Category Archives: review

Last Thursday Review: Silence Fallen and Etched in Bone

So this month is a little special, in that I will be tackling two novels for review. Am I feeling a bit guilty for only reviewing a 40 page graphic novel last month, and trying to make up for that? Nope. I just happened to be lucky enough to have two novels  was waiting for come out on exactly the same day. It was like finding that health vile hidden in the corner of the room when you were just 1 HP away from “Game Over” when you saved the file for hours. So this month I will be presenting Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs, and Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop. Two sides of a similar coin when it comes to alternate modern world fiction.

As always, I will preface the review with a mild spoiler warning; I will do my very best to keep the juicy bits of the story under wraps, and I will try to avoid speaking too much about plot. If you are like me and enjoy jumping blindly into the rad and letting the twists and turns take you where they will, hopefully this will give you a sense of what you are in for without giving away anything much. If you want to be cautious and save absolutely everything but what you read on the book jacket for your own discovery, I won’t be hurt if you stop reading right this instant, just keep me in mind and come back after you’ve read the book (We could have a tete-a-tete about the finer points, I am absolutely certain.)

SILENCE FALLEN by PATRICIA BRIGGS (4.5 out of 5)

Silence Fallen is the 10th instalment in the Mercedes Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs, an epic bard of the urban fantasy genre. We have followed Mercedes, our Mercy, through thick and thin. From the military abductions and experimentation, to the vest uncertainty that is Underhill, she has led us on quite a journey. This time, we see Mercy further from home than we’ve ever seen her. Patricia’s delving into the actual past in this story, into the Old World of Europe and the even older things that inhabit it, reminds me a bit of the whimsy created by Kevin Hearne in The Iron Druid Chronicles, when Atticus ventures through Europe (thinking specifically the sort of romantic atmosphere he created when he spoke of the Polish Witch Coven).

Briggs’ approach to this novel is quite interesting; as always we read Mercy in her own voice, experience everything through her eyes. However, in order to tell the diverging stories, this time she also had to split her party. While we do not experience the story as Adam in the “I” voice, we still decidedly see what he experiences through his eyes, though somewhat less reliably than Mercy. This has to do with the of first person for Mercy, while staying with third person when speaking of Adam and his entourage.

Briggs had taken us through the gamut of the creatures in her world; we’ve been inside the wolf pack, as well as outside of it, with and against the Fae and the Grey Lords, and surrounded by Vampires (Who honestly play the longest game ever, no one ever really seems to be able to determine which side they will fall on, just that it had best benefit them). This time, after the events in Fire Touched, we finally see  a larger united front, a true ‘adventuring party’, where a little bit of everything comes together. The Fae are relegated to a less central role in this story. This could have either been a conscious choice, as the last novel focused so strongly on them, or a side effect of moving the story to Europe, which Briggs has established, since the beginning of the story, as a place that is virtually void of Fae, since the creation of Cold iron and the need to hide the magic.

As far as Silence Fallen goes, I feel that it delivers exactly what I have come to expect from a Mercy novel, with the same sort of addictive quality that makes Briggs’ books so difficult to put down once you start reading. She does this all while introducing us to a new host of characters. We meet some of Europe’s movers and shakers, people that Bran left behind when he came to the new world. Libor  and the Vltava Pack in Prague, Bonarata and the Vampires of Italy, and some very interesting ghosts, just to name a few. As always, Mercy manages to stumble into more trouble than initially would have come her way, all while mostly being able to take care of herself . We also see the return of one of my favourite small characters, Elizaveta, the Russian Witch. Honestly, I would absolutely love it if Briggs gave us a book just about the live and experiences of Elizaveta. She is a little bit grandmother like, but also steel and unforgiving power. If Briggs had not already brought us the Baba Yaga before, I would almost be strongly inclined to think Elizaveta was hiding something else.

There were a few points of minor confusion, either because I missed some tiny clue or a switch occurred that wasn’t entirely explained. After it happened it did make me look back over the previous passages to see if I could spot what it was, but I was still unable to put my finger on the reality of it. I won’t speak to much more on that point though, because I don’t want to venture too far into speaking of plot points.

