I have enjoyed the Alex Verus series, following the fortunes (or is it misfortunes) of hapless divination mage Alex Verus – see my reviews of Fated (Book 1),Veiled(Book 6), Burned (Book 7), Bound(Book 8). So I was pleased to catch up with Fallen as I’m trying to make an effort to continue onwards with series I’ve enjoyed.
BLURB: Once Alex Verus was a diviner trying to live quietly under the radar. Now he’s a member of the Light Council who’s found success, friends…and love. But it’s come with a price–the Council is investigating him, and if they find out the truth, he’ll lose everything. Meanwhile, Alex’s old master, Richard Drakh, is waging a war against the Council, and he’s preparing a move that will bring Alex and the life mage, Anne, under his control. Caught between Richard and the Council, Alex’s time is running out. To protect those he cares for, Alex will have to become something different. Something darker…
REVIEW: Like a number of the long-running, urban fantasy adventure series I’ve been following, such as the Harry Dresden series, the overall tone has steadily got darker as the series continues. And in this one, Alex finds himself caught between a rock in a hard place. As it had been a while since I’d picked up one of these book – once again, I was struck by just what an unpleasant experience it was to find yourself with any magical ability in Jacka’s alternate world. Immediately practitioners have to choose between being Light or Dark mages – something which Alex has tried to avoid. While many of the Dark mages are just plain nasty, the Light mages are not as advertised, either. Judgemental, with draconian punishments for anyone who doesn’t see the world through the same lens, they aren’t all that much better. And Alex has made some powerful enemies on The Council.
There were a couple of incidents in the middle of this one that took the story to another level. A character who has appeared throughout the books and helped Alex a great deal suddenly was subjected to a shocking attack. It was cleverly done, because I found I was very angry at what had been done – to the extent that when Alex makes a momentous decision, I’m right alongside him, hoping this gives him sufficient power to keep himself, and those around him properly safe. That said, there are still moments of humour that I enjoyed – the little elemental he relies on for transport is amusingly unreliable at times. The pages zipped by and I found I’d reached the end with real regret there wasn’t more.
However, I’m comforted by the knowledge that I’ve more Alex Verus goodness waiting for me – I have an arc of the new release. For those of you who have also let this adventure lapse for whatever reason, I can confirm the narrative arc takes Alex in a different, challenging direction. And Jacka is a master at depicting thrilling magical battles. Highly recommended for fans of well-written urban fantasy adventures set in London. 9/10
Welcome to another helping of Covet the Covers. This week I’m featuring Elizabeth Bear’s covers. There is a mix of fantasy and science fiction series here – and I’m really excited at just how much of her canon I have yet to read, given that I’ve recently read and loved Ancestral Nightand Hammered. She is very fortunate to have had a series of fabulous covers over the years – just look at these beauties. Which are your favourites?
Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.
This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – Forged – Book 11 of the Alex Verus series – release date – 3rd December 2021
#Brit-based urban fantasy #divination mage
BLURB: To protect his friends, Mage Alex Verus has had to change–and embrace his dark side. But the life mage Anne has changed too, and made a bond with a dangerous power. She’s going after everyone she’s got a grudge against–and it’s a long list.
In the meantime, Alex has to deal with his arch-enemy, Levistus. The Council’s death squads are hunting Alex as well as Anne, and the only way for Alex to stop them is to end his long war with Levistus and the Council, by whatever means necessary. It will take everything Alex has to stay a step ahead of the Council and stop Anne from letting the world burn.
Bonus is – we don’t have long to wait for this one, as it’s released tomorrow😊. I have been catching up with this series, which I love – so I’m really pleased that this next slice of the adventure is coming up. Especially after Alex’s revamp in the last book… Anyone else got this one on their wish list?
I was absolutely delighted to be approved for this next adventure in this entertaining, original series, as I’ve grown really fond of Irene. See my reviews of The Invisible Library, The Masked City, The Secret Chapter, and my mini-review of The Lost Plot. But when a series continues over a period of time, the ongoing challenge is to make each story fresh and exciting.
