fantasy


A stand-alone zombie book.

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Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2011

Format: print
Page count: 449

Finnish publisher: Johnny Kniga

Finnish translator: Helmi Keränen

This was very different from the movie. The book is a collection of interviews after the Zombie war is, well, not over, but when the humans have won. It’s split into several parts, starting with how the people in power ignored all the warning signs for political reasons. The first part of the book deals with how governments try to cover up zombies and the uncertainty people feel, or how people also turn a blind eye towards events that don’t affect them personally – until a zombie leaps into their living room. Then becomes the big panic: people lose faith in their governments and just try to survive as best they can. Then the war itself and finally the aftermath. Most of the stories are about war against an inhuman enemy or surviving. The vast majority of the characters are only interviewed once, so we see brief glimpses of events and people.

This structure means that the story doesn’t have main characters. We don’t get to know the interviewer, except through his choice of which interviews to keep.

The plot is showing how people cope, or no, globally. Also, Brooks explores all the changes that the war does globally, not just economically and politically, but culturally and religiously to several countries.

The people in power must make terrible choices so I don’t think I would have enjoyed this story must as a more traditional story. I understand why the movie had to be quite different, but I was surprised that the solution to the zombies isn’t from the book.

Also, the movie left out pretty much all the political allusions, such as rich Americans buying organs from China, pretending they aren’t coming from murdered political prisoners. Especially timely are the people who refuse to believe facts, fearing that they’re propaganda.

Overall, I was surprised how much I liked this.

A historical fantasy book that can be read as a stand-alone.

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Publication year: 2016

Format: Audio

Running time: 14 hours, 22 minutes
Narrator: Julia Whelan

The book is set in 1880 in New York when Cleopatra’s Needle is traveling by train toward New York.

Eleanor St. Clair and Adelaide Thom own together Tea and Sympathy. Eleanor is a witch and a former medical student while Adelaide used to travel the country with a sideshow but now she’s a fortune teller who can really see ghosts and futures. They help women who come to their shop with tea, medical knowledge, and more mystical gifts. However, Adelaide thinks that Eleanor is working too much and so she advertises for a shop-girl: ”Respectable Lady Seeks Dependable Shop Girl. Those averse to magic need not apply.”

17-year-old Beatrice Dunn lives with her aunt in a small town near New York. When she sees the ad, she’s determined to start her independent life as a shop-girl. She knows a little bit about magic and dreams about being a witch herself. She travels to New York and after a couple of mishaps arrives at the tea shop. Then she starts to see people others can’t see.

However, some (religious) people know that Adelaide and Eleanor have strange powers, and even worse, are independent women. So they are convinced that the two are in league with Satan. These people want to stop Adelaide and Eleanor at any cost.

Eleanor, Beatrice, and Adelaide are the main characters of the book but lots of other POV characters, as well. Most of their lives intertwine somehow with the three women.

Adelaide has a dark past, which haunts her. When she was a child, her mother sold her to be a lady’s maid. But Adelaide ended up as a child prostitute before she ran away. Then, a woman threw acid on her face so one side of her face is burned and the eye is gone. Eleanor admired her Gypsy mother who taught her magic. Eleanor wants to help women and that why’s she studied medicine. But she soon noticed that her mom knew more about medicine than what passes for modern medicine, so she returned to her mother’s teachings. Beatrice loves her aunt but lost her parents when she was little. She loves to read and dreams about writing. The three are endearing main characters. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t really care for most of the many side characters. And the few that I did care about just disappeared without a proper ending.

Most of the people opposing the three are doing so because of their religious beliefs. So all of the bad guys in this book are Christians or using the Bible as an excuse to act on their bigoted views. Of course, in 1880 women were considered barely second-class citizens and many men simply ignored anything women said or did. A few scenes have Suffragettes and the Christian women oppose them.

The historical setting was done very well, both the characters and their opinions as well as the historical city itself. I was intrigued by the few scenes that had dearlies or fairies that brought dreams to humans. But we didn’t get to know much about them.

