Monthly Archives: August 2018

A Warrant of Wyverns (Fantasy & Forensics #8)

Title: A Warrant of Wyverns

Author: Michael Angel

Series: Fantasy & Forensics #8

This time around, Dayna needs to follow up on an older mystery—who, or what, killed the massive flock of wyverns she previously found in a haunted city? But the answers only lead to more questions, and she’s running out of time to find the truth. Not to mention the debts she owes for the Order of the Weasel are being called due, and her life back in LA is also falling apart . . .

On reflection, I’m kind of surprised it took Dayna’s neighbors this long to start complaining about all the fun and games she’s been bringing back to her house. But on the other hand, this is yet another hilarious layer of petty sniping piling on top of her ‘trying to save both worlds’ mission. (And if they thought she was bad NOW, the end of the book must have them pulling out hair.)

And the bit where Alanzo and Fitzwilliam are having their little competition is also really funny. I do hope Alanzo gets to see Andeluvia soon, as I’m having fun imagining his reactions.

Wyverns have been a bit of a staple for the series so far, but this is the first book that really digs into them. We finally get to see a bit of their history, and how they ought to behave. The other history she learns is equally fascinating, as it provides some tantalizing clues about the origin of several of the Andeluvian races.

Back in LA, things are still deteriorating between Dayna and Bob McClatchy, but she’s far more worried about Greyson Archer and Damon Harrison, the two “security” personnel he’s hired. And of the two, Damon’s inhuman strength and boundless cruelty worry her more. She needs evidence to confront him in the human realm, and that hasn’t been easy to obtain.

Overall this is another excellent story. It ties up some old mysteries, introduces some new ones, and continues the epic of the old and new wars against the Dark. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Trafficking in Demons (Fantasy & Forensics #7)

Title: Trafficking in Demons

Author: Michael Angel

Series: Fantasy & Forensics #7

Dayna’s got a new case back in LA that’s unsettling in more ways than one. The victim had a gruesome death, magic may be involved, and certain clues are pointing straight at old enemies. But in Andeluvia, she’s facing something even worse: she’s been unanimously voted the Primrose Lady of Spring Beauty for the Spring Tournament.

For all that it seems to start off as the most depressing book, this one is also the funniest.

Oh, this is just great, I thought. This whole pity party is starting to feel like the opening chapters of a Russian novel.

I am still laughing way too hard at that one (and shuddering at my memories of Crime and Punishment). Or take this:

“That’s all very well and good,” I allowed. “But it does throw a monkey wrench into one of our plans.”
Shaw turned his head and gave me a curious look. “Thy people fashion monkeys into wrenches?”
“I sincerely doubt that,” Galen corrected him. “Dayna undoubtedly means that monkeys in her world use simple hand tools.”

Or Dayna’s conversation with Liam after he investigated the scene of the crime. And pretty much everything related to the Spring Tournament.

Overall, this continues advancing the epic fantasy side of the plot with some darker directions—demons who can possess people make formidable enemies, particularly as Dayna’s two lives grow uncomfortably close. But it’s impossible to call this a grim book, as the character interactions remain comedy gold. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Assault in the Wizard Degree (Fantasy & Forensics #6)

Title: Assault in the Wizard Degree

Author: Michael Angel

Series: Fantasy & Forensics #6

Zenos has yet another round of troubling predictions. Dayna’s inclined to trust him, since everything he’s said has come true, in a roundabout way. But before she can delve too deeply into his words, she’s summoned to the land of the centaurs to solve a mystery. Someone desecrated a ceremony, and what at first appears to be a straightforward request starts unraveling into a more serious concern . . .

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it yet, but I really like how prophecy is treated throughout this series. Zenos in the first book comes across almost more for laughs—the crazy prophet spouting doom and gloom. Except he’s right, and Dayna’s figured out that you ignore him at your own peril.

Zenos sighed. “What we soothsayers say is always listened to with a jaundiced ear. No one will pay you for the truth, you know. People only pay to hear what they want to hear. It’s why so many members of my profession are considered frauds.”

And this question takes centerpoint in the book. Whether it’s the hilarious tapestry (aka medieval comic book) depicting the battle against the Nocta or the question of who ate the sacred honey cake, and why, the story portrays some of how and why truth gets discarded. Truth may be opaque, or uncomfortable, or a lie has more to gain. Or as with Rikka’s inability to read, the truth was unknown on Andeluvia.

