Lightning Struck, Miranda Hardy

Lightning Struck, Miranda Hardy

Lightning Struck (The Roaming Curse Book 1)

Elysia is running again, fleeing from the fall-out of her uncontrollable ability to affect the weather—and the people who want to capture her, along with any members of her family they can lay hands on. When a mysterious package shows up in her anonymous hotel room, it leads her back to Florida, where she finds out that not only is she not alone, but her world is even stranger than she imagined.

Lightening Struck is a pleasant read, not delving too deeply into its characters or topics; a young-adult novel, where our teenaged heroine finds herself not only transplanted to a small Florida town, but also rapidly becomes the bone of contention between two of the outstandingly handsome and magnetic young men living there—as if the risk of causing hurricanes weren’t enough for any teenager. I enjoyed the treatment of Elysia’s ability/curse, and how her moods interacted with the weather, and several of the characters were entertaining to read. One thing I struggled with a little was that the book is written first person/present tense, which makes my brain itch, and I did find that the plausibility suffered in a few places, such as the romance angles. However, the finale was believable, if a trifle on the miraculous-happy end of the scale.

The Alchemist’s Box, Alex Avrio

The Alchemist’s Box, Alex Avrio

The Alchemist’s Box (The Merchant Blades Book 1)

Regina Fitzwaters is a mercenary, one of the many soldiers who enlisted in an army that, with the advent of peace, no longer needs them. After losing her savings in a high-stakes card game, she finds herself entrapped into a mission across the treacherous Ugarri Pass at the onset of winter. Employed by a pair of criminals with no scruples and forced to take as her co-commander a mercenary previously from the opposing army, Fitzwaters is so far outside her comfort zone that she couldn’t even find it on a map, and that’s only the start of her troubles…

The Alchemist’s Box is a well-written fantasy adventure, spiced with magic that hardly anyone believes in, true prophecy that no one wants to believe in, and full of unlikely alliances. I read this book in two sittings, and on top of an excellently paced and planned plot, I found that the characters really shone. I’m a shameless sucker for intelligent anti-heroes, and Kapitan Maximillian Jaeger deserves, at the least, an honourable mention in that category. Competent, conflicted, and dark to the core, I found that he stole centre stage as far as characterisation went. The protagonist, Regina Fitzwaters, expressed very accurately the vivid exasperation of a competent, intelligent woman consistently underestimated and insulted on account of her gender, but that was the main impression left by the character. The twist at the end of the book in the very conflicted relationship between Fitzwaters and Jaeger was also a nice change from the traditional cliché. Overall, I would highly recommend this book – a most engaging read.

Sweet-pea’s Thief, J Cassidy

Sweet-pea’s Thief, J Cassidy

Sweet-pea’s Thief, J Cassidy

Sweet-pea has had her body stolen and been, for all intents and purposes, transported into a mirror universe version of her old hometown. Adopted by a pair of men who collect Old time, Sweet-pea seems to be a catalyst for disruption in the small community; beyond that, the roving dangers known as the Tin Men seem to be drawn to her. Sweet-pea wants nothing more than to find a way to get her own body back, but even that goal may have to be put on hold…

Sweet-pea’s Thief is a light, pleasant read, with good-hearted principal characters and villains who fall somewhere along the chaotic neutral scale. Sweet-pea’s many predicaments are eased by a series of loyal companions who support and educate her in how to survive her new circumstances each time, while the book’s settings are leavened by magic, time travel, and a touch of true love. Much as I enjoyed this book, I would have personally found it more compelling if the consequences hadn’t been so reliably softened by the lucky discovery of a faithful and useful companion at each turn in the story. However, I would recommend the read, especially for younger readers. It’s a solid fantasy adventure with a strain of Peter Pan to it that will appeal to a wide audience.

Web of Eyes, Jaime Castle

Web of Eyes, Jaime Castle

Web of Eyes (The Buried Goddess Saga Book 1)

Torsten Unger is Wearer of the White to a dying king. With one sickly son and a foreign-born, unstable Queen, he’s all too well aware that the conquered lands around the Glass Kingdom will be planning their invasions before the throne goes cold. Despite this, the Queen insists that more knights be sent into the deadly Webbed Woods in an attempt to retrieve a doll for the heir to the throne – a doll that she insists holds a piece of her son’s soul. To stand a chance where so many others have failed, Torsten knows he needs to enlist some help – the kind of help he wouldn’t normally consider.

Web of Eyes has a lot going for it – a truly excellent, attention-catching title, imaginative world-building, and complex politics with a variety of nations and influences. On the other hand, the characters didn’t do much for me; if they had benefited from the same level of development that clearly went into the world-building, I would have been ecstatic. As it was, Torsten and all his entourage came across as takes on various well-established types – the emotionally fragile queen, the muscled warrior hero, the trickster thief…you get the idea. However, with a little tightening up on the storylines, and a bit more character development, this would have been solidly in the running for five stars. I would still recommend it to anyone who enjoys adventure fantasy.

Beyond the Vale, Kerry Alan Denney

Beyond the Vale, Kerry Alan Denney

Beyond the Vale

Logan isn’t sure if he’s dreaming, dead, or simply finally lost his marbles. There’s a woman he should know, a personal history he should know, and all he has is a blank in his head. There are doors that lead to impossible geography and photos that could never have been taken. However, crazy or not, something is clearly very wrong – and like it or not, Logan has apparently been elected general saviour of the world.

Beyond the Vale is one of those books where you spend the first few chapters just as confused as the protagonist, trying to figure out what’s going on. The author succeeds in conveying that utter disorientation particularly realistically in this book. However, coming out of that disorientation, you will pretty much perforce be very keyed in on the characters in the plot; Logan’s development through the book is a key theme and provides a lot of food for thought, especially since his development is all you find out about him until the latter stages of the book, where some of his missing past comes to light. The storyline is richly layered, and provides more thinking material the deeper you choose to delve into it. Definitely something to pick up for all the fantasy fans out there.

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