Wednesday, March 30, 2016

"Sebastian (Ephemera #1)" by Anne Bishop

I was very excited to read another Anne Bishop series- perhaps a tad too excited (as per usual). It's hard to know what to expect from an author whose current series I adore (The Others) and whose past series I couldn't get into (The Black Jewels). Although the cover purports this to be darker fantasy with "sensual" elements, for the most part this reads like an original fantasy with some romance (but it isn't by any of the stretch of the imagination that "sensual").

The concept of this book is a great one- instead of a vast world, what if it were broken up into little Landscapes, and to get to different Landscapes, you had to cross a Bridge. To those of us who like video games, the concept should come easily- instead of a sandbox-type world, it's a scattered one where you have to plan how you'll journey from place to place (and you're never quite sure where you'll end up). Taking care of the Landscapes are the Landscapers (who seem to all be female) and the ones who build Bridges are called Bridges (and again, all male).

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'A world of shifting lands connected only by bridges, Ephemera has been kept stable by the magic of the Landscapers. In one land where night reigns and demons dwell, the half-incubus Sebastian revels in dark delights. But then in dreams she calls to him: a woman who wants only to be safe and loved-a woman he hungers for while knowing he may destroy her.
'But a more devastating destiny awaits Sebastian, for in the quiet gardens of the Landscapers' school, evil is stirring. The nearly forgotten Eater of the World has escaped its prison-and Sebastian's realm may be the first to fall.'

Sebastian is only half-incubus, but seems to be very much a human male. Although one would think even a part incubus would be busy seducing women physically, for the most part he seems to prefer appearing to women in their dreams and indulging their fantasies. Meanwhile, the female main character, Lynnea, manifests as a near carbon copy of Meg Corbyn (of Written in Red fame), but without too much backstory, which is part of why I love Meg in the first place. I'm not sure if the author plans to include her much in the second book, but based on the title and cover I'm guessing not. Lynnea was easily the most disappointing character in the book- not because she didn't have the potential to be a great character, but because her backstory was so vague that she wasn't that compelling.

The thing that turned me off in this book was the thing I expected to like a lot: the Landscape of Den of Iniquity, which serves as Sebastian's home. When you think of that Den, chances are you may imagine some dark place illuminated by flames, filled with all sorts of sensual delights. So imagine my surprise when, despite the author asserting that this Den is pretty darn devilish and sensual, it ends up being like a corny, cheesy version of Vegas. There are rolls that you dip in cheese in the shape of phalluses (Phallic delights), and stuffed mushrooms that have some odd, boob-related name and look like, you guessed it, breasts. Despite Sebastian and Teaser having to "shield" these poor innocent people that come to the Den, I have to say, other than the "lewd erotic statues" (which, who cares- that's art, people) and supposed debauchery on the streets (which is never really shown, and never stumbled upon) there is nothing that wrong (or devilish, evil- take your pick) with the Den. Sure, it's always night and the sun doesn't shine there, but for those of us who are sun sensitive that almost sounds appealing.

Despite the flaws, there was something about this book that had me reading it almost nonstop. One would think I would be too annoyed with my above grievances, but in actuality, there's just something about this book that was addictive to me. Maybe it was the awesome worldbuilding (once one ventures past the Den of Iniquity), or even Sebastian himself (who wasn't half bad for a half incubus)- regardless of either of those, something compels you to read this book. Personally, I think the demon cycles (sentient demon motorcycles, sans motor) were a charming touch.

Sebastian was a gripping read that opened up new Landscapes for me. Beyond its shortcomings, something about it makes me hopeful for the next books in the series- perhaps the frenetic pace or the mystery who is Glorianna Belladonna. If you're looking for a unique series starter that doesn't feel like that urban fantasy you read last month, Sebastian definitely fits the bill.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars for a page-turning series starter that didn't quite fulfill its potential.

Content: Ages 18+ for cheesy rolls, violence, and strange monsters that suck you in and feed you to their pets.

Page Count: 436 pages in my mass market paperback edition.


  1. Well it's a shame that wasn't as good as you were hoping. I still have to read this author and was hoping to go with the Others series which reading your piece sounds like the best place.
    Lynn :D

    1. Yes, the Others series is the best of her work that I've read so far- but this series does have its perks (unique concept/worldbuilding). Ephemera does have more action, but there's something more appealing about the Others series, which I think has to do with the depth of characterization.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Lynn!
      ~Litha Nelle


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