Time for another roundup of some more books I've read and can recommend. I've got quite a backlog, and this won't be all of them, but the book I'm reading right now, The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson (book 6 of the Malazan Book of the Fallen) is about a gazillion pages long (over 1200 in the paperback, 17500 locations on my Kindle), so it's taking a while to read, which will let me get caught up with the reading roundups.
Oh, and while I'm here on the blog, if you're wondering about progress on For the Wildings, it's coming along steadily. I finished the major revision and am now on the editing pass where I fine-tune the dialogue, descriptions, action, and pacing. It's over 74,000 words, quite a bit longer than the other books in the series, so it's taking a while, but I am making steady progress.
And now, on with the books. Oh, and I'm trying out this nifty new feature on Amazon where you can embed a preview of a book on your blog. (These also contain my affiliate links for Amazon). The book title text links still go to Goodreads.
Nica of Los Angeles (Frames, #1), by Sue Perry
If you think you've had weird days at work, wait till you read about Nica's day. It starts with three new sets of clients for her new private eye business: pushy godparents looking for their missing goddaughter, a couple of sinister meth heads, and an otherworldly pair with strange abilities, and ends up with Nica embarking on an adventure through parallel worlds filled with talking buildings and murderous books to uncover and stop a danger that brings all three of her cases together and threatens all the dimensions. Witty, cerebral, surreal, terrifying, and entirely original urban fantasy/mystery. Highly recommended.
Ghost in the Stone (Ghosts, #5), by Jonathan Moeller
This series keeps getting better. Lots of exciting fun as Caina deals with a complex assassination plot, a mysterious force turning her fellow Ghosts to stone, an assassin she keeps crossing paths with who she finds herself attracted to, and, oh yeah, the spirit of a dead evil sorceress who's living inside her. Caina's a great character, tough, smart, focused on her ideals and willing to do whatever is necessary, but also vulnerable enough to make me hope everything will turn out ok.
Ghost Light, by Jonathan Moeller
The Fall of Kyrace, by Jonathan Moeller
A couple of exciting short stories from the world of the Ghosts series. Ghost Light has Caina facing another bizarre magical incident, while The Fall of Kyrace goes back into history to give some backstory. Fun, quick reads for fans of the Ghosts series.
Ghost in the Forge (Ghosts, #6) by Jonathan Moeller
And still this series keeps getting better. Caina, her new guy Corvalis, and the rest of the gang are off to a mysterious city of sorcerers to try to prevent them from auctioning off a devastating weapon to the highest bidder. Danger, action, and sorcery abound, and I liked seeing Caina grow as she deals with trust issues in her relationship with Corvalis and faces her prejudice against sorcerers in dealing with his sister, a renegade Magus. Plus, magical mechas. What more do I need to say?
The Mages of Bennamore, by Pauline M. Ross
Another intelligent, engaging tale from Ms. Ross's Brightmoon Annals. Prickly, secretive Fen is facing middle age without family, friends, status, or security in the rigidly-ordered Holdings when her employer commits socially correct suicide after his fleet sinks. Badly in need of new employment, Fen, a Recorder (something like a secretary and business manager) accepts a job with the new mages in town, sent from conquering Bennamore to grace the people of the Holdings with their magic. Highly recommended if you like intelligent, original fantasy with a hefty dose of romance and characters who've already experienced a good bit of living. (full review)
Klondaeg Saves Fromsday (Klondaeg, #1.5) by Steve Thomas
A Very Special Holiday Episode in the saga of Klondaeg the Monster Hunter. Klondaeg goes to spend Fromsday, the holiday honoring Fromdon, god of coconuts, with the frog-people, and, with the help of a dangerous and stubborn tree-ape, helps a father and son discover the True Meaning of Fromsday. A fun and hilarious sendup of all those heartwarming Very Special TV Episodes, but not without its own heartwarming message.
Smite Me, Oh Dark One, by Steve Thomas
Discover the true origin of the "farmboy with a destiny" in this tale from the world of Klondaeg the Monster Hunter about the pantheon of gods (including O'Plenty, God of Pots of Gold and Other Treasures, Fromdon, God of Coconuts, and Buti'col [say it out loud; took me a while to get it!], Goddess of Whatever Passes For Love These Days). Acerbus, God of Darkness, tries to avoid carrying out his duty to destroy the world; hilarity and millennia of fantasy tropes ensue. Very funny, and also thought-provoking at the same time.
