Category Archives: Adult

Gryphon’s Eyrie (Witch World Series 2: High Hallack Cycle #7)

Title: Gryphon’s Eyrie

Author: Andre Norton

Series: Witch World Series 2: High Hallack Cycle #7

Kerovan and Joisan have survived numerous trials so far, but their journey isn’t over yet. A strange longing tugs at Kerovan–and he flees it. Joisan is determined to remain by his side, no matter what forces of might or magic might come against them. When they find their way to a tribe of nomads, both of them hope for peace. But their coming stirs up enmity . . .

One of the perils of picking up books on the clearance rack is that it is quite easy to get something like this, a book obviously well into a series (that had nothing on the cover indicating it wasn’t a standalone). So I haven’t read anything that comes before this, which might color my thoughts somewhat.

This was pretty tame, though, and I found it almost bland. The characters clearly have a great deal of history, but the exposition provides enough that although I never got attached, I never really got lost either. Kerovan fears his heritage as one touched by Powers from before his birth, one his mother hoped to bend to evil. Joisan, on the other hand, makes full use of what power she can summon, in her role as a healer.

There are no gryphons. This was annoying because I had been hoping, based on the title, to find one. Apparently there was one in a previous book but he does not show up here. The closest we get is a brief mention of a statue of a gryphon. I am still not entirely clear on this but I think the title is supposed to refer to Kerovan’s heritage and the home he finds through it.

Overall, this was a quick read, but not a memorable one. I rate this book Neutral.

To The Falls (The Falls Trilogy #1)

Title: To The Falls

Author:  Heather Renee

Series: The Falls Trilogy #1

Kali has just finished her sophomore year of college when her life turns upside-down. The strange dream she’s been having was actually supposed to be a sign pointing to another world, one that she’s originally from, and she’s inherited the duty to protect the passages between worlds. But someone doesn’t want her stepping into her destiny . . .

I probably shouldn’t have finished this, but it started well, so I kept going in the hopes it would turn itself around at least a little by the end.

The beginning actually is decent. Kali’s college life (and best friend Jordan) is set up well, and the normal life feels solid enough that it’s easy to see why Kali would push so hard against everything magical that tries to reshape her predictable world. Unfortunately, once she goes home for her birthday, the problems start to surface.

First, the book is rife with run-on sentences. A handful would have been annoying, but it feels like I hit at least one a page.

Second, the characters, with the exception of Kali and Jordan, are barely fleshed out. Lucas is the worst offender. As the main love interest, I expected him to have SOME glimmer of his own personality, but his entire character was built around being in love with Kali and doing whatever she wanted. He’s got a lot of history and backstory, and very little of that comes through. I wanted to see independent thought, even if he is saddled with finally finding his soulmate.

And yes, the whole soulmate angle takes away any possible complexity to the romance. You know you’ve found your soulmate because his eyes change color to match, plus the book of your life (which the Fates write in) will confirm it.

Third, the voice is inappropriate for anything but Kali narrating for herself. Here’s a sample section of the Fates:

We know you’re struggling Kaliah, but please have faith. All of this will make sense soon and you’ll be rewarded for your efforts. Trust your instincts and everything will be okay. Not everything is as it seems right now and we need your patience. We are watching out for you even if you don’t realize it.


It’s too casual to feel like it came from some all-knowing deity (not to mention a missing comma in the first sentence). Why have books at all? Why not have the Fates directly communicate with Kali? Having books that some deity writes in feels like a really weird way to push the plot forward. They basically cheat and tell Kali things she couldn’t otherwise know, which takes away any chance of tension since everyone knows the Fates don’t lie or make mistakes.

Fourth, the actual villain side is really disappointing. We have one major villain who is basically Mr. Maniacal Laughter who has a somewhat reasonable motive but terrible presentation (and is killed by lightness and goodness. I wish there had been a different way to describe this, or do it). Then we have a possibly more interesting wrinkle with the person who helped him . . . except the Fates underline all the answers as soon as the main characters even wonder about it, so that’s no good. And this person is an even less compelling villain.

