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The Shattered Lens: Metafiction for middle graders

The Shattered Lens by Brandon Sanderson

This review may contain mild spoilers for the previous books in the ALCATRAZ series.

The Shattered Lens (2010) is the fourth book in Brandon Sanderson’s hilarious middle-grade series called ALCATRAZ VS THE EVIL LIBRARIANS. The first four books were originally published by Scholastic but Starscape (Tor’s young readers imprint) has recently re-issued the series in lovely hardback editions illustrated by Hayley Lazo. The long-awaited fifth volume, The Dark Talent, has also just been published by Starscape. They sent me all the books and they are gorgeous. My daughters love them and I’ve been recommending them to friends looking for gifts for young readers.

You need to start at the beginning of the... Read More

The Time of Contempt: This story is getting darker

The Time of Contempt by Andrzej Sapkowski

The fourth installment in Andrzej Sapkowski’s popular WITCHER series is The Time of Contempt (1995 in Polish, 2013 in English) which begins immediately after the ending of the previous novel, Blood of Elves. (You must read the previous stories before beginning this book and you do not need to be a fan of the Witcher video games.)

War is imminent as the elves of Nilfgaard, an ancient kingdom that was displaced centuries ago by the humans who now control the northern land, begin to plan their revenge. The kings of the northern kingdoms no longer trust the sorcerers and sorceresses they used to employ and haven broken off relationships with them. Even the sorcerers themselves are (rightly) starting to mistrust each other as every... Read More

Ash and Silver: A lushly written novel of transformation

Ash and Silver by Carol Berg

At the edge of the eastern sea, the Fortress Evenide holds the Order of the Knights of the Ash. Greenshank is a paratus, one level below a knight, and is working day and night to be deemed ready for promotion. Greenshank is completely loyal to the Knights of the Ash, in part because he has to be. He has no memory of any life before two years ago when he was brought to the citadel. Then one day, returning from an assignment, he is accosted by an otherworldly woman, a Danae, and she calls him Lucien de Remeni.

Ash and Silver is the second book in Carol Berg’s SANCTUARY series. I’m not sure what to say about it, except that if you have liked Berg’s other work, you will like this one. Everything she does well is here, against the backdrop, once again, of a plausib... Read More

Untamed: An improvement, but that’s not saying much

Untamed by P.C. Cast

Untamed is the fourth book in P.C. and Kristen Cast’s HOUSE OF NIGHT paranormal romance series for young adults. I haven’t enjoyed any of the books so far and I nearly gave up on them halfway through the previous book, Chosen. However, I keep soldiering on because I’m downloading them for free from my library and they’re so silly and fluffy that it’s possible to listen to them with only 1/4 of my brain, freeing me up to do some serious multi-tasking while listening. Also, I really want to get them reviewed for FanLit. I mean, that is one of our site’s goals — to read bad books so you don’t have to.

OK, so in my review of the last book, Chosen, I gave a long list of complaints. I wonder if many previous reviewers have given the same list because, it’s really weird, but Cast actually fixes a lot of these problems in Untamed!

As j... Read More

Monster Hunter Legion: What happens in Vegas…

Monster Hunter Legion by Larry Correia

What’s more fun than hanging out with Owen “Big Z” Pitt, Earl Harbinger, Julie, Milo, Holly, Trip, Mosh Pitt, and Skippy the orc at the MHI compound in rural Alabama? How about MHI meeting up with teams from all over the world at a monster hunter conference in Las Vegas? And how about if that ancient Lovecraftian god that Big Z pissed off three books ago decides to unleash his wrath right about now? And how about if those incompetent federal agents who keep trying to cover up the monster attacks want to make sure that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, so they quarantine all those monster hunters in a luxury hotel?

