Woohoo! Another MERCY THOMPSON book from Patricia Briggs’ is hitting the shelves. I had just finished book four (Bone Crossed) only a few weeks ago, s...moreWoohoo! Another MERCY THOMPSON book from Patricia Briggs’ is hitting the shelves. I had just finished book four (Bone Crossed) only a few weeks ago, so I was very happy to get a chance to read Silver Borne so soon afterwards.
I love the MERCY THOMPSON series. I started reading it while waiting for the next DRESDEN FILES novel and they have been a worthy diversion. Silver Borne, the fifth book in the series, continues the story of Were-Coyote and VW mechanic Mercy Thompson. With each installment Mercy has found herself in deeper trouble, and Silver Borne carries on that tradition with enthusiasm.
This time, Mercy is on the outs with the local werewolf pack, and in the middle of a fae struggle for power. She holds an item that a fae queen needs and, in typical fae fashion, the queen has no problem taking down Mercy's friends in order to get it.
Patricia Briggs’ books are fast-paced, and Silver Borne reads as one of the fastest. The mystery begins almost immediately and leaves you sitting on the edge of your seat till the climactic conclusion. Mercy's adventures are always fun to read, but they have taken on a bit of a more serious tone in the last couple of books. Mercy always carries the consequences of previous encounters into the next story, and in Silver Borne you can be sure she gains a little more baggage to take into book 6. Some of the awkward romances and unresolved side plots get some much needed attention in this book as well.
Overall Silver Borne is highly entertaining. It’s a great book to read through in just a couple of sittings. (I would like it very much if Briggs decided to make subsequent books longer — they always feel too short.) Fans of the series will not be disappointed in Silver Borne, and new readers should start MERCY THOMPSON now before they get too far behind.(less)
Dragonfly Falling is the amazing follow-up to Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Empire in Black and Gold. The story directly follows the events of book 1. The wasp...moreDragonfly Falling is the amazing follow-up to Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Empire in Black and Gold. The story directly follows the events of book 1. The wasps have increased their hold on the lowlands, and the position of our heroes is much more precarious. The empire has begun its assault and the blood is flowing. Tchaikovsky’s battle descriptions are nothing short of epic, bloody, and gritty, with nail-biting sequences that seem to run for pages. Empire in Black and Gold introduced you to the players, and set the overall stage. I struggled a bit with its pacing, but had none of that problem here. Dragonfly Falling is truly when the dung beetle hits the fan.
The characters continue to grow and change in amazing ways. Like Empire in Black and Gold, Dragonfly Falling explores the many facets of the various characters. Who’s good and who’s bad is not always so clear cut, and that’s refreshing. I’ve also come to realize that there are just as many “Insect Kinden” in Tchaikovsky’s world as there are insects. I stopped keeping track of them about a quarter of the way through the book. As nice as it is to have a diverse population in your story, you lose a bit by always having a convenient race to solve various issues. It’s not a device often used in the story, but the potential for abuse is there. I wonder if it will become a little more prominent as the series progresses.
I am so glad Pyr has decided to release the SHADOWS OF THE APT series in the US, as so far it has been incredibly well written and unique. Dragonfly Falling raises the stakes in every way possible, and I’m excited to see how everything progresses in book 3, Blood of the Mantis. Dragonfly Falling does everything right, and I really can’t find many faults. Tchaikovsky’s writing is top notch and seems to be getting even better. In a genre where a lot of ho-hum stuff gets over-hyped, do not let SHADOWS OF THE APT fly under your radar. —Justin
I’ll be honest; I struggled with the beginning of this book. I even tried to pass it off to other reviewers. I felt that I wasn’t jiving with the whol...moreI’ll be honest; I struggled with the beginning of this book. I even tried to pass it off to other reviewers. I felt that I wasn’t jiving with the whole premise. I kept reading because I recognized quality writing and hoped that in itself would endear me to the story. Well, it did. I was so glad I didn’t set this one down. Adrian Tchaikovsky’s characters and world grew on me and I finished the last ¾ of the book in half the time it took me to read the first ¼.
