“Dark, page-turning and awesome, Blackbirds takes urban fantasy to a whole new level. This is one novel that you won’t want to miss.” ~The Founding Fields
When I first got stuck into the e-copy that was Chuck Wending’s Blackbirds, I didn’t really know what to expect. I hadn’t read any of Chuck Wending’s novels before, although I will be checking out his Double Dead (Abaddon Books), as soon as I can. I certainly wasn’t expecting what I got, and I certainly didn’t expect anything as dark, gritty and as twisted as what this turned out to be. Neither, did I expect anything as fantastic as this. You want to know why you should stop whatever you’re reading and go out and buy Blackbirds right now?
Well, after this blurb, I’m going to tell you.
Miriam Black knows when you will die. She’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, and suicides.
But when Miriam hitches a ride with Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be murdered while he calls her name. Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim.
No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.
File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Touch Of Death | The Future Is Written | Free Way | Surviving ]
I hadn’t read anything like Blackbirds before. Sure, I’d read urban fantasy, particularly The Dresden Files – however, the first novel in the Miriam Black series, is a different beast completely. As mentioned above, it’s dark. Very dark. There are no heroes here, no knights in shining armour. Blackbirds proves that good people do bad things, as well as bad people can do good things. There are mostly no Dark Lords or Chosen Ones here, so if that’s not what you want, then you’d better find something else to read now. However, if you’re sick of this trope and want something fresh and original, then keep reading.
Ever wondered what it would be like if you had the ability to see how somebody died just by touching them? I haven’t, and I think you probably haven’t either. However, Chuck Wending clearly has, and in this novel, he’s got across a not so common ‘What If?’ idea very well, and as well as presenting a memorable and unique character in Miriam, the author has created a great piece of fiction that is yet another novel that will end up on my Best of 2012 list.
Due to the whole nature of this novel, it’s far from a light-hearted read. This is a depressing one, so again, this may put a few people off. However, it shouldn’t – as Blackbirds is a really good read. It’s consistently paced throughout the novel, even with the many Interludes that are found here, as Chuck Wending uses these to explore Miriam’s past without flashbacks in another unique (that I’ve seen) way, which helps make this novel more interesting.
Blackbirds is very different from the mainstream urban fantasy novels, as you’ve probably gathered. The heroine is no heroine, and she certainly doesn’t allow the male lead cast to do all the work for her. This is in fact, more urban fantasy crossed with horror than normal Urban Fantasy novels, so fans of the genre may find something different here.
There’s also a large use of profanity in Blackbirds, but it certainly is neither overused nor used in wrong places. The swearing just fits in so well with the atmosphere of the story that by the end of it, you’d find it hard to imagine what Blackbirds would be like without the use of profanity.
Next up, I’d like to talk about the cover art. It’s just awesome. Normally, I’m not a big fan of urban fantasy cover arts, but this one, created by Joey Hi-Fi, is something special. It’s just as awesome as the novel, and the second one, titled Mockingbirds, looks equally as awesome. I can’t wait for Mockingbirds to come out, and I’m interested to know where Wending will take the reader, as Blackbirds was a fantastic series opener.
The pace is even throughout the whole novel, and you won’t want to put it down. The action is also good, and the fight scenes portrayed in this book are realistic, not exaggerated, and there are some particularly awesome encounters in Blackbirds that you shouldn’t be missing out on.
The novel is well thought out, well plotted and, with a whole host of mentally unstable but enjoyable characters, a really good read. The dialogue doesn’t feel forced or unrealistic, and that helps make it more enjoyable – and has once again proved that Angry Robot are one of the most awesome publishing industries out there. Blackbirds is not to be missed, and I am struggling to find anything negative about it, apart from the fact there are a few questions left unanswered, such as why Miriam can see how people can die, which obviously leaves plenty of room for future novels. I for one, cannot wait to see where Wending takes the reader in the sequel, which comes out later this summer. It’s a novel that I will be eagerly awaiting for one, and you should be as well, even if you are yet to read Blackbirds.
