Book Reviews for February 2015
Reviewed by: Normalene Zeeman
Adult Services Lead Librarian, Prescott
Public Library - www.prescottlibrary.info
Mortal Heart (2014) by Robin LaFevers
This is the third in the young adult His Fair Assassins series and concerns Annith, who leaves the convent to escape the fate as the abbey's Seeress that is planned for her. She meets the two assassin Sisters from the first two books and discovers that there is more to being an assassin than the convent teaches. She encounters the hellequin, similar to the Wild Hunt, who lead souls to the gate to the Underworld. Their leader, Balthasar, touches her heart, but she is on a mission and tells herself there is time later for dalliance. Excellent pacing and character development give the world more history and relevance and when all three girls get together you know nothing will stand in their way. If you love these, you may also like the books by Sarah J. Maas, Kristin Cashore, or Cassandra Clare; all have strong female protagonists who take no prisoners (metaphorically speaking!).
Yesterday's Hero (2014) by Jonathan Wood
This is the second in the series after No Hero, published earlier in 2014. The third one, Anti Hero should be out later in 2015. Arthur Wallace works for a hidden department of the British government fighting supernatural crime and as always, the fate of the world is at stake. His department is a little dysfunctional, his boss is a little crazy even though she might be his new girlfriend. The Russians think it is still 1980 as they are stuck in a time loop and Arthur and his team have to save the day. It is a fast read but you have to pay attention to catch the bits that tie the whole together. I still think the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch is funnier and quirkier as urban fantasy and Wood's series isn't as realistically gritty as Paul Cornell's London Falling series.
The Future Falls (2014) by Tanya Huff
This is the third in the Gale family urban fantasy series and was a fast and fun read. Charlie Gale has a Wild power so she feels separate from the rest of the Gale family even though they try to make her fit in. Her friend, half-Gale boy and half-Dragon Prince and all-sorcerer, Jack, is all she has for help when a doomsday event is foreseen by her Wild Aunt Catherine. Charlie just wants to play music and travel The Wood, but Fate has another thing in store for her. The family dynamics are intricate and the magic is fun, when the Fae feels there will be no repercussions when the world ends and they start to play games with mortals, Charlie, Jack and the family attempt to stop them while worrying about the rest of the world. Jack and Charlie's unrequited love is hilarious as Jack is immortal although only 17, and Charlie is a Wild Power and perhaps one of the strongest, yet they let their family dictate that they can't be together. The secondary characters are cool and funny, especially quirky is the full-blood Fae's love of basketball. Huff is well known for her sympathetic LGBT characters, but that is so low-key as to be almost nonexistent in this book. I wasn't thrilled with the time travel conundrum, but Huff makes it work within the magic system she has created. I hope this is not the end of this series as I love the family magic and the world and hope to see more of them. If you liked this series for the dragons, try Shana Abe's Dragon series; if you liked it for the family dynamics, strong women and magic, try Anne Bishop's "Others" books or "The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic" by Emily Croy Barker.
Blue Lily, Lily Blue (2014) by Maggie Stiefvater
It's a good thing this is only book three of the Raven "Cycle" or I would have been disappointed that it is not the final book in this young adult series. Blue's mother is still missing, the call of the third sleeper takes center stage in this volume and the relationship between the Raven boys and Blue is still murky and convoluted. Long held secrets come out and friends are both there for each other and not. I liked the story but the ending made me want the next one right now. It helps if you read them closer together than I did, because I had to go back and re-read the first two to make sure I wasn't missing any of the nuances.
Endsinger (2014) by Jay Kristoff
I cried through most of the last half of this story, so be prepared; when fighting demons, seldom does everyone get out alive. Stormdancer Yukiko and her stormtiger Buruu, Mechengineer Kin and the Guild, Shogun Hiro and the empire, all struggle to survive. Their efforts force them to confront long hidden past events that make them uncomfortable and may threaten their lives. Yukiko's pregnancy is still affecting her mental ties to Buruu and the secret motivations of the Guild come into the light. Hana and Yoshi find they have a place and a role to play. The reveals come fast and furious as you close in on the end and each one leaves us shocked and uneasy at where the story might be going. The end brings us full circle and leaves us with hope for the land and the people. The mark of a great writer is to make you care for his creation and this one touches us in so many ways. The eco-message is strong that you reap what you sow, but the message is also that most things can be fixed if everyone works together and puts aside their petty grievances. For example: "You people are not eyeless. You could see the damage you were doing to your world. Red skies. Black rivers. Mass extinctions. And nobody lifted a finger. Because it was easier, wasn't it? The world we gave you? We never forced anyone's hand, Daichi-san. We simply gave you the blade and let you cut your own throat." Strong stuff, but in the end, it is what they need to hear.
Foxglove Summer (2015) by Ben Aaronovitch
Fifth in the Rivers of London series, our intrepid hero, Constable and Wizard, Peter Grant goes to the small village of Rushpool on the trail of two missing young girls and the case may have a supernatural component. After several unsuccessful attempts to find the magical leavings that might give him a clue, Peter creates a "vestigia location meter" with kid's toy parts, bits from a phone and strangely enough, it works. But when the girls are found and their stories don't match, Peter and Beverly Brook, (goddess of a small river) have to find a way to get to the truth. But invisible unicorns, fae queens, changelings and every now and then a text from the hidden Leslie, Peter's disfigured previous partner, keep Peter on his toes. We learn more about the alternate history, some mythology of the area and we meet some new characters that add to our enjoyment. I would have liked to have seen more of High Wizard Nightingale, but it didn't fit the story. This is a fun series and it just keeps getting better.
