Book Review – Pillars of the World: Tir Alainn, Book 1 (Reread)

Author: Anne Bishop
Book Name: Pillars of the World
Series: Tir Alainn
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Excellent/Favorite
5+stars

 

Blurb: Myth and magic combine in a superb dark fantasy of a world in danger of being destroyed by those who deny themselves and their heritage, and let evil loose in the world.

In Sylvalan, a witch hunt is in full force. As witches and innocents are brutally murdered, magic is disappearing from the land, and the roads between the world of humans and that of faeries are vanishing one by one. Ari’s family has tended one of the Old Places, places which hold the key to travel between human and faery lands, for generations, keeping the magic alive and the land lush and fertile. Ari unknowingly takes a Fae lover, the Lord of the Sun, and immediately becomes the target of the unwanted interest of the faery nobility.

To save their world the Fae must trust humankind, but with a few exceptions they do not believe Ari and her friends can help them. Against the Inquisitor and the arrogant Fae, Ari and those who believe in the world of magic and human unravel the secrets of the Old Places and discover that they all need each other if any are to survive.

This is a story which uses all the myriad stories of humankind, good and evil, to weave a breathtaking tale of action, romance and thought-provoking themes to enthrall readers.

With my kind of reading slump lately, I decided to pick up a book I read a long time ago and has been sitting on my favorites list forever. I was absolutely thrilled to find that it has held up to my memory of a really great book. I was shocked when I discovered that this wasn’t even in my personal book database I keep track of my books in, which I started in 2012. That means I read this long before that. Probably only a few years after it was published as I remember reading the entire series back to back.

Like so many Anne Bishop books, this has deeper themes running through it if you are willing to look past the surface story. When I read this for the first time, I was in a perfect place personally to read the themes that form the basis of this story. The concepts of using people’s fears to push them to do terrible things, often couched in the veil of good vs. evil or religion when in reality the base motive is greed; women being treated as objects or unworthy of basic respect and decency and fighting against that. Some of this is more subtle than others, but it is there. There is more within the series, but I’m attempting to stay with just this book for now. Those concepts made me really think and view my world a little differently, which is something I really needed at the time and sparked a huge personal growth for me at the time.

I no longer needed these themes as I did the first round, but they still speak to me, even if it is a little differently this time. I can see different parallels to the way the world is today and I find those kinds of stories fascinating. Especially the concept of driving fears against “other” or “different” for personal gain.

There are lots of different characters in this to follow and it is told from all those perspectives, which may be difficult for some readers. I enjoyed getting to see the story unfold from those various perspectives. I especially liked getting to see the thoughts from the Fae perspective and how they changed their views, or not, in some cases. While this is the first in a three book series, it ends cleanly without any cliffhangers.

The magic system in this seems to pull heavily from modern pagan/Wiccan practices and has a classic feel to it that I fell in love with the first time around and still held through this second reading years later. While I’m not surprised that I still loved this after all this time, it is Anne Bishop after all, I can say that it isn’t my favorite of hers. I’m not sure anything can top the Others series.

 

Book Review – Phoenix Unbound: The Fallen Empire, Book 1

Author: Grace Draven
Book Name: Phoenix Unbound
Series: The Fallen Kingdom
Order: 1
Genre: Romance/Fantasy
Rating: Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb: Every year, each village is required to send a young woman to the Empire’s capital–her fate to be burned alive for the entertainment of the masses. For the last five years, one small village’s tithe has been the same woman. Gilene’s sacrifice protects all the other young women of her village, and her secret to staying alive lies with the magic only she possesses.

But this year is different.

Azarion, the Empire’s most famous gladiator, has somehow seen through her illusion–and is set on blackmailing Gilene into using her abilities to help him escape his life of slavery. Unknown to Gilene, he also wants to reclaim the birthright of his clan.

To protect her family and village, she will abandon everything to return to the Empire–and burn once more

It took me a while to get through this, but I’m pretty sure that is just because my brain has been utterly scattered lately. There are a few parts, mostly towards the middle, where this slowed down for me, but I easily got back into it once I got over that tiny hump.

In all, I really liked this story and the characters. While it carries a thread of never ending obstacles or impossible odds, I was pleased with how the story wrapped up in the end because I really wasn’t certain how everything would play out. I will definitely be watching for the next book in this series.

Book Review – Playing With Fire: Magical Romantic Comedies, Book 1

Author: R.J. Blain
Book Name: Playing With Fire
Series: Magical Romantic Comedies
Order: 1
Genre: Romance/Paranormal/Urban/Fantasy
Rating: Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:

What do you get when you mix gorgons, an incubus, and the Calamity Queen? Trouble, and lots of it.

For Bailey, catering to the magical is a tough gig on a good day, but she has few other options. She can either keep spiking drinks with pixie dust to keep the locals happy, or spend the rest of her life cleaning up some of the world’s nastiest magical substances.

Years after helping Police Chief Samuel Quinn escape an unhappy marriage, Bailey is once again entangled in his personal affairs. To make matters worse, Quinn’s ex-wife is angling for revenge, tossing Bailey into the deep end along with her sexiest enemy.

Warning: This novel contains excessive humor, action, excitement, adventure, magic, romance, and bodies. Proceed with caution.

