There is something different about this book than the previous three in the series. It's interesting, because I've been told by more than a few DresdeThere is something different about this book than the previous three in the series. It's interesting, because I've been told by more than a few Dresden Files fans that the novels just keep getting better and better, and that it starts really taking off around the third or fourth installment. Indeed, I think I've reached that turning point.
It's not that I found Summer Knight better written than the books that came before it, nor did I feel it had a better story, necessarily. Don't get me wrong, I had a great time reading this...but to be honest, its awesomeness couldn't have come about without the presence of the first three books. Everything that was built up in 1-3 finally culminates in number 4. You feel closer to Harry now that you know more about his life and his relationship, and Jim Butcher makes the most out of this by incorporating everything he'd built up so far into the plot for Summer Knight. There's drama, there's intrigue, there's humor, and there's action...a bit of everything and in just the perfect amount....more
It was this book that also made me realize the series is becoming more about the overarching drama that is Harry's life, and less about the individualIt was this book that also made me realize the series is becoming more about the overarching drama that is Harry's life, and less about the individual stories within the novels. In this way the series reminds me of TV shows that start off as monster-of-the-week and gradually evolve into complicated soap operas over time.
I've always loved the drama in Harry's life, but this is the first time I've felt bogged down by it. The entire story was a rather confusing affair. Even as urban fantasy mysteries go, Dresden books are usually characterized by a string of events that follow logically from one to the next. He might not be doing much detective work anymore, but things generally unfold in a way to bring all the pieces together in a way that makes sense. I didn't get that so much from this book. Several loose ends were explained away in a convoluted manner or simply not touched upon at all.
I also didn't much care for the ending, but that's just me.
All in all, I liked Small Favor, but remembering how good some of the previous installments of this series had been, I just can't give it the same high rating. ...more
In the second half of 2014, I read Juliet Marillier for the first time. The book was Dreamer’s Pool and as soon as I closed the cover on the last page, I asked myself the question most readers ask themselves right after they finish an amazing read: Why have I waited so long to read this author? And inevitably, the next thought is: I must read more!
I know I say that a lot and I don’t always follow through, at least not right away. But something about Marillier’s writing struck me in a way that I knew I didn’t want to wait. So I decided to jump into her Sevenwaters trilogy, and not least because the first book Daughter of the Forest has been sitting in my to-read list for years – for shame! – and it’s time to remedy that.
The book introduces us to Sorcha, who should have been the seventh son of a seventh son, but she is loved no less for being a girl, the only daughter of Lord Colum in the kingdom of Sevenwaters. She grew up with her six doting older brothers, and the siblings could not have been closer despite their different personalities and walks of life. However, peace at Sevenwaters is shattered when their widower father is seduced into marriage by an evil enchantress. To stop the siblings from meddling, the witch curses them all, turning Sorcha’s brothers into swans. It’s up to Sorcha to lift the spell, but she has to undertake a long and difficult quest thrust upon her by the Fae to do so, all the while remaining silent until she completes it.
To those familiar with their fairy tales, this is of course a retelling of The Six Swans, one of the stories collected by the Brothers Grimm. It’s a pretty close adaptation, actually, though Marillier fleshes it out a lot more and sets her version in the medieval Celtic era. She does not stray too far from the source material, which ended up being perfect for someone like myself, who adores fairy tales but at times wishes someone to come along and give them the deeper, more detailed treatment. I was delighted to find the same sort of subtle vibe here that I experienced in Dreamer’s Pool, a heady mixture of magic and realism in a world where myths can come to life and yet remain grounded at the same time.
This is simply a gorgeous book, filled with pain and sadness but also hope, healing and love. There is a heavy element of romance in here, but it is so well embedded in the overall story that it hardly distracts, despite being so intensely passionate. It’s been a while since I found myself so moved by a relationship between two people. Daughter of the Forest, a fantasy novel at its heart, does a love story even better than some Romance novels out there, without even seeming to try.
There aren’t too many faults I can pick out here, other than some minor issues I had with the overprotectiveness of Sorcha’s brothers, especially towards the end. I think by then she has earned the right to speak for herself and tell her family what it is she wants, but she too remained meek and silent until things ended up resolving for her. But a gripe like this feels so minor when the rest of the novel was near-perfect, as well as in light of how much I loved the book overall.
Two books by Juliet Marillier under my belt, and now she is one of my favorite authors. This is a must read for her fans, new and old. I really can’t recommend this one highly enough, especially if you love fairy tales, mythology and legends....more
I actually hovered between giving this book 3.5 or 4 stars. I'm pretty picky when it comes to choosing my urban fantasy, considering how bloated the gI actually hovered between giving this book 3.5 or 4 stars. I'm pretty picky when it comes to choosing my urban fantasy, considering how bloated the genre is these days. The good things I've heard about this series made me try it out.
There are a couple of things I loved about this book; mainly the world building and the narrator's voice. That said, the main character Mac is bit of a flake and not my type when it comes to favorite heroines, but the way the author writes her makes her quite believable, and I'm hoping her personality will evolve with the series.
I'm also not too fond of cliffhangers, but I liked this book enough to want to read the next one anyway, even without the abrupt ending....more
Maybe it's just me, but I didn't feel like anything really happened in this book. Mac is still nowhere near resolving things with her sister's murdereMaybe it's just me, but I didn't feel like anything really happened in this book. Mac is still nowhere near resolving things with her sister's murderer, or the evil book she's supposed to find. A baddie she thought she killed in the first book is back just so she can kill him again. She and Barrons are still doing the Kabuki dance when it comes to their relationship. The book ends pretty much like its predecessor, with him rescuing her from certain death and her passing out in the presence of the Sinsar Dubh.
While I thought not much progression in the story was made, that's not to say nothing happened. This might sound contradictory, but in truth I even felt a little overwhelmed at times with the introduction of a whole bunch of new characters (mostly villains) and new dangerous situations for Mac. The author probably knows this too, since we get to the point where there are pages and pages of commentary from our protagonist where she does nothing but recap and try to lay out for the reader just exactly what the hell is going on so it all makes sense. As a result, I found much of the narration to be very awkward. That, and I am really starting to dislike it when she goes on a tangent, sometimes at the most inappropriate times which completely disrupts the setting and atmosphere.
On the bight side, as a character, Mac has started evolving and becoming more developed. She's still flakey, but at least she's interesting....more
3.5 stars. Okay, so things are finally picking up and happening in this series, which is a good thing since my tepid response to the previous book was3.5 stars. Okay, so things are finally picking up and happening in this series, which is a good thing since my tepid response to the previous book was due to what I felt was lack of development in the story. In Faefever, we definitely have a turning point.
Mac's world is officially going to hell in a hand basket and I'll admit I'm hooked. I'm a little annoyed at the ending, however. Yes, the author is evil for cutting it off at such a cliffhanger, but I'll deal.
My problem is with how the book ended, and it's really hard to explain without giving away any spoilers. Basically, our heroine goes through something horrible, and while it's quite disturbing what happens to her, that's not what irks me about it either. The ending just didn't...fit. It felt cheap like it was thrown in at the last second for shock value, an easy, lazy excuse to find a reason to "progress" the character. I want to see Mac develop over the series, but not this way. The last chapter felt like it was over too quickly and came out of nowhere....more
My least favorite book of the series so far, and I know exactly why. What the hell happened to Mac? Yes, I get that she's gone through something terriMy least favorite book of the series so far, and I know exactly why. What the hell happened to Mac? Yes, I get that she's gone through something terrible and this book shows her survival of that ordeal and her transformation into someone stronger.
She was a brat and she's still a brat, but at least there was a charm to it before. Now she's a much bigger one and just barely tolerable. And I thought she was self-absorbed before. Here, she's arrogant, selfish and just flat out full of herself. Does she seriously hold herself higher than a Seelie Queen? And the way she looks down her nose at all her sidhe-seer sisters -- guess what, without that spear of hers she'd flail just as helplessly as any of them. And of course, there's her borderline abuse of a sleepy 100-year-old woman. Well, at least she had the decency to feel ashamed of it afterward. I don't understand why V'lane or Barrons would even bother fighting over her.
Speaking of which, I also finally concluded that her whole relationship with Jericho Barrons does not sit well with me. Frankly, I feel it's a bit sick. Personally, I would never categorize this series under romance. Romance for me tends to require mutual respect and lack of abuse, you know? After four books, it's clearly not improving. He keeps secrets from her, knocks her around whenever he wants to, not to mention dubious consent where the sex is involved.
The dynamic between Mac and Barrons disturbs me and not just because of the way he treats her, but after so long their conversations never seem to go anywhere either. Don't get me wrong, I loved the way they sassed each other in the first couple of books, but that got stale quick. And frankly, at this point I'm also sick of the tired old "will they-won't they" dance. Mac, figure out how you feel about Barrons and just get on with it. As the saying goes, crap or get off the pot.
And finally, the "revelation" about iron as the kryptonite for Fae. Really? Iron as a protective or repelling substance against faeries has a long history in folklore and is quite widely known, I'm surprised it's being brought up here like no one knew.
