Archive for the ‘fantastic’ Category
Grave witch Alex Craft can speak to the dead, but that doesn’t mean she likes what they say.
Like in several other urban fantasy fictions I have read, Grave Witch uses the literary device of a society transformed by the coming-out of paranormals or, in this case, the fae. Magic was awakened in the world, allowing some humans to better understand and practice it. There are the usual spell casters who can create charms ranging from homing origami messages to complexion charms. One of the rarest forms of ability was communicating with the dead, called grave witchcraft.
Alex, a talented grave witch, is hoping to get a break by helping the police solve cases and DA get convictions through the shades she calls up. A favor for a sister gets her into more than she can chew. She gets attacked by a shade and then shot at. Death saves her, pushing Alex out of the way. That she has been seeing and talking with a soul collector since childhood is another of Alex’s idiosyncrasies. A detective who is more than he seems starts tailing her, suspecting she knows more than she lets on. Which is true.
After Queen of Shadows, Grave Witch is a treat. I love the love triangle formed between Alex, Death, and detective. The relationship between Alex and Death reminds me of Tanya Huff’s The Last Wizard, where Crystal and Death form a rare friendship; they can never touch and he can never claim her, as wizards’ souls are off-limits to him. The detective may seem at a disadvantage, in terms of mystique. I thought so, but not for long (read to find out why). I don’t know who I’m rooting for actually.
There are shades of the Greywalker series here, too, in how both heroines can interact with different levels of reality, from the physical to the ghost world. Very Twilight Zone. That sort of stuff always appeals to me.
I can do with fewer interrupted dialogue, though; it’s a literary device that’s more irritating than intriguing. There must have been over a dozen examples where the character go, “I’ve got to, uh…” Argh.
Overall, a charming debut about a boy wizard. But I’m glad it’s out of the way so I can move on the progressively darker sequels. And see more of sulky Snape and gay Hagrid .
Do I have to summarize the story of Harry Potter? Doesn’t everyone know about his story by now? The Boy who Survived and You-Know-Who hunting him. I’ve seen the movies, liked them increasingly by each sequel, and stopped short of being a fan. The movies were brilliant and I liked seeing the characters and actors mature, and the plot thicken, moving from the babyish fantasy of Sorcerer’s Stone to the chilling rebirth of Voldemort. I found the absolute loyalty of the evil sorcerer’s minions sick and depraved, bordering on the sexual (has anyone else noticed this?). And that stopped me yawning because seeing that in a children’s series was funny. Published in 1997, I’m only now reading the Sorcerer’s Stone, and only because I felt I had to, acquiring the book in a book swap three years ago, having promised the previous owner I’ll get back to her about my impressions of the book, and caving in from the pressure of being maybe the only one in my circle or reader-friends not to have read the book. So I added it to my TBR challenge.
And regretted it for a week, which was how long before I managed to get past page 100, finding the account of Harry’s early years, about how incredibly boring Muggles were, incredibly boring. Come to think about it, I also never did manage to finish watching the first movie, no matter how many times I’ve caught it running on cable. This was good as it turned out as I was surprised by the revelation of whodunit later in the book.
I’ve read fantasy fiction by other British authors before, such as Margaret Storey (A War of Wizards), Edith Nesbit (Psammead Series), and Tanith Lee (Unicorn series) . Their stories were extraordinary and I loved them. Until now I have a crush on Hilarion, the wizard who can’t stand to be seen. My favorite of their ilk will be forevermore Dianna Wynne Jones, who penned Howl’s Moving Castle and creator of unforgettable characters like Sophie Farthing, Wizard Howl, and the fire demon Calcifer. Having partaken of their literary feasts since high school I was not that excited over the news of a new Fantasy author and her debut work about a boy wizard.
My reading taste lately has also shifted from pure fantasy to urban fantasy, and not just because of the kick-ass heroines, but also because I prefer if the story treats magic as part of the world, not separate but one and the same, with people just experiencing different things. One reason I got bored with the first part of Sorcerer’s Stone was the strong sense of insularity it conveyed of the magic world from Muggle world.
