Thursday, December 17, 2015

Review: Maelstrom (Whyborne & Griffin #7) by Jordan L. Hawk

27799890Title ~ Maelstrom (Whyborne & Griffin #7)

Author ~ Jordan L. Hawk

Published ~ 11th December 2015

Genre ~ Fantasy/Paranormal M/M Romance





Between his father’s sudden—and rather suspicious—generosity, and his own rash promise to help Christine plan her wedding, Percival Endicott Whyborne has quite enough to worry about. But when the donation of a mysterious codex to the Ladysmith Museum draws the attention of a murderous cult, Whyborne finds himself in a race against time to unlock its secrets first.
Griffin has a case of his own: the disappearance of an historic map, which quickly escalates to murder. Someone is sacrificing men in dark rituals—and all the clues lead back to the museum.
With their friends Christine and Iskander, Whyborne and Griffin must discover the cult’s true goal before it’s too late. For dark forces are afoot at the very heart of the museum, and they want more than Whyborne’s codex.
They want his life.

Alan’s Review

I don’t know how she does it. Jordan L. Hawk has now published a total of seven Whyborne & Griffin books, without flagging, without repeating, without losing her edge. In fact, in some ways the books get better with each new release. I think that’s because she has more and more to build upon with each new book. And these must not be easy books to write. There’s not much of a formula to reply upon except for the broadest outline: Whyborne uses his sorcery skills to unwind a nefarious attack on humankind. Griffin applies his detective skills as Whyborne’s faithful (I was going to say “retainer”) husband and partner. Their common buddy, the Annie Oakley of her age, Dr. Christine Putnam, backs them up with her long rifle and her encyclopedic knowledge of history and archaeology.

That’s the framework. It’s not much of one, but it works. Upon that framework, Ms. Hawk lets her imagination run amok, inventing a new issue for Whyborne’s exceptional family: his rich, distant father; his evil brother, stashed away in an insane institution; and his mother and sister living beneath the sea, fulfilling their destinies as the head of a band of Ketoi that live off the coast of Widdershins (don’t ask, you’ll have to read it for yourself!). And each book has an epic threat, sometimes a powerful villain resurrected from another time, sometimes a paranormal force that is neither good nor bad, just a dangerous force to be reckoned with, and at other times, amateurs playing with magic who unwittingly stumble upon the keys to portals between worlds that threaten global disaster.

Dr. Whyborne is a renowned academic. His field is the study and translation of ancient documents, a dusty, obscure, special little corner of philology. That’s how he picked up sorcery, translating old books of spells and incantations. He started with a little bit of parlor magic, lighting lamps and cigarettes with a click of his fingers. He grew in the craft until he now controls elemental powers so vast, that he can change the course of human history. He didn’t intend this, but apparently, was born for it. Widdershins, the cozy New England mercantile town sits upon a vortex, a swirl of power so huge that it can wipe out entire cities or restore them within seconds. Whyborne recently discovered that he is the only one who can control it. He is the master of the vortex and has saved his beloved Widdershins time and time again through the very personal intervention of his powers. And just wait till you see what he does with his powers in “Maelstrom”, the newest installment in the Whyborne & Griffin series. It, quite literally, boggles the mind. Just to give you a hint, everyone thought they might have seen Whyborne destroyed, including his beloved ex-Pinkerton detective. But, of course, you know it can’t be so, because if it were, it would be the end of Whyborne & Griffin and then Ms. Hawk might have to get a real job. Not fair, this is at least her fourth successful series and I doubt she’d ever have to clean houses, file documents, or do laundry to pay the bills. Still, it’s obvious that Ms. Hawk is enamored of her period paranormal romance,  the gay couple living before the word “gay” came to mean men who love men - and she’s not about to let her beloved characters go, any time soon. At least, we hope not.

All of the powerful paranormal adventures of Whyborne, Griffin and Christine take place at the turn of the century – not this one, the last one, the one in which gaslight changed to electric light, and automobiles hadn’t yet replaced horse and carriage. I love the remarkable detail that Ms. Hawk summons to render Widdershins and the Victorian characters who populate it, without going Steampunk. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Steampunk, with its anachronistic combination of Victoriana and high-tech. But what Ms. Hawk does is harder still – placing her characters more than one hundred years in the past, at a time when gay relations carried a prison term, and yet, certain people with valuable skills, and/or great wealth, managed to navigate the perilous times and share meaningful, beautiful relationships, out to their closest friends, circumspect in public. Ms. Hawk nails it. She’s got the Victorian closet down pat. She’s also got her cast down too. That doesn’t mean they don’t grow (they do, with every new release), but that their love, their goodness, their generosity and courage leave the reader cheering them on and celebrating each new victory.

“Maelstrom” and the other Whyborne & Griffin books work at so many levels. They’re love stories, but that’s subservient to the adventure, the risk, the threat and the battle. They’re paranormal. You have to suspend your disbelief, but that’s fine because Ms. Hawk gives you just enough logic, just enough possibility, that it’s easy to jump into her extraordinary events and people, head first, forgetting the real world you left behind when you opened the book. They’re about science and technology, the thrill of seeing the dawn of the automobile age and the wide acceptance of electricity (that was a bit of magic, in its time). And they’re travelogues to turn-of-the-century America, Europe and Africa. She’s written some events and places in such exquisite detail that she has sent me, more than once, to the Wikipedia to explore more thoroughly on my own.

She is a wonderful, talented, first-rank author whose books should not even be referred to as “gay fiction”. Her books are paranormal action/adventure, sometimes fantasy, that just happen to be centered on wonderful, rich, intrepid, and authentically gay characters.

She’s really outdone herself with “Maelstrom”. She delves deeply into identity when a long-term nemesis (and colleague) of Whyborne commits the ultimate identity theft.Eventually, the identities get sorted out, but not without damage, danger, and the unfortunate deaths of several innocents. In “Maelstrom”, Ms. Hawk offers the perfect cliffhanger – enough resolution for a perfectly satisfying read, but with the threat of some yet-to-unravel threads that are bound to resurface in upcoming installments of the Whyborne & Griffin saga.

It’s almost embarrassing to write a review for Jordan Hawk’s books. They tend to make me gush. For me, her books are always an automatic five-stars, because even her least stellar work is head and shoulders above most other writers’ best. She has never disappointed me, failed to engage me, and most important, never, ever bored me. I read all her books in a single sitting because I can’t bear to walk away from our beloved Whyborne & Griffin. I always await, with bated breath and fervent anticipation, the next Jordan L. Hawk book, no matter what it is. I love getting lost in her imagination, her smart characters and themes, her vivid settings, heart-pounding action and beneath it all, the abiding love of good people doing the right thing.

Thanks for another excellent adventure, Ms. Hawk. May there be many, many more.

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  1. I couldn't agree more - every story in this series has been stellar as you said. Love all her work and a bit jealous (LOL) that she can time after time turn in such great work. Can't wait for the next one! Kudos Jordan

  2. So looking forward to reading this!