Just when I think the number of sub-genres in romance has every possible angle covered, along comes another, even narrower one. Lisa Renee Jones has kicked off a special-ops/military, paranormal, futuristic romance... and she's not the only one. Readers who enjoy Joss Ware's "Envy Chronicles", Jayne Ann Castle's Harmony series, Cindy Gerard and some of Lora Leigh's Elite Ops, and so on, will feel right at home here.
Jones' premise of genetically modified super-warriors is not unique in and of itself, but I really enjoyed her personal spin-- the windwalking talent is mysterious and sexy and dangerous and super-cool. Love it. Michael and Cassandra's world teeters on the brink of apocalypse, with the super-race bifurcated into Team Zodius, with the naked goal to rule the world and force ordinary, unmodified humans into slavery; and Team Renegade. The thing that makes this series potentially Very Interesting is that Team Renegade is a long ways from white hats and rainbows. Power struggles, loyalties, and betrayals abound, so if you enjoy political intrigue, this should be right up your alley.
While the redemption of Michael is a major theme, Legend is more of a plot-driven story, in my opinion. I never really bought into Michael's "badness" so the redemption was a bit less dramatic than it could have been, but this is a tough line to walk. You can't make a hero too bad or the reader loses empathy. Overall, I'd prefer an author to err on the side of "not quite that bad," as Jones perhaps does. That line is highly individual though, so your take may differ.
Cassandra was an entirely adequate heroine, but more or less along for the ride and a bit of a Mary Sue if one were to be picky. The villains are pretty much over the top evil, which leads me to...
I'm not always a fan of the military books, but I did like this one. It starts out with a somewhat odd mix of the way-out paranormal and the mundane routine you might expect from a more realism-based contemp, but an early plot explosion sets the stage for the post-apocalyptic -- or more accurately, a pre-apocalyptic-- feel. There is a sense throughout the story of a world on the edge of disaster, while Our Heroes struggle to contain and prevent the cataclysm. The factions each live in something of a bunkered fortress while the rest of the world carries on more or less unaware.
Jones' Zodius world is consistent, creative, and compelling - it's a worthy scene-setter for a new paranormal romance series. The foundation is laid and there are a number of interesting directions it could go. This is another "fated mate" trope, and it doesn't really make any more sense to me than any of the others out there... but it's no worse, either. There's a definite similarity to Leigh's Breeds in that lovemaking bilaterally "seals the deal" for the bond between them, changing both of them physiologically and emotionally/psychologically. Personally, it's not a trope I dig that much but it's not the central focus here and didn't get in my way too much.
The one criticism I have about Jones' world is that the villains are too evil. The genetic intervention takes a permutation that basically causes certain individuals to go insane, but I dunno. I think it's less interesting than a "grayer" set-up. Perhaps future books will have more nuance; I think she's left adequate loopholes and I hope she takes advantage of them.
While I can't honestly say that this is the very best book I've read lately, I do think it's a well-written paranormal romance with strong plotting and world-building, and I would happily pick up Zodius #2: THE STORM THAT IS STERLING when it hits the shelves this November -- and that's really the acid test, isn't it?
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