The urban fantasy field is a smorgasbord of different sub genres. A fan can read books about characters who are werewolves, vampire hunters, wizards,The urban fantasy field is a smorgasbord of different sub genres. A fan can read books about characters who are werewolves, vampire hunters, wizards, half human half demons, or shapeshifters. New authors are always entering the field, and the book covers are replete with vampire huntresses with armed with a sword or automatic. In an overcrowded field, the trick is not only to find good books but interesting stories with new types of characters.
Enter Gigi Pandian, a new author with an urban fantasy mystery novel, "The Accidental Alchemist" about a reluctant alchemist who has bought a rundown house in Oregon, thought to be haunted, to hide out. Zoe, who has discovered the fountain of youth, has been running from her past and hopes to make a fresh start in Oregon. The story starts out with a bang. There are three unwelcome visitors to her house, a murder and a disappearing spellbook.
Before Zoe can even get her boxes unpacked, she finds a living gargoyle hiding in one of her crates, Dorian, who knows about her secret life. He wants her help because the spell that is animating him seems to be unraveling. He has a spellbook that may hold the secret, but before they can delve into it, Zoe finds, Brixton, a 14 year old boy, hiding in another room. Brixton, who entered the house on the sly, has overheard Zoe and Dorian talking. Next Liu a local cop knocks on the door. He wants to arrest Brixton. After Zoe temporarily gets rid of Brixton and Liu, Dorian shows Zoe the alchemist spell book, Zoe agrees to review it, but before she can, it is stolen, and a contractor, that Zoe hired to fix up her rundown home is left dead on her doorstep. Zoe immediately guesses poison.
Initially while fending off Brixton's attempts to disclose the talking gargoyle living with Zoe, and after co-opting his silence, Zoe, Dorian and Brixton try to find the missing spellbook and solve the contractor's murder. Pandian has a deft hand at displaying interesting details about her characters. Dorian shows a talented hand at cooking and since Zoe is a vegan, you can see how a chef would handle that food choices, but equal compelling is Zoe's attempts to come to grips with her past. She has lost loved ones in the past and had chosen to run from her alchemist talent. But now she needs it to solve murder and help heal people, bespelled by evil.
Pandian's exploration of Zoe's past is also a window into story of alchemy in general. But there is much more to this story. There is a smuggling ring, deadly herbs and drugs. The story goes in and out of focus a little, but always comes back to the central plot. It will take force Zoe to once again return to the practice of actual alchemy, help of her young friend Brixton and her gargoyle Dorian to uncover the thief, the murderer and a criminal conspiracy
This artful urban fantasy is short on actual magic casting but long on criminal mystery, intricate plotting and murder. I will be on the lookout for the next urban fantasy mystery blend from Gigi Pandian....more
David Coe's latest novel is Spellblind, another murder mystery set in a urban fantasy setting. Justis Fearsson is a weremyste, a wizard who suffers psDavid Coe's latest novel is Spellblind, another murder mystery set in a urban fantasy setting. Justis Fearsson is a weremyste, a wizard who suffers psychosis attacks during the three days of the full moon. Fearson used to be a cop, before his episodic breakdowns forced him from the police force. Fearsson is still learning about his powers and his runecrafting or spellcasting. His teacher is Namid, an otherworldly and ghostly runemyste, from the counsel of weremystes. Now he makes his living as a private investigator finding lost kids, but he still has friends on the force, like his ex-partner Kona Shaw. The fact that Fearsson has episodic breaks with reality is an interesting built in conceit, but seems added to the story to make being a weremyste that much harder. It forms a central element of the story hindering Fearsson's relationships, life and taking a toll on his father as well.
After finding a missing girl, Fearsson receives a call from Shaw. A serial killer who killed 30 people that Shaw and Fearsson had been tracking before Fearsson was forced off the force has struck again. Shaw, who knows about Fearsson's powers wants him to examine the murder scene to see if it bears the killer's magical signature. Unlike most of the victims of the killer, this victim is important because her father is a powerful Senator.
Fearsson gets hired by an aide to the Senator to investigate the case from the outside. The killer, another weremyste seems to be getting stronger as he kills. Fearsson uncovers clues to the mysterious killer by tracking down other magic users. Namid also helps because the killer seems to be targeting Fearsson, so Coe gets to show how Fearsson trains to use his magic.
