Sunday, July 19, 2015

Veiled: By Benedict Jacka



I thought I’d escaped my past. But my old master is back and making a new play for power. And he’s not the only one targeting me…

Diviner Alex Verus and the Council that governs the magical community have never gotten along. But with his former teacher back in Britain, Alex is in desperate need of allies, and he’ll do whatever it takes to get them—even if it means accepting a job with the Keepers, enforcing magical law.

Alex forms an uneasy alliance with his new partner, Caldera, but his attempt at legitimacy quickly turns lethal when a mission puts him in possession of an item that factions both inside and outside of the Council would kill to get their hands on.

Once again caught in the middle of a deadly conflict, Alex will need all his abilities to figure out who his friends are—especially when enemies are hiding on all sides…


Benedict Jacka has continued to impress me with every book in his Alex Verus series, and Veiled is no exception.

Jacka's Alex Verus series started out simple enough in the first book in the series, Fated. There were two camps of mages, dark and light, and the protagonist Alex Verus, was trained by a dark mage, but ran away choosing not to be involved in mage politics. It being an interesting series, Jacka quickly dispelled any illusion that Verus would be able to live a quiet and simple life minding his own business, after a series of decisions that quickly lead to flicking off the upper echelon of mage society, blackmail and even a few deaths along the way. These decisions have acted as the kindling throughout the series, leading Verus down a number of different rabbit holes in order to obtain his much sought after and yet never attainable goal of peace and quiet. This is, until Hidden, the fifth book in the Alex Verus series. After the events of Hidden, Jacka has changed Verus's motivation to that of an offense, leading Verus down a new set of actions (that I personally love) that will leave readers wanting more, as Jacka plays the long game in stringing out the repercussions of each book.

Of course, because Jacka plans on this series being a long one, Jacka had the insight years ago to keep the overarching plot of the series as a whole interesting and new from book to book. To do this Jacka has begun exploring the different aspects of mage politics. In Veiled readers are treated to their first in-depth look into the light mage political world and more specifically the Keepers, the police/enforcement branch of the mage governing body. Jacka does a superb exploring the conflicting interests that hinder this body of the law, and because of this, readers are treated to a true surplus of surprises. In fact, the development of the mage world itself is in my opinion, one of the best aspects of Jacka's series overall. It shakes up what readers thought they knew about the series and what will happen next while at the same time stops each book in the series from sounding exactly like the last, thus preventing readers from getting bored.

Another aspect of the series that Jacka has focused on that he has truly excelled at, is the development of side characters. Jacka has accomplished this feat by introducing side characters over the course of the series and then taking individual books to explore a single side character in significant detail, exploring their motivations and really bringing their actions and decisions to light. This allows Jacka to more fully utilize his cast of characters, developing them even when they are not under the microscope of their development book, and thus providing them with the ability to make more complex decisions that can effect the series as a while in a significant sense. 

In Veiled, the side character that is more fully flushed out is Caldera, an enforcer and Alex's partner/boss. Her further development coincides perfectly with the exploration of the Keeper's corner of the mage universe. Through this development, readers are treated into insights such as: why Caldera is respected by the Keepers and yet not promoted, Caldera's fears and insecurities, and even a brief glimpse into the potential changes that Alex's friendship and continued working relationship with her will bring to her world.

Of course, on top of great characters and the development of the plot and setting, readers will also be thrilled with the amount of action that Jacka has jam packed into Veiled. It comes as no surprise to fans of Jacka's other books that Veiled is filled with fantastic action scenes. This, coupled with the fact that Jacka is focusing on the enforcement aspect of the mage world, and it is no surprise that Veiled is filled with more than the average level of exciting action scenes for readers to behold. Now, that said, Jacka also does emphasize that most of Keeper's work is mundane and does not involve battles that that kill mundanes and mages alike at every turn. But because Jacka writes such great action scenes I was thrilled when there were no less than four (4) major fight/action scenes, with a smattering of side action events along the way as well, including a raid that truly highlights the awesome aspects of the magic in this world.

As you can probably tell I am a huge fan of Benedict Jacka's writing and this series as a whole. As such, I have no trouble recommending this truly thrilling installment in the Alex Verus series to just about anyone. Veiled is filled with pulse pounding action, superb characters and just the right combination of mystery and dread to keep readers hooked until the very last pages. This coupled with Jacka's superb writing ability and the series' fascinating overall story arc, which becomes more complex and sophisticated with each book, and it is no surprise that I eagerly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of urban fantasy, Jim Butcher, Kevin Hearne, and/or Stephen Blackmoore.