Anyway, I won't deny this fourth book sort of put me off completing the series. I'm not even that tempted by the evil cliffhanger at the end of it. But oh well. I figure with one book left, screw it, I'll just finish it. I just hope I'll have a better time with it, because I was really enjoying this series until this book, and it'd be a shame for things to end on a sour note. ...more
3.5 stars. There's a reason why I think most urban fantasy books are short, light reads, and that's how I usually like them too. I was super excited t3.5 stars. There's a reason why I think most urban fantasy books are short, light reads, and that's how I usually like them too. I was super excited to read this newest installment of the The Dresden Files series, was still really pumped for the first half of the book, but then admittedly lost quite a bit of steam after that.
Why? Let me first say that I don't think Cold Days is bad just because I didn't give it four or five stars even though I adore this series. I think part of it is due to being mentally fatigued. Honestly, I know Harry having way too much on his plate in each book is nothing new. He's always got a checklist of nigh impossible tasks to finish or goals to meet by the end of the book, and Cold Days does not disappoint there.
Thing is, this is probably one of the longer Dresden books and I really felt it kinda dragged on. It wouldn't be so bad if there had been more substance; but it was really just full of action. That's not necessarily a negative, but they say moderation is key, and ironically, the more action there was, the harder it was for me to stay interested, especially since all of it pretty much follows the same pattern -- Harry and pals go off to follow a lead, Harry and pals get ambushed/attacked by bad faeries, Harry and pals defeat said bad faeries but they escape, and then the cycle repeats itself for another two or three times. It's exhausting for the mind.
I also have to agree with one of my friends I talked to about this novel, about how since Cold Days is essentially Harry's "resurrection" book, he expected a lot more from the story and that it should have been more "emotional". It didn't occur to me until I was almost finished reading, that my friend was absolutely right. And maybe that was what I wanted when I said what I did about "substance". Harry bumps into his friends one after and other, and it's just like, "Oh hey, man, you're alive, cool beans." I kinda wanted more there, and I felt his reunion with Karrin Murphy was ESPECIALLY lacking, given the history between them and how things were left off, but it was just glossed over.
Speaking of which, I think Harry also needs to get laid. Like, seriously. For some reason, Butcher seems to love torturing his main character in the love department. The last time he was intimate in a meaningful way was almost a decade ago! No wonder he's chafing at the Winter Knight mantle. Not to reveal any spoilers or anything, but I was getting all excited and happy for him in that heartfelt scene after the final showdown and then...shot down. I mean, poor guy! Give him a break already.
In sum, not a bad book, but the squandered potential for some deeper and more meaningful moments for the sake of action in this book is what made it slightly disappointing. I LOVED the ending though, can't really say I saw it coming, but then again the Dresden Files has long been moving away from the "detective" and "mystery" aspect to more supernatural-anything-goes so it's hard to really predict any outcomes anymore. Part of me really misses Harry Dresden's humble detective roots, but because of what happened at the end of this book I'm also now looking forward to what the next installment will bring....more
Okaaaay, uh, so where do I start? I guess first of all I should be happy I finally finished the Fever series. I suppose this was a decent ending, thouOkaaaay, uh, so where do I start? I guess first of all I should be happy I finally finished the Fever series. I suppose this was a decent ending, though when I first started this book I was convinced it was going to be a 2-star read. Thankfully, it got better, but it still wasn't the satisfying finale I'd been hoping for.
For this review, I'm just going to pile on the thoughts as they come. First of all, I have to say the first few chapters of this book gave me one hell of a mind-numbing headache. Pages and pages and pages of whiny woe-is-me melodrama from our protagonist! To be fair, I had the audiobook version, and it didn't help that the narrator had the worst case of overacting I'd ever heard. I never understood the importance of the quality of narration (I mean, it's just reading out loud, right? Who can botch that up?) until now. Most of the time I felt like pulling the earbuds out of my ears because of the hysterical performance. It was a lot like listening to that really annoying drama student back in high school who thinks she's the shit but the truth is nobody can stand. Maybe if I'd had the book and just read the words it would have been better.
At the same time, I can't help but think the narration was somewhat appropriate. Everything in this book was laid on so thick, from the red herrings to the writing that was so trite at times that I could not help but cringe. Right from the get-go, I kinda got a sense for what KMM was trying to go for with this final installment, i.e. the abstract, the bizarre, and the metaphysical. I mean, just look at the cover. But still, the writing style was just so over the top, and especially during Mac's internal monologues. Yes, I get that she is soooo in love with Jericho Barrons, I really didn't need the avalanche of flowery words to clue me in. I think this book could have been a lot shorter and Mac's emotions would still have come across loud and clear. Like they say, less is more.
Plus, it had the unwanted effect of making everything in the story so obvious. Red herrings only work when they're subtly hinted at, when the reader is just slightly distracted or misled. Clues and loaded words are meant to be doled out sparingly, just enough to be deceptive, not pounded into your face like they were in this book. Maybe it's just me, but there were quite a few twists and turns in the plot of this novel, but unfortunately I was able to predict almost every one. Nothing was much of a shock or surprise, which could possibly explain why I'm not as enamored with this book as others are.
I've also recently started noticing a disturbing trend in the so-called "paranormal romance" genre. Why are so many of the male love interests assholes? Because, yes, I think Jericho Barrons is an asshole. There's a lot of testosterone-fueled posturing and immature jealous raging over the ownership of Mac (and not exactly in a healthy way) in this series. At one point, two male characters argue openly about who can give her the better orgasm. Oh gee, that certainly makes a girl feel special. I admit, maybe I'm just an old-fashioned romantic, but I don't think a man who loves you should knock you around or keep secrets from you (though I suspect Barron's tendency to do so is just a cheap strategy to keep the mystery alive in this series!) or reveal his true feelings for you only (and only!) when you're bleeding all over the floor and/or hovering on the brink of death. Seriously, this happens several times in this series.
Not to mention it's not very convincing when these male characters end up "turning around" when they and their respective heroines finally get together. Like I'm supposed to believe someone like Barrons, who ruined his own birthday cake that Mac so thoughtfully and painstakingly baked for him by smashing it up into the ceiling (because apparently he's just not a birthday cake kinda guy), would be content grilling steaks and preparing to sit down to a nice domestic dinner at the table with her parents at the end of this book? He's like a bazillion years old, changes don't happen overnight!
Apart from that, just a couple other little oddities I noticed. Stuff like how there is a part in the story where a character's head pops like a grape while Mac is talking to him, and her first thought is that she wishes she could put his head back on so she can grill him to get the information that she wanted from him. Hmm. I don't know about you, but my first thought probably would have been "OMG, I better duck so whatever's out there that got him won't be getting me next!" There's also this other part where Mac is looking in her dead sister Alina's photo album and finds a picture of Darroc in it, which apparently her sister had taken while she was on top of him during sex and it's of his face while he's coming inside her. Um, talk about a Kodak moment? And Alina friggin' went and printed it out to put in her photo album?! Well, I guess this scene of Mac looking through her sister's pictures was supposed to be introspective and touching, but it just made me burst out laughing picturing the circumstances in which that photo was taken. These little oddities in the novel probably aren't such a big deal in the scheme of things, but I thought I'd mention them because it did make me stop and go double-you-tee-eff.
Okay, so I don't want to make it sound like this book was all bad, because like I said, it did get better after around the halfway point. As I mentioned before, there were a lot of twists in this novel, and even though I saw a lot of it coming, they made this a pretty enjoyable and fun read. So much happened in this final book of the series, which at least kept things interesting and certainly made up for some of the slower and more dragging parts (like book two in the series, in which practically nothing happens). I really enjoyed the first book and thought it was a very strong beginning which is why I wish I liked Shadowfever more, it being the ending and all. But overall I guess I'm happy that everything wrapped up nicely. ...more
Probably the best and my favorite book of the series so far. There are still a lot of things about this book that irks me but I've decided to sweep thProbably the best and my favorite book of the series so far. There are still a lot of things about this book that irks me but I've decided to sweep those concerns aside and just enjoy the story. For instance, I still chafe at the fact that Mercy always seems to be the lone female character surrounded by all these men with infuriating personalities, but fine, for now I'll accept that they're all werewolves and their baser instincts play into their possessiveness and serious control issues.
I guess there's also no way to talk about this without spoiling, but there is a rape at the end of this novel. As these things go, I thought that entire sequence was written as ably as it could have been done, but I'd just recently finished another urban fantasy series which put the female protagonist through pretty much the same thing. I just hope this won't become a trend when it comes to ways to evolve a character or develop character growth. ...more
I had serious doubts when I first heard about the author's plans for this novel. As urban fantasy series go, I thought the first five Fever books wereI had serious doubts when I first heard about the author's plans for this novel. As urban fantasy series go, I thought the first five Fever books were okay and liked them well enough to want to keep reading if KMM decided to write any more books based on the characters and setting in this world.
What jarred me was when I found out that this sixth book, while continuing the Fever story, was going to star Dani O'Malley as the main protagonist and narrator in kind of her own spin-off. My first thought was, just why the hell would you take the most juvenile, idiotic and annoying character in the Fever series and give her her own novel? Several novels, actually, as it appears Dani will actually be getting her own trilogy.
As it turned out, her narrative wasn't as I thought...once you get used to her childish belligerence, naivete, her mangling of the English language and the overuse of the word "feck", that is. I even started to like it after a while. Dani is fourteen years old, and I can certainly believe it. Even though I'm sure she would irritate the hell out of me as a real person, as a character I enjoyed reading about her, and KMM gave her a unique voice which I could immediately tell apart from Kat and Christian (the other two POVs we get in this novel).
