Burned by Karen Marie Moning
Series: Fever (#7)
It’s easy to walk away from lies. Power is another thing.
MacKayla Lane would do anything to save the home she loves. A gifted sidhe-seer, she’s already fought and defeated the deadly Sinsar Dubh—an ancient book of terrible evil—yet its hold on her has never been stronger.
When the wall that protected humans from the seductive, insatiable Fae was destroyed on Halloween, long-imprisoned immortals ravaged the planet. Now Dublin is a war zone with factions battling for control. As the city heats up and the ice left by the Hoar Frost King melts, tempers flare, passions run red-hot, and dangerous lines get crossed.
Seelie and Unseelie vie for power against nine ancient immortals who have governed Dublin for millennia; a rival band of sidhe-seers invades the city, determined to claim it for their own; Mac’s former protégé and best friend, Dani “Mega” O’Malley, is now her fierce enemy; and even more urgent, Highland druid Christian MacKeltar has been captured by the Crimson Hag and is being driven deeper into Unseelie madness with each passing day. The only one Mac can depend on is the powerful, dangerous immortal Jericho Barrons, but even their fiery bond is tested by betrayal.
It’s a world where staying alive is a constant struggle, the line between good and evil gets blurred, and every alliance comes at a price. In an epic battle against dark forces, Mac must decide who she can trust, and what her survival is ultimately worth.
January 2015 Initial Read:
First things first, this cover. I hated it from the moment it was revealed. I mean, COME ON! We’d gone from beauties like this:
Beautiful. Each and every one of them. Then we get that monstrosity up there at the top. Ugh. It telegraphs sex. I guess that’s pretty fitting because it’s damn near all anyone in this book thinks about. That cover did not fill me with a great deal of hope, though. Not that I had a whole lot of it to begin with. Iced made me rage. I won’t get into it here, but you can check out my review. Then there was the whole testing of the bond between Mac and Barrons that’s alluded to in the blurb. I went into this book with some serious reservations. On the other hand, this is Karen Marie Moning! The author that blew me away in the original five books of the Fever series! I have faith! I had hope! I couldn’t wait to see her make me eat my words of hate and irritation at Iced.
**SPOILERS** for Darkfever through Burned. Fair Warning.
Burned did not do that for me. While I didn’t finish it wanting to throw it out the window, stomp on it, burn it, and then scatter the ashes, I also didn’t finish with that beautiful feeling of having stepped from a world that amazed, having just listened to the most incredible story, told by a girl with verve, audacity, passion and brains.
I want to end this review on a positive note, I want to think positively about where the series is going in the future – so, I’m starting with the negatives. It took me about 3 days to read this book, only reading a few hours a day, because I spent the entire time taking notes. In the end I have over fifteen pages of notes on this book, and a severe disappointment – but again, I have hope (why, yes, I might be a masochistic optimist) for the future of the series.
Instead of the consuming story I had hoped for, I was treated to 400 pages of the author explaining everything that I, as a reader, was too dense to understand in Iced, sprinkled with a few truly great moments and teasers. Yes, I complained – a lot – about the adult, immortal men in Iced lusting over Dani, a 14-year-old-girl and abusing her. Yes, I said, on more than one occasion, that if KMM wanted to include sex (or innuendo) in this series I wanted it to wait until Dani was older. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I was told by the author in interviews that I’d read the story wrong.
That went over well.
So, KMM took to Burned to explain exactly how wrong I was. Every.Single.Thing I had an issue with in Iced is contemplated, dissected, discussed and thought about. That’s not even counting the moments where previous canon is being re-written. Things that were clearly stated in the previous six books were suddenly not the same. Facts are twisted. All of it telling me how wrong I was in my interpretation of the events that occurred. From multiple character points-of-view. There were meta-speeches in characters minds repeating the same words I’ve read KMM say in interviews. I can’t even say how much this pisses me off. SHOW me I was wrong, don’t tell me; don’t have (multiple) characters TELL me. I want to SEE that I was wrong, not hear it. I’ve been hearing you, KMM, say how wrong I was for the last couple of years. Luckily, this is the only real rage-inducing thing I experienced while reading, and I’m pretty much over it. I get it. I do. KMM took a lot of flack and answered a lot of questions about the choices she made in Iced. Pedophilia was brought up frequently, frequently enough for her to address it in a FAQ (which has since been removed from her blog). That’s bound to put anyone on the defensive. So I’m trying not to be too mad about this. I just wish that she’d not felt the need to cram this stuff down my throat and let the story speak for itself.
They fence me in with teenage rules that don’t hold me for shit, seeing how I grew up. You can kill but don’t cuss. Break any rule necessary to save the world but don’t watch porn or even think about having sex. How do they come up with this stuff–hold parental powwows for brainstorming diametrically opposed ethics?
