Tag: Mystery

The Atlas Six (The Atlas, #1) by Olivie Blake

The Atlas Six (The Atlas Series Book 1) by [Olivie Blake, Little Chmura]

Holy crap, I really didn’t expect a read like this one. The premise was very intriguing and right up my alley, so I decided to take the dive.

The Alexandrian Society, a secretive group tasked with maintaining the lost/forgotten knowledge of previous civilizations, and library to the most powerful magicians in the world, have an annual initiation where they bring in six of the most talented magicians from all over the planet to act as custodians for the library while they learn and grow.

At the end of the period of time of this caretaking, one initiate will be eliminated and five will go on to be full members of the Society.

Magic, competition, ego, intrigue? I’m all in.

Then it gets really damn interesting. The first candidates we meet are Elizabeth “Libby” Rhodes and Nicolàs “Nico” de Varona. This unique pair attends New York University of Magical Arts together, and are the fiercest of rivals. To say that they snipe at each other constantly is and understatement. When both are selected by Atlas Blakely to take part in the initiation, that kicks things up another notch. At this point, I knew I was in for a serious ride.

Next, Atlas selects Reina Mori, Parissa Kamali, Tristan Caine, and Callum Nova. Much like Libby and Nico, each is a magician of extreme talent. Unlike Libby and Nico, this three have been away from academia and are very secretive about their skills and abilities.

As the story unfolds we learn a hell of a lot more about each of the characters, the mission of The Society, its enemies and shortcomings. Each of the initiates gets more and more wrapped up in what their time at The Society means to them and to their group as a whole.

Let’s just say things get incredibly mental.

I honestly can’t go more into it without giving away anything. I will say that I read the last two chapters three times to fully wrap my head around what happened. Yeah, it’s one of those books.

To call Ms. Blake an artist is understating things. The Atlas Six draws you in and wraps you up in such a web of personality and intrigue. It is a true gem of world-building without even really having to build a world. The setting is very uniform, but the landscape and setting for this novel is really the characters themselves, and, boy howdy, there is such a rich variety of terrain. This is definitely one of those stories where I basically got knocked on my ass and had to sit there for a while re-assessing how I think about literary characters.

It’s just so hard to describe how this book affects its readers, but it will definitely affect you. I’ve read some amazing things this Summer, but I think I’m definitely going to have to crown The Atlas Six as my “don’t miss it” for Summer 2021.

The Last Graduate (The Scholomance #2) by Naomi Novik

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

The Last Graduate (The Scholomance, #2)

Oh poor Galadriel Higgins. El’s affinity for super destructive magic, her desire to be semi-anti-social, and her torn feelings for one Orion Lake really put her in an interesting spot coming into her senior year at the Scholomance.

Now that graduation is upon El, she has set it in her mind that she will get out as many students as possible. As she begins to enlist more and more of the student body in her seemingly hare-brained plans, they all begin to understand just what a powerhouse El really is. To make matters worse, it appears that the school is beginning to turn on her.

I absolutely love this series, and was super excited to be given the opportunity to tackle an early copy of book 2. The Last Graduate really does take off right where A Deadly Education ended, and Ms. Novik has really honed her masterful craft of deft first-person narration. El really is the embodiment of snarky power, and the wide variety of characters, each with their own foibles, really make for an enjoyable experience.

There is so much more I would love to gush about this book, but I would give away far too much.

Once this book drops, I’ll definitely be picking up the audiobook. Anisha Dadia did an absolute masterful job with the first book, and I really can’t wait to hear her doing book 2.

The Psychic’s Memoirs (Terrafide #2) by Ryan Hyatt

*** This book was provided to me by the author for a fair and honest review ***

I’ll tell you one thing, The Psychic’s Memoirs jumps right into it as a detective drama. Above all, I think that’s what it is at it’s genre-jumping core.

Ted Kaza and Lydia Jackson are LAPD detectives who are investing the disappearance of a girl who just happened to very accurately predict the earthquake that hit Los Angeles six months ago and basically destroyed the city. The “powers that be” want a word with Miss Alice Walker, and she’s nowhere to be found.

