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Thursday, April 7, 2011


Author: Adrian Phoenix
   Plot Type: Urban Fantasy (UF)Horror
   Publisher and Titles: 
          A Rush of Wings (2/2009)
            In the Blood (8/2009)
            Beneath the Skin (12/2009)
            Etched in Bone (2/2011)
            On Midnight Wings (9/2013)
            Pale Blue Flames (8/2014)  

     This post was revised and updated on 12/18/13 to include a review of On Midnight Wingsthe fifth novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of the first four novels.

            BOOK 5:  On Midnight Wings           
     Once again there is a huge time gap between books in this seriesabout 2 1/2 years this time. In an apologetic note on the author's web site, she explains that the delay is due to severe health problems that have now cleared up, and she promises that the sixth book will arrive next summer on schedule. Having had some severe (and similar) health problems myself this year, I can certainly sympathize. But, unfortunately, a long gap between books in a series as complex as this one can interfere with the reader's ability to process the "who's who?" and the "what's what?" as the story twists and turns its way through multiple sets of villains, most of whom are double- and triple-crossing one another at any given moment.

     The action begins immediately after the climactic events of the previous novel when Heather's treacherous father kidnapped her, shot Dante multiple times with specially poisoned bullets, and burned down Dante's nightclub in New Orleans. In this book, we follow many, many story threads as we follow the events that involve Dante, Heather, Dante's friends, Annie (Heather's sister), Dante's kidnappers, Heather's kidnappers, the Shadow Branch (SB) villains, the FBI villains, the local Vampire Lord (who wants to bind Dante to him), a Fallen Angel (who also wants to bind Dante), and various others who have their own nefarious agendas (including a sea monster). Now that Dante has announced publicly that he is both a Fallen and a True Blood, everyone is after him for access to his powers. The huge cast of characters is difficult to sort out without actually keeping notes. The author might want to consider adding a character relationship tree to her next book. It would go well with the already included Glossary of terms.  

     Throughout the entire book, Dante is held captive in the facility in which he was abused and experimented on years earlier when he was a child. His captor is one of his former torturers, a despicable man who, along with the SB "scientists," watched on hidden cameras while Dante was abused by his foster father, who was a sexual predator. The SB's Bad Seed program was meant to create sociopaths who could be programmed to complete violent acts on command. Dante's memories of those years of abuse come back to him in incoherent flashes, and as a result of the experiments and the flashbacks, he has increasingly frequent seizures during which he blacks out completely.  

     Heather is imprisoned in a deprogramming facility, but soon escapes, only to be captured by the SB. All she can think about is trying to save Dante. If she could only free herself, she could find him through their mate-bond.

     Meanwhile back in New Orleans, Dante's father (Lucien) and Dante's friends (Von and Silver) are desperately trying to locate both Dante and Heather. They fear that Dante's severe injuries will either kill him or will drive him over the edge into insanity. If Dante takes the dark path and fulfills his destiny as the Great Destroyer, total destruction of the world is a strong probability.

     Others are also trying to find the missing pair, and they all have very bad intentions. At this point in the series, I couldn't imagine that Dante could possibly have any more enemies, but I was wrong because several more surface in this book. The book ends with yet another ambiguous, explosive scene in which Dante appears to have lost most of his sanity. Will he pull himself together? Will Heather be able to bring him back from the edge? Will the Fallen drag him off to Gehenna and control him for all eternity? Will the Nightkind or the Fallen kill Dante in fear that he will choose the dark path? Will Annie's baby be a boy or a girl? (I just threw in that last question so that I could end the paragraph on a lighter note.)

     I have enjoyed this series even though it is very, very dark and extremely complex, but I have to admit that even if the books were coming closer together I'd still have trouble keeping everyone straight in my mind. All of the many bad guys are really, really bad, and they constantly lie (even to their comrades) and double-cross (even their closest allies). Everyone has double and triple agendas, and no one is what he or she seems. That wouldn't be a problem if there weren't so many of them, and if there weren't so many different groups and organizationsboth supernatural and human. I'm really hoping that the next book will be the last one because I'd like to see this long-suffering couple finally get some kind of an HEAeven if it's just basic safety rather than the usual life of mindless bliss. 

