The Qwillery | category: Doreen | (page 5 of 7)


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Review: Magic and Loss by Nancy A. Collins

Magic and Loss
Author:  Nancy A. Collins
Series:   Golgotham 3
Publisher:  Roc, November 5, 2013
Format:   Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780451464927 (print)
Review Copy:  Reviewer's Own

Review: Magic and Loss by Nancy A. Collins
Located on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Golgotham has been the city’s supernatural district for centuries. Populated by creatures from myth and legend, the neighborhood’s most prominent citizens are the Kymera, a race of witches who maintain an uneasy truce with the city’s humans… 

 It has been several months since Tate Eresby developed her new magical ability to bring whatever she creates to life, but she is still learning to control her power. Struggling to make a living as an artist, she and Hexe can barely make ends meet, but they are happy.

That is until Golgotham’s criminal overlord Boss Marz is released from prison, bent on revenge against the couple responsible for putting him there. Hexe’s right hand is destroyed, leaving him unable to conjure his benign magic. Attempts to repair the hand only succeed in plunging Hexe into a darkness that can’t be lifted—even by news that Tate is carrying his child.

Now, with her pregnancy seeming to progress at an astonishing rate, Tate realizes that carrying a possible heir to the Kymeran throne will attract danger from all corners, even beyond the grave…

Doreen’s Thoughts

Magic and Loss is Nancy Collins’ third novel about Golgotham, a supernatural neighborhood in New York City where Kymerans and humans come together to celebrate magic and artistry in concert. In the first two novels, we learned about the human, Tate Eresby, an heiress cut off by her family for becoming an artist who manipulates metal rather than painting simple watercolors. In addition, Hexe is the Kymeran landlord with whom she falls in love – and also the heir to the Kymeran throne. He also has been disowned by his family for trying to be an artist. The first two novels both focused on the difficulties of love between different species, with love conquering all. Magic and Loss picks up Tate and Hexe’s story as the couple have been together for awhile and are still struggling.

For me, the major enjoyment in these stories is the setting of Golgotham itself and its various inhabitants. This is where Collins has gotten creative – she has taken mythical creatures and reproduced them in New York City. So there are centaurs, who are in charge of the transportation and deliveries within the area; leprechauns and other Wee Folks, including brownies and pixies; satyrs, nymphs, and fauns; as well as minotaurs, trolls, ghouls, and goblins. The concept is the Kymerans came from another magical world and were exiled to earth along with these others for performing or simply being magic.

This novel focuses on a rather glum time in Tate and Hexe’s relationship. Although Tate becomes pregnant with the newest heir to the throne, Hexe is disfigured as punishment for their having sent Boss Marz to prison for a time. Hexe seeks out a magical implement to compensate for the disfigurement; however, the item seems to poison his mental state. Tate desperately loves Hexe but is unwilling to stay with him and jeopardize their child. So about halfway through the story, she leaves him.

Needless to say, Tate does not fully give up on Hexe and still attempts to bring him back to sanity. I was pleased that she was willing to leave her relationship to protect her child. Too often in reality, people remain in dangerous relationships despite the damage done to both themselves and their children. In this case, I believe Tate did the right thing in making an ultimatum to Hexe that he must change if they are too succeed as a couple.

Overall, Collins does a terrific job creatively when it comes to magic and how it might exist in a world today. I have particularly enjoyed this trilogy and cannot wait to see what new idea she might bring forth in her next story.

Review: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

The Miniaturist
Author:  Jessie Burton
Publisher:  Ecco, August 26, 2014
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages
List Price:  $26.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780062306814 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher
Will be published in Trade Paperback, June 2, 2015

Review: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam—a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion—a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.

”There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . .“

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office—leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist—an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes’ gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand—and fear—the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

Doreen’s Thoughts

Young Nella Brandt comes to Amsterdam to join her husband, Johannes, and his household – sister Marin, servant Cordelia, and manservant Otto. While Johannes is years older than Nella, she has dreams of what being a wife might mean for her, and those dreams are crushed over time. Each of the household members seem to hold some important secret.

Johannes is one of the wealthiest merchants in the city, sailing around the world to sell and buy goods all over. Cordelia is a sweet, but gossipy girl not much older than 18-year-old Nella herself. She attempts to befriend the frightened and lonely wife, trying to convince her that she could be happier if she tried. Otto is a more mysterious figure, a former black slave raised by Johannes to be a gentleman, and not accepted well by Amsterdam society. Marin, Johannes' sister, is an uptight spinster who at first appears to resent Nella’s intrusion in the household.

