The idea for a Powerpuff review started because recently Thea, me and Katie(babs) from Ramblings on Romance did our reviews of Shades of Dark and organized the publication for the same date. Realizing that each of us had a different take on the book , each adding their own flavors to the reviews and in the end all of the aspects of the book were thoroughly covered, we thought it would be a good idea to make the “triple” review a regular feature. And what else could we call ourselves instead of Powerpuff girls seeing that we are a kick-ass brunette (Thea AKA Buttercup), a bubbly blonde ( Ana, AKA Bubbles) and a fiery redhead (Katie, AKA Blossom)? So there you have it: our first review under our aliases and don’t forget to go to Blossom’s home to see what she has to say.
Title: Through the Veil
Author: Shiloh Walker
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Romance
Stand Alone/Series: At the moment it seems to be a stand alone but it has a lot of potential to become a series.
Summary: Lee Ross always knew she was not entirely human. But when the man who has plagued her dreams her entire life appears in the flesh, can she give up everything she knows to follow him to another realm?
Why did we read this book: We saw Meljean Brook’s review and decided to get it. Then we saw that Katie was reading it too and decided to push it to the top of the TBR list and voila.
Ana: There are books that inexplicably grab my attention from page 1 and won’t let me rest until I am done with them. Through the Veil is definitely one of those books. From the opening line “Her body ached” I was hooked and intrigued. When hero Kalen showed up, I was done and over with, there was no turning back then. I devoured this book, whenever I was not reading it, I was thinking of it. The world building is amazing, the sex scenes scorching hot and I became emotionally connected with the hero from the get go.
Thea: I’m torn. I found the premise was highly intriguing and on the one hand, I think Ms. Walker had some brilliant ideas–I loved the concept of the “Veil” and the parallel worlds. On the other hand, I felt that the writing stumbled at times, and this world never really worked for me. From the cover alone (and then the subsequent descriptions in the book), the feel for Through the Veil is more medieval or of the high fantasy variety, conjuring up images of Wizards and Magicians spinning magic–so imagine my surprise when there was suddenly talks of plasma rays and other advanced technology. The plot was riddled with inconsistencies, especially concerning the timeline of the planet and their ongoing war, and I could never get a fix on whether this book was trying to be more Mad Max in post-apocalyptic dystopian style, or Lord of the Rings fantasy. The world building never fully clicked as there was a huge disconnect between a great idea and poor delivery.
That said, however, I still found the book enjoyable, if somewhat predictable.
On the plot Lee wakes up every morning with bruises all over her body and no idea where she’s got them. She knows she dreams about a world full of blood, monsters and people she doesn’t know, but the memories fade away as soon as she wakes up. Lee fears the night, fears the dreams and thinks she is going insane. But at the same time she craves them because the dreams bring HIM to her – a mysterious warrior with silver eyes that calls to her and whose memory brings ache to heart, even if she believes he is not real.
But he is. His name is Kalen and he is the leader of the fading world of Ishtan , a realm located beyond Earth and one which Lee has been visiting in her dreams since she was a child, when she first met Kalen and helped him escape his captors.
Ishtan is a dying world: once a beautiful land with developed technology, today grey, sad and gritty. For years now, Ishtan has been raided by the Warlords of Anqar, a dimension overrun by demons. Warlords are powerful beings and the only ones that can open gates in the Veil which they use to raid Ishtan in search for females of magical blood for breeding. Talented females in Anqar are a high prize and commodity since it is very rare that a Warlord has a female child.
By opening a gate for a raid though, it also opens it for all sorts of demons and creatures to travel through it to Ishtan. With the raids happening more regularly, the people of Ishtan now live for defending themselves and trying to stay alive. Kalen is doing his best to protect everybody and he feels in his gut that Lee is of utmost importance – once in Ishtan Lee is a very powerful witch-warrior and they have been fighting together against the invaders for years. But every times Lee comes to Ishtan in her dreams she doesn’t seem to be really there. She fights, she kicks ass, she leaves. Leaving the people of Ishtan behind without their champion and Kalen without the woman he has come to love and need beyond measure.
One day he decides he has had enough and cuts her arm with a knife. It is a painful choice for him but one that he does not regret because they need her help so much. Lee wakes up in her world and this time, the wound will not heal and she is forced to face the truth – and somehow she manages to see thought the veil that separates the dimensions and ends up going through to Ishtan in broad daylight for the first time, now fully conscious of being there but without any real memories of fighting or of her powers.
Now, she must catch up, learn everything over again as soon as possible because the clock is ticking towards a final raid whilst fighting the growing sensation that she is going mad. And of course, finally be together with the man of her dreams, literally.
Ana : I loved the plot of this book. I loved how it began with Lee still in our dimension; lost in a world she really didn’t belong to, lost in her nightmares and awash with fears that she was going mad. I loved how there was a back and forth between Lee and Kalen at this point where we are introduced to the grittiness that was Ishtan and how Kalen was torn inside from seeing his world and his people falling apart.
