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Embrace the Slayer: Embrace by Jessica Shirvington (TheSunnydaleProject)

“It’s time for you to know who you are . . . ” – Jessica Shirvington

Last Saturday I told you about my absolute favorite Buffy readalike, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride. Today, I am going to share another readalike with you – the Embrace series by Jessica Shirvington (technically called The Violet Eden series).

Into every generation a chosen One is born and Buffy is our girl. She fights. She slays. She quips. But the deal is, she honors her destiny while staying true to the core of who she is. And girl can seriously kick butt.

Meet Violet Eden. She too has a destiny (please note the angel wings on the cover – it is a big hint). She becomes aware of it when strange voices begin to whisper to her. And then there is the matter of a strange tattoo that is appearing on her arm. Violet doesn’t know her destiny when we first meet her, but in some ways she has already been in training for it.

The Violet Eden series begins with book 1, Embrace (read my review here), and continues with book 2, Entice, which just came out this month. They are written by Jessica Shirvington and published by Sourcebooks Fire.

Embrace introduces us to Violet and Linc and a few other interesting characters. In Entice, we learn more about what, exactly, Violet is and what her calling is. It involves a hierarchy of angels, yin and yang, good vs. evil and the battle for the world – you know, Buffy stuff.

Like Buffy, Violet is a strong female character who has to make important choices. Not just once, but over and over again. And like Buffy, there are sometimes HUGE consequences for those choice, including who to love. Destiny is always a tricky business.

When I originally read Embrace, I was bothered by a scene in the book that I felt could be construed as rape and I struggled with how to contextualize it. But Entice helped me to be at more peace with the relationship involved. And a recent discussion about Spike over at Bookish Comforts helped me to remember that even Buffy had scenes that really bothered me but we can’t take them out of context because they are part of a whole story arc. Each new book is a new piece to Violet’s story just as each episode helped us flesh out Buffy and the Scooby Gang’s stories.

I also recently mentioned the cover for Entice in my post regarding ya lit book covers an the influence I feel they have on teen body image. And although I worry about the message of the cover, I reiterated even then that I really like the series.

But here is the really interesting thing about the series, The Mr. is a HUGE fan. When I came back from Midwinter, it was the first arc out of all the arcs I brought back that he chose to read after reading all the back covers. And the same thing happened with Entice. He likes the characters and says they are well developed (they are), he likes the action (it is good) and he likes the Buffyness of it (we are both fans). It just goes to show you, we can’t always predict what guys will like to read.

If you are a Buffy fan, you’ll want to be reading this series. Violet, like Buffy, is an example of a strong female character (a kick-butt girl) who can save the world. Like Buffy, she’ll probably do it more than once. And I am not the only one who has noticed the Buffy vibe to this series, the CW recently announced that it was developing this series into a tv show and the press release called out to Buffy fans. Violet Eden has answered the call to her destiny, you should answer the call to Buffy fans and read this series.

Please note: I already have a great programming idea put together for you with this book series.  You’re welcome.


As part of The Sunnydale Project, I will be giving away my Embrace and Entice arcs by Jessica Shirvington to one lucky winner. Leave a comment with a way to get in contact with you via email or Twitter by next Saturday’s post for your chance to win.

Slayer Scavenger Hunt
Did you notice some words written in red in this post? If not, go back and take a look. You’ll want to, I can reassure you. Why? Because we are having a Buffy themed scavenger hunt! How fun is that? To find out how to participate, read the details below. And I know you’ll want to participate because we are working on getting some GREAT prizes lined up for the winners!
  • Each week on our Slayer Saturday posts look for the words highlighted. There will be 3 sets of words each weekend, so make sure to visit all three blogs (Bookish Comforts, Patricia’s Particularity and Teen Librarian Toolbox).
  • Write down the words each week (Sept. 8 – Oct. 20), putting them in an order that makes sense. All together these words create a quote from Buffy.
  • During the last week a form will be made available on all three blogs where you can turn in the quote that you have pieced together.
  • On the last weekend of The Sunnydale Project, Oct. 27, the quote will be revealed! We will then draw a winner from those who have correctly completed the quote.
We really hope you have fun with this! We’re still finalizing the prize, but it’ll be worth participating for! An announcement will be made when all details have been finalized.

Trend Watch: Darkness Ruled the Land

Today I take off my librarian hat and set it aside.  I want to talk to you as a reader.  As a fan.  In particular, I want to talk about three very specific books: Masque of the Read Death by Bethany Griffin, Rotters by Daniel Kraus and Embrace by Jessica Shirvington.  These are all each, in their own way, dark, dark books.  The kind of books that haunt you.  And I just, well, need to talk about them.  So come talk about them with me.
Please note: you read this post at your own risk – spoilers abound! (You have to read that spoiler warning with a dark and sinister voice in your head. And maybe add in a “mwahahaha” and twirl your mustache.)

We begin our journey in a world haunted by plague and inspired by Poe: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin.  This is seriously a dark book.  There is such an oppressive darkness cast over this world that it truly haunts you as a reader.  Griffin was clearly inspired by Poe and succeeds in creating a work that would make him proud. This is a world haunted by a deadly plague, constant fear of contamination creates a stifling environment of fear and desperation: Darkness. We eat in it, talk in it, we sleep in humid darkness, wrapped in blankets.  There is never really enough light in this basement, not if you truly want to see. (Masque of the Read Death, page 13 in the ARC).  In terms of atmosphere, Griffin succeeds in flying colors of red to build a world so dark it is hard to imagine the sun even still shines.

