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Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Author: Sable Grace  (Pseudonym for Heather Waters & Laura Barone)
Plot Type: Urban Fantasy (UF) 
Ratings: Violence5; Sensuality4; Humor2
Publisher and Titles: Avon       
       "Before the Fall(prequel novella, 11/2011)
       Ascension (2011)
       Bedeviled (2011) 
       Chosen (2012) 

     Set in St. Augustine, Florida, this series takes place in a post-apocalyptic world just weeks after the gates of Hell have been opened to allow all manner of nasty creatures to wreak havoc on the earth. Mortals have been evacuated to tent cities in strategic areas around the world, but they are still in danger. In control of all of the supernaturals is the Ancient Order, which employs various immortals as warriors to keep the Dark Breed (rogue Vampyres, demons, and shape shifters) from decimating the human population. Supernaturals who work for the order are sworn never to harm or take blood from mortals. 

    This world has three realms: Above (mortal earth where all mortals and a few nonhumans reside), Below (where nonhumans conduct their daily business), and Beyond (home of the gods, aka Olympus). Below exists parallel to the Above and Beyond 

     Here is Kyana's description of Below: "This was where magical herbs were tended, where lesser gods and demigods resided, where the Order's Vamps hid from daylight. It served as a mirror to the Earth, so to speak, where the sun burned hot and bright, but was merely an illusion, just as were the sea, the moon, and the stars. In other words, Vamps could sunbathe Below without becoming a spectacular fireworks event." (Ascension).

     The supernaturals at the top of the pecking order are the Greek gods and goddesses, from Ares and Artemis all the way up to Zeus. Unfortunately, there is one major problem. The gods and goddesses can only do their magical thing for a century or two, but then their powers begin to wane (kind of like a run-down battery), and they must be replaced. Their replacements are called Chosen, and the gods and goddesses must locate and train their Chosen before they fade out. As the series begins, someone is murdering the Chosen, and that is creating severe problems among the ever-weakening gods and goddesses since there will be no one to take their places.

     The series heroine is Kyana Melek Aslan, a half-breed tracer for the Order: half Vampyre and half Lychen (werewolf). Her job is to track down Dark Breed miscreants and bring them to justice. She and her fellow tracers are also trying to track down the missing Chosen and rescue them before they are murdered. Kyana was turned into a Vampyre two centuries ago after being beaten nearly to death by her abusive husband, a rich sultan. She has no love for humans, believing that they are cruel and careless beings who create most of their own troubles, but she protects them nonetheless, by hunting down and disposing of Dark Breed. 

                    NOVEL 1: Ascension                    
     As Ascension opens, Kyana is directed by her boss, the goddess Artemis, to retrieve the key to the gate of Hell so that it can be locked up to prevent more hellish creatures from escaping Above. Apparently, the key was stolen eons ago by the long-dead Cronos, father of several gods, who was banished by other gods because he tried to murder his sons so that they couldn't take away his power. Cronos wants to come back to life so that he can take out his vengeance on all the gods and goddesses. Kyana wouldn't mind her new assignment so much if she wasn't saddled with a partner: the demi-god Ryker, son of Ares. Kyana and Ryker had a sour romantic moment ten years ago when she was looking for a one-nighter and he turned her downan ego blow that she still hasn't gotten over. Of course, the two are still mightily attracted to one another, but neither one seems aware of the other's sizzling emotions. Kyana believes that Ryker views her as a violent, slutty bloodsucker, and she doesn't know how to get past that. it. Ryker thinks that Kyana views him only as a convenient lust-relieving male body, while what he really wants is her heart and soul—in a forever-after kind of way. Two other key characters are Kyana's roommate, Haven (a powerful witch and healer) and Geoffrey, one of Kyana's long-time tracer friends, who is an Order Vampyre. Kyana, Ryker, Geoff, and Haven collect and interpret a myriad of clues as they search for the mystical key. The book ends with a twist and a cliffhanger, which should play out in just a couple of weeks when book 2 hits the market. 

     Ascension spends a great deal of time on complicated world building, because this series tries to cram in a little bit of everything—from the Greek gods to traditional supernatural creatures to Underworld mythology. Kyana is a stereotypically foul-mouthed, headstrong heroine who is hard to warm up to. She's confident in her fighting abilities to the point of arrogance. Ryker is also arrogant about his skills, but he comes across as much softer than Kyana. Although each of them has a tragic personal history, their relationship seems built on nothing deeper than physical attraction. 