So, overall, Silence Fallen earns a very strong 4.5 Stars from me. Maybe I am biased, in that I have read this series since the initial release, and wait on the edge of my seat for a new addition to the series (Sometimes with barely contained glee and excitement when the preview chapter goes up online). It’s release also came at a hard time, as the author unexpectedly lost her husband just weeks before the release. So it may be some time before we return to Mercy, the werewolves, and our other ‘friends who may or may not like to eat us’, but I will wait patiently for that day.

ETCHED IN BONE by ANNE BISHOP (3.5 out of 5)

Coming off the excitement that was Visions in Silver, Etched in Bone left me a little wanting for content. Where Visions in Silver felt like a massive leaping point for change, Etched in Bone felt  a bit lacking, a lull in an otherwise usually very exciting world. As the 5th book in the series, it may just be that the author is trying to tie up some ends, to give the reader bits and pieces more on things she had hinted at before.

As far as the story goes, it seems to drag a little bit in this book. There is some stagnation, and some contrived “thriller” elements that are somewhat predictable. I have really enjoyed this world before, and was excited to see where it was going, especially after the world remembered what threat was right outside their doors, that didn’t really need them to survive. Our larger world had shrunk down to basically just the courtyard and a few other areas. For a novel series that held a strong, wanting to be independent character at its centre, we actually spend fairly little time with Meg this time around, and even less time in the Liaison office. Was this sacrificed in order to create the tension between members of the human pack, so that the Others and the Elders could see small-scale power struggles instead of just large-scale events? Either way, there is a decided lack of threat and colour in this one. The baddie is exactly who you expect, and he does exactly what you expect. Bishop may even go slightly too far in order to paint him like a stereotypical baddie, lacking the subtlety that would have worked to help emphasise the ease with which a human can compromise the herd for the benefit of the self.

Meg and Simon are exactly as you would expect, and Bishop does not elevate the level of sexual tension between them, though there is a decided focus on their relationship (As there has been from the beginning); all in all, the characters are just as they have been, perhaps with a little bit more struggle on Meg’s part, and a little bit more confusion on Simon’s. Perhaps we even spent more time with the fully human element than ever before, as they try to deal with the lack of a face for the Humans First Movement, while still suffering and dealing with the consequences wrought back those actions. It is like they are walking a line, somewhere between cohabitation and beneficial relationships, and everything just falling apart, back to how it was before. We do see a decided return to the “Other” portion of the others, as they try to deal with things in ways that even they are unaccustomed to (Focused on a single target threat, rather than a whole score of adversaries).

In my opinion, the real moment of true build up also fell a little flat, or maybe, just a little too ‘human’? The anticipation and build up did not lead the expected impact, and it felt perhaps just a little rushed for what it was.

Possibly the greatest piece of growth in the whole story comes from Skippy, as he pushes to be part of the group despite his difficulties. In this, we also get a closer look at Ms Twyla, Crispin Montgomery’s mother, who turns out to seem much more wolf mother anything else, as she somehow seems to hold the fort and make the stands where others are unable to (At times, it even seems like she outranks Simon). Personally, I was moved by Skippy’s advancement as a character, maybe because his innocence reminds me of that innocence that was so integral in Sam, when Meg first worked him out of his shell.

As much as it pains me to say it, this may be the logical point to end the series, as I cannot see another crescendo to large action, and what follows might just be too close a resemblance to wish fulfilment and fan fiction, unless this was just a piece that was necessary to bridge one larger event to another, in which case it may have served just to tie some ends together for the readers before launching them towards something new in the world. The biggest threats within the human world have largely been dealt with (though Bishop keeps hinting at another larger threat coming to the Blood Prophets, there was only a very small build toward it in this instalment).

