Review of Phoenix Rising by Theo Fenraven

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Rating: 3.5 stars

It’s early morning hours when Det. Artemis Gregory gets a phone call from his partner, Rachel Wayland.  Another body has been found and that makes three in all.  The victims were young, gorgeous gay men killed on the full moon of each month. Each body looks posed and peaceful with little clues left at the scene to help them identify the killer. The latest victim has a fresh tattoo, exactly like the first body discovered.  It’s the logo of the hot rock band Phoenix Rising.

An interview with the owner of the tattoo parlor leads them to Talis Kehk, the lead singer of Phoenix Rising.  With his violet eyes and almost narcotic charm, he sets off Det. Gregory’s suspicions. The more they investigate the timing of the murders, all leads keep pointing back to Talis Kehk. Talis seems remarkably unconcerned for a man under suspicion of murder and his continued attempts to see Artemis confuse the Detective even as he becomes attracted to Talis.  Det. Gregory believes he is a good cop.  He has sacrificed his relationships and his private life to the hours required to be a Detective.  How can he  reconcile his reactions to this impossible man who may just be a serial killer with his duties as a police officer?  The time of the next full moon draws near and the moon killer will surely strike again. Can Artemis find the killer before its too late and will the killer’s identity destroy his chance for love.

Phoenix Rising is the first book I have read by Theo Fenraven and it has many wonderful qualities.  Fenraven’s myth building here is terrific.  He does an excellent job of bringing mythology to life with vivid descriptions and small attention to detail.  I can’t go into too much details here otherwise I would be giving away too many spoilers but let’s just say I could clearly see the  splendor of the author’s creation.  His humans fall a little short though after a promising start.  Det. Artemis Gregory comes across at the beginning as a typical cop.  He’s harried, sleep deprived, job obsessed and lonely.  Artemis long ago came to terms with the emotional costs of his job, it even lost Artemis his most recent relationship as his boyfriend recognized he would never be a priority that Artemis’ job was.  Rachel Wayland makes a good partner as well and they balance each other nicely.  I liked the details of the police investigation, they have an authentic ring to them and the author has clearly done his homework with regard to police work.

So what is the quibble?  That halfway through the story, Artemis Gregory discards his hard won persona and becomes totally unbelievable.  It’s very hard to talk about how his characterization failed without giving away the plot of the story but right up until a certain dramatic event, Artemis Gregory is as thorough and compulsive a cop as you will meet outside of Law and Order.  He’s watchful, sneaky, and smart.  I totally got him.  And then it all disappeared. Kaput. At one point in the novel, Gregory wonders how he is to live his life, how is he to occupy his time. A reasonable question and the first reappearance of the man who started the story.  And then the question is never answered and the Detective I loved disappeared never to return, leaving a shell of a persona behind.  What a shame.  Tossed away as well are the other fleshed out characters of his partner and coworkers.

The other quibble I have is that a tight, cohesive story starts to resemble swiss cheese about two thirds of the way through.  A building burns around their ears and no one seems to care, a huge deal is made of the killing of the young men and then a surprising tossed off comment at the end made me confused at to the purpose of it all. A Interpol agent says she will remove warnings from the files yet police around the world are now involved so that becomes a moot point. Hole after hole appears with nothing to plug them up.  It’s quite dismaying because the first  part of this book is just terrific.  If I could divide the book in two, the first half gets a 4 rating, the second half?  No more than 2.75 stars.  That’s how big a shift takes place within the story.  I would love to read a book from Theo Fenraven where the promise shown here is carried throughout the book.  I will look forward to it,  In the meantime, you will have to decide if only half a good book is worth your while.

Cover: Beautiful, dramatic cover by Anne Cain.  Perfect for the story.

Review of Forever May Not Be Long Enough (Legends of the Romanorum #3) by Mychael Black and Shayne Carmichael

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Mael Black and his consort, Cian, are busy with their responsibilities and their plan to bring a son with their joined blood into their lives. The fact that Mael Black is the Vampire Prince of London and Cian, a vampire hunting angel, makes their combined duties that much more complicated.  The vampires under Mael’s rule are unhappy with his choice of consort as is his father, the powerful Lord Nigel.   And while Cian no longer hunts vampires, sometimes his very nature can cause misunderstandings in their relationship as Cian is still trying to figure out what it means to be human.

A messenger brings a summons from the court in Rome.  An ancient force is awake and coming to destroy the Romanorum and with it all that Mael and Cian hold dear. When their plans for a son is revealed to Nigel, he plots to separate his son from Cian by any means possible, including death.  With court intrigue, mysterious were deaths, and  unexpected betrayals to deal with as well as the new threat, it will take Mael, Cian, along with a contingent of gods, vampires, and angels to combat the ancient evil and save their world.

It’s been four years since the last book, And Two Shall Become One (Legends of the Romanorum #2) was published and I had forgotten how much I had loved Mael Black and Cian.  And now with Forever May Not Be Long Enough (Legends of the Romanorum #3), their saga is finally over, although other couples in the series look to be getting their own books.  Here, the authors have given Mael and Cian a wonderful sendoff that left me happily satisfied and looking forward to more.

The premise of the series hooked me in from the very start.  You have a vampire Prince and a vampire killing Angel attracted to each other when by their very natures they should be deadly enemies. The first book covers their unconventional  romance from the beginning, where we see the emotional turmoil and mental anguish their feelings bring.  The second book in series sees their relationship continue to deepen as Mael announces to the court that Cian is now his consort and the consequences of that decision. Now they are an established couple but still discovering parts of each other previously unknown.  Cian is a 3,000 year old angel who is still trying to figure out what it means to be human and that includes jealousy.  Mael understands human nature but has not seen what a angry Angel can mean.  I love the fact that Black and Carmichael take the issues that might pop up as a couple navigates a new relationship and applies it to a new couple with diametrically opposed natures. And does a great job with it.  Yes, Mael and Cian are busy with their jobs that they forget to make time for each other.  Typical issue.  But Cian is Mael’s ghoul and needs to feed from him, not so typical. Mael needs to understand that Cian accepts his job as Prince and understand the pressures he is under. Typical.  That is job contains meeting with were rulers and messages from the devil, not so typical. And so on.  Typical relationship ramped up to nth degree.

The characterizations here are wonderful, full of beings is it easy to love.  In fact Cornelius, court sorcerer, and Brandon, a young vampire rescued off the streets almost stole the second book away from the two main characters, they were that special and endearing in every way.  For those of you who loved them as I did, both Cornelius and Brandon appear here as well.  Another couple starts a relationship here that I suspect will continue, along with Cornelius and Brandon, in other books.  In fact, I would say the problem here is that there is a surfeit of great characters and couples all striving for the readers attention.  Along with the couples already mentioned, back from previous books are Michael and Selena, Dio and Josh,  and so many others that it becomes hard to remember who is paired up and what their backstory is.  An abundance of wealth that could have been spread over additional pages or another story.  Then start throwing in Egyptian gods, Lucifer, werewolves, and the cast inflates almost more than the story can handle.

And that comes back to my final quibble.  If you have not read the first two books, you will be a little baffled once you start reading this book as the backstories and character development is contained in the previous stories . It is taken for granted that the reader is familiar with the convoluted plot lines and familial connections here.  This is a richly layered saga.  Coming in on it cold is definitely not recommended.  Start from the beginning.  Watch the relationship happen.  Weep and shout for joy during the second book. Come to love the characters as I did and then pick up this book.  You won’t be sorry. And now I will wait to see which couple gets the next book.  I hope it won’t be another four years before I find out.

Books in the series, in the order they were  written and should be read:

The Prince’s Angel (Legends of the Romanorum #1) Rating: 4 stars

And Two Shall Become One (Legends of the Romanorum #2) Rating: 4.5 stars

Forever May Not Be Long Enough (Legends of the Romanorum #3) Rating: 4.25 stars

Cover:  Gorgeous cover by Alessia Brio