Fantasy, New Adult Romance, Romance

My Review: A Touch of Darkness (Hades & Persephone #1): by Scarlett St. Clair

Publish Date: May 23rd, 2019
Number of Pages: 353 Pages
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

Hades chuckled, leaning in so that when he spoke, his breath caressed her lips. ‘Oh, darling. You don’t know what I’m capable of.’

– Scarlett St. Clair, “A Touch of Darkness”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Persephone is the Goddess of Spring by title only. The truth is, since she was a little girl, flowers have shriveled at her touch. After moving to New Athens, she hopes to lead an unassuming life disguised as a mortal journalist.

Hades, God of the Dead, has built a gambling empire in the mortal world and his favorite bets are rumored to be impossible.

After a chance encounter with Hades, Persephone finds herself in a contract with the God of the Dead and the terms are impossible: Persephone must create life in the Underworld or lose her freedom forever.

The bet does more than expose Persephone’s failure as a goddess, however. As she struggles to sow the seeds of her freedom, love for the God of the Dead grows – and it’s forbidden.

~~~

This was a total mood read, and while there are plenty of things that I thought could’ve been way better about it, it still at least served its purpose and entertained me as a reader. While some aspects were underdeveloped more than I cared for, what this story did give me was an erotic romantic tale with a sprinkling of fantasy elements added on top, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing so long as that’s something that you’re looking for.

I’ve been in the mood for some greek mythology related stories, and I’m usually really drawn into novels that get compared to the retelling of the classic tale of Hades and Persephone, so I’m so incredibly sad to say this wasn’t the best out of the many in that regards. It was still good enough to keep me interested and had me reading late into the night, but the romance factor was the main reason for that along with just having the whole classical mythology aesthetic on top of it all.

The writing was very so-so; It felt a little amateurish and choppy in some parts…not to mention there were a few typos and names mixed up…

This version of Persephone wasn’t the greatest portrayal of her character…

The sex was hot!

The Gods/Goddesses live amongst us!

The worldbuilding was simple, but effective!

Overall it wasn’t a bad book by any means, but I have similar feelings to it as I did for Laura Thalassa’s Bargainer series…I’d only read the first book for that, but the story focused mainly on the romance, had a simple world constructed with the possibility of more to explore as you read on, but not enough of the other aspects to make it a greater fantasy-genre book were developed as much as they could’ve been. It felt like I was just reading another version of the 50 Shades millionaire romance stories but the guy’s name just happens to be Hades this time around. At least from my perspective, I can say it felt like this story was less problematic than the franchise by EL James was…

With all that said, I can praise the romance factor that this book offered. I thought the author did a splendid job at it with the sexual tension that was built up between Hades and Persephone! At least, I can say I personally enjoyed it. It wasn’t the greatest, but it was still keeping me reading on. Some could argue that some of the lovemaking scenes felt out of place or excessive, but c’mon…..lesbehonest, we all know the smut is one of the main reasons people are drawn to these books to begin with. I certainly did not think this way!

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‘Let me worship you,’ he said.

She remembered the words she had whispered to him in the back of the limo after La Rose. You will worship me, and I won’t even have to order you. His request felt sinful and devious, and she reveled in it.

She answered, ‘Yes.’

– Scarlett St. Clair, “A Touch of Darkness”

What I Liked:

  1. The Slow-Building Sexual Tension! The sparks between Hades and Persephone were (of course) a major highlight of the book. The author really did a good job of giving their relationship a slow burn that made the moments whenever they gave into their lust and passion all the more satisfying! Side note, but I was also such a fan of the scene later on in the book when the two of them are freakin’ couples goals when they had a movie night in their sweats and baked cookies…
  2. It’s an Unorthodox Retelling! So not everyone will like this retelling simply because it doesn’t necessarily follow the original story to a T. Things have definitely been switched around, or completely different ideas have been sprung forward to at least make it feel like something completely new. I just know there are certain readers who are really sensitive to that sort of thing, and will strongly dislike something if it doesn’t perfectly match up, kind of like when a book gets turned into a movie or TV show and doesn’t follow the book all that much.
