Tag Archives: alternate world

Forensics and Dragon Fire (Fantasy & Forensics #1.5)

Title: Forensics and Dragon Fire

Author: Michael Angel

Series: Fantasy & Forensics #1.5

Dayna’s been put on probation for ditching her security detail on her previous adventure. Now she’s got to prove to an overeager psychiatrist that she’s fit for duty, in addition to perils of the more magical sort. Because Andeluvia needs her again, this time to investigate an “accidental” death that’s so convenient some people suspect there might be more to the story.

This book has more focus on the mystery, although there’s still some movement on the personal front, as Dayna’s confronting her anger management issues. (And Galen’s take on the whole rubber band “Snap out of it” bracelet is hilarious.)

Despite some similarities to the previous case in terms of diagnosing the corpse and site of death, there’s plenty of new material too. For one, Dayna’s not lacking for suspects. Pretty much everyone who worked with the deceased hated him for one reason or another, so it’s more a matter of narrowing down who was MOST likely.

We also get a closer look at the dragons, which is something I had been curious about since last book. I like how disdainful Shaw is of the whole business. He’s all for the superiority of griffins.

And I like at the end how Dayna has to confront what justice actually is, once she knows the truth.

Overall this is a much faster read than the first book (I didn’t check if it was shorter but it feels shorter). It’s still a good time. I rate this book Recommended.

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Centaur of the Crime (Fantasy & Forensics #1)

Title: Centaur of the Crime

Author: Michael Angel

Series: Fantasy & Forensics #1

Dayna is a crime scene analyst in Los Angeles. When an unidentified body promises a new case, she sets to work as usual. But nothing about this is going according to her expectations. Transported to another world, where she joins forces with a griffin, a centaur, and a talking deer, she’s under a tight deadline to solve the mystery of a murdered monarch before a war breaks out. And before the killer manages to add her to the list of victims . . .

This was so much fun. The beginning sets things up like a typical crime scene drama, with the personalities of Dayna and several of the cops coming through loud and clear. We have a mysterious dead man—and someone seems to object to the investigation.

And then the magic hits, and Dayna is suddenly in another world, summoned by a centaur wizard.

I loved the characters. Dayna is tough and competent, and trying hard to do what she does best in a place where she doesn’t know any of the rules. Investigating a dead king is tough when most of the suspects are nobility that can’t be offended (read: questioned), so she’s stuck looking at the evidence and trying to draw conclusions from there. So this is less about the “beat cop” side of crime scene investigations, and much more about the forensics.

Then there’s Galen, the formal centaur wizard, who is in the uncomfortable position of being one of the only centaurs in human lands while the centaurs are gearing up for war against them. Or Shaw, the even-more-formal griffin, whose honor is as great as his thirst for battle. Even if he isn’t as young as he used to be. Or Prince Liam, the fayleene who gets volunteered because he’s unlucky.

Everyone’s bursting with personality, but also complexity. Many crime novels don’t focus much on character depth, but this one puts equal weight on the characters and the crime.

So if you’re looking for a fun fantasy/mystery, this should definitely be on the list of books to check out. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Praise the Orc!

Title: Praise the Orc!

Author: Lee Jungmin / Translator: Rainbow Turtle

Status: 228 chapters (Complete) + 3 chapters extra story (incomplete)

Jung Ian runs his own cafe, content to earn enough money to support his younger sister and fund his own modest life. It’s a nice change from his previous position in the military. He’s not interested in the new virtual reality game, Elder Lord, which has exploded in popularity. At least, not until he overhears his sister complaining about how other players are harassing her. So Ian creates an orc character with the intention of protecting his sister, but the world of Elder Lord has many secrets . . .

I’m so glad I found this. I usually hate books about virtual reality games, but this one has several expected and unexpected twists, as well as solid writing that kept me blazing through chapter after chapter.

Right away, Ian stands out. He’s no slacker teenage gamer genius (although he MEETS a number of them). Instead, he’s a former member of an elite military division. An ACTUAL assassin. Someone who has killed before, and knows exactly what those kinds of battlefields entail. So when he faces the disturbing level of reality in Elder Lord, his previous combat experience gives him a leg up on many other players. He knows what it means for people to die. He knows what it means to be responsible for other lives. And that’s one reason he can’t leave bullies alone, especially when it’s players against natives.

The orcs are a simple, brutal race, but their philosophy suits Ian perfectly. Their traditions of honor and strength resonate deeply with him. I love how the constant refrain of an orc is “I’m alive.” It’s how they greet each other, how they say farewell, how they challenge their enemies. Ian slowly comes to appreciate exactly what an orc means about living, and why death isn’t the worst thing that could happen.