You probably know, if you’ve read my Iced review, that Ryodan was my biggest problem in its pages. The vibe that he gave off when he was with Dani – one of waiting for her to grow up (she’s FOURTEEN, and he’s been watching her a LONG time), so he could have the woman she’d become – squicked me out. Then there’s the abuse: holding her without food or water for three days, because reasons; slamming her face into a stone pillar, repeatedly; breaking her finger…Yup. I hated him. I hated everything about him. Prior to Iced I had kind of liked Ryodan. I didn’t know enough to love or hate, but I was leaning towards like. Then all of that went down – and honestly that felt kind of out of character, too – and I’m not sure I’ll ever like the bastard again. I can love an asshole – see Barrons; I can get down with manipulative – see Barrons again; I can handle secretive – hello? Barrons still; but abusive and a pedo vibe? Not so much.
“That’s not why I watched over her.”
“Bullshit. We all saw the woman she could become.”
Anyway, that’s rehashing the past. However, that’s something that KMM excels at inBurned, so I guess I’m not too far off point. In these pages we learn that everything we thought we knew…we were wrong. Ryodan’s not an abusive asshole – he didn’t mean to break her finger, he forgot how fragile humans were; he didn’t hold her for three days, chained in his basement, because he’s a controlling freak – he did it for her own-fucking-good. There wasn’t a pedo-vibe to his interactions with her, he was a guardian angel, protecting her, being her pillar, holding the roof up while she re-laid her foundation. What-the-eff-ever. I’m not buying what you’re selling, KMM. No matter how many different characters sit and extol Ryodan’s virtues, realizing what a nice guy he is.
I find myself questioning everything I thought I knew about Ryodan. Running prior conversations through my mind, realizing the man I believed moderately intelligent and highly manipulative of others–to their own detriment and destruction–is in fact highly intelligent and enormously manipulative of others, but I’ve begun to suspect it’s because he’s trying to fix what he perceives as the things they want fixed but don’t know how. He sees the bird’s-eye view and takes the hard, catalytic actions. Unsettling, disturbing to those of us that don’t, makes it easy to call him bastard, heartless.
But why would he bother?
There are only two possibilities: either he wants whatever goal he will achieve by altering that person, or, unfathomable as it is, he cares about the world he pretends to scorn, and the people in it.
Now, maybe, just maybe, if I’d been shown that I was wrong about Ryodan, instead of having every character possible think about it, talk about it, and reflect on it, then I might have eaten my words. I still would have hated what he’d done, but I might have grown to like him again. There was one moment in the book where we were shown that Ryodan might be kinder than we’ve previously seen – his interaction with Jo – however, it’s so heavy-handed, especially on top of all the virtue-extolling everyone else is doing, that it just made me roll my eyes. Take away? Ryodan’s not a bad guy. In fact, he’s a saint. Check.
This is already getting long, so I’m just going to skip to what I feel like was the checklist for this book.
1. Ryodan’s an abuser and giving off strong pedo-vibes? No! He’s a nice guy! Here, let me tell you! Check.
2. Dani’s too young? We can fix that. Into the Silvers, you go, my girl. Check.
3. We miss Mac! Ahh. Well, she can be the narrator again. Check. (This wouldn’t have bothered me nearly as much if Mac didn’t turn into a passive idiot. At one point she goes around blurting out SERIOUS secrets – not just to anyone, but to the fucking UNSEELIE PRINCES. Are you fucking kidding me?)
4. What’s she been up to? Recap. Recap some more. Recap again. Recap stuff you just were there to experience. Check.
5. End scene of Iced, with Mac holding the Spear on Dani and being pissed at her, not make sense? Explain it away. She didn’t know. Don’t mind the previous stuff you’ve been told. It’ll change as needed. Check. (The manufactured drama between her and Mac in order to get her into the Silvers? Irritating. Mac, suddenly, doesn’t know how she feels? Didn’t realize that she was still blaming Dani? Regardless of the fact that she’d already worked through this in Shadowfever? Whatever. Rewrite that history.)
6. Christian’s too creepy. Can’t have that. Fixed. Check. (The miracle fix of the love-triangle, too. *rolls eyes* Makes me wonder why it was there in the first place.)
7. Pedophilia? No way! Meta-speeches by several characters. That’ll get the point across. Check.
8. More about the Nine – we must have it! Insert plot-device to allow us to spy on them, getting much more intimate with their thoughts and feelings – which apparently they talk about in private. Check. (Invisibility cloak for Mac!! Now she can spy on everyone! And can I say how much I hated that she felt the need to spy on Barrons. WTF? How about you stop being a passive idiot and go talk to the man that’s always had your back, always saved you, and always kicked ass for you? Gah, Mac, you’re pissing me off.)
