Tag Archives: werewolves

Review of KINDLE Ebook Clean Sweep – Book 1 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews

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Himself had picked up this one up as a Recommended Read and loaded it up on our Kindles – and after reading it, enthusiastically suggested I also read it. And I generally listen to Himself on the subject of books…

cleansweepOn the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast. But Dina is…different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, “normal” is a bit of a stretch for Dina. And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night… Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved.

Dina is a thoroughly engaging protagonist. Impulsive, brave and with an over-developed sense of responsibility, she immediately plunges into this adventure when she feels the caretaker of this territory is not doing enough. I really enjoyed her character, particularly as she also has a vulnerability that pulled me further onto her side. She has lost her parents, who disappeared from their thriving Inn and though she has spent years trying to track them down, all her efforts have ended in failure.

As for this particular threat – she quickly finds she has met her match and needs some help. Once again, this urban fantasy adventure delivers in giving us an interesting take on both vampires and werewolves. The science fiction twist is a delight and I liked the supporting cast – Sean, the touchy alpha werewolf and her one and only permanent guest, Caldenia, the aristocrat in hiding. There is plenty of sharp dialogue with a fair amount of humour.

Meanwhile, I cared about the main plotline – Andrews puts her young innkeeper in real jeopardy and I stayed awake reading far longer than I should have in order to discover how the final climactic battle would resolve itself. For fans of urban fantasy, this is a well written, enjoyable take on the genre with some refreshing touches. No wonder Himself recommended it – I do, too.
9/10

Sunday Post – 26th February 2017

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Sunday Post

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

It’s been my turn to have a week off, as it’s half term. That said, I’ve been hard at it – last week I suddenly had a breakthrough with how to move forward with Miranda’s Tempest so this week I’ve cracked on with the rewrite and finally completed it Friday afternoon. The relief is staggering – I’d begun to think this was the one that would defeat me… I still have to go through it a couple more times to tidy up the prose and catch those stray pronouns – I’ve changed the viewpoint from first person to third – but hopefully I’ll have it in a readable state before Easter.

Other than that – I’ve read. A lot. It’s amazing just how much more mental energy I have when I’m not teaching or trudging through the inevitable pile of admin that comes with it. Both the Fitstep and Pilates sessions went well this week and I am still thrilled at the progress I’m making fitness-wise. Next week, back into the hurly-burly but I’m still on a high at having completed my rewrite – yay!

This week I have read:

The Mercy of the Tide by Keith Rosson
Riptide, Oregon, 1983. A sleepy coastal town, where crime usually consists of underage drinking down atthemercyofthetide a Wolf Point bonfire. But then strange things start happening—a human skeleton is unearthed in a local park and mutilated animals begin appearing, seemingly sacrificed, on the town’s beaches. The Mercy of the Tide follows four people drawn irrevocably together by a recent tragedy as they do their best to reclaim their lives—leading them all to a discovery that will change them and their town forever.

This book is definitely on the literary end of the speculative fiction spectrum, with a nod to alternative history and magic realism. It is a study of loss and grief. A car crash months before the story starts has killed two women and not only does their death massively impact the main protagonists in the story – it also appears to set off a chain of events that have recurred on this site before.

 

Demon Hunting in Dixie – Book 1 of the Demon Hunting in Dixie series by Lexi George
demonhuntingindixieAddy Corwin is a florist with an attitude. A bad attitude, or so her mama says, ’cause she’s not looking for a man. Mama’s wrong. Addy has looked. There’s just not much to choose from in Hannah, her small Alabama hometown. Until Brand Dalvahni shows up, a supernaturally sexy, breathtakingly well-built hunk of a warrior from – well, not from around here, that’s for sure. Mama thinks he might be European or maybe even a Yankee. Brand says he’s from another dimension. Addy couldn’t care less where he’s from. He’s gorgeous. Serious muscles. Disturbing green eyes. Brand really gets her going. Too bad he’s a whack job. Says he’s come to rescue her from a demon. Puh-lease. But right after Brand shows up, strange things start to happen. Dogs talk and reanimated corpses stalk the quiet streets of Hannah.

