There's only one reason you're reading this review: you want to know if the last (for now) book in the series is worth it. If you liked the series pre...moreThere's only one reason you're reading this review: you want to know if the last (for now) book in the series is worth it. If you liked the series previously, you'll like the last installment. Seregil and Alec are up to their old schemes--they may not be in Skala the entire book, but they have to deal with some pretty nasty magic, and there are some heartbreaking moments interspersed with witty banter along the way. As opposed to quite a lot of fantasy novels out there, the title makes sense pretty quickly.
Per usual, Seregil and Alec manage to find themselves in the middle of a magical catastrophe that might just engulf their world in unending darkness. I'm not sure if it was just the fact that I've read a lot of fantasy so I picked up the clues quicker, or the author was being a little more blatant about the plot, but I felt like everything was laid out clearly and I picked up the twist as the points were revealed. Apparently S&A are suckers for the darker magics coming after them, but you should expect that type of story by now. New readers will probably enjoy the plot anyway, but there are lots of details a veteran will appreciate. I reread the whole series before reading this one, and I'm glad I did, because I caught all those little tidbits for the true fans. I also realized just how much the author puts her characters through; it was particularly hard to read the parts of SHARDS where the characters are going hungry (or worse, thinking they've eaten something truly horrible), and there are plenty of wounds, both physical and mental, that must be healed.
I went through this book pretty fast, and felt that the ending was a satisfying way to cap the series. This book won't change anyone's mind about the series, but it's a good solid fantasy read. I enjoyed the interaction between S&A and the other characters; everyone seemed to have a reason to be there in the middle of all the magic, and they acted as realistically as they could when confronted with ghosts and darker things. The end of the book is open, though not a cliffhanger. Readers will have to believe that our heroes will go on with their lives, happy. If you like the series as a whole, you should read this one and finish the Nightrunner experience.
Received as a free digital ARC via Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.(less)
THORN JACK is a bit of a mind trip. The setting is suitably trippy, the characters are realistic even if they aren't human, and the romance is torture...moreTHORN JACK is a bit of a mind trip. The setting is suitably trippy, the characters are realistic even if they aren't human, and the romance is tortured. There were points when the writing seemed unnecessarily drawn out, but I couldn't stop reading. Our heroine, Finn, moves to Fair Hollow with her father for his teaching job, and to escape painful memories of her sister's suicide and her mother's death. So we have a fish out of water story right off--but something is different in Fair Hollow. Something sinister, even supernatural. And then Finn meets Jack, and his friends--and Finn becomes caught up in something out of a fairy tale, and not a Disney one.
There are a lot of elements in THORN JACK that will remind readers of other books. The university echoes Hogwarts, the romance treads close to TWILIGHT territory, and the plot, with its labyrinthine politics and shifting loyalties, will call to mind Shakespeare's tragedies. The story itself is based on the fairy tale of Tam Lin, which I've never actually gotten around to looking up, and I should, since a lot of stories use it as a foundation. The characters have realistic lives, and the atmosphere is evocative and dark (which really should be a clue to anyone; when all the houses look abandoned but play host to awesome, hallucinogenic parties, shouldn't you be suspicious?). Sometimes I was frustrated with the pace of the novel; at one point I would be reading pretty fast, and be interested, but other points the story would turn convoluted and loop back on itself ("hey, wait, didn't she already do that?"), and my reading speed (and my enjoyment) took a dive. Occasionally the descriptions delved into creepy visuals, sometimes breaking me out of the story with the shock.
For a debut novel, THORN JACK is pretty good. The plot could use a little tightening, and the magic needs a more solid base. There are more stories in this world, so maybe we'll find out who (what?) the Fatas really are in a future novel. If you like your dark fantasy with a side of gothic mythology, check out THORN JACK. I'm interested to see what else this author has to say.