Nevertheless, I did get past the first 100 pages and was engaged finally as Harry learned about potions, spells, and the soccer-like game Quidditch. The mystery of the Sorcerer’s Stone was interesting. I liked how the author dropped hints here and there as well, not just about the current mystery but also about the overarching mystery of Voldemort and Harry’s role in his downfall. I can imagine how like a game it is for readers spotting references and clues, connecting the dots from book 1 to book 3 or somewhere else. That was very clever of the author.
Her imaginative details were also impressive. She invented Platform 9 ¾, Every Flavor Beans, messenger owls, and the magic puzzle game in the Sorcerer’s Stone Chamber, hearth-hatching of a dragon egg and Quidditch. I liked how she used elements of the British school system to define Hogwarts School. The rivalry and other relationship dynamics between students and eccentric faculty were well thought out. Even if I had not seen the movies, I can easily visualize Harry, Ron, Hermione, and all the others. The writing was fluid, easily keeping pace with human and magical nuances. Spooky also had a special place; if I were 11 years old I imagined I would be terrified out of my wits upon realizing what lay under the turban.
Overall, a charming debut about a boy wizard. But I’m glad it’s out of the way so I can move on the progressively darker sequels. And see more of sulky Snape and gay Hagrid .
Leather does not a kick-ass heroine make.
With the avalanche of urban fantasies these days, it’s difficult to be precise in one’s book selection. The story blurb on the back cover can be so deceiving, pushing all the right buttons, hitting all the right kiliti nerves. I don’t know how others do it, but I oftentimes let my self be just carried away and regret later the hole in my wallet from a wasted purchase.
I’m afraid I have to list Queen of Shadows under misses. The excess of clichés and bland characters did nothing for a formulaic story, in which vampires are real, very much a part of society, they hate us, they love us, they kill us, they save us. There was no major effort to make this story stand out from the pack.
The story was sufficiently intriguing, of a musician with the power to manipulate her audience’s emotions, in a city secretly ruled by an army of vampires, where head vampire falls in love with a fragile human after he finds her brutalized by thugs. He mentors her on shielding and helps her to heal, while fighting against his attraction to her. She was also attracted right away alright but then she struck me as someone easily pushed willy-nilly anyway.
It wasn’t that bad, I guess. The fact that this is a published book tells us that the author has risen from the ranks of wannabes to actually making a name. I can respect that, but I also have to be honest that I am in a comparing mood right now, and I find this book unremarkable compared with the likes of the Kate Daniels and Greywalker series. Queen of Shadows received the brunt of my disappointment over finding ok instead of great. That my introduction to the female protagonist was when she was busy whining and absorbed in self-pity did not help any in creating a good first impression. It was down the drain after the first chapter, actually.
Kiliti – Tagalog slang word meaning, roughly, something causing excitement, often used in connection with romance situations
Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.
I wish I can do this book justice with a great review, but right now I am swamped with so many things to do and cursed with a mind that just wants to go to sleep. For a while, though, I drowned in hilarity. Soulless is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking. How does that work? Believe me it does, a Victorian steam punk led by the highly intelligent and saucy Alexia and gorgeous lord-detective Maccon.
In her society she is considered soulless, not supernatural yet not fully human. In her presence, vampires lose their fangs, werewolves their fur, and ghosts their hold on earth.
When rogue werewolves and vampires are murdered one after the other, she may be the only one who can solve the mystery, to the chagrin of the werewolf Lord Maccon. The interaction between these two are the high points of the book.
Rough around the edges, he is the perfect match for our pragmatic heroine–again to his chagrin and her secret delight. With a highly ingenuous world-building, where vampires set the latest trend in fashion and manners (i.e. deep-brimmed bonnets protect sensitive vampire skin from the light) and werewolf pack behavior influences military tactics, this series just raised the bar in urban fantasy.