“A great voice in urban fantasy. Kevin Hearne has a strong potential to be the next Jim Butcher.” ~The Founding Fields
As long term Founding Fields fan“A great voice in urban fantasy. Kevin Hearne has a strong potential to be the next Jim Butcher.” ~The Founding Fields
As long term Founding Fields fans will know, The Dresden Files are my favourite urban fantasy series on the market today – although I don’t read that much in the genre. The last Dresden-esque book that I read held the title Fated by Benedict Jacka which was entertaining but ultimately didn’t do much else. Hounded on the other hand… I really enjoyed, and I must say I was glad to receive a review copy through NetGalley.
Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.
Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.
I really enjoyed Hounded. It was a fresh, if flawed opening start to a series and as I was reading it I felt like I was in the middle of some weird combination of Joss Whedon and Jim Butcher with plenty of Irish inspiration. Although the writing style is simplistic, it flows well and manages to prove enjoyable and entertaining - especially with some great comedy moments between Atticus and Oberon, his dog, who is probably one of the greatest not-fully-human-and-shouldn’t-really-be-able-to-talk companions since Bob the Skull. However, despite his age – there are several parts in this novel where Atticus acts way too young for his age delivering something that a teenager would probably think was witty. There was an element of this in The Dresden Files but not as heavily as in The Iron Druid Chronicles.
After relatively enjoying Black Magic Woman, the first novel in the Morris and Chastain Investigations, I delved into Evil Ways and got, more or lessAfter relatively enjoying Black Magic Woman, the first novel in the Morris and Chastain Investigations, I delved into Evil Ways and got, more or less a similar quality of writing from Gustainis.
Almost a year after the events in the previous book, we rejoin the Private Investigator Quincey Morris along with characters first introduced in Black Magic Woman, with Agent Fenton of the FBI returning to steal some of the attention away from Morris and Chastain, and keep the same problem that I had with the first book still lingering around, it’s a Morris and Chastain investigation, but we want to learn more about Fenton than we do Morris and Chastain.
White witches are being hunted down and killed and seems as though Libby is next on the list. Quincey Morris however, finds himself on the trail of a series of murders were young children are having their eternal organs taken from them. With the aid of Fenton and some other colleges, they must track down the source of the persons responsible, and all clues seem to lead to the mad, dying billionaire Walter Grobius, who hopes to make himself immortal.
And as Walpurgis Night draws closer, time is running out.
The characters are, like with the first instalment, intriguing, the banter between Libby and Quincey is still there, although not as much – and there is also a visit to Chicago, where a character from another popular urban fantasy (Cough Dresden Files Cough) is mentioned, with the permission of Jim Butcher of course.
I avoid urban fantasy like the plague normally, and I there are very few exceptions, as I don’t particularly like the ‘two people from different backgrounds where one is normally some sort of supernatural being fall in love’ storyline that seems to be popular with urban fantasy nowadays, but to those that are looking for a change in the genre, Evil Ways provides a refreshing break and is enjoyable particularly if you are a fan of the Dresden Files. After all, there is a visit to Chicago.
The locations in this story play as much part as the characters themselves. Chicago is not only the sole destination for the characters in this novel as the storyline takes to places as varied and as a wide as Iraq. This helps the change the pace in the storyline and adds to the sense of danger involved in this novel, which Gustainis has done a brilliant job of inventing, with short points of views from the attacked witches as well as the bad guys themselves.
Evil Ways is a dark and violent urban fantasy, with a quick read made enjoyable by Gustainis’ mostly strong prose and, when combined with the fact that you don’t have to read Black Magic Woman before you read Evil Ways, which makes it a nice touch particularly if you’re looking to start Gustainis’ series.
From the way that Gustainis dropped a load of spells, rituals, symbols and certain set of rule-abiding incantations, you can tell that he did a large amount of research into the occult during the process of writing the novel, making Evil Ways seem more ‘real’ in a sense than some of the other urban fantasy stuff on the market.
There is a lot of action in here as well, that keeps the novel moving despite the fact that there aren’t that many twists involved. The next fault that I’m going to say here isn’t Gustainis’s, but it’s more of mine, and that’s because I picked the series up late, thus making the story more predictable than it would’ve been if I hadn’t had read it upon its release date.
