A Widow’s Tale
“This is fantastic, Princesa?”
“Yes, papa. I saved the best for last.”
“I see that.” Carlos much admired his daughter’s painting of their old house in Trelew, Argentina. In front of the house stood Bella, Karina’s dog. A Maltese who passed a year prior. Bella was an old dog, fifteen years old when she passed away. She was part of the Navarre family and played a major role in Karina’s upbringing. She took the death harder than anyone.
“This is your late Christmas and New Year’s present.” Karina explained to her father.
“It was worth the wait.” Carlos carried his ten-year old in his arms and kissed her temple. Gloria Navarre strolled into the living room with two champagne flutes and offered one to her husband.
“You know what we need to do before the clock strikes midnight?”
“What?” Karina looked up at her mom expectantly.
“Share our New Year’s resolutions.”
“What is a New Year’s resolution?” Asked a puzzled Karina, still seated on her father’s lap.
“It’s a promise you make to yourself to start doing something good or stop doing something bad in the New Year.”
Karina thought to herself for a moment, “I promise to share more.”
“That sounds wonderful.” Gloria grinned.
“…and eat all the veggies you sneak into my meals.” Karina quickly added.
Both Gloria and Carlos laughed.
“Let’s set realistic goals.” Teased Carlos.
“What about you, mama?”
A sudden thud behind the door seized Carlos’s attention. He would have ignored it as nothing more than his paranoia playing tricks on him if a second and much louder thud did not follow the first. He quickly stood, forcing Karina off his lap. He edged toward the windows and the first clue he discovered was the foot of one of his guards sticking out in the hallway.
He instantly paled. Gloria noticing her husband’s predicament, placed her finger to her lips, a sign of silence to Karina. She grabbed her daughter’s shoulders and forced her underneath the sofa.
Bang! The door suddenly swung open. Five men garbed in black and carrying weapons marched in with steady steps. They each had blades tucked inside their belts, except for one. The leader! He stepped away from the group, distancing himself from the masses and demonstrating his authority with self-importance. He wore a tailored dark suit and dark dress shirt. His shoes were polished to a gloss. All five men were dressed sharply, but the leader stood out. Gloria Navarre stood terrified, shuddering with terror behind her husband. Karina sensing danger remained unmoving. The ten-year old knew exactly what to do as she had been rehearsing for years with her mother. Gloria always cautioned her, there are many monsters in the world that’d want to hurt us because of who we are and what we represent and she must be ready when and if that occurred. Though Karina never believed or understood her, she went along with the exercise anyway to pacify her mother’s fears. Be as silent as the grave, her mom had told her. Under no circumstance should you reveal yourself or let the enemy know where you are hiding and tonight she did just that. She couldn’t see the faces of the beasts that invaded their home, but she saw their shoes. Her eyes were fixated on the glossier pair. It stood right in front of her father’s bare feet.
“Carlos Navarre,” a deep voice said, probably from the man with the shiny feet, “this was easier than I thought it’d be.” his cold chortle filled the noiseless room.
“Mrs. Navarre.” his voice was deeply aggrieved.
“Tomas?” her father’s voice responded, “You’ve some nerves storming into my home as if you own me. What is the meaning of this?”
“Ah, be careful now.” The deep voice warned, “It’s a new day. You lost before the battle began. I am taking over your empire and there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop me. Your men, at least those in the building are all gone. You are done, Navarre. If you’re as wise as you have in the past portrayed yourself to be, you’ll be reciting your final prayers, pleading for clemency for your soul before I squeeze this trigger.”
“You traitorous bastard. Tell me, what coerced you to act against the hand that has fed you all these years? You were nothing. I made you and this is how you repay me?”
“You are a weak man, Navarre. You call yourself the boss. The Don.” he said with a slight chuckle, “You are a joke, a phony. We did all your dirty work while you sat on your high horse and collected. I don’t answer to weak men, not anymore.”
“You’ll never survive in our world with this kind of betrayal under your belt. No one will trust you. Think very hard about what you are doing.”
“Oh, I have. See, while you were seated on your throne, filling your belly from our blood and sweat, I was preparing for this defining moment. I’ve looked forward to this day for a very long time.” he crowed with insolence.
“You were always in my home, seated at my table with my family, breaking bread and today you kiss me on my cheek?” Carlos said incredulously.
“You give me too much credit. I am no Judas. You sealed your fate, Carlos. I am just here to ensure your crossover goes smoothly.” he released the safety on the gun and aimed it at Carlos’s head. That was the moment little Karina realized she knew the monster. She thought the voice sounded familiar but her feeble nerves had compromised her brain. It was her father’s good friend, Uncle Tomas, but why’d he do this? She mused.
“This is absurd, Tomas. This is between us. Let my wife go, and we can handle this as men.”
“As you wish.” Tomas said right before a loud ear-piercing sound filled the room. Within seconds, her mother’s eyes were gazing directly at her. Blood streaming down her temple. Her eyes were wide open but appeared lifeless and Karina knew right away that her mother was gone.
A deep agonizing scream from her father erupted through the room.
“There it is. I let her go. Now we handle this as men.” Tomas motioned with his weapon between him and Carlos.
Still staring into her mother’s cold eyes, Karina whimpered in absolute silence. Unceasing tears poured down her face, spilling over her hands. “Mummy?” she mouthed.
“I’ll destroy you, Tomas.” her father said, right before another dreadful sound emitted and just as she feared, his body slumped on top of her mother’s. She shut her eyes for a moment and sharply inhaled.
The monster’s feet hovered over the corpses for a long moment before he spoke again, “Let’s get out of this rubbish dump.”
“How about the kid?” One of his followers said.
Silence filled the room like an invisible cloud as the men pondered over the question. Heavy footsteps suddenly hurried through the room, then ascended the staircase. Slamming of doors and screams erupted from every corner of the building. With both her hands covering her own mouth to suppress a harrowing scream from sliding out, Karina closed her eyes tightly and prayed. Her little heart raced frenziedly. It was so loud, she feared the men left in the room could hear it too. Be as quiet as the grave. Her mother’s voice echoed in her ears.
“She’s just a stupid girl. What can she do?” Tomas finally said. To some degree, he sounded hesitant, even to himself.
“Tomas?” One of his men protested.
“Do you want to put a bullet into a little girl’s heart?” Anger spewed out of him.
There was no response.
“Or perhaps you want to adopt her?”
Still, no response.
“Leave that dirty little thing. She’ll just turn into a whore like the rest of them if she’s not dead within two years.”
“Did you find the sleazeball?” he snarled, referring to Carlos’s best friend and second in command, Savio Cardozo.
“Find him. The takeover is not successful until he is put down.”
The frightening sound of additional bullets filled the room as he shot extra holes into her father to certify his demise.
After some time, the footsteps receded, and she cautiously dragged her body forward to gain a full length view of the monster who destroyed her entire life in one night before he exited the room. Disheartened, she broke down into hysterical tears when she established, it was indeed, Uncle Tomas.
A serene night. The stars shone brightly like diamonds. The full moon hung low, illuminating the path, and casting a glow along her vision as she peered through the night vision scope of Ruby, her sniper rifle. Designed to travel as far as 1.25 miles (2.01 km) to her intended target with no hitches. Tonight, her position from the fat bastard she was contracted forty-eight hours earlier to put down like a sick dog was close to two thousand yards. She sighed, savoring the tranquil moment of the gentle winds blowing through her hair and calming the adrenaline rushing through her veins.
She lived for moments like these. The moment the bullet from her rifle travels undetected through the quiet night and lodges itself at home in the heart or brain. Her reputation to date was unimpeachable. She was considered a Grade A sniper, and listed amongst the top ten of the world’s best snipers. She had no knowledge the true identities of her superiors, or acquainted with their location, nor did she care to know. Her job was to eliminate. Plain and simple. An app was installed on a distinctive phone given to her by the agency, where she received notifications when awarded with a contract. The app was designed to disappear from the phone once a contract has been fulfilled. The details provided were typically the name of the target, location and contract amount, no negotiations. Not that she ever had the need to negotiate. She got paid more than she cared to admit, besides, she hardly needed the money. She hadn’t received a notification in six months. Ruby, her rifle grew restless and so did she. Twice a week during those excruciating six months, she’d dismantle her then put her back together. She repeated the practice daily without breaking a sweat.
