Book Review: Roll the bones by Zoe E Whitten

By Salmaan Dewar Uncategorized Comments Off on Book Review: Roll the bones by Zoe E Whitten

It’s been a while but I’m back with a book review.

Roll the bones is book 3 in the “Peter the Wolf” series by Zoe E Whitten.

It follows the  story of  Peter the werewolf as he tries to free his sister who is held captive by a nasty harpy who is torturing her and  feeding off her pain.  The harpy tasks Peter with assassinating a vampire to obtain release of his captive sister..  A long the way there are twists and turns, plenty of carnage and fight scenes, some self discovery, some werewolf-on-werecat romance, witches and magic.  Theres  vampire FBI agents and casino owners and gay/bi characters.

Normally a hardcore epic fantasy and scifi man, this foray into the realm of urban fantasy was an amazing change.

I agreed to read and review this story for Zoe, who I know on twitter.  If you want to meet a nice, crazy, ranty, eye-opening tweep follow @Zoe_E_W.

Hope you enjoy the review.
Simon Dewar

Book Review:  Roll the bones by Zoe E Whitten

Formatting and Editing:

I read the EPUB version of this book on my Kobo Touch and it was one of the best formatted indie ebooks I’ve seen, which made it a joy to read. If every “indie” or “selfpub” book was formatted this well, they might not have the kind of reputation that they do.  As far as editing is concerned, I don’t recall there being any obvious spelling issues or outlandish grammar, Tara Frauendienst has done an excellent job editing the novel.

Pacing:

As far as pacing  goes, this book is a cracking read.  It zooms along at breakneck speed and the pages really turn quickly.  Hats off to Zoe.  While the book does hurtle through an amazing number of fight scenes, there is still time for character development and self discovery and you feel as though you get to understand a main character develops as the story goes along.  There are a few times where it felt as thuogh things might have moved TOO fast.  My reading background includes a large amount of epic fantasy where the “journey” is a big part of the story, but there was one point in the story where (it seemed to me that) Peter wasn’t in Las Vegas, and then he was.  The journey was explained in a couple of sentences which for an epic fantasy nut is almost blasphemous.

Characters:

Lets talk about the characters.  The main character, Peter is a bisexual werewolf who is a self-acknowledged sexual predator who molested his foster sister (in an earlier book), along the way he befriends and teams up with  Cassandra, a vampire-child, to kick ass and take names.   So… a main character who is basically a sex offender… that was a bit of a  headspin, I’ll tell ya.   What I can tell you though is that this behaviour may be.. understood ..if viewed  through the prism of actions that happened to Peter in earlier books (torture, sexual abuse).  Throughout the book Peter wrestles with his past actions and takes great care to go out of his way to treat Cassandra respectfully and considerately.  Peter’s male love interest shows up and there is some man-on-man flirting and sexual innuendo although they manage to keep a tight lid on it all for the sake of the kid in the group, Cassandra.  Cassandra herself is a pretty intelligent girl and a very witty character and shows herself to be quite a bad ass fighter, however she is also shown to be an eternal child (she’s an undead child, hello!!) and still in need of the stability of an adult in her life.  This is aspect of the novel and the iteraction between Peter and Cassandra is well written.

Some of the supporting characters I found to be a little bit weak.  i.e the 3rd tier characters like the vampire FBI agents.  They didn’t play a big enough role in the story for me to really care about them too much, especially because I hadn’t read any backstory they had with Peter in the earlier books.

