Book Review: Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

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Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

The Great Library was started to ensure that the wisdom of mankind was safeguarded. However, since its advent during the reign of the Egyptian Pharaohs, the Library has stagnated, hoarding its knowledge, and stifling any dissent.

Jess is the son of a book smuggler. Printed books outside the Library’s control are contraband, and the penalty for owning these forbidden tomes is death. Though he has lived his life defying the Library’s hold on the printed word, he understands the value of protecting knowledge. When his family is able to get him a coveted position to train as a Library Scholar, he is secretly excited for the opportunity. Once his training starts, however, he discovers he may have been safer as a smuggler.

First of all, I can’t believe I waited this long to read this book, it has been filling up my feed for ages now, and the third book in the series is due out soon.

The world building in this book is fantastic. Caine manages to combine steampunk with dystopian near-future, and it works. This is a world built on steam, alchemy, and high technology. It manages to feel both nostalgic and futuristic at the same time. The characters that inhabit the book are similarly complex and well-crafted.

As Jess starts out his training with the Library, we begin to hope that we can stay with the “Hogwarts with Books” aspect. Alas, soon any illusions about the Library are tugged away and we find ourselves in a dystopian world where knowledge is a coveted resource, and this supreme entity will go to any lengths to keep their monopoly.

Honestly, it’s a bit like Amazon took over the world. The Library is a repository of knowledge, and the information deemed “acceptable” to be released to the public is done via “blanks,” electronic books to which the texts can be sent via alchemy. In a world where increasing digitization has vastly changed the concept of ownership, Ink and Bone feels like a cautionary tale. It certainly made me look at my kindle in a new light.

This book is a great adventure story, and fans of books like the Hunger Games will enjoy this series. Though I’m sure this book is considered YA, the subjects being dealt with are mature and complex, and there is a lot here for older readers (like me). Now I’m off to get the next book in the series (hard copy, not in kindle format).

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

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The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

 

Thaniel Steepleton is a low-level telegraphist with the British Home Office. One morning, after a long night shift, he finds a mysterious package sitting on his bed. Inside is a watch he is unable to open, though he can hear the clockwork moving inside. Forgetting about the mysterious watch as the months go by, Thaniel is drawn with the rest of the government into investigating bomb threats being made by Irish Nationalists. When the watch saves him from such a blast, Thaniel is determined to get to the bottom of the timepiece’s mystery. Seeking out the maker of the piece, a Japanese Baron turned watchmaker, Thaniel finds a quiet, unassuming man. As events continue, it appears more and more that Keita Mori is hiding something. Thaniel must weigh his growing regard for the kindly Mori with his increasing suspicion that he may be at the center of the bombings in London.

This is a neat little book, and took me down unexpected paths. In the interests of keeping my reviews spoiler free, I won’t elaborate any more on the plot here, but suffice to say that having started the book, I could not have predicted where it would wind up. There are elements of fantasy and steampunk in this story, but these aspects don’t seem intrusive, which is a fairly easy trap to fall into in this genre. Rather, the book felt like a historical mystery, with the more fantastical elements providing a gilding along the edges.

The characters of Thaniel Steepleton and Keita Mori are richly drawn. Mori, especially, is well done. As the plot weaves on, we come to regard both he and Thaniel as sympathetic characters, yet we are left guessing until the very end of the book whether or not Mori is a villain.

Fans of historical mystery, steampunk, or historical fantasy will find a great deal to like in this book. The book lies somewhere between the historical-with-a-bit-of-supernatural Lady Julia Grey series by Deanna Raybourn, and the vividly steampunk Magnificent Devices series by Shelly Adina.

 

Book Review: The Wrath of a Shipless Pirate by Aaron Pogue

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The Wrath of a Shipless Pirate by Aaron Pogue

This book is the second in the Godlander Series by Aaron Pogue. If I have to tell you by now that there are spoilers ahead, I’ll be very disappointed. (My review of the first book in the series, The Dreams of a Dying God, was written pre-blog, but you can read it here, if you like.)

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I read the first book in the series several years ago, started this book, and promptly became distracted by something shiny. The poor thing has been sitting on my shelf ever since, and as I’m trying to be good about getting through long-timers on my TBR, I thought it was high time to give the book another try.

Corin Hugh has returned from the ancient city of Jezeeli and emerged in the present day with the favor of a God. Tasked by Oberon himself to kill usurper god Epithel, Corin first sets his sight on some satisfying revenge. Corin sets his sights on killing Ethan Blake, his mutinous first mate who left him to die in the ashes of the great city’s ruins. Unfortunately, it seems that Blake may actually be one of the Vestossis, powerful politicians and rulers who enjoy the favor of Ephithel himself. With the help of a druid ally, Corin must learn to use the magics given to him by Oberon to exact his revenge.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: time travel makes for messy book keeping. While an interesting concept, Corin’s traveling 1000 years in the past in the first book can only complicate the plot from here on out. Fortunately, Pogue seems to sidestep most of those issues by placing Corin’s first adventures in something analogous to a dream, as envisioned by the God Oberon (kind of a literal deus ex machina).

