[Ava’s Demon: Chapters 1-18] Michelle Czajkowski’s ongoing online series

Talk about an awesome cover page.

Ava’s Demon is an incredibly beautiful series that exists online for free, for which I am extremely grateful. The artwork is stunning and the story is engaging, and I heartily recommend this for readers who like graphic novels and readers who like dystopian, fantasy, and science fiction stories. You can find the ongoing series here. The author seems to be halfway through (my rough estimate) chapter nineteen. It’s updated regularly on Thursdays AND –my favorite piece of information–it’s FINISHED. The only thing the author-illustrator needs to do is draw it! I find that so incredible.

Ava’s Demon starts out simply enough. Ava, one of the main characters of this story, has a demon that has been with her for her whole life. The demon has been whispering horrible things in Ava’s ear since she was a child, so Ava is not a happy person. Not at all. She goes through her days feeling unloved and forgotten, but wishing that she wasn’t. When an attack hits her school and Ava manages to escape, the demon isn’t very happy. But when they crash land on a planet and Ava is injured in the crash, it seems the demon is finally going to get her wish.

At the eleventh hour, the demon reveals that Ava doesn’t have to die and can start her life over–if she enters into a pact with the demon. Of course, demons tend to lie. Ava does survive, but not in the way that she was led to believe. Ava’s Demon then progresses into a story that blends fantasy elements with that of a science fiction world. It becomes about so much more than demons and their humans.

As the story is ongoing, it’s a little difficult to review the plot since it’s just a small snapshot of the larger story. It definitely has dystopian elements to it where things aren’t always what they seem and there’s a organization–or a person (yet to be determined)–who controls a lot of planets. So far there’s only been a couple of places in the comic, but it seems like interplanetary travel may be used to show different elements of the world that Czajkowski has created. There’s hints about another force that destroys planets that hasn’t been fully revealed, as well as characters with pasts. Ultimately, everything Czajkowski is doing is making me extremely interested in the story. It’s being given to the reader slowly, but gives us tantalizing tastes of the larger picture. I’m so excited to keep reading it.

I chose a few panels that I thought illustrated moments of the plot but weren’t particularly spoilery of the larger story. All credit goes to the artist, Michelle Czajkowski, and panels are linked to their respective pages on the Ava’s Demon site. 

A person who takes over the world and has an organization full of followers.

A world where being human is seen as a disadvantage…

But are they blind? Not all believe in Titan…

Continue reading

Advertisements

[Angelblood: Dark Angel IV] Hanna Peach

 

As always, spoilers for the previous books of the Dark Angel series. Please check out the other reviews first if you’re interested in this series by Hanna Peach!

25792864

 

Seven days. That’s not a lot of time for Alyx and her companions to figure out how they can find Samyara, defeat him, and save Israel. Hanna Peach continues the saga of Alyx and Israel in Angelblood, where supernatural problems collide with romantic ones that started in Angelsong. There’s a lot of pressure on everyone to keep it together long enough to build up an army, a seemingly impossible task. Not everyone is on board with Alyx’s plan. She needs to find a way to convince them of its importance before it’s too late.

The first half of Angelblood was written well. The stress of convincing everyone that Israel is worth saving and that in order to do that they must go to war against Samyara is not an easy task. Alyx must use all of her mettle while juggling the problems that she and Jordan created in Angelsong. I love that the multiple perspectives in Angelblood allow us to see different parts of the plan. Each character has a unique voice and specific things they are worried about in addition to the main problem of fighting Samyara. Jumping around in the heads of the different characters also propels the story faster. The events of Angelblood occur over seven days, and the characters all feel that pressure. The first half of Angelblood is a bit slower, which I liked. There were more chances for details. Once the novel reached the second half of the seven days, it seemed to escalate too quickly. I understand that it was intentional, but the writing became a bit more shaky from that point on. I felt that it was a bit more telling than showing, which was frustrating because Hanna Peach is usually a writer who shows over telling. It was odd that it only occurred in the second half of the novel. It had to do with the first half being about multiple things where the second half was primarily about training, which didn’t leave much room for different issues.

Continue reading

[Angelsong] Hanna Peach

This is the third book in the Dark Angel series. Slight spoilers ahead if you haven’t read Angelfire and Angelstone.

