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A blog about books and other things speculative

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Review: The Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky


The Immortals
AuthorJordanna Max Brodsky
Series:  Olympus Bound 1
Publisher:  Orbit, February 16, 2016
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 464 pages
List Price:  US$25.00 (print); US$13.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780316347181 (print); 9780316385879 (eBook)

Review: The Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky
Manhattan has many secrets. Some are older than the city itself.

The city sleeps. Selene DiSilva walks her dog along the banks of the Hudson. She is alone -- just the way she likes it. She doesn't believe in friends, and she doesn't speak to her family. Most of them are simply too dangerous.

In the predawn calm, Selene finds the body of a young woman washed ashore, gruesomely mutilated and wreathed in laurel. Her ancient rage returns. And so does the memory of a promise she made long ago -- when her name was Artemis.



Melanie's Thoughts

Selene DiSilva has a solitary life, just her and her dog. Her mission in life is to avoid her family and rescue women who are in trouble. She arrives too late to save a young woman who has been horrifically mutilated and wreathed in laurel. Selene's past, which she had hoped was well behind her, has come back to haunt her. When another young girl is murdered in equally horrific fashion Selene reluctantly teams up with the classics professor Theo Schultz to find who is responsible and stop any other innocents from dying.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Immortals. I thought that the premise of Brodsky's plot was very clever. Selene, as the long, and almost forgotten goddess Artemis was well written and in latter parts of the story very conflicted between who she used to be and who she wants to become. The story turns into a bit of a lesson on Greek mythology as we learn more about Selene's (ancient) past. I kind of felt a bit smarter by the time I had finished The Immortals and all without having to rely on the handy Glossary at the back of the book.

Selene herself admits the gods were capricious and cruel. After all the centuries of solitary living she wants to be more than she was at the height of her power but achieving this may take a Herculaneum effort. Help may come in the unsuspecting package of a rather geeky classics professor. Theo could have been dull in comparison to the former goddess Selene but surprisingly he wasn't. Theo could hold his own and all thanks to Brodsky's ability to write convincing characters. I think the only characters that were a tad stereotypical were Selene's fellow fallen gods - Apollo, Hermes and Dionysus but I forgave this for what they added to the overall plot.

Overall, The Immortals is a solid debut for Brodsky. I will be very interested to see how Brodsky crafts a series out of these characters. The Immortals is an enjoyable read that will have you brushing up on your Latin and reaching for a textbook of Greek mythology.

Interview with J. Kathleen Cheney and Review of Dreaming Death


Please welcome J. Kathleen Cheney to The Qwillery.  Dreaming Death is published by Roc on February 2nd. Please join The Qwillery in wishing J. Kathleen a very Happy Publication Day!



Interview with J. Kathleen Cheney and Review of Dreaming Death




The QwilleryWelcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, Dreaming Death, is the start of a new series - Palace of Dreams. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote The Golden City (2013) to Dreaming Death? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

J. Kathleen Cheney:  Hi there! Ugh. For me the hardest part is that first draft. I truly love the editing process, and could edit all my manuscripts endlessly. But cranking out that first draft is painful. I did, by the way, try Scrivener on this book, but after six months of wanting to pull out my hair, mostly because Scrivener isn't Word, I chucked it in. So no super-organization, either. I just pound it out, one end to the other.



TQWhat do you wish that you knew about book publishing when Golden City came out that you know now?

JKC:  I think that no one is going to hold my hand and walk me through this career. Even though I'd been told by others that I would have to do a lot of things myself, I didn't truly grasp it. But it's seriously true…if you don't get out there and promote your own stuff, it won't fly.



TQWhat has influenced/influences your writing?

JKC:  I'm a big lover of Romance and Mystery, so both of those will appear in my stories. In my view, a book must have either a dead body or a romance to be interesting, even if it's fantasy. I try to have a science basis for fantasy things, even if it's a flimsy science basis. Really flimsy. But I read up a lot on biological sciences, half to work them into stories and half because they're just really interesting!



TQDescribe Dreaming Death in 140 characters or less.

JKC:  A blind girl with CSI hands meets boy who dreams his way into others death. Together, they solve crime. #fantasy #mystery



TQTell us something about Dreaming Death that is not found in the book description.

JKC:  The Six Families in this series are essentially tribes or clans who have lived underground for centuries in their Fortresses. Their Fortresses are somewhat like reservations, in that the government doesn't have jurisdiction there. Originally, when the Anvarrid invaded, they searched the Fortresses, hunting for treasure, but the depths of the Fortresses--Deep Below--were sealed off, and officially the Anvarrid still officially have no knowledge that Deep Below exists (although Mikael does.)



TQWhat inspired you to write Dreaming Death? What appeals to you about writing Historical Fantasy?

JKC:  The original inspiration for Dreaming Death came out of reading the works of Ansen Dibell, which had an empathic race called the Valde. I spent a great deal of time considering Dibell's approach to the subject. (I'm a big fan.) But I combined that with the concept of underground seed vaults and the statistical correlation between pale eyes and shyness to come up with my underground race that included sensitives.

