Category Archives: Fantasy

Written in Red – Anne Bishop

cs759 escaped.  Her flight lands her at Lakeside Courtyard inside Other territory.  It’s the safest place she might find.  The Courtyard is not subject to human law and may be able to keep her away from The Controller’s “benevolent ownership.”  She entered Howling Good Reads in the middle of a snow storm – hypothermic.  She is fed out of  basic kindness.  Knowing she needs to stay, she asks for a job.  The Others decision to make her Human Liaison is to avoid giving it to the distrusted human campaigning for it. She is the best option because she is the only other option. cs759 names herself Meg Corbyn.  Bishop’s story about her is addictive.  I do think it might be crack.  I read through the first three books, one after another, without break.  I’d read the fourth but it’s not available yet.

Bishop’s world is separated into land governed by The Others and Human’s, but human’s are not generally in control.  They are clever meat. Their value lies in what they create – their technology and devices of use.  Other’s are Shifters, Elementals, and Sanguinatti connected to the majority of land. Human land, that is theirs solely, lies  where their species orginated, but they have outgrown it.  They bleed over into Other territory.  This happen at Other’s allowance.  It should never be forgotten that it is not theirs.  They are renters, interlopers, tolerated only as long as they are useful.

Meg changes the dynamics in Lakeside.  The relationships she builds with Elementals, Shifters, and the Sanguinatti is something new.  It changes the way they see humans – that they can be more than useful or edible. This is something to protect, and a small group of humans on the police force realize this.  They see her as their best chance at survival.   A portion of humans resent Others, those who don’t live close enough to them to respect the danger the can invoke, and eventually/inevitably someone will make a mistake.   They hope Meg’s influence can protect them from being decimated.  Unfortunately, the human’s seeking Meg could easily be the ones to endanger them all.

Meg is Cassandra Sangue, a human seer.  They speak prophecy when they bleed.  Meg and her like have been committed to organizations, originally for their protection, becoming ‘benevolent ownership. ‘  Cutting creates a euphoria that develops into an addiction, causing themselves harm, requiring others to intercede.   Benevolent care transformed into exploitation over time.  The cut on their skin gives the observer to prophecy invaluable knowledge – an expensive commodity.  Meg’s escape brings powerful desire for her capture.   Many seek her for personal gain.

I listened to a portion of the audible book and found I preferred to read the book.  I didn’t find the maturity I was looking for in the voice of Alexandra Harris’s narration.  Meg is a young woman, and naive in many ways.  I understand why Harris’s was chosen and why she interpreted Meg the way she did.

Bishop’s Thasia isn’t a new piece of world building.  The Others aren’t unique.  She populates her book with Shifters, Vampires, and Elemental’s.  Recognizing this, I questioned why I am so attached to the book. Why it feels so comfortable?  While it’s not original, the world is a solid combination of familiar ideas and it also has developed/complete characters.   Her world feels natural and the threats realistic.  It’s compelling, well-written, and built with smart/complex characters.

I recommend this.  It is addictive – read at your own risk.


Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo created a slippery and enticing novel with ‘Six of Crows.’  Once I started listening to it I didn’t want to stop. I am impatient for the next in series. Kaz Brekker, “Dirty Hands,” from the Barell…wait, scratch that – it is part of the legend he has created about himself. Kaz is a leader of “The Dreggs,” a group of young thieves in The Barell of Ketterdam.  No job is too difficult or unscrupulous.  They will do what is needed to survive.  Kaz and his associates, aren’t as dark as they would like to be believed, but they are skilled.  Enter “The Wraith,” the stealer of secrets.  You will not hear her enter or exit.  Nina is Grisha, a trained warrior, but separated from her army she is still a Heartrender.  She can make you see what you want/what she wants.  Jesper is a brash Sharpshooter most comfortable in life being shot at.  Wylan is new with an unclear but necessary skill set.  This peculiar team is going to take on an impossible job. A heist requiring Matthias, a convicted Fjerdan Druskelle, to get them into the Ice Palace.  It will be hard enough to break him out of prison, but since he was sent there on Nina’s false testimony, his willingness to betray his country and beliefs with her is only the beginning of the crews obstacles.

