In Serjana Caelum’s world, gods exist. So do goddesses. Sera knows this because she is one of them.
A secret long concealed by her parents, Sera is Lakshmi reborn, the human avatar of an immortal Indian goddess rumored to control all the planes of existence. Marked by the sigils of both heaven and hell, Sera’s avatar is meant to bring balance to the mortal world, but all she creates is chaos.
A chaos that Azrath, the Asura Lord of Death, hopes to use to unleash hell on earth.
Torn between reconciling her past and present, Sera must figure out how to stop Azrath before the Mortal Realm is destroyed. But trust doesn’t come easy in a world fissured by lies and betrayal. Her best friend Kyle is hiding his own dark secrets, and her mysterious new neighbor, Devendra, seems to know a lot more than he’s telling.
Struggling between her opposing halves and her attraction to the boys tied to each of them, Sera must become the goddess she was meant to be, or risk failing … sacrificing the world she was born to protect.
(I got an ebook copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. This being an Advanced Reader Copy, some things in this novel are still liable to change before its publishing.)
I was mostly interested in this book because of Hindu mythology, something that I haven’t seen used in many stories so far. I only know the basics, so I can’t really tell if everything in Alpha Goddess is exact, or if the author changed a lot of things. I’m not sure I agree with the changes in spelling—why Asuras and Devas couldn’t stay the same, and why there’s a nekomata thrown in the lot, well, I don’t know. (Also, Xibalba is from Maya mythology; no idea either why it was included here.) However, the novel raised interesting questions about choice and redemption, about whether having Asura blood made you “evil” per se, or if you could still walk your own path, and I liked the kind of conundrums some of the characters (well, one of them, actually) had to go through, and what kind of answer he would find.
Another aspect that was a good change, in my opinion, was the love triangle. I’ll be open about that and admit I don’t like love triangles; most are badly written, unbelievable, and look more like the hype cliché to put in your book rather than something really relevant. There is a triangle here, but the nature of the people involved made it so that its outcome could be different: different avatars, different kinds of love, the ability to love one person with one part of one’s soul, yet also love another one with another part… This isn’t something I’ve seen so often—and it didn’t seem like an easy cop-out of “boy/girl gets both love interests”, because, well, it fits with the mythology (at least if I’ve grasped it properly).
The downside for me is that, in the end, the story didn’t click with me. It wasn’t good, it wasn’t bad, it just felt like too many YA stories I’ve read in the past. (Perhaps I’m becoming fed up, and this book had the misfortune of happening at the wrong moment for me, so don’t discard it just because I’m the jaded type.) It uses a lot of the usual YA tropes/clichés. Good boy/bad boy. Girl who finds herself ugly, but is actually a beautiful goddess. Whiny character (Sera). A big secret nobody will tell her about (at first), even though not knowing probably endangers her more. High school drama and rejection (unneeded here, I think, as it didn’t bring anything to the story). Sera gets better in the second half, maybe a little too fast: I’d have liked to see a smoother transition from “clueless girl who doesn’t know who she is” to “badass, demon-ass-kicking warrior”, because that part seemed to come out of the blue. But at least she stopped whining, and did something, even encouraging other characters to less discussion and more action, so bonus point here.
I noted a few inconsistencies, too. Sera’s mother being called Sophia was weird. Some physical descriptions seemed to have been changed at some point, with a few instances of the former descriptions remaining (ARC, though, so this might have been corrected in the meantime).
As I said, I might be just too jaded. If you’re not used to YA with paranormal/supernatural aspects as a genre, you might like it better than I did; it wouldn’t be such a bad introduction to it. If you feel you’ve already read too many similar stories, though, maybe this one isn’t for you either. It’s not “bad”. It just didn’t click for me.
(Grade: “It’s OK”, a.k.a. 2* on Goodreads, 3* on Amazon.)
Knight, the sheriff of a local magical government known as “the Gambit,” is called to recover a mutilated body, tainted with magic and dumped at a popular haunt. When the corpse is identified as a close associate of the Gambit, it threatens the safety of the community he protects, and those he cares about most. As the fragile peace amongst the city’s magic-wielding factions disintegrates, Knight must track down a cadre of murderers before his friends are picked off, one by one- with each death used to strengthen the spells cast against the Gambit.
The Necromancer’s Gambit is one of those conundrum books I don’t exactly know how to rate, because it had strong good sides, but also strong points that disagreed with me. Part of me liked it, while another part didn’t really want to go through with it.
Mostly I was really interested in the background it developed, with mages organised in groups (“gambits”) aiming at settling disputes, protecting their cities, and so on. Each gambit has a defined set of members, named after chess pieces, with defined roles: Kings and Queens on the political scene, Rooks as guardians, Knights acting as sheriffs, and so on. These members are also well-versed in different kinds of magic, from tracking spells to necromancy to devising bombs and traps. There are definitely lots of possibilities and combinations here, especially considering the presence of other supernaturals such as vampires in town, and I don’t doubt the series—since this is book #1—aims at exploiting them more later.
