Fangs for the Fantasy

Fangs for the Fantasy is run by Renee from Womanist Musings, and Sparky who love all things Urban Fantasy. While we do love Urban Fantasy, we're also social justice bloggers and we try to be aware – and look at the genre from a social justice lens. Whether we love a series or hate it, we look at it through this lens – and critique it in part based on its treatment of marginalised people and issues affecting them. It doesn't mean we don't love the genre – but even the books and programmes we adore have problematic elements and we refuse to ignore that even while we enjoy them..


In addition to this blog we also have a weekly Podcast on Mondays


Full details can be found on our blog, Fangs for the Fantasy 



The Hunt (Devil's Isle #3) by Chloe Neill

The Hunt - Chloe Neill

Claire saved Devil’s Island and Containment in the last book. But she did it using magic and in doing so may have cost herself everything


She is now a fugitive, a magic user who, by law, should be locked up in Devil’s Isle before she becomes a dangerous wraith. And the man she loves, Liam, was infected by magic in that battle and now seems unable to even endure her presence having disappeared for weeks.


But when a government agent is killed and Liam is framed, Claire can’t afford to give him any more space. They have to clear his name, find a murderer - and uncover a plot which may change the world - again

I’m putting aside that a lot of what I wanted to see from Claire: exploring and examining her powers, more relations with the Paras, more of her work opposing Reveillon, more examination of the difference between Court and Council, more of her relations with others. I have to say I wasn’t a fan of her romance with Liam - I just don’t really see much about Liam to make me that invested in him. When we saw him in the first book he spent a huge chunk of it being hostile to Claire, then the second book there were more convoluted barriers to this book where, again, we had barriers. The thing is, I feel lots of barriers have been thrown into Claire and Liam’s relationship before they even had a relationship. So much has happened to keep them apart I’m not sure they’ve really been together - which leaves me questioning just why Claire is this invested in it and why I’m way more interested in Claire and Moses than I am Claire and Liam.


Similarly, I’m not sure about the big familial revelations about Claire… I just wonder why it’s here. Don’t we have enough motive for Claire to be involved because of the whole world ending thing? Do we need parental angst? Does every urban fantasy protagonist need to have parental angst?


Again, these are personal taste issues - none of these stories are poor. They’re not badly written. They’re not bad stories. The emotion is deep and powerful, the conflicts very real, the writing excellent and the humanity is really apparent. You can feel Claire’s pain, there’s a lot of tension, some great scenes full of action and a real sense of building epic by the end of the book.


So, yes, I am trying not to be down on this book for not being the story I wanted it to be - instead it being the good book it was.

While I can put that aside, I am somewhat disappointed by the world building development. The world building isn’t small or even flawed not by any stretch. We have a fascinating, large, deep, rich world. We have numerous paranormal races and their different factions. We have magic and the consequences of it - from both the lifeless soil patches around New Orleans to humanity confiscating and destroying everything that may even be slightly magical - including cultural and religious artefacts. But we don’t have much of it analysed - what magic means, what it can do. How the society beyond the veil actually works? The differences between Crown and Court and their history? What about the different kinds of Paranormals? I don’t even know what some of these beings are supposed to be and no-one mentions it. I mean, is it awkward? Is it rude to say “hey this is Bob, he’s a troll?” Because Claire openly refers to Seraphs and Valkyries and this doesn’t seem to be an issue? And what does Erida being a “goddess” actually mean?



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The Trouble with the Twelfth Grave (Charley Davidson #12) by Darynda Jones

The Trouble with Twelfth Grave - Darynda Jones

Charley has a problem. Reyes, her demonic, powerful, godly husband has finally been released from the supernatural prison he’d been locked in. But what emerged was far less human and far more supernatural and demonic than what went in. She has no idea what drives him now - and fears that ending the world and everything in it may be on his to do list

Fearing the same, it looks like God and his angels want to get pro-active in exterminating him

Trying to return Reyes to humanity is beyond tricky - especially when she’s distracted by a series of odd murders: people killed by fire and claws but no indication of to how. It looks like woowoo so of course she’s called in


Charley continues to be the utterly zany, completely unbelievable character we all know and love. She’s hilarious, she’s random, she doesn’t even remotely approach sensible on even her best day and it generally works. I think it especially works in this book - in previous books there have been moments where I think Charley, her randomness, her need to name everything etc have been taken to degrees that are not just ridiculous (everything with Charley involves ridiculousness, it is known) but also to a level which is just not funny any more.

This book managed to keep all the amusing quips, Charley’s complete lack of anything resembling an attention span, her love of Mexican food and coffee to levels which are completely inhuman, and her inability to take even the most severe moment seriously and still manages to keep it coherent

I think part of the way it manages this is Charley’s grown. I’m looking back through my list of quotes and I can’t put my finger on any one moment that I can point to as an example. But there is a definite different feel to Charley. She has always been the silly, irreverent, fun driven protagonist - but in the last few books she and the story has taken a distinctive turn. She’s a god, she’s not just a god but an extremely powerful god. She knows this - and while she doesn’t lord it over anyone or even use her extensive powers a great deal, there’s a new solidity to her. Previously she would charge into dangerous situations because she was just that reckless or because she felt there was no other choice or she didn’t think things through. Now there’s a sense of “I’ve got this” about her - there’s a confidence to her that wasn’t there before. I still can’t say how it’s conveyed, but it’s definitely there

What helps this book a lot is the much more coherent plot lines. While we have Amber involved in her own background activity and a police case, and a crime family with a grudge against Peri, one of her best friends, ultimately nearly everything is connected. In previous books there felt like there were maybe 3 or 4 plot lines, none of which were going anywhere, none of which were actually achieving anything and all would end when the book did. They were fun, but they were too many and they felt like distractions. Here we had the quest to find Reyes and the plan to try and get him back on side, we had the murders (because we always have murder mysteries) which are still connected to the Reyes hunt and we had Peri, her relationship issue and the dangerous crime family. This wasn’t connected to the others but also had enough threads to suggest a longer term plot than we’ve already seen, it certainly didn’t feel over when the book was over, exactly. This coherence of storyline may have helped focus Charlie a lot more, especially as it also allowed more time to examine what Charlie actually is

Along with the deep rich world that has used every bit of the last 12 books to build into something powerful, some really epic scenes involving Charley calling out God Himself, some really tragic scenes around Garrett and Amber - and this book managed to balance it all. Tragedy and hilarity, epic battles and irreverent naming of breasts, reminding us of the many people in Charley’s lives who matter, establishing those connections while also making silly silly plans that inevitably go Quite Awry. It works. All together it really works. While still being hilariously funny.

We do have some racial diversity - Reyes while a semi-antagonist in this book is still latino and a major character; as is Angel, though the young latino ghost doesn’t appear very often in this book. Garrett is Black and a major part of Charley’s team and deeply valued by her - and may have a special prize for being the sensible one. I like that he’s also becoming known as much for his scholarship as his physicality. Nicolette one of Charley’s more minor contacts is also a women of colour - she’s a recurring character but not a major one by any stretch. A few of the one off characters - victims, relatives of the victims, etc are also POC and there are no glaring stereotypes




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The Rise of Io by Wesley Chu

The Rise of Io - Wesley Chu

Ella Patel is a con artist, a thief and a young woman who survived and even thrived on the streets of Cratetown, a vast slum that has grown up on the edge of the demilitarised zone in the aftermath of the great Alien War. And one day she found herself witness to a brutal murder, driven to intervene she never imagined she was stepping in the middle of the conflict between the Genjix and the Prophus

Or becoming the new host of the Quasing, Io. A quasing who throughout all of human history has been renowned for… her string of utter failures. This doesn’t make her the best or most useful guide for Ella now pulled into the war between the two big alien factions. A quasing can be a powerful guide - but when that quasing is Io?

In the story of Tao, we saw one of the most powerful and influential Quasing in the history of the Prophus. He has inhabited a series of powerful people who have completely and utterly shaped the world, who have achieved great things, influenced history and been at the forefront of their war against the Genjix. We’ve seen him take some extremely unprepared hosts, like Roan Tan and raise him to greatness, we’ve seen him inhabit Cameron to great effect.

Tao was a superstar, even in the most inept of hosts, Tao was a force to be reckoned with. Tao was terrifying. Tao was powerful. Tao changed the world.

Io is not a superstar. Io is an abject failure. Late to living in a human host, having great difficulty in influencing her hosts and having a long history of leaving them dead in her wake. Io is the excellent depiction of an entirely different kind of Quasing. Not all quasings are skilled world leaders, not all quasings shaped the world, not all quasings made a huge difference to world history - good and bad. And while Tao ended his arc wondering whether Quasings where good or bad for Earth and openly admitting that the Quasings are a dangerous invasive force: Io has pretty much given up on influencing the world at all. Tao is deeply invested in his host, Tao is invested in humans, Tao cares. Io is almost completely done with humanity

Through Io’s eyes we also get some really excellent insights into Quasing society when they were originally on their home planet, how their society worked, how these extremely alien creatures co-existed through the universe and how their hierarchy was structured. And from we see just how different modern Quasing are - they’re so disconnected compared to what they were and their hierarchy has been utterly turned on their head.

What is an equally awesome facet of this book is Ella, Io’s human host. And while we’ve seen Roan and Cameron very much in the thrall of Tao, following in his wake, following his lead and pretty much obeying everything Tao says. Ella is not obedient. She’s not following Io’s lead, she argues constantly, she is determined to live her own life, determined to be paid and refuses to be fobbed off, dismissed or controlled by her Quasing inhabitant. Ella is a homeless young woman living a desperate life in one of the biggest slums in the world - but she is a master of her environment, she is a power in her own right, an expert, fiercely intelligent, brave, resourceful (and all without any dubiousness. No this child of the street isn’t super educated or an amazing fighter, for example) - and if her quasing  is disappointing, she goes above and beyond any possible expectation. It’s a glorious change from Tao and shows how humanity can shine - as well as introducing the excellent conflict between Io and Ella



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Seraphs (Rogue Mage #2) by Faith Hunter

Seraphs (Rogue Mage Series, #2) - Faith Hunter
Thorn is backed by some very close friends, a fiercely loyal family. But as a newly revealed Neo-Mage in an aggressively hostile small town she’s on thin ice. Even when her powers may be the very thing keeping them safe from the monsters underground


But are those powers also responsible for drawing them?


She had sworn she wouldn’t return to face the darkness under the mountain… but it’s waiting and gathering its forces and it certainly hasn’t forgotten Thorn

This huge, complicated world contains so many wonderful conflicts. A post-apocalypse world, nearly wiped out by angelic and divine wrath, nearly consumed by demonic rage, living in equal terror of both angel from on high and demon from beneath. A deeply religious society, desperately and faithfully following proper sacred rules - but without any clear indication of what those sacred rules actually are, which religion is right and in a world where one certainty they actually have is that religious conflict will get you killed.


And these are just the stories the Seraphs tell… what is the real truth?


And into that complex world we have Thorn continuing her story - only this time revealed to be a Neomage, much to the hatred and prejudice of her neighbours. There’s so many wonderful levels to this whole conflict: there’s Thorn gloriously owning who she is, wearing it like a cape and waving it like a flag. There’s her closest friends and loved ones standing shoulder to shoulder with her ready to cut anyone who looks at her twice. There’s the good people who are pushing for honesty and fairness (and the Jewish and Cherokee communities arming and stepping up in the face of clear religious oppression was a nice, though in need of development, moment). The outright bigots willing to do anything to bring Thorn down. The hypocrites who want Thorn’s magic - but not in public, not where people could see, oh no! And, of course, Thorn makes a convenient scapegoat whenever things go wrong.


Throw in a lot of intrigue about her past and her mentor, lots of questions about whether the whole narrative that is being sold about the Seraphs arrival is actually true and a neat little romance sub plot with some nice twists in that it’s not happily ever after, by any stretch.

I like the people around Thorn, they’re not flawless: the fact that Audric, a Black man is in a subservient position because of his species, the fact that he and Rupert, as gay men, are similarly rendered sexless are both questionable to say the least and Rupert has a bad case of Gay Shark going on with heavily laden stereotypes. All are fiercely loyal to Thorn and along with Jessie make an excellent team around her. She has strong, good relationships.


The town itself is also very racially diverse, though not with major characters, Many important characters - like the chief elder of the town - are POC

Star Witch (Lazy Girl's Guide to Magic #2) by Helen Harper

Star Witch (The Lazy Girl's Guide To Magic) (Volume 1) - Helen Harper

Ivy, the Laziest of All Witches, is still being pulled into the machinations of the Hallowed Order of Magical Enlightenment. And not just because she finds Winter hot and isn’t entirely willing to see him lead her life


The Order needs a witch to investigate some possible grisly magical murders… one without official capacity. Sounds like a job for the talented Ivy - especially since the murder is happening on the set of her favourite reality TV show.

