Series: Kate Daniels #2
Published by Penguin on April 1st 2008
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Magic Bites
As a mercenary who cleans up after magic gone wrong, Kate Daniels knows how waves of paranormal energy ebb and flow across Atlanta like a tide. But once every seven years, a flare comes, a time when magic runs rampant. When Kate sets out to retrieve a set of stolen maps for the Pack, Atlanta's paramilitary clan of shape shifters, she quickly realizes much more is at stake. The stolen maps are only the opening gambit in an epic tug of war between two gods hoping for rebirth, and if Kate can't stop the cataclysmic showdown, the city may not survive.
Thoughts: The Kate Daniels series has so many fans, it’s ridiculous. It’s one of the top-selling, most anticipated Urban Fantasy series out there. But, after reading Magic Burns, all I can think is: the books must get a hell of a lot better than this if they’re still so popular.
Don’t get me wrong, Magic Burns is a good book. It’s solidly written, with interesting world building and high-stakes action. There were some elements here that, even as a relatively seasoned UF fan, really stood out: namely, I loved the idea of the central city park over growing to become a hub of witchcraft, complete with a giant turtle into whose belly you crawled. I have such a clear mental image of it – and it’s really stuck with me.
I also really enjoyed a number of the secondary characters: I’d read a series starring Kate’s were-shadow, Derek. He’s a sweetie in that silent-but-observant-and-may-also-kill-you sort of way. I also thought it was pretty awesome how quickly Kate latched onto Julie – the orphan introduced in this book. I was expecting her to be written out by the end of the novel, but colour me surprised.
That being said, there was a lot in this book that just made me roll my eyes: Kate is a special flower, but no one can know – except, of course, until she really needs to use that power. What even. Then there was the senseless dog death – how does having the main character kill a dog help endear her to me? Oh, and Curran? I’m sorry, but he was really creepy in this book. Some of his “famed” “seductive” lines just came off very assault-y. If Adam (from the Mercy books) had said this crap, Mercy would have had his butt kicked. And I would have helped.
Bottom line? Technically a good book, but there were things in it I just found abhorrent. I’ll be reading on, as it can only go up from here… right?
Twice a year, the English Library has a massive, huge, gigantic book sale. It’s the talk of the town for at least a week, as very very little happens in Switzerland.
This year, I managed not only to: 1) align the stars in order to be in town for the sale, 2) remembered the sale early enough to invite people to join me! We held our ground and fought the crowds – and we all came back with bags of books.
I tried not to go too crazy, though, and only picked up books I knew I was going to read:
- Living with Books by Alan Powers – This coffee table book is so friggin perfect. It is basically just pages and pages of photographs of book shelves. Very meta.
- Blood Red Road by Moira Young – I’ve had this on my wishlist since before it came out… but I think the series is over now? Whatever. I hope it is great!
- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson – I’ll be honest: I don’t really want to read this book. I know it is extremely important and essential, but… I don’t know if I will be able to handle it. I do, however, want to try. Some day.
- The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien – I love this super retro edition. Wait, maybe I shouldn’t call it retro, as it is a first printing from the 70s.
- Run by Ann Patchett – I love, love this book and didn’t have it in hardcover. I am especially happy to find this particular cover, as the UK cover is horribly white-washed.
Anyhow, there you have it. A quick peak at the books that have recently joined my shelves. Any recommendations about where to start?
Published by Penguin on 2008-04-17
Genres: Fantasy YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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An impressive debut, equal parts commercial appeal and literary prowess.
Princess Aurelia is next in line to rule the kingdom of Tyralt, but she would rather be one of the common folk, free to learn and roam and . . . not marry the next tyrannical prince that comes courting. Naturally, the king wants Aurelia to marry for political power. Aurelia wants to marry for love. And someone in the kingdom wants her . . . dead. Assigned to investigate and protect Aurelia is Robert, the son of the king's former royal spy and one of Aurelia's oldest friends. As Aurelia and Robert slowly uncover clues as to who is threatening her, their friendship turns to romance. With everything possible on the line, her life, her kingdom, her heart, Aurelia is forced to take matters into her own hands, no matter the cost.
Thoughts: I adored Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund when I read it back in… many years ago. She immediately went onto my list of “why-must-they-be-so-perfect” authors and I hoped my next foray into Osterlund-land would be just as impressive. Years later and – at last! – I finally got the chance to read her debut novel, Aurelia. And it was good. Very good, even. But it’s no Academy 7.
Let’s start out with the good: the characters. Aurelia features a POC heroine who is doing her best to cope with a very complicated life. Boys and her hair are not her priority – but she isn’t oblivious to those things, nor is she dismissive of girls who do make that the centre of their world. Meanwhile, Robert, he book’s male protagonist, is a genuinely good human being. He may be trying to protect Aurelia, but certainly doesn’t believe he has a “right” to her. All in all: big thumbs up.
The bad: Aurelia is far, far too short. Sure, there was drama and intrigue and whatnot – but it didn’t build long enough for me to truly care about its resolution. And the ending? Rushed and unsatisfying. Of course, I know there is a sequel, and many of the outstanding issues should be resolved in the next book, but… I want some kind of real conclusion. Not just a big “TO BE CONTINUED…”. Not cute. But, then again:
- this is Osterlund’s first book,
- I’m sure it was heavily edited to fit the publishing world’s many-sequel model, and
- despite #1 and #2 it is still very entertaining.
Bottom line? In spite of the not-so-great aspects, Aurelia is worth a read – especially if you are into good historical YA novels. But, for God’s sake, go read Academy 7 already!
I’ve been thinking about some of the Urban Fantasy books on my wishlist and shelves. A lot of these are books that I added to my to-read list when I was still discovering the Urban Fantasy genre. I wanted to know what was the best, what people always recommended and then, more often than not, I went out bought them all. Now, of course, many of them I did read. Patricia Briggs, Laurell K. Hamilton, Kelley Armstrong, Chloe Neill, etc. etc!
But many I just never got to and… that makes me both a wee bit sad and a wee bit glad. The latter because it means I still have fantastic new literary-universes to explore!
Anyhow, here’s a look at some of the books I’ve “really, honestly, I promise” been meaning to get to. I can’t recommend them myself, but they are considered “classics”* for a reason!
As you can see, I have a lot of good books still on my list! The Kitty series, for instance, is supposed to be a must-read for fans of Kelley Armstrong and – hello! – features a radio host! And hell, the Dresden Files I kinda just want to read in order to get into the fandom.
C.E. Murphy is one of those authors I constantly see featured at Forbidden Planet and always kick myself for not having gotten to. And then there’s the Fever series – which everyone and their mother raves about but is still on my list… how did that happen? Or what about Rob Thurman? I remember including her in a post of male authors (oops) almost 6 years ago now… and yet.
SO! I am taking it upon myself to kick off a personal challenge: read some Urban Fantasy “classics” and find some new favourites.
This is not a deadline challenge, but rather a perpetual reminder to self. I plan to get to some of these books this year (I’m looking at you, Carrie Vaughn) and will let you know how I get on!
* Just in case some of you are feeling extra pedantic, I remind you that I am using the word “classic” very lightly. Not to mention the fact that “urban fantasy” is still a relatively new genre (25 odd-years old, though there are older works that could probably fit the under the title as well). So, yes, these novels are millennials – but they are still “classics” in my book!
Published by Pan Macmillan on 2015-05-21
Genres: High Fantasy
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life. Her people rely on the cold, ambitious wizard, known only as the Dragon, to keep the wood's powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman must be handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as being lost to the wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows - everyone knows - that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia - all the things Agnieszka isn't - and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her. But no one can predict how or why the Dragon chooses a girl. And when he comes, it is not Kasia he will take with him. From the author of the Temeraire series comes this hugely imaginative, engrossing and vivid fantasy novel, inspired by folk and fairy tales. It is perfect reading for fans of Robin Hobb and Trudi Canavan.
Thoughts: I was ecstatic to find Uprooted in my mailbox. I am a massive, massive fan of Novik’s Temeraire (read my glowing review here) and was very excited to see what she would produce outside of that universe.
Which is appropriate, considering what dominated Uprooted was the universe Novik created. It was dark, twisted and disconcerting in a way I’ve yet to experience. Instead of a single villain, Agnieszka and the Dragon faced off against a… feeling. The Wood was the literal representation of decay and infection, while still appearing as a lush, beautiful life-form. It was a bit difficult for me to wrap my brain around, because it was so foreign… and in a way, that’s what also made it so scary.
The Wood drove this story, more so than the principal characters. And because of that, Uprooted refused to be one “type” of story. It wasn’t just a semi-Stockholm Syndrome romance, or a girl-discovers-her-powers YA novel, or a high fantasy fight-against-evil… it was all of those things distorted by the overbearing threat of the Wood. So expect twists and turns, and don’t ever, ever get too comfortable.
Character-wise, while I can’t say I was overly emotionally invested in Agnieszka, Kasia or the Dragon, I really appreciated how they were handled. The Dragon was an angry, mean man – but one who was trying to do the right thing. Kasia and Agnieszka, meanwhile, had one of the most genuine female friendships I’ve ever read. They loved each other, but they also had their own problems. When jealously and hurt reared their heads, instead of breaking apart, they acknowledged the issues and didn’t let them get in the way. It was masterfully done.
Bottom line? Uprooted is a supremely unique novel, set in a universe I can guarantee you’ve never been to. If you’re suffering from genre fatigue, Uprooted will leave you uplifted.