“Codex Born” by Jim C. Hines (DAW, 2013)

Codex Born
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Jim C. Hines brings back his unlikely hero and protagonist, in libriomancer Isaac Vainio, after putting him through the ringer in the first Magic Ex Libris book, Libriomancer. Hines does just what you should with a sequel to a fascinating and absorbing series, opening the world a little more in its magical complexity, providing some new wow moments, and learning more about the interesting characters. The key perhaps to Codex Born is that Hines doesn’t bother with too much setup, throwing the reader in headfirst with breakneck action and kickass magic.

A wendigo has turned up dead and Isaac, libriomancer at large, is brought in to investigate. He brings along his brilliant and beautiful buxom Dryad girlfriend, Lena (pictured inaccurately on the cover), who brings her girlfriend, psychiatrist Nidhi Shah, along to help. It’s a complicated trifecta of a relationship, but together there’s a lot of brain power and magical ability. The trail takes them into a secret, ancient group of libriomancers from far away who hate the supposed creator of libriomancy, Johannes Gutenberg, and have plans to end his domination. Vainio will have to make the choice when he gets to the bottom of everything and truly understand where his allegiances lie.

After reading Libriomancer, readers will be excited to see where Hines takes his characters with Codex Born, what new books and authors he will plunder for cool magical abilities, and where he’s going with his world. This sequel goes where no reader will predict, blowing it all wide open and changing the entire paradigm that had been established about libriomancy in the first book. Exactly what a great sequel should do.

Originally written on December 12, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Codex Born from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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Libriomancer

“Chimes at Midnight” by Seanan McGuire (DAW, 2013)

Chimes at Midnight
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The seventh volume of the October Daye series, Chimes at Midnight, is your typical Toby Daye book, as things seem fine and semi-normal for the first few pages, and then take a lunge to the bizarre and fast-paced, as things heat up. However, this time the stakes seem higher than ever.

Toby and Tybalt, the King of Cats, are now an item and can’t keep their hands and paws off each other, smooching in dark corners and brightly-lit streets, to the point where it starts to grate on the reader, who wants to just get back to the story and adventure at hand. Dead changelings are showing up on the streets, the victims of an overdose of addictive and dangerous goblin fruit. Toby takes this problem to the Queen of Mists, who she’s pretty sure is behind it all and fueling the whole enterprise. But Toby is soon kicked out on her butt and told she must leave the queendom within three days, banished. And before she knows it, Toby finds herself on the receiving end of an attack of goblin fruit that puts her under its dangerous spell. Then there’s the question of the queen’s valid claim to the throne, which seems to be in doubt.

As usual, Toby has a lot to deal with, under the spell of the muddling goblin fruit, it’s a tough one for her and time is running out. Things kick into the predictable high gear readers have come to expect from the series, as Toby jumps from place to place to place at an outlandish rate, leaving the reader’s head spinning, and things get nice and easily solved each time, with little threat to the protagonist or her friends. The climaxes and conflicts of the book feel somewhat contrived and are too easily resolved, making it seem as if the book was written in a hurry. While the ending, although predictable, is worth it, the journey along the way leaves a lot to be desired for the reader who has come to enjoy this series.

Originally written on July 30, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Chimes at Midnight from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“Cold Days” by Jim Butcher (Roc, 2012)

Cold Days
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Harry Dresden, wizard for hire, is officially no longer a ghost.  Back from the dead, he’s alive and relatively well, recovering from not being in the land of the living, and everything that happened to him when he was killed.  But he’s not your usual wizard anymore, he’s the Winter Knight and under the rule and thumb of Queen Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness.  And this is also a Jim Butcher book, so in the blink of an eye, Dresden up you-know-what creek with nothing to paddle with.

When Dresden is finally somewhat back to normal, and enjoying his new superpowers as a Winter Knight, he is charged by Queen Mab with his first assassination, to kill an immortal.  Someone who cannot be killed, the perfect seemingly insurmountable job for Dresden.  He returns back to Chicago to meet up with some old friends and try not to get them too involved, because then they’ll be used against him.  He also travels his his personal, powerful island, Demonreach, though he is more summoned.  It is there he learns the true history and reason for this island located at a nexus of ley lines, and also that things are reaching crisis that could result in the end of Chicago and the surrounding area.  And then there are a bunch of people out there who just want Dresden dead, as usual.

