Prophecy, Petra Landon

Prophecy, Petra Landon

The Prophecy (Saga of the Chosen Book 1)

Tasia has just, finally, made a place for herself, off everyone’s radar in San Francisco. She’s got two low-level jobs and an apartment in a crappy part of town. She’s registered as about the lowest level of magic user that can still work, and so far, no one’s asking inconvenient questions – up until a side-gig cleaning magical residue leads her to do the powerful Shifter clans a favour. That leads Tasia into a series of events that bring her into more and more danger of blowing her cover – and an increasingly tangled relationship with the enigmatic Alpha Protector.

The Prophecy is an entertaining blend of urban fantasy and paranormal romance, set in a San Francisco where the magical community lives side by side with normal humans, keeping their differences hidden by whatever means necessary. I felt that more clarity around exactly why Tasia was attempting to hide, and from whom, would have strengthened the story; in hiding because bad things was really the plot summary I walked away with on that score. Some of the character reactions also came across as inconsistent, which is a shame as the story is complex and well-paced, and offers a number of points of interest to the reader. I really feel with a little more polishing and character development this could easily make a five-star review. Fans of urban fantasy, and especially those who enjoy a spunky but submissive protagonist, will definitely find this an enjoyable read.

Who By Water, Victoria Raschke

Who By Water, Victoria Raschke

Who By Water (Voices of the Dead Book 1)

Jo Wiley is one of those anomalies: an American living in Slovenia. With a group of friends, she manages a tea house in Ljubljana and keeps the various aspects of her social life strictly separate. When Jo accompanies a friend to the opening of a new archaeological exhibit in town, the worst she’s expecting to have to deal with is being polite to a slimy bar owner who fancies himself irresistible to women. She’s not expecting to see one of her lovers murdered, or to suddenly receive a warning from her dead father…

Who by Water layers realistic fantasy and fantastic reality over the ancient setting of Slovenia’s capital, weaving in allusions to the Catholic Inquisition, witch hunters, and older than both, the Roman settlement of Iulia Aemona that preceded the city. Victoria Raschke’s writing provides an eminently plausible scenario of ancient artifacts and psychic abilities drawn to Ljubljana’s historic nexus, with Jo Wiley, our pragmatic protagonist, front and centre with a talent for speaking to the dead that she wasn’t aware she possessed. I found the pacing of the novel was excellent, and while some of the characters hinted at far more backstory than was actually explored in the book, the story was well-written and a highly enjoyable start to the series.

Stolen Ink, Holly Evans

Stolen Ink, Holly Evans

Stolen Ink (Ink Born Book 1)

Dacian’s a tattoo magician. He’s got a business that pays well enough to let him put his feet up and keep the door closed every so often if he wants to, and a good business partner. Going unnoticed is exactly what he likes best. Unfortunately, it looks as if the gods aren’t content any more with merely raining on him; his tattoos are collecting strays, and someone else is apparently collecting other peoples’ tattoos. The words ‘ink magician’ are flying around a lot more than Dacian’s happy with, but when the tattoo thief strikes close to home, any choice Dacian can live with is going to get him noticed…

The first thing you’re going to notice about Stolen Ink is its strong, unique, cynical voice, and that it’s laugh-out-loud funny in places. The second thing, probably, will be that it’s a couple of hours later than you expected. Author Holly Evans has created a deeply-detailed fantasy world with a rich variety of species and magic types loose in it, and all the conflict points you could want to spark a story. The characters are memorably individual, and, impressively, the author manages to include companion animal spirits without in any way coming off as a Philip Pullman impression. This book truly puts the ‘fantasy’ in urban fantasy – highly enjoyable.

