Posts Tagged ‘Urban Fantasy’


“The devout belief that the world is explainable is both a terrible vulnerability and a stout shield. Evil prefers it when people don’t believe.”

About :

Mercy Thompson knows a thing or two about “the unexplainable.” For instance, she can shapeshift into a coyote, much like the werewolves she knows, except without suffering their transitional pains; the title of her true nature was lost with the death of her father, so her supernatural friends deem her simply—and incorrectly—a “Skinwalker…of the Southwest Indian tribes.”

But even Mercy gets shaken up when a sorcerer appears on her home turf, bespelling and threatening her vampire friend Stephan and his coven. Werewolves and vampires start working together to hunt him down, and all of her supernatural friends—especially her werewolf “gentlemen callers,” Adam and Samuel—warn her to stay out of the dangerous sorcerer’s way.

But even her besties can’t convince Mercy to stay benched while they put themselves in danger. Blood Bound is adult urban fantasy/paranormal romance authored by Patricia Briggs and published January 30th 2007 by Ace. Mass Market Paperback, 292 pages. The opinions I share are completely my own and in no way compensated for by publishers or authors.

Thoughts :

It’s been a few weeks since I listened to this audiobook, so get ready for a short and sweet review! Overall, I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed book I. The mystery—“Where is the sorcerer? And where is he hiding all of Mercy’s menfolk?!”—actually held my attention better than the mystery in book I, despite the two plots’ similarities. (The plot of book I is also, “Where did the bad guy hide Adam and his daughter?”) The clues are more exciting and fun to decode, many of them involving ghosts (one of my favorite Urban Fantasy elements). We also get more familiar with both the wereworld and vampire politics. The worldbuilding just keeps getting better and better!

My only real complaint is that I wish Mercy would wear more clothes on the book covers! J/k, but in all seriousness, I do feel lukewarm about one element in the series so far: the men (all of them, even, strangely, Mercy’s gay friend?) spend a lot more time jockeying for Mercy’s attention in book II than they did even in book I. Mercy seriously needs a few chick friends, considering how much the male wolves annoy her when they get territorial. She does seem to make one sort-of friend in Honey, so I’m hoping we get more girl time in book III.

On the plus side, I’m getting some serious vibes between Mercy and Adam, which is awesome because…well, Adam is pretty hot 😀

Overall :

I’m really enjoying this world, so I’m definitely going to keep reading. It’s nice, light entertainment. And, okay, I’m curious about who Mercy picks!

Recommended To :

If you like book I, chances are you’ll like book II. Mostly, you might want to hang around because I hear the series keeps getting better!

3.5/5 STARS

The Immortals

“I protect you, just like I protect all the women who come to me. And all I ask in return is two promises: You won’t tell the cops about me, and you won’t hook up with ***holes again.”

About :

The pantheon of Greek gods is alive, though not exactly well, in the city of Manhattan. Artemis—or Selene the Huntress, as she calls herself these days—wearily goes about her age-old task of saving women from male predators, but in truth her powers waned long ago as mortals began to worship other things.

But a brutal murder puts Selene back in touch with her ancient calling, and suddenly her powers begin to return…In her search to find the murderer, she finds herself disarmed and, alarmingly, charmed by a handsome classics professor, Theodore Schultz, who doggedly pursues the same answers. The Immortals is adult urban fantasy authored by Jordanna Max Brodsky and published February 16th 2016 by Orbit. Hardcover, 447 pages.

Thoughts :

Let’s start with the good things. The publisher marketed this as Percy Jackson for adults, and I’d say that’s about right. How could I not at least try “Percy Jack for adults”? So much potential in this premise! Brodsky clearly researched the pantheon, too, and developed an interesting faith system for modern life, as gods try to stay relevant to today’s worshippers. (Selene’s brother Apollo tours with his rock band, catering to adoring crowds and groupies.) Brodsky combines a murder mystery with this brilliant idea, and it held my attention, although I’ve read enough murder mysteries to have pinpointed the culprit immediately.

My other favorite thing? Nerdy and hilarious academic references abound. I love Theo’s pseudo swear, “Holy Roman Empire!” which had me literally laughing out loud as I listened to the audiobook. Brodsky represents the world of academia with great color and life. This goes beyond just the killer premise of bringing the Greek pantheon to life in modern Manhattan; Theo’s university scenes left me feeling totally nostalgic for college.

So it kills me to write this, but…

DNF at 33%

I could not get into the characters. I couldn’t help getting the impression that both protagonists are condescending snobs. Selene condescends to everyone except her dog, but especially to men and specifically to Theo, who practically prostrates himself before her. In one scene, he proves his credentials by helping her with a lead, then pleads to be allowed to help her investigate the murder. This response characterizes Selene’s attitude during the entire conversation:

She put on her baseball cap and pulled it low, so he could barely see her eyes glaring at him from beneath the brim. ‘But don’t think we’re partners, because we’re not.’”

