Sunday, December 14, 2008

Review of Gabriel's Ghost

Gabriel's Ghost is the first book in science fiction romance writer Linnea Sinclair's Dock Five series and a winner of the RITA Award for Best Paranormal Romance in 2006. This book has a direct sequel, Shades of Dark, featuring the same main characters as the first book. Hope's Folly, the third book (out in February 2009), is about Philip Guthrie, a character appearing in the first two books. Gabriel's Ghost is a fun, fast-paced novel containing action and adventure in addition to the romantic storyline.

Chasidah (Chaz) Bergren, former captain of the Sixth Fleet, has been sentenced to life on a prison planet for a crime she did not commit. After three weeks as a prisoner, she is found by Gabriel Sullivan (Sully), a mercenary smuggler whom she thought to be dead. Sully faked his death and now is on a mission in which he needs a "beautiful, interfering bitch" who knows the fleet and is prepared to free Chaz if she will help his cause - which he won't reveal until they have reached their destination. On the way to shelter, they are attacked by and kill a jukor, a huge smelly creature bred to counter telepaths that were supposedly all deemed too dangerous to everyone and destroyed.

Sully brings Chaz to an Englarian monastery where she is surprised to find he seems to know the monks rather well. She is also surprised by the presence of a Stolorth, a member of a race infamous for their mind powers and therefore abhorrent to Englarians. However, this Stolorth (Ren) is blind, an outcast of his kind because this limits his abilities to some basic empathic powers. The monk Ren is to travel with Chaz and Sully, who will pose as members of the clergy on the way back to Sully's ship and crew where they will work on the plot Sully mentioned - destroying the Empire's jukor breeding program. Chaz can't help but join such a worthwhile endeavor despite being wary of Ren's abilities and Sully's constant flirting with her.



I have only begun reading some science fiction romance this year and this was the first book I read by Linnea Sinclair. Her novel An Accidental Goddess is on my bookshelf and I had tried reading a chapter from it before reading this one and just couldn't get into it (yes, I am impatient sometimes). I absolutely loved this novel so I'm very glad a friend recommended it to me. The beginning of Gabriel's Ghost had me intrigued but not riveted until I was about 2/5 of the way into the book, but from that point on I could not put it down. The day I finished this book, I read 4 pages of another book but couldn't stop thinking about this one so I went to the bookstore and picked up Shades of Dark. With the average enjoyable series, I can wait for the next book - not this one.

The highlight of this one for me was the characters of Sully, Chaz, and Ren. The story is told from the first person point of view of 35 year old Chaz, who is a fantastic heroine. Although it is partially a romance story, she is not the swooning, brooding type but a very logical, analytical woman as fits her military upbringing and and status as a captain. Chaz will listen to her mind over her heart, and although she finds Sully very attractive, she is not ready to let herself fall for him when she thinks he just wants to conquer her and add her to his list of women. Sure, she thinks about Sully sometimes, but he's not her only concern in life. I also appreciated that she was very open minded and willing to learn and reevaluate her beliefs if presented with evidence that they might be wrong. Ren terrified her at first since her training had taught her Stolorths were an evil race intent on destroying human minds, but instead of continuing to fear him, she talked to him and attempted to learn more about him. This does not mean she automatically decided she should not be frightened of him because Sully and the monks said she shouldn't, which would not be very realistic since this was a belief that was deeply ingrained into her and she didn't entirely trust Sully - but she did try to find out if what she had been taught was untrue.

Although the story is told from Chaz's point of view, it is really about the title character and his struggle for acceptance from both Chaz and himself. As much as I loved Chaz, Sully was my favorite character. I don't want to give away too much about what is revealed about Sully (the example I gave about Chaz happened early in the book) so I will just say that the reasons for his problems were well done and his conflicts were very understandable. His issues were not due to someone taking away his wubby toy as a child.

Ren was also a character I enjoyed reading about. He is perhaps a little too good if you like flawed characters (which I do) but I didn't care in this case. The model monk should be kind and understanding of others and he was just so likable.

The character relationships were interesting to read about and I thought Sinclair did a fantastic job of giving each character his or her own personality and making them believable as people, but that was not the only aspect to this story. There was a lot of focus on characters and revelations about them, but there was plenty of action and adventure in the quest to destroy the jukors too (especially at the end). Gabriel's Ghost is not just romance, as it also has a strong element of science fiction, albeit not hard science fiction but space opera. The science fiction aspect of the story is somewhat familiar with an evil empiric conspiracy, interplanetary travel, life as part of a crew on a spaceship, but it still entertains especially when combined with such great characters.

