Raven also has the ability (or curse) to go into the Demons' boundary (which is different from the goddesses' boundary) at times of high stress, and if she is touching Blade at the time, he goes along with her. There, they have several confrontations with Raven's father, who wants to use Raven for his own nefarious purposes. Raven has one other powerful demonic talent: she can burst into flame.

     Mortal enemies are not the only dangers that Blade and Raven face. Wild animals called Wolvens (a cross between wolves and mountain lions) roam the mountains. Then there are other spawn, some who have developed into creatures with evil demonic tendencies. 

     We also meet Creed, Raven's childhood protector, who is training for a career as a Godseeker assassin. The Godseekers' training headquarters is the Temple of Immortal Right, located deep in the Godseeker Mountains near the goddesses' boundary. Creed plays a key role in the lovers' escape, and he is slated to be the hero of the third novel. 

     This book sets up the series for more spawns as heroes/heroines. As one Spawn explains: "All my life I thought I was alone in the world. Then three months ago [when the demons were banished], everything changed. I began picking up the presence of others like me, so I set out to find them. Most seem to blend in well enough with their communities and don't have any unusual abilities. They might not even know what they are. But some of us don't blend in at all. I thought there might be safety in numbers so I've been approaching a few who have obvious talents….I discovered that some of them don't need protection. Or want it. And that others are banding together, but not always for safety." (p. 99)

     This is a typical paranormal soul-mate romance that proceeds down the usual rocky road to its inevitable HEA. The one-dimensional cardboard villain is evil through and through, with no redeeming characteristics whatsoever, which makes him a predictable, boring loser. With its frontier setting, male-dominated culture, and fervent religious zealousness, the plot reaches back to the Salem witch trials for its roots. The biggest hole in this plot is, as I mentioned earlier, the huge discrepancy in Raven's mind-reading talents. It would have worked if Raven had NEVER been able to read Blade's mind, simply because he was her soul mate. That is a plot device frequently used in other soul-mate series. But to allow her to see everything about Blade's past and to read his thoughts freely and then, all of a sudden, to have her lose that ability—that's just a case of sloppy plotting. And one last point: What's with the title? In slang usage, a black widow is a woman who kills her husband, which never happens in this book. There is no widow—not black, white, human, or demon—in this novel. 

     Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read an excerpt from Black Widow Demon.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Robert Kirkman & Jay Bonansinga: "The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor: Part Two"

Title:  The Fall of the Governor: Part Two        
Plot Type:  Post-Apocalyptic Zombie Horror  
Publisher:  Thomas Dunne Books (hardback, e-book, and audiobook, 3/2014) (paperback, 10/2014)  

     This novel is the fourth book in a lopsided "trilogy." Click HERE to read my review of The Road to Woodbury. Click HERE to read my review of The Rise of the Governor. Click HERE to read my review of The Fall of the Governor: Part One. 

     Although this novel is entitled The Fall of the Governor, it could be subtitled, The Slow and Painful Rise of Lilly Caul and Bob Stookey. When we last saw the Governor (aka Philip Blake), he had been sliced and diced (and burned and beaten) to within an inch of his life by a vengeful Michonne. As this final chapter in his life begins, two Woodbury residents step up and prove their loyalty to him and his cause. First, Bob sobers up and takes over the Governor's medical care, nursing him back to health (in a post-apocalyptic sort of 
way)quite an achievement for an alcoholic with only a few weeks of experience as an Army medic. Then, Lilly finds herself moving into a temporary leadership position, making decisions and keeping Woodbury running while the Governor is incommunicado.

     For the first week after being attacked, the Governor is completely unconscious, so Lilly, with Austin at her side, makes sure that the walls are protected and that rumors are kept under control so that people remain calm. Unfortunately for Lilly and the rest of the mostly doomed citizens of Woodbury, the Governor eventually wakes up from his coma brimming with an inner rage that will not be quelled until everyone in Rick Grimes' prison is dead, dead, dead.

     Most of the story follows the Governor's slow recovery and Lilly's transformation into one of his most loyal supporters. Even when she occasionally has fleeting moments of fear and doubt, she listens to and goes along with every brutal command and desperate lie that the Governor tells about the prison people. In the end, she goes off to battle filled with her own rage, believing the Governor's warning that those monsters who attacked him will be coming for the rest of them.