The story itself is engaging. However, it does take about 70-ish pages before you start to feel like you’re having fun. Once the book settles into its rhythm though, it becomes a rather entertaining swashbuckling, monster-fighting, ship-exploding, revenge-seeking, pirate-killing extravaganza. I would recommend reading the first book prior to this one, but, as I didn’t reread it prior to reading this book, you may be able to get by reading this book as a stand alone.

I would recommend this book to fans of straight-up fantasy. It does take some work, but once you muddle through the first few chapters, it really does become quite a bit of fun.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra by Colm McElwain

James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra by Colm McElwain

This book revolves around James Clyde, plucky orphan, and his two friends, siblings Mary and Ben (also orphans). The three, recently adopted by crotchety Anne Brown, are looking forward to visiting with James’ elderly grandfather, Wiltmore Clyde, over the Christmas holidays. Wiltmore has always told James and his friends stories of the legendary land of Orchestra, where three invaluable diamonds are hidden, diamonds that can grant wishes.

The appearance of a sinister man in black heralds an attack on Wiltmore’s house by mysterious cloaked monsters, and James finds out that the stories his grandfather has been telling him all this time have been true. Orchestra is a real place, the diamonds are real, and James is in fact the long-lost heir to the throne. James (with the diamond his grandfather has been hiding since he was a baby) flees with Mary and Ben to Orchestra, where they find themselves embroiled in a long-running war for the rule of the legendary land, and possession of the magical diamonds.

I don’t normally review children’s books, nor do I have children, so I am reduced to giving an adult’s perspective on this book. The bones of the story are interesting, with flavors of The Chronicles of Narnia, the Harry Potter series, Peter Pan, and even the Terminator (yes, the movie, I kid you not). The cloaked monsters, the Dakotas are frankly creepy, and you get the impression  of quite a bit of background waiting to flesh out the story.

Along those lines, some additional world building would have been helpful. The story throws you right in, with little explanation. I generally enjoy getting thrown into the middle of the chaos, but the book does little to explain things later on. James, Mary, and Ben know all about Orchestra and the diamonds, so there is no vehicle for the reader to learn much about the world. It feels like the author has a complete world built in his imagination, but you are only seeing the smallest sliver. The book feels like the beginning of a series, so future books could help to add depth to the land of Orchestra.

However, I think this book will be enjoyed by the ages it was intended for–kids around 10-12. The plot is simple enough for younger readers to not get bogged down, and the resulting fast pace will keep their attention. There are some violent and scarier scenes in the book, but nothing really over a PG rating. Kids who enjoy fantasy books would be a good match for this one.

Book Review: Firebrand by Kristen Britain

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Firebrand by Kristen Britain

Firebrand is the sixth book in Britain’s Green Rider series. So: There are going to be major spoilers for the previous five books in this review. I will also say that you probably don’t want to dive into this book without having read the previous ones. If you haven’t read any of the Green Rider Series, stop reading this review right now and click here to find out where to start.

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Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way: it’s wonderful to be reading a Green Rider book again! Britain averages about three and half years between books, and the wait for a new one always seems interminable. Add that to the rather disappointing Mirror Sight (the last book in the series, not bad on its own merits but not really a Green Rider book), and it has been seven years since we last got to travel to Sacoridia.

This book takes place shortly after the events of Mirror Sight, and five years after the first book. Karrigan G’ladheon (one of my original favorite badass female characters) has returned from the dark future time with a shard of looking mask embedded in her eye. The Second Empire, led by creepy and cunning Grandmother, still threaten Sacoridia’s northern border. To prepare for war with the Second Empire, King Zachary and his Eletian allies decide to send a party to seek out the legendary P’ehdrose people and convince them to fight at their side. Though not yet recovered from her past ordeals, Karrigan is chosen to make the perilous journey. Meanwhile, Grandmother has unleased an elemental force against the Kingdom, one that puts the royal family in grave danger.

As a fan of the series, I must say that this was a very satisfying book. It was wonderful to enter back into Sarcoridia again, and to take up all the treads that had been left dangling in Blackveil (the fourth book), and not addressed at all in Mirror Sight. The events of this book mainly revolve around heroine Karrigan (naturally), her friend Estral the bard, and an Eletian named Enver (briefly introduced in the first book). Grandmother returns, as does her frankly disturbing granddaughter, Lala. the book unfolds in typical Green rider fashion, with disaster and happenstance radiating off the main storyline. Nothing in Kristen Britain’s universe ever goes as planned.

