Tag Archives: vampires

Hounded (The Iron Druid Chronicles #1)

Title: Hounded

Author: Kevin Hearne

Series: The Iron Druid Chronicles #1

Atticus O’Sullivan is a 21-centuries-old Druid who would prefer to be left alone. But a sword he happened to acquire in his younger days is still being sought by its original owner: the Celtic love god Aenghus Og. Atticus has been on the run for centuries, but this time, when the fight comes to his doorstep, he might be ready to try to end this for good.

This urban fantasy contains a lot of the usual suspects: vampires, werewolves, witches, gods and goddesses. And a few of the not-so-usual in the form of the main character, a Druid (who conveniently avoids most of the less savory things historical Druids have been known to practice in favor of a more earth-worshipping religion). It was also a nice change of pace that most of the gods showing up were Celtic.

The story moves quickly, as Atticus finds himself at the center of a storm of attacks designed to either steal the sword or kill him (or both). I did like his lawyers, and how all of them are deadly in their own ways. And the dog is a lot of fun.

Mostly I wasn’t too swayed one way or the other by this. It’s a decent urban fantasy, but nothing particularly grabbed me and made me want to keep going with the next book. The worldbuilding is probably the best part, but the “everything goes” mindset was annoying because it fails to provide any context for how wildly disparate belief systems can all be equally true. I would have preferred some kind of baseline that could then show how various things worked within it. I rate this book Neutral.

Storm Front (Dresden Files #1)

Title: Storm Front

Author: Jim Butcher

Series: Dresden Files #1

Harry Dresden is a wizard and PI in Chicago. When a pair of people are found dead—and the method looks like magic—he’s pulled into the case. But even figuring out that kind of black magic is going to get him on the bad side of the White Council, if not outright pegged for the murder himself. Still, he’s the only one who could help. Except now everyone seems to want him dead too . . .

I generally like urban fantasy like this, but Dresden Files never clicked for me. Frankly, I found Harry’s bits of backstory more compelling than the present-day story. The magic and creatures tends to only get introduced as they comes up, which makes for a better story, perhaps, but a rather haphazard magic system. I would’ve much rather read a book about Harry’s younger days, when he was first introduced to real magic, and the sequence of events that led to him having all the baggage he starts this story with.

The murder mystery isn’t the strongest. It was fairly easy to guess early on who would be involved, and Harry burns a lot of bridges with people he should be respectful of as contacts (or employers). I also wasn’t a fan of the sheer volume of nasty stuff that worked its way into this. Blowing up hearts, fine. Demons, fine. But I’d rather skip the people blown up in the middle of sex, and the orgies, and all the naked bodies (including, actually, Harry, who has a shower scene that goes bad). It just felt like mystery by shock factor rather than actual puzzle.

Overall, even though I’ve been told the series gets stronger, this book confirmed my disinterest in reading the rest of it. (Sorry, friends-who-recommended; I gave it a shot but I’m not going to keep going.) I rate this book Neutral.

The Invisible Library (Invisible Library #1)

Title: The Invisible Library

Author: Genevieve Cogman

Series: Invisible Library #1

Irene is a Librarian for an unusual Library, one that exists outside time and space and worlds, in its own reality. Mostly she infiltrates alternate worlds and collects unique books for its collection. But her latest assignment reeks of secrets and politics, and may be rather more dangerous than she’s been told. She’s supposed to train a junior assistant, the book she’s looking for has already been stolen, and the Library’s greatest enemies also want what she’s after . . .

This was mostly fun, with a few places where I just had to roll my eyes. Fun stuff first. Irene is a very likeable lead. She tries hard to stay cool and in control even when the situation has exploded away from her. She’s aware of what being a leader entails, and she tries to be responsible to that ideal. Kai’s presence tends to exaggerate that in her, too, as she both wants and needs to be a good superior for him. I was particularly impressed that she refuses to bed him after his explicit invitation (although other aspects of that scene were part of the eye-rolling bits). It wouldn’t have been a good idea, but I can’t say I remember the last book where that actually stopped the characters.