This is not my normal fare – I freely admit it. But this was just plain fun. While the insta-love was more about insta-lust, I was prepared to go with the flow as Addy is just so much fun. I enjoyed the fact that she was still concerned about what the neighbours thought and was very mindful of her mother’s opinion even after all the life-changing adventures.

 

Clean Sweep – Book 1 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in cleansweepa small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast. But Dina is…different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, “normal” is a bit of a stretch for Dina. And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night… Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved.

Dina is a thoroughly engaging protagonist. Impulsive, brave and with an over-developed sense of responsibility, she immediately plunges into this adventure when she feels the caretaker of this territory is not doing enough. I really enjoyed her character, particularly as she also has a vulnerability that pulled me further onto her side.

 

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
allthebirdsintheskyPatricia Delfine talks to trees and birds in the hope they will answer back, as they did one amazing day when she was little… Laurence Armstead invents a two-second time machine in his bedroom. Unsurprisingly, they are both targets for the bullies at school who make their lives hell. So under duress, they become unlikely friends. A friendship that is tested and often found wanting as their lives both spin off in amazing directions…

What I won’t be doing is telling you that this is a fantasy or science fiction book, because it’s a little bit of both. After all, one of the major protagonists is a nerdy scientist and the other is a witch. And what Anders is doing throughout this highly readable, roller-coaster adventure is exploring the space between the magical, natural world and the high-tech, scientific community.

 

Very Important Corpses – Book 3 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green
The Organisation has despatched Ishmael and his partner Penny to Coronach House on the shores of veryimportantcorpsesLoch Ness where the secretive but highly influential Baphamet Group are holding their annual meeting. The Organisation believes an imposter has infiltrated the Group and they have instructed Ishmael to root him or her out. It s not Ishmael s only mission. The first agent sent by the Organisation has been found dead in her room, murdered in a horribly gruesome manner. Ishmael must also discover who killed his fellow agent, Jennifer Rifkin and why. Dismissive of rumours that the legendary Coronach Creature is behind Jennifer s death, Ishmael sets out to expose the human killer in their midst. But he must act fast before any more Very Important People are killed.

I’ve done my usual trick of dropping into the middle of a series, but while I was aware there was something of a backstory that I didn’t know, most of the action and focus was on the current situation so it wasn’t an issue. Ishamael is certainly an intriguing figure. Endowed with superhuman powers, he is used to dealing with the nasties coming from other dimensions.

 

The Demonic Arctic Expedition – Book 4 of the Skycastle series by Andy Mulberry
thedemonicarcticexpeditionFast-paced, action-packed and funny, perfect for reluctant readers. The Demonic Arctic Expedition is the fourth in a series of MIDDLE GRADE books for fantasy-adventure loving readers. This book contains a scowling demon, an ancient weapon, an adorable Hound of Hell, a sort of angel, a dragon, an ordinary boy and an extraordinary castle. And a not so cuddly polar bear…

Yes… the plot is every bit as surreal and whacky as it sounds. There is also an enchanted sword and a dragon, who spends most of the time coating the dungeon in dragon snot as he has a cold, which he has given to the guardian angel… Mulberry has a trick of pulling in all sorts of classic characters and themes from fantasy and subverting them in her Skycastle adventures. Great fun!

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 19th February 2017

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – The Mercy of the Tide by Keith Rosson

Teaser Tuesday featuring Clean Sweep – Book 1 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling my TBR

Review of The Vanishing Throne – Book 2 of The Falconer series by Elizabeth May

Friday Face-off – Little Green Men… featuring The Tar-Aiym Krang – Book 1 of the Pip and Flinx series by Alan Dean Foster

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of The Demonic Arctic Expedition – Book 4 of the Skycastle series by Andy Mulberry

 

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Point of View Blows Up in My Face (or the end of the “Normal’s Menace” experiment)
https://jeanleesworld.com/2017/02/23/point-of-view-blows-up-in-my-face-or-the-end-of-the-normals-menace-experiment/ Jean’s blog is always worth a visit – she is a passionate, talented and searingly honest writer, but this experiment in writing viewpoint is a MUST for anyone who struggles with it.

