Urban Fantasy

Ink & Sigil – Kevin Hearne

4 Stars

Kevin Hearne is back in the universe of his much beloved Iron Druid with a new series Ink & Sigil. Readers unfamiliar with this universe will feel welcome, as the book doesn’t lean on prior knowledge, but fans of Atticus O’Sullivan will still find plenty of little nods to the previous series to feel connected and treading familiar ground.

The cover of Ink and Sigil by Kevin Hearne. A stylized image of chalk on a blackboard with celtic symbols and different pen nibs and ink spots.
Image from The Storygraph

Al MacBharrais is both blessed and cursed. He is blessed with an extraordinary white moustache, an appreciation for craft cocktails – and a most unique magical talent. He can cast spells with magically enchanted ink and he uses his gifts to protect our world from rogue minions of various pantheons, especially the Fae.

But he is also cursed. Anyone who hears his voice will begin to feel an inexplicable hatred for Al, so he can only communicate through the written word or speech apps. And his apprentices keep dying in peculiar freak accidents. As his personal life crumbles around him, he devotes his life to his work, all the while trying to crack the secret of his curse.

But when his latest apprentice, Gordie, turns up dead in his Glasgow flat, Al discovers evidence that Gordie was living a secret life of crime. Now Al is forced to play detective – while avoiding actual detectives who are wondering why death seems to always follow Al. Investigating his apprentice’s death will take him through Scotland’s magical underworld, and he’ll need the help of a mischievous hobgoblin if he’s to survive.

I really enjoyed Ink & Sigil. Al is a thoughtful old man who clearly tries to take care of those around him to the best of his abilities and tries to minimize harm. Nadia is an interesting, nuanced and strong (literally) character with a lot more depth than Hearne’s earlier women characters. The hobgoblin is amusing and provides needed humor and levity when the book sometimes goes dark. The characters are all a little unusual, making for a book that stands out from other Urban Fantasy novels I’ve read.

An image of an aurora 88 black mamba fountain pen
Aurora 88 fountain pen – image from Appelboom

I will say flat out that Kevin Hearne has sprinkled in all of my favorite things, so I am immediately biased to like this book. Ink & Sigil somehow surprised me by featuring….handmade inks and fountain pens. Why this is surprising with a title like that is beyond me. And yet it was. (I am notorious for not reading blurbs of books before I read the book – it’s right there in the blurb – enchanted ink!) Anybody who knows me IRL knows I love fountain pens and inks. I’ve got a tidy little collection of fountain pens (mostly TWSBI) and a slightly less tidy collection of inks. So it’s no wonder that Al and his story full of magical inks and beautiful pens instantly charmed me. I’ve added photos of three of the five pens called out in the story to this post.

Not only that, but Hearne then moved on to include gin and whisky quite prominently and with much fine detail in the story. Again, anyone who knows me IRL knows that gin and whisk(e)y are my go-to spirits of choice. There’s nothing finer on a hot day than a Gin and Tonic. Nothing better on a chilly evening than a dram of something brown and neat or a Manhattan or Old Fashioned.

An image of an emerald green Visconti fountain pen.
Emerald green Visconti – image from Goulet Pens

Ink & Sigil is a book that pays attention to the details. Hearne takes care to tell us the color of Nadia’s nail polish, the brands and flavor profiles of the drinks consumed and the rich hues and ingredients in the inks included in the story. And it doesn’t get bogged down in the details. The story of Al, Buck and Nadia moves at a fairly brisk pace for a senior citizen and is full of wit, charm and mysteries to unravel. There were moments I literally laughed out loud, and others where I was very tense, wondering how the team was going to accomplish their goals.

Throughout the story, we discover some of what happened in the Iron Druid Chronicles and afterward through the lens of someone slightly more in the know than the average person, but without a front row seat. These callbacks help fans of that series keep their footing and timelines clear, but add depth and richness to the universe without being confusing for new readers, unfamiliar with the adventures of Atticus and Oberon.

An image of Caran d'ache fountain pen with a rhodim skull and leather barrel by Peter Marino
Caran d’ache fountain pen with a rhodim skull and leather barrel by Peter Marino – image from Williampenn.net

It is hard to review a book set in the universe of the Iron Druid Chronicles without comparing it to the Iron Druid Chronicles, so I’m not going to try. Just from book one, I like Ink & Sigil more than I liked the Iron Druid books. Al and Nadia and the hobgoblin are more interesting, nuanced characters than Atticus, Granuaile and Oberon. For many readers of the series, Oberon was the best part of the books and frankly he turned me off of the books a lot. He was, even for a dog, very one note and crude. Granuaile didn’t get interesting until the final two books when she suddenly got a personality and Atticus always felt very “poor me” even when he was in a situation of his own making. Al, Nadia and the hobgoblin are completely different and I frankly like them much better. Where Oberon was the comic relief in Iron Druid, the hobgoblin takes that place in Ink & Sigil to a much funnier effect, at least to me. Nadia feels like Hearne took all of the (deserved) criticism about Granuaile to heart and wrote a character that looks and sounds like a real person. Hearne is a better writer in Ink & Sigil and it shows.

