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Friday, March 27, 2009

“Red-Headed Stepchild” by Jaye Wells (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official Jaye Wells Website
Order “Red-Headed Stepchild
Read An Excerpt

AUTHOR INFORMATION: After several years as a magazine editor and freelance writer, Jaye Wells finally decided to leave the facts behind and make up her own reality. “Red-Headed Stepchild” is her first novel.

PLOT SUMMARY: In a world where being of mixed-blood is a major liability, Sabina doesn’t really fit in. And being an assassin—the only profession fit for an outcast—doesn’t help matters. But she’s never brought her work home. Until now.

Her latest mission is uncomfortably complex, and threatens the fragile peace between the vampire and mage races. As Sabina scrambles to figure out which side she’s on, she uncovers a tangled political web, some nasty facts about her family and some unexpected new talents. Any of these things could be worryingly life-changing, but together, they could be fatal…

FORMAT/INFO: Page count is 352 pages divided over thirty-one numbered chapters. Extras include an interview with author Jaye Wells and a preview of “The Mage In Black”, the second Sabina Kane novel. Narration is in the first-person present-tense via the main protagonist, Sabina. “Red-Headed Stepchild” concludes the book’s immediate plotlines, but is clearly a setup novel for an overarching series that will have at least two sequels. March 31, 2009 & April 2, 2009 marks the North American/UK Mass Market Paperback publication of “Red-Headed Stepchild” via
Orbit. Cover art provided by Craig White.

ANALYSIS: Jaye Wells' debut novel, “Red-Headed Stepchild”, is an urban fantasy/paranormal romance in the vein of Kim Harrison, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Lilith Saintcrow. Like the books by those authors, and countless others, “Red-Headed Stepchild” features a badass female protagonist, supernatural beings—in this case vampires, mages (mancies), demons and faeries—romance, humor, and many other traits that will be instantly familiar to fans of the subgenre.

For me personally, this familiarity to other urban fantasy was the book’s biggest problem as I just kept thinking that I had read all of this before, and several times at that. I also had issues with the humor which felt cliched or corny, especially the dialogue and the cat; illogical moments like a demon who has never been to our realm suddenly able to watch TV or use a credit card to order informercial products; Sabina and Giguhl acting more like teenagers instead of what I would expect a 53-year-old immortal assassin or a murderous demon would act like; and the tone of the book which is mostly lighthearted and playful, but then is offset by f-bombs, hot n’ heavy sexual tension, and melancholy scenes.

Fortunately, “Red-Headed Stepchild” has a lot going for the book in spite of the aforementioned issues like energetic writing, terrific pacing, and a story that features some interesting twists and drama. Most significantly, the author makes a valiant attempt to shake things up a bit which is best evident by her version of vampires. Basically, the vampires in “Red-Headed Stepchild” are descendants of Lilith and Cain and are distinguished by their red hair, the Mark of Cain. Unfortunately, as interesting as this biblical twist is, Jaye doesn’t do a very good job of explaining the characteristics (Why do they need to drink blood? How does sunlight affect them? Can they reproduce with humans? Etc.) of her vampires aside from their strange weakness to anything apple-related. Jaye also introduces mages who are supposedly bastard spawn of the goddess Hekate, the enmity between vampires & mages, the Caste of Nod and other interesting bits, but once again these ideas are accompanied by very little explanation.

CONCLUSION: Even though Jaye Wells’Red-Headed Stepchild” doesn’t really distinguish itself from other urban fantasy/paranormal romance novels—aside from the vampires—the book is fast-paced, charming and fun. Add it all up and “Red-Headed Stepchild” is a book that I expect will do quite well...


Donna said...

Thanks for the review. I've been eyeing this book, wondering what everyone would think about it. Looks like it will be worth the read. I was hoping so.

Thank you for the book reviews, they are so usefully in helping pick out books. You provide the just right amount of information - without giving away the book surprises. That is very much appreciated.

Jess (The Cozy Reader) said...

Great review. I have this on my TBR list. Sad to hear it's not too original but I do enjoy a good ass-kicking female. :)

Princess Allie said...

Thank you for the review. I'm kinda hesitant. I'm not a big fan of eye rolling humor in urban fantasy. Having read Amber Benson's novel I've been kinda scared of what has been comming out.

Jim said...

Very informative review.


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