Ted Nolan <tednolan>
2018-09-05 03:27:38 UTC
Witch's Reign (Desert Cursed Series Book 1)
by Shannon Mayer
I see looking in my Calibre library that I have several books by
Shannon Mayer, but I do believe this is the first one I have actually
At some time in the future, "supes", or supernatural creatures have
returned to the Earth. I believe there is another Mayer series in
this setting, so perhaps there is a more detailed explanation there,
but in this book all we are told is that they exist and are barred from
"human" areas of the globe by a magical wall that keeps them confined in
an area near the Caspian Sea. A third person prologue establishes that
the wall was put up by Merlin (yes, apparently *that* Merlin) who now
thinks it was a bad idea. Unfortunately, he can't just take it down
because that would attract the notice of the "Emperor" (an offscreen,
but apparently powerful and unforgiving personage). All he (and his
hopefully-soon-to-be-lover compatriot) can do is sponsor catspaws inside
Zamira Wilson is a lion shifter, or she should be. For some reason
unknown to her (but hinted to the reader) her shift form is actually
a house cat. When her father's pack of "Bright Lions" who had taken
the various desert dwellers near the wall under their protection was
almost wiped out by the Djinn, Zamira, her best friend, future husband
and crippled brother were the only survivors.
Fleeing to the protection of the powerful sorceress Ish, Zamira now
works her board by stealing the magical jewels (which are rightfully
Ish's, or so she says) and "returning" them to her. Zamira is pretty
good at her job, but her personal life is a shambles. Dealing not only
with survivor guilt, and the feeling that she is falling short of her
father's ideals, she must confront the fact that her now ex-husband was
sleeping with her best friend, and probably others, and now said friend
is missing on her own jewel retrieval run, not to mention that her brother
has never accepted being crippled and alternates between passive aggressive
attempts to be the pack leader and taking it all out on Zamira..
Now Zamira must rescue her friend (while imagining what the after
confrontation will be like) while pretending to take up the lastest task
Ish has set for her (which was *not* a rescue mission) "helped" only by
her jerkwad ex, his latest conquest and a powerless and despised human.
Oh, and first they have to get through the dragon lands. What could go wrong?
I can't see any indication under any of the classifications Amazon
puts this book under, but to me it read like a Young Adult novel.
Zamira, though technically a divorced adult is a callow and impulsive
character who must come into acceptance of her true self to accomplish
her mission. Along the way, she must also overcome her trust issues
and species-ism to take help where she can find it, and tame her
impulsiveness, so we have something of a bildungsroman here. Also
while as a divorcee, Zamira has obviously had sex, and is mad about
the extra sex her ex and friend have been having, there is no sex
on screen, and no more making out than in a later Harry Potter book.
That's not a criticism, as I am fine with a good YA, just a bit of
an oddity to find one unannounced. While not a great book, this was
entertaining, and I will probably seek out the next (no the wall is
not down..) at some point.
"M33 in Andromeda" (1943) by A. E. van Vogt
The night whispered, the immense night of space that pressed
against the hurtling ship. Voiceless susurration it was,
yet somehow coherent, alive, deadly.
For it called, it beckoned and it warned. It trilled with
a nameless happiness, then hissed with savage, unthinkable
It feared and it hungered. How it hungered! It died-and
reveled in its death. And died again. It whispered of
inconceivable things, wordless, all-enveloping, muttering
flow, tremendous, articulate, threatening night.
"This is an opinion," said somebody behind Morton. "The
ship ought to go back home."
This is the last of van Vogt's "Space Beagle" stories, following that
ship to the terminus of its voyage to the Andromeda galaxy.
This story also introduces "Nexialist" Elliott Grosvenor, who will play
a much larger role in the "fixup" novelization of the three Beagle
stories. In the original continuity he is probably not on board during
the events of "Dark Destroyer", but is acknowledged here to have been
on board during the "Discord In Scarlet" encounter with Xtl, though
he played no part in resolving that crisis, possibly because he is
a somewhat shy young man schooled in a new cross-disciplinary modality
in a crew full of single field experts who don't take him very seriously.
As it happens when the ship arrives at the edge of the galaxy M33
in Andromeda, space is alive with mental whispers as we read above.
