Category Archives: 4 Stars

Guest Review: Game of Souls (The Quintessence Cycle #1) by Terry C. Simpson

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Your soul is your magic. The nobility will stop at nothing to steal it.

Keedar Giorin still remembers the night soldiers killed his mother. The Night of Blades. He was three, but the memories are written in his mind in blood, flames, scales, and his mother’s mad cackles.

Assigned by his father to save two young noblemen or risk a repeat of the massacre on his home in the Smear, Kasandar’s most lawless district, Keedar dives headlong into the mission. He uses his most secret skill, a magic that could bring the King’s Blades hunting him, a magic that could be a death sentence if reported to the wrong ears.

But even that risk is part of his father’s calculated plan. A plot to determine who was behind his mother’s death, while securing a new ally for their guild, and seeing their people rise from squalor and oppression to strive for the identity and power they have all but forgotten.

Plans, however, do not always follow the path drawn out. What will Keedar do when a count takes interest in his magic? Where will he run to when the hunt begins? Can a young man now growing into his power find a way to defeat the most ruthless of assassins?

As he watches the accursed Day of Accolades take away more children from the Smear, Keedar promises that one day he’ll stop the nobles’ exploitation of the under classes. On the same day, he encounters Winslow, a noble risking the Smear to win a chance to train with the King’s Blades. Together they become caught in a dangerous game of power, the Game of Souls.

The world the author has created in Game of Souls is fairly well sketched out. In the continent in which the story takes place there are several racial groups or kingdoms that are either at war or uneasily at peace. Our story is set mainly in the city of Kasandar in the kingdom, Kasinia. A map is thoughtfully included for the times when place names and races become a little confusing.
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Goblin Quest by Jim C. Hines

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I first heard about Jim C. Hines via a mention the Dear Author blog. Jim Hines created a hilarious poem based off of the early 1990’s controversial rap song Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-A-Lot. I laughed so hard when reading his poem Baby Got Books that I had to chase down his blog.

I learned that Jim Hines wrote comedic fantasy in the same vein as The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Another Fine Myth. Delighted, I poked around his back list to locate a good starting place. I decided to start with Goblin Quest and I’m so happy I did.

I’ve been in a bit of a reading funk this year. There’s not been much that has caught my attention. But this? This was wonderful! I had so much fun while still getting every single bit of a typical fantasy adventure. !!!

I loved Jig. He’s a great character. It was funny to read the point of view from someone who is normally considered “the bad guy.” Instead of being the bad guy, Jig is a totally awesome good guy. He helps others, he loves and cares, he’s smart and canny.

I’ve purchased the rest of the books in this series. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for Jig the Goblin Hero.

Geekomancy by Michael R. Underwood

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Have you ever read such a good [fantasy] book that by the end of it you believed in magic…if only a little? Or maybe watched Star Wars, episode 2 and walked away from it feeling that if you only found a Master and practiced your latent Jedi powers would manifest? What about reading one of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden novels and then find yourself shopping for a trench coat and a skull? Or walking away from an episode of Firefly itching for a sixshooter and a spaceship…?

If so, this is the book for you. Geekomancy is a love song written by a geek for geeks. This book is pure comedy wish fulfillment for the person who wishes that the force really exists.

Ree Reyes is a screenwriter (see “barista”) who suddenly finds herself in a world in which magic exists…and that the geeky TV shows, books, movies and games that she has always loved powered that world.

Ree jumps into this newfound world of magic and danger with both feet…and of course she gets slapped sideways, lol. Ree has does has help, however. Her introduction to “Geekomancy” (the use of magic fueled from the world of Pop Culture) is by Eastwood, a scruffy old Geekomancer who becomes her mentor. She also hooks up with another character that totally stole the show for me, Drake, a Steampunk inventor and adventurer extraordinaire. I ♥ Drake. As you wish. 😉

Ree and Eastwood’s task is simple (on the surface): find out who is causing a string of teenaged virgin suicides and stop them before they kill again. But…as anyone who’s ever read any Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Comic books or played any MMORPGs…things are never quite as simple as they seem.
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Shadow Blade by Seressia Glass

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I heard about this series and author via a recommendation at Dear Author. We were discussing the way [some] authors and [most] publishers are really screwing with the sub-genre “Urban Fantasy.” Urban Fantasy started as basically Sword & Sorcery but in a modern format and urban location. Somehow someway…Urban Fantasy became Romances with angry, sword wielding women who dressed in strings and had sex with paranormal creatures. Thank goodness someone in the comments section pointed me to this book.

This book…isn’t like that. I mean, it’s still an Urban Fantasy so it stays pretty close to the trope…but there is no emphasis on sex. The moment the heroine made a stupid decision…something bad happened to her. And there are POC characters!! Wow!

One of my favorite scenes in the book? When Khefar (hero) and Kira (heroine) are kissing and they stop. Because they have more important things to do…like planning for and killing the evil bad guy. 😀 There is no sex in this book.