Over all, I would give Anne Bishop’s Etched in Bone a 3.5 out of 5. I can’t say that I enjoyed it as much as the first 4 novels in this series, and most certainly not as much as Silence Fallen, but I can’t deny the fact that I still had trouble putting it down, as I read it in hopes that something grand would happen. If this was not the end of the series, I hope that the next novel is a massively moving piece of fiction, willed with the tension and excitement that the series started out with. 

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Last Thursday Review: Locke & Key Small World

SPOILER WARNING: Be mindful, there may be spoilers here. Turn back if you are as eager to read this graphic novel without and poor knowledge of the content,

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Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

When I first stumbled on Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s Locke & Key in my local comic store, I wasn’t sure what to think, aside from the fact that the first couple of pages were interesting enough to warrant that I would spend my hard-earned money on it. At the time, going to school full-time for an undergraduate degree and working in a video store, I was rather tight about how I spent my little bit of cash.

But that day, I went home with a winner that would quite literally become one of the few collections that I was hooked on enough, at the time, to go out and buy immediately, no matter what was in my bank account or where I was working.

Now, in 2017, Hill and Rodriquez have tempted those who fell in love with the twisted history of Key House and Lovecraft, with another shiny hardcover, Locke and Key: Small World. As far as size goes, this column does feel quite short, clocking in at under 25 pages of comic. So, rather than a full size story, the reader is greater with what feels like a single issue of a comic, sweetened with a few extras (art, original script, adaptation views, and interviews). All in all, it barely sates the appetite for new content that fans of the series (such as myself) have been craving since the end of the original series. However, in the contained interview, Hill and Rodriguez promise that there are more stories to come entering around these characters, Key House, and Lovecraft. So far, this seems limited to some short stories and collections, with the speculation of another six arc story (no commitment to that as of yet, it seems to just be an idea.) They also promise that the long-awaited television series with IDW Entertainment is still on the table.

The story itself is currently self-contained, taking you through a single experience by some of the Locke ancestors. The art, as always, is beautifully rendered, the detail excellent and the colour vivid.

Despite this, I found that the story itself was somewhat lacking. As a current ‘stand alone’ tale, Small World is just that, small. Where previously readers were drawn in to Bode, Tyler, and Kinsey, and thrown right into the darkness within the first 5 pages of Welcome to LovecraftSmall World does not seem to lend itself to the same connection of character to reader. The Locke children seem quite cookie cutter. It seems as if a bit of connection was sacrificed in order to keep the story short and sweet. They are mapped on the page with care, but there seems to be pieces missing where the reader is supposed to feel for them. Each is most definitely individual, but aside from the stereotypical archetypes (the little lady, the trouble maker, the sage, and the fighter), there wasn’t much that seemed to make them a part of Locke and Key save for the fact that they are cast as part of the long line of Lockes to live in Keyhouse. At times, aside from the name and a double page decimated to introducing the readers to the new (or older) Locke family, it seems as if it could have been anyone waltzing across the page in the rolls.

The story, as said earlier, is linear. There are no flash backs, no flash forwards, and the whole tale seems to take place over perhaps the entirety of 3 hours, with very little fanfare, and even less exploitation of the previous dark atmosphere created by Hill and Rodriguez. The threat is quite mundane, only made a threat by the mishandling of a key. There is very little anxiety created by the monster that shows up, and the end is abrupt (though personally, I definitely grinned just a bit, because it was totally something that felt in tune with the level of threat created). Maybe this is because the family is not dealing , or has not yet dealt, with the true nature and breadth of what lies buried under Keyhouse, and as such the level of threat cannot reasonably be presented on the same scale.

There is one bit of the story that did have me perplexed, and that had to do with the previously established idea that one someone grows up in Keyhouse, they forget the magic of the keys, because the adult mind simply can’t handle what those keys mean. In this volume, three adults, all Locke’s, actively and knowingly engage in episodes with they key items. We know that Randell Locke, and even Ellie Whedon, forgot about the keys once they became adults (Ellie being a bit of an exception later on, as we learn that she has been manipulated). However, in this short story, not only do the adults know about the keys, but one actively created a new key as a ‘birthday present’ to teach his daughter how to manage a house, but another actively utilizes the Shadow Crown to tell stories. Now, there could be a reason for that, but I felt that the establishment that only the young could understand, use, and see the power of the keys was an integral part of those whole story, and that going back on it seems a little heavy-handed for such a finely crafted story.

