THE INCREMENTALISTS novel is one of those novels I expected to pick up and immediately love. I mean, c’mon,Review courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
THE INCREMENTALISTS novel is one of those novels I expected to pick up and immediately love. I mean, c’mon, it’s set in Vegas, involves secret societies and is co-written by the amazing Steven Brust. Needless to say my hopes were extremely high when I started this book and then they quickly came crashing down.
I freely admit that my score for this novel is partly based on the expectations I had for THE INCREMENTALISTS. Reviews are entirely subjective and it shouldn’t bug so much, but it does. This is a good book and I feel that if I hadn’t known who the authors were or what the book was about going in I would have enjoyed it a whole lot more.
The book is told from the alternating first person viewpoints of Phil and Renee. Phil is an old hand at being an Incrementalist and has existed in one form or another for thousands of years. The Incrementalist society itself is an incredibly cool idea; they’re a secret society consisting of exactly 200 people that exists to make the world a better place a little bit at a time through a process known as “meddling”. They use this power to nudge the powers that be along a path that the Incrementalists have decided is the best course for mankind as a whole. Neat, right?
But then there’s those two alternating first person views. There are only a few series told in the first person that I like to begin with so dealing with a book that has two (and, really, three) first person views was an exercise in frustration. It also didn’t help that I never made much of a connection with any of the characters. They’re all cool in concept, but quickly lose their charm after a couple hundred pages.
Brust and White are both excellent writers and the book does move and extremely brisk pace. I couldn’t help but wish that it had slowed down a bit and explored more of the world they created. Even so THE INCREMENTALISTS is still worth picking up if you’re looking for something completely different than the other urban fantasy novels currently out there.
When I claimed UNDER THE EMPYREAN SKY for review I had no idea this was a young adult novel. I simply saw CReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
When I claimed UNDER THE EMPYREAN SKY for review I had no idea this was a young adult novel. I simply saw Chuck Wendig’s name and, since I absolutely loved THE BLUE BLAZES, I quickly claimed it. When I saw that it was young adult I was a little worried. Would Wendig’s style be so watered down I wouldn’t enjoy it? I’m pleased to say that wasn’t the case at all and UNDER THE EMPYREAN SKY is a great read for both adult fans of Wendig’s writing and for the younger crowd who probably has never heard of him.
With YA fiction I often find myself rolling my eyes at the idealized teenage life the authors portray in the books. When I was sixteen I cursed, did stupid things and generally acted like someone who was too old to be a child and too young to be an adult. In UNDER THE EMPYREAN SKY Wendig does a fantastic job of portraying his teenage characters as, well, teenagers. They swear, talk about (and have) sex and make the kind of rash decisions that you probably would have made as a teenager.
The book tells the tale of Cael McAvoy – captain of the Big Sky Scavengers. He and his friends try to supplement their family’s meager earnings by scavenging what they can find in the corn fields that are, well, everywhere. In this future the Empyreans rule from colonies in the sky and people like Cael are left to manage the corn crops that supply the Empyreans with the resources they need to continue living in luxury. Corn has long since stopped being grown primarily for food and it is used in everything. When Cael and his friends stumble upon what they see as their way out of poverty, they quickly learn that nothing is every as easy as they want it to be.
UNDER THE EMPYREAN SKY is an excellent book and the only thing stopping this from being a five bat review is the lack of depth for the other characters (especially Gwennie and the other female characters). Wendig has never had a problem writing strong female characters in his adult novels and I imagine we’ll get to see more of them in the next book of this series. I’ve seen several reviews that question Wendig’s frank portrayal of teenage life, but I found it to be a breath of fresh air and I would have loved this book to pieces if I had read it when I was a teen.
Steve Bein’s DAUGHTER OF THE SWORD felt like a book James Clavell might have written if he had ever turnedReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
Steve Bein’s DAUGHTER OF THE SWORD felt like a book James Clavell might have written if he had ever turned his hand to urban fantasy. That’s some of the highest praise I can give a book because Clavell’s Asian Saga is easily my favorite series of all time. Bein’s mix of police procedural, historical novel and just enough magic to make it actually seem plausible had me hoping for more of the same when I started YEAR OF THE DEMON.
Bein’s second book in the Fated Blades series is set a few months after the events of the first. Police officer Oshiro Mariko finally has her promotion to the Narcotics unit. She’s the only woman to ever make the rank of detective sergeant in Tokyo’s most elite police unit. Because of this she’s still fighting for the respect of her peers, but things are at least settling down to some semblance of normalcy. Of course this would be a pretty boring book if that stayed the case.
The book starts off quickly with Mariko and the rest of her team executing a drug raid. In the aftermath of the raid an ancient mask gets stolen. What seems like an ordinary missing bit of evidence quickly becomes more when its Yakuza owner demands that Mariko retrieve it. Interspersed in the novel we have the stories of a 16th-century lord and previous wielder of Mariko’s sword, and a 15th-century one-armed pearl diver.
I really enjoyed this book. It has the usual middle novel issues in that a lot of the events seem to do nothing other than set things up for the third, but just like the first YEAR OF THE DEMON moves along at a brisk pace.
Since I’m writing this review for All Things Urban Fantasy I almost feel as if I should warn folks that this is very much not your typical urban fantasy. The magic in this world is ancient and subtle and very much not front and center like most novels of the genre. I hope that doesn’t scare off curious readers because that is very much a good thing. In a field that lends itself so often to copycat rehash novels of whatever trope is currently popular it is fantastic to find a novel that doesn’t use any of them.
Part thriller, part police procedural, part historical and part urban fantasy, YEAR OF THE DEMON is simply a book for people who like to read. It has something for everyone and Bein does an amazing job weaving them all together into a fascinating story.
