I wanted very much to like this book. I saw a review for it here on Cannonball and it seemed like exactly the kind of silly, light fluff that I was feeling. And it is? But there were just too many other problems with the book, from bad writing choices to flat characters to terrible plotting, that detracted from the book and I ended up hate reading the last half of it. Most damning was that I bounced hard off the main philosophy behind the book. I honestly find it kind of despicable and gross. I’m just not interested in reading any more books by an author who clearly thinks this kind of philosophy is not only ok, it’s admirable. Don’t worry, I’m gonna explain what I mean.
Kera Watson is an ex-marine just struggling to make ends meet when she’s killed attempting to stop a brutal murder in the alley behind her coffee shop. She is given a choice by Skuld, one of the Norns, to either die there in the alley or join the elite force of fighters known as Crows. Kera agrees to join the Crows, so long as her dog gets to come along too. And then there are two plots that follow (this is gripe one with the book, two plots neither of which interconnect until the last 5% of the book). There’s the main plot, where the follow Kera as she struggles to fit into this strange group of women and falls in love with a fellow God Chosen Viking, except he’s in the male version of the Crows the Ravens. Look, the Norse gods were a bit sexist in choosing their groups ok? The second plot, the one that really has nothing to do with Kera until she becomes the chosen one, has to do with the return of one of the ancient enemies of the Aesir-Vanir. This plot doesn’t even wrap up in this book, it’s the beginning of a plot that will finish in the rest of the series. I don’t mind plots that arc over several books, but I would like them to have something to do with the rest of the book they’re contained in. This one…. didn’t.
So, obviously I have an issue with the plotting of the book. It’s like Laurenston wanted to mix a romance plot with an epic urban fantasy plot, but I don’t think she has the chops to really do either very well and so two mediocre books combined together just makes for a mess.
Speaking of the romance, it didn’t work for me. However, that is one point I think is completely on me. I found the sex scenes in the book to be extremely off-putting, to the point where I just skipped over them. I also didn’t appreciate the pseudo feminism in the sex scenes, where his ‘penis claimed her, but not really because she’s her own woman and I would never’. That’s an admirable sentiment, but one show me that he feels that way don’t tell me and two when you say it like that it makes me think the author finds it ridiculous. This honestly goes for all of the moments in the book where Laurenston tried to shoehorn in some feminist sentiment, but it never really worked. Mostly because the actual story and writing didn’t back those sentiments up. I didn’t really buy the romance between the two characters either. They barely knew each other, but sure it’s a love to end all loves. Yea, ok.
There are a lot of writing issues in the book. There is at least one egregious word misuse in the book. “’It tells me so much about a person,’ the ex-sociopath and forensic psychologist surmised.” That is…. not what surmised means. The word doesn’t make any sense in that sentence, and the sentence becomes gibberish unless you replace that word with ‘said’ or some other synonym for stated. In addition to the word misuse, Laurenston ignores basic sentence structure to the point that I had to re-read various paragraphs several times in order to understand what she was trying to say. This book was put out by Penguin, I expect this kind of crap from self-published books, where the author refused to pay for a decent editor, but not from a book published by a mainstream publishing house. Not cool, Penguin. Not cool at all.
In addition to those basic writing issues, there were several transition jumps throughout the novel, and they just didn’t make any sense. The book is told in third person singular, but who that third person is shifts often and to about twenty or thirty different characters. Sometimes, the shift even happens in the middle of a scene for no reason. It was distracting, made the book hard to follow, and I didn’t enjoy it. What’s really a shame is that this scene shifting is actually done very well, and to great effect, in the first couple of pages of the book. I could see how this could have looked if the book had been given at least three more re-writes, and it annoys me that instead we got jumpy, nonsense, pov jumps for no real reason.
Once you look past the writing errors, there’s the characters. No wait, that’s unfair. The caricatures. The one note caricatures. Every female character could be summed up with ‘the bitchy insert-job-tittle-here’. Just putting women in your book isn’t enough if it’s pretty clear from your writing that you actually hate women. The male characters weren’t much better. I’m still not sure how many Raven buddies the male love interest had, because they were interchangeable and forgettable. I was also annoyed at the way characters were awful, awful to those who weren’t in the ‘in crowd’, but were either justified by the narrative or someone we were supposed to laugh at. Miranda Priestly, while awesome in the movie, is not someone you root for. And her actions certainly shouldn’t be justified by the narrative by making her beleaguered assistant a villain.
It’s the last point that really digs into why this book bounced hard off of me. There’s a philosophy behind the book that violence is something to be enjoyed and reveled in, and it’s completely justifiable if the person you’re torturing to death deserves it. Hard pass. Hard, HARD pass. Do I think that people who run dog fighting rings are awful people? Oh yes. Do I think they should be put to death? Hm… maybe, I could be talked into it. Do I think they deserve to be tortured to death while the ‘heroes’ of the book look on and laugh? NOPE. In fact, at that point those characters are no better than the dog fighters. And this kind of scene happens over and over in the book. It’s gross and I find it morally bankrupt.
So yea, not recommended. I did look at the five star reviews, and hilariously many of them mention some of these issues, so obviously YMMV on this one. Those things which bothered me, may not bother you at all.