And that's it for now. This is only half of the books on my list; I'll be back with the rest soon!
I've been doing a lot of reading lately and I promised a monster Reading Roundup post, so here it is, with lots of great books I recommend. There should be something here for just about everyone. If my reading keeps up at this rate, I should start doing these posts more often! Books are listed in the order I read them in. (Links go to Goodreads.)
To Whatever End (Echoes of Imara #1) by Clare Frank
I really enjoyed this. I'm always interested in fantasy with a married couple as the main characters, and To Whatever End fit the bill nicely. Cecily and Daro are trying to live a quiet life after fighting in a revolution that put a new king on the throne, then Daro is kidnapped by a corrupt magician/scholar for nefarious purposes, and Cecily has to draw on the help of their former comrades-in-arms to find and rescue him. Overall, I highly recommend To Whatever End to readers looking for an exciting, magical fantasy adventure where the roles are switched and the woman comes to the rescue of the man. (full review)
Witchfinder by Sarah A. Hoyt
A wild ride through a universe with parallel Earths, some of which have magic and some of which don't, some of which know about the others and some of which don't, some of which permit the use of magic and some of which forbid it on pain of death. Avalon is one of those where magic is permitted and that knows about other worlds, and Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater (in this Regency-inspired setting), has undertaken the illegal task of rescuing magic users who are in danger on other worlds. His quest blows up when he stumbles into a plot involving the throne of Avalon and sinister doings in Fairyland, a much more dangerous and terrifying place than the name suggests. The plot is intricate and non-stop, and I enjoyed the characters, trying to do the right things despite seemingly impossible odds. There's also a nice dose of romance, not obtrusive but enough to keep romance-loving readers happy. There's both a m/f and a m/m pair; normally, m/m isn't really my thing, but Mrs. Hoyt had me rooting for this couple to find their happy ending. Highly recommended if you're looking for intelligent and refreshingly original fantasy.
The Profiteer by Evan Asher
Light-hearted and enjoyable contemporary romance, with appealing characters and a balanced, intelligent look at the issue of the big outsider businessman moving into the small town.
Dragon Blood #1-3: by Lindsay Buroker
Balanced on the Blade's Edge
By Lindsay Buroker, so you know it's awesome and lots of fun. This series is set in a new world (though it could fit in very well with the world of the Emperor's Edge series). A sorceress is awakened from a 300-year hibernation to find that magic is now forbidden in her land, which is under imminent attack by their centuries-old enemy. She teams up with a dashing military commander and, in later books, one of his pilots, a seemingly mad scientist who defected from the enemy, and other interesting, well-done characters to fight the enemy and discover magical secrets that threaten their country. I especially appreciate the more mature characters, established adults rather than green young 'uns just coming of age. Mechanical flight exists in this world and much of the books are airborne. I have my own issues with flying (white-knuckled terror, holding the airplane up by the sheer force of my will), so those parts were, um, especially exciting. A great new (maybe not so new any more) series for fans of Ms. Buroker's Emperor's Edge series.
The Thief Who Spat In Luck's Good Eye (Amra Thetys #2) by Michael McClung
Follow-up to one of my favorite books I've read recently, The Thief Who Tugged On Trouble's Braids. Amra and her sorcerer pal Holgren are back, undertaking a quest to find a magical city and claim the rich reward being offered, only to find themselves trapped in a web of magic and ancient plots being spun by the gods. Exciting and terrifying, and with a dose of romance that I always appreciate. Lots of fun.
Taboo (The Unfinshed Song #2) by Tara Maya
Continuation of the story started in The Initiate (reviewed here), magical fantasy in a setting based on Native American and other prehistoric cultures. As relations between rival tribes grow more tense, Dindi breaks taboos by seizing the chance to learn magic even after she's failed the required tests, and Kavio, while illegally teaching her, also has to find a way to save his people from trecherous enemies.
The Black Parade by Kyoko M.
I interviewed Kyoko M. quite some time ago and I'm not sure why it took so long for her first book, The Black Parade, to rise to the top of my TBR list, but it finally did, and am I glad. Fun story about angels, demons, and a woman whose calling in life is to help ghosts pass to the other side. Great characters, high stakes, exciting fight scenes, and an appealing romance. I also appreciated the respectful treatment of religious themes. Urban fantasy/paranormal isn't my usual reading, but I enjoyed this one a lot.
