RISING DARKNESS melds the best of thrillers and fantasy to create a kaleidoscope of passion, adrenaline, and magic. Harrison is unmatched in her abili...moreRISING DARKNESS melds the best of thrillers and fantasy to create a kaleidoscope of passion, adrenaline, and magic. Harrison is unmatched in her ability to breath new life into the familiar romantic genres, and her exploration of these cosmic soul-mates results in another gorgeously written relationship.
Part of Harrison’s secret is the way she explores all of the natural consequences of even the most fantastic situations. None of the elements of Mary’s situation are taken for granted. As a physician she’s plagued vivid dreams, and starting to experience visual and auditory hallucinations, Mary is understandably loath to accept supernatural explanations for her situation. And Michael, in possession of his past memories, is no watercolored romantic hero. Rather he is isolated and injured, a closed off Alpha male with all the terrible vulnerability of a man experiencing love for the first time. Their chemistry is beautifully written, their complimentary influence on each other so easy to understand, as Harrison takes no short cuts in developing these characters.
While I’m not a big fan of the thriller story structure, Harrison’s blend of action and magic worked for me. Still, this series looks to be darker fare than The Elder Races series, and I missed the lighter, shapeshifter humor dearly. Fans of Harrison’s characters will love Mary and Michael, fans of thrillers will love the fast paced action and deliciously sociopathic Deceiver, and fans of romance will love any couple Harrison writes with such skill and detail.
After struggling with The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series all week, I am coming to the realization that I like steampunk more as a flavor adde...moreAfter struggling with The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series all week, I am coming to the realization that I like steampunk more as a flavor added to other story lines than as a genre all on its lonesome. Gail Carringer’s gorgeous Parasol Protectorate series mixes steampunk with fantasy and regency romance, Meljean Brook’s Iron Seas series is almost indefinable with the gritty mix of apocalypse, technology, and history, and my expectations were high as A LADY CAN NEVER BE TOO CURIOUS started out as light, fun, historical romance with familiar class boundaries being drawn along fanciful technological lines.
Wine piqued my interest by reframing the tension between aristocrats and working class from a steampunk perspective (with scientists as social outcasts), and I really wanted to like Janette for her ability to defy convention and social pressures. It quickly became apparent, however, that the romantic elements of A LADY CAN NEVER BE TOO CURIOUS were very “old-school”. As characters, Janette and Darius don’t deviate from their roles of “plucky heroine” and “dominating hero” when interacting with each other, and that dynamic quickly became rather boring. And with a heroine named “Janette”, the hero can’t keep saying, “Damn it!” without it getting very distracting. But those moments of humor were appreciated, more so than the endless refrain of warnings and defiance batted back and forth between the hero and heroine.
I’m willing to sacrifice deep characters for chemistry, but that element of A LADY CAN NEVER BE TOO CURIOUS didn’t work for me at all. The first sex scene was a flop, mainly due to some word choice issues (which is nit picky, I admit). But in the second sex scene Darius crossed from alpha to alphole, which killed my interest in the romance once and for all.
With the characters that didn’t hold any surprises, sexual chemistry that fizzled, and a rather simplistic steampunk world of magic rocks fueling warm showers and cars, A LADY CAN NEVER BE TOO CURIOUS didn’t meet my expectations. Still, it was well written enough that fans of old-school romance may enjoy this lighter side of steampunk.
I finished TIGER LILY with a gasp a goosebumps, head over heels in love with the characters and world that Anderson created. I was hesitant to start i...moreI finished TIGER LILY with a gasp a goosebumps, head over heels in love with the characters and world that Anderson created. I was hesitant to start it, Tiger Lily was always a character that fired my imagination, but even my childhood daydreams couldn’t quite fit her happily ever after into the myth. In TIGER LILY, Jodi Lynn Anderson has given me the Peter Pan story I’ve always dreamed of, gorgeously written, intimate, and inspired.
As I read TIGER LILY my mind’s eye kept flashing to Disney’s clean, happy drawings, making Anderson’s beautiful descriptions and realism all the more wonderful. While I expected to love Tiger Lily, her strength and solitary nature were more than I imagined. Seeing her alongside Peter, with his bravado and loneliness and charisma, made it apparent that their young love was both fierce and flawed. I had not expected Tinker Bell as a narrator, but Anderson saves her from the vain Disney portrayal. It is this Tink, alien and empathetic and charming, that will live on in my memory. Even Anderson’s pirates, human and frightening and murderous, have drowned out the all the bumbling Smees and bombastic Hooks of the past. The people in TIGER LILY still struggle with the human issues of loss and acceptance, identity and bullying, young love and friendship. Her Neverland, still magical yet nestled into the shores of our mundane world, seems somehow all the more fantastic for its closeness. The list of details and gorgeous characters could just go on and on, Anderson has made all parts of this world uniquely and beautifully her own.
With the dark, dreamy narrative of TIGER LILY fresh in my mind, I wish I could write a review that would do this fairy tale justice. The best Neverland I’ve ever visited, the best fairy tale I’ve read all year, and characters that are both magical and utterly human. I’m so glad I took a chance and read this book. Anderson has breathed a new, teenaged life into the spirit of Tiger Lily without ever betraying the youthful hopes and dreams invested I once in her.
