Seven Kinds of Hell ~ Dana Cameron

  • Title: Seven Kinds of Hell
  • Author: Dana Cameron
  • Series: Fangborn #1
  • Genre: UF, Fantasy
  • Format: eBook
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Reviewed by: Soo
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Description:  Archaeologist Zoe Miller has been running from a haunting secret her whole life. But when her cousin is abducted by a vicious Russian kidnapper, Zoe is left with only one option: to reveal herself. Unknown to even her closest friends, Zoe is not entirely human. She’s a werewolf and a daughter of the Fangborn, a secretive race of werewolves, vampires, and oracles embroiled in an ancient war against evil. To rescue her cousin, Zoe will be forced to renew family ties and pit her own supernatural abilities against the dark and nefarious foe. The hunt brings Zoe to the edge of her limits, and with the fate of humanity and the Fangborn in the balance, life will be decided by an artifact of world-ending power.

*Potential Spoilers*

Review:  3.5 Stars – I had a tough time rating this book. A part of me says that it only deserves 3 stars but I wanted to give it 4 for excellent ideas. In the end, I compromise with a 3.5 stars.

Zoe’s been on the run for most of her life. Her Ma didn’t explain exactly why they’re on the run. She only knows that her father was mixed up in something bad and her Ma took her away when she was a baby to keep her safe. Most people get to live in one town or two while growing up. Zoe has grown up all over the U.S. and under several aliases. She gets ready to take off again but it’s totally different situation now. Ma falls prey to cancer and leaves her with two commands before she dies. The most important:

Don’t let her father’s family find her.

The world that Dana Cameron weaves together is striking in its unique mix of legends, paranormal, shape-shifters and mythology. It’s like looking at the world with cool shades. Everything is familiar and the same but everything has a layer of meaning that has been left unseen. What if all those pictographs and cave drawings of half man and half animal beings were true? What would the world be like then?

The first book of the Fangborn introduces us to an unlikely group of characters. In the lead is Zoe, a socially awkward young woman who isn’t comfortable in her own skin and used to a life of secrecy. She can count the number of real friends on one hand, but she’s willing to leave them all behind to keep everyone safe. She’s not just running away from an unknown danger that haunts her family. She’s running away from everyone to hide from herself.

The Beast.

She can’t control the Beast. What if the Beast takes over and she never turns into a human again? What if the Beast attacks the people she loves? She can’t take the chance. She won’t take that chance.

It doesn’t matter. Everything Zoe knows and believes in will be challenged. The very people she least expects to be a part of her insane journey across the world will be at her side. How does she know who is a friend or enemy? How will she know who to trust? What is this prophecy that says she’s the chosen one? With every step forward, there are two taken sideways.

Instead of leaving town and starting a new life in a new city, Zoe finds herself stalked by those who bear a striking family resemblance. Danny, an old childhood friend, becomes bait to lure Zoe into a dangerous game with nefarious characters. With heart pounding and terror trapped in her throat, Zoe dives into the rabbit hole to save her friend.

The story grabbed me full tilt at the beginning. I became confused when the pace slows down to a near crawl, and I felt like I was thrown into an info dump with long mental digressions into the past. I realize all of them are important for the story but I felt rather disappointed in the pacing. It’s like starting a roller coaster ride. Instead of getting ready to go down that first hump into speedy reckless exhilaration, you find out that you need to ride around for a while, go up another few hills and THEN you get the adventurous yeehaw drop.

I love everything about the Fangborn, the hints about where they’re from, what they can do and how they are an integral part of society. Even if they’re a hidden part of it.

As a lover of history, mythology and relics, I find myself equally put off and attracted to the archaeological aspects of the story. Parts of it is really interesting and parts of it throws me out of the story. As a reader, I never came to terms with Zoe being an archaeologist. If Zoe was still a student and working as an intern, it would be easier to accept. Most of the time, I would forget she is one until the book reminds me that she is.

The climax of the story is MOST EXCELLENT! I wanted to give the story 4 stars just for the climax. It was very well done! It wasn’t exactly what I expected and the unusual mix of events was awesome! I may have jumped up and down a little in excitement during this part. Okay, it was really a sit down chair dance but it still counts.

I want to preface my next comment with this: I’m definitely team Zoe & Will. I want them to work. However, the love making scenario felt really out of place. I’m glad they got together. I just think the description could have hinted more and said less. That small bit of the book felt really out of place in the way it was written. Not by that part happening but because of how it is written. It’s not because I don’t like explicit love scenes. I do. I just felt that this part was an odd duck out with the rest of the book.

I would have liked more time to get to know the other characters and a little less time in Zoe’s head.