The Ravine by William Meikle
Dark, creepy, and intense western horror. Well-written in simple but evocative prose, featuring heroes both likely and unlikely who rise to the occasion, and really chilling (and gross) evil beings. I will probably never eat fish again after reading this. There are a few characters I wish could have had a better fate, but overall I found the story very satisfying. Highly recommended if you like some western in your horror, or some horror in your westerns.
Sweeter for the Pain by Evan Asher
By the author of The Profiteer (above), lightweight, enjoyable contemporary romance. Sweet-natured and a fun, quick read, though the mystery isn't very mysterious and the villain, to me, was pretty obvious. Nicole doesn't strike me as the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but I admired her willingness to go beyond the scars and gossip to see who Finn really is, and it was heartwarming to read about Finn learning to reach out and love again. Some spicy scenes but not explicitly detailed.
Operation Rubber Ducky by Cora Buhlert
Three weird and hilarious short tales of toy animals and evil aliens. Perfect when you want a fun, quick read.
The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson
Brandon Sanderson is one of the few traditionally-published novelists I still read, and this novella is a treat for fans. Highly original magic system, as to be expected from Mr. Sanderson, and an appealing, well-rounded main character, Shai, who uses magic to forge everything from paintings to souls. Really enjoyable read.
I've been reading some awesome books lately, so it's time for another Reading Roundup! (Links go to Goodreads.)
A Guardian Reborn (The Guardians #3), W.H. Cann
Like the previous two books in the Guardians series, in A Guardian Reborn, shiny spaceships, futuristic technology, and exciting space battles blend with magic (unsullied by pseudo-scientific explanations) and wizards good and evil in an engaging mix of high fantasy and space opera with a touch of romance. The formal, slightly old-fashioned narrative style and omniscient viewpoint might make this book a little difficult for some readers to get into at first, but the engaging characters, tensions between the evil Empire and the Republic battling to preserve freedom in the galaxy, and the exciting battles both magical and involving space ships and laser cannons kept me reading.
Fans of Star Wars will especially enjoy these books, as will fantasy fans looking for a setting very different from the usual low-tech fantasy and science fiction fans in the mood for a little magic. (Full review)
Savage Storm (Rys Rising #2)
New Religion (Rys Rising #3)
Love Lost (Rys Rising #4)
by Tracy Falbe
I'd read the first book in the Rys Rising series and liked it, though I struggled a little bit with it, not being familiar with the world which was previously introduced in the Rys Chronicles series (Rys Rising is the prequel series). In Savage Storm, though, the saga really takes shape and takes off. Exciting and adventurous, with memorable characters, high stakes, and a broad, epic sweep. The action continues to rise in New Religion, then Ms. Falbe brings it all back home in epic style in Love Lost, the intense, exciting, heart-wrenching conclusion to the series, filled with vivid characters, a colorfully-drawn landscape, awe-inspiring magic, intense battles, romance, heartbreak, ambition, and heroism.
The Fire Mages (Brightmoon Annals), Pauline M. Ross
The Fire Mages is another standalone novel set in Pauline Ross's Brightmoon World, the world of her first novel, The Plains of Kallanash. I enjoyed Plains very much, and Fire Mages even more. Though set in a different country and culture, with different characters, The Fire Mages has another original social structure and interesting magic system. If you enjoy high fantasy in a unique setting with cool magic and well-conceived, multi-dimensional characters, I highly recommend The Fire Mages. (Full review)
Monster Hunter International (Monster Hunter International #1), Larry Correia
Wow, this was awesome. A diverse cast of memorable characters, great monsters and fantasy creatures (these aren't Tolkein's Elves and Orcs!), a battle to save the world from evil creatures from beyond, lots of shooting stuff and blowing stuff up, courage and heroism and a touch of romance, all told in a fun narrative style that kept me up reading way too late four nights in a row. And one of the best opening paragraphs in fiction, EVAR! Lots of fun.
Our Husband, Stephanie Bond
Something light and fluffy as a change of pace from the more heavy-duty reading I've been doing lately. Three women discover they're married to the same man when they come to visit him in the hospital after he's in an accident. He dies, then it turns out he was murdered! Though they're naturally jealous and suspicious of each other, a shared sense of confusion, grief, and betrayal brings the women together and grows into friendship as they try to figure out who really killed their husband. No big surprises, but still fun.
The Unfinished Song, Book 1: Initiate, by Tara Maya
The real title of this is "Initiate", but my Kindle had it filed under U for "Unfinished". So U it is.