The main issue I have, however, is I'm not sure what direction the author wants to go with Dani's series. At first glance, you'd probably think, oh, 14-year-old female protagonist, urban fantasy genre, post-apocalyptic setting, this must be a YA book!
Um, but it's not. Way not. Like the rest of the Fever series, Iced is meant for adults. And here's where I'm a bit confused as to why she chose a child to be her protagonist for this trilogy.
I also wouldn't categorize this as "paranormal romance" in a million years, at least without feeling twenty different kinds of dirty and wrong. If this does turn out to be a PR, of the three men in Dani's life, only the idea of one of them ending up with her is tolerable to me and doesn't trigger a gag reflex. The other two, a creepy stalker-ish 20-something-year-old "death by sex" Unseelie prince and an overbearing, controlling immortal older man (subjective age probably 30s or so) just give me all kinds of creepy pedo-vibes. Do they seriously have to give her candy, too? Ick.
Any way you look at it, this book is published in modern western times for a modern western audience and in modern western society, 14 years old is still a child. While there is nothing too explicit in this novel, reading about Dani constantly getting stripped to her underwear around these guys and them all getting hard-ons and possessive instincts while looking at or thinking about one day having sex with her and taking her virginity gives me all kinds of uncomfortable feelings. The iffy vibes practically rolled off the page and into my face, and it's hard to shake.
It makes me wonder if KMM will jump a few years ahead in the next book. It'll probably be the wise thing to do if she wants to continue in this vein. If nothing else, it certainly provides a talking point, because aside from a unique main character and her having a different voice, nothing else in this novel really stood out for me. The story was okay, I liked it but it was a bit predictable. Everyone spends the whole book trying to figure out the mystery of why certain places in Dublin are being iced, but not even halfway through I already guessed the reason. The one mystery I can't solve? Why Ryodan, who has experienced so much after living thousands of years, can do everything better than Dani, has all kinds of resources at his fingertips, would need to enlist the help of a 14-year-old girl to handle his problems. ...more
I’m going to begin this review with a mini-rant: Personally, I’m of the mind that spin-off series should be fresh starts. If you’re going to end the original series and begin a new one focusing on another character, well, that character should have her turn prove herself and shine in the spotlight. It’s fine if the main characters in the original series make minor cameos in the new series, but in the end they’ve have had their chance, they should be put to bed, their problems shouldn’t be dragged up again, and happily-ever-afters shouldn’t need to be revisited.
So yeah, you can understand why I might feel a bit cheated.
Mac, bless her heart, had a good run as the protagonist of the Fever series. I had fun with the books, but it’s over now and I’m prepared to move on. Iced was a breath of fresh air, even though my first thought when I found out about the book was: “What the hell? Why would you take the most juvenile, idiotic and annoying side character in the Fever series and give them their own novel?” Well, as it turned out, Dani “Mega” O’Malley ended up growing on me, and I was actually looking forward to her getting her own trilogy.
So you can understand why I’m disappointed that once again this book is all about Mac, Mac, MAC! Dani gets a chapter at the beginning and then pretty much disappears from the rest of the story. I know the author was trying to rectify some of the bigger criticisms of Iced – mainly the controversy around Dani’s age – but I wish she’d gone about it another way. I’m done with Mac, she’s already had five books! This was supposed to be all about Dani, and instead Moning decided to change tack mid-series and make this be about Mac. AGAIN.
That really annoyed me, but my feelings about spin-offs that I expressed at the beginning of this review are only the beginning. In changing directions, Moning also seems to have lost control of her story. This book hardly felt like it advanced the overall arc, except for the issue of Dani’s age being resolved. I don’t deny that it needed to be addressed; Iced felt way too creepy with all these grown men ogling the fourteen-year-old Dani like a juicy steak. Making her older wasn’t a mistake. What was a mistake was doing it by tossing her through a portal, making her an absentee for most of what’s supposed to be HER book, then completely destroying the very essence of what made her Dani.
The story, or what there is of a story, also left me feeling cold. I found it hard to get excited about it, because I could tell the author wasn’t too excited about it either. To be fair, what happened here probably wasn’t what Moning originally intended. Still, what we have now is very little plot progression, and lots of melodramatic internal dialogue to fill the pages.
There’s also the constant and heavy deluge of sex and sexual references. This by itself doesn’t bother me, nor is it really surprising, given the fact I’m reading a Paranormal Romance. But what I enjoyed most about the early books in the Fever series was the very fact that they read more like Urban Fantasy — there was a strong plot at the forefront, with sex and romance being a side element. It bugs me, however, when the sex starts to overshadow the more important things in a book, or when it is thrown in for no apparent reason at all. There was one scene where Mac thought she was going to die, and I’m not even kidding, her first thought was (I’m paraphrasing here), “Oh no, I’m not gonna have the chance to do all these things I’ve ever wanted to do and, like, I haven’t had near enough sex with Barrons yet!” Really, Mac? That’s what goes through your head when faced with your own fragile mortality?
Like I said, I’ve just had enough of Mac. She and I ended on a relatively high note at the end of Shadowfever and I wish it had stopped there. Now she’s just annoying. I also learned more about her relationship with Barrons than I ever wanted to know, like the fact they only seem to get along when they’re screwing each other’s brains out in bed, and at all other times he’s growling at her and she’s snapping at him like a couple of rabid wolverines. Not sexy. To be honest, their dysfunctional romance never appealed to me all that much, but I was okay with how it resolved in Shadowfever. I was happier living under the impression that they’d worked out their issues. Now that they’ve been dug up again, it’s only served to remind me of everything that I disliked about their relationship in the first place, except now it’s many times more aggravating.
I can’t help but wonder what this book would have been like if Moning had stayed the course. It would have been pretty cool, actually, if the story had been about Dani’s experience in the fae world, and it certainly would have been a more holistic way to age her up. I’ve just had enough with Mac. In the end, I know it’s the author’s prerogative to do what she wants with her own series, but I do wish she would have given Dani a chance....more
I was surprised at how thin the main plot was, though I suspect I may have to start altering my expectations for the books in the rest of the series.I was surprised at how thin the main plot was, though I suspect I may have to start altering my expectations for the books in the rest of the series.
Seems the relationships between Mercy and Adam and his wolf pack is in reality the main focus of the entire series, while everything else that happens in each book is actually the side plot, the padding.
I think it finally hit me in this book when one of Mercy's good friends was kidnapped by the fae, and the first thing that happens isn't anyone trying to figure out how to rescue him, but instead all the characters drop what they're doing to deal with an internal pack challenge. I mean, a kid's life is on the line, can't we fight later? It's not the first time this sort of thing has happened in this series, but this one made an impression on me because I was surprised Mercy didn't even spare a single thought for her friend while she went along, especially when she was aware time is of the utmost essence when dealing with the faerie realm.
While I suppose pack business her love for Adam would come first, I do wish sometimes that urban fantasy writers would move past the old-fashioned and convoluted raging testosterone-driven aspect of alpha male werewolf politics. I think I'm starting to get a little irked by all the action and mystery constantly being interrupted by werewolf drama....more
LOVED THIS. Not only do we get a whole book without the rest of the pack business always getting in the way, the story in this is one I've been waitinLOVED THIS. Not only do we get a whole book without the rest of the pack business always getting in the way, the story in this is one I've been waiting to read for a long time.
Mercy and Adam get married at the beginning of River Marked, putting a definitive end to any and all love triangle drama, and even though the wedding scene was too understated for my tastes and over all too quickly, I was happy the story was moving along. The newly-wed couple embark on their honeymoon rustic style in a fae-borrowed trailer, but settling down to marital bliss will have to wait. In the depths of the Columbia River, an ancient evil has awakened and is killing innocent people. Mercy also encounters other walkers for the first time, people like her who can take the form of other animals.
I really liked that the plot of this book was relatively self-contained and focused; I know I've complained in the previous few books that vampire and pack politics always seem to get in the way to interrupt the flow of the story, but there was almost none of that here. And with the elements of mystery, it's the exact kind of urban fantasy I enjoy.
It was also high time that Mercy's own past was explored, answering many questions about her heritage and the father whom she never knew, the man from whom she inherited her special powers. Briggs' inclusion of Native American mythology in this tale also made a very interesting read. My favorite Mercy Thompson book by far.
3.5 stars. This took a little bit longer than I expected to finish, despite it always being a joy and a treat for me to return to the world of Mercy T3.5 stars. This took a little bit longer than I expected to finish, despite it always being a joy and a treat for me to return to the world of Mercy Thompson. The thing is, I adored River Marked, the book that came before this. Simply adored it. So if I had to compare the two, I probably didn't like Frost Burned as much, but it's still a solid follow-up. If you're a fan of the series, it's not to be missed.
Anyway, to the surprise of absolutely no one, Mercy's life has not settled into the normalcy of wedded bliss even after her marriage to the werewolf alpha Adam -- but it's not for the lack of trying. The book begins with Mercy taking her teenage stepdaughter Jesse out for some Black Friday shopping (oh, brave, brave Mercy), which is how they end up being two of the few spared when the entire pack and their loved ones get targeted or abducted.