Overall, this book feels like it really needed another draft to clean up the characters, events, and grammar. Not Recommended.

The Harbors of the Sun (Raksura #5)

Title: The Harbors of the Sun

Author: Martha Wells

Series: Raksura #5

The Raksura are furious. And afraid. Jade, Moon, and a handful of others left the Reaches to prevent the frightening dreams and visions no one could understand—and instead may have caused them. Now on the trail of the Hians who betrayed them all, they can only struggle to recapture what was lost, and hope they aren’t too late.

This finishes out the duology that started in The Edge of Worlds, though it has some interesting ties back to the earlier Raksura books as well.

Like the other Raksura books, this one features a plethora of strange cities and alien races. I like the hints of earlier eras mingled with later, like ruins other races repurposed for their own ends. And the glimpses blend very naturally into the story. Moon is on a journey, but the story has additional threads with Jade, with Bramble and Merit, and with the court of Indigo Cloud they all left behind.

I like the characters a lot, too. It’s so amusing to see Pearl and Malachite finally meet: two feared/respected reigning queens with very strong opinions who aren’t used to anyone telling them no. It’s interesting to see how Stone and Moon, despite both being well-traveled, are so different in their approach to other cultures. And of course the half-Fell queen that nobody has any idea how to handle.

I also appreciated not only Jade’s choice near the end, but how efficiently she makes it. She knows exactly what’s at stake and acts first, knowing she’ll have a chance to think about the consequences later.

Although the end neatly closes out the duology, this is a rich world that would easily support more stories. I’ve always enjoyed my time in this world and this book continues that. I rate this book Recommended.

Brokedown Palace

Title: Brokedown Palace

Author: Steven Brust

Four brothers live in a crumbling Palace. When Miklós, the youngest, butts heads with his eldest brother László, he finds himself walking straight into myths. But though he journey all the way to Faerie, his heart and his destiny are with his home. Only Miklós seems willing to admit the Palace is rotting. Yet he has no idea what he’s supposed to do about it.

This was an odd book. I liked the way it balances between myth and fact, often muddling the two so much that it’s not clear where any lines ought to be drawn. The Palace is both itself and a symbol of many things, primarily the old, broken, and decaying. I liked the Palace, too. The little details about various things going wrong is almost comical in places, because the King is so determined to just keep on with his everyday life he can ignore gaping holes in the floor.

The complex relationships between the four brothers is also more of a literary bent. The story doesn’t follow events as much as the twists and turns of those relationships, as Miklós tries to escape László, then re-integrate into some kind of family (which is troublesome because he and his eldest brother have polar opposite views on some critical things, and both of them aren’t willing to give any ground). There are also two women, one that László takes as a whore and one he intends to wed, who are themselves set against each other as foils.

The problem for me is that all this literary stuff isn’t nearly as interesting as even my least favorite Vlad Taltos book. This book isn’t often funny, or full of action, and the nods to the wider world it shares with the Vlad books are either incidental or rather subtle (for instance, Brigitta’s end very obscurely ties to a familiar character, but it took out-of-book author confirmation to say for sure as the reference could have also referred to just about anything).

Overall, this will probably appeal more to those who like diving into complex family relationships and spotting various bits of symbolism. For myself, I don’t think I’m going to read it again, but I don’t mind having read it once. I rate this book Neutral.

Nick of Time

Title: Nick of Time

Author: Julianne Q. Johnson

Nick is tired of his life. Day in and day out, he’s constantly confronted with people in need. Lost children, fires, heart attack victims—so many needs, and it never ends. Even when he tries to stay home and take a day off, trouble finds him. But life might be taking a turn for the better when he helps out a neighbor in need. She thinks they might be able to find the root of his “curse” and fix it once and for all . . .

I loved this. I like superhero stories in general, and this one is a surprisingly unique take. Nick isn’t extraordinary. He’s taken classes in martial arts and first aid because he keeps running into people with severe issues. It’s a reaction, not a drive to be a hero. And yet he is a hero, because he chooses to step in, time and again, even when this puts him inside burning houses or in front of people with guns.

