3.25 stars for this zombie fantasy set in Seattle, Washington. Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:
Kincaid Strange is one of only two kno3.25 stars for this zombie fantasy set in Seattle, Washington. Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:
Kincaid Strange is one of only two known remaining voodoo practitioners in Seattle. She’s had a hard time making end meet, ever since new laws went into effect restricting the raising of zombies. Permanent zombies ― called five-line zombies for the magical lines that anchor their four limbs and head to life ― are outlawed entirely; four-line temporary zombies (who are missing the magical line to the head) may be raised only under severely restricted circumstances. Temporary zombies are actually quite useful in resolving issues like murders and last will and testament disputes, but under the new laws that’s mostly forbidden as well.
Kincaid’s prior job as an independent consultant for the Seattle police department has ended as well; the new police chief is adamantly anti everything paranormal. So Kincaid gets by with the help of her roommate Nathan Cade, the ghost of a grunge rocker who still gives concerts when he’s in the mood, and who can down a surprising amount of beer. (Nate manages to run up quite the beer tab on Kincaid.)
Matters get more complicated when Kincaid gets a phone call from a brand new zombie, Cameron Wight, who was a local artist. Cameron has no memory of how he died or why he’s been raised as an illegal zombie ― an impossible mix between a four-line and five-line zombie. As Kincaid tries to help Cameron, her investigation of his situation seems to tie in to people ― and zombies ― who are starting to die (or die again) at some unknown murderer’s hand. Not to mention that there’s an extremely hostile and powerful ghost who’s beginning to haunt Kincaid, wanting something from her that she has no idea how to give him.
The Voodoo Killings is an urban fantasy focused on zombies, but mixes in ghosts, ghouls and some other supernatural doings along with its murder mystery plot. In this world, zombies will stay intelligent and rational ― and will refrain from attacking and eating people ― as long as they get enough human brains in their diet … so there’s a black market in brains. It’s amusing, if a little gross, to see Kincaid trying to convince Cameron to drink his brains milkshake. Kristi Charish creates an entire underground (literally) city of zombies, hidden underneath Seattle. It’s an interesting concept, but I couldn’t help but wonder how they found enough human brains to feed the zombies there and keep them from going on a zombie rampage.
Charish’s writing style is straightforward, without any literary frills or pretensions, but some humor. Charish does have the habit of dropping odd facts into Kincaid’s narrative, like the fact that she has a ghost for a roommate, her rocky family history, or her issues with her ex-boyfriend Aaron, a Seattle homicide detective whose phone calls she’s assiduously avoiding, without much, if any, context. Much later on, the background information shows up in the narrative. I suppose it’s a way to avoid too much info-dumping early on, but I found it rather distracting.
The Voodoo Killings is a reasonably good urban fantasy, not quite up to Ilona Andrews’ standards of imagination and humor (not to mention romance, which is almost an afterthought in Voodoo Killings), but ― in my mind at least ― comparable to Faith Hunter’s JANE YELLOWROCK series. If you’re a Jane Yellowrock fan, I’d suggest giving Kincaid Strange a shot. The murder plot is resolved in the end, but there’s an unexpected twist in the final pages as a teaser for the second book in the KINCAID STRANGE series, the just-published Lipstick Voodoo. I found the world of Kincaid Strange engaging enough that I jumped right into Lipstick Voodoo when I was finished with this one.
Initial Post: I got about 100 pages into the just-published sequel to this book, Lipstick Voodoo, and realized that its plot really hangs off on a lot of the events in this first book. The publicist was kind enough to shoot me a PDF of this first book yesterday, and I downed it in one evening (it kept me up until about 2 am).
Content notes: Scattered F-bombs and a fair amount of violence. Also, eating (and drinking!) of brains....more
Kincaid Strange is a 27-year-old woman who’s one of the only “zombie practitioners” in th3.75 stars. Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:
Kincaid Strange is a 27-year-old woman who’s one of the only “zombie practitioners” in the Seattle area. She can temporarily (or permanently, for that matter) raise people from the dead, which is clearly handy when you want to temporarily raise a rich old man and ask him to amend his will in order to avoid a family lawsuit. Lipstick Voodoo opens with just such a scene, with a crotchety old man who’s not impressed with his family’s reasons for raising him from the dead, and an impressively sleazy lawyer.
The laws against paranormal dealings have been relaxed somewhat due to the fallout from the events of The Voodoo Killings, the first book in this KINCAID STRANGE urban fantasy series (obligatory spoiler warning here for that book). Unfortunately Kincaid still has a boatload of problems, many of which resulted from the events in that prior book. She has an on-again-off-again boyfriend, Aaron, a police detective whose new chief hates the paranormal division. So Kincaid’s best client, the police force, won’t hire her as a consultant any more, and Aaron is caught between his boss and his former girlfriend. The vengeful ghost of a powerful sorcerer, Gideon Lawrence, is massively unhappy with Kincaid, particularly since she burned a body that Gideon was planning on taking over and inhabiting.
What Gideon doesn’t yet know ― and Kincaid is afraid he’ll find out, since Gideon is entirely capable of choking her to death with a hair dryer cord or some other household object ― is that the body in question was accidentally taken over by another ghost, Kincaid’s roommate Nathan Cade, a grunge rocker who’s been dead (but not gone) for twenty years. Now instead of a ghost for a roommate Kincaid has a zombie, and one whose body is starting to rapidly deteriorate. Even the brain Slurpees (YUM) aren’t helping Nate’s body much. Despite her magical power and expertise in All Things Zombie, Kincaid can’t figure out how to untie Nate from this gradually decaying body.
In the middle of this, Aaron unexpectedly offers Kincaid a job helping him investigate a cold case, the apparent murder of a musician, Damien Fell, which occurred over twenty years ago. Nate once knew Damien; he claims not to know anything about Damien’s death, but he’s clearly hiding something important from Kincaid. As Kincaid digs deeper into the case, interviewing Nate’s old girlfriend Mindy and his bandmate and drummer Cole, people start dying in gruesome ways.
It’s always exciting when the sequel is better than the first book in a series, and that’s how I felt about Lipstick Voodoo. This one gets points for really sucking me into the story, much more than The Voodoo Killings. I had a couple of issues with the underlying logic of the mystery. For one thing, Damien Fell is described as a “devout Mormon” who never drank alcohol or even coffee or tea ― one of the reasons his death from a heroin overdose is suspicious. Yet Damien is also supposed to have been “hooking up” with Mindy before his death, which would contradict his character as a devout Mormon. There’s also an undeniably creepy demon-like power from the Otherside (the spiritual dimension) called Eloch, with black, smoky tendrils that reach out and freeze their victim, but the powers it displays didn’t seem to mesh very well when the answer to the mystery of Eloch was finally revealed.
These quibbles aside, Lipstick Voodoo wove a compelling mystery that kept me glued to its pages. It’s interesting reading a zombie fantasy where the zombies are the more sympathetic characters; it’s mostly the humans and the odd wraith and ghoul that cause the real trouble. As I mentioned in my review of The Voodoo Killings, Kristi Charish‘s writing is reasonably good. She’s not using any poetic language, evocative imagery or other literary tricks, just straightforwardly telling a story. So this is a fairly light, quick read.
Which brings me to my final quibble: reading the two books in this series back-to-back, I noticed a couple of places where Charish uses almost word-for-word the same language in both books to describe some secondary characters, including entire paragraphs. It struck me as a bit lazy or sloppy.
Several elements of the plot in Lipstick Voodoo hang heavily off of events from The Voodoo Killings, and there’s a lot of significant character development that carries over from that first book as well. In fact, I started reading this book before I’d read the first one, but called a halt about 100 pages in because so much of the plot here relies on understanding events and characters from The Voodoo Killings. So I went and read that book and then started this one over again. Hence, I’d very strongly recommend reading the books in this KINCAID STRANGE series in order.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review. Thanks!!...more
Ilona Andrews' latest installment of the Innkeeper series has been published in more-or-less weekly installments on their website, and just wrapped upIlona Andrews' latest installment of the Innkeeper series has been published in more-or-less weekly installments on their website, and just wrapped up! So you can read the whole thing now before they take it down, spruce it up and publish it in final form. http://innkeeper.ilona-andrews.com/ca... (Do it quickly because it'll probably disappear very soon.)
With this installment in the series, the main character shifts to Maud (sister of Dina, the previous main character of this series). Arland, the space vampire, has fallen head over heels for Maud and wants her to go to his planet, marry him, and live with him there and help him rule over their vampire clan, House Krahr. Maud is a widow who was previously married to another vampire, and it ended up being a horrible experience for her. Now she has a young half-vampire daughter, Helen, and really isn't keen on vampire society. But Arland is tremendously attractive and all, and a good guy in spite of being, you know, a vampire, so Maud agrees to visit Arland on his planet and see how things go.
Of course she steps right into a mess: House Krahr is hosting a vampire wedding featuring a couple of other hostile clans who can't be trusted. Luckily Maud is not only a kickass warrior, able to hold her own with almost any vampire, but also a very intelligent, well-informed woman with a vast knowledge of galactic society generally and vampire society in particular.
So the thing is, unless you're a major Ilona Andrews fan or love sci-fi romance, you may just want to wait to get the final version, even if it costs a few dollars, rather than reading it now for free. Or do like I did: read the free version but plan to get to the enhanced published version later. It's not bad for a freebie, and there are some really great scenes. Helen is delightful, Maud is fun as she figures everything out and shows those vampires her own chops, and Arland is satisfyingly tough and adoring of Maud.
But the scenes are kind of pieced together right now in a way that the seams definitely show. Maud is fantastic but improbably accomplished and wonderful at Every. Single. Thing, except maybe relationship commitment. The vampires aren't at all bloodsuckers in the traditional sense. They're more like, well, Viking fighters or Samurai warriors who very occasionally take a bite out of their enemies. It's fun in a light, fantasy space opera romance kind of way, with lots of gory fighting to spice it up.
