{Blog Tour Triple Review & Giveaway} The Protector Series Books 1~3 by M.R. Merrick

Check out Stuck in Books for a full Blog Tour Schedule
for more guest posts, interviews, reviews, and chances to win!

Today, M.R. Merrick also stopped by to talk about elemental magic and his inspiration for writing The Protector Series.  It's fascinating, and I encourage you to

The final book in the series will release later this year!

I'm going to talk about all three books in my review today, so you can read part of this or all of it, depending on where you are in the series.  I've kept the reviews as spoiler free as possible, but some abound for those who aren't up-to-date on this series!

Overall, I'm impressed with all the world-building, and especially the epic use of elemental magic and original mythological lore!

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

I DODGED THE RAZOR SHARP CLAWS COMING towards me and turned to face the demon.  I'd hurt him enough to force him to shift, but now I had to fight a bear, literally.
(page 4, nook ebook edition)

The Protector Series begins by throwing readers right into the action, as do the rest of the books in the series.  If you're looking for a lot of action, mayhem, and battle mixed together with elemental magical and the fate of the world falling on one teenager's shoulders, look no further because you've found your series!

Chase grew up his entire life knowing he was a Hunter, destined to purge the world of demon scum.  On his fifteenth birthday, when he's expecting to come into his elemental power and join the Circle as a full-fledged member, he's stunned to find out that he's barren.  Shunned from the Circle and disowned by his own father, Chase and his mother flee into exile.  They've been in hiding for two years and Chase fights the demons he comes across, but a chance encounter with Rayna, a girl of mixed-blood changes everything.  Suddenly up is down, and Chase begins to realize that not all demons are evil creatures that need demolishing.  Not only that, the Circle is set on opening a portal that will bring Hell to Earth, and only by banding together with those Chase was brought up to distrust can stop them.

One great thing about the series is that even the "Save the World" storyline doesn't take place to the "overpowering romance" of two (or sometimes three, if you're reading a book with a triangle) starcrossed lovers.  I don't know about you, but I'm so sick of seeing that in so much of the YA currently out there.  There should be a strong balance between the two, especially in fantasy, and M.R. Merrick doesn't disappoint, creating just the right blend throughout the series.

Chase grows so much as a character, and is put through trials and horrors no human being should have to encounter.  He is truly destined to become a hero despite the sacrifices along the way.  In a way, Chase reminds me of Buffy, because he pulls together a core group of people, works with his enemies, and attempts to save the world from destruction and mayhem, sacrificing so much of himself along the way in order to save the greater good.
O P E N I N G   H O O K:

MY EYES TORE OPEN TO THE SOUND OF screaming.  The drywall rattled and Rayna's voice raged through the wall.  My pulse jumped as panic set in and I leapt from my bed moving straight for the door.
(page 4, nook ebook edition)

The Protectors Series really begins to come alive through its sophomore title, SHIFT, as M.R. Merrick's world opens up in new, innovative ways.  One of my favorite things to read about is mythology, and Merrick has created his own universe, full of relationships between gods and goddesses, their histories, and the way they can impact the future of all humans.  War is upon our characters, and they learn about the mythological roots tying everything together just as we do.  SHIFT also digs deeper into the elemental magic possessed by the hunters and focuses on paranormal aspects such as the ways of Shifters, whose part is larger than initially hinted at in the series.

Chase and Rayna learn so much about themselves and their abilities in SHIFT.  If they can't learn to control their abilities and powers, it can kill them.  The first chunk of the book revolves around Rayna and her life-or-death battle to shift.  Her trials are bloody and brutal; you can feel the pain that comes from having such "gifts."  Chase, meanwhile, is learning all he can about his destiny and the ring in his possession, as well as learning to harness and control more elemental magic than he knows what to do with.  What makes him powerful can also kill him.  If Chase and Rayna can't regain control of their own bodies, the future is forfeit to Ithreal, a sealed god Chase's power-hungry father, Riley,  is attempting to unleash.

SHIFT has so many more nuanced layers compared to the first book, and delves even further into elements that create new worlds for readers.  There's more fantasy, more adventure, more fantastic beasts and worlds, just...more.  While the description can, at times, be too bloody and violent (at least for me, but I'm squeamish), it also helps when building worlds unlike anything else we've ever seen and introducing us to new things.  No segments are unwarranted, despite all the directions the book pulls readers in, for each will play an important part in the looming battle.  In SHIFT, I loved seeing Chase and Rayna come into themselves.  They're both such strong characters despite their insecurities, with hearts of gold.  They've opened themselves up to so many new possibilities and are truly adamant about saving the world to the point where they'll pair with former enemies against a common one bent on destruction.
O P E N I N G   H O O K:

HIS POWER SURGED AND SLAMMED ME INTO THE wall.  A bright light flashed over my eyes from the impact and I broke into a run, the concrete sliding beneath my feet.  As he flexed his magic, his air element wrapped itself around a chair and pitched it through the air like a homing misile with me as its target.  I took cover behind a concrete pillar and the chair shattered against it, splinters scattering across the floor.
(page 7, nook ebook edition)

Originality continues to abound, and readers never quite know what to expect in The Protector Series amongst all the twists and turns we're pulled into.  Like with SHIFT, RELEASE dives ever deeper into the world of M.R. Merrick.  Elements of the previous two books pull together to create both answers and new puzzles to solve.  The mythological aspect goes deeper still, and we learn so much back story about the gods and what rules them.