The world she ends up on has a lot of steampunk with a dash of mad science. Mechanical creatures! Zeppelins! Victorian fashion sense! Also werewolves and vampires and Fae (who are creepy, dangerous, and strongly magical). And I really liked the detective she meets, and how he engages the mysteries before him with his own skills, even though he’s got no idea of most of what she’s caught up in.

I wasn’t all that fond of Kai, though. His character is all over the place (although to be fair, Irene notices this too and remarks on it). Once more of his secrets come out, some of his behavior makes even less sense.

And the few personal nits: why does Kai have to be devastatingly handsome, with perfect looks, perfect voice, etc? I’m getting tired of “perfect boyfriend” type characters. (Irene subverts this somewhat by falling for the detective instead of her trainee, which made me very happy.) And the scene where he invites her to bed involves the two of them comparing the amount of sexual experience they’ve had, which also makes me roll my eyes. For one, it absolutely doesn’t suit Kai, whose nature is order, whose firm commitment is to family no matter what, to be such a player he might have spawned half a hundred offspring without knowing it. And then just moved on. Because the family he’s so emotionally invested in apparently doesn’t include people he sleeps with and definitely doesn’t include himself as a possible father. Does this strike anyone else as a total betrayal of the character’s deepest beliefs? The alternative is that he’s lying about said experience, which I don’t really buy either, or he wouldn’t have been so casual about asking Irene. And the way the whole scene plays out feels really pointless, except to have both the characters bragging about how much sex they’ve had, as if that somehow makes them better people. It has nothing to do with the story.

Overall this was a pretty good adventure, and although things wrap up in one sense, the deeper threads point towards a series. I rate this book Recommended.

Pure Magic (Black Dog #2)

Title: Pure Magic

Author: Rachel Neumeier

Series: Black Dog #2

Justin is wandering on a road trip while mourning the recent death of his mother. But an unexpected encounter with stray black dogs propels him into a terrifying world he never envisioned. Dimilioc offers him shelter, but they also aren’t very willing to let him refuse.

Natividad is growing used to life at Dimilioc, but she’s still stubbornly independent. And when she’s told to stay at home for her own safety, the order doesn’t go over well at all. She knows they need her help. Dimilioc’s enemies are multiplying. But when she takes matters into her own hands, everything falls apart . . .

I liked the first book a great deal, but I think I like this one even better. The beginning with Justin had me intrigued where this might be going, and when I found out, I had to laugh. The Pure are always, always girls . . . but he’s Pure and very definitely male. Even Ezekiel is thrown off-balance. And Justin, of course, who never, ever suspected he might be anything but ordinary, is finding the extremely violent black dogs a very hard sell.

I like how similar Justin is to Natividad, and yet how different. I like how NICE the two of them are, which is unfortunately not a trait I see often in characters. They’re both strong-willed, independent, but still gentle, compassionate, encouraging. And they might not be the ones ripping off heads or tearing out spines, but they’ve still got a lot of fight in them (and Natividad, at least, is pushing her gift into territories Dimilioc has never seen—although there are also hints it may not all be good).

This book picks up some of the troubles from the first book and widens the world yet again, as we finally meet some of those other black dog houses. It helps give the sense of how Dimilioc is rather different even from its own. And since not everything wrapped up by the end of this story, I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more of certain characters in the future.

All in all, this is an excellent sequel that doesn’t lose any steam. If you haven’t read the first book, this one is probably still readable, but you’ll spoil yourself on a ton of things, so go back and read Black Dog first. I rate this book Recommended.

Night Runner (Night Runner #1)

Title: Night Runner

Author: Max Turner

Series: Night Runner #1

Zach has lived in a mental ward since the death of his father. He’s mostly there because he has a lot of unusual health problems that leave him unable to function well in the normal world—like an allergy to sunlight. But he doesn’t mind his sheltered life . . . and has no idea why strangers keep barging into it, insisting he’s in danger and has to escape. Something dangerous stalks the night. Something inhuman. Something that knows him . . .

It will be fairly obvious to readers even marginally familiar with the genre that Zach’s “symptoms” are really traits of vampirism. That said, I really like where the book goes with it. Zach is in many ways not much more mature than the second-grader who was first admitted to the mental ward. He has a refreshing innocence, combined with moments of blunt honesty about what he sees in himself.

I fed like a predator. And I had no remorse. None.

