Tag Archives: Angels and demons

Reine, S.M.: Damnation Marked (The Descent IV) (2012)

Damnation Marked
Cover art by S.M. Reine

S.M. Reine does not go easy on her characters. Not really on any of them. James is not as present in Damnation Marked as he has been previously. The bond that arose between him and Elise in Dark Union is causing both of them problems, and Elise feels betrayed by the way he has handled the whole Stephanie thing. I understand why Elise would feel attracted to James. As we have seen, James was the first person in Elise’s live that showed her that some adults were worthy of trust. That he later betrays that trust in various ways is another matter altogether. Betty was the person that showed Elise that it was possible to enjoy life. Now that Betty is dead, that part of Elise’s life seems to have died along with her.

With the Night-Hag’s death Reno has been left wide open to attempts from other demons to take over. Anthony seems to have stepped in as Elise’s unofficial apsis without all of the advantages that a real apsis has. Elise seems to feel driven to keep the gate in her hands – and out of the Union’s. At the same time I also get the feeling that she has adopted Reno as HER town and along with that a feeling of responsibility for all that happens to her sphere of it. That pretty much means everything that has to do with keeping balance between demons, angels and humans. When it comes right down to it, being a balance keeper is what being a kopis is all about; and Elise has been trained to be the best kopis ever since she was extremely young.

One of Elise and James’ differences of opinion are about just that. James wants Elise to do kopis things only when he deems it appropriate while Elise realises that it is an all or nothing kind of life. This difference of opinion, one they have had for a while, is one of our first glimpses of the way James justifies his driven and self-absorbed choices.

All three of them are messes, complete messes. Despite her awful childhood and less than ideal career Elise seems to be the most grounded of the three. Perhaps it is because of her childhood that Elise is able to stay true to herself and at the same time be of use to those around her. She is going to need that sense of groundedness in her struggles with the “Shadow” and the Union.

The Union is like a cult. These people are crazy. They are so able to convince themselves that they are right, that anything goes as long as it serves their goals. James and they would be a good fit.

I understand why Anthony is a mess. Who wouldn’t be? This is a fairly regular guy who has had to kill others (granted they are demons) and had his cousin killed while he and she were trying to help a friend. In addition Elise is autistic in the way she handles her relationships. That alone is difficult enough for regular people. Poor kid for being drawn into this mess by his attraction to Elise. Some guys just seem to be ruled by their nether parts (see, trying to keep this g-rated).

I personally think that young adults (not the youngest) will be fine reading The Descent series. You need to be prepared for violence, darkness and really messed up people/creatures.


Reviews:


  • File Size: 491 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1937733130
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Red Iris Books; 1 edition (November 10, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009GDLZ42

My review of:

  1. Death’s Hand
  2. The Darkest Gate
  3. Dark Union

Reine, S.M.: Dark Union (The Descent III) (2012)

Dark Union1
Cover art by S.M. Reine

Dark Union sure is a fitting title, because the Union of kopis and apsis sure is dark and its motives are suspect. You don’t just round up kopis and apsis and witches by force unless you are a bit iffy. Where do they get their money from? There cannot be all that many Mr. Black type kopis – at least not if they are doing their jobs the way they are supposed to. But messing with friends of Elise might not be the smartest thing these guys have ever done. Especially not an Elise that is bursting with anger from all that happened in Darkest Gate.

Elise and Anthony are angry with each other, angry with the world and angry with the sense of helplessness that they feel. We are like that sometimes. Helplessness, grief and confusion are bummer feelings to have so anger can be a tempting feeling to replace them with. We get a lot of anger in Dark Union. A lot of it.

On top of that Elise has to struggle with this new strange bond that she and James have managed to impose on themselves. They actually know what the other person is feeling and can see what they are doing if they think too much about the other person. No wonder James is in San Fransisco with Stephanie. What an awful thing to experience for humans. Especially for some one as private as Elise is. They are both trying to control the bond, but when her pain is too great it becomes a bit difficult for Elise to control how much she shares.

Anthony is finally beginning to realise that he wants more out of their relationship than Elise is willing and able to give. Another thing to add to the simmering pot of feelings.