Uhhh okay. Why does he find her attractive again? And she’s just like that all the time. It’s sort of inhuman, which I guess might be the point: Selene is a vengeance goddess. She doesn’t want or need to be liked.

At least Theo’s a nice enough guy, but both he and Selene spend the first 150 pages condescending to the police in ways that just irritate me. Just one example: Theo physically grabs a cop and then gets all amped up when the cop supposedly “trumps up” assault charges on him; but the fact is, grabbing anyone will legitimately earn you an “assault” charge. These kinds of misunderstandings always bother me because my husband is in law enforcement and depends on these laws for protection in the field.

I almost can’t blame Theo and Selene for their attitudes, though, because the cops in The Immortals are all bumbling idiots. They fail to investigate leads and, as poor Theo observes, can’t even remember to Mirandize their suspects (or perhaps don’t want to?). Brodsky’s narrative about law enforcement feels more angry and targeted than the humorously inept “Lestraudes” of normal mystery stories, going beyond humor and straight into using police corruption, brutality and neglect as the main antagonists of the investigators. I don’t know if this is just a clumsy mishandling of the mystery trope or if Brodsky is trying to set up a narrative, here, but unfortunately it made the book difficult for me to enjoy.

Overall & Recommendation :

If the things I mentioned above don’t personally barb you, and if you like the sound of the synopsis, I would definitely recommend trying The Immortals. I think most urban-fantasy lovers and mythology geeks will enjoy it; and luckily for you who do enjoy it, book II just came out in February!


“‘How bad can it be? I’ve never seen a demon attack on the news.’

‘People disappear all the time. All over the world…Lost legions. Lost cities. Have you ever heard of the town of Colebridge, New York?’



About :

NYPD detective Sally Brooks walks into her apartment one day to find that her techie younger brother, Perry, has come for a surprise visit—needing her help, as usual. This time Perry’s brought a strange book with him, the source of his latest troubles.

Things just get stranger when the Bookburners kick down Sal’s front door, demanding the mysterious book. They arrive too late to save Perry from opening the book and releasing a destructive power from inside.

Next thing Sal knows, her brother is hospitalized and comatose and she’s chasing down demon-possessed books of power with the same team who tried to save her brother. Her new team, the Societas Librorum Occultorum, works for the Vatican by containing the threats posed by magical artifacts. Sal wants in—if only to find some way to save her brother. Bookburners is an adult urban fantasy collection of serials, hardcover, 800 pages. Published January 31st 2017 by Saga Press. Authored by Max Gladstone, Margaret Dunlap, Mur Lafferty & Brian Francis Slattery.

Thoughts :

I first heard about Bookburners in a Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine review, and though I was interested in it, I couldn’t afford to pay $1.99 per episode (season one has 16 episodes) because I didn’t have a job at the time. But soon after that, I heard about Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence books and immediately fell hard for the humor, worldbuilding and characters. So I was pretty stoked when I heard that Saga Press was releasing a collected volume of all sixteen episodes in season one. I’m happy to report that season one easily lived up to my atmospheric expectations. If you pick up this collection, get ready to kick some demon butt with the Bookburners!

I love the premise of the worldbuilding: that books can be a window to the dangerous and mysterious world of demon magics and the Vatican protects the world from said dangers. Each episode has a full arc dealing with a new demonic or magical threats, and it never fails to deal moments of genuine urban fantasy “cool factor.” Whether it’s possessed restaurant owners, deal-making machines that steal knowledge from your mind or hand-drawn “tornado eaters” come to life, I guarantee you’ll enjoy the imagination of these four top notch authors. Some episodes also really hit home emotionally. One of my favorite episodes is Big Sky by Slattery, which is set in the US and just so moving. It feels like a western tall tale. As Sal walks through a small town Oklahoma in search of a mysterious pulse of magic, she reflects on the homey scene:

It was all so recognizable to Sal. She didn’t have a general theory about people—she’d seen a little too much for that—but if someone had forced her to give one, it would have ben that most people don’t ask that much from their lives. They want a roof over their heads, a job that isn’t too terrible, a couple of days off to relax now and again. If they have kids, they want to do okay by them. That’s about it.”

It’s an emotional moment for the cop, who doesn’t get to see this side of life in her line of work.

The writing feels a little choppy in the very beginning episodes (especially if you’re breathlessly anticipating Max Gladstone’s word perfect “Craft Sequence” humor, as I was), but it quickly smoothes out and regardless I enjoyed every episode very much.

