Tag: Paranormal Fiction

Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff

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

I’ve been a big fan of Mr. Kristoff for quite some time, but this one really knocks it out of the park. Empire of the Vampire has received a ton of hype over the past year, and sometimes that can backfire, but, boy howdy, this is a novel that absolutely delivers.

Our main character, Gabriel de León, is a Silversaint in a time and place where the sun has basically been blocked out for twenty-seven years, and the ruling houses of vampires have risen up and basically carved up the world into their kingdoms. What’s a Silversaint you ask? A Silversaint is the result of the union between a vampire sire and a human woman. The sons that result (there are only sons) inherit a bit of vampiric power from their undead fathers; as well as a degree of their bloodlust.

Now Gabriel has been captured by the creatures he has vowed to destroy, and the bulk of the story is him telling his life’s history to a vampire historian.

Empire of the Vampire has all of the Kristoff halmarks. Sex? Check. Violence? Check. Incredibly witty banter peppered liberally with crude jokes? Also, check.

There is an undeniable comparison to Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, just from the way the narrative is presented, but this gem of a novel is wholly unique. Mr. Kristoff is no stranger to the anti-hero, but de León may be his finest masterpiece to date. At some moments the reader feels very sorry for this peasant’s son: hell, there are even moments when he seems kind and tender; but there is also a nihilistic and destructive side to Gabriel that will often make the reader reconsider their opinion of him. Hell, as I was going through it, I just was hoping that we’d figure out why he seems so incredibly jaded.

In building the setting of Empire of the Vampire, Mr. Kristoff absolutely goes all out. We have divided and conquered kingdoms with rich histories, the creation and deep lore several religions, magick and power systems to go with each tradition and House, and a vast landscape that the reader can actually see, feel, hear and even smell. This is a craft that Mr. Kristoff is very well-versed in, and he’s definitely used the finest tools in his toolbox to execute this one.

This is definitely a book that wraps you up in a rollicking story mixed with enough fervor, blasphemy, faith and action to keep a reader seriously engaged while furious page flipping is going on.

This novel is going to be on lists and winning awards very shortly. Don’t miss it.

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.

Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

I’ve been hearing about this novella through various outlets for a few months, and it sat on my stack longer than I would have preferred for a “short” piece of fiction.

Normally, I take breaks from “big” story undertakings to cleanse my palette with something easy to consume. Ring Shout is far from easy to consume.

Set in 1922 Macon, Georgia, the story opens with our main character, Maryse Boudreaux sitting atop a cotton warehouse in downtown with her two comrades-in-arms and best friends, Chef and Sadie. The trio is watching a Fourth of July Klan march proceed below them whilst planning out a special surprise for a pack of Klu Kluxes.

In this particular tale of alt-history and horror, Klu Kluxes are fantastic beasts of immense strength and hate who hunt down black citizens with animalistic fervor. Sadie and her friends hunt them.

As Ring Shout progresses, we learn that — as in many tales of good versus evil — there is a new resurgence in Klan evil that is rising up surrounding a new showing of G.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation that is getting ready to be shown at Stone Mountain, and Sadie’s group aims to disrupt and stop it.

Diving deep into the mystical, it appears that Griffith created the film to entrance a nation of white people into spreading more and more Klan hate, but Sadie has her own brand of mystical support to help stop it.

As social commentary, Ring Shout is pretty damn powerful. Rather than make light of the highly overt racism that was paraded around in the early to mid 20th century, the situations and stories help create a more rational picture of the mistrust and animosity that existed between the races.

As a horror story, the novella hits all the suspenseful highlights. There are mysterious monsters, Lovecraftian otherworldly overlords, and a whole lot of cultural lore and tradition. The monsters are made all that more terrifying by the ideologies they represent, and the “big bad” is about as terrifying as it gets.

I was often reminded of Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country as I was making my way through this one. While there is a lot of the same themes and tone, there are decided differences, in my mind, that make Ring Shout a more raw experience.

Whether you are a fan of horror or not, Ring Shout should definitely be on your reading list.

Tragic Fools (Children of Ankh #5) by Kim Cormack

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

Tragic Fools (Children of Ankh Series Book 5) by [Kim Cormack]

One reading peeve of mine is being dropped into the middle of a multi-book series without having read the previous books. I tend to read a lot of series, so I approach each one with a “will this stand on its own” approach. Sadly, most of the time the answer is a resounding no.

Ms. Cormack, however, has taken a very might swing at it with Tragic Fools.

I was drawn to this book by a quick blurb describing paranormal abilities, immortals, and colorful mishaps: all things I thoroughly enjoy. What I did not expect was almost slapstick irreverence and enough bawdy ribaldry to make a vicar blush.

Granted, I do not (yet) have a full understanding of what the various Clans in the Children of Ankh’s endgame is supposed to be, but damn I enjoyed the widely mixed variety of characters and situations. Throughout the constant death, emerging powers and nigh constant demon slaying, the reader can really get a feel for this totally misfit band of Ankh immortals and how they approach the tasks they are given. Do they do things right and/or efficiently? I would guess never. Are they entertaining and enticing as hell? Absolutely.

Quite honestly, I cannot wait to read the other books in the series. The childish humor and amazingly well thought out paranormal aspects of the various situations that Ankh gets themselves into have made me a fan. Plus, I’m not hooked in on seeing if the newbies can get through Testing.