Saturday, January 25, 2014

Guest Review by Isis: Circle of Fire (Damask Circle #1) by Keri Arthur @kezarthur

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Sixteen teenagers taken from their homes. Eleven bodies recovered, each completely drained of blood. Some believe vampires are responsible, but Jon Barnett knows it's something far worse. To stop the killers in Taurin Bay, he becomes enmeshed in a web of black magic and realizes he needs help. But fate gives him only one choice in the form of recluse Madeline Smith.

Madeline Smith has retreated to an isolated farmhouse, afraid of the psychic abilities she can't control-abilities that have killed. But when "ghost" Jon Barnett brings a warning of danger and her nephew disappears, Maddie has to leave her haven. She also has to learn to control the abilities she fears and place her trust in Jon Barnett, a man who is neither human nor ghost.
But as the search for the teenagers becomes a race against time, and the noose of sorcery threatens to kill Maddie and Jon, the greatest danger to them both could be the feelings they have for each other-feelings that they refuse to acknowledge.


Isis' Review:
I would like to thank NetGalley and Dell for granting me the chance to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Though I received the e-book for free that in no way influenced this review.  

<blockquote> VISIONS OF TERROR
Sixteen teenagers taken from their homes. Eleven bodies recovered, each completely drained of blood. Some believe vampires are responsible, but Jon Barnett knows it's something far worse. To stop the killers in Taurin Bay, he becomes enmeshed in a web of black magic and realizes he needs help. But fate gives him only one choice in the form of recluse Madeline Smith.

Madeline Smith has retreated to an isolated farmhouse, afraid of the psychic abilities she can't control-abilities that have killed. But when "ghost" Jon Barnett brings a warning of danger and her nephew disappears, Maddie has to leave her haven. She also has to learn to control the abilities she fears and place her trust in Jon Barnett, a man who is neither human nor ghost.

But as the search for the teenagers becomes a race against time, and the noose of sorcery threatens to kill Maddie and Jon, the greatest danger to them both could be the feelings they have for each other-feelings that they refuse to acknowledge.</blockquote>


Although the story is tension-filled on multiple levels, there is also a sweetness to watching the romance unfold, not too mention watching Maddie transform into a butterfly, no longer tethered to one place by fear. 

What I Liked About the Story:
I truly appreciated that Maddie was allowed to stretch and grow, and though she had some help from Jon, she was the master of her own recovery, reclaiming her life on her own. And having her sister finally figure out just how poorly she'd treated her all their lives was nice. The way that came about was interesting, and has potential for making an appearance in one of the subsequent books in this new series.

Jon was a great character from the beginning, and having him so in touch with his own emotions was nice to see. That's not to say he didn't have some rough patches, but never because he was closed off from his own emotions. His history clearly demonstrated why he responded as he did to certain things, and yet he was still open enough for Maddie to see past the barriers he'd erected. The fact that they could understand each other as well as they did in so short a time falls into my pros and cons list.

Evan and Mack are also solid secondary characters. They are both impressive in their own way, and again I could easily see one or both making an appearance or more in future books. I was truly proud of Evan for being so confident and self-assured, particularly given his role model was not exactly a pillar of strength while he was growing up.

Finally there is the variety of characters from the paranormal realm in this book. I found it to be a bit refreshing that it wasn't all one type (such as vampires, or maybe werewolves). Instead Ms. Arthur allowed us to dabble in a few different areas, not getting to in depth anywhere, but rather providing a sample platter of a small but varied range of abilities that fall into the paranormal.

What Bugged Me:
As I mentioned above, the depth of the connection between Jon and Maddie falls into both columns. It is sweet, but yet rather unrealistic given the amount of time the two knew each other, as well as the baggage that Maddie was still lugging around.

And since this book dealt in the paranormal I would have enjoyed a bit more in-depth exploration of the main antagonist. While I appreciated the variety of paranormal beings, the main antagonist had so much more to offer than we were shown. Nor was anything that needed to be shared in one large information dump, for the way the story flowed amply allowed time for much, much more about the antagonist to be explained/explored.

My Overall Impression:
Clearly my likes section outweighs my dislikes, even more so when you notice that a couple of items had one foot in each column. Normally I would say that the ending was too easy, or contrived, but given the amount of time that passed from the adventure Jon & Maddie shared to the ending of the story allowed it to feel OK to me. Enough time had passed that it wasn't a knee jerk response to the situation, and therefore felt authentic. 

All of which means I give this book a thumbs up. It was a very quick read, about an hour cover to cover, which generally indicates that the author woven the arc, pacing, and characters together in a masterful manner. This story essentially told itself, and rarely did Ms. Arthur tell us something if she could show us instead. I posit this to be a solid opening book for a new series, and I look forward to reading the next few books in the series in short order.

 photo 7742_zpseddbe9ac.jpgKeri Arthur, author of the New York Times bestselling Riley Jenson, Guardian series, has now written more than 25 books. She's received several nominations in the Best Contemporary Paranormal category of theRomantic Times Reviewer's Choice Awards, and recently won RT's Career Achievement Award for urban fantasy. She lives in Melbourne with her daughter and two crazy dogs



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