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Hilda and the Bird Parade: Hilda’s adventures continue

Hilda and the Bird Parade by Luke Pearson

The third book in the HILDA series by Luke Pearson sees our blue-haired adventurer in quite different surroundings. After the events of Hilda and the Midnight Giant, Hilda and her mother have moved to the city, far away from the open spaces of the countryside and the multitude of magical creatures that live there.

Still, Hilda is trying to make the best of it, even if her mother is far more nervous about her roaming the city by herself than she was the country. But when some friends from school unexpectedly turn up at her door, Hilda is allowed to accompany them as they show her the sights of the neighbourhood.

Pearson writes with nuance: you’d... Read More

The Siren Depths: Best book in the series so far

The Siren Depths by Martha Wells

Book three in Martha WellsBOOKS OF THE RAKSURA is The Siren Depths (2012). (By the way, the novels’ titles are only vaguely related to the plot, I’ve noticed.) If you've loved this series so far, I feel certain that you will love The Siren Depths. In my opinion, it's better than both of the previous books (The Cloud Roads and The Serpent Sea).

Moon, a Raksura (shape-shifting human/dragon) who used to be a lost orphan, is finally starting to feel comfortable in his new home with the Indigo Cloud Raksura court. He’s the consort to Jade, one of the s... Read More

Tool of War: Augmented YA

Tool of War by Paolo Bacigalupi

Paolo Bacigalupi’s Tool of War (2017) is the third entry in a series of futuristic novels in which catastrophic climate change projections have come to pass. The American seaboard is flooded, and the United States government has been overtaken by transnational organizations. The most stunning technological breakthroughs are in gene editing, and elite organizations own “augments,” creatures that are part human and part animal, part slave and part soldier. The main character here, Tool, is the greatest of the augments because he can defy his training and act independently. Who knows what he might be capable of?

Tool of War is also a sort of augment, part YA and part techno-thriller. Unlike the best techno thrillers, this one offers too few info-dumps. I... Read More

Edgedancer: Snappy and surefooted


Edgedancer
 by Brandon Sanderson

I've always been a sucker for an enfant terrible. The Peter Pans and Pippi Longstockings of the literary world would be hugely annoying if they actually showed up in the real world, of course, but in fiction it's a fun archetype. Brandon Sanderson's Edgedancer (2017) is all about such a character, and so consequently I had a great deal of fun with it. Readers with a lower tolerance for goofball ragamuffins might have a different experience (as per his usual, Sanderson is not content to merely toy with a trope, but totally commits), but I think that for most, this will be a charming read.

Edgedancer is a sidestory in the broader STORMLIGHT ARCHIVE series, basic... Read More

Head Rush: Short and sweet

Head Rush by Carolyn Crane

Head Rush (2012) is a perfect finale for THE DISILLUSIONISTS TRILOGY. The thing about Head Rush is that readers won’t read it to be surprised. You know how it’s going to end; you just don’t know the details. Carolyn Crane makes those details fun, and keeps Head Rush rather short and sweet, which is perfect for the series as a whole.

In fact, Crane seems to know exactly how long each book should be, and she never overstays her welcome. She could have easily made this book longer than it is, but she seemed to know that dragging out events would make readers more exhausted with the book than they need to be. Things move fast, and the period of time covered is short.

While the ending is no big surpri... Read More

Oathbringer: Ambitious, often compelling, a bit over-long

Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

So I’ve decided there’s so much to cover in Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer (1200+ pages), and there so much I can’t say so as to avoid spoilers, that I’m going to eschew the usual seamless essay structure for this review and just go with relating some brief and, at times, necessarily vague reactions to various aspects.

Structure: As with the other books (The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance), Sanderson offers up multiple POVs, with the flashback POV going to Dalinar this time around. Some of what we learn of his past won’t come as much of a surprise, though what may not have b... Read More

Blackout: If you think you’re fed up with zombies, make an exception

Blackout  by Mira Grant

This review contains spoilers for the first two books in the NEWSFLESH trilogy, Feed and Deadline.

