The Gods Come To Life, And Death Falls In Love

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A Book Review of The Butterfly Crest, by Eva Vanrell

(Buy it here on Amazon. Visit the author’s website. Find it on Goodreads.)

A synopsis, excerpts from the book, and detailed author info follow my review.

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What are the things that stick with you most, after finishing a great book? For me, it’s always those splendid moments when I feel like I’ve fallen through the pages and into the story itself. If an author is skilled at setting a scene and engaging my senses, I can almost look around and feel myself sitting within that space. And if the story has become a part of me—harder to do, engaging that sixth sense— a deeper reaction occurs, unforgettable and complete. Eva Vanrell might call that experience an impression, and that’s exactly what she strives to create in her work. “They have a lot to do with rhythm, tone and instinct. Very little to do with rules, preconceived notions or overly-worked designs,” she says (read more on her blog here), and she describes creating impressions as the cornerstone of her writing process.

Two distinct “impressions” from The Butterfly Crest that I think will stay with me forever were intense in totally different ways. The first was when the main character, Elena, visits a Japanese garden where mossy stones are arranged in a sea of white gravel to resemble a mountain range. Bright pink blossoms of a weeping cherry tree spill into the garden, like the patterns on a woman’s kimono that Elena remembers from childhood, and suddenly a flight of blue butterflies alights on the stones. Vanrell has already hinted at a deeper meaning to the butterflies that set my nerves to singing immediately. Another perfect moment occurs much later in the book and has more to do with imagined sensation and experience—that of a soul leaving the body, while that body slowly becomes numb and loses sight and sound. I can’t describe this last impression in too much detail, for fear of spoiling an absolutely sublime moment, but you’ll know it when you read it.

In order for us to feel the full power of these impressions—to believe them—Elena and her surroundings must be firmly established in time and place, concrete in our minds, and Vanrell takes the time to do just that. The story is rich with architectural details, historical facts, and cultural references; you might not blaze through the first few chapters of The Butterfly Crest, but by the time the real action begins you’ll be fully ensconced and committed. In fact, without Vanrell’s carefully painted reality, I would’ve been lost when all fantastical hell broke lose. The complex network of tradition, culture, and especially religion or superstition, she explains is integral to understanding the world she has created for us, and detail makes for a more rewarding read.

My favorite constructions are those in which Vanrell has mined the vast tomes of millennia worth of mythology and folklore, and then used her own imagination to make a real and concrete place. For example, the Faerie kingdom, Daoine Sidhe, is carved into the rock under the Irish Cliffs of Moher, it’s luxurious caverns so intricately sculpted and inlaid with dragonstone and jewels as to appear directly grown from the earth, rather than chiseled by hand. Elena plays a game called fidchell there with the beautiful but vicious Faerie Queen; the game is like a type of chess, with unreasonably high stakes and a corresponding life-size board, populated with enslaved deities.

The City of Eira, lovingly described in the teaser above, is actually part of Tartarus (the Underworld). And who could have imagined Tartarus to be such a wondrous, enchanted place—somewhere one might desire, or even strive, to dwell? That part of the story is so arresting, because there resides deep within the human condition both a fear and fascination with death. A hope of finding more within it. Vanrell pulls off her greatest feat as a storyteller when she allows her audience to fall in love with Death himself.

It has been said that all stories are, at their core, either about love or revenge. In The Butterfly Crest, that would depend on which deity is taking the stage, because we all know how capricious the gods can be. Sometimes the wicked ones are the most fun, especially the seductive and diabolical sun god Helios whose eternal fixation is the hunt for Elena and her kind (in a surprising twist of Classical mythology, Vanrell has us rooting for the Underworld, instead of the Heavens). Mostly, this book is a love story, though, woven into an epic tale of a human heroine who is more godlike than she could’ve ever imagined. I’ve saved the best for last, but the deathly handsome, exquisitely cold love interest, Eiry, is introduced early in the novel and he is a delicious romantic character indeed. He’s probably the main reason I kept reading, why the story unfolds in such a unique way, and why I am so anxious to continue this series. I’m glad Book Two in The Protogenoi Series is already underway, because as Helios would say, I’ll be waiting with bated breath.

–Sarah Wathen

 

Book Synopsis

Between the shadows of the human world, a war as old as time is being fought. Ageless pantheons scheme to obtain or keep control, provoked by the weight of human belief which has altered the realm of the divine.

An ancient prophecy speaks of a human woman who will alter the course of this divine war, a descendant of a Great House mired in misfortune and blood, whose history was shaped by the cruelty of the gods.

On a day as unremarkable as any other, Elena Vicens, a young woman living a seemingly ordinary life, receives a letter about a deposit box belonging to her mother, nineteen years after her mother’s death. When this letter sends her on a journey halfway across the world from New Orleans to Japan, Elena unknowingly comes into possession of a cursed inheritance. She is suddenly thrust into a world of myths and legends, where the intangible and the strange are the fabric of everyday life, and deathless gods vie for victory at any cost.

As allies converge to help Elena fulfill the prophecy, one of whom is struggling with his own inheritance, Elena must choose for herself the measure of her own destiny.

>>>The book includes a comprehensive appendix that can be accessed through the Table of Contents.

 

Excerpt

As the fractured light of dawn breached the threshold, two voices spoke in whispers in the fading dark.

“Are you going to coddle her the entire time?” hissed the female voice, the quality of her tone brittle and wispy, like the rustle of desiccated leaves. She was the Keres, the goddess of violent death, believed by humans to be three spirits but in truth was only one.

Death, her brother, sat across the room from her, holding a mortal woman in his arms. The woman writhed and twisted, struggling with the demons in her sleep. With careful hands, Death brushed the hair out of the woman’s face and then lifted his crimson gaze to his sister’s.

