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Summon the Keeper: Entertaining urban fantasy

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Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff

Tanya Huff’s KEEPER’S CHRONICLES is about a family of Keepers, descendants of Lilith who have the power to close up holes in the fabric of the universe that appear when evil things happen. Keepers get supernaturally summoned toward these holes, so they’re often on the go, traveling from place to place as they feel the pull of their summons.

Claire, a Canadian Keeper in her late 20s who travels with Austin, an elderly talking cat, has been summoned to a bed & breakfast called the Elysian Fields Guesthouse. When she arrives, the owner turns his establishment over to Claire and quickly bolts.

That’s because there’s an unconscious evil Keeper in room six, the place is haunted b... Read More

Arrow’s Fall: The end of Talia’s story

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Arrow’s Fall by Mercedes Lackey

Arrow’s Fall (1988) is the third and final novel in the first trilogy of Mercedes Lackey’s VALDEMAR saga (THE HERALDS OF VALDEMAR). This trilogy features Talia, a girl who lived in a close-knit conservative rural area who was unexpectedly chosen as the Queen’s Own Herald. In Arrows of the Queen and Arrow’s Flight we watched Talia come to the heralds’ collegium, learn to be a herald, and go out on her first circuit of the kingdom. She has grown and matured in many ways since the beginning of her adventure.
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Pocket Apocalypse: Alex goes to Australia and it’s not fun

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Pocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire

Pocket Apocalypse (2015) is book four in Seanan McGuire’s INCRYPTID series. You should probably read book three, Half-Off Ragnarok, before reading Pocket Apocalypse, but you don’t have to read the first two books, Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special.

We met Alex Price, Verity’s big brother, in the previous INCRYPTID novel, Read More

Legend Has It: The best part is John’s snarky voice

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Legend Has It by Elliott James

Legend Has It (2017) is the fifth book in Elliott JamesPAX ARCANA series. You really need to read the previous books, Charming, Daring, Fearless, and In Shining Armor first.

I love the way Elliott James recaps the story from the previous novels. Legend Has It begins with John Charming imagining being interviewed by Barbara Walters... Read More

Half-Off Ragnarok: INCRYPTID gets a new POV

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Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire’s INCRYPTID series is a fun paranormal fantasy with a focus on monsters and romance. The first two books, Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special, starred Verity Price, a ballroom dancer wannabe born into a famous family of monster hunters. The Price family were kicked out of the Covenant a couple generations back when their ancestors decided it was unethical to kill monsters indiscriminately. Now they (unlike the Covenant, who hates all non-humans) actually befriend and work with non-humans who they deem non-threatening t... Read More

The Language of Spells: Younger readers will probably find much to enjoy

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The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr

The Language of Spells (2018), by Garret Weyr, has a certain whimsical charm to it at times, and the warm relationship at its core is a definite plus, but it has a good number of issues that mar the reading experience, though probably less so for a younger audience.

The dragon Grisha is born in the Black Forest in a world where magic is on the wane. After a few decades of maturation (though still young in dragon terms), he’s enchanted by a sorcerer who turns him into a teapot. He lives his life in that trapped stage for many more decades, through both World Wars. Eventually he ends up in Vienna, kept like the few other remaining dragons, under tight surveillance by the bureaucracy. It is there he meets and bonds with eleven-year-old Maggie. Together the two decided to go on a quest to find and free a large ... Read More

The Robots of Gotham: A rough couple of weeks in the Windy City

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The Robots of Gotham by Todd McAulty

The Robots of Gotham (2018) is the debut novel from Todd McAulty, and though it’s chock-full of robots, only one of them seems to actually be from Gotham, and the entirety of the book’s nearly-700 pages take place in Chicago. So it’s a slightly misleading title, but there are more than enough explosions, stealth missions, and metal-clad behemoths to make up for it.

In a nutshell, there are humans — mostly part of the Venezuelan army, though the people themselves comprise a multitude of nationalities, and there are two different factions representing American blocs — and there are intelligent machines — some of whom are from the Kingdom of Manhattan, some of whom are unaffiliated, and some of whom aren’t supposed to exist. It’s a lot to keep track of, especially since any one of those groups see... Read More

Time Was: Gorgeous prose kind of compensates for the flaws

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Time Was by Ian McDonald

Time Was (2018), a novella by Ian McDonald, is billed as a time-travel love story, but really, there’s not a lot of depiction of either in this slim work, and while it’s often linguistically/stylistically beautiful, in the end I was more disappointed than not.

