Clean by Alex Hughes. ★★★
It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that managed to give me so many mixed feelings!
The narrator of Clean is a drug addicted telepath. After getting kicked out of the Telepath’s Guild, he makes a living by working for police, mainly by using his telepathic powers to tease information out of suspects during interviews. But his routine begins to fall to pieces when a new killer starts stalking Atlanta and he’s called upon to help investigate. All signs point to the killer having some form of psychic powers, but otherwise clues are sparse.
The Witch Who Came in from the Cold by Lindsay Smith, Max Gladstone, Cassandra Rose Clarke, Ian Tregillis, Michael Swanwick.★★★★
The Witch Who Came in from the Cold mixes Cold War intrigue with urban fantasy to create a fantastic and original story.
Before I say anything else, I should note that The Witch Who Came in from the Cold is a Serial Box story. Serial Box is a fairly new company that releases “episodes” of serial stories that together make up a “season.” Basically, a written story told in a format more akin to weekly television. Each Serial Box story brings in multiple writers who work together to create the season.
In Prague, both KGB and CIA agents scheme on behalf of their respected countries. But there’s another divide that lies beneath the feuding nations: the magical organizations of Ice and Flame. The Flame wants to see the world burn and built anew from the ashes. The Ice wants to prevent this happening. And magicians loyalties to the Ice or Flame are greater than any national divide. Whether KGB or MI6, Ice agents will cooperate to stop the Flame. Tanya Morozova is a KGB operative and sorceress for the Ice, but she’s beginning to wonder how much the Ice can be trusted. Gabe Pritchard is a CIA operative, but he’s beginning to realize there’s more to the world. Something happened to him in Cairo, and nothing’s been right since… But when he seeks help, he’s directed towards Tanya Morozova. They are enemies in one conflict and allies in another.
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. ★★★★
Certain Dark Things is a gritty, fresh take on vampires set in an alternate version of Mexico City.
Domingo is a homeless seventeen year old who makes a living collecting garbage off the streets of Mexico City. But then he meets Atl, a young vampire on the run. Her clan of Aztec descended vampires was obliterated by another vampire clan who was muscling in on their drug trade. Mexico City, a “vampire free” sanctuary, looked like somewhere she could lose her pursuit, but now she’s risking both rival vampires and the gangs and police of Mexico City.
Gilded Cage by Vic James. ★★★1/2
Gilded Cage is a compulsively readable YA fantasy dystopia. I’ll admit, I was wary of picking it up. I haven’t had the best experiences with the YA dystopian genre, and at this point it feels like there’s a certain sameness to most of the books. But when Imyril over at x + 1 gave it a positive review, I reconsidered. As it turns out, I am glad I did.
Gilded Cage takes place in an alternate version of England where the ruling segment of the population, the Equals, posses immense magical skill. The vast majority of the population are commoners, who are utterly without magic or power. They have to give up ten years of their lives to serve as slaves for the Equals, a modern update on medieval fiefdom. Abi and Luke Hadley are commoners, and they’re about to begin their slave years. But due to Abi’s genius and hard work, she’s gotten their family a place at the Jardine estate instead of the sweatshops of the slave town. But as the day arrives, something goes wrong and Luke instead finds himself being sent to Millmoor, the aforementioned slave town. There he finds something entirely unexpected: revolution. Meanwhile, his sister Abi begins to wonder if she’s made the wrong choice by having the family serve the Jardines, for she soon finds that they can be heinously cruel in their power.
Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey. ★★1/2
Going into Guardians of the Dead, I had only vague ideas of what it was about. I knew that it was set in New Zealand, involved Māori mythology, contained an asexual side character and appeared on many asexual representation lists. The last two are largely why I picked up the book. Plus, I was in New Zealand at the time and thought it would be cool to read a book set there.
Ellie Spencer is a seventeen year old who’s counting down the days until she can graduate from boarding school, where she really only has one friend – Kevin. Her largest concern is getting roped in to do martial arts choreography for a local student play, but strange things keep seeming to happen to her. First of all, something is up with Mark, that guy she has a crush on. And who’s the strange woman who’s practically stalking Kevin? Soon Ellie will find herself unwittingly involved in the worlds of myth and magic.
One Good Dragon Deserves Another by Rachel Aaron. ★★★★
I am loving this series so much, and it’s threatening to become on of my all time favorite urban fantasy series. It’s just so much fun! Plus, I love the world and characters. Rachel Aaron is doing truly wonderful work with this series.
One Good Dragon Deserves Another is the second book in the Heartstriker series, which begins with Nice Dragons Finish Last. I would suggest reading the books in order. Don’t worry, both books are fantastic! Forewarning, this review could involve spoilers from the first book.
Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace. ★★★
Lena and Darren are two down on their luck chefs who’ve been blackballed from most New York establishment. They are contemplating – horror of horrors – moving to Jersey when they get an unexpected job offer from a catering company they’ve never heard of. As they soon discover, Sin du Jour is no ordinary catering company. It’s clientele are the supernatural denizens of New York.
Envy of Angels is the start to a series of novellas. And for better or worse, there’s a lot packed into this little novella. From warring demonic gangs to a heist at an iconic fast food company headquarters, Envy of Angels has it all.
However, the sheer amount of plot lines and the breadth of the cast meant that character development felt scanty. There are so many characters in this novella, but none of them are memorable. It might have worked better for me if it had narrowed the focus and expanded the development of a core cast.
Envy of Angels is one of the more imaginative urban fantasy ideas I’ve encountered. I did enjoy the time I spent reading it, but I don’t think I would ever reread it. I may or may not pick up the sequels. While I liked the central idea, I wished I liked the characters more.