the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘urban fantasy

fix-steinmetzFix by Ferrett Steinmetz

published Sept 2016

where I got it: purchased new

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Fix is the final entry in Ferrett Steinmetz’s ‘Mancy trilogy.  If you’re just joining us, check out my reviews of the first two books, Flex and The Flux, and don’t read any further in this review because hey, spoilers for the first two books.   Fix takes place a few years after The Flux – Aliyah is a teenager, Paul and Imani are back together, Valentine and Robert are trying to make things work, and the whole family is living in hiding. But what are you gonna do with a bored and lonely teenager?  Take her to play some soccer, of course.  Take the world’s youngest and most talented videogamemancer to play youth soccer?? This is not going to end well.

Not only does the soccer game go poorer than anyone expected, Aliyah’s magic is exposed and now she’s on the radar of the Unimancers, the government hive mind of their captured ‘mancers.  Paul and Valentine are literally going to have to up their game to ensure Aliyah’s safety.

I’ve been lucky enough to see Ferrett Steinmetz at Conventions and attend his readings. My friends, if you ever find yourself in the same city as Ferrett, get yourself in the same room with him in the hopes you will hear him read his work. The man has an amazing voice.  At first it seems he’s reading slowly. But no, those are deliberate, planned pauses. Those are moments in which the words he is saying (and not just the sound, but the words and the meaning and the weight) sink in. He’s doing you a favor – giving you time to absorb and digest what you are hearing.  While I was reading Fix I heard Ferrett’s voice reading it to me.  Slower than I usually read, a kindly and sympathetic voice encouraged me to slow down to experience the full effect of getting kicked in the feels in nearly every chapter. Thanks Ferrett, for making my cry for like an hour while finishing this book!

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purloined-poodle-hearneThe Purloined Poodle, by Kevin Hearne

published Sept 30, 2016

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (thanks Subterranean Press!)

 

 

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Swap out the recipe and/or knitting pattern for lots of butt sniffing, and The Purloined Poodle would make a perfect cozy mystery.

 

Told from the point of view of Oberon, Atticus’s wolfhound, this is a fun and fast paced mystery about doggies that have gone missing. And not just any doggies, but a prize winning poodle!  As Atticus chats up other dog owners at the dog park, Oberon gets to know the other dogs. By shaking hands and saying “Hi!” in the doggie way, which of course, as everyone knows, is sniffing the other dog’s butt and letting them sniff yours. But enough playing and getting to know each other, there’s a mystery to solve!  Atticus promises Oberon plenty of snacks, so Oberon is on the case! Just like that other mystery solving guy, you know, the one with the pipe!

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Spells-of-Blood-and-KinSpells of Blood and Kin, by Claire Humphrey

published June 2016

where I got it: received review copy

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Spells of Blood and Kin was mentioned in my recent 5 Books, 50 pages blog post.  Of the books mentioned in that post, this was the only book that I had a tough time stopping reading at exactly 50 pages.   In fact,  by the time that blog post published, I was halfway through Spells of Blood and Kin,  and finished it 48 hours after picking it up.  I couldn’t put this book down, I didn’t want to put this book down,  I was late to work because all I wanted to do for 2 days was read this book.  If you’re a fan of dark fantasy, of stories that have weight and depth and sensuality and secrets and consequences, this is a book for you.

 

We all know those fantasy authors who write in a fashion to make their novels longer, because an epic story should have an epic number of pages, or something. Short story authors do the opposite – often self-editing their work towards making their prose more effective in fewer words. Claire Humphrey is a well published short story author, and you can see her short story composition skills on display in Spells of Blood and Kin.  What I mean by that is there is not a single unnecessary word or scene in this book.  Every scene, every conversation, and every paragraph is honed down to a sharp reflective edge, increasing the effect of the words, pushing the reader to engage with the story in a more intimate and imaginative fashion.  That was a lot of fancy talk to say Humphrey is a damn good writer. Spells of Blood and Kin opens with a surprising and unnerving sentence, dives right into the compelling intricacies of the plot, and runs from there. Like with most books, everyone is going to have a different reaction to this book, and much of my personal interaction with this book happened between the lines, in what Humphrey left unsaid.

