2012.03


The Liminal War: Why isn’t this series adapted for streaming already?

The Liminal War by Ayize Jama-Everett

The third book in Ayize Jama-Everett’s LIMINAL PEOPLE series, 2015’s The Liminal War returns us to the near future and the world of Liminal healer Taggert, his daughter Tamara and the daughter of his heart, Prentis. Prentis is the orphaned Liminal young woman who communicates with animals. We met her in the Book One; as Book Three opens, Tamara, a powerful telepath and telekinetic, starts a firestorm of fear and anger with her realization that Prentis has been kidnapped and is nowhere on their earth.

At least, nowhere in their now. In practically no time, Taggert is reluctantly talking with the enigmatic Alter Nayarana and a weird DJ who goes by Jah Puba, but also Mico, and planning a trip back in time to 1971, where there may be a trace of Prentis. Taggert is al... Read More

Cress: Full of action, humor, and romance

Cress by Marissa Meyer

My teenage daughter and I have been enjoying the audio versions of Marissa Meyer’s LUNAR CHRONICLES. The third one is Cress (2014) and it follows Cinder and Scarlet, which you’ll need to read first. (There are bound to be some spoilers for those novels in this review of Cress.)

Each of the LUNAR CHRONICLES stories is a fresh and loose retelling of a classic fairy tale: Cinder = Cinderella, Scarlet = Red Riding Hood, and Cress = Rapunzel.

Cress begins with a helpful summary of events so far in which we are ... Read More

Resident Alien (Vol. 3): The Sam Hain Mystery: The mystery of an old pulp fiction novelist

Resident Alien (Vol. 3): The Sam Hain Mystery By Peter Hogan (writer) and Steve Parkhouse (artist)

In Resident Alien: The Sam Hain Mystery, Harry’s arrival in the town of Patience a few years ago is revealed as well as how he acquired the money needed to live for years without an income. We also find out why he came to earth in the first place. These flashbacks are accompanied with what the secret government agency is doing to track down Harry (code name Icarus). Given the mistake he made in the last volume, the agency has picked up his trail again: A random photographer accidentally got pictures of Harry and Asta in the background of a picture he was taking and has published pictures of Harry on the web. The link goes viral, and the government intensifies their search for Icarus.

In Patience, Harry is moving from the cabin outside of town that he’s lived in for the past two-and-a-half years. With the... Read More

Ruin and Rising: A satisfying end to an engrossing story

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

The third and final instalment in Leigh Bardugo's GRISHA trilogy was far more rewarding than I had ever anticipated. Though I liked the first book Shadow and Bone and really liked the sequel Siege and Storm, it was Ruin and Rising that I truly loved.

It's difficult to summarize the finale of any book series without giving away details of its predecessors, but here goes – Alina Starkov is a Sun Summoner; a very rare Grisha that can conjure light out of nothing, a skill that's highly prized considering the country of Ravka is divided by a terrible darkness known as the Sha... Read More

Before the Devil Breaks You: Another solid entry in an engrossing series

Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray

This is the third of four planned books in Libba Bray's THE DIVINERS series, set in New York in the 1920s, in which speakeasies, jazz and the Prohibition ruled the streets. The titular Diviners are a group of people from all walks of life that have one thing in common: preternatural gifts.

Evie is a radio personality that can glean psychic visions from handling certain objects. Memphis Campbell is a black poet and healer. Theta is a Zeigfeld girl who can start fires. Ling is a disabled Chinese girl who can communicate with the dead. Henry DuBois is a gay pianist who can wander in people's dreams. Sam Lloyd is a Jewish pickpocket who can render himself invisible to those around him.

You couldn't think up a more motley crew, and yet all of them have come together on more tha... Read More

The Last Town: … or this could be hell

The Last Town by Blake Crouch

Blake Crouch wraps up the WAYWARD PINES trilogy in The Last Town (2014). If you haven’t read the prior two books, Pines and Wayward, be warned that here there be spoilers, as well as monsters and a bloodbath.

David Pilcher was a visionary man, convinced that the town of Wayward Pines, Idaho would be a new Eden, a place where people could start over again. The sign outside of town even proclaims “WELCOME TO WAYWARD PINES — WHERE PARADISE IS HOME”! Though Pilcher was right in many ways, life there was far more difficult and dangerous than he foresaw. Between that and Pilcher’s mania for control, Wayward Pines has been more of a prison for its inhabitants,... Read More

Crown of Dreams: Things get tough for Rhianna and her friends

Crown of Dreams by Katherine Roberts

Crown of Dreams (2013) is the third book in Katherine Roberts's four-part PENDRAGON LEGACY series, which details the quest undertaken by Princess Rhianna — daughter of Arthur Pendragon and his queen Guinevere — to find the Four Lights that might save the city of Camelot and restore her father back to life.