So did I have issues with the characters? Ultimately, yes… some issue.  Peter obviously felt bad about being a “sexual predator” (his words) and clearly made every attempt to not be predatory around cassandra and to treat her respectfully and to provide the orphaned child stable adult friendship and companionship.   Unfortunately the self-discovery that lead Peter to these feelings of remorse etc, werent contained in  this book.  This may have been covered in previous books, I cant say as I’ve only read this novel.   As such, I ultimately found it hard to empathise with him because I hadn’t seen this process of repentance from the start.    The other thing that really irked me, which may nto have been so bad if I had read the previous 2 books, was the appearance of Peter’s gay lover towards the end of the novel.  For readers of the previous novel it may have tied off a plot line or given closure to the separation of two lovers etc, but for me it just didnt add much value to the plot of this book (when viewed as a standalone tale).   What I can say though is that Peter did feel like a real character to me.  Knowing what I know about sexual abuse and how children react to sexual abuse (I’m related to a child protection worker who tells me things), I dont find it far fetched at all that he would end up in a sexual encounter or a relationship with his foster sister.   While I havent discussed this aspect of Peter with Zoe, I suspect that Zoe has some understanding of sexual abuse and sexualisation of children and the effects that it can have on them and this is born out in her writing of Peter.  If so, she’s actually done an excellent job writing Peter.  If not, well.. thats just a freaky coincidence but she still managed to hit the nail on the head.  The downside is that most people dont know much about sexual abuse and simply won’t get it.  Even though the Peter that Zoe has written is ultimately a good representation of someone who has been sexually abused (sexually abused children often display sexualised behaviours or go on to have inappropriate sexual behaviours or form inappropriate sexual relationships) many readers will just think “omg the main character is a paedophile!”. They won’t understand the issues relating to sexual abuse and they wont expect a complex character like this to be a main character in an urban fantasy.  That is sad.

World Building:

The world building in this story wasnt bad.  Each scene that Zoe took me (the reader) to, was alive and I could could get a feeling of the ambience of all the locations.  I did have issue with the way some of the locations were presented to me as the reader.  For example, a scene might happen in, say, a casino.  I get the impression that for Zoe, the name of the casino isn’t relevant.  The decor of the casino,  isnt particularly relevant.  Descriptions of the clientele or security guards, isnt really relevant.   I get the impression that what was going on in Peter’s head and with Peter’s friends and enemies in the casino was relevant to Zoe.   This is totally fine I suppose,  it cuts the story down to the bare essential needed to advance the plot and it keeps things brief and humming along at a fast clip, but – as I mentinoed before – I’m an epic fantasy/scifi fan and a certain amount of description of surroundings and people seems almost mandatory.   Sure it might be unnecessary or cliched, but I’ve never found myself noticing its absence enough to miss it when reading a book until this one.   It made her description of a couple of goth fledgling vampires that Zoe described before a fight scene in the streets of Las Vegas particularly noticable.  Why? In comparison, in some scenes Zoe might mention a male or female vampire who attacks Peter and is summarily dispatched, but the mention of them is fleeting and you get no feel for who that particular assailant was.  They come across as particularly generic cannon fodder.   Again, not necessarily bad,  and I’ll explain why in the summary.

There were also some aspects of the world that I felt werent explained or I felt presumed prior knowledge.  An example would be that the story features white and black magic.  I don’t remember the difference ever really being explained in the story and I don’t know if I’m just dumb for not knowing the difference or whether it was explained in books 1 or 2.

Summary:

All in all, this wasn’t a bad book at all.  Not great. It wasn’t a literary masterpiece but I spent a day or two enjoying it  on my new Kobo.  The book was fast paced, plenty of action, interesting and diverse characters, particularly because it paints a character who isa messed up victim of sexual abuse who has made mistakes and is seeking to learn and not repeat them.   It’s refreshing to see characters of different sexualities who dont seem like totally tokenistic caricatures.  As mentioned I had some issues with certain aspects which may not phase most people and are probably artefacts of my own reading experience – these were mostly related to lack of description of characters, locations and travelling.

What I can say is that it honestly reminded me, in a round-about way, of the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer .. you know the one, with Sarah Michelle Geller?   It was fun, lots of bad guys got their asses kicked including cannon fodder types, it was fast paced, and the way Zoe moves the plot from scene to scene really did make me feel like I was watching a movie or a TV show.  Did it have the depth or complexity that I may be used to or might expect when I pick up the book, No, but that didnt really detract from it as much as I had first felt it would.  What I can say is that it intrigued me enough to think “Maybe I should try reading books one and two and see what they’re like!” and ultimately, if a book makes you think that, then it can’t be too bad a read.

If I had to give it a star rating (curse them!) I’d give it a 3.5/5 stars, with the lingering thought that if I’d read the previous books that 3.5 may have ended up being a 4.

 

 

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