Thursday, October 29, 2015

Bone crossed by Patricia Briggs

Bone crossed is the fourth book in the Mercy Thompson series, and the sixth book set in the world shared with the Alpha & Omega series.  This review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the other books and I highly recommend reading them in the correct order. 

For a person who has spent a good portion of her life staying under the radar Mercy Thompson has made a rather spectacular mess of the past few months.  Not only has she come to the attention of the local seethe of vampires and their mistress - she has also come to the attention of the media thanks to her coercion and rape at the hands of Tim, and the dismemberment of his dead body by Adam.  Mercy has been treading softly and trying to stay out of trouble, but trouble seems to find her no matter where she goes or what she does.  

When Mercy discovers her garage has been covered in graffiti it doesn't seem too bad, until she discovers the crossed bones painted on her door that nothing will remove.  Along with the shocking arrival of Stefan it makes it clear that Marsilia has discovered that Mercy killed Andre as well as the demon-ridden vampire.  Mercy knew that acting against one of Marsilia's vampires was a foolish move, but she didn't think she had a choice - and now everyone she cares about is a target for Marsilia and her vampires.  The only sane thing for Mercy to do is to leave town for a while, and an old college friend has a ghost problem that she needs Mercy to help with.  It seems like the perfect opportunity - and Mercy is about to learn that when something seems perfect, then it really isn't.  In Spokane Mercy with face a challenge unlike any she has met before, and the stakes will be unbelievably high.

Binge reading a series has it's benefits and it's drawbacks, and one of the biggest benefits is that you get to enjoy the action in the space of a few weeks rather than across years (which is the rate that you usually have to enjoy them if you are reading them as they are released).  Reading the world of Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega in this way makes you appreciated just how well defined and well tuned the two worlds are, and the subtle differences that make the series their own distinct stories.  

Mercy is an interesting and engaging character - she is flawed and very human, and while she gets to sit in the world of the preternatural and supernatural because she is a walker, she is also so much "less" than the other critters which makes it easy to walk in her shoes.  She is stubborn, fiercely loyal, and has a very ingrained sense of honour.  With this particular outing we learn more about vampires and vampire politics which opens up the world and the consequences and subtleties of living in the world.  

One of the most amazing things about this particular urban fantasy series is that it is so firmly grounded in our world - it is "more" than our world, but it is still our world.  Urban fantasy can be difficult to read if the author doesn't carefully balance that sense of being "here" with being something "more" and Briggs has mastered that knife edge with apparent ease.  Too many authors try too hard or push the boundaries so much that it is difficult to remember that we share the same world as the characters, but here is it easy to imagine a VW mechanic who can turn into a coyote exists, and that one of her friends is a vampire who has an obsession with Scooby Doo.  

This series won't appeal to everyone, and traditionalists might resent the mythology of this world and the treatment of werewolves, vampires, and fae but it is a guilty pleasure to read them (because not everyone reads urban fantasy) and it has been a decadent pleasure to read them in the recommended order in a short time.  If you haven't tried urban fantasy before then take a bite (ahem) out of this series.


The recommended reading order is:

And to fill in the gaps there are some new (and old) short stories in:
  • Shifting shadows: Stories from the world of Mercy Thompson

If you like this book then try:
  • Tinker by Wen Spencer
  • Night shifted by Cassie Alexander
  • Kitty and the midnight hour by Carrie Vaughn
  • Dark descendant by Jenna Black
  • Burning water by Mercedes Lackey
  • Blood price by Tanya Huff
  • Urban shaman by C.E. Murphy
  • Spiders bite by Jennifer Estep
  • Dead witch walking by Kim Harrison
  • Precinct 13 by Tate Hallaway

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, October 26, 2015

Arrow's fall by Mercedes Lackey

Arrow's fall is the third book in The Herald's of Valdemar series so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** about what happens in Arrow's of the Queen and Arrow's flight.  The books can be read independently but you will enjoy the series more if you read it in order.

Returning to the city of Haven after 18 months riding Circuit is a return home for Talia, but it is also the first step to taking up the mantle of Queen's Own Herald.  Until now Talia may have supported Queen Selenay on a personal level but completing her internship means she can now assume all her rights and responsibilities - especially her voting rights on the Council.  It seems as though she is not even going to get a chance to shake off the dust of her travels before she has to step into her role because there are plans a foot to marry off the Heir as soon as possible - and the Heir desperately wants Talia's help.  

