Welcome to another segment in our “A Dude Reads PNR” series, in which our delightful buddy Harry, from Temple Library Reviews joins us once a month to review paranormal romance from a dude’s perspective. Please give a warm welcome to Harry!
Harry: I’m the newest honorary addition to the Book Smugglers team [honest to God, I smuggle books home and then lie straight to my family’s face about it]. I get the chance to play here at their blog once a month and my small spot will be called ‘A Dude Reads PNR’. The idea came to be in December, when I posted my Sherilyn Kenyon review and people were interested to see the male POV about Paranormal Romance. The public demands, the attention whore (that’s me) begs, and the smugglers comply.
Author: Joely Sue Burkhart
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: June 14, 2010
Paperback: 271 pages
Standalone or series: I have perused the author’s website and not seen any indication that this is in a series. The book itself reads a standalone, so I will assume it’s such. If I am very wrong, please correct me.
Dr. Jaid Merritt doesn’t do digs. The last time she ventured into the jungle, someone died. Now she’s content to decipher Maya glyphs from pictures sent to her by her famous archaeologist father. But when he goes missing while trying to perform a ritual based on her translations of an ancient codex, Jaid must put aside her fears and travel to Guatemala to find him.
After misusing the Bloodgates to bring his twin brother back from the afterlife, the Maya priest known as Ruin was cursed by the gods to stand as the guardian for all time. He was unable to stop Dr. Charles Merritt from opening the gates, and now demons roam this world. The last thing he wants to do is hurt the beautiful woman who is somehow infused with his magic, but if she uses the codex to retrieve her father, Ruin must do his duty. And this time, he won’t fail. Even if it kills him. Again.
How did I get the book: The PDF review copy was sent to me by Ana, who received it by the publisher. All I can say is naughty, promiscuous PDF file; jumping from e-mail to e-mail.
Oh, kiddos. How I missed you. Did you miss me, too, while the YA month rampaged on and on and on for a… well, whole month? I am positive, when I assume that you waited for me, all starved and bothered for a long hack-‘n-slash review of yet another paranormal romance. Oh, evil you! Anyway [looks uncomfortable], I’m back and I’m happy to report that there will be no slashing, hacking or bemoaning an unentertaining read. No, The Bloodgate Guardian is above average.
The official summary, by the way, gives an accurate depiction of what goes on in the book. Reader, meet Jaid Merritt [the weird heroine naming tradition is alive and well], a professor, who doesn’t do digs. Sadly, it’s exactly what she has to do, when her father’s last message is a video, in which a ritual goes horribly wrong. Jaid travels to Guatemala to solve the mystery, but reality and fantasy do the Helen Keller together, leaving Jaid no longer sure what she can believe. It really doesn’t help, when you have a shape shifting immortal with a bright spot in the Mayan mythology and oh, the end of the world, now does it?
Contrary to my expectations I didn’t get porn, porn, porn. The Bloodgate Guardian has a plot, which the author follows and never sacrifices for the sake of the leads to hump each other. It’s surprisingly refreshing, that. Even so, I am torn on this. There are parts I extremely liked and others, while I saw were handled well enough would have liked to see extinct.
I love that Jaid is vulnerable. I love the fact that she is smart-ass, not kick-ass. She doesn’t do the whole super ninja vixen. No leather pants and favorite blades for this chick. She’s nerdy and the Un-Indiana Jones of the faculty. Brilliant characterization, right there. Pure gold. It makes Jaid stand out from all the other leading females in the genre. I also can honestly say that Jaid’s the strong woman urban fantasy and paranormal romance has been boasting with. She’s not sure she will win and she is mortified to venture, but she does. She falls down and picks herself up, because the situation demands it. That’s what I call bravery and perseverance.
What I’m not thrilled with is the weird name. I’m sure that it isn’t typical and within PNR and UF the tendency is to go with something unprecedented. This is done to ensure just how much of a snowflake the character is. In this case, there is a game with the mineral jade, which if I am correct was used by the Mayans. Not exactly sure.
The love interest is not the cookie-cutter Alpha Male. Ruin [yes, Ruin] has a story of his own, which is explored through his own POV. He’s a priest, not a warrior. Again not exactly how the genre rolls. He errs as we see at the beginning, allowing Dr. Merritt to perform the ritual and appearing too late to prevent it. His past, his sins and his redemption paired with Jaid’s own complicated and saddening past make for an emotionally laden novel.
BUT the dude is a shapeshifter. I’m not knowledgeable, so who knows, Mayans might as well have whatever passes for werewolves. Am I a fan? No, not really. After the world filled with girls, belonging to team Jacob, lycanthropy can go curl up in a corner, because it deserves a big time-out. Vampires should do the same. Just saying.
Kudos goes to Burkhart for the solid worldbuilding. It seems like Maya are the new couture of the paranormal world [with 2012 closing in], which I welcome. I get to explore a different set of beliefs and stories and after reading The Final Prophecy by Jessica Andersen the bar is set rather high. Burkhart does not disappoint and through Jaid’s passion for the Maya, it’s hard not to get rubbed the right way. Xixalba is one creepy kind of hell, the demons within even creepier, but it’s all very interesting. It’s also intriguing to see how the definition of hell shifts from culture to culture. The Mayan hell is nothing like Christianity’s hell.
I will end with personal pet peeves. What’s with the end of the world? Seriously, why must all couples save the world? Is this some kind of right of passage? You save the world together, so it means you are destined for each other? Mhm, beats couple counseling, I guess. ‘Honey, lets not fight. Remember how we saved the world that time way back.’ ‘Oh yeah, good times.’ I do not oppose the end of the world, but here [but not exclusively] this is used to speed the feelings between the characters. Nothing beats the adrenaline rush of ‘OMG, we will die’ and people want to feel the most, given the time they have left is really limited.
The end was too happy… There, I said it. Jaid’s father should have died, because he messed with powers he didn’t understand. His motifs were selfish. Therefore, his life the appropriate price. However, Jaid manages to save her father in order to solve her daddy issues and learn that she is loved and that her father is proud of her… Ruin, on the other hand, through Jaid’s help saves his brother’s soul and ends his curse. Release as a theme is very heavily accented upon and while love does release a person from his problems, but a happy conclusion to every plot line is not exactly my cup of tea. I follow the philosophy that while you may win the war, you will ultimately suffer wounds that may or may not heal. Here, I am left with the taste of wish fulfillment.
Verdict: Though not mind blowing, The Bloodgate Guardian is well written, evenly paced and told with passion. What I consider pet peeves might be someone else’s literary crack. This is the sentence, the jury is now dismissed.
Reading Next: Shade Fright by Sean Cummings
Thank you, Harry! You can read all of Harry’s reviews as our official PNR Dude HERE.