I hesitated a bit on deciding to read this because the cover on the edition I have calls it Young Adult, which generally isn't my reading of choice, and I'm generally not into fae/fairies either. But wow, am I glad I went ahead and read it. The story has a depth and sophistication that makes it much more adult than a lot of YA I've read (also, some of the subject matter might be considered more mature than would be usual for a YA audience). It's set in a refreshingly original world based on ancient Native American cultures and settings, and while fae creatures play an important role, the emphasis is solidly on the human characters. Enchanting, intriguing, and beautifully written. (full review)
Veil of the Dragon, byTom Barczak
Beautifully-written fantasy about a man facing his destiny to save the world from evil, who has to overcome the evil within himself and those who are supposed to help him on his way. The main attraction of this book is the prose, highly visual (not surprising, since the author is an illustrator and architect; the book is illustrated with the author's own drawings) and impressionistic, weaving visions and reality together. (full review)
Whiskey and Wheelguns - various authors
"Where the Devil Drinks" - Alexander Nader
"Watch the Line" - Joriah Wood
"Hair of the Dog" - J. Edward Paul
"Big Roamer" - Michael D. Woods
"Dark as Night" - John Weeast
"Zarahemla and the Skinwalkers" - R.A. Williamson
Six teasers/prologues/backstories to stories in the Whiskey & Wheelguns shared weird west universe. Creepy, magical, and filled with weird western goodness. Apparently, the collective kind of changed direction after this collection was released, so further installments aren't always easy to find, but based on the taste here, it's worth the effort.
Oxygen, by John S. Olson & Randy Ingermanson
I didn't have anything for X, so I went with the next best thing - a title with X in it.
Hard science fiction isn't my usual reading, but one of the authors of Oxygen, Randy Ingermanson, developed a popular outlining method for writers (the Snowflake method) and I found out about Oxygen on his site. I'll admit that what grabbed me was the romance aspect of "science fiction romance", but I ended up thoroughly enjoying everything about this book. Fun, exciting, suspenseful, with a sweet romance and some thought-provoking ideas. (full review)
Beyond Sanctuary, by Janet Morris
I only had a couple of different possibilities for Y but couldn't stick with any of them, so I chose Beyond Sanctuary because it has two Ys in the title. Lame, but hey, whatever. Plus I've owed the author a read-and-review on it for a while now. [Please note, with very rare exceptions, I no longer do read-and-review requests.]
Interesting, exciting sword-and-sorcery set in the Thieves' World shared world, well-written in beautiful, poetic prose. I'm not familiar with Thieves' World, so it took me a while to figure out what was going on in Beyond Sanctuary, but eventually I got the hang of most of it. On the down side, I found the two heroes, Tempus and Niko, deeply unlikeable - one is a rapist, the other has a penchant for deflowering barely pubescent virgins. To me, these are deal-breakers when it comes to heroes. It's a testament to the author's storytelling skills that when I came across things that would normally make me stop reading and delete the book, I had to keep going to find out how the story turned out. (full review)
Zanna's Outlaw - Julie Lence
Sweet-natured (though slightly spicy) western historical romance. What I liked best about Zanna's Outlaw was Buck. Even though he's an outlaw, he's also a gentleman through and through. He cares about protecting Zanna and treats her well. And even though no one else in town thinks it's a problem when the town prostitute, Fancy, gets beat up by a client, he makes it clear that no one's going to treat women that way in his town. Quick, fun read with a likeable hero and charming romance. (full review)
And that brings the Reading A-Z Challenge to an end! (See the other installments: A-G, H-N, and O-T.) Next I'll just be reading a bunch of books I've been wanting to get to for a while, as well as more from some new favorites I've discovered. Watch for periodic reading roundups for my recommendations!
More books on my Reading A-Z challenge. (Part 1, A-G; Part 2, H-N). The rules: choose a book with a title for each letter; it has to be something I already own (if I don't have a books for a particular letter but have a sample, I can buy that book); DNFs don't count (except in the case of collections and boxed sets; have to read at least one of the stories all the way through); indie authors strongly preferred. So, here's O through T (links, except for Quest, go to Goodreads):
Out of Exile (Teutevar Saga, book 1), by Derek Alan Siddoway
What if the medieval Europe of traditional fantasy took place in the American West? Out of Exile explores the combination of the two in an exciting story in a refreshingly different setting. Read my full review here, and also Derek's guest post on medieval westerns.
