Give me magic, gadgets, monsters, zombies, everything that seems impossible, and throw in some tough chicks with swords. That's the stuff.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

New Fantasy and Urban Fantasy Reviews

Let the review updates continue! Today I have a time traveling Fantasy, an Urban Fantasy featuring people with superhero powers who are not very "heroic," an Austen-esque Fantasy with magic, a thrilling book 4 in an Urban Fantasy series, and a Steampunk retelling of one of Shakespeare's plays.

Sojourn (Time Rovers #1) by Jana Oliver

I had fun reading this time traveling Fantasy. I've read the author's Demon Trappers series (and loved it). This was written before (and I do think that writers get better the more books they have under their belt).

The characters are well done, and I liked their interactions. Also, the heroine is strong, smart but not invincible. The mythology is a different twist too. All of these are things I'm starting to associate with Oliver's work.

Cynda is a Time Rover in our not too distant future. In the future, time travel is a tourist attraction. There's not a whole lot of time spent in her own era, but you definitely get the feeling that all is not sunshine and puppies. She gets sent to 1888, to find an overdue "traveler". She is supposed to be there just before Jack the Ripper starts his killing spree, but finds out that she has been dropped into London at the same time as the killings. She also meets a doctor who works with the poor in Whitechapel who has his own secrets.

This is where the book went in an unexpected direction - and I really liked it. This isn't one of the "time traveler goes back in time to change the past" stories. And honestly, those make my head hurt. I'm happy to say that I could just sit back and enjoy the time differences in this one. I also really liked the hidden shapeshifter society - no not were-anythings. The shifters can change their appearance to look or sound like another person (which has implications of its own).

It was fast-paced and I'd say a bit too fast in some places. There were times when I wondered how Cynda was really able to blend as well as she did, but again, the fast pace and next development drew me along so I didn't focus on it too much. I am not a history purist. I'm also not an expert on Victorian London. If you are, you will inevitably find plenty of nits. But then, I also doubt you'd be reading a time travel book in the first place. I thought there was enough detail that matched what I already know to set the stage well and keep me in the moment.

I thought it was a good start and I'll read the next one.

[I received a review copy.]

The Liminal People by Ayize Jama-Everett

This book starts like a lot of superhero stories, with people who have powers of  healing, telepathy, firestarting, illusions, etc. However, this book isn't a feel good "the superheroes are coming to save the world" book.

The MC, Taggert, is a member of a gang lead by a mysterious person with his own powers. They deal in drugs, but that is more of a cover for finding other people, usually kids, with special abilities. A lot of people can't handle it - they go crazy with power, and Taggert and his boss (and other shadowy connections)  don't want the world at large finding out about them. He follows orders - mostly, and is loyal to his boss, but also lives in fear of him.

Then a lost love from Tag's past calls him to help find her daughter, and he gets involved in something that changes everything about his life. Stopping here - this is a quick book, and I'm not going to give you a book report on it. There is a lot of revenge, and kids being very violent.

First off, this isn't a romance. It's dark, there is a lot of violence, and lots of death.

Taggert is a healer - his body heals itself automatically and he can heal others. However, I like how this book paints the other side of being a healer. How a healer could be a deadly weapon. The person who can control your body to heal a broken bone or dissolve a tumor could also give you a stroke or break every bone in your body. There's a balance to it, and it's interesting to see a character inching along on the knifepoint between hero and villain. Lots of grey here.

It's fast paced and fairly short. It definitely kept my attention. The main issue is solved, but the end is not wrapped up in a neat bow. There is room for more. I'll read it, but it is one where I will not be anticipating a HEA.

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

I spent a couple of years as a confirmed Austen-aholic (coincided with the Pride & Prejudice miniseries starring Colin Firth), and this book brought me back to that. It has all of the societal kerfuffles as young ladies are paraded before eligible bachelors, issues of propriety, scoundrels, and so on. And there is magic too, although the glamour is used more ornamentally than anything else and is thought of as more of a womanly art. The magic use was interesting and unique and has it's own special place in the action.

Jane is quite skilled in glamour, but she is very plain (especially compared to her younger sister) and at 28 she has resigned herself to a life of spinsterhood. She is slowly allowing herself some hope of marriage with the increased attentions of a handsome neighbor, and her artistic interest is piqued when Mr. Vincent, a rare male artist skilled in glamour is commissioned to create a tableau at the Viscountess's home.

She stumbles into scandals with secret engagements, romantic attachments, and has to deal with her family (her father is on her side but her mother and sister are too bitchy for words). And that is where the story loses a bit for me. It happened with the Austen books too, where the heroine never really comes out and puts her annoying family members in their place. I get that the heroine is quite refined and proper, but you kind of wish she would lay the smack down. Of course, this is coming from someone who never had to live under those stifling societal conditions and usually reads books where the female leads shoot first and ask questions later.

Still, it was a quick read and it caught my attention, and I found myself rooting for Jane the whole time.

If you like Austen, you should give this a try. If you need kick-ass action or steamy romance, you won't find it here.

Sins of the Demon (Kara Gillian 4) by Diana Rowland

Well damn. And this isn't because I didn't like it. It's actually my favorite book of this demon summoning UF series so far.

A lot is happening in this book. We get answers, more questions, there is less moodiness (I can't be the only one who wants Kara & Ryan to cut out the drama) and more just gettin' stuff done. I love Jill and Zack, as always, and Tessa does weirdo auntie very well.

This time, something is killing the people who have wronged Kara in the past. To make matters worse, the attempts to summon her to the demon world have increased. She's also dealing with the information she learned at the end of the last book. It was a very action-packed ride. I like the details of the various demons Kara encounters, as well as the intricacies involved in making deals with the demons (that's been a good consistent tenet of the entire series).

The "damn" comes because of the ending. It's a cliffhanger - not as bad as the one's in Moning's Fever series, but still. It's going to be a long wait to see what happens next.

All Men of Genius by Lev AC Rosen

Steampunk/alt-Victorian retelling of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, but there is enough added to the story that it didn't feel like a Shakespearean play with gears and goggles.

Violet is a genius - more at home in her lab than in drawing rooms and dress shops. Her dream is to go to Illyria - the premiere scientific college. However, they don't allow women as students. She hatches a plan with her brother, Ashton, to take his place, and their friend Jack, also accepted to Illyria, is along to help. They encounter strange happenings in the basement of the college, Violet makes friends and enemies, "Ashton" ensnares the attention of the Duke's ward, and "Violet" intrigues the Duke himself.

There are a few love stories, some commentary on society's restrictions on what is proper, and how people get around those restraints (for good or ill). There is some action, but most of that is at the end.

I can't say anything was a surprise but other than a few spots that dragged, I enjoyed it.

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