All that said though, bring on Sympathy for the Devil! The excerpt attached to the back of the book makes it look more entrancing than it first was, and the third book’s blurb was what made me want to pick up this series, other than the fact that it was by Justin Gustainis, whose Hard Spell novel was immensely enjoyable. And on that bombshell:
I’m only at book four in the Dresden Files, and I can tell you that what a tale it’s been so far. We’ve had vampires, werewolves, pixies, faerie godmoI’m only at book four in the Dresden Files, and I can tell you that what a tale it’s been so far. We’ve had vampires, werewolves, pixies, faerie godmothers, wizards and more, and it’s hard to believe that out of the thirteen books that are currently available for the public, (with one collection of short stories and one that is yet to be released), that we’ve had all of that happen before book four. We’ve been introduced to some figures like the pixie Toot-Toot, who returns once again in this book, and several other characters, new and old alike.
Although if you’re a fan of the Dresden Files then by now you won’t need me to tell you that Summer Knight is excellent, I figured I’d tell you anyway. So then, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get on with the plot.
The war between the Vampire Red Court and the White Council (See Grave Peril, book three), is taking place, and we are introduced to our first real taste of faerie politics, which in my opinion, was much better done than the Vampire politics that we saw in the previous books, and was proved to be much more enjoyable The faerie, otherwise known as the sidhe, are creatures of the fey and have normally equally balanced houses of Summer and Winter, and they remain balanced in order to avoid too much power spreading to one of the houses, otherwise, bad things could happen. Very bad things.
This is why, when the Summer Queen’s right hand man, the Summer Knight, is murdered, The Winter Queen approaches Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only wizarding Private Investigator, who is in a very tough time at the moment, and gives him an offer that he can’t refuse, that is – if he wants to free himself from his faerie godmother, and make his luck increase.
The Winter Queen wants Harry to clear her name from the murder of the Summer Knight, and that seems simple enough, doesn’t it? Until, Harry finds out that the fate of the world rests on his shoulders, and the clock is ticking.
Butcher proves again that he isn’t afraid of putting his main character through dark times, and at the start of Summer Knight, he shows this by continuing on from the scenes at the end of Grave Peril, where Susan (his now ex-girlfriend), rejected Harry’s marriage proposal and left town with a taste for blood, proving that the Dresden Files does progress forwards after all.
Characters change, believe it or not, as Dresden begins to trust Murphy for a change, and there’s a distinct lack of Johnny Marcone in this novel as well, although perhaps, that’s a bit too much to ask for, I guess – especially with the excellent faerie politics that Butcher has created for us here.
We also learn more about Harry’s past, how he came to be mentored by Ebenezer McCoy, and a mysterious character that he thought was dead is back, with even more enigmatic intentions.
The pacing, like any Dresden novel, is fast and drags you in, not letting you go until the final page where you are left blown away. It’s well-written, and Butcher shows that each novel is a step-up from the last one, which makes me wonder, how can Death Masks be any better than this?
I can tell you that I’m going into that book with high expectations. I probably shouldn’t, but hey, it’s Butcher we’re talking about here, and he never ceases to amaze me, especially with a particular scene in a Wal-Mart involving a giant tree-monster. No, seriously.
There are quite a few new additions to the cast as well, and first of all, we look at the ones who aren’t actually new at all. Billy and the Alphas, a group of not-quite Werewolves, who we met in Fool Moon, are more heavily involved in this novel and we get to know them more. A nice touch to them was the fact that after an adventure, they’d go home, have pizza and play RPGs. Another band of characters, who this time are new, are the teenagers Lily, Fix, Meryl and Ace, who are also quite interesting and become quite prominent characters as the story progress.
The humour’s still there and that doesn’t detract from the storyline and if anything, makes it more enjoyable. And, if you’ve come to get tired of the frequent use of the words, “Hell’s Bells”, then don’t worry, there’s less of that in this novel as well.
The action’s well-written, but if you’re a Dresden fan you’ll know that by now, and truth be told, I found very little flaws to this novel other than the fact, well – I knew that Harry was going to live, otherwise there wouldn’t be a book five, would there? You see, I really need to get ahold of these series earlier.