BLURB: Librarian spy Irene thought her to-do list would be her undoing. She’s on missions for both the Library and a dear friend – the detective Vale. And she’s also training her new Fae apprentice, who’s more interested in the stacks than sleuthing. But now someone is trying to kidnap her and kill her friends. As Irene, Kai and Vale try to track down the would-be assassin, they uncover a plot. It’s even more insidious than usual and could threaten Irene’s headquarters, Vale’s home and the Library itself. Someone is creating links between high-chaos worlds and Vale’s world. Someone who wants Irene well out of the way – and will do anything to make this happen. When the allies’ investigation takes a wrong turn, they find themselves trapped deep underground. And while they wander among long-abandoned archives, Irene’s old enemies are closing in.
REVIEW: I really appreciated diving back into this clever portal fantasy, featuring a magical library with a cool, well trained protagonist who performs well when in danger. Given her magical ability is words of command that can change and affect the world around her, it makes Irene very powerful. But Cogman is also good at finding antagonists that are equally formidable, so that she genuinely has to struggle to prevail.
Much about this story worked really well. Having a new, Fae student who tends to be impetuous and rather rash, means that Irene has her work cut out to keep her safe. Especially as the young woman has the survival instincts of a bunny in the headlights, particularly at the beginning of the book. I enjoyed watching Catherine’s character develop and gain confidence throughout the story. I also liked seeing Kai’s relationship with his elder brother – it’s always diverting to get a bit of sibling rivalry going to upset a usually smooth team dynamic.
And the major plot twist was nicely effective – I was pleased to see the re-emergence of an old enemy who I loved to hate – and though I had an inkling about the reveal, it was gripping to see just how much it undermined Irene and her sense of self belief. This is definitely going to influence her actions in the next book, I think.
What was less successful, was the depiction of the ongoing relationship between Irene and Kai. In the past, I have very much felt the connection between them, but although we were told about it – I didn’t feel that strong emotional vibe this time around. While I’m aware this isn’t principally a romance, if the element is there and apparently they still care deeply for each other, I would have liked to have been more convinced by it. My other concern is that Epilogue… I very sincerely hope that isn’t a major misstep – only time will tell!
Having said that, you’ll see by the score that these issues weren’t major impediments to a thoroughly enjoyable read. Recommended for fans of enjoyable portal fantasy adventures and those featuring magical libraries – though whatever you do, start with The Invisible Library, or you simply won’t get the best from this engrossing series. While I obtained an arc of The Dark Archive from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 8/10
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
The week started overcast and dull, but the last couple of days has been brighter and sunnier – and doesn’t that make a difference? Himself has been on annual leave and we planned to clean, tidy and declutter. The great news is that we have made a bit of progress! The kitchen and the lounge are now looking a LOT better. Yay! My eldest grandson is now out of quarantine and returns to school this week to his Drama exam, so I am very relieved. And in this week’s links below, I have included Tim’s mix of the song ‘Let It Go’ using 103 clips from films and TV programmes, which he has also edited himself – I think he’s done a magnificent job. Do nip along and check it out…
I have now successfully disentangled my monster manuscript and have the complete first draft of Picky Eaters 2, which is now called Flame & Blame. I also have two-thirds of the next book written, entitled Trouble With Dwarves and I’ve been working on completing the plan for that one and the next book in the series, which will be entitled, A Conspiracy of Dragons. So enough to keep me happily occupied for the rest of the year and into 2021…
I have also been loving Sci Fi Month and I’m very sorry that it’s coming to an end – but I’ve picked up so many recommendations for exciting new sci fi reads. A huge thank you to thank you so much to Imyril at There’s Always Room for One More and Lisa at Dear Geek Place for all their hard work and if you are looking for more science fiction goodness in your life – here’s the link to the Master Schedule for a quick browse.
The photos this week come from a rather soggy walk along the beach with Himself, when we talked through the plans for Trouble With Dwarves. Notice the shingle and seaweed up across the sea front after a recent storm…
Last week I read:
Fallen– Book 10 of the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka Once Alex Verus was a diviner trying to live quietly under the radar. Now he’s a member of the Light Council who’s found success, friends…and love. But it’s come with a price–the Council is investigating him, and if they find out the truth, he’ll lose everything.