  3. The Modern Day Greek Gods Living Amongst Us! The worldbuilding was honestly more on the mediocre side, but it still worked rather well for the sake of the story. In this world, The greek gods and goddesses live among us, and they’re very much still in charge. They’re like the A-list celebrities a lot of us idolize: Hades runs the night-clubs and casinos, Dionysus has the world’s best wine vineyards, and I think you get the picture…There’s a red carpet scene with all the glitz and glamour and paparazzi cameras flashing as they all make their appearances, and it made me think how much more fun even events like the MET Gala would be if we could see deities like Apollo, Aphrodite, and yes even Hades making appearances at these sort of events. Overall, this aspect of the whole book was very fun!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Grammar/Spelling/Typos…It happens at the very beginning, but there are some noticeable errors along these lines that were a big turn off…I mean, if something is published—traditionally or independently, I’d hope there wouldn’t be something like this in the book itself. I’m not reading someone’s fanfiction on Wattpad, this is an actual published book! I don’t know, it lessened my expectations and made the quality of it go down in my eyes.
  2. The Smut is Overhyped…I’m glad to see how many people like this book, or even this whole series, but I will admit that the actual sex scenes didn’t fully live up to the hype for me. They were good, but I was thinking they’d be better based off so many glowing reviews this book has. I was also maybe hoping for something…darker and more erotic and tantalizing, and maybe with more magical abilities put into play to spice things up a bit…
  3. Not Sure How I Feel About the Villain…This is the first time I’ve seen Demeter set up as the villain in the whole story revolving around Hades and Persephone, and while I say this is a more original take, I’m not sure how I feel about it to be honest. In the story, Demeter is always known as the caring and doting mother, but this time she’s painted as cold and manipulative and just an all around frigid bitch! I don’t know, I think the idea of having a positive mother/daughter relationship is always a better way to go, but that’s just a personal preference to me. I’ve just seen shitty parents used as the outer conflict for a character in the romance-genre way too many times, and it’s just so cliché for me too.
  4. Very Little Magic…Some other reviewers on Goodreads say this, and I have to agree: there were times this felt like just another millionaire romance, and not really something that has the legendary Greek God as the main character. It did feel almost like a “50 Shades of Grey” + Greek Mythology kind of setup quite a few times. At least this time it’s a little less problematic. There just wasn’t as much magic as I was hoping, it was very underdeveloped, but maybe more will happen in the later books! Fingers crossed…
  5. Persephone Isn’t All That…I wasn’t the biggest fan of Persephone in this particular story. She was headstrong and fierce at times, and more power to her for that, but she was also just pure plot convenience too. She was just way too naive and there was just WAY too much miscommunication with her in order to add conflict into the story for my liking.

Conclusion:

Overall, I liked but didn’t love this book, but it certainly filled the need for some Greek Mythology related fiction that I’ve been kind of craving as of late. It focused more on the erotic romance and less on the grandeur of having the powerful and magical gods among us, which is fine, but I want to see more stronger fantasy aspects going forward!

I recommend this book, and possibly this series, to those who really enjoy authors like Sarah J. Maas, Laura Thalassa, and even Jennifer L. Armentrout. This author’s writing isn’t as up to par with these other names, but the overall themes and aesthetics of the story and what is given attention to within the plot will appeal to those who enjoy their books.

The big question I had going forward was which book to read next in the series. Technically, there’s two options: A Touch of Ruin which follows after this book and still follows Persephone’s point of view, or there’s also A Game of Fate, which is actually this book all over again, but this time it’s told from the perspective of Hades! Do you go forward, or see everything from the other side of things? Maybe I’ll try and read the beginning of both and see which one I want to read first? If you’ve read these books already, what do you suggest? Let me know!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Editorial Articles, Writing/Articles

Digital Artists You Absolutely Need To Follow! – Part 2

Image created with canva.con

CLICK HERE to see Part 1!

Welcome back readers! If anyone remembers back to about a year ago actually, I posted a rather lengthy article on a list of digital artists that I think anyone who loves to look at art should absolutely follow; anyone from video game concept artists to professional illustrators to graphic designers and even tattoo artists, I made sure the list had some variety besides just some of my favorites who create amazing fanart commissions of my favorite books and series.

Well if it’s been a year later since then, it makes total sense that I’ve discovered even MORE artists that I want to showcase and organize into a beautifully displayed part 2 to my list. Art matters, and this new addition of artists also have quite a plethora of talent. I’ve only just begun getting back into drawing and I have began on the IOS app, Procreate. I know a few artists on here and part 1 use that program as well, but it’s for sure made me appreciate their work even more and aspire to have my work become even a fraction of how good these artist’s work looks!

