Review: Ghostland

Ghostland by Jory Strong
In a post-Apocalyptic world where supernaturals have emerged from hiding, wealthy humans delight in decadence while the religious gain power through temptation. For the masses, fear reigns from birth to death, and the afterlife holds beings that only the bravest can summon—or dare to desire…

Taken from her home and family, shamaness Aisling McConaughey has no choice except to enter the “ghostlands” in order to learn the fate of a wealthy man’s mistress. But there is always a price to pay for the use of her power. To save the woman’s life she must summon the Djinn prince Zurael en Caym—and yield to his savage, sensual rage.

Zurael fears nothing except being called and bound to a human’s will. He intends to kill Aisling after she’s served as bait to find an enemy in possession of an ancient tablet. But the more he tastes of her innocent spirit, the more he’ll use his fiery touch and seductive whispers to keep her hungry for his mercy—even as they weave an erotic spell that he cannot escape…

Powerful forces threaten both their worlds, leaving Aisling and Zurael with an unbearable choice. Follow their hearts…or stay true to their honor and risk losing an eternity of pleasure.

After The Last War - ended by famine and plague - diminished the human population to such devastating levels, the supernatural were allowed to step free of the shadows. Now, decades later, the land is carved into territories. The United States of America still exists but not with the same strength of solidarity that can now only be found in history books. The world is mortally dangerous after dark and life is conducted only in the safe hours of daylight. And while the wealthy live a life of privilege, the poor scrape by on the bare side of survival. It is in this post-Apocalyptic world that Aisling McConaughey, a magically gifted human, lives with her non-blood brothers and sisters.

Left on a doorstep as a newborn during the dangerous hour of twilight, Aisling was taken in by the only mother she would ever know: Geneva. In the anti-magic rural territory of Stockton, the supernatural of any kind are shunned but Geneva guards her adopted magic and non-magic children the only way she knows how: hiding them. When guardsmen and a priest arrive at their farm looking specifically for Aisling, she knows that death could rain down upon her family if she doesn't comply. Little does she know that fate has stepped in to claim its due.

Travel is a privilege for the guardsmen and for the wealthy. For others, it's expensive and worse, extremely dangerous. In light of her adventure, Aisling's fear soon gives way to wonder as she leaves the only place she's ever known for Oakland. Her only companion on her journey: Aziel, her pet ferret and confidant. Some, like witches, mistakenly think that he's her familiar - an enslaved spirit, but that's not the case. Aziel is there at his own wish - he always has. Whether he's in the form of a snake, cat, or ferret, he always returns to her and sometimes he even travels with her into the spirit lands.

Aisling is a shamaness, a human who can travel the spirit winds of what most people refer to as the ghostlands. While in her astral self and guarded by fetishes, Aisling can call upon the souls of the dead but at a price. Her debts can vary from simple to extreme but for every question or request, she must pay her dues. Her abilities as a shamanness in the supernatural friendly cities are paid for as a service. In the inhospitable land of today's world, many are looking for lost loved ones. It's these very supernatural abilities that have been called upon by the Church and a highly wealthy and influential family of Oakland. The mistress of a prominent figurehead has been abducted and may be dead. The Church has requested Aisling to go into the ghostlands to find her - alive if possible.

What Aisling finds is a dark and gruesome scene. While still in her astral state, Aisling had dropped into the physical world to find Elena thankfully alive but set for sacrifice. Knowing she has little time to save Elena from death, she follows instructions from Aziel who has traveled with her into the spirit lands. He gives her a name. Of course the debt will be high for her summoning, but Aisling cannot allow Elena to die when she has a chance to prevent it. Risking her own life, Aisling summons Zurael en Caym and invites death. Looking on with terror, Aisling watches as the demon viciously kills the dark-robed figures in the act of performing black and dangerous magic. And before Zurael leaves he declares to Aisling his deadly intent for retribution.

