Tag Archives: #fantasy

Spell Caster, by Clara Coulson

After discovering a startling secret about his own history, Cal’s been forced to split his time between honing new skills and healing old wounds. So when what appears to be a routine supernatural murder drags him out of the DSI office and onto the streets once again, Cal is initially overjoyed at the prospect of returning to some sense of “normal.” His hopes are dashed, however, when the seemingly simple crime suddenly morphs into a violent murder spree that leaves bloody bodies scattered across Aurora. With scant clues to the perpetrator’s motives and identity, Cal and his teammates find themselves in a race against time to stop a magic practitioner hellbent on killing anyone related to a man that everyone at DSI was hoping they’d be allowed to forget. But in the supernatural community, old wounds always reopen and old enemies always rear their heads again in the ugliest of ways. And while Cal now has more power at his disposal than ever before, the adversary pitted against him this time around may just be unstoppable.

I continue to enjoy Clara Coulson’s “City of Crows” series. After the events in Day Killer, Cal has to be careful. Revelations could mean the end of the line for Cal Kinsey. Zombies are just the start of Spell Caster. Cal reunites with an old friend, but in a world subject to Fae whim and politics, who can be trusted?

Can Cal stay out of the Emberverse for once? The Methuselah Group, The Black Knights, and the High Fae Court continue to be the bane of Cal’s existence. You start to feel sorry for the guy. When will Cal get a break?

Spell Casteris another action-packed tale with twisty turns and mysterious magician machinations. Just like the five books before it, Spell Casteris fast-paced with realistic characters with a diverse cast that lifts the veil to our own world. I look forward to Dawn Slayernext year. Five stars for Spell Caster.

Clara Coulson was born and raised in backwoods Virginia, USA. Currently in her mid-twenties, Clara holds a degree in English and Finance from the College of William & Mary and recently retired from the hustle and bustle of Washington, DC to return to the homeland and pick up the quiet writing life. Clara spends most of her time (when she’s not writing) dreaming up new story ideas, studying Japanese, and slowly reading through the several-hundred-book backlog on her budding home library. If she’s not occupied with any of those things, then you can probably find her playing with her two cats or lurking in the shadows of various social media websites. In the publishing sphere, Clara is currently occupied with the City of Crows urban fantasy series, and its companion series, Lark Nation.

Amazon
Goodreads
https://claracoulson.com
Twitter


Sugar Spells, by Lola Dodge

After her run-in with a jealous warlock, apprentice baker Anise Wise can’t wait to get back the kitchen where she belongs. But thanks to her brush with death, the land of the living isn’t all cupcakes and marshmallows. Anise’s magical mojo is way out of whack and her evolving powers are stirring up trouble. As the town buzzes with news that Anise can bake deathly spells, unsavory characters start lining up for a taste. They’ll stop at nothing for the chance to use Anise and her witchcraft to further their own plots. She plans to hole up researching magic recipes until the attention dies down, but then she discovers the horrifying terms of her bodyguard’s contract. Wynn has saved her life so many times, she can’t leave him trapped. But doing the right thing will mean risking death or worse—being cast out of her dream job.

I’ve yet to read something by Lola Dodge that I haven’t liked, and Sugar Spellsis no exception. Although, I wonder why the names of the first two books aren’t swapped. I think that the titles describe each book better. Anyway, Anise continues in the employ of her great aunt, Agatha, but things are amiss, and well, Anise might never be the same again…

Like Deadly Sweet,Sugar Spells contains strong female characters, while allowing vulnerability that male protagonists are regularly not allowed to show in fiction. I didn’t groan at the mistakes Anise made in this second book. Unlike some series protagonists, Anise actually learns from her mistakes, and doesn’t repeat them over and over again.

Like book one, I requested this one from NetGalley, and my thoughts from my review of book one continue in regard to sexism and misandry, and the overall socio-anthropological view of the characters within the pages.

It’ll come as no surprise that I enjoyed Sugar Spells, and like its predecessor, I read the story as fast as I could pour the words into my brain. Even though the title just reminds me of the older brother in The Goldbergs, I look forward to reading Wicked Tastyin first quarter 2019. Four stars for Sugar Spells, and you should totally read these books.

Lola-Dodge

Lola Dodge is nomadic and has lived in New Zealand, France, the Czech Republic, and Taiwan. Her current base is Chiang Mai, Thailand, where she spends her days eating excessive amounts of coconut and trying to avoid heat stroke. She grew up in Upstate NY (Salt potatoes! Apple cider donuts!), got a degree in English Lit and German at Stonehill College, and an MFA in writing popular fiction at Seton Hill University. She doesn’t like bacon, coffee, beer, the sun, or fireworks. Instead, give her tea, vodka drinks, air-conditioning, and anything sweet. She’s a proud part of the writing roster at Ink Monster publishing, where she collaborates on the Shadow Ravens and Alpha Girls series. Her other fiction is represented by Rebecca Strauss at DiFiore and Company Literary Agency. Some days she hates writing and some days she loves it, but she can’t imagine doing anything else (even though she works at the pace of a sloth on sleeping pills.)