I’ll readily admit that my expectations for PROMISE OF BLOOD were set fairly high. The idea of introducingREVIEW COURTESY OF ALL THINGS URBAN FANTASY
I’ll readily admit that my expectations for PROMISE OF BLOOD were set fairly high. The idea of introducing flintlocks and gunpowder to a fantasy setting sounds like it could be a fantastic take on magic. On this, PROMISE OF BLOOD both delivers and… doesn’t.
Brian McClellan’s story shows an incredible amount of promise – and the magic of the Powder Mages is very cool – yet it falls a little flat because of the other the other magic systems in play in the world. You’ve got the Privileged. They’ve got gloves that allow them to manipulate the elements. Then you’ve also got Predeii which are kinda like the Privileged, but way, way more powerful. These somewhat standard magic systems overshadow the Powder Mages and their gunpowder magic and doesn’t really let them shine. I was really, really excited for the gunpowder magic so that made me go all sad face.
The book is told from several points of view. First up is Field Marshal Thomas who just lead a successful coup against the king. Then there’s Adamat. He’s my favorite character in the book and is a gambling addict former investigator. He’s tasked by Thomas to investigate “Kresimir’s Broken Promise”. Those were the final words of the royal mages that were killed during the uprising. Taniel is the last of the major characters. He’s Thomas’ son and he’s charged with hunting down a royal mage that escaped during the initial fighting.
All of the characters are entertaining and I’m looking forward to seeing them fleshed out in further books. My only complaint is that I was hoping for more of a focus on Thomas. After the beginning of the book he becomes more of a secondary character. I wanted more of the politics involved in taking over the kingdoms and sadly didn’t get it. Hopefully we’ll see more of that in later volumes.
While my rating for this book is only three bats, it really is worth reading. The story holds a ton of promise (of blood. Dun dun!) and if the next books stray off the well-trod path of standard fantasy tropes then this is going to be a truly excellent series....more
Every once in awhile you come across a book that hits every sweet spot you have when it comes to fiction. TREVIEW COURTESY OF ALL THINGS URBAN FANTASY
Every once in awhile you come across a book that hits every sweet spot you have when it comes to fiction. THE BLUE BLAZES by Chuck Wendig is such a book.
Seriously, folks, this book has everything I love. Mobsters! Monsters! Violence! Gratuitous swearing! In all honesty I’m certain that Wendig wrote this book especially for me. From page one to the very end I enjoyed every single word. Between THE BLUE BLAZES and TRICKSTER, 2013 is becoming an excellent year for gritty, awesome urban fantasy.
Oh, yeah, so what’s it about, you ask? The book centers (for the most part) on Mookie Pearl. Mookie works for the Organization. They’re ones that control the supply of the titular “Blue Blazes” – a drug that gives you increased strength, endurance and the ability to see the denizens of the Underworld.
In the first few chapters we find out that Mookie’s daughter Nora has also been getting involved in the criminal underworld and that the Boss of the Organization is dying of cancer. The Boss tasks Mookie with finding the mythical drug known as Death’s Head or The Purple. This one is believed to cure everything and quite possibly bring the dead back to life. This sets of a story that moves at break-neck speed as Mookie finds himself in the caverns and tunnels below New York as he searches for the Death’s Head. He’ll fight goblins, ghosts and a multitude of other creatures.
The world of THE BLUE BLAZES is fantastic – think Neil Gaiman’s NEVERWHERE written as a mob book – and as Wendig slowly reveals more and more of the demonic underbelly of New York you can’t help but go along for the ride. At turns creepy and horrifying (but always entertaining), THE BLUE BLAZES is a must-read. I’m kicking myself for not checking out Wendig’s work before now. Don’t make the same mistake I did....more
I don’t think I’ve ever replied to an email faster than I did when Abigail sent one out asking if anyone waReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
I don’t think I’ve ever replied to an email faster than I did when Abigail sent one out asking if anyone wanted to review comics set in the Buffyverse. I’ve been a fan of the show since the first episode aired and I may be a little (scarily, if you ask my fiancé) obsessed. Needless to say I should probably put a big disclaimer at the top of any of these reviews that says something like “Warning: This review is totally biased” because yeah. They are. I’m a Whedon fanboy and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
Lots of stuff going stuff going on in this collection. Angel is still working on finding a way to resurrect Giles, Faith is still Faith and Willow drops by to rope them both in to helping her on her quest to restore magic to Earth. Whew. Like I said, there’s a lot going on. Thankfully each issue contained in this collection feels just like an episode of Angel or Buffy. Gage has such a knack for the dialogue of the various characters that I had to check and make sure he wasn’t one of the writers of the show. He wasn’t, and I knew that, but it sure feels like he was. My favorite line of his takes place at the very start of the collection:
Faith: Wil. Everybody good?
Willow: Still alive. Still wacky. You?
Faith: Y’know. Brooding, bad decisions, violence. Rinse and repeat.
I could literally hear Alyson Hannigan and Eliza Dushku saying those lines. If that’s not a sign of good writing, I don’t know what is. I also really, really like Rebekah Isaacs’ artwork. Everybody looks just how you’d expect them to look in a comic book. Her work never feels cartoonish and fits Gage’s writing to a ‘T’. I wish she could do the art for every book set in the Buffyverse, because the same can’t be said for the artwork in some of the others.
I could ramble on and happily recap everything that has happened previously in this series (or in all of the comics series set in this world), but I’ll end this review and simply say that if you’re a fan of the series you really should track down copies of the trade paperbacks for Season 8 and Season 9. They get a little crazy (especially Season 8!), but it makes me happy to just know the story is still being told....more
I almost didn’t bother to read A DARK PLACE because I absolutely could not stand the whole Spike and the alREVIEW COURTESY OF ALL THINGS URBAN FANTASY
I almost didn’t bother to read A DARK PLACE because I absolutely could not stand the whole Spike and the alien bugs plot line that first popped up in Season 8. I decided to give it a shot and, ugh, Spike’s still with his alien bug pals. Blah.
