Giveaway: The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker

I’ve got one copy of this book to giveaway. I’ve got the three mirrored blogs so it seems to be the easiest to have things in one place if people just email me for giveaways, so: not very difficult to enter –

Just send me an e-mail (janicu[at]gmail[dot]com) with the subject “DARKLY LUMINOUS GIVEAWAY” and just say “please enter me” or something like that,and you shall be in.

One entry per person please. This giveaway ends Tuesday, May 11th.

ETA – This is open internationally.

The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber

I liked The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker so much that I made sure to ask about the second book, and Dorchester sent me a copy for review. I also have an extra copy that I’m going to be giving away later.

My review of Strangely Beautiful can be found here: https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpghttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/vox.png

The Premise: This is the second book in the series which begins with white haired and pale skinned orphan Persephone Parker, a strange girl who can talk to ghosts, arriving at Athens Academy and discovering that she’s an integral part to a long awaited Prophecy. The Guard of London, six remarkable people who protect the city from the forces of Darkness, take Persephone into their fold, but after a very brief respite, the war continues. This is the conclusion of the story.

Read an Excerpt of The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker

****** There are MINOR SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST BOOK from this point on *******

My Thoughts:
As in the previous installment, The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker has a lovely but dense writing style. It’s definitely not a book I’d say you could pick up and read cover to cover without stopping. I had to read this book piece by piece. I’d call this a rich chocolate cake: to be enjoyed at a sedate pace with time to digest the material in between. Both books have a very Gothic, theatrical element to it, and when I found out Strangely Beautiful was optioned for a Broadway musical, it made sense – it’s a good fit because the people in the book do make grand gestures and seem larger than life. The exception would probably be Percy, but she has a presence too – with her stark albino coloring and her long white hair.  I could see her dancing across the stage with her dark and broody partner, Professor Alexi Rychman.

The language is very Victorian and embellished, and the best way for me to show that is an excerpt:

“Their kiss was of such fusion that they felt the ground tremble. The slight sound of angels grew into bursting chorus. Rising from the candles and met by an aura of light from their bodies, white flame began to pool, merge and expand into a hazy, egglike form that grew as their kiss sustained.  As it ended, the form burst into a great, bird-shaped sun. The avian form threw open expansive wings, and a wave of heat and deafening music blew…”

There is a lot of set up in the first 100 pages Strangely Beautiful, but while that was okay to me because it was the first book in a series, and the world had to be drawn and it’s characters introduced. In Darkly Luminous however, it slows down the pacing especially coupled with the Gothic and embellished language. While I thought that the language in the book was probably even better than the first one, the war between London and the Whisper World did not come to the forefront for a long time. This meant there was very little action until the last part of the book. Instead the book focuses on the romance of Alexi and Persephone, and the final battle is shrouded in mystery and talk of “fate”. The spirits of the old Guard know more about what’s going on that that of the new, and they withhold information for fear of jeopardizing the outcome. I’m never a fan of one character keeping information back from another character in books, and I wish this wasn’t a plot device used here.

In the meantime, lovers of romance will probably be happy with the way Alexi and Percy’s relationship is portrayed. We really get to see their intimate moments and it’s written in a very poetic way. Again, there is a sense of drama about their love and it does include a lot of sweeping gestures (Alexi actually does make them to light candles during their private getaways). While in the first book Alexi is a grumpy and aloof professor, his character is different in this one. Now that he has Percy, I found that Alexi’s previous self-confidence became more overbearing, and in contrast, Percy’s giggling and swooning made her look really young. Their age-difference and Alexi’s bossy, forceful personality, is saved only because Percy begins to show some backbone and corrects Alexi when he misdirects his anger towards her. The danger to Percy is ongoing (the Guard is fighting for her), and Alexi does not do well in those circumstances. There was one particular scene where the result of Alexi’s forcefulness is conveyed which made me dislike him quite a bit, despite his regret for his actions.

