Bookends | #003

Twelve Kings by Bradley P Beaulieu

We made it! Another week (nearly) over. Don’t know about you but for once this January is not dragging! Plus, it’s staying lighter for longer in the evenings. Happy days. Now onto happy reading…

So after scheduling last week’s post, I flew through the last hundred pages of The Bear and the Nightingale. I wrote a whole review about it here, I’m quite pleased with how it turned out so do go give it a read if you’re interested in fairytale/folklore-esque stories. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Deadhouse Gates. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I really enjoyed it before I put it down just before Christmas. That was clearly a huge mistake. I am struggling to get back into it despite loving the characters/plots/worlds. I think maybe it’s because I’m 65% of the way through and I still have over 300 pages to go. I’m in the mood for actually finishing books…

So this week I started and finished Nalini Singh’s Archangel’s Blade which is book four of her Guild Hunter series where the world is split into territories ruled by an Archangel and Vampires are indentured to them. The Guild in New York is a group of highly trained men and women who are hired, by police, vampires and angels alike, to track down rogue vampires/angels. The first three books follow Elena Deveraux as she becomes entangled in the Archangel of New York’s problems and helps to fix them. Now, what I particularly enjoyed about these three was how complex the characters, plot and world-building was. Despite the cringey covers, the first three books do not revolve around a romance. Yes, as it is an Urban Fantasy there is a romantic element to the plot, but there was so much more going on. It paled into insignificance in comparison to the villains and the threat they posed for the whole world Singh created. The characters have dark, twisted, horrific pasts that shape them all differently and make them wary of certain people/beings which was super interesting to watch play out. Elena especially had such a messed up childhood and how that comes back to haunt her is devastating yet gripping. In a page-turnery, can’t go to sleep yet way. They were wonderful. Enter Archangel’s Blade.

This instalment follows Raphael’s second in command, Dmitri, a 1000 year old vampire who is unbeatable in combat and is so powerful he could rule his own territory. This one is much more focussed on the romance. Dmitri is well known for being devious in the bedroom , mixing pleasure with pain. So who is he ‘paired up’ with? Honor, a woman who has only recently been rescued from two months of sexual and physical torture by many vampires, half of whom (including the orchestrator) have not been found. Immediately I was wary. While it was interesting to learn of Dmitri’s tragic past I feel like he deserved to heal, to move on from his demons. And that’s not really what happened. We spend a whole book getting to know him and Honor for there to be a big reveal at the end that just undid pretty much all the character development and made me rage. I mean, I wasn’t enjoying it anyway, but I think the “twist” at the end put the nail in the coffin of this book for me. I gave it 1 star. I’m still a bit furious, can you tell?

If all that wasn’t enough, the plot was pointless. Unlike the previous novels, the two crimes (for want of a better word) that the duo were trying to revolve had no real impact on any of the other characters we’d previously met or on the world. AND they were so, so easily wrapped up with no character ever feeling in danger. It all just felt like a device to put both the characters through unnecessary emotional turmoil. Which we read about. In every paragraph. The same wording. Of the same history. Of the same person. It. Was. Irritating. I can’t believe it was written by the same person. I will carry on with the series as I am invested in the other characters, and I will just have to skip any bits mentioning Honor and Dmitri as I’m just not over it.

Anyway… onto a good old epic fantasy book! As you may be able to guess from the picture at the top, I also started reading Bradley P Beaulieu’s Twelve Kings. About time! I remember wanting this book before it was even released. Fast forward a few years and the third is due out next month and I’ve just started the first. It’s so good! We follow Ceda, a notorious pit fighter in the city of Sharakhai, the Amber City in the desert. Her mother was killed by the twelve kings of the city when Ceda was very young and has harboured resentment, obviously, against the kings ever since then. She vows to come for them but at 19 she hasn’t found a way to hurt them yet. After her best friend, Emre, is hurt  delivering a package on one of the holy nights in Sharakhai, Ceda (Chay-da) takes it upon herself to find out why. As you can imagine, she discovers something that could have far-reaching consequences but cannot stop investigating. So far, this is wonderful. I’ve never read anything set wholly in a desert landscape before and it’s fascinating. Beaulieu describes the food and the clothing, even the transportation, in luscious detail that really pulls you in. He masterfully teases you with subtle hints at great events to come but doesn’t explore them straight away so you are left wanting more. I am so intrigued by all the narrative threads he is weaving that I never want to put it down. Although we are mainly following Ceda, we do get events from other characters points of view too and they are EQUALLY as good. That’s so rare nowadays, there always seems to be a ‘boring’ POV character, but not here. Saying that, it’s not like there are alternating POV chapters or anything, it all just flows and we follow who we follow. It’s fab. Highly recommend.

I hope you’ve all had a better reading week/month than me. I haven’t give a book 1 star in ages, if ever! What have been your favourite reads so far?

Happy Friday and happy reading!

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