The Unleashing by Shelly Laurenston: A review

From the blurb:

Kera Watson never expected to face death behind a Los Angeles coffee shop. Not after surviving two tours lugging an M16 around the Middle East. If it wasn’t for her hot Viking customer showing up too late to help, nobody would even see her die.

In uncountable years of service to the Allfather Odin, Ludvig “Vig” Rundstrom has never seen anyone kick ass with quite as much style as Kera. He knows one way to save her life—but she might not like it. Signing up with the Crows will get Kera a new set of battle buddies: cackling, gossiping, squabbling, party-hearty women. With wings. So not the Marines.

But Vig can’t give up on someone as special as Kera. With a storm of oh-crap magic speeding straight for L.A., survival will depend on combining their strengths: Kera’s discipline, Vig’s loyalty… and the Crows’ sheer love of battle. Boy, are they in trouble.

My thoughts:

The author starts off the book with a quick note to say, no, this book is not a rewrite of a previous book Hunting Season which she wrote a few years ago and is suspiciously similar, but it is set in the same world with new characters and the world a little more complex and realised.  I’m not sure then why she didn’t just call it book 2 but, hey, I’m not one to quibble.  Before I get into what I thought of the book, I will say this disclaimer.  I luuuuuurve Shelly Laurenston’s shifter books.  They are hilarious, the girls are kick-ass, the boys are cute, alpha males who although they are full of a lot of testosteronish posturing, really they’re just sweeties at heart.  They are, in short, great paranormal romances.

This book?  Much as I loved the world the author created, the characters, the kick-ass heroine (ex-marine), the dangerous but shy hero (descended from Vikings), the gaggle of fellow gal-pal Crows Kera meets, her dog, and everything else about the world, what I didn’t really like about this book was the romance.  I would have to categorise this book as an urban fantasy rather than paranormal romance because quite frankly, without the romance, this book still would have made sense.  It felt rushed, slipped in amongst all the other cool stuff the author needed to shove in there for the world building, and, quite frankly, even though the hero played a part in getting Kera turned into a Crow in the first place, if they had just stayed friends it wouldn’t have impacted the story in any way.  There was no tension in the romance, no obstacles (besides some physical ones where their lives were at stake) so I couldn’t feel connected to it, I didn’t care.  I liked both characters but there were too many other things going on for me to be too invested.  There were too many other characters, too many points of view.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy this book, but I think the blurb should have been different, it should have been marketed as an urban fantasy rather than the typical paranormal romance, because that’s where my expectations were, and they were disappointed because of it.  But as an urban fantasy, it is quite enjoyable.

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The Novice: Book 1 of Summoner by Taran Matharu

The Blurb:

Fletcher was nothing more than a humble blacksmith’s apprentice, when a chance encounter leads to the discovery that he has the ability to summon demons from another world. Chased from his village for a crime he did not commit, he must travel with his demon to the Vocans Academy, where the gifted are trained in the art of summoning.

The academy will put Fletcher through a gauntlet of gruelling lessons, training him as a battlemage to fight in the Hominum Empire’s war against the savage orcs. Rubbing shoulders with the children of the most powerful nobles in the land, Fletcher must tread carefully. The power hungry Forsyth twins lurk in the shadows, plotting to further their family’s interests. Then there is Sylva, an elf who will do anything she can to forge an alliance between her people and Hominum, even if it means betraying her friends. Othello is the first ever dwarf at the academy, and his people have long been oppressed by Hominum’s rulers, which provokes tension amongst those he studies alongside

Fletcher will find himself caught in the middle of powerful forces, with nothing but his demon Ignatius to help him. As the pieces on the board manoeuvre for supremacy, Fletcher must decide where his loyalties lie. The fate of an empire is in his hands …

My thoughts:

I don’t know what it was about this that appealed to me, but I devoured it like a starving wolf at a butchers shop.  There were several cliched tropes here.  Orphan hero finds out he has mysterious powers to summon demons, could be the son of a nobleman, wins out against all odds.  It should have been a tired story that only mildly interested me, but by golly I loved this.  I couldn’t get enough of the hapless hero Fletcher who always seemed to rub his enemies the wrong way.  When he comes across an old scroll he reads it out only to find that he has summoned a demon.  Now in this world, demons don’t seem to be evil, they are more the extension of their summoner, so if the summoner is a douche, then they are too.  Fletcher’s little demon is Ignatious, a Salamander, and I loved the little critter.

What follows is a series of adventures where Fletcher learns the extent of his powers (not a superman thank god) and the friends he makes.  It was a lovely tale for middle schoolers and aside from a few dodgy moments there isn’t anything too horrible in here that would frighten a younger reader either.  The characters are likeable and the pacing is strong.  I would have liked a bit more originality with the other races, we have elves, dwarves, and orcs, standard fantasy fare but I couldn’t complain about it too much.  Deals with issues of racism and greed for power as well as having several bad guys to contend with.  it also would have been nice to have at least some of the nobles to be nice, it was pretty black and white commoners against nobles.  Even with all its problems, this book was captivating, and dang it, it finished on a cliffhanger, my least favourite ending!!