We return to Ivy and our completely non-heroic heroine. A protagonist who is perhaps the most normal person I have ever read. She’s lazy, she hates getting up early and certainly before her cup of tea, she is too idle to be easily impressed. Her lofty goals in life is to happily lay in front of the sofa bingewatching bad television. And she’s a fan of bad reality TV


And that works - because this is who Ivy is, a normal person. And while the genre is full of protagonists who are Not Like The Others and like classical piano concerto and Impressionist art or classical literature; actually being interested in popular entertainment, especially something as low brow as reality TV, is unheard of!


Her daily interactions also excellently continue this thread of normality. Sure she is a very powerful witch, an extremely talented witch - but she also lacks focus and concentration and willpower. Basically, she’s too lazy to reach her full potential. And how many of us could be many things if we could bring ourselves to get up an hour earlier, go to the gym a bit more, spend a bit more time studying.


And when she’s investigating the crime and mystery, she doesn’t make vast leaps of logic and be RIGHT. She makes massive leaps of logic, in enthusiasm as the amateur investigator. And is hilariously, sillily, wrong - because she isn’t a perfect savant or brilliant and half the time she’d be putting in twice her current effort just to half-ass something. And it’s not frustrating. It’s really, it’s fun and I really love her - because she also doesn’t really take herself all that seriously. Or the situation she’s in. She joins a reality TV show as both a huge fan and entirely aware of just how silly it is. She plays with the job, the events, and is willing to have absolutely immense fun all from an epic place of really Not Caring.

This applies even to her crush on Winter. Like many people she can indeed be stirred from her laziness because she wants to impress the hot guy. But even then she has her limits - he can stir her to act but not keep her concentrating on it. Her relationship with Winter is fun, they’re direct opposites who work well together and have a nice amount of shark. Yes, Winter is still the up-tight, rules-obsessed over achiever -but Ivy nicely melts him in the same way that he gets her to actually focus on things.


Throw in a hilarious take on reality TV, openly pillorying the inability of the contestants, the blatant caricatures and stereotypes as well as tricks like letting all the contestants meet early so they have chance to get to know each other and not be still on “first impression good manners”.  And she happily accepting the role of the Nasty One in between winning events by being too lazy (and losing them the same way). And a feud with wardrobe lady who dresses her ridiculously sexily - I love her response to Winter’s apoplexy about how all men will be staring at her: “that’s their problem, not mine.” We also throw in more weighty issues like nepotism and tv personalities using their influence to sexually harass the vulnerable



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Dark Wine at Midnight (Hill Vampire #1) by Jenna Barwin

Dark Wine at Midnight (A Hill Vampire Novel) (Volume 1) - Jenna Barwin
This book as some excellently original concept. Cerissa is our protagonist and member of a species which either angelic or alien or both - I think both - with arcane powers and technology tasked with investigating the vampires. With her own quest of wanting freedom - because her people are not allowed to live their own lives. It’s an interesting conflict and throws in her playing as a double or triple agent with all the conflicting emotions that come with that, especially as she goes more native


There’s vampire society which has other interesting elements - like a recent war that has heavily divided them, a possible resistance movement, a strict population control, blood rationing and other tension building within


Throw in some deaths and apparently someone attacking them and the ongoing difficulties and tensions caused by the very restrictive treaty after the last vampire war that sets strict limits on vampire behaviour.


So let’s use this to tell the story of… a hot guy disliking a hot woman (for not apparent reason but love stories need to begin with instadislike) but finding her surprisingly compelling and he just can’t resist her and within the space of like, what, two, three weeks he suddenly is deeply and eternally in love with her and she with him. Only he can’t because Tragic Past and he is Unsafe for her to be with. And now there are people trying to keep them apart for Reasons which don’t quite make sense but OBSTACLE is needed.


Oh and she may be an alien angel thing that may destroy all of them but he spends like 5 minutes questioning her motives before focusing more on this romance which is trying to hit bingo of shallow, rather pointless tropes. These tropes aren’t even especially well developed - Henry is sad and self-hating because of a past jealous rage which he just… gets over? I mean this has apparently shaped him and his behaviour for years.


But most glaring is just how quickly Henry mehs Cerissa’s shapeshifting alien/angel woo-wooness. Or how his business, the community, his friends all come to be so much less important to him compared to said shapeshifting alien/angel. Even when he becomes aware that, at least on some level, she has a mandate to investigate vampires (and, one would hope, realises that it’s a step from “investigating” to doing something once you have the results) he seems relatively indifferent. We opened with quite a lot of detail looking at wine since this is Henry’s business… and that just vanishes. We discuss Cerissa‘s plan to open a lab and why this is important to her and for her plans for vampires and her own freedom… or the very nature of the low blood supply the vampires are dealing with: and then we just lose all of it.

This is my overwhelming, all consuming issue with this book - it creates a really original concept, it creates a very original character. It introduces excellent additions like an actual business (a business! Yes, supernatural beings that don’t just have money appear from nowhere or aren’t private investigators!) science, ethics of cloning and a whole lot more of interesting unique elements. And then what does it do? Pretty much neglect all of these excellent elements and focus on a romance that is a collection of rather tiresome tropes, few of them really developed or actually gelling well with the characters or showing them in a great light.


We also have some good diversity with more interesting potential from there: including Cerissa being South Asian and having a very different viewpoint from the rest of her species because she has been so influenced by her human father (which is why I’m a little disappointed we didn’t look at more of how her culture influenced and shaped her). Tig, the chief of police is a Black woman whose human life as a Massai shaped her culture and attitudes (honestly, I’m not even remotely informed enough to comment here because I don’t know the culture. There is a sense that it shapes her considerably but equally there is a little sense of “noble savage” and exoticism as well). She also has a complex and interesting, meaningful relationship with her deputy, Jayden, a Black man. She plays an excellent role in investigating the attacks and oh how I wish the focus on this had been greater.


Henry is latino, Mexican who mentions his history during Conquistador Mexico as a man of mixed indigenous and Spanish ancestry which also affected his history and attitudes. There’s a lot of racial diversity here among several prominent characters.

Jot of Blood, (The Coventry Years #1) by Katherine Bayless

A Jot of Blood: The Coventry Years - Book One (Volume 1) - Katherine Bayless

Lire is returning to school and she’s not looking forward to it. As a clairvoyant she’s resigned to being an outcast - even her teachers are wary of their secrets being accidentally read through Lire’s skin.

But this school year not only brings some excellent friends - Cal the werewolf and Zach the Hidden, but no shortage of adventure as well: with murders, missing werewolves, and considerable attention from some of the most important people in the magical world.

It’s time for Lire to leave her shell

This is the book I never asked for but turned out to want anyway.