Marin is a strange, contradictory character. While she practices an outward rejection of any niceties in life – eating dried herring for breakfast and using cheap candles in the main areas – her inner life is rich and elegant. She lines her plain clothing with velvet and ermine, secretly eats candied walnuts, and has exotic maps and items from Johannes' worldwide travels decorating her bedroom.

Johannes himself is quite a bit older than Nella and has no use for a wife whatsoever. However, Nella’s gentle and kind spirit appeals to him, and his bridal gift to her is a large, elaborate dollhouse that is almost an exact model of their home. Nella at first is offended by the gift, thinking that it was a statement on her youth, but over time she becomes fascinated with the house and the miniatures that she receives for its interiors.

It is here that the mystery of the story begins – for the miniaturist appears to know Nella’s home and family better than Nella does herself. Oddly enough, some of the miniatures seem to have characteristics that predict what might happen to them in the future. Most of the novel centers on Nella’s search for the miniaturist, wanting to understand what the person is trying to tell her with the gifts that are sent.

The Miniaturist is a delicious fairy-tale pulled to novel length. I was delighted with the language and the detail that Jessie Burton includes in her story. She has recreated Amsterdam society in the 16th century – a time when its citizens were both widely liberal in their efforts to make money, but strangely conservative in their day-to-day life. The description of the main church with the skeletons buried directly beneath the flooring and the accompanying smell that results left me with a bad taste in my mouth, but the detail added to the overall reality of the tale. Burton has written one of the best novels that I have read yet this year. No wonder it was such a phenomenon when it was released last year.

Note: You may read an excerpt from The Miniaturist here.

Review: The Line by J.D. Horn

The Line
Author:  J.D. Horn
Series:  Witching Savannah 1
Publisher:  47North, February 1, 2014
Format:  Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 296 pages
List Price:  $14.95 (print)
ISBN:  9781477809730 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review:  The Line by J.D. Horn
Savannah is considered a Southern treasure, a city of beauty with a rich, colorful past. Some might even call it magical…

To the uninitiated, Savannah shows only her bright face and genteel manner. Those who know her well, though, can see beyond her colonial trappings and small-city charm to a world where witchcraft is respected, Hoodoo is feared, and spirits linger. Mercy Taylor is all too familiar with the supernatural side of Savannah, being a member of the most powerful family of witches in the South.

Despite being powerless herself, of course.

Having grown up without magic of her own, in the shadow of her talented and charismatic twin sister, Mercy has always thought herself content. But when a series of mishaps—culminating in the death of the Taylor matriarch—leaves a vacuum in the mystical underpinnings of Savannah, she finds herself thrust into a mystery that could shake her family apart…and unleash a darkness the line of Taylor witches has been keeping at bay for generations.

In The Line, the first book of the Witching Savannah series, J.D. Horn weaves magic, romance, and betrayal into a captivating Southern Gothic fantasy with a contemporary flare.

Doreen’s Thoughts

I was impressed with the opening concept of J. D. Horn’s The Line. The idea of twins who do not share everything equally, especially magic, was particularly intriguing. At nearly 21, Mercy has a distinct Southern voice, with a unique job. She is the proprietor of “The Liar’s Tour of Savannah,” where she takes groups of people around the streets of Savannah, getting them buzzed on their choice of alcohol and telling them lies about the sites of the town. Starting off with a Liar’s tour was a great introduction to this novel.

I also liked the contrast between the magic of the Taylor family with the hoodoo of Mother Jilo. Despite having a long-time boyfriend of her own, Peter, Mercy is in love with her sister’s boyfriend, Jackson. Because she loves Maisie with more than her life, Mercy is determined to stop moping about Jackson and concentrate on Peter; however, she decides she needs help and she turns to Mother Jilo to make her a love spell so she will fall in love with the boy who has always loved her. Unfortunately, everything goes wrong after that, starting with finding her least-favorite person, Aunt Ginny, dead.