Sexual Content: Oblique references to rape, kissing.(less)
I often describe urban fantasy novels as “dark” when there’s violence an...moreReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy See site review for similar titles
I often describe urban fantasy novels as “dark” when there’s violence and pain, loss and mourning. THE BRIDES OF ROLLROCK ISLAND is wrapped in gossamer strands of darkness so pervasive, so heartbreaking and real, I need a new word to evoke the pain of these characters. Lanagan explores the mythology of the seal-wife, a woman taken from the sea and kept by hiding her seal pelt. Through generations, through many different eyes, she writes a first hand view of human cruelty and petty betrayal, of a community imploding in on itself.
This book explores an aspect of human relationships that I’d rather not delve into, the hunger a man can feel for a compliant, nubile girl. The seal-brides of Rollrock are chillingly childlike in their lack of agency, passive and plaintive and wishing for the sea. The writing is beautiful, chronicling each fissure in the bleak little village. Magic as horror, a legacy of heartbreak and otherness in the bloodlines of the village… there’s no way I can do justice to how thoroughly Lanagan ensnared me in her net. I was angry and disgusted and sad and mesmerized, I could not look away.
I had to force myself to finish this book, but I am glad that I did. Lanagan doesn’t flinch from the horror of her seal-brides, the petty selfishness of enthrallment and love, and it is just that unblinking gaze through the generations that elevates this story from a painful exercise to a very realistic and human story. I loved the frailty of Lanagan’s seal-wives. She gives her mythology a loose genetics, where seal mothers impart wildness to their daughters with their X chromosome but the fathers’ Y keeps their sons anchored to the shore. With those sons that grow up under the shadow of their sad mothers, the daughters lost to the sea, Lanagan makes this a story of families and consequences, not just magic and passion. Forgiveness and revenge, frailty and strength, there are tiny acts of heroism and betrayal that shape this story, as well as intimate portrayals of characters that fail themselves, that are hurt and pass on that heartbreak to others.
THE BRIDES OF ROLLROCK ISLAND is not a comfortable book, but it is a beautiful one. Lanagan is utterly realistic in the the world she created, through the rhythm of the characters’ speech, the small pleasures and terrible betrayals of humans to each other. Normally I reference the Brothers Grimm whenever an author explores the consequences of magic in a realistic way, but that comparison doesn’t fit for Lanagan. She added a drop of magic to an entirely human world and the results felt anything but fictional.
Sexual Content: Kissing, references to sex, coerced marriage and sex.
When I got my hands on a copy of DEEP BETRAYAL, I was so excited to read more of the alien and tortured hero, Calder White. Brown’s ability to make hi...moreWhen I got my hands on a copy of DEEP BETRAYAL, I was so excited to read more of the alien and tortured hero, Calder White. Brown’s ability to make him sympathetic without softening too many of his predator’s edges was one I my favorite aspects of LIES BENEATH.
While Calder didn’t let me down, I had a very hard time reading the first third of DEEP BETRAYAL. There’s a lot of focus on the who/ what/ where events at the end of LIES BENEATH, which was confusing even to someone who read it. Even worse, what little character driven story there was on the front end was Lily’s post adventure woes. Juxtaposing her “I want to go home and be with my boyfriend” pouting against the very real danger of vengeful mermaids and her father’s transformation makes her look so… petty. Not a great start to our reintroduction. While I didn’t buy into Lily’s worries, she did have me wondering why Calder put up with her. Oh wait, that’s right, everyone else in the world thinks he’s dead or wants to kill him. You’re right, Lily, you have it *sooo hard*.
Between the family tension, vengeful creatures in the water, and violent boys in town, there are a lot of dangers swirling around Lily and Calder. I’d like to say all of these different threads came together in the end, but some of the esoteric mermaid magic never quite made sense. I didn’t mind those misfires, however, as Brown’s ending resolved my biggest concerns. If I were one of Calder’s mermaid family, I’d be swimming away electrified with the excitement of endless, happy possibilities.
The Chronicles of Elantra are an intricate hybrid of urban and high fantasy, with gritty streets, magical creatures, and medieval elements intwined. S...moreThe Chronicles of Elantra are an intricate hybrid of urban and high fantasy, with gritty streets, magical creatures, and medieval elements intwined. Sagara has created her own “urban” environment, as the City in which Kaylin lives serves as her whole world. Even in CAST IN PERIL, when obligations are going to take her beyond the familiar confines of her home, the landscape outside the City proper consists of danger, magic, etiquette, and inscrutable beings. Kaylin is right at home.
So much has transpired in this series, even having read each book in order, I often have a hard time remembering details of the previous adventures (and prior events are often referenced). If you’re new to the series, I recommend starting at the beginning, and if you’re behind, I highly recommend catching up to enjoy this book. Bare weeks separate most of the books in this series, which means Private Kaylin Neya only has time to change clothes before the next apocalyptic event comes knocking. I love the gruff humor and breathless chaos that swirl around Kaylin on any given day, and CAST IN PERIL offers quip after quip for most of the book. It wouldn’t be a Chronicles of Elantra novel without deadly, mysterious magic, however, and the Barrani pilgrimage to West March offers magical waystations, political intrigue, and insidious infections of Shadow. With both Nightshade and Severn in this story, the romantic subtext was greater than usual, to the point of actually bubbling out into conversation every once and awhile.
