Bringing swashbuckling, fantasy, and police procedurals together into a perfect adventure on the high seas, A DAUGHTER OF NO NATION is even better thaBringing swashbuckling, fantasy, and police procedurals together into a perfect adventure on the high seas, A DAUGHTER OF NO NATION is even better than it's predecessor. For anyone who enjoys a touch of real world risk in their magic, this is an adventure you won't want to miss.
Sophie's exploration of Stormwrack is the perfect balance of science, magic, and adventure. She is a scientist dropped into magical circumstances, and while she's well educated and dogged, her story is accessible in a way few "born special" urban fantasy heroines can be. From the first chapter where we see Sophie training and preparing, everyone in this story feels believably flawed and human. Sophie has to rely on her wits and "mundane" skills, making this magical setting feel utterly real and really dangerous.
It was a delight watching Sophie balance her skepticism about alchemy and primitive sciences against the very real evidence of magic in Stormwrack. Her own perspective means the reader can be surprised as well, finding unexpected truths hidden amongst the superstitions and traditions. A DAUGHTER OF NO NATION was a joyful adventure and I can't wait to set sail with Sophie again.
Sexual Content: Kissing, discussions about sex and rape. ...more
The world of Rhiannon Held's Silver series is seen through its characters, the shift of point of view is wReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy.
The world of Rhiannon Held's Silver series is seen through its characters, the shift of point of view is what paints mythology and plot. This means the story has to do more than follow our Urban Fantasy heroine, and Silver shares the stage with various likable and unlikable characters.
While I have always had issues when the POV changes from Silver to some of my less favorite characters, WOLFSBANE adds a new twist to the usual intertwining perspectives. The main story is split into several concurrent dreams, each following an alternate timeline. So not only does the story shift from character to character, but multiple "versions" of the characters exist in the dreams. As per usual, it is Silver's perspective that I wanted to read the most, with Dare a distant second, making each shift between narrative threads an annoyance at first. WOLFSBANE also firmly establishes bisexuality as a prevalent and accepted part of werewolf culture, even if their mating practices vary from pack to pack.
The Silver series contains many familiar Urban Fantasy tropes, but always with a twist. Rather than putting a spotlight on Silver's unique, magical snowflake life the narrative follows a full palette of characters, each with strengths and weaknesses that kept me guessing. Though this writing style can be bumpy for me, this series is one I'll always be excited to return to.
Sexual content: References to sex and non-explicit sex scenes ...more
Liam Cuelebre has never been a normal kid, and following the events of SHADOW'S END, it's clear this young dragon may not be any type of kid at all anLiam Cuelebre has never been a normal kid, and following the events of SHADOW'S END, it's clear this young dragon may not be any type of kid at all anymore. With his accelerated growth and highly unusual origins, Liam can be a tough character to relate to and believe in. Harrison has carefully developed him through the Elder Races novellas, however, and from a cameo in DRAGOS TAKES A HOLIDAY to center stage in PEANUT GOES TO SCHOOL, his point of view has kept apace with his accelerated maturation. LIAM TAKES MANHATTAN marks another special milestone for him, his graduation from cute side character to "I need his book now" main attraction. LIAM TAKES MANHATTAN is an excellent chance to get a flavor for Liam's new, grownup narration and I can't wait for an entire book devoted to the young prince.
BREAKING OUT PART 1 was a fantastic short from the ENTANGLED anthology, quickly establishing charming characters and a compelling world. But as much aBREAKING OUT PART 1 was a fantastic short from the ENTANGLED anthology, quickly establishing charming characters and a compelling world. But as much as I wanted a continuation of this world, BREAKING OUT PART 2 is too short to fulfill the promise of that first, explosive meet-cute.
The first short in this duo introduces Kelli and Nate as love interests, and Giles as the charming best friend. PART 2 flashes forward to a few weeks after their escape, with Giles taking center stage. Giles is witty and interesting, with a supernatural power that can be as much of a handicap as a benefit, and has no problem filling the spot light. Kelli and Nate, however, have never really gotten the chance to develop their own story. What page time they get in PART 2 isn't enough to satisfy my interest in their romance (I want to see everyone one of Nate's tentative attempts to hug a gunshy Kelli, not just hear about them after the fact!).
