Naomi Novik, the popular author of the Temeraire alternate history fantasy with dragons, latest book "Uprooted" is an instant classic, one of the bestNaomi Novik, the popular author of the Temeraire alternate history fantasy with dragons, latest book "Uprooted" is an instant classic, one of the best fantasy books on this year or any year. A beguiling, enchanting delight, this novel succeeds on every level, the first half being nearly flawless and the second half, a powerful magical tale with real relationships, conflict, valor and magical battles. A beauty and the beast story, but combined with a nasty evil character, humor, love and compelling in every way, this is the type of fantasy that everyone should be reading.
The Dragon, a great Wizard lives in a tower near the haunted Woods, the home of a malignant evil. Every ten years, the Dragon comes to all the towns where he picks one young lady to be his servant. Agnieszka thinks her friend Kasia, beautiful, perfect Kasia will be picked, but instead the Dragon discovers something about Nieshka, that she does not even know and takes her to his tower.
There he will treat her like a servant and force feed her simple magical cantrips but Nieshka is slow to learn the simple spells and the Dragon, a gruff, aristocratic master, does not know how to deal with the simple Nieshka, a village girl and not an aristocrat.
When a magical calamity threatens her town, and the Dragon is gone on a separate mission, Nieshka climbs down from the Tower via a long rope and makes her way to the threatened village with some stolen Dragon potions, but in the aftermath, the Dragon is wounded, and it is up to Nieshka to try to heal him of evil corruption from the Woods. She succeeds spectacularly, but in a way that shocks the Dragon and thwarts the Woods plan.
Novik's evil Woods is much more than a dark, monstrous foreboding place. Enlivened by an evil, malignant seemingly eternal monster who lives in the Woods, who uses magic to attack the humans of Nieshka's valley and her land, this Woods is a perfectly conceived enemy, which uses walking trees, animated giant preying mantises and wolves to attack.
The Dragon is nonplused and amazed, but her power is there and they start to work together. More than magic soon sparkles, as the ornate Dragon and the messy witch join their magic and lives to powerful effect. Soon they are able to save another young victim of the Woods.
But all is not rosy, and the Woods has deep tentacles. When a Prince finds out the Nieshka and the Dragon can counteract the Woods evil entrapment, he seeks to have them rescue his missing mother, the queen of the realm, who has been a prisoner of the Woods for years.
Nieshka travels back to the capital with the prince and his mage, without the Dragon. While her magic is acknowledged, her insights are dismissed. The Woods is not taking Nieshka and the Dragon's victories lightly, and is able to plan a magical assault again.
Nieshka and the Dragon will have to join forces against the Woods in the very heart of her empire.
This is a the type of book that you keep going back to - to read snippets of characters and action. It makes you feel good and want to read another book immediately after to capture the same feeling. But a book this good only comes along once in a while.
A Murder of Mages by Marshall Maresca is a splendid fantasy / mystery / crime and murder blend from the author of the very good "Thorn of Dentonhill".A Murder of Mages by Marshall Maresca is a splendid fantasy / mystery / crime and murder blend from the author of the very good "Thorn of Dentonhill". Not too heavy on the magical elements, this intelligent cop fantasy features a pair of smart detectives on the hunt for a murderer. Minox Welling, an untrained mage, who comes from a multi-generational cop family and really investigates is the main detective. Unlike some of the other officers, he solves crimes rather than sweeping them under the rug with a convenient, but wrong answer. He has problems with his magic. His new partner is Satrine Rainey, the first female investigator in Inemar, who has more than a few tricks up her sleeves. She is a very convincing, honorable and true character that you really want to read about. One of Maresca's best traits is his ability to infuse his characters with real lives and back stories. This is a really good book.
Satrine Rainey is used to deception and trickiness. She grew up on the gritty south streets of Inemar known as Tricki Trini, where she had to constantly fight to merely survive. An unknown father, a derelict mother, gangs, criminals and Idre Hoffer, a despicable girl, who tormented and bullied Satrine, were only some of challenges that she faced. Only the strong and the smart survived that life.
Plucked from that terrible life by Druth intelligence because of her resemblance to a dead enemy princess, she was trained by them and assumed the princess's life and provided intelligence to her country about an enemy. But that was some time ago, and most of the people in Inemar think she is dead.
