urban fantasy


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.

The second book in a humorous fantasy series.

Publication year: 2001
Format: print
Page count: 416
Publisher: DAW

The book starts a week after the first one ended. Claire Hansen is Keeper who has to close down portals to Hell. Dean McIsaak is a Bystander, a normal human. But they’re in love. However, Claire soon realizes that she doesn’t want to put Dean in danger and just tells him that she’s leaving. And once Claire has made up her mind, nobody can change it.

But apart, they’re both miserable. Claire is so distracted that she’s even a danger to herself. Luckily, her younger sister Diana, who is still a teenager, conspires to get them back together again.

However, the plot kicks in higher gear, when an angel manifests unexpectedly – to a teenaged girl’s bedroom, naked. Enraged father kicks him out and the confused angel realizes that he has now a fully functioning human body, genitals included. Usually, angels are biologically sexless. Additionally, the angel doesn’t have a mission, which is also unusual. Still, he tries to help people around him and doesn’t understand why they don’t like discussing their private lives with strangers. And then there are the… extra bits which seem to have a life all their own.

Meanwhile, a demon manifests as well. Demons are also usually sexless but this demon is the exact opposite of the angel. So, a teenaged girl who’s actually a demon is walking around Canada.

Claire is her stubborn, more-Keeper-than-thou self and Dean is just as polite and cleaning obsessed as in the previous book. Austin, the talking cat, is also a big part of the book. Diana is ten years younger than Claire and they don’t get along well, especially since both think that they’re always right. But in the end, they support each other.

Lots of sex jokes, lots of other humor and sibling rivalry. This was a fun and funny read. It’s set around Christmas. I recommend reading the first book first though.

I liked this book more than the first one because it has more coherent plot and because the unsatisfied sexual tension goes away pretty quickly. And because of the angel and the demon, who become increasingly human during the story. The angel particularly has problems with his unexpected maleness.

“The constant low levels of sharp-edged irritation would have poked multiple holes through the fabric of the universe had government officiousness not cancelled it out by denying that anything was possible outside their very narrow parameters. As a result, most border crossings between U.S, and Canada were so metaphysically stable, unnatural phenomenon had to cross them just like everyone else – although it wasn’t always easy for them to find a photo ID.
Later, they’d swap stories about how custom official had no sense of humor, how someone – or possibly something – had been strip searched for no good reason, and how they’d triumphantly smuggled through half a dozen toaster ovens, duty-free.”

The first in a humorous fantasy series.


Publication year: 1998
Format: print
Page count: 331
Publisher: DAW

Claire Hansen is a Keeper, a person who sorts out magical accidents. Usually, that means that she’s magically summoned to a place where a pit to Hell has opened and then she seals it and moves on to the next site. But this time, things aren’t as straight-forward. When she stumbles into the Elysian Fields Guest House in the middle of a thunder storm tired, drained and head aching, she doesn’t at first realize that she’s in the house where she was summoned to. In the morning, she finds out to her horror that she’s now the owner of the run down little place. The hotel has an opening to Hell in the basement but it has been closed temporarily. Apparently, two Keepers were needed to close it down, and in one of the rooms one Keeper is sleeping in suspended animation, as she has been for about 50 years. Claire needs to figure out just what she has to do here. Additionally, the hotel comes with a young and very nice handyman Dean who is distractingly gorgeous and the most trustworthy person in the world. The attic also has the ghost of a man who has died over a hundred years ago. The hotel attracts only a few customers but they’re quite strange. The nosey old woman next door doesn’t make things easier, either.

Claire has a cat companion Austin. He can talk and does so quite a lot. Sometimes he’s helpful, sometimes snide but mostly he wants to be fed, and preferably not the geriatric kibble the vet has assigned to him. Austin is, after all, already 17 years old.

