Full Blooded ~ Amanda Carlson

  • Title: Full Blooded
  • Author: Amanda Carlson
  • Series: Jessica McClain #1
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Format: Kindle
  • Source: Own
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Description:  Born the only female in an all male race, Jessica McClain isn’t just different—she’s feared.

After living under the radar for the last twenty-six years, Jessica is thrust unexpectedly into her first change, a full ten years late. She wakes up and finds she’s in the middle of a storm. Now that she’s become the only female full-blooded werewolf in town, the supernatural world is already clamoring to take a bite out of her and her new Pack must rise up and protect her.

But not everyone is on board. The werewolf Rights of Laws is missing text and the superstitious werewolves think that Jessica means an end to their race. It doesn’t help when Jessica begins to realize she’s more. She can change partway and hold her form, and speak directly to her wolf. But the biggest complication by far is that her alpha father can’t control her like he can the rest of his wolves.

When a mercenary who’s been hired by the vampires shows up to extract information about the newly turned werewolf only days after her change, they find themselves smack in the middle of a war and there’s no choice but to run together. When it’s up to Jessica to negotiate her release against her father’s direct orders, she chooses to take an offer for help instead. In exchange, Jessica must now swear an oath she may end up repaying with her life.


Review:  I am a sucker for a good cover and I have to admit that the cover of Full Blooded sucked me in. The cover features a striking, but fierce looking female who is ready to take on the world. Just what I like in my urban fantasy! I won’t lie; the story did not live up to the promise of the cover for me.
It is not a bad story. In fact, the concept is great. The plot builds on the mythology that Jessica is the first of her kind, a FEMALE werewolf. This is a game-changer in the supernatural world, especially in light of some vague, threatening, and apparently lost prophecies.

Jessica is a strong minded independent young woman trying to cope. However, she can be really whiny, which I found annoying, almost as annoying as her tendency to leap before looking. She KNOWS she has gaps in knowledge, yet she seems to have no interest at all in actually spending some time learning.

I guess we can forgive Jessica a little bit, considering the fact that everyone in her life is equally stupid. It made absolutely no sense that everyone kept trying to keep her in the dark regarding werewolf lore. I suspect this was the author’s attempt at creating a situation ripe for conflict. Unfortunately for me, this type of weak plot device turns me right off.

I also felt that the author tried to cram too much into one book. It would have been different if all of the plots and subplots had been handled well, but they all felt short-changed. I think the book would have been much stronger if the story focused on the local pack intrigue with well-executed story development.
Finally, the abrupt ending made me want to throw the book across the room. Lucky for my Kindle, I was able to restrain myself. What is with the trend toward unfinished stories???? I feel cheated. I bought a complete book, but it wasn’t. Grrr.

There was just enough of a glimmer that I will give the next book a shot. It helps that I’ve been approved for a no cost advanced review copy. If I had to shell out money, my journey with Jessica would like end here. Fingers crossed that this series gets better.

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Dirty Magic ~ Jaye Wells

  • Cover of Dirty Magic by Jaye WellsTitle:  Dirty Magic
  • Author:  Jaye Wells
  • Series:  The Prospero’s War, #1
  • Genre:  Urban Fantasy
  • Format:  eBook
  • Source:  NetGalley
  • Reviewed by:  Sonja
  • Rating:  4 out of 5

Description:  The first in an all-new urban fantasy series by USA Todaybestseller Jaye Wells. 

The last thing patrol cop Kate Prospero expected to find on her nightly rounds was a werewolf covered in the blood of his latest victim. But then, she also didn’t expect that shooting him would land her in the crosshairs of a Magic Enforcement Agency task force, who wants to know why she killed their lead snitch.

The more Prospero learns about the dangerous new potion the MEA is investigating, the more she’s convinced that earning a spot on their task force is the career break she’s been wanting. But getting the assignment proves much easier than solving the case. Especially once the investigation reveals their lead suspect is the man she walked away from ten years earlier—on the same day she swore she’d never use dirty magic again.

Kate Prospero’s about to learn the hard way that crossing a wizard will always get you burned, and that when it comes to magic, you should be never say never

Review:  This was a Book of the Month in a couple different groups I am in on GoodReads, so when I saw it at NetGalley, I happily snagged it for a review.

Warning: There are slight spoilers ahead. Only slight – nothing major. But, if you resist any type of spoilage, you might want to tread cautiously.

I really enjoyed this book. The world created was a very different tack on urban fantasy – all the fantastical creatures come from potions – potions created by adepts. Ok, so adepts are their own sorts of fantastical creatures – not everyone can actually cook magic – but the vampires and werewolves and what not are not natural to this world.

Kate is a former adept who is now a cop. She is also guardian to her little brother, Danny. Or, not so little – though it is easy to assume he is little based on the way she treats him. She still won’t let him come home to an empty house – he has a ‘baby sitter’. At 16. Even I wasn’t that over-protective . . . As it turns out, she has reason to be over protective, but her protection does little good.

I really like Kate. I completely understand her decision to stay totally away from Magic. Her comment near the end of the book says it all: “I don’t trust myself around magic.” For HER it is easier to stay completely away than to deal with the side effects – both good and bad. Some people can’t even take a dip, others have no problem. Sort of like alcohol. At least that is the way I see it. I would be just like Kate. I never do things by halves – I am either in completely or out completely. I get it. I also get that other people do not react the same way. They don’t understand why others just simply canNOT deal with even small doses of something – whatever it is. Kate has my complete sympathy.

I really liked Drew. Interested to see how things there develop – if they do.I also liked Pen. I loved their relationship. My only quandary is Volos. Is he a good guy or a bad guy? I can see Volos going either way. Did he manipulate Kate? Absolutely. But would he have done the right thing regardless? I think the jury is still out there. I think she may be seeing her past in him rather than the man he has become. Ok, yea, he is powerful and we all know that power begets the desire for more power, but that doesn’t mean he would do bad things to those he loved to get it. I dunno. I still think he could go either way. 

There is the requisite love triangle being established here. And, I gotta say, really? Does every single urban fantasy novel require a love triangle? I like all the characters developed here – I can see the triangle going only one of two ways – with her ex-love or with neither! I don’t think the other guy stands a chance. To me, they are friends – nothing more. I hope it stays that way.

There are some interesting creatures in this novel, not the least among them is Little Man – an homunculus conjoined to his twin sister since birth. She has become fully grown physically, he, mentally. Between the 2 of them, they are very interesting persons, and left me scratching my head going, hmmmm.

We can definitely draw analogies between magic and drugs. ‘Dirty’ magic would be seen as illegal narcotics, while ‘clean’ magic would be seen as prescription over the counter medication sold legally. I can see definite criticisms here for prescription medications for such things as depression – almost from a Scientology angle.

One thing that made me laugh was the curse jar. My knee jerk reaction to the first line of the book was to think, “Really? We have to start off with that word?” Happily for me, it definitely did NOT set the tone for the remainder of the novel – words when used were definitely appropriate. I loved the scene where she put everything she had in her purse in the jar and when she didn’t use up all her $, she used every word she could think of. Haven’t we all been there? 

I think my biggest single issue with this novel was Kate’s reaction to the team that she has grown to love and care for. Once she does the thing – the only thing she can do – there are no two ways about it, she has to do it – she doesn’t tell them. I simply cannot believe that the people involved in the relationships that I watched develop and grow would judge Kate for her actions and find her wanting. I think they would love, support, and encourage here. That they are not even given a chance – and OMG they are COPS – the best of the best – they ARE NOT stupid – to console and aid her – was the book’s single biggest weakness to me.

But, I am left with a  slew of questions. Say you want to leave magic and take your brother out of the world. Do you stay in the city where your Uncle leads the coven? Or do you get as far away as humanly possible? If you ARE going to stay in the city, do you make so much noise as to become a cop and keep poking at the hornet’s nest that you left? Or do you go dig a deep hole and try to hide?I mean, seriously, if it is just YOU – maybe. But, if you have a kid depending upon you? I found that aspect to also be completely unbelievable.

Other than that, I really enjoyed this one. I enjoyed the world. I enjoyed Kate. And, I enjoyed the relationships. I am eagerly awaiting more, and I hope it doesn’t disappoint. I give this one 3.5 stars for its failings – but round it up to 4 for the eagerness with which I anticipate the next.

City of Ghosts ~ Stacia Kane

  • Title: City of Ghosts
  • Author: Stacia Kane
  • Series: Downside Ghosts #3
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Format: Audio book
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating:  5 out of 5

Description:  IT’S A THIN LINE BETWEEN ALIVE AND UNDEAD.

Chess Putnam has a lot on her plate. Mangled human corpses have started to show up on the streets of Downside, and Chess’s bosses at the Church of Real Truth have ordered her to team up with the ultra-powerful Black Squad agency to crack the grisly case.

Chess is under a binding spell that threatens death if she talks about the investigation, but the city’s most notorious crime boss—and Chess’s drug dealer—gets wind of her new assignment and insists on being kept informed. If that isn’t bad enough, a sinister street vendor appears to have information Chess needs. Only he’s not telling what he knows, or what it all has to do with the vast underground City of Eternity.

Now Chess will have to navigate killer wraiths, First Elders, and a lot of seriously nasty magic—all while coping with some not-so-small issues of her own. And the only man Chess can trust to help her through it all has every reason to want her dead.

Review:  Stacia Kane has created a rich world full of interesting characters for her Downside Ghosts series. City of Ghosts, the third book in the series, gets started with a bang. From the very first scene, this book is filled with thrilling action that will keep the reader on the edge of their seat.

Chess Putnam, Church Witch and Debunker, has earned a reputation for solving tough cases. As a result, she has been loaned to the Black Squad to work on a case so sensitive that she must be bound to secrecy. Of course, this case is so far reaching that it impacts Downside, as well. Chess is forced to lay it all on the line to try or everything she may lose everything that she holds dear: her freedom in Downside, The Church itself, Terrible, and possibly her life.

Kane has set the stakes so much higher in this book. She has evolved the magic in her world-building by tapping into the Elder magic accessed by the binding spell. She does this brilliantly, creating more depth, while staying within the confines of the magic system that she has created. This magic also reveals even more about Chess, her pain is almost palpable as she struggles through the binding.

Chess burns bright in City of Ghosts, as we feel her isolated shell start to crack and fragment, revealing some of hidden depths of her character. She starts to let others in just a little bit, and yet her self-loathing makes every step agonizing, especially the conflict between Chess and Terrible. I felt that this was really well-written, because the core of this struggle was a unique trust and friendship at risk, rather than simply some mystical insta-love pull that so many authors rely upon these days.

The tension in this book was literally breath-taking. I would often find myself holding my breath, waiting to see what would happen next. I don’t just mean the inter-character dynamics. The danger was so much greater and the intrigue so much deeper. So much of the story was balanced upon a knife’s edge; the result was a thrill to read.

City of Ghosts is what dark urban fantasy should be, an intense adventure starring a cast of charismatic personalities. Well done, Ms. Kane. Well done.

 

The Merchant of Dreams ~ Anne Lyle

  • Title: The Merchant of Dreams
  • Author: Anne Lyle
  • Series: Night’s Masque #2
  • Genre: Historical Fantasy
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Own copy
  • Reviewed by: Erica
  • Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Description:  Book Two of the Night’s Masque series, sequel to The Alchemist of Souls

Exiled from the court of Queen Elizabeth for accusing a powerful nobleman of treason, swordsman-turned-spy Mal Catlyn has been living in France with his young valet Coby Hendricks for the past year.

But Mal harbours a darker secret: he and his twin brother share a soul that once belonged to a skrayling, one of the mystical creatures from the New World.

When Mal’s dream about a skrayling shipwreck in the Mediterranean proves reality, it sets him on a path to the beautiful, treacherous city of Venice – and a conflict of loyalties that will place him and his friends in greater danger than ever.

Review: I’ve been mulling over this review for a while now, and I’m still a bit stumped and unsure how to keep it from being really short.

Let’s get the basics out of the way: I liked it, though not quite as much as I liked the first book in this trilogy. It was well-written, it read smoothly and there was not a moment where I felt bored and thought ‘yeah yeah, just get on with it already’.

The plot is a bit convoluted. We learned in the first book (spoilers!) that the mysterious beings called skraylings have souls that move to a nearby unborn infant when they die. Since they come from the New World and they often die far away from any other skraylings in England, this means that many of them have ‘reincarnated’ into human bodies, even though the very act of doing so is anathema to the skraylings. Our hero Maliverny Catlyn and his twin brother Sandy share one such soul between them, though Sandy got the larger part. Through this soul they are both able to perform certain skrayling magics, and because of this Mal learns of a party of skraylings who were on their way to establish a treaty with the republic of Venice.

The book covers a number of other characters apart from Mal, such as Mal’s girl-disguised-as-boy manservant Coby, Mal’s friend Ned and Ned’s lover Gabriel. Initially they’re more or less all over the place, but the plot eventually converges in Venice with a suitably exciting grand finale.

Where the book loses a few half stars is in both the characterisation and the sometimes all too convenient coincidences that hold the plot together. (Mal’s elder brother Charles is a known drunk and gambler, yet he waited 25+ years to sell a necklace in Venice just so our heroes can then retrieve it? I don’t quite buy that.) Ned seemed a bit nastier than in the last book, Mal a bit more petulant here and there, a little too fixed on his own wants rather than on what would be the smart thing to do. Certain events that happen are barely explained afterwards, or explained too late, even though the characters ought to be wondering how on earth that just happened.

Still, overall it was an enjoyable read, and a book which kept me effortlessly entertained from start to finish, and which made me go straight into the third book of this trilogy.