Tag Archives: mystery

Epitaphs (Echoverse #2)

Title: Epitaphs

Author: Therin  Knite

Series: Echoverse #2

Adem’s switched jobs to the EDPA, but in some respects, the new job isn’t any better than the old one. His new boss treats him like crap. He’s stuck in endless newbie training hell. And then a college student who died an impossible death crops up, and life is about to get interesting again . . .

I think the reason these books are so amazing is the depth of all the characters involved. Adem and Jin have a complex relationship—which I was glad to see was clarified as being really tight friends, bound by tragedy (although we still don’t have the full story behind Jericho). Unhealthy, perhaps, in that either one of them is willing to do just about anything for the other. And Jin gets some really good moments this book. Some really funny ones too.

I also really liked the reveals about Dynara, which cleared up some practical questions from last book, and continues building the mystery of who she is beneath all the masks she wears.

And I definitely appreciated Adem being taken down a peg. His arrogance was often grating for me in the previous book, as I really dislike those kinds of characters. In this one his pride is getting ground down, both from his own mistakes and from Dynara no longer treating him like he’s special.

For all that, the story still mostly focuses on a single crime and the bigger conspiracies radiating out from it. Like the first book, the murder is not all it appears to be. Gaining some answers only leads to more questions. The whirlwind pacing means the story never drags, and because dreams are involved, the abilities on display are like magic. And the humor keeps the horror aspect in check, because even though this can get pretty dark, it can also get really funny.

Given the way this ended, I cannot wait for a sequel. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

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Echoes (Echoverse #1)

Title: Echoes

Author: Therin Knite

Series: Echoverse #1

Adem is an agent at IBI, a genius who can put together details to profile crime scenes and quickly find the culprit. But when a high-profile lawyer meets his death by dragonfire, Adem has the first case he’s having trouble cracking. Where did the dragon come from? Where did it go? And who wants this particular lawyer dead? But as Adem keeps digging, he realizes his case encompasses something far beyond what he expects . . .

I dislike arrogant jerk characters, so Adem took a while to stop annoying me. And the present tense did not help at all.

I did like the story, however. In this future high-tech society, something like a dragon is initially assumed to be someone’s escaped lab experiment, but the actual truth is stranger still. Adem is observant and intelligent, but childlike in a lot of his mannerisms, which other characters sometimes call out. And his habit of mentally reconstructing crime scenes is fun to read.

It’s also nice to see Adem’s tight friendship with Jin. They’re very different, and Adem doesn’t seem to like Jin very much, but some unspecified event has created this loyalty and support, and it endures despite everything else that comes up. I hope it stays as a friendship. It’s getting very hard to find stories that focus on friendship rather than romance.

And of course, the various dysfunctions of his government agency are a good source of humor. There’s a lot of laughs throughout.

Overall this is a fun story and I’m interested to see where the series goes from here. I rate this book 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.

Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers (Anime)

Title: Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers

Episodes: 1-12

When the Demon Lord rises, Fate chooses six warriors who inherit legendary power and fight for the peace. Adlet Mayer is determined to be one of those Braves. He’s confident he’s the strongest man in the world–and when the Demon Lord resurrects, and Adlet receives his coveted mark, he appears to be proved correct. But some sinister scheme is at work this time around: only six Braves exist, but seven have shown up! Who is the traitor? And can the real Braves determine the truth before killing each other?

This wasn’t at all what I was expecting. I thought, based on the first few eps, this would be mostly fantasy/adventure, but the arrival of the seventh Brave transforms the story into a locked-room mystery. With the Braves trapped within an impenetrable barrier, and one of them likely plotting to destroy them all, it becomes critical that they figure out who needs to die.

The traitor isn’t obvious, either. Pretty much everyone has something that casts them in a bad light, and as the episodes dig in, the probable traitor changes again and again as new evidence comes to light. As a mystery, it works well, although as a mystery I’m not going to get as much enjoyment out of a rewatch because at that point knowing who did it takes away most of the fun.

I grew to like Adlet a lot over the course of the show. At first he simply amused me because the self-proclaimed “strongest man in the world” wasn’t using strength, but dirty tricks, to win. Of course if you measure “strongest” by “winner”, then “win by any means possible” does look like a sound strategy. But for all that he’s boastful and gullible, he’s also smart enough to put together a lot of the mystery on his own.