Empire in Black and Gold, at its heart, is very much an epic fantasy. You have a band of heroes from various backgrounds coming together on a quest to stop the conquest of a brutal warrior race, hell-bent on destroying everything in their path. There are sword fights, magic, and exotic beauties. To these classic tropes, Tchaikovsky adds steam engines, flying machines, universities, and the sciences. It’s the weird mix of epic fantasy and more modern elements that gave me such a hard time at the start.
The world Tchaikovsky creates is complex. All the myriad races that inhabit his world are based on a kindred insect. For example: Mantis Kinden are a proud and lean fighting race. They have spurs of bone that protrude from their arms. They are genetically predisposed to blood lust, which gives them special abilities. Beetle Kinden are smart and good with their hands. They can sometimes even fly and see in the dark. These abilities are not necessarily magic, but gained through genetic heritage and a form of meditation. The line between “natural abilities achieved via meditation” and “magic” is confusing and not exactly clear. That may have been the author’s intention, since many of this world’s inhabitants do not acknowledge magic at all. Sprouting wings and firing balls of energy are perfectly acceptable, but scrying and mind reading are just not within the realm of their logic. All these concepts are thrown at the reader right at the start, so it can be difficult at first to get into the flow of the novel. But once you get past the initial learning curve of Tchaikovsky’s world, Empire in Black and Gold turns out to be a wonderfully unique and exciting place to be.
The characters are as diverse as the races they belong to. They each carry with them the baggage of their heritage, but as the story progresses they each grow and change based on the experiences they encounter. I found myself frustrated by the beetle’s lack of imagination, and frightened by the mantis’ lust for violence. These challenges grow the characters in emotional and surprisingly physical ways.
If you are growing a little tired of the medieval sword-and-sorcery style fantasy world, you should certainly give Empire in Black and Gold a read. It’s a unique piece, and the beginning of an ongoing series. I found it enjoyable and believe that most any fan of epic fantasy will find something to like here. The story is continued in Dragonfly Falling, which is due to release in the States this April.
I enjoyed Alexey Pehov’s Shadow Prowler very much, but I would not recommend it to everyone. Obviously, our own Stefan didn’t like it (see below), but...moreI enjoyed Alexey Pehov’s Shadow Prowler very much, but I would not recommend it to everyone. Obviously, our own Stefan didn’t like it (see below), but I have some specific reasons why I did. I’ll do my best to explain so that you, dear reader, can decide whether or not Shadow Prowler is for you.
First let me mention that the author, Alexey Pehov, is Russian and that Shadow Prowler has been beautifully translated by Andrew Bloomfield (he also did the Nightwatch series). I think the translation played a role in some of the quirkiness of the descriptions and names.
Shadow Harold is a master thief who lives from contract to contract in the capital city of Avendoom. The story truly starts when Harold, somewhat unwillingly, takes a contract of the highest importance. The greatest of thieves has been tasked with obtaining an item from an impossible location. A nameless wizard is building a force just beyond a weakening magical barrier. The item Harold must retrieve is the one thing that may be able to keep the evil army at bay.
Harold is joined by a coalition of races who deem it in their best interest to assist him. Pehov took classical races and gave them his individual style. There are shamanistic Dark Elves, beardless Dwarves, hyper-active Goblins, and Wizards prone to colossal failure. I found each character charming, and they all hinted at more depth to come in later books.
Shadow Prowler is classic epic high fantasy which uses common fantasy characters – elfin princesses, cantankerous dwarves, burly warriors, and even a selection of enigmatic wizards. This fact alone will be enough to turn off some readers. Add in the fact that they are on a quest for a unique magical item in order to stop a faceless evil wizard and his army, and that just might be all you need to know to give Shadow Prowler a pass (see Stefan’s review below for his opinion). I, however, enjoyed how Pehov turned these classic themes into an enjoyable story with its own unique personality.
My biggest complaint is that most of the story is spent getting to know the characters and in preparation for the quest, so I was disappointed that Shadow Prowler ends not long after the actual journey begins.