Once again, I think this has a great amount of variety in terms of style and subject matter, I hope you discover a new favorite artist yourself! Find their profiles, give them a follow, go onto their websites, buy their prints, support your favorite artists!

Enjoy this list, the names and artwork are in no particular order!

***I do not own any of these artists’ work, and while all work is shared from their individual Instagram profiles, if any of them find this article and wish to have their artwork taken down, please reach out to contact me and I will happily do so!***

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Jen Bartel

Instagram: @heyjenbartel

Website

I discovered this artist by her work illustrating a graphic novel titled “Blackbird,” and I absolutely loved her style and felt like she had a similar style to how I draw. I was happy to learn that this artist uses the program/app Procreate just like I do too! What really draws me in is her use of really bright and vibrant colors that really pop out at you and make so that there’s no way you can’t notice it!

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Marc Simonetti

Instagram: @marc.simonetti

Website

Marc is a concept artist who specializes in environments and has an eye for the little things. As you can see by his work shown above, he is able to capture amazing detail in the smallest of spaces. I guess I could say his work that really captured my attention was his work of the Iron throne image above that’s from George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series that everyone knows as “Game of Thrones.” The throne from the HBO show is iconic, sure, but Marc’s throne is actually a much more accurate portrayal to how the author describes it in the books, plus it’s about five times more intimidating looking!

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Lizzart

Instagram: @lizzart_zardonicz

This artist creates some absolutely gorgeous character design in their work and is a master of fantasy-genre artwork. I discovered this artist thanks to some artwork they did of a Sci-Fi series I’m reading: “Red Rising” by Pierce Brown. It’s a space opera that’s like Greek Mythology + The Hunger Games + Game of Thrones but in space! I definitely recommend giving the books a try if that sounds interesting to you at all!

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Philippe Lozinski

Instagram: @philippezolinski

Philippe creates some visually stunning environment concept art and really has a unique style that shows so much texture and really knows how to drive the eye across the canvas with well placed movement either in the environment or the characters he’s placed within. Some of his work really reminds me of the game “Journey” especially with the cloaked character you see in some of the work on the top of his section. I’m not sure if he’s actually worked on that game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out he did!

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Rovina Cai

Instagram: @rovinacai

I discovered this australian artist when she illustrated the fourth book in Holly Black’s “The Folk of the Air” series (as you can see by some of the images I selected.) I really dig her enchanting, gothic, fairytale-like drawings that are both whimsical and ominous and creepy, and I’d say you should go grab a copy of that book just to see these images up close for yourself!

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Jo Painter

Instagram: @po_jainter

This artist has commissioned fanart for a few of my favorite book series, so of course it was only a matter of time before I’d notice her work and fall in love with it. She’s made artwork for Sarah J. Maas’s “Crescent City” and “Throne of Glass” series, as well as Jennifer L. Armentrout’s “From Blood and Ash” series that is so so quickly becoming an all-time favorite of mine as well!

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Joon Ahn

Instagram: @joon_ahn_art

Joon is a concept artist out in Los Angeles, and I love all the work he’s done with both environments and characters. He really seems to specialize in either high fantasy or cyber-punk settings and looks like his work should be in video games, and I was first introduced to this artist by their artwork of the knight riding atop a giant eagle as seen above!

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Sam Yang

Instagram: @samdoesarts

Sam Yang seems to really focus on girls who have what I call the “Disney Princess” aesthetic, as in they look like they have very similar facial distinctions to the 3D animated princesses like Rapunzel, Elsa, and Anna. His artwork is so warm, welcoming, and soft with subtle texture infused to make his work stand out on its own. I especially love how he plays with light in his artwork that places his females in a setting like in a car; that’s where I truly think his art shines, no pun intended.

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Dan Mumford

Instagram: @danmumforddraws

Surely you have to recognize Dan’s subject matter in at least one of his pieces I’ve selected above! He adds a ton of detail and heavy outlines to familiar characters and environments in american pop culture history, and while some of it reminds me of some tattoo-like artwork I’ve seen elsewhere, I also appreciate how he also loves to incorporate the creepy factor in his art, or the classic set up of the main character having their back to us as they face out to their setting.

