Tag Archives: book review

Magic Burns (Kate Daniels Book 2) by Ilona Andrews.

Stars: 5 out of 5.

I started reading this book with a lot of apprehension and even fear, because in my experience with other series, the second book is usually the weakest one of the lot. And since I had really loved Magic Bites (which I also reviewed), I really didn’t want to be disappointed by book 2 and stop reading what was promising to be an excellent series.

Well, I’m glad to say that Magic Burns is the exception to the rule. This book is just as good as Book 1, if not better.

Ilona Andrews continues to develop the wonderful world she has created and gives us a little bit more insight into Kate’s past along with a few explanations about how she came to be as kickass as she is. I’m happy that she isn’t one of those heroines that just wakes up with superpowers. No, Kate had to work, sweat and bleed for every single one of them. And this is also so very refreshing, after reading about some indestructible heroines who seem to acquire a new level of badass with every consequent book without seemingly lifting a finger.

So far, Kate is by far my favorite Urban Fantasy heroine, with October Daye just a little bit behind. She is smart, she is strong, she is badass, but she is also very human and vulnerable in some things. She really feels like a living breathing person.

The wonderful world she lives in has also been developed further. In an alternative Atlanta where magic comes in waves, people (both magical and normal) have learned to adapt to the changing nature of their environment. They have electricity as well as runes and magelights and use either one of the other depending which wave is upon them. And car rentals and garages have both normal as well as magically altered cars, and even horses. But every seven years or so, an exceptionally powerful magical wave rolls over the land, leaving destruction in its wake and often drastically changing both the physical and the metaphysical landscape. One such wave is coming, and Kate finds herself smack in the middle of its path, even if she doesn’t want to.

All of the characters from book 1 get further development in this book, and we are introduced to several new people as well. I love the fact that they aren’t there just to play second fiddle to Kate. They all have their own lives and agendas, and even though most of that happens outside of this story, you still can feel that.

And for the lovers of paranormal romance, the relationship between Kate and Curran develops even further. I love the fact that those two don’t go all love / lust at first sight like it so often happens in other books. I love the progression of their relationship from rivals to reluctant allies who come to respect each other and realize that they can count on the other to have their back in a fight. Trust is a very important aspect to any relationship and it’s not easily gained, especially  for people with difficult pasts like Kate and Curran.

I also like the fact that Kate finally decides to make herself vulnerable enough to actually connect with other people and acknowledge that she might consider some of them friends. And we are introduced to several other strong female characters that are not portrayed as rivals or complete b$#%es or anything else we often see in the paranormal romance books. Ilona Andrews shows us that having other strong women as the protagonist’s friends doesn’t bring the protagonist’s awesomeness down at all. In fact, it makes her even more awesome.

So, as you have probably gathered from all the praise in this review, I think Magic Burns is a must read. I love this series and I will definitely pick up book 3 very soon.

Time Patrol (Area 51: The Nightstalkers) by Bob Mayer.

Stars: 3 out of 5.

This book has a lot going for it. It has time travel / time slip. It has secret organizations dedicated to correct attempts to change our timeline in the present and the past and other secret organization protecting unsuspecting citizens from things that go bump in the night. And all this is supported by some interesting and not too farfetched scientific explanations… All in all, it was an entertaining read.

So why did I only give this book 3 stars? Several reasons, some of which are probably due to the fact that I am new to the series and have never read any other books about the Nightstalkers.

I am not familiar with the characters. I haven’t had time to get to know and love this rag-tag team. So Scout was the only person I could more or less emphasize with because she is also relatively new to the team and gets a little bit of character development. All the others? I could care less if they live or die, so even the death of one of them in the first third of the book didn’t have the dramatic effect it probably should have had on me.

So my first advice would be: don’t make my mistake and go read the first 3 books in the series before getting to Time Patrol. I’m sure that for a reader who has followed the Nightstalkers through many adventures and learned about them in the other books, the death I am talking about was a blow.

My other problem with this book has nothing to do with the fact that I’m not familiar with the world or the series. I found the pacing to be very slow, especially in the first third of the book. We start with the Time Patrol disappearing, but then we have several chapters describing how the various members of the Nightstalkers experience little time slips and inconsistencies due to that disappearance.  While that might be relevant to the story, it also completely kills the forward momentum, because by the time we finally get back to the Time Patrol, it’s 100 pages down the road and I have been yawning through the last 30 of them.

But this complaint put aside, I actually liked the world Bob Mayer has created. The idea of a Time Patrol that would track and correct attempts at changing our timeline throughout history needs to be explored more. I loved the fact that the time patrol has agents in different times, or that arts is the surest way to communicate and send messages about possible changes in the timeline, because art, unlike anything else, survives the ravages of time.

I also loved the concept of parallel universes or timelines and the space between, where things and people who disappear from our timelines sometimes end up. In fact, I liked those concepts so much that I’m debating about going back and getting the first book in the series to familiarize myself with this team and this world some more.

So my final verdict for Time patrol is – very good book for those who are already familiar with the series, but will probably be off-putting for those who aren’t, like me.

PS. I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley.

Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop.

Stars: 4 out of 5.

With Murder of Crows, we are back in the world of the Others, and I am very happy about that! This is a fascinating world and Anne Bishop lets us explore it a bit further in this second book of the series. I have also reviewed the first book in the series, Written in Red.

A lot happens in this book. We learn more about the origins of the drugs “feel good” and “gone over wolf”. We discover that there are human settlements on the Others land that are under the Others’ control. The people who chose to live there did so because they were persecuted by other humans for being different. The Others granted them asylum from persecution in exchange for work and goods. Those humans, Simple Life folks and Intuits, are not considered “meat” per se, but they are not considered friends either – they are simply tolerated as long as they don’t break the rules.

It was interesting to look at the settlements and the human / Others interaction outside of the Lakeside Courtyard. It was also a stark reminder that humans are just tolerated on this continent, and that there are a lot more dangerous terra indigene inhabiting the deep wild country that would not hesitate to wipe them off the land if provoked. It also served to emphasis just how progressive Simon is as the leader of the Lakeside Courtyard. He actually tries to work with the human authorities instead of just dealing with most of the problems the terra indigene way –  eat the intruder, throw the personal belongings out of the Courtyard for the police to find.

Speaking of the humans in the Lakeside Courtyard, we also see changes that are a direct consequence from the previous book. Meg has been accepted by all the inhabitants of the Courtyard. She is part of the Pack, even though she isn’t terra indigene, but she isn’t “smart meat” either. This is a source of confusion for Simon and and some of the other members of the Business association until they decide that she is just The Meg and leave it at that.

Another big change is that the humans working in the Courtyard become Meg’s human pack, so they transition from being just employees who are not eatable unless they misbehave to people the Others feel obliged to protect, especially when the rest of the human population of Lakeside turns on them and dubs them Wolf lovers.

And the Others finally turn their attention to the cassandra sangue  and those who keep them and bleed them for profit. The consequences of that attention will be life-changing for everyone concerned…

I loved this book. I got to spend more time with all the characters I grew to love in Book 1 and watch their relationship develop and become stronger. I got to see more of this fascinating world of Others and discover a bit more about its inhabitants.

So by now you are probably wondering why I only gave this book 4 stars instead of 5? I have one problem with it, but it’s a problem significant enough to deduct a whole star, because it tarnished my enjoyment a little.

There are a lot of things happening in this book, and a lot of different forces threaten Meg and the Courtyard inhabitants, as well as some of the other terra indigene we encounter, but there was almost no suspense, at least not for me. And the reason for this being that Meg would always have a prophesy that would warn them beforehand about the bad stuff coming their way, so that they are prepared. I understand that it’s part of who she is and what this whole world is about, but it kills the suspense. I don’t worry about the characters anymore, because I KNOW nothing will happen to them, no matter how threatening the danger is…

It could have been easily rectified though. Meg is only one blood prophet. The Controller has a whole compound full of them. Why don’t the bad guys get prophesies before they set out to do anything as well? That way they would at least see what would work and what would fail miserably. Or we could have the Others fail to interpret Meg’s visions correctly, or understand the warning only AFTER the fact. If some of the evil plans actually succeeded and there had been casualties among the cast we grew to love, I would have been more invested in the story. It’s hard to be worried about characters when the author portrays Meg’s power as infallible.

