Monthly Archives: August 2010

Blood Cross by Faith Hunter

2010. 321 pages. Paperback. RoC.

From: I bought this from Barnes & Noble.

For the challenge: 2nd Reading Challenge

Series Synopsis:

Jane Yellowrock is a Cherokee skinwalker, a human that can change into the form of an animal (usually that of a mountain lion).  In this version of the world, vampires and witches are publicly known supernatural beings.  As far as Jane knows, she is the only one of her kind, and so she protects her supernatural identity from all but her closest friends.  Jane kills rogue vampires for a living.

Book synopsis:

In Blood Cross, Jane must find and kill a vampire who has been siring new, bloodthirsty vampires and letting them loose in New Orleans.  (Normally, new vampires are kept in captivity until their sanity returns.)  She uses her tenuous alliances with vampires, their servants, New Orleans cops, and some vigilante ex-Marines to combat this new threat.

Meanwhile, her witch-friend Molly is visiting Jane, along with her two children.  As Jane researches the history of New Orleans vampires and hunts using her shape-shifter form, she discovers a disturbing trend of witch children disappearing.  It isn’t long before this threat hits close to home.

Review:

Blood Cross is the sequel to Skinwalker, which I read earlier this year (see review here).  I am very attracted to the shape-shifter element.  Some of my favorite scenes in both books involve Jane when she is in one of her animal forms.  I think this fascination traces back to my childhood, when I would pretend that I was an animal of some sort, preferably a predator.  So when I say that I wanted even more scenes of Jane in ‘Beast’ form, that’s my bias showing.

What I like about this series is that there usually aren’t easy ways out and the short cuts have consequences.  Blood Cross shows the fallout from the first book: Jane’s completion of her first mission in Skinwalker was messy with collateral damage and in Blood Cross, several vampires are seeking revenge.  And though Jane has access to a vampire with tremendous healing abilities – a nice shortcut – said vampire is certifiably nuts, which makes using her a risky move.

I also like that Jane is a planner and does not rely on luck, though she can have lucky moments sometimes.  She has to look through police case files and conduct various bouts of reconnaissance before she can take action.

The witch-magic elements of Blood Cross were not particularly compelling to me, and unfortunately they play a huge role in the climactic showdown.  I didn’t think the book provided enough background knowledge on magic for me to fully invest in what was going on in the final battle.  One witch uses a black ward of magic to combat another’s spells and gem-based power.  As a reader, all I can do is shrug and say, sure I suppose that would work if you say so.

Blood Cross is racier than the first book, but primarily just in the first third of the book.  And there seems to be more focus on Jane Yellowrock looking ‘hot’ either in a dress or in her leather motorcycle gear.  I much preferred her long description about her tea obsession from the first book to this increased attention on her physical attractiveness.  Of course, with urban fantasy, these aspects often come with the territory.

[Edit: I meant to add a quick critique of the writing, particularly the over-use of sentence fragments, a pet peeve of mine.  The fragments seem appropriate when Jane is in animal-form, but it annoyingly bleeds over into other passages of the book.  The previously mentioned strengths of the book help balance this out, but it is still worth mentioning.]

Faith Hunter’s website hints that a future book (maybe #4) will take place in the Appalachians, which is Jane Yellowrock’s actual home, not New Orleans.  I’m intrigued by stories set in Appalachia and look forward to that change in setting for this series.

If you’re already a fan of the urban fantasy genre, this is a good series to check out.

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Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones

https://i1.wp.com/rgr-static1.tangentlabs.co.uk/images/ar/97808125/9780812575729/150/0/plain/deep-secret.jpg 1997. 383 pages. Hardcover. Tor.

From: the public library

For: Diana Wynne Jones Week hosted by Jenny’s Books

Synopsis:

Rupert Venables is a junior Magid, with responsibilities for Earth and also for the Koryfonic Empire.  The Koryfonic Empire is falling apart after its despot dies without an identifiable heir.  All the other Magids and higher-ups tell Rupert to just let the Koryfonic Empire self-destruct.  Meanwhile, on Earth, Rupert’s Magid mentor, Stan dies and Rupert must find another replacement Magid.  Rupert manages to get all the candidates gathered at a sci-fi / fantasy convention in England.  Unfortunately, none of the candidates look promising to him.  But it is at the convention where the problems of the Koryfonic Empire spill over into Earth’s affairs.

Review:

Though I already had Deep Secret on my to-read list, it was this hilarious post by Jenny from Jenny’s Books that had me bump it up in priority.  And when Jenny announced Diana Wynne Jones week, I requested Deep Secret from another branch of the county library system.

Deep Secret is one of those fantasy books that throws you into its world without bothering too much with explanations.  Rupert does explain some aspects, but there’s plenty of instances where I just had to roll with it.  And that’s okay.  I prefer to be balancing on the edge of understanding rather than to have the book’s world diminished by over-explanation.

It’s a clever book, saturating its details with wit and humor.  Rupert’s mentor, Stan, continues to mentor Rupert after death as a disembodied voice that blasts classical music from Rupert’s car.  Rupert’s brother transports through worlds with quack chicks in his p0ckets.

Deep Secret does get serious however and there are some shocking deaths.  It also has some surprises and twists up its sleeve that I didn’t foresee.

The book does come off a little dated: it seemed to have a strong 1990’s essence.  Maybe it was the cover I had, or the constant faxing in situations where today we would email or text.  Rupert Venables is a computer programmer as his cover job, and so the datedness of the technology comes out through his discussions of his work.  It can’t really be helped and so it seems unjust to level this as a criticism, but it still took me out of the story a bit.

I wouldn’t say that  Deep Secret blew me away or converted me to fandom of the author, but I did enjoy the book, finishing the last few pages in a power outage by the light of the setting sun.

http://jennysbooks.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/dwj-week-sidebar1.jpg

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