This was a fun and funny, light read. It’s not really an adventure story, though. More like a comedy with heavy romantic elements. Claire and Dean are dancing around each other the whole book. Dean comes from Newfoundland, and he’s very polite, loves to cook and clean. He’s also very decent fellow who is immediately attracted to Claire. Claire has been a Keeper all her life, meaning that she’s always got magical powers and she knows a lot of things which normal mortals don’t. She’s determined, or rather stubborn, and she’s used to doing things by herself and moving from place to place. When she’s faced with the very real possibility that she might have to stay in the guest house for years, she doesn’t take it well. She’s also never really considered a long-term relationship, so she quickly dismisses Dean as too young for her. Of course, the Hell pit in the basement is quick to send her all kinds of temptations so perhaps is smart no to start anything right next to it. I just though it was a very weak excuse.

This book also contains a love triangle, or at least a triangle of unsatisfied sexual tensions. But it might be the nicest love triangle I’ve ever read about. The ghost in the attic is Jacques, a French sailor, and he’s also immediately attracted to Claire. As a Keeper, she can give him a body and that’s what he asks her for, in between hitting on her. Dean, of course, doesn’t like it but is mostly really polite about it. Things never escalate to an obnoxious level.

The neighbor Mrs. Abrams is another quite funny character. She has orange hair, doesn’t remember Claire’s name, and has the tendency to barge in whenever she wants to. She also has a Doberman called Baby.

The different guests are also very funny. I also loved the pop culture references, especially to Star Trek: The Next Generation.

However, the book doesn’t have a coherent plot. Different things just happen. The characters don’t really change, either.

Yes! A new Toby Daye book!

Publication year: 2016
Format: Audio
Running time: 11 hours and 28 minutes
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal

October, Toby, Daye is hosting a slumber party to the teenagers in her life so for once things are quiet. But not for long. Toby’s Queen Arden Windermere asks Toby’s help. In the previous book, the alchemist Walter revealed that he had found a cure for elf-shot. Elf-shot is what the fae nobles use to wage war on each other and threaten others while still keeping to the letter of Oberon’s law of not killing each other. When a full-blooded fae is shot with it, he or she will sleep for a hundred years but if a changeling is shot with it, he or she will die. Walter’s family was elf-shot and they were sleeping so he found a cure and woke them up. Queen Arden’s brother and best friend are still sleeping and she wants to wake them up. However, lots of fae are really concerned about the cure and the High King Aethlin Sollys has decided that nobody should be woken before he calls a conclave of all royalty. The High King is coming next week and Arden wants to wake up her brother and best friend before he arrives. Of course, he arrives early and catches Arden, Toby, and Walter red-handed.

Toby is ordered to attend the conclave. She loathes politics and now she must mind her manners among all the North American royalty. She takes her squire Quentin with her, of course. But there are, of course, complications. For one, the meeting takes place in one knowe and nobody can leave or enter until a decision has been made. For another, Toby’s fiancé Tybalt has to keep a distance from Toby. Tybalt is the king of the court of dreaming cats and he can’t be seen allied to anyone outside of it. For third, Toby’s liege Duke Sylvester Torquill will be there, too.

But soon after then conclave begins, one of the monarchs is murdered and it falls on Toby to find the murderer. Many of the full-blooded fae despise Toby because she’s a changeling which makes the investigation all the harder. Luckily, she has the backing of the Queen Arden and the High King and Queen. At the same time, the fae discuss the cure and surprisingly many are against it.

This is another excellent addition to the series. I adore these characters and the setting. Toby is her determined self and we get to see a lot of the Luideag the Sea Witch, Tybalt, and Quentin. I really enjoyed their interactions. I was rather looking forward to seeing Quentin with his parents but that didn’t happen. Arden is also seen more. She’s a new queen and new to the world of fae, as well, so she’s still unsure about herself. But this time she could host the gathered royalty without mentioning how much she wants to run away. So, she’s growing into her role. We also get hints that the young oneiromancer Karen isn’t what she seems.

The book has a lot of new characters. However, I thought the High King and Queen were a bit too easy to manipulate. Otherwise, the new monarchs were a nice mix: they weren’t all arrogant, racists jerks thinking that changelings were born to serve them.

This book didn’t bring as much heartbreak to Toby as some of the other books so it didn’t feel as intense to me as, say One Salt Sea. I wasn’t really happy with the ending, either. However, quite a few characters have been elf-shot during the series, so I’m very interested in finding out what happens to them. And I just have to wonder what is the Sea Witch up to? Hopefully, we’ll find out soon.

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