Tag Archives: urban fantasy

Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron

Nice Dragons Finish Last (Heartstrikers #1) by Rachel Aaron
Published 2014 by self?.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: urban fantasy.

My rating:

As the smallest dragon in the Heartstriker clan, Julius survives by a simple code: keep quiet, don’t cause trouble, and stay out of the way of bigger dragons. But this meek behavior doesn’t fly in a family of ambitious magical predators, and his mother, Bethesda the Heartstriker, has finally reached the end of her patience.

Now, sealed in human form and banished to the DFZ–a vertical metropolis built on the ruins of Old Detroit–Julius has one month to prove that he can be a ruthless dragon or kiss his true shape goodbye forever. But in a city of modern mages and vengeful spirits where dragons are considered monsters to be exterminated, he’s going to need some serious help to survive this test.

He only hopes humans are more trustworthy than dragons…

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Have my dragon page-dividers ever been more appropriate?

Nice Dragons Finish Last is one of those books that came highly recommended by fellow bloggers whose taste I respect a lot. They weren’t wrong. This is a great urban fantasy and though I don’t read that many books from this genre, I thought it was an excellent example of what it should entail.

Julius is a bad dragon. He’s something like the runt of the litter, the tenth litter that his mother, the terrifying Bethesda the Heartstriker has lain in the last millennium. She is the matriarch of an enormous clan of cunning, calculating, cold dragons and feels like her youngest son isn’t good enough. So she seals him into his human form (preventing him from turning into a dragon) and sends him to Detroit Free Zone (DFZ) to prove himself or she’ll eat him. There’s motherly affection for you.

Julius has been trying to lay low and avoid his more fearsome siblings for his entire life (which, at 24, isn’t that long for a dragon), which he mostly did by playing online video games with humans. This gave him a contact with the human world that other dragons lack and also some wicked survival skills (you have to be fast to escape dragons, I can tell you that). So when he lands in DFZ, where dragons are illegal, he befriends an unlikely sidekick – Marci the mage, a young woman on the run from her father’s murderers.

I really liked their adventures and the combined pressure that the gang of Las Vegas mobsters and some really ancient, half-crazy dragons put on this young couple. They are both fighting for survival, fighting odds that are decidedly not in their favor, and they still keep their heads up and struggle on. Julius has this surprisingly accurate moral compass and even though Marci is set on the path of vengeance, her wit is brilliant and very useful indeed.

I have two negative points to make as well, one of which is a complete spoiler, so please don’t read it if you’re even considering reading this book. I’m putting it in white, as usual, but still:

  • Detroit Free Zone – I thought the world building was perhaps too well done. The descriptions of this post-magic-wave city (which has been leveled by a tidal wave and is now completely different from its present-day self) are numerous and detailed and I thought they slowed down the narrative needlessly. I appreciate a well-thought-out world as much as anyone but I feel like it shouldn’t be the focus of the story.
  • *spoiler in white* I WANTED MOAR DRAGONS!! For 99.5% of the story, all the dragons are in their human forms! Okay, so we’re in a city where dragons are illegal and hunted and Julius is even sealed in his human form but I wanted to look at pretty dragons! Only Julius’s brother Justin shows his true form – which is magnificent – but only for a short time. And by the end of the book, Julius is still sealed so we never get to see him fly! I want more dragons. :( *end spoiler*

And that’s everything – I have nothing seriously bad to say about this book.

Oh, another point in its favor – it’s really funny. I don’t often go for books that say they’re funny – those that proclaim this loudly most often aren’t – but this one made me laugh, which I appreciate immensely.

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Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

Do you like your UF funny or dark?

What’s your favourite book featuring dragons? 

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless (Parasol Protectorate #1) by Gail Carriger
Published 2009 by Orbit.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased.

Genre: historical urban fantasy + steampunk?.

My rating:

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire–and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

srcekThank you, Danya, for recommending this one! :)

I had a lot of fun with Soulless. It’s a great mixture of dry humor, sexy, scruffy werewolves and witty retorts, all with a steampunkish vibe (I always have trouble sorting these kinds of books into appropriate genre slots…). I never had much luck with this genre but I think this series might just change my opinon of it!

Alexia is a very interesting heroine. She’s too outspoken, too independend and too single for anyone’s liking, but those are all qualities that made me like her immensely. I would gladly choke her mother and sisters for a bit, though. Silly creatures.

Lord Maccon, the werewolf Alpha, is a great complement to her personality and for once, I liked the fact that the story focused much more on Alexia herself than on their relationship. I mean, this is a story with some romance in it (and I’d take werewolves over vampires any day, even if vampires didn’t dress in frilly silk) but it’s not a romance, if you know what I mean. And don’t let this vampire-werewolf comment trick you into thinking there’s a love triangle involved because there isn’t. This is a triangle-free book.

