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B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (Vol. 2): Gods and Monsters: Abe confronts a teenager with second sight

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (Vol. 2): Gods and Monsters by Mike Mignola (writer), John Arcudi (writer), Guy Davis (artist), Tyler Crook (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), Clem Robins (letterer).

This volume consists of two stories: “Gods” and “Monsters”. “Gods,” the primary story in this volume, introduces us to a great new character: Fenix, a sixteen-year-old girl who seems to be able to sense things before they happen. She is on the road as a runaway, but she befriends other teenagers on their own for various reasons. Given that she got them out of town before the last catastrophe hit, they trust her for her intuition to keep them ahead of impending doom, particularly in Houston, which was destroyed by a volcano. Fenix got her friends out of town at the last possible second.

Back at the base of operations for the B.P.R.D., Kate forces a sit-down conversation between Devon and Abe. Abe wants Devon fired because Devon has a... Read More

Tomorrow, the Killing: Another mystery set in Low Town

Tomorrow, the Killing by Daniel Polansky

Tomorrow, the Killing (2012) is the second book in Daniel Polansky’s LOW TOWN series, a noir-flavored fantasy set in the grimy underbelly of a fictional city. Tomorrow, the Killing takes place three years after the events of Low Town (UK: The Straight Razor Cure). You don’t necessarily need to read Low Town first because the stories stand alone, but it will be most enjoyable if you do.

In Low Town, we met a man whose friends and acquaintances call him Warden. Warden is a former soldier and police officer who’s now a crime boss. He sells (and uses) drugs, but his f... Read More

Akata Warrior: Scores goal after goal as it enhances the series world

Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor

From its stunning cover to the triumphant final word (“Gooooooooal!”), Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Warrior (2017) continues to deliver on the promise of Book One, Akata Witch. Sunny, an American-Nigerian girl currently living in Nigeria with her family, has embraced her heritage as a Leopard Person, one of a magical lineage, but things to do not get easier for her or for her magical friends, the oha coven. Ekwensu, the evil force that Sunny faced and vanquished in the first book, is back, and she’s brought friends. In the mundane, everyday world, Sunny’s older brother Chukwu, the favored child, gets into serious trouble when he goes away to university, and Sunny’s attempt to help him puts her squarely at odds with the teachings of the Leopard People.

This review may contain mil... Read More

Chasing the Phoenix: A mostly tasty snack between more filling meals

Chasing the Phoenix by Michael Swanwick

Michael Swanwick’s Chasing the Phoenix is a slight but solidly enjoyably pleasant story of two clever con-artists that may remind readers of Fritz Lieber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser a bit, though the reflection/homage is perhaps a bit pale. The pleasures of the book arise from the humorously complex situations the two fall into (and have to escape out of), the sharp character banter, and the generally witty writing all around. How far those attributes carry you past an intriguing but thin worldbuilding, the not-too-substantive plot, and somewhat dull characters will go a long way to determining your level of enjoyment.

The setting is a “Post-Utopia” far future that has only recently begun to clamber out of the catacl... Read More

Agatha H. and the Clockwork Princess: The novelization works

Agatha H. and the Clockwork Princess by Phil & Kaja Foglio

GIRL GENIUS is one of my favorite webcomics. I love both the art and the story. It’s about Agatha Heterodyne, the orphaned genius daughter of two famous “Sparks” who disappeared years ago. After they left, the peace and stability of Europa disintegrated after numerous mad Sparks built and let loose various mechanical constructs that tend to terrorize all the normal people. Many of these Sparks have been vying for power since the Heterodyne Boys (one is Agatha’s father and the other is her uncle) disappeared. Baron Klaus Wulfenbach, a powerful Spark who was once a friend to the legendary Heterodyne Boys, now rules most of Europa, though he’s had to resort to some rather Barbaric methods to get it under control. For years he has been collecting and keeping the children of other famous Sparks and some nobility. These kids live in luxury aboard his airship city... Read More

