Tag Archives: dragons

Off Leash (Freelance Familiars #1)

Title: Off Leash

Author: Daniel Potter

Series: Freelance Familiars #1

Thomas Khatt is unemployed and growing more desperate for a job when the unthinkable happens. His elderly neighbor is murdered, he’s somehow been turned into a cougar, and now he’s expected to enter the magical society that’s always existed in his town on the other side of the Veil. But Thomas rebels against being auctioned off to become someone’s familiar, and he’s determined to take charge of his own life one way or another . . .

This book managed to tie in a number of my favorite subjects: shapeshifting, extra-dimensional beings / abilities, big cats, and werewolves.

I liked the view of magic as something that breeches dimensions, probably taught by aliens or other-planar beings, and complex enough that few humans would conceivably be practitioners. (Thomas is quite disappointed it’s not just chanting from some old book.) In fact that’s one of the main reasons for familiars: to provide an extra set of senses so the mage can calculate the multi-dimensional shapes accurately.

And the dragon was awesome. I hope we meet more multi-dimensional beings in the future.

The magical society as a whole, though, isn’t quite as nice. The mages are corrupt, the familiars have unionized (TAU), and anyone like Thomas who decides he’d rather stay outside the system is going to have an extremely hard time. In fact neither side is interested in leaving him alone—not complying results in him repeatedly being accosted so that someone else can profit off his existence.

It was nice to see a few of the worst offenders neutralized by the end, but it’s unclear Thomas can do much of anything to change the way things are. He might be able to keep himself more to the fringes, but if there is a major upheaval it will be a long time coming. I’m not terribly fond of these super dysfunctional societies, so I hope this one gets dismantled in flaming pieces. Because worlds where everyone is moderately to majorly sociopathic are harder for me to read because I get angry at so many of the cast and am just waiting for them to die in the most horrible way possible.

So overall I liked a lot of the elements in this world, and plan to continue the series sooner or later. I do hope Thomas can find a mage who is more willing to help him with his ideas to reform the magical world. I rate this book Recommended.


The Deer Prince’s Murder (Fantasy & Forensics #2)

Title: The Deer Prince’s Murder

Author: Michael Angel

Series: Fantasy & Forensics #2

Liam has been summoned home. The Protector of the Forest has died, and the fayleene are gathering to recognize a new leader. But Liam is quickly drawn into a much bigger issue. A dragon is encroaching on the fayleene lands, and Liam is tasked with ending the threat by any means possible . . .

As expected from the title, this book focuses on Liam. We got the gist of his unfortunate relationship with his people in Centaur of the Crime, but this is the first time we get to look more in-depth at the fayleene.

I liked the irony of the fayleene being much more vicious and petty than their “magical deer” species would suggest. But only one particular fayleene really has it out for Liam specifically. The rest of them are happy to use him if it means saving themselves.

And along those lines, although there is certainly a mystery, much of the plot plays out more like a fantasy adventure. A very dangerous dragon has it out for the fayleene, and Liam is tasked with stopping it. But an invincible dragon is a mystery in and of itself—what weakness can they use to confront it?

Although my favorite part is probably the pooka playing the Illuminati for Bob McClatchy. (This will not end well, for sure. But it was really funny all the same.)

Overall this was a lot of fun. I liked the more we got to see of Liam, and how some of his confidence issues resolved. There’s also plenty of hints that this is only part of a much larger scheme and we’re probably building up to a massive conflict in the moderately-far future. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

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.

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.

The Sword of Kuromori (The Sword of Kuromori #1)

Title: The Sword of Kuromori

Author: Jason Rohan

Series: The Sword of Kuromori #1

Kenny Blackwood is on his way to Japan to meet his father, but he hasn’t even arrived before things start going weird. From the fuzzy animal in the luggage compartment to the various monsters that are wandering around, the various invisible residents aren’t able to hide from him. The problem is they hate being noticed. And like it or not, Kenny’s coming into this on the heels of his grandfather’s formidable reputation . . .

I liked the sheer amount and variety of monsters in this. Starting with the tanuki, Poyo, and branching out from oni and kappa to less familiar (but mostly deadly) creatures, Kenny’s experience of Japan is a menagerie of folklore.

I also appreciated that the story tried to give some depth to why Kenny is being drawn into all these things. He has family history with the work his grandfather did in Japan just after WWII, and that’s tied to why so many youkai are transferring old grudges or alliances to Kenny.

The romance was less appealing. Half the time Kenny and Kiyomi are fighting, and then just as suddenly they’re crushing on each other. The mood swings happened often enough to really annoy me, as sometimes there’s no buildup at all and suddenly he’s desperate for her. I also don’t like the trick pulled at the end. Taro’s offer lacked much impact because he’s not really there in the story except as a background character until that moment.

The card game also felt like a letdown. Since the rules are never explained, it’s hard not to feel like a random “I win” for whichever character is winning. There’s no sense of tension because we can’t follow the game, so all the games shown are basically two-turn affairs where the first player looks like they’re doing well until the second player crushes them.

