Only the most recent posts pop up on the HOME page. For searchable lists of titles/series reviewed on this Blog, click on one of the Page Tabs above. On each Page, click on the series name to go directly to my review.

AUTHOR SEARCH lists all authors reviewed on this Blog. CREATURE SEARCH groups all of the titles/series by their creature types. The RATINGS page explains the violence, sensuality, and humor (V-S-H) ratings codes found at the beginning of each Blog review and groups all titles/series by their Ratings. The PLOT TYPES page explains the SMR-UF-CH-HIS codes found at the beginning of each Blog review and groups all titles/series by their plot types. On this Blog, when you see a title, an author's name, or a word or phrase in pink type, this is a link. Just click on the pink to go to more information about that topic.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Author:  Leigh Evans   
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)  
Publisher and Titles:  St. Martin's
          The Trouble with Fate (1/2013)
          The Thing about Weres (7/2013)
          The Problem with Promises (2/2014)
          The Danger of Destiny (3/2015) (FINAL??)

This post was revised and updated on 4/6/15 to include a review of The Danger of Destiny, the fourth and FINAL novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the series world-building and reviews of the first three novels:

          NOVEL 4:  The Danger of Destiny                   
   The story begins immediately following the cliff-hanger ending of The Problem with Promises, in which Hedi and Trowbridge sailed through a portal into the Fae realm of Merenwyn. They plan to rescue Hedi's twin brother, Lexi, from the clutches of the Old Mage and to save Trowbridge's Raha'ells werewolf pack from death at the hands of the Fae. Almost immediately, the two are briefly separated, and Hedi is forced to go off on her own to face her very first full-moon transformation to her wolf form. 

     The entire plot revolves around Hedi and Trowbridge's efforts to sneak into the Fae castle so that they can burn the Black Mage's spell book, release the captured Raha'ells, and hold the Old Mage to his promise of releasing Lexi from his mental possession. Naturally, nothing goes smoothly, right from the very beginning, when a Fae tracker picks up their trail, causing their initial separation. Since Hedi tells the story in her own first-person voice, we accompany her on her various adventures and only hear of Trowbridge's solo adventures secondhand—a consequence of first-person narrative. Luckily, they are on their own only at the very beginning and end of the story, so—for the very first time since book one—we get to see them work, plan, and fight together. I'm not going to list all of the travails they face, but I will say that both finds themselves in dire peril numerous times. 

     In previous books, Hedy was a bratty, immature girl who felt sorry for herself and did nothing much to improve her situation. By now, though, she and Trowbridge have been through a lot, and Hedy has seen the results of her lack of initiative. She is determined to be a true mate to Trowbridge and to accept her share of responsibility in the success of their mission in Merenwyn. Although Hedy is scared to death much of the time, she really comes through when times get tough. By the end of the book, she has learned to maintain a fragile balance between her Fae magic, her wolf's fierce power, and her human intelligence. 

     The strongest element in this series has been the steady maturation of the heroine over a period of just six and one-half months (the length of time between novel 1 and novel 4). Hedy begins the series as an insecure, small-time thief (book 1), and then moves on to being a sulky naval-gazer who shirks her responsibilities with the Creemore pack and then wonders why they don't like her (book 2). In this final novel, she comes into her own as she accepts her powers and her destiny and FINALLY begins making some sound decisions about her life and the lives of others. Near the end, one character hails Hedi as "the Brave Hedi of Creemore," and she muses, "This is precisely how myths are made. A wisp of truth is taken, gilded with gold leaf, threaded through a sliver needle, and sewn into a cloth fabricated by half-truths and complete fantasy…Poof--I'd gone from a girl caught in a trap to 'the Brave Hedi of Creemore,' the most unlikely addendum to a prophecy you'd ever meet." 

