Review: The Genius Plague by David Walton
Reviews / October 16, 2017

Mother Nature can be a scary bitch. Forget horror movies; if you ever want to see some truly messed up, freaky bone-chilling stuff, look no further than your BBC nature documentary. Case in point: the “Jungles” episode of Planet Earth. After so many years, that infamous scene of the killer parasitic fungus bursting forth from the back of a dead ant’s head like some kind of grotesque alien worm still gives me the heebie-jeebies—and clearly, I’m not the only one who feels this way. From The Last of Us to The Girl with All the Gifts, a great number of books, movies, and video games have come out in recent years to show us just how screwed humanity would be if we ever went to war with Kingdom Fungi. Which was why, when I first found out about the premise of The Genius Plague by David Walton, I was immediately intrigued. After all, like in most of the examples I mentioned above, being infected with a fungal plague usually meant very bad things—like turning into a mindless, slavering zombie, for one. Yet in this case, the fungus actually made you…smarter? This was definitely a new angle for me, and I…

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8/10
Review: The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso
Reviews / October 12, 2017

The Tethered Mage was a very enjoyable read with an interesting magic system. Individuals in this world develop a tell tale mage-mark (a ring on their iris) as they develop their magical ability. There are different types of abilities that may manifest and some display at a younger age than others. But regardless of ability, if a child displays the mage-mark, they must be enlisted as a Falcon. A “jess” is put on their arm to control their magic. The person who places the jess on the Falcon becomes their Falconer with the ability to turn on or suppress their magical abilities with a word. While the intent is to help the Falcons maintain control (because once they lose control, there is no turning back, they become consumed in their magic), it can also be seen as a way to control those with magical abilities and use them for the empire’s purposes. They become tools for the military. Naturally, this will create some dissent. The story focuses on a pair of women joined together in an unlikely Falconer/Falcon relationship, something neither of them wanted or expected in their life. Zaira is a fire warlock, one of the most dangerous and…

Review: Blackwing by Ed McDonald
Reviews / October 10, 2017

While it may be a little bloated at times, which unfortunately weighs the story down in its later sections, overall I have to say Blackwing is a pretty solid debut. Writing vividly and originally, Ed McDonald has managed to pull off something few authors have been able to do in recent years—open my eyes to a new way of doing grimdark. In this novel we follow our protagonist Ryhalt Galharrow, who is a bounty hunter and captain for the Blackwing, a mysterious organization which serves one of the powerful ancient entities known as the Nameless. His patron, called Crowfoot, is a ruthless master who communicates through a tattoo on Galharrow’s arm, bursting forth from his skin in a form of a raven whenever he has orders to give. In this way, Galharrow receives his latest mission which takes him and his crew into the Misery, an expansive wasteland created when the Nameless unleashed a devastating weapon called the Engine against their enemies the Deep Kings. As a result, corrupted magic runs rampant in the Misery, along with the forces of the Deep Kings still lurking and waiting to strike at unsuspecting victims. Galharrow now must lead his squad into danger,…

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7/10
Review: An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard
Reviews / October 2, 2017

A solid 3.5 star read. Kat Howard enchanted me with her debut Roses and Rot last year, so I was excited to check out An Unkindness of Magicians, her sophomore novel about a hidden world of magic and power. In this “Unseen World”, members of elite magical houses come together every few years to duke it out in a tournament called the Turning, with each family represented by their chosen champion. Ostensibly held to place each house in a hierarchical order based on magical proficiency, the competition may in fact be a front for a more nefarious purpose, as this twisted and snappy tale will soon reveal. Unlike Howard’s first novel which was written in the first person, An Unkindness of Magicians features a larger cast and bounces between multiple third-person perspectives. Our key players include Sydney, a relative unknown who bursts upon the scene with her extraordinary and unmatched talent with magic; Laurent, an outsider who hopes to enter the Turning for a chance to establish his own House; Grey Prospero, Laurent’s best friend who was disinherited from his House as the result of a serious and undisclosed transgression he committed; Harper, an independent magician determined to infiltrate the Unseen…

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7/10
Review: Imposters of Aventil by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Reviews / September 25, 2017

Imposters of Aventil carries forward with the fun and excitement I’ve come to expect from the Maradaine series. The Thorn has a habit of getting himself in compromising positions sometimes, and bending (OK, maybe breaking) the law to suit his end purpose fighting the drug trade. But in this, he finds himself the suspect in cases he has nothing to do with. There is an imposter who is using the guise of the Thorn while stirring up trouble with both the constabulary, but also the gangs. Effate also appears to have made its way onto campus. Both of these things make Veranix’s work as the Thorn considerably more dangerous, but also motivates him. Like he needed more motivation to fight the effate drug trade! Previously I have said that I think Maresca’s series could be read independently and in any order. I mean, I guess you still could, but with this book I would no longer recommend it. This may be the third book in the Maradaine series, but it prominently features Minox and Satrine from the Constabulary series and knowing their background makes this book feel more complete and satisfying. For example, the Constabulary series provides the reader with…