But if that sounds too serious, rest assured this book is also PACKED with the kind of cultural misunderstandings that left me laughing out loud. Like the coffee scene, where Galen says “I believe that its purpose is to allow the humans to weed out the weak.” (Shaw, of course, is in favor. Which is not a compliment.)

Dayna’s been with a centaur this whole time, but she really doesn’t understand much about their culture. Galen is something of an outlier within his own species, as he prefers magic, which his father forbade, over the strength of arms most centaurs consider paramount. I like the Viking/Western feel to the centaur’s town, and how their code is more complex than it first appears.

Rikka is so much fun. We finally get to see Galen’s family, and his sister evokes unexpected parallels with Hollyhock for Dayna. And Dayna is determined not to let another Hollyhock situation unfold in front of her. I love how real all of these characters are: strong, yet broken, with the kinds of quirks that make them instantly recognizable.

On the home front, things are heating up in the unofficial war between Dayna and Bob McClatchy. He’s hired a security company to protect him—and they are very much not Dayna’s friends. They’re willing to make this about more than just her, which Bob for all his faults never did.

Overall this is another excellent book in the series. The stakes keep ramping up, but unlike book 3 there’s more of a happy ending. At least in Andeluvia. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Forgery of the Phoenix (Fantasy & Forensics #5)

Title: Forgery of the Phoenix

Author: Michael Angel

Series: Fantasy & Forensics #5

Dayna hasn’t had an easy life since being summoned to Andeluvia, but now things are getting out of hand. The Spring Tournament is coming up, which means burly, boneheaded knights are competing for the right to represent her—and they’re not good at taking “No” for an answer. King Fitzwilliam has assigned her to a knightly order burdened with enough debt to buy a small kingdom. And a phoenix has shown up in the throne room, asking for Dayna’s help particularly to save their species from extinction. Then there’s a new wrinkle in LA regarding her worsening relationship with Bob McClatchy . . .

I love how each one of these books has been picking up a different mythological creature and giving them a lot of depth. Their cultures, physiology, mode of speech, and worldview. Their possible motives for crime. This time around we get phoenixes (who are also criminally underrepresented in fantasy). I love that Dayna keeps tripping over the fact that she’s assuming intelligent beings means thinks like a human. To a phoenix, time, life, and death have much different implications. And I love that to the phoenixes, all other life is basically just sparks.

I also really like the book’s focus on refusing to accept narrow options, and looking for that third choice when an either-or situation pops up. To me this especially comes into play when Dayna finally gets more answers about the ancient war between the Light and the Dark. Which is a variant on “history was written by the winners” as the original sides certainly didn’t label themselves good and evil. And now it makes perfect sense why the sides were basically drawn up at a species level.

Although the title kind of gives away that there is a forgery in play, I think it still works as a mystery because Dayna has to figure out why it matters. The phoenixes certainly only have one concern: themselves. Which is a change for Dayna, because the obvious crimes are being shrugged off by the creatures who should have the most invested in the outcome.

Overall this continues to barrel through things at a spectacular clip, deftly balancing mystery, epic fantasy, and plenty of humor. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Traphis: A Wizard’s Tale

Title: Traphis: A Wizard’s Tale

Author: James D. Maxon

Traphis has always wanted to be a wizard like his father, but now that his father has died that dream seems farther away than ever. But his own experiments have given him some measure of success–and with that comes a danger he never imagined. Soon he’s studying magic at a school for wizards, with one of the greatest mentoring him . . . and nothing is working the way he expected. Magic is confusing, the wizards are arguing about a brewing war, and the evil being at the heart of the conflict has designs on Traphis . . .

This was a better read than I expected, but it was also oddly stilted in some parts. I think either the punctuation on some lines of dialogue, or else the way they were worded, felt a bit off.

The plot works well. Traphis learns early on that Tyron, the mythical evil that’s sunk the neighboring kingdom, has it out for him, but he has no idea why. His father was a famous wizard, but has been dead for a year now. His mother is a simple farm wife who struggles to run everything by herself in the wake of her husband’s death.

Then, after a chance encounter with magic, Traphis finds himself at a school for wizards. I liked how this is fairly different from the way most wizarding schools are portrayed (although I really wasn’t fond of how meals were run. You’d think they never, ever got any new students). I liked the self-study nature of it, and how it’s more about asking questions than being told answers.

