Friday, March 15, 2013

First Read Friday: Snakecharm by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

     Title: Snakecharm (The Kiesha'ra, #2)
     Author: Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
     Publisher: Laurel Leaf
     Published: September 28, 2004
     Number of Pages: 167
     Genre(s): Fantasy, YA
     Date Read: February 17, 2013

In the wake of Charis Cobriana's death, Zane Cobriana, Diente to the Serpiente and Danica Shardae, Tuuli Thea to the Avians are still married and still ruling the two different tribes together; they divide their time between the Serpiente court and the Avian Keep trying valiantly to bridge the divide between their two peoples and further the tentative peace that their marriage has created. They have settled into this routine of travel, it is comforting, familiar and happy. But that happiness is not to last.

Syfka, a Royal Falcon has come to their court with a message from the immortal Empress Cjarsa; there is a Falcon hidden among their court and the Empire wants them back and will stop at nothing to secure them. Danica and Zane are in disbelief, they don't understand how a Falcon could have hidden themselves amongst the avians and serpiente. Syfka explains that Falcon magic enables them to change their appearance, including form and colouring, at will. Syfka refuses to tell them anything about this supposed criminal they should be seeking and not knowing her motives puts everyone on edge. 

Matters are only made more stressful when it comes out that Danica is pregnant with Zane's child; the child with be a hawk-cobra---and the Falcons do NOT like interspecies breeding; they don't even like it when a peregrine and a gryfalcon breed!  So when Danica and the would be child are almost killed, Zane knows exactly who to blame this time.  But that's not the only concern about the babe, will it be accepted? Can a half-breed truly rule both courts? Or will it destroy the peace simply by existing?

All he wants is to find this mysterious lost falcon so that they can send Syfka away and his wife and child will be safe. Will Syfka actually stay true to her word and leave? Will they even be able to find the Falcon? Will they like what they find when they do? Can they really give up someone they love to the monstrous Falcon empire? And what of their child? They know the Falcons won't accept her...but what about their own people? Surely their own people will accept their child as the heir to both courts? What other choice is there?

As one would expect from a sequel this one picks up pretty much exactly where Hawksong left off. Zane and Danica are settling into their fledging new rule when the dangerous Falcons start trying to stir up trouble. It was rather obvious that their rule wasn't going to be smooth given the events at the end of Hawksong but the Falcons waste no time sticking their beaks in.

This book switches perspectives, where Hawksong was narrated by Danica we get Zane's point of view for Snakecharm, which was a dead give away from the title of the book; rather obvious. I personally prefer Zane to Danica, he's more in touch with himself and with the people around him than Danica was. But I have major problems with this volume in the series, and I think most of my problems stem from the issues that seem to come up whenever Atwater-Rhodes puts a major focus on a male character. She has a problem developing her male characters, it's something that I and countless other fans of hers have noted throughout all of her books and Zane suffers the same fate. He had so much potential when he was the secondary character in Hawksong, but then he became the narrator and all of that potential just flew out the window. She didn't develop him, she didn't develop his relationship with Danica, instead she used him to focus on everyone and everything else around him. He does well doing that, he's insightful and a very good narrator, but he's also a let down because he was built up in the first book to be this badass character, but he doesn't actually do a whole heck of a lot, and certainly nothing I would describe as badass. 

After getting to the end of this particular book, I wish Rei had been the narrator instead; in fact I wish there had been two stories of these same events; that way Zane could have focussed on narrating his growing marriage and impending fatherhood, and Rei could have focussed on the political intrigues and his own budding romance. That way we could have also been treated to content about what exactly happened on Ahnmik.

That's the worst limitation and pit fall of first person narrators; they can't provide us every detail because they can only share with us the things they experience or what other characters tell them. Snakecharm could have been improved by either doing what I suggested above, or just simply changing to a third person narrator.

At least the villain here isn't repetitive; yes their end goal is still to destroy the tentative peace Danica and Zane are building. But Syfka and the formidable and intimidating Falcon empire taken it to the extremes; they don't just want to break up the peace they want to plunge the two races so far back into war that they will never be able to break out again. What makes that so ominous is the fact that we don't get to find out their motives for this desire until halfway through Falcondance.

Overall it's a good second volume, it has it's flaws and it could be better, but it does what it sets out to do; it drives the plot forward and introduces the series Big Bad. But it suffers the problem most sequels suffer, it just doesn't end up living up to the memory of the first book.


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