When Talia exercises her rights it becomes clear to other members of the Council that Talia is no longer a child, a student, or someone that can be otherwise ignored - she is a full Herald, and a Herald who outranks them all when it comes to swaying the opinion of the Queen.  When her personal world starts to crumble around her she dives into her professional role, including setting out on a visit to the neighbouring kingdom of Hardorn to investigate the proposed groom Prince Ancar.  Far from home and in a strange land Talia and Kris are on uncertain ground.  When they finally meet Ancar it sets in motion a series of events that will bring Talia to the lowest of lows and the greatest of loses, and she will need all her strength to save the ones she loves from a new and deadly enemy.

Arrow's fall is the final book in The Herald's of Valdemar series and is the hardest and most emotional of the books the read.  Talia has come into her own as a Herald and as a young woman, but she is still vulnerable especially to emotional influences on her life and the people she loves.  While I have read this series before and I knew what was coming, I still shed a few tears when the inevitable scene happens and we experience loss and pain (physical and emotional) through Talia's eyes and the eyes of her friends and (chosen) family.  There are some truly emotional scenes, and for the first time we truly get a taste of warfare and what it means to make decisions that result in death and loss.  

While it is an emotional read, especially the second half, this is a powerful and memorable introduction to the world of the Herald's of Valdemar.  For people who also read other books in the series you can see the seeds of story lines and events in other books starting here, and for those of you who are just discovering the series for the first time there are some truly amazing story lines coming if you keep reading books from this world.  This is the book with the most adult themes in the series, and while they are not needlessly graphic or gratuitous, they can be difficult to read.

If you have enjoyed this foray into the world of Valdemar then consider starting The mage winds trilogy which begins with Winds of fate.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Arrow's flight by Mercedes Lackey

Arrow's flight is the second book in The Herald's of Valdemar series so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** about what happens in Arrow's of the Queen.  The books can be read independently but you will enjoy the series more if you read it in order.

Despite people's plans to the contrary Talia has not only survived her student years at the Collegium, she has thrived.  Her quiet ways and willingness to support her friends has not gone unnoticed, and with her internship coming up she is one step closer to becoming a full Herald and stepping fully into her role as Queen's Own Herald.  Talia has heard rumours that she will be paired up with Kris, but for some strange reason her heart thrums when her thoughts turn to his best friend Dirk instead.  While preparing to go out into the field Talia can't help but get the feeling that something is going on, she keeps getting strange looks from people and her already fragile nerves are starting to fray.  She may have come a long way from the shy and abused Holderkin child that appeared at the Collegium on Rolan's back, clueless about what she was doing there, but deep inside she still has doubts about herself and her abilities.

While being on the road brings her one step closer to fulfilling her destiny it also brings her into contact with people who have never met her - yet they have heard some of the rumours that Kris tells her about, rumours that she uses her ability to manipulate people into doing what she wants.  His warning about the rumours is delivered in a matter of fact way, but that just makes the blow harder and makes her doubt herself even more.  Soon Talia is sucked into a vicious cycle of self doubt and eroding control which eventually leads to a complete and utter collapse of her control of her gift while they are on Circuit.  It will be up to Talia, with support from Kris and the Companions to gain control of her gift because if she doesn't there are powers out there that would crush her and destroy her to protect the innocents around her.  In the midst of all this doubt and lack of control she has to come into her own as a Herald so she can support the Queen in some very dark times ahead.

Arrow's flight is the second book in a trilogy that introduces readers to the world of Valdemar and Talia who is one of the pivotal figures of the books set in this time period.  After finishing Arrow's of the Queen I jumped straight into Arrow's flight - and lost myself for a few ours in the book where Talia discovers more about herself and truly comes into possession of her abilities as well as growing into her adult role.  This is very much the true coming of age for Talia, she has grown into a young woman but it is while she is on her Circuit that she learns what her ability truly means and what it truly means to be a Herald.  There are some truly hairy moments in this part of the story and through those moments we learn more about Talia and her world - particularly the Heralds who have come before.

Talia has had a difficult life and the relationship that develops between Kris and Talia is both sweet and bitter - the sign of a true brother and sister relationship.  Even though I have read this series several times there were moments when I was holding my breath and moments when I laughed.  This middle book has some of the adult themes that make it more suitable for older teen readers, but mature teens shouldn't have any real problems as the themes are well handled and are not gratuitous in their violence or portrayal.  If you enjoyed Arrow's of the Queen then you will find a lot to like here, it may be a middle book but it embraces that role and focuses on a pivotal part in Talia's development and sets the scene beautifully for the events of Arrow's fall.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Arrow's of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey

Talia is Holderkin, living with her father, his wives and the rest of their extended family in their holding on the border of Valdemar.  It is a simple life with simple rules - obey your father, obey his wives, and then obey your husband - a life that Talia struggles with on a daily basis.  She loves to read, she day dreams of a very different (and sinful) life, and she secretly dreams of becoming a Herald of Valdemar, something her family will never allow.  When she learns that she is to be married Talia commits the ultimate act of rebellion and runs away from the family holding to wallow in her misery, and when her sobs are disturbed by the chiming of bells she is soon swept up in an adventure beyond her widest day dreams.  A Companion has come to her family holding, and he has plans for Talia that include her becoming not only a Herald of Valdemar, but one of the most important Heralds - The Queen's Own Herald.