One last thing I’m going to complain about…no, two last things. One: Mac’s boring internal monologues got on my last nerve. I skimmed a lot of them. There were pages and pages and pages of her telling me stuff I already knew. I know some people complained about these in the first five books, but I swear she wasn’t this bad. I guess I’ll find out when I re-read. I haven’t re-read the books in several years (granted I’ve re-read them several dozen times so I know them well) but I don’t need to be hand-fed every single bit of information. And I know what a freaking linchpin is!
Two: the focus on sex! O.M.G. Honestly. I get it. If I were around Barrons, or probably any of the Nine, sex would be one of my main goals, too. But there’s a freaking catastrophe happening around every corner! How about focusing on some of them? The random inserts of sex, thoughts of sex, and voyeuristic viewing of sex throughout the book was just…gratuitous.
Okay, I lied. I’m going to talk about one more thing I didn’t like. Going back to the Dani-age thing. Yes, I wanted her older, but I wanted to see her grow up and become the woman she was meant to be. Even if it was in snatches, gradually, whatever. I didn’t just want it to happen. And the way it happened? Not loving it. I see where KMM is going with this, and I get it, but I think it’s the easy way out – and I never thought of KMM taking the easy way. I actually hate this. I think it’s a cheap trick. How I can see this being resolved is going to give the best of both worlds – Dani’s personality and character, along with Jada’s kick-ass, sex-kitten, world-weary mind and body. That’ll make it okay for Ryodan to have her. *sigh* I’ll wait to see how it plays out, and hope for something more, but I’m really bummed that I didn’t get to see her evolve at all. Now it’ll just be one more thing that happened off-page.
Shit. I lied again. Last thing. I promise. I hate, hate, hate, hate that Barrons calls Mac, Ms. Lane still! The intimacy that was gained in Shadowfever is apparently gone. Now they’re “islands.” Then there’s some irritating, manufactured drama that is completely pointless. I could not believe how much drama Mac allowed this to cause.
Speaking of Mac (no this isn’t another “thing”), she’s no longer the kick-ass, Mac 5.0. She reverted to Mac 2.4 or something. She’s passive, in the extreme, a mere narrator for events happening around her, and lacking in any initiative. Apparently, she’s done what she came to do, and the rest of the time she’s going to sit around watching her version of “reality tv” – and don’t get me started on that. She’s just lost everything that made me love her. Every once in a while I would catch a thought or action that flitted through her head, but mostly I was amazed that this was the same Mac I’d previously fell in love with.
One thing I do know is things can always get worse, most often at the precise moment you’ve decided they can’t.
And so I remain, as Barrons would pithily say, idiotically passive.
The other effect her passivity has is making her interactions with Barrons seem … less, somehow. He’s the same asshole that I love, but without Mac strong it makes him seem even more an asshole. Of course while Mac is being an idiot – and trust me, she’s an IDIOT at times – Barrons really shines, too. Actions speak. I’ve always trusted his.
Then there’s the manufactured mother-fucking drama that comes from making The Alpha Alternative canon in the world. See my review of The Alpha Alternative for reasons why I can’t believe it actually happened, which makes this move to manufacture drama even more rage-inducing.
Okay. I’m done now with that. I swear. Onto the good – and there are tidbits of good in this novel. They’re what is going to make me pick up the next book (where I’m hoping and praying that KMM gets back on track). Unfortunately, most of them could be considered spoilerish. So, I’ll be as vague as possible and see what I can do.
I started with a checklist – how about a much more enjoyable list?
1. WeCare – I’m still super interested in this! I need to know what their deal is, who they are, and what they’re up to. I feel like they’re going to be a problem for Mac and Co. at some point.
2. Mac/Sinsar Dubh – Holy.Shit. I did not see that coming! This storyline is the one I wanted to see the most of in Burned. It wasn’t really dealt with a whole lot, so I’m hopeful that the future installments really delve into it. There’s some really interesting evolutions and stuff going on here that I need to know more about.
3. Christian – Despite the ‘quick fix’ I feel that he got for part of his problem, he’s not out of the woods yet. I can’t help it. I love this guy. I want to see him conquer his demons. I want to see him thrive.
4. Lor – Who knew he’d end up being one of my favorites. Funny as hell, he was one of the bright spots in this book.
5. New Unseelie – YES! That’s all.
6. Mac’s … entourage – MUST KNOW MORE! MORE!!!
7. Unseelie King/Concubine – consistently the best scenes. I love them separately, and even better, together. They have real issues that need solving, and I can’t wait to see them do it. I hope we get to see them conquer their hurdles. Plus I just want more of the UK, and all his incarnations. There’s definitely some interesting stuff going on here.
8. Barrons – He’s Barrons. ‘Nuff said. One of the few characters that maintained their personality. He is who is he. Period. And I love him. Forever. A quote from a friend of mine, Casey strikes me as absolutely perfect in regards to Barrons: I think Barrons is totally off the charts in terms of sex appeal but I hate all of broody silence and secrets. He makes me feel equal parts I need to punch you in your face/please wear my thighs as earmuffs. <–This. Definitely. He’s the asshole that I love and always will.
