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Category Archives: Urban Fantasy

Vodnik by Bryce Moore

Ten years ago, something bad happened to Tomas in Slovakia. Something he doesn’t quite remember, but that left horrible burns on his body and prompted his parents to move the family to America. But a house fire leaves the family in a poor financial situation and they move back to Slovakia with Tomas, now 16, who sees things that could not, should not be.  Tomas is a reclusive American boy, who wants nothing more than to watch his movies. He is not at all prepared for fire vilas, water demons, or the prejudice against his own Roma heritage.

But none of that is willing to leave him alone. Least of all Death herself who offers him a bargain he cannot help but take.

Vodnik is an excellent read for those who are looking for fantasy with a spark of something new. I had a lot of fun reading a mythology less common than the usual fantasy/urban fantasy fare, and that newness made up for the slight pacing and predictability issues that snuck in and out of the chapters. Tomas is a reluctant hero that many a young reader will be able to relate to- and he deals with some hard issues like racial prejudice and bullying that are important for folks to read and think about. It is a book about growing up, as many young adult books are, but it avoids being preachy and remains pleasant. It is a book about family and love and everything that draws one person to another.

If you are looking for an enjoyable read, give Vodnik a shot. You won’t look at a tea cup the same way again.

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

Verity Price is a Cryptozoologist, someone who studies Cryptids (the things that science has yet to put a finger on), who moonlights in her cover identity as a competitive dancer. Her family broke away from the Covenant, and organization bent on wiping out the cryptids, a few generations back and has been studying and protecting them as best they can. This caused a bit of a vicious blood feud between the Covenant and Price family. Hence Verity’s cover identity- it wouldn’t do for a Covenant member to pin down her location.

Except one has. There is a Covenant member in her city, and Cryptid girls going missing. They must be connected.


I opened this book knowing I adore the author, all of her incarnations- from her music to Mira Grant. So I knew I was going to at least enjoy the read. Reading it at the same time as my partner added another level of enjoyment. We weren’t directly competing for page count, but at I got to use the phrase “Have you gotten to the waheela yet?” and chortle uncontrollably at his blank stare.

So I opened the cover and settled down knowing I was going to like what I saw, and I was not disappointed. Very is a fun character- simple as that. There is a wonderful lack of angst and emo to this urban fantasy chick. She is more concerned with the ass kicking and dealing with the loyal Cryptid mouse cult that has infested her apartment.

The first InCryptid offering is not as deep as, say, the Toby Daye books or her work as Mira Grant, but sometimes I want nothing more than I book I can just simply like reading, cover to cover. It is an excellent world build with some fascinating characters and dialog only Seanan could pull off. I laughed, I guffawed, I snorted various beverages ingested at poorly thought out intervals. All in all, it was a splendid good time. I will merrily say I had a blast and wait for the next book.

What Sweet Music They Make by Nerine Dorman

Terisa is a talented musician with the misfortune of having walked in on her boyfriend and best friend enjoying each other behind her back. She also has the misfortune of attracting the attention of some powerful vampire Lords due to her talent, a spark of potential that hovers around her.

Severin is ordered to play an engagement party by the vampire to whom he owes fealty, and in the process cunning manipulated into Terisa’s path. Their mutual enthrallment is immediate and inescapable, and Severin has to decide whether to abide by vampire politics or his own heart.

‘What Sweet Music They Make’ is a vampire story, but above and beyond that it is a praise of music. It revels in the way music can make your blood pump, your feet dance, and your spirit sing. Ms. Dorman’s appreciation for music shines through her writing, weaves through every scene. This is not another vampire novel riddled with the familiar tropes. It is an enthusiastic expedition into the lives and emotions of two individuals who cross paths and find themselves changed by the experience.

Ms. Dorman’s vampires are sleek and dangerous, a wonderful juxtaposition between human and predator and everything I could want from a vampire. ‘What Sweet Music They Make’ was a phenomenal read- I will definitely be seeking out more from this author.

Guest Post- Nerine Dorman

With her new book, What Sweet Music They Make,  coming out from Lyrical Press January 23rd, I invited Nerine to introduce herself and her work.

“The Children of the Night…

One of the most common questions an author is asked is “Where did the idea for this novel come from?” I don’t think I can give a definite answer for What Sweet Music They Make. All I can say is that the story is inextricably bound with my love for music, my stomping ground—Cape Town—and vampires. Of course the title is a conscious nod to the vampire genre, for those in the know, and a bit tongue in cheek, really.