Trial of Intentions: Issues of pacing and plot overwhelm an intriguing work

Trial of Intentions by Peter Orullian

I really want to like Trial of Intentions, Peter Orullian’s second novel in his VAULT OF HEAVEN series. I’d really like to recommend it. Not so much for its plot or characters or style, which mostly run from not so good to average, though he has his moments. But underneath the separate pieces of the novel, one has a sense, a somewhat tentative, barely tangible sense, that Orullian is trying to do something interesting here. And it’s for that tantalizing glimpse of the big picture, the “intention” as one of his characters might say (intention being an important concept here), that I so wanted to be able to enthusiastically recommend this book. But thanks to the aforementioned weaknesses, its too-great length, and a storyline that absolutely infuriated me through its latter stages (my m... Read More

Hollow City: I wanted to love it, but ended up only liking it

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Hollow City picks up almost immediately after the events of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, the first book in the MISS PEREGRINE’S PECULIAR CHILDREN series. From the very beginning Hollow City is an action-packed adventure in all the places that the first book was a thoughtful, eerie mystery. I enjoyed the change of pace Ransom Riggs set in this sequel, though this new territory brought with it its own problems. (Please note: this review will contain spoilers throughout due to the mysterious nature of the first book. Some points I will be discussing were not known until most of the way through Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children but I have found them integral to talking about Hollow City Read More

The Straits of Galahesh: A strong second book

The Straits of Galahesh by Bradley Beaulieu

When I picked up Bradley Beaulieu’s The Straits of Galahesh, the second book in his THE LAYS OF ANUSKAYA series, it had been a while since I’d read the first book, The Winds of Khalakovo, so I was worried that I had forgotten many of the story details. But Beaulieu, in his infinite wisdom, put a summary of the first book where a prologue would be. Not only did this refresh my forgetful brain, but it kept Beaulieu from having to drop in constant “reminders” throughout the book. There were no refresher paragraphs sprinkled throughout the prose, which was absolutely wonderful. If you just came from reading The Winds of Khalakovo, you could skip that section. If it’s been a while, reading the first section will bring you up to speed and help you remember everything you might have forgotten.
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Wisp of a Thing: A lovely haunting fairy tale

Wisp of a Thing by Alex Bledsoe

Wisp of a Thing (2013) is Alex Bledsoe’s second stand-alone novel about the Tufa, an ancient race of magically gifted swarthy rural folk who live in the Smoky Mountains of Cloud County, Tennessee and may have descended from the Tuatha Dé Danann. You don’t need to read the first book, The Hum and the Shiver, though it’s worth your while and you’ll get a little more out of Wisp of a Thing if you recognize a couple of characters who make cameo appearances in this second book.

This story focuses on Rob Quillen, a musician who became popular after the country watched him experience a personal tragedy on a national TV reality show. Rob has come to Cloud County because a mysterious man told him that’s where he can find a song of healing. He kn... Read More

Watt O’Hugh Underground: Better than first book

Watt O’Hugh Underground by Steven S. Drachman

Watt O’Hugh Underground
is the follow-up by Steven S. Drachman to his early Western fantasy The Ghosts of Watt O’Hugh. I was pretty “meh” toward the first book, though it had a strong close, but I mostly enjoyed Watt O’Hugh Underground throughout, despite having some issues.

Watt O’Hugh Underground picks up not too long after the events of Ghosts, with Watt hiding out in the desert trying to keep out of trouble, drinking up a storm, and plotting how to get even with the Sidonian for what they’ve done to him. Not too far into the book, though, his door is knocked down by Hester Smith, who says she has his means of vengeance at hand, if he’ll just help out with a little train robbery (it is a Western, after all). While Watt is busy robbing trains and then planning his assault on Sidonia, over in San ... Read More

Dreams of the Golden Age: Better than first book

Dreams of the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

Dreams of the Golden Age is the follow up to Carrie Vaughn’s After the Golden Age, to which I gave only a middling review thanks to issues of plotting and characterization. While the sequel suffers from some of the same problems, they crop up less frequently and are less problematic. The main character, meanwhile, is a more active and engaging voice and so I found Dreams of the Golden Age to be more successful and thus far more enjoyable.