Now she is living on the nicer side of Maradaine, the mother of two girls, one a fourteen year old, and it is them, and the fact that her constabulary husband has been attacked and beaten so bad that he is an invalid, that has led her to brazenly travel south across the Upper Bridge back into Inemar. Rainey needs money to live so her daughters do not have to live like she did when she was a young girl. Rainey claims to the head of the Inemar Constabulary and provides a forged note stating that she has been appointed an investigator - with its more significant salary - based on her intelligence work background. Her lie is believed and she becomes an investigator.
She joins Welling just as a cunning murderer brazenly kills a trained mage on a public street. While Rainey may need the money to help her family, she soon proves herself to Welling, showing a wit and intelligence that he never found in any of his former partners. In a confrontation with a gang who are accosting a young constabulary page, she also shows a flair for hand to hand combat as well. Rainey is a force to be reckoned with.
Maresca does not only focus on Rainey's life and her past, which all comes out in bits and pieces during the story, but also explores Welling's problems with his magic, which he does not know how to control but is unwilling to join a Circle of Mages, who will control him.
Welling and Rainey will make a convincing team in the hunt for the murderer, who will not stop killing until he is stopped. Several additional murders will occur, each brazenly staged. The murderer has magical weapons that work on mages.
When Welling becomes the next intended victim, it will be up to Rainey to figure out the killer's identity and try to rescue Welling before its too late.
This is the first tale about the Maradaine Constabulary. Maresca is writing another. We cannot wait. ...more
The trolls of Kanin, a land in Amanda Hocking's Frostfire, have come upon a nefarious way of keeping the royalty rich. They place replace human childrThe trolls of Kanin, a land in Amanda Hocking's Frostfire, have come upon a nefarious way of keeping the royalty rich. They place replace human children with troll children in rich human families, placing the human children in orphanages, and then when trolls reach adulthood, retrieve the fully grown trolls and use them to steal money from their families.
Bryn Aven is an outsider in Kanin society, her father was once a member of Kanin royalty, but he married a water troll and gave up his position. But he is still in a position of power as he has been elected by the people as the prime minister. Several years ago, her father was attacked by Konstantin Black, a rebellious troll that tried to kill him. Black escaped and has disappeared.
As a result of her family, Bryn is a half blood lacking the magical ability to blend into the surroundings that other Kanin trolls can use. But she is beautiful with blond hair and blue eyes. Bryn has chosen to become a tracker, a warrior charged with going into the human world, retrieving the troll children from their human families, and returning them to their rightful troll parents, thus enabling the kingdom to be rich.
Bryn does not see how wrong this program is and how hurtful it will be for the families who lose their children in the human world. Although her mother tells her, she refuses to listen.
So on one of her retrieval missions, she runs into Black, who tries to get her troll children target before Bryn can. It seems that Black is trying to either disrupt Kanin's plans or has some other nefarious plan.
When Kanin hears about this they assign Bryn to work with Ridley, the leader of the trackers and they go out to rescue other troll children. But close proximity to Ridley leads to romantic feelings for him, which Bryn does not want to acknowledge. There are other relationships with other Troll friends of Bryn.
Although Bryn does not listen to her mother about the injustices of the Kanin system, she inexplicably listens to Konstantin Black, who says there is more going on than she knows, and starts to wonder about Kanin and its society. There will be some other confrontations but the novel ends with a major cliffhanger and we will have to wait for the next volume.
In general I expected more from this light young adult fantasy. The magic was not there, both in the story and in my heart, which is too bad because Bryn Aven could be a good character. The big issue is that Bryn Aven is supporting an unjust system and hopefully in coming novels she will come to see that. ...more
Jennifer Estep’s Cold Burn of Magic is an exciting action packed young adult novel set in the fantastical town of Cloudburst Falls where magic and monJennifer Estep’s Cold Burn of Magic is an exciting action packed young adult novel set in the fantastical town of Cloudburst Falls where magic and monsters are a tourist attraction. This novel starts off with a bang with a burglary and hunt for the thief over the roof tops. Lila, the 17 year old thief, at the center of the novel, is a fresh character, with the kind of smart mouth, magical ability and fighting skills that seem to be the hallmark of coming of age novels. Sometimes the characters grow into their magic, other times they receive training. While we like our characters to have some skills too many sometimes are just not believable, especially when the character is only 17. However, since many of the characters have magical ability, there is less of that aha moment (as aha the major character has some special talent) and clearly Lila has received a lot of training in sword skills, lock picking and fighting from her mother.