But despite that, I enjoyed Murder of Crows and I would definitely recommend it. Can’t wait for Book 3 to come out.

Written in Red by Anne Bishop.

Stars: 5 out of 5

I must admit that what attracted me to this book is the premise. In a genre with a gazillion books about werewolves, vampires and other shifters / supernatural beings, it’s really hard to find a books that stands out or offers something new. Well, Written in Red does exactly that.

What do we usually see in most books in this genre? A supernatural community that does its best to stay hidden from humans, that lives on the margins of society, hiding in the shadows. Or if they have already shown themselves to humans, they are usually marginalized and oppressed.

Well, not so with the Others. Imagine a world where the humans are not the dominant race. They were late to the party, in fact. By the time our ancestors climbed down that tree, the world was already inhabited by the Others, and they were not willing to share it… Millennia later, a shaky truce exists between the humans and the Others, and there are even some lands that humans can live in and cultivate, but they are not the owners of those resources; they are just lenders. And the Others make sure that the “monkeys” never forget that they can reclaim those lands any time they want, because for them, humans are just another kind of meat. Smart, useful in some ways, but still meat.

I loved this take on the whole humans versus supernatural beings confrontation. And Anne Bishop managed to create a very interesting and complex world around this idea. I could see how much thought and research went into it – the world felt REAL and logical. So just for that, I would already have loved the book, but there is so much more about it to love!

Meg became one of my favorite protagonists. She is a casandra sangine, a human whose blood holds prophecies. Any cut that draws blood brings them forward. As such, she spent all her life in a secure institution, where she was the property of the Controller, who made her bleed and prophesies for his wealthy clients, along with over 1000 other girls. She didn’t even have a name, just a number.

What I like about Meg is that despite her utter lack of experience with the outside world, she has an unbendable force of will. She saw a way out during one of the prophecies and she wasn’t afraid to take it. She can come across as naïve and even “simple” sometimes, but that’s because everything she knows about the world comes from training videos and pictures that often just gave her names of things without context. The controller just needed her   to be able to recognize the things she was seeing in her prophecies and be able to name them, not know what they meant or how they worked.

So there are moments when Meg is lost and baffled by the new world she finds herself in, like when she is confronted by the training image #457 Coffee Machine. She knows it’s supposed to make training image #97678 Coffee, but she has no idea how it works. But Meg doesn’t just give up and wallow in self-pity when she doesn’t understand something. She researches, she looks for a book, or a manual, or asks people. And then she LISTENS and she LEARNS. I think, that’s what I like about her the most. No matter what life throws her way, she never gives up and she always learns.

The depiction of the Others is also excellently handled. They are not just human people that can turn into wolves, crows and bears, or drink blood and disperse into black mist. They are other, some of them utterly alien in their way of thinking and behaving. They have their own rules of interaction between themselves and with the humans that they allow to live on their land.

I also liked the fact that there is no romantic undertone in this book. At all. Yes, the Others come to care about Meg by the end of it, but it’s the beginning of a solid friendship based on mutual trust, respect and caring. There is nothing romantic about it.

Pfew, so what is the take away from this long and rambling review? If you want a complex new world and engaging characters – go buy the book! A must read.

The Deep by Nick Cutter.

Stars: 3 out of 5.

 

I am hard-pressed to grade this book, because I loved it… until I didn’t. And that “didn’t” came in the last 1/3 of the book, including the ending.

 

The premise of The Deep is very promising. There is an incurable disease called the GETS that slowly kills people. First you start forgetting little things like where you put your keys or the name of your boyfriend in high school, then you forget more essential things like how to feed yourself, until you forget how to breath or your heart forgets to beat. It’s always lethal and nobody knows what causes it. But there might be hope for humanity. A substance has been discovered deep in the Mariana Trench that might be able to cure the GETS. A group of scientists had been lowered down to study it in a high tech habitat called the Trieste. Only the base station above has lost contact with Trieste several days ago, and then a horribly broken body of one of the scientists surfaced in the bathyscaphe that had been attached to the habitat. Two people are sent down to investigate what happened. They will face more than just crazy scientists and the crushing pressure of the depths.

