Archive for urban fantasy books
Although YA fantasy has become the rage, I have to say that this particular one stood out from the crowd. It wasn’t just the gorgeous cover, though that is what stopped me dead in my tracks when I was looking through NetGalley for a new book to review. I do want to make a note that I got my review copy for free for review purposes from the publisher through NetGalley. But what made this one stand out for me went far beyond just the cover.
It was also the stubborn and yet wise very human narrator of our story, Gwen. For a teenage girl who is faced with some pretty scary new realities, she is not someone to be pushed around. It isn’t as though she doesn’t get scared; she does but she also handles it well. But then, if I was suddenly kidnapped by some handsome but strange guy and then told I was in a past life a magician that could save the world from certain disaster I would question my safety as well. And therein lays the strength of this story.
Gwen is one of those girls you notice in high school are always alone. They aren’t ugly or nerdy; they simply don’t seem to fit in with anyone. She is not looking forward to being the new kid at school again, as her family has just moved to Oregon and she is starting her senior year in high school. But she is determined to find a way to deal. Then, on her way to her first day of school she is followed and kidnapped.
Her kidnapper reveals that she is a magician, with the ability to stop some evil from taking over the world. Like any bright kid, she has read the papers and figures he is a crazy person that she needs to get away from. That was when I knew this would be a good read, when Gwen reacted to the news like any normal person would – she tried to run away. In fact, it took quite some time for Kian to convince her that everything he said was real. But as a girl who is used to thinking on her own and not following the crowd, Gwen is the perfect hero to save the day. The only problem is, she doesn’t know how to. Oh- that and she needs to find the others who like her are magicians without knowing it.
The Mysterious Kian
Kian is a bit of a mysterious figure, dark and handsome but not pretty-boy. We aren’t always sure just where he fits into the story at first. I found myself trying to guess if he was Gwen’s son or lover in that past life. However, when his secret is finally revealed it will turn out to be an unexpected turning point for everyone involved.
He tells Gwen that she has a past life, in ancient Britain. There she and others like her fought against both the invading Romans and an evil mage. They made a pact to pus
h their souls forward in time so they could together be prepared for battle. It is the mage she and the others must overcome in our world today.
This mage’s struggle to gain power is what is causing massive erratic weather and storms across the US. These storms soon loom out of control and throughout the story tell us of the mage’s growing power. It is an awesome symbol and one I have not seen before in fantasy.
Kian knows there are others that can help in this battle, but he isn’t precisely sure where they are and what they will look like. They take off to New York City, a location he has been told for finding the others. Gwen still isn’t sure about him, but then she begins to get dreams, dreams of her other life and it seems that Kian is in them.
Dreams that tell her not just who she once was, but perhaps who she can be now. These same memory dreams reveal how evil is hunting her now, across time. But can they find the others before the evil that is hunting Gwen finds her?
The Seven Wanderers
Slowly Gwen and Kian find the other warriors that have come up through the time-stream to be with her. Like Gwen, they are all teenagers. Without the training of warriors they are all in danger, so training begins. As they train together they slowly knit as a team, learning to trust each other.
But the dreams continue to haunt Gwen. They become like puzzle pieces, some giving her clues and others simply confusing her. Kian continues to tell them that it is their memories that will give them the key to confronting and triumphing over the evil mage. But can they remember what they need to know in time?
A New YA Fantasy Series
This is just the start of the series, titled The Seven Wanderers. It has a lot going for it, great characters, a fascinating premise and some concepts for fantasy that I have not run into before. I would have liked to know more about the lives of the others before Gwen and Kian found them. It is a small thing and I am hoping we see more in the story to come. The sense of reality in the book was what really sold me. The fact that Gwen takes nothing on Kian’s hearsay, she has to find out on her own, makes her a great choice for the narrator.
The only weakness I see is that it definitely has the feel of an introduction to a series. We learn a lot about Gwen, Kian and the others. We learn enough about the menace to feel it is every bit as dangerous as Kian says it is. But I was left at the end of this book feeling I wanted more. Then again, perhaps that is a good thing. Not sure when the next one is coming out in this trilogy, but I hope soon.
Lives of Magic will be released January 2014 but you can preorder. I find myself doing this more and more as I find great books I don’t want to miss out on. Plus, if makes my email feel like a gift machine when I get my email notice that Amazon just sent the book! At this point Lives of Magic is only available as a paperback.
