Tag Archives: fantasy

Hand and Talon (World of Kyrni #1)

Title: Hand and Talon

Author: Melonie Purcell

Series: World of Kyrni #1

Krea is a thief who just stole the wrong moneybag. But when she’s about to be captured, an unlikely intervention changes the course of her life. Her rescuer, Sorin, is an old caller. He tells her about the kryni, the shapeshifters, and insists she is one—and that she needs to be linked up with a caller before her first shift or she will lose her humanity forever. Krea doesn’t agree with him, but they journey together towards the capital in hopes of finding help for her. But unexpected dangers dog their journey, and what seemed to be relatively simple keeps getting more complicated . . .

The description of shapeshifters who need callers to stay human admittedly gave me pause, because I was expecting something along the lines of a cheap hook for a romance. Thankfully, this is nothing like that—and Sorin makes a few vehement points about interbreeding totally not being a thing, so at least the story quickly loses any suspicion that this is going to go in a sketchy direction.

I really liked Sorin. He’s old and grumpy and emotionally closed-off, especially to Krea, because of some things that went on in his past. He tries to do his best by her, but realizes time and again he’s unconsciously holding back.

Krea, for her part, isn’t taking anything for granted. (Actually, she’s probably taking everything anyone else took for granted.) She is a thief, through and through, and her kleptomaniac tendencies often get her far more than she bargained for. The knife is especially good. What initially looked like an amazing find becomes something she can’t even give away, much as she wants to.

And Dane plays off Krea perfectly. They’re both thieves, but their different ages and abilities lead to squabbles more often than solidarity.

All in all this was a strong story. It leaves off with a clear hook for a sequel, which I will be eagerly anticipating. I rate this book Recommended.

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Freaks & Other Family (Necromancer)

Title: Freaks & Other Family

Author: Lish McBride

Series: Necromancer (set after book 2)

This is a collection of two stories. It follows the many of the characters from the Necromancer universe, but the stories don’t require you to have read them (although they will spoil some things).

You Make Me Feel So Young – An undercover mission to investigate a suspicious organization at their black-tie dinner turns crazy. It was pretty easy to see where this was going, but still fun. Sam still manages to astound those who think he ought to know better with his almost-total ignorance about magical things.

Halfway Through the Wood – Ramon has had some difficulty keeping up with family events after being turned into a were-bear. But when his abuela has a birthday party, he’s no longer able to make excuses. This is definitely the stronger of the two stories, and I like the opportunity to see a bit more of Ramon, his family, and how he’s dealing (or not) with what happened to him. It’s the little things, like massive amounts of strength or trying not to shapeshift under stress, that worry him.

Overall this is a nice treat for fans of the Necromancer books, especially those who liked Ramon. I rate this Recommended.

The Star Thief

Title: The Star Thief

Author: Lindsey Becker

Honorine is a maid for the Vidalia Estate, but her life completely changes when she discovers intruders breaking into the house. One group has curious beings like a winged girl and a wolf whose body isn’t the usual flesh and blood, and they want Honorine to join them. The other group, however, has Francis Vidalia, Honorine’s childhood friend, and many new devices that fascinate her–and the two groups are bitter enemies. All she wants is to live happily with Francis and her long-lost family, but the only way to get there is by sacrificing everything else . . .

This had some interesting ideas I wish went farther. The Mordant are star-creatures, linked to their constellations, and they have various influences and abilities related to those constellations. We meet several of them: Lux, Scorpio, Leo, and so on. Their powers are decidedly magical. On the other side we have Nautilus and his (steampunk) technology, who is capturing the Mordant for reasons unknown. Obvious logic would put Nautilus as the villain, but the Mordant’s mysterious leader, known as the Mapmaker, doesn’t exactly want what’s best for humanity, just the Mordant. So we have a situation where both sides are neither good nor evil, but it’s more nuanced.

I liked it well enough overall, but nothing about the characters or the story really stuck to me. The fact that both sides are somewhat villainous kind of irritated me by the end, because it means Honorine keeps waffling between them while she’s trying to find a way for everything to resolve without wiping out one side. (And I can’t say I think too highly of the scientists who are happy to enslave sentient beings simply because it makes them more productive.) But the Mordant are a lot of fun, and hopefully if there are future books we’ll see more of them. I rate this book Recommended.