I have not read Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy.  I read mixed reviews, but was intrigued by the alternate Russian fantasy world she created.  ‘Six of Crows’ has been reported as darker and more adult.  That makes sense.  It loosely falls in the YA genre because it is about a group of young thieves.  The book, however, is about an intricate heist, politics, subjugation, and drugs.  There is minor romance secondary to the story.  It is present to instigate development in the characters.  I was impressed at the depth and range of traits Bardugo built into them.  They are authentic, likable, and I became invested – especially in Inej or ‘The Wraith.’

There is a strong theme of disillusionment with any form of idealism.  These characters each lost innocence of believing in right and wrong having strict delineations.  Mathias is a Druskelle, raised to be part of a fanatically religious Fjerdan army that believes Grisha, non human abominations, must be eliminated.  Nina was raised as a Grisha warrior meant to infiltrate Fjerda.  Kaz lost all as a child at the hands ruthless con artists.  Inej was caught, enslaved, and sold to a house of ill repute where she was hocked nightly.  You get the picture.  This story is about a group of people forced to deal with dark aspects of the world as it is – not as it is represented. YA is flush with dystopias where people have loss, but there is generally a strong theme of revolution based off of right and wrong.  It rarely shows the aftermath where those newly in power, considered bastions of right, resort to abuses of power similar to the regime it displaced. Bardugo’s novel deals with realization of  complexities or murkiness between ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ Despite dealing with these heavy topics ‘Six of Crows’ is fun.  I am impressed.

It is narrated by a talented ensemble cast including Jay Snyder, David Ledoux, Lauren Fortgang, Roger Clark, Elizabeth Evans, Tristan Morris, and Brandon Rubin.  The group does a great job.  With the large cast there is clear character differentiation.  They handled Bardugo’s fantastical word pronunciation consistently which does not always take place.  If done incorrectly it is cause for me to abandon the audio version for the book.  I don’t doubt that reading the book is enjoyable but when the second book comes out I will look for the audible version.  The narrators interpretation of the characters helped endear me to them.  If you would like to listen to a sample of the narration take the link below.  My personal tastes prefer to listen to it at 1.25 speed.

If it is not clear, I encourage you to read this book.  I think even those who only like the grimmest of the Grimdark will enjoy ‘Six of Crows.’ If you enjoy Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard series I’m pretty certain you will like this.  As said above, I didn’t read the Grisha trilogy, but I’ve seen enough reviews to be able to say that if you liked it you will want to pick up ‘Six of Crows.’  I think this book will have a wide audience.


Book Review: Updraft – Fran Wilde

Fran Wilde’s debut novel left me wishing for a sequel even though I knew her story was complete with this book.  Wilde’s novel is a great stand alone.  She created a world that could be a futuristic dystopia, but I saw it as a fantasy with its own world.  In Wilde’s sky towers she has a young woman preparing for her skytest.  If she passes she can become a trader, like her mother, and fly among the towers, bringing good luck, and visiting the spire.   As teenagers will do from time to time, she chose not listen to her mother, she stayed outside to watch her mother’s departure and skymouths attacked.  She was locked out, unable to get in, and to everyone’s shock was able to shout down the attacking skymouth.  The good luck is she saved her life, the bad luck is it brought her to the attention of the Singers.  The Singers keep Tower law, live in the Spire, and separate from the rest of tower society.  Singers, once identified, learn the secrets of their culture and must break from their families . Wilde’s story centers on Kirit’s journey once the Singers decide they want her to be one of them.   ‘Updraft’ is good Young Adult fiction.  I applaud its lack of romance.  I enjoy love and romance but it’s nice to see young adult fiction centered on a girl whose focus is solely about the situation and task at hand.  Not every story needs a love interest.

Kirit wants to be like her mother, a famous trader and a credit to her tower, but her mistake took her irrevocably off course.  Her skill at flying and her desires became irrelevant.  Singers have the power to change not only her life but the lives of everyone a person cares about.   Many lessons are learned.  Kirit learns that some choices can not be unmade; that your actions effect not only you, and when/what battles to fight and which ones you should leave alone.

Wilde’s writing is good.  Her story, while is definitely a coming of age story, has some unique attributes.  Her world is interesting, set in the clouds her towers grow from bone. Her people are a society created from the aftermath of war.  They are a remnant of a people who struggled to create their society heavily reliant on law, tradition, and the Singer’s.   Wilde doesn’t give into utilizing trends or obvious cliché’s  when the plot became tricky.  I applaud Wilde for sticking to her guns and relying on her solid plot to move the story along.  It made me cheer to see youth having bigger things to worry about than a love interest.  I enjoy love stories.  Love is an integral part of who we are as people – how we react to it when we get it and when we lose it. It is a driving force, but I like recognizing teenagers/children are more complex.  Multiple forces and concerns grow people into adults.  It’s nice to see others highlighted.

Khristine Hvam narrated the audible version.  She does a great job.  She’s well-known and has narrated ‘The Chronicles of Elantra’ series by Michelle Sagara, ‘The Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ by Laini Taylor, ‘Conversion’ by Katherine Howe, and ‘Ex-Patriots by Peter Clines amongst several others.  Hvam didn’t disappoint with ‘Updraft’ she handled several characters and the emotion of the story with ease.

This is a strong book with solid world building.  If you are in the mood for a good coming of age story, that does not rely heavily on romance, this is one of the few books that falls in that category with a female protagonist.  I hope Wilde continues writing.  I was surprised this was her debut.  Her writing reminded me of a seasoned author.  I have high hopes for her writing career, and look forward to reading more of her novels in the future.  I would definitely recommend this to teenagers but I am an adult and I enjoyed it.  I expect other adults to enjoy it as well.

I received this from Audible in return for an honest review.  If you would like to go to audible and sample a snippet of Hvam’s narration take the link below.


The Fools Quest – Robin Hobb

Many things happen in this book we have been waiting so long for.  ‘Fool’s Quest’ is the second in the Fitz and the Fool series, but is the sixteenth in the Realm of the Elderling’s story, Robin Hobb created involving the Farseer’s and the Fool.  Hobb is extraordinary.  If you haven’t read her the story needs to be read, for the most part, in order.  The Liveship Traders series can be taken on its own, but The Fitz and the Fool cannot be.  The true pay off of this book is rooted in a culmination of events in the making since Assassin’s Apprentice, book one of the first series, The Farseer Trilogy.  I can’t express my feelings and attachment for these characters adequately.  If you have any interest in fantasy these are the books I encourage you to read.   They are beautiful, touching, violent, and immensely painful.  Hobb is not traditional Grimdark, but it is Grimdark, and the best I’ve read.

Hobb ended The Fool’s Assassin with a distressing cliff hanger.  Characters at Buckkeep Castle are ignorant of this information for a large portion of the book – building significant tension.  The Fool is on the brink of death and Chade has ensconced him in his hidden chambers to protect the broken man.  Fitz works in his traditional role for Chade, the work of bastard sons of the Royal Family, while keeping an eye on the Fool. His return in the dark of night made it easy for him to spy for Chade.  It is a way he can pay back Chade, Kettricken, and Dutiful for taking care of his friend.

While Fitz and his family took steps to right old wrongs at Buckkeek, disaster struck Withywoods, Fitz’s home for the past several years with Molly and Bee.  When he returns he sees evidence of invasion/violation.  Magic has tampered with the minds of his people.  They have no memory of what happened, the burned stables, and people killed.  He blames himself, he wasn’t there to protect those he loves and those who are his responsibility.  This time he’s not the only one.  Lant and Shun were sent to Fitz to teach and protect as one royal bastard to another.

Fitz has always been one to act on impulse and emotion, but in this book he finally learns the necessity to take time for preparation.  He’s old, whether he looks it or not, his body and Skill/skills are rusty.  He must use everything he has learned in his life to reap vengeance.  Back are his axes and back is the wetwork of an assassin – whether people like it or not.

Fitz, Chade, The Fool, Kettricken, and even Dutiful have aged.  Where they fit, what they can, and are supposed to do have changed.  They have many responsibilities.  One of the biggest lessons in this book is to meet one responsibility means you must fail another.  Hobb has a magnificent grasp of the complexities of life.  Fitz cannot be everything to everyone.  Just as he gets things he has always wanted he feels strings attached.  They are not meanly meant.  They just are.

I mentioned The Liveship Traders series can stand on its own in the Realm of the Elderlings.  It’s the start of a parallel story.  In the past I would have included the Rainwild Chronicles in that assessment, since there has not been obvious ties to The Farseer’s, but that has changed.  If you are thinking to jump over the Rainwild Chronicles I would recommend against it after this book.

‘Fool’s Quest’ is beautiful.  It caused intense joy and pain in me.  There is nothing I would cut out.  It might not always be obvious but everything Hobb includes had purpose.

 


‘Alice’ – Christina Henry: A different take/the Grimm state of fairy tale retelling

Fairy tales, original fairy tales, are dark.  The Brothers Grimm stories are violent and come with a lesson.  ‘Alice in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll is not a fairy tale, but it has been granted that status in our culture.    Disney created an innocent and sweet movie based off it. I’m sure you’ve seen it.  Henry’s book isn’t charming and certainly not sweet.  Carroll’s original story isn’t free of its own grim aspects.  Legend/popular opinion is that ‘Alice in Wonderland’ is about the little girl of a friend Carroll knew, Alice Liddell, and was written while Carroll was under the influence of psychedelics.  It isn’t squeaky clean.  Henry takes that and ups the madness quotient.  Alice is in an insane asylum when we meet her.  She speaks of rabbits and tea parties and it gets her locked away.  That is the start of this dark tale. Henry’s world still contains magic but The Caterpillar, The Cheshire Cat, and The Walrus and the Carpenter are not what we have been taught.  They are realities wrapped in small bits of magic and a lot of mental instability.  If you are looking for lighter fare turn around and walk away.  ‘Alice’ isn’t for the faint of heart.

What if Wonderland is a delusion? – a fantasy created by a sixteen-year old girl to deal with a tragic experience her mind didn’t know how to cope with? Her upper class parents didn’t know what to do when their little girl came up missing.  All they wanted was to have her back  but the girl they got back was scarred and raving about rabbits.  When the story didn’t change they committed her not knowing what else to do.  Henry’s story introduces its to Alice, now twenty-six, in a cold cell speaking to her only companion through a mouse-hole.  The man is ‘Hatcher,’ an unstable man said to have murdered his wife, child, and several men in a blood bath with a hatchet.  He has nightmares and fits about the Jabberwocky.  Alice doesn’t believe it exist.  Henry takes her characters, Alice and Hatcher, through escaping the Asylum to the ‘Old City,’ an area abandoned by the upper class and elite, to a criminal element.  It’s where these two characters must go to hunt down the Jabberwocky – something that is either a threat to the entire world or a figment of Hatcher’s imagination.

Some retellings can be considered for children and young adults.  This is not.  The violence and concepts are for an adult audience.  The effects of mental illness, rape, and violence are realistically explored. I was impressed how Henry dealt with the topics and the long-term effects.  It was not eroticized or used for shock factor.  For much of the book I thought there might not be any fantasy element and found myself respecting the choice.  How magic is used, and Alice’s questioning of it’s very possibility, is clever.  Alice, being told she was mentally ill for years made her believe it.  She constantly questions her understanding of what is real as well as what Hatcher believes is real.  This would be true of an institutionalized population.  She also deals with her perception of the world.  She acknowledges her understanding of society is frozen at a 16 year-old perception.  It was when she was institutionalized.

I can’t say I enjoyed this.  ‘Alice’ is a grimdark fairy tale retelling.  It’s not common and it is fascinating.  I am impressed with the concept, the writing, and the tie to Caroll.  I don’t recommend this for everyone.  If you are ready for it, and aware walking into it, it is worthwhile. I respect it.  I would not recommend it outside an adult audience.  It handles sexual abuse, violence, and mental instability well but it’s intricate and handled at a high level.  It’s an interesting psychological study inside the framework of Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland.’  It is good.

