They are the realm’s last, best defense against supernatural evil. But they’re going to need a lot more silver...
As fog descends, obscuring the gas lamps of Victorian London, werewolves prowl the shadows of back alleys. But they have infiltrated the inner circles of upper-crust society as well. Only a handful of specially gifted practitioners are equipped to battle the beasts. Among them are the roguish Simon Archer, who conceals his powers as a spell-casting scribe behind the smooth veneer of a dashing playboy; his layabout mentor, Nick Barker, who prefers a good pub to thrilling heroics; and the self-possessed alchemist Kate Anstruther, who is equally at home in a ballroom as she is on a battlefield.
After a lycanthrope targets Kate’s vulnerable younger sister, the three join forces with fierce Scottish monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane—but quickly discover they’re dealing with a threat far greater than anything they ever imagined.
(I was given a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)
Magic, werewolves, Victorian London, crazy inventions, and alchemy: what could go wrong, right?
Well, I did like this novel, but not as much as I had hoped and wished. Perhaps because I remembered liking these authors’ Greyfriar book a lot, and was expecting something similar? I’m not sure. It has a nice mix of adventure, banter, fights and magic, but somehow I found it a bit lacking. Not bad per se, just lacking.
I really liked the descriptions and the London depicted in this first installment. I could easily imagine its streets, its rookeries, the characters as they were introduced, Penny’s inventions, and the various supernaturals (I’ll add the homunculi to this category, not only the werewolves). The Bedlam part was creepy and terrific. The atmosphere reflected what I’d imagine as an early gaslight/steampunk urban fantasy backdrop, and while some of the contraptions were maybe a tad bit too modern, I didn’t really care, because they integrated well enough within the overall picture.
The characters had a nice dynamics going, too. They were somewhat cliché (the dashing gentleman magician, his friend who seems to spend his time in less commendable places, the Scottish werewolves hunter, the inventor, the feisty alchemist), but again, for some reason, I thought they worked well together. I will easily forgive tropes if I manage to find them exciting, and in this case, they fit the theme and what I expected of it.
I found the writing style a bit too rough in general, though, in that the action scenes especially seemed like they could’ve benefitted from more editing, in order to be less confusing. Same with the first chapters: the reader’s quickly thrown into it, which is usually good, yet something felt abrupt and slightly jarring. It got better in some parts, and not in others. There were a lot of such scenes, perhaps too many, and they got repetitive after a while. The werewolves were also a bit too squishy depending on the moments: the first one looked so impressive and hard to kill, while others could be shredded like paper. At some point, the weres got described as not being all the same, with a lot of them being ‘runts’ of sorts, that couldn’t very well control their powers; in this case, it would make sense… only the way it was explained wasn’t too clear.
Second, I wondered why the authors hadn’t made up more concepts and words. Sure, too much techno- (or mystico-) babble can get old pretty fast; however, whenever I read something like “he muttered strange words (to create a spell)”, I couldn’t help but ask myself: “What words are those, andwhy would they be strange to him, since he’s a magician?” In such instances, I’d definitely have appreciated some made-up “babble”.
Third, a lot of threads were left dangling. This is both a good and a bad thing. The book is clearly presented as volume 1 in a trilogy, no secrets here, so everything can’t be solved at once, and these threads are obviously openings into books 2 and 3. On the other hand, they’d better not be forgotten then, otherwise they’ll look like sloppy work.
I’d rate this book 2.5 stars: lots of fun, with the clear aim of being entertaining, and definitely good potential in terms of character dynamics and family stories, but only if it gets realised and not bogged down in confusing scenes. Reading the next volume, which I also have, will likely tell if what I’m hoping for will become true.
To seventeen-year-old Aiden Ortiz, letting the dead walk through his body to reach the other side comes with the territory. Being a Gateway isn’t an easy job, but someone’s gotta send Bleeders where they belong. Heaven. Salvation. Call it whatever you want. Dead is dead. But when his search for Koren Banks––the girl who went mysteriously missing seven months ago––leaves him with more questions than answers, he finds himself involved in something far more sinister and beyond his control.
With the threat of the Dark Priest’s resurrection, and his plan to summon his demon brothers from hell, Aiden is left to discover his identity before the Dark Priest’s curse infecting his blood consumes him, and before the world as he knows it succumbs to the darkness of hell on earth.
(I was given a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)
An enjoyable book, good for a leisurely day, though I would’ve wanted to learn more about Aiden’s abilities in general and how he had received support—as a reader, I too often felt left in the dark.
The writing style itself wasn’t the best I’ve ever seen, but it wasn’t anything unbearable either: I didn’t notice many blatant typos and mistakes, and it flowed well enough to carry the story. Aiden’s “voice” felt enough like a boy’s; it was easy to follow his struggles throughout the novel, how he realised something dark was growing inside him, how he was trying to battle it. There isn’t that much action, as it’s more internally-focused than translated into physical fights—there are a couple of exceptions to this, and they highlight the internal battles well.
At first I wasn’t sure about all the religious-themed surroundings (Catholic school and church, a priest as Aiden’s mentor, a religious mother…), but all in all, they remained surroundings only in my opinion: I didn’t feel they were used to shove anything down my throat, which was a good thing, as I wouldn’t have liked a preachy book. For instance, while there are talks about God, I never was under the impression that the souls going through the Gateway went to *either* Heaven *or* Hell, or that there weren’t any Gateways from other faiths than the Christian one. The religious part seemed like “one system of belief among others, that are just as valid”, so this was alright with me.
There’s a bit of romance, of the bittersweet kind, and one that plays a role throughout the story without being its main focus. That was good enough for me; I’m definitely tired of stories with high stakes where the characters are too busy pondering which girl or boy to choose, instead of focusing on the actual problem.
I wish there had been more information given to readers, though. The subplot behind Koren’s disappearance was introduced abruptly, and I would’ve liked to see more of her before that, even though this might have meant using more flashbacks. A lot of information was kept from Aiden, or presented in an “oh, read this book once you’re at home” way; wouldn’t it have been easier and faster if his mentor had explained things to him directly? It’d probably also given Aiden opportunities to talk about some of the people he had met, and realise sooner what was wrong. As it was, I felt like it was a method of keeping information from the reader too for as long as possible, and I’m not too keen on such a method. The villain’s identity was also easy to guess, and it was a wonder Aiden didn’t realise it sooner.
The other characters also weren’t too developed. They were supportive throughout, and I could feel their support, all the more after some of them witnessed Aiden changing yet still decided to forgive him and stay by his side (that’s friendship); however, I kept thinking they could’ve been brought into existence more efficiently.
2.5 stars. I’ll still read the next book, as I also have it, but I hope it’ll shed more light on the Gateways in general, on what exactly Aiden could become if he were to give in, on the other characters (especially Julie and Michael) and on the Brethren’s plans.
Welcome to hell…
…where skinless demons patrol the lakes and the waves of Limbo wash against the outer walls, while the souls of the Damned float on their surface, waiting to be collected.
When an unidentified, brutalised body is discovered, the case is assigned to Thomas Fool, one of Hell’s detectives, known as ‘Information Men’. But how do you investigate a murder where death is commonplace and everyone is guilty of something?
(I received a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)
First thing first: if you’re looking for nice things, Happy Ever Afters and something else than bleak prospects, this is not the book for you. But the fact it’s set in Hell, only in Hell and nowhere else, makes this fact kind of obvious anyway.
Thomas Fool is one of Hell’s few “Information Men”, meant to investigate crimes yet knowing that whatever the outcome, it won’t matter. Whether murderers get punished or not doesn’t matter, whether people die or not doesn’t matter—it’s Hell, and it’s nonsense, and the whole nonsense of it bears down upon every inhabitant, even the demons themselves. There are rules to follow, and all of Hell’s prisoners do, in the flimsy hope of being Elevated someday, freed and sent to Heaven, following a process of selection whose rules themselves are all but logical. Joy and hope? Of course there is: so that they can be better quashed.