Mira Grant’s Blackout (2012) ends almost exactly where Deadline (2011) ended. Georgia — George — Mason has awakened to find that she has made a miraculous recovery from being shot in the brainstem, and without retinal Kellis-Amberlee (the virus that causes people to become zombies, named for the discoverer of a cure for the common cold and the discoverer of a cure for cancer, which combined with obviously horrible results; and a reservoir condition like retinal Kellis-Amberlee is one in which the virus is resident in a single organ, but the individual never amplifies to the full-blown disease). Despite the fact that she can remember everything, up to and including the moment... Read More

Spellbreaker: An imaginative and challengingly complex fantasy

Spellbreaker by Blake Charlton

If someone is offering to sell you a spell that predicts one hour into the future, one excellent way to test whether the spell really works is to try to murder the man selling it to you. If you succeed in killing him, clearly it wasn’t a valid prophetic spell. In any case, that’s Leandra Weal’s rationale for poisoning the blackrice liqueur she offers to the smuggler selling her the spell. Luckily for both Leandra and the smuggler, the spell warns the smuggler not to drink the puffer fish liver-infused drink. Unfortunately, once Leandra tries the spell, making a small spelling adjustment to allow her to see twenty-four hours into the future, she sees that she will either have to murder someone she loves or die herself. If she tries to run or avoid the prophecy, everyone she loves will suddenly die.

With this compelling start, Spellbreaker (2016), the final book in Read More

Daughter of Blood: The third instalment in an ever-growing fantasy epic

Daughter of Blood by Helen Lowe

Daughter of Blood (2016), is the third book in Helen Lowe's four-book WALL OF NIGHT series, preceded by The Heir of Night and The Gathering of the Lost. It's been a while since I read the last book, so it took a few chapters to untangle the far-reaching web of characters and plotlines, but soon I was back on track and re-immersing myself into the world of Haarth.

The Wall of Night is a vast mountain range that is garrisoned by the warlike Derai clans. Made up of Nine Houses in all, the Derai defend the wall against the destructive and demonic Darkswarm — but internal strife and civil war has weakened the vigilance of the Houses, and the power of the Swarm grows stronger even as representatives of each House struggle t... Read More

The City of Mirrors: A long fitting conclusion to an excellent trilogy

The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin

The lengthy journey from Justin Cronin’s vampire apocalypse The Passage comes to a full conclusion (and maybe a bit more) in the third and final book, The City of Mirrors. If The Passage was absolutely great (and it really, really was), and the sequel The Twelve was good but not quite as, mostly due to it feeling much more its length than the first book did, then The City of Mirrors falls somewhere in between, though my guess is that some will react more negatively to a few of its elements than I did. It’s impossible to discuss this final book without spoilers for books one and two, so fair warning. Also, I’m going to assume you’ve read the first two books and so won’t other re-detailing characters and events.

The story focuses mostly on the hundred thousan... Read More

Jeweled Fire: Court intrigue and a murder mystery mark a return to form for this series

Jeweled Fire by Sharon Shinn

Jeweled Fire is the third book in Sharon Shinn’s ELEMENTAL BLESSINGS fantasy series, each one of which focuses on a different young woman. Corene, a secondary character in the previous books, is a strong-willed and fiery young woman (purely sweela, or fire, for those readers who recall the elemental influences that are presumed to govern personalities in Welce), one of four princesses of Welce who were in contention for the throne. Due to events that occurred in the second book, Royal Airs, Corene is no longer a candidate to become queen of Welce. Feeling disoriented and useless, she impulsively ran away, surreptitiously accepting an invitation from Filomara, the visiting empress of Malinqua, to v... Read More

The Mark of Athena: A bit of middle book syndrome, but still action-packed

Heroes of Olympus: The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

This is the third book in the five-part HEROES OF OLYMPUS series by Rick Riordan, and as the title would imply, it focuses on Annabeth Chase: daughter of Athena. Though it suffers a little from middle book syndrome, with nothing started and nothing finished, Riordan makes sure that Annabeth's quest remains the key focus of the book, letting it drive the course of the otherwise sprawling narrative.

The seven heroes of the prophecy have been assembled: Percy, Annabeth, Leo, Hazel, Frank, Piper and Jason; all of whom have a vital part to play in the defeat of the goddess Gaea, who has been awakening both giants and the dead in her bid to destroy the Olympian gods.

As it happens, the Roman gods are also at risk thanks to the meddling of Hera/Juno, with the variou... Read More

Murder on the House: Mel takes on a haunted B&B

Murder on the House by Juliet Blackwell

In Murder on the House, the third book in Juliet Blackwell’s HAUNTED HOME RENOVATION MYSTERIES, Melanie “Mel” Turner is starting to acquire a reputation as a successful general contractor and ghostbuster. Homeowners around San Francisco are asking for her special services and she’s got some new projects going on while she’s still finishing up some of the historic renovations we got to see in the first two books, If Walls Could Talk and Dead Bolt. This time she’s got a unique case. The homeowners whose historic house she hopes to renovate want the ghosts of the children that haunt the upstairs nursery to stay. They plan to convert the house into a haunted bed & breakfast and think the ghosts will attract customers looking for a unique San Francisco experience.

