Barren: Strong second half balances out novella issues

Barren by Peter Brett

Barren (2018) is a novella-length (just over 130 pages in my ARC version) story that answers some questions left after the conclusion of Peter V. Brett’s DEMON CYCLE series. Specifically, what happened back at Tibbet’s Brook, the small village that was home to Arlen Bales and Renna Tanner, two of the protagonists of the Cycle.

The first point I want to make has more to do with marketing and target audience than the book itself. My accompanying publicity says Barren is a good “entry point” for the series, but I’d respectfully disagree with that assessment and hope the book doesn’t get sold as such, say, on inner covers or blurbs or online descriptions. While Barren certainly succeeds in creating its own small world an... Read More

Burn Bright: Life on the wilding side

Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs

Burn Bright (2018) is the fifth and latest novel in Patricia BriggsALPHA AND OMEGA urban fantasy series … actually, it's more mountainous wilderness fantasy, but it does involve werewolves and witches living amongst humans. Burn Bright, though it has different main characters, also intertwines nicely with the main MERCY THOMPSON series.

Bran, the grand-Alpha or Marrok of most of the werewolf packs in North America, is still out of town due to the events in the last MERCY THOMPSON book, Silence Fallen. He phones home and tells his wife Leah and son Charles that he's leaving them in charge while he takes a trip to Africa to see S... Read More

The Rose and the Thorn: Do not get on Royce Melborn’s bad side

The Rose and the Thorn by Michael J. Sullivan

The Rose and the Thorn is the second book in Michael J. Sullivan’s RIYRIA CHRONICLES. Sullivan continues to share “the early years” of Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melborn.

The Rose and the Thorn takes place about one year after the events in The Crown Tower. The book opens, not with our two wandering thieves-for-hire, but with Reuben Hilfred. Reuben is soon to be made one of the royal guards in King Amrath, King of Melengar’s service, and is the son of a guard, but right now he is little more than a stable boy, the target of bullying by a group of young squires. Reuben’s life is sad. His parents were not married, and his mother committed suicide, throwing herself from a tower in the castle. His father, embittered by her death, is a hard drinker and takes his temper out on Reuben. Rueben is good with an axe but not so good with a sword, an... Read More

Graveyard Child: Extraordinary depth of character

Graveyard Child by M.L.N. Hanover

Warning: this review contains spoilers for the first four books in the series THE BLACK SUN’S DAUGHTER.

M.L.N. Hanover’s urban fantasy series, THE BLACK SUN’S DAUGHTER, gets better with every book. Graveyard Child has extraordinary depth of character and a plot that takes the series into ever more complicated waters. The voice of Hanover’s viewpoint character, Jayné Heller, is happy, angry, sad, confused, disappointed, frightened, determined and resigned in turn, but always clearly Jayné. Any reader who has stuck with her through this fifth tale feels like she or he has a friend — a friend who is possessed, constantly dodging occult forces that mean her ill, and manipulated into a life she never chose, but nonetheless unswervingly loyal to her friends regardless of the cost or circumstances. Jayné isn’t perfect or infallible by any means, but she’s th... Read More

Rising Tides: Still a genuinely entertaining series

Rising Tides by Taylor Anderson

“You have quite a crew, Captain Reddy.”
“Yes, I do.”

If you’ve been enjoying Taylor Anderson’s DESTROYERMEN series, there’s no reason to stop now. Rising Tides (2011) is another quality installment in which we do a lot of sailing, have some fun and laughs, and barely survive some frightening events — exactly what we were expecting.

Captain Reddy and his original crew of Destroyermen, of which less than 100 survive, are different men than those who entered the storm so many months ago. They’ve been tried and tested in many ways, and it’s brought out the best in most of them, though some make deadly mistakes due to inexperience. Right now the Destroyermen are rather spread out across the unpredictable south Pacific ocean. One group is trying to free an old submarine from a volcanic island. Another i... Read More

Blood Sacrifice: Thanks, Ms. Lima, for an enjoyable series

Blood Sacrifice by Maria Lima

On her blog, Maria Lima states that Blood Sacrifice is the final BLOOD LINES book — at least for now. Blood Sacrifice is a fitting conclusion, and one of the best installments in the series.

The end of Blood Heat was a doozy: Keira’s power-hungry ex, Gideon, had just crashed Keira and Adam’s royal bash and challenged their right to their lands. With him were two women: Gideon’s pregnant bride — the Seelie queen’s daughter — and Keira’s own mother.

Gideon’s claim is that the land does not recognize Keira and Adam as its rightful rulers. The Texas heat wave introduced in Blood ... Read More

Magic at the Gate: Gets better the further you read

Magic at the Gate by Devon Monk

I haven’t read Magic on the Storm, the fourth book in the Allie Beckstrom series, but I gather it ended on a massive cliffhanger. The opening of book five, Magic at the Gate, finds Allie in the land of the dead. She has ventured into death to find the soul of her boyfriend, Zayvion, who is in a coma after the events of the previous book.

I normally love to read about underworld journeys, but this one falls a little flat. The problem, I think, is that Allie lacks agency during this sequence. Daniel Beckstrom, her dead father, is calling most of the shots and giving Allie a lecture about magic. When a difficult decision is placed in Allie’s hands, the story instantly becomes more vivid.

The scenes set in the death realm only occupy the early portion of Mag... Read More

Wait for Dusk: Ignore the cover and snap this one up

Wait for Dusk by Jocelynn Drake

Okay, I can’t help it. I have to start with this awful cover art. Not only do Mira and Danaus have no legs, the cover isn’t an accurate representation of the contents. Yes, there’s sex in Wait for Dusk. No, it’s not as predominant as this cover would imply. A more fitting cover would have shown Mira with a fireball in one hand and a big bloody knife in the other.

Having read the first four DARK DAYS novels, I was expecting Wait for Dusk to follow the pattern of books two, three, and four: namely, a slow-build start with lots of politics and posturing, leading up to an action-filled finish. To my surprise (and pleasure), there’s not a slow moment in Wait for Dusk. There are a few scenes of politicking, but they’re short and have immediate, tangible consequences.

Wait f... Read More