The Highland Dragon's Lady (2014) by Isabel Cooper
I love dragons and stories about dragons. Colin MacAlaisdair, dragon-shifter (and brother of Laird Stephen from the first book, Legend of the Highland Dragon) is visiting friends in the country and is looking forward to a séance when things go wrong. His friend's sister, Regina, has the power to feel things when she touches people and she discovers he is a dragon the very first night he is there. This makes her different from other girls he has met and this intrigues him. The séance releases a vengeful spirit that requires he stay and help figure out how to put it to rest. The plot is awesome and the storyline moves relatively fast, but character development is slow and the dragon shape doesn't appear nearly often enough. Reggie is a modern girl who drives an auto, likes to party and is very likeable and Colin is 130 years old and has not been attached to any of the females he has met so far, so you would think the unusual relationship between them would be more central to the plot, but there is a nice balance between the love story and the mystery story. The third book is about Colin's older sister Judith, is called Night of the Highland Dragon and will be out in June 2015. If you like this series, you may like Shana Abe's Dragon series or Kira Brady's Hearts series about other shape shifters.
Gates of Thread and Stone (2014) by Lori M. Lee
There is a lot here that is confusing about the world, its history and mythology; it's young adult, post-apocalyptic, high-tech in some ways and medieval in others, while being very similar to our world so that an additional amount of world building is not necessary. Kai and her adopted brother Reev, live in a freight container in a freight container suburb, Kai can control the threads of time a little and doesn't remember any of her history before her 8th birthday. The story is wonderful, Reev gets kidnapped and Kai and her friend Avan try to find him by getting outside the White City and getting to the Black Rider. From there it is pretty much nonstop action and the end is resolved nicely but the author left room for another tale set in the same world. If you like this for the strong characters, you might like "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" by Laini Taylor and if you like this for the unique world, try Roger Zelazney's "Lord of Light".
Spell Blind (2015) by David B. Coe
This first in the series book about "Weremyste" and PI, Justis Fearsson, has an unusual magic system combined with a lunar cycle. Weremystes are magicians who get stronger magically yet weaker mentally when the moon is full, which makes keeping a job and a girlfriend difficult. This is explained in such a brief and concise way at the very beginning, that you can sink into the story quickly and fully enjoy the character and the storyline. Justis's magical guide is an ancient Native American Runemyste which is similar to an adept or master magician. The story is that a magician is killing kids by burning out their eyes - but until a rich kid gets killed, the investigation is on the back burner. Several times I had to stop and enjoy a brief explanation or phrase which at the hands of a lesser writer would have taken pages, but here quickly gives me critical insight into the history or the character or the magic. I've loved every other thing he has written and this looks like a new publisher for him, so you may have to search a little harder for his older stuff. The second one in the series will be called "His Father's Eyes." If you like Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden, Daniel Polansky's Low Town series, the Francis Knight series about pain mage Rohan Dizon or Ben Aaronovitch's, Rivers of London series about Wizard Peter Grant, you will probably also love this new series.
Golden Son (2015) by Pierce Brown
Darrow has graduated from the Institute (Red Rising, 2014) and joined House Augustus. He's proved he's one of the toughest and smartest Golds and successfully hidden the fact that he is actually a Red who's been surgically changed from Red to Gold to infiltrate the ruling caste and bring the corrupt system down. But he finds friends who he doesn't want to betray and it makes it very difficult for him to keep his secret when he feels so isolated. Intimate themes of love, family and friendship cross more complex themes of good, evil, sacrifice, betrayal and loyalty making every decision a grueling internal argument. While this gives the story more complexity and depth, sometimes these internal monologues come at the wrong time, such as in the middle of a huge battle and it drops you out of the story while making you feel more for Darrow's anguish. Darrow is a sympathetic character and his friends and enemies are well-developed and even the minor characters feel like the author took the time to give them back stories that make them and their motivations feel real. There was no point at which I thought there was filler that could have been edited out, although the violence is pretty graphic at times. The complex issues are intense and Darrow's hard choices have extremely wide-ranging consequences for a young adult series. This does not feel so much like a middle book as there is lots of action and the story moves quickly along; however you can feel the pieces maneuvering for the final book and the final battle looks to be the epic that this story deserves. I wish his web page said more about the next book - but it doesn't, so we'll all just have to read Michael Hicks' equally awesome space opera series, "In Her Name", again, while we wait.
The Horns of Ruin (2010) by Tim Akers
This is Steampunk at its most unusual. Eva is a paladin soldier of the dead god, Morgan, in the floating city of Ash. The two other gods in the pantheon are Alexander, the last one still living and Amon the Betrayer or Amon the Scholar, who supposedly, Morgan killed. The worldbuilding is unique, the city floats in a crater filled with water covering a more ancient city destroyed when the three brother gods destroyed some more ancient gods and flooded the city to keep the relics out of the hands of the surviving disciples. We learn little about the rest of the world as the story takes place in the crater city and we only briefly meet some of the nonhuman residents. The story starts out with the leader of the Strength of Morgan being kidnapped by unknown assailants and Eva has to find him, uncover various secrets while doing so and save the world without destroying it. Lots of absolute power corrupting absolutely makes for some life or death decisions on Eva's part. Very good character development in the main and supporting characters enhance a cool plot and fascinating religious system. The end leaves us hoping for more while giving a good place to complete this story arc.