I love this series, I like the characters, the world is awesome and I can’t wait for Lire’s story to continue after the events of the last book.

So hearing there was a new book starring Lire and set in this world and I’m doing my happy dance and all ready to sign up. Then I hear it’s a YA story of Lire in her school days. And I want to pout in a corner because I didn’t ask for this - who asked for this - bring back Adult Lire on whom the fate of the world rests who has gone through lots of epic shenanigans.

I pouted, I sulked, I opened it up grimly ready to snark or be passive aggressive. But I liked it a lot.

Hey, a magic school where people learn stuff! Every other magical school I’ve read produces a population of young sorcerers who are experts in divination and potion making but cannot read or master basic arithmetic. But Lire’s school teaches foreign languages and English and maths, y’know actual subjects. I give so many points for a magical school that actually teaches!

I love the exploration of the different magical systems and curses, how this occasionally results in the school being divided and the accommodations that have to be made for people with different magical gifts. I really like the Hidden - the magic around the Invisible Men - is a nice unique element.

There’s also an interesting insight into how teachers treat pupils, how they bully their students - not through the very obvious. There’s some comparisons to disability discrimination and I don’t generally like - comparing marginalised people to actual super-powered people - but it’s an well done comparison of when people need accommodations. The problem of singling people out, of drawing attention to their needs in front of the whole class, giving accommodations you assume the people want without actually consulting them - and not asking what they actually need.

One of the reasons this works is that even while Lire and Zachary do have considerable magical powers, those powers come with severe drawbacks as well. Lire’s inability to touch anything comes with strict dietary requirements, special clothing and a constant awareness. Similarly, Zach being completely invisible leads to different ways he is regarded by others to say nothing of the difficulty of not having people sit on him. The parallels of disability are not inaccurate.

The story itself is very personal to Lire and I’m generally not a great fan of character driven high school stories. Not a judgement of those stories, just not my thing. But the connection to her powers, the wider world and hints of things to come all add a series of plot lines; including lots of nice action, investigation, foreshadowing and other fun things all while making Lire very much her age and experience. I like how we have the broad world, the meta-plot, the murder investigation, the characters and Lire’s own high school struggles. The balance is really well done, I love it.



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Wildfire (Hidden Legacy #3) by Ilona Andrews

Wildfire: A Hidden Legacy Novel - Ilona Andrews, HarperAudio, Renée Raudman

Nevada’s grandmother is in town, desperate to save her house from extinction, she is determined to “recruit” Nevada and her sisters


To remain free there seems to be one choice - to become a House. But is Nevada really ready to throw her family into the brutal world of house politics? And what about Rogan? While she loves him, what politically, will it mean to be with him - and where a House’s power is all about the magical legacy they maintain, will she be weakening both houses by choosing a non-ideal genetic match?


But even if she tries to avoid House politics, she is still being dragged into it: the conspiracy continues, a powerful, shadowy organisation is determined to cause chaos and remove what few restrictions the Magical Houses labour under and Nevada is definitely a target

I love this series. I love this book. I love these characters. I love this world. And, of course, as everyone already knows, I love love love love love Ilona Andrews. They are always one of my favourite authors and every new book in every series always ensures I will retreat from the world, clutch my tablet and promise horrible torturous death on anyone who presumes to interrupt me.


They were warned. They had it coming.


While I love every book Ilona Andrews have ever passed briefly, what I don’t like doing is reviewing their books. Because they’re awesome


And awesome is really really hard to write an intriguing review about. Because then all you do is just splurt praise. And it’s accurate because this book is worth all the praise - and more - but a review which is one long worship-fest both lacks fascinating elements and sort of makes it look like I’m on the payroll or possibly joined a cult who predicts the end of the world will come when the Kate Daniels series ends.


And even worse is writing a review about the awesome third book in an awesome series. Because not only do you have to write a review full of slightly disturbing gushing praise but you have to write three disturbingly similar reviews of increasingly disturbing gushing praise which gets steadily more uncomfortable and ends up with you being unable to say “Ilona Andrews” without adding “praise their holy name” afterwards


Which can be embarrassing


It doesn’t help that each book in this series is awesome for the same reasons the past one was. That isn’t a criticism - that’s because the first book sets the bar high and the subsequent books just keep hitting that bar.

As you’d expect, the world building of the primes and their magic continues to be fascinating but it’s not just how their various powers work (which is imaginative and fascinating and contains lots of interesting details like the detachment of the animal mages or the financial benefit of a fungus-mage) -  but the politics as well; the houses struggling against each other, the ploys, the rules, the importance of family all portrayed with a really well written theme of dehumanisation as we see how really horrifying this endless conflict is to the actual people involved


And I love that - I love that among the epic world building and complicated politics we have some excellent characters with some really powerful relationships - and how Nevada’s family matter and even her friendships and her role models (and many of all of these are female as well)


I even like the romance. I like that Nevada maintains clear boundaries with herself and Rogan. I like that even though he pulls many classic alpha male rawr moments (jealousy, over-protectiveness, highhandedness) she is always there to say “nope this isn’t happening” and he usually accepts these boundaries she draws. There’s even a clearly conniving ex and I thought this was going to be a super hot mess as Nevada protected her “territory” but, again, it was handled surprisingly well. I was even impressed by the nuanced in Nevada’s evil grandmother turning up and having some actual complexity and levels beyond just being a terrible threat


All of this comes with a thrilling, exciting, fascinating story that nearly made me late for work several times because I could not put this book down.



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Bewitching Bedlam (Bewitching Bedlam #1) by Yasmine Galenorn

Bewitching Bedlam (Volume 1) - Yasmine Galenorn

Maddy is busy preparing for her grand opening of her bed and breakfast. She has a lot to do - and she does not need the spiteful machinations of Ralph Greyhoof - a local satyr and fellow hotelier - who is looking to sabotage the competition.