Already she has two of the four Lights in her possession: the Sword of Light and the Lance of Truth, the latter of which is now carried by her champion Sir Cai. Other allies include her fairy friend Elphin from the Isle of Avalon, her maid Arianrhod, who was once a servant to the witch Morgan le Fey, and the wizard Merlin, currently trapped in the body of a small hunting hawk. Then there are the Knights of the Round Table, including Sirs Bors, Bedievere,... Read More

Blue Lily, Lily Blue: Events complicate themselves in the third instalment

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

I'll admit that the last book in this four-part series, The Dream Thieves, was difficult for me to get through — it wasn't that I disliked the characters or the storyline, but the pacing was glacially slow and Maggie Stiefvater's prose is definitely an acquired taste. However, Blue Lily, Lily Blue (2014) was an improvement; I could tell because after each reading session I was surprised by just how many chapters I'd churned through.

Here's the gist of THE RAVEN CYCLE: Blue Sargent is a psychic’s daughter who has no gift of her own except the ability to amplify the gifts of others. Her whole life, she's lived under the shadow of a prediction that states she'll kill her own true love, one that she's managed to avoid un... Read More

SAGA Volume 3: This series is so addictive!

SAGA Volume 3, Issues 13-18 by Brian K. Vaughan (author) & Fiona Staples (illustrator)

This highly original space opera romance is incredibly popular, and for good reason. Anyone who has read Saga Vols 1 & 2 will undoubtedly be fans of star-crossed lovers Alana & Marko, who come from opposing sides of a galactic war, Marko’s sharp-tongued mother Klara, freelancer assassin The Will and his lie-detecting cat, and Marko’s ex-fiance Gwendolyn. Not to mention the difficult-to-hate Prince Robot IV and all the other bizarre creations of Vaughan and Staples. The authors have continued to breath life into their fresh, genre-bending blend of space opera, romance, family drama, and chase amid a galactic war tale with an amazingly effortless sense of humor. What I like most about this series is their willingness to go off on weird story tangents without losing the momentum of the larger story.

Witho... Read More

West of Hell: You can’t look away

Fatale (Vol 3): West of Hell by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

In West of Hell, Book Three of Fatale, Brubaker adds depth to the character of his femme fatale, Josephine. He also adds more mystery because we meet two women who look like Jo, but do not go by that name. These two women show up in the four interlinked stories that make up West of Hell. The first story is set in the Great Depression, and the second story takes us back to the Middle Ages. The third is set in the Old West, and the fourth during World War Two. Because of these jumps in time, Brubaker gets a chance to try his hand at two genres that are new to him — the Western and the war story (stories three and four, respectively). The first story, however, feels more noir-like in keeping with the rest of the series, but the second, set in the Middle Ages, has a feel all its own. It is unique out of all... Read More

Half-Off Ragnarok: INCRYPTID gets a new POV

Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire’s INCRYPTID series is a fun paranormal fantasy with a focus on monsters and romance. The first two books, Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special, starred Verity Price, a ballroom dancer wannabe born into a famous family of monster hunters. The Price family were kicked out of the Covenant a couple generations back when their ancestors decided it was unethical to kill monsters indiscriminately. Now they (unlike the Covenant, who hates all non-humans) actually befriend and work with non-humans who they deem non-threatening to other races.

Half-Off R... Read More

Heir of Fire: Opens up more plots, introduces more characters

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

This is the third book in Sarah J. Maas's THRONE OF GLASS series, detailing the journey of Celaena Sardothien throughout the fantasy world of Erilea; specifically her ongoing struggle to use her assassin's training to pursue justice throughout the land. Given that she's in the employ of the corrupt King of Adarlan, this requires a fair bit of subterfuge and deceit, for as we learned at the end of the previous book, Celaena is actually the lost queen of Terrasen and the heir to its throne.

In a reasonably good twist on the usual fantasy clichés, it turns out that Celaena knew her true identity all along and was simply keeping it a secret. Now sent on a mission to assassinate the rulers of Wendlyn, Celaena is instead discovered by a fae nobleman called Rowan and forcibly taken to her aunt Maeve, a powerful queen who offers to lend her niece assistance in defeating the ... Read More

A Conversation in Blood: Will keep Kemp’s fans coming back for more

A Conversation in Blood by Paul S. Kemp

It’s hard to resist Egil and Nix, a hard-bitten wise-cracking roguish fantasy duo modeled after Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. They’re back in Paul S. Kemp’s third novel featuring the pair: A Conversation in Blood. It would help, but isn’t necessary, to have read the first two books, The Hammer and the Blade and A Discourse in Steel. Each story stands alone, though following the chronology is recommended for the best experience, I think.

