Thursday, 13 September 2012

Sveta, (Neuri #1), Poppet

Another scenic tour of the paranormal and a psychologically intense journey of the human mind and spirit. I love the Neuri.

- Review by Kazza K

Bozena: 'I'm sick of the term love and the way it's used as an excuse to destroy people who have done nothing wrong.' 

Kazza: 'I agree Bozena, but you can't let that consume you. There is plenty that is good attached to love, much that builds-up the spirit, those that use it well. It's not the word, it's the wrong people using it.'

Bozena: 'I'm just a pawn sent out onto the emotional battlefield year after year, and every time I stick my head out it gets chopped off.'

Kazza: 'Only because you haven't learned how to deal with it or how to choose the people you let into your life wisely. You continue the cycle of an abused child into adulthood. This cycle can be broken.'

Arsay: "Bozena, You have to snap out of this victim mindset. When someone hurts you, you don't compound the wound by inflicting more. Stop pitying yourself and your own emotions. You can't run, there's nowhere to run...."  'The world doesn't need more martyrs, it needs compassion. That starts with you loving yourself...."

Kazza: 'Amen, Arsay. Tough love.You are so right. You can't run from your pain, you must face it and deal with it in a healthy way, otherwise it always follows you. Don't let others control you or make suffering your option. There are much better ways. Suffering, self harm are not healthy. Learning to love yourself is.' 

'Therapy' with fictional characters? Why not? There is such a strong message of what people can do to others,  what we can do to ourselves, for ourselves, in Sveta that I just felt like jumping in too. Obviously Sveta is a paranormal, but there is a lot in this book about human psychology and dysfunction. The Neuri Series concentrates on interweaving paranormal, Eastern European folklore, love, light, and spirit into the human world. The Neuri feel like the protectors of this planet and it's inhabitants, they want love, peace and harmony, and it shines through in Sveta.    

This book starts at a fast clip and with intense events and emotions. An eyewitness has turned up at Pravus after seeing a person attacked -

He inhales a jagged breath, shivering uncontollably, his pupils dilated with cortisol radiating from him stronger than the stench of vomit. "The ribs snapped man. Snapped like brittle twigs....Fuck man."

Thank you, Poppet, for using cortisol, so many people use adrenaline, yes, that's released too, but it's so fucking passe.

Immediately he slips toward hysteria with the recollection and I (Zauran) dive into his head, rearranging events, deleting what he witnessed, soothing over the drama.

"How bad is the body?" Zarak pauses with me on the steps, inhaling the crisp air of predawn Serbia. "Zauran, you know the answer if you reviewed his memories. The victim lost his heart and had his body pulled apart when he was still alive. They made it as brutal and violent as they could."

This book is about Sveta and Zena. Their relationship developed in Zauran (Pravus #3). Sveta is many parts. He's a - petulant, passionate, reactive, caring, antagonsitic, loyal, conflicted, simple, yet complex, Neuri. At a meeting of the paranormals regarding the attacks  -

If I was the alpha here, this meeting would take place underground in an untraceable location. But as no one ever asks me for my fucking opinion, I'm left here feeling overexposed with dread building, waiting for the imminent attack. All these men and not a brain between them. Fucktards. And why the hell did Zauran have to insist the bastard who made my girlfriend pregnant attend this meeting? Jowendrahn should be impaled and bled out slowly for what he put Bozena through. Zauran: Sveta's a moron. Except for Jowendrhan, every person present can hear his thoughts as if he'd announced them over the sound system. Shut the hell up! 

Sveta vaults over my desk and slams Jowendrhan solidly in the face with his fist. "You fucker! I should have kicked your ass then but now will have to do!" 

Sveta is still righteously pissed off at Jowendrhan for getting Zena pregnant, and, seemingly, leaving her at death's door. After nursing her back to health, he feels no justice has been meted out; it has but, for their own reasons, no one sent him the 'memo.' He sees Zena as dark, hurt and damaged and blames a lot on Jowendrhan. As the book progresses Sveta enters Zena's mind, as Neuri can, and sees her childhood, her mother's brutal treatment of her daughter and understands the depth of her emotional damage. Here Poppet travels into deep psychological waters. Personality Disorders are hard to write about, hard to diagnose, with so few sufferers, compared to population, and other conditions, and PD's are a contentious mental health disorder, much like DID. Also, you can't absolutely diagnose removed from the patient. I applaud Poppet for using a personality disorder, NPD in this case, and its integration into the paranormal world she has developed, which is very much about spirit, the soul, the psyche, love, the power of the individual, and healing. Bozena is deeply scarred, very insecure, very difficult to like, because of her upbringing. There are intense chunks dedicated to the abuse Zena suffered in her childhood, and her behaviours. It is so deep it seems personal, and you can't help but feel for her. Zena seeks/needs pain, from self and others, to 'soothe' her psychological hurt. Of course, that's not the answer, but when you have suffered so much it can certainly seem like it is. The scene with Jowendrhan raised the first red flags about Zena, here, in Sveta, it hurtles you into the pit of despair with her. If this were a contemporary romance I would say this could not end well. However, it is a paranormal, and it is in the realm of the Neuri; I personally loved the use of plyx here. Without plyx it was going to be too hard to have a happy/decent/plausible outcome. I liked that even with plyx there is going to be some dark light within Zena. Perfect.

