Review: The Devil You Know by K. J. Parker
Reviews / February 18, 2016

So, what happens when the greatest philosopher of all time and a representative (a demon) who works for the Devil strike a deal. Who do you think manages to get the better end of that deal? That is essentially what The Devil You Know explores. The philosopher, Saloninus, is quite well versed at finding loopholes and using manipulation as a means to an end. He can find power in words (as well as power in the words that are missing) and he is not above deception. And by the nature of working for the devil, you assume that deceit is also a strength of the demon. So when the philosopher signs away his eternal soul in exchange for the demon granting his every whim for the remainder of his life, restoring his youth and guaranteeing he will live a couple more decades, the demon is a bit perplexed at the philosophers satisfaction with the contract. Surely his eternal soul is worth more than some gold and revived youth that will eventually be lost. In the timeframe of eternity, this deal seems incredibly short sighted and offers the philosopher too little. This is the crux of the book. Trying to figure out who really got the better deal. Saloninus seems awfully…

Review: Son of the Morning by Mark Alder
Reviews / February 17, 2016

Mark Alder is a nom de plume of Mark Barrowcliffe, an author whose books I have enjoyed in the past under another one of his pseudonyms, M.D. Lachlan. I’ve therefore had my eye on Son of the Morning ever since its initial release two years ago by the UK publisher, and it was with great excitement when I found out that the novel was finally going to be published here stateside by Pegasus Books in early 2016. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to review an ARC of this reissue which will come complete with a brand new look, featuring Baroque painter Luca Giordano’s stunning masterpiece “St. Michael” gracing the cover. Summarizing the story in this 700 page tome would be a difficult task, as you can imagine, but for brevity’s sake, Son of the Morning can be described as the Hundred Years’ War with angels and demons. Alder combines history with a great number of fantastical elements, chronicling multiple plot threads and character journeys in this reimagined version of the Middle Ages, primarily focusing on the earlier decades of the conflict. This period sees King Edward III of England attempting to assert his claim as the rightful…

Review: The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Reviews / February 16, 2016

Having just read Adrian Tchaikovsky’s contribution to the Monstrous Little Voices book (which I loved) I was very keen to pick this book up, plus, who am I kidding, the whole idea of shapeshifting tribes combined with the beautiful cover, I was simply hooked.   The story is really a coming of age tale set in the bleak North where life is harsh, temperatures are harsher and war seems to be imminent.  The world here is one of clans who can shift into the form of an animal depending on the tribe’s totem and in this respect the book includes many different forms of animal, even fantastical creatures such as dragons.   At the start of the story we are introduced to Maniye.  Maniye’s father, Akrit, is the chief of the Wolf clan.  He’s an ambitious man who keeps a harsh rule over his tribe.  Akrit now looks to expand his realm and his eye is fixed on that of the Tiger clan.  The two have warred in the past and the peace between them is very fragile.  Using his daughter Akrit would seek to make the tiger clan bow to his rule and in doing so hopes to become…

Review: Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh
Reviews / February 15, 2016

I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Will McIntosh’s adult novels (Love Minus Eighty and Defenders) but this is the first book of his I’ve read. In his YA debut, McIntosh has come up with a truly awesome idea and built an exciting and engaging story around it, with well-drawn and sympathetic characters. Much of the story revolves around the mystery of the marble-sized spheres that suddenly appeared all over the world, hidden in nooks and crannies, and when the author finally reveals their purpose, well, get ready to have your mind blown! I think the word “outrageous” would not be out-of-place when describing this story, and I mean outrageous in the best possible way. The story takes place five years after the spheres appeared, and in that time a booming economy has grown around them. Different colored spheres will give the lucky owner special abilities when they “burn” two of the same color by holding them up to their temples. For example, Rose gives you the ability to hold your breath, while Lemon Yellow will make you grow an inch. There are literally dozens of colors and special abilities, and you can either find spheres “in the wild” (spheres…

Review: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
Reviews / February 11, 2016

Beware: spoilers await all ye who have not read A Darker Shade of Magic! It’s been a year since I read A Darker Shade of Magic, but I easily fell right back into Schwab’s magical but dangerous world, where three different Londons exist one on top of the other—Grey, White and Red—and only a few people are able to move among them. Well, I guess you could say there are four Londons, but Black London’s doors were closed forever after the magic there spun out of control, and now Black London is nothing but ruins, or maybe even a myth. A Gathering of Shadows was just as good, if not better, than the first book, which is happy news for fans who fear the “sophomore slump” syndrome that often inflicts fantasy series. Not only does the story keep building—I’m not sure exactly where Schwab is headed, but I can tell she knows, and it feels as if events are careening toward an inexorable finish line—but we get more back story on the characters that we grew to love: Lila, Kell, and Rhy in particular. We also get to meet a new character or two, my very favorite being Alucard Emery….

