Silver on the Road (The Devil’s West #1) by Laura Anne Gilman

silverontheroad

I picked this book up on the strength of the description alone and I wasn’t disappointed. I thought the characters were strong and the plot is fascinating. It was basically exactly what I wanted to read right now weirdly enough: A western dark fantasy.

On her sixteenth birthday, Isobel makes the choice to work for the devil in his territory west of the Mississippi. But this is not the devil you know. This is a being who deals fairly with immense—but not unlimited—power, who offers opportunities to people who want to make a deal, and makes sure they always get what they deserve. But his land is a wild west that needs a human touch, and that’s where Izzy comes in. Inadvertently trained by him to see the clues in and manipulations of human desire, Izzy is raised to be his left hand and travel the circuitous road through the territory. As we all know, where there is magic there is power and chaos…and death.

The world that was created for this book is vast and complicated and yet it feels very lived in and realistic. Part of it might be because although it is a alternative United States where the Devil rules over the unsettled West, it still reflects the feeling of that time. It is a wild, lawless place where anything can happen. The towns Isobel visits along her path feel true to the time period and full of real people. There isn’t really anything I would describe in this book as cardboard or 2 dimensional which has been a real problem in the books I’ve been reading lately.

Speaking of Isobel, and all the other characters that inhabit this world, they are fantastic. At 16 years old, Isobel makes a very big decision to work for the Devil and it isn’t at all what she thought it would be. Isobel hoped to remain in Flood the town where she grew up, but the Devil has other ideas naming her his Left Hand and sending her out into the vast Territories to keep the peace. She is helped on this venture by what I would call the  secondary main character, Gabriel. He is a young man who comes into the Devil’s bar in Flood and leaves after making a bargain to protect Isobel. It was interesting to see their friendship develop over the course of the book. He is primarily a teacher and then later a friend. His job is to teach Isobel how to survive on The Road and to help her navigate her new job/abilities. He is a very dry character for me which made it a bit difficult to get into his narration sections in the book, but I ended up liking him quite a bit.

The plot of the book comes into better focus when we start to learn of ominous and terrifying things happening to settlers and towns around the territory. It was a pretty intriguing little mystery with some pretty fantastic set pieces. It really helps that the story is written very lyrically or poetically. Things happen that take on a very appropriately dream-like quality and I was a big fan of the writing in this book.

If I had to point to anything that annoyed me in the book it was the amount of whining Isobel does throughout the story. I get it, she’s 16 years old, but it can get pretty tiresome during some sections of this story. Also, this negativity means that she remains pretty passive throughout the whole story until the end when she finally steps up and fights back.

Overall, I really liked this book and I definitely recommend it! I’m certainly going to look for the second book soon.

The Hum and Shiver by Alex Bledsoe

humandshiver

Hey! This Blog still exists! Even though This blog is basically just for me alone, I still feel guilty when I neglect it. Truthfully, I just haven’t been reading that many new books. It has been so cold and snowy where I live that all I feel like reading are old “comfort” books.

I did however borrow this book out of the library on the advice of a friend, and I’m *so* glad I did! I feel like most everything in the book delighted me. It had a unique setting and also an interesting view of the Fae.

I really loved this book. I like books about fairies, The Fae, etc. quite a bit but I was looking for something unique, and I think I found it inside this book.

The story is pretty simple, yet it is really compelling. As the first in a series, I expected it to be sort-of clunky and full of world-building exposition, but I was happily surprised. The is world-building but it doesn’t get bogged down in minutiae which I liked a lot.

Probably technically called “Urban Fiction” this book is way more rural then urban. The Smokey Mountains of Tennessee is where this is set and it gave this book a very interesting flavor. Our main protagonist is Bronwyn Hyatt, a daughter of the Tufa – a mysterious people who live in Appalachian country in Tennessee.

This is a very character focused story and if some of those characters annoy you, as they did me, you might have trouble staying engaged.

Basically, I liked it enough (and felt that the characters were compelling enough), that I will at least read the next book in the series.

Caliban’s War (The Expanse #2) by James S.A. Corey

Caliban's_War

James Holden and his crew are back in another adventure in The Expanse series!

On Ganymede things are going pretty well. We have engineered a way to make enough food to feed the whole system. Women from all around the solar system come here to have their babies because of the lower radiation levels. And it’s all about to be ruined.