When Zurael returns to his home, the Kingdom of Djinn deep within the ghostlands, he's crazed with blood lust for the child of mud who commanded that he do her bidding. Long before the alien angels arrived on this land and cast their image within humans, the Djinn - beings created from Earth's fire - ruled. Now, banned deep within the ghostlands, the Djinn await their moment when they can rule the land that's rightfully theirs once again. The black magic that once called forth their Djinn populace to be bound to the bidding of the children of mud, has been gone for a comfortable period time. Now that delicate safety has been shattered with the girl that summoned Zurael so easily. She poses a huge risk to any other Djinn names that she may know and he must destroy her to keep them safe.

Unfortunately for Zurael, before he can kill the girl who summoned him, he must use her first to find an ancient tablet that may be deadly to his kind if it is possessed by the wrong hands. But in order to use her he must protect her and to protect he must get close to her and to get close to her he must gain her trust. It is these facts that terrify Zurael for the girl has an alarming affect on his mind and body. He fears that she's already managed to enslave him.

After Aisling's service, the Church installs her at the previous shaman's house. The obviousness of his death is written with the amount of dust that lingers over everything. Privacy and peace is short lived though and Aisling is soon confronted by a very angry Zurael. Luckily he's not there to kill her - yet.

It doesn't take very long for Zurael to begin to worry that bringing upon Aisling's death is something that not only no longer appeals to him but horrifies him as well. This dilemma only serves to further ignite his anger. But he has little time to think upon the matter. No sooner does he arrive at Aisling's door when Elena, the woman that Aisling summoned him to save, appears. Using a drug unknown to both Zurael and Aisling, Elena forces all three of them into the ghotlands against their will. When they arrive, Aisling's debt is called in: Find who's creating Ghost, the drug that was used to force them into the ghostlands, and either bring about their death or kill them herself. The task set forth for Aisling coincides with Zurael's and together the two embark on an epic journey fraught with betrayal and death.

Aisling and Zurael's journey isn't only deadly, it's also filled with erotic escapism. As they both become more and more addicted to each other's touch, the more they come to rely and need one another as well. Soon Zurael intends to not only prevent anyone from harming Aisling but he also intends on finding a way to keep her forever. But when their worst nightmare becomes reality and Aisling is used to bind Zurael to a sorcerer, their chances of happily ever after are dashed to the winds. Not only will Aisling have to kill to unbind Zurael but she also must do the one thing that she has sworn to never do again. She must summon Zurael.

I have conflicted feelings about 'Ghostland'. While I'm in complete awe of the complex world building that Jory Strong has created with such stunning clarity, my connection to the characters was frustratingly weak. Sure Aisling was brave and loyal but she lacked something. I felt that she was just going along for the ride. She didn't make any real decisions except one that I can think of. Everything she did was to clear a debt or create a new one. It was also hard sometimes to believe that despite her sheer terror of Zurael, she could fully submit to him sexually. And Aisling never really makes any attempts to discover why he's sticking to her side like glue other than to probably kill her.

Zurael and his potent sexuality was easier to connect with. He really wanted to do his best to protect Aisling and I think he did a good job of it. I was also happy that his decision to kill Aisling was squashed the moment he laid eyes on her in the physical world. He wants her badly enough to loose an entire Kingdom. Gotta love that about a man. I also loved that as a Djinn, he can bind his soul to another with a kiss. It was refreshing to read that instead of binding souls with sex - which is so popular - in 'Ghostland' the characters can bind with the mere sharing of breath.

Unfortunately, despite the above mentioned, the romance was lacking, in my opinion. The book is labeled an Urban Fantasy Romance but I thought it read more as an Erotic novel. I think that if it had the Erotic label, I would have been more forgiving but if you're going to label a novel romance then that's what I expect it to deliver.

In addition, I felt that there were too many evil characters. It just seemed like everyone wanted Aisling dead including Zurael at one point. It makes the reading experience a little stressful as you await for each new character introduced to try their hand at bringing upon either Aisling's demise or death. And there were a LOT of characters. I found myself flipping back through the pages numerous times just to remind myself who is who and what their agenda is.

All and all the book was confusing and lacked not only reader connection to the characters but romance as well. Although, I do have to give points to the world building. It was extremely fascinating.


C

Available NOW!