Other relationships within the Guard, which were hinted at in the first book are further cultivated here. Percy as the perceptive newcomer urges Elijah, Jane, Rebecca, Michael and Josephine to be open about their feelings before they either ruin the group dynamic or something happens in the battle with Darkness. I’ve been particularly interested in Rebecca, who has loved Alexi for years but that isn’t returned. She instead sees Alexi very happy with Percy and dispairs, oblivious to the fact that Michael has been in love with her.  The story seems to concludes satisfactorily in this second volume, although it looks like there will be a short story that focuses on one pairing in the guard in A Midwinter Fantasy (October 2010). I am not sure if there will be a continuation after this book, although I’m sure there could be.

Overall: The lovely, dense language is why I like this series, although it’s Gothic tone and embellishments mean that the book is something to be slowly savored, and some readers may chafe at the pacing. I thought the language in this installment was even more lovely than the first book, but I had some minor reservations in this one compared to the first.

Buy: Amazon | Powells | The Book Depository

Other reviews:
Smokin Hot Books – 4 smooches
Lurv a la mode – 4 and a half scoops (out of 5)
Brooke Reviews – positive
Smexy Books – 4.5 out of 5
Babbling about Books – B
A Buckeye Girl Reads – positive
Anna’s Book Blog – 5 (out of 5)

Dark Nest by Leanna Renee Hieber

I liked The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Persephone Parker – it was very Gothic and different.  So when I found out on The Galaxy Express that Leanna Renee Hieber had also written a futuristic fantasy novella, and it won the 2009 Prism award, I said – “holy crap, I want to read that”. Earlier this year the author contacted me and offered me a copy to review so I jumped on the chance.

The Premise: This is the blurb: “Chief Counsel Ariadne Corinth has just found out her long-time lover, the powerfully gifted Chief Counsel Kristov Haydn, has died. Newly evolved psychically gifted humans have been sent by the Homeworld on a space mission aboard two distinct “Nests”. Relationships between the Light Nest and the Dark Nest have faltered and Ariadne is sure there’s something insidious behind it. In a matter of hours, Ariadne must find out what really happened to Kristov, unite her people to discover vast new powers the Homeworld denied them, or else submit to genocide.”

Read an excerpt of Dark Nest

My Thoughts: The setting with two ‘nests’ in space, both full of people who are Psychically Augmented, one light – who believe in order and suppression of emotion, one dark and more dramatic, intrigued me.
In terms of setting, there were several details about the ships I enjoyed. I think the Light Nest made me think of the Enterprise with it’s clean lines and bright spaces, but I loved the first introduction to the Dark Nest: “A vast, stylized, silver-blue steel Notre Dame now floated through space, giving a new and literal meaning to “flying” buttresses.” I’m not sure why they looked like this, but it ‘s lovely to imagine.

The story hints that the nests were not so divided as they are now, that outside forces deliberately put a wedge between the sister spaceships.  When the story begins, the difference in the nests have become so pronounced that there is hardly any interaction between the two at all. All the Nesters went to the same school and have past history, but the visits that used to happen between the two ships, have ceased except for Couriers who send messages back and forth for business purposes.  There are low rumblings about the slow separation between ships that have been working together (searching for worlds that can support human life), but few question it. Nor do many question the intrusive watches on everyone -the monitoring of emotions and the information sent back to Earth.

Dark Nest won the Prism award, and I can’t find anything but glowing reviews of it online, but I had one problem with the story, and that was that by the time this story is told, I feel like I have to catch up to where the characters already are, and so things seem to happen too quickly and the ending came too soon. When Ariadne’s ex, Kristov, dies, at the beginning of the book, Ariadne is surprised to hear he was murdered, possibly through the order of the Homeworld because of his rebellious views. Much has already happened by the time that Kristov Hadyn dies, and the reader learns through Ariadne how far things have gone.  The romance mostly happens off the page as well. Ariadne has a back story with the person she ends up with, and a flashback to their past is what we get in terms of romance. When they meet again, there is low conflict between them. I think Ariadne feels more stress in thinking of seeing him again than with actually seeing him. His personality is such a draw to her that all he does is give her his special look and they’re together again.. The conflict in this story instead lies with the two types of Nesters and their Homeworld (What exactly is the Homeworld’s plan for the Nesters? Is it true that they used brainwashing and lies to divide the two ships?) but that too seemed quickly resolved: the rebels have a plan. I  thought the writing and the setting were well done, but if I could wish for something, it would be more in terms of not learning things after they were already established like the romance, the plans for the rebellion, and the insidious workings of the Homeworld; I’d rather read about them as they happened.