Call me weird, but I don’t want hardcore sci-fi in my Buffyverse. Every single panel in this collection seems to have either an alien or a spaceship in it and I hated every second of it. Even the surprise visit from a succubus couldn’t save this yawn inducing story line. Spike. Aliens. Space. Boo. Suffice it to say that this storyline sums up everything that many, many fans hated about Season 8. Sometimes stories go off the rails and this is certainly one of them.
This review likely would have been even more harsh if I hadn’t managed to slog through everything to get to the final page. Oh, that final page! I’m glad I made it because that page alone took away all the pain of the preceding pages. Hell, I had such a goofy fanboy grin at the end of it that my fiancé asked me what I was so happy about. I lied and said I was just thinking about our upcoming wedding because if I had said “Spike! Angel! Back together!” she wouldn’t have understood.
If you understand why such a statement is completely awesome then you may want to check this out – though I recommend starting at issue six and going from there....more
On last week’s episode of THE BIG BANG THEORY, Leonard decides Buffy is the perfect show for he and Penny tREVIEW COURTESY OF ALL THINGS URBAN FANTASY
On last week’s episode of THE BIG BANG THEORY, Leonard decides Buffy is the perfect show for he and Penny to share. At the end of an episode Penny says it was “Cute”. This really has nothing to do with the review, but the scene was serious deja vu for me. I can’t count how many times I’ve tried to get my fiancé to watch Buffy. It’s gotten to the point that I’m starting to take it personally.
It saddens me to report that GUARDED is one of the weaker story arcs so far for Season 9. Buffy finds herself working for Kennedy (I knew there was a reason I never liked her) as a Slayer bodyguard for the rich and famous. Buffy and Kennedy take a gig protecting the founder of a Facebook-like website called Tin Can. There’s some mild amusement when it’s discovered that Tin Can was partially funded by those demon-lovers at Wolfram & Hart. Needless to say hijinxs ensue. Kennedy and Buffy argue over how to handle things (and literally come to blows) and Buffy realizes she can never just look out for herself. She’s a Slayer. She saves people.
This epiphany was long time coming (and I hope it leads to some better story lines), but the whole arc felt a little flat. GUARDED falls far short of the type of dialogue and plotting I’ve come to expect from Buffy (especially when compared to the stellar writing going on at ANGEL & FAITH). And the artwork. Oy vey. Half the time you can’t tell who a character is supposed to be – and when the dialogue also isn’t working it’s often difficult to figure it out. This is a serious problem with the series and one I hope they rectify sooner rather than later.
All in all though, it’s still Buffy. The television had low points as well and always managed to find its way again. I’m hoping the same is true for Season 9....more
Jake Stephens is just your normal teenager until one day he suddenly finds himself eating half of his senioReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
Jake Stephens is just your normal teenager until one day he suddenly finds himself eating half of his senior class. Oops.
EAT, BRAINS, LOVE was a book I requested simply because, hey, it’s October. Gotta read something Halloween-y, right? Plus at the time I was going through The Walking Dead withdrawal and was all “Hey! Zombies!”. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from the book and what I got was a teenage coming-of-age story with zombie stuff tacked on.
The book is told from two views – Jake, the Zombie, and Cass, the zombie hunter. Jake is a typical teenage boy and while I found his viewpoint to easily be the more interesting of the two, his constant snark became kind of grating after awhile. Though if I had read this book back when I was a teenager I would probably have loved it. But I’m not, so I didn’t. With Cass you get less snark — which I liked — but not a whole not of characterization. She’s there to give us a break from zombie Jake and to play the love interest. That’s about it.
It’s always hard for an adult to read YA and not judge it from an adult’s perspective. I’m no different. As a grown-up I would have liked to see more of the horror side of the zombie apocalypse. There’s gore, but it’s always tempered by Jake’s snark so it’s never, ya know, scary. I was also mildly annoyed by the lack of world-building until I found out this book is actually the first in a series.
All in all this was an okay book. I didn’t hate it, yet I’ll also never read it again or bother picking up the next book simply because it’s a YA book that is truely just for young adults. If it wasn’t solidy written for teens I’d give it two stars and if I was teenager myself I’d probably give it four. So I’m going to meet in the middle and give it a three.
Sexual content: Graphic language, lots and lots of sexual references....more
Joseph D’Lacey is an author who has been on my radar for some time now. I was intrigued enough by his first novel, MEAT, to purchase a copy, but sadlyJoseph D’Lacey is an author who has been on my radar for some time now. I was intrigued enough by his first novel, MEAT, to purchase a copy, but sadly it’s been a neglected member of the black hole that is my to-read pile ever since. After reading BLACK FEATHERS I’m most certainly going to rectify that.
I’m finding it hard to describe BLACK FEATHERS. I don’t think I’m the only one either judging by the incredibly short official publisher’s blurb that you can see above. I feel that in this case that is actually a good thing. BLACK FEATHERS is a book you want to discover on your own and too many spoilers would most certainly make the reading less enjoyable.
With that said, here’s my spoiler free attempt at discussing the book in a little a more detail.
BLACK FEATHERS is told from two narratives. The first is told from the point of view of Gordon Black (who has an incredibly awesome last name, by the way). Gordon is a young boy in England at the time of some sort of environmental collapse. This is all present day/near future stuff and it deals with English society turning into a police-state run by a quasi-corporate operation known as The Ward. I was slightly disappointed we didn’t get the nitty-gritty details of the events leading up to the disaster that caused the collapse of civilization, but this is Gordon’s story – not humanity’s as a whole. It deals with Gordon’s quest to find the Crowman (also known as Black Jack and the Scarecrow depending on which of the myths you happen to believe). Gordon believes that if he finds him he can save his family and what remains of the rest of population.
