Tag Archives: genre: fantasy

The Wizard’s Desire by Anna Wineheart

The Wizard's Desire

The Wizard’s Desire by Anna Wineheart

Published by: Anna Wineheart on December 6, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

After an accident with magic caused Kei to nearly lose his parents when he was younger–and left them unable to remember who he is–he decided to avoid witches and wizards at all costs. He’s made a good life for himself as a firefighter. But when a witch moves in upstairs and starts causing him problems, he’s not quite sure how much he can take. That is, until he finds himself magically inside of a snow globe…

Orion is a wizard who never seemed to have the best of luck in controlling his magic. So for the safety of others, he agreed to be shut away inside a snow globe where he could his spend his days tending to his garden without anyone being hurt. And while it may be a lonely endeavor, he’s understood the sacrifice that he must make for the good of others. So he’s unprepared and a bit nervous when a mysterious new person shows up in the snow globe. A mysterious and very attractive person, that is.

Can Orion get his magic under control to find a way to help Kei get back out of the snow globe? And can Kei trust a wizard when he’s never been able to before? Can their time in the snow globe bring them together? And if it does, what happens after Kei leaves and Orion stays behind?

I know the word unique is not the best descriptor. But dang it, that’s exactly what this book is. There is a wonderful world and backstory created by the author here, and the two men whose lives readers get to glimpse are just as complex and realistic (well, apart from the whole use of magic thing). There are many layers to this story and to the characters. There’s a lot for them to work through individually and with each other. And the author provides space for that to happen without belaboring any of it. It’s actually a bit of a refreshing read. Also, Orion is a wonderfully cheeky character who deserves some additional attention in his own right…

I give this one a solid recommendation–especially for those who enjoy their m/m romance with a hefty dose of fantasy and just a small sprinkling of angst.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

Darkness Savage by Rachel A. Marks

Darkness Savage

Darkness Savage by Rachel A. Marks

Series: The Dark Cycle, Book 3
Published by: Skyscape on October 11, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Aidan faces a difficult decision. He always knew his gift (though he often thought it a curse) would be the key to defeating a demonic force. He just never expected that force would manifest in his own sister. He will need to find a way to stop her; it’s just a matter of whether he can stop her and save her at the same time. He works to bring his team together, his “Lights” as he’s been told they are called. And his friend Rebecca, who he was certain was not a Light, suddenly finds herself with powers all her own. With so much at stake and so many variables at play, what will Aidan decide? And will he have the power to carry out his plan of action?

The final installment of this series does not disappoint! This unique world that Rachel Marks has created managed to draw me back in as quickly as it did in the last two books. And the twists and turns that are thrown at the reader–it’s quite a journey! This is an absolutely fitting third act. My only major disappointment is that the story has come to an end. I certainly look forward to more from this author.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Flight of Magpies by K.J. Charles

Flight of Magpies

Flight of Magpies by K.J. Charles

Series: A Charm of Magpies, Book 3
Published by: Samhain Publishing on October 28, 2014
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Life for Stephen Day has never really been what one would call normal. But things are getting weird even for him. The justiciary is still in the process of rebuilding their forces, and one of the apprentices may be going mad with power. Of course, this only adds to the stress between Stephen and his lover, Lord Crane. A stress that comes to a head over the investigation of a theft in which Crane finds himself the victim. Can Stephen help solve the theft, figure out what’s going on with the young apprentice, and keep his relationship afloat?

I have enjoyed this series; the combination of historical and paranormal always has a way of drawing me in. And the characters here are the same characters that I’ve grown to enjoy reading about during the previous two installments. I have to say that I do feel like there’s just a little bit too much going on in this one, though. There’s the case at the core, there’s the drama with the justiciary, there’s the short-staffing of the judiciary–it’s just so many layers and makes things suddenly more complex than I feel they have been thus far. Perhaps I just wasn’t ready for this turn. I still enjoyed this book, and I absolutely recommend it. It just didn’t quite hit the spot in the way I expected it would.

Flux by Kim Fielding

Flux

Flux by Kim Fielding

Series: Ennek Trilogy, Book 2
Published by: DSP Publications on September 6, 2016 (re-release)
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Synopsis

Ennek took a huge risk in saving Miner from Stasis. Even the son of the Chief must obey the laws of the land. But the thought of Miner spending more time suspended in a dreamless sleep troubled him too much. Of course, so did the idea of becoming the puppet of his mentor, a man who wished to see Ennek on the throne so he could control him.
 
And now, Ennek and Miner find themselves on the run. Their mission is to get as far away from Praesidium as possible. What they don’t realize right away, though, is that they may be in more danger from those they come across than anyone who might be following them. And if they have any hope of staying together, they will both need to be strong–in mind, body, and spirit.
 

Review

This is an interesting follow up to the first book. The previous installment took place mostly in the castle, and largely in Ennek’s room. Here, we’re on quite a journey, both by land and by sea. And the cast of characters that Ennek and Miner run into are more varied, and in some cases more unstable, than anyone they’ve encountered before.
 