He’d just really like a day off.

It’s a lot of fun to watch his “curse” in action, and how his family and friends have adapted (or not) to what’s going on in his life. It’s funny to see how heroism has basically destroyed his dating life, since he can’t hold to anything like a schedule. I also liked having a somewhat older protagonist, in his mid-30s, who has a bit more experience with life in general.

I didn’t care for the prologue/interlude as much, as I was initially puzzled at why the book I was reading started like a typical fantasy and not the modern-day superhero-who-isn’t story I was expecting from the back cover summary. I think that information might have been better as just part of the present-day narrative. I also thought it wrapped up a little fast, and a little too neatly (the curse-givers were a bit too reasonable once all the facts were on the table, for beings that don’t really care about morality at all). But it was nice to get an ending, which makes this a standalone book.

Overall this was an excellent read and one I’m sure to come back to, especially the beginning. The contrast between watching Nick save people and his own depressive attitude towards the whole thing can get really funny. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Rose Daughter

Title: Rose Daughter

Author: Robin McKinley

Beauty remembers her mother’s scent more than her mother’s face: a strange perfume she later learns is made of roses. Beauty has always liked gardens, flowers, and helping the helpless. But when her father’s business implodes, her family must move to Rose Cottage, a home inherited by chance, a tiny house in the middle of nowhere. A house near a town that’s said to be cursed . . .

This is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but has no relationship to any of McKinley’s other books. I think this one does a better job in a few ways, although overall it makes less sense than the earlier book titled Beauty.

The world building and character building remains top-notch. Beauty herself doesn’t change much throughout the story, but it’s interesting to see her sisters lose their biggest character flaws as poverty teaches them to think of themselves more humbly and treat others with more respect. Similarly, their father’s fall and recovery is well done.

This book has a lot of details on gardening, particularly how roses work. It’s fun to see Beauty wonder what those strange thorny bushes are that are planted all around Rose Cottage, and when she does fall in love with their blooms, how she works to reclaim both her roses and the Beast’s wild garden.

The story gets confusing when it tries to explain the origin of the Beast and what exactly happened, as three somewhat similar versions of the story get presented back to back. And the end isn’t exactly clear on what happened with the Beast, either. Those bits are annoying, but the thing I find most puzzling is that Beauty isn’t experiencing the passage of time normally, and therefore is only a scant handful of times acquainted with the Beast before deciding she loves him enough to marry him. It feels like there should have been more story to get to that point.

Overall it’s still a book I enjoy reading, though it isn’t my favorite McKinley book. I find the earlier version of the fairy tale, Beauty, to be better put together, but this one has its own moments of charm. I rate this book Neutral.

The Applicant (Conservation of Magic #0.5)

Title: The Applicant

Author: Michael W. Layne

Series: Conservation of Magic #0.5 (Prequel)

Chris is fresh out of college and hoping for a job at the prestigious—and mysterious—Rune Corporation. He’s one of three candidates for a single position, but he’s confident he can make the right impression. Unfortunately, the application starts going weird quickly . . .

This is a bit rough, but the overall world is interesting. Given that this is basically a novella about a single day’s experience, it makes sense that the applicants themselves don’t have a whole lot of background, apart from Chris, but it does mean it was harder to get a feel for their characters. However, with most of the focus remaining on Chris and the woman interviewing them all, this still worked okay.

It does do the job of getting me at least somewhat interested in the larger world. I had a lot of questions about how exactly humans were supposed to help with the language process (although the job in question being for an interface designer does make that particular part easier to understand). The mystery portion is weaker because there isn’t a lot of opportunity to set up who might be the culprit before everything comes out.

Overall, since this was a free read, I think it’s worth checking out. It’s an easy way to see if the magic or the characters grabs you. The preview for the next book at the back does imply the actual series doesn’t follow Chris, though, for what that’s worth. I rate this book Recommended.