Monday, January 31, 2011

Review: Passions of a Wicked Earl by Lorraine Heath

Known throughout for his prowess in the bedroom, Morgan Lyons, the eighth Earl of Westcliffe, cannot forgive an unpardonable affront to his honor. Discovering his young bride in the arms of his brother was a staggering blow—so he banished the beautiful deceiver to the country and devoted himself to the pursuit of carnal pleasure.

Claire Lyons was an innocent, frightened girl on her wedding day, seeking chaste comfort from a childhood friend. Now, years later, she has blossomed magnificently and has returned to London with one goal in mind: the seduction of her notorious husband. Unskilled in the sensual arts, she burns nonetheless for the kisses too long denied her. And she has but one Season to win back the heart of the rogue she betrayed.

They are masters of seduction, London's greatest lovers. Living for pleasure, they will give their hearts to no one . . . until love takes them by surprise.
Passions of a Wicked Earl is the first book in Lorraine Heath's latest historical romance series, London's Greatest Lovers. It's an excellent beginning to a series that focuses on three brothers, their dysfunctional family relationship, sensual exploits and eventual happy endings.

Plotting devices used: the big misunderstanding; the brooding, jealous, possessive, passionate hero; the innocent, virginal, strong, passionate heroine; the wicked mistress; the estranged brothers; the scandalous family. Heath makes all these devices work with few exceptions.

The series begins by focusing on Morgan Lyons, the Earl of Westcliffe, and his troubled marriage to Clare Lyons. As the book summary above explains, this couple is estranged with good reasons. Morgan believes Clare betrayed him with his brother Stephen on their wedding night and there's no way he can forgive her. Clare understands his position and feels guilt, but is determined to make him understand her own position, gain forgiveness and a true marriage.

Clare and Westcliffe's marriage was arranged by contract. Clare was engaged to Westcliffe at birth and neither had a real choice. The difference is that although Westcliffe needed Clare's dowry, he was also content with the choice that was made for him. On the other hand, at barely seventeen years of age Clare was terrified of her serious husband-to-be. The events that occurred on Westcliffe and Clare's wedding night devastated their lives and in the process ruined the brothers' relationship.

Three years later Clare leaves her exile in the country and comes to London in the hopes that Westcliffe will help her sponsor her sister's first Season, and will give their marriage a second chance. Heath develops Clare and Westcliffe's relationship throughout the story. They don't become a "couple" for a while and as such, they grew on me slowly. I was initially taken with Westcliffe's feelings and situation. His was more of an emotional character than I expected and Heath did a wonderful job in conveying his deep pain, his passion for Clare and the reasons he was so reluctant to admit those feelings. Westcliffe was a dark, brooding and passionate character. Of course, he was also unfaithful to Clare throughout their marriage, but this was also understandable and part of their desperate situation.

At first I had my doubts about Clare, however she grew on me quite rapidly. She knew it would be tough to go to London and regain Morgan's trust, yet she took the chance for her sister's sake and for herself. Clare showed both strength and maturity and was admirable for both. Even when she became aware that Westcliffe had a current mistress, Clare didn't give up on her marriage and fought for it.

Morgan's relationship with his mistress Anne is where I find the weakness in this story. It didn't bother me that Westcliffe was having this relationship while married to Clare, Heath explains that situation quite well. However, the relationship just goes on for too long after he knows she is not for him. I know Anne's the wicked mistress, but I couldn't make up my mind weather Westcliffe was being wishy-washy or bordering on cruel by keeping Anne on the side for that long. I found the final resolution to Anne and Westcliffe's relationship unexpected and overly dramatic.

My favorite secondary characters are Westcliffe's scandalous mother, the Duchess of Ainsley, and her younger lover Leo. The most intriguing secondary character for me is the Duke of Ainsley, Westcliffe's youngest brother. I can't wait to find out what makes him tick.

I really enjoyed Passions of a Wicked Earl. It's a quick read and an enjoyable historical romance with interesting characters and a passionate story line. I like the way Heath uses standard historical romance plotting devices and makes it all work. I'll be reading the second book, Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman, Stephen's story. His was the most superficial character in this first book, but hopefully there's more to him.