Of all the magical mechanisms in fantasy, Sagara’s naming and runes can be some of the most intriguing and frustrating to read. I feel like I can see the runes and symbols floating in the air around Kaylin. Magical theory is always at the heart of the action, and I usually understand less of the mechanisms that drive the battles than I do notice the changes in Kaylin that result. CAST IN PERIL is no different in that regard. I understood less about the Naming and True Stories of the Barrani than I did the relationship dynamics around Kaylin.
The Chronicles of Elantra matches Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse books for the sheer number of events, revelations, and societal upheavals that simmer off the pages of each book, though Sagara uses double the amount of pages with her ornate, mythological rich prose. CAST IN PERIL was filled with my favorite Elantra elements: glimpses of Dragons, Hawks, and Towers, Severn, Nightshade, and Teela, and the hyperbolic humor of Barrani death threats and Kaylin’s stubbornness. Those familiar pleasures carried me through some of the thicker magic at story’s end, to a breathless pause that I cannot release until CAST IN SORROW comes out next year.
Given the events at the end of FIRELIGHT, I had assumed book two would continue to explore the magic and changes of Miranda Ellis. The change of focus...moreGiven the events at the end of FIRELIGHT, I had assumed book two would continue to explore the magic and changes of Miranda Ellis. The change of focus to Ian and Daisy was a surprise that I soon grew to appreciate. From the opening chapter with Ian’s little “bedroom failure”, I knew I was going to love MOONGLOW. Once again, Callihan has found the perfect mix of history, romance, and magic to keep me captivated the whole way through.
While Ian as a hero was no surprise, Daisy as his love interest was an exciting choice. Callihan quickly and effectively resolved the whole “I hit on your sister” elephant in the room, and Daisy developed as an interesting heroine without betraying her initial characterization (i.e. – she was the funny, flighty, foot-in-mouth sister in FIRELIGHT, and while I learned more about her troubled marriage, she didn’t transform into a completely different woman as soon as the spotlight was upon her). Of course, midstory there was a significant development with Daisy, and it was not at all one that I expected.
Twisty and exciting, in plot and character and world building, MOONGLOW was a surprising delight all the way through. Callihan doesn’t give just one climax or development, but rather she explores and uncovers new ground the entire length of the book. MOONGLOW was a well crafted book that delivers on all fronts, and the world of Darkest London grows more interesting and complex with each book. The characters made it oh so easy for me to get emotionally invested in their fate, the romance was scorching hot, and the plot managed to surprise me on several occasions without ever losing my credulity. I put down MOONGLOW eager to read Poppy’s story, and I hope Callihan isn’t shy about bringing us back into the lives of the other Ellis sisters, if only for brief glimpses.
A concentrated dose of romantic fantasy and sexy threat, SHADOW’S EDGE blends an old school romance “backed into a corner” plot line into a more moder...moreA concentrated dose of romantic fantasy and sexy threat, SHADOW’S EDGE blends an old school romance “backed into a corner” plot line into a more modern urban fantasy setting. Jenna Moore’s otherworldly gifts have always come at a price, first the breakup of her family, then a lifetime of secrecy, and finally imprisonment in a shapeshifter enclave. This give and take narrative kept me titillated and engaged and while the hero and heroine don’t hold many surprises, the supporting cast breaks a few molds.
Jenna and Leander are drawn to each other like magnets, and Geissinger allows Jenna’s silence to be the foil that keeps them apart rather than manufacturing fights. Though her actions were frustrating at times, the narrative gives Jenna plenty of reasons to resist assimilation into the Ikhet. This hidebound society cost Jenna her father, and even in present day it was believable that born Ikhet would rebel against the strictures that offer little hope. Reading SHADOW’S EDGE led to inevitable comparisons to Shana Abe’s THE SMOKE THIEF. Though Abe employed more poetry and politics, SHADOW’S EDGE puts an overtly sexy spin on things. Even with the fairly predictable main character dynamic, I loved Geissinger’s indomitable ladies and modern world. Morgan’s struggle is all the more poignant next to Jenna’s genetic gifts, and I would have liked more page time with this particular supporting character.
If SHADOW’S EDGE sets the stage, the rest of the series has some big questions to answer. Hinting at sweeping changes to come, I’m very interested to see how Jenna’s interactions with Ikhet society plays out the next few books. Familiar tropes got me this far into the series, but Jenna and Leander were too predictable to bring me back on their own. I’ll be watching for more of Morgan, though, and I hope the other little background surprises get center stage in book two.
Fantastical and haunting, from the start THE WHITE FOREST had me glued to the page. I couldn’t tell if our narrator was out of JANE EYRE or THE TELL-T...moreFantastical and haunting, from the start THE WHITE FOREST had me glued to the page. I couldn’t tell if our narrator was out of JANE EYRE or THE TELL-TALE HEART, but Jane’s measured description of her strange world had me captivated. Jane is a contradictory mix of petty emotion and open-hearted loneliness, making her both grateful and jealous of the attention of her friends. Even more intriguing, her otherworldly gift seems simultaneously dangerous and innocuous, linked both to her mother’s death and the meaningless colors and sounds the souls of man-made objects project to her.