I found Mercy to be a somewhat frustrating main character. I did not understand her desire for Jackson, since he seemed to be more stuck-up than the level-headed Peter. I also found it hard to understand her lack of displeasure with her own sister, who seemed to have it all – the beauty, the perfect boyfriend, and most of all, the magic. Her sister seemed to be spoiled with all the love and devotion of a family that simply left Mercy to her own devices. Somehow Mercy escaped feeling resentful about her circumstances, which made me even more frustrated with her.

Most of the characters in this story were difficult to like. All of them seemed to have secrets of their own which somehow tainted them – Mercy herself was not above it. Despite knowing how wrong it was, she still tried to obtain a love spell. Without giving much away, I can say that the love spell backfired, and that is when the book gets better.

Despite some flaws, I enjoyed The Line. Unlikeable characters seem to be in keeping with Southern gothic stories, and eventually, Mercy grows up enough to become more likeable. I somewhat saw the ending before it happened, but it still came with enough twists to make it memorable. Overall, I look forward to seeing what happens to the Taylor family in the next two novels.

Review: A Wolf at the Door by K. A. Stewart

A Wolf at the Door
Author:  K. A. Stewart
Series:   Jesse James Dawson 3
Publisher:  Roc, August 7, 2012
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780451464637 (print)
Review Copy:  Reviewer's Own

Review: A Wolf at the Door by K. A. Stewart

Jesse James Dawson was once an ordinary man until he discovered that demons were real, and fighting them meant putting his own soul on the line. His new case is a beauty: Gretchen Keene, a Hollywood starlet who’s become an unwitting catalyst in an all-out demon war. It’s not her soul Jesse needs to protect, but the two-hundred-and-seventy-six others she’s carting around—all the souls sold to spend just one night with the blonde bombshell. That’s a lot of baggage, although it might explain her meteoric rise to fame. And it’s all up for grabs by the demon world.

All Jesse has to do is keep her safe until New Year's. Sounds easy. But darkness is casting a nasty shadow in the California sun—a new unseen enemy is closing in and leaving Jesse to wonder: how do you fight something you can’t see coming?

Doreen’s Thoughts

I do not usually read books that are somewhere further in a series – I prefer to read from the beginning of a series. A Wolf at the Door is actually the third book in the Jesse James Dawson series, and I wonder how I never discovered the first book, A Shot in the Dark. I have to give K. A. Stewart credit – while she starts off in the middle of the story, I would never have known this was not the start of a new series. She gives more than enough background information to fill me in on the events of the prior novels during the flow of this one. Kudos to her for that!

Jesse James Dawson is a champion – someone who fights demons for the souls of others. Somehow during the other novels, he would up owing a favor to a demon – without knowing what the favor was going to be, a rather dangerous notion. So when the demon appears to cash in his favor, Jesse has no choice. Even with a potential pregnancy for his wife on the horizon, he must leave immediately after Christmas to go to Hollywood and protect an actress – one who already has bargained her own soul away and has been collecting others for years.

Jesse expects not to like Gretchen, envisioning her as a spoiled, demanding star, and Gretchen initially lives up to that expectation. Two other bodyguards, Tai and Bobby, live and attend functions with Gretchen and are initially skeptical about the idea that demons exist and can harm humans. In particular, I liked Tai as a character. He is an aboriginal Maori, and as such, he apparently has magic running through his veins and is more closely connected to the supernatural than other races, yet he has spent his whole life discounting the old stories. His enlightenment and introduction to his powers is fun to watch.

I also enjoyed several other minor characters – the demon Axel, Gretchen’s best friend Dante, and the crazed homeless person, Felix. Stewart drops little details about each that positively draw the character before the readers’ eyes.

There is a whole level of “snarkiness” to Jesse – he reminds me tremendously of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden. He has this whole attitude of “I’m here to save the world but I’m going to drop sarcastic comments every chance I can get.” I particularly like Stewart’s description about his choice of T-shirts – each one with a sarcastic quip on the front.

Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed A Wolf at the Door. After being in a reading slump for the past two months, it was a pleasure to rip through this as quickly as possible to reach the end. Now I have to go back and snatch up the first two to see what I missed!

Review: The Barrow by Mark Smylie

The Barrow
Author:   Mark Smylie
Series:  The Barrow 1
Publisher:  Pyr, March 4, 2014
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 700 pages
List Price:   $18.00 (print)
ISBN:  978-1-61614-891-1 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher
Cover Illustration:  © Gene Mollica

Review:  The Barrow by Mark Smylie
Action, horror, politics, and sensuality combine in this DEBUT EPIC FANTASY novel for fans of George R. R. Martin and Michael J. Sullivan, set in the world of the Eisner-nominated Artesia comic books.

