The Book of Abisan, C H Clepitt

The Book of Abisan, C H Clepitt

The Book of Abisan

The Book of Abisan is an adventurous urban fantasy, where a religious elite that persecutes magic users is extending its activities across alternate realities.

Yfrey is a magic user on the run, her home long since gone and her family and friends dead or imprisoned. Jacques works as an archivist in the UK, keeping people at a distance as much as she can. When a fluke of magic sends Yfrey stumbling into Jacques’s life, neither Jacques nor Yfrey thinks they stand a chance of surviving the pursuit on Yfrey’s trail, never mind fighting back—but the freedom of two worlds is hanging on their success.

The Book of Abisan creates a tantalising cast of relatable characters, with their own traumas and doubts, trying to pull off the impossible. On the one hand the story combines a journey to self-discovery for the protagonists, and on the other the storyline is balanced by violence and danger. As I’m not keen on the fluffy-fluffy approach in my reading, I appreciated author C. H. Clepitt’s ability to inject glimpses of gritty realism into the plot. The book makes good use of the alternate realities theme, building up the antagonists across realities in very different guises.

Pangaea; the Sunslinger, Bolivar Beato

Pangaea; the Sunslinger, Bolivar Beato

Pangaea; the Sunslinger: (Age of Immortals)

Pangaea is an epic fantasy-style story that makes a valiant effort to be all things to all people. Peopled with semi-immortal, metres-tall races, Pangaea is not a peaceful area. The young of the ruling class spend centuries of their long lives learning the arts of war, and subsequently the rest of their lives applying that knowledge.

I found that this book, while some of the settings were interesting, tried to mix and match too many cultures and races to permit focus on the actual story. It read rather like the literary equivalent of a tube of glitter mix – pretty, but neither logical nor coherent.

It is also a smorgasbord of mythological references, relying heavily on Norse legend, but mixing in a variety of Greek and Eastern influences as well. Everything from Valkyrie to lamassu shows up at some point, and while I applaud the eclectic representation, I didn’t find that most of the various types of legends did more than figuratively appear on stage and take a bow; for the vast majority, their history and significance had no role in the story other than to show up.

I also admit I had difficulty finding much empathy for the protagonists. The perfect heir in hiding, famous in his hometown for his mastery of pretty much everything he put his hand to, and the high-born but utterly useless princess both lacked appeal for me. I do feel that with a thorough developmental edit to unearth the bones of the story from the rest, this story could have worthwhile elements, but as it is, the reader is left, like a lone archaeologist, to attempt to unearth stray threads of the plot from the surroundings that they’re buried in.

Shifting Identities, Cris and Clare Meyers

Shifting Identities, Cris and Clare Meyers

Shifting Identities (Criminal Elements Book 3)

Shifting Identities combines the excitement of an international vault heist with shape-shifting shenanigans. Carlos, reluctant apprentice criminal and shape-shifter, didn’t realise that the job description came with trips to Europe included when he joined up. However, between ancient European magical families, rival criminal groups, and deadly intrigue, he doesn’t have much time left over to admire the scenery. With Grace, the outfit’s con-woman, he has a key role to play in the group’s latest adventure, and a lot of very fast learning to do…

The latest instalment in Cris and Clare Meyers’ urban fantasy series, Shifting Identities, moves the focus onto Grace and Carlos. Featuring a high-speed tour of Western Europe and vault-breaking that includes deadly magical traps, this book is well-paced and filled with the series’ signature dialogue-centred adventure. I found that the underlying focus on Carlos’s growing into his place within the group allows for his ongoing education to inform the reader without straying into info-dump territory, and the glimpses into Renee’s much-hinted-at past were suitably intriguing. One of the strong aspects of this series is a solidly-developed magic system; a system that includes downsides, and isn’t the magical equivalent of duct tape for any situation. That, and a divergent cast of characters, makes this book, and the series, very enjoyable to read.

The Midsummer Wife, Jacqueline Church Simonds

The Midsummer Wife, Jacqueline Church Simonds

The Midsummer Wife (The Heirs to Camelot Book 1)

The Midsummer Wife is the modern outcome of Arthurian intrigue, a story of secretive organisations and hidden heritage culminating in Britain’s salvation. The aftermath of a nuclear terrorist attack on the heart of London has brought Britain to its knees, with the capital shattered and the countryside overrun with refugees.  Ava Cerdwen is the High Priestess of the Goddessian Church, and the woman tasked with bringing the heirs of Merlin and Arthur out of obscurity to heal their shattered country.

Author Jacqueline Church Simonds has pulled together a number of classic threads to weave her tale, with secretive cults of priestesses bringing forwards ancient knowledge to manipulate events, hidden heirs to power reluctantly acknowledging their heritage, and Druidic rites. Fans of Arthurian legend will find this a satisfying read, with a nod to all the right touchpoints, including a planned seduction that goes wildly astray. There are places where the reader relies on Ava’s mental commentary for a lot of the context, and couple of places where one of the protagonists happens to have just exactly the unlikely item required to save the day, but by and large the pacing and the storyline don’t require the help, and the whole forms a very pleasant read.

The Colonel and the Bee, Patrick Canning

The Colonel and the Bee, Patrick Canning

The Colonel and the Bee: A Globe-Trotting Adventure

The Colonel and the Bee is a sunny, swashbuckling adventure of giant hot-air balloons, treasure hunting, and international mystery. From the moment that Bee runs away from her old life as The Amazing Beatrix in a travelling circus and encounters the mysterious and infamous Colonel James Bacchus, she finds herself immersed in the new and the strange on every side, from investigating a bona fide murder in the Netherlands to crossing the Sahara in the Colonel’s amazing flying home.

It’s often easy, when using a very distinctive type of dialect or language, to either get carried away or to start falling out of character. Author Patrick Canning managed to maintain an endearingly old-world form of English without falling into either of these traps, and it made a great addition to the overall atmosphere of the story. While I had the impression that the storyline at times played fast and loose with distance and geography, the book is a highly enjoyable adventure, well-paced and filled with original characters. The Derringer Sisters, an international sisterhood of jilted ex-flames of the Colonel’s, were one of my favourite examples of the humour that makes appearances through the read. There’s enough suspense to keep a reader interested, which is quite a feat as the book is largely very light-hearted. I can’t over-recommend this for anyone looking for a fun adventure read.

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.

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