Perhaps most interesting to me about the world of Bookburners is the debate among the characters over how to handle the magic: use it or destroy it? Magic is clearly dangerous, but what if it could be harnessed? Can it be harnessed? The religious members feel so genuine in their convictions, and the secular debaters pose equally strong arguments. It’s a hot topic in this urban fantasy world and I enjoyed seeing it bandied about among the characters.

‘Information is like a contagion. It spreads. Your employers do an admirable job controlling that, but they aren’t the only players in the game. As much as they might want to eliminate the knowledge and use of magic completely, not every vector can be silenced.’”

I love how Max Gladstone engineers all his work to be full of secrets, questions and conflicting opinions, a mirror of life itself. It reminds me of Brandon Sanderson’s Way of Kings quote, “The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.” I love it when an author can channel that into their storytelling—and make it cool! [Also, highlight to view SPOILERY discussion: Even though Sal’s new team keeps emphasizing how much they trust each other in spite of their differences of opinion, I keep wondering if any of them are going to split over the issue of whether to use magic or destroy it, perhaps with Asanti and Sal forming a splinter group. That would be nuts! But I could see it happening! I don’t know how I’m going to wait to read season two, ahhh!]

And speaking of characters, everyone gets their own full, fascinating arc throughout the season, and often an episode laser-focuses on one or two characters. I especially fret over poor, damaged Liam, a studdly gym rat with a history of demon possession and a rocky, but fervent lifeline in the church. The conflicts surrounding him have hugely personal stakes (and he does tend to attract ALL THE DRAMA, lol), although Grace, the kick-butt ninja of the team has her own crazy magical secrets and is a very close second favorite…and Father Menchú, now there’s a cool priest…you know what, they’re all awesome. Forget I said anything about favorites.

Overall :

Fantastic and I can’t wait for season 2. We will get a compilation of season two, right? Pretty please?!

Recommended To :

Readers looking for a fresh take on the demon hunters trope.

4.5/5 STARS

The Hunted

“‘What do you think you’re playing at, Father?’

Without stopping to pause, Tacit powered a fist square into his face and the man went down in a motionless heap.’”

About :

Tacit Poldek is not a normal priest: he’s an inquisitor traveling through an alternate-20th century Europe to neutralize supernatural threats wherever he finds them. Today, he seeks the murderer of a priest in Sarajevo before that murderer can reach its next target: Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The Hunted is adult horror/alternate history written by Tarn Richardson and published February 20th 2015 by Gerald Duckworth & Co.

I ran across this series on Tammy’s terrific speculative fiction blog, Book, Bones & Buffy, and after reading the synopsis of book III (of which she was running a giveaway), I knew I had to try it out. Speculative fiction set against historical backgrounds can often balance entertainment with details that bring a period to life at the same time. Winning! Bonus: The Darkest Hand also deals with church history, something I find endlessly fascinating. Max Gladstone introduced me to the sort of fiction that explores both faith and magic in the same volume, and I’ve been addicted ever since. So finding the short story prequel to the series (available for free on Amazon!) was really exciting.

Thoughts :

“The pavement around the Priest was slick with blood, thick rivulets of darkening crimson snaking from the body drying fast beneath the hot Sarajevo sun.

A priest is dead. The crowd assumes he fell from a window, but Tacit Poldek sees the signs: someone—or something—threw this priest to his death. As Poldek sets off to find the murderer, we quickly learn that this violent brandy-swigging priest will stop at nothing to get answers. The story moves at a good clip and I enjoyed the chase, although the predictable outcome and the repetitive, violent nature of the priest’s investigative techniques left me feeling “meh” about the final third of the story. I think the constraints of the short story form hindered potential character development and clever plotting in The Hunted.

Overall :

However, this free prequel does provide a fast and helpful introduction to the author’s style, the world of the Darkest Hand series and to the hero (or, rather, antihero?). I’m certainly interested in continuing the series to find out more about this dark, gritty world.

Recommended To :

Anyone intrigued by the idea of mixing horror and urban fantasy, set against a background of 19th century alternate history. I would recommend skipping this prequel, though, and going straight to book I. This feels more like a prologue than a standalone story, mainly published to promise series potential.

Plot: 3/5
Worldbuilding: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Writing: 3/5

***3/5 STARS




“I am a walker. The term is derived from ‘skinwalker,’ a witch of the Southwest Indian tribes who uses a skin to turn into a coyote or some other creature.”

About :

Mercedes “Mercy” Thompson runs a Volksvagen garage in Washington and keeps largely to herself. She’s a “walker,” a magical shapeshifter, and she can slip easily into the form of a coyote. Her brand of shapeshifting remains a secret from almost everyone; only the Fae have revealed themselves to the mundane world, and they bear the brunt of significant persecution. As a result, the werewolves, vampires and other supernatural spooks stay underground—and Mercy prefers to do the same. It’s just easier.

