Anthology · Urban Fantasy

Brief Cases – Jim Butcher

4 stars

Happy release day for Brief Cases, the first book in the Dresden Files to be released in what feels like eons. Brief Cases is just what I needed to tide me over until Peace Talks, which should hopefully release next year. (I’m basing this off of what Butcher told the audience at his panel at Emerald City ComiCon earlier this year.)

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Cover from Goodreads

 

An all-new Dresden Files story headlines this urban fantasy short story collection starring the Windy City’s favorite wizard.

The world of Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is rife with intrigue–and creatures of all supernatural stripes. And you’ll make their intimate acquaintance as Harry delves into the dark side of truth, justice, and the American way in this must-have short story collection.

From the Wild West to the bleachers at Wrigley Field, humans, zombies, incubi, and even fey royalty appear, ready to blur the line between friend and foe. In the never-before-published “Zoo Day,” Harry treads new ground as a dad, while fan-favorite characters Molly Carpenter, his onetime apprentice, White Council Warden Anastasia Luccio, and even Bigfoot stalk through the pages of more classic tales.

With twelve stories in all, Brief Cases offers both longtime fans and first-time readers tantalizing glimpses into Harry’s funny, gritty, and unforgettable realm, whetting their appetites for more to come from the wizard with a heart of gold.

The collection includes:

*  “Curses”, from THE NAKED CITY, edited by Ellen Datlow
*  “AAAA Wizardry”, from the Dresden Files RPG
*  “Even Hand”, from DARK AND STORMY KNIGHTS, edited by P. N. Elrod
*  “B is for Bigfoot”, from UNDER MY HAT: TALES FROM THE CAULDRON, edited by Jonathan Strahan. Republished in WORKING FOR BIGFOOT
*  “I was a Teenage Bigfoot”, from BLOOD LITE 3: AFTERTASTE, edited by Kevin J. Anderson. Republished in WORKING FOR BIGFOOT.
*  “Bigfoot on Campus”, from HEX APPEAL, edited by P. N. Elrod. Republished in WORKING FOR BIGFOOT.
*  “Bombshells”, from DANGEROUS WOMEN, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
*  “Jury Duty”, from UNBOUND, edited by Shawn Speakman
*  “Cold Case”, from SHADOWED SOULS, edited by Jim Butcher and Kerrie Hughes
*  “Day One”, from UNFETTERED II, edited by Shawn Speakman
*  “A Fistful of Warlocks”, from STRAIGHT OUTTA TOMBSTONE, edited by David Boop
*  “Zoo Day” – brand-new novella, original to this collection

I love that Butcher explores other characters lives and problems through his short stories, in ways that he can’t in the main books. Butters’ first mission is a perfect example of something that really wouldn’t fit into the main books but gives us a wonderful look into Butters’ mind and fears and what motivates him. I find this kind of worldbuilding so fascinating.

I was also delighted to see the three Bigfoot stories collected here as well. I adore Harry’s take on Bigfoot and really enjoyed them when I hunted them down previously.

Molly’s stories always kind of break my heart, but “Cold Case” really takes the cake.

The star of Brief Cases is the final novelette, featuring Harry, Maggie and Mouse at the zoo. It’s a sweet story that gives us a layered view of a situation, and reminds us that we’re all fighting our own battles at any given time, even in something so casual as a visit to the zoo.

Brief Cases is an absolute must-buy if you’re a fan of the Dresden Files.

Thank you to Ace, Berkley Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review. 

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Urban Fantasy

Trail of Lightning – Rebecca Roanhorse

5 Stars

Trail of Lightning is the first book in a new Urban Fantasy series by Rebecca Roanhorse, author of the multiple-award-winning short story “Welcome To Your Authentic Indian Experience (TM)”. Trail of Lightning is her debut novel and what a debut it is!

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Cover from Goodreads

While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.

Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.

As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.

Welcome to the Sixth World.

Trail of Lightning was absolutely fantastic. Even brand-new to the field Roanhorse’s writing is easily on-par with Urban Fantasy veterans such as Seanan McGuire, Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs and Jim Butcher. I can’t help but compare Trail of Lightning to other UF series – and when I do, I’m comparing it to the cream of the crop, because that’s the level of quality here.