The Forever Court (Knights of the Borrowed Dark #2)

Title: The Forever Court

Author: Dave Rudden

Series: Knights of the Borrowed Dark #2

Uriel Croit has spent his entire life waiting for the Redemptress to awaken. The Croits train and prepare for the War that will come when they will take over the world. But when Uriel’s fondest dreams are realized, he finds the world isn’t as simple as he thought . . .

Denizen Hardwick is in training to become a Knight who kills the Tenebrous who invade the world from some outer dimension. Too bad he’s absolutely fascinated by Mercy, the Tenebrous he saved, the Tenebrous who granted him knowledge of ALL of the Cants the Knights use to control their magic. And when a message comes from the Tenebrous asking for Denizen by name, no one knows what to think. Could peace even be possible, or is this some elaborate scheme? And even if it is a genuine offer from the Tenebrae, will the Knights risk it, or try to sabotage it themselves?

I adored the first book, and was happy to find this one was just as good. Uriel’s sections are important, but Uriel isn’t as funny as Denizen, so I tended to prefer Denizen’s commentary about basically everything.

Like the first, this has a good dose of horror, humor, and fantasy. Denizen is exploring his first crush—and amusingly enough it’s Mercy. Which gets him into no end of trouble with everyone.

We will see each other again, Denizen Hardwick.

Denizen had assumed that was the kind of thing magical glowing girls said all the time, to promote an air of mystery. He hadn’t realized it was something she was going to go and organize.

And:

He’d read enough fantasy books to know that diplomacy didn’t mean honesty and conversation. It meant fancy dinners, watching betrayal flash behind people’s eyes, and not trusting Grand Viziers.

Naturally, the situation is way more complicated than anyone realizes. I liked the rough relationship between Denizen and his newly-discovered mother. He thought of himself as an orphan for so long he’s not sure what to do with family. And honestly, he almost feels like an orphan still, because the way Vivian runs the Sanctuary is more like a barracks and less like a home. He’s much more a novice Knight to her than her son.

It was an occupational hazard of being a bookworm. You stopped thinking in terms of reality and started thinking of nick-of-time rescues and the power of a dramatic speech. It couldn’t be over because it shouldn’t be over.

And I liked how Denizen is an absolute wildcard in this whole mess. His knowledge of the Cants makes him extremely dangerous—but he doesn’t have the training to use them properly, or the physical ability to back them up. Cants are supposed to be a last resort, because of the Cost. He’s the only one who believes Mercy is telling the truth and that peace between the Knights and the Tenebrous is even possible. But is he right about her heart, or have those older and wiser Knights who see only monsters spotted something he missed? Just because a happy ending would be a nice story doesn’t mean it’s actually the truth.

Overall, I was thrilled to finally get a copy of this in my hands, and I can’t wait for the next installment. I really need to start a quote file to save off my favorites—the above are only about half the places that had me laughing so hard I had to put the book down. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

More quotes because I can and I want to remember these:

Mercy gave a passable approximation of Frown No. 12—Here Is Some Sympathy I Am Not Sure You Deserve.

And:

Jack shrugged. “There’s no point to revenge. You either don’t get it, in which case the want grows until it collapses your world around you, or you do get it. And then you have it. Great. Show me something you can build from revenge that you can’t build from acceptance.”

And:

I want a form, Denizen thought. I want everyone to have a form, and you have to fill out your intentions and list why you’re doing what you’re doing. And you’re not allowed to lie.

And:

He’d feel like a right idiot if all this was happening and he died from smoke inhalation.

And:

Denizen didn’t think he was claustrophobic, though he had avoided small spaces up until now precisely because he didn’t want to find out. He had the sneaking suspicion he was home to a whole plethora of phobias he hadn’t discovered, simply because he hadn’t been exposed to them yet.

And:

She gave Denizen a half-smile. “Hardwicks aren’t great with emotion. We’re our own worst enemies, really.” She paused. “Which, considering our vocation, is actually rather impressive.”