If you took parts of the Arabian Nights and remade them in an urban fantasy mold, one of the stories would come out something very similar to Sonya Ba...moreIf you took parts of the Arabian Nights and remade them in an urban fantasy mold, one of the stories would come out something very similar to Sonya Bateman’s Master of None. Gavyn Donatti, a professional thief, is hired to steal a small item for a local crime boss, but somehow Gavyn manages to lose the item before handing it over to his employer, and this bit of bad luck ends up sending Gavyn on the run. He is saved along the way by a Djinn named "Ian." When circumstances outside of their control lead them into a contentious partnership, they must learn to work together in order to save their loved ones and maybe the world.
I loved the concept of the book. I've not yet come across an urban fantasy that involves genies. There are plenty of things to like in Master of None: unique concept, humor, and interesting characters. Sonya Bateman does a nice job of making her characters believable with their own personalities. The genies themselves are very cool characters — not like any genie you'd expect. Their powers are limited and are not at all "wish" based. I would have liked to explore more of the Djinn world (we only get a small taste of it), but I'm guessing this will be explored in later books.
Sonya Bateman is also quite capable of writing intense action. The action scenes were probably the second most endearing thing to me besides the story concept itself. The action was realistic, intense, and almost never resolved in a way I expected. Complex and daring plans tended to end with mixed results, much like they would in the real world. There were plenty of moments in Master of None that had me anxious to turn the page.
"Wow sounds great Justin!, but why only 2.5 stars?" Funny you should ask, because I'm about to tell you. There were many moments in the story that felt awkward. First, the opening was very hard to swallow. I know one of the toughest things to do in urban fantasy is to make your magical world fit into reality, but since that's what pretty much defines the genre, it's important to pull it off smoothly — and Sonya Bateman doesn't. Gavyn buys being tossed into a world that has genies just a little too quickly. I had to mentally set that aside in order to make the story work. There were also moments in the dialog that were out of place. Here's an example in the form of a multiple choice question:
Q: The love of your life has just been witness to the aftermath of a loved one having been skinned alive. You’re in the car heading away from the scene. What do you do? A. Offer consoling words of love and support B. Vow revenge on the perpetrator C. Get all hot with passion at the site of your lover’s resolve D. All the above
Well, if you’re the main character in Master of None, you choose option D. Talk about awkward. "Hey babe, sorry about Jenny being skinned alive, I’ll kill the bastard who did this. My god, that perfume you're wearing... it’s so hot!" Okay, it wasn't quite that bad, but it was still a moment that stuck with me throughout the whole story.
Secondly, the magic system was annoyingly inconsistent. At the beginning of the story, Ian is capable of making Gavyn's needs appear. He gets thirsty, he somehow ends up with beer. He needs a smoke, all he has to do is check his pocket. Then you get towards the end and everybody is dying of thirst... suddenly genies are no longer able to generate anything useful. Beer and smokes are fine, but water is out of the question? That’s just poor planning on the author's part. There were many of these little inconsistencies throughout the book. Taken individually they seem small, but added together I couldn't overlook them.
Over all, I still recommend giving Master of None a try, especially if you're getting tired of the monster hunter stories that currently saturate the urban fantasy market. Sonya Bateman's story has a lot of potential, and there's a good chance she'll hit it out of the park with the sequel because everything she needs for an amazing series is there. I'm anxious to see if she pulls it off in a second book.
The Princess and her teddy bear, Mr.Whiffle, live in a marzipan castle and spend their days in various childhood adventures such as fighting pirates,...moreThe Princess and her teddy bear, Mr.Whiffle, live in a marzipan castle and spend their days in various childhood adventures such as fighting pirates, squashing stuffed toy rebellions, and hiding from monsters under the bed. Patrick Rothfuss’s simple and cheery writing style and Nate Taylor’s beautifully comic artwork, full of clean lines and plenty of little details to look for, add to the childish atmosphere.
But The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle: The Thing Beneath the Bed is not a children’s book. It’s a picture book for adults, and there will be a lot of adults who hate it. That’s right, and I mean Haaaaaaate it. Why? Because they won’t get it — they’ll be looking for a message that just isn’t there. There is no deep hidden meaning that someone must be enlightened enough to understand. There is no more point in the Princess’s story than there is to a child running through the mud pretending to be a cowboy. You need to be able to think like a demented 10 year old. (Fortunately for me, I spend a fair amount of my time chuckling over immature silliness, and apparently so do Patrick Rothfuss and Nate Taylor.) The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle has three different endings ranging from the sweet to the sick, so you can let your mood determine your experience each time you read it.