     I recommend that you read this book in the context of the seriesnot as a stand-alone. Evans provides very few details about Hedi's adventures in previous books, so if you haven't read those books, you won't understand Hedi's frequent references to important past events. Click HERE to read an excerpt from The Danger of Destiny on its page.

     Set in southern Ontario, Canada, this is a world in which werewolves and other supernaturals live alongside humans while hiding their true identities. The wolves have their own system of government: "Weres have been in this realm for a long, long time. Long enough to form affiliations and associations. Long enough to breed that dread plague known as the political body. The hierarchy is simple. The wolves of North America fall under the aegis of the Council of North American Weres, who in turn genuflect to the Great Council of Weres." (The Thing about Weres, p. 44)

     The series heroine is Hedi Peacock (aka Helen Stronghold), a halfbreed with a Fae mother and a werewolf father. One terrible night twelve years ago, a male werewolf killed her father, and a Fae killed her mother and kidnapped her twin brother, Lexi, dragging him off to the Fae realm of Merenwyn, which can be reached only through a portal. After that horrific night, all of the portals between mortal earth and Merenwyn closed for good, and Hedi has never seen Lexi again. Hedi survived safely only because her mother locked her in a cupboard, where, through a crack, she witnessed the gruesome events that ended her happy childhood. After that horrific episode, Hedi was raised by her Fae aunt, Lou, the only full-blood Fae left on this side of the portal. In fear for their lives, they have stayed far away from the werewolves, which was possible only because the Fae have no scent. Hedi has always been afraid that if the werewolves discover that she is still alive they will kill her just like they did her father.   

     When Hedi was a child, she was able to step into her brother's dreams. When she told her mother about this, Mom explained that Hedi is a Mystwalker and that she must always keep this a secret. She explains that the Fae court searches "for children born with the gift of walking into others' dreams. Those children are brought to the King's Court. Their gifts are tested. If they don't have enough raw talent, they're killed, and if they're not killed, they become wards of the court....They become...mad and soulless. The royal family trains them to walk in the mists, and do things there that Faes consider soul destroying....They steal others' gifts. They plant seeds of madness in their enemies' heads." (p. 21) Since then, Hedi has tried to ignore the occasional mind pictures she receives from other people and has never mentioned her ability to anyone else, not even to Aunt Lou.

     In addition to her Mystwalker talent, Hedi also has telekinetic powers that allow her to pick up objects with just a mental command and throw them through the air. Unfortunately, if she uses her magic for dark reasons, it "will turn around and bite you on the ass with teeth as sharp as a hungry shark's." (p. 55) Here is a description of what happens to her hands after she throws a number of heavy objects at a thug who attacks her: "My fingers didn't even resemble fingers anymore. They were swollen fat and bent unnaturally. The skin had turned deep brown, and there were black spots of charred skin...Suddenly, the charred odor that I'd been trying to ignore was the only thing I could smell." (p. 62)

     Hedi always wears a gold amulet around her neck that she calls Merry: "Merry hung from a long length of Fae-wrought gold necklace that my mother had placed around my neck the night she died. Merry...was an Asrai. I knew that at least, even if I didn't know precisely what an Asrai was. I knew that she once had form: two legs, two arms, long hair. She belonged to the Fae world, but Lou had trapped her inside the amulet long before I was born. A horrible fate, I agree, but she wasn't completely powerless." (p. 14) Merry is sentient; she has the power to heal Hedi, and she can communicate through movement and gestures, but not speech. Although she is confined to her golden prison, Merry is an important and fascinating character in the series.

     Click HERE to go to the authors "Index of Characters, Places, & Events," which also includes definitions of Fae terms. Click HERE to read the author's FAQ page on her web site, where you will learn how Helen Stronghold got the name Hedi Peacock.

