2014.02


One Good Dragon Deserves Another: Nice dragon saves the day again

One Good Dragon Deserves Another by Rachel Aaron

One Good Dragon Deserves Another (2015) is the second book in Rachel Aaron’s self-published HEARTSTRIKERS series. I listened to Audible Studio’s editions of these books with my 19-year-old daughter. We love the story and the performance of Vikas Adam, the narrator. This review will have some spoilers for the previous book, Nice Dragons Finish Last. If you haven’t read it, you should probably stop here and go do that first. Make sure to choose the audio edition!

Julius and Marcy are now business partners in the Detroit Free Zone where, thanks to one of Julius’ siblings, they’ve got a house to live in. They spend their time ridding the city of magical pests.

But the dragon clan drama never stops and soon enough Julius’ ... Read More

The Witness for the Dead: Chockablock with intrigue

Reposting to include new reviews by Jana and Bill.

The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison

The Witness for the Dead is the long-hoped-for sequel to Katherine Addison’s marvelous and unusual 2014 fantasy, The Goblin Emperor, in which we met Maia, a half-goblin, half-elf young man who unexpectedly inherited the throne of the elf kingdom when his father, the emperor, was killed along with his brothers in an airship explosion. Thara Celehar, an elven prelate and a Witness for the Dead, was a minor character in that novel who investigated the airship accident at Maia’s request and eventually was able to unearth the truth of why it occurred.

The Witness for the Dead Read More

Agency: Sounds an alarm

Agency by William Gibson

William Gibson’s latest novel, Agency (2020), is a follow-up to The Peripheral which needs to be read first. In The Peripheral we learned that in the not-too-distant future, someone will discover some software on a secret server in China which allows users to interact with people using the internet in the past (our modern day). Contacting people in the past makes a new timeline branch called a “stub.” The future people who create the stub can play around with it, influencing the economy, politics, and even waging war.

The future people we met in The Peripheral are a group of friends named Wilf, Lev, and Ash who live in London, which has been ... Read More

Hellboy in Hell (Vol. 2): The Death Card: An ambiguous finale

Hellboy in Hell (Vol. 2): The Death Card by Mike Mignola (writer and artist), Dave Stewart (colors), & Clem Robins (letters).

This second and final volume of Hellboy in Hell collects issues 6-10. It opens with Baba Yaga reminding the reader what came before: “He fought and killed a dragon but the dragon was actually a witch. Her ghost plucked out his heart and cast it into Hell.” In the first volume of Hellboy in Hell, Hellboy “went into Pandemonium and cut Satan’s throat . . . . And now all Hell is in turmoil.”

When we join Hellboy in this volume, he has been wandering in Hell, lost in the maze-like expansive city surrounding the Stygian Sea. He gets a lesson in geography from two lost souls before a bad reunion and a card game of sorts with a former vampire. Saved by a minister in Hell, Hellboy continues to wander Hell in Chapter One, issue six, “The Death Card... Read More

The Bronze Skies: Another adventure in the undercity

The Bronze Skies by Catherine Asaro

The Bronze Skies (2017) is the second book in Catherine Asaro’s MAJOR BHAAJAN series. In the first book, Undercity, we met Bhaajan, a private investigator who recently retired from military service. When she is hired by the royal family to track down a runaway prince, she must descend into the grimy tunnels under the capital city of Cries. This is where the lowest cast of citizens live — in the city’s underbelly — and this is where Bhaajan grew up before escaping into the military. As Bhaajan searches for the prince, it’s easy to draw parallels between the class system of Cries and our own world’s socioeconomic hierarchies.

In The Bronze Skies Read More

Naondel: Pushes the boundaries of YA

Naondel by Maria Turtschaninoff

Naondel (2016) is the second book in Maria Turtschaninoff’s RED ABBEY CHRONICLES series, but it’s not a sequel; it’s a prequel. Set many years before the events of Maresi, Naondel tells the story of the women who, fleeing their own oppression, founded the Red Abbey as a sanctuary for themselves and others. It is set in what seems to be an amalgam of several Asian cultures, and we see glimpses of other parts of Turtschaninoff’s world as well.

If I didn’t know anything about Naondel before I started it — if I didn’t know it was the follow-up to a young adult novel that won a prize for youth literature — I would n... Read More

The Unbound: Not your typical high school drama

The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

The Unbound is the sequel to Victoria Schwab’s The Archived, which you should read before starting this book. There will be some spoilers for The Archived in this review, so beware.

