Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Brazen Amazon (Alliance of the Amazons #3) by Sandy James

Sekhmet, the Destroyer, has arisen again from her long imprisonment by her father, Ra. And she’s taking up her old task, what she was made to do, to end the world itself.

Which falls to the Amazons to stop her, as they would any Ancient running amok. Gina, the Air Amazon, is assigned to protect Zach, technological genius whose invention could hand Sekhmet the keys to the apocalypse.

Not that Zach knows it – or about magic, amazons, gods or the strange guys who can shock him to death with just a touch of their hands. After the second time he’s rendered unconscious, it’s going to be difficult for Gina to explain.

Especially since he may be the one for her – her soulmate just as her sisters have found. Which is going to be hard to pursue with the jealous and angry Richard, complete with his own agenda and his own ability to electrocute with a touch

One thing I liked about the relationship in this book is that we got away from having a male love interest who was an authority figure over the Amazon – which meant we had less of the orders and instructions that didn’t work for me in Impetuous Amazon and made Reluctant Amazon so very dubious. Gina can talk to Zach as an equal, even a superior because of her greater knowledge and power.

Yet, the relationship was far more annoying to me. We have the extremely fast-forwarded falling in love from Gina and Zach which is accompanied by lots of excessively describing how distracting the other is though they never ever ever feel like this for anyone else, not even women Zach is sleeping with because her presence for the last few days is just so much more special than any woman ever. And, yes, she is a 26 year old virgin.

The primary source of conflict was brought by Richard, Son of Gaia and also crushing hard on Gina. So he and Zach hate each other. They hate each other form the very beginning, since Zach is established as Richard’s “competition” so quickly. They call each other childish names, they constantly bite at each other and they actually physically come to blows. Richard even tries to kill Zach in a moment of supremely ridiculous pettiness. Gina makes her choice clear over and over and is constantly ignored. This makes for endless interactions ruined by pettiness, jealousy, big strong he-man growling and other testosterone poisoned scenes. We even had a convoluted misunderstanding scene for extra jealous flounce.

The Amazon series does a good job about calling out a lot of sexism – like Gina referring to the misogyny in her old work place and objecting to being called “chick”; but then puts up with a whole lot of alpha male jealousy bullshit from the love interests.

Note that while these 2 men are locking antlers over Gina, there is a goddess of destruction trying to bring about the end of the world. This is what annoys me about a lot of paranormal romance with big dramatic background: your characters look petty if they pay each other’s humpable potential more attention than the actual end of the world.

Some of the plot is also a little dubious – Zach is working on a device that allows nuclear weapons to be deployed remotely. An interesting idea since the reason behind it is that DoD simulations pointed to soldiers refusing to obey orders to launch WMD. Except – knowing what he’s making how can he have a shocked moment where he realises what nefarious purposes his inventions could be put to? He’s SHOCKED that his inventions could cause vast death while working on a remote WMD trigger? Does he not understand what WMD are? For that matter, why is his office – and he himself – so completely and utterly lacking in even the slightest pretence of security?

Gina is also bad at her task. She fails, dismally. Not because she gets him hurt but because her plans are non-existent (“Brazen” doesn’t mean “shameless” in this book, it means “complete fool who never makes any plans or thinks things through. I think the word “brazen” is just inaccurately shoe-horned into the text because “impetuous” has already been used and to give it a romance book title). She has absolutely no cover story for interacting with Zach and just relies on an endless “you have to trust me, oh complete stranger”. It’s clumsy, it’s amateurish and it’s silly. And the only reason it works is because Zach is controlled by the author so sees absolutely nothing wrong with hiring a security company he’s never heard of or checked up on, for an unspecified sum of money, to an unheard of, unseen threat that only she knows about. While handling top-secret DOD projects he keeps safe by means of a locked filing cabinet.

It doesn’t work. The story is clumsy, not thought out or planned and is just there as a vague wallpaper background to the romance and when you look close you see the bubbles and where the sheets haven’t been lined up properly

Inclusionwise, this is another book with no GBLT characters – but we do have a return of a particularly ugly piece of homophobia from Reluctant Amazon. The utter worst thing you can do to Gina, the worst insult that will leave her mopey and upset and in need of lots of comfort and reassurance – is call her a lesbian or imply she’s a lesbian. The very idea is utterly devastating to her and an insult that cuts to the bone – which is similar to what we saw with Sparks reaction in Reluctant Amazon. Being thought of as gay is only offensive if you think being gay is offensive; Gina’s over the top reaction coupled with it being a repetition in the series speaks of real contempt and derision towards lesbians.

We also have a lot of really silly and immature conflation of being masculine or a tomboy with being a lesbian and the fact that Zachary’s house is neat means Gina thinks he’s gay – with the added oddness of Gina not really dressing in a manner that differs that much from, say, Megan. The whole thing combines to reek of homophobia

Sarita and Ix Chel both played a much larger role in this book than they had previously which leads to a much greater involvement from the POC in the series. Ix Chel isn’t as major a part of the story as Frejya and Rhiannon were in the past 2 books, but part of that is because Ix Chel isn’t bad tempered, childish and petty like the other 2 goddesses so we don’t have endless scenes of them snarking and sniping at each other. I do really wish the author would strike the word “exotic” from their vocabulary though - it’s severely overused.

While Gina’s transient childhood brings in a new angle and more character development, I found it irritatingly unnecessary especially since the mission receives so little attention already. And while I don’t mind a wandering parental figure, I don’t agree that this can be put down to her “gypsy” blood. Even aside from using “gyspsy” rather than “Roma”, this idea that the Roma travel all the time because it’s fun and romantic and in their blood ignores a) the vast majority of Roma who don’t travel and b) the fact that Roma, historically, weren’t travelling because it was fun, but because they were running from persecution or moving before the locals tiny store of tolerance expire.

On the whole this book is a disappointment. The world is broad and has potential, a lot of potential that we’ve seen some powerful hints of in Reluctant Amazon and Impetuous Amazon. This potential wasn’t met and the general improvement of the last book was set back by the generic cliché ridden blah of this book and shoddy plotting that didn’t do the world, the setting or the imagination behind it justice.