Book Review: Greywalker and Poltergeist

greywalkerGreywalker/Poltergeist
by Kat Richardson
Urban Fantasy
352 pages/349 pages
Published 2006/2007

I didn’t want to call this a series review, because there’s currently nine books in the series, and I’ve only read two of them. So this is a review of the first two books in the Greywalker series, because I don’t plan on reading more. I know that sounds ominous! Bear with me.

So Greywalker begins with our heroine, Harper, nearly being killed by a dude she’s been investigating. Well. Not nearly. She does die, but the EMTs bring her back. This experience gives her the ability to see into the Grey – a kind of fuzzy otherworld full of ghosts and other, scarier beings.

Now, this is a cool concept. I’m down with this. My problem, I think, is that Harper just seems to take this in stride. She finds a couple of people who know about the Grey, and teach her how to use it. But I feel like she never really emotionally dealt with this giant change. It felt like she basically went “Huh. Okay. That’s a thing. I need to learn how to use this.” She just went back to being a PI with this new ability. Fifty pages in, she’s back to investigating cases. It would be one thing if these were flashbacks – if the assault had happened prior to the book opening, and she’d done the emotional work. But to have the book open with that, and expect us to believe she’s just – okay with this? That a human could wrap their brain around this news so quickly? I don’t know. That requires a LOT of suspension of disbelief.

poltergeistIf I ignore the start, and the fact that she’s brand new to being a Greywalker and should be dealing with that, the rest of the book is a pretty standard urban fantasy mystery. I liked the world-building and the different takes on supernaturals. Vampires are, rightly, TERRIFYING. Despite being the protagonist, Harper is not magically immune to vampire wiles, which is a nice change. Personally, though, Book One is just spoiled for me because there should be a lot more emotional fallout. The character just falls flat and seems unrealistic.

The second book is better; possibly simply because this isn’t new for her by now, so I’m not expecting emotional work from her. The investigation seems more focused, and less scattered all over the place. It’s still pretty standard urban fantasy, though.

Overall, the concept is interesting, but the execution is lacking. It’s possible the series gets better in later books, but I’ve read two and just don’t have the desire to spend more time with Harper. She’s flat, lacks emotional depth, and is just uninteresting. I’m moving on to other books.

From the cover of Greywalker:

Harper Blaine was your average small-time PI until a two-bit perp’s savage assault left her dead – for two minutes, to be precise.

When Harper comes to in the hospital, she begins to feel a bit…strange. She sees things that can only be described as weird – shapes emerging from a foggy grey mist, snarling teeth, creatures roaring.

But Harper’s not crazy. Her “death” has made her a Greywalker – able to move between our world and the mysterious crossover zone where things that go bump in the night exist. And her new gift (or curse) is about to drag her into that world of vampires and ghosts, magic and witches, necromancers and sinister artifacts . . . 

Whether she likes it or not.

 

From the cover of Poltergeist:

In the days leading up to Halloween, Harper’s been hired by a university research group that’s attempting to create an artificial poltergeist. The head researcher suspects someone is faking the phenomena, but Harper’s investigation reveals something else entirely: They’ve succeeded.

When one of the group’s members is found dead in a brutal and inexplicable fashion, Harper must determine whether the killer is the ghost itself . . . or someone all too human.

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Book Review: Slayer

slayerSlayer
by Kiersten White
Young Adult/Urban Fantasy
404 pages
Published January 2019

I am a Buffy fan. I’m not the biggest Buffy fan I know – that honor goes to a friend of mine, who I just gave a giant box of Buffy comic to, since we’re downsizing in preparation for the move to the new house. I haven’t seen anyone that happy in a while, and it made my day. (And hers, judging from the bouncing and squeeeeing and hugging!) But I am still a Buffy fan. I own DVDs of the entire show, plus Angel, plus the original movie. The box of comics I just gave away was Season 8 and some spin offs. Slayer takes place after all of that.

