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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…

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6/10
Review: Paradox Bound by Peter Clines
Reviews / October 30, 2017

Despite my love for time travel stories, sometimes they can be hard to wrap my head around. I think that might be why I struggled a little with this one, even though I’m a huge fan of Peter Clines and look forward to every new novel of his that comes along. They’re always so unique and original, and yes, a lot of the time, they can be quite strange as well. Paradox Bound turned out to be one of these books, and while I enjoyed it overall, there were admittedly parts of it that grew out of control and tested my patience. Our protagonist Eli Teague was just a young boy when he first met Harry. Dressed in a Revolutionary War outfit while stranded on the side of the road with her broken-down hundred-year-old car, she had stuck out like a sore thumb in a small town like Sanders, Maine—where nothing ever changes and nothing interesting ever happens. But soon after Eli stopped to help, he noticed a second strange vehicle speeding towards them, and what he saw behind the wheel was so disturbing, and so impossible, that the sight made him lose control of his bladder. Upon noticing the…

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4/10
Review: A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne
Reviews / October 25, 2017

Of all the things I expected to feel when I picked up Kevin Hearne’s new epic fantasy, boredom was not one of them. Unfortunately though, there it was, creeping up on me despite my immense efforts to give this book a chance. It actually pains me to admit this, because I love Hearne and he’s an awesomely funny guy who normally writes great stories, but as much as I tried and tried to like this, something about A Plague of Giants just did not work for me. Granted, the book opened with a promising and energetic introduction, setting the scene for a charismatic bard to take the stage before a crowd of weary but optimistic survivors who have all gathered in the public square to hear him recount the history of the Giants’ War. By using his magic, a particular kind of kenning that allows the bard to take on the forms of different people, he begins adopting the physical appearances and voices of the book’s many characters, each of whom have a unique story to tell related to their experiences during the giants’ invasion. Subsequently, we are treated to a parade of these narratives presented to us one after another, letting…

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8/10
Review: Strange Weather by Joe Hill
Reviews / October 23, 2017

Strange Weather is a collection of 4 short novels, each telling a unique story. They are all independent of one another, and could be read in any order. I may not rate this one quite as high as most of the works I’ve read by Hill, but I suspect most of that comes from my preference for longer works. The stories are quick and varied covering funny to horrifying to creepy and the main character in each are varied. One aspect of these that some readers will love, but some may not is the endings can ;eave the reader just on the edge of “what happens next”. You can probably guess, for good or for bad, how the cards will fall, but Hill will leave you right on the precipice, giving the reader something to think about and let their own imagination fill in the details. This is something I have always enjoyed, I feel like endings like this make a book last a bit longer for me because I find myself thinking about the ending more than if every last detail had been provided. That said, I know not all readers love this type of ending as much as…

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9/10
Review: The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones
Reviews / October 20, 2017

I’ll cut straight to it: The Salt Line is one of my favorites for the year. The entire concept of killer ticks sounds like it could be campy or over the top. That is not at all the case. The ticks are described in such a realistic and terrifying way that it truly becomes plausible. Or at least feels plausible. The author is able to use enough facts grounded in science to create this terrifying epidemic. This book did remind me a bit of Joe Hill’s The Fireman in that way. It depicts a world that has been ravaged by some disease, where people’s ways of life are altered because of them. I suppose there are a number of books that could fit this, but the over all tone and presentation and just the quality of writing put me in mind of Hill. That is a huge compliment from me as Hill is one of my favorite, must read authors. Honestly, there is not much that I did not love about this book. This is a book that you can read at surface value for the compelling story and intriguing characters, both of which are  well developed. But you can…

Review: Shadowblack by Sebastien de Castell
Reviews / October 18, 2017

Kellen of the House of Ke isn’t just a disappointment to his parents and an outcast to his people: he’s a spellslinger on the run with a price on his head. You’d think he’d keep a low profile. Maybe it’s his nature. Maybe it’s the company he keeps. But he just can’t keep himself out of trouble… Shadowblack is the sequel to the riotous joy that was Spellslinger, an unapologetically brash coming-of-age romp – so this review will inevitably be chock-full of spoilers for the first book. While you can pick up the gist by diving straight into Shadowblack, don’t do it – the context will make the second book more rewarding, and Spellslinger is a joy from start to finish. Still here? Right then. Where Spellslinger was set in the ‘most civilised’ city/culture in the world (at least according to its Jan’Tep inhabitants), Shadowblack is in the world’s equivalent of the Wild West: the Seven Sands (some of which are blue. Neat). Ferius – with her smoking reeds and drawling slang – fits right in. Kellen – well-born, well-bred and very, very wet behind the ears – really doesn’t. We rejoin Kellen and his light-fingered, short-tempered familiar Reichis trying to steal something from…

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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9/10
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…