I've been putting off this review for a very long time. I finally got my ass in gear when I saw the likelihood that Ryodan would win the Alpha Showdown -- a moronic exercise in which I far too often find myself participating -- and I felt I just couldn't procrastinate any longer.
Abusive, skeevy, middle-managers on steroids with serious pedo potential are not alphas. Sorry serial clickers, ear-splitting squeals of delight just won't change that fact.
This book had major, major problems. Many other reviewers have outlined them well, but here, under the page break, are a few of my issues (EXTREME SPOILER WARNING):
1. I thought most of the scenes with Dani and Ryodan were incredibly tedious. They had no chemistry -- and I'm not talking romance here (the thought of that makes me gag) -- that made me want to see them together again. No buddy chemistry, no mentor/apprentice chemistry, no friendship, nothing. That's what made them so tedious for me. Scene after scene of them grumpily bantering in exactly the same way, ending up with the exact same conclusion, was absolutely mind-numbing.
2. I hate Ryodan now and I liked him before. I hate him. He's abusive and squicky and obnoxious. He's the aforementioned middle manager on steroids acting like top dog. He's just not that great. And why does super-supposed-alpha Ryodan need a 14-year-old loose cannon to help him solve a mystery? Thousands of years of experience not enough? He came off as a loser to me.
3. Kat's scenes were, until the end, boring as heck. I skimmed all that junk. So dull. She's a terrible leader of the sidhe seers, too. Procrastinating when she needs to hit things head on. What an incredible disappointment.
4. All the female characters in this story were a disappointment. Jo was probably the most, and the most heart-breaking. But all of them were weak. Sex slaves, punching bags and/or Stepford wives.
5. The sexual ogling of Dani went way over the line for me, along with Ryodan's physical abuse. I was really taken out of the story by it. Christian's reactions made sense because they were shown in a negative light -- a sad window into his horrible, unwanted, transformation. Ryodan's ogling was even more horrific since it was not at all part of a personality upheaval, but rather evidence of his typical state-of-mind. Yuk.
Things I liked and might return for:
1. Dancer. The bright spot in the book. A great addition to the cast of characters. He's the mystery element. I don't care what Ryodan is, I know enough from Fever. I know enough about most of it from Fever. What I want to know more about is Dancer.
2. Christian's sacrifice. I hated reading Christian all through the book. Because I love him. His character is one of my favorites in the series. To see him so gross and pedo and squicky was devastating. But then to see him sacrifice himself at the end ... it's awful for him, but at the same time it's a hint that he's not lost completely.
3. The ending. I really liked the final action climax. I liked that it included all of them and they were all active in saving the day (although the majority of the women involved were described as sheep and their behavior was fitting to that description -- yeah, the warrior sidhe-seers). I also liked that the story came to a clear end before the teaser. Someone must've taught KMM how to do a proper cliffhanger after all. ￼
4. The Fever world still intrigues me. It's only realistic that they're running out of food. I'd like to see them handle that. I think they have options, but I want to see them figure it out and make things work. That's about the only thing I like about post-apocalyptic worlds -- the ingenuity of the human race is put to the test and that's fascinating. I see Dancer saving everyone. ￼
5. Kat's story pulled me in at the end when she found out Sean had not left Chester's even though he could. Finally, something to sink our teeth into! I was still disappointed that she was putting off confronting Margery for another day ... um ... did she not notice that Cruce does most of his dirty work at night? ￼ But I actually see some possibilities for her that would make up for her poor showing in Iced.
So that's part of why I didn't like the book. But there are other problems. I don't love the author's behavior either.
1. From an author Q&A: She didn't struggled with age of Dani. If she can be an assassin, she can have sex (but didn't say when will). If she started Dani at 17, she would be beyond some of the first moments of sexual awakening.
No, actually, that's an absolutely stupid equivalence. Moronic. Idiotic. Completely lacking in any consideration deeper than a snail trail. Dani's voice in this story is incredibly immature. My 12-year-old (at the time I read this) was far more mature than Dani without having killed a single person or monster (that I know of). Dani's voice is that of a girl younger than 14. She does not have the emotional maturity or experience to have non-damaging sexual relationships, particularly with much older men. And, like it or not, her relationship with Ryodan has already been sexualized enough that it's just plain gross. So, yeah, don't insult me with that "if she can be an assassin she can have sex" crap. How stupid. Every time I read that I'm more offended that anyone could think I'm that big a dunce that I'd fall for that shit.
2. From author Q&A: Mind boggling that after what is on TV these days, people have problem with Dani's age.
Mind boggling that the condescension never ends. We all know TV is filled with sexualized images and portrayals of teenagers. We know that teenagers are having sex. That doesn't mean it's appropriate fodder to be romanticized. Did you know that kids are not exercising while eating tons of junk and becoming diabetics at young ages? Squeeee, let's celebrate it! Give me a freakin' break.
3. I can't find the quote right now, but KMM said in another interview that Ryodan would be more epic than Barrons. WTF is that? Why does he have to be compared to Barrons at all? See, this is the problem: he's a trumped up middle manager who can't carry a story so he has to be sold off-page as something larger than the larger-than-life male lead of the prior series. It just makes me hate him more.
Sometimes I feel like some authors put stuff out there not only to challenge their readers but to see how much they'll take and even whole-heartedly support. Case in point, a reader debate on another forum. This was a discussion about Ryodan's physical abuse of Dani. This was what a Ryodan-supporting reader posted in response to other posters' concerns:
In terms of Ryodan's treatment of Dani, I think he is trying to make her more pliable without actually breaking her, which is unlikely to happen. He knows she is tougher than most people and can take quite a bit more beating. I think both of those scenes were meant to teach her something. The dungeon incident was used to see how much she can take and how much of a hold the ghosts of her past have on her. The finger incident [bbl note: where he sadistically broke her finger in the club] was meant to humiliate and show the rest of the people that he owns her. I think Dani is insightful enough to understand it and not hold a grudge. She knows that Ryo's main goal is to protect her.
I have no frame of reference for that. My brain can't even process it as a positive. If this is what KMM is going for, I guess some readers are into it, but I will never be.
Clearly there are people who liked this story, some who liked it a lot. I am not in agreement, but nobody supports the right of individual opinion more than I. As I said, there were a couple of bright spots. How the author continues with this series will determine whether or not I stick or bolt, but I won't be buying the next book on release day or even that week. I will wait to see some reviews first.