This was full of snark and humor in an over the top kind of way, but knowing it was over the top makes most of the ridiculous even more funny. It never really settles into any level of serious, maintaining that crazy, snarky vein throughout the entire book.

It takes a slightly different perspective from the typical in the magical and creature concepts that fantasy/paranormal worlds are built on, which I found really refreshing. By the time I got to the end of this, I was really wishing it delved a bit more into that world because it was different and interesting.

This was also very light on the steam factor, so if that is what you are looking for, you won’t get it here. Nothing at all against steamy, but I did love that there wasn’t so much page time dedicated to overly wrought steam scenes because it left more time for snark and ridiculousness and frickin’ flaming unicorns that think napalm is fun to eat. In this case, I’ll take the flaming unicorns.

Wild Country: The World of the Others, Book 2

Author: Anne Bishop
Book Name: Wild Country
Series: The World of the Others
Order: #2
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Excellent/Favorite
5+stars

 

Blurb: There are ghost towns in the world—places where the humans were annihilated in retaliation for the slaughter of the shape-shifting Others.

One of those places is Bennett, a town at the northern end of the Elder Hills—a town surrounded by the wild country. Now efforts are being made to resettle Bennett as a community where humans and Others live and work together. A young female police officer has been hired as the deputy to a Wolfgard sheriff. A deadly type of Other wants to run a human-style saloon. And a couple with four foster children—one of whom is a blood prophet—hope to find acceptance.

But as they reopen the stores and the professional offices and start to make lives for themselves, the town of Bennett attracts the attention of other humans looking for profit. And the arrival of the outlaw Blackstone Clan will either unite Others and humans…or bury them all.

This! This, this, this, THIS!! This is more along the lines of what I expected from Lake Silence. Where Lake Silence is set in this world, it is almost entirely a stand alone book. Outside of the need to be familiar with the world, there is almost nothing that ties that into the original The Others series and can be almost be read by itself. While that is still an excellent book, it didn’t have any familiar characters or settings. This book, however, absolutely does!

Many of the main characters are ones readers got to meet in the original series and it is set in Bennet, a place readers are familiar with because of events in the original series. No, it does not have Meg and Simon, other than mentions (always going to be a tiny bit of a disappointment because they are some of my all time favorite characters).

The timing of this book runs a little in step with Etched in Bone. It actually runs along Lake Silence as well, but because that one is so disconnected from all the other books, it is irrelevant. I would almost call this book #6 in the original series, but because of the lack of Meg and Simon, it does mostly fall outside of that series.

I love the fact that you get to follow many of the characters that we met through the job fair in Lakeside in Etched in Bone. We get to see what happens with them once they  make it to Bennet and how that town, Prarie Gold and it’s characters settled in. This ties up a lot of threads that were left open at the end of Etched in Bone. It also bring into the front a new element, a concept that has been flirted with throughout the original series, with the introduction of Joshua Painter.

While it is truly doubtful this is the end of the World of books, this book does not leave a reader with an obvious sense of where the next book is going to take them. I think it is a real possibility we will see a Hope book, but that isn’t clear. Or maybe we get to see more of Joshua’s story. It is just as likely we will see another unattached book like Lake Silence.

As is always my biggest complaint (if you can even call it that) about any Anne Bishop book is that it had to have a final page. I am never ready to step out of the worlds that she creates.

Circle of the Moon: Soulwood, Book 4

Author:  Faith Hunter
Book Name: Circle of the moon
Series: Soulwood
Order: #4
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Excellent/Favorite
5+stars

 

Blurb: Nell can draw magic from the land around her, and lately she’s been using it to help the Psy-Law Enforcement Division, which solves paranormal crimes. Joining the team at PsyLED has allowed her to learn more about her powers and the world she always shunned–and to find true friends.

Head agent Rick LaFleur shifts into a panther when the moon calls him, but this time, something has gone wrong. Rick calls Nell from a riverbank–he’s naked, with no memory of how he came to be there, and there’s a dead black cat, sacrificed in a witch circle and killed by black magic, lying next to him.

Then more animals turn up dead, and team rushes to investigate. A blood-witch is out to kill. But when it seems as if their leader is involved in the crime, the bonds that hold the team together could shatter at any moment.

One of the best days ever is release day for a new book in a favorite series. Yesterday did not disappoint.

I cannot state it strongly enough, but I LOVE this world. Every single thing about it. I love it even more that there are two distinct but tightly intertwined threads, the original Jane Yellowrock series and Soulwood. Technically, you do not have to read the Yellowrock series to be able to read and follow the Soulwood series, but you will miss out on some really important nuances that fill in gaps if you don’t. The farther along in this series you get, the bigger some of those gaps can become.

This book addresses issues with Rick that were initially introduced in the Yellowrock series. They have been covered in this series as well, but there is some not critical information that you would only have gotten by reading the first series. Heck, there is even a Rick short story flying around out there that I haven’t read yet that probably gives readers and even deeper look into those issues. Still, you don’t NEED to have read any of those.

I don’t think that there is a significant character in this series that I don’t like. The team is amazing, so it is going to be interesting to see how they move forward with the changes that are going on by the end of this book. I never disliked Rick, but he was also never a favorite from the Yellowrock series. I do really like him in his roll here, though. The changes he goes through in this book could become really interesting for both series.

