War of the Alphas

Courtesy of goodreads.comSo this last week, I’ve read what I believe is all four of the War of the Alphas books. Yeah, four books in about as many days, well, hours really as I read mostly on my lunch breaks. The War of the Alphas books – OmegaBetaAlpha and Pas – are written by SM Reine.

In this world, some sort of cataclysmic event many years ago (1o-20 from what I can figure) killed off quite a bit of the world’s population and then brought them back again as something other than human beings. That could be anything from a werewolf to an angel.

Because of the upheaval, an alpha werewolf called Rylie Gresham enforced a stratified society on the world. Her chosen ones would get to live at Sanctuary, everyone else was forced into group homes that were horrifying.  Medical and magical testing were allowed on children, as was corporal punishment and pretty much any nasty thing you can imagine.

Our protagonist – not heroine because she’s not a good person – Deirdre Tombs is what this world considers and Omega. She’s a shifter of some sort who cannot shift. Because she can’t shift, she doesn’t know what sort of shifter she is. She’s also treated as a second class citizen among already second class citizens. She’s got a shit job that her boss is trying to fire her from by killing her but due to a strange encounter on the street with an unknown crazy man, her life takes a turn for the strange.

The encounter, where this unknown crazy man orders her to Kill them all, brings her to the attention of earlier mentioned Rylie Gresham. Apparently the fact that Deirdre didn’t kill anyone is unusual. The man is an alpha were named Everton Stark and he can compel other shifters to anything he wants. Except Deirdre.

In exchange for possibly finally finding out what she is and learning how to harness that, Deirdre agrees to go undercover with Stark in his terrorist cell. And he is a terrorist. He’s using force, death and fear to get what he wants: Rylie Gresham’s death and a new, anarchist society. Weres, he argues, should be free to do what they want and the strongest should lead. They don’t need Rylie’s artificially stratified society.

In order to survive this assignment, Deirdre finds herself doing things she never thought she would or could do, up to and including killing people, getting beaten by Stark and taking a shifter drug called lethe. Greek mythology fans will recognize the name as the river of forgetfulness in the underworld, which is fitting.

I found all four of these books very interesting, obvs since I read them all last week. Deirdre is a crazy imperfect protagonist. She’s (rightfully) angry at the world and while she tries to do the right thing, she’s more concerned with her survival (at least at the start) and what her animal is to really give a shit about helping Rylie Gresham. And Rylie isn’t a sympathetic character either. I don’t think there’s really a character in this whole series that you’re rooting to survive. I’m not upset that the main characters lived, but I wouldn’t have been upset if they died either.

Everton Stark is a loathsome man. He’s a physically and emotionally abusive man and I really wish his character had been killed off instead of incarcerated (with the possibility of escape–SPOILERS?). I’ve never really read a book where they could kill off everyone…and I’d be okay with that. It’s interesting.

Deirdre’s eventual goals are admirable. She wants a better life for gaeans (the non-human peoples of the world). She wants the group homes abolished and she wants everyone to have a fair shake at life. Those are all good things. She goes about them in a very wrong way until the very end. And I mean literally the very end of the series. It isn’t until the end of the fourth book when Deirdre pulls her head out of her ass and realizes that in order to make the changes she wants, she needs to work in the system that the people want instead of against it. Or so it seems. The only thing I really, really didn’t like about this series is that the last book left it open ended a bit.

Sue me, I like closure. I’d definitely read more of this world. I found it absolutely fascinating the world that SM Reine created. I’d like more likeable characters though, but other than that, I really can’t complain. If you’re interested in darker urban fantasy, I can’t possibly recommend these books any higher. Rating: A.

Manners & Mutiny

Courtesy of gailcarriger.comI love Gail Carriger’s steampunk novels. Have I mentioned this? In particular, I like her Parasol Protectorate books and her Finishing School series. In her latest (and last) of the Finishing School novels, Manners & Mutiny, we follow protagonist Sephronia Temminnick as she tries to finish her final year at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s.

This book was released on Wednesday November 4, so I’m not going to go into too much detail. Just because I finished this book over the course of about three lunch hours doesn’t mean everyone did. But just in case I do spill something plotty, below be SPOILERS. You have been warned.

Sephronia and her friends, Dimity and Agatha, are given some increasingly complex tests as a part of their final year. And not just in classes. They have a ball with the all boys school Bunson’s on Swiffle-on-Exe, where Dimity’s brother Pillover and their friend Vieve (a girl masquerading as a boy) attend. And let’s not forget about Felix de Mersey, Sephronia’s other suitor (the first being sootie Soap).

Felix and Sephronia are at loggerheads due to his involvement of Soap dying and becoming a werewolf in the previous novel. Things do not get better here. Felix is the son of the Grand Gherkin of the Picklemen (aren’t these titles just fantastic?! They’re so silly. I love them), who shot soap and is generally a bad guy and the Picklemen are clearly up to something.

They break into Mademoiselle Geraldine’s after the ball but leave with nothing, vexing Sophronia who got into trouble with the teachers. She chased the Picklemen and got caught. They’re not upset about the former but they are upset about the latter. Sophronia gets saddled with all sorts of busy work that leave her no time to figure out what the Picklemen are up to.

To make matters a little worse, Soap keeps showing up attempting to court her. Sophronia, despite what her heart wants, is still a member of high society and a lady like her can’t be with the only black werewolf in England. It just isn’t done. And don’t blame me or Ms. Carriger for those words. That was the times in mid-1800s England.

Will Soap ever talk Sophronia around? What are the Picklemen up to? Why is Felix trying so hard to make up with Sophronia? And what is going on with Lord Akeldama (and really, we all wonder that)? Read to find out!

I enjoyed the hell out of this book. It makes me sad that it was the last in the series but obviously you can’t continue finishing school once you’ve properly finished and debuted. I’m hoping that we’ll continue to see more from this lovely world and lovely writer. I highly recommend this series and this book. Rating: A+