The pacing was excellent and there was never a boring moment - the pages fly by quickly with a straightforward, easy to read book like this one.

No book is perfect, even those that make their way on to my favorites list. Toward the beginning, I did find the writing style a bit abrupt and choppy with a lot of short sentences (which seemed intentional but I'm not a fan of that type of writing style). Later I did not notice this, though, so it either got smoother or I got so absorbed in the story that I ceased to care. I also did find the love scenes/descriptions to be very cheesy and read through them as quickly as possible. There were maybe two or three of those so it was a small percentage of the book and this ends up being a minor complaint. I'm not a big romance reader and I normally find these types of scenes to be a bit silly, though.

The pros far outweigh the cons with Gabriel's Ghost, which is one I know I'll be rereading. Highly recommended to those who enjoy science fiction romance and great characters.

8.5/10

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18 comments:

Ana said...

OH, I love this book as well - have you read Shades yet? I thought it was even better and so much darker.

I am admitedly a fan of Linnea Sinclair, there isn't a single book of hers I haven't enjoyed a lot - her books are a perfect balance of scifi and romance and with characters that sound REAL with real struggles.

Love it. Clearly.

Kristen said...

Ana,

I did read Shades of Dark - I was halfway through it by the end of the same day I finished Gabriel's Ghost! I also thought that one was better and liked that it was darker. She did do an excellent job of keeping a balance between science fiction and romance.

Are there any of Linnea Sinclair's books you liked as much as or better than this one and Shades? The only other one of her books I've read is An Accidental Goddess (which I devoured right after reading these two although I didn't end up liking it as much).

Thea said...

Great review Kristen, and I agree with you on all counts. There was some repetition, the kinda cheesy love scenes, some choppiness to the prose early on...but Linnea writes such damn engaging storylines, it doesn't matter!

I also really loved SHADES as well--whooboy, how about that kicker ending?

I also really liked Linnea's THE DOWN-HOME ZOMBIE BLUES, and would recommend you give that a read :)

Also, wanted to let you know, you've been nominated :)

http://thebooksmugglers.blogspot.com/2008/12/award-nomination-kreative-blogger.html

Kristen said...

Thanks, Thea. I really enjoyed reading the joint review you and Ana did of this one. After I read both books, I had to find the interview you two did with Linnea and read it with some actual knowledge of the books.

None of the flaws with this one really did end up mattering to me since it's only the second time this year I have HAD to read the sequel right this second!

The ending to Shades was a kicker, although I admit I was actually a little relieved - I really was expecting a far worse ending than we got. What I knew about Hope's Folly worried me a little.

Thanks for the recommendation - I'll add The Down Home Zombie Blues to the wishlist.

Thanks also for the nomination! I love your evil pony!

Pizza said...

Cool blog.

I like reading as well, I was wondering if you could take a look at my blog, maybe you could join it:

http://www.pizzasbookdiscussion.blogspot.com/

Thanks,

Pizza

Ana said...

Kristen, I second Thea's suggestion - The Down Home Zombie Blues is really good fun.

But you should also look for Games of Command.It is so, so good.

And of course, be prepared for Hope's Folly. : )

Kristen said...

Pizza,

Thanks for the link. I love to discover new book blogs!

Ana,

Thanks for the recommendations! I thought Games of Command sounded good so I have that one on the wishlist already. After Thea's suggestion, I added Down Home Zombie Blues. I'm not a zombie fan so that was going to be the last one of her books I read, but if you both really liked it, I'll have to read it sooner rather than later.

I am going to run out and get Hope's Folly the day it comes out (or maybe pre-order it but in any case I'm not waiting long to get that one!). It's now one of the books I can't wait for.

Thea said...

Psst--Kristen, the "zombies" in DHZB are more like the Borg than actual zombies ;) If that makes any difference! I have Games of Command on my TBR as well, I'll have to read that one soon too.

Frances said...

Kristen,
Great review. You're going to love Linnea's other books. I'm in the process of reviewing her books as time allows. Sigh! There isn't enough of it is there? The genre of SFR is growing.

http://frances-writes.blogspot.com/

Kristen said...

Thea - Thanks for the clarification on the zombies. That does make a difference, although I was going to read it anyway since you and Ana both recommended it (and, you know, because it's by Linnea Sinclair and I now plan to read all her books).

Frances - Thanks! I can't wait to read the rest of Linnea's books. There are two more I've read that I need to review - you're certainly right about there not being enough time, especially during the holidays.

