THE LEOPARD left me conflicted. I tell my fellow NaNoWriMo writers to "start in the middle," because it throws the reader into the plot, theoretically...moreTHE LEOPARD left me conflicted. I tell my fellow NaNoWriMo writers to "start in the middle," because it throws the reader into the plot, theoretically in an interesting place. This book certainly did that, though the caveat to the aforementioned writing advice is that you have to inform your readers later in the book so they know what was going on beforehand. I don't feel like THE LEOPARD ever really explained very much, which affected my enjoyment of the book. It seemed like it could be part of a larger story, one that I wasn't familiar with, and sometimes that shook me out of the story. It sounds like there is a book related to this world that possibly explains backstory for characters we see in THE LEOPARD, but I had no idea about that when I picked up the book from Edelweiss (it's marked as book one in a series, after all!). I wish I had read that, honestly, because I think I would have liked the book more.
Also, I don't feel the blurb does this book justice. True, the first part does deal with The Leopard, an assassin who carries a curse in his essentially-immortal life, and just wants to be rid of it. We also meet his servant/partner, a simple man who is more than he seems; but just what that more is, we don't learn, which is really frustrating. Then the book delves into the lives of a completely different set of characters, again with hints at backstory which I feel I should know, but never do. This split makes the blurb seem odd, since it mainly focuses on the assassin, which a small bit about the other characters. I've read that this is really just part one of a two book series that really should just be one big book. I can't fault the publishers for that too much--I understand printing costs and other things like that, but I feel like too much was left for book two.
Now, it sounds like I'm bashing the book. It's actually very well written, and the world-building is stellar. It's not just another medieval-esque setting as typical of most fantasy novels out there, but instead has an interesting Middle-Eastern desert vibe. The gods and goddesses of this world are real, if perhaps not directly involved in everyday life. And when one character has an up close and personal interaction with one of them (or does she?), the author depicts the crazy-making of such an event with loving detail. Indeed, there is plenty of loving detail for all sorts of things in the book, and this makes for lyrical passages that are quite nice, and action scenes that are punchy. I just feel like the characters needed more motives (why are half of them doing what they're doing?).
I would highly recommend reading the previous related book for more backstory before reading this one, or wait until the next book comes out and read them together. It's a good story, but it seems like something is missing.
Received as a free digital ARC via Edelweiss and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.(less)
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)
THE DRAGON'S BOY is a sweet, short retelling of the King Arthur mythos. It's similar to the Disney movie "The Sword In the Stone" but it reshapes thin...moreTHE DRAGON'S BOY is a sweet, short retelling of the King Arthur mythos. It's similar to the Disney movie "The Sword In the Stone" but it reshapes things like Merlin and that sword in subtly different ways. For such a short book, there's quite a large twist at the end, but it's an interesting one. Sick of being bullied by the older boys at Sir Ector's small castle, Artos is happy to find a dragon who offers him wisdom in exchange for pots of gravy with meat. Artos complies, and learns, but soon is able to take his place with the other boys and ignores the dragon and its wisdom for a while. Of course, Artos eventually wants the dragon's help, but what he finds there is not what he expects. This is a short story, so we don't see how Artos incorporates his hard-earned lessons, but they are good ones, presented in novel ways. If you are a fan of King Arthur mythology, you'll enjoy this quick reimagining of how he gained the wisdom to become great.
Received as a free digital ARC via Netgalley and the publisher.(less)
REDEMPTION tells the story of Reya, a redeemer, an angel-like being who comes to sinners before their deaths and asks if they would like to repent. If...moreREDEMPTION tells the story of Reya, a redeemer, an angel-like being who comes to sinners before their deaths and asks if they would like to repent. If they do, they are allowed to ascend to another level of being (though they still die), and if not--they are sent to hell. REDEMPTION also follows Thane (sorry, but I hate that name, since it reminds me of medieval and Viking history and is usually a title, not a given name), a cop who likes to bend the rules to get justice. It turns out that Thane and Reya have a complicated history that goes back lifetimes, and Thane could be the key to saving the world or sending the entire planet into chaos.
The story isn't religious, or at least isn't Christian-religious. It's more about karma and bettering one's lot (or making it darker, perhaps). It makes you think philosophically--what if the world itself is moving toward the next plane of existence, instead of just its inhabitants? The bad guy doesn't want his comfortable, evil world to disappear, and the balance can be tipped by the choices we make. A reader will also find a mystery subplot along with the malevolent antagonist, and some well-developed side characters in Martin and Orson. Sometimes the plot moves slowly and while the worldbuilding is well done, the reader has to wait perhaps overly long before things are revealed. There is plenty of lust in this novel, but it's not a romance; the main characters do get together, but the story unfolds without them having to get into bed.