I loved this little book for a lot of reasons, but most importantly I loved The Princess and Mr. Whiffle because it was different in every way imaginable. It’s not a typical fantasy book and it isn’t even a children’s story. I applaud Mr. Rothfuss for trying something unique and imaginative and Subterranean Press for giving a book like The Princess and Mr. Whiffle a home. We are all a little too stiff in our expectations from literature sometimes. It’s nice to be silly on occasion, and this little book is so very silly. Thank you Patrick Rothfuss for making me smile. —Justin@www.fantasyliterature.com(less)
When FanLit interviewed Nancy Holzner last month, I thought she sounded so nice, and her debut, Deadtown, sounded awesome. While shopping that night a...moreWhen FanLit interviewed Nancy Holzner last month, I thought she sounded so nice, and her debut, Deadtown, sounded awesome. While shopping that night at my local Wal-Mart, I noticed Deadtown on the shelf, so, naturally, into my cart it went, and I started reading as soon as I got home.
After a mysterious plague strikes Boston, its fallout area becomes known as Deadtown. Deadtown residents are controlled by the state of Massachusetts — they have few rights and must carry identifying papers when they move about the various zones. Paranormals are segregated, creating a racially tense atmosphere that underlies the whole story.
Deadtown’s lead character is a deceptively dynamic female shapeshifter named Victory Vaughn (Vicky). Through her welsh ancestry and hard work, Vicky became a demon hunter for hire. She gets wrapped up in a series of events that has Boston’s human and non-human communities in danger. Lots of action, political intrigue, and sleuthing are required from Vicky in order to try to save the city and its people.
There is a wide cast of supporting characters in Deadtown, and they range from typical to downright awesome. Holzner’s take on demons is a fun mix of literal interpretations of abstract concepts and actual demons you’d find in typical fantasy. For example, Hellions are demons who feed off violence and destruction and can be summoned and bound by sorcerers in the typical fantasy fashion. But then there are the Eidolons — demons that manifest from an individual’s feelings of guilt. They are self-created, but not any less real than the Hellions are. It’s a cool way of imagining demons. The zombies in Deadtown are also great; Vicky’s zombie sidekick/trainee, Tina, chews gum, wears midriff-baring t-shirts, and possesses an inhuman amount of strength. Holzner regularly takes a known urban fantasy device and twists it in her unique way. Vampires, werewolves, and witches are all spun creatively. I look forward to seeing what kind of characters Ms. Holzner brings into a sequel.
Deadtown is also well-written. Holzner uses a straightforward storytelling approach that I like and is quite common in urban fantasy. I think the plot pacing was somewhat unbalanced, as I felt a little rushed during the last 1/4 of the book. I reached a point in the story where I was getting concerned that I was not going to get a satisfying ending. I kept thinking there is no way she’s going to wrap this up in the amount of pages left. The story however did get wrapped up, and ultimately I was satisfied with how Holzner pulled it all together.
I became a fan of urban fantasy when I ran out of Jim Butcher’s THE DRESDEN FILES books. My search for substitutes has brought me to discover several authors in that same vein who I particularly like: Patricia Briggs, Simon R. Green, and now Nancy Holzner. That’s lofty company for a debut fantasy writer, but Deadtown holds up quite well against the best in the genre. It’s really an exceptional start of a new series. I’ll be eagerly waiting for the sequel.
Professor Piers Knight is the charming, handsome, and intelligent curator of the esteemed Brooklyn Museum. He has in possession the mysterious “Dream...moreProfessor Piers Knight is the charming, handsome, and intelligent curator of the esteemed Brooklyn Museum. He has in possession the mysterious “Dream Stone” — an artifact that may hold the key to unraveling an ancient and dangerous mystery. But Knight is not the only person who is aware of its importance. With the help of his gorgeous assistant Bridget and his knowledge of magical items, Knight must protect the stone and solve the riddle in order to keep a global disaster from happening.
