Category Archives: Fantasy

The Killing Floor Blues (Daniel Faust 5) by Craig Schaefer

Stars: 5 out of 5.

This is the best book of the series so far, at least in my opinion!

It starts off strong with Daniel Faust waking up on a prison bus in transfer to a prison, when last time we left him at the end of book 4, he’d just been framed for a murder and arrested… Only it seems that four months have passed, he’d already been put on trial (and lost), and he is being transferred to a maximum security prison to serve a life sentence. Confused yet? Add to that the fact that Daniel doesn’t remember anything about those four months. To him, he was arrested, and next time he woke up, he was on this bus. 

I loved that the reader gets to experience that state of confusion and disbelief with the character. I even went back to the end of book 4 and re-read the ending just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. This confusion helps empathize with the character. Makes the reader root for him even more than before.

And Daniel will need all the support he can get in this book, because for once, he doesn’t have his friends and family to help him. He doesn’t even have access to his magic tricks. He is utterly alone in a hostile environment where people get shanked for just looking at the wrong person at the wrong time. Oh, and somebody really wants him dead to boot. And not only dead, but he needs to suffer horribly before he dies.

This was a very fast-paced story with constant tension, because not only is Daniel like a fish out of water here (although he does the best he can with the cards he is given), but also because so many different things are wrong with this prison. And the more wrong you discover, the more worried you become about the protagonist.

I also loved that when he finally manages to get help, the issuing fight is awesome and spectacular. And I’m not even a little bit irritated with Caitlyn in this book, which is rare. I think her almost total absence from the story is what made this book so great.

All in all, I love the direction in which this series is progressing. I want to know who the man with the Cheshire smile is and what his end game is. Something tells me Daniel and team are going to mess his plans so bad, he won’t realize what hit him. And I will be happily along for the ride.

The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood and Co 4) by Jonathan Stroud

Stars: 4.5 out of 5.

This series continues to deliver, and we finally get some answers (and a lot more questions).

It’s wonderful to have the team back together by the end of this book. I understand why Lucy thought she needed to leave at the end of the previous book, but I think that she also learned a couple valuable lessons. First that you need a team you can count on and companions you can trust. Second, that there are situations that you simply cannot deal with on your own. And finally, that Lockwood will always be Lockwood, and he will always play with death with abandon, like he has a death wish (pun intended).

The world in this series is getting bleaker by the book. It almost seems like the whole of the UK is permeated by some kind of despair. The Problem is getting worse. More and more Visitors are manifesting almost everywhere, people are dying, so everyone just goes about their day with a sort of resigned pessimism. 

It is also rather disheartening to see that the two agencies that are supposed to be the last defense against the Problem are, in fact, using said problem for their own gains. I mean there were already hints that things were not as they seemed in previous books, but here the message comes across as loud and clear. I even wonder if Fittes and Rotwell didn’t cause the Problem in the first place, especially considering the revelation we get at the end of the book.

So it is with a certain amount of trepidation that I look forward towards reading the next and last book in the series. The lines have been drawn, and some not so subtle threats have been voiced. Will our friends from Lockwood and Co survive the confrontation with a giant like the Fittes agency? And more importantly, will they finally uncover the cause of the Problem and save England? 

Faded Steel Heat (Garrett Files 9) by Glen Cook

Stars: 3 out of 5.

This is the weakest of the Garrett stories so far, and compared to the previous ones, it was  a big disappointment.

First things first, it dragged way past the time when it was a polite thing to bow out and say goodbye. I would say at least 50-60 pages past that point. This book seemed way too long in general, with a lot of filler that could have been cut out without hurting the story. 

Second issue – I get it that Garrett is a chick magnet and that his brain goes down south every time he sees a good looking enough woman, but it was a bit of an overkill in this story. It stopped being cute and became irritating at about the halfway point. 

My biggest disappointment however is the reveal about Glory Mooncalled. I think Glen Cook dropped the ball on this big time. I think I get what he was trying to go for – don’t meet your heroes and all that, but this was so anticlimactic… I mean Glory Mooncalled has been the driving force behind most of the background events in this series since book 1. By now, he acquired an almost mythical status. To end it the way the author ended it… I don’t know, I feel like it’s a huge disservice to the character and so much waisted potential.

Honestly, same could be said about Sadler and Crask. That was a bit of an underwhelming ending for those two characters that have always been larger than life.

Another complaint is that we didn’t have nearly enough Morley Dotts in this book, but what had what wonderful. I love the interaction between Garrett and him. 

I feel like it’s then end of an era in the Garrett Files series. So much was tied around Glory Mooncalled and his actions in Kantard that I honestly don’t know where the series will be going not. But even though I was not as thrilled with this book as I was with the previous ones, I am definitely looking forward to continuing the series.

