Category Archives: Fantasy

Book Review: Bound by Kirsten Weiss

Yes, two urban fantasy’s in a row. I promise I’ve been reading other stuff too – it’s just these are so quick and the reviews are so easy.

Didn’t like this as much as She Wolf, but it was still decent. It’s the story of triplet sisters who are all witches with different skills. The story focusses on Karin, who is seen as the practical, less-magically-inclined one. Facing the impending death of her aunt and guardian, and the arrest of her sister on suspicion of murder, Karin doesn’t need to fall in love right now, but who could say no to the handsome, charismatic and DEFINITELY interested lawyer, Nick? But there’s strange things happening all around her – murders, visions, runs of bad luck – and they only get more intense when her aunt admits to binding her powers and sets Karin free to use all of her magic.

If the story sounds like it’s a little all over the place, it is. There are so many threads that it’s hard to keep track of what is relevant and some of the threads go nowhere except a very obviously pending sequel. It’s like a cliffhanger, but more boring. The sisters, Nick and Ellen (the aunt) aren’t well developed characters, but they are likable nonetheless. The magical references are pretty vague, but I’d rather that than exact spells/recipes being interwoven (no one does that well).

I honestly think Weiss would have done better to put all three books together as just a single larger novel – I’m pretty sure she wrote the whole thing and then cut it into 3, but the cuts/edits after the cuts to attempt to tie up an ending are clunky. The dialogue is nice, the writing is ok, it’s just the overall structure and story that fall a bit flat.

2/5

 

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Book Review: She Wolf by Sheri Lewis Wohl

So there’s lesbians, werewolves and uhauling. All win.

This book is delightful, beautifully written fluff and I loved every minute of it. After plowing through a few non-fictions (I haven’t finished any, but I’ll get there), and the rich heaviness that was an Exaltation of Larks (stunning – hopefully I’ll remember to review it at some point) and Idaho, I felt the need for some fluff. I didn’t expect it to be so engaging (read over one night) and so well-written.

Lily is a werewolf, something she manages well (with medication) and uses in her job (hunting down supernatural creatures who don’t follow the rules). Ava is a witch, the other guy* is a necromancer with ADHD and together they are going to bring down the rogue werewolf who is macerating people in Eastern Washington. There’s two problems – this werewolf seems to be everywhere at once, and Jayne Quarle, the town’s sheriff doesn’t believe in anything supernatural, let alone werewolves.

The narrative is well done, with some nice twists and a sweet sex scene which is both believable and leaves enough to the imagination (I really don’t like reading sex when it’s written blow by blow – pun intended), and I didn’t guess the killer until the end. It was like 2am and I’d had a bit of wine though, so it may be obvious to everyone else. I like how Wohl circled round to Lily’s making (that bit at least was obvious) and I felt the love stories running through were honest.

It’s strange to read a paranormal, LGBTI romance novel and WANT everything to be believable, but I really do require that. It’s what pissed me off so much about that Marigny St book – no one would believe that romance. And before someone jumps on here and says “they moved in together after a week, that’s not believable” it totally is – look up uhauling on urban dictionary, happens more often that you’d think and I’m definitely guilty of it myself.

The story leaves plenty of room for a sequel (is Jayne slightly magic?) or a side novel (Ava and Kyle are adorable), the dialogue is well executed, the suspense is not heavy-handed, and as much as I like to say I never read Urban Fantasy if they were all written this well I’d probably read a lot more.

4/5

*Kyle. I looked it up.

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Book Review: The Imlen Brat by Sarah Avery

oh my god.

I did it again.

In my desperate hunt for decent fantasy (on netgalley. There’s a lot of VERY decent fantasy out at the moment, but I spent the last of my teeny tiny book allowance on NK Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate and can’t afford anything else until February. It was worth every penny, by the way, her writing is INCREDIBLE), I stumbled across the Imlen Brat, was accepted as a reader and dove in.

