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 



Beneath the Skin (De La Vega Cats #3) by Lauren Dane

Beneath the Skin - Lauren Dane

Gibson, Bringer of the De La Vega werejaguar Jamboree, has no time or patience for representatives of a much smaller Jamboree violating his territory and makes this very very clear


And then is shot with silver bullets


Thankfully, Mia is close when he is shot and able to get him to safety; a wonderful foundation for a new friendship… but not so much when Mia and Gibson’s families have been at odds for generations. And Mia herself is still recovering from a brutal crime and trying to figure out what to do with her life: getting involved in Jamboree politics in the face of attempted murder was not on the agenda.

I’m going to say I was torn when I first picked up this book. I knew Lauren Dane as an author focuses onParanormal Romance which I’m just not a huge fan of. This isn’t a criticism of her or the genre by any means, merely an expression of different taste. So that leads me to think “not for me” and back off - except she also wrote the Rowan Summerwaite Series which I love and I consider it to be a deep and terrible crime that there are not more books in this series. So I approach this from a complicated position of high and low expectations.


And so we have this book - which is a paranormal romance with an interesting world, some great characters and generally something I really enjoyed which means in the future I’m going to be even more confused


Oh to add to the ways I unnecessarily complicate what should be a simple review - I managed to pick up book 3 of a series. Yes, so this is me deleting my review complaining “I feel like I jumped half way in to a series and have a missed a whole lot of back story!” It turns out that’s because I jumped half way into a series and have indeed missed a whole lot of back story. Go me. So let me add some praise for this book both giving me enough information about the characters and world setting for me to actually enjoy and understand this book but not trying to dump so much back story into this book as to make it unwieldy. Oh and this series is a spin off from an even larger series. Yes this has not been my best decision.


I often dislike the tropes that are common in most of the paranormal romances I read as they seem to be summed up by “unreasonable people turning minor issues into ridiculous convoluted obstacles”. I generally think all these people should stay away from each other because no relationship that has two people this inclined to drama could possibly work except for the neighbours if they have a big enough supply of popcorn



But this book takes so many of these Issues and then… behaves quite reasonably? Like Gibson and Mia’s families have a long grudge after some seriously Not Ok shit Gibson’s granddad pulled on Mia’s grandmother. This has clearly left long wounds on Mia’s families and is a barrier between them. But one that is resolved because everyone is truly shockingly sensible and realises that maybe holding a grudge for 2 generations may not be that fair?


Or there’s the time Mia is angered because Gibson suggests that maybe she needs protection and she pushes back at the idea but doesn’t turn it into more than a moment they need to address - and doesn’t run off on her own or something equally ridiculous to prove her strength and courage


Or there’s the time Mia’s mother is furious because Mia’s relationship with Gibson appears to have put her at risk. Yes that’s a barrier but equally it’s recognised that Mia doesn’t want to derail her future for it nor will doing so make the threat disappear


It’s not that the conflicts that we so often see in Paranormal Romance aren’t present; it’s that the characters deal with these conflicts like actual human beings who respect each other and have half an ounce of sense and it’s amazing how that really does make these storylines so much easier to follow.


And it gave me much more chance to like Gibson and Mia, their history, their experiences, their clearly powerful connections to their families who are so very important to them without them having to dominate the story. (I suspect, now, that these characters will receive)




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Magic for Nothing (Incryptid #6) by Seanan McGuire

Magic for Nothing - Seanan McGuire

Antimony Price, youngest of the Price siblings is Not Happy. I mean, she’s never been her older sister Verity’s biggest fan but after she effectively declared war on the Covenant and revealed their continued existence to their old enemy she’s effectively put the whole continent - and her family in particular - at risk


They need to know what the Covenant is planning. They need a spy - and Antimony is the only current family member who doesn’t LOOK like a Price, she has to be the one to do it.


Of course being American - and with her skillset in travelling fairs - she’s also prime recruitment material for the Covenant which has never succeeded in getting a foothold in the US… but being a Price pretending to be Covenant pretending to be a performer certainly doesn’t make things simple


To me this book really proved just how well established and developed the main characters of this series are.


Because I didn’t like Antimony at the beginning of this book - I actively disliked her. Why? Because she doesn’t like her sister Verity and is very angry with her. I’ve read 3 books with Verity as the protagonist; I’ve followed her story, I’ve invested in her, I’ve cheered her on, I’ve loved the Arboreal Priestess. So when Antimony expresses her dislike I’m here on a firm “Excuse you, are you coming for my lady, Verity?! Oh hell no, you go through me Annie!”


Because this is how good those books were and how good Verity is: I’d invested in her sufficiently that I have a knee-jerk need to stand up for her against another fictional character.