Roanhorse’s Sixth World is a vivid dystopia, beautifully built and will appeal to fans of the Kate Daniels series. I loved exploring the world of the Dinétah. Set on the Navajo reservation in the Southwest, the community and landscape we’re introduced to is something new. Readers unfamiliar with Navajo customs and beliefs will definitely walk away having learned something new. I know I sure did. 

I would have liked a pronunciation guide for the many Navajo words Roanhorse uses throughout the book. I have absolutely no idea how to pronounce some of the words with double vowels and accent marks I haven’t encountered before.

The main character, Maggie Hoskie (or Maggie Hostile as I began to call her in my head) will feel both familiar and fresh to UF fans. Maggie is a badass with baggage. She’s had a rough road to get where she is, and she’s not happy with her current situation. Things go from mediocre to worse as she follows the trail of monsters to their source. She is just the kind of character that Urban Fantasy fans love to love, but with fresh spins on everything so she doesn’t feel recycled, which is hard to do.

There is a LOT of Urban Fantasy out there, and there’s a lot that feels recycled and tropey. Trail of Lightning dodges all of that to stand out from the crowd. I was simultaneously sucked in and blown away by the story. I can’t wait for the second installment, Storm of Locusts in 2019.

Trail of Lightning hits shelves June 26, 2018 from Saga Press and should absolutely be on your radar if you’re a fan of UF.

Thank you to Saga Press for providing a review copy via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

Urban Fantasy

Ashes of Honor – Seanan McGuire

4 stars

Over in the Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant Fans group on Facebook, we’re doing a Re/Read Along as we prepare for book #12 in the series, Night and Silence, to be released in September. (Less than six months away!!!) The re/read along is newbie friendly, as we’re keeping our discussion limited to just the books we’ve read so far in the Re/Read along. We recently discussed Book #6, Ashes of Honor.

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Cover from Goodreads

It’s been almost a year since October “Toby” Daye averted a war, gave up a county, and suffered personal losses that have left her wishing for a good day’s sleep. She’s tried to focus on her responsibilities—training Quentin, upholding her position as Sylvester’s knight, and paying the bills—but she can’t help feeling like her world is crumbling around her, and her increasingly reckless behavior is beginning to worry even her staunchest supporters.

To make matters worse, Toby’s just been asked to find another missing child…only this time it’s the changeling daughter of her fellow knight, Etienne, who didn’t even know he was a father until the girl went missing. Her name is Chelsea. She’s a teleporter, like her father. She’s also the kind of changeling the old stories warn about, the ones with all the strength and none of the control. She’s opening doors that were never meant to be opened, releasing dangers that were sealed away centuries before—and there’s a good chance she could destroy Faerie if she isn’t stopped.

Now Toby must find Chelsea before time runs out, racing against an unknown deadline and through unknown worlds as she and her allies try to avert disaster. But danger is also stirring in the Court of Cats, and Tybalt may need Toby’s help with the biggest challenge he’s ever faced.

Toby thought the last year was bad. She has no idea.

Way back in 2014 when I first read it, I rated Ashes of Honor with 4 stars, and that holds today. Ashes of Honor is a really satisfying installment in the October Daye series. For a lot of fans, it’s a favorite because a long-held wish comes true.

Toby still bleeds a lot, but she’s definitely getting better about asking for help. It’s actually a major theme in this book: biting the bullet and both asking for and accepting offers of help.

The other major theme in the book is one that carries throughout the series, but really kind of comes to a head in Ashes of Honor: family. Especially the importance of both the family you have, but the family that you’ve chosen.

I believe the title refers mostly to Etienne (though it certainly does apply to a few other characters as well). He feels as though he has behaved dishonorably and this book is his journey to rectify that. Along the way, he gains new respect for Toby and her methods. It was really refreshing to see Etienne lose some of his rigidness and disdain.

The plot zips by at a nice quick clip and Ashes of Honor is one of the easiest in the series to consume.

Come back late next month for a review of Chimes at Midnight, book #7 in the series. (Or if you can’t wait, join our discussion for that book Sunday, June 3!)

