OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Murder In Absentia is Assaph Mehr's debut and a book which snagged my interest simply with its descript Overall rating = 3.5 stars
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Murder In Absentia is Assaph Mehr's debut and a book which snagged my interest simply with its description of being a mixture of Harry Dresden & set in a magical Roman facsimile world.
The story begins with Felix the fox our protagonist who has an intriguing past (hinted at throughout the book) and is asked by a high-ranking member of Egretia's political class to look into his son's death. The death of his son while abnormal has more of an effect on his senator father and the weirder nature of the death (including morbidity after-effects) leave Felix stumped. Thereby soon beginning his case as he decides to look into the son's recent undertakings. It will be a case that might change Felix's outlook but also have a deeper meaning to it.
This book is classically a mystery gumshoe PI story but kudos to the author for encasing it within a secondary fantasy world that's strongly influenced by Roman history & Latin under-pinings. Our protagonist Felix is a remarkable individual whose past has shaped him and helped gain the extra abilities that he needs in his current profession. One thing that the author has to be lauded for is the world and the details that he laces throughout the story. The world of Egretia is a remarkably familiar one thanks to the Roman influences however the author has put his own spin on things and the world that the readers will be entranced.
The main plot is one which will be very familiar for mystery readers and for those who are familiar with Steven Saylor & Lindsey Davis' remarkable historical mystery titles will find plenty to enjoy here. Infact if they are eagle-eyed then they might even spot a generous to both the author's favorite creations.
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Double Or Nothing is the seventh book of the Daniel Faust series and the potentially the first book of the third arc of the series. It's also the first book that has so many nods and set-up for future books that at this point it would be highly unadvisable to jump into this series with this volume. What I mean to say is that if you really should start from the beginning/book 1 of The Daniel Faust series (The Long Way Down) or even The White Gold Score book 1.5 of the Daniel Faust series (which is a novella and also acts as a good starting point for the series).
Double Or Nothing basically opens up after the events of The Castle Doctrine and we find Faust now in control of his life for the first time after the events showcased in the past six books. He however has been called up on the first of the two favors he owes to a certain baron from the Court of Night Blooming Flowers. The first task being re-acquiring the knife that Faust stole in the events showcased within A Plain-Dealing Villain which lead to the start of all his troubles with Damien Ecko. Things are never simple as the knife is now with a person who's under the control of Ms. Fleiss & by extension the Cheshire Smile. Knowing what a dangerous mission this can be, Faust has to enlist his gang but also has to plan accordingly as they are dealing with the Cheshire Smile after all. This is the main thread that kicks off the story, another dangling thread which has been present from the past couple of books has been the whole situation with Caitlin's past lovers. This book brings the plot thread to a solid conclusion. Whether the readers will feel the same remains to seem, as for me I feel that there might be more to this angle, even after this conclusion.
This book also focuses the Cheshire Smile but not in the way you would expect. There's a smart nod to Glass Predator (the scene where Daniel finds out what happened to his Hemi' Cuda is quite funny) as well as some nods to the happenings in the Harmony Black series. There's also some intriguing plot happenings for the future trilogy that the author is planning and while this book isn't the first to lay out these tracts (There's a partial but clear nod in The Castle Doctrine and Glass Predator even introduces a character who most likely will be a POV protagonist for that trilogy). Lastly what this book does gloriously is give us the first physical appearance of not one but two princes of hell. The characters also make some trips to Albuquerque, Denver, Chicago and a place that hasn't been featured so far in the series at all.
This book has all the trappings of its wonderful predecessors, it’s action-packed, has a lot of plot twists, revelations and the climax is definitely out of this world (quite literally). Primarily this series has always been about characters and this book continues to highlight them. While we only get Faust’s POV, the secondary character cast is so well-developed that while many fav-favorite characters don’t get that much screen time, newer ones that do more than make up for it. A well-liked secondary character from the Harmony Black books graces Daniel Faust’s world however the way he makes an appearance, Faust is none too happy about it. The best part for me was that this book focused on one of my favorite grey side characters, one who is possibly craftier than Faust and kudos to the author as the book’s epilogue will leave most readers astounded. Lastly I would like to highlight Corman & Bentley's (Faust's foster parents and mentors) exploits which are often mentioned in several books. This one however mentions a very exciting chapter in their past and I hope the author can explore their past in novellas or short stories or even novels.
Talking about the action, as always with the Faust volumes, action is more so on a personal level rather than big action scenes. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t fun to read. The pace of the book is such that along with our protagonist, we are constantly shepherded along by the author. It’s fun to try to anticipate the twists and try to predict where the story is going. The book does manage to keep readers on tenterhooks with all the plot twists and manages to put Faust through another wringer but this time Caitlin also has to face the music.
With this book though while I had an idea where the story might end up, the climax and all the plot twists were a nice surprise. There's some terrific cameo appearances of new characters who I believe will have significant roles to play in the future books. This series has also never shied away from the horror genre aspects and this book takes things a few notches further. What I’m referring to has to deal with the lower levels of winter and pathway connecting it to Prince Sitri’s realm. The author has a gruesome imagination and kudos for coming up with that particular sequence (combining claustrophobia & revulsion).
The author also spoke to us in this interview about the various intricacies involved in the book and hints about the various things (read Qs. 3, 4, & 5) that can be expected. He also mentions the brilliant cover design and what it points towards. This book has a particular connection to the events of A Plain-Dealing Villain and while it’s not necessary to re-read that book before this one, it can be helpful to at least know a strong summary of it. Lastly this book is also the start of the proper binding of the two series (Daniel Faust & Harmony Black), we get so many nods and hints about the world and the happenings that I can't wait to read Cold Spectrum (Harmony Black# 4) when it releases on Halloween later this year. For those readers who haven’t read the Harmony Black series yet, I would implore you to do so as then only can you get a hint of the sinister plan that Craig Schaefer seems to be hatching across these different series.
CONCLUSION: Double Or Nothing is exactly what the author promised it would be, a crackerjack bomb of a story that once lit up, burns rapidly towards its mind-shattering climax. This book just makes this series that much more stronger and is a rapid indicator of how soon the Daniel Faust series will be challenging the Harry Dresden files for being the best thing that urban fantasy has to offer us readers....more
This is an interesting short story that was unveiled by Rachel Aaron as a surprise in her newsletter. The story though is a bit on the shorter side anThis is an interesting short story that was unveiled by Rachel Aaron as a surprise in her newsletter. The story though is a bit on the shorter side and quite tongue-in-cheek. We have Bethesda head of the Heartstriker clan being interviewed by Marlin Drake, host of show "Saturday Night With Marlin Drake".
We essentially are reading a transcript of the interview which focusses on Bethesda's 5th autobiography "Mother Of The Year", which has some nice juicy tidbits about dragon mating patterns, Bethesda's rules for Motherhood, Bethesda's fashion sense, & more of Bethesda in general. It's a fun read that will keep you entertained but in terms of the Hearstriker saga won't offer any new revelations.
Fans of the series might definitely enjoy it for the seeing Bethesda's arrogance but it's not something that new readers might enjoy. It will definitely be more refreshing to read atleast after the first Heartstriker book Nice Dragons Finish Last so as to get a feel for Bethesda from her children's POV. While this tale is quite shorter, there's also a lengthy excerpt of book 3 which is fun to read.
Overall I would say that this isn't a true short story as much as it's a exercise in fun by the author for her fans. Enjoy it for what it is and you might chuckle along nicely, just don't expect anything else from it. ...more
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: A Dragon Of A Different Color is the fourth Heartstriker book and the title is a strong indicator about the plot of the book for those who want to take a stab at guessing. The plot of this book literally starts moments after the shocking events of No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished. We see Julius who is very distraught upon learning about the shocking death that was the climax of NGDGU. He's also not entirely prepared to learn about what events have befallen Amelia & Bob. To add to it, Julius and the other heads of the Hearstrikers council soon learn that they are being invaded by the Chinese dragons and to top to it all, the Golden Emperor is on his way. Safe to say things aren't looking all that well and to add to it all Bob has missing and Julius really doesn't know whom to trust.
This book is a hard one to review since it's the penultimate volume so talking about even the basic plot is going to be hard. Simply because many things that are happening/mentioned in this volume will be spoilers for all of the previous volumes. Plus I can't really talk about one whole plot thread simply because of SPOILERS. Still I’ll persevere, the first thread focusses nicely on Julius as we find him at his wit’s end without his support from the earlier books. He has achieved what he set out to do but soon finds that heavy lies the head that wears the proverbial crown. The Heartstrikers Mountain now wears a slightly deserted look and Julius finds himself with more questions as he find out what transpired when he was getting the council instated. But before he can come to terms with his anguish over the loss of his loved ones, he finds that duty calls as the Golden Emperor and the Chinese clan have decided to take over their territory. Julius will soon have to learn why the Golden Emperor is so feared by everyone including his own dragons (the author does a nice twist on the all-powerful emperor trope & as to why is he so feared by his own).
The second tract of the book is amazing and it’s even more horrible as to why I can’t talk about it in this review. But safe to say that it reveals a major secret about what truly happened more than a millennia ago and why did the magic disappear. Why do the spirits fear and abhor human magic? We also get a POV from Algonquin. Lastly this tract runs parallel to Julius and is the more intriguing of the two IMO. The only spoiler I can say about it is that readers who were so distraught by the ending the NGDGU will absolutely love it for a reason they won’t expect and not for the reason that they think. The characterization as with the previous books has been spectacular but with this book we truly get to see some emotional & romantic payback. There’s two scenes both featuring Chelsie which will absolutely pull on the readers’ hearts. I thought that the first one was an awesome tearjerker because of the buildup from book 3 and the latter one just plays out beautifully as it reinforces the bond of family among individuals who have been denied these emotions for a long, long time.
It’s to the author’s credit that these scenes don’t just seem caricaturish but will make the readers truly happy as we get to see the characters experience certain emotions & bonds that have never experienced in their long lives. One drawback though for readers who expect a happy & cheerful Julius will be slightly disappointed as our Nice Dragon isn’t the same with his recent losses but he still has his brains and resourcefulness. Going on the plot of the book, it’s a dual thread one and moves at an absolute breakneck pace so readers will constantly be wanting to finish chapters and move ahead to find what happens in the climax.
Talking about the world building, besides the first book, each book has taken a strong look in to the past and given the backgrounds of several things. The second book dealt with the dragons and revealed all about them. The third book revealed a lot about human magic and the history of the Merlins. The third book also hinted about Chelsie's past and gave several pointers about her big secret. This fourth volume is another crackerjack of a story thanks to the reveal about Chelsie and what really happened in China. This book also deals with spirits and their connections to humans, the land and the source of magic. This book is essentially the big revelation book which kind of unveils all the big secrets that have been hidden so far. This book does everything except tie up the story in a nice bow, you have to admire Rachel Aaron's plotting skills as this story hits so many high points while moving the story in a streamlined way.
These books very much read like seasons of a TV show and I would love it if someone were to adapt to it. This book has it all crazy action, several emotional scenes (this will make sense when you read the book), in fact one character's power hinges entirely on emotion and the way it is resolved is almost beautiful to watch. There's a solid tract that I can't talk and the only thing I can say is that this book lays bare to the whole reason for the return of magic and what truly happened nearly a millennia ago. I loved how carefully the author has structured the story with all of its reveals. Lastly the epilogue of this book is a stunner as it literally sets of a timebomb of sorts.
The last book will be chaotic and intense and potentially world ending exactly as Bob wants it. In case if you are wondering how much of a role Bob has to play, it's exactly as this review, he's there in the start and towards the end but his impact can't be understated. Rachel has specifically said in her interview with us as to how important Bob is to the story and in this book we get the biggest confirmation about this fact. Lastly we also learn the truth about Bob's favorite pigeon and the reveal has absolutely been worth the wait. This book is the proper culmination of so many threads that have been running since book 1 and it is an absolute pleasure to read them being brought together in an intense & emotional tapestry. This book’s ending is also going to make you want the last book Last Dragon Standing right now (very similar to its predecessor). I can’t tell you how much I want to read the fifth volume and see what an explosive ending Rachel has planned for us all.
CONCLUSION: I’ve said it all along that Rachel Aaron is one hell of a story teller and her plotting skills & imagination are truly what make one of the best in not only the urban fantasy genre but possibly the whole of speculative fiction. A Dragon Of A Different Color is the penultimate book in the Hearstrikers series but it possibly is the most striking with regards to its emotional resonance among all the books so far. Rachel Aaron continues her fine form and easily shows why she’s the true mother of dragons in the art of storytelling. ...more