Herein, though, is the thing that bothers me.  You see, there is a love triangle.  Our main character, Araby, is pursued by two men.  Will, is the bouncer at the Debauchery Club who checks to make sure you are free of the contagion before you can enter its premises.  Elliott is the brother of her best friend, the twisted leader of a group that is seeking to regain control of the land from an even more twisted leader who happens to be his uncle.  Elliott is a deeply complex character, haunted.  And yet Elliott is a sinister presence with what often comes across as self serving motives. Somehow, it seems that Araby is sometimes considering the possibility that she could fall in love with him.  Granted, this is of course all up in the air at the end of book one.  But as a reader, I had a hard time understanding how he could even be a possibility, how you could overlook the clearly dangerous tendencies that coursed through his veins.

In comparison, Will seemed like a hard working, selfless young man trying to survive in a twisty world.  In the end, he makes a decision with horrific ramifications for our heroine, but to be fair – it is done out of what I consider to be reasonable duress.  Am I wrong to look at this underlying motive and so easily forgive him his actions?

In the end, I feel that Griffin accomplished what she set out to do as a storyteller.  When you turn the last page of Masque of the Red Death, the darkness lingers, questions hang thickly in the air, and you hope young Araby will finally forgive herself and allow herself to live more fully in the world.  Although to be honest, there does sometimes seem to be little reason to, especially as a new more deadly plague sweeps across the land.  But this post doesn’t give justice to the world building and character development that occurs in Masque. When I say it is dark, I mean it is epically dark in really satifsying ways.  And twisted.  But again, twisted in epically satisfying ways.  Also, it should be noted, that MotRD is a good addition to the popular Steampunk genre.  So if you are looking for dark and twisty, this read is definitely for you.  And then come back and talk to me about Elliott.

As dark as Masque of the Red Death is, I wonder if it will haunt me as much as Rotters by Daniel Kraus does to this day – and it has been more than a year since I read it.  Rotters is the story of Joey, who eventually becomes a grave robber.  Yes, I really did say a grave robber.  I recently had a mini-Tweet chat with Kraus and asked him, “what makes you wake up one morning and say – I’m going to write a book about grave robbing?”  His response was that it took him about “3,000 mornings” before he was truly comfortable saying that.

At the beginning of Rotters, Joey’s mother dies and he sent to live with a father he has never known.  He arrives, alone, in the middle of the night to a house with no electricity, little food, and a man with a hostile disposition.  Slowly Joey gets drawn into a world where he and his father sneak out into the middle of the night and rob graves in order to sell their wares and survive.  It turns out that there is a highly intricate world of grave robbers with established territories, grudges to bear and axes to grind. 

As Joey slips into the dark and dirty world of grave robbing, he finds himself an outcast among his peers.  At one point Joey does an act so haunting to get back at his schoolmates for the constant bullying and taunting, you wonder what kind of nightmares Kraus could possibly have to think up such scenes.  In fact, I admire this act of boldness on the part of Kraus as an author because he does the unthinkable: he takes a likable character and turns him into an unlikable one.  Joey’s slow descent into this world is an interesting read, albeit a disturbing one.

So what’s my issue with this one, you ask?  I can’t help but think that Children’s Services would act differently then they do in the real world then they do in Rotters – at least I genuinely hope that they would – and that if they did, they could have changed the course of Joey’s story arc.  Of course, that wouldn’t work for the story.  But would children’s services really put him on a bus to arrive late at night to live with a man he has never met?  And would there be the lack of follow-up that occurs in this story?  One genuinely hopes not.

In the end, Rotters is also another example of successful storytelling.  I cared about Joey and was angry about his descent into the character he becomes and was thankful for the possibility of hope in the end.  I appreciated the world building that occurred in the development of the grave robbing world.  I wondered how true to life it was and what kind of research Kraus did for this story (he was vague in our mini-Tweet chat.)  It is a book I still think a lot about.  It truly haunts me.  (There is information about Rotters at the Randombuzzers page.)

Our final dark tale revolves around the world of fallen angels, definitely not new to teen lit.  SPOILER ALERT! Embrace by Jessica Shirvington is the story of Violet Eden, who eventually finds out she is some type of angel.  In this world there is a hierarchy.  She is pursued by two men, Michael and Phoenix.  Phoenix falls somewhere on the hierarchy and has a special ability: he is an empath.  This means that he can in effect push his feeling onto others as well as feel what they are feeling.  He is also the source of my issue. 

You see, to me, the ability to mess with someone’s thoughts and feelings is the greatest violation I can imagine – and this does not go unspoken in the book.  But what does happen is that at one point Phoenix and Violet have sex and it is never clear to me, as a reader, if Violet does this of her own free will or if Phoenix is somehow enhances her desire by using his ability.  If he is, then isn’t that basically rape?  If Violet is not fully consenting of her own free will – if he is in any way using his powers to even enhance her feelings – then it would be rape.  I wish, as a reader and as a teen librarian, that there would have been more discussion about this concept in the book.  I wish that they had used the word rape.  At the end of this book, which is book 1, Violet does recognize that Phoenix’s ability to influence her is a bad thing and she walks away from him – which I appreciated as both a reader and as a librarian.  But this issue of rape is a question that I would really like to discuss.  Have you read it?  What do you think?

In the end, I think that all three titles are well written books that are successful in telling the stories they set out to tell.  I think those that like to read a dark book – and I am one of those people – will be satisfied readers – and I was.  I think that Masque of the Red Death and Rotters tell unique stories. They present interesting, complex characters that are not always likable or – I hope – relatable.  They are truly interesting entries into the world of the macabre. And I think that fans of angel stories will be satisfied with Embrace; in many ways Violet is a strong female character that brings Buffy the Vampire Slayer to mind.  These are all definitely for the more mature end of the YA spectrum.

So, have you read any of these titles?  What did you think?