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Yare Yue

Instagram: @yueyare

Amazing environments come with this concept artist, and I’m a big fan of their use of color. I was originally drawn in by their work with the whale swimming through the clouds; the work I seem to love the most is the work of the little kid and his pet cat incorporated into his environment pieces.

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Liang Mark

Instagram: @liangmark

This is an artist where you really need to enlarge the image to enjoy it even more; there’s so much detail work in all of their art! They definitely specialize in dystopian, Sci-Fi settings and I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out they’re a concept artist for the newer Star Wars movies, their art just really reminds of it the franchise, especially the newer movies that have been released later than “The Force Awakens.”

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Sasha Lee Coleman

Instagram: @sashac_art

When an artist gets compared to the great Charlie Bowater, that truly speaks to the artist on how great their digital artwork truly is! I can definitely see an influence or inspiration from Charlie’s style of character design, but Sasha is also a really great artist who enjoys making pieces of characters from some of my favorite books! If you don’t recognize some of the characters above, she’s done amazing artwork of Sarah J. Maas’s “Crescent City,” Holly Black’s “Folk of the Air” series, and even Margaret Rogerson’s “Sorcery of Thorns.”

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Rosie Thorns

Instagram: @rosiethorns88

Okay, I absolutely HAD to show this artist because they do so many different styles of artwork both on canvas or digitally, but what I really want to draw attention to is her papercraft fan art of popular YA Fantasy titles! That’s right, some of this artwork is crafted from paper and brought together like a master scrapbooker. She’s done projects of Sarah J. Maas’s popular “A Court of Thorns and Roses” series with Rhysand and Feyre at Starfall, her “Crescent City” series with Bryce and Dana on top, along with “The Folk of the Air” by Holly Black, “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue,” and Kerri Maniscalco’s “Kingdom of the Wicked.”

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Delaney Januzzi

Instagram: @delaneyjanuzzi

Here’s another noteworthy concept artist who specializes in character design! Their cartoony style reminds me of animated movies and I feel like they’d make some amazing work for Dreamworks animated movies. I especially love that they’re one of the only artists I’ve found who’ve created fanart of Madeline Miller’s debut novel: “The Song of Achilles.” Take a closer look at their artwork of when Patroclus meets Thetis for the first time (sometimes meeting your lover’s parents doesn’t end up working in your favor!)

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Sally Pham

Instagram: @sallteas

Sally is another digital artist I discovered because she’s done a fanart for a lot of my favorite book series! She’s done artwork for Sarah J. Maas’s “A Court of Thorns and Roses,” along with Leigh Bardugo’s “Six of Crows” series, Kerri Maniscalco’s “Kingdom of the Wicked,” plus even Adrienne Young’s “Fable.”

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Vanessa Ninona

Instagram: @nessa_ninona

Vanessa loves ancient Egypt, that much is obvious with her main focus on artwork for a graphic novel she both writes and illustrates called “Golden Brown.” I love her use of colors, especially the complementary use of browns, golds, and yellows mixed with blues to make it really pop!

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Darek Zabrocki

Instagram: @darekzabrocki

Another concept artist I found who specializes in environment design, this is another artist you also need to zoom in on their work to see all the little details he puts into his work. He’s done work for the “Assassin’s Creed” video game franchise, but my favorite work by him has to be either the pirate ships in the bay with the giant windmill, or the one right above of the small party of explorers walking into the ruins with the statue looking down over them like a guardian or an omen.

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Gukkhwa

Instagram: @gukkhwa

This artist does some gorgeous character design artwork with their subject matter focusing on mythological figures. Whether it’s deities of Greek mythology, Egyptian Mythology, Angels or Satan himself out of the christian bible, you have to admit that their work is certainly eye catching!

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Gretel Lusky

Instagram: @gretlusky

Gretel is another artist whose style really reminds me of the “Disney Princess” aesthetic, and that’s not just because she actually posts work of actual Disney princesses either! She switches between digital artwork and good ole watercolor and pastels on paper, but her use of color and the overall style of her work is one that I love, and wanted to showcase on this list to show others and get her name out there!

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Fran Garcés

Instagram: @dibujantenocturno

Fran is an absolute favorite of mine, I never get tired of his distinguishable linework and ultra amount of detail in his work. His love of dragons is what got him into drawing, but he just loves to draw monsters and nightmare imagery to create visually stunning artwork. I love his style so much that I had to buy his book to show my support!