First I’m going to say, if you’re not a Buffy fan, seriously don’t bother with this book. You won’t understand a lot of what goes on, and while there are cursory explanations given in the book, it’s really not meant for people that haven’t watched/read the rest of the world. You’d be okay not knowing much about Angel, but you really do need to have watched the TV show of Buffy, especially that last season. While the book takes place after the comics, they’re not necessary to understand the plot as that, at least, is explained.

So, for the rest of us Buffy fans, this is a great continuation of the Buffy-verse. Nina is the daughter of Watchers – in fact the daughter of Buffy’s first watcher, the one before Giles. Given what befell the Watchers, the ones that are left are kind of antagonistic towards Slayers in general and Buffy in particular. So when Nina becomes a Slayer, her world goes sideways.

The world is mostly the same, but with a twist due to events in the comics. (It’s explained. You don’t need to have read them.) The book expands on how Slayer powers work, a bit, especially their dreams now that there’s more than one of them alive at a time. We do see mentions of familiar characters, with one notable scene where an old favorite appears briefly.

I really enjoyed the book, and I’m eager to read the second half of the duology when it comes out. I need to know how Nina’s story ends! The book ended on a subtle cliffhanger; the main conflict has been resolved, and the characters think it’s over, but we know it’s not. Similar to how many episodes of Buffy ended, actually.

So yeah. If you’re a Buffy fan, pick up this book, it’s pretty great. If you’re not – take a pass. Or start with the TV show and get yourself a new fandom if you’re feeling bored!

From the cover of Slayer:

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watchers Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers – girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watchers Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead, she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.

Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.

Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One – she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.

As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams . . .

But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested – because someone she loves might be next.

One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.

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: London Steampunk series

kissofsteelKiss of Steel/Heart of Iron
Bec McMaster
Victorian Steampunk Urban Fantasy Romance
400ish pages
Published 2012/2013

Holy crap. I have only read the first two of this series – I have three more to read. (My Lady Quicksilver, Forged By Desire, and Of Silk and Steam, with a second series in the same universe called The Blue Blood Conspiracy.)

THESE ARE SO GOOD.

Victorian Steampunk in London with vampires, mechs, and werewolves (sort of) with romance, a political conspiracy plot, and plenty of action? YES PLEASE. These books are excellently written, with a hefty plot that moves at a perfect pace. Both romances have been very believable and intertwined seamlessly with the larger world’s plot. Each book is a hefty length, enough to really get absorbed in and flesh out everything that needs to be covered, without dragging on and getting old. The characters are fascinating – even the side characters are interesting enough that I really hope future books focus on them.

I don’t have a single bad thing to say about this series, and I can’t wait to read the next books. I am forcing myself to take a break from the series, even though I have the next two books, because I have library books that are due sooner that I need to read.

The first book, Kiss of Steel, is available on Kindle Unlimited, my library had #2 and #4, and #3 is also on Kindle Unlimited, so they’ve been very convenient to read. This series is definitely going on one my list of best reads for this year, it’s that good.

If you like Steampunk, READ THESE.

From the cover of Kiss of Steel:

Honoria Todd has more secrets than most people and she’s hiding them in Whitechapel. Blade is the master of the rookeries and agrees to protect her, but at what price?

Most people avoid the dreaded Whitechapel district. For Honoria Todd, it’s the last safe haven as she hides from the Blue Blood aristocracy that rules London through power and fear.

Blade rules the rookeries-no one dares cross him. It’s been said he faced down the Echelon’s army single–handedly, that ever since being infected by the blood–craving he’s been quicker, stronger, and almost immortal.

When Honoria shows up at his door, his tenuous control comes close to snapping. She’s so…innocent. He doesn’t see her backbone of steel-or that she could be the very salvation he’s been seeking.

From the cover of Heart of Iron:heartofiron

In Victorian London, if you’re not a blue blood of the Echelon then you’re nothing at all. The Great Houses rule the city with an iron fist, imposing their strict “blood taxes’ on the nation, and the Queen is merely a puppet on a string…

Lena Todd makes the perfect spy. Nobody suspects the flirtatious debutante could be a sympathizer for the humanist movement haunting London’s vicious blue blood elite. Not even the ruthless Will Carver, the one man she can’t twist around her little finger, and the one man whose kiss she can’t forget…

Stricken with the loupe and considered little more than a slave-without-a-collar to the blue bloods, Will wants nothing to do with the Echelon or the dangerous beauty who drives him to the very edge of control. But when he finds a coded letter on Lena-a code that matches one he saw on a fire-bombing suspect-he realizes she’s in trouble. To protect her, he must seduce the truth from her.

With London on the brink of revolution, Lena and Will must race against time-and an automaton army-to stop the humanist plot before it’s too late. But as they fight to save a city, the greatest danger might just be to their hearts…

Book Review: The Iron Druid Chronicles

houndedHounded, Hexed, and Hammered
by Kevin Hearne
Published 2011
~300 pages each
Urban Fantasy

So when my husband first saw these at the library, he laughed and handed one to me, saying they “looked like trash” but “might be fun anyway.” Having read them, yes, they’re light reads, but SO MUCH FUN. They’re very reminiscient of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files; Atticus is a total BAD ASS, is the last Druid, and is a total lady’s man to boot. (I mean, look at those covers, he’s a cute-as-hell Irish dude.)

Atticus may be a special snowflake (he’s 21 centuries old, and the last living Druid, so the Tuatha de Danann take an inordinate interest in his life) but he’s hilarious. It’s especially interesting to see how his morals (he freely admits they’re based in an Iron Age mentality) conflict with the morals of modern humanity, and with the morals of his gods.

Atticus has collected a crazy menagerie of friends and allies – his lawyers, a vampire and a werewolf, come from a firm run by werewolves. His vampire lawyer has a group of ghouls on speed-dial for easy disposal of bodies. Being a druid, he’s befriended a couple of elementals that help protect his house and himself. His wolfhound is unusually intelligent, with a wicked sense of humor, due to Atticus’ meddling.

These are only the first three in the series; the library had 1, 2, 3, and 5 on their shelves, but I’m waiting to read #5 until I get my hands on #4. (I’ve got a hold request on it.) #6 is on order at the library, and #7 is due out this summer. If you liked The Dresden Files, you’ll probably like these. (Also, if you like reading about sexy Irish dudes kicking ass.)

hexedThere was one scene that bothered me. I can’t remember whether it was in Hexed or Hammered (they blend together a bit) but at one point Atticus and the Morrigan raise some sex magic to repair Atticus’ missing ear. (He got a bit banged up in an earlier fight.) And the sex scene, while not explicit (god knows I don’t have a problem with explicit sex scenes!) was a bit…rapey. As in, the Morrigan quite literally magicked him into it, and by his own admission he felt pressured (how do you say no to your own goddess?) and it was NOT pleasurable in the least. So….yeah. He’s grateful to her for fixing his ear, but the entire scene made me really uncomfortable. It did make me think about gods having sex with mortals, though – there are many, many stories about Zeus taking any woman he pleased, whether she was willing or no. Even if one is “willing” – if a god asks you to have sex, how exactly can one say no? I guess it made me think about how there are laws against teachers and other authority figures taking advantage of those they have authority over. If a teacher-student relationship is rape, no matter how consensual, then how can a god-mortal relationship be anything else?

A review I read of the books mentioned they’re very sexist – in the reviewer’s opinion, all the female characters fall in to one of three roles – harmless sex object, laughably dangerous sex object, and unhinged psychotic actually dangerous sex object. While I can see where they were coming from, the books are told from Atticus’ point of view, and he is, self-admittedly, a ladies’ man and operating on Iron Age morality. So where does a book cross from portraying a sexist character to actually -being- sexist? I’m not sure. At about book three, Atticus does get a strong female apprentice. And while he is attracted to her, she’s definitely portrayed as having a mind of her own. (The reviewer also ignored the Widow who Atticus has a close friendship with – she’s not a sex object in the least.)

There are definitely problematic bits in these books, but if you’re willing to look past those, they are a rip-roaring good time. Just – enjoy with caution.