The Governor and the tank: in the
graphic novel and on the TV show
     This is the third time that I've gone through the prison showdown scene: once in the graphic novel, once on the TV show, and now here in this novel, and each time it somehow seems even more stomach-churningly horrific. The worst, for me, was the graphic novel cell that showed Lori and the baby getting shot through and through, but in this book, that scene is stretched out to encompass the deep horror and regret that overwhelm Lilly's emotions when she realizes that she has allowed the Governor to manipulate her into performing a series of terrible, mind-searing acts that will haunt her forever. That scene is made even more poignant by the fact that we learned at the end of the previous book that Lilly is pregnant.

     Unlike the previous book, which meandered along several plot lines, most of the story lines in this novel are directly connected to the assault on the prisonand its tragic aftereffects. Mostly, we watch the downfall of Philip Blake and the ascent of Lilly Caul, each journey filled with emotion, pain, and heartbreak (and in Philip's case, insanity). it's also nice to watch Bob regain some dignity as he remains sober throughout the story and finally seems to have gotten a grip on his life after so many booze-filled months.

     Throughout most of the book (just as in the previous novels), the authors repeatedly pad the story with repetitive graphic depictions of the grisly, gory deaths of various Woodbury citizens as well as a series of equally repetitive graphic descriptions of assorted walkers in all their gruesome glory. Here's just one very brief example: "His arms and torso…appear completely scourged, eviscerated to shreds by many sets of rotting teeth. Cords of bloody gristle and sinew dangle from his gashed midsection. A slimy white bone fragment pokes through his tattered pant leg." (p. 72) Yes, yes, we are quite familiar with the fact that zombies are rotting, stinking, blackened corpses who moan a lot and snap their jaws constantly. How many times do we need to be reminded?not this many!

     After the constant zombie battles and the suspense and drama of the prison confrontation, the final chapters feel like a relaxing vacation as the survivors pick up the pieces and begin to build a new Woodbury. These chapters take Lilly's story beyond the scope of the graphic novel, allowing us to get a brief look at her new role in Woodbury as the survivors take a deep breath and begin to create a very different town.

     If you are a fan of the graphic novels and/or if you enjoyed the first three novels of this "trilogy," you won't want to miss reading this final (?) adventure. Warning to TV fans: The books and graphic novels do not follow the same story lines as the TV show. Also, characters meet different fates and some of the TV characters don't even exist in the print world of The Walking Dead.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014



I have just updated a previous post for Amanda Ashley with a review of Night's Promise, the sixth novel in her CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT SERIES.

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Monday, March 24, 2014



I have just updated a previous post for Leigh Evans with a review of The Problem with Pomises, the third novel in her MYSTWALKER SERIES.

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Author:  Lynn Viehl
Plot Type:  Steampunk Romance      
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality4; Humor—3 
Publisher and Titles:  Pocket
       "Three Gifts" (free on-line prequel story, 12/2013)
       Disenchanted & Co. (novel, 1/2014; previously published in two separate e-novellas: "Her Ladyship's Curse" [8/2013] and "His Lordship Possessed" [10/2013])
       "My Lord Mayhem" (free on-line story [pdf], 7/2013)
       The Clockwork Wolf (novel, 2/2014)

     The exact time setting for the series is uncertain, but social and cultural clues point towards the late nineteenth century. In this alternate world, England was victorious in the American Revolutionary War, which is here called the Great Uprising.  "When the revolution had been crushed, all the survivors who refused to take an oath of loyalty to the Crown had been marched out of Valley Forge into the snows and made to dig their own graves before they'd been shot and shoved into them." ("Her Ladyship's Curse," Chapter 7) The area that we call the U.S. has been named the Provincial Union of Victorianashortened to Torianaand its citizens are called Torians. The series is set on the West Coast in the city of Rumsen (a city equivalent to San Francisco).