The next genres come tumbling into play quickly thereafter: superhumans, multi-verse theory, global espionage, political uprising and last, but not least, alien invasion and mecha (major bonus for that).

I’m not going to share too much about this story because if you aren’t hooked by chapter seven, then you probably won’t finish it. I was a tad worried as each new outrageous situation unfolded, but it really works for and with Mr. Hyatt’s style.

This is a dystopian future book that seems somewhat less dystopian and a tad more scary at the same time. I find it quite realistic that there could be violent clashes in the street with ragtag gangs up against police and military forces while the average Angeleno is just going about their normal day-to-day.

Mr. Hyatt’s writing style is very well thought out, in my opinion. Scenes are very well set and the attention to situational details really enhances the personality quirks of the primary characters. Above all, you really get to understand what bothers each of them. That’s not something I think I’ve seen in many other books, but it’s incredibly humanizing.

Another thing I really appreciated was the way that interpersonal relationships were portrayed. Not every potential conflict had to be that way, and there were a couple of very interesting surprises on that front that threw me for a slight loop. Again, very humanizing.

I will say, The Psychic’s Memoirs does go “meta” at a certain point. At first I thought it was a nice little easter egg, but it turns out to be pretty core to the story. I haven’t decided if the device is hilarous, genius, or lazy. I’m not sure I’ll ever decide.

Regardless, The Psychic’s Memoirs is a solid read. It’s fast-paced, and really pushes the reader along with a lot of action and intrigue. This is obviously just the first part (or second, actually) of a broader story involving Kaza, Jackson, Walker, and others, so I hope I get to read more of it soon.

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!.

A Deadly Education (The Scholomance #1) by Naomi Novik

A Deadly Education (The Scholomance, #1)

Imagine Harry Potter meets Battle Royale. Throw in a dash of The Cabin in the Woods and that is pretty much the core plot for A Deadly Education.

This novel follows the story of Galadriel, or El for short, and her experience at The Scholomance as an outcast and loner. The long and the short of it is that all the other students in the school — a place with no teachers and just slightly attached to the mortal dimension — think that El is an evil magician preying on the other students (as is the norm).

What follows is El being followed/befriended by the class do-gooder, Orion Lake. Orion has the penchant for being in the right place to save El, and a mess of other students, from the monsters that seem to always be randomly roaming the halls and grounds of The Scholomance.

The story in A Deadly Education is really one of trust, friendship, learning, and self-sufficience. El is a fantastically snarky character who really feels — up into this story which happens in the third year of her schooling — that she is pretty much totally alone going into the ordeal known as “graduation” at the end of the fourth year. Let’s just say a whole lot happens.

I rather enjoyed this book because it came from the perspective of an underdog who really had no aspirations of being anything else. El’s one focus is on methodical survival and that is her singular goal.

Kudos to Ms. Novik for writing a novel that builds a tiny world full of mysteries and horror along with some pretty strong bond-building and, gasp, friendship. I cannot wait for book two.

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.

Peace Talks (Dresden Files #16) by Jim Butcher

Peace Talks (Dresden Files Book 16) by [Jim Butcher]

Almost twenty years ago I picked up a book on a whim because the blurb described the story of a wizard for hire in Chicago. That book was Mr. Butcher’s first Harry Dresden novel — Storm Front — and I’ve not looked back since.

To say that I devour Dresden content is an understatement. I supported the television show (even though it wasn’t the best, and really should have had James Marsters in the title role), and even read each comic book adaptation.

Adventures with Harry were like clockwork: every year there would be something new. Then, after book 15 — Skin Game — came the lull. Six whole years without a new book. And, boy howdy, Skin Game did not end cleanly. I’m not going to spoil anything, but that was an agonizing wait.

Suddenly, it’s 2020 and, lo and behold, there’s a new Dresden book dropping in July! So I subtly shuffle my ever-growing to-be-read list around and slide it in as quickly as possible.

Let me tell you, this is exactly the Dresden book I needed. Yes I whined that it had been six years with no new fix, but this one made great strides towards mending that wound. We get new characters, old characters with new-found talents, new alliances, and stunning new foes.

