Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Steamy Review: The Labyrinth of the Dead

The Labyrinth of the Dead by Sara M. Harvey

Jacket Blurb:
In ghostly worlds, souls are the only currency. When lost lovers and ancient enemies meet, a rescue mission becomes a fight for the survival of all that is real.

Portia Gyony, Nephilim and warrior, is sworn to protect the human race. But when her ghostly lover, Imogen, has the chance to return to life in her own body once again, Portia must brave the twisted forces of the shadow-world to rescue Imogen and prevent the world of the dead from bleeding through into the land of the living.

Sara M. Harvey, you're on my list. Another cliffhanger?? I mean, you have to know that people would follow your wonderful trilogy without all the emotional torture... Right? You do know that, don't you?

Yes, Portia Gyony is back, being awesome as usual. In The Labyrinth of the Dead, Harvey goes deeper into the universe she has set up, drawing readers into the afterlife, a hellish twilight realm where the dead are no better than currency. Portia ventures there alive, like Orpheus, in an attempt to bring Imogen back to life once and for all. And, wow, does she ever take us for a ride.

I may complain about Harvey's shameless cliffhangers, but they are SO worth it. Whereas Convent, necessarily, had to spend a lot of time in set-up, Labyrinth gives us a better sense of who these characters are, and what they're capable of. We also get to see more of this mystical steampunk world, and are shown exactly what's been at stake since the first page of the first book.

So, to sum up all my rambling: this trilogy is amazing so far. Go and pick it up if you like angels or steampunk or dark fantasy or women being hardcore badasses. Then you can join me in suffering the wait for the next one.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Steamy Review: The Convent of the Pure

The Convent of the Pure by Sara M. Harvey

Jacket Blurb:
Secrets and illusions abound in a decaying convent wrapped in dark magic and scented with blood. Portia came to the convent with the ghost of Imogen, the lover she failed to protect in life. Now, the spell casting caste wants to make sure that neither she nor her spirit ever leave.

Portia's ignorance of her own power may be even more deadly than those who conspire against her as she fights to fulfill her sworn duty to protect humankind in a battle against dark illusions and painful realities.

Words cannot express how excited I was when I heard about The Convent of the Pure for the first time. I was told that Sara M. Harvey had written a dark fantasy that featured Catholic mythology, Nephilim, badass lesbian heroes, and steampunk themes. Basically, one more author decided to write something just for me (shhhh, don't burst my bubble). I pre-ordered Convent from the Apex Book Company, which meant I got a signed copy, and inhaled it the moment I got it.

I've read this book twice now. Each time I got something new from it. The first time I breathlessly followed Portia as she haplessly stumbled through a sinister conspiracy that encompassed heaven and hell and all points in between. The second time I was slowly drawn along by the hopeless love between Portia and the long-dead Imogen. I felt myself being swallowed by an acute sense of dread and betrayal. I reveled in Harvey's clever use of Catholic prayers and trinkets, and gleefully studied every piece of steampunk technology that appeared.

This is a short book, but it has a tight plot, and an evil cliffhanger. To top it off, it is lovingly illustrated by Melissa Gay, who simply seems to life the characters off the page and spin them into visual reality. I can't recommend it enough for its freshness, suspense, and steampunky goodness.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Steamy Review: No Priest But Love

No Priest But Love: The Journals of Anne Lister from 1824-1826 edited by Helena Whitbread

This book is a follow up to Whitbread's previous collection I Know My Own Heart, which excerpted Anne Lister's diaries from five of the most tumultuous years of her life. No Priest covers three years, but in greater detail.

Whereas the first collection often buried the "juicy bits" amid more commonplace entries, this second book focuses almost exclusively on Anne's love affairs. Though it covers a shorter time period than the first, there is more to cover, as this was a very intense and important period in Anne's life.

Specifically, it deals with her affair with Maria Barlow, a woman she met, then lived with, in Paris. This relationship is held in contrast with her continued engagement to the married Marianne Lawton. She finds herself torn between them and, strikingly, at one point she writes, "I have a wife and mistress of my own."

I wrote before that I fell a little in love with Anne Lister while reading I Know My Own Heart. After reading this, well, the honeymoon is over. The book itself is a more engrossing read than the first, with a quicker pace and more events chosen to be of interest to a modern reader. However, Lister herself suffers in this light. She was a selfish, womanizing, hard-assed woman. She was astounding, but incredibly complicated, and not someone most people would want to deal with now.

All that being said, you should read this. Yes you. I don't care who you are. This book is fascinating, and the fact that it's all true makes it even more absorbing. I invite you to meet Anne Lister yourself, and judge her by whatever standard you wish. Whatever conclusion you come to, you will not regret the experience.