Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Defiance by Lili St. Crow - review

book four of the Strange Angels series

Lili St. Crow

I did not like the cover of the previous book - because just looking at it, you had no idea that you would be reading an urban fantasy, it really looked like a very blah romance novel cover. The male model in no way resembled the character that I assume it was supposed to portray, and the hair! Her hair is supposed to be kinky curly, out of control curly on the female, but not in the latest covers. This one is a teeny bit better, though not much. Once again, if I weren't already on the look out for this particular book, or if I didn't already have an eye out for the author, nothing about this cover (except for the blue background) would have caught my eye to even take a look. It's boring, it's blah, and just barely surpasses the last cover. Maybe the publishers have a reason for this, but I think that having a more eye-popping cover would be a better draw for new readers. But that's just me, a person who buys books.....books that have covers, sometimes very interesting covers......I wonder what they were thinking. Hmmmmmmm... The cover of the next book, Reckoning, looks more promising.

Thankfully, I enjoyed Defiance very much. I've been a fan of Lilith Saintcrow ever since she first came out with Working For The Devil - one of her adult urban fantasies. In case you haven't heard of this series yet, Defiance is the fourth of the Strange Angels series; about a teen, Dru Anderson who has been traveling around the country with her father, searching out supernatural baddies to exterminate. If you haven't read this series yet, then the following will be spoilerish.




Dru has been learning how to fight as a svetocha (the female dhampir) , continuing with her classes in the "Schola" and missing Graves (her wulfen not quite declared boyfriend) terribly. She's been finding out about her in-consistant growth of powers and is also learning how to sit in meetings - meetings that she hates, because what sane person loves meeting anyway? and how would a teen love a meeting? Nope!

So Dru is becoming frustrated, feeling like nothing much is being done to find and save Graves. She's having issues with her feelings toward Christophe (frankly, so am I) and is not sure that she can trust him to really look for Graves. At the same time, it seems like she's building a stronger relationship with the wulfen, something that the dhampirs don't quite like. Ash, the broken wulfen is also continuing to try to shift all the way back, and is actually making progress - and at the same time showing a strong loyalty to Dru.

One of the things that made me give this novel five stars (really like, even love this novel) as opposed to six stars (Hell Yeah! this is amazing! It's the Shit! Everyone should read this, I want to read it again and again!) is something that brought the story to a grinding halt for me....The book starts out with Dru going on a hunt for vampires and being the bait. There's a part where after running and running and being almost worn out she ends up killing the vampire. She's a bit shaken after this, and it keeps bugging her that she killed this vamp, and the others are making comments and giving her high fives, etc. over her first kill. I'm pretty sure that from the very first book, she's been hunting and killing wulfen, other-worldly baddies and vamps. In fact, in the first book she ends up having to kill her own father - within the first few chapters as a matter of .....first kill? I'm pretty sure not. The other issue is her thing with Christophe. I know that it's the popular thing to have love triangles and more than one love interest, etc in urban fantasies...but Saintcrow usually doesn't quite "toe the line" in formulaic writing, so I'm surprised that this is coming up...maybe she wants it, I don't know, I'm not the writer....BUT it kind of squicks me out that there's this whole Christophe in love with Dru thing, and Dru being attracted to Christophe and all these furtive kisses and angst over them...the angst I understand...but the whole thing feels....Uncle Pervy to me. Yeah, all these older dhampirs (and vamps/weres in other novels) are all "young" looking and in great shape, etc. but they always end up having this relationship with these girls that are young enough to be their grandaughters (in some cases great-great-great granddaughters). In some books, they've BOUNCED THE BABY ON THEIR KNEE! PLAYED WITH THEM AS A CHILD.... and here they are years later wanting to sex them up. This has always gotten to me...sometimes more than others - I guess it depends on the author, the book, the storyline etc. In Dru's case, there were inferences of Christophe being in love with Dru's mom in the previous books....and suddently - no, he was never in love with her, simply respected her quite a bit, felt BFFish. This was the basis of the previous book - Ana's extreme jealousy over Dru and Christophe. This was strongly hinted at in the last two books. Only now, it's okay suddenly for Christophe to be in love with Dru. The one thing that kind of saves it (for me) is that even Dru mentions in her internal dialogue that she's a little spooked about the whole age/Christophe/mom/history thing. Besides, she is pretty sure that she loves Graves - although they haven't quite come out and said "You Mine, Me Yours" quite yet. I know this isn't a popular feeling if you're a reader of vamps and weres and even some historical romances (some of them have the whole older knight or lord in love with the young naiive thing that was a child when seen last...and God's Balls, look how they've, er she's grown!) I don't consider myself a prude (hell, some of my best friends are porn, not really) but to be honest, I do get an Uncle Pervy vibe from this type of situation. And with the older housewives panting after the young actors in Twilight movies....LADIES! Control, Control! LOL. Those two issues made this novel for me a five star rating rather than a six star rating. Hell, most people only go up to five stars anyway, so possibly, BFD - right?

My small disappointment aside, the novel was mostly very enjoyable to me. I've come to expect a certain amount of lyrical, descriptive writing. St.Crow is good at this. When you are reading a fight scene, you can almost feel the pain, hear the grunts (which aren't over done with descriptions of screams - I hate reading about how a person, especially a female, screams while fighting - yell, shout or bellow - cut down on the screams, okay? 'cause when I "hear" the screams, they sound ....shrieky to me, not like a strong angry...bellow), smell the surrounding scene, etc. When Dru is running, her locket (an important part of her) bounces, turning cold or hot. When she's getting angry her hair is curling with a life of its own - when danger looms, a taste blossoms in the back of her throat. Some would find this repetative, and in another hand, it might be - but here it's a complimentary part of the writing. You really get a feel for the complete atmosphere of the situation. With some items, Dru's hair - or the silver tinkling charms in another book's character's hair - the item is almost a secondary supporting character. The Locket that warms up or gets cold according to the danger level - or Dru's emotions. The taste of oranges when danger is coming. The flapping of the owl wings - Dru hears them often before she even notices her owl - the one she associates with her Gran. The changing colors and curling of Chrisophe's hair, and the fragrance of Christophe and Graves. (always a yummy smell - always better than the old sock smell that teen boys usually have in reality - *g*) This is a part of St. Crow's writing that I think is great.

Some subplots (I know there's a better word for this....story arc? conflict? this is where I prove that I am in no way a pro at reviewing or even of the english language! HAHAHA! - hand on hip!) are resolved in Defiance, and another plot point opens by the end of Defiance....I am really looking forward to the next novel. In fact, by the end of this book, Dru has pulled off a major feat, and has re-taken charge of her life! She rebels in a major way, kicking ass and asking questions later. You GO GIRL! KICK THEIR ASSES! Got my BLOOD UP!

From what I've read on Ms Saintcrow's blog, the next book - Reckoning - will be the final book. Lili St.Crow is a master at writing a series with a beginning and end. A lot of her books are five or six book series - Dante Valenting (five books) , Jill Kismet (five or six) and now the Strange Angels (five, I think). Although it's a bittersweet acknowledgement - this engaging series is ending, I'm also very curious - what is next? I wonder if there will be another kick-ass Young Adult series, or another adult series....Of the novels that I've read by Lili St.Crow (or Lilith Saintcrow), I've highly enjoyed all of them.
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