Book Review: Jackaby

jackabyJackaby
by William Ritter
Urban Fantasy/Detective story
299 pages
Published 2014

I don’t remember why this book was recommended to me, but it’s been languishing in my library stack for at least a couple of months now. I finally got around to reading it – and it’s delightful! There are three more books and a novella in this series, and the author has apparently started another fantasy series.

Jackaby is told from the viewpoint of Abigail Rook, an English miss who ran away from home in search of adventure. The book opens on her arrival in America, by way of the Ukraine and Germany. The only work she can find in this new town is as an assistant to Jackaby, a distinctly odd character who claims to see things no one else can. Abigail, however, begins to believe him, and accompanies him to a murder scene, where she spots mundane details that he had overlooked. With Jackaby spotting supernatural things that no one else can, and Abigail taking note of more mundane details that Jackaby misses, the two make a formidable team.

Jackaby, of course, has that infuriating habit of not telling Abigail all the things he knows, which leads to her not mentioning useful details because she didn’t know they were useful. I’m hopeful, now that she’s earned his trust, that in future books they will communicate better and work together more seamlessly.

The worldbuilding here seems to take “America as a melting pot” into the supernatural world as well, with creatures from various cultures migrating with their humans to America. Jackaby has a rather improbable knowledge of this huge variety of creatures, as well as a library to look up more obscure facts that aren’t already in his labyrinth of a mind.

I liked that Abigail wasn’t portrayed as stupid; she’s a bit ignorant of the supernatural world, but she didn’t know it existed until Jackaby, and she’s learning quickly. She also can’t see it like he can, so she of course misses some things that he thinks are obvious. He could be a little better about remembering that not everyone can see the supernatural, though.

The cover mentions that it’s Dr. Who meets Sherlock, and that’s a very apt description. Jackaby is VERY Dr. Who like, with the bustling energy and quick mind that comes off as arrogant but is more…oblivious, really. Abigail fills the companion role, along with a certain policeman that I’m hoping shows up in the following books as well. I will have to track those down and find out!

From the cover of Jackaby:

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, in 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary – including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police – with the exception of the handsome detective Charlie Cane – are convinced their culprit is an ordinary villain. Jackaby is certain the foul deeds are the work of an inhuman creature, the likes of which the authorities are adamant to deny.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock in a debut novel, the first in a series, brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.

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Book Review: Silence Fallen

silence_fallen_layout.inddSilence Fallen
by Patricia Briggs
Urban Fantasy
371 pages
Published 2017

Silence Fallen is #10 in the Mercy Briggs series, and honestly, they’ve started to get a bit boring. Mercy gets into trouble. Mercy gets into SPECIAL trouble that werewolves would have a hard time with, but she’s special because she’s a coyote shifter, and her abilities give her an edge over the pure strength of werewolves! Mercy antagonizes enemies, escapes, finds her way home. Gets revenge. That’s basically the plot of almost every one of these books. I generally like them, but this one in particular fell short. Maybe it’s because I haven’t read them in a while, but it just lacked the urgency of some of her other adventures.

One thing that really bothered me was the big bad vampire in the beginning – who was creepy as ALL get out – turned out to not be that bad, I guess? They let themselves get used by him to fulfill a plot and weren’t mad about it? I would have expected Mercy’s pack to take the dude down, no matter the consequences, but that wasn’t what they decided to do.

And then, very frustratingly, they revealed something in the last ten pages or so that made me go re-read EVERY SCENE with a certain character and yep, there was no foreshadowing of that AT ALL. And there should have been. That’s something the reader should be able to guess, because the viewpoint character knows about it. And it’s absolutely not hinted at. So that’s frustrating, and changes the meaning of several scenes.

So I’m very meh on this one. I don’t know if I’ll continue this series. Sometimes series just overdo their lifespan. This should have been wrapped up and moved on to other characters some time ago. The second series in this world, Alpha and Omega, is still pretty good. But maybe it’s time to set Mercy aside. Do a series focused on the fae, or the vampires or something.

From the cover of Silence Fallen:

In the #1 New York Times bestselling Mercy Thompson novels, the coyote shapeshifter has found her voice in the werewolf pack. But when Mercy’s bond with the pack – and her mate – is broken, she’ll learn what it truly means to be alone.

Attacked and abducted in her home territory, Mercy finds herself in the clutches of the most powerful vampire in the world, taken as a weapon to use against Alpha werewolf Adam and the ruler of the Tri-Cities vampires. In coyote form, Mercy escapes – only to find herself without money, without clothing, and alone in a foreign country.