It’s a shame that I’d miss the awesome new-ish cover art from Orbit though, but regardless, The Dresden Files, are still some of the best Urban Fantasy on the market today. (I’d like to point out that the only other Urban Fantasy books I’ve read are Redlaw by James Lovegrove, and to a lesser extent, the Harry Potter novels which don’t really count, I guess. As entertaining as they were though, they don’t stand up to the brilliance that Butcher delivers. Call it bias, but I still think that Dresden easily beats Potter.)
In the last great science hero fight between the Skyguard and the Science Pirate, the energy blast that happened during the battle ripped a hole in reIn the last great science hero fight between the Skyguard and the Science Pirate, the energy blast that happened during the battle ripped a hole in reality, birthing the Empire State, a parallel version of New York that’s set in the Prohibition Era.
However, when the gap between both worlds starts to close, it isn’t just the Empire State that’s threatened; it’s New York, as well. People from both worlds must fight for the right to exist.
I was going into this novel, not expecting anything big out of it, after all, it was Christopher’s first novel, and I haven’t read many superhero-containing novels before. However, what I found in these pages blew me away, Empire State was that good, and I think we may be looking at one of the best debut authors of 2012 already! (For your information, this book’s released in January, so it technically counts for the nomination.)
Empire State is told from two perspectives. Rad Bradbury, the Private Investigator in Empire State, is very much our protagonist. He’s a guy who you grow to like, and you’ll find yourself thinking you’ve known him all your life. Christopher has created a fantastic character in Rad Bradbury, and it’s a shame that Empire State is only a one-off.
Goddamitt, I want more.
The other character is Rex, from New York, the ‘proper’ New York. The one that we all know and love. (Bar the inclusion of superheroes, of course), and soon finds himself stepping into a whole new world. (Quite literally).
Although Rad and Rex are the main characters of this novel, with Rex being an anti-hero and Rad being the well, hero, you will find many layered characters, from Nimrod to Grieves, Captain Carson to Kane, each well developed and each with their own story to tell.
There’s even airships. Come on, what’s not to love about that?
The pacing is fast, unusually fast for the noir-type fiction that I’ve read which are normally slow burners. (The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett is one example), and the plot is well thought out, and I’m going to say original because I haven’t quite seen anything like it before. Top notch stuff, and I can’t wait to read more from Christopher.
Fantastic stuff and I’m almost struggling to believe that Empire State is his first novel. There are twists and turns galore in this novel, as you’ll find it so unpredictable that you won’t know what’s coming next, and I like to see that in a book. It keeps you on the edge of your seat as you flick through the pages, desperately wanting to work out what happens next. Although the ending is rather, well, vague, I was too busy enjoying the first three quarters of the book for that to bother me that much.
There’s even some nice little extras as well, including an interview with the author, a list of songs that the author listened to whilst writing Empire State, and the start of a nice little World Builder Project, where Christopher allows you to play in his universe.
The world-building that Christopher has created is excellent by the way, allowing for anything in Empire State to fit a variety of genres/subgenres, from alternate history, noir, superhero fiction and any combination in between. The author is truly at the top of his game here, as explaining details about the world that he has created doesn’t slow down the fast paced plot.
It’s that awesome.
However, there is perhaps such thing as too many different things going on here, too many people with double agendas that you may find hard to keep track of. But don’t let that stop you from reading this book. It’ll be a hard one to beat for debut of 2012, and I believe that Angry Robot have themselves a winner with Empire State.
Blood Rites is the sixth novel in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, and it is the first Dresden Files novel that left me feeling a bit let down by it. Sure, this is partly because it came after the fantastic Death Masks, and maybe because I’ve been reading loads of other stuff that isn’t urban fantasy recently, I didn’t enjoy this as much as I probably should have. But that’s not saying that Blood Rites is a bad book, though.
Blood Rites, much like several other novels in the Dresden Files, is a novel that focuses on a particular character, beefing up their backstory and developing them more. In Grave Peril, it was Michael, and now – in Blood Rites, its Thomas’s turn to take the stage, a White Court Vampire, and one who is the least favoured child of the White King.
