Ideally I would limit my short reviews to books I didn’t like, freeing up time to wax poetic about those that I did. But I still have a backlog to get through of books I loved. Not these books though. None of these books are bad per se, and certainly none terrible, but they all disappointed me in one way or another. They also come very close to being the classic horror movie trifecta of mummy, vampire, and werewolf, or maybe Frankenstein’s monster, vampire, and werewolf.
(Nevernight by Jay Kristoff, out today, almost made this list. But it’s grabbed me, so you’ll have to wait another week for me to finish it and write up a proper review.)
Javelin Rain by Myke Cole
Javelin Rain is the second book in Cole’s prequel trilogy following after his debut Shadow Ops series. I was in on the ground floor. Sadly, I have seen Cole regress as a storyteller at the same time he is progressing as a writer. The Shadow Ops introduced us to a rich, inventive world, with a magic-rich parallel universe and a host of different types of magic. The new series has focused on just one type. Cole leans heavily on the love story between Jim and Sarah. It works, well enough, but it also leaves the rest of the book to rely on a story of being on the run from the government that doesn’t do nearly as much or work nearly as well as, say, Firestarter. And the consequences of what cool worldbuilding he does introduce are kicked to the next book. Worst of all, Cole allows what are apparently his own views to bleed through and saturate the story. The nadir being when Jim decides to risk crossing the entire country with the full weight of the government on his heels to take his son to a friend in San Diego . . . because a guy he fought and shed blood with is religious. But of course in Cole’s world there are no simple men, only religious fanatics, the worst sort of men.
Honor at Stake by Declan Finn
One is a heartless, merciless killer. The other is a vampire.
Honor at Stake had a lot of potential. Like True Blood or the Generation V books, Honor at Stake takes vampire tropes and runs with them. Amanda and Marco’s relationship in particular was a plus. Amanda in particular kept me reading. Marco was delightfully creepy at first but started to wear thing. And the arrival of Merlin (Merle, for short) brought my enjoyment to an abrupt halt. But my real complaint that—whether the extrapolation of tropes is logical or not—vampires stop being interesting when they aren’t apex predators. The vampires here are so easily dispatched that by the end our heroes are mowing through small armies of them. I’d almost rather they sparkle.
The Devourers by Indra Das
The Devourers is literary speculative fiction, for good and for ill. It drags on full of its own importance, obsessed with sex and bodily functions, conventional but convinced it’s avant garde. But it’s also beautifully written. It’s a nice twist on the werewolf myth, tying it in with myths from ghouls to djinn to rakshasa. It’s a welcome change of venue (splitting time between Mughal and modern India). And it can be bloody terrifying:
There it was, looming huge over everything, the eye of the storm pausing to observe the swirling chaos it had created. Surrounding it were corpses of men, oxen, camels opened to the rain, running with reddened rainwater. The beast was like no animal I’d ever seen on this earth. Glowing red in the flickering light of rain-swathed fires, with its war paint of blood and tattered flesh, which hung like ragged pennants off its spines and slicked fur, it was rakshasa of the Hindus, it was asura, lord among their demons. It was glowing, infernal ifreet of the djinn, it was Iblis made incarnate, rising from cold wet earth instead of the arid sand of the desert. It was a sprung imposter god of Europe resurrected in this empty stretch of Shah Jahan’s empire and worshipped with fire and violence.
Disclosure: I received copies of Javelin Rain and The Devourers via NetGalley.