But Mercy’s connections with the local magical presence are finally coming around to “bite” her. When a runaway werewolf appears in her garage asking for a temporary position, Mercy gives him a job and hooks him up with the local werewolf pack leader, Adam, who is also her sexy neighbor. But somebody is looking for the runway—and they don’t mind confronting Mercy or Adam to do it. Walker and werewolf race the clock to find the man behind the mystery before more innocents suffer. Moon Called is Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy written by Patricia Briggs and published January 31st 2006 by Ace.

Thoughts :

I picked up the first of the Mercy Thompson series because I’ve been wanting to get a better feel for Urban Fantasy, and Niki over at The Obsessive Bookseller told me it was a great place to start. (Thanks Niki! 🙂 ) I also love reading about Native American cultures, so of course I had to start with this series. It sucked me in immediately with the introduction of the runaway and, no joke, the “inciting incident” made me cry! (I’m totally a crier 😋)

Because the cast of this first installment remains relatively small, readers easily get to know everybody. In Mercy we find both a pleasant person and a decent heroine—hardworking and easy to like, lacking gimmicks to rub readers the wrong way. I do wish she had some chick friends (although I like all her guy friends, too). But I enjoyed hearing about her Native family history and how her father was a Walker.

I listened to Moon Called alongside reading an eARC of Melissa F. Olson’s Midnight Curse, so it was fun to compare the two books as I get to know the genre:

Midnight Curse has a stronger mystery element than Moon Called and I enjoyed guessing at the twists. Midnight Curse’s characters also really got to me, as evidenced in my IMPASSIONED REVIEW, haha. But the romance arc kept me from loving Midnight Curse or wanting to continue that particular series (although I’ll definitely consider trying a future new series by this talented author).

As for Moon Called, I just plain liked everything about it! Although nothing blew me away in this first installment (it is a first installment, after all, and only 288 pgs), nothing repelled me either, and Briggs develops the worldbuilding impressively well for such a short volume. It thoroughly introduces the werewolf world, and I’m looking forward to exploring more. (The second book sounds like it might tackle the vampires.) Although I didn’t follow the mystery as well, that could be in part due to the nature of the audio experience. I prefer a book like this as my intro to a series, I think.

And the thing that topped off Moon Called, for me, is the great narrator, Lorelei King. I’m always amazed when one narrator can pull off a whole cast so well.

Overall :

I enjoyed pretty much everything about this short and sweet audiobook. I actually felt rested after finishing it. Just something nice and fast with a fun world to inhabit for a few hours. I’m definitely planning to continue the series.

Plot: 3 Stars
Characters: 3.5 Stars
Worldbuilding: 4.5 Stars
Audio: 5 Stars

****4/5 STARS

Recommended To :

Anyone looking for a quick start to a new Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy series. I would say this tends more towards the “paranormal romance” side of the spectrum, although the romance is largely a background element of this first installment; but the romantic tensions swirl beneath the surface of Mercy’s interactions with the two male werewolves in her life. So if that sounds like fun, I bet you’ll enjoy Moon Called!


After killing a crowd of Springheeled Jacks who entered the Nightside through a Timeslip, John Taylor and Suzie Shooter decide to wind down in a Nightside bar. But they can’t relax for long. Soon John’s on-again-off-again friend and arch nemesis brings news of a different kind of monster: a righteous kind.

“The Walking Man, the wrath of God in the world of men, the most powerful and scariest agent of the Good, ever, has come at last to the Nightside to punish the guilty.”

Problem is, if the Walking Man kills all the guilty in the Nightside, no one will be left. John Taylor steps up to challenge the Walking Man, but how can he defeat the unstoppable wrath of God? Just Another Judgement Day is adult UF written by NYT best-selling author Simon R. Green and published December 17th 2008.

So…how did I end up reading #9 of the Nightside series, you ask?

Story Time (You Can Skip Story Time, If You Want) :

It’s kind of funny story. My rural California library hosts several Dresden-addicts and every time they check out their next installment of the series or graphic novels, they ask me, “So did you start book 5 yet?” They get into conversations with each other at the front desk. They ask me how I liked the audiobooks.

I finally admitted to them that while I enjoyed the Dresden books, other series are taking priority at the moment.

So of course one of them took this as permission to hand sell some Dresden drones to me and he went out and bought me Simon Green’s Just Another Judgement Day. This particular Dresden fan is also one of my very favorite library volunteers, and he does some tasks that I would have to do instead of working on fun things like book displays or the teen summer reading program.

So I thanked him profusely, brought the book home and stuffed it into my overflowing bookshelf. But after seeing the volunteer again (who very politely didn’t ask me if I’d read his book, yet) and feeling super guilty, I decided to jump in that very weekend.