The novel beings with action, and the thrilling first line of, “The building was on fire, and it wasn’t my fault,” used to hook the readers in and keep them reading, as they want to know why the building wasn’t on fire, and who set it alight and why. And of course, what building. The plot then continues, and Harry Dresden soon finds himself working on the set of an adult film, which shouldn’t really be that much of a problem – after all, he’s had worse assignments, for example – Dodging flaming monkey Poo, or going toe-to-leaf with a walking plant monster. However, there’s something more troubling about this case than usual. The film producer believes that he’s the target of a sinister curse. But, it’s the women around him that are being affected, and are dying in increasingly more bizarre ways.
As well as returning to flesh out Thomas’ background, and to an extent, Harry’s, we are reintroduced to the badass mercenary, Jared Kincaid, the Archive’s bodyguard and driver, who provides some amusing banter between him, Harry and Murphy, who is, as expected, back to kick some ass in this novel.
Much like the previous Dresden Files novels, Blood Rites is fast paced, contains some amusing dialogue that makes Dresden even more likable and easy to root for as a character.
Blood Rites is, as expected from the title, a vampire-themed novel, with the main bad guys being the blood-suckers that have been at the core of most Dresden novels. They’re a recurring enemy with the most fleshed-out backstory, and it’s rare that we see a Dresden Files novel without at least one vampire.
The action in Blood Rites is well written, varied and fast paced with enough to keep the reader hooked. Although there are quite a lot of clichés in this novel, with the ‘shocking revelation’ one, but if you’re a Dresden fan, you’ll still be reading this by the end of the novel and eagerly awaiting the next instalment, Dead Beat. Heck, I will be looking forward to reading that one as well.
The characters continue to be well-developed, and despite the fact that if you’re catching up on this series, it’s clear that Dresden will survive because there are several more books to come, you’ll keep turning the pages.
Another issue that I felt let Blood Rites down a bit was when Dresden was doing and saying things that didn’t make sense, really – that help make this character a bit more unbelievable as a real person. Sure, I know he’s not meant actually real, that’s the whole point of fiction, but one of Harry’s flaws is that he has a lot of simplistic dialogue used that is often riddled with clichés.
Believe it or not, I’ve never heard of Neil Gaiman until I saw The Doctor’s Wife, one of the episodes of Doctor Who Series 6 that I watched last year. I remembered reading somewhere that he was a famous author, and decided to check one of his novels out, yet I didn’t get around to reading it until the end of 2011.
This edition of American Gods is huge, so it is not for those who prefer light reads. It’s 672 pages in length, and deals with several large themes, the chief among which, and perhaps central to the plotline, what if Gods were real? And by Gods, I mean not just one god from one religion, or not even a Pantheon of Gods from one religion. There’s a lot of Gods, despite the main focus clearly being the Ancient Norse myths.
Gaiman’s novel follows the protagonist Shadow, who has just come out of prison early to find that his wife died in a mysterious car accident. As he makes his way home, Shadow encounters the enigmatic Mr. Wednesday, who is claiming to be both a ‘refugee from a distant country at war’, and the ‘King of America,’ and perhaps, even a God himself. Finding himself in Mr. Wednesday’s service, both Shadow and the mysterious newcomer to his life embark on a strange journey across the United States of America.
I don’t normally read page turners that are over six hundred pages, but American Gods is different to most of its ilk. The book has a huge link to mythology as would be obvious from above, as Gaiman uses names that are more subtle than others to hide the true identity of the gods.
The book was what at first appears to be a fantastic premise, and myself being a fan of most ancient gods being adapted to the modern day setting, (See reviews for The Pantheon Trilogy by James Lovegrove) this obviously wasn’t going to be a book that I didn’t like. Plus, it also helped that The Doctor’s Wife was one of my favourite episodes of Doctor Who Series 6, so Gaiman had already proved himself in my eyes, which meant – that I was going into American Gods with high expectations.
Although American Gods is a page-turner, you will still find that perhaps Gaiman could have made the novel shorter and maybe made it quicker to read.