CJ Henderson‘s Brooklyn Knight proves to be a very entertaining read. Professor Knight is by the far the most developed character in the story. (The others tend to be left a little hollow, but I’m hoping they’ll get more depth in later books). The back cover describes him as “New York’s answer to Indiana Jones,” but that’s a bit of a stretch. Yeah, Knight and Jones are both charming male academics who moonlight as adventurers and solvers of ancient mysteries, but Indy’s abilities are much more mundane, whereas the things Piers Knight is capable of are anything but. Also, Knight never leaves New York, though the potential for future global adventures is definitely there.
Also providing potential for future fun is the magic system which is primarily based around ancient artifacts. Henderson gradually introduces these believable magical elements and, as curator of the museum and a descendent of a long line of adventurers, Piers Knight has almost unlimited access to a wide range of items that give him special abilities. This should provide many interesting plot devices for the stories to come!
Brooklyn Knight is essentially an action/mystery, with fantasy elements thrown in. I enjoy this style of urban fantasy more than any other. I like the adventure, mystery, humor, pseudo-historical aspects, and the limited magic — they combine to make a really fun story!
You hear an argument close by and you make in its direction to investigate. What you end up seeing is a man being murdered by a creature so hideous it...moreYou hear an argument close by and you make in its direction to investigate. What you end up seeing is a man being murdered by a creature so hideous it makes you vomit then completely lose consciousness. That’s exactly what happened to Jack “Church” Churchill and Ruth Gallagher in Mark Chadbourn’s World’s End. The horrific experience has been permanently etched into their subconscious and it has changed their lives forever. Together they embark on a journey to find items that could save mankind from complete destruction by sinister forces.
World’s End is quintessential contemporary dark fantasy. The story setting is a mix of modern day society and various elements from mythology. It’s quite obvious Chadbourn has done his homework, given how well he links all these mythological pieces in with modern theological and philosophical concepts. Chadbourn creates a unique, believable, and complex tapestry of myth and folklore for this world. He pulls this off extremely well and authors-to-be should take note, because it’s this kind of detail in world building that writers often miss in their stories.
The characters in World’s End are many. There are at least six main characters that all get equal time. I’m usually wary when books have too many central characters; someone usually gets left undeveloped. That is not the case in this book. Each character is given the right amount of attention to make you feel for each of them and their unique situations. They have all come from different backgrounds and have very different personalities, but they are forced to rely on each other in deep and personal ways. I grew to love and respect each character as the story progressed. I even grew to like Laura, who at the beginning of the story made me cringe each time she spoke. The character development in World’s End is some of the best I’ve read.
The plotting of the story is where World’s End falters a bit, and was the only thing that kept it from getting 5 stars. The characters find themselves in predictable situations and are often saved in predictable ways. As Stefan said in his review (on fanlit), many of the plot twists are transparent. It almost seems that so much time and effort was put into building an amazing world filled with strong characters, that some of the actual plot devices were left wanting
Don’t let my quibbles about plotting stop you from reading the book, though. Complaining about predictable plotting in fantasy is like whining about there being dragons on the front cover. World’s End is brilliant in almost every other aspect of its storytelling, and I’m amazed that Mr. Chadbourn’s books don’t get as much attention as they should. I see vampire/zombie trash all the time cluttering up shelves. THE AGE OF MISRULE series blows away a large portion of bestselling fantasy available today. I look forward to reading the next installment, and only regret I didn’t read it sooner.
I pretty much avoid sparkly vampire stories. I’ve never read Twilight, and have not seen the movies. I am only vaguely familiar with Anne Rice’s stuff...moreI pretty much avoid sparkly vampire stories. I’ve never read Twilight, and have not seen the movies. I am only vaguely familiar with Anne Rice’s stuff. I have been “self-sheltered” from fantasy vampire fiction. When I seen that Penguin Books (NAL Trade) was going to do a re-release of Rachel Caine’s The Morganville Vampires in a 2 in 1 format….. I asked for a copy. I wanted to get a feel for this whole area of fantasy I’ve had no clue about. As a reviewer I felt somewhat obligated to at least try it. The two books I read were both written from the perspective of 16 (almost 17!) year old Claire Danvers. Claire is an exceptionally smart girl who is has been placed in college early. She wanted to go to Yale or MIT, but before her parents will allow her to live on the other side of the country they are making her do a two year term at the not so far away college in Morganville, Texas. This proves to be a rather unwise decision on the part of her parents, as Morganville happens to have a lot of vampires. Our little Claire ends up in the thick of them rather quickly.