(And, honestly, I’m not entirely over it by the end of the book - because while I didn’t dislike Antimony by the end, I still very much like Alex and Verity more).


I quickly grew to like Antimony, of course, because she’s also awesome and her beef with Verity is based on reason. I don’t agree with all of it but there’s more of a kernel of truth to it and it also underlines the great differences between the two sisters (It also means we can look back at Verity and Alex and their opinions of Antimony and see their views of their hostile and excessively violent sister are in turn skewed). Antimony has never had the same conflict as her sister. She has always known who she is and what she wants to be. She has takes her duty and family legacy extremely seriously alongside her dedication to weaponry and skills; she never had Verity’s conflict over what she actually wanted to be and do. Her views of her sister come from this lens and they’re not wrong - nor entirely right - but from such very different perspectives.


From that nuance I also love Antimony’s work with the Covenant. This is the first time we got to see inside the Covenant and learned a lot more about their training regime, their obsession with bloodlines and more of their hatred of all things supernatural and cryptid. I like the way they’re balanced - I expected them to be shown as human rather than cackling maniacal monsters, that kind of is expected now. I even expected Antimony to be somewhat sympathetic to a couple of characters (especially the layers of complexity towards her cousin, the Covenant loyalist who is treated appallingly simply because of the Price family’s defection). But so often when you have these “oh look the evil bigots are human!” it’s used to forgive or forget their bigotry and evil (a habit followed by news media as much as books). But while Antimony can see the humanity of the Covenant, at every single point of introspection she remembers that these people want to murder other sentient creatures just because of what they are. That is never forgotten, that is never downplayed no matter how human the covenant can be. Newspapers should take note.



I also like how it really highlights the viewpoint of the Price family - from looking on a classic picture of George slaying the dragon and seeing the horror of a murderer killing a sentient being just because of its species. While also being clear that the Price’s are themselves not all fluffy and kind - when she finds a clear murderous cryptid she doesn’t hesitate to fight and kill. But even then we have an excellent piece of examinations as to the why - including isolation and lack of knowledge of how to BE a cryptid when most of your species have been wiped out.


Nothing is taken simplistically - the causes and effects are examined and questioned and the cryptids are treated as people. Even a cryptid that eats people will get the Price family asking “well why is it eating people?”


This is this excellent world setting that really works with perfectly developed characters to create something truly fascinating - all the while with a good amount of fun action and hijinks. I also love how much research and thought is put into things like giving Antimony a cover identity - all these little details really make the story real. And it’s why I love them so much (and the Aislinn Mice of course. Hail!)



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The Ledberg Runestone (The Jonah Heywood Chronicles #1) by Patrick Donovan

The Ledberg Runestone: The Jonah Heywood Chronicles - Book One - Patrick Donovan

Jonah Heywood is a shaman and a grifter, just scraping by -barely able to pay his ever spiralling booze bill


Which is a problem when you owe a large sum of money to a loan shark quite willing to break every bone in your body then move on to your family.


So when a woman approaches him with a deal he knows he shouldn’t take, a job he should avoid and a magical artefact he knows he wants no part of; he has to say yes

Jonah Heywood is a character that makes a lot of terrible decisions and he’s pretty unique for that


At which I hear you all yell “but you complain constantly about characters making terrible decisions!!!” Which is true - but in those cases I’m complaining about a character making terrible decisions that no-one - least of all the author - is willing to acknowledge as such. This isn’t a protagonist leaping blindly through portals or conducting one person searches of all Siberia - and succeeding. This is a protagonist making bad decisions which are constantly acknowledged: in fact so much of the plot ran simply because Jonah makes bad decisions which constantly put him in bad situations and leave him with further few good options.


Jonah is an alcoholic. He is in debt and making terrible choices to get out of debt. He is traumatised and not dealing well - or at all - with his traumatic past. He is making the worst enemies in the worst ways and generally just about everything he does I want to yell “STOP! STOP!”. But this isn’t like so many books we’ve read because - because the book is written to EXPECT me to say “stop”. At no point am I expected to agree with Jonah’s choices. At very least every time near-constantly drunk Jonah gets behind the wheel of a car I cringe.


And there’s a really nice balance between Jonah doing terrible things because he has not real choice while at the same time Jonah simply not making good choices: largely because he is in utter denial of where he is (especially in relation to his alcoholism) and in utter denial of the fact He Needs Help. Jonah needs an intervention. Jonah needs a keeper.


I want to route for Jonah. But not for him to win but for him to LEARN. I don’t want or need him to be awesome - I need him to be better; I don’t want him to ascend to be the all powerful one, I want him to put his life together. I want him to sort himself out.


