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This Crumbling Pageant by Patricia Burroughs
Regency England is divided into two worlds, that of the Ordinary that we are familiar with and the one of the Magi, filled with those who are graced with the gifts of the Gods. Persephone Fury is the youngest of a family graced with the gift of music, descendants of the man who originally pulled the Magi world from the Ordinary, to keep them safe. Apart from music that can twine through the soul, Persephone’s magic shifts and twists with shadows, something dark and unfamiliar, too strong and untamed for fine Magi society.
But in a time of unrest, when the old Magi king steps aside in favor of a regent and both lowborn rebels and court Magi frantically try to use the prophecies of Merlin to support their cause, perhaps something a bit dark, a bit wild, is exactly what is needed.
This Crumbling Pageant is an exhilarating blend of court politics, folklore, romance, and mystery- the threads all woven together into one expertly designed tapestry. Persephone is a balanced, intriguing, and honestly fun female protagonist. She is not the prettiest, she is not the tomboy stereotype, instead she is delightfully difficult to pin down and define. The whole Fury family breathes life into the setting, pulling the plot through its paces.
Burroughs has also given us an antagonist we can hate with abandon and a sense of evil that will have you keeping a light on in the evening.
This Crumbling Pageant has a bit of something for everyone. It is a brush of period fantasy with the trappings of a mystery/thriller, a bit of regency romance rolled in for a splash of color and a refreshing light flavor. It is a brilliantly unique and enthralling read. Highly recommended.
The Offering (Sovereign Series) By E.R. Arroyo
Cori is free. She is free of Antius, where she had been raised and keep as a medical oddity and resource. She is free of all the experimentation and oppression. She is free to get to know Dylan. She is free to finally starting sorting out just who she is. If only everything else would stop getting in the way.
The Antius citizens they managed to liberate are suffering from infection and a particular sort of withdrawal, keeping Mercy colony from dispersing before Antius can retaliate. The proposed solution is not something Cori is ready, or willing, to face. So she flees to The City and its efficiently feral inhabitants, seeking her friend Tyce and comfort away from expectation.
Finding out she fits right in, and that The City boys are far from the overall hardened killers everyone assumed might not have been what she expected, but she welcomes it. It is a different sort of freedom in The City, and one she finds herself growing quite comfortable with as she grows a bit more comfortable in her own skin.
But stories rarely end so easily. The threat of Antius and its armies looms large and when Tyce returns to The City he brings with him news of abduction and death. Learning more about herself,her parents and where she came from, and pulling together her City boys and colony allies, Cori will once more shoulder a world’s worth of responsibility and step into the line of fire.
The Offering is the second book in the Sovereign series, and is a book that manages to walk that difficult balance of bleak and wonder with an enviable ease. Settled in the middle of a post-apocalyptic world where those that did not manage to hide were decimated or mutated during the disastrous event, Arroyo finds ways to work in the little things that remind us of what it is to be human, why the struggle is worth it- the smiles and small touches at the end. Little bits of wonder take a bit of the grit away when it is most needed- so while it is never a light book, it is never overwhelmingly oppressive. But most of all the characters will pull you in and keep you reading. Cori goes well beyond being a female protagonist I am proud to cheer for- she is relatable. Every sulk, snarl and snap along with every smile, smirk and sneer is wonderful and they combine into a perfectly imperfect young woman.
I have a personal soft spot for the City Boys. Give The Offering a read and they will rope you in as well.
So Many Authors so Little Time!
So, having just reviewed a book by Joyce Chng, I am pretty stoked to point out she has agreed to write a story for the anthology Christy and I are putting together. Earlier this year we successfully funded and published Fight Like a Girl (and have gotten some pretty swell reviews!).
Our current project has a slightly different theme.
“How would an immortal deal with the End Times? The world will inevitably come stumbling into apocalypse, and They will be there to witness it. We want to explore how myths, how fae creatures of all cultures, beings generally seen as eternal (or at least very long-lived) would cope with the end of the world around them. Be it through nuclear incident, religious fervor or rampaging zombies, we are going to discover just What Follows…”
If you would like to see who else is writing for the book, read more about what is going on, and help make this happen! Please check us out.
Rider by Joyce Chng
I should know better than to start anything Joyce has written before bed. It guarantees I will be up long past my bed time. Happens every time.