Traphis has a good character arc. I’m iffy on some of the other characters. Skinny Jack and Kip work well for the most part, with their sibling rivalry. And Saleena offers a nicely alien point of view. But I just did not like Titch. Traphis may be too lovestruck to see what’s going on with her, but a lot of her behavior had clear warning signs for me, and I especially disliked how she treats him after the incident she initially caused. She doesn’t act like she’s really sorry, even though she apologizes. Once.

So I was disappointed when the bit with the amulet went down. To me Titch came across as manipulative, not pure-hearted.

I’m also not entirely sold on the magic system. I like the idea of the layers, with the Cloud and the Blue. But I’m as confused as Traphis about how one actually goes about using the Blue for real magic. Visit a tropical island and then . . . wish hard about something unrelated? How DOES Falin go from that to growing plants if he’s got to manipulate sand and water? I get the concept behind intent, but the little we see of magic in action (sand in water, or Traphis figuring out another conveniently water-related spell) leaves me baffled how this would expand to something less basic.

Overall, this isn’t bad, and I do like the positive direction behind it all. I like the emphasis on motive behind magic, the Founder, and the mythic undertones. It just feels like there are a few rough edges that caused it not to flow smoothly all the time, and of course being less fond of Titch made most of her scenes harder to read. I rate this book Recommended.

Magic Kingdom for Sale—Sold! (Magic Kingdom of Landover #1)

Title: Magic Kingdom for Sale—Sold!

Author: Terry Brooks

Series: Magic Kingdom of Landover #1

Ben Holiday has no motivation to keep going with life. Ever since his wife died two years ago, he’s withdrawn more and more. Then he spots a ridiculous advertisement in a holiday catalog—a magical kingdom for sale. It feels like a joke, but he’s intrigued enough to inquire. Then buy. But the kingdom is and isn’t everything that was promised, and he’s going to have to figure things out fast if he wants to stay alive.

I last read this ages ago, and figured it was time to revisit the series so I could finally finish out the sixth book. The first one is definitely my favorite, though.

Ben’s struggling to figure out how to go on living now that the love of his life is long gone. A fantasy kingdom sounds like a perfect opportunity for his mid-life crisis—far away from the familiar, with the ability to create the laws instead of wrestle with them as a lawyer.

Nobody mentioned that the castle is derelict, his retainers include only one actual human being (a wizard who gets most of his spells wrong), and that a lord of demons has been challenging every king for the throne.

I like the mystery as Ben tries to figure out what everyone is hiding from him. Whether that’s the state of the kingdom, the legends of the Paladin, or the fact that the King is a marked man. And I like that it’s not as easy as just calling on ancient oaths to draw a kingdom together.

I do feel sorry for the dragon, though. Ben handles things in a way that pretty much ensures he’s collected a handful of mortal enemies to balance out his handful of allies.

Overall, this is a more straightforward fantasy that ties up in a satisfying conclusion. It’s also perfectly fine as a standalone novel if you don’t care to read the rest of the series. I rate this book Recommended.

Hollow Season (Of Cats and Dragons #4)

Title: Hollow Season: The Quest for the Autumn King #2

Authors: Carol E. Leever and Camilla Ochlan

Series: Of Cats and Dragons #4

Omen is glad to be on land again, but their quest for the Autumn Lands continues to surprise him. Autumn’s influence is spreading. Kyr’s hex is growing worse. They have no time to waste, but the path to the Mountain of Shadow is growing ever more dangerous . . .

I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I buy these books anyway because I love them.

This is the next leg of the journey to recover a kidnapped king, so if you haven’t read the earlier books, go read those first. I love the dynamics between the various characters on this journey. Whether it’s Templar baiting Omen, Tormy innocently terrorizing the locals, or Devastation’s trolling, they’re such a fun group to adventure with. And I love the addition of Nikki, who is somewhat shy and sweet and despite a hard past doesn’t seem unduly burdened by it, and is yet another of Omen’s improbable relatives (the way Omen keeps stumbling across people related to one of his five bloodlines kills me).

I also really like the way the world keeps expanding. It’s getting bigger in obvious ways, because they’re visiting another country, but we’re also getting more backstory on some familiar names (and the way Devastation reacts to certain things certainly feels very telling, too, especially given what they discover in the palace).

The story remains hilarious. Omen’s improv song (lyrics courtesy of Tormy and Templar) was my favorite part, although Omen’s ongoing grudge against Templar for inciting Tormy to eat his previous instrument is a close second.

Overall, this is an easy one to recommend. There’s so much packed into these books, and they always feel like they’re over too soon. Can’t wait for the next one! Highly Recommended.