2008, Paranormal Romance
Signet Eclipse, $6.99, 400 pages, Amazon ASIN 0451225384 Part of a series
Red Fire begins a new series featuring Leonidas and seven of his fellow Spartans. After their deaths at Thermopylae they were offered immortality by Ares the god of war if they would serve as a force to fight against the evils that plague mankind. The premise is great – the execution, though is not so good.
This book is about Ajax Petrakos a captain of the Spartans. After he and the rest of the group became immortal, they spend centuries fighting demons and Djinn. For Ajax, the fight is personal since one of the Djinn, Elblas (called Sable for no reason I could fathom) bewitched Ajax’s family so they lost their memory of him. Ajax fought Sable and wounded him so badly he lost the wings which were his one vanity. (Before I go much further, Sable can take the form of a centaur and Ajax the form of a hawk). Ajax and Sable hate each other with a pure and white hot hate.
Ajax has dreams of a woman – an angel who he senses is his soulmate. When the Oracle (whom I know we will meet in later books since she has a thing for Leonidas) sends Ajax to Savannah to fight an evil that could kill him, he meets his angel. Her name is Shayanna Angel and she belongs to a family of demon fighters (they call themselves The Shades). Shay is the first woman in her family who can see demons, but her brothers won’t let her go out and kick demon butt like she wants to.
Shay meets Ajax when he finds her almost bewitched into stone by Sable, but with the help of his devoted servant River (who can change into an enchanted sword) Ajax frees Shay from the enchantment and they go for a sexy flight (while she calls him spiderman for some reason I could not fathom). Anyway, the book introduces a huge cast of characters and builds the world of the immortal Spartans, while somewhere in all the goings on we discover Shay’s true destiny, she and Ajax fall in love and Sable is defeated for now at least.
I think Red Fire was trying to go for a mixture of 300 with a bit of the paranormal. It didn’t work for me. The book’s treatment of Spartan warriors in the 21st century was jarring and tended to jerk me out of the story. I didn’t want the characters to speak in ye olde archaic dialect, but when they started calling Leonidas The Old Man or Leo it seemed a bit les majeste to me. And showing the Delphic Oracle as a punk was to me, offputting.
Shay and Ajax, who were supposed to be soulmates, didn’t register with me at all. I found them boring and bland as a couple and even Ajax’s big “I am a Spartan” scene was anticlimactic. There was so much exposition and stage setting that Shay and Ajax were lost in it all.
The next book in the series will feature River, who is a helot. Back in Sparta he was the devoted slave to Leonidas and in this book he is rather a tortured character since his enchantment makes him sexually insatible but won't let him be with a woman. Now that all that messy world building is over, there’s a chance that River’s story might be interesting. I hope so. I began Red Fire hoping for Gerard Butler and 300, but I ended it feeling like I had spent several hours with the Monty Python troupe.
-- Ellen Micheletti
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