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas: Review

Blurb on book:

Feyre is a huntress. She thinks nothing of slaughtering a wolf to capture its prey. But, like all mortals, she fears what lingers mercilessly beyond the forest. And she will learn that taking the life of a magical creature comes at a high price . . .
Imprisoned in an enchanted court in her enemy’s kingdom, Feyre is free to roam but forbidden escape. Her captor’s body bears the scars of fighting, and his face is always masked – but his piercing stare draws her ever closer. As Feyre’s feelings for Tamlin begin to burn through every warning she’s been told about his kind, an ancient, wicked shadow grows. Feyre must find a way to break a spell, or lose her heart forever.

My thoughts:

I was quite impressed with Sarah J. Maas’ debut novel Throne of Glass so I was expecting good things from this first in a new series.  I was not disappointed.  Maas impresses with her lyrical style and the vivid descriptions of the Spring court where our heroine Feyre finds herself bound.  This is an alternate take on the Beauty and the Beast fairytale, and I for one, have never read anything like it.  Yes the author has sampled from fairy mythology quite heavily but she has put an original take on it by setting it in a completely different yet strangely familiar world.  Once I worked out it was based on Beauty and the Beast (that only took until someone translated Feyre’s name to mean Beauty) I was impatiently waiting for the denouement where she declared her love for Tamlin.  The author keeps you hanging, and although my hunger for the end made me rush through certain parts, I did the book and injustice by that, as the beautiful descriptions of Feyre’s struggle with her lifelong hatred of the Fairies and her guilt at killing one of them were wrenching.  Time and again, you both wanted to strangle her and cuddle her, as she hadn’t had a great life.  Still, the series of trials at the end of the book were perhaps my least favourite part.  I enjoyed most those halcyon days at the Spring court, where Feyre learns about herself, learns tolerance and discovers beauty, before it is wrenched away from her.

I recommend this one to lovers of fairytales, Sarah J Maas fans and for examples of how to convert a tired old fairytale into a beautiful tale.  Thoroughly enjoyed this.

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Considering how long it’s been since I’ve visited my own blog, that means that this book had to be something special.  I gave it five stars and a little blurb on Goodreads, but sat here (at my uncomfortable computer desk so feel honoured Mr Aaronovitch) thinking that this book deserved more than just a quick link on Goodreads.  More people will probably read that little blurb on Goodreads than would possibly read this, but the urge to splurge some words hit me, and what is a blog for anyway, but to blurt out our innermost thoughts and feelings, no matter who or what might read them.

As a wannabe writer, my dream is to publish a reasonably well-written tale that is somewhat witty, and clever, and will make people sit up and take notice (and buy it).  I have become a critical reader now, looking for mistakes in others so that I may learn from them and not repeat those mistakes, but after a while, it sort of defeats the purpose of writing, which is to, well, write.  But sometimes, you read something so clever and witty and well-written, that you have to sit down and take your metaphorical hat off to them, because this book is one of those books.

Rivers of London starts off like this:

“It started at one thirty on a cold Tuesday morning in January when Martin Turner, street performer and, in his own words, apprentice gigolo, tripped over a body in front of the West Portico of St Paul’s at Covent Garden. Martin, who was none too sober himself, at first thought the body was that of one of the many celebrants who had chosen the Piazza as a convenient outdoor toilet and dormitory. Being a seasoned Londoner, Martin gave the body the ‘London once-over’ – a quick glance to determine whether this was a drunk, a crazy or a human being in distress. The fact that it was entirely possible for someone to be all three simultaneously is why good-Samaritanism in London is considered an extreme sport – like base-jumping or crocodile-wrestling. Martin, noting the good-quality coat and shoes, had just pegged the body as a drunk when he noticed that it was in fact missing its head.”

I knew from the moment I read that first paragraph that I was on to something special.  I can’t believe it took me four years to find this book.  Imagine my utter joy when I realised that there are four more books in the series, already published.  That is the best thing about discovering something late.  You don’t get the angst of waiting.  Don’t get me wrong, sometimes waiting is a good thing, but sometimes, you just want instant gratification.  That’s why I always wait for the full season of Game of Thrones to air before i watch the first episode.  That was beside the point.

This book is narrated by PC Peter Grant, a young constable in London, who encounters a ghost at the scene of a grisly murder (that would be the aforementioned headless body).  His paranormal encounter begins an adventure into a life that was hardly what he was expecting, having been told by his supervisor that he was destined to be a glorified clerk.  Aaronovitch’s witty style and grace and gorgeous attention to detail make this book an absolute pleasure to read.  The best part though, is the feeling of place while you read it.  I experienced London as if I was there again, even though I haven’t visited for over ten years. It all came flooding back, and the nostalgia was almost tangible.  I’m not sure how people who’ve never visited London will react to the book, but for me, this was the best part.

I recommend this book to lovers of paranormal fiction, crime fiction, fantasy fiction, fiction, non-fiction, the written word.  Basically, anyone who can read.