The Desecrator (Vlad Taltos)

Title: The Desecrator

Author: Steven Brust

Series: Vlad Taltos (same universe, set sometime before Dzur)

When Telnan was sent by Sethra Lavode to seek out a disturbance, he wasn’t sure what he’d find. This short story features Telnan (from Dzur), Daymar, and an ancient artifact that just wants to kill everyone.

This was short and humorous, although I kept thinking it was Vlad narrating even though all the secondary details made it obviously someone else. Daymar’s attempt to defend his activities was particularly giggle-worthy.

Recommended for fans of the Vlad Taltos series. It will probably still be funny otherwise, but some of the references will be lost.

Read for free here: https://www.tor.com/2011/03/02/the-desecrator/

The Adventurer’s Guild (The Adventurer’s Guild #1)

Title: The Adventurer’s Guild

Author: Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos

Series: The Adventurer’s Guild #1

The world basically ended before Zed was born, when the barriers between dimensions opened and let through all sorts of Dangers. Zed and Brock live in one of the last cities standing. They’re old enough to finally be apprenticed to a Guild, and that apprenticeship will determine the rest of their lives. Brock has no doubts he’ll be accepted into the Merchant Guild, like his family. But Zed isn’t sure anyone wants him. He’s a half-elf—just like the person who ended the world. But an unexpected choice opens up a destiny greater and more dangerous than anything they could’ve imagined.

I wasn’t necessarily fond of the world from the description (I hate dystopias) but found myself quickly drawn in as I started reading. This isn’t so much about evil oppressive government and the strict policies the town has adopted to survive in a newly monster-infested world. It’s more about Zed and Brock navigating their place in the Adventurer’s Guild, which is the only group of people allowed (and expected) to leave the safety of the walls and venture into the world beyond.

Zed and Brock are opposites in some ways. Zed is the son of a serving woman (who herself isn’t that highly ranked simply due to having a half-breed son), whereas Brock is fortunate to be in a prosperous merchant family. Zed is shy, clumsy, and hesitant, where Brock is more outgoing and confident. But in the Adventurer’s Guild, Zed is fascinated by the Guild and his own powers, where Brock wants to get both of them out.

I do wish Zed hadn’t made that bargain by the end. I don’t think that’s going to end up working out for him, and it seems a stupid thing to risk. He had a decent amount of his own power, and it puzzles me he didn’t take the idea of flames and just do it himself.

Overall, though, this was a lot of fun. The twist near the end is a strong lead to future adventures, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next book. I rate this book Recommended.

Frogkisser!

Title: Frogkisser!

Author: Garth Nix

Princess Anya wishes she could simply be left alone to read. She’d like to study sorcery, but her stepstepfather, who is probably an evil sorcerer, keeps interfering. Between rescuing her sister’s suitors after they’ve been transformed into frogs to keeping the castle running, Anya has to do most of the odd jobs herself. Then she finds herself quite unwillingly going on a Quest, because if she can’t get away from her stepstepfather, he’ll do away with her.

This is a light and fast story that parodies quite a lot about ordinary fantasy stories. The basic structure, of course, is highly traditional: evil stepparent (or in this case, stepstep parent) is planning to take over the kingdom, which means getting rid of the legitimate heirs. But the story likes to play around, with associations for robbers, and the perpetual threat of a sorcerer turning you into something (almost always a frog).

I did love the dogs. Ardent is such a puppy: eager, energetic, clumsy, hungry. And good at making himself cute when he wants something or is in trouble. He wants to be heroic, but at the same time he keeps getting distracted on the Quest by conveniently placed bushes and such. He was easily my favorite part.

I suppose the rest of the parody fell flatter than it should because even though the tropes it’s parodying do exist, the parodies themselves have become tropes too. The Robin Hood-esque robbers. The female wizard who gets offended that Anya expected a male with a big white beard (honestly, these days I see so many female magic-users in fiction it’s hard to argue there’s a bias at all). Even taking a familiar story and explaining it’s something completely different. None of it is bad, but I didn’t find it more than mildly amusing at best.

Overall, this is still a pretty good read, though not one I see myself revisiting. I rate this book Recommended.