Magic to the Bone (The Twenty-Sided Sorceress 7) by Annie Bellet

Stars: 3.5 out of 5

A lot of things happen in this book despite it’s small page count. First of all, Jade finally reunites with Wolf and integrates her into her own psyche so to say. This makes their bond stronger and more seamless than before. And she gets back her magic that she almost completely burned out in the previous books by rewinding time to save her friends from Samir.

Oh, and the final confrontation with Samir that we have been building up to for six books now, finally takes place. WARNING – SPOILERS:  So ding dong, Samir is dead by the end of this book. I am not sure how I feel about that. For six books he was built up as this ultimate big bad that Jade was so afraid of, so the final battle was a little… underwhelming? Don’t get me wrong, it was still intense and the stakes were high, but not high enough in my opinion. I guess that’s the issue with creating an ultimate big bad and hinting at how badass he is for six books – the reader has very high expectations of the final confrontation.

That disappointment notwithstanding, I liked Jade’s progress in this book. She finally realized that she can’t shelter her friends from danger all the time. And by trying to do that, she paints a big target on their backs and weakens herself as well, since she has to spread her attention so much. She realized that her friends weren’t hapless either, and that the best thing she could do was trust them to do their part in the fight.

That’s a lot of growth on Jade’s part, because all her life she was on the run, trying not to get attached, trying (and failing) over and over again to protect any found family she would create. 

I also liked that her friends trusted her enough to know she didn’t just run on them, even though they had no memories of the horrors that happened before she rewound time. I love protagonists who have a strong support system and wonderful friends.

The only question is what happens now? The big bad that loomed over Jade’s life for seven books is dead (or as good as dead), and there are three more books left in the series. What can be worst than an immortal sorcerer hell-bent on harvesting your heart and destroying everyone you love in the process? I guess I will have to pick up the next book to find out.

I am also a bit sad that Harper decided to leave town for a bit, though I understand why. 

The Last Wish (The Witcher 0.5) by Andrzej Sapkowski

Stars: 5 out of 5.

I had read this series back when I was a teenager and remember loving it. Then I played all of The Witcher games and watched the Netflix series. The series was a huge disappointment, especially season 3, but Henry Cavil is 100% Geralt of Rivia. You can see that he loves the source material as much as I do.

Anyway, while I will not be continuing with the TV series, I decided to reread the books. And I started at the book that introduced me to this series the first time as well. I remember being fascinated by the way the author wove original Slavic monsters and folk tales into this rich and complex world. And I absolutely LOVE Geralt of Rivia. 

This book is a collection of short stories that weave into a cohesive narrative that serves to introduce us to Geralt and the most important characters in future books, like Yennifer, Jaskier, the elves, etc. And while Ciri isn’t in this book, she is mentioned and we get to read the story about how Geralt got to be linked to her by destiny. 

I liked that not all of the short stories involve Geralt slaying soulless monsters. In fact, in a lot of them humans are worst monsters than the actual monsters. And some of those stories are actually rather heartbreaking. Like the whole horrible affair in Blaviken. Was Renfri born a monster like the sorcerer claimed, or did humans make her that way by driving her to become cruel and callus just to survive? Or what’s the point of all your arrogance and pride if your entire race is dying off because of that pride?

I plan on rereading the entire series this year and I am looking forward to immersing myself in the complex and bloody world of witchers, monsters, and political intrigue. 

Cast in Shadow (Chronicles of Elantra 1) by Michelle Sagara

Stars: 3.5 out of 5.

This is a good first book in the series. It does a good job setting up the world and the characters, as well as establishing the stakes and hinting at an overarching plot.

I really liked discovering the world of Elantra. This is a city build on the ruins of a much older civilization, and those ruins still contain magics that nobody can understand or harness, but which are deadly nonetheless. This is also a city where a multitude of mortal and immortal races manage to coexist in relative harmony, probably thanks to no small part to the efficient policing by the Hawks – Elantra’s police force. 

I loved discovering the different races, their customs, behaviors, and reactions ingrained into who they are. I think that the author put a lot of thought into the worldbuilding, so all those races feel “real” and organically woven into the story. I love book like that. We don’t have your run of the mill elves and werewolves (or were something else), but races with long histories and logic behind the way they act.

I liked the various relationships that Kaylin formed with her colleagues in the Hawks. I especially loved that she has several female friends and those friendships aren’t tainted by jealousy or competition over men. Too many urban fantasy authors make their female protagonists into special snowflakes in a world of men or surrounded by horrible female characters. Glad to see that it’s not the case here. Believe me, we women can coexist perfectly fine with each other without backstabbing and undermining each other. Shocker, I know.