I would have liked to see more of Reya's job as a Redeemer, but the story turns into a save-the-guy, save-the-world plot, which is well done, but sort of a switch from what I expected. The ending is quite wrenching, but ends happily; a sort of turnout that I appreciate. It also doesn't leave huge plot threads dangling like a lot of first books in a series are doing nowadays--the ending leaves things open for more story, but it doesn't leave the reader teetering on a cliff. Good for urban fantasy lovers and those who like a little metaphysical philosophy in their fiction. Falls right into my three-stars category: good enough for me to finish, but I probably won't read again.
Received as a free digital ARC via Netgalley and the publisher.(less)
This book has been out for a while, and I heard mixed things about it. But it still has an awesome cover (though different than the one I first saw) a...moreThis book has been out for a while, and I heard mixed things about it. But it still has an awesome cover (though different than the one I first saw) and the blurb is intriguing, if vague. It wasn't a bad story, and I finished it rather quickly, but I can see why people were iffy about it. For a while I wondered if there will be any paranormal events in the novel, then they show up, and I wondered why they were there.
The Furies show up in this little town, intent on revenge for teens' misdeeds (but the misdeeds aren't towards the Furies themselves). They go after bullies and gossipers and (almost) adulterers, but we never know why. Who set them on this course of "justice," and why are they hanging around Maine? Are they the real Greek Furies, after all this time, or are they tormented witches, bound through the ages to wreak revenge? Why do they pick those they punish? Yes, the characters they choose have done bad things (with varying degrees of badness), but most folks would agree, and the author even points out, that an eye for an eye results in a bunch of blind people. We just never find out why the Furies are doing what they're doing, and the ways they seek redress for trespasses seem disproportionate to the crimes. Maybe we'll find out in the next book, so I guess I'll have to search it out to find the answers to my questions.
Look out, it's a self-published book! SHADOW OF TIME avoids most of the worst of self-pub, but it has some inconsistencies, like the way the dialogue...moreLook out, it's a self-published book! SHADOW OF TIME avoids most of the worst of self-pub, but it has some inconsistencies, like the way the dialogue of the characters changes. I keep expecting the main character to actually look Native American, and the cover really had me confused for a while (eventually, the butterfly will make sense). The relationships between the characters are well crafted, and it's nice to get a sense of history from the story. The author mentions she's never been to the US, let alone Dine (Navajo) Nation, so her research skills are clearly top-notch.
The romance is a little weird--at first it seems like a bit of cradle-robbing, but once the story plays out it isn't so squicky--and smacks of insta-love at the beginning, though that at least has a reason behind it. The beginning of the story also drags a bit; it took me a few days to read the first two hundred pages, but the pace ramps up as the book reaches its climax.
The author does a good job of tying all her characters together, and the reader is left spinning along with the protagonist when bombshells are dropped. The historical parts of this novel made it worth the read. It's also nice that all the loose ends are tied up at the end of this novel; I don't read very many stand-alone books nowadays, because there just aren't that many of them! Kudos to the author for not ending with a cliffhanger. With the author's grasp of history, though, I'm pretty sure she can figure out another story to tell with these characters.
Received as a free digital ARC via Netgalley.(less)
BLOOD OF THE LAMB is essentially THE DA VINCI CODE with vampires. These genetic mutants could conceivably be swapped out with any other secret society...moreBLOOD OF THE LAMB is essentially THE DA VINCI CODE with vampires. These genetic mutants could conceivably be swapped out with any other secret society and you'd still get an interesting treasure hunt. Despite that, I enjoyed this book, especially the scenes where the two main characters are running around Rome looking for hidden pages torn out of a book of centuries-old poetry. The writing is well-done, and doesn't have any jarring sections where it's noticeable that one author switches to another (the author is a pseudonym of a mystery writer and a professor).
I suppose the novel tries to turn vampirism on its head, what with it being a mutation, and tries to stay away from tropes like garlic (though they don't like bright light and shy from fire). But their enhanced senses and super-speed don't make these vampires stand out from, say, elves or werewolves in other fantasy novels.
Other reviews have called this a cross between THE HISTORIAN and the aforementioned CODE, but I was never able to get through THE HISTORIAN (it's currently supporting a lamp in my living room), whereas I finished this book in a few days. This type of book always has a twist, and the twist in this one is pretty big (although the title is apt, and I wasn't far off in my guess). I'm sure that if any very religious folks read this book it would mess with their heads, but honestly, there have been enough books like this where a fundamental truth of a certain religion is exposed, that it's almost not surprising.