10 of the Best Poems about Dreams and Dreaming https://interestingliterature.com/2017/02/24/10-of-the-best-poems-about-dreams-and-dreaming/ I love this site – and once more it delivers a series of excellent poems about this mysterious thing we all do…

Space Features of the Week http://earthianhivemind.net/2017/02/23/space-features-week-23-february/ Once more Steph delivers an excellent roundup about what’s going on in space. And plenty is…

Photolicioux – untitled https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2017/02/20/untitled-98/ It may be untitled but I’ll guarantee it’s burn out your visual cortex if you focus on it for too long.

Using Speech-To-Text Software as an Editing Tool http://writershelpingwriters.net/2017/02/using-text-to-speech-software-as-an-editing-tool/ The marvellous Sara Letourneau has set out very clearly in this excellent article how to save your voice and your sanity by getting your computer to read back your work to you during the editing phase.

Thank you for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Favourite Fantasy Worlds – Part 2

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I posted my first five Favourite Fantasy Worlds a few weeks ago, so here are the next group. All of these worlds are well developed, nicely complex and provide satisfying backdrops for the stories. It’s no accident they are all series. One of the reasons I really enjoy multi-book story arcs is the extra layers of detail that can be built into the worldbuilding.

The Glass Thorns series by Melanie Rawn
This original, remarkable series is set in the equivalent age of the Tudors, with horse-drawn conveyances Touchstoneand charts the fortunes of a magical travelling theatre company. In the first book, Touchstone, they form their group and the next three books in the series records their highs and lows as they steadily get more prosperous and successful. Though that brings its own pressures. The glass thorns of the series title, are the drugs the actors dose themselves with, in order to heighten their emotions – or help them relax after the excitement of performance. I eagerly await each book and so far, have not been disappointed at the unfolding drama of these enormously talented, difficult people battling to produce their best work in less than ideal circumstances.

The Worlds of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones
This series of books covers the adventures of the state-appointed enchanter Chrestomanci, who is taskedCharmedLife with keeping law and order amongst the magical community. I have read most of these books to my granddaughter, after having devoured them myself several decades ago – my favourite is Charmed Life. And rereading them aloud has not only proved they can stand the test of time, but increased my respect at the quality of the writing, the crafting of the story arcs and the sheer quirky genius of Jones’ imagination. Yes – I know they are supposed to be for children, but give them a go if you appreciate magical mayhem. They are a joy for any age group.

The Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong
nohumansinvolvedThis world is extensively portrayed in the thirteen-book series, with a number of accompanying novellas and short stories. It all kicks off with Bitten, where werewolf Clay accidentally bites his girlfriend – and her life is never the same again. But don’t go away with the idea that the series is all about werewolves – it also encompasses witches, necromancers and vampires. In short, anyone who dabbles with the paranormal or magic. Read my review of No Humans Involved. The world is enjoyable – I love the way Armstrong manages to slide from everyday normality into something else.

Einarinn by Juliet E. McKenna
Again, this extensive, detailed world has been produced over a long period of time through several series dangerous watersof books – there are five books within The Tales of Einarinn; four books in The Aldabreshin Compass; three books and a novella in The Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution and her latest trilogy, still set within the same world – The Hadrumal Crisis. Juliet provides an excellent explanation of her world on her blog. They are all great reads – but my personal favourites are The Aldabreshin Compass series and The Hadrumal Crisis – see my review of Dangerous Waters.

The Inheritance trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
thehundredthousandkingdomsThis is an extraordinary series – particularly the first book, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms which is set in the city Sky where gods and mortal co-exist. See my review here. The book is pervaded by the sense of threat and a feeling that a set of rules apply here that our protagonist needs to know, but doesn’t fully understand. The second book, The Broken Kingdoms had me in tears at the end – and that doesn’t happen all that often, these days. If you like remarkable fantasy on an epic scale focusing on gods, then give it a go.

And there you have it… a few of my favourite fantasy worlds to date. What are your favourite fantastic worlds?

