urban fantasy


The third book in the historical superhero series set in 1961 USA. It can be read as a stand-alone but you get more out of it by starting with the first book, Serpent’s Sacrifice.

Publication year: 2018
Format: ebook
Page count: 276

Chronologically, this book goes between books one and two in the Serpent series because it follows Marco Myers, the close friend of Alice Seymore who is the heroine of the two first books. At the end of Serpent’s Sacrifice, Marco and his best friend Lionel left Jet City and Alice. They were looking for a cure for Lionel, but later they parted ways.

Now, Marco is a private detective in Metro City trying to scrape together a living. His aunt Allegra, who owns a gym, helps him from time to time. He also has an assistant Colleen Knight who is a black woman with secrets of her own.

Marco used to be superhero Shadow Master. He can sense others’ emotions and using shadows which come out of him, he can manipulate others’ memories and emotions. Unfortunately, he can only affect bad and hurtful memories, forcing the other person to relive them. He hasn’t used his powers much during the past year. Now he’s plagued by dreams of a boy he doesn’t know. He has only one person left who could lead him to the cure and when he dies in Marco’s arms, he’s at a loss at what to do.

However, a beautiful woman approaches him, telling him that she’s just escaped from a facility where superpowered people are held and experimented on. She can help Marco find the cure if he helps her and the doctor who escaped together with her. Out of options Marco agrees but that means that her enemies are now his, too.

Colleen is the granddaughter of a mafioso boss. Her mother Tina is also a mafioso, but never been able to protect Colleen from her grandfather. Colleen has fire-based powers, but she’s always tried to suppress them and doesn’t control them well. Her brother Andrew is missing and she hasn’t told Marco that she’s trying to find him. When she finds out that Andrew was working in the place that experiments with superhumans, she realizes that he might be a prisoner there, too. And that Andrew likely has secrets of his own.

Colleen doesn’t want anything to do with her family. She fell in love with a woman while she was in collage and she’s hiding her sexuality in addition to her powers. Her grandfather knows her well and knows just how to blackmail her. The only one she loves in her family is her brother. She’s not comfortable with her powers at all and has to learn to use them.

Marco is a sensitive man. He loves Alice but thinks that she loves his best friend Lionel and he’s desperate to find a cure for Lionel. He has to confront quite terrible things from his past in addition to dealing with the people who hate and fear superpowered people.

The story is again quite grim and intense, with lots of people getting hurt and Marco dealing with betrayals. The pace is quick with lots of twists.

I really enjoyed most of the characters. Marco is a tortured hero trying his best to do good. Colleen’s family dynamics were very interesting. Some of the more minor characters had depth, too, such as Tina and Marco’s aunt Allegra. I hope we get to see more of Colleen in the future.

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The third and final book in the series about Greek gods in modern times.

Publication year: 2018
Format: Audio
Running time: 16 and 30 minutes
Narrator: Jordanna Max Brodsky and Robert Petkoff

The book begins six months after the end of the previous book, Winter of the Gods, which parted our heroes. Selene, the goddess Artemis’ modern form, is looking for her father Zeus. The king of the gods is almost powerless and enfeebled. He was kidnapped by the enemy who was revealed in the previous book. He wants to bring about an age of humanity by killing all the remaining Greek deities, so Selene’s whole extended family is in danger. The enemy’s also a Pater Patrum to a Mithraist cult so his has a lot of fanatical underlings to help him, but Selene isn’t alone, either. Flint (the modern-day Hephaestus) is with her. He apparently has been long in love with her but while she has been thinking that she should move on from Theo and form a relationship with Flint, she hasn’t been able to do so and doesn’t really want to, either. Flint is able to help Selene with both weapons and equipment and also with planning.

Her former lover Theo thinks that Selene is dead, just like Selene wanted. She thought he would soon fall for a human and lead a happy human life, safe from immortal enemies. Instead, his experiences with the supernatural has made him think that he can bring Selene back from the dead. Unfortunately, that will mean his own death but he’s planning to keep that brief. Scooter, or Hermes, is helping him despite knowing that Selene is alive. Also, Theo’s best friend Ruth is reluctantly helping him.

