Tina wrote this review for the RITA® Reader Challenge, and she had some issues with the plot description provided. The second review is from Laura Hunsaker. Two for one! This book finaled in the Strong Romantic Elements category.
Plot Summary: Janet Begay is a Stormwalker, capable of wielding the raw elemental power of nature, a power that threatens to overwhelm her. Only her lover, Mick, is able to calm the storm within her-even as their passion reaches unimaginable heights of ecstasy.
But when an Arizona police chief’s daughter is taken by a paranormal evil, they find themselves venturing where no human can survive-for only together can they overcome the greatest danger they’ve ever faced.
And here is Tina and Laura’s review:
First, I’d like to give a better synopsis than the rather misleading one on Amazon.com. Janet Begay is, indeed, a Stormwalker. She’s perfectly capable, most of the time, of wielding her storm magic without a problem, unless the storm is too big and/or she gathers up too much power. If that happens, she has to bleed some of the power off so that she doesn’t destroy everything and everyone around her. Mick is the one who taught her how to bleed it off, along with a number of other things about magic. The reason why “only [Mick] is able to calm the storm within her” is because he’s a dragon and can absorb a heck of a lot of raw power without it hurting him.
The thing is, at the beginning of the book, they’ve been apart for five years and she’s been controlling her power all on her own—so while the sex is nice and all, the implication that she’s some helpless damsel who might get overwhelmed by her powers without him there to “calm her” is inaccurate and rather condescending. Who wrote that? I doubt it was the author. Also, the mystery of the missing girl is pretty secondary, or even tertiary, and James could have easily left it out. The actual core plot of this book is that Janet is the daughter of a nice, average Navaho man and a (sorta) Hell goddess, who possessed someone else’s body to breed with a man from a magically-talented family in hopes of creating a child powerful enough to free her permanently from her prison Below.
Prophecy has it that only someone who possesses both Earth magic (Stormwalking) and Beneath magic (sorta-Hell-goddess stuff) can do that. Consequently, there are a lot of supernatural beings who are very interested in making sure that Janet doesn’t do that—and killing her is the best way to make sure. Meanwhile, her mother keeps sending out creatures to capture Janet and bring her to the doorway to her realm to try to force her daughter to open it and killing anyone that gets in the way. (You can see why the mystery was a bit of afterthought!)
Over all, I found the story enjoyable and, once I got into it, engrossing. Janet’s exactly the sort of heroine that I like – strong and smart, but not infallible. Mick is a tad autocratic, but he’s also super-hot and very protective of her. However, the power balance is very lopsided between the two of them. I appreciated that Janet refused to put up with that and walked away, despite loving him deeply. I also appreciated that these issues were actually dealt with and resolved.
However, there are some problems with the mechanics of the story. I didn’t like the backstory info-dump at the beginning. Authors often do this sort of thing in subsequent books in a series and I actually checked again to make sure that Stormwalker was the first book. It just felt awkward and I think there had to be a way to introduce Janet’s backstory and her history with the other characters a little more organically. Also, the secondary characters were fairly one-dimensional. I’m hoping these get fleshed out a little better if they are going to continue to show up in the series. (As for the Magic Mirror, I wouldn’t mind if that “character” just fell to the wayside.) That said, James has introduced something interesting and somewhat original into a fairly crowded field and I would give this book a solid B+.
[Edited to add: Since I originally wrote this, I’ve read the second book and the short story in the Hexed anthology. As I hoped, the secondary characters are more fleshed out in subsequent books. Unfortunately, the Mirror is still as annoying as ever.]
Here’s Laura’s review:
Okay, wow. This book is fantastic! I’m not a huge fan of Urban Fantasy, not by a long shot. I love Briggs’ Mercy Thompson and I love Moning’s Mac Lane. But most others, not so much. But this book? Fantastic. Jennifer Ashley/Allyson James is a great writer, she has written several of my favorite paranormal romances ever, and some studly Highlanders while she’s at it. And I will be waiting on bated breath until I can get my greedy little paws on Firewalker.
Janet Begay is a Stormwalker. She can harness the power of a storm. And she uses it mostly for protection. Unfortunately her mother is one pissed off goddess from Beneath who wants Janet to open the vortexes around Magellan, AZ and release the old gods and creatures. Janet has moved home to Magellan to both renovate a hotel, and help the police chief find his daughter who went missing while planning her wedding. The sheriff was her fiance and also a suspect. Janet does nothing but piss off Sheriff Nash Jones for some reason or other and he makes her life hell. Unfortunately so does her mother who keeps trying to possess women in order to get them impregnated…just like she did to Janet’s birth mother. However Janet isn’t so easy to manipulate, so her goddess-mother keeps trying for a new child, but her magic is too strong and it kills all the other women.
So bodies are showing up left and right, and Janet is being hunted by Nightwalkers, Skinwalkers, and the law. Meanwhile, her lover from 5 years ago, Mick, is back in the picture…the question is why? And why now? I won’t spoil what Mick is, but they call him a Firewalker. He, a friend named Jamison, and the trickster god Coyote are Janet’s only allies. (The prequel “A Little Night Magic” in Hot for the Holidays is about her friend Jamison (a cougar shifter) and he has a couple of cameos in this series).
I am soo hooked to this series, and I am so angry because the reason I don’t like UF is that there is never an ending. So now I have to read to find out what happens next. Well, good job Allyson James, since I am now addicted to your newest series.
Laura’s Grade: A