Ultimately, the strengths of the BREAKING OUT series is its greatest weakness, too much potential and not enough page time. Worth picking up for the price, I won't come back to this series until we get a full length feature.
Sexual Content: Kissing, references to sex....more
Nothing made me happier than having Dragos and Pia come back to the Elder Races series as main characters,Review courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy.
Nothing made me happier than having Dragos and Pia come back to the Elder Races series as main characters, but these fantastic little short stories are a close second. In DRAGOS GOES TO WASHINGTON we get to catch up with the First Family of the Wyr, and see them in close quarters with humans and Elder Races a like.
Patricia Briggs is the short story gold standard by which I judge all other efforts, they're detailed, immersive, and function both as standalone stories and an enticement to read more. Thea Harrison's short stories are a near perfect score on the Briggs Scale. DRAGOS GOES TO WASHINGTON could be read as a stand alone, but new readers should really start with DRAGON BOUND to get the full experience. This short runs hot and heavy on the romance, amping up the Paranormal Romance flavor of the story overall.
For fans of the series, DRAGOS GOES TO WASHINGTON is everything you could hope for (unless you're like me, where you immediately wanted the next two stories to appear on my eReader). A fun glimpse of beloved characters, an appetizer that offers flavors of the Elder Races without ruining our appetite for SHADOW'S END on December 1.
Offering a new Harry Dresden story in graphic novel form, DOWN TOWN is a glimpse of a time in Molly's apprReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy.
Offering a new Harry Dresden story in graphic novel form, DOWN TOWN is a glimpse of a time in Molly's apprenticeship that was a simpler, gentler moment in the Dresden household. This being Harry, however, there is still plenty of death, danger, and magical megalomaniacs.
When enjoying a graphic novel, especially one that is bringing to life familiar and beloved characters, the physical representation of said characters is important. This book's Harry Dresden is a fitting heir to the TV show's Harry, ruggedly handsome but down to earth in his jeans and henley. And while Molly certainly has the colorful punk/goth aesthetic from the books, she's often wearing so little clothes it detracts from her character's presence. While there was often a subtle sexual curiosity between Molly and Harry, putting her in a crop top and low riders does not do that dynamic justice. Murphy at least gets to wear sensible clothes, and Molly is thankfully wearing a jacket for the finale (and given that the confrontation takes place in a Chicago winter, Molly wearing less would have been an unforgivable deal breaker).
While the story itself ends in a rather inconsequential (and thus unimportant) fire fight, Harry's playful banter with Molly was a lovely. And while two of the three women are drawn in terrible clothes, the physical interpretations of both Mouse and Bob were endearing. Fans of the Dresden Files will enjoy this glimpse of our favorite wizard pounding the pavement and protecting the innocent, despite some of the graphic missteps. Those new to the series are welcome to give DOWN TOWN a try, but they should make sure to pick up the novel STORM FRONT to get a taste of the genuine article.
Breezy is many things. She could be described variously as a teenager, undead, biracial, bisexual... And yReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy.
Breezy is many things. She could be described variously as a teenager, undead, biracial, bisexual... And yet, she is most strongly and ferociously herself. She is a scientist. She is disciplined. She truly is the type of person who devotes herself to a profession and works from a young age to reach the stars.
And it is this beautifully drawn depth of character that allows the reader to immerse themselves into this dark and unknown world alongside our own. The realism of her experiences make even the most fantastical elements of her life emotionally resonant. Breezy's scientific mindset that allows her to catalog and explore her undeath, even as she tries to process the unimaginable grief of her own death. The losses pile up, her family, her professional aspirations, her future... all either lost forever or changed so radically as to be unrecognizable. The mundane mystery of her own death felt harder to believe than Breezy's grief that she will never become an astronaut, as somehow the emotional state of an undead teenage becomes more visceral than the petty evils that do exist in real life.
While Breezy explores the world around her through a scientific lense, SHALLOW GRAVES doesn't feel dry or clinical. Rather, this oh so human attempt to build a rational concept of this new dark, unexpected world made the most fantastical elements feel real. While the world building has strengths and weaknesses, the main character rock solid. I enjoyed this book, but above and beyond that, I loved Breezy.
