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The Tremblers, Raquel Byrnes

The Tremblers, Raquel Byrnes

The Tremblers (Blackburn Chronicles)

The Tremblers was a fast-paced thrill-ride set in a plausible, well thought-out steampunk world. Charlotte Blackburn is one of the elite, a Society debutante whose greatest concern is supposed to be the trim on her chainmail bodice. However, the night that she first encounters one of the tremblers, infected with a plague of unknown origin, her life changes forever. Charlotte finds herself caught up in events that will shape the future of her world, on the run from the law with a man she barely knows, and she’s somehow supposed to keep up still swathed in a ball gown.

Author Raquel Byrnes has created a very intriguing world, a steampunk version of the States where the major cities are confined and protected by Tesla domes against the man-made disaster outside. The thought that clearly went into the little details of the setting shines through without overwhelming the plot. While (I admit it) Charlotte’s tendency to end up in tears got to me periodically, overall the character had a lot of depth and her own unique perspective on the situations she found herself in. Despite the breakdowns, she kept going, and as the situation got more dire, she developed a streak of self-reliance and got the job done. The pacing is excellent, and the adventures largely plausible in context; definitely enough to keep the reader turning pages. I’d highly recommend this read to readers of adventure of all kinds; steampunk with some truly unique twists.

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.

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.

The Long Road to Missouri, Bowdoin

The Long Road to Missouri, Bowdoin

The Long Road to Missouri: The Pivot Papers Chapter One

The Long Road to Missouri offered an interesting combination of thriller and horror. Missouri is ‘retired’, otherwise and unofficially known as too much trouble, and too well-connected, to kill. He’s living in a trailer in the backwoods and enjoying his solitude when the police shake him down for information on the murder of a detective—which he didn’t commit. When Missouri finds out that the corpse had had its right hand hacked off, he realises that he is involved, like it or not…and that involvement is likely to jeopardise his retirement.

When I started reading this book, it came across as a standard crime thriller, and then the supernatural elements started threading in. To be honest I found the mix of the action and supernatural elements was very well done; the lack of fanfare, and the victims’ disbelief, were both very effective tactics to build the effect. To help all that along, the scene-setting contained just enough to provide a mental backdrop without spending pages on detail. Unfortunately the ending feels more like a pause than a conclusion, and I’m not desperately fond of that type of finale. However, the book was well-written and thoroughly edited, and very much an enjoyable read; John le Carre with flavours of Anne Rice.

Meet the author:

  • Any sign of author online gratefully received – The Snarky Bookworm
The Rose Thief, Claire Buss

The Rose Thief, Claire Buss

The Rose Thief

The Rose Thief has an upside down opening: quite literally, as Ned Spinks, Chief Thief Catcher, is suspended by his heels for questioning at the time. Someone’s been stealing the Emperor’s roses, and one of them embodies the force of love. Steal that, and the kingdom will lose all ability to care. Ned’s job is to track the rose thief…before he or she makes off with the rose of love. Between that, an undercover warlock, and the murder of a prominent figure in Roshaven’s underworld, Ned’s dance card for the day is getting full – and that’s without the diplomatic pitfalls of beetle cheesecake (spit or swallow?)

The Rose Thief is a light-hearted comedy fantasy, set in a world of magic and intrigue (and we aren’t going to mention the strap-on attachment that allows humans to talk with Sparks the firefly). The plot weaves politics, family feuds, and the power of love into a colourful adventure, underscored with a telling commentary on gender discrimination that forms a more serious sideline to the main story. The character of Jenni, Ned’s partner-come-nemesis, was one that particularly drew me – a sprite with an entertainingly foul mouth to match her customary aroma, Jenni is one of the most powerful characters in the story, a force of nature with no interest in being in charge. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys laughter and fantasy.

Sherlock Holmes and the Cult of Cthullu, James G. Boswell

Sherlock Holmes and the Cult of Cthullu, James G. Boswell

Sherlock Holmes and the Cult of Cthulhu

When a series of gruesome murders among London’s upper crust stymies Scotland Yard, Inspector Lestrade reaches out to Dr. Watson and Mr. Holmes for help. Between the brutality of the stab wounds to each victim and the inevitable presence of a hidden symbol near each body, it’s up to Sherlock Holmes to prove a mundane connection between the murders where everyone else is pursuing a supernatural option…including his faithful partner, Dr. Watson.

Sherlock Holmes and the Cult of Cthullu was an enjoyable homage to the great consulting detective, with all the conflicting theories, and daring disguises a reader might expect. I found the final rationale for the murders was very plausible, although Holmes’s capture and imprisonment location slightly less so. It was clear that author James G. Boswell had done significant amounts of research into the period to support the plot; I did find that Watson marvelling at scenes of Victorian London pulled me a little out of the character, as these scenes would have been commonplace for him. This tendency also somewhat impacted the pacing in the beginning of the read. Happily, it largely disappeared after the early scenes of the book, and aside from that, the technical side of the writing was very clean, which I always appreciate.