Tag Archives: highly recommended

Archer’s Goon

Title: Archer’s Goon

Author: Diana Wynne Jones

Howard’s ordinary life is turned upside-down when he comes home from school one day to find the Goon sitting in his kitchen. The Goon claims he’s from Archer and wants Howard’s father to give him two thousand words. But the words are only the beginning. Howard’s town is ruled by seven siblings who want nothing more than to be released from their confinement here so they can take over the world . . .

This is probably my favorite Diana Wynne Jones book (tied with Dark Lord of Derkholm). I love the way she can take the ordinary bits of life and twist them around into a hysterical adventure. Howard’s home is under siege by marching bands. Road construction crews are sent to pester his family specifically. Buses are run by someone who lives 400 years ago and that’s why they’re frequently off-schedule.

And interwoven in all that, the sheer humanity. Howard’s father, Quentin, is passive until he gets his hackles up, and then nothing in heaven or earth can shake him (although many people try). Howard has a little sister Awful, who earned her nickname, yet somehow avoids being completely unlikable. And Howard himself is caught in the middle of all this drama and tries to uncover the truth—and discovers way more than he bargained for.

Basically, it’s nonstop fun. My favorite part is the chase near the end where the various siblings are being called upon to work against each other. Howard is trying desperately to figure things out, but he’s starting to see where this is going to lead, and it’s something he doesn’t want to be true, even if it were somehow possible.

Overall, this is a great introduction to Diana Wynne Jones if you’ve never read her before. It stands alone and isn’t very long, but it’s packed full of laughs. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

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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.”

Preludes to War (Eve of Redemption #6)

Title: Preludes to War

Author: Joe Jackson

Series: Eve of Redemption #6

Karian Vanador owes a favor to the demon king Morduri. She’s not very happy about that, and even less so when he calls it in immediately after she’s become the new Avatar of Vengeance. But Morduri was right to say he’d only ask for something she’d be willing to give—and her assignment now offers her a chance to strike a tangible blow against Sekassus, the demon king she hates the most.

With Grakin gone, Kari’s working her way through her feelings again. She doesn’t want to stay stuck in grief, but she doesn’t know if she’s ready for a new relationship. I’m curious to see more of Kris, as the little bit we do see show he’s a very different person than Grakin was, and one perhaps better matched to Kari’s hunter lifestyle. Especially if she does end up with a war against the demon kings (which, given the ending, looks entirely possible to be far sooner than she thought).

Kari’s actual fulfillment of her bargain is one of my favorite parts of the whole series. Not just the act itself, but everything that built up to it—the disguise she uses to infiltrate Sekassus’s territory, the way she interacts with the locals, and all of the little bonuses she scored for Morduri. She’s planning for the long-term. And it’s her compassion, as well as her martial skills, that draw so many others to follow her lead.

Also Kari is learning bad words in other languages, and putting them to excellent use. *evil grin*

I like how she’s forging relationships between the worlds. Person by person, both the powerful and the ordinary, she’s fighting for people who often don’t know how to fight for themselves. She’s stirring them to want freedom. This is most personal with Seanada, who has grown to be a friend, and who Kari wants to find happiness in places where Seanada is too cautious to try.

Favorite quotes:

Seanada smiled at her mother, and the two chuckled.  “Not every problem can be solved with a knife, but I try that first anyway,” the assassin said.

All in all, given what this book did and where it left off, I absolutely can’t wait for the next installment. These are funny, exciting, and full of so much heart. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

The Huntress’ Game (Eve of Redemption #5)

Title: The Huntress’ Game

Author: Joe Jackson

Series: Eve of Redemption #5

Kari is caught between duties and family. Grakin’s condition is worsening, but it isn’t easy taking time away from her job. For one, the demon king Koursturaux isn’t willing to put off her visit any longer. In addition, Zalkar has set the final trial in her testing to become the next Avatar of Vengeance: to deal with her former friend-turned-vampire Annabelle Sol’Ridachi. Who was probably turned by a vampire black dragon. Who lives in an old fort that’s all but impossible to assail. But Kari’s wanted for years to give her former partner the peace of actual death, and now she has reason to try.

I really hope Kari one day gets to stick a sword (or other appropriate pointy object) into the actual demon kings. She’s a long, long way from that now, though, and she knows it. This visit to a demon king in the seat of her power isn’t quite what Kari expects, but that doesn’t mean she’s safe. It’s a delicate balancing act, with a lot of diplomacy (which Kari doesn’t have much of) and nerves of steel (which she has plenty of) to help her through.

The characters and action are both strong, as expected from the series this far, and this book continues in that excellent tradition. The plot continues to throw out one surprise after another—I did NOT expect how this ended at all. In fact there are several neat surprises along the way, too. Kari’s continuing to draw friends and allies from the unlikeliest of places.

And there’s so much heart. Kari introducing her daughter Uldriana to the original Uldriana’s parents was one of my favorite scenes. The mallasti did so much with so little, and her brief encounter will resonate for a long time to come.

Overall, if you’ve been following along with the series so far there’s not much more I can say to recommend it, as every single book has been excellent. If you’re new to the series, start at Salvation’s Dawn to avoid spoiling yourself on some of the bigger surprises. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Legacy of the Devil Queen (Eve of Redemption #4)

Title: Legacy of the Devil Queen

Author: Joe Jackson

Series: Eve of Redemption #4

Kari has a million things to do, but she’s going to have to learn to delegate. Pregnancy keeps her bound to a more local, administrative job for now, which is irritating because something is razing small villages and leaving no survivors. So the Silver Blades must go to figure out what kind of creature is responsible, while Kari handles trying to root out whoever is leaking the Order’s plans and secrets to outsiders. Because if she can’t find the traitor, the demon kings have an even greater advantage. . .

