Seraphs by Faith Hunter

Seraphs is book 2 in the trilogy of Thorn St. Croix, stone neomage in a post-apocalyptic era, where mankind has dwindled, seraphs from heaven come down to smite sinners, and demons do exist.

I read book 1 (Bloodring) and reviewed it here.

From this point on there may be possible spoilers for Bloodring.

 

 

In the first book we get introduced to the complex world – Thorn was hiding her neomage status because her kind is generally feared and hated by humans, and being raped and killed is a real possibility for her. I don't think I was alone when I thought that the reason for this wasn't clear, but in the second book, some history is revealed that explains this extreme hatred. By the time Seraphs starts, Thorn's identity is revealed and so Thorn must deal with the reaction of the townspeople, but she has some friends on her side too, and so there is an uneasy tension at the start of the second book.  Meanwhile, the demons that live under the nearby mountain (the Trine) are constantly attacking and getting bolder, and Thorn is haunted by dreams of seraphs and a cherub still trapped with them. Thorn has already successfully fought the the demons, but that seems to be a mere battle in an ongoing war – they seem to have some plans that require capturing or killing Thorn.

Bad things: OK, I have to admit – I kept reading this series because I felt somewhat confused by the first book and I wanted to understand what was going on. Unfortunately, while a couple of things make more sense now (the strange hatred for neomages), others still do not (really what's with the mage lust?). I feel like I really had to make myself finish this book, because it felt like we were seeing the same thing happening in book 1 as in book 2 and I felt like I wasn't really getting anywhere in terms of seeing the big picture.  What I saw was Thorn's limited viewpoint of this world – and since she never got a full education from her enclave, she doesn't know many things about her magic, so as in book 1, there is a lot of detailed descriptions of Thorn experimenting with different stones and discovering things, but this doesn't seem to really make the story progress. It got very tedious to read about every stone Thorn touched in great detail. Following this is one fight after another, again, not much progress – just because there's action doesn't mean that the plot is coming along. Finally towards the end do we get an idea of larger mechanations going on, both by Thorn's associates and by the supernatural creatures around her, but by that time I was dissatisfied by the slow progress, and it was too little too late. I felt like the mystery of apocalypse and the seraphs would be more delved into, but it seems like the author is content to leave that a mystery, at least in this book. On top of this, I found it a bit off-putting that it seems like Thorn was becoming this over-idealized woman – fighing the dark, saving the town, going through hell, but still men want her. The only ones not interested are the gay ones.  But what's annoying - I sense that this isn't going to go anywhere anyway, so what's the point of it?

Good things: As I mentioned when I read book 1 – it seems like the visual details of the world are well thought out, as is the use of stone by Thorn in her magic. The strong points in the book would be the descriptions, I had a very clear idea of what was happening and a visual in my minds eye of many details (maybe too much sometimes – I'm not sure it was necessary to describe what every person was wearing to Thorn's trial). Also the creatures that populate this world are fascinating – the host of angels, terrible and beautiful, the half-human races and their limitations, the demon lord and his minions, the succubi and incubi.

Overall: It's a fascinating world, but the plot meanders slowly, and in the end, the second book felt much too much like "second verse, same as the first". It looks like I'm in the minority with feeling disappointed, because I see a lot of positive reviews, but it isn't working for me. I would probably bail from this series now, but I already have book 3, Host.

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Bloodring by Faith Hunter

Bloodring
Faith Hunter

This is a story that centers around Thorn St. Croix, a neomage hidden among humans in a post-apocalyptic world. The book blurb calls it a "ambiguous apocalypse" because while seraphs have descended upon the world and mass genocide occurred, followed by a continuing war against dark beings, life seems to be going on. Now the survivors aren't sure of what the Divine Powers expect or what religion is right; they all live in an uneasy peace, following strict rules against sin (or the seraphs could exact vengeance) and in fear of demons that live underground and DO exist.

Thorn is a mage whose powers are from stone, and she's pretending to be human because for some reason most humans hate and fear mages. Humans will turn into a murderous mob if they found out who Thorn really was. Most mages are protected from humans in enclaves but Thorn cannot do so.

 The story starts when Thorn's ex-husband is kidnapped under mysterious circumstances and Thorn is determined to find him. A cast of interesting friends and acquaintances surrounds her at her store – Thorn's Gems, who form a family that help Thorn even though they are unaware of her powers.

THOUGHTS: Overall the world was fascinating so I enjoyed the book. 7/10

Good things: I found this to be a very well-imagined and detailed world. I could see the scenes very well, especially the cold weather and ice (nice to read about when it's summer). It also felt like Hunter spent a lot of time thinking about the way Thorn's magic worked and how different stones worked differently for a stone-mage: chants to get magic working, shortcuts, and how magic is taught to the mages, and there was a lot of thought about the history of the apocalypse, and about different species in the world – mages, humans, and seraphs. Sometimes the details were hard to keep track of (Thorn's amulets were described particularly often) – I found this page @ the author's website helpful and interesting after I finished the book. Another thing I liked was the side characters were pretty interesting and well-written, especially the interaction between them. There is a sense of history and shared memories between her business partners and I could believe the relationship and reactions of the characters.

Less good things: I had a lot less questions answered at the end of the book than I expected. Really big, obvious questions that I expected to have answered were not. I know one biggie that other readers commented on was.. why do humans hate mages so much? This is the one out of them all I most wish was answered in this book. Another one I had was - why is there this weird "mage-lust" between Seraphs and mages, but they are not allowed to mate? Many times in the book Thorn goes into throes of lust. Amazon reviewers compared it to Laurell K. Hamilton's "ardeur", but this book does not have the sex all over the place that Hamilton does (point to its favor). Still.. what's up with that? Finally (Hunter did this several times in the book) – Thorn notices something and then she'd "forget", or it seemed important for a second but she moves on. What is this stuff she keeps forgetting? It usually does not get referenced later on! So because of all these questions, Bloodring did not feel like a standalone book and even though there is sort of an ending to it, it has a huge "to be continued" feeling and I have to go get the sequel now because I'm still quite confused.

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