I’m now going to talk about the protagonist, named Shadow. He’s not a character that will quickly become one of your favourites nor is he one that you can familiarise yourself with, after all, not every reader of American Gods has spent some time in prison.
American Gods has been a huge success for Gaiman, having won not only the Bram Stoker award, but also the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award and the Locus Award. This proves that I’m not the only reader out there who knows a good book when I see one.
The book itself revolves around several themes, and indeed, is not just restricted to the ‘old gods’ of Mythology versus the ‘new gods’ of television and media, with several more themes being included in the novel itself.
Gaiman has written a fantastic, enthralling prose in American Gods, and has proved that he is a master with words, for example, to steal from Amazon, take this quote from the novel:
“He opened his mouth to catch the rain as it fell, moistening his cracked lips and his dry tongue, wetting the ropes that bound him to the trunk of the tree. There was a flash of lightning so bright it fell like a blow to his eyes, transforming the world into an intense panorama of image and after-image. The wind tugged at Shadow, trying to pull him from the tree, flaying him, cutting to the bone. Shadow knew in his soul that the real storm had truly begun…”
After reading this novel, Gaiman has made me want to hunt down as many Gaiman books that I can find, because if they are as good as American Gods has been, then I should enjoy them all. I’ve already been tempted by Neverwhere, which has another awesome premise.
Because of the reasons stated above, American Gods gets a very high score on the rating scale. The only reasons that prevented it from getting a 5/5 was the fact that the novel dragged on perhaps a bit too much (although that’s probably my fault for getting the extended version, the author’s preferred text), and the fact that Shadow wasn’t as memorable as he had the potential to be.
Fantastic. China Mieville might just have joined the ranks of Gaiman, Martin, Sanderson & Tolkien among my Top 5 Favourite Authors (with Butcher,Fantastic. China Mieville might just have joined the ranks of Gaiman, Martin, Sanderson & Tolkien among my Top 5 Favourite Authors (with Butcher, Banks, Abercrombie & Cornwell there as well) With just one book. Can't wait to read more of Mieville now - where should I go from here?...more
“Wow. A fast-paced, adrenaline-thrilled, page-turning debut. Myke Cole has delivered one of the most interesting first novels of 2012, and I cannot wait for the rest of the series.” ~The Founding Fields
I’ve been wanting to read Control Point by Myke Cole ever since I heard about it at the beginning of the year. It made one of my most anticipated debuts for 2012, and I was annoyed when it was pushed back to August for a UK release. However, when I received a copy through twitter, It wouldn’t be long before I started reading, and as it turned out, I’m glad I did. Control Point is military-fantasy at its best, and is one of the better first novels of 2012 – one that should not be missed.
All over the world people are ‘coming up latent’ – developing new and terrifying abilities. Untrained and panicked, they are summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze.
US Army Lieutenant Oscar Britton has always done his duty, even when it means working alongside the feared Supernatural Operations Corps, hunting down and taking out those with newfound magical talents. But when he manifests a rare, startling power of his own and finds himself a marked man, all bets are off.
On the run from his former colleagues, Britton is driven into an underground shadow world, where he is about to learn that magic has changed all the rules he’s ever known … and that his life isn’t the only thing he’s fighting for.
I was completly blown away by Control Point, I had high expectations going into this novel as a result of the praising reviews that it received when it hit the USA, but those expectations were beaten when I read Control Point. I just loved every second of it, and couldn’t put it down. I only had one issue with Control Point, but apart from that, everything scored top marks for me.
Oscar Britton is an interesting character to work with. Whilst Cole could have given the character some cooler magical talent like control of the elements, he instead decides to stick him with Portomancy. If you thought that was a dull, boring power, think again – the action scenes, particularly when Britton masters his powers, are intense, awesome and easily some of my favourite scenes in the novel, and I can’t wait to see more of this power being used, it was really interesting to read, and I can imagine this being part of a very enjoyable movie. When you combine the use of the magical ability with Cole’s amazingly well-written action-scenes, you know you’re in for something special here. I was blown away by how well Cole manages to write action scenes, and these were some of the highlights of this novel for me.