I love historical fantasy because it forces us to consider how things were done. We live in a world where so many people don't even know where their food comes from, how paper is made, or how printing presses worked. Those are the kinds of things that I love to study. Historical fiction gives me an excuse to research that sort of thing.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Dreaming Death?

JKC:  The largest part of my research time was invested in studying underground building design. There are specialists in this field all over the world, because many people believe that instead of building ever higher, building ever lower might be the wiser course.

As it turns out, there are a lot of physical concerns about having people work and live underground (stairs, elevators, safety, lights, etc) but also psychological



TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

JKC:  Easiest: Deborah. We don't actually have her point of view in this book, but we do in the sequel. I have to admit, she's the closest thing I think I've ever written to myself. (Not appearance wise, but in terms of her thought process.) So she's easy. Not necessarily fun, but easy.

Hardest: Mikael. He's a young man, and his mindset is fundamentally different than mine, so I had to constantly try to work out how a twenty-three year old guy would think.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Dreaming Death?

JKC:  So this is a toughie. I actually eliminated a bunch of the political bits from the manuscript because my editor was concerned about it sounding too political (and therefore like The Golden City, she thought). But whenever there are three different peoples with diverse cultures living in close proximity, there are going to be social clashes. In some ways I see the Larossan/Anvarrid relationship as being similar to apartheid, with the Larossans being second-class citizens even though they vastly outnumber the Anvarrid.

And the Families are caught between those two groups. Their treaty might force them to fight the Larossans one day on behalf of the Anvarrid…or to break their treaty and side with the majority. The third option, though, would be to simply close up the Fortresses and ignore the outside world again.

So in a way, they're in the position of deciding their own fates, but it's a scary decision ahead of them, and one that all Six Families might not agree upon.



TQWhich question about Dreaming Death do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

JKC:  Is this set on a post-apocalyptic earth?

No, but in my mind this all takes place after the mass terraforming of a planet. So there are similarities. Of course, all in my mind. Not on paper. Yet.



TQGive us one or two favorite non-spoilery quotes from Dreaming Death.

JKC:  You can figure out who's talking:

       “Some just shouldn’t be told. Everyone has secrets, even my mother, and she’s the most proper person I know.”
       That seemed like a heavy burden. “How do you know? Which ones not to tell, I mean?”
       She tilted her head to one side. “I suppose if you can’t do any good by telling it, you shouldn’t.”



TQWhat's next?

JKC:  I've actually got some novellas I'm trying to get published and out in the world, another in the Golden City setting that includes Alejandro, "After the War", and one set in 1815 Russia. I'm also trying to get three short stories up on my website that are set in the world of Mikael and Shironne, one of which was published back in 2007 at Jim Baen's Universe--Touching the Dead (https://jkathleencheney.wordpress.com/free-fiction/touching-the-dead/). And I'm trying to re-edit and republish all the short fiction I have available as ebooks. I'm typing as fast as I can, I promise!



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

JKC:  Thanks for having me as your guest!





Dreaming Death
Series:  A Palace of Dreams Novel 1
Publisher:  Roc, February 2, 2016
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages
List Price:  US$16.00 (print);  US$9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780451472939 (print); 9780698183100 (eBook)

Interview with J. Kathleen Cheney and Review of Dreaming Death
In the Novels of the Golden City, J. Kathleen Cheney created a “mesmerizing” (Publishers Weekly) realm where magic, history, and intrigue combine. Now, she presents a new world ruled by psychic talents and fatal magic…

Shironne Anjir’s status as a sensitive is both a gift and a curse. Her augmented senses allow her to discover and feel things others can’t, but her talents come with a price: a constant assault of emotions and sensations has left her blind. Determined to use her abilities as best she can, Shironne works tirelessly as an investigator for the Larossan army.

A member of the royal family’s guard, Mikael Lee also possesses an overwhelming power—he dreams of the deaths of others, sometimes in vivid, shocking detail, and sometimes in cryptic fragments and half-remembered images.

But then a killer brings a reign of terror to the city, snuffing out his victims with an arcane and deadly blood magic. Only Shironne can sense and interpret Mikael’s dim, dark dreams of the murders. And what they find together will lead them into a nightmare…



Melanie's Thoughts

Mikael is a dreamer. Not a daydreamer. A dreamer of death. When Mikael dreams he re-lives the death of murder victims in such clarity that he is left with signs of the suffering they experienced on his body. While Mikael dreams Shironne acts as the witness, on the sidelines, as an observer that can almost but not quite sense the one tangible link between the victim and the killer. They haven't even met but Mikael and Shironne are intimately linked while they sleep. Their lives change irrevocably when a serial murderer uses arcane magic to kill its victims. Shironne and Mikael are the only ones who can solve the mystery of who the killer is, but with every dream another person dies and time is running out for Shironne to piece together the cryptic clues left throughout his dreamscape.