Talia is woefully under prepared for life at the Collegium and the Palace, she has little to now understanding of life outside the family holding, and the Palace is full of intrigue and danger.  The previous Queen's Own Herald did not die of old age, he died under suspicious circumstances, and Talia soon learns that she is also a target.  After years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her family, Talia is not prepared for the open and friendly manner of the Heralds and Heralds in training, and she can't help but keep to herself - especially when some of the other students in the Collegium begin a campaign of systematic intimidation and physical incidents that culminates in a very real threat to her life.  Talia is about to discover that even one small and insignificant girl child from the Holderkin can make a huge difference to her Queen and her fellow Heralds.

Arrows of the Queen was my first introduction to the world of Valdemar and every few years I am drawn back to the story of Talia and the people who become her friends and family.  There is something about her story that really appeals, maybe because there are broader themes that appeal to the teenager I was then and the adult I am now.  Talia is not perfect, she makes mistakes and learns from them, but she still makes mistakes.  In many ways her story is not that dissimilar from teenagers all over the world, she faces bullying and loss, she has to learn to make her own way in the world, and she has to discover who she really is.  Talia is a survivor on many levels and Lackey portrays her emotional scarring in a realistic way, there are no quick fixes or instantaneous revelations for her - she discovers, grows and heals in a realistic way.

Returning to old favourites is just like returning to spend time with old friends and even though I knew what was coming along the way I immensely enjoyed spending time with Talia and her world again.  If you have not discovered the world of Valdemar before then this is a great place to start, and a great place to return to if you are already familiar with the world.  I have been reading a lot of new material lately and it was something of a relief to return to a world that I know I adore and where I could lose myself in the story without having to worry about giving up partway through or reaching the end and feeling less than satisfied.  Valdemar is a world that had a huge influence on me growing up as there is a strong message of tolerance and humanity in the world of the Heralds - there is religious tolerance, same sex couples are not abhorred, and women are (usually) treated with equality.

When I first read this series it was in the teens section of the local library - these days it is in the adult fantasy section but it is one of those series that crossed between the two.  In Arrow's of the Queen Talia is a teenager coming to terms with her new life, growing as a person and into her future role.  The second two books in the series are about Talia as an older teen and young adult, so it still fits with a great deal of teen series BUT there are some pretty heavy themes in the last book that make this more suitable for a mature audience.  This is a great series for teen and adult readers, I would put the caveat that it is best suited to older/mature teens who are emotionally able to handle the themes of war, abuse and rape, and who have someone to talk to about the themes.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Blood trail by Tanya Huff

Blood trail is the second book in The Vicki Nelson mysteries so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the first book in the series.  I recommend that you read Blood price before you read this review or Blood trail.

Vicki Nelson never expected to meet a vampire. and she certainly never expected to become friends with said vampire, but after the demon attack that left her with permanent scars Henry has become a fixture in her life.  When Henry invites Vicki over to meet some potential clients Vicki discovers that the world is even bigger than she thought - there are vampires and werewolves in the world, and someone is picking off the werewolves one-by-one in their fur form.  With no other cases on her plate Vicki agrees to travel to the family farm with Henry to see if they can track down the assassin before any more members of the pack are killed.  

Easier said than done however, as Vicki has a lot to learn about the werewolves before she can even start investigating.  Werewolves may look human, but they are anything but, and Henry has to walk a fine line with the alpha male if they want to get anything done.  With Vicki's eye sight being next to useless for long distances and totally useless at night it seems like they might be sunk before they've begun - but Vicki is not one to give up easily.  As they close in on potential suspects the tension ratchets up a notch when Mike Celluci decides that he is going to have it out with Vicki about Henry's apparent lack of a past (or a present for that matter).  Having another alpha male in their territory is the last thing the pack needs, especially when another player enters the game with murder on their mind.

The Vicki Nelson mysteries, or The blood series as they tend to be called by some, are some of the earlier urban fantasies that blended together fantasy and crime elements.  Even more than two decades later the books are highly readable and apart from the odd thing have aged really well.  In this second outing in the series Vicki and Henry head out of Toronto to a sheep farm run by a family of werewolves who are nothing like the "typical" werewolves you see in horror or fantasy - they are born not made, the transition is smooth from one form to the other, and they keep their full intelligence and reasoning in the fur form (except where hormones are involved, but that's true of everyone).  

