Series: Soulfire, Book 2
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 383 Pages
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle
Another Bizarre...Brilliant?...Rowe Romp
He is the Guardian of Hate, and after a century and a half of torture at the hands of the wickedest of witches, one with a jones-on for bleeding, bruising, and breaking her victims into getting in touch with their feminine side, Jarvis Swain is so chock full of the stuff he's about ready to blow. He and his fellow escaped warriors have been working on freeing the rest of their brethren from the Den of Womanly Pursuits (a truly terrifying place). He's so dangerously close to critical mass, though, that touching anyone fills them with a wild rage and infects them with psychotic behavior. If he doesn't find his brother, the Guardian of Love, and get him to draw out the overflowing hate soon, Jarvis is going to explode - literally - and unleash the hate inside him on the whole of humanity.
And yes, that would be a Very Bad Thing.
All Reina Fleming wants to do is prevent her sister from dying like every other member of her family has since they were attacked by a nasty creature years ago. To do that, she's got to get Death to promote her so she can make sure her sister's soul isn't harvested. Death wants her to prove herself before promoting her, though, and frankly, his demand couldn't come at a worse time. Not only is she having trouble with her death dust mojo, but the soul she's got to harvest for him is so far out of her league on the deadly scale that just barely surviving the attempt is the absolute best-case scenario. She needs help. A strong, kick-ass warrior sure would be handy to have around right about now.
Fortunately, Reina already knows just such a warrior, and she could do a lot worse than the delicious, if a bit edgy, Jarvis. It's more than just his yummy factor that makes it a good thing that his hate doesn't affect her. Her touch seems to calm him a little, pulls him back from the killing edge just enough to keep him from losing it all completely. That works in both their favors, actually, and the deal they strike because of it is the definition of mutually beneficial. He helps her harvest one of the most notorious assassins to ever live, she helps him stave off the big boom until they find his brother. It's simple really. Easy-peasy. Everything should go like clockwork. No worries.
After reading Rowe's series debut, Kiss at Your Own Risk (review here), I wasn't convinced this series was going to be for me. I thought I needed this second book to really decide. Well, I've read the second book and I liked it more than its predecessor, but I'm still not sure how I feel about the series. I still can't figure out if it's bizarrely brilliant or just bizarre, and I just don't know if it's a good fit for my reading preferences.
I enjoyed Jarvis and Reina as the romantic leads far more than I did Blaine and Trinity, for sure. I don't read a lot of lighter-themed paranormal romance or urban fantasy, so it's hard for me to figure out how to classify some aspects of the read, but for me, both characters seemed more fleshed out and their relationship made more sense to me than that of the first book. Not to mention, their chemistry blazed off the pages. Hot, hot, hot! I liked them quite a lot as a couple, and I thought they were even more interesting as individuals.
The world still isn't the most well-defined I've ever read. Not even close. Nagging contradictions, like how the warriors are so adept at...well...everything...when the perception of their captivity is one of cyclical torture and healing for more torture, are still bugging me and causing a problem for me with the story. The plot, though, was significantly more comprehensive to me than that in the first book and the various motivations of several different factions, as well as their actions, made more sense within the parameters of the established world. I have no idea if that's indicative of a more cohesively written novel or if I'm just getting used to the weirdness that is this wild world of Rowe's, but either way, it made for a better read.
I'm sort of enjoying the very nebulous and shifting line defining the "bad guys." There just isn't a whole lot of black and white in this world, and villains...well...they're not exactly villainous - and yet they so are. They tend to have motivations and do things for some touchy-feely, chasing-their-joy or finding-the-love sort of reason. The actions they take and the things they do in that chasing or finding, though...well...can you say a hundred and fifty years of heinous torture, children? I knew you could.
Yeah, it may be a beautiful day in the neighborhood, but the batshit crazy neighbors will whip you bloody to impress on you the significance of clean, peaceful living. To a one, so far, the "bad guys" seem to be all about doing the wrong things for the right reasons. It's just...those wrong things are fairly horrible and risk the world turning into a cesspool of misery and agony. But hey, their hearts are in the right place. Mostly.
There were a couple of issues I had with the narrative that were more concrete than others. In a couple of scenes, secondary or ancillary characters unknown to the main character on whom the third person limited POV is focused show up and are referred to by name without being introduced. For example, in one scene a young vampire races into the room Jarvis is in and demands his help with something. The vampire is described in appearance, but it's clear from the narrative that Jarvis doesn't know him.
"Shit, kid. I wish I could help you, but now's not the time. Come find me in a year—"
"A year? He'll be dead!" Sylvan grabbed Jarvis's wrist before Jarvis realized he was going to make a move.
Prior to that, no reference had been made to Sylvan's name and Jarvis didn't know him. That's a little disconcerting when you've never met a character before. Had another vampire referred to him by name, or he'd said who he was first, that's one thing, but given the narration at that point, it would have been more appropriate to identify him in non-specific terms instead of his name.
A couple of other technical errors, errors that should have been caught in the editing process, were also an issue - one that surprised me given that this a mainstream publication.
So, two books in and I'm still not completely convinced about this tongue-in-cheek, wacko, utterly freaky, completely original and unique series. I guess I'm going to have to give the third book a try. Maybe that'll help further clarify things. Of course, I said that about this book, too, didn't I? And I liked this book, more than I was expecting and more than I did its predecessor. I'm can't help but wonder what Rowe's got up her sleeve next. This series is oddly compelling that way.
Sometimes rescuing a bunch of almost-dead warriors from black magicked pit vipers was just the kind of thing a man needed to help him forget the fact that he could not, for the life of him, figure out how to knit.
"It's not easy to bring a friend from a place of love and empathy into a pit of utter despair and misery, but I do my best."
"Tapping into your artistic side is critical for a man to be sufficiently badass and violent."