vampires and werewolves and goblins, oh my!

God Save the Queen by Kate Locke

I won a copy of Kate Locke’s God Save the Queen during one of the monthly LibraryThing giveaways and let it sit on my TBR review pile since July… I finally got around to reading it while working on NaNo. It might be the novel’s fast pace, or its fun, snarky characters, but Xandra’s misadventures kept me sane during start of the writing frenzy and provided me with just the right kind of entertainment to keep me from going down the road of writerly one-track-mindedness.

The novel is set in a sci-fi-ish, steampunkish, present day, alternate London ruled by a vampiric Queen Victoria, and inhabited by vampires, werewolves, goblins, and a special hybrid breed of “halvies.” There’s a neat explanation about how these species came to be as a result of the Plague, but the book does a better job of explaining it than I do. This is the first in the Immortal Empire series, so there is a lot of world-building, and plenty of conspiracies and plot bunnies are introduced to set the series in motion.

My one pet peeve is that blurb on the back of the book does it a complete disservice. After reading the blurb, I assumed the novel would focus on the vampiric Queen Victoria, but it is really about [Ale]Xandra Vardan, halvie and kick-ass member of the Royal Guard. When Xandra’s half-sister, Drusilla, dies, Xandra is the only one who suspects that her sister’s suicide is more than it seems. Underground rebellions and dangerous encounters abound as Xandra tries to learn the truth of her sister’s death, only to find more than she bargained for… including a goblin Prince and a sexy werewolf.

Even while trying to work on my own writing, I became totally immersed in Locke’s alternate London. Xandra is just the kind of heroine I enjoy and Vex is the best kind of supportive hero-lover figure. I want more!

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not just another werewolf novel

Moonglow by Kristen Callihan

After reading Firelight, I was intrigued enough by the mythology created by Callihan to want to give Moonglow a try. Second in the Darkest London series, Moonglow picks up some time after Firelight left off. Archer and Miranda make several appearances as secondary characters, but the real protagonists in this story are Ian Ranulf, former Miranda stalker, and Daisy, Miranda’s older, recently widowed sister.

First introduced in Firelight, Ian is a werewolf with a yen for red-heads and a troubled past of his own. Given the troubled werewolf element, there is plenty of potential for cliché, but Callihan manages to establish a mythology all of her own, her werewolves living as part of society and serving as a sort of underground, supernatural kingdom right in the center of London.

Like Miranda, the widowed Daisy is an unconventional heroine well able of looking after herself, even during a werewolf attack. And that’s where the action starts, when a rogue kills Daisy’s would-be paramour when they set out for a clandestine tryst. Arriving on the scene at the right moment, Ian, exiled were and former member of Clan Ranulf, comes to Daisy’s aid just on time. As Archer’s former friend and Miranda’s caddish hanger-on, Ian has little to recommend him to Daisy but his personality. It just happens that his insouciant attitude is just what Daisy needs after a troubled marriage and tedious mourning.

Callihan does a great job of portraying lust/love as a companionate, mutually enjoyable thing. Like Miranda and Archer, Ian and Daisy are a pair of equals–neither is a naive innocent in this relationship. Even as Daisy comes into her own and discovers her own special talent for… let’s call it magical horticulture… Ian finds his own place through his relationship with her.

Especially interesting to me is Callihan’s concept of wolfhood, as explained by Ian:

“Look, we don’t know how we started, why we live this endless life, or from where we came. It’s all speculation. But the closest our elders can figure, it has to do with reincarnation. Once we were wolves. Over several lifetimes, our sprits [sic] evolved and we became men, but the wolf spirit lived on as well. Think of it as a soul divided.”

These wolves are not the usual bite-victims, but a kind of royal family. The elemental powers possessed by the Ellis sisters, as well as the GIMs (Ghost in the Machine), shapeshifters, demons, and who knows what that people this version of London add an extra layer of depth to what would otherwise be another historical romance.

But I really must stop waxing lyrical. This really is just a fun paranormal historical romance with some interesting twists, a side of mystery, and a number of sexy bits that are bound to make you blush, if you’re the blushing type.

I received an advance copy of Moonglow from Grand Central Publishing via Netgalley.

Changeless

Changeless by Gail Carriger

I generally try to avoid spoilers in my reviews, but it can’t be helped when reviewing a series like The Parasol Protectorate… one book leads to another, so details are bound to be revealed that might spoil some readers. So this is a great, big SPOILER WARNING!

For those readers wishing to avoid spoilers, I will say that this has become my new favorite series, which is saying a lot as I tend to avoid series books in general unless they are complete… I am waiting for the next book with intense anticipation and feel thoroughly vexed at not being able to have more, more, now, now! Alexia is a wonderfully snarky character, and I love the supernatural elements in Carriger’s London–undead they may be, but they are entirely fresh and original.

Hark! There be SPOILERS AHEAD! Retreat now if you must!

Otherwise, proceed…

Soulless

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Alexia Tarabotti, half-Italian, on-the-shelf, and soulless, finds she is under no obligation to observe all the niceties of Victorian society, so why should she hesitate to order tea in another’s home when a proper tea is not forthcoming? Never did she imagine that something as simple as a request for tea and treacle tart could lead to her becoming involved in unraveling a mysterious plot that threatens the order of Britain’s supernatural citizens. Or that she would suddenly find herself  in the company of alluring, Scottish, and infinitely infuriating Lord Maccon, Alpha werewolf and BUR agent. Vampires! Werewolves! and Deadly Creatures! abound, but Alexia is ready for them with her trusty, silver-tipped parasol.

After the surge in trendy vampire fiction, I experienced what I have termed vampire fatigue–a curious condition sparked by exposure to too many black, red, and white jacketed, Twilight-esque books, leading to much scoffing and arguing on the merits (or lack thereof) of damsel in distress heroines and their pretty-boy vampire counterparts. Oh yes, it brings out the worst of my snobby book reviewer personalities.

Soulless is not one of those books. I love Victorian-inspired fiction. The Victorians have always been my favorites, and those who know me put up with plenty of Victorianisms on my part. When I first saw a post on Soulless, I knew I wanted to read it–spinsters, vampires, and werewolves in a Steampunky, alternate Victorian London? Yep, my kind of story.

In many ways, Soulless reminded me of what I loved best about Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer’s Sorcery and Cecilia books–witty banter and a no-nonsense heroine who defies convention. It was a fun romp, and I instantly wanted to grab a copy of Changeless, the second in the series. I’ve avoided series for a while, but I’m looking forward to following this one :).