Summer is over for Mackenzie Bishop, the Keeper whose secret job is to escort the “Histories” of dead people back to their resting place in the Archive. When we met Mac in The Archived, she had just moved into an old hotel in a new town and solved some murders that had occurred there decades ago. Also, she met Wesley, a spiky-haired eyeliner-wearing boy who turned out to have a lot more in common with her than she ever could have guessed.

Now M... Read More

Knight’s Shadow: Great characters enrich this second installment

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Knight's Shadow by Sebastien de Castell

I absolutely loved Sebastien de Castell's Traitor's Blade, first in his GREATCOATS series, having been immediately charmed by the utterly winning voice of its first-person narrator Falcio val Mond and its flamboyant Three Musketeers-like tone and narrative. So I was greatly looking forward to its sequel, Knight's Shadow. I'm pleased to say that while I had a few issues, for the most part I was wholly satisfied despite such high expectations.

The sequel picks up pretty much right after the close of Traitor's Blade and continues with the same basic goal: find a way to keep the king's thirteen-year-old heir Aline alive long enough to... Read More

The Paradox: So much to admire, but definitely a middle book

The Paradox by Charlie Fletcher

The Paradox (2015) is the second book in Charlie Fletcher’s OVERSIGHT trilogy. I loved the audiobook version of the first book, The Oversight, when I read it four years ago. Despite its crawling pace, I loved it for its grungy Victorian setting. The audiobook narration by Simon Prebble, an award-winning superstar of the audio world, was so spectacular that I titled my review “One of the best audiobooks I’ve read this year” and I said that I’d be picking up The Paradox as soon as it was available.

But, alas, when The Paradox came out a year later, t... Read More

Head On: Fast-paced, funny, heart-breaking

Marion and Terry discuss Head On. Marion's words are in black and Terry's are in blue.

Head On
by John Scalzi

Marion: John Scalzi’s 2018 novel Head On brings back FBI team Chris Shane and Leslie Vann, this time investigating a murder that should be impossible. Hilketa is a violent game where the objective is to tear off the head of a specific opposing player and throw it through the goal posts, while defensive players whale on each other with swords and chainsaws. While it sounds bloodthirsty, no one is hurt; the players are high-tech androids called “threeps” (after the beloved C-3PO) controlled by those individuals who have “lock-in syndrome” and function via robot or entirely within the internet.

These people are called Hadens after Haden Syndrome, ... Read More

Hidden Huntress: Avoids the usual pitfalls of the middle book in a trilogy

Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen

The second book in Danielle L. Jensen's THE MALEDICTION TRILOGY continues the complex political intrigue between the powerful trolls who live beneath the mountain and the eighteenth-century humans who dwell on the surface. In the first book, Stolen Songbird, a truce was attempted by an arranged marriage between Tristan, the heir to the troll kingdom, and Cecile, a kidnapped opera singer. Their union was prophesied to dissolve the magical barrier that keeps the trolls beneath the earth, one put in place by the witch Anushka hundreds of years ago — but the trolls still remain imprisoned.

As so often happens in YA books, the dislike and mistrust between Tristan and Cecile gradually grew into l... Read More

City of Blades: Inspiring and heartbreaking

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

Marion: City of Blades is the second book in Robert Jackson Bennett’s THE DIVINE CITIES series, which tells several sides of the story of a major international cultural conflict. Saypur, a civilization that has been oppressed by the Continent for centuries, rose up and subdued its oppressors by killing their gods. In the wake of the Saypuri revolution and its conquest of the Continent, all of the Continental Divinities have vanished, and magic no longer works… usually.

City of Blades, Bennett’s follow-up to City of Stairs, takes place five years after the events of the first book. Voortya, the Divinity of War, was the first god ... Read More

The Accelerators Vol. 2: Momentum by R.F.I. Porto, Gavin P. Smith, Tim Yates

The Accelerators Vol. 2: Momentum by R.F.I. Porto, Gavin P. Smith, Tim Yates

The Accelerators Vo. 2: Momentum picks up right after the end of The Accelerators Vol. 1: Time Games, which introduced readers to an intrepid group of accidental time-travelers leapfrogging toward an unknowable future. In this second volume, the group visits the same location on Earth in different epochs — some friendly, though most are hostile or outright dangerous — gaining precious few answers along the way as to how any of this is possible or how it’s all come to pass.