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Gabrielle Ragusi

Instagram: @gabrielleragusi

I initially discovered this artist for their artwork of a series I’d recently started reading and really enjoy: “The Bridge Kingdom” by Danielle Jensen. Upon further looking into this artist, I found they’ve also done artwork for “Harry Potter” by JK Rowling and “Throne of Glass” by Sarah J. Maas and “To Kill a Kingdom” by Alexandria Christo, I really like their style and think they deserve to be as known amongst all the other artists who (thankfully) make stunning fanart of some of our favorite book characters!

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Abhishek Singh

Instagram: @abhiart

Drawing inspiration from his home country of India, this artist paints such awesome artwork of prominent figures from stories and myth. I love the amount of detail he puts into his work, especially with the costume and accessories of the figures as seen above!

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Marissa Clement

Instagram: @marissasketches

I discovered Marissa thanks to her artwork of Jude from Holly Black’s “The Folk of the Air” series along with Leigh Bardugo’s Alina Starkhov from her “Shadow and Bone” trilogy that’s gotten a lot of hype lately thanks to the new Netflix show premiering in late April 2021!

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Kelsey Eng

Instagram: @kelseyeng32

This artist has an adorable, cartoony style that I really enjoy, especially her artwork from what i assume is digital stills from actual episodes in “Game of Thrones.” I especially like the contrast she shows in her piece with Dany and Jon Snow, and even the one with Sansa and Arya Stark, the last of the Stark family line!

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Anato Finnstark

Instagram: @anatofinnstark

What initially introduced me to this artist was their artwork that showcases some truly iconic characters/monsters/figures in Fantasy literature: the darker characters from Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. I instantly fell in love with their work of the Nazgul, or the Ring Wraiths as they’re also known as, but I also adore their art of the Balrog and Sauron as he’s taking on Isildur at the battle at the end of the second age where he fell. I really enjoy their overall dark and creepy vibes in their work and it all truly leaves an impression on the viewer, and someone who I believe is perfect to end this second list on!

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CLICK HERE to see Part 1!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

My Review: A Promise of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #1): by Amanda Bouchet

Publish Date: August 2nd, 2016
Number of Pages: 441 Pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

So while I am a big fan of any sort of steamy romance, but has an actually engaging plot on top of it. It’s not just sex scene after sex scene, not that it’s a bad thing to have sex scenes, but hey! I like an actual story driving it forward. Give me a plot, and I’m happy to say that this title is definitely that!

I remember I’d had someone I used to work with at a previous job was talking it up during our lunch breaks; a fun, action-packed, well written fantasy epic with a romantic subplot that doesn’t overtake the actual storyline. Lately, I’ve been reading a little more romance, and it gets tiring when you read the same thing over and over again…my biggest annoyance is when there’s angst for the sake of angst and literally all the issues could be fixed if the two main characters just got their heads out of their asses and COMMUNICATE…This story has none of that, it’s more like an odyssey with two stubborn, alpha characters fight an undeniable attraction for each other for good reasons.

What I find refreshing in a lot of tales like this is when the author gives us a little switch: that the woman is the aloof, not willing to be vulnerable one afraid of love, but the guy is all ready for it and tries to convince her it’d be worth it.

Reading this book, I enjoyed all the action that took place, the alpha males and their dynamic as a small group of elite warriors in a found family sort of situation, and a strong & sassy female lead to put them back in their place. She’s not the most memorable MC, in fact she’s a bit irksome with how much she makes it a point to remind them she’s an independent woman and every male is considered beneath her and they gross her out…I swear, I was almost expecting her to say something along the lines of boys having cooties…

It wasn’t blow-my-mind amazing, but it was fun and had a lot of elements that I enjoy in any book, plus it’s only the first book in a trilogy, so I bet it only gets better in the next titles!

What It’s About:

This story revolves around Catalia “Cat” Fisa, who is disguised as a healer and magician in a traveling circus. There isn’t much known about her other than where she came from, and most of the story revolves around all the mysteries that surround her and who she is.

