Adult Fiction Reviews from 2021

5.10.2021

Paper and Blood (Ink & Sigil #2)
by Kevin Hearne
out August 10, 2021
ISBN: 9780356515243
★★★★★

Review will be posted early August per publisher preferences.

But for now... let's just say I liked it quite a bit.

[Link to this review]

6.02.2021

The King's Seal (Magicians of Venice #3)
by Amy Kuivalainen
out June 24, 2021
ISBN: 9781643972428
★★★★

I had stumbled upon book one in this series, The Immortal City, by chance and LOVED it. I eagerly awaited books two and three, and whenever they arrived they went right to the top of the reading pile.

There is no good way to summarize the final book in a series without spoiling the events of the earlier stories. Suffice to say, if you like alternate history fantasy, female academic leads, urban fantasy, and romance adventure, this is the tale for you.

Recommended for fans of A Discovery of Witches.

arc received from the publisher to review

[Link to this review]

6.09.2021

The Hidden Palace (The Golem & the Jinni #2)
by Helene Wecker
out June 08, 2021
ISBN:
9780062468741
★★★★

I was incredibly nervous to start this book. I adored The Golem and the Jinni, but it has been eight years since I read it and the details were a little fuzzy. What if The Hidden Palace was confusing to me? What if it didn't live up the hype in my mind?

I put it off until I couldn't any more and dove right in.

If you, too, are feeling a bit anxious about forgetting the details of The Golem and the Jinni, fear not. It seems the author anticipated as much and lays a neat trail a breadcrumbs for us to follow, replaying memories for us, explaining prior events, and bringing us back up to speed. I fell right into the rhythm of the story, remembering as I went along, and was entranced.

There are multiple narrators and they took turns being my favorite. There are, of course, Chava (the golem) and Ahmad (the jinni), along with Sophia (the young women whose brief dalliance with Ahmad in The Golem and the Jinni has left her with a persistent physical suffering), Anna and her son Toby (Chava's pregnant friend from the previous book), and two new characters: a young jinn woman in the Syrian desert, and Kreindel, the young daughter of an Orthodox rabbi who stumbles into dark magic. Their stories all weave closer and closer together until they are all drawn together in a climactic finish.

I felt most invested in Sophia's story, oddly enough, as I remembered little of her from the previous book, and loved the new characters. No one is completely good, no one is completely bad - they are all multifaceted and complex characters that we see from different angles, getting better understandings of them as they interact with the others.

I would have read all 480 pages in a single sitting if my life would have allowed it.

I very highly recommend this book, particularly to fans of historical fiction and magical realism. While it is chock-full of mythological elements, the historical and geographical setting are characters of their own and it doesn't quite feel right to call it a fantasy novel. It is a deep look at humanity shown through the lens of the inhuman.

Again -- I VERY HIGHLY recommend this book.

arc received from the publisher to review

[Link to this review]

04.29.2021

A Master of Djinn (Fatma el-Sha'arawi #3)
by P. Djèlí Clark
out May 11, 2021
ISBN: 9781541788510
★★★★★

[click here to read the first story in the series, A Dead Djinn in Cairo, free at Tor.com]

Fatma is an agent of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities in an alternate-history steampunk Cairo where djinn live and work among humans. Having already saved the world once in A Dead Djinn in Cairo, Fatma has a reputation for handling weird, sensitive, and dangerous cases. Her current case, involving a mass spontaneous human combustion event of a secretive brotherhood of wealthy Englishmen, is all of the above.

Perhaps readers could enjoy this book, which is the third that takes place in this world, without having read the previous two -- but I wouldn't recommend it. So much of the plot here depends upon understanding the world that has been built as well as the conclusion of the events in book 1. Book one, A Dead Djinn in Cairo, and book 2, The Haunting of Tram Car 015, are quick reads and more than worth the time.

The plot here is elaborate without straying into confusion, with entertaining literary devices I haven't often encountered. One important theme in the book (without going into spoilers) includes attempting to recover a magical artifact that has been spelled to cause you to forget about its existence. Fatma and her partner, Hadia, must constantly hide notes through their pockets and things to remind them what they are looking for. This also helps the reader stay on top of a complicated case -- we are often reminded alongside Fatma and Hadia what is going on.

There is some romance, but not enough to characterize the work as a romance itself -- just enough to expand the plot, as Fatma's love interest, Siti, has secrets of her own that propel the events forward -- and readers who dislike romance in their plots should not be deterred.

Overall, a smart and creative mystery taking place in an innovative and fresh setting, and highly recommended for fans of detective stories with a healthy dose of fantasy or mythology.

I would happily read another novel or short story from this author that takes place in this world, whether it follows Fatma (books 1 and 3) or Hamed and Onsi (book 2) or delves deeper into any of the intriguing other characters we encounter.

arc received from the publisher for review

[Link to this review]

4.22.2021

Son of the Storm (The Nameless Republic #1)
by Suyi Davies Okungbowa
out May 11, 2021
ISBN: 9780316428941
★★★★★

I usually like to read late at night, but this story was too intense and it kept me up at night. I'm not complaining at all because Son of the Storm was intense and creative and FRESH.

While it evoked comfortable and familiar themes from epic fantasy - outcasts trying to find their way home while pursued by a dark and power-hungry villain -- it still gave me the excitement of a whole new literary experience, of being initiated into a new fantasy world full of adventure of magic, and I am totally here for it.