All in all, Locke and Key Small World was a decent return to the world that Hill and Rodriguez built, and it could be a promising connection to another series in that same world. However, it does have its pitfalls. Value wise, it seemed a bit much to through such a small story into hardcover. I know it has been done before, but it seems like they are leaving the world and the story out there to float on its own, without any truly secure mooring. The beauty of the art fills in where the story falls flat, but there are holes that were overlooked. I hope that when Hill and Rodriguez return again to this generation of Locke’s, they will be able to bring back more of the thrill and imagination that existed in the original series.

3.5/5 for me, all things considered. Still feels right to have in on the shelf next to the other hardcover editions of the series. but, for something that was announced with a fair bit of hype in June 2016, it seems fairly scanty on the delivery.

Order Locke & Key Small World

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Little Revenge for the Devil: Review of Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns by Lauren Weisberger

Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns

2013 Lauren Weisberger

2013 Lauren Weisberger

Authour: Lauren Weisberger

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Release Date: June 4th 2013

Pages: 381

Rating: 3 out of 5

Review

As a fantasy, horror and murder mystery fan, I will admit that Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada was a guilty indulgence for me when I first picked it up years ago. At the time there was something I dearly loved about the ruthless and cold Miranda Priestly that I simply could not put into words; she was a woman who you loved to hate, and yet I respected her, not for her manners or sense, but because she was unapologetic in her self-interest. When I saw Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns sitting on the new release shelf at my local book retailer, I didn’t even have to think twice about the financial setback that a hardcover book would present to me (Word to the wise, if you shop Indigo or Amazon and want to check this out after my review, it’s on a nice sale right now until midnight Sunday). I purchased it and happily picked up my hazelnut macchiato with soy before settling in to begin my read.

So, admitting that I loved reading The Devil Wears Prada a few years ago, and that I even enjoyed the film (Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway made an excellent on-screen pair, and despite the changes to make Miranda seem more sympathetic to the audience I still found myself enjoying it as an indulgence), I found that Revenge Wears Prada left me feeling a bit let down. It has remnants of the amazing flare that Weisberger used in The Devil Wears Prada, but did not quite return to the power of the original, it was skeletal at best, and familiar names did not carry the same verge and sparkle as they did before, and new characters did not carry the loving, or hating, flare that Weisberger gave us previously. For a book with the word “Revenge” so prominently in the title there is very little actual revenge which takes place, and even our love-to-hate Miranda as the Devil is only smattered briefly in a few chapters, more of a peripheral character then an actual source of antagonistic grief that one would hope for when picking up a sequel. I felt that the story was a pale attempt to return to something that was marvellous, and simply could not recreate the same feelings or connections that the first book did.

We catch up with Andrea Sachs, Andy, 10 years after her infamous blow-up with Runway Magazine and her storming departure from Paris Fashion Week, and amazingly powerful “Fuck you” to the sociopathic tyrant that is Miranda Priestly. Things has been both good and bad for our protagonist; while she suffered some set backs out of the gate, including some rather spectacular job related PTSD, she has found a man she loves, Max Harrison, mended the fence with her old Runway nemesis, Emily, and made a wonderfully successful business venture into the realm of bridal coverage.  Despite the title of the book, the plot is rather predictable, and events can be seen pages in advance if the reader is paying attention. In addition, there is very little “devil” featured from chapter to chapter, and even then it vacillates to such an extent that Miranda Priestly’s cold-hearted and egotistical self-interest driven life almost seems to be suffering from a personality disorder, or perhaps a rather selective and well-coordinated type of Manic Depression; one interaction our devil seems completely human, and the next second she is a cold bitch who could freeze hell over with so much as a well placed dismissal.  I will say it again, for a book with the word Revenge featured so prominently, there is very little, if any, sense of vengeance throughout the novel.