If you have been following the Eternal Assassin series, this fantasy novella is going to answer some questions about the relationship between Gin and Owen. The only complaint I have is that it doesn’t answer all of them, but that maybe should have been expected. Still, I love it when we get a different POV in a series. That is exactly what Jennifer Estep does here, as she tackles taking on the view of the lover who turned out to be a cad. It is an interesting and intriguing decision by Estep.
Owen was introduced several books back and at first the fans (me included) loved him. He just seemed like the guy for our Gin. But when he messed up, he did it big time and by the end of Deadly Sting I was more than happy he seemed to be out of the picture.
This time around we get his view of it all, and believe me he is sorry he messed up. This is only a novella so I can’t say much without giving it all away, but if you want to see some Spider action with a different point of view, I would say to check this one out.
When an old friend of his takes him out to their favorite club to celebrate his survival of a nasty bullet wound, Owen finds himself oddly out of sorts. He can’t get Gin out of his mind. So when she walks in, along with what looks like a few unwanted shadows, he knows he has to do more than just hang in the shadows himself. He has to act, whether she wants him to or not.
Get your little dose of Eternal Assassin adventure right now when you download this novella which is only available as a Kindle download from the folks at Amazon.
The heroine of this paranormal romance is Bergdis Hildegun O’Dell. With a name like that is it any wonder that she has spent so much of her life fighting? However, what she generally fights are not kids calling her names, but very real and very scary paranormal creatures. Often she is the only one who can see them, but that doesn’t stop them from being dangerous.
At a pretty early age Beri found out that she was not like everyone else. She went through changes that left her with a startling appearance, strength beyond what even the serious weight-lifters in the gym could match and the ability to see all kinds of beings, especially ghosts. Bounced through a succession of foster homes, it was a “sister” in the last one that remained her only true friend.
The Danger Becomes Personal
But now it appears that something is causing people all over Florida to fall into a coma, and Beri’s sister has asked her to come and help her find out why. At first it doesn’t feel like her problem. There have been some pretty bad experiences connected with her recent attempts to help. She wants desperately to find out just who and more importantly what she truly is, and she knows that going after any paranormal activity might gain her a clue. But the last time the price was too steep, she doesn’t want to go there.
Then her sister becomes another victim of the comas and Beri knows she has to find out just what is happening here. She is pretty sure someone or something is trying to steal souls, including her sister’s soul. Beri has her two spirit guides to help along the way (when they are willing to) but in the end it will probably be up to her to find out what is causing people to drop into comas.
Setting a New Bar for Paranormal Romance
As far as an urban fantasy, this one goes a bit out of its way to redefine a few elements, and does it well. Although the trend right now seems to be “kickass heroine saves the day”, Beri actually has some real character to her. She is tough, but her doubts about her origins make her vulnerable. Her need to have some kind of connection through her sister gives her a humanity often missing in most of the urban fantasy heroines I read these days. Beri may be inhumanly strong and such, but she is still a young woman trying to find her roots.
The other element that made this story so entertaining is her two “sidekicks” the spirit guides Fred and Phro. They introduce humor without it knocking you over and get to ask the tough questions. They give Beri balance.
And then there is Nikolos. He is a dark mysterious warrior, a Minoan that may or may not be just what Beri needs in her life. She is attracted, that is not the question. But there is something about the man that just doesn’t feel right. He has secrets, and she is afraid they may be ones that could lead her to danger. But walking away is just not an option, either.
All the Right Elements
For a paranormal romance this one has lots of kickass adventure and even some mystery. Yes, the romance is there and Nikolos is every bit the dangerous yet sexy character you would want for it. Beri is complicated, which makes her all the more interesting and the support cast is not so numerous I need a guide, a problem that is way too common these days.
It’s the first book in a new series by newcomer Rinda Elliot and the next book Blood of an Ancient is due out in October, so you won’t have to wait too long. If you are looking for a nice slow boil of an adventure with plenty of suspense and a dose of dark romance, this is it. Well worth checking out, as I think we may be hearing more from Ms. Elliot in the years to come.
The second book in the Invisible Recruits Series is just as snarky and fun a fantasy adventure as the first. Once again we are along for an amazing ride as Alex and her band of powerful women set out to right some wrongs and maybe have a few laughs along the way, their style. The gang is still in the learning stages, so there are more than a few close calls along the way.
We get right into the swing of things within a few paragraphs and the action never slows down after that. These books are a real roller coaster ride and it is probably one of the reasons you may find that once you pick up this fantasy adventure you will have a hard time putting it back down until you are done.