Tonight’s kill was greatly required to quench her thirsty dark soul.
In a prone position, lying flat on her stomach with both legs spread apart, her left hand rested casually on the biceps of the right, while her right finger hovered over the trigger. Soft winds whistled in her ears and she heeded attentively. Ruby’s trajectory data was set to its precise setting, and she was anxious to squeeze the trigger her index finger was keenly massaging.
Three black Alfa Romeo SUVs pulled up seconds later. Three men in suits simultaneously jumped down from each vehicle before the target exited the vehicle in the middle. He slickly buttoned his suit jacket, scarcely turning his head to the left. She squeezed the trigger and listened as the bullet traveled in the silence of the night through the calming winds at 1,700 miles (2,735.88 km) per hour. It sliced through the center of his forehead within 2.12 seconds. Bullseye!
In just under three minutes, she’d detached the scope and packed Ruby carefully into its case. Just as she jumped into the backseat of the waiting car that was to transport her to an airstrip to board a private jet, her cellphone vibrated inside the pocket of her jacket. She discarded the red leather gloves shielding her hands from the bitter cold and fetched it. Caller unknown, it read.
“Yes?” she answered with a bit of irritation in her voice.
“It’s Savio.” he said, his tone was grimmer than courteous.
“Why are you calling from an unknown number?” she questioned.
“Are you on your way back home?” he countered her question with another.
“What’s going on?” she repeated the pattern.
He remained silent but his heavy breathing could be heard at the end of the line.
“Savio?” she called, growing impatient. After every kill, she performed a ritual. And that was to sit in silence, meditating for a few seconds and patting herself on the back for a job well done. This ill-timed call hindered with her sacramental process.
“Hurry back. We have a problem.” he cautioned.
“Just spit it out?” she had nothing but ultimate respect for Savio, her father-in-law and late father’s best friend but at this moment, his interruption irritated the energized heartbeat she earned from the excitement she just encountered.
“What about him?”
“He’s dead!” he whimpered, “Do you hear me? They took my boy.” his voice came in a broken growl.
Her hands fell in her lap. The sudden motion caused the phone to fall and disappear under the front seat. Her stare remained at the back of the headrest in sheer dismay. Her mind bizarrely rid of any thoughts.
“We are here, Ms. Navarre.” Karina heard the indistinct voice of her chauffeur.
She looked up and offered him a blank stare. No idea how long she had been stuck in that stupor state. She assumed a lengthy amount of time as the mileage between her last position and the hangar was just about 40.2 kilometers. Adding up to twenty minutes of oblivion. She gathered her bearings and stepped out of the car, grabbing Ruby from the seat beside her.
The pilot bobbed his head at her as she ascended the airstair toward him but received nothing in return. Once settled in her seat, she stared out the window in silence until the plane was safely in the air. She heaved a silent sigh and stiffened her stance. The nerves in her neck coiled, pulling every vein connecting her inner organs. Her skin inflamed with rage as her body temperature climbed at a reckless rate. She waved away the hostess who approached her with a glass of champagne. BBC news blared through the television hanging from the overhead.
BREAKING NEWS ― Petrak Novak, former Czech Prime Minister was assassinated at 21:48 at the front entrance of the Park Inn Hotel where he had been staying for the past two days. No report on whether he was on official duty or a private visit. The Belgian Federal Police team are actively engaged in the hunt for the assassin who might still be in the district. Road blocks have been placed all over the city as the manhunt continues. We will keep you informed as we receive more information on this cowardly act.
"In the frozen tundra of Khovir, a queen must put herself between the man she loves and the twin brother who covets all he has. When Amaroq steals her husband's crown, Kana sacrifices herself to the new king's rage to protect all that she cares for."
