Dead Letter (Arcane Casebook #0) ★★★☆½

deadletter (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Dead Letter
Series: Arcane Casebook #0
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 96
Words: 31.2K

 

Synopsis:

In 1930 New York, the sorcerers are the powerhouses of magic and the runwrights are the poor cousins. Private detective Alex Lockerby is definitely in the latter category, plying his meager magic skills to help people the regular cops ignore while barely making ends meet.

What Alex needs is a break. Just one good case to get his name out there and start bringing in business. When ambitious beat cop Danny Pak gets stuck trying to solve a John Doe murder, it might just be the break Alex has been looking for.

As Alex and Danny team up they begin to unravel a tale murder, jealousy, and revenge stretching back over 30 years. A tale powerful forces don’t want to come to light. Now the cop and the private detective must work fast and watch each other’s backs if they hope to catch a killer and live to tell about it.

Alex meets Leslie, Danny and his sister Amy and several of the cops we know from the series.

 

My Thoughts:

I didn’t bother with putting up the conclusion to the “mystery” as it was almost more of a side note that was the vehicle to introduce us to all these various characters.

In that regards, this novella was a complete success. Even while Leslie (the secretary) is leaving the series in book 4, it was still nice to see how she and Alex were introduced. Amy was a fun include, even though she has zero presence in the series. Danny, I have to admit, I was hoping for more of a connection between him and Alex. They came across as just 2 people helping each other out rather than friends, but now that I write that, that is how it comes across in later books as well.

Alex is a loner and while he intersects with other people, he doesn’t seem to need a group of friends. I can totally relate to that 😀

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Mind Games (Arcane Casebook #4) ★★★★☆

mindgames (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Mind Games
Series: Arcane Casebook #4
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 410
Words: 133.2K

Synopsis:

Alex Lockerby, the Rune Wright Detective, is hired by a rich couple to track down their missing daughter. He finds her at with a Night Club Owner and turns the case over to the police. They find the girl in a locked room an return her to her parents. The Club Owner claims they are married and hires Alex to find the marriage certificate. Then the parents are killed with poison and the daughter ends up in the hospital barely surviving. The Night Club Owner’s lawyer hires Alex to prove his client is innocent. Turns out it was all a big con by the daughter to inherit her parents fortune AND take over the Night Club and live the good life off the profits from that.

Alex is also hired by a man whose wife shot a man to death and was caught with the gun in her hands. Unfortunately, she kills herself in the jail cell but the husband wants Alex to prove that she didn’t do it so her good name won’t be besmirched. Alex eventually tracks it all down to the wife having her mind manipulated to kill the man, who was an accountant for a rich man running for Mayor of New York.

Alex is also hired by a local priest to find out where all the Forgotten have gone to, as the mission serving them has noticed a dramatic drop in numbers. The Forgotten are the homeless and out of work from the Great Depression. Alex tracks most of them down to a factory where they are somehow being manipulated to write mass produced runes even while not having the ability.

On his own, Alex notices that a lot of the street Rune Wrights have gone to work for Happy Jack, a company that mass produces books of small runes and sells them at a cost that no street Rune Wright can match. He tracks down the man behind Happy Jacks, a man who has figured out how to add a mind control rune to every rune in a Happy Jacks book of runes. This makes people susceptible to key words spoken by key individuals. This owner is in cahoots with the man running for Mayor and they plan to win the election by making everyone who buys a Happy Jack book vote for said rich man. Alex and Iggy put a stop to that with a warding rune and in the confrontation with the Happy Jack’s owner, Alex is forced to shoot him to death.

Alex and Sorsha the Sorceress track down the man who was responsible for it all, the rune wright. He is taken into FBI custody but reveals to Sorsha that Alex and Iggy have the Archimedean Monograph. Sorsha kills him when she realizes that while it may be true, it is just a way for the man’s confederates to get their hands on it.

While all of this has been going on, Iggy has been researching the Life rune and figures out how to give Alex life essence back. This solves the problem Alex created by giving up decades of his life to rescue the city in the first book.

The book ends with Alex’s secretary leaving the business to get married and a new secretary coming aboard, one who is supposedly clairvoyant but seems to be a spy for somebody.

My Thoughts:

Well, this series continues to peak my interest and keep me coming back for more! Lots of things get wrapped up in this book even while bigger and possibly more evil things are revealed.

