“Skin Game” by Jim Butcher (Roc, 2014)

Skin Game
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For the fifteenth novel of the Dresden Files, bestselling author Jim Butcher decided to go for the ultimate “What if?” for urban fantasy that fans might’ve thought he would’ve tackled in an earlier book in the series, but as the saying goes: “Better late than never.” Fans of the series will gobble Skin Game up, as they have the whole series, even if Butcher seems not to be that big of a fan of his female characters.

As the winter knight to Queen Mab, Dresden has certain obligations he must fulfill. Mab makes up a solution for Dresden who’s dealing with his big headache problem that he knows will eventually kill him if he doesn’t do anything about it. In exchange for an earring that will minimize the pain he has to grant her a favor. This involves entering into a heist operation with a number of unlikeable characters including a rogue warlock, Hanna Ascher, a shapeshifter named Binder and an old enemy, Anna Valmont. The whole operation is being run by Nicodemus Archeleone. Dresden isn’t happy with any of this by any means, but he knows he is under the honored agreement with Mab and can’t say no, or will have to suffer the consequences. He does at least enlist Karrin Murphy to watch his back and help him however she can.

The plan is to open a way into Hades and steal something from the vault of the devil himself. No biggie, right? In return each member of the group will get millions, as well as their own ability to steal whatever they want from Satan’s vault in hell. Dresden is sure he smells a trap, but he also has his own revenge plans. Ultimately, there will be a lot of double-crossing and even triple-crossing before the book is done, but Butcher clearly had a lot of fun throwing his characters into a heist setup within an urban fantasy universe. As with all Dresden books, there’s plenty of conflict so the reader never gets a chance to grow bored, and unlike some of the other Dresden books, Harry doesn’t get quite as much thrown at him making it seem a little less farfetched.

The failing of the book is in what Butcher does to his female characters. Murphy has an unfortunate accident and is out for most of the book, replaced by the familiar face and sword of Michael Carpenter. As for the other female characters, they either meet untimely ends or get put through the ringer to the extent one wonders if Butcher has something about doing cruel things to his female characters. Nevertheless, Skin Game is a run romp to Hell and back, with Dresden biting off way more than he can chew; fortunately he has the winter mantle to keep his strength up, but that will only last to a point, and it if ever gets taken away, he’ll quickly learn just how human he still is.

Originally written on June 28, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Skin Game from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“Indexing” by Seanan McGuire (47North, 2014)

Indexing
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Seanan McGuire is the New York Times bestselling author of the October Daye urban fantasy series, as well as the author of some great biological horror books like the Newsflesh trilogy and Parasite under the pseudonym Mira Grant. In Indexing, she brings her two worlds together in a way, employing elements of the urban fantastic, but adhering to the rules of genetics and viruses.

In this world there are those that live their everyday, expected lives and nothing happens, but there are those who don’t know they are a part of something bigger and magical, who can suddenly have their existence affected by a memetic incursion, finding themselves playing a lead role in a fairytale as one of its characters. And these aren’t the happy Disney tales we’ve become used to, but the darker, original ones filled with blood and death. Whether it’s a Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Ugly Stepsister or Evil Queen, once the incursion has begun it’s very hard to put a stop to it.

Fortunately, there is a group known as the ATI Management Bureau that takes care of these incursions. They are trained professionals with a crack team in all areas, from research to communication when an incursion has begun, to sending out the right team to deal with said incursion. Of course, a number of the team are fairy tale characters who have had their memetic incursions held at bay or controlled and so know full well what they’re dealing with. But because this is a Seanan McGuire novel, nothing ever goes according to plan.

McGuire has taking an interesting premise, using her knowledge and research (she holds a degree in fairytales and mythology), as well as what she has learned from her other series, and brings it all together in a fun adventure story that turns many of the fairytales we consider ourselves very familiar with completely on their heads. She amps the drama and keeps the conflicts cropping up and building from chapter to chapter.

Originally written on April 18, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Indexing from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“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.