While investigating, he gets involved with a pretty blogger. Is she the one, or just using him for a story.
The story has a few red herrings as the cops capture someone, who they want to believe is the killer, but is not.
Soon the killer is after Fearsson, who will have the battle of his life to stop him. He will have to harness his growing power to battle the much stronger wizard.
While Fearsson is an interesting character, battling the demons of his weremyste life, some of the plot twists did not work for me. The killer toys with Fearsson in one scene, and a woman dies in another. More importantly the end confrontation did not ring true.
Spellblind is a good start to this urban fantasy story, but in this over-saturated field, Coe will need to up his game to hook more readers to his latest series.
'Trace of Magic' by Diane Pharaoh Francis hits the sweet spot between romantic urban fantasy, detecting and action is a fast paced exciting read imbue'Trace of Magic' by Diane Pharaoh Francis hits the sweet spot between romantic urban fantasy, detecting and action is a fast paced exciting read imbued with both wit and humor. Her main character Riley Hollis is a quick thinking firebrand who rocks her world and this fusion of magic and mayhem is nearly unputdownable. Coupled with some extensive world building, this first book in a brand new series is a fast paced exciting read.
Riley is a tracer, who uses her magical ability to follow the magical trace left by people who disappear. Hiding beneath the radar and keeping her superior magical abilities a secret, because the Tyet, the local mob killed her mother, she ekes out an existence finding the lost.
Now Clay Price, a cop, who also works for the hated Tyet, comes to her with an assignment because he wants someone outside the usual channels. Price thinks Riley is a hack, a minor league talent, that he can use without alerting others. Meanwhile, Hollis's sister wants Riley to find Josh, her on again boyfriend who has disappeared. Riley is forced into helping Price because she does not want to reveal her power and they join forces, but Price soon discovers that Riley is much more powerful that he or anyone else knew.
The fireworks between the two characters is only matched by the fireworks and action. Riley proves her mettle and gradually reveals her power to Price and others. But besides the romantic sparks between Riley and Price and the action, Francis is quick with an artfully turned phrase and humor.
The cover art and blurbs, and the humorous first few pages of this book beguiled. So much so that on a recent book store visit, armed with a gift cardThe cover art and blurbs, and the humorous first few pages of this book beguiled. So much so that on a recent book store visit, armed with a gift card, I succumbed to the allure of the cover and my past experience with other Wen Spencer novels.
This seemed to be shaping up as an the action adventure urban fantasy set in Japan facing demons in a Japanese mythological battle, with samurai swords and monsters, and maybe that was where this story was going, but after 40% read, it was bogged down in a completely different scenario. The main character seemed to be able to create characters by writing them, there was a murder, mysterious characters appeared and the humor was not there at all.
The gumshoe in urban fantasy. Its a magical partnership when done well. Ari Marmell is trying to tap into the Dresden files fan base with his new elfThe gumshoe in urban fantasy. Its a magical partnership when done well. Ari Marmell is trying to tap into the Dresden files fan base with his new elf gumshoe mystery, and he almost gets it totally right. Hot Lead, Cold Iron is a good read, with a great setting, mafia and gangsters and some great villains, but there were a couple of things that just annoyed me.
Mick Oberon is the gumshoe in question. The setting is 1930s Chicago, a world full of gangsters. Obernon, an elf prince, has left his aes sidhe world and relocated to the human world. He works as a private detective using his wand to manipulate luck and taking on jobs that interest him and earning -- knickknacks. Apparently, Oberon has a magical sense that the objects can be useful. But in this entire novel, not one of those so called useful knickknacks are useful. So what gives.
Instead, Obernon needs cash money to help a friend so takes a case to find out what happened to the daughter of a head member of the Outfit, who was replaced by a changeling. But its been sixteen years. He must travel back to Elphame and the Chicago Otherworld and finds himself trading favors with the evil Queen Mob (Again, you just know this is a plot devise because even we neophyte human readers know you do not promise a future favor to an evil elf). It turns out that the girl in question is back in Chicago.
Obernon will have to track down the gangsters daughter with the help of the gangsters in question. The person who switched the changeling and human child will be a surprise and the reason for it -- a feud with gangsters from the old country, is a little much.