First the romance. In the previous book I guessed that Alex would fall in love with Jessica’s daughter. Strike out for me. There is a scene where he meets her but she is too much like her mother for him to handle, so the author makes it clear THAT isn’t going to happen. The secretary is getting married, so she’s out. Considering how much Sorsha and Alex interacted in this book, and the hints that other side characters revealed, my bet is going on Sorsha. I thought that was too obvious, but once again, I strike out. Good thing I’m already married to Mrs B or I’d be a hopeless lunk. Come to think of it, things weren’t so hot for me in the romance department before I met Mrs B, so maybe there’s my answer? 🙂

With the title it is pretty obvious that some sort of mind control rune is behind everything, even while that is supposedly impossible. But Rune Knowledge, much like technical knowledge, is increasing at a frenetic rate. The implications of some of the things Alex learns aren’t really sussed out, but all it takes is just 5 minutes of thought and wham! Rune Wrights with eternal life. Rune Wrights controlling peoples’ minds, even sorcerer’s minds. In fact, when Sorsha gets controlled and tries to kill Alex, that whole sequence was really cool. Goes to show that Alex really does have a brain in his skull.

Now that Alex can live a very long time, this series has potentially moved into the Never Ending Category. At the moment I’m ok with that, as each story has been rather standalone and that works just fine for me. What would kill this for me is if the author starts some huge story arc and makes each book just a part of that instead of telling a complete story in each book. I think we’d also better start seeing some of the rules of Rune Wright’ery. As much as I hate comparing authors, I do believe that Brandon Sanderson has moved the bar up several notches for explaining a magic system since he debuted. I don’t need to know every gritty detail, but a bit more substance to the magic system would be nice. I did find myself asking, several times, what is the correlation between shapes, inks, metals, etc, that a rune wright uses?

In the last book Alex had a rune shotgun, which I thought was just awesome. This time he gets a tommygun. You can see it on the cover. That is just wicked cool looking. That is another thing I’m liking about these books, the covers. They’re wicked attractive but not chintzy glitter crap. While I don’t exactly pick out my books based on covers alone, having a good cover can be that feather that tips the balance in a book’s favor.

The author’s afterward gives the name for the next book, so I’m confident I’ll see it in a couple of months. I’ve also got the prequel novella (which the author is giving away for free) to read, so the end of my enjoyment of this series can be staved off for at least another week.

★★★★☆

bookstooge (Custom)

NPC’s (Spells, Swords and Stealth #1) ★★★☆☆

npcs (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: NPC’s
Series: Spells, Swords and Stealth #1
Author: Drew Hayes
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 289
Words: 93.9K

 

Synopsis:

From Amazon.com & Me

What happens when the haggling is done and the shops are closed? When the quest has been given, the steeds saddled, and the adventurers are off to their next encounter? They keep the world running, the food cooked, and the horses shoed, yet what adventurer has ever spared a thought or concern for the Non-Player Characters?

In the town of Maplebark, four such NPCs settle in for a night of actively ignoring the adventurers drinking in the tavern when things go quickly and fatally awry. Once the dust settles, these four find themselves faced with an impossible choice: pretend to be adventurers undertaking a task of near-certain death or see their town and loved ones destroyed. Armed only with salvaged equipment, second-hand knowledge, and a secret that could get them killed, it will take all manner of miracles if they hope to pull off their charade.

So the next morning, off they go. Thistle, Grumph, Eric and Gabrielle all head to the local goblin village, where Gabrielle knows them quite, as they kidnap her on a regular basis and has developed a friendship with them as she waits for Adventurers to rescue her. This time however, something goes wrong. A bunch of demons appear from crystals and more by luck than anything the group helps the goblins wipe them out. The real issue is that these demons appear to be smart, strategic and willing to die to kill the whole village. Our group moves on, glad to have escaped with their lives.

Next they come to a village which is sponsoring a tournament. There are several groups of Adventurers and the village is milking them for all they are worth. Grumph talks with a couple of other leaders and strikes up a friendship with an elf paladin/warrior/sorcereress. Demons once again appear and only with every group of Adventurer giving their all do they kill the demons and stop a massacre of the village. Something is obviously up. Our group gets a bunch of good armor and weapons as a reward and continue to the main city to present themselves to the king.

