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Ann E. Byassee
5.0 out of 5 starsQuintessential Werewolfery
Reviewed in the United States on July 28, 2017
A FB group I belong to called Queer Sci-Fi posts questions for both writers and readers, often generating long and fascinating threads. Recently, the question was whether the werewolf trope in fiction was getting tired and stale. Serendipitous, then, that this book comes along with its fresh perspective and beautifully written characters to take some of the familiar elements of werewolf tales and surround them with a world astonishingly different and yet familiar at the same time. Max the sumage, who has adopted his late abusive father's conviction that he is a failure and an embarrassment so deeply into himself he might never be whole, and Biff, the Beta werewolf for whom care and protection are deeply ingrained in his large and largely silent person, are the two main characters, and their relationship is lusty and visceral, heartbreaking and beautiful. The other werewolf members of Biff's pack, Gladiola the kitsune, Marvin the merman and mate of Biff's Alpha, and Manifest Destiny the drag queen are all complex and fascinating characters, and I want more of them. A lot more. In addition to all this goodness, here is a book written by an author of accomplishment who can write breathtaking sex scenes, heartwrenching love scenes, hysterical banter (aka whistling in the dark) scenes, and some descriptions and turns of phrase that left me open-mouthed with astonishment ("...the pub was nicely intimate, dark with old smoke and lost moments.") I loved every word, line, and page of this book. As for that question at the beginning, my answer is a resounding no. Not as long as good writers are around to put their own stamp on the lore of the werewolf and bring it to new heights of wonder.
4.0 out of 5 starsDelightful Start To A New PNR Series!!!
Reviewed in the United States on August 27, 2017
This review was originally posted on the Goldilox and the Three Weres blog.
I have been a huge fan of Gail Carriger's steampunk books for years now and they're brilliant! So when I heard she was writing a m/m paranormal romance book, I knew I had to get my hands on it. I will note here that you should read Carriger's short story, Marine Biology, before reading The Sumage Solution. It will set the needed background for this story plus it's fun! I love Alec so much!
Once I started reading this book, I literally couldn't put it down and stayed up all night reading it once it hit to my kindle. It was a mistake when I had to get up the next day but I can't say I regret it. The story surprised me on many levels. It was the witty, lighthearted, supernatural, romantic romp in a more modern setting that's pure Gail Carriger that I wanted it to be. I had high expectations for it and they were blown out of the water with how good it was!
The characters in this story were great and I'm dying to know more about the San Andreas Pack! They immediately drew me into the story with their complexity and authenticity. And hello witty banter! I have missed the banter Gail Carriger writes. I loved the pack and Max's friends at DURPs but I ended up head over heels in love with Bryan and Max! I was rooting for them to get together as soon as they came face-to-face. Their relationship was adorable while also being frustrating. Bryan is all in but Max has some issues that prevent him from communicating well. I just wanted to give them both hugs in places and shake them in others. I loved Bryan so much more than I ever expected to after reading Marine Biology. And it was a delight to see Alec coming into his own as Alpha and seeing him happy with Marvin.
The Sumage Solution wasn't just a romance. It's a story about what it means to be a family and finding a home where you can be accepted exactly as you are. The world building was incredible which is to be expected since it is a Gail Carriger novel even if she's writing under G.L. Carriger. I loved that even though this was a modern paranormal romance, Carriger found an unexpected way to fit it into her Parasol Protectorate Universe! I can honestly say I didn't see it coming. This book was fun and amazing and I can't recommend it enough! Go snag a copy! You won't regret it, I promise!
3.0 out of 5 stars3.6 Amazon; 3.2 Goodreads — I definitely liked it, but with reservations
Reviewed in the United States on August 6, 2017
The level of sexual language/jokes/toys/etc. is simply a little too high for my tastes, and would be even if this were a M/F tale, not M/M.. I realize she warned us, but I wanted to read it anyway, and I'm glad I did. Beyond the various bad puns (I *like* puns) and other light-spirited stuff, there's some serious emotional content. Caretaking, open-hearted Biff/Bryan/"Muscles", who starts the book still in the closet, is a sweetheart. Fast-mouthed, defensively bratty "failure" Max is a broken mess, but one you root for to get past the damage his father did.
The world is intriguing — various kinds of shifters (including polyamorous kitsune) and other magical beings, various classes of mages and sumages, et cetera — although for some time it's explained only in immersive bits. Finally, we learn the tragic history of the Great Saturation, the release of magical potential (called quintessence) into the world, and the part Max's ancestor played. (This change, a century before, allows fans of GC's other series' to connect them, though it doesn't really matter to the SAS characters' stories.)
It does get a leeetle bit preachy about the wounds and struggles of the disenfranchised, but that's unsurprising, given the premise, and not wrong.
The first obstacle in Biff & Max's relationship is a classic, trope-y case of heart-breaking misunderstanding, but at least that gets dealt with relatively quickly. I also saw the big revelation coming at least as far back as the first confrontation with an intruder mage at Max's neglected, inherited house, but I wasn't bored watching it play out.
The unconventional pack's dynamics were interesting, especially seeing brother Alec (star of Marine Biology) from the outside, being a commanding, responsible Alpha for better and worse, especially when Biff is too miserable to do the calm-and-stabilizing Beta thing. (Beta is not the leadership-heir-presumptive, unlike in, for example, Patricia Briggs's Mercyverse packs, where that part of Biff's role is the one called Omega — which means something different here. When you read a lot of UF, you always have to keep track of the current universe's rules!) I wonder who will be next in the SAS series: former-loner enforcer Judd, possibly with formerly-abused young Colin? Reticent but gentle giant Tank? I *will* be reading it.
