Tag Archives: unicorns

The Detective & The Unicorn

Title: The Detective & The Unicorn

Author: Michael Angel

Derek Ridder never had much interest in the fantastical creatures from the Morning Land that contacted Earth. He was more invested in doing his job as a cop and trying to get over the loss of his wife. But that was before a call brought him face-to-face with a warlock. Now he’s somehow ended up with the unicorn Tavia as his partner as they hunt down the madman who wants to open Earth to demons . . .

I received this book for free as a gift.

If you’ve seen the author’s other series (Fantasy & Forensics), this has no relationship, despite a rather similar premise.

I loved this. The characters all have a lot of depth, especially those like Coombes, the unidentified-agency agent, who would have been easy to write as stereotypical given his relatively minor role. I loved that Coombes kept showing his humanity. I also appreciated that Derek seems to work at a hard but mostly functional police department with a boss and co-workers who look out for him. And Thunderbolt (the Wonder-Colt) was hilarious. Kids will be kids, no matter the species . . .

Tavia and Derek play well off each other. They’re both guardians of the peace, with serious personalities and a lot of smarts. Derek doesn’t take long to adjust to her as a partner, and while he doesn’t have her knowledge of magic, he also doesn’t have her blind spots. It’s interesting to see how their histories have so many common points, even though they’re from vastly different backgrounds. And I liked that Tavia points out that it’s possible to lose the one you love without death necessarily being the cause—that just because one loves deeply, truly, and well doesn’t mean everything will work out.

I also really like the exploration of various fantasy races. Unicorns, pegasii, dryads, the werewolf-like yena . . . they have their familiar points, but they’re also drawn up in new and interesting ways. Like unicorns as predators as much as herbivores. Or like a pegasus diplomat, and how things work out for him. Or certain creatures being able to run faster than a speeding car. Or, my favorite, a MALE sphinx (who is just as cat-like as one might expect. Which is to say arrogant, ruthless, a bit cruel, and not interested in much outside of himself). There’s a surprise in each chapter, but overall it all hangs together very well.

If I have one small criticism, it’s that it feels Tavia should have picked up on the reason for her own immunity to William Teach’s mind control a while back, and only been confused at how Derek was also able to resist. After all, she knows a good amount about magic, and it doesn’t seem that the ultimate cause was that obscure to someone of her education.

Overall, this is a fast-paced and fun ride, especially for those who wanted a “first contact” type story to be with a fantasy world instead of an alien race. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

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The Conspiracy of Unicorns (Fantasy & Forensics #9)

Title: The Conspiracy of Unicorns

Author: Michael Angel

Series: Fantasy & Forensics #9

Dayna has a plan to pay off her ludicrous debts, but she’s running short on time, and even magic may not be enough to bridge the gaps. She needs to figure out a get rich quick scheme fast. But even as she’s scrambling to make ends meet, she’s trying to keep the bigger problems in mind. The war against the Dark grows ever closer, she’s still hunting for allies—and who better than a council of wizards? If she can find them. And back home in LA, her department is under intense scrutiny by Internal Affairs, which bothers Dayna about as much as it bothers Bob McClatchy. They’ve both got things they’d rather keep off the books . . .

I will never get over how hard these books make me laugh.

“Because that is what ‘forensics’ is all about,” her son informed her. “Poking around with dead things’ innards is what she does to draw in her magic power.”
Lord Quinton couldn’t contain himself any longer. “Blast it, you mean like…necromancy?”
The younger Quinton paused for a moment. “From what I understand, it’s very similar.”

This time around, as evidenced by the cover and the title, we get unicorns! One thing I really like about this book is how deliberately it subverts expectations. Unicorns are typically portrayed as gentle, as living in someplace warm and grassy, as really magical. Well, the last is still true, at least. Here, the unicorns live in a cold, barren wasteland, and if you remember the fayleene, you may already have a pretty good idea how this is going to go.

Dayna’s problem isn’t finding SUSPECTS for her locked room mystery. It’s finding how, which will tell her who. For instance, after discovering the body, we get this little gem:

“It’s not my fault that Dekanos didn’t die when he should have!” Windkey flared. Then, as if thinking better of it, he turned and spoke to me. “That sounded a trifle inconsiderate.”

And back on the home front, things finally come to a head with Bob McClatchy—in a way I never saw coming. (Well, THIS should make book 10 interesting.) I get the feeling it’s not quite over yet, despite how it worked out.

Overall this is another wild ride, with several twists that once more change the face of the game. I can’t wait to see where we go from here. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

The Cult of Unicorns (Penny White #2)

Title: The Cult of Unicorns

Author: Chrys Cymri

Series: Penny White #2

Penny is balancing a life equal parts fantastic and mundane. She has a gryphon and a snail shark in her house, and is a liaison to a parallel world of dragons and other mythical creatures, but she’s also a small-town vicar. And that means sermons, baptisms, weddings, and putting up with an enormous list of petty annoyances. But people have been turning up dead, and the wounds look like they could be from unicorns . . .

This is as crazy and as funny as the first book. Penny mostly deals with stubborn or completely clueless people in her role as vicar, which demands a lot of patience. I like how several characters challenge her on her habit of stretching the truth. In some cases she might be justified, but most of the time it’s just trying to avoid trouble, and even though she doesn’t agree with them I like seeing her called out on it. Penny tends to go for the solution that doesn’t ruffle feathers, when everyone would probably be better off if she instead offered a bit of truth.

And Morey has cemented himself as my favorite character. He’s blisteringly intelligent, but he’s also a gryphon. Which means his perspective on things like hunting is that of a predator. He and Penny have a much better relationship now, but they still snip at each other.