 

As I said, I started really liking what I was reading. Loved the main characters and the world Nick Cutter built. Can’t say anything bad about the language either. I read the first 2/3 of the book in two days. It took me a whole week to finally bring myself to finish it. But I need to mention that I don’t think it’s because the last third of the book is bad. I think it’s just that I really didn’t agree with the choices the author made and what he made his characters do.

 

Without going into details, because that would be a huge spoiler, but I don’t think anyone would make the choice the protagonist makes in the end, no matter how crazy they become. There is no mistaking that evil thing for his son. Sorry that’s just not plausible.

 

I have two other gripes with this book.

 

The first one is also deeply personal and might not put off other readers. But for me, there were way too many flashbacks in this book. I understand that they are necessary and an important part of the story, and that the reader wouldn’t understand what’s going on without at least some of them. But they are just too long! And they break the narrative, killing the suspense. I mean one chapter we are on board of the positively creepy Trieste and the tension can be cut with a knife… and then we have a whole chapter about the day the protagonist’s son disappeared. Once we come back to the Trieste, the tension is gone, flushed down the drain.

 

My second gripe is how the characters behave. I mean they are both smart people, they both come to the realization that weird s%&t is happening on board of that station, and that they are more susceptible to it when they are alone. So why oh why do they think that separating and wandering off on their own is a good idea? And why did the author use that tired old trope from every bad slasher / horror movie ever? Especially if bad stuff repeatedly happens when they do it, surely after the third time they would have worked out that staying together might be wiser?

 

*Deep breath*

 

So to summarize, it’s a well-written book with an interesting story. Some of the things in it didn’t work for me, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t work for other readers. So I would say, if you like horror, you should give The Deep a try.

PS. This review is for an advanced copy I got from NetGalley.

Undercity by Catherine Asaro.

Stars: 1 out of 5

I usually refrain from writing negative reviews, mostly because I feel like by posting a one star review I am doing the author a disservice.  But once in a while I come across books that I can’t simply discard and not explain why I didn’t like them, either because they were really bad, or because they could have been great and failed to live to my expectations.

In the case of Undercity by Catherine Asaro, it’s the later rather than the former. I was so excited when I got an advanced reader copy of this book thanks to NetGalley. I love science fiction, I love strong female characters, and I absolutely love new and interesting takes on societies. So I really wanted to love Undercity.

Unfortunately, while I am willing to suspend my disbelief in most cases (it’s a made-up world after all), I can’t shut off my logical mind as well. I can’t read a book if I have to be brain dead to enjoy it.

I will not go into too many details about the story itself, because my problems with the book are more general than that. So you can read on ahead without fear of spoilers.

So, problem #1 and biggest pet peeve. The author describes a star-faring and technologically advanced civilization that had existed for over seven thousand years and created a galactic empire. In this civilization, for some unexplained reasons, there are only about 2 men for each 10 women born. So, obviously, the society is very matriarchic.  This could work. This could actually be a very interesting topic to explore IF the author had bothered to think logically about the implications of such a disparity.

To me, such a deficit in males means polygamy, if not the rejection of marriage as a viable solution altogether. Communal men, children either raised by their mothers or the larger family including sisters, aunts, cousins, etc. We are also talking about a technologically advanced society, so sperm banks, genetic modification, draconian control over who can procreate with whom because of the reduced genetic pool with the Y chromosome…

What we get in that book instead: men are kept hidden from the outside world, and only their immediate family and future wife to be can interact with them (that’s an interesting reversal of the situation many women endured in the Muslim countries, even if it’s a bit far-fetched). BUT the society is still monogamous. You heard me right. There are 2 men for every 10 women, yet each man is married to one woman… So what do the other 8 do? How do they chose who gets to create a family and have children and who doesn’t? How can that work??? All those questions are left unanswered.