I’m trying to figure out if anything happy happens in Dark Union. Let’s see. There is one thing. At one point Elise is challenged about her “greatest kopis” status. That is a fight that is both satisfying and without deadly intent. Getting one over on the Union is also a satisfying (but worrying) episode for Elise. Those Union people – especially the leaders – are great big rear ends (don’t want to offend all the asses out there).

So, if you want cheer, Dark Union is not for you. But if you are like me and enjoy the darker side of humanity, jump right in.


Review:


  • File Size: 273 KB
  • Print Length: 115 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Red Iris Books; 1 edition (July 21, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English

My review of:

  1. Death’s Hand
  2. The Darkest Gate

Reine, S.M.: The Darkest Gate (The Descent II) (2012)

The Darkest Gate1
Cover by S.M. Reine

I think my favorite part of The Darkest Gate is the way S.M. Reine writes Elise’s pain. Her emotional baggage is at least ten sizes larger than her and the manner she deals with other creatures (human or not) reflects that. Emotional pain eats you up and makes itself so much at home that you forget that it is there. But your interactions will reflect the depth of your pain and the extent to which you work to keep a lid on it. For once the lid comes off, man. Well, it’s an experience.

Elise’s awkwardness is not only due to her emotional pain. As we get snippets of her past we see that the main focus of her parents has been to train her to fight and to repress her feelings. At 14 James found her (see Death’s Hand) and her career as a kopis began. No wonder Elise has no time for the niceties.

Another factor influences Elise’s interactions with others. In 1999 (as you will discover in this novel) Elise went to a gynecologist to figure out what her problem was. Her discovery shocked her and created another wound to place in her casket of pain.

How much influence this next factor has had on Elise’s way of dealing with the world, I do not know, but I imagine quite a deal. The life of kopis and aspis is not an easy one. It requires a great deal of dedication and sacrifice. There is no glory and no wealth in the life of keeping humanity safer from other creatures. At one point James tells us that:

“hope for was dying in the service of mankind. The idea of being able to settle down was equally tempting and disappointing, since he knew it was something he couldn’t have. He couldn’t afford to eat on many days.”

We get several realistic descriptions of their situations. My parents grew up with poverty, my dad with hunger. When they speak of the harsher parts of their childhoods I find myself amazed to see the people they have become and the lives they have been able to provide us. I see some of their pain reflected in the writing of S.M. Reine.

When you are placed in such a position, some of us find ourselves willing to do things we might not otherwise do. Our practical sense of survival takes over. In 1999 Elise, not James, was the practical one of the two and decided she had to do the job Mr. Black offered to pay for. Doing that job and the consequences that derived from it led to the situation the retired kopis and aspis find themselves in when 2009 comes around. One might say that James and Elise’s lovely rear ends are being royally bitten by the past catching up with them.

I think I am going to leave you with that. Well, that and (as you have probably guess) I LOVED The Darkest Gate.


Review:


  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1937733076
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Red Iris Books; 1 edition (May 4, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0080RED3U

My review of Death’s Hand

Miles, T.A.: A Bit(e) of Discretion, Please (Dreamer I) (2011)

Dreamer

Dreamer is the title of a series of short-stories/novellas beginning with A Bit(e) of Discretion, Please. 

If you are going to be naughty in this world of ours (with a few super-naturals added to it), you had better make certain you do not attract the authorities. Stuart did and he who was once a Prince of Dreaming now has his powers for mischief limited. As if that wasn’t bad enough Stuart also has to do community service in the form of catching other breakers of human rules with what seems to be a girl (Mei Lin the spiritualist) as his partner. But as long as the tea is good Stuart manages fairly well.

T.A. Miles gives us a humourous look at scoundrels and their baby-sitters, baby-sitters whose patience is sorely tried at times. We also get a look at characters who think themselves devious but who are fooled themselves instead. Dreamer is indeed a light-hearted and enjoyable read.


Reviews:


Reine, S.M.: Death’s Hand (The Descent I) (2011)

death's hand

What is it that makes a great author? I feel certain all wanna-be authors have wanted to know the answer to that. To me a great author is one who manages to reach her audience in a manner that lets the reader remember her. S.M. Reine is one such author.