Highly recommended for fantasy nerds and for the fantasy-nerd-curious.

arc received from the publisher for review

[Link to this review]

4.13.2021

Bottle Demon (Eric Carter #6)
by Stephen Blackmoore
out April 27, 2021
ISBN: 9780756412982
★★★★★

[spoilers ahead for the series as a whole, but not for this specific book]

I had written in a review in the past that the main character, Eric Carter, was a real jerk and would be better off dead, so imagine my surprise when Eric is beaten to death at the end of the last book. Of course, main characters never tend to stay dead in urban fantasy, and Eric is mad as hell when he is forcefully resurrected and yanked out of his peaceful afterlife in Mictlān in the opening pages of Bottle Demon.

Freed from the chronic traumatic encephalopathy that plagued his former body and made him impulsive, violent, and irritable, Eric is much more likeable now. His time in Mictlān has made him more introspective and concerned about the collateral damage of his choices. I was rooting for him this time without guilt.

This series is continuing strong, and the author said in a recent interview he had another three books planned in this series.

I'm eagerly looking forward to them.

arc received from the publisher for review

[Link to this review]

3.30.2021

Near the Bone
by Christina Henry
out April 13, 2021
ISBN: 9780593199763
★★★★★

Mattie has been in the cabin in the woods with William for what seems like a lifetime. Sometimes she has fleeting thoughts of being a little girl, playing with Heather and doing typical little girl things -- but William always tells her that those are just tempting hallucinations planted in her mind by the devil, and why should she doubt him? He is her world: her husband, her disciplinarian, the only human with whom she has any contact. Plus, asking William questions will only invite further beatings.

But one day, when she is out in the woods checking the small game traps, she discovers an animal that has been brutally killed, but not eaten, unusual behavior for a predator. As she and William investigate what kind of predator could be sharing their woods and behaving in a way too organized and cruel for an animal, her fear of this predator begins eclipsing her fear of William.

Who is her greater threat? William or the creature? Can she survive either?

I read this book in two sittings but could have easily read it in one if my schedule permitted. An excellent mashup of creature horror and psychological human horror.

I would happily read another horror tale from this author.

arc received from the publisher for review

[Link to this review]

3.02.2021

Titan Song (Carter Archives #3)
by Dan Stout
out April 6, 2021
ISBN: 9780756417468
★★★★★

I will sing this series' praises to whoever is willing to stand still a moment and listen. Part police procedural, part whodunit, part urban fantasy, 100% unique and awesome. I will continue to buy as many of these as Mr. Stout wants to crank out.

--

As a homicide detective, Carter is no stranger to violent crime, but this latest string of murders is unusual. All across the city, individuals are randomly and suddenly overwhelmed with an anger so intense that they kill someone nearby with whatever they can use, and then, bewildered, surrender to the police.

Meanwhile, a megastar is in town for a concert and a large contingent of religious leaders is in town for... reasons? Are the killings related to either, or both, or maybe to the strange magic that has been plaguing Carter?

Another strong entry, and I'm looking forward to more.

arc received from the publisher for review

[Link to this review]

3.02.2021

Wild Sign (Alpha & Omega #6)
by Patricia Briggs
out March 16, 2021
ISBN: 9780440001584
★★★★★

Wild Sign is the sixth book in the Alpha & Omega series, a spinoff featuring a secondary character from the Mercy Thompson universe, Charles, and his wife, Anna. At a half dozen books (not counting the dozen or so in Mercy's series) you would expect the story to slow down or devolve, but NOT SO!

This was addictive and intriguing and more than a little creepy at times. (Good, in my book.)

The mystery was eerie and excellent and readers will be relieved to learn more about Leah's backstory and why she and Bran make such a strange pair.

Readers of this series will not want to miss this installment.

If you haven't read any from this series before, begin with Moon Called, because this will not make any sense to you. ;)

arc received from the publisher for review

[Link to this review]

02.16.2021

No Man's Land
by Ben Magid
released in October 2020
ISBN: 9781736032114
★★★★★

A quick-paced, unputdownable thriller and love story of the last human in a world overrun by robots.

Rebel has every reason to believe she is the last human left on Earth. Years before, everyone who could evacuated into space, and those left behind were hunted down and killed by the robots who took their directive to stabilize the Earth and it's climate a little too seriously. Lucky for Rebel, she has the recorded teachings and writings of her father, an expert on these robots, so she painstakingly works to understand how they work. But most importantly, she works to understand how to pass as one of them.

Her plan to fly under the radar comes to a dramatic impasse when a robot in her care, Thomas, begins developing human-like emotions and personality.

As any good robot novel should, it ponders questions about the nature of life and being human.

Full of tension, action, and sentimentalism, my only complaint is that it ended on a massive cliffhanger and there is no immediate news on a book 2, although I did hear from the author that book 2 is in the works.

arc received from the publisher for review

[Link to this review]

02.09.2021

The Russian Cage (Gunnie Rose #3)
by Charlaine Harris
out February 23, 2021
ISBN: 9781481494991
★★★½

First off, check out this cover! I love it.

I really anticipated this book and was so excited to get an advance copy.

Readers will appreciate learning more about this alternate-history California, meeting Eli's family, and seeing a more emotional side to Lizbeth.

However, this is all overshadowed by the fact that the plot is neatly tied up via a plot hole the size of Texas itself. While the central conflict is Lizbeth's quest to free Eli from prison, that plot takes backseat to political intrigue involving the tsar and a bunch of other characters I'm not interested or invested in.

Overall, it was a fun ride with a disappointing ending, but Ill probably pick up book 4 from the library, if there is one.

Your mileage may vary.

arc received from the publisher for review

[Link to this review]