Selene’s quest takes her and her allies from the sewers of the Vatican to modern Greece. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the places and all the mythology and science which were part of the story. I’d love to visit those places someday.

Throughout the whole series it was also fascinating to see how Brodsky had modernized the deities and made them, well, more palatable to a modern audience, Artemis herself especially. Selene muses a few times who she was different during the ancient times but doesn’t really want to return to that older self. She seems quite content to be the protector of women rather then a goddess who demands human sacrifices. The other goddesses and gods, too, are modernized and humanized in ways I rather enjoyed.

I greatly enjoyed Theo’s circle of scientist friends: Ruth, Gabrielle, and Minh Lo. The new goddesses in the book are also a delight.

Unfortunately, I really didn’t like how Selene treated Theo in the previous book and their relationship isn’t much better in this one. In the previous book, Theo wanted a relationship with Selene and pursued her even though she was cold and uncaring towards him. Now, Selene misses Theo and wants him back. I think she thinks more about him now than ever when they were together. It’s too much drama for me especially when paired with Flint, or Hephaestus’ unrequited love for Selene. She and the other deities don’t really have powers anymore, either.

This was an enjoyable end to the series. The ending especially was fast-paced and the book surprised me a couple of times.

The first book in the Hidden Alchemy urban fantasy series

Publication year: 2017
Format: ebook
Publisher: Chaos Fox
Page count: 182 in GoodReads

Kaitlyn Felis is a treasure hunter and an alchemist. When the story starts, she’s in London but an apartment isn’t a great place to do alchemy. When her uncle contacts her, saying a mysterious elf Fein Thyrin wants to hire her, Kaitlyn jumps at the chance. So, she travels to Prague and Fein puts her instantly to work, making powders and items from him. Kaitlyn also gets an assistant Erin. Erin isn’t a powerful magic user, nor is she an alchemist but she’s smart, willing to learn, and extremely beautiful.

Kit is immediately attracted to her and soon they fall into bed. However, Erin’s feelings are confused and she keeps Kit at an arm’s length. But they’re still able to work together. That’s good because when Kit hears that Fein is after the Seers Stone, Kit demands that Fein hire her to find it. He promptly does so but demands that Kit take with her two companions: Erin and Fein’s Cait Sidhe (a feline fae) called Tyn. The trio heads to Reykjavik where the stone is supposed to be. However, things aren’t that easy.

This was a fun short book set in a world with a variety of magic and magical creatures, including various elementals (who look like humans), elves and faeries, nymphs, werewolves, and others. Kit doesn’t seem to have magic herself but as an alchemist she’s extremely interested in all sorts of magic and magical beings. However, she can sense magic, especially when she’s touching it. She uses a few items and powders. She’s also curious about pretty much everything. She’s bisexual and usually has one-night stands with people of both genders. However, she does have one long-time friend and lover, Logan Sionnah. She flirts with almost everyone and is very friendly by nature. She also likes to touch people and things. She has a will-of-the-wisp as a pet, Wispy. It eats leaves. It’s quite small and is usually kept in a cage, even though it stays with Kit willingly. It can’t speak.

Tyn is also an interesting character. He has a very troubled past and doesn’t let anyone near him emotionally. Except Fein whom Tyn seems to trust completely. At first, Erin seemed quite a friendly and warm character. However, after sleeping with Kit she became closed off and distant for a time.

The set-up for the series took up quite a lot of the book, when Kit travels to Prague and settles in her new lab and flat, but I found that enjoyable, as well. The real adventure was fast-paced and I enjoyed Kit’s sunny disposition to life.

This is a collection of two novellas and two short stories in the Ruby Callaway urban fantasy series. Each happens in a different time period: 1812, 1993, 1959, 2006.

