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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Review: Four Summoner’s Tales by Kelley Armstrong, Christopher Golden, David Liss, and Jonathan Maberry

Four Summoner’s Tales
Authors:  Kelley Armstrong, Christopher Golden, David Liss, and Jonathon Maberry
Publisher:  Gallery Books, September 17, 2013
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
List Price:  $16.00 U.S.
ISBN:  9781451696684
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Four Summoner’s Tales by Kelley Armstrong, Christopher Golden, David Liss, and Jonathan Maberry
Four bestselling authors. One hellraising premise.
What if the dead could be summoned from their graves—for a price? What if a quartet of distinctive storytellers took a stab at this deceptively simple idea—on a dare? The answers lie here, in Four Summoner’s Tales, as these acclaimed writers accept the challenge and rise to the occasion—in four brilliantly chilling ways. It’s all in the execution. . .

“SUFFER THE CHILDREN” BY KELLEY ARMSTRONG, #1 New York Times bestselling author
A preacher and his adopted daughter must solve the mystery of the newcomers to their isolated 19th century village—men who are preying on residents' overwhelming grief with promises to bring the stricken back to life.

“PIPERS” BY CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN, New York Times bestselling author
Twenty-three people have already lost their lives to the ruthless cartel terrorizing their small Texas border town. But one man has a plan for revenge, if the town’s survivors will let him use their loved ones—to raise an army of the undead.

“A BAD SEASON FOR NECROMANCY” BY DAVID LISS, National bestselling author
In merry old England, a rascally con man stumbles upon a book for raising the dead. But instead of using it to make money by reviving relatives for the rich, he'll do just the opposite. Because some family skeletons need to stay buried.

“ALIVE DAY” BY JONATHAN MABERRY, New York Times bestselling author
In war-torn Afghanistan, a U.S. military operative and his team face off against an ancient horror during a harrowing off-the-books search-and-rescue mission.

Doreen’s Thoughts

What a great premise – four different authors take on the same concept, raising the dead for a price! Even though the stories were basically the same, as the tagline said, “It’s all in the execution. . .”

Kelley Armstrong’s ‘Suffer the Children’ takes place in the backwoods of Canada during the late 19th Century. In it, Addie is a young fosterling being raised by Preacher and his wife, Sophia. After a tragic epidemic killed most of the children in the village, a peddler and his old assistant come into town offering to raise the children – for a price. What follows next is a sad tale as parents are asked the question – what are you willing to pay to bring back your loved one? Armstrong does a terrific job as she shifts her perspective back and forth between Addie and Preacher in telling the tale.

Christopher Golden’s story, ‘Pipers,’ raises an army of the dead to face the cartel that has been terrorizing their small Texas border town and riffs on the story of ‘The Pied Piper.” Golden’s main character, Zeke Prater, loses his daughter during a massive cartel drive-by attack and then takes up an offer to get revenge for her murder. Along with 22 other “proxies” - family members willing to raise the dead, Prater uses a bone pipe and blood magic to raise the girl. When the group of avengers is double-crossed, things go south quickly. Out of all of the stories, I liked the ending to this one the least. But Golden does a great job describing how the dead are healed as they come back to life, and the ending definitely was in keeping with the overall premise of the four stories.

David Liss uses medieval England as the setting for his “A Bad Season for Necromancy.” His con man, Reginald January, takes on the persona of a gentleman of leisure so that he might secure for himself a wealthy bride. But when he discovers a book for raising the dead, he uses it as a threat against a group of Four Widows and their entourage who have acquired their wealth through the deaths of relatives. When they refuse to pay his blackmail, he raises a dead husband in revenge and, at that point, loses control of his own power. He winds up raising his own father to get him out of his dilemma. This story was very interesting as its use of language mimicked stories from that time period.

Lastly, Jonathan Maberry sets his character, Captain Joe Ledger, in the middle of a war zone in Afghanistan with three other military team members in an effort to rescue another lost team. While I don’t typically enjoy militaristic stories, the addition of an elder demon/deity was a nice touch. The story itself flashes back to the past, focusing on the first team’s efforts and how their mission went wrong, before jumping to the present, where the second team tries to recreate the story and find the lost team members. The story is dark and graphically violent, with what seem to be flesh-eating zombies in thrall to the demon/deity.

Overall, the stories were basically the same – what happens when someone offers to bring back the dead, but the delivery of each author was distinct and unique. As mentioned before, the premise bring up many questions – what would you be willing to give to have your loved one restored to life? Are you willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice, a life for a life? If you do pay, what will you bring back? Four Summoner’s Tales was an experiment that delivered well on its premise.

Review: The Spider by Jennifer Estep

The Spider
Author:  Jennifer Estep
Series:   Elemental Assassin 10
Publisher:  Pocket Books, December 24, 2013
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9781451689013 (print)
Review Copy:  Reviewer's Own

Review: The Spider by Jennifer Estep
How did I end up in a career where I always have blood on my hands? Well, let me tell you a story about an assassin who thought she could do no wrong. . . .