But no-one expected the rivalry to turn to actual murder - when a witch body turns up in Maddy’s back garden. Maddy doesn’t buy it, there is far more going on  here than a business rivalry - and hotel guests are not worth killing over

This book is a lot of fun - the characters are fun, the world is fun, the story is fun. But it’s not just fun, it has a lot of decent depth to it, especially in the characterisation and it all has a lot of substance to it which makes it fun, but definitely not fluff


Most of the other characters are excellent - Maddy’s history, her past relationships, her moments of running wild, her charging around as a vampire hunter - all of that is very present with Maddy and with Sandy who both shared this history. Franny, the frustrated ghost who cannot interact with the world but oh so badly wants to. Having someone who genuinely dislikes Maddy and is definitely a rival but having the characters recognise that  just being an enemy doesn’t make them completely evil. I like the levels there, the fact we don’t have enemy=completely irredeemably evil or that anyone who opposes the protagonist must be completely without any positive qualities. I like that


This applies to a fair amount of the plot - I like the whole complexity around the vampires, I like that the most obvious target gets questioned repeatedly. I like that we also have Linda, the head of their coven and mayor of the town who has also a lot of levels in her involvement of the plot which is hard to simply say good or bad. It’s not that everything is complex or elaborate - it isn’t convoluted at all. It’s not hard to follow, or difficult or following unnecessary twists for the sake of it. But more the characters simply are not simplistic, even enemies are multi-dimensional and as such so is the plot line, discerning actual motives and the investigation around that.

If I wanted more from the plot, it would be more of Maddy showing her Mad Maudlin days and not being a little damsel-ish around the edges. But at the same time I appreciate Maddy’s own history and her equal conflicted feelings about that.


I also feel that with all the wonderful nuance we see in the characters and plot, there are some elements of the politics of the world building that feel simplistic - like how easily Maddy and Sandy can set the agenda and successors for the Council and their coven.




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Hellforged (Unnaturals #2) by Jessica Meigs

Hellforged (The Unnaturals Book 2) - Jessica Meigs

Riley Walker has been labelled rogue by the agency by her former mentor, Brandon - and is left with no choice but to run. Of course Scott will follow - his loyalty to Riley has only grown stronger; as is the unexpected help from the Agency’s Director


She expected many things to come chasing her - but demons were never among them. They are forced to appeal directly to the supernatural specialists in the Agency to survive… but Riley, and her unpredictable new powers, may be the real key to fend off the attackers - especially when one of their own is possessed by something far worse than a mere demon

There is a lot of action in this book. Our characters are all secret assassins for the government, with a specialty in the supernatural. They’re being pursued by a former mentor and general bad guy who has a penchant for using demons. There’s a lot of fighting, a lot of planning about fighting, a lot of running from crisis to crisis and planning for the next crisis.


The action is well done, the fight scenes exciting and flowing with lots of skill on display as well as a steady diet of tension and fear. There are definite stakes and, barring one element I’ll get into, a good sense of them as professional agents.


The plot never lets up and races through a lot of development quickly as these professionals do bounce back and hit the ground running


We also have an excellent prominent gay couple with Zachariah and Ashton, whose love for each other is never in doubt and matched equally by their capacity and skill. They’re not victims or weak or stereotyped or dead weight or ridiculous - they’re excellent together. Ashton, a long term agent and a complete human, also has been severely injured in his work for the agency and is disabled - that doesn’t make him weak, incapable or not a valued member of the team, but nor is woo-woo or plot contrivance used to erase his disability when it could be convenient


Sadly we have not developed any of the minor POC characters from the previous book into dominant roles - or roles at all - and this book is very white. Vanessa has made an appearance as another female character but her prominence is still not really developed even as her skill is acknowledged.


I do have some issues with the shape of the story because I ended up not enjoying it a great deal.

We have all this woo-woo thrown about but very little actual clarification or exploration. We have demons and angelic power… ok, what does that mean? Why? We have vampires… ok can we explore that? We have an ex-vampire, can we explore that? We have a legend about the Witnesses… ok,  what does that mean? There’s a lot of stuff that just is because we jump from battle to crisis to crisis to battle.


This also affects the characterisation: like I love Ashton and Zachariah’s relationship and we open with some excellent moments examining Ashton’s injuries and Zachariah’s battle fatigue - but this is all quickly cast aside so we can focus on the drama with Ashton in a terrible situation and Zacharia being full of rage and angst




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The Fangs of Freelance (Fred, the Vampire Accountant #4) by Drew Hayes

The Fangs of Freelance (Fred) - Drew Hayes

Being an accountant, even if it is for the paranormal community should pretty much be a danger free calm job. Despite Fred's sweater vests and over all calm demeanor, trouble seems to routinely find him.  Fred isn't the bravest vampire in existence but his strong sense of morality and concern for others has earned him friends and allies who are quite powerful.  Now that Fred is the leader of his own clan, he has to become even more involved in the lives of his friends.

My constant criticism of this series is that each book is more like compilation of short stories rather than one long discernible novel with a beginning, middle, climax and end.  It's almost as though Hayes had several good ideas and could not find a way to pick one and flesh it out until it became a standard length novel. What Hayes does instead is to pick an overriding theme and then write stories which fit whatever narrative he's chosen to fixate on.

The Fangs of Freelance is really all about how Fred adjusts to being the leader of his own clan and the new alliance he makes with the Agency.  Fred may not be a brave vampire and is still relatively new to the supernatural in comparison to his friends but becoming the leader of  the clan of Fred has given him remarkable power. Fred could choose lawfully to twist his friends to his will, or to make life altering decisions for them but instead, Fred chooses to use his powers to empower their autonomy.  This manifests when Fred encourages Albert to spread his wings because Albert possess a weapon of destiny, even though this will take Albert away from Fred.  It's Fred who sees the usury of Amy's contract and rather than enriching himself, not only gives Amy the ability to free herself financially, thus opening up new options, he turns down a bribe to maintain the status quo. Essentially, Fred is just a classic good guy.

Fred's basic decency has earned him the respect of his friends who have formed his clan.  This decency has caused his friends to jump to his aid when he needs it and or risk their lives to protect him.  Arch actually dies to protect Fred from his sire. Sure, Arch may have the ability to resurrect but being decapitated cannot be any fun.

The Fangs of Freelance is the fourth novel in this series and I have to say that the novelty is starting to wear a little thin.  Yes, Fred is unique because of his passion for numbers, fairness, and sweater vests. Yes, Fred gets himself into interesting situations because of his unfamiliarity with the paranormal world and his skill as an account allows him to come up with unique solutions. The problem is that Hayes has hammered home on this to such a degree that it feels been there done that.  The Fangs of Freelance doesn't really offer anything new to this universe or give us any new characterisation to make it a fun read. If you're going to go down a quirky road, it's something that you have to keep playing with in order for it not to grow old and tired. 




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Squawk of the Were-Chicken by Richard J, Kendrick

Squawk of the Were-Chicken - Richard J Kendrick
I wanted to love this book. I tried so hard to love this book.

I mean “werechicken”? I was in right there. That’s such an awesome parody with so much potential for utter hilarity. Bring on the werechicken! Let it be ridiculous! Let is be terrible! Let it be hilarious! Fear it’s BA-GAWK!

