Fantasy Book Reviews

I’ve had a nice few days reading through a number of books that have mysteriously appeared on my kindle. (You just click buttons and they appear!) A few quick notes…

Servant of the Crown (Melissa McShane): I bought this one on a whim. It turned up on a list of newly released books from Amazon and, seeing that the price wasn’t so high and the description looked interesting, I bought it. I read it this morning, making me somewhat later than I expected to be for an appointment. The trouble with finding a book I really like is that putting it down is really, really hard! And yes, I really enjoyed this book.

The basic idea is simple: A noblewoman who loves books gets involved in the royal family, gets into an intrigue about the Royal Library, and stuff happens. And the stuff is all tremendously entertaining. There’s a moderate amount of intrigue and deception in the book, although not of the sort to confuse the reader as to what’s going on, and there’s a romance between the noblewoman and a wastrel prince. Which leads to broken hearts, potential conciliations and other affairs. Most importantly, I enjoyed spending time with the characters, wanted to spend more time with the characters, and very much liked the book. There are times when I look for a tremendously realistic portrayal of court life, but this wasn’t one of those times. I wanted an entertaining tale, and I got it – with happy endings. It’s the first book in a series, but stands very well on its own.

The book also features some interesting world-building. I’m quite fond of fantasy worlds where magical devices are changing the life of those around, and I’m interested in seeing how this develops in later instalments.

So, this one was a winner, and I’m now moving on to see what else Melissa has written to see if it also entertains me.

Kitty Saves the World (Carrie Vaughn): A friend lent me the first book in the Kitty Norville tales several years ago, and in recent years I’ve been happily catching up on all the tales of a werewolf improbably named Kitty, who is also a late-night radio talk-show host.

Over the series, Carrie has explored Kitty’s world through the experiences of her main character (and one or two supporting characters), and it’s been a fantastic ride. With Kitty Saves the World, it ends. Because, you know, Kitty saves the world. What’s left after that?

Although the series has dealt with some important issues, it’s generally done so with a light touch, and despite the potential for horrible things happening (and a few rather awful things that do happen), things never get too dark. (Unlike what I expect will happen when we get to the end of the Dresden Files). The final confrontation isn’t as weighty as you might expect, but the book’s ending is well-handled. There’s likely to be other books set in the same world – Cormac will get more time, I expect – but for now this is the end of Kitty’s tale. It’s been a good one, and worth celebrating.

Magic Shifts (Ilona Andrews): There are a very few authors that I really look forward to seeing their latest release. Ilona Andrews is one of those. Or two of them. (Having two people using one name can be quite confusing). The Kate Daniels books are part urban fantasy, part post-apocalyptic tale, and entirely awesome. This is a series of books that I adore, and the newest instalment continues a very strong sequence.

After the revelations of Magic Breaks, this book eases off the intensity while retaining a lot of forward momentum. Kate and Curran are coming to terms with their new lives, and the world really doesn’t let them be bored. The world-building in this series is amazing, and this time we get more of the Arabian mythology into the books; the result is extremely pleasing.

Kate’s daddy issues aren’t the focus of the book, although the Builder of Towers is still around and making his presence felt, and I still have hopes of a happy ending for the family, however unlikely that might seem. (What? I like happy endings!) It’s really endearing to see Kate completely miss some of the things that are going on around her: she’s so caught up in her own issues to realise that there are a lot of people going out of their way to help her. Her realisation of what’s going on towards the end is brilliantly realised. It’s also great seeing Curran continue on his path towards world domination…

Very strong writing, brilliant characters and great action. There aren’t any series I look forward to more at the present time. Highly recommended.

The Annihilation Score (Charles Stross): It took me a while to realise, but the Laundry Files are – at their heart – Stross’s examination of what happens when you put together English Bureaucracy, the Cthulhu Mythos, and whatever popular topic he wants to base the next book around. In The Annihilation Score, we move onto Superheroes. Like the Vampire-based tale of The Rhesus Chart, the result is not quite what you expect…

The book is made a lot stronger by being told from the point of Mo, the wife of the main character of the previous books. You get a lot more insight into the world and – especially – Bob that way, although Bob is mostly defined by his absences. The book has Mo having to work with a couple of women who have been close to Bob in the past, so it’s rather interesting seeing their relationship develop, especially in comparison to the strained relationship Mo and Bob currently have.

I thought this a more satisfying book than The Rhesus Chart. The growth in the characters is handled well, as is the reaction of the British people to the sudden emergence of “superheroes” in their midst.

All in all, I really enjoyed this one.

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