There was indeed a medieval feel to the book even though the people of Ishtan had once been an extremely developed society with advanced technology. I thought the explanation for the decay of such technology was believable and well played within the story as was the main conflict between Ishtan and Anqar. This is one of the points where the book won me over – the world building around both dimensions and a very reasonable explanation for everything that happened. The fact that the villains were capable of logical thinking and plotting was riveting and there were many twists and turns and uncertainty about who was ally and who was villain.
Furthermore, I just loved the romance. I felt deeply connected with the two main characters and I was rooting for them – I did feel they had been waiting and longing for each other FOREVER, specially Kalen.
I don’t usually mention the sex scenes but I feel like I must this time. They were on the side of the VERY graphic scorching hot that may bother some people. Also they tended to happen at inappropriate times and places BUT they worked within the context of the story. It was believable that Kalen would want to jump her like there was no tomorrow (a very high possibility) not only because he had been waiting for YEARS but also as a celebration of life in such a grey world. It also worked that even though it was as aforementioned, graphic and very very hot (have to repeat that, sorry) it was full of emotion – it was at the sex scenes that Kalen spoke to her of how much he needed her, how long he had been waiting for her and more often than not, they intertwined their fingers which added such sweetness to it.
Thea: The plot had some big ol’ holes, and these detracted from my overall reading experience. My biggest problem was with Ms. Walker’s world building–Ishtan was schizophrenic, as a post-apocalyptic futuristic wasteland at some times, but then a sword and sorcery fantasy land at others. The combination is a compelling idea, and is highly original, but it never quite felt real to me. For the majority of the story, Ishtan is described in the rudimentary medieval sense–everyone is very dirty, there aren’t enough clothes to go around, even the appearances of the characters (clothed in breeches and shifts, with long braided hair held up by leather ties) speak to this sort of medieval fantasy. And then, in her thoughts Lee will mention using the private shower in the room she’s staying in, and I was completely thrown. The contrast between the basic, fantasy world setting and then mentions of plasma tasers in the next breath (or medkits, or so-gen run wyrm killing machines) was confusing. Not to mention, when I tried to piece together the history of Ishtan and reconcile the setting with the stories told by the different characters, there were some serious continuity problems. For example, the character Kalen remarks that he remembers how things used to be in the past, with the land being plentiful and technology fully functioning–however, in another section the wars will be described as going on for many countless years (not just mere decades, and certainly not just for the thirty or so years of Kalen’s lifespan), and the fall of the cities and complete destruction of the planet’s ecosystem must have taken much longer than what Kalen suggests. The reminiscing over lost technology therefore doesn’t make sense from these younger characters–the complete destruction of their cities, ALL their technological knowledge, the atmosphere of Ishtan seems like it should have taken much longer than a two or three decades. Needless to say, it bugged me.
So far as the overall general plot goes, I felt that it was fine, but the usual reheated all-powerful young character that does not know their power, but gradually comes to accept it and thereby saves the land. Any ‘twists’ to this plot (who exactly Lee is and what her forgotten/unknown history is and the key to her powers) I had figured out pretty much from the get-go. Not that this is a bad plot line, it’s just predictable. However, had the setting and world building worked, I probably would not have minded the more mundane aspects to the plot.
I should mention, however, that I found the idea of the “Veil” to be fascinating. That only a certain few could perceive the veil and see beyond it to the other world(s) was an intriguing plot seed, and was well developed throughout the book.
On the characters:
Ana: I will start with the character I loved the most: Kalen. I could feel his emotions, his struggle, his utmost despair at the things his world was dealing with, his pain at losing people, pain at seeing his world falling apart. He was a leader that deeply cared, a strong man relentlessly fighting to save everyone. I felt his love and longing for Lee from the get go and enjoyed very much seeing him getting the woman he always wanted.
I started out admiring Lee and completely understood her reactions in the beginning : her denial, her despair. Her inner dialogue full of self-deprecation and self doubt and wondering if she was going crazy were funny and amusing (I could totally relate to her craving for some real coffee) and quite in tune with what was going on, but after a while it got tiresome. Very much so. How many times can one person deny everything that was going on around her? Her reactions to some things that happened were completely off and there were points I wished I could have shaken her. But alas, fictional character and all that jazz.
As for the secondary characters: I loved the villains. So very often villains tend to be caricatures of villainy but in Through the Veil they were quite interesting. There was a reason behind their raids and it was all about survival. There were also factions within the Warlords and Char, the nephew of the High Lord, was conniving and intelligent man capable of a rationale behind kidnapping women and keeping them against their will that was truly sensible where he was coming from. (It didn’t make it any better for the females of course). But there was no blind hate coming from him and I thought that very interesting. Granted, some of his inner dialogue was a bit repetitive and could have been tweaked a bit but still.
There are also two characters on the villains side that we never get to see, who are mentioned en passant and which I feel will have an important part to play later on , if there is a later on. I wish we could have seen them in this book though.