“Son of a bitch, Mac’s ass is–”
“Mine,” Barrons says flatly. “You will never go there. You have a problem with Mac, you work it out with me. I am her shield, I am her second fucking skin.”
Sexy. That is so damn sexy. Yes, I’m aware there may be something wrong with me that I find his alpha-hole behavior so goddamn sexy.
There’s actually quite a lot in that list of things that I loved, liked, or am interested in. However, they were bright, shiny moments in a otherwise dull book. The plot was nearly non-existent, Burned suffered from ‘middle-book-syndrome’, and there’s virtually no movement on any of the interesting plot-lines. My big hope is that now that KMM has ‘fixed’ everything, Feverborn will get everything back on track. Though there was a lot I was disappointed in, I can actually see how it could – mostly – be brought back to the glory that was the first five Fever books. And I’m hopeful. And a masochist, because I’ll definitely be reading the next one.
Spoiler thoughts that I couldn’t fit in anywhere else:
1. DEG: Who the hell is this? I know the Dreamy-Eyed Guy was one of the UK pieces when he wandered the world – but he specifically states:
He never attends a world twice in the same human bodies once they’ve been identified.
Mac saw the DEG TWICE in Burned. What is going on??
2. Dancer: I always thought he was just human, but I’m having doubts. The ‘priests’ that were following Mac around naturally gave Barrons, Ryodan etc, a wide-berth. They never got really close to them. They also, surprisingly, never got really close to Dancer. WTF? Why?
3. ‘Priests’: Speaking of – these are another of the most interesting things in the book. Ineed to know more! Are they the Sweeper that has been getting mentioned? They don’t give off the feel of fae to Mac. They make her smell, and leave pollen and cobwebs on her all the time, surrounding her and invading her space.
4. Relationships: Lor & Jo; Kasteo & Kat; Ryodan & Dani. I’m calling it.
5. Unseelie Princess: YES!! I can’t wait to see more of her. She’s not “pure blood” whatever that means. The Sweeper ‘improved’ her. She’s also scared of whatever Mac smells like: We will not go back. It finished with us. It said so. We will never go back.– the ‘priests’ are the only thing I can think of. Which is what leads me to believe they might be the Sweeper.
6. Mac: Is apparently giving off the same ‘melody’ as the Unseelie Princess! Is she becoming one?? O_O
7. Sweeper: Insiniuated that he’s not fae either. He collects broken things and ‘repairs’ them…Hmmm…
8. Sinsar Dubh: In Mac – can’t eviscerate essential self…it’s always been there for her, is it now considered her essential self and she’ll have to come to terms with it? That’ll be interesting. I like that idea better than getting rid of it.
In Cruce – I really, really want to know what’s going on with him!
9. Unseelie Princes: HELL YES! I cheered when Barrons brought their heads to Mac. That whole conversation too. God, I love that man.
10. Kat: Pregnant?! WHAT?! Whose is it? Sean’s? Cruce’s? O_O
11. Weapons: Sword of Light – where is it? Dani/Jada doesn’t have it anymore. Spear of Destiny: Mac let Dani/Jada take it. Cuff of Cruce: Dani/Jada left it behind for Mac. WTF?!
12. Daegus = 10th
September 2014 update (from the blurb):
The only one Mac can depend on is the powerful, dangerous immortal Jericho Barrons, but even their fiery bond is tested by betrayal.
August 2014 update:
From KMM’s Facebook (yet another dead/deleted link – Sorry.)
BURNED clarification: Getting lots of emails from people asking if Dani is still in the series. Of course! But when I decided to condense the planned five books (3 Dani, 2 Mac & Barrons) to three, the narrative was best served by using Mac as primary narrator, Dani as secondary. I don’t pull punches or skim emotional connection with either story arc. The planned story lines have not changed, just the method of delivery:)
and from some of the comments:
I’ve been getting emails from readers (with a gazillion different questions, sorry I can’t answer them all!) who seem to think I’ve decided not to tell Dani’s story. That’s not true. Dani’s story is still being told, in BURNED, in all the delicious detail I planned it. Ryodan, Christian, Dancer are all still primary players, just like Dani. What I said was that in BURNED Mac is the primary narrator. I can’t stress that word enough. Narrator. I base that on the number of scenes written from her first person POV opposed to the number of scenes written from Dani’s first-person POV. (POV as a narrative tool is critical.) You’re still getting Dani’s story. Just not entirely from her first person POV. I wrote it the manner I did in order to give the reader the best possible view into Dani’s world. That’s not always from inside the characters’ head. (Like JZB)
And am getting this question frequently also–why did I decide to write three combined POV books instead of 3 Dani, followed by 2 Mac? I merged five books into three because two thirds of the way through ICED I realized Mac and Dani’s story had to unfold concurrently in order to achieve a cohesive chronological narrative that made sense of events. I also realized the narrative devices that propel the action had to function differently than I wanted them to. I didn’t reduce the primary character stories in any way. There were entire secondary stories from “new” characters I decided not to introduce in BURNED and FLAYED (tightening the focus and intensity) and lots of backstory that became obsolete (and stopped bogging action) when I opted to include a concise Fever summary and character guide instead. There are secondary villains whose storylines were postponed to future books. I can’t go into greater detail about what I did and didn’t tell and why without giving away things that wouldn’t even make sense to you guys at this point.