Overall, I really enjoyed Ink & Sigil and will be excitedly waiting for book 2 to come out. In the meantime, book 1 hits shelves August 25, 2020. If you pick it up, come back and tell me what you thought in the comments below.

I received an eARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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Blog Housekeeping · That Reading Life

My Most Anticipated Reads of 2019!

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2019 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting years in publishing! I am so excited about what’s coming out and below I’ve highlighted the books I’m most excited about hitting shelves in the coming months.

In An Absent Dream

#4 in the Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire is promising to be one of the best in the series and I’m dying to dive right in!

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This is the story of a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should.

When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she’s found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.

For anyone . . .

Empress of Forever

I am beside myself with excitement for the upcoming standalone space opera from Max Gladstone. I love everything he writes and I am prepared to be devastated by Empress of Forever.

A wildly successful innovator to rival Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, Vivian Liao is prone 40380954.jpgto radical thinking, quick decision-making, and reckless action. On the eve of her greatest achievement, she’s trying to outrun those who are trying to steal her success.

In the chilly darkness of a Boston server farm, Viv sets her ultimate plan into motion. A terrifying instant later, Vivian Liao is catapulted through space and time to a far future where she confronts a destiny stranger and more deadly than she could ever imagine.

The end of time is ruled by an ancient, powerful Empress who blesses or blasts entire planets with a single thought. Rebellion is literally impossible to consider–until Vivian arrives. Trapped between the Pride, a ravening horde of sentient machines, and a fanatical sect of warrior monks who call themselves the Mirrorfaith, Viv must rally a strange group of allies to confront the Empress and find a way back to the world and life she left behind.

The Unkindest Tide

#13 in the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire

We don’t have a synopsis or a cover yet, but goodness I can’t wait for this installment. Book #12 Night and Silence was such an escalation in the story that I am almost breathless with excitement to find out what happens next.

Winter of the Witch

#3 in Katherine Arden’s stunning Winternight trilogy. I loved the first two, and am so excited to find out how this story ends!

Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the 36621586.jpgbestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.

Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.

Gideon the Ninth

We don’t have a cover yet for Tamsyn Muir’s debut novel but based on the synopsis and everything I’ve heard about it so far I can’t WAIT to get my hands on it.

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.

Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as necromantic skeletons. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will be become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.

King of Scars

Leigh Bardugo’s new Grishaverse series is one I’ve been anticipating for MONTHS. Nikolai was my favorite character from the original Grisha series and I can’t wait to see where his story goes.

Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he 36307634.jpgendured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.

The Kingdom of Copper

S.A. Chakraborty’s The City of Brass was so incredible that I cannot wait to get into the sequel. The world Chakraborty built is so immersive and intense – I need to know what’s next for Nahri!

Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a 35839460.jpgformidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.

Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of the battle that saw Dara slain at Prince Ali’s hand, Nahri must forge a new path for herself, without the protection of the guardian who stole her heart or the counsel of the prince she considered a friend. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family and one misstep will doom her tribe.

Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid-the unpredictable water spirits-have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.

And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.

Middlegame

Seanan McGuire’s taking off from her existing worlds and forging ahead in a new novel, Middlegame. I’m still not sure if it’s a standalone or part of a series, but either way, I WANT IT!

Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him.

35965482.jpgHe instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.

Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math.

Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realise it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet.

Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.

Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained.

Aurora Rising

Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman gave us the Illuminae Files and they’re about to break our hearts again with The Aurora Cycle and I can’t wait.

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned 30075662.jpgtheir first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

They’re not the heroes we deserve. They’re just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.

This Is How You Lose the Time War

Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone are two of my favorite people, and when I found out that they were teaming up to write a novella I about fell out of my chair.

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Time travel isn’t my favorite topic, but for them I’ve already pre-ordered the book.

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.

And thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more.

Except discovery of their bond would be death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right?

Storm of Locusts

Rebecca Roanhorse is back with her sequel to her debut novel Trail of Lightning and I’m sure it’s going to be just as much of a heavy hitter as ToL was.

It’s been four weeks since the bloody showdown at Black Mesa, and Maggie Hoskie,37920490.jpg Diné monster hunter, is trying to make the best of things. Only her latest bounty hunt has gone sideways, she’s lost her only friend, Kai Arviso, and she’s somehow found herself responsible for a young girl with a strange clan power.

