Thursday, May 17, 2012

A hodgepodge of hotness



4 out of 5 stars

I met Sara King about four (or was it five?) years ago while I was participating on writing.com. I started reading the story she'd posted there entitled "Outer Bounds," or should I say part of a novel because it simply consisted of the first few chapters she'd been working on. I was immediately hooked, so much so that I almost cried when I reached the end of what she'd posted. When I discovered more about her, I was absolutely astonished that she hadn't been picked up by a big-time publisher, even with the help of a go-getter agent. After all, it only takes a brief glance at any of her works to see that this lady has an untamed imagination and an unstoppable talent.

That said, this book is one hot mess. Don't get me wrong, it was fun to read. (And rather spooky from my end: The heroine is 6'4" tall [if I'm remembering correctly] and complains about how men her height seem to have a genetic disposition to prefer women about a foot shorter than they, leaving her out in the cold and having to deal with the freaks who only like her because they can dress her up in leather and be their 'Amazon woman'. I'm 6'1" and have often complained about the same issue. Not to mention I've literally had people cling to the other side of a hallway I'm walking down, in fear, I guess, of me squishing them to death. I seriously thought about growling out "Fee, Fie, Fo, Fum" at them. But I digress...) Blaze's inner dialogue concerning her dating issues and other problems can be quite hilarious; the description of Jack facing the humiliation of his paralyzed legs is heart-wrenching; and the parts where the bad guys are being bad made my butt pucker with the utter 'badness' of the villains. However, the story, taken as a whole, is all over the place. You can tell King and company really tried with the editing (since she doesn't have access to a professional editor, she relied on the help of several friends and first readers), but the book desperately needs that professional polish and tightness. The so-called banter between Jack and Blaze often became infantile and drawn-out. Their continual arguments and insults, with the occasional "Um, I like you" inserted just to let the reader know that the two of them were engaged in some sexy banter designed to build up tension, failed as such because they just went on for too long. Even the sex scene, once the two finally worked their issues out and got together, went on way too long. They'd start getting hot and heavy, then they'd stop to talk right in the middle of the action, then get back to it. Frankly, it took all the heat out of it. The action jumps around, going from a near-fatal encounter in which either Blaze or Jack is unconscious and ready to die, to the description of Blaze or Jack or both going about their duties on the lodge grounds as if nothing had happened. Stuff gets built up and then we pause, then it starts up again and then we pause again, like going up a hill and down a hill and up a hill and down a hill, instead of a nice steady climb to the final scene: There's no real coherency. And once the climax is reached, the book continues on for another good while, describing how things get back to normal at the Sleeping Lady lodge, with Blaze and Jack turning it into a scare-fest for geeks and thrill-seekers. While that's all well and good (and personally, I like a bit of a wrap-up once the villain(s) has been taken care of and all personal issues between lovers have been cleared up), it just seems like a rather flat way to end the book. Coming down from the high of the climax is fine, but with this, we've come down and started to fall asleep once the book finally ends.

Basically what we've got here is a good set of bones that desperately needs the flesh rearranged to make it more appealing. After all, King has managed to combine the Alaskan Bush, wereverines, werewolves, a phoenix in human form, and other assorted supernatural and mythical beasties into one novel and, aside from a few bumps, makes it work. That's no small feat. Which is why, at the end of the day, I gave this book 4 stars. It may need some serious reworking to make it flow better, but I was still enthralled and entertained by what I read, enough to make me eager to start book two. And for anyone who's read enough of my reviews, you'll know that I am rarely eager (in fact, before now I'd say never eager) to read a second book in a series if the first book has as many editing errors as Alaskan Fire. There's a good story here if you're willing and have the patience to dig it out.

Read April 18-May 6, 2012
Originally reviewed on Goodreads May 8, 2012

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