Amazon
Goodreads
http://www.loladodge.com
Twitter


What Man Defies, by Clara Coulson

Three weeks after his disastrous showdown with Abarta, Vincent Whelan is well on his way to recovering from the fight and putting the whole nightmare behind him. But when a standard stretch recovery job comes to an end with an angry ghost slinging heavy objects, Vince discovers a thread he left hanging has frayed beyond repair. For almost two months, random people in Kinsale have been mysteriously vanishing. Now their shades, damaged by terrible deaths, have begun to plague the city. Vince, spurred by the growing list of victims, goes on the hunt for the person or creature responsible for the kidnappings. Only to get more than he bargained for when one of his own friends gets snatched before his very eyes. In a race against time, Vince puts together a ragtag team to venture into the Otherworld and rescue the remaining victims before they all succumb to a horrible fate. But the path to victory is fraught with peril, and the mastermind at the end of the road may just be unbeatable. A vault protecting a powerful relic. Merciless enemies at every turn. And countless lives at risk. All Vince wanted was a little peace and quiet. Now he’s got the fate of the world resting in his hands. Again.

I always know that I’m in for a treat when I get a new Clara Coulson book. Urban Fantasy protagonists just have the worst luck, and Vince is no different. Unlike other Urban Fantasy books, Coulson actually explains why Vince seems to be a magnet for strange happenings. This allows for more world-building and history without being a giant information dump.

As with the first book, the characters are believable – they behave in ways that I’d expect the denizens of this post-apocalyptic world to behave. The villainous faction and their leader seem plausible rather than being evil for the sake of being evil. Events and interactions hint that there are bigger machinations afoot, and Vince and the rest of the humans may not have much time left.

I’m definitely in for the next book in the series, and What Man Defies is another solid read from Coulson. Five stars!

Therin-Knite

Clara Coulson was born and raised in backwoods Virginia, USA. Currently in her mid-twenties, Clara holds a degree in English and Finance from the College of William & Mary and recently retired from the hustle and bustle of Washington, DC to return to the homeland and pick up the quiet writing life. Clara spends most of her time (when she’s not writing) dreaming up new story ideas, studying Japanese, and slowly reading through the several-hundred-book backlog on her budding home library. If she’s not occupied with any of those things, then you can probably find her playing with her two cats or lurking in the shadows of various social media websites.

Amazon
Goodreads
http://www.claracoulson.com/
Twitter


What Fate Portends, by Clara Coulson

Seven years ago, the exposure of the paranormal led to the tumultuous downfall of human society. Now, the legions of the fae rule the broken world, and humanity has nothing left but a handful of protected cities and a heaping helping of regret. Enter Vincent Whelan. Half fae and former cop, he’s become the best-known stretch scavenger in Kinsale, North Carolina, braving the “stretches” outside his city to recover precious items lost in the collapse. He makes good money. Lives the good life. Has a good future in store. As long as he can ignore his traumatic memories of the past. But when a new job with an odd twist blows onto his doorstep, Vince finds himself unwittingly drawn into a vast conspiracy lurking underneath Kinsale’s thin veneer of civilization. Old friends suddenly return to haunt him. New enemies appear at every turn. And Vince fears he isn’t prepared to confront either one. But if he doesn’t put his detective hat back on and solve this case on a tight deadline, then what’s left of the city he calls home might just crumble to dust.

I already knew that Clara Coulson is a solid writer, but switching from a beloved series (City of Crows) to a new one is always risky. You’re always comparing the new series to the old one. I’m relieved that Coulson’s writing prowess continues in this new series, and the flavor is different enough from City of Crows, that it doesn’t feel rebranded.

The world building is fun, and we’re thrust into the action right away. That action sets the tone for the rest of the story, and we immediately like the protagonist. But Vince has secrets. Secrets that can get him killed, and throw the world into chaos. Protagonists just have the worst luck, right?

As usual, the characters are compelling, suffering from foibles, and they overcome these foibles to show us their hidden strength. It’s easy to identify with Vince as he struggles to live in his society. This is trueurban fantasy, whereas City of Crows is hiddenurban fantasy. The supernatural creatures live along side humans.

Another great read from Clara Coulson, and I look forward to reading more in this series. Although I received an advance reader copy from the author, the editing and formatting is suburb. Five stars, and a must read for fans of urban fantasy.

