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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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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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