Dreaming Death is a beautiful, almost lyrical story despite its dark and tragic plot. I thought I could have been reading a song or hearing a poem as each chapter flowed seamlessly into the next. I didn't want it to end. Cheney has created a richly textured and complex world for her characters. Society and history are told largely through Mikael, as one of the royal family's guards. The rigid class structures of the Six Families are explained as we navigate through the story and Mikael's interactions with his colleagues. Shironne is a touch sensitive whose enhanced senses have left her blind. Rather than giving into trauma of so many sensations Shironne uses her gifts to aid the Larossan army to solve cases. Shironne is a strong and determined female lead and uses her gifts rather than letting them become her disability. She is even more interesting of a character when she finally meets Mikael. While the murder mystery is the mainstay of the plot the relationship between Mikael and Shironne is what is really the star of this story.

I LOVED Dreaming Death. If I could read with my eyes closed I am sure I could have smelled the rich spices of the curry that Mikael enjoyed, felt the cold stone of the walls of the palace against my finger tips and sensed the melee of emotions as they swirled around me. This is a 'can't put down' book, a joy to read from start to finish and has me wishing that book two was out already.  I think I have found my new favourite author. So thank you to J. Kathleen Cheney.



Read an exclusive excerpt of Dreaming Death here.





About J. Kathleen Cheney

Interview with J. Kathleen Cheney and Review of Dreaming Death
J. Kathleen Cheney taught mathematics ranging from 7th grade to Calculus, but gave it all up for a chance to write stories. Her novella "Iron Shoes" was a 2010 Nebula Award Finalist. Her novel The Golden City was a Finalist for the 2014 Locus Awards (Best First Novel). Dreaming Death will be the first in a new series, the Palace of Dreams Novels.


Website  ~  Twitter @jkcheney  ~  Facebook  ~  Tumblr

Review: The Rogue Retrieval by Dan Kobolt


The Rogue Retrieval
Author:  Dan Koboldt
Publisher:  Harper Voyager Impulse, January 19, 2016
Format:  eBook, 384 pages
List Price:  US$2.99
ISBN:  9780062451903

Review: The Rogue Retrieval by Dan Kobolt
Sleight of hand…in another land

Stage magician Quinn Bradley has one dream: to headline his own show on the Vegas Strip. And with talent scouts in the audience wowed by his latest performance, he knows he’s about to make the big-time.

What he doesn’t expect is an offer to go on a quest to a place where magic is all too real.

That's how he finds himself in Alissia, a world connected to ours by a secret portal owned by a powerful corporation. He’s after an employee who has gone rogue, and that’s the least of his problems. Alissia has true magicians…and the penalty for impersonating one is death. In a world where even a twelve-year-old could beat Quinn in a swordfight, it's only a matter of time until the tricks up his sleeves run out.

Scientist and blogger Dan Koboldt weaves wonder, humor, and heart into this debut novel, The Rogue Retrieval. Fans of Terry Brooks and Terry Pratchett will find this a thrilling read.



Melanie's Thoughts

Just when Bradley Quinn thought he was going to get his big break as a headline act in Las Vegas he gets a job offer that seems too good to be true. He is contracted by a powerful organisation who have discovered a portal to an alternate world. Alissia is very much like a kingdom from a fantasy novel complete with dragons, swords and magic. Quinn's job is to support his team of professional soldiers and scientists as they retrieve an employee who has gone on the run in Alissia. Quinn's role? Even he isn't sure but his magical tricks could find in him facing a death penalty in a land that punishes those who impersonate the 'real' magicians. This could be Quinn's last job and he may need to pull more than just a rabbit out of his hat to survive.

The story is told from two POVs - Quinn and his travelling companion, the super soldier Logan. This not only gives us a different view the other characters and Alissia but this also provides Koboldt with the ability to stage the plot in two different parts of the kingdom at the same time. The plot is well paced and comes together quite cleverly at the end with an ending that leaves it open for another instalment. I wasn't totally surprised by most of the big 'reveals' but Koboldt did keep my interest all the way through and I think that mostly has to do with his characters, mainly Quinn. He is funny and likeable without coming across like the comedy sidekick. I also thought that Koboldt demonstrated a wonderful imagination with the secret portal to the well constructed fantasy world of Alissia. He gets the balance right between description and exposition of Alissia, the landscape, the people and the magic that resides there. In short, great characters, great plot in a great location. The Rogue Retrieval is a really fun read and Koboldt actually manages to use He-Man to quite a humorous effect. Well done!

Koboldt has written a cracking debut novel with The Rogue Retrieval and there is something for both high fantasy and urban fantasy readers. I am already looking forward to Bradley's next adventure.

Melanie's Favourite books of 2015


I have read quite a few books in 2015 but I am going to share with you my top 5. This year I couldn't decide an order so these are in no particular order.


Melanie's Favourite books of 2015
UK Cover
Book 1 of my favourites for 2015 was The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. I reviewed this book back in March and declared it one of my favourite books just a few months into the new year. For me, this book had almost every element that I enjoy in a book - a strong female lead, a richly textured world, the right amount of action and a great mystery. I loved the steampunky world where the main part of the story was set and Cogman sets up the Invisible Library as virtual cornucopia of future plots. Cogman cracked it with this fantastic debut.