The art is also worth a mention. The setting is Aztec rather than a traditional feudal European or Japanese society. I was also fond of the generic monsters attacking the party. I like dragonish looking beings. The flying ones are beautifully colored too, like tropical birds. However, there are a few areas where the art does slip up (a conversation on the side of a mountain was the worst one that stuck out to me), which hopefully would have been fixed for any DVD/Blu-Ray release. Since I watched the stream, I don’t know if this is still a problem for the disks.

The ending was equal parts satisfying and frustrating. I liked the reveal of the actual traitor and how that worked out, but the closing twist was annoying because there’s no chance to even get started on resolving it (and why are we repeating this line again?). I suspect this may be handled in the source material since it looks like the anime only adapted the first part.

Overall this was an interesting show on a number of levels. Primarily it functions as a mystery in a fantasy world, and the tweaks to a typical RPG adventure story make it feel unique. I am curious where it goes from here, and will have to see about reading the light novels as they come out in English. I rate this show Recommended.

Spartan Gold (Fargo Adventure #1)

Title: Spartan Gold

Author: Clive Cussler with Grant Blackwood

Series: Fargo Adventure #1

A lost mystery discovered by Napoleon Bonaparte leads to a treasure hunt two hundred years later. Sam and Remi Fargo were tracking down a different mystery when a glass bottle and an old German U-Boat give them their first lead to something much bigger than they anticipated. Because Napoleon’s secrets have also captured the attention of a much more dangerous man, who will stop at nothing to get there first.

This isn’t typically my genre, but I read this for a book club.

The book as a whole made for a somewhat frustrating read because most of the strong parts are balanced out by weaker parts. The history, the clues, the treasure, and the various links to locations around the world were well thought-out, and the various exotic locales helped with the sense of adventure. The plot never flags, and the occasional switch to the villain’s point of view helps to heighten the tension. It’s easy to visualize the whole thing as a movie.

On the other hand, I found the characters only believable about half the time. I usually like competence, but this is the first book I can remember where I kept thinking they pushed it too far. In the first half of the book especially, it felt like every time they came up against another situation, either Sam or Remi had a degree/hobby in exactly that area, and of course they were experts in various wildly diverging fields. Their extreme abilities took a lot of the fun out of most of the situations they got into, as I didn’t really feel the tension until the scope got much further out of their control.

The beginning also felt like it pushed very hard to make them “good guys” which to my mind the story as a whole doesn’t support. Technically, Sam and Remi go a step farther than the actual villain in several areas, particularly in how they acquired one bottle’s riddle and what they ultimately did in the caves at the end. I fully support that kind of ending for most bad guys, but the way it happened left me wondering why I was supposed to cheer for this. In a way it was almost amusing to compare the way both sides were breaking a lot of the same laws. For more amoral characters this would be less problematic, but again, it felt like the story was setting them up as complete contrasts to the villain, when in reality they’re not all that different.

I also didn’t buy the fact that the home base was secure enough to make even a man with those kinds of connections back off. Unless they’ve physically fortified the structure, all an alarm system is going to do is ensure the police arrive in time to take people to the hospital. If they did fortify the structure, why not just bomb it? A quick and dirty bomb is ridiculously easy to rig together (as events like the Boston Marathon unfortunately proved). Even just as a warning, perhaps with the aim of taking out a bodyguard or two, if he really needs them to keep hunting down the treasure he can’t quite get to himself.

I did like the fact that the lead couple being married meant a complete lack of romantic shenanigans to distract from the action. This left the focus on the action and not on some flimsy relationship likely to be completely discarded by a sequel. Having other people back home to help with the research also eased a lot of the logistical problems.

All in all, I suppose it was a good choice for a book club since there will be a lot to talk about, but I’m not convinced I want to read another one. As a historical mystery it works just fine, but I had a lot more problems with the present-day side of things. I rate this book Neutral.

Orca (Vlad Taltos #7)

Title: Orca

Author: Steven Brust

Series: Vlad Taltos #7

All Vlad is trying to do is repay his debt to Savn, who was injured in the process of saving Vlad’s life. But the healer he finds doesn’t want money—she wants the right to continue living in her own home, which the failing bank is trying to foreclose. So Vlad reluctantly puts himself on the case. Murder is so much more his specialty . . .