About halfway through the book I get a notification that book seventeen of the Dresden Files is dropping on September 29. Two Dresden books in less than four months?!?!?!? So this is what Mr. Butcher has been doing for the last six years (I’m still waiting for another Cinder Spires book, too). Battle Ground will get its own review after I am done devouring it, and, while Peace Talks and Battle Ground could have been one giant epic of Harry Dresden greatness, I totally understand the split, and why it was very important to have an oh so brief pause between the two.

Peace Talks is the perfect stage-setter for what is to come while also building up an interesting semi-reboot of the the series. Harry, interestingly enough, has become less impulsive, more introspective, and is beginning to realize the responsibilities he has to himself, his family and loved ones, and the obligations he has gotten himself into. Hell, I think I counted less than ten FUEGO! mentions in the entire book!

Ultimately, it’s good to have Harry back, and it’s even better to have something other than short story case files in hand from Mr. Butcher.

I am still waiting for Cinder Spires book two, though…

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

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Every so often I come across a book that is both incredibly enjoyable, and masterfully constructed. The Starless Sea is definitely one of those books.

I really enjoyed Ms. Morgenstern’s first book, The Night Circus, so I figured I’d give this one a go after it sat in my “to be read” pile for a good chunk of the year. I am both happy and sad that I sat on this one. Happy that it did not get to overshadow a lot of what I have read in 2020, and sad that I did not have the characters within in my life sooner.

The Starless Sea is the story of Zachary Ezra Rawlins, the son of a fortune teller and lover of books. Without giving too much away, the story really starts to progress when Zachary stumbles across a very particular and mysterious book with no apparent author or origin.

What ensues is a grand adventure involving deception, intrigue, secret societies, and, of course the Starless Sea.

To me, this story really captures a perfected world of fantastic fables and storytelling. Hold your hands together like you are packing a snowball. What lies within that sphere of space in your empty hands is how I imagine the world within The Starless Sea: it is compact, mysterious, yet perfectly contained.

I cannot wait to read what Ms. Morgenstern has in store for us next.

Four Tombstones (Josie Jameson #1) by Jennifer L. Hotes

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

Four Tombstones: a Josie Jameson mystery by [Jennifer Hotes]

I’m a huge fan of magic/mystery books, an even greater fan of YA; and Four Tombstones hits all the right buttons in what I look for in a book.

The story of Josie Jameson, a Seattle-area teenager who lost her mother to cancer six years ago, Four Tombstones is a story of love, loss, hope and mystery.

Everything opens with Josie desperately wanting to connect with her mother through dragging her four friends — the Baby Group — to the cemetery where her mother is buried in the guise of having some Halloween night fun to make some grave rubbings. As a result of that fateful night, new connections are made, Josie and her friends each end up getting set on tasks that will both bring them all closer, and, at some points, threaten to break them all apart.

The genuineness in Ms. Hotes’ writing really sells each of the journeys. Each member of the Baby Group faces some sort of harsh reality, and each have to grow a bit more out of childhood to reckon with their dilemmas: both individual and collective.

An air of the mystical permeates most of Josie’s story, and she tackles the unknown with both vigor and trepidation. It was not until I got to the end of this book that I was made aware that there are two others in the series. I very much look forward to reading more about Josie and her friends’ adventures.

Book Review: Gideon the Ninth

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

There are stories one reads that one hopes will never end; then there are stories that absolutely cannot end. Harrow the Ninth falls firmly in the second category.

I absolutely fell in love with the wit and language of Gideon the Ninth and the story of Lyctor and last necromancer of the Ninth House, Harrowhark Nonagesimus is right up there in caliber. The glorious weaving of language and humor tied into yet another catastrophic mystery makes for one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve had all year.

Yes, parts of the story are confusing as all hell, but that’s part of the story. Sometimes you just have to let go and patiently observe the author taking you on a wild rollercoaster ride, and you’ll just have to like it. Believe me, the ride is worth it.

Extra kudos to Moira Quirk who did the voice acting/narration for the audiobook. These stories are made that much better because of her involvement in the project. The characters are as much hers as they are Ms. Muir’s.