If I had anything negative to say about this (besides the fact that there always has to be a final page that means I’ve finished a book), and it is really kind of a tiny one at that, it is the fact that, so far, Nell is the one to always figure things out/solve the problems, even when she isn’t the expert. Don’t get me wrong, I adore her character and her abilities. It just sometimes rides the boundary of her being too perfect, especially because she isn’t the head or lead of the group and there are others that are more likely to have the knowledge and/or the skills. It is something that I didn’t really notice or pick up on when I read all the books the first time through, but caught it when I reread before this one came out.

I think the next book in this series may see some definite changes from things we’ve seen so far. I’m interested to see what direction those changes take.

 

 

 

Firstborn: The House War, Book 7

Author: Michelle West (Sagara)
Book Name: Firstborn
Series: The House War
Order: #7 (Triple Series Order #15)
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: Excellent/Favorite

5+stars

Blurb:

Jewel ATerafin has never wanted to be a power. What she truly wants, she built in the streets of the poorer holdings. To protect what she built, to protect what she values above all else, she has accepted that power is necessary.

But with power comes responsibility.

Jewel has forced herself to do what would have once been unthinkable: She has surrendered her den-kin, Carver, to the wilderness, because she must if she is to have any hope of saving the rest of her family, and the city in which they dwell.

But she cannot leave him with nothing. Into his hands, she has placed the single, blue leaf that came from the wilderness and the dreaming combined. She doesn’t know what it does or what it was meant to do—but it is the most powerful item on her person, and it is the only thing she can leave him.

That leaf, however, was created to serve a purpose that Jewel does not understand. Nor does Carver, who now possesses it. With Ellerson by his side, Carver intends to traverse the wild Winter in an attempt to reach home—and the people who are waiting for him.

There are those who do understand the significance of Carver’s gift, and the disaster that will prevail if it remains in his hands. But time is of the essence. These lands are not unclaimed, and the Lord of these lands is waking from his ancient slumber.

Nor is the Lord the only threat. Firstborn, demons, and wild elementals are swirling around two mortal men in a storm that threatens to end the only chance the city of Averalaan has of surviving what is to follow.

I almost wish that I had reread at least the last couple of books in this series before I read this as it took me a bit to sink back into all the characters and this world, especially since it has been a while since Oracle.  As usual, I loved this book, so that isn’t much of a shock.

I did hit a couple of places with regards to Jarven, Haval and Hectore that felt repetitive or redundant, making those portions of this book drag, especially when I wanted to get back to what was going on with Carver and Ellerson. I also still didn’t get enough page time with Avandar or Angel, which I was still expecting/hoping for.

In the grand scheme of things, those are minor gripes as this was supposed to be the last book in the series, but in classic MS tradition, one book became two, which means we get another book. I’ll take those gripes instead.

Much like Oracle, though, this book does more to fill in blank areas that are needed before we can get to that last book. I don’t know that we saw any overwhelming change or growth from any of the characters, with the exception of Carver, because of that. I don’t really see that as a negative, though. Lack of growth and the few times of feeling that bit of redundancy aside, this book felt like a whole lot happened. Including my prediction that I was definitely going to be needing lots of tissues by the time this is all said and done.

The last book is due out this June, so only a tiny bit of patience is required.

Cast in Oblivion: Chronicles of Elantra, Book 14

Author: Michelle Sagara
Book Name: Cast in Oblivion
Series: Chronicles of Elantra
Order: #14
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: Really Good

4+stars

 

 

Blurb: POLITICS ARE HELL

Kaylin wasn’t sent to the West March to start a war. Her mission to bring back nine Barrani might do just that, though. She traveled with a Dragon, and her presence is perceived as an act of aggression in the extremely hostile world of Barrani-Dragon politics. Internal Barrani politics are no less deadly, and Kaylin has managed—barely—to help the rescued Barrani evade both death and captivity at the hands of the Consort.

Before the unplanned “visit” to the West March, Kaylin invited the Consort to dinner. For obvious reasons, Kaylin wants to cancel dinner—forever. But the Consort is going to show up at the front door at the agreed-upon time. The fact that she tried to imprison Kaylin’s guests doesn’t matter at all…to her.

A private Barrani Hell, built of Shadow and malice, exists beneath the High Halls. It is the High Court’s duty to jail the creature at its heart—even if it means that Barrani victims are locked in the cage with it. The Consort is willing to do almost anything to free the trapped and end their eternal torment. And she needs the help of Kaylin’s houseguests—and Kaylin herself. Failure won’t be death—it will be Hell. And that’s where Kaylin is going.

It pains me greatly to write this, but… I didn’t love this book. I have adored this series (and pretty much every single thing put out by this author) from the very beginning, but…

There really wasn’t anything new in this book. Kaylin does all the same kinds of things that Kaylin has always done. There really wasn’t any real growth for her in this book. That and like the last one, I don’t feel like I got enough of the other characters that I want to have page time, mostly Severn and Nightshade. We didn’t even get to see Marcus or the Hawklord in this book. I’m not dissing this. It was not a bad book at all. It was still really good. I just didn’t feel like it did much to move the series forward. There was so much time spent on dealing with the cohort, in this and the last one, that nothing else has room to develop.