I received this book from Netgalley in return for an honest review.


Cities and Thrones – Carrie Patel

Oh the political intrigue of Recoletta.  How I missed the dark hallways and tunnels where spies and malcontents lurk arround every corner. Every town and commune has something riding on the rise and fall of Sato’s revolution.  Carrie Patel has focused on the hard part of revolution which is the aftermath.  Every revolution rides on the sell of a brighter tomorrow but the days after are usually darker and half the population flees.  How do you maintain control?  Keeping what Sato won is much harder than getting it in the first place and how does he and his regime not ulyimately become a sad version of the Whitneails and the council they unseated.  Patel handled the disillusionment beautifully.  I enjoyed ‘Cities and Thrones’ more than the first of Patel’s Recoletta series, ‘The Buried Life.’

Patel introduced us to the underground city, the tunnels and Victorian decadence of Recoletta as it fell in ‘The Buried Life.’  The class disparities and the restriction of knowledge couldn’t be sustained.  Patel focuses on a world separated by economic class.  Race and religion were noticeably absent and helped highlight the imbalence of wealth.  As Jane and countless other Recolettans flee their city for the world above they see the communes and metropolises that operate under different concepts.  The Communes work as a group and these new cities focus on earned status.  Jane finds a place in the Judicial system when she chose to testify to a truth on behalf of citizens of Madina rather than lie out of a blind loyalty to displaced Recolettans.  It starts as a vision of hope.  Malone is the new Chief of Police and takes her place at Sato’s side in a hopeful new Recoletta.  The second half of this book uncovers the cracks in these regimes – the cities that have welcomed them, and the need of the communes.  Everyone needs something from somebody.

Patel’s story continues in an honest view of revolution.  The reality is not so shiny as the propaganda that supported it to fruition.  The other city governments are afraid of it like a contagion, and the communes want the same hope and change. Why should they have to wait for opportunity while they support Recoletta? Does Recoletta stand behind their ideals or is their new government built on hypocrisy?  The new Recoletta needs trade, order, and support to survive.  Patel showed the hope and the desolation that comes with it.  It doesn’t mean it wasn’t necessary, and it doesn’t mean the old ways of the Whitenail council is acceptable. It means that it is complicated.

Patel’s writing and character developement improved with ‘Cities and Thrones.’  We see Malone, Jane, Arnault, and even Sato in a more holistic way.  Pieces of Recoletta’s history are hinted at, but not enough to satisfy me.  We received a large reveal at the end of ‘The Buried Life’ and we don’t get answers about the library in book two.  I’m impatient for Patel to answer this in book three along with information about the underground cities, the restriction of information, and the dystopian connection.  That said, this novel delved into the world up top that was rarely if ever discussed or acknowledged by the opulent Recoletta it supported.  ‘Cities and Thrones’ is necessary and a wonderful second in a series, but I will not be alone in waiting for the big payoff.  Arnault, Malone, Jane etc. want the answers as much as I do.  Patel gives us a reveal at the end of this book too.  It’s not as big as in the first book but it will certainly whet your appetite. My feeling is that ‘The Buried Life’ was the appetizer and ‘Cities and Thrones’ is the meat.  But we all want desert just like we want answers.

I received this book from Angry Robot in return for an honest review


Half The World – Joe Abercrombie

Half the World (Shattered Sea, #2)

‘Half the World is the second book in the Shattered Sea Series.  The second book in coming of age series typically explore the same protagonist as a new adult swiftly taking it out of the young adult category, but Abercrombie is clever.    ‘Half the World’ remains young adult by giving us two new young ones to follow.  They provide us new perspectives of Father Yarvi’s and Gettland’s struggles with the High King.  Instead of being inside Yarvi’s head we see him through the eyes of new characters, Brand and Thorn.  I think it was smart.  It allows characters to grow up and accomplish great tasks with the required, realistic maturity needed.  We also get to experience a story with a longer ARC than a few years in a traditional young adult format. Brilliant!

We meet Brand and Thorn as they are finishing their training to become warriors.  In Gettland, being a warrior touched by Mother War, is esteemed above all else.  Thorn as a young woman, I can’t say lady because she discourages the idea, is challenging social norms.  Her father died at the King of Vasterland’s hands when she was young and idolized him.   She wants nothing more from life than to be just like him.  A young woman of Gettland can be touched by Mother War but it is rare and discouraged.  She deals with opposition by being prickly, and challenging.  She sees everything as a fight but the result of training continually and being unwilling to give up has made her capable.  Brand’s challenges are nothing like Thorn’s.  His parents both died when he was young, his father was a drunk, and he lived as an orphan caring for his young sister by eating out of the midden heap.  Everything he has he earned by doing jobs no one else wanted.  Being a warrior he sees as the answer to providing for himself and his younger sister.  He is the opposite side of the coin from Thorn.  He holds dear to the idea his mother gave him that if you do good it will one day return to you.  Thorn holds to the ideals her father molded into her – you have to fight for everything you get.

As fate conspires, these two learn that no matter how hard you work, life isn’t always fair.  For different reasons they end up in Father Yarvi’s hands on a mission to find Gettland allies for an inevitable war with the High King, maybe more accurately in a war with Mother Scaer.  The road to either war or peace is littered with bodies, and these two young ones learn the world is not black and white.  What oaths must you keep and which ones do you have to bend to survive?

Abercrombie did a wonderful job with this book.  Their were some awkward moments in his interpretation of a young girl, but being a teenager is awkward.   The moments that make you cringe relate to maturation and romance.  A part of me was questioning why Abercrombie had to include them but the answer is clear.  He is writing young adult fiction and a huge portion of surviving being a teenager is surviving these experiences with all the a gawky and ungainly skill of youth.  It made me laugh companionably.  I grew to appreciate it.

Aside from the themes of youth, ‘Half the World’ is a compelling story about Gettland’s survival.  The politics of war and peace is muddy.  Those who are supposed to speak for Mother War and Father Peace are not that different.  They just use different weapons.  Do you prefer sharpened steel or coercive tactics?  Both take force of will.  Gettland, for all its strength as a warring nation, is small with enemy’s surrounding her.  If they are to succeed in not submitting to the High King they can’t do it alone.  Yarvi must find allies in this book.  These first two books, aside from individual character themes, appear to be preparation for war of a grand scale in the third.

I was impatient for this book.  ‘Half a King’ reminded me of reading coming of age, high fantasy tales when I was a teenager.  It was well written.  Abercrombie did not disappoint with his second book. I’m just as excited to read the third when it comes out.  The Shattered Sea is the first series I have read by Abercrombie but what he has created here makes me want to read more of his work.  I’m impressed with what he has brought to young adult fiction with this.  It is a creative format for a series.  I like the growth and story arc it allows.  This second book boosted my already high impression of Abercrombie and The Shattered Sea.  I believe anyone should be able to enjoy it.


The Void – J.D. Horn

J.D. Horns third installment of the Witching Savannah series gets released tomorrow November 18, 2014.  If you have been waiting you will not be disappointed.  If you haven’t been waiting you can pick up all three books and read them without interruption.  I was pleasantly surprised at how well Horn handled this book.  ‘The Source’ is the second in this series, and was not nearly as strong as his debut novel ‘The Line.’  I admit I was a bit concerned about this book, but my worry was unfounded. The books focus on Mercy Taylor.  She descends from a very powerful family of witches.  The family is one of the 13 families that founded and control The Line.  For most of her life she was the twin who had no power and was the disappointment.   Poor Mercy is certainly put through the ringer.  All joy and those she loves get stripped from her.  We witness loss after loss, but Horn has a purpose for this other than to drive us and her to distraction.  There are plenty of twists and turns.   Several I didn’t guess.  This is a story of a woman and a family trying to hold themselves together.