Another important quality that Reine handles well is keeping the flow going. Death’s Hand shows Reine’s skill at drawing the reader into the world of Elise Kavanagh and James Faulkner almost immediately. Remaining in the world of Elise, the kopis, and James, the aspis, was no effort at all. I am always gratified when an author manages to do that to me.

Our introduction to Elise and James is when James finds Elise surrounded by 12 female corpses on a plain in Russia. She is barely alive and even unconscious. We then jump briefly to a time ten years before that when Elise is handed her first kill by her father. Yes, I agree – perhaps you ought to be more than seven years old before you kill your first demon. After that we jump to the present (11 years after James found Elise) and meet an Elise and James who are both in retirement from the killing business.

Business is the wrong word to use for what the pair did. Elise is a kopis or sword while James is an aspis or shield. Their job used to be to make certain angels and demons kept humans from knowing about the supernatural world. Sometimes they had to kill to make that happen and the pair were always on the run just to keep alive. So, retirement makes sense and Elise has to use a pseudonym so she will not tip her clients off as to her identity.

Throughout Death’s Hand we go back and forth in time and we get glimpses of how Elise and James have ended up where they have and why Elise feels such a need for a semi-normal life. But the past has a tendency of catching up with us one way or another. Elise and James are no exception to that rule.

Elise is the kind of heroine that I enjoy reading about. Her strength is amazing and based on the scars of her past. Her past has left her highly vulnerable and one way to deal with that is to skunk the people who come into her life. All except for her room-mate Betty. Betty is the one thing in Elise’s life that Elise loves unconditionally. For some reason Betty has been the armor-piercing bullet that needed to get past Elise’s defences and keep her somewhat grounded. We all need friends like that.

James, on the other hand, seems to dislike and fear Elise at the same time as he feels the need to protect her. Granted, Elise is a force to fear, but then so is James Faulkner, the witch. Indeed, a very powerful witch at that. Hmmm?


Reviews:


Pratchett, Terry and Gaiman, Neil: Good Omens (1990)

First off, I have to say that there is so much incredible artwork out there dealing with Pratchett and Gaiman. I wish I could include all of it. For most other authors I end up with the cover art, but with these two guys I’m in heaven. I recommend that you google “Good Omens”, go to images and sit back and enjoy yourselves. Below are three examples of what you’ll find.

“Good Omens – Armageddon” by himlayan

Good Omens starts off with a prologue placed in the Garden of Eden. You see, there was this serpent, Crawly, who was sent there to do his best to make trouble. He did. In the meantime the angel with the flaming sword, Aziraphale, gave his sword to the humans as protection because he felt sorry for them.

6000 years later Crowley meets up with fellow demons and gets handed a basket with a baby in it. This is the baby presaging the End Of The World. He is told to deliver it at a certain hospital making certain that it gets exchanged with the chosen baby. Something goes wrong, and the baby ends up with the wrong family – unbeknownst to the minions of Hell.

“Good Omens: Humans” by Julie Dillon

In Lower Tadfield, young Adam and his gang run around being the kind of nuisance only a gang of 11 year olds can manage to be. They are happy in their lack of knowledge about the future and the imminence of the end of the world.

Crowley and Aziraphale discover that something is wrong with the child they thought was the son of the Devil when a promised delivery from Hell does not arrive at its appointed place. Ooops.

good omens riders

“Apocalyptic quartette” by Aviv Or

The four horsemen are gathering to fulfill their destiny, but no one knows quite where to go. Where is the promised son of the Devil?

You just know that when you pick up a book by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman that you are not going to get anything even remotely resembling normality. Good Omens is filled with interesting characters and a strange sense of logic. Whenever I read their books, I get into this weird thought-mode where I go – yeah, that could happen. I did it this time as well. Maybe that’s what I like best about both of them, their ability to fool me into believing them. Kind of cool, that ability.

My favorite characters were Crowley and Aziraphale, both rebels in their own right. After 6000 years neither is wholly good or wholly evil. They are still stuck in the mold they were created for, but little bits of them are able to crack that mold just a little.

———————————-

  • World Fantasy Award nominee for Best Novel, 1991
  • Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, 1991

Whates, Ian: City of a Hundred Rows

Although Ian Whates has writing experience, City of a Hundred Rows is his debut into the industry of novels.