I was less trilled about Kaylin though. I understand that she is young and had a traumatic childhood, but this girl has zero impulse control. She never stops to consider the consequences of her actions BEFORE she does anything. And while in some instance it’s warranted and understandable, it gets old really fast. Hopefully, having resolved the biggest trauma from her past, she will be able to grow and mature in the next books. I am certainly willing to check out the next book to see if there is any character development.

My biggest complaint about this book is that the narrative is rather confusing at times. We pay so much attention to Kaylin’s thoughts, flashbacks, feelings, etc. that it bogs down the actual story sometimes. So the action scenes stretch out into pages and loose their intensity. 

Also some of the subtext in the conversations isn’t clear. Like I get the feeling that I should get what the hidden meaning is, but I simply don’t. That makes for a rather frustrating read at times.

All in all however, I am definitely willing to give the next book in the series a try to see if Kaylin matures a little, and to learn more about the fascinating city of Elantra.

Three Oaths (A Daidoji Shin Mystery 4) by Joshua Reynolds

Stars: 4.5 out of 5.

About a quarter of the book in, I realized that this wasn’t the first book in this series, because the characters referred to events that had happened in previous books. This however didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the story. I also must note that I didn’t know that the Legend of the Five Rings was a table top RPG. Needless to say, I never played it, nor was I familiar with the lore and world. This, however, didn’t hinder my enjoyment of this story. So I can affirm that this book can be read as a standalone.

The world depicted in this book has some strong similarities with medieval Japan (which I am all in for, since I love Japanese culture and history). It is, however, slightly more tolerant on some issues than its historical counterpart. For example, women can hold positions of power in the government (one of the characters is a general in her household), and it seems like same sex relationships aren’t frowned upon. 

I loved Shin and his sidekicks that he seems to accumulate with ease by turning criminals into allies and by knowing exactly how to get the best use of someone by allowing them the dignity of being themselves. Shin is smart, very curious, and with a mind honed to solve complex puzzles. He is definitely wasted as a mere representative of the Merchant Guild. He is also pretty fearless, which gets him in trouble more often than not, to the consternation of his bodyguard. I loved her too. She is Shin’s exact opposite – impatient, a stickler for rules, and straightforward and unbending. Where Shin can be deceitful with words and actions to get results, she prefers to have her katana speak for her. Amazingly enough, they work pretty well together. 

The main intrigue is also pretty interesting. Is Mosu an imposter or not? And if he is, why is everyone happy to pretend that he is not and proceed with the wedding like nothing happened? The more Shin digs into this sordid affair, the bigger a conspiracy he discovers. From what I can see, it even ties to some of the events that happened in previous books. Somebody is working to bring the demise of the Lyon Clan. Surreptitiously and from the shadows, using others to weaken their enemy. And that particular storyline isn’t resolved by the end of the book either. I will definitely pick up the next book in the series, because now I am invested. I want to know who the mastermind behind all this is. 

I will also definitely pick up the previous three books about Daidoji Shin, because he is such a likeable character, and I want to know what other mysteries he solved and how he came to have some of the servants he has at his service, like the smuggler Lun. And now I am also interested in checking out other novels set in the Legend of the Five Rings universe, because that world is fascinating. 

PS: I received a free copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

PPS: Also, that book cover is amazing.

The Hollow Boy (Lockwood & Co 3) by Jonathan Stroud

Stars: 5 out of 5.

This series keeps getting better and better. The intrigue behind the Orpheus Society is getting a bit more development, and we have some interpersonal drama between the three members of Lockwood & Co. 

All in all, it was a fast-paced and gripping story. The plot thickens. Now we have a (yet) unknown group of people who discovered how to weaponize ghosts. A ghost bomb, anyone? And we have another (or same group) of people who were performing some kind of ritual in a plague pit that served as a focus point for a massive haunting in the whole of Chelsea. The reasons behind these events are unknown, and that’s intriguing. I’m pretty sure a confrontation between Lockwood and Co and these people (whether they are the Orpheus Society or not) will be the endgame of the series. I am excited to see how that unfolds.

On the interpersonal front, a wrench is thrown into the relationships between the trio in the person of Holly Munro. I found it rather hilarious to watch Lucy get all bent over the axel over the presence of another girl in what she considers her domain. This brings home the fact that even though they deal with horrible things that even adults would have nightmares about, Lockwood, Lucy and George are still basically children. They are teenagers with raging hormones, unbridled emotions, and rampant insecurities. 

Lucy especially has a huge chip on her shoulder, so she tends to be very judgmental of anyone she feels threatened by. Which means all females she comes across, unless they are absolutely ugly. So seeing how efficient, organized, and put together Holly is would rub her the wrong way. It was a bit funny to see Lucy assume so many things about Holly and then be an absolute snotty b… to her because of those assumptions. Hopefully, the events of this book showed her the dangers of assumptions, lack of honest communication, and what happens when you let your feelings fester. Maybe she will be nicer to other people now. 