The book opens with a platoon of Martian marines as they observe the movements of their Earth counterparts on Ganymede, soon both teams are attacked and slaughtered by a “monster” that can only be a part of the protomolecule. A protomolecule that is currently changing Venus in strange, upsetting, and fascinating ways ever since it crashed in the last book.

James Holden and his crew have been spending their time keeping the peace for the OPA, hunting down pirates and just generally being space cops.It has been a year since the last book and Holden isn’t taking the horrors of Eros very well and has adopted a more shoot first, question later approach to cleaning up the system.

Really the whole crew is more likable in this story. Most of them have settled into their characterization and are just more comfortable with each other here. They seem better connected and more like a true family and close friends. When they do have disagreements (such as Naomi’s understandable reaction to new gunslinger Holden) they are handled well and they speak to each other like the grown-ups they are. There is no unnecessary manufactured drama here, you can clearly see why each character feels the way they do. Naomi wants her altruistic, short-sighted, yet lovable Holden back and Holden is deeply affected by what he saw and experienced on Eros. This has led him to be very afraid and he reacts to that fear by becoming more ruthless and cold.

A job dropping off much needed supplies on Ganymede after the destruction finds the crew helping a scientist search Ganymede (and later the system) for his lost and possibly kidnapped daughter. When we first meet him Prax is a hollow shell of the man he used to be. He is frantic and starving, the loss of his livelihood and the kidnapping of his daughter have done a number on his psyche. The whole book finds him to be nervous and a bit trigger happy, although he gets better slightly throughout the book.

This is also the book that introduces two characters who might be my favorites. Chrisjen Avasarala and Bobbie.

Avasarala is a deft politician from Earth. She is cold and calculating when she needs to be and warm and inviting when she needs to be. She moves through the political sphere with the ease of a long career and woe betide anyone who crosses her. She is also hilariously foul-mouthed. It is a very great juxtaposition: a kindly grandmother and a foul-mouthed sailor. She makes me laugh and then turn around and vow to never get on her bad side.

Bobbie is a Martian marine soldier who you meet in the beginning of the book. She is very tall (because of her low G upbringing) and very imposing. I suppose most people write her off as just a meat head, but she gets some great moments in this book to prove her intelligence and worthiness as an ally to Avasarala.

Both characters are great additions to the cast in these books and I hope they come back into the later books as well.

This is another excellent entry into this series. It is fast-paced, and engaging. The characters are all fleshed out a lot and have understandable conflicts. I am really looking forward to reading the next book!

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey

Leviathan Wakes

This might be my new favorite Sci-fi series. It has just enough science-y, techno space stuff that it feels believable but it isn’t too dense. Everything reads plausible and is easily understood.

Humanity has conquered the stars! Or at least our own solar system. Earth is maxed out and so humanity has moved out to other locations. Mars, where the people are all working hard towards terreforming and settling the notoriously difficult planet. And the people living out on the Belt, called “belters” by most people, who most treat like second-class citizens at best and non-human slaves at worst. This is definitely a book that looks at what it would mean to actually grow up in a zero G environment. What sort of changes would humanity go though? how would others treat you if you no longer looked 100 percent “human”? The answer, of course, is terribly.

Earth views themselves as the top dogs. This is where we came from and they have the most resources for living comfortably. What they don’t have is space. We have taken all the available space and now most people on Earth don’t even work anymore. Mars on the other hand are tough and resourceful. Everyone who is on Mars is working for a single goal: Colonizing and terreforming the planet. They view the Earthers as weak and lazy. They gained their independence from Earth a while ago and now Earth and Mars are stuck in a Cold War. Each of them stands to lose everything if they fight it out, so they just pretend everything is fine between them and plot to out gun the other.

Then there are the Belters. They have grown up on The Belt and as such their bodies have changed. They have heads that look to large with extremely long bodies and limbs. They have lived so long in zero G that they can’t go to Earth anymore, they can’t handle the gravity. They also do all the mining work and terrible jobs and most people treat them like slaves.

