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Monday, June 9, 2014


Author:  Erin Kellison
Series:  REVELER   
Plot Type:  Light Urban Fantasy (UF)     
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality4; Humor—2-3 
Publisher and Titles:  Fire Flower Publishing, LLC
             "Darkness Falls" (5/2014)
             "Lay Me Down" (5/2014) 
             "Darksider" (6/2014) 
             "Night's Deep Hush" (7/12/14)  
              "Bring Me a Dream" (8/19/14)

     This post contains reviews of the first five e-novellas in this series.  As each novella is published, I will add the new review to the end of this post. The review of  "Bring Me a Dream." the fifth novella was added on 8/21/14.

     This series is published only in e-book form, and as of the date this post is being published, "Darkness Falls," the first novella, is free in numerous e-book formats. Click HERE to go to a page on Kellison's web site with links to download the various free versions. The price of the second, third, and fourth novellas is $2.99 on amazon as of 8/19/14. Click HERE to keep up with Kellison's publishing schedule by checking her Facebook page.  

     Although the chapter approach to series writing is—on the surface—repellent to me, I must admit that I can empathize with the authors. The publishing industry is in the midst of a violent upheaval, with various lawsuits over pricing and accessibility, the amazon slow-down with Hachette, and the proliferation of authors who want their voices to be heard—now rather than later. Sometimes, if an author's short fiction sells well in e-book form, print publishers will buy their future books, so it's good for the author to have a solid and lengthy sales record. Also, readers are more apt to pay $2.99 for an unknown writer's novella than $7.99 or more for a paperback book. So…it's a conundrum with no right or wrong answer. I am enjoying Kellison's series, and I'll continue to purchase and review the novellas as they hit the market—but only up to a point (one that I haven't defined as of yet).     

     Kellison's mythology is filled with dark dream worlds called Rêves (aka dreamwaters, aka Darkside world). Rêve is kind of a mash-up of flash crowding, raving, and virtual reality—but all of the Revelers are asleep and sharing in one huge, complex dream. In this world, Rêvesshared dreamswere invented fifteen years ago by Didier Lambert, a French scientist, who figured out a way to attune the alteration that sleep brings to people's brainwaves and align groups of Revelers to the same frequency. The Revelers in a particular Rêve wear headgear (usually crown-like hats) that stimulate the right frequency for shared dreaming.

     Now Rêves are a pop culture phenomenon—a Rêve-olution—and companies sell the Rêve experience just like travel agents sell cruises and spa trips. Some Rêves are similar to exotic vacation trips, but others might be set up like stories, with plots enacted by the Revelers. One Rêve that is actually an extreme fighters' club set in a post-apocalyptic world, is nicknamed Apocalypse Pow. 

     Here is a Rêve guide explaining her company's vacation Rêve to a group of soon-to-be Revelers: "We are going to a very exclusive island tonight…One that this beautiful ship could never reach, no matter how far it sailed. The island literally exists on a plane dominated by imagination. You many wander it at willstroll the midnight beach, attend a party under the stars, strike off into the trees for some privacy, or climb an active volcano for an unparalleled view. It is a free place, a place where you are all-powerful, where you can push the limits of experience with no threat to yourself, no pain. While the dream is shared, your interactions with others are voluntary; and if you become agitated or disruptive, you will simply be awakened." ("Darkness Falls," chapter 1)

     Some Revelers are much more talented at negotiating the dreamwaters than others. A talented few can build huge and complex personal dreamscapes, while others are stuck with the ones manufactured by those with better dream-world skills. Some can travel around the dreamwaters at will, while others are more limited. 

     Two big problems have developed as Rêves have become more and more numerous and popular: First, people become addicted to them because they offer a drug-like enhancement to people tired of living mundane lives. Who wants to live in the Waking World when a much better world is available through the Rêves? Second, some of the Rêves are run by criminals who steal the powers of dreamers and use the dreamwaters for various criminal activities. The enforcement officers of the dreamwaters are the Chimera, a group of multi-talented Revelers who are kept busy tracking down the bad guys and rescuing the innocent Revelers who stray away and get into trouble.