The pace is fast, brutal and relentless all the way through – once you go into Control Point, you won’t be able to put it down. It also helps that Myke Cole has served in the army, so you get an accurate description of many military aspects, and this adds to the realism of the novel, even if it’s urban fantasy. Or rather, I should say, military fantasy. Guns and Sorcery is what we’re dealing with here, and as far as I’m aware, Cole is the only author that I’ve read that has used combined the military aspect of the modern-day world with the urban fantasy element, and if there are any other military-fantasy novels as good as this one, I’m going to have to give them a look into. Similarities can be drawn with the X-Men universe in the division between magicals/mutants and the normal humans, and it’s interesting to see Cole’s take on it.
One of the many strong points that Myke Cole’s novel offers us is its world-creation. The setting is essentially our world, but with added magic. You get a realistic look as to how the government would react to something like this, as well as a brief insight as to how other countries also reacted to magic, and it’s a nice touch to see that not all react in the same way. There’s little information dumps in Control Point, and this allows the novel to maintain it’s breakneck pace, and yet – you still won’t find yourself lost at all.
The only real issue that I had with Control Point was that I found the book to be lacking in the development of characters, but don’t let that issue put you off. The rest of the novel is written brilliantly well, and the next book, Fortress Frontier, is going to be on my list of highly-anticipated novels for next year after this resounding debut novel. The premise is likely to draw many people in, and Peter V. Brett, author of The Painted Man and The Demon Spear, pretty much summed it up as X-Men meets Black Hawk Down. That is essentially what Control Point is, and Cole has succeeded in creating a fascinating novel that I hope many readers will enjoy as much as I did.
By now, I think it’s safe to say that if you’re still reading the Dresden Files, it’s safe to say that you’ll be a fan of them, even after the disappointing Blood Rites, and that you’ll probably enjoy any new Dresden Files by now. And, I’m pleased to say, that I enjoyed Dead Beat.
In fact, I didn’t just enjoy it. I really, really enjoyed it. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say it was one of the best Dresden Files novels that I’ve read yet, coming in third behind Summer Knight and Death Masks respectively. Bearing in mind, I’ve only read up to Dead Beat – and some people are telling me that Changes, is an amazing novel – so I can’t wait until I get around to reading that.
Now then, back with the review. Dead Beat starts off with Murphy leaving with Kincaid, the badass mercenary that we met in Blood Rites, to go out of Chicago for a bit, leaving Harry alone, and lacking police support, and the good, humorous, Dresden-Murphy banter that Dresden fans have come to get used to since Storm Front. And it’s not long before Marva, Vampire Queen, uses the threat of Murphy’s career to blackmail into getting Harry to do what she wants him to do.
And that involves finding The Word of Kemmler. But he’s not the only one who wants to find it, as he’s tailed by six Necromancers who all want the book. And it seems that Harry is going to have not only somehow prevent a Halloween that could truly wake the dead, but also save himself and Murphy.
Butcher proves that there’s never too much that you can cram into one novel, and by doing so, he makes Dead Beat possibly the weirdest Dresden Files novel yet. In a good way though, and we’re soon introduced (and re-introduced) to not only zombies, but also multiple factions of Vampires, Werewolves, Fairies, Necromancers, among others that are crowded into this book which is possibly the largest Dresden Files yet in the series.
And it proves that Dresden is not a one-man-army, by enlisting the help of two returning characters, his half-brother Thomas and Butters, a mortician who has, with just one novel, turned into one of my favourite characters in the whole series.
Also, for those who read the novel, you’ll soon find out why “Polka will never die!” has suddenly become the greatest warcry of all time. And, verging slightly into spoiler territory here, but this deserves a mention – we’ve got Harry riding on a T-Rex against a horde of zombies in modern-day Chicago. Only in The Dresden Files could such a thing happen, and it’s become one of my favourite moments in the entire series to date. Butcher, please keep writing more fantastic scenes like this.
