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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

“Alphas: Origins” by Ilona Andrews (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order “Angels of DarknessHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE

INTRODUCTION: Angels of Darkness is a collection of four all-new novellas featuring tales of angels and guardians of both good & evil. Since the anthology features four masters of urban fantasy and paranormal romance—Ilona Andrews, Meljean Brook, Sharon Shinn and Nalini Singh—I thought it would be cool to do a multi-blog review with each blog covering a specific novella. So my thanks to Bastard Books and other crap, My words and pages, and The Qwillery for agreeing to participate in this multi blog review. Angels of Darkness will be split up and reviewed in the following order:

Angel’s Wolf” by Nalini Singh (Reviewed by My words and pages)

Alphas: Origins” by Ilona Andrews (Reviewed by Fantasy Book Critic)

Nocturne” by Sharon Shinn (Reviewed by The Qwillery)

Ascension” by Meljean Brook (Reviewed by Bastard Books and other crap)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Ilona Andrews is the pseudonym for the husband-and-wife writing team of Ilona Gordon & Andrew Gordon. Together, Andrew and Ilona are the co-authors of the New York Times bestselling Kate Daniels urban fantasy series and the romantic urban fantasy novels of The Edge.

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: Alphas: Origins introduces readers to a new world of people with shocking powers who live on the fringe of our society. It’s a place where telepaths wage vicious wars, where withers spread their wings of fire, and men wrench bones out of the bodies of their opponents with a single thought. It’s a place of darkness…

When a young woman is taken captive by a dangerous male, she is pulled against her will into a world hidden from humanity’s view, where those with superhuman powers fight a bloody civil war. Now she must make a choice: to submit and become a pawn or to take hold of her own destiny and fight for her survival against overwhelming odds.

FORMAT/INFO: Alphas: Origins is 123 pages long divided over eight chapters. Narration is third person omniscient via Karina Tucker & Lucas. Alphas: Origins has a self-contained plot and is possibly the start of a new gritty SF series. October 4, 2011 marks the North American Trade Paperback publication of Angels of Darkness via Berkley.

ANALYSIS: Alphas: Origins first came to my attention when a snippet was posted on Ilona Andrews’ blog under the title ALPHAS or Alpha Menz. The snippet gave a brief look at a violent world where a woman encounters monsters and then becomes a prisoner of one side of a war to help against the other. At the same time, this preview caused a stir among Ilona Andrews’ fans with readers either complaining about the darkness of the snippet compared to the authors’ other work, or loving the preview and wanting more. I was in the latter camp.

Originally, the snippet was supposed to have been part of the first book in a new series called Alphas. However, those plans were scrapped, and instead, the snippet was molded into a novella which will serve as a launchpad for the series. Alphas:Origins begins with Karina Tucker, a recent widower driving a school bus full of children for their field trip. Along the way, Karina will have to deal with headaches like children fighting, complaints about hunger and toilet issues, but nothing out of the ordinary. That is, until Karina and the children are accosted by a pair of strangers, setting them on a path where their nightmares and darkest imaginations are brought to life. From here, Karina is forced to do things which may endanger her sanity in order to save their lives, thus setting the stage for Alphas: Origins...

Because Alphas: Origins is a novella rather than a long form novel, the pacing is relentless with little time wasted on introducing the lead character and setting up the story & backdrop, while action sequences are nonstop and thrilling, highlighted by an exciting climax and twist. Personally, this was a major plus point for me as I was constantly flipping the pages to see what happenened next. Prose meanwhile, is good as it manages to project the protagonist’s sense of helplessness at her impossible situation, as well as capture the viciousness of the others.

Compared to the authors’ other books, there is hardly any humor in Alphas: Origins. Then again, the story doesn’t call for much. Instead, Alphas: Origins is supposed to be a dark and gritty tale, which was an absolute thrill for me to read in regards to the authors’ interpretation of the theme in Angels of Darkness. Plus, as a fan of Ilona Andrews’ previous work, it’s good to see the authors not resting on their laurels, while striving to give readers something different. Speaking of different, the setting in Alphas: Origins has more of a science fiction feel than urban fantasy—think slight overtones of Battlestar Gallactica—which allowed the authors to utilize their world-building skills in a different manner.

Negatively, the way the story ends is a bit abrupt, but considering the demands of the novella structure, it’s not a major issue. Then there’s the relationship between Karina and Lucas which might be a little difficult to digest for some, but that, along with the overall darkness and grittiness of Alphas: Origins, will largely depend on the reader’s personal tastes.

CONCLUSION: Alphas: Origins offers readers a glimpse at something different from Ilona Andrews. Something darker and more violent. A story that may turn off fans of the authors’ previous work, but will reward those who give the novella a chance. I for one was absolutely enthralled by Alphas: Origins and will be waiting with bated breath for the series to properly start so I can learn more about the world, its denizens and their war...

NOTE: To read Melissa’s review of “Angel’s Wolf” by Nalini Singh, please click HERE. Quill’s review of “Nocturne” by Sharon Shinn can be found HERE. Lastly, Bastard has posted his thoughts on Ascension” by Meljean Brook over HERE.


Melissa (My words and pages) said...

I think I like the sounds of this one. I need to get to reading the other stories in this book as they sound good. :) Thanks for this great chance and idea to participate. I really enjoyed it!

Mihir said...

Hi Melissa

Thanks for participating :) I'm going to be reading the other stories as well starting with Meljean Brook's piece. I remember you didn't quite enjoy your novella so hopefully the other stories will be better to compensate for it.

Naomi S said...

I got the book 'Angels of Darkness' because I love Nalini Singh. I just finished reading "Alphas:Origins" by Ilona Andrews was imediately hooked. I searched Andrews website for more info but found none. I will check out her other books while I am anxiously awaiting more books in this series. :)

Anonymous said...

I am in the middel of reading Alphas Origins and find it fascinating. I was hope to have stumbled upon an existing series that I could just round up all the existing books and read on. However, since this is the introduction to the series, I will wait with bated breathe for the next installment.


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