By the way, if you like Victorian steam punk, visit this site. Ladies dresses and ensembles, hats and oddities for sale.
Some marriages are made in heaven . . . Some are not. What happens when “the happiest day of your life” turns into a nightmare? Forget the drunken best man or the bridesmaid dresses from the ’80s . . . none of these wedding day disasters can compare to a cursed bride determined to make it down the aisle, or a vampire who is about to disrupt your wedding.
I’m hard on short stories sometimes. They don’t satisfy me as much as a lengthy immersion into another world and a dynamic set of motivations strung out over a novel-length story. With short stories, escape is far too short, the fix like a matchstick flame. But my reading pleasures are also fickle sometimes. I get a craving for brain candy, when my intellectual energy runs low from too much work and having to decipher the logic of alien humans. This is why I acquire anthologies even when I rarely read them; I knew I would need them for emergencies. Weddings from Hell saved me from thinking too much for an hour or two, featuring four funny stories about paranormal bad boys and a ghostly wedding crasher. The writing strikes me as very chicklit-ish, not really my cup of tea but very calming at this time. So far, the only author that got more than my passing fancy is Terri Garey–I like the mystery element in Ghouls Night Out. I would buy her other books.
Should I lower my standards if a book is labeled paranormal romance? If the story builds on urban fantasy grit, murder mystery storyline, and romance dynamics, I expect an intelligent crossover not a dumbed-down hodgepodge composed of silly dialogue from caricatures.
If this were a movie casting I’ll bawl out the person with the bright idea of pulling a grandfather from a family sitcom to stand in as elite tactical team commander. I’d also ask for a consultant on mystery solving procedures so characters don’t stumble around pretending to be looking for clues.
I think I’d also make sure the cast of werewolves has a good supply of cold medication. Imagine, a werewolf who can’t smell the enemy just a few meters away! How embarrassing.
For me, the only saving grace of this book is the idea for the setting–a post apocalyptic future where werewolves and vampires are genetically engineered soldiers, now unwanted remnants of the last war. The government strictly controls the movement of humans across borders; unregistered individuals are treated as criminals and hunted by military units, of which the lead character, Gina Santiago, is a dutiful member… until she realizes a secret about herself.
Ah, well. Goodbye, dead world. Gladly, I shut the lid on your coffin.
Love, love Kate and Curran, but rather confused at how easily defeated the antagonist was–almost as if the being had a death wish. I know there was this extremely violent confrontation but the antagonist did not live up to the legend, just a powerful brat too impatient to strategize. I can’t puzzle it out further for fear of giving spoilers.
Mad as a hatter after all these thousands of years. I’m sure s/he used to be more fearsome.
The latest in Illona Andrews is still awesome, though. The setting beguiles me with a thousand thousand stories untold, from an Atlanta going through magic pangs, where creatures from myths and legends are finally able to breathe and wreak havoc. The characters are well-fleshed out, with Kate as the softie but whose mercenary-turned-government detective lifestyle forces her to mouth off and stand tough for survival’s sake and Curran as the beast lord-shapeshifter who has chosen Kate to be his mate despite her reluctance–and habit of attracting trouble.
In this world, vampires are ugly, emaciated creatures controlled by human necromancers. Shapeshifters are either crazy, cannibalistic loners or disciplined members of a paramilitary pack. And the enemies are the monsters humans once worshipped now reasserting control.
That Kate is probably one of these monsters adds the killer edge to an already sharply plotted series. And, that here and there, the rather tense situations as if paused for a split second by some irreverence from Kate’s inner musings cracks me up.
In this volume, Kate and Curran finally trust one another to open up their secrets. Further intimacy ensues. *Insert big smile here* Sigh, I want book 5. Now..
As far as many of my reader friends are concerned Neil Gaiman is god. But when I read Ghost Ocean I wondered why I would need him when I have S M Peters. On Amazon.com there are only eight reviews and Shelfari.com two. Sweet. I belong to a cult.