Unable to contact Adam through their mate bond, Mercy has allies to find and enemies to fight, and she needs to figure out which is which. Ancient powers stir, and Mercy must be her agile best to avoid causing a war between vampires and werewolves, and between werewolves and werewolves. And in the heart of the city of Prague, old ghosts rise…

Book Review: Smoke Eaters

smoke eatersSmoke Eaters
by Sean Grigsby
Urban Fantasy? Dystopia?
334 pages
Published March 2018

Oh this was AWESOME. With the exception of the main character’s name (Cole Brannigan) making me think of Zapp Brannigan from Futurama ALL THE TIME, this was a great read. The book is actually set in the near future of Earth – sometime after “E-Day” which they never actually said what the “E” stood for, but maybe Emergence Day? Because that was the day the dragons burrowed up from the earth and started destroying everything. (They referred to a song popular in the 80s as “ancient music”!) There’s some new technology – androids are getting popular, robot dogs are common, and the Smoke Eaters have laser swords and laser cannons for taking down dragons. But firefighting is still mostly the same.

Not-Zapp Brannigan is about to retire when his (regular) fire fighting team unexpectedly encounters a dragon. Normally, normal fire fighters don’t go in until the Smoke Eaters have taken out the dragon, but they didn’t realize there was a dragon here until far too late. During the fight, Brannigan loses his oxygen mask and discovers he can breathe in the thick smoke and be fine. He’s a literal Smoke Eater. When the actual Smoke Eaters arrive and discover him, he’s shanghaied into joining up.

The book covers Brannigan’s Smoke Eater training, what little of it he gets, and the trouble he gets into being on the Mayor’s bad side. We get to see several different types of dragons, and also see how the experience of many years of fighting normal fires helps with dragon-fighting strategy. There’s some theories on the dragons – where they came from, how they reproduce, how best to fight them.

Most of the book takes place in Ohio, but they take a jaunt to Canada and – well Canada’s gone VERY WEIRD.

This book was great, and a fun ride start to finish. I hope he writes more in this world, though the book is a perfectly fine standalone.

From the cover of Smoke Eaters:

When dragons rise from the earth, firefighters are humanity’s last line of defense, in this wild near-future fantasy.

Firefighter Cole Brannigan is on the verge of retirement after 30 years on the job, and a decade fighting dragons. But during his final fire call, he discovers he’s immune to dragon smoke. It’s such a rare power that he’s immediately conscripted into the elite dragon-fighting force known as the Smoke Eaters. 

Retirement cancelled, Brannigan is re-assigned as a lowly rookie, chafing under his superiors. So when he discovers a plot to take over the city’s government, he takes matters into his own hands. With hundreds of innocent civilians in the crosshairs, it’s up to Brannigan and his fellow Smoke Eaters to repel the dragon menace.

Friday 56 – Smoke Eaters

smoke eatersThe Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The rules are simple – turn to page 56 in your current read (or 56% in your e-reader) and post a few non-spoilery sentences.

It’s almost July, so I’m reading a book about hot things! In this case, dragons and fire fighters! Smoke Eaters came out in March, and I’ve been on the lookout for it since. I spotted it at my library and snapped it up, and so far, it’s great!

DeShawn followed me outside where a big, black fire apparatus waited. It looked almost like an aerial ladder truck, but instead of a ladder, a huge laser cannon sat on top. The black paint glistened in the sun, and instead of the standard red and white lights, the truck had been outfitted with green and purple strobes and beacons. On the side of the truck, the words “Sink or Swim” had been painted in green.

The lady smoke eater from the day before hopped out of the captain’s seat while the black man with red eyes circled from the driver’s side. They’d substituted their power suits and helmets for the green smoke eater dress shirt and navy blue duty pants.

Review will be up as soon as I finish it!

Book Review: Burn Bright

burn bright alpha omegaBurn Bright
by Patricia Briggs
Urban Fantasy
308 pages
Published March 2018

I absolutely love Patricia Briggs. Mercy Thompson is a great series, but the Alpha and Omega series stole my heart. Anna is one of my favorite characters EVER. (Though this book reminded me that I want to know more about one of the side characters, Asil, because he’s always amused me.)

This is the fifth book in the Alpha and Omega series. It actually started as a short story that  was originally published in an anthology in 2007. I own the anthology – somewhere – but it’s available as a separate ebook on Amazon. If you want to read the series, you really need to start there. It’s where Anna and Charles meet and explains Anna’s backstory. But in Burn Bright, Anna and Charles have been mated for a few years and gone on a number of adventures already. Now Charles’ father, Bran, “the Marrok” is out of town, leaving Charles in charge of the pack, and of course, they’re attacked.

In between pack dominance fights, unraveling curses, and pack bond magic, Anna and Charles track down attackers, heal wounds, and discover people aren’t always who they seem to be.

The Mercy Thompson series and the Alpha and Omega series have both been hinting at a grand, over-arching plotline that gets revealed a little more in this book, so that’s exciting, and I’m eager to see where this goes. I’ve enjoyed how the two series are very much their own series, but still exist in the same world and have events going on that affect both sets of characters. I think we’ll see a crossover book soon.

I feel a little weird calling it urban fantasy- that IS the genre, but the Alpha and Omega series, in particular, usually takes place out in the sticks. Not exactly urban. (You could call the Mercy books the city and Alpha/Omega the country and not be too far off.)

It’s a great addition to the series, if you’ve been reading them. Not good as a standalone if you don’t know the rest of the world already, though!

From the cover of Burn Bright:

In her bestselling Alpha and Omega series, Patricia Briggs “spins tales of werewolves, coyote shifters, and magic and, my, does she do it well” (USATODAY.com). Now mated werewolves Charles Cornick and Anna Latham face a threat like no other – one that lurks too close to home…

They are the wild and the broken. The werewolves too damaged to live safely among their own kind. For their own good, they have been exiled to the outskirts of Aspen Creek, Montana. Close enough to the Marrok’s pack to have its support, far enough away to not cause any harm.

With their Alpha out of the country, Charles and Anna are on call when an SOS comes in from the fae mate of one such wildling. Heading into the mountainous wilderness, they interrupt the abduction of the wolf – but can’t stop blood from being shed. Now Charles and Anna must use their skills – his as enforcer, hers as peacemaker – to track down the attackers, reopening a painful chapter in the past that springs from the darkest magic of the witchborn . . . 

Series Review: The Changeling Chronicles

Faerie1Faerie Blood
Faerie Magic
Faerie Realm
Faerie Wrath
Faerie Curse
Faerie Hunt
Faerie War
Emma L. Adams
Urban Fantasy
Around 400 pages each
Published 2016-17

Oh my. This is a seven-book series, only available on Kindle, as far as I can tell, and they’re very good. (The whole series is free via Kindle Unlimited.) There were a few grammatical hiccups in the first book, and one or two spelling errors in the series, but overall, very well done writing. (Although calling them piskies instead of pixies was annoying after a while.)

So this series centers on Ivy Lane, a girl who was taken to faerie at age 13 when the faeries invaded our world and wrecked it. Seriously wrecked it. Supernaturals were faerie2revealed, whole swaths of cities destroyed, large numbers of people killed. I do mean wrecked. She spends 3 years in faerie, as the slave of an evil Sidhe, before escaping and making it back to Earth, where she finds that ten years have passed.

Like most urban fantasy series, each book sees Ivy fighting a world-ending threat. One slight difference here is that the world-ending threat in each one isn’t exactly different. As the series goes on, we discover the plot behind the initial invasion, how it was fought off, and how it ties into the current threat.

I wish Ivy’s best friend, Isabel, had been fleshed out more – even some of Ivy’s enemies and other side characters got more personality and character development that Ivy’s supposed best friend did, and that bugged me a bit. But the world-building and magic is pretty fascinating, and the romance is sweet. I was also pleased to see a couple of nods to non-traditional relationships, though I wish they’d not been in the same book, been a bit more explicit, and been more spread out in the series. (A faerie talking about her girlfriend, and a two lady mages who were….a bit more concerned about each other’s safety that most people expected.)

For all the tropes I’ve mentioned, though, I REALLY REALLY liked this series. She’s written a few other books in the same world – Earth wrecked by faerie invasion – a trilogy about a dragon shifter, and one book (so far) about a half-Sidhe girl. I’ll probably faerie 3read those next, after I get through some of the library books on my stack. (…I may have been hiding from the nonfiction by burying my face in urban fantasy – oops.) If you’re looking for a fun, light-hearted romp through Faerie to distract you from the real world, this is a great way to do it.

From the cover of Faerie Blood:

I’m Ivy Lane, and if I never see another faerie again, it’ll be too soon.

Twenty years after the faeries came and destroyed the world as we knew it, I use my specialist skills to keep rogue faeries in line and ensure humans and their magically gifted neighbours can coexist (relatively) peacefully.

Nobody knows those skills came from the darkest corner of Faerie itself.

When a human child disappears, replaced with a faerie changeling, I have to choose between taking the safe road or exposing my own history with the faeries to the seductively dangerous head of the Mage Lords. He’s the exact kind of distraction I don’t need, but it’s work with him or lose my chance to save the victims. It’ll take all my skills to catch the kidnappers and stop Faerie’s dark denizens overrunning the city — but if the faerie lords find out about the magic I stole last time I went into their realm, running won’t save me this time…