Category Archives: Urban fantasy

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.

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.

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.

Cast in Fury (Chronicles of Elantra 4) by Michelle Sagara

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Stars: 3.5 out of 5.

Just like in books 2 and 3, we discover the origin and secrets behind yet another race populating Elantra. This time, it’s the Leontines. Marcus is in trouble, and as usual, Kaylin is in the middle of it all. Oh, and did I mention that there are repercussions from what happened in the end of the previous book? Big tidal wave, anyone? Well, humans are wont to misunderstand everything, so they now think that the race of telepaths summoned the wave to try and murder them, instead of being there to try and stop it. Since they already fear them, hatred isn’t that big of a step. The whole city is a powder keg waiting for a spark to explode into civil war and bloodshed.

I love how little things mentioned in previous books come to play in the consequent books in the series. That one scene in the previous book where Kaylin came to help a lone Leontine to give birth in book 3 is front and center in this book. And we finally get an explanation why that mother was completely alone with noone to watch over her and her new baby (something unheard of for this race).

I already mentioned in reviews for previous books that the world of Elantra is fascinating, so I really enjoy uncovering a new aspect of it with each book. It’s also wonderful to see how all the pieces tie together into one complex story. For example, the Outcaste dragon from book 1 plays a major role in this book as well. We we are probably not done with him yet.

I also enjoy seeing Kaylin gather a little found family around her. It’s wonderful to see a protagonist who isn’t a lone wolf. She has friends, surrogate parents (Marcus and his pridelea), even siblings (the foundlings hall), and now an adopted son. She’s come a long way from the almost feral child from the fiefs, terrified of her own powers and traumatized by her past. Now she has something to fight for, and people she cares deeply about, and who care about her.

My complaint about this book is Kaylin herself. While she grows and mature in some ways, she remains just as ignorant and pigheaded in others, and that’s starting to get on my nerves. For example, she is told repeatedly by her teacher and other very powerful people that she needs to master her magic. Her life literally depends on it. Yet she is less then diligent in her studies. Or just general knowledge of the city around her? Kaylin sees times and times again that she is severely lacking some basic knowledge of history, racial differences and etiquette, and that ignorance landed her in hot water more than once… yet she doesn’t seem to want to do anything to remedy this. Why? She is a smart and resourceful woman. She should jump on the opportunity to broaden her horizons, but instead she grumbles and moans about it, and never really pays attention to what everyone is teaching her. This is becoming rather annoying.

My other complaint is with Severn, or rather the lack of any evolution for him as a character. He is a wonderful character, and I would like to know more about him, but as it stands. He has no agency of his own, he is just an extension of Kaylin. The silent friend and protector who seems to not have a life of his own. That’s a great disservice to a wonderful character. I hope he gets to act more independently in consecutive books. 

I also would like to know what happened to Kaylin in the six month between when she fled Nightshade and when she joined the Hawks.

All in all though, I’m still very invested with this series and I want to see more of that world.

The Myth Manifestation (SPI Files 5) by Lisa Shearin

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Stars: 4.5 out of 5.

This is another excellent installment into the series. I swear this keeps getting better and better with each book.

In this book, we have a variation of a closed room (or in this case a closed hotel) mystery. Our characters, along with a bunch of other magical races, find themselves trapped in a hotel that has been transported into a pocket dimension. They can’t get out, but monsters sure can get in, and they have big appetites and nefarious intentions. What follows is a tense couple days during which our characters fight for their lives and try to determine exactly what happened, how to stop it, and who is responsible. Non-stop action and thrills, and the book flies by.

Mac continues to progress and develop as a character without losing her spunk and humor. I am not ashamed to say that she is quickly becoming one of my favorite urban fantasy heroines, there along with Kate Daniels (which is high praise). She is really becoming a badass, even though she isn’t portrayed as this killing machine that needs no man to help her. On the contrary, Mac is a seer, so her powers are non-offensive. She can’t conjure fire and incinerate her enemies. She doesn’t have super strength or super speed or fast regeneration. All she can do is see through glamor and veils. Oh, and detect portals. But she makes the most of her ability, which makes her an invaluable asset to her team.

I loved that she has a pain gun instead of a normal gun. Because SPI has plenty of sharpshooters, but they can’t hit what they can’t see. So Mac’s job is to hit the target well enough to make it visible to the snipers who can punch it full of holes afterwards. She has to be a good shot to hit a moving target in a frantic situation, but she doesn’t have to worry about delivering a kill shot. 

