I really loved Jackie's February mini-challenge, and I really wanted to do it again this month. So I started with Keri Arthur, because I've been meaning to check her out, ever since I enjoyed her short story in the Hotter Than Hell anthology (wow, I can't believe it's been more than a year. The TBR pile is out of control, people).
The April Challenge involves a smackdown between two group author blogs: Fangs, Fur and Fey versus Deadline Dames. (There are prizes -- you should check it out!).
However, one thing that's getting in the way of me trying several of the authors on Jackie's April list is... Keri Arthur. OMG, I am SOOOO addicted to her Riley Jenson series.
Since it happened to work out this way, I thought I'd try a T-13 on the series so far. Usually I like to review a single book or a whole series, and believe me, I *will* finish this series. But I have a deadline so I figured I should just park the butt in the seat and get it done with what I've got so far. Here we go:
(Riley is the character, Arthur is the author)
- Other reviewers have used the word "unabashed" a lot when talking about Riley's werewolf sexuality, and for good reason. This element of Arthur's world is incredibly well-done -- Riley's physiological need for sex and the werewolf cultural acceptance of "casual" sex and multiple partners creates inherent conflict with her significant others, and elevates the erotic scenes from merely titillating to critical plot- and character- drivers.
- Riley is half werewolf and half vampire, with most of the best parts of both and few of the weaknesses, which is very cool.
- Yet there is still a good balance with her physical limitations -- she's strong, even supernaturally strong, but her foes are supernatural too, and it usually seems like a pretty fair fight.
- I love the way Arthur mines world folklore to bring nightmare characters and boogeymen to life. She puts a modern spin on the legends while respecting longstanding traditions, and the result is a suspension system for your disbelief that Mercedes-Benz would envy.
- Riley wears fabulous shoes -- now, I am not a designer shoe kind of girl, but it's fun to read about her specially-made stilettos with wooden heels -- the better to impale the bad vampires with.
- The tech: Arthur's world is slightly futuristic, maybe 20-50 years down the road. The "tech" is mostly just extensions of current technology, done in a believable way that doesn't get in the way of the story. (I am especially fond of the earlobe comm-link).
- Salliane, a/k/a Sal The Cow. She's a secondary character who shows up around book 4 and I love the banter between the two women. It sounds too hateful to excerpt but when you're reading it, you can hear the teasing underneath, and through several books you can see the friendship grow. I also like how impossibly efficient Sal is.
- Series OCD rating: 11 on a scale of 1-10. I've been so anxious to acquire the series that I accidentally bought Bound to Shadows twice. I finished #4 sooner than I planned (at, uh, about 1:00 am) so when I found myself at a happy hour right next to Barnes and Noble, I strolled over and bought #5 and 6 both, just to be sure.
- I like how -- most of the time-- Arthur's supernatural races are not inherently good or evil, but a little of both, just like the human race. Their individual characteristics may make them more prone to some vices or virtues, but there isn't a base assumption about the whole race.
- Arthur's bad guys strike a good balance between scary/bad/evil/powerful, and defeatable. This is a tough thing for paranormal authors to accomplish, and Arthur does it well, book after book.
- Inclusivity: Both race and sexual preferences have a role in the series. Most of the characters in the series are "color-blind." Beauty and attraction come in a wide variety of packaging, and Arthur portrays them effortlessly. A major secondary character is gay, and he and his partner are an integral part of Riley's professional team. As the m/m relationship develops over the several books, the difficulties they encounter mirror Riley's insecurities in a subtle but meaningful way.
- The men in this series are TO DIE FOR. I mean seriously: a horse shifter. (Think about it. Uh huh.) Alpha wolves. Suave vampires (also scary ones, but the good ones are yumm).
- I didn't intend to write a total rave - I had a couple of minor nitpicks - but I don't think I'm going to bother with them. As I compile my thoughts here, I'm coming to a surprising conclusion: I cannot think of a series that I have enjoyed more than this one. It's top 3 for sure, along with Meljean Brook's Guardians and Nalini Singh's Psy-Changelings. (The BDB... well, I have an irrational love for the first 4 books but as a series it's uneven at best.)
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