Emmet Leigh is a used book dealer who specializes in WWII. He comes across a 1930’s book, Time Was, with a letter inside from Tom Chappel to his lover Ben Seligman dating from the war. Curiosity piqued (“This was what every dealer, every bibliophile, craved: a story outside the book”), Emmett tries to learn more about the two men. His first clues come from Thorn Hildreth, whose great-grandfather’s stash of papers and photographs puts last names to first n... Read More

The Edge of Worlds: These books are getting repetitive

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The Edge of Worlds by Martha Wells

Note: This review will contain spoilers for the previous RAKSURA books.

The Edge of Worlds (2016) is the fourth novel in Martha WellsBOOKS OF THE RAKSURA. This series has many dedicated fans. Its strengths are an exotic fantasy world filled with unusual species and gorgeous scenery, and a strong and loveable protagonist with a tragic past. The cover art is awesome, too.

In The Edge of Worlds, Moon is finally starting to settle in with his new clan. He feels secure with his consort, Jade, and he now understands why he was abandoned as a child. He has met his formidable mother and others from his birth court. He finally feels at home — he’s been accepted and ... Read More

In Shining Armor: Great hero, loose plot

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In Shining Armor by Elliott James

The fourth book in Elliott JamesPAX ARCANA series is In Shining Armor (2016). In this installment, someone has kidnapped baby Constance, the god-daughter of John Charming. She was being guarded by a team consisting of both Knights and werewolves, so now the Knights are blaming the werewolves and vice versa. This threatens to upset their recently established, but tentative, truce, and the results could be disastrous, especially for John Charming. It’s up to him and his strange group of allies to figure out what happened to Constance and, hopefully, get her back safely. Otherwise, a deadly supernatural war is likely to break out.

As John and his team investigate the kidnapping, they run into all sorts of mythical crea... Read More

Angelmaker: Zany mashup of thriller, doomsday device, and whimsy

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Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway

Angelmaker (2012) is Nick Harkaway’s second book, after his exuberant, clever, digressive and exhausting debut The Gone-Away World. It shares the same qualities with that wild and free-wheeling tale, with relentlessly clever dialogue, quirky and in-depth characters, an intricate but playful doomsday plot, more flashbacks than most readers can handle, and chock-a-block with clever and ironic observations of the weirdly-unique world he has created, and by extension our own less colorful one.

The story skips back and forth in time just like its predecessor, to a degree some readers will get irritated by, as we learn a great deal about the back s... Read More

The Serpent Sea: An exotic and beautiful fantasy world

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The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells

The Serpent Sea (2012) is the second of Martha WellsBOOKS OF THE RAKSURA following The Cloud Roads which you’ll want to read first (this review will contain spoilers for The Cloud Roads).

In the previous book we met Moon, a solitary Raksura (a humanoid species that can shape-shift into a scaly flying dragon-like creature) who lost contact with his people when he was a baby and had no idea what he was. Trying to hide among other humans, he was discovered by a member of the Raksuran Indigo Cloud court and presented to their queen as a consort. The Cloud Roads describes Moon... Read More

The Last Sun: A colorful, action-packed, if slightly ragged urban fantasy

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The Last Sun by K.D. Edwards

There is plenty to like in The Last Sun (2018), K.D. Edwards’ inaugural novel of THE TAROT SEQUENCE series. The story is set in New Atlantis, a city and an island in our world, but inhabited by the survivors of the original Atlantis. After a world-war with humans for reasons not given, the surviving Atlanteans settled in this spot. They interact with humans, but most of the action in this book takes place between feuding Atlantean family groups who name their clans or Houses after the Major Arcana of the Tarot.

Rune, our main character and first-person narrator, is the sole survivor of the House of the Sun. His house was massacred in a “raid,” a thing that Atlantean houses do to one another with surprising frequency and apparently... Read More

American Gods: Mixed opinions

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

This is a bad land for Gods... The old gods are ignored. The new gods are as quickly taken up as they are abandoned, cast aside for the next big thing. Either you've been forgotten, or you're scared you're going to be rendered obsolete, or maybe you're just getting tired of existing on the whims of people.