This story is essentially a mystery, vampires and werewolves are disappearing from the streets, especially the loners, and new, uneducated vampires are emerging, forcing Alexia to investigate. Some gruesomeness is expected when vampires and werewolves are involved, but I liked that Carriger didn’t feel the need to go over the board like some authors.

Soulless is a very nice beginning of a series that I fully intend to continue reading. In the meantime, I’ve been reading Carriger’s blog, which is worth checking out if you like cosplay, corsets and fashion in general!

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Have you read Soulless? Or any other Carriger books? What did you think?

If it came down to it, would you choose werewolves or vampires? 

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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White Cat by Holly Black

White Cat (The Curse Workers #1) by Holly Black
Published 2010 by Margaret K. McElderry Books.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: Purchased for Kindle.

Genre: YA urban fantasy.

My rating:

Cassel comes from a shady, magical family of con artists and grifters. He doesn’t fit in at home or at school, so he’s used to feeling like an outsider. He’s also used to feeling guilty; he killed his best friend, Lila, years ago.

But when Cassel begins to have strange dreams about a white cat, and people around him are losing their memories, he starts to wonder what really happened to Lila. In his search for answers, he discovers a wicked plot for power that seems certain to succeed. But Cassel has other ideas and a plan to con the conmen. (Goodreads)

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I really, really enjoyed White Cat! I already included it in two lists this week (Top Ten Tuesday and Tough Travels) so I thought it would be cool to review it soon. I keep typing the title as Black Cat because of the author’s name – so confusing!

Cassel is the youngest kid in a family of really shady magic workers. His grandfather was an enforcer for the Zacharov crime family (they’re one of the big worker clans in the US), his father is dead, his mother is currently in jail for embezzling millionaires and his two elder brothers run in the same illegal circles. Cassel is the only non-worker in the family. This is enough to set him apart – but not enough to make him fit in at his school, where most of the kids have no magic.

We meet Cassel as he wakes up from sleepwalking on the roof of his dorm – an incident followed by his suspension from school, which means he has to return home for a while. He starts cleaning his abnormally dirty family home with his grandfather and adopts a white cat that looks somewhat familliar…

And that’s ALL I CAN SAY, people! 

About the plot, anyway. I saw several reviews on Goodreads saying that people thought this story was predictable and that they called all the plot twists before they happened. Maybe I’m still slightly brain-dead or else I’m useless at predicting things (though I usually know “who did it” when I’m watching murder mysteries on TV! :D) but I was pretty shocked by some of the happenings! And I liked them a lot!

I think the magic system was pretty cool, too. There are seven (I think) types of workers – those who can influence death, emotion, luck, memory… some things that elude me… and there’s the rarest kind, the transformation workers. There’s also blowback, which is essentially the cost of magic (Cassel’s grandfather, for example, is a death worker and he’s lost several fingers as a result of killing people). I like it when magic has consequences for those who use it, it seems more fair.

Cassel Sharpe was a great character, he’s emotionally vulnerable and basically just wants someone to hug him and love him unconditionally, something that’s been missing from his life. I would cheerfully MURDER most of his family if I had a chance! Selfish asshats. His grandpa’s ok, though. Cassel is a great conman, he runs a betting ring at his school and he’s always looking for angles to take advantage of the situation – this is something he learned from his family and the only way he could cope with being the only non-magical member of the family.

All in all, White Cat was awesome. I wonder what will happen next, the ending was very interesting and had me shaking my head in disbelief. Ugh!

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Have you read White Cat? How about the rest of the series?

Do you prefer your magic with a cost or do you like huge explosions and awesome skills with no consequences?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

End of Days by Susan Ee

End of Days (Penryn & the End of Days #3) by Susan Ee
Published May 2015 by Skyscape.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: Purchased (e-book).

Genre: YA urban/paranormal fantasy.

My rating:

After a daring escape from the angels, Penryn and Raffe are on the run. They’re both desperate to find a doctor who can reverse the twisted changes inflicted by the angels on Raffe and Penryn’s sister. As they set off in search of answers, a startling revelation about Raffe’s past unleashes dark forces that threaten them all.

When the angels release an apocalyptic nightmare onto humans, both sides are set on a path toward war. As unlikely alliances form and strategies shift, who will emerge victorious? Forced to pick sides in the fight for control of the earthly realm, Raffe and Penryn must choose: Their own kind, or each other?

zmaj-desnoThis is the review for the third and final instalment of the trilogy, so there are bound to be some spoilers for Angelfall and World After (click to read my reviews).