Though many elements of THE WHITE FOREST remind me of other books and movies that I’ve enjoyed (THE HISTORIAN and Pan’s Labyrinth to name two), Jane herself is a singular experience. Other characters in THE WHITE FOREST comment on her strange charisma, how she isn’t as plain as they first thought. This never comes across as the romance trope of a plain heroine who doesn’t realize how beautiful she is, or only where only her true love sees her inner beauty. Rather, even on the written page Jane seems both muted and mesmerizing. Her narration is almost deadpan, but the circumstances of her story reveal very strong emotions. I can’t even say that I liked her, and certainly much of her actions aren’t admirable in the typical “heart of gold” sense. She can be cruel, she feels the seduction of wielding power over others, and her attachment to Maddie and Nathan is almost smothering. At the halfway point I couldn’t see any happily ever after for Jane, or even predict where this story’s strange magic would take me, but I didn’t need either of those things to keep me riveted to the page.
The mystery of THE WHITE FOREST unfolds on so many different levels. In the present moment, Jane’s friend Nathan is missing. Below that lurks the secret of Jane’s gift and how it relates to both Nathan’s disappearance and Jane’s future. And then deeper still, simmering in the background is the complex alchemy of these relationships; Jane and Maddie and Nathan meshed together in friendship, jealousy, and attraction. I could never tell if the cynical way Jane views her value to Maddie and Nathan was realistic or not, and that tension as much as any other kept me reading for clues.
THE WHITE FOREST isn’t the usual thrilling, sexy urban fantasy, or anything close to steampunk, but I love it all the more for being something out of the norm for me. Jane manages to be magnetic and fascinating without being charming. She drew me into the mystery of her circumstances without becoming predictable and the pathos of the story is one of foreboding and dread without ever dipping into melodrama or horror. As the story spirals further and further outside human experience, I found myself no less affected. A captivating ghost story, a gothic to savor, I enjoyed slowing down and immersing myself in this strange, dark world.
It’s always disappointing when a much anticipated book doesn't meet expectations, which is probably why I fought so hard to like HOUSE OF SHADOWS more...moreIt’s always disappointing when a much anticipated book doesn't meet expectations, which is probably why I fought so hard to like HOUSE OF SHADOWS more. A gorgeously written adventure fantasy, this book has magic and true love, knowledgeable cats and hidden passages, a mysterious old house and the gracious bowers of pleasure houses… and yet, despite all the things I loved, there were also long passages where I wasn’t interested at all.
Part of the issue was the initial change of character perspective. Neumeier did her job too well, setting my focus on the two sisters going out into the world to seek their fortune. I was so interested on Karah and Nemienne, I resented when the story took me away to follow Leilis or Taubbe. Some of this is my own predilections, I tend to pick favorites and don’t like narratives that scatter too widely over characters. Some, however, can be fairly laid at HOUSE OF SHADOWS’s feet, as proved by the fact that I eventually got invested in Leilis and Taubbe as well, just to find there were still stretches of politics and overly wrought scenes that just didn’t hold my interest. Much of Neumeier’s exposition helped build the interesting and chaotic world of HOUSE OF SHADOWS, but a lot of the politics and background machinations lost my interest. Even worse, the entire geisha-like culture of the keiso, while fascinating, made Karah’s “Happily-Ever-After” fall entirely flat for me.
Despite my own issues with the book, I would not be surprised at all to find others enjoy it thoroughly. Neumeier’s main characters are interesting and compelling, and the way she intertwines magic into the city is vivid. HOUSE OF SHADOWS will do well for readers who have a little more patience than I do and are in the mood for a slow burn adventure with politics, magic, and love.
This is the Dragon Kin book I’ve been waiting for! A perfect balance of action, humor, and romance, Aiken does a fantastic job keeping her enormous ca...moreThis is the Dragon Kin book I’ve been waiting for! A perfect balance of action, humor, and romance, Aiken does a fantastic job keeping her enormous cast of characters in line (and hilarious). While not PC by any stretch of the imagination, I giggled my way through every last violent, sexy, slap-stick page.
Though I remember a little bit about Izzy and Éibhear (pronounced AY-var) from prior books, enough background is offered on them and the supporting characters that even new readers should be able to enjoy HOW TO DRIVE A DRAGON CRAZY. Where they may miss out is the the nuances of Aiken’s hyperbolic characters (sometimes it’s hard to tell who is vain, who is violent, who is god-touched, and who is a combination of all of the above), but HOW TO DRIVE A DRAGON CRAZY has a consistent enough tone that I think anyone could catch up. Even better, there were none of the unnecessary shifts of point of view that have always been a pet peeve of mine in both Dragon Kin and Pride books (which are published under the name Shelly Laurenston). In HOW TO DRIVE A DRAGON CRAZY, Aiken has pared both plot and point of view down to a strategic and effective level. Normally I find myself glossing over politics in Dragon Kin books, but both the romance and ancillary family plot lines kept me interested all the way through.
HOW TO DRIVE A DRAGON CRAZY is as crass and entertaining as I could have hoped. It wouldn’t be a Dragon Kin book if Aiken didn’t cross the line every once and awhile, but for every bad “dirty uncle” comment, there were three times as many hysterical quips that had me laughing out loud. This book has me giddy to read more of both Aiken’s Dragon Kin and Pride series, as it’s clear an already awesome author has kicked it up to the next level.