Review of *NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Kindle EBOOK of Fire Touched Book 9 of the Mercy Thompson series

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Himself is a solid fan of this series and had pre-ordered this book, though I had slightly lost touch with this supernatural urban fantasy adventure since the early days – see my review of Blood Bound here. Has this long-running series run out of steam?

firetouchedTensions between the fae and humans are coming to a head. And when coyote shapeshifter Mercy and her Alpha werewolf mate, Adam, are called upon to stop a rampaging troll, they find themselves with something that could be used to make the fae back down and forestall out-and-out war: a human child stolen long ago by the fae. Defying the most powerful werewolf in the country, the humans and the fae, Mercy, Adam and their pack choose to protect the boy no matter what the cost. But who will protect them from a boy who is fire touched?

The story hits the ground running and whisked me straight back into Mercy’s world with a deftness that always wins me over. Though this time around, she is happily married to Adam – a huge improvement on the romantic shilly-shallying that was going on in the earlier books. Depicting a solidly happy marriage in a long-running series is trickier than it might seem, but I reckon Briggs has nailed this one. I like the strong bond between them that didn’t descend into unrealistic treacle. Not that they have all that much time to stare meaningfully into each others’ eyes…

It all kicks off very fast and the threat continues to ramp up, as Mercy’s impulsive drive to protect a frightened refugee leaves the pack very exposed and Adam with some hard choices. It goes without saying that there are a whole cast of strong, enjoyable characters who also feature in the mayhem. My two favourites are Zee, the grumpy Fae smith with a galaxy-sized chip on his shoulder and Baba Yaga – Briggs’ version of this famous Russian witch is enjoyable.

As well as providing entertaining characters, Briggs excels at unspooling the action. She understands that in order for the big, crashing climaxes to really work, we also need quieter moments to reflect exactly what is going and just how high the stakes are being raised. And scenes that tip into farce can also provide much-needed light relief. I really enjoyed these.

I had expected to be whisked away into the another of mischief and mayhem – it’s why I’m a fan of speculative fiction – what I hadn’t anticipated from the ninth book in the series, was the same chirpy insouciance that was apparent in the earlier novels. It is a given that as a series progress, the initial light-heartedness inevitably fades away as the stakes are gradually raised ever higher. But episodes like the rescue of Sherwood Post from the top of a crane and the spatula smack in the kitchen made me grin and kept all the life and death stuff from getting too heavy.

That said, was the final denouement sufficiently satisfying? Oh yes. There were still a few twists to keep it exciting and plenty of drama, while I have a hunch that Mercy and the pack will be dealing with some of the fallout from this business in the future. In short, this was a blast. If you like urban fantasy with a feisty heroine and werewolf action, then it doesn’t get better than this.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of the KINDLE Ebook Driven – An Otherworld Stories novella by Kelley Armstrong

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With this very popular werewolf series finally completed, Armstrong has been persuaded to offer those of us suffering from Clay and Elena withdrawal symptoms this novella to ease the pain…

DrivenCains are known for being big, brutish and not-too-bright. The mutt clan embodies all the supernatural world’s worst stereotypes about werewolves. But when young Davis Cain comes to the Pack for help, Alpha Elena Michaels can’t refuse him. However, Elena is also dealing with the Pack’s homegrown monster—Malcolm Danvers, onetime enforcer, full-time psycho, who suddenly appears and forces Elena to make one of the hardest decisions as Alpha. Will he be allowed back into the Pack, or has his past cruelty finally caught up with him?

That is an edited version of the rather chatty blurb in one of a series of novellas and short stories that Armstrong has written between the main novels of the series, designed for fans who want to see the character progression and some of the backstory that doesn’t make it into the main books. While I’m not a huge fan of short stories and short novellas, preferring the longer story arc and deeper characterisation that comes with novels, in this case, with 232 pages, I didn’t find it a problem. An important consideration is that I already know the main characters so well already, that some of the time normally taken to bond with protagonists and learn their strengths and weaknesses is not necessary. And I will stress, again, that Driven is designed for fans of the Otherworld series and not for readers who haven’t yet encountered any of the novels.

Himself ordered the Kindle ebook on its release in December, but the print copy that has only just been released comes with a series of illustrations which look fabulous. So… does the story deliver the goods? Oh yes – I loved this slice of Otherworld goodness. This is Armstrong back to her best, featuring Elena and Clay, the couple that – along with Paige – were always my favourites, anyway. And while this wrinkle isn’t wildly original, I like the way we see progression within the characters we have watched suffer through a thicket of adventures – and the emergence of a major antagonist who loomed over the series in his absence through exploring the damage he’d already inflicted on a number of protagonists.