One of the reasons why I wrote What Sweet Music They Make is because I’m tired of reading stories about the high-powered individuals so popular in urban fantasy and paranormal romance nowadays. I continued with what I started in The Namaqualand Book of the Dead, and found characters who were ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances; pawns in others’ games.

Most of my stories take place in Cape Town. It’s a location that will be exotic to most of my foreign readers, but with enough touchstones of the familiar, while for my local readers, they get the thrill of seeing the Mother City through a different lens. I guess it helps that I regularly do travel writing for a newspaper publisher, so I’m glad to generate that sense of excitement to visit new places. My overactive imagination has always wanted to put forward a home town where vampires wander. And trust me, they don’t sparkle. Some of them are hundreds of years old, and are rather devious non-humans. There’s no sucking on blood bags or hunting animals. They might appear civilised on the surface, but they’re still monsters, and have no qualms about killing.

The protagonists in What Sweet Music They Make are Severin and Tersia. Severin is the epitome of new romantic turned vampire, during the early 1980s. A big David Bowie and Bauhaus fan, he has had his prodigious musical talent smothered over the years that he has been in service to his highly arrogant sire. He is little more than a skivvy in vampiric terms but has no idea how to break those bonds.

Tersia, on the other hand, is still mortal, but she has an otherness about her and her musical talent that the elder vampires of the city are keen to exploit. Up until the point where she meets Severin, her life has been rather disappointing, with a bad relationship and a dissatisfying job teaching music at a school. Her only joy thus far has been playing fiddle in an Irish band.

I’ve always had a great love for Irish music. One of my friends used to play fiddle in an Irish band here in Cape Town, and she started teaching my husband to play. We’d regularly go out to the restaurants where they played on Thursdays, and it was amazing seeing how they really livened up the guests. There’s something wild and magical about Irish folk, and the way it always makes one forget about the cares of the world. Also, a recent trip to Ireland definitely whet my appetite.

All in all, What Sweet Music They Make is a way for me to share my love of some of my favourite things with my readers. The story is somewhat bittersweet in places—definitely not your standard paranormal romance—and fits within a larger setting that overlaps with some of my other published works. I always love leaving little Easter eggs for those who’re familiar with my work, and this story is no exception, even though it stands on its own.

Feel free to step into my world. It’s magical. There’s some humour to counterbalance the seriousness, and you’ll meet some fascinating people.”

Nerine is kind enough to offer a copy of  What Sweet Music They Make to a lucky reader. As it is a book about music, comment and let me know what song highlights a landmark moment in your life and how do you feel when you hear it now? Winner will be chosen from the comments- be creative in your responses!

For me, its ‘Lea Halalela’, sung by Khululiwe Sithole/’Shadowland’ (Lion King Musical). We performed this at my high school graduation. It was just…so different than any other choral performance I had been a part of, and it mean’t so much. To all of us. It still makes me smile like a madman and gives me goosebumps when I hear it/sing along now, years and years later.

Useful links:

What Sweet Music They Make in a variety of non-DRM formats: http://www.lyricalpress.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=484

Nerine’s other titles at Lyrical Press: http://www.lyricalpress.com/store/index.php?main_page=authors&authors_id=107

Writing erotica as Therése von Willegen: http://www.bookstrand.com/therese-von-willegen

Blood and Fire, A recent collaboration with Carrie Clevenger: http://www.amazon.com/Blood-and-Fire-ebook/dp/B006SD3F2S/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1326463325&sr=1-1

Follow Nerine on Twitter @nerinedorman

Like Nerine’s Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nerine-Dorman-author/173330419365374

Matchbox Girls by Chrysoula Tzavelas

It starts out mundane enough- a call from the children of an acquaintance asking Marley to come over, that their uncle is missing and they were told to call her should anything happen.  The mundane ends there, shifting seamlessly into a world peopled with angels, demons, and their offspring- all of which seem to have an unhealthy interest in the kids Marley now finds herself in charge of, and determined to protect. A celestial war is unfolding, and the children are at the center of it all.

