In a genre that’s been heavily overpopulated by urban fantasy the last several years, it’s a nice change of pace to get a period fantasy novel set in...moreIn a genre that’s been heavily overpopulated by urban fantasy the last several years, it’s a nice change of pace to get a period fantasy novel set in a decidedly non-urban locale. It’s also kind of neat to get a story in which the protagonist, the pixie daughter of a human lumberjack and his pixie wife, gets romantically involved with NO ONE. The love story with her parents is certainly an important subplot, but really, this story’s all about Sha’el. Three stars.(less)
Michael Boatman's The Revenant Road is another Drollerie Press novel, one which by rights I should stay impartial about, but that's tough to do when t...moreMichael Boatman's The Revenant Road is another Drollerie Press novel, one which by rights I should stay impartial about, but that's tough to do when the novel is just that good. This one straddles the line between horror and dark fantasy, as it has a lot of elements in it that live under the aegis of urban fantasy these days. For my money, though, it's more properly horror.
Obadiah Grudge is a best-selling horror author, but for some time now he's been discontent with the lack of life and depth in his work. But when his long-estranged father is killed, he discovers a huge reason for the flatness of his writing, one he's been in denial about for most of his life: there are real monsters in the world, and it's been his father's job to hunt them.
Now that his father is dead, that job is to be his.
As you might expect, Obadiah fights this fate tooth and claw for a while. As you might also expect, he possesses certain powerful and highly rare abilities that mark him to be hunted by the monsters once tracked by his father. Eventually, though, he joins forces with his father's partner to stop a string of supernatural killings in Seattle, where he must not only face his destiny, but also the thing that killed his dad.
This is all around a solid read, and I got a particular snicker out of the monsters gunning for Obadiah taking on the forms of critics who'd previously savaged his work. If you'd like to check out the book for yourself, it's one of Drollerie's print titles, so you can ask your local bookstore to order it today! Four stars.(less)
If you're somebody who thinks "old school" when you think "urban fantasy", if you like more mythos and lyricism and things wondrous and strange in you...moreIf you're somebody who thinks "old school" when you think "urban fantasy", if you like more mythos and lyricism and things wondrous and strange in your fantasy novels than the sort of grim darkness you get in a lot of 'em these days, then David Sklar's Shadow of the Antlered Bird is a Drollerie Press release you'll want to read.
The plot's about as basic as you can get. Tam is half-human, half-Sidhe, and wants nothing more than to get out from under his mother's shadow and carve out a life for himself in the human world. But his mother won't leave him alone, and so he employs a desperate act of magic to escape her--only to find that he must flee across the country to Seattle and enlist the aid of a mortal girl before he can accomplish what he desires. He is of course pursued, not only by his mother, but by a creature who seems to be able to change into anything while he's hunting, including Tam himself.
I really quite liked this work overall. The language is rich and the story is just about as long as it needs to be, without a single detail that doesn't absolutely need to be there. Check it out. Four stars.(less)
The Chocolatier's Wife is a delightful little novel, nicely blending fantasy, romance, and a touch of murder mystery all together into a single confec...moreThe Chocolatier's Wife is a delightful little novel, nicely blending fantasy, romance, and a touch of murder mystery all together into a single confection. Tamsin Bey is a herb-mage from Tarnia, a northern country that was once at war with the southern land of Berengeny, and the two lands are still prickly towards each other after five hundred years. But their peoples have one thing in common: the spells of the wise-women that reveal to every living soul who their fated spouse will be. For Tamsin, hers is William of Berengeny.
As the two grow up they come to know one another via extensive letters, while William goes to sea and Tamsin grows proficient at her herb-craft. William, though, does not want to remain a sea captain forever, and he shocks his family by wanting to come home and establish himself as, of all things, the proprietor of a chocolate shop. Before he can establish himself, however, he is framed for a murder--and it is his arrest that prompts Tamsin to come down out of the north at last, for although she has yet to meet her intended face to face, she is absolutely convinced there is no way he could have committed the crime.
The story glides back and forth between Tamsin's efforts to ingratiate herself to William's standoffish relations, to uncover the truth of the murder, and her and William's own quietly blossoming feelings for each other. Tamsin and William had positively Austenesque chemistry, and the setting through which they moved very much added to that feel, invoking the impression of an England-like land where magic goes hand in hand with well-mannered society. Speer's prose is lovely, and oftentimes lushly detailed; I came out of the book thoroughly satisfied, as if after the best of chocolate truffles. Five stars.(less)
Deborah Grabien's Still Life With Devils is an esoteric little novel, one part police procedural, one part paranormal mystery, and one part romance. L...moreDeborah Grabien's Still Life With Devils is an esoteric little novel, one part police procedural, one part paranormal mystery, and one part romance. Leontyne Chant is an artist with an unusual gift: the ability to walk into her paintings. But her brother Cassius, chief of Homicide in the San Francisco PD, must call upon her for help to solve a string of serial killings--and soon Leo discovers she not only has seen the killer before, but that she'll have to call upon her unique ability to help her brother bring the case to a close.
