urban fantasy


The first novella in an urban fantasy series. Can be read as a stand-alone.

Publication year: 2016
Format: ebook, kindle
Publisher: Chaos Fox
Page count: 100

Evelyn and Quin Hawke are hunters who keep the Prague’s supernatural beings in line. Evelyn is a strong, grim fighter and Quin is a charming negotiator who is fascinated with alchemy. He also acquires magical potions and powders which can negate magic or heal. Evelyn hates magic and trusts only a few people in addition to her twin Quin.

Now, Quin has disappeared and Evelyn is starting to first worry and then become frantic. She goes out to meet with people who might know something about her twin’s disappearance, but they just make her run dangerous errands. She’s really starting to lose her patience and she doesn’t like almost any of the people she’s forced to see.

This was a fun, quick read. I rather like action heroines like Evelyn. However, she made no effort to think about the situation, she just ran from one place to another hoping to find something relevant. It seems that Quin is the brains of the duo and without him Evelyn doesn’t really know what to do, except demand answers with her fists and knives. She’s angry and grim most of the time. But underneath, her emotions are churning. She’s rude to the people she meets and dislikes almost everyone. She’s also very worried about Quin and at one point she cries when she thinks about her former boyfriend.

The world-building was very interesting. I’ve never been to Prague but it was very nicely described. This world has witches, werewolves, necromancers, and various undead. It also has several kinds of fairies, including the sidhe and redcaps. Also, alchemists seem to play a big role.

Evelyn and Quin are orphans and one of the people Evelyn meets hints that their parents had some secret the twins never knew. But we don’t find out more than that. Other than that, the story can be read as stand-alone. It’s described as a prequel to the Infernal Hunt so it’s nice to see a complete story. Even though Evelyn and Quin are twins, they don’t seem to share any mystical bond which was another nice change from most twins in fantasy.

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11th book in the wonderful October Daye urban fantasy series.

Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 11 and 36 minutes
Narrators: Mary Robinette Kowal

Toby is getting married and her “sister” (death omen) May has organized a bachelorette party for her. In a karaoke bar. At first, Toby is horrified but after the Sea Witch has sung a Disney song (from the Little Mermaid) Toby starts to relax and even enjoy herself. Unfortunately, that doesn’t last.

Amandine is one of the very powerful Firstborn Fae. She’s also of opinion that changelings, the half-fae offspring of humans and fae, aren’t worth the space they take. She’s also Toby’s mother who wanted very different things for her than what Toby herself chose. Amandine has never forgiven Toby for that.

Now, she comes to Toby’s home and demands that Toby finds August. August is Amandine’s eldest child and a full-blooded fae. However, August have been lost for over a century without any clue as to where she has gone. Toby has no interest in obeying her mother and so, Amandine takes hostages: two people who are very dear to Toby and May. Now, Toby has no choice. She has to find her sister whom she’s never met, indeed, whose very existence she didn’t even know about until very recently. And she’s must do so as soon as possible: Amandine is cruel.

First, Toby needs someone related to August. That means Amandine’s full-blooded fae husband who is also one of Toby’s most hated enemies.

This was another very satisfying read. We get to know more about Simon and even about the Sea Witch. One of my favorite troupes is enemies forced to work together and here McGuire uses it beautifully. McGuire even finds a way to separate Toby from most of her allies who are, by now, admittedly quite powerful. It’s also heart-wrenching, especially the end.

Amandine is very arrogant. It seems that she’s forgotten, or suppressed, her time with Toby’s mortal father. I can’t really understand how she could have lived with him because now she expects everything to be of high-fae standards. Maybe she’s just crueler than usual. She’s also very powerful. Maybe more than Toby can handle.

Many of the large cast make an appearance and all of my favorites have a large part to play.

Once again, I want to reread the whole series. Maybe next year…

Quotes:
“I’ve been informed that you’re continuing to play at being a detective,” Amandine sniffed. “It seems an odd thing to spend your time in since we both know that you have no native talents in the area. But if you will persist, it seems you’re able to do me a boon.”
I blinked. “What?”
“I wish to hire you.”

The second book in the series.

Publication year: 2016
Format: Audio
Running time: 15 hours and 23 minutes
Narrator: Jordanna Max Brosky and Robert Petkoff

It’s Christmas time and three months has gone by since the end of the previous book. Theo and Selene are still together and their relationship is pretty much the same; Selene struggling with her feelings and keeping Theo at an arm’s length away.