What caught me first about the book is the reality of Marley’s anxiety problem. As someone who has struggled with anxiety, the writing rang so very true, and made Marley not only a flawed and human character, but really someone I was rooting for on a very personal level. I cheered every triumph and winced in sympathy every time she stumbled. For someone with an anxiety disorder, it is sometimes an overwhelming feat to do something as basic as get behind the wheel and drive to work. To see Marley work through that and carry the book to its conclusion was magnificent.

I also became very attached to Marley’s friends, Penny and Branwyn. Their friendship is so tangible and true- it made me want to make some phone calls to friends I have accidentally neglected while life has been busy distracting me.

Tzavelas also has the benefit of having her fae and celestial beings act inhuman, something I adore in any books those forces appear in. On one hand there are the fae, the celestials, and the demons. On the other, the humans. Caught in the middle are the crossbreeds. The mistakes. The Nephilim. And it is in the dual nature, that sense of being caught between that twists through the Nephilim characters, where Tzavelas’ writing really shines. Here is an author who has a grasp on that anxious tension that results from being neither here nor there, and trying to figure out where and how you belong. Matchbox Girls is a book about twisting your own fate from the threads we are given at birth, and it is a splendid journey.

Somewhere Beneath Those Waves by Sarah Monette

“On the landing, the roses of the Queen of Elfland, as clamorous as trumpets, continued to shout their glory to the uncomprehending house.” (‘Sarah Monette, Somewhere Beneath Those Waves, pg 185)

Like the Queen of Elfland’s roses, the stories contained in ‘Somewhere Beneath Those Waves’ will sing out their glory long after the reader had turned the final page. Contained within are captive figureheads and selkies, dragons and dreams and all the hopes and nightmares caught in between. The stories whisper of love and terror, and kept me up late into the night with a driving need to keep reading. The stories are all so very different, but are told in such a starkly elegant voice a reader cannot help but be compelled to pay attention.

For me, the stories that stood out most were ‘Three Letters from the Queen of Elfland’- a haunting story about love and lust and reasons humans are not meant to love faeries, ‘Katabasis: Seraphic Trains’- an atmospheric and elegant piece about inspiration and the darker corners of human motivation, ‘Amante Doree’- an almost historical piece with spies and issues of gender and acceptance, ‘Under the Beansidhe’s Pillow’- a short, gorgeous piece about the bits of culture and its spirits that immigrated to America, and both ‘A Night in Electric Squidland’ and ‘Imposters’- two stunning bits of urban fantasy with truly likable characters.

This collection should be on everyone’s shelf. It has a story for everyone, from fairy tale to horror and back again, each story unique and yet somehow still pulling the collection together as a whole.

Obsidian Moon, Obsidian Eye by J. Damask

“I wanted my land back. It was deep in my blood. It sang in my bones. It demanded action.” -J. Damask, Obsidian Moon, Obsidian Eye, pg 100

A black drake coils through Jan Xu’s days and dreams, threatening her family, her pack, her land. It is a difficult choice, whether or not to involve her people in a blood feud from her Gang of Four days. But as blood is shed and even the Ancestral Forest is violated, Jan Xu will bring the ferocity of the Lang into play.

There is an ethereal elegance to Damask’s writing that makes me forget I am reading urban fantasy. There is the fuzzy captivation of a dream just before waking, fairy tales and mythology more than the more familiar tropes, and reading her work always awakens in me an interest in everything that has ever hovered in the twilight. Her Lang are wolves, not the werewolves genre fans are more familiar with, with a beautiful, feral culture all of their own. In ‘Obsidian Moon Obsidian Eye’ we get more of that culture, as Jan Xu is now the Alpha of her pack, and the reader tastes the ritual and responsibility that goes with the title.

What I adore more and more about the books is the careful balance Jan Xu has to maintain between her vigilante days and her position as wife, mother, and Alpha. There is so much more accountability than a reader of the genre is usually treated to, and it adds something rich to both the characters and the story. There is an increased sense of tension, of threat, as Jan Xu tries to attend to all of her responsibilities.

Again, Damask’s word brings us more than the usual fey. There is a culture and a history that makes the world of the Lang sing to the reader, a blend of native spirits and animal people that is a pleasure to read, and to get lost in.

