Tag: Historical Fantasy

Birthright (The Impavidus Cycle #1) by M.A. Vice

Nightfall (The Impavidus Cycle Book 2) by [M. A. Vice]

Here’s the setting. A young daemon gets inhabited and taken over by his father and proceeds to go on a Duke Nukem-style bloodbath to help raise power for and spread the corruption of his father. His sole driving force was to just ambush and kill and kill and kill.

Then the oddest of things happens. The young daemon, who we learn is named Albtraum, is captured, taken in, and, in the first of many twists, given the opportunity to fight against his father and maybe make the world a better place.

Ms. Vice opens this one with an absolutely master-crafted bloodbath and then deftly slides into a very involved story of political intrigue and a broad exploration of political relationships, interpersonal relationships, trust, and growth.

The fantasy presented in Birthright is top-notch. Having Albtraum constantly at odds with his father, and the uncertainty of how he can and does act in situations added a nice tension to this read while progressing the story nicely. In the shadows of spreading corruption, the reader never really knows when Albtraum will be infected by his father’s nefarious spirit and begin resorting back to his ways of violence.

I really enjoyed the variety of terrains that our characters are taken through. This world was very well adapted, and does help lend to a fair amount of character development. Through the worldbuilding, the reader can see the roots of many of the characters, and a lot of it is reflected back in personality.

Birthright is chock full of twists: some seen from a mile away, and some that just smack you in the face as they are happening. The final book in the series comes out in December 2021, and I really can’t wait to see how the story progresses considering the way things were left at the end of Birthright (no spoilers).

I’d really suggest picking this novel up. It’s independently published, and it’s always good to support those creators who take it upon themselves to push their works out in the world.

The Court of Miracles (A Court of Miracles #1) by Kester Grant

Imagine a story of the inner workings of Parisian criminal guilds wrapped up in a loose homage to Les Misérables and Jungle Book. That is exactly what Ms. Grant has pulled off with The Court of Miracles.

Our main character, Eponine (Nina for short), is a super-talented member of the Thieves Guild and is on a mission to both save her adopted sister Cosette (Ettie) from and destroy the Flesh Guild. Ettie has caught the eye of the Tiger (not a Survivor reference) who leads the Flesh Guild, and Nina is already chapped at him because he took her actual sister into service several years back.

What follows is some serious criminal high jinks, and a broad swath of literary liberty with the characters of Hugo’s Les Mis.

This YA gem was truly a joy to read. The absolute spark between Nina and Ettie’s personalities, coupled with Nina’s preternatural ability to get in and out of the most heinous of situations, seriously drives this novel in an entertaining rollick.

There is some time-hopping that occurs, but, in a tale such as this, that is absolutely to be expected. As the years progress, we see Nina becoming more mature and far more driven to her goals. One thing I greatly respected is that Nina is not always successful in her wild gambits: something I see less and less of these days from other authors dealing with their protagonist(s). In my mind, these trip-ups help painfully carve even more facets onto Nina’s vivacious personality.

While Ms. Kester took the liberty of setting up shop in a preexisting world, she does not shy from leaving her own mark on it. All the visuals, sounds, tastes, and smells of Louis XVII’s Paris — and a lot of the seedy underbelly — are laid out like a buffet for the senses, and, truthfully, a lot of it is quite unsavory.

This is a book worth picking up. Better yet, snag the audiobook which is masterfully executed by Ajjaz Awad and John Lee.

The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry by C.M. Waggoner

** This book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review **

The Ruthless Lady's Guide to Wizardry

It’s very hard to start in on a review of something as magical as The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry because it just has so many facets and layers.

At first glance we get the feeling that one Miss Dellaria Wells is pretty much a hopeless case. An uneducated fire witch subsisting in the back alleys and barrooms of Leiscourt, just trying to find a way to keep a roof over her head and, sometimes, take care of her mam.

As this book really gets rolling, we find Delly stumbling her way into a very high paying job to watch over — with a passel of other more “high society” witches — a bride-to-be at a statuesque manor outside of Leiscourt.

Oh, but that’s just the start of it.

As the story ensues, we find our Delly embroiled in all manner of plot and chicanery. All of which I dare not share here as to keep the surprises to you, the reader.

In this book, Ms. Waggoner builds a robust semi-Victorian world full of class struggles, new love and some of the absolute best language I have come across in a very long time. Where else are you going to find a perfectly acceptable use for the word “enkittenated?”

I was very much reminded of Jen Williams’ The Copper Cat Series, and, especially the titular character of Wydrin. Delly and Wyd would probably be at each others’ throats a scant few pages in.

This is a book that you will not want to put down, nor want to finish. The characters all have amazing depth (even the dripper trash), and the personalities practically ooze off the page.