There’s also mystery, a noir flavour, murder attempts, murders performed through the use of gruesome magic, necromancy (I’m such a weakling for necromancy)… It’s certainly not a kind world. And the novel plays on enough different aspects, between action and investigation, that a reader will likely find something to his/her taste in it.
However, I found it hard to focus on the story, and it came down to two problems for me. The first was editing. Some sentences had a weird structure, making them hard to follow (punctuation included). Sometimes, it was also difficult to follow who was talking, and who was the POV character for a given chapter (mostly Knight, with forays into Rook’s and Pawn’s sides of the adventure). Also, I think some bits of dialogue should’ve been omitted, as they made scenes a little too long. This ties into the second problem: a serious overload of sexual jokes and innuendos? Now, this is coming from someone whose degree of well-being is measured by her friends by the amount of dirty jokes she makes (I’m worse in that regard than most men I know). Such jokes normally don’t bother me… but there were just too many of them, in situations where they fell flat and disrupted the narrative flow. Almost every character would sooner or later talk about his junk—or someone else’s; more than once I found myself thinking “why aren’t they getting to the point instead of mentioning X’s dick or Y’s boobs or whatever? It’s been going on for ten chapters.” As a consequence of those two issues, I tended to lose track too often, and I bet it prevented me from seeing some of the more subtle sides of the story. (A shame, since betrayal’s involved.)
I’m definitely liking the world those characters evolve in, and I wouldn’t mind discovering more about it. As it was, though, I’d have appreciated it much more without all the asides.
What if all the legends you’ve learned were wrong?
Brutally attacked by one god and unfairly cursed by another she faithfully served, Medusa has spent the last two thousand years living out her punishment on an enchanted isle in the Aegean Sea. A far cry from the monster legends depict, she’s spent her time educating herself, gardening, and desperately trying to frighten away adventure seekers who occasionally end up, much to her dismay, as statues when they manage to catch her off guard. As time marches on without her, Medusa wishes for nothing more than to be given a second chance at a life stolen away at far too young an age.
But then comes a day when Hermes, one of the few friends she still has and the only deity she trusts, petitions the rest of the gods and goddesses to reverse the curse. Thus begins a journey toward healing and redemption, of reclaiming a life after tragedy, and of just how powerful friendship and love can be—because sometimes, you have to sink in the deep end of the sea before you can rise back up again.
I’m probably not the right public for romance, and it’s too bad: I have to admit that there were a few moments during which I wanted this story to go just a little faster (surely a reader who has more love, no pun intended, for romance in general, would have enjoyed those more). However, I still found The Deep End of the Sea a fascinating read. Because to me, its real focus is not romance: it’s abuse, and how to conquer the fears it plants into a person—told through the tale of Medusa.
Bonus points, anyway, for: no insta-love; love that develops from a long friendship; no stinkin’ triangle (Poseidon doesn’t count, he’s a creep and Medusa doesn’t consider him as an acceptable alternative even once); love is great suppot, but not the miracle solution to every problem (Medusa has to literally and figuratively stand on her own two feet through her own willpower).
The author has taken a few liberties with some of the Greek myths here, but I think they work. After all, those deities were never depicted as perfect, far from it: they had all the merits and flaws human beings could have; in many ways, they were just as humans as those who worshipped them; and as such, I wasn’t surprised to see them portrayed here in slightly different colours than the ones I was used to. I could probably choose to be a nitpicker, but… I don’t want to.
Anyway, back to what really gripped me. This story deserves to be read not to get a shot of romance, but to think about what abuse (more specifically rape) entails. It addresses a lot of the crap usually heard: that the victim “deserved it”, that she was “looking for it”. It covered the way abusers will act, and even convince themselves that they’re not at fault, that what they did was genuine, that their victim was rightfully theirs, and should be forever. Twisted, insane love to the power of ten. Hateful thoughts from the punisher towards the person who was abused twice, once by her rapist, then by the one she served and thought would help her. Guilt-tripping the victim, making her feel like the one at fault. And, last but not least, the victim herself locking her life into abuse of her own, because she hasn’t come to terms with what she went through. Even two thousand years of isolation can’t delete such a trial from one’s mind: deep inside, Medusa hadn’t faced her fears yet.