I look back at this moment with a mixture of sadness and something else. Understanding, maybe. Or acceptance. I’m a vampire. Sometimes I wish I could live on tofu and alfalfa sprouts, but I can’t. And I understand I’m not consistent. I don’t always act the same way. I’m a nice guy as often as I can be. As my Uncle Maximillian said, I have a choice. And I choose to be good. Until I get hungry. Then I’m something that is less than good. Then I’m a killer.

The story has a few expected twists, and a few nice surprises (especially the end). It’s also clearly the setup for a series, so it will be interesting to see how Zach’s actions at the end echo into future books. I rate this book Recommended.

To Hold the Bridge

Title: To Hold the Bridge

Author: Garth Nix

This is a collection of short stories from Garth Nix, some of which tie to novels and some of which are original (or have tie-ins to other established series, as the case may be). Overall it’s a pretty strong collection, and below were some of my favorites.

To Hold the Bridge – The story that gives the book its title is the Old Kingdom contribution for this book. But even if you’ve never read any of Nix’s Old Kingdom books, it’s still a winsome story. Morghan is hoping to join the Bridge Company, which is constructing what will become the great bridge leading across the river to the capital, mostly because he’s eager for the provided food and board. Although it wraps up well enough, it also makes me wish Morghan would get a novel, as I’d love to read more about him.

A Handful of Ashes – Mari is funding her college education in witchcraft though a servant’s position at her college, but not all of the high-born students like that tradition. I like the setting, and the little details in the magic and the college, which operates under various Bylaws. This is, like many other stories here, showcasing a world that teases a lot of depth.

The Heart of the City – France, in the time of Henri IV. A guard gets tangled up in magic and mayhem as a strange procession enters the city. Interesting magic system, which involves angels partnering with men, and I especially liked the end. It feels like a launching point for an alternate-history.

Holly and Iron – A retelling that blends a few different tales (saying which ones would spoil the surprise). Another interesting and completely different magic system, the holly magic of the Inglish and the iron magic of the Norman. And a shapeshifting squirrel. (That alone ought to sell the story.)

All in all, whether you’ve read Garth Nix before or not this is a great place to dig in. I rate this book Recommended.

Firebug (Firebug #1)

Title: Firebug

Author: Lish McBride

Series: Firebug #1

Ava is a firebug, someone with the power to start fires with her mind. She tries to have a teenage life, but that’s hard when normal teen activities have to be restricted or redirected because of her ability. And it’s also hard because she’s bound to the Coterie, a group that governs the local supernaturals. Ava is an enforcer for the Coterie. Together with a half-dryad and a were-fox, she’s sent out to put down those Venus, the Coterie’s head, wants disposed. But when Ava gets in over her head, she’s got to hope she can escape the Coterie’s iron hold over her life . . .

This took a bit longer to get me really interested, but once it got going it was a great deal of fun. Ava has a bitter, hard edge to her personality, the result of a lifetime of trying to escape the Coterie only to fall within its grasp and become everything she feared. But once Lock and Ezra take a bigger role, the team dynamic the three of them have is the best thing in the book. Ezra, the were-fox, is unabashedly playful, while Lock, the half-dryad, is the almost over-serious adult. (And that makes the visit to Lock’s family even funnier… his relatives are amazing at asking awkward questions.)

I liked some of the deeper things that came out, too. Ava hates the Coterie with a passion and would be just as happy burning it all down, but for all that it’s being run like the mob, it still has a unique role to play for the various not-at-all to mostly-human supernatural entities in the area. I especially liked how Lock keeps challenging Ava’s desire to skip the “middle bits” and go right for the conclusion, pointing out that sometimes the process is equally important.

I also really like the worldbuilding. Ava’s firebug abilities aren’t free, though they appear so to onlookers. She has to try to gain weight to give her body fat to literally burn when she starts her fires, along with keeping her electrolytes and potassium levels high. Then there’s the sheer variety of creatures populating the pages (including some amusing weres).

My one disappointment is that there’s a bit of a nasty twist very close to the end, and the next book isn’t out yet so I can’t see how it will resolve. But if my only complaint is that the sequel isn’t here RIGHT NOW, that’s good enough for me. I rate this book Recommended.