In St Ives, the stuff of myths and legends has been imprisoned for years. A magical field surrounds the town keeping all supernatural creatures bound. Hunters keep watch, ready to spring into action once a monster escapes. City folk live in uneasy ignorance of the monsters in their cellars .
Ghost Ocean , title, has nothing to do with the story. Who came up with it?
Te Evangeline works for one of these monster hunters, Babu, a sort of godfather that took her under his wing after her dad’s death five years ago. Her dad was a binder, the final offense against the creatures. First they must be tracked, then their power suppressed, and, finally, seduced by the binder’s power into submission.
In one scene, maybe my favorite, Te goes with the team looking for a bird creature who eats pieces of people. Through a park peopled by teenagers in ragged Victorian costumes she experiences for the first time her dad’s terrible responsibility. Face to face with the bird creature she discovers that to bind the creature she must love it and put it in a cage forever.
As the vision of a shaman chanting and stomping on a desert floor surrounds the ragtag team composed of a cowardly vampire, a genius mathematician with a toy raygun, and an albino tarot card-wielding witch, Te fails her first assignment.
One by one, the monsters are escaping, freed by the Kitsune, a shapechanger who grants wishes. His goal is to break open the seal around St Ives, even if it means freeing the Goat with a Thousand Young, a creature from the Void that can swallow the Earth whole if it grows big enough.
Te must find her role in all of this, use her loneliness as a key to unlocking the truth of her identity.
If creativity is scarce in the world then why is the author full of it? He created this cross between Lovecraft, the Seven Samurais, Hellboy, and American Gods yet the invention is like nothing else on earth. His invention makes much of the staleness in humanity’s imagination, as the stuff of dreams are imprisoned alongside that of our nightmares. Though I don’t buy into the idea that science negates imagination the premise makes for a compelling argument for letting these monsters go.
But if Te does what havoc will they cause on humanity?
Well-fleshed out characters, atmospheric writing, and memorable monsters, I really like this book, dark and depressing though it is. Here’s hoping for the impossible, a sequel, for in Ghost Ocean the impossible lives side by side with us.
Why I read it
It’s a sequel, thus I have a sacred duty to continue on with the story, or risk eternal damnation in serial reader hell.
If Johnny doesn’t become more interesting, Menessos will be king. Then Johnny will just have to wait for Menessos’s Mordred.
What’s the story
Persephone Alcmedi is a witch, a columnist, and a do-gooder. That’s why even if her grandmother annoys the hell out of her, she lets her live with her; even if big animals are troublesome, she shelters a Great Dane puppy; even if witches and werewolves aren’t supposed to mingle she kennels werewolves when the moon is full; and even if she doesn’t care at all to be High Priestess she competes for the honor just so a bitch of a witch won’t win.
During the trials, witches turned up dead. One of the aspirants may be a murderer, with a score to settle with the coven.
To complicate things further, Seph is also the Lustrata, chosen to bring justice and light to the supernatural beings on Earth. Stained by a vampire, she must also hide her weird connection with master-vampire wizard Menessos from the judges. Jealous werewolf boyfriend, Johnny, isn’t making her full plate easier to handle. With Seph’s fascination with all things Arthurian, I can’t help but imagine the love triangle-tragedy this relationship could so easily fall into.
What I liked about it
- It feeds my hunger for urban fantasy.
- Seph and Johnny are likeable.
- Menessos is not, but he likes Seph so now I’m curious about whether they will be an item.
- Well-researched (so it seems to me) magical lore
- The witches’ competition, called Eximium. I don’t know why, I really liked this part—maybe something to do with the presence of sharp retorts meant to deflate super egos that I can add to my own arsenal.
What I didn’t like about it
- The fairies—snotty, snobbish, swat-them-like-flies creatures
- The Lustrata, its role in Seph’s destiny and its place in the plot—rather forced. Suddenly, she’s the Lustrata and the people around her are convinced she is. Just because a werewolf is in love with her, and a vampire marked her?