The story cuts to the King talking to his advisors and revealing that the current group of Adventurers is the 13th or 14th group attempting to breach the hidden cave and recover the magical artifact inside. The king also makes it plain how he is using the Adventurers for his own ends and shows what a scum bag he is.

Our Gang, and several other groups, all head into the magic cave. Our Gang goes last and Thistle, a former minion, shows them a hidden shortcut that all minions know about, as they have to make the traps, etc and need easy access. They bypass everything and find the magical artifact. However, they also find a Mad Wizard who reveals that their world is somehow tied to our world and that the magical artifact can control our world. Our Gang takes the Mad Wizard down and head out. They encounter the last group of Adventurers, who have been hanging around outside waiting to ambush whoever comes out. The magical artifact helps Our Gang to win and we see that the group of Gamers playing the ambushing Adventurers give up on the game as they roll nothing but 1’s.

The book ends with Our Gang heading to another country and the one Gamer who was decent talking with the Dungeon Master about buying an expansion pack that would land them in the same country as Our Gang.

 

My Thoughts:

The idea of our world and the world of D&D both being real and influencing the other was pretty cool. The story itself was just ok though. I’m not a gamer though and so having tropes turned on their head or whatever isn’t enough to appeal to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike this in any way, it just lacked some appeal for me that I want in my books. Now that I’m reading less I’m also less willing to put up with mediocre books simply for the sake of not having to seek out other alternatives.

If you like fantasy rpg’s turned 90degrees this might be right up your alley. I enjoyed the read but really had no desire to read the rest of the (completed) series. This was a bread and butter series when I wanted gourmet toasted garlic bread with spaghetti.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

The Long Chain (Arcane Casebook #3) ★★★★☆

longchain (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Long Chain
Series: Arcane Casebook #3
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 343
Words: 111K

 

Synopsis:

From Danwillisauthor.com & Me

In a city the size of New York, things go missing all the time. When a Nobel-Prize winning Chemist vanishes without a trace, his granddaughter taps Alex to find him. Locating people is easy for someone with the best finding rune in the city, but when Alex tracks down the missing man, he has no memory of who he is or what happened to him, and his research is gone.

Convinced that something sinister is afoot, Alex sets out to uncover the truth. Before he can learn anything concrete, however, the city is shrouded in a dense fog and that brings New York’s resident sorceress, Sorsha Kincaid, to his door. She needs Alex’s finding rune in order to trace the source of the unnatural fog, and she has no patience for his other cases.

Alex also is hired by Dr Killian, the Alchemist giving him his reinvigorating potion, to find a missing friend of hers. He gladly accepts, as this will give him more reason to be around Dr Killian’s apprentice Jessica.

Turns out the Chemist is secretly working for the Navy creating a magic fog machine. Only problem is, the compounds he uses are unstable and go up in flames eventually. With the fog covering all of Manhattan, the potential is the fire bombing of the entire city. Alex also uncovers that there is a spy in the Navy trying to sell the fog machine to the Chinese. Alex and Sorsha track down the spy, recover the Chemist’s notebook, which allows the Chemist to shut his machine down without firing New York.

Alex finds the missing Alchemist but along the way discovers some disturbing things about Dr Killian, Jessica and a young girl who appears to be an insane murderer. Dr Killian’s daughter has polio and the cure is in Dr Killians’ blood. She gives 2 vials for safekeeping to Alex, as it turns out she has been taking a lethal alchemical mixture over the years that allows her to grow younger for 12hrs. One of these younger versions is Jessica and the overdosed version is the insane killer. Dr Killian uses up her lifeforce to stop the megalomaniac who has kidnapped the Alchemist and her to free Alex so he can get the blood sample to the daughter.

The book ends with Alex meeting up with the man who was introduced as the Shadow Master in the previous book. The Shadow Master reveals that there is another World War coming and that he expects Alex to use the power of the Archimedean Monograph to prevent it. This Shadow Master gave Alex’s mentor the Monograph so that he could stop the first World War but Iggy deemed the book too dangerous to use. Shadow Master warns Alex not to make the same mistake. He also gives Alex another year of life by infusing him with the lifeforce of 50 pigs and tells him to figure out how it was done so he can continue living. The point being that the Shadow Master has been around for a very long time.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed myself immensely with this book. I really suspected that things weren’t going to work out between Alex and Jessica, but I totally didn’t see it being because of the whole Jekyll/Hyde/MurderGirl thing. I found that to be very clever. Considering that Jessica IS Dr Killian and Dr Killian’s daughter is probably a bit younger than Alex, it would not surprise me if she gets cured by the polio potion and becomes Alex’s love interest. I’ll just have to wait and see. Sorsha is too obvious a candidate.