At first, I didn’t like it. The character is young (like 7) and while Avery has done a brilliant job of capturing the trials and obsessions of a 7 year old in a 7 year old’s voice, I own a 7 year old and reading is my main way of escaping from her. I like my fantasy point of view to come from someone older, like 15+. But I kept reading and you get introduced to the world and the ruling class and their politics in a way that’s not too in your face. And the world looks goooooood. The politics are complicated, the intrigue is… well, intriguing. There’s a foster system, there are honour killings for fucking outside one’s class, there’s an island with a castle in a maze and people have the ability to kin-curse those they are related to. And there’s a bastard child in the middle of it who will either be trained as a soldier, a pirate or an assassin.

……………and then it fucking ends.

70 pages of yes (well, 20 pages of omg, I’m really desperate for fantasy fiction, and 50 pages of omg, I’m really glad I stayed with this) and then, nothing. Fuck you, Sarah Avery, with your sample size serving of REALLY EXCELLENT writing.

Ok, it’s worth the read. If you want to know how a good author sets up a political system, read this novella – it’s a great example of showing, not telling (which is difficult with complicated worlds). It’s realistic, emotional, well told and as much as I do not like 7 year olds (especially today – she had a melt down in Target), she has nailed character action, voice and expression.

Please write the rest. For the love of all things holy, write the rest!

 

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Book Review: The Ferryman Institute by Colin Gigl

Oh this book was so fun!

It took a little getting into – it’s a bizarre world – but once I was there the story swept me up and carried me along with it! The story is based around Charlie, who works for the Ferryman Institute (started by Charon on the river Styx) and is charged with convincing freshly reaped souls to walk towards the cliched bright light. Charlie is good at his job – in 259 years, no one has refused to step through their door to the afterlife. But there will never be a door for Charlie and that’s making him a little crazy.

So someone gives him a choice. Save the girl (from herself) or remain a Ferryman.

Cue mayhem.

There’s a car chase, a series of doors, a secret mentor who may or may not be a spy, blood, guns, a room full of emptiness, and some really, really bad puns. Oh and of course, romance.

 

Now, I don’t usually read urban fantasy. I recently tried to read Balance by Janelle Stalder because I liked the idea of it, but it was so painful I gave off after a few chapters. Also, the writing wasn’t polished enough and the jumping between third and first person POV made me cranky. This is basically my issue with all urban fantasy – it’s keyboard bashing at best and heteronormative patriarchal bullshit at worst (read my previous post on Twilight). But the Ferryman Institute? It doesn’t read as urban fantasy. It reads as clever writing and a fresh take on the Charon myth. I kind of think Gigl thought “If I was a character, what would I do?” and then made a character that did all those things. Coz reading it, I wanted to do those things.

There were a few issues. I didn’t like Alice’s voice in the book (she’s very woe is me, my life is over, but it seems like a bad case of middle-class white-girl-itis to me), and I thought the romance was unnecessary and the only weak writing in there. I also thought the action scenes were TOO detailed. I don’t need to know the trajectory of every bullet, or where his hands were on the wheel of the car – nothing else in the book is a closely detailed, and I feel it’s condescending to the audience.

I love the twists, especially regarding Charlie’s boss and I LOVE the sarcasm, wit and punning that happens – I’m a sucked for a bad pun. I feel like you can tell this is a debut novel, but I’d be happy to read whatever Gigl has coming next.

 

***/5

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Book Review: the Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

Note: This book was given to me as an advanced reading copy by Netgalley. You can read it in March 2017.

I really loved this book. It’s Asian influenced fantasy, but the Asian elements aren’t cloying – I barely even noticed them until a quarter of the way in. It’s the story of Tea (pronounced Tee-ah), who accidentally raises her brother from the dead and becomes a bone witch – equal parts revered and reviled. This story, the first of the series, deals with Tea’s training under the watchful eyes of the last remaining Bone Witch, Mykaela, and the owner of her training house, Mistress Parmina. Cue the usual coming of age stuff, Tea learns humility, hard work, the thrill of excellence, makes friends with various peeps, has a major crush on the most unavailable person she could possibly crush on, etc. It’s a fairly obvious story EXCEPT FOR THE BIT WHERE SHE KEEP RAISING THE DEAD. That’s kind of cool. And it’s woven so deftly into the story. Anyway, Tea’s training is cut short because there’s a monster that needs slaying, so off she goes.