Meanwhile, Alex’s old master, Richard Drakh, is waging a war against the Council, and he’s preparing a move that will bring Alex and the life mage, Anne, under his control. Caught between Richard and the Council, Alex’s time is running out. To protect those he cares for, Alex will have to become something different. Something darker… I was delighted to dive back into this excellent Brit-based urban fantasy adventure, which is one of the smartest I’ve come across. Needless to say, Verus is in a bucketful of trouble and things are steadily getting worse… I’ve an arc for the next book, which I’m looking forward to, after an intriguing ending. Review to follow…
Lifelode by Jo Walton Lifelode is the Mythopoeic Award Winning novel from Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Award winning author Jo Walton. It was published in hardcover in 2009 by NESFA Press and is now available for the first time as an ebook.
At its heart, Lifelode is the story of a comfortable manor house family. The four adults of the household are happily polygamous, each fulfilling their ‘lifelode’ or life’s purpose: Ferrand is the lord of the manor, his sweetmate Taveth runs the household, his wife Chayra makes ceramics, and Taveth’s husband Ranal works the farm. Their children are a joyful bunch, running around in the sunshine days of the harvest and wondering what their own lifelodes will be.
Their lives changed with the arrival of two visitors to Applekirk: Jankin the scholar and Hanethe, Ferrand’s great grandmother and the former lord of the manor, who has been living for many generations in the East, a place where the gods walk and yeya (magic) is so powerful that those who wield it are not quite human. Walton is one of my all-time favourite authors, so I was thrilled to discover this gem that I hadn’t yet read. As ever, it’s a masterpiece… Review to follow.
The Dark Archive – Book 7 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Gogman Irene is teaching her new assistant the fundamentals of a Librarian’s job, and finding that training a young Fae is more difficult than she expected. But when they both narrowly avoid getting killed in an assassination attempt, she decides that learning by doing is the only option they have left – especially when the assassins keep coming for them, and for Irene’s other friends as well…
In order to protect themselves, Irene and her friends must do what they do best: search for information to defeat the overwhelming threat they face and identify their unseen enemy. To do that, Irene will have to delve deeper into her own history than she ever has before, face an ancient foe, and uncover secrets that will change her life and the course of the Library forever. It was a real treat to get hold of the arc of this latest offering in this engaging portal fantasy. Irene is one of my favourite protagonists – cool, clever and generally in command of the situation. I loved the major plot twist, but I’m not too sure about that Epilogue… I’m hoping it isn’t a massive misstep! Review to follow.
Frozen’s ‘Let It Go’ Sung by 103 Movies and TV Shows https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZC4et1M8T_I&feature=youtu.beAnd here is Tim’s rendition of ‘Let It Go’ – one of his recent projects… Though I teach him – I want to make it clear that I had nothing to do with this achievement. This is his own talent and hard work shining through!
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
We weren’t around last Sunday, hence my absence. It’s been a busy week. On Tuesday night we helped celebrate my grandson’s 11th birthday – I can’t quite believe it… Where has the time gone? My writing club had a Zoom get-together on Wednesday, where I read out my very lame lyrics of an imaginary 1980s pop song, and we chatted about our writing projects. And tried to recall what it was like when we used to sit around a real kitchen table, eating cake and downing mugs of tea. On Thursday, I gave a short presentation via Zoom, again, to the West Sussex Writers’ meeting on the results of the Non-Fiction Competition, which I’d been judging. It was lovely to see many familiar faces, including a number of former Creative Writing students. And on Friday, I went over to look after little Eliza while my daughter listened to a lecture on… you guessed it – Zoom! We brought the boys back here to stay overnight and took them back home yesterday.
I am loving Sci Fi Month – thank you so much to Imyril at There’s Always Room for One More and Lisa at Dear Geek Place for hosting this marvellous event. On the writing front, I’m still working on Picky Eaters 2 – though it’s turning out to be rather too long to be a quick, easy read, so I’m probably going to be splitting up Castellan’s adventures.
My photos this week are from a rather soggy garden…
Last week I read:
The Thief on the Winged Horse by Kate Mascarenhas The Kendrick family have been making world-famous dolls since the early 1800s. But their dolls aren’t coveted for the craftmanship alone. Each one has a specific emotion laid on it by its creator. A magic that can make you feel bucolic bliss or consuming paranoia at a single touch. Though founded by sisters, now only men may know the secrets of the workshop.
Persephone Kendrick longs to break tradition and learn the family craft, and when a handsome stranger arrives claiming doll-making talent and a blood tie to the Kendricks, she sees a chance to grasp all she desires. This quirky fantasy with a difference was an engrossing, enjoyable read, while the story went off in unexpected directions.
Angel Six Echo by Robert Appleton Armed with a fabled combat suit left to her by a dying warrior race, Gabby Rojas enters the deadliest standoff of the war as a rogue sniper with one goal: to keep her husband alive at all costs. Dalton is a high school teacher, not a soldier, but he’s volunteered to fight for the good of the colonies, against her advice. Gabby, on the other hand, is a black-ops prodigy who turned her back on the military years ago. The consequences of re-entering the fray alone like this, wielding the power of her extraordinary armoured suit, could tip the balance of power in the galaxy. This military sci fi adventure, featuring a super-soldier wife who goes rogue to rescue her clever, geeky husband, who ill-advisedly joins up, is an entertaining, action-packed read. I just couldn’t figure out exactly why happily married Dalton wanted to join up in the first place… Review to follow.
AUDIOBOOK The Son of Neptune – Book 2 of The Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan PERCY IS CONFUSED. When he awoke from his long sleep, he didn’t know much more than his name. His brain fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa told him he is a demigod and trained him to fight with the pen/sword in his pocket. Somehow Percy manages to make it to a camp for half-bloods, despite the fact that he has to keep killing monsters along the way. But the camp doesn’t ring any bells with him. The only thing he can recall from his past is another name: Annabeth.
HAZEL IS SUPPOSED TO BE DEAD. When she lived before, she didn’t do a very good job of it. Sure, she was an obedient daughter, even when her mother was possessed by greed. But that was the problem—when the Voice took over her mother and commanded Hazel to use her “gift” for an evil purpose, Hazel couldn’t say no. Now because of her mistake, the future of the world is at risk. Hazel wishes she could ride away from it all on the stallion that appears in her dreams.
FRANK IS A KLUTZ. His grandmother says he is descended from heroes and can be anything he wants to be, but he doesn’t see it. He doesn’t even know who his father is. He keeps hoping Apollo will claim him, because the only thing he is good at is archery—although not good enough to win camp war games. His bulky physique makes him feel like an ox, especially in front of Hazel, his closest friend at camp. He trusts her completely—enough to share the secret he holds close to his heart.
Beginning at the “other” camp for half-bloods and extending as far as the land beyond the gods, this breathtaking second installment of the Heroes of Olympus series introduces new demigods, revives fearsome monsters, and features other remarkable creatures, all destined to play a part in the Prophesy of Seven. This spinoff from the Percy Jackson series delivers the same witty, action-packed adventures that made the original series so much fun to listen to – and I’m delighted we’ve more Riordan goodness stored on my Kindle. Mini-review to follow.
I was very impressed by the quality of writing in Mascarenhas’s novel The Psychology of Time Travel – see my review. So when I saw this one and realised it was by the same author, I requested it.
BLURB: The Kendrick family have been making world-famous dolls for over 200 years. But their dolls aren’t coveted for the craftmanship alone. Each one has a specific emotion laid on it by its creator. A magic that can make you feel bucolic bliss or consuming paranoia at a single touch. Though founded by sisters, now only men may know the secrets of the workshop. Persephone Kendrick longs to break tradition and learn the family craft, and when a handsome stranger arrives claiming doll-making talent and a blood tie to the Kendricks, she sees a chance to grasp all she desires. But then, one night, the family’s most valuable doll is stolen. Only someone with knowledge of magic could have taken her. Only a Kendrick could have committed this crime…
REVIEW: This book may be fantasy, rather than science fiction, but there were a couple of aspects of the writing that I recognised in common with The Psychology of Time Travel. The main protagonists were women and they weren’t innately likeable. However, that didn’t stop me bonding with both Hazel and, in particular, Persephone. Mostly because she has had a very raw deal.