Things seem to be getting crowded for Kaylin in this series. She has become a collector, of people and magical creatures, and there are only so many new people/things you can introduce before you lose the important ones that have been there from the beginning. You see it heavily in this book.

I would love to see the next book having more of the feel of the earlier books where more time is spent with Kaylin actually doing things rather than massive chunks of time spent in her head. Characters need to grow. Absolutely. But there are things about characters that readers fall in love with and if you leave those things behind, you may end up leaving the readers behind as well. This book rides very close to that line for me.

Dark Queen: Jane Yellowrock, Book 12

Dark Queen
Dark Queen

Author:  Faith Hunter
Book Name: Dark Queen
Series: Jane Yellowrock
Order: #12
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Excellent/Favorite
5+stars


 

 

Blurb:

As Enforcer to the vampire Master of the City of New Orleans, Jane Yellowrock stakes her reputation and her life on keeping her territory safe. But Leo has been issued a blood challenge by the emperor of the European vampires, who seeks to usurp all of his power and possessions. If Leo loses the match to the death, the city will be forfeit, and the people of New Orleans will suffer the consequences. Jane can’t let that happen.

Preparing for the duel requires all of Jane’s focus, but with so much supernatural power in play, nothing goes according to plan. She has to rely on herself and the very few people she knows she can trust to stand and fight. Only two things are guaranteed: nothing is sacred, and no one is safe.

There is really only so much one can say about the 12th book in the series that hasn’t already been said a thousand times before. That is also only if an author is talented enough to keep a series going strong for that long, which in and of itself is exceptionally rare in my opinion. Keeping the series going strong has not been an issue with this series. It still falls solidly into that rare category of one of my favorites, one I’m willing to read over and over again. This book is no exception.

I kind of wish I’d taken the time to reread all the books leading up to this one because this ties up a lot of threads from past books and I didn’t remember some of those threads getting pulled. I wasn’t lost because of that, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if all of that had been fresh. Not a problem though. I will probably go back and do a full read through of the entire series, including this book, even though I just finished this. That is how much I like these books.

When I finished reading this, I had to go and do some hunting to find out if this was actually the last in the series. I’ve seen mentioned that it isn’t, which is wonderful. In part because I don’t have to be mad at the author for the way this book ended. Some will argue, but there is a bit of a cliffhanger in this. If that had been it for the series, I would have been hugely disappointed, but… fingers crossed that what I’ve seen is right and we will be seeing more of Jane soon.

*Potential tiny spoiler*

Favorite line of the book has got to come from Leo and mostly because it is Leo and… who would have ever predicted those words to come from his mouth?

“Titus! Come on up, dude. We have beer.”

Lake Silence: The World of the Others, Book 1

Lake Silence
Lake Silence

Author: Anne Bishop
Book Name: Lake Silence
Series: The World of the Others
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Excellent/Favorite
5+stars


 

 

Blurb: Human laws do not apply in the territory controlled by the Others–vampires, shape-shifters, and even deadlier paranormal beings. And this is a fact that humans should never, ever forget….

After her divorce, Vicki DeVine took over a rustic resort near Lake Silence, in a human town that is not human controlled. Towns such as Vicki’s don’t have any distance from the Others, the dominant predators who rule most of the land and all of the water throughout the world. And when a place has no boundaries, you never really know what is out there watching you.

Vicki was hoping to find a new career and a new life. But when her lodger, Aggie Crowe–one of the shape-shifting Others–discovers a murdered man, Vicki finds trouble instead. The detectives want to pin the death on her, despite the evidence that nothing human could have killed the victim. As Vicki and her friends search for answers, ancient forces are roused by the disturbance in their domain. They have rules that must not be broken–and all the destructive powers of nature at their command.

The last several days I’ve spent re-reading The Others series in preparation for the new release. I’ve been sitting on pins and needles since the newest book was announced. As usual, I dropped this in my wish list as soon as it was available to do so and have been anxiously awaiting the release date.

Note to self: Just because a book is from one of your favorite authors and appears to be in their current series and you have loved every single book ever written by said author does not mean that you shouldn’t still read the blurb. Silly me didn’t actually notice that this was a “World of…” book and not actually the next installment. Oh, I noticed pretty much on the first page and figured it out, but I had to try really hard not to be disappointed. I should have really known since the cover art for this one was so different from all the other books in The Others series, but I just thought it was decided to go a different direction. Again, silly me for making assumptions.

I did struggle not to be a little disappointed because the problem was mine, but I had spent months looking forward to another Meg, Simon, Sam, Vlad and all the rest of the courtyard’s residents book. This book didn’t have them at all, even as side characters. There are teeny tiny bits where a name is mentioned in passing, but you never see any of those characters in this book. It is a whole new location, new characters and even a few new types of Others that we haven’t seen before.

The other thing that I think was hard for me is that because I love all of those original characters so much, it is exceptionally hard to measure up to them and I just don’t think that anything can ever compare. I enjoyed getting to meet these new characters and learn about a new place. I love this world and will take anything I can get from it, but the original series will probably always be my favorite. This one is still stunningly amazing, but sits just below the level of amazing that the original series holds.

I hope like crazy that this doesn’t mean that Ms. Bishop is done with that original one because I am so not ready to say goodbye to all of those characters. Then again, that is kind of classic for just about anything that Anne Bishop has ever written and why I can continue to read those books over and over again and never begin to get sick of them.

Cast in Deception: Chronicles of Elantra, Book 13

Cast in Deception
Cast in Deception

Author: Michelle Sagara
Book Name: Cast in Deception
Series: Chronicles of Elantra
Order: #13
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: Really Good

4+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE, WHO NEEDS ENEMIES?

Private Kaylin Neya thought her home couldn’t possibly get more crowded. But when one of her housemates, Annarion, decides to undertake the Barrani Test of Name, his friends refuse to let him face his task alone—and Kaylin’s sentient home, Helen, is the only structure capable of shielding the rest of Elantra from the magnitude of their power.

Annarion and Mandoran almost caused the destruction of the High Halls once already. Add nine of their closest friends, and the danger is astronomically higher—especially since these guests are at the heart of a political firestorm. Imprisoned almost a millennium ago, their recent freedom threatens the rulership of several prominent Barrani families, and the machinations of those Lords make it almost impossible to tell friend from foe.

As political tensions ramp up, the shadows beneath the High Halls are seeking a freedom that has never been possible before. Kaylin must find a way to keep those shadows from escaping, or that freedom will destroy her city, the empire and everything she holds dear.

If I had to compare this to any of the others in the series, it is probably most like Cast in Peril. That said, I think this is the most different of all of the books so far. It is probably my second least favorite of the series.

Even though I still really enjoyed this, it felt like I was missing much of my favorite characters because the focus was almost entirely on the extended group of the cohort than on any of the established existing characters. It is obvious that Kaylin is bringing them into her sphere of people she considers hers, but I’m not as much of a fan of this group as I have been of every other character that has been brought in.

It was also missing a bit of what I’d consider classic Kaylin. Her personality is absolutely still there. She is still growing and maturing, but there was very little of her innate abilities displayed in this book so it almost felt as if even she were somewhat missing from this story.

This was a much lower key book, with the focus on the politics and intrigue of the Barrani court. If it follows a pattern being much like Cast in Peril (feeling sort of like a gap book to bridge major story arcs), then the next book will be much fuller in the sense of action and progress.

Archangel’s Viper: Guild Hunters, Book 10

Archangel's ViperAuthor: Nalini Singh
Book Name: Archangel’s Viper
Series: Guild Hunters
Order: #10
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Really Good

4+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: Once a broken girl known as Sorrow, Holly Chang now prowls the shadowy gray underground of the city for the angels. But it’s not her winged allies who make her a wanted woman—it’s the unknown power coursing through her veins. Brutalized by an insane archangel, she was left with the bloodlust of a vampire, the ability to mesmerize her prey, and a poisonous bite.

Now, someone has put a bounty on her head…

Venom is one of the Seven, Archangel Raphael’s private guard, and he’s as infuriating as he is seductive. A centuries-old vampire, his fangs dispense a poison deadlier than Holly’s. But even if Venom can protect Holly from those hunting her, he might not be able to save himself—because the strange, violent power inside Holly is awakening…

No one is safe.

Years of reading and loving Nalini Singh has left me with certain expectations from one of her books. This is probably one of my least favorite in the Guild Hunter series.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still a great book (see all those stars), but, for me, I just struggled to really feel or get any chemistry from this pair. I liked them both, but this didn’t quite grip me emotionally like pretty much every single other Nalini Singh book out there. What I did get, and it was there, seemed to come way late and with not quite enough going on between the two to make the fast turn around work as well as it could have.

I guess this was just missing that bit more spark I’m used to.

The Brightest Fell: October Daye, Book 11

The Brightest FellAuthor: Seanan McGuire
Book Name: The Brightest Fell
Series: October Daye
Order: #11
Genre: Romance/Fantasy
Rating:  Excellent

5+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: Things are slow, and October “Toby” Daye couldn’t be happier about that. The elf-shot cure has been approved, Arden Windermere is settling into her position as Queen in the Mists, and Toby doesn’t have anything demanding her attention except for wedding planning and spending time with her family.

Maybe she should have realized that it was too good to last.

When Toby’s mother, Amandine, appears on her doorstep with a demand for help, refusing her seems like the right thing to do…until Amandine starts taking hostages, and everything changes. Now Toby doesn’t have a choice about whether or not she does as her mother asks. Not with Jazz and Tybalt’s lives hanging in the balance. But who could possibly help her find a pureblood she’s never met, one who’s been missing for over a hundred years?

Enter Simon Torquill, elf-shot enemy turned awakened, uneasy ally. Together, the two of them must try to solve one of the greatest mysteries in the Mists: what happened to Amandine’s oldest daughter, August, who disappeared in 1906.

This is one missing person case Toby can’t afford to get wrong.

Just one more confirmation that Seanan McGuire is still one of my favorites. All of the things that I have loved about this series are still there. The stunning world and how it works, the incredible characters, everything.

I think the one thing that I would complain about, and really it is kind of minor in comparison to all that is good, is that we didn’t get enough of Tybalt in this or really many of Toby’s personal interactions and relationships. She was forced to stand mostly on her own for this one, even when getting help from Simon. I did like that, getting to see that she can stand on her own, but one of the things I love the most are her relationships with those closest to her and those were taken away for this story. It didn’t take anything away from the story at all, just that when you come to love the characters so much, you want to spend as much time as possible with them, but there is only so much page space.