And then more than whispers, as it is no man on the ship who has
made that suggestion to Morton. A suggestion, which once declined,
is quickly followed by the transport of ravenous dinosaurs onto the
Beagle's bridge. As always, though the Beagle's crew may face
reverses, they are never long daunted, and after clearing the
infestation, and putting up the main shields, they start exploring
the nearest planets of the galaxy -- every one of which is a
Venus-like jungle world crawling with dinos similar to those just
removed from the ship. This seems too odd to be natural, and
Grosvenor's Nexialist sampling (it appears that van Vogt had heard
of statistical sampling and decided that if current science could
declare something 90% sure with a sampling of hundreds, Nexialism
should be able to declare something 100% sure with a sampling of
three..) establishes that it is in fact not.
So what is doing this to Andromeda's planets, and does it want
The Beagle to go home.. or to *follow* it home?
The answer is typically van Vogtian and well worth your twenty minutes.
You can read or download the story at the link above.
The Morning Star (Imp Series Book 10)
by Debra Dunbar
This is the final book in Dunbar's "Imp" series which has followed the
story of lowly imp "Sam" leaving Hel, finding love on Earth, becoming
an Angel of Chaos and becoming the Iblis, titular ruler of Hel.
Things on Earth have been fairly eventful lately, with the Elf invasion
(which mostly failed) and wild portals opening at random and letting
in dragons, mermaids, Fae and all manner of other-worldly creatures.
It's never been a focus, but in general the human population has taken
things better than the Angels (Sam excepted) expected, but now the
Fallen Ancients in Hel are starting to wake, and finding the Angels
locked out of Aru (Heaven, sorta) resolve to continue the age old battle
on Earth. To make matters worse, they may be led by the Archangel Michael's
brother, and it is not at all clear that Michael, still traumatized
by the deeds he committed in the first war, will strike against him again.
The only thing that could even partly save the situation is a "real"
Iblis in actual command of the demons of Hel, a role Sam has never thought
practical, and certainly not one she wants...
This is a reasonable send-off for Sam and co. There is no neat & tidy
resolution for everything, but Sam is an Angel of Chaos and believes in
muddling-through, and that if the Angles think either they or the demons
are going to truly rule the humans they have another think coming. There
is even some healing and family ties renewed with the Ancients. I do
wish Sam's increasing Iblis powers were explained somewhat better, but
then apparently she doesn't know either.
All in all, I found this a very enjoyable series and will follow whatever
Dunbar writes next.
River of Bones (Destroyermen)
by Taylor Anderson
Matters in that strange alternate world to which an obsolete US Asiatic Fleet
destroyer slipped while in a battle for her life in the opening rounds of
World War II rarely stay static for long.
After finally successfully taking out mad admiral Kurokawa, Matthew Reddy's
fleet, at least those elements close enough to matter, is battered and
sidelined for emergency repairs. This is unfortunate because the Grik
have not been idle in their theater and are ready to dispatch a fleet
of galleys across the narrow ocean passage which separates their deep
heartlands from the captured capital. If they break into the open sea,
the battle is lost because no matter how many hundreds are sunk, enough
of the swarm will get through to land troops where there is simply not
enough force on the ground (nor any means to deliver it) to defeat them.
The only hope is to bottle them up in the river narrows leading to the
sea, and the only ship available to do it is the converted cargo ship
Santa Catalina. Every man & Cat on board knows it is a suicide mission
but one that has to be run -- the correlation of forces will never be
any more favorable as the Grik will always have the numbers, and are
rapidly becoming technologically sophisticated. While we follow the
action on a number of different fronts, and learn some alarming information
about the Dominion & The League of Tripoli, the main focus here is on the
impossible and doomed mission of the Santy Cat in the titular river.
In fact things are so bad that human tank Dennis Silva actually asks a
question nobody thought to ever hear.
This was a good installment in the "Destroyermen" saga. For the action,
of course, but also for the characters. In particular, we see the new
Grik troops, the second generation chosen from the birthing pens for
intelligence and initiative, start to come into their own, developing
distinct personalities and even beginning to question the wisdom of their
first generation superiors. There are even some tantalizing glimpses that
the new Queen Mother is starting to understand that she is getting the
mushroom treatment. I think Anderson's long term goal is to develop
an enemy that can surrender thus avoiding a 1930s SF style genocide.
I also have to think he is building up to interspecies romance, despite
having pulled back somewhat with Silva, Risa & Pam. At this point, it's
hard to imagine Kari & Fred in any other pairing, and Alan & Karen Letts
having adopted two Cat orphans mixes families already. The Republic Of Real
People won't like it, but they are finally fully committed to the Alliance
so they will eventually have to lump it.