“Why do you care?” he asked.

“Because I do not want you to end up like Dionysus. She’s going to die just like the rest of them,” the Keres said.

“Up until a few decades ago, you were all certain the bloodline had died out. And yet here she is, the Heir of the House of Thebes.” The sarcasm was lost in the apathetic tone of his voice. Death brushed his fingers against the back of the mortal woman’s neck before continuing. “If I was a betting man, Keres, I would bet you were wrong again.”

“I am seldom wrong, Thanatos.”

“It is of no use to me when you are wrong at the most important times.”

The Keres hissed, and the shadows trembled in the dark. “I grow weary of this side of you. I have been asked to inquire as to your intent.”

“Isn’t it obvious, sister? I intend to bring her to Tartarus.”

The Keres laughed, the sound hollow like the rattle of bones. “Are you mad? It is forbidden.”

“It is the will of her father, and I intend to see it through. Tell my mother, we should not be long.”

With a baleful cry, the Keres was gone.

 

Author Bio and Links

Author. Attorney. New Orleanian. Lover of Cherry Ring Pops. Confirmed Japanophile. Dreamer. Sometimes Obsessive. Blunt to a Fault. Wishful-Thinker. Tea and Anime Compulsive. Diehard.

I live in New Orleans with my husband, two cats and a Japanese maple. 😉

In the beginning of 2011, I took a blind leap of faith to pursue what I loved most. The result of that journey is my debut novel, The Butterfly Crest. I am currently working on Book Two of the series, so please stay tuned. Feel free to follow me on FacebookTwitter  andPinterest. To receive exclusive updates on my latest news, sneak peeks and special promotions, sign up now on Eva’s List!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/evavanrellauthor

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Author Eva Vanrell

A Love Story, With A Heart Of Darkness

A Book Review of Addiction, by B.L. Pride

(Buy it here on Amazon. Find B.L. Pride on Goodreads.)

addiction

 

Young librarian Mila Laut was bored. Not even reeling over her messy break-up anymore (the dregs of which can’t seem to leave her alone), she pined for something…more, in life. Something exciting. Sad, soulful eyes, artfully tousled hair, and broad, chiseled shoulders fit the bill. Enter Adam Tichy.

Does a gorgeous man who hangs on your every word, as if you’re the most interesting person on the planet sound good? How about one who makes you feel like you’d do the craziest things for him, without hesitation? And if you sensed an uncontrollable urge to be with him, even admitting that there’s hardly anything you wouldn’t compromise in return for just one more electric, zinging touch of his skin? Wait…this is sounding less like love and more like a sickness, isn’t it? What’s the difference between love and addiction, anyway?

This novel explores that ageless question, and that’s part of the reason it’s much more than a simple romance. “Addiction” is a love story, and there is no shortage of steamy scenes between delectable Adam and heroine Mila. But be prepared for something darker. From the very first scenes, Mila senses something haunting about Adam and all that surrounds him—their curious first connection at a funeral; a strange, electric phenomenon when the two touch; pouring rain that hasn’t stopped since she first laid eyes on him. Mila continues to uncover clues that are obvious warning flags, like Adam’s frank declaration that there are secrets he simply will not reveal to her, for her own good. He even goes so far as to flatly state that he’s dangerous for her, alluding to terrible depths she couldn’t understand. Of course, Mila dives in anyway, and I sat on the sidelines cheering her on, turning page after page knowing I would’ve reacted the same.

The problem is, the reward of Adam seems far greater than any nameless threat he poses. We have only vague hints along the way of the actual nature of the danger, and his danger is almost as alluring as his beauty. Each little fact uncovered is mildly disturbing, more so as the novel progresses, but since the big reveal is incremental, we can handle it just as Mila can when it comes to brass tacks. And, rest assured, the big secret is revealed by the end (more dramatic than I had expected and with promising, far-reaching possibilities for future story segments), but by the time we arrive there with Mila, we have been well-prepared for anything strange. Adam’s world clicks into place almost comfortably—although in fact it may be lethal—and Mila whirls around belatedly, to see only in hindsight how far over her head she actually is. By that time, she’s hopelessly, irrevocably consumed in Adam’s story, no matter how deep he plans to take her. And it’s hard to blame her.

The prose flows easily and seductively, but a reader should know that English isn’t B.L. Pride’s first, or even second, language. “Addiction” has been translated into English from Slovene. You may find a language conversion blip here and there that goes with the territory, but actual mistakes or mistranslations are rare. You’re more likely to experience subtle differences in culture and what I like to think of as little European moments, which I personally love. I felt more connected to to Mila’s character and culture when, for example, I ran across a turn of phrase that wasn’t translated as something I was used to in English, but on reflection made perfect sense. Mila talks and thinks like a Slovenian woman, and I don’t need her watered down by too careful a translation into English.

Another of my favorite personal entries into the story is the emphasis on art as a way to see past the exterior and into the soul. Without giving too much away, when the characters face the inexplicable or unnamable, they use art to describe what can’t be put into words. Art taps into our carnal instincts—something we all understand on an abstract level and often have difficulty expressing. Adam doesn’t know how to describe his inner world so that Mila can understand, so he uses art. Mila gets a terrifying glimmer and pulls back, just as many people do when confronted with powerful artwork that’s a little too close to the edge. In speaking with one of the authors, I learned that art is always an important part of B.L. Pride’s work and that music in particular serves as the backdrop to much of the writing. I sincerely hope to see more of this in the rest of the series.

I’m hoping to see a lot more of everything in subsequent books, in fact. Though the big secret was revealed by the end of “Addiction”, I sense many more mysteries lie in wait. I think I’m as addicted to Adam Tichy as Mila is—I’ll be anxiously awaiting my next fix.

–Sarah Wathen