Saturday, December 19, 2009

Review: The Phoenix Chronicles

The Phoenix Chronicles
Author: Lori Handeland
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks

I've read:
Any Given Doomsday
Doomsday Can Wait
Apocalypse Happens

Summary: Elizabeth Phoenix once used her unique skills as a psychic to help in the Milwaukee Police Department's fight against injustice. But when Liz's foster mother is found viciously murdered—and Liz is discovered unconscious at the scene—her only memory of the crime comes in the form of terrifying dreams...of creatures more horrific than anything Liz has seen in real life. What do these visions mean? And what in the world do they have to do with her former lover, Jimmy Sanducci?

The Phoenix Chronicles are gritty, dark, fast paced and thought provoking. I know many readers shy away from dark urban fantasy, and after you read my review you may well decide to skip this series. Lori Handeland deals with a lot of difficult themes in her fictional world. How far will a heroine go to save the world from evil? How much sacrifice can a person endure before snapping and going over the other side?

Elizabeth Phoenix has never had an easy life, but she's felt protected and loved by two people for a short time before it was snatched away. Afterwards she was able to pick up the pieces and build a life until even that is taken away from her. Liz is a strong, cynical character thrown into a life of darkness and evil. She has to make choices that no one should have to make. Sacrifice becomes a way of life for her.

The Phoenix Chronicles are a fast paced, but often difficult read. The thing is, some of the best books tackle subjects that make us uncomfortable: betrayal, violence, forgiveness and rape. Liz is constantly aware that her decisions could make a difference between stopping the Apocalypse or allowing it to happen.

Yes, there are difficult sexual scenes that will make some readers uncomfortable, including rape. The scenes are crucial to the plot though, and are not there just for shock value. For me, they are part of what makes Liz who she is, and are important to understanding her relationship with the other characters in the book. I normally try not to read reviews of a book before I review it, but I couldn't help but notice the reviews on Amazon for Any Given Doomsday. One reviewer claimed "rape is not romantic". I'm not sure this person actually read the book all the way through, or even that carefully. At NO point does the author even hint that those scenes were romantic. Readers of this review need to note that this series is NOT paranormal romance. It's dark, gritty urban fantasy that tackles difficult themes.

I really liked The Phoenix Chronicles and I'm looking forward to the fourth book in the series, Chaos Bites, which will be coming out in Spring, 2010. I recommend this series to fans of Vicki Pettersson, Jocelynn Drake, Jim Butcher, Sarah Douglass, or Jennifer Fallon.

In The Beginning is a short story that kicks off The Phoenix Chronicles series and it's free for download here.