Most of the book has a cute and fluffy atmosphere but in contrast is also has the cruder side of NYC, such as whores and the insane asylum. They seemed strangely out of place compared to the tone of the rest of the book. Also, Adelaide’s past is very dark compared to the tone of most of the book.

Overall this was mostly an interesting read for the atmosphere of the historical New York City and the main characters. Adelaide is apparently from one of McKay’s previous books, the Virgin Cure, but I haven’t read it and I don’t think I missed out on anything.

The first book in the fantasy series Rogue Angel.

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Publisher: Golden Eagle

Publishing year: 2006

Format: Print

Page count: 346

The book starts with a brief scene in 1430 England where an impassionate young woman is burned at the stake and her sword shatters.

Then we move to the modern-day. Annja Creed is an archeologist. Because it’s not easy to get funding for excavations, she also works for Chasing History’s Monsters, a TV show about mythical beasts around the world. She does her research and narrates her own episodes. This time she’s in France, hunting la Bete, a supposedly werewolf-type creature that killed people in the 1760s. However, she soon finds that someone is shadowing her, and then she is attacked in broad daylight.

She continues her search, heading to the mountains. There she encounters a mysterious older man who calls himself Roux. Her assailants continue to follow her.

The book has multiple POV characters, including the main villain who is ruthless after la Bete because he thinks it will lead him to treasure. A hidden order of monks is also involved.

This was a fun and fast-paced action/adventure. It has a good mix of historical detail and fantasy.

Annja is a good main character who reminds me of Sidney Fox, from the TV show Relic Hunter. She has a lot of skills but unlike many heroines these days, she’s personable and gets along with most people, even though at times she can be a bit too blunt. She knows how to shoot and learned karate from an early age. She’s an orphan who learned to take care of herself.

I also found Roux a fascinating character but I won’t spoil his story here.

A stand-alone steampunk book.

Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 10 hours 45 minutes
Narrator: David Giuntoli, Claire Coffee

When June Stefanov was a young girl, her grandfather told her a story about an angel helping the Russians during WWII. Her grandfather leaves behind to her a keepsake, a mechanical part that the ”angel” gave her. Now, June is an anthropologist specializing in ancient tech. She travels around the world to find mechanical, human-sized dolls hundreds of years old. Now, she has found a female doll in Oregon. It is about three hundred years old. June fixes it so that it writes down the message it has been waiting to write. But others don’t want humans to know anything about the mechanicals, so June is in grave danger.

Russia, 1725. Peter awakes in the Kremlin. The tsar’s (Peter the Great, after whom the mechanical Peter is named) mechanician has just built him a body. Peter’s anima, his spirit, is older but he doesn’t remember anything before awakening in Russia. Soon, the mechanician awakens another mechanical being Elana, whom Peter thinks of as his sister. Peter has feelings and thoughts and is conscious of himself, but he’s bound to a word, Pravda which means justice. Each mechanical being has such a word and is internally driven to behave in such a way as to fulfill that word.

The mechanical beings fascinate the tsar, but the queen of Russia hates them. Still, Peter does his best to serve the tsar. But when Peter the Great dies, his wife Catherine banished Peter and Elena from Russia. They flee across the country and continue to hide from humans for centuries. They also try to find clues about who made them. Before they leave Russia, they meet another mechanical being who threatens them.

Every other chapter of the book is set in the current day and the next chapter is set in the past. June is a first-person narrator while Peter is a third-person narrator. This worked surprisingly well for me. The historical aspects were fascinating, and June was an interesting POV character in the modern chapters. Both sides of the story have a lot of fight scenes, but in contrast, Peter and Elena ponder about their own existence and June is uncovering the mystery of the mechanical beings.

Elena is a fascinating character. She’s in the body of a 12-year-old mechanical girl and she soon grows tired of being treated as a child. Peter is also very protective of her. She yearns to find out more about herself and the other possible mechanical beings, while Peter considers them a threat. I did wonder why they didn’t try to build her another body.

Overall, this was a very entertaining story.

A stand-alone humorous fantasy adventure/romance book.

