I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: A Call of Crows #2
on March 29, 2016
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
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A risk worth taking…
No one would ever accuse Jace Berisha of having an easy life—considering her husband…you know…killed her. But that was then! Now she fights for mighty Viking gods with the spectacular and vicious Crows.
But things are turning very bad, very quickly because a vengeful, ancient goddess has come into the world with just one thing on her mind—ending it. And the only way they can hope to stop her is if the Crows join forces with their one-time enemies, the Protectors. A Viking Clan created to do nothing but kill every Crow they see.
Thankfully, Protector Ski Eriksen is a peace loving kind of guy. Because the woman he is desperately trying to get close to is the beautiful and not-very-chatty Jace. Battling Nordic clans? Unkillable goddesses? Jace’s mean-spirited dog? None of these things would ever get in the way of a true Viking!
I’ve been a casual Shelly Laurenston fan for a few years now—when I say “casual,” I mean not quite on the auto-purchase level, but the kind where if I see a new book by the author, I’m much more likely to buy it so long as I have the funds. But let me tell you, this new read has me bumping up my fan factor levels for her. The Undoing is book 2 in the author’s new urban fantasy series, A Call of Crows, which began with The Unleashing, a release I missed out on (though not for long!). Still, The Undoing works perfectly fine as a standalone, and I’ll just put it out there: it’s a whopping good read!
To start with, the series follows a group of ladies known as Crows; at the moment of their deaths, the Viking goddess Skuld offered them a Second Life and supernatural powers in exchange for their services in helping to stave off Ragnarok (AKA the end of the world). They aren’t made immortal, but they become much, much harder to kill. Of course, they aren’t the only group given this task; other Viking gods and other pantheons have contracted humans into their service and given them powers for the same purpose.
Laurenston’s world-building as far as this series goes is complex and filled with blood, booze, and violence. In other words, it’s exactly the kind of world a skilled fantasy author with a sense of fun would build around modern iterations of Viking mythology. And the entire novel is doused with the Laurenston touch, that trademark sense of humor that has you laughing out loud no matter how vicious the villain or dire the situation.
If you’re familiar with the author’s shifter books, it should be noted that the level of humor is a little less in your face in some ways, but also trippier. If you’re a movie fan and you think of her shifter books as Austin Powers with shapeshifters, think of this as Spy (you know, the movie starring Melissa McCarthy). I mean, you have to hand it to Laurenston; the hero is a Protector, and one of the skills given to these men is the ability to turn their heads around like owls, while the heroine, a Crow, has been made a berserker and imbued with the power to wreak some majorly violent havoc, but she lives with her sister-Crows in something that’s almost a college-style sorority house. And the group behaves a lot like a TV or movie sorority too—maybe not Legally Blonde levels, but definitely up to Pitch Perfect‘s weight.
But, moving on, I just loved, loved, loved both the main characters in this novel.
Jace is incredibly introverted (and I like that Laurenston makes it a point to show that this is different from shyness), but she’s a berserker and a crow, which means her rage is backed up by greater-than-human strength. She’s basically a winged, non-green Incredible Hulk in goth gear, and this adds a wonderful sense of contrast to her everyday personality as well as the way people treat her and react to her. Another bit of contrast is the way she hates interacting with people, but has mad linguistic skills (I lost track of the number of languages and dialects she had mastered or was in the process of learning). Apart from these wonderful shades of color is underlying trauma; her childhood and early adulthood was completely messed up. Yet what’s great about her is she doesn’t let that keep her from embracing her new life as a Crow, learning to trust her sisters, finding true friendship among them, and grabbing onto love with both hands.
Ski, on the other hand, is as mentioned a Protector in service to the Viking god of justice and warriors; Tyr imbued his followers with supernatural gifts inspired by owls. Anyway, Ski’s brother-Protectors are able to kick ass on missions, but are as a whole obsessively bookish, and while Ski’s got a great mind, he isn’t quite as myopic in his attitude as his brothers, and he keeps the world from crumbling around them as they get lost in books. I enjoy the many shades of color his character wears; he’s easygoing and even-tempered, but his fierce in his loyalty to those he cares about. His amiable public personality may make people overlook the thoughtful, compassionate side of him, but I just love how he really makes an effort to understand Jace, to speak her language (metaphorically), and respect her boundaries. Basically? He’s got this alpha-beta hybrid thing going on that is just totally cute and he is also absolutely smitten with her.
This urban fantasy romance is quintessential Laurenston, which is to say that it’s sweet and funny with all that romcom goodness, with a heap of murder and mayhem and rollicking save-the-world-from-the-apocalypse action tossed in. And when this couple comes together, you feel that Viking style-sex needs to be a well-documented phenomenon. I read The Undoing in one sitting, and had I not been at the beach with poor connectivity at the time, I would’ve insta-bought The Unleashing too immediately after finishing it. Barring that, I read this book twice in as many days, and on my way back from my vacation, I made sure to buy book 1 and queue it up on my reading list. So to make a long story short, this book deserves all the stars I’ve given it and is a perfect read for you if you like watching heroes put the world back together when it threatens to fall apart and you like chuckling the entire way to happily ever after—or at least, happy until the next book, which promises to be just as action-packed and fun.
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