Friday, 2 August 2013

Series Review - H&W Investigations by Jess Haines

This is my first 'series review' post, in which I post reviews of several books in a series back-to-back - mainly because sometimes I read all the books in a series in a row and it's easier to review them that way. I'm thinking of doing this monthly, so I'm starting in August and hopefully doing another one next month! For my first post, I've picked the awesome urban fantasy series, H&W Investigations, which follows detective Shiarra Waynest as she's drawn into the world of the Others - whether she likes it or not...

Hunted by the Others (H&W Investigations, #1)

Shiarra Waynest's detective work was dangerous enough when her client base was strictly mortal. But ailing finances have forced her to accept a lucrative case that could save her firm - if it doesn't kill her first. Shiarra has signed on to work for a high-level mage to recover an ancient artifact owned by one of New York's most powerful vampires. As soon as Shiarra meets sexy, mesmerizing vamp Alec Royce, she knows her assignment is even more complicated than she thought. With a clandestine anti-Other group trying to recruit her, and magi being eliminated, Shiarra needs back-up and enlists her ex-boyfriend - a werewolf whose non-furry form is disarmingly appealing - and a nerdy mage with surprising talents. But it may not be enough. In a city where the undead roam, magic rules, and even the Others aren't always what they seem, Shiarra has just become the secret weapon in a battle between good and evil - whether she likes it or not...

This is a fantastic and gripping urban fantasy novel set in a contemporary world in which the Others – weres, vampires, mages, elves, etc – have revealed themselves and live, relatively peacefully, alongside humans. Shiarra is a private investigator who finds herself dragged into the dangerous world of the Others when she accepts a case involving a stolen magical object from one of New York’s most powerful vampires. Suddenly she’s a target for anti-Other extremists, various groups of Others – and an extremely dangerous vampire. With mages being killed off, she realises the game is far more dangerous than she anticipated, and she’s unwillingly become a pawn in a deadly battle.

This is urban fantasy as it should be. The world-building is detailed but the author doesn’t hit us over the head with it; all information is delivered in way that feels entirely naturalistic. Shiarra is a tough female protagonist with just the right amount of doubt and sensitivity to make her a well-rounded character, and the other characters are well-established too, including the enigmatic and dangerous vampire, Royce, the mage Arnold, and Shiarra’s were ex-boyfriend Chaz. The plot races along, with plenty of twists and turns to keep it unpredictable, and the action and suspense kept me glued to the pages. This is an excellent debut novel and a must-read for all fans of urban fantasy!

Rating: ****1/2*
Taken by the Others (H&W Investigations, #2)

Taken by the Others

I loved Hunted by the Others, the first in Jess Haines’s witty and smart urban fantasy series, and the second novel didn’t disappoint. One of the things I like about this series is that the protagonist doesn’t have magic powers of her own, despite living in a world where vampires, weres, mages and other supernatural creatures live alongside humans in contemporary New York. Shia is a private investigator who wants nothing more to do with the Others – especially the manipulative vampire Alec Royce – but is forced to ask for his help when targeted by another dangerous vampire out for revenge on Royce for a past wrong. Shia is caught up in the world of the Others once again, and the result is a plot which is even more gripping and action-packed than the first book, with Shia facing her biggest fears – namely, becoming a vampire’s toy – and some truly terrifying villains. Familiar characters also make a reappearance, including Shia’s werewolf boyfriend Chaz; Devon of the anti-Other group, the White Hats, who are still trying to recruit her; and my favourite: a talking vampire hunter’s belt with a thirst for blood.

This is a fast-paced, entertaining read, and I’m definitely invested in this series. Shia’s witty narrative carries the story along, the characters are varied and interesting, and I really like the urban fantasy world Jess Haines has created. Now I’m off to read the next book! 

Rating: ****1/2*

Deceived by the Others (H&W Investigations, #3)

Deceived by the Others

In the third book in Jess Haines’s addictive series, Shiarra faces new complications both in her relationship with werewolf Chaz and with the Others when she accompanies him on a trip with the werewolf pack. It’s clear that someone really doesn’t want her there, and threatening notes start to appear. Meanwhile, the press refuse to give her a break, and someone is plotting to betray her.

I thought this one was a bit slower, but it’s still a great read. I found it interesting to learn more about the weres, since previous books have been more focused on the vampires. I love the alternative urban fantasy world the author has created, and Shia still manages to be an awesome character even without special powers of her own. With some unexpected plot twists and a cliffhanger ending, I’m definitely picking up the next book!

Rating: ****1/2*

 Stalking the Others (H&W Investigations, #4)
Stalking the Others

Stalking the Others begins shortly after the last book ends, and Shia, furious at being betrayed, is about to take revenge on the Others into her own hands. But two werewolf packs, a group of vampires and the White Hats all want a piece of her, and she’s playing a dangerous game. With the full moon approaching, she might be becoming Other herself – and the bloodthirsty hunter’s belt she carries might prove to be her undoing.

Wow- this was by far the most action-packed of the series so far! There are fights with werewolves, vampires and mages, and Shia really changes in this book, taking on the influence of the hunter’s belt to become more reckless and violent. The tension and plot twists kept me glued to the pages, and again, the ending left me eager to pick up the next book!

Rating: ****1/2*

 Forsaken by the Others (H&W Investigations, #5)
Forsaken by the Others

With several werewolf packs hunting her, Shia is forced to go into hiding in Los Angeles, along with her business partner Sara. But she’s soon caught up in a new case: someone is raising the dead, and vampires are being savaged by zombies summoned by a rogue necromancer.

Shia has definitely changed as a character throughout the series. Although she’s still scared of the Others a lot of the time (and who wouldn’t be afraid of an angry vampire or werewolf?), she’s overcome a lot of her prejudices and is even accepting that Royce doesn’t mean her harm. She’s also having to face up to the rash decisions she made in the last book under the influence of the hunter’s belt, which caused a lot of damage.

Although the pace is slower than the previous book, the mystery kept me turning the pages, and Shia gets to make use of her detective skills again. The book is fast-paced and witty, less dark than the previous one, and there are enough twists to keep you turning the pages. The only complaints I had were the absence of most of the more interesting side characters, and the frustrating cliffhanger ending – although that one threw me for a loop. I’ll definitely be picking up the next book as there are still questions I want answers for – is Shia turning Other, and in what way?

Rating: ****1/2*

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