Path of the Heretic (The Beholder, book 2), by Ivan Amberlake
Path of the Heretic is the exciting follow-up to The Beholder, and I liked it even more than the first book (which I enjoyed very much). The book is darkly moody and atmospheric, but I also appreciate the touch of romance from the man's point of view. Great reading for fans of urban/contemporary fantasy. See the full review here.
Quest, by various authors
I didn't have any books for Q, but I do have a multi-book boxed set called Quest, so I decided to dip into that. I didn't read every book in it, but here are a few notes on what I did read. On the whole, there's something in it for nearly all fantasy fans, and it's well worth picking up to sample some new authors.
The Book of Deacon - Joseph R. Lallo: I had already read this. Not without its problems, but if you enjoy coming-of-age and learning-about-magic fantasy, check this one out.
The Emperor's Edge - Lindsay Buroker: I had also already read this, as well. Book 1 of the wonderful Emperor's Edge series, fun and exciting epic fantasy with a steampunk twist. I highly recommend the whole series.
The God Decrees - Mark E. Cooper: The kingdom of Deva, under attack by a kingdom of powerful sorcerers, is desperate for help, so one of Deva's few sorcerers risks everything to bring a powerful magician from another world to help out... a 19-year-old aspiring Olympic gymnast from our world named Julia. Who knows nothing about magic, and anyway, women aren't supposed to be able to use magic! See the full review here.
Defender - Robert J. Crane: Epic fantasy that reads a lot like a video game. Readers who also like playing games like World of Warcraft will probably enjoy it a lot.
Draykon - Charlotte E. English: skipped because I was getting impatient to move on to the next letter.
Fire & Ice - Patty Jansen: Interesting premise, set in a world where people born with physical deformities are left to die, but those who survive are capable of powerful magic.
Lost City - Jeffrey M. Poole: Treasure-hunting dwarves in an adventure story for tweens/YA readers.
Reversion: The Inevitable Horror - J. Thorn: skipped for now because I was ready to move on.
Redfall (Legacy of Ash, book 2), by James Downe
A group of travelers are crossing a vast, desolate grassland, hoping to avoid the barbarian natives. The leader of the caravan ignores some dire omens, resulting in trouble when they meet up with the barbarians - and when one of the travelers turns out to not be what they appear to be.
A long short story (close to novella length), suspenseful and magical, written in evocative language (though it could use one more quick edit to clean up a few mistakes). The characters are memorable, the world is well-developed in a few well-chosen words, and the climactic confrontation is explosive. Intriguing possibilities are left open at the end, and I really hope there'll be a follow-up story. Recommended if you want a quick immersion into an exciting fantasy world. (Redfall is labeled Book 2 of Legacy of Ash, but it stands alone.)
Soldier, Kraken, Bard (Legacy of Ash, book 1), by James Downe
A city perched on rocks over the sea is attacked by a gigantic storm, presenting a challenge to the survival of three characters - a female soldier, a talented bard, and a young girl. Who will triumph, the people fighting the storm or the storm itself?
Tense and evocative and horrifying, set in a well-developed fantasy world skillfully conveyed in a few careful brushstrokes. Beautifully written (though it could use a final clean-up edit to fix a few mistakes). The ending is somewhat darker than I prefer, which is why I couldn't quite rate it 5 stars, but I would really love to know what happens next and hope there'll be a follow-up story.
The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble's Braids (Amra Thetys #1), by Michael McClung
Wow, this was really amazing, one of the rare books that I start reading and it almost hurts to have to put it down. Reads like a mashup of thief/assassin fantasy and hardboiled detective novels (I could almost hear Amra saying in a female Humphrey Bogart voice "I knew he was trouble the moment he walked in"). Read the full review here.
For this Friday: Five fantasy books/series (well-known and not so well-known) that influenced me. (links go to Goodreads, to first books in series. Covers shown are the editions I own.)
1. The Prydain Chronicles, by Lloyd Alexander. The first epic fantasy series I ever read (that I can recall, anyway). A great starter series for kids, and also entertaining for adults. The struggle between good and evil, the colorful characters, the adventure, and the love story between Taran and Eilonwy (even as a child, eight or nine years old, I loved love stories) all caught my imagination and made me want more.
