by Kiersten Hallie Krum
I could just say that Megan Crane’s new post-apocalyptic Edge series is a mash-up of Sons of Anarchy meets Vikings meets Mad Max meets Waterworld.
Which, actually, is very true.
And I mean that in a good way.
The Edge series takes place hundreds of years after the polar ice caps have melted, redefining the geography of Earth. California is gone. Mississippi is now a sea. Atlanta is a coastal city. The Appalachian Mountains are now the separate eastern islands. The stacks of skyscrapers that used to be New York City are now a treacherous ocean impediment. There’s virtually no electricity and very little sunlight. Gunpowder is unreliable, given all known materials have been soaked by “the rains,” which means swords and blades are once again the weapons of the land. There are some places with light, but they’ve been claimed by western kings or the bishops of the new religion. Those with the electricity wield the power.
Winter lasts for six months of complete darkness. Everywhere. There is no national government, but religion rules the day and charge what’s left of the populace that it is their duty to produce children to repopulate the world. This means that every winter, winter marriages are made and if a pregnancy results from these business transactions, the marriage continues through to the birth of the child.
When I’m digging into a new series, world building is key. I have to believe this world could exist. It needs to have depth and breath and structure and the occasional recognizable trait on which I can hang my understanding. I need to see shades of the real world in the lines of the fictional world’s make up. The world of the Edge series is tactile in description, the shape of the new world hewn from the one we recognize, which makes it recognizable at the same time as being something completely new and quite fascinating in its creation.
Edge of Obsession introduces us to the raiders who carved out a kingdom free of religious control in the eastern islands that used to be the Appalachian Mountain range. They live free and wild, raiding the other settlements of the former United States like their Viking counterparts as they need. They are ruled by a Raider King named Wulf and a council made up of the elite warriors who form The Brotherhood.
When not raiding, they have sex. Lots and lots and lots of sex. Often publicly in the
clubhouse main lodge. There are biker groupies camp girls whose sole purpose is to be available to the brothers for sex–in a good way, I mean. They’re up for it, believe me, and never ever shamed for it. They’re simply a needed, valued aspect of this society. People in this world know how quickly that world may end and, raiders especially, free from the yoke of the religious rules that govern nearly everyone else in the known world, take that to heart.
In Edge of Obsession, Tyr, the war chief of The Brotherhood, stumbles across a small “kingdom” in Atlanta who occupants laughably attack the raiders, drawing their ire. Helena has been wintering in the fortress with her sister, but when Tyr and his brothers arrive, she leaps at the chance to escape the mercenary who killed her parents and who has been chasing Helena and her sister for two years. Despite believing they are the monsters of nightmares, Helena knows that Tyr and his raiders are her only hope of living through the night. She asks Tyr to take her as his captive and, shocked but intrigued, Tyr does so. He’s immediately impressed by her pride and mouthy rejoinders, and recognizes that Helena is a woman like none other he’s yet met. What he doesn’t know is that Helena is on a mission, one that’s been passed down in her family of which she and her sister are the last living remnants, and to which she has sworn her life in service. To Helena, this is a holy mission and it will transform the world as they now know it, if she can learn to trust Tyr enough to share it.
The events of Edge of Temptation happen in tandem with those of Edge of Obsession, a tricky thing for a writer to manage, but Crane weaves the stories together well. Gunnar, the tech wunderkind of The Brotherhood and blood brother to Wulf, the Raider King, has been off on a year of living crazy after losing his mate on the battlefield…a mate who, it turns out, was likely a traitor. He’s on a quest to perform a ritual for which he needs a live, pure sacrifice–a virgin. With winter marriages the law of the land as soon as a girl reaches puberty (or near enough), a virgin is as rare as a working electrical grid–unless you look to the novitiates kept behind the high walls of the temples solely for the use of the bishops who rule there.
Maud is one of these novitiates and has been since her uncle and mother sold her to a bishop at the age of ten. But Maud has never quite been able to fold herself inside the obedient frames of a proper nun, despite the relentless confession and punishment sessions with her bishop…but I’ll let you discover the mystery of those on your own. Not surprisingly, ten years of such…instruction…means that Maud equates pain with pleasure, and has been conditioned to obey a master–the right master, not some puffed up, pervy bishop with delusions of grandeur. Plus there’s the fact that she just likes it that way. But Maud also knows she’ll never been promoted to be a full nun, because she’s never let the bishop break her. She also knows that the alternative is to tossed out of the convent and set loose in the desert for the wolves to get her. Unwilling to let her fate be decided for her, Maud leaves the convent and goes out into the desert on her own…where she stumbles upon a grumpy, grieving raider in the market for a virgin nun.
I’ll admit, the relationship in Edge of Temptation surprised me with its D/s content, because it’s not advertised like a neon sign flashing SHE GETS OFF ON BEING SPANKED. HE LIKES TO TIE CHICKS UP. Rather, it’s built slowly and with care. Maud and Gunnar’s use of pain and obedience in their sex is rooted in what’s been previously inflicted upon them, particularly for Maud, and as such, is a deep part of their matrix. Their relationship is emotional and sensual and helluva sexy, and it takes some surprising turns along the way.
The heroines and heroes of the Edge series are people at major turning points in their lives when those lives suddenly intersect. Helena is at her wit’s end to fulfill her family’s work, and is counting her life in minutes, so she impulsively throws herself at the scariest man she’s ever seen, knowing he’s her last chance for (likely temporary) survival. Tyr has reached a point where he has things set well enough in his (albeit barbaric) life that, for the first time, the faint feeling of being unfulfilled has crept into his mind…until he meets Helena who challenges him every moment. Maud walks away from the convent and out into the desert because she absolutely cannot continue to live her life the way it is for one more second. Death is preferable, but a death she chooses, not one to which she’s sentenced. She winds up throwing herself on the dubious–and by dubious, I mean nonexistent–mercy of Gunnar who just happens to be standing right there in her way. Gunner has been mad with grief for over a year, which had led him to embark on this equally crazy plan, but when the exact virgin nun he needs to complete his whacked out ritual walks out of the desert like a mirage, his life is irrevocably changed. Meeting Maud makes Gunnar take the first halting steps back to his humanity, with Maud as his catalyst and touchstone…and probably, his sacrifice.
Be tempted. Get obsessed. And throw yourself onto the edge of this exciting, sexy new series.
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Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her debut romantic suspense novel, WILD ON THE ROCKS, will be available on April 14, 2016. Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.