To find the Sword, unearth the Barrow. To unearth the Barrow, follow the Map.

When a small crew of scoundrels, would-be heroes, deviants, and ruffians discover a map that they believe will lead them to a fabled sword buried in the barrow of a long-dead wizard, they think they've struck it rich. But their hopes are dashed when the map turns out to be cursed and then is destroyed in a magical ritual. The loss of the map leaves them dreaming of what might have been, until they rediscover the map in a most unusual and unexpected place.

Stjepan Black-Heart, suspected murderer and renegade royal cartographer; Erim, a young woman masquerading as a man; Gilgwyr, brothel owner extraordinaire; Leigh, an exiled magus under an ignominious cloud; Godewyn Red-Hand, mercenary and troublemaker; Arduin Orwain, scion of a noble family brought low by scandal; and Arduin's sister Annwyn, the beautiful cause of that scandal: together they form a cross-section of the Middle Kingdoms of the Known World, brought together by accident and dark design, on a quest that will either get them all in the history books, or get them all killed.

Doreen’s Thoughts

The Barrow is probably one of the most elaborate novels I have read in a long time. This is high fantasy, along the lines of Tolkien and Martin, with a richly detailed, complex world involving magic, politics, and religion. A group of adventurers discover a map that might lead them to a magical sword buried in the cairn of a dead wizard. This is a fairly typical trope for fantasy – the epic journey to find a mythic article; however, Mark Smylie has taken it to a whole other level.

The original group includes Stjepan Black-Heart (a cartographer and sometime spy); Gilgwyr (a deviant pimp); Harvald (a rich scoundrel from a scandalous family); and Erim (a young women masquerading as a male fighter). After losing the majority of their expedition in a failed treasure hunt, the company returns to the nearest City to translate the mysterious map and fund a new quest. They discover that the map is cursed, it destroys itself during the translation, and they believe it is lost forever. However, the map simply transfers itself to an unexpected place. As they accommodate themselves to this change, politics and religion start to interfere, and their lives are complicated by a Citywide riot, a new scandal to further discredit the aristocratic family, and the murder of a high-level religious leader. By the end of the novel’s first section, the band is fleeing with a price on their heads and the whole known world out to stop them.

I cannot overemphasize the breadth and depth of this story. Smylie has developed different races, entire pantheons for several different religions, and multiple political leaders. The character names are complicated, and their relationships are convoluted. However, his writing is straight and plain, and what could have been an impossible read is really very simple. I sped through this book in just over two days and had difficulty putting it down at night because I kept thinking, “just one more chapter . . .”

In his ending Author’s Note, Smylie states that this novel is based on his graphic novel series and Role-Playing Game, Artesia, developed over the past 15 years. In hindsight, that explains to me how this novel could be so deep and effortless at the same time. His world has had time to evolve over the years, and his experience with it has allowed him to create a story that is both immersive and yet down-to-earth. As I mentioned before, this is simply a quest story, like many other fantasy novels, yet in Smylie’s hands, I was transported as I read it. If you are looking for a story involving wizards and rogues, aristocrats and mercenaries, you cannot do better than to try Smylie’s The Barrow.

Review: The Winter Long by Seanan McGuire

The Winter Long
Author:   Seanan McGuire
Series:  October Daye 8
Publisher:  DAW, September 2, 2014
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 358 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780756408084 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: The Winter Long by Seanan McGuire
Toby thought she understood her own past; she thought she knew the score.

She was wrong.

It's time to learn the truth.

Doreen’s Thoughts

In her forward to The Winter Long, Seanan McGuire states that the prior seven books all were for the purpose of telling this particular story about Toby Daye, a Halfling knight of the fairy realm and a sometimes private detective who solves mysteries. Years ago, when I read the first novel in this series, I had the feeling that there was more to the story. McGuire always has hinted about a lengthy period when Toby was transformed into a fish and trapped for years, and every book since then has provided another piece to that puzzle. This is the first time, though, that the reader gets to hear specifically about that particular time – who transformed her and why. What is most interesting is that Toby herself seems not to know the true facts behind one of the most influential acts in her life. What she believes about why she was transformed may not be true.