Category: Historical Romance
Series: London's Greatest Lovers
Release Date: Avon - October 26, 2010
Grade: B+

Visit Lorraine Heath here.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Review: In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming

It's a cold, snowy December in the upstate New York town of Millers Kill, and newly ordained Clare Fergusson is on thin ice as the first female priest of its small Episcopal church. The ancient regime running the parish covertly demands that she prove herself as a leader. However, her blunt manner, honed by years as an army pilot, is meeting with a chilly reception from some members of her congregation and Chief of Police Russ Van Alystyne, in particular, doesn't know what to make of her, or how to address "a lady priest" for that matter.

The last thing she needs is trouble, but that is exactly what she finds. When a newborn baby is abandoned on the church stairs and a young mother is brutally murdered, Clare has to pick her way through the secrets and silence that shadow that town like the ever-present Adirondack mountains. As the days dwindle down and the attraction between the avowed priest and the married police chief grows, Clare will need all her faith, tenacity, and courage to stand fast against a killer's icy heart.
In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming is the first book in a contemporary mystery series with an 'updated' cozy style. The setting is the small New York town of Millers Kill in the Adirondack Mountains which provides this story with wonderful atmosphere. The place is perfect for the mystery/police-procedural plot as well as the interesting situations and characters.

The characters are what really caught my attention in this initial installment, particularly Clare. She is Rev. Clare Fergusson, the new priest at the town's Episcopal church. However she doesn't turn out to be your typical priest, Clare is also an ex-military helicopter pilot and you can tell there's history there. She's a tough, down-to-earth, no-nonsense woman who wants to know her community and give them more than spiritual guidance. The other central character is Chief of Police Russ Van Alystyne. He is more typical of this type of character: middle-aged, fairly good looking, married, ex-army, a bit cynical and disenchanted with life, but protective of his small town.

Ms. Spencer-Fleming's focus in this first installment is in developing the relationship between the central characters and to some extent revealing parts of their lives. The secondary characters are also well drawn and memorable. Having said that, it is also interesting how the author draws key characters that hover invisibly yet don't appear in the story. For example: Russ' wife, Linda, and his mother are both mentioned repeatedly. Linda in particular is a presence, yet neither character makes a single appearance even though they live in a small town. I'm hoping to meet these characters later on in the series.

The author's focus pays off and there's excellent development in the way the friendship between Russ and Clare evolves. As the friendship deepens, their commonalities come to the surface. Military background is the initial factor, but slowly they realize that even though one is a cop and the other a priest, both need to serve their community. Russ feels responsible for the town and its people -- protect and serve. Clare feels responsible for their spiritual lives and personal well-being -- serve and provide.

Despite the fact that Clare is a priest and there are moments in this book where spirituality comes into play, the fact that Russ is agnostic seems to balance the scales in that respect and the story doesn't come off as preachy. In fact as their friendship evolves, what Clare most appreciates about Russ is that he sees/treats her as a regular person (as Clare) and not as a priest. In turn, Russ appreciates the fact that he can find understanding when sharing his professional burdens with Clare. The reader experiences the great connection between these two people as they become friends, as well as a slow-building, subtle chemistry.

The mystery plot is a bit of ride. A baby is abandoned at the church steps and a young girl is found murdered. Clare and her parish are involved in both these events from the beginning and she and Russ wind up investigating both situations together. During the investigation, Spencer-Fleming touches on social issues, mainly on the plight of underprivileged pregnant teenage girls and what can or should be done to help educate them to stop the cycle of poverty.

There's a slew of suspects, red-herrings are used as a device, and Russ acts a bit like a typical cynical cop while Clare refuses to believe good people are capable of murder. They both err, but Clare makes grave mistakes along the way and her impulsive actions gave me more than a few anxious moments. It's interesting because I usually chuck these actions to lack of judgment, but in Clare's case I saw them more as part of her humanity and in some instances due to her "vocation." I had a few other niggles to do with the mystery, but nothing significant.

This is not a romance. Russ is married, Clare is a priest and they're friends. Yet, as I mentioned above, there's chemistry and a building attraction between these two people. This is interesting and a bit controversial with the Chief married and Clare a woman of the cloth, yes? I certainly want to know what happens next.

This was an enjoyable mystery with well-developed and interesting human characters, plotting and a lovely setting. I definitely want to see how this series evolves and will read the second book, A Fountain Filled with Blood.

Thanks to Orannia for the recommendation.

Category: Mystery
Series: Rev. Clare Fergusson and Chief of Police Russ Van Alystyne Mystery, Book 1
Release Date: Minotaur Books; April 1, 2010 - Kindle Edition
Grade: B+

Visit Julia Spencer-Fleming here.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mini: Deeply, Desperately (Lucy Valentine, Book 2) by Heather Webber

Lucy wants to breathe new life into her family's Boston-based matchmaking company. But how? Even though she comes from a long line of ancestors blessed by Cupid with psychic abilities, a freak accident left Lucy with only one special skill: finding things. Car keys, socks in the dryer, needles in haystacks...and now, in a stroke of professional genius, lost loves!

It's not long before Lucy's on a winning streak, helping old flames reunite and create new sparks. Business is booming. But when Lucy finds herself involved in a possible case of murder, she realizes she's in too deep. Enter Sean Donahue. Lucy's handsome fire-fighter-turned private eye neighbor, Sean is just the man she needs to help her on the job. Could he also be the man she's been looking for all along? When it comes to Valentine, Inc., falling in love is always serious business...
What can I say, I love Lucy Valentine's character. Deeply, Desperately is the second book in Heather Webber's mystery/romance series. This is a light mystery series where the main story line is woven into the central character's personal life as other issues arise. The cast of characters, situations, dialogue and interactions are what make the story interesting. The way Lucy processes information (first point of view) and her personal relationships with parents, friends and Sean are what make these stories so enjoyable for me. I enjoyed Deeply, Desperately more than the first book and that's probably due to the fact that the Truly, Madly served as the "set-up" book for the series.

I really like the way Webber is developing Sean and Lucy's relationship. The romance is slow-going, fun and light. There's a bit of self-analysis on Lucy's part with plenty of kissing and "fooling around," but so far there are no explicit sexual encounters in these books. In this instance, the lack of heavy sexual scenes mesh well with the rest the plot, making the whole light and balanced.

In this book, I especially loved the way Lucy patiently and maturely fought for Sean and their relationship. Smart girl! The mystery is lighter and less of a factor than in the first installment, but it was still fun to follow Lucy's adventures. Particularly as it features Lucy working with Preston Bailey, the female reporter who drives her up a wall. I loved the turn of events with her childhood girlfriends, and the personal revelations in this book should make the next book, Absolutely, Positively, an even more interesting read.

Category: Contemporary Paranormal/Mystery
Series: Lucy Valentine Series
Released: August 3, 2010
Grade: B

Visit Heather Webber here.

Truly, Madly, Book 1
Deeply, Desperately, Book 2
Absolutely, Positively, Book 3 (Coming Feb 1, 2011)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

On Winning and Book Shopping!

Last week I won a gift certificate after completing the 2010 Re-read Challenge. Nath was quite generous! So, you all know I went book shopping! I decided to purchase some books I had on my "books to buy" list.

Quite a few of these books are recommendations by other bloggers. Here's my haul:

Earlier this month I mentioned that I wanted to continue reading the Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh. I took this opportunity to buy the second book in the series, Archangel's Kiss. If I like it as much as I did the first book, I'll be sure to buy Archangel's Consort soon enough. :D

Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis is a book I've been wanting to buy ever since I saw Leslie's review! I've read a few of Shalvis' books and category romances and love her style, so this is a book that will be read soon quite soon.

And continuing with recommendations from other bloggers, I read an excellent review by Lori for The Perfect Family by Kathryn Shay and immediately wanted to read this ohhh so interesting sounding contemporary.

Then of course I had to buy one more contemporary, and this one a recommendation from Nath! Welcome to Harmony by Jodi Thomas was not a book that received high scores, but it was one that, nevertheless, caught my attention. It just seems to be the type of book I will enjoy. Let's see. :D

I loved A Perfect Hero by Suzanne Enoch and when I heard Rules of an Engagement was coming out I was quite excited! Of course I placed it on my "to buy" list and it stayed there... now I have it and will read it. :D

Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman is the second book in Lorraine Heath's London's Greatest Lovers series. I've heard MUCH about this series (Leslie!) and I have the first book in my TBR already, but on the hopes that I will love it, went ahead and purchased the second book. :D

AND, last but not least, Worth Any Price by Lisa Kleypas is a replacement purchase. My old copy was well... old, and used and... old! I decided that as a tribute to the Re-Read Challenge I would replace a book that I love to re-read.  It was time to replace this one with a fresh copy so I can re-read it and enjoy it for a long, long time. :D

That's it! I think I did pretty well with that gift certificate. Thank you Nath!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Review: Shadowfever (Fever Series, Book 5) by Karen Marie Moning

I'll begin by saying that there's no way to write this review without giving away some spoilers. This is the last book in a series of five, plus in order to really get into the story and express my thoughts, I must refer to characters and events.

Book Summary:
Shadowfever begins where Dreamfever ends, with Mac killing the Beast that protected her while she was lost in one of the Silver's dimensions. As the Beast turns into a human, she finds out this beast is none other than Jericho Barrons. Mac is grief-stricken and through that grief, comes to terms with her feelings for Barrons and comes to the decision that she wants him back. The outcome of her deep, dark grief is again one more transformation. When she looks into herself, she accesses a dark place where she can conjure runes to protect herself and/or bind others, mainly the Fae.

Mac proceeds to align herself with Darroc, the Lord Master, in order to get whatever information he has gained about the Sinsar Dubh. He appears with the Unseelie Princes, and after coming to an understanding, agrees to take Mac out the Silvers. In order to get back to Dublin, Darroc must use a Silver and he takes Mac through the Unseelie King's concubine's White Mansion where some of Mac's buried memories come to the forefront.

But all is not as it seems, and Barrons is not dead. A chain of events unfolds where, through reading different translated prophecies and experiences dreams and recollections, Mac ends up questioning her origins. In the meantime, after Mac rescues the Seelie Queen from certain death, the hunt for the Sinsar Dubh is redoubled and all the interested parties assemble in Dublin. The McKeltars come from Scotland and join the fray, Rowena and the Sidhee-seers are at the center of it all, as are V'lane, the Seelie and Barrons men. Everyone wants the Sinsar Dubh, and most of them want Mac dead.

I'm a fan of Karen Marie Moning's work and when I began reading this series, I was excited and thought that the story was quite interesting. I still think the story behind the series, the battle between the Seelie and Unseelie, their lore and how humans and the Sidhe-seers come into it, is fascinating. As a matter of fact, I spent countless hours doing background research and I still have copious notes, including the sequence of events, characters, etc. Having said all that, the Fever series as a whole has been inconsistent for me -- I enjoyed the second book and the rest were inconsistent or disappointing.  When it comes to Shadowfever well... in many ways it provided what I know many were looking for: a happily ever after and the answer to some questions. However, for me personally, the book was a disappointment. Here is why.

By the time Mac finished processing the fact that she killed the Beast, or Barrons, I was already tired. Where did that come from? I understand that she felt guilt, that there was lust between them and dependency on her part. But where did love come into it? The long, interminable diatribe we were treated to at the beginning of the book served no other purpose than to set up the following scene. Mac's transformation, again! Yes... because of her actions, guilt, and need to erase those actions, she transforms and (gasp) gains ADDITIONAL powers. This device was used to death in this series, and became a predictable device.

Throughout the series, Moning uses long and involved internal dialogues to develop Mac and to narrate her story. However, in Shadowfever this style is used to an extreme. There are pages and pages where Mac contradicts herself over and over again throughout the whole book. This often served to confuse and distract the reader. After a while, all it achieved was frustrate me and yes... I wanted to skim Mac's prolonged and contradictory self-analyses. I couldn't stand her thoughts any longer and just wanted to get on with the story. Period.

As a female protagonist/heroine, Mac left a lot to be desired. I was not impressed. She was manipulated by all the males around her, and the ones with the real "Power" were ALL male: Barrons, V'lane, Darroc, the Unseelie King, the Sinsar Dubh (yes), and Ryodan. She depended on them, one way or another, to do what she had to do. They played her like a violin. I don't care how many transformations she had to make her into a "kick ass-type heroine," Mac wasn't strong for herself, instead she was strong for others or because of others.

Then we come to Barrons and the "romance." Barrons treatment of Mac is explained away by making him part Beast, yet even when he is a man... his treatment is questionable. He is often violent, possessive and downright abusive at times (both verbally and physically). They fight and have sex and that's supposedly where they truly understand each other. How is that supposed to be romantic? It's not. Mac's see-sawing, back and forth feelings for Barrons continue in this book! No, it's not over after she realizes he's alive... it goes on and on. Yet, they do come to a sort of mutual emotional understanding and dependency by the end. I still think that in order to call it love, that relationship needs further development.

There are resolutions to some of the threads, and some of those resolutions are good -- some predictable and others not. There's a "happily ever after" for one couple in the book that was unexpected,  and there are plenty of betrayals by both friends and foes. We are told there are battles, although few of those are shown, and characters from the whole series make appearances.

As to the rest of the storyarc, there were threads left incomplete left and right, and some that didn't seem to serve a real purpose. For example: The McKeltars were a waste of pages read, what was the point? Christian McKeltar plays a key role in this book and series, yet his story is left incomplete. Barron's story is also left incomplete -- although some details are revealed about his past to pacify readers, there's no meat to his story, no in-depth details or revelations. Dani has her own point of view in Shadowfever, yet she disappears and is absent at the end, leaving the reader wondering what happened to her. And last, but certainly not least, the most important story line of them all! The Seelie and Unseelie, the wall and their battle? Incomplete.
    So what does that tell this reader, apart from the fact that the book finishes with "The End .... for now?" Well, it says that either this series' "ending" is riddled with holes, or that there will be a continuation that will involve all the above mentioned story lines. And for me neither is acceptable, not when this book was supposed to be THE END to this series.

    Category: Urban Fantasy/Romance
    Series: Fever Series, Book 5
    Release Date: January 18, 2011
    Grade: D

    Visit Karen Marie Moning here.

    Challenges & a Thank You!

    I would like to thank Nath of Books, Books and More Books. Nath hosted one of my favorite Challenges last year, the 2010 Re-Reading Challenge.

    Last week she had a big surprise on her blog! She gave away a $50.00 Gift Certificate to the person who completed the challenge on time every month. That lucky person was me!

    So, thank you Nath not only for your generosity, but for all those hours of re-reading pleasure I enjoyed in 2010 because of your Challenge.

    2011: In-Death Challenge

    It's that time of the year again where we announce Challenges joined for the new year. Well, a little late for me, since it's almost the end of the month, but better late than never, right?

    There are many wonderful challenges out there this year that I wanted to join (the TBR Challenge!). Unfortunately, due to my limited time, I've decided to keep my participation down to the already announced 2011 Book Club: The Women of Fantasy and the following monthly challenge.

    This is a Challenge that I began in 2010 and I will continue in 2011. The In-Death Challenge is hosted by Christine of The happily ever after... and it's one where new readers begin and continue with this wonderful series, or fans can re-read along or just pick up the new releases and join in. It's fun!

    Last year, I read the first 7 books in the series and am hoping to read at least 12 in 2011. I already have a page where I keep a list of books read with links to reviews, and will continue to use it. You can read the details for this challenge and follow my progress here.