I’ve been following The Dresden Files for seven books now, and whilst I’ve read several series that are much longer than this at this point, The Alex Cross series by James Patterson, The Horus Heresy series by Various Authors, and The Gaunt’s Ghosts series by Dan Abnett being three examples, we sort of wonder, how long will Butcher be able to keep us hooked before having to resort to a sort of formulaic, stale read that will make the reader lose faith in the series altogether. It’s happened before, I know, and James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series (YA) is a prime example of this. Dead Beat wasn’t formulaic though, so there is hope. And I have faith in Butcher, and Harry – to keep the series interesting.
The pace is quick, and action-packed, with enough laugh-out-loud moments to keep the novel entertaining, page-turning and enjoyable throughout. Fantastic supporting cast, fantastic main cast, amazing villains, this novel has it all. If you’re a Dresden fan, you won’t want to miss Dead Beat, and that much is for certain.
Dead Harvest, outside of The Dresden Files, is one of the few Urban Fantasy novels that I’ve read. And, whilst I don’t normally read novels in this particular sub-genre, (it usually takes something special, or a favourite author – to put out novels in this genre that I will read), I figured that I’d give Chris F. Holm’s very first novel a shot. Yes, you heard me, the spectacular Dead Harvest is a début. Which begs the question – why did it not feel like one when I was reading it? There’s a reason for that. Dead Harvest was utterly jaw-dropping. It impressed me, and has defiantly made it into one of my favourite novels (if not my favourite) of 2012 so far. Want to know why? Well, after a quick run-down of the plot, provided by the folks at Angry Robot Books, I’m going to tell you.
Sam’s job is to collect the souls of the damned, and ensure they are dispatched to the appropriate destination. But when he’s sent to collect the soul of a young woman he believes to be innocent of the horrific crime that’s doomed her to Hell, he says something no Collector has ever said before.
File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Souled Out | Damned If You Don't | Collector Mania | On The Run ]
The novel had hooked me right from the moment that I read the blurb. I wasn’t going to initially read Dead Harvest, mind you – the cover art put me off a bit at first, until I read fellow TFF member Djnn 24′s review of the same novel, which can be found here, as well as other reviewers who praised Chris F. Holm’s first novel.
The pace in Dead Harvest, first off, is fast. You will find yourself flicking from page to page desperately wanting to find out what happens next, as the novel itself is far from predictable, with twist after twist which soon will have you knowing that nobody is safe, no matter how important they seem. That’s one of the ways in which Holm keeps the tension high, and one of the many reasons why I enjoyed the novel.
Dead Harvest had a little bit of everything in this book it seemed, romance, well-written action and much more which kept the book enjoyable for me, as a reader – and there was never a dull moment, never a bit where I felt like skipping a few pages to advance the story. The plot kept twisting and turning, and I really enjoyed it.
I haven’t read many novels within the author’s own setting that have anti-heroes as their main character, and I think the only one that I can recall from memory right now is Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence. There seems to be a problem though with anti-heroes, you can’t really relate to them and therefore you don’t really feel sympathetic for them. Despite that though, I believe that Sam Thornton is a pretty likeable character. That’s just my opinion though, yours may change.
And, there’s a lot of flashbacks in Dead Harvest, that explore the origin of Sam, and how he became a Collector. It’s a tragic past, and at no point does it feel like the pace is either slowing down or the novel is not going anywhere. Each new flashback, we learn a bit more about Sam’s past, and nothing is wasted space.
Containing all the best elements of Urban Fantasy thrown into one, Dead Harvest is a novel that you’ll not want to miss, providing a refreshing break for veteran fans of the subgenre and a great starting point to newcomers.
Another thing that leapt out to me whilst I was reading Dead Harvest, I felt that this novel would make an awesome movie, with several awesome scenes that would translate really well onto the big screen, and I hope that somebody makes it happen soon – as If there is a movie of Dead Harvest, I’ll defiantly be going to see it.
Although Dead Harvest is Chris F. Holm’s first novel, he’s well established on the short story front and has written several – and has even been nominated for awards with his shorts, which I am defiantly going to look out for, as whilst reading Dead Harvest, I simply couldn’t put it down. It is a page-turner in every sense of the word.
The Collector Trilogy: Dead Harvest, The Wrong Goodbye (October 2012), (To be Confirmed). ...more