This story takes place in a land named Thalyria with three kingdoms within that control the realm: Fisa, Tarva, and Sinta. Fisa is in the North and is where Cat ran away from. Tarva is the central kingdom ruled by a brother and sister combo, the later incredibly power hungry. Sinta can be found in the South and was overtaken by a Warlord and his family. In this world, there are two types of people: Magoi and Hoi Polli. Magoi are the magical beings with extraordinary abilities and are usually the rulers of the kingdoms. Hoi Polli are the people who are usually low class or even slaves.

Back to that Warlord in Sinta, he’s also where the story really begins. His name is Griffin, he’s a Hoi Polli, and traveled with his three best men (who are also his best friends) to visit Cat’s circus and steal her away. He claims she’s the Kingmaker: a magical being that has the ability to be able to tell truth from lie. One comes around only once every few hundred years, and Kings of the past have sought out people like her to use them as powerful weapons in court, and Griffin had the same idea so that the other Magoi royal families think twice about butchering him and his people, until he unexpectedly starts to fall for her.

Most of the story involves the journey Cat, Griffin and his men (Kato, Flynn, and Carver) take in order to bring her back down to the South towards Griffin’s newly won kingdom, and of course, the growing attraction between Cat and Griffin.

What I Liked:

  1. Greek Mythology Infusion! The world the author created is their own idea, but there is a heavy influence of Greek Mythology that comes into play. The Gods, Goddesses, and Cerberus get little cameos throughout or are mentioned, and Cat is even the goddaughter of Poseidon. Some aspects may be questionable, like did Hades really cheat on Persephone with Selena, one of the characters? You may have to have an open mind with some of it, but I love Greek Mythology, so I enjoyed this aspect a whole lot!
  2. The Romance! I love a good romance, and it was undeniable for me that their where some sparks between Griffin and Cat throughout. It was a really slow burn, and there weren’t as many love scenes as you’d probably think there are (there’s probably going to be more in the later books). While I enjoyed this aspect, I can recognize that other readers may respond to how their relationship develops as problematic. Basically, their relationship starts because he kidnaps her from her newfound home, and things get pretty physical–in terms of combat and verbal abuse on both sides. Some may interpret their dynamic as abusive, but I honestly didn’t…they’re both strong, proud, and stubborn individuals. For the longest time, she acts like she doesn’t feel anything for him, even acting grossed out if he kisses her and tells him to stop, but internally she is squirming in the best ways possible…I don’t know, some people still view that as him being persistent and predatory, but she gave plenty of hints about actually meaning the opposite, and I honestly had no problems with any part of their dynamic.
  3. The Banter! The dynamic between the main men of the story: Griffin, Kato, Flynn, and Carver is filled with a lot of testosterone but also plenty of teasing and humor (For any fans of Sarah J. Maas and her alpha-males in her fantasy books, it’s very similar and just as enjoyable). Kato, a gorgeous but cocky blond warrior, was my absolute favorite, but Flynn was a big ginger badass turned softie once he put down his weapons.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Heroine Is So Whiny…Cat is supposed to be this sassy, feisty, attitude-fueled alpha female, and she can hold her own in any fight in more ways than one, but I have to agree with others who’ve reviewed this book and said she complains a lot. She really does, and after about 75% of the book she lets up a little bit of it, but for the most part it just made her sound more juvenile and immature and I was not here for it. Hopefully she does some major growing up in the next books!
  2. The Not-So-Secret Big Reveal…Without giving too much away, the author put a lot of emphasis on a myth or prophecy in her plot, and she wrote it in a way that it’s basically showing us a major reveal with gigantic, flashing lights…It’s pretty obvious, especially with how many times it’s brought up. It wasn’t revealed in this title, but when I finally read that “big, shocking reveal,” I actually won’t be pretty surprised by it. It’s almost like the author gave us a major spoiler for her own book, which cheapens the experience for me.

Conclusion:

An adventurous tale filled with action, Ancient Immortal beings, bloody battles, political intrigue, and of course slow burn romance–It’s kind of got a little of everything! Cat and Griffin are two great MC’s to get behind, and feel incredibly well fleshed out with relatable flaws and clashing personalities. Their relationship and how it develops can be seen as questionable to some readers, and I hate to admit that how you personally view it can dramatically change your entire perception of the story. For me, I thought it was scorching!

I recommend this to anyone who loves romance-centric fantasy-genre tales. It’s not perfect, but is a solid start for what can be a fun, lesser known trilogy. The author didn’t info dump too much when building her world and explaining it to us. Even though it doesn’t take place in Ancient Greece, the use of notable characters in Greek Mythology add to the fun and magical essence of the book; I hope I see more names added in the later books!