Well, if you’re already a fan of Larry Correia’s MONSTER HUNTER INTERNATIONAL series, I’m sure my description above is ‘nuff said for you. I don’t even need to mention guns, explosions, a brawl i... Read More

Wake of the Bloody Angel: I adore Eddie LaCrosse

Wake of the Bloody Angel by Alex Bledsoe

Wake of the Bloody Angel is the fourth novel in Alex Bledsoe’s EDDIE LACROSSE MYSTERIES series. Like its predecessors, it crosses traditional noir crime fiction with well-known tropes from fantasy literature. Not an easy thing to do well, I’d think, but Alex Bledsoe makes it work. In the previous novels, we’ve met some manifestation of Epona the horse goddess, Rhiannon from the Mabinogi, dragons, and the Arthurian Legends. I’m not going to tell you who/what we meet in Wake of the Bloody Angel because that would spoil the big mystery — I’ll just say I didn’t see it coming.

This time, Eddie is hired by Angelina, the beautiful middle-aged woman who owns the tavern below Eddie’s office, to find her old lover — a pirate she hasn’t seen in 20 years. Eddie and Jane, a buxom swordswoman who’s an ex-pirate-tur... Read More

Ad Eternum: This newest chapter is a treat

Ad Eternum by Elizabeth Bear

In 1962, vampire-detective Sebastien, having adopted the name 'Jack Prior,' returns from Europe to New Amsterdam, arriving not by airship but airplane. As he attempts to re-establish himself in the new world, he makes the acquaintance of a clique of sorcerers who invite him to join them in an ambitious endeavor. But old — indeed, ancient — habits die hard, and Sebastien must chart the course of his eternal voyage while buffeted by public protests against vampires and the sudden return of someone powerful from his past.

Ad Eternum (2012) is the fourth book by Elizabeth Bear featuring Sebastien. One should first read New Amsterdam, The White City, and Seven for a Secret, after which this newest chapter is a treat. At the risk of repeating myself, the tale and Ms. Bear's writing are elegant and sub... Read More

Haven: The end of an excellent fantasy series

Haven by Joel Shepherd

Haven is the fourth and final book in Joel Shepherd’s excellent A Trial of Blood and Steel fantasy series. If you’re not familiar with the series yet, please take a look at my reviews about the first three novels above, as well as my article about them over at tor.com. If an excellent fantasy series that’s low on magic and high on morally ambiguous characters and complex politics in the vein of George R.R. Martin’s A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE (to which this series has been compared by many reviewers) sounds good to you, I highly recommend checking out series opener Sasha, because these books are almost criminally under-read.

The... Read More

City of Fallen Angels: Clare handles the formula well

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

When I finished City of Fallen Angels I was angry; not with Cassandra Clare, who created the Mortal Instruments series, but with the evil-doers who once again have come between Clary and her Shadowhunter boyfriend, Jace.

At the end of City of Glass, the Shadowhunters and the downworlders — vampires, faerie, and werewolves — banded together to stand against Clary’s arrogant and megalomaniacal Shadowhunter father Valentine in a cataclysmic battle. Clary used her newly discovered talent for the magical runes called Marks to defeat her father and bring Jace back from death. Her once-human friend Simon, who became a vampire while trying to help her, was safe, and Shadowhunters and downworlders were drawing up an Accord so that they could live together in peace and equality.

It seems that the war is not over... Read More

Atlantis and Other Places: What if?

Atlantis and Other Places by Harry Turtledove

Atlantis and Other Places is a collection of short stories published over the last ten years, in which Harry Turtledove does his best to showcase the freedom offered to writers of alternate history. Just ask “what if” and see what happens. For example:

What if 21st century news media existed during World War Two? What if centaurs suddenly discovered humans? What if complex intelligence had evolved in mollusks instead of people? They’re interesting ideas and it’s tough not to be curious about what sort of ride Turtledove has constructed for his audience.

