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9/10
Review: Pride and Prometheus by John Kessel
Reviews / February 21, 2018

Admittedly, I’m not so big a fan of Jane Austen or Austen-inspired fiction that I would normally pick up any book with a title that begins with “Pride and…”, but there was just something irresistible about John Kessel’s novel that called to me. Of course, the added element of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein didn’t hurt. Still, although it may draw inspiration from one of two of the most beloved novels of classic literature, it would be a disservice to simply label Pride and Prometheus as just your average literary mashup. Not only has the author succeeded in capturing the tone, spirit, and style of these two works, he’s managed to create a perfect fusion of its deeper themes as well. Expanding upon Kessel’s 2008 Nebula Award winning novelette of the same name, the story begins with the chance meeting between an English high society woman and a young scientist from Switzerland. Mary Bennet, one of the sisters of Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice, is persuaded to attend a ball by her mother, who is desperate to find marriage prospects for her two remaining unwed daughters. It is there that Mary first encounters the quiet and pensive Victor Frankenstein, who is…

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6/10
Review: The Midnight Front by David Mack
Reviews / February 12, 2018

The year is 1939, and aboard a ship bound for North America on the eve of World War Two, a young Oxford student named Cade Martin watches in horror as a sea monster drags his parents to their watery grave right before his eyes. Alone and stranded at sea, Cade is eventually rescued by a mysterious cabal of sorcerers led by a charming old Scotsman named Adair MacRae. With the Soviets on the Eastern Front and England on the Western Front, Adair claims that he and his associates represent a lesser known third theater of war clandestinely referred to as the Midnight Front. He further explains that the Nazis have their own dark magicians working on behalf of Hitler, and that they were the ones behind the monster attack that killed Cade’s family. As the Allies’ secret weapon, the Midnight Front is dedicated to waging the magical war from behind the scenes, and now they are looking to recruit Cade to their ranks. Swearing vengeance upon those responsible for his parents’ deaths, Cade readily accepts the offer and immediately begins his training with Adair and his three adepts Stefan, Anja, and Niko. Thanks to his magical heritage, Cade masters years…

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8/10
Review: The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman
Reviews / January 31, 2018

Now that the Invisible Library series has become firmly established, the storylines are just getting better and better. Thematically, The Lost Plot is more mysterious and adventurous, drawing heavily from Dragon vs. Fae politics, and there are also strong attempts to involve as many world-building elements as possible. That said though, I do feel this installment takes a step away from series arc that has been developing for the last three books; the plot of this one is a lot more “standalone” than the others, which might make it a good jumping on point for new readers, but of course I would still highly recommend starting from the beginning if you can. The Lost Plot once again follows protagonist Irene Winters, an agent of the secret organization known as the Invisible Library whose members are tasked with traveling to alternate worlds to procure rare books (and yes, sometimes that means stealing them). When the book begins, Irene is offered a business proposal by a mysterious stranger. The would-be client, clearly a dragon, wishes to pay handsomely for her services to obtain a rare copy of Journey to the West, one of Chinese literature’s greatest classics. However, because of the Invisible…

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7/10
Review: The Sky Is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith
Reviews / January 22, 2018

It’s rare that I find myself at a loss for words about a book, and while I’m sure I can come up with any number of adjectives to describe Chandler Klang Smith’s The Sky Is Yours, I doubt even that would be sufficient to give the full picture of the novel. This is just one of those once-in-a-lifetime books with a story that is much bigger than the sum of its parts, and can’t be easily summarized or placed neatly into any one category. Here’s to giving it my best shot, though! Imagine a city, at once high-tech and futuristic, but also burned-out and falling apart. This is Empire Island, where our story takes place. High above in the skies, a pair of dragons continually rain down fire upon the buildings and citizens, creating mass havoc. This has been going on for so many years that they have become a become a fixture on the landscape; those who could not bear the constant threat of destruction have long since fled the city, while those who chose to remain have learned to live with the new reality. As such, Empire Island has become a place of dichotomies. Within its crumbling underbelly…

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9/10
Review: The Infernal Battalion by Django Wexler
Reviews / January 15, 2018

Often it is said that the final book that can either make or break a series, but I’m thrilled to report that The Infernal Battalion is a finale that exceeded my expectations, bringing about a stunning conclusion to The Shadow Campaigns. As this is a review for the fifth and final installment of the series, the usual caveats apply: beware of possible spoilers for the previous books, if you are not already caught up. A great deal has happened to bring us to this point, including the escape of the Beast—the demon of all demons, and a force of unspeakable evil—from its ancient prison beneath Elysium. Its influence spreads the way it feeds, absorbing the minds and controlling the bodies of all those it infects. Now it has amassed an unstoppable army of these drone-like soldiers, and at the head of this infernal host is none other than General Janus bet Vhalnich, whose faculties the Beast had stolen at the end of The Guns of Empire. But to those who are unaware of Janus’s possession, his actions seemed like the worst kind of betrayal. Vordan has only just emerged from a bloody war, and Queen Raesinia had been looking forward…

