urban fantasy


The second book in the fantasy series Craft Sequence. It’s a stand-alone.

Publication year: 2013
Format: ebook
Page count at GoodReads: 347
Publisher: Tor

This is a very different book from the first one. It’s set in a different city with different characters.

Caleb Altemoc is a risk analyst to the Red King Consolidated. His father Temoc is a famous terrorist and Caleb doesn’t want anything to do with him. The Red King Consolidated is responsible for distributing clean water to the city of Dresediel Lex which is in the middle of a desert. It has 16 million people.

When Tzimoth demons are infesting a water reservoir Caleb is sent to check it out in the middle of the night. It’s very unlikely that the demons have come there naturally. One woman flees the scene. She seems to be a cliff runner, just there for the thrill of it. Caleb chases her but can’t catch her. He falls instantly in love/lust; he doesn’t tell his employers about her and instead tries to find her himself.

However, he suspects that his father Temoc is behind the attack. When Caleb returns home, Temoc is waiting for him.

Twenty years ago, the city was supported by human sacrifices to the gods who hunger blood. But then the Craftmen and Craftwomen rose in revolt in God Wars. One of them was a man whose (male) lover was killed as a sacrifice. Now, that man is the King in Red. Craft (magic) has eaten away his flesh and he is essentially a walking skeleton. He has made many, many contracts to support his company and in practice he rules the city. Not only does his company rule water but his Wardens are the police (who ride on flying lizards).

Caleb’s father is the last priest of the old gods. Temoc and the King in Red battled fiercely during the war. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Red King has taken an interest in Caleb. Temoc is hunted and has learned how to keep hiding. He still wants the old ways to return and to him the Craftsmen and -women who rose and killed gods are blasphemers. Still, he loves his son and is interested in what’s going on in his life.

Caleb’s main hobby is gambling. He’s good at it, too. He’s very loyal to the King in Red and loathes his father and the blood-soaked system he represents. I found the gambling fascinating because one of the few deities who are left is the goddess of gambling. When she’s present, the players bet a part of their soul, usually very small part. The winner gets the soulstuff of the others.

The city’s whole economy is based on soulstuff. The people are paid in soulstuff and they pay everything with the pieces of their souls. Indeed, some people are enslaved after death. The company has zombies working for it and I think it was said at some time that the workers had sold his body before they died so this isn’t a case of necromancers robbing the bodies. But otherwise the city feels quite modern: modern professions and corporations with office workers. They even go to ullamal games and support various teams.

While this was an entertaining enough read, I didn’t like it as much as the first book. The magical parts of the city were fascinating and I quite liked the side characters. Teo is Caleb’s best friend. She’s from a wealthy family but loathes her family and wants to get by on her own. She works for the RKC, as well. She’s in her forties. Her girlfriend is an artist. I also found the relationship between the King in Red and Temoc very interesting. The theme of revolution interesting and it’s not used very often in fantasy.

The budding romance between Caleb and the mysterious cliff runner Mal is one of the main features in the story. Unfortunately, I didn’t care for it.

I thought RKC is supposed to be criticism against modern corporations and reading about how they “employ” dead, it does sound rather chilling. And of course some other things we find later on are really troubling. But the King in Red is an immortal so he has far longer view than any corporation where the people in charge think in only four month segments, if that.

An entertaining read but to me not as appealing as the first book.

A Buffy the Vampire Slayer book set late in the third season.

Publication year: 1999
Format: Print
Page count: 289
Publisher: Pocket Books

Buffy’s world is falling apart. Her mother Joyce has met a very nice man and is dating him.

Also, Giles seems more absentminded than before. He promised to look after Oz’s wolf form but delegated it to Angel instead. When Buffy storms off to his apartment, she finds out that he’s with a new, beautiful teacher.

At the same time, Buffy’s old friend Pike from Hemery High (from the movie) comes to Sunnydale. He’s evasive at first but confesses that a stone demon is hunting him. The demon can change any living flesh to stone. While Pike knows about vampires and demons, he fights them only when hasn’t got another choice. He’s asking Buffy for help.

Buffy’s friends try to convince her that her mom dating is completely normal, at least when the man in question seems to be completely normal. Still, it’s hard for Buffy. Of course, Buffy has her own love life to worry about when Pike comes to make trouble for her and Angel.

Giles’ absentmindedness continues so much that Buffy and the others really start to worry about him. They keep a close eye on him and, indeed, something sinister is happening to him.