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Publication year: 2018
Format: Audio
Running time: 14 hours 32 minutes
Narrator: Jesse Vilinsky

I’m not a romance reader. I usually must tolerate them in most books, but rarely is it the most enjoyable thing in a book. This was very close to being a romance I actually enjoy reading. Unfortunately, it did have far too many jealousy moments, especially near the end. I loath jealousy, especially in a will they or won’t they couple who haven’t even told each other about their feelings. But otherwise, this is a near-perfect romance for me.

Halla is a respectable widow of 36. She’s the housekeeper to her wealthy great-uncle (from her late husband’s side). Said great-uncle was elderly and she took care of him. But when he dies, it is still sudden. Halla is very surprised to find out that the moody old man left everything to her. His relatives are furious. The old man isn’t buried yet when Halla’s aunt Malva (from her late husband’s side) declares that Halla must marry Malva’s clammy-handed son. Halla detests him and refuses. So Malva imprisons Halla in her own room.

Halla is desperate to find a way out. The only thing she can think of is to kill herself. There is a large sword in her room and she draws it. But to her astonishment, the Spirit of the Sword manifests, scandalized by her lack of clothing.

Sarkis was a mercenary before his spirit was bound to the enchanted sword. Most of his owners know his story and think he’s a traitor who deserves to be used as a tool, nothing more. And Sarkis agrees. But now he’s somewhere in the decadent Southern lands, among strange people who have even stranger customs. And his wielder isn’t a warrior, but a middle-aged housekeeper trying to kill herself. Instead, Sarkis convinces her to go to the servants of the White Rat who can help her. Provided that they can get out of the house and survive a several days journey without any supplies to the Temple.

Halla and Sarkis play off each other very well. Sarkis is a stranger to the decadent Southern lands and is learning the local customs. All of his wielders have died, sometimes despite his best efforts. He’s used to being a tool instead of a person. But he still does his best to protect his wielder. He’s jaded and battle-weary. Halla is very curious about him… and about everything really. She’s bright and loyal but she’s also used to pretending to be stupider than she is, because that’s safer. Her marriage wasn’t exactly an unhappy one, but her husband died several years ago and she doesn’t miss him. Her life has been a pretty sheltered one.

The book has also other enjoyable characters, including a gender-neutral priest. Initially, I didn’t really think that Malva and her son were a big threat but in the end, I was proven wrong.

The dialog is hilarious, playing the differences to the hilt. Yes, there are a couple of terrible romance tropes, such as misunderstandings which lead to very stupid decisions, but otherwise I really enjoyed the book.

My biggest problem is that I want the second book. I want a series of Halla and Sarkis bantering happily and working together to solve… any problem, really. The ending hints at a possible continuation and I really, really hope we’ll get it.

The narrator, Jess Vilinsky gave Sarkis a Scottish accent which I adored. I really enjoyed their narration.

A comic book set in the Anno Dracula world where Dracula rules England. Collects the miniseries issues 1-5.

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Writer: Kim Newman

Artist: Paul McCaffrey

I recommend reading Anno Dracula first. Newman has written a page about the book introducing the setting, but I don’t know if it’s enough.

The story starts with the combined Navies of France, the US, and Germany trying to invade England to get rid of Dracula who now rules openly. But Dracula sends his flying minions and the Royal Navy and apparently also sea monsters, so the invaders don’t have a chance.

In England, some people have grown tired of Dracula’s monstrous reign. Even some vampires want to get rid of him. One of them is Kate Reed, a journalist and a vampire. She has joined the Council of the Seven Days, the seven anarchists, chemists, and poets who want to bring down Dracula. Among them is Christina Light a vampire who turns to light instead of mist and can ensnare the hearts of men. Baron Sunday isn’t a vampire but he seems to have sorcerous powers.

Fah Loo Suee, the daughter of ”the Dragon”, one of the men who rule the underworld, approaches Kate and suggests an alliance between the Seven Days and the criminals. Reluctantly, Kate agrees.