     "Before the gold rush days had brought every scrabbler [farmer] and digger [miner] from the eastern provinces to the west coast, Rumsen had belonged to the Fleers [former revolutionaries], who had crossed the plains rather than give in to Church and state….All trace of the Fleers had been wiped away by the Occupancy, which had established Rumsen as a troop station and trading post, although it really was more of a dumping ground for the misfits and malcontents in the service. The Crown began sending over the deserters, upstarts, and failures from the ranks; if they survived the trek through native lands, they remained in Rumsen on permanent assignment." ("Her Ladyship's Curse," Chapter 1)

     In Rumsen, members of high society (aka the ton, blue-bloods) live on the Hill, a collection of 400 mansions built on the grounds of an old vineyard. The rest of the population lives among the streets, alleys, and tunnels of Rumsen. This world is an amalgam of 19th-century societal customs and steampunk gadgetry. Several everyday conveniences are given a fancifully “modern” touch.  For example, restaurants deliver food to people's homes, but the deliveries are made in buckets sent through the tunnel system. Other tunnels are used for trash and garbage disposal. Still others are used to deliver letters and packages.

     Magic is a big part of Torian life. Many types of mages practice their magical arts, for example, "Heartmages hawking love potions and marriage spells, birthmages who chanted over new mothers and infants, even painmages who…cure headaches, sore backs and the like." ("Her Ladyship's Curse," chapter 9) This mythology includes the netherside, the realm of all things mystical. Netherside is the spirit world that is the source of magical power, a separate realm that is either nearby or attached to the human realm. It can be seem by mages (magic practitioners) but not by mundane humans.

     Each novel and novella includes an extensive "Torian Glossary" of essenaial terms needed to understand the culture and history of this world. As I write this post, Viehl has not yet decided how many novels will be included in the series. It may be a trilogy, or it may be five.

            STORY 1:  "Three Gifts"                  
     This free, on-line short story is a light and fluffy introduction to Kit Kittredge, a feisty young woman who owns her own home and business in Rumsen. On Christmas Eve, a cleric dressed as Santa Claus appears in Kit's living room and pays her to deliver three gifts before midnight to three of her friends (or in the case of the third one, frenemy):       

      > Reginald P. Docket: a gruff old mechanic who lives in the basement of her building (aka the Dungeon)
      > Carina (Rina) Eagle: Kit’s best friend and owner of the Eagle’s Nest, the most popular brothel in Rumsen
      > Lord Lucien Dredmore: Kit's nemesis and wannabe lover; a death mage (magic practitioner who is allowed to kill)    

     Kit is surprised to discover that Police Inspector Thomas Doyle is driving her carri (carriage) from house to house as she makes her deliveries. As the series progresses, Tommy becomes the third point of the series love triangle, with Kit as the prize and Dredmore as Tommy's rival. This short story provides a nice introduction to the series heroine and to four of the most important supporting characters. 

            NOVEL 1:  Disenchanted & Co.                
     This novel was originally published as two separate e-books: "Her Ladyship's Curse" and "His Lordship Possessed." In the novel, these are the titles for Part 1 and Part 2. 

     Charmian (Kit) Kittredge is a private investigator who does not believe in magic. In fact, the name of her business is Disenchanted & Co. She is a rarity in Torian society: an independent woman who owns property, runs her own business, and depends on no man to protect her. Because of her life style, she is looked down upon by almost everyone at every level of Torian society. Although most Torians believe ardently in magic, Kit is a staunch and outspoken unbeliever who is certain that every event blamed on magic can be explained away by reality-based facts. Much to Kit's disgust, her clients have spread the word that she has the ability to dispel magic. Clients frequently ask Kit to undo magical spells and curses, but Kit always determines that the clients' problems are related to real-world causes rather than to magic. She's a Sherlock Holmes-type detective in a pro-magic world, always searching for obscure mundane clues that will debunk magical claims.

     As Part 1 begins, Kit has a new client: Lady Diana Walsh, who claims that her husband's first wife has put a curse on her. She keeps waking up with nasty words (e.g., greedy slut) carved on various parts of her body but she never feels any pain from the carving and the words have generally disappeared 24 hours later when she next awakens. Kit is sure that someone is trying to scare Lady Walsh, so she pretends to be Lady Walsh's long-lost cousin so that she can get into the house and examine the Lady's bedroom. When Kit finds evidence that someone has been hiding under the Lady's bed, she leaves the Lady to tell her husband what is going on, certain that the situation is well in hand. Almost immediately, bad things begin to happen in Kit's life: The police come to her home accusing her of creating a disturbance at the Walsh's home; snuffmages (mercenary sorcerer assassins) attack her on the street; and she is heavily drugged while she is in the police station after the mage attack.