Overall: I liked the writing and I liked the setting, but I wish there was more.  This is a novella so by it’s very definition it’s short, but I think I still wanted to experience events as they unfolded, rather than feeling like I was getting the wrap up of a longer and meatier story.

Buy: Amazon (paperback) | Powells (paperback) | B&N (ebook)

Links:
Interview at Kwana Writes
Interview at Gossamer Obsessions
Interview at the Book Butterfly
Interview at Galaxy Express

The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renee Heiber

I’ve been eying this book ever since I saw the title; it just WINS. And after seeing the cover (which I really like – simple and atmospheric) and learning that the story was a little steampunk, my little book-I-must-get radar was beeping like mad. If you look around, this book is getting a lot of buzz, so I wasn’t the only one. I asked for this book right away when Dorchester asked me if there was anything I was interested in reading. I mean, really. This review is for the ARC copy that Dorchester sent me.

The Premise: The heroine, Miss Percy Parker, is an albino who can talk to ghosts. Proficient in many languages, and aware that she’s very strange looking to others, timid Percy has just enrolled in Athens Academy in London. Meanwhile, her Headmistress Rebecca Thompson and mathematics teacher Professor Alexi Rychman belong to a group of six who have been battling supernatural creatures in the streets of Victorian London. They’ve long awaited for the seventh, a woman that Professor Rychman believes is destined to be his true love, but Prophecy urges them to be cautious. Could Miss Percy be the seventh?

My Thoughts: When I first started reading this book, I was struck by the Gothic atmosphere. The worldbuilding seemed interwoven with the way the book was written. There’s an old fashioned formality to the language and dialogue which goes with the tale of ghosts and demons in Victorian London. I could see things taking place in dark, somber colors like blues and blacks, with Percy as a pale exception. Against this backdrop, the supernatural aspects – the ghosts, the frightening Ripper, and the Guard battling creatures on the cobblestone streets, had a perfect home. The way Greek myth was also added to the story was cherry on top of a lovely pie.

The first people that we meet are the Guard. The six people, three men, three women, who were each chosen by otherworldly spirits to defend the world against Hell. Their first meeting is as young teens, when they are each summoned together. Besides Rebecca and Alexi who become faculty as Athens Academy, there’s Michael, Elijah,Josephine, and Jane. Each has their own set of skills, which Alexi as their leader.
Because this is primarily a romance, the focus was mostly on Percy and Professor Rychman. The characters of each of the Guard are quickly, but deftly sketched. While there is a lot of good natured camaraderie in the group, there are tensions such as unrequited love and differences in interpreting the Prophecy that add depth to the relationships.

Of the main two characters, Percy is the timid schoolgirl, a nineteen year old who haunts the halls of Athena Academy, unsure of herself because of people’s reactions to her looks. In contrast the dark, tall (and somewhat cranky) Professor Rychman is an imposing and confident figure. I loved Professor Rychman’s character, but then I’ve always been fond of slightly acerbic people. I’ve read that the author modeled him on Alan Rickman, and I could see the similarities. It was easy for me to see Percy’s attraction to her Professor, less easy for me to see what the Professor saw in Percy – she was so meek, and in comparison to the Professor, her feelings made her seem very young. In that regard, the romance felt off for me, but otherwise I did enjoy the way it slowly unfolded and the problems it hit along the way.

