Just so you know, I have a total author crush on Richelle Mead. I could go on and on about her action packed plots, interesting characters, dry touches of humor and incredible world building...but I won't. Let's just say that Storm Born, the first book in the Dark Swan series is every bit as wonderful as the rest of her books.
Eugenie Markham, known as Odile to the Otherworld, is a shaman-for-hire. She works to rid people of pesky spirits and creatures by banishing them back to the Otherworld, or if they are really naughty, to their deaths. Along the way, she has built up a deadly reputation among the Fae community who rule the Otherworld. When she starts stumbling upon creatures who not only know her real name, but want to have sex with her, she knows something is wrong. A little investigation turns up a secret of her parentage and a prophesy that her heir (when she has one) will fulfill...something she must stop at all costs.
The world of the Dark Swan is very different from Mead's other books, because a significant amount of the story takes place in the Otherworld, a parallel world where the Fae and other magical creatures were forced into when the humans kicked them out of Earth. The Fae, or Gentry as they are referred to, abhor human technology. They draw power from nature and magic. Humans used to have magic, but lost it when they turned their back on it in favor of technology. Very interesting concept.
As with Mead's other books, there is a fair amount of romance and sex. While fending off the advances of every creep in the Otherworld, she meets two men who seem to like her for more than what power she could give them if they impregnate her. The first is Kiyo, a half-kitsun, whom she is immediately drawn to and has great chemistry with. But when Kiyo breaks her trust, she is not quick to forgive. The other man in her life is Dorian, a Fae king. Eugenie does not trust him either, knowing full well he is all about power and himself, but she finds herself having to rely on him anyway. I can feel this ramping up to a love-triangle which will span the whole series. Both men have faults and good points. While I find myself rooting for Kiyo at the moment, that may change.
The sex was hot and prevalent, but it also advanced the story. I like a good sex scene as much as anyone else, but I love them when they serve a purpose for the character or plot. Eugenie has power and control issues which both men bring out in her. As the story progresses, you can see these issues cropping up outside the bedroom, too. Brilliantly done!
I also have to say a little something about the fabulous supporting characters. First, her roommate Tim was hilarious! He is of polish decent, but pretends to be Native American. He drops references to The Great Spirit and crap all of the time when he's talking. I find this funny because I have some family members who act like this when we only have a tiny bit of Native blood in us and are several generations away from the reservation.
I also LOVE her spirit minion, V. (I can't remember his name, but I know it started with a V.) He absolutely hates Eugenie and resents being bonded to her. He keeps promising her that when he's able to break free, he will kill her slowly and painfully. Unfortunately for him, while he is bonded, he must protect her from harm and is unable to lie to her. This makes him her greatest ally, even with his hatred. I found V hilarious and endearing. I just know something cool is going to happen with him and Eugenie in the future. It would be really neat if he were able to break free of his curse and they fall in love.
Another really cool supporting character was Wil, an obsessive-compulsive conspiracy theorist who hires Eugenie to rescue his sister who has been kidnapped into the Otherworld. Wil is such a freak that it's impossible not to laugh at him.
Dang, this is turning into a really long review, huh? Told you I can't get enough of Richelle Mead! The bottom line is if you like dark urban fantasy and don't mind steamy sex, this is a perfect book for you.
Overall, I give Storm Born...
Plot - 4 1/2 bookmarks (full of action)
Character development - 5 bookmarks (even the supporting characters had personality)
Love story -4 bookmarks (I still love Georgina Kincaid and Seth from her Succubus series better, but the sexual tension is great!)
World Building - 4 bookmarks (There is a lot of explaining that Mead has to do to paint the picture, but the world is well thought out and she delivered that information without resorting to an info dump.)
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) -Bryce Dallas Howard (Eugenie), a younger Dean Cane (Kiyo), Eric Dane (Dorian), Alexander Skarsgaard (Aeson)