25792851

Angelsong is the third novel of the Dark Angel series. It’s the middle of the series, which allows it to act as a sort of buffer between the beginning and the end of the story as a whole. In the first two novels, we slowly learn what the villains are up to and how Alyx and the Free community deal with the realization of that. Angelsong picks up where the second novel left off and deviates from the main problem of stopping the villains. It is a side quest that is important to the story, but because of this, the main problems are only mentioned in passing. In Angelsong, Alyx is on a desperate journey to find the cure for the poison that is coursing through Israel’s system before it’s too late. The cure is contained in a text that’s hidden away, and the only one who knows how to make the cure is trapped in Michaelea. Angelsong takes our characters back to Michaelea, to Urielos, and all over the world in a frantic race to find everything they need. They have to rely on all of their skills in order to trick and sneak their way to the cure, a cure that will save more than just Israel. Alyx’s time is running out too.

Once again, the plot in Hanna Peach’s novel is steady. It gradually builds, with occasional spikes in action. She knows the importance of pacing, which makes reading the entire novel enjoyable instead of just the parts of the novel where there’s action. The importance of the mission to save Israel is continually on the forefront of Alyx’s mind, and everything that she does can be traced back to that desire. The most exciting part of the novel occurs in the chambers beneath Urielos, where we were able to see how Alyx and Jordan work together as a team to complete a series of tasks. Each task was interesting to read about and even more interesting when handicaps were in play.

Continue reading

[Angelstone] Hanna Peach

Hello! There are potential spoilers ahead if you haven’t read AngelFire, the first book in this series. That review is here if you’re interested in what the series is about.

25722504

Here’s one last line to keep the potential spoilers at bay!

+

+

+

+

Angelstone picks up where Angelfire left off: on the run from both Darkened and Angels, and the plans that these enemies have put into motion. Things are a bit more dangerous for the characters that were introduced in Angelfire, as they are being pursued by both the Darkened and some Angels through various towns of the world. This time, the focus is on how to stop the Darkened. They’re the biggest threat, because they have a weapon that can fatally injure Seraphim.  Alex and Israel have to deal with their changing relationship as they are planning some of the biggest cons in the human world. Getting away without alerting the humans that some of their prized pieces of art and cultural artifacts are suddenly disappearing won’t be easy. Adding to the tension is the Darkened, actively searching for the Free Angel community.

The second novel in the series really opened up the story. The relationship between the angels and the human world was expanded upon and we were able to see how they fit–and hid–in the world as Free Angels. I did enjoy that we got to see angels in different cities around the world, but I wish more detail had been given to the places, particularly the group in China. Most of the detail fell on the missions that they were participating in rather than the places the missions were occurring. This is more the fault of Israel and Alex as narrators, because they can’t be everywhere at once. Even though it wasn’t as detailed as I would have liked, the missions were well thought out and written. The bulk of them didn’t occur off screen, which made for a very enjoyable and  fast paced read. I also felt that the danger that was hinted at in Angelfire really hit home in Angelstone. There are often more consequences for her actions and that of the free community than Alex realizes. I feel mean to say it, but I’m glad that there are consequences. It gives this fantasy story an element of realism because there’s so much that they all can lose. Everything is not dandy. I’m not sure how much will be lost by the time the series is over, and I like that I don’t know how it will end. I only have vague predictions at this point.

I loved that Israel took on a bigger role in this novel. Although both novels were in  Alex and Israel’s perspectives, Angelfire focused a bit more on Alex. The perspectives were a bit more even this time, which allowed Israel to shine more in Angelstone. We know from the first novel that Israel is a pretty good fighter because he’s survived this long, but other details weren’t expanded on. His status as half human and demon is explored and we learn that he has more to him than meets the eye. He can fight forces better than he thought possible, he’s just untrained. He’s becoming more rounded as a character. Additionally, we’re able to  get into his head a bit more. We can feel and relate to how he reacts to events in the novel rather than getting Alex’s guesses of how he’s feeling. I’m glad that he became more active in the story.

