by Sharon Ashwood, fantasy (2011)
Signet, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-451-23195-6
This book is called Frostbound because a snowstorm has kept our favorite spooky town Fairview in a lockdown. Heaven knows why they have an election in such a weather, but there are more spooks than ever in Fairview because a vampire is running for election and promising to bring equality and what not to spooks everywhere. As you can imagine, this event also attracts a fair number of spook slayers as well as rogue spooks. With everyone locked in and feeling restless, the temporary spook sheriff Lore, the alpha of the local hellhounds, has his hands full alright.
Lore has his personal problems. He needs to take a mate soon, but his hormones are on fire only for the vampire staying at the same apartment block as he, Talia Rostova. And instead of taking her out for a date, he takes her in and handcuffs her to his bed because he catches her in the scene where her human cousin was violently murdered. What is happening to the good spooks of Fairview and will Lore ever get down with the heroine because he gets a severe case of frostbound where it hurts the most?
Reading this book, I have to wonder whether the author sincerely believes that vampires and other spooks exist, and somehow we humans are responsible for oppressing them. This is because the author inserts some very preachy and in-your-face "humans are bastards for treating spooks with fear and suspicion" ranting to a most distracting degree. Normally I'm all for human - and undead - rights, but in this case, the preaching is inserted in the most awkward places. Talia, for example, nearly kills her brother in a fit of hunger and stupidity, only to a few pages later rant and rave about how humans view all spooks with fear and suspicion without taking the trouble to know them better. Yes, that's such a convincing message, coming from Miss "I Tried To Snack On My Brother... Twice!" Rostova over here. I get the same message in a scene where the human medical staff do all they can to save a werewolf, while other spooks snarl and generally try to intimidate these humans instead of leaving the poor staff alone. Yes, humans really need to stop treating the spooks with fear and misgiving, even if the spooks, even the good ones, do nothing to actually earn the humans' trust. Mind you, Lore actually tries to protect his kind and hides him from the cops when that person is clearly the witness of a crime. And yet, the humans are the bad guys in this story because they are xenophobic? I don't know how Ms Ashwood expects to sell her pro-spook propaganda in such a context, because only the most self-loathing otherkin folks will swallow all this hypocritical claptrap.
Despite the presence of a dead body and a vaguely impending threat on vampires, Frostbound is bogged down by the fact that there is nothing interesting happening in the pages for a long time. I get plenty of spook propaganda, as I've mentioned early, which is just ridiculous. Equally ridiculous is how the heroine is constantly built up to be a tough gal when in truth she's a weak mess. I have nothing against weak mess asses if they aren't built up to be tough - which is what the author tries to do here with as much success as she has with trying to convince me that spooks need love too. Talia is dumb - we are talking about a vampire on the run from a powerful and evil vampire... who keeps using her real name and stays with her family members. When she tries to escape from Lore, she realizes that she can't do anything because she's left her IDs and everything else on the scene of crime... so she goes back to Lore. She refuses to drink refrigerated blood, so she goes to the hospital, where she gets overcome by hunger and tries to kill her brother. And then she launches into a "Love us, we are good people!" rant a few pages later. When the author finally allows Talia to do something, it's so obviously a concession to the long-suffering me and an excuse for secondary characters to praise Talia to Lore. As I've said, weak heroines are fine, but not when the author tries to unconvincingly sell them as tough babes.
Lore and Talia has a romance that is as believable as her tough babe status and the spook propoganda. On his part, the attraction seems to be more biological than anything else, and I personally don't subscribe to the theory that destiny-driven compulsion to insert Tab A into Slot B is genuinely romantic. As for Talia, the fact that she can be attracted to this man when she should be stressing over her cousin's murder as such only adds another point to her record of stupid behavior.
With all the main components of this story so fantastically unbelievable, the best way to enjoy the engaging narrative and the entertaining secondary characters of Frostbound is by somehow programming my brain to stop thinking and just go with the flow. Unfortunately, it's hard to do that when I feel like snapping at the main characters, especially Talia, to stuff it on the spook propaganda and to stop pretending that she is so tough. If I want to be beaten in the head about the virtues of everything non-human, I'd get Michael Fassbender to do the preaching, and even then, he'd better be naked and in bed with Charles Xavier before I will even begin to pay attention. Ultimately, Frostbound is just too much moron-bound.
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