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.

Whitechapel Gods

Whitechapel Gods by S.M. Peters. It is very steampunk. But it’s not a comedic steampunk like I’m used to reading. I’d say it’s more like a 40s pulp or film noir type steampunk. So, some spoilers below I’m sure.

The area of Whitechapel (where Jack the Ripper wen on his infamous rampage) in London has been cut off from the rest of Britain by a wall and two mechanical gods, Grandfather Clock and Mama Engine. I don’t think Peters ever said for sure how these creatures came to Whitechapel or what exactly their purpose was. Other than making the residents of Whitechapel miserable that is.

The book focuses on the rebellion against Grandfather Clock and Mama Engine. The humans that aren’t cowed and whipped into submission (for whatever reason), are trying to destroy the two so-called gods. There are severe health problems among the residents of Whitechapel that includes lung disease (from breathing the severely sooty air) and a condition called the Clacks, where humans are invaded by mechanics because of the two Gods. Humans are also, apparently, the fuel for Mama Engine. Yum.

At any rate, the book follows various groups of rebels and collaborators as they attempt to either bring down one or both of the gods. Peters tends to jump around from group to group but he does fairly well in keeping it from getting confusing, which I appreciate. Not every writer can do that.

Over all, I rather enjoyed the book. I think the grittiness and seriousness of the story was very much in tune with how the lives of Victorian industrial workers would be. Some steampunk books ignore the fact that Victorian England was a gritty, sooty place where fog turned yellow from coal dust and where there was a severely huge gap between the haves and the have nots. Peters didn’t do this.

However, I would have liked to know where these two so-called gods came from, what it was they were working toward and what the British government’s response was to suddenly losing a portion of it’s city. So Whitechapel Gods is certainly worth the read but don’t go expecting those sorts of answers. B-