Tag: Science Fiction

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…

Down World by Rebecca Phelps

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

Imagine Stranger Things crossed with Back to the Future all tied together with teen angst and the guilt of loss and secrecy. That’s pretty much the premise of Down World.

This is the story of Marina, a girl who lost her brother to a train accident four years previously. She is starting her sophomore year at public school; having gone to private school previously.

As the story unfolds, we discover that the high school, formerly a military base, has portals to different planes deep in its bowels that people have been using for years to visit alternate realities. That’s where things start to get very interesting, and Marina’s world changes drastically.

Ms. Phelps does a great job at world building and character development in this quick read. The foibles of high school life, and the navigation of potential romance make the “normal” portions of this book seem very believable.

Where I was disappointed, however, were the leaps in trying to rush certain portions of the story along to get to the next waypoint. Concepts and situations were introduced, not really ever resolved, and that stuck with me. For me, there is a wide swath of the “Down World” story that would have benefited from a better introduction, or even just an in-story summary of the bigger situation. There were opportunities to expound on this, but it was a path just not taken.

Lovecraft Country: A Novel by Matt Ruff

While I do not want to address the television adaptation of this novel, it is definitely the elephant in the room, and I will be honest that I picked up this book because the show trailer looked so fascinating (and I had ignored the recommendation last year from a dear friend).

OK, elephant addressed.

Lovecraft Country is a marvelous tale of horror, science fiction, and navigation of Jim Crow America of the 1950’s. Delightfully broken into vignettes and paying a whole lot of homage to H.P. Lovecraft’s style both in subject matter and story construction.

Throughout the bigger work, a larger story arc is weaving itself featuring arcane rituals, mystical objects, powerful magicks, Indiana Jones-style adventure, and more than a little overt racism.

Wrapped around the larger story are small tales of new worlds, cursed objects, hauntings, debts paid and self-discovery. Again, very much flavored with the struggles of being Black in America during a time where being non-white put one at a very overt and accepted disadvantage.

While the book was a relatively quick read, I found the world-building quite intricate and well-developed. The protagonists are very likable: even with their quirks and flaws; and the “villains” run the gamut of mystical to brutish.

Quite the literary treat.

The Conductors by Nicole Glover

The Conductors (A Murder & Magic Novel) by [Nicole Glover]

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

It’s only been recently that I have started reading more in the realm of historical fiction, but I’m finding I am enjoying it more and more. In The Conductors, Ms. Glover — in her debut offering, by the way — weaves an intriguing tale of a very closely knit community in Philadelphia; loosely tied together by their traditions, a heritage of stellar magic, and two former conductors on the underground railroad who now spend time solving some of the mysteries of this community.

Interspersed with looks back to pre-freedom times, and how a fair number of the primary characters came into the orbit of Hetty and Benjy (our crafty protagonists), one cannot help but see the comparisons to Octavia Butler’s Kindred.

This novel, however, very much stands on its own two feet. With the introduction of a mysterious murder of someone close in their circle, the two main characters — Hetty and Benjy Rhodes — begin an investigation that uncovers intrigue, shame, lies to one another, and lies to oneself.

Above all, though, I find The Conductors a story of love and self-discovery. Even without the wonderful booster of magic, sorcery, and the acceptance and acceptable use thereof; this novel would still reach its intended point. The magic, though, makes it all that much more interesting.

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.

Book Review: War Storm (Red Queen #4)

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I went on a binge of this series and thought I would review the entire story arc here in the “final” book (though I should probably have done this in the first book).

With an incredibly envy-inducing talent for worldbuilding, Ms. Aveyard perfectly sets the scene for these novels (and novellas!). This series, and War Storm in particular, has an amazing foundation of landscapes, history, cultures and conflict that draw the reader in and masterfully set the stage for the tale that is about to unfurl.

At it’s core, the Red Queen series is a story of class conflict, control, and societal woes. One wonderful thing about these books, and Ms. Aveyard in particular, was that there was no pandering to the reader for the pitiable plight of any of the characters or situations. Each happenstance or situation seemed to be designed to help strengthen resolve or establish a disparity.

With War Storm we are dropped right into what we are told is the final wrap-up of this saga. Conflict still ravages the lands, and even more divides are starting to show. There is almost more behind the scenes conniving as there is open war and conflict. I often found myself checking how much of the book I had left when I would run into yet another new dire situation that seemed impossible to resolve by the end of this finale.

If you have made it through Red Queen, Glass Sword, and King’s Cage you will definitely not be disappointed by War Storm. Does it wrap everything up in a nice little bow? Absolutely not. Does it satisfy the reader enough to leave these Kingdoms behind? Again, no. You will, though, burn through this page-turner and feel satisfied that there is plenty of world left for Ms. Aveyard to approach again if she chooses.

I definitely hope she does.