Ironically, although the founders of the Kendricks famous doll-making business were all women, these days it is the men who get to be Sorcerers and take the key roles for themselves. Persephone is convinced that she is destined to become a doll-maker – including adding the vital magical ingredient that is denied all the women now working within the business, no matter how talented they are. However, she is only permitted to work in the shop and when she isn’t, it is taken for granted by the rest of the Family that she will, somehow, keep her embittered and drunken father, Briar, in check. The gamechanger is the sudden appearance of a handsome stranger, who claims to be the long-lost descendant of the sister who was thought to have died in childbirth.
Larkin is taken on, though treated with great suspicion by the current CEO of Kendricks, and is expected to work on more mundane tasks while he proves his worth. I love the accumulation of incidents and details – until a certain event crashes across this small, close-knit community with the force of a grenade. I was thoroughly caught up by the fallout and stayed up far too late to discover what happened next – and no… Whatever else this book is, it isn’t remotely predictable.
I loved the passion and ambition exhibited by the two main female protagonists. Persephone is socially awkward – the last person you’d want to be the face of Kendricks – but she is tenacious, clever and doggedly persistent. All the characters in this intriguing, different story ping off the page with their almost Dickensian vividness. I’m going to remember this one for a very long time – an accomplished story which went in an unexpected direction and took me to a surprising ending, that nonetheless was very satisfying. Highly recommended for fans of unusual fantasy tales in a contemporary setting. While I obtained an arc of The Thief on the Winged Horse from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 9/10
This book is set in the world of The Laundry Files and is a spinoff. I love this series – see my reviews of The Fuller Memorandum and The Apocalypse Codex. So you don’t need to have read any of the former books, as the character cast is completely different – though the scenario where an ancient monster is currently in charge at No. 10 Downing Street, still applies…
BLURB: In a world where magic has gone mainstream, a policewoman and a group of petty criminals are pulled into a heist to find a forbidden book of spells that should never be opened.
A new adventure begins in the world of the Laundry Files.
REVIEW: I’d wanted to get right up to date with The Laundry Files series, thinking that this book was also set within that world and that I’d need to know what was going on. In the event I didn’t – but that meant I read two of Stross’ books back to back, which is something I generally avoid doing.
Therefore, I found it a tad difficult to initially get into this one – the world is a bit bleak and grungy and the protagonists, although sympathetic and well written, were clearly very much the underdogs. While there was humour, it came from the snark between the Imp’s ragtag band of misfits – which I didn’t initially find as appealing as Bob Howard’s magnificently dry delivery. However, they did grow on me and as the first major action scene unspooled, there were some very funny moments in amongst all the tension and danger, which I thoroughly appreciated.
Eve is a difficult character to initially bond with – she is an assistant to one of most truly horrible antagonists I’ve met for quite a while. And therefore, has to also become unpleasant – so I didn’t appreciate how much of a victim she actually was until well into the book. There was a particular bonding moment when I had a lump in my throat when reading about a scene with her parents – it was beautifully handled.
In amongst Rupert Bigge’s scramble to the top and Imp and his little gang trying to eke a living while illegally squatting in what used to be his old family home – there are also some lovely touches of magic. The time-travelling scenes back to Whitechapel Road, back in the Victorian era were genuinely creepy and vividly depicted. I loved the way the narrative played out and very much hope we get to see more of Imp, Game Boy, Del, Doc and Wendy – and of course, Eve – in future adventures. This is a cracking start to a new series that is set in contemporary Britain, where the monsters are in charge…
Highly recommended for SFF fans, who enjoy their urban fantasy with a sardonic twist and something a bit different. You don’t need to read The Laundry Files to enjoy this one. While I obtained an arc of Dead Lies Dreaming via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 9/10
BLURB: Bastard’s Eve is a night of celebration for most residents in the canal city of Lodi — but not for sorcerer Learned Penric and his Temple demon Desdemona, who find themselves caught up in the affairs of a shiplost madman, a dangerous ascendant demon, and a very unexpected saint of the fifth god.
