[Book Review] Magic tattoos, cat familiars, shadowy phantoms

Book Review: Stolen Ink by Holly Evansstolenink

You know that shortlist of back-of-the-book keywords that are krypton to your wallet? One moment you’re browsing the shelf, the next you’re in the checkout isle, and all because the book mentioned a psychic cat familiar or told you you’re about to embark on a urban fantasy romance filled with tattoo magic. Or both.

Definitely both.

Enter Stolen Ink by Holly Evans.

The concept kicks ass. In this story’s alternative modern day, everyone has an animal spirit that’s bursting to come out. This spirit takes its physical shape through a magical tattoo, which, once inked, becomes a psychic familiar (think Pullman’s The Golden Compass). Drawing these critters is Dacian’s job. He’s a tattoo magician who runs a parlor with his elven partner and pretends to be a middling, third-tier tattooist. Except he’s not.

In a world where everyone is magical to some degree, Dacian’s an ink magician, with a direct line to the heart of magic, who spends most of his time in denial, not doing anything about it. Which is fine and dandy, right up till the Big Bad shows up in his city and starts stealing people’s tattoos and killing them. Continue reading

[Book Review] Assassin plus ghost plus girl equals destiny

shadowsunBook Review: Shadow’s Son by Jon Sprunk

You can just about taste the atmospheric Assassin’s Creed trailer on the pages.

SLASH, STAB
GRACEFUL DIVE OFF A ROOF
LOST AMID THE CROWD

That’s Caim for you. Assassin by trade, loner by choice, haunted by the memories of his murdered father and the quite lively and talkative ghost named Kit whom only he can see. Caim goes around murdering folks for money right up until he gets a shady job that sets him up.

Betrayal, mystery, shadow magic, action!

It was all very assassin adventure story…right up until page 25, when the novel’s second character was introduced:

“Wait. What is a sixteen-year-old debutante doing in my assassin action caper?” Continue reading

[Book Review] Evening conversations with a long-dead Mayan priestess

thefallingwomanThe Falling Woman by Pat Murphy

“I was mad because I said words they did not wish to hear, because they could not control me, they could not drag me along like a tethered dog. And so they said I was mad.”

When Elizabeth, an archaeologist with a track record of making incredible discoveries, looks at a historic site, she sees not just the ruins, but the ghosts of the people and civilizations that once existed there.  It’s a gift she’s learned to live with, and keeps secret lest it gets her labeled crazy and thrown out of academia and into a hospital. But her simple archaeological routine is shattered when, during an investigation of ancient Mayan ruins, the shadow of a long-dead priestess sees Liz and speaks to her…and Liz’ daughter arrives out of the blue, mourning her father’s death and hoping to reconnect with her mother. Continue reading

[Book Review] Where magic is murder

Book Review: Trickster by Jeff Somers

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I can’t get enough of urban fantasy worlds.

There’s something about that intersection of our everyday mundane existence and that extra, fantastic reality just on the edge of perception that just gets me. In each new book in this genre, the edges of reality are peeled away just a bit to uncover that something extra amid plot and mystery and compelling characters.

In this, Trickster doesn’t disappoint.

In Trickster’s world, shedding blood powers magic, and the only rule is anything goes as long if you have the power to pull it off.

This is the first world I’ve read in which there is no lip service to policing the magic community, no on-the-hill governing body that tracks down magical criminals, no good wizards tasked with tracking down the bad apples. In fact, it’s a grimy, desperate, and harsh underworld of magic that rewards serial killers with status and mass murderers with the power to move mountains. Continue reading

[Book Review] Possessed priest seeks renegade shaman

Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold 

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Penric, a demon-possessed sorcerer and a divine of the Bastard’s Order, is content doing scholarly things in the court of the Princess-Archdivine. But when an investigator needs the services of a sorcerer to track a runaway shaman accused of murder, the Princess-Archdivine assigns Penric to accompany Senior Locator Oswyl on his mission into the snowblown winter mountains to capture the shaman and bring him to justice.

Bujold has yet to disappoint. With a few deft strokes, she paints a cast of intriguing characters with rich internal lives and motivations. Brilliant pacing, an engaging plot, and all delivered with that deft  touch I’ve long come to associate with this series. This is also one of the few – if not the only – series (and I count all the Five Gods books in this) that I can think of that handles religion and fantasy beautifully, with a mixture of grace, humanity and irreverent humor. (Lackey’s Valdemar world is the only other one that comes to mind, but there, the spiritualism takes more of a ba Continue reading

[Book Review] Clocks, souls, and a bunch of pissed off werewolves

Shade Chaser by Clara Coulson

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In the last book, we had rookie detective Calvin Kinsey take on an ancient, angry god-entity as it tried to murder its way through Aurora, Michigan. In Shade Chaser, murder and mayhem are afoot once again. When the former mayor, prominent city witch, and a local ware wolf are found brutally murdered in the basement of a popular city bar, it’s up to Cal and his gang of elite investigators to unravel an interspecies conspiracy.

Things (and buildings) continue to explode all over the place. Bodies are discovered in unexpected places. Cal continues to make questionable life choices. Continue reading

[Book Review] Creepy cover horse says you should read this

Book Review: Tempest: All-New Tales of Valdemar by Mercedes Lackey

tempest

I’m falling behind, guys. Of the 34-or-so Valdemar(ish) books out there, I’ve read only 20 to date. So when I saw an anthology set in the world of Mercedes Lackey, it was a no brainer. Of course I had to read it.

Creepy cover notwithstanding, this was a 387-page anthology full of 22 feel-good story resolutions via 23 different authors (the last story being Lackey and Dixon’s work). The tempest theme appeared throughout, both as physical and emotional storms, as each author made that light nod to the world of Velgarth. The stories included heralds, healers, bards, companions, and even a couple non-human characters.
Continue reading