BLACK DOG was my favorite book of 2014, and PURE MAGIC is everything I could have hoped for in a sequel. The black dogs of this world are a little darBLACK DOG was my favorite book of 2014, and PURE MAGIC is everything I could have hoped for in a sequel. The black dogs of this world are a little darker, a littler more demonic than Urban Fantasy's usual shapeshifters. With sulfur and fire and violence in their hearts, they flow up through the human body, and burst into our world.
As promised in the title, PURE MAGIC focuses on the protective arts Natividad used in BLACK DOG. And with the introduction of Justin, a Pure boy with no concept of his own magic, readers have a new chance to learn about the "aggressively defensive" power that lives alongside all the violence of the black dogs. Though there are several instances where great peril is answered by spontaneous leaps in magical skill, the geometry of Pure magic and the ballet of Ezekiel whirling in and out of human form make these battles a visual delight. While I don't normally hope for movie adaptations, the characters and magic of the Black Dog world would be a pleasure in yet another medium.
Natividad and Ezekiel's story is what made me anxious to read more of the Black Dog series, and Neumeier delivered them and several other surprises as well. By the end I felt empathy for Grayson (a growly version of Giles, futilely trying to direct superhuman teens and all their impulsive power), grew to admire Keziah, and want so desperately to know more about the youngest black dogs of the pack. Like the best of worlds, every taste of this series just makes me hungry for more.
Sexual Content: A non-explicit sex scene, references to sex....more
Classic sword and sorcery, but by no means a simple story, BLOODFORGED explores the intricacies of politics, war, and marrying your ex-boyfriend's broClassic sword and sorcery, but by no means a simple story, BLOODFORGED explores the intricacies of politics, war, and marrying your ex-boyfriend's brother. In this universe "victory" is more nuanced than defeating a single villain or weakness, forcing Alix and company to face heartbreakingly real obstacles as they fight for the alliances and resources that can turn the tide of a losing war. And upon this stage of high adventure and higher stakes, Lindsay's characters sparkle with wit, emotion, and relationships that ring true.
Much like its predecessor, BLOODFORGED is told from multiple points of view, and much like BLOODBOUND, this structure works very well. Liam may feel hapless as an ambassador, but his witty, self-depricating inner monologue makes his chapters a pleasure. Rigard, as well, is a fantastic narrator. Dashing, astute, and capable despite the great odds stacked against him. Erik and Alix, however, not only have a rough start to their journey, their point of view took awhile to get interesting. Lindsey continues to play with traditional romance tropes, showing the awkward aftermath of a resolved love triangle. And while their attempts to reestablish their friendship and working relationship feel real and interesting, they're not interesting enough to compete with what Liam and Rig.
The pacing of these different narratives smooth each other out, however, into a deceptively smooth trajectory that makes twists and turns all the more exhilarating. Lindsey's combination of wit, action, and intrigue brings a modern flavor to a classic genre, making this series one no fantasy fan should miss.
Sexual Content: Kissing, non-explicit sex scenes, references to sex....more
If THE HISTORIAN adds hints of supernatural mythology to academic research, BLOOD CALL does the same for the romantic thriller. While the premise andIf THE HISTORIAN adds hints of supernatural mythology to academic research, BLOOD CALL does the same for the romantic thriller. While the premise and subtle mix of genres are great, Anna and Josiah are problematic at best. Though the narrative tries to focus on this ultimately unsatisfying relationship, it was only the background of myth and reality colliding that really worked.
Anna is so shocked and hurt for the first several chapters of the book, she doesn't register as anything other than vulnerable. Josiah, unfortunately, choses this time to be very sexually aggressive. Depending upon your tastes, this will either set up a dominating, coerced sexual dynamic between two characters that are physically attracted to each other but emotionally shattered, or it will make Josiah an irredeemable rapist who took advantage of Anna when she was vulnerable.
While I found Josiah's choices problematic, I was still invested in his story. Once out of shock, however, Anna proves to be alternatively helpless and irrational, wanting to both use Josiah's skills and shame him for them. Josiah's earlier sexual dominance evaporates into regret and he seems to be attracted to Anna's worst traits, her helpless naivete and physical fragility. The only portions of BLOOD CALL that I truly enjoyed where where Josiah and Anna are too busy fighting for their lives to draw attention to their flaws.
