Stories of the Raksura: Volume One by Martha Wells. ★★★★
I love the Raksura. I will happily read everything Martha Wells writes about them, and I’ve even considered donating to her patron to get story snippets about them every month. For those who are unaware, the Raksura are a species of shapeshifters created by Martha Wells. The world they inhabit is beautifully strange and doesn’t contain a human in sight. There’s an entire series of books following a young consort named Moon who was unaware he was a Raksura for most of his life until he found the Raksuran court of Indigo Cloud. The series starts with The Cloud Roads, and I highly recommend it.
Stories of the Raksura contains a couple of novellas and short stories all set in the world of the Raksura. I’m so glad I finally got a chance to read it!
Conspiracy of Ravens by Lila Bowen. ★★★1/2
Conspiracy of Ravens is the sequel to Lila Bowen’s weird Western fantasy novel, Wake of Vultures. While I would suggest reading the books in order, the plots are such that you could feasibly get away with reading Conspiracy of Ravens first. However, you would be missing out on the ongoing character arcs. This review will contain spoilers for the first book, so read at your own risk.
Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews. ★★★★
Magic Binds is the ninth book in the Kate Daniels series, which is perhaps my all time favorite urban fantasy series. The series starts with Magic Bites. While not the greatest beginning, the series reaches “awesome” territory by book three and has consistently stayed there. Magic Binds is no exception. I expected to enjoy the heck out of it, and I did.
If you’re new to the series, Magic Binds is not a good starting point. It relies extensively on the eight prior books of characterization and world building. I could easily see a new reader being overwhelmed. If you have any interest in urban fantasy, I would highly encourage you to go check out one of the earlier books in the series. Maybe books two or three, Magic Burns and Magic Strikes, if you want to skip over the lackluster first installment. I can promise you some of the most amazing urban fantasy world building I’ve ever encountered, plus a badass female lead who I adore. The rest of this review will contain some spoilers for the prior eight books.
The Devourers by Indra Das. ★★★★
Trigger warning: rape
The task of reviewing The Devourers is daunting. It’s a more literary novel than most of the SFF stories I review here, and it’s a very complex novel. It’s a story that deserves essays and thematic analysis more than a relatively brief, mostly spoiler-free review. The Devourers was not an easy book to read. There’s violence and brutality, and a large part of the story revolves around rape. About a fourth of the way through I thought about quitting. However, I’m very glad I didn’t.
In Kolkata, India the narrator, Alok, encounters a man who claims to be half-werewolf. Alok ends up agreeing to transcribe a series of texts for the mysterious stranger. From those texts come the story of man eating shapeshifters in seventeenth century Mughal India.
The Edge of Worlds by Martha Wells. ★★★★
The Edge of Worlds is the fourth book in Martha Well’s amazingly inventive Raksura series, which starts with The Cloud Roads. This is a world without humans, and most of the cast are scaled shape shifters. I would suggest starting from the beginning of the series, to get better handle on the wide number of characters making an appearance in The Edge of Worlds.
The story opens with everyone in Indigo Cloud sharing a dream of the Fell attacking the court. When a sky-ship of strange groundlings arrive, looking for raksura to accompany them to an ancient city, the court realizes that this may be the key to preventing the danger foreseen by the dream.
Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen. ★★★1/2
Trigger warning: rape
Wake of Vultures is a fantasy Western novel. I found it a mixed bag. Basically, I found the thematic content far more interesting than the plot itself.
Nettie Lonesome is a mixed race sixteen year old working for people who treat her like a slave, even if they don’t call her one. She dreams of getting out, but nothing in her life looks like it’ll change until she gets attacked by a stranger. When she stabs him with a piece of wood in self defense, he… crumbles into sand? Soon Nettie learns that she’s gained the sight, and she starts encountering weird creatures out of myths and folklore everywhere. To add to everything, an dying woman binds her to go seek out and kill the monster that’s been killing local children.
Of Scions and Men by Courtney Sloan. ★★1/2
On the surface, Of Scions and Men looks like it could be really cool – a dystopian urban fantasy world ruled by vampires. However, it’s poorly executed and often feels like a collection of little thought out tropes. If I weren’t reading this with the intention to review, I would have quit part way through.
Rowan Brandy is a vampire’s scion – someone who becomes a vampire’s servant in blood bag and gains a psychic link that allows them to use the vampire’s powers. She normally works tracking down vampires who take blood illegally, but then bodies start turning up suggesting that a vampire is trying to make an off the books scion.