Publication year: 2016-2017
Format: ebook, kindle
Publisher: Watchfire Press
Page count: none in Kindle

Bone Realm (1812): Rebecca Callaway is working in her late father’s business: Liberty Printworks which has also an unofficial apothecary for magical stuff. When a terribly wounded man and a talking dog enter the shop, Rebecca knows that she’s in trouble, especially when the dog reveals that the man’s half-demon. However, for a high price Rebecca (who will soon change her name to Ruby) agrees to try to help him. But the half-demon’s pursuers manage to get into the shop because they’re local policemen. During the fight, the shop is burnt down. Rebecca manages to save very little and must flee with the half-demon and the talking dog. Soon, she must find a way to defeat 1600-year old werewolf or die herself.

This novella sets up is Ruby’s life as a magical bounty-hunter and introduces the world to readers.

Silver Tempest (1993): An Elven King has hired Ruby to find his daughter who has run away… to live with vampires. Elves are very good creatures, and this is a terrible thing to happen to an elven princess. Getting her away isn’t going to be easy at all.

Kentucky Clear (1959): Ruby was hired by an old vampire because someone has stolen a shipment of blood. She’s tracked the thief to a remote log house which has a distillery. But the situation soon becomes very complicated and dangerous.

Going Home (2006): Ruby has been hired to take down a rogue Fae who lives to create chaos. He starts by holding an entire upper-class restaurant to hostage. Things get complicated from there.

For the most part these were enjoyable reads. Ruby has a hot temper and, as she’s fond of thinking, she isn’t there to help widows and orphans. She wants easy gigs so that she can get the money, but things rarely go smoothly. However, she does sometimes help people almost reluctantly. She’s quick to act and talk, and thinks later. She also often takes instant dislike to people and isn’t afraid to say so, usually with a string of profanities. The only partner she wants is her enchanted shotgun.

However, the first novella was somewhat disjointed. Couple of times it seemed that quite a lot of time had gone by and rather mysterious things had happened. The other three are more straightforward and action oriented.

The world-building was very interesting. Earth seems to be just one realm out of nine and Ruby can go from one realm to another but only from specific locations. This last bit was revealed in the final story so during the previous stories I wondered a couple of times why she wouldn’t just jump out of danger but apparently she can’t do that. Her powers aren’t well defined: in addition to being able to walk from one realm to another she can see “wisps” around people or things and these tell her something. She calls it intuition which give her nudges to one direction or another.

The world seems to have demons, the underworld, various fae, and other supernatural creatures such as vampires and werewolves. They’re hiding from ordinary people.

The novelization of the first Underworld movie.

Publication year: 2003
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket star books
Page count: 375

I really enjoyed Selene, the gothic setting, and the world building in the movie Underworld. Unfortunately, I didn’t care for the romance which was the linchpin to the plot.

In the novelization the romance is present right at the start. Right at the beginning, before the gunfight at the subway station, Selene and Michael notice each other among the crowds and are immediately taken by each other. Unfortunately, I don’t find their romance in the book any more convincing than in the movie. Oh, I can just about believe that Selene, who has been a stoic werewolf hunter for 600 years without any romantic feelings at all, could find Michael attractive. But for her to quite suddenly abandon her coven for him in just an afternoon… is less believable. Then again, I’d also want any excuse to get away from Kraven, if I were Selene.

The book is very faithful to the movie, for the most part. There are some scenes which aren’t in the movie though it could be that they were cut afterwards or cut from the script. Since the book has multiple POV characters, we get to see the thoughts of most of the characters who appear in the film. Even though Selene is outwardly calm, she goes through more emotions in the book than in the movie. I understand that a stoic character can be difficult to make appealing to a reader. Unfortunately, her stoic get-the-job done attitude is one of the things I really liked in the movie, so the book kind of undermines that.

The book has around dozen different POV characters and unfortunately Selene was the only one who appealed to me. I didn’t care for Kraven in the movie either but his POV here is almost excruciating. He lusts after Selene but abuses her and everyone else around him.

The scenes are short with rapidly changing POVs. We do find out a few interesting details about vampire life which weren’t in the movie but otherwise it’s just a movie in a book form.

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.

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.”

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