Anyway, I think this work definitely still needs polishing up at this point, but I'm very hopeful it'll end up in a good place....more
This creepy short story, free online here at Tor.com, originally came from an anthology called Robots vs. Fairies. It does, in fact, contain both roboThis creepy short story, free online here at Tor.com, originally came from an anthology called Robots vs. Fairies. It does, in fact, contain both robots and (a) fairy. The fairy, who narrates this story, is of the whimsically cruel type who will kill you just for the fun of it. But just possibly this fairy has met their match in Peter, a human that the fairy has taken a deep, long-term interest in.
The fairy first sets eyes on Peter at a lake, when Peter is a toddler and the fairy is in the form of a duck. (Why? Who knows?) Peter's parents are arguing - clearly in the process of divorce - and not paying as much attention to Peter as they should. The fairy contemplates what they'd like to do to Peter (replace his heart with a mushroom) but it doesn't work out.
When I poked my head out from under a lily pad, the proper ducks were shoving their beaks into the grass to get the last of the bread, and the man and the boy were gone, and the woman was sitting in the grass with her arms wrapped around her knees and a hollowed-out kind of face. I would have taken her, but there wouldn’t have been any sport in it. She was desperate to be taken, to vanish under the water and breathe deeply until silt settled in the bottoms of her lungs.
Besides. I wanted the boy.
The next time they meet, the fairy is a cat ....
This story really didn't go in the direction I thought it would, but I recommend it if you don't mind a horror type of tale and dealing with two extremely unpleasant main characters. Kudos to Sarah Gailey for setting up the shift in sympathies and perceptions so well!...more
Nevada Baylor is getting married to Connor Rogan, and when Rogan’s mother Arrosa shuts down3.5 stars. Final review first posted on Fantasy Literature:
Nevada Baylor is getting married to Connor Rogan, and when Rogan’s mother Arrosa shuts down their plans for a small and simple wedding, insisting on a full-scale formal wedding, a couple of things happen.
Nevada inexplicably gets incredibly fussy and controlling about the wedding details, firing two wedding planners, and her beleaguered 18 and 16 year old sisters Catalina and Arabella decide that the only feasible option is to handle the wedding planning themselves. And a large crowd of Rogan’s Spanish relatives on his mother’s side descends on Mrs. Rogan’s Texas mansion for a few weeks’ stay before the wedding. The half of those relatives who descend from her father’s second wife are already hostile, and matters only get worse when everyone is cooped up together in the same home, however large and luxurious.
Now the Rogan family’s valuable heirloom wedding tiara has disappeared from the vault, a kokoshnik (Russian crown) with a large heart-shaped aquamarine as its centerpiece. An embedded sensor indicates that the Sealight Crown is still on the Rogan mansion’s premises. Arrosa Rogan, not wanting to involve the police in a family problem (since it’s almost certain that a relative stole it from their vault using telekinetic powers), asks Catalina to find the Sealight Crown and, by the way, get it back before the wedding in two weeks. But that’s only the beginning of the family problems that Catalina gets hit with before the wedding!
Diamond Fire is an interim novella in Ilona Andrews’ HIDDEN LEGACY urban fantasy series, set in an alternative history of our world in which some families ― typically wealthy and powerful ones ― have inheritable magical powers. The Baylor clan is neither wealthy nor politically powerful, but does have several family members with powerful magic. The first three novels in this series, beginning with Burn for Me, featured Nevada Baylor as the main character. Diamond Fire marks a turning point, as the focus of the series now shifts to Nevada’s younger sister Catalina.
Catalina has “siren” powers, the ability to make people immediately adore her and do whatever she asks, but it’s resulted in Catalina being shy and unwilling to trust that people really like her for herself, not just because of her magic. The case of the stolen Sealight Crown forces Catalina to begin breaking out of her shell and to experiment with her magical talent, finding interesting new ways to use it in her investigations.
Andrews provides a handy Rogan family tree at the beginning of Diamond Fire; it’s worth studying. Trust me on this. There are a lot of underhanded dealings and resentments brewing in Mrs. Rogan’s mother’s side of the family, and it devolves into a near-farcical soap opera in the end, with the disclosure of several embarrassing secrets. The plot of Diamond Fire, though it never bored me, isn’t one of the more memorable or creative ones that Andrews has come up with, and contains no romance and limited use of magic to spice it up. The storytelling probably also was hampered somewhat by the novella length of Diamond Fire, especially given the large number of new and unfamiliar characters in its pages. The story seems quite tame after the pyrotechnics of the first three books in the HIDDEN LEGACY series.
I enjoyed getting to know Catalina better, a talented young woman who’s unusually withdrawn and uncertain for an Andrews heroine. Wedding planning and jewelry theft investigation are a rather unlikely and hefty responsibility to dump on the eighteen-year-old sister of the bride, but Catalina rises to the occasion, and makes a new and useful friend in Mrs. Rogan in the process.
Diamond Fire is for readers who are already invested in the HIDDEN LEGACY series. It’s a somewhat slight novella, but it has several good scenes and interactions (a quirky poison mage is a scene stealer!) and achieves the task of shifting focus to a new main character to carry the series forward. At just a $1.99 ebook cost, it’s definitely worth the price for fans of this series. I’m anxious to read the next Catalina book!
I received a free eARC, courtesy of Edelweiss and Harper Collins. Thanks so much!!...more
Kate Daniels, after nine novels’ worth of fighting magical villains, romancing Curran the4.5 stars! Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:
Kate Daniels, after nine novels’ worth of fighting magical villains, romancing Curran the Beast Lord, developing her own über-magical powers and preternatural sword-fighting abilities, and magically claiming all of Atlanta as her territory (and that’s only a start), gets an ending to her story in Magic Triumphs, the tenth and final book in Ilona Andrews’ popular KATE DANIELS series. Well, kind of.
Kate is married to Curran now, who’s passed his title as Beast Lord on to Jim. After a very brief prologue in which Kate gives birth, the story jumps forward in time thirteen months, when their son Conlan is a precocious one year old whose antics keep his parents hopping. He still hasn’t started shapeshifting, which is causing Atlanta’s Pack to fret, but Kate is nevertheless something of a helicopter parent, anxious to protect Conlan from any threat … of which there are plenty, so her concerns aren’t without a basis.
The threat level gets amped up when Kate’s power-hungry father Roland ― after a fairly lengthy period of non-aggression ― starts to manufacture confrontations in Atlanta again, aiming at disrupting Kate’s claim to Atlanta and gaining power over her children, Conlan and her adopted daughter Julie. Meanwhile, something or someone is mysteriously murdering entire communities of people in the Atlanta area in a particularly gruesome way, for some unknown but doubtless malicious purpose. An ominous, evil-smelling box is left on Kate’s doorstep, causing thirteen-month-old Conlan to suddenly erupt into a new shape (or two), making Kate even more nervous, Curran joyful, and life exponentially more difficult.
Magic Triumphs is actually one of my favorite books in the KATE DANIELS series, and a great wrap-up to the series. It has a fun, exciting and delightfully complex plot, this time with an ancient Irish mythology spin to it. Lots of old friends from earlier books in the series play a role in the story, and much of the impact of those appearances will be lost on the reader who hasn’t read all of the prior KATE DANIELS books. What one might not expect is that it’s also fairly important to plot understanding and continuity to have also read Iron and Magic, the recently published spin-off novel featuring Hugh D’Ambrey, Kate’s old enemy.
Conlan is an amusing and adorable addition to the cast of characters, and Kate manages fairly well in combining her ass-kicking magical investigator and problem-solver ways with capable parenting, though her spin on it ends up being, well, different than most parents’.
"Look, Daddy killed him dead. All dead.”
Dali was staring at me with a look of pure horror.
“I don’t want him to have nightmares that the bad man is going to get him,” I told her. “This way he knows that his daddy killed him … We are a family of monsters and he’s our child. People will always try to kill him and we will always protect him. He better get used to it.”
Along with the family bonding, there are a few heartbreaking moments in Magic Triumphs, so the Andrews don’t pull all of their punches here. After fudging a little with the ongoing, high-stakes conflict with Roland in Magic Binds, there is an ingenious resolution to the Roland Problem in this novel, which satisfies the need for a wrap-up but still leaves room for possible adventures to come. As Iron and Magic evidences (not to mention the epilogue in Magic Triumphs), Ilona Andrews isn’t yet finished with Kate’s world. Kate is probably happy to take a back seat at this point and let some other characters do most of the driving and monster-slaying. Though I’ll certainly miss Kate’s point of view, I’ll always be deeply interested in whatever adventures in this world may come from the fertile imaginations of the Andrews team.
Initial post: I must be living right! I ran into the library to pick up a book for my real-life book club, and while I was leaving I saw Magic Triumphs sitting on top of one of the bookshelves. I’ve been stalking their online catalog for a month and never saw it in the listing; they must have barely picked it up. Cheers!...more
Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day is a beautifully-told but slightly illogical novella about ghosts who can’t ― or won’t ― yet pass on, some of the surprising powers ghosts have over humans, and the fearful powers that human witches have over the ghosts. But on a deeper level it’s about those who are unseen and homeless, and about the power of love and of finding inner peace.
In 1972, Jenna dies in Mill Hollow, Kentucky as a young woman. Distraught over the suicide of her sister Patty, she runs into a stormy night in her nightgown and straight into a tragedy. Because Jenna died before her time, her spirit lingers on earth, eventually making its way to New York City where Patty had died. Since in this world, as imagined by Seanan McGuire, ghosts can be tangible at will during the day and pass as human, Jenna spends her days waitressing in a coffee shop and her nights as a suicide hotline volunteer.
Ghosts who die before their time are able to catch up to their fated time of death by touching living people and taking some of their time, leaving the human younger and fresher and the ghost closer to its fated time of death, when it can pass on to the other side. But Jenna feels such a huge burden of guilt over her failure to prevent Patty’s suicide that she’s not willing to take time from humans unless she’s “earned” it by helping suicidal people regain the will to live. Then one day Jenna realizes that almost all of the other ghosts in NYC have disappeared, and her home town of Mill Hollow seems to hold the answer.