I liked this a great deal. Kiera the Thief shares the narration with Vlad this time, and shows something of a different side to the sorts of activities Vlad usually gets himself into. Vlad finds himself, this time, not as the assassin but as the detective, trying to work backwards from a death. Trying to untangle the whole sordid story that led to one little old woman being kicked out of her home.

As a mystery, it flows differently than the other books in the series, but I liked it as a change of pace. That also made some of the revelations near the end both unexpected and satisfying. Vlad’s a different person after everything he’s gone through—though still a sarcastic, hard-bitten criminal in many ways. But in the little snippets of Kiera’s retelling Cawti’s side starts to open up some too. And maybe a little of why she’s been acting the way she has comes out.

All in all this is a good continuation. I’m both amused and impressed I’ve made it through this many books in the series without my enthusiasm flagging at all. And I can’t wait to finish collecting them all so I can reread them in the proper order next time. I rate this book Recommended.

07-Ghost (manga)

Title: 07-Ghost
Volumes: 1-17 (Complete)

Ten years ago, war broke out between the Barsburg Empire and the Raggs kingdom. Teito Klein, orphaned by this event, had been pressed into service as a battle sklave for Barsburg, which made him less than popular at the military academy he attends. However, one other boy, Mikage, persists in being his friend, which leads to trouble for both of them when Teito unexpectedly runs across someone from his dimmest memories . . .

It’s hard to give a decent summary of this, because so much of the story revolves around who Teito is, what he does (and doesn’t) remember and why, and how those memories influence him to make the journey he ultimately takes. I liked it a lot as a fantasy. There’s a lot to be said for a story that spans 17 volumes but knows from the beginning where it wants to go, and doesn’t detour at all along the way. As a story, the focus on playing up possibly-romantic relationships between guys unfortunately takes away from some of the more complex relationships that are trying to develop.

I liked the layers of mystery. Teito hasn’t forgotten his origins because he was very young (about four) when everything happened, but also because his memories were deliberately locked away from him. Even that young, what he knew was dangerous. Even now, remembering the wrong thing at the wrong time could ruin everything.

And the world itself has layers. On the purely human level, the Barsburg Empire has all but wiped out the kingdom of Raggs, and they’re eager to move in on what remains. But a large part of the story is also about spiritual matters. The King of Heaven allows every soul to choose three wishes for which to live its life, and once those three are fulfilled, the soul returns to him. However, evil forces offer to grant those wishes in exchange for the soul—and they are working to lay the foundation for the return of Verloren, the god of death. Seven “ghosts” were assigned from heaven to help keep Verloren imprisoned, and Verloren’s body and soul were separately sealed. But he’s working out a plan for revival.

In the beginning, when everything is just starting to unfold, it can feel a bit random. Ayanami remains a good villain, but the Black Hawks in his group struggle to feel meaningful for a long time. I liked how Mikage—and his admonition to Teito against revenge—form a key part of Teito’s struggle, up to the very end. Teito dearly wants to honor his best friend’s wishes, but at the same time, he’s human. He wants justice for all the evil that Ayanami inflicted, as well as revenge for all the pain and suffering.

I don’t really care for the hinting at homosexual relationships in the story (especially with Frau, because he’s got to be twice Teito’s age), but as the hints stay relatively subtle it didn’t subtract much from the story for me.

The ending is really good. It had a bit more epilogue than I expected, which was nice, and it tied everything up in a surprising yet satisfying way. Which is even better considering the major twist that happened not long before that which subverted a lot of my expectations for how the series was going to turn out. I liked how characters that could have been one-offs like some of the Oaks turn into crucial players. I liked the history of the seven ghosts and how Teito has to untangle some of the things that went drastically wrong for each of them.

Overall this is a pretty good fantasy that takes a few volumes to really dig in. It’s not something  I would consider top-tier like Fullmetal Alchemist or Kekkaishi, but it does a good job building a solid story with a number of surprises. I rate this series Recommended.

(Apologies for the glut of posts. I’ve been watching/reading some things over the past season but I don’t like to review them until I’m finished, as I would prefer to look at the overall story than just one episode or a few chapters of manga.)