 

Rituals: Cainsville, Book 5

RitualsAuthor: Kelley Armstrong
Book Name: Rituals
Series: Cainsville
Order: #5
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal/Romance
Rating:  Favorite

5+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: When Olivia Taylor-Jones found out she was not actually the adopted child of a privileged Chicago family but of a notorious pair of convicted serial killers, her life exploded. Running from the fall-out, she found a refuge in the secluded but oddly welcoming town of Cainsville, Illinois, but she couldn’t resist trying to dig out the truth about her birth parents’ crimes. She began working with Gabriel Walsh, a fiendishly successful criminal lawyer who also had links to the town; their investigation soon revealed Celtic mysteries at work in Cainsville, and also entangled Olivia in a tense love triangle with the calculating Gabriel and her charming biker boyfriend, Ricky. Worse, troubling visions revealed to Olivia that the three of them were reenacting an ancient drama pitting the elders of Cainsville against the mysterious Huntsmen with Olivia as the prize.

This is the fifth and final book in the Cainsville series, so the description above is very vague, to avoid spoilers!

This is a hard one to write a review on without giving anything away. The story did it’s job of wrapping everything up with a solution for pretty much everything.

I’m giving this a full rating because the story is awesome. That said, I kind of felt like I already knew what was going to happen when it was all done. Yes, there were all kinds of directions this could have gone, but it ended how I expected it to, so this just kind of felt like confirming those thoughts. That was just a tiny bit of a let down because I didn’t feel all that surprised in the end.

Then again, I always feel a little let down when I get to the end of a series that I love because I’m just not quite ready to say goodbye to the characters.

The Skull Throne: Demon Cycle, Book 4

The Skull ThroneAuthor: Peter V. Brett
Book Name: The Skull Throne
Series: Demon Cycle
Order: #4
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Okay
3+stars


 

 

Blurb:  The Skull Throne of Krasia stands empty.

Built from the skulls of fallen generals and demon princes, it is a seat of honor and ancient, powerful magic, keeping the demon corelings at bay. From atop the throne, Ahmann Jardir was meant to conquer the known world, forging its isolated peoples into a unified army to rise up and end the demon war once and for all.

But Arlen Bales, the Warded Man, stood against this course, challenging Jardir to a duel he could not in honor refuse. Rather than risk defeat, Arlen cast them both from a precipice, leaving the world without a savior, and opening a struggle for succession that threatens to tear the Free Cities of Thesa apart.

In the south, Inevera, Jardir’s first wife, must find a way to keep their sons from killing one another and plunging their people into civil war as they strive for glory enough to make a claim on the throne.

In the north, Leesha Paper and Rojer Inn struggle to forge an alliance between the duchies of Angiers and Miln against the Krasians before it is too late.

Caught in the crossfire is the duchy of Lakton—rich and unprotected, ripe for conquest.

All the while, the corelings have been growing stronger, and without Arlen and Jardir there may be none strong enough to stop them. Only Renna Bales may know more about the fate of the missing men, but she, too, has disappeared. . . .

Review:  At first, I wasn’t even going to write a review on this because I was so conflicted I just didn’t know where to even begin or how I really felt about it.  After thinking on it and having it drive me crazy I decided that I apparently needed to just get it out.

From a general standpoint, the concept and basic story is still pretty interesting and is really the only reason why I decided to read this one after the first three frustrated me so much.  They are actually pretty good, but there are also so very many specifics that make me want to toss this across the room and that just out and out piss me off.  There isn’t a rating for “This is good, but it also totally sucks.”

For the first time, we didn’t spend over half the book focused on stuff that has already happened and that we apparently have to suffer through from yet another character’s viewpoint, so that was a plus.  Sadly, Mr. Brett still managed to find ways to bloat this with so much that was rather unnecessary filler.  This could have easily been cut down by about 1/3 at least.  I have no problem with lengthy books.  In fact, those are typically some of my favorites, but only when every bit is important to the overall story.  That isn’t the case here.

Once you wade through all the stuffing, you then have to deal with seeing characters that have been pretty great in the series suddenly get a personality transplant into something rather ridiculous.  We saw it between book one and book two with Leesha.  With this one, it was Rojer.  He had his moments of self pity in previous books, but he seemed to get over those and get a backbone.  In this, he kind of becomes pathetic and only interested in getting yet another wife (don’t even want to get into the cultural overload in this series or how pathetic or horrible every single woman is portrayed).  He isn’t the only one.  By the time this book was finished, I don’t think that there really was a single character that was left even remotely likable, with maybe the exception of Arlen and that is only because he hardly has a second of page time, yet another annoyance.

Not only does the author do a pretty thorough job of destroying the personalities and likability of the majority of his characters in this book, he decides that it is a good idea to go on a giant killing spree and knock off a few pretty major characters as well as a whole slew of other secondary, but still prominent characters.

Between the personality changes and so many characters dying and the fact that not a single character is now left in this story that isn’t a self-serving, greedy, hateful creature, by the time I reached the end of this book I was ready to root for the demons to wipe out the human race because they were all too stupid to live.  While I would like to know how this all ends, I don’t think there is enough left to like after this book to suffer through all the garbage that I just can’t stand enough to read any more books in this series.

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The Oracle’s Queen: Tamir Triad, Book 3

The Oracle's QueenAuthor: Lynn Flewelling
Book Name: The Oracle’s Queen
Series: Tamir Triad
Order: #3
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


 

 

Blurb:  Under the rule of a usurper king, the realm of Skala has suffered famine, plague, and invasion. But now the time for the rightful heir has come, a return to the tradition of warrior queens. And the Lightbearer’s prophecy is to be upheld at last: so long as a daughter of the royal line defends and rules, Skala will never be subjugated.

Now a mystical fire has burned away the male body known as Prince Tobin, revealing Princess Tamír, a girl on the verge of womanhood–and a queen ready to claim her birthright after a life in disguise under the protection of wizards and witches. But will her people, her army–and the friends she was forced to deceive–accept her? Worse, will the crown’s rival heir, friend to Tobin, turn foe to Tamír, igniting civil war in a fierce
battle for Skala?

Review:  It is a little shocking, if you consider how closely I came to not finishing the first book in this series, how much I ended up liking this.  I’ve said before that this just isn’t quite what I typically like to read in a fantasy book/series.  That is still true.  This wouldn’t be one of my first choices, but it would be one that I’d absolutely pick up and read again.

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Hidden Warrior: Tamir Triad, Book 2

Hidden WarriorAuthor: Lynn Flewelling
Book Name: Hidden Warrior
Series: Tamir Triad
Order: #2
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


 

 

Blurb:  A trick of magic, a twist of fate.

As the orphaned nephew of the king, trusted companion to his cousin, and second heir to the throne of Skala, Prince Tobin’s future is clear. But not as clear as the spring in which a hill witch shows him his true face–and his secret destiny….

Now Tobin carries a burden he cannot share with even his closest friend, Ki, his squire. He is to rule–not as he is but as he was born: a woman. Given the shape of a boy by dark magic, Tobin is the last hope of the people of Illior–those who desperately seek a return to the old ways, when Skala was ruled by a line of warrior queens. They still believe that only a woman can lift the war, famine, and pestilence that have run rampant through the land since the king usurped his half sister’s throne. It is these outlaw wizards and witches who protect Tobin–and it is for them that Tobin must accept his fate.

With the unsuspecting yet fiercely loyal Ki at his side, Tobin must turn traitor against the only blood ties he has left. He must lift the masks of Skala’s rulers to show their true colors–before he can reveal the power of the woman within himself.

Review:  Thankfully this lacked much of the morbid factor that the first book had.  That opened up the story more for me to enjoy better.  It still skirts the fantasy genre line of what I like, though.  There are not a ton of elements that allow this to fit into that genre and is a big par of why it skirts that line for me.

Tobin’s whole situation is because of magic (which is mostly just background fact rather than situational substance), but outside of that and the extremely rare appearances of Brother there aren’t many instances of anything truly fantastical until late in the book.  Even then it isn’t really the focus of the story.   The focus is more on the characters themselves, their relationships and fighting rather than anything out of the ordinary.

I did like this, even though it isn’t my typical kind of read and is actually more of a young adult book, so I will be reading the last one in this series to see how it all finishes out in the end.

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The Bone Doll’s Twin: Tamir Triad, Book 1

The Bone Doll's TwinAuthor: Lynn Flewelling
Book Name: The Bone Doll’s Twin
Series: Tamir Triad
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


 

 

Blurb:  Sometimes the price of destiny is higher than anyone imagined….

Dark Magic, Hidden Destiny

For three centuries a divine prophecy and a line of warrior queens protected Skala. But the people grew complacent and Erius, a usurper king, claimed his young half sister’s throne.

Now plague and drought stalk the land, war with Skala’s ancient rival Plenimar drains the country’s lifeblood, and to be born female into the royal line has become a death sentence as the king fights to ensure the succession of his only heir, a son. For King Erius the greatest threat comes from his own line — and from Illior’s faithful, who spread the Oracle’s words to a doubting populace.

As noblewomen young and old perish mysteriously, the king’s nephew — his sister’s only child — grows toward manhood. But unbeknownst to the king or the boy, strange, haunted Tobin is the princess’s daughter, given male form by a dark magic to protect her until she can claim her rightful destiny.

Only Tobin’s noble father, two wizards of Illior, and an outlawed forest witch know the truth. Only they can protect young Tobin from a king’s wrath, a mother’s madness, and the terrifying rage of her brother’s demon spirit, determined to avenge his brutal murder….

Review:  I have to be honest, there were several points throughout this where I came very close to putting this down and not finishing it because, even though this is a fantasy genre book, it is just enough outside the type of fantasy that I typically enjoy.  It is very dark at points, with a horribly morbid, twisted undertone that was just almost too much for me to enjoy.  I was able to enjoy and appreciate the quality of writing despite struggling to stay in the story because of how twisted this got.  It was for that reason that I decided to stick with it until the end and I am glad because this is a good story.  It is still just a bit outside of what I normally like and is the main reason I can’t give this a higher rating.  That and the fact that this left off with a rather nasty cliff hanger, which drives me crazy so I am very much interested in seeing where the next book takes this.

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Primal Possession: Moon Shifters, Book 2

Primal PossessionAuthor: Katie Reus
Book Name: Primal Possession
Series: Moon Shifter
Order: #2
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars


Blurb:  To protect her, he will unleash the beast within…

As his pack’s second-in-command, lupine shifter Liam Armstrong gives orders and takes what he wants—until he meets red-headed, blue-eyed December McIntyre. Liam knows the human beauty is his intended mate the moment he sees her, but December is far too strong-willed to accept his protection.

December, whose brother is the town sheriff, has every reason to mistrust shifters after one killed her youngest sibling. But the forceful and handsome Liam has gotten under her skin in a way she hadn’t thought possible, and the desire she feels for him is almost too much to bear.

When a radical hate group targets all humans known to sympathize with paranormal beings, December is attacked in her bookstore. Reluctantly, she turns to the only one who can help her: Liam. And he is going to take her to places within herself she never knew existed.

Review:  There was nothing about this book that really made it stand out as being all that different than just about any other shifter book on the market.  You have your standard pushy, arrogant, alpha male shifter that isn’t all that smart and the weak, ineffective human female that he is stupidly determined to protect, even from himself.  That isn’t such a horrible concept, but it is just so typical and common and over done.  I didn’t hate this but I also probably won’t remember it a month from now.

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Fire Touched: Mercy Thompson, Book 9

Fire TouchedAuthor: Patricia Briggs
Book Name: Fire Touched
Series: Mercy Thompson
Order: #5
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars


Blurb:  Tensions between the fae and humans are coming to a head. And when coyote shapeshifter Mercy and her Alpha werewolf mate, Adam, are called upon to stop a rampaging troll, they find themselves with something that could be used to make the fae back down and forestall out-and-out war: a human child stolen long ago by the fae.

Defying the most powerful werewolf in the country, the humans, and the fae, Mercy, Adam, and their pack choose to protect the boy no matter what the cost. But who will protect them from a boy who is fire touched?

Review:  I was reading along, totally engrossed in the story when I checked my place in the book to decide where I needed to stop for the night.  Turns out, I was already damn near to the end.  I was blown away at how quickly I blew through this.  Normally, even if I’m totally embedded in a story, I still have an idea of my place in the book without having to really think about it.  This one just kept me so wrapped up that I had no clue how far I had already read.

Like all the other Mercy Thompson books, this was absolutely awesome.  It is one of the very, very few series, fantasy genre or otherwise, where the relationship dynamics between romantic partners are totally balanced.  No matter what goes on around them, Adam never tries to down play or diminish Mercy’s strengths.  He never tries to get in the way of what she feels she needs to do, even if he isn’t comfortable with what that is.  It goes the same the other way.  It is awesome that we get to see their struggle sometimes in how they can let go of their own concerns or fears to be what the other needs and to accept each other for exactly who they are.

I also love the fact that Mercy isn’t this end all be all power that always comes in and single-handedly saves the day.  Sure, as the main character of the story, she is generally a huge part of it all, but her strengths lie in the fact that she is rarely ever alone in the saving the day role.  It is because she has other powerful people that are willing to stand by her in whatever needs to be faced.  Every one of them have their own flaws and weaknesses, but that doesn’t make any one of them any less than another.

This was another great addition to an already terrific series.

 

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Marked In Flesh: The Others, Book 4

Marked In FleshAuthor: Anne Bishop
Book Name: Marked In Flesh
Series: The Others
Order: #4
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Favorite
5+stars


Blurb:  For centuries, the Others and humans have lived side by side in uneasy peace. But when humankind oversteps its bounds, the Others will have to decide how much humanity they’re willing to tolerate—both within themselves and within their community…

Since the Others allied themselves with the cassandra sangue, the fragile yet powerful human blood prophets who were being exploited by their own kind, the delicate dynamic between humans and Others changed. Some, like Simon Wolfgard, wolf shifter and leader of the Lakeside Courtyard, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn, see the new, closer companionship as beneficial—both personally and practically.

But not everyone is convinced. A group of radical humans is seeking to usurp land through a series of violent attacks on the Others. What they don’t realize is that there are older and more dangerous forces than shifters and vampires protecting the land that belongs to the Others—and those forces are willing to do whatever is necessary to protect what is theirs…

Review:  Yes, yes, YES!  Seriously, you just can’t get much better than this.  I knew it was going to be good because I love Anne Bishop, but even going in knowing that, expecting that, I still got way better than that.

I also knew going in that this was going to be one of those intense books since this was the Humans against the Others collision that had been getting built up in the previous books, so that part wasn’t a surprise.  It isn’t often though that the book I’m reading forces me to get up and move while I’m reading because I just can’t sit still.  I was antsy all the way through this.

My biggest complaint with this is really the same one I always have with these books (not that is any kind of real complaint) and that is that there just isn’t enough.  I want more Meg and Simon and Sam and all the rest of the Lakeside Courtyard cast because they are my absolute favorite parts of these books.  I also want more story because I am never ready to hit that last page, knowing that I’m done until the next release.  Even giving myself the time to reread the first three books before this one came out, I’m still not ready to walk away from some of my absolute favorite characters.

Part of what kept me on edge was feeling like this had to end up being the last book in the series, because where can it go from here after such a huge shift, but just not ever really knowing for sure as there were possibilities either way all the way up until the end.  Thankfully, it doesn’t look like Ms. Bishop is ready to let this wonderful world go just yet.

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