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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.

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.

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.

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.