Anastasia said...

I just finished Gabriel's Ghost, and I'm quite disturbed. My main issue is that Sully essentially compelled Chaz to fall in love with him. All that "fire" she felt whenever she touched him, it was a telepathic sending by him, and the chemistry was pretty much the only reason she was with him. Is it ever explained why he decides he loves her more than anything? They never knew each other. At best, it was a crush/obsession he developed from afar, and then he manipulated her physical reactions to manufacture infatuation in her as well.

The bond between then, although it may go both ways, he imposed it on Chaz without any warning or consent. Not to mention his delving into her mind. The resolution of that incident was not satisfactory. I would have turned and ran at that point. Instead, she forgives him. Why? Because the sex is good. Why? Because he manipulates her perceptions. And he does that several more times. An extreme violation of privacy and personhood, and it's all excused and explained away.

There's another book I read before, Talyn: A Novel of Korre by Holly Lisle, that has a similar relationship. Talyn is a soldier (with her hair in a long braid) who meets a dark, handsome man with explosive chemistry between them. She falls madly in love, marries, and then we discover that the physical attraction was generated by his telepathic ability to manipulate her mind. Then it gets worse. Talyn, at least, has a healthy reaction to what she learns, she tries to run for her life. (And fails.) That romance is contrasted by another one, where love grows out of mutual respect for each other's character.

I'm not damning all whirlwind romances here. Primary Inversion had one, and I loved it. It's the fact that Chaz's feelings were not even her own, but fabricated by Sully.

Did your reading of Gabriel's Ghost or Shades of Dark answer any of these concerns? How did you deal with them?

Kristen said...

*SPOILER WARNING - DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU HAVE READ GABRIEL'S GHOST OR DO NOT MIND SOME SPOILERS. *



Anastasia - Yes, I know exactly what you mean and also kept thinking about that when I was reading this one too. I didn't end up discussing it in my review because I didn't think I could without giving too much away (since I was trying not to give too much away regarding Sully's powers.) I did have a lot of conflicted feelings on that.

As much I loved this book, I also found that aspect of the relationship rather disturbing and outright creepy at times. At the end of Gabriel's Ghost, I did find the relationship far freakier than I did after reading Shades of Dark, though. (Even though Sully is much darker in the next book, I also felt that it reinforced that Chaz was in control of her emotions enough to do what she thought best. I also thought some of the things that bothered me about Sully in the first book, like jealousy and his possessive "mine", were toned down a lot and he treated Chaz like someone he respected to make her own decisions. Which is not to say he is perfect - far from it - but a lot of the things that bugged me like that in book one did seem to be better in book two.)

Sully was a very morally ambiguous, human character (which I like to read about even though, yes, I would have run if I met him in real life too). Without a doubt, what he did was wrong and there is no excuse for it. He should never have manipulated Chaz's feelings like that. Yet he also obviously cared about her and I always thought he genuinely tried to do the right thing. He did save her from being imprisoned, and he even saved her ex-husband's life when she wanted him to in spite of the fact that he was jealous of him and was afraid that Philip would take that as an encouraging sign from Chaz. When he did read her mind, it was in emergency situations. Does that make it right? No. But at least he had more of a reason than he felt like it.

His attraction to Chaz is at least somewhat explained - she is the opposite of him. While he feels like he doesn't have it together, she always seems strong and in control. I could never figure out just how well they knew each other before he did rescue her, though, since they'd known each other for years yet I'm not sure how often they encountered each other in that time. They definitely had some sort of a history and Chaz seemed to be attracted to Sully before then as well (although she certainly was never as obsessed with him as he was with her).

I'm not convinced the only reason Chaz stayed with Sully was because the sex was good and he manipulated her perceptions, though. He did care for her and she was at least somewhat attracted to him even before he came for her in Gabriel's Ghost. The main reason she kept resisting any feelings she had for him seemed to be she thought he was the charming type who treated every woman the same way he treated her. She didn't want to be just another one of his conquests. Once she started to realize he did care about her - and not just because she was the only woman around - she started to let down her guard. But she only did when she decided she was ready to.

Sully also never made Chaz do anything she did not want to do. He did influence her feelings but she also entered into a relationship with him aware that he used his empathic powers to do that.

So I have mixed feelings about the whole relationship. He clearly cared for her but he also definitely made some big mistakes. In the end, I did feel that Chaz was aware of the situation and not being manipulated into falling in love with Sully against her will (especially after reading the second book). However, when reading Gabriel's Ghost, I did still wonder like you - how much of the relationship was fabricated? Would Chaz have felt the same way about Sully if not for his abilities?