And some of it is awesome. I got half way through this book and nearly put it down so many times - but each time I was about to put it down there was a lovely little moment of awesome. This lovely little apparently medieval kingdom with its distinctly agrarian feel is full of highly erudite people. I love that the teachers of this rural school turn goldilocks into an analysis of forensic investigation and encouraging small children to read fairy tales and “question the socio-political hegemony those stories are meant to perpetuate!”. Or the farmer and his love of philosophy reminding us that absence of evidence is not itself evidence of absence.

It’s hilarious, it’s really well done and it brings both a wonderful challenge to preconceptions, some nice thinking points and just this almost sublimely ridiculous feel. Every time I’m about to drop the book another moment happens and I think I can keep going

There’s also some nicely interesting themes - like Deirdre rejecting the idea of becoming an apprentice because adults have to specialise and can’t learn ALL THE THINGS instead just get to learn one thing. And there’s Deidre’s inventing which could also be fun…

Except… this would have been reinforced more if Deidre had actually shown a diverse interest in different topics rather than just inventions. Or even if her inventions meant more by the stage I finished

There’s also Fyfe - for reasons I didn’t reach (and don’t matter) Fyfe for some reason has a lot of modern 21st century cultural references pouring into his head causing everyone to consider him pretty weird. And it could be another element of funny, patently ridiculous silliness. And at times it is, it really is. And it’s definitely trying…


But it doesn’t succeed. And I hate to say it because it has all the ingredients of being really really good and zany. And I need some zany… but it’s just not consistently funny. We have brief moments but so much of it is a slog and not funny

Part of the problem is I’m not sure what this book wants to be. It was advertised as YA… and part of it feels that way with the elaborate nature of the language in places. But the general tone and attitude of Deirdre, our protagonist feels a lot more… middle grade; definitely childish. It doesn’t so much straddle that line as teeter across it like the world’s most drunken tight rope walker, constantly plummeting off one side only to climb out of the net to fall down the other.

The worst of his is how Deidre’s mind wanders. And it’s a good way of showing Deidre is easily distracted and what that feels like but this is a description of Fyfe’s facial expression:

“Hi expression wasn’t just vacant. It was completely abandoned. When she looked into his eyes, she could practically see the signs saying, ‘Temporarily closed for renovations.’ Only the sign was askew and dusty, because the renovations had started three years ago, but the contractor ran over budget, and then the money ran out, so the work only got halfway done. And the shop couldn’t reopen like that, but without an open shop, there was no money to pay the lease. So the renters were out. Only meanwhile, property values had leapt through the roof - figuratively, of course, though the roof was beginning to look a bit dodgy, in Deidre’s opinion. And so the owners had raised the rent accordingly, only no-one was interested in paying what they were asking for a half-renovated, mostly dilapidated storefront. But the owners wouldn’t budge because of the principle of the thing. And that’s what Fyfe’s expression looked like.




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Convergence (Winter Solstice #1) by J.R. Rain and Matthew S. Cox

Convergence (Winter Solstice) (Volume 1) - J.R. Rain, Matthew S. Cox

Solstice knows magic exists but she’s one of the few who does - and it doesn’t overly affect her job as a photographer or her relationship. Unfortunately, since neither are doing extremely well.


And then something happens, the Convergence - and Solstice’s career is definitely picking up. Oh, and apparently she’s not even human. While being an elf explains a lot of things, it also makes her very much in demand. Including by some very unethical people...

Ok, shameful confession time - I had pretty low expectations of this book and had all honed my snark ready to take this on. Mainly because of one thing: “Solstice Winters”. Yes the protagonist is called Solstice Winters and in no way was there any indication that this was going to be a parody.


But it is neither a parody and nor taking itself ridiculously seriously and Solstice is duly mocking of her own parent’s silly naming choice.


Instead we have a really interesting world to explore which is light hearted and fun (and with a protagonist who is very much both - I really like her) and pretty much a joy to read.


The concept is one we’ve see a few times - magical realms are getting close to Earth which leads to the normal magical lite Earth suddenly having scads of woo-woo and magical creatures that were never here before which causes some upheaval. What is a really fun take on this is Solstice waking up in this new wash of magic and having the illusion torn aside and realising she’s an elf. It’s one thing to have a world that suddenly becomes magical - we’ve seen that a lot - but to have the protagonist wake up and realise she is a magical creature (and always has been) is a great twist.


In some ways I think it could be a greater twist if adapted, extended or, perhaps, if the book weren’t quite as funny and light as it is. I mean, we have examples of how elven attitudes have always influenced Solstice (casual nudity, connection to nature, not seeing sex as a big deal) but there isn’t much look at her analysing any of her behaviour/attitudes/thoughts and thinking “am I human”? Or even “Am I elven”? Or “where are my people?”. Of course this book is pretty heavy on the action and probably hasn’t given her that much in the terms of introspection.

But related to that there is a moment where Solstice is kidnapped by typical Men In Black and subjected to some deeply invasive testing and then talk about putting you in a cage which is kind of swept under the rug and everyone gets over that really quickly. I mean, she’s a reporter - and she’s not the only humanoid/intelligent Numina out there (after all, she was captured when watching a faun) who may not have the legal protections and police friends that Solstice has. I call shenanigans on this just being skipped over.


On that friend - I do like Jadea lot. She’s mixed-race Black and Asian and is a lesbian in a relationship. She talks about that relationship with Solstice, not because it’s plot relevant but because they’re actually friends and act like it. Jade doesn’t play a huge role and isn’t present a lot but from what we do see it’s clear she has a strong position in Solstice’s life. Solstice also has other friends in the paranormal society, who appear briefly but even in that brief moment we have an insight into their relationships - as well as a good relationship with her boss.



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Blood Ring (Rogue Mage #1) by Faith Hunter

Bloodring - Faith Hunter
This book is huge. Not so much because of the length of the book but the sheer amount packed in here - especially this really original world.


Honestly, if someone has sold this book to me as a post-rapture word, a world after the book of Revelations, a world where the angels came down and massacred huge chunks of humanity, I would be leery.


But what about that world where the angels never confirmed any one religion? What about when the Most High never actually appeared (but pointing that out is a quick way to get dead)? What about a world where actually fighting each other over a religion is the quickest way to get you dead by angel?