2. The Earthsea Trilogy, by Ursula K. LeGuin. My parents gave me a nice boxed set of this when I was 11 or 12, for my birthday or Christmas (they're close together). Magic and adventure on the oceans and islands of Earthsea with Ged, one of the greatest fantasy characters of all times. Ged was one of my book crushes when I was a tween (of course, I'm far too old for that sort of thing now *coughcough*). This introduced me to the idea of the wizard dedicated to that life (and to the concept of schools of magic), and contributed to my thinking that it wasn't fair that wizards didn't get to fall in love and if they did they could never do anything about it. Naturally, I was intrigued by what could have been the romance between Ged and Tenar. The relationship is finally continued in the 4th Earthsea book, Tehanu, but I had a lot of problems with that book, especially feeling like Ms. LeGuin changed her characters almost to where they were unrecognizable to suit the political/philosophical points she wanted to make in the book. So, for me, Earthsea stops with book 3 and I let my imagination take it from there. (I actually have three different sets of this series. The cover shown here is from that original boxed set. Down at the bottom you can see another cover that I have, and one I definitely do NOT have. Or want.)
3. The Riddle-Master Trilogy, by Patricia McKillip. Gorgeous prose and dripping with magic in a world where riddles hold the keys to ancient, lost knowledge, no one thinks there's anything strange about rulers who are hundreds of years old, ghosts and spirits walk the earth, and magic isn't a discipline, it's the fabric of which the world is made. Morgon, the farmer-prince, is another of the greatest fantasy characters ever (and another of my teenage book crushes), and the relationship between him and his betrothed Raederle is another great love story. (The cover on my original copy of book 1 is hideous. Get the very nice omnibus edition instead.)
4. Crispan Magicker, by Mark M. Lowenthal. I'll say it right now, yet another of my teenage book crushes. There are a lot of problems with this book, but the character of Crispan makes up for them. He's a wizard dedicated to the Order, naive and honorable, who has to go after his teacher Vladur who has become corrupted and put a stop to his evil plans. Along the way he is tested and tried and stretched, required to become a military commander and take lives, and ultimately has to risk losing everything that matters to him in order to protect the world. Really an awesome character. This book again brought up the themes of wizards dedicated to the practice, and to a formal order, and also risking losing everything you have and everything you are in order to do the right things. And again, why don't wizards get to fall in love and do something about it? There's a tantalizing hint about "a woman by an unknown sea", and Crispan clearly has a lot of adventures ahead of him, but no sequel was ever published. Which makes me sad. Long out of print, which also makes me sad, but used copies are available. I would love to see Mr. Lowenthal (also a prominent figure in intelligence and national security circles) get the rights back, republish independently, and write some sequels.
5. The Apprentice, by Deborah Bickmore. Yes! Fantasy with a real romance in it! Jaimah, the young apprentice/servant of the powerful sorceress Shayna, is drawn to and terrified by Corwyn, Shayna's mysterious and powerful new apprentice. When it comes to a showdown between Corwyn and Shayna over a powerful, dangerous spell, which wizard will destroy Jaimah and which one will save her? The kind of book I love to write (and love to read if I can find them), where the fantasy and the romance are in equal balance. This book was out of print for a long time, but now Ms. Bickmore has indie-published it in Kindle and paperback editions, hooray!
Addendum: As you'd expect with a book that's been around for more than 45 years, A Wizard of Earthsea has been through a lot of covers, good, bad, and indifferent. Here are two that stand out:
Guess which one I like better?
And I realized I never posted my review of book 1, The Beholder, so here it is!
The Beholder (The Beholder #1) by Ivan Amberlake
Urban fantasy about a regular guy, Jason, who discovers that the terrible nightmares he's been having are real. He discovers that he's linked to a group, existing undetected in our society, of people with supernatural powers, and that he is a key weapon in the fight against evil.
The magic is complex, and the story is suspenseful. At times it reads a little like a video game, with explanations from one knowledgable source or another of things Jason needs to know alternated with challenges that he has to get through. But the action is thrilling and the battles kept me glued to the book.
I especially appreciated the romantic subplot written from the guy's point of view, seeing Jason's feelings for Emily, his guide through the magical world he's been pulled into, as they develop. I found it geniunely moving and well-done.
Highly recommended for fans of urban fantasy, or readers of epic/high fantasy who are open to trying something set in the real, modern world.
