Posts Tagged ‘supernatural fantasy’
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.
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?
Horny and immortal. Druids for pimps. Lucky humans. =P
If something is so well written that it lures me in to an actual interest in the characters’ lives, loves, and luck, it shouldn’t be a guilty secret now, should it? House of Dark Delights shelters delights not just of the carnal nature but also in the way words are woven and the characters are fleshed out. Nestled deep in the French countryside stands a castle that has for centuries lured guests with erotic promises. The chateau’s residents are immortal creatures who live to satisfy the desires of others—and their own. A Nordic elf and Babylonian succubus in love with each other but who must find other partners to feed their hunger, a lusty satyr who’s been the subject of numerous paintings and sculptures, and a djinn who just wants to be left alone with his books but who is obliged to satisfy the unspoken appetites of any human who touches him—they are beautiful and seductive and strangely helpless. In every encounter, there is sensuality, magic, and mystery. Sex is pleasure but also something more. The guests findspeace, redemption, and deliverance, willingly or inadvertently. The story goes back and forth from encounters centuries ago, when they were still hunted, to the present, where the chateau owner must find a psychically gifted bride or else the Druid line that protects the immortals will die. In Bound in Moonlight, the sequel, this issue is still unresolved.
In the first chapter, the man who has all the secrets and mysterious plans is murdered…. and all because he took things for granted.
Jayne Heller is a 22 year old college dropout who inherits her murdered uncle’s vast estates, and unfinished business. A ruthless cabal of wizards known as the Invisible College harnesses demon spirits for power and world domination. A realist, Jayne found it difficult to believe in the cabal’s existence. Unfortunately, it doesn’t share her reluctance, and is quite convinced she is a threat to their goals.
Collecting an assortment of allies—cursed chef, ex priest, Buddhist mystic, and attractive scientist, she sets out to continue her uncle’s legacy, and to survive the attacks against her. Unlike most urban fantasy heroines, she has to operate in a totally clueless-about-the-monsters-within-us society, meaning she has to work around or break some rules not just to survive but also succeed. An unexpected ability to dodge magical spells and kick ass makes the job easier, but piles up more unanswered questions.
Throughout the book, there were references as to how smart, resourceful, but secretive her uncle Eric was. Irritated, I would think, “but he was offed so easily in the first chapter!” He doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence from me, and yet Jayne’s present and future survival depends on the empire of properties, information, and secrets the uncle collected over the years.
But, there is hope, mine, that nothing is what it seems. The death of Randolph Coin, demon leader of the bad guys, bothered me. He was in despair, over dying or over the death of something he also is fighting for. This book may not be as exciting to read as others in the genre (the romance elements sucked, it dragged sometimes, the heroine is courageous but a cry baby…) but it has complexities that will certainly bring me back to the sequel, Darker Angels.
Now, if only her group of unlikely companions had more personality beyond the labels we conveniently set them apart with, this book would rise above the crush of urban fantasies in bookstore shelves.
Sure, but I’ll take two only please. The other two aren’t very cute.
Featuring four all-new tales of devilish dogs by four urban fantasy bestselling authors, Must Love Hellhounds was a welcome snack in between meals—while I recuperate from intense reading experiences, taking the edge off my appetite for favorite authors while I wait for the next titles.
Charlaine Harris is always delightful to read, though her tongue-in-cheek fantasy, The Britlingens Go to Hell, does not really inspire me to pursue further the adventures of paranormal bodyguards, Clovache and Batanya, through whatever world their assignments take them. I view this more as a writing exercise, a grabber so fans will buy this anthology. Expecting Sookie and her entourage of vampire hotties, they will be disappointed.
Angel’s Judgment by Nalini Singh introduces me to the Guild Hunter universe. If first impression counts, then I would advise these archangels, vampires, and guild hunters to get their acts together and act more like what they’re supposed to be and not spoiled brats on a game of tag so they could rack up more star points with me. As it is, this romance between two minor characters of the series fail to impress me.
Magic Mourns by Illona Andrews develops the relationship further between Andrea of the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid and shapeshifter warrior Raphael. I loved the Kate Daniels series, and I love the tense relationship between Kate and pack lord Curran. But this story had me reviewing the series not because of the major characters but for nuances and details of Raphael’s tenacious pursuit of Andrea I may have missed. A very fun read.
Meljean Brook’s Blind Spot intrigued me. A blind man who can see through the eyes of others joins a vampire’s bodyguard/assistant to rescue the vampire’s niece. The writing was deft and left enough hints of that world’s mythology to make me want to buy the series the short story spun off on.
If anyone had something in common to say about me, it would be, “I have a huge appetite, for food and books!” But rich fare can be overwhelming, so anthologies like this, giving us just a taste, are a welcome break. Like munching on cookies or sipping an apéritif.
The romance is secondary to the story, I know, but I’m convinced Ben Traina would make an awesome star of a spinoff gritty detective series where something fishy is always paranormal.