Ghostland Series Book Two

Held prisoner by humans, his angelic memory and power lost because of the sigil-inscribed collar around his neck, Tir dreams of freedom and hungers for vengeance. He’s sworn he’ll never lie with a mortal, but when Araña removes his shackles and helps him escape his captivity, she melts his icy control and leaves him burning with desire. She’s a temptation he can’t resist—an unknowing enemy who might well enslave him more thoroughly than the chains he’s worn for centuries.

Branded, feared, untouchable because of the deadly spider-shaped mark on her skin, Araña is unaware of her true origins. Raised in a fundamentalist settlement until she escaped and found refuge among outcasts and criminals, she believes herself demon-tainted. But when her unnatural psychic ability causes her to weave her destiny to Tir’s, their alliance turns into an exploration of passion, and begins a quest that will lead to her Djinn heritage.

Powerful forces brought them together to serve a greater purpose…but learning the truth of what they are will destroy them—unless their love is strong enough to overcome the dark legacy of a battle that began with the birth of mankind.

14 comments:

Blodeuedd said...

Hm, not I don't know. I do wanna read this one.
Perhaps I will forgive it more if I think of it as erotica and not romance. Still gotta like ASisling too, hm

Book Chick City said...

I love both covers! A 'C' isn't too bad so I will definitely give them a try. Thanks for the review :)

Michelle G said...

VFG,

Wonderful review. I always enjoy an honest opinion. :)

M

Lea said...

Hi VFG:

Lovely review, the story does sound somewhat lacking with respect to characterization. However, interesting world building which is beautifully emphasized in your review.

The cover art is quite lovely. Thanks for sharing

Best
L

Leontine said...

This hasn't rocked my personal boat all that much when I heard about these novels and after reading your review VFG I think I'll skip it :S

Mandi said...

I have been on the fence as well. I like the cover..that was making lean into buying it..so glad I read your review. I LOVE UF romance, but not sure if that is what I will be getting. I have issues with heroines like you described as well.

Thx for the review!

VampFanGirl said...

Hey Blodeuedd!

Yeah, I think if you go into expecting more erotica rather than romance, you may enjoy more than I did.

:) VFG

Book Chick City! What's up girl?!

Me too! I love the covers. It's why I picked up 'Ghostland' in the first place.

;) VFG

Thanks Michelle!

;) VFG

Hey Lea!

Thanks! The world building really was amazing. I'm seriously thinking of picking up 'Spider-Touched' just so I can be in the world again. Very creative.

:) VFG

Leontine!

Wow, I think I just saved some one money with this review. LOL! Thanks for reading it and glad I could help with your decision.

;) VFG

Hey Mandi!

I was really bummed that 'Ghostland' didn't turn into a winner because like you, I love both covers. They're what drew me to the series to begin with. Maybe 'Spider-Touched' will be better. I haven't lost all hope.

;) VFG

VampFanGirl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barbara said...

Hey girl! Wonderful and honest review--as always. I'm sorry this one wasn't for you. I also have to agree with how stories are labeled lately. I've picked up many books assuming they were romance, when in fact they were not.

The cover is stunning, though...

VampFanGirl said...

Hey Barbara!

Yeah, I'm pretty confused by novel labels as well, especially Fantasy and Paranormal. Those two always leave me scratching my head.

The cover still leaves me breathless though and 'Spider-Touched' even more so. Gorgeous!

(((hugs))) VFG

Cherry said...

First heard about this book over at SciFiGuy's blog and bookmarked it to go into my TBR pile. But now, it probably still will, but not quite just yet given that I still have a huge pile to plow through. Thanks for sharing with us your review VFG!! Much obliged!

VampFanGirl said...

You're welcome Cherry. Thank you for reading and enjoying my review.

Have a great day!

;) VFG

My Blog 2.0 (Dottie) said...

Hi VFG!

SciFiGuy just had a post on these books, they look great. I've got them on my list to find. My author to me, but your thought and Doug's have inspired me to give them a try.

Dottie :)

VampFanGirl said...

Dottie, the worldbuilding in 'Ghostland' is amazing. It's worth the read merely for that.

;) VFG

 
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