It was sometimes a little difficult to make up my mind about this novel, as some of its defects also contribute to making its strengths. The characters in general are sort of bleak, unremarkable, lost within an investigation that doesn’t really seem important, like puppets stringed around while being totally aware of what they are. It was somewhat tedious at times, yet it fit pretty well into the Hell setting, into its “why bother” atmosphere. I would not necessarily care for what happened to whom, yet at the same time, I did, because it reinforced the feeling of a twisted structure here. (I was peeved however at the women’s roles: they were either absent/in the background or clearly too stupid to live anyway.)
Hell’s descriptions were vivid and made it easy to picture what Fool and his partners had to go through, as gruesome and malevolent as both places and inhabitants were. In the beginning, I expected more; later, it didn’t feel so important, as what was described became enough for me to form my own vision of Hell, and adding more would’ve actually been too much.
Dialogues were definitely of the weak sort, especially because of the various repetitions and name-dropping. For instance, one character kept calling Fool “Thomas” several times in the span of a few sentences only, and this happened more than just once of twice. Fool’s and some others’ lines were also often reduced to “Yes” or “No”, and those became quickly annoying.
Another issue: guessing who the perp was. Way, way too easy. It made sense fairly early in the novel, and it was equally annoying to see Fool & Co not doing the math. Granted, their investigations often fell into the “Did Not Investigate” category (Hell made it so that it was pointless for them to investigate most crimes in general), and I guess one could say they weren’t “used” to doing it, but… It was still annoying when Fool openly admitted to himself not understanding something that should’ve been obvious.
2.5 stars for the depiction of Hell, and how the story made clear that pointlessness, twisted logices and bleak surroundings can be turned into something as terrible as fiery pits and physical pain. The reader doesn’t get hammered with God and Satan, and has to make their own idea of whether this would truly be a kind of Hell for them. As an investigation/mystery type of story, though, or in terms of interesting characters, it didn’t work well.
Seventeen-year-old Clark Treasure assumes the drink he stole off the captain is absinthe… until the chemicals in the liquid give him the ability to awaken the dead.
A great invention for creating perfect soldiers, yes, but Clark wants to live as a miner, not a slave to the army—or the deceased. On the run, Clark turns to his estranged, mining tycoon father for help. The Treasures welcome Clark with open arms, so he jumps at the chance to help them protect their ranch against Senator Horan, a man who hates anyone more powerful than he.
Sixteen-year-old Amethyst Treasure loathes the idea of spending the summer away from her bustling city life to rot on her father’s ranch, but when a handsome young man shows up claiming to be her secret half-brother, her curiosity is piqued. He’s clever, street smart, and has no qualms jumping into the brawl between the Treasures and Horans. Caught in the middle, Horan kidnaps Amethyst, and all she gets is this lousy bullet through her heart.
When Clark brings her back to life, however, the real action starts, and Amethyst joins him in his fight against the Horan clan—whatever the cost. Defeating the Horans may seem easy at first, but going up against men with the same fighting vengeance as Clark, and a Senator with power he’s obtained by brainwashing the masses?
Well, Amethyst’s boring summer at home has turned into an adventure on the run, chock full of intrigue, danger, love, and a mysterious boy named Clark.
(I was given a copy by the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.)
I had read a couple of short stories by this author, and thought the world she developed would be worth the read. I’m sorry to say I couldn’t push myself to enjoy Treasure, Darkly, in spite of a good beginning. Or perhaps because the beginning led me to hope for something quite different, something I’d have liked instead.
Adventure in a steampunk, western-like world, along with a mysterious power allowing the male protagonist to bring people back to life: that would’ve rocked, and it’s what I got in the first chapters. Clark seemed an intriguing character. On the run from the Army after he accidentally used their latest invention and ended up with powers over the dead, he turned to the only people he thought would be able to protect them, thanks to their wealth and reputation; a risky move if you ask me, but why not, when you don’t have much left to lose? Clark was kind of resourceful—ready to use whatever resources he could find, aware that he had to be ruthless at times, yet still trying to fit in in a “good” way no matter what.