In this story we meet a monster who calls himself the “afterbirth... Read More

Thursdays with the Crown: The magical Castle Glower, now with teleporting feature

Thursdays with the Crown by Jessica Day George

Thursdays with the Crown is the delightful concluding half of a two-part story begun in Wednesdays in the Tower, which is necessary to read first. Hence, this review will necessarily contain some spoilers for Wednesdays.

In this third installment in Jessica Day George’s middle grade CASTLE GLOWER series, Princess Celie, her brother Rolf, sister Lilah, and friends Pogue and Prince Lulath, have been magically transported by their capricious castle to an unfamiliar land where the castle was originally built, along with two towers of the castle and Celie’s griffin Rufus. After spending a cold night sleeping on the floor of one of the towers, the friends begin to explore the wild, forested land, tryi... Read More

Unbound: A somewhat weaker continuation of an OK series

Unbound by Jim C. Hines

Unbound is Jim C. Hines’ third book in his MAGIC EX LIBRIS series, and I had the same response I pretty much had to book two, which was that it is a light sort of fantasy which has issues that are somewhat, but not fully, balanced by the love of the genre evident in the storyline. I noted at the end of my review of book two, Codex Born, that I was worried about a sense of diminishing returns, and I think that is a bit realized here. Book four, Revisionary, has just arrived this year, and I’d say it’s good that it appears to be a concluding volume, though perhaps that should have come a book earlier.

MAGIC EX LIBRIS really needs to be read in o... Read More

Queen of Fire: A series goes out with a whimper

Queen of Fire by Anthony Ryan

Warning: Will contain spoilers for previous books in the RAVEN’S SHADOW series

Anthony Ryan’s RAVEN’S SHADOW series follows the life of Vaelin Al Sorna and his comrades, from his childhood in the religious, militaristic 6th Order to his career as a general, commander, and practitioner of the Dark (magic). Queen of Fire, the third and final book of RAVEN’S SHADOW, brings the series to a conclusion that leaves much to be desired. Following the victory at Alltor orchestrated by Vaelin, Queen Lyrna, the new leader of the Unified Realm after the bloody assassination of her brother, proceeds to invade the Volarian Empire, which has been controlled by the Ally for centuries. At the same time, Vaelin sets off north to find ancient secrets... Read More

End of Days: A satisfying(ish) conclusion to an edge-of-your-seat thriller

End of Days by Susan Ee

End of Days is the third and final book in Susan Ee's post-apocalyptic PENRYN AND THE END OF DAYS trilogy, one which pits seventeen year old Penryn Young against hordes of angels who seem intent on bringing about the end of the world. More like an alien invasion than the Rapture, these Old Testament angels have decimated entire cities, leaving the remnants of humanity's population to scrounge in the streets.

Penryn has it worse than most, being the sole carer of her paraplegic sister Paige and her schizophrenic mother; struggling to keep all of them alive in the wastelands of San Francisco — at least until she manages to secure a truce with an injured archangel called Raffe, and gradually come to an understanding of what exactly the invasion is really about. Told in first-person ... Read More

Macaque Attack: I fell off the teeter-totter with this one

Macaque Attack by Gareth L. Powell

For the first two books in Gareth L. Powell’s MACAQUE series, I felt like I was standing in the center of a seesaw or teeter-totter, trying to hold the plank level and balanced. With the third book, Macaque Attack, the totter tipped and threw me off. I can no longer maintain the suspension of disbelief needed to enjoy these adventures.

This review may contain spoilers of all three books, so be warned.

In Macaque Attack, Merovech, King of Great Britain and France, is back. Merovech was refreshingly absent from Hive Monkey. Now he’s back but his girlfriend Julie has been written out, which is too bad, because she was the more interesting character. Merovech’s villainous mother, Celeste, blew her... Read More

Silverblind: A good addition to this interesting series

Silverblind by Tina Connolly

Tina Connolly gives us a third book in the world of Ironskin, and continues to follow the women of the Rochart family with Dorie, Jane Rochart’s stepdaughter. In Silverblind, Dorie follows in the tradition of her stepmother Jane and her aunt Helen, fighting for the underdog, struggling to determine the right course of action when circumstance seem to pit humans against the incorporeal fey. In this book, we get a few more magical critters, too, including wyverns and a basilisk.