Spatz, Alexa, and Bertram have been joined in their travels by a Roman they’ve named Spartacus, along with Bob and one of the Time Games’ blue-jumpsuited men, Gamemaster 997. The group has their disagreements over the best course of action ... Read More

The Boy on the Bridge: Interesting characters can’t rise above established tropes

The Boy on the Bridge by M.R. Carey

M.R. Carey’s 2014 novel, The Girl with All the Gifts, was lauded by both Terry and Ray for bringing new life to tired zombie-fiction tropes. The Boy on the Bridge (2017) occupies a prequel/companion/sequel position, in that most of this novel takes place before Melanie’s story, but a twenty-years-later epilogue swoops around and seems to pick up after The Girl with All the Gifts ended. (Full disclosure: I haven’t read that novel yet, but I’m familiar enough with the plot/events to recognize significant places and people like Beacon, Hotel Echo, Dr. Caldwell, and others as they’re mentioned.) Do not follow my example, of course; read the books in order, as wha... Read More

White Hot: Turning up the heat

White Hot by Ilona Andrews

Note: this review contains some spoilers for the first book in this series, Burn for Me.

In White Hot (2017), the second book in Ilona AndrewsHIDDEN LEGACY urban fantasy series, we return to a magical version of Houston, Texas, where some people (typically the rich and powerful) have inheritable magical powers. Nevada Baylor is from a not-particularly wealthy family that runs a private investigation firm, but she and some other members of her family have magical powers that are suspiciously strong for a family with no reputation at all as magic users. Actually, Nevada is a rare truthseeker: she not only knows when others are lying to her, but also recently realized that she can compel them to tell... Read More

The Liar’s Key: A fun second novel

The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence

For better or for worse, The Liar’s Key (2015) — the second novel in Mark Lawrence’s RED QUEEN’S WAR series — is in large part just a second helping of the first book. Readers who enjoyed Prince of Fools will probably find a lot to enjoy this time around as well. Those who might be reading this review in the hopes that I’ll tell them that this one is so much better will probably be disappointed.

Not to say that The Liar’s Key is a bad book by any means. Indeed, it’s rather a good one, filled with the same charm and wit as its predecessor. Jal and Snorri remain engaging leads and Lawrence continues to prove himself a very dab ha... Read More

Rider of the Crown: Large and in charge

Rider of the Crown by Melissa McShane

Rider of the Crown (2015), the second book in Melissa McShane’s CROWN OF TREMONTANE fantasy series, is set a generation after the events in Servant of the Crown. The story initially shifts to a neighboring country to Tremontane, where the Kirkellan live, a fierce people who live a rustic life on the grassy plains and are known for their magnificent horses. Imogen is a young warrior of the Kirkellan, and a big and intelligent girl. As a talented leader of her tiermatha, a group of thirteen warriors who fight on horseback, and the daughter of the leader of her people, she expects to be named Warleader of the Kirkellan someday. But when Imogen... Read More

Nightborn: Kids will love this fun warm-hearted fantasy quest

Nightborn by Lou Anders

Nightborn is the second novel in Lou AndersTHRONES & BONES series for middle graders. I enjoyed the first novel, Frostborn, for its likeable protagonists, sense of adventure, touch of humor, and warm-heartedness. It’d be best to read it before beginning Nightborn.

The beginning of Nightborn finds Karn, our young gaming hero, back on the family farm. But not for long. Soon he is picked up by a wyvern and taken to the dragon in the coliseum who insists that Karn go find and solve a riddle that will lead him to another of those nasty Horns of Osius that the dragon wants to destroy. It appears that Karn’s friend Thianna, the giantess... Read More

Survival Game: Played out across multiple universes

Survival Game by Gary Gibson

Humankind has a weird fascination with its own demise. It's the reason apocalyptic fiction has been a staple for decades. You've read zombie apocalypse, imminent meteor, killer virus stories a million times, so the real challenge now is finding an interesting way to explore said demise. Gary Gibson's take on the genre is surprisingly refreshing in the second instalment of his APOCALYPSE DUOLOGY series, The Survival Game.