This was a pretty enjoyable book otherwise but I really didn’t care for the Pike/Buffy/Angel triangle. We know that Buffy can’t choose Pike because he’s not in the show, so it’s really pointless. The stone demon was a pretty average monster of the week. The Giles story line also had something I thought couldn’t be canon at all but it was resolved at the end.

The characters are well done, of course. Golden is usually one of the best Buffy writers.

A Buffy book set during early third season.

Publication year: 1999
Format: Print
Page count: 210
Publisher: Pocket Books

Willow is babysitting a toddler, when she starts hearing strange bumps from upstairs. She calls Oz and almost convinces herself that it’s nothing. Meanwhile, Buffy and Giles are hunting vampires. They’re also talking about the latest drama among the Slayerettes: Cordelia is organizing a big spring party in Weatherly park. It’s the same park which in danger of being mowed down and Willow is trying to stop that by organizing a demonstration. So, Cordelia and Willow are at odds with each other.

However, the bumps upstairs turn out to be real. When Willow gets there, to her horror the baby has turned to a monster with wings. The monster tells Willow that she must join the monster and save Weatherly park. Then it attacks. When Xander and Cordelia get there to save Willow, the monster is gone but so is the baby.

It turns out that other babies have disappeared, too, and it’s kept a secret. Even though people are warning Buffy and her friends to stay away, of course they investigate.

This is a quick and entertaining read set during the time when Cordelia dated Xander and Willow dated Oz. No mention of Faith or the Mayor, though. Buffy deals with a lot of vampires with Angel’s help. The fight scenes don’t really add anything to the plot but simulate some episodes rather well. That’s a bit of friction between Cordelia and the other characters, but not a lot and that’s fine with me.

A short story collection of various genres. Like, the name says, almost all of them are fast-paced and exciting.

Publication year: 2018
Publisher: WMG Publishing
Format: ebook
Page count at GoodReads: 295

This is another Fiction River collection which as stories from multiple genres, from sci-fi to fantasy to modern military action/adventure. It also has a story with a penguin main character and one story has a cooking contest.

“Payback is a Bitch” by Diana Deverell: Bella is in charge of providing private security for US government people in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She’s on a supposedly routine drive, when her team of bodyguards turn against her.

“Death-Blind” by Robert Jeschonek: The main character of this story wakes up in a maze, his own voice blaring at him, urging him to kill someone before the time runs out.

“The Airship Adventures of Captain Jane Fury” by Anthea Sharp: The captain of the HMS Minotaur, an airship, is on an urgent mission which could very well change the future of Britain, if she arrives on time. A storm, a band of pirates, and even a bigger menace try to stop her.

“Fifteen Men on a Dead Man’s Chest” by Henry Martin: A group of SEALs has been ordered to take back a cruiser which has been high jacked by pirates. Things go wrong from the start.
“The Tomb of Arisel” by Bonnie Elizabeth: The main character needs desperately an item from the catacombs below the temple of the Goddess of Love, Arisel. But she has fearsome guardians.

“Goodnight, Madison” by Lisa Silverthorne: Five days ago, Sam’s little daughter disappeared. He’s a police detective but he can’t find the person responsible. Until other kids start to disappear and Sam gets a letter.

“Romancing the Puffin” by Louisa Swann: Magnus and his moody but brilliant girlfriend are in the Antarctic, studying penguins. Now, she’s transformed him into a penguin and he must try to survive to find out if she can forgive him and turn him back.

“Dominant Species” by Dayle A. Dermatis: The main character of this story is a shapeshifter. She also works tirelessly to expose animal abuse. This time, she heard that people on a remote farm abuse dogs. Unfortunately, the situation is far worse and turns out very badly for her.

“Three Seconds” by T. Thorn Coyle: Zachary used to be a troubleshooter and a killer but he gave it up when he met the right man. But Zachary’s past has come to haunt him.

“Blood Chase” by Leah Cutter: Parayat is a loyal servant of the emperor and was born a star sister, able to create illusions. Now, the emperor has tasked her to slip inside the house of a traitor and kill him.

“Caterpillar Boot Man” by Valerie Brook: Cuba has been beaten bloody and now an armed man is chasing him in a car. Can Cuba get away?

“The Case of the Dead Son” by Laura Ware: This is a noir urban fantasy story. Eli Leafrunner is a police detective and a half-elf. He works in the Neighborhood, the dark underbelly of the Islands of Fantasy where most magical people live (and run it for humans to visit). Sorin is an influential elf. When his son’s death was declared a suicide, Sorin put a death curse of Eli. Eli has just hours to find out what really happened to Sorin’s son.