What’s more, Turtledove clearly enjoys exploring these historical reversals and alterations. In “Uncle Alf,” which is told in a series of letters from Uncle Ade/ Alf, Turtledove speculates about what would have happened if Germany had won the First World War. The ch... Read More

Magic Bleeds: Bursting at the seams with plot

Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews

Ever since that teaser chapter at the end of On the Edge, we Ilona Andrews fans have been dying to get our hands on Magic Bleeds (2010). Curran stands Kate up, and when she calls the Keep trying to reach him, his people give her a humiliating brush-off. Not knowing why this happened, and what happens next, has had us anxious for months! Well, fellow Andrews fans, this is the book you’ve been waiting for. And the first thing you want to know, I’m sure, is “is it worth the wait?”

In a word, yes!

Kate Daniels is my favorite urban fantasy series, yet between books, I sometimes forget just how much I’m craving this character, this voice. I don’t realize how much I’ve missed it until I can sink into it again. When I reached these lines —

Who the hell would attack the Stee... Read More

Unperfect Souls: Creative characters, setting, and plot

Unperfect Souls by Mark Del Franco

Unperfect Souls by Mark Del Franco stars Connor Grey, a druid who has lost his powers but still helps investigate the magical goings-on in the Boston neighborhood known as the Weird. In this fourth book of the Connor Grey series, the Dead who had visited earth in Unfallen Dead (book 3) are now stranded on earth. The Weird has become tainted — heightening the aggressive tendencies of its living and dead inhabitants — and Connor has attracted the attention of both faerie courts who are rushing to control him, even if their rivalry threatens a war that will destroy both humans and fey. To prevent war, Connor must solve a murder mystery and survive the political machinations of both courts while learning to harness the potential of the mysterious soul-sucking dark parasite that lives in his brain... Read More

Queen of Song and Souls: A moving set-up novel

Queen of Song and Souls by C.L. Wilson

Queen of Song and Souls, the much-anticipated fourth book in C.L. Wilson’s Tairen Soul series, continues the story of Rain and Ellysetta’s quest to complete their bond and defeat the sinister Mages of Eld. In this volume, they attempt to enlist allies in their war against Eld.

First, this means a return to Celieria City. We learn more about the consequences of the weave Ellie inadvertently spun at the end of Lord of the Fading Lands; something shocking has happened to everyone involved. We get to see King Dorian and Queen Annoura again as the rift in their relationship grows, and as the Mages do their best to take advantage of it. Wilson also further explores the poignant star-crossed love of Talisa and Adrial, a plotline that began in Lady of L... Read More

God of Clocks: A bit of a letdown, but still a good series

God of Clocks by Alan Campbell

God of Clocks is Alan Campbell’s third book in his Deepgate Codex. It is (save for the ending) better than Scar Night, but nowhere near as strong as Iron Angel.

In God of Clocks, the Spine assassin Rachel is reunited with the young angel Dill, though his soul is now enhoused in a monstrously tall (400’ I think) mechanical construct of an angel. They are joined by the thaumaturge Mina Greene (still with her strange dog) and the god Hasp, who is also transformed (though in much different fashion) and who is carrying a mind-controlling parasite that allows him to be ordered by any of a group of people to do whatever they tell him to, making him an untrustworthy ally. They are pursued by 12 other “archonites” as they try to reach ... Read More

Crypt of the Moaning Diamond: Opera?

Crypt of the Moaning Diamond by Rosemary Jones

What happens when an writer who works for an opera company turns to writing fantasy? Does the story take on qualities of the epic? Do people take forever to die? Or does everyone just walk around singing loudly and wearing funny costumes? If these are questions you have asked yourself (or even if they aren’t) you ought to turn your attention to Crypt of the Moaning Diamond by Rosemary Jones. An opera writer and first time novelist, Jones has created a dungeon delving story both humorous and out of the ordinary set in the Forgotten Realms mythos.

Ivy is the leader of the Siegebreakers, a small band of sappers who hire themselves out to armies needing to have walls come a’tumblin down. Ivy’s crew consists of a 300 year old dwarf who loves dogs, the dog Wiggles, two sisters with very differen... Read More