The sequel picks up a good number of years after its predecessor. At the end of After the Golden Age, Celia had married Dr. Mentis and taken over as head of West Corps. She is now the mother of two teen daughters, one of whom — Anna — will split POVs with Celia for the novel. Unlike her mother, Anna has inherited the family superpower genes, but much to her dismay she has what she considers a near-u... Read More

Bared Blade: Light fast-paced adventure

Bared Blade by Kelly McCullough

Bared Blade is the second book in the FALLEN BLADE series. Kelly McCullough continues the story of Aral Kingslayer, survivor of the destruction of the Goddess Namara turned petty thief and spy.

Aral is still struggling with the revelation that other members of his cult survived the fall of his goddess. His experiences in Broken Blade have started to give him an inkling that there may be more to look forward to than alcoholic oblivion. The relationship between Aral and his familiar/partner Triss has been an interesting twist on typical sword and sorcery tropes.

When a couple of oddly matched women are suddenly attacked in front of Aral, he chooses to get involved. The women have powers and skills far beyond the ordinary, which changes everything immediately. As further evidence of Aral’s re-orientation away from self-destruction via Kyle’s whiskey, Ara... Read More

Book of Iron: A charming story full of wonderful creatures

Book of Iron by Elizabeth Bear

The novella Book of Iron is Elizabeth Bear’s prequel to her novella Bone and Jewel Creatures about Bijou the artificer. Bijou creates beautiful jeweled creatures by animating bones. I haven’t read Bone and Jewel Creatures but Terry and Stefan loved it, and the publisher promises that Book of Iron can stand alone, so there was no way I was passing on my review copy to Terry without reading it first.

Bijou works for her friend Salih, the second prince of Messaline. Another wizard, a necromancer named Kaulas, rounds out the trio of friends and adventurers and, at least for the moment, is Bijou’s lover. When another group of wizard adventurers comes to Messaline on a quest, Bijou, Prince Salih and Kaulas insist on accompanying them, partly for the excitement and partly to protect th... Read More

Seeds of Rebellion: Solid sequel

Seeds of Rebellion by Brandon Mull

In the second BEYONDERS book, Seeds of Rebellion, Jason has made it back to his own world after attempting to destroy the emperor Maldor in Lyrian, the parallel universe he accidentally stumbled into after being swallowed by a hippopotamus at the zoo. Jason is unhappy at home because Rachel is still stuck in Lyrian and being hunted by the bad guys. After doing some research on the internet, he discovers that Rachel’s parents are desperately trying to find her, but Jason feels like he can’t contact them or he’ll be a suspect in the crime. He’s afraid to tell anyone about Lyrian — people will just think he’s crazy and he might be institutionalized. That would make it impossible for him to do what he really wants to do — go back to Lyrian, let everyone know that the quest they were on is doomed, and tell Rachel how to get back to her parents. Meanwhile, he spends plenty of time exercising so... Read More

Reaper: Even better than Lightbringer

Reaper by K.D. McEntire

I’ve noticed a few things about Pyr’s new line of young adult books, and this observation makes me endlessly pleased. While I can always count on Pyr to produce top quality books, their young adult line pleases the part of me (which is a larger part than I’d like to admit) that really doesn’t enjoy young adult books that much. Pyr’s young adult books are more mature, less full of angst than most that I’ve run across. It’s incredibly refreshing, and the part of me that looks at young adult (much like urban fantasy) and recoils, starts to relax and ease into each YA book Pyr throws my direction. So huzzuh to them.