This story calls bullshit on all of this, and doesn’t use romance as an excuse to awful behaviours, the way too many books do in my opinion. No, it’s not okay to force yourself on a woman (or on anyone, as a general rule) just because she’s pretty, just because one thinks he’s in love with her. It’s never okay. Poseidon has no right to claim Medusa as his own. Nobody should make decisions for her. She didn’t deserve what happened to her, but justice being served is only the first step on a much more important road, that of finding herself again, learning to let go of the pain, to allow herself to love: a victim no more, but a strong person who refuses to be shamed any longer, especially when the ones pointing the finger are the ones who should shut up the most. (Medusa being turned into a monster, blaming herself—and being blamed by others—for the deaths she caused in that form, was quite an accurate manner, in my opinion, to reflect how way too often, victims are driven to consider themselves guilty, to see themselves as “monsters” of sorts.)
Replace Medusa’s story with that of countless people who’ve been harrassed, abused, raped, then blamed for it. And there you have it.
Also, while there were of course some really hateful figures in this story, I appreciated how support was shown, and not necessarily where it was expected. Hermes, of course, is an obvious support to Medusa; we get that from the blurb, and the narrative confirms it. But really, would you expect Hades to care? Well, yes, the Lord of the Underworld does. Not only that, but he’s seriously spot-on, and I couldn’t put it better:
“Niece,” he stresses, mimicking her formality, “this isn’t the first time you’ve overstepped your bounds by punishing innocents; this one just so happens to be the last remaining victim. If you even try to spew that victim blaming crap again, I’ll take you down to the Underworld with me for a spell. Maybe then you can understand what true justice entails.”
Support didn’t come only from other women, it also came from men. It wasn’t a one-sided, “women support women and men stand up for men” story, thus placing the real focus far abovesuch differences, at a purely human level.
Although I do have a couple of minor quibbles, they never became a problem, so I’m willing to ignore them, and keep stressing how positive and beautiful this novel was (all the more when I compare it to other stories I’ve read, full of so-called “romantic” yet actually creepy behaviours that scream impending abuse to me).
So many secrets for such a small island. From the moment Anne Merchant arrives at Cania Christy, a boarding school for the world’s wealthiest teens, the hushed truths of this strange, unfamiliar land begin calling to her—sometimes as lulling drumbeats in the night, sometimes as piercing shrieks.
One by one, unanswered questions rise. No one will tell her why a line is painted across the island or why she is forbidden to cross it. Her every move—even her performance at the school dance—is graded as part of a competition to become valedictorian, a title that brings rewards no one will talk about. And Anne discovers that the parents of her peers surrender million-dollar possessions to enroll their kids in Cania Christy, leaving her to wonder what her lowly funeral director father could have paid to get her in and why.
As a beautiful senior struggles to help Anne make sense of this cloak-and-dagger world without breaking the rules that bind him, she must summon the courage to face the impossible truth—and change it—before she and everyone she loves is destroyed by it.
(I received an ebook copy from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)
Such a weird, weird book. I have no idea if I found it just average, or if I didn’t like it. Probably both.
It’s one of those “good ideas, but…” novels for me. Intriguing blurb, a theme (revealed later) that normally fascinates me… I could’ve liked it, but.
All right, let’s start with the facepalming, to get it out of the way:
* Nothing remarkable about the writing style. I’ve seen worse, but I’ve also seen much better.
* Several “what the hell” and “head, meet desk” moments. The almost-constant lechery undermining the narrative. It’s set in a school, the characters are all pupils, yet some have it with teachers, and Anne’s Guardian is just one seriously disturbed creep. (His role is to determine Anne’s “quality” in life, and grade her on whether she lives up to it or not for the next two years. He determines her quality is “seduction”, and then proceeds—twice—to unzip his pants and suggest they have sex in exchange for good grades.
* Some plot holes. For instance, the aforementioned Guardians: every pupil is supposed to have one, but we only see Teddy? Where are the others? Also, what classes? The only class Anne ever goes to is Art; we never see her study anything else.
* Slut shaming. The cliché beautiful-yet-mean-girls quartet, immediately hostile to Anne, immediately judged and described by the latter as sluts and skanks. Most girls in the story seem to be that; the ones who aren’t vanish before the middle of the book. Not only does this particular cliché annoy me, slut shaming in general makes me want to slap someone.
* The dance off. No. Just… no.
* Anne is of the Too Stupid To Live breed (yes, considering what the novel’s really about, this is quite the irony). She’s supposed to be smart, but doesn’t piece obvious things together before it’s too late. She gives up on looking for something that, if found by anyone else, will cause serious trouble to herself and another person (a shoe with that other person’s name inside). A couple of characters wave huge “hint here!” signs at her by totally changing behaviours, or giving her items, yet she doesn’t bother to check said items. I was surprised she actually guessed what the Big V meant all by herself.
* I didn’t really get the romance part. I understand the connection, but it doesn’t justify romance to me. It felt like some unwanted cherry plopped on sauerkraut.