Review: Dragon Hunters by Marc Turner
Reviews / February 9, 2016

If you were a fan of When the Heavens Fall, then be prepared for an abrupt change with Dragon Hunters.  For the second book of The Chronicle of the Exile, Marc Turner shifts location, characters, and story line. It’s still the same recognizable narrative voice, and the mythology ties the two books together, but it makes for a very different read . . . one that takes on a entirely new flavor. Having said that, if you’ve yet to encounter Turner’s work, then that same shift means this second book is just as accessible to new readers as the first. Personally, I found this second volume a little more difficult to get into than the first. Call me old-fashioned, but I like my darkened alleys, haunted forests, and subterranean lairs. It’s classic (perhaps even clichéd) epic fantasy, but those elements were largely responsible for me celebrating the first as something of a throwback fantasy. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with this second volume, or that it doesn’t grow on you, it just the sunny seaside setting didn’t have the same initial impact. Senar Sol, Guardian, is our first real POV character in the novel. He’s as much a challenge as he is a mystery,…

Review: The Brimstone Deception by Lisa Shearin
Reviews / February 8, 2016

The Brimstone Deception is the third installment of Lisa Shearin’s paranormal urban fantasy series SPI Files. For a while I’ve been comparing these books to a jauntier version of the X-Files when it suddenly hit me–the relationship between the main characters reminds me more of Brennan and Booth from Bones, except in this series Makenna is the cheerful half of the partnership while Ian is the down-to-business one. Either way, I love the fact our heroine is a Seer, one of just a handful of people in the world able to see through the glamor of supernatural creatures, and in a city like New York AKA Supernatural Central, Mac’s unique talent comes in high demand, meaning she gets pulled in on all kinds of interesting missions. This time, SPI is investigating a new type of designer drug that has hit the streets, a serious but nonetheless seemingly non-supernatural crime, except for one major problem—called “brimstone”, the drug itself may have supernatural origins. Like its name implies, its key ingredient is discovered to be a substance only found in Hell, and its effects are equally disturbing. Humans who take a hit of brimstone essentially gain Seer abilities while they are under…

Review: This Census-Taker by China Miéville
Reviews / February 4, 2016

This Census-Taker, in its novella length, provides the reader with a glorious and powerful enigma of a story. It is haunting, chilling, disturbing and touching and mesmerizing and absolutely beautiful. I could not stop reading this as I just craved to understand what was going on. It starts with a young boy running faster than he has ever run. Running from some unimaginable horror, and then we find out it involves his parents. The boy has trouble keeping his story straight as he is scared to death, but between this and a lack of evidence, the town dismisses his story and he is sent back to live with a parent that, at least from his perspective, is violent and deranged. Perhaps psychopathic. First, I will be very straight forward, I have only read one other book by Miéville and that was his first novel, King Rat, which I have heard is not indicative of the works he is best known for.  So, for this reason I can offer no comparison between this and a typical Miéville book (if there can be a typical, from what I hear unpredictable is a signature). What I can tell you is that this book is not at all…

Review: The Guns of Ivrea by Clifford Beal
Reviews / February 3, 2016

The Guns of Ivrea was a very entertaining swashbuckling adventure that contained a number of genuinely unexpected surprises. The main story is primarily one of treachery and deceit which I would say follows three main strands. Captain Danamis enjoys the status of pirate princeling and King’s Admiral with stewardship of the port at Palestro. Years ago a unique deal was struck with the pirates and the, then, new King, Sempronius II.  This is a deal whereby the pirates patrol the seas keeping other threats at bay.  This is an unusual alliance that ensures the King’s waters remain relatively safe whilst at the same time providing the pirates with, not only a modest income, but also the means of making more attractive and lucrative alliances with other parties on the side.  Danamis rather fell into this role when his father went missing at sea and unfortunately he’s not always the most sharply minded, usually paying more attention to his attire and his courtesans than whether conspiracies are brewing.  At the start of the story he is double crossed by a long standing friend and loses almost everything. At the same time we make the acquaintance of Acquel Galenus, one of the monks…

Review: Dreaming Death by J. Kathleen Cheney
Reviews / February 2, 2016

Last year I read a wonderful novel called The Golden City, the first of a fantasy trilogy set in an alternate early 1900s Portugal featuring sirens and selkies. This was how I first came to discover the work of J. Kathleen Cheney. As you can imagine, I got pretty excited when I found out she was writing a new book! And this time, she’s transporting readers to a whole new world full of magic and amazing things to discover. Indeed, Dreaming Death is a novel of ideas, and it is absolutely delightful. Imagine, if you will, a place rich with history and culture, and in the population, a subset of individuals called “sensitives” are gifted with augmented psychic senses that would allow them to feel others’ emotions. But for some, that gift is more of a curse. Shironne Anjir is a sensitive whose talents are even more responsive than most, and when she first came to her full power in her early teens, the constant barrage of emotions and sensations overwhelmed her and left her blind. However, her ability to pull information out of the objects or people she touches has made her an invaluable asset to the army, who…