Reading this fast and furious, I was blown away by the dark and edgy storyline, the strong characters, the sharp lines between good guys and bad guys. The characters’ emotions were violent and powerful and the writing was compelling, engaging me with its flair for the dramatic. Then I took a moment to breathe, sat down for a more detailed read, and discovered the gaps in the plot, the weak links, and the soft spots.
The Sign of the Zodiac Series follows the adventures of Joanna Archer, a freelance photographer and reclusive heiress who finds out she belongs to a supernatural group of beings calling themselves the Zodiac. Set in glitzy Las Vegas, an age-old battle between the Light and the Shadow sucks in innocents and villains alike. Brutally raped as a teenager, Joanna survived to prowl the streets after sunset, seeking for answers, and revenge. On her 25th birthday, she got her wish, transforming into the Archer, at the cost of a dear one’s life.
Yes, this is superhero stuff, complete with trading cards, lurid comics-style scenarios, and geeky fanboys in a corner comic shop where Joanna goes to research on the mythology of her race. A little corny, but the twists got me cornered into continuing. Apparently, Joanna learns, she is more than a Zodiac Sign; she is the Kairos, of Light and Shadow both. Both sides want her, dead, alive, fighting with them, away from them… Sorry, it gets a bit tricky determining which way the wind blows.
This aspect is important, because Like Jean-Babtiste Grenouille of Perfume (The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind), these creatures track by scent. Their superhero senses could smell light and shadow, innocence and cruelty, everything in between as naturally as breathing—a talent that makes them sharp. Supposedly. So why these flaws?
- Joanna’s age that she was raped keeps shifting from 15 to 16 then back again.
- If the Shadow and Light can’t read each other’s comics, why don’t they ask/torture mortals who easily can for the story?
- Joanna’s glyph should glow when true enemies are around, not only at cinematic moments with her “true father.”
- The Tulpa, head of the Shadow Zodiac, sent a minion to rape and kill Joanna. Even if her scent was camouflaged afterward, they could have done basic research to figure out whose family she belongs to and that she survived.
- Was it such stretch for the Tulpa to consider his affair with a Light Agent may have born fruit and that he was the father of the Kairos?
- If a child of the previous Archer was so hated by the Tulpa, why didn’t he target Joanna’s sister Olivia, too?
I noted several more, but noting them all down would take up too much blog space. But what the heck, this is comics stuff. We love these glaring discrepancies so we will have the pleasure of pointing them out, filling them up with our own imaginative conjectures. In my book and In Scent of Shadows, the visuals and olfactory-rich narrative made it well worth the read.
Third in the GreyWalker series starring your average PI turned paranormal investigator, Harper Blaine. This time, she’s hunting a Native American monster who’s been eating Pioneer Square’s homeless, and turning one or two into zombies.
The real is as intriguing as the make-believe. When they strike up a partnership, the result is phenomenal!
Kat Richardson’s Greywalker series is dear to me maybe for this reason primarily. Though I’ve never been in Seattle, I can imagine how I will orient my exploration on the landmarks and events introduced by the books if ever I visit. The author claims she tweaked the city’s history and geography a little to fit the story, creating a more fantastical Seattle than in truth. All the better. My visit then will be more of an adventure if I see the city through normal eyes, and eyes colored by different shades of Harper’s Grey.
In Underground, something is feeding on the homeless in Pioneer Square. Quinton, enigmatic IT genius who takes care of Harper’s electronic security, realizes right away this is supernatural and not your usual deranged serial killer, so he calls on Harper for help. Bodies—and body parts—surface. At first, they suspect vampires. As the investigation progresses, they realize the monster is more primal and ancient than vampires, and is rooted in the legends of the Native Americans in the area.
I noticed that as the series progresses, we see more fast-paced action and character development taking place. Patterns that spun unnoticed in the first book start falling into place, such as the homeless guy that accosted Harper in the first book having more of a role in her supernatural reincarnation than we would have thought. For me, this makes the series very clever, but not in a way that is off-putting as we get to enjoy a richer plot… and a few surprises.
Quinton has a more prominent role this time in Harper’s love life, replacing Will, the antique dealer who helped Harper find the revenant-possessed organ of the first book—which is inevitable, given that Harper has a lot more in common with Quinton. But let’s not dismiss Will entirely. Harper goes to England, where Will is based, I believe, in the fourth book, doesn’t she?
Anyway, Seattle’s Undergound is the monster’s playground, taking sanctuary away from the homeless. This maze of underground sidewalks and abandoned basements used to be on the city’s street level, until a fire in 1889 razed much of the city. The Underground was born when the city decided to raise the streets one story higher to solve flooding and the sewers’ backflush problem due to incoming tides.
The amalgamation from truth and fantasy made for another compelling read. I was extremely satisfied, and I look forward to what the Gray has in store for Harper next.