This general premise actually ends up leading to an awful lot of plot threads, which is to be expected if you're familiar with the series. But it was perhaps a bit too much in this book, because I found myself struggling to keep my focus more than I had with any of the previous ones. New elements to the plot were still being introduced almost right up to the very end, such as the revelation which finally led me to understand the reason for the book's title.
Also, I fully admit I may be in the minority for this one, but I did not really enjoy the Adam chapters. To my knowledge, this is the first time he's had his point-of-view featured, albeit in third person, as I don't actually recall if we've ever seen it in a Mercy book before this. I'd have thought it would be amazing to get inside Adam's head, but I was wrong. To be honest, he came off as kind of a jerk. I know, I know, he's a werewolf alpha and can't help it, but nevertheless it still bumped his character up a couple notches on my turn-off meter. I would have been even more put out if the POV change was uncalled for, but because of how certain events played out in the book, I have to admit it was necessary and completely appropriate for that particular situation.
One great thing about Frost Burned, though, is that it introduced two more characters that I absolutely fell in love with almost right off the bat. Asil the werewolf and Thomas Hao the vampire -- I hope we see more of these two in future installments....more
Not for the first time, I wish I had a system in place for giving two ratings to a book: 1) An objective rating in which I give a book stars based on its own merits, uninfluenced by my personal feelings, and 2) A subjective rating which is based on how a book worked for me personally, or how well it meshed with my personal tastes. This is going to be a very tough review for me to write, simply because I've never read a book like this, where those two ratings could not be any more different, but I'm also glad I have the chance to explain why.
The book begins with a young man named Cooper waking up in an unfamiliar place to two strangers fussing over his sudden appearance, and the answers he gets are decidedly not reassuring. Apparently, he is dead. Contrary to what we know about death, when someone dies they merely wake up as themselves somewhere else, appearing on one of a possible million universes where they will once again live out their lives and the whole process repeats itself. That is, until you reach the end and wind up at the City Unspoken, also known as the City of the Dead, because only on this world a person can find true death.
This is where Cooper wakes up. But he has also come at a very unsettling time, where something seems to be preventing True Death from happening, leading to widespread frustration and panic among the denizens of the city. There are some who believe Cooper may be the solution to the problem, as he is different. For one thing, he has a belly button. A navel is really nothing but a scar left over from the attachment of the umbilical cord, and because all are born only once but die many times, waking up on new worlds with their bodies whole and unmarred, the fact Cooper has one holds great significance. He may not be really dead.
And from here on out, it gets even stranger. But hey, you'd too if you were Cooper, dragged across the metaverse by a goddess, kidnapped by faeries, drugged by Cleopatra, engulfed by a machine-flesh creature, and pursued by undead monsters and evil elf beings. I love it when I find a unique book with very different, offbeat ideas, but The Waking Engine treads into seriously bizarre territory. More bizarre than I could handle, perhaps. It's the kind of book I can't tackle at night right before bed, because I wake up in the morning and can't remember if I actually dreamed or read these weird images. I tried really hard to embrace the weirdness, but it soon became clear that I was in way over my head.
And that's a real shame, too. It almost breaks my heart to say I didn't like this one as much as I thought I would. The ideas in this story are some of the most original ones I've ever encountered in science fiction and fantasy, and the characters are unconventional and diverse as well. Unfortunately, the strangeness was a barrier for me, preventing me from appreciating all of the positive aspects of this book to its fullness. It's difficult to connect to a character, for instance, when instead I'm putting all my effort into trying to make sense of everything that's happening. The world is also wildly imaginative, which is another huge plus to this book, but words cannot describe just how amazing and fantastical it is. I mean that literally in this case; I get the sense from Edison's writing that the environments he pictures in his mind are so vast and visionary that they transcend mere language.
I wanted to like The Waking Engine so much because objectively, it is a great book, deftly and beautifully written with ground breaking ideas, interesting characters, and incredible world building. But I have to be honest, it was just not my style. There's lots to love about this book, but it just has to find its intended audience, which unfortunately is not me. On the other hand, I think fans of "un-reality" or the metaphysical or more abstract elements in their speculative fiction will be very well pleased with this one. Give it a shot if that's the type of stories you like, I guarantee you won't be disappointed....more
Before we begin, I feel I should make it known that this book is not for the faint of heart. If you know you'll feel uncomfortable with things like brutal violence, ear-bendingly foul language, and extremely graphic sex, then you may wish to reconsider having a go at this ... especially when it comes to that last one. In general, I am not the kind to be bothered by lewd and explicit acts in books, and yet there were still certainly no shortages of eyebrow raises from me with this one! Anyway, it was enough that I feel I should say something. Fair warning!
And now with that out of the way, let's get down to the reasons why this book totally rocks. If you're the kind of person who likes the combination of a good adventure story with the dark and gritty aspects of fantasy (of course, keeping in mind the caveats mentioned above) then you'll love The Barrow! Incidentally, this is exactly the kind of mix I enjoy. The fact that it was even darker than I expected was a nice surprise, though I don't know if I would call it full-out grimdark. In an interview, Mark Smylie described the book as more of an "archetypal Dungeons & Dragons adventure as run through the filter of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" ... and well, yes, actually I suppose that description would do nicely!
Furthermore, the book also takes place in the world of Mark Smylie's Artesia graphic novels. I won't deny that an emotional attachment to the setting was a factor for me, but if you are not familiar with the comics, do not fret! This is a brand new self-contained story, no previous knowledge of the world or characters required -- which is actually great for me too, since I'd only read the first volume and it was quite a while ago. However, you can still tell that writing a story within a setting that has already been established works well in the novel's favor; the world-building is phenomenally robust and very deep, with many layers to the descriptions of the people and places.
As the reader, I felt like I was transported right there -- and that is both a wonderful and terrifying experience, considering the type of world we're thrown into, one filled with dark magics, shady politics, and disreputable characters. Scoundrels and perverts lurk at every corner, and if you're really unlucky, you might even run afoul of demonic horrors and evil gods. The main plot is actually quite simple, deceptively so perhaps; on a routine tomb-robbing operation, Stjepan Black-Heart and his crew stumble upon an ancient map which details the final resting place of a long-dead wizard, who was said to have been buried with a priceless legendary sword.
Here's where the adventure narrative comes in. To find the sword, our protagonists must first gather their allies and go forth to locate this tomb. Of course, epic quests are never so easy or straightforward. But even when a curse placed on the map kills one of the essential members of the crew and ends up transcribing itself onto the skin of a young noblewoman, you think that would stop the Black-Heart? Nope! Whether it's wealth, fame, freedom, or absolution, everyone on this journey has a reason to find this fabled Barrow, which makes this story a riveting one filled with secrets and unexpected twists.
Among these colorful personalities, some of the characters are so disturbing it will make you sick to your stomach, while others are so crazy it will make you laugh; but there's definitely no accusing any of them for being boring. Out of everyone, I think I like Erim the best. A young woman masquerading as a man, Erim is Stjepan's protege, and despite her skill with the blade, in many ways she is as sheltered as her mentor is well-traveled. It's ironic that she doesn't find herself to be very interesting, because she was my favorite with her quiet introspection and fierce loyalty. That pretty much also makes her the most honorable of the lot; we're talking about some rather grim and nasty characters here, after all.
This is a book that pulls you in immediately, starting with an explosive intro that sets the tone and mood of the story quite nicely. It also contains possibly one of the most heart-pounding prologues that has ever graced the pages of a fantasy novel, and my head is still reeling from the events at the end of that chapter. However, the pacing of the novel is a bit uneven, which is probably the only quibble I have about this book. After the introduction comes a middle that slows down considerably as the characters travel towards their destination. There are frequent stops along the way, but the good news is that something interesting happens at every one of them. These encounters often added to the depth of the lore and setting, giving me more of a sense of the world's vastness.
But while it took me several days to read the first three-quarters of this book, I think I devoured the last 150 or so pages in one exhilaratingly intense sitting. Everything that happens after they find the Barrow is pure insanity. Also, I just love twists and surprises! It's a climax and conclusion that goes beyond just being an ending, because more importantly it reveals how all the themes and undercurrents of the novel come together. It speaks much about Mark Smylie's skills as a storyteller. He marks his transition to full-length novels with this incredible debut, and I'm glad to hear we will be seeing more from him following The Barrow...more
I was initially drawn to The Falconer thanks to that striking cover. Just absolutely gorgeous! And then I read the book's description and saw that the story was no slouch either. A mix of paranormal fantasy and historical fiction, the Fae, and a spirited heroine made this one sound very inviting.
It is Scotland and the year is 1844. A year has passed since Aileana Kameron was found standing over the dead body of her mother, covered in blood. Everyone thinks she has something to do with it, but Aileana knows the truth. It was a faery who killed her mother and ripped out her heart.
Now all Aileana wants is revenge. As a result, she lives a double life, pretending to be interested in frivolous things like dances and dresses when making her appearances in high society, but when the light fades she goes out hunting. Night after night, she tracks and kills Fae, using the skills learned from her mentor, Kiaran MacKay. Kiaran, who is a faery himself, has his own reasons for wanting to see his own kind dead, but Aileana doesn't care, not as long as their goals align...and as long as she doesn't get too close.
