[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] 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] 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] Short stories and Shadowed Souls

Book Review: Shadowed Souls, edited by Kerrie L. Hughes & Jim Butcher

Shadowed Souls.jpgThis has been a great month for short story collections and Urban Fantasy. I just finished Patricia Briggs’ Shifting Shadows, a collection of stories from her Mercy Thompson werewolf world, when this book popped up on my radar. Shadowed Souls. Am I on a short-story-collections-that-have-‘Shadow”-in-their-title kick? Seems so!

So Shadowed Souls. Where do I start? How about with the list of authors:

Jim Butcher, Seanan McGuire, Tanya Huff, Anton Strout, Kat Richardson, Kevin J Anderson, Lucy A. Snyder, Jim C. Hines, Erik Scott de Bie, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Rob Thurman.  Just writing out all these author names is setting my heart aflutter all over again. The stories span the entire spectrum of mood and tone, from playful banter and zany world-building, to chilling darkness and regret. Continue reading

[Book Review] Urban fantasy, race politics, and werewolves

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Let’s talk urban fantasy.

“Too often in UF we get lip service to the idea of discrimination (or racism or sexism). If you look at the popular series, however, there is no in-depth analysis of it. Anita Blake, Elena, and Kitty are all non-human and are segregated out of the human society because of what they are, yet in their books we mostly see them functioning in a society where they are not the minority. Anita has (or had) one strict human friend, Elena had one human boyfriend, who she dumped, and Kitty has her family, but the werewolves and vampires get more play. The characters who are supposedly outsiders are actually part of the in-group of the novel. In those novels, in terms of characters, strict humans are the minority, and very rarely do central characters behave as if they have been effected by an -ism; they might have to hide, but outright discrimination doesn’t really seem to occur or should it, like in Kitty Takes a Holiday, it lacks depth.” (Chris from Goodreads)

I couldn’t have laid it out better myself, so I didn’t try. Chris was the Goodreads review angel who said Benighted by Kit Whitfield was different in its representation of “otherness.” I was convinced me to give the book a chance – and man, am I glad I did.

Since I finished it, it has skyrocketed to my short list of top reads, and is one of the few books I’ve reread. But before I get more into that, the plot:

In Benighted, being wholly human is a recessive gene. When the full moon rises, ninety-nine percent of the human population humans transform into lunes (werewolves), mindless, ferocious animals, wrecking havoc if left to their own devices. Those few born unable to change are the minority – often viewed with disgust and hostility for their disability.

Lola Galley is a veteran of the Department for the Ongoing Regulation of Lycanthropic Activities, an organization staffed by non-lunes that monitors the city during the full moon and is tasked with keeping order and capturing the lunes who break the law to roam free on full-moon nights. When Lola’s friend is attacked by a lune, and then murdered before the attacker can be brought to justice, Lola finds herself on the trail of a deadly conspiracy. Continue reading

[Book Review] Magic, mayhem, and other stuff they didn’t cover in the police academy.

Soul Breaker by Clara Coulson

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YES. The book gods have heard my whining and sent me this book. Shout it from the rooftops, it’s urban fantasy with plot.

Detective Calvin Kinsey is  a rookie in a paranormal investigative branch of the police force –a pseudo hush-hush operation in charge of catching supernatural criminals of the werewolf, vampire, and nonhuman sort. Calvin’s first murder case, though,  puts him in a face-off against an ancient and angry entity slashing and burning its way through the city, one victim at a time.

Oh, where to start with this one. I love books I can’t predict, and Soul Breaker delivered. The mystery in Soul Breaker is mysterious, melodrama is kept low-key, the investigation isn’t solved with some nonsense handwaving, and the fight scenes are gritty, fast, and unexpected. There a dash of romance, plenty of desperation in the face of overwhelming odds, and some inter-species politicking.

From chapter one, the book launches you into a well-paced, quick-moving, non-stop suspense. A thoughtful main character who’s not above the frequent blunder, Calvin joins Harry Dresden in my short list of favorite Urban Fantasy heroes who just can’t catch a break.

Beyond my relief and delight at finding this lovely bit of urban fantasy though, one canary did get knocked off the reading perch for the stiff dialogue. Let’s face it, when the narration sounds more natural than anything spoken out loud, that’s a problem. Another canary flew the coop over some odd characterization choices. But then it came back, because the non-stop suspense was just that good and it couldn’t resist.

 

Canary verdict:

I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book.

Book provided for review by the author.

[Book Review] Chats with dead people never end well

Canaries, I’m going to need your book recommendations. This is a third or fourth urban fantasy in the last couple weeks whose opening had me clutching a five-star rating only to lose it somewhere among the pages. The clock struck midnight and, lo and behold, the glittering plot turned into a pumpkin and the supporting cast into squeaky mice.

Maybe it’s time to shift genres again. Maybe I want more lit in my genre fiction. Maybe my grandmother lost patience and did some Eastern European voodoo to punish me for not becoming a doctor.

“Oh, you waste life on book blog? I make all book you read taste like bad borscht. ALL BOOK.”

Continue reading