Siara, you’re not alone in that. A lot of fans love Dani’s perspective and I love writing it. I’m not done But when I finished Shadowfever, I left Mac’s story unfinished. It was a challenge to write the ending to Shadowfever in a way that delivered a degree of closure or rest, even though the true villain of the story wasn’t really defeated. Although one Sinsar Dubh was securely imprisoned (one hopes), another copy of it was left roaming the streets of Dublin, held in check by mere force of will. Three battles remain: man (or woman) against self, man against man, and man against world. In many facets, involving many characters. Dani and Mac’s stories have to intertwine.
They wouldn’t work split up. When I finished Shadowfever, I had to make a choice: continue with Mac’s story right away or give myself and the reader a small pause between. As Dani was chomping at the bit for her own moment in the spotlight, I chased it in ICED with single-minded focus. Unfortunately, two-thirds of the way into writing it, I realized it was impossible for me to tell the story the way I’d originally planned because Mac and Dani’s story needed to unfold concurrently in order to achieve a cohesive chronological narrative that made sense of events. I also realized the narrative devices that propel the action had to function differently than I wanted them to. Once I understood that, I analyzed options as follows:
A: Do one Dani book, followed by one MacLayla book, followed by a Dani book, then a MacKayla book—which had all kinds of problems. Not only was that proposition too jarring, it left too long between events that needed to occur concurrently.
B. Do a Dani chapter, a Mac chapter, a Dani chapter, a Mac chapter. I played with it. It didn’t work. Forcing the narrative to switch impeded the necessary action, plot development and emotional flow.
C. Find the organic flow of the narrative.
I opted for C. It’s tighter, more natural, suspenseful and fun. At the end of the day, I’m the only one that knows the entire story, the breadth and girth of the FEVER world, where I want it to go, and I’m the only one who can make this decision. Just because I said I wasn’t doing five books for this particular story arc doesn’t mean I’m not doing more Fever books after it.
No words from Ryodan’s POV
August 2014 update:
Seriously. This is the cover they’re going with? But I’m not supposed to think that a 14-year old girl was being oversexualized…Uh huh.
Also, I’m glad I C/P the info from her website, because everything was deleted a few weeks ago.
20 February 2014 update:
Look, I trusted KMM all the way through the Fever series. Every word, every moment. I had no doubts that she was going to take me somewhere great. I don’t know where that trust came from or why, but it was there, fully formed. I think – partially – due to how she treated her world and characters with such respect. It was brutally true, and I felt that in what I read.
By contrast, Iced did not give me that feeling. All the talking that KMM’s done since about a vast majority of issues that I had with this book haven’t convinced me. They haven’t changed my mind (and I sure hope they’re not supposed to, despite being told I’ve read it wrong).
And now Dani’s going to be 19 in Burned. Hmm. I wish I could get back this trust that I had when I started Darkfever. I should be elated that she’s going to be “older”. And yet, all I can think is two things: 1.) How are you going to not break the rules of your world AND accomplish this AND maintain the plot?; 2.) If you tell me she’s 19, but she still acts 12, I’m going to be even more pissed.
But by “combining” Dani’s and Mac/Barrons’ stories into these two books (Burned and Flayed) I suppose she has accomplished one thing – I’ll be reading on release day now.
Interview that I’m discussing is in spoiler tag below, (ETA: Remember all that deleting of KMM’s posts on her website – another lost link here)
Q: When does ICED come out in paperback?
A: February 25th, 2014
Q: Why the change in cover art between the hardcover and paperback?
A: Cover art and marketing is a mystery to me. I leave it in my publisher’s hands. I know two things for certain: It’s hot and folks will undoubtedly write me both love and hate-email for it. After 15 books, I’m rather used to that.
Q: Why did you make Dani so young in ICED? Why didn’t you age her and give the reader a protagonist with whom we could better identify, one who could have sex?
A: Writers make choices every day, every page, every scene, in an effort to accomplish their goals and showcase their themes. My goal is not to craft a formulaic story that pushes all the right buttons and sells the most copies but to capture the story I want to tell. I prefer having passion for what I do to chasing commercial gain.