McGuire’s Faerie world has multiple kingdoms and fiefdoms, and Toby has been instrumental in righting some of the more grievous wrongs that can take place. Through Toby, we learned about the Firstborns, those individuals who were the first born among the Faeries and the most powerful. Toby’s greatest ally, the Luidaeg, is one of those Firstborn and has always seemed to be indestructible. However, Toby discovers that the Luidaeg is not the most powerful creature she knows. There is another who is even more powerful, and it appears that this individual has something against Toby.

It is difficult to talk about this book without spoiling the story. The Winter Long probably should not be read as a standalone novel; a reader should start with Rosemary and Rue and come to know McGuire’s world and its inhabitants better before diving into this one. It makes sense that McGuire needed to tell the other stories first before tackling the tale about Toby’s transformation. Like Toby herself, at the end of this novel, the reader still does not know everything about that event. However, this one finally broaches the subject of Toby’s imprisonment almost head-on. All the other novels only touched very lightly on the subject. For the first time, we get to hear from the “villain” himself, Simon, the brother of Toby’s liege lord, Sebastian. What Toby learns is that Simon has a closer relationship to her than she ever knew.

The story centers on the return of a character who has been presumed dead throughout the series. This individual ranks very high in the Faery hierarchy and, to Toby’s dismay, seems to be acting against Toby instead of for her as expected. Saying more would spoil the tale. Suffice to say, Toby and her friends are in danger once again, and Toby has to solve the mystery behind her own life.
We learn more about the Faery library, which was introduced in the previous novel. McGuire further deepens Toby’s ongoing relationship with Tybalt, the King of Cats, and starts to unwind the tangled web of Toby’s past. By the end of the novel, Toby has come to question most of her own beliefs about Sebastian, the liege who was like a father to her, the Luidaeg who has been her closest ally, and her own mother who is mysteriously missing in this book. Although the story closes with many questions, McGuire has provided enough intrigue that the reader is not disappointed with the fact that nothing is resolved; instead, I am eagerly looking forward to the next chapter.

McGuire has created a fascinating picture of Faery culture that takes the classic structure and turns it on its head. Her descriptions, her world-building, and her characterizations all are top-notch. Her stories are more in line with the Grimm telling rather than the Disney movies, but the Brothers never provided such a rich, detailed account as that of Toby Daye.

Review: Rise Again Below Zero by Ben Tripp

Rise Again Below Zero
Author:  Ben Tripp
Series:  Rise Again 2
Publisher:  Gallery Books, December 17, 2013
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages
List Price:  $16.00 (print)
ISBN:  9781451668322 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review:  Rise Again Below Zero by Ben Tripp
The sequel to Rise Again, from an author who “balances kinetically choreographed scenes of zombie carnage with studies of well-drawn characters and enough political intrigue to give his tale more gravity and grounding than most zombie gorefests” (Publishers Weekly).

Billions died and rose again, hungry for human flesh. When the nightmare reached Sheriff Danielle Adelman’s small mountain community of Forest Peak, California, it was too late for warnings . . . forcing her to lead a small group of survivors out of hell, all the while seeking her estranged runaway sister at any cost.

Two years later, the undead have evolved. Now, besides the shambling, mindless cannibals are the hunters—cunning and fast, like wolves—and the thinkers, whose shocking intel­ligence and single-minded predatory obsession may mean the downfall of what’s left of humanity. As Danny leads a ragtag band of the living through the remnants of the American Midwest, rumors arise of a safe place somewhere east. But the closer they get to it, the more certain Danny becomes that something evil waits for them at the end of the line. With an unspeakable secret riding beside her and an unbreakable promise made to a small, silent boy, Danny must stake everything she has—her leadership, her sanity, and her life— in order to defeat the ultimate horror in a terrifying and dying world.
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Book Depository : Books-A-Million : IndieBound

Doreen’s Thoughts

I was initially surprised to see the prologue to Rise Again Below Zero written in a semi-literate, phonetic manner, but knowing that it was a post-apocalyptic story, I should not have been. I am always impressed when someone tries to imitate how the written word might evolve over time, and as the novel progressed, I felt that this was rather true to the story and the character involved. However, after about the first 15 pages, I realized that this was a sequel and was initially disappointed before becoming so immersed in the story that I could not put it down – I read long into the early morning hours. I actually lost sleep over this book!