As for the editing, it's on a par with her major-publisher releases, meaning I found a few goofs, but not enough to impede enjoyment.
5.0 out of 5 starsHighly recommended (if you don't mind M/M action included) - smutty and funny, well worth a read!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 30, 2017
Ok, first things first, this is definitely not a family friendly book - it's a M/M relationship-focused story and has details about what they get up to in bed (or want to!). However, I was not reading it for that, but for the story itself. As a fan of Gail's stories generally, I'll take every opportunity to read them, even if it means reading around some fruity action! And the writing is excellent in this book. Whilst the core of the story is a M/M romance between Max (a Sumage at the paranormal / supernatural registration centre in San Francisco) and Bryan (the beta werewolf of the new pack formed in Marine Biology), there is so much fun and fighting, sparks and sass, arguments and action - of the literal kind! - there is very little time for action of the other kind. But the relationship between Max and Bryan is very sweet when it finally gets going, and you can't help but root for them. I really enjoyed the story in this book, and the characters were excellent, so descriptive that I could see them in my mind. And when I listened to the audiobook version (brilliantly narrated by Kirt Graves), it was like watching a movie behind my eyelids (which I had closed purely for that reason, honest!). I hope that there will be more books about this pack, though maybe not all M/M ones as it could be fun to see the heterosexual members of the pack have adventures too. I'd recommend this book to all Carriger fans who can appreciate a story whilst coping with the inclusion of M/M sexual action in the book, as well as to those who've not yet discovered this writer - she's awesome!
5.0 out of 5 starsSexy times with a werewolf and a mage. What more could you want?
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 21, 2017
I really, really enjoyed this M/M contemporary paranormal romance novel, which is the first in a new series.
Firstly I think it's important to say that this is different to Carriger's other books and I think the decision to badge it as GL Carriger is a good one. There is a lot more explicit sexy times in this book than there has been in her Parasol Protectorate and Custard Protocol books to date - and if you have a teen reader who has read the Finishing School series, this definitely a lot different to that. However it is set in the modern version of the same world - although some things have changed (having not read Imprudence yet, I can't tell you whether we have all the explanations for this yet, but I don't think we do) and moved on. If you like Carriger's writing style and perspective on the world, that is all there but there is also - and I can't stress this enough - explicit sexy times.
Now I've got all that out of the way, I can talk about how much I enjoyed it. This is so much fun. The characters are great, the romance is great, the world is fun - although I feel like I probably should have read Marine Biology again first in case there were gaps in how the world worked that that filled in. There are still a fair few gaps to fill in in the way the world works and how it got from Custard Protocol to now, but this is the first in a series so that's fine. I loved the pack dynamic and I can't wait to see who is the next member to get paired off.
4.0 out of 5 starsMore fun with this mismatched pack
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 21, 2017
These books are just plain fun, they're an enjoyable romp through an alternative paranormal world where magical creatures live happily alongside humanity.
The first one in the series set up Biff's brother founding the new pack and moving them to the West Coast where this tale now has them settling down and turning to find their way in their new home.
Biff bumps into 'failed' mage Max when he goes to register the new pack and all of a sudden it's all systems go on him actually putting into practise his newly admitted status as a gay werewolf.
Biff is an absolute delight, he's so sweet, gentle and caring even though he's a piece of man muscle, as Max so eloquently describes him. Max has all sorts of hang ups and being able to trust someone isn't even the hardest one.
Together they muddle through the triumphs and traumas of introducing a werewolf with brilliant self healing to the delights of gay sex (very hot), the acerbic wit of a man who might actually be the most powerful mage there's been in an age and an overly protective pack.
In between they fight off baddies with an eye on the wreck of the house next door to Max's where his father's hidden secrets, a work colleague with relationship troubles and an overly harsh boss who might secretly be a bit of a softie really.
4.0 out of 5 starsA definite beginning in search of an ending
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 27, 2017
I love Gail Carriger's writing style. Her Parasol Protectorate series is one of my favourite fictional worlds and as an M/M paranormal romance fan, I've been really looking forward to this novel. I found it a challenging read though. There was a lot to absorb and perhaps that detracted from me getting to know the central characters. I loved Max and Bryan but at the same time I felt as if the story kept me at arm's length from them. Which was awkward because the plot with the house and the enchantment kind of took over but was brushed aside without me really feeling as if I'd learned much about the reasons for them being there. I'm expecting there to be a sequel. And I really hope to find out more about what was in the book on the pedestal then. Little touches linking this back to Miss Carriger's other books, such as the references to quintessence formerly being known as 'excess soul', made me smile. I still have very high hopes for this series.
This book was full of snarky goodness and I absolutely loved it! Max, with all his abrasive sarcasm meshes with Bryan's cool aloofness so well, with wonderful banter and surprising charm, yet the story totally packs a punch with the romance too.
I did struggle a little with the world-building when different elements were introduced, such as Placer, quintessence etc, as they were just mentioned like a dictionary - term first then definition after, and a little build up would have helped ease me into the context, but it didn't take long to get my head rebound them.
Overall, a great read which manages to be entertaining whilst retaining a complex and compelling story.