Thoughts (The Actual Review) :

At first, Just Another Judgement Day appeared to be exactly what I expected from the Dresden-like cover, from John Taylor’s trench coat to his girlfriend named Suzie, I mean, c’mon!

But I soon realized the error of my assumptions. Not only is John Taylor’s trench coat a living thing (“I’ve always believed in having a coat that can look after itself,” John casually explains), Suzie Shooter likes to trip Mary Sues and laugh at them as they nurse their bruises.

The opening scene hits noir tones as it kicks off a new story in the magical world of “The Nightside.”

“In the Nightside we’re great believers in letting everyone go to Hell in their own way.”

You’ll find more action in the single first macabre chapter than in whole novels of other series. Literally, chapter one runs through a whole plot that I enjoyed immensely, though it has little to do with the rest of the novel. (It’s similar to the Indiana Jones or James Bond stunt at the beginning of every Jones/Bond movie that sets the tone.) The large volume of wacky, fun adventures overwhelms any little considerations about convenient happenstances that smooth the plot *WINK*

And beside the terrific speed and volume of the action, the worldbuilding surrounding it all is a magical, living thing. I haven’t read anything that felt so effortlessly magical since I read Harry Potter when I was a kid. Breezy comments and even whole scenes hint at great story possibilities for past and future books:

“A great painting of a strange alien jungle suddenly came alive and formed a window into that world.”

Jumanji moment! I almost wish this volume had taken advantage of more of that—but that’s that trouble with coming in at book 9. I’m sure the author has “gone there” in other books, but this very specific adventure deals instead with the shades of morality in the Nightside.

The other great thing about Just Another Judgement Day is John’s first-person narration, which made me literally laugh out loud:

‘It’s not really my usual kind of case,’ I said.

‘I’ll pay you half a million pounds.’

‘But clearly this is something that needs to be investigated. Leave it with me, Percy.’”

I enjoyed the characters, although other reviewers (who have read more than book #9 haha) say they’re very two-dimensional; from this I assume the characters don’t undergo much series-level character change, and yet Suzie does change in this book. I love how her growth caps off the story. It’s the perfect ending, imo. Though the plot climax is otherwise anti-climactic and suffers from some repetition and alittabitta moralizing, I enjoyed the rest of the book enormously and Suzie’s revelation totally made it work for me.

Overall :

Get ready for some serious fun, UF lovers. I think I’d have to be in the right mood to pick up this series again—I like a little more characterization in my average fare—but I would definitely not be opposed. That was fun!

Recommended To :

Anyone looking especially for humor and warp-speed pacing in their Urban Fantasy.

Plot: 3 Stars
Characters: 4 Stars
Writing: 3.5 Stars
Worldbuilding: 5 Stars

3.5/5 STARS


“Whoever had forced Molly to kill her friends wanted her to get caught, go on trial and be executed before she had a chance to prove her innocence.”

About :

Scarlett Bernard is a “null,” a human who cancels out any magic around her. Her abilities come in handy on the job—she works to keep the magical world a secret from normal humans in the city of LA. She’s actually starting to enjoy her job, although she’s also enjoying the good life with her werewolf boyfriend, Eli, outside of work.

But duty calls when someone magically forces a vampire friend of hers into murdering 12 USC roommates. Scarlett’s job becomes twofold: hide the magical involvement from the humans and find out who wants to hurt her friend.

Nobody believes in the vampire’s innocence, but Scarlett is determined to find the real murderer with a little help from an old LAPD buddy. Midnight Curse is adult UF authored by Melissa F. Olson and published February 7th 2017 by 47North.

I was browsing Netgalley for a promising new series when I ran across Midnight Curse, first in the new “Disrupted Magic” trilogy. It wasn’t until after I requested the book that I learned about a previous trilogy starring Scarlett Bernard, but I jumped in anyway.

And Olson had me from the first line.

Thoughts :

Scarlett is at an art show with her boyfriend when she gets a creepy, blood-spattered SOS note delivered from her old vampire friend, Molly. The note asks Scarlett to come meet her secretly, so Scarlett blows off her boyfriend, hoping he’ll understand and let her handle it. After all, if she tells him, he has to tell his werewolf pack leader, and then the secret’s not so secret anymore.

But things careen out of control and soon, Scarlett finds herself running damage control on all fronts while still trying to uncover the real mass murderer—and their veiled purpose. The story unfolds in the perspectives of both Scarlett and her LAPD friend Jesse, and a fantastic first 50% ensues. Scarlett and Jesse keep the twisty mystery plot moving, interspersing their investigation with humorous one-liners, psychologically layered character dynamics and precise, interesting backstory and worldbuilding.