Sexual Content: Sex scenes, references to incest.(less)
It’s been a long time since the Anita Blake series and I have been on the same page. Once the subject of many, many re-reads, the world of Anita and h...moreIt’s been a long time since the Anita Blake series and I have been on the same page. Once the subject of many, many re-reads, the world of Anita and her boys have fallen by the wayside as of late (though Merry Gentry still gets re-reads every few years). The series’ later books have become largely internal, both in terms of the pedantic dialogue explaining the world according to Anita and the disappearance of the mundane world. I’ve heard HIT LIST is a return to police work, but I’m not entirely convinced that wouldn’t just find OBSIDIAN BUTTERFLY repackaged (How many times have we read Anita facing off with a local cop that thinks she’s either A. just a pretty face B. a vamp whore or C. a witch. Mayhem ensues). Still, it is on my TBR list for when I can get my hands on a copy, and after reading the excerpt following BEAUTY, KISS THE DEAD lands on that list as well.
When I picked up BEAUTY I expected something along the lines of FLIRT, a vignette where Anita learns something new regarding the title. For someone with several devoted lovers and magical irresistibility, I’ve long since lost patience with Anita’s self-esteem issues. So when BEAUTY opens with Anita wondering how she could have won someone as gorgeous as Jean Claude, I was worried. Luckily, BEAUTY’s shortness is an asset, that moment comes and goes. Anita and Jean Claude in the tub reminds me so much of their first, visceral scene together in THE KILLING DANCE, but this time around, there was no shaky laughter or condom packets being traced along skin, their love making has progressed to tops and bottoms and threesomes with Asher. And while Asher brings his characteristic splash of drama, things quickly progress to a ménage à trois. The mechanics of the sex scenes in Hamilton books always makes me want to draw force diagrams and marvel at technique (though I doubt any of us will need to know how to go down on a vampire who hasn’t fed recently).
To get any emotional impact in a sex scene, I prefer a particularly affecting first for the characters (like Anita and Jean Claude in the tub for the first time) or something that speaks to a particular fantasy (this one didn’t for me). The scene in BEAUTY was short, graphic, and didn’t hit either of the two milestones I mentioned. The fringe of story around the sex scene was ok, with a minimum of pedantry from Anita, but Jean Claude was the real sweet spot for me. He is just so happy in this scene, both with Anita’s comfort level and being together with her and Asher. That more than anything was the part of BEAUTY that I’ll remember fondly.
As if anticipating my wish for world building, after the “ménage à bath” there is a sneak peak at KISS THE DEAD. This excerpt was exactly what I could have hoped for: Anita interrogating a crazy vamp, along with a Dolph and Zebrowski cameo (Zebrowski entering the room in all his rumpled glory made me squee). Though the interrogation seems to point more towards a vampire plot than police work, it was great to be back inside the RPIT, if only for a moment. BEAUTY was ok at best, but the excerpt hints at a story that I might enjoy reading, once my local library has it on the shelf.
ROGUE’S PAWN is a sexy mix of romance and ALICE IN WONDERLAND that somehow managed to feel both too long an...moreReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
ROGUE’S PAWN is a sexy mix of romance and ALICE IN WONDERLAND that somehow managed to feel both too long and too short. Readers who make it past the flawed opening scenes will find a sexy, dangerous portrayal of fairy that is worth the read.
The opening chapters of ROGUE’S PAWN seemed amateurish and too much in Jennifer’s head, though later plot points explained away some of the relentless chatter. As an introduction, however, the early writing style stretched on to the point where I almost gave up. Then the transition to fairy, the banquet and bargains, and the story swept me away. Amidst the spectacle and magic, however, Kennedy always makes it clear that the threats of fairy are real. Rogue in particular maintains a dark, dangerous attraction throughout. ROGUE’S PAWN has a very “through the looking glass” feel, and I liked how the extremes of danger, sex, and silliness balanced out. A potent mix of imagination and chemistry, I loved the middle of this book. Jennifer’s scientific approach to magic and her relationship with the servants were particularly interesting. Kennedy develops supporting characters alongside the hero and heroine, and I was as invested in the Brownies and Darling as I was in the main plot lines.
Perhaps this attachment contributed to my disappointment in the ending. Though Kennedy does a great job building anticipation, ROGUE’S PAWN ended with a rush that resolved few of the tantalizing threads she had established. Rogue did not get enough page time, Darling is left hanging, the threat of Titania still felt undefined. This ending did not even feel like a “series starting cliffhanger”, but more like an arbitrary cut off. I’m interested in reading more about these characters, and hope the series becomes better paced as it grows.
I’ve had a fraught relationship with the Allie Beckstrom series, and MAGIC FOR A PRICE addressed many of my issues. But a nine book build up to get an...moreI’ve had a fraught relationship with the Allie Beckstrom series, and MAGIC FOR A PRICE addressed many of my issues. But a nine book build up to get answers means high expectations, and my own reaction was mixed to say the least. I enjoyed MAGIC FOR A PRICE very much as an individual book, but it’s ending suffered significantly from my issues with the series as a whole.