     Click HERE to read an excerpt from the book on the On Midnight Wings page on Once there, just click on the cover art at top left. 

     Don't be mislead by the tough, leather-clad UF chicks on the covers. The real star of this series is a sexy, seductive male vampire. Heavy on satanic mythology, the story follows Dante Baptiste (aka “Dante Prejean” and “S”), a New Orleans vampire who has much more power than he realizes. Dante is the hub of the series, with most of the characters and the action—both positive and negative—centered on him and his powers. In this World, vampires are called “Nightkind,” and there are two types: the extremely rare True Blood (born) vampires and the more common "made" vampires. Can you guess which one Dante is? 

     Other supernatural characters include the Fallen (angels, that is) and various underworld beings. Villains include shadowy government forces and the perpetrators of Project Bad Seed, a secret psychopathological experiment that corrupted young children (including Dante), turning them into sociopaths and then studying them before ultimately destroying them. Each book contains a glossary of Dante’s Cajun phrases as well as many mythological terms. 

     The series title refers to the key element (and character) that drives the series story arc: that a new Maker (aka creawdwr) has been born, but unforeseen, horrific, man-made events are interfering with the Maker's rise to power. Here is one character's explanation of the Maker myth"A Maker is a Fallen creator. A creawdwr. According to vampire lore, the last known Maker was called Yahweh, though most knew him by his Old Testament name, Jehovah....The gods of this world—in all cultures and mythologies—have been the Fallen,...But the only Fallen who could create—places, beings, life itself—were creawdwrs, and only one creawdwr exists at a time." (Beneath the Skin, p. 46)  

            BOOK 1:  A Rush of Wings           
     In the opening novel, we meet Dante, his inner circle, and two sets of villainous enemies. In the mortal world, Dante is a rock musician based in New Orleans whose early years were controlled by a mad doctor who killed his mother and placed him in more than 50 different foster homes, each having been instructed to torture Dante and push him to the brink of insanity while the villainous "doctors" secretly filmed the horrible scenes of his agony. As Dante attempts to retrieve the buried memories of his painful past, a serial killer is pursuing him and his loved ones. Particularly painful are Dante's memories of the death of his young foster sister, Chloe, and these agonizing memories become more and more important as the series advances. 

     One of the most important of Dante's loved ones is Lucien (aka Samael), a mysterious, sometimes-winged man who protects Dante and is the only one who has the ability to keep Dante calm. Lucien and Dante have an extremely close relationship that is elemental in nature. Lucien's story unfolds alongside Dante's story as the series progresses. Dante's love interest is Heather Wallace, a beautiful, red-headed, hard-working FBI agent who is torn between her FBI duties and her feelings for Dante. 

    In this series opener, Heather comes to New Orleans on the trail of a serial killer. She is investigating the killer's latest murder in the courtyard next to Dante's Club Hell. Once the couple meets, they become attracted to one another and work together to find the killer. Unfortunately, the killer and his accomplice stay one step ahead of them throughout most of the story. This book ends with an electrifying scene in which several villains meet their doom.  

            BOOK 2:  In the Blood           
     In this book, more enemies pop up, most of them related to  government agencies such as the secretive Shadow Bureau (SB), the FBI, and Project Bad Seed. As the story opens, Heather and Dante have been separated for several months. Heather is home in Seattle, healing from her injuries suffered at the end of A Rush of Wings and trying to make sense of the glimpse she had of Dante's horrific powers during the climactic scene at the end of that book. During this downtime, she is trying to solve her mother's long-cold murder case. When Dante and his band come to Seattle for a gig, the couple gets back together as more enemies start coming after both of them. In this book, we meet Heather's weaselly father, James, an FBI agent, and her bi-polar, air-headed sister, Annie—a constant thorn in everyone's side. This book ends with a huge apocalyptic scene that leads directly into the next two books, which should really be read together.  