Because I jumped in without reading the earlier books, I worried that missing information would muddy the experience for me. But Olson integrates explanations smoothly without info-dumping. The worldbuilding becomes clearer with every page. A lot of the mystery developments do rely on past history and knowledge of Scarlett’s manifold abilities, but I still enjoyed the plot very much.

So with all this going for Midnight Curse, why did I rate the book at 4 stars instead of 5?

It’s largely due to a subjective reaction to one relationship arc that left me feeling bitter during the second half. Throughout the novel, we see the themes of relational control and abuse taken to different extremes, and I didn’t enjoy how it played out in Scarlett’s case. I’m not a huge fan of these dysfunctional relationships from hell, haha. [Highlight to view SPOILER: I struggled with Scarlett’s breakup because she kept running away from communication and playing petty games with Eli. Maybe if she had invited him along on one of her jaunts, instead of taking off with Jesse (whom she’s already developing feelings for), Eli could have understood her strengths or been part of her team or something like that. I don’t buy the irreconcilable differences crap because my husband and I are about as different as two personalities can get and we somehow manage to talk things out like adults. Going on six years of blissfully wedded life, I value faithfulness very highly in relationships, so Scarlett’s behavior irked me beyond what another reader might have felt.]

But I get the feeling that Olson wanted/needed to shake things up for the new trilogy, and my impression of Scarlett suffered without an understanding of the love triangle and character histories of the original series. She came across as very immature to me in this one isolated relationship. She’s a great protagonist in every other way, and in fact, a lot of readers enjoyed everything about the book (the overall Goodreads rating is super high—currently 4.27, wow!), including this arc. Your experience of this relationship arc seems to really depend on your emotional connection to the characters.

Overall :

So while Midnight Curse is a great UF, it left me severely cranky, haha. I probably won’t read any more about Scarlett because I try to avoid getting my heart ripped out; but I’d be down to read more by this author—I loved everything else about the book. I could see a lot of readers giving it five stars.

Recommended To :

I recommend this to readers looking for adult UF with a strong mystery, a fast pace and characters that don’t leave room for ambivalence. I think teens would love it, too, although there’s some language that parents might want to be aware of.

Thank you so much to Melissa F. Olson, 47North and Netgally for this great ARC. I really enjoyed it!


About :

Dresden needs a job, but he can’t seem to find the motivation. After his vampire girlfriend Susan leaves town, he’s consumed with finding a cure for her condition, and he neglects every other concern that should be getting his attention. Like the toads falling from the sky, for instance, or the parade of hit men sent his way courtesy of the Red Court of vampires.

But the appearance of a faerie queen can pull anyone out of even the most impassioned self-absorption. Showing up in his office, one day, the Winter queen of faerie makes Harry an offer he can’t refuse: find who killed the Summer Knight and the queen will absolve his godmother’s hold over him. Adult Urban Fantasy Published September 3rd 2002 by Roc.

Thoughts (The Good) :

I started this audiobook immediately after finishing the audiobook of book III, Grave Peril. The humor and ghosties of book III made me eager to jump into the next installment. I have to admit, I had very high expectations starting this book (because “It gets better!” says everyone says ever).

The book starts strongly, which was an encouragement after the engrossing opening of book III. (I loved that chilling opening of Grave Peril with the ghost of Agatha Hagglethorn.) The mystery plot of book IV improves on book III, somewhat, in complexity and conclusion—I didn’t guess the culprit, this time, and it takes readers for an interesting trip through both faerie and wizard council politics. James Marsters once again kept me laughing with his terrific narration on the audiobook.

Character Problems:

Unfortunately, although many readers clearly love Harry and the rest of the cast, I’m still struggling to really about them. My main problem with the series is, I think, Harry himself.

I’d asked her to marry me. She told me no.”

I tried not to cry. I willed myself not to with all of my years of training and experience and self-discipline.”

And of course,

The skirt showed exactly enough leg to make it hard not to look, and her dark pumps had heels just high enough to give you ideas.”

While Harry can be charming and adorable, sometimes this style of first person narration can ruin a character for me. Harry constantly has me bouncing between, “HAHAHAHAHAH-“ to “You’re drooling/whining AGAIN?” Granted, he can be very funny, but I don’t necessarily want to be in Dresden’s pervy head—or any guy’s pervy head—for 15 books.

As another literary character so rightly says, “It’s a cesspool in there.” Heh…so true. This is clearly a matter of personal taste, as many people love Dresden; I just can’t seem to care overly much about him.

In fact, as a completely personal side note, I think I might just prefer high fantasy character tropes to modern tropes. Harry is about as cute and cuddly and whiny and hilarious as a wizard can conceivably get, but give me Merlin any day.

In fact, give me the Codex Alera. Give me Tavi, baby. I dig those hackneyed hero king tropes, and Butcher pulls them off with skill.