Despite bits of historical context hinted here and there, the setting didn't actually feel like historical fiction to me. Or very Scottish, for that matter. Elizabeth May has pretty much created her own world in The Falconer; the place and time period don't matter all that much to the story anyway, but the light flavor of steampunk is a nice touch. The world is filled with all sorts of wonderful contraptions, like tea dispensers and floating lights, and Aileana is something of a tinkerer, designing and creating weapons and even her own flying machine.
Aileana herself is a great character, as fiery and determined as that amazing cover makes her out to be. When it comes to female protagonists in paranormal fiction, she ranks amongst the best I've ever met, mostly because she comes off as able and intelligent rather than irritating in her conviction. However, if I had to pick a favorite character in this book, the honor would go to her pixie sidekick-like companion Derrick. I loved that humorous, honey-guzzling little guy!
I also didn't realize until after I finished reading that The Falconer has been categorized as Young Adult. I suppose in retrospect, the book contains quite a few trappings of the genre, but honestly, they didn't jump out at me at the time. Aileana is 18 years old, but her experiences have made her older than her years, and even the story's love triangle, which I usually dread, was bearable because it wasn't quite like a real love triangle. Even as a YA novel, I feel The Falconer has excellent crossover appeal.
My final thought, and perhaps also a warning, is that this book ends in a cliffhanger, perhaps one of the more infuriating ones I've encountered in recent years. The final scenes with Aileana and Kiaran against the Fae threat were so intense and suspenseful! And when I saw that there were still quite a pages left in the book, I got all anxious and prepared for the conclusion to be revealed...only to find out that the last chapter was actually a Bestiary. Arrrggh!
So bravo, Elizabeth May, you have me hooked. Some might say The Falconer is pretty standard in terms of paranormal fantasy, but so help me, it was a fast read and such good fun. ...more
What an offbeat, curious little novel. I wasn’t surprised to discover that it was a Victorian-inspired steampunk urban fantasy type mystery, but it’s the other little pleasures thrown in that endeared me to this book. The sprinkling of magical elements combined with other fantasy aspects make the world of Bronze Gods more special and enchanting.
Meet Janus Mikani and Celeste Ritsuko, a detective team for the Criminal Investigation Department. He is a magical expert and brings his own uncanny Ferisher (they're like the Fae) powers to the case. She is the first female detective in her division and pushes herself to prove herself. Together, they are tasked to solve the disappearance of a young girl from a noble house, and catch the one responsible before he can strike again.
But there’s more to this story than just police work. If you enjoy a little romance or like a bit of sexual tension to spice things up, then you’re in for a treat. I got a major “Mulder and Scully” vibe from Mikani and Ritsuko, with their mutual attraction and feelings for each other smoldering beneath the surface, gradually warming up in a slow burn that’s both oh so sweet and delicious. The writing team of Ann Aguirre and her husband Andres Aguirre has succeeded in writing a very convincing romance between the two main characters.
So, here you have awesome world (check!), awesome characters (check!) and awesome chemistry between said characters (check!). But what I struggled with a little was the plot and pacing. If you’re a mystery buff, you’ll probably find yourself frustrated by the seemingly lackadaisical pace of the investigation, not to mention the police procedural aspects are a bit light. To be fair, a full-out detective story isn’t what Bronze Gods was meant to be, but just one major facet of the story. I was also a bit dissatisfied by the ending and the “twist” regarding one of the suspects, but seeing as that took place in the final scenes, it didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of the book too much.
More importantly, Bronze Gods was an entertaining and action-filled read, with well-developed characters that actually gave me reasons to continue caring about their unresolved relationship. I like how there is no rush to get Mikani and Ritsuko together, because when it finally happens I'm sure it’ll just be all the more satisfying. I want to continue the series to see what other mysteries our duo will have to solve, but I’m also very interested in seeing where their feelings for each other will eventually take them....more
A couple of recent experiences have made me extremely wary of spin-offs, so it was probably a good thing I didn’t know House of the Rising Sun was one until I was already well into it. I’ve never read Kristen Painter before this, and I’d definitely wanted to give this series a fair shot. So perhaps it’s to her credit that I didn’t even know this was a spin-off novel until I read the author interview at the back of the book – not once did I feel lost or in over my head even if I hadn’t read her House of Comarré series. Right away, I liked how this book was the perfect jumping-on point for a new reader, which is a quality I think all spin-offs should strive for.
Augustine, who was a side character in House of Comarré gets to star in his own series here, returning to his hometown of New Orleans after some time away. He’s playing fast and loose, having very few responsibilities and getting to enjoy the attentions of human women who find his Fae heritage irresistible. He also gets free room and board whenever he wants in a luxurious Garden District mansion, thanks to his adoptive mother Olivia Goodwin, the retired movie star. It’s a good life! Little wonder then why he’s so fiercely reluctant when asked to be Guardian of the city. But when the vampire gangs start attacking innocent tourists and those he loves, Augustine finds he might not have a choice.
Meanwhile, Olivia’s biological daughter Harlow gets into a massive amount of trouble, having been convicted of cyber-hacking. Completely broke and unable to pay the exorbitant fine, she decides on the lesser of two evils and hits up her mom for help rather than go to jail, even though the two have been estranged for years.
What struck me early on was that neither Augustine nor Harlow seemed to be capable of taking responsibility of their own actions. Augustine wasn’t too bad – though it was a bit off-putting the way he figured he could get away with doing something wrong with no repercussions. When threatened with the Guardianship, all he could think about was how it would affect his cushy life. Guess what, Augustine, punishment usually goes hand in hand with breaking the rules! There’s really no sense in resenting it.
Ultimately Augustine redeemed himself in my eyes, stepping up to fulfill his role. On the other hand, Harlow’s attitude left a bad taste in my mouth and did not really fade until the very end. It was revealed early on that her estrangement from her mother was due to Olivia refusing to divulge the identity of Harlow’s father. That’s a fixation Harlow NEVER allows us to forget. Hearing her go on about it, you’d think every single one of her life’s misfortunes could be traced back to Olivia withholding her father’s name. Harlow's introductory scene even involved her wishing daddy would come bail her out of trouble, if only she'd known who he was, and that she’d never have been duped into a cybercrime if only he'd been in her life in the first place. Somehow, I just don't buy that. Plus, Olivia was not as bad a mother as Harlow made her sound. Characters tend to play a huge role in my enjoyment of a novel, so it was unfortunate that Harlow started off so self-absorbed and entitled, and her inability to admit "Hey, I screwed up, and it was my own fault" really grated on me.
But how I adored the Kristen Painter’s portrayal of New Orleans in this series! If she’d had wanted the atmosphere of a never-ending party, she certainly nailed it. It’s the perfect setting when it comes to a haven for fae, vampires, witches and other supernatural creatures. I loved the scene of Nokturnos, a noisy and boisterous night of festivities where everyone just wants to have fun. Can’t really blame Augustine for being so happy-go-lucky when the mood’s just so positively infectious, and world building is simply phenomenal.
Apart from the hiccups with the characters, I actually quite enjoyed this book and had a lot of fun with it. In fact, I thought the last page came far too soon, and wish ending hadn’t been so rushed. These characters have a lot of potential to grow, with Augustine having won me over already, and Harlow is well on her way to becoming a more sympathetic character. I’ll admit it – I’m raring to find out more. All in all, House of the Rising Sun is a promising start, and I look forward to the next book....more
“Spellbinding” is the only word to describe Dreamer’s Pool. Reading it was like walking into a gorgeous, living fairy tale. I just loved this book, it’s probably one of the best I’ve read all year…and I’ve read A LOT of books this year.
This is the first in an adult series by Juliet Marillier, called Blackthorn and Grim. Blackthorn is a woman we meet at the beginning of the novel, imprisoned for speaking out against a wicked and corrupt chieftain. Hours before she is to be executed, she is visited by the fey, who offers her a chance to escape in exchange for her promise to set aside her desire for vengeance. Reluctantly, Blackthorn agrees and makes her way north to Dalriada to start her new life. She is trailed by her fellow prisoner and escapee Grim, a hulking man of few words. Unable to turn away anyone who asks her for help, Blackthorn also recognizes Grim’s potential as an ally, and the two of them strike up a tentative partnership.
Meanwhile in Dalriada, Prince Oran prepares to wed. He has never met his future bride the Lady Flidais, though he has seen her portrait and they have written extensively to each other. However, the crown prince is convinced that the sweet, compassionate and intelligent woman he has come to know through her letters is his perfect match, which is why he is dismayed when the Flidais who arrives at his castle is nothing like the Flidais he thought he knew. Had he been taken for a fool, merely blinded by youthful naiveté? Or is there something stranger, more mystical afoot? Perhaps the newly arrived wise woman and her big strong helper could be of some assistance in this mystery.
This is a tale of magic, set in a world where one imagines myths and legends can come to life, but it also feels surprisingly grounded at the same time, almost like a fairy tale infused with a bit of realism. These elements gave the world more depth and kept it from feeling too simplistic, but they were also muted enough not to be overbearing or risk completely obliterating the magical nuances. Marillier tackles the craft of world-building meticulously and flawlessly, striking the perfect tone. I’m beyond impressed.
