Let’s just say I’ve fallen behind on putting up book reviews. I mean, behind. We’re talking 10 books from 2014 and 3 from 2015 – by release date, because I’m pretty sure I read more than three books this year…
Anyway, in the spirit of moving to a new year, time to get those puppies done! *Note – may be some spoilers in the reviews, so be warned!
1). Crimson Son by Russ Linton – A superhero story that doesn’t center on the super hero, Spencer is the son of Crimson Mask (the world’s most powerful augment), but doesn’t have any powers. Spencer’s one part cynic and two parts hormonal teen, which made connecting with him a bit of a struggle. The pacing, at times, seems to drag despite the urgency of Spencer’s quest. But the extended list of characters, from Hurricane and Hound to the Black Beetle himself, help round him out. It’s a story of survival, finding the truth, and, in a way, coming home. The truth and reality Spencer gets in the end aren’t butterflies and rainbows, but it’s enough for him to begin to heal.
Rating – 3.5
2) Premonitions by Jamie Schultz – I don’t know whether to call this a supernatural heist book, or maybe just urban fantasy heist? In any case, it was a fun read. Getting to know Karyn and co. takes a bit of time. There’s kind of an obligatory typecasting – there’s a silent guy who serves as the muscle, a magic-user who’s a bit more neurotic, Karyn as the leader and pre-cognitive Ace-in-the-hole. And then you have Anna. I still don’t know what Anna’s purpose is, other than a foil to Karyn and possibly the main gun. Strange to say, the highlight of the book is Karyn’s addiction. To keep her pre-cog abilities from rendering her to a comatose state, Karyn has to take an illegal drug called Blind. Her source dries up at the time shit is really hitting the fan. Seeing Karyn’s breakdown and flight from her team hit all the right notes. Her struggle is what brings the book together, and whether she gives in or overcomes it, well… you’ll just have to read!
3) Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier – As always, Juliet is a master of elegant prose and fantasy with a historical feel. Blackthorn and Grim are two unlikely companions, but work well together. The premise promises to be interesting throughout the series – saved from execution by the Fae, Blackthorn must give help to anyone who asks. If she can do this for seven years, she’ll get her revenge on the very man who imprisoned her in the first place. Her first task is to help save a company of women nearly drowned in a local pool. It turns out one of them is betrothed to a local prince, and when she doesn’t fit the mold or personality he expected, he elicits Blackthorn’s help too. It’s not a heart-pounding pace, and sometimes Blackthorn’s attitude makes it difficult to sink completely into the story, but has a happy ending typical of Marillier’s work – somebody ends up happy, but maybe not the titular character.
Rating – 3.8
4) Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews – This is the one we’ve been waiting for, guys! The book where we finally get to meet Roland, Kate’s notorious father who eats, sleeps, and breathes magic – and it lives up to the hype, though in a different way than expected. Kate is as sharp and sarcastic as ever as she tries to unravel the mystery of who actually killed a Master of the Dead. Hugh returns, still a giant pain in the ass. Packed with action, sprinkled with a few dark moments, and we get to see more of what’s in store if Kate fails against her father. It didn’t hit me as hard as Magic Slays or Magic Rises, but from this point, the clock starts ticking to when Kate will have to actually fight her father.
Rating – 4
5) The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley – Wow – this one was a ride. Plant magic, parallel worlds converging, and gender-bending societies made this a helluva standout in epic fantasy. The multiple POVs lend well to the broad scope of the problem – to the worlds converging and the threatened destruction/subjugation. Though Lilia is a problem child, she promises to be more important as Oma grows closer in the sky (meaning book 2, Empire Ascendant). Parts of the book reminded me of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness in the way Hurley deals with gender identification and roles. The ending did feel a bit rushed, and not as clear as it needed to be in explaining what Lilia was doing. That said, it’s a refreshing addition to the epic genre.
Rating – 4
Side note: Hurley is one of the writers whose blog you should be following if you aren’t already. She gives bluntly honest, down-to-earth insight on her struggles and successes as a writer. Especially great for young writers or aspiring writers who think they’re going to make it big with one book and then not need to have a day job to support their writing.
6) Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews – Woooo buddy I needed a cold drink after this one. This new series by Ilona and Gordon promises to be a scorcher. They build another impressive world where magic is hereditary, and houses form out of the families with the greatest abilities. Nevada is good at being a private eye, helping keep her family afloat so they don’t lose their home and livelihood. Even though she gets in over her head, she does what’s necessary to level the playing field. She’s not a chosen one. She doesn’t come from a great house. She doesn’t get rescued. She’s headstrong, but not in the same way as Kate from the Kate Daniels series. With Mad Rogan in the mix, I can’t wait to see the fireworks in the future books.
Rating – 4.5
7) Clariel by Garth Nix (biggest letdown of 2014)
Nix’s Old Kingdom books were probably the biggest reason/inspiration I got into writing. The world is so different from the standard dragons and wizards; magic is free, potent, and dangerous not just to the living, but the dead as well. There are gates in death, and those who die aren’t truly at rest until they pass beyond the final one. I hoped Clariel, would give a greater picture of the Old Kingdom before the Great Charter Stones were broken with royal blood, before the role of Abhorsen became incredibly important. I guess it does, to some extent, but fails to explain any of it. Clariel is unlikeable throughout the whole story; she has virtually no arc or development. She continuously ponders about ditching her parents’ ambitions and living in the forest as a ranger, yet does nothing about it. The plot is shallow, and the antagonists’ motives/plans are so easy to read it’s honestly like watching Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith all over again. But those things, really, aren’t the biggest letdown – that award goes to the world building. The story takes place mostly in Belisaere, with Clariel’s mother taking position there in some respect to her goldcraft. Very, very little is done with respect to building up the guilds, their history, and their importance to the city and King. Basically all the magic and wonder created in the other Old Kingdom books is completely missing here. It’s just unpleasant all the way around.
Rating – 2
8) The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (favorite of 2014)
Part historical, part suspense, and with what seems like a speculative element thrown in – it’s an unusual, but fantastic combination. Nella begins as a romantic hoping her new husband will love her, and by the end she’s no token wife. She truly becomes a head of the household, at least what’s left of it. The miniatures are as stunning as the writing is beautiful. And I still don’t know who the miniaturist is! What floors me, though, is how much this book brings to mind British and American literature taught in late high-school and undergrad. Oddly, it reminds me of Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. But better, way better than the Dickens, Chopin, and the like taught in college. Seriously a fantastic read, and I can’t wait to read Burton’s The Muse coming out later this year.
Rating – 4.8
No, I didn’t count wrong. The other five reviews will be put up in the next week (probably while I’m procrastinating revisions). Maybe I’ll stop letting them get so out of control this year!
Read on, write on, eat cake. Happy New Year!