Alex may be a shaman and a witch, but she is young and sometimes just a little too cocky. Her sometimes lover, Bran, is a warlock of immense power and little patience. The attraction is there alright, but then so is the animosity. It makes for a very interesting relationship, to say the least.
But saving humanity from the beasties of the world, even if they aren’t too aware they exist outside of fairy tales, is just the beginning. For Alex has the Council to contend with, team leader Stone to placate and most of all her brother to rescue from the monster that is planning to reveal just how many paranormals exist to the rest of the world.
For Alex anything is better than being sent back to prison. That was the deal; save humanity, stay out of prison. Mess up and the deal is off. For Alex, learning to cope, getting the bad guys and saving her brother are all part of a very demanding negotiation.
A sexy fantasy series with a bit of a different heroine, the Charley Davidson series deals with death from the vantage of a grim reaper. Now, I will admit that I love this kind of kooky off the wall concept of death. I was a huge fan of Ghost Whisperer when it was on, though Charley doesn’t quite help people go “into the light” in the same way that Melinda did. Plus somehow I can’t picture Charley in one of those floating nightgowns Melinda seemed to favor. Not the gal that within the first few pages of the first book in the series mentions in passing wearing ”a Scorpions’ hockey jersey I’d snatched off a goalie and a pair of plaid boxers – same team different position. ”
Then again, Charley is a grim reaper so that may explain the reason for the difference. And even there she is different from my other favorite “grim reaper”, Georgia in Dead Like Me. For one, Charley is a bit savvier and can communicate better. The other difference is more basic.
She has always been able to see the dead, even when she was a little girl. It was why she began helping her Dad and Uncle Bob, both cops, when she was just five. Born a grim reaper, she discovered when a teen that in fact she is “The Grim Reaper”, the only one that the dead can go to when they have problems moving on. It makes for a somewhat strange life, and her occupation as a private eye kinda fits it like a glove, even if it happens to be one on a dead person. Here is a look at the fantasy books from this series, in order:
Charley has been “seeing dead people” for as long as she can remember. While it may be her “job” to send them to the light, sometimes it gets more complicated. Sometimes they want her to find the person who has killed them and bring them to justice. As if that wasn’t a complicated life already, Charley has been having these strangely erotic dreams. They are always about the same being- one she has been aware of most of her life. The trouble is, she didn’t think he could be this real. Now she needs to decide how she feels about just who- and what – he is.
Cookie is Charley’s best friend, who also happens to be her receptionist for her private eye business. So when Cookie comes to Charley about her friend Mimi going missing, Charley doesn’t have to think twice about helping to find her. A strange message leads the two to a coffee shop, where they discover a message on the women’s washroom wall from Mimi, but no Mimi. It’s a woman’s name; someone Mimi’s husband says she had become obsessed about ever since she found out the old high school friend had been murdered.
Now Charley needs to find the connection, and keep her sanity when her nights are filled with visits from Reyes, the creature of her dreams who can make his astral body feel every bit as real as the physical body he is escaping. Trouble brews on all planes of existence and it seems that Charley is caught in the middle, as usual.
The Son of Satan with the body of a GQ model may be one distraction too many for Charley. This time she is dodging motor-cycle gangs with ill intent and a doctor with an ego that outstrips his skills. Plus, her dad is being just plain unreasonable lately. But even when she imprisons Rayes (the son of Satan)in a prison that he can never escape for all eternity, he manages to find a way to return to her and haunt her dreams, and more!
This one is beyond hilarious with just enough hot action to keep it from being slapstick. Author Jones is a master at balancing the sassy wise-cracking so it is fun but never over the top.
The last case has left Charley exhausted and filled with self-doubt. Some days just the act of getting out of bed is more than she can do. But when a woman shows up, desperate with fear, Charley knows she has to do what she can to help. As an heiress Harper Lowell has good reason to believe that someone is trying to kill her, even if her friends say she is insane. Perhaps even because of that. It’s time for Charley to face the many betrayals she has endured and find the strength to move beyond them. More than that, she knows that there is a war brewing and she cannot avoid being trapped by it. Is it even possible to have a HEA with the son of Satan, no matter how good he makes Charley feel?
Just when Charley has decided she is done resisting the charms of the gorgeous Reyes, son of Satan, he moves in next door to make him even harder to resist. So why fight it! Finally, just as things begin to come together for our favorite Private Eye/Grim Reaper, strange ghosts begin appearing in her apartment. They all are blonde, distraught, and not all of them are actually dead! When the Chief of Police decides that it is just a little too convenient that Charley solves all these murder cases, threats of exposure dance in her head. To top it all off Charley suspects that her sister is next on the list for a serial killer.
