Tag Archives: #fantasy

What Dawn Demands, by Clara Coulson

After watching his city fall to pieces during his archenemy’s last attack, Vincent Whelan is finally ready to take the fight to Abarta. But in order to defeat an age-old god and his growing army of vicious fiends, Vince will have to take Kinsale’s selection of subdued paranormals and somehow turn them into a first-rate fighting force. To complicate matters, the vampires have made themselves at home in Kinsale, and the city’s recovery is threatened by their escalating violence. So when Vince stumbles upon a major scheme in the making, spearheaded by the elder vampire who wants his head on a plate, he’ll have to navigate not only the dangers of Abarta’s next big move but also the rising risk of a vampire insurrection. A cunning trap that could destroy the city. An ancient summoning that could destroy the world. A pair of powerful people determined to achieve their dark ambitions. And the only thing standing in the way of all this chaos is a half-fae with a cop badge, a cool sword, and a massive chip on his shoulder. It’s Vincent Whelan versus the forces of absolute destruction, and the odds are far worse than fifty-fifty.

This fourth book in the series had a slightly different feel to it. Vince seems to have matured between the events of books three and four. I think I like this confident Vince better than the “hidden” one. I will say, that this is the first book in the series to have a cliffhanger ending, and it felt longer than any of the previous books. I’m not usually a fan of the cliffhanger, but Coulson pulls it off without book four feeling incomplete. It’s been fun reading Vince grow as a character, and we learned a lot about the past histories of the world, Vince, and the fae. If I had to find fault, it’s that the recurring villains are getting a little stale. I realize that Abarta is the big bad, and his defeat would likely mean the end of the series, but he seems like doctor claw from inspector gadget. I still love the snark between Vince and Saoirse, and between Vince and everyone who shunned him before his lineage was revealed. Everybody cheers for the underdog, and Vincent Whelan is an underdog I can really get behind. Five stars like the rest of the series, and I can’t wait to read the next book.

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.

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Oath Sworn, by Meg MacDonald

Defending Lian against soulless assassins is not what Aralt “Wolf” syr Tremayne agreed to. Nor did he agree to be the guardian of an irrational teenaged Keeper of the Faith. And he certainly did not plan on sky pirates or cannibals. Aralt has his hands full. The Grand Meeting of the Northern Alliance is mere days away and Lian Kynsei, last of the soul-touched and missing for three years, turns up on his doorstep. A noble man of his word, Aralt has every intention of protecting his ward, but did he have to show up now? What’s worse, the more they get reacquainted, the less Aralt likes him. He’s reckless, emotional, and when he’s angry even the weather changes. This is the hope of a nation? Armed with the Tuned sword that is all he has left of his murdered brother, Aralt endeavors to secure a sanctuary for a reluctant heir-apparent who never anticipated his elevated status. But sanctuary proves elusive, every step bringing them closer to danger–and closer to revealing secrets neither wishes to share. The enemy has made the skies their own and unleashed a scourge intent on killing Lian–or worse. Death, Aralt realizes, might be the greater mercy.

Oath Sworn starts a bit slow, but this is a necessity to lay the foundation on which an epic noblebright series is built. From flying ships to crystal swords that sing with sorrow and jubilation, the world of Aralt and Lian is a masterpiece that yearns to be told again and again.

A richly woven tapestry of history, religion, and good old fashioned gas lamp fantasy, Oath Sworn is a tale of tales for athe ages. Exciting chapters flow with a beautiful prose that is accessible to readers young and old alike. New readers will marvel at the mastery and majesty of the author, and seasoned readers will find that they’ve reunited with a tale that is familiar, but told in a way that only Meg Mac Donald could tell.

I long for the continuation of the Wolf’s Oath series, and know that new installments will be as riveting as this introduction. Five out of five stars is an easy rating to grant, and I have no doubt that more tales from the author will quickly become a reader’s favorite.

Meg MacDonald is a time traveler from beyond the Stellian Galaxy, but she pretends to be a life-long Michigander and SFF geek whose first crush (after her daddy) was Mr. Spock. This explains a lot. She began writing the stories that would lead to Oath Sworn and the Wolf’s Oath Trilogy when she was in high school. A lot of writing and many distractions followed. She has trained dogs and horses, rescued cats, renovated old houses, gone spelunking, and fostered children. Her husband thinks she’s cute, her kids think she’s weird, and her cats just want her for her lap. She loves woolly mammoths, Coca-Cola, men in kilts, and has never been to the moon, but hope springs eternal. Meg’s short fiction and poetry have appeared in Weird Tales, Masques of Darkover, The Temporal Logbook, and other short story anthologies both in print and online. She was editor-in-chief of the semi-pro SFF magazine PANDORA back in the day and credits that experience with nurturing her love of short fiction, honing her critical skills, and delaying her writing career by at least a decade.

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The Harpy, by Julie Hutchings

Charity Blake survived a nightmare. Now she is one. Punk-rock runaway Charity Blake becomes a Harpy at night—a treacherous mythical monster who preys upon men just like the ones who abused her. Struggling through an endless stream of crappy coffee shop jobs, revolted stares, and self-isolation during the day, Charity longs to turn into the beast at night. Doing the right thing in all the wrong ways suits her. But a Harpy’s life belongs in Hell—the gruesome Wood of Suicides, where the Harpy queen offers Charity just what she’s looking for: a home where she can reign supreme and leave behind the agony of her past. The choice to stay in Hell would be easy, were it not for a rock-and-roll neighbor who loves her for the woman she is—even when he discovers the creature she becomes—and unexpected new friends with their own deranged pasts and desires who see Charity as their savior. But salvation isn’t in the cards for Charity. Not when her friends see through her vicious attitude and fall in love with her power as the Harpy. Struggling between the life of an injured outcast and the grizzly champion of a blood-red hellscape, Charity must thwart her friends’ craving for her power enough to fear her corruption—and determine once and for all where her salvation lies: in eternal revenge or mortal love.

The Harpy, by Julie Hutchings is dark. Characters deal with abuse, violence, and a touch of gore when they deserve it. Charity is a flawed protagonist, but who wouldn’t be with the same backstory? Always snarky, with a brutally honest look at humanity’s underbelly, The Harpy is an excellent voyage into darkness. Characters are not who and what they claim to be, and everything’s fair game. If you like your stories dark, and your protagonists covered in blood, then this is the book for you.

Julie’s a mythology-twisting, pizza-hoarding karate-kicker who left her ten-year panty peddling career to devote all her time to writing. She is the author of Running Home, Running Away, The Wind Between Worlds, and forthcoming The Harpy. Julie revels in all things Buffy, Marvel, robots, and drinks more coffee than Juan Valdez and his donkey combined, if that donkey is allowed to drink coffee. Julie lives in Plymouth, MA, constantly awaiting thunderstorms with her wildly supportive husband, two magnificent boys, and a reptile army.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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http://www.claracoulson.com/
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