K.D. McEntire’s Reaper starts off where Lightbringer ends. Reaper is pretty much owned by Piotr. While the perspective is split between Piotr and Wendy, Wendy seemed a bit more confused and less developed than him, so it’s Piotr who seems to prop... Read More

King of Thorns: Vulgar, mean, harsh, fascinating

King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

When I find myself laughing on a regular basis while reading a book that is usually a really good sign that I am enjoying it! King of Thorns, the follow up to Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence, had me laughing — a lot! King of Thorns is not a fun and games fantasy romp by any means, but the humor just made a good book even better.

Honorious Jorg Ancraft is tired of being manipulated and told what he can and can’t do. In his world there are a number of shadowy powerful competitors for control who are manipulating events and people through magic and other unsavory means. They are willing to do some terrible things to achieve their ends. Jorg’s family has been slaughtered, his friends have been hurt, and his life has been threatened repeatedly. This has given him boundless motivation to control his fate, no matter the price.

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Be My Enemy: No sophomore slump in the EVERNESS series

Be My Enemy by Ian McDonald

Be My Enemy is Ian McDonald’s second book in his alternate-universe EVERNESS series. In this book, our hero Everett Singh confronts his most powerful enemy, himself.

At the end of Planesrunner, Everett’s father was transported into a random universe by the Known Worlds villain Charlotte Villiers. Villiers used a weapon she called a jumpgun. Everett managed to grab the jumpgun, and has used it and the map of universes on his computer tablet to send the airship Everness to another universe as well. Now, he struggles to convert the code that will make the jumpgun and his tablet play nicely together, so that he can jump the Everness to his earth to rescue his mother and baby sister, and then pursue the quest to find his missing father.

There are ten Known Worlds with portal, or gate, technology, and our earth is E10. Be My Enemy op... Read More

The Map of the Sky: An entertaining, enjoyable ride

The Map of the Sky by Felix J. Palma

The Map of the Sky is the follow-up to Felix J. Palma’s The Map of Time, a book that had much to recommend it but that I couldn’t in the end quite get behind. The Map of the Sky shares some of the same flaws as its predecessor, leaving me with a mixed reaction, but on the whole, I found it to be an improvement over the first book and more consistently enjoyable.

The Map of Time introduced H.G. Wells as a main character and centered its plot around his The Time Machine. Wells returns in The Map of the Sky, but this time the story uses The War of the World as its core, though Palma also brings in a slew of other literary/cinematic touchstones including John W. Campbell’s famous short story “W... Read More

Days of Blood & Starlight: Paradise Lost meets Romeo and Juliet

Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor

Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke Bone was one of my favorite books last year, a sparkling, quirky gem of a fantasy. Karou, with her blue silk hair and the eyes on her palms, captivated me. The mysterious story ended darkly, but it was filled with humor and whimsy.

Days of Blood Starlight has plenty of darkness, at least at the beginning. Karou has left Prague and her art student life and fled to Marrakesh, where she is helping her people, the chimaera, building magical bodies for their spirits to inhabit. Karou is grieving the murder of her family and the immolation of her love affair with Akiva, a seraph – the enemy of her people.

The most disturbing thing is that she has allied herself with Thiago, the White Wolf, the chimaera who tortured Akiva and... Read More

Such Wicked Intent: The exciting life of young Frankenstein continues

Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel

Such Wicked Intent is the follow-up to This Dark Endeavour and as such puts us two-thirds of the way through Kenneth Oppel’s YA trilogy detailing the early years of Victor Frankenstein. And as the book ends with a very well known scene from early in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, well, it’s clear we have just about fully plumbed those early years.