In past books I felt like the action moved too slow, with Allie facing the same magical problems over and over. This contributed to my difficulty in keeping track of which books I had read before as the events and descriptions from Allie’s perspective changed so little I always struggled to find my place in the series. This isn’t a problem at all in MAGIC FOR A PRICE. Monk interweaves new action with unobtrusive references to past events, making it very easy to refresh my memory on the series while moving forward with the plot.
And Monk does make sweeping changes to her world in MAGIC FOR A PRICE, something I wish had happened earlier in the series. I would have liked this book so much more if I could see Allie and company dealing with the consequences of their battle in future books. As a series finale, however, I didn’t care enough about these conflicts, stretched long and thin over nine books, to make the resolution pack significant punch. The magical architecture Monk has created is unparalleled, the relationships (between both living and dead) are unique and nuanced, but there is some elemental aspect of pacing and character that is missing for me. It’s telling that my affection for Stone is so much stronger than my interest in Allie’s love life, or that my curiosity is so much stronger for the Hounds than the Assembly. This series and I have been just half a step out of sync the whole way through.
For readers who have enjoyed the incremental plotlines while staying invested in the mystery of Allie’s past and relationship with her father, MAGIC FOR A PRICE will be a bittersweet treat that answers longstanding questions while bringing the series to a close. I enjoyed this individual book very much, though my relationship with the Allie Beckstrom series as a whole stays where it started, conflicted.
LETHAL RIDER is one of Ione’s signature wild rides bursting with violence, politics, and passion. These books operate on the extreme ends of the range...moreLETHAL RIDER is one of Ione’s signature wild rides bursting with violence, politics, and passion. These books operate on the extreme ends of the range of emotion, which helps differentiate the seriously-evil-cheer-when-they-die bad guys (like the racist Aegi) from the hidden-depths-maybe-retrievable bad guys (can’t name names without spoilers), or even the still-kill-a-lot-of-people-but-not-so-bad good guys (like our hero, Thanatos). An even balance of plot and romance, LETHAL RIDER is my favorite of the series to date, if only because several of the big bads get their just desserts by story’s end.
Though the themes driving Thanatos and Regan are fairly cliche (stuck together for the sake of a baby, etc.), this did not detract from my enjoyment of their story. As the distasteful as the circumstances of their first disastrous coupling is safely in the past tense (a comedy of roofies, misinformation, and miscommunication), LETHAL RIDER is all about enjoying Thanatos and Regan cautiously dealing with their soon to be born child and fledgling connection. "Fragile" is a good word for both of these emotionally abused warriors, and their back and forth dance of low self esteem is my least favorite part of the book. Ione doesn’t over do it with this cycle, however, and the low points were prety well balanced by Thanatos's hilarious inner monologue. He conjured up some of my favorite aspects of The Black Dagger Brotherhood and their shellans, with both his ferocious protectiveness and red hot passion (even for his 8 month pregnant lady). Though this level of violence and politics isn’t my favorite brand of Paranormal Romance, Ione wraps up a lot of lose ends that I found satisfying. I won’t rush to pre-order of ROGUE RIDER, but I’ll keep my eyes peeled.
I have a spotty reading history with the Lords of Deliverance books (I’ve only read IMMORTAL RIDER and the first few Demonica books that inhabit the same world), but my background was more than enough to be invested in the politics raging around these love birds. A new reader, however, would have a very hard time untangling the loyalties and betrayals intertwined in LETHAL RIDER. For those who enjoy godly violence to go along with their otherworldly romance, however, backtracking and reading more of Ione’s books will be no hardship.
Like any true geek homage, GEEKOMANCY is aggressively packed with cult pop culture references, memorabilia, and television slang. Though these hallmar...moreLike any true geek homage, GEEKOMANCY is aggressively packed with cult pop culture references, memorabilia, and television slang. Though these hallmarks are fun in conversation, in narrative form this deluge initially came across as “let me tell you everything I know” noise. It took awhile for me to acclimate to GEEKOMANCY‘s quippy style, but once I learned to relax and love the book… oh no, it’s contagious.
But seriously, after a few chapters of tell, tell, tell, Ree was finally up to speed and ready to kick some butt. In a world where consuming your favorite entertainment can literally fuel your magic, Ree’s encyclopedic knowledge of movies, TV, comics, and games is a finely honed weapon in her arsenal. Though I never quite warmed to liberal use of similes and digressions (Ree is the resident Manic Pixie Dream Girl of her coffee house patrons daydreams and her splintered attention span proves that she more than fits the role), the adventure side of things was very fun to read. References that would break my concentration when sprinkled into the narration made GEEKOMANCY‘s magic system both fun and accessible in the action scenes, as I puzzled out how a particular TV show or movie would boost Ree’s geekomancy. Though the narrative’s glib style meant Ree and her pals never grew beyond caricature for me, it’s unfair to judge the character development by the usual, gritty tone of an urban fantasy. The flavor of GEEKOMANCY owes more to HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY or Piers Anthony.