Seanan McGuire does some nice world-building in this novel. In addition to the ghosts and the rules that both empower and bind them, there are humans with the power to see and even control ghosts: street witches, corn witches, water witches, and more. McGuire also weaves in some old superstitions about ghosts, like the need to cover a mirror used by a person who has died, lest their spirit kill the next person who looks in the mirror.
My biggest problem with Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day is that the internal logic of the story doesn’t hold water for me. There are too many coincidences and events that don’t really make sense to me, even within the context of the tale. The stealing and giving of time by ghosts never made logical sense to me, particularly in the way it works at the end of the story. And more questions: why would someone purposely kill another person before his or her time if they aren’t then taking steps to capture the ghost? I never saw an answer to this; it’s a stray plot thread that raises what seems to be a significant question, but then never leads anywhere. (view spoiler)[Why would the witch who captured the ghosts of New York City go to Mill Hollow? And how on earth could that one witch find the right mirrors to capture almost every single ghost in NYC? (hide spoiler)] That last item really made no sense to me at all, and was important enough to the plot to create a major needle scratch in my reading enjoyment.
If you’re not overly fussy about the internal logic of a fantasy tale, there’s much to appreciate in Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day. Though this novella lacks the wry humor of what I view as her best work, McGuire’s writing here is evocative ― even poetic at times ― and insightful. She appreciates the people who go unnoticed and unappreciated by the masses, and that’s a needed reminder to our sometimes thoughtless world.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Abernathy’s Bookstore is a powerful oracle, used by the community of mages to answer important questions andReview first posted on Fantasy Literature:
Abernathy’s Bookstore is a powerful oracle, used by the community of mages to answer important questions and foretell the future. Its proprietor, Helena Davies, is a critical part of the bookstore’s oracular function: she takes augury slips of paper with questions on them from customers, wanders among the bookshelves until she finds a book that glows to her eyes, and sells the book to the customer as the answer to their question. The price for the augury is conveniently and magically printed inside the book on the title page, along with the customer’s name. It works great … until suddenly it doesn’t.
The trouble begins when the book that glows for a particular customer’s question has the wrong customer’s name magically printed inside of it. When the next request for an augury comes in, Helena finds three glowing books on the shelves ― something that has never happened before. And the false auguries continue, making Helena seem unreliable to magical society. But Helena isn’t without resources: she has the magical ability to see through illusions that would confuse the eyes and mind of almost everyone else. And she has the ability to consult the Athenaeum, a vast library that’s the magical world’s successor to the ancient Library of Alexandria.
Meanwhile, Helena’s ex-boyfriend Chet is hanging around, hoping to reconnect with her, and worryingly unwilling to take no for an answer. Malcolm Campbell, a magus who shares a fondness for old films with Helena, is willing to protect her, but Helena (despite a fairly major crush on Malcolm) is concerned about letting him get too close to her. The Accords, the rules that govern the magical world, require the custodian of an oracular bookstore to stay strictly neutral, not favoring either of the two major factions among the magi.
The Book of Peril is the second book in Melissa McShane’s new THE LAST ORACLE series, which began with The Book of Secrets. It’s an enjoyable and fairly light urban fantasy, despite some grave dangers for our heroine and for Abernathy’s itself. With much of the world-building behind us, I found The Book of Peril much more engaging than the first book. Helena is beginning to find her footing in magical society as the custodian of Abernathy’s, the "greatest oracle since Delphi." Some of the types of magic that were briefly introduced in The Book of Secrets get a chance to show their powers here. There’s a fascinating development with origami being used as a powerful tool to create illusions, and it turns out to be a major benefit that bone mages can quickly heal most types of bodily injuries.
Helena has a deepening relationship with not only Malcolm, but also Abernathy’s itself. The oracle demands respect, but Helena feels a deeper connection than that. She tells the oracle:
“I’m not angry with you. I’m angry with whoever is doing this. Because I’m convinced there’s someone behind it, and we have to figure out who. And then … then I will make that person pay for corrupting you. Because you deserve better.”
The oracle’s silence filled me. It wasn’t active, but I felt as if something were listening to me, and if I only knew the right language, I could speak with it, and everything would be all right.
The Book of Peril ends with somewhat of a cliffhanger on a personal matter for Helena, which was a little frustrating but understandable given the intended ten-book length of this series. But the central mystery posed in The Book of Peril is answered at the end … or is it? I have my doubts. We’ll have to see what happens in the next book!
P.S. I love the book covers of this series.
I received a free copy of this ebook from the author for review. Thank you!!
Content note: There's a brief scene of severe violence toward the main character....more
Helena Davies, a twenty-one year old who’s been living in her parents’ basement since drop3.5 stars. Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:
Helena Davies, a twenty-one year old who’s been living in her parents’ basement since dropping out of community college for lack of funds, is at loose ends and clueless about her future. She needs a job ― any job ― while she tries to figure out what she wants to do with her life. Surprisingly, the proprietor of Abernathy’s Bookstore immediately hires her, despite her sparse resume. But her new boss barely has time to have her sign an employment agreement (“I … swear to uphold the standards of Abernathy’s without fear or favor, and to seal its secrets in my heart”) when he’s murdered in the basement on Helena’s very first day.
As the sole surviving employee of Abernathy’s, Helena unexpectedly finds herself in charge of the bookstore … which is far more than an ordinary bookstore. Helena gets swept into a society of hidden mages within our world that she never knew existed, and a ceaseless war (it’s called the “Long War” for good reason) with Lovecraftian creatures from another dimension, intent on draining the magic from people in our world, leaving them dead. Abernathy’s Bookstore itself, together with its proprietor ― who is now Helena by default, though some want to change that ― functions as a powerful oracle, answering questions and providing prophecies for those willing to pay its price.
With minimal knowledge about Abernathy’s and its oracular powers, and about the magical society she’s now a part of, Helena has to rely on a few new acquaintances to help her find her footing. Malcolm Campbell, a handsome magus fighting on the frontlines of the Long War, just might be one of the people who will help Helena. But there are factions that oppose her elevation to the custodianship of Abernathy’s, not to mention an unidentified murderer who might decide Helena, too, is in the way of his plans.
The Book of Secrets is the first book in a new contemporary fantasy series, THE LAST ORACLE, by Melissa McShane. McShane has commented that the series will likely include ten books, so we’re playing a long game here. That’s evidenced in the plot of The Book of Secrets, in which the murder mystery plays second fiddle to the set-up and world-building, as Helena, and the reader, gradually orient themselves in a new world. The pace bogs down somewhat in the process. At the same time, while we’re introduced to concepts like stone, steel, wood and paper magi, not enough really happens with them (at least in this first book) to cement the different types of magic practitioners in the reader’s mind.
However, Helena and her friends are appealing characters, and Helena’s primary antagonist ― a young woman who is convinced that she was supposed to be the next custodian of Abernathy’s ― turns out to be a more complex character than I would have guessed. And it’s extremely hard not to love a magical bookstore with a definite mind of its own! I’ve got the second book, The Book of Peril, in hand and am definitely on board for seeing what happens next with Helena and Abernathy’s.
BTW, the author, Melissa McShane, has some really insightful commentary in her Goodreads review - take the time to read it! I received a free copy of this ebook for review from the author....more
Magic is well and good, but bullets are often swifter.
Brief Cases (just published in June 2018) is aFinal review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:
Magic is well and good, but bullets are often swifter.
Brief Cases (just published in June 2018) is a collection of a dozen short stories set in the world of Harry Dresden, a private investigator and talented wizard living in Chicago. Harry is the main character in most of the stories, but not all; a few other characters in Jim Butcher’s DRESDEN FILES universe get their chance to relate their adventures in their own voices.
This is the case with one of my favorite stories, the first one, “A Fistful of Warlocks,” set in the American Old West in the late 1800s, long before Harry Dresden’s time. Anastasia Luccio is a wizard and a Warden of the White Council of Wizardry, sent by the Council to Dodge City to take a murderous warlock into custody. Anastasia is a woman with attitude:
“Charmed, Anastasia,” said the deputy. He squinted at my sidearm and said, “Webley. Lot of gun.”
He was not so very much taller than me. I arched an eyebrow at him and smiled. “I am a lot of woman.”
The warlock she’s been sent to apprehend turns out to be a lot more trouble, and have more friends helping him, than Anastasia anticipated. For her part, she gets some assistance from a näcken, a treacherous shapeshifting water spirit (usually in the shape of a horse) who lost a bet to her, and a particular deputy who will be familiar to anyone who knows anything about the Old West. I was tickled pink to meet him in this tale!
Another particular standout is the last novelette, Zoo Day, where the same period of time and overlapping events are related by Harry Dresden and two other characters, a young girl named Maggie (who will be familiar to readers of the series) and an enormous and magical dog ironically named Mouse. Harry, Maggie, and Mouse take a trip to the zoo one day, where several different magical threats turn up to disrupt what was supposed to be a pleasant outing. Each of these three characters offers his or her own perspective on the events of that day, building on each other’s stories. It was insightful and even touching.
“B is for Bigfoot,” “I Was a Teenage Bigfoot” and “Bigfoot on Campus” are an enjoyable trio of stories about the son of Bigfoot by a human woman, a six foot-four inch archaeologist. Irwin, their son, is an intelligent and (understandably) physically strong young man, but has typical growing-up troubles with bullies, school teachers, and first love. Of course, there’s a magical twist to all of these problems. These stories explore some of the problems and concerns of parenting, with a Sasquatch spin.
Another particularly memorable story was “Curses,” a tale with a distinctly Chicago flavor, which relates the “true” story of the Chicago Cubs and the infamous Billy Goat Curse of 1945. Bob the Skull makes an appearance here to good effect, helping Harry analyze the long-running curse. In addition, there are a couple of stories featuring Harry’s friend Molly (one of which, “Cold Case,” is a bleak and distinctly Lovecraftian tale set in Alaska); “Day One,” a story about Waldo Butters and his first outing as a Knight; and “Even Hand,” from the point of view of Gentleman Johnnie Marcone, a crime lord with ties to the magical underworld.
These twelve stories in Brief Cases are set at various points in the DRESDEN FILES series and, fair warning, there are some significant spoilers relating to things that happen to some key characters in some of the later books of the series. It’s also helpful to be at least somewhat familiar with the series before launching into reading these stories. I’m somewhat a newbie to Harry Dresden: so far I’ve read only the first and fourth books in the series, but that was enough to anchor me for these stories.
Though these stories are fairly light action and mystery fantasy tales, there are deeper themes running through them. Butcher touches on some of these themes in his introductions to each story.
The idea of the consequences of your actions coming back to you in the future is ingrained in the fabric of the Dresden Files ― and both your terrible choices and your more inspired ones engender consequences that will eventually come home to roost.
Other than Zoo Day, which is new, all of these stories have appeared in various previously published anthologies. Brief Cases is well worth reading for fans of the DRESDEN FILES series, but might be slightly confusing for readers who aren’t at least a little familiar with the Dresden universe and characters.
I received a free copy of this ebook from the publisher through NetGalley. Thanks!!...more
“Magic Tests” is a bonus short story by Ilona Andrews included at the end of Magic Breaks (at least in the paperback copy that I read). Review first p“Magic Tests” is a bonus short story by Ilona Andrews included at the end of Magic Breaks (at least in the paperback copy that I read). Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:
“Magic Tests” is narrated by Julie, Kate’s teenage adopted daughter, who refused to stay put at the boarding school where Kate originally placed her. Julie and Kate visit Seven Stars Academy, where Kate hopes Julie will be willing to continue her education, despite Julie’s reluctance. Kate and the academy’s director sweeten the pot with an intriguing mystery that they ask Julie to help investigate: A freshman girl has disappeared without a trace, but the location spell indicates that she is still on the school’s grounds. If Ashlyn isn’t found within the next twenty-four hours, the school will need to alert the authorities, which they’re hoping to avoid.
As Julie jumps into the investigation ― and, as a natural side effect, starts to befriend some of the students there ― more of her personality is revealed, along with the functioning of her magical powers and her views about her relationship with Kate. Julie displays some admirable planning and deductive skills. I’m still mystified, though, about why a collection of apples that Julie finds locked in Ashlyn’s desk are suffused with mysterious bright green magic to Julie’s eyes. The source of the green magic is disclosed later, but not its connection to Ashlyn’s apples.
“Magic Tests” is a quick, light read; it’s not particularly memorable, but I enjoyed it....more
In Magic Breaks, the seventh book in Ilona Andrews’ KATE DANIELS urban fantasy series, the over4.25 stars. Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:
In Magic Breaks, the seventh book in Ilona Andrews’ KATE DANIELS urban fantasy series, the overarching plot lines of the series takes a lion-sized step forward, with a few major surprises along the way. *some spoilers for earlier books in the series*
Kate Daniels, her mate Curran, the Beast Lord of Atlanta’s shapeshifter Pack, and their group have returned from their perilous trip to Europe, described in Magic Rises, where they ran into conflict with Hugh d’Ambray, the warlord of Roland. Roland is an ancient, immortal legend with nearly godlike magical powers, and Kate has been both hiding from him and planning his death since her childhood: Kate was raised by Voron, a man with an enormous grudge against Roland. Hugh’s been circling around Kate for several books now, attempting to establish beyond any doubt that she is Roland’s daughter. Their group barely escaped him in Europe, and Kate knows Hugh will be back around again to cause more trouble. A couple of new friends joined Kate and Curran in Europe and are now part of the Atlanta Pack: Christopher, a mage who was severely mentally damaged by Roland and Hugh’s torture, and Desandra, a werewolf who is now becoming a powerful figure in Atlanta’s Clan Wolf and is giving the current wolf alpha, Jennifer, fits. (For that alone I adore Desandra.)
Curran is invited to bring several of the most powerful members of the Pack on a hunt in the mountains. Despite his and Kate’s concerns that it’s part of a plan to leave Kate without his support, the trip is important as part of a key negotiation, so Curran, Mahon and others go. Sure enough, once they’re out of town, Kate and the Pack get hit with a serious problem. At Conclave, a meeting between the vampire masters and Pack leadership, Hugh appears and dramatically throws down the gauntlet. Actually, what he throws down is the dead body of a Master of the Dead, who has clearly been murdered by a shapeshifter.
Kate now has twenty-four hours to find the shapeshifter killer and hand him or her over for punishment. A deadly war is on the verge of breaking out between these two supernatural forces, the vampire masters and the shapeshifters. Curran is still out of town, and Kate knows that Hugh is manipulating events to try to get control over her in one way or another, and presumably then deliver her, giftwrapped, into the deadly hands of Roland. And a cryptic but heartfelt warning is given to Kate by Christopher, who seems to have some foresight into future events.
Magic Breaks takes a while to really get rolling, though the story is given some color and humor by a lilac bunnycat and a giant-sized, black-and-white spotted stubborn mule named Cuddles (apparently by someone with an overactive sense of humor). But once the plot kicks into high gear it’s a fascinating tale. There’s a slight disconnect between the two halves of the story, a shift in focus that is marked by a sudden change in scenery. But the second half of the novel is worth the wait, and will remain etched in my memory … helped along by one or two rereads of key scenes after I finished the book.
Several long-term characters develop new depths in Magic Breaks. Ghastek, one of the most powerful vampire masters in Atlanta, becomes a far more well-rounded character. He and Kate share a traumatic experience that leads to Ghastek sharing his personal backstory with Kate, including the eyebrow-raising origin of his name. It makes him a more sympathetic character. Curran, once he rejoins the story, reveals new facets of his character as well. Kate herself needs to step up to the plate in a new and unnerving way, accepting and publicly displaying her full magical powers, not just her swordfighting abilities. And the long-awaited Roland finally makes an actual appearance. Despite his godly powers, he isn’t what readers might have expected. Roland is much more nuanced, a chilling mixture of fatherly affection and implacable, deadly power.
In the end, Kate and Curran each have a huge personal choice to make. While in some ways it’s a regrettable move, it opens the door for the series to move forward in a fresh way.
The paperback copy of this book includes Magic Tests, a bonus short story about Julie, Kate’s adopted teenage daughter.
Initial post: 4, maybe 4.5 stars. The overarching plot lines of this series takes a huge step forward in this 7th book in the series, and I am HERE for that. All the players finally come together, and there were a few real surprises along the way....more
3.66 stars (better than 3.5 but not quite a 4). Final review, first published on Fantasy Literature:
In Magic Shifts, the eighth book in Ilona Andrews’3.66 stars (better than 3.5 but not quite a 4). Final review, first published on Fantasy Literature:
In Magic Shifts, the eighth book in Ilona Andrews’ KATE DANIELS urban fantasy series, Kate and Curran struggle with both old, ongoing problems ― in the form of Pack politics and Kate’s father Roland ― and new ones. *obligatory spoiler alert here for earlier books in the series*
Kate and her werelion mate Curran, who has resigned as Beast Lord of Atlanta’s huge pack of shapeshifters, are now trying to live a more ordinary, circumspect suburban life among humans, with mixed results. Some of the neighbors are alarmed at Curran’s walking around the neighborhood in his immense lion form (“He is patrolling,” Kate informs her nosiest neighbor, protecting the area), and Kate finds out that several of their shapeshifter friends, who have also separated from the Pack to follow Kate and Curran, have also moved into homes on their street. It kind of defeats the purpose of fitting into the neighborhood in a low-key way.
But more pressing problems soon arise, distracting Kate from their neighborhood and lifestyle issues. Gangs of ghouls, normally shy and fairly solitary creatures, are on the move in Atlanta and are attacking people ― an unheard-of development. Kate and Curran’s werebuffalo friend Eduardo has disappeared without a trace, alarming his fiancée George, daughter of the werebear Mahon who is the Pack’s executioner. Mahon, who wants George to marry another werebear rather than a buffalo, is shirking his duty as Clan Heavy’s Alpha to investigate Eduardo’s disappearance, so it’s left to Kate. And murderous, oddly magical giants and other creatures, whose bodies belch forth equally vicious monsters (like a ten-foot long spider-scorpion) when killed, have begun terrorizing Atlanta’s neighborhoods and businesses. At first these problems seem random and disconnected, but in the course of their investigation ― punctuated by numerous battles with swordfighting and hand-to-hand combat ― Kate and Curran soon find some surprising connections.
Magic Shifts, though an enjoyable installment in the KATE DANIELS series, wasn’t as strong for me as most of the other books in this series have been. Partly this is because the overarching plotlines of the series, especially Kate’s relationships with her immortal and dangerous father Roland and with Curran, inch forward in more subtle ways in this book. That leaves the burden of the novel to be borne by the action scenes and the mystery that are specific to Magic Shifts, and those just weren’t quite as compelling as most of Kate’s other recent adventures. The slightly disjointed plot, which lags just slightly in some chapters, reminded me of Magic Bites, the very first book in this series.
Still, some of the subplots in Magic Shifts were definitely worth the price of admission. Curran doesn’t miss Pack politics, but he does miss the challenge of making an organization successful. He gets the chance to exercise an ownership interest in Atlanta’s Mercenary Guild, and when Curran finds out that the guild is in horrendous disarray, that actually increases Curran’s interest in taking on the challenge. Mahon, the werebear Alpha who has made life difficult for Kate in the past, gets called on his current and prior antics by several other characters. And Roland becomes a more well-developed character for the first time, as he makes a play for more involvement in Atlanta and in Kate’s life. He can be tremendously charming, though Kate deeply distrusts his motives.
The Andrews team, as usual, does a fine job of weaving together various plotlines and elements. Most of the books in this series focus on mythology from a particular part of the world, and the Arabic mythology developed in Magic Shifts has some unexpected and intriguing elements. These are combined with some interesting developments in the lives of characters who fans of the series have come to care for. Magic Shifts is a solid entry in the overall series....more
3.75 stars for this interim novella in the Kate Daniels series. This is the second novella featuring Dali Harimau (and you should read the first novel3.75 stars for this interim novella in the Kate Daniels series. This is the second novella featuring Dali Harimau (and you should read the first novella, Magic Dreams, before this one). Dali is an Indonesian young woman with thick glasses and body image and self-confidence issues ("too skinny, no figure"). Also: she's a white tiger shapeshifter, vegetarian, magic worker (unusual for a shapeshifter), AND she has penchant for informally racing - and frequently wrecking - cars. Whew!
Dali is in love with Jim Shrapshire, the jaguar shapeshifter who's the chief of security for Atlanta's shapeshifter pack, and is trying to keep their relationship hidden from others (especially her mother) because of all the expectations that will hit ... and because she can't believe her relationship with Jim will really work out long-term.
An Indonesian friend, Iluh Indrayani, asks Dali to look into the mysterious disappearance of her grandmother. Grandmother is soon found, but obscure and unlikely Indonesian black magic is implicated. As Dali and Jim investigate further, and more disastrous magical curses hit, they're having difficulties tying these events together and figuring out who or what is behind them.
I thought the mystery in this one was particularly good. Dali ... I can't quite with her Indonesian Manic Pixie Dream Girl thing. A little bit too much quirkiness is loaded into one small package, but maybe that's just me.
Full review to come, after it posts on Fantasy Literature....more
I paused my Kate Daniels readathon to inhale this installment in a different urban fantasy series - the one in ALPHA AND OMEGA that I managed to skipI paused my Kate Daniels readathon to inhale this installment in a different urban fantasy series - the one in ALPHA AND OMEGA that I managed to skip over when reading all the others. I went into this one a little leery because of a few negative reviews ... but I actually really enjoyed it!
Though it does help if you are fond of horses. (Walter Farley and Marguerite Henry were a huge part of my junior high school reading diet, so no trouble there.)
Add to the horses a murderous fae, children in grave peril, an aging childhood friend of Charles, and some family drama, and this book kept me glued to it through the end.
Full review to come, after it posts on Fantasy Literature....more
3.5 stars for this urban fantasy, an alternative version of our world with a Cherokee shapeshifter heroine, and vampires who are out to the public (Ne3.5 stars for this urban fantasy, an alternative version of our world with a Cherokee shapeshifter heroine, and vampires who are out to the public (New Orleans, the setting of this novel, is a tourist attraction largely because of all of the vampires there, who own much of the city). This 2009 novel owes quite a bit (a bit too much for my money) to Moon Called, which was published three years earlier, and the Mercy Thompson series, which also has a Native American shapeshifter heroine who's pretty much the last of her kind, mixing with other supernatural beings (more werewolves in that case; mostly vampires here), but if you like that type of urban fantasy you'll probably enjoy Skinwalker.
Jane Yellowrock, our main character, can shapeshift into various types of animals; there's actually some interesting scientific discussion about how the shapeshifting process involves DNA and sometimes adding and subtracting mass using nearby rocks and boulders. Primarily, though, she shifts into a mountain lion shape, the Beast who shares her body but has a separate mind and soul.
Jane has built up a reputation as a vampire hunter, killing vamps who are out of control (as opposed to the "sane" vamps who obey certain rules and are more or less accepted in society). Jane has come to New Orleans to hunt down an unknown rogue vampire, a serial killer of both vamps and humans. The job turns out to be a lot more difficult than either she or her employers, the vampire council, expected.
Full review to come, after it posts on Fantasy Literature....more
3.5 stars, rounding up for the fun factor. This urban fantasy will appeal to readers who like Patricia Briggs' MERCY THOMPSON series; it's got much th3.5 stars, rounding up for the fun factor. This urban fantasy will appeal to readers who like Patricia Briggs' MERCY THOMPSON series; it's got much the same flavor, though the world is somewhat different.
Misery is a half-Lakota woman who scrapes by by doing odd thievery jobs, using her magical affinity for stone and earth to help. When we meet her at the beginning of the story, she's hanging off a rope on the side of a Denver skyscraper, looking for a way past the magic- (or "Essence") infused security system. Once she makes her way in, she finds and grabs the file she's being paid to steal ... and then a massive Inhuman, a living gargoyle, grabs her as she's trying to escape with her file in hand.
One thing leads to another, and soon Misery is neck-deep in a power struggle between two of these Chimera, aka Lords of Stone and Earth. She's reasonably certain that she's working on the side of the right one, or at least the lesser evil, but either way it could end up with her death.
Jana Brown tells a fast-paced, compelling story of the adventures of Misery, who was once AnnaLisa StormCrow, a magical warrior with a group called the Sentinels. The story drops intriguing hints of her past life, brief bits of stories, the puzzle pieces that make up her past and explain why she (still) has forces of both good and evil trying to track her down. But you definitely don't get the full picture here. It's distinctly reminiscent of the early KATE DANIELS books, where much of the backstory remains to be told in future books in the series. I tend to find it more irritating than appealing, but it's an approach. I would have like a little more backfilling with details about this world and the various powers (Sentinels, PeaceKeepers, etc.) that inhabit it.
Fallen Stone is a self-published book; the Kindle version is just $2.99 and it's worth grabbing if you like this genre. In addition to magic workers and Chimeras, you'll meet shapeshifters, fae, and a delightful if slobbery hell hound. There's a great bit with the Library of Alexandria, which still exists and is sentient, magically collecting and organizing data, though it's accessible only to magical folk. And the library sales are incredible:
"Once in a century or so there's a Library sale to clear the stacks of stuff the Library doesn't want anymore, which is cool if really chaotic. I wasn't here for the last one but there was a throw down between a few folks and it started an earthquake in Chicago and sent a tornado up to Salt Lake City. Kendra says next time we're doing it all online."
As is more often than not the case with self-published books, there are a lot of minor punctuation and similar types of errors in this book (I noticed more comma splices than I could count). I'm a grammar stickler and those kinds of things always pull me out of a story, but the errors were low-grade enough that in the end I was able to enjoy Fallen Stone in spite of them.
I received a free copy of this ebook from the author for review. Thanks!...more
On sale now, as of March 6, 2018! A solid and enthusiastic four stars. Full review first posted on Fantasy Literature.
Burn Bright is the fifth and latOn sale now, as of March 6, 2018! A solid and enthusiastic four stars. Full review first posted on Fantasy Literature.
Burn Bright is the fifth and latest novel in Patricia Briggs’ ALPHA AND OMEGA urban fantasy series … actually, it’s more mountainous wilderness fantasy, but it does involve werewolves and witches living amongst humans. Burn Bright, though it has different main characters, also intertwines nicely with the main MERCY THOMPSON series.
Bran, the grand-Alpha or Marrok of most of the werewolf packs in North America, is still out of town due to the events in the last MERCY THOMPSON book, Silence Fallen. He phones home and tells his wife Leah and son Charles that he’s leaving them in charge while he takes a trip to Africa to see Samuel, his other son. In Bran’s rather mysterious absence, Charles and his wife Anna try to manage his pack of werewolves and the pack’s finances, and to not get into too many arguments with the irascible Leah.
This effort gets a lot trickier when Charles gets an urgent phone call from Jonesy, one of the so-called wildings. These are a separate, outlier group of werewolves under Bran’s protection and leadership who live near but apart from the Marrok’s main pack. The wildings are broken beings, fragile and often particularly dangerous, and are rarely seen by anyone except Bran himself. Charles and Anna, an “Omega” werewolf with the helpful talent of calming dominant werewolves, head out to check on Jonesy.
Jonesy turns out to be a powerful fae who lives in isolation with his werewolf mate, Hester. Hester has been captured by a secretive armed task force that is trying to kidnap ― or kill ― some of the wildings. And the evidence indicates that someone among the wildings or Bran’s main pack is a traitor who is working with these attackers. With Bran incommunicado for some reason, it’s up to Charles, Anna and other members of the Marrok’s pack to try to neutralize the invaders, warn the wildings of the danger they’re in, and find the traitor.
The mystery in Burn Bright is distinctive, though ultimately it didn’t gel for me as well as in the best of Briggs’ books. The plot is somewhat disjointed, though the threads come together fairly well in the end. The logic is occasionally strained. For example, there’s a significant rule involving cell phones not being allowed in wilding territory, where the explanation simply didn’t make sense to me, and a key development involving eye color that seemed highly unlikely under the circumstances. The plot involves both extreme long-term planning by the villain and some improbably rushed action and coincidences. However, as Briggs has frequently done before, she pulls in plot threads from preceding books in the series, weaving in the consequences of earlier events and decisions made by the characters. Though it’s not necessary to have read all of the books in both interlocking series to understand and enjoy Burn Bright or any other particular book in these series, it’s certainly conducive to a greater appreciation.
The highlight of Burn Bright is the characters and their interrelationships. Briggs creates well-rounded characters in a fantasy setting who are realistically flawed and believable. It was fascinating to get to know some of the members of Bran’s pack of misfit werewolves better, both characters we’ve met before as well as some new ones. Some poignant moments for several characters add to the depth of this urban fantasy. There was a fascinating aside in the form of an insight into Mercy and Bran’s relationship, and even the detested, hard-hearted Leah becomes a character that the reader develops more understanding and even sympathy for.
Burn Bright is a solid entry in one of the better ongoing series in the urban fantasy genre. If you haven’t read the previous ALPHA AND OMEGA books, I would recommend starting at the beginning, with Alpha & Omega and Cry Wolf, but fans of Patricia Briggs and her werewolves will relish this new adventure.
I received a free copy of this ebook from the publisher through NetGalley. Thanks!!
Original post: I love Patricia Briggs' urban fantasies, and this Alpha and Omega series interlocks very closely with Mercy Thompson's. I'm having trouble keeping my mitts off this one (I got halfway through it last night in one long reading session that lasted until 1 am) even though there are other books I really need to read and review first. I should probably feel worse about that than I do. :D...more
This is the fourth and last book in the EDGE quartet of books, about a weird and dangerous semi-magical borderland between our non-magical world and aThis is the fourth and last book in the EDGE quartet of books, about a weird and dangerous semi-magical borderland between our non-magical world and a parallel world where magic is in full power Ilona Andrews really knows how to tell a story, and I liked the way each book in this series focuses on a different couple, though they're all interconnected. Charlotte and Richard, the main characters in this book, are in their thirties, both having survived the breakups of their first marriages. Charlotte is an extremely talented magical Healer, and Richard a fantastic swordsman and dedicated hunter of slavers, a terrible and brutal organization of degenerates who have been kidnapping people and selling them into slavery.
Tragic circumstances bring Charlotte and Richard together, pitting them in a fight against the slavers. Richard especially is determined to bring down the entire slaver organization by dealing with the people at the very top. It's a daunting undertaking with a high likelihood of death, especially since Richard is #1 on the slavers' hit list (luckily they know him only as "Hunter"). Charlotte is able to use her powers to kill as well as heal, which is incredibly useful, but every time she does it it brings her closer to the dark side of her magic.
It’s an exciting and fast-paced story. As is always the case with Ilona Andrews’ books, the hero is incredibly buff and hot and the heroine is both lovely and kickass, but if you're good with that kind of wish-fulfillment and some sexytimes, her novels are really great adventures....more
Since Magic Bites was first published in 2007, the husband-and-wife writing team known asOn sale now! Full review first posted on Fantasy Literature:
Since Magic Bites was first published in 2007, the husband-and-wife writing team known as Ilona Andrews has developed a devoted fan base in the urban fantasy genre with their KATE DANIELS series. But all good things must come to an end, and when Magic Triumphs, the tenth novel in that series, is published in August 2018, the Andrews team has announced that it will be the end of that series. But they’ve left themselves some welcome loopholes: their new IRON COVENANT series, beginning with Iron and Magic, will be a comfort to readers who will miss Kate Daniels. It’s set in the same world, and many familiar characters from the KATE DANIELS series make cameo appearances in this novel. Iron and Magic is true to the KATE DANIELS series but adds some new dimensions to it. (There will be a few spoilers for the KATE DANIELS series in this review.)
Hugh D’Ambrey, the main character in Iron and Magic, has been a dangerous enemy to Kate Daniels since the third book in the KATE series, Magic Strikes. For many years he was one of Roland’s two chief servants, sharing in Roland’s magic and immortality and leading the Iron Dogs, a powerful, elite private army. After a major misstep in his plotting to bring Kate to his master, Hugh was abandoned by Roland, who cut Hugh off from his power and magic. Hugh reacted by going on a months-long bender, trying to drink himself into oblivion.
Hugh barely manages to pull himself back together in time to save what’s left of his Iron Dogs, who have been decimated, killed off one by one by Landon Nez, another of Roland’s servants who leads his vampire masters. Hugh and the Iron Dogs manage to regroup, but they have no funds and are starving, and finding a new base where they will be at least somewhat protected from Roland, Nez, and other enemies is difficult. They finally find a haven in Berry Hill, Kentucky, where there is a group of magic practitioners led by a woman named Elara, who has a particularly powerful type of mysterious eldritch magic. Elara’s group desperately needs the military protection that the Iron Dogs can supply … but because each group mistrusts the other, the key advisors decide that it’s necessary to cement the alliance with Hugh’s and Elara’s marriage.
Hugh and Elara are not thrilled about this plan. Hugh calls Elara the Ice Harpy, among other names, and they argue and insult each other every time they talk. The only thing they agree on is that it will be a marriage in name only (famous last words, I know). But soon enough, other conflicts and troubles arise that require Hugh and Elara to cooperate.
Iron and Magic has compelling main characters in Elara and Hugh, who take the antagonism that frequently showed up in the early stages of Kate and Curran’s relationship and amp it up several notches. Combativeness characterizes every aspect of their relationship, including their steamy sex scene. It’s a credit to how well-rounded these two characters are that I didn’t lose all patience with their ongoing battle of the sexes. For one thing, their banter is amusing:
“I told you it was stupid. I told you things always got out. You dug your heels in.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Wait.” She held up her hand. “Let me check if I care.”
Hugh glared at her.
“No,” she said. “Apparently, I don’t. It’s good that we got that straightened out.”
Also, both Hugh and Elara are intelligent and powerful individuals, and they’re each able to bend just a little with each other, and to give the other credit where it’s due. Hugh turns out to have some unexpected depths to his character, and Andrews found a clever way to explain away at least some of Hugh’s horribly coldhearted actions in the KATE DANIELS series.
Andrews is excellent at drawing a magical post-apocalyptic world with imaginative and compelling details. When Hugh stalks around Elara’s castle and plans (and executes) the addition of a moat to help fend off Nez’s vampire attacks, the details of the moat-building are realistically woven in. Intriguing and vivid descriptions give life to the story in so many ways: precisely-described sword fights, the military strategies involved in battles with vampires and other magical enemies, the problems with near-indestructible armor, a devotedly loyal war dog, a mischievous white horse that glows in moonlight and almost seems to have a horn.
Iron and Magic is set shortly after the end of Magic Binds, the ninth book in the KATE DANIELS series. Even though it mostly focuses on Hugh, his Iron Dogs, and a whole new set of characters, there are several appearances by characters from the KATE series, and a lot of plot nuances rely on being up to date with that series. I don’t really recommend picking up Iron and Magic if you haven’t read at least a few of the KATE DANIELS books, and the more the better. But for fans of that series, Iron and Magic is a must-read.
Initial post: I finally got an ARC of this new Ilona Andrews novel! *does jazz hands* Guess I know what I’m reading tonight!
It’s set in the KATE DANIELS world, and Hugh D’Ambrey, Kate’s long-time enemy, is the main character. Does Hugh have some redeeming qualities? We will see ......more
A strong 4+ stars. Review first posted on Fantasy Literature. Note: some spoilers for the previous books in this series, Burn for Me and White Hot. YoA strong 4+ stars. Review first posted on Fantasy Literature. Note: some spoilers for the previous books in this series, Burn for Me and White Hot. You do need to read the first two books in this urban fantasy series before jumping into this third and, at least for now, last one.
The smoking hot adventures of Nevada Baylor and Connor “Mad” Rogan continue in Ilona Andrews’ Wildfire (2017), the third book of the HIDDEN LEGACY series, set in an alternate version of our world in which a serum has unleashed magical powers in a minority of people. The magical families are organized into Houses, and typically marry to preserve and intensify the right combination of genetics so that their children will have the strongest possible magic and their Houses will stay powerful. Nevada is the head of her family private investigator business and a powerful truthseeker (a human lie detector who can also force others to speak the truth to her); Rogan, the head of House Rogan and the most powerful Prime telekinetic in Houston, Texas.
Nevada and Rogan are still fighting the ongoing secret conspiracy of certain magical Houses to destabilize Houston so a magical dictator called Caesar can take over, but at least they have their new romantic relationship to give them support. Nevada and Rogan are a couple now, trying to figure out where their relationship will go from here. But two new major problems have cropped up.
First, Nevada’s ruthless grandmother, Victoria Tremaine, has come to town, trying to take control of Nevada and the Baylor clan by whatever means necessary. Victoria, one of the most powerful truthseekers in the country, is the only member of her House Tremaine, and it will die with her unless she’s able to convince Nevada and her sisters to join her, by fair means or foul. Nevada’s family agrees that joining House Tremaine is a repugnant prospect, and fighting Victoria will be gravely dangerous given her vast resources. The third option, which they elect to pursue: try to become an independent magical House, the new House Baylor. If two of them pass the official tests for a Prime-level magic practitioner, they’ll have three years’ immunity against attack from Victoria and any other Houses.
Second, to make their lives even more difficult (and thicken the plot nicely), Rogan’s ex-fiancée Rynda, a lovely and clingy redhead, turns up, begging Nevada for help finding her missing husband Brian, a plant mage. But it certainly looks to Nevada like she’s trying to get Rogan as a backup plan, in case her husband can’t be found. And Rogan soon gets sucked into Rynda’s orbit, because he’s a protective kind of guy and wants to help an old friend who’s begging for his time and assistance. As Nevada begins to investigate, the clues begin to link Brian’s likely kidnapping to both the Caesar conspiracy and Victoria Tremaine.
Like the prior books in the HIDDEN LEGACY series, Wildfire has an imaginative, fast-paced plot with a large side of steamy romance. For those who enjoy this type of urban fantasy, Wildfire is an intense and highly satisfying page-turner, marked by witty dialogue, intelligent and kickass women, and tough, handsome men who are nevertheless respectful, in a distinctly alpha kind of way. It may be formulaic, and I found the mystery that unfolds in Wildfire not quite as compelling and coherent as those in the prior books, but still, the excitement rarely lets up. And I was impressed that Rogan and Nevada, when they have issues and misunderstandings, talk about it like adults and work things out… though it’s usually after Rogan hurls a few large items around using his telekinetic powers.
One of the big pluses in this series is the interpersonal relationships of the characters, particularly the delightful family dynamics of the Baylor clan. There’s a great love between all of the members of the family, even though sometimes it’s expressed through teasing and overprotectiveness. Nevada isn’t the only person in her family with Prime-level powers, but her younger sisters’ powers, though very different from hers, could put them in danger of losing their freedom if the Baylors aren’t able to become a House and control their own destinies. Fans of the series will be excited to find out more about fifteen year old Arabella’s and sixteen year old cousin Leon’s unusual superpowers, and will be charmed by a couple of new animal characters who join the cast: Sergeant Teddy, an enormous, intelligent Kodiak bear who’s an avowed pacifist, and Zeus, an arcane catlike creature from another dimension.