The bones of the story are great and I can’t wait to see what story the second book will tell.

I know I didn’t give the book 4 stars. It doesn’t matter. You should read this book. The reasons why I would mark a book down to a 3.5 stars may not be your reasons. This book is an excellent start to a new series and I am definitely going to be in line to read the next one.

A Conspiracy of Alchemists ~ Liesel Schwarz

  • Title: A Conspiracy of Alchemists
  • Author: Liesel Schwarz
  • Series: The Chronicles of Light and Shadow #1
  • Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk, Sci-Fi
  • Format: eBook
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Reviewed by: Soo
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Description: LEAVE IT TO CHANCE.

Eleanor “Elle” Chance, that is—a high-flying dirigible pilot with a taste for adventure and the heroine of this edgy new series that transforms elements of urban fantasy, steampunk, and paranormal romance into pure storytelling gold.

It is 1903, and the world is divided between light and shadow. On the side of light is a wondrous science that has transformed everyday life by harnessing magical energies to ingenious new technologies. But each advance of science has come at the expense of shadow—the traditional realm of the supernatural.

Now two ancient powers are preparing to strike back. Blood-sucking immortal Nightwalkers and their spellcasting Alchemist allies have a plan to cover the whole world in shadow. All they require is the sacrifice of a certain young woman whose past conceals a dangerous secret.

But when they come after Elle, they get more than they bargained for. This enterprising young woman, the daughter of a scientific genius, has reserves of bravery and determination that even she scarcely suspects. Now she is about to meet her match in more ways than one: a handsome yet infuriating Warlock named Hugh Marsh, whose agenda is as suspect as his charms are annoyingly irresistible.

Review: 3.5 Stars

What would it be like to live in a world where it’s normal for science and magic to coincide? What would it be like if the existence of fairies, trolls, bogwarts, warlocks and more are a part of the known world? They’re common place to the point that they’re not considered magical at all. They simply exist and are a part of life. In this world, science is considered a part of the Light and magical elements come from the Shadow. Science has grown by harnessing magic to run carriages, streetlamps, blimps and more. There’s just one catch. With every advancement in science, the balance between Light and Shadow dwindles. As the Light grows stronger, the Shadow diminishes and all magical creatures and things begin to weaken. To die.

Only the Oracle can bring back the balance, but the next in line to become the Oracle has no knowledge about magic, the balance, or what an Oracle is.

Eleanor Chance has grown up in an unconventional household. Her father is a brilliant scientist that putters around making all sorts of amazing apparatuses like the whimsical castle toaster that toasts bread perfectly. The drive for the unknown and adventure is alive in Eleanor, and she felt no regret at snubbing polite society for the wilds of the sky. Elle is a dirigible pilot and captains her own ship. She doesn’t care much for politics or society. As long as she has her dirigible, work to fly from new places to old, her father and home, Elle is content.

Everything falls apart when she takes a job from an old friend, and Marsh comes into her life. In quick secession, Elle finds herself abducted, saved, fleeing Paris, her dirigible grounded, her life taken in hand by Marsh, and her father kidnapped. Can anything else go wrong? You have to read the story to find out!

The technological gizmos and machinery in the book are well crafted and engages my fertile imagination. My personal favorites are the gyrocopter, castle toaster, coffee maker and the death ray! That’s right. There is a death ray in the book! Think Ghostbusters and you’ll be on the right track.

Liesel Schwarz narrates the story in a tone that puts me back in time to an earlier age. She paints a rich world with lively characters. I like the characters because they’re not perfect. Each one has their strengths and weaknesses. While Elle may be strong and independent spirit, she is also naive and easily influenced by her feelings. Marsh is quick witted and strong but he can be blinded by his own steadfast loyalty. The Professor! I would love to see more of him! I want to get to know more about the absentminded scientist that creates everyday gizmos and terrifying weapons.

Here is an adventure story with a dash of romance, lots of action and several overlapping strands that may fool you to look the other way. Don’t you want to try it and experience the story for yourself?

*Spoilers Ahead – Turn Back Now*

Due to the great pacing of the story in general, a few things felt out of sync for me. While I’m all for Elle and Hugh getting married, I feel like there was a step missing between acknowledging the passion and saying yes to marriage. It would be a little more believable with some sort of courtship. I feel the same about the climax. It’s a large leap to believe what happens. Elle’s only had a few days to come to true awareness of what she is and a small fraction of what’s going on. I may have been making a “What the heck?!?!” face during the climax. It was very cool event but I still made a face by how it all happens. Overall, I’m delighted with the book and can’t wait for the next one. Yay for sequels!