Category Archives: Fantasy

A Fool’s Errand (In All Jest 1) by D.E. King

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DNF at 25%.

I managed to finish 6 books since I started this one, but I had to force myself to come back to this time and time again, read about 10 pages, then loose interest again. I’m calling it quits because I haven’t opened this book in 4 days and have no desire to come back to it again.

The sad part is – there is a good story in this book, but it’s buried under mounds of useless minutiae that don’t do anything to drive the plot forward. Case in point: the book opens with a strong sequence where our protagonist has a run-in with local guards, finds a dying man, and is entrusted with a dangerous artifact… And then we have 4 chapters following a completely different character in another part of the world, sitting through a long meeting discussing school reforms, study rotations, and rations. any tension that the first chapter had built is killed at the vine.

The other problem is that the characters are very lukewarm. I would have followed them if the book was more tightly written, but I don’t feel like wading through pages upon pages of worldbuilding and often useless details just for the sake of these characters. I don’t care enough about them. As I said, any high stakes that were set up in chapter one were lost by chapter 5 because the story just can’t get started in earnest.

It’s sad, because as I said, there is a good book somewhere in there, it would have benefited from another content editing session and a 200 pages cut.

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Winter’s Reach (Revanche Cycle 1) by Craig Schaefer

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Stars: 4.5 out of 5.

This is an interesting start of a new (to me) series with nice worldbuilding and depth. The world is reminiscent of Renaissance Europe with it’s domination of the Church, the Holy City and byzantine political intrigue. Everyone has an ulterior motive, there are plans within plans, and conspiracies abound.

I liked all the characters, which is an important criteria of just how much I will enjoy the book. They aren’t all good people. In fact, I would argue that most of them aren’t particularly good, and all of them are out of their own personal gain in some shape or form. But they feel real, with their own good qualities and flaws. And I understand their motivations. Which made me invested in their struggles.

I especially liked Felix who went through a crucible of fire in Winter’s Reach and emerged stronger, but also more ruthless. And Amadeo, the dying Pope’s confessor and oldest friend, who is thorn between trying to fulfil a promise he made to his old friend and the realization that putting his the Pope’s son on the throne will be the end of, well, everything. 

I loved that there are plots within plots, and some plots are thwarted, and others succeed… but not exactly in a manner the organizers expected. And nobody is safe. Bad things happen to seemingly good characters, and death can come in an instant. Seemingly good people can be forced to do horrible things and bargain with powers they barely understand. Nothing is black and white, but all different shades of gray instead. This makes the book interesting, and the stakes ever so high for our characters. 

My only complaint about this book is that there are a lot of plotlines left unresolved. This book just sets the stage for the series, so don’t expect a nifty little conclusion at the end of it. We are introduced to the world and the characters. The lines are drawn and the armies are gathering, but you will have to read the following books to understand how it all gets resolved. Which I am more than happy to do, by the way, because this series seems amazing, and I want to know what happens to my favorite characters… and whether or not the villains in this story get their just desserts.

Between Homes (The City Between 5) by W.R. Gingell

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Stars: 5 out of 5.

This was the best book in the series so far, at least in my opinion. Mostly because the ending of the last book brought home that it’s not all fun and games anymore. Pet made a serious choice and must live with the consequences in this book. I’m glad to see that she is sticking to her guns and decides to do what’s right, and to help where she can, even if she doesn’t have the looming presence (and protection) of two fae and a vampire at her back. Well, she has the vampire eventually, but that’s a different story.

I love that Pet continues to accumulate friends and found family around herself. Now she has Morgana and Daniel, and a whole werewolf pack to book, and mysterious kids on the roof of a mysterious house. I think this ability to empathize and make friends with the underdogs is her real magical power, not the fact that she can pull stuff out of Between into human world. She has a keen sense as to who is fundamentally a good person even if they did something stupid or harmful, and who isn’t, and she hasn’t been wrong so far.