This book's sensibilities are elegant, and it's refreshing to read a murder mystery that doesn't lavish gory detail upon the killer's activities. Rather, Grabien brings a quiet, suspenseful sophistication to the table. Four stars.(less)
If you like your horror old-school, with a hint of Rosemary’s Baby and a side helping of Omen, you’ll probably groove for this. I quite liked the dual...moreIf you like your horror old-school, with a hint of Rosemary’s Baby and a side helping of Omen, you’ll probably groove for this. I quite liked the dual-layer story involving our protagonist both as a boy and as an old man who must root out the nasty cause of why settlers in Three Bridges, Pennsylvania used to murder their babies–and why his parish’s own bishop seems to be batting for the other team. Four stars.(less)
It should surprise none of you that with Faerie Blood under my belt, I’m a bit of a sucker for any book that involves the Unseelie Court. Meredith’s b...moreIt should surprise none of you that with Faerie Blood under my belt, I’m a bit of a sucker for any book that involves the Unseelie Court. Meredith’s book gives ‘em a bit more of a traditionalist touch than I do. Come for the subverting of which Court is the good guys and which one the bad (a trick Jim Butcher fans will certainly recognize), and stay for the complicated Court intrigue and why, exactly, all these people are going berserk for Alfhild of the Seven Snows. Three stars.(less)
My last read of 2009 is my fellow Drollerie author Michael Stewart's 24 Bones, a book that's surprisingly hard to pin down into any specific genre. It...moreMy last read of 2009 is my fellow Drollerie author Michael Stewart's 24 Bones, a book that's surprisingly hard to pin down into any specific genre. It's set in the modern day world, and yet it doesn't play out like what most readers would think of as "urban fantasy"; the feel of it is much more akin to a suspense novel, albeit with fantastic elements, i.e., Egyptian gods coming to life. You might be tempted to think Dan Brown when you think of how this book's about the clash between two ancient Egyptian cults and how a professor from Toronto is pulled into it when he receives a cryptic coded message. Don't. This book is simultaneously more and less complicated than a Brown novel, in all the correct ways.
We have the Shemsu Hor and the Shemsu Seth at each other's throats as the time of Seth's ascension is at hand, and Horus is on the wane. Set off against them both are the Sisters of Isis, keepers of the Balance, who are determined to keep both good and evil from becoming too dominant. And against this larger backdrop we have Samiya of the Shemsu Seth, raised to do evil, use the powers of the Void, and serve the Pharoah--while Taggart Quinn, hauled into this conflict by the mysterious message he's received, learns that his place in the unfolding events is far greater than he could have imagined.
There were times when I had a bit of difficulty following the events of the story; the narrative jumps very quickly from one event to the next when there surely must have been a little time between them, particularly in the latter half. More than once I had a "wait, what?" reaction, and this kept me from finishing the story as quickly as is my wont, since I had to take the time to absorb what I'd just read. But, that said, I was genuinely surprised by some of the directions this plot took, and I have to give it huge props for that.
Props too for the final tying together of the plot threads involving Taggart and Sam, and for the moment of delicious irony when a TV evangelist's flock, called to prayer during the climax of the plot, is not at all doing what they think they're doing. Over all, four stars.(less)
If you're on the hunt for a super-quick read, you can't go too wrong with my fellow Drollerie author Nora Fleischer's Over Her Head. I'm a sucker for...moreIf you're on the hunt for a super-quick read, you can't go too wrong with my fellow Drollerie author Nora Fleischer's Over Her Head. I'm a sucker for stories involving intellectual women, and so this little tale of a young woman in the early 1900's striving to pull off doing a dissertation on mermaids was quite a bit of fun.
Frances Schmidt has discovered that Garrett Hathaway has the most definitive collection of works on mermaid myths she's ever seen, and so she'll stop at nothing to get his permission to study his library--even if it means showing up at his front door on a bicycle, armed with tasty cookies. That she and Garrett eventually fall in love is not at all a surprise, nor is the fact that Frances discovers that he has an Astonishing Secret or that Frances gets a lot of flak for pursuing "unseemly" intellectual pursuits.
What makes this read fun and unusual is a nice little take on mermaid myths as well as a cast of vividly portrayed characters which benefit from the short length of the story; there are no extra words here, and extra words aren't really needed. Four stars.(less)
It's a challenge and a half to try to write a sequel to no less august a book than Frankenstein, and for that alone, I must give my fellow Drollerie a...moreIt's a challenge and a half to try to write a sequel to no less august a book than Frankenstein, and for that alone, I must give my fellow Drollerie author Gary Inbinder props. I'm also pleased to say that although there were parts of the book that didn't work as much for me, by and large, I feel he did an excellent job at his appointed task!
The opening of the book does ask you to accept the idea that sorcery of a kind exists in the Frankenstein universe, since the entire plot only gets underway when the monster, fresh from killing his creator, is taken in by an old Russian witch. In repayment for his working for her, she grants him his greatest wish: to be human and to be able to have a real life of his own. If you're used to the version of the Frankenstein story more popularly depicted in the movies, the presence of magic may be jarring; however, my spouse pointed out quite correctly that the original story does heavily pursue the idea that Victor Frankenstein was dabbling as much in black magic as he was forbidden science in creating his monster. So it's not too much of a stretch for me to allow for actual magic existing in this world.
But. This is really only the start of the plot, and the greatest portion of it by far is taken up by the creature--now calling himself Viktor Viktorovich--not only winning himself a life and a family in Russia, but achieving a meteoric rise to power. In fact, the vast majority of the plot is taken up with his participation in the wars against Napoleon. For me as a reader this had quite a bit of interest, but the real heart of the story doesn't come until the final third, when the truth of Viktor's origins begins to come back to haunt him.
And this is also where the story ultimately let me down a bit, since I was expecting more creepiness than I actually got, and one plot device in particular that was used as part of Frankenstein's backstory struck me as quite unnecessary. But that said, overall I did find this a gripping read, and it's worth checking out if you liked the original. Four stars.(less)