But oh, what a problem to have. Joyce has a way with words that makes mundane things like getting to bed early enough to be well rested for work tomorrow seem irrelevant, far away. As soon as I started Rider, I more or less knew I was doomed to be up with the sun, and I was quite alright with that. The desert world she brings us to, with its encroaching sands and talented Agri-seers working with plants to try and keep the dunes at bay and people fed, is so real and dangerous and engrossing and is peopled with characters that breathe and hurt and love. I was content to be held captive.
Lifang has always been able to make plants sing, and so she ends up selected for the Agi-seers. But she dreams of being a Rider, like her sister- one of the humans partnered with the intelligent Quetz that were discovered with the planet. Humans have a partnership with the Quetz, a sort of understanding. But there are the Quetz, and then there are the Hunters, their wild cousins. And before Lifang leaves to join the Agi-seers she encounters a Hunter at a waterfall, and that encounter will change her life.
One of the things that stands out most about Rider is the culture that Joyce has woven so tightly throughout this alien world she has created. The humans are rich with it, but so are the Quetz. One of Joyce’s strengths as a writer has always been her ability to make cultures sing out to her readers. Nothing is ever shallow or simple and it adds just an enjoyable beauty to everything she creates.
Rider is a YA novel, but I would encourage adults to take it for a spin. Allow yourself to be captivated by a coming of age story that is as familiar as it is alien and let yourself grow along with Lifang.
Night Calls by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel
It started as a normal evening- farm folk defending life and livestock from a predator- but when Alfreda and her father went out the next morning to recover the precious wolf pelt they found horror in its place. It was not a wolf that hung, ready to be skinned, but a man.
Thus starts a grim sort of waiting as families hope that their loved one is not one of the afflicted. And through it all, Alfreda can hear the wolves calling.
It is a rough and sudden jump into an adulthood far different than Alfreda had ever imagined. Her mother’s bloodline is known to throw Practitioners, individuals knowledgeable in folklore and skilled in folk magic, and she has inherited its gifts.
I have not been so enthralled with a novel since Wrede’s ‘Thirteenth Child’. I have a deep fondness for frontier-type fantasy and ‘Night Calls’ is beautifully executed in that regard. The fantasy aspects are worked into the world, are an integral part of it. The little magics, as well as the grand, are a part of day to day life.
It takes talent to build a world so rich and lush that the reader cannot imagine it ever being differently, but that is exactly what Ms. Kimbriel has done. Readers are invited into Alfreda’s world, and will not want to leave. Alfreda herself is a joy to get to know and to follow as she starts along the path of a Practitioner. Her love of her family, her fascination and dedication to her craft, and the adventure she finds herself in the middle of all make her a magnificent protagonist that will appeal to young and old alike.
The eBook can be found at BookView Cafe
The Crown Tower by Michael J. Sullivan
How does a jaded swordsman end up partnered with a caustic and lethal assassin? A lot of accidents and behind the scenes manipulation.
Crown Tower serves to introduce readers to Hadrian and Royce, an unlikely pair that are forced to work together and may even learn to actually tolerate, if not like, each other by the end. Crown Tower is book one of the Ririya Chronicles, a prequel series to the Ririya Revelations trilogy published previously. It is an excellent starting point for folks interested in the characters and story who have not read the Revelations yet. I had been waffling over buying the Ririya Revelations for some time now, and when I saw prequels were being published I jumped right in at the very beginning- and am very glad I did so.
Hadrian is a likable character, a wonderful foil to Royce’s impartial take on the human condition at large. Royce grows on you- especially if you have a particularly dark sense of humor as I do. The other set of characters the book pays attention to, a group of whores, are utterly fascinating as well (and were actually my favorite POV chapters for quite a bit of the book). In the background there are hints of maneuvering and mechinations which I assume come to play throughout the rest of the books. I can say I am looking forward to reading the next installment. Sullivan’s writing is smooth, the characters interesting and engaging, and the world unfurls as pages are turned.
If epic fantasy is your thing, give Crown Tower a read. The slow build is well worth it.
Six Quirky Tales Vol. 1 by Rayne Hall
It is my pleasure to host the cover reveal for Rayne Hall’s Six Quirky Tales, Vol. 1, as well as a short Q & A with Rayne. As a fan of short stories, especially in the fantasy genre, I am definitely looking forward to getting my hands on this one!
