Tuesday, March 21, 2006

If Angels Burn by Sheila Viehl

I first read this book as a set of author proofs that Lynn Viehl distributed as part of a teaser contest. I found it hard to read from the proofs as a book and so felt I might have missed some of the story. Therefore, I didn't want to read Private Demon until I'd reread If Angels Burn. This is quite a statement for me because traditionally I cannot reread books within 10 years because I absorb the story so completely that even the details are fresh in my mind, making rereading a skim search for anything I might have missed the first time through. That wasn't the case here. I had no inclination to skim and was absorbed throughout even though I knew the answer to some of the jump out and get you surprises in the book already.

Having completed my re-read despite my normal inability to re-read, I can say a couple things about me and about the book. First, either reading in the proofs is not the way for me to read for fun, or I've lost my talent to absorb a book. Sadly, I think it's the second. On the other hand, though I don't really have time to reread books, at least now I'd have the opportunity if I wanted to.

Okay, enough about me. Once again, Sheila (in the form of Lynn Viehl) has managed to capture me and pull me into her world. I enjoyed reading this book not once but twice in rapid succession. That says something to me at least. There were points I had remembered that I enjoyed reading the second time and things I had forgotten or missed that I enjoyed for the first time. I'm thinking, "No man ever refuses a blowjob," will be sticking in my mind for some time to come. It's a good tip and a great scene :). The characters were strong and distinct, the gimmies interesting and plausible within the limits set, and the story itself was fun to read.

My quibbles are simple and did not harm my reading in the least bit. They dealt both with "writerly" things that I only notice upon analysis and "marketing" which really only affects what's written on the spine :).

I had wondered if my impression of the romantic elements would change from first read to second, but it did not. I would not consider this a romance, though I saw the draw between Alex and Michael better this time. It's hard to explain this without spoilers, but I think the unique circumstances took the place of a true connection between the two. Would they have been attracted under other circumstances and let the attraction develop? Well, because of the characters I'd have to say, "No," so maybe this was the only way. I still have a hard time equating what happened with romance though. Maybe that element is more of a minor one than I would expect of something marketed with that label. However, meander back to the previous review and you'll see my prejudice there. People have different tastes. You might find this the epitome of romantic love :). If not, then read it as a vampire story with a unique twist and I doubt you'll be disappointed.

My second quibble is a little difficult to articulate, and honestly just something that bothered me as a writer upon analysis rather than as a reader. This novel seemed more of an introduction than a self-contained story. That's not to say there weren't plot threads that start, climax and complete. There definitely were. My feeling is a little more subtle. It seemed almost as if those plot lines were designed to put the characters in the right place, rather than plots of their own. The main one runs from the very start and ends dramatically, but there were too many questions left hanging, hints of things unexplained. While normally I'd consider those a book 2 issue, because of how the thread resolved, I didn't get that sense. I don't think there will be much to clarify what was going on behind those events at all, but we'll have to see.

Anyway, don't let my quibbles discourage you. If Angels Burn is a good read and the characters will stick with you. Alex is classic Sheila with a mind of her own, skills she can use to benefit or harm, and a smart mouth she uses with great effect despite vampire mind controls. The story itself is a domino race with heavy blocks falling across attempts to escape the events that pile up to overwhelm. Me, I'll be pushing Private Demon up in the pile so I can find out what will happen next with this world and these people. If the primary goal of If Angels Burn was to set up a world of potential stories, it succeeded to a grand degree and those things that raised issues will not interfere with my enjoyment at all.

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