The two cases that are investigated in this book are also very interesting. One is a killer that attacks fae and that nobody can see it seems, and the other is the case of a child that the Behindkind took a particular interest to. We learn a bit more about heirlings and harbringers and maybe who Pet really is and why she and her parents lived like they did. Hopefully, this will be explored further in consecutive books. 

I also liked that Pet managed to get her point across to Zero in the end and explain why helping humans mistreated by Behindkind maters to her. And maters enough that she was willing to live her home and the safety that the Troika offered her because staying would have betrayed her moral principles on that matter. 

The Phoenix Illusion (SPI Files 6) by Lisa Shearin

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Stars: 5 out of 5

This book starts with a bang… or with a literal building being dropped almost on top of our characters… and then catching on fire. Wow, that was an intense opening scene, let me tell you! The rest of the book is a fun romp in search of other vanishing buildings and figuring out who the baddies are and what they want. Side note, still not clear on that last part. 

This series continues to shine, and it’s because of the characters. I love Mac and her team. Heck, I even hooked my husband on these books, and he isn’t usually a big fan of urban fantasy. Mac, Ian, Rake, and especially Yasha have made a convert out of him. 

Mac continues to be a sassy, but competent protagonist who reads very human and relatable. Yes, she has powers, since she can see through glamor and cloaking spells, but she isn’t overpowered. She definitely isn’t a one woman army. She knows her strengths and weaknesses and can think on her feet. And kudos for bringing one of the previous book’s baddies down with a bottle of perfume and a handy storage closet. That was hilarious.

My only complaint is that at one point this book almost became a Tam and Rake show, and the other characters, including Mac, were kinda pushed into the background.  And there was very little Ian again, which was very disappointing. Yes, I love Mac and Rake as a couple, and their interactions are always fun to read about. But I also love Mac and Ian, and their partners/siblings relationship. I want to read more of their banter and how they bounce ideas of each other and have each other’s back during tough cases. 

But all in all, still loving this series, and I will definitely finish it. Also thinking about picking up the Raine Benares series afterwards.

Four Roads Cross (Craft Sequence 5) by Max Gladstone

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Stars: 5 out of 5.

This book is a direct continuation of Three Parts Dead, book 1 in the Craft Sequence series, since it describes events that happen almost immediately after the ending of that book. So technically, you could skip books 2-4 and just read this one. Why though? All books in this series are excellent, and some of the characters we followed in those books make a brief appearance in this one as well. I would say reading them in order listed is an enjoyment in itself.

As we remember, book 1 ended with Tara helping bring the goddess Seril back to life, only this is far from a happy ending for both Seril and Kos, as well as Alt Coulumb. Seril is weak, her cult is small, and she poses a serious financial and reputational risk to Kos and his church. Now Tara and her friends will have to fight for the future of their city and answer a few important questions about themselves and their beliefs.

This book raises a few very interesting questions. What is better? The cold and clinical approach of the Craft, where everything is a transaction, and there is no room left for such things as sentiment, love, friendship, etc. Or faith that sometimes requires self-sacrifice and acts of kindness without expecting anything in return. Or is there a way to combine both of those approaches and to find a happy medium? 

This battle of identity is most evident in Tara’s arc in this book, because she has to go against everything she’s been thought in the Hidden Schools. It’s by daring to open her heart to faith and friendship that she wins her case and, I think, finds a home she’s secretly been longing for all her life. 

This is also evident in Abelard’s journey in this book, who undergoes a crisis of faith and feels betrayed and used by his god, only to find his own quiet strength in the middle of the chaos. Acceptance is also the theme when it comes to Cat and Raz, who finally face their own demons and emerge victorious from those battles. 

In a way, this book is a catharsis for all the events that started in book 1 of the series, and a beautiful resolution for some of those characters I grew to love so much. I know there are more books in this series, and I will definitely pick up the next one.

The Vagabond King by Jodie Bond

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DNF at 25%.

I’m sorry to say this, but I couldn’t get into this book at all, no matter how much I tried.

The characters aren’t distinct or likable enough, and their motivations are not shown enough to me to care or get invested.