Year One: A Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter Collection
by John G. Hartness
Hartness is the author of the "Black Knight" books about a pair of
Charlotte based vampires. I'm not sure that series is over, but
at any rate it is on hold while he writes Quincy Harker stories.
This book is a collection of four Quincy Harker novellas (apparently
published under separate covers at some point) which cover the first
year of his official career.
Harker is the daughter of Mina Harker (yes, that one), and due to
Dracula having given her his blood, Quincy ages very slowly and has
powers beyond those of ordinary humans. He is also something of a
mage, though I'm not clear if that goes with the vampire heritage or
is just something he picked up.
Harker now lives in Charlotte NC, as does his "uncle" Dracula (who was
forced by the events in the famous book to somewhat re-evaluate his
mode of living among humans and adopt a less murderous lifestyle).
As the first novella starts, Harker is a freelance demon hunter charged
with exorcising a young girl, in the event not very successfully (though
though there was nothing anyone could have done). We see his testy
relationship with the Charlotte police department as he keeps turning
up at inexplicable and bloody events and the down-at-the-heels way he
lives. (Though it's not clear why he couldn't use magic to earn some
money.. there doesn't seem to be any code against it).
This introduction is the standard "show a typical case for the guy and
then kick in the main plot" as Harker unexpectedly gets an offer from
the (newly established) paranormal branch of Homeland Security to lend
his expertise to keeping the country safe.
It is clear to me that Harry Dresden is very much a factor in the
Quincy Harker stories. You can see it in his lifestyle, his prickly
relationship to authority, his growing infatuation with his police
liaison and his insistence about doing the "right thing" consequences
be damned. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. There are worse
Urban Fantasy models, and these tales are entertaining enough that
I will probably seek out the next volume.
There are a few rough edges. His relationship with the police
detective seems to be going too fast, especially given her established
boyfriend, and I'm pretty sure the make of Harker's piece-of-crap
car changed without explanation. Also one victim character feels
as though he began being written as a pretty savvy dude, if a bit
of a stoner, and then got changed into a moron without his introduction
being updated. Then there's the way Harker enters into a bad bargain
with a demon for a particular piece of information, when the natural
thing to do would have been to first make an effort to establish
it himself. (Ie: if you want information about what goes on at a
particular place, at least go to that place yourself before putting
yourself in hock to a demon..). Still, a pleasant enough introduction.
Resurrection (Skulduggery Pleasant)
by Derek Landy
Although she has moved back to Ireland after the events of _The Dying of
the Light_, Valkyrie Cain is still suffering the after-effects of both her
recent solo adventure and the traumatic battle for the world where she
did a really terrible thing in the fight against Darquesse.
So when Skulduggery Pleasant shows up at her house trying to get her involved
in his latest case, she has no desire to help, and only after being badgered
does she consent to give him 24 hours of her time. She is convinced that
will convince him she is out of the game; he is sure it will give him time
to draw her back in.
It quickly develops that Skulduggery is now acting under the somewhat
nebulous authority of the Arbiter Corps, having fallen out with
China Sorrows official Sanctuary constabulary, and he is on the
trail of a gang of wild magic users who aim to overthrow the whole
Sanctuary system. Now, his inside man, Temper Fray, is missing.
Oh, and it seems the plan is to bring Skulduggery's old evil
girl-friend back to life ("Start at the skeleton booty call and move
on from there.") and an American President who is absolutely not
Donald Trump is involved somehow..
After taking several years off to write the "Demon Road" trilogy, this
is a welcome return to the setting that made Landy famous (though not here).
It is a little frustrating that Valkyrie is off her game and borderline PTSD
for most of the book, but all the more satisfying when she comes back
after a very touching pep talk from. (Once again confirming that these
books would be wholly inappropriate if Skulduggery were alive). Valkyrie
having aged out of the target demo, we also get some new YA characters
who work out surprisingly well, Omen Darkly and his gender perplexed friend,
The prophecy told of the first-born son of Caddock Sirroco
and Emmeline Darkly, a boy of intelligence and strength
with a courageous heart who, in his seventeenth year, would
face the King of the Darklands in a battle that would decide
the fate of humanity.
Omen Darkly was not that boy. Omen Darkly was the second-born
son of Caddock Sirroco and Emmeline Darkly, albeit only by
a few minutes, and, as such, he got all the leftovers.
Once more, if you are not in the Commonwealth, or willing to lie to Amazon,
there is no ebook edition of _Resurrection_ available, but you can get
a paperback from the link above.
What's not in Columbia anymore..
What's not in Columbia anymore..