Also, I find it hard to believe that in all seven thousand years, their scientists haven’t found a solution to fix this disparity between sexes. For one, a society with so few men would have interbreeded and died out in seven thousand years, not went on to dominate a galaxy. It could have achieved it only if measures had been taken to spread the genetic pool around and a drastic genealogical control… none of which is even mentioned in the book.

My second problem with the book is the population of the Undercity itself and the inner conflict / motivation for the protagonist.  I think it’s mostly because even the author isn’t quite clear of what the people of Undercity are, so her protagonist isn’t very clear whether she wants to save that population or not, and for what reasons, or whether it even needs saving. This puts the reader in a state of slight bewilderment any time she reads about that elusive society, because it’s not very clear what the stakes are.

How big is the population of Undercity? The author never gives us straight numbers. One page she says around 300, then she mentions about 400-600. Even if it’s 1000, how can a civilization like that have survived for 7000 years by itself? The author mentions a few times that they have zero to very little contact with the people from Cries, the city above them…. So they just breed amongst themselves then? All 300, 600 or 1000 of them for the whole 7000 years? They would all be closely related by now and horribly deformed, especially considering that they have the same problem as the people above them – 2 men for every 10 women…

But even if we put that little problem aside, the author has no clear vision of what that population does. Either they are vagrants that survive on scraps collected form above them (how if they rarely go outside?), who have no sustainable industry or production or anything. Or they are skilled mechanics, hackers and artists who learned their skills “in the streets” and by stealing the online feeds from top above ground schools. Either they are divided into a society of violent gangs, or they have a strict code of helping each other and taking care of their own. According to what the author says, they are all that at the same time with no real explanations on how, why and how that would even begin to work.

This could have been a wonderful book. There were so many possibilities to explore, but I guess the author’s logic was different from my own. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this book. There are plenty of better science fiction novels out there. But ultimately it’s always up to you, guys.

P.S. This review is for an advanced copy I received from NetGalley.

Pines by Blake Crouch

Stars: 5 out of 5

Blake Crouch says that Pines was inspired iconic TV series Twin Peaks. He wanted to capture the same eerie atmosphere of a  small town that seems perfectly ordinary on the surface, but where something isn’t quite right. I must say that he succeeded.

Ethan Burke is a federal agent who arrives to the small town of Wayward Pines looking for two fellow agents who have gone missing. Within minutes of his arrival, his car is t-boned by a truck. When he comes to, he is in a meadow in the outskirts of Wayward Pines, with no cell, no ID, no wallet and no firearm. He is badly bruised and has a horrible headache. He remembers the accident, but has no idea how he ended up in that meadow instead of a hospital. He is hurt and confused, and the inhabitants of Wayward Pines, who seem friendly enough, aren’t all that eager to help. And why do all the roads out of town just loop on themselves? And why is there a tall electric fence barring the only exit out of the valley?

I loved how the author managed to make the reader feel Ethan’s confusion. He is hurt, he has blackouts, he can’t remember his home number or even his wife’s cell. At several points in the book, he starts doubting his sanity, and so does the reader. I caught myself wondering if this was just a dream, or a hallucination brought by the accident and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Ethan feels that something isn’t quite right, but he can’t put his finger on it. So he tries to contact his superiors back in Seattle, but is given the run around. He tries to get his possessions back, but the hospital staff says the sheriff has them, while the sheriff is sure the EMTs have them, and the EMTs are nowhere to be found…

So the reader struggles with Ethan to understand what is going on and what kind of dark secret hides behind the sunny facades of Wayward Pines. Or maybe there is no secret at all and the local psychologist is right – Ethan is suffering from a mental breakdown.

But then the town itself is positively creepy as well, and Ethan Burke showed this creepiness masterfully. It’s such an idyllic little town with brightly painted Victorian houses and well-manicured lawns, where all the neighbors know each other and everyone is friendly. Like an orchestra playing a perfect melody. Only one of the instruments is slightly off-key. And this discordance keeps reverberating, until the whole melody is ruined.

I loved Ethan as the main protagonist. I loved the fact that he never gave up. That no matter what he was told, he always followed his gut and kept digging until he found out the truth. He was interesting to follow and root for.