The second narrative is brought to us by Megan – a girl roughly the same age as Gordon. This part takes place in the far-off future and the people of the Earth are now living an almost peaceful medieval-ish existence. There’s no high-tech gadgets and whatnot, though there are the decayed remains of large cities of the past. Megan, too, is searching for the Crowman. He appeared for her and chose to place her on the Dark Feathered path. Because of this she comes under the tutelage of a wandering healer known as Mr Keeper. This is who Megan is to become – a Keeper. These are the people charged with keeping the story of the Crowman. It is told that the first female Keeper will also be the last of all of the Keepers. Does this mean the end or salvation? That’s what Megan needs to find out.
D’Lacey does an excellent job interweaving the two narratives and the story moves along at a brisk pace. To tell any more of the plot of the book would be a disservice to the wonderful tale that the author has woven. D’Lacey’s definitely an author you should be checking out and this is an excellent book with which to start....more
I have a confession to make – I’m not usually a big fan of anthologies. I’m not sure if it’s because I getReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
I have a confession to make – I’m not usually a big fan of anthologies. I’m not sure if it’s because I get annoyed that there’s not more to the story or what, but short stories and I have never gotten along. So of course I went with an anthology for my first review here at All Things Urban Fantasy. Oops. Or at least oops is what I was thinking when I first sat down to start the book. Then I started reading and that oops quickly changed in to a grin as I dived in to story after story.
This topic is absolutely perfect for the short story format. I may not want to read an entire book from the evil genius’ point of view, but reading a couple dozen pages from said point of view was certainly fun. Way more fun than I was certainly expecting.
From the delightful opening “apology” letter written by Austin Grossman to the closing story by Ben Winters there wasn’t a bad story in the bunch. Which is saying something as there were a few authors included who I normally have no taste for.
If you’re like me and you normally avoid short story collections like the plague then you need to do yourself a favor and give this one a try. This is especially true if – like me – you find yourself rooting for the bad guy in books and movies more often than not. If nothing else these stories make for a delightful tonic if you’ve temporarily had your fill of good guys doing good guy things with their good guy pals.
Now if you’ll excuse me I need to get back to my lab…
• “Professor Incognito Apologizes: an Itemized List” by Austin Grossman
• “Father of the Groom” by Harry Turtledove
• “Laughter at the Academy” by Seanan McGuire
• “Letter to the Editor” by David D. Levine
• “Instead of a Loving Heart” by Jeremiah Tolbert
• “The Executor” by Daniel H. Wilson
• “The Angel of Death Has a Business Plan” by Heather Lindsley
• “Homo Perfectus” by David Farland
• “Ancient Equations” by L. A. Banks
• “Rural Singularity” by Alan Dean Foster
• “Captain Justice Saves the Day” by Genevieve Valentine
• “The Mad Scientist’s Daughter” by Theodora Goss
• “The Space Between” by Diana Gabaldon
• “Harry and Marlowe Meet the Founder of the Aetherian Revolution” by Carrie Vaughn
• “Blood and Stardust” by Laird Barron
• “A More Perfect Union” by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
• “Rocks Fall” by Naomi Novik
• “We Interrupt This Broadcast” by Mary Robinette Kowal
HAPPY HOUR IN HELL picks up right where the events left off in THE DIRTY STREETS OF HEAVEN. This somewhat sReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
HAPPY HOUR IN HELL picks up right where the events left off in THE DIRTY STREETS OF HEAVEN. This somewhat surprised me since when the series was first announced I remember reading that Williams planned to make the novels only loosely connected so that they could be read in any order. I suppose you could still do that, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
Anyway! The book opens with Bobby Dollar entering Hell to search for his demon girlfriend Casimira. Yeah, that’s right. An angel with a demon girlfriend. The good/evil relationship dynamic has been done to death in urban fantasy and I admit I was somewhat disappointed to see Williams going for this trope. Here’s to hoping he has some surprises lined up regarding it.
HAPPY HOUR IN HELL also has some pacing issues when compared to THE DIRTY STREETS OF HEAVEN. The first half of the book has a great pace and easily kept me turning the pages. The second half not so much. I can handle a hundred or so pages of world building in my epic fantasies, but the same type of thing feels jarring when it’s an urban fantasy novel. Of course if you’ve read any of Tad Williams’ work prior to the Bobby Dollar series then you probably weren’t surprised to hear that he gets a little, ah, descriptive in this book. The difference between the exposition in this book and, say, his Otherland series is that HAPPY HOUR IN HELL is way shorter. Using a hundred and fifty pages to set up a world (in this case, Hell) in a novel that’s fifteen hundred pages, well, that doesn’t seem like much. When your book is only four hundred pages it’s too much.
That isn’t to say that HAPPY HOUR IN HELL is a bad book – it’s still good. It’s just not as good as THE DIRTY STREETS OF HEAVEN was.
It doesn’t feel like it’s been 10 years since I picked up a copy of Max Barry’s JENNIFER GOVERNMENT on a whREVIEW COURTESY OF All Things Urban Fantasy
It doesn’t feel like it’s been 10 years since I picked up a copy of Max Barry’s JENNIFER GOVERNMENT on a whim at my local bookstore. I ended up finishing it later that day and Barry found his way to my must-read list. I tracked down a copy of his first novel (SYRUP) and greatly enjoyed COMPANY and MACHINE MAN (though that one was a little odd). So it was with some excitement that I started my ARC of LEXICON.
LEXICON is set in a world where trained poets can control what you feel and what you do by using certain words. This is the world in which Wil finds himself when he comes to in an airport bathroom with a needle stuck in his eye. Without a word of explanation two men force Wil out of the airport and on the run. And that’s just in the first few pages.