Therin-Knite

Clara Coulson was born and raised in backwoods Virginia, USA. Currently in her mid-twenties, Clara holds a degree in English and Finance from the College of William & Mary and recently retired from the hustle and bustle of Washington, DC to return to the homeland and pick up the quiet writing life. Clara spends most of her time (when she’s not writing) dreaming up new story ideas, studying Japanese, and slowly reading through the several-hundred-book backlog on her budding home library. If she’s not occupied with any of those things, then you can probably find her playing with her two cats or lurking in the shadows of various social media websites.

Amazon
Goodreads
http://www.claracoulson.com/
Twitter


Kill the Farm Boy, by Delilah S. Dawson & Kevin Hearne

Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, a hero, the Chosen One, was born . . . and so begins every fairy tale ever told. This is not that fairy tale. There is a Chosen One, but he is unlike any One who has ever been Chosened. And there is a faraway kingdom, but you have never been to a magical world quite like the land of Pell. There, a plucky farm boy will find more than he’s bargained for on his quest to awaken the sleeping princess in her cursed tower. First there’s the Dark Lord who wishes for the boy’s untimely death . . . and also very fine cheese. Then there’s a bard without a song in her heart but with a very adorable and fuzzy tail, an assassin who fears not the night but is terrified of chickens, and a mighty fighter more frightened of her sword than of her chain-mail bikini. This journey will lead to sinister umlauts, a trash-talking goat, the Dread Necromancer Steve, and a strange and wondrous journey to the most peculiar “happily ever after” that ever once-upon-a-timed.

I absolutely lurved Kill the Farm Boy. I’ve read more Delilah Dawson than Kevin Hearne, but I’ve read and enjoyed them both. The easiest way to describe Kill the Farm Boy is that it is Spaceballs, but in a fantasy setting. Everything that I loved about Spaceballs is everything I love about Kill the Farm Boy. Puns, double entendre, slapstick situational comedy, and a general irreverence to the genre the writing duo parodies. Plus, Dawson and Hearne don’t take themselves seriously. When the authors can laugh at themselves, the reader will too. I can totally imagine Dawson and Hearne at the bar of a hotel after a day at a convention, daring each other to write this story.

If I had to complain about anything, it would be that while the writers are aware of the genre they poke fun at, the tropes are alive and well in this parody. Several plot twists were plainly evident, and if this story had a character that broke the fourth wall, I’d expect them to pop up and declare, “plot twist!” Now that I write this down, I think that a character breaking the fourth wall would’ve been just the ticket. It works for Ferris Bueller and Deadpool, why not an irreverent parody of fantasy. Kevin Smith famously said that he made all his money with phallus and flatulence jokes.

The story obviously parodies The Princess Bride, Shrek, and just about every Dungeons and Dragons campaign ever made. The humor is at times crude, often juvenile, but always there. There’s a reason the tag line is “Once. A pun. A time.” For the same reasons that people enjoy Mel Brooks, Monty Python, and the Three Stooges, they’ll enjoy Kill the Farm Boy. To steal a meme from the Internet, “I don’t always read the punnies, but when I do, it’s to Kill the Farm Boy.” There will be a lot of consternation about the humor, but what did they expect? I’m awarding this story 3.14 stars, because I like pie.

Delilah S. Dawson writes whimsical and dark Fantasy for adults and teens. She is a winner of the RT Book Reviews Steampunk Book of the Year and May Seal of Excellence for 2013. Delilah teaches writing classes at LitReactor and wrote the Island of Mesmer world for Storium. Delilah lives with her husband, two small children, a horse, a dog, and two cats in Florida.

Amazon
Goodreads
http://www.whimsydark.com/
Twitter

Kevin hugs the hell out of trees and loves doggies and pretending that he knows stuff about hockey. He is also fond of comic books, tacos, fresh air, clean energy, and friendly people. He’s been told that his handwriting is really quite lovely.

Amazon
Goodreads
http://www.kevinhearne.com/
Twitter

Kill the Farm Boy:
Amazon
Goodreads


Deadly Sweet, by Lola Dodge

Anise Wise loves three things: baking, potion making, and reading her spellbooks in blissful silence. She might not be the most powerful witch, but enchantment is a rare skill, and her ability to bake with magic is even rarer. Too bad one wants witchcraft on their campus. Anise’s dream of attending pastry school crumbles with rejection letter after rejection letter. Desperate to escape her dead-end future, Anise contacts the long-lost relative she’s not supposed to know about. Great Aunt Agatha owns the only magic bakery in the US, and she suddenly needs a new apprentice. Anise is so excited she books it to New Mexico without thinking to ask what happened to the last girl. The Spellwork Syndicate rules the local witches in Taos, but as “accidents” turn into full-out attacks on Anise’s life, their promises to keep her safe are less and less reassuring. Her cranky bodyguard is doing his best, but it’s hard to fight back when she has no idea who’s the enemy. Or why she became their target. If Anise can’t find and stop whoever wants her dead, she’ll be more toasted than a crème brûlée. Who knew baking cakes could be so life or death?

