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The Gorgon Bride, Galen Surlak-Ramsey

The Gorgon Bride, Galen Surlak-Ramsey

The Gorgon Bride

The Gorgon Bride is the story of what would happen if the ancient Greek pantheon showed up on Earth and dropped an Orca on a concert pianist. This book showed strong elements of the traditional Greek legends’ style in the story, with the gods essentially larger-than-life humans pursuing eternal family feuds, but unfortunately my sense of humour is a vanishingly small target, and the comedic elements rather passed me by.

Alexander Weiss is selected by Athena apparently at random to act as her hero and find a suitable match for a gorgon, daughter of Phorcys, in order to appease Phorcys for having turned another of his daughters into a whale that got dropped on Alexander. Athena hopes to prove herself superior to Aphrodite in the process.

While the idea is certainly original, I found this story very hard to get into. The traditional Greek legend style of ‘oh, you got dismembered, old boy? Well, never mind, it’s a new day’ just never does it for me, and despite my best efforts, I kept skidding out of immersion in the storyline in a cloud of curses. This is undoubtedly a tribute to how well the author managed the style, but for me, much as I’d like to be able to, I can’t give a higher rating; I just didn’t enjoy the read.

Urban Heroes, T J Lockwood

Urban Heroes, T J Lockwood

Urban Heroes (The Twelve Cities Book 2)

Urban Heroes follows a pair on the run from the authorities in the middle of an android revolt in this  twisty sci-fi thriller. Calista Ridley has a ship she can’t use, a partner she can’t name, and for a full house, a runaway who can’t look after herself. She’s playing in underground Russian Roulette halls far from the upper cities she used to inhabit to keep them housed and fed, and never staying in one place too long in case the bounty hunters catch up with her. Unfortunately, ‘too long’ is a variable concept, and Calista finds herself on the run again, with her past in hot pursuit.

While this book did offer an interesting slant on the theme of androids, AI, and how close to human it’s necessary to be to qualify for human rights, I didn’t find that the structure of the story stood up to the promise of the subject matter. The majority of the book is Calista on the run, with a partner who is essentially a cipher, and numerous factions after both of them. It’s only in the final fifth of the book that there’s a sudden series of revelations as to who Axton is, who Calista is, and why they’re both so desperate to stay off the radar. It’s also written in first person present tense, which while it’s a perfectly valid stylistic choice, makes my hair stand on end. Overall, while there were strong elements in this book, for me they never gelled together into a cohesive story.

Ink Bound, Holly Evans

Ink Bound, Holly Evans

Ink Bound (Ink Born Book 3)

Ink Bound follows Dacian, the ink magician, as he is dragged ever-deeper into the criminal magical underworld of Prague. Despite the insistence of several of his friends that Fein is more than a crime lord, Dacian has doubts about how involved he wants to be in Fein’s activities, and the choices he’s forced into to help shut down a ring of blood tattooists doesn’t do anything to lay those doubts to rest. When he ends up the bound owner of a wolf feral, Dacian gets a rude awakening to the status of ferals in the magical community, and begins to understand a little more of Fein’s position.

The Ink Born series is a wonderful showcase for author Holly Evans’s talent for utterly plausible world-building. With a fascinatingly original range of magical skills and manifestations, Ink Bound can in no way be categorised as just another urban fantasy adventure, but rather creates its own template. The development of the character of Dacian through this series is also a pleasure to follow. I did find that this book dragged the notion of other magical networks having their own equivalents to Dacian tantalisingly under the reader’s nose and then essentially deep-sixed it; a shame, as it opened up some interesting possibilities. However, aside from that minor frustration, this book is technically flawless and a highly enjoyable read.

Chipless, Kfir Luzzato

Chipless, Kfir Luzzato

Review title

Chipless presents a story of an unlikely hero, and his struggle to free a society that doesn’t even know that it’s enslaved. Kal is one of the City elite, a technician valued for his skills and kept in luxury as he works to improve the chip implanted in every citizen’s brain that maintains their health. He enjoys his work, and he’s good at it: so good that one day, one of his experiments disrupts the chip’s input to his brain, and he sees a flash of the outside world as it really is. That peek behind the curtain sets in motion a train of events that may overturn life as he knows it…

Kfir Luzzato’s protagonist undergoes a lot of personal growth during the course of this book. From a law-abiding and somewhat geeky scientist, Kal becomes a highly effective and self-reliant traveller and fighter in the space of a few weeks—and becomes quite irresistible to women over the same period. While Kal’s evolution periodically raised my eyebrows, I found that the world-building was by and large very solid and well-done, based on ‘Matrix’-style themes of a citizenry controlled by a virtual reality to hide a dystopian reality from them. The wild-West settings beyond The City provide a salutary contrast as a backdrop for Kal’s adventures. Definitely worth a read for sci-fi fans.

Rituals of the Dead, Jennifer S. Alderson

Rituals of the Dead, Jennifer S. Alderson

Rituals of the Dead: An Artifact Mystery (Adventures of Zelda Richardson Book 3)

Rituals of the Dead is a tense mystery thriller that combines the sedate world of Dutch museums with a decades-old murder on the far side of the world. Zelda Richardson is an American expatriate, working as an intern to support her Master’s thesis in Amsterdam, when her research starts dragging up details that don’t quite mesh with the official version of events. Her off-books work almost costs her her internship, and that’s only the beginning of the trouble. Can Zelda figure out how the facts tie together before the consequences catch up with her?

Author Jennifer S. Alderson has a unique gift for taking a setting that should be incredibly tranquil, and smoothly weaving in the oddities that make her case until the calm of the academic atmosphere is well and truly overturned. Zelda isn’t a hardboiled and capable detective; in fact, she’s the opposite; timid and willing to allow people to treat her badly in case standing up for herself causes her to lose her position, but driven by curiosity to investigate the threads that don’t quite tie in. The world-building in this series is also outstanding, built on detail but without beating the reader over the head with a litany of research. Fans of mystery and crime will definitely enjoy this book.