From Hounded:

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

hammeredFrom Hexed:

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, doesn’t care much for witches. Still, he’s about to make nice with the local coven by signing a mutually beneficial nonaggression treaty—when suddenly the witch population in modern-day Tempe, Arizona, quadruples overnight. And the new girls are not just bad, they’re badasses with a dark history on the German side of World War II.

With a fallen angel feasting on local high school students, a horde of Bacchants blowing in from Vegas with their special brand of deadly decadence, and a dangerously sexy Celtic goddess of fire vying for his attention, Atticus is having trouble scheduling the witch hunt. But aided by his magical sword, his neighbor’s rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and his vampire attorney, Atticus is ready to sweep the town and show the witchy women they picked the wrong Druid to hex.

From Hammered:

Thor, the Norse god of thunder, is worse than a blowhard and a bully—he’s ruined countless lives and killed scores of innocents. After centuries, Viking vampire Leif Helgarson is ready to get his vengeance, and he’s asked his friend Atticus O’Sullivan, the last of the Druids, to help take down this Norse nightmare.

One survival strategy has worked for Atticus for more than two thousand years: stay away from the guy with the lightning bolts. But things are heating up in Atticus’s home base of Tempe, Arizona. There’s a vampire turf war brewing, and Russian demon hunters who call themselves the Hammers of God are running rampant. Despite multiple warnings and portents of dire consequences, Atticus and Leif journey to the Norse plain of Asgard, where they team up with a werewolf, a sorcerer, and an army of frost giants for an epic showdown against vicious Valkyries, angry gods, and the hammer-wielding Thunder Thug himself.

Book Review: Nightshifted by Cassie Alexander

nightshiftedNightshifted
by Cassie Alexander
341 pages
Published 2012
Urban Fantasy

Nightshifted in most ways is your typical urban fantasy book. It’s got the hidden supernatural world that most mortals don’t know about, with one mortal drawn in who must flounder her way around among vampires, shapeshifters, weres, zombies, and more. This one has a bit of an interesting twist to it, however. In most urban fantasy books, there’s some sort of hidden hospital, usually with a supernatural that was a doctor before they were turned to whatever flavor of supernatural they now are. In Nightshifted, that hidden hospital is Y4. Y4 is the bottom, hidden level of County Hospital. Here regular, mortal nurses take care of supernatural patients. One of those nurses is Edie Spence. She was offered the job by a mysterious, shadowy man, that told her if she took it, they’d make sure her junkie brother got clean, and stayed clean. Now she has a name badge that glows when something funky is going on, patients that sometimes require a tranq rifle, and a whole heap of troubles.

In Nightshifted, the first in the series, Edie accidentally leaves one arm of a patient unrestrained. In his delirium, he yanks out a vital tube and dies. The last thing he’d told her was “Save Anna.” Not knowing whether she’s under a Compulsion or doing it of her own free will, Edie sets out to find the mysterious Anna. She does eventually find her and kills one of the vampires holding her before they escape. The vampires decide she’s going to pay for that, and haul her in to a trial to decide her guilt and sentence. But Anna is more than she seems, and bringing Edie to trial may be more trouble than it’s worth…

The next book in the series is Moonshifted, followed by Shapeshifted, and, in December, Deadshifted. Due to the unique viewpoint of these books, I’ll definitely be looking for them.

There’s a tiny romance sub-plot, but it’s very much a SUB-plot and is secondary to the action in every way. Why don’t we get kick-ass, self-sufficient heroines in romance novels?

From the back of Nightshifted:

Nursing school prepared Edie Spence for a lot of things. Burn victims? No problem. Severed limbs? Piece of cake. Vampires? No way in hell. But as the newest nurse on Y4, the secret ward hidden in the bowels of County Hospital, Edie has her hands full with every paranormal patient you can imagine – from vamps and were-things to zombies and beyond…

Edie’s just trying to learn the ropes so she can get through her latest shift unscathed. But when a vampire servant turns to dust under her watch, all hell breaks loose. Now she’s haunted by the man’s dying word – Save Anna – and before she knows it, she’s on a mission to rescue some poor girl from the undead. Which involves crashing a vampire den, falling for a zombie, and fighting for her soul. Grey’s Anatomy was never like this….