This was an engrossing read and even though I have read it before, the ending was still satisfying.  Some of the urban fantasy authors of today can thank pioneers like Huff and Lackey for paving the way for their worlds - I was encouraged to re-read Blood trail after reading my way through the early Patricia Brigg's novels, and while they are very different authors there is a sense of the same kind of world building and "logic" behind their stories.  A great read that deserved to be rediscovered and enjoyed, and that new readers will hopefully discover for the first time.

If you like this book then try:
  • Blood price by Tanya Huff
  • Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff
  • Children of the night by Mercedes Lackey
  • Burning water by Mercedes Lackey
  • Spiders bite by Jennifer Estep
  • Dead witch walking by Kim Harrison
  • Angel's blood by Nalini Singh
  • Cast in shadow by Michelle Sagara
  • Kitty and the midnight hour by Carrie Vaughn
  • Moon called by Patricia Briggs
  • Cry wolf by Patricia Briggs

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, October 23, 2015

Nearly found by Elle Cosimano

Nearly found is the sequel to Nearly gone so there are ***SPOILERS*** in this review if you have not read the first book in the series.  This is a series that you will understand better and enjoy more if you read them in the correct order.

It has been something of a relief for Nearly "Leigh" Boswell to leave the events of the previous spring behind, but someone out there is not willing to leave the past in the past.  Leigh is looking forward to the future and in internship at the local crime lab seems like an excellent opportunity to learn something new and to stand out from the crowd when it comes to college applications.  Life has been moving on in other ways too, especially her relationship with Reece, but this year he is going to another school and will not be conveniently in reach.  

When one of the girls who lives in the trailer park goes missing it hits a little close to home for Leigh, especially with the appearance of mysterious messages that point to the twisted game that TJ played in the spring.  When the girls body is found and brought into the crime lab where Leigh is working she has to hide the link or risk being taken off the case.  When the evidence points to someone she knows Leigh has to make some terrible decisions, decisions that could have an impact on not only her internship but also her future.  Someone is stalking Leigh and the people in her life, someone who has a plan for them that involves confusion, murder, and framing the "innocent".  Leigh may be smart, and her ability to taste peoples emotions can help her tell the truth from the lies, but only if she can get close enough to feel and taste it - in every sense of the words.

Nearly gone was one of the stand out books last year, an intriguing take on the murder mystery/psychological thriller because of Leigh's ability to taste emotions.  For some people this ability would potentially put them off, and they would be missing out on a powerful and addictive read, and the same is true of Nearly found.  It feels like Cosimano has dialed back the emotion tasting for this sequel, with the psychological elements being the strong voice, but that may just be an impression based on this being the second story and Leigh's ability not being so unusual anymore.  Having read the first book in the series was definitely an advantage here because there are references to the events in Nearly gone that are teasing rather than detailed so you miss some of the subtleties if you don't have the background.  There is no sense that this is the last book in the series, so hopefully there will be another book in the series next year.

This is a series that deserves to be discovered, and with Leigh branching out into new territory through her work in the crime lab there is greater scope for the development of her character and her world.  There are some emotional roller coaster rides here, and it was gratifying to see realistic strains on the relationship between Leigh and Reece, and the relationship between Leigh and her mother feels as if it is developing into an adult-adult relationship rather than a parent-child relationship.  This is a fascinating series that blends supernatural elements into the storyline in a way that previous series by other authors haven't quite managed - this is a serious rather than fluffy sci-fi angle and it really benefits from that treatment.

If you like this book then try:
  • I hunt killers by Barry Lyga
  • The book of blood and shadow by Robin Wasserman
  • Acceleration by Graham McNamee
  • Death cloud by Andrew Lane
  • Crime seen by Jenny Pausacker
  • The Christopher killer by Alane Ferguson
  • Guy Langman, crime scene procrastinator by Josh Berk
  • Dead to you by Lisa McMann
  • The limit by Kristin Landon

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Closer to the heart by Mercedes Lackey

Closer to the heart is the second book in The Herald spy series so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** about what happens in Closer to home - you can read this story independently but you will enjoy it more if you have read Closer to home and The Collegium chronicles which is the story about how Mags came to be a Herald of Valdemar.