     The series story arc involves Lambert's attempts to take control of the Darkside, using Nightmares (violent humanoids with strange eyes who live in the Scrape) to take out his enemies. The Scrape is a desolate sandy wasteland adjacent to the dreamscapes of the Darkside. "Scrape sand originated from the vast, unending nothingness outside of dreamscapes where the great dust storm blew…No one in the waking world even understood the sand's properties, though there was plenty of theoretical mumbo jumbo: the sand was the windblown, leftover chaff of millennia's [sic] worth of humanity's dreams, or the sand was the discarded cells of the collective unconscious's [sic] psyche. Blah, blah, blah" (Malcom's explanation, from "Night's Deep Hush") In other words, no one is really sure where the Scrape sands came from or what they really are.  

     The novellas are separated mainly by their love stories—one per e-book in the first three. Most of the events of the first two novellas take place concurrently, and they share a plot, so they really could have been combined into a single novel. "Darksider" takes place in time immediately following "Lay Me Down." If you just read one, you'll get the all the details of the romance, but you definitely won't get the full scope of the plot. 

     Kellison is the author of three other paranormal romance series: SHADOW, SHADOW TOUCHED, and SHADOW KISSED, all of which take place in her  mythological Shadow World, a place teeming with wraiths and demons. Click HERE to read my reviews of those interrelated series.

            NOVELLA 1:  "Darkness Falls"            
     The hero of the first novella is the multi-talented Malcom Rook, who has been one of the Chimera since the beginning. His job used to be tracking down and eliminating sociopathic Revelers, but the mental and emotional stress of his work got to be too much for him, so now is he a recruiter. He goes to Rêves in search of talented Revelers and tries to recruit them to Chimera.

     As the story begins, Rook is attending the vacation rave described in the World-Building section above, where he finds a talented pair of sisters, one of whom is on her first Rêve and the other of whom is involved in criminal activities. Jordan Lane is going on this Rêve solely to protect her sister, whom she believes to be a fellow Rêve newbie. She has no idea that Maisie has been delivering contraband packages in various Rêves for quite awhile.  As it turns out, both Jordan and Maisie have powerful Rêve talents, and Rook wants to recruit both of them, particularly Jordan, to whom he is mightily attracted.

     The story follows the relationship between Rook and Jordan as it develops and blossoms. At first, Jordan fears that Rook is one of the bad guys, and that belief is inflamed by another mana former client who is also after Jordan for her dream-world talents. Mostly, this is a love story, but there is a bit of action involving a nightmarish boy named Joshua. Joshua is a part of Rook's tragic childhood who has been possessed by something or someone sinister. 

     Since this is a novella, both the recruitment and the romance happen super quickly. Within 48 hours of meeting Rook and learning for the first time about her dream-world talents and the existence of Chimera, Jordan has moved in with Rook and signed on as a Chimera agent.

     The best part of the story is the world-building, which is innovative and fresha nice break from vampires and werewolves. Although the plot has a few minor bumps and holes and the characters make some huge leaps in logic, Kellison basically tells a good story. Click HERE and scroll down slightly to read an excerpt from "Darkness Falls."

            NOVELLA 2:  "Lay Me Down"            
    If you have read "Darkness Falls," you'll know that the hero and heroine of this second novella are Special Agent Steve Coll and carefree Maisie Lanethe colleague of the book 1 hero and the sister of that story's heroine. Coll's job is to get Maisie out of the grip of the crime boss for whom she has been delivering illegal packages in the dream world. At first, Maisie wants nothing to do with Coll and Chimera, but when she learns the horrible truth about what she was delivering, she changes her mind. She also changes her mind about Coll when they are forced to share a hotel room and she gets a good look at his six-pack abs.