I do have to admit that I was glad at the end of the book that Alex is shown that life extension runes are possible, as it was getting a little old throughout the book of him wondering when he was going to die. If it had been me writing though, I would have had him die soon after Dr Killian, lovers united in death and all that.

I’ve really been enjoying the “standalone” nature of each of these books. Several cases all tying into each other but completely wrapped up by books end. That formula starts to unravel with the ending of this book and the Shadow Master revealing himself and his plans to Alex. It has the potential to be a really good thing for the series but personally, I hope Willis stays to the Standalone side of things.

I have been enjoying this series this month and while I can’t unreservedly recommend it, I do highly recommend it. I think the fact that I chose to break my reading rotation to chow down on these says more than anything I could actually write.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Ghost of a Chance (Arcane Casebook #2) ★★★★☆

ghostofachance (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Ghost of a Chance
Series: Arcane Casebook #2
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 361
Words: 117K

 

Synopsis:

From Danwillisauthor.com & Me

When a bizarre string of locked-room murders terrorize New York, the police reluctantly turn to their magical consultant, private detective Alex Lockerby, to catch a killer who can walk through walls.  Dubbed the Ghost by the tabloids, Alex will need every rune in his book to solve the case with no suspects, no leads, and no time to spare.

Unfortunately Alex’s magic hasn’t been working very well of late.  He can’t even manage to track down several truckloads of stolen goods, including one belonging to New York’s preeminent sorcerer, Andrew Barton.  To make matters worse, Alex and his clients are being stalked by a shadowy cabal with strange powers that Alex has never seen before.

With the Ghost seemingly able to murder at will and the tabloids, the public, and Alex’s clients demanding results, Alex will need a miracle to keep himself, his clients, and his reputation alive.

Alex also has to deal with the effects of his Escape Rune from the previous book that has shaved an unknown number of years off of his lifespan. Iggy, his mentor, puts him in touch with an alchemist and Alex gets involved with her apprentice.

All of the cases are almost tied together, as the Ghost turns out to be a man killing the group of people who cheated him out of his land years ago, land which could have been sold to raise money to save his wife. Barton’s missing motor is linked to a group that wants to steal a literal boatload of gold in a museum and the presence of Mayan Runes are revealed. The same shadowy Man of Mystery is the one supplying both groups with Mayan runes that allow them to do the extraordinary things they do.

Alex solves everything, gets a lot of money and publicity, thinks Jessica (the assistant alchemist) might be the One and both Alex and Iggy wonder who the Shadow Master is.

 

My Thoughts:

This was fun! I think what I liked the most was that the author makes what Alex does at the end of the first book (using the Escape Rune) really matter here. He’s not just shrugging off a broken leg or something. He’s lost years, possibly decades, of his life and it’s showing. His hair is white, he doesn’t have the energy and strength he used to, his hands shake (which for a rune wright is disastrous) and generally he’s “old”.

Getting introduced to another Sorcerer was interesting and I’m glad we’re not stuck on Sorsha. With him getting interested in Jessica though, we’ll see what happens between him and Sorsha. Jessica seems a bit too absorbed in her work for something to work out long term with Alex. I just hope the author doesn’t go into Triangle Territory. And honestly, deep characterization isn’t his forte.

The multiple mysteries were just as fast and furious as in the first book. I’d prepared myself though, so it didn’t overwhelm me. I still found myself wishing that one or more had been cut and a greater depth given to the remaining ones. That’s not even really a complaint, just more of a “wish”.

I liked this even more than the first book and have the 3rd and 4th books already lined up. I’m really glad that Larry Correia recommended this author to his fans, as it has turned out to be a huge hit with me. It shouldn’t have, as urban fantasy set in an alternate 1930’s isn’t my thing, but I guess just like the Grimnoir Chronicles, if it is done exactly right, it hits me like a ton of bricks. And I love every brick hitting me!

