Jan. 23rd, 2017

duncandahusky: (huskyface)


Breaker (Exile #1), by Kelly Wyre and A.F. Henley

In the wake of several near-cataclysmic events, humanity created the Cure, a DNA-altering antidote to death by disease and old age. But all cures come with side effects: a small percentage of the population develops a wide range of powers, some of which are lethal to others, and some which are lethal to the wielder.

These people are called the Estranged, hunted and shunned, safe only on the Island of Exile. It is here that Kaeva and Eddie meet-and where they set a prophecy in motion, quite possibly sealing their own demise, and even the end of Exile.

Rating: 5 out of 5!

Breaker brings us two flawed, fascinating main characters, but it also brings an amazing world as well. It's a futuristic dystopia where all is well if you are well-off and "natural", that is, receiving only the good aspects of the Cure. For the Estranged, those to whom the Cure has given a frightening array of powers, controllable and not, life is much harder. If lucky, they live on the outskirts of society, fighting for meager crumbs. Those not so lucky just...disappear. Perhaps they are whisked off by the military or the government for research, no one knows. But to be Estranged is to be outcast, unwanted.

In all of this, a small, hidden haven has arisen: Exile, an island off the coast of the United States. Perhaps the government knows of it, perhaps they don't, but it is well-hidden and well-fortified, and populated by Estranged who have fled for its sanctuary.

It is on Exile where we meet Kaeva, a Breaker - a man whose uncontrolled outbursts can send massive jolts of electricity through anything (and anyone) near him when his emotions get the best of him. His Estrangement has made him a loner, bitter and hopeless, fearful of getting close to anyone.

We also meet Eddie, a "richie" with an affluent upbringing whose abilities as a Scanner (he can hear the awful thoughts of those committing terrible acts, but only as they commit them) he has tried to hide all of his life. When discovered he runs, eventually reaching Exile. Eddie is an amazing character. He is naive about the hardscrabble life of the Estranged, yet well-versed in the interplay of adult society, in public and in private.

The book brings Kaeva and Eddie together and the sparks fly, pun intended. Once the setting and characters are established the story is straightforward, but the atmosphere of the story makes it quite an enjoyable journey (and one that had me sniffling through happy tears as well). I can easily imagine Kaeva's isolated little house by the ocean, spartan but homey, the sun warm and the wind blowing. The rest of Exile comes to life for the reader similarly.

Two questions that I ask myself when I finish a book: "Do I want to spend more time with these people? Do I want to learn more about this place?" In the case of Breaker the answer on both counts is an unqualified Yes! I look forward to more from Wyre and Henley and the fascinating world of Exile.

Originally posted 19 January 2017

duncandahusky: (huskyface)

Infected: Prey, Bloodlines, Life After Death, Freefall, Shift, Lesser Evils, Undertow, Epitaph, by Andrea Speed

How do you review an eight-book series? Normally I'm not sure I'd even attempt it, but given that I would rate every book in the series 5 out of 5, I think that this merits mentioning. I have reviewed the first three (and a half) books in the series here and here. I am so pleased to say that the series continues from there to be a wonderful read.

To recap from an earlier review:

In the 1960's a virus was loosed that killed hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. A vaccine was created, but the vaccine had...side effects. For those "infected" with the virus, five days out of every month they transform into a feral feline - cougar, lion, leopard, panther, or tiger. This is not a neat transformation, either:  it can take an hour or more, and is excruciatingly painful as all of the bones break, the body is re-formed, and mass is redistributed. The bigger the feline, the greater the toll it takes on the body, so while there are many cougars, tigers have a diminishingly short lifespan.

Roan McKichan is an oddity. Where almost all other infecteds caught the virus later in life, he was born with the virus and somehow lived when all other virus children usually die shortly after birth. A former cop and now a private detective, he is coming to an understanding with the lion inside him and becoming something the world has never seen before.

While these books are technically mysteries (or at the very least private detective cases), those are peripheral to what really matters. Each book is comprised of two novellas, typically one following chronologically after the other. Each novella has 2-3 cases of varying degrees of interest and involvement. The important thing here though is the characters and how they live their lives.

Roan is the star of the show, and is truly a larger-than-life character. The overarching story is of him coming to terms with his lion, and the damage done to himself as he calls on the lion to do what he believes is right. He can be cranky, misanthropic, sarcastic, and funny as hell. At the same time, though, we see him dealing with deep depression and wondering if the fight to just keep living is even worth it. He's complex, complicated, and fascinating.

Roan alone would be the basis of a couple of good books. However, Speed has created a setting with a lot of possibilities, and populated it with a remarkable cast of characters. After Roan, Holden is the next biggest player. He's a former whore with no illusions about the world or himself. Amoral is just a start, and he is not above a little vigilantism on the side when called for. At the same time he has a vulnerability that he hides from everyone except a sometimes-boyfriend who slows chips his way into Holden's heart.

Other characters are incredibly entertaining, like the Seattle Falcons, a minor-league hockey team who befriends Roan: Handsome, closeted team captain Scott, the paradoxically gentle enforcer Grey, and the manic goalie Tank. They make a weird addition for Roan's little family and yet it all fits together somehow. Add in oddballs like Fiona, Roan's receptionist who is also a part-time dominatrix, and Dee, Roan's ex-boyfriend and EMT who spends far too much time putting Roan back together, and you've got quite a collection.

So having reviewed the earlier books, why do I feel like I need to write more about the series? I think more than anything reading the series as a whole is an incredibly satisfying experience. You spend a lot of time with these people and you start to know them well - how they tick, why they act like they do. You want to know what is happening in their lives, and what will happen next. Speed's writing is at its best here, keeping up a driving pace that still gives the reader time to consider the character's thoughts and emotions. It has been a long time since I became as invested in a set of books like this, and I hope you take the time to check them out as well!

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