Life has settled into a routine for Mags, he spends part of each day working the streets of Valedemar as Harkon - keeping an eye of the streets of Valdemar as one of the common people.  As Harkon he is privy to things that no Herald should ever know, and that most Heralds would have no way of fininsding out.  His troupe of rescued children are growing and thriving, his eyes and ears on the street when he can't get down to Haven - and as they get too big for the streets he quietly finds places for them in the houses of the highborn to learn how to blend in and spy in the noble houses.  It is a busy life and leaves little time for him to spend with Amily, but that is not such a bad thing as she has very little time of her own since she became King's Own Herald.

Life has been ticking over quietly for some time, and Mags knows that when you have had lots of good luck for a long time it means that you are due for some bad luck and it comes in the form of the Ambassador from Menmellith.  Relationships with Menmellith have been good in the past, but that is about to change. There are serious accusations against Valdemar, accusations that can and will lead to war with Menmellith if the issue is not resolved.  It comes down to Mags and Amily to try and solve the mystery of this latest threat to the safety of Valdemar - right when they are supposed to be planning for their wedding.  Seperated to follow their own paths, Mags and Amily will need all their wits about them to solve the mystery before Valdemar is dragged into war with a kingdom where a child sits on the throne and the Council rules in his place.  

I have been a fan of Mercedes Lackey since I was a teenager and her Valdemar series is one of my favourite worlds - partly because of the Companions (who wouldn't want one) and partly because of the underlying messages that I wished were true in our world - there is no one way for religion and there is generally no stigma about same sex pairings.  When I was a teenager some of these themes, and they are themes rather than preaching delivered with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, helped me see the world in a different more accepting way.  Lackey has an ability to create a fantasy world that is so real you can almost taste it, a world where everything is very real and grounded - there may be magic but it has rules and consequences.  The people are the heart of the story and what drives it forward, the relationships and consequences of those relationships seem very real and it often feels like returning to old friends when you enter the world of Valdemar.

With The Collegium chronicles Lackey broke out of the trilogy mould for Valemar - except for a few stand alone books she has always written trilogies, and it will be interesting to see if The Herald Spy series develops into a trilogy or more.  It has also been interesting to spend so much time with a single character and their time in Valdemar - Elspeth would be one of the few other characters that we have gotten to know this well as she was carried through several of the trilogies, though not always in the lead role.  

This is world worth exploring and experiencing, and while I do get a bit frustrated reading sections where Mags talks "common" because it seems a little overdone (sorry Mercedes) but that is the only drawback and the irritation slowly fades the more I get sucked into the story.  Overall a great read with some intrigue, some drama, and a developing relationship between Mags and Amily.

If you like this book then try:
  • Foundation by Mercedes Lackey
  • Magic's pawn by Mercedes Lackey
  • Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey
  • Burning brightly by Mercedes Lackey
  • Throne of glass by Sarah J Maas
  • Sing the four quarters by Tanya Huff
  • If I pay thee not in gold by Piers Anthony and Mercedes Lackey
  • Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
  • Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey
  • The diamond throne by David Eddings
  • Cast in shadow by Michelle Sagara

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Red queen by Victoria Aveyard

Mare Barrow lives in a world of Silver and Red.  The Silver are the powerful elite, ruling the world with their impressive and oppressive powers - their silver blood marks them as Silver and their powers keep the masses under control.  The Red are the commoners, the masses that work themselves into an early grave or sacrifice themselves on the battle field so the Silvers can expand their territory.  There red blood marks them as Red, and it is their red blood that colours the battlefields on both sides of a war that no one has won for generations.  The Silvers rule with an iron fist, taking Red lives like they are nothing, and when you live in a world where you have nothing, you have nothing to lose.

Mare is no innocent Red, she has had her share of problems - mostly because she is a shameless thief who helps keep her family fed and supplied with power with her light fingers.  It is not something she is truly proud of, but with three brothers away at war she feels like she has little choice.  About to turn eighteen and with no apprenticeship or job, Mare is destined to be conscripted and sent off to the war, but then she receives a summons to appear before the king.  What she gets instead of conscription is a job as a servant in the summer residence of the king and his family, but that job exposes an incredible secret about Mare - she has an ability that no Red should have.  

Because she has an impossible power Mare is hidden in plain view as the future bride of the kings youngest son - and with her new position comes a false back story that makes her a lost Silver child raised by a Red family.  This lie is the first of many, with everyday bringing more secrets, more mysteries, and greater danger.  It seems as though there is a war coming that no one has seen, a terrorist war led by the Red Guard who seem intent on bringing down the Silver control in a sea of silver blood - but not everything, or everyone is as they appear.  Despite her hard life Mare is essentially a sheltered country mouse who has been thrust into a deadly game of Silver cat and Red mouse - where she doesn't know all the players, all the rules, or the deadly consequences of the wrong decisions.  Mare has known heart ache and loss, but she is about to discover the bitter taste of loyalty and betrayal.