I can definitely say I will gladly be looking for the next titles in this trilogy!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

sci-fi

My Review: Red Rising: by Pierce Brown

Publish Date: January 28th 2014
Number of Pages: 382 Pages
Publisher: Del Ray (Random House)
Genre(s): Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

This book is like the love child of The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones…but in space. Oh my god, I know…just let that beautiful image sink into your mind as you come up with dozens of crazy, brutal, and absolutely insane possibilities! Odds are, a good chunk of those ideas are actually in this story. Add a touch of the Ancient Greek epic, The Iliad by Homer, and you’ve got the overall vibe of Red Rising by Pierce Brown.

What It’s About:

Hundreds of years into the future, mankind has finally begun to colonize on other planets, and the ruling class of citizens has installed a caste system that is distinguished by colors into our society. The godlike, arrogant and mighty Golds are the overall rulers, and the system ends all the way at the very bottom with the Reds.

Darrow, a 16-year-old Red, is part of a special group of miners called “Helldivers,” who dig deep beneath the surface of Mars in order to procure Helium-3 to terraform the planet and make it habitable for humans. You meet Darrow during one of his excursions and learn that despite him being a Red, he’s overconfident and regards himself to a higher degree than those around him. The story takes a tragic turn when him and his wife, Eo, are arrested for trespassing in a forbidden forest-like area. After getting whipped publicly, Eo sings a haunting, but forbidden song about their unfair slavery, and is hanged for her actions, per order of Mars’s arch-governor, Nero Au Augustus. Devastated over his sudden loss, Darrow makes the terrible mistake of cutting her body down from the noose and burying her body, which in turn gets him hanged as well.

Darrow awakens to discover that he was drugged and secretly brought to a terrorist covert group of Reds called the “Sons of Ares,” who’s goal is to end the oppression of the lower class citizens (aka “lowcolors”). They reveal to Darrow that the Golds had fooled them all: that society had already fully terraformed centuries before, and they continued the ruse in order to use the Reds for their cheap labor and stay under their subjugation. Furious for the unfairness of it all, Darrow joins their cause, using Eo’s haunting song as part of their smear campaign. After many painful surgeries/treatments/cosmetics, Darrow is transformed from a lowly read to an impressive Gold, and everything is set in order to infiltrate the Gold society and destroy it from within.

Through many lessons of Gold etiquette, social behaviors and receiving fake documentation, Darrow then enrolls into the Gold’s Institute, and befriends the charismatic Cassius Au Bellona, and calls out the bitchy Antonia Au Severus on her elitism. Darrow has them all fooled, and is selected to be one of a select few to represent House Mars by the gruff proctor, Fitchner. This leads to him and the others being split into several teams that have a fortress and a scepter, also known as a standard, to defend (like some space-like advanced game of Capture the Flag) in a designated area within the Institute. Darrow meets some other characters, most notably a beautiful young woman named Mustang, a raging lunatic in Titus Au Ladros, and perhaps his biggest threat: the vicious, clever and unseen figure who goes by “The Jackal.”

The winning captain who enslaves all the other teams is deemed the winner, and receives a patron to sponsor them with power, wealth, and influence. Through this contest, battle lines are drawn, alliances are formed and lost, bitter betrayals cost others their lives, twists that surprise you at every corner, and absolutely no one is safe from the brutality of those that are willing to step on whoever they need to in order to gain power in this epic tale.

What I Liked:

  1. The Drama! The author does an amazing job of creating tension, adding in dozens of action packed scenes, badass & diverse characters both male and female, the plot twists and reveals, and a real sense of danger between the pages. There are some brutal deaths that are handed out, and even “The Jackal” can remind GoT fans of a combination of Joffrey Baratheon and Ramsay Bolton, two of the biggest villains the HBO show has ever seen. There’s even a small amount of romance, much to my delight! It’s not a major part of the plot, but feels natural and well developed between two strong characters who recognize the call to battle that’s more important towards their survival, but allow small moments of passion and tenderness.
  2. The Diversity of Characters! Because of the rich world building (more on that down the list), the author created a great opportunity to create a diverse cast of characters, and even does so without getting too into the terminology or risk racial issues of groups of people being misrepresented. People within the color ranks are different races of ethnicity, and it’s the same thing with sexual orientation, and the author doesn’t just straight up say if a character is black, or gay, etc. It’s implied, but never outright said, which gave me the impression that the author didn’t want these things to matter so much in the story. They do matter, but the issue of race or sexual orientation is never questioned in the world.