Adora Rochart, who goes by Dorie, is half fey, a secret she has kept from all but her closest friends. After the Great War between humans and fey, which the humans won, there were two conspiracies designed by the fey to achieve control or possession of humans. Now, however, the fey are completely defeated, except for a few who have managed to possess humans. A... Read More

Full Fathom Five: Gladstone’s world is new and wildly different

Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone

With each book in THE CRAFT SEQUENCE series I feel more and more out of joint, but intrigued at the same time. Max Gladstone continues to play with concepts like gods and souls in ways that feel very familiar and completely alien all at once. Throw in a lot of reverse gender and religious stereotypes and the world this series depicts is something new and wildly different.

Kai is a priestess working for the ruling order/corporation on the island of Kavekana. The whole feel of the island is very Polynesian for me, but Gladstone doesn’t really say it. I felt like I was in a major city on a Hawaiian island with a huge volcano looming over the city, not threatening, but a very real presence and reminder of the power it contains.

The original Gods/Godesses of Kavekana left the island long ago to fight in the wars of gods and deathless kings. Gods died in those wars and ... Read More

World of Trouble: Asks the big questions

World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters

We all have that friend, family member or co-worker who thinks speculative fiction is stupid. To be fair, they have a lot of ammunition for this short-sighted view; the Star Wars prequels, vampire-boyfriend sagas and numerous homogenized series with trashy covers. Ben H. Winters, however, is the secret defensive weapon in our arsenal, and the LAST POLICEMAN  series is the smart, thinking-person’s SF you can offer as a rebuttal.

World of Trouble (2014) is the final book in the trilogy. In  The Last Policeman, we met Hank Palace, the titular character. The world is going to be struck by a large asteroid, and all the projections show the results will be the end of life on earth. Bruce Will... Read More

Strange Country: A memorable rural fantasy

Strange Country by Deborah Coates

In the TAYLOR COUNTY series, Deborah Coates has blended a wide-open prairie landscape, eerie magic, and great characters to create a memorable rural fantasy. She has said that Strange Country is the final book in the series.

Hallie Michaels has moved into the Pabahar place and finds herself staying inside its protections more often than she cares to admit. She knows one day there will be another reckoning with Death, and she’s in no rush to have that conversation. But cryptic messages start showing up, telling her the time to face her fear is approaching.

Meanwhile, Deputy Boyd Davies — Hallie’s maybe-boyfriend — responds to a call about a prowler only to have the woman shot dead by a sniper right in front of him. When the police comb her house, they find an older body and some unusual stones. A mystery unfolds involving several loc... Read More

A Plunder of Souls: Plot issues are overcome by good characters

A Plunder of Souls by D.B. Jackson

Just last week while on vacation out west, my son and I were discussing what were the greater obstacles to our enjoyment of books and what elements allowed for those obstacles to be overcome. One of my observations was that while a strong plot will rarely overcome poor characters for me, if you give me good characters, I can overlook more than a few plot flaws. Who knew how prophetic that conversation would be? For upon my return home, I found waiting for me a copy of D.B. Jackson’s A Plunder of Souls, the third in his historical fantasy series set in pre-Revolutionary Boston. At the series’ center lies beleaguered thieftaker/conjurer Ethan Kaille, and it was Kaille’s still-engaging voice that managed to ease me past, if not blind me to, the several plot issues in the novel.

The year is 1769 and tensions are high: British soldiers have been stationed in the city an... Read More

The Long Mars: Finally getting somewhere

The Long Mars by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter 

The Long Mars by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter still features egregious prose, but it finally begins to tie in some of the unresolved plotlines from earlier books in the LONG EARTH series. We now understand why Roberta (from The Long War) seemed so different; we find out where Willis Linsay, Sally Linsay's dad and the inventor of the Stepper, has been hiding; and we see more of the Long Earth exploration as the Chinese and the Americans team up to go "where no man has gone before."

This book also provides the most stunning portrayals of different Earths so far — chilling and inspiring answers to the "What if?" question that haunts our life-lucky planet. Landscapes full of masses of bacteria, of monument-building crabs, of plant life that approaches sentience, all ... Read More

The Chosen Seed: Keeps readers compulsively turning pages

The Chosen Seed by Sarah Pinborough

Note: This review contains spoilers for the first two books in the FORGOTTEN GODS trilogy. The review of the first of the books in the trilogy, A Matter of Blood, is here; the review of the second, The Shadow of the Soul, is here.

The first two books of Sarah Pinborough’s FORGOT... Read More