All in all, this is a slick, enjoyable read and if you are a fan who’d appreciate revisiting the The Pack, then it is recommended. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure and you enjoy urban fantasy at its pacy best in a wide-ranging series whose popularity is well deserved – then track down Bitten, the first book in the series.
8/10

Review of Frostbitten – Book 10 of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong

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Himself has discovered that Armstrong had been busy completing this entertaining series, so decided to track down the books we hadn’t yet read. Starting with Bitten, this urban fantasy series charted the stories of various female protagonists in Armstrong’s supernatural world. And Frostbitten returns to Elena, who featured in Bitten, with this next slice of her adventure.

frostbittenAfter years of struggle, Elena Michaels has finally accepted her life as a werewolf, and learned how to control her wild side. At least, that’s what she believes when she sets off to investigate a series of gruesome murders outside Anchorage. The truth, however, is more complicated. Trapped in a frozen, unforgiving terrain, Elena is forced to confront a deadly secret, and her own untamed nature…

Hm. I’m not overly impressed with this blurb – it makes this book sound like Elena spends a chunk of the narrative agonising over the nature of her own supernatural status… how she is going to cope… what will happen next… While all those issues are present, they are niftily interleaved amongst the full-on action that kicks off right at the start of the book and don’t stop until the final page.

One of the things that impresses me about Armstrong is how much these books vary in tone, depending on who the protagonist is. In No Humans Involved – see my review here – the tension builds slowly and steadily throughout as Jamie battles to work out exactly what is going on. In Personal Demon – see my review here – Hope and Lucas are trying to work out who is responsible for the trail of mayhem, so my attention was held by their unravelling the puzzle. Whereas in Frostbitten, we get to know fairly quickly exactly who is responsible for the murders – the tension comes in whether Elena and Clay can prevail against the mutts. And what Elena is going to decide to do regarding the future of their Pack…

I really enjoyed this update on a character I loved in previous books, and I think Armstrong has achieved a difficult trick – to show a character’s maturation and greater sense of responsibility without her losing her edge. Which is a great deal harder than she makes it look. It was also enjoyable to take Elena right out of her comfort zone and deposit her in a different part of the country – Armstrong has been smart in this long-running series to swing the action around in a variety of different settings, which has also helped to retain the freshness and excitement of each story. I also very much like how she has portrayed the relationship between Elena and Clay, now they are settled with a family.

She tackles a difficult subject – and one I’ve become increasingly intolerant as a plot device – Elena’s feelings when cornered by a rapist. While I’m not going to divulge how she fares – that strays into spoiler territory – I was gratified to see that even though as a werewolf, she is fitter and stronger than the average woman, she was absolutely terrified, and made no bones about it. Quite right, too.

Any woman who has been in that situation knows it is an utterly horrible experience and I get very fed up when writers serve it up as just one more assault. And when the heroine bounces back, right as a trivet so that by the end of the novel, she quite happy to resume her sexual relationship with her boyfriend – the book goes flying across the room, along with a barrage of language I won’t be repeating here. Armstrong has her strong, capable heroine very afraid to the extent that she finds it difficult to function – in other words, she feels like the rest of us when confronted with such a threat.

So, does the story come to a successful conclusion? Oh yes – I was delighted with this slice of werewolf edginess and am eagerly looking forward to reading the next in the series.
9/10

Review of Indie KINDLE EBOOK Xoe: or Vampires, and Werewolves, and Demons, Oh My! – Book 1 of the Xoe Meyers series by Sara C. Roethle

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Sara is a smart, funny writer I’ve met through my blog. So I downloaded and read the first book in her YA fantasy series.

Xoe Meyers had a normal life. So she was stuck going to high school, and she only had a few friends to call her own. She liked her normal life. Things were about to change though, because there’s a new guy in her small town, and he is anything but normal. Before Xoe can say, “Werewolf,” her best friend’s life is in peril, and Xoe’s world is turned upside-down. Then, of course, there’s Jason. Xoe doesn’t trust him as far as she can throw him, and given that he’s a vampire, she’d have to be able to catch him first.