Ten years ago. A blistering hot August night. I remember like it was yesterday. The night I, Gin Blanco, truly became the Spider. Killing people is what I do best, especially now that I’ve honed my Ice and Stone magic. But back then, I had yet to learn one very important rule: arrogance will get you, every single time.

This particular job seemed simple: murder a crooked building contractor with ties to ruthless Fire elemental Mab Monroe. My mentor, Fletcher Lane, had some misgivings, but I was certain that I had the situation under control . . . right up until I exposed my weaknesses to a merciless opponent who exploited every single one of them. There’s a reason assassins aren’t supposed to feel anything. Luckily, a knife to the heart can fix that problem, especially when I’m the one wielding it. . . .

Doreen’s Thoughts

The Spider is Jennifer Estep’s tenth novel in the Elemental Assassin series, and the first to go back in the past a revisit a younger, more inexperienced Gin Blanco. I have enjoyed all of the novels to date, especially watching Gin evolve in her relationships with her friends and family. It was fun to see Gin at an earlier age, when she is falling in love and opening up to a world outside the dark shadows where she normally resides.

Estep also does a good job at involving some of her minor characters in the story in a different way than we normally see them. She introduces us to a younger Xavier, right before he becomes a beat copy, Roslyn Phillips before she created the club Northern Aggression, and even sister Bria and lover Owen before they were on Gin’s radar. Estep also shows us more about Gin's foster father, Fletcher Lane (before he was murdered) and Gin’s relationship with her foster brother, Finnegan. As always, it is the relationships that make up the heart of her novel.

But Gin always must face an opponent and in The Spider she believes she has vanquished the bad guy fairly early. As a reader, it was easy to see who really was the antagonist and how that person was able to get so close to Gin without her realizing it. The mystery in the Elemental Assassin books is always secondary to the relationships, and I appreciate that. This is another worthy entry in Estep’s series.

Review - Stamps, Vamps & Tramps: A Three Little Words Anthology

Stamps, Vamps & Tramps
Series:  A Three Little Words Anthology
Editor:  Shannon Robinson
Publisher:  Evil Girlfriend Media, February 12, 2014
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 263 pages
List Price:  $3.99
ISBN:  9780615970783
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review - Stamps, Vamps & Tramps: A Three Little Words Anthology
Eternally stamped, Eternally damned…

Grecian prostitutes and blood guzzling birds, pickle-sized vampires who wear their hearts on their sleeves, sexy immortals that fear human greed and memories that become tattoos; Stamps, Vamps & Tramps crosses genres to deliver bone-chilling stories that will keep you up at night.

Sixteen talented authors take you on a journey where stamps aren't always inked, tramps aren't always hookers, and vampires aren't always at the top of the food chain. From the colonnade of ancient Greece to a small town amusement park, from the battlefield to the urban center, this anthology will suck you in to the very end.

Featuring stories by Rachel Caine, Nancy Kilpatrick, Paul Witcover, and Gemma Files, among others.

Doreen’s Thoughts

Stamps, Vamps & Tramps is a Three Little Words anthology – where authors write stories with two or more of the semi-associated words as the basis for the story. It is an interesting concept – taking tattoos, vagabonds, and vampires and coming up with related stories. I liked most of the stories in this anthology.

For example, Rachel Caine starts the book off with her ‘Easy Mark,’ the story about a young girl riding the rails who finds someone who helps people like her and who deals with the people who want to cause trouble. ‘Only Darkness’ by Paul Whitcover had an interesting perspective about art in general and drawing in particular, where something like a vampire tries to have its portrait drawn since it cannot see itself in a mirror. I found its perspective about artists and their ability to create art interesting, along with how an artist might handle losing their ability. ‘Flies in the Ink’ has a young girl vampire who turns out to be a serial killer keeping tattoos as trophies of her murders while a father tries to use her to replace his daughter.

One or two of the stories were almost too short and hokey for me to appreciate. I found ‘Mungo the Vampire’ to be one of those that could have been excluded from the book without any loss. ‘Josephine the Tattoo Queen’ by Joshua Green was almost predictable. Though it was short, Nancy Kilpatrick’s ‘The Hungry Living Dead’ turns the page on vampires making humans to be the real predators. ‘Stabilization’ by Daniels Parseleti viewed madness from the perspective of an institutionalized person. Mary Turzillo’s ‘A Virgin Hand Disarmed’ gives us a very different view of William Shakespeare.

I enjoyed the folksy tone of Gemma Files’ ‘His Face, All Red,’ enough to track down some of her other works. Altogether, this provided a nice taste of new authors and their works for me, which is the best trick for any anthology.

Review: Black Arts (Jane Yellowrock 7) by Faith Hunter

Black Arts
Author:  Faith Hunter
Series:  Jane Yellowrock 7
Publisher:  Roc, January 7, 2014
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
List Price: $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780451465245 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Black Arts (Jane Yellowrock 7) by Faith Hunter
Jane Yellowrock is a shape-shifting skinwalker who always takes care of her own — no matter the cost….

When Evan Trueblood blows into town looking for his wife, Molly, he’s convinced that she came to see her best friend, Jane. But it seems like the witch made it to New Orleans and then disappeared without a trace.