I think most of us who stick around on the publishing scene for a few decades or more tend to write the same themes over and over, kind of like living our life, trying to get it right, make it the most impactful, memorable, beautiful, poignant, raw, ferocious, emotional.
My underlying theme has always been transformation and the redemptive power of love. If I begin with the finished product, there’s nothing to transform. The more base the initial material, the more dramatic the change. Dani is raw, elemental, rough around the edges in the beginning. She grew up by herself, shut away from the world except for TV. In ICED she has few social graces. As smart as she is, when she acquires them, it’s something to see.
I began young with Dani because there’s an innocence and magic in childhood—the loss of which is a story in itself—and when you’ve shared that time with a beloved character, watched her lose it, then get to see some part of it restored after a period of suffering, it’s immensely fulfilling.
A small segue…when I stopped writing my HIGHLANDER romance novels and began working on the FEVER series, I encountered enormous obstacles. Change is a demanding bitch. Yet gratifying. I went from writing successful, stand-alone, third-person POV romance novels with happy-ever-after endings, to writing first-person POV urban fantasy novels with none (initially) of the hot-sex-and-guaranteed-culmination in each installment that I normally delivered. To further inflame the situation, I spread the story over five novels and gave them cliffhanger endings (ending DREAMFEVER on a figurative and literal cliff.) As if that wasn’t enough, I proceeded to take an average of 15 months to write each book, stringing the reader along. (Speaking of which—to those original Moning Maniacs who suffered through the wait for each installment, it was great fun and thank you! The SHADOWFEVER launch party was one of the more memorable weeks of my life, spending time with you in NOLA, answering long unanswered questions.)
When DARKFEVER was published, I lost readers, I lost ranking on the bestseller lists, I lost placement in bookstores, and I lost money. There it is. Bottom line.
I got sliced and diced by fans who told me in no uncertain terms that I didn’t have what it took to write anything but romance, that I needed to return to my roots, pull my head out of that un-sunshiney place I’d been foolish enough to cram it, and give up the writing the FEVER series.
I didn’t listen. I rarely do. Oh, I heard it. It just didn’t change anything. I’ve got this tunnel-vision muse that isn’t after the money or the fame and frankly prefers a little less attention so she can work in peace. All she wants to do is tell stories without a moment’s thought to how they might be received. And that cantankerous wench holds the reins.
When ICED was published, I received some of the finest critical reviews of my career and the largest number of positive reader reviews I’ve had on any book I’ve written.
However, as happens any time a writer begins a new series—spin off or not—I lost sales, ranking and money. Again. And managed to incite a vocal minority who disliked my protagonist’s age.
Q: So, will you stop writing this trilogy?
A: No. I understand a simple fact. Any new series I begin will initially suffer a similar drop off. We all have our comfort zones. We like to revisit the same world, sink down on the same comfy Chestefield in front of the gas fireplace in Barrons Books & Baubles beneath a mural I still haven’t revealed, and be assured a cataclysmic force of nature will walk through the door at some point and rock our world. When Harry Potter ended, I wouldn’t have wanted to read about Hermione’s adventures. At first. Eventually, I would have loved it just as much because JK Rowling is a wonderfully imaginative writer, I adore the universe she created and am hungry for alternate viewpoints of her world.
But writers can get trapped in their own never-ending series that sputter and fizzle long before they stop taking up space on the bookshelves.
It’s not confortable (in fact it’s damned unnerving) to go from being number 1 on the NYT (thank you fans for putting SHADOWFEVER there) making a predictable income to saying—this is what I’m going to do next for love of the story, believing it will ultimately be more satisfying for the readers, knowing I’ll take a hit, financially and via reader enthusiasm.
The simple fact is the most profitable, assured-of-success book I could have written after SF would have been a re-telling of Mac’s story from JZB’s point of view. I was offered a great deal of money for it.
The second most profitable, safe thing to do would have been to say simply: I’ve decided to keep telling Mac’s story and we will next publish Fever # 6, 7, 8, 9, 99 ad nauseum, oh, wait, ad infinitum. Those were safe bets. Those were nice hits for my bank account. They were guaranteed to sell. A new trilogy? Risk compounded by obstacle multiplied by uncertain success.
Yet there I’d be: trapped in my own never-ending series, bored, with my reader growing increasingly bored, watching myself lose passion for what I do. Life is short and complicated and then you die. The only thing you really own is what you do while you’re headed that way.
Many of the readers that didn’t want to take a risk on the new series emailed to tell me why:
1. They felt reading ICED was tantamount to admitting the ‘real’ FEVER series was over. They weren’t ready to say goodbye yet.
2. They didn’t want to read about Dani. They wanted to read about Mac. Or Barrons. Or Christian. Or the boring, celibate old woman in Galway that sits home and crochets by the fire. Anyone but Dani.
