Monthly Archives: February 2015

A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab

Kell is a rare mage who can travel between worlds, the adopted son of the King and Queen of Red London. It is Kell’s job to travel to the other worlds on royal business. Red London is a world where magic permeates everything. White London is ruled by those who can wrestle magic to do their bidding. Grey London is a land without magic at all. And Black London? Black London is a place that no one travels to, and no one speaks about.

When the story opens, Kell is visiting mad King George in Grey London. As he travels back to Red London, we learn that Kell has a hobby: he smuggles items from one London to another for the right price. This hobby soon lands him in big trouble, and he is charged with treason in Red London. When he flees to Grey London, he finds himself entangled in the life of one Delilah Bard, a pickpocket whose middle name is clearly trouble. And trouble finds them, for they are again forced to flee from a dangerous enemy. It will take all of Kell’s skill in traveling between worlds as well as Lila’s scrappy street smarts to keep them both alive.

I really can’t tell you how awesome this book is. The world is unique, with its four very different Londons. Kell is a fascinating character, at once both naive and wise beyond his years. Lila is keenly intelligent, loves adventure, and yet she has failed at every turn to change her life for the better until she meets Kell. And Kell’s enemies! All I can say is they are true villians, unlike many stories where the bad guy is only misunderstood.

I really hope this is the start of a series, as I adored this book. Amazing storytelling. Simply splendid!

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Princess of Thorns, by Stacy Jay

Princess of Thrones, by Stacey Jay

Princess of Thrones, by Stacey Jay

Aurora, daughter of Briar Rose, aka Sleeping Beauty, is a fairy-blessed child. According to the prophecy, Aurora is vital to bringing about the rein of the ogres that may mark the end of the world. Aurora and her brother, Jor, manage to stay hidden from the orgre queen for years, until one day, Jor is captureed. Aurora, desperate to free her brother, sets out, disguised as a boy, to raise an army to defeat the orge queen. Instead of an army, she finds an alley in a young man named Niklaas. Niklaas is battling with his own troubles; he is cursed to turn into a swan on his eighteenth birthday.

Told in alternating points of view, we see the story unfold through both Aurora’s and Niklaas’ eyes. Both struggle with their own burdens and fears, while trying to do the right thing to defeat the orge queen. The two are able to become friends before they understand the romantic attraction between them. Both are stubborn, independent, and determined not to suffer the pity of others. While the goal is to defeat the orge queen, in many ways this story is about two young people overcoming the barriers imposed by their own strong and contrary personalities.

While I very much liked the prose of this book, which was readable and filled with snappy dialogue, there were a couple of things I thought could have been done better. The prophecy of the rise of the orges was not strong enough to build up tension toward the end of the book. The motivations of the orge queen and her brother were not well enough explained. Still, I don’t review books I don’t like. This was a satisfying romance for the younger teen reader. Both Aurora and Niklaas were well developed characters, and it was a pleasure to read their story.

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Half the World, by Joe Abercrombie

Half the World, by Joe Abercrombie

Half the World, by Joe Abercrombie

Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea series continues with book 2, after Half a King, which featured the trials and tribulations of a young prince Yarvi. Yarvi is now Father Yarvi, counselor to the King and Queen of Gettland. Gettland is marching toward an inevitable war with the forces of the High King, and Gettland needs allies. Yarvi is charged with this task, and he undertakes it in a very untraditional way. But really, this tale of finding allies is not Yarvi’s tale. Rather, it is the tale of two teenagers: Thorn, a warrior girl touched by Mother War, and Brand, a calm, strong young man who only wants to do what is right.

When the story opens, Thorn is training to become a warrior, and accidententally kills one of her fellow trainees. Though the incident was truly not her fault, under the laws of the land, she must die for her crime. Enter Brand, who feels the injustice of Thorn’s plight. He takes the issue to Father Yarvi, who intervenes. Instead of being crushed by stones, Thorn will come with him on his journey to seek allies for the King. Brand will also join him. Yarvi brings together a large cast of characters to help, some familiar, some new, and off they go, sailing up the river on their quest.

One of Yarvi’s merry band is Skifr, a very skilled warrior woman who takes up Thorn’s training. Brand, who is still not sure of his place in the world, continues to try and do the right thing. And onward they go. And of course, adventure, peril, death, and even some victories follow. This is a story of the difficulties of growing up, of facing ackwardness and uncertainty with the help of those who can assure you it’s all normal. Yarvi, the star of the first book, is in the background, but clearly his is orchestrating the actions, and hoping for an outcome that only he can see.

I enjoyed this book more, in many ways, than the first book of this series. With both books, I will admit that the characters and plot took a little longer than I like to get going. Once the story is rolling along, however, it will keep you reading long into the night to find out what happens. Thorn is awesome, and Brand is cool, and Father Yarvi is a deeply cunning man. If you like fantasy, and like a fast-paced story, then this series is for you.

Full-discloser: I received my advanced reading copy from Edelweiss at Above the Treeline. Half the World goes on sale February 17th.

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Written in Red, by Anne Bishop

Written in Red, by Anne Bishop

Written in Red, by Anne Bishop

When we first meet Meg Corbyn, she is cold, desperate, and on the run. By chance, she sees a help wanted sign, and in her mind, a job means money, and money means safety. What she doesn’t know is that the job is for Liaison for the Lakeside Courtyard, one of the business districts for the Others. Meg may have not know who the Others were when she started her job, but she soon learns. The Others are beings out of myth, who have established communities where humans and Others can mix in safety. Humans that do not honor the boundries of the Courtyard are eaten. (Literally.)

Meg, acting as the Courtyard Liaison, starts to build relationships with other members of the community. Her primary dealings are with Simon Wolfgard, a shapeshifting werewolf, but she also a favorite of Erebus, an aged vampire, and Tess, a mysterious woman with terrible powers. Her new friends do not know that Meg is hiding a secret; she is a blood prophet, or cassandra sangue. By cutting her skin, she can see the future, and her prophecies are of great value. When it is suspected that the Courtyard is harboring her, the Courtyard draws the attention of dangerous people. Now, the residents of the Courtyard must make a choice…do they protect Meg, or do they let go?

This urban fantasy is a good addition to the genre. Meg is an intereting character, and I loved the Others, who really are not afraid to bite. This book may appeal to those who read titles by Kim Harrison or C.E. Murphy.

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