Melanie's Favourite books of 2015
Another of my favourites is Ilona Andrews' serial novel Sweep in Peace. While I read this book over many months, it was released as a complete novel in November. I am a big fan of Andrews and have read everything the writing duo have released. I do however have a special love of the Innkeeper Chronicles. Dina is another great female lead with some pretty cool powers. She is strong and smart and she doesn't have to get pummeled every instalment to prove it. She does seem to have a predilection for near death experiences though. This instalment had crossover characters from The Edge series and I felt this worked well even though that is my least favourite Andrews series. It could have been a hit or miss and it was a big hit for me. There were a couple of mini stories threaded throughout the main plot which kept my interest as Andrews continued to develop Dina as a character. Overall, this a great read with beautiful illustrations.



Melanie's Favourite books of 2015
Patrick Weekes is a lucky author this year by getting 2 books of the same series into my top 5 with The Prophecy Con and the The Paladin Caper. I would have included book 1 - The Palace Job but I read that last year. I am a big fan of the Dragon Age series of video games which Weekes writes for. Many of the characters in this series reminded me of my favourite characters in the game which just made these two books even more enjoyable. You will notice a theme in my favourite books - strong female leads which both of these books have in spades. The strong female characters are supported by veritable cast of interesting characters - even the baddies. Weekes has bundled great characters, with amusing dialogue with a fantastic plot arc. There were so many twists and turns and double crosses that I almost got whiplash. This is a must read for anyone who likes fantasy, great characters and witty dialogue.



Melanie's Favourite books of 2015
UK Cover
The final book to make my top 5 is Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Again, another book with a strong female character this time in the form of the rather 'plain Jane' Agnieszka. Uprooted has a real folklory feel to it and I was gripped from page one through to the final sentence with Agnieszka's story of being taken away from her family and everything she holds dear to live in a tower as the companion to a rather reclusive dragon. Novik has a wonderful imagination and very skilled at characterization. This was a story I just didn't want to end.



As you know I read A LOT of books so to pick only 5 was difficult. I urge you to pick up one of these great books and looking forward to finding out what 2016 has in store.





Melanie's Favourite books of 2015
US Cover
The Invisible Library
The Invisible Library 1
Roc, June 14, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352

Collecting books can be a dangerous prospect in this fun, time-traveling, fantasy adventure from a spectacular debut author.

One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction…

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it’s already been stolen.

London’s underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested—the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something—secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself.

Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option—because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself…



Published in the UK by Pan.



Melanie's Favourite books of 2015
Sweep in Peace
Innkeeper Chronicles 2
NYLA, November 13, 2015
eBook, 237 pages

Dina DeMille doesn’t run your typical Bed and Breakfast. Her inn defies laws of physics, her fluffy dog is secretly a monster, and the only paying guest is a former Galactic tyrant with a price on her head. But the inn needs guests to thrive, and guests have been scarce, so when an Arbitrator shows up at Dina's door and asks her to host a peace summit between three warring species, she jumps on the chance.

Unfortunately, for Dina, keeping the peace between Space Vampires, the Hope-Crushing Horde, and the devious Merchants of Baha-char is much easier said than done. On top of keeping her guests from murdering each other, she must find a chef, remodel the inn...and risk everything, even her life, to save the man she might fall in love with. But then it's all in the day's work for an Innkeeper…




Melanie's Favourite books of 2015
The Prophecy Con
Rogues of the Republic 2
47North, September 23, 2015
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 512 pages

Book Two in the Rogues of the Republic series.

Who would have thought a book of naughty poems by elves could mean the difference between war and peace? But if stealing the precious volume will keep the Republic and the Empire from tearing out each other’s throats, rogue soldier Isafesira de Lochenville—“Loch” to friends and foes alike—is willing to do the dishonest honors. With her motley crew of magic-makers, law-breakers, and a talking warhammer, she’ll match wits and weapons with dutiful dwarves, mercenary knights, golems, daemons, an arrogant elf, and a sorcerous princess.

But getting their hands on the prize—while keeping their heads attached to their necks—means Loch and company must battle their way from a booby-trapped museum to a monster-infested library, and from a temple full of furious monks to a speeding train besieged by assassins. And for what? Are a few pages of bawdy verse worth waging war over? Or does something far more sinister lurk between the lines?




Melanie's Favourite books of 2015
The Paladin Caper
Rogues of the Republic 3
47 North, October 27, 2015
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 480 pages

A thief’s good deeds are never done.

Loch and her crew are determined to stop the ancients from returning to reclaim the world they once ruled, but the kidnapping of a friend throws their plans awry. When a desperate rescue turns into a shocking reunion, the ancients return and seize power. Determined to stop them, Loch and the group look for a way to close the gate to the ancients’ world, but this time, they find themselves up against an enemy that has insinuated itself into the highest ranks of the Republic. Cruel, cunning, and connected, the ancients target the crew’s families and histories, threatening to tear friendships apart.

If that weren’t bad enough, Loch must deal with her treacherous assassin sister, her turncoat ancient friend, and a daemon who has sworn to hunt her to the ends of the earth. In order to save the Republic and pull off her largest con ever, Loch will need her friends…and maybe her enemies too.




Melanie's Favourite books of 2015
North America Cover
Uprooted
Del Rey, May 19, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 448 pages

Naomi Novik, author of the New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed Temeraire novels, introduces a bold new world rooted in folk stories and legends, as elemental as a Grimm fairy tale.