The world depicted in the novel was interesting, too. Perhaps with a bit too much “steampunkish eye-candy”, in that you’d have to simply enjoy the descriptions and atmosphere for what they are, not look for any detailed explanation behind some of the machines. At some point, Clark goes on a quest for missing inventions, and if you like reading about such contraptions, well, those fit well within a steampunk universe.
However, I found it really difficult to remain invested into the story after the 40%-50% mark. First, Amethyst’s expected death doesn’t occur before then, i.e. a bit too late to my liking. Second, what would’ve been somewhat stereotypical but still enjoyable plot in a western-type plot (the Treasures vs. the Horans) wasn’t that much developed, with the race to find the missing inventions getting muddled in there. Third, and a killer for me, those parts of the plot, along with Clark’s power and running away from the military, got lost in the romance.
I didn’t care the least bit for the romance here. Partly because of the brother/sister thing, even though there’s a twist here. Partly because I wanted to see a kickass brother/sister pairing living adventures in a Weird Wild West world. Partly because it didn’t make much sense when pitched against the other stakes (the Horans, Clark being on the run, how the family in general was supposed to accept him…).
Amethyst I found fairly unlikeable all along. I could’ve forgiven her snobbish ways in the beginning, if only coming back from the dead would’ve redeemed them. I’d expect dying, then being resurrected would leave heavy traces in someone’s psyche, make them contemplate their mortality, see the world in a different way; but Amethyst doesn’t change, and remains as superficial as ever (all the more as she’s cast several times in a Damsel In Distrest role, moments during which she worries about the wrong things).
Clark’s power remained vague and not exploited after the first half. For instance, we’re told that when he brings back someone, he has to give death in the next minutes or so for the first life to indeed be spared, yet he’s never seen doing it, which felt like a cop-out. The villains didn’t do much in the second half either, the two brothers vanishing from the scene fairly quickly, to better leave room to Clark and Amethyst traipsing around, buying clothes, camping in the woods, and so on. Also, Clark’s secrets got out in the open too easily, and it was hard after a while to believe that people wouldn’t talk about it sooner, that he wouldn’t get in trouble sooner because of it.
In short, based on the first half of the novel, I was somewhat enthused, and expected adventure and a grand finale. In the end, I got bored by the romance and distractions from what should’ve remained the issues at stake. By the time they came back, it was too late.
Nine books. Nine bestselling authors. Nine heroines that take names—and chances—while confronting dark foes, whether by force of arms or magic, that threaten their entire world.
Over fifteen hundred pages of epic reading await! Let the adventures begin!
From NYT and USA Today Bestselling Author, SM REINE – WITCH HUNT –– Shaman on the run. Isobel Stonecrow speaks with the dead…for the right price. She brings closure to the bereaved and heals broken hearts. But when she resurrects someone for the wrong client, she ends up on the OPA’s most wanted list.
From NYT and USA Today Bestselling author, CJ ELLISSON – DEATH’S SERVANT –– Jonathan Winchester has clashed with his werewolf alpha one too many times. He returns to Virginia to find work and meets a young waitress, Raine. As their relationship progresses, Jon’s embroiled in more intrigue than he bargained for and a danger bigger than he can handle.
From bestselling author, LINDSAY BUROKER – TORRENT –– When Delia chose to major in archaeology, she imagined herself as the female Indiana Jones of the Southwest. She didn’t imagine herself stumbling across decapitated bodies in old mine shafts or learning that monsters are real…
From USA TODAY bestselling author, ANTHEA SHARP – SPARK –– What if a high-tech game was a gateway to the treacherous Realm of Faerie? Superstar gamer Spark Jaxley’s life might look easy, but she’s part of an elite few who guard a shocking secret; the Realm of Faerie exists, and its dark magic is desperate for a foothold in the mortal world.
From bestselling authors BOONE BRUX and CJ ELLISSON – DEATH TIMES TWO –– The V V Inn has a ghost problem. New grim reaper, Lisa Carron, accepts the job. She quickly learns the hotel is full of the dearly departed—and she’s working for vampires. Throw in Asa, a young vamp hot enough to melt the Arctic ice, and Lisa realizes she’s way out of her element.