I also tend to prefer series that make certain characters integral to the plot. An interchangeable cast makes it difficult for readers like me to connect with a series. I loved the interplay between Harry and his friend Michael in book III, and I sorely missed it in book IV.*

Overall :

Solid three stars. I like much of the humor and worldbuilding, even if the characters don’t appeal to me. This series may or may not improve on me, but I can see why others like it so much: it’s clever and funny in how it interacts with ancient mythology in modern Chicago.

Recommendations :

Even though I complain a lot about Harry, Summer Knight will still appeal to readers who like the idea of a lovable, if whiny, supernatural sleuth who always barely manages to pull out a win.

***3/5 STARS


*Note Update: In reference to the “pervy” comment about Harry, I just wanted to clarify that it’s nothing like, “MMM, THAT CHILD SURE IS JUICY!!!” But because the cast in the series is mostly interchangeable, it’s tough to get beyond caricature, sometimes, with the female characters especially. Butcher compensates for that lack of character growth with humor. And since our first person narrator is a guy…we get lots of commentary about the breasts and buttocks and relative attractiveness of every woman he meets!  It’s not offensive, or anything, because it usually makes me laugh. But it’s just not very interesting to me, beyond the laugh of the moment.


Wire. Strands of barbed wire ran about the ghost’s flesh, beneath her torn clothing. The barbs had dug cruelly into her flesh every two inches or so, and her body was covered with small, agonizing wounds….The wire was a single strand that began at her throat and wrapped about her torso, beneath the arms, winding all the way down one leg to her ankle. At either end, the wire simply vanished into her flesh. 

‘Sun and stars, I breathed. ‘No wonder she went mad.’”

About :

Someone is torturing the ghosts of Chicago, and the victims are none too happy about it. But why torture a ghost? And why do so many of the ghosts have a connection with our wizarding detective hero, Harry Dresden? Harry, along with Michael, a holy knight named after the avenging angel, work together to solve the case before the mastermind gets his way. Adult Urban Fantasy Published September 1st 2001 by ROC. Jim Butcher is the author of the Dresden Files, the Codex Alera, and a new steampunk series, the Cinder Spires (which I have also reviewed)!

Thoughts :

A friend and I read Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series as teenagers, rushing from our rural hometown to a Barnes and Noble over an hour away to buy First Lord’s Fury on its first weekend out, despite AP homework and college assignments and everything else modern high school entails. So when my friend raved about The Dresden Files, I gave it a shot. I pushed through books one and two, but I lost interest halfway through three, despite promises that the series would improve. I just didn’t find the direction all that interesting. I think this was my first—or at least one of my first—urban fantasy series, and I just wasn’t…that impressed? I didn’t like Susan, I couldn’t relate to Harry, I hadn’t read much in the way of noir—or Urban Fantasy, for that matter….it just didn’t work for me.

Recently, I decided to give book III another shot via audio. I had been scolded, encouraged and pleaded with by enough library patrons to try them again. I promised myself to read book III, at least. I’m glad I finished it because I feel like I can now express a valid opinion!

I have to say that from what I remember, Grave Peril is better than the first two books, largely due, I think, to the relationship between Harry and Michael.

‘Oh, Jesus,’ [Harry] whispered. ‘Son of a bitch.’

‘He didn’t mean it, Lord,’ Michael said. ‘Harry? What did you mean?’”


The contrast between these two kept me in fits. But there’s lots more humor where that came from, and that’s my favorite thing about this series. I really enjoyed laughing my way through the audio version of Grave Peril on my way to work, every morning.

As far as the plot, it kept me guessing about the culprit, although there’s a rather short list of Harry’s enemies, and I had guessed the “big reveal” before we got there. The series seems to focus less on plot and more on detailing the world of Dresden’s Chicago and all of its magical power players. I’m trying to be patient with that.

I did enjoy a lot of the ghostly encounters—very creepy and suspenseful—and how Michael has his own sort of power, quite unique from Harry’s. The worldbuilding and magics seem to have endless, fun layers to explore.

I think I quit this series, the first time, because of the characters. I like do like Murphy and I adore Michael, but everyone else is mainly meh.

But I still wanted to keep listening, by the time I finished book III, so it has that going for it. In fact, I’ve already finished book IV and will be posting my review next week!

Overall :

It was funny, but nowhere near amazing, so I’m just sticking around to find out what all the fuss is about.

Recommended To :

So many people love this series, I would have to say “give it a shot.” Maybe you’re one of the readers who will find a soulmate in Harry Dresden. I don’t know what book will tell you that for sure, or not, but I don’t recommend skipping any of them. There’s a lot of set up in these first three books that you might miss, if you jump straight into book IV.


skorkowsky-ibenusAbout :

A secret demon-slaying Order fights to stay underground. An internet group threatens to shatter their anonymity. A holy blade disrupts both of their agendas.

