Reviewed by Elizabetta

SERIES: Mongrel
AUTHOR: K. Z. Snow
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press

Book One: Mongrel

Mongrel (Mongrel, #1)

LENGTH: 202 Pages
BLURB: Hunzinger’s Mechanical Circus, a rollicking seaside carnival where imagination meets machinery, shines as the only bright spot in the dreary city of Purinton. A shadow is cast there one day when a tall, cloaked figure approaches the stand of Will Marchman, a young patent-medicine salesman. Fanule Perfidor, commonly known as the Dog King, isn’t welcome at the Circus. No resident of Taintwell is; they’re all Branded Mongrels, officially shunned. But Will is beguiled by the stunning, mysterious Perfidor. Their mutual wariness soon gives way to desire, and a bond forms.

Soon the naive but plucky pitchman becomes embroiled in a dangerous quest. Fanule suspects Alphonse Hunzinger and Purinton’s civic leaders are responsible for the disappearance or incarceration of countless Branded Mongrels. But why? As Will’s passion and regard for his tormented lover grow, he’s determined to help Fanule get answers and prevent any further persecution… or worse. They just have to stay together—and stay alive long enough—to see their plan through.

REVIEW:

Mongrel is a steam-punk fantasy about a world divided between the haves and the have nots

Human (pures) vs. Mongrel (tainted)

Puriton vs. Taintwell

the privileged vs. the shunned.

A romance fantasy with a theme of social injustice and discrimination running through it.

The story beginning is wonderfully done and Snow is in top form with her depiction of this world in full, rich Technicolor. She brings to life an oceanside boardwalk carny; a Mechanical Circus with its line of stalls manned by hawkers pushing their wares, and buildings housing steam-powered mechanisms to entertain. The Circus is the one bright spot in dreary Puriton, home to the human population.

“… the overdone facades… all strung together like a lineup of gaudy, aging whores. Colorful pennants snapped above their roofs… elaborate cornices and quatrefoil windows, little gargoyles… the permanent carnival that stretched along and beyond the boardwalk…”

Fanule… the Branded Mongrel, part human/part something else… he is mysterious and exotic and nobody’s mongrel. He has been elected Eminence of Taintwell, home to the Mongrel population. Fan has been chosen to represent and protect their interests. He has a troubled side though— has mood swings from euphoria to depression. He’s also as tough as he is vulnerable. He’s a captivating character with some very interesting friends: a randy vampire, Clancy Marrowbone, who has convenient teleportation skills, and the witch, Lizabetta, a revenant— murdered and dismembered— but existing in a spirit form, she’s a jumble of disjointed body parts that are given to floating about at random. Oh, and her equally dismembered cat, Lickshank, who is often preceded by his tail…

“… Lizabetta’s torso, draped in a simple chemise with drawstring neckline and scalloped hem, sat serenely on her sofa… (her) head, semi-translucent and wearing a happy smile, floated from a high shelf at the back of the room…”

Fanule and Clancy had a long-ago affair but when Fan meets Will Marchman, a comely snake-oil salesman at the Circus, he is quickly attracted. Theirs is a sensual, sweet love story, hot and yet somehow innocent. When Fan meets Will, he finally feels hope. I love that the two pursue a love affair despite public censure about humans “mixing” with Mongrels.

Snow is an adept storyteller— the opening chapters, so rich and thick with imagery, are a hard act to follow. There is certainly a lot to cram into a mere two-hundred pages and at times things felt a bit rushed. While they were wonderfully evil, I would have liked a little more detail about the no-good, bad guys. The threat would have seemed greater if those characters had been more fully drawn, especially towards the end. Still, Mongrel was a stylish, very enjoyable read and I look forward to more stories in this world.

Elizabetta’s Rating:

BUY LINK: Dreamspinner Store :: Book Store

PRE-RELEASE REVIEW

Book Two: Merman

Merman (Mongrel, #2)

LENGTH: 207 Pages
BLURB: When vampire Clancy Marrowbone returns to Purin province after nearly two years, he intends only to visit with his dear friend, Fanule Perfidor, and find out how his former lover, the unfortunately mortal Simon Bentcross, is faring. But two developments change Marrowbone’s itinerary: the appearance of a drastically altered man from his past, and the reawakening of his passion for Simon.

Both of these unexpected reunions become increasingly complicated. The connection between Simon’s new creation, a bathysphere-like submersible, and a clandestine underwater-research project results in Marrowbone and Bentcross becoming hunted men. But sometimes, it takes danger to make a star-crossed affair seem worth saving.

REVIEW:

The story continues about two years after the end of Mongrel, the first book in this series. I really liked the camaraderie in this, the playful banter between the four main characters, Clancy, Simon, Fanule and Will. This was the highlight of the book for me— Snow’s deft touch as she skillfully lays the brushstrokes, drawing these guys and their supporting cast; she sets up simple, quiet scenes between them that feel real even in this fantasy world. I really appreciated this.

So, we settle back into Snow’s hybrid steampunk-pnr world and get more development of the main characters. In the prequel we got a good feel for Will and Fan— who they are and the dynamic between them. But this show belongs to Clancy, the sensitive and fastidiously refined vamp, and Simon, his brawny, blue-collar working stiff. We get to find out more about what happened between them in Mongrel, that there was and remains a sparky, magnetic attraction. It’s slow going at first though, as Clancy distances himself from Simon because of qualms based on his own insecurities when it comes to commitment or love or acceptance of himself.

As in Mongrel, there is another mystery, this time about nefarious goings-on and the abuse of prison inmates on Floating Brick Island, just off the coast of Puriton. Simon, who now runs his own mechanic shop, is commissioned to build an underwater vessel, a “bubble” or bathysphere, to be used to explore the deep ocean trench next to the island. There could be a link between this project and the appearance of a strange part-fish/part-human mutant creature found washed up on the shore. A creature who used to be an inmate of Floating Brick Island prison many, many years ago…

The connection between the project and this merman creature is left pretty vague though. And, in the middle section of the book, “Separation,” there is an awful lot of explaining about the merman and how he came to be, and whether he is nefarious or a victim of circumstance. The action slows way down with a series of convos between various characters. Ugh. Fortunately, things pick up in the last section of the story when all the characters work together toward a satisfactory ending.

This book did not feel as strong as its prequel. Perhaps this is due to some pacing issues and my ambivalent feelings about the merman. Nevertheless, I greatly enjoyed, once more, the wonderfully descriptive writing found here.

Elizabetta’s Rating: four-stars_0

PRE-ORDER LINK: Dreamspinner Store

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Elizabetta is one of the official reviewers on The Blog of Sid Love.

To read all her reviews, click the link: ELIZABETTA’S REVIEWS
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