Ethical Dilemma!

I sooo wanted to get the Word Count for NaNoWriMo up to 35,000 words this weekend. It’s been flowing, moving daily, and I might even knock out all my notes by the end of writing on Sunday. Or so I thought…

…and then¬†THIS¬†shows up on my doorstep. Oh…thank you Postal Service, for not even knocking at my door. Kate Daniels, you magnificent butt-kicker, can I possibly put this off until I get 3000 words typed?

Priorities.

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Book Review: Taken (Alex Verus, Book 3)

This is a solid, but not spectacular third entry in the Alex Verus Urban Fantasy series. Alex is a diviner who lives in London, though more of this story takes place outside his home city.

The strong point of the book–and the series in general–is the characterization of Alex and Luna. Alex is a very good voice and interesting narrator. Luna is a believable non-romantic apprentice with a fascinating hook. The secondary characters in this book are also quite good. The villains, don’t receive a lot of development. And I think the plot suffers for that. Hence my rating this a 4 star. The story isn’t bad, it’s just a tad thin.

If you’ve liked the series, you’ll like this one. If you haven’t read the series, start with Fated, which is, IMHO, a stronger book anyway. A lot of people say this series is for people who like Dresden. Yes and no. Yes, in that Alex’s character has a lot of Dresden-like quirks (though nowhere near the snark), and he’s a magical-investigator. No in that Alex is more studious, more serious, and as a diviner, doesn’t do a lot of flash-bang. Harry outclasses most single mages he fights. Alex is outclassed in power by just about everything. But because he can see futures, he can chessmaster his way out of stuff.

Still, it’s a good read in its own right. Especially for fans of Urban Fantasy.

Book Review: Cursed (Alex Verus #2)

Alex Verus is a diviner. It’s a fascinating, and different way to do magic. He’s hard to surprise, but he lacks any kind of flash-bang other than what he carries around. And facing people who CAN do flash-bang magic, his advantage can often seem dubious.

The balance with a mage like this is to make it plausible to surprise the reader despite a character who is functionally all-but-omniscient. Anything he wants to know about anything in his vicinity, he can know. Past, present, or future. He’s also been a person who preferred to stay low-profile, but now, thanks to his success in the 1st book, he has to face increasing notoriety. And that represents his current internal conflict. Along with his mixed desires on what to do with Luna, his apprentice? Or does he hope for more? The curse on her is another fascinating twist of magic in the series.

The other interesting facet of the book is the fact that knowing ‘about’ the facts is not the same as understanding motive. Verus is constantly finding himself in deep games. And knowing what someone intends doesn’t put him any closer to the why of it. He still has to be a detective to solve mysteries. And because that means investigating people who can crispy-critter him at any time, it’s deep games with more dangerous opponents.

To go with the magic system, Jacka has also created an interesting political universe for mages, and put our hero in the middle of them. Neither ‘light’ or ‘dark’ mages are trustworthy. And if dark mages are even less so, not *all* of them are black as night and incapable of honoring deals. They’re just ruthlessly Darwinian. The ‘light’ mages aren’t always telling the truth, or keeping to their laws, either. Alex is a former Dark apprentice who apparently grew a conscience. As a result, he’s useful to both sides, but trusted by neither.

It all makes an intriguing series, with interesting characters and well-thought out mysteries. A series that fits close behind Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels series among the best Urban Fantasy series today.

Book Review: Hounded

A fun read, with a fascinating set of characters and an ‘all myths are true’ premise. Atticus o”Sullivan is the last of the Druids, and the narrator of this urban fantasy set in Tempe, Az. It’s not as gripping as Dresden or Kate Daniels, but it certainly got me turning pages.

Pros: The narrator is witty and enjoyable to listen to, a must in any 1st person story. The setting is lived in without being loaded with extraneous details. The secondary cast is filled with characters who are enjoyable even when they’re only scenery for Atticus to bounce his thoughts and stories off of. And when they have their own motives, they’re believable and twisted, without constituting unbelievable obstacles. Nobody trusts anyone. But everyone knows what they need, and are willing to help whichever horse advances their cause. Also, the Druid Magic is described believably and very sensible.

Cons: That same magic seems a bit too overpowered. As a result, there’s never any serious threat level to Atticus. Not only didn’t I doubt he was going to get out of the jam, I never really wondered *how* he would do so. Second, Atticus seems a bit too modern nerdish for a guy whose 2100 years old. Really, he acts like he could be the stoner in the comic book store (a combination of HIS characterizations, btw). It seems rather incongruous for a guy who’s been creeping around longer than the Highlander.

That said, it’s still a fun read. And a very good start to a series I was honestly had some trepidation toward.

Like a Second Helping of Dresdencrack This Year

That’s what Magic Breaks was like. I did not *read* Magic Breaks as much as *Devoured* it. It was every bit as addictive as Dresdencrack, and I have no hope of an ‘objective’ review of this.

Simply put, this is the 7th book of the Kate Daniels series. And everything that’s happened, everything that was promised, pays off in large here. If you’ve followed to this point, you are rewarded in spades. And yet, it’s not the end. Three more books are promised, and one can easily see the series continuing to grow Kate’s character.

Things I loved: Well, as I said. It’s a fantastic payoff. Without spoilering the whole thing, the promise of Roland becomes reality in this book. The way Ghastek gets served a massive dose of crow, and yet doesn’t get depowered in the process. And the way the choices Kate and Curran have made pay off here.

Things I liked less: There’s one bit before the Great Escape, where Kate doesn’t act terribly Kate-like. She’s been forced to wait for rescue before. But she was nearly dead that time. This seemed too easy a surrender to being caged. Also, Hugh’s choice is even lampshaded as out of character for his strategic mind. Unfortunately, he was rather out-foxed by Curran in the last book, and so it makes him look something like the Worf Effect (TV Tropes will ruin your life: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php…).

Neither of these niggles are capable of dampening my enjoyment for this one whit. But fairness demands they be noted. Still, this is absurdly good. Easily the best in the series, IMHO.

Another Interesting List

So Paul Goat Allen over at Barnes and Noble’s book blog (we won’t ask about their future here), made a list of the 20 best Paranormal Fantasy series. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/the-20-best-paranormal-fantasy-novels-of-the-last-decade/

It’s not an altogether bad list. I’ve read most of the series, and there’s a couple I *want* to that I haven’t had the time yet.

First of all, I’ll quibble with the title. Paranormal Fantasy is Department of Redundancy Department. Fantasy is, by definition, outside (hence Para) the normal. Paranormal Romance works as a genre, because Romance (while having its own mash of fantasies) can be this OR otherworldly. Fantasy, even when it’s a world “like” ours, isn’t. Now I get what he means, he’s mashing “Paranormal Romance” and “Urban Fantasy” together because the two are often difficult to distinguish. Fair Enough. But they are not so fungible as to mash their titles together.

Second, I’ll quibble with the #1 spot. Dead Beat is *probably* the best Dresden Files, and he was trying to only take 1 per series. That’s fine. However, there’s no way DB is not the high point of Urban Fantasy. Period. Full Stop. It practically LIVES on the TV Tropes Crowning Moments of Awesome page. Right down to this iconic image: http://media.tumblr.com/e9433d5a9a17ef41b7617f34163f4e32/tumblr_inline_mlpna1ldsh1qz4rgp.jpg Yes. This is Dresden Files. Sorry, Kim Harrison’s Hollows is a very good series. But it has no moment even approximating this…oh as amazing as the picture is, it forgot the one man polka band keeping time.

Third, how in the world is Kate Daniels NOT on this list? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNsrK6P9QvI

No really. Impressive character growth, fantastic relationships. Great plots, intense action. The series is amazing, and has everything Urban Fantasy fans should expect. And if you want a Distaff counterpart to Harry, it’s Kate. No question.

I could also make a case for MLN Hannover’s Black Sun’s Daughter and Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus. But to me, the glaring omission is Kate Daniels, as IMHO, it’s the second best Urban Fantasy you can buy today, behind Harry Dresden.

Still, not a *bad* list, perse.