As you can probably tell from the above, LEXICON starts off with a bang. After that opening chapter it switches over to Emily and jumps back in time about 10 years. She’s a teenage con artist who (within a few pages) finds herself at the school that trains those poets I mentioned earlier. They teach her linguistics, psychology, political science, rhetoric and hone her already impressive persuasion skills to razor edge sharpness.
From there the book continues to jump between Wil and Emily (and back and forth in time) in an attempt to explain why everybody in the book is out to kill everybody else. While this format kind of works it constantly felt like I was reading a rough draft of the novel. Emily especially doesn’t feel like she has much depth. With a little more time (or even splitting the Wil and Emily views in to separate books) I think this book could have lived up to its potential.
LEXICON is definitely a recommended read since a Max Barry novel is like ice cream; even when it isn’t great it’s still pretty damn good....more
When I was first asked if I wanted to review THE CIRCLE my first thought was whether or not is a based on tREVIEW COURTESY OF ALL THINGS URBAN FANTASY
When I was first asked if I wanted to review THE CIRCLE my first thought was whether or not is a based on the TV show THE SECRET CIRCLE. Thanks to Google I found out that it was most definitely not based on the TV show – which was apparently based on a different series of books. Oops. THE CIRCLE sure shares a lot in common with THE SECRET CIRCLE (or at least with the few episodes of the show I’ve seen), but it stands well enough on its own.
THE CIRCLE revolves around seven high schoolers who are chosen to protect the Swedish town of Engelfors from evil forces. The evil started with some bodiless demons and only gets worse for the group from there. As the story progresses each of the girls develop (or are granted) various powers that help them in this fight.
Sounds like a ton of other books you’ve read before, right? And, honestly, it is. There’s not a whole lot of originality in the plot of THE CIRCLE. What makes this book stand out a bit from the rest of the pack are the characters. These girls are all different and the complexities of their relationships kept me turning the pages long after I’d lost interest in the “main” plot line. You’ve got family issues, emotional blackmail, rivalries, regretted sexual entanglements and a whole lot more. I swear this book isn’t as soap operaish as that last sentence made it sound. The authors did an excellent job with dialog and fleshing out the individual girls – which made the lazy paranormal plot all the more irritating.
While I applaud the authors’ willingness to kill off any character it often felt like the decision was done solely to shock. Plus watching them call in the calvary of adult witches to explain everything at the end caused some considerable eye-rolling on my part.
As THE CIRCLE is the first in a series it did lay just enough groundwork that I’m curious to see where it goes next. If the authors focus as much on the plot as they do on the characterization in book two this could turn in to an excellent YA series....more
ORLEANS took me far longer to finish than I thought it would. A lot longer. The reason why probably makes mReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
ORLEANS took me far longer to finish than I thought it would. A lot longer. The reason why probably makes me sound like a horrible person (I’m not. I swear!), but it really, really made the book a struggle for me to get through. Before I get to that though let’s talk about the good stuff.
I love me some post-apocalyptic fiction and ORLEANS didn’t disappoint on that front. The world-building is great and the setting feels like something that could actually happen. Smith’s attention to the little details when describing the situations and places the characters find themselves in does a great job of making you feel like you’re there.
Or at least it should have, cause I’m sad to say the characterization was a bit lacking. The main character – Fen – came across as emotionless for a good part of the book. It also didn’t help (and this is what I was referring to at the opening of my review) that the patois Fen speaks with drove me nuts. I’ve been to New Orleans and I’ve heard people speak in a similar way to Fen. It’s awesome in person. On the page it’s just annoying. And since the book is also in first person you can’t get away from it when the chapter is told from Fen’s point of view. I am sad to admit that I almost gave up on this book a few chapters in because of it. I’m glad I didn’t, because the story itself is worth reading. The language issues with Fen and the Daniel chapters just feeling like they serve no real purpose have kept me from rating this book any higher.
Adam Christopher created a wholly original world in EMPIRE STATE so I was extremely pleased to get a chance to review THE AGE ATOMIC and I’m happy toAdam Christopher created a wholly original world in EMPIRE STATE so I was extremely pleased to get a chance to review THE AGE ATOMIC and I’m happy to say that Christopher doesn’t disappoint.
The second book in his Empire State series takes place in 1954 (a good bit of time after the first), yet in the Empire State only a few months have gone by. Even worse the Empire State has been plunged in to a perpetual winter and Captain Carson – who took over the Empire State at the end of the first book – has gone missing. We also catch up with Rad Bradley and meet a new villain, the King of 125th Street.
Meanwhile in the New York of our reality, Nimrod is dealing with some chaos of his own. Atoms for Peace was created by the Eisenhower administration and is being run by Evelyn McHale. Evelyn is captial-C crazy and it doesn’t help that she was turned in to a goddess by the same atomic incident that create the Empire State to begin with.
Confused yet? That’s understandable. Christopher has written a book full of winks and nods to the super hero comics of old, noir detective novels, and science fiction. All of these combine to tell a story so full of twist and turns that I was constantly having to flip back a few pages to remind myself of what the heck was going on. This is a book for people who love that sort of thing and thankfully I’m one of them. You’ve got political intrigue, super heroes and villains, and a cracking good mystery. What’s not to like? My only word of warning though is that this is not a series you can just jump in to. You do need to read the previous volume or you’ll be completely lost. Which is a good thing, because the first book is stellar as well....more
THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE is a gorgeous book. From the perfect cover to the very last page Gaiman deREVIEW COURTESY OF ALL THINGS URBAN FANTASY
THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE is a gorgeous book. From the perfect cover to the very last page Gaiman depicts a lush story about agelessness, childhood fears and memory.
