Devil's Kiss

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Posted by Cobalt | Posted in , , , | Posted on 9:53 PM


Rating: 3/5 stars

Okay, so it definitely starts well:

"Killing him should be easy; he's only six."

And we're off with a bang, plunged into the world of Billi SanGreal, 15-year old girl and initiate to the ancient order of the Knights of Templar -- not that she wants to be. A lifetime of killing demons, devils, and assorted nasty spirits only sounds glamorous to the ignorant and the idiotic. Billi knows the truth: to be a Knight is to face death every day, to train until your body collapses, and most of all, to devote yourself utterly to the holy mission. Which means hardening your soul against everything else, including all ties of love and compassion.

Including your own family.

Her father certainly doesn't have any difficulty with that -- Arthur SanGreal is said to terrify the devil himself, and his ruthlessness is equally legendary. Billi would never believe the gossip about her father being responsible for her mother's death -- she knows that ghuls were the culprits -- but he reveals precious little affection for his own daughter. Sometimes Billi thinks he only values her as a potential Knight, another soldier for the cause. And it makes her furious. And lonely. It doesn't help that Kay, her only friend among the Knights, has been sent off to Jerusalem to train his psychic abilities -- and hasn't sent her a word since.

So when Mike shows up, a charming, intriguing stranger who seems to understand about overbearing fathers, Billi is tempted to give up this life altogether. After all, who wants a life of constant fear and danger? Doesn't she have a right to choose her own path?

Billi is great, full of fury and angst and yet too responsible and aware of the stakes to slip into whiny bratdom. The action scenes are nicely paced, the mythology is well-executed, and there are some very atmospheric horror bits. The only problem? The bad guys. See, devils and demons, that's fine. But when your Big Bad includes the Angel of Death and Satan Himself, well -- I mean, how do you fight Death?

I was fine and dandy with everything till then -- but the idea of actually vanquishing God's Appointed Judge Upon Mankind seemed a) a bit overambitious and b) kind of blasphemous and ultimately pointless. If they win, does Death just stop? Is there a replacement angel waiting in the wings? Will it tick off God?

I won't spoil any more -- do they survive? Does the world end? Apocalypse looms --- so let's just call this an exciting supernatural/horror thrill ride with a sympathetic heroine and a couple of nice twists.

Shiver

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Posted by Cobalt | Posted in , , , | Posted on 7:35 PM


Rating: 5/5 stars

This is a story about a girl and her wolf.

Grace has always known him by his yellow eyes, every winter since the wolves pulled her from the tire swing in the backyard. Her wolf. After she was attacked, she remembered his eyes, the way he pushed at her hand -- pushed the other wolves away, rescued her. Every winter since then, she sees him in the woods outside their house. She feels his gaze.

In the winter, Sam knows only two things: the instincts of the wolf and the longing for the girl. Even as an animal, he feels drawn to her, pulled by vague whispers of memory and need -- an instinct to protect that drove him against his pack that awful, bare winter, when they were desperate enough to kill.

In the winter, he is the wolf. In the summer, he is Sam. But he always remembers the girl.

Once you're bitten, the change is triggered by cold -- when the temperature plummets, every winter Sam loses his skin to the wolf, but every summer he returns. Except that his years as human are ultimately numbered. Each year, the change to wolf comes sooner -- early fall -- while the change back slips further and further into summer. Until the year Sam won't change back. Until he stays a wolf.

But then the hunters come, and Sam is shot, and Grace rescues him - and they both discover what they have been missing in each other. And what neither of them can bear to live without.

This is a love story, and it is lyrical and beautiful and quietly sad -- think Twilight, only minus the overdone swooning and disturbingly controlling-boyfriend behavior. It helps that the story balances between Grace's and Sam's points of view, and also that a) Grace is a highly practical and levelheaded girl, described by her mother as an emotional 'tank' b) Sam is a sensitive, kind boy (to the point of emo stereotype) and c) both characters recognize and mock these traits in each other, as appropriate. It also really helps not to have the "love you/eat you" vibe going on -- yes, Sam is a wolf in the winter. No, Sam is not have to battle the Beast Raging Within as some symbolic struggle against the male urge to ravish the nubile female. Sam loves Grace. Sam wants Grace (yes, in that way). Grace wants Sam (oh yes). And they are actually able to talk about these things without the sex turning into some dark animal urge that MUST BE DENIED for the sake of your soul!

Ahem. Sorry.

Anyway: Compelling story with a gorgeous, autumnal atmosphere and excellent characters with real lives within a lush, believable setting, and of course werewolves. What more could you want?

Blood & Chocolate

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Posted by Cobalt | Posted in , , , | Posted on 7:36 PM


Rating: 1/5 stars. Only because of a promising title.

We'll keep this short and sweet. In Blood & Chocolate, we follow the story of Vivian Gandillon, young lycanthrope and smokin' hot babe. And boy, does she know it. Tall, leggy, with full breasts, a tiny waist, and "slim hips that curved enough to show she was female" -- plus the whole golden skin, thick, tawny hair, and -- yes, even golden eyes. Golden, captivating eyes.

Gag me with a spork.

I have no problem with attractive female characters, and confident ones who aren't afraid to show their sex appeal can be extremely refreshing (if done right) but Vivian is just wish-fulfillment all over. And shallow as all hell. When the pathetically human, vaguely hippie object of her desire doesn't immediately fall to his knees before here, this is how she reacts:

"She raged at herself and the boy, and cried hot tears. 'I am beautiful!' she screamed hoarsely. 'Why can't he see that?'"

Seriously? I lost all interest loong before this point, but that was the proverbial silver stake in the heart. What happens to Vivian? Does she get the boy and save her pack and stop the murders and keep being gorgeous? Who cares?

At least the end was fully appropriate for the characters -- V gets exactly what she deserves in this storyworld, and I get to escape the Land of the Whiny Bitch.
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