This was an entertaining miniseries. Kate faces a difficult choice. The other narrator is Penelope Churchward, a high-born vampire. She’s politically neutral so she’s chosen to design the tin jubilee of Dracula’s reign.

This was a fun, quick read. It’s full of characters from the books, like Prime Minister Lord Ruthven, Penelope, and Dracula’s Carpathian guards. The underworld rulers also make a brief appearance. It also has surprisingly many female characters which was a delightful surprise. However, the many, many characters will probably be confusing to people who haven’t read the book. Also, the ending felt a bit weak.

The first book in the Primordia modern day fantasy (or sci-fi, depending on how you look at it) series.

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Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 11 hours 58 minutes
Narrator: Sean Mangan

Ben Cartwright is a former Special Forces soldier who quit after a couple of tours. When his father died suddenly from a heart attack, he returns home to comfort his mom. There, he meets again his high school sweetheart Emma and his other old friends.

While going through his father’s stuff, Ben stumbles on letters between his great-grandfather and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It seems that the men were friends. Ben’s great-grandfather, also called Benjamin, was an explorer and an adventurer. He even died during one of his adventures: looking for a valley full of dinosaurs in Venezuela! He wrote about the search to Doyle who was inspired to write a book called the Lost World.

Ben and his friends decide to search for the hidden plateau. One of his friends is a tech millionaire so it’s easy for him to finance the trip. But first, they need to go to England to find Ben senior’s journal for the clues to find the hidden place.

The modern-day narration, in 2018, is interrupted from time to time by the short adventures of Ben senior in 1908 when he’s running from terrible danger among strange creatures. In addition to the two Bens, the book has several other POV characters, including their adversary who is determined to find the place first.

Our heroes are an usual group for an adventure book. Emma is a rock climbing instructor. She’s in excellent condition and no damsel in distress even though she’s the love interest. Andrea the actress wants to come, too, because she wants to become famous if they find the lost plateau. Dan is the bored millionaire who finances the trip. Steve comes because Andrea is coming. Later, a zoologist joins them. Even though they are in their thirties, luckily none of them have obligations that stop them from leaving in a couple of days’ notice.

This was a fast-paced adventure, once you get past the beginning. The second half of the book is a constant battle for survival against both humans and other enemies. I haven’t read Doyle’s the Lost World, and I think I would have enjoyed the book more if I had read it first. It ends in a cliffhanger.

This a light adventure story and I quite enjoyed it.

A stand-alone satire of an adventure fantasy book. 30th-anniversary edition.

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Publisher: Mariner

Publication year: 2007
Format: print

Page count: 456 which includes two introductions, an explanation to Buttercup’s Baby, the short excerpt of Buttercup’s Baby, and Reading group discussion points.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Princess Bride movie so I decided to read the book, as well. It’s an odd book, as parodies tend to be. But I think most people know that already.

It shouldn’t work because of the structure, and according to GoodReads’ reviews, it didn’t work for a lot of people. I enjoyed it for the most part.

Goldman creates a construct of himself as the narrator of the book. He claims that Morgenstern wrote the actual books and he just cut off all the dull parts and made an abridgment. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on the reader, Goldman makes his narrator present pretty much all the time. At the beginning of every chapter, he tells us what he has cut and why. Then the ”good parts” of the chapter start. Unfortunately, that constantly interrupts the reading and reminds us that we are, indeed, reading a book.

The second point is that the characters are caricatures or archetypes. Buttercup is beautiful, Westley is a daring lover, Fezzik is a dumb giant, Inigo’s life is centered on fencing and getting revenge on the six-fingered man who murdered his father, Humperdinck is ruthless. We get a little bit more of them in the book, such as Fezzik’s and Inigo’s childhood. But they’re not three-dimensional characters. They’re not supposed to be. Yet, they’re endearing and memorable to many.

Well, ok. Fezzik get a surprising amount of depth in the book. But not the others. In fact, it seemed to me that if Buttercup had been plain, Westley wouldn’t have loved her. That’s not a message you want to send to all teeange girls watching or reading. Or boys, either. And in the book, Westley slaps Buttercup. Just no.

