Where's Your Book Today?

That's what people always say to me at work, if I don't have a book or my PDA or my eBookwise Reader with me at lunch. I love to read and I guess it's obvious. So many books, so little time...and so much dust in my apartment.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

"Seraphim" by Shelby Reed

I'm cheating a little today. I've been reading Kelley Armstrong, and still can't figure out how to put my thoughts into words. So I'm recycling a review I posted to the eBookLove chat list last October.

Shelby Reed is one of my favorite eBook authors, and I'm hoping - if anyone actually ever discovers this blog and finds it useful - that I can turn a few new people on to an author who is very much worth reading!

Loved this book. Absolutely loved it. Interesting characters, incredible sexual tension, rich emotional depth, and a blockbuster battle between good and evil. I will read this book again. It got a 5 out of 5 on my very subjective scale.

Just had to get that out before I got started and lost some of y'all to my inability to be concise.

This book is listed as a "paranormal" on the Ellora's Cave website, with a S-ensuous rating. For those who aren't familiar with EC's rating system, this puts the book in a similar category as sensual mainstream romance (think Linda Howard, Susan Johnson, Dara Joy). In my own thinking, I see this as "an interesting and thought-provoking story with some great sexual tension/sex", as opposed to "great sex with a story built around it." So if your main goal is to rev up your engines and then find someone to help blow off the steam, save this book for another day. But if you're looking for a great good-vs.-evil paranormal story that will also set your blood boiling...oh, yeah, this is it. (It's up to you if you want to take a quick break after one or two of the scenes, but you'll definitely want to come back and finish the story if you do).

I can't summarize the plot any better than the blurb from the Ellora's Cave website, so I'm just going to copy it here.

When a masked group claiming to be warrior angels kidnaps Gia Rossi, she believes it's retaliation for her wealthy husband's shady dealings. Squired into a high-tech underground world by her strangely gentle captors and placed under the tutelage of Joachim, their handsome leader, she soon learns that among her lost childhood treasures is a medallion, which places the fate of the world in her hands. Gia's job is simple: locate the relic and lead the angels to it--and somehow, fight the forbidden attraction that fast develops between her and Joachim.

As commander of the angelic warriors, Joachim must protect Gia and, with her help, locate the sacred relics needed to conquer the demon Therides. But Joachim doesn't count on falling prey to sexual attraction when it comes to their beautiful, headstrong captive and soon another battle commences, one between consuming desire for his charge and a weighty sense of celestial duty. For if Joachim and Gia succumb to the fire smoldering between them, it could prove to be the end of both their worlds.

Yet danger makes forbidden passion all the sweeter...

There is so much emotional depth in this story. The main characters are wonderfully, richly, imperfectly human (the angels are said to have much the same emotional life of humans, except they don't feel fear, since that's an animal instinctual drive).

It made me laugh; it made me cry. I could feel Gia's terror when she was taken from her home, her dejection when she saw what her life was made up of, her eventual respect for the guardians she worked along side, her utter despair when she realized that Joachim would eventually have to leave her to return to his duty, and her determination to fight evil in that last, desperate battle with the demon.

And Joachim was so wonderfully noble and conflicted. Strong and weak at the same time as he struggled with the human nature he'd inherited with the body he was placed into. His innocence and wonder at what he was feeling was at times funny and sweet and others, well, it was an incredible turn-on if I must say so!

This is a story with a lot of build up of sexual tension, so when the Gia and Joachim finally kiss - WOWZA! It just...wow. I can't put it into words, but this one definitely has that "zing" factor. I want to talk more about the emotion in the sexuality in this book, but I'm not sure how to do it without giving away plot elements. So, I can only say this book reached me on many levels - not just arousal, not just romance...

I put off writing a review for weeks after I finished the book. My struggle has been with how to comment on the religious aspects of this story. I've finally given up trying to figure out how to say it "perfectly" and hope that I can make my point without managing to offend anyone.

I decided, when I bought this, I would read it as I would any paranormal or science fiction story...the entities described aren't real, the worldview is a creation of the author's fertile imagination, and so on. I chose to ignore that very specifically Christian voice in my ear that wanted to argue theology or the likelihood of an angel acting any given way.

If you come from a Christian background that believes the Bible is more than allegory and parables, you need to be able to treat the concepts in this book like you would science fiction or vampires and werewolves. If you can't, I'd suggest you pass this book by - you'd probably have a hard time with it.

The religion in this book sounds very "Judeo-Christian" in many - but definitely not all - ways. I don't pretend to be a religious scholar, but I believe most of the language (angelic rank names, for examples) are what I would call "Old Testament". So people from Jewish, Christian or Muslim backgrounds will probably have some level of familiarity with the concepts. There is some talk of heaven (and hell, I think).

But the book veers away from Judeo-Christian language with it's concept of "the Creator" (rather than specifically "God", "Jahweh", etc) and reincarnation (the book calls it "cycling"). In fact, this was one of those things that I found a bit confusing in this story. How can the two concepts co-exist? If reincarnation is everyone's future (and past), why is there a threat of eternal damnation or eternal reward? Can you eventually prove to be so good or evil that you finally get to end up in one or the other place? I couldn't tell if this was really an inconsistency in the story, or if it was just my inability to treat the concept like science fiction...so I chose to ignore my questions about this specific issue.

But to get back to the story, I had only a couple very minor...I don't even want to call them "complaints"...concerns?

I would have liked the angels to have been more sympathetic to Gia's emotions in the beginning. You want to think that beings who'd been guarding the world for as long as they had would have some expectation that humans would 1) not believe in angels immediately and 2) be scared out of their wits by being abducted. But Joachim does admit to Gia later in the story that they could have been more sympathetic...so it was addressed.

And, there were a few phrases, especially in the beginning, that some might say were nudging into the "purple-prose" category. I specifically remember "cerulean eyes" being used two or three times. I think Shelby uses richly descriptive language, but it's possible to take the description a little too far into the "eye-roll category". This really wasn't a big problem for me, but I did catch myself smirking at a phrase or two .

So, if you're still with me, if you like paranormal and richly emotional stories...go get this book! I think you'll be very glad you did.

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