B.P.R.D. (Vol. 4): The Dead: The B.P.R.D. relocates

B.P.R.D. (Vol. 4): The Dead by Mike Mignola (writer), John Arcudi (writer), Guy Davis (artist), Dave Stewart (colors), & Clem Robins (letters)

B.P.R.D.: The Dead is the second main arc of the B.P.R.D. series since the first two volumes were collections of short stories. The Dead advances the plot started in B.P.R.D. (Vol. 2): Plague of Frogs. In this volume, we find out that the frog cults continue to spread, moving quickly and resulting in the deaths of many people. The B.P.R.D. so far has not had any luck in stopping them. While Roger, Liz, and Johann are back at the bureau worrying about the frog monsters, Abe and Kate go in search of the history of the man Abe saw in his vision in the fifth, and last, issue of Plague of Frogs. In doing so, they uncover more of Abe’s past, another tie to the first Hellboy storyline, and a haunted hous... Read More

The Gods of War: Is Rome worth a life?

The Gods of War by Conn Iggulden

Every reader who starts Conn Iggulden’s Emperor: The Gods of War (2006) already knows that in this novel Caesar crosses the Rubicon, defeats Pompey, meets Cleopatra, and is ultimately betrayed by Marcus Brutus, his best friend. The point of the plot is not what happened but why. Caesar spent his life fighting for the Republic, but he betrayed it. Why? Brutus spent his life fighting for Caesar but chose to murder him. Why? The Gods of War should not work as a novel if it does not excel at character development.

When I began reading, I sadly concluded that the novel would disappoint. The initial chapters do not stand out for their complex characterization. Instead, Iggulden focuses on staging — politics without intrigue and decisions made without emotionall... Read More

Undead and Unreturnable: A little goes a long way

Undead and Unreturnable by MaryJanice Davidson

Warning: This review will contain spoilers for the previous books in the QUEEN BETSY series.

Undead and Unreturnable is the fourth book in MaryJanice Davidson’s QUEEN BETSY series. In the first book, Undead and Unwed, we met Betsy, a shallow fashion-conscious young woman who died and woke up as a vampire. She tries to get back to her normal life, but discovers that the supernatural community expects her to participate. In Undead and Unemployed, Betsy has become the new vampire queen and is expected to do queenly duties, including recognizing the extremely sexy Eric Sinclair as her consort. In Undead and Unappreciated, Betsy discovers that her sweet half-sister is the de... Read More

The Reality Bug: Metaphysics for kids

The Reality Bug by D.J. MacHale

The Reality Bug is the fourth novel in D.J. MacHale’s 10-book PENDRAGON series for teens. In each novel, young Bobby Pendragon, a Traveler, visits a different “territory” (world) where he tries to prevent Saint Dane, the evil villain, from causing enough chaos to completely destroy the multiverse.

This time Bobby is summoned to the territory of Veelox, which seems peaceful at first. Then he learns that Veelox is quiet because 90% of its population is plugged into a computer simulation that allows them to control and play out all their fantasies. (Don’t worry. This is a book for kids, so these fantasies are all totally, if unrealistically, G-rated.) While people are in the virtual reality, their bodies are monitored and fed as needed. With most of the population of the planet being entertained 24 hours per day (or however long Veelox days are, I actu... Read More

City of Secrets: Feels stale

City of Secrets by Mary Hoffman

It's Always Somehow Connected to the di Chimici...

City of Secrets is the fourth book in Mary Hoffman's Stravaganza series, but by this stage they're wearing a little thin. They're still very well written, but the freshness and originality of the first couple of books are long gone and what's left is just formulaic.

The concept itself is great and somewhat reminiscent of C.S. Lewis The Chronicles of Narnia. A select group of young adults chance across talismans that allow them to travel in their sleep to the world of Talia. This alternative version of Renaissance Italy and its... Read More

The Poison Eaters and Other Stories: Dark, gorgeous, emotional

The Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black

The first collection of short stories by author Holly Black, The Poison Eaters and Other Stories is dark, gorgeous, and emotionally compelling. Ranging from longer stories to short little character sketches, Black has created a handful of settings and characters that will live on in memory long after you close this slim volume. Holly Black manages to evoke an incredibly detailed world with a spare prose that conveys the static crackle of a remote video feed, the smell of a city bus in the summer, and the bitter taste of poison with equal clarity.

While there are no bad stories here, there are a few stand outs. “Coat of Stars” reads like a modern take on a Keats poem, with a bereaved young man encountering a fairy queen. “Ironside” is a chilling glimpse into the life of an elf who has to stay in the human lands bec... Read More

Crack’d Pot Trail: Delectable

Crack'd Pot Trail by Steven Erikson

Crack’d Pot Trail is the fourth of Steven Erikson’s Malazan novellas following the exploits of Korbal Broach and Bauchelain, a pair of sinister necromancers whose dark side is often thrown into a grayer cast due to their situational context and the characters (often allegedly “purer” or “better”) that surround them. As with the earlier novellas, Erikson lightens up on the dense worldbuilding, labyrinthine layered plots, and casts of thousands of the larger series to focus on, well, mostly I’d say having fun, but on characters and theme as well. And also as in some of the earlier ones, the journey is all — the destination relatively unimportant.

In this case, the journey is a Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales from hell, as the characters, on a pilgrima... Read More

The Born Queen: End of a strong second-tier fantasy series

The Born Queen by Greg Keyes

The Born Queen is the concluding (and how often do we get to say that when reviewing a fantasy novel?) book in Greg Keyes’ four-book series, Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone. And it does actually conclude the series without any sort of sly wink-wink, nod-nod to a new series rising like the undead from the killed-off plot. For that alone, he should be given lots of credit, along with actually finishing a series in a decent amount of time and space.

But of course, one hopes to aspire to get more from a book than “well, now it’s over” (how far have we fallen though that it’s almost enough to say that?). On that level, The Born Queen mostly succeeds, though not completely.

To be honest, I haven’t been completely enamored of the series as a whole. It had ... Read More

Druid’s Sword: Ugh!

Druid's Sword by Sara Douglass

I've been following this series for years, reading each new book avidly as the storyline and the relationships became deeper, richer, more complicated. I couldn't wait to see what sort of denouement Sara Douglass had in store for The Troy Game.
I was particularly interested in what would become of Cornelia/Caela/Noah and her troubled bond with Brutus. I would have been satisfied with either of two possible endings:

(a) A redeemed Brutus asks Cornelia for forgiveness, and she forgives him.

(b) Brutus asks Cornelia for forgiveness, and she smacks him upside the head.

Instead, what do I get? Well, it's a spoiler, so if you want to read it, please highlight this hidden text:

(c) Brutus decides he's "tired" of loving Cornelia and "can't be bothered" with it any... Read More