In this second book in a new fantasy series we meet Scarlett, a person whose unique gift is the ability to nullify the effects of magic in the mundane world. They are called “nulls” and she has been using the ability to erase any trace of the paranormal at crime scenes. This has made her a valuable part of the “Old World” as she is instrumental in keeping their existence quiet to those outside of the paranormal life.
In the first book of the fantasy series, Dead Spots, all of this was jeopardized when LAPD detective Jesse Cruz uncovers Scarlett’s secret. He uses it as leverage to bring her and her abilities into the case. If she solves the case he will keep her secret. That crime scene was our introduction to a very different Los Angeles and the world of Scarlett Bernard.
Now Scarlett finds herself pushed into a role she doesn’t really want, a crime investigator, once again. This time around it is two of her own that have been murdered. The two witches were discovered only a few days before Christmas and finding out who is behind the grisly act has become Scarlett’s job. But when her old mentor Olivia appears connected, Scarlett finds herself confronting a past she would have rather left behind.
If you are a fan of the paranormal and are tired of the same old vampire/werewolf heroes, here is a very different take on the concept. I have never seen the ability to null magic in a story before and Melissa Olsen’s take on the supernatural world starts to really take hold with this second book. A great supporting cast and some additional world-building has turned this into a fantasy series I am looking forward to seeing more of from Olsen.
You have three great editions of Trail of Dead to choose from: either download the Kindle edition for instant gratification, order the paperback to sit on your shelf with the first book of the fantasy series Dead Spots or perhaps order the audio/CD version so you can listen to the story narrated by Amy McFadden while driving to work.
If a fantasy novel about an obsessive compulsive American expat writer living in Japan sounds a little off the wall, you would be right. If the same writer not only had a compulsion to write that borders on insanity, but has just found out that the murders she writes about tend to actually happen, then you would be fine with saying that Eight Million Gods by Wen Spencer is a fantasy novel that resembles nothing else you have ever read. It certainly doesn’t read like any fantasy book I’ve read lately, and I read around half a dozen or more of them a month.
But then fantasy author Wen Spencer has been writing highly unusual and brilliant fantasy stories from the get-go. Her first book, Alien Taste, won the Compton Crook Award and she has been piling up the awards and accolades ever since. If anyone could pull off a fantasy novel that has a more than slightly nuts manga author whose compulsive need to write about murders is complicated when these same murders start to show up in real life, it is Wen Spencer. Of course, if that was all that Nikki, our expat author in Eight Million Gods, had to deal with, then her life would be much simpler.
Fantasy Novel Bows to Japanese Myth
But there is the small matter of the raccoon in a business suit that attacks her not long after her arrest for a murder she simply wrote about in her blog. Soon many creatures from Japanese myth are appearing to her, and she is beginning to wonder if her control-freak of a mother wasn’t right about that funny farm.
This is an insanely funny and fast-paced novel, with some of the best plotting and characters I have run across in a long time. Don’t be fooled by the first chapter. It may have nary a fantasy element in sight setting the story, but when it is this specific, that setup takes a bit of time. That’s okay- it gives us a bit more time to get to know Nikki.
Things get busy and fantastical fast enough once Nikki meets a Tanuki, which is a shapeshifter from Japanese mythology. By the time she finds herself being a surrogate step-in body for Kami, a minor god who happens to live within an ancient sword, life gets beyond interesting.
Oh, and don’t worry if you find yourself wondering about some of the Japanese cultural and mythological terms sprinkled in the story. Wen’s “not completely accurate glossary of Japanese terms” in the back of the book is well worth checking into from time to time. You might even want to skim it first, so you can jump back and double-check when you first run across them.
Mystery, Fantasy and Manga Rolled Together
While the whodunit flavor adds a lot to the feel of the book, I also think that the pop culture sightings bring this fantasy novel to a whole new level. If you are at all into Manga or Japanese pop culture you will love the many references to them scattered throughout. For those with a bit of curiosity about the whole sub-culture, here is a chance to play in that sandbox without getting completely lost.
Are you ready to plunge into Nikki’s crazy world? While there is no listing at Amazon for a paperback yet, you can get Eight Million Gods by Wen Spencer in hardcover for those with bookshelves to fill. For the rest of us there is a reliable and downloadable Kindle edition to jump into.