I love how the book is structured. All of the little acts of goodness Ian seeds grow into something far beyond what he could have imagined. The various lives he’s touched repay his trust tenfold. And the end is a brilliant declaration of hope against absolute despair, and celebrates the meaning of every single life even though those lives will eventually perish. It cracks open a window to something more.

The secondary characters are also a lot of fun. There’s an ongoing thread following Ian’s sister, who has no idea who he is in-game. I love the understated relationship between the two of them. She trusts Ian utterly, and he’s careful not to betray that trust. He takes care of her in place of their deceased parents, encouraging her. There’s another thread following a rich woman Ian knows, which gives a lot more insight into what Elder Lord is at a corporate level, and some behind-the-scenes looks at the things the players would never find out.

And then there’s the people Ian knows in Elder Lord. Anor was easily my favorite, even though he doesn’t grow into his potential as much as Tiyo. Anor was a shy, bullied half-breed until Crockta came into his life and challenged him to stand up for himself. But standing up for himself involved something like a psychotic break, and once his magic is unleashed so is his language. Anor went from quiet and polite to basically unable to talk without swearing at everything, and his responses to his own power range from terror to playing up his villainous side to the hilt. (I can’t even tell if he’s serious, psychotic, or just trying to roleplay himself into it. And I’m totally fine with not having a solid answer on that.)

Tiyo is another source of amusement. A muscled gnome who uses a magical gun, he’s overly sensitive about people looking down on him in any manner. He might be tiny but he’s got the biggest attitude of the whole cast.

The other users are well-drawn. Some simply want to play casually, and don’t really do much one way or another. Others see this as a chance to wreck havoc in a world that won’t punish them for rape, murder, or wanton destruction. A few, like Ian, have enough of a sense of justice to stand up for what’s right. The videos posted and snippets of forum threads commenting on game events perfectly capture the various types of reactions. (And who can forget the tabletop roleplayers who are generally pretty strong but have that one Really Embarrassing Friend who won’t shut up.)

Overall this was just a blast to read, and I desperately hope the rest of the Extra story (kind of an Afterward short story) gets translated. Not only was the ending perfect, but the followup was everything I could’ve asked for (AND I MUST KNOW HOW IT ENDS!). Highly, highly recommended.

The Steel of Raithskar (The Gandalara Cycle #1)

Title: The Steel of Raithskar

Author: Randall Garrett and Vicki Ann Heydron

Series: The Gandalara Cycle #1

Ricardo is a university professor nearing the end of his life. A terminal diagnosis has led him to take a cruise around Europe, but his planned vacation ends with the fiery impact of a meteor. But he wakes up, on another world, in another body. Another life. A second chance. But living means taking on the identity of Markasset, the former owner of that body, and Markasset had problems of his own . . .

I read this once years ago and never got around to finishing the series, so I thought I’d give it another go.

The characters can be pretty thin. Illia, Markasset’s girlfriend, is probably the worst drawn of the main cast. She’s beautiful and interested in Markasset, and that is the extent of her characterization. Zaddorn, the police chief that Ricardo inadvertently crosses, is better but still fairly straightforward: he wants to recover the stolen jewel and thinks Markasset either did it or has answers about what happened. Thanasset, Markasset’s father, has the most depth. He recognizes immediately that his son is not the same, although he’s also remarkably quick to come to terms with his son’s death.

The plot is a bit better. Ricardo tries to analyze the new world in which he finds himself, piecing together what clues he notices to try to figure out who he is supposed to be, and later on, what happened to the jewel that was stolen. He can’t even say with any certainty that the body he wears now DIDN’T do it. And I liked that although Zaddorn is an antagonist, Ricardo has a great deal of sympathy for the man, as he’s only trying to do his job.

I also liked Keeshah, the gigantic cat that Markasset had bonded. In this dry, desert world, the cats are used as mounts by those who have bonded them (everyone else goes on foot). It’s a little strange to me that a meat-eater would be the largest creature in the desert, but I do like the relationship between him and Keeshah. The cat, of course, knows that Ricardo is not Markasset. But Keeshah’s trust opens a number of opportunities for Ricardo, not the least of which is the ability to get from place to place much faster than anyone else.

Overall I’m ambivalent on the series so far. I’m not particularly fond of any of the characters except Keeshah, but the plot was decent, and the book is short enough that it’s not a slog. I rate this book Neutral.

