Category Archives: Adult

The Detective & The Unicorn

Title: The Detective & The Unicorn

Author: Michael Angel

Derek Ridder never had much interest in the fantastical creatures from the Morning Land that contacted Earth. He was more invested in doing his job as a cop and trying to get over the loss of his wife. But that was before a call brought him face-to-face with a warlock. Now he’s somehow ended up with the unicorn Tavia as his partner as they hunt down the madman who wants to open Earth to demons . . .

I received this book for free as a gift.

If you’ve seen the author’s other series (Fantasy & Forensics), this has no relationship, despite a rather similar premise.

I loved this. The characters all have a lot of depth, especially those like Coombes, the unidentified-agency agent, who would have been easy to write as stereotypical given his relatively minor role. I loved that Coombes kept showing his humanity. I also appreciated that Derek seems to work at a hard but mostly functional police department with a boss and co-workers who look out for him. And Thunderbolt (the Wonder-Colt) was hilarious. Kids will be kids, no matter the species . . .

Tavia and Derek play well off each other. They’re both guardians of the peace, with serious personalities and a lot of smarts. Derek doesn’t take long to adjust to her as a partner, and while he doesn’t have her knowledge of magic, he also doesn’t have her blind spots. It’s interesting to see how their histories have so many common points, even though they’re from vastly different backgrounds. And I liked that Tavia points out that it’s possible to lose the one you love without death necessarily being the cause—that just because one loves deeply, truly, and well doesn’t mean everything will work out.

I also really like the exploration of various fantasy races. Unicorns, pegasii, dryads, the werewolf-like yena . . . they have their familiar points, but they’re also drawn up in new and interesting ways. Like unicorns as predators as much as herbivores. Or like a pegasus diplomat, and how things work out for him. Or certain creatures being able to run faster than a speeding car. Or, my favorite, a MALE sphinx (who is just as cat-like as one might expect. Which is to say arrogant, ruthless, a bit cruel, and not interested in much outside of himself). There’s a surprise in each chapter, but overall it all hangs together very well.

If I have one small criticism, it’s that it feels Tavia should have picked up on the reason for her own immunity to William Teach’s mind control a while back, and only been confused at how Derek was also able to resist. After all, she knows a good amount about magic, and it doesn’t seem that the ultimate cause was that obscure to someone of her education.

Overall, this is a fast-paced and fun ride, especially for those who wanted a “first contact” type story to be with a fantasy world instead of an alien race. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

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The Conspiracy of Unicorns (Fantasy & Forensics #9)

Title: The Conspiracy of Unicorns

Author: Michael Angel

Series: Fantasy & Forensics #9

Dayna has a plan to pay off her ludicrous debts, but she’s running short on time, and even magic may not be enough to bridge the gaps. She needs to figure out a get rich quick scheme fast. But even as she’s scrambling to make ends meet, she’s trying to keep the bigger problems in mind. The war against the Dark grows ever closer, she’s still hunting for allies—and who better than a council of wizards? If she can find them. And back home in LA, her department is under intense scrutiny by Internal Affairs, which bothers Dayna about as much as it bothers Bob McClatchy. They’ve both got things they’d rather keep off the books . . .

I will never get over how hard these books make me laugh.

“Because that is what ‘forensics’ is all about,” her son informed her. “Poking around with dead things’ innards is what she does to draw in her magic power.”
Lord Quinton couldn’t contain himself any longer. “Blast it, you mean like…necromancy?”
The younger Quinton paused for a moment. “From what I understand, it’s very similar.”

This time around, as evidenced by the cover and the title, we get unicorns! One thing I really like about this book is how deliberately it subverts expectations. Unicorns are typically portrayed as gentle, as living in someplace warm and grassy, as really magical. Well, the last is still true, at least. Here, the unicorns live in a cold, barren wasteland, and if you remember the fayleene, you may already have a pretty good idea how this is going to go.

Dayna’s problem isn’t finding SUSPECTS for her locked room mystery. It’s finding how, which will tell her who. For instance, after discovering the body, we get this little gem:

“It’s not my fault that Dekanos didn’t die when he should have!” Windkey flared. Then, as if thinking better of it, he turned and spoke to me. “That sounded a trifle inconsiderate.”

And back on the home front, things finally come to a head with Bob McClatchy—in a way I never saw coming. (Well, THIS should make book 10 interesting.) I get the feeling it’s not quite over yet, despite how it worked out.

Overall this is another wild ride, with several twists that once more change the face of the game. I can’t wait to see where we go from here. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

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.

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.