'King of the Castle' by Carmen Hunter is touted as a dark historical romance novel, described to have traumatic scenes between captor and captive that are described in full detail. Only.. it isn't. Not really.
The descriptions of the power exchange scenarios are actually really brief and lackluster. The author seems to lack the range of language or creativity to make any of the scenes colorful, from the physical exchanges between Kana and her new King.. which are very basic, to the condition of the old king in his cell, and even scenes where the loyal are extinguished.
She genuinely didn't manage to make me care about a single character. There's zero growth within them. They're not complex, though it's clear the author either believes they are or wants the reader to believe so. Everyone is wishy-washy.
Kana spends the entire story swinging between acting contrite and saying she's sorry, then raging out on the King in some ridiculous over the top way and inspiring his violence again, which of course he's 'manipulating her into,' just so she can be 'terrified' a moment later. The cycle continues over and over, but not even in a believable way.
This isn't a story with a series of violent scenes. It's a number of individual, uninteresting violent scenes with the barest minimum of occurrences between them to seem like a story, to create more chances for violent scenes. There's no craft here. No substance.
I still don't understand the purpose of the first chapter. It seems wholly out of sync with the rest of the novel. You'll see what I mean if you read this.. but something referenced there actually never occurs throughout the entire book. There's no flashback or flashforward. It simply never is. Like the author originally thought to go one direction, then went another, and completely forgot what chapter one said.
Characters seldom even behave in ways that make any sense. We're not given reasons to believe many of their actions. We're just to take it on word.. that they feel one way or the other. And what an absolutely worthless ending.
Honestly, don't waste your time on this book. Even the alleged 'steamy' scenes aren't worthwhile and I love a good dark exchange.
Metaphrog (known collectively as Franco-Scottish graphic novelists Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers) will be releasing 'Metaphrog's Bluebeard' on May 5, 2020 through Papercutz -- a retelling of the French folktale with a feminist bent told through a unique art style that looks at times, almost as if it's discreetly stitched together. It's not.. of course. It's an illustrated comic, classified as children's fiction.
Whereas the original tale was an incredibly dark story about a wealthy nobleman who marries over and over, only to have each wife disappear and the experience of his newest wife as she attempts to avoid the same outcome that befell each of them.
Though this version makes no effort to extract that dark atmosphere, horrific things have certainly occurred in the nobleman's castle, there are some differences here and there as well. Otherworldly influence seems to abound throughout the story and the sisters are no mere damsels in distress.
All in all, if you're comfortable with the violence that is often present in a traditional folktale, this is a pretty good comic for a child that isn't easily upset. If your kids like dark stories like creepy pastas and games like Bendy, this might be the story for them.
Bear in mind, the unusually cutesy sort of.. paper doll art style really contrasts with the edginess of the story.. but it's still fun
Enchanted Kingdoms: A Limited Edition Twisted Fairytale Anthology
"Ripples and waves of light danced on the roof of the cave, the churning maelstrom of the glowing pool beneath reflected on the centuries-old rock worn smooth by the passage of time and water. The boy with the sword stopped in the entrance.."
Lately, I've become fascinated with the opening lines authors choose to use in their stories. After all, the cover is like a first glance at someone, the synopsis.. more like the ritual of approach, but those openers.. they're the greeting. They're the first impression and as they say, you only get one. Just as you might meet a new person, a lot can be gleaned from these first words. You get to see how they hold themselves.. are they confident or unsure.. reserved or aggressive.. how do they see the world around them?
From those first words, I bonded with this story and with this author. She was eloquently descriptive, but she didn't use the most complex language she had available just for the sake of the pretention of artistry. That's not to say her words lacked imagination or intelligence. Rather, she seemed to feel with her words. I could believe she had witnessed what she was describing.. and like the male lead, what she saw was stunningly beautiful and not just in the most obvious ways.