Selene isn’t a fan of Christmas, indeed, she loathes it. Fortunately, there are some women in distress whom she can help instead of beating up Christmas tree sellers. But soon, the police calls her and Theo to a grisly murder scene and they have so much investigative work on their hands that they almost forget the upcoming holiday, especially when they realize that the murdered man was a former Greek god.
And when a man in a winged cap attacks Selene, she realizes that her extended family is in danger.

Selene DiSilva is Artemis, the Greek goddess of hunt and the protector of the innocent. She’s remained chaste and alone for hundreds, thousands of years. It’s hard for her to be in a relationship and she doesn’t take Theo into account of her plans at all when he’s somewhere else. She’s fierce and fiercely independent. She’s also a shitty girlfriend and I’m not talking about sex or the lack of it, but her complete lack of consideration for Theo and his feelings. I began to wonder why he puts up with her. Granted, the book actually addresses this which is great.

Theo is the same nerdy ancient history professor. He does research and also gets to be pretty heroic. He’s very accommodating of Selene and her standoffishness but fortunately, he does have his limits, too. He also has two female friends whom I enjoyed a lot.

This time we get to see more of Selene’s celestial family. Her twin is a rock star and they have a strained relationship at best. Many other (former) gods appear, too. I really enjoyed them.

The book is mostly told from the POV of Selene or Theo. There are also some shorter chapters from the POV of one of the conspirators. This structure worked well. The audiobook has two narrators and they change according to the POV.

The book has a couple of things I don’t really care for, such as jealously and the female friend who turns out to be in love with her male friend. Also, I’m not a fan of bickering couples. But overall I really enjoyed this second book, too. It doesn’t end in a cliffhanger, exactly, but I’m very excited for the next book.

A fantasy book set in near future.

Publication year: 2016
Format: ebook
Publisher: TOR
Page count: 319

Six-year old Patricia Delfine finds a wounded little bird and it talks to her. It leads her to a Tree who tell her that she’s a witch and gives her a riddle. She can’t answer it and even soon forgets its wording but it haunts her. She can’t find the Tree again no matter how much she searches it nor can she do anything magical. She’s shunned at school, no matter what she does, and her demanding parents blame her for everything.

Laurence Armstead is a nerdy little boy who manages to build two second time machine watch. He loves science and wants to go and see a space rocket launch. But his absent-minded parents don’t allow him to go. So, he steals some money and goes by himself. There he meets scientists and can touch a real rocket until his parents take him away.

Patricia’s parents forbid her to go to the woods and Laurence’s parents keep sending him to nature camps against his wishes. They’re bullied at school and everyone blames them. Reluctantly at first, they team up against the world. Even though they’re very different, they feel that they can sort of rely on each other. Until Patricia manages to do real magic which scares Laurence.

Life takes them to very different places. Years later, they meet again. This time, they’re working at cross-purposes. Humanity is destroying Earth and they both are determined to do something about it. But very different things.

I liked most of this book a lot, especially the start. The school bullies rang a bit too true to me. I also really enjoyed the assassin who was surreal. One of the best things was Patricia and Laurence’s friendship. They really are very different. Patricia loves nature and she wants to use her natural powers to save it, not just humanity. Laurence loves technology and can build amazing things even at a young age. He wants to use technology to save humanity. They have different circles of friends and they both have things they can’t reveal to each other. Unfortunately, things don’t stay that way.

The characters are very human: they aren’t just good or bad but various shades of gray, doing what they think is right. They’re also very vulnerable.

Unfortunately, for me it lost a lot of its rareness near the end, which was really frustrating. I also didn’t like that all adults in child Laurence and Patricia’s are toxic, including, especially their parents. In the end, I wanted to like it more than I did.

A fantasy novella. First story in the Wayward Children series. Can be read as a stand-alone.

Publication year: 2016
Format: ebook
Publisher: TOR
Page count: 156

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children is a place for kids who have run away and returned changed can go to get counseling and hopefully return happy and same as before. Or that’s the hope of the parents who send their kids there. But most kids aren’t fixed or healed.

Because they’ve had such a profound experience that they can’t return to their former selves, just like adults can’t (and don’t want to) become the children they used to be. These children have not run away, they’ve gone to another world which became home to them and changed them. They’ve stayed in their worlds for years but grown but returned as kids. And the adults can’t understand that. Or won’t. So, the kids are labeled as crazy. Eleanor tries to get these kids under her wing to a school where they don’t have to hide their experiences or hopes of returning to that true home.

Nancy is the newest kid. Before she went through a doorway, she wore bright cloths, ran around, and laughed a lot. Then she went to the Hall of the Dead where she learned to be very, very still to please the Lord of the Dead whom she adores (not in a sexual way, though). Bright colors could be earned but Nancy hadn’t earned them, yet. So, she wears just black and white. Her parents didn’t understand it at all. So, they sent her to Eleanor’s.
Everything is new for Nancy, including the way that the kids and the teachers talk about the worlds. Some are high Logic, others high Nonsense. All of the kids want to go back, they don’t want to stay in reality but most of them realize that they might have to.

This is a weird book, horrible and wonderful at the same time. It’s not children’s story, at all, even though most of the characters are teenagers. It’s also not an adventure story, more like a snapshot of Nancy’s life for a few weeks. There is a mystery to uncover but’s not the main thing and I think it’s too easy for mystery readers to solve. I don’t usually like horror but this had just enough horror elements not to bother me.
I really liked the characters: Eleanor herself has gone to a high Nonsense world. She looks like she’s in her sixties but it older. Nancy’s roommate Sumi has also gone to a high Nonsense world and prefers to use windows rather than doors. She’s talks a lot and is pretty blunt. Kade is the keeper of wardrobe. Then there’s are the “creepy twins” Jake and Jill who went into a world that was similar to a horror movie. Jill was the vampire lord’s apprentice while Jake got to be the mad scientist’s apprentice. I also really liked the setting and a sequel is already out! Apparently it centers on Jack and Jill.

Even though the kids have had really strange and different experiences, this is still a school and they form groups and bully each other. That was one of the things I really disliked but I guess it comes naturally to kids. It’s the adults’ job to teach them better. I’m also not too sure if I liked how they reacted to the mystery part.

Many of the characters are not standard, which I found really refreshing. Nancy, for example, is asexual, one of the characters is a trans boy, and many are people of color.

Most of the kids at the school are girls. Nancy asks about that and is given an explanation:

“Because ‘boys will be boys’ is a self-fulfilling prophecy,” said Lundy. “They’re too loud, on the whole, to be easily misplaced or overlooked; when they disappear from the home, parents send search parties to dredge them out of swamps and drag them away from frog ponds. It’s not innate. It’s learned. But it protects them from the doors, keeps them safe at home. Call it irony, if you like, but we spend so much time waiting for our boys to stray that they never have the opportunity. We notice the silence of men. We depend upon the silence of women.”

The fourth and final book in the series Magic Ex Libris where magic comes from books.

Publication year: 2016
Format: Audio
Running time: 10 hours and 44 minutes
Narrator: David DeVries

About a year ago, Libriomancer Isaac Vainio told the world that magic exists. He was hoping for a future where he and the other Libriomancers can help and heal people openly but instead they face a lot of suspicions and fear. Still, Isaac was able to found New Millennium, a research facility for all things magical. But the US authorities want everything researched thoroughly which frustrates Isaac and sometimes the people he wants to help. Especially when the person he wants to help is his young niece.

But another group of supernatural people want a war with the normal people and they’re attacking politicians who are against magic. Soon, Isaac and his friends are also in the crosshairs.

I’ve really enjoyed this series and was somewhat saddened to see it end. But it ends on a high note which is always good. I loved the new, and old, gadgets and magics Isaac and his friends use. And I really like his endless optimism in seeing how much good magic can do.

The ending is also open enough that there’s a chance Mr. Hines will write more stories in this world.

The third book in the Magic Ex Libris urban fantasy series.

Publication year: 2015
Format: Audio
Running time: 11 hours and 41 minutes
Narrator: David DeVries

In Unbound Isaac is trying to correct things that went wrong in the previous book, Codex Born. He’s in a very bad place, emotionally and perhaps financially as well. The people around him fear that he’s becoming depressed which makes him reckless not only with his own life and wellbeing but with the people he cares about.

The Libriomancers have concealed the existence of magic from the ordinary people for centuries. Now, the secret is out and many people are scared. Each chapter has a short section taken from internet discussions, radio shows, newspaper articles and comments, etc. They all concern the presence of magic. Some people are scared, some supportive, some pleading for magical help. I really enjoyed them. Since the book is told in first person from Isaac’s point-of-view, they really helped show lots of people’s attitudes towards magic and what is happening in the wider world.

Meanwhile, the threat of a ghost army is still present and Isaac and his friends must try to find some way to stop them and also to get back a teenaged girl they’ve kidnapped. Without the backing of the Libriomancer organization this is not easy and Isaac has to rely on his personal contacts.

I enjoyed this book a lot and it’s a great addition to the series. Isaac’s still a huge SF and F nerd and I loved all the references to books. Their enemy has even managed to slip their letter (which starts the book) into one of G. R. R. Martin’s books which was a hoot.

The plot was mostly fast-paced but most of the book is spent on the run, hiding in hotel rooms. I also felt that the secondary characters were often more interesting than Isaac himself.

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