The setting is lush and well described, and the relationship between the two main characters is suitably strained, as one is a Vatican librarian and the other a vampire. Plenty of times I found myself asking "what is this character doing?" or "how is this plotline going to fall out?" The writing isn't as simplistic as the DA VINCI CODE, which is nice. If you want a page-turner that might make you think about the impact of vampires on Catholicism, check this out, but don't read it if your faith is shaky (or your imagination can get the better of you).
Received as a free digital ARC via Netgalley and the publisher, though finished as a library book.(less)
I'm not quite sure what to think about POISON PRINCESS. On one hand, it has an interesting premise (people represent Tarot cards and have to battle to...moreI'm not quite sure what to think about POISON PRINCESS. On one hand, it has an interesting premise (people represent Tarot cards and have to battle to the top) and some pretty steamy relationships, but on the other hand, it had so much unrealistic characterization and took so long to get around to the Tarot bit that I had trouble reading. Eventually the title makes sense and the writing is revealed as not being as convoluted as it seemed at first, but man, does it take its time getting there.
Amazingly, the many disparate elements come together at the end (which, of course, is wide open for the sequel): the SUPER spoiled rich girl who name drops at the least opportunity but spent time in an asylum because she hallucinates; the Cajun bad boy from the far, far other side of the tracks with the sexy accent and the continual hard-on; the serial killer; the water-stealing apocalypse; not-hallucinated people with shocking new powers; plants; poison (there it is!); violence; THE FUGITIVE-worthy running; romance; and finally, comeuppance.
The writing isn't bad, and the story moves along. It just has a LOT of backstory. We're told that the apocalypse happened, and people now have strange powers to compensate, but the majority of the story seems like what happened just before and just after the "event" instead of getting straight into the Tarot bit. And though plenty of plants are poisonous, it takes a while to realize that our heroine will be able to use her newfound abilities to similar use.
Some people will object to the alpha-male persona of the male lead, and while I'm not fond of guys who can't keep it in their pants, at least nothing worse than heavy petting happened without consent. The author is well-known for her adult romances, after all, and such alpha personalities are common in that genre. It's a fine line between steamy and troublesome, and this book may cross it for some people. It seems like most characters in this book are insulting and crass and unlikely to think before they speak, sometimes even approaching bullying. Perhaps that adds to the story's realism.
The beginning and ending of this book were gripping, and because I'm very intrigued by the Tarot premise, I may look for the next book. But there needs to be much less high-school angst and more magic for me to continue. We've only met a fraction of the Tarot, so there is plenty of room for sequels. I hope now that the apocalypse is out of the way and the backstory is told, the story gets good.
Received s a free digital ARC via the publisher's Pulseit program.(less)
I love Kevin Hearne. His books are always funny and fast-paced, easy escape reads. They're not fluff, though. Hunted continues this tradition. The tit...moreI love Kevin Hearne. His books are always funny and fast-paced, easy escape reads. They're not fluff, though. Hunted continues this tradition. The title is apt, because Atticus and co. are literally on the run from some vengeful goddesses of the hunt. As if that wasn't enough, everyone's favorite crazy Norse god Loki wants to rampage too. I have a soft spot for Herne, the Celtic Hunter god, and guess what? He shows up too! Do you have a favorite god from world mythology? I bet you can find that pantheon here!
Having just started running 5ks with some regularity, I shudder at the idea of running across Europe. Granted, Atticus, Granuaile, and Oberon (there has never been a funnier doggie sidekick) have some tricks to make the run less like an ultra-marathon, even though they're constantly on alert for sneaky Diana and Artemis. Hearne is really good at combining action, humor and heart-wrenching emotion all in one section. Our druids barely have a moment to breathe, but when they do, the reader breathes along with them.
We've heard some from Oberon already in this series, but we get to see Granuaile's point of view in this book. It's interesting to contrast her mind with Atticus's, the (very) old with the new. Of course things that have happened in previous books come back to the fore here. However, this book has its own conflicts, and some very major events occur. The action, for all that this is a fantasy novel, is realistic, and people die.
No matter the direness of the circumstances, Hearne fills the text with witty banter and terrific one-liners, and you will probably laugh out loud while reading this at the absurdity of some of the phrases. You will also get your daily dose of geography, mythology, food, beverage and druidry lessons. Read and learn, and enjoy.
My copy also included the novella "Two Ravens and One Crow," which details an event that occurs in the twelve years between TRICKED and TRAPPED. I had the pleasure of reading it when it came out, and it was fun to give it a reread.
Received as a digital ARC via Netgalley and the publisher.(less)