  3. The Infusion of Greek/Roman Mythology! With some research involved, there’s actually quite a lot of comparisons to the ancient tales. The names of the characters like Nero and Cassius, to the houses within the story, and the planets that represented Roman gods and goddesses, PLUS symbolism used in the story. Upon checking out a subreddit, people pointed out many similarities that I missed: Eo being Persephone, Ares (Greek God of War) with the terrorist group, even the pyramid caste system is similar to Plato’s ideal society! I suggest looking into it, it makes the story so much more satisfying to tho
  4. The Setting! The author has made a truly interesting world in this series; the most notable being the caste system that keeps society in “order.” The setting is also such an integral part of the story, and I am glad to see that it doesn’t just fall in the background; its needed as more and more is revealed in terms of the society, technology and the many characters that appear. The color caste system was a nice touch and felt original, which is impressive considering all the dystopian series like Divergent and The Hunger Games that made the idea so popular. Many other stories failed to make their system something credible, but Red Rising successfully accomplished it. Below is the Caste pyramid that shows the colors and their rank, along with their societal roles:
The Caste system of the colors, image courtesy of http://www.queergeektheory.com
  • Golds: rulers, royalty of the society
  • Silvers: financiers and Businessmen
  • Whites: clergy’s and Judges
  • Coppers: administrators, lawyers, and bureaucrats
  • Blues: bridge Crew & pilots
  • Yellows: doctors and researchers
  • Greens: programmers and technicians
  • Violets: artisans and creatives
  • Oranges: mechanics and engineers
  • Grays: regular soldiers and police force
  • Browns: servants, cooks and janitors
  • Obsidians: Elite soldiers and bodyguards
  • Pinks: sex slaves, prostitutes and social functionaries
  • Reds: manual laborers and miners

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Too Wordy in Some Areas…The book is marketed as a dystopian/sci-fi thriller (some would even argue that it could be YA since Darrow is only 16 in this story), but it does get incredibly wordy throughout, much like a fantasy genre novel. the author uses a high level of technical terminology, loads and loads of characters with little descriptions and a considerably slow first half of the story that could cause readers to lose interest before the real games begin. It’s supposed to read like an ancient greek tragedy written by Homer himself, with the words that the author uses in his prose and the character dialogue, but it can seem overdramatic and cheesy at times.
  2. Darrow is Perfect…In fact, he’s too perfect. Sure, he’s made into a space-age Adonis as a Gold, but he gets a little too close to the “Mary Sue” character trope (or maybe “Marty Stu” in this case?). He accomplishes tasks with seemingly little issues along the way from his end; any problems he runs into is because of outside forces. Maybe his only mistakes is underestimating other characters: taking them for granted, and being upset with himself when it comes back to bite him in the ass, and learns that there’s more to others than his own assumptions. He views himself as somewhat superior to everyone around him, even when he was Red, and it’s ironic how he’d mention how annoying the arrogant Golds were. All of this, along with the idea that he’s supposed to be an average guy who is from the lowest social caste in the world and the fact that he’s only 16, is a bit hard to believe. It’s MarySue meets the Chosen One for cliché character tropes.
  3. The First Half is incredibly Boring…I’m not going to lie, it drags on for quite a bit. After the initial set up, the story flows at a much slower pace, with a ton of info dumped onto you as well. Darrow’s transformation is a little cringeworthy: bones are snapped and rebuilt to be longer, skin is peeled off, there’s lots of pain, screaming, and blood; and while it’s kind of awesome, but I personally wished that the author condensed more parts around this part of the story. Once Darrow and the other Gold’s get into the competition is when it gets much more interesting, but man-oh-man….it was a journey to get there.

Conclusion:

I’d say that fans of the Hunger Games will enjoy these books because they both deal with similar themes of warfare, oppressive governments, and politics in fun, creative ways. Pierce Brown has created a rich world, probably even more complex than Panem, and the promise of so much more to come as the series develops. It’s still far from perfect; there’s still plenty of work that the author needs to improve on: like developing Darrow into a much more fleshed out, relatable character that more people can support and get behind. To end this review, I can say that the book is definitely worth checking out!

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell