Monday, 13 February 2012


Hello and miserable - er - I mean, HAPPY Monday, Dear Readers. The lurgy I mentioned last week struck me with a vengeance shortly after I finished making all that chicken soup for other family members and I actually spent yesterday in bed, which hasn't happened for many a long year. Even when I did my back in, I was lying *on* the bed, not hiding under two duvets with a hot water bottle and two mansize boxes of tissues. And a pile of books, of course. I don't have a TV in my bedroom, so in between sneezing/coughing pathetically, blowing my nose, groaning and falling asleep, I read.

Considering that I'm still pretty feeble today, but not feeble enough to want to deprive you of your regularly scheduled post, I thought I'd make use of that reading and share some book recommendations.


Ahem. Sorry for shouting there, but I don't want to be responsible for scarring anyone's psyche.

The first recommendation I'd like to make is for Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series.

These are really smart books, books that make you think hard to keep up with the heroine's twisty mind and the ever evolving plots. They're part Dystopian, part Urban Fantasy, part thriller and part romance - and whooo! is that romance hot. I wasn't convinced by it at first, but it totally won me over in the end.
 The series concerns the adventures and misadventures of sword-wielding mercenary Kate, who lives in a slightly futuristic version of our world, where magic and technology sweep across the landscape in waves like tsunamis, forcing humans and other creatures (like Necromancers and Weres) to live side by side in a very uneasy truce. Kate is a hilarious, wise-cracking character who is unashamedly tough - a warrior, a soldier and a killer - but at the same time deeply honourable and emotionally vulnerable. I love watching her evolve as the books progress, turning from a lonely, isolated woman who trusts no one to a...well, you'll just have to read and find out!

I think the world-building in this series is simply superb, and I love the intricacies of all the various factions at war with each other and trying to stay afloat amid the battle of magic and technology. Each is portrayed as diverse and multi-faceted rather than simply Good or Bad. Unsurprisingly, my favourites are the weres, who are shown here as highly clannish and loyal to each other, desperately trying to live down a partially deserved reputation for violence. Any people who signal the start of a serious courtship by breaking into each other's houses and leaving gifts of food, or playing extravagent practical jokes, is all right by me. But I'm also fascinated by the Order and by the Red Guard and...oh, a million other details.

I also love the character growth here. It's not just the main characters who get to fall in love, fall out of love, go interesting places, get hurt and get changed. Derek and Andrea are examples of how you write a sidekick RIGHT, and I'd love to have them in my life!

Number of Books in the Series: Five, with a companion novel from a secondary character's POV coming this year, and a number of (brilliant!) secondary character novellas in anthologies. Seek them out!

Favourite Book in the Series: Book Three, Magic Strikes. Underground magical gladiator tournament where the heroine repeatedly gets to kick people's asses, along with a motley crew of loyal friends? Yes please!

Least Favourite Book in the Series: Book One, Magic Bites. I'd actually council readers to skip this one. In my opinion it strays far too close to torture porn in its constant descriptions of the vile activities of its villain, and does a disservice to the rest of the books. You can pick up everything you need to know from Book Two without too much difficulty.

The Guild Hunter Series by Nalini Singh.

I've just discovered these, and I can't believe what I was missing! The Guild Hunter books are set in an Urban Fantasy alternate reality where the world is run by a race of superhuman, immortal angels and Archangels, who in turn create vampires from volunteers in the human population. The vampires, in return for being Made almost-immortal, agree to hundred year contracts with their angelic creators which are essentially like indentured servitude. And, not surprisingly, once those vampires start to grow into their powers (which vary widely from individual to individual, based on their unique personalities and strengths as a human) they often try to get out of their contracts by running. Sometimes they just go into hiding. At other times they go rogue and start killing. That's where the Guild of Hunters comes in. Some of these guys are Hunter Born, able to literally track vampires by scent, while others are just tough badasses that hunt using old fashioned gumshoe methods. Either way, their job is to find and tag the vampires with control chips that prevent them from running again, and return them to their angelic masters for punishment. Needless to say, this is easier said than done, especially since the strongest Hunter is probably not a third as strong as even a fairly newly Made vampire.

