Sunday, September 27, 2009

Storm of Visions/Storm of Shadows by Christina Dodd - Review

Back To It
Is there anything more boring than yet another blog post apologizing for lack of blogging?

Yeah, I didn't think so. So please take it as read that I haven't quit blogging; I haven't thrown over JR Ward, Nora Roberts or Stephanie Laurens for Joyce or Proust; I haven't given up reading, and I have no plans to discontinue Alpha Heroes. Just, you know: blahblahblah excuses Ginger blahblahblah. So... let's just get on with it, shall we?

This is the Bus Book I was talking about.
Dodd's new series is loosely related to to her first paranormal series, Darkness Chosen, which wrapped up just about a year ago, and in the same way, it pulled me in hard and fast. It's a fast-paced, immersive read, and I couldn't put it down.

Like Darkness Chosen, The Chosen Ones feature the devil himself as the ultimate foe, and share a character or two for continuity. The mythology is different but not in conflict with the Varinskis' history, as Dodd's vision of the devil is consistent, and The Chosen are fighting a similar battle on a different stage with extra props.

The Chosen Ones series is a bit more stylized, and it seems to me that the world-building is a bit more thought-out from the beginning -- which doesn't make it better or worse, just less of a "strange things happen in this crazy old world we think we know" and more of a "here's a whole different world I'm going to imagine for you," sort of effect, if that makes sense. It puts me in mind a bit of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or perhaps the 3rd or 4th generation after the original League. Somehow I could easily picture the story in Victorian times or done in steampunk.

To tell the truth, I find the basic premise of the world-building to be a little bit silly: it centers on babies who are abandoned at birth, and posits that they are given divine gifts to compensate for the lack of a family's love. These gifts can be nurtured for the good fight, or twisted and tempted into working for evil. The two factions then have a dual mission: to find and keep the newly-abandoned, and to use their gifts in a battle < dramatic baritone voiceover> FOR ALL HUMANITY. </voiceover>. Once you get beyond that seed though, the structure of the series works fine for me.

And, as always, I'm in it for the characters and the love story. In Storm of Visions, we get a couple, who, contrary to paranormal tradition, know exactly what is going on and what needs to be done about it, which is a bit refreshing. Caleb, the hero, makes this story for me. He's wayyy alpha, probably to an extent that would get him arrested IRL, but paired with Jacqueline, who has gifts and a history with him, his high-handedness is -- just barely-- forgivable (and frankly: hott). His physicality makes him a match for her paranormal powers and keeps her grounded. I love the twist at the end of chapter 3 -- can't tell you what it is and don't you dare skip ahead -- but it was most excellent.

It is a romantic suspense though, and plot fuels the pacing, pulling you through the ups and downs, the series set-up, the crisis and first hurdle of big team, and Jacqueline's choice to face up to her destiny. There's virtually no pause in the action, no time to catch your breath, and before you know it, the bus driver will be calling your stop and you'll be scrambling to get off without having half your crap falling out of your bag or (worse) losing your place in the book.

Storm of Shadows
If I had to find fault with the series thus far, it might be that the characters are a bit exaggerated; some might find them caricatures or cartoonish. It rather fits with the comic-book style of the seven Chosen Ones, and for now I'll go along with it. But if ever there was a mousy-librarian-makeover character, Rosamund out-tropes them all.

Given a makeover by a Parisian stylist, the result goes like this:

She wore a suit of gray wool, with a long-sleeved, formfitting jacket that buttoned up the front, tucked in at the waist and showed just a hint of creamy cleavage. The knee-length hem of the pencil-thin skirt was right-wing conservative as were the gray patent pumps with the two-inch heels.

Her curly, carroty hair had been cut to shoulder length and tamed into a smooth wave that flowed around her face and over one eye. Her makeup was so discreet as to be almost invisible, doing nothing more than accenting the lines and curves of her face.

Most important, her tortoise-shell glasses had been replaced with a square, black, severe style that made her violet eyes the focus of the whole package. Her eyes... and her lips, which were a glorious, bright red.

Wordless, Aaron gestured for her to turn.

The back of the gray wool suit cupped her rear like a glove, and a gathered kick pleat pointed like an arrow at the crack of her ass.

Phillipe was right-- she was the librarian everyone wanted to fuck...
I guess if you're going to use a cliche, you might as well REALLY embrace it.

I have to admit I didn't love Aaron and Rosamund as much as I could. They weren't awful or TSTL or anything like that, but in some ways they fell a little short of fabulous, for me. Aaron had moments of guys-locker-room crudity that made me cringe a little, and Rosamund was a little too buried in library dust to seem real.

But Dodd writes such a tightly plotted suspense story that the pages flew by me anyway. (I almost missed my bus stop). The two books each have very satisfying (ie, resolved) character, romantic, and adventure arcs, with layers of interest around the larger cast and the larger group goals that intrigue me without making me feel too manipulated by the series tease. I like the ensemble interaction of a good series--there's enough to make me curious about the other characters without any of them upstaging the main couple.

Here's a problem though: no word that I can find on when Book 3 will be out or whose book it will be. Next up, a re-release of Move Heaven and Earth (excerpt), while the end of Shadows includes an excerpt from a new historical, In Bed with the Duke, scheduled for March of 2010. You can pre-order it, but I can't find any other information about it. The excerpt sounds good though!

Around the web for Visions:
Angel On A Move
Danielle's Book Thoughts
Karina Cooper
Heidenkind (wow, harsh)
Errant Dreams
Borders True Romance, asking the question readers have dared not ask: what's up with all the hairless chests??

Around the web for Shadows:
Daily Me
Buried By Books
Errant Dreams


Heidenkind said...

Yeah, I was pretty harsh with that review, wasn't I? I agree with you that Caleb is hawt--now if only he'd been in the book more, and there hadn't been that silly thing about abandoned babies with superpowers, I might have managed to like it more. And I love your idea of making the series steampunk or setting it in the Victorian Era!

I don't think I'm going to keep reading this series, but I am looking forward to Dodd's next historical.

JenB said...


Was that "excuses Ginger" thing directed at me??

Or did I just out myself as having a guilty conscience? LOL

Nicola O. said...

ROFL, Jen. NO, it wasn't directed anyone in particular. Almost everybody posts now and then, "sorry I haven't been around, life got in the way, kids are sick, work is busy, bla bla blah..."

And I totally understand. OBVIOUSLY. It's just I find those posts (including mine) kind of boring, hence my "get on with it" theme.

The blablablaGINGER thing was from a comic, I think Gary Larson but possibly Sandra Boynton about what people say to their pets and what the pets actually hear. ;-)

Nicola O. said...

OK, see the graphic I edited in.

JenB said...

Hmm...I suppose I believe you now. ;)

Nicola O. said...

Oh, WHEW, Jen, I couldn't go on if I thought I'd offended you!

*wrist to forehead*
*slumps delicately on victorian sofa*


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