Saturday, February 21, 2015

First Drop of Crimson by Jeaniene Frost

The night is not safe for mortals.

Denise MacGregor knows all too well what lurks in the shadows – her best friend is half-vampire Cat Crawfield – and she has already lost more than the average human could bear. But her family’s dark past is wrapped in secrets and shrouded in darkness – and a demon shapeshifter has marked Denise as prey. Now her survival depends on an immortal who craves a taste of her.

He is Spade, a powerful, mysterious vampire who has walked the earth for centuries and is now duty-bound to protect this endangered, alluring human – even if it means destroying his own kind. Denise may arouse his deepest hungers, but Spade knows he must fight his urge to have her as they face the demon nightmare together…

Because once the first drop of crimson falls, they will both be lost.

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Warning: If you haven't read books 1-4 of Night Huntress this review will probably contain a few spoilers of things that happen in them.

This book is the first in a spin-off series from Night Huntress, and as such doesn't focus on Cat and Bones, though they do play a significant part in the latter part of the book. Most all of the characters here should be familiar to readers of Night Huntress though, for we have seen most of them several times in the first few books of that series. Despite the change in lead characters, this book did feel like a continuation of the story playing out in the main series and it proved to be a great way to get to know some of the sideline characters better. If you pay attention, there are some important revelations made about some of the characters and their relationships with one another.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Oathbreakers by Mercedes Lackey

When Idra, leader of the crack mercenaries known as the Sunhawks, failed to return from a journey to her home kingdom of Rethwellan, Tarma and Kethry, warrior and mage, set out in search of their vanished leader. Sisters of sword and spell, their fates bound together by a Goddess-sworn oath, they were eternally pledged to fight the forces of evil.

And evil had indeed cast its shadow over Rethwellan. Idra, so they were told, had left long ago on a search for a legendary magical sword which could reveal which of her two brothers was meant to become the new king. With the princess gone, her younger brother had been branded an outlaw and her older brother had claimed the throne. Both instinct and mage lore told Kethry and Tarma that all was not as it seemed, that both Idra and her people were in terrible jeopardy. Yet would their Goddess-given powers, aided by those of a Herald of Valdemar, prove strong enough to break the dark enchantment possessing this land?

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Another blast from the past as I slowly continue my re-read of the Valdemar universe books. In this book we see Tarma and Kethry "all grown up" as it were. Not that they weren't quite mature before, but now they have several more years of experience under their belts, both as an independent team and as part of a mercenary company. Both have learned much about how to work with and train others, skills that will be vital for them to be able to found their fighting and magecraft schools as they want to someday. These skills also make them the best suited to investigate the disappearance of their Captain...and to plot and lead the revenge-taking when they discover the answers they were seeking regarding her.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Magic Graves by Jeaniene Frost and Ilona Andrews

New York Times bestselling authors Jeaniene Frost and Ilona Andrews bring you two short stories of paranormal.

Jeaniene Frost's story, One for the Money, features vampires Cat and Bones trying to protect a spoiled heiress with a price on her head and an undead hitman on her trail. Previously published in Death's Excellent Vacation. Also includes the first three chapters from Jeaniene's story in The Bite Before Christmas anthology, as well as a sneak peek at ONCE BURNED, the first novel in the new Night Prince series.

Ilona Andrews' story, A Questionable Client, is a prequel to her award-winning Kate Daniels series. In a world beset by magic waves, Kate Daniels works as a mercenary. She is tired, hungry, and there is foul-smelling blood on her boots. All she wants to do is to go home, but when Mercenary Guild offers her a job she can't refuse, she finds herself protecting a man against Russian wizards. Previously published in Dark and Stormy Knights. Also includes first two chapters of FATE'S EDGE, book 3 in the Edge series, and first two chapters of Magic Grieves, a Kate Daniels novella.

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I picked this book up primarily for the Night Huntress short story in it, so I could read it in order as I work my way through that series. While I enjoyed the short stories that come earlier in the series (chronologically speaking), this one was rather a disappointment. I haven't yet read any of the Kate Daniels books, so I don't really have any frame of reference for that story. Taking it on its own merits, it was ok, I thought. Likely those who are already familiar with that series would get more out of it than I did. Overall I'm not sure this anthology is entirely worth it, but my opinion may change when I get more familiar with the two series in question. Read on past the jump to see my brief individual reviews of the stories.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Destined for an Early Grave by Jeaniene Frost

Her deadly dreams leave her in grave danger

Since half-vampire Cat Crawfield and her undead lover Bones met six years ago, they've fought against the rogue undead, battled a vengeful Master vampire, and pledged their devotion with a blood bond. Now it's time for a vacation. But their hopes for a perfect Paris holiday are dashed when Cat awakes one night in terror. She's having visions of a vampire named Gregor who's more powerful than Bones and has ties to her past that even Cat herself didn't know about.

