March 17, 2011

Review: Aequitas I: Betrayal by a.c. Mason

Aequitas I: Betrayal
Author: a.c. Mason
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Series: Aequitas, Book 1
ISBN: 161650059X
Purchase Information:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Lyrical Press

*Novel provided by the author for a honest review.

For more information please visit a.c. Mason's website.

The Aequitas, part angel and demon, have kept the balance between the forces of good and evil -- until now.

When Etienne Grant is kidnapped and transformed into an Aequitas, marriage to Auria is the only thing that will save his soul.

Auria is a beautiful but efficient Aequitas, a General who wants nothing to do with love. A former lover has plans to prevent any hope of happiness with her new husband, and after murdering his own best friend and forcing Auria to join his rebellion, the balance between good and evil spirals out of control.

Can Etienne's tenderness melt Auria's cold heart and heal the pain of their secret pasts? Their very survival depends on it.

Content Warning: This book contains graphic sex, mild bondage, sensual touching f/f and biblical references.

Aequitas I: Betrayal, a.c. Mason's first installment in the Aequitas series, was actually nothing like I had expected. This story was wholly original with a unique insight into the realm of Angels and Demons that I found fascinating in a market saturated with similar themes.While there were some things that left a bit to be desired, it couldn't obscure the fact that this was an intelligent and original story that left me curious and even eager to know more.

The world was actually quite intricate with an original spin that I hadn't really encountered before. While the way we are introduced to both the world and the characters was a bit abrupt for my tastes, I did find the idea of these half-demon, half-angel warriors intriguing. The cooperation between these two seemingly antagonistic factions was interesting and I truly loved the dynamics inherent in each species as they blended to create a warrior capable of keeping the balance between good and evil. The need to have an anchor, or rather a mate, to ground themselves was an intriguing idea. The rituals surrounding this was also something original as it came off as  more a game of chance, or fate as seems more appropriate. However, while Mason quite obviously has a wonderful hold on theology and a highly developed idea of what this novella should be, I was often left a bit confused as I tried to sort out the culture and history surrounding the Aequitas. Not to mention the beliefs behind the rituals they performed and what significance they hold to the characters involved. Overall, I found the knowledge held by the author was often not passed on as succinctly as it could have been to the reader which would have greatly helped the flow of the novella and helped make it a more well rounded story.

The characters, like the premise, were also not your typical pair. This became even more pronounced as the story progresses and we come to find that nothing is ever quite what it seems. An underlying duality soon becomes obvious in the pair as their past histories mingle to create an caustic situation. In fact, the duality within the characters was what really captured my interested. But, I seem to be getting ahead of myself, so let me start at the beginning. Auria, the Aequitas General is sent to locate Etienne, a man destined to join the warrior ranks, is by all accounts a strong warrior with no emotional ties. She is comfortably numb and in no hurry to be tied to a male's whims and desires. She often comes off as standoff-ish and antagonistic, but there is an underlying vulnerability that is plainly evident in her coarse mannerisms. Her desire for Etienne leaves her conflicted, on one hand craving him, but on the other resentful when she is bound to him. In contrast, Etienne is a caring and devoted man who doesn't want to be tied to Auria simply because he has to be. He wants her to want him, to desire him the way that he desires her. Steadily he chips away at her resistance eager to know the woman beneath the veneer of strength and scalding wit creating a simmering energy of sexual tension. As they slowly come to understand one another, the romance that comes from it is wonderful, but oh so short lived as the hidden dualities within them  boils to the surface creating the catalyst for a wonderfully engrossing twist that completely threw me for a loop. The surprising twist spurs yet more unforeseen results that culminate in some intense action fueled with angst, sadness, with an underlying thread of hope. The resulting atmosphere is dark and richly layered to produce a novella that will have you eager to learn more about not only the situation, but the characters as well.

So, while this was a good read, there were still a few things that could have greatly improved it and easily turned it in to a great one. For instance, I would have liked to see a more direct build up of the social structure surrounding the Aequitas. Rituals and histories at times seemed a little muddled like I was missing an important piece and the hierarchy of the different species was a little hard to pinpoint. The various species of Aequitas was also a notable point that I would have liked to see more greatly explored. The richness this offered to the story in the small dose we received was enthralling, but to see that built up more would have been impressive. I also would have liked to see a bit more world building, not necessarily development because that's nicely done already. What I mean by 'world builing' would be more actual exploration of the setting within the world so I could get a feel for the locale. For instance, the compound in which the Aequitas live as well as the other environments that the story takes place in. Also, on that note, I often was most confused by the passage of time. It seemed inconsistent and the locations seemed to change without much warning. I think this led to most of my confusion overall and could have used a bit more tweaking.

In the end, this was an interesting and unique novella. The thrilling premise left me wanting to know more about the world, the characters and the battle that is soon to come between the growing factions. I quickly became engaged in the characters' lives, especially after the major plot twist half way through and was engrossed by the overlying theme of betrayal in all its varying and complex incarnations.

With lingering questions yet to be answered, I can't wait to read Aequitas II: Punishment.

My Rating:  3 out of 5 Scars

Advisory: Some sexual content

No comments: