“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 13: Company Time” by Max Gladstone and Lindsay Smith (Serialbox, 2015)


CIA agent Dominic Alvarez just so happens to be an acolyte for the Flame, a detail that wasn’t revealed until the very end of the last episode, and he just happens to have kidnapped Maksin Sokolov, a Russian informant and powerful magical host, after the CIA managed to smuggle him away from the Russians and get him to a safe house. He’s scheduled to be on a specific plane and headed to the States, except that the pilot is still waiting around for his cargo who is late and doesn’t appear to be showing. Meanwhile, Alvarez and Sokolov are on a very different cargo plane flying to another destination, playing a game of chess.

KGB agent Tanya Morozova and CIA operative Gabe Pritchard meet to discuss their options for getting Sokolov back somehow. Once before they put their powers together, and with Gabe’s magical construct flaring inside him, and Tanya being a sorceress of the Ice, together they pack one heck of a magical wallop. It will require a big ritual, with lots of magical setup, and then their putting their powers together. But it’s their only hope.

While the season finale does have a hefty dose of magical action going on, the ending feels a little anticlimactic, and definitely leaves the reader and listener wanting more, but it certainly sets up hopes and interests for a possible future season in the continuing adventures of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold.

Originally written on April 23, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 12: She’ll Lie Down in the Snow” by Cassandra Rose Clarke (Serialbox, 2016)


Things are coming to a climax in this penultimate episode to season one of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold. Tanya Morozova knows she’s walking straight into a trap: she’s been ordered by her boss at the KGB to get the Russian informant back no matter what, but she also knows the safe house she’s headed to is guarded by a small army of CIA who know full well that she’s coming. Fortunately, Zerena Pulnoc, wife to the Soviet Ambassador and acolyte of the Flame has given her a protective charm to help keep her alive; she also reveals that Tanya’s boss, Sasha, happens to be an acolyte of the Flame, which is why he’s fine with sacrificing Tanya.

Tanya and her people enter the safe house and there’s a big shootout. Sokolov has already been moved and is in no danger, meanwhile the bullets are flying and lives will be lost on both the Russian and American sides. And at the end of the episode a big twist is revealed that changes everything and sets things up for a big season finale.

Originally written on April 23, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of She’ll Lie Down in the Snow from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 11: King’s Gambit Accepted” by Ian Tregillis (Serialbox, 2016)


After the heavy action of the previous episodes, Anchises, episode 11 is kind of calm that comes after an intense fight scene; readers and listeners get to explore the fallout of the aforementioned events and how the characters deal with the big developments that are now going down.

Maksin Sokolov is gone and purported to be dead, except Tanya Morozova is meeting with her boss, Sasha, and telling him how it went down and how the CIA “smuggled” the informant out via the river and used a recently placed corpse to distract the KGB, but Tanya isn’t falling for it. Sasha gives her an ultimatum, telling her she needs to get Sokolov back no matter what, and she can use whatever resources are necessary. With help from her coworker and fellow Ice acolyte, Nadia Ostrokhina, they use some good old fashioned magic to locate where Sokolov is, using a magically-spruced-up theodolite to track the contruct and see where Sokolov ended up.

Meanwhile, CIA agents Dominic and Josh are watching their informant and keeping him as safe and secure as possible, while Gabe is out getting some R&R. Killing time they talk about Gabe, Dominic wondering whether he can trust him, and more importantly whether he can trust Sokolov in Gabe’s hands. Josh admits he doesn’t know the man that well, but they do address his dark episode in Cairo.

Originally written on April 23, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of King’s Gambit Accepted from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 10: Anchises” by Lindsay Smith (Serialbox, 2016)


This is the tenth episode in the series; reviews for all other episodes can be found here.

Operation ANCHISES, after all the hype and setup, is finally put in motion with a classic scene of spying and espionage and all things clandestine, as Joshua Toms skillfully passes along a secret message to the informant, Maksim Sokolov.

With a follow-up meeting at the West German Embassy, the final showdown is begun. Sokolov is here with his host of Russian minders, keeping a close eye on his every move. Sokolov plays the part well, domineering, threatening to Joshua and Gabe. Gabe Pritchard has a trick up his sleeve, as he gets a hold of a special charm secreted on his person, mutters the correct incantation, and then serves the minders shots. A short while later, a regular old bar brawl begins just as planned and Gabe is starting to think this spy craft via magic ain’t too bad.