Path of the Heretic (The Beholder #2) by Ivan Amberlake
Path of the Heretic is the exciting follow-up to The Beholder, and I liked it even more than the first book (which I enjoyed very much). Months after the events at the end of The Beholder, Jason is still trying to come to terms with what happened, but the battle between Lightsighted and Darksighted is ongoing. The book starts off with a bang and continues at a fast pace as Jason tries to learn the truth about Emily, protect the human world from the Dark Ones, and keep himself from being killed or turned by Pariah. In between the exciting magical battles, Pariah and his gang plot to get to Jason and his friends, Jason attempts to solve the mystery of Emily, and characters live, die, change sides, and discover new things about themselves. The book is darkly moody and atmospheric, but I also appreciate the touch of romance from the man's point of view.
It had been a while since I read The Beholder, and Path of the Heretic dumps the reader right into the middle of the action, so while I remembered the characters from the first book (they're certainly memorable), it took me a while to get the hang of what was going on and remember some key points from the first book. But I stuck with it until I got it figured out, and the rest of the book was definitely worth it.
A more-than-worthy sequel to The Beholder, great reading for fans of urban/contemporary fantasy.
Out of Exile, by Derek Alan Siddoway
What if the medieval Europe of traditional fantasy took place in the American West? Out of Exile explores the combination of the two in an exciting story in a refreshingly different setting. We have the classic western story of a young man, Revan, whose home is attacked and his mother kidnapped, who sets out on a journey to rescue her, set in the high mountains, rugged canyons, and broad plains of the American West, along with the buffalo hunts and horse culture of the indigenous people, but with such familiar epic fantasy elements as bards, taverns, kings, knights in armor, a hint of magic, and mysterious beings who aren't quite human. And leprechauns. Okay, maybe leprechauns aren't quite standard fantasy fare, but they're a lot of fun. And pretty fierce warriors, too.
There's a lot of well-thought-out worldbuilding and history woven through the story. The story of the downfall of Revan's family and the wars that led to the present situation is told in short sections at the beginnings of several of the chapters, paced in such a way as to shed light on what's happening in the present part of the story and to build suspense towards revealing the identity of the mysterious and ominous White Knight. The story starts out simple but builds in richness and complexity, adding in a mysterious cavern, a woman who is dead but you get the feeling her story isn't over, a member of the band of inhuman beings who kidnapped Revan's mother who is in turn captured by Revan and his companions, a band of rebels, a stalemate that can only end in war, and the looming White Knight. There were a few minor issues in the narrative, such as pacing and clarity of action, and I would have liked a little more depth in the character development - though the characters are very engaging - and a somewhat stronger role for the numerous female characters in the story. I did like it that Revan's mother, whose background isn't explained much but who comes from what appears to be a female warrior culture (she's a Valkyrie), also embraces and cherishes her role as wife (though she's widowed now) and mother. Contrary to how they're often protrayed, kick-butt female characters can also embrace more traditional feminine characteristics, and I think this needs to be shown more often.
On the whole, I found Out of Exile to be an enjoyable, gripping story in a setting that's a refreshing change from the standard Fantasyland.
For more about medieval westerns, read Derek's guest post here.
I'm happy to announce that my buddy Joshua Winning (profiled here) has a new book out: Ruins, book 2 of the Sentinel Trilogy (read my review of book 1 here). I beta-read Ruins and, basically, it was awesome. The first book, Sentinel, was really good, and Ruins is a more-than-worthy successor. From my comments to Joshua: "I was never bored! Every scene was interesting and well-paced, and necessary to the story. I didn't find myself reading something and wondering why it mattered. Also, after that ending, you'd better get Inferno out fast!"
So, it's good. Check it out on Amazon!
Ruins (The Sentinel Trilogy, Book 2), by Joshua Winning
Second instalment of the critically-acclaimed Sentinel Trilogy. In his desperate search for answers about the Sentinels, an ancient society of guardians that his parents once belonged to, fifteen-year-old Nicholas Hallow is tipped into a fresh nightmare of terrifying monsters - and even more sinister humans. As Nicholas is challenged to become a Sentinel, he must track down a mysterious girl with the help of a grumpy cat. Meanwhile, an uprising of evil threatens to destroy the Sentinels and send the world spiralling into chaos.
Learn more about the Sentinel Trilogy here.
About the Author:
Joshua Winning was born in Cambridge, but don't hold that against him. He's attempted to escape reality for most of his life by writing. As a child, that involved poring diligently over anything by C.S. Lewis or Robin Jarvis.
