Tag Archives: sidhe

Review of Queen of Nowhere – Book 5 of the Hidden Empire series by Jaine Fenn

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This is the fifth book in this excellent series – read my review of Principles of Angels here. So would it continue to be as gripping as the previous offerings? queenofnowhere

The Sidhe look like us. They live amongst us. They have fearsome mental abilities and considerable physical resources at their disposal. And their biggest advantage? No one believes they exist. Almost no one. Bez is fighting a secret war against them. Always one step ahead, never lingering in one place, she’s determined to bring them down. But she can’t expose the Hidden Empire alone and when her only ally fails her she must accept help from an unexpected quarter. Just one misstep, one incorrect assumption, and her Sidhe trap – her life’s work – could end in disaster. Worse, if Bez fails then humanity will be lost to the manipulative and deadly Sidhe…

As is apparent from the back cover blurb, this book veers away from the regular protagonists we have been following to date. Instead, solitary data-hacker genius Bez takes centre stage. I really enjoyed her spiky, paranoid personality as she tries to stay one step ahead from the authorities while fighting the Hidden Empire. Fenn pitches us right into the middle of the action from the beginning of the book, with the tension pinging off the page. Bez is not remotely cosy or particularly approachable and to make me care so much for her so quickly is a harder trick to pull off than Fenn makes it look.

That said, if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading the Hidden Empire series, then don’t be afraid to jump aboard. While there is a considerable backstory, and you would clearly benefit from reading the other four excellent books, Fenn’s writing is too slick and accomplished to leave her readers flailing around in confusion.

I also enjoyed the fact that despite the epic nature of the story, which spans a number of worlds light years apart, Fenn manages to mostly keep the focus trained on a small handful of characters, thus raising the stakes for the reader. And the stakes are high, because like a growing number of speculative fiction authors, Fenn isn’t afraid to kill off major characters. I stayed up reading far later than I’d intended to discover what happened next. And yes, there are some big surprises along the way – and not all of them are happy ones. Did I see the finale coming? No. And I’m really looking forward to seeing where this interesting series is going to go next – because, being Fenn, this could go anywhere. 8/10

Review of The Sweet Smell of Blood – Book 1 of Spellcrackers.com by Suzanne McLeod

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I’d just tossed yet another half-read book across the bedroom in a fit of disgust, when my gaze fell upon one of the freebies stacked up by my bed I’d acquired at Fantasycon – The Sweet Smell of Blood. I’d read it a while ago and recalled I thoroughly enjoyed it. I like McLeod’s writing – read my review of The Cold Kiss of Death here . And though I don’t very often revisit a book, I reckoned I was due a treat – and this time around I was going to write a review about it…

sweetsmellofbloodMy name is Genny Taylor. I work for Spellcrackers.com. It’s a great job, pays the rent, lets me do the thing I’m good at – finding magic and cracking it – and the bonus is it’s run by witches, which stops the vamps from taking a bite out of me. Not that vampires are the big bad any more, not since they launched a slick PR campaign. Now the vamps are sought-after celebrities, and Getting Fanged and taking the Gift are the new height of all things cool. But only if you’re human. And I’m not… I’m Sidhe fae. And I know first hand just how deadly a vampire can be.

McLeod doesn’t hang about with this first book in the series. We’re straight into the world with plenty going on and Genny’s smart, enjoyable first person narrative giving us a ringside seat. In addition to our feisty heroine, there is also a cast of vibrant characters accompanying her on this roller-coaster adventure. Small wonder that Spellcracker.com became such a successful series – in my opinion, it is right up there with Charlaine Harris and her Southern Vampire series at its best.

One of the aspects I really enjoyed with this book is the way Genny’s traumatic past is woven into the fast-paced action going on, so that the aftermath and consequences bite her – physically and metaphorically – just when she least needs it. Which is a nifty trick to pull off, particularly at the start of a long-running series. I also want to congratulate Gollancz for their really strong covers – using the same girl to feature in them, who is a red-head as flagged in the text… After some of the mismatches I’ve seen in the past, it is a real pleasure to see such coherence across the series…

There are plot twists a-plenty and while I recalled quite a lot about Genny and her circumstances, the details of the actual plot had faded sufficiently that I could enjoy it all over again. Standout characters that had lodged in my memory were the enticing satyr Finn and the lovably dependable Hugh. I enjoyed the tensions set up between the supernatural races – as well as being plausible, they promise continued and intriguing lines of conflict. Vampires find fae blood irresistible and fae are far harder to kill than humans… While it isn’t necessarily completely original, McLeod’s punchy prose gives the story a freshness and readability that was pure pleasure after a couple of the recent sorry efforts I’d attempted to wade through.

If your weakness is urban fantasy, complete with an engaging, complex protagonist, suave dangerous vampires and a number of enjoyable fae, including the satyr, then track down this first book. The real bonus is that it is the first one in the series – and there are three others, with the fifth book, The Hidden Rune of Iron, due out during this month. Enjoy!
9/10