“Every so often you come upon a story that seems like a lost tale of Grimm newly come to light. Uprooted is such a novel. Its narrative spell is confidently wrought and sympathetically cast. I might even call it bewitching.”—Gregory Maguire, bestselling author of Wicked and Egg & Spoon

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.



Published in the UK by Macmillan.


Review: The Death of Dulgath by Michael J. Sullivan


The Death of Dulgath
AuthorMichael J. Sullivan
Series:  The Riyria Chronicles 3
Publisher:  Riyria Enterprises, LLC, October 15, 2015 (ebook)
       Mascot Books, December 1, 2015 (Hardcover)
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages
List Price:  $24.95 (Hardcover);  $9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781943363025 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Author

Review: The Death of Dulgath by Michael J. Sullivan
Three times they tried to kill her. Then a professional was hired. So was Riyria.

When the last member of the oldest noble family in Avryn is targeted for assassination, Riyria's Royce and Hadrian are hired to foil the plot. Three years have passed since Hadrian, the war-weary mercenary, and Royce, the cynical ex-assassin, joined forces to become rogues-for-hire. All has gone well until they're asked to help prevent a murder. Now they must venture into an ancient corner of the world to save a mysterious woman who knows more about Royce than is safe and cares less about herself than is sane.

From the best-selling author of The Riyria Revelations comes the third installment of The Riyria Chronicles. Although part of a series, it's designed to thrill both new readers looking for fun, fast-paced fantasy and Riyria veterans wishing to reunite with old friends.



Melanie’s Thoughts

The Death of Dulgath is the product of Michael J, Sullivan’s active imagination, his obvious love of both the Riyria world and its characters and a very successful Kickstarter campaign. Without these factors we might not have had opportunity to enjoy another excellent adventure of our two favourite characters - Royce and Hadrian.

This novel is set in between The Rose and the Thorn and Theft of Swords where the Riyria have only been together for a few years and just starting to establish their reputation. In need of some cash they accept a job on the opposite side of the kingdom to try to prevent a young woman from getting murdered. It sounded like a quick and easy assignment involving no mystery, no intrigue and no death or mayhem. Sound like something that should go to plan? Unfortunately for the Riyria this quick and easy job turns out to a little more than they expected. Idyllic countryside, happy citizens who love their Lady and a kind and benevolent ruler? If it sounds too good to be true then usually someone is determined it doesn't stay that way. Enter Royce and Hadrian who need to use both their combined and individual skills to find out who wants the Lady dead and why. Its what they find out about each other however that is what makes this story such an excellent read.

I was extremely lucky to have been selected as part of the beta reader group for The Death of Dulgath. You may have read some of my other reviews of Sullivan's books and know that I love just about everything about this series and its two main characters. This instalment in the series was no exception. Sullivan continues to develop both of his main characters with POV chapters where we gain a better insight into how they feel about each other which is really interesting and gives both them and the story more depth. Sullivan also gives us some additional background into a new region of the kingdom, of the religious beliefs of the citizens of Dulgath and what the Church of Novron is planning. The plot largely focuses on Lady Dulgath who features not just as the intended victim of the murder plot but as the subject of the artist Sherwood, who has been commissioned to paint her portrait. Sullivan uses Sherwood's POV chapters and the painting as a tool to advance the plot, as well as, the mechanism for revealing one of the story's big mysteries. Lady Dulgath is an enigmatic character and has some interesting scenes with Royce where she reveals some home truths about who (or what) he really is. Royce is drawn to the Lady as he is intrigued by what she tells him. I apologise for sounding vague but I can't reveal too much as I don't want to spoil the story for you.

Fans of this series, will enjoy the chapters dedicated to Royce and Hadrian. As with the other books in the series it is in the scenes with Royce and Hadrian that Sullivan's writing really shines and these were my favourite parts of the novel. Royce and Hadrian's POV chapters give us a better insight into how they feel about each other and we get an inside view of how their relationship continues to grow and flourish.

This is another great book by Sullivan and another star in the Riyria collection and a must read for any fantasy fan. Although you can easily enjoy The Death of Dulgath as a one off I wouldn't want you to miss any of the excellent books in the series so start back with The Crown Tower.

Review: Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews


Sweep in Peace
Author:  Ilona Andrews
Series:  Innkeeper Chronicles 2
Publisher:  NYLA, November 13, 2015
Format:  eBook, 237 pages
List Price:  $4.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781943772322 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Author

Review: Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews
Dina DeMille doesn’t run your typical Bed and Breakfast. Her inn defies laws of physics, her fluffy dog is secretly a monster, and the only paying guest is a former Galactic tyrant with a price on her head. But the inn needs guests to thrive, and guests have been scarce, so when an Arbitrator shows up at Dina's door and asks her to host a peace summit between three warring species, she jumps on the chance.