In book one Glass Houses, Claire is getting harassed and beaten by other girls in her dorm, so she takes refuge in an off campus house with 3 other roommates. Claire and her three roommates become the four central characters of the story, as they try to avoid pissing off the local vampires while unraveling the bloody secrets of Morganville. Book two, The Dead Girl’s Dance falls directly behind Glass Houses. There is no gap of time between the two. The first book literally ends in the middle of a knife swing and book two starts with the conclusion of the knife swing. The Dead Girl’s Dance continues the story by getting the foursome deeper into the vampire doodoo, and it gets actually kind of fun imagining exactly how they are going to get out of it with out nuking the entire town.
Morganville Vampires books are definitely intended for teenage girls. I suffered through several detailed descriptions of hunky dudes with windblown hair, various shoe selections, and lots of kissy face action. I knew what I was going to get some of that when I picked this up, and to be honest none of the girly stuff was that overdone. I felt that Rachael Caine wrote the extremely smart 16 year old perspective rather well. I have only a few real complaints. Most of the gripes being within the first book. In Glass Houses all the characters except Claire felt a bit shallow, and the plot felt rushed. It’s almost as if Ms. Caine needed to get this opening book out of the way in order to get into the more juicy bits of her story starting in book two. In The Dead Girl’s Dance several characters go through changes that bring them more depth. The plot is more complicated and feels more cohesive than the first. I wondered whether these two books were originally written together and then later separated before submitted for publishing, because it certainly feels that way.
I enjoyed The Morganville Vampire books, even though I’m way outside the intended demographic. I think it’s safe to recommend them to any fantasy fan that needs a break from their usual faire. I definitely recommend them to our teenage readers. I would advise parents read to them first, especially if your young one is under 15 or 16. There is some suggestive content, but all of it well within a PG rating. There are 7 of these books out now, with #8 on the way. I hope Penguin plans on publishing the rest in the 2 for 1 package, for it makes it a worthy purchase.
There are times when you read a book that’s so amazing to you that you feel the author had you personally in mind when they wrote it, that’s exactly h...moreThere are times when you read a book that’s so amazing to you that you feel the author had you personally in mind when they wrote it, that’s exactly how I feel about Mark Chadbourn’s The Silver Skull. The Silver Skull is set in an alternate version of the Elizabethan England period. The story follows Will Swyfte the greatest spy England has ever known. He’s handsome, daring, smart and dangerous. He’s everything a great spy should be. With Spain on the brink of war with England and the Unseelie court pulling strings behind the curtains; Will has been tasked with saving the whole of England from certain doom. Sounds kind of silly does it not? The core of the story is indeed a spy/adventure story. On the surface the plot does feel a little like an Elizabethan James Bond novel, but in reality The Silver Skull is so much more than that.
First of all the book is actually quite scary. There is a scene where Will must infiltrate an enemy stronghold located in an abandoned house; you can literally feel the tension building the deeper he gets. The pursuit that takes place when he tries to escape had my hair standing on end. The story is very dark, foreboding and surprisingly violent. I’ve never had fairies scare the living crap out of me before. Nasty, brutal, super intelligent, the fairies Chadbourn creates are the ultimate super villain. James Bond never had to deal with these guys. I love how Chadbourn has taken so many staples of generic fantasy (Olde England, fairies, dashing heroes) and has twisted them into something brilliant.
The depth of characters and the plot leave room for a sequel with out leaving you hanging at the end. Chadbourn has recently signed a 6 book deal with Pyr. I can only hope a few of those are sequels to The Silver Skull (Swords of Albion). I admit I was caught by surprise at how much I liked this book. I knew by page 100 that I had something really special in my hands. I recommend this book to anyone who has a head. This is a must read, and is my favorite book so far this year. (less)