“Breakfast at Luigi’s” by Thea Hutcheson: Deirdre is a smart and beautiful young woman. She’s found a “sugar daddy” in a retired mob accountant, Luigi. When two hitmen invade the house, Deirdre is terrified but determined to get out alive.

“Black Phantom, Gray Op” by Stefon Mears: Aren Vestergaard has just quit from the Navy. He bought a ship and has set up a charter piloting business. On his first day, two people hold him on gunpoint and force him to take to a planet deep outside of human space.

“The Last Ramekin” by Liz Pierce: Molly is a kitchen witch and all the other cooking wizards and sorceresses look down on her. She’s made it to the final round in the contest and is determined to give it her all.

“The Princess, the Huntsman and the Monster” by Erik Lynd: Emily has just escaped from a man she thinks of as the Monster. She’s naked and alone is the snow.

I enjoyed almost all of the stories. The last one is the slowest but it’s pretty good. “Romancing the Puffin” and “The Last Ramekin” were my favorites.

A Buffy the Vampire slayer book, set in the third season.

Publication year: 2000
Format: Print
Page count: 178
Publisher: Pocket books

The story starts with a young woman, Heidi, who is chased by two vampire men, twins in fact. They catch her and take her back to their “home”, to their mother who is also a vampire. Together they drink from the girl and kill her.

Buffy and her mom Joyce are in the mall, having a nice day together. Then Buffy realizes that someone is following them. It turns out to be Suz Tompkins, one of the “tough girls” in Sunnydale High. She asks Buffy for help, nearly crying because her best friends have gone missing and she suspects something really bad has happened to them. Heidi’s own mom doesn’t care and the police think that Heidi has just run away or joined a gang.

Buffy agrees to help and the vampire twins arrive in the Bronze. Buffy lures them out. She and Angel attack them. She kills one of them and then their vampire mom arrives just in time to see her kill the other. The vampire mom summons the Greek goddess of revenge, Nemesis, and asks for revenge against Buffy. Nemesis puts Buffy on trial.

This was a fun Buffy story, except she does more contemplation than usual. The Scooby Gang are in character and pretty funny. It has several references to earlier episodes, which I quite enjoyed. Overall, I enjoyed the story.

The first short story in the historical (fantasy) Avon Calling serial.

Publication year: 2017
Format: ebook
Publisher: SpearPoint Press
Page count: 33 (at Amazon)

Avon Calling serial is set in the 1940s New York. At a first glance, Betty Jones has everything a middle-class woman could want: she’s a stay-at-home mom for two kids and has an adoring husband. Sometimes she sells Avon’s cosmetics products. Yet, she has a side that her family doesn’t know about. Betty can hear other people’s thoughts and has formidable combat skills. She also has a troubled past and has changed her name.

This was a great starting story: it introduced Betty and her world and yet left a lot of questions unanswered. We find out that Betty’s mother also had the same ability and that she was cruelly used.

In this story, Betty goes to sell the cosmetics to a woman she knows but finds another woman, who has been battered by her boyfriend. Betty smiles and pretends not to notice, but when the evening comes, she pays a visit to the boyfriend and his small band of drug dealers.

I found the combination of cosmetics and Betty’s secrets surprising but also appropriate. Cosmetics can be used as a mask, to change a woman to appear more appealing to men and also to other women. It can be an armor, to shield a woman from the outside world or a way to fit in. Seeling cosmetics is also a great way for her to meet women who need help. Betty definitely has two sides and she works hard to fit in as mom and wife while going out at night to kick the backsides of cruel men.

Season 1 collection has ten episodes.

It’s a funny cozy mystery story in an urban fantasy setting. The murder takes place during a paranormal cheese convention! It’s the second in the Casino Witch mysteries series.

Publication year: 2018
Format: ebook
Page count: 160 (in GoodReads)

About six months have gone by since Ella found out that she’s a mage in the first book, “Of Murders and Mages”. She’s been training both with her official mentor figures and with her father’s friends. This hasn’t left her much time for anything else. Even though her official mentor is Olivia, she’s too busy running the casino to train her. So, Olivia’s aunt Ann, who trains witches for a living, has taken over the training. Ann’s daughter Vanessa is training with Ella and they’ve become close friends. But currently, they’re helping at the Paranormal Cheese Convention.

