Saturday, October 24, 2009

Review: Burning Alive by Shannon K. Butcher

Title: Burning Alive
Series: Sentinel Wars
Author: Shannon K. Butcher
Read copy: eBook
Published: March 5, 2009
Publisher: Onyx
ISBN: 1101044829
ISBN-13: 9781101044827

They are the Sentinels...

Three races descended from ancient guardians of mankind, each possessing unique abilities in their battle to protect humanity against their eternal foes—the Synestryn. Now, one warrior must fight his own desire if he is to discover the power that lies within his one true love?

Helen Day is haunted by visions of herself surrounded by flames, as a dark-haired man watches her burn. So when she sees the man of her nightmares staring at her from across a diner, she attempts to flee—but instead ends up in the man's arms. There, she awakens a force more powerful and enticing than she could ever imagine. For the man is actually Theronai warrior Drake, whose own pain is driven away by Helen's presence.

Together, they may become more than lovers—they may become a weapon of light that could tip the balance of the war and save Drake's people...

My rating:

The first in a new paranormal romance / borderline urban fantasy about the Theronai, an immortal Sentinel warrior race, protecting the humans from the demon race Synestryn.

These Theronai warriors are all huge, hunky brutes with tree tattoos that aren't really tattoos, but their life marks. When all the leaves fall off their soul dies and they become amoral killing machines. The only thing that can save them is finding that special woman. Sounds familiar? Well, give the hunks the inability to see color, fangs, and magical abilities and you get Christine Feehan's Carpathians.
But the Theronai aren't vampires, their fellow immortals the Sanguinar are (and also their healers), and they can't use magic.

They're actually walking and talking batteries, siphoning the energy from their surroundings and storing it inside them. Without an outlet, so they're in constant pain, which only speeds the "deleafing" process of their tree. Their only hope, as I said, is finding the perfect woman to work as their outlet, to take the excess energy and release it as a weapon. Oh, and apparently this woman could save more than one Theronai—if their powers are compatible all bets are off—but she always "bonds" with the guy who calls dibbs.

But since the last Theronai woman had been killed more than two hundred years, there is no hope for the poor hunky dudes.

Well, I guess Drake Asher was born under a very lucky star, because with only a few leaves left he finally found her. The woman who can take his pain away. The woman who draws him like a moth to a flame. The woman who is scared spitless of him. But he won't let something trivial like her vision of him watching her die (hence the scared spitless part) keep them apart. Now that he's found her, he's gonna keep her. No matter what it takes. Trickery, third-degree burns, guilt trips...Anything goes.

Boy is he in for a battle.

Interesting concept, though I couldn't shake the feeling of deja-vu. Mostly because of the rather conspicuous similarity with the Christine Feehan Dark Series (and those similarities include the heroine I wanted to slap around until she grew a spine) and the smaller similarity with Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series (the Theronai have similar "serfs" as the Dark-Hunters going back for generations that keep them safe yadda yadda yadda).

Okay, so I wanted to like this impulse buy of mine, and there were aspects of it that were pretty awesome. A sword-wielding hunk of a guy that's a perfect marshmallow inside (what's not to go ga-ga over with that?), the amazing action scenes, hot sex scenes, creepy demon creatures...Okay, so there was a lot to like in there.

The biggest problem was the world building. I'm usually not very happy with series starters, because there is too much world-building and not enough action. This one had, and I can't believe I'm actually saying this, a little too little world-building for the heap of information it smacked us with. There were tons of creatures with different abilities, two different Sentinel races currently living in a fragile truce, the history of how the Sentinels came to be and a "mythological" ancient race living behind closed doors in fear of the Synestryn and refusing to help the Theronai help them, the secrets the Gray Lady was keeping (though I have a pretty good idea what that was), the mysterious resurfacing of Theronai females (though they don't know it yet) etc.
Too much info, peeps. Way too much.

The other problem was the heroine. And what else is new? Sure, I could relate to the whole "I've been uprooted, my whole life is upside down and it's all this guy's fault" routine, but come on. Acting like a petulant child for almost the entire book ain't sexy (no matter what Drake thought, we all know which head men use for thinking!) and it ain't heroine-like. I didn't expect her to be kick-ass chick from page one, but I didn't expect her to act like a spoiled princess either.
And the whole "I'm gonna die, you'll watch me burn, I don't believe you care about be because you'll watch me burn" spiel that played on repeat and repeat and repeat at infinitum, instead of making me sympathetic to her plight, merely hurt my eyes with all the rolling they were subjected to.

Still, a pretty decent series starter, but change the heroine, save a couple of creatures for later perusal and it would've been a definite keeper.
I'm not sure I'll pursue this series any further. If Zach's story was next I could've been persuaded, though.

3-3 ½ stars


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