Unfortunately, for Dina, keeping the peace between Space Vampires, the Hope-Crushing Horde, and the devious Merchants of Baha-char is much easier said than done. On top of keeping her guests from murdering each other, she must find a chef, remodel the inn...and risk everything, even her life, to save the man she might fall in love with. But then it's all in the day's work for an Innkeeper…



Melanie's Review

Sweep in Peace is another fantastic installment of the Innkeeper Chronicles series. The story was released in serial form on Ilona Andrews' website over the last year and now bundled up with some gorgeous illustrations for release on the 13th November. Check out the full over image so that you see just how gorgeous the whole cover is. I was extremely lucky (and grateful) to receive an eArc from the authors as I love this series. My favourite innkeeper is back for another great adventure with her magic broom and shih tzu sized monster dog.

It seems like it is just another day in the Gertrude Hunt for the innkeeper Dina Demile when she is approached by George (from The Edge series) who makes her an offer that she just can't refuse. George is all grown up and now an Arbiter - think of a cosmic peacekeeper. He asks her to host a peace summit between three warring factions - The Hope Crushing Horde (extremely violent super soldier race), House Krahr of the Holy Cosmic Anocracy (vampires) and finally The Merchants (a financially mercenary fox-like race). The Horde and the Vampires have been fighting for almost two decades for control of a planet that is rich in minerals while the Merchants are caught in the middle but making money off both factions. Dina needs guests in order to sustain the magic that keeps her inn alive. She also needs to build the inn's reputation to attract more business. It all could be ruined if the summit does not succeed. There is a lot at stake and Dina is going to need every skill in her innkeeper arsenal to get through it.

In this installment Andrews' continues to develop Dina as a character. We also gain a better insight into the Innkeepers and the Gertrude Hunt through Dina's interactions with George and the other main characters. For those fans of the Edge series you will be interested to find out what has happened to George, his shapeshifter brother Jack and their cousin Gaston since the end the series. Andrews' teased us with the crossover of these characters in book 1 - Clean Sweep - and they have blended well into this story. Arland, the super hotty vamp from House Krahr, is back again and back to some fangy flirtations with Dina but her mind keeps returning to Sean the equally hot shifter who has all but disappeared. Andrews writes a story within a story within a story. There is main plot of the peace summit, the mystery of a stolen gem, a nosy policeman and Sean. All these plot points are tangled up together and woven into an excellent story of war and peace and love.

I urge you to buy the book even if you followed the release in serial form. Coupled with some superb illustrations this is a story you can read over and over and still enjoy each time. I have lost count of how many times I have read this book both during its release on the website and now all together as an ebook. I grow to like Dina more as a character each time I read it. This is a great series and I am already looking forward to finding out who next checks into the Gertrude Hunt.

Review: Lost Causes by Mia Marshall


Lost Causes
Author:  Mia Marshall
Series:   Elements 4
Publisher:  Match Books, September 22, 2015
Format:  Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 354 pages
List Price:  $12.99 (print); $3.99 (Kindle eBook)
ISBN:  9780996628419 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Author

Review: Lost Causes by Mia Marshall
Aidan Brook has spent months living with the horror of what happened when she lost control of her magic. Now she’s searching for a way to manage her immense power, but she only hits one dead end after another.

On the run from a council intent on her death, Aidan, the bear shifter Mac, and the rest of her friends find themselves on a desperate chase across deserts and oceans in search of answers. Along the way, they encounter a living myth and a dual magic with secrets of his own—and they learn that the cure may be more deadly than the disease.

To save her own life, Aidan will need to confront the most dangerous foe she’s ever faced…herself.


Melanie's Thoughts

Lost Causes picks up almost immediately after the shocking events at the end of Turning Tides where Aiden loses control of her dual magics and kills someone.....a bad someone but she kills nonetheless. Along with her friends she is now on the run from the council in search of another dual who can help her learn to control her growing powers and stop her from going crazy.

I struggle to adequately describe how Marshall has structured the plot of Lost Causes. It starts out fairly linear with Aiden's race across the country to find another dual magic user all while being chased by the council. When she actually finds another dual she learns that the cure to stopping her magics from ripping her mind apart could actually kill her. At this point the story veers off into a slightly different direction. It is at this juncture where we learn about the 'first power' the beings that created the elementals and the shifters. This plotline continues for several more chapters when the switch gets flipped again and the plot returns to the council's pursuit of Aiden. Marshall does keep a frenetic pace to the story but not at the expense of character development, well the development of Aiden and Sera. There is an interesting plot twist in store for Sera that I didn't really see coming and therefore, enjoyed all the more. I thought that Marshall could have spent a bit more time with some of the other characters but she has developed them as a cohesive group of supporting characters that help to advance the plot. I think that Marshall also takes pity on us and resolves the 'will they/won't they' between Aiden and her bear shifter boyfriend Mac.

Lost Causes is a very enjoyable read. I slipped right back into the story as if I had just finished book 3 minutes before. It is also a very quick read despite all the action and adventure that takes place. Marshall does seem to wrap the plot arc up with a bow at the end, but there is one more book in the series to go. I am interested to see what Marshall has in store for these characters in the fifth and final novel in the Elements series.



Previously

Broken Elements
Elements 1
Match Books, February 26, 2013
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 338 pages

Review: Lost Causes by Mia Marshall
Magic, murder, and mayhem on the shores of Lake Tahoe.