Jim Holden is our main character. At the start of the book he is the XO of an ice hauling ship called The Canterbury. He is relaxed, sarcastic, and doesn’t take anything very seriously. As the book opens they are attacked and tragedy occurs and a small band of people must pull together to survive.The other characters in the group are: Naomi, a Belter engineer who is smart and tough. Alex, the navigator from Mars who is nice and easy-going. Amos, a mechanic who is nice on the surface but has a deep anger just under the surface. I found myself really rooting for Holden and his small crew. They have their differences, and they do fight a lot but when needed they pull together and have each others backs. In the end they become a small family who would literally die for each other.

The other character I consider a Main Character is Miller. Detective Miller is a Belter who lives on Ceres Station and tries to uphold the Law. Or at least keep people from killing each other. He has been doing this job for a long time and it has worn him out and turned him very cynical. He is given a kidnapping job, a rich couple wants him to find their daughter and ship her home. He just shrugs and takes it. Another shitty job to do in a shitty place. This story-line is very noir. Through the days of searching he grows to respect and even love the missing girl, Julie Mao. She is tough and is a true believer in the rights of the Belters to be treated better than slaves.

I liked that the authors went with different viewpoints for each chapter in a very Game of Thrones style. Since I am used to the style I found it very easy to follow and I was never confused about the plot. Which was a good thing because this plot MOVES. After SPOILERS The Canterbury is blown up END SPOILERS  the plot never really slows down. Twists and turns come fast and steady, and I never felt the book drag at all. The separate plot threads in the book come together very nicely in the end in a very thrilling way and leaves us with a nice hook for future books.

I found all the characters to be believable and compelling even if I wasn’t sure I liked them much. The plot moved quickly and once I started reading I couldn’t put it down! I am extremely excited and happy I started this series. I was on the hunt for a lighthearted space adventure and that is exactly what I got here. A fantastic Book!

The Alex Verus Series by Benedict Jacka

 

I love stories about wizards. Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files books are maybe my favorite series of books. When I finished with the last Dresden book I didn’t know what to read next and someone recommended this series to me. I’ve read the first four books in a very quick amount of time so I just put these shorter reviews all together.  🙂

Fated

fated

Alex Verus  runs a magic shop in London and is just wanting a quiet life free from distractions or life-threatening schemes and plots. Sadly he is also a mage, so schemes and plots just tend to land on his doorstep much to his chagrin. He has successfully been keeping his head down for quite a while but now the Council of Mages has a job for him (as do a couple of other factions), and he finds it hard to say no. His regret is immediate and ends up pulling others in his life, friends, into life-threatening situations.

I thought the plot was well crafted and the characters are really well drawn. Alex Verus as our main characters has some darker secrets in his past that I am looking forward to finding out more about it. The secondary characters, which included a cursed girl named Luna and a Time Mage named Sonder, are pretty good although I hope they get more fleshed out in later books.
I’m so glad they did! I liked it an awful lot and I look forward to reading the rest of the series!

Cursed

cursed

About five months have passed since the last book and Alex Verus has been keeping busy with his shop and keeping his head down so it stays attached to his shoulders. That all changes when he finds out something is killing magical creatures. Not just killing them but draining their magic away completely. He runs into several different factions who really object to him looking into the problem but his conscious (and his friendly relationship with Arachne) cause him to run ahead into danger anyway.

The plot was a little same-y but I found it interesting and the world was still interesting. Verus is still a great main character with an interesting backstory and multiple grey areas in his life. Luna suffers in this book as she appears to get dumber and more helpless and is easily mislead into danger. Still, the plot was satisfactory and I’m still looking forward to the rest of the series.

Taken

taken

Still reading this series and still loving it!

I think the world building in this series is top notch with a unique world and fun, interesting characters. Three books in and I am still very interested in all the main characters and even most of the tertiary and secondary characters. Alex Verus is a great character with real dark stuff in his past and I feel that has led to his extreme need to protect people and help when he can.

The plot to this book is pretty interesting. Mage apprentices have been vanishing without a trace and Alex Verus is tasked with finding out why. The new characters introduced with this book are universally interesting and not cliched and I found myself basically speed reading to find out where the story was going.

Definitely recommended!

Chosen

chosen

Alex Verus #4 is still fantastic and still immensely readable. I found these books through my love of Jim Butcher and his Dresden Files. I was looking for something to read in between books and these were recommended. I am eternally grateful to the friend who introduced them to me. I find them endlessly entertaining and really fun overall.