Received as a free digital ARC via Edleweiss in exchange for an honest review.(less)
I didn't realize this was another book by Cayla Kluver. I didn't like her character names in her first series, and I don't like them now. Usually char...moreI didn't realize this was another book by Cayla Kluver. I didn't like her character names in her first series, and I don't like them now. Usually character names seem like they fit together. Or if they don't, you know that character is from another place, and it makes sense. Here, all the names are weird, and they toss me out of the story every time. I had other books to read and gave up on this one, and I'm not too sorry I did.(less)
It's been a long time since I've read any books in the SHANNARA series, but THE HIGH DRUID'S BLADE promised to be a stand-alone, so I gave it a try. I...moreIt's been a long time since I've read any books in the SHANNARA series, but THE HIGH DRUID'S BLADE promised to be a stand-alone, so I gave it a try. It was funny reading some place and character names and having that little ringing bell in the back of my mind: didn't I read about that sometime long ago? It didn't matter, though, because this book does seem to stand on its own (it's the start of a new series). Readers more familiar with the world will probably appreciate the callbacks to other books, but for me, this clipped along like a typical fantasy. I enjoyed reading it, though it was a bit slow to get started. It really harks back to fantasy I read when I was younger: the plot is boy with a magic sword on a quest to save his sister. This is probably what made the beginning slow for me, since you read through all the bits about "there once was magic and now there's not, but here's this ancestral sword, and I have to use it as a weapon--and oh, look, it does magical things!" While not written badly, lots of books do this, and there's only so many times you can read similar passages before it gets a little boring.
Once we get into the rescuing phase, however, the action picks up. Time speeds along as our MC, Paxon, realizes he needs training after a sound thrashing by the villain, and Paxon goes to the druids (who have political machinations of their own). But wouldn't you know it, Paxon's sister gets kidnapped (again, by the same baddie), and now that he has the skills to take the villain on, he takes off in his airship to do so. Here's where the story turns dark: mind manipulation and magic come together to make for some scenes that will make you squirm, and a pretty satisfying finale. Obviously, given that this is the first in a series, there is more to tell.
This book makes me want to search out the old SHANNARA books I have and see if any of them aren't third in a series. If I come across the next book in this series, I'll take a look at it too. Terry Brooks may be recycling well-used writing tropes, but he does it well, and obviously people like his stories, so I guess he's onto something.(less)
I've encountered Jaye Wells in a few urban fantasy anthologies that I've read, but this is my first full-length novel by her, and I'll definitely be l...moreI've encountered Jaye Wells in a few urban fantasy anthologies that I've read, but this is my first full-length novel by her, and I'll definitely be looking for more. DIRTY MAGIC equates alchemical potions to the drug problem prevalent in any run-down city, with MC Kate Prospero as a cop on the beat trying to keep the citizens safe from magical menace. She has a history with a bad boy made good, the mayor's darling, and of course they are forced to work together to keep a new, dangerous potion off the street. Kate used to cook dirty magic herself (so called since it's done without the benefit of clean water or sterile conditions) but a death in her family has made her swear off cooking forever. This is the source of many a moral quandary during the book, though Kate's deliberations are realistic and not too much of a flip-flop.
This is straight-up urban fantasy, so there is plenty of streetwise magic and a healthy dollop of romance with a good mystery and lots of background. Kate reminds me of Kate Beckett from the TV show Castle, working hard for what she believes in and protecting those she loves. The "cooking" is a nice mix of scientific principles and alchemy, and sounds believable to this scientist. The side characters are memorable and often funny. I read DIRTY MAGIC fast, and happily, and would gladly check out the next book in the series.
Received as a free digital ARC via Netgalley and the publisher.(less)
MISTLETOE AND MAGIC is a fun Victorian-in-America novella. It's nominally part of a series, though I didn't feel left behind by not reading the first...moreMISTLETOE AND MAGIC is a fun Victorian-in-America novella. It's nominally part of a series, though I didn't feel left behind by not reading the first two books. The writing is fun, if sometimes overly descriptive. It was a little annoying to hear the female MC repeatedly characterized as beautiful, even by her own self. We get it--she's pretty, I don't need headhopping to remind me. But aside from that, the story was playful and romantic, with just a little touch of the paranormal. Penelope Appleton's sisters play at spiritualism, but Penelope can actually see glimpses of the future. She knew her sisters would marry their future husbands, and she knows she will encounter her soul mate at a Christmas party. However, when she meets the enigmatic and rich Jared, she glimpses his death. Will Penelope be able to avert this tragedy? Will Jared's upbringing and potential keep him from wooing the middle-class Penelope? Since this is a romantic novella, it's not a spoiler to say there is a happy ending, but it's not too cheesy, and the Christmas theme made me smile. The Victorian New York setting is nicely described, and the characters all have personality, even though there isn't much room to elaborate. If I come across the first books in the series, I would probably give them a look, given the playful tone of this novella.
Received as a free digital ARC via Netgalley and the publisher.(less)