    Saturday, January 22, 2011

    2011 Book Club: The Women of Fantasy

    I've been dithering this whole month about weather or not I should join Challenges or Book Clubs. Mainly due to my new work schedule. If I make a commitment, I always do my best to come through unless it's out of my hands. However, The Women of Fantasy Book Club, hosted by Erika of Jawas Read, Too!, is just the perfect fit for me this year.

    Reading more fantasy is a personal goal I set for myself at the beginning of the year. I was planning to read some of the books and/or works by authors that are listed as part of this book club. So, why not join, right? Plus, Erika made it easy... not all 12 books need to be read for the year, only those that interest me.


    All year we’ll be reading books published by female authors in the Fantasy genre. Some are older titles, some newer, but all look to be amazing reads. Participants can join in the discussion in one of the months, all twelve, or a random selection from the entire year. It is up to the reader!

    There will be 12 books—a different one for each month. Readers will have the entire month to read that selection. At the end of each month, there will be a review/discussion post at Jawas Read, Too! where Erika (1) reviews the book and (2) welcomes comments and discussion. Discussions pertaining the book will be held. Comments or links to reviews (if one is written) every month or any month are not necessary in order to participate.

    Instead of having links in several different locations all of the pertinent information for this challenge will be on this page. It will serve as a hub for easy access to previous month’s reviews and discussions throughout 2011.


    So what books do I want to read? Well, I actually have the first book on the list The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jesimin in my TBR pile and will read it this year. However, I just began reading the first book Elizabeth Bear's Promethean Age series, Blood and Iron, and want to finish it this month. This is a series I've had in my TBR for a while and really want to explore, together with series by other female fantasy writers, Robin Hobb, Tanith Lee, and others. I will eventually read other books included in the list provided by the book club, but for now I've chosen the following four:

    March 2011
    Prospero Lost
    L. Jagi Lamplighter
    April 2011
    Four and Twenty Blackbirds
    Cherie Priest

    June 2011
    The Dark Mirror
    Juliet Marillier
    September 2011
    Mercedes Lackey

    Check it out, this is a fun Book Club! Plus, it's being done in conjunction with Dreams and Speculation's 2011 Book Club: The Women of Science Fiction.

    I will keep you all updated on my progress at the bottom of this page with links to my reviews. And a cross link from my review to this page in future posts.

    1) Prospero Lost by L. Jagi Lamplighter - DNF
    2) Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cheri Priest - Grade B-
    3) The Dark Mirror by Juliet Marillier - DNF

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    ARC Review: The Sea Thy Mistress (The Edda of Burdens Series, Book 3) by Elizabeth Bear

    This direct sequel to Elizabeth Bear’s highly acclaimed All the Windwracked Stars picks up the story some fifty years after Muire went into the sea and became the new Bearer of Burdens.

    Beautiful Cathoair, now an immortal warrior angel, has been called back to the city of Eiledon to raise his son--Muire’s son as well, cast up on shore as an infant. It is seemingly a quiet life. But deadly danger approaches…the evil goddess Heythe, who engineered the death of Valdyrgard, has travelled forward in time on her rainbow steed. She came expecting to gloat over a dead world, the proof of her revenge, but instead she finds a Rekindled land, renewed by Muire’s sacrifice.

    Book Summary:
    It is fifty years after Muire sacrificed herself and became the Bearer of Burdens. Cathoair is an einherjar and lives a life of service on the road helping others, as an almost dead world slowly comes to life due to Muire's sacrifice. But Cathoair returns to Eiledon after he's informed that he and Muire had a son. Raising Cathmar gives him a reason to settle into a quiet life by the sea.

    A few years later, their idyllic life is disrupted when Cathmar becomes a teenager and dark changes befall them. The goddess Heythe has returned just as promised when she abandoned the world she destroyed and as the Children of Light fought their last doomed battle by the sea. She travelled through time to find proof that her destruction was complete. Instead two thousand years later, Haythe finds a renewed world saved by Muire, the new Bearer of Burdens. Heythe the destroyer won't stop until this new world is erased from existence. Unbeknown to Cathoair and Cathmar, she targets and torments them in the hopes that the Bearer of Burdens will come to their rescue. But Mingan, the Grey Wolf, knows his old nemesis Heythe has returned and this time he'll do whatever is necessary to defeat her.

    Impressions of The Edda of Burdens Books 1 & 2:
    In All The Windwracked Stars, an unforgettable book that captured my imagination, Elizabeth Bear began this series of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic endings and new beginnings by focusing on Muire's quest and weaving a story that was both dark and full of hope. There, Muire witnessed an apocalypse and the destruction of her brothers and sisters, the Children of Light. In a renewed world that was again dying, she fought an old evil in the Grey Wolf and a new one in the Technomancer and through battle, sacrifice and forgiveness saved the world from a second apocalypse.

    In the second installment, By The Mountain Bound, Bear goes back in time and writes a tragic tale worthy of Norse mythology giving the reader a better understanding of her world and characters. Although the events unfold through all three central characters' points of view -- Muire the Historian, Strifbjorn the Warrior, and Mingan the Wolf -- it is the invaluable in-depth insight into the Grey Wolf's motivations and history that resonates in this story. By the Mountain Bound ends where All The Windwracked Stars begins giving the reader a complete understanding of events past and present and making it a darkly emotional, compelling tale of love and betrayal, particularly as the reader already knows how the story ends.

    With The Sea Thy Mistress, Elizabeth Bear concludes The Edda of Burdens trilogy by going forward in time to about fifty years after Muire's sacrifice and completes this post-apocalyptic trilogy by returning -- to a lesser extent -- to the cyberpunk fantasy style and atmosphere found in the first book. She seamlessly joins the story lines from the two previous books and focuses on Cathoair as the central character.

    As with the first two books in the trilogy, there's a dark, doom-like sense and atmosphere that permeates the story. But unlike what happens in By the Mountain Bound, there's hope and light by the end. Having said that, the journey to the light is a tough one. These are tormented characters and in this book Cathoair's past as an abused child and male prostitute come back to haunt him. Bear doesn't stint when it comes to digging deep into this man's damaged soul, his guilt, self-loathing or pain. She thoroughly explores that pain and in turn the sensitive subject of abuse. The characters' internal struggles parallel those of the world that surrounds them. Losing would mean a final end to Valdyrgard.

    The story is told in short chapters and shifts from character to character, as seen from their points of view. This gives the beginning of the story a choppy feel and slows the flow and pacing until about page 74 where the points of view are reduced and the plot begins to concentrate on Cathoair and Cathmar. This is also where the pacing and my interest in the story picked up. Even with the choppy beginning, I was surprised when I found myself fully emerged in the story, wanting to know more about Cathoair and getting what I wanted.

    In-depth characterization is also found in secondary characters and knowing what ultimately motivates them provides a sense of completion to the book, and in turn the trilogy. Most important of these characters are the Imogen, Selene the moreau with the soul of a Valkyrie, and Aethelred, with Cathmar thoroughly developed as a new, key character. Heythe's need for revenge and destruction are explained, however her real motivations seemed both obscure and rather futile to me. There is no further development for Heythe, making her the weakest character of this story.Bear also gives the reader a full, final view of a redeemed Mingan. He and Cathoair again share deeply emotional moments, bringing the story to a fully closed circle.

    Ms. Bear's talents for in-depth characterization, while weaving a fantasy tale with mythology, are impressive. These characters, although obviously patterned after those of tragic Norse mythology, are unique and Bear's own. A tale where everyone seems to win by losing what they love most, by acceptance of self and others and ultimately through forgiveness, The Sea Thy Mistress is a deeply nuanced story and a solid conclusion to this trilogy.

    Category: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Speculative Fiction
    Series: The Edda of Burdens Series, Book 3
    Release Date: February 1, 2011
    Source: Tor/Forge Books
    Grade: B

    Visit Elizabeth Bear here.