The language is often very dramatic, which seems to go along with the Gothic aspect. At times the grand gestures made me aware I was reading fiction – I often could imagine certain scenes as if they were being played out in a theater, but it matched the Gothic Romance feel of the book.

Overall: Very good. The story is unique: a mix of historical, steampunk, paranormal and gothic romance. It’s the originality that really had me and made it a keeper, with clever twists on Greek mythology and Jack the Ripper. The only quibbles I had were with things in keeping with the sense of gothic romance and drama throughout the book.

Buy: Amazon | B&N

Other reviews:

Lurv a la Mode (four and a half scoops out of five)
Smexy Books (rating was a 9 )
Fantasy Dreamers Ramblings (positive review)
Tempting Persephone (positive review)

Interviews:
The Book Butterfly – I liked this one – talks about research and inspiration that went into the book, including bits about ghosts and Victorian London. (with contest ending Sept 10th)
Literary Escapism (with a contest ending Aug 25th)

Steampunk – the Next Big Thing?

Above artwork is “Steampunk” by John Coulthart

Is Steampunk the new trend in the fantasy genre? I’m beginning to see it everywhere I look. But what is it? The image above has tongue-in-cheek a formula Jeff VanderMeer came up with: Mad Scientist Inventor [invention (steam x airship or metal man / baroque stylings) x (pseudo) Victorian setting] + progressive or reactionary politics x adventure plot = Steampunk.

Some books to look out for:

  • I just read and reviewed (LJ / vox / wordpress) Dru Pagliassotti’s Clockwork Heart. She’s busy working on the second book tentatively titled Obstruction Currents. She has also been working on a third novel with the working title King’s Monster, but I don’t know if that is also steampunk.
  • Karin Lowachee is working on The Gaslight Dogs (she’s the author of an amazing science fiction trilogy Warchild, Burndive, and Cagebird). I haven’t seen much about this one so it may be coming out later from orbit books:
    “Very different from her previous military science fiction novels, this is a Victorian era steampunk novel in the style of Philip Pullman taking us from the Arctic North to steeped rooftops of civilization and the savages to the east. (Fall/Winter 2009)”
  • Liz Maverick is working on Crimson and Steam, which should be out January 2010 and which is set in her Crimson city universe.
The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy ParkerSteamed by Katie MacAlisterSoulless by Gail Carriger

  • Katie MacAlister is working on a Steampunk series that will have it’s first book out in 2010. Her website has this announcement: “I’ve just received the cover to Steamed, the first in a new series of Steampunk romances, which will be out February 2010. The cover isn’t quite finished (you can view a large version of it here), but you can get a sneak peek at it and the back cover copy to see what all the fuss is about. Fluff up your bustle, polish your pocket watch, adjust your goggles, and crank up the Abney Park! It’s steam time, ladies and gentlemen! ”
  • The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber is coming out from Dorchester on 09/09/09 and has a lovely cover. The author calls it a “ghostly, gothic Victorian fantasy”. Looks promising. Link to the book trailer. The cover blurb:
    “What fortune awaited sweet, timid Percy Parker at Athens Academy? Considering how few of Queen Victoria’s Londoners knew of it, the great Romanesque fortress was dreadfully imposing, and little could Percy guess what lay inside. She had never met the powerful and mysterious Professor Alexi Rychman, knew nothing of the growing shadow, the Ripper and other supernatural terrors against which his coterie stood guard. She knew simply that she was different, haunted, with her snow-white hair, pearlescent skin and uncanny gifts. But this arched stone doorway offered a portal to a new life, an education far from the convent—and an invitation to an intimate yet dangerous dance at the threshold of life and death….”
  • Gail Carriger has a book out September from Orbit: Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate):Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette. Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire — and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?SOULLESS is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.”
  • Meljean Brook has twittered about a steampunk book with pirates. Research reveals she’s got a new series in the works called the Iron Seas

The books coming out should be interesting. I see both authors with a background in romance and science fiction/fantasy coming into the same genre. I’m really looking forward to the results.

The Galaxy Express: Steampunk Romance Watch