But Mel doesn... Read More

Without a Summer: Cold magic in Regency England

Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal

Without a Summer is the third book in Mary Robinette Kowal’s GLAMOURIST fantasy series set in an alternative Regency-era England where magic, or "glamour," is used as an art form to create intricate visual illusions. Jane and Vincent, both accomplished glamour artists, are visiting with Jane’s parents and younger sister Melody in the country.  It’s an unseasonably cold spring, giving rise to concerns about the harvest. Jane and Melody’s father is concerned that a poor harvest could affect his ability to provide Melody with a suitable dowry; Melody is frustrated with the dearth of interesting and marriageable men in the area.

So when Jane and Vincent are offered the change to create a magical illusion for a London family, they invite Melody to come along and enjoy a stay in London. But some unexpected troubles and complicat... Read More

Venom: Fun plot if you don’t think about it too much

Venom by Jennifer Estep

Venom is the third book in Jennifer Estep’s ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN series about Gin Blanco, an assassin who runs The Pork Pit, a barbecue restaurant in Ashland, Tennessee. My review will contain spoilers for the previous books, so you might not want to read it if you haven’t yet read Spider’s Bite and Web of Lies.

Gin has been trying to retire from her assassin’s trade, but as long as the Fire Elemental Mab Monroe runs Ashland as if she’s a crime boss, there will always be people in distress who need Gin’s help. Gin is all too happy to help them because her eventual goal is to take Mab down because Mab killed Gin’s mother and big sister about 15 years ago.

This time the damsel in distress is a vampire named Roslyn who is being stalked by Elliot Slater, the giant who’s Mab’s to... Read More

The Pirate’s Coin: Slight improvement

The Pirate’s Coin by Marianne Malone

The Pirate’s Coin, the third book in Marianne Malone’s SIXTY-EIGHT ROOMS fantasy adventure series for children, is a slight improvement over the first two novels, The Sixty-Eight Rooms and Stealing Magic, which three of us here at FanLit agreed did not meet the potential of Malone’s excellent premise. Readers who haven’t dropped out yet, presumably because they have enjoyed the series so far, should also be pleased with this installment.

Ruthie and Jack just can’t stay away from the Thorne Rooms in the Art Institute of Chicago. This time the plot involves two separate threads that (again) take place in the worlds of two of the Thorne Rooms. One involves a classmate that Ruthie and Jack discover is a descendant of Ph... Read More

The Daemon Prism: Berg competently wraps up the quest

The Daemon Prism by Carol Berg

The Daemon Prism
brings to a close the first three books in Carol Berg’s COLLEGIA MAGICA series. I say “the first three” because there are enough dangling threads — a new form of magic, a royal baby about to be born — to support more stories in this world if Berg wants to write them. The primary quest, however, is resolved.

Berg’s world is similar to medieval Europe. The first book, The Spirit Lens, my favorite, followed a royal investigator, Portier, as he explored charges of witchcraft leveled against the queen. Portier’s investigation required him to work closely with the brilliant, rebellious and arrogant sorcerer Dante. What I liked about The Spirit Lens was the concept of a world in transition, where magic is being viewed with a more academic and scientific eye in the wake of a catastrophic magic war called The Blood War. I also loved ... Read More

Cold Steel: A rousing and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy

Cold Steel by Kate Elliott

The third and final book of Kate Elliott's SPIRITWALKER trilogyfinishes with a bang, wrapping up most of its storylines and myriad of subplots, but also leaving enough room for Elliott to revisit this world and its inhabitants if she so chooses. Preceded by Cold Magic and Cold Fire, this final installment picks up right where it left off: with protagonist Catherine Bell Barahal (or Cat as she's better known) is in the midst of a desperate search to rescue her husband Andevai from the spirit world, having been kidnapped by her own father and the Wild Hunt that rides at his command.

At this stage, there's no point trying to jump into the story without first having read the first two books in the trilogy. All three books are closely intertwined and each builds upon the last when it comes to crafting a full story of immense scope and detail. By this point Cat is beset on all sides by a... Read More

The Hot Gate: Did Not Finish

The Hot Gate by John Ringo

The Hot Gate is the third novel in John Ringo’s TROY RISING series. This series started off well with the first half of the first book, Live Free or Die. Then Ringo’s protagonist, Tyler Vernon, turned out to be an outspoken Nazi-sympathizer and TROY RISING plummeted. The second book, Citadel, was better, but still not good enough to recommend. (Please see my reviews for specifics.) I began reading the third book, The Hot Gate, hoping that things would continue to improve, but only because the publisher sent me a free review copy.

Unfortunately, the story regresses in book three. I read most of The Hot Gate, but couldn’t finish it. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this review because chances are that you’re not reading this unless you’re thinking about reading The Hot Gate, which means you probably have... Read More

Clockwork Princess: Has this series lost steam?