Can I just say how much I love the cover? The whole series looks amazing and it’s one of the few times I’ve been tempted to buy physical copies in addition to e-versions so I could admire them on my shelf.

But the story… Oh, I wanted ever so much to love it because Raffe and Penryn have to be one of the cutest / weirdest couples in recent YA fiction, I liked the fight for humanity, the terrible angels and everything, but all the things that were wrong with World After just got worse here.

So… what went wrong?

  • Too many flashbacks – or at least, too much of the story hinges on the information Penryn gets by listening to Raffe’s sword, Pooky Bear (yeah I love that name!). This means she isn’t actually present for the action and doesn’t end up doing much up until the last part of the book.
  • Too much weird stuff – if you’ve read the first two novels, you know this book is all about the weird. But I got the feeling Ee was trying to fit in as much info and happening as she possibly could and the result was more than a little confusing at times.
Did you know there's a meme generator for these? SO COOL. Also, my first meme on the blog (soon, I'll be using gifs [never!]).

Did you know there’s a meme generator for these? SO COOL. Also, my first meme on the blog (soon, I’ll be using gifs, haha). I love Hyperbole and a Half.

  • A change of scenery. Ok I’m just going to go into full spoiler mode here and put it in white and if you’ve read the book, I’d love to discuss this but don’t read it if you haven’t. You’ve been warned! *spoiler in white* That part when Penryn and Raffe ride hellions (Btw are those devils? Fallen angels? Demons?) into the hellhole to get back Raffe’s fallen Watchers. OMG this was too confusing. Their wings were still attached but without feathers? Were they demons, then? What’s up with that disgusting sea of hands? And anyone who isn’t freaked out by maggots is weird. No question. I have no idea what happened there. Also – how could they leave Belliel down there? I dislike time-travelling stories where the whole changing-the-future thing isn’t well thought-out and here it was more of an afterthought. Couldn’t they have just gone into this hellhole and pulled them out? I don’t know… Also: I didn’t like how this pulled them out of the action on Earth. Too much of that alltogether. *end spoiler*
  • Dee and Dum. Fred and George Weasley, anyone?

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But it wasn’t all bad, that’s for sure. I liked how Penryn’s and Raffe’s relationship worked out in the end and that *spoiler in white* for once, it wasn’t the girl who sacrificed herself for the boy*end spoiler*! Penryn’s mom and sister also have significant roles here and I liked the family dynamic. I know, I know, the mother is still as crazy (seriously, this goes beyond paranoid schizophrenia) as she was but Penryn starts seeing her in a different way.

I wonder what devout Christian readers might think of this story. It’s not really clear (at least it wasn’t to me) whether God exists, whether his Messenger was just deluded or not… And the portrayal of the vast majority of the angels isn’t too favourable. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? I read books with Christian mythology pretty much the same as I would those that include Nordic or Celtic (or completely made-up) gods but I get that it could be delicate for some readers. I loved what Laini Taylor did with the angels (and devils!) in her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, for example.

All in all, I’m glad I finished this series (I’m really bad with finishing series!), it was a quick read and Raffe and Penryn still melt my heart a little. But I was hoping for something else, story-wise, so this didn’t work too well for me.

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Have you read End of Days? How about Angelfall or World After?

What did you think?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

World After by Susan Ee

world-afterWorld After (Penryn & The End of Days #2) by Susan Ee, published in 2013 by Skyscape.

Author. Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository.

Source: purchased (e-book).

Genre: YA urban postapocalyptic fantasy.

When a group of people capture Penryn’s sister Paige, thinking she’s a monster, the situation ends in a massacre. Paige disappears. Humans are terrified. Mom is heartbroken. 

Penryn drives through the streets of San Francisco looking for Paige. Why are the streets so empty? Where is everybody? Her search leads her into the heart of the angels’ secret plans where she catches a glimpse of their motivations, and learns the horrifying extent to which the angels are willing to go. 

Meanwhile, Raffe hunts for his wings. Without them, he can’t rejoin the angels, can’t take his rightful place as one of their leaders. When faced with recapturing his wings or helping Penryn survive, which will he choose? (Goodreads)

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My rating: 3.5/5.

This is the second part of a series, so this review might include some spoilers for book one. Check out my review of Angelfall here.

As with the first book, let me just point out the gorgeous cover! Susan Ee is one lucky lady when it comes to her design team. Sometimes these YA covers can be so cheesy (The Mortal Instruments series is one such example). The cover for End of Days is also beautiful so there. A perfect series to own in print (but I got mine in e-book form…).