One of my favorite parts of Angelstone was how realistic Alex and Israel’s relationship is portrayed. In this genre, there are many times when the troubles occur in the time leading up to the relationship–“Does he like me?” “Will their circumstances allow them to be together?”–and once the relationship begins, there are little to no problems. Or the “problems” aren’t truly problems at all. Everything becomes all lovey-dovey and perfect. So reading how Alex and Israel’s relationship goes through rough patches was really refreshing. She’s this Seraphim who has always protected humans from Darkened. That was her job, and she has a really hard time leaving that behind in the relationship. Even though Israel has been surviving on his own before she became his Guardian, she still sees humans as a whole as weaker beings who need protection. She doesn’t always recognize that he can fend for himself and it annoys him to no end. Their problems start here. He reacts negatively when he feels she is treating him like a child. He allows his anger to be bottled up on the inside until he can’t contain it and it explodes out. He needs to learn how to control his anger and talk through it rather than holding it in. By recognizing their problems they are able to deal with them. This is possibly my favorite part, however. Although they’ve recognized their problems, it’s not fixed immediately. The novel doesn’t skip over the fact that getting over jealousy and anger is hard. Deciding to treat the other fairly before engaging in a physical relationship is healthy. If they didn’t, it would only breed resentment. The switching perspectives gives a really great look at how they both work and where their faults lie. I was fairly impressed at the portrayal of their changing relationship.

Angelstone ends on a cliffhanger that again leads into the next novel in the series. I love that this series doesn’t have everything go right. Too many times the protagonists in novels suddenly overcome problems without a lot of effort going into it, so although things may not have all been very satisfying in Angelstone, I think the payoff at the end of the series will be worth it. It is clear that Hanna Peach had clear intentions of where she wanted the story to go when she started Dark Angel.

Again, 5 stars. A big thank you to Hanna Peach for providing me with a copy of Angelstone. 

 

[Darkness Brutal] Rachel A. Marks

I love the blues and greens.

I love the blues and greens.

Every three years since his sister Ava’s third birthday, the demons have come for her. Each time, they’ve barely escaped. Now they’re coming up on the eve of her twelfth birthday, and Aiden worries that this will be the time he can’t protect her. He will do anything to protect her, but when two vastly different girls enter his life, he can’t seem to shake them from his mind. It doesn’t help that he’s beginning to realize that it may not be his sister who needs the protection, but Aiden himself. Darkness Brutal is as much a story of the supernatural and protecting his sister as it is a story of self-discovery and coming of age. Aiden’s always known his role as protector, but he’s never really considered his own role in the paranormal world around him. He has all these abilities that he seems to have been born with and he doesn’t often use them curiously. As events move out of his control and he learns that darkness seems to follow at every turn, Aiden must come to terms with what it means to have these abilities and who that makes him.

Darkness Brutal is the first novel in a planned series by Rachel A. Marks. Although the characters in the novel are human, they are all blessed, or cursed–although it depends on who you ask–with some sort of power that reeks of the supernatural. Whether it’s the ability to see the past of objects or to even see ghosts and demons themselves, these powers give them an extra edge in solving paranormal cases. It isn’t always as simple as it seems. When Aiden joins their team, it is in the hope he’ll be able to keep his sister safe. He’s afraid of her growing powers and also has to deal with changes within himself. But after years of surviving on their own, he can’t bring himself to trust them fully.

Aiden, the protagonist in Darkness Brutal, is pretty foul-mouthed. Ever since his mom died he’s tried to avoid the foster system. His brief stint in it convinced him that he was better off on his own. He’s forged a layer of armor that he wears over his skin, armor that is made of sarcasm, distrust, and anger. I really enjoyed him. I don’t often read books with male protagonists (at least, not in first person), and he was a great break from female protagonists who often fall into the same box. It was something new, even if he was a jerk. It was refreshing when he noticed how he was acting and adjusted. Aiden was very self-aware of the people around him and tried to treat them with respect even when he was feeling backed into a corner. More importantly, for me at least, was he treated the young women around him with respect. I’ve repeated myself, but that’s how much I appreciated it. Aiden’s multitude of powers have aided in protecting his sister and himself. He’s pretty much covered when every anything comes up. He read the emotions of people around him, a tool that comes in handy when he needs to control situations. He also has an encylopedic knowledge of demonology and can understand and read several ancient languages just by looking at them. I would love to be able to do that. The trade-off, however, is seeing demons, so it may not be worth it.