Urban Fantasy

One Salt Sea – Seanan McGuire

5 stars

Over in the Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant Fans group on Facebook, we’re doing a Re/Read Along as we prepare for book #12 in the series, Night and Silence, to be released in September. It’s newbie friendly, as we’re keeping our discussion limited to just the books we’ve read so far in the Re/Read along. We recently discussed Book #5, One Salt Sea, which happens to be one of my favorite Toby books.

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Cover from Goodreads

 

October “Toby” Daye is finally doing all right—and that inevitably means it’s time for things to take a turn for the worse. Someone has kidnapped the sons of the Duchess Dianda Lorden, regent of the Undersea Duchy of Saltmist. To prevent a war between land and sea, Toby must not only find the missing boys, but also prove that the Queen of the Mists was not behind their abduction. She’ll need all her tricks and the help of her allies if she wants to make it through this in one piece.

Toby’s search will take her from the streets of San Francisco to the lands beneath the waves. But someone is determined to stop her—and whoever it is isn’t playing by Oberon’s Laws. As the battle grows more and more personal, one thing is chillingly clear. When Faerie goes to war, not everyone will walk away.

In One Salt Sea, we meet Dianda Lorden, one of my favorite side-characters of the series ever. She is a riot, even when we don’t see her at her finest moments in this book.

If you’ve read the series through, on rereading One Salt Sea you’ll find lots of little breadcrumbs leading us forward and tying the overarching plots of the series to One Salt Sea. Those little details that show us as readers just how intricately Seanan plotted this series. The foreshadowing is both heartbreaking and delicious, once you know what you’re looking at.

One Salt Sea proves to have one of the most controversial deaths in the series as well. I won’t tell you who, but it’s a character that I loved and enjoyed, that many fans of the series shrug at me. “I never really liked x anyway.” I still cry every time I read the scene.

One Salt Sea has consistently landed in my top 5 Toby books list. Some of my favorite scenes and lines come from One Salt Sea, even as some of the most heartbreaking parts of the series are also in here. It’s a book with a lot of emotional punch and feels like the tide being sucked out from the beach just before a tsunami. There is no calm before the storm.

Come back late next month for a review of Ashes of Honor, book #6 in the series. (Or if you can’t wait, join our discussion for that book Sunday, May 13!)

Urban Fantasy

Late Eclipses – Seanan McGuire

5 stars

Over in the Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant Fans group on Facebook, we’re doing a Re/Read Along as we prepare for book #12 in the series, Night and Silence, to be released in September. It’s newbie friendly, as we’re keeping our discussion limited to just the books we’ve read so far in the Re/Read along. We recently discussed Book #4, Late Eclipses.

 

Late Eclipses
Cover from Goodreads

 

October “Toby” Daye, changeling knight in the service of Duke Sylvester Torquill, finds the delicate balance of her life shattered when she learns that an old friend is in dire trouble. Lily, Lady of the Tea Gardens, has been struck down by a mysterious, seemingly impossible illness, leaving her fiefdom undefended. Struggling to find a way to save Lily and her subjects, Toby must confront her own past as an enemy she thought was gone forever raises her head once more: Oleander de Merelands, one of the two people responsible for her fourteen-year exile.

Time is growing short and the stakes are getting higher, for the Queen of the Mists has her own agenda. With everything on the line, Toby will have to take the ultimate risk to save herself and the people she loves most—because if she can’t find the missing pieces of the puzzle in time, Toby will be forced to make the one choice she never thought she’d have to face again…

 

Late Eclipses is the first book in this series that I found myself unable to put down. Books 1 and 2 are important, but a slog. Book 3 gets better but still drags a bit. Book 4, Late Eclipses is a non-stop ride. Page after page, there’s action, adventure, and Toby finally starting to deal with some of her past. I stayed up waaaaay past my bedtime reading the book, despite already knowing what would happen.

Late Eclipses is particularly powerful on a re-read, after reading The Brightest Fell. TBF adds a ton of context to some of what happens in Late Eclipses. (There are also many little comments and actions from a certain character that make so much more sense from the distance of later books. *eyebrow wiggles*) 

We are introduced to two of my favorite characters in the Toby Daye series in Late Eclipses: Walther and Jazz. I love them so much, for different reasons. It also doesn’t hurt that they’re both great examples of diversity within the pages of the Toby Daye series, even if it’s not immediately obvious.