* Languages and nationality: the description of a French accent didn’t sit with me (trust me, I know what French sounds like, I’ve spoken it all my life, and we don’t “drawl”). Also, it was weird how Anne could immediately exactly pick who was Thai, Indian, Canadian, etc.
However, I did find a couple of redeeming qualities to this novel. It gave off a Silent Hill-esque vibe, and I’m totally partial to anything SH-related. (It’s not a SH rip-off; it simply left me with similar impressions—whether that was intended, or a complete coincidence.) When Anne realises everybody’s dead, and she must be as well, Cania Christy, the island, the village, suddenly take on a whole other meaning, with that claustrophobic feeling of being locked inside a nightmare world from which you can’t get out just by wishing it. I wasn’t too keen on the Big Reveal about the villain behind it all, nor about the sudden heel-face-turn coming from a character who had been creepy from beginning to end, but its deeper aspects, the power play, the way parents were so to speak forced to bow and kneel down for one fickle piece of fleeting hope… Now that was, in a way, cruelly enjoyable, as well as frightening—because who can honestly say “I’d never do it, I’d never sell my soul for a few more years with my deceased child”?
The last 30% of the book sort of made up for some of its previous facepalm-inducing moments. Not enough for me to give it 2 stars, but at least 1.5. I can’t say I totally disliked this novel.
‘My name is Lucas Soul.
Today, I died again.
This is my fifteenth death in the last four hundred and fifty years.’
The Crovirs and the Bastians. Two races of immortals who have lived side by side with humans for millennia and been engaged in a bloody war since the very dawn of their existence. With the capacity to survive up to sixteen deaths, it was not until the late fourteenth century that they reached an uneasy truce, following a deadly plague that wiped out more than half of their numbers and made the majority of survivors infertile.
Soul is an outcast of both immortal societies. Born of a Bastian mother and a Crovir father, a half breed whose very existence is abhorred by the two races, he spends the first three hundred and fifty years of his life being chased and killed by the Hunters.
One fall night in Boston, the Hunt starts again, resulting in Soul’s fifteenth death and triggering a chain of events that sends him on the run with Reid Hasley, a former US Marine and his human business partner of ten years. When a lead takes them to Washington DC and a biotechnology company with affiliations to the Crovirs, they cross the Atlantic to Europe, on the trail of a French scientist whose research seems intrinsically linked to the reason why the Hunters are after Soul again.
From Paris to Prague, their search for answers will lead them deep into the immortal societies and bring them face to face with someone from Soul’s past. Shocking secrets are uncovered and fresh allies come to the fore as they attempt to put a stop to a new and terrifying threat to both immortals and humans.
Time is running out for Soul. Can he get to the truth before his seventeenth death, protect the ones he loves and prevent another immortal war?
(I got an ARC of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Since this was an ARC, please note that it might still undergo a few changes before publication.)
One thing I should say from the start is that Soul Meaning would probably make a terrific movie: packed with action, flying bullets, underground treads in secret passageways, a conspiracy that could have a horrible impact on the whole world… A real page-turner.
I especially liked the setting. From what I could see, and as far as I know, real-world locations were well-documented, and I could feel the author researched those, and didn’t only made up stuff on the spot. Bonus points for proper use of French language, which isn’t such a given considering how many novels come up with mangled sentences in that regard. I also liked the way the immortals’ society worked, with two factions technically at peace, yet always seeming like they were on the brink of reigniting the conflict. Last but not least, the stakes were exactly of the kind I like to read about, and here, too, it was obvious things were researched beforehand.
Make it a (solid) 3.5 stars and not a 5, though, because of two things that didn’t really work out for me (unfortunately):
1) The action itself: I liked a fast-paced read, but this one was so fast-paced it made me feel tired. As in, physically tired, just like the characters could only be after so many days living on the edge. On the one hand, it is a positive point: any author can be proud when his/her books elicit responses from the readers. On the other hand, well… there were moments when I wanted to keep on reading, yet had to take a break nonetheless. In the end, it detracted from my enjoyment, even though it wasn’t a breaker either.
(Minor sidenote about suppressors, too: if I’m not mistaken, you’d still hear the gun shot, and it might still attract attention in enclosed spaces, if only the way a strange muffled sound where there isn’t supposed to be any would. Granted, this is nitpicking on my part.)
2) Because the story unfolds so quickly, and the protagonists are so often on the run, I felt there wasn’t enough room for character development. We get to see them react, made plans, devise means of escape, fight, piece hints together… but I didn’t get a complete feeling for them as people. I think they are deeper than that; their depth just couldn’t shine through as much as it would have in different circumstances.
Still, I liked this book (as said, I would easily envision it as a movie or an episode in a TV series), and will keep an eye out for more from this authir. It’s mostly those two specific aspects that didn’t agree with me—and may not be such a problem for another reader.Older posts »