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.

Killing Sanford, Mike Kershner

Killing Sanford, Mike Kershner

Killing Sanford (Gary Cannon Book 1)

Gary Cannon is an assassin, working for Sanford International Holdings. Killing Sanford sees Gary reluctantly working on US soil, with a quadruple hit slated to take place in Omaha. He hopes that sticking to field protocol will shift the intense unease that’s been dogging him since he climbed out onto the runway, but old nightmares continue to dog him as he makes his reconnaissance of the targets. Eventually, driven by the nagging sense that something is badly amiss, he calls in the details of one of the hits to his HQ, only to find that he’s pulling on the tail of something bigger and much more dangerous than he’d anticipated, bound up in old history.

Mike Kershner’s style features cameos of the history underpinning Gary’s current situation, the story weaving between 1976 Omaha and the period just after WWII and later, describing the events leading to the founding of Sanford International. Killing Sanford pulls this off better than many stories, with the various timelines transitioning smoothly from one to the other. I did find that the pacing of the story was held back by the level of description, and in places repetition, as well as the writing style, which was awkward enough in places to pull me out of full immersion in the storyline. Aside from that, however, the plot was strong, with some interesting twists and turns. Definitely a good read in the Jack Higgins genre for thriller fans.

The Wolfe Experiment, R W Adams

The Wolfe Experiment, R W Adams

The Wolfe Experiment

Ethan and his younger sister, Tilly, are orphaned after a traffic accident that kills their parents. They end up in the system, bouncing from foster home to secure home to foster home, trailed by a series of horrific incidents that have no logical connection to the two children. Their parents, both doctors, had been medicating them from an early age, and now, Ethan gradually realises that without whatever it was their parents had been giving them, Tilly is liable to bring the house down – literally – every time she falls asleep.

The Wolfe Experiment explores the world from various points in Ethan’s life and largely from Ethan’s viewpoint; hopping from his childhood with his parents through several foster homes to finally going on the run from the social system, the military, and the police with a sister in desperate need of expert care. The writing of the book is technically strong, which I always appreciate, but I found the story a little difficult for me to get into. Some of that may have been the hopping back and forth along Ethan’s timeline, which in places had me reflexively checking the date in the chapter header rather than staying immersed in the plot, and some of it was that Ethan felt like something of an empty vessel, by which I mean he was the main protagonist, but what the reader gets is a lot of dialogue, descriptions of events, and not a lot that actually fleshed Ethan out as a person for me. However, I have to give credit where credit is due on the plot twist; it’s well foreshadowed and handled.

Everyone Dies at the End, Riley Amos Westbrook

Everyone Dies at the End, Riley Amos Westbrook

Everyone Dies at the End

Everyone Dies at the End, by Riley and Sara Westbrook, opens in the mouldering and trash-littered home of a pair of desperate junkies, fighting over the tiny amount of drugs they can afford. Earl, infuriated by Jadee’s attack, adulterates her dose with mould scraped from the walls of their home. Jadee, hospitalised and in a coma, eventually regains consciousness, but Earl is horrified to see that she’s altered, feral – and dangerous. Shortly after Jadee’s awakening, Earl finds her skull split by a huge mushroom rooted in her brain, the people around her alternately dead or ruthlessly predatory. Desperate to escape and driven by his addiction, Earl runs from the corpse of his girlfriend into a world that will never be the same again.

Everyone Dies at the End is a classic zombie horror story with a twist, the world of the two drug addicts with whom it begins contrasted against the mundane existence of three ordinary families who are caught up in the events that Earl and Jadee set in motion. The characters are plausible, exploring the theme of normal life thrown into a conflict situation by the unexpected, and the vector by which the disease is spread is original and plays neatly on a very familiar element turning into nightmare. Riley and Sara Westbrook have written a novel that is bound to entertain fans of zombie fiction.

Seeds of Hatred, Christian Nadeau

Seeds of Hatred, Christian Nadeau

Seeds of Hatred (Scions Awakened Book 1)

Marac is an assassin, and unlike most of his previous colleagues, not a dead one. Alex is a Lightbearer, one of the rare, gifted members of a cult that the Brotherhood reviles. Soren is a Brotherhood soldier, one of the few born of the nobility that the Brotherhood seeks to control. Each, in their own way, has been affected by the rise of an ancient enemy, and each, in their own way, has chosen to fight something that most of society doesn’t believe still exists.

Seeds of Hatred is written in the classic epic fantasy style; ancient enemy awakening, chosen few leading the fight, unexpected allies, magic that no one has seen in generations, you name it, the book has it. The world-building is solid, with a magic system that supports the plot, and an interesting take on a type of magic that requires drinking blood, as opposed to the classic vampire. For me, the characters were the weak point in the story; while some of the back-stories were very strong, on the whole the gender stereotypes were so ingrained that some actions and reactions were regrettably predictable. Alex was the only character who managed to partially break free of the mould, and even she was gifted early on with a male protector to explain the world to her. There are also quite a few viewpoints, leaving me in a few spots having to flip back to check whose story I’d just arrived in. However, I have to give this book points on pacing: I didn’t find myself fading out or being tempted to skip parts – the various plot lines were well-maintained and the continuity was good. This is a book that epic fantasy fans will find worth the read.