Published by: Tachyon Publications on May 16, 2017 Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)
I don’t think it’s at all an exaggeration to say that this anthology honestly has something for everyone. Fantasy, science fiction, fairy tale, you name it–it’s here. And to top it off, every one of these stories is well written and kept me engaged from beginning to end. This was my first experience reading anything by Ellen Klages, and I am glad I picked this up. This is an author who demonstrates great skill in both creating richly-developed worlds and unique, three-dimensional characters over and over again in short stories. It’s no small feat, and she does it so very well. Definitely worth a read!
[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance reading copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.]
Series: Homecoming, Book 3
Published by: Wizards of the Coast on October 25, 2016 Rating: 3stars (★★★☆☆)
Following what may very well have been the most epic battle of Drizzt’s life, it turns out the real war is just beginning. And this time he’s not facing a giant monster or an sinister Drow Matron. No, to win this war, Drizzt must finally face his own demons if he is ever going to be able to find peace. But nothing is going to stop or let up to give him the time and the space to do so. To keep himself and his friends safe, there is much that needs to be done and not really that much time in which to see it all through.
An interesting conclusion to this trilogy, to be quite honest. There are moments where this really seemed to drag, though I think it simply had to in order for the story that needed to be told to unfold on the page. It has that solid epic conclusion feel to it, which makes me tend to believe the “word on the street” that this is it for the tales of the Drow. And if so, I think it ended well and it did leave me satisfied with where it all lives in the end.
[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance reading copy received from the publisher via NetGalley.]
Series: Akata Witch, Book 1
Published by: Speak on July 11, 2017 Rating: 3stars (★★★☆☆)
Sunny Nwazue has always felt like a bit of an outsider. She’s albino, which has not only led to her being viewed differently, but it also stops her from being able to do certain things like spending an entire afternoon out in the sun. But Sunny soon learns that she’s actually special in another way–she is a “free agent” and possesses the capacity for magic. This opens up a whole new world of opportunity for her and introduces her to some new friends. But is also exposes her to some danger as well. There’s someone out there taking children, a someone who just so happens to be able to use magic as well. And Sunny and her friends find themselves needing to help put a stop to it before more people go missing…
There’s an interesting world created and presented within this story, though I sometimes found myself a little confused with some of the various connections between the characters. There is probably some room for a little more world building, but it’s still an enjoyable and interesting read. A definite possibility for fans of fantasy adventure stories.
[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance review copy provided by the publisher via the First to Read program.]
Published by: Crown on January 24, 2017 Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)
The mysterious death of a young man on Halloween night leaves Salem’s Chief of Police, John Rafferty, wondering about a possible connection to a triple homicide that occurred on Halloween night in 1989. Of course, one of the reasons they might be related is that Rose Whelan was present at the scene of both crimes, and in both cases she said something about a banshee being responsible for the killings. Rafferty believes Rose is not a murderer, and he’s set out to prove it. His quest is bolstered by the return to Salem of Callie Cahill, the daughter of one of the original victims and a witness to some of that night’s events. But unearthing the truth proves to be potentially dangerous for them both. If the murderer was an evil spiritual force, are they prepared to take it on? And if the perpetrator is of the more mundane criminal variety, they’ve carried the secret and covered their tracks for almost 30 years–so they might just stop at nothing to keep it that way.
This is a tale of intrigue across decades that ties back across centuries. Questions abound about who can be trusted and who cannot. Some in town have been carrying secrets that they don’t want to get out, which in itself provides a recipe for danger and disaster. But the ways in which those secrets connect (and the possibility of a supernatural element thrown in) provide a path to figuring out what happened all those years ago. If Rafferty and Callie can stay out of the crosshairs…
Series: Hours of the Night, Book 2
Published by: Prescourt Books on October 12, 2017 Rating: 4stars (★★★★☆)
When a prominent society lady (and, as it turns out, essentially the head of a powerful coven) mysteriously dies at her own party, the only thing anyone knows for certain is that foul play is more than suspected. So it’s also no surprise that Thaddeus and Sarasija find themselves working to track down the murderer. And if it’s not enough to be on the trail of someone (or something) nefarious, they still need to track down the missing grimoire (a.k.a. guide to demon summoning) while Thaddeus is struggling to keep himself in control and Sara is having strange dreams that he is keeping to himself. Recipe for disaster? Probably. But these two just might be up to the challenge.
I was excited to see another installment in this series. There was something about Thaddeus and Sara that drew me in when I read Vespers, and that something is definitely still here. These two have experiences that are so different–they’re even from different eras, really–and through those differences they have managed to find something that works for them. Now, sometimes it doesn’t work as well as others, but I think it’s safe to say that is true of nearly any relationship. There are some unexpected twists to rush down in reading this story, and–I’ll just put it out there now–there are some unanswered questions that remain at the end. But that’s what book three is for, right?
[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance reading copy provided by the authors.]