It follows a highly predictable plot arc, has its moments of cleverness, but ultimately falls short of my expectations. As much as I enjoyed The Devil Wears Prada, I only felt middling attachment as I continued to read Revenge Wears Prada (Fashion actually features almost not at all in the entire book, and our visits with it are hardly as magnificent as they were in the previous encounter.) While it’s excellent for well liked, and hated, character to return to us in familiar forms, they seems hollow and little changed over the 10 years that Weisberger has given them to mature and change. Inevitably, I think perhaps a better title may have been “Predictable Betrayal Wears Prada.” If you are looking for an easy read to occupy some time, I wouldn’t turn you completely away from picking up Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns, but I would warn you to not expect the same level of emotional attachment or engagement as you experienced with The Devil Wears Prada. At only 381 pages, (or 8 hours to read if one has little else to do but procrastinate from writing an important thesis), it is not a huge investment for time, and it does have its moments of satisfaction, albeit that you will neither loathe nor adore anyone on any level of deep connection. I personally plan to revisit my copy of The Devil Wears Prada to see if my first experience of guilty pleasure with Miranda Priestly still holds true, despite the fact that Revenge provides so little of that juicy haute couture, cutting edge, ruthless business of fashion and editorial assistantships which had us all falling in love with New York, and in hatred with the Devil.

Unlike my first meeting with Miranda Priestly, this novel did not make me immediately regard my own way of dealing with success and people, nor did it make me regret the contents of my own closet in a jealous fit.

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns by Lauren Weisberger

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Of Monsters and Beasts: Review of Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs (Spoiler Free)

Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson #7)

Author: Patricia Briggs

Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs, 2013 Ace Fantasy

Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs, 2013 Ace Fantasy

Publisher: Ace Fantasy

Year: 2013

Pages: 340

Rating: 5 out of 5

Forward: This is the 7th entry is a series. If you have not read the others and don’t wish to have any sort of up-to-this-point spoilers, I am going to lay this out for you right now: If you like Urban fantasy, want to read an engaging and well written series, start with Moon Called, the first entry under the Mercy Thompson books. You will enjoy it, I guarantee.

Book Cover Summary: Mercy’s life has undergone a seismic change. Becoming the mate of Adam Hauptman – the charismatic Alpha of the local werewolf pack – has made her a stepmother to his daughter, Jesse, a relationship that brings moments of blissful normalcy to Mercy’s life. But on the edges of humanity, what passes for a minor mishap on an ordinary day can turn into so much more . . .

After a car accident in bumper-to-bumper traffic, Mercy and Jesse can’t reach Adam – or anyone else in the pack, for that matter. They’ve all been abducted.

Through their mating bond, all Mercy knows is that Adam is angry and in pain. But she fears Adam’s disappearance may be related to the political battle the werewolves have been fighting to gain acceptance from the public – and that he and the pack are in serious danger. Outmatched and on her own Mercy may be forced to seek assistance from any ally she can get, no matter how unlikely.

REVIEW

Mercy Thompson, our wise cracking bad-lucked heroine, comes through in yet another instalment of Briggs’ widely liked series. The reader is re-acquainted with old friends, and enemies, and exposed to a whole new set of problems which further complicate her usually bumpy life. The daughter of Coyote is always finding herself in one sticky situation or another, and yet each time it seems fresh and beckons the reader to keep turning the pages, even into the wee hours of the morning.