Which is too bad, because Oppel has, ahem, “brought to life” an intriguing Frankenstein character and story of his own. Before going much further, though, let me stop here for those who haven’t read the first book and say the quick take-away is that this is a series well worth picking up. Certainly for YA readers, but adults will also enjoy it, though it certainly has a YA feel and lacks a bit of the depth and subtlety of adult fiction. Those who ha... Read More

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There: Practically perfect in every way

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente

September returns to Fairyland to find that her shadow, which she sacrificed to save a child in the previous book, has become the Queen of Fairyland-Below. Worse, the shadows in Fairyland are disappearing into Fairyland-Below, where they enjoy the freedom to be the masters of their own fate. But the shadows are the sources of magic in Fairyland, and as more of them leave for the underworld, magic is disappearing from Fairyland. September has to solve this problem before Fairyland disappears forever.

I was really tempted to just write a review that said, “This book is awesome and you should all go buy it now. Stop wasting time reading this review.” However, out of a sense of professional responsibility, let me explain why this book is so wonderful.

Catherynne M. Valente is the true heir to Read More

The Janus Affair: The Ministry’s steampunk adventures continue

The Janus Affair by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

The Janus Affair, by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris, is the second in these writers’ steampunk adventure series. Wellington Books, Chief Archivist, and Eliza Braun, former field agent turned junior archivist, work for Queen Victoria’s Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. Books is an aristocrat, a son of England, while Braun is a “colonial pepperpot” from New Zealand. Something happened in New Zealand that makes it impossible for Braun to return home. In The Janus Affair, we meet two people from Braun’s past that shed some light on those events.

After a woman disappears on a train, right before the eyes of Eliza and Wellington, Eliza is approached by New Zealand suffragist Kate Sheppard, who had come to England to pursue the vote for women (in New Zealand they already have it). Kate has a clo... Read More

Tin Swift: All three of me loved it

Tin Swift by Devon Monk

Tin Swift is the second book in Devon Monk’s AGE OF STEAM series. The first, Dead Iron, introduced the characters we follow in this book: Cedar Hunt, honorable bounty hunter and werewolf; Wil Hunt, Cedar’s wolf brother; Mae Lindson, a widowed witch; Rose Small, a young orphaned woman with a magical ability to work metal; and the enigmatic Madder brothers. The three brothers have pressed Hunt into service on their quest to find and bind a magical artifact from another realm, the Holder. The Holder has broken into seven pieces. In the wrong hands, or even left unbound, the Holder can wreak great evil in this world.

It’s hard for me to review Tin Swift coherently because it pleases so many parts of me. Reader Me loved it; Writer Me loved it; Lecturer Me loved it, so I’m going to turn this par... Read More

Blood on the Bayou: Forget the romance, babe

Blood on the Bayou by Stacey Jay

Blood on the Bayou, by Stacey Jay, starts with a nightmare and ends with a wedding. In between, Annabelle Lee learns more about her growing magical powers, the nature of the toxic fairies who menace humanity, and the secrets of her own heart.

Annabelle Lee… sounds all dreamy and ethereal, doesn’t it? Well, forget the romance, babe. Lee is a hard-drinkin’, hard-lovin’, kick-ass redhead doing a dangerous job in the war zone of Louisiana, where venomous sparrow-sized fairies have driven humans to live behind iron fences and travel in head-to-toe exposure suits.

As we learned in Book One, Dead on the Delta, fairies have been with us forever. An act of bioterrorism mutated the insect-sized creatures and gave them a growth spurt. Fairy venom drives humans mad before it kills them. Some humans, like Annabelle, have... Read More

Caliban’s War: Something for everyone

Caliban’s War  by James S.A. Corey

Caliban’s War (2012) is the second book in the EXPANSE series, co-authored by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck under the shared pen name of James S. Corey. Leviathan Wakes, the first book in the series, was a great read and while Caliban’s War didn’t impress me quite as much, it was still thoroughly enjoyable throughout. So much so that I read it straight through in a single sitting. Because you’ll really want to read Leviathan Wakes first, this review will be predicated on that assumption. Thus there will be spoilers for that first novel; you’ve been warned.

Caliban’s War is set just a little bit after the events of Leviathan Wakes, and so the sol... Read More