This is mostly split between two storylines, and both are strong. The Silver Blades have what seems to be a straightforward mission, except the demon—is it a demon?–they’re hunting is like nothing they’ve ever seen before. And it’s capable of killing highly trained warriors before they can even strike a blow in return, which presents some complications to the usual strategies.

In addition, Erik’s father is finally back in the picture. No one’s ever said before why his parents split apart, but now we have some of the reason, and the fumbling attempts at reconciliation.

I also loved the followup on various things from previous books, whether it was the situation with the brys or how Ty can find new purpose after his devastating injuries. Kari’s actions resonate in ways no one could have expected.

And I’m thrilled that werewolves play into the ongoing plot. They’re an intriguing addition and I hope to see a lot more of them as this tentative alliance deepens.

The humor is also on point. Some favorite bits:

“Should be just like old times,” Aeligos said. “Hi, you two! We’re headed into a possible war; would you like to join us? It’ll build character!”

Or watching Erik’s reaction to a certain mayor was also comedy gold (and Kari’s letter about it is just as funny).

Or the werewolves:
“Thank God for that,” Gil said. “I’m terrible with keeping track of titles, proper forms of address, and all that. Out in the wilds, we have three titles: friend, foe, and prey. And the last is only for food animals.”

Overall this is another strong installment in an excellent series. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Serpents Rising (Eve of Redemption #3)

Title: Serpents Rising

Author: Joe Jackson

Series: Eve of Redemption #3

Karian Vanador has spent her life hunting demons–but the more she’s learned about her Order’s involvement with the syrinthians, the more she’s convinced they don’t know enough about the foes they’ve been fighting for hundreds of years. Eli told her of a promise made to the syrinthain high priestess to go to the underworld to rescue her daughter, a promise still unfulfilled. Kari intends to honor it. If, that is, she can figure out a way to get to the underworld, find the one person she’s looking for, and get back without getting killed. Fighting demons is one thing, but invading their own territory is quite another . . .

This picks immediately after White Serpent, Black Dragon. Kari’s still reeling from everything that happened, but that’s part of what fuels her determination to honor the promise made to a dying woman to rescue her daughter. The Order just doesn’t know enough about the demons to be anything more than a stopgap. Kari is determined to change that. People can go and come back from the underworld, even a demonhunter, so it has to be possible.

It takes a while to get into the actual underworld, but it doesn’t feel slow to me. Kari is appropriately cautious about the whole endeavor. She’s aware not only of how much she’s risking but also how much she stands to gain. And even researching how to get there provides a lot of fascinating information. For example, this isn’t going to be a stereotypical fire-and-brimstone underworld, or something in a big underground cave system.

I liked how the plot keeps twisting around. Getting a syrinthian girl away from a demon king that Kari has already offended won’t be easy. Kari’s got a different group of companions yet again. Some, like Uldriana, keep her guessing. Uldriana in particular became a favorite not just of this book but of the entire series. She has such a big impact, and such inner strength. I like how these characters feel so real, so well-defined, so that when the surprises come up I’m laughing or crying along with the rest of them.

I can’t really talk about my favorite parts without spoiling something crucial, so I’ll just say this was an amazing book and possibly my favorite of the series so far (it’s only hard to choose because they’ve all been really good). I rate this book Highly Recommended.

White Serpent, Black Dragon (Eve of Redemption #2)

Title: White Serpent, Black Dragon

Author: Joe Jackson

Series: Eve of Redemption #2

A serial killer is stalking the streets of Barcon, and the Order has been approached for help by none other than Kaelin Black, Barcon’s infamous Earl. Since the killings might be demonic in origin, Karian goes to investigate. But nothing about this case is simple. What is going on with the Lord Black? Is he innocent, as he claims, of the long list of crimes everyone suspects of him? What has the Order–and its last Avatar of Vengeance–been doing behind everyone’s backs?
And what do the demons stand to gain from this killing spree?

Set three years after the end of the first book, this one finds Karian in a much different place. Now married and a mother, she’s taken on a more administrative job to allow her to fulfill those roles more effectively. But a complicated problem calls for a high-ranking hunter, and it doesn’t take long for Karian to get back to her original job.

This, like the first book, isn’t as black-and-white as things first appear. Karian has to reevaluate her own beliefs often, and her initial disdain of the previous Avatar of Vengeance’s underhand methods comes against the fact that the real world isn’t nearly as simple as she thought. The mystery has a number of surprising twists, too, and it will take more than just Karian to untangle it.

I liked the fact that Kari’s healing from her childhood abuse is an ongoing thing. One piece that worried me about the first book’s resolution to that was that it felt like a one-and-done event, when she’s had years of trauma. Thankfully, that was more of a turning point than a total healing. Kari still struggles, but she’s moved past the place where it owns her. I also liked that she finds unexpected common ground in this with someone else, and how it helps the both of them to be able to support each other.

I also like that we’re getting introduced to more people outside the Order. And I REALLY like that there are so many different kinds of people, animals, and monsters that show up…. gnolls, werewolves, griffons, to name a few of my favorites. Or, as Eli puts it:

“So we’ve got assassins, demons, necromancers, and werewolves all involved here,” Eli said. He and Kari were headed toward the graveyard to see if they could find any other clues about whether the necromancer might be mixed up with the succubus. “Now we just need a vampire to show up, and we’ll have a nice little miniature apocalypse.”

All in all, this is a great continuation of an excellent first book. Start with Salvation’s Dawn, but definitely read this one next! I rate this book Highly Recommended.