Briggs’ provides equal measure between all four worlds she includes, meaning that the Fae, werewolves, vampires, and even the odd human fall into the tangled web. Brigg’s masterful way of working together first person insight and external characters is brought to the forefront, and she does not skip a beat of action, emotion, or darkness. As with the latest entry in the Alpha and Omega series, Fair Game, Briggs’ has added a darker twist to the story she presents her readers, looking not only at the preternatural dangers, but placing more weight on the danger posed by the ordinary mortal humans. Could this be a new spin, a new direction, that she is going to pursue? A solidarity between those things which go bump in the night, which enabled them to combat the humans, who are less able than the supernatural beasts when it comes to hiding their monstrous nature? Where do the real monsters dwell , among those who have no choice and do what they can to keep their animal natures under control, readily admitting to their faults, or in those who hide it behind a thin mask of civility and grotesque mockeries of humanity, unwilling to accept the mantel of responsibility for their actions?

This story picks up shortly after the events which unfolded in Fair Game, and I think it is a marvellous addition to the existing Mercy tales. It serves as a return to the concerns raised in the first Mercy novel, Moon Called, while still carrying the momentum which has built through the series, driving it to pursue a deeper development on the tenuous line between what it means to be a monster and what it means to be part of society.  Her attention to political and social upheaval, and the alienation of others based solely on the concept of ‘other’, sheds a poignant comment on the way in which modern society divides itself.

Once again, I simply could not seem to put this one down until I had completely finished reading it. I have come to expect a great deal from Patricia Briggs when it comes to style and quality of writing, and she once again delivers what she promises. The connection to the characters we have come to know is deepened with each encounter, and new understandings begin to emerge when old friends and enemies are re-examined. I have had some people tell me that they have problems with the repetitive ‘kidnapping’, yet each time it has come up (which I will admit is a few) it has not hindered the progress, but rather displayed that the affected characters have grown, and how their past experiences have shaped them. Writers would not return to tropes if it did not serve a purpose, and readers would not continue to follow if they felt that nothing was gained by the return. This is by no means a series wherein the reader is constantly forced to read the tried-and-true ‘damsel in distress’ tale; Briggs does not present the reader with any damsels, her characters are all strong in their own ways, which makes it highly pleasing to read. If anything, the return to the kidnapping theme reflects how the non-preternatual (perhaps a better term would be ‘mundane’) community has grown to become set in its ways for handling all things which it does not understand, or actively refuses to understand.

Without a doubt I can say that I will continue to read the Mercy Thompson series as long as Briggs is able to publish them, provided that her ability to craft characters, relationships, and interesting fantastical elements remains as elevated as it has. In all honest, I always find something new which intrigues me; a small detail about the Fae, the attention to the hierarchy among the vampires and the werewolves, and I am wound right back into a state of wonder at her ability to convey so much in such a short span of pages. Of all the names in urban fantasy, I know that if I am looking to truly enjoy a book filled with interesting character and well written story I will look to Briggs.

Patricia Briggs Official Website

Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1)

Blood Bound (Mercy Thompson #2)

Iron Kissed (Mercy Thompson #3)

Bone Crossed (Mercy Thompson #4)

Silver Borne (Mercy Thompson #5)

River Marked (Mercy Thompson #6)

Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson #7)

Home Coming (Mercy Thompson Graphic novel)

Moon Called #1 (Trade Paperback graphic novel edition)

Moon Called #2 (Trade Paperback graphic novel edition)

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Silencing the Ghosts: Review of Fair Game by Patricia Briggs (Spoiler free)

Fair Game (Alpha and Omega #3)

Author: Patricia Briggs

Fair Game by Patricia Briggs, 2012 Ace Fantasy

Fair Game by Patricia Briggs, 2012 Ace Fantasy

Publisher: Ace Fantasy

Year: 2012 (hardcover) 2013 (paperback)

Pages: 280

Rating: 5 our of 5

Book Cover Summary:  It is said that opposites attract. And in the case of werewolves Anne Latham and Charles Cornick, they mate. The son – and enforcer – of the leader of the North American werewolves, Charles is a dominant Alpha. While Anna, an Omega, has the rare ability to calm others of her kind.

When the FBI requests the pack’s help on a local serial-killer case, Charles and Anna are sent to Boston to join the investigation. It soon becomes clear that someone is targeting preternatural. And now Anna and Charles have put themselves right in the killer’s sights . . .