This time around, Chase is finally learning to harness the powerful elemental magic he's discovered over the past two books.  At the same time, having so much power is destroying it.  He's fighting himself even as he attempts to save those around him.  Quests abound as Chase and his battle-ready group seek the soul pieces that can prevent Ithreal from rising, especially now that the ring has fallen into enemy hands.  Rayna's destiny is more fully revealed, leaving behind startling answers and creating new ways for her to help their cause.  By the end of RELEASE, Chase has also learned more about his destiny, and will follow the path set before him in the final book in the series, due out later this year.  We even get more insight into our villains this time around, seeing why Chase's father Riley first set out to release Ithreal, as well as more questions about the true motives of the Dark Brothers.

Chase has come so far since EXILED.  He now allies himself with those he once swore to kill, and even considers many of them to be his closest friends.  He's more desperate than ever to stop his father from raising Ithreal despite the fact that the powers given to him for being the Protector and bearing the Mark are beginning to tear him apart.  He will do anything to keep those he cares about from harm, and carries the weight of the deceased around on his shoulders, thinking himself responsible for all that has gone wrong on his father's power-hungry journey.  Characters that, up until now, weren't fully explored have their stories unfurl as more power-struggles loom, and we're introduced to even more fantastic creatures as we world-hop to new dimensions alongside the characters.  There is, however, very little resolution this late in the series, so expect a full-scale battle in the final showdown.  

These covers promise action and adventure to anyone brave enough to pick them up.

While I wish the title font was the same across all three covers, I think the treatment on the first and third covers are my favorites.

I also like the use of elements on each cover, though you don't necessarily realize this when picking the series up for the first time.  The covers convey mystery, intrigue, and magic, and the books deliver this promise.  The second and third books have the strongest use of color, and pull me right in.

Each book's title is meaningful to its respective novel, and it will be interesting to see what the final book looks like later this year!
O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Title:  EXILED
Author: M.R. Merrick
Release Date: Out June 28, 2011
Publisher: M.R. Merrick
Received: Review Copy

Chase Williams is a demon hunter in the Circle, or at least he was supposed to be. On his fifteenth birthday, Chase stepped up to the altar to claim his elemental power, but it never came. Elemental magic is passed down to a hunter through the bloodline, but on Chase's birthday, the bloodline stopped. 

Exiled without the Circle's protection, Chase has spent two years trying to survive a world riddled with half-demons and magic. When he has a run in with a frightened and seemingly innocent demon, he learns the Circle's agenda has changed: the Circle plans to unlock a portal and unleash pure-blood demons into the world. Vowing to stop them, and knowing he can't do it alone, Chase forms a reluctant alliance with Rayna — a sexy witch with an attitude and a secret.

In their attempt to stop them, Chase and Rayna find themselves in the middle of the Circle's plan, leaving one of them to decide what their friendship is worth, and the other's life depending on it.

Title:  EXILED
Author: M.R. Merrick
Release Date: Out Feb. 1, 2012
Publisher: M.R. Merrick
Received: Review Copy
Devastated by a terrible loss, Chase is trying to balance the life he’s been left with, a family he’s still getting to know, and power he never thought he’d have. He doesn’t understand why the Goddess has named him the Protector and granted him two gifts: the Mark, a tattoo that now covers his back, and the ring. But between getting interrogated by the Circle and psychic attacks from Riley, the Mark is the least of his concern. There’s a demon inside Rayna that’s fighting to be released, and it’s not her inner witch. It’s something else—a monster threatening to tear her apart. 

As Chase struggles to control his magic, his enemies are closing in. Everyone has staked a claim on his ring, and destroying it may be his only chance to stop Riley. But Chase must decide if stopping him is worth risking the lives of everyone he cares about, or if protecting the ring will be enough to save his world.

Author: M.R. Merrick
Release Date: Dec. 8, 2012
Publisher: M.R. Merrick
Received: For Review

After uniting the shifters and calling in reinforcements, Chase has to face his toughest challenge yet: learning to control his emotions. But as tensions rise and his powers grow, controlling his emotions becomes the least of his problems. 

Terrorized by a multi-shifter who is hell-bent on turning him, Chase questions just how far he’s willing to go to stop his father. Meanwhile, Tiki’s virtuous nature has placed him in the middle of Vincent’s past, leaving Chase to oppose a senate of vampires and defend a demon he hates. 

Trying to balance his friends, his enemies, and his inner demons, Chase is left searching for answers about the Mark, his destiny, and where he can find the next soul piece. Stopping Riley is his top priority, but as more obstacles arise, he finds himself doubting all the decisions he’s made - especially regarding Rayna. 

One thing is for certain: Chase has finally realized that he doesn’t know anything. The light doesn’t always quell the darkness, the monsters don’t always stay in the shadows, and the past doesn’t always stay in the past - sometimes, the demons inside are the hardest to fight.


 The tour giveaway is AWESOME & is INTERNATIONAL!

Grande Prize Pack (3 Winners)
3x Signed paperbacks (Exiled, Shift, Release)
3x Signed 8x10 posters (Exiled, Shift, Release)
5x Bookmarks
1x Notebook (Winner’s choice of cover)
1x Magnet

Runner-up Prize Pack (5 Winners)
1x Signed paperback (Winner’s choice of Exiled, Shift, or Release) with signed poster
1x bookmark (Winner’s choice)
1x Magnet

Secondary Prizes A (10 Winners)
Release eBooks
Secondary Prize B (10 Winners)
1x bookmark (winner’s choice)
1x The Protector magnet

Winners will be chosen as followsFirst 3 names drawn from Rafflecopter will get the grand prize. The following 5 names get the runner-up prize. The following 10 names win ebook copies of Release, and the final 10 names win the swag pack.

There will also be multiple opportunities to win signed paperbacks, signed posters, notebooks, swag packs, and bookmarks throughout the tour on both Twitter (@MRMerrick) and Facebook Fan Page .