I’ve been a fan of Lola Dodge’s Shadow Ravens series, so when I saw a book about a kitchen witch by Dodge on netgalley, I immediately requested it. I prefer my fantasy stories to be light on the witchiness, and like it when magic is used in a utilitarian fashion, rather than grand use in epic battles, etc. The premise that each magic user is tied to a specific discipline is nothing new, but the concept of a witch whose powers are all about the baking with a specialty in desserts just makes me smile.

Because witchcraft is presented as a female-dominated skill, this story is full of badass ladies. The portrayal of Anise is pretty standard fare for a young adult novel. What really intrigued me was the history of the prominent witches in the story. Their relationship with Anise’s mother and her expulsion from Taos was sadly not explored in this first book. The sexism and misandry is almost nonexistent in Deadly Sweet, and I was just a little disapointed in the opportunity missed to compare the world of Taos to modern society. Science fiction and fantasy have a rather unique ability to criticize society without offending, and while not every novel needs to be a treatse into the flaws of our society, I feel that it would’ve been easily accomplished, especially since Anise was raised in the “normal” world.

From a socio-anthropological view, the ways that the closed tribe of witches interacts with each other, and the normies is another theme that is well done in Deadly Sweet. The ‘townie’ trope is commonplace, and I rather enjoyed Wynn’s uncomfortable encounters with tourists. Which brings me to a part of the story that disappointed me: Wynn. Written as a stoic hero trope – almost a reverse-gender La Femme Nikita, I found his antics to be off-putting. Plus the constant references to his contract, and shields in general, weren’t explained enough in this book. I understand that it’ll be a prominent theme in the second book, but the lack of knowledge made his character unnecessarily uninteresting. I hope in a future story, Dodge explores the issue of power and wealth, and perhaps even same-gender relationships.

Overall, Deadly Sweet is a fun read. I look forward to the next book later this year, and my expectations are pretty high. A solid four-star read. Lola Dodge is one of the few writers that I usually end up “over-reading,” because the story is just so engrossing, that I say to heck with my responsibilities and just keep reading. The book is out today, so let’s help Ms. Dodge have a grand start to this new series.

Lola-Dodge

Lola Dodge is nomadic and has lived in New Zealand, France, the Czech Republic, and Taiwan. Her current base is Chiang Mai, Thailand, where she spends her days eating excessive amounts of coconut and trying to avoid heat stroke. She grew up in Upstate NY (Salt potatoes! Apple cider donuts!), got a degree in English Lit and German at Stonehill College, and an MFA in writing popular fiction at Seton Hill University. She doesn’t like bacon, coffee, beer, the sun, or fireworks. Instead, give her tea, vodka drinks, air-conditioning, and anything sweet. She’s a proud part of the writing roster at Ink Monster publishing, where she collaborates on the Shadow Ravens and Alpha Girls series. Her other fiction is represented by Rebecca Strauss at DiFiore and Company Literary Agency. Some days she hates writing and some days she loves it, but she can’t imagine doing anything else (even though she works at the pace of a sloth on sleeping pills.)

Amazon
Goodreads
http://www.loladodge.com
Twitter


The Shock of Survival, by Nicole Field

the-shock-of-survival

In the wake of the final battle against The Oppressor, Benedict, Ophelia and Dylan face their magical community in triumph. But that triumph rapidly loses its shine as they realise the war is not so easily left behind. Returning to, and relearning, the lives they had before proves to be more difficult than even they had anticipated.

I enjoyed The Shock of Survival. When I saw it on NetGalley, I noticed that it was from LT3, and have read a few works from this publisher in the past. Everything I’ve read thus far from LT3 have been solid stories.

The premise of the book is simple enough: Three heroes try to return to their lives after defeating The Oppressor. I’ve often wondered this about stories I’ve enjoyed. The aftermath of their heroic deeds has to change them. I mean, after you defeat the villain, aliens or evil robot with murderous AI, what do you do?

The Shock of Survival has an almost Harry Potter vibe to it with those that can wield magic, and those that cannot. After doing the great deed, our heroes have to quell yet another, albeit not earth-shattering, crisis.

The story reveals many aspects of the fight against The Oppressor, but doesn’t dwell on The Oppressor, or why so many wizards died trying to defeat him. I think if the author had revealed any more information, I might have been disappointed. We get a few glimpses of character development told in flashbacks. The relationships between the trio before and after the battle with The Oppressor are well done.

Definitely an interesting read, and I would recommend this to those that like the Harry Potter universe. Four stars!

nicole-field

Nicole writes across the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity. She lives in Melbourne with one of her partners, two cats, a whole lot of books and a bottomless cup of tea. Also likes tea, crochet and Gilmore Girls.

Amazon
Goodreads
http://polynbooks.tumblr.com/
Twitter