Dreamer’s Pool is told through the perspectives of Blackthorn, Grim and Oran. These three characters made this book a joy to read, and there’s no hemming and hawing about it – I loved them all equally. They’re very different people, and the way they’re written by Marillier, you would never mistake any one of them for another. Each person’s voice feels unique and extraordinarily real and powerful. The reader perceives the world and various events through a character’s eyes, at the same time watching him or her develop along with the story. We’re with Oran as he grows from a young, carefree man into a thoughtful and worldly leader. We’re in Blackthorn’s head even as she is blinded by her own personal biases and unaware of her flaws. And Grim is just Grim. He’s simply an amazing and special man and there can be no other like him.
This book made me wonder why I waited so long to pick up something by Juliet Marillier. She writes so beautifully, with every word like an enchantment or spell drawing the reader deeper into the story. There’s a mystery here I couldn’t wait to get to the bottom of, and then as we drew closer to the conclusion I didn’t want this story to end!
Alas, it did. But I’m also glad this is going to be a series because I can’t wait until we can return to the world of Blackthorn and Grim. Until then, I’ve bought other books by Marillier because I just can’t get enough of her writing. Dreamer’s Pool gave me a taste, and now I’m hooked....more
I'm a tough sell when it comes to novellas. Even tougher when it comes to urban fantasy. Don't get me wrong; I love this genre, but the truth is there's also a lot of books and series out there. These days, ideas in urban fantasy have to be special and different enough in order to stand out and hook me.
But as soon as I read the description for this book, which is about a character whose job as a "freelance debugger" involves getting fairies out of computers, I knew it had me. Speaking as someone who is often convinced she has problems way worse than fairies mucking about in her PC, I think I need this John Golden guy in my life.
Django Wexler is also the perfect person to write this. That might come as a surprise if you've only read his epic fantasy, but I've discovered that he's also an amazingly versatile author. And as a former programmer and someone clearly used to being called upon for impromptu IT work, he definitely knows his way around computers and networks. He's taken that knowledge and mashed it up with elements from urban fantasy, creating a world where the land of the fae exists as part of a "Wildernet", and its denizens wreck havoc on our servers and systems by infesting them with their nasty "burrows".
I think the first thing most readers will notice is "Hey, there's a bunch of footnotes in this!" Wexler has decided to do something different here by using footnotes for humorous effect, having John Golden's business partner Sarah fill us in with her commentary in the form of annotations. Sarah is an interesting character, with her being a ... well, I think I'll just leave that little bit out as a surprise for now! In any case, I personally appreciated the footnotes as part of the book's unique flavor, though they did trip me up a little at the beginning. Ultimately though, it's worth your time to read Sarah's snarktastic comments, since they often add to the narrative or give you more details about the world. Not to mention she's downright hilarious.
I would recommend this to everyone. It's the perfect urban fantasy for computer geeks, with its IT jokes and references, but it's also fun for those who are not. Take me, for example. I wouldn't say I'm hopeless with computers, but at the same time what I don't know could fill an Olympic-size pool, and yet I still loved this book! It's quick, it's entertaining, and I have to say I got a real kick out of its geeky pop culture references and humor.
Can't wait for more, especially since Wexler has teased that the next book will have a gamer angle. I know his other fantasy series will likely take precedence, but I really hope he'll keep finding time to write John Golden stories. A premise this amazing simply demands further exploration!...more
There are only a few urban fantasy series I would drop everything for, and this is one of them. So when Foxglove Summer arrived on my doorstep, I did exactly that – every other book that was on my plate got put on hold while I set forth to devour this one. Move over, “The Boy Who Lived”, for when it comes to my favorite British wizard, his name is Peter Grant.
Foxglove Summer may the fifth installment of the series, but it’s still going strong. While I hardly ever recommend starting in the middle of a series, I suppose if you’ve been mighty curious about these books, this could possibly be a decent place to jump on board, it being book five notwithstanding. Here, author Ben Aaronovitch gives our protagonist a little break from his long-term struggle with his arch nemesis the Faceless Man, sending Peter out of London into the rural countryside to investigate the possibility of magic involvement in the disappearance of two young girls.
We could all use a little breather sometimes, and this served as a nice rest from the hustle and bustle of the city. But of course, it’s never a vacation for Police Constable Grant, a Londoner to the core and who now finds himself way out of his element. He is thrown into the case, working with the cordial yet skeptical local police who have no idea what to make of Peter’s area of expertise, namely all things supernatural and thaumaturgical – a perfectly reasonable response, if you can imagine what it would be like if Mulder and Scully suddenly showed up at your precinct going on about formae and vestigia. But time’s a-ticking, and the desperation grows with each day that goes by with still no trace of the two missing girls. It’s time to try anything and everything Peter can think of, including bringing in his friend Beverley Brook, a genius loci of the rivers.
Out of all the books so far, I feel this one has reads the most like a police procedural and also has the strongest self-contained and cohesive mystery plot yet. A lot of urban fantasies sell themselves as mysteries, but this one actually feels like a mystery, with subtle clues dropped along the course of the investigation that the attentive reader might pick up and use later on to put together the pieces. The story is also light on the magical elements in the beginning, but rest assured no Peter Grant adventure ends without a whole lot of weird stuff going on by the time it’s finished. What sort of weird stuff, you ask? Try a couple of invisible and pissed off carnivorous unicorns on for size.
Why do I love these novels so? Namely because they feel so different from my usual urban fantasy fare. I’ve seen the series described as “very British” in terms of the writing, and definitely when it comes to the humor as well. Indeed, Peter’s most hilarious lines are often laced with strong undertones of sarcasm and self-deprecation, and delivered with the kind of subtlety that contrasts greatly with the in-your-face type of snark that I’m so used to in my mostly American UF heroes and heroines. Oh, but how Peter Grant makes me laugh and laugh and laugh. Reading these books in public is a risk, because I never know when something Aaronovitch writes will make me guffaw out loud, drawing stares from strangers around me who all then think I’ve gone nuts.
It’s hard to believe, considering how much I adored the first and second books in the series, but Foxglove Summer may be my favorite Peter Grant novel so far. It’s true that it’s a bit of a departure from the previous books. For one thing, the city of London has been as much of a character as the people living in it, but now we have a story that takes place almost entirely in a small village in the outskirts. And yet, the beautiful descriptions of the English countryside more than make up for it, not to mention the fascinating information on the geography and history of Herefordshire. Also noticeably absent are the usual supporting characters, including the Rivers (with the exception of Beverley) and most glaringly of all, Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, the mentor and supervisor of Peter Grant – and also my favorite character after Peter. Still, I was more than willing to overlook this, given how tightly the story was told. These days, a lot of urban fantasies are so overwhelming with the sheer amount of things going on in them, it’s nice just to sit back and enjoy a straight-up mystery with a highly focused plot and a clear direction.
I look forward to when we’ll get back to the larger story arc following the Faceless Man, especially after the giant bombshell dropped on us at the end of the last book, Broken Homes. Still, for a brief respite, I couldn’t be happier with the way Foxglove Summer turned out. I sense the events of this book will have some lasting repercussions, possibly extending into the next book since things ended pretty abruptly here with a couple of minor loose ends still unresolved. On the whole, however, this book is a great example of how a series and its main character can grow while still retaining everything that makes the previous novels so great. An extraordinary fun ride that’s not to be missed....more
The adventures of Janus Mikani and Celeste Ritsuko continue in Silver Mirrors, but the second novel of the Apparatus Infernum series takes a decidedly different tack. Of course, our two CID investigators have another mystery to solve, but their mission this time takes them across the ocean, over the treacherous peaks of the mountains, and deep into the fire elemental mining tunnels of the north.
Needless to say, I found Silver Mirrors to be a much more exciting novel than the first. The premise of the story – that the world’s elementals are unsettled and running amok as a result of the destructive events of the last book – is perhaps tenuous at best, but it hardly mattered. The important thing is, we get to go on an adventure out of the city and onto the high seas with our two protagonists. And thar be pirates!
Also threaded into this thrilling ride is the ever-present romantic side plot, with the sexual tension between Ritsuko and Mikani about to boil over and explode any second. Seriously, these two have it BAD for one another. And of course, everyone sees it except for them. If you prefer slow-burn romances and delayed gratification when it comes to love stories between characters, I can’t recommend these books enough. But it also behooves me to say it probably wouldn’t hurt to be prepared for how oblivious they are. Reading about the two of them dancing and flailing around each other’s emotions is a bit like watching a couple of hopeless players at game of charades. It’s hard to believe they actually make a living doing detective work and solving mysteries. But you know what they say about good things coming to those who wait. I think that goes for the characters and the readers both, and for now all we can do is root for Ritsuko and Mikani.
But I’m glad I decided to read this sequel not just for the progression of their romance, because there’s a lot more to the world of this series. Silver Mirrors expands it by having the characters travel afar, and not for the first time I wished a book would include a map. We also learn more about the magic and its limitations. For instance, when the behaviors of elementals are disrupted, the different instruments and devices they help power can also become unstable or fail spectacularly altogether. It wasn’t until this novel that I finally got a sense of the living, breathing connection between the mortal and the mystical.