A while later arrests are made; Tanya Morozova, as a member of the KGB, instead of following Gabe, decides to make a trip to the hospital and check on those Russian minders. Meanwhile, the man known as Maksim Sokolov is just gone and appears to have drowned.

In this action- and magic-packed episode, things heat up to a new level, but its not until the next episode, that the full realization of Operation ANCHISES is fully understood.

Originally written on March 24, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of A Dream of Ice from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Revisionary” by Jim C. Hines (DAW, 2016)


Things have come to a very sharp point in the world of Magic Ex Libris. Isaac Vainio has revealed to the world that magic is a thing that exists and can be done by certain people. His goal was to create a utopian future where magic and humanity could live happily together. A year has passed and things are anything but . . .

Vainio is working at an installation that is looking to help those in need with the use of magic. Meanwhile there is a mercenary group known as Vanguard made up of ex-Porters and magical creatures conducting terrorist attacks on America and wants to start an all out war. The US government doesn’t really know how to handle this, and is capturing and locking away “potential supernatural enemies.” Overseas, China uses a nuclear weapon to combat against magical creatures, and Russia is forcefully drafting all inhumans into its military. Everything is pretty much going to hell real fast, and it was all essentially kicked into high gear by one Porter known as Isaac Vainio, so it’s up to him to fix it all somehow.

Out of the four Magic Ex Libris books, Revisionary is definitely a much darker and more intense novel. Everything is at stake here and all the people we have come to like and know may not make it out alive. Because this is also a world of the human and magical non-human, there are some definite parallels with the X-Men universe, which while understandable would’ve been more interesting if Hines had tackled this controversial subject from a different angle. Nevertheless, Revisionary is an intense, heart-stopping finale to a really great urban fantasy series.

Originally written on March 23, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

“Working for Bigfoot” by Jim Butcher (Subterranean Press, 2015)


Jim Butcher, author of the bestselling Dresden Files, released his first short story collection, Side Jobs, in 2010, but he continues to write stories set in the Dresden universe for various anthologies, and it’s probably going to be a while before he releases his next collection. Thankfully, he is releasing his collected bigfoot stories with Subterranean Press.

Working for Bigfoot features the three stories (so far) where Harry Dresden helped out a client he clearly respects, the bigfoot Strength of a River in His Shoulders. In each of the stories, Dresden ends up having to help the bigfoot’s son, Irwin, whose mother is human. So while he looks like a normal person – albeit very big and muscley – as he grows through his teenage years he begins to develop his “abilities” as the son of a bigfoot. Naturally, there are those who can sense the power and ability within him and wish to prey on that. It’s up to Dresden to help keep the kid out of trouble.

The stories are classic Dresden Files, but also about Harry’s growing respect for young Irwin, and the world of magic that is the bigfoot.

Originally written on April 16, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Working for Bigfoot from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Unbound” by Jim C. Hines (DAW, 2015)

Unbound
starstarstarstar

In the third installment of the Magic Ex Libris series, it get real. After things were essentially left in shambles at the end of Codex Born, with the Porters in disarray and Guttenberg severely unhappy with our unlikely hero, Isaac Vainio has now been stripped of his magical powers, setting up for what should be a pretty lame story, and yet Unbound turns out to be the most thrilling book of the series so far.

Vainio already feels bad about having the girl he was looking to protect kidnapped, and now it is revealed that Jeneta Aboderin has been inhabited by Meridiana, a would-be queen who has been banished for a millennium. With the power of her ereader, Meridiana seems unstoppable with her magic. Thankfully, Vainio gets help from an old friend in the sorcerer Juan Ponce de Leon.

Much like Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series, Magic Ex Libris is a sort of reading crack that you just can’t get enough of. Hines never holds back in what his characters do, but also in what happens to them. He remains true to the story, as well as doing some really crazy stuff, like launching Vainio into space to get some blood for a vampire. A third book in a series can be tricky as it has to build from the second book but not go too far to be just ridiculous. Unbound straddles this tricky ground well and keeps the reader interested throughout with new characters, an expansion of the world and turning the whole concept of the Porters and the magic system on its head. As with all great series, readers will be left wanting more.

Originally written on February 11, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

You might also like . . .
Libriomancer  Codex Born