Oh my, it’s been a long journey through the Afterlife saga, and I’m glad it’s not over yet! Now I usually tend to give Stephanie Hudson five glowing stars as her talent to describe—be it characters, feelings, landscapes or even clothes—and the rich content with which she created this huge, incredible saga are unbelievably good, but I had to cut one star because I found myself doing what I never do—I scanned over the book and skipped entire paragraphs.
I know that Stephanie has a very unique writing style. Instead of following the usual story structure, she likes to linger on scenes that, let’s say, don’t push the story further but are just there for the reader’s satisfaction, like overly long declarations of love or stupid banter. Stephanie “warned” about that in her author’s introduction at the beginning of the book, but I still have to say she overdid it a little bit here. The first chapters confused me because there were so many flashbacks woven together chaotically that I didn’t know what was present, past, and future anymore. The first time something really interesting happens is after about 40% of the eBook which is way too late. For example, the IKEA scene was funny, but I don’t need an entire chapter. There were also a few repetitions that annoyed me like Keira’s constant arguing about why Draven was so mean to her in the beginning although she got the answer five times already...
But when the story finally got interesting, and an enemy came into play, it played out really well and as usual, I loved the ending (well, not really ending as Part 2 will be released soon). Will definitely read the next book—I’m part of this saga for too long now to back out which might have been Stephanie’s plan from the beginning after all 😊
So, this is what's coming next! The JAYLIOR series will get a little prequel set 7 years in the past and written from Chris' POV. This book is going to be a novelette which means it's shorter than a novella but longer than a short story (actually, I wanted to write a short story but as usual, it became longer than intended).
Writing this book was a big a challenge for me because I also wanted it to be a standalone, so people could read it without having read the Jaylior series first or to dive in right in the middle. This meant to introduce people into this fantasy world super quickly without repeating everything should they decide to read the main series. I hope I did a good job, but my editor praised me already, so I think I've got nothing to fear :)
Chris knew he was different. Just like Gina was. Except she was so much more…
He didn’t want to move to the Baltimore compound to start his training. He didn’t want to live with his kind. He didn’t need their help.
But he had no choice, not if he wanted to get his ability under control. He was a Fighter. His strength was growing every day, and if he didn’t learn to keep it in check, he could do some serious damage.
And Gina? She was a saint. An angel with the sweetest smile and the biggest heart. Whereas his power meant to destroy, hers was to revive. Whereas his hands were intended to inflict pain, hers were supposed to heal.
Chris thought he knew her race, knew what she was hiding behind these stunning pair of appion eyes. But he couldn’t have been more wrong…
Okay, I think it’s really not necessary to say that LJ Shen’s books are gorgeous to a fault. Each of them. I suppose it’s mostly because her writing style makes each thought so damn personal even if the sentences defy the laws of grammar most of the time. I’ve been obsessed with her work ever since diving into Vicious, Book1 in the Sinners of Saints series, and I’ll definitely read all of her future books.
BUT… Two things I need to complain about. First, this book isn’t really a sports romance. The only thing ‘sporty’ about it is the cover. In Vicious, Baron was also into football (or was it baseball? I can’t remember), and there were just as many ‘sport scenes’. Second – and I already mentioned this in my review for Midnight Blue – this book is basically the same as Vicious and Midnight Blue. As I already said, I love her writing style and her permanent sarcasm and her sense of humor, but all her books have the same storylines. A) The hero is always the epitome of a bad guy – cocky, arrogant and rich. B) The heroines all have the same characters (and funny hair colors like ‘purple’ or ‘strawberry’ – what’s wrong with plain old brown or blonde?). C) There’s always a guy who’s the third wheel (like Dean in Vicious or Mark in this book) who makes the hero realize what he really wants. So, the story enfolds always in the same way which gets a little old…
Also, I don’t need ten different descriptions about ‘Trish’ smoking like a chimney, I already got it the first time when she had ash in her hair (a little exaggerated?). And – I always have to laugh when that happens in books – who the hell doesn’t hear their boyfriend out when he tries to explain why he hugged another girl? I mean, it wasn’t as if Sage kissed Amber or made out with her. If you truly care about someone, you’ll give them an opportunity to explain, especially after something innocent like a hug. The same goes for the extended epilogue where she finds the lipstick. Really, the first thing she does is calling her mother and telling her Sage is cheating on her? And then he flies back all the way from Colorado? This is just a tactic to add drama, something LJ really doesn’t need. I hope she’ll cut it down a bit in her future books because I’d really like to read something new from her!
Another fantastic read by Annette Marie! I think Book#3 is even better than Book#2, but really, the entire series is absolutely gorgeous. Authors like Annette are the reason I still dive into the YA PNR books once and again while putting all the other contemporary romance books aside, because she’s one of the few who knows what a good story is made of. I love how each character has their own agenda, how you can empathize with their feelings, and how you can easily understand their trail of thought.
I also love the freaky relationship between Ash and Lyre – they are friends and enemies at the same time, but it’s more a bond of mutual trust and an understanding of what’s important. They go out of each other’s way all the time, but no matter what, they always meet again and help each other out. I also liked how Annette gives a little more insight into Ash’s character. After reading the Steel & Stone series (all 5 books plus the collection, of course) this was great additional information.
What Annette absolutely excels at are action and battle scenes. She has a talent for using always the right wording so the scene unfolds easily in front of your mental eye. The only thing I have to complain about a little is that she some battle scenes are way too long. Don’t misunderstand me – I love long books, and I love it when an author goes into detail, but after half an hour of reading about a fight, I tend to get a little restless, but this is just my personal opinion.
I’m glad the Spell Weaver series is not finished yet, and I can’t wait for the next book! Great work, Annette, as usual 😊
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