     About a quarter of the way into the story, Kit removes an heirloom pendant from around her neck. Her long-dead parents gave Kit the pendant and told her always to wear it for protection. The man who appears when the pendant is removed is a ghost who tells Kit that he is her grandfather and that his name is Harry White. One of the key story threads in the novel deals with the real truth about Harry. Kit has a tangled genetic heritage, and Harry is the catalyst for her search for the truth about her past.

     Soon, Kit's nemesis, Lucien Dredmore, the former Lord Travallian, involves himself in the case and in her life. Dredmore is a "mentalist, deathmage, and current acknowledged Grand Master of the Dark Arts in the whole of Toriana." ("Her Ladyship's Curse," Chapter 4) He is sort of like James Bond in that he has a license to kill. Dredmore is a handsome loner who has connections at every level of society, and he has made no secret of the fact that he wants Kit and plans to have herno matter how much she protests. He has gone so far as to have one of his minions grab her from the street and tie her up, but so far she has always escaped his clutches. Kit despises Dredmore for his highhanded actions, but she is also mightily attracted to him physically. Part 1 ends as Dredmore locks Kit into a room in his mansion after a passionate scene of lust. Will Kit escape? Who is trying to kill her? Whose side is Inspector Doyle on? What kind of nefarious situation is Lord Walsh involved in?    

     Part 1 is  necessary stuffed with world-building, and to make that less confusing, I recommend that you skim through the glossary before beginning your reading.  Kit's sudden submission to Dredmore at the very end made me feel a bit squirmy. Here is this independent young woman who is determined to make her own way in a man's world, and she gives in to her primary nemesis with barely any resistance. That scene made me lose some of the respect I had built for her based on her words and actions in the earlier chapters. Click HERE to read an excerpt from the chapter 1 of Part 1. Click HERE to read a second excerpt from chapter 1.

     In Part 2, we get the answers to many questions posed in Part 1. Kit finally learns the truth about her heritage and her relationship to magic, and by the end she even learns the truth about her ghostly grandfather. The plot follows Kit through some dark times at the hands of Lord Walsh and his minions as she is arrested and charged with practicing magic without a license, is evicted from her office building, and finds her home destroyed by vandals. Kit continues to investigate, sometimes alone and sometimes with Dredmore, trying to figure out exactly why Lord Walsh hates and fears her so much that he is determined to do away with her completely. I'm not going to try to summarize the complicated plot because it would give away spoilers. I'll just say that both Kit and Dredmore put their lives on the line for each other as the story proceeds toward its slam-bang, woo-woo climax. In those final scenes, the true villains are unveiled, her grandfather's true identity is revealed, and Kit learns the truth about her magical genetics. References are made to the "Great War," which in our reality was World War I (1914-1917), but in this world, its time period is unclear. This part of the novel adds some new elements to the world-building, but you'll have to read it for yourself because I don't give spoilers. 

     The plot of Part 2 is exceedingly complicated, and it relies on the readers' knowledge of the complex mythology for the series. The new aspects of the world-building are unveiled quickly in this section as events more swiftly along to their final resolution. The relationship between Kit and Dredmore is a bit more palatable at this point, particularly after Kit learns some deeply personal information about his earlier life. 

     Viehl has created an inventive world here, with a complex and detailed mythology (thank heavens for the extensive glossary!) and a cast of quirky characters who add humor and depth to the plots. Unfortunately, the villains are one-note evildoers with no redeeming characteristics, so they are not very interesting. All in all, this is turning out to be another solid series for Viehl, and I'm looking forward to the next stories and novels. Click HERE to read an excerpt from the fourth chapter of Part 2, "His Lordship Possessed." Click HERE for a second excerpt, this time from the end of chapter 7 and the beginning of chapter 8.

            STORY 2:  "My Lord Mayhem"              
     The soul-mate lovers in this free, on-line story are Laurana Walsh (whom we met in the first novel) and Lord Percival Fenwick. Laurana is a tall, 32-year-old, no-nonsense spinster who has spent her life doing good worksor at least that's what she tells everyone that she is doing. Laurana was once nearly engaged to Percival, but she learned some information from her mother's dying words that forced her to break off their relationship without explanation.  

     One night, when Laurana accompanies her father to a ball, the party guests are suddenly terrorized by a masked marauder who claims to be Lord Mayhem, the notorious Robin Hood-like figure who breaks into the homes of the rich and steals their riches for distribution to the poor. Laurana, however, realizes that this man is not the real Lord Mayhem for reasons that are not divulged until later in the story.