Q: This book has been previously published with a different cover. Why did you change it?
A: A good book cover tells the readers what kind of fiction is inside. It makes a promise about genre, mood and tone. The old cover was ok, something I’d rustled up with a stock photo and some basic GIMP, but it didn’t convey the flavour of the stories.
Recently, I made some changes to the book – corrected a couple of typos the proofreaders had missed, swapped one of the stories for a longer one – and this seemed a good opportunity to replace the cover. The new picture suggests what the stories inside are like – quirky, entertaining, tongue-in-cheek fantasy yarns, some of them with historical or fairytale elements.
Q: Who painted the picture?
A: Xteve Abanto is a young fantasy artist from the Philippines. You can see more of his art here.
Q: Where can we buy the book?
A: It’s available as an ebook from Amazon (though it may still show the old cover), and from Kobo. Because of the changes it’s temporarily unavailable from Barnes&Noble and iTunes, but I expect it will be back soon.
A Study in Silks by Emma Jane Halloway
“…this visit is clearly not being spent with finding a husband in mind.”
Eveline made a sound a protest. “There was only the one corpse” (A Study in Silks, Holloway).
Eveline is the niece of Sherlock Holmes, and appears to have inherited both his acute attentive curiosity as well as his inability to quite fit in with societies expectations of normal. While visiting her friend Imogen, right before the start of their Season, the body of a murdered servant girl is found in the house, and Evelina finds a letter thick with dark magic hidden on the body. Using that illicitly pilfered evidence, Evelina needs to solve the murder of the servant, lest Imogen’s brother be implicated in the crime.
Halloway has created a world that is a cunning mix of classic Sherlock Holmes and the modern steampunk movement, swirling in just enough magic to attract the attention of urban fantasy fans as well. It is a book that will read well across genres, appealing to a wide audience. Evelina is an enjoyable character, and the supporting cast all live strongly for the reader as well. Halloway has even tackled the great Holmes as well, and done him justice.
As a fan of just about every genre and style this book flirts with, I was quite the happy reader, and I look forward to more!
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
I was lucky to hear a reading from this book when I saw Neil last week. It was beautiful and brilliant and eerie and if audiobooks are your thing I highly recommend getting your hands on that version.
Ocean at the End of the Lane is all at once ethereal and horrifying- a perfect mix of the mundane and the macabre, folklore and daily life woven together in ways that it make it seem that one cannot possibly survive without the other. And that is exactly as it should be. It is the story of a bookish boy who ends up walking a fine line between both worlds, seeing both the beautiful and the terrifying.
It is told from the point of view first of a man who remembers a childhood long past, and then a child caught in a nightmare. Finally an adult thinking back on that nightmare he had forgotten. It is a book about the world of adults, and the worlds of children. Leaving the hall light on at night to keep the monsters at bay, listening to parents talking as you drift off to sleep to feel safe.
It is, honestly, one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. I am going to be digesting it for some time now, working through all of the little bits, the feelings and the thoughts it urged me, ever so quietly, to contemplate. It is not intentionally poetic, but it is a book that will call to the dreams, the ones who stayed up past their bed times with books, who found fairly rings as children. The ones who, maybe, imagined that a pond at the end of a lane could be an ocean as old as existence itself.
It is a book for adults, it is also a book for children. For parents to read with their kids, for kids to recommend to their parents. I will be rereading. Highly recommended.
The Red Plague Affair by Lilith Saintcrow
It seemed an innocent enough charge, hunting down a missing fellow for the crown. But when it leads to a death close to Bannon a situation far more virulent than a simple retrieval rears its head. It will take all of Clare’s considerable faculties and Bannon’s power and ferocity to bring the situation to heel. Personal relations and loyalties are all in a turmoil as Bannon and Clare work to sort out the plague that has descended upon their city, and their world.
The second Bannon and Clare book lived up to my expectations, and then some. Ms. Saintcrow expands on the world and characters she introduced readers to in The Iron Wyrm Affair, keeping a lively pace and readers on their toes with a mix of glee and (sometimes less than innocent) anticipation.
Clare remains one of the most intriguing characters I have run into in quite some time. I find the idea of the mentaths, so different than anything I have stumbled across in the genre, to be utterly intriguing. Between him and Ludo, my interest is well and truly held and I will read for as long as Ms. Saintcrow is interested in writing.
Another fun, fast read.