     Although this, too, is primarily a love story, there is a bit more drama and action than in book 1, with Maisie going undercover and meeting with the evil villain of the series. Both Maisie and her sister are smart, tough women (although Maisie hides her intelligence behind her fuchsia hair and black eye make-up). Even though they are sometimes rescued by their men, the sisters also show off some brainy moves, particularly Maisie. Both have extremely powerful Rêve skills, which will certainly come in handy as the foursome tries to take down the evil kingpin.

     Again, this novella has a slightly bumpy plot line and a few awkward transitions, but the the lovely wild child and the handsome, but buttoned-down, geek are interesting and humorous enough to hold your interest. Click HERE and scroll down slightly to read an excerpt from "Lay Me Down."

            NOVELLA 3:  "Darksider"            

    This time around, the hero and heroine are Chimera Marshall Harlen Fawkes, who has been a supporting character in the previous books, and his ex-girlfriend, Serafina (Sera) Rochan, an up-and-coming chef. As the story opens, Harlen is called on the carpet by his Chimera bosses and questioned about his association with Rook and Coll, who are now on the run, along with their lovers, Jordan and Maisie. Then, Harlen gets a frantic call from Sera, who is dealing with a stalkera sinister man who is not only haunting her dreams, but has just showed up in the Wake World (WW). 

     Harlen is in the middle of lots of action in this story. Rook and Coll want his help in stopping the villainous Didier Lambert and his cohorts; Sera needs him to find and eliminate her stalker; and Lambert wants him to join the dark side. Harlen has the powerful Darkside talent called Indirect Surveillance in which "A tracker marks the subject and then…drops a proxy into the subject's dreamspace." As the proxy (Harlen) merges with the subject, he sees and knows whatever the subject sees and knows. It's very dangerous, though, because the threat of the proxy being caught by the subject is very high, and the physical emotional after-effects on Harlen are extremely painful and long-lasting.

     Once again, there are two story lines: the romance and the action. Because Sera and Harlen were once lovers, it doesn't take them long to pick up the sexy action where they left off several years ago, and their romance proceeds quite smoothly—not at all like the rough road travelled by Coll and Maisie. Although Sera gives up her dream of being a chef way too quickly, the lovers are both interesting characters. The action scenes relate to the series story arc that focuses on identifying and stamping out corruption within Chimera, particularly that which involves Lambert and his traitorous minions. 

     The story ends with yet another cliff-hanger: one of the heroes has gone missing and someone from Jordan's near-past promises to help find him. Who can be trusted? How deep does the Chimera corruption go? We'll have to wait until mid-July for the next installment. Click HERE and scroll down just a bit to read an excerpt from "Darksider."  

            NOVELLA 4:  "Night's Deep Hush"            

   The fourth installment focuses on Malcom Rook and Jordan Lane, the lovers from book 1. In the opening pages, Malcom is abducted by a thuggish acquaintance and forced to work for one of the strange Nightmare peopleMirren, a woman who is searching for her missing son. Rook soon figures out that Mirren is the daughter of the series villain, Didier Lambert. Lambert has kidnapped his grandson in the Darkside, while his mother retains his physical body in the Waking World.

     The story is told from alternating perspectives as Malcom tries to find and rescue the boy, and Jordan tries to find and rescue Malcom. Complicating Jordan's rescue efforts is Vince Blackman, the man Jordan sent into the Scrape when he tried to force her to work for Lambert back in book 1. Vince escaped from the Scrape by killing one of the Nightmares, and now he wants Jordan to tell him who killed his father. 

     As Vince accompanies Jordan into the Darkside, he meets and falls for Mirren, so I'm assuming that the next novella will pick up with their love story and their confrontation of Mirren's father. Their situation forms an unresolved cliffhanger near the end of "Night's Deep Hush."

     As usual, the story has plenty of action and suspense as Malcom searches for the boy while trying to avoid the Chimera and lots of old enemies, and Jordan is forced to mug people on the street to get enough money to buy her way into the Darkside. For the first part of the story, Jordan believes that Lambert abducted Malcom, so she skulks around the city not knowing whom to trust.   

     As Malcom jumps from Rêve to Rêve on his quest, we learn a few more details about the Darkside mythology. For example, one Rêve is filled with "men and women...hunched over laptops at desks, chained to their chairs by their anklesno waking up for them until they couldn't work anymore. On the screens before them was what looked like programming code. The night shift, as it were." This is an illegal labor Rêve in which dreamers are forced to work while they are Darkside. Another type of Rêve is an Echo, which allows the dreamer to relive his or her memories. Echoes are frequently used by people who have recently lost a loved one and will do almost anything to have them back, if only for the length of a dream.

     Although the couple shares a few passionate kisses, this story focuses on the drama rather than the romance. The scene at the end when Malcom has to deal with the rescued toddler is very funny. The problem with a novella series, though, is that events (in both the action and the romance) occur at breakneck speed, and we have very little time to get to know the characters.   

            NOVELLA 5:  "Bring Me a Dream"            

     The story begins just moments after the end of the previous novella and tells the love story of Vincent Blackman (who was a semi-villain in the first novella) and Mirren Lambert, daughter of the ruthless, power-mad Didier Lambert, the main series villain. Both Mirren and Vince want to kill Didier. Mirren hates him because he abducted her son and killed the boy's father. Vince hates him because Didier killed his father and threw Vince into the Scrape, where he nearly lost his life and his mind. "Vince had barely survived, emerging stained with nightmare blood, harrowed by the Scrape wind, and bearing the realization that…he'd always been meant for the dark." Vince is still a bit unhinged from his battles in the Scrape, and all he can think about is killing Didier. Mirren has also been born to darkness. She is half human and half nightmare and has rare powers in the Darkside World. The two are attracted to one another, but first they must confront and take down Mirren’s father.

     Unfortunately, that confrontation doesn’t go very well, and all three find themselves locked up in Chimera prison cells. Two trustworthy Chimera—Marshall Harlen Fawkes and Director Allison Bright—offer Mirren and Vince their freedom if they agree to find out who the mysterious Sandman is. Some people believe that the Sandman is just a myth or a fairy tale, but Fawkes and Bright believe that he is real and that he poses a real threat to the Waking World.

     Meanwhile, Allison has secretly trapped Didier in a special cell using his own technology against him. That entrapment provides one of the story's most memorable images as Allision tells Didier, "'My mother used to make a Sunday dessert with fruit suspended in cherry-flavored gelatin. If this dense dream water is analogous to the gelatin' she smiled 'right now you're basically bananas.' And then she laughed…while Lambert struggled against his own trap." Although Didier eventually escapes (as you knew he would), his brief imprisonment gives Mirren and Vince time to get started on their search.

     The story follows Vince and Mirren as they make contact with a mysterious organization called the Oneiros (aka the One Group). This cult-like organization is led by Didier and believes in that the Sandman is real and that he will eventually destroy the Dark World, allowing nightmares to creep into the waking world and forcing people to dream alone. When Mirren and Vince contact a young member of Oneiros named Agatha Fleight, they manipulate her into giving them information by implying that Mirren’s father has sent them to her because she is so important to the movement. Agatha tells them what she knows about the Sandman and takes them to the Dark World, but once again, events do not occur as planned and violence ensues.

     By the end of the novella, the conflict with Didier is resolved in a brief, but satisfactory, manner, and a new villain steps up to take his place. Throughout the story, Vince and Mirren see more and more people being followed around by nightmares, and no one seems to know why. This is a serious situation because in this mythology, a nightmare is a dangerous creature—a reflection of your own fears—that can drag you into the Scrape to your ultimate death.

    Mirren and Vince eventually consummate their union and are obviously headed off to their HEA, but first they must accompany Maisie Lane as she goes off into the Scrape looking for her missing lover, Steve Coll. Kellison does a good job fitting both the action and romance story lines into the brief novella format. Best of all, she has created an inventive mythology and a diverse cast of fascinating characters. Click HERE to read an excerpt from "Bring Me a Dream."

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