Check back later this month for a review of One Salt Sea, book #5 in the series. (Or if you can’t wait, join our discussion for that book Sunday, April 22!)

Fantasy · Urban Fantasy

An Artificial Night – Seanan McGuire

3.5 stars

Continuing on in my re-read of the October Daye series, An Artificial Night is the book where the October Daye series finally starts to find its’ stride.

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Cover from Goodreads

 

October “Toby” Daye is a changeling-half human and half fae-and the only one who has earned knighthood. Now she must take on a nightmarish new challenge. Someone is stealing the children of the fae as well as mortal children, and all signs point to Blind Michael. Toby has no choice but to track the villain down-even when there are only three magical roads by which to reach Blind Michael’s realm, home of the Wild Hunt-and no road may be taken more than once. If Toby cannot escape with the children, she will fall prey to the Wild Hunt and Blind Michael’s inescapable power.

Comparing AAN to ALH and R&R only, An Artificial Night has the biggest, baddest villain and some serious ramifications for Faerie, Toby, and all she holds dear.

Taking on Blind Michael is the scariest and hardest thing Toby has ever done, and over the course of the book, Toby finally comes to term with the fact that whether she likes it or not, she’s a hero. She can’t hide anymore. She has to own it.

Some things remain from previous books that are still annoying. Toby still bleeds everywhere, faints or blacks out left, right, and sideways and she’s still denser than lead. (The Luidaeg even calls her out on being stupid.) Despite all of this, the plot and the villain and the setup for significant ramifications throughout Faerie really make the payoff worth it. As Toby begins to accept that she’s a hero, she seems also to get smarter and make slightly better choices.

Join me over in the Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant Fans group on Facebook, where we’re doing a Re/Read-Along as we prepare for book #12 in the series, Night and Silence, to be released in September. It’s newbie friendly, as we’re keeping our discussion limited to just the books we’ve read so far in the Re/Read along. We’ll be discussing book #4, Late Eclipses on April 1.

 

Urban Fantasy

A Local Habitation – Seanan McGuire

3 stars

Continuing with Seanan McGuire Week here at Alex Can Read, I’m finally getting around to reviewing A Local Habitation, book two in Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series.

Over in the Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant Fans group on Facebook, we’re doing a Re/Read Along as we prepare for book #12 in the series, Night and Silence, to be released in September. It’s newbie friendly, as we’re keeping our discussion limited to just the books we’ve read so far in the Re/Read along. We’ll be discussing book #3, An Artificial Night on March 11.

 

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Cover from Goodre

 

October “Toby” Daye is a changeling, the daughter of Amandine of the fae and a mortal man. Like her mother, she is gifted in blood magic, able to read what has happened to a person through a mere taste of blood. Toby is the only changeling who has earned knighthood, and she re-earns that position every day, undertaking assignments for her liege, Sylvester, the Duke of the Shadowed Hills.

Now Sylvester has asked her to go to the County of Tamed Lightning—otherwise known as Fremont, CA—to make sure that all is well with his niece, Countess January O’Leary, whom he has not been able to contact. It seems like a simple enough assignment—but when dealing with the realm of Faerie nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Toby soon discovers that someone has begun murdering people close to January, whose domain is a buffer between Sylvester’s realm and a scheming rival duchy. If Toby can’t find the killer soon, she may well become the next victim.

A Local Habitation is probably the weakest book in the series, closely followed by Rosemary & Rue. From there, the series significantly picks up. If you make it through these first two books, it only gets better.

As she once again reluctantly performs her knightly duties, Toby continues to faint a lot and bleed a lot, but it took almost halfway through the book before she really started to bleed.

A Local Habitation is more claustrophobic than Rosemary & Rue because the majority of the plot is contained within the walls of January O’Leary’s tech company. The plot is a bit slow and takes a while to really heat up, but once it does we’re at a roaring boil. A Local Habitation also introduces us to some of the most interesting characters in the series. The Olsen twins and April O’Leary.

While the book is slow, the events are crucial to understanding some of the later books, so it’s definitely not skippable. On rereading, I saw so many little breadcrumbs that Seanan left for us to connect to things in later books.

Check back next week for my review of An Artificial Night, book #3 in the series. (Or if you can’t wait, join our discussion this Sunday!)