This being an Urban Fantasy, Kira is the strongest Shadowchaser in quite a while. Kira is a bit of loner but it’s not because she’s angry with the world. She is gifted (or as she considers it, cursed) with a power that does not allow her to touch people in any way with her bare skin. If she touched them she would severely hurt them and possibly kill them. That puts a damper on interpersonal relationships, I’d say. She does have some really good “normal” friends but only a few – those she can trust. There is a relationship brewing in this book but it is not the focus of the story. Kira is fascinated with Khefar…but a huge portion of that comes from the fact the he is the only human she can touch.

Another thing I really liked about the book was its ethnicity and different focus. Kira is African American and Khefar is Nubian. Both Kira and Khefer worship Egyptian deities (Kira worships Ma’at and Khefar worships Isis). Egyptology is a large focus of this book (and I’m assuming the series). I haven’t ran across many (if all) fantasy books with this focus so kudos to the author!

While Kira is presented as very powerful, she is faced with a villain she cannot fight alone. She has to grow and learn teamwork during the course of the book. I appreciated the fact that Kira was shown as fallible and I hope that she will be forced into additional growth during the series. I do have a small concern: will she become too powerful? That becomes boring.

There is some info dumping at the beginning of the novel. Some of the terms are not really explained and the author leaves the reader to figure it out via context clues.

All in all, this is a fun book with great characters and a fresh background. I’m glad I ran across this author and I will be continuing this series.

Review: World War Z by Max Brooks

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I’m not really a fan of zombies, but I figured since it’s October I might as well try something different. I’m really glad I did! This turned out to be pretty awesome. I really liked the style it was written in (as a series of interviews with survivors of the zombie war). It made info dump sections feel less info dumpy, and kept me interested from beginning to end. I think for some people this will come across as really slow and dry.. But I don’t know, that didn’t really bother me at all. I liked it just the way it is.

I will say this though.. This book screwed with my dreams. I don’t know what it was about it that did it, but while I’ve been reading this I’ve had seriously messed up dreams every single night. It’s not even a scary book! I have no idea why it gave me bad dreams. I mean hell.. The first night that I picked it up I only read about 10 pages, just to get a quick feel for it before bed. I don’t even think there were any zombies in those first 10 pages. But what did I dream about that night? Axing zombies in the head. There were zombie killing dreams, being eaten by zombies dreams, chasing zombies and being chased by them… Everything. Hell, there was even one night that I dreamed I was laying in my bed sleeping, but when I opened my eyes there was either a child or a little person standing beside the bed staring at me…… Wearing a big white bunny head. Like the cheerful type, a costume bunny head. I tried to scream, couldn’t, couldn’t move.. Just sat there with bunny person looking at me, screaming silently in my head. I mean come on! That one wasn’t even about zombies! But I still blame this book. Ridiculous.

Anyway… Good book. Bad dreams. 4 stars.

Review: The Hammer and the Blade by Paul S. Kemp

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If Locke Lamora and Indiana Jones had babies together, it’d probably be really weird and hella awkward.

But after the awkwardness faded you’d end up with some quick talking, ass-kicking, trap defying, grave robbing mofos.

And they shall be named Nix and Egil. The heroes of our tale.

These two characters have a bond and camaraderie that makes them feel more real than your usual fantasy hero. And they are what gives life to what could have been just another fantasy story. Their wisecracks and wit make for an enjoyable read.

The story itself is fast-paced and action packed with fights aplenty. Add in the tomb robbing and a bordello brawl and you’ve got the makings of an excellent adventure.

There are a couple of downsides though. First is a pretty flat villain who seems more like a generic stand-in, rent-a-baddie than a real character. The second is the ending which seemed really abrupt. I expected maybe a page or two of winding down but nope, it just ends.

Ah well, it was still a fun ride.

I can’t wait for the next adventure.

Four Damned Gewgaws

Review: Geekomancy by Michael R. Underwood

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So, you know the usual Urban Fantasy book?

The one that(probably) has a woman in strange, uncomfortable and maybe even physically impossible pose on the cover? Wearing little in the way of clothing and perhaps even holding a weapon of some kind? You know, the one with a main character full of snark, who flings magic and kicks asses in a world hidden beneath the ‘real’ one?

That Urban Fantasy book? Get that book.

Got it? Ok. Good.

Now drown that fucker in a vat composed of the pure essence of geekdom: Firefly, ST, SW, Gaming, TCG’s, D&D, Doctor Who, The liver of Joss Whedon, etc.

What do you end up with? An Urban Fantasy with so much Geek you can smell pizza grease, mountain dew and acne medicine through your screen. In other words, you get this book.

The story centers on Ree, our snarky heroine, who is a screenwriter(read: barista) that stumbles upon the secret world of pop-culture fueled magic and struggles to figure out just how one becomes a Big Damn Hero.

Y’know, the usual UF story.

Just with Geek ™.

There’s enough snark and ass-kicking to keep me entertained and it has a magic system that I wouldn’t mind exploring in more detail. Then there’s the Geek references which, while almost too much at times, were mostly enjoyable.

The ending leaves a lot to be desired, which takes away a star in my book, but I’m satisfied enough as a whole that I’m still looking forward to future installments in this series.

Four Gorram Stars.