            BOOK 3:  Beneath the Skin           
     Book 3 begins just hours after the previous book ends. As a result of events that occurred during the climax of In the Blood, Dante has lost just about all of his mental and emotional control, which has always been erratic, even on his best days. Dante's mind is now in a constant flux, flipping  back and forth from the memories of his terrible past to the dangers of his present situation. Much of the time, he has no grasp of what is real and what is memory. By this time, Lucien has disappeared from Dante's life, and Heather is the only one who can bring Dante back to reality. As the book opens, Dante and his crew are hiding out in a motel as they plan their escape back to New Orleans, while the various villains are trying to track them down. 

     By this time, the enemies include regular SB and FBI agents, rogue SB and FBI agents, Fallen angels, Heather's father, and probably some more that I have forgotten to mention. Each one wants Dante for his or her own particular reasons, and all of those reasons are extremely dangerous for Dante and his friends. Some want to kill him; others want to torture him; and several want to bind him to them and use his powers. All of the good guys and gals in this series are totally good. They may have a few minor flaws, but their hearts are pure. The villains, on the other hand, are absolutely bad to the core—no redeeming qualities whatsoever. In a sub-plot, Lucien has a bit of an misadventure in his homeland of Gehenna, where we meet some mythological Underworld figures, like Morningstar, Lilith, and Gabriel. In fact, Annie has her own experience with Morningstar that will affect her in a life-changing way.  

            BOOK 4:  Etched in Bone            
    Book 3 in this series was published in 2009, so I was having trouble remembering all that came before Etched in Bone. My solution was to go back and re-read the series from the beginning. Because the plots are so complex and the cast of characters is so large, I recommend this approach. I'm sure that I enjoyed Etched in Bone much more having just read the previous books.  

      Etched in Bone begins two days after Beneath the Skin. The story opens with a scene in which Heather's father catches up with her and Dante. Then the story flashes back to the preceding two days as we watch all of the various villains  getting their individual plans ready as they gear up to grab Dante and/or Heather.  During those same two days, Dante has to contend with attacks from the local vampire chief, Guy Mauvais. Also interested in Dante and his powers are some European vampires with Council connections. this point, we can add individual vampires and groups of vampires to the lengthy and ever-growing enemies list. As the flashback scenes play out and bring us up to date, the book culminates with the resolution of the opening scene with Heather's father. The final series of events concludes with a cliff-hanger ending for just about everyone. By this point, the cast of bad guys begins to blur together, but just remember that most (but not all) of the government-connected folks are the bad guys.

     This is one of the darkest paranormal series that I have read. The author attempts to add humor through the buddy banter among Dante and his friends, but this just doesn't quite work as comic relief.  It's as if you were whistling a happy tune while running through a foggy graveyard being pursued by a monster. The cheery whistling doesn't make you feel any better because you know that the danger is inescapable and things can only get worse. 

     Dante is a complex character, with his sarcastic rock-star attitude and his see-saw emotional swings. He is truly a tortured soul, and you sympathize with him throughout the series. Heather is also complex, as she tries to make sense of this supernatural life in which she suddenly finds herself. Back at the beginning of book 1, the pragmatic Heather absolutely does not believe that vampires exist, much less Fallen angels. Now she is bonded to a man who is a vampire and more—much more. She has discovered her father's evil depths, and she is still feeling responsible for her sister. As for Annie, by the end of Etched in Bone, I no longer felt much sympathy for her. She has endangered everyone who has tried to help her, and she never learns from experience. The consequences of her experience with Morningstar will play out in the next book, and that will be interesting to see.

     Despite its darkness and complexity, I really like this series. The story line is compelling as it rushes along at break-neck speed. The characters have depth, even the supporting ones, and I care about their futures (although I'm not too optimistic about happy endings for some—maybe most—of them). Here's hoping that the next book arrives soon because I'm sure that the action will begin just moments after the tumultuous ending of Etched in Bone. I can't wait for all of those government jerks to get what's coming to them.

1 comment:

  1. Book 5, "On Midnight Wings" is scheduled to be released 03/27/2012.

    There is also a planned unscheduled Book 6.