Talyn sounds interesting; I'll have to check that one out.

Anastasia said...

I stopped reading Talyn about 2/3rd in the book and rated it 3 stars on Amazon, because when the sexy husband turned out to be not-so-nice-guy, things get very bad and quite graphic. I'd actually included these spoilers in my review because I felt a fair warning was needed.

~SPOILERS~

The guy turns out to be like an Aristo, only worse. He uses the pleasure to turn the sexual relationship more and more violent and bloody. He draws patterns on her skin with a knife, and she can't say no, because she's intoxicated with his magic. And he asks her to do the same to him. So you could say it's fair - he inflicts pain on himself as well as her, right? That's one parallel to the ky'saryl (sp?) bond that freaked me out. Chaz can't leave Sully, ever, in her life, no matter how she feels or anything. That is serious shit. No option of divorce (without killing him, what the hell kind of an option is that?!) That's the deal breaker for me right there.

Right, so the bad guy in Talyn turns out to be EVIL, with a practice of getting together with his friends and raping and torturing their wives to death. They all take new wives every 2-3 years when the old ones "wear out."

So my squick tolerance definitely couldn't handle that. And in way, Gabriel's Ghost was too. Sully cares for Chaz, tries to do the right thing, does what's good for her, but in the end, she's bound to him and can't leave. And the bit about saving her ex-husband in spite of jealousy? Come on. In the real world, if there were someone you were extremely jealous of, you still wouldn't kill them! And if they were dying and you had a chance to save them, you wouldn't hesitate. It's not great achievement to not kill someone you're jealous of.

But if you were OK with all that, then you might really like Talyn - I quite liked the rest of it, and there's also a very nice romance in the 2nd part.

Kristen said...

*SPOILER WARNING AGAIN *



Anastasia - Talyn sounds a lot darker than these two but I like dark so I might read it at some point anyway. Although that one does sound like it would make me mad (although I can normally read stuff like that anyway even if it does bother me.)

At the end, Philip does suggest that there are supposed to be ways of getting out of the bond and that he'll find it for Chaz so death may not in fact be the only option. Sully has never been trained and does not know everything about his abilities.

But, of course, since he doesn't know that he definitely should have made it more clear to Chaz what exactly she was getting into. He did ask but never really explained - whether that was intentional or just oversight on his part, I'm not quite sure although I tend to think he was just caught up in the moment and didn't actually think. But perhaps that's just wishful thinking on my part. He did seem like the "feel now, think later" type to me, though, unlike Chaz who followed her head first and heart later.

There's a big difference between outright killing somebody and not saving them when they're dying. At that point, Sully had already used a lot of his power and it wasn't going to be easy to use the amount necessary to heal a death wound. I think he at least had a good excuse to give up easily. No, still not a huge accomplishment to try to save someone when you might be capable, but at least it shows he wasn't a complete selfish bastard.

If all that bothered you enough not to want to read it, I wouldn't recommend reading the next one, though. Some of the things that bothered me about the actual relationship between Sully and Chaz were somewhat better (although there's still some ambiguity), but there were still a lot of other incidents that will most likely disturb you even more.

Kristen said...

Bleh - reading that last one, I don't think I explained very well.

I don't disagree with any of your points about Gabriel's Ghost - at all. It is disturbing and creepy that Sully can manipulate emotions like that and did, and he often doesn't do the right thing (even though I think he's a mostly decent guy who tries but is just plain screwed up). And that's a major reason I loved the series - because he is such a flawed character without being pure evil, a mixture of both good and bad.

Some aspects of it bothered me, but I can still enjoy reading about situations that would infuriate me in real life (and usually do enjoy darker books more, for some reason I've not quite figured out).

Anastasia said...

Ok, I think I see what you're saying. You (and I assume, the books) recognize and accept that this is a messed up relationship. I could live with that. It bothers me far more when that stuff is normalized.

Kristen said...

Yes, thank you, you said it better in one line than I did in a few posts!

I'm not sure if it's supposed to be intentionally messed up in the book or not (although I suspect it was since it was questioned an awful lot), but I certainly agree the relationship had some issues. Like many things, it's mixed - there was that whole creepy factor but Sully also seemed to genuinely care about Chaz and I think she truly cared for him too.

Kristen said...

Had to stop for dinner... but basically, yes it's not what I'd call a perfect, idealistic relationship and I kind of liked that about it.