Jane is ready to do whatever it takes to find her friend. Her desperate search leads her deep into a web of black magic and betrayal and into the dark history between vampires and witches. But the closer she draws to Molly, the closer she draws to a new enemy—one who is stranger and more powerful than any she has ever faced.

Doreen’s Thoughts:

Jane Yellowrock is a unique protagonist – she is both a shape-shifter and a skinwalker. Born in the 1800s as a Cherokee, Jane wound up tangling her soul with that of a cougar. After roaming for years in the cougar’s body, she finally took the lead and came out to begin vampire hunting. Molly Everhart is a witch who has been her friend for years – until an earlier novel, when Jane was forced to kill Molly’s sister. This novel starts after Jane has been excused for the killing, but the family, and Molly in particular, still has yet to open back up to Jane.

However, when Evan, Molly’s husband, comes to Jane looking for Molly, Jane becomes aware that Molly has been in New Orleans for some time – and that she has gone missing. As Jane performs her job as the Master Vampire’s Enforcer, she discovers that her cases for the vampires may be crossing with that of her search for Molly.

I love Jane Yellowrock as a character. She is fierce to her enemies, yet gentle with her friends and those she considers as her family. The interaction between Jane and Evan has always been negative in the past because being around Jane has put Molly in danger. Now Evan has to rely upon Jane’s expertise to find his wife. Jane is also responsible for protecting both Evan and his children until she can locate Molly. The communication between Jane and the children as well as between the children and Jane’s other family, Ely and the Kid, is priceless and indicative of knowledge of real children and how they handle stress.

I always devour Faith Hunter’s novels because they are so good; they suck me into her world and keep me engaged until I arrive at the end. This novel was particularly good at creating a new enemy for Jane as well as involving her expanded family, the Truebloods and Everharts, and their witchcraft. I love the touches that Hunter adds about the Cherokee people and their symbology and their spirituality. This novel was another great addition to the Jane Yellowrock series.

Review: The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines 4) by RIchelle Mead

The Fiery Heart
Author:  Richelle Mead
Series:  Bloodlines 4
Publisher:  Razorbill, November 19, 2013
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 438 pages
List Price:  $18.99 (print)
ISBN:  9781595143204 (print)
Review Copy: Purchased

Review:  The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines 4) by RIchelle Mead
Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets – and human lives.

In The Indigo Spell, Sydney was torn between the Alchemist way of life and what her heart and gut were telling her to do. And in one breathtaking moment that Richelle Mead fans will never forget, she made a decision that shocked even her . . .

But the struggle isn’t over for Sydney. As she navigates the aftermath of her life-changing decision, she still finds herself pulled in too many directions at once. Her sister Zoe has arrived, and while Sydney longs to grow closer to her, there’s still so much she must keep secret. Working with Marcus has changed the way she views the Alchemists, and Sydney must tread a careful path as she harnesses her profound magical ability to undermine the way of life she was raised to defend. Consumed by passion and vengeance, Sydney struggles to keep her secret life under wraps as the threat of exposure – and re-education – looms larger than ever.

Pulses will race through this smoldering fourth installment in the New York Times bestselling Bloodlines series, where no secret is safe. 

Doreen’s Thoughts:

I was somewhat leery when I first discovered that Richelle Mead was using two narrators for her latest entry in the Bloodlines series. We first met Sydney and Adrian in Mead’s earlier series, Vampire Academy, and the three prior books in this series have always had Sydney as the single narrator. However, Mead did a good job with juggling two perspectives. Rather than seeing events from two different perspectives, she chose to alternate the narratives, and Sydney’s story picks up after Adrian’s. Mead also did well in using different tones of voice for each character. Overall, it was a nice change to add Adrian’s perspective.

In this novel, Sydney juggles her secret relationship with Adrian, her attempts to assist Marcus in resisting the Alchemists, and her “real” job coordinating the Moroi and dhampirs in her charge. Having her younger sister come to assist her only complicates matters. She is at peace with her decision to be with Adrian and much more accepting of her magical talents, but her ties to the Alchemists set her up for failure in more than one way.

I appreciated Mead’s delicate touch with the love story in this one. Being able to see both sides of the relationship broadened my understanding of the difficulties the two lovers face. While there is the hint of sex, the scenes are broad and appropriate for readers of most ages. I saw the ending much too early in the novel for my taste, but overall the plot was intriguing enough to carry through the book. In addition, I really dislike endings that require another novel to carry on the story, rather than tie up the threads for that book and leave room for others. However, I enjoy Mead’s writing too much not to continue on with the next book in the series – I will be eagerly awaiting its release.

Please welcome Doreen - The Qwillery's newest reviewer! You may read more about Doreen on the "About Us" page here.

Review: Four Summoner’s Tales by Kelley Armstrong, Christopher Golden, David Liss, and Jonathan MaberryReview: The Spider by Jennifer EstepReview - Stamps, Vamps & Tramps: A Three Little Words AnthologyReview: Black Arts (Jane Yellowrock 7) by Faith HunterReview:  The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines 4) by RIchelle Mead

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