'Mageborn (The Hollow King Book 1),' is the story of a cynical, orphaned soldier, Grace Marchant, who is charged with capturing dangerous magic wielders called the mageborn that have often gone rogue and begun harming people. There are others of course, but the magic that is born into them is outlawed, and if they don't volunteer to be enslaved to the crown, soldiers like Grace are sent to retrieve them. After an incident in the field, she becomes caught up with the heir to the throne.. a prince called the Lord of Thorns.. Bastien Larelwynn. A man that the entire city is terrified of, all is not as it seems with him or nearly anyone amongst those connected with the palace.
"She could read the pain, written all over his expression like letters on parchment. It hurt him. It was agony. Like drinking poison and trying to transmute it into something else through sheer force of will alone."
Jessica Thorne, the author, wasted no time breaking my heart. Before the story even really gets rolling, she sunk a character deep into my heart with his pain and left me feeling blindsided, wondering what exactly had just occurred as I stared down at the page questioning everything.
In addition to the descriptive passages, Thorne does an excellent job at managing deep backstories.. both known and unknown to the characters and a relatively creative approach to the magic system which has elemental aspects, but also much more. The mageborn wield many different kinds of abilities and learning new ones as I read was almost as interesting as the plot itself.
There are distinctive class differences at play, between the royals and other well-bred citizens, and the gritty underbelly deeper inside the city, where the soldiers come from. The sense of entitlement and disdain.. regarding those outside the poorer parts of town is palpable. There is a bit of pantheon building here as well, just a glimpse of their gods, which I'm hoping we'll see developed more widely in future releases for the series.
"His eyes flickered open. He didn't even seem to see her, or know where he was. He stared up at her through the light of the pool, helpless and confused. The misery in his voice was a spear in her chest."
The characters are complex. Some of them have had horrible experiences in their earlier years.. and their behaviors often reflect that. They hide things, not just from each other, but from us.. even from themselves at times. The deceit is heavily layered, especially in the court, but it doesn't stop there either. They're all richly formed, for better or worse. Even the villains in this story are great.
That being said, Grace is a little to quick to flip back and forth on what she should know sometimes. Not a writing flaw, more of an individual character flaw. I couldn't decide if I wanted to cheer her.. or shake her until she saw reason.. but she's inherently good and means to do what's right. Her love interest is a beauty though.. inside and out.. a lovely character I spent the entire novel just wanting to protect. The absolute horrors wrought upon him and through him opened up a hole in my chest as I read. At times he made me laugh because he could be such a brat, but I adored him all the same. Perhaps even more due to those parts of his personality. In fact, there's a comment about an omelette that made me laugh so much, I nearly had to explain myself to the other people in my house.
"'Grace,' he whispered. 'I know. You're fine. Where does it hurt?' He laughed, a short and bitter laugh. He couldn't help himself. 'Everywhere?'"
My only complaints are small ones. Periodically, more so toward the end, the author seemed to rely on repetition to draw out a dramatic scene. Something literally might be said in one paragraph.. and restated in the very next.. and it felt unnecessary. The pacing of the novel is great and those scenes would have been just fine without repeating anything. And occasionally, feelings flipped entirely too fast. 'Never' is forgotten very quickly.
Really though, that's the worst thing I can say about this book and it's so insignificant. So minor, it's barely worth mentioning. I genuinely loved this story, the characters, the world, the way it's written.. everything about it.. and would recommend it to anyone looking for a great new fantasy series that is only just beginning..
'How to Find a Higgs Boson and Other Big Mysteries in the World of Very Small' by CERN particle physicist, Ivo Van Vulpen, is a surprisingly fun romp through some of the most complex discoveries in the history of the field.
The various discoveries and theories are told in layman's terms, anecdotes, and analogies even the most novice reader could enjoy. Initially, I had found the text to be overly simplified and a little repetitive, but as I read on.. I realized the author was setting the tone. He intended to get into some relatively heavy topics (no pun intended), even leading up to what he referred to as "one of the most abstract new concepts in physics," and wanted anyone picking the book up to be able to make it through to the end with him.. with a new understanding of the ideas and experiences he planned to share.
