Tag Archives: reviews

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,

la-et-hc-lock-key-cover-20160615

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Last Thursday Review, review

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)

Leave a comment

Filed under review

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

Leave a comment

Filed under review