               NOVEL 1:  The Trouble with Fate               
     As the story opens, Hedi is having increasingly frequent episodes in which Lou sends her mind pictures. Lou is losing her Fae strength and is fading away, and she spends more and more time asleep and dreaming. When Lou's nightmarish mind pictures hit Hedi, she goes into a trance-like state that appears to onlookers like a fit of some kind. Hedi explains the effect: "The constant dribble of Lou's thought pictures and dreams was wearing me thin. I couldn't sleep without being overwhelmed by them, and the problem had grown intolerable since she'd taken to napping during the day." (p. 17)

     Early in the story, a werewolf thug breaks into Hedi's apartment looking for an amulet. He tells her that his alpha has kidnapped Lou and that her life is in danger unless Hedi gives up the amulet. Hedi soon realizes that the werewolf isn't looking for Merry; he is searching for the amulet that was stolen from her mother the night of her murder. The person who stole that amulet is Robson Trowbridge, who was Hedi's childhood crush and the son of the local pack leader. When Robson married another woman when Hedi was an adolescent, he unknowingly broke her heart.

     Hedi knows that Trowbridge still has the amulet because earlier that day he was in the coffee shop where she worked, and she saw it around his neck. Although Hedi still has remnants of that old romantic crush, she hates Robson because on the night of the murders, he showed up just as her mother was dying but didn't rescue her from the burning house, even though she screamed for help. She decides to find Trowbridge, steal the amulet, and rescue her aunt.

     The story follows Hedi's adventures as she tracks down Robson but gets caught before she can get the amulet. Then they are attacked by werewolves, and she learns that Robson lost his entire family—including his wife—the same night that she lost hers. He was framed for those murders and has been on the run ever since. He has just returned to the area and has been discovered by the pack, who want him dead.

     Eventually, Hedi and Trowbridge tell each other their stories and figure out which werewolf killed Hedi's father and Trowbridge's family. The plot unwinds at a fast pace as the couple begins to fall for one another while they try to work out a way to rescue Lou. The ending has some major twists and turns that are quite unpredictable and extremely violent.

     Hedi tells the story in the first-person, and Evans handles this tricky point of view very nicely. Hedi is an interesting, multi-dimensional character. She is brave, loyal, and intelligent, but she is also dishonest, self-serving, and deceitful. She'll do whatever it takes to survive.

     Trowbridge is not your typical alpha werewolf hero. In his early years, he was the golden boy of the pack, but then, on a single night, everything changed for him. He lost his parents, his wife, and his position in the pack, and he was forced to run away in order to survive. He is scarred, both physically and emotionally, and alcohol has become his crutch. 

     Although this book has a few rough spots, it also has great characterization, a fresh mythology, and a compelling story line. The violent scenes near the end are unexpected and shocking, but they are consistent with the personality traits of the villains and they support the progression of the story line. 

     The first book in a series is always heavy on exposition and world-building, and this one is no exception. The most awkward and plot-stopping expositional episode is the entirety of Chapter 12, in which Hedi travels to the realm of Threall—Fae dreamland. This lengthy scene is completely unrelated to the plot of this book, and I imagine that the author included it just to provide the reader with an understanding of what a Mystwalker is. I'm sure that in future books that information will be helpful—but not in this one. Unfortunately, it brings the action to a complete halt, forcing the reader to wade through 25 pages of "Hedi Goes to Dreamland" before the real plot kicks back in. 

     The stand-out scene for me is Hedi and Robson's consummation of their simmering sexual attraction. Trust me when I tell you that this is unlike any other "virgin's-first-time" scene that you've ever read. It's not romantic or sexy, but it is inventively realistic, and it perfectly illustrates Hedi's quirky personality. She is totally unfiltered, saying exactly what's on her mind—even in the most intimate situations.

