Posts Tagged ‘Urban Fantasy’

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.

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graveperil

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?’”

XD

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.

4/5 STARS

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

ThreePartsDead

Premise: All is not well in Alt Coulumb, where Kos, God of Fire, has just been murdered. But who murdered him? Tara, straight out of Craft school, is determined to find out, along with a crew that includes her formidable new boss, a novice priest to the dead god and a vampire junkie. Published 2012

I LOVED THIS BOOK! LOVED IT ENTIRELY! COMPLETELY!

All of My Favorite Things: (1) THE CHARACTERS! Especially Abelard the priest, who is completely adorable.

When Abelard and Tara’s boss discuss something weird:

ABELARD: “It all seems…unnatural.’

BOSS: ‘Whereas using the love of your god as a heat source for steam power is perfectly normal.’

ABELARD: ‘Yes,’ he said, confused” (192).

ME: <33 Abelard

Also, Tara is an awesome female protag.

(2) The concepts, oh, all the many pretty concepts. The author balances the power between gods and humanity in a really interesting way—and the gods themselves are quite interesting constructs. I look forward to finding out more about them in future books. I also love how the different characters relate to the gods—Abelard, trust; Tara, suspicion; Tara’s boss, professionalism (toward the god who is her client); the bad guy, greed (over the god’s power and immortality). The idea of Craft also intrigues me; it seems unique, distinguished from your usual magic system by a distinctly…”professional” air. I really like it. I don’t understand it very well because Gladstone throws us into the story without a lot of explanation (which is why I was able to jump right in and love it from the start). I think future books will portray more of it and what it means. (3) The worldbuilding. Unique—kind of steampunk mix of urban and high fantasy, mostly magic-powered as opposed to technology-powered. The story stays mostly in Alt Coulumb, but the world is clearly large and well-constructed, leaving much room for further explanation. (4) The quick, twisty plot is fairly understandable for character-driven readers, but still unpredictable. Part mystery, part “overcoming the monster.” (5) The comedic factor is one of the most refreshing aspects of this story. I LOVE the voice. It adds to the tone, which is optimistic in the face of large odds. I also love the character-based humor.

What I Disliked: Nothing. Literally nothing, I loved it all.

Themes: humanism verses medieval-pagan-remix priesthoods, church corruption, prejudice, faith, crises of faith, other cool things.

Recommendation: Any fans of urban fantasy. I see a lot of positive reviews by Jim Butcher fans. (I enjoyed this more than the 2.5 Harry Dresden books I read a few years ago. Sorry! I’m sorry! But it’s true.)

What’s Next: BOOK II, HERE I COME!

P.S. The Audiobook: I listened to the preview and it sounded…meh. I definitely recommend reading the hard copy or e-copy of this one.

***** 5/5 STARS

My thanks to Anthony Vicino (and his blog One Lazy Robot), whose post “Top 5 Books of 2015” convinced me to read Three Parts Dead.

City_of_BonesCity_of_AshesCity_of_glasscity_of_Fallen_Angels

This is a review of Books I-IV. Series unfinished.

Premise: Fifteen-year-old Clary finds herself launched into an urban-fantasy version of NYC when she witnesses the murder of a demon–by demonhunters.

Thoughts: I like a lot of the wordbuilding and mythology of this series. I LOVE SIMON.

But I don’t care for the City of Bones series. I wanted to like it, but I can’t finish it, even on audio. (It doesn’t help that I disliked the voice and style of the audiobook narrator of #5 City of Lost Souls, the book I tried to begin again with. Molly C. Quinn makes a melodramatic series sound even more melodramatic.)

This is one of those series that tells me I’ve lost touch with the genre, just a little bit, because every teen girl I talk to loves it. Like, “Hey girl, what have you been readi-” “OMG CITY OF BONES IT’S THE BEST THING EVER AND BANE CHRONICLES I LOVE IT SO MUCH <3<3<3”

I liked it well enough at ages 18/19, but I stopped after book IV because the series became a drag as I lost interest. I won’t read six (very long) books for the love of one character.

A couple adult booktubers seem to love this series and I just don’t get it. It’s melodramatic and angsty- she bit her lip until it bled; he stayed up waiting until five am when exhaustion finally took its toll; all of the teenagers are skinny or gorgeous. Does no one else get tired of the cliches?

And also, I really don’t like Jace. Sorry girls! Too arrogant for me. My final complaint: there’s too much focus on how everybody looks. That really doesn’t matter to the story…

Recommendation: But like I said, I enjoyed the series well enough, as a teen. If you can get a teen reading it, go for it—the worldbuilding is really smart. The series just doesn’t appeal to adult me.

** 2/5 STARS