Vanessa thinks that she can invent a spell that will stuff the goodie bags quicker but has only managed to make the process a lot slower – and then cause an explosion. Vanessa’s mom and brother Vin aren’t impressed and somehow Ella is the one to blame. However, a man has passed away, supposedly from natural causes and Vin takes Ella to confirm that. Ella does that with her magical powers but during her vision she finds out that another man has been murdered.

The former president of the Paranormal Cheese Council has been flattened to death by the world’s largest wedge of cheese (it’s the size of a queen bed). It seems that the man was hated by many people so there’s no shortage of suspects. However, the cheese wedge is owned by Vanessa and Vin’s great-great-grand-mother Granner who’s not happy about her business being interrupted. Vanessa is eager to investigate and drags Ella to the investigation, too.

This was a funny cozy mystery with a lot of things going on. Ella still has a lot to learn about the magical world and about her own powers. Also, the local magical law-enforcement seems to be more than a little threatening and too interested in Ella. Her father was murdered and she don’t know who did it and why, so she tries to avoid any undue attention. Also, she’s strongly attracted to Vin who has now broken up with his former girlfriend. But Vin’s dour nature doesn’t invite Ella to tell him about her emotions.

Vanessa is Ella’s faithful friend and co-investigator. Even though she has trained far longer in magic, her spells makes things explode rather than do what they’re supposed to. Patagonia is Ella’s familiar. She’s a huge black cat who seems to enjoy making Ella trip and stumble. All the mages have cats as familiars.

Granner is a funny new character. She’s around 180 years old and doesn’t allow anyone to get in the way of what she wants. She’s a shrewd businesswoman who has been running her own cheese business for a long time.

I enjoyed the zany cheeses and the mage community. Unfortunately, I don’t really care for Vin and so I don’t really care for the romance, either. Otherwise, I enjoyed this fast-paced short book.

The first book in an urban fantasy series.

Publication year: 2006
Format: print
Publisher: Roc
Page count: 341

Harper Blaine is a private investigator in Seattle. The book starts when her current client’s step-father attacks her and beats her very badly. She sees, hears, and smells things, people, and places which aren’t there. A doctor tells her that she had been dead for two minutes but brought back. He gives her the address of a couple of friends who might be able to help her. They are Ben and Mara Danziger.

When she’s released from the hospital, she tries to dive back to work, to pay the bills. She gets a missing person’s case through her lawyer contact and a strange sounding man contacts her on the phone, asking her to retrieve a missing heirloom, a parlor organ. But her office is also burgled.

But she still hears and sees strange things, so reluctantly she goes to meet the Danzigers. They tell her that because she died, she can now see, hear, and smell the Grey, as they call the misty, desperate place between life and death. The people she’s seen are mostly ghosts but can also be vampires or other paranormal creatures. Harper is called a Graywalker now. However, she refuses to believe it. But when people and stranger things attack her, she must at least know more to survive.

While this book came out in 2006, the tech level feels much older. Harper doesn’t have a cell phone, she uses a pager. Only one person in the book has a cell phone. Similarly, only one person uses a laptop others use desk top computers. I found this quite refreshing and it added to the overall atmosphere.

Harper is the book’s first-person narrator. In the first half of the book, Harper tries to reject the Grey and focuses on investigating her two cases. But in the second part, she dives into the vampire world of Seattle. She’s very down-to-earth woman and finding out that the paranormal is real is a shock to her so of course she resists at first. She owns a gun and must use it a couple of times but otherwise, she’s not great in battle. She’s also a loner; she doesn’t seem to have any friends or life outside her work. However, she has a pet ferret, Chaos. There are also two men who could be considered love interests but they don’t take over the book which was nice. Mostly, she actually does her job by investigating the cases she has.

I really enjoyed the Danzigers. Ben is a part-time teacher at the local university and a magic theorist. His wife Mara is a witch. They try to help Harper but their own experiences with the Grey are limited and they aren’t right all the time. Ben has a tendency to lecture and they both are sources of info-dumps but I found them quite interesting. Mara is the more practical person. Apparently her Irish accent is not Irish at all.

The vampires aren’t alluring in this book. They’re inhuman monsters. They probably have some powers to enchant humans but Harper can see what they really are. That adds to the atmosphere which isn’t horror but leans toward that more than most UF.

I quite liked the story and the characters. Its world-building is interestingly different. However, some of things were left open at the end, such as why Harper was such a special case. Surely, she can’t be the only person who has been dead for a few minutes but brought back. Yet, that was the only explanation for her abilities and why some characters are interested in her.

The first book in romantic urban fantasy series, the Gale women.