Publisher: Ace

Published: August 4, 2015 

Price: $7.99

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Half a War: By Joe Abercrombie



Words are weapons.

Princess Skara has seen all she loved made blood and ashes. She is left with only words. But the right words can be as deadly as any blade. If she is to reclaim her birthright, she must conquer her fears and sharpen her wits to a lethal edge.

Only half a war is fought with swords.

The deeply cunning Father Yarvi has walked a long road from crippled slave to king’s minister. He has made allies of old foes and stitched together an uneasy peace. But now the ruthless Grandmother Wexen has raised the greatest army since the elves made war on God, and put Bright Yilling at its head—a man who worships only Death.

Sometimes one must fight evil with evil.

Some—like Thorn Bathu and the sword-bearer Raith—are born to fight, perhaps to die. Others—like Brand the smith and Koll the wood-carver—would rather stand in the light. But when Mother War spreads her irons wings, she may cast the whole Shattered Sea into darkness.


I have been a fan of Joe Abercrombie since he first wrote his First Law Trilogy back in 2009. Abercrombie is famous for being one of the founding fathers of Grimdark Fantasy, meaning his books are dark, full of amoral characters, and full of violence. Because of this, I had no idea how he was going to transition his writing style into that of a young adult fantasy trilogy, which the Shattered Sea series is.

I should have never worried.

Abercrombie proves his mastery in his chosen field as an author with the Shattered Sea series. Not only has Abercrombie retained a high level of action and intrigue, but he has also retained the complexity of characters and character development that originally drew so much attention to his First Law Trilogy. Villains are portrayed as heres, heroes act in a villainous fashion, and everything in between. My personal favorite characters in the series were Brand and Kroll, as both of these characters were plagued with indecision as to whether greatness by traditional methods or a quiet life  with the possibility of happiness was their goal, and the waring risks and plights that came with each of these decisions in obtaining these goals. That said, fans of Breaking Bad will absolutely love Abercrombie's books whether the be adult or young adult.

Oc course, an issue that had only been hinted at in previous books in the series, but is much more thoroughly addressed in Half a War, are the Elf Relics. These relics and their ruins and the history associated with them are positively jaw dropping in what they reveal, to the point that while I don't want to give anything away, I will say that after completing this final book in the trilogy that I went back to the beginning to re-read the series because of the stark change in light that this information reveals.

All in all, I loved Half a War and the entire Shattered Sea Series, and readers of all ages will find themselves swept away by this story. The characters develop and are plagued with conflicts and indecision, the plot is fast paced, filled with intrigue, and non stop action, and the writing is just plan superb. That said, if you are looking for a book where  everyone ends up happy and there are clear cut good guys and bad guys, with easy decisions, that's fine, but then this is not the book for you. However if you're looking for a book that will keep you up all night finishing it, and will leave you staring at the last pages wanting to know more, then readers need not look any further.


Publisher: Del Rey

Published: July 28, 2015

Price: $26.00

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Skull Throne: By Peter V. Brett



The Skull Throne of Krasia stands empty.

Built from the skulls of fallen generals and demon princes, it is a seat of honor and ancient, powerful magic, keeping the demon corelings at bay. From atop the throne, Ahmann Jardir was meant to conquer the known world, forging its isolated peoples into a unified army to rise up and end the demon war once and for all.

But Arlen Bales, the Warded Man, stood against this course, challenging Jardir to a duel he could not in honor refuse. Rather than risk defeat, Arlen cast them both from a precipice, leaving the world without a savior, and opening a struggle for succession that threatens to tear the Free Cities of Thesa apart.

In the south, Inevera, Jardir’s first wife, must find a way to keep their sons from killing one another and plunging their people into civil war as they strive for glory enough to make a claim on the throne.

In the north, Leesha Paper and Rojer Inn struggle to forge an alliance between the duchies of Angiers and Miln against the Krasians before it is too late.

Caught in the crossfire is the duchy of Lakton—rich and unprotected, ripe for conquest.

All the while, the corelings have been growing stronger, and without Arlen and Jardir there may be none strong enough to stop them. Only Renna Bales may know more about the fate of the missing men, but she, too, has disappeared. . . .

While I should have expected this, the Skull Throne, the fourth book out of five in the Demon Cycle Series, brings even more shocking events to a head than its predecessor, The Daylight War.

Wars are fought, characters introduced, characters killed, and entire plans thrown away, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be unable to put down this remarkable book until your each the last page, and even then you’ll flip back to older chapters trying to see if you really read the insanity that you just read.

That is the greatest reason why you should read the Skull Throne, for while it ends in remarkable cliffhangers for most of the characters we have come to love, and almost everyone is in peril, if you pick this book up you will not be able to put it down. Brett has created a truly remarkable book in how captivating it is. There really are no slow or down moments as readers jump from one war to another, and even when wars end there is constant treachery and intrigue that readers will have to take a day off work before picking this book up.

Brett also keeps the story going by switching between characters mid struggle, as if the reader is flipping between channels attempting to catch only the good bits. This cuts out much of the unnecessary banter many books are left with and focuses on keeping the reader engaged and on the edge of their seat. This if nothing else shows that Peter Brett is a talented author who clearly knows his craft. The way in which Brett is able to seemly maneuver between such staggeringly different characters and different storylines, in a way that not only doesn’t detract from the story but instead enhances it is truly remarkable.

Now that’s not to say that that Skull Throne is all action and no substance. This book still manages to introduce a number of riveting new characters, engage in numerous political debates, and move the story forward in leaps in bounds. My personal favorite new character that is given a POV is Ashia. She is strong, smart, and has a complicated history with a number of main characters that really furthers the story and brings new light to a number of issues the book deals with.

All in all I loved The Skull Throne even as it left me positively shaking with disbelief with the events of the last 100 pages. Peter Brett is an amazing author and readers will clearly be clamoring. His characters are complicated, his story full of action and enough surprises to keep any reader guessing, and the book runs at a pace that will entrance even the most jaded of readers. All in all a fantastic book that I wholeheartedly recommend.

Publisher: Del Rey

Published: March 31, 2015

Price: $28.00

Becoming Jinn: By Lori Goldstein



Azra has just turned sixteen, and overnight her body lengthens, her olive skin deepens, and her eyes glisten gold thanks to the brand-new silver bangle that locks around her wrist. As she always knew it would, her Jinn ancestry brings not just magical powers but the reality of a life of servitude, as her wish granting is controlled by a remote ruling class of Jinn known as the Afrit.

To the humans she lives among, she's just the girl working at the snack bar at the beach, navigating the fryer and her first crush. But behind closed doors, she's learning how to harness her powers and fulfill the obligations of her destiny. Mentored by her mother and her Zar "sisters,"

Azra discovers she may not be quite like the rest of her circle of female Jinn . . . and that her powers could endanger them all.


First off, the premise of Becoming Jinn is quite fascinating. The lives and tribulations of a jinn. The world of the jinn is incredibly fractured, with the males living in a different plane and the females and their daughters living on earth to grant wishes and fulfill their obligations to maintain their powers. 

The mysteries surrounding this background turmoil as well as the secrets that Azra's mother has kept/continues to keep from Azra unfold throughout the book leading readers to a number of shocking reveals.

That said, while I liked Becoming Jinn but I don't know if the copy I was reading was defective but the ending just did not add up. It felt more like the end of a chapter as opposed to the end of a book, and it leaves readers waiting for the other shoe to drop. Unlike other authors who use cliffhangers to elicit further interest in a series, (Rachel Caine comes to mind) when she utilizes a cliffhanger much of the book's conflict has been resolved that remains is the lead up to the next book or the larger story arc. And while you could claim that this was a build up to the larger story arc, it felt like readers had just discovered what was happening and did not have time to process it before the story ends. It was as if it the tension build and builds and then there is no release.

All in all, readers will enjoy the magic, the romantic intrigue/triangle between Azra and Nate and Henry, and many of the characters (I personally didn't love many of the Zar sisters but I think tat was primarily because they were relatively two dimensional), readers will also be a little disappointed with the ending. That said with the problem with the ending being that things were not resolved that obviously means I was engaged in the story overall for that to bother me. Taking that into account I enjoyed Becoming Jinn and will give the next book in the series a shot and hopefully it continues right where the last book left off, giving readers the thematic release they are waiting for.


Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Published: April 21, 2015

Price: $17.99

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All The Bright Places: By Jennifer Niven



Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.


All the Bright Pages is absolutely devastating.

The main characters Finch and Violet are gorgeously written and utterly heartbreaking. Jennifer Niven explores the intricacies of manic depression, of loss of a loved one, of loneliness, and of first love.

While all of those things could lead to a poorly written and cheesy book, All the Bright Places is anything but. Niven's descriptions and depictions into each of these tough to talk about issues is absolutely jaw dropping in its clarity of insight and ability to tight walk the pitfalls most writers fall in. Readers will positively feel the turmoil of emotion rolling off of the book between the changes in Finch's moods, readers will be heartbroken when Finch makes bad decisions thinking he can't turn to anyone, and they will be ecstatic as his love with Violet helps the two of them grow and heal.

All in all I loved this book, it broke my heart, but that shows just how well written the characters are. I easily recommend this book to anyone looking for a book that will pull on your emotions and that will reel you in until you finish the last page with tears streaming from your face desperately wanting more.


Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Published: January 6, 2015

Price: $17.99

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Kill City Blues: By Richard Kadrey



James Stark, aka Sandman Slim, has lost the Qomrama Om Ya, an all-powerful weapon from the banished older gods. Older gods who are returning and searching for their lost power.

The hunt leads Stark to an abandoned shopping mall infested with tribes of squatters. Somewhere in this kill zone is a dead man with the answers Stark needs. All Stark has to do is find the dead man, recover the artifact, and outwit and outrun the angry old gods—and natural-born killers—on his tail.

But not even Sandman Slim is infallible, and any mistakes will cost him dearly.

If you liked the previous Sandman Slim Books then you'll love Kill City Blues, it's as simple as that.

Kill City Blues is dark, funny, and chalk full of kick butt action. Stark has a new mission in this installment in the series, find the Qomrama Om Ya and use it to stop the old gods from coming back and killing everyone and everything. This mission breaths new life into the series and revitalizes the energy of the story.

On top of that, readers will be pulled in from the first page and wont be able to put it down until the last. Kadrey writes some of the most disturbing and excellent action scenes out there and to say Kill City Blues is full of them is an understatement.

Readers will enjoy seeing characters of all sorts from the previous books in the series make an appearance, and will be especially delighted to see Vidocq not have a sizable role again but also see him in action.

Really all that you need to know is that Kill City Blues is dark, disturbing, and full of action. This book is not for everyone but if you've read and liked the previous books in the series then this is definitely the book for you.

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Published: July 30, 2013

Price: $14.99

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The Autumn Republic: By Brian McClellan



The capital has fallen...
Field Marshal Tamas returns to his beloved country to find that for the first time in history, the capital city of Adro lies in the hands of a foreign invader. His son is missing, his allies are indistinguishable from his foes, and reinforcements are several weeks away.

An army divided...
With the Kez still bearing down upon them and without clear leadership, the Adran army has turned against itself. Inspector Adamat is drawn into the very heart of this new mutiny with promises of finding his kidnapped son.

All hope rests with one...
And Taniel Two-shot, hunted by men he once thought his friends, must safeguard the only chance Adro has of getting through this war without being destroyed...

With the completion of his first published trilogy Brain McClellan has set his mark upon the fantasy landscape, establishing himself as a master of his trade.

The Autumn Republic and the rest of the Powder Mage Trilogy are absolutely thrilling. I don't know how McClellan has done it but it honestly felt as if the entire book was one adrenaline filled action sequence after another, with no declining moments in the pace. If fact, between all of the different events going on, there was hardly a place to put the book down to go to sleep. 

Further, unlike other books in which the action acts as a substitute for development and growth of the characters and plot, The Autumn Republic offers new plot lines and character development in spades. This is so much the case that McClellan has taken a mid-level character who previously had a few scenes and has since raised her to the level of co-protagonist. In fact, between the beautiful tying up of previous plot lines, the addition of new even more creative twists, and the shock of the deaths of some of the characters that we've come to love (not saying who) it's hard to think of a way that this book could have been better.

All in all I loved the Autumn Republic. I found myself slipping away at every available free moment (and even some not so free moments) to read more of this spectacular book. I full-heatedly recommend this trilogy to anyone who is looking for an pulse pounding, well written fantasy novel, and feel that it is perfect for fans of Brandon Sanderson, Douglas Hulick, and Brent Weeks. 


Published: Orbit 

Publisher: February 10, 2015

Price: $26.00