ARC Review: The Last Rising (Curse of the Phoenix series #1), by Rachel Firasek
Still paying penance for a grave and unfortunate mistake made thousands of years ago, Ice is a phoenix who saves lives by sacrificing her own. With each save she makes, she must go through the torturous process of dying and being reborn, with only the hope that this next rising will be her last, and she’ll finally have been released from her sentence. When she meets Turner, she knows she can’t keep her usual emotional distance from him, and when he turns out to be her mark, she can’t sacrifice him just to end her own journey, so she endures… until fate sends her right back to him in her next rebirth. This story is a enjoyable and quick – worth taking a look at – but I probably wouldn’t keep it on my shelf long-term.
- Title: The Last Rising
- Series: Curse of the Phoenix – book #1
- Author: Rachel Firasek
- Prominent Characters: Ice, Turner, & Brodie
- Recommended reader age: 16+
- Sexual content level: light-to-moderate
This novel gave me a few flashbacks of Stargate: SG1. Ancient Egyptian queens and gods, mystical portals, rebirths and sacrifices… all very enticing elements to a geeky scifi chic who likes her fiction indulgent, inventive, and relatively predictable (i.e. no killing off major characters just for the shock value). The concept of this series, Curse of the Phoenix, is different than the typical vamp/shifter/faery PNR out there right now, and the idea of these women continually sacrificing themselves for their “marks” is fascinating and appealing. However, I was not overwhelmed by The Last Rising. Did I enjoy it? Yes; it was a good, quick read. Would I read it again? No, unfortunately, probably not… especially when there are so many other series out there that have gripped me from the very first page. Would I read the next book in the series? Sure, I’d give it a try. Some of my favorite series started out with a less-than-explosive introductory novel, and since I liked the concept and the writing was solid, I’d check out book #2. =)
Something niggled at me throughout the entire story, until I finally pinpointed it at the end. This book is tagged as “adult, fantasy, romance” but I wouldn’t classify it as “paranormal” romance. There is nothing paranormal about the heroine, Ice, other than the fact that she’s periodically reborn. When she’s on, she’s mortal. When she’s not on… well, I think part of her punishment is that she’s pretty much always on the job, trying to save unexpecting someones. Which means that she’s pretty much always mortal. No special powers, no remarkable abilities, nothing special to set her (and this story) apart from a standard modern romance. The beginning and the end of the book have some fantasy elements, but throughout the meat of it, it’s pretty typical… Girl meets guy. Guy turns on charm. Girl resists. Guy puts on the moves to overcome her womanly silliness since she obviously wants him as much as he wants her. Girl changes mind a few times, stringing guy along. Guy gets pissed and ratchets up the pursuit. Not a very impressive display of willpower or decisiveness from a 2,000 year old goddess. Speaking of…
The voice and behavior for some of the characters feels off. Take Ice, for example: in one scene, Turner is kissing her against the wall outside her elementary school classroom, and she pushes him away to tell him they “can’t”, then she giggles. Really? Giggles? A centuries-old queen of ancient Egypt? Ooookay. So, I made a note of that, then I thought “ok, you’re being a little harsh. Maybe she’s just letting herself feel more now and she’s finally learning her lesson enough to thaw and enjoy the life she has,” which is definitely a possibility and a good reason to be able to write off her character onconsistencies… until the next time Turner comes on to her. Ice oscillates between wanting him so badly she’s ready to claim him in front of other ogling women, to being determined to push him away for his own good, to being completely absorbed with his son as if he were her own. Her moods change faster than the Texas weather. Don’t like what you’ve got now? Wait five minutes – it’ll change.
And speaking of Texas, some of the slang in this novel really annoys me. I’m from Texas. I’ve spent my whole life here and I now live in the capital of the state. I have never, NEVER, known any man to refer to a woman as “filly”. If a man even looked like he was thinking of referring to me that way (even if I knew it was just in his head!), I’d be out of there so fast, he’d have whiplash. Ice also refers to him as “cowboy” several times even though he dresses in Armani suits, drives a Mercedes, and works in corporate acquisitions. Real cowboys generally don’t wear designer, and they rarely drive luxury cars. Sure, we have our share of wealthy ranchers who probably fit that bill, but not every man who has a southern accent is a cowboy. It’s a really cute nickname (if my guy was from Texas I might use it for him too) and it’s probably appropriate for lots of the men here, but it felt out of place with Turner. There’s just nothing rugged about him, other than his demandingly alpha nature (which makes for one very hot steamy scene!).
Another frustration about the story is Turner’s son, Brodie. Brodie has a bigger-than-life personality and is he most adorable kid I’ve read about in a long time. I’m not really a “kid” kind of gal, so I try to avoid stories that focus on them or use them as main characters. That said, Brodie stole the show for me. That little dude completely upstaged the two main characters! I don’t’ know if that’s because he was so incredibly well written and enjoyable or because Ice and Turner were lacking something essential. It’s almost as if Brodie is so charismatic because he was allowed to be himself in the story, where Ice and Turner needed to be manipulated to get them to the desired outcome.
I could also talk about my frustration with Osiris and his voice inconsistency and the lack of depth and believe-ability he seems to have as a character, but it’s starting to look like I’m just steamrolling over poor Ms. Firasek’s novel and didn’t really enjoy the story, when I did! Promises! *wink* Ok, I’m getting off the soapbox to give you some fun quotes before closing up this thesis of a review…
Patience is overrated…
“You need to learn some patience, ” he said.
“And you need to learn it’s not nice to leave a girl wanting. I ache. Help me.”
Who says kids shows can’t be fun for adults too?
When Brodie prepared to watch a third episode of spongy irritation under the sea, Ice searched for something sharp to gouge out her eyes.
Traffic signals, who needs ’em?
She stopped at a crosswalk and waited for the little lighted people to appear, signalling that it was okay to cross. As if she wasn’t smart enough to see a car before she stepped in front of it.
Aww, kids just say the darndest things…
“Dad, why were you kissing Ms. Nix?”
“None of your business, little man.”
“You kissed my teacher. Ms. Nix is a nice teacher, and you ate her face.”
If you liked The Last Rising of the Curse of the Phoenix series…
If you enjoyed The Last Rising for its easy flow and short feel, you may also enjoy the Argeneau Vampire series by Lynsay Sands. The Argeneau series starts with A Quick Bite, but I recommend skipping that first book and starting with #2 in the series, Love Bites. The characters in The Last Rising also have a similar feel to the Argeneau characters: instantly likeable and relatable, but generally not very deep or complicated.
Despite what you may think after reading my rant about the perceived voice and character inconsistencies, I actually did enjoy reading The Last Rising. Novellas are automatically at a disadvantage when it comes to character development, because they just have less page space to make it happen while still developing and moving the plot. I personally prefer more paranormal aspects to my reading material, but the concept for the story frame was interesting and I found the characters to be likeable even if I didn’t always agree with things they said and did. Ms. Firasek definitely does not suffer from bad grammar or editing mistakes, so I have absolutely no technical complaints about the book. She’s developed a warm, moving tale of love, loss, and reparations, and the ending was emotionally engaging enough to make me cry. See? Definitely “worth a look”. =)
|Rating: The Last Rising|
*Note: This book is only being released in electronic format at this time.
http://www.entangledpublishing.com/the-last-rising/ (Entangled Publishing’s website for the book)
http://www.rachelfirasek.com/ (Author Rachel Firasek’s website)
http://www.lynsaysands.net/ (The Argeneau Vampires series website)