Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Meljean Brook – Two Novellas – Review

Wild Thing and Hot Spell both contain novellas in Brook’s Guardian universe. I had to double-check the page count on both of them, because in each case there was absolutely a whole story packed into barely 100 pages. Vivid characters, compelling plot, and just enough of her amazing world to tide over the fans between releases.

Compared to a full length book, novellas usually lack something; I mean, there’s a reason for those other two or three hundred pages – character development, intricate plotting— something has to give. Not these. Sure, the plots don’t have quite as many twists and turns, but they’ll still engage you and they don’t have that wrapped-up-pat, oh-crap-I’m-out-of-page-count feel of a lot of novellas. The other signature move of Brook’s that is left out of the novellas is the way each full-length book adds new branches of the mythology in her world-building—which is perfectly appropriate for a short.

I honestly can’t speak to whether these shorts stand alone if you aren’t already reading the series. But does that matter? Are there really paranormal romance fans out there who haven’t fallen in love with the Guardians? If there are, I can only imagine that either of these two novellas would prompt such an under-rock dweller to run out and acquire by hook, crook, or library card the rest of the series. I will say, though, that being late to the party with Falling For Anthony did leave me slightly lost in parts of Colin’s story, Demon Moon; and Demon Bound contains references to events in Paradise. So fans should consider the novellas required reading, not extra credit.

Although Falling For Anthony (Hot Spell) contains references to how Colin was changed, it is the story of his sister and the Guardian she falls for, and explains Colin's connection to the Ramsdell family. I was actually kind of perplexed by the weird sex scene in the beginning of the story. I didn’t understand Emily’s motivations and I’m not sure I ever really did get a grip on them. The first couple chapters read a little bit like a full length novel that had been stripped down hard. I confess I didn’t start to love the story until after Anthony’s transformation.

Now, Paradise… Brook totally has her novella groove on here. Lucas, a self-sacrificing carpenter who bleeds to save humanity – no wait, that’s not quite right… but yes, Lucas is a bit of a Christ figure in this story. Fortunately, he gets a much happier ending with an angel for a consort-- which seems appropriate somehow; that is, if it’s not too weird and blasphemous to find a Christ figure extremely sexy and heroic. I really enjoyed the build-up of tension between these two characters: Lucas’ reluctance to take help from anyone; Selah’s internal struggle with her resentment of the Guardians who ascended, leaving Earth vulnerable and the remaining Guardians with a monumental task – there’s a lot going on here but it never feels rushed or confused. Once again, Brook plays with the notion of free will on multiple levels, adding hope to her dark world of demons and nosferatu, and substance to a genre that is too often dismissed as fluff.

One last note – Brook has a third novella in the collection “First Blood,” released this past August, which I somehow missed. Following my own advice, I’m going to need to pick this up one way or another.

Coming up next: Brook has a short in the upcoming Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance, due out in April of 2009, and the next Guardian book is tentatively titled Demon Forged, featuring Elena, the foul-tempered Guardian with a talent for metal-working. Hopefully we’ll see than in 2009 as well, but I’m not seeing a scheduled release date as yet. Also, if you’re like me and reluctant to shell out $14 for your reading fix, there is more good news: Wild Thing is being re-released in mass-market format next month. Between the double-whammy of Paradise and Marjorie Liu's Hunter Kiss, this was perhaps my favorite anthology of the whole bunch.

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