Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

Quick Reviews

March 24, 2010

Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk

Magic to the Bone, the first in Devon Monk’s series, has an interesting system of magic. Each time magic is used, a physical and painful price, such as in the form of migraines and flu like symptoms, is taken from the user, unless it is offloaded to another person. However, Allie Beckstrom also loses memories. Allie works as a Hound, finding illegal casters by following their scent from their work. When she finds a boy suffering under the effects of an illegal offload, she finds her father’s signature on the spell, forcing her to see her father for the first time in years. Supposedly, magical signatures cannot be forged perfectly, so when Allie’s shows up at a murder site, she goes on the road with the help of the mysterious Zayvion.

Magic to the Bone was a good read. While I like Monk’s magical system, having the character forget everything and distrust everyone after every major event can become a little tedious. However, I do recommend the story. The characters are colorful and its universe is quite unique. Zayvion and Allie’s magical abilities hint at a more complex understanding of magic than the one for public use in the novel.

You Can’t Stop Me by Max Allan Collins and Matthew Clemens

You Can’t Stop Me starts out with a bang and does not slow down. Just hours after stopping a presidential assassination attempt, J.C. Harrow returns home to find his wife and son murdered with his wife’s wedding ring missing. After time passes and the police cannot find their killer, Harrow vows to find him on his own. A few years later, Harrow becomes the host of a reality television show that solves crimes. When a connection is found between the murder of a law enforcement officer’s family and his own, Harrow puts together a team to find the murderer as part of the reality show. They find a number of similar murders, making the suspect a serial killer.

I could not put You Can’t Stop Me down. The story just took hold and would not let go. With little passages from the murderer’s point of view, you cannot help but wonder if Harrow and his team will catch him when he can watch their progress on television. Collins and Clemens have concocted a clever plot with likable characters. Even the killer’s history evokes some sympathy.

Review: Shalador’s Lady by Anne Bishop

March 8, 2010

Shalador’s Lady, the latest in Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series and sequel to last year’s The Shadow Queen, continues the story of Lady Cassidy’s rejuvenation of the land Dena Nehele. The Black Jewels series has a huge cast of strong characters living in a, sometimes tyrannical, matriarchal society.  Set in the aftermath of the cleansing of the corrupt Queens in Terreille, the surviving Warlord Princes asked for the help of a Kaeleer Queen to remind the people of the old ways. Disappointed in the plain, light jeweled Queen Cassidy, Prince Theran, who tries to see what others see, feels a connection to the selfish but vivacious Lady Kermilla who visits Cassidy in Dena Nehele. Deciding that Kermilla would make a better Queen, Theran begins to undermine Cassidy, despite the fact that she found the treasure of Grayhaven and has started to heal the land. Blind to Kermilla’s true nature and his friends revulsion of her, Theran’s actions cause Cassidy to move her court to the Shalador reserves. The land begins to fracture as the people choose sides.

I cannot say enough good things about the Black Jewels series. Anne Bishop’s writing just grabs you and immerses you into a brilliant universe with a vivid cast of characters. Daemon Sadi has become one of my all time favorite characters. In anticipation of the release of Shalador’s Lady, I re-read The Shadow Queen and ended up re-reading the original trilogy as well. Then after reading the new release, I went back and read The Invisible Ring again, which depicts the ancestors of the characters in the two newest books. It seems that every time I read one of the books in the series, I end up getting sucked into the universe and re-read all of them.

I think Shalador’s Lady is a good addition to the series, though it is not my favorite. Unlike the emotional delving in The Shadow Queen, this one focuses more on the action side of things in Terreille. The SaDiablo family sections are not as big either, which I missed since they are my favorites. I did like the return of Surreal and Ranon, who always add a lively air to things. And of course I loved seeing Gray become the man he was meant to be.

I highly recommend any and all of Anne Bishop’s novels, including the Black Jewels series, the Ephemera series, and the Tir Alainn trilogy.

Review: Unshapely Things by Mark Del Franco

February 23, 2010

Unshapely Things by Mark Del France begins with a running start and does not slow down throughout. The first in the series, Unshapely Things sets up an inventive alternative universe where the fey live in the open with humans. A string of murdered fairy prostitutes in the Weird, all with their hearts cut out, brings Connor Grey, a druid, on the case as a consultant for the Boston PD. Connor, once a high profile member of the Ward Guild, now lives on disability checks and an occasional check from the Boston PD. A black mass blocks his access to his essence due to an accident caused during his time with the Guild. Grey works to solve the murders and prevent more with his limited abilities and the help of Detective Murdock, a flit who goes by Joe, druidess Briallen, as well as others in the colorful cast of characters.

I liked the fact that Connor is not the typical sorcerer/elf/vampire/etc. Having a druid as the main protagonist makes for an intriguing read. I particularly liked Joe/Stinkwort, a flit who reminds me of Jenks from Kim Harrison’s Hollow series. Though Unshapely Things is similar to the Hollow series and Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series, it does manage to set itself apart. With a unique universe, cast of characters, races, and racial politics, Mark Del Franco’s series has found a place on many readers’ shelves. I cannot wait to read more about Connor Grey and maybe the cause of the black mass in his mind.

Mark Del Franco currently has four Connor Grey books in publication, along with the first in a new series, Skin Deep.

Review: The Spirit Lens by Carol Berg

January 13, 2010

Carol Berg’s new novel, The Spirit Lens, is set in an entirely new universe, a renaissance world where science is overtaking magic, than her previous novels. Failed magic student and now librarian of the collegia, Portio de Savin-Duplais, is summoned to the countryside by his fifteenth cousin, the King of Sabria. Phillipe, who disdains magic, charges Portio to be his agente confide along with his fop of a brother-in-law, Ilario, to solve a magical attempt on his life and the disappearance of the previous investigator. He believes another attempt will occur in 64 days on the anniversary of the previous attempt, which is also the anniversary of his son’s death. Many believe his wife was behind the attempt due to her love of magic and goal to speak to the dead. The assassin was found with a lens that allows the viewer to see glimpses of the world beyond. He also bears the marks of a victim of blood transference, a vile and illegal practice.

Portio is drawn in to court life where intrigue is a way of life. Along with the help of Ilario, he seeks the aid of the only master mage that is not of the blood, Dante, who turns Portio’s views of magic and the world upside down. Portio learns more about himself as he strives to solve the mystery. The Spirit Lens has magic, suspense, intrigue, horror, action, and even a little romance. Portio, Ilario, and Dante are complexly drawn figures with even more unexplored depths to come in the series. I highly recommend this tale.

Carol Berg is hard at work on the sequel, The Soul Mirror, set to be released in 2011. I also recommend her Lighthouse Duet, Flesh and Spirit and Breath and Bone, her Rai-Kirah trilogy beginning with Transformation, and her stand alone novel Song of the Beast.

Review: The Mane Squeeze by Shelly Laurenston

November 8, 2009

the_mane_squeezeThe Mane Squeeze, the fourth in Shelly Laurenston’s Pride series, begins with grizzly shape shifter, Lachlan “Lock” MacRyrie, aiding hybrid liger shifter Gwen O’Neill break up a fight at a friend’s wedding. He later encounters the Philly feline again when a pack of wolf shifters attack her and her fellow hybrid friend, Blayne, and he is startled, giving help unwittingly. From there, with the assistance of their scheming friends, they find themselves placed together and falling in love. The story has romance, action, humor, a well-developed universe with its own politics and prejudices, and, of course, the paranormal.

This is the first book by Shelly Laurenston that I have read. I decided to give it a try when Amazon.com offered it for free for a limited time on the Kindle. It was a pleasant surprise to me how good the story and characters were. I cannot believe I’ve been missing out on such a great story universe for such a long time.

I loved that rather than sticking with the usual werewolf story, Laurenston’s story is filled with a wide variety of shifters. Having a grizzly and a hybrid shifter couple was nice. Lock’s bear qualities and ticks were sweet and hilarious (particularly the scene where he teaches Gwen to play with her toes).  Gwen’s troubles with being a hybrid and the prejudice against them added a realistic touch to the story.

I also liked that Lock was not a dangerous (though he is dangerous when startled) bad boy hero who needed to be saved from himself. He is well-adjusted, having had his issues from his past mostly worked out before the story began. Gwen is an outsider due to her hybrid breed, who is looking for where she belongs.

I am definitely looking forward to reading more of Shelly Laurenston’s novels. She has several series published, including one under the pseudonym G.A. Aiken.

Review: Bite Marks by Jennifer Rardin

October 25, 2009

bite marksBite Marks, book 6 in the Jaz Parks series by Jennifer Rardin, picks up with a bang where One More Bite left off. Jaz and Vayl’s vacation is cut short when Pete sends them out to deal with a threat against a NASA space complex in Australia. Gnomes have concocted a plan to infiltrate the complex and cause problems to ensure the privacy of their god, Ufran, who lives on one of the rings of Saturn. While in Australia, Kyphas, the demon Cassandra made her deal with, has finally found her and come to collect on the debt. And as if killing gnomes, assassinating gnome larvae carriers, and battling demons weren’t enough, Jaz is hearing voices in her head. Jaz, along with her team, begin to doubt her control and the security of the mission.

Bite Marks has the right combination of romance, action, comedy, and seriousness to make an intriguing tale. I have been following Jaz and Vayl’s relationship since the first in the series, rooting them along. This installment shows how they are growing and coming to rely on each other as a couple, not just in their working relationship.  Cole adds the comic relief; his quest to pet a kangaroo is one of my favorite parts. Add to that a singing mechanical cat named Astral and you have the ingredients of a great story.

Bite Marks left me looking forward to the next to see how unfinished business is resolved. An excerpt of Bitten in Two, the seventh in the series, is included in the extras of the book. The Jaz Parks series is also being re-released in mass market paperback form.

Review: Foundation by Mercedes Lackey

October 18, 2009

FoundationFoundation: Book One of the Collegium Chronicles by Mercedes Lackey, the latest addition to the Heralds of Valdemar series, takes place during the first year of the newly created Heralds’ Collegium. The newest Chosen, Mags, was an orphan forced to work in a mine finding “sparklies” along with other unwanted children when his Companion, Dallen, forces his way onto the mine owner’s property, with the help another Herald and Companion, to claim him. From there, Mags begins his new life as a trainee, trying to find his place in an unfamiliar world. Unused to being shown kindness or having friends, he feels like an outsider among the many trainees (Herald, Bard, and Healer) crammed together in one building while two others are under construction.

Mags becomes unlikely friends with two Bard and Healer trainees, children of famous parents, who live under the pressure of high expectations. He even inadvertently befriends a powerful councilman who decides to take an interest in Mags. Meanwhile, foreign princes have visited the city and have their guardsmen looking into Valdemar’s weapons training.

I have not read all of the Heralds of Valdemar series, but I know what to expect of a Valdemar book from the ones I have read. Foundation seemed incomplete to me. The climatic scene had little to do with the rest of the book, though I am sure it will be important in the books to come. Having said that, I did enjoy the novel. Mags is likable and sympathetic. His suffering and later loneliness due to the lack of family made me cry. It was also interesting to see the conflicts and issues related to the creation of the Heralds’ Collegium. I am definitely looking forward to more of Mags and the continuation of his story. Maybe some of the questions left open at the end of Foundation will finally be answered.

News: Shadows Past by Lorna Freeman

October 15, 2009

Years ago, I took a chance on Lorna Freeman’s Covenants and fell in love with the book and its entire universe. It is one of the few books that I can read over and over and never tire of it. I even have an extra copy of the first in the series after I wore out my original copy.

Like many others, I was disappointed when Shadows Past was pulled from publication with no warning or explanation. Since then, I search Lorna Freeman’s name on Amazon.com and the internet for news. I even scoured the cover artist’s, Patrick Jones, website when he posted on a site that he had turned in the art for the new book and hadn’t realized that it wasn’t published. I was jumping with joy when Shadows Past was rescheduled for publication on February 2, 2010.

Now I have an even more anxious for the release of Shadows Past. Amazon has posted a product description. It’s only one sentence but its better than nothing. 🙂 So here it is:

“Rabbit is struggling to make sense of his new powers and his new position as King Jusson’s heir when a man once scorned by his mother comes seeking retribution-and demands that Rabbit marry his daughter…”

It had been almost four years since The King’s Own was published and now Rabbit will finally be back!

Review: Frostbitten by Kelley Armstrong

October 1, 2009

Elena and Clayton are back in the latest addition to Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series, Frostbitten. After failing to warn a young Australian werewolf of the danger he is in, Elena and Clay follow him to Anchorage, Alaska. But that’s not the only reason for the trip. There have been a series of “wolf” attacks that threaten to expose the pack. Dennis and Joey Stillwell, who moved to Alaska after leaving the pack during the fight between Malcolm and Jeremy for ascension to pack alpha, have not been in touch in awhile, worrying Jeremy.

In Alaska, Elena and Clay encounter a werewolf living with wolves, a pack of Eastern European criminal mutts trying to take over, and a group of creatures out of folklore. As if that is not enough, Elena must deal with an unwelcome reminder from her past along with the pressure of learning Jeremy’s plans for her future.

Kelley Armstrong’s novels have always been some of my favorites. I love the series, but I’m glad that Frostbitten focuses purely on werewolf problems (and my favorite narrator) and not on those of the paranormal community. Learning of the fate of the Stillwells was always something I wondered at since reading Armstrong’s novellas. The twins, Logan and Kate are adorable. Reading about how Elena and Clay balance being parents with their duties to the pack was intriguing. Hopefully it will not be long until the pack is featured again as the primary subjects in future installments of the Women of the Otherworld series.

Overall, Frostbitten, was a great and quick read. Kelley Armstrong’s novels never lets me down. I also recommend her Nadia Stafford series about a female assassin (Exit Strategy and Made to Be Broken) and her young adult Darkest Powers trilogy (The Summoning and The Awakening).

Review: Heroes at Risk by Moira J. Moore

September 12, 2009

Heroes at Risk, the fourth in series, picks up right where Heroes Adrift left off. After completing the Empress’s mission, Shield Lee Mallorough and Source Shintaro Karish return to High Scape only to learn that it is becoming a cold spot and the many of the pairs are being sent to other hot spots. Belief in magic has sprung up among the people, leading to illegal practice of spells. And to make everything worse, grave robbers are stealing ashes from cemetaries. Add to that a mysterious group who keeps inviting Lee and Taro to their meetings makes for an engaging adventure.

Taro dashes Lee’s assumption that he would leave her once they were back in High Scape. But their relationship is threatened. Lord Doran, Lee’s former suitor, seems determined to get Lee back. Some of the other pairs show contempt that Lee and Taro are together against custom do to the fact that it could destroy the working relationship of pairs if it ends badly, making them useless in diffusing natural disasters.

I am a fan of the series and love Lee and Taro, but sometimes Lee frustrates me. Her stubbornness causes most of the problems in her relationship with Taro. While Heroes at Risk is not my favorite of the series (that honor goes to Heroes Adrift), it is a solid addition to the series. I cannot wait til the next. All of Moira J. Moore’s novels go on my must buy list.