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8/10
Review: The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
Reviews / December 11, 2017

Meet Nahri, a young hustler who makes a living scamming the superstitious and gullible on the streets of 18th century Cairo. Even though she has the uncanny ability to sense illness in a person simply by touching them, she’s never truly believed that what she does is magic. But then one day during a zar ceremony, in which Nahri was just supposed to go through the motions, she accidentally calls forth a daeva warrior. But said daeva isn’t just any spirit to be summoned, for he is Dara, the greatest warrior to have ever lived. Right away, he recognizes Nahri for what she really is—something not all entirely human—and soon the two of them are on the run, trying to say one step ahead of the dark forces pursuing them. Their only safe haven would be Daevabad, the city of gilded brass walls and enchantments, where Dara claims there will be protection to be found. Many authors have endeavored to tell a similar story, most of which always seem to feature a girl and a guy attempting to reach a magical city while evading the evil creatures hunting them. However, S.A. Chakraborty has achieved something quite unique and remarkable with…

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6/10
Review: Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
Reviews / December 4, 2017

Here’s the thing: I like Seanan McGuire, but for some strange reason or another her books always seem to rub me the wrong way when she writes as Mira Grant. Because of this, I almost didn’t pick up Into the Drowning Deep, but in the end, I’m glad I did—the premise of a horror novel about mermaids was just too amazing for me to pass up, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have at least bit of fun with it. Still, I wish I’d enjoyed the book more, though like I said, there’s probably a precedent for some of my more conflicted sentiments, namely that some of the same issues I’ve had in the past with her characters and world-building just kept cropping up. While Into the Drowning Deep is the start of a new story, it is also technically the follow-up to Rolling in the Deep, a novella chronicling the tragic fate of the cruise liner Atargatis which set sail for the Mariana Trench seven years ago on a mission to film a mockumentary about the existence of mermaids. Only, no one made it back alive. Every member of the Imagine Entertainment studio film crew was…

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9/10
Review: The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
Reviews / November 27, 2017

Mark my words, Katherine Arden is definitely going places. Early this year, she enchanted me with her lovely debut The Bear and the Nightingale, and now she has done it again with its follow-up The Girl in the Tower, which I thought was just as good—if not better—than its predecessor. The story continues the journey of brave Vasya, a young woman with a gift that grants her a special connection with the wilderness and the spirits that dwell within. But in the small Russian village where she lives, her abilities and strange behaviors eventually give rise to rumors that she is a witch, made worse by the town’s zealous priest who holds a grudge against her. Now she has been driven out of her community, her options reduced to either letting her older sister arrange a marriage for her, or spending the rest of her life in a convent. Neither are acceptable to Vasya, so in the end she decides to take her fate in her own hands and attempts to forge a third path. Disguising herself as a boy, Vasya takes to the road with Solovey, her trusty horse. Her adventures are cut short, however, when she encounters a…

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10/10
Review: Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
Reviews / November 21, 2017

A full five stars to Oathbringer and nothing less. If you’ve read the two previous volumes in the Stormlight Archive, you’d probably already understand; this series is a masterful, meticulous continuation into the journey to explore the mysterious world of Roshar, and once again this third installment is revealing so much more about our characters and their roles in this epic tableau. I find myself speechless, as I often am after reading a Brandon Sanderson novel, because there’s so much to talk about and yet also so much I can’t spoil. I’m also not too articulate when my mind is blown, so trying to put into words my roiling feelings upon finishing Oathbringer will be difficult, but I’ll try my best to convey my thoughts on this work of art. That said, you should still only read this review after you’ve read the first two books (and if you haven’t yet, what are you waiting for, anyway!?) just in case. For readers who have made it to this point though, you’ll already know that the world is on the verge of another Desolation, a cataclysmic event that has occurred on a cyclical basis throughout the history of Roshar. The heralds…

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8/10
Review: Kill Creek by Scott Thomas
Reviews / November 6, 2017

Some of my favorite horror stories involve haunted houses, because after all, a home is supposed to be a place of warmth and shelter. The idea of what was once a safe haven being invaded by malevolent spirits creates such a sense of wrongness that the terror is elevated to a whole other level. In Kill Creek, a character even ventures to explain why such stories fill us with dread, positing it’s because we never expect such awfulness to lurk so close beneath the surface of what is considered normal. This novel is a good example of such horror, the kind that sends chills down your spine, making you wonder if anything is even safe anymore as you steal nervous glances over your shoulder to make sure you really are alone. At the center of this story is the house at Kill Creek, an old abandoned three-story that was built in the mid-1800s on a lonely road in the middle of the Kansas prairie. Lovingly constructed by its first owner, the house saw a few good years before tragedy struck, and people say it has been haunted ever since. Nobody could stand to live in it for more than a…