Posts Tagged With: supernatural

“Days of Blood & Starlight” by Laini Taylor

Days of Blood & Starlight is the sequel to Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone, a YA fantasy novel of angels and demons that is both chilling and unputdownable.  This post will contain spoilers from the first book, so if you haven’t read it, stop reading now.

In a parallel world to our own, the chimera are at war with the angels.  Unlike in our own heavenly mythology, there aren’t really clear-cut good guys and bad guys.  Both sides have been at war for so long that they have no collective memory of peace.  Two young lovers once imagined another way of life, but that was before the angel Akiva ordered the genocide of Karou’s entire city.  Now, Karou and Akiva are two lost souls with the power to change the world, but an unbreachable rift between them.

Akiva has returned to his position in the angel army, but killing chimera no longer feels right to him.  His disillusionment with war begins to spread throughout the angel ranks, providing a glimmer of hope.

Meanwhile, Karou has returned to the chimera and is using her power of necromancy/restoration to breathe new hope into the chimera’s fight. However, the chimera army is being led by Karou’s unscrupulous almost-ex-fiance, and Karou constantly feels unsafe among her own people.

Days of Blood & Starlight is fast-paced and suspenseful.  We see both Karou and Akiva struggling with their own beliefs, but even at their darkest moments (and there have been plenty of them so far), you can tell that neither believes that war and violence are a productive way for their peoples to move forward.  It is heartening to see both Karou and Akiva inspiring others by their example.  And the cliffhanger ending… so dramatic!  I can’t wait for the final book in the trilogy to be released so that I can see how it all comes together in the end.

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Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, YA | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“The Midnight Court” by Jane Kindred

I was extremely excited to be offered a review copy of Jane Kindred’s newest novel, “The Midnight Court.”  I reviewed “The Fallen Queen” back in January and enjoyed it tremendously, and ever since then I’d been looking forward to the next book in the series.

“The Fallen Queen” was about an angel named Anazakia who falls from Heaven into modern-day Russia after her family was murdered Romanov-style.  Anazakia’s story is an imaginative parallel to the familiar legend that Anastasia Romanov might have escaped when her family was murdered, and I appreciated the level of detail that Kindred put into the setting.  Reading “The Fallen Queen” made me miss Russia, and I was glad that “The Midnight Court” was able to evoke the same sense of nostalgia.

“The Midnight Court” begins as Anazakia’s baby is kidnapped.  She fears that Aevil, the witch who killed her family, might be involved, but the trail seems to be cold.  Anazakia seeks help from the syla, fairies who appear with the changing of the season.  The first book seemed to parallel the story of the Romanovs.  This one goes a bit further, and the events in Heaven are reminiscent of the Bolshevik Revolution.

As with “The Fallen Queen,” I appreciated that the author did her research when it came to Russian culture.  The magic is in the little details, like the food, the geography, going to a dacha, or even the fact that people wear slippers called tapochki whenever they go into a home or apartment.  Most books that I’ve read that are set in Russia don’t take the time to mention something like tapochki, but even though it seems insignificant, it’s little cultural things like that that make this book stand out so much.

One of the other things that I love about this series is the love triangle.  Yes, you heard that right.  It’s adorable.  There’s Belphagor and Vassily, who are a gay demon couple.  Vassily is also bi, and he and Anazakia have a thing.  Everybody gets along for the most part.  It’s so unconventional, and it makes me happy.  I get tired of reading about triangles where there are two guys, one girl, and one of the guys ends up having his heart broken in the end.  It’s refreshing to read something that allows for other possibilities instead of playing into the same tired tropes.

The only thing that really bothered me about this book was the cover, because it makes the book look like a romance novel rather than epic fantasy.

Jane Kindred’s writing reminds me a lot of Jacqueline Carey.  It’s epic fantasy, but there are elements of romance and sexuality throughout the book that one wouldn’t typically expect to find.  There’s also a lot of sexual violence, so if that bothers you, then you might want to steer clear.  However, if the idea of a parallel supernatural world that incorporates Russian history and culture sounds appealing, then this one’s definitely for you!

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I’m including this book in the Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge, as it contains elements of the paranormal/supernatural.

Categories: Fantasy, Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

“The Dirty Streets of Heaven” by Tad Williams

I received a review copy of Tad Williams’ “The Dirty Streets of Heaven” while I was at BEA in exchange for an honest review.  I’m also reading it as part of the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII event.

“The Dirty Streets of Heaven” is the first book  in a new urban fantasy series that combines elements of gritty noir with the supernatural.  Bobby Dollar is an angel known as an Advocate, which is the heavenly version of a lawyer.  When people die, an angel and a demon present arguments before a judge as to whether that soul should go to Heaven or to Hell.  Bobby argues for souls in the general region of San Judas, California.  However, one day souls begin disappearing before the process can take place, and when Bobby Dollar begins to investigate, he finds himself caught up in a plot that’s way over his head.