When he's not writing about Sentinels, Joshua can usually be found watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The Wire and Daria. He also works as a freelance journalist, writing about movies for Total Film, Little White Lies and movieScope.
Joshua currently lives in North London with his cat Mia. Unfortunately, she's not a great conversationalist, but he's working on it.
Time for another update on my self-imposed A-Z reading challenge. (Part 1 is here.) The rules: Going A-Z by title, it has to be a book I already own on my Kindle (if I don't have a book for a particular letter, if I have a sample for one I can buy that), indie authors preferred. DNFs don't count; if I can't finish a book, I find another one from the the same letter. (Links go to Goodreads.)
The Hawk and His Boy (The Tormay Trilogy #1), Christopher Bunn
Really lovely fantasy, set in a world filled with ancient magic both wondrous and terrible, written in beautiful prose. The story is in part about a young thief boy, Jute, who stumbles across a magnificent and terrifying destiny in the course of a thieving job, and is befriended by a mysterious hawk. Full review here.
I liked The Hawk and His Boy so much that I went off track and read the rest of the trilogy right away. The Shadow at the Gate and The Wicked Day are both also excellent.
Iron Flower (The Legend of the Iron Flower #2), Billy Wong
The further adventures of Rose Agen, powerhouse female warrior. There's more magic in this book than in the first, as Rose, her lover Finn, and their scholar friend Derrick find themselves involved in the return of magic to the world. It reads more like three installments of a serial rather than a continuous novel. But it's lots of fun and the fights and the newly-rediscovered magic are exciting.
The Jongurian Mission (The Jongurian Trilogy #1), Greg Strandburg
Young Bryn thinks he's going to spend the rest of his life moving rocks on his uncle's farm. Then his other uncle, an Adjurian trade official, shows up saying it's time Bryn saw the world. Bryn goes with his uncle to an important trade conference in the capital city, then on a trade mission to one-time enemy Jonguria, where things turn far more dangerous and deadly than you would expect from a simple trade mission. The worldbuilding, history, and political/economic aspects are very detailed and well-thought-out, and readers who appreciate fantasy with a heavy emphasis on those things will find this book interesting. Full review here.
Keepers of Arden: The Brothers, Volume 1, L.K. Evans
I really enjoyed this fantasy tale of two brothers - Wilhelm, big, handsome, good-natured, popular with the ladies, and Salvarias, dark and strange, gifted with magical powers beyond his years and terrified of the evil within him. We follow the two from the terrible conception and birth of Salvarias, Wilhelm's much-longed-for baby brother, through their childhood and teenage years and into early adulthood, as the two become part of a battle between forces of light and darkness to conquer Arden. Full review here.
Lady Falls (Black Rose Trilogy #1), Renee Bernard
Interesting concept, an orphan is adopted and groomed to be her guardian's means of revenge against someone who wronged him, but it kind of fell apart in the execution. The revenge ploy turned out to not nearly live up to the potential of how cool and devastating it could have been. I was also put off by the very explicit sex scenes involving the 17-year-old heroine. Otherwise, this could have been lots of fun. The subplot with the abused wife of one of the house party guests was much more interesting and well carried out.
A Mail-Order Bride for Jim Liley!, Raymond Cook
Jim Liley is a young man growing up in a Colorado quarrying town in the late 1800s. When he's blinded in one eye in a quarry accident, he's afraid no woman will ever want to marry him. Kristy Greenfield's hometown in Illinois is becoming depleted of marriageable men as they all head west seeking their fortunes; will she end up growing old alone? Then Jim places a wife-wanted ad in the newspaper, beginning a sweet long-distance courtship with Kristy which leads to her making the momentous decision to head out west to marry him. The story of Jim and Kristy's courtship is engaging (no pun intended!) and the tale of Kristy's trip west is full of excitement and danger, and a large amount of work and research clearly went into this heartfelt book. Full review here.
Necromancer Awakening (The Mukhtaar Chronicles #1), Nat Russo
Necromancer Awakening is an interesting and original fantasy novel with a very different kind of magic that also makes some profound reflections on topics such as faith, redemption, priesthood, and the relationship between life and death. Nicolas, an archaeology student in Texas, is plagued by horrifying visions whenever he's in the presence of death - and especially in the wake of his adoptive father's funeral. The visions lead to him being swept from Texas to another world, where he discovers the reasons for his visions - he's a necromancer, a wizard-priest who uses the power of death to purify the dead. Full review here.
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