The Aguirres are clearly not afraid to take their books into new territory. While Bronze Gods was more of a whodunit murder mystery, Silver Mirrors reads like an action-adventure with the characters embarking on a perilous quest. Book two may be a continuation of book one, but even so, the two stories can’t be any more different. It mixes things up and keeps this series interesting. Obviously, the Mikani and Ritsuko situation is something I’d like to keep an eye on, but I’m also looking forward to seeing what the authors will do in future installments and where they will take us next. ...more
My excitement to read this book is evidence enough for me that the first installment of this series ended a lot stronger than it began. I went through the first two-thirds of House of the Rising Sun feeling rather ambivalent towards the protagonists, but by the conclusion Augustine and Harlow managed to win me over. A couple of significant events in the previous novel taught both of them lessons in humility and responsibility, and Harlow especially did a lot of growing up. As such, I looked forward to City of Eternal Night with a newfound respect for the characters.
On top of that, this sequel raises the stakes in every way by setting up a new arc that is bigger, stronger, and more encompassing. The story now goes beyond Augustine and Harlow’s personal problems to involve the whole supernatural community. Of course, the diabolical Branzino also makes a return in an attempt to further disrupt Harlow’s life as well as kill Augustine, and as usual the witches’ coven are up to no good again, but the huge whammy that rocks the fae world this time around is the kidnapping of a young girl from the Mardi Gras Exemplar Ball, which is the by far most important and lavish fae event of the year. There’s no ransom price, just a demand for Augustine to relinquish his role as the city’s fae Guardian – and everyone knows the only way to resign from that position is death.
First, what I loved: speaking of Exemplar Ball, I continue to really enjoy Kristen Painter’s portrayal of the city of New Orleans and the fae community’s place in it. I was even more enchanted by the atmosphere of the ball in this book than I was with the scenes from Nokturnos in House of the Rising Sun. Of course, the Exemplar Ball had to be a masquerade and the theme is predictably “Enchanted Forest”. A little overindulgent, perhaps, but boy, what I wouldn’t give to have been invited to that particular shindig. The descriptions of the decorations, costumes and even the food were wild and extraordinary and magnificent.
I also appreciated Painter’s expansion of the fae world in this installment. It’s easy to forget that this series actually takes place in the future, so sometimes the advanced technology can be a bit jarring. But mixed in with this “new and high-tech” is also mythology and the ancient lore of faeries. The history and background of Lally, a secondary character, is further explored with several big revelations about the old mansion that belonged to Harlow’s mother, also explaining why Branzino also wants it so much. A lot of things start to come together in this sequel, and the author continues to tease the details little by little.
Now for a couple of criticisms, which are minor: firstly, there is absolutely no mystery at all when it comes to the kidnapping case. There are a very limited number of suspects, and despite Augustine and the fae council going nuts over trying to narrow down the culprit, the one responsible is practically named in the book’s own description.
However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any other surprises.
Take the ending, for example. On the one hand, it was abrupt and left us with one hell of a cliffhanger, but on the other, we are set up for a pretty big conundrum which makes me mighty curious as to how things will be resolved.
Finally, despite maturing a bit since the first book, every once in a while Harlow still gets on my nerves. She may be less of a selfish brat, but she’s still terribly naïve (or dumb with a capital D, if you’re feeling less generous). Sad to say, but she brings a lot of her problems on herself. It’s one thing to be socially awkward and a little sheltered, it’s another to have someone tell you straight out NOT to do a certain thing because there will be dire consequences – and even give you examples! – and you go do it anyway. That’s Harlow for you.
Still, my feelings about her notwithstanding, I continue to believe Harlow will become a more sympathetic character, and I’m following the budding romance between her and Augustine with interest. I’m also enjoying the world of this series a lot, and the story is getting better. This sequel is without question an improvement over the first book, and I’m definitely on board for book three....more
Few subsequent installments in a Young Adult series have lived up to the bar set by their first books, so color me impressed by the way Heir of Fire has managed to do this while at the same time helping me get over the bad taste that Crown of Midnight left in my mouth.
This is going to be a difficult review to write without stomping all over spoiler territory for the previous books, but I’ll do my best not to divulge anything beyond what’s already in the book’s description. So much has happened in the series since the beginning. We last left Celaena on a ship bound for Wendlyn, sent there by her former lover and captain of the King’s Guard Chaol Westfall. Significant events as of late have also marked Wendlyn as her destination for answers to her past, and a way to thwart the King of Adarlan’s nefarious plans.
Not only has Heir of Fire sparked my enthusiasm to follow Celaena on her adventures again, it’s also now my favorite book of this series. I noted as well that this third book was remarkably light on relationship drama and all that bullshit. Coincidence? Probably not. The incessant shoving of an unimaginative, hackneyed romantic side-plot down my throat in Crown of Midnight was what almost made me lose my patience with that last book. It’s a welcome change to be somewhat free of that stuff this time around, and I’m glad Heir of Fire switched gears to focus on more action and rigorous story-development.
Of course, there were a few close calls with Rowan Whitethorn, introduced here as the warrior tasked by the Fae-Queen Maeve to train and guide Celaena to control her magic, but Celaena thankfully manages to remember that the remains of her poor and battered broken heart still technically belongs to someone else. I honestly thought Rowan would be yet another blip in the long line of male-mentors-to-YA-female-protagonists, but rescued from being labeled as yet another possible love interest (boring!), he actually ends up becoming a formidable mentor, ally, and friend to Celaena (much more interesting!) Getting to that point was also quite the journey, their interactions punctuated by ups and downs, but then some of the strongest and most loyal partnerships are forged in this manner.
Back in Adarlan we also have a couple storylines threaded with mystery and intrigue, as Chaol does some sleuthing and uncovers several important revelations about Aedion, the newly arrived general at the royal court. Meanwhile, Prince Dorian struggles with his own secret, one that could cost him his life if his father the king ever found out about it. He strikes up a friendship and later a romance with a palace healer who tries to help him. It would cheapen the experience to give way any more detail than that, but suffice to say, both Chaol and Dorian’s storylines ended up converging in a shocking, gut wrenching climax that seriously knocked me for a loop. Looks like things in this series has started moving away from the predictable throwaway elements, and is instead focusing on working in bolder and weightier developments that might actually cause major ripples further down the road.
It also wouldn’t be right to talk about this book without mentioning the Manon Blackbeak, another character who makes her first appearance in Heir of Fire. The King of Adarlan’s latest plans for domination involve Manon and her people, the wyvern-riding witches. Vicious, bloodthirsty and completely determined to prove herself as the most capable Wing Leader, Manon became an instant favorite, despite her role thus far as an accessory to a tyrant. I loved the side story in here of how she ended up with her wyvern – kind of like How to Train Your Dragon, except considerably less heartwarming and with 500% more brutality. But the bond between rider and mount is well-written and convincing, and the circumstances behind how Manon actually ended up with her wyvern made for an amazing sequence, and it’s one of my favorite scenes in the book.
This one’s much longer book than its two predecessors, but almost everything in the story was important, with hardly any dithering around. It’s a step up from both Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight, dealing with heavier and more developed themes. We also go deeper into each character, with the new players like Rowan, Aedion and Manon getting the introductions they deserve, and even familiar characters like Celaena, Chaol and Dorian getting much love and attention from the author when it comes to building up their stories and personalities. So whaddya know, looks like a series can indeed mature with time and subsequent novels, and Heir of Fire is exemplary....more
It’s not too often I come across a unique and original concept in urban fantasy, but move over denizens of the world of the paranormal and say hello to a brand new breed of fae. The first book introduced us to John Golden, the protagonist of this clever, snappy series with an interesting mix of UF and techno-geek elements. He’s a “debugger”, an individual with special talents hired by corporate clients to go inside their computer systems in order to eliminate the gremlins, sprites and other faery creatures wreaking havoc on their networks. Needless to say, I loved this concept. It sure gives a whole new perspective on computer bugs, glitches and viruses.
And just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, not long after I found out about John Golden, I heard author Django Wexler tease the next installment of this series. Not only was book two going to have a gamer angle, it was going to be satirizing the world’s most popular massively multiplayer online roleplaying game. That MMORPG is, of course, World of Warcraft.
In John Golden’s universe, it becomes “Heroes of Mazaroth”. On what was supposed to be a routine debugging mission for a financial company, our protagonist somehow finds himself trapped in the game’s fantasy realm, suckered into taking the place of a Dark Lord raid boss, doomed to be farmed by a never-ending army of player-adventurers forever and ever…unless John and his sister-in-a-Dell-Inspiron Sarah can change the story and find a way out of this epic mix-up.
Simply put, these John Golden books a whole lot of fun. You can tell the author had a good time writing these books. Wexler has been in IT and is a gamer, injecting his own sense of humor and perspective of these topics into this series in a way that he can’t in his epic fantasy. John Golden: Heroes of Mazaroth is filled to the brim with all the right stuff which makes the urban fantasy genre such a blast to read. The pop culture jokes, and geek and gamer humor had me laughing out loud throughout.
“I’d seen some weird fairies in my time—driver-eating ogres, hydras made out of HR spreadsheets, a whole tribe of elves that worshipped the MS Word paperclip as a god…”
Sarah Golden is also delightfully hilarious, as always. She’s such a wonderful character. A distinguishing and highly entertaining feature of these books, her footnotes provide a running commentary on John’s adventures and misadventures, and let’s face it: there is no one more uniquely suited to give us insight into someone’s personality than his her own sibling, am I right? Sarah’s remarks often poke fun at John endearingly, and other times they give us more information about the world of the Wildernet and its fae. Either way, it’s great. The first book John Golden: Freelance Debugger has a bit of backstory about why she no longer has a physical body, her consciousness instead residing in a laptop, and it’s definitely not to be missed. I hope future books will continue building upon Sarah’s character, and the awesome dynamic between her and John in general.