Another character I was intrigued by and truly want to read more about was Morne, one of the healers of Ishtan and also a kick-ass warrior. He has a mysterious persona and uncertain reasons to be lingering around Lee but all becomes clear in the end and I just wish Shiloh would write about him.
Thea: I found myself somewhat nonplussed with certain characters as well. I found the heroine, Lee aka Lelia, gratingly annoying at times. Initially, her shock and disbelief at being in a new world so far from her old comfortable existence is entirely believable, and her short temper with everyone around her is completely justified. One scene in particular that stood out as genuine was after a long day’s work in camp, and Lee looks down at her ragged fingernails–and she completely loses it and collapses in tears. Writing these super!powerful!one-who-shall-save-us-all! characters is a tricky, fine line. I understand Ms. Walker’s attempts to make Lee more tangible as a character by having her be irritable and cranky, avoiding the dreaded Mary Sue territory–but by that token, there’s only so much whining and disbelief one can put up with. Two-thirds through the book and Lee STILL does not listen to the calm, strong voice in her head and still thinks that everything is just a crazy dream…meh, it’s a bit much for me. Her weirdo behavior and decision-making (i.e. when Kalen is angered she’s having some freaky-deaky heartbeat matching session with another dude) comes across as plain old annoying. I wasn’t into Lee at all.
Then, there’s the Hero character, Kalen. By all accounts, Kalen is your typical brawny dream man (literally!). He’s beautiful, he’s madly in love (and lust) with Lee–in fact so much in lust that upon first meeting Lee in Ishtan, in the middle of the dangerous battlefield type area they start getting down and dirty. Hmm. And then when the enemy comes along while the two characters are mid-deed, who’s surprised? Snark aside, I liked Kalen, and he was a relatable character that showed compassion for his people, and for his lady love, Lee. But, besides Lee saving his life as a child, and Lee’s gorgeous bod, the chemistry between the two characters seemed focused on sex, but little else. While the sex is great and there are an abundance of steamy scenes, I felt like something was lacking between the two characters.
So far as the villains go, they worked just fine. I actually found the Warlords of Anqar to be far more interesting than Ishtan itself! I liked the storyline focused on the aging, crazed King and his plotting, quietly biding nephew, Char. I liked the depth of character given to Char, who ultimately was doing what he felt was right, and was acting out of a sort of possessive love, not just an evil villain.
Besides these characters, the one that stood out the most to me was the elderly witch, Eira. Of all the characters in this book, she had the most life and snap to her–training the stubbornly closed off Lee, soothing and stomping out any uncertainty on the part of Kalen, and in general just being a tough-as-nails old lady.
Final Observations, Recommendations and Rating
Ana : I loved the hero, Kalen. I though the world building was verisimilar with a very believable conflict between heroes and villains. – the plot flew quite well both in relation to the ongoing conflict between the two worlds and to the romance . The sex was scorching hot. The heroine was a bit meh for me when taken out of the romantic context but the rest just stroke the right notes with me and I truly hope Shiloh Walker will carry writing about Ishtan, hopefully about Morne (I wonder if we have met his heroine, I think so.) Highly recommended. This was a winner to me.
Thea: I think that Through the Veil had a lot of potential, but failed to really deliver on the promise of its interesting premise. The characters were ok (I found the secondary cast to be more compelling than the starting lineup), but the world building and plot had a lot of problems that make it hard for me to really like this book. I think Through the Veil does have some wonderful moments, and the ideas are interesting enough that I would recommend the book, but only with the above caveats in mind. I think readers of C.L. Wilson’s Tairen Soul books will find Through the Veil familiar and enjoyable territory.
Ana: I loved the fight scenes, the grittiness of the world. The climax of the story was amazing too, but I can not quote that because it would be a spoiler. So I will chose to quote from the romance aspect of the book. There is this one scene where Lee finally breaks down into tears at all that is happening to her. Kalen is holding her and the close proximity to the woman he loves and lusts for is driving him bananas. He finally musters the courage to pull away, because he thinks it is not the right time for them to have sex but then…
“She smiled. When God made women, He shouldn’t have given them the ability to smile like that. It was like glimpsing both heaven and hell. That kind of smile held the promise of paradise and the threat of hell because when a woman smiled like that, it meant she knew. She knew she was driving a man insane, and she could either put her soft hands and mouth on him, put him out of his misery, or she could pull away and leave him suffering.”
Thea: I found the scenes with Lee and Elia, especially later in the book, to be very touching and significant. I really liked seeing the relationship between the two women shift from Lee being a whiny sullen brat, to understanding the older woman and feeling calm in her company.
Ana: a very solidy end of scale of 7. Only the qualms I had with the heroine and with some of the Villain’s speech keep this from being an 8.
Thea: 6 Good, Recommend with Reservations. The book isn’t bad, it just left me kinda lukewarm. I do think fantasy-romance readers that are fans of books like Lady of Light and Shadow will enjoy this one, and should give it a shot.
Reading next: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore