2.5

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Deadly Sting: A museum heist is a nice change of scenery and pace

Deadly Sting by Jennifer Estep

Deadly Sting is the eighth book in Jennifer Estep’s ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN series. Anyone who has made it to this point in the series probably doesn’t care what I have to say about it, so I’ll make this short.

Gin and Owen are taking a break from each other after the events of the last book, Widow’s Web, so Gin accompanies Finn to a fancy party at an art museum on an island where Mab Monroe’s stuff will be on display for all the wealthy folks in Ashland to see. Soon after she arrives, she encounters two big problems. One is that she discovers Mab had a couple of Gin’s family’s runes in her possession! Gin wants them back. The other problem is that Owen is at the party with another woman. How distressing!

While Gin’s sulking in the bathroom, a group of giants murders a woman who looks like Gin and takes all... Read More

Widow’s Web: This formula seems to be working for Estep

Widow’s Web by Jennifer Estep

Widow’s Web is book seven in Jennifer Estep’s ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN series. I wasn’t too impressed with book six, By a Thread, but I continue to read the series because I’ve already purchased most of the books at Audible and, even though I recognize the problems with the plot and the writing, the truth is that I like Estep’s setting and characters well enough that I don’t mind reading the books in order to get them reviewed for FanLit. Based on the high marks the series gets at GoodReads and Amazon, I’m guessing that many readers are perfectly happy to overlook the little “issues” I’ve mentioned in previous reviews. Clearly, the formula is working for Estep.

In this seventh installment, Gin and her friends are back in Ashland Tennessee after a disastrous vacation during which Gin saved another damsel in distress, s... Read More

Spider’s Revenge: Somebody, just shoot Mab now!

Spider’s Revenge by Jennifer Estep

Spider’s Revenge is the fifth book in Jennifer Estep’s ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN series. You probably shouldn’t be coming to this book without reading the previous four books, so I’ll assume you’ve done that already if you’re reading my review. If not, beware of spoilers for the previous books.

In Spider’s Revenge, Gin Blanco finally decides it’s time to kill Mab Monroe, the evil Fire Elemental who destroyed Gin’s family decades ago and is now the crime boss of Ashland Tennessee. I’ve been complaining for a while now that Estep is dragging the plot out by making Gin have to deal with one of Mab’s cronies or minions in each book rather than just taking the shortcut of going after Mab herself. It seems to me that there have been two main plots going on: the first (ostensibly) is Gin’s desire to get reve... Read More

Tangled Threads: Big changes in Gin’s personal life

Tangled Threads by Jennifer Estep

In Tangled Threads, the fourth volume of Jennifer Estep’s ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN series, the plot advances satisfactorily. Since you’re reading this review, I’ll assume you’ve read the first three books, Spider’s Bite, Web of Lies, and Venom. I’ll also assume you still like the series if you’re interested in a review of book four.

So, as I said, the plot advances, mostly with Gin’s relationships with both her new boyfriend, Owen Grayson, and her sister Bria Coolidge, the new top cop in town who doesn’t realize that Gin is her sister or that she’s Ashland’s vigilante assassin with stone and ice magic. Of course, fans of the series can’t wait to find out how Bria will react when she eventually discovers the truth. To avoid spoilers, I won’t tell you ... Read More

Venom: Fun plot if you don’t think about it too much

Venom by Jennifer Estep

Venom is the third book in Jennifer Estep’s ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN series about Gin Blanco, an assassin who runs The Pork Pit, a barbecue restaurant in Ashland, Tennessee. My review will contain spoilers for the previous books, so you might not want to read it if you haven’t yet read Spider’s Bite and Web of Lies.

Gin has been trying to retire from her assassin’s trade, but as long as the Fire Elemental Mab Monroe runs Ashland as if she’s a crime boss, there will always be people in distress who need Gin’s help. Gin is all too happy to help them because her eventual goal is to take Mab down because Mab killed Gin’s mother and big sister about 15 years ago.

This time the damsel in distress is a vampire named Roslyn who is being stalked by Elliot Slater, the giant who’s Mab’s to... Read More

The Hawley Book of the Dead: Frustrating

The Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler Szarlan

The Hawley Book of the Dead is a debut novel by Chrysler Szarlan, a bookseller from Massachusetts. It follows the story of Revelation Dyer, a Las Vegas stage magician with a real magical talent: the ability to disappear. At the beginning of the story, she accidentally kills her husband, shooting him on stage in a Bullet Catch illusion that goes wrong. Once Reve realizes that the murder was no accident but planned by a mysterious person targeting her and her family, she moves with her three daughters to Massachusetts, her home state. The Dyer women settle in Hawley Five Corners, a small abandoned town connected with Reve's family's history. She begins to puzzle out the entangled mysteries behind her murderous stalker, her family's secretive past, and her own unfolding magical powers.

Doesn't that sound awesome? Even as I write out the summary, I get excited again for such a cool premi... Read More

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown: I was expecting her to be a little bit colder

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a novel of the same name as a short story in Holly Black’s The Poison Eaters, and anthology of delightfully dark YA stories, all with particular flavours and drawing on different myths from around the world. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown finds the reader in a post-vampiricism-infected United States. The cities in which the largest outbreaks occurred were swiftly enclosed (earning the name ‘Coldtowns’), trapping vampires, humans, and infected alike in a backwards world where day is night and predators look like the people you once loved.

The way one turns into a vampire in Holly Black’s world is unique. It’s a disease that has particular stages from bitten to full vampire, and there’s a way to beat it. Of course sweating out the infection isn’t easy, as it takes 88 d... Read More

Terms of Enlistment: Easily digestible, rather average, military SF

Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos

Andrew Grayson wants out. Growing up in the wretched urban tenements of the North American Commonwealth in the year 2108 has left him bitter, jaded and willing to risk his life to avoid becoming another barely surviving victim of a failed social system. His mother and father are no longer together and Andrew knows that if he wants a future the only real way out is to join the Armed Forces of the North American Commonwealth.

In the world of 2108 war is constant. Mankind has gone to space and is colonizing other planets, but we can’t seem to stop fighting each other whether on this world or another. For Grayson, joining the military is risky because conflict is real and there are no guarantees of where he will be assigned if he even makes it through training.

Basic Training in the future is much like it was in the past, except they don’t care if you quit because you are disposab... Read More

Darwin’s Radio: Cool idea that doesn’t connect

Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear

Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear follows several characters — a molecular biologist, an archaeologist, and a public policy maker — through a cataclysmic pandemic sweeping through the human race. This disease is an HERV, a human endogenous retrovirus, which is a piece of dormant genetic code that, when activated, only affects sexually-active women. It causes them to get pregnant with a horribly-mutated fetus that self-aborts, only to follow up with another pregnancy of a new species of human, homo novus.

I found Bear's description of homo novus a fascinating suggestion of ways in which our species might evolve. He envisions humans evolving new physical structures. These structures —glands, concentrations of photo-sensitive skin cells, etc. —create new ways of communicating and relating between members of the species. This description was so much more interesting than your stereotypi... Read More

Fated: I can’t recommend this one, but I want to try something else by Browne

Fated by S.G. Browne

“You like Christopher Moore,” the bookstore clerk said, pushing a book into my hand. “You’ll like this.” I do like Christopher Moore, and I think S.G. Browne does too, but Fated fell short of the wry Moore-like comedies it tries to emulate.

Fate, who uses the name Fabio, is a world-weary immortal Personification. When the book opens, he is bored with his work and disdainful of the human race. Fabio is only one of many — dozens, scores, I don’t know, maybe hundreds — of anthropomorphized states. He has a rival, Destiny, who gets all the glamor assignments. He used to be best friends with Death, who goes by Dennis (wouldn’t you?), but they had a fight and now they don’t speak. The Personifications are ruled by God. He used to be called Jehovah, but now he goes by Jerry. Je... Read More

The Pirate’s Coin: Slight improvement

The Pirate’s Coin by Marianne Malone

The Pirate’s Coin, the third book in Marianne Malone’s SIXTY-EIGHT ROOMS fantasy adventure series for children, is a slight improvement over the first two novels, The Sixty-Eight Rooms and Stealing Magic, which three of us here at FanLit agreed did not meet the potential of Malone’s excellent premise. Readers who haven’t dropped out yet, presumably because they have enjoyed the series so far, should also be pleased with this installment.

Ruthie and Jack just can’t stay away from the Thorne Rooms in the Art Institute of Chicago. This time the plot involves two separate threads that (again) take place in the worlds of two of the Thorne Rooms. One involves a classmate that Ruthie and Jack discover is a descendant of... Read More

Creatures of Light and Darkness: Not Zelazny’s best

Creatures of Light and Darkness by Roger Zelazny

In the early part of his career, and in an indirect sense throughout it, Roger Zelazny combed Earth’s cultures, religions, and legends for story material. His brilliant Lord of Light and This Immortal riffing off Hindu/Buddhist and Greek mythology respectively, he established himself as a writer who combined the classic themes of myth and legend with more modern, imaginative tropes of science fiction and fantasy. His 1969 Creatures of Light and Darkness is no exception.

Egyptian myth and cosmology is the source material for Creatures of Light and Darkness, an epic tale of warring gods where space and time have little meaning — or all the meaning, if the story is viewed as a whole. Stakeholders in universal power, Osiris, Set, Anubis, Isis, and a variety of other deities from E... Read More

The Long Mars: Finally getting somewhere

The Long Mars by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter 

The Long Mars by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter still features egregious prose, but it finally begins to tie in some of the unresolved plotlines from earlier books in the LONG EARTH series. We now understand why Roberta (from The Long War) seemed so different; we find out where Willis Linsay, Sally Linsay's dad and the inventor of the Stepper, has been hiding; and we see more of the Long Earth exploration as the Chinese and the Americans team up to go "where no man has gone before."

This book also provides the most stunning portrayals of different Earths so far — chilling and inspiring answers to the "What if?" question that haunts our life-lucky planet. Landscapes full of masses of bacteria, of monument-building crabs, of plant life that approaches sentience, all of... Read More

The Gates of Sleep: Lush and engaging, but it loses steam

The Gates of Sleep by Mercedes Lackey 

The Gates of Sleep by Mercedes Lackey, part of her ELEMENTAL MASTERS series, is a fun, harmless read based loosely on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale.

Growing up, I had always been drawn to Mercedes Lackey books, mostly because of the lush cover art, usually drawn by Jody Lee. But then, unfailingly, I’d read the blurb and decide not to read it; they usually sounded too involved, too conspicuously “high fantasy,” or otherwise cheesy and formulaic. (I love high fantasy, but I must have been a hipster when I was a kid because I couldn’t stand it if the book seemed like it was trying too hard.)

So I was pleasantly surprised by how engaging I found this book. Lee’s artwork is the perfect companion to Lackey’s prose, which is rich and descriptive. The world she creates fo... Read More

The Search for WondLa: Sweet heroine, dull plot

The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi

Eva Nine has been living in an underground bunker for all of her twelve years of life. She’s being raised by a slightly humanoid robot named MUTHR (it’s an anagram), her omnipod (a personal hand-held device) and her computerized home called Sanctuary. Eva Nine is the only human she’s ever seen. What’s above ground? Why is she not allowed out? Are there any other humans on Earth? If not, where are they? Soon some of Eva’s questions will be answered because somebody is hunting her and to escape, she must leave Sanctuary by herself.

When Eva Nine gets outside, she finds that everything is unrecognizable and nothing is as she’s been taught. The flora and fauna are unknown to her omnipod which is usually able to identify anything. She encounters strange enemies and makes friends with creatures that seem impossible. Could it be that she’s not on Earth? Where is she? Why is somebody hunting her?... Read More

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