Realms of Fantasy

Shayne Carmichael & Mychael Black
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Created to be equal, yet divided by the Fall.
Hunter and the Prey
When is it in the best interests of an angel to run like hell? Lev is about to finds out when he tries to destroy Alael, a demon from the Order of Blood.
Angels of Blood
The Order of Chaos sends Adon on a mission to exterminate Irael, a rogue angel who has set himself up as a god on the ninth world of the universe. But Adon has his own agenda, and the chaos that follows could very well destroy them both.

Unholy Need
As an angel of the Lower Order of Creation, Nichael’s mission is to stop a power-hungry wizard from shifting the balance of power between Michael and Lucifer. His own equilibrium is thrown when he’s dragged into saving the life of Nias, a young demon.
Order of the Highest
Talah, a demon of the Disillusioned, is sent by the powerful ruler Sepha to scout the Order of the Highest. There he encounters Aridas, equal in power and just as determined. Can Talah survive their power struggle?
The True Fall of Lucifer
Cast out from The Court of Heaven, blinded by eons of pain and bitterness, Lucifer has been separated far too long from the other half of his soul. Michael must show Lucifer the truth of their existence—or lose his only chance to bring the Prince of Hell back to where he truly belongs.

It was a travesty, really.
First of all, I disapproved of the cover art. It’s not that the art is bad. It just doesn’t fit. I’m supposed to be reading stories about angels and demons, or at least, that’s what the advertisements said I was going to be reading, so why does the cover depict two models reminiscent of Conan the Barbarian? No wings, halos, or forked tongues in sight.

Second, I don’t think I’ve ever read a collection of short stories in which every story was worth the cover price. This one is different only in the fact that none of the stories turned out to be worth buying.
The idea of angels is a grand, sweeping, encompassing idea, so deep and wide in its scope that it still holds millions of people in its grip even in this modern era of cynicism and disillusionment. Angels, and their demonic counterparts, capture the human imagination in a way that even vampires and werewolves can’t hope to match. It’s an enchantment that has spawned blockbuster hits, bestsellers, cult classics and even actual cults. But not this time. Carmichael and Black failed to capture any part of the mystique, the beauty, the awesomeness of their intended subject. Failed utterly, miserably, and pathetically. It’s mind-boggling, really. They had over two thousand years’ worth of mythology to draw on, none of which is copyrighted. How hard could it have been to do a decent job of it? Apparently impossible – perhaps Black and Carmichael saved that awesomeness for their lunch, because they certainly didn’t pass it on to their readers.

I had so many problems with this book that it’s difficult to keep track of them. Let’s start with the writing. The angst and the attempted romance is… sappy. Syrupy. You could pour it over pancakes. It would be overly-generous to say that they gave lip-service to a plot, because they didn’t even give it that much. It seemed to me that they were rushing over all the boring plot-like things in order to get back to the porn. They presented a progression of events as though it were a logical progression, sensible, and yet it wasn’t. They didn’t bother to give any information as to why they thought it might be sensible. The entire thing was unbelievable; not the good kind of unbelievable, but the other kind, as in, it’s not possible for me to believe that these writers knew what they were doing.

The editing was non-existent. I don’t mean this in the way that I usually bitch about editing, either. For instance, in the third story, Nias’ hair was either auburn or ebony, depending on which paragraph you were reading. How hard would that have been for an editor to catch in the first read-through? I caught it immediately, while skimming through it. By no stretch of the imagination are these programming errors, nor are they obscure oopsies. Either the editor blew off his or her responsibilities, or Samhain Publishing doesn’t care if they’re selling unedited crap to unsuspecting readers. Or maybe it’s both, which wouldn’t surprise me at all.

I, personally, would never let LdD publish something like this without a healthy slap upside the head and a great deal of red-marking. I would have informed her that “auburn” and “ebony” are not, in fact, the same hair color. I would have educated her on the catastrophic visual effects of emerald feathers against red sheets. I would have given her a list of possible substitutes for actual lube. I’m thinking that maybe the publishing companies should just start hiring from the fanfiction pool of beta-readers. It’s saying something that the free fanfiction online has better editing in many cases than the stuff one buys at the ebook sites. And what it’s saying isn’t very nice.