Bobby Dollar’s character makes this novel work.  He’s funny, he’s sarcastic, he’s sometimes an ass, and above all, he seems entirely human.  He likes to drink, he hangs out at the pub with his friends, and he sometimes sleeps with somebody and regrets it in the morning.  It’s not what you’d expect from an angel, but Tad Williams pulls it off incredibly well and uses it to reinforce the atmosphere that the book creates.

The minor characters are equally as vibrant.  There’s Casimira, the Countess of Cold Hands, a goth demon chick that Bobby Dollar finds irresistible, despite (or perhaps even because of) the fact that they’re working for different sides in a struggle that’s remarkably similar to the Cold War.  There’s Clarence, the rookie, who is a new Advocate who’s been sent down from the records department despite having no formal training.  Then there’s Sam, Bobby’s old war buddy turned drinking buddy, and Monica, Bobby’s ex, and the unresolved feelings between the two of them.  I appreciated the way that Tad Williams was able to give his characters believable and realistic social circles, and the characters remind you of somebody that you’d know and that you’d like to hang out with.

Despite Tad William’s excellent writing and vibrant characters, the story still lacks a certain spark of originality.  The characterization and the details are wonderful, but the whole angels and demons arguing over souls thing sounds a bit like a made for TV movie.  Mind you, I still enjoyed it, but I did wish that there would have been a bit more of a twist or a departure from tradition.

If the idea of Law & Order with angels and demons sounds interesting to you, then you’ll probably enjoy this one.

Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Urban Fantasy | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

“Pure Bred Chihuahua” by Marco Zaffino

I received a review copy of Marco Zaffino’s “Pure Bred Chihuahua” from Matthew Read of 1001 Books To Read Before You Die a while back.  It’s taken me some time to get through, and I’m still not entirely sure what I think of the book.

I began to shake from the beauty and the endorphins; ecstasy came from my every pore until I heard so clearly what Marigold was saying.  It was very simple.  She said:  “Walk.  Listen.  Love.”  My words, words of Vernon!  What a soft and simple gift Marigold had given me.  And I understood what the starlings spoke of.  They spoke of the little Tygers in front of me dying of thirst, blinded by all that the world offers, and that thre is a war being waged in every plane of existence and that is the battle for Awareness.  Humanity was a self-defacing super-nova.  I gazed at the poor souls in my dream, wandering the city streets, with their petty worries, and their major worries, and their crippled energies that were caught up in so many webs that they had no energy left for freedom.  a plague incubated:  and then I awoke.

The book tells the story of Vernon Young, a man who uses astral projecting and remote viewing to participate in a cosmic war between good and evil.  He finds himself facing creatures who feed on the life energy of humans and who want to destroy ideas that are central to the human consciousness, erasing the entire knowledge of concepts such as love or happiness.

Vernon is aided in his travels by Marigold, his attractive and somewhat incestuous cousin, and his mentor Carmine, a family friend who plays the role of a diplomat both on an international level and in other realms of consciousness.

For the first 80 or so pages, I struggled.  The narration is written a bit like a script, with the narrator’s identity shown by a single letter at the heading of each chapter.  I thought that this was an interesting way of handling multiple narrators, except the narrators didn’t each have an individual voice.  They all seemed to speak in Vernon’s voice, which retrospectively makes the book more complex.  Speaking of voice, the first half of the book was written largely in the passive voice, which annoyed me considerably.  Show, not tell, dammit!

But, after about 80 pages, I got hooked.  We find out that Vernon is schizophrenic and has been given plenty of “therapeutic” drugs, which led me to question whether the entire story that we’re being told is true or not.  It is plausible enough to be real (in a sci-fi/fantasy sense, anyway), but at the same time it could all be one of Vernon’s delusions, especially since all of the narrators still seem to carry a good deal of his own perspective through the writing style.  Their lack of a distinct voice adds to the whole unreliable narrator thing, and I’m a fan of unreliable narrators.  The convoluted storytelling manages to actually work.

It makes me happy when authors trust readers enough to tell us not to believe everything that they are saying, and to question the very story that we are being told.  I found myself wanting to believe Vernon’s story, but then every time Vernon interacted with his father and mother we could see their perspective on his delusions.  We sympathize with them for having a crazy child, while at the same time wishing that Vernon really isn’t crazy and is actually the savior of the universe.

Realizing that this is a proof copy, I’m not going to comment on some of the spelling/grammar issues that I noticed while reading.  I’m assuming that they’ll be corrected in the final versions.

Overall, I enjoyed this book tremendously once I got through the first segment.  It was strange, trippy, and different from many of the other books that I’ve read before.  I was intrigued by Vernon’s ghosts and how he dealt with them, and at the end of the story I am still questioning if any of it actually happened.  Zaffino did an excellent job in portraying Vernon’s varying mental states, introducing readers to both strange and wonderful worlds while sending Vernon on a journey to Enlightenment.

Categories: Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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