The main character of these books is Elena, a Hunter Born who gets forced into working for the most powerful being in the US, and one of the most powerful in the world, the Archangel Raphael. Raphael has a job that only Elena's unusually sensitive nose can handle, and he isn't willing to take no for an answer. Elena is a tough, interesting heroine with a lot of emotional baggage to work through, who still manages to be convincingly badass. But frankly most of my love is for Raphael and his Seven (his loyal commanders, some of whom are ancient vampires, others angels). This guy is scary. All the angels and Archangels are frankly terrifying, as well as many of the older vampires. They are truly inhuman, something beyond the comprehension of most mortals, and are capable of wiping out human lives with as much effort and remorse as I'd rub a smudge off the back of my hand. Some of them, in fact, take pleasure in sadism and suffering. But some of them are capable of love - and Raphael falls in love with Elena, who, petrified of this millenia-old creature as she is, finds herself falling back. Their love changes them both fundamentally, and what happens to them after that is extraordinary.

Number of Books in the Series: Four, including a companion novel from a secondary character's POV, with a collection of secondary character novellas due out at the end of this month.

Favourite Book in the Series: Book Four, Archangel's Blade. I wasn't expecting this, since I personally found the secondary character of Dmitri a total b - er - d - bit of a nasty person in the preceding three books. I was cross that he was getting his own companion novel before my favourites Illium and Aodhan. But this story just blew me away. It deals with a very similar theme to one I'm using in my Katana Trilogy, and does so masterfully. This kinda broke my heart a little. I cried a lot, and I adored it.

Least Favourite Book in the Series: Book Two, Archangel's Kiss. Not because it's not good, just because I felt the elements of romance/mystery/training montage weren't as skillfully blended as in the other books, and we weren't given adequate information to be able to work out who the bad guy was on our own. Plus, I missed the New York setting. Still a great read, though.


Unknown said...

Hi, it's been quite a while sine I've written but finally I got a chance to get back to reading your blog. Did you ever read the Yelena Zaltana series or the Opal Cowan ones by Maria V Snyder they are fantastic!

Liz said...

Hoping blogger lets me comment for a change! I have come to love Ilona Andrews. I've not yet read the Katie Daniels books BUT I've read her new series (3 books thus far) called On The Edge, Bayou Moon, Fate's Edge. I love them! They have impacted on my own writing and world-building so much. It is for older readers, for sure, and the writing and characters are so glorious. I love them and have got stickies sticking out of them for when I'm writing my reviews. I can't recommend them highly enough.

Go buy them ASAP!

Zoë Marriott said...

Unknown: Recommendations noted! Thanks :)

Liz: I've already read them, hun! And I really like them a lot, although I found Bayou Moon a bit dark. But the Kate Daniels books are my favourite. This is actually my third re-read and I find new little details and flourishes every time.

Jenni said...

Great post, I'm bookmarking it for next time my TBR pile looks like it needs to be built up again :)

Zoë Marriott said...

Jenni: Glad to hear it - let me know what you think!

Kelly said...

I already mentioned it on Twitter, but I'll repost here for other readers of comments: for folks that liked Singh's Archangel series, I really recommend Angelfall by Susan Ee. It's different, and is more of a romance rather than erotica or anything along Singh's story path, but involves similar notions of angels on earth and working with humans.

I believe it's technically a YA novel; I devoured the entire book inside four hours. It does NOT have a happily ever after, and is very clearly setting up the sequel, which will be out this summer.

The_Book_Queen said...

Love Singh's books (though I haven't read this series--yet! It is on my list though). I also have the Kate Daniels' books on my list--look forward to reading both series as soon as I get some spare time!


Rebecca Lindsay said...

I have looked at Magic Bites a few times. I haven't really decided if I wanted to give it a go or not. I'm kind of torn lol.
I second Unknown's recommendation, Poison Study by Maria V Snyder is amazing! If you are going to read the series, it's better if you start with that one before going onto the Opal Cowan series. The Opal Cowan series can be read first but to get the true feeling for the book, the world and the characters, it's better to read the Yelena Zaltana [Poison Study] series first.

Isabel said...

These sound great! If I ever decide to pick them up I'll make sure to keep your advice in mind. :) Glad you've been reading so many good books lately!

Zoë Marriott said...

Kelly: Thanks! I've checked it out on Amazon and it does look intriguing, altho I'll probably wait until at least one more book in the series comes out - I hate cliffhanger endings!

TBQ: We must have pretty much the same taste! Bump these to the top of your lists. You won't forget it!

Rebecca: Oh, I've read a few books by Maria V. Snyder, don't worry. If you can handle the first two Poison Study books you might not have the same problem with Magic Bites that I did, so I urge you to give it a try.

Isabel: I actually feel a little but guilty recommending books that I'm pretty sure your sister won't let you read! But hopefully you'll remember these titles a few years hence :)

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