There are a few things especially, that I think the average reader will get a kick out of.. like the way the author shares the practical applications of many of the discoveries that have been made throughout the years. Though his analogies, he explains things such as how energy is produced in power plants.. also how electric engines like the Tesla uses (while better than fossil fuel engines), wind turbines, etc.. are not as "squeaky clean" as we think they are because they still have to get that power from traditional sources.
He goes in depth about the presence of particle accelerators and other quantum mechanics developments in our daily lives, via PET scanners, X-Ray technology, old televisions, computer monitors, and more. He even breaks down how they work, as well as the process of creating, destroying, and transforming particles entirely.. turning them into new.. and in some cases, undiscovered particles like his team did the Higgs Boson back in 2012.
"For example, an MRI scan of the knee of a particle physicist who has always been an avid amateur footballer may show that his cartilage is worn and that he should spend his time writing books instead of dreaming of a future on the FC Barcelona first team."
What I found fun, in addition to his sense of humor, were the analogies he sometimes chose to give the reader a better understanding of the scope of a the subject. Like the true physical size of both the series of particle detectors (one of which is a camera the size of the White House in Washington, D.C.) and the Large Hadron Collider, what it's like maneuvering those protons through it, what the equivalent force of that mass in real world terms, and additionally the ways scientists are now trying to capture evidence of dark matter through labs in underground mines and caves.. designed to avoid cosmic ray interference and hopefully get a glimpse of what they seek.
If you have even a remote interest in the field of particle physics or quantum mechanics, whether you're a novice or you consider yourself reasonably well read, I think you'll find something enjoyable about this book. I know I did.
'Duty Bound' is a short prequel novel in the Angelbound series by Christina Bauer.
Lincoln, the High Prince of Thrax is a demon hunter. Their world consists of Heaven, Hell, Earth, Purgatory, and a place called the Dark Lands, and in addition to his kind, there are humans, ghouls, and a what seems to be a number of other races.
There's a neighboring kingdom called Acca that he and his royal family struggle to manage.. run by an ambitious man who costs many warriors their lives to serve his personal agenda. Which of course, incites the prince. He wants to put an end to all the senseless death this story is mostly about the pursuit of that, as well as the structure he works within.
As it's brief, it's tough to say much about where the story is going, without spoiling it.. and I don't wish to ruin it for anyone who might want to read it. I'll say that Lincoln and his mother, the Queen, have an interesting relationship. It sometimes seems hostile, but I don't think it really is. She's suspicious by nature and he's often up to something. They spar verbally, but in a really amusing tone. Honestly, he plays word games like a 10 year old with her, and it's kind of hilarious.
He's kind though, he's good to others, he's supportive of young thrax coming up in training, and he wants what's best for everyone. Of course, then there's a girl. We don't find out much about her, only that she is.. well.. everything he's not supposed to like.
The real struggle is between him and the Earl of Acca. The Earl has his sights set very high and in his unscrupulous ways, is attempting to reach them.. while Lincoln is trying to stay a step ahead without losing his.
It's a fun little novel and I'm eager to move on in the series and see if it develops. The story is well-written, the special weaponry Lincoln uses is very creative, and the races seem pretty well fleshed out. In fact.. the demons have some pretty cool fighting abilities I haven't seen before too.
'The Nexus Mirror (Chronicles of the Enlai Book 1)' by N.E. Michael is a futuristic fantasy novel with strong sci-fi elements about a war that has been ongoing for over two-hundred years, a puzzle-trapped portal hiding a weapon that could theoretically win that war for whomever finds it, and the race to find the girl that's the key.
"My beautiful sister, when will you learn that some fights are just not worth the consequences?"
Now, this was actually a bit of a dense read and not entirely due to the deep story and world-building at play, but it absolutely maintained my interest to the end. The author has woven a number of historical figures and creatures of lore throughout the mythos of the races. Though I'm unsure if I like it in this particular case, I find it incredibly ambitious and very creative. However, some of the technology within is absolutely fascinating and not so far fetched, considering the testing going on in robotics.