The action portion of the story can't carry everything, however. Seeing the preternatural bleed into the "real world" was the only detail keeping me engaged, and Josiah and Anna were too involved with their terrible romance to have much of a reaction at all. Not cinematic enough to bring the fights and violence to life, not twisty and political enough to make a mystery worth following, BLOOD CALL felt like a great premise left unfulfilled.
Sexual Content: References to rape, sex scenes....more
THE VOYAGE OF THE BASILISK is Lady Trent's most thrilling adventure to date. With little of grinding misogyny that peppered earlier books, here IsabelTHE VOYAGE OF THE BASILISK is Lady Trent's most thrilling adventure to date. With little of grinding misogyny that peppered earlier books, here Isabella takes to the seas with her research fellow Tom, her son Jake, and a stalwart captain mad enough to hunt sea serpents in their natural habitat.
Once again, Brennan offers the daily realities of biology at the turn of the century, as much hunting and politics and anthropology as it is studying natural phenomena. Those Machiavellian obstacles don't seem as frustrating when she can sail away on her ship, encountering fascinating (and romantic) people in her search for answers.
Over the course of this book tantalizing hints collect about Lady Trent's future relationships, the political upheavals that would shape her future , and the biological nature of the dragons she so loves. While I've enjoyed this series all along, THE VOYAGE OF THE BASILISK may be the first that I finished and was desperate for the next installment. Isabella is at the cusp of so many changes, both personal and professional, and I can't wait to see what happens next.
This fairy tale retelling has big ambitions but mixed results. The note by note recasting of Cinderella wiReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy.
This fairy tale retelling has big ambitions but mixed results. The note by note recasting of Cinderella with magical steampunk elements is enjoyable, but the romantic reach of MECHANICA exceeds its grasp.
Though some fairy tale retellings hide elements of the original story, MECHANICA adds a lovely steampunk gloss to familiar beats. While most of the bones stay true to the original, it is clear that the romance and political background were shaping up to promise more. The way colonialism and prejudice and magic swirl together added a wonderful depth to the world Nicolette is growing up in, and offered unresolved tension I would be interested to continue following in another book. The romantic portions of MECHANICA were less successful, however. MECHANICA tries to explore a lot between it's characters, questions of romantic or platonic feelings, hints of communal living and polyamory, but ultimately the story had a muddy, unfinished message.
While I was disappointed that MECHANICA didn't have enough time to finish (or at least better develop) the romantic beats it started, the world building was an enjoyable treat. If you're a fan of reimagining fairy tales, or like your romances ambiguous and open ended, it is worth giving MECHANICA a try.
THE RISE OF AURORA WEST takes familiar superhero tropes and flips them to a new angle, like a Batman storyReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy.
THE RISE OF AURORA WEST takes familiar superhero tropes and flips them to a new angle, like a Batman story told through Robin’s eyes. Though Aurora’s monster fighting skills are a credit to her training, she’s also the intellectually curious lens through which readers question her world. Where did this war against monsters begin? Where do they come from? And what really happened all those years ago on the night when Aurora’s mother died…
Despite THE RISE OF AURORA WEST being a prequel to BATTLING BOY, this was my first introduction to the series. The compact, black and white illustrations in this graphic novel weren’t easy to follow in the beginning, when the world and it’s crime fighting technology were being established through frame after frame of rather confusing action. Once Aurora takes center stage, however, exploring the mysteries of her own past in an attempt to understand the present, the art in this book becomes more effective. While all of the adults in THE RISE OF AURORA WEST live in a world of black and white conviction, Aurora is filled with questions. I found her to be an excellent window into this world, as I had my own questions about right and wrong. The child stealing monsters that by turns evoked empathy and disgust, while at times “the good guys” seemed menacing and duplicitous.
These questions of nuance and motive aren’t resolved by book’s end, but I was still completely engaged in the story. And rather than finding definitive answers to her own questions. Aurora seemed in danger of settling into the familiar, potentially misguided sense of certainty as the adults around her. While I’m not ready to run off and read Battling Boy or Haggard’s side of the story, if another Aurora book comes out I’m totally on board.