Sveta and Zena's relationship is very tumultuous for quite  a while. Zena has an obsessive need for Sveta, to know where he is, she needs him there, to let her know he still loves her, yet she won't let him in either, it scares her. When Sveta needs to leave a meeting and get to Zena -

"She's in constant emotional pain and if she doesn't hear from me she falls right back into that pit."
"What pit?" I glare at Zauran. "None of your fucking business."

...and Zena, when Sveta doesn't call when she thinks he should, reverts to thinking he's with someone better, as she's not good enough -

It's like mama said, I'm ugly, I'm stupid...I just hurt. I hurt. So deep inside, no one can fix me. Not one. I'm broken where no-one can see...where no one can reach. There's no big hug enough, or man loyal enough, to fill the chasm in my soul......I hold still just long enough to slice the blade over my arm, experiencing immediate relief when blood swells up. It's calming. When blood wells up to cry for me, the destruction inside shows on the outside, and seeing it always makes me feel a little saner....I wait for the heartache to subside, for my heart to stop banging accusation in my chest, for the loathing to abate. I want to die. I don't want to feel anymore. I don't want to feel this any longer. I can't keep living in this eternal hell.

"Zena!" Something's wrong. I can feel it, she always waits for me.......I take in the swollen eyes, red nose, the blood.....Rocking her. I shhhh, smoothing her hair and holding her so tight she can barely breathe. Crushing her with my strength, I know it makes her feel safe.....her hot tears soak my neck. When the sobbing slows, I grip her chin and force her to look at me. "I fucking love you. Nothing and no one can take that away."

"If you want to bleed sweetheart, I can make you bleed. I promise if I do it it will be way more fun." Soft palms stroke my face and deep eyes burn into my heart, "I love you too."

It is all so angsty, but beautifully so, and there are many heartfelt declarations of love for Zena from Sveta, much hand holding and, of course, sexual healing :) I loved the protagonists but it's a slower build. Sveta is hot headed with others but with Zena he is infinitely attentive, patient and kind. There is one section where he feels he has been betrayed and it's heart breaking.

Apart from the intensity of the relationship of the protagonists, murders are taking place, the rest of the supes - neuri, vampyre, demons are attempting to work together to help find out who is on a murdering spree, and why. Everyone's camp suspects someone else. Once again the theme of 'who can be trusted' rears its head. Is it Ellindt? Is it one of the Neuri? Is it Venix, Jowendrhan?

Whilst there is some gloriously poetic writing here again, it also has a reality based, harder edge, as opposed to (just) paranormal edginess. I also want to say that chapter 24, the first section headed up Bozena, has to be read; it's a wonderful piece of writing all on it's own - sexy, metaphorical, beautiful. I also like to compare it to a later section headed up Bozena, in the same chapter. One section set outside with natures's elements, one inside with man made elements. Maybe it's just me but I loved the juxtaposition.

There are so many fabulous, strong, polarizing, wonderfully confusing, secondary characters in this series. It makes the book's easy to devour. Even if you loathe someone one minute something else happens that will make you rethink your stance.

Speaking of secondary characters - Zarak is yum. The 7'2, sadistic, yet caring, sexy, tumultuous, strong being that he is. His sections are interesting all on their own - 'Come here, kitty, kitty....'  "Ready for a love bite?" "No!" "Aw, come on. Just a little love bite." "No!" screeches hysterically. You need to read it. And, of course Jowendrhan's pulling out all the heart-breaking-stops he can to get who he wants. And speaking of dysfunction, Jowendrhan is sitll wearing his *heart* on his sleeve, and cutting in on other supes partners. He's a bastard, but he's my bastard ; and has been since Seithe.

This series is a sensory journey - full of twists, turns, some bent behaviour, and some moments that make you feel, visualise strong emotions and scenes. Some word choices impact me, for example, I'm not too keen on the word rape thrown out there too often, unless the book is about rape. However, Poppet obviously feels strongly about the soul and spirit and what happens, so I'll live with it.

Oh, yes, A is for, ahh, yes please, and A is also for arsehole. Sorry, I must remain cryptic.

This book ends with the protagonists happy, but there is a murderer to catch and the Slakax women to protect. Much is going on heading into Ryan, and I will be reading that as soon as I can.

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