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Princess, by Cassandra Clare, felt like an overloaded cargo plane lumbering down a runway, trying to get airborne. This is the third book in Clare’s INFERNAL DEVICES series, the Victorian prequel to her MORTAL INSTRUMENTS books, and in this one the soap opera overwhelms the story.

The INFERNAL DEVICES series follows Tessa Gray, an orphaned American who came to London to live with her brother. Tessa was captured by demons and forced to use her unusual abilities for their benefit. Tessa was rescued by Will Herondale, a handsome, reckless Shadowhunter (superhuman demon-fighter) and Will’s parabatai or “blood brother,” Jem Carstairs. Tessa was brought to the Shadowhunter Institute in London for sanctuary. Her own heritage was a mystery. Is she a Shadowhunter herself? A demon? Something different?

This has been the central mystery of ... Read More

The Kingmakers: Danger, intrigue and romance

The Kingmakers by Clay and Susan Griffith

The VAMPIRE EMPIRE series is an interesting combination of almost-steampunk, alternative history and fantasy all wrapped together. Clay and Susan Griffith have used a solid mixture of adventure, intrigue and world building to create a vibrant tapestry as the background for the story. In The Kingmakers all of this grows more and more intense as war rages and the battle for the survival of two different races grows more desperate.

Adele, now Empress of Equitoria, has unleashed her armies on the European continent despite the setbacks in the seasons and the loss of some of her more important weapons of war. Gareth, in his Greyfriar persona, is in the midst of the fight and doing his part to help the humans drive the Vampires back from the South of France. The weather, which favors the vampires, has not helped and things are growing more and more desp... Read More

Fathomless: A dark and poignant YA story

Fathomless by Jackson Pearce

Seaside resorts are fascinating places. Whether it’s Santa Cruz, CA; Point Pleasant, New Jersey; or even Waikiki beach in Hawaii, they have an air of tawdriness and mystery simultaneously. Jackson Pearce uses this numinous setting to powerful effect in her dark YA fantasy Fathomless.

Pearce uses the fairy tale “The Little Mermaid” as the springboard for Fathomless. Lo is an ocean girl, living in the sea off the shore of Georgia. She isn’t a mermaid, because she still has legs, but walking on land sends saber-cuts of pain through her body, and the soles of her feet bleed. Lo knows that she was once human, but cannot remember how she came to be here with her “sisters,” the other ocean girls.

The ocean girls believe that they no longer have souls. They stay in the ocean until they have aged (rather like cheese)... Read More

The Kingdom of the Gods: Ends an engaging trilogy

The Kingdom of the Gods by N.K. Jemisin

The Kingdom of the Gods concludes N.K. Jemisin's debut series roughly a century after book two, The Broken Kingdoms, by focusing on Sieh, who seems to be dying despite being a god. And, once again, the end of the world as we know it becomes a major plot point.

THE INHERITANCE TRILOGY garnered a lot of praise with each book. While I didn’t have quite the same level of response, I did find the series entirely engaging throughout, mostly due to the voice of the narrators and the creative use of the gods and their stories.

The Kingdom of the Gods is bothersomely overlong. It definitely lagged in places for me even though I enjoyed the overall story. I would have been happy to see it lose 100-150 or so pages. Sieh is a good choice of character and his dying adds a good sense of urgen... Read More

Master of the House of Darts: Just as good as the first two

Master of the House of Darts by Aliette de Bodard

Master of the House of Darts is the third novel in Aliette de Bodard's OBSIDIAN AND BLOOD series. The first novel, Servant of the Underworld, was one of my favourite reads of 2010 and its sequel Harbinger of the Storm was, if possible, even better. In between writing these novels, de Bodard has also made an impression with her short fiction. Her novelette The Jaguar HouseIn Shadow, set in her Xuya alternative history, was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula award, while The Shipmaker, set later in the same timeline, won the BSFA award for Best Short Fiction. Neither the Hugo nor the Nebula went her way, but I would be very surprised if she didn't win one of those in the future. In other words, I... Read More

Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon: Has major pacing issues

Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon by Mark Hodder

Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon is the third and possibly final book in Mark Hodder’s steampunk/alternate history series starring Sir Richard Burton as the main protagonist, along with his good friend, the poet Algernon Swinburne. I was a fan of the first, The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack, but far less enamored of the second and messier one, The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man. Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon falls somewhere in between the two, though major pacing issues tip it over a bit too much to the negative side.

The earlier books set up the basic premise, which is really too complex to get much into here. Basically, time is awry thanks to earlier events and history has gone off the track, barreling... Read More