Return of the Mac: A Review of Burned


There have only been a few authors in my life that have left me almost not able to function until their next book comes out. That I read it as soon as I get my hands on it. In high school and part of college, that author was J.K. Rowling. Now, in my adult life, I have Karen Marie Moning.

It was actually my mom who discovered the Fever series seven or so years ago. I think back then there were already three or four books out, so I didn’t have long to wait until the next installment. (Now, the wait is longer, harder, but still totally worth it.) I was immediately sucked in to the seedy underbelly of Ms. Moning’s Dublin, where the Unseelie lurk and dark forces are at work to bring the walls between our world and the Fae’s down. I crushed on Jericho Barrons, a sexy, enigmatic antihero equal parts elegant and wild. And I loved the fever world’s kick ass heroine, MacKayla (Mac) Lane, who, over the series, transforms from a blonde, pink Southern girl without a care in the world to a fierce Unseelie fighter and a protector of Dublin, the city she’s grown to love even though it took her twin sister, Alina.

The first five Fever books are primarily from Mac’s point-of-view. Fans of the series know that the last book, Iced, was Dani “Mega” O’Malley’s time to shine, with some insight into Christian MacKeltar’s life as he made the agonizing transformation from sexy, Highlander druid to insatiable Unseelie Prince, as well as Kat’s POV and life with the sidhe-seers at the abbey. I feel like not too many people were thrilled with a book that was told mostly from Dani’s POV, and, although perhaps not my favorite in the series–I think that honor still goes to Shadowfever–I enjoyed Iced, and Dani’s story was definitely one that needed to be told.

In Burned, “Mac is back,” as it quotes on the front cover–and I think Ms. Moning’s got her groove back. The book was fun, sexy, packed with action and suspense, and I couldn’t put it down. Well, somehow I managed to for a few hours to get some shut-eye, but this morning I was right back reading, and I finished it within the day. Like I said, not many books have sucked me in quite like the Fever and Highlander series have. I devoured it, and when it was over I was in some sort of book haze/coma, wanting more but knowing that more probably won’t come for another year, maybe longer.

Ugh.

I’m not sure what to even say about this book–like Shadowfever, there are so many twists in it–and so many inklings of things to come–I’m not sure I can talk about it without accidentally giving something away. I can say, though, that it centers mostly around Mac and Dani’s relationship, which–if you’ve read the series–you know was tried when Mac found out Dani, of all people, was the one who killed her dear twin sister, Alina. (You find out even more about the circumstances surrounding this in Burned.) Mac and Jericho’s relationship, which was sort of wrapped up nicely enough at the end of Shadowfever (I will always remember the quote, “I will always be priya for this man.”), is also tested in this latest installment.

Although most of the story is told from Mac’s POV, we get glimpses of Barrons at the very beginning, the Unseelie king, Christian as he’s being tortured by the Crimson Hag, Kat as she struggles to maintain leadership of the sidhe-seers at the abbey, and even Lor. (I have to admit, out of all the POVs, I think I enjoyed Lor’s the least, although I guess he was kind of amusing. I just didn’t find it very convincing–it was a  little too much for me, although he and his budding love interest were sort of cute towards the end.) We also get glimpses of a new, ultra kick ass assassin, Jada–who, even though her dialogue is reminiscent of Seven of Nine’s in Star Trek: Voyager (everything is inefficient), she turns out to be oh so important. The transitions between the first (and third) person POVs works well for the book and, even though Ms. Moning conveniently labels each chapter with the character’s name, the styles are different enough that I think you’d be able to tell them apart, anyway–something I hope I can master.

There are also some very old friends in this book–namely, twins Drustan and Dageus MacKeltar from the Highlander series. They’re pivotal to the mission to save Christian from the clutches of the Crimson Hag. New troubles are also brewing in post-apocalyptic Dublin–problems even the Unseelie king may not be able to fix (and it’s questionable whether he even wants to). Although some issues leftover from Iced are resolved, and Mac comes to term with some demons from her past, there are still lots of loose ends at the end of Burned and a slight cliffhanger, which will leave you yearning for the next book.