Bonus points for a truly funny math joke in the final pages and, well, for the whole final scene with the Baylor sisters, which ends this book in the series on a high note. The Andrews have mentioned in online posts that they originally intended Wildfire to wrap up the series with a nice happily ever after, but at their editor’s request left the ending more open-ended. There are definitely some plot elements that still need resolution, so here’s hoping for another Nevada and Rogan adventure in the near future!
This third installment in Ilona Andrews' THE EDGE series may be the best one I've read yet! The Edge is a semi-magical border land that lies between tThis third installment in Ilona Andrews' THE EDGE series may be the best one I've read yet! The Edge is a semi-magical border land that lies between two dimensions: a magical version of our world (the "Weird") and our normal world (what the Weird and Edgers call the "Broken" because their magical powers don't work here). Only a few people can cross over the magical borders in either direction, and Audrey Callahan is one of them.
Audrey is one of an Edge family of gifted and dedicated con artists, but she's trying to leave that life behind her and go straight, living in the Broken and working as a private investigator. Her magical talent: opening any lock, no matter how complex. When her grifter father begs her to do one last job with him and her no-good brother (NGB) so they can, once again, get NGB into rehab, she caves. Too bad the item she helps them steal has a lot of extremely dangerous killers after it ... as well as Kaldar Mar, a gifted con man himself, not to mention a thief and spy.
It's great fun to see Audrey and Kaldar clash, and burn for each other at the same time, while they're running elaborate cons in an effort to re-steal the item whose theft got Audrey's family into trouble in the first place. And I was delighted to see the young brothers George and Jack from the first book get some major on-the-page time here. The plot was gripping, and made excellent use of everyone's magical talents....more
In this second volume of THE EDGE series Ilona Andrews dives full-on into bayou urban fantasy realness. The Edge is a semi-magical border land betweenIn this second volume of THE EDGE series Ilona Andrews dives full-on into bayou urban fantasy realness. The Edge is a semi-magical border land between our normal world and an alternative version called the Weird, with kingdoms, swords and magic - both good and highly evil. Cerise Mar is part of the Mar clan, a powerful family in the Mire, a swampland in the Edge where family vendettas are a way of life.
When Cerise's parents disappear, it seems like it's part of the ongoing feud between the Mars and the Sheerlies. But behind the Sheerlies is the corrupt Kingdom of Louisiana and a ruthless agent of the Hand called Spider, with a grotesque and magically powerful crew. And coming after Spider is William, a former soldier, shapeshifter and agent of the rival kingdom of Adrianglia. When William meets Cerise, sparks fly, but there's the not insignificant distraction of trying to find Cerise's parents and, by the way, avoid getting killed or captured by Spider, who has a hidden purpose for going after the Mars clan.
As always with the Andrews' books, the plot is highly imaginative and action-filled, with a heavy side of hot romance.
"If I don't let you in, will you huff and puff and blow my house down?"
She had no idea. "I'm more of a kick the door open and cut everyone inside to ribbons kind of wolf.”
William definitely has a wild wolf side. The broken side of William the Wolf is well-depicted, though, and my heart ached for the generations-long bayou feud, the way it was used by the dark forces of the Hand, and the devastating effects on the families on both sides of the feud.
I think I liked the first book, On the Edge, a little better ... and by the way, it's great fun when Cerise meets up with Rose from that book.
“My youngest brother killed a lynx yesterday,” Rose said. “Apparently it came into his territory and left some spray marks. He skinned it, smeared himself in its blood, and put its pelt on his shoulders like a cape. And that’s how he came dressed for breakfast.”
Cerise drank some beer. “My sister kills small animals and hangs their corpses on a tree, because she thinks she is a monster and she’s convinced we’ll eventually banish her from the house. They’re her rations. Just in case.”
Rose blinked. “I see. I think we’re going to get along just ﬁne, don’t you?”
“I think so, yes.”
As soon as I finished Bayou Moon, though, which was sometime after 1 am, I went searching on Abebooks (my favorite online used bookseller) and ordered the next two books in this series. It may be brain candy, but it's really good brain candy, and it's got some emotional and intellectual heft to it....more
There's just something addictive about these books ... It just popped up in my Kindle last night and I opened it and the rest is history.
Hunting GrounThere's just something addictive about these books ... It just popped up in my Kindle last night and I opened it and the rest is history.
Hunting Ground is a solid story in the ALPHA AND OMEGA series. Charles (an Alpha werewolf who acts as his father Bran's enforcer rather than being the head of a pack) and his mate Anna, an Omega werewolf, are sent on a mission to Seattle, to a meeting of Alpha werewolves from England, Spain, France and elsewhere. Bran is planning to go public with the fact that there are werewolves among humans; others strenuously oppose this move.
Charles convinces Bran to let him represent Bran at this gathering, due to a premonition that Bran's going would result in his death. But now death is stalking Charles, Anna and others, and - other than the fact that a secretive and unusual gang of vampires is involved - no one knows who is behind the attacks and why. Meanwhile the werewolf meetings are going off the rails, primarily because of one French werewolf with a long and bloody history.
Patricia Briggs slowly builds the tension in this story, intertwining the mystery with the development of her characters. Charles and Anna are still working out their relationship, and both are troubled by their respective pasts in different ways. It's a bit slow-paced, but still interesting, and with a great ending. The Beast of Gévaudan plays a key role. I love how Patricia Briggs pulls in monsters from actual folklore and weaves them into her plots!...more
f you like Ilona Andrews' brand of romance-driven urban fantasy, grab this one!
4.5 stars. Rose and her two little brothers, George and Jack, ages 10f you like Ilona Andrews' brand of romance-driven urban fantasy, grab this one!
4.5 stars. Rose and her two little brothers, George and Jack, ages 10 and 8, live in the Edge, a sort of halfway place between our world (which they call the Broken, since magic doesn't work there) and a parallel world called the Weird, where magical powers reign. In the Edge, magic works, but not as well as in the Weird. Most people can't pass through from one world to the other, or even sense that the other world exists, but there are exceptions, like Rose and her brothers. And Declan, the mysterious guy from the Weird who appears on Rose's doorstep, with magical powers even she can't match, and barges into their lives. Rose doesn't trust Declan an inch ... but she can't deny he's the hottest guy she's ever seen. And just maybe she'll be glad he's there, as deadly magical hounds begin appearing in the Edge and killing people.
I read this urban fantasy for the second time last night, when I really should have been reading other books, but it totally sucked me in and I couldn't help it! Not just the power of Declan (who is awesome), but there's William the shapeshifter, and George (a necromancer), and Jack (another shapeshifter), and Mamere, their French-speaking grandmother...
And how did I miss even giving it a star rating the first time I read it? But I liked it even better the second time.
Full review to come (really! I am going to get to it, sooner or later)....more
Kindle freebie again, June 6, 2017. Recommended for fans of urban fantasy with a side of romance (a small side in this case). Bonus if you like gamingKindle freebie again, June 6, 2017. Recommended for fans of urban fantasy with a side of romance (a small side in this case). Bonus if you like gaming as well.
3.5 stars for this Kindle freebie urban fantasy novella, rounding up because fun times.
Jade Crow is a gamer and a sorcerer with strong magical powers, hiding from the Big Bad, another sorcerer and Jade's ex-boyfriend who's the worst user ever -- during their relationship he helped her enhance her magical powers so that at the end of it he could eat her heart and have her powers for himself. Because that's just what sorcerers in this universe do.
The place where she is hiding is a small town with lots of ley lines and magic, so it attracts lots of shapeshifters, leprechauns and other magical folk. If Jade keeps her head down and doesn't use too much power in her magic, she hopes all this magic will hide her, and she'll be safe (for a while, anyway) and not endanger anyone around her.
But then the shapeshifter mother of her best friend gets turned into a semi-living stuffed animal by someone wielding some serious magical power, and the Shapeshifter's Council of Nine sends a hot Russian tiger-shapeshifter dude named Alek after Jade, because of their visions that she's at the center of some trouble, and maybe Jade can't keep a low profile any longer.
If you love Kate Daniels or Mercy Thompson type of urban fantasies, this is worth a shot, though it's not as well-developed a world. It also does that thing that the first few Kate Daniels books did, where there's a whole lot of important backstory to Jade's life that only gradually gets revealed in later books.
This is the start of the Twenty-Sided Sorceress series (because she always carries a 20-sided gaming cube on her). They're all quite short, around 120-150 pages. I understand that later books in this series have some really awful cliffhangers, but this one's not too bad even if it leaves several threads hanging, and it's a freebie, so there's that.
Be warned that the second and third installments are 99c, but then they start costing $3.99 a pop after that. Also be warned that the last 30 pages or so of this Kindle freebie are the start of the second book, trying to get you hooked in. :)
Content advisory: scattered F-bombs, some violence and some innuendo....more
It’s pirating night in the werewolf house, and Mercy, a coyote skinwalker married to Adam, the handsome Alpha of the Columbia Basin werewolf pack, quickly gets killed out of the werewolf pack’s computer-based pirate LARP game. She heads to the kitchen to make a double-quadruple batch of chocolate chip cookies for the pack (her habit of baking treats after being exiting the game having more than a little to do with why someone always kills her off early in these games). Only, there are no eggs in the house, even though she’d had four dozen in the fridge two days ago. Werewolves are a hungry bunch. So Mercy makes a quick run to the local convenience store. Her last memory is getting hit by the airbags in her SUV.
When Mercy wakes up, she’s imprisoned and alone in a strange, metallic-sheeted room, covered with her own blood but otherwise uninjured, if weak and nauseous. More alarmingly, her psychic “mate bond” with Adam, through which she can always sense his presence, is completely missing.