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7/10
Review: Magicians Impossible by Brad Abraham
Reviews / September 12, 2017

Magicians Impossible is a fun and exciting adventure that introduces magic to our world. I think this book should do well with readers that are fans of The Magicians by Lev Grossman. It features an older protagonist than a typical coming into powers or magic school book, and with just one or two exceptions, he has been a loner for most of his life. After the death of his estranged father, Jason’s world turns upside down and he finds himself part of something quite unexpected. I liked Jason’s character. He definitely has some flaws and has managed to create very few personal connections in his life, particularly for someone that seems likable. He is resentful of his absentee father (who just died), and through some flashbacks, we can see some of his disappointments as a child. He grew up believing magic was just simple slight of hand as opposed to actual magic. After the death of his father, he learns there is such a thing as real magic as well as about the communities that are a part of that previously invisible and unknown part of the world. The Invisible Hand is a training institute that turns those found to…

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8/10
Review: The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip
Reviews / September 6, 2017

One of the largest holes in my fantasy reading repertoire is older works. I’ve been reading the genre for only about 5 years, so I missing practically a lifetime of reading, and I have to confess to being easily distracted by all the new and shiny books as they are released. So when people talk about classics of fantasy, I’m ashamed to admit that I usually don’t have much to contribute. When Tachyon offered a copy of this for review, I jumped on it. I have heard McKillip recommended quite a bit, and this is supposed to be a great starting point to her books. I am glad I decided to go for it. And I have to confess to the extra incentive: I love their cover. I know, I shouldn’t judge, but a gorgeous cover is always a bonus for a book. I found The Forgotten Beasts of Eld to be a nice fairy tale type of story. It centers on a young sorceress who grew up rather isolated. She has had minimal human interaction, but she has a number of creatures to her occupied and provide companionship. But of course, no matter how heart felt her interactions are with…

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6/10
Review: Hannah Green and her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence by Michael Marshall Smith
Reviews / September 4, 2017

Hannah’s world is turned upside down when her parents split up. But when the Devil wakens from a long nap to discover someone is stealing the evil deeds of humanity, Hannah and her family will be central to putting this right. For various shades of right. He is the Devil, after all. I’ve been a big fan of Michael Marshall Smith for years, and his books are few and far enough between that a new one is always a celebration (yes, there are Michael Marshall books between times, but they’re not usually quite the same). I like his narrative tone of voice, and his way of twisting aspects of the real world; I like his ability to provoke melancholy and capture heartache. So Hannah Green and her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence had a burden of expectation to live up to – and sets its stall out from the start as being somewhat different to the rest of MMS’s body of (long-form) work. The prologue is mischievous and knowing, breaking the fourth wall and playing with expectations (if anything, it reminds me of the voice-over at the start of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). And for the first time, we get a heroine – and…

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8/10
Review: Soul of the World by David Mealing
Reviews / August 14, 2017

Soul of the World is a good debut that sets the stage for an epic, world spanning series featuring magic, fantastical creatures and beasts. Three very different perspectives are used to give us the world view, which features a new and old world, and while there are different names, it feels much like England, France and the Americas. Aruk’Jar gives insights into the wilds and tribal life and customs. There is a strong tradition of gender roles here and even the magic is split according to “women’s magic”. But we do see strong females here, women can hold on to that magic as a power for themselves. Aruk’Jar has a very “do the right thing” type of personality and is driven to his best for the benefit of his tribe. Erris shows the reader what life is like on the battlefield and an understanding of the war that is going on. She is in command of a military campaign and is doing a stellar job (I love women who excel in military positions). I really like Erris, she is a strong leader and soldier. She also has magic to aid her, and uses that to her advantage in keeping her…

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8/10
Review: Raid by K. S. Merbeth
Reviews / August 8, 2017

In Raid, Merbeth takes us back to the wastes where we can see all the violence and messiness that comes with it. If you haven’t read Bite, I can sum it up as a post-apocalyptic type, mad max type of world. With cannibals (or sharks as they are called in the books). It can be an isolating world, and the perspective of Clementine really highlights this. She hunts raiders, who destroy and endanger towns, but it also actually feeds her isolation. People may be happy for her work killing raiders, but her ability to do so is alarming. Clementine is not exactly a person anyone would like to be the “girl next door”. She came in to violence at a very young age, and discovered she had quite a knack for it. While it earned respect and admiration of her fellow townsfolk, once on her own, she never could find quite where she fit in. She takes to violence and killing almost too easily, her ability to take another’s life can be quite disarming to normal folk, but it is also how she survives and how she knows to make her world at least a little bit better (by taking…