Whats to like in this new urban fantasy detective story - the setting is top notch. Marmell 1930s milieu is pitch perfect. The gunfights, mobsters, coppers and other citizens of Chicago and Elphame are on target. Obernon and his trusty Luchtaine & Goodfello Model 1592 wand are a good combination. There is sly humor, good dialogue and a good plot, but I just did not like the lead in to the story, I did not like the bargain with Queen Mob and I am not sure the whole "luck" manipulation works.
However, I will be first on line to get the next book because there are just too many other good things in this magical detective mashup to skip.
Daisy Johanssen is back in "Autumn Bones" the second supernatural urban fantasy adventure in Jacqueline Carey's Agent of Hel series. It is a read to yDaisy Johanssen is back in "Autumn Bones" the second supernatural urban fantasy adventure in Jacqueline Carey's Agent of Hel series. It is a read to you drop off to sleep, wake up and read again until done type of book. Especially if you like action, romance and things that go bump in the night.
Daisy lives in Pemkowet, a town in the Midwest that has become monster central - werewolves, vampires, sprites, demons, ghosts and gods all make their home there, including Daisy's liege, the Norse Goddess Hel. Daisy, who acts as an enforcer for Hel with the supernatural inhabitants of Pemkowet, also helps out the cops, with her partner Cody Fairfax, a werewolf, when an investigation take a supernatural turn. Daisy herself is the daughter of a demon.
While Daisy has been dating Sinclair Palmer, a nice normal human guy from Jamaica, she still has the hots for Fairfax, a boy she had a crush on in school. But Fairfax has to marry a were so is supposedly not interested in Daisy. Or is he? Then again Daisy could also end up with a ghoul, a supernatural undead being who has been rejected by both Hell and Heaven and feeds on human emotion. It seems that Stefan, the 600 year old leader of the ghouls is linked to Daisy, and also has the hots for her. Its a classic supernatural plot line -- who will Daisy end up with - the wolf, the ghoul or the human.
Hold everything, because Sinclair's sister Emmy visits Pemkowet with a threat to Daisy and the inhabitants. It seems that Sinclair is the scion of a powerful sorceress and Emmy -- is the evil yin to her twin brother's good yang. She needs him back in Jamaica to reach her potential. She and her mother threaten to use black spirit magic to wreck ruin on Pemkowet and force Sinclair to return to Jamaica.
Daisy is also involved in creating a computer list to keep track of all of the various supernatural beings and the debts she owes them and vice versa. She teams up with Lee, a computer wunderkind from high school in a fun side note to the main story. Lee will get more than he bargained when he teams up with Daisy.
Throw in Daisy's best friend's sister who has been made into a vampire, a suspicious character in town, who is using demon skills to influence the human inhabitants to sell property, a jealous little sprite who attacks Daisy over her affair with Sinclair and a local coven of witches, who will have to fight Jamaican magic, and you have a veritable witchy brew of magic, mayhem and supernatural characters to dine on. Add in Carey's distinctive writing and its bound to be good.
It is fun. Some may think the story is marred a bit by the romance angle. Somehow, a lot of these supernatural books turn to romance as an essential part of the plot. But this book is too good. It is such a fast read, and Carey has got good characters, good action and a good heroine.
I will be visiting Pemkowet again and often. So should you....more
A standard fantasy plot is the mundane person transported to a magical world, where s/he picks up magic and saves the day. Awakenings, a noir urban faA standard fantasy plot is the mundane person transported to a magical world, where s/he picks up magic and saves the day. Awakenings, a noir urban fantasy fusion with mystery elements turns that standard trope on its head. In this darkish fantasy, guards, wizards and the prince of the realm escaped from a war zone in the magical world to our world, but then had their memories wiped
Now, several years later, Daniel the prince is living in an abusive home, Cal MacDonnell, the head guard is a NYPD cop and Seth Raincrest, an apprentice wizard, is a pornographer. None of them have any memory of their past lives.
But two sorcerers enter our world to try to find the prince. The bad guys are led by Dorn, who hires Colby, an indicted dirty copy to find the prince. Dorn proves his evilness immediately by stealing Colby's beating heart right out of his chest in order to "motivate" him to help.
Dorn's minions also go after Cal and Seth and try to kill them. Lelani, a centaur wizard, representing the realm finds and saves them, but not before Seth loses his roommate and Cal his partner. While Cal is accepting and Seth is not as trusty, both come with baggage. Cal is married to Cat, a strong woman, and has a young child, and Seth has made a mockery of his life.