Published by: Redhook on September 5, 2017 Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)
When Ursule, matriarch of the family, dies, it seems as though her power goes with her. While her daughters keep the old ways and traditions alive, it seems none of them possesses the same skill and strength with magic that she always did. But the power burns anew when Ursule’s unsuspecting granddaughter is brought into the circle. What follows is a story of a family history that spans generations and raises questions about how far one will go to protect their secrets, their power, their family, and their future. Sometimes by doing what we think is necessary to protect that which we hold dear, we may be doing more damage than we realize…
An interesting story, for sure. What I think is most interesting about this book is the way the story threads across the generations, focusing on each new daughter as it works its way forward. The mother-daughter dynamic plays out here in various ways, but it all comes back to some of the same themes of how power and secrets can impact a family dynamic. As much as we may think that life would be so much easier if we just possessed the power to do something just outside the range of what is humanly possible, the reality is that the more ability we have may also mean more complication–especially if we need to keep that ability a secret in order to survive.
Series: The Dragon Lords, Book 1
Published by: Orbit on July 19, 2016 Rating: 3stars (★★★☆☆)
The Dragon Consortium does not represent what anyone might call benevolent rulers. Much the opposite, they demand outrageous taxes, oppress the people, and seem like they will only get worse as time goes on. But as long as one finds a way to pay the taxes and stay out of their way, they don’t have too much to worry about, right? That’s what Will Fallows thought until the dragon lord Mattrax’s soldiers appear on his doorstep demanding taxes he has already paid (and certainly cannot pay a second time). Threatened with the loss of his farm, a time in debtors’ prison, and the complete destruction of his future, Will manages to escape with his life, knowing he probably will not be able to outrun them for long. But Will happens upon two strapping adventurers in search of a fortune (Lette and Balur), a scholar with an interest in dragons (Quirk), and the old village drunk (Firkin), a plan unfolds to rob Mattrax and use the gold for everyone to find themselves a new life away from the Dragon Consortium. But plans do not always go to, well, plan, and the group quickly finds that they have taken on something that is more than any of them bargained for…
I will start off by saying that this is an entertaining and engaging read. It has all the elements of an epic fantasy, and I do know the story continues with another installment currently available. It’s definitely more of a party-as-protagonist type of story, though, as I would not identify any of the group as the main hero–they are all very much in it together for different reasons and with different challenges in front of them. There are little twists where things go wrong, and there are little twists where things go right in unexpected ways. And I found myself wondering as the book reached the end if everyone would actually make it out alive. You will just have to read to find out…
Published by: Thomas Crowell on October 21, 1977 Rating: 3stars (★★★☆☆)
Jess Aarons lives a simple life for a teenager, helping his parents with the chores, doing his schoolwork, and trying his best to become the fastest runner in school. When a new girl, Leslie Burke, moves in as his new neighbor, all of that changes. For one, Leslie turns out to be a rather fast runner herself. And together they invent Terabithia, an enchanted land that only they can get to or see in the woods near their homes. But fantasies can only last for so long, and a tragic accident shatters their world in a way that leaves Jess wondering if he can ever truly pick up the pieces.
I saw this movie a few years back, and it was one that I certainly enjoyed right away. The book provided an interesting comparison. The movie follows the book pretty well, though I think the book provides a little bit better sense of how Jess feels about his life and the people around him. It’s subtle, which I think is a testament to the way the author has developed the world and the characters, but it’s there. And, overall, I think it adds both to understanding Jess’s motivation and his reactions as we move through the book.
Published by: Tor on January 26, 2016 Rating: 3stars (★★★☆☆)
Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead were close friends in childhood, but a series of incidents in high school led them to part ways. For Patricia, the development of magical powers was not expected, but it opened a whole new realm of possibilities. And Laurence’s tinkering led to a breakthrough–if you consider a time machine a breakthrough, and you probably should consider a time machine a breakthrough–that was similarly unanticipated. So when the two cross paths again years later, it should be no surprise that Patricia has graduated from a magical academy and is putting her powers to use to protect the world from catastrophe while Laurence is working with a group of genius engineers to develop similarly world-altering technology. Of course, it should also be no surprise that there are forces at play that neither of them expected that they will need to confront together if they are to avert the biggest catastrophe of them all…
I hesitate to praise this as “wildly original” (as I have seen elsewhere) because this is by far not the first time we have seen magical realism and it certainly not the last time we will ever see it. But there is something about the way the writer has developed the characters that certainly made me feel like I was being plunged into a world that is fresh and new. It’s an engaging and entertaining story, which I think many will find difficult to put down. There’s a hint of fantasy, a hint of science fiction, a dash of dystopia, and even a bit of real science all wrapped up here with a tattered bow.
Published by: Saga Press on October 18, 2016 Rating: 3stars (★★★☆☆)
This is the tale of two women who must bear their burdens for the betterment of those around them. Because men cannot help themselves around her beauty, Amira must imprison herself high on a glass hill to keep all of her potential suitors at bay. Tabitha must wear out seven pairs of iron shoes to break her husband’s curse. Neither questions their situation on their own, but when they cross paths and tell each other their stories, they learn not only about the value of perspective but also about assumptions and misconceptions as well as the power they both have to control their own destinies.
There is something about a well-written adaptation of a fairy tale that I always enjoy. Reimagining and reinventing a classic story invokes considerations of perspective and innovation, and it is not easy to retell an existing story in an original way. But here readers get the gift of not only one excellent retelling but two intertwined tales that gain additional layers of meaning through the juxtaposition of each woman’s story.