And this is interesting to me because in the opening lines of this book I was sure I knew what this story would be - from the starting in a bar, hard drinking, war wounded, cynical with a woman coming in - who even if she wasn’t DESCRIBED that way you mentally call “dame”. The hyper-powered, hard bitten noir-ish: the Harry Dresden, the Yancey Lazarusthe Remy Chandler (and I won’t lie, I LOVE that whole schtick. Yes yes I do) but then for it to surprise me by turning what I expected to be a hyper-powerful over-the-top character into, perhaps, what that cynic, hard-bitten character would ACTUALLY look like was really an interesting twist. And I found myself really loving that


Side note here: it feels almost like whoever edited this book skipped the first few pages. The writing is actually inexcusably terrible, it’s long winded, convoluted, the dialogue is comic when read aloud, it’s super repetitive (with different characters all quirking eyebrows at each other) and I wrote loads of notes about the abysmal text… but that fades really quickly. I’m not sure why the first few pages skipped editing but it’s worth it to hang on in there.


And Jonah isn’t hyper powerful either. He has magic - he’s a shaman who has some nifty tricks up his sleeve but he is far from dangerous and mighty and definitely not a heavy weight. His magic nicely fits into the world building which is really nicely hinted at in this book (i really love the depiction of spirits here) but there’s more a foundation for more to come. For a story all about a shaman stealing a magical artefact from an all-powerful voodoo Mambo at the behest of a near god it’s all quite mundane.


The plot itself is fun - not unique in and of itself: it’s a classic find the Maltese Falcon plot line. We have twists and an exceptional one at the end; but what holds it together is this unique character and the foundations it lays for something truly epic to come.


The biggest powerful force in this book is a Black woman and her family - she’s extremely powerful but also clearly good. And that is important for any practitioner of voodoo since it’s so often demonised in the media. She is compassionate, even in opposition to Jonah and while she doesn’t play a huge role; she clearly represents the road not taken: the Sensible Choice. Also I think she’s going to be a major element of this series far more so.



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The Queen of England: Coronation (The Queen of England #2) by Courtney Brandt

The Queen of England: Coronation - Courtney Brandt

Queen Victoria is dead, killed along with her whole family in a terrible terrorist attack that shook the empire and led to Juliette, young, inexperienced and far from the throne as the next queen


The New World Order has claimed responsibility for the deaths and threatens not just Juliette’s reign but the world itself; Juliette must try to expose this conspiracy while securing her nascent throne, some inconvenient romances and the hunt for Excalibur itself.


Fantastical Steampunk is one of my favourite genres - I do like the whole aesthetic and plot of running around in dirigibles with mechanical arms and steam powered gadgets - but to throw magic, unicorns (unicorns!!!) and arthurian legend in as well and I am sold. We’re taking those elements - magic and machines - and engaged in deadly attempt to take down a shadowy conspiracy that would plunge the whole world into chaos by any means necessary, with battles, shadowy plans and lots of hidden agendas and looking behind every corner for who the enemy is.


If anything I wish this book had explored this more because the world we have laid out here is really excellent. The existence of magic, Excalibur and air ships it all tantalises so much - but that’s kind of the theme of this book: tantalises. We have Excalibur with apparently lots of powers and perhaps its own agenda but we don’t really explore that.


We have a fascinating female crime boss with a shadowy but apparently legitimate past running around doing swashbuckling things… but we don’t really focus on her except as a provider of resources.


We have the American heiress to a major technological corporation pursuing an illicit love affair and ready to offer friendship - but we don’t really explore her


We have a street urchin turned footman with a mechanical arm and lots of streetwise contacts


We have a society of magic users who apparently follow the legacy of Merlin and have done so for generations - but they’re only mentioned.


A county whose principle resource is unicorns, is in much demand by European nations and appears to be African (it’s not explicitly stated but North Africa was implied), but we only get their prince visiting?


It’s like this whole book throws out a million fascinating storylines, characters, world building etc and we don’t actually spend much time on examining any of these amazing things instead focusing on Juliette


Who is a decent fun character but kind of overshadowed by the vast potential of everyone around her. Not because she’s bad, but because everyone else around her, everything else around her, could be so amazing



Part of this is because of the general feel of Juliette. I mean, I like Juliette - as a “plucky adventuress uses grit, determination and intelligence to overcome great odds” Steam Punk protagonist she’s great and would fit nicely with characters from Magnificent DevicesThe Finishing School SeriesGirl Genius, or even early Parasol Protectorate. Her character is fun and embodies many of the elements I love about the protagonists of these series

But she’s the Queen of England. She is the heir to Queen Victoria (who died, presumably early in her reign since there aren’t eleventy million heirs) at the height of the British Empire. This character running off alone, doing lots of things by herself, being on the front lines and generally not being surrounded by a gazillion staff. Even the assumption of a grand conspiracy from the very beginning seems highly dubious on the strength of one terrorist attack. Juliette has 1 maid, 1 aid of her father’s from before she became queen and a military captain - she picks up a couple of others along the way (complete strangers with no background checks which, again, makes no sense!) but this is a ridiculous lack of support for the Queen of England. The whole framing of her character just doesn’t make sense and we have a weird feeling of dodging between being helpless, alone and lacking resources and then jumping back to “I’m the richest and most powerful woman in the world”. It just doesn’t work and it blends with the odd band of misfits she has around her which… also doesn’t work.



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Awoke (The Want #1) by K. T. Conte

Awoke: The Want Series (Book 1) - K T Conte

Katya has spent a long time struggling with her visions and ability to see things others cannot - but she has managed to carve out a normal life and put that behind her. It’s not perfect, her boyfriend is certainly far from it - but it is a life with normal problems.


In as much as anyone has normal problems in a world which seems ever more pressured, with growing earthquakes and horrors.

Until she meets Gregor, Kyrios, supernatural agent charged with making sure the dead cross over - and the monsters that haunt her and prey on humanity are dispatched. Those monsters are becoming ever bolder and more dangerous - and Katya with her unique ability and power may be the key to saving the world


We have an intriguing world setting here - one that takes the concept of demons and does something quite original with it. The Want, these beings driven to feed on human life energy and doing whatever they can to increase the number of vulnerable dead people to feast on. It all establishes a very frightening and overtly awful antagonist with enough variations to make for a varied enemy while not overloading the plot.


But the origin of the Want works well - without spoiling because it would be a shame, it adds a level of complexity and even tragedy beyond the atrocities they inflict. And this is further complicated by the Kyrios’s role: both as shepherds and warriors and how they actually come to be created.


I like that - I like how we’ve balanced a relatively simplistic thread of an antagonist but then included enough complexities to prevent a simple good & evil reading of the world. Which works well with Katya’s own growth because, as an outsider to this she does arrive with a narrow viewpoint which in turn makes it difficult to fully integrate her with the Kyrios


I also like that this, the first book, has been smart enough to include some more hooks to the world building - specifically nodding towards angels - while resisting the temptation to stuff all the things into the first book


Other than the romance, which I’ll get to, I generally like the plot - it moves well but does have a pacing issue in the middle. We’re told about the terribad awful things the Want are doing in the living world and how essential Katya’s help would be but she doesn’t seem to be spending a huge amount of time training or, well, doing anything about it.





I do like Katya’s working with the Kyrios - there are times when I thought we were going to see some signs of Keillie Independence and Spunky Agency. But Katya doesn’t run off on her own or decide to ignore the input of others. When she acts emotionally and angrily towards the Kyrios hierarchy it fits: it’s not necessarily how I’d act, but I can see her firmly drawing her lines. She isn’t a member, she isn’t a servant, she’ll be polite but expects the same back, it works really well


On top of this interesting story and world we then decide that our ancient immortal warrior will fall in love with our teenaged, high-school attending protagonist



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Spirit Witch (The Lazy Girl's Guide to Magic #3) by Helen Harper

Spirit Witch (The Lazy Girl's Guide To Magic Book 3) - Helen Harper

After her brush with Necromancy in Scotland Ivy has been suffering some side effects - she’s not sure of the full implications, but it seems she can see ghosts


Ghosts are noisy and annoying and don’t respect a woman’s wish to bond with her duvet on her sofa all day


Some of these ghosts are not exactly thrilled to have the less-than-motivated Ivy as the one woman who can see them, but you work with what you can since she may be the key to freeing them from their purgatory - and with a serial killer on the loose targetting witches, their ghostly insight can certainly help the Order investigation.


This book ended and apparently this amazing series is a trilogy which means thi is the last book. No-one consulted me on this. I did not agree to this. I do not approve. This is my disapproving face.


But as it has ended, one thing I really liked is that Ivy is still very recognisable as the character who started this series. She’s still the Slouch Witch. She’s still lazy. She still avoids effort.


I’m not saying I’m against character growth or that Ivy hasn’t grown or changed. She has changed and she has grown, she has got involved. She will whine but she will get out there and help when she has to. She would just rather not do it first thing in the morning. Her talent and skill are clear as well as well as her moral compass and even willingness to sacrifice. But so many books would have taken Ivy, had her had a revelation, maybe a training montage and then have her spending late nights reading books or getting up at dawn to go to the gym. Her heroics haven’t turned her into a new person. Even her new powers haven’t driven her to embrace her new purpose in life. She’s still Ivy, laziest witch and I like that because everything that made her so unique is still there and it wasn’t treated as something to remove from the character. Again, I’m not against that kind of character growth, but I like that we kept the very essence of what makes Ivy Ivy


And I do love Ivy. I love that Ivy is such a perfect, ordinary person even if she does have extraordinary powers. Yes she’s fighting evil, yes she’s involved in a dangerous investigation but that core of such normality, that foundation of duvet loving, laziness makes her so relatable and real. And I just love how her talking cat fits into that - I can’t even begin to spoil it even if it isn’t especially plot relevant, it’s just too awesome.



I also like how Raphael has grown over the series - I think he still needs a little more than being the hyper-competent guy who loves Ivy. but in some ways him being this picture-perfect awesome guy he emphasises Ivy’s realness - while not overshadowing her because she can go toe-to-toe with her. I think it’s even intentional because a number of the more side characters have elements which I appreciate: from the simple dedication of the Ipissimus to even designated-rival-bad-guy actually being useful and helpful even while Ivy seethes over it. I like that, I like that even the caricature of awful is still not all bad - and that Ivy isn’t the bigger person to let this go


I’m also loving a depiction of ghosts as annoying pushing nuisances - as well as the whole extremely original concept of how ghosts are created.



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Kiss of Frost (Mythos Academy #2) by Jennifer Estep

Kiss of Frost - Jennifer Estep

Gwen Frost, with her unique gifts is just beginning to learn her place in the world, and the magical training academy and their long historical war and her special legacy within it and Nike’s champion.


Of course epic history doesn’t change day to day life - including being pulled into the parties that characterise Mythos Academy and her complicated relationship with Logan, the very sexy Spartan warrior.


And into this complexities steps an assassin - someone is out to kill Gwen and there is no shortage of enemies who may want her dead

There’s some fascinating concepts in this book. I like the idea of many many supernatural warriors inheriting divine powers. I like the diversity of their powers. As an massive mythology buff I love the idea of the gods underlying this whole conflict and world building. Norse, Greek and more? Of course I’m into it… though I do rather think the world building rests a lot more on “the Greek gods. And Loki. Because”. I think that because may be because someone looked for an archetypical trickster among the Olympians and realised “all of these fuckers” was the best answer (yes, Dolos of course -but still the Greeks were pretty much all tricksters to some degree in the same way many of the Norse gods moonlighted as warriors)


The whole concept of the school is one I’d be a lot more interested in if it were actually developed a lot more: because instead of seeing all the mythology, history and training we get a lot of partying and Gwen disapproving of said partying because raaah.


We also have Daphne who is a much more interesting character with layers, managing to embrace the partying culture of the school, be “girly” and pink, be a computer geek and being a super strong warrior.


And I do like a lot about Gwen - she has some excellent challenging of the classism that completely permeates the school. I also like to see a character with psychometric powers who doesn’t considered themselves cursed - and even appreciates the knowledge and secrets she learns. There are some excellent foundations to this story


But what was built on this story I have trouble with


I have a lot of trouble getting past the decisions that Gwen makes in this book. No matter how much she wants to prove herself the kickarse warrior like the other students, I find it bemusing that Gwen, who has not been raised as part of a warrior culture, would decide that multiple attempts on her life are totally something she should keep to herself


I would find it bemusing, if she had been raised by a warrior culture, and knowing what is at stake after the last book, that she would consider it appropriate not to tell anyone of the literally murderous threat on campus

And who thinks “I won’t tell my teacher about this LITERAL ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT because I don’t think he likes me”? And she won’t tell the teacher she really likes. Or her grandmother


In fact, I find everyone’s decision making in this book to be utterly bizarre. When a fellow student learns something you don’t want to disclose, do you really think “trying to kill them but not really I want to scare them” is a tactic for silencing them? Especially since you’re doing it anonymously? How do you intimidate someone into silence when they neither know who you are or what you want? And seriously, murder? And, again, this is a campuses where we already explained last book that everyone has been raised to be a warrior, fully expects to be attacked by their enemy and several of them are already used to death. But he thinks ambushes are going to make someone thing “zomg must be silent!” and not “we’re under attack! Sound the alarm!”



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Wraith Ladies Who Lunch by Sean Patrick Traver

Wraith Ladies Who Lunch - Sean Patrick Traver

Ta-Senet-Net-Hor has been a ghost for thousands of years, moving with her mummy from location to location, rarely meeting another like herself. Until she met Christabel, a Victorian ghost tethered to a particularly morbid piece of jewellery. Neither understanding their condition, the two spectral ladies agreed to meet for lunch at semi-regular intervals


Until a third ghost enters their circle, Derren Gray, a newly deceased ghost who may provide them with the missing clues to find the truth of their unique natures.

I’ll be honest, I went for this book mainly because of the title. I pictured a rather hilarious collection of historical ghostly ladies of note gathered together, Sex in the City style to have shenanigans and adventures. I could see Queen Elizabeth and Cleopatra and Joan of Arc and Ching Shih all running around spectrally in the modern world doing all kinds of hilarious and silly things. By it's title and cover I expected humour, lightness and shenanigans.


This is why you should never judge a book by it’s cover


Instead we have a rather deep, powerful book focusing on Ta-senet-net-hor, an Ancient Egyptian woman who has been a ghost for millennia and her infrequent contact with her fellow ghosts (Christabel a Victorian lady and Derren, a much more recently deceased ghost). They talk and often discuss the whys of being a ghost. Why they are ghosts, why other people are not ghosts and the limitations and restrictions of their state. What is noteworthy and interesting is how little they actually know - how their knowledge of ghostliness is all theoretical, despite, in Ta-Senet-Net-Hor’s case, existing for centuries as ghosts.


I like this uncertainty, the fact that the supernatural can be this big unknown even for those supernatural.

This book explores their lives, their own personal development including the often bleak and difficult situation they find themselves in. I like how we get a powerful sense of the frustration and hollowness of ghostly existence without a lot of over the top angst while still maintaining small gems of experience that make this existence still worth clinging to. I like how we examine each character with a careful view of their flaws as much as their virtues, making all three extremely human people


The discovery of the secrets behind their condition is interesting and unexpected as well as the grand revelation of what connects them all as well as the dark secret in Ta-Senet-Net-Hor’s past. I even like the show down scene which, like so much in this book, is restrained, careful, layered and nuanced. There’s no moustache twirling villain. There’s no be-halo’d saint.


It all makes for a fascinating, insightful and well balanced book that is truly artfully crafted


In terms of diversity we had only three characters, but our protagonist is definitely a woman of colour as an Ancient Egyptia


It’s also a short book - unsurprising since it’s a novella. And when I reached the end I was left with a vague sense that I had just read a prologue and was looking for the rest of the story.



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Flame in the Dark (Soulwood #3) by Faith Hunter

Flame in the Dark (A Soulwood Novel) - Faith Hunter

Nell continues to work with PsyLED, the supernatural crime fighting organisation. And more and more she is drifting away from her insular church routes, leaving behind its thinking and training. Her magic is also growing as her insight and power is becoming more and more of an asset to PsyLED


But when they become embroiled in a supernatural murder case that involves a United States Senator, Nell may have to draw on her power more deeply than ever before: with the risk she may lose all of the new freedom and experiences she has discovered

I do like more of Nell’s self-growth and awareness this book; her acknowledgement and clear labelling of her experiences as abuse and how that has changed her. How this affects her views of current relationships, how it has scarred her and how it colours her interactions in real life.


I also like how she’s even applying this to the “saviour narrative” that she learned and is more and more challenging. Like she acknowledges her family tried to save her from abuse and that marrying John saved her from a far worse fate. But she equally can see how her relationship with John was abusive and twisted her own experiences and expectations of relationships. Just as she loves her family and knows they tried to help her, equally she has little faith in them keeping her little sister safe against the church. Her whole complicated relationship with her family is fascinating- her love and faith in her family tempered with her deep, wary awareness of what they’re part of. And even the family recognises that - the confines they live in that they can’t seem to break: they rely on Nell with her outsider ways to do things they will


Then there’s the love triangle - and for once a love triangle I actually like: because of what it recognises for Nell. The conflict of old versus new, safety and familiarity over what could be and, ultimately, who Nell is and who she has become


Equally I love how Nell is both fiercely confronting anyone else who would treat her in a patronising or sexist manner, and challenging her own church instilled attitudes while also realising that not everything that’s happening around her fits in that lens: especially with the wereanimals and other supernaturals.


Nell is the gem of this story: her growth her, experiences, her interactions with the others really makes this series. And on top of that we have her unique supernatural nature, how her powers control and lure her, the dangers of them, the alienness all add up to something quite unique.

On top of this we have an excellent world setting with some intriguing supernaturals that do not occur in many other places - but at the same time the plurality and breadth of the world doesn’t impose on the story. The focus is far more on the current unknown than the hugeness all around and it is an excellent setting to have a the police investigation, with a lot of grunt work, following evidence, dead ends, red herrings, more grunt work and general, despite all the woo-woo, a very realistic look at an actual investigation


On top of this I like that Nell actually lives in between her investigation. She is concerned with food, she cooks, he has family commitments, she gets stuck in traffic, she commutes. She sleeps.


Which also brings in the supernatural and the complexities that came from this revelation, including conflict within Psyled and the difficult questions about what to do with dangerous and potentially hostile supernaturals: can you even judge an entire species? I like this, I like it a lot. But… yes, there are moments when I stopped and thought “hey, wait, what just happened? Who is this? Why? What?”. Sometimes I did get lost in the cast of characters.


We do have some diversity as well - in addition to Nell’s battle against partriarchal norms, she has a number of women around her: 3 members of Psyled are women, including the second in command of the unit, JoJo, a Black woman (who is, interestingly, the only member of of the group who isn’t a supernatural. Her usefulness to the group isn’t special powers - but intelligence and accomplishment and education. This is particular noteworthy because her value is one that is literally based on her own achievement rather than the special magical woo-woo she happened to luck into and it’s a wonderful subversion of the POC-as-source-of-woo-woo trope), the ultimate head of Psyled Soul, a witch and Nell herself. We have a female Asian vampire who doesn’t play a major role but is definitely an influential force because of what she represents




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Chaos Choreography (Incryptid #5) by Seanan McGuire

Chaos Choreography - Seanan McGuire

Verity has changed her life dramatically recently. She’s married Dominic, a former member of the Order of St George, which was definitely a surprise (though a family tradition). And she has finally made her decision to follow the family business of crypto-zoology rather than pursuing her career in dance.


At least until the producer of the dancing reality TV show she almost won calls her asking her to come back for a very special season. It’s a last chance at her dancing dream, one last chance to see if this is really what she wants… and one last opportunity she cannot turn down


Except when her fellow contestants turn up dead - and it looks like woo-woo and cryptids may be involved.

Hail! Hail the return of the Arboreal Priestess!


It’s been a long time since we saw Verity and I agonised for a little while about whether I wanted to see more of the rest of the family or welcomed the return of Verity. I know, I’m awkward because I lamented moving from Verity in the first place- and then I discovered Alex, The God of Scales and Silence and much preferred his storyline


But at the same time I love that we are returning to Verity. One element of series with shifting protagonists I’m not a great fan of is we tend to forget the older characters. They just vanish or fade into the background - characters which were once compelling enough for entire books are now seemingly reduced to irrelevance. So I love that we have established this precedence, I love that we can revisit these characters and that no-one with be forgotten. More series really need to take a lesson from this


And despite liking Alex’s story - that doesn’t mean I don’t love Verity, I do. And I especially love how this book is coming back to one of the main conflicts of Verity’s story that wasn’t entirely finished was her conflict over whether she wanted to dance or follow the family business. I mean she made her decision, but it felt vaguely like the decision was forced on her. And that’s not bad - sometimes circumstances over take her dream, but it was nice to see that her passion, her dream hadn’t completely left her and it was important to her to revisit it. I really liked how this was done, seeing her connect to old friends, having her both see the things she loved so much about dance but also seeing them with a new light and, perhaps, with less nostalgia. I really really liked the many excellent, subtle ways

I was a little disappointed by Alice, the Noisy Princesses; mainly because my expectations were so high having heard so much about her but the focus was very much on Verity so her terrifyingness was not the focus. Which was probably the best way to go and she did bring so much of her character with just lots of hints and references which was restrained and excellently done


I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I prefer Alex’s story to Verity - but this is nothing to do with Alex or Verity - it’s to do with Dominic. I find Verity’s husband to be… bland? Who is he? What interests him? What is he doing with his life other than being Verity’s husband? Does he have hobbies? Ambitions? Plans? What conflicts is he experiencing given his huge shift of opinions from being a member of the Order? He just seems… hollow.. Especially next to the excellent characters that are already in this book.


The world building, as ever, remains excellent with a whole lot of research, supernatural creatures and the excellent blend of science and mythology working so well which makes this series so unique and so awesome. Even if it needed more Aislinn Mice (hail! Everything needs more Aislinn mice). Honestly I could write many many paragraphs of how awesome this world building is, but I’ve already said repeatedly in the last 4 books because it is just that awesome. I love it so much I really cannot praise it enough - the different cultures, the way they interact how inhuman some of them are, it really works.



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Waxing Moon (Calling the Moon #2) by Sarah E Stevens

Waxing Moon - Sarah E. Stevens

Julie is getting used to raising her powerful werewolf baby - and is still determined to do so alone, in her own home in her own town despite pressure to move to join the rest of the Pack

But when her house is burned down by a supernatural force she never knew about which may be in direct opposition to the powerful werewolf Carson is becoming. Can she assert her independence as a mere human in this world of dangerous supernatural beings fighting over her child?

In my review of the last book, I questioned how this series would continue after the events of the first book. I did suspect there would be some really convoluted way that Julie would end up being bitten and become a werewolf and then have many exciting adventures.

Oh how very different this turned out to be.

The conflict of this book is how much Julie gets to live her own life and how much control she has over raising her own son. It exposes a lot of the glaring problems with werewolf culture that have been briefly touched on but not explored in the last book

None of this is done clumsily. I mean, I would have frowned at this if all the nice people from the first book suddenly turned into hateful monsters. Instead we see it in their general attitudes, who is valued. Who is respected. Looking back among all the action of the previous book we see a lot of subtle or not overly flagged actions now from a very different light. Even how everyone is utterly fawning and excited over her son Carson; lots of little moments

And given how powerful Carson is, to Julie this is just all the more important why she needs to separate him from the damaging prejudices of a society that could have him absorb so

Again, it’s done really subtly, with the battle they’re fighting serving as a perfect background for people to make harsh decisions in the name of “safety”. It’s balanced to be very realistic - perhaps even something we could easily understand and go along with if it weren’t for Julie’s excellent insight.

This also brings excellent further exploration of Julie’s insistence of living her own life in her own town - but I think the best part of this was also looking at Julie’s extremely good friend Eliza. Loyal, supportive, passionate, determined, a good woman AND WRONG. Because you can be a good person and still be part of a deeply flawed, prejudiced system; you can be a good person and perpetuate inexcusable things within that system and being a good person doesn’t make it ok. That’s a nuance that is far superior to the simplistic narratives we see elsewhere



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Fall From Grace (Exile of Angels #1) by Ron C. Nieto

Fall from Grace (Exile of Angels Book 1) - Ron C. Nieto

The Archangel of Secret Knowledge has been released from his long imprisonment in Hell and now has one major task - to free his brethren from their infernal imprisonment


But occupying a body - a life, a family - that is not his own comes with its own guilt and complexities; how do you explain to a mortal brother that you are trying to free demons from hell?


Especially when that mission becomes far more complicated, with more actors and manipulations with their own sinister motives than he imagined when he first found freedom.

This book has some really fascinating concepts


Fallen angels and demons are not unknown characters in urban fantasy - but I think this is the first time I’ve seen one with this kind of outlook. Henry is neither angsting about being unworthy of god and self-flagellating; nor is he raging about an unjust most High who must pay for his dastardly deeds. He is sensibly and doggedly trying to rescue his brethren. It’s a very personal story, one very much focused on him and not on big grand themes and revelations.


I also like Henry’s character - introverted, snarky, socially awkward but not in the arrogant-and-brilliant-way we see with so many protagonists. Just an inexperienced demon in the body of a man who was socially inept anyway. There’s a general sense with Henry that he’d much rather just be left alone with his books if he could get away with it.


I really like the conflict over what he is - because he possessed the human Henry Black. But he has all of Henry Black’s memories - and his opinions and even his mannerisms - including Henry’s OCD. Henry Black is dead… but how much of the angel/demon occupying the body is angel/demon and how much is Henry?


The concept of angelic power is also an interesting one - the nature of the word, the angelic inability to not speak truth and in changing reality to make it true. Divine power, the power angels can wield but cannot carry because only beings with a soul can do that. This idea that angels wield incredible power but that, ultimately, that power is human and divine and not their own. It’s a nice twist


Henry himself is both albino and has OCD. Both are parts of his character but while mentioned do not consume him. It’s good to see a disability which doesn’t become a character’s sole defining characteristic, but at the same time I rather think the OCD in particular was brushed over. We’re told Henry has OCD but that largely manifests with a need to have everything around him neat and tidy rather than actual compulsive behaviour

Siddik is a POC but his personality and history have been somewhat wiped with his possession/amnesia. There’s another random POC policeman who doesn’t play a huge role - and no LGBTQ people. But we do have a disabled protagonist


So why didn’t I love this book? Why did it take me so long to read? I’ve been turning this over in my head for a while now because it has so many elements I should love but, in the end, I didn’t. I found it something of a chore - and I think it comes down to it having a fairly laborious writing style. We seemed to slog our way through a lot of the text and there were a lot of explanations and activities that were just a little too abstract and theoretical and the big revelations about what was actually happening didn’t appear until the very end of this book. For a long time we had Henry Black moving to Detroit to explore the possibility of other demons escaping Hell without being summoned and then stuff happened. There’s hellfire humans I don’t entirely understand, and a secret organisation that isn’t explained until the very end of the book and a whole lot of personal drama and some other random events.



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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