For Aidan Brook, manipulating the power of water is as easy as breathing—until the awful night her magic fails, with deadly consequences.

Though Aidan tries to outrun her past, the grisly murder of an old friend draws her back to the scene of her crimes. In Lake Tahoe, she only finds more trouble. An estranged best friend, a dangerously attractive landlord, and a couple of FBI agents are determined to complicate her life…and for the first time in years, she doesn’t mind a few complications.

As the killer grows increasingly fixated on Aidan, her past and present begin to collide. To defeat the killer, she must learn to control her power—before her broken magic fails her for the final time.

BROKEN ELEMENTS is the first book in the award-winning Elements urban fantasy series.



Shifting Selves
Elements 2
Match Books, April 15, 2013
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 351 pages

Review: Lost Causes by Mia Marshall
Aidan Brook’s world was shattered when she uncovered long-buried secrets about her past. Secrets that could cost her sanity—or even her life.

Now, she craves peace and quiet, but that’s not an option when local children start vanishing. Soon, Aidan is drawn deep into the shifter world…a place where elementals like herself are decidedly unwelcome. To track the missing children, these longtime enemies must work together without too many claw marks or too much fur flying. Throw in a stalled romance with an enigmatic shifter, and Aidan’s life is anything but peaceful.

As Aidan and her friends zero in on the kidnapper, they discover Aidan isn’t the only one with secrets—or the only one who will stop at nothing to keep those secrets hidden…

SHIFTING SELVES won the RT Award for best indie urban fantasy!



Turning Tides
Elements 3
Match Books, May 6, 2014
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 344 pages

Review: Lost Causes by Mia Marshall
Aidan Brook committed one too many magical crimes. Now, the water council insists she answer for them. Before they can deliver a verdict that will change her life, one of theirs is gruesomely murdered—and Aidan’s best friend is accused of the crime.

Before the body cools, Aidan is racing against the clock to prove Sera’s innocence. To make matters worse, her favorite bear shifter is struggling with the dangerous bond they now share. Aidan will do whatever it takes to save her friends…but the cost may be higher than she can pay.

A little murder, a little magic, and family and friends to help her through it all. On the outside, it looks like a typical Aidan Brook day, but she’s about to discover, when the tides start to turn, even a water elemental can’t control what happens next.

Review: The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young


The Gates of Evangeline
Author:  Hester Young
Series:  Charlie Cates 1
Publisher:  G.P. Putnam's Sons, September 1, 2015
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages
List Price:  $25.85 (print); $12.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780399174001 (print);  9780698190771 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young
From a unique new talent comes a fast-paced debut, introducing a heroine whose dark visions bring to light secrets that will heal or destroy those around her . . .

When New York journalist and recently bereaved mother Charlotte “Charlie” Cates begins to experience vivid dreams about children she’s sure that she’s lost her mind. Yet these are not the nightmares of a grieving parent, she soon realizes. They are messages and warnings that will help Charlie and the children she sees, if only she can make sense of them.

After a little boy in a boat appears in Charlie’s dreams asking for her help, Charlie finds herself entangled in a thirty-year-old missing-child case that has never ceased to haunt Louisiana’s prestigious Deveau family. Armed with an invitation to Evangeline, the family’s sprawling estate, Charlie heads south, where new friendships and an unlikely romance bring healing. But as she uncovers long-buried secrets of love, money, betrayal, and murder, the facts begin to implicate those she most wants to trust—and her visions reveal an evil closer than she could’ve imagined.A Southern Gothic mystery debut that combines literary suspense and romance with a mystical twist, THE GATES OF EVANGELINE is a story that readers of Gillian Flynn, Kate Atkinson, and Alice Sebold won’t be able to put down.



Melanie's Thoughts

Charlie is lost in the pain of her son's tragic death and just when she starts to work up to carrying on with life she is plagued by dreams of young injured or dead children. It is not until she realises that the dreams are not just any ordinary dream but cryptic cries for help. In one dream a young boy asks for Charlie's help to save him from someone truly evil and she realises can't stay idly by. When a new jobs opens up the opportunity to investigate the decades old disappearance of a young boy Charlie jumps at the chance to solve the mystery and hopefully help the young boy from her dream in the process. The journey lands Charlie not only to the lush Louisiana estate of the Deveau family but into the arms of a hunky gardener and, more important, into a morass of secrets and lies.

The Gates of Evangeline is not your average paranormal murder mystery. It is so much more. While the investigation of the disappearance of the youngest Deveau child does take centre stage there is a lot more happening here. The relationships Charlie makes while investigating helps her realise some things about herself that she may not have otherwise. It is as much a story of self discovery as it is about the disappearance and the visions. I feel the story would have the same impact even without the paranormal elements. I also liked the romance between her and Noah, the man she meets while staying at the estate.  Her relationship with Noah wasn't overly romanticized. Young writes 'normal' people who have flaws, who smoke too much, hog the covers or snore too loudly. This lent a level of credibility to the story as Charlie and Noah were written in such a way that you could easily imagine being their friend or neighbour. The Deveau family were a bit more stereotypical and perhaps a little less well developed than other characters but I was happy with that as Charlie very much held centre stage in the story.