Above and beyond the quotes and cameos of beloved pop culture, the plot underneath GEEKOMANCY was well written. I particularly liked how Underwood played with the typical mentor/apprentice relationship, an unexpected twist that really added depth to the adventure. Though a little slow to start, if you’re in the mood for verbal gymnastics and enjoy seeing all of your favorite pop culture franchises in gorgeous, living color, GEEKOMANCY more than delivers.
SHADOWFELL is the long, sweet build-up of what promises to be a fantastic adventure. Though Neryn starts the book as a dependent, subject to her fathe...moreSHADOWFELL is the long, sweet build-up of what promises to be a fantastic adventure. Though Neryn starts the book as a dependent, subject to her father’s whims, she very quickly emerges as a strong, kind-hearted heroine with a surprising capacity for saying “no”.
To me it soon became apparent that this stubbornness is rooted in mistrust, which means I never grew impatient with her unwillingness to accept help. Both human and uncanny, the people of Alban are so abused and tormented by their king that very few have the luxury of offering any sort of kindness. Even more so, in classic fairy tale fashion, even if contact with The Good Folk hadn’t been forbidden by law it pays to be wary and careful of interactions with uncanny creatures. I liked the uncertainty of not knowing if Neryn would was making the right decisions along her journey. In matters of generosity, Neryn is the typical heroine with a heart of gold. In matters of courage, however, she must navigate the fine line between kindness and foolhardiness, bravery and pigheadedness, and forgiveness and naiveté. In a vacuum Neryn leans towards the Mary Sue end of the spectrum, but Marillier’s exploration of how armed conflict impacts communities and individuals brings nuance and tenderness to the relationships in this story.
I have long been a fan of Marillier’s books and SHADOWFELL is no exception. This book does suffer a bit from being the first of a series, as it feels like Marillier was saving some events and character growth for future books. Over all, however, Marillier’s brand of magic and romance translates beautifully to Young Adult, and I can’t wait to follow this new young heroine on the next phase of her journey.
The world building of BURN MARK alone is enough of a reason to grab a copy of this book. Gritty British streets, politics and fear mongering, and two...moreThe world building of BURN MARK alone is enough of a reason to grab a copy of this book. Gritty British streets, politics and fear mongering, and two teenagers that bracket the social scale from street crime to government aristocracy. Despite the amount of focus placed on the politics and intrigue of Glory and Lucas’s mission, the most gripping mysteries revolve around these characters’ places in this challenging society.
The two main characters are each built up in intertwining narratives that eventually collide. Their introductions were very well done, and their individual interactions were flawless, yet I still found myself glossing over some of the detailed capers that preceded each piece of new information. BURN MARK is, at its core, a meticulous mystery. For readers who enjoy the methodical build up of a procedural, BURN MARK will be right in their wheelhouse. I enjoyed enough of the process that I didn’t mind it, but my true interest lay with Glory, Lucas, and their underlying world. In Powell’s mythology, the arrival of magic doesn’t come with an owl and a flying broomstick. The onset of magic is the catalyst that starts both of these teens questioning the expectations of their peers and family. Glory in particular surprised me with the breadth of her options. Everything from staging a coup to joining WICA to marrying into a criminal dynasty is on the table, and figuring out which way she was leaning was the mystery that most intrigued me by story’s end.
BURN MARK is a noir procedural that teems with intricate mythology, a well drawn world, and interesting characters. Though I would have liked a faster pace to compliment all this delicious intrigue and characterization, BURN MARK is a great read for those who don’t mind slowing down and focusing on the details.
The damaged beauty of the hero and heroine is just one piece of what makes SILVER such an entrancing book. Haunting and romantic, fans of The Wolves o...moreThe damaged beauty of the hero and heroine is just one piece of what makes SILVER such an entrancing book. Haunting and romantic, fans of The Wolves of Mercy Falls will find familiar rhythms of changing perspectives and “realistic werewolves” with less poetry and an added dangerous, adult tone. This combination had me riveted from the first chapter. SILVER has just romance to fire the imagination without diluting the importance of Dare and Silver’s other concerns, and though the action lagged a bit for me in the middle, the strong characters and well drawn world more than compensated for the lull.
Held created a gritty and realistic werewolf culture and a universe that I look forward to visiting again. Both Silver and Dare grow into hidden strengths over the course of the story, without ever betraying the realism of their world. The tension of watching these two navigate the claustrophobic intricacies of werewolf hierarchy was exciting in and of itself, even without the amorphous “monster” that haunts the fringes. Though I did get a little impatient with our heroine’s mental state in the middle of the book, by the end Silver had the potential to rank next to Kate Daniels and Mercy Thompson as a fierce, battle hardened heroine (I have my fingers crossed for future books). Best of all, Held brings Dare and Silver through the story stronger but scarred, and the heartbreaking consequences of their battles make this world all the more nuanced and believable.
The first thing I did upon finishing SILVER was scour the internet for other books by Rhiannon Held. Though I’m disappointed that there isn’t a back catalog for me to immediately plunder, after a debut this strong her name is definitely on my instant buy list. I’ll take any and all new books she offers, but reading the next chapter of Silver and Dare’s lives is what I’m secretly hoping for.
Sexual Content: References to rape and sex, mild sensuality.(less)
DEVIL’S GATE is something new and different for the Elder Races series, a novella featuring a hero and heroine that we’ve encountered before. As a rom...moreDEVIL’S GATE is something new and different for the Elder Races series, a novella featuring a hero and heroine that we’ve encountered before. As a romance and as an adventure it worked very well. The problem was where those two halves felt entirely separate from each other.