From bestselling author, JC ANDRIJESKI – ROOK: ALLIE’S WAR EPISODES 1-4 –– Like most humans, Allie distanced herself from Seers, a race of human-like beings discovered on Earth. Yanked out of her life by the mysterious Revik, Allie finds out her blood may not be as “human” as she thought, the world is nothing like it appears to be…and she has more in common with Seers than she ever wanted to believe.
From bestselling author, ANNIE BELLET – JUSTICE CALLING –– Gamer. Nerd. Sorceress. Jade Crow lives a quiet life running her comic book and game store in Wylde, Idaho. After twenty-five years fleeing from a powerful sorcerer who wants to eat her heart and take her powers, quiet suits her just fine. Surrounded by friends who are even less human than she is, Jade figures she’s finally safe. As long as she doesn’t use her magic…
From bestselling author, JESI LEA RYAN – ARCADIA’S GIFT –– Teenager Arcadia (Cady) Day’s family tragedy unleashes a hidden power. After experiencing what can only be called a psychic episode, her home life crumbles. As her emotional control slips away, Cady begins to suspect that her first psychic episode was just the beginning…
From Urban Fantasy author, KARA LEGEND – WILD NIGHT ROAD –– One innocent hex sets off a chain reaction of trouble among the shifters of the Kinraven that threatens war between werewolves, seraphim and witches. Lilith Darke will do anything to be free of her seraphim master. All hell breaks loose when rival packs face off only to discover a new, deadly threat that will take all their magick to survive.
I got a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
This collection of nine novels is, obviously, huge to read, so I tackled each book one by one. Which took me quite some time.
Overall, I was rather disappointed. Apart from one novel that made me feel like reading some of the author’s other works, mostly the stories ranged from “it’s OK” to “no” for me. I can think of two major explanations to this:
1) Mostly the stories were of the sex/romance-oriented kind, and this isn’t really what I’m looking for in urban fantasy—not because of the themes themselves, but because they too often take precedence over the plot. I want to read urban fantasy, possibly with a dash of romance, not romance with a dash of supernaturals thrown in.
2) I’m still feeling cheated by the “kickass heroines” line. I didn’t find many of them kickass. At all. Being a witch or a demon hunter doesn’t make a kickass heroine if she stil lturns to mush at the first sight of The Male.
If these are your things, good for you… They just aren’t mine.
Breaking down Nine by Night to individual short reviews, the way I had posted them over the months while reading it novel by novel:
A quick, easy read, with a lot of action and not many breaks, which fits the theme of “man on the run, trying to find the answers before his enemies catch up to him”. No problem with that, although it was rather short, and so the characters weren’t that well-developed. The world seems interesting, with a Men In Black feeling combined with department-to-department tensions and underhanded maneuvers.
In general, it’s César’s decisions I had a problem with: he didn’t strike me as particularly savvy, considering the job he’s had for the past two years. Sure, going back to the crime scene to start looking for answers is as good a beginning as any, but he didn’t do it in a clever way—and the same pattern repeated throughout the story. The ending was unsatisfying: César wasn’t the one who actually solved the problem, he was more of a spectator at times, and I didn’t like how a couple of key clues turned out to be just there by chance.
(Also, the NbN cover blurb spoke of “strong women protagonists”, but I’m still looking. The only two prominent women here either don’t appear that much, or are more like the must-protect-her type under a varnish of strength.)
I haven’t read the V V Inn series, so I feel like I’m missing something here—kind of as if some things weren’t developed, character-wise, because readers are supposed to already know Jon, Dria and Rafe from the actual series? This prequel will likely be of more interest to those who want to know more about Jon before V V Inn, since it seems to answer some questions, but maybe not so much otherwise.
I struggled to finish this one. Overall I found it rather boring, the plot was muddled with too much running in circles, and too much was left unsaid at the end for the reader (there was a monster, but I still have no idea what it was, what the main threat was, who/what the strangers were, etc.) As for the characters, they felt really childish and too stupid to live. Also, cracking a whip doesn’t an archaeologist make. Indiana Jones would weep.