Britain’s main strength is, as always, her ability to create worlds and characters that resonate. The setting she has created in Sacoridia is vivid and believable, with a wondrous amount of depth, and layers enough to provide for many more novels. Her characters, especially her female characters, have grown and evolved through the events of five previous books. I am constantly amazed at the organic way Karrigan and her counterparts grow and change through the Green Rider novels. Even with characters like Queen Estora, who would be easy to turn into a two dimensional foil, or Grandmother, who could simply become another raving villain, are given a depth and breadth of character that is rare in any genre. Even those characters you don’t like, you wind up at least understanding.

If you have read and enjoyed the previous books in this series, you will more than likely enjoy this latest book. In light of that, if you haven’t read any in this series, this book is not for you. There is simply too much back story, and too much intricacy lost without having read the previous five novels. However, if you tend to enjoy fantasy, and are looking for a series with a plethora of strong female characters, and you want to edge away (sometimes far, far away) from the young adult genre, then this series will appeal to you. I highly recommend you pick up Green Rider and get started.

An advanced copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Firebrand will be available for purchase on February 28th, 2017.

Book Review: Gil’s All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez

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Gil’s All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez

This is A. Lee Martinez’s debut novel, and I recently had the hankering for a reread. I still remember picking it off an end cap in my local library as I looked for something the read over the winter break. The bold title and the one-eyed, tentacled monster on the front had me hooked. I’ve been a huge fan of Martinez ever since.

This book revolves around Duke (a werewolf) and Earl (a vampire), who stumble upon a diner in the middle of the desert that is besieged by zombies. In an effort to earn a couple of bucks and help out Loretta, the diner’s owner, Duke and Earl agree to stick around and do some light repair work. And find the source of the restless dead. As it turns out, Rockwood County has a rather bizarre and supernatural past, and the Law of Anomalous Phenomena Attraction (weird shit pulls in more weird shit) means that things are only going to get stranger and more difficult.

With this book, Martinez set his style as something of an American Terry Pratchett. His style of writing is zingy and humorous, sarcastic and witty. His subject matter tends to be a little out there, whether lovecraftian, sci-fi, sword and sorcery, or what have you. The writing in Gil’s All Fright Diner is a bit rougher than his later work, but nevertheless you can see the promise in the colorful characterizations of Duke and Earl, the flow of the banter, and the arcane twists of the plot.

If you enjoy science fiction, fantasy, or monsters, but would like a light-hearted read rather than something overly serious (and who wouldn’t in these abysmal times?), Martinez’s books are a good bet.

Gil’s All Fright Diner is current;y available for purchase.

Book Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Screenplay) by J.K. Rowling

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling

I can’t believe I’m actually saying this: Make sure to watch the movie before cracking open this book! This is not a novel (or even a novelization), and it is not the lackluster and minimal-effort filler Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them“>mini book  published in 2001. This is a screenplay, pure and simple, and follows script format. If you’ve read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (see my review here), then you already know what you’re in for.

I mention this know, because when purchasing from Local Bookstore, the poor, defeated woman behind the counter informed me of this not once, but twice. I guess a few people made a stink about the book not being an actual novel.

But as a Potterhead, and a fan of the movie (and, let’s face it, a completeist) I couldn’t not get this book. Plus, have you seen it? It’s beautiful!

Anyhow, the story (again, this is the screenplay from the movie, you should have seen the movie already)follows Newt Scamander, future author of Hogwarts textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, as he travels to the United States to do research for his book, and to conduct some magical animal rescue along the way. He inevitably gets pulled into American wizarding politics, and the dangers of a group known as “New Salem”, who are seeking to unmask and persecute witches. The movie was engaging and fun, while at the same time holding a light onto some important social issues (segregation, conversion therapy, etc.). The scree.play is by Rowling herself (unlike Cursed Child) and so retains a good deal of her whimsy.

So see the movie. The book, being merely a screenplay (a novelization by Rowling would have been spectacular, but perhaps I am greedy), is not a necessary read, nor a necessary purchase, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is currently available for purchase.

Friday the 13th Book Review: Warren the 13th by Tania del Rio and Will Staehle

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Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio and Will Staehle

Happy Friday the 13th!

I don’t usually really or review children’s books, but after getting a gander at the artwork for this book (I’m a huge Edward Gorey fan), I just couldn’t resist. And I wasn’t disappointed. The book is recommended for readers age 8-12, but us older folks can find a lot to like in the story as well.