We also learned what happened to Lockwood’s sister, and why he behaves the way he does most of the time. We still don’t know what happened to his parents, but the insinuations thrown in book 2 point towards the fact that it was nothing good and that it wasn’t an accident. 

I will definitely be continuing with this series and learning more about the Problem, the mysterious groups trying to weaponize it, and how our trio of friends can survive the aftermath.

Volatile Bonds (Prospero’s War 4) by Jaye Wells

Stars: 3 out of 5.

Well, this book was a big disappointment, especially compared to book 3. Don’t get me wrong. It started strong with a murder and an explosion and a new actor trying to take over Babylon (again). It’s fast paced and a lot of things happen, and good guys win in the end, well sort of… but it just doesn’t hit the same as previous books.

Problem is, this series is starting to get formulistic. In every book, something happens and Kate looks for clues, but finds nothing. So they go visit Little Man, who gives them some clues. Then they hit a dead and again, so they go talk to Abe in prison… again, and get insulted and not learn much at all. Honestly, what’s the point visiting Uncle Abe in every book apart from reminding the reader what a horrible human being he is? Then by the end of the book Volos swoops in to help save the day… again. No matter which book in the series you pick up, the order of events is exactly the same. 

Are you telling me that Kate doesn’t have any informants other than Little Man? And if Little Man is so knowledgeable in all underground Babylon affairs, why is he living in squalor? Why isn’t he brokering this information better? Also, why do we have to go talk to Abe all the time? Honestly, at this point, you give the creepy guy in prison more intel by showing up there than you are getting from him. Not to mention, it’s getting boring.

My biggest pet peeve though is that the author is trying to push Kate and Volos together by making us believe that Volos can be good for her, or that she still has romantic feelings for him. Erm, bad idea. The author spent three previous books showing us that Volos is ruthless, domineering, cruel at times, and not above using blackmail to get what he wants from anyone, including Kate. He constantly tries to insert himself into her life and dominate it. Their relationship is toxic to the Nth degree. WHY are we all of a sudden trying to put him into the status of love interest? No, just no.

Especially when it’s done to the detriment of Morales’s character. In order to push Kate towards Volos, the author had to paint Morales in less than flattering light, so she makes him shifty and cowardly about telling their superiors about his involvement in the murder of an undercover cop. Problem is, this behavior goes against everything we learned about Morales’s character in the past books. It’s like he had a case of identity switch. And it’s only done so that Kate can’t trust him anymore and would be pushed away. Sorry, but that’s lazy writing. If you absolutely want Kate and Volos together, find an organic way to make that happen. Don’t bring down another character just for that.

I really hope that there is another book in this series coming out soon and it will explain some of the treads left hanging at the end of this one. Like who is the real leader of the Votaries? But more importantly, I hope we get better character development on everybody’s part. 

PS: Loved the guys with the pigeons though.

Deadly Spells (Prospero’s War 3) by Jaye Wells

Stars: 5 out of 5.

This book was intense and by far the best in the series so far. The stakes were high, the murders gruesome, and Prospero and Morales finally came to terms with their mutual attraction. Oh, and it was fast-paced and un-put-downable as well.

I love that Kate’s relationship with her little brother continues to evolve. Kate has been a helicopter parent for too long. Out of necessity, for sure, but she is slowly learning to let go of the control. She is starting to understand that Danny is a growing person with his own opinions and a moral compass, and that in order to receive his trust, she needs to extend some trust first. We also see that being an Adept in a rich school full of Mundanes isn’t as glamorous as it’s painted to be.

I am also happy that her relationship with Morales finally evolved, and that she stopped running away from her feelings. Those two are a good team, and they understand each other a lot better then other people understand them, because they both have been through some very though things. They have each other’s back and they understand that both of them are broken, but more importantly, they know when to give each other space. 

We finally learn what truly happened to Kate’s mom. While it was a shock, I’m glad that Kate can finally let go of the guilt she’s been carrying for 10 years. She didn’t kill her mother. But it also reinforces that she did the right thing when she walked away from the coven and turned her back on that life. I mean none of the people in her past were exactly outstanding members of the human race.

My only regret is that Volos managed to get out of the mess he’s created without a scratch… yet again. I think the author is trying to keep the reader ambivalent about him. She is trying to portray him as someone who has good intentions but the execution can be rather catastrophic. Well, we know that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. And in Volos’s case, he is NOT a good person. And I really really hope that he gets everything that he deserves eventually.

Also, it seems like someone is steadily eliminating the leaders of the main covens in Babylon. We have one in each book so far, or so. Question is who and why? Someone is trying to consolidate magical power over the city. I hope we get our answer in the next book.