The Walking Dead television series has made zombies popular again, although for those of us who read fantasy, they really have never gone out of style. Ben Tripp has reinvented the zombie story, at least in this sequel. His zombies are actually evolving – some of them are physically changing in appearance as well as others becoming more human in their thinking as time progresses after the “end of the world.” He has developed “zombie hunters” – zombies that work together in packs to bring down their prey – and “zombie thinkers” – zombies who use their complex thinking to further their feeding efforts. These zombies are even more dangerous than the typical zombies – who are pretty dangerous in their own right.

Tripp continues Sheriff Danielle Adelman’s story in this sequel. Apparently, when the world ended in the first novel, Danny had led a small group of survivors out of a Californian city while seeking her sister. This story starts after Danny has found that sister, Kelley. Danny is still leading the group, now known as the Tribe, foraging off the remains of the land and moving steadily east, where there are rumors of a safe place. Life for the Tribe is difficult, but not as difficult as going alone might be. Unfortunately Kelley has secrets of her own that may endanger the Tribe, and Danny is walking a tightrope, trying to do right by her sister and still lead the group.

Danny’s motorcycle scouts find a young mute boy and his dog alone in the midst of the wilderness. No one knows how he has survived alone at such a young age, and Danny takes him under her wing, promising to keep him safe. Unfortunately, circumstances occur which could make her break that promise, and she is absolutely unwilling to do so. The story centers on whether she can protect Kelley, the Tribe, and the boy in a world which is dissolving further every day.

I enjoyed the focus on Danny and her relationships with those for whom she cares. She is a strong individual who has been put into an untenable situation, yet she continues to struggle and remain human when everything around her is breaking. The zombie hunters and thinkers add a complexity to this thriller – if these monsters actually begin to think and work together, would humanity even have a chance? How does one retain their humanity when humanity itself is destroyed? These are some of the questions that Tripp attempts to answer in his novel, but the action is absolutely non-stop and the philosophy is more of an afterthought.

Now that I have read this one, I have to go out and get Tripp’s first book, Rise Again. I will expect to lose some sleep when I pick it up, because I could not put down Rise Again Below Zero. It is probably one of the best thrillers I have read this whole year.

Review: A Different Kingdom by Paul Kearney

A Different Kingdom
Author:  Paul Kearney
Publisher:  Solaris, January 28, 2014
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 432 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN: 978-1-78108-186-0 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: A Different Kingdom by Paul Kearney
A different kingdom of wolves, woods and stranger, darker, creatures lies in wait for Michael Fay in the woods at the bottom of his family's farm.

Michael Fay is a normal boy, living with his grandparents on their family farm in rural Ireland. In the woods there are wolves; and other things, dangerous things. He doesn’t tell his family, not even his Aunt Rose, his closest friend.

And then, as Michael wanders through the trees, he finds himself in the Other Place. There are strange people, and monsters, and a girl called Cat.

When the wolves follow him from the Other Place to his family’s doorstep, Michael must choose between locking the doors and looking away – or following Cat on an adventure that may take an entire lifetime in the Other Place.

Doreen’s Thoughts

Paul Kearney is a new author for me, and all I can wonder is how I ever missed him! His A Different Kingdom starts off in rural Ireland sometime in the 1950s, after the Second World War, and while Ireland is deeply divided along religious lines between the Catholics and the Protestants. Much of Ireland is still farmland or unsettled wilderness. Modern luxuries such as mechanized farm equipment and motorcars are few and far between. It was a time of transition, and as such, a terrific environment to set his coming-of-age story for Michael Fay.

Michael Fay is an orphan whose parents were killed as collateral damage in a bombing in Belfast. At the start of the book, he is about six years old. The opening chapter focuses on his extended family -- the grandparents who run the farm, his uncle who is eager to take over running the farm, two aunts, various cousins, and any number of field hands who work the land around the homestead.

However, in the middle of the first section, Kearney introduces an older Michael with his lover, Cat, fleeing for their lives in a world distinctly different from the placid farmlands where he played as a child. Then the story cuts back to the young boy who discovers that past the river that separates the fields from the forest is an Other Place, more wild and mysterious than his everyday life. From there, the story jaunts to an even older Michael, living alone in a city as a bartender and trying to forget the magic that once surrounded him. Kearney continues to intertwine the three narratives back and forth, rather than tell his tale simply from start to finish. While it seemed a little startling at first, I came to enjoy wandering around with Michael at various ages and trying to put together the pieces of his life in some straight line. It was almost impossible to do, which may seem unsettling, but actually worked the way that Kearney presented it.

