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Book Review: The Unleashing (Call of Crows Book 1) by Shelly Laurenston

I’ll be honest here: I was really surprised I didn’t absolutely love this book.

I mean, this is a book with NORSE GODS!

You put Norse gods in anything, and I’m pretty much guaranteed to become an irrational, squealing fangirl. I’m writing a paranormal romance/urban fantasy about Loki, for fuck’s sake. (Interested? Check out the preview here.)

But, even with the Norse gods, I wasn’t catnip crazy about this book.

Allow me to explain.

It’s interesting to find the limits of my willful suspension of disbelief. The book’s premise is that different Norse gods – and gods from other pantheons – have cults of human/superhuman followers doing their bidding on earth.

That’s cool. I’m totally with you thus far, Shelly Laurenston.

The protagonist – Kera Watson – was murdered in an alleyway, and then brought back to life by a Norse goddess to join her female cult, the Crows. Oh, and Kera’s dog came along, too.

Totes cool.

And then Kera, who’s back from the dead and now has wings, meets a super, unbelievably hot Swedish Viking who belongs to the Raven cult.

YAY! Super hot Vikings are ALWAYS a plus!

Yay Vikings!!!!

So far, so good.

But here’s where the problems began.

I’ll buy that there’s a cult of women who were murdered and then brought back to life to do the bidding of a Norse goddess. I’ll accept they all live together in L.A. I’m even willing – reluctantly, but I’m willing – to accept that the Crows are all totally hot and super smart and wildly successful actresses or lawyers or whatever.

But why are they all such whiny bitches?

ugliest-skirt mean girl
You’re a resurrected warrior woman for a Norse goddess, not a high school student!

There’s a lot of talk about how the Crows are all sisters, and you’d never betray a Crow, and yada yada yada. But they treat Kera like shit, constantly. I mean, maybe I’m missing something here, but I didn’t feel the sisterhood vibe.

They also treat each other like shit, and they treat their employees like shit, and they treat their ex-husbands like shit. I mean, if I were Kera, I’d be moving back to my cheap apartment just to get away from all that brutal, bitchy sisterhood.

And then there’s the violence.

So. Much. Violence.

I’d say there’s probably ten scenes of graphic bone-breaking blood and gore for every one hot Viking sex scene.

Hey, that’s cool. I’ve got no problem with violence – I mean, I enjoyed Deadpool as much as the next Marvel fangirl who blogs about what to drink with superhero movies.

I bet you thought I’d get all the way through this post without a Marvel reference, didn’t you?

But personally, I’d prefer ten hot Viking sex scenes for every one “let me tell you what it sounded like when his bones snapped through his skin” scene.

Or at least a one-to-one sex scene to fight scene ratio. (Come to think of it, Deadpool pulled that off pretty well…)

I also had some technical issues with the writing. First off, shifting third-person viewpoints. Do I have a problem with shifting third-person viewpoints, in theory? Nope. It can be done, and done well. (See: Peter Hamilton, my fav sci-fi author)

But in this book, the shifting viewpoints felt a bit jumpy. I wasn’t always sure whose head I was in, especially when the narration was coming from one of the gaggle of bitchy, whiny women living in the enormous mansion.

My second technical issue was the dialog. As in, the amount of dialog; it felt like this book was 75% dialog.

Hey, that’s not necessarily a problem. The dialog was snappy, and often very funny. But that much dialog left other parts of the story feeling underdeveloped. Like the gaggle of whiny, bitchy women. What are those women doing when they say those funny lines? Making eye contact? Tapping their fingers on the table? Trying to avoid looking at each other? That’s a missed opportunity for character development.

Also, I felt the emphasis on dialog shortchanged the setting. Yup, it’s L.A. But I’ve only ever been to L.A. once. I have no idea, really, what it’s like to actually live there. And after reading this entire novel, which is set exclusively in L.A. (well, with one side trip to Asgard) – I still have no idea what it’s like to live in L.A.

I wanted more setting!


tell me
Or show me. Cause, you know, writing.

Finally, what the hell is up with that cover?

Yup, this cover

Oh yes, the shirtless dude on the cover is super hot. But the super hot Viking in the book is described, repeatedly, as having long hair and a beard (not stubble – an actual beard). As in, there’s a scene where Kera has to push his hair out of his face before she kisses him. You know, like a VIKING.

I don’t think the cover artist read the book. Or the synopsis. Or even a basic character sketch. And that bugs me.

So, overall, this book gets the side-eye.


I’d say 2.5 stars (I mean, hot Viking sex is bound to get at least two stars). I read it, I finished it… but I wouldn’t pick it up again, and I’m not bounding to my Kindle to grab the sequel.

If you want to check it out, click here.

And if you loved the book, please, let me know why in the comments!

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