We meet our intrepid protagonist driving towards his childhood home after leaving a funeral. He isn’t driving anywhere in particular and after a bit he finds himself driving down an old country lane to a house he vaguely remembers. At the Hempstock Farm old memories begin to surface.
During his childhood his family’s car is stolen and a man commits suicide in it not far from his home. This unleashes a darkness and our narrator (whose name we never learn) soon finds himself involved with the Hempstocks in trying to contain it. He quickly finds himself becoming friends with the youngest Hempstock – an eleven year old named Lettie.
Lettie and our narrator begin to investigate what got out when the thief committed suicide and it quickly becomes clear to the both of them that there is now something out there that does not belong in our world.
Gaiman does a masterful job of giving the novel a distinctly growing sense of horror as the forces unleashed begin to wreak havoc on the narrator’s life. What’s even more impressive is the masterful job Gaiman does of never letting this feel like a young adult novel even when the two main characters are both under the age of twelve.
This is an extremely emotional novel and an extremely hard one to review as to give away any more of the plot than I already have would, in my opinion, kill the enjoyment of reading THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE. This is a book to take out on the porch and savor and I can’t wait till I have time to read it again....more
When it comes to the Sandman Slim novels it seems that people either love them or hate them. I personally fReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
When it comes to the Sandman Slim novels it seems that people either love them or hate them. I personally fall in to the former camp. These books are fantastic when you just want a book where the character kicks some ass and gets involved in all sorts of crazy shit. Yet there comes a point where even I was wondering just how much crazy shit ol’ Sandman Slim could get in to and still keep the books fresh. I shouldn’t have worried because KILL CITY BLUES was all that and more
The book opens with Stark (Sandman Slim) and Lucifer (the original one) sitting in a diner. It doesn’t take long before someone is trying to kill Stark. Why? They believe he’s still in possession of the Qomrama Om Ya. What’s that, you ask? It’s a weapon for killing gods and the cult of the ancient gods wants it so they can bring their gods back to power.
Going up against crazies is nothing new for this series, but this time Stark isn’t going it alone. The novel brings back Bridgette, Candy, Father Traven, Allegra and Vidocq. And, of course, everybody’s favorite disembodied head – Kasabian. This ragtag group needs to storm an abandoned mall full of Lurkers and all sorts of other nasties in order to find the Qomrama Om Ya before the bad guys do.
The fact that – for once – Stark isn’t going it alone is the highlight of this book. Sure, the other characters would briefly get in on the action in the other books, but nothing like they do here in KILL CITY BLUES. Getting to see them take part in the ass-kicking was a treat and I hope the next book keeps with the trend. Kadrey has successfully avoided making any of the five books in this series feel like a rehash and if you’re looking for a funny, violent, take-no-prisoners novel then you certainly won’t go wrong with this one.
TRICKSTER is a book that has restored my faith in the urban fantasy genre as a whole. Jeff Somers has creatReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
TRICKSTER is a book that has restored my faith in the urban fantasy genre as a whole. Jeff Somers has created a wholly original world that, even with magic, feels incredibly real.
The book centers around Lem – one of the world’s blood mages. And, yep, blood mages are exactly what they sound like. In this world there are two types of mages – those who use bleeders and those who supply their own blood for their magics. Lem is one of the latter.
The title comes from how the low-ranking, barely enough skill for a glamour mages refer to themselves. They are – almost to a man – con artists, thieves and grifters. They survive using little spells like making a crumpled up one dollar bill appear as a twenty. They’re scraping by and for the most part ignore (and are ignored themselves) by the more powerful magic users of the world. At least that’s how it was for Lem before he found Claire Mannice tied up in the trunk of a car. Now Lem’s in the thick of it and fighting just to keep himself and his friends alive.
I understand if right now you’re thinking I was a little hyperbolic in saying how this book restored my faith in urban fantasy. You’re just going to have to trust me and give this book a try. Seriously. It has everything. It has an incredibly well-thought out magic system, wonderful world-building, characters who not just break, but shatter, the cookie-cutter stereotypes so common to the genre and a plot that moves along at breakneck speed. Hell, it even has a dash of kinda-sorta romance in it for those who are in to that sort of thing.
To put it another way: I loved this book so much that even though I received an ARC, I’ve already pre-ordered four copies of it. One copy to put on my shelf (and I almost never buy anything but eBooks anymore) and three copies to let friends borrow. That’s how much I loved this book.
Do yourself a favor and read what should rightfully be one of the biggest urban fantasy releases of the season.
Yawn. That’s the first word that comes to mind when I think of this book. Or maybe bland. Both are apt descReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
Yawn. That’s the first word that comes to mind when I think of this book. Or maybe bland. Both are apt descriptions for FADE TO BLACK. A few chapters in I wrote in my notes that it seemed as if the author had a checklist of everything she thought should go in an urban fantasy novel and merrily went down the list as she wrote the book. This feeling never changed as the book progressed.
The main character of the book is Rojan Dizon. He’s a stereotype of every best-selling urban fantasy character rolled in to one. Badly. I’m having a hard time expressing how much I detested this character. Everything about him had me rolling my eyes in annoyance. It’s so bad that I’m kind of hoping the author meant him to be some sort of avant-garde statement on horrible urban fantasy clichés, but I really doubt it.
Now for the plot: Rojan’s niece is kidnapped! Oh noes! Maybe I hated this plot so much because when I’m not reading urban fantasy I’m probably reading a mystery novel and the family member getting kidnapped plot is one of the most overdone storylines. That isn’t to say the kidnap plot can’t be done well, but it certainly isn’t here. The plot seemed to just be a way for the author to make Rojan take some responsibility for himself. Which is fine, but why can’t we have characters who are already responsible? Anti-heroes can be fun, but Rojan just comes across as an angsty, emo asshole.