3. They had no interest in a young protagonist. They didn’t want to read about someone their daughter’s age. They wanted a mature heroine with a lot of mature sex. I understand that. There’s plenty of it out there. Unfortunately, I didn’t write it. Or fortunately, depending on how you view it.
4. They prefer I write individual romance novels for each of the Nine. I can put this to rest. Sorry. The Nine just don’t work that way.
That being said: passion, sex, love infuse pretty much everything all of us do. It makes us excited to wake up, exhilarated to hit the sheets, or floor, or stepladder in the stacks of the library where trying to keep quiet becomes a fun and forbidden sport. It’s not merely the icing on the cake, some days—those are the best—it’s the cake, the plate and the table under it, hell the whole floor we walk on. There will always be a firestorm of lust and love at the core of every story I tell. Did I deliver with Mac and Barrons? I hope you think so. Will I with Dani? As good or better.
Q. Is there sex in BURNED?
A. I’ve pulled no punches in BURNED—after all, there is that title to live up to. The sex is hotter, more primal, there’s more of it happening, and there are enormous consequences for some of it that does. I adore exploring consequences for sex that shouldn’t have been.
Q: OMG, does that mean Dani—
A: I’m not talking about consequences for a 14 year old. Please park the “pedo” wagon around someone else’s campfire. There isn’t any in ICED. Or BURNED. Or FLAYED. I would never write about, condone, romanticize something so awful, and those of you who’ve been reading me for years know that.
Is there sexuality and sensuality in ICED that takes place in the vicinity of a protagonist who is young and mostly oblivious? Yes. Does the moment that Ryodan goes hunting for her because she’s late for work, finds her bunked down on a ship and wakes her have any sexual purpose in it? Not a drop. Does anyone get hot over the skull and crossbones on her bra and panties? No. Someone is ‘charmed.’ Does Ryodan lust after Dani in ICED? Absolutely not. There are three very different males who see the woman she will one day be and are invested in that future woman in many ways, sex being the least of them. One of them has lived so long that, like the Fae, a few centuries are nothing to him, a decade a mere blink of an eye. As he says in BURNED: “You hunt for the best, the brightest, the strongest…and when you find one that shines like the sun, you do everything in your power to make certain that light never goes out.” Are they grooming her? No. They’re trying to make sure she does one thing: survive. Dani can’t be ‘groomed.” She doesn’t have the temperament. Simply protecting her—something many are actually trying to do—won’t work. She’s unpredictable, rash as any teen and gifted in just about everything. Mac is a wild card. Dani is a wild card on steriods. A far bigger concern is that Rowena turned her into an assassin at the age of nine. Was Ryodan hard on her in ICED? Yes. Ryodan knows things about Dani you don’t know yet and there are reasons for all of it.
Okay, seriously? Charmed? No one will convince me of that. Also. That they’re trying to make sure she “survives”? Maybe Christian was. Dancer for sure. But Ryodan? Nope, can’t see it. There’s going to have to be some interesting gymnastics from that corner to change my mind.
Q: Whose POV is BURNED told from?
A: Multiple first person points of view. Mac. Dani. Christian. Someone you haven’t met yet. A few others you have. Lor. Yes, I did say Lor and since you’ve been so terrific, waiting while I tell the story the way I need to, check back tomorrow for an excerpt from his POV on my FB page!
Q: How old is Dani in BURNED?
Q: Was this a concession for the irritated reader?
A: The only one I made. I’ll likely compensate by finding other ways to irritate the reader. (I’d planned for her to be 17.)
Aaarrgghh! I’ll be honest, this frustrates me as much, or more than, Dani remaining 14. There damn well better be a logical reason, and some character growth (age is a number after all – if you tell me she’s 19 but she still acts 12, then I’m not buying it).
Q: Does Dani have sex, sex, sex? Is it with Ryodan who we aren’t even sure we like or Christian who you screwed up by turning Unseelie Prince or Dancer who’s now going to be too young? Argh! You’re ruining my story!
A: You’ll have to read it to find out how I ruin it this time.
Q: Is Dublin still iced in BURNED?
A: No. The Dublin we all know and love comes back to life in BURNED.
Q: How many more FEVER books do you have planned?
A: Originally I was going to write three books in this trilogy followed by two more Mac & Barrons books, but after deliberation, I decided to combine all five into this trilogy. So, two more FEVER books right now: BURNED and FLAYED, merging the original five-book story-arc.
I’m not sure if I want to cry here, or be hopeful. Maybe this means that I’m going to enjoy these next two books more – or maybe it means that I have two less books (revolving around solely Mac and Barrons) that I’m much more likely to love. =/
Q: When will BURNED be released?
A: January 2015. I’m sorry about that. I’d hoped to get it done sooner but couldn’t. My heart and soul are in it, and I think you’ll see that. I love it more than anything I’ve ever written and can’t wait for you to read it.