Every character in Darkness Brutal has some manner of backstory. Some are more detailed than others, which directly correlated with how much I cared about them. If there’s anyone who’s had a tougher life than Aiden, it’s Kara. When he meets her, he can see the multitude of dark marks on her soul, times in her past when she’s been used. She’s fierce and pretends that she can be on her own when she really aches for human companionship. Their curses, their pasts, and things they don’t understand seem to draw Aiden and Kara together. His overprotective streak extends to her even as he knows that it’s impossible to protect everyone. Rebecca also has had recent losses, but she is hardly developed at all. Aiden can’t seem to make up his mind if she needs protection or not, torn between her and his sister. Sid is a character who pulls everyone together by rescuing them from their dark places. He’s creepy, and whenever he does anything in the story I get the shudders. He claims to be doing everything for others but I questioned his motives the entire time I was reading, trusting Aiden’s judgement.

As an older sibling, Ava and Aiden’s relationship was very realistic. I wanted to shake Ava when she was doing stupid things. It was really exasperating, because Aiden is doing everything he can to protect her. She’s smart because she didn’t exactly have a glowing childhood, but she is still a younger sibling. She has to be annoying.  At the same time, even as Aiden wants to protect her he also wants to live his own life. Watching how they worked and didn’t work together brought back memories of when my siblings and I were growing up.

The setting for Darkness Brutal was not a perfect fairy tale world. It may be fantasy, but it was full of drugs, darkness, and danger. (The alliteration got away from me. I couldn’t stop it.) I’m realizing more and more that I really like books that are labeled as urban fantasy. They’re really easy to get into because they’re a sort of alternate reality to our own world. At one time or another, most people have visited or lived in a city. It’s not that hard to make the jump from the picture of a normal, urban setting to that of an urban fantasy one. I loved it. Just gritty enough to not be too gritty, Aiden’s world pulled me in quickly. Demons and ghosts exist in the underbelly of Los Angeles, drawn to the lost souls that are doing all they can to survive. It’s not hard to believe that creepy demons are influencing the thoughts of people who are predisposed to doing horrible things. As Aiden knows, everyone has some strong emotion that demons like to lap up.

The romance in the story seemed unnecessary. I didn’t particularly like either of the girls, and the love triangle was weak and shouldn’t have even been included. Kara was an interesting character, but whenever she was thrown into a romantic situation I grew bored. It became less about her powers and who she was and more about her confused feelings. It was disappointing, because Kara had a pretty intense backstory that made me want to know more about her. I honestly wasn’t even sure if Aiden liked the two girls for who they were or because they served to further his character development. They existed at times to only be rescued, and much of his relationship with them revolved around him worrying about how he could save them.

There were some negative aspects of Darkness Brutal.  Aspects that were very difficult to push past. I was not a fan of how sex was used to advance the story. It was the main reason why I wasn’t thrilled about the romance in Darkness Brutal. There wasn’t a moment when I felt it was real. A bigger issue I had was the casual handling of the threat of rape to the girls in the story in order to progress the male’s character. I get that they live in a city that is sometimes very dangerous. But the threat of rape wasn’t used for the girls to show how they could kick-ass; it was used to show how Aiden was good, because he was the rescuer. He always protected the damsels in distress. Whenever it came up, Aiden was the one who took offense and filled with rage.  It didn’t focus on those who were actually being threatened. I get that it’s meant to show how horrible the bad people in the story are, but I got it the first time. It didn’t need to be continually used. Rape shouldn’t be used as a tool to advance the story.

The characters were very lively, the setting vivid, and the conflict and set up of the subsequent books interesting. I did enjoy this book but it seemed to go on forever. I was interested in the setting and Aiden’s identity, but it was a slow read at times. There were parts of the book that I wish had been edited out because they weren’t too important to the overall plot. It wasn’t a book I lost sleep over.  I will keep an eye out for the next ones, but I may grab them from the library instead of purchasing them . Although Darkness Brutal is for a young adult market, it does have multiple mention of rape, attempted rape, and other serious issues that are very real and may be tough for some people to read about. Urban fantasy, although fantasy, still exists in the real world, and sometimes the real world is not the best place to be.

3 stars.

I received a read-to-review copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.