My word of advice before sitting this book is - get your housework done, dinner made, send the kids to their friends ...whatever it takes as this is a 'can't put down' kind of book. I was inexplicably gripped from start to finish even though I had guessed all but one of the big reveals. The story and the characters grab you in until the final page. There aren't many books that I want to stay up late to read and this is one of them. Well done to Young for this excellent debut novel. I don't know how she is going to lead Charlie into further adventures and part of me wishes this was a one off as it was so good. Fingers crossed Young is able to write an equally compelling second book. I am looking forward to it already. Put The Gates of Evangeline on your 'must read' list for 2015.

Review: Cities and Thrones by Carrie Patel


Cities and Thrones
Author:  Carrie Patel
Series:  Recoletta 2
Publisher:  Angry Robot, July 7, 2015
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 448 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print); $6.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780857665539 (print); 9780857665546 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Cities and Thrones by Carrie Patel
In the fantastical, gaslit underground city of Recoletta, oligarchs from foreign states and revolutionaries from the farming communes vie for power in the wake of the city’s coup. The dark, forbidden knowledge of how the city came to be founded has been released into the world for all to read, and now someone must pay.

Inspector Liesl Malone is on her toes, trying to keep the peace, and Arnault’s spy ring is more active than ever. Has the city’s increased access to knowledge put the citizens in even more danger? Allegiances change, long-held beliefs are adjusted, and things are about to get messy.

File Under: Fantasy [ Buried Cities / Secrets & Lies / Revolutionary / Total War ]



Melanie's Thoughts

Cities and Thrones starts not long after the dramatic events of book 1  - The Buried Life which finds Jane and Freddie above ground and far away from everything they know in their former home of Recoletta. Back in Recoletta the city has not fully recovered from the overthrow of the government. Liesl finds herself still chasing thieves and conspiracies through the now broken streets of the city wondering if Sato overthrowing Ruther's corrupt government has really made life any better for the city's inhabitants. Jane and Freddie end up in Madina along with a number of other refugees from Recoletta. Unexpectedly Jane lands herself a job in the Majlis which I took to believe was something similar to a civil court. Her role is to act as a liaison with between the city and the refugees from Recoletta which by its very nature brings her in contact with leaders of the city. She tries to keep her head down and do her job but fate draws her back into the world of watching, listening and uncovering secrets. Liesl however, wants nothing to do with secrets but when Sato sends her to the surface and to the farming communities who supply Recoletta with food it becomes apparent that she can't easily avoid being drawn into more secrets and lies. Conspiracies and mysteries abound in Cities and Thrones.  Still very central to the overall plot is the Library which holds the secrets of their past and which Ruthers didn't want anyone to know and Sato overthrew a government to find out. The various plot threads all come together in an action packed and exciting end at the Library that leaves the reader on a knife edge all the way through.

Patel continues to develop an interesting and rich environment for her characters to live. From the broken tunnels of Recoletta, to the rustic farmlands, to the opulence of Madina Patel paints a landscape that colourful and austere in equal measure. Patel describes Jane's new life in Madina so well that you can easily imagine her walking through the gilded labyrinth of the Maglis, taste the hot sweet tea she pretends to enjoy and feel the brush of her head scarf across her cheek. It does however, feel that Patel spent more time writing the chapters involving Jane and Madina than she did with Liesl, either in Recoletta or in the farming communities. These chapters weren't as descriptive or as engaging as those involving Jane.

I enjoyed this book, as much as I did book 1. However, I still don't believe that Patel has developed her characters as well as she has the setting or the plotline. I commented in my review of The Buried Life that the story was weak on characterisation and I feel this is still the case with book 2. We do get to learn a bit more about Jane's parents and how she came to be a laundress in Recoletta but this almost seemed a bit of a teaser rather than making Jane a fully rounded character. I still don't feel like I know much more about Liesl than I did during the first book which I find disappointing as there could be so much more to say about her.  If I had to do a comparison of the characterisation in this novel I would describe Patel's characters like a sketch where the artist hasn't finished colouring them in yet. Almost there but not quite.

Patel does excel at creating an engaging plot. I really had to keep on my toes to keep up with the various twists and turns and political machinations that are involved in the latter chapters of the book. It was clear that Jane and Liesl are just pawns in the very long game to get access to the Library. I was on the edge of my proverbial seat during the last few chapters.  Even with the lack of well rounded characters Cities and Thrones is a great book and I am really looking forward to finding out what is inside the Library and what part Liesl and Jane play in this discovery

Review: The Immortals by Jordanna Max BrodskyInterview with J. Kathleen Cheney and Review of Dreaming DeathReview: The Rogue Retrieval by Dan KoboltMelanie's Favourite books of 2015Review: The Death of Dulgath by Michael J. SullivanReview: Sweep in Peace by Ilona AndrewsReview: Lost Causes by Mia MarshallReview: The Gates of Evangeline by Hester YoungGuest Blog by Linda Poitevin - The End of a Series - and GiveawayReview: Cities and Thrones by Carrie Patel

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