Cold Days is a return to the classic Dresden book, after the interesting and introspective Ghost Story.  At times is seems like Butcher may have put a little too much into this book, as it can leave the reader exhausted in parts, with it feeling just too much at time.  But then this is what fans have come to expect from Dresden and his world.  There are also some hints and references to something much bigger brewing, something that will come to fruition in future Dresden books.  Of course, for now, fans will just have to wait.

Originally written on February 11, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Cold Days from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Midnight Blue-Light Special” by Seanan McGuire (Daw, 2013)

Midnight Blue-Light Special
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Verity Price is back, doing her best to juggle everything going on in her life, whether it’s working her job to get enough money to eat, checking on and protecting the many cryptids of New York City who need help, and trying to make it big-time as a ballroom dancer.  New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire first introduced us to the Prices and this unique world in Discount Armageddon, but in Midnight Blue-Light Special she doesn’t waste any time throwing the reader back into catastrophic mayhem.  But then in you’ve read a McGuire novel before, you’d be disappointed if that wasn’t the case.

Verity Price has a big problem.  Other than the fact that her boyfriend, Dominic, is a member of the clandestine, evil group known as the Covenant which is out to rid the world of all cryptids; it’s that the Covenant is coming to New York to check up on Dominic and see what sort of a job he’s doing, and decide if the city is ready to be purged of all cryptid life.  So Verity has to get every cryptid gone or hidden, and hope none of the Covenant check underground for the giant dragon.

With a sequel, readers might have expected another fun adventure, but no, McGuire pushes everything to the limit here with an ultimate showdown that sucks the reader in and doesn’t let go.  Building on the great world she started in Discount Armageddon, readers will be left wanting the next book in the series.

Originally written on February 11, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Midnight Blue-Light Special from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“Libriomancer” by Jim C. Hines (DAW, 2012)

Libriomancer
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Libriomancer is one of those books that feels like it should’ve been written a lot sooner, given its subject matter, and yet when one is done reading it, one is left wishing they could read it over again for the first time.  From the author of The Princess novels, Libriomancer is the first in the Magic Ex Libris series that will hopefully make Jim C. Hines the well-respected and appreciated author that he already is.

In a unique world that blends books with magic and fantasy, Isaac Vainio is a libriomancer, a unique person with unique powers to be able to reach into books and draw out objects of power (so long as they can fit through the pages); as a libriomancer he is part of a clandestine group that has existed for half a millennium beginning with the great Johannes Gutenberg.  Only now there are vampires that have leaked out of books attacking people, particularly other libriomancers, and the great Gutenberg has been kidnapped.  Vainio thought he was done as a libriomancer, but when his friends start getting killed, he knows it’s up to him to find out who’s behind it all.

Libriomancer is simply a fun book, featuring a great story and some fantastic characters.  Hines has plenty of fun throwing in many nerdy book references, as well as the books libriomancers choose to use to gain special objects.  With a diverse cast of interesting people, Libriomancer is an addicting read that will leave readers impatiently wanting more.

Originally written on November 10, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Libriomancer from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Ashes of Honor” by Seanan McGuire (Daw, 2012)

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October Daye is back again in a new story in this sixth book in the series.  A year has passed since Toby’s last adventures left her exhausted, wounded and barely alive, and someone close to her dead.  Now she is focusing on training Quentin as her squire, doing her job as Sylvester’s knight and trying to make her life go by in a normal way, but her life is ragged and worn due to her decisions and what she’s done.  Then there’s the question of Tybalt, the King of Cats, who’s a whole issue on his own.

