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My Review: I used to read paranormal romance all the time, but like most books these days, it's hard to find novels that stand out in their respective genres. I was immediately intrigued when I read the synopsis for The Other Half by Elaina M. Roberts. A story centered around an annual Human-Other Summit? A budding romance between head Ambassador Michael Zakhara (I like that the blurb didn't give away what kind of "other" he was until you actually start to read) and Kristiana Latimer, a female security guard? It sounded like a whole lot of drama (in a good way) and a story premise that hinted at some originality. And you can imagine my surprise and relief that Roberts' debut novel did not disappoint.
Here is what I liked. The author wastes no time jumping into the story and I was hooked within the first few pages which is always a good sign. I liked the fact that Kristiana "aka" Kris is a take charge, no-nonsense kind of woman. She's not interested in the latest hairstyles, makeup, or spending hours in front of the mirror. She takes her job as a hotel security guard seriously, so leading a practical lifestyle is second nature to her. You find very quickly that Kris served in the army and it suits her character and her job choice, not that she had much of a choice in the matter (don't want to give away too many spoilers). Also, Kris is quite feisty which you get to see rather early on whenever she is around her boss, Andrews, and her explosive first meeting with Michael Zakhara.
I might as well get this out of the way now...OMFG! Michael is H.O.T. Figuratively and literally, but I will get to that last part in a minute. He is sexy with a capital S. If you've read any of my reviews before, than you may already know that I am a sucker for alpha male characters. I love the multifaceted sides we get to see in Michael throughout the story. First, he is this mysterious leader of the "others" that bates Kris any chance he can get in the beginning. What I mean is, instead of calling her Kris, he addresses her by her full name (Kristiana) to her irritation (at first). He gives her pet names, like "kitten". But then we see a completely different side of him, such as when he senses Kris' distress and appears in her apartment in nothing but flames. Yes, I said flames. More on that later. Anyway, this fiery, fearsome creature is nothing like the man in the expensive suit back at the Summit. This ancient being is Micipsa. I guess I forgot to mention Michael goes by several different names because of his very long life; in this century he is called Michael but in previous centuries he was known as Micipsa. I definitely like this attention to detail. It would make sense that someone that has lived as long as Michael would possibly have several different names, even if it is just to blend in with current society. As the story progresses and we learn that Kris is Michael's mate, we get to see him as the devoted lover, and experiences doubt and fear, which are very human qualities. What if Kris doesn't want to go through with the mating ritual once she finds out the danger involved? What if he somehow loses her after waiting centuries to find his mate? It's really nice to see a well rounded character and for whatever reason, I wasn't expecting that.
Since I'm on the topic of characters, I have to give credit where credit is due. Elaina M. Roberts has an amazing imagination when it comes to not only creating characters, but characters that you feel for, that you want to know more about. In any other debut author's hands, the sheer volume of characters and species that are introduced and woven into the story could have been a complete disaster. But somehow Roberts pulls it off without taking away from her main characters, Kris and Michael. She even sets up some potential/future love stories, such as the Elven King Uruvion (who also happens to be Michael's best friend) and his Royal Advisor Lysavar. And rough around the edges (but very sexy) vampire Blake Simons and the human girl that helped the "other" children escape. I've already mentioned elves and vampires, but there are also werewolves/shapeshifters, centaurs, and pixies. I absolutely loved Sapphire and Opal and enjoyed the verbal sparring between Sapphire and Blake Simons. Imagine a tiny, feisty pixie giving her piece of mind to a big, bad vampire. Hilarious. I also must mention the Magi. Ariael Rumwynsal, a Blood Magus, was probably one of my favorite characters.
I also enjoyed the political aspect of the novel. Many times you will get authors that set their stories around a specific topic but end up glossing over it. It could be lack of research or fear of delving too deep into topics that may offend readers. But this isn't the case with Elaina M. Roberts. The issues that were addressed at the Summit were interesting, such as the repercussions of the "Others" coming out in human society. "Others" being hired over humans because of their supernatural/preternatural abilities. How to punish an "Other" for a crime they committed against a human or human society. You get my point. Not to get too deep here, but I can definitely see similarities between "Others" and immigrants (or even illegal aliens). I don't know if the author even had that in mind, but we have a lot of bitter people in the US who blame immigrants for taking jobs, etc. Very interesting connection.
So here are some things that bothered me, some of which I have no doubt can be easily fixed as the author gains more experience and becomes more aware of her readers. First, why no chapters? Maybe it was just the format I was reading (paperback), but I think this story definitely could have benefited from chapters. There were some breaks in the writing which I assumed was her way of showing that a new section was coming, but why not just add the numbers?
My next issue is with Kris. I don't really have issues with insta-love like so many others do, especially if it is done right. While I totally get where Michael is coming from, I felt that Kris' transition from trying to fight the attraction to then being suddenly in love with him was a bit...awkward? Not sure if that is even the right word. Actually, no it isn't the word I am looking for. More like too rushed. It just felt like one minute she is telling Michael to back off, the next she is calling him "my love". I get that they are mates and she is supposed to have this instant attraction to him, but I guess I expected her to fight it a bit more. Don't get me wrong, I love Kris and Michael together. I just wish Kris stayed a bit truer to her character. I hope that makes sense.