Juggling timelines and locations just added to the overall mystery of the story. Kearney has a terrific eye for detail, and his descriptions are extremely well done, painting vivid pictures of his characters and their environments. The Other Place has several different races that may have evolved from different time periods of our world – seemingly wild men who could have evolved from Neanderthals, fae creatures that might be the original Fairy folk, missionaries/Templers who dictate their religion to the folk scratching out a living in return for protection, and the werewolves working for the Dark Huntsman who may well be the Devil himself.

This story is almost dreamlike in its telling. The language is lyrical, and the action is raw. I definitely enjoyed A Different Kingdom, although it was not an easy novel to read. It requires a reader to take it in great chunks. For someone like me who bounces between two or three books at a time, I had to focus all my attention on this one, but it was well worth the investment.

Reviews: The Undead Pool and The Witch with No Name by Kim Harrison

The Undead Pool
Author:  Kim Harrison
Series:  The Hollows 12
Publisher:  Harper Voyager, February 25, 2014
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages
List Price:  $27.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780061957932 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher
Published in Mass Market Paperback, July 29, 2014

Reviews: The Undead Pool and The Witch with No Name by Kim Harrison
Supernatural superhero Rachel Morgan must counter a strange magic that could spell civil war for the Hollows in this sexy and bewitching urban fantasy adventure in acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Kim Harrison's Hollows series.

Witch and day-walking demon Rachel Morgan has managed to save the demonic ever after from shrinking, but at a high cost. Now, strange magic is attacking Cincinnati and the Hollows, causing spells to backfire or go horribly wrong, and the truce between the races, between Inderlander and human, is shattering. Rachel must stop this dark necromancy before the undead vampire masters who keep the rest of the undead under control are lost and all-out supernatural war breaks out.

Rachel knows of only weapon to ensure the peace: ancient elven wild magic, which carries its own perils. And no one know better than Rachel that no good deed goes unpunished . . .
Links are to the MMP edition

Doreen’s Thoughts

After eleven novels and two graphic novels, Kim Harrison’s world of the Hollows is fairly stable. It has its own mythological history – how genetically-altered tomatoes caused a plague killing most of the world’s humans and allowing Interlanders (those with magic in their systems) to come to light. It has its own magic systems – including ley lines, earth, demon, and elven. Lastly, it now has its own deity – the Elven Goddess. Rachel first encountered her in an earlier novel, and the goddess now takes center stage as she sends her “mystics” – magical critters that cause magic to hiccup and create chaos as they search for Rachel’s aura.

As usual, Harrison’s novel has a central problem that needs to be discovered, but at its heart are Rachel’s relationships with her family. As she states in the novel, “[I]t was an odd sort of family but it was a family . . .” (pg 169).

Rachel interacts with all of her various family members here. There is Ivy, the living vampire who has struggled with her addiction to a dead vampire’s blood, and her partner, Nina, who is battling her own addiction. Jenks, who lost his own pixy wife, is now becoming involved with a fairy who lost her wings in a battle to take Jenks’ land. David, who accepted Rachel as an alpha female in order to avoid creating a pack, now has a fully functioning werewolf pack. The demons Newt and Al both show up several times and offer key information. Finally, Trent, Rachel’s former nemesis elf, is raising his daughter as a sister to the daughter of his security chief, Quen, and offering to take Rachel on a real date. Complications are to be expected.

The plot of the story is almost secondary to the characterizations, but provides the necessary complications. Essentially, Rachel has come to the attention of the Elven Goddess, and the Goddess is sending out mystics to try to find her and assimilate her. The mystics, created out of wild magic or else simply part of that wild magic, cause other forms of magic to fail spectacularly, causing Cincinnati to be quarantined. The Goddess and her mystics are a sort of hive mind, who find it difficult to understand the individuals they encounter. In fact, they created madness in the Elven priest who they tried to assimilate. Fortunately, Rachel is enough of an anomaly that she is able to understand the mystics and help them “become” semi-individuals like herself.