Review

I have to admit that I have been a fan of Briggs since I first picked up Moon Called, the first entry of her Mercy Thompson series, quite a few years ago on a random bookstore excursion. This return to the Alpha and Omega side of her writing is fabulous, and her strengths really shine through. I cannot gush enough about how much I enjoy reading Patricia Briggs’ urban fantasy, it is always a treat when one is released, and once I start reading I simply cannot put it down until I have turned the last page.

I have always felt that Charles was a bit of an odd duck in a pond of geese, but Anna really balances him out. However, Briggs is very attentive to the way in which she has constructed her werewolves, weaving them with equal parts ferocity, vigilance, and depth (well, for those who have survived this long). This story begins in a very difficult place, and asks the most vital question: What is more important, duty or love?

It is interesting to see the mundane twist Briggs has put on the antagonistic force in this particular entry in the series, but it is very refreshing and keeps me convinced that her skill is much more than just being able to write amazing characters who you either love to love, hate to love, or love to hate. By casting an unknown force of evil as being one which preys on the predators and prey species alike, there is a much darker cast about this book. The internal struggle which Charles faces with his own ghosts adds another dimension of tension to this book, and is spectacularly highlighted. With a man/animal as old as Charles and Brother Wolf, there is always the question of stability, especially when it comes to such a complex mate like Anna, the only one who is able to quiet the roaring beast within all who she is around.

Briggs is masterful in crafting the minutia of personal relationships, and this book steps it up another notch to a place that Briggs very rarely has gone before with her current urban fantasy series. Within the desolation and disquiet of the manhunt, the moments when individuals truly connect and understand each other, such as Agent Leslie Fisher and Beauclaire, Bran and Asil, and of course Charles and Anna, are so well crafted and the emotion so palpable that it gives the reader very little choice but to connect to the characters in a very human way. I mark this as the sign of a superb writer.

The Alpha and Omega series itself has been an interesting bit to navigate; while it is set in the same world as Marcy Thompson, our favourite shape-shifting mechanic-by-day cum coyote, and events from both series have an over arching impact, there is something decided special about the moments that readers get to share with figures like Anna and Charles. Both are spearheads in the realm of the werewolf, neither completely traditional nor completely new.

As with her inclusion of the Fae and vampires, Briggs has carved out a niche for her characters they sets them apart from the mass-produced and overhyped genre of urban fantasy. While they are highly recognizable as the tropic werewolves (called by the moon, massive, deadly, tempered), Anna lends a voice to the madness which serves to prove The Marrocks’ spin-doctoring of the reality of werewolves is not all false. Briggs creates a clear difference between what is animal and what is evil; the monster hidden by the human skin is something unnatural and evil when it is completely hidden behind the eyes of a man. The beast that looks out from the eyes of a werewolf, on the other hand, plays by a set of rules which has governed the Earth since time immemorial. While it is not a puppy to be played with, neither is it a beast to be put down when it is acting in accordance with nature, when it is only surviving. The same cannot be said about the beasts and monsters that are human, through and through.

If you like well written fiction, want to be enthralled to the point of being unable to put the book down for even a second, or have been sitting on the fence about picking this one up, I suggest you pick it up in whatever form best suits your reading preference. It falls just between River Marked and Frost Burned on the Mercy side of things, and some of the events echo over. If you are just looking to get in to a new series, this one starts with a short novella in an anthology, and the links to the Amazon page for all are listed below. If this type of stuff peaks your interest, I also suggest you pick up the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, starting with Moon Called. A review of the latest entry in that series, Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson #7) will be following in the next few days.

If you are more of a graphic novel fan, there is also a one already release and another forthcoming hardcover edition coming of Alpha and Omega, which looks to be spectacular.

