Category Archives: Adult

Dragon with a Deadly Weapon (Fantasy & Forensics #10)

Title: Dragon with a Deadly Weapon

Author: Michael Angel

Series: Fantasy & Forensics #10

Dayna and her friends are running out of time. Between the rapidly unraveling situation with Greyson Archer back on Earth and the threat of the forces of Dark in Andeluvia, she’s been stretched to her limit. Prophecies predict her failure. Prophecies she has every reason to believe will be accurate. But she’s also standing on a split path of fate, and her actions may be what controls the future . . .

I received this book for free, and was asked to provide an honest review.

This was the perfect cap to the series. There’s still a bit of crime drama, but there’s a lot more on the fantasy-action side of things. Yes, the big thrilling showdowns are spectacular—but the heart of the book is the relationships Dayna has built with all of her friends. Including some surprise reappearances.

Although the ending TOTALLY made me cry, the humor is still very much on point:

“Finally, thou hast come to understand the need to perish gloriously!” The drake enthusiastically nudged Liam’s side. “See? I told thee that Dayna would come around in her own good time!”

Or Dayna’s negotiation with the unicorns for assistance. Windkey is still very much himself . . . and Dayna’s HORRIFIED to find she’s sounding like Zenos.

I am pleased at least one of Dayna’s friends finally gets to see Andeluvia. I have hopes the other might someday, just because imagining the reaction is too much fun.

And the griffins proved once again why they are my favorite creature in this series.

Overall it’s hard to say too much because I don’t want to spoil any of the really neat twists. If you’ve liked the series at all you owe it to yourself to read this one. If you haven’t read any of them, start at the beginning, because this book picks up little bits from all the previous and ties them together. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

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Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3)

Title: Rogue Protocol

Author: Martha Wells

Series: The Murderbot Diaries #3

Murderbot isn’t having much luck with its grand escape plans. After interfering with a human conflict while trying to learn its own history, it needs to get away again before more awkward questions come up. But when an opportunity arises to probe more deeply into the corporation that nearly killed it, Murderbot arranges for a personal visit to an abandoned terraforming base . . .

I liked this one a lot better than the previous two. The story is finally long enough to feel more satisfying, and the cast is small enough to flesh out all the major characters.

Murderbot is also dealing with new emotions this time around. When it meets Miki, a robot who likes humans and calls them friends, all sorts of confusion results. To Murderbot, there’s a divide between human and AI that goes far beyond physical capabilities. To Miki, that wall may as well not exist.

I liked the way the battled played out in this book as well. Particularly the way Murderbot can split its attention between multiple parallel tracks, or the way bot “biology” means that brains are in the torso, not the head, which changes fighting styles a lot (headshots aren’t useless, but they’re definitely not fatal).

Overall this is a good continuation of the series. I rate this book Recommended.

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.

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.