     This is a strong, if bumpy, start to a potentially great series, and I'm hoping that the writing will be even stronger in book 2. Click HERE to read the first chapter of The Trouble with Fate

                 NOVEL 2:  The Thing About Weres                 
     As the book opens, it's been six months since Hedi shoved her mate, Robson Trowbridge, though the portal into the Fae realm of Merenwyn to save his life. In the interim, she has assumed the responsibilities for running his pack, but that hasn't been going very well. Now, the North American Council of Weres (NAW) has sent a representative to find out exactly what's going on with the wolves of Creemore. Just as it looks as if Hedi and her three supporters have run out of luck, Trowbridge breaks through the portal back into the mortal world to save her, accompanied by a Fae man and a half-Fae female who complicate an already messy situation.

     Although Hedi came across as a courageous and intelligent heroine in book 1, she does not show much mature behavior in this book. Over the past half year, her day-to-day interactions with the Creemore wolves have been more adversarial than cooperative. She continues to live in a dilapidated trailer instead of moving into the Trowbridge home, neglecting even to have the house cleaned up after the bloody goings-on that left many of the rooms trashed and covered with gore. All she does is blindly sign papers and mourn for Trowbridge. Therefore, when NAW shows up, the Creemore wolves have no real loyalty or positive feelings for her and immediately join the NAW in seeking her death. Essentially, she has dug her own grave through her refusal to accept the responsibilities inherent in the mating bond she forced on Trowbridge just before she sent him off to Merenwyn. Mostly, she spends her time chewing the inside of her mouth or her lip and feeling sorry for herself: "It had been an exercise in futility—trying to learn the way of the Were. Every time I'd tried to mimic their wolfish ways, I'd felt foreign and forced. A lousy imitation hoping to pass. All thumbs and dumb confusion, trying to slide a poorly fitted wolf pelt over my own too tight skin....I don't belong here. I never did, I never will." (p. 230)

      When Trowbridge returns, Hedi soon realizes that her post-Merewyn lover is a completely different man than the happy-go-lucky rogue she fell in love with so many years ago. He has been through one hellish experience after another during his time with the Fae, and the Fae male he has brought back with him has the potential to derail not just the Creemore wolves, but also his relationship with Hedi. Needless to say, the intricacies of Trowbridge's story and the actions he takes when he returns are dark and complex and very hard for Hedi to understand and accept. Not to mention the fact that the wolf who accompanied Trowbridge back to mortal earth is a very cute female who has Trowbridge's scent all over her.  

     As the plot plays out, Hedi makes some trips to Threall (the Fae dream realm when souls reside) where she has a few run-ins with the Mystwalker she nicknamed Mad-One when she visited Threall back in book 1. Towards the end of the book, Hedi involves herself and her loved ones in an impossible scheme that can only lead to heartbreak accompanied by lots of danger. All the way through the story, Hedi is forced to make a series of difficult choices. At one point she muses, "no matter how hard you try to avoid making decisions..., the sad reality is no one can get away in life without choosing between one thing and another. Even opting to ignore the existence of the choice was a choice." (p. 381) Hedi's choices lead to a cliff-hanger ending that leads directly into the action of book 3. 

     Although I appreciate the inventiveness of the world-building and the depth of the characters, this book isn't quite as well put together as book 1. For one thing, the author doesn't provide enough summarization of previous events to make this a stand-alone, and frankly, even though I read the first novel just 10 months ago, I had trouble remembering the details of what went on during Hedi's first trip to Threall in that first book.

     The ending indicates that the werewolf drama involving the Creemore pack is being left behind in favor of the more woo-woo magic of the Fae, with dark mages and other Fae villains dominating the plots. If this turns out to be true—that is, if future books are going to be Fae-centric—a glossary of terms would be extremely helpful to the reader. Click HERE to read an excerpt from The Thing about Weres on the book's page.

          NOVEL 3:  The Problem with Promises                   

     The story begins just hours after the cliff-hanger ending of The Thing about Weres, in which Hedi sent her sun-potion-addicted brother, Lexi, back to Merenwyn to take her place as the Nelera to Old Mage. She struck a bargain with the Old Mage that if she crosses over into Merenwyn and destroys the evil Black Mage's Book of Spells, the Old Mage will rehabilitate and free Lexi. Hedi has promised Lexi that she will get him out of Merenwyn and help him to build a "normal" life with his daughter in the mortal world, but he doesn't believe her. As the story begins, Hedi and her mate, Robson Trowbridge, are planning to have their pond—the site of a rare portal to Merenwynwarded by a pair of witches and then cross into Merenwyn and complete their task.  