We have a world where religion and religious rules have definitely risen to prominence, piety is common and all but mandatory (there’s a lot of pressure even when it’s not mandated) and religious laws dominate. But at the same time everyone is kind of uncertain as to what the laws need to be. One interesting element of this is that they seem to have avoided the very common trope of just defaulting to “sexual” crimes (probably because most authoritarian religion seems to devolve to that level) and we see a lot more fierce punishments for things like swearing. It’s an interesting and unique political situation with religion ascendant and in control but without the certainty or single religious dominance you’d expect from such a world


It’s also been several generations since the end of the world so humanity is doing what we always do - backslide. Thorn notes that things that would never have been tolerated 10 years ago are now creeping back into the human media


It’s also really well done how the balance is set out. Because it would be easy to portray the Seraphs as wonderful saviours of humanity - and that’s clearly the spin and there’s definitely a cult that has grown around them - but Thorn sees it as a cult. Equally the depictions of the Seraphs arrival and the end of the world is depicted as duly horrific. The idea that the Seraphs are all good and pure is strongly challenged despite the spin. At the same time we have the dark powers, the monsters from the depths, demonic forces et al that humanity and the Seraphs allied against - so we do have the seraphs as being humanity’s protectors and destroyers, humanity’s shield, but also the sword which could come down at any time if humanity break the rules they’re STILL not entirely sure they understand. It’s all complex and nuanced and precarious

Add into that is Thorn, a Neo-mage. A woman with magic and, by official doctrine from the Seraphs, soulless. Registered and sequestered, Neo-mages are both an incredible asset to humanity for their skills but also feared and persecuted when unlicensed and not in their official communities. Thorn is surrounded by neighbours who would murder her if they found out about her while at the same time seriously considering hiring mages at exorbitant cost to help them with the town’s problems.


Oh and the world is a dystopia - not just because of the end of the world which means there’s a lot of salvaging and a lot of things mankind just doesn’t have the numbers to produce any more and is now working to produce in numbers what was once taken for granted. There’s no suggestion the technology is lost - it’s just hard to maintain the supply chain and production methods with most of the population dead. But the world is also entering a mini ice-age which doesn’t just mean cold, but also worries like glaciers forming in the mountains above the town


Throw in demons coming out at night and haunting the world and we have a much scarier world - and, obviously, an equal dependence for the decimated population on the Seraphs.


This world is FULL and it is FASCINATING and I understand there’s an actual RPG game that has built up around it because this world is amazing. I could happily just keep reading more world building and more and more and more and more


But in a book? All of the above is huge and complex and fascinating. And then we see different neo-mages with different powers and different sources of power - with the added complexity of elements from other specialties draining them (Thorn, a stone mage, is drained by water and moonlight). Then we throw in the descendents of humans and Seraphs, the descendents of mages and humans and the mixing of these blood lines all creates different complexities - and on top of that the dark side also has it’s own different forces and bloodlines


I love the world, but sometimes I feel like I need a guide to read separate to the story as it can be hard to follow all the ins and outs and complexities. This is sometimes not helped by the writing - especially when Thorn is deep in her magic and bonding with stones, I’m not always entirely sure what has exactly happened. This is especially the case later in the book towards the end with a grand finale where Thorn faces down the big bad hordes and it’s epic and it’s amazing and it’s exciting and powerful and… and I only have the slightest clue about what actually happened.

Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead (Toad Witch #1) by Christiana Miller

Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead - Christiana Miller
It's Mara's birthday and according to her tarot card reading things aren't going to go well for her. Proving that Mara's skills are top notch, it's not long before Mara finds herself banned from Beverly Hills, unemployed and facing homelessness after being evicted from her LA apartment. Luckily for Mara, she inherits a home when her Aunt Tilly dies. Unfortunately for Mara, this house is haunted by a very pissed off Aunt Tilly, who's certain that Mara doesn't have the sense God gave cabbage and not at all pleased that Mara is responsible for her death. Is anything going to go right for Mara this year?
As you might have guessed from the cover, Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead is paranormal chick lit. It's not meant to be serious whatsoever and in fact never takes itself seriously.  Miller tries to infuse her book with humour, through awkward situations and back and for conversations between Mara, our protagonist and her GBFF Gus. Unfortunately, most of it is problematic as hell, thereby sucking out whatever humor was possible.
For all of Mara's string of bad luck, she's actually had a pretty good life.  Mara lived in an apartment in LA with a pool for well below market value thanks to the kindness of her gay landlord.  Normally I wouldn't mention the sexuality of someone's landlord but Miller goes to great lengths to establish that Lenny is gay and is only kicking Mara out of her apartment in order to get laid by Manuel. Apparently, Manuel's family has a problem with Mara's witchcraft but no problem with his sexuality. Yeah, these kind of bigots tend to hate everyone who doesn't conform to their belief system, not just pagans. Of course, Mara feels betrayed by Lenny because he chose a hot young lover over her. Lenny is not only gay he's flamboyantly so. Lenny even blames Mara for her eviction because of her unwillingness to hide her religious practice.
"Honey, we live in a Moral Majority word. Flaunt your religious beliefs and sexual preferences at your own peril. It's something we boys have known for centuries. Done is one." 
Given than Lenny is only a minor character, his homophobic representation is bad but could potentially have been overlooked; however Miller doubles down with her portrayal of Gus.  Gus is downright sassy and seems to spend a good portion of life listening to Mara whine and pretty much being at her beck and call. Every damn thing about Gus is fabulous, including of course his attire. Apparently, "Gus is more fond of skirts than any woman" Mara has ever known. Mara of course is largely celibate but not Gus who always seems to be fucking someone, which mystifies Mara.  
"How the hell do you find dates so fast? It takes me months."
"My secret club. It's a whole, incestuous, underground network that we don't let you fag hags in on. A place for us who shine like a veritable sun to share our boy toys . And our Viagara".
Do you see what happened there? Mara, as well as the other straight characters don't engage in promiscuous sex whereas, the gay characters are either constantly having sex or allowing sex to take over so much of their lives that they make major decision based on whether or not they are getting laid. 
Along with being Mara's personal cheerleader and general support, Gus is also super bitchy.  Yes, yet another trope. When one of Gus's numerous lovers decided to cheat, Gus curses him to have hives.
"Maybe I did mix a little pennyroyal in the massage lotion. He deserved it, I caught him in a hot clinch with that curvy tranny singer over at the Queen Mary, when he thought I was in the john."
I have to pause now to talk about the slur "tranny".  Putting that word into the mouth of a gay character does not suddenly make it not a slur. Throughout Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead, Miller uses the words "faghag, as well as queer".  All of these terms are clearly problematic because they're homophobic and putting these words into the mouth of gay characters doesn't suddenly make it okay. It further doesn't help that Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's dead, is written by a straight woman.

The other two LGBT characters in this story are James I and his lover Matthew Gilardi.  For the most part, James's greatest sin is being a lecher. Yep, another gay man who sleeps around.  Matthew however is power hungry to the point where he has no problem murdering his own daughter because she is pregnant with the King's bastard.  So in short, we have evil gay, lecherous gay, catty and flamboyant gay and it's all celebrated with slurs. Yeah for inclusion everyone.

Even when there are no LGBT characters in a scene, Miller still manages to mess things up. When Mara ends up moving to Wiconsin she meets a local teacher named Paul.  Because Paul is handsome and works out, Mara immediately assumes that he's gay and comes up with the weakest reasoning for this leap.
“Sorry. It’s just… when you said that you were a weight lifter … I just thought… I mean, with the gym addiction and it being so far and all…”
“Only gay guys are interested in staying in shape?”
“Well, yes. I mean, no. It’s just… I’m from Los Angeles. Most men out there are gay. So I’m used to gyms being a place for sexy, sweaty guys to hook up with other sexy, sweaty guys.”
“Welcome to the Heartland. Our stats are a little different here."
People of colour don't fare much better in this story. There are only three characters of colour. The first is Mrs. Lasio, "a heavyset, older Latina woman."  Mrs. Lasio is deeply religious and therefore takes issue with Mara's practice of witchcraft.  We are meant to see Mrs. Lasio as someone who is ridiculously superstitious who actively oppresses Mara. Mrs. Lasio is responsible for Mara's eviction. Of course, Mrs. Lasio gets hers in the end when she is also evicted.

We also have Mama Lua, who is a large Jamaican woman. We are told repeatedly how powerful Mama Lua is. It's Mama Lua who performs a cleansing ceremony on Mara. However Mama Lua is never allowed to develop into a real character and remains a magical servant at best.

I know that I've talked so much about the problematic elements of this story that I haven't really gotten to the plot. Unfortunately, I'm not done with the problematic elements.  Mara is yet another example of an isolated woman. Mara's parents are both dead, though both make a ghostly visitation to warn her away from her stupidity.  Mara doesn't seem to have a relationship with any women with the exception of course of her dead Aunt Tillie. Mara bemoans being a so-called "fag hag" but makes no attempt to befriend women.  So let's see: dead parents (check), no female friends (check) women appear largely as adversaries or minor characters (check). Ding Ding Ding, I do believe we have found yet another trope.

Look, I don't go into chick lit expecting much.  Generally speaking, I hope for a few good laughs and a satisfying end to the story but what I got was one bigoted trope after another, making the story itself almost irrelevant. I couldn't invest in Gus's friendship with Mara because he is such a homophobic trope.  I wasn't pleased when Gus dropped everything once again to help Mara out and even decided to leave LA and move to freaking Wisconsin to be with Mara.

The Glamour Thieves by Don Allmon

The Glamour Thieves (Blue Unicorn) - Don Allmon

JT has managed to build a good business and a good life - not and for an orc and former criminal

But his past comes back to haunt him - namely in the hands of the very very sexy elf Austin. His ex and definitely bad news. JT should tell him to leave. JT shouldn’t have anything to do with him. JT should definitely not believe anything he says

But the threat against one of his dearly loved old compatriots is not something to ignore… of course the question then is, just how much has Austin lied this time?

Well that was incredibly different - and extremely fun and exciting to read. I need more of this, so much more of this.

Our main characters are Austin and JT, an orc and an elf, two men and two lovers. They’re joined by Buzz, a human, a man and another leg to their love triangle

And normally I’d cringe because there’s no quicker me to make me run for the hills than a love triangle - but this really works. It isn’t a matter of jealousy (though jealousy is certainly there), so much as different men bringing different things to the relationship. I love that their relationships are complicated and layered, with JT seeing different qualities in Buzz and Austin and valuing both for different reasons. There’s no real spectre of a happily ever after and the conflicts are very reasonable based on the very complicated histories between these characters which casts wide shadows on them.

Their relationships are very real, not overtly romanticised, often very gritty, with very real emotional conflict between the characters. I can really feel the history of these characters, what has past between them and how that makes their current relationships really fraught and difficult. At the same time, despite being an important element of the story, the romance does not completely overwhelm the plot by having confusing romance elements in life-or-death situations, etc.

It’s also blessedly free of the usual tropes and stereotypes we see about gay men and gay relationships - so many tropes that are almost mandatory in any story with men in relationships with each other. One of the more intriguing elements is that JT, the huge huge huge massive, super-huge orc is a bottom while Austin, the elf, is a top. Yes, it’s a simple thing but in a genre where fake gender roles are often imposed on characters in a same-sex relationship, it stands out. Equally the fact that Austin is definitely a more physically dangerous character is noteworthy. These characters are really awesomely deep, nuanced, relationships with each other with no tropy subtexts and no rigid romance paths. And they have some really good hot sex which, yes, I actually find hot (I have very very very very rarely actually found many written sex scenes remotely appealing) while at the same time being appropriate to the plot.

Frankly, if this were the only good thing about this book, I’d honestly still love it because I loved this so very very much. But there’s also so much more

This world is awesome - we have a really excellent Shadowrun/cyberpunk world going on here which I love. We have a world with traditionally fantasy world characters - wizards, orcs, elves in a technological setting - but an almost futuristic technology with cyberspace and networks in everything from minor networks for cars and huge, sweeping networks that can cover entire cities with grafitti’d, crowd sourced hacking. This creates almost a parallel realm that has to be acknowledged and taken into account in most encounters. To use an RPG parallel, your party needs a hacker as much as it needs a wizard or a warrior.

This creates a lot of levels of complexity, especially since orcs and elves are apparent recent additions to society, there’s lots of hints at dystopia and a dystopian event and there’s also an interesting take on the idea of magic and technology not mixing. This is a very old trope and one of those genre rules that has been so long that you do kind of wonder why it has become such a mandatory thing (like werewolves and vampires hating each other). What is intriguing in this case is we have a sci-fi, hyper technological society with those parallel cybernet realms means that a character who has and uses magic is effectively cut off from this. We see JT bonding with his car with his mind, turning his drones into extension of his own consciousness which was really excellently done (and an awesome part of the world) and through the power of this awesome description we realise that Austin, a character with magic, is expressly excluded from this world. This isn’t like, say, Harry Dresden being annoyed because he can’t use a computer or his car is unreliable; there are huge parts of this world that a magic user is expressly denying themselves for the sake of magic. At the same time, when we see the choice Roane made to get technological implants, we also see the implications, even the horror, of this elf expressly turning her back on her innate magic to gain access to this technological world.




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