A light and enjoyable read, but one that felt a little confusing at times, in the beginning: I hadn’t realised it followed a previous trilogy. However, it made me feel like reading said trilogy (perhaps I’m even more interested in it than in the second one, actually). I have a soft spot for stories where gamers have to face real dangers in a virtual world, and video games combined to traditional faerie lore seemed like a good blend. Spark also deals with the gamers’ real life, showing sides of their lives that aren’t always terribly glamorous. I’ll probably pick the first volume in the Feyland trilogy at some point, to see what exactly led to the Feyguard being established (even though it’s easy to guess, it doesn’t mean there’s no point anymore, after all).
DEATH TIMES TWO:
I couldn’t get into this one at all, never knowing if it was supposed to be humorous or serious. Lisa seemed a silly stereotype, and apart from Asa, the other characters were just brushed over, in a way that made me feel that the ghost-reaping plot had to be solved as fast as possible for the protagonists to finally have sex. Which might have worked, why not, only the almost slapstick-like side of the story didn’t mesh well with it in my opinion (I contemplated facepalming for real when it came to a point where Lisa asked Asa to put his hands in her pants while kissing her so that a ghost couldn’t enter her to possess her[asked Asa to put his hands in her pants while kissing her so that a ghost couldn't enter her to possess her (hide spoiler)]). It read more like an amateur fic (with typical vaguely porny vocabulary) than an actual novel.
ROOK: ALLIE’S WAR:
DNFed at 56%. I tried, really, I did, but I just cannot push myself to go on. This book is so terribly confusing, adding present/preterit shifts to a 1st person/3rd person mix I already have problems with in general. I get the reasons behind this choice, but they don’t work for me, and it makes for a painful reading.
I don’t understand the characters, who suffer of chronic cases of ain’t-telling-you-nothingitis. A.k.a “All those things we know because we’re telepaths/empaths, and you don’t because you’re human? I can’t tell you because you’re supposed to ask that guy, there, who’re not telling you on his own becasue Reasons.” So what does the heroine do? Not ask. For weeks. Then everybody assumes she knows, but she doesn’t, which leads to stuff like “why did you agree to marry him”, and… wait, when did that happen, and what did she do to make everyone and their dog think the two characters are married? Also are they in love, attracted to each other, wanting to have sex with each other, not wanting to have sex…? This isn’t even angst or conflicted feelings anymore; it’s just one huge muddle. 5Interspersed with regular diving into some structure of light, Pyramid and other psychic-powerish mumbo-jumbo that doesn’t make much sense, all the more when it’s thrown into action scenes.)
The premise looked interesting. The first couple of chapters drew me in. And then… nope, sorry.
Too short to allow for much character development. The story goes fast, but remains very formulaic—down to the hardened guy showing up to provide a love interest that Jade immediately starts fantasising about for… no reason? I’d have much preferred getting to know the characters better, and see a couple of actual twists and turns. As it is, the “villain” was dispatched too quickly, the promising plot wasn’t exciting, and Jade was just… annoying.
I read it because I needed to do something while waiting at the airport. I don’t think I’ll be back.
Mostly an OK story, but one that I wouldn’t really qualify of “urban fantasy” (see my above comment, though—if not considered as part of this bundle, then disregard it). More like YA paranormal romance. I liked that the romance part developed more naturally than in most novels pertaining this genre, although I admit I’m not a good target audience for that in general. I also liked how it took into accout the whole family after the tragedy, not only Cady and her feelings for a boy. However, I didn’t like the way she reacted in the end (I would’ve expected such an outburst sooner, but not after everything that happened). Overall, it was an alright story, yet one that won’t leave me with much of an impression, I’m afraid.
WILD NIGHT ROAD
Terribly confusing, and looking more like chapters plucked from a larger story. There seemed to be complex dynamics behind the shifters, witches and seraphim, that weren’t really explained, so the characters’ predicament was never really tangible. I didn’t feel close to any of them, the whole weres/alpha male/bonding thing was strange (way to give the “kickass women” room to decide and fend for themselves, huh?), and everything moved too fast, without enough development in between.
1.5 stars overall. (Not rounding to 2 because of the misleading “strong female protagonists” angle that was everything but.)Older posts »