I did enjoy the journey aspect of this story quite a bit. And the uncertainty that Ennek and Miner face was rather apparent as the story went along. I did feel like they kept playing out the same scenario in different ways, however, so I would have liked to see just a bit more variation.
 
That said, it’s an enjoyable m/m fantasy romance, and I look forward to picking up the final installment in the series.
 
[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

The Midnight Gardener by R.G. Thomas

The Midnight Gardener

The Midnight Gardener by R.G. Thomas

Series: The Town of Superstition, Book 1
Published by: Harmony Ink Press on November 12, 2015
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Thaddeus Cane’s mother died when he was a baby. He’s spent as much of his life as he can remember with his father, moving so frequently from town to town that he’s never really made any friends. But when they arrive in Superstition, Thaddeus hopes they might be in a place where they can stay for a while.

One evening, Thaddeus looks out his window and sees a young man tending to the garden next door. There’s something intriguing about him, and Thaddeus finds himself paying attention whenever he sees the man out there–though he’s curiously only out at night. And when Thaddeus finds himself running from a wild animal a few nights later, he crawls over the fence and into the presence of Teofil. From there, things begin to get really strange and Thaddeus soon learns there is much more to his life and his history than he ever could have imagined.

I love young adult fantasy. Toss in a light m/m element, and I’ll read it up as easily as drinking a cup of tea. While this one is a bit slow in the beginning (though it’s necessary for readers to connect to Thaddeus), it picks up quickly. And the backstory is definitely very interesting.

I look forward to the next book in this series. I need to know what happens between Thaddeus and Teofil, and I also need to know if Thaddeus and crew are successful in their quest.

Guardian by Carole Cummings

Guardian

Guardian by Carole Cummings

Series: Aisling, Book 1
Published by: Prizm Books on December 15, 2010
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Strange crimes aren’t new to Constable Dallin Brayden. But as he sits across from Wilfred Calder and hears the story of the incident he was involved in, something doesn’t add up. And Wil’s reaction to Dallin leaves him even more surprised.

The truth of the matter is that there’s an entire history that Dallin doesn’t know. At the same time, the truth that Wil has been given isn’t exactly accurate. What is certain, though, is that Wil is on the run. And Dallin is more connected to him than he could ever have imagined.

I enjoyed the world that Carole Cummings created here. There’s a rich history, and the unexpected connections between Wil and Dallin makes for an interesting set up. And it gives us, as readers, some great insight into Dallin’s character.

What I would have liked to see, though, is a bit more of the relationship development between these two. I’m guessing this is a set up for more in later books in the series, but there’s just not that much to find in this first book.

But if you’re looking for an interesting and engaging fantasy story with intrigue and rich world building, you’ll find it here.

Black Wolves by Kate Elliott

Black Wolves

Black Wolves by Kate Elliott

Series: The Black Wolves Trilogy, Book 1
Published by: Orbit on November 3, 2015
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Black Wolves. Where to start? Several friends recommended this book to me, so I figured it was about time I picked it up and gave it a read. This is the first Kate Elliott novel I’ve read, and I promise I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve realized I am missing out. It may seem daunting–coming in at 780 pages–but it reads smoothly and quickly. It’s so engaging and well-paced on every single page.

The book starts with a story that sets up the plot. We’re introduced to several of the major players–especially Captain Kellas and the princess, Dannarah–and then advance to 44 years later. Dannarah’s nephew is king and the whole situation of the kingdom has changed. Part of me wants to describe all of the various players and subplots that are going on a this point, but I really, really don’t want to spoil anything. The story is so wonderfully written, and the reveals of the various twists and turns are so magnificent, I don’t want to steal their thunder.

I’ll suffice it to say that if you’re a fan of epic fantasy, I think you’ll enjoy this one. There’s also a bit of mystery, intrigue, betrayal, and all the other trappings that make any story about nobility transcend setting. And some incredibly complex and strong characters. Pick this one up and check it out!

An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows

An Accident of Stars

An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows

Series: The Manifold Worlds, Book 1
Published by: Angry Robot Books on August 2, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Saffron Coulter is a typical teenage girl dealing with the things teenage girls, well, deal with. Except she’s stuck in a school system where the “boys will be boys” mentality means her and her classmates have to put up with some really rough behavior. Which is why Saffron is taken aback when the mysterious Gwen Vere stands up for her to one of the biggest bullies in the school. Gwen tells her she’s looking for a job at the school. Saffron is intrigued and wonders if someone like Gwen could give her hope for change.

When Saffron learns Gwen has been spotted behind the school, she rushes to find her and thank her. What she finds is something she never could have imagined. She comes upon Gwen running into what looks like a portal of some kind. Throwing caution to the wind, Saffron follows–something that could lead to great adventure or be the biggest mistake of her life.

Saffron finds herself in Kena, one of several other worlds besides her own. And while Kena is full of magic, it’s not a happy fantasy realm. Its leader, Vex Leodon, misled people to come to power and is nothing short of a tyrant. But it just so happens that Gwen is part of a group dedicated to bringing him down. Having followed Gwen into Kena, Saffron has little choice but to take a side and hope she can find a way back home. But when the opportunity to get back presents itself, will she take it? Or will Kena prove so inviting she will choose to stay there forever?