Here are a few other things that I made note of as I read that sort of bothered me. I was a little surprised that hardly any "Others" were angry with Kris since she was the one who helped the Colonel get free the first time, on top of the fact that he did commit murder (I'm talking about stuff he did before the story actually starts). And to be quite honest, I'm not sure I completely agree/buy Kris' choice to help him (again, this pertains to events that happened before the initial story begins). I'm just surprised more people didn't question her decision, even Michael. After all, he is the Head Ambassador and I know she is his mate, but it doesn't mean he should be so blind as to not question her role.
Random thought. What was up with their coffee obsession??? They were either drinking it, or in the kitchen making it, or running to Ricardo's food stand to buy it. It was just a bit excessive.
Another random thought. Shae's (Kris' sister) children have been kidnapped and she is holding it together a little too well? I know everyone handles extreme situations differently and maybe she was in shock. It could just be me being extremely picky and other readers might not find it as unrealistic as I did. I just remember making note of it as I read along.
While the author does a good job at not info-dumping, sometimes she forgets that her readers are not in her head. We don't automatically know what certain things are like she does. Some examples I came across: the nickname "Kiki"? Apparently her ex-flame Brian and a few other people that are close to Kris occasionally call her "Kiki". Why? How do you get "Kiki" out of Kristiana? What is a "Circlet of Office"? I get it is some sort of crown that King Uruvion wears, but there were a few times when Roberts describes the jewels of the crown as flashing or "winking" as if they are...alive or could feel emotion? I have no idea. It's never explained. Roberts also does this with characters occasionally. In the beginning (around pg. 62), I had no idea who Jenna was until I went back and had to reread and realized it was Shae's sister-in-law. This also happened with Uruvion (around pg. 67). His name wasn't mentioned until the next page but it was assumed I was supposed to remember that Michael's best friend is Uruvion. Maybe later in the book, but not in the beginning when humans and creatures of all kind are being introduced.
I think my biggest issue is with her lack of really telling us exactly what Michael is. Yes, we know he is a Djinn(i) but he is also an "Ifrit"? The only reason I vaguely know what an "Ifrit" is is because I watch the show True Blood and there was an "Ifrit" during one of the story arcs. But obviously Michael is different than what I saw on True Blood. And I thought Djinn were like genies. Yes? No? Why is Michael also addressed as warlord? Maybe a flashback scene of him fighting in a war would have been more informative. We know he is one of the oldest, most powerful, and most likely last of his kind. But other than that and his fire ability, the author doesn't really give us anything else. But I have to say...when he sheds his "human" form and can literally become flames? Absolutely hot and terrifying at the same time. And when he burns her bra and panties off because he grows too impatient? So sexy. Again, I have to give Roberts credit for giving us such an original male lead character.
I'm not sure if this was an inconsistency or if distance factored into the equation, but I noticed in an early scene that Michael was able to feel Kris' distress when he was at the hotel and she was in her apartment. Later in the story, Kris is in danger at the hotel and Michael is in some warehouse yet he doesn't feel her distress until he is back at the hotel. Again, just something I made note of as I was reading.
For a 275 page book, The Other Half packs a lot of punch. I absolutely love the fact that it is not your typical paranormal romance. Roberts put just as much effort and thought into creating interesting characters as she did in the Summit debates. And that is why this book just has that little extra something special that sets itself apart. I will warn everyone that there is a bit of a cliff hanger ending, and at first I was unsure how I felt about it because it led me to believe Kris and Michael's story may continue. While I love the couple, I feel that their story has been told and they had their HEA. I am really hoping the next book will feature another couple, such as Uruvion and Lysavar or Blake and the human girl.
P.S. A few of my questions were answered in the following Q&A with the author. :)
AUTHOR Q&A WITH ELAINA M. ROBERTS, Author of The Other Half (Revelations, #1)
1. This may be a mundane question but after reading your novel and finding it so rich in characters (everything from a Djinni to elves, to pixies to the Blood Magi) and mythology/folklore, how did you come up with the idea to write this book?
The idea came after a 'what if' conversation with my daughter. We had been discussing various books, movies, and situations and I thought, "what if these critters really were out there, how would humanity react?" Sadly, we are a fairly stubborn race that tends to react poorly to things that are different, considering the number of hate groups we have for our own kind. The conversation continued from there but the germ of an idea had developed and eventually became The Other Half.
2. I would argue that The Other Half is deeper than most paranormal romances in that it seriously explores the deep rooted issues of "others" and their integration into the human world (the good and the bad). I couldn't help but apply it real life issues, such as the prejudice and discrimination people have with immigrants and immigration in general. Did you see the similarities while writing the story?
Of course I did! I live in the deep south where there are 39 recognized hate groups as classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center. These groups meet, march, and stand on street corners with bull horns to spew their hate to all who will listen. They raise their children in this toxic environment, creating a new generation of bigotry. If you meet them away from their groups, you might never know their beliefs - they're husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, star pupils. But all of them fear, or feel they are superior to others based on the color of their skin, their ancestry, or their religion. If we will do this to ourselves, I have very little doubt we would do this to nonhumans.
3. So, I must ask...I know book 2 is in the works but is it going to continue on with Kris and Michael's story or are they handing over the reigns to another couple, such as the Elven King Uruvion and Lysavar or Blake Simon and the human girl?
Kris and Michael's story is, essentially, told. They have found their HEA and are settling in to their lives together. The next in the series, An Infernal Destiny, will follow the powerful vampire, Blake Simons, and Alicia Johnston, his human mate, as they search for the answers not found in The Other Half.
Elaina M. Roberts
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