Detective Victoria Martin barely survives an encounter with demon spawn, but her career—and her partner—aren’t so lucky. Applying her detective skills to a new mystery, she obsesses over the creatures she saw…and the men who saved her from them. Her saviors belong to the Order of Valducan, which fights demons like the ones who attacked her. Allan, a leader in the Order, knows that experiences like Martin’s are all too common.

But he doesn’t bet on the detective using her technological ninja skills to seek him out and demand the truth. Adult Urban Fantasy/Horror published September 13th, 2016 by Ragnarok Publications. Authored by Seth Skorkowsky.

Thoughts :

Ibenus takes a basic premise similar to Cassandra Clare’s wildly popular Mortal Instruments series—demon slayers slaying demons, sometimes involving angels or angel-blessed swords—and distills it to pure awesome.

Ibenus revolves around its namesake, the holy blade called Ibenus and the angel that inhabits it. Which means there’s plenty of action. You can’t name a book after a holy blade without lots of demon-blasting. But without sacrificing the action, Ibenus also develops the mythology and the machinations of the Order, and it stays in close touch with the desires of each character. All of which makes me really want to go pick up Damoren right now!

This is book III in the Valducan series, so I was a little worried I’d be lost, despite assurances that this is a fine place to start. (Apparently the earlier two books focus more on individual demon-hunters and less on the Order.) But while the book starts off with a bang—very little exposition, almost all action—which could have easily made Ibenus a bewildering introduction for a straight newcomer, Victoria’s perspective actually provides an excellent vicarious recruit for readers to learn the drive-through version of the “rules.” I was able to pick up the basics of characters, background and conflict without undue difficulty.

Plus, Victoria is just pretty cool. Confident and proficient, the detective never lets disgrace stand in the way of her own personal redemption. She really fights for what she wants, which keeps things interesting, as her desires and loyalties change and she must unravel the mess she’s made of them. Her gritty arc could have become really angsty, but Skorkowsky doesn’t let the story languish in the murky depths of dethpair. Like I said…Victoria keeps things interesting.

Skorkowsky really goes there, with the character and professional conflicts, which makes for much higher stakes than a softer storyline might have produced. The conflicts involve questions of secrecy. Should the public know about the demons? Or should they be kept blissfully unaware—until they have an experience like Victoria’s, that is? The Order and Victoria’s internet group can’t seem to find any common ground on this issue, and they both make great points in favor of their arguments. The antagonist is no plot puppet; Skorkowsky develops his positions with care.

I love the atmospheric setting of the second half of the book: the Catacombs beneath the city of Paris. Just the idea of climbing down for a rave or a swim and getting swarmed by baby-faced demon spawn…yeah. Although we only really get to know one kind of demon in this book, it’s plenty creepy.

A baby’s coo came from the corner.

Something shuffled across the trash-strewn floor. Victoria’s light went to the movement, finding a pale, waxy shape the size of a bread loaf. James’s brilliant light fell upon it, revealing a chitinous insect. The creature’s face resembled a porcelain china doll, its oily black eyes completely filling the sockets. A pair of segmented pincers twitched outward from its bristle-lined hole of a mouth.

It looked up at them and a shrill infant’s sob issued from that hideous maw.”

Chitin-covered “Mantismere” demons sport pincers, saber appendages and mandibles big enough to chew your brain out through your eye. They usually don’t travel alone, either, unfortunately for the Valducan crew. They breed creepy bug drones known as “screamers” for the infant-like wails that can draw in their victims.

Ibenus—and, I’m supposing, the whole Valducan series—develops the mythology with faultless precision, covering both centuries-old historical conflicts with the church and modern conflicts such as with technological nuts who would exploit it to uncover Valducan simply for self-validation. You’ll find some great worldbuilding, here.

A few little things confused me, likely because I haven’t read books I & II, but the story stands well on its own. You could easily jump into the series, starting with Ibenus (like I did), and in fact, I strongly encourage you to do so if you’re looking for a terrific new urban fantasy series.

I have just a few small issues with the book, one being Victoria’s unfamiliarity with guns. I understand that the British CID staffs some plainclothes detectives, but that position is also supposed to require two years’ experience as a uniformed officer. It just seems crazy to me that Victoria has only shot a gun once in her life. The only other real issue I have is with the editing, which is sometimes unclear and confusing in my finished copy of the book.

But both these issues are very minor in comparison to the great fun I had reading Ibenus.

Overall :

Terrific urban fantasy. Dark and creepy, but by no means hopeless. Fine place to start in the series, with the perfect balance of action and exposition.

Recommended To :

Readers looking for creepy urban fantasy with faultless worldbuilding, constant action and well-developed characters.

****4/5 STARS