‘The Void’ starts with Mercy pregnant, married, and an anchor.  The rest of the anchors view her and all Taylor’s as a liability that need to be mitigated and controlled.  They are purposefully stifling Mercy’s powers.  She should have been taught from birth about the line.  That didn’t happen and as a result she is left ignorant of what she needs to know.  In some ways this is a blessing.  The anchors don’t know everything and their actions to protect the line are misguided.  Mercy has a connection to it that is not hampered by years of misinterpretation and misunderstanding.  She is their best hope.  You have to believe the anchors are smart enough not to believe an old and foolish prophecy Mercy will be the line’s downfall.

When I was a child I spent some time in Savannah, Georgia which is where this clever story is set.  Horn makes you feel as though you are there in its muggy beauty.  Savannah is full of history. Horn ties it into his Witching Savannah series from Mercy’s liars tour to the purposeful locations of murders.  The magic is also tied to Savannah’s history with magical practitioners of Hoodoo which has roots in the American South.  It’s not a detailed history but Horn explores it enough that you have a basic understanding of the practice.  It is enough for the purposes of this series.

This is my favorite of Witching Savannah.  Horn did a fabulous job wrapping the story up.  There is even potential for Horn to continue it if he wants too.  I encourage anyone who has interest in the American South, interest in magic systems both historical and unique concepts, and family dynamics to read this book.  The series is a coming of age tale but this third novel is all about being an adult and the hard choices one has to make for the greater good.  At one point I felt Horn was taking notes from Robin Hobb.  This is an odd connection as their stories have next to nothing in common other than both authors know how to inflict and extraordinary amount of pain on their characters for larger purposes.  That being said it is a truly enjoyable novel and series.

I received ‘The Void’ from Netgalley and Amazon Publishing in return for an honest review.


Strangeness and Charm (The Courts of the Feyre#3) – Mike Shevdon

Strangeness and Charm (Courts of the Feyre, #3)

This is the third installment of Mike Shevdon’s ‘The Courts of Feyre’ series.  I took a small break from this series.  After I finished the second book I couldn’t wait to read it but when I picked it up it wasn’t grabbing my attention.  I thought I may have overdosed on Shevdon’s particular charm.  I did.  I acknowledge I can be fickle.  If I am over a genre or style I’m over it for a while. I will want to eat nothing but spaghetti for a month and then I won’t want to eat it at all for six months.  It has nothing to do with the quality of the book or the spaghetti.  If I had forced myself to read this at the time it would have gone badly.  I would have ruined a book that I would normally love. Over time I have learned to recognize the warning signs. Luckily, I made the right choice and shelved it.  When I revisited ‘Strangeness and Charm’ I loved it. It picked up where ‘The Road to Bedlam’ left off.  Dogstar has a new baby, he’s a warder, a distraught ex-wife, and more importantly his daughter back.  She is a mess, but she is a teenager that is dealing with trying to control her powers and her recent captivity.  Sure,  she was rescued by her dad, but it’s not like she gets to go back to her normal life, see her mom, or go to school. She currently has to be protected but protection doesn’t feel much different from a cell.  Dogstar is dealing with this along with getting to know his daughter as a young woman.  He can’t win.  Caught between Blackbird, his partner’s, wishes; Garvin, head of the Warders, wishes; and his daughter’s needs he upsets everyone.

Dogstar, previously known as Rabbit, has had his own rocky relationship with the Courts of Feyre.  He doesn’t fit being of Feyre and human descent.  The Feyre don’t know what to do with their mongrel Feyre/human experiment.  They don’t fit with the Feyre and they have ended up being test subjects for science with the humans.  They aren’t particularly happy and why should they be?  This book is about determining where this group belongs.  Few get admitted to the Feyre courts and the only way Dogstar was saved was by becoming a warder.  They swear allegiance to all and to none.  These few exceptions aren’t a standard and when Garvin asks Dogstar to hunt down the hybrids he doesn’t know what to do.  As a warder his responsibility is to put them down for the safety of the Feyre and human contract but he doesn’t agree with it.  How can he hunt down those people he just saved from the humans?  His daughter wades in to this disaster making Dogstar’s position even harder.

I found Shevdon through Ben Aaronovitch’s recommendations on Goodreads.  The Courts of the Feyre is a mature urban fantasy set in England.  When I say mature I am not speaking code for erotica.  This is not sexually explicit.  It deals with adult issues such as raising teenagers, and the complexity of having several people’s needs pulling on you at the same time.  Some teenagers might enjoy it but it is not YA.  The series centers on Dogstar who is an adult man whose upper middle class, divorced, life gets hijacked during book one when his Feyre powers activated.  He was forced to abandon his old life but it didn’t release from responsibilities to his ex-wife or his daughter.  It only made his relationship to them more complicated.

I recommend this series to anyone who likes mature urban fantasy, Feyre/fey/faerie, and strong world building.

If you like this you might also like:

  • Midnight Riot (The Rivers of London series) – Ben Aaronovitch
  • Of Blood and Honey (The Fey and the Fallen series) – Stina Leicht
  • The Rook (The Checquy Files) – Daniel O’Malley

 


Horrorstor – Grady Hendrix

Horrorstör

 

There is something delightful about this book.  Have you ever worked for a Big Box retail store?  I have, and I have to say that Grady Hendrix captured the experience very well.  You can tell he spent some quality time at one during his life.  The corporate jargon and internal branding used in this book could come straight out of an employee handbook or explicit policy and procedure book.  The parody made my lips curl up in a snarky smile and laugh.  There is a policy and procedure for everything in these well researched stores.  There is purpose to every placement, the layout is planned disorientation, and it will make you purchase more.  What happens when that same store that is built to disorient you is taken over by unearthly ghostlike apparitions intent on destruction?  Nothing good.

Amy is twenty-four and is talked into working an overnight shift by her boring Floor Manager Basil.  She and another associate will be helping Basil prep for a corporate visit in the morning.  She agrees so that he will approve her transfer to Youngstown away from him and his store.  It’s only a matter of time before she is fired if she stays under Basil’s management and she can’t afford to be fired.  She’s in debt.  Her roommates are waiting for her rent money, and the college she dropped out of is collecting on the loans she took out.  If she gets fired she has to move back into her mother’s trailer.  She hates Orsk, the knock off IKEA retailer she works for, but she doesn’t have a lot of options.  Her dream of a cushy sit down job seem so far away, especially since she failed the supposed “idiot proof” management test, and because Basil seems to have it out for her.

During this night shift strange things happen.  Associates have been reporting strangely bad smells in the store, and odd text messages saying “Help!”  The corporate help desk and management can’t find the source and has offered no resolution.  Things get out of hand quickly as Amy, Basil and Ruth Ann work overnight.  The lights go out when they aren’t supposed too.  They get lost in a store they work in all the time, and they find two other co-workers who have decided to camp out in the store.  Matt and Trinity decided that with all the strange things happening that the store was going to be the first episode of their ghost investigation show “Ghost Bomb.”  You ask what “Ghost Bomb” is? Good question.  No one in the store knows.  They are undiscovered but this is going to land them that big break.  Matt and Trinity have camera’s, lights, etc.  Trinity is a true believer and they have done their research on the store.  There used to be a prison on the ground where the Orsk Store was built and several inmates drowned in the prison with the warden and guards.  Previous to it being a prison it was a swamp.  They are sure that the smells and texts are coming at them from another dimension.  When they find a homeless guy hiding in the store Trinity’s hope of her first ghost sighting is dashed.   Never fear a seance brings the horror upon them!

This is fun.  I enjoyed it.  I will say part of my love for it comes from my experience in the past working for big box retail.  The love that process, process within processes, and processes within those processes is so well expressed.  It’s funny and delightful and left me wanting more.  I know I  will be looking for more by Grady Hendrix.  I encourage you to pick this if you have ever worked in retail, if you enjoy horror light, if you want to laugh, if you enjoy parody’s, and if you have a pulse. It’s not a classic but I  dare you not to enjoy it.

 


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