I mean, seriously, what does Savanta want? The author says that she misses her daughter, but we are never shown that. You could have shown us a scene of her sneaking over to her village at night to spy on her family at night, longing to talk to them, but unable to show them the monster she became… or working towards a way of restoring her humanity. I would have been invested in that. As it stands, I couldn’t care less for her.

As for Threon, plot armor is strong with this one. The amount of stupid stuff he does is phenomenal. He should be dead 10 times over. The fact that he isn’t, and doesn’t seem to learn either, doesn’t make him particularly endearing.

Add to that the fact that the world building is sketchy at best, and the story unfolds Ata glacial pace after a very strong opening chapter, and this is not a book I feel like sticking around for.

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Between Shifts (The City Between 2) by W.R. Gingell

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Stars: 4.5 out of 5.

This series is a delight to read so far. The first book introduced us to this bizarre world and the trio of not-so-human psychos, and we are getting better acquainted with all of them in this book. Also, werewolves are real. Oh, sorry, lycanthropes. They don’t like being called werewolves.   

Pet has a knack of picking up strays and getting emotionally attached to them. In the first book, it was detective Tuatu (who is decidedly more friendly in this book) and the old mad bloke. In this one it’s Daniel, the lycanthrope with a plethora of werewolf issues on top of the usual pile of teenage raging hormones issues. And you know what? I really like that about Pet. Her good heart and compassion is a nice foible to the callous disregard the other three display towards humans. 

My suspicion is also growing that she isn’t a simple human, and I think that the trio is aware of that, but chose not to tell her anything for reasons. I mean why did her parents raise her in such secrecy that there were almost no records of her, and nobody even thought to look for her when they were murdered? Also, a simple human wouldn’t be able to yank objects from Between, or persuade them to be something other than they appear in the human world. Not to mention see Between and be able to navigate it. No, there is more to Pet that meets the eye, and I am looking forward to discovering what it is.

The story itself was pretty straightforward, at least to me, but I still had a blast reading it, mainly because I love the interactions between Pet and her three psychos. The side characters are also pretty engaging. I mean detective Tuatu was a bit of a prick in the first book, but he is growing  on me. Ultimately, he his heart is in the right place. 

I am definitely looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Between Jobs (The City Between 1) by W.R. Gingell

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Stars: 4 out of 5.

This is the strangest book I’ve read in a long time. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s strange in a good way, and I absolutely loved it, but it is weird.

It starts in a slightly usual way for an urban fantasy, with an ordinary girl and three beautiful strangers that aren’t human… But wait, because the strangers are much more interesting than the usual urban fantasy fare, and the girl… well, I’m still not convinced she is entirely human. And together they form this weird dysfunctional family that is rather fascinating to read about.

The world itself is also pretty original. Not only does the action happen in Tasmania, instead of the usual USA / UK setting, but the supernatural elements are rather original. We have our real world, that the humans inhabit. then we have the Behind, where fae and other creatures originate from. And linking them together is the Between, a strange ever-changing place that is not really here, but also not really there, and where time, space and even shapes are malleable. Fae can travel the Between to go from our reality into the Behind and back again. Humans can’t, unless they are taken in by a fae, or slip accidentally into an opened passageway.  Most of those who end up Between don’t come back, or if they do, the experience drove them to madness. 

I really liked this book. I loved the story itself, but also everything else that was alluded to but never clearly explained, because it feels like there is a whole vast world to explore, and this book only scratched its surface. I also really loved Pet. This girl has no fear or sense of self-preservation, but her interactions with the three psychos are really fun to read about. I’m sure there is a bigger mystery about the murder of her parents and how she managed to survive hidden in that house for four year without anyone even being aware of her existence. I hope this will be explained in later books, and I will happily be there for the ride. 

I should also mention that these books are fairly short, so it’s a quick sweet read between heftier books just for a change of tone and pace.

Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz by Garth Nix

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Stars: 4 out of 5.

I am not usually a fan of collections of short stories about the same characters. I feel like the format doesn’t give the author enough time to develop the characters and tell a compelling story at the same time, especially if the stories aren’t in chronological order or were written for different magazines and published at different times. And this compilation suffers from the same drawbacks, but the characters are compelling enough that I derived some genuine enjoyment following them around.

Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz make an odd pair, to say the least. One is a human knight, skilled with firearms and swords, also a dandy and a bit of a womanizer. The other one is… a living puppet with a singular mission of exterminating rogue godlets who intend to cause harm to the world.  It’s also implied that Mister Fitz is a lot older that anyone knows and suspects, older even than the order of Witches from which Sir Hereward originated. Add to that the fact that he used to be Hereward’s nanny when he was a little boy, and their relationship is interesting, to say the least. 

Sir Hereward himself is a bit harder to read, probably because we don’t get to explore his needs and wants as much in these stories. We know that he is the forbidden child to an order of Witches that are supposed to only sire female (Dune anyone?), but since his mother was part of the ruling council, he was allowed to live, and even train with other witches, but then exiled forever to go and hunt down rogue godlets in the world away from the witch stronghold. But we never really explore what Hereward himself wants in life, or how he feels about being a perpetual nomad, not able to put roots anywhere, traveling from one battle to another with only a living puppet for company. I would have loved to have this aspect explored more in the stories I read.

The world these two characters inhabit is also really interesting. It’s full of magic and different deities, called godlets. Some are powerful, some less so. Some are benevolent or simply harmless, while others either intentionally cause harm or are just so incompatible with the world they invaded that they slowly destroy everything around them. I loved the fact that Hereward and Fitz aren’t heartless killers who eliminate any godlet they are pointed at. They always assess the situation and do what’s right, even disobeying direct orders sometimes, when those orders are unjust. 

I would love to read more stories about these characters, even maybe a novella or a full blown novel where we can explore their inner workings a bit more and dive deeper into this world.

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Empty Grave (Lockwood and Co 5) by Jonathan Stroud

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Stars: 5 out of 5.

I loved this book and the series as a whole! What an original idea with wonderful characters that I learned to love and care about during the 5 books. And yes, even though this series is told from Lucy’s perspective, all the other characters are fully fleshed-out and lovable, even if some took a bit to grow on you, like Kipps or the Skull.

This book picks up a few months after the events of the previous book in the series and the pretty earth-shattering revelation at the end of that story. And as an aside, this book can’t be read as a standalone. In fact, all of the books in this series have to be read in order, because each book builds on the events and revelations of the previous one. But hey, who would want to start a series on the last book instead of experiencing the joy of discovering this world and the characters and growing with them from the beginning?

I will try to review this book without giving out too many spoilers for the events in this whole series, but let’s just say that things put in motion in the first book and even before then are finally getting to a head in here. Our little agency has fallen afoul of some very powerful people… with deadly consequences. Things looked pretty dire for most of the book. 

Not to mention that the whole world in this series seems to get grimmer and grimmer as the books progress. The Problem isn’t going away, no matter how many agencies fight on the frontlines to tackle the visitors. In fact, there seems to be more and more of them, and they are getting more and more vicious. People live in constant fear, and even the weather seems to get gloomier and more dismal as the series progresses. 

I am glad that everything was resolved in the end of the book, even if it’s not a neat ending and a happy ever after. The Problem still exists, and putting things right will take years and long perilous excursions into the other side. 

I also liked that Lockwood finally got all the answers about what happened to his parents and who was responsible for their deaths. It finally helped him get over this and start living instead of constantly standing with one foot in the empty grave next to the graves of his family. Everyone got a satisfying send off by the end of this book, even though I wouldn’t mind reading some short stories about the characters and how they are dealing with the aftermath of the fall of Fittes Agency.

All in all, this is a series I will definitely recommend. Even though this is more on the YA side, it lacks all of the tropes so typical to the genre. No love triangles or annoyingly immature characters acting in annoying immature and hormonal ways. Honestly, the grim reality of life with the Problem makes kids grow up so much faster in this world. You don’t have to worry about your make up or if the boy next door likes you when you literally fight for your life every night.

This is the second series I’ve read by this author, and I really loved them both. I will definitely check out anything else he produces in the future.