The messy danger of the city of Devil’s Gate blew in and out too fast, I wanted more out of that tent city than a blur of troll parking, pharmacy, casino. Still, the places Harrison does describe are striking and distinct, and this tent city shimmers with the squalor and lawlessness of an Old West town. There is a lot of story for this short little novella, and the situation Harrison created could easily have filled a much longer format. Furthermore, with action that hinges upon prior Elder Races books, I don’t think the plot would work for someone new to the series.
With so much plot rushing by, I’m glad Harrison kept the romance separate, but this contributes to the almost split personality of DEVIL’S GATE. I could wish that the genre didn’t demand a happily-ever-after, I would have been happy if Duncan and Selema just set the stage for a later book. Harrison does a great job writing how the “otherness” of her paranormal creatures impacts their everyday life. Selema’s headsnakes are hilarious in the opening scene, jockeying to look through the peephole of her door like excited kids (PS – Those headsnakes don’t just disappear, and though Duncan and I both found them charming, anyone with a morbid fear of snakes may have difficulty with those aspects of the story). Harrison’s writing sparkles in the details and little moments. The interactions between Duncan and Selema and her little snakes were by far my favorite in the novella.
The exotic danger of Devil’s Gate and the shy attraction of this romance are both memorable, if not particularly tied to each other. Whether in a longer novella or a full length book, the plot in DEVIL’S GATE felt like it needed more room to grow. It was that hurried development that knocked this story from 4 bats to 3 for me, but the main characters alone were almost enough to restore that missing bat. Duncan and Selema are an adorable couple, and given their skills and affiliation, I can’t wait to see them in a later Elder Races book.
Sexual Content: References to prostitution, sex scenes.(less)
The voice of THE MINORITY COUNCIL is tricky to slip into, both because of Swift's plurality and the Beat poet run-on sentences that paint the city aro...moreThe voice of THE MINORITY COUNCIL is tricky to slip into, both because of Swift's plurality and the Beat poet run-on sentences that paint the city around him. I don't think reading earlier books would have helped, other than giving me more pages to acclimate myself to the style, but finishing this story has me eager to go back and start at the beginning.
Matthew Swift is immersed in the moment, a stream of consciousness pan of the city around him. I had a hard time differentiating between his own turn of a phrase and British colloquialisms, and in long sentences that sometimes meant I got lost. Eventually I just relaxed into narrative, let it flow around me, but this was a slower read than my usual urban fantasy fare.
Swift emerges as an unlikely white knight, fighting for and alongside the women in this story. His apprentice, a social worker, and a one night stand... though our protagonist is male, THE MINORITY COUNCIL is filled with kick-ass heroines that are by turns silly and ferocious. And despite all the raw power that is thrown around, the virtue most celebrated in this story is competence. Attention to detail. Perseverance. Swift's MacGyver approach to magic is impressive for its cleverness and provides an accessible counter balance to his mystic perception of the city. One third common sense, two thirds otherworldly being, Swift remains just grounded enough that I kept trying to puzzle him out.
I definitely recommend reading an excerpt before starting this series, and caution that THE MINORITY COUNCIL shouldn't be gulped down in an afternoon. The poetry of Griffin’s writing took a little while to adjust to. Swift carries the weight of an entire city along in his narrative, and this point of view is best savored. I found that it’s well worth the time investment to relax, take things slow, and slip into Swift's skin.
Bleak and broken, BLACKBIRDS is a different brand of darkness than the average urban fantasy. Miriam Black is pain wrapped in swagger, and the superna...moreBleak and broken, BLACKBIRDS is a different brand of darkness than the average urban fantasy. Miriam Black is pain wrapped in swagger, and the supernatural aspects of her life are no gift. As despairing as she may feel, I couldn't help but root for her through the violence and intrigue, hoping against hope she'll wrest control of her destiny. The avalanche of violence was brutal, however, making it a feat for me to get through book one. I don’t think I have the fortitude to venture further into the series, Miriam Black is not for the faint of heart.
As cinematic and violent as a Tarantino movie, BLACKBIRDS and its heroine are just balls-to-the-wall tortured and dark. Miriam is both strong and brittle, and her self destructive drive drew me in. Like driving past an accident, part of me was eager to find the root cause of all of her pain and a small part of me remained pitifully hopeful that she'd somehow beat destiny. By the halfway mark, however, the story was oppressively, unrelentingly black. Miriam seemed more the victim of her story than heroine, and her pain choked my optimism down nothing. The story kept moving so fast, however, and even without hope I found I couldn’t look away.
Morbid and tormented, BLACKBIRDS is not for the sensitive or weak of stomach. This book shares a pedigree with the hyperbolic violence of some graphic novels, and I was hard pressed to come up with similar titles in novel form (UNHOLY GHOSTS only shares a damaged heroine in common, Chess is infinitely less depressing than Miriam). Definitely not for everyone, but if you don’t mind your magic slick with blood and heartache, BLACKBIRDS is a gorgeously imagined nightmare of a tale.
Sexual Content: References to sex, attempted rape, sex scenes.(less)