Shadow, just out of prison and with nothing to go home to, is hired to be Mr. Wednesday's bodyguard as he travels around America to warn all the other incarnations of gods, legends, and myths, that “a storm is coming.” There's going to be a battle between the old gods who were brought to melting pot America by their faithful followers generations ago, and the new gods of technology, convenience, and individuality.

That's the premise of Read More

Winter Tide: Great premise, but it drags

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Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys

I love the premise of Winter Tide. It's about a sister and brother (Aphra and Caleb Marsh) who were living in Innsmouth when it was invaded by the U.S. government in 1928 (a fictional town and event created by H.P. Lovecraft). The Marshes and their neighbors were descendants, and worshipers, of the Great Old Ones…. you know, like Dagon and Cthulhu. Paranoid, the government sent them to detention camps, keeping them there until the Japanese-Americans were released from the camps in 1946. Away from the ocean and their gods, only siblings Aphra and Caleb survived the experience.

Now the government wants their help. The cold war has begun and there is some intel suggesting the Russians are trying ... Read More

Belgarath the Sorcerer & Polgara the Sorceress: Great companion pieces

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Belgarath the Sorcerer & Polgara the Sorceress by David and Leigh Eddings

As a reviewer I find it a bit challenging to justify my review of these books; they are exactly what they say on the tin. If you like Belgarath and Polgara, you’ll like these books. If you don’t, you won’t. If you don’t know who they are, don’t read them (but you might consider THE BELGARIAD, which contains the background you would need).

If you’re like me and read book reviews just because, well, look! It’s something in print! Let’s read it! — please do read on and get a few of my thoughts. But the functional part of the review is already over.

As you might guess just from the titles, Belg... Read More

Daring: John Charming meets his makers

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Daring by Elliott James

This second novel in Elliott JamesPAX ARCANA saga begins with an amusing top-ten list of things that people who didn’t read the first book, Charming, “really ought to know” (it’s a great way to do a re-cap), then jumps into the story.

Half-werewolf John Charming gets involved with both halves of his heritage in Daring (2014). One part is the Knights who raised and trained him, have been hunting him for years, and are now a threat to John’s new friends. The other part is a werewolf clan that wants to teach John their ways and initiate him into the pack. As he learns more about both groups, he uncovers a plot that endangers the Pa... Read More

Catseye: Another otherworldly adventure by Andre Norton

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Catseye by Andre Norton

Andre Norton’s novels are always a good option when you’re in the mood for an exciting, fast-paced, imaginative, and family-friendly adventure story. This one stars Troy Horan, a young man who lives hand-to-mouth in a ghetto called The Dipple on the luxury planet of Korwar. He’s a refugee from his home planet of Norton which has now been commandeered as a military outpost. Back home, his family were herders and his father, at least, seemed to have some sort of empathetic bond with the animals he cared for. Troy, being young when he was on Norton, isn’t quite certain about the nature of that bond.

When Troy gets an unexpected job offer from the owner of an exotic pet emporium, Troy realizes that his heritage may be an advantage. On his first day of work, Troy indeed f... Read More

Arrow’s Flight: Talia goes on circuit

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Arrow’s Flight by Mercedes Lackey

Arrow's Flight is the second book in Mercedes Lackey’s VALDEMAR series. It was originally published in 1987 and has just now been produced in audio format by Tantor Audio. In the first VALDEMAR book, Arrows of the Queen, we met Talia, a young girl being raised in a repressive society who was chosen by a telepathic blue-eyed white horse to be one of the Kingdom's Heralds. She was whisked off to the academy where she began learning the skills needed to protect the kingdom. In her special role as Queens Own, Talia (despite her youth, lack of education, and inexperience in the world) gave the queen advice and help tha... Read More

The End of the Day: Before Death, meet Charlie

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Reposting to include Marion's new review.

The End of the Day by Claire North

“I am the Harbringer of Death,” Charlie explains countless times to airport security, friends of friends, nurses, doctors, strangers in bars, passengers on trains. Because before Death, comes Charlie: sometimes as a courtesy and sometimes as a warning, but always before. Meeting people from every possible walk of life, Charlie discovers what it is to be human in The End of the Day, a genre-defying tale.