Warren the 13th is a young, vaguely ghoulish-looking boy who helps to run the family hotel (The Warren), does all the odd jobs his ne’er-do-well uncle is too lazy to do, and tried to avoid his evil aunt, Annaconda. Since the tragic death of Warren’s father (Warren the 12th, obviously), the hotel has fallen into disrepair as Warren’s uncle ignores the place and his aunt tears the building apart looking for a legendary magical artifact, the All-Seeing Eye, which is said to be hidden inside the hotel.

When  a mysterious new guest appears, the race to find the Eye is on. Warren will have to venture deep into the bowels of the unusual hotel and solve ancient mysteries in order to claim his rightful inheritance.

As I said above, I really enjoyed this book. The illustrations are wonderful  and put the reader in an Edward Gorey/Tim Burton-esue mood. The story is simply told (it is for younger readers, after all),  but not childish. Fans of more offbeat stories, like Artemis Fowl or A Series of Unfortunate Events will like this book.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Warren the 13th and the All-seeing Eye is currently available for purchase.

Hey there! How about some Friday the 13th perks?

The authors have made up a short story and activity book for Warren the 13th on this most unlucky of days. You can check out this online only goodie here.

Happy reading  (and grab your lucky rabbit’s foot)!

Book Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

shadow-bright-and-burningA Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

Henrietta Howel can set herself on fire. Along with all the other problems brought on with self immolation is one unfortunate fact: women in Victorian England aren’t allowed to do magic.

Welcome to a lovecraftian Victorian England, where a witch opened a portal into another dimension, setting free the Ancient Ones, hideous monsters bent on the submission and eradication of the human race. (Male) sorcerers are tasked with trying to hold the monsters at bay, and any magic outside the narrow confines of their purview is punishable by ugly death.

Henrietta Howel grows up in Jane Eyre-esque poverty at a charity school for girls, trying to keep her firestarter tendencies under the radar. But when a visiting sorcerer discovers her magical abilities, the cat is out of the bag. Rather than be put to death, she is brought to London to fulfill an ancient prophecy which will pit her against the Ancient Ones as humanity’s last hope. But is she really the chosen one?

All in all I found this book to be an engaging and fast-paced read. Cluess borrows elements from several sources (Jane Eyre, Harry Potter, and Lovecraft being the most obvious), but she is able to make the combination work (and let’s face it, bringing Jane Eyre into the Cthulhu mythos is not a task for the faint of heart). Parts of the book were genuinely creepy, especially the familiars, humans transformed by the ancient ones to do their bidding. The major flaw in this book comes from the overdone romance angle, as our heroine has not one, not two, but three possible romantic entanglements within the book. Is it too much to ask for the protagonist to stand on her own for a bit before delving into the pathos of teenage love?

Ah well. In all, this book was very enjoyable and I look forward to the next in the series. I think Cluess has a promising future ahead of her.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. A Shadow Bright and Burning is currently available for purchase.

Book Review: The Dead Seekers by Barb Hendee and J.C. Hendee

The Dead Seekers by Barn Hendee and J.C. Hendee
 

I was a fan of the authors’ Noble Dead series, which I read way back in the day (2003, probably before you were born). Now this book, the first of a planned series, has come along, set in the same world they created for the Noble Dead, but with new and exciting characters.

And I liked it. The book introduces us to Tris, unwanted son of a noble lord and able to control and banish spirits; and Mari, a mondyalitko (gypsy) shifter (think were-lynx) looking to avenge the deaths of her entire family. When Mari saves Tris’ life, she is inadvertently drawn into his business of ridding the world of violent spirits. But there is more lurking out there than meets the eye: what should have been a routine job in a remote village becomes a greater mystery when it seems that the spirit of the dead woman plaguing the village may herself have been killed by a vengeful ghost. And, as Mari begins to learn more about Tris, it seems more and more likely that he may have had something to do with the slaughter of her family.

This book, like the Noble Dead series, isn’t high literature, but it doesn’t have to be: it’s fun. One of my favorite features of the Hendees’ work is the setting. This book takes place in Stravinia, a medieval, remote country of scattered villages and larger towns hiding behind thick walls. The picture the authors paint is gothic and dark: deep, foreboding forests, poor villages consisting of hovels huddled together against the predatory creatues that lurk in the darkness. Vampires, ghosts, and werewolves roam the land, and superstition and fear permeate everything. Think of the Solomon Kane stories by Robert E. Howard (you know, the guy who wrote the original Conan stories). The world created by the Hendees breathes with malicious intent, and I enjoyed stepping into it again.

I would recommend this book for those who read and enjoyed the Noble Dead saga. Likewise, anyone who likes dark fantasy would probably enjoy this book.

An advance copy of this book was provided by the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The Dead Seekers will be available for purchase on January 3rd, 2017.