This novella falls between “Penric’s Fox” and “Penric’s Mission” in the internal chronology of the Penric & Desdemona tales.
REVIEW: As ever, Penric is an enjoyable protagonist. It was interesting to go back to a time when he isn’t so self assured and mature in his judgements. Bujold has a habit of dotting around, so the publishing chronology isn’t the same as the internal chronology. But while it’s worth knowing, so that the characterisation is consistent, other than that, I don’t find it too much of a problem.
Bujold is an experienced author, with a smooth, readable style and while I did enjoy this one, I was aware that there wasn’t quite the same depth of plotting, this time around. We get told that Penric is reeling from some personal losses, but I would have preferred to have had this demonstrated.
I also felt that the pacing was slightly off – the main part of the plot didn’t feel quite substantial enough to sustain the story for its length. It didn’t help that I guessed early who the culprit was – and this time around I was right. It didn’t mean that the adventure dragged – Bujold is too good a writer to let that happen, but it wasn’t as intense and fulfilling a read as usual. Which means that it was good, rather than outstanding. I’ll take that. Writers who can work at Bujold’s level consistently are rare – and an 8 is perfectly respectable.
I’ve been reading for far too long to be arrogant enough to ‘expect’ a 10 every time from any author. Because, let’s face it, a 10 is a gift of a reading experience. Something magical and mind-altering. And the day I start ‘expecting’ that is probably the day that I’ll give up reading, as I will have become far too jaded and entitled.
Recommended for fans of the series – but if you have just picked this one up, I do recommend that you go back to the beginning and start from there. Though if you do, I suggest you follow Bujold’s internal chronology, rather than the publishing one. 8/10
Lies Sleeping – Book 7 of the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch This is another of those series that I have let slip through my fingers – but I was reminded of how enjoyable I found it and decided to catch up. Here are my reviews of previous books in the series – Rivers of London, Whispers Underground, Foxglove Summer and The Hanging Tree.
BLURB: Martin Chorley, aka the Faceless Man, wanted for multiple counts of murder, fraud, and crimes against humanity, has been unmasked and is on the run. Peter Grant, Detective Constable and apprentice wizard, now plays a key role in an unprecedented joint operation to bring Chorley to justice.
But even as the unwieldy might of the Metropolitan Police bears down on its foe, Peter uncovers clues that Chorley, far from being finished, is executing the final stages of a long term plan. A plan that has its roots in London’s two thousand bloody years of history, and could literally bring the city to its knees.
REVIEW: It was great fun to get up to speed with this entertaining series, particularly listening to the fabulous rendition of Peter Grant and all his adventures by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith’s narration. It absolutely nailed Peter’s character and I loved the blend of action, humour and quirky mix of myth and contemporary cool this series offers. There was plenty going on and I’m looking forward to getting hold of the next book in the series after the bombshell that Peter was presented with at the end of this adventure…
BLURB: Bob Howard’s career in the Laundry, the secret British government agency dedicated to protecting the world from the supernatural, has involved brilliant hacking, ancient magic and combat with creatures of pure evil.
Now the Laundry’s existence has become public, and Bob is being trotted out on TV to answer pointed questions about elven asylum seekers. What neither Bob nor his managers have foreseen is that their organisation has earned the attention of a horror far more terrifying than any demon: a government looking for public services to privatise. There are things in the Laundry’s assets that big business would simply love to get its hands on….
REVIEW:Jack Hawkins does a brilliant job of narrating this one, capturing Bob’s world-weary tone with the flashes of dark humour extremely well, as well as producing a pleasing range of different voices for the other characters. I’d forgotten just how engrossing and dark the overall storyline was – as well as just how exhausted and battle-weary the main protagonists are becoming.