There’s also another narrative thread, an older Tea, alone and angry on a beach surrounded by variations of said monster. She’s pissed off and she’s going to destroy the world and it’s a lovely contrast to slightly stiff, but mostly benevolent girl-child Tea, who does stuff like insist her male friend be allowed to be an Asha (an upto now wholly female calling), and make sure her exhausted, near-death mentor is safe from harm. This other thread is a bit overwrought, but still readable. Sometimes I just found it unnecessary, like the author just needed to shove an extra page of italics between chapters. The twist at the end I saw coming, but when I read it, I found myself being thrilled that I was right, rather than lamenting the obviousness – nothing about this book is obvious, even if you think it’s going to be at first.

Other reviews have lamented the long descriptions, but I totally get off on that. Remember the Bitterbynde Series, where six pages were often devoted to the description of a single plant? Yeah, I love that. So the long descriptive paragraphs here got me totally wrapped up in the world (y’all know I love good world building) and because the culture is extremely different to my own, I needed all that extra knowledge.

I really enjoyed the story, I really enjoyed the pace of the book, I really think that it will be good for adult readers and teens who are ok with dark stuff, and I hope the next one is as enjoyable.

4/5 stars.

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Book review: Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

I’ve never read anything by Rachel Caine before because I’m not particularly interested in urban fantasy, and I picked this up purely because of the title. Super glad I did because I LOVED it.

Books.

Books and more books.

Books and steampunk and political intrigue that’s actually interesting and romance (and LGBTI romance without it being a BIG THING) and war and magic and learning and smuggling and drama and friendship and epic worldbuilding and a character who is just smug enough, but not too smug. Winning.

This book is about Jess, a reluctant book smuggler in alt-future London who really would rather be reading. His father sends him to apprentice at the Great Library at Alexandria (which in this world, has not only survived but now rules the world by limiting access to knowledge and outlawing the printing press) in the hopes of having a spy and ally inside the institution. This book, the first in a trilogy, tells about Jess’ time under the tutelage of the  enigmatic and harsh Proctor Wolfe, who fails students at the drop of a hat.

At the end of the training, Jess and the remaining eight students are sent to besieged Oxford on a desperate mission to save hundred of rare original books. Not everyone will make it back, but was that what the Archivist of the Library had in mind all along?

This books goes and goes. I got to the point where I was getting sad that it was going to be ending soon, then checked and I was at 48%! I love a book that gets you involved, keeps you there and then goes for a long time. There was action, adventure and death without it being super gory. I enjoyed Jess as a character (other reviews say he’s bland and forgettable, which is annoying because so many times through the book I thought “ooh, he’s totally me at 16”) and I liked the interactions between the other characters.

The worldbuilding is great, I was totally right there with them the whole way marvelling at everything. The one place where I think the book falls down is it tries to touch on everything in that world. Smugglers – tick. Various factions within the library – tick. Heretics – tick. Garda – tick. Army – tick. Librarians – tick. I think Caine would have been better off diving into just one or two elements (for this book, perhaps the smugglers and the library factions), because just glossing over the surface of what the Burners are about, or what the Librarians actually do distracts from the rest of the story and doesn’t do those groups any justice. Mention them by all means, but don’t superficially go into history/politics/etc just for the sake of ticking boxes.

Now I’m off to find and read book two, because it’s raining and stormy and awful here and I need a distraction!

 

4/5 stars

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Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

This is a gorgeous book. It’s short and easy to read and has the most lush prose imaginable. Plus the LGBTI elements are sympathetic and nicely developed.
It’s the story of Pen, who magically survives the tidal wave that destroys the city she lives in. After weeks of loneliness she discovers her beloved younger brother may be alive and enslaved by the mad scientist (who may be connected to Pen). She sets off to rescue him, battling giants and witches and collecting friends. Along the way she meets Hex and falls in love, but like everything else in this book Hex is not quite what he seems.
An alternative modern version of Homer’s Odyssey, this story will appeal to modern fantasy lovers. It’s an exciting ride with sweet characters that become more developed with each challenge they face. I would write a more in depth review about metaphor and confidence and finding out who you are as you grow up, but really you can read this book in a few hours, so just go get started now!

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