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.

The Bones of the Past, Craig A Munro

The Bones of the Past, Craig A Munro

The Bones of the Past (The Books of Dust and Bone #1)

Craig A. Munro’s The Bones of the Past  was one of those books where I seesawed on my final ranking for quite some time, which is unusual for me. Part of my trouble was that the individual storylines were perfectly readable fantasy, even if none of them really had me fixated to each new page. A little more depth to the character development might have helped pull me into the book; Salt, particularly, went from a nobody sailor with a whore fixation to a commander of an elite anti-magic unit who never so much as glanced at another woman in a matter of months, which was a noteworthy accomplishment.

My real challenge came in when I took the book as a whole. The individual storylines were fine, but I could find very little linking them all together. Salt’s story and Nial’s had clear links, and towards the end of the book, you start to get the link between Salt, Nial, and the Tolrahkali. I still wasn’t precisely sure where the Sacral storyline fitted in when I closed the book, over 500 pages later. In addition to the fact that the storylines just never meshed for me, there were consistent grammatical issues throughout that kept grabbing my attention away from the characters’ predicaments. I couldn’t help but feel that this book would have merited a much higher ranking after a really strong developmental edit and a copy edit; the elements were definitely there, just not in its current form.

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.

Eye of the Storm, Frank Cavallo

Eye of the Storm, Frank Cavallo

Eye of the Storm

Gathered in the wake of a series of reports of odd weather and odder events in one of the most remote areas of Kyrgyzstan, a group of scientists, TV personalities, and mercenaries hope to establish the truth – or the lie – behind the stories of Neanderthals in armour attacking army and air force detachments in the area. On the other hand, no matter how prepared, no team is ready for chasing a flight of pterosaurs into the eye of the storm in a helicopter – and that’s not even the strangest thing Dr. Fayne and Eric Slade will face in their adventure.

Frank Cavallo’s Eye of the Storm offers an adventure of peoples and creatures caught out of their times and worlds; a fantasy take, if you will, on Arthur C. Clarke’s Time’s Eye. Anna Fayne’s ill-fated group is merely the latest of a series of unfortunates and adventurers who have been caught up by the storm, and now they share a world with everything from completely alien species to mammoths, ancient Etruscans, and pterosaurs. I found this was by and large an enjoyable read; some of the characters and interactions felt to me as if they would have benefited from a little more polishing, and the overarching aim of the plot took a little while to come clear, but generally the story hung together well. Definitely worth the read.

I Belong to the Earth, J A Ironside

I Belong to the Earth, J A Ironside

I Belong to the Earth: Unveiled, Book 1

A car smash was the turning point for all three sisters, and especially Emlynn, traumatised and with a head injury that apparently kick-started her on-again-off-again ability to perceive the dead. Isolated, and struggling with her own problems, there’s no-one Emlynn can tell about the cold patch on the stairs, or the figures she sees watching their house, or the sense of sheer menace she’s getting off her oldest sister’s new boyfriend. Each of the sisters has their role to play, and it seems the harder Emlynn tries to fight, the more ground she loses.

I Belong to the Earth is a complex story with a depth and richness far beyond most of the YA genre I’ve read. It’s welcomely free of stereotypes and miraculous solutions, and the fantasy elements are solidly thought-out and woven into the plot with a realism that chills. Author J. A. Ironside writes the side-effects of trauma with an understanding that adds dimensions to Emlynn’s struggle. With excellent pacing and incredibly convincing characterisation, this book totally earnt its five stars. I read it in a couple of sittings, and actually read all the teasers at the end looking for more (I never do that). I strongly recommend this read – one of the best fantasy books I’ve come across this year.