Then the Goodacre twins show up at Maggie’s door with the news that Kai and the youngest Goodacre, Caleb, have fallen in with a mysterious cult, led by a figure out of Navajo legend called the White Locust. The Goodacres are convinced that Kai’s a true believer, but Maggie suspects there’s more to Kai’s new faith than meets the eye. She vows to track down the White Locust, rescue Kai, and make things right between them both.

Her search leads her beyond the Walls of Dinétah and straight into the horrors of the Big Water world outside. With the aid of a motley collection of allies, Maggie must battle body harvesters, newborn casino gods, and, ultimately the White Locust himself. But the cult leader is nothing like she suspected, and Kai might not need rescuing after all. When the full scope of the White Locust’s plans are revealed, Maggie’s burgeoning trust in her friends, and herself, will be pushed to the breaking point, and not everyone will survive.

Greystar

C.L. Polk hit me right in the feels with Witchmark last year and I am prepared and excited to be absolutely emotional ruined by Greystar.

As a broken nation tries to patch itself together, one journalist fights to reveal the 41473380.jpgtruth behind the disaster, while keeping her head above the rising tides of revolution.

The second installment follows Avia Jessup, a newswoman whose former lover set Miles on his collision course with truth. As Aeland is invaded by fae visitors and wracked by brutal winter storms, Avia begins to pick at the threads of conspiracy, and finds that every trail leads her to Grace Hensley. The beautiful Chancellor is keeping secrets that could break the country apart, and Avia will have to decide whether exposing the truth is worth the price of blood and fire, and worth risking the budding romance between herself and Grace.

Darkdawn

The final book in the Nevernight Chronicle from Jay Kristoff is going to be bloody good fun and I can’t wait. Mia is going to make me bleed feels all over the page. I am so excited.

The Republic of Itreya is in chaos. Mia Corvere has assassinated Cardinal Duomo 23264672.jpgand rumors of Consul Scaeva’s death ripple through the street of Godsgrave like wildfire. But buried beneath those same streets, deep in the ancient city’s bones, lies a secret that will change the Republic forever.

Mia and her brother Jonnen must journey through the depths of the ancient metropolis. Their quest will take them through the Godsgrave underdark, across the Sea of Swords, back to the library of the Quiet Mountain and the poisoned blades of Mia’s old mentors, and at last the fabled Crown of the Moon. There, Mia will at last discover the origins of the darkin, and learn the destiny that lies in store for her and her world. But with the three suns now in descent, and Truedark on the horizon, will she survive?

What are YOU excited to read in 2019?

 

 

Urban Fantasy

Lies Sleeping – Ben Aaronovitch

4 Stars

Lies Sleeping is the 7th novel in Ben Aaronovitch’s stellar Rivers of London series. I was first introduced to this series on my honeymoon, when I stumbled into the fantastic Mysterious Galaxy bookstore in San Diego. The bookseller pointed me to three new-to-me series and I’ve been hooked on Rivers of London ever since.

The synopsis below contains some spoilers for previous books, though I did try to edit out some of the biggest bombshells.

Join Peter Grant, detective and apprentice wizard, for a brand new case . . .36534574.jpg

[Spoiler], aka the Faceless Man, wanted for multiple counts of murder, fraud, and crimes against humanity, has been unmasked and is on the run. Peter Grant, Detective Constable and apprentice wizard, now plays a key role in an unprecedented joint operation to bring [Spoiler] to justice.

But even as the unwieldy might of the Metropolitan Police bears down on its foe, Peter uncovers clues that [Spoiler], far from being finished, is executing the final stages of a long term plan. A plan that has its roots in London’s two thousand bloody years of history, and could literally bring the city to its knees.

To save his beloved city Peter’s going to need help from his former best friend and colleague who brutally betrayed him and everything he thought she believed in. And, far worse, he might even have to come to terms with the malevolent supernatural killer and agent of chaos known as Mr Punch . . .

Lies Sleeping is the conclusion of the first major act in the Rivers of London series, and neatly sets up for the beginning of another act.

Lies Sleeping is not as action packed as previous Rivers of London books and instead focuses more on character growth and connection. This isn’t to say that the stakes aren’t high and there are no magical battles or chases – it’s impossible to leave out those elements completely, but the story finds most of the development in conversations between Peter and other characters, especially those of the demi-monde. Just as Peter says, most of the work in solving a crime is talking to people, and that’s how he spends most of his time in Lies Sleeping. 

Like most RoL novels, there’s a lot of history and architecture packed into the story, but for the first time it felt like too much. The story kind of dragged and meandered and I found myself skimming some of the esoterica rather than raptly absorbing it as context for the larger story.