Hammered by Kevin Hearne

A Druid, a Werewolf, and a Vampire walk into a bar…

That is not exactly how the story goes- it is more of a meeting around a campfire, but the intent is the same. Men coming together with a purpose, sharing their tales, weaving ancient woe into camaraderie. There purpose is a little less traditional, for they are meeting with unsung heroes and ancient Powers with the sole purpose of killing the god Thor for past bloody indiscretions. That scene in Hammered, where Atticus, Leif, and Gunnar meet with a Russian thunder god, a Finnish magician and a Chinese immortal around a campfire, eating stew and telling their tales, is one of my favorites. It is the most elegant way I have ever been presented with back story and character motivation, and worked perfectly with both the characters and the flow and feel of the story.

Atticus is warned, on more than one occasion and by more than one Power, to cease his current course of action- that attempting to kill Thor will only end in disaster of horrific proportions. But Atticus has given his word to aid in the attempt on Thor’s life, and he will not be forsworn. Of course, the book starts with another trip up to Asgard as Atticus made another promise to collect Idunn’s apples for an ancient witch who helped him previously. Atticus has some powerful allies, but it seems his alliances often come with dangerous costs. He manages to retrieve an apple, and keep his word, but not without shedding blood in Asgard, and gaining the attention of the All Father. It is not a very comfortable position to be in- especially when your next visit is planned to involve killing one of Asgard’s major players.

Hearne continues his excellent work at pulling the sugar coating off of a good chunk of the pantheons the modern world is familiar with, and in the process makes everything more interesting. Atticus himself grows a bit in this one, moving beyond being just an ancient, powerful and rather flip druid. The reader can sit back and appreciate how much he values the things in live he loves now that he is very close to losing it all. Riddled with high stakes action, brilliant pop culture references, and pleasantly irreverent humor, Hammered is another great addition to the Iron Druid Chronicles.

Hexed by Kevin Hearne

You kill one god, and suddenly every pantheon wants a favor. Or, really, every pantheon wants one very specific favor- that Atticus O’Sullivan take a minute of his time to kill Thor. Granted, Thor is universally recognized as a bit of a dick, but that is not the sort of thing Atticus wants to tangle with. Kill one god, and the others want a favor. Kill two…and they may start to consider you a threat.

Apart from that little hitch, Atticus has to deal with the Morrigan, who’s attention has taken a turn for the rather intimate, and Brighid who has also decided it’s time to pay a more personal sort of attention to the last of the druids. Oh, and there is Coyote, who is always up to his paws in more than he is ever going to admit, and this time he hauls Atticus right along with him.

Add in an invading pack of Bacchants and some particularly nasty German witches and Atticus is going to be busy.

Hearne again weaves a story that is equal parts high stakes action and laugh out loud humor. Read in public at your own risk – those guffaws can sneak out at the most inopportune times- but do read. Hexed, and its prequel Hounded, are fantastic additions to the Urban fantasy genre and are a refreshing dodge from the usual fare.

Uncertain Allies by Mark Del Franco

Flashes of blue light lead to people vanishing in the Weird, the Wild Hunt rides, tension is high between the Celtic and Teutonic Courts, and of course magically crippled Connor Grey is right in the middle of it all, attracting the attention of far too many people with far too much power.

My first thought on finishing this book was that the series could end here and I would be happy. All the little changes Connor has gone through as the series progressed came to a head in this book. This was the crisis point, and I was satisfied at its resolution.

This does not mean I would scoff at picking up and reading another Connor Grey novel. I enjoy the world build and the writing too much to turn them down. But I was content with the way things were. Not every end was tied off- but to me that makes for a much more believable resolution. Life is never so clean or polite as to settle everything neatly for us. There needs to be a bit of mess, and rarely have I had the pleasure of mucking around in a life as messy as that of Connor Grey. It is delightful that much of the mess is of his own making, and it was interesting to watch him actually start to own up to a lot of it in this book.

Uncertain Allies has a lot more meat, and less actual action than previous installments in the series, but for those who have been invested in the series it is the necessary fallout of previous events and works to pull things together and make sense of it all. It allows Connor to grow as a character and for the series to actually move forward as a result.

I think what I have liked most throughout reading this series is Connor’s distinct lack of Power. He has a bit of a wild card that is unreliable and usually devastating, but nothing like the usual genre tropes. He relies heavily on his companions and contacts, and considering Connor used to be a rather hot shot Druid, it is an interesting POV character to wander through an urban fantasy setting with.