Although ironically the thing I find hardest to believe is that he actually LIKED natto.

Overall this was okay. I didn’t like it as much as I hoped, but all the monsters helped keep my interest enough to finish. I rate this book Recommended.

The Awakening (Eve of Redemption #8)

Title: The Awakening

Author: Joe Jackson

Series: Eve of Redemption #8

The dead are rising, and the cities have called a council to address the issue. But a group of attendees aren’t content to just talk—they’ve banded together to investigate. Leighandra, a half-elf who is neither great warrior nor great mage, finds herself swept up in that group who seeks the truth . . .

I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I bought the book anyway because I love the series.

This follows a new set of characters, although it lightly touches on Kari’s adventures (mostly as reports or rumors from other characters) which helps orient series readers to where this is in the timeline. Because of that, this is also a good place for new readers to hop in despite being so late in the series.

Despite a mostly new cast, there are a few cameos. Karinda has a small role, and it’s hysterical to see the differences between how Karinda acts with Kari versus this bunch. Kari just can’t help seeing a familiar friend and these guys get O Mighty Archmage.

Of the new cast, I adore Max, who is a lunarar (wolf-like humaniod). I like his wife, and how the two of them interact. I’m really not much of a romance fan in general—I hate “relationships” that are just physical attraction, especially when one or both of the participants are behaving in ways that would be clear warning signs in a real relationship (so sick of “dark past” love interests who are just jerks with a pretty face). Max and Audrei were so much the opposite. They had an established relationship, based on mutual respect, and they were both PEOPLE WORTHY OF RESPECT. They honored each other. They were kind to each other and to those around them. They were HUMBLE. But they weren’t some too-perfect-to-feel-real relationship because of the struggles Max has with letting even his wife see his burdens, and the child that rocked their relationship and their faith. Max was faithful to his wife together or apart, and she to him.

And of course all those scenes with Max looking like a wet dog were too much fun.

Galadon is also a great deal of fun. I liked his fragmented memories, his confusion about where he’s been since the war, and the way everyone back home reacted to his return. At the same time, I like that he’s not, by and large, the main focus, as his story and Kari’s have a lot in common.


Galadon nodded.  “We’ll need to confer with my generals anyway, to ask about the local trouble with the gnolls before we go out blindly.  So we’ll get our answers either way.  But I beg of you: If they try to forcibly put me back on the throne, take me hostage and head north.”

And this had me just about dying laughing:

“What the heck is a paladin doing with a crowbar?” Starlenia blurted.
“Always be prepared,” the knight replied with no trace of humor.

I really liked that scene where Leighandra was talking to Starlenia about what each of them can do. It’s true that Leighandra isn’t contributing much in one sense—but she knows her role, is COMFORTABLE in it (wow, that’s huge), and is able to see big picture and small (again, without pride getting in the way. . . . I’m sensing a theme here. No wonder these feel so different from pretty much all the other books I read).

The trials for the seals have a number of interesting twists. The “collect them all” plot device is a familiar one, but I was still surprised at several points. Each one has a focus: some emphasize strength, some cleverness, some wisdom, and so on. And it really does take the whole team to pull this off.

And that tease for Irrathmore . . . I can’t wait to see what that world is like.

Overall, this is another excellent adventure, with a new set of amazing characters to follow. Given the end, it looks like Kari will be interacting with them a lot in the future, so I look forward to more great stories to come. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Shatterglass (The Circle Opens #4)

Title: Shatterglass

Author: Tamora Pierce

Series: The Circle Opens #4

Tris simply wanted to get some shopping done when she spotted a man trying to blow glass and summoning lightning into it. But the man is an unrecognized and untrained mage—which means Tris now has to teach someone much older than herself. Someone who’s afraid of lightning. And if that weren’t bad enough, someone is killing female entertainers and leaving their bodies in public places . . .

This is my favorite of the four. Tris is grumpy, sharp, and fusty, so she gets a student who’s not only older than she is, but equally bullheaded. I love how Tris has braided her stored powers into her hair, and how she’s managed a form of air-conditioning by taming winds to always blow around her. The little glass dragon is the best pet, too.

It’s interesting, too, how Tris, despite being the most powerful, is also having the hardest time actually finding employment. Her powers to disrupt and channel weather would be excellent in a war but are rather harder to use in day-to-day life, as she’s not eager to throw nature out of balance.

I liked Keth. He’s got his own history with both glassblowing and lightning, and he’s not at all impressed by Tris. He just wants to get on with his life as a glass crafter, but magic got in the way. And he’s got personal reasons to want the murderer caught, so he drives himself past his limits again and again in pursuit of answers.

Overall this is a good read, and while it doesn’t exactly close doors for the future of these four unique mages, it’s been a fun journey to see how life is going to look as they become adults. I rate this book Recommended.