And I love that her team knows how to utilize her abilities best and that they have a backup plan for her if things hit the fan. And Mac sticks to that plan instead of trying to go GI Jane on people (and probably get herself killed). Like during the methodical sweep of the hotel floors. The plan was that if they are overwhelmed and she can’t help, she runs for the hotel lobby to regroup with the rest of the SPI commandoes. And Mac does just that.

My only complaint about this book is that there wasn’t enough Ian in it. Oh, he was present, but there wasn’t much Mac and Ian interaction. I love how those two bounce off each other. And since their relationship turned firmly into the adopted siblings category, their banter is just so fun to read about. I hope we get more of them together in the next book.

I also think that the tie in to the author’s other series set up in the same universe was well made. Now I want to read about Raine Benares as well to see if the main villain of this book gets his just desserts. 

Killing Pretty (Sandman Slim 7) by Richard Kadrey

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Stars: 4.5 out of 5.

This books marks a turning point in James Stark’s life, and a sort of reboot of the series as a whole. After all, Stark saved the world from the Old Ones in the previous book and got rid of his arch-nemesis Mason once and for all (hopefully). So he should be able to live happily ever after, right?

That’s precisely what this book covers – how do you live after you fulfilled your purpose. Stark saved the world, but lost the Room of Thirteen doors in the process, so he can’t travel through the shadows anymore. So for the first time since he came back from Hell, he is stuck on Earth. No more popping to see Lucifer for a drink, heck no more zipping through LA from shadow to shadow. He has to brave the horrible traffic like any other shmuck. But more importantly, they had to fake Candy’s death at the end of the previous book, so she has a new face, new name, and is trying to build a new life for herself. Which means their relationship is basically starting over. Oh, and did I mention that Stark never got paid for his efforts to save the world? So he is broke as well. So no money, no girlfriend, no easy means to travel… and no purpose in life. Stark is not a very happy boy.

It was interesting to see our protagonist struggle with what to do with his life now that he doesn’t have a big bad to defeat or even a little bad in the face of Mason. Stark is questioning his own choices and actions in this book. This is especially visible in his relationship with Candy/Shihiro. Yes, it’s the same person underneath the glamor, but he still feels like he is cheating on the old Candy when he is with her new persona. And the things she told him in the previous book keep haunting him as well. Is he using her? Is he trying to mold her to be a monster like he is because he wants somebody like that by his side? Does he really love her or the image he created of her in his head?

I also had a lot of fun watching him function like a normal(ish) human being in LA – battling traffic, workplace rules, and having a boss he had to report to. As you can imagine, it failed horribly. Stark is not cut out to be an investigator – he is not the meticulous type who can sit in a stakeout for hours or go through surveillance footage. He gets bored and then his destructive tendencies kick in. And I think he finally came to terms with the fact that kicking doors and busting heads is what he does best. Now, he will have to figure out how to put this talent to use and earn some  money in the process. Maybe working with the new Augur would turn out to be a blessing in disguise. 

All in all, I really love where this series is going. This is a more subdued book, compared to the previous one, but that’s exactly what we all needed. Time for retrospective and reassessment. 

City of Ghosts (Cassidy Blake 1) by Victoria Schwab

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Stars: 4 out of 5.

This was a refreshingly good YA ghost story. And no romance of any kind in sight, so thank god. 

Can you imagine being a kid and being able to see ghosts? Not only see ghosts, but be able to cross the Veil into that strange in-between world where they reside? And also to be compelled to do that even when you don’t really want to? And not being able to talk about it to anyone, because even though your parents are famous ghost researchers, they don’t actually believe that ghosts exist. Kinda ironic, when their daughter knows for a fact that they do, and her best friend is one. 

I really loved our protagonist Cassidy. She is smart and capable, but also flawed and a typical teenager in some ways. But when she is faced with hard choices and horrible things, she does everything she can to make things right and to fight for her own freedom and her life. I also liked her relationship with Jacob and how they always have each other’s back. I’m glad that she has at least one friend that she can confide in, even though nobody else can see him. 

The story itself was sufficiently creepy and atmospheric. I lived for a year in Edinburgh, so I can attest that the author managed to capture the essence of the old city perfectly. Made me nostalgic in fact. Well, for the sights and ambiance of Edinburgh, not for the weather.  

I would have loved to have a little more interaction between Cass and the other girl who has the same gift. Their time together was very short, and I feel like they never got a chance to really talk. 

I am looking forward to picking up the next book in the series and discovering more about Cass’ gift and what it means to her relationship with Jacob. Oh, and visiting another haunted city.