When we first meet Charlie he’s somewhere in Central America, trying to locate an old woman called Mama Sakinai. He explains to a mule driver that he is the Harbringer of Death. He is here to bring Mama Sakinai some whisky. Sometimes Charlie comes to mark the end of the world, or a world. In this case, he is marking the end of an era: Mama Sakinai is... Read More

The Diminished: The moon has two faces

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The Diminished by Kaitlyn Sage Patterson

A shattered moon, broken into two halves, is featured on the cover of The Diminished (2018), Kaitlyn Sage Patterson’s debut YA fantasy novel. It’s an apt symbol for the world created in this novel: the vast majority of people are born as twins, with a mystical emotional tie between them. The chapters alternate between the points of view of two sixteen year old characters at opposite end of society: defiant Vi, one of the diminished, and kindhearted Bo, the designated heir to the throne.

When one twin dies, sooner or later the other twin almost invariably falls into a profound and often murderously violent grief, unable to cope with life without their twin. Vi Abernathy is one of these surviving twins, called the diminished or (derogatively) dimmies; her twin Prudence died soon after birth. Though Vi h... Read More

Scourged: A weak ending to a great series

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Scourged by Kevin Hearne

Scourged (2018)is the ninth and final novel in Kevin Hearne’s IRON DRUID CHRONICLES. This has been a great series and I have looked forward to the release of each book as well as all of the related novellas and short stories. The IRON DRUID CHRONICLES is especially wonderful in the audio versions (Random House Audio) performed by the fabulous Luke Daniels. I'm absolutely certain I enjoyed them even more in audio than I would have in print format.

Scourged begins with Oberon, Atticus's adorable canine familiar, helpfully giving us a quick but detailed recap of the story so far. (Thanks, Oberon!) Then we get down to business. Ragnarok is finally here and Loki is letting loose all sorts of ... Read More

I Met a Traveller in an Antique Land: A disquisition on the value of all books

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I Met a Traveller in an Antique Land by Connie Willis

Jim is visiting Manhattan, doing publicity for his blog, Gone for Good, and hoping to sell it as a book to a publisher. The point of Jim’s blog, and his sincere belief, is that things dying out and disappearing ― payphones, elevator operators, VHS tapes, and books nobody cares about ― is part of the natural order, a sign that society doesn’t need these things any longer. If society changes its mind, they can always be brought back. Books are generally digitized, after all. Or so Jim asserts.

When a meeting with a publisher gets cancelled, Jim wanders the streets of Manhattan until a downpour of rain drives him into an old-fashioned bookstore, Ozymandias Books, which appears to deal in rare titles. Jim wanders through the shelves, bemused at the odd variety of obscure books that he sees.
Pr... Read More

Sky in the Deep: Axe-wielding star-crossed lovers

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Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Eelyn lives only to fight with her father, her best friend Mýra, and the rest of the Aska clan against their mortal enemies, the Riki clan. Every five years, the clans meet on the battlefield and do their very best to slaughter one another, then return home with the survivors to heal their wounds and train for another five years. Eelyn doesn’t question why the Aska are bound up in this eternal blood-feud; this is how things have always been, this is how they will always be, and the best death Eelyn can imagine is in battle against the Riki. Should she die ingloriously, however, or be captured as a slave, she will be denied entrance into the Aska afterlife, and will lose all honor.

Her older brother, Iri, died while fighting the Riki five years previously, so when Eelyn sees him fighting alongside the Riki, she becomes obsessed with determining whether ... Read More

A Wild Sheep Chase: In search of lost things, including a sheep

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A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami

I’ve seen Haruki Murakami’s A Wild Sheep Chase casually described as postmodern, as surreal, and as magic realism. Though it was published in 1982 (and translated into English in 1989), and though the main character is not a private investigator, I nevertheless think of it as a weird private investigator novel. Private investigators are often associated with thrillers, their novels can play with the expectation that the detective will solve the case, and/ or they can create a noir atmosphere that the hero inhabits on the reader’s behalf. A Wild Sheep Chase works mostly like these last two types of private investigator stories.

A wild goose chase is an exercise in futility, but perhaps a wild ... Read More