Gregor believes Cat is his and he won't stop until he has her. As the battle begins between the vamp who haunts her nightmares and the one who holds her heart, only Cat can break Gregor's hold over her. She'll need all the power she can summon in order to bring down the baddest bloodsucker she's ever faced . . . even if getting that power will result in an early grave.

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Wow. That one word fairly well sums up my reaction to this book. I'd thought At Grave's End was an emotional ride, but this one surpassed it and then some. I'm sure there were at least a few scenes here that weren't emotionally loaded in one way or another, but I'm not recalling very many if any offhand right now. There's not even much of a rest at the end, for the intensity keeps driving hard nearly to the last page. By the end, many things have changed, some for the good and some for the bad, and many things remain uncertain and up in the air. All the more incentive to grab the next book and keep going.

Devil to Pay by Jeaniene Frost

Blake Turner had it all—until a demon decided to take residence in his soul. Plagued with constant black outs and a trail of dead bodies in his wake, Blake thinks vampire Elise is his best chance at ending the nightmare. It’s just too bad he’s fallen in love with the gorgeous vamp right before he has to die… Featuring characters from New York Times bestselling author Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress world. (Originally appeared in Four Dukes and a Devil anthology)

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This was a very poignant story that will take you through a variety of emotions, though largely various shades of heartbreak, tinged at times with despair. While it doesn't seem to have any direct bearing on the main story of the Night Huntress series, we do see some of the characters from it. Cat and Bones play a significant, if relatively brief, role, and Mencheres features prominently. Even without these known characters, however, the new characters we meet here make it totally worth reading or listening to.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

At Grave's End by Jeaniene Frost

Some things won't stay buried . . . at grave's end

It should be the best time of half-vampire Cat Crawfield's life. With her undead lover Bones at her side, she's successfully protected mortals from the rogue undead. But though Cat's worn disguise after disguise to keep her true identity a secret from the brazen bloodsuckers, her cover's finally been blown, placing her in terrible danger.

As if that wasn't enough, a woman from Bones's past is determined to bury him once and for all. Caught in the crosshairs of a vengeful vamp, yet determined to help Bones stop a lethal magic from being unleashed, Cat's about to learn the true meaning of bad blood. And the tricks she's learned as a special agent won't help her. She will need to fully embrace her vampire instincts in order to save herself—and Bones—from a fate worse than the grave.

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As the blurb suggests, this book begins to show us the truth of matters for Cat and Bones -- they aren't likely to get to have a true happily ever after, for there will probably always be someone else waiting in the wings for a turn to make their lives hell. Though for all that they have some powerful enemies, they also apparently have many powerful allies, not to mention some freaky phenomenal luck for being able to save things from the jaws of disaster at the last minute, or seemingly so. They come out of these trials irrevocably changed, yet it wouldn't be a very interesting story if they didn't, would it?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

One Foot in the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

You can run from the grave, but you can’t hide…

Half-vampire Cat Crawfield is now Special Agent Cat Crawfield, working for the government to rid the world of the rogue undead. She’s still using everything Bones, her sexy and dangerous ex, taught her, but when Cat is targeted for assassination, the only man who can help her is the vampire she left behind.

Being around Bones awakens all her emotions, from the adrenaline rush of slaying vamps side by side to the reckless passion that consumed them. But a price on her head—wanted: dead or half-alive—means her survival depends on teaming up with Bones. And no matter how hard Cat tries to keep things professional between them, she’ll find that desire lasts forever…and Bones won’t let her get away again. Original.

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I have heard about this book for a few years now, particularly the infamous Chapter 32, and I have to say that it was well worth the wait. I read book one in the series, Halfway to the Grave, pretty much 2 years ago exactly but haven't managed to continue it aside from a couple short stories since then. Now that I'm finally able to I'm quite excited to finally be reading them (well, listening to them on audiobook) and so far am not a bit disappointed. The only thing I'm really worried about is that my ratings for them will likely get rather repetitive if they all live up to the quality of the first two books.