So, I ended up enjoying the movie more than the book. The narrator’s interruptions got on my nerves in the latter half of the book. I didn’t really care for the fictionalized Goldman in the book. He seemed very bitter. Maybe he was supposed to be a humorous character, a parody of a successful screenwriter who can’t write a novel of his own, but for me he instead sucked away humor.

Buttercup’s Baby is a sort of continuation. It’s not a short story but rather just the first chapter of a book, which again was rather frustrating.

If you like the movie and especially if you’d like to know more about Fezzik and Inigo, I think you can like the book, too. Just skip the introductions.

A stand-alone urban fantasy book.

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Publication year: 2018
Format: Audio
Running time: 9 hours 21 minutes
Narrator: Kevin T. Collins

I’m a huge fan of Brust’s Vlad Taltos books so I guess I was expecting something similar. The Good Guys isn’t a Taltos book.

Donovan Longfellow, Marci, and Susan are a field team for the Foundation. The Foundation is dedicated to keeping the existence of magic a secret from the regular people. They also train magic users and hire them for minimum wage. The trio considers themselves the good guys.

Donovan is told about a new murder possibly done with magic because it was done in bright daylight in a restaurant and nobody saw a thing. When the trio gets to the site, Marci finds out that very powerful magic has been used to murder the victim. A time-stopping spell from an artifact. Donovan and the team must find out who the killer is and where do they get their magical artifacts. However, when the team realizes that the killer is after quite bad men, they start to wonder if they are, indeed, the good guys.

This was an entertaining read. The characters are quite distinct but for some reason, I just didn’t connect with any of them. Donovan has some FBI training so he’s very good at police work. He’s also black. Marci is a new sorceress but unlike the other two, she has a personal life. Susan is an experienced sorceress and quite formidable with both her magical talents and physical skills. I wanted to like them more.

However, I don’t think the format of the book was best for audio. The story has many, many POV characters. One of them is in the first person and the rest in the third person. The scenes are quick and the POV character changes often. It was a bit difficult to follow in the audiobook for me.

The world was interesting and I feel there could be more stories in it. Brust plays around with quite a few tropes. For example, Donovan knows that torture isn’t an effective way to get reliable information, so the team simply talks with people, even those who try to kill them. Also, Susan is the team’s muscle.

A Penric and Desdemona fantasy novella.

Publication year: 2020
Format: ebook

Publisher: Spectrum Literary Agency

Pagecount at GoodReads: 102

This is the ninth Pen and Des story in publication order but the third one in the internal chronology.

Ten years had gone by since Pen had contracted Des, a bodyless demon which lives inside Pen. Pen is used to her and she to him. They tease each other but clearly know their bounders.

Pen is in Lodi, a Venice-like city with canals and boats. It’s the Eve of Bastard’s Day and people are starting to celebrate it with heavy drinking and other debaucheries. Pen has plans to spend it translating one of Des’ previous host’s papers. Instead, he’s summoned to the archdivine’s presence and sent to a hospice where an apparent madman has been brought in. The doctor there wants Pen to see that the man isn’t really possessed. But when Pen arrives at the hospice, he confirms the doctor’s fear: the young man is possessed by an insane demon. And then the possessed man manages to run away.

Pen and Desdemona search for him in vain. Only a Saint of the Bastard can draw out a demon from a human or animal. Fortunately, there is one Saint in the city. Perhaps they can even help find the unfortunate man.

If you’ve read the previous Pen and Des novellas, this is quite similar in mood to the others. It’s warm-hearted and charming rather than a thriller with a world at stake. Most of the story takes place with Pen and Des looking at the possessed man. However, there isn’t a much substance to the story, just entertainment.

While Penric is the only third-person POV character, the Saint rather steals the show and I hope we’ll see them again. I also thoroughly enjoyed the banter between Pen and Des, as usual. Also, Des’ terror at meeting and working with a Saint, who devours demons, was understandable and entertaining, too.

This was an entertaining, quick read, exactly the mood I want to read right now. It seems that there are three Pen and Des novellas I haven’t read yet!

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