After the successful robbery, the young thief is tending the counter at her fence’s shop when some young customer’s - a member of a Family, his friend and bodyguard are attacked. Moved by the attempted kidnapping, Lila jumps into the fray and rescues the young noble, but not before his bodyguard is killed. It turn out that he is Devon, the son and heir to the Sinclair family, which has been getting attacked regularly. Devon's father was killed in just such an attack.
Devon’s mother forces Lila to agree to guard her son for a year and Lila moves into the Sinclair family mansion, with her own pixie as a retainer, a cute cowboy booted hillbilly pixie, who is against Lila from the start. The pixie provides a source of comic relief, as does Lila’s eating habits. She is not one to take any crap from the various families and soon shows that she is no pushover. She may live on the wrong side of the tracks, but any Family member better watch their steps in dealing with her.
It seems the Devon is the target of a nefarious plot. Someone wants to kidnap him. He too has a magical talent, a rare and powerful talent, but with limitations. The kidnapper knows those limitations and uses his fore knowledge to his own advantage. Estep cleverly hides the bad guy in plain sight. There are plenty of other bad guys around including the Draconis family, the chief rival family to the Sinclairs, so its not so easy to figure out who is after Devon. But Lila also has skills, besides her fighting skills and a strong talent for sight, Lila has a powerful hidden talent, that she can use against other magic users.
But she soon finds that being a bodyguard in the Sinclair’s house leads to relationships and feelings. Feelings that she would rather not have. Her mother was not only a skilled swordswoman and bodyguard, but was killed because of it – when she got involved protecting a member of a Family from others. So Lila, thrust into the Sinclair family household tries to keep her growing attachment for Devon to herself.
In the end, Lila will have to trust to her unique magic skills and her understanding of the town’s monsters to help her figure out who is trying to kidnap Devon and stop him. Estep keeps the action and story lively. Lila is a fun character. Its a really quick read full of fun and action. ...more
The Whispering Skull is the terrific followup to Jonathan Stroud's The Screaming Staircase. Stroud has re-imagined England as beset by murdered VisitoThe Whispering Skull is the terrific followup to Jonathan Stroud's The Screaming Staircase. Stroud has re-imagined England as beset by murdered Visitors, who have been forcibly ejected from their mortal coil, but have not ascended to heaven or descended to hell, but are trapped on the earthly plane. Haunting people's houses and places, they must be rooted out by armed agents, who must find their Source - an object that had some resonance for the Visitor.
Lockwood & Co. are a teen team of Lucy Carlye, Anthony Lockwood and George Cubbins, who are ghost hunters taking contracts from people to help them get rid of the nefarious shades. As we know from the first book, Lockwood is a swordsman and dashing leader who likes action, Cubbins is more a researcher and Lucy is both good with a sword, plus has a unique psychic talent, which allows her to sense the intentions of the Visitors, but also to directly communicate with them. The whispering skull is a captured visitor in a locked ghost proof jar that has directly spoken to Lucy and may or may not help her in her adventures. Its hard to tell because who can trust an evil Visitor.
During an encounter with a Visitor, Cubbins is almost killed by the specter of Edmund Bickerstaff, a notorious grave digger of the evil renown. It seems that Bickerstaff created a magic mirror that some think can give you a glimpse of the other side. But that very night the mirror is stolen.
DEPRAC, the English government department that keeps Agencies in check and destroys the Sources, hires Lockwood & Co and Fittes Agency to try to track down the missing mirror. As there is no love lost between the two agencies, the swiftly bet on the outcome and try to track down the mirror.
This adventurous quest will lead them to a pungently smelling relic man, who hunts for actual sources to sell to people who want the illegal, and the larcenous Mr. Winkman, a fence for the well to do. All the while, Lucy is communicated with the skull, who seems to have known Bickerstaff when they both were alive.
If you are looking for deep character analysis, this is not your book. But if you want action sequences, fast footed and quick thinking, creepy good fun, youthful protagonists, bravery, wittiness and great storytelling, then this is a book for you and your children.
I liked it better than the first, but both are equally good. ...more