I read World After almost immediately after re-reading Angelfall, which might be the reason for my slightly lower rating. It just lacked a certain tension (not that the happening isn’t intense…) that I loved about the first part. It also broadened the scope of the action, so I hope that End of Days will take care of all these pesky loose ends.

It’s (even) more gruesome than Angelfall, which is something that’s worth mentioning. Paige, Penryn’s little sister, is damaged (beyond repair?) and the depravity of angels is explored on a whole new level. There’s some pretty icky Frankenstein-style business going on, but it doesn’t feel like it’s there just to shock – Penryn thinks about it all (“Maybe baby monsters need to learn to be monster-like.”) and we’re still waiting for the resolution.

The relationship between Paige, Penryn, and their mother is even more complex than it was – and we see that the mother may not be quite as batshit crazy as we thought… Or she is but she has her moments of lucidity? In any case, this is my favourite quote about her: “My mother mutters nonstop at the receiver. Her voice turns into a cadence, and it creeps me out that it’s the same cadence as when she prays. Because this time, she’s addressing the devil.” This is the crucial question here: In a world where angels are truly evil, what need is there for a devil? I wonder if we’ll meet any residents of the underworld in the final book.

Penryn and Raffe’s fledgeling attraction is explored as well, and I like how it’s evolving. I don’t want to say too much on the subject, but I’m really, really glad that we’ve managed to skip the insta-love cliché for once!

All in all, World After is a solid sequel to a truly cool beginning – and I can’t wait for the finale of this dark story.

zmaj-levo

Have you read World After? Or maybe only Angelfall

What did you think? Do you have any reccomendations for similar stories?

I’d love to hear your thoughts! :)

Hounded by Kevin Hearne

hounded-kevin-hearneHounded (The Iron Druid Chronicles #1) by Kevin Hearne, published in 2011 by Del Rey.

Author. Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository. Barnes & Noble.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: urban fantasy.

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer. 

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil. (Goodreads)

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My rating: 3/5.

Oh, what a manly book this is. I know, I know, books aren’t supposed to be geared at a specific gender, but this is the second book I’ve read recently where I felt I wasn’t the intended audience (Storm Front being the other one). This is basically Die Hard with magic – and while I sometimes like a story with lots of brawn and shiny weapons, I’m not sure about this one.

Atticus is a druid who looks like a hot Irish guy in his early twenties. He has the ability to draw power from the earth, he’s actually 2000 years old, and has managed to piss off a really old god by stealing from him. He is now in possession of *start breathy, sultry female voice* a really big, powerful sword *end breathy, sultry female voice* and has to protect both it and himself from said god (and a coven of vindictive witches).

Before he actually meets the god, he sleeps with one goddess, kisses two other goddesses (all of whom are drop-dead gorgeous), and manages to get a really attractive female apprentice. His powers are nearly inexhaustible and he has a (debatable) sense of humor (WAY too many dated pop-culture references). Do you see where I’m going with this? Atticus can do everythingHe can also be something of an asshole sometimes. 

Well, I like my heroes more nuanced. I like them flawed and sometimes weak. But hey, if cocky guys float your boat, you’ve hit gold (mixing my metaphors here, I know).

I also have a complaint to make about female roles here – the witches are supremely bithcy, the goddesses manipulative and heartless (and terribly vain at the same time), and they all exist to worship the ground Atticus walks upon. Meh.

The story is not without its redeeming qualities, however. I really, really liked the supporting cast: Oberon the dog with whom Atticus can speak through a mind link; the old Irish widow, Mrs. MacDonagh, who doesn’t even bat an eye when she sees Atticus kill a man in her yard because he assures her he was British; the weird Indian witch inhabiting the body of a buxom barmaid.

And as much as I rolled my eyes at Atticus’s attempts at making jokes (mostly he just thinks them and amuses himself), I quite liked some of them“Isn’t the Christian god prominent here?” – “The Christians have such muddled ideas of him that he usually can’t take shape beyond the crucifix form, so he rarely bothers. Mary will appear more often, though, and she can do some pretty awesome stuff if she feels like it. Mostly she sits around looking beatific and full of grace. Keeps calling me ‘child’, even though I’m older than she is.”

All in all, the story is fast-paced, I liked the setting, and most of the characters are decent. I’m still not sure whether I’ll be giving the second book a chance, given that I disliked Atticus most of the time. But maybe I just need to get to know him better and he gets more layers as the story goes on. We’ll see.

zmaj-levo

Have you read this book? How about the sequels?

Should I give Atticus another chance to win my heart?

Do you like manly books (or films)?