I also liked the mystery surrounding the town itself and how the author would slowly uncover more and more details about it. And the more he showed, the creepier it got.

And I also absolutely loved the fact that the ending was NOT what I had expected. The book kept me guessing and turning the pages, and the ending was an absolute shocker.

So the final verdict is – very good book indeed. A must read for fans of Twin Peaks and other creepy mysteries alike.

Evernight by Kristen Callihan

Stars: 2.5-3 out of 5.

This is a review of the ARC of Evernight that I got curtesy of NetGalley.

I admit that I find rating this book extremely difficult, and I think it has at least partly to do with the fact that I rarely read books with a romantic line as one of the driving forces of the plot. And of those that I read, the number that I really liked is very small.

But let’s start from the beginning, shall we? As far as the world-building and the plot itself goes, I would give Evernight between 3.5 and 4 stars.

This is the fifth book in The Darkest London series, so the readers are thrown into a world that had already been introduced and explained in the previous books. As such, there are no noticeable info-dumps. The world itself is interesting and well fleshed-out. It’s everything a steampunk lover would want: a Victorian London with steam engines and crazy contraptions; Ghosts in the Machine (GIMs), demons and other supernatural beings; an organization in charge of policing the supernaturals and another one fighting for their freedom.

Granted, it’s nothing particularly new or original, but it’s described well and it works. I enjoyed exploring this alternative London with Holly and William, and I wouldn’t mind discovering a bit more about it, so I might go back and read the other books in the series.

The main characters are also rather engaging. Both Holly Evernight and William Thorne are interesting protagonists, with their own backstories and personal demons. So empathizing with them wasn’t a problem for me.

By now you must be wondering why I gave this book such a low rating if I liked so much about it? Well, we reached the crux of my problems with Evernight – the romance between the protagonists. In order for a romance book to work, at least for me, the romance has to work, since it is such a big part of the story. No matter how good the plot is or how interesting the world, if the relationship between the characters rings false, it will put me off the book.

And this is precisely the problem here. Will and Holly are interesting characters… that have zero romantic chemistry between them. They work well as partners, maybe reluctant friends, but any time the author tries to introduce the romance, both start acting extremely out of character.

The whole romance between them feels forced, as if the author had decided that it was needed, since it was a romance book, and tried to make the characters dance to her own drum beat, instead of listening to what they really wanted to do.

As a result, I had to roll my eyes during some of the touchy-feely scenes. When I realized that I was skipping them altogether to get to the plot, that was indication enough that the romance simply wasn’t working for me.

So I would rate the romance component somewhere around 1.5 and 2 stars. But, once again, I need to emphasize that there are very few romance novels I liked; where the relationship between the main characters was so well written that it had me hooked and wanting more. When I find such a gem, I hoard it, I cherish it, and I re-read it quite often. And this is always a matter of personal taste. What I found forced and unbelievable might seem beautiful and romantic to somebody else.

So would I recommend this book? I would say – up to you, guys. The world is interesting, the plot is rather fun, if you don’t mind skipping all the romance parts.

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett.

Stars: 5 out of 5

I received an ARC of this book for free from NetGalley.

There are books that grip you and don’t let you go until you read the very last line on the very last page. City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett is one such book. I finished it in three days, which is no small feat for me, considering that I have a full time job, a family and my own writing fighting for my time most of the days.

So what is City of Stairs about? Bulikov used to be called the Seat of the World, the city where all six Divinities governing the Continent resided. But the Divinities had been slain 80 years ago, and the Continent was invaded by the people who used to be their former slaves. The passing of the Divinities laid waste to the land, with whole cities disappearing, collapsing or shrinking in the blink of an eye. Even the climate has undergone a drastic change, and the whole land went from being a lush tropical paradise to a frozen wasteland.

The city of Bulikov suffered the most damage. Even 80 years later, it lies in shambles. Its citizens are the poorest on the Continent, the infrastructure is non-existent and the living conditions are atrocious. And the invaders intend to keep it that way, as punishment for everything they had to suffer at the hands of the citizen of Bulikov and their Divinities.