 

The Magic in this Other World is Too Far Behind! #1 (Light Novel)

Title: The Magic in this Other World is Too Far Behind! #1

Author: Gamei Hitsuji

Format: Light Novel

Suimei is walking home with his friends when all three of them are unexpectedly summoned to another world. As they suspected, this world is looking for a hero to defeat the Demon Lord who is bent on annihilating humanity—but Suimei wants nothing to do with it. Luckily, it’s Reiji who was the chosen hero, so even though it disappoints everyone, Suimei can try to sit this one out. But Suimei’s knowledge of modern magic is incredibly advanced in this new world, and his ambition to lead a quiet life is quickly overturned . . .

Although I liked some pieces, the overall execution left me uncertain if I want to continue the series.

I can’t stand Felmenia. She whiplashes from mature and competent to flustered and childish, and although I get the general direction the author was going, the personality shifts feel too extreme. And more than once the story tanks into fetishization, like having her trip over her own clothes just to land her in a pin-up pose that the male character can gawk at. Or the stupid, stupid arguments between the girls about whose breasts are bigger. (It always makes me want to ask, do you know any real girls? I realize this is fantasy, but it’s really tiring and insulting to watch girls behave like brainless twits.)

I actually don’t mind so much the fact that Suimei’s confrontation with Felmenia broke her. That was a fun fight, especially with the layers of magic, and I enjoy seeing her arrogance brought down to size. The whole genius-gifted-kid who could do no wrong because she was so talented getting humiliated was amusing, especially because the narrative is careful to show how the fight is working from both perspectives. She’s in this to show him up, but he’s used to people trying to kill him and is expecting her to at least attempt the same. But that kind of humiliation is based on her personality flaws, and isn’t so much intended to be exploitative.

The conversations about what happens in light novels when people are summoned to another world at the beginning is also a bit too meta for my tastes. There was some amusement at the beginning but eventually I wanted them to stop comparing the situation they were in to the books they had read and just get on with it.

The biggest plus about the book is, as might be expected, the magic. Suimei is a magician of modern Japan—a real magician, but a secret one. And his use of magic reflects various magical traditions from across the globe, from numerology to the technical details of how to create a golem and more. He’s familiar with the “elements” that Felmenia mentions, although not in the same form. His passion for understanding the how and why and not—as he pointedly accuses her—making a bigger boom has given him a wide range of skills. And those skills play out like video game spells, which makes them fun and flashy, in addition to the interesting technical underpinnings he spells out.

I also liked that the book bucks tradition a bit by having Suimei sort of caught up in this “hero summoning” by accident, as it’s actually his best friend who receives the prophesied blessings and sets out to confront the Demon Lord. Suimei is himself too horrified by the thought of going one against a million to even bother helping, except to try to make a path for all of them to get home. Given the situation overall, I’d be shocked if he isn’t eventually pulled into the confrontation anyway (against his will), but he’s certainly not going out looking for trouble.

All in all this is a very mixed bag. The harem elements take up enough of the plot to be a significant distraction, and it cheapens most of the female characters. The magical elements are much better, but I’m not certain I like those enough to get past the rest. I rate this book Neutral.

The Rising of the Shield Hero #10 (Light Novel)

Title: The Rising of the Shield Hero #10

Author: Aneko Yusagi

Format: Light Novel

The recovery of the Spirit Tortoise’s energy has given Naofumi a whole three and a half months to rest. And he’ll need it, as he, Raphtalia, and Filo are suffering the effects of his latest use of his Wrath shield. In the meantime, Naofumi turns his thoughts towards training an army to help him out, and he has just the place (and people) in mind.

This volume unfortunately slides back into a lot of the antics that I really hate. The whole scene with Keel felt unnecessary (and really, WHY did we have to go in this direction?). Instead of making Keel a girl and awkwardly making comments on sexual preferences to someone who is mentally still about 10 (and the incredibly stupid pronouncement forbidding relationships that follows), I would’ve preferred some actual character development and not a rehash of the same kind of shticks that show up in countless anime/manga/light novels.

Besides, the cast is desperately in need of males who aren’t stupid. Right now only the weapon shop owner qualifies (I’d give L’Arc more credit if he was a local, but we’re not likely to see him again for a while). I had been hoping Keel could grow up to be the male equivalent of Raphtalia, someone Naofumi can speak frankly with as more of a peer, without the romantic angle. Instead we get Keel as a girl, and the end of the book has yet another girl joining the party (and one who’s not at all shy about making her intentions known).