XoeThe chirpy tone of the blurb accurately reflects Xoe’s attitude. This isn’t some angst-ridden cry from the heart set in amongst an uncaring dystopian world. In fact, her daily routine is very familiar – right down to the long-suffering tone Xoe adopts when discussing her classes. Roethle manages to exactly capture the teen voice, with perhaps a slightly less self-absorbed spin on events. But the first slice of the book effectively establishes Xoe and her friends’ daily lives – until it all changes.

I was perfectly willing to suspend my belief regarding that change and go with the flow. Roethle’s lively style sets a cracking pace that doesn’t hang around, as the story then gains extra momentum once everything lurches into the paranormal spectrum. However, this story isn’t about some isolated loner mooching around looking exotically different… Xoe has several close buddies and like many teens of her age, wants to hang out with them. Constantly. So when events start sliding out of control, there’s no thought of this little group coping alone – one of Xoe’s main characteristics is her strong loyalty and sense of protectiveness towards her friends. Which means that in addition to finding Xoe appealing, we need to be convinced about her friends and their relationship dynamic within the group. And it’s a lot harder to do successfully than Roethle makes it look, when the story skips along at such a rate, while ensuring readers know exactly how everyone is feeling and what they are doing. But, again, she ticks that box.

So does Roethle manage to bring this adventure to a satisfactory conclusion, yet leave us wanting more? In the first book of a series, it is always a balancing act – do you leave the story on a cliffhanger, hoping your readers will be compelled to immediately reach for the second book to discover what happens next? And I’m delighted to report that Roethle resisted the temptation to go down that route. All the major plotpoints are satisfactorily tucked up, bringing this particular slice of action to a conclusion with a real sense of pleasure – yet with the knowledge that there are a handful of outstanding issues that will need attention sometime very soon.

This is a charming, enjoyable beginning to this YA series and one that once she is a few years older, I’ll have no hesitation in introducing to my granddaughter. In the meantime, I’ll be tracking down Accidental Ashes, the second book in the series – Xoe is definitely a teen I want to meet again.
8/10

Review of Reflected – Book 3 of the Silver series by Rhiannon Held

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I really enjoyed the first two books in this series about werewolf society – read my review of Silver here and Tarnished here – would this third novel be as compelling?

reflectedThe were have lived among humans for centuries secretly, carefully. They came to America with the earliest European colonists, seeking a land where their packs could run free. Andrew Dare is a descendant of those colonists, and he and his mate, Silver, have become alpha in the Roanoke pack… the largest in North America. But they have enemies, both within their territory and beyond the sea. Andrew is drawn away to deal with the problem of a half-human child in Alaska, leaving Silver to handle the rest of the pack just as a troublemaker from Spain arrives on the scene.

So one of the main characters had initially drew us into the action is now absent for most of the narrative – would it unbalance the story? Nope. Silver has plenty in the locker to keep this reader absolutely locked into the action. I love her character – Held has given her a strong sense of difference. So instead of Silver merely being a normal woman with occasional wolf behaviour – her were side completely defines who she is and how she reacts to all situations. This is one of the most successful werewolf series I’ve read, because of that sense of difference. The other interesting wrinkle about Silver is that she is compromised – a were who can no longer change into wolf form. So how will she manage to keep control of the pack without Andrew Dare’s lethal skill in fighting and his knack for keeping order?

For that matter, how do females manage a pack when they cannot change during pregnancy? Perhaps females shouldn’t be alphas at all – there are certainly dominant males who believe this. The issue of pack order and dominance is never something you can forget in this book – because it is overriding concern of werewolves in both human and wild form.

Held manages to produce a storyline in this world with these compelling characters that had me hooked right to the end. This entertaining, accomplished read was a cut above most of the werewolf tales I’ve read and a worthy addition to an enjoyable series. If your taste runs to werewolf tales, but you have become fed up with some of the second-rate offerings out there, then track down this series. You’ll thank me if you do.
9/10

Review of Silver – Book 1 of the Silver series by Rhiannon Held

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With my customary lack of organisation, I read the second book, Tarnished earlier this year – read my review here. Immediately I silverwas struck by the strong characterisation and immediacy that Held managed to evoke with her werewolf society. This sub-genre has some strong authors who set the benchmark for newer arrivals – the likes of Kelley Armstrong, Patricia Briggs and Gail Carriger leave a long shadow. Does Rhiannon Held’s debut trilogy hit the mark?