Silence had fallen between us, not the electric, expectant kind. This silence was the emptiness that falls in the dead of night in the middle of a Montana winter when the world is encased in snow and icy cold, a silence that engulfed my soul and left me alone.
Two vampires, strangers to Mercy who look like Italian gangsters, enter the room and greet her. One radiates power and the other … nothing at all. But she thinks she knows which one is in charge, and it’s extremely bad news. He had her kidnapped because he was told, by someone being deceptive, that she was the most dangerous person in the Tri-Cities. Now he’s beginning to realize that she isn’t as valuable a hostage as he had hoped. Clearly escape is a good plan, the sooner the better, except that Mercy suspects that the vampire in charge wants her to try to escape, so his crazed werewolf guard can ― oops! ― kill her.
Meanwhile, Adam is gathering an impressive rescue team. He, Marsilia and Stefan (two of the most powerful vampires in their alliance), the witch Elizaveta, and a few other friends are trying to figure out where Mercy is and how they can get her back … without causing a deadly interspecies war between vampires and werewolves. In a very real sense, Mercy is more dangerous than she or her captors think.
A major change of scenery and particularly intricate plotting are distinguishing points in Silence Fallen (2017), the tenth book in Patricia Briggs’ MERCY THOMPSON urban fantasy series. The different setting is a breath of fresh air, and Briggs takes advantage of the rich culture, including a guest role by the famous Golem of Prague. Briggs weaves the Golem into the twisty plot of Silence Fallen, along with Iacopo (Jacob) Bonarata, the vampire known as the Master of Milan. He’s been mentioned in several prior books in this series, and it’s great fun (if you can call meeting a Renaissance prince vampire fun) to finally meet him and see both his flaws and his mastermind level of manipulation and plotting. Briggs does her own complex plotting in Silence Fallen, with various layers that are gradually revealed and then tie together in a very satisfactory way in the end, with a few surprises along the way.
Mercy’s narration and Adam’s point of view alternate in Silence Fallen, as they try to find their way back to each other and deal with separate but interrelated dangers. The timeline isn’t entirely linear as it jumps between Mercy’s and Adam’s points of view, sometimes backtracking a day or more. It’s a bit disorienting, and I’m not entirely sure it really helped me that Briggs (in a foreword note) and Mercy both mention the time shifts, since it pulled me out of the story. But that’s a minor issue, and one of my few dissatisfactions with this story. (The other involves a surprise appearance of a character that I think is factually inconsistent with events in prior books. I’ve actually been thinking of trying to email Patricia Briggs about it. 😁)
Silence Fallen is a strong addition to a great urban fantasy series, but the books do need to read in order. For fans of the genre, it’s well worth your time.
Initial reaction: I can't believe I downloaded this from NetGalley, decided to read just the first chapter (because there are too many other books I'm supposed to be reading and reviewing) ... and finished it (sometime after midnight) the same night. Beware! This is a suck-you-right-in kind of book.
I received a free copy of this ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a review. Thank you!!
Content advisory: A few scattered F-bombs, supernatural violence, a very brief and mild sex scene....more
2.5 stars for this indie shapeshifter romance. For a bit of a change of pace, our focus here is on bear shapeshifters. Hawke is the young black bear A2.5 stars for this indie shapeshifter romance. For a bit of a change of pace, our focus here is on bear shapeshifters. Hawke is the young black bear Alpha over all of the bear shapeshifters, burdened by the mess his clan is in, because his dead father, the Alpha before him, really fouled things up. Also Hawke is badly in need of a mate. Awww! Luckily, he hears about Echo (EchoHawk! haha .... sorry, that was the name of one of my law professors ...), a young black bear shapeshifter who was taken as a baby and is being held captive by a nasty clan of grizzly bear shapeshifters. We know they are nasty because they treat Echo like a slave, with a shock collar around her neck to prevent her escape, and because they have loud rough sex where Echo can hear them and get traumatized, or something like that.
Anyway, since black bear shapeshifters are better and cooler than grizzly bear ones (I was having some trouble wrapping my head around that, but whatever), Hawke is the Alpha of them as well. He and his Betas end up sneakily rescuing Echo from the grizzlies, who had their reasons for wanting to hang onto Echo -- and it's not just that she was a great slave housekeeper/cook/bookkeeper. Hawke knows that Echo is his fated mate, and they do this imprinting thing. But their bond can still be broken, and not only do the grizzlies want Echo back, but her long-lost mother does as well.
Echo doesn't want to be a burden, or just a cog in the wheel, so she's searching to find her calling in life, as well as figuring out her new relationship with Hawke and his black bear clan. I'm not sure why she feels like she's so much of a burden when she's clearly helping them to fix up the disorganized mess their clan is, and Hawke already adores her, but maybe it's that she was so beaten down by the grizzlies that she has a hard time realizing her value.
Burden isn't too bad for an indie book, but the writing is a little amateurish (understandably, for a self-published book) and there are some mistakes that a solid editing job might have fixed. The plot was actually fairly interesting, it just lacked somewhat in the execution. I did really like the computer hacker bear shapeshifter character, whose romance I believe is the focus of the next book in this series.
Note: This review contains some spoilers for the two earlier books in the INNKEEPER CHRONI4.5 stars. Final review, first posted at Fantasy Literature:
Note: This review contains some spoilers for the two earlier books in the INNKEEPER CHRONICLES series.
As One Fell Sweep (2016) begins, Dina DeMille, the Innkeeper of the Gertrude Hunt Inn, a secret way-stop on Earth for galactic visitors, is recuperating from the life-and-death peace summit that her inn hosted in Sweep in Peace. She’s also just beginning to pick up her relationship with Sean, the werewolf warrior, when a reptilian visitor brings her a message: Dina’s widowed sister Maud is stuck on the planet Kahari and needs rescuing. Dina calls in a favor from Arland, a buff, blond vampire friend (think Chris Hemsworth as Thor, plus fangs), who takes her and Sean to this ruthless frontier planet to rescue Maud and Maud’s five year old half-vampire daughter Helen.
Arland is instantly intrigued with the warrior-like Maud, but she isn’t interested in any more relationships with vampires after the hell she recently went through with her now-deceased vampire husband. Still, he invites himself for a stay at the Gertrude Hunt, ostensibly to recover from the stresses of his “overwhelming responsibility.” But a relaxing vacation is not in the cards.
Another alien visitor soon arrives at the inn: A Hiru, attired in a repulsively smelly and ugly metallic spacesuit, asks for Dina’s help and protection as an Innkeeper. The Hiru race is being hunted to extinction by the Draziri, another alien race with a religious vendetta against the Hiru, who will stop at nothing to exterminate it. Dina initially tries to turn them down, because it will be too dangerous for her family and guests. But she’s is a sucker for those in need of her help, and only a thousand Hiru are left alive after years of being hunted down by the Draziri. At tremendous expense, the Hiru have hired the Archivarius, a hive mind with several bodies and massive knowledge about the universe, to find them a new planet where they can settle and be safe from extinction. And they want to use Dina’s inn as a place where the Archivarius can assemble itself to give them their answer, offering Dina the chance to also ask the Archivarius a question: how can she find her parents, who have been missing for years?
It doesn’t take long for a group of Draziri to find out that Dina’s inn is sheltering a Hiru. Soon the Gertrude Hunt inn is under siege by an entire clan of Draziri, who are bird-like humanoids with vast resources and a brutal determination to kill the Hiru at any cost. And will there ever be any room for a Christmas celebration at the inn?
The INNKEEPER CHRONICLES series is a highly enjoyable mix of science fiction and urban fantasy, as well as humor, action and some romance. The series continues its trend of getting stronger as it goes along. With an Ilona Andrews book you have to enjoy the urban fantasy romance tropes, where all the characters ― both women and men ― are hot-looking kickass fighters, but the Andrews always add hefty dose of imagination and wittiness to their plots. Although the Archivarius plotline occasionally feels like a video game where all the pieces need to be assembled by the players (at great personal risk, of course), the final resolution of that plot was surprisingly effective, and tied some threads together in a highly satisfying way.
Dina’s relationship with Sean continues to develop, though the two have some hurdles to overcome. Dina’s nemesis, police officer Marais, who just knows that there’s something very fishy going on at the Gertrude Hunt inn, continues to hang around, and inevitably has a run-in with the Draziri who are lurking around the inn’s grounds. There’s absolutely delightful development in Officer Marais’ role in this series.
I also loved the interplay between Maud, who’s sworn off relations with all vampires, Arland, and Maud’s adorable daughter Helen, with her tiny fangs and fearless (and occasionally bloodthirsty) attitude, who is fascinated with all of the new things on the planet Earth. Like, for example, Christmas, and cats:
“That’s a kitty,” Maud said. “Be careful. They have sharp claws.”
“What’s his name?”
“He doesn’t have one,” I told her. I hadn’t gotten around to it. “I tell you what, you can name him.”
Helen’s eyes got almost as big as the cat’s. “I can?”
“I’m going to name him Olasard, after he who hunts the evildoers and rips out their souls.”
The Ripper of Souls gave me a befuddled look.
Like the two earlier books in the INNKEEPER CHRONICLES series, One Fell Sweep was initially published on the Ilona Andrews website in weekly installments, prior to publication in its final form. The final ebook is worth the price for Andrews fans; it’s more polished and has several additional scenes, including a much more extensive and gratifying ending.
I received a free copy of this ebook from the author in exchange for a review. Thank you!!
Initial comments: I swore I wouldn't do this, but after reading the second book in this series I'm totally stalking the Ilona Andrews website, waiting for new sections of this third book in the magical Innkeeper series to be posted each Friday.
I really should go away and ignore this serial book until the whole thing is posted online, but heaven help me, I can't. I'm loving the interplay between Maud (who's sworn off relations with all vampires) and Arland and Helen. (Does anyone else think that Ilona Andrews is poking a little fun at Breaking Dawn here?) And I'm dying for Officer Marais to be brought into the loop on the whole galactic inn thing.