Red queen is one of those books that stands out from the crowd with it's simple and classic cover, and with a world that deserves to be discovered and explored.  This is truly a book that crosses from the teen market into the wider reading market, because although the characters are teenagers (which would normally relegate the book to teen readers) there is a sweeping story here that covers themes that adult readers can also relate to - discovery yourself, finding your place in a new world, trying to hold onto what you hold dear despite the pressures around you, and of course finding love and friendship in a world where not everyone or everything is as they seem (sound like your first job to anyone else?).  

This is a world that is real and solid, with a mythology that is logical and more than a little bit mysterious at the moment - but hopefully the next two books in the trilogy will answer those questions as we move towards the end of this story.  There are some very adult themes here that mean I would not recommend this book for 'tweens/younger teens unless they have someone they can talk to about the themes that arise.  I am very impressed with Red queen and sincerely hope that Aveyard has already started work on the sequel so we don't have to wait too long to see what is next for Mare and her world.  This is one of my top ten reads for this year so far, it is well written, the characters are well defined and seem to step off the page, and the world is whole and complete.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Iron kissed by Patricia Briggs

Iron kissed is the third book in the Mercy Thompson series, and the fifth book set in the world shared with the Alpha & Omega series.  This review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the other books and I highly recommend reading them in the recommended order.  There is a list of the recommended order towards the end of this review.

Life is slowly settling back down to normal for Mercy, or at least as normal as it can get for a walker coyote living with werewolves.  Things are very quiet on the vampire front, but things are about to heat up on the fae side instead.  When Zee calls in the favour Mercy created by using the fae tools to kill more than one vampire, neither of them realises what kind of door that will open.  Being invited onto the fae reservation is a rare honour, especially at night when most humans are tasty snacks or toys for some of the fae.  Asked to sniff around a few crime scenes (literally) Mercy makes a connection between the crimes, but before she can really process the information, or help Zee make sense of the case Zee is arrested for the murder of a human - and the Grey Lords seem quite happy to throw him under the bus of human indignation and anger.

When Mercy decides to keep investigating the case, deermined to prove Zee is innocent, she comes up against the cold and deadly might of the Grey Lords who are not used to being defied.  It soon becomes clear to Mercy that there is more going on than meets the eye, and a group of anti-fae protestors and agitators seem to be right in the thick of the mystery.  With danger on all sides, and the tension ratcheting up with the werewolves because of her relationships with Adam and Samuel, Mercy is in for a very bumpy ride.  The villain doesn';t always wear a black hat, and sometimes the mysteries you can't unlock are the ones that can get you killed.  Mercy has one very tricky web of lies and half truths to untangle, and in this race against time failing to unravel the clues could have very deadly consequences - for Mercy, and the ones she loves.  Mess with the fae and their magic and you might get burned.

With this third book for Mercy we really get to see an expansion of her world - Moon called introduced us to her immediate world and the family she has chosen - Blood bound introduces more of the complex world around her with vampires in particular - and in Iron kissed we are given a rather eye opening exploration of the fae and the twisted logic and laws of the Grey Lords who rule them.  For the first time we also really learn what the family Mercy has chosen really means to her, and that although she may have been raised by werewolves and has them as room mate and neighbours - she really has no clue about some of the more subtle facets of werewolf life.  

This is where the series really starts to get interesting, and where it first becomes apparent that you need to have a good method for keeping characters in your head because some of them are treated almost like furniture in the following books - in the sense that they are there in the story, but they don't have backgrounds explained, just like you wouldn't explain where the furniture came from.  This is also the point where the two series really start to blend different genre more firmly into the framework of what would otherwise be a "fantasy" or "urban fantasy" setting - you get elements of the thriller, the murder mystery, romance, fractured fairy tales/retelling of fairy tales, and a little touch of science fiction.  Re-reading this series in a short time has reminded me how much I love the series, and how much the writing has improved across the books - with each book the writing and development gets better and better.  I hope there are many more stories to come for both the world of Mercy Thompson and the Alpha and Omega series.  Sermon done - now go and enjoy the books!

