alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 59: Endless Knight by Kresley Cole

“Evie has fully come into her powers as the Tarot Empress, and Jack was there to see it all. She now knows that the teens who’ve been reincarnated as the Tarot are in the throes of an epic battle. It’s kill or be killed, and the future of mankind hangs in the balance.

With threats lurking around every corner, Evie is forced to trust her newfound alliance. Together they must fight not only other Arcana, but also Bagmen zombies, post-apocalyptic storms, and cannibals.

When Evie meets Death, things get even more complicated. Though falling for Jack, she’s drawn to the dangerous Endless Knight as well. Somehow the Empress and Death share a history, one that Evie can’t remember—but Death can’t forget.”

Despite kind of hating a lot of Poison Princess, the first book in this series, I decided to read the sequel, since PP ended with a bang and gave me enough confidence to soldier on. I’m glad I did, because this book had a lot more of the parts of the first that I liked: action, expansion of the cool Tarot concept, Evie not being a complete muppet. Oh, also, there are probably spoilers for PP in this review, so tread with caution. Despite it being a slight stretch of the imagination that Evie went from having literally no idea what she was capable of to suddenly displaying a massive show of power, it was kind of fun that we didn’t have to trudge through a literary training montage. In a fluffy book like this, sometimes it’s just more fun to accept that her magic is natural to her and she just needed to unlock it.

I was also curious to meet Death (the guy doing his best Spike impression up there on the cover) since I wasn’t a huge fan of Jackson, the first point of the love triangle. Kresley Cole, having quite a formidable background in PNR (just ask Malin and Mrs. Julien!) draws on traditional archetypes to set these guys up against each other. Jackson is definitely a rogueish Protector, while Death is a romantic Tortured Soul who initially lashes out at Evie because he’s all Damaged like that. It’s an interesting study in contrast, because while both have moments with her where they alternatively treat her like dirt then do something intended to be completely swoon-worthy, their actions come from decidedly different places. I guess it’s just up to readers to pick their favorite type of hero, because neither one is obviously a better choice in my opinion.

This series is meant to be Cole’s foray into YA, by virtue of having younger protagonists and fewer love scenes that are also slightly less explicit. More interestingly, writing for the YA set gave Cole an opportunity to really flex her high-concept plot muscles, which is something I think she’s done well at. She may even be better at this than traditional PNR, since in that area she comes across as having creative ideas that are weighed down with genre tropes like weird gender issues and gratuitous rough sex. And I’m not saying gratuitous rough sex doesn’t have a place in PNR, but I’ve gotten the sense from her that she almost enjoys building new worlds more than writing love scenes (see as evidence: her many sprawling high concept series for which she seems to never run out of ideas, but sex scenes that are mostly the same when you really get down to it. SEE WHAT I DID THERE) Anyway, read if you’re curious, a fan of Cole, the genre, etc.

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alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 31: Shadow’s Claim by Kresley Cole

Goodreads: “Shadow’s Claim features Prince Trehan, a ruthless master assassin who will do anything to possess Bettina, his beautiful sorceress mate, even compete for her hand in a blood-sport tournament— to the death.”

This book was fucking silly, guys. I don’t know. It was the May (I think?) selection for the VF Hangout, and I was pretty excited for it, since I tend to enjoy paranormal romance (although I’m starting to wonder how much I really do like it, since most of the ones I’ve reviewed, I’ve panned?) Anyway, so we have Trehan, who is Dacian, which means he’s an Original vampire (stealing from TVD terminology here,) meaning he is of a pure bloodline and wasn’t a “turned” human. The Dacians have all of these strict rules about when and for what purpose they’re allowed to leave Dacia, but one of those times is when they’ve found their permanent mate. And they know they’ve met their mate when they get their first erection. No kidding! Because their hearts don’t beat and they’re not “blooded,” they can’t get a boner until someone makes their heart beat and gets the blood flowing and all that. No mention of how a Lady Dacian would react when blooded, probably because she’s supposed to wait around until a male Dacian points his wood in her direction, but I digress.

So Trehan meets Princess Bettina, and it’s less of a meet-cute than her thinking he’s someone else, which is a trope I would really love to see go away for a multitude of reasons. Anyway, he immediately recognizes her as his mate, and she’s not so convinced because she’s in love with someone else (OR SO SHE THINKS! NOT THAT YOU GET A CHOICE IN THIS, WOMAN!) So he enters a to-the-death contest put on by her guardians, and the prize is the crown, not to mention Bettina’s leash and vagina summoning charm, which is kind of what it sounds like: the winner can summon her at will.

Look: we all know where this is headed. It’s PNR. They’re going to fall in love and have sex, maybe or maybe not in that order, and he’s going to be dark and mysterious and she’s going to be plucky and deceptively smart. Bonus points for her — her hobby is making cool jewelry that doubles up as weaponry, which seems pretty badass and also kind of a handy thing for womenfolk to have. Ultimately this book gets two stars from me for being campy and entertaining, so it was too silly to merit an above-average score from me — even for the genre — but silly enough that it wasn’t dreadful and boring.

alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 29: Poison Princess by Kresley Cole

Goodreads: Sixteen year old Evangeline “Evie” Greene leads a charmed life, until she begins experiencing horrifying hallucinations. When an apocalyptic event decimates her Louisiana hometown, Evie realizes her hallucinations were actually visions of the future—and they’re still happening. Fighting for her life and desperate for answers, she must turn to her wrong-side-of-the-bayou classmate: Jack Deveaux.

With his mile-long rap sheet, wicked grin, and bad attitude, Jack is like no boy Evie has ever known. Even though he once scorned her and everything she represented, he agrees to protect Evie on her quest. She knows she can’t totally depend on Jack. If he ever cast that wicked grin her way, could she possibly resist him?

As Jack and Evie race to find the source of her visions, they meet others who have gotten the same call. An ancient prophesy is being played out, and Evie is not the only one with special powers. A group of twenty-two teens has been chosen to reenact the ultimate battle between good and evil. But it’s not always clear who is on which side…

I’m going to plagiarize myself here, because I left a comment that ended up being a short review over on the Vaginal Fantasy discussion board for this book (yes, this was another VF selection.) So, here is that, slightly expanded:

This book was really problematic for me in a lot of ways. I had a really hard time getting behind the romance: I get it, they were lusty for each other, but otherwise they both treated each other pretty badly and I don’t understand why that’s supposed to be hot. Like, here is an actual quote from the male hero: “Hell, Evie, you’re probably the last girl on earth for me. Would it kill you to put out?”

I mean, *SWOON*, right?

For her part, Evie has a lot of icky class-based issues with regards to Jackson. She doesn’t explicitly express these thoughts to him, other than calling him “Cajun,” but she’s supposed to be one of the wealthier town residents before the apocalypse, and he’s very poor and wrong-side-of-the-bayou and all that, so despite her physical attraction to him, she initially views him as wrong for her just based on the money issue.

I also thought way too much of the book was spent recounting her high school angst in excruciating detail. At least a third of the book was spent in this retrospective, which is, specifically, the week leading up to the apocalypse (here it’s called the Flash.) Cole’s motivations, here, were probably two-fold. First, she needed to set up the relationship with Jackson, and how they were attracted to each other but ultimately “all wrong for each other” in the high school scenario. She also probably wanted to paint a picture of what Evie felt was her declining sanity, but I think all of that could have been done much more concisely. What I felt like we ended up with, as the reader, was a lot of obnoxious brand-name dropping and class-based snobbery to establish Evie’s queen-bee credentials, and a lot of contrived exposition about gothic drawings and Evie trying to re-assure her peers she is totally fine, didn’t just come out from the mental ward, etc.

I was irritated because Cole was working with such a cool idea here — kids/young adults having powers based on the Tarot, leading up to an epic battle — but I felt like she just threw out a bunch of post-apocalytic cliches at us in lieu of actual world-building. All at once, after the apocalypse, we find out that there are zombies for some reason, and that basically all men have gone rotten because there aren’t enough women, and there are cannibals, and we’re all supposed to go “Oh, okay, that sounds about right for the end of the world,” except that none of these things really make sense given the context of what actually happened during the apocalypse (solar flares maybe? parts of the earth scorched, people burned up immediately, no one really knows) and we’re not given any kind of explanation as to why they evolved. All of the time spent in the high school part could have been used toward fleshing out this new world.

I was, fortunately, reeled back in toward the end for spoilery reasons. I’m the kind of person that will put aside a lot of crap I don’t like if the plot is a page-turner, which, frankly, this was. So even considering all of my gripes above, I’d still be interested in picking up the sequel(s) because I’m still interested in how this story resolves itself. I can let go of my world-building issue, but I think that if Cole wants Jackson and Evie’s romance to be a main draw, she needs to put a lot of work into making these people more likeable as a couple, because right now, I have no patience for two people who snipe back and forth at each other so crassly but are supposed to be in love. I happened to catch a sneak peek of the cover for the sequel, and Evie is posing with a different guy (from my understanding, it’s the guy who represents Death in the Tarot.) So, love triangle! I’ve gotta say — the guy hasn’t even really been properly introduced yet, only hinted at, but I’m already kind of rooting for him, because I really don’t like Jackson at all. Anyway, I’d recommend this maybe for people who are like me: you don’t mind spending a few hours reading something that is ultimately fun, despite being pretty problematic.

2.5 stars

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #54: Shadow’s Claim by Kresley Cole

2.5 stars

Trehan Daciano is a Dacian vampire. Dacia is a realm hidden in mist (so hardly anyone knows where to find it) and Trehan’s job, is to hunt down and kill anyone who finds out about Dacia or the Dacians before they can tell anyone about them, or how to get into their super secret realm. Being a Dacian vampire also means that you don’t drink blood directly from their victims or some virtuous thing like that, they may even drink only animal blood, it doesn’t really come up, but Trehan and his relatives are wicked smug about it. Trehan, one of the princes of the Realm, has lived for nearly nine centuries, and is pretty bored. All he does is read, play with his extensive weapons’ collection, occasionally hunt down and with ruthless efficiency kill any threats to Dacia. He and his cousins, all in line for the Dacian throne appear to try to playfully murder one another, but even that seems to be losing its charm.

Then, as he is trailing a demon who visited Dacia and then broke the decree about never leaving, he meets his fated mate (all of Kresley Cole’s vampires, and werewolves, and most of the demons have one fated person who they’re waiting for, and once they meet them, they can’t think of anyone else). Unfortunately she is in love with the demon he is determined to kill, and also the prize in an epic tournament, where the winner gets her hand in marriage, and control of the throne of Abbadon, her kingdom. Read more on my blog.