     My initial impression is that this series, rather than being fresh and inventive, is an attempted knock-off of Sherrilyn Kenyon's DARK-ONES series, but with way too much convoluted world building and not enough humor and character development. The plot of book 1 has a few serious holes, with the main characters jumping to hugely spontaneous conclusions based on small (or no) amounts of factual information. Also, almost everyone seems to have an intense dislike for Kyana, accusing her of being power hungry and greedy but showing no real reasons for those intense negative feelings, other than the fact that she is a half-breed. The story line implies that Kyana has been a loyal warrior for the Order for many, many years, so I was hard pressed to understand why so many people hated her so deeply. I'll give the next book a try, but this isn't one of my favorite seriesat least not so far.

                    NOVEL 2: Bedeviled                    
     The second novel begins just a day or so after Ascension ends, and Kyana is still trying to accept the fact that she is the new Goddess of the Hunt, or will be when her full ascension takes place in just a few days. Kyana's primary problem is that Haven is out there somewhere in her new vampyre/lychen form possessed by the spirit of Cronos, and Cronos is still determined to collect all of the Eyes of Power (e.g., Zeus' staff, Poseidon's trident, Hades' amulet) so that he can return to his corporeal form and take revenge on his sonsnot to mention his plans for world domination. Here, Kyana summarizes the situation: "Haven was her best friend. That she'd kinda sorta turned Haven into a mix of Vampyre and Lychen to save her life hadn't changed that. Neither had the fact that her blood had driven Haven slightly cuckoo and now she was hell-bent on destroying the world on behalf of the dead-but-still-deadly god Cronos. It was Kyana's job to hunt her down and bring her back to sanity before she accomplished that goal." (p. 10)

     Now that all of the world-building is out of the way, the plot of this second book is more action-oriented than the first book. This book focuses on Kyana and Ryker as they search for Haven/Cronos and capture her/him briefly before she/he once more escapes their grasp. Then they start the search-capture-lose sequence anewand then again, all of which begins to get tedious and somewhat illogical. How can a lethal vampyre/lychen/goddess and a powerful demigod be defeated over and over again by a god-possessed witch, especially when they have their own talented witch (Silas) as part of their team during several of their attempts? In the midst of all of the repetitive searching, we also have plenty of repetitive angst, as Kyana constantly worries that she can't commit to a long-term relationship with Ryker because she'll soon become bored with him, and Ryker endlessly agonizes that Kyana will never see him as anything more than an outlet for casual sex. Kyana also ruminates at great length on her deep feelings of guilt over being the cause of Haven's monstrous condition. Meanwhile, back on Olympus, the aging gods and goddesses are becoming weaker and weaker, and some of them as yet have no Chosen to replace them. This problem directly affects Kyana's small group of friends when, one by one, they are tapped by the gods to be their Choseneither temporarily or permanently. The ending leaves the Cronos situation hanging in the balance, with the more search-capture-lose adventures surely coming in the next book. Midway through the book, the author apparently tries for humor when she has Nettles, an elderly seer, dress for bed in "pink pajamas...covered with tiny gray mice and there were feet...sewn in, a hood stitched into the back." (p. 225) To top this off, the hood has mouse ears. This little episode is tossed in as an attempt to lighten things up, but the manipulation is so obvious and awkward that the scene is more annoying than it is entertaining.

    Although the mythology of the series is over-the-top complex, it is well-defined and works well enough with the story line. The weakness lies with the characters, who are, for the most part, shallow and predictable. The gods and goddesses are like paper cut-outs, with their brittle beauty, fine clothing, and superficial personalities. Kyana is the most predictable of them allreacting to almost every situation with stubbornness and rage. Ryker is always his lovesick self, trying to believe that Kyana has the ability to be the best that she can be. (I kept thinking of the old commercials for the U.S. Army.) In book 2, I was hoping for more depth of character for the lead couple, but, alas, that doesn't happen. 

                    NOVEL 3: Chosen                    
     The ranks of tough, beautiful, and sexy heroines who battle supernatural evil have grown since the early days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer—and none are tougher than author Sable Grace's half Vampyre-half Lychen warrior Kyana. Paranormal romance fans who regularly devour the bestselling novels of Jeaniene Frost, Pamela Palmer, and Sherrilyn Kenyon will be mesmerized by Chosen, Grace's third breathtaking DARK BREEDS adventure.

     This time her unstoppable avenger takes on her new role as Goddess of the Hunt, joining with Ryker—the new Zeus and Kyana's one true love—to  save the world from vampires, demons, shapeshifters, and all manner of supernatural creatures of the night, in a battle that could carry them to the fiery depths of Hades itself.

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