While I personally loved the story, with its twists and turns, someone who has never read one of Harrison’s earlier novels would probably find this one extremely convoluted and confusing. It probably takes all of the novels to fully understand the nuances that Harrison has created in this world. If you haven’t read any of them, start with Dead Witch Walking and learn all about the Hollows. It is worth the investment!

The Witch with No Name
Author:  Kim Harrison
SeriesThe Hollows 13
Publisher:  Harper Voyager, September 9, 2014
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 480 pages
List Price:  $26.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780061957956 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Reviews: The Undead Pool and The Witch with No Name by Kim Harrison
It’s Rachel Morgan’s ultimate adventure . . . and anything can happen in this final book in the New York Times bestselling Hollows series.

Rachel Morgan has come a long way from her early days as an inexperienced bounty hunter. She’s faced vampires and werewolves, banshees, witches, and soul-eating demons. She’s crossed worlds, channeled gods, and accepted her place as a day-walking demon. She’s lost friends and lovers and family, and an old enemy has unexpectedly become something much more.

But power demands responsibility, and world-changers must always pay a price. Rachel has known that this day would come—and now it is here.

To save Ivy’s soul and the rest of the living vampires, to keep the demonic ever after and our own world from destruction, Rachel Morgan will risk everything. . . .

Doreen’s Thoughts

Ten years ago, Kim Harrison introduced the Hollows world and her heroine, Rachel Morgan. Now, The Witch with No Name provides its happily-ever-after ending, though not until Harrison has tested Rachel and threatened her friends and family one last time.

At this point in the story, it would be difficult for someone to pick up this novel and read it as a standalone, although Harrison does a good job of setting the stage and background fairly well. I never would have known in those first books that her arch nemesis would change so significantly and that the demons would actually become more than just enemies.

Rachel was extremely immature and flighty during those beginning stories. Harrison has made Rachel work for her evolution, and many of the characters who I thought would have lasted to the final book have died. Those who remain in her life also have grown and mostly changed for the better.

The fallout from the last novel, The Undead Pool, carries over into this one. The Hollows has several different races, many of which are at odds with one another. During the course of these novels, Rachel has learned that the demons and elves have been warring for centuries, and the demon realm of the Everafter actually was once a thriving world before the demons were banished to it. Since the Change, when many of the hidden races revealed themselves, humans have been in the minority, while weres (shapeshifters) and witches have become more powerful. At the top of the hierarchy are the vampires, both the living and the non-living. The distinction between vampires is that the living still retain their souls, while the dead have lost theirs. Where the vampire souls have gone becomes a key element in this final story, because Rachel has been commanded by the highest vampire to reunite undead vampires with their souls.

In addition to multiple races, there are several different types of magic that are available in the Hollows – earth, ley line, demon, and elven magics. Rachel is the only person who can practice every type of magic. Because of the ongoing war between demons and elves, she is condemned by both sides for that ability; however, she is able to act as a bridge between those two races and, ultimately, among all the races. As she did in The Undead Pool, Harrison treads onto shaky ground as she looks at religion in the Hollows, with a seemingly divine being, the notion of souls and where they go after death, and what actions are capable when one loses a soul.

However, the primary focus, as always, is on Harrison’s characters and their relationships and only lightly touches on religious philosophy. The reader is more interested in what will happen to the soul of the living vampire, Ivy, if and when she dies, because Rachel is so invested in Ivy’s wellbeing. Ivy has been Rachel’s friend since the first novel, and their relationship has been tested and strengthened throughout their adventures. There also is Rachel’s relationship with Trent and whether that can continue to grow since he is of a different race. Harrison uses these relationships to explore the nature of religion and race and offers some interesting views.

As I mentioned, someone new to the Hollows would probably find this final novel extremely convoluted and confusing. However, for someone like myself who has read all 13 novels as well as the associated short stories and reference book, The Witch with No Name offers a satisfactory ending to Rachel’s story. It has been a fun ride, and while I often found myself frustrated with Rachel’s immaturity and her nattering about whether or not she should be in a relationship with someone, I am very impressed with the depth of the world that Harrison created in the Hollows. I will be very interested to see what new world she creates after this.

Qwill's Note

Ms. Harrison has a new trilogy coming out from Gallery Books starting in the Fall 2015. It is set in a "futuristic" Detroit and features a special task agent, Peri Reed.

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