I did like that the immediate focus is more on rebuilding. The Coliseum ensures there will still be interesting fights even as the quieter work of setting up a new home begins. Naofumi hasn’t really had any place in this world to call home before now. Even now he’s more considering this territory a place to raise an army than a place to live, but I suspect once he has a home the way Kizuna did his attitude will start to change. The little touches of longing visible when he considered her home imply he really wants that kind of a place for himself.

The whole slavery angle is also a mixed bag. Naofumi is doing good things in questionable ways, which is kind of how he’s operated all along. Even though he’s correct that his bonuses will help everyone level better as slaves, he’s never been willing to consider releasing Raphtalia or Filo from the spells that he could use to control them. He’s likely to make excuses about releasing the others too, even though they aren’t as close. And Naofumi’s actions prop up the slave market, making him responsible for the kind of demand that caused Raphtalia to get kidnapped into slavery in the first place.

It was funny what Naofumi considers an appropriate punishment for the people who caused so much trouble to Raphtalia and her village in the first place. It is entirely fitting—those who were only concerned about the money ran into someone using their own values against them.

I also liked the small twists on the whole Coliseum trope—Naofumi’s just in this to get rich quick. Betting on his own party and then sweeping a tournament seems like the best way to get a massive return on his investment. His interactions with Nadia help expose that this isn’t going to be quite as simple as he was expecting, but it’s too late to back out.

Overall this is a quieter book, but the main reason I feel it’s a step back from the stronger arc recently is the focus on really stereotypical harem antics. If you’ve followed the series up until this point, the last book wouldn’t be a bad place to stop, at least until the current arc can prove if it’s going to get back on track. I rate this book Neutral.

The Rising of the Shield Hero #9 (Light Novel)

Title: The Rising of the Shield Hero #9

Author: Aneko Yusagi

Format: Light Novel

Naofumi’s plans to hunt down Kyo got a little sidetracked when he followed Kyo back to another world. But now that he’s reunited with his party again, they’re making the preparations needed to fight. Except that Kyo isn’t exactly sitting back waiting for them. He’s prepared a number of obstacles. And he’s also got the power he’s stolen from the Spirit Tortoise to use to fuel his incredible magic.

This book had so many parts that left me laughing so hard I had to put the book down for a moment.

“You think you stand a chance against all of us together?” I laughed, sounding like a cheap pirate. Oh well.
“Naofumi, that’s what people say before they lose.”

And how he then trolls the enemy. It’s another stellar defensive ability—like his Hate Control skill without the need to actually activate a skill. Naofumi naturally being a jerk can distract human enemies.

Also I love the fact that Naofumi is still gaining more and more really bizarre skills that he can turn to clever uses. He unlocks rickshaw abilities, which passively boosts whatever he’s carrying, so Raph-chan and Filo start perching on him during fights to take even better advantage of his boosts (PLEASE let this be an anime . . . I really want to see this. And his expression.)

The scene where all the animals are curled up against him is also really cute.

And his armor is as amazing (ly bad) as ever. He can’t escape from weapon shop owners who want to deck him out to look like a villain. Better yet, this set is cursed!

“What if I try it on and it seriously injures me?”
“We’ll just have to rush to get you treated. I know a good doctor.”

And:

Judging from what I’d seen of her work so far, I was pretty impressed with Romina’s craftsmanship. That is, if I ignored the somewhat murderous intentions of the armor I was wearing.

Although my FAVORITE part is absolutely the locked door. Naofumi’s dead on about what to do about it (and Kizuna’s reaction is funny just because it’s such a gamer way to think about things), and then when Raphtalia goes along with his plan it was even funnier. Even here, in this other world, he’s stuck working with people who are so much seeing this as a game they totally overlook the obvious.

“You want to solve puzzles, but that would imply that there are puzzles to solve. You think he left behind keys for us to find? I doubt it!”
Who would do something like that? He ’d have to be crazy to leave clues for invaders to come find him.
No—we were going to break down all the doors, find Kyo, and make him pay.

I’m a little sorry Yomogi doesn’t get much chance to develop. She gets a lot of page time, but since most of that is during the fight, it doesn’t do a whole lot for her as a character. That’s a shame even if she isn’t likely to show up again. Kyo also ended up unfortunately a lot flatter than I would have liked. Yomogi was the perfect opportunity to expound more on who he was in the past and provide specific memories, but that doesn’t happen. The other women don’t contribute anything to that either.

It’s a shame Naofumi will have to return “home” after this, as I quite enjoyed this time he got to fight with people who aren’t willfully stupid. The various digs at gamers and game mechanics were entirely on point, too. I rate this book Recommended.