And then she is asked to help once again, as a friend and fellow knight, Etienne, reveals to her that his daughter has been kidnapped.  This comes as a shock to Toby, as she didn’t even know he had a daughter, but that’s because he’s kept secret about it, as she’s half-changeling — like Toby — and lives with her mother in the human world.  Her name is Chelsea, and like her father, she can teleport.  But because she is young and just coming into her powers, she is able to open doors and gateways that shouldn’t ever be opened; places that haven’t been accessible for centuries.  She also can’t stop herself as she’s on the run from her kidnappers, but also because she can’t control her powers.  If they don’t stop her soon, she’ll end up tearing Faerie apart.

Just another ordinary day of mayhem and adventure for Toby, though this time the stakes seem higher than ever.  And she can easily identify with a half-changeling not knowing what is really going on and how to control her powers, and if this were to get out about Etienne, it would ruin him.  Plus there’s Tybalt who keeps lending a helping hand and is always there when she needs him, and Toby really needs to work out what her feelings are about him.  Just another ordinary day.

Originally written on October 24, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Ashes of Honor from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“Discount Armageddon” by Seanan McGuire (DAW, 2012)

Discount Armageddon
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It has been readily agreed by most fans that Buffy the Vampire Slayer needed to end in season 7 when it did, but it has still been greatly missed.  The comic books from Dark Horse have done a little to fill this empty void, but thankfully Seanan McGuire, bestselling author of the October Daye books, has a new series with a new character that feels much like a new incarnation of Buffy, except less with the superpowers and more with the weapons and kickass fighting skills.

In this world every ghost, ghoul and monster you’ve read about since you were a kid exists; a number of them look almost human, or can make themselves look presentable in everyday society.  They’ve been around for a long time, and sometimes they overstep their boundaries and enjoy the taste of some human flesh.  There are two groups in the world that exist to control and police these cryptids: one is the Covenant, a religious group that has been around for centuries and sees the cryptids as a scorn upon the earth to be killed and got rid of, whether they be succubus, boogie man, or dragon (but dragons haven’t been around for hundreds of years); the other is the Price family.

The Price family have also been around for quite a while, and they’re the good guys who separated from the Covenant a long time ago because they had this crazy notion that some cryptids deserve not to be hunted to extinction.  There was also some inter-marrying going on.  Enter our heroine, Verity Price who enjoys spending her free time running and base jumping along the rooftops of New York, checking on the local cryptids and making sure they’re staying in line.  She earns some okay money and decent tips at Fish and Chicks, a local strip club, where she waitresses only, even though her boss — a bogey man — would love to have her do more; hence Verity’s choice uniform on the cover of the book.  Verity also happens to be a talented ballroom dancer, which keeps her in shape and her martial arts skills honed, making her made up dancing persona quite the celebrity in the ballroom dancing circles.

Things begin to get pretty crazy when a young, muscular and surprisingly attractive Covenant member shows up to start purging the city and Verity keeps running into him and seriously falling for him.  Then cryptids start disappearing and it seems like there might be something really big under Manhattan either killing them or making them get the hell out of town; plus there’s some strange snake cult looking for virgins.  And then she has this large nest of Aeslin mice living with her, celebrating all manner of weird mice-sized festivals.

Discount Armageddon at first feels a lot like a combination of the October Daye series and McGuire’s other Newsflesh series under her Mira Grant pseudonym, as the first person perspective makes it seem like the reader is enjoying one of those books just with different details.  But by halfway through the book, Verity Price establishes herself as a strong independent protagonist, part of a tough and interesting family, and the world is complex and fully established, with a cornucopia of cryptid species that each have their own established and researched pedigree.  By the end of the first book in the Cryptid series, readers will be thoroughly hooked and checking out the cryptid glossary at the end of the book and wanting more cryptid crunchy goodness.

Originally written on December 30, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Discount Armageddon from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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”Necropolis” by Michael Dempsey (Night Shade Books, 2011)

Necropolis
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Michael Dempsey’s debut novel, Necropolis, is a great genre-crossing example of both fantasy and science fiction that will find an interested reader just about anywhere, whether it’s the urban fantasy setting of a former cop looking to solve the ultimate crime; a play on the concept of the hugely popular subject of the “undead”; or the interesting future of 2054 which seems a place no one would want to live.