But the citizens of Bulikov remember their glory days. Hatered and discontent brews in the streets and the whole city is a powder keg ready to explode. Will the murder of Efrem Pangyui, celebrated Saypuri historian, be the spark that ignites the city and starts yet another war?

The world created by Robert Jackson Bennett is absolutely fascinating. Each of the six Divinities had their own creation myths and rules by which the world functioned, and those rules were absolute in the zone of their influence. But when they died, all those different view of reality clashed together and produced the Blink, when entire parts of the continent simply vanished; others got warped beyond recognition while those realities fought for dominance. It’s a broke and strange world that we get to explore along with the characters of this story.

Speaking of characters, I absolutely loved Shara and Sigurd, her secretary / bodyguard / enforcer. They are interesting characters with their own flaws and strengths, and I was genuinely engaged with their stories and problems. But the book doesn’t rely solely on its main protagonists. The secondary characters are also memorable and “alive”. You love them or you hate them, but they don’t leave you indifferent.

Most of all, I found the general ideas behind this story extremely compelling and thought-provoking: do the Divinities create their followers or are they created by them? Or is it a two-way relationship? Can they break free from each other without losing their identity? Can whole nations become obsolete along with their Divinity? Is change really such a bad thing? All those questions apply not only to the fictional world of City of Stairs, but to ours as well…

I am glad I found this story and go to read the ARC before the release. I also heard that the author is working on the second book, so I’m definitely placing it on my “books to watch for” list. My advice is – go buy City of Stairs, it’s a guaranteed good read.

Whispers Underground by Ben Aaronovitch

Stars: 4.5 out of 5

Whispers Underground is the third book in the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch. I have reviewed the first two books as well – Rivers of London (Midnight Riot in the US) and Moon over Soho.

Peter Grant is back and better than ever! When the body of an American exchange student is found on the Underground tracks near Baker Street Station, Peter is forced to explore a bit more of the London’s underground tunnels and sewer systems than he really wants to. But the place where the victim was found has a very strong vestigia, which means that the young man had been killed by magic. And with Nightingale busy chasing after the evil wizard called The Faceless Man, who had almost killed Peter in the previous book, it falls to Peter and Lesley to investigate this particular murder.

Needless to say, I loved this book. Ben Aaronovitch has a knack for sprinkling his stories with just the right amount of intrigue and tension to keep his readers turning the pages. At the same time, he manages to insert little historical trivia and tidbits about magic and science, but in a way that never feels boring or info dumpish.

But the strongest aspect of these books is the characters. Peter Grant is as funny and likable as ever, and Nightingale is still awesome and mysterious. Thou we are starting to see a more human side of him as well, which makes me like him even more, and pity him a little as well. For over fifty years, he had lived his life with the guilt of being one of the few survivors of a war that saw most of the English wizards eliminated. He lived with the conviction that magic was slowly dying out and that he had become obsolete, like the dinosaurs. And all of a sudden he discovers that all this time there had been another wizard operating in London, recruiting apprentices and doing rather questionable experiments, all this right under his nose and he didn’t notice anything.

Oh, and Lesley is back! She is still horribly disfigured and has to wear a mask in public, but she is now a full-time member of the Folly and Nightingale’s second apprentice. I’m glad that she gets a bigger role in these books, because I find her interesting and engaging. She’s been handed the short end of the stick, but she doesn’t mop around and wallow in her misery. She presses on instead and tries to master the other gift she has discovered – magic. And, unsurprisingly, she is better at it than Peter, because she is determined and persistent.

We are also introduced to a few new characters that might or might not have a bigger role in the next books.

All in all, it’s an excellent installment in the series, and I actually like this story better than Moon over Soho, maybe because I’m not very versed in the musical / jazz scene, but a murder underground – that’s right up my alley.

I don’t think you necessarily need to have read the previous two books to understand the plot of Whispers Underground, but I would strongly recommend reading them first anyway. If nothing else, it will give you two more exciting stories to discover. You can get them on Amazon – Rivers of London and Moon over Soho.

My conclusion is – wonderful book. I’m glad I bought it and I already acquired Broken Homes, book 4 in the series, so be on the lookout for a review once I’m done with it.