This book got me right in the feels, and I know I won’t be able to shake it all week. I even called my mom to fangirl about it…which, in retrospect, was kind of mean because she won’t read it until I bring my copy home with me, lol. If you’re a fellow Moning Maniac, I know you will love Burned. If you haven’t read the Fever series–do it. Immediately. And the Highlander series, too–or at least the Immortal Highlander.

Sunday Showdown: Fever v. Iced


In case I haven’t made it clear on this blog, I am a huge Karen Marie Moning fanatic, and over my break I finally read her newest novel set in the Fever world, Iced. For tonight’s showdown, I thought I would do something similar to what I did for P. C. Cast’s two very different series, House of Night and Elphame’s Choice: I will give a small summary of both and then give a little more detail about what I liked and didn’t like about Iced. However, the Iced review does contain some Fever spoilers, so it is more geared towards those who have read Fever but have yet to read Iced. The Fever series is going to be a tought act to follow, so I will reserve judgment about which series wins until she’s finished Dani O’Malley’s tale (but so far, so good!)

1. The Fever series follows MacKayla Lane and her transformation from a Southern, carefree blonde bombshell into an ass-kicking sidhe-seer/Fae hunter. In book one (Darkfever), MacKayla departs for Ireland to investigate the murder of her twin sister Alina, who was studying abroad in Dublin, and her journey there (sorry for the cliché) drastically changes her life forever. She gets drawn into a world parallel to our own where the Seelie (light) and Unseelie (dark) Fae courts clash, and becomes the puppet of Jericho Barrons, the enigmatic owner of Barrons Books and Baubles, on his hunt for an ancient tome. And that’s just a brief summary of Darkfever -so much happens in this series that it’s impossible to cram it into one measly paragraph of one blog post. I wouldn’t want to ruin the many twists and surprises Moning has in store for her readers, anyway. I will add though that it’s an expert merging of genres: Fever starts out as a murder mystery until it sweeps the reader up into a world where Irish folklore is real while also incorporating urban fantasy and even science fiction elements. If you haven’t, I highly recommend the Fever series -it rises above formulaic genre fiction (not that there’s anything wrong with formula fiction).

OK, I need to stop myself before I get even further invested in this tangent and move on to:

2. Iced is the first book in Moning’s series dedicated to Dani “Mega” O’Malley, Mac’s volatile fourteen-year-old ex-bff. (If you haven’t read the Fever series yet, I recommend to stop reading this review. Now. OK -I warned you…)

It picks up right where  Shadowfever leaves off: the sidhe-seers have just trapped Cruce, the Unseelie Prince who has absorbed the Sinsar Dubh, beneath their abbey. The charismatic Scottish Highlander Christian MacKelter is undergoing a painstaking transformation to replace the fourth Unseelie prince. And Dani and Mac are on the outs ever since Mac found out that Dani was involved in her twin sister’s death. When Dani isn’t slaying Unseelie with the Sword of Light, you may find her spying on the “sidhe-sheep” at the abbey, hanging out with teenage genius Dancer in one of their many well-stocked hideouts around Dublin, ad avoiding Mac. Dani has also been avoiding Ryodan, the morally ambiguous owner of Chester’s club, ever since he offered her a job -but as we know, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid Ryodan. So in much the same way as Mac started out as Barrons’ Sinsar Dubh tracker in Darkfever, Dani becomes Ryodan’s helper in solving their own mystery: Why are parts of Dublin being mysteriously “iced,” and who is responsible? Is the perpetrator human? Fae? What do these places, if anything, have in common? Again, the mystery, urban fantasy and sci-fi genres merge in Iced.

I would say the most obvious difference between the Fever series and Iced is that Fever was the story of the events that led to the creation of this new world where the walls are down and human and Fae coexist; now, Moning is delving into this world more deeply. Her characters face the problems of living in a post-apocalyptic world (someone is hoarding all of the food that was left in the grocery stores) and encounter new mysteries and enemies, while still trying to keep Cruce confined below the abbey. The book is primarily told from Dani’s perspective, but Christian and the new leader of the sidhe-seers lend their POVs as well. I was worried that Dani’s narration would be entirely written in her accent and slang, which worked in Fever but might get annoying in an entire book, but it’s toned down and very readable. Her grammar is still atrocious (I guess because she’s young and missed out on school?) and some of the slang carries through. In these aspects Moning maintains Dani’s unique voice.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Dani is a very believable character, especially as the protagonist of Iced. It worked when she was simply Mac’s rather reckless sidekick, but I didn’t buy into the whole arrogant, self-absorbed preteen act as much in this book. It’s almost like Moning takes it a bit too far for it to be believable, even though Dani isn’t your average fourteen-year-old. Now that I’m reflecting on it, Dani may be a bit of a sociopath in the beginning (perhaps this is too strong of a diagnosis) since she doesn’t seem to feel remorse or think about how her actions affect other people. However, you can tell she starts to grow out of this, especially where Mac and Alina are concerned.