Patricia Briggs Official Website

Alpha and Omega (Novella)

Cry Wolf (Alpha and Omega #1)

Hunting Ground (Alpha and Omega #2)

Fair Game (Alpha and Omega #3)

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Magic and Chaos come alive again: Review of Hounded by Kevin Hearne (Spoilers Free)

Hounded (The Iron Druid Chronicles #1)   

Hounded by Kevin Hearne 2011 Del Ray Books

Hounded by Kevin Hearne 2011 Del Ray Books

Author: Kevin Hearne

Publisher: Ballantine Books Del Ray

Year: 2011

Pages: 289

Rating: 4 ½ out of 5

Del Ray Summary: Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His Neighbours and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old – when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws power from the earth, possessed a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’d hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power – plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some old-fashioned luck of the Irish – to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

REVIEW

                    Let me simply say this before going any further: if you want to enjoy reading something simply because it is a fun read, I highly recommend you pick up this series. I have become picky with modern-day fantasy simply because there is far too much of it and, to add salt to the wound, quite a bit of it is repetitive and not worth the paper or data space it takes up. This was a welcome breath of fresh air in a desert filled with bones and dead horses which had been beaten far too much. I enjoyed every page, and devoured all subsequent releases by this author, even the short stories and novellas released between full length novels.

Our first romp into the world of Atticus O’Sullivan, Last Surviving Druid, is an absolute blast. It is equal parts action/adventure and comedy/introspective reflection. Chased for centuries by an angry Aengus Og (Aengus the Young, a Celtic god of Love), Atticus’ past has finally caught up to him in Modern Day Arizona. Between the comedic quips and exchanged between Atticus and his Irish wolfhound Oberon, the dire presence of Flidias, Goddess of the hunt, the Morrigan, Chooser of the Slain, and Brighid, the first among the Fae and the leader of the Irish Pantheon, and the bubbling sexual tension between Atticus and local bar-maid, Granuiale, Kevin Hearne has woven together a great tale for his readers. In a world were vampires and werewolves run Law Firms, suspicious neighbours call the cops of a regular basis, and immortal/deific figures visit on a whim, Atticus is sure to provide some great moments for fans of urban fantasy, mythology, and well written fiction. Atticus is unique, and I have not found a hero like him in prior reading; even Harry Dresden would have a difficult time holding his own against our flame-haired, sword wielding, shape-shifting, quick-witted druid.

I have always been a pursuer of myths, a repository of Ancient facts, and a bit of a nerd about it. When the advent of the internet was just getting past the age of Dial-up connections, the younger version of myself was busy searching sites for all the myth she could get her hands on. Needless to say, influenced by Xena, I spent most of my time embroiled in the world of the Greek and Roman pantheon, and my later studies expanded my knowledge into the realms of Buddhist and Japanese mythology. This book re-ignited my passion in the same way Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians had done, thought with a markedly more mature spin (let’s see how Disney Hyperion reacts to horny hound dogs with poodle fixations, and Ancient goddesses’ who can call it a good day if they get the chance to thoroughly bed a man who could very well be the most hated mortal among all world pantheons). Atticus’ wit often gets him into trouble, as with great age apparently comes the inability to hold his tongue to any extent; Atticus is equal parts comedian and deep philosopher, and this lends very well to creating a figure with which the reader can not only connect, but support and sympathize with. Despite being centuries old, he is still just a man, and liable to commit to mistakes despite knowing better.

Hearne’s writing style is addictive; like Patricia Briggs and Jim Butcher he knows how to balance the realms of fantasy and modernity, while still creating something absolutely fascinating. I ate through this book in all of 12 hours, and promptly went out to grab the next two which, to my luck and benefit, were already released. If you are looking for a good read that will keep you engaged. I especially enjoyed the way in which Hearne has thought to weave together the preternatural and supernatural in his tales, beginning the foundation of a wide-stretching tale which is not limited in scope to the gods and goddesses, heroes and monsters with which we are accustomed. There is a strong Irish flavour, but the basis of immortal or deific existence being based on how much attention their tales receive from mortals creates a canvas which will stretch far beyond those figures we have come to see time and again.

For more information visit Kevin Hearne’s official site

More reviews to follow for subsequent entries in the series: Next up Hexed by Kevin Hearne

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