 

So, what’s this story about?   Lissa’s grandmother Iadviga has just passed away.  In a stunned state of grief,  the funeral is planned, the church ladies bring piles of food to the house, and Lissa starts going through her grandmother’s things. Not only is Lissa inheriting the house and the debt, she is also inheriting her Baba’s responsibilities among the traditional Russian families in a community surrounded by the cosmopolitan  bustle of Toronto.  On the night of Iadviga’s death, the spell she had been weaving and reweaving for over 30 years collapsed.

 

For her Baba’s funeral, Lissa was allowed to enter the church building, but not allowed to be in the sanctuary. Because while the church will tolerate the community’s need for witchy women,  magic practitioners are not allowed on consecrated ground.  With one hand the community shuns Lissa and her family, while placing orders for magic eggs with the other hand.

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the flux steinmetzThe Flux by Ferrett Steinmetz

published in 2015

where I got it: purchased new

 

A few days after writing an emotionally fraught and migraine fueled review, I finished Ferrett Steinmetz’s The Flux, which although isn’t a heavy book, deals with a boatload of heavy shit.  I found myself laughing and smiling at all the videogame and pop culture references as huge lumps developed in my throat from #allthefeels. I kept running across things that transcended the page right to “this is super important to me on a very personal level” territory, and that list of things kept getting heavier and longer.  And all of that was all happening at the same time!  The closer I got to the end of the book, the slower I read. Because I didn’t want it to end. If you aren’t reading Ferrett Steinmetz, you really need to start.

 

You know how the middle book in a trilogy too often suffers from “middle book syndrome”, where that book is just a way to get to the 3rd book? The Flux is a middle book that reads like a first book. What I mean by that is the characters grow even more in this book than they did in the first, the stakes get higher, and the reader gets even more invested in what’s going on. Also? Steinmetz wisely includes just enough background so you can successfully enter the series here, and be hungry to go back and read Flex.

 

I really want to tell you all the everything in this book, but sorry peeps, I just don’t have the spoons to write the full on review that even comes close to doing this book justice.  Thus, the list.  The list of things in The Flux that were super important to me, the things that took this book from fun urban fantasy to self help book:

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king makerKing Maker, by Maurice Broaddus

published in 2010

where I got it: purchased

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I have a soft spot for mythology retellings, for folklore characters reimagined in modern times. How will the author handle changes in social mores and expectations?  How do you blend old myths and a new world, and make it work?  Maurice Broaddus’s debut novel King Maker is the story of King Arthur told in present day inner city Indianapolis. Blending the trappings of urban fiction and dark epic fantasy, Broaddus gives us characters and a world that I’ll bet most SF/F fans have rarely, if ever, come across.  The dialog includes a lot of urban street slang, and yet there is a Shakespearean flavor to the timber and rhythm of many of the conversations.

 

The characters from the Arthur story are all here, if changed and modernized: Luther White is Uther Pendragon; his son King James White (yes, King is his first name) is Arthur; King’s friend Lott Carey is Lancelot; the homeless and possibly crazy guy Merle is Merlin; Lady G is Guinevere; Dred is Mordred, and so on. You’ll even find the Green Knight, Percival, and some fae interference. Even the physical trappings are here:  Excalibur becomes a custom-made gun called the Caliburn, and the throne of Britain is reflected in the Breton Court neighborhood which serves as the epicenter of King’s domain. There is additional mythos blended in as well, including immortal spirits, and a set of unforgettable assassins.

 

Merle speaks in riddles and prophecies, and King puts up with him, because the old homeless guy is surely harmless. King doesn’t want to get sucked into the world of drug dealing, but with so few options to get out of the city, he may have no other choice. King knows he’s made some enemies, but he isn’t intimidated by the thugs on his street who try to hustle his neighbors. He protects the vulnerable people in his neighborhood, and generally tries to make his home a better place.  His fearlessness leads Merle to believe that the King has returned.