CITY OF DREAMS & NIGHTMARE (2010)

Cover art by Greg Bridges (Incredible artwork)

Chance brought me to the city of Thaiburley and the street-nick named Tom. Sometimes chance is a wonderful thing and sometimes it isn’t. In this case I found myself liking the writing of Ian Whates and wanted to read the next book of the trilogy.

Thaiburley is a city built in tiers – one hundred of them. At the bottom we find the City Below (often called City of Nightmare by its denizens) and the poorest of the population. Wealth increases as one ascends, until one hits to the top layer – the Upper Heights. This is where the angel-like demons are supposed to reside.

The first two people we meet in City of Dreams & Nightmare are Tylus, our newly-minted Kite Guard, and Tom, our young street-nick. Tylus is out patrolling for the night, while Tom is climbing the many layers of the city so he can get to the top and steal a demon egg. Both stumble onto the apparent murder of a council-man. Thinking Tom is the culprit, Tylus chases him and sees Tom fall off the side of the building. Action-packed from the very beginning.

The adventure continues through the whole book. Tom is chased by the authorities for his assumed part in the murder of councilman Thomas. While running, Tom meets up with Kat – survivor of the Pits (like Rome’s Colosseum). In spite of her young age, Kat is an incredible fighter. Tom on the other hand is very good at not being seen. Both skills will come in handy during the story, because this novel is for the most part about trying to survive against the odds. The baddy of the story, councilman Magnus, sends off his assassin Dewar to tie off Tom. Dewar is another incredible fighter. He has absolutely no qualms and often likes to play with his victims.

Do I recommend this book. I’ll say definitely. City of Dreams & Nightmare was an easy and fun read. Ian Whates certainly knows his craft, and as a reader I always delight in such authors.

CITY OF HOPE & DESPAIR (2011)

Cover art by Greg Bridges

This second installment in the trilogy City of a Hundred Rows is as fun to read as City of Dreams & Nightmare was. Once again, we get to meet Tom, Kat, Dewar and Tylus, but this time in different combinations.

Thaiburley’s strange power is failing. The Prime Master sends Tom off to discover the source of the great river Thair in hopes that he will find out just what is causing the failure. Ironically, Dewar the assassin is sent along to protect Tom and his companions. There is no way Ian Whates is going to let this journey be a peaceful one, and we are not disappointed. Here too, are plenty of survival struggles.

Kat, in the meantime, remains in the City Below. There The Soul Thief is killing off people with “talent”. In addition to the Soul Thief the gangs of the under-city are changing, both in structure but also in behavior. This change in gang-life makes life more interesting for Kat, her sister and the Tattooed men. Kat is a great character and her adventures in this book are pretty intense.

Tylus, our Kite-Guard, is sent to the under-city to make something of the City Guard there. Automatically, we know that he is going to have his work cut out for him.

City of Hope & Despair is as much fun as City of Dreams & Nightmare. I like the fact that these books are action-filled and lacking in the gooey factor. Both books deliver what they promise – good old-fashioned adventure. Ian Whates is definitely on my author-plus list.

CITY OF LIGHT & SHADOW (2012)

Cover art by Greg Bridges (Breathtaking)

Maybe the bone-flu is not all it seems to be. As City of Light & Shadow begins, we get a glimpse at what might be the reason behind the disease.

Tom has reached his goal and is left trying to assimilate information in amounts he has never had to before. For such a curious soul, this must be a gift – although a double-edged one. Thais is not exactly what he expected in a god, but how are gods supposed to be anyways.

Dewar wakes up, clearer-headed than he has been in a long time. He knows exactly what he wants to do next. It’s time to go home and take care of some unfinished business.

Kat and her Tattooed men have not given up on getting the Soul Thief. With Tylus and some of his men, they set off into the Stain to kill it.

All the stories come together and we see clearly how they all have something to do with Thaiss. Ian Whates tells an action-filled story, one that kept me reading. City of Light & Shadow is a fun and easy read, just like the other two. The ending left me wondering if this was indeed going to remain a trilogy. Hmmm. In a sense there was closure. On the other hand I was left hanging a bit. Hmmm. Oh well, I like it when authors do that to us readers. It’s kind of cruel, but also a lot more fun for me (kind of). I’ve really enjoyed my journey into the City of a Hundred Rows.