     What Hedi and her friends don't count on is a series of betrayals and attacks from witches, werewolves, and a gang of biker mercenaries. Both Hedi and Trowbridge have made a lot of enemies, and in this book, those enemies strike hard at both of them. They never get much of a chance to work on their plan to rescue Lexi because they are far too busy fighting, running away from attackers, and/or getting abducted. 

     About half-way through the book, as Hedi is thrust into more and more positions in which she must either fight or lose her life and the lives of those she loves, she (FINALLY) begins to harden up, get a spine, and fight back. She discovers that her four identities will come forth in various combinations to help her in difficult and dangerous situations: her Mortal self (whom she generally refers to as her "mouse-hearted self"); her spirit-walking Mystwalker self; her belligerent, magic-throwing, telekinetic inner Fae; and her blood-thirsty inner Wolf, who is getting stronger and stronger. In past books, Hedi has been a bit of a wuss, never willing to fight back against those who oppose her. Now, she realizes that she must take a stand, even if that means getting her hands dirty (or bloody, as the case may be). That said, this plot is overloaded with all-too-similar attack scenes involving one-dimensional villains and lots of blood and broken bones for the good guys and gals. 

     This is a story filled with serial scenes of action and brutality during which Hedi loses friends (both to death and to betrayal) and suffers many grave injuries. During the climactic showdown scene, Hedi is forced to put her life on the line for Trowbridge in a manner that would have been unthinkable in the earlier novels. This novel is definitely action oriented, with few character-driven scenes, and it ends with yet another major cliffhanger.     

     A WORD OF ADVICE: Evans provides few recapitulations of past events and no definitions of the Fae terms used in this novel, so someone reading this book as a stand-alone would be completely lost. Even if you (like me) have been reading the series all along, it can be difficult to remember all of the critical details about various characters and events. That's why I recommend that before reading the book, you might want to click HERE to read the definitions of and discussions about the following characters and terms, all of which are important in understanding the plot of The Problem with Promises: Anu, Biggs, Black Mage, Book of Spells, Cordelia, Fae Tears, Faes, Flares, Great Council, Half-Breed, Halfling, Harry, Hedi, Iron, Knox, Lexi, Lou, Mages, Merenwyn, Merry, Mystwalker, Nelera, Old Mage, Portals, Ralph (Royal Amulet), Sun Potion, Threall, Trowbridge, Tyrean (Mad-One), and Whitlock (who is one of the prime villains of this novel, along with his henchman, Liam). If you read these annotations, you will better understand why it is so important for Hedi to rescue her brother and why one betrayal in particular breaks Hedi's heart. Another important concept in this plot is the difference between Halflings and Half-Breeds.    

     I was disappointed that Evans relied on the overused trope of having the villain explain to Hedi the nefarious details of his dastardly plan just before he expected her to die. This is such a clichéd plot device—and so predictable in foreshadowing the villain's inevitable downfall. Click HERE to read a full explanation of this "Evil Gloating" trope on one of my favorite web sites:

     Although I was happy and relieved to see Hedi show some courage for a change, I am bothered by her relationship with Trowbridge. She continually calls him her mate and her "One True Thing," but they don't show any charismatic connection in their scenes together—in other words, no sparks.   

     This novel was just O.K. for me, definitely not as strong as the first one. In the fourth novel, Hedi and Trowbridge will get on with the task that they were supposed to be working on when they were interrupted by the violent events of The Problems with Promises. Click HERE to read an excerpt from this novel on its pate.

No comments:

Post a Comment