Tagged: shapeshifters

When Forever Died by Mia Darien

When Forever Died by Mia Darien(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Forever is a long time.

The life of a hunter is a lonely one. Perhaps more for Dakota than others in her line of work. Not only is she better than anyone else at chasing down the things that go bump in the night, but her past chases her with the same tenacity.

She’s built walls around her solitary existence and that’s the way she likes it, but the past never sleeps. When she’s hired to hunt an ex-lover for murder, it’s just the first in a string of memories that will bring Dakota’s past, present and future into a collision course.

And when she agrees to take on a second case and hunt down an Ancient, a vampire over one thousand years old, it unleashes circumstances onto that collision that will shake the foundation of everything she’s built and force her, for the first time in a long while, to look to others.

Can she survive it, like she’s survived these past four centuries? Or will the weight of it all finally crush her?

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook in conjunction with the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]

Dakota was one of the secondary characters that really intrigued me in the first book of the Adelheid series, Cameron’s Law.  That was from Sadie’s point of view and in When Forever Died we learn that Sadie has hired Dakota as a freelance hunter to work on a job-by-job basis.  But what happens when a job comes across Dakota’s desk that brings her long-suppressed past back to the surface?

Even though we met Dakota briefly in the first book I was extremely excited to read about her adventures in this second book and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.  Dakota has had a hard life as we learn through various flashbacks and her powers have not made life easy for her.  Even though it would be pretty cool to morph into anything or anyone you’d like it doesn’t solve all of your problems—sometimes it even causes them as she learns when she starts tracking down a rogue Ancient.  When she discovers that a former lover of hers and someone even closer to her are involved with this Ancient and his mysterious but clearly nefarious plans, things definitely get interesting.  It’s very gratifying to see Dakota change throughout the course of the story as she learns more about herself and her past but also begins to look more to the present and begins to appreciate the people around her.  She’ll never be the life of the party by any stretch of the imagination but it was nice to see her begin to realize that maybe people aren’t so bad at all.

Even if the plot sucked, Dakota would have carried the day and still made this a good book.  However, the plot was awesome as well.  Tracking an Ancient isn’t easy, particularly when they don’t want to be found and they have immensely powerful beings helping them.  Add into that a seemingly insane secret society of supposedly reincarnated figures from Norse legends and you’ve got a very interesting and extremely fast-paced plot.  Nothing is as it seems and of course nothing is simple in Adelheid’s supernatural community.

Speaking of the supernatural community, I absolutely love Mia Darien’s world-building.  In Cameron’s Law we mainly see the world of vampires and werewolves as well as the human opposition to the fact that they are now considered human beings with full legal rights.  Here in When Forever Died we see Dakota’s extremely rare species of shapeshifter, one that can turn into whatever they like whereas normal shapeshifters are restricted to one animal form like Sadie’s weretiger boyfriend Vance.  Just because almost a year has passed since the events of the first book doesn’t mean that humans are more accepting of the supernatural community, though.  And just because the supernatural community is ecstatic that they’re allowed to live in the open doesn’t mean some of them bear any less hatred of humans than before.  Mia Darien is good at not only creating unique species of supernatural creatures but also creating complex and believable political systems within and without the supernatural community.

Even if you haven’t read the first book, you can certainly start the series at When Forever Died or any of the other books in the series because each stands alone quite well.  They’re all interconnected in fascinating ways but you don’t have to start right at the beginning because they all feature different characters.  It’s a great way to go about a series like this and I have to say that I can’t wait to read the other three books.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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Aranya by Marc Secchia

Aranya by Marc Secchia(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Chained to a rock and tossed off a cliff by her boyfriend, Aranya is executed for high treason against the Sylakian Empire. Falling a league into the deadly Cloudlands is not a fate she ever envisaged. But what if she did not die? What if she could spread her wings and fly?

Long ago, Dragons ruled the Island-World above the Cloudlands. But their Human slaves cast off the chains of Dragonish tyranny. Humans spread across the Islands in their flying Dragonships, colonising, building and warring. Now, the all-conquering Sylakians have defeated the last bastion of freedom–the Island-Kingdom of Immadia.

Evil has a new enemy. Aranya, Princess of Immadia. Dragon Shapeshifter.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook in conjunction with the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]

As with a lot of books I seem to read, I was a little skeptical about this one from the blurb.  It had the potential to be either a totally awesome book or really suck.  Good thing for me it was the former and not the latter, right?

I am just blown away by Aranya.  The plot, the world-building, Marc Secchia’s incomparable writing and the vivid characters all come together to make this book one of the best I’ve read in quite literally years.  Considering the fact that I read around 200 books per year, that’s no small feat either.  Sometimes books take the words quite literally out of my mouth and this is one of those instances (which is why I had to write this review hours after finishing the book, just to process it).

I’ll start off with the world-building, which was fabulous.  Here we have a complex geo-political situation within an epic fantasy world!  There are various alliances and rivalries and each little island on this world has its own distinct culture and history.  Its ruling families are all different, as are their customs and languages.  At the same time, for those of you worrying that this just becomes a political thriller, don’t worry.  Marc Secchia walks the fine line between political thriller and awesome world that has complicated politics (but ones that are not the main focus of the story).  So while his world is excellently built, we never get the backstory dump that sometimes happens in similar works.

And the dragons?  Wow.  I like that despite the impossibility of somehow having more matter when you shapeshift from human to dragon, the overall concept is very well thought out.  There are limitations for people like Aranya in both forms and her dragon form is far from invincible like it is in so many other stories.  She actually has to work at developing her powers, with the help of an incurable old letch, Nak.  And her limitations as a new dragon do significantly hinder her as she goes about her journey to save Immadia and her friends/family.  It’s very well done in my opinion.

As I said, Marc Secchia’s writing is incomparable.  He can not only describe action sequences with the ease of a writer with 50+ years of experience, but can also slow down and write heartbreakingly tender moments.  At the same time, the plot never really slows down.  There’s always something going on, a hint of background tension that forces you to keep reading in order to find out what happens next.  I was sucked into the world of Aranya, feeling everything from the humidity in the jungles of the Pygmy and the cool volcanic climate where Aranya gets kidnapped inadvertently.

Last but certainly not least are the characters.  Aranya and Zip are certainly some of the more memorable characters I’ve ever read about and they defy gender stereotypes left, right and centre.  How many female characters have a serious duel nearly to the death and then become the best of friends?  Not as many as male characters, I can tell you that much.  Both of them are well-rounded and three dimensional characters, but Aranya will always hold a special place in my heart.  She’s willing to leave her family and Immadia behind in order to secure the future of her country, even if it means living in obscure exile for the rest of her natural life.  And she does it with minimal whining as well, accepting her duty to her country.  Does that mean she’ll go down without a fight?  Certainly not!  But she also doesn’t spend all her time pining after every attractive guy who crosses her path and whining about how awful her lot in life is.  It’s quite a novel concept after the many, many YA novels I’ve read with similar concepts that were far less well carried out.

I just can’t recommend Aranya enough.  Even if you’re not big into epic fantasy, I think you can still enjoy this book.  Not only are the characters some of the most memorable I’ve ever encountered, the plot was amazing and Marc Secchia’s writing is always superb.  I just don’t have anything to say but this: buy the book already!

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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Discussion: The Next Supernatural Creature Fad

I think we all remember the boring horror that was the vampire craze spawned by Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga.  (I still can’t get over the fact that her vampires sparkled.)  For several months you could not find a YA book that didn’t feature vampires in some way or another as every author and their dog tried to cash in on the vampire craze.

Thank goodness it’s died down to a somewhat reasonable level of late.  There have been quite a few trends since then, what with zombies, werewolves and shapeshifters.  I’m not saying trends are bad but they’re a little boring when that’s all you see on the shelves at your local bookstore.

As for the next trend, I honestly don’t have a prediction.  I think shapeshifters are relatively popular right now but there’s not as big of a market for the supernatural as there was even a year ago.  Right now it’s still all dystopia, all the time in the YA market.

Anyway, what do you guys think will be the next supernatural fad in YA?  Shapeshifting werewolves, sparkling zombies or something equally ridiculous?  I can hold out hope that authors will try to move away from European myths and draw creatures from African and Asian cultures, but that’s really quite a pipe dream.