Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tower in the Woods by Tara Quan

Raised by the Women’s Independent Territory Church (WITCH), Nel Zapur is a skilled sniper tasked to eliminate zombies. Never having once laid eyes on a man, she has been a prisoner in her tower for eleven long years. A fateful snowstorm leads a mysterious stranger to her window, and saving him may prove to be the best and worst decision of her life.

Special Agent Dane Prince was sent to gather intelligence on the WITCH, and his journey leads him to a mysterious tower in the woods. Snowed in with a virginal member of the feminist cult, Dane is determined to use the situation to his advantage. Not only will Nel provide him with the information he needs, she will also learn to submit to his every desire.

Based on the Grimm’s fairy tale "Rapunzel", Tower In the Woods is a post-apocalyptic thriller, complete with zombies, snipers, a fateful snowstorm and...a hot, alpha male!

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As is evident by the title and the description, this book is inspired by the classic fairytale, Rapunzel. Our heroine has been locked away in a tower from which she can't escape for nearly half her life with no way to escape it and dependent upon her jailor/caretaker to bring her supplies. She brings the supplies (and later Dane) up into the tower by means of a rope made from human hair. That is pretty much where the similarities end however, and what follows is quite unique.

Nel is hardly a damsel in distress being held captive by some evil witch or stepmother, instead she's a highly trained sharpshooter whose sniper skills would put most elite ops military types to shame. She's also highly intelligent, very well educated from reading all of the books she was "entombed" with, extremely resourceful in making do with less and getting as much use out of everything she can so as to make the most of her limited resources. She is accepting of her captivity, but harbors few illusions regarding the motives of the leader of WITCH. She is, initially at least, a curious blend of naive innocence and sharp intelligence, and her keen observation skills and cutting logic have her dissecting the situation and coming to accurate conclusions almost within minutes. It's entirely believable that she likely could have survived in that tower alone for many years to come.

Dane has been sent to infiltrate the WITCH, to learn how they're organized, where their main encampment is, and anything else he can find out about them. It was just his bad luck to set out just ahead of a huge blizzard, and his good luck to come across Nel's tower before he froze to death or was devoured by roving zombies in the woods. It's hard to get a fix on his character at first, for initially he comes off as being rather an ass for besides talking his way into Nel's tower to survive, he also does it to coldly take advantage of the situation and to use her to learn what he set out to learn. When he realizes just how innocent she is, he has a few pangs of conscience, but he still has few qualms about using her however he can to get what he wants, including deliberately seducing her to loosen her tongue. His conscience does eventually assert itself though, and once it does, we start to see him as a fairly decent man who's simply used to having to do often distasteful things in the line of duty. He continues to have a selfish streak though, evidenced primarily by his insistence on incorporating bondage into their lovemaking in some fashion, even when he takes her for the first time. It's true enough that she doesn't object, and actually rather likes it but he never really asks her if it's ok for him to tie her up before he takes her, he just does it.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. Nel was an interesting character, though I was often confused by how she was portrayed. The initial impression we're given of her is of someone who is ultra focused on what she's in the tower to do and who always follows orders and does things by the book regardless of the circumstances. Then suddenly she's being shown as being someone who's really quite aware of more than is immediately apparent, and who is really quite adaptive to changing circumstances. For awhile it is a bit hard to tell what she's really like, though it does eventually become apparent that she isn't at all the automaton that she initially appears to be. Also, there's something she does in the last part of the book that seems a bit contrary to her character, or at least she seems able to do it far more easily than she maybe should have been able to.

I do wish that the whole zombie situation had been explained better, for we're never really told what happened to bring about the zombie apocalypse. There's plenty of mention of there being a virus that's responsible, but where did it come from, and how did it end up effectively destroying civilization as we know it? These are questions that aren't answered, though I'll admit that it's not really crucial to understanding the story to know those answers. The lack of explanation however did make the whole zombie hordes thing seem a bit contrived, however, as though they were really little more than a convenient plot device to provide reason for Nel to be in the tower, reason for the existence of WITCH (aside from the leader/founders' psychoses), and reason why it was too dangerous for Nel to leave her tower if she'd wanted to.

I have to admit I waffled quite a bit on the rating for this book. My true rating is probably 3½ stars, but I couldn't decide at first whether to round it up or down because of the things that bothered me. I finally decided that I liked it well enough to give it the benefit of the doubt and round up to 4. I liked the author's writing, and think she shows a lot of promise for the future. I'll look forward to reading other things by her. This one I'd recommend to anyone who likes revamped/retold fairytales, erotic romances with a bit of a BDSM flair, or dystopian type books. Zombie lovers might be a bit disappointed with this one since the zombies are really rather marginal to the story being told here.

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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