     As it turns out, Laurana has a magical talent that allows her to move around at night in a state of near invisibility. When she sneaks out to investigate the mystery of the true identity of the fake Lord Mayhem, she is shocked to discover that Percy is deeply involved. Needless to say, after a bit of cloak and dagger adventure, she and Percy achieve their     HEA.

     Events in this story take place simultaneously with events in Part 1 of Disenchantment & Co. In fact, in one scene (Kit's second visit to the Walsh's home) the dialogue at the dinner table is identical.    

     This story is more of a romance than an urban fantasy, although the action plot is more important than is usual in a paranormal romance. Our first meeting with Laurana in the previous novel was quite brief, so it's nice to see her in a situation that provides more depth to her character. Manybut not allof the twists and turns are relatively predictable, but that doesn't really spoil the story. 

            NOVEL 2:  The Clockwork Wolf              
     As the story opens, Kit is surprised when Dredmore asks for her assistance in solving the mystery surrounding the death of the husband of one of Kit's bitter enemies: Lady Eugenia Bestly. Eugenia is a prim and proper high-society woman who made life absolutely miserable for Kit when she first came to Rumsen eight years ago after her parents died. At that time, Kit was a poor seventeen-year-old who arrived with nothing more than the clothes on her back. Eugenia took it upon herself to smear Kit's name, get her fired, and blackball her among other possible employerseventually reducing her to "sleeping on park benches and digging through rubbish cans for scraps so I wouldn't starve." (chapter 2) Kit,  though, is inherently compassionate and forgiving, so she reluctantly takes the case, although Eugenia's story is extremely strange and shocking. She claims that before her husband died, he turned into a wolfman who raped her and then ran off and murdered several men in a city park. Eugenia believes that he was under some sort of magical spell, and she wants Kit to get to the bottom of the mystery.

     When more and more wolfmen begin attacking people all over Rumsenraping and biting the ladies and killing the menKit teams up with Dredmore and Chief Inspector Tommy Doyle, gathering clues and poking into dark magical corners. Then, Kit herself is attacked by two of the creatures, managing to get away only with assistance from her ghostly partner (and grandfather), Harry. The next time they attack her, one of the wolfmen bites her. Soon, it is evident that the wolfmen's master and creator is specifically targeting Kit and that he has a horrifying reason for having his monsters attack women. This novel continues the Aramanthan story line that began in Part 1 of Disenchanted & Co., but with several new magical twists.

     World-building for the native population of Toriana was introduced in the first novel, but the natives were not part of the plot. In The Clockwork Wolfman, Viehl delves deeper into that mythology as several natives play key roles in the story. When a native shaman wearing a blue-feathered cape rescues Kit from yet another wolfman attack, she realizes that there is a direct connection between the wolfmen and the natives. In this alternative world, the natives live just as they did in the real 19th century: under relatively primitive conditions and with little tolerance from the white population, who regard them as savages. As the suspense builds and the attacks escalate, it's up to Kit to save the city by resolving the conflict between the wolfmen's master and the natives' chief shaman. In this novel, Kit suffers even more physical injuries than usual: she is bitten twiceby a wolfman and a mechanical rat, man-handled and/or beaten by several different assailants, and abducted first by the natives and then by the primary villain. 

     Meanwhile, Kit has another conflict to resolvethis time, a romantic one. Both Dredmore and Tommy Doyle are vying for her affections, and she has strong feelings (both lustful and loving) for both of them. Although both are asking for a permanent commitment, Kit isn't looking for marriage: "Not that I wanted a husband; they always expected wives to clean and cook and carry children. On the list of things I disliked immensely, those three ranked in the top ten." (chapter 3) Who will Kit chooseif she even deigns to make a choice?

     This plot doesn't have as many twists and turns as the first novel, but it does have plenty of suspense and action. Unfortunately, that action results in many women suffering great harm at the hands of some villainous men, and that is always a turn-off for me.  I'm looking forward to the next installment and hoping that Kit will maintain her independence and continue her fight for justice and equality in this male-centric world.

     Two new developments will no doubt be turning up in subsequent stories: the fact that Kit discovers that she isn't the only spirit-born woman in Rumsen, and the shocking realization that some newborn babies are being born with strange genetic idiosyncrasies. Click HERE to read the first excerpt from that book. Click HERE to read the second.