The Atlas Defect, A J Scudiere

The Atlas Defect, A J Scudiere

The Atlas Defect (The NightShade Forensic Files, Book 3)

Eleri Eames was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and a mystic for a grandmother. Her uncanny string of successful profiles for the FBI left her facing an inquiry into whether she’d been involved…until NightShade scooped her and her instincts up and put her to work. With her partner, Donovan Heath, Eleri is following up on a report of ‘weird’ bones in a national forest – in a snowstorm. Happily, the snow isn’t a problem for Donovan’s nose – the fact that ‘weird’ might be an understatement, on the other hand, is liable to crack open something that no one wants to see the light of day.

The Atlas Defect was a highly enjoyable read, offering plausibly imperfect characters and an original slant on shape-shifters. Despite being the third in the NightShade Forensic Files series, I had no trouble reading it as a standalone; there was enough back-story evoked as the adventure progressed to flesh out the characters, without leaving the pacing bogged down in an info-dump. ‘GJ’ Janson was the only real weak point in the story for me; she went to far too much trouble to insert herself into the investigation to roll over that easily when push came to shove (trying not to drop too many spoilers here). Other than that, the plot contains a nice mix of macabre and mystery, the pacing is good, and the twists were nicely handled. Certainly one to add to your to-read list.

Fly by Night, Cris and Clare Meyers

Fly by Night, Cris and Clare Meyers

Fly by Night (Criminal Elements #2)

Rook is screwed. His ex-boss burned him so thoroughly that most of his contacts won’t even give him the time of day, the team said ex-boss hoped to kill with him hold him responsible for the mess, and he’s methodically experimenting to see if life looks any better through the bottom of a bottle. That’s before the voices in his head decide to bitch-slap him from halfway across town and someone tries to blow up the one person still willing to speak to him…

Fly by Night is an excellent sequel to Playing with Fire, with the main focus passing to the maverick hacker and shape-shifter, Rook. While Rook manages to rub everyone the wrong way in the first novel, authors Cris and Clare Meyers have done a lot to make the character more easy to get along with in the first person view of him, and his malfunctioning magical gifts make an entertaining side-show to the main action.

A second book in a series isn’t always the easiest thing to pull off. However, this sequel manages to avoid inconsistencies in plot and characterisation, and pulls together an entertaining and action-filled story that gives tantalising glimpses of the likely series story arc moving forward. These books are also by and large well-edited, which I always deeply appreciate, and the magic system has some convincing and occasionally hilarious downsides. Definitely something worth picking up for anyone’s urban fantasy collection.

Playing With Fire, Cris and Clare Meyers

Playing With Fire, Cris and Clare Meyers

Playing with Fire: Criminal Elements #1

Playing With Fire is an urban fantasy set in the underground world of international crime, where the top operators use magic to augment their more mundane skills. Renée Devereaux is a professional thief, flying about as far under the radar as she can. Sam ‘Stone’ Anders is a hitman for hire. When they meet on a job in Russia, the fact that the job requires both of their diverse skill sets turns out to not even be the strangest thing about it, and it takes all Renee’s magic with stealth and Stone’s destructive Talent with fire for them both to escape with their hides intact. Nearly fifteen years later, when a chance to take out the man who set them up in Russia comes their way, they’re both more than ready to accept the challenge…

Renée and Stone make for interesting protagonists; they initially come across as the French chick and the all-American hero, but they develop into much stronger, more original presences in the story, adding their own unique quirks. While all the characters are written very much in the present, the interactions are really one of the high points in the book, especially once the secondary characters are introduced. There are plenty of hints of more back story to be uncovered, and as this is the first in a series, it’s not much of a stretch to assume that details will be forthcoming as the series unfolds. Rook, Grace, and Medium make a quality supporting cast.

I felt that there were areas where the tension could potentially have been made a little more of; Renée and Stone are written as highly competent, and in places, it made it hard to worry too much about their long-term well-being. The magic structure has some particularly nice touches, realistically written and with enough downsides to make it plausible, and it added an excellent thread of ‘power corrupts’ to the overall plot. The book was also editorially solid, which I always appreciate. Taken all in all, this is a very enjoyable story, a strong series-starter – I look forwards to seeing what authors Cris and Clare Meyers do with the next couple of books.