Necropolis opens with an enchanting scene between Paul Donner and his beautiful wife that is ripped asunder and savagely ended by their untimely deaths.  And then Paul is brought back to life fifty years later and becomes known as a “reborn”; the strange thing is from now on he will start to grow younger and younger.  This is due to a strange retroviral attack on New York; beneath the blister the dead don’t always stay dead, though this isn’t true for everyone, only some come back to life.  Elvis Presley is back, performing away, as well as all of the Beatles except John Lennon.  And Paul Donner comes back with white hair and the horrible knowledge that he is a reborn, hated and ridiculed by society; he’s not even allowed to be a cop anymore.  But Paul only cares about one thing: even though it’s fifty years later, he is planning to find out who killed him and his wife and get his revenge.

Necropolis seems a little frivolous with the use of tropes from this type of science fiction, with the down and out cop in a world he doesn’t understand, while the women the reader meets at first are all prostitutes or worse.  The story of Paul’s death of course has links and ties to the origin of this strange retroviral attack that changed the world for the people of New York.  The uniqueness of the story is with these reborns and their strange origin keeps the reader hooked as the plot grows and thickens until the unpredictable end.

Originally written on October 17, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Necropolis from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy” edited by Ellen Datlow (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011)

Naked City
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The subject known as “urban fantasy” has grown to become its very own strong and prominent genre in fantasy, and yet there are still many people who have yet to read an urban fantasy book, or an urban fantasy story for that matter.  And where are said readers supposed to start with the glut of urban fantasy currently out, along with the many more works being published?  An anthology is a good place to start; this particular anthology – Naked City – is a great one.

With so many different authors writing urban fantasy, it’s hard to decide on which one to like and read.  Naked City makes that easy for the reader in offering twenty stories by different authors to get interested in and choose from.  The book kicks off with another great romping ride courtesy of Jim Butcher, and this time Harry Dresden is on the case of the Chicago Cubs curse.  Naomi Novik’s entertaining tale, “Priced to Sell,” is about vampires buying real estate in Manhattan.  Patricia Brigg’s “Fairy Gifts” features a vampire called home to save those who freed him from a curse.  Melissa Marr’s “Guns for the Dead” is the story of a dead man trying to get by in the afterlife, who keeps falling into trouble.

In the introduction, popular and prolific editor Ellen Datlow talks about the important of place in Naked City, with most of the stories featuring an important location as their focus point.  Readers will learn lots about various towns across America in Naked City, as well as some other places not found on any known map.

Originally written on September 21, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

“One Salt Sea” by Seanan McGuire (Daw, 2011)

One Salt Sea
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One Salt Sea, the fifth book in the October Daye urban fantasy series from Seanan McGuire is a really good book.  It’s a really good book for a number of reasons: Toby does a little less running around; some important storylines get solved; and McGuire introduces us to a whole new undersea world of the fae, and it’s awesome!

Another day, another big problem to solve for October Daye.  This time someone has kidnapped the two sons of the regent of the Undersea Duchy of Saltmist.  Only a month has passed since Toby was brought back from the brink of death and Oleander de Merelands was defeated in Late Eclipses, and now she has a whole new place to call home – Goldengreen – and to deal with.  But she has these kidnappings drop into her lap, and she only has three days to do it or it will be all out war between the sea fae and those on land, which is not a good thing, as the saying goes: “When Faerie goes to war, not everyone will walk away.”

Using some help from the terrifying sea witch, the Luidaeg, who creates a spell, Toby is able to breathe underwater and here McGuire has fun with some great description of strange and unusual and fascinating underwater fae that makes The Little Mermaid seem colorless and boring.  But Toby knows she’s on a deadline and needs to find any clues she can, put them together, and find these missing kids before it is too late.

McGuire has a lot of fun with One Salt Sea, exploring her protagonist a little more and how Toby is really dealing with everything that’s happened to her, as well as finishing up some storylines and revealing some great origin stories for the world of fae.  Fans of the series will be completely swept up with this fifth book, hooked to the very end where they get some answers and finally enjoy that satisfied feeling that not many books deliver this well.

Originally written on September 16, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

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