Let’s talk about the porn. I refuse to give it the more elegant title of “erotica,” first, because it wasn’t particularly erotic, and second, because “erotica” implies, to me, a level of artistry that was missing completely. As a matter of fact, I could almost hear the “boom chicka wow wow.” But let’s forget for just a moment that I would defy any person reading this to find me a man who wouldn’t protest being anally penetrated, forcefully, without any hint of lube or preparation. Let’s forget for a moment that the authors need to be slapped with an anatomy book, or maybe, if you want to be more polite about it, emailed a link to Google with a list of possible search words.

I want to talk about the prostate-licking.

My biggest pet peeve in M/M fiction is prostate-licking. I hate it. It’s ridiculous. It’s not cute, not sexy, and not physically possible, and I don’t care if the top is a demon that the authors endowed with the miraculous (and oh-so-convenient) ability to manipulate his own tongue into becoming longer and stronger. It was an absolutely pathetic piece of drivel that caused me to lose any amount of respect I might have had for the authors. Still, I could have ignored it once, if only the rest of the porn had been well-written (which it emphatically wasn’t). But then it happened again. I’m surprised that the after-shocks of my temper exploding didn’t cause a natural disaster somewhere in the world.

From the very beginning, I was praying for it to end. I never expected that the authors would answer my prayers by making it just stop. It didn’t end. It stopped! Somewhere in the universe of this book is a renegade mage playing havoc with some sort of mystic power while the angels are off screwing each other, and… Oh. Oh, God. Let this not be the harbinger of a sequel. Let it end. Please.

Do I recommend this book?
Hell no.

Unfortunately, the only thing in which CW and I have a difference of opinion regarding this book is the cover. I loved the cover. My favorite facet of angels is their warrior aspect. So seeing gladiator-bodied angels and demons on the cover was very exciting to me and made me force the issue of buying and reviewing this book. Regrettably, Anne Caine’s gorgeous cover art couldn’t save this book. (Or my hide once CW had gotten through it. I said I was sorry!)

I have a real angel/demon fetish, so when I came across mention of this book, I was very excited. I was even more excited when I read the blurbs for the stories. Oh, how I wish I hadn’t been so incredibly disappointed.

Technically, the writing is okay. I didn’t find a slew of typos. It’s the plots and characters that leave much to be desired. The angels and demons did not act at all like their namesakes. At all. The only thing the celestial beings and the characters in the book had in common were wings. Otherwise, they were something completely different, so I am not sure why they were called those names. The concept of expanding the idea and scope of demons and angels was fascinating and exciting, but the result in this book did not work. As the reader, I’m going to have certain preconceived notions of characters called angels or demons. If my notions are not going to work, then the author has to help me out by explaining the mechanics. If a character is called a demon, I expect demonic things from him. If the character is called a fallen angel, I will need the author to explain the difference to me in regard to the particular story. Dumping me in a new world with different laws without a map is not going to work. I was confused and pretty disappointed.

Throughout the book, there is talk of Orders. There is never any clear understanding what any of these Orders do or mean until the second-to-last story. I really wish the history lesson slid into this story had been put in the front of the book. It would have given so much more feeling and understanding behind the words the characters mouthed. Also in the second-to-last story, we finally are told of the “twin souls” thing, which makes so many other parts of the book make some sense. All the pairings had these “I’m drawn to you but I don’t know why” emotions and mentions of ‘threads’ to one another. Not until near the end of the entire book, do the authors mention the twin souls, one of light and one of dark. That would have been so much more appreciated right from the beginning. Without it, it just made the characters shallow, silly, and a bit stupid. Even with this information, much of the characters antics were just not explained enough, or explained in a way that is believable. When you have a character seek out the other, when he is aggressive, demanding, dominating, and possessive, and then having him suddenly think, “Oh, I mustn’t run away anymore, he is my soul twin,” it makes absolutely no sense.

While I was reading, I constantly felt as if I was missing huge chunks of information. The characters were a mix of arrogant, needy, and blind. And vampiric in one WTF? instance. In one story I thought an angel was actually a demon once he shows his forked tongue, a character trait of the demon from the first story. But then this character is revealed as being one of the highest angels… so why the forked tongue? The settings were confusing and jumbled, as well. I was never sure where the hell I was, except for the one story that takes place almost entirely in an apartment while the mad mage the angel is supposed to be stopping runs rampant somewhere else.

Ultimately, I felt as if I had picked up the private journal of writers playing around with ideas and writing a fun story for themselves. For me, this book never felt as though it was ready for others to read. I can’t recommend this book to anyone. Honestly, even if the emotions in this weren’t so shallow and syrupy, it was still too confusing to make any sense to anybody, in my opinion.