Publication year: 2009
Format: Audio
Running time: 14 hours 1 minute
Narrator: Teri Clark Linden

Allie Gale was born to the Gale family and so to magic, as well. The numerous women in the Gale family are strong with magic and so are the few men. The Gales tend to have 4 or 5 girls for every male child. But Allie doesn’t have any sisters. Instead, she has just one older brother and the family is afraid that he’s so strong with magic that he’ll go rogue. Allie loves her brother David and doesn’t believe that her aunts and nieces are right.

But her more immediate problem is that she’s unemployed, had to move back in with her parents, and Michael, the man she thought would be spend the rest of her life with, has gone off his boyfriend. She’s depressed and aimless in her life. Then she receives a letter from her grandmother, who has a junk shop in Calgary. Apparently her grandmother has died and given Allie the shop. Allie is shocked but none of the older women believe that her Gran is really dead. Allie isn’t thrilled about it but she goes to Calgary to check the place out. Mysterious things are happening and one of them is a gorgeous but snoopy reporter who wants to know all about Allie’s grandmother.

Soon, she’s joined by her cousin Charlie who has wild magic and is a musician. She’s also joined by Michael who is still worried about her… and caught his boyfriend cheating on him.

This was mostly a fun book. It’s very much a romance: Allie and Graham’s relationship is the main thing. Also, it’s about dragons. It’s also about familial love, family sticking together, no matter what (well, mostly).

Yet on have mixed feeling about it because the Gale family’s seriously strange. Only people in the Gale family have magic and so they want to keep the talent in the family as much as possible. Males make the choice of their wife among cousins… and before they choose, they sleep around with everyone. The woman can make a male change their mind and do so. In fact, the aunts are unhappy with Allie because she didn’t change Michael’s mind. However, that would have changed him to a different person and Allie didn’t want to do that.

Women also get more powerful when they age. On the other hand, they need a male spouse to rise to the “second circle” (get more powerful). They’re also expected to have a lot of children. And yet, the family has at least one nuclear family where the women are the spouses (to each other) and share a man. So, not so heterocentric after all.

The actual magic is mostly done with low-key charms, except when, er, dragons are involved. Allie’s cousin Charlie has wild talent which allows her to travel through woods. However, some the magic isn’t really defined much.

I liked Allie and Charlie. I didn’t mind Allie and Graham’s romance. I loved the humor and the pop culture references made be giggle. Still, the Gale family dynamic makes me uncomfortable. But I guess I’ll continue with the series.

The first book in a cozy mystery fantasy series, the Casino Witch Mysteries.

Publication year: 2017
Format: ebook
Page count: 166

Some time back I wanted to read fantasy books which are cozy mysteries. Turns out that these actually exist!

Ella Ramono is an accountant. When her father died, she inherited his building in Rambler, Nevada and moveed there. However, on her first day at a new job as an accountant to a casino, a big black cat bites her. The bite awakens her magical talents but Ella doesn’t know anything about magic or mages so she has a lot to learn. Just like her father, she has a talent for reading people’s emotions but the magic also burns a lot of calories. She also now has the cat, Patagonia, as a familiar. And her new co-worker Vin is handsome but also rude, stubborn, and pushy.

Olivia, who owns the casino, agrees to tell her what’s going on but not until Ella finds out who murdered people in the casino. Five people have died in the casino in previous weeks but all, except the newest one, have been ruled as suicides, until now. One of the victims is Olivia’s own father who owned the casino. Also, Ella’s dad has left her a mysterious note about people she doesn’t know. Her dad was also a mage but didn’t tell her anything. Ella agrees: she doesn’t really have a choice. Olivia, her aunt Ann, and cousins Vanessa and Vin will do what they can to help Ella.

This was mostly a fun and quick read, however both Ella and Olivia have recently lost their dads, so Ella does miss him quite a lot. She knows literally nothing about what’s happening to her and the people around who do know are very tight-lipped, sometimes frustratingly so. Ella does manage to pry out some info out of them about magic during the investigation. Of course, hilarity ensues when Ella doesn’t know things that the other mages take for granted. Also, apparently most mages are trained when they’re teenagers so Ella is old to start her training. Another source of humor is Patagonia and her continued habit of twining herself around Ella’s legs so that she falls.

I instantly disliked Vin and I’m hoping that he’s there just as someone to spar with Ella rather than an actual romantic interest. However, I enjoyed most of the other cast: Auntie Ann and Olivia are more pragmatic than Vin and Patagonia is quirky but fun.

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