"The ceiling was filled with small bee-like robots which flew from computer to computer, plugging their stingers into slits on top of the computers, transferring data, and then flying to their next destination..."
To begin with, there are many 'tribes' within the Enlai race. Each tribe has special abilities they're known for, such as elemental molding or dimension jumping. Some of them are content to lock themselves away in their own spaces and remain uninvolved, while others actively partner up with beings on each side of the war, for their own personal agendas.
What made this story so intense, is that literally everyone involved.. was willing to do just about anything to achieve their goal. In some cases that meant treachery and murder.. while in others.. it meant making the ultimate sacrifice for another. As their personal motivations came to light and their true natures began to show beyond their initial impressions, I often found myself disliking people I thought I'd like and championing those I thought I wouldn't. Michael excels at this kind of malleable character depth.
I grew especially invested in the Shadow tribe and if you read it, you'll understand why. There is just so much fire and heart in their people. So damn much fight. They have some unsavory members, as all the tribes seem to.. but inherently, I get what motivates them.
"His face painted with burns, smoke, and blood, he stood on one leg, the other hung loosely in its place. His arms and chest were on fire, yet his eyes burned brighter."
The action scenes felt a bit overdone to me, not in that they were frequent or violent. I'm good with both. I just find that for me, overexplaining a fight bores me a bit. I want the author to draw the parties to their conflict, give me a few physical highlights, and get back to the story. OR.. or.. if you really want to go into this kind of detail.. save it for pivotal battles, give it to us once or twice, and never again. They read like someone sitting in front of a movie, trying to explain every move to someone who isn't watching, and it's a bit much.
A book with this much story to tell, doesn't even need it. After the first couple of times, each fight got increasingly heavier in my mind, increasingly harder to read, even tiresome. I began to wish I could skip them at times and if I had been reading purely for pleasure, maybe I'd have considered it, but when I review.. I refuse to skip anything AND.. everything else was so interesting, I would have been afraid I'd miss something important anyway.
There's a slight tendency to information dump here and there, but mostly I feel this is due to the sheer scope of the world the writer has created and the time limit within one book to set everything up and still have room to move the story.
Admittedly, the only other small complaint I have is with the 'Reader' tribe, especially Alia, since it's her inner-narrative we're subject to so frequently. I understand that they're typically calm in stressful situations and their ability allows them insight, but the drawn out formal thoughts just don't meld well with the atmosphere of the story. In the heat of battle where one is receiving sensory input in quick bursts, assessing it, and deciding a course of action.. it just isn't how 'our' brains work. Sure, this is a work of fiction and even human brain functions vary.. theirs are probably different, but it just felt out of sync to me.
"They say," he started, breaking the silence and gesturing to the bowl, "these tears are the final gifts of the departed. That is why we collect them. For even in death, our loved ones wish to comfort us."
Honestly though, my two minor criticisms are just that. Minor. Overall, the book is highly engaging, both the backstory and current timeline are fascinating. There were all kinds of shifty characters coming and going, some good and some bad, at all times. Things were rarely as they seemed.. and I loved it. In fact, now I'm going to have to order the second book..
'Chain of Gold,' the first novel in the brand new upcoming series 'The Last Hours' by Cassandra Clare is set to release on March 3rd.. less than a three weeks away! Having never read any of Clare's previous series which have been on my to-be-read lists for years, I jumped at the chance to read an excerpt of the next foray into the Shadowhunters universe provided by NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing.
Though I was concerned I might not know important facts from the author's earlier releases, I was pleased with the way she gently explained anything specific to her world. The details brief enough, so as to come across like a reminder, more than a list of things I might be quizzed on later.
The story seems to center around James Herondale, a Shadowhunter of unusual heritage, that's beginning to struggle with an old problem which could potentially endanger him and his team.. all the while trying to hide his connection to a young woman soon to arrive in London, where they're all living.
