Review: The Mage in Black by Jaye Wells

Review: The Mage in Black by Jaye WellsThe Mage in Black by Jaye Wells
Series: Sabina Kane #2
Published by Orbit
Pages: 326
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Red-Headed Stepchild, Green-Eyed Demon, Silver-Tongued Devil

Sabina Kane doesn't have the best track record when it comes to family. After all, her own grandmother, leader of the vampire race, wants her dead.
So when she arrives in New York to meet her mage relatives, the reunion puts the fun in dysfunctional. Not only is mage culture completely bizarre, but everyone seems to think she's some kind of 'Chosen' who'll unite the dark races.

Sabina doesn't care who chose her, she's not into destiny. But the mages aren't Sabina's only problem. In New York's Black Light District, she has run-ins with fighting demons, hostile werewolves and an opportunistic old flame. Sabina thought she'd take a bite out of the Big Apple – but it looks like it wants to bite back.

Thoughts: I absolutely adore Jaye Wells.  Her writing, her characters, her blog – everything.  She writes snarky-but-serious urban fantasy that is violent but amusing.  It is a flawless combination that can hook even the most skeptical of UF fans. Honest to God, if I could only read one urban fantasy author for the rest of my life – it would be this one.

Mage in Black picks up right where Red-Headed Stepchild left off. Wells introduces a dozen new characters within the first few chapters – including Sabina’s long-lost twin and her vampire ex.  Both of these characters has serious potential to make me hate them – I mean, really, how could I like a competitor for Sabina’s attention when she has the sexy hexy Adam after her?

That I loved both of these so-easy-to-hate characters?  Friggin’ awesome.  Her sister is adorable and her ex is – frankly – swoonable. (despite being slightly sociopathic – but hey, on Slade it was hot).

Everything I loved about RHSC was in this book – especially the humour!  Demon/Cat!Giguhl is back in action – complete with inappropriately violent funnies (Rule #1! You do not talk about Demon Fight Club!).  There is also a ton of Sabina Kane character development.  She is still the gritty, distrusting and jaded Sabina from RHSC – the words “emotionally traumatised” have nothing on this girl.  But she is fundamentally good – or, well, at least not-evil – and watching her start to get that was amazing to read.  I am relatively certain that one day she will have a rock-solid moral code.

Until then, this is the Sabina we get to enjoy:

“Believe it or not, there are plenty of ways to satisfy your need for blood without harming anyone.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, but where’s the fun in that?”
– Chapter 6, The Mage in Black

One of the things I love about Wells’ writing is that the humour is just so natural.  It doesn’t feel like she is trying to write a “funny” book – instead, she’s writing a book with funny characters.  That’s how the series manages to remain an oh-so-serious!UF/Horror novel and not a chick-lit paranormal comedy.  Wells can make you want to cry and then have you in hysterics a few pages later.

Even though I gave RHSC 5 stars, I’d say this book is even better than the first.  5.5 stars, if you will.  Ok, there’s not as much Adam (*woe is me*), but the villain was 100x more badass and Sabina’s character development goes into the sky-high levels of awesome.

Bottom line? The Mage in Black is gritty, bloody, painfully tragic, kick-ass and hystericalGO BUY IT.  And then lament the fact that the third book in the series, Green-Eyed Demon, doesn’t come out til March 2011.

Give this book to a boy!  If you are looking for male-friendly UF, try Jaye Wells on an unsuspecting guy.  Unlike a lot of UF out there, Sabina has no one-twu-wuv waiting at home.  And no one could claim Sabina was at all “girly” about her feelings.

At least, not without getting their ass kicked.

Review: Grimspace by Ann Aguirre

Review: Grimspace by Ann AguirreGrimspace by Ann Aguirre
Series: Sirantha Jax #1
Published by Ace/Roc
Pages: 320
Genres: Science Fiction
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Wanderlust, Doubleblind, Killbox

As the carrier of a rare gene, Sirantha Jax has the ability to jump ships through grimspace—a talent which makes her a highly prized navigator for the Corp. Then a crash landing kills everyone on board, leaving Jax in a jail cell with no memory of the crash. But her fun's not over. A group of rogue fighters frees her…for a price: her help in overthrowing the established order.

Thoughts: I loved Grimspace so damn much, which obviously made this review nearly damn impossible to write!

Let’s start with the lead character, Jax.  Jax is seriously kick-ass, but God, is she far from perfect. We meet her at her lowest: she’s grieving, vaguely suicidal and – unknowingly – a bit spoiled.  Jax is the corporate-gal who needed to lose everything to see what assholes her employers are.  So while she goes through some pretty horrific trauma in Grimspace, it helps her “grow up”.  She doesn’t doesn’t truly change, per say, it’s more like she grows into herself.

It is fabulous to read, because honestly, who doesn’t love some good old-fashioned character development in their fiction.

Grimspace is filled with non-stop twist and turns.  Space battles, crazy alien planets and new enemies at every port – kicking ass and running like hell.  I am in love with the verse.  I’m also in love with Aguirre’s writing style.  She managed to turn the whole tale around half a dozen times without making the book bi-polar.  In retrospect, it was one of the most coherent novels I’ve read – although it seemed out of control (in a “Dude, that’s crazy awesome” sort of way) while I was reading it.

I also want to go on a fangirl rant about March, who was one of my all-time favourite male characters.  Ann Aguirre writes what I consider the ideal “bad boy”.  I use that term lightly, because what I actually mean is this:

Bastard. But I don’t mean it. […] I wouldn’t trade March for someone nice. Well, I don’t mean that like it sounds. March is a good man, just not a nice one. Does that even make sense?
Chapter 33 – Grimspace by Ann Aguirre

March is a good man but he can be cruel.  In fact, he is constantly struggling to keep from letting his cruelty take him over.  And that ever present instability?  It is exactly what makes him exactly the kind of hero you love to learn to love.  He isn’t easy and he isn’t kind, but he always has his heart in the right place.  There’s a fine line between a honest and cruel, and Aguirre straddles it perfectly.

Grimspace is labelled “Sci-Fi Romance” by some, and while it has a seriously epic romance… I think I’d keep it off the romance shelf.  Grimspace follows zero romance rules: it does not centre around a single relationship, has a heroine with more than one “tru wuv” and forgoes the whole dual-POV.  And considering the strong, mystery-filled, dangerous world Ann Aguirre creates in Grimspace – I think it would be a shame to read it solely for a romance.

Bottom line? READ THIS BOOK.  It has intergalactic global corporations and human trafficking, lesbian mechanics and scarred strippers, adorable bog aliens and unionised!bounty hunter aliens.  It’s brilliant.

Review: Ill Wind by Rachel Caine

Review: Ill Wind by Rachel CaineIll Wind by Rachel Caine
Series: Weather Warden #1
Published by Allison & Busby
Pages: 337
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Heat Stroke

Joanne Baldwin is a Weather Warden. Usually, all it takes is a wave of her hand to tame the most violent weather. But now, she's trying to outrun another kind of storm: accusations of corruption and murder. So, she's resorting to the very human tactic of running for her life...

Her only hope is Lewis, the most powerful warden known. Unfortunately, he's stolen not one but three bottles of Djinn-making him the most wanted man on earth. Still, she's racing hard to find him-before the bad weather closes in fast.

Thoughts: I am a hardcore, unapologetic Rachel Caine fan. Her Morganville series? Pretty much the most addictive YA series ever written. In short, Rachel Caine = Awesome.

Ill Wind proved to me that Caine’s awesomeness does indeed translate over into adult fiction.  It has plenty of action, fast cars, biblical storms and some brilliantly 3D characters.  Although not as addictive as her Morganville series, I have high hopes for the rest of the Weather Warden books.

Jo is feisty as hell and has no less than three guys after her heart.  She drives a mustang and can start a hurricane – she’s on the lam, but she ain’t no sheep.

One of the things I love about Rachel Caine is her ability to write smart characters who still make plenty of mistakes.  Jo is smart – she has to be.  Because, unlike other superpowers, being a weather warden is not just about having the talent – you have to learn how to use it.  And what does that mean?  Well, it means an awful lot of atmospheric physics!   *swoons*

Despite Jo’s obvious book smarts, she is still fallible.  She makes mistakes and misjudges people – she’s only human!  Unlike a lot of authors, who have the token genius who never makes a mistake, Caine writes realistic smart people.  Just because a character has an IQ of 150 doesn’t mean they have to be boringly predictable – Caine lets her smarties get into trouble.

And go to the beach.

Bottom line?  Ill Wind has it all: action, mystery, romance and rain.  Pick it up if you are looking for some UF without all the traditional baddies.

Review: Rogue by Rachel Vincent

Review: Rogue by Rachel VincentRogue by Rachel Vincent
Series: Shifters #2
Published by MIRA
Pages: 394
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Stray, Pride

Okay, so cats don't always land on their feet.

I know that better than most. Since rejoining the Pride, I ve made big decisions and even bigger mistakes: the kind paid for with innocent lives. As the first and only female enforcer, I have plenty to prove to my father, the Pride, and myself. And with murdered toms turning up in our territory, I m working harder than ever, though I always find the energy for a little after-hours recreation with Marc, my partner both on- and off-duty.

But not all of my mistakes are behind me. We re beginning to suspect that the dead are connected to a rash of missing human women and that they can all be laid at my feet--two or four, take your pick. And one horrible indiscretion may yet cost me more than I can bear...

Thoughts: It’s been over a year since I read the first of Rachel Vincent’s werecat series, but I remember the book as clear as day. The werecats series is probably one of the most inventive UF verses out there – packed with catty violence and some rather terrifying villains. But that’s not why I remember it with such detail – mostly, I just remember hating the hell out of the main character Faythe.

Well, character-wise, Rogue is certainly a huge improvement. Faythe thinks out her actions a bit more than she used to. And although she still manages to grate on my nerves, her gradual transition from a five-year-old into a mature adult is realistic and in character. So, YAY! At this rate, I might actually like her by book five.

But on the other hand, Rogue was a let-down from Stray. One of the reasons I decided to stick with this series was because of the amazing action. Stray is packed with bloody, terrifying scenes described with more finesse than anything I’ve ever read. Rogue, however, was a series of conversations. Sure, important character-driven conversations – but still. Even though a lot was revealed, not all that much happened.

Bottom line? A solid sequel to Stray. If you are looking for kick-ass UF, Vincent’s werecat series has it in spades. But don’t expect to actually like anyone.

Review: Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead

Review: Succubus Blues by Richelle MeadSuccubus Blues by Richelle Mead
Series: Georgina Kincaid #1
Published by Kensington Publishing Corp. on August 1st 2010
Pages: 368
Genres: Urban Fantasy
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Also in this series: Succubus Dreams

When it comes to jobs in hell, being a succubus seems pretty glamorous. A girl can be anything she wants, the wardrobe is killer, and mortal men will do anything just for a touch. Granted, they often pay with their souls, but why get technical?

But Seattle succubus Georgina Kincaid's life is far less exotic. Her boss is a middle-management demon with a thing for John Cusack movies. Her immortal best friends haven't stopped teasing her about the time she shape-shifted into the Demon Goddess getup complete with whip and wings. And she can't have a decent date without sucking away part of the guy's life. At least there's her day job at a local bookstore--free books; all the white chocolate mochas she can drink; and easy access to bestselling, sexy writer, Seth Mortensen, aka He Whom She Would Give Anything to Touch but Can't.

But dreaming about Seth will have to wait. Something wicked is at work in Seattle's demon underground. And for once, all of her hot charms and drop-dead one-liners won't help because Georgina's about to discover there are some creatures out there that both heaven and hell want to deny...

Thoughts: Before I started Succubus Blues I had thought the following had to be true:
  • Books with a sex-demon lead would never turn out to be about love.
  • A succubus could never be funny hysterical.
  • I could never relate to a character that deals with sex casually.

Needless to say, Richelle Mead proved me wrong.  Succubus Blues is nothing like the book I thought it would be.  It’s hysterical and heart-breaking, filled with a thousand shades of ethical grey, and stars one of the most complex heroines I’ve ever read.  Georgina is far from perfect – she can be superficial and self-serving.  But she has so much potential for growth.  Even after 400+ years on the planet, she still has a lot to learn.

Mead has also created one of my favourite love-interests ever in Seth.  He’s your average best-selling novelist: introverted, smart, and extremely wity on paper.  I never expected to fall so quickly for this beta-hero, but everything about him had me clutching my heart.  The secondary characters in this book are stellar – complex characters who stride a blurred line between good and evil.  Every single one of them I wanted to read more about – especially the angel Carter and his demon!BFF Jerome.

Demon BFF? I told you, seriously blurred lines.

Alas, this book didn’t get a higher rating from me because of one very unfortunate character *cough* Roman *cough* who I just couldn’t like – no matter how suave.  And Georgina liking him made me want to shake her (and the book) in despair.

Bottom line?  Succubus Blues is brilliant.  Sitting firmly on the line between PNR and UF – it had me laughing, crying and occasionally disturbed by the paranormal evil.  Everything you could want in a book!

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