Meanwhile, the lost prince Daniel, has to try to deal with his abusive father, bullies in school and saving a girl from a mean boyfriend. There is plenty of action as Cal, Seth and Leilani look for other guardians and come under fire from Dorn.
This very adult fantasy pulls no punches. Evil is clearly evil. Characters have depth and real human problems to deal with, while trying to come to grips with a life completely forgotten. This is not Harry Potter lite, but Lazellari tells a good hard nosed tale with real characters. The characters breathe on the page.
Phillipa Bornikova burst onto the urban fantasy stage with the original well written and intriguing urban fantasy legal thriller This Case is Gonna KiPhillipa Bornikova burst onto the urban fantasy stage with the original well written and intriguing urban fantasy legal thriller This Case is Gonna Kill Me. A fusion of the traditional legal thriller, but set in the urban fantasy supernatural landscape. with vampire, werewolves and elves, Bornikova's first novel was a real page turner and set the bar very high for similar novels.
Box Office Poison, Bornikova's followup in this Linnet Ellery series, is a good legal mystery about a series of odd murders. Ellery is in Los Angeles to help her vampire boss arbitrate a dispute between human actors and elves. It seems the human actors are missing out at castings. Could the elves be using some form of magic to influence the outcome of the casting calls? One of the leading actors of the time and the president of the Screen Actors Guild has brought an action.
Meanwhile, in a O.J. Simpson like turn of events, a famous elf actor has been arrested after a long road chase for killing his wife.
While at the set of a movie, Ellery witnesses another elf actress open fire with an assortment of weapons.
Ellery thinks there is something strange about the two elf murder incidents and investigates. It is a fast paced investigation with a lot of action. However, the actual villain was pretty obvious early on to this reader.
Moreover, Bornikova keeps dropping hints in the text about some supernatural power that Ellery has, but leaves that issue in a cliff hanger. Its clear that something is helping Ellery out.
I am not a big fan of the unresolved hinting of some "power".
Its a good book, but it loses something in comparison to the first novel.
Elysian Fields is another sure fire hit in Suzanne Johnson's "Sentinels of New Orleans" supernatural urban fantasy series.
Like the Patricia Briggs "MElysian Fields is another sure fire hit in Suzanne Johnson's "Sentinels of New Orleans" supernatural urban fantasy series.
Like the Patricia Briggs "Mercy Thompson" series and Jim Butcher's "Dresden Files" series, Johnson builds on what we have learned about DJ, her half elven green witch with untold magical potential by having her face off against different supernatural bad guys in each novel. Comparisons to early Mercy Thompson or Dresden File books are very apt. Filled with werewolves, vampires and the prete or preternatural dead, Johnson's own addition to the usual battery of monsters, the series has all of the elements of another winning entry in the urban fantasy landscape. If you have not tried this series, you are missing out. The Pretes are beings that, although dead, still live on in the Beyond. Jean LaFitte, the legendary pirate and rake and Louis Armstrong, the musician are but two of the Pretes that are able to travel to real New Orleans from the Beyond.
DJ is a young beautiful wizard with enhanced powers based on her elven blood and her possession of the Mahout, a rare elven fire staff. She and her partner, Alex Warin, a werewolf, and his brother Jake Warin, a loup-garou (bigger meaner werewolf) are tasked with solving supernatural crimes committed by the other supernatural races.
In Elysian Fields, DJ Jaco learns of a series of violent murders in New Orleans, which bear the hallmarks of a series of murders committed by a the Axeman, a legendary killer from the past. DJ is afraid that the Axeman has come through from the Beyond and that the fear of his possible victims is making it ever easier to come across.
While she grapples with trying to stop the Axeman and his powerful necromancer ally, she is also confronted with a host of other issues from the leaders of the elves, who want to examine her (or kill her) regarding her use of the Mahout; a possible exposure to the loup garou venom, the love interest of Alex Warin; taking lessons with the Mahout from Adrian Hoffman, a fellow wizard; the odd possessory interest of Quince Randolph in her and the local vampire L'Amour Savage. If these are not enough problems, it seems that the Axeman is targeting her specifically as his latest victim.
Johnson swirls a lot of the usual suspects together and produces another compelling narrative filled with interesting characters, an entertaining plot and story.