The recommended reading order is:

And to fill in the gaps there are some new (and old) short stories in:
  • Shifting shadows: Stories from the world of Mercy Thompson

If you like this book then try:
  • Omens by Kelley Armstrong
  • Tinker by Wen Spencer
  • Night shifted by Cassie Alexander
  • Kitty and the midnight hour by Carrie Vaughn
  • Dark descendant by Jenna Black
  • Burning water by Mercedes Lackey
  • Blood price by Tanya Huff
  • Urban shaman by C.E. Murphy
  • Spiders bite by Jennifer Estep
  • Dead witch walking by Kim Harrison
  • Precinct 13 by Tate Hallaway

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Visions by Kelley Armstrong

Visions is the second book in the Cainsville series so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the first book in the series.  This series is best enjoyed in order so I suggest you read Omens before you read any more of this review.

Olivia Taylor-Jones has lived a privileged life, one that many people would give their right arm for, but for Olivia it has felt more like a gilded cage than a golden opportunity.  Her perfectly groomed and planned out life came crashing down when she discovered that she was Eden Larsen, daughter of infamous serial killers.  Her mother fled the country to escape the drama, and Olivia fled Chicago for a new life in small town Cainsville where everyone seems to know everyone else's secrets and no one seems to mind.  The past few weeks have been interesting as well as stressful, and Olivia has managed to find her own feet by working as a waitress at the local diner and as an assistant for arrogant lawyer Gabriel Walsh.  Their relationship has been somewhat rocky, but at least things seem to be setting down - even though her former fiancee James appears to have turned into her new stalker.

When Olivia vists her family home to collect some of her belongings she makes a startling discovery in her car - a young woman who has been dressed just like her, dead in the front seat of her car.  Understandably freaked out, she calls in Gabriel, only to have the body mysteriously vanish from her car.  Olivia doesn't know if it was an omen or a warning, but it soon becomes clear that something is going on because it is not the first time Olivia comes across the remains of the same young woman, who just happens to be a Ciara, a girl missing from Cainsville.  Searching for Ciara leads Olivia and Gabriel into dangerous territory because there are some things the elders of Cainsville don't want the "children" to know.  As Olivia digs deeper into her own past, she uncovers information about Gabriel too, information that he may never be ready to hear.  As if her professional life was not complicated enough, Olivia is also dealing with a rather interesting personal life, because James is not the only person interested in pursuing Olivia, and some of her suitors have interesting reputations of their own.

Finding the Cainsville series has been something of an unexpected surprise for me, particularly as it seems like Armstrong has managed to blend together some of my favourite genre into one neat package - crime, thriller, supernatural, and just a dusting of romance to keep it interesting.  The characters are all well rendered, with interesting quirks and background stories that make them all unique and completely human.  There are some little tidbits that you pick up as you read that hint towards events later in the story, and it is always something of a small victory to solve the puzzle before the answer is delivered on a silver platter.  As often happens with a second novel, Armstrong picks up right where she left off which means this is a series that you really want to read in order, and I thoroughly enjoyed the very small gap in time between reading books one and two as it meant I was able to remember so much more about the story.

This is a series that tickles your brain with hints of whodunnit and glimpses of a ancient fables from Ireland, Wales, and Scotland.  Some of the names tickled and tickled, stirring memories of other stories I have read and of worlds created by other authors.  This is a richly imagined world, and it is so easy to see a real Cainsville sitting out their somewhere - and while this is not the first time I have seen this device used (think tv series Supernatural and Grimm), it is used very, very well.  I am currently waiting for book three to arrive so I can see where Armstrong takes the story next, especially in terms of Olivia and her relationship with other characters in the book - especially Gabriel as their relationship has a lot of the elements of the classic romance novel plot (girl meets boy, they hate each other, something happens, they like each other).  Hopefully the rest of the series is as perfectly executed as the first two books in this series because this is an unmissable series for fans of urban fantasy who like a little bite with their magic, and a little conspiracy with their fairytales.

 If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Heir of fire by Sarah J. Maas

Heir of fire is the third book in the Throne of glass series so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the first books in the series.  This series is best enjoyed in order so I suggest you read Throne of glass and Crown of midnight before you read any more of this review.

Celaena has left Rifthold behind, in body is not in spirit.  She knows that the lives of the people she cares about are in her hands, but she can't seem to shake off the fog and fatigue surrounding her.  The royal family she was sent to kill are not monsters and tyrants, they are beloved by their people and she can't bring herself to kill them - although she would have faced a serious challenge from the highly trained and observant guards that protect them.  When one of the Fae finds her in an alley Celaena has the chance to meet her aunt Maeve, a powerful Fae that everyone knows by name.  The journey will not be pleasant, especially as the Fae, Rowan, seems to regard Celaena with a careful blend of disgust and disdain.

