This Week, I Read… (2017 #18)

Sunday Tomes and Tea - Wizard and Glass

#54 – Wizard and Glass, by Stephen King

After the nerve-wracking cliffhanger that ended The Waste Lands, I was more than ready to hunker down by the fire with Roland and hear the tale of how his quest for the Dark Tower began. I wouldn’t think most series could support six hundred pages of backstory sandwiched between resolving one cliffhanger and starting a new one–but here, it works brilliantly.

It helps that because we know Roland, we know his sharp tongue and hard edges, that we can expect and even enjoy a tale of love and loss about the boy he was, standing on the edge of manhood and only coming to it through great pain.

I was warned this book would be a difficult, emotional read, and that was absolutely true. But it was also thrilling and funny and ripe with poignancy. It’s not just the tale of Roland, but also a mostly-honest town misled; friendship and dedication and trust; and the small ways evil can worm its way into anyone’s life.

I love it. I love it so much.

55 - Beyond Ecstasy

#55 – Beyond Ecstasy, by Kit Rocha

I have strong but incredibly mixed feelings about this novel, the eighth and penultimate in the Beyond series.

The easiest way to tackle how mixed my feelings truly are is to break the story down into its three major components.

First, as an erotica, I’d give it three stars. Nothing about that aspect of the work is bad–I’m not sure this writing team is capable of producing sex scenes that aren’t sexy–but nothing in it is new, either. The New Dom character is ground they already tread with Cruz in book 4, and while Hawk is more eager and less conflicted about his desires, it’s not different enough to be notable.

Second, as a post-apocalyptic war novel, I’d give it four stars. The main plot of the series feels more or less like a backdrop in the earlier works, but here, it really steps forward, upping both the tension and the gruesomeness factor in ways I dig. This aspect also supports the third (but primary) thing this book is trying to accomplish…

…the romance. I was on board for the first 95% of the book, I really was. Hawk and Jeni grab at each other with both hands and cling for dear life, because time is truly short, and they both know it. Yes, their rush causes them to make some unwise choices, even knowingly–but characters have flaws, right? I was into it.

Then, after the crisis that tests them and turns into the possible end of their relationship, they both take a step back and consider if the mistakes are too big to fix. Okay, I’m still on board, this is entirely believable. But then they solve it by getting married? When the fundamental problem of their relationship is that they dove into it headfirst without consideration? WTF?!?

So my rating for this book as a romance is a measly one star. That ending ruined it for me. They didn’t learn a thing, they didn’t grow, they just decided they were going to be together because. And because is never a good enough reason.

56 - Beyond Surrender

#56 – Beyond Surrender, by Kit Rocha

Way to bounce back from a mediocre book with a fantastic one, guys, seriously.

Telling the meat-and-guts story of the war alongside Nessa’s romance was an inspired choice. Throughout the series she’s been on the sidelines, vital to the O’Kane’s survival as she produces the liquor that keeps their money coming in–but she’s nearly useless at the skills of war, and her helplessness really sells just how bad things have gotten.

And Ryder? Hot damn, do I love a man that can laugh with his lover. Him teasing Nessa was almost too adorable to take. Personality-wise, they were a great match.

Taking a short break from their POV chapters during the final confrontation itself was also a good choice, letting the reader see the battle from multiple perspectives familiar from the earlier books, letting us see how those characters had changed and how they felt about what they were fighting for.

The only disappointment to me–and it’s minor, not even dinging the review score a star–is that I went into this knowing that characters would die, but the important ones would be safe. Several “starring” characters–ie, ones that had their own romances–were injured, but the deaths were restricted to side characters. I mean, I get it. I would have thrown my Kindle across the room if Cruz had been killed…but that doesn’t mean knowing we wouldn’t lose anyone major did take some of the suspense away.

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