The wedding was also hysterical. I get a definite vibe of “details have been altered but story is true” from so many of these encounters.

I am not fond of the heavy use of alcohol, and how basically everyone (at least in Penny’s circle) tries to drink their problems away. Penny almost reads like a functional alcoholic.

Overall, though, this is a fun story that tackles urban fantasy from the direction of someone of faith. It stands out for the authenticity of the highs and lows of trying to live out that faith, and for the unusual approach. I rate this book Recommended.

The Temptation of Dragons (Penny White #1)

Title: The Temptation of Dragons

Author: Chrys Cymri

Series: Penny White #1

Penny White is a vicar at a tiny little church in England. When she stumbles across a dragon that’s been hit by a car, she learns about a parallel world full of mythological creatures that touches our own. Penny is eager to learn all she can, but she still has a church to pastor, a possibly-murder mystery to investigate, and one man and one dragon competing for her attention . . .

This was sheer fun. Obviously written by someone intimately familiar with the various hazards and hardships of life in the ministry, Penny’s struggles as vicar were some of the funniest parts of the book. I really like that she has an active relationship with God. She’s not just someone who prays, but someone who sees answers to prayer.

As the notes rose and fell, I wondered whether God were giving me a message, or just having a good laugh at my expense. In my experience, it’s often difficult to distinguish between the two.

And of course, there’s plenty of fantasy, from dragons and unicorns to were-beasts and vampires. Also hysterical is that many of these intelligent beings have converted to various religions, and Penny mostly deals with members of the Christian church in the same location as hers but on the other side, which is a sister church. So when she’s not being awed by REAL LIVE DRAGONS she’s having theological debates with the cat-sized gryphon who took up residence in her home. Who is a stickler for a literal reading of the Bible, in contrast to her more liberal positions.

As I looked around the assorted faces – human, dragon, unicorn, vampire, and some for which I didn’t have names – I realised that the interview process had started. I was now going to have to mingle, answer the same questions time and again, and above all be friendly and approachable. It was time for Trial by Buffet.

I am entirely on Morey’s side about James, Penny’s brother, though. His behavior is appalling and Penny, in the name of charity, continues to enable him. Setting some rules or withholding some privileges when he misbehaves shouldn’t be such a problem. Frankly I think she’s not doing him any favors by allowing him to get away with everything.

Overall, this was just a ton of fun. I had a few theological quibbles, but the fact that this is an excellent fantasy starring Christians who are serious about their faith makes those a really minor point (and the arguments between Penny and Morey demonstrate that believers can be on the same team without agreeing on every little thing). And come on, there’s even a reference to Zoroastrians. I’m less fond of the love triangle angle, especially given that one of the love interests is a dragon (REALLY do not want to know how all these mixed-species “marriages” are going to work when some of them have vastly different physiology). But I’m really looking forward to the sequel. I rate this book Recommended.

Short Story Roundup for Lish McBride

I’ve read a couple of short stories by Lish McBride and since the reviews are all short I’m posting them together. Some of these are available for free online (Heads Will Roll, Burnt Sugar, and Necromancer) and one (We Should Get Jerseys ‘Cause We Make a Good Team) is part of a book.

Heads Will Roll

This is set in the same urban fantasy world as the rest of Lish McBride’s novels, but it’s about mostly new characters. Lena’s a trainer partnering with a unicorn named Steve, and together the two of them travel to underground fighting rings.

This one’s a lot of fun, too. Lish McBride pulls from all sorts of mythology as she crafts her world, and even the more familiar ones like unicorns aren’t exactly what you might expect. And the story has a good dose of humor. Recommended.

Necromancer

Ashley, the Harbinger of death, hangs out with a friend of hers from life. This is mostly backstory on Ashley and who she was before (and after) she becomes a Harbinger, and the unusual relationship she has with one of her friends from life.

I didn’t care for this one as much, although that’s probably more because I wasn’t all that curious about Ashley to begin with. Still, it’s nice to see more backstory for some of the minor characters that show up in the novels. Recommended if you like Ashley.

Burnt Sugar

Ava, Ezra, and Lock have been sent out as Venus’s enforcers to dish out some hurt to someone who hasn’t been paying Venus protection money. But what starts as an ordinary gig turns weird as they discover the gingerbread house, and what’s inside….

If you haven’t yet read Firebug, this is a great introduction to its main characters. I’m impressed by how well everyone’s personalities shine through in a very short piece, and how the story takes some familiar elements and totally runs away with them (if you didn’t think gingerbread houses were creepy before now, this story will probably change your mind). Recommended.

We Should Get Jerseys ‘Cause We Make a Good Team (part of the Cornered anthology)

Full disclosure: I got this book solely for the Lish McBride story at the end, and didn’t read any of the rest of them. Reading about particularly cruel bullies does bad things to my blood pressure.

This is Frank’s story, set between Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, and Necromancing the Stone. So it’s a bit spoilerish for those who may not have read HMC,N yet, but not too badly. Brooke and Frank go out to get Ramon a welcome-home present and Frank gets an unwelcome visitor from his past, a bully he once suffered under in high school. It’s also the story of how Frank met Brooke, Sam, and Ramon, and why he started working with them at Plumpy’s.

I like how much depth this gives to Frank, who is an interesting side character but mostly a side character in both of the novels. Frank was always oppressed, easily pressured, and a people pleaser. But over the course of this story (and continued in Necromancing the Stone) he grows more confident, more sure of his own capabilities. (And in the novels, Sam, at least, finds him indispensable, though it’s not clear if Frank himself realizes that.) And it’s fun to see how the friends Frank accidentally met one day have been so instrumental in helping him stand on his own two feet. Recommended.