Anyway, there are some cool things about the book. The city of Mahala is interesting and kind of reminded me of the giant cities built in David Wingrove’s Chung Kuo books. Sadly just having a neat location isn’t enough to fill a book. All in all this a standard, paint-by-numbers dark fantasy and not one I can recommend. There are too many good books out there to waste time reading ones like this.
I volunteered to read SIEGE AND STORM because I had heard good things about the first book. I figured I’d hREVIEW COURTESY OF ALL THINGS URBAN FANTASY
I volunteered to read SIEGE AND STORM because I had heard good things about the first book. I figured I’d have plenty of time before this review was due to read SHADOW AND BONE before embarking on SIEGE AND STORM. Then real life hit. Thanks to work being super-duper busy it was Thursday before I remembered this review was coming due. While mentally preparing myself to send an email to Abigail letting her know I’d have to reschedule I decided to sit down and start SHADOW AND BONE.
Next thing I knew it was 2:30 in the morning and I had finished the book. Then I did the same thing the next night with SIEGE AND STORM.
So it goes without saying that I really, really liked these books. Leigh Bardugo has written what has to be one of the better YA fantasy novels I’ve read in ages. She writes with a refreshing directness that at no point feels like she’s dumbing things down simply to get a piece of the YA market. Every character feels real and the Bardugo keeps you totally invested in all of them.
Alina misses the point a lot and spends just a tad too much time worrying about whether her boyfriend loves her as much as she loves him. In the hands of a lesser writer those two things could have ruined the book, yet Bardugo has fleshed out Alina enough that you see those actions for what they are — the thoughts and actions of any teenager. Let alone one thrust in to the situations Alina has been. Mal has been the one real constant in Alina’s life so it’s completely understandable that she focuses on that a lot once everything in her life gets even more crazy.
Alina, Mal and the rest of the characters in the book undergo a lot of changes in SIEGE AND STORM and not all of them are for the better. The book starts at a full sprint and never lets up till the very end. The only bad thing I can really say about this book is that I’m sad I’m going to need to wait a year to get my hands on RUIN AND RISING, the third book in The Grisha series....more
After being severely disappointed by the last few YA titles, I started LIFE AFTER THEFT with some trepidation. My worry was unfounded as I found thisAfter being severely disappointed by the last few YA titles, I started LIFE AFTER THEFT with some trepidation. My worry was unfounded as I found this book to be quite a treat.
LIFE AFTER THEFT is told from the point of view of Jeff (yay, for a male point of view!). He’s new to school and all he’s worried about is fitting in. On his first day he finds a girl laying on the floor. Being the nice guy sort he asks what’s up and to his suprise the girl starts freaking out over the fact he can see her. Poor Jeff thinks he’s the butt of some prank, but he quickly finds out that Kimberlee is a ghost. Whoa. We also meet Sera and Khalil. Brothers and sisters who play central role in Jeff’s present and in Kimberlee’s past. Pike gave each of these character’s a distinct voice and all of them felt real. Well, except Kimberlee. Cause, ya know. Ghost.
I found LIFE AFTER THEFT to be an extremely enjoyable read. All of the characters in the book are written very well. Usually when I read a work of YA fiction I find myself spending most of the book rolling my eyes in annoyance. I don’t recall doing that once while reading this book. Pike has done a tremendous job of touching on a variety of sensitive subjects such as death, religion, sex, and others. Indeed there’s a scene with Jeff and his parents discussing sex that had me cringing in rememberance of the time I got ‘the talk’ from my own parents.
While it isn’t as blatantly paranormal as most of the books we review here (other than Kimberlee there’s nothing supernatural), it’s an easy book to recommend. Seeing all of the characters grow and change due to their circumstances and choices in the book was heart warming and while the ending is a bit, ah, abrupt, this is the type of YA fiction that I hope my kid is reading....more
LONDON FALLING is now the second book I’ve read in the last month about serial killers in London. Which is weird, because until now I couldn’t have toLONDON FALLING is now the second book I’ve read in the last month about serial killers in London. Which is weird, because until now I couldn’t have told you how long it’s been since I’ve read any book with serial killers in them. I’m not sure what my point is other than to say that at no time during the book did I feel I was treading on familiar ground. Normally when I read similar books I end up putting the second one aside for a bit because it just doesn’t feel ‘fresh’. LONDON FALLING definitely felt fresh.
What kept this book moving was the great characterization done by Paul Cornell. He struck a great balance between the views of undercover agents Costain and Sefton and Detective Inspector Quill and analyst Lisa Ross. I loved how he teased out their backgrounds throughout the book and didn’t simply do an infodump of everything as soon as they were introduced. The London of the book could also be considered a character in its own right as it is delightfully dark and twisted.
The book itself starts off towards the end of an undercover investigation in to crime boss Rob Toshack. Our intrepid heroes learn that the criminal’s rise to power wasn’t entirely natural. They are then put on a special task force investigating the supernatural powers behind the crime boss. The task force quickly finds that the crimes they were targeting Toshack for are nothing compared to what the darker powers have been up to.
The book has some trippy elements (especially involving the characters’ Sight), but at its heart LONDON FALLING is a work of crime fiction – even if the crimes are mostly magical in nature. This keeps the plot moving at a brisk pace for almost the entire book. Sadly the last 80 or so pages towards the end slow the story down considerably, but only enough to move my rating for this book down one notch. All in all it’s an extremely fun, dark read and I look forward to seeing more books from Cornell. Mysteries in urban fantasy novels are nothing new, but it’s always nice to see the crime fiction elements sharing the stage with the supernatural as well as they do here....more
I would not want to be the person in charge of how to categorize A MATTER OF BLOOD as it could easily holdReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
I would not want to be the person in charge of how to categorize A MATTER OF BLOOD as it could easily hold its own shelved anywhere in the mystery, urban fantasy or horror sections of your local book shop. In fact this book would likely end up on my list of books of the year in any of those categories. It’s that good.