I know that describing a book as “fun” isn’t very specific, but that’s really how I have to start this one. I enjoyed being thrust into the world of Kena with its people and its history. Foz Meadows has done an outstanding job building and presenting this world to readers. The rich backstory and the political dynamics make for a strong setting and compelling plot.

Of course, I have to also acknowledge a well-written young adult science fiction/fantasy story that doesn’t revolve around the female protagonist’s love interests or include a love triangle. Have we finally moved on from that trope? Let’s hope so.

What I would say I most love about this story is the strong character development. As I went through the story, there weren’t many moments when I found myself questioning a character’s behavior. And those moments were shortly answered with a bit more history of a character or relationship dynamics.

I definitely recommend giving this one a read.

Cronin’s Key by N.R. Walker

Cronin's Key

Cronin’s Key by N.R. Walker

Series: Cronin’s Key, Book 1
Published by: N.R. Walker on March 13, 2015
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

NYPD detective Alec MacAidan is used to things being strange. There have been enough unexplained things that have happened during his life. But what happens one night when he’s chasing down a suspect is weird even for him. He comes across an injured bystander who rambles off some riddles, calls Alec by his real name (how could he know that), and then turns into dust. This is weird even for Alec.

And things get even weirder when his report at the station is interrupted by the appearance of a mysterious man. He literally just appears out of nowhere, grabs Alec, and together they disappear. And while Alec is confused, he can’t help thinking something about the whole situation feels right.

Alec has stumbled into a story that goes back millennia. And he’s right at the heart of it–he just might be the only person who can stop the biggest threat to humanity in centuries.

Yes, this is a vampire story. Yes, there have been so many of those lately. But yes, this one is unique. The backstory for vampire society that N.R. Walker has created is unlike one I’ve encountered anywhere else. There are some strong (and interesting) connections to history that show not only that this is well-researched but also that attention was paid to detailed world building.

The background characters are just as interesting as the main characters, which is something I always appreciate. Too many times I pick up a book that has a well-developed protagonist without much attention paid to the supporting cast. Here, we can see Alec and Cronin as strong characters out front, but the other characters are just as much an important part of the overall story.

This fast-paced and action-packed book is one that’s tough to put down. I found myself pushing to get just one more chapter read every time I picked it up. But anyone familiar with this author’s writing shouldn’t find that too surprising.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

Series: Harry Potter, Book 8
Published by: Arthur A. Levine Books on July 31, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

The Boy Who Lived. The Chosen One. The One Who Defeated the Dark Lord. One might think that Harry Potter is fearless. He’s up for any challenge. But no one told him that moving on, raising a family, and trying to have a normal life would be more challenging than anything he’s faced before.

And one of the biggest challenges for Harry is his son. Albus Severus and his dad have never really clicked. The connection between them doesn’t feel the same as the connection Harry has with James. And when Albus is sorted into Slytherin and becomes friends with none other than Scorpius Malfoy, the divide only grows wider. A divide further complicated by the rumors that Scorpius may not be Draco’s son. A divide further complicated by Harry’s scar acting up. And a divide further complicated by a centaur’s vision of a darkness around Albus.

For Albus, living in his father’s shadow is challenging. There are expectations. And it’s always made very clear when he doesn’t meet them. But there’s got to be a way for him to do something to break beyond that, right? Something he can do that makes him stand out on his own? And with Scorpius at his side, he’s sure he can accomplish anything.

I’ll start by saying that if you’re not a big reader of plays, this one might be a little challenging. They don’t read like prose. They’re not meant to. And you often have to fill in some of the action and internal monologues based on your own reading of the characters. That’s just part of dramatic works as casual reading.

The story here is engaging. I enjoyed getting a glimpse back into the wizarding world. You’ll find your old favorites and even some new characters that are a part of the next generation. And the flashbacks to Harry’s childhood that were left out of the original novels were also very telling.

Is this another epic Harry Potter adventure? No. But I don’t think it’s meant to be. It’s not a seven-novel saga with a major arc. It’s a single story, focusing on the future of the wizarding world, and reminding us that the past can come back to haunt us in ways we never imagined. And those ways are exponentially more when magic is involved.

I’ve seen some comments online to the effect of “I’ve read better fanfiction.” And while I don’t want to get into a whole debate in this review, I don’t see how that is necessarily a standard of what makes for a good story. For one, it diminishes fanfiction as something “less than” quality published work. And I’ve read many fanfics that were better than some published work. And secondly, what’s the point of the comparison? Just because you’ve personally read something you think is “better” than something else, it doesn’t–by default–make that something else bad. When I give a book a three or four star rating, I don’t say “But I’ve read 15 five star books that were better so this is awful.” Context is important, and I think it’s something that we as readers and reviewers need to remember. /soapbox

If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, pick this up. If nothing else, you’ll get a few hours of entertainment and enlightenment out of it. And you’ll get to go back to Hogwarts one last time…