Meeting her aunt is supposed to help Celaena, supposed to help her unlock the riddle of the Wyrdkeys, save her friends from an evil tyrannical king, and help her keep her sworn vow to her dead friend.  But Celaena should have learnt by now that nothing is that simple, that the path to victory will always be laced with pain, death, and terrible choices.  Maeve is willing to help Celaena, but only if she learns to embrace her Fae heritage, only if she learns how to tap into and control her fire magic.  It is an imposing challenge, because not only has Celaena spent most of her life trying to dampen and control her power - she has also spent nearly have her life trying to forget who she was and forget dark secrets from the past that are buried deep in her mind.  She has faced trials and tribulations in her short life, trials that would have broken a lesser person, but she has yet to truly face her past.  It is a race against time for Celaena and her friends - and it is a race they can not afford to loose.

At more than 550 pages Heir of fire requires a certain amount of commitment to finish it, but if you do (you know you want to!) what you will find is a sweeping saga that drags you into multiple stories that are slowly woven together through mystery, treachery, revelations, and a coming of age.  This is the book where we finally get to see more of Celaena's past, a peak that explains so much more about her and where all the rage that simmers under the surface comes from.  It is also the story that finally delves into the mythology of the world they all live in, explaining some of the mysteries of the past that we knew very little about - and makes you wonder more than a little about how much Celaena has changed in the past ten years that some people didn't recognise her - or did they?

The characters are what makes the Throne of glass series so intriguing and engaging - no one is perfect and everyone has some pretty major character flaws that make them stand out, make them more human.  Throughout this story we gain a better understanding of some of the characters, and we are introduced to new characters who are obviously going to have their parts to play in the last three books in the series.  One of the things I just adore about this series is that Maas doesn't talk down to her teenage audience, when things go badly they go badly, when there is death and disaster you get to feel the agony, the pain, the despair.  

This is the kind of book that I wish had been written when I was a teenager, to find this sort of depth and realism I had to read books from "adult" authors because there was simply nothing this gritty and sweeping for me to read.  I look forward to reading the next book in the series to see what happens next - and I have the collected novella's to read while I wait!

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Liar liar by M.J. Arlidge

Liar liar is the fourth book in the DI Helen Grace thrillers series so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the first books in the series.  While you can read this book independently you will get the most enjoyment out of reading the series in order.

Life is never truly stable and normal for Detective Inspector Helen Grace, she has a reputation for solving difficult cases but that has come at a cost.  The barriers she has built around her personal life make her an enigma to her colleagues, and non so much as her new Detective Superintendent Jonathan Gardam who seems to be hovering in the background watching Helen's every move.  The lead up to Christmas should be a quiet time for the Police, but in reality the holidays always bring out the worst in people, with a spike in domestic violence, and the Major Incident Team is about to be tested by a coldly calculating arsonist who will stretch everyone's resources to the limit.

It starts with a single fire, then a second, and then a third - all on the same night and designed to wreck maximum havoc.  The fires are devastating in terms of financial cost, but the last fire of the night has a more personal cost when two victims are pulled from the burning house barely alive.  Unbelievably the next day the arsonist strikes again and another three properties become raging infernos, with no apparent connection between them.  Someone is stalking the streets with the tools for arson, and a plan to wreck havoc.  The very nature of the crime means there is very little forensics for Helen and her team to use to solve the crime, and as they already know the public is not a patient beast, and there are journalists who are willing to crucify Helen and her team if it will benefit their own careers.  

Liar liar is the fourth book in what is proving to be an incredibly addictive series that has set a new benchmark in thrillers that keep you on the edge of your seat - and guessing what will happen next.  Arlidge's background in writing for television appears to have created a writing style that is bold and bare, giving you enough information to create a vivid image in your mind without burying you under inconsequential details.  It is a race against time to try and uncover the true story before Arlidge delivers the answer in a swift stroke of "oh my god" when you finally untangle the half truths and secrets that make this particular book in the series even more twisted than the previous books in the series.  Arlidge has a real knack for writing intriguing storylines, and it is a shame that he can only write so fast because it seems like torture waiting for the next book to see what happens next.

Each of the DI Helen Grace thrillers have a slightly different focus and style, and it was interesting to have the rapidly switching points of view and short chapters - again this is probably a result of Arlidge's work in television, but it also reflects a trend in crime publishing as more authors appear to cut back to the bones of the story and leave their readers to visualise their own story.  I find it refreshing, and this is one of the only British crime series I have been fully able to sink my reading teeth into because other authors seem to focus too much on laying out the character and the world - I can build my own visuals in my mind, I get bored when there is too much detail.  Arlidge has the perfect balance, a skill authors like James Patterson also possess, but fortunately more and more authors are discovering that more is less.

An amazing series that is almost impossible to put down and that will leave you wondering what could possibly happen next for Helen and her team.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla