Posted on March 23, 2012 by Monica Valentinelli
Kelly McCullough, author of the WebMage series, dives into the fantasy noir genre with the debut of Broken Blade. Dubbed the Fallen Blade series, this first book introduces Aral Kingslayer, a former assassin for the now-dead Goddess of Justice named Namara.
I feel McCullough’s strength has always been building worlds that the characters are immersed in. Broken Blade explores a different side of dark fantasy than the typical European/medieval fare. The world is a blend of East meets West where remnants of martial arts and Asian mythology merge with European politics and the rights granted by proper lineage.
Written as a fantasy noir, there are plenty of mysteries to explore in this book. Kingslayer is the anti-hero; he’s the drunk who sits in the corner of a bar who’s depressed and feeling sorry for himself — for good reason. His ever-present familiar, Triss, lives in his shadow as Aral simply tries to get through the day.
Posted on March 20, 2012 by Billzilla
So you have this gorilla who wants to rule the world with his army of sentient ape-men, right? Plus, there’s a portal open to another time, and dinosaurs are coming through it – nobody’s sure who’s controlling them, but they aren’t acting purely on instinct. Then there’s the fact that many of the members of the Century Club – a group of two-fisted do-gooders who fight for truth and justice – with Chapter Houses all over the world – have disappeared, and you have the makings of a fantastic romp through pulp action in the classic tradition.
Posted on March 6, 2012 by Monica Valentinelli
The Halloween Tree is the audiobook version of the 1972 publication by Ray Bradbury. The story is a fantastical look at the history of Halloween. Spanning several cultures, the characters experience the customs of people from Ancient Egypt, Rome, Mexico, the British Isles and others.
The story is impeccable and Bradbury does what he does best: social commentary through the guise of a story. Here, he teaches us about our own customs by forcing us to peer into the past without beating us over the head or giving boring explanations. I’m not the only one who thinks The Halloween Tree is spectacular. In fact, the story is so popular the animated version of The Halloween Tree was featured on Cartoon Network and it’s also been incorporated in Disneyland‘s Halloween decorations.
Posted on January 31, 2012 by alanajoli
Ilona Andrews is probably best known for her Kate Daniels series, but she is also (along with husband and co-author Gordon) the author of a paranormal romance series about life on “the Edge,” a borderland between a world full of magic (the Weird) and our mundane reality (the Broken). (It should be noted that while I’m classifying the books as paranormal romance, due to the structure of each novel — the books each feature the love story of a couple who end up in a happily ever after at the conclusion — other reviewers have considered them “rustic fantasy” or “unclassifiable.” Thus, your mileage may vary.)
Posted on January 28, 2012 by Nancy
A teenage girl, Tory Brennan (related to the famous –or infamous—Temperance Brennan of BONES) becomes curious about a mysterious disappearance that happened well before her time. With several of her friends (Sheldon, Ben and Hi) they all begin to search for clues. To complicate matters, the kids hang out on an island that is home to numerous scientific experiments. Before long, they stumble upon more than they expect. Due to a series of events related and unrelated to their investigations, they become infected with an experimental virus that transforms them into werewolves – of a sort. Now, instead of being just friends they are a pack, bound to each other through good and bad. There’s a good mix of the scientific and the supernatural in this novel.
Posted on January 19, 2012 by alanajoli
Gwen Frost is back at Mythos Academy, and she’s got a new attitude. In Touch of Frost (reviewed here), Gwen was a poor little Gypsy girl, stuck out of place at an academy full of warrior kids and wishing for her old life. While Gwen is still no warrior — and still wishes that her mother’s death had never happened — she’s got a new mission: get awesome, fast, so she can live up to the expectations of Nike, her patron goddess. At the end of the first book, Gwen was chosen to be Nike’s champion, and she has no intentions of failing.
Posted on January 10, 2012 by Flames
After I received an advanced copy of Ty Schwamberger’s novella The Fields, I turned the first pages and immediately began reading kudos by notable authors and magazines such as Gary A. Braunbeck and Shroud Magazine. I never judge a book by its cover, but I do start judging books by their praise. And with an introduction by Jonathan Maberry (Rot and Ruin, Patient Zero), I was excited to start reading.
Jonathan Maberry starts off his introduction stating “The Fields is a morality tale. With Zombies.” Maberry then explains to the reader that zombie tales are more than cannibalistic and mindless corpses. These tales, if written with feelings and responsibility, remind the reader zombies are people and they have life and their own stories. This is what Ty Schwamberger accomplishes with The Fields. He, as many authors have tried but failed, brings out the emotion of the characters but not just the living, but the dead also with much success.
Posted on November 17, 2011 by Nancy
David Agranoff’s Hunting the Moon Tribe is an interesting and well-thought out coming of age story that spans the globe. It starts us out in China with a soon-to-be-former Red Guard, Yuen, and his wife, Elsa, at the time of the birth of their son. Without much warning, they are attacked and this sets up the story of a centuries-old war that will eventually lead to California and the life of a young man that is about to awaken to his destiny.
Vampires of a different sort, martial arts, dreams and difficult choices take center stage. Enrich is a bullied American high school student. He decides to learn martial arts to combat the daily attacks, but what he doesn’t know is that he is training for the biggest battle of his life.
Posted on November 9, 2011 by Nancy
A man’s purchase of a used computer leads to an unfortunate discovery. Soon, he’s on a mission to save his fiancee from the clutches of a madman and an insidious cult. But in the small town where she’s held captive, he discovers that nothing is exactly as it seems. Once he crosses paths with a father and son monster-hunting team, his world unravels. Death and dark magicks lurk around every corner.
The characters are pretty solid. Donald, the protagonist, is believable as an ambitious and caring, if somewhat bumbling, man that eventually finds the strength to fight evil.
Posted on September 28, 2011 by spikexan
I’m a huge fan of The Wizard of Oz. I’m old enough to remember CBS playing it annually; therefore, I watched it annually. I’m eager to see new tales set in Oz (though I’m generally let down), so the chance to review this book promised a fresh look. The blurb on the back of this book promises an insane Alice (in Wonderland) and Dorothy (Wizard of Oz) being tracked by something fantastically evil while they search for a tornado . . . they can use to escape Earth. It was exactly the kind of American Gods read I was looking for, so the question becomes this: Did the book live up to my own hype for it?
I found that Schnarr’s writing is a relatively fresh style. He doesn’t often show his writing roots in his own words. Schnarr’s story contains an excellent mix of the surreal.
Posted on September 27, 2011 by alanajoli
Back in 2009, when I was still able to keep up with the League of Reluctant Adults on a regular basis, I eagerly awaited the release of Tempest Rising, Nicole Peeler’s first novel.* Like other members of the League, Peeler is totally snarky, really smart, sexy verging on smutty, and a ton of fun to read in her online posts. So it was no great surprise when I loved Tempest Rising. The fourth book in the series, Eye of the Tempest, just came out last month, and I sifted through my TBR pile and caught up on books two through four this week. They’re fast reads, with qualities that verge on paranormal romance but plot and worldbuilding that, in my qualifications, keep them firmly in urban fantasy. Here’s the breakdown on each book, but the overarching verdict is: give them a chance! They’re funny, fast paced, and completely engaging.
Posted on September 19, 2011 by Monica Valentinelli
SHADOW FALL is the third book in the Shadowchasers series by Seressia Glass. You can read my review of SHADOW CHASE, the second book in the series, here at Flames Rising.
An exhibit at an Egyptian museum and a dark mystery is the focal point for Kira Solomon and the other characters in SHADOW FALL. The events that happen in this book dive into Kira’s murky background and the reactions of all those around her — which aren’t always positive.
Posted on September 13, 2011 by Monica Valentinelli
NIGHT VEIL is the second book in the Indigo Court series by NYT best-selling author Yasmine Galenorn. It follows the story of Cicely Waters who found herself inexplicably drawn to Grieve, a Fae Prince, then torn from his side. This story is the second in the series and may not be as powerful if you haven’t read the first book, so please keep that in mind when you’re reading this review and you’re worried about spoilers. My review of NIGHT MYST was published during our Vampire Week, and we do have a NIGHT VEIL excerpt you can read at your leisure.
One of the reasons why I like this series, is because Galenorn presents the darker side of magic, vampires, Fae and other creatures. This is not the happy-go-lucky world where everyone winds up together.
Posted on September 9, 2011 by Flames
I have been a Sherlock Holmes fan for as long as I have been able to read. I have over a dozen books devoted to the Great Detective, and I have spent more than a year working on a series of essays examining the original stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. So it’s no surprise that Flames Rising asked me if I wanted to review a (nearly) all-new anthology of “uncanny tales” featuring Sherlock Holmes. It’s even less of a surprise that I accepted.
In my collection of books, I own a couple of anthologies that take different directions for Sherlock Holmes – one of science-fiction stories, and one combining Sherlock Holmes and the Cthulhu Mythos – so in reading this, I tried to put aside my “slavish fanboy” hat and read them with an eye towards different takes on the Great Detective. In such anthologies, I personally look for two elements: fidelity to the core of the characters and elements of the Holmes canon, and novelty to present a new take or slant on familiar faces. How does this new anthology hold up?
Posted on September 6, 2011 by Megan
This is a wild ride that seems to sneak into every corner of your brain. OK – I am a geek, and one who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, roughly contemporary with the character of James Halliday, who in the book created the most amazing and pervasive system that combines MMORPG with VR and social network and even e-learning… So I ‘get’ (or should that be ‘grok’ – or perhaps not, the one bit of pop culture that’s neglected is the written word) just about every reference, even most of the videogame ones, despite my only ever becoming competent at a single one… which, of course, turns up at the heart of the final challenge!
Posted on August 30, 2011 by Megan
This is poetry! Even when it is prose… I mean, that the writing flows smoothly, honed turns of phrase that draw you in and create pictures in your mind.
The plot continues to follow, in the main, the exploits of Thomas Cale, who is now brought to prominence as the recognised – at least by some – embodiment of God’s own anger, his innate talent for violence being viewed as divinely inspired, and thus admired by an organisation as partial to using force to impose what they see as the will of God on others. Given privileges surprising to one of such young age and lack of experience, he is given battlefield command of Redeemer forces where his unorthodox tactics and personal leadership bring results… mirrored by turbulance in the higher echelons of the church hierarchy as plotters seek power and even the Pope’s throne.
Posted on August 16, 2011 by alanajoli
Midnight at the Spanish Gardens is not the kind of book I normally review for Flames Rising. It is certainly a fantasy novel, but the fantasy elements don’t actually end up being all that important: the book revolves around the choices that people make in their lives, and what they might do differently if they had it to do all over again — or if fate or chance had played out the events differently. But while it’s not truly a dark fantasy, I wanted to review it here after reading an ARC from the author because this is the type of book that held me and didn’t let me go. I actually stood in a doorway the first night I was reading it, intending to walk somewhere to put it down, expecting to head off to bed for the night, but I flipped page after page in my nook and kept reading, standing there, for probably twenty minutes. Then, realizing I clearly wasn’t going to stop, I gave up my rational decision to head to bed and sat down and read more instead. Not only that, but even when I wasn’t reading the book, I was thinking about it. That experience tells me that this is a book worth sharing.
Posted on August 12, 2011 by Billzilla
Horror is a subjective state; what one finds horrifying another might find merely gruesome or grotesque. It is within this ambiguity I find myself regarding Chilling Tales: Evil DId I Dwell; Lewd Did I Live. There was horror within to be sure; also within was loneliness, isolation, despair, and a lot of really good writing.
Standout stories for me in this collection included “Tom Chesnutt’s Midnight Blues” by Robert J. Wiersema and “404” by Barbara Roden. Both are among the first three tales and get the anthology off to a great start. “Tom Chesnutt’s” is about a philandering folk singer who inadvertently causes his wife’s death. She haunts him now, not actively rattling chains and moaning but rather showing up at his gigs – a phantom only he can see – as a reminder of his misdeeds. “404” is a distressingly familiar tale about office workers who discover their comrades simply disappear one day. As their numbers dwindle and their isolation increases, they each find themselves coming under the watchful eye of their supervisor.
Posted on August 11, 2011 by alanajoli
If you follow Jim Hines’s blog, you know he’s been experimenting with electronically self-publishing short stories, many of which originally appeared in print publications. His first collection, Goblin Tales, did well enough that he’s releasing another group of six tales, Kitemaster and Other Stories, in mid-August. I caught Jim’s note for reviewers and volunteered, and I think this is another strong group of stories, mostly for the lighthearted fantasy crowd. Three of them I’d previously purchased via fictionwise, and have been favorites of mine since the first reading, but three were brand new to me, and I think all are solid stories — even the one that left me with something akin to the willies over a series of puppet deaths. But we’ll get there in a minute.
Posted on August 8, 2011 by Monica Valentinelli
Hot off the presses, Ghost Story is the 13th installment in the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. At this point in the series, I would like to point out that if you haven’t read Changes or some of the earlier books, then this review will likely contain ***spoilers***. Be kind to the reviewer, folks.
First things first: due to the way characters are interwoven throughout the fabric of the plot, I would recommend that new readers do not pick up “this” book as the first one. While Butcher does a fine job of trying to facilitate the back story to remind readers who some of the existing characters are, the emotional gut-wrenching reaction that you may have as a reader will fizzle and pop like a dud firecracker.
As the title suggests, this is a Ghost Story.