January 2014 Update:
January 2015 now?! I wonder how much in the storyline is changing from the original vision???
Q&A from KMM’s website (Another deleted link)
(Hmm. This doesn’t allay a lot of my fears) Spoilers for those that haven’t read Iced yet.
I promised a quick recap of salient points from the Q&A this past weekend.
Q. Was the release date for BURNED really moved?
A. Yes. The release date for BURNED has been moved to April 2014.
A. I won’t put a book out until I’m satisfied I’ve written it the best way possible. I’m currently exploring two different ways of continuing the series. Previously I told you there would be three books (ICED, BURNED and FLAYED) in the Dani series followed by two Mac & Barrons books. I may be combining the next four books (BURNED, FLAYED and the untitled M&B books) into two.
Q. Is Dani older in BURNED?
A1. Crimeny, is it really all about sex?
Q. Yes. Now answer my question.
A2. Although Dani is 14 at the beginning of BURNED, she does mature by the end of the book. Someone asked if she would be 17. I said possibly.
Q. Will we get anyone else’s POV in BURNED?
A. Yes. Among others, Mac is back! Which means JZB is, too (but don’t expect his POV, LOL.) To those of you who insisted Mac and Barrons would never have let Dublin get iced because they’re natural born heroes, therefore they should have been on stage and on page…. what did Barrons say? “The world can wait. I can’t.” But seriously, there are reasons you didn’t see them in ICED. There are reasons you will see them in BURNED.
Q. Is Ryodan Dani’s dad?
A. No. No. No.
Q. Is Dani’s father relevant?
Q. Do you write about pedophiles?
A. No. I write about life. I write with verisimilitude. I write about men who look at a 14-year old superhero woman-child (who is also an assassin—where is the moral outrage over that? Priorities, the UK would say, get some) and can see the women she will become one day. I write about men who will do anything to keep her alive long enough to become it—even knowing they may never be the one lucky enough to get her. I write about men who know that being gentle and making pleasant requests of a young woman who is stronger, faster, smarter and has more balls than pretty much everyone on the planet would be as effective as trying to chisel a sculpture from stone using feathers. Ryodan never lusts over Dani. Dancer never lusts over Dani. Christian has a few very realistic death-by-sex Fae moments but there is no question he is drawn to her “light’and her ‘innocence’ not the skull and crossbone panties he glimpses when she is freezing to death that ‘charms’ him. Not turns him on. Charms him. Do they have hard dicks? The 9 and death-by-sex Fae always have hard dicks. The wind blows.They breathe. It’s that simple. I was 13 when I first noticed a man looking at me like he wanted to have sex with me. How old were you? Although I didn’t act on it for a long time after that, I remember to this day being thrilled by it. Exhilarated. I was becoming a woman. Dani is an odd duck: raised by TV she has seen everything the world has to offer but experienced very little of it. She gets the actions, not the emotions. Yet.
Part of what may have been difficult for any readers who felt disturbed by the way I wrote the characters in ICED is this: I have always given my reader a way in to the men, a heroine through which the reader could connect on a sexual and romantic level to the Alpha males I write. ICED is the first book I’ve written that does not do that. I gave you no mature eyes through which to experience romance (of which there is none yet.) There is no woman in ICED through which you can comfortably lust after my Alphas. Yet. Stay with me. Keep the faith. This made it difficult for some readers who tried to view the Alphas through Dani’s vantage and felt an ‘ick’ factor. Well, stop it! You weren’t supposed to do that anyway, LOL.
Q. What’s up with Jo? I can’t stand her. She doesn’t deserve Ryodan. And Ryodan shouldn’t be sleeping with her if he wants to one day be with Dani!
A. Can I please not be nailed to stand-alone romance novel clichés from the 90’s? (Which I love to read by the way.) Really, is Ryodan the kind of…whatever he is….that would in any way be governed by them? And Jo—who among you wouldn’t walk up those stairs if you got his nod? She’s completely frank about knowing that she’s never going to keep him. She’s making a memory.
Transformation is what I find fascinating and emotionally stirring about life. It’s what we become, how we become it, what happens when we think we’ve got nothing left inside us then stumble across some inner beast we didn’t even know was crouching in there that can rise to any occasion. No, Jo isn’t in Ryodan’s league and maybe Ryodan is currently being a jackass. Those are starting points. Just like Darkfever was a starting point. I haven’t forgotten that many people demanded I stop writing that new “horrible” series immediately, because they hated Mac and thought JZB was old and unattractive.
I’m glad I didn’t listen. I hope you are, too.
Q. What is the hardest part about writing?
A. Stopping at the end of the day. Making myself sleep.
Q. Will we learn more about the 9?
A. Yes but probably never as much as you think you’d like.
Q. Will everything eventually be answered?
A. God, I hope so. Life confuses the crap out of me. 🙂