The girl is running. She’s alone, a werewolf without a pack, a shape-changer who cannot change, an intruder in Roanoke’s territory. It’s Andrew Dare’s job to catch her, expel her, or kill her. He’s the enforcer, after all, in charge of security. But when he catches her at last, he finds someone he wants to protect, not kill. A tortured stranger who needs him… and who warns of a threat to all the packs of North America.

So there’s the blurb – Tor gets a gold star from me for a thoroughly good example of how to tease the reader without lurching into spoiler territory, other publishers please note…

Held pushes the envelope with her characters, particularly Silver. She has long conversations with Death and laments that the Lady has left her, right at the start of the book when we don’t know all that much about her. She doesn’t seem to be much more than a very damaged, mentally compromised stray from Andrew Dare’s viewpoint, either. At first…

The narrative arc is very well paced – the story grabbed me from the first page and wouldn’t let go. Even though I’d already read the second book, so had some idea of how the plotline progressed. Held kept events moving on, but still managed to give her characters time to develop so that we got to know their strengths and vulnerabilities and above, care about them. I’m a simple soul and although I can cope with protagonists who are revoltingly repellent, given the choice, I’d far rather read about someone who I have bonded with emotionally. Held gave me two strong, reasonably complex characters – one with an interestingly dark backstory that was revealed only in hints and allusions. I enjoyed the fact that Held didn’t see the need to tell her readers everything about the world or her characters right at the start of the story – or even at the end. This is the beginning of a trilogy, after all.

If you are feeling a tad jaded at the plethora of werewolf tales, give this particular series a go – it is different and thoroughly enjoyable. You may even find yourself reading the whole book in one greedy gulp, like me…
9/10

Review of The Silvered by Tanya Huff

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We had only recently finished reading The Enchantment Emporium – see my review here – when Himself tracked down this epic fantasy offering from Huff. He spent a couple of days completely engrossed and then recommended I read it at once…

The ancient mountain kingdom of Aydori is governed by werewolf Packs and their mage spouses, while the nearby Kresentian Empirethe silvered is ruled by a power-hungry emperor, prejudiced against magic in all its forms. When the imperial armies overrun the borders, using silver-seeded cannon which prevents defending Pack members from healing, Mirian Maylin a low-level mage and Tomas Hagen, a scout for the Pack, band together amongst the chaos.

And there you have it. The start of an epic adventure that whisks up the two young protagonists who face prejudice and overwhelming force as they sort out their own relationship and grapple with Mirian’s peculiar mage powers. The other main protagonist is Captain Reiter, who has a secret mission behind enemy lines sanctioned by the Emperor himself. A mission that requires a different skill set from that of an ordinary soldier – a mission he increasingly finds difficult to justify…

Huff has created an interesting world with a clear sense of the rules and how they affect the people living in her worlds, which is one of her strengths. While I enjoy epic fantasy, there are times when the scale of the narrative gets in the way of becoming fully involved in the journey of the protagonists. Not so this time around – Huff once more apparently effortlessly pulls off one of those tricky problems that hobble so many other epic fantasy authors. She manages to create a scenario where the fate of a race, a country, an empire – not to mention the protagonists – all hinge on one particular storyline. This means we are not dotting all over the place, scrambling to figure out who is doing what to whom amongst a huge cast of characters.

So I was completely caught up in the action alongside the main characters, unable to put it down. Huff should come with a health warning – highly addictive author. After being immersed in the book for most of the morning, instead of rolling up my sleeves and getting on with a host of chores, did the denouement satisfactorily round off the story? Oh yes. There was plenty of excitement and surprises. It doesn’t seem that Huff has any plans for writing a sequel – she is busy working on the Confederation series and completing the Enchantment Emporium series. But I would love to see more books set in her epic fantasy setting she has created here – and hope that this prolific and highly talented author continues to produce books of this impressive standard.
9/10