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Monday, February 21, 2011

Nicole Peeler: JANE TRUE

Author: Nicole Peeler
Plot Type: CH
Ratings: V4; S4; H3
Publisher and Titles: Orbit
     Tempest Rising (11/2009)
     Tracking the Tempest (7/2010)
     Tempest's Legacy (1/2011)
     Eye of the Tempest (8/2011)
     Tempest's Fury (6/2012)
     Tempest Reborn (2013) FINAL BOOK
     "Something Wikkid This Way Comes" (e-book novella set in JANE TRUE world)
     "The Inside Man" (story set in JANE TRUE world, in Carniepunk anthology)  
     This post was revised and updated on 9/6/13 to include a review of Tempest Reborn, the sixth and FINAL book in this series. That review appears first, followed by reviews of the first five books and a related e-book novella:
          BOOK 6:  Tempest Reborn          
     Final books are always problematic for authors and readers alike, and this one is no exception. As the book begins, Jane is in a grief-fueled catatonic state after Blondie's death and Anyan's disappearance into the White Dragon. When she finally regains consciousness, she and Ryu (who is now a platonic friend) head back home to Rockabill to gather together Jane's friends and allies and come up with a plan to get Anyan back. 

     As the author sets Jane up to save her lover from his inside-the-dragon fate, she adds yet another deus ex machina to the story line. The first external plot device was the Creaturethe all-powerful magical being from book 5 who now speaks to Jane in her head and lends her his considerable powers when she needs them. Now, in this book, we have the anthropomorphic Universe pontificating through the voice of Jane's human friend, Grizzie. The Universe introduces itself like this: "I am all, my child. I am everything....forces must be balanced....Power must be aligned, or all will fall." (p. 47) Then, the Universe teleports Jane to a Buddhist monk (who may be the Buddha himself), and the monk, in turn, refers them to an ancient Greek poem written by Theophrastus about alchemy

     That poem is supposed to contain allegorical clues that will lead them to a solution for taking down the Red and White Dragons without killing Anyan in the process. At one point, Caleb (who is translating and interpreting the poem) says, "This poem is a hot mess of nonsense," and I have to agree with him. Theophrastus is writing about alchemy, using metaphorical White and Red Dragons to make his points, so Jane and her friends must slog through many repetitive scenes in which they attempt to figure out how to apply Theophrastus' enigmatic figurative language to their Dragon problem. Just to give you a flavor for the inscrutability of the poem, here's one verse:       

       "Though not a stone, it yet is made a stone
       From metal, having three hypostases,
       For which the stone is prized and widely known;
       Yet all the ignorant search everywhere
       As though the prize were not close by at hand.
       Deprived of honor yet the stone is found
       To have within a sacred mystery,
       A treasure hidden and yet free to all." (p. 95)   

     The plot follows Jane and her crew as they try to figure out how to apply Theophrastus' poem to their situation. As the story advances, they devise and carry out various strategies, losing a few unfortunate friends and allies in the process.

     The theme of the book is teamwork. Although Jane is supposed to be "the champion," she knows that if she didn't have her allies, she would have no chance of winning this huge battle. Unfortunately, the Alfar and the U.S. government don't understand that, and both want Jane under their control and on their team because they view her as a source of power.

     Sadly, the whole Universe/Greek poem/alchemy plot line just doesn't work. Every time Jane and her friends get into their repetitious analyses of verses of the poem, the story grinds to a halt. I found myself paging past those scenes to get back to the action. Each verse of the poem is included in the book (sometimes multiple times), and the "literary" discussions are frequently long and drawn out. The concept of the Universe as an advice-giving, paternalistic voice feels forced and very weird. Late in the book, we are given to believe that the Universe has some kind of connection with a person from Jane's past, but that doesn't make sense either.

     Another weakness is that for the first time, the author doesn't provide much interaction between Jane and her usual cast of eccentric supporting characters. Mostly, they just hang around in the background, assist in some battles, and recover from their wounds. Unlike past books, there are few scenes in which they interact in any lengthy or meaningful way with Jane.

     All in all, I'd give this book a C, but if you've been reading the series, it's still a must-read just to get the final story on Jane's romance with Anyan and her life in general. If you haven't read the previous books, this isn't the place to begin because of the many, many references to past events. 

     This is a world filled with an eclectic assortment of supernaturals, including vampires, various types of shape shifters, and many types of fae. They all live under the radar—hiding their true natures from the humans of the world. Many hold positions of power in human governments so they can ensure that any accidental sightings can be quickly covered up
     The series heroine is Jane True, who lives in small-town coastal Maine with her father. Her mother disappeared years ago when Jane was a childnever to be heard from again. Jane feels like a pariah because of her mother's strange behavior and because of her own connection with the drowning of her boyfriend several years ago. In book 1, Jane learns the truth about her genetic heritage. She is a halfling with a human father and a selkie mother. The series follows Jane on a series of dangerous adventures as she interacts with the haughty members of the Alfar—the pure-blood supernaturals who like to think that they rule the supernatural world. The Alfar are among the strongest supernaturals because they can use all four of the elements: fire, air, earth, and water. The Alfar don't like halflings, and they really don't like Jane because she has so much power and so little respect for them.
     Some reviewers are calling this series urban fantasy, but I don't agree.  Start with the chick-lit (CH) cover art (in which Jane looks like a little-girl manga character). Then, add the multiple fashion references; the girl friends; Jane's overly cutesy slang; and her flippant, yet immature, behavior with her men. Voila! Definitely chick lit.
       BOOK 1:  Tempest Rising        
     In Tempest Rising, Jane learns that her mother was a selkie, not a human, and that Jane's own strange attraction to the ocean is caused by her supernatural genetic heritage. After Jane finds a murder victim in the ocean, she meets Ryu, a vampire who is investigating that murder and the murders of several other half-human supernaturals. Love/lust blossoms, and the two seem to be headed for an HEA, but maybe not. Other supporting characters include Anyan, a Barghest whom Jane knows, at first, only in big-doggie form; Nell, a Gnome who becomes Jane's mentor; and Trill, a  protective Kelpie. Jane also learns that a number of her hometown acquaintances are supernaturals. The story arc of the series begins in book 1 as a number of female halflings disappear and Jane seems to be a target of an unknown villain
       BOOK 2:  Tracking the Tempest        
     In Tracking the Tempest, Jane and Ryu head for the Compound, the royal court for the Alfarsthe top dogs of the supernatural world (at least in their own minds). There, Jane meets the villain who will go after her in succeeding books: Jarl, brother of the king. Jarl is a pureblood who hates halflings like Jane. He sends his supernatural thugs after her and she's lucky to escape with her life, mainly because Anyan comes to her rescue. Jane also learns that all halflings are not peace-loving, humane beings like herself when one is accused of the gruesome murders of other supernaturals

       BOOK 3:  Tempest's Legacy        
     In Tempest's Legacy, more halflings are disappearing and some have been murdered, so Jane travels with Ryu and Anyan to the Borderlands (i.e., Chicago) to gather more information. Just before their trip, Jane learns some sad information about her mother. When one of Jane's close friends disappears, the team broadens their investigation, and Jane eventually does what every not-too-bright paranormal fiction heroine does at least once in her life: she goes off alone because she  is absolutely sure that she can catch the killers on her own, without the help of her well-trained team of big, strong, supernatural warriors. Right...that seems reasonablenot! It reminds me of that scene in Evil Dead, the Musical when ditzy Cheryl heads out into the woods alone at night. Here's her line: "Now, Mother always said, that whenever you hear a strange, frightening, and potentially life-threatening chant coming from the dark woods...that there's only one thing you can do: Not wake the others and go investigate it alone." It's a very funny line as well as being a cliché that we've seen a thousand times. I guess Jane never saw any of the Freddie Krueger movies either

     Jane's immaturity and whininess are at peak levels throughout Tempest's Legacy. I read the first two books some time ago, and I don't remember being so annoyed with Jane when I read them. This time, though, I had a hard time reading through to the end. Throughout the book, Jane switches back and forth from snippy adolescent to "terrible-two-year-old" tantrum thrower to weepy teenager (buckets of tears)sometimes on the same page. Jane's treatment of both Ryu and Anyan borders on mid-adolescent; neither is really a true adult relationship. This woman is supposed to be 26 years old, but she definitely doesn't have the mature, strong, independent attitude that I expect in my paranormal heroines—even in CH series. I was willing to forgive some of her juvenile behavior in the early books because, after all, Jane is from tiny Rockabill, Maine, and she did just learn about her supernatural heritage, but, come on—this is the third book, so let's evolve, and grow a backbone (and a brain)! 

      BOOK 4:  Eye of the Tempest        
     As Eye of the Tempest opens, Jane and Anyan are a romantic couple now, and all they want to do is consummate their relationship. Unfortunately, Phaedra and her motley crew of supernatural thugs are after something in Jane's hometown of Rockabill, and they'll stop at nothing to get it, so Jane's lust gets put on the back burner for awhile longer. Jane and her friends soon learn that the Alfar are trying to open four mythical locks so that they can release a long-imprisoned monster who will give them his power and destroy the entire East Coast as he does it. The mysterious Blondie (see the cover art) turns up again, telling Jane that a huge supernatural war is coming and that Jane and her allies must unlock the locks so that they can be the ones who get the monster's power. Blondie is an interesting character. In the mythology of this world, she's one of the original elementals, and her tattoos tell her life story through the millenniums of her existence. Blondie is also a switch hitter (I'm not talking about baseball here), and she and Jane develop a mini-relationship that, at times, threatens to eclipse her attraction to Anyan. Anyan, by the way, is out of the picture for much of the book for reasons that will become clear early on in the story (but which I won't describe here).

     At the end, there's a climactic scene with a mensch of a monster and some mystical visionskind of new-agey and a bit silly in places. I found myself quickly turning pages to get through the vision scenes as quickly as possible and back to the real action. This is definitely my least favorite book in the series so far. Jane continues to be as bratty and air-headed as ever. When she turns on her new powers in the battle scenes, it's hard to believe that this is the same nitwit who flits around whining "Oh, f---erdoodles" when things go wrong in her life.

        BOOK 5:  Tempest's Fury        
     At the end of book 4, the omniscient undersea monster told Jane and her friends that they must go to England to fight a war. When they get there, they learn that the world is in danger from the regeneration of two ancient dragonsthe Red Queen and the White King. The dragons are the elemental offspring of the Air element after she was raped by the Fire element eons ago, and they are—and always have beenpure evil. Over the centuries, the dragon pair have been beaten back, but they cannot be truly killed. Their last destroyer was Blondie, and she cut them up into little pieces that were scattered all over the world. Now, however, the power-mad Morgana and her lover Jarl are determined to gather the dragon pieces and resurrect the beasts. Here's how Jane sums up her task: "the Red and the White, forces of ultimate evil we thought were destroyed, might manage to resurrect themselves. Even if they don't manage that, their bones might still be used for unspeakable violence. And we have to stop that from happening." (p. 35)
     The story follows Jane, Anyan, Blondie, and the rest of their team as they try to stay one step ahead of Morgana. As they make their plans, they get dragged into local politics and wind up being kidnapped by both sides of an ongoing strugglethe Alfar and the Rebels who oppose them. As battle plans are made, Jane must accept her role as the Championthe One chosen to wield the labrys (aka the magic axsee the cover art) in the fight to destroy the dragon one more time.
     Jane's behavior is marginally better in this book than in the previous one—not so much whining and no TSTL moments. Jane's love affair with Anyan is moving right along, except that they still haven't consummated their relationship. They finally get to the foreplay in Chapter 22, but the actual deed doesn't get done until Chapter 25. Unfortunately for Jane, the main event that occurs during the climactic dragon battle doesn't end well for either Jane or Anyan and leaves their budding love affair on the rocks. The ending is definitely a cliff hanger. On her web site, the author explains how she came to write this ending, which was not the one she had originally planned. Her explanation contains no specific spoilers, but it does give some subtle clues as to what happens, so I don't recommend that you read it until after you finish the book.
     The main thing that made me cringe when reading this book (and some of the others) is the way the author has Jane think such silly thoughts. Here are some examples: Blondie makes "a cat anus face" when she realizes that Jane has never heard the Red-White dragon legend. (p. 21) And here are some of Jane's thoughts about Anyan: "I felt like a starving woman, and Anyan was my wheel of brie." "He had this domineering way about him that totally ketchuped my tater tots." (p. 40) Prior to the big consummation scene, there are lots of sly references to Anyan's package, like these: "I wondered if there were any other kinds of sausage in my immediate future." (p. 98) "I wanted to pickle his gherkin." (p. 101) This is why the series MUST be labeled chick lit. No self-respecting urban fantasy heroine would ever utter any of those sentences.

        E-BOOK NOVELLA:  Something Wikkid This Way Comes        
     This story is set in the JANE TRUE world, but does not include any of the characters from the JANE TRUE series. The story takes place in Borealis, Illinois, (a suburb of Chicago), where the heroine and two friends run Triptych, a private investigation firm that handles supernatural cases. Capitola (Cappie) Jones, the narrator, is half nahual (shape-shifter); Emuishere (Moo) is a halfling Alfar; and Shar is a halfling succubus. Cappie's nahual father is the leader of the supernatural community of Borealis. 
     In the opening scene, Cappie's father brings Father Matthewsa priest and the principal of a private Catholic girls' schoolto Cappie's office for help in solving a problem that appears to have a supernatural cause. Girls from Holy Trinity Academy for Girls have been disappearing and then sneaking back and defacing the schoolonly to disappear again. The priest is sure that Satan is at the root of the disappearances and the graffiti. 
     The Triptych girls go undercover at the Academy, and the story follows their adventures as they investigate staff members, discover the real cause of the problem, and get the girls back. 
     The only connection between this story and the JANE TRUE world is the fact that one of the characters is an Alfar. Other than that, this is an unconnected short story and is absolutely not necessary to the understanding of the JANE TRUE story arc. It's a cute story, but at $2.99, it's overpriced.

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