It would be a releftin’ shame if Ms. Waggoner did not continue to dabble in this world she has so lovingly built. I really cannot wait for more.

Oh, and then there’s Buttons… (bong)

Spellbreaker (Spellbreaker Duology #1) by Charlie N. Holmberg

This is the story of Elsie Camden, a young woman who was born with the ability to unmake spells much like unraveling a sweater.

Set in a semi-Victorian England, Spellbreaker tells the story of young Elsie and her search for stability in her life. Orphaned by her family, Elsie is rescued from the work house by a mysterious group of magic wielding “Robin Hood-esque” types know as the Cowls. Throwing another monkey into the barrel: Elsie is an unregistered and unlicensed magic user (or un-user as it is), so she must hide her abilities and her mysterious jobs for the Cowls.

One one such mission, Elsie runs afoul of almost Master Spellcaster Bacchus Kelsey. Bacchus catches Elsie red-handed, and, rather than turn her over to the authorities, he “gives her the opportunity” to work off her “crimes” with him on the Duke’s estate where he is currently residing.

All along the way, and a recurring theme in this book, Elsie is frantically searching for some news as to the whereabouts of the family that up and left her so many years before.

Going too much further into the plot would reveal spoilers that I’d rather not divulge.

In Spellbreaker, Ms. Holmberg presents a very well-formed environment with oodles of the backstory I just love in a read. While I would have rather enjoyed some more practical displays of the wider variety of magic use, I can appreciate staying on task with the story because there is a lot to unpack.

The characters are all marvelously charismatic and there is a real feel of everyone’s individuality in their interactions (trust me, this is important).

Topping it all off is the cliffhanger that — if I’m being honest — I did not totally see coming.

My one whiny gripe about duologies (or trilogies, for that matter) is the waiting required to get to the conclusion. Luckily, Spellmaker is due out March 9, 2021, so I only have to wait a few months.

Spellbreaker is a fun little read. It has a nice airy mix of magic, mystery, the scandalous hint of romance and Victorian England. The language is light and quaint, and the whole production has all the fond reminiscences of MASTERPIECE Mystery!.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

I will start this review by saying that if you read only one book this entire year, please make it this one.

Victoria Schwab is an absolute powerhouse author who has built some pretty damn incredible worlds in her novels. It is by the grace of the gods that she is amazingly prolific, so there isn’t a lot of wait between devourings of her words.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, however, is nothing short of her masterwork. This is a book whose end actually brought me to tears twice (I had to go back and read Part VII again), and I couldn’t be happier for it.

The long and the short of it is that The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a Faustian tale of a girl who makes a diabolical deal in order to be her own person. The side effect of said deal makes her totally unmemorable to those she comes in contact with, as soon as that contact is broken. Oh, here’s the kicker: she’s also immortal.

Addie spends a lot of time jumping back and forth through the timeline honing in on defining Addie’s personality, her voracious appetite for knowledge, and a slow build of strategy that the reader starts to uncover.

Then comes Henry.

This book is as much about Henry as is it about Addie, but I’m not really going to say much about him other than he works in a book store and he remembers who Addie is. That’s right, the forgettable girl finds someone who remembers.

Then there is Luc — the dark god who doled out Addie’s curse — and his lithe and infuriating interaction with Addie. Luc is a classic tormentor who slithers into the scene to trip up Addie just when she is starting to get into the swing of navigating her life. Like Henry, I just don’t want to say too much about Luc.

At the end of the day The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a story about the human condition, navigating the impossibilities of life, and about knowing just who you are to yourself. Like I said at the beginning, this is a book that should absolutely be picked up and never put down: a book to both be savored and devoured. Yes, it’s absolutely that good.

If you are on my Christmas list, chances are, I’ll be giving you a copy shortly.

The Dark Archive (The Invisible Library #7) by Genevieve Cogman

This book was provided to me by NetGalley in return for a fair review

So this one fell in my lap, and it sounded like a very interesting premise. I had no idea it was book 7 in a series, or I would not have requested it. I absolutely hate jumping into a series mid-stream, but I went ahead anyway.

By a seventh book, it is implied that there is going to be a lot of lore and backstory in a series, and this was different. I quite enjoyed the summary device at the beginning, but felt like there was going to be a lot I was going to miss. Oh well, now I have a new series to pick up.

Ms. Cogman does a remarkable job of character development, but, for me, the worldbuilding was a tad scattered. While Irene Winters is definitely the central character of this book, I felt that there were a variety of sub-stories that were not formed fully enough to my liking.

The Dark Archive was a quick read, but not the most satisfying of reads. I would have very much liked to see Vale’s story fleshed out a bit more in this book, and the antagonists did not seem to occupy a lot of the primary focus.

My thoughts may change after I read the other books in the series, but I can’t really recommend this particular tome as a standalone.