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.

The Eye of Nefertiti, Maria Luisa Lang

The Eye of Nefertiti, Maria Luisa Lang

The Eye of Nefertiti

The Eye of Nefertiti: A Pharoah’s Cat Novel is a fantasy story following the adventures of Wrappa-Hamen, a cat from ancient Egypt who, due to an encounter with the goddess Bastet of the Egyptian pantheon, has the ability to walk and talk (and eat) like a human. When he is forced to flee Egypt with his chief ally, Gato-Hamen, High Priest of Amun-Ra, after the death of the Pharoah, the invocation goes a little awry and lands them both in modern-day America, where a chance liaison between Gato-Hamen and a woman named Elena results in a second chance for both of them to serve their Pharoah.

This book plays into the classic stream of books with a lovable animal protagonist. Wrappa-Hamen is the ultimate spoiled housecat, but to the usual options of ‘nap on the keyboard’ or ‘knock the glassware onto the floor’ he adds the ability to speak and use door handles. I found this book something of a mix between a young-adult – most of the story is light-hearted, simply-written, and the protagonist is an ideal match for the genre – and a couple of darker, more adult themes that start to wrap in towards the end, leaving me with a somewhat odd contrast at the end of the book. Overall, though, this is a well-researched story, a very pleasant read.

The Eagle’s Flight, Daniel E Olsen

The Eagle’s Flight, Daniel E Olsen

The Eagle’s Flight: The Chronicles of Adalmearc, 1 – 3

The Eagle’s Flight tells of a troubled time in Adalmearc’s history; with an infant king on the throne, Sigvard’s line is weakened, there is insurgence among the barbarians on the far side of the Langstan wall, and powerful nobles jockey for power that rightly belongs to the throne. Rivalry is the order of the day, and there are influences within the capital of Middanhal willing to play those forces against each other, no matter the cost to the kingdom. As the net of information stretching across the kingdom trembles to the news, the Order of Adal has no choice but to try to keep the peace.

This book offers a rich and complex fantasy epic with a distinctly Nordic feel. The story’s perspectives span a kingdom, and its cast of characters reaches from the commander of the Order’s armies to a kitchen girl. Despite or because of the number of pieces in play, author Daniel E. Olsen has a masterly hand on the threads of the story. Although in some sections the level of description occasionally slows the pacing, it wasn’t enough to prevent me from enjoying the read. The characters are by and large well-developed, with plenty of depth and their own motivations, which always helps to draw me into a story, and the political backdrop of the various areas is convincingly detailed. Fans of this genre will be certain to find this a treat.

The Eagle's Flight cover

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