What can I say? I just loved this book. You don’t need to be an IT person to get this book and you certainly don’t need to be an online gamer. But if you’re familiar with playing MMORPGs and World of Warcraft, there will be a lot of Easter eggs that will have you smiling. Gaming has been a long-time passion of mine, especially when it comes to MMOs, and WoW and I have a long and interesting history. I’ve played it for years and still work it into my gaming repertoire now and then despite the mountain of other MMO titles I play, so maybe I’m a little biased but I knew I was going to enjoy the hell out of John Golden: Heroes of Mazaroth as soon as I learned its premise. But it really is a fantastically entertaining book.
Though Heroes of Mazaroth can absolutely be read as a standalone, I recommend reading both books in this series. John Golden is awesome and you’re going to get a lot of great background into the world. These are also quick, bite-sized adventures that can be enjoyed in a single sitting.
And now if you’ll excuse me, Warlords of Draenor is on the horizon and after this book I have a hankering to do me some LFRs....more
I want to start by saying I’m not a big reader of short fiction, and on the whole I tend not to bother with any novellas, short stories or anthologies that are companion to an existing series. Part of this is due to my preference for full-length novels, but I’ve also not had the best experiences when it comes to the short format. Characters are world building are important for me, and with only a few exceptions, most short stories don’t go as in-depth into these aspects as I would like. Also, I always end up forming attachments to only a small handful of characters whenever I read a series, and I don’t often find myself as interested in companion novellas/shorts that feature the perspectives of other minor characters and people in a series’ “universe”.
That said, I had a really good time with Shifting Shadows. I’ve really fallen in love with the Mercy Thompson series in the last couple of years, which sparked my interest in this book despite it being an anthology. Aside from four new additions, most of the stories in here have previously been published, though I never felt the need to read them due to the reasons stated above, so I am reading everything with fresh eyes. Sure, as with any short story collection there are ups and downs, but overall I was very impressed with this book, and it probably ranks as up there as one of the best urban fantasy anthologies I’ve ever read.
Here’s a more detailed look at the contents:
According to the description, this is one of the new stories, written as an “origin” tale of sorts for the werewolves of Mercy Thompson’s world. We’ve always been told Bran and Samuel are old, but now we realize just how old. We’re talking possibly around the time Christianity first came to Wales. This story also has a bit of romance and sadness, detailing how Samuel and his beloved Ariana first met, but to me its true importance in the fact that it fills in a lot of history to help readers better understand the werewolf mythos as well as Bran and Samuel’s familial ties. A great starter to this anthology, and highly apt.
Unfortunately, after this comes a few stories that I just wasn’t as fond of. Thomas Hao was a vampire character I barely remember from his appearance in Frost Burned, though he may have been in any of Patricia Briggs’ other books/spin-off series, but since I haven’t read anything other than Mercy Thompson I really wouldn’t know. I like the “western” feel of this story, but other than that I have to say it was pretty forgettable. I was scarcely able to follow along with the story with its confusing back-and-forth time jumps, and I felt like I was dumped into the middle of a situation without knowing what was going on or who everyone was and why they mattered. Going back to my opening paragraph, this story is a pretty good example of my issues with series companion short stories.
The stories in here are arranged in chronological order based on the timeline of the Mercy Thompson series, and at this point we’re still in pre-Moon Called territory. Which is probably why I still found myself asking “Who are you and why do you matter again?” I feel a little guilty that I don’t remember who Elyna is, or even if I have encountered her before in any of the Mercy books. This is another one about vampires, but it’s also a ghost story at its heart. The story itself isn’t half bad, but again I would rather be reading about characters I’m more familiar with. This is definitely not one of my favorites either.
This story features Tom and Moira, two characters from Hunting Ground, book two of Briggs’ other series Alpha & Omega – which I have not read. But despite not being familiar with these characters, the author did a good job of really fleshing them out and I actually found myself curious to find out more about them beyond the events of this story. We have a perspective character here who is a witch, which was a treat. The plot also had a clear beginning and end, with the build-up and climax and everything good in between, so I didn’t feel lost at all. I loved how this story had a bit of mystery and sleuthing by the characters, and a sweet romance that ends up blossoming between them.
ALPHA AND OMEGA
I’ve always wanted to check out Alpha & Omega, though to be honest, I don’t know if I feel more or less enthusiastic about picking it up now, after reading this story. I was happy to meet up with Charles (yay, finally a character I recognize again) but I don’t know if I like the way he was portrayed here, or how Anna was portrayed either. Which is a bit ironic, I know, given how this technically gave rise to the series of the same name. It’s always grated on me a little, how the werewolf characters in the world of Mercy Thompson frequently let their wolf side take over all common sense and turn the human into chauvinistic testosterone-fueled meatheads. In this story, we are repeatedly told that Anna still has fire in her, despite being beaten and broken by her abusive pack, but it feels like whatever strength in her that’s fighting to get out is constantly being smothered by Charles’ overbearing need to own her and protect her. I realize this all fits in the context of Briggs’ “pack magic”, but it just always rankles whenever I see an over-possessive male and a helpless female that needs him to do the rescuing.
THE STAR OF DAVID
Hooray, we’re finally into Moon Called-territory and familiar ground for me. This is a great story about Adam’s fellow army ranger, David, whose tragic history illustrates the awful things that can happen when a werewolf isn’t in control of their wolf side. He reconnects with his estranged daughter in this heartwarming tale. My only problem with this story involves some of the implausible and unconvincing aspects of the situation, but given the limitations of the short story format, I didn’t let it bother me too much.
ROSES IN WINTER
This is one of the new stories, and it’s hands down my favorite out of this entire anthology. In my opinion, it’s worth picking up Shifting Shadows for this one alone. Again, I barely remember Kara since she was such a minor character (mentioned in Blood Bound, but never even appeared in any of the books) but I do recall Asil. Though I believe he’s a character in Alpha & Omega, he did make a very strong impression on me from his appearance in Frost Burned. But wow. I never imagined I would grow to love his character so much, and it was all thanks to this story. I had tears in my eyes at the end of this one, that’s how amazing it is.
IN RED, WITH PEARLS
This was a nice detective story, starring Warren. Someone sent a zombie to kill his boyfriend Kyle, and Warren’s not going to rest until he finds out who. Patricia Briggs did a fantastic job making him sound like the cowboy that he is, and I can tell she probably had a lot of fun writing this. We also get to see a few moments of tenderness between Warren and Kyle, but the best part of getting a story from Warren’s perspective is being able to experience his anxieties and doubts from inside his head. In the regular series, through Mercy’s eyes we see Warren as a happy-go-lucky, fiercely loyal friend. But as this story shows, there’s so much more to him beneath the surface.
Probably my second favorite story in the anthology, this one features Ben. It’s hard to get a bead on his character in the regular series. On the one hand, it’s been implied that Ben has a rather distasteful past, and his attitude towards women leaves a lot to be desired. On the other, Adam and Mercy seem to trust him implicitly, and Ben has gone out of his way for both of them on more than one occasion. This story gives the reader a better sense of who he is, and how he got this way. But it’s also downright hilarious. You gotta love Ben; he can be a real gentleman when he wants to be, and he takes crap from no one, not even when he’s not allowed to swear.
I was beginning to think we weren’t going to get a Mercy story at all, which despite some of the other great offerings in here, would have been disappointing. But fear not, this one’s all about Mercy, told from her point of view. And as Mercy stories go, I have to say it’s pretty standard – it reads like it could have been a story from one of the novels, but of course it’s much more condensed in this form. This meant I enjoyed it, but I admit, it does feel like Briggs crammed this one in just for the sake of having a story told in Mercy’s perspective. Just a little.
OUTTAKE FROM SILVER BORNE
Sorry to say, but…there’s probably a good reason why this was an outtake and never made it to the final book. Yeah, it gives a bit of closure to Samuel and Ariana’s story, but I wouldn’t say it’s needed in the least to enjoy the story of their relationship. I could take it or leave it. I think it was the right call to leave it out.
OUTTAKE FROM NIGHT BROKEN
On the other hand, I wish Briggs could have worked this one in somehow. I loved this scene from Adam’s point of view, at the end of Night Broken in the wake of all the craziness that happened. It endeared me to Adam, and my heart melts for his deep love for Mercy. It might just be me, but this scene would have also made the ending to that book a lot less confusing.
Concluding thoughts: there’s definitely a reason why this book is described as “Stories from the world of Mercy Thompson”, because as you can see, most of what you see in here isn’t about Mercy or even the people close to her. But with the exception of a couple of stories, that didn’t really put a damper on my experience reading Shifting Shadows. In fact, on the whole I think this book gave me a deeper understanding of the Mercy Thompson universe and made me appreciate it more. I’ve read similar anthologies and regretted it deeply afterwards, but this is not one of those cases. I highly recommended this for fans of the series, because if someone like me loved it, you probably will too...more