A word of warning may be in order depending on what you may have been expecting. This book is dark – and not “Oooh, he’s bad, but has a heart of gold and I could change change him if only he’ll love me” dark. I’m talking disembowel you with a rusty spoon after murdering your loved ones sort of dark. That isn’t to say that A MATTER OF BLOOD is a thrill-a-minute page-turner. That’s not the sort of horror I’m talking about here. This book is about the horrors that lurk just beyond your vision. The monster you just know is under your bed. Sounds delicious, right?
The main point of view (there are several, but they are all done in third person so it’s not jarring) is that of Detective Inspector Cass Jones. Cass is a, to put it mildly, a jerk. He cheats on his wife, abuses drugs, drinks too much and he’s on the take. Yet for all of that his wry, defeated point of view and the fact he really is a good cop makes him easy to root for as he finds himself involved in a serial killer investigation and being framed for the murder/suicide of his own brother and his family.
At this point I’ll forgive you if you’re thinking I’m trying to trick you in to reading a straight-up crime novel. I promise I’m not. While A MATTER OF BLOOD is not as overtly paranormal as most books we review here, it does appear that those aspects of the world are going to pick up considerably in the next book. I also implore you to give this book a try. Even though it isn’t wall-to-wall creatures of the night, it’s an excellent book that deserves to be as widely read as possible. The genre needs more books like this....more
I don’t even know where to start with this review. I knew that STUNG was a work of YA fiction when I selectREVIEW COURTESY OF ALL THINGS URBAN FANTASY
I don’t even know where to start with this review. I knew that STUNG was a work of YA fiction when I selected it for review, but I didn’t expect to be childish. Does that make sense? Probably not, so let me explain a little further.
So the book starts with Fiona waking up and not remembering anything past the age of 13. Since she’s now 17 this poses a bit of a problem. I was as confused as Fiona was throughout most of the book because the world building is, uh, sparse to say the least. I know that the bees died and there’s something making people in to super strong killer thingamajigs. That’s about all that’s clear for almost the entirety of the book – which mostly consists of Fiona and some guy (who was so dull that I’ve honestly forgotten his name even though he’s the second main character in the book) running through the woods. There’s little to no sense of space or description or anything during these scenes. I had no idea if they were miles away from the city compound, a dozen feet or what. It felt like a low budget movie where they only had the money for one set and had to keep reusing it in every single scene.
Then there’s Fiona. Fiona is everything I hate in bad YA fiction. Absolutely every single choice she made in the book was stupid and annoying. She gets captured, boring lead male takes pity on her (Because, duh, they’re already falling in love. Gag.) and let’s her sleep unshackled. He then falls asleep. He’s about to take her somewhere where she’ll be killed or worse. What would you do? If you’re Fiona you lay there all night staring at his face and thinking about how cute he is. Ugh. Then there’s the scene where they find a safe place that has changes of clothes. Does she choose something practical for fleeing for her life through the woods? Nope. She picks a fucking sun dress so she looks cute for boring male lead. God dammit.
The whole book is like this. I realize that Fiona is a teenage girl and I have no problem with characters that make bad decisions, but c’mon. Every single decision she makes is stupid and makes no sense in the context of the scene. Then there’s the ever present threat of rape that is mentioned about every three paragraphs. Why, you ask? Because apparently there are seven guys to every girl (this is never explained) and instead of, you know, prizing the female population they just rape and kill them and stuff. Cause that’s what you do when you want to repopulate.
Save yourself some time, dear reader, and find something better to read. It shouldn’t be hard....more
THIEVES’ QUARRY is a follow-up to my favorite urban fantasy novel of 2012, D.B. Jackson’s THIEFTAKER. I staReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
THIEVES’ QUARRY is a follow-up to my favorite urban fantasy novel of 2012, D.B. Jackson’s THIEFTAKER. I started this book with high expectations and it somehow managed to exceed them.
While it isn’t necessary to have read THIEFTAKER before checking out THIEVES’ QUARRY (Jackson does a great job of explaining things without boring those of us who have read the first novel), I highly recommend it just so you can enjoy seeing the changes the characters have gone through since the first novel.
THIEVES’ QUARRY starts off quickly with our intrepid thieftaker Ethan Kaille finding himself tasked with investigating the deaths of everyone onboard one of King George III’s Royal Navy vessels. The pre-Revolutionary War time period alone would make the stakes for this case incredibly high, but with the additional threat of having every conjurer in the city hanged if he fails the stakes are even higher for Ethan. This isn’t going to be an easy case and Ethan is going to need the help of every friend and spell he has in order to solve it.
The mystery at the heart of THIEVES’ QUARRY is one of the best I’ve come across in the urban fantasy genre. Normally the ‘mysteries’ in this genre aren’t much of one and I’m able to figure out what’s what pretty early on. That wasn’t the case here. It kept me guessing right along with Ethan up till the very end. That fact also makes this a hard review to write. With a mystery this good I don’t want to give anything away and risk ruining it for anyone.
What I can talk about is how much I loved the characters in this novel. Heck, as good as the mystery was I’d make the claim that the interactions between Ethan and the other characters (especially his dealings with nemesis and fellow thieftaker Sephira Pryce) are even better. At times humorous, sometimes sad and always real, these are characters you’re going to quickly find yourself attached to. Jackson also does a great job of interweaving historical figures in to the narrative. Normally when authors toss in real-life folks into their novels I find it jarring and it takes me out of the story. The fact it doesn’t happen here with characters as well-known as Samuel Adams (among others) is a credit to Jackson’s skills as an author.
It goes without saying that I highly recommend THIEVES’ QUARRY. If you’re looking for a great book curl up with while waiting for the fireworks this Fourth of July then look no further than this one....more