We first meet Katya Orlova as she is jumping off a train. She is a scientist working for the Russian Empire, but due to her knowledge of alternate worlds, she has been blackmailed into obtaining an item that will grant the Tsar new life. This item is the Hypersphere: an artefact which allows the user to move between alternate universes. The catch? The Hype... Read More

Wrath of Betty: Has its issues, but will still make you laugh (and think)

Wrath of Betty by Steven Erikson

If you’re going to parody a TV series, as Steven Erikson did with Star Trek in Willful Child, then you can’t stop at just one book, can you? Think of all those other episodes ripe for the plucking! And so we’re back for more interstellar hijinks with the crew of the Starship Willful Child and their erstwhile leader Captain James T--, er, Captain Hadrian Sawbuck as they face hostile aliens, robots run Amok, Time (see what I did there?) travel, hostility from their own Federation, and perhaps most dangerous of all, rampant consumerism. The laughs come at warp speed, making Wrath of Betty a mostly successful mission, though as I noted in my review of the first book, Willful Child Read More

Ice Like Fire: Winter’s been saved — but not for long

Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch

When I reviewed Snow Like Ashes, the first book in the SNOW LIKE ASHES series (back when I was a FanLit newcomer), I complained of a lack of depth to the world that Sara Raasch created. In some ways, its sequel Ice Like Fire (2015) gave me what I desired; I was pleased that the world of Primoria is explored and developed in this book. But where one issue was partly solved, others were thrown up. Once again I found a story with plenty of potential that, if looked at in any depth, felt incomplete.

Interestingly, Raasch starts her acknowledgements by saying that “sequels are hard”. She admits that this second book hurt and that she needed help along the way to produce a “coher... Read More

The Masked City: A fun, imaginative follow-up, and I loved the Train

The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman

With The Masked City (2015),  Genevieve Cogman delivers a fun, imaginative follow-up to her The Invisible Library (2014) debut. We get to spend time with our favorite characters from the first book: Irene and Kai, Holmesian-detective Vale and the fearsome Coppelia. We meet some new ones as well, including a dragon, a new pair of adversaries and a magical Train, who was my personal favorite.

This review may contain spoilers for the first book.

In The Invisible Library, Cogman introduced the concept of high-chaos and high-order worlds, and the Library, which exists in all dimensions and whose mission is to maintain the neutrality of human w... Read More

Girl in the Shadows: Pick a card, any card

Girl in the Shadows by Gwenda Bond

Gwenda Bond has a real gift for writing believable, interesting teenaged protagonists, and puts that gift to use in Girl in the Shadows (2016), the second installment in her CIRQUE AMERICAN series and a companion to the first novel, Girl on a Wire. Though not a true sequel, many primary characters from Girl on a Wire return as supporting characters in Girl in the Shadows, and key events from the first book have a definite effect on the second. While it’s not necessary to read them in order, enough hints are dropped regarding previous mysterious and tragic events that new readers are sure to be interested in the entire series.

Moira Mitchell wants nothing more than to be a stage magician, ... Read More

The Invasion of the Tearling: A clash between past and future

The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Warning: May contain mild spoilers for the previous book.

At first glance, a mash-up between epic fantasy and futuristic dystopia just shouldn’t work. It’s as though someone has cherry-picked a bunch of best-selling ingredients and bunged them all together in a weird genre-bending cake. Even more disconcerting is a comparison made to Panem, Hogwarts and Westeros on the cover. But Erika Johansen manages to weave genres together successfully. In this second instalment of the QUEEN OF THE TEARLING trilogy, Kelsea Glynn (a name that will soon be as familiar as Katniss Everdeen, with a major film franchise in the pipeline) faces the invasion of her newly acquired kingdom, the Tearling.

With the Mort army (quite literally) sitting on her doorstep, thousands... Read More

Supervillains Anonymous: Cool premise, confusing plot

Supervillains Anonymous by Lexie Dunne

I really wanted to like Supervillains Anonymous, by Lexie Dunne. The first book in the series, Superheroes Anonymous, was pretty fun and I was looking forward to seeing what happened after its cliffhanger ending, when Hostage Girl (aka Gail Godwin) was falsely accused of the murder of her close friend and superhero mentor, Angelica. Unfortunately, this second installment wasn’t as satisfying as the first; in fact, I found it very confusing and ended up not finishing it.

It started off well, though. As usual, Dunne’s writing is light-hearted, with a wry, modern voice. Even when Gail, the narrator and main character, is in prison for the murder of her fr... Read More