Wednesday, February 17, 2010

New Authors

I'm discovering that a lot of the authors I like or want to try out are all published through Berkley Sensation. I think I'll print some lists from them before my next book buying bonanza, since at least a few of the authors I plan to try from reading snippets or getting recommenations, and some of my bigger favorites, are theirs.

I just read a pretty good novel by a Berkley author I like a lot but have a driving need to offer some constructive criticism on her new series - which I want to like, I really do - but has enough flaws that need to be fixed in the upcoming books that I truly want to say it to someone who matters. Do I write the author? Do I write the editor? Because this book had what I consider to be serious problems that need to be reigned in if the series is to flourish. And I love her other series so much I know she's capable of fixing this.   I want this series to work out, but right now it's diving off a cliff and the angel wings aren't flapping.  But how can I help?
FWIW, Nalini Singh's Archangel's Kiss is the book at issue. It's the second in the series.  I found the first a little tough to get into. This was easier to get into but tougher to sustain although i did make it all the way through.  She did a great job of setting the stage in the first few pages but by the time I was ready to move away from the last book more into this book, she kept dredging up stuff from the last book that wasn't all that relevant, or was relevant until it was repeated three or four or five times.  I get it.  Uram was bad, he mixed with Michaela and she got weird, and Uram's out of the picture.  But what I don't get is why there's even a cadre at all, or if the author thinks there can be power without egregious abuses of said power, beyond the common.  Or what's so dangerous about a particular archangel getting it on. 

(Yes, this advice needs editing too... I understand the irony, but I want to spit it out and it's past by bedtime, so this is going to be rough because once I got going, I really got going.  Maybe I can clean it up and get it to someone who can do something good with it.)

Now that they've lost one, does the cadre need another?  What's the selection process?  It's totally sensible that someone would try to get in by foul means as there don't seem to be fair means to achieve the status.  I don't think going to one "benevolent dictator" is a good idea either because then it's one person's whim of who's in and who's out, and we know the next dictator to come along won't be benevolent.  So for me to be a fan, there has to be a selection of rulers.  They can have some massive turnover (and appear to need to).  They can have flaws.  But I wish they could be powerful without also being so bedamned awful.

We have our classic one-in-a-million lead character (in this case Elena) who can do what no other can, it tough but fair and likeable, and who will get into scrapes and get herself out of most of them and learn to accept help when she needs it.  She's going about this pretty well.  She's a good heroine.

This book suffered mostly from a lot of repetition and a lot of buildup that set expectations that weren't met.  I worry tremendously that these problems will drag into the next book.

What I want in the next angel book(1):  Better sense of the worldbuilding.  Why do people care about the Angels at all?  How have they influenced society?  What's different because of them?  I also don't get how the angels are revered so much by humans when they mostly get more repellant the more we get to know them- why would we want to read about a world ruled by a cross between Hus.s.ien, Hannibal Lec.ter, and  when those in power enable these freaks?  While it kind of makes sense that Singh doesn't focus on how the angels and vamps relate to the humans in this, the second story, that takes place almost entirely away from the humans, I find myself confused by the worldbuilding and need that fixed in the next book.

The climactic scenes from Archangel's Kiss were kind of underwhelming.  They didn't need more blood and gore, but they needed more tension.  They needed less certainty.  After weeks and weeks of training to combat the "hideous undead" (which aren't substantively different from the totally acceptable vampires - at least, I can't clearly see why one is reviled and the other isn't), we find that they look pretty normal, function pretty well,  and Elena et al can take them out while barely working up a sweat.  Elena's big fight is actually with vampires and angels.  While I expected at least one vamp/angel fight, I also expected more of an undead conflagration before we got to the execution.  (I think the execution needed to be done, there just needed to be more actual menace first, and more reason for it.)

And the sex.  Lots and lots of build up.  Not a lot of follow through.  "I'm going to tear you apart" leads to?  Sex in the tub.  Huh?  Maybe angel "dancing" in this book was too soon, but for all the "cruelty" and "menace" and "raw power" being discussed, it didn't really show up in this book.  I do, in fact, wish she'd reduce the number of "cruel" sexually charged glances.  I understand that our hero of shining goodness isn't really all shiny and good. He's got flaws - big ones - but he's working on them.  The sex probably wouldn't have been a negative if there hadn't been so much "ooh, it's going to be so rough you won't live through it" remarks early on.  It was just weird and oddly vanilla.  Given how much the wing touching does it for Elena, I wonder that Gabriel doesn't touch them more. And after a thousand years, maybe he has a couple more tricks up his sleeve wing.  Just saying.

What I want in the next angel book(2): Seemingly in contradition to the worldbuilding demand, the next book needs to stand on its own better.  In AK, I was on page 98, 100 still reading dregs from the last book and being annoyed by it.  I was thoroughly reacclimated by page 15 or so - the intro really was well done.  I think at least half of the first 100 or so pages could have been cut entirely and not taken away from this story because it was all unnecessary repetition, mostly from the last book.  This book didn't take off until after that, and still there was some dragging from the previous book. This story didn't need 90% of that.  The drip, drip, drip repetition was done with building and literary effect and plot.  That repetition worked.  All the stuff about Uram? Out of place here, except as anecdotal reference and quick reminder in the first few pages. 

Will the cadre be repopulated and if so, how? Either way, what can we expect by way of checks and balances on overweening power?  I'm not entirely fond of the "might makes right" system of justice, and the Angels seem to be next to lawless.  For instance, Why are such rotten apples as Dahariel and Nazarach allowed free reign?  They're like the Goldman Sachs of mean - allowed to run free until some fundamental underpinning of society is destroyed by their excess.  There need to be some characters who are powerful without it rotting them to the core calling out the rotters and keeping things in line.  It can be done - by people who build networks and communities.   I think there is some groundwork to go in this direction, but it needs to move there soon or I will be too disgusted by the allowance of abuses to maintain an interest.

If the sex is going to be built up as explosive, it has to be explosive both physically AND emotionally, not just emotionally.  And there will have to be some flying... but get creative, use the touching of wings more, and make it unusual but not creepy.

Archangel's Kiss was about a lot of things but it wasn't that focused.
  • Setting the scene
  • Elena's recovery
  • Elena's learning to be an angel, different from the recovery
  • Gabriel and Elena's relationship (emotional and physical)
  • The outside plots to get Elena/ get at Gabriel through Elena
  • Reminding the reader that Uram was a bad guy
  • The taunts and threat of Lijuan
  • The scuffling to get in the cadre by getting bad attention
  • Elena getting back into fighting form to counter threats and plots
  • Elena's escalating nightmares  (mirrored issues with Gabriel and how they affected her and them)
  • Reminding the reader that Uram was a bad guy.
  • The (supposed) real threat of Lijuan (which only kind of came to pass.  I was not satisfied with the concluding action.)
  • The need to fix some serious security holes 
  • The relationship of Elena with the Seven and with the child angels of the refuge
I'm not going to say that all can't be in one book, but to be in one book it needed to be cleaner, tighter, and more focused.  If the next book is cleaner, tighter, and more focused on the story at hand with examples of how the world works rather than exposition on world building, and a few more characters I want to root for, it could be brilliant.  I really, really want it to be brilliant.

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