Hmmmm…I just realized I just called them “really fun” in a review for the book that takes a dive towards the darker aspects of magic life. This is a book centered around Alex Verus and his less-than-savory past life as an apprentice to a Dark Wizard. It is by turns tragic, painful, and depressing in certain parts of the story and I read it in a day.

Rumors are swirling in the magical community that Alex Verus’ old master is back and starting up anew with misdeeds and dastardly plots. Alex has long ago abandoned that terrifying life for a much better (and safer) life he loves. He has friends now, real ones, who he refuses to abandon. But how will they react to his darker past life? Setting off this introspection and internal drama is a young adept who is gunning for Verus. He wants his revenge and he’ll get it no matter who gets in the way.

There are a lot of major twists in this series and this one has one that made me gasp out loud!

Absolutely recommended to everyone!

Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

Heir_to_the_Jedi

I love Luke Skywalker. Over time he has become one of my favorite characters in Star Wars. Yes, even over Leia and Han Solo. I just really love his unending enthusiasm and love of being a Jedi. However, he is very hit or miss in the various EU Star Wars books. It is very dependent on who is writing him. He can be wise and a calm presence in the Force, A big whiny emo crybaby, ineffectual and a pushover, or a hundred other personas. It was maddening and very eye-rollingly bad as you read the old EU books.

That is, of course, up to the fact that there were a lot of different writers and they all wanted to portray the Jedi and Luke in particular a certain way. My hope for the “new” EU is that they focus really tightly on making the characters consistent between books and writers. Only time will tell if they can maintain an iron grip over the continuity needed.

That brings me to this book. I liked it overall, I felt the plot was fine and the characters were also fine…..but just fine. This pains me in a way because I really like Kevin Hearne and love most of his writing. His Iron Druid series is pretty great with good characters and good plots. Although I’ve cooled a bit on them lately, I’m still very interested in the next book in the series.

I think my main problem with this book is that it’s plot felt very….thin. Luke Skywalker is tasked with rescuing alien cryptographer renowned for her ability to breach even the most advanced communications systems from the Empire and delivering her to her family on another world. There are some space fights and fights on several planets, Luke spends some time contemplating what being a Jedi means to him and bemoaning the death of Obiwan. He also gets a fun partner Nakari Kelen who he falls a bit for……Spoilers………..

 

 

 

 

who then dies tragically at the end of the book. Because of course she does.

I just felt there wasn’t anything really exciting in the book. Everything was perfectly fine but I found it to be mediocre and just kind of there as a book. This was the first of the new EU that I’ve read and I hope they improve from here.

The Undays of Aralias Lyons by K.L. Horvath

undays

(Note: This was an early release copy given to me from Netgalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review. There might be some changes in the final copy of the book.)

Aralias Lyons can fall back into time, He can’t go forward (not anymore) just back.

Clara Elizabeth Heartwell is an archaeologist That provides a lot of help in this adventurous tale. She is smart and full of spirit and she is not the type of girl to sit around or run when friends are in danger.

Jack is Aralias’ son. He is kidnapped by a power mad, crazy person and must be saved. He has the same gifts as his father, except he can go forward into the future.

Together with various allies Clara and Aralias must race against time to save Jack and the world!

Some of the crazy things they come up against are: iron dragons, marsiders, derailed trains, prison and an army of clockwork men.

The story itself races along at a good pace. I read most of the story in a day and didn’t really get tired of it at all.

I found all the characters interesting, with unique quirks and problems. The worst I can say is that some of the side characters aren’t very well drawn or interesting really, but that is made up for by the mains.

The setting was interesting and full of cool inventive ideas. A big plus for me was the fact that I love time travel stories. If a book (or movie or TV show) has interesting take on time travel that seems plausible and doesn’t confuse me or use it to cover up plot holes, I’m most likely going to like it.

Maybe my favorite thing about the book is, well….It’s fun! I miss reading fun adventurous stories. As you get older there is pressure to leave such things behind and read “important” books only. It’ why people look down on others for reading and enjoying YA novels, I suppose. I think that’s a load of BS. Read what you want!

Ahem, ANYWAY, I really liked this book! I found it fun, adventurous and exciting! I liked all the characters and the world it was set in was very well done.

(you can find out more about the book here: Goodreads )