I also didn’t care for the fact that Ryodan and especially Christian, both adult men, seem to be infatuated with Dani. It’s a little something I like to call creepy. Saying that (sorry, I don’t have the book in front of me, so this is not a direct quote) they can see the incredible woman Dani will be one day does not make it okay. And anyway, it’s pretty clear that their fascination with her doesn’t stop there; there’s a scene when she’s in her underwear and both of them are, uh, clearly aroused. At one point Christian even says to Dani that he isn’t a pedophile, and she isn’t a child -except that she is. (Although Christian is turning into a lecherous Unseelie prince, so perhaps this is all part of his spiral into evil.) I am certainly not saying that I think the author condones pedophilia, just that it was a very controversial and, to repeat, creepy element in the book. (To add to the creepy, I’ve decided that Into the Night is Christian and Dani’s theme song, because everything should have an 80s theme song.) It also becomes clear (if not to Dani, at least to the reader) that Dancer has a thing for her as well, which is decidedly less creepy since he is seventeen.

Now, on Dancer (on Prancer, on Vixen…no, wait…): Dancer is becoming one of my favorite characters in this world. I love that Dani looks up to Dancer, who reminds me of a younger version of Big Bang’s Leonard if he were thrust into Dublin after the walls fell. As Dani narrates, Dancer doesn’t have any “superpowers” like her and Ryodan, but he’s survived the wall crash through his resourcefulness and “super brain.” Moning hints that Dancer has some secrets of his own, which I hope we will unravel as the series continues. As a scientist, it also makes me happy that Moning’s explanations of some of the science-y elements of the book are not totally off the mark. (I’m not proud of it, but I’ve become one of those people who ruins movies for other people when they are scientifically inaccurate. Which is like all the time.)

I also really enjoyed how Moning played with Jo’s character. In the Fever books Jo was supposed to be plain, maybe even borderline dowdy, but in Iced she starts working at Chester’s -Ryodan’s tactic for keeping Dani in line. If Dani screws up, she has to worry about Ryodan taking it out on Jo. Thus, Jo transforms from a plain Jane into a sexy waitress with “glitter between her boobs,” and it all seems kind of glamorous until you remember that she’s dressed up in what sounds like a Catholic school girl uniform catering to Chester’s seedy Unseelie patrons. One image I loved is when Jo watches Ryodan on the staircase nodding to whichever lucky gal he chooses to, um, make love to that night. (I know that Ryodan doesn’t “make love,” but I don’t really feel like using a certain verb today.) I kind of want Ryodan to nod at me, even though he’s not quite Jericho Barrons. In fact, I had a much more vivid image of Barrons in my mind than I have of Ryodan. He has some big shoes to fill.

And throughout the search for whatever is “icing” Dublin, Christian’s obsessing over Dani, Dani’s slaughtering of Unseelie and Ryodan’s nodding at attractive waitresses, Moning still interperses some very humorous moments. One part that had me laughing at loud was when Dani, Jo, Ryodan, Lor, etc. are arguing over Dani’s Ipod playlist. What a great moment Moning dreamed up: Humans and supernatural beings fighting over whether to listen to Linkin Park, Adele or Jimmy Hendrix (and at a point in which they have much bigger things to worry about.)

Finally, unlike some other reviews I’ve read, I didn’t really mind Dani being fourteen for this book, although I hope she grows up in the rest. Then Moning can pursue her relationship with Ryodan without it being so, again for lack of a better word, creepy. I’m sure Ryodan is going to turn out to be the Barrons to her Mac, so to speak. All in all, and despite parts of my above critique, I really enjoyed Iced. Dani’s storyline and the various subplots (I haven’t touched on all of them here) really drew me in; it was fast-paced and had a very creative premise.