When he, his sister, and his mother.. greet a family of new arrivals, long time friends of the Herondales, there's a bit of a misunderstanding which I can't wait to watch unfold. Cordelia Carstairs, her pompous brother Alastair, and their mother are in town seeking allies.. as their father finds himself in jeopardy.
I was also thoroughly intrigued by the glimpse of a young Lucie Herondale, James' little sister, lost in a forest near her family home, in what I assume was some kind of flashback. I found myself desperate to know who her would-be savior was and exactly why he was there.. because it was no happenstance.. and he certainly drew my attention with his playfully dangerous energy.
Unfortunately, the excerpt is incredibly brief.. just a few pages here and there.. but it's more than enough for me to realize I'm going to have to get the book. In fact, Cassandra's note at the beginning of the book implies a fascinating overlay between the historic battle of World War I and whatever is coming for both the Herondales and the Carstairs as their families reunite.
“Let’s get this one thing straight—I’m not breaking our betrothal contract.” He stalked back to me. “Not now. Not ever. If you want to break it, then we’ll discuss it. They’ve talked a lot about our contract on the news, so I’m sure you have it in your head that I’m planning on breaking it. But I’m not. I haven’t brought it up because you’ve been dealing with enough. I was giving you time, but I’d marry you tomorrow if I thought you’d agree.”
Tomorrow? I had zero clue before this moment that he was completely insane. He couldn’t marry me, especially not tomorrow. I couldn’t be queen.
“What if I want to break our betrothal?” I wasn’t sure I did, but I wasn’t sure I didn’t either.
He strode quickly to me, knelt in front of my chair. I hugged my legs tighter to my chest, but he grabbed my ankles. “Look at me.”
I looked everywhere but him.
“Look at me, please.” He squeezed my ankles and let go. “Please.”
I blew out a breath and rested my chin on my knees so that I could meet his gaze. It was hard to really look at him. Every time I did, I wanted him more and more, and I wasn’t sure how much more I could want him without becoming completely addicted. It took everything in me not to wrap my arms around his neck and pull him to me.
He let go of one ankle and cupped my cheek. “Do you want to marry me?” He was using his low voice, the one that set my skin on fire.
My skin was so bright and my stomach fluttered and flipped and I forced myself to choke down my first immediate response. The dumb one that wanted to slide past my lips effortlessly. I couldn’t answer his question because I didn’t trust myself to give him the right answer. The one that made sense.
All signs of anger melted away from him. His back straightened, he held his head high, his fao’ana stopped flashing, and his skin dimmed a little.
But it was his smile that told me he knew exactly what I’d been thinking.
“This is where being your shalshasa comes into play. I’m as sensitive to frequencies as you are, but even more attuned to yours. I can feel your frequencies as your moods shift. Your immediate answer was going to be yes before you got scared.” He rose just a little, cupping my face with both his hands, and all I could see were his aquamarine eyes.
The color I associated with calm and safety. The color I’d painted the walls in my room on Earth so that I could feel more at home. The color I wanted to get lost in forever.
He brushed a soft kiss on my lips. It was quick, too quick, and it left me wanting more.
“Until you can say no—honestly and without stress—I’m going to assume your answer is yes, and that you just need more time. I don’t want fear to be a part of your decision. Okay?”
He leaned in for another kiss, and I wanted. I wanted it more than anything. But I made myself lean back in the chair, pulling my face from his hands.
“I can’t do this.” The words were shaky, but I’d said them. I had to stop it before this went too far.
“Because…” There were too many reasons.
Because he needed a queen.
Because I didn’t want that much responsibility.
“Because you deserve someone not broken.” That wasn’t the one I meant to go with, but words slipping out of me seemed to be the theme for our little chat.
“You’re not broken. If anything, you’re confused. Which is totally understandable. You’ve been through a very rough thirteen years, and memories that would help you readjust to being home aren’t there. So, you need some time to heal. Which is what I’ve been giving you. I think you’d feel less fragile if you got a decent night’s sleep. If you ate more. If you took a moment to take care of yourself instead of spending twenty hours a day in the gym. Declan and his mission are going to kill you.”