All that being said, I really enjoyed Lies Sleeping and am already desperate for another installment. I’ll have to tide myself over with the comics in the meantime.

Lies Sleeping hits shelves in the US on November 20.

Thank you to  DAW for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review. 

Fantasy · Mystery · Urban Fantasy

Night & Silence – Seanan McGuire

5 Stars

Night and Silence, the 12th installment in the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire, is full of bombshells and might be the most explosive entry in the series to date. I don’t know what I expected from Night and Silence, but this wasn’t it. Hold onto your leather jacket folks!

Things are not okay.

23243695.jpgIn the aftermath of Amandine’s latest betrayal, October “Toby” Daye’s fragile self-made family is on the verge of coming apart at the seams. Jazz can’t sleep, Sylvester doesn’t want to see her, and worst of all, Tybalt has withdrawn from her entirely, retreating into the Court of Cats as he tries to recover from his abduction. Toby is floundering, unable to help the people she loves most heal. She needs a distraction. She needs a quest.

What she doesn’t need is the abduction of her estranged human daughter, Gillian. What she doesn’t need is to be accused of kidnapping her own child by her ex-boyfriend and his new wife, who seems to be harboring secrets of her own. There’s no question of whether she’ll take the case. The only question is whether she’s emotionally prepared to survive it.

Signs of Faerie’s involvement are everywhere, and it’s going to take all Toby’s nerve and all her allies to get her through this web of old secrets, older hatreds, and new deceits. If she can’t find Gillian before time runs out, her own child will pay the price.

Two questions remain: Who in Faerie remembered Gillian existed? And what do they stand to gain?

No matter how this ends, Toby’s life will never be the same.

Night and Silence is a book about family. Biological family, chosen family and the ties that bind us together and the lies that hold us apart. Toby’s family is fractured and she’s doing her best to hold the pieces together, but in typical Toby fashion, the edges are sharp and there’s blood everywhere.

The seeds Seanan planted way back in book one are starting to come to fruition. Questions that grew in the first few books have borne fruit and we’re finally getting answers to some of the biggest questions in the series. But as each answer is plucked from the vine, another blooms in its place.

Oh is it satisfying to finally get some answers, some resolution and to see the shape of things to come.

It’s clear that Seanan planned major plot points out carefully and early on. I can see that she has A Vision and knows where she’s going with the story. What I’m not sure about is some of her decisions on how to get from Major Point A to Major Point B. Some of the plot decisions she’s made in Night and Silence feel recycled. She did some of this in The Brightest Fell as well, and for the plot to feel recycled two books in a row was a disappointment.

As a standalone book, Night and Silence is excellent. As an entry in the October Daye series, it is one of the most important books to the plot, but is a weaker entry than I’d have liked because of the plot recycling.

Night and Silence is on shelves now wherever books are sold.

Thank you to DAW for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review. 

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. 

Fantasy · YA

Moonlight and Midtown – Christina Bauer

3 stars

Moonlight and Midtown is a fluffy novella, filling the space between the first novel of the Fairytales of the Magicorum series which came out last year, and the second novel which comes out later in 2018.

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After battling werewolves and evil aunties, Bryar Rose is ready to enjoy her new life. No more crazy aunties. Her curse is toast. And Bry’s new man, Knox, is literally a dream come true. Best of all, Bry will soon attend a regular high school. Forget those sketchy tutors! To get ready, Bry is dedicating the rest of her summer to some serious back-to-school shopping with her best friend, Elle. It’s a blast, except for one thing:

Mysterious strangers are following Bry across Manhattan.

All these stalkers have oddly familiar scents and an uncanny ability to slip into the shadows whenever Bry tries to confront them. Even worse, their presence is making Knox act crazy with a capital C.

But Bry’s having none of it. Enough of her life has already been ruined by secrets. With Elle’s help, Bry plans to confront these strangers, find out what they want, and send them packing. Trouble is, the truth about their identity won’t be so easy to manage, especially when Bry finds out how these stalkers could change her future with Knox…and not for the better.

Just as much fluffy fun as Wolves and RosesMoonlight and Midtown sees Bryar trying to navigate through the new-to-her world of the Magicorum. She’s always been on the fringes of that world, but now she’s neck deep and in desperate need of clothes that won’t be destroyed when she shifts.

All Bry wants to do is meet her new classmates without being forced to literally wear a potato sack.

Moonlight and Midtown is a fun whirl through the world of the Magicorum and just the refresher I needed as I look forward to Shifters and Glyphs later this year.

Moonlight and Midtown is available now!

Thank you to Monster House Books and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for my honest review. 

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!)