 

But instead of noble kings, knights in shining armor, princesses and magicians, the names you know from the King Arthur myth are transformed into poverty stricken inner city youths, drug dealers, teen mothers, prostitutes and homeless people. Broaddus doesn’t sugar coat or glorify anything, and neither do his characters. We’ve turned so many old stories into romantic tales of brotherly love and chivalry, but what parts of their stories never made it onto the parchment or into the songs and poems?  In King Maker, we’re given the idea of the noble and romantic Hero’s Journey right alongside destitution,  bleak street life, homelessness, drug deals gone wrong, and women who turn to prostitution because they have no other way to feed their family.  it’s brutal, it’s honest, it’s in your face at all times.

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icefall gillian philipIcefall, by Gillian Philip (Rebel Angels #4)

published March 24th

where I got: received ARC from the publisher (Thanks Tor!)

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Icefall is the fourth and final book in Gillian Philip’s Rebel Angels series, which means this review has unavoidable spoilers for the first three books.

 

the non-spoilery part of this review is: I absolutely love the characters in these books. Seth, Finn, Rory, Jed, Hannah, everyone, even the bad guys. Philip portrays them with such effortless ease that you yearn to fall deeper into their histories and futures, and her writing style offers an addicting and compelling reading experience. When it comes to satisfaction, this series delivers.  And let’s not forget the feels. Heartbreak, betrayal, deception, emotional torment, starcrossed lovers and families torn apart, Philip could teach your favorite epic fantasy authors a thing or two about kicking readers in the feels. And the way she does it? You’ll willingly take the punch to the feels. In fact, she’ll have you  begging for it.

 

The Sithe know the veil is dying. The elusive boundary between their world and ours, what will happen when the veil ceases to exist? Queen Kate NicNiven has paid a terrible price to guarantee the veil ends on her terms, but she’s missing a few pieces yet needed to seal the deal. Seth MacGregor and his clann have been been living in exile on our side of the veil. Not the worlds best father by a long shot, Seth is raising and protecting his half-mortal son Rory as best he can. No one really knows what exactly will happen when the veil fails. Well, a few people have an idea of what might happen, but they’re not talking.

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flex cover artFlex, by Ferrett Steinmetz

published March 3, 2015

where I got it: received eARC from the author (Thanks Ferrett!)

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I’m a tough customer with many Urban Fantasy titles. I tend to either really like the book, or be bored out of my mind by it, and I struggle with understanding why some UF books rock my world and why others don’t work for me. Luckily, Ferrett Steinmetz’s Flex falls firmly and undoubtedly in the first camp. He takes the “people learn how to do magic, will they use it for good or ill?” question and blows it right open, exposing the soft underbelly of a society that first resorts to fear and violence when faced with something they don’t understand.  And I fricken’ loved every word of it.  The magic is weird and soul-crushingly expensive, the characters are fantastic, the stakes are high, and the story is intimate. That my friends, is what I’m always looking for.

 

Allow me to set the stage: Insurance agent Paul Tsabo is still in shock over his recent divorce, still trying to make his new apartment look fun and friendly to his six year old daughter Aliyah. An ex-police officer, he lost a foot in the event that brought his police career to a screeching halt. It’s okay though, Paul actually loves doing paperwork and investigating insurance fraud.  The stingy insurance company he works for loves him too – he saves them a fortune in paying out claims. After all, if the injury or damage was caused by ‘mancy, it’s not covered by insurance. Paul can sniff out ‘mancy like the best of them, because after all, he is a ‘mancer. He loves the idea that his forms and paperwork can track anything that happens, or anything that someone wants to happen.

 

No one really understands how magic works, but everyone knows three things: Your ‘mancy is directly connected to what you love; physics and magic do not get along and the side effects of ‘mancy are often fatal; and if caught doing ‘mancy you are arrested, mind-wiped, and given a life time membership to the military hive mind. Very few people understand how ‘mancy works, and since it’s illegal to learn about it or discuss it, finding what knowledge does exist is even harder.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.