Finally, the covers. The author has some high res covers on his website and while I’m not using them for these reviews, I can already tell they are going to win all the Cover Love awards at the end of the month. I think the real decision will be whether I include them all or try to pick the best of the bunch. I’ve included a link to the high res cover. But come on, a rune infested shotgun, suspenders and a burning rune? And I wish my chin and hair looked like that. High Res Cover.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Academ’s Fury (Codex Alera #2) ★★★★★

academsfury (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Academ’s Fury
Series: Codex Alera #2
Author: Jim Butcher
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 720
Words: 183K

 

 

Synopsis:

CodexAlera.fandom.com & Me

Tavi has managed to enter the Academy under the patronage of Gaius Sextus, the First Lord of Alera and is training to be a cursor. Despite facing bullying at the hands of other students due to his lack of furycrafting talent, Tavi has managed to make numerous friends among his classmates, such as Max and Ehren. Tavi is also serving as a page for Gaius Sextus. Isana has also come to the capitol to get her citizenship and join the Dianic league. Back at home in the Calderon valley, Doroga, the leader of the marat, warns Bernard and Amara of a new threat, the Vord. He tells them that one nest has been killed, leaving 200 out of a force of 2000 Marat. Another nest is in the Calderon Valley, and one of the queens seems to be heading towards Alera Imperia. Tavi is sent on a mission as a Cursor in training, to find the mysterious thief “Black Cat”, who has managed to circumvent various fury guards to steal things. Gaius Sextus falls ill, and Max is called to replace him. However, during a fight, Max is arrested and Tavi must break him out of Jail. Isana is also kidnapped. Eventually, Tavi manages to catch the thief, who is revealed to be Kitai, one of his Marat friends who followed him to Alera Imperia. Using her talents, Tavi breaks Max out of jail. Back in the Calderon Valley, Bernard is investigating reports of disappearances and goes to investigate Aricholt, the new Kordholt. However, it is completely abandoned, with the exception of a few children kept in a bunker underneath. The vord attack the holt, possessing many soldiers, and Garrison Legion is forced to hide in a nearby cave. The Canim Ambassador, Varg, shows Tavi the nest of Vord in the Deeps, and Tavi goes to warn the Citadel.

Bernard and Amara, along with Doroga and the remaining holders of Isanaholt, take refuge in a cave and fight off the Vord. Their situation looks hopeless and Amara agrees to marry Bernard since they are going to die the next day. Only they don’t die, they are rescued by mercenary knights led by none other than that scum Aldrix Ex Gladius. The Taken and the Vord Queen are destroyed.

Isana can’t get an audience with the First Lord (because he’s incapacitated) nor can she get a hold of Tavi (who is trying to run things, as he’s one of the few people who knows that Gaius is out of commission) and after a nearly successful attempt on her life, makes an alliance with Lord and Lady Aquitaine. They send the Knights Aeris to rescue Bernard.

Tavi is juggling trying to keep Gaius’s secret safe and figure out how to deal with the Vord AND the Canim. One of the Canim, a blood priest, has made an alliance with the Vord Queen in the city and they plan an assassination attempt on Gaius. Ambassador Varg, as the last non-Taken Canim, reveals the plot to Tavi and it is up to Tavi to thwart it. With help from Fade (who slips back into his role as Araris, legendary swordsman), Kitai and many legionnaires, Tavi stops the attempt on the First Lord’s life.

The Vord Queen, along with the Blood Priest, slip aboard a Canim vessel and head back to their land.

Gaius recovers and reveals that one of Tavi’s friends (Gael) is actually a spy for Lord Kalarus and the book ends with Gaius baiting a hook to draw Kalarus out before he is truly ready. Gaius sends Tavi to an archeological dig in the same area where the bait is being dangled. With Tavi now being a Cursor it’s time for him to begin truly working for the First Lord.

The book ends with Isana revealing to the readers that she is Tavi’s mother, not his aunt.

 

My Thoughts:

I have these Codex Alera books in ebook, paperback and hardcover. I’m currently reading the paperback editions, as I am using these as my “word read”. Very easy to throw one into my book bag and since it’s paper it doesn’t matter if it sits in the sub-freezing cold all day. Can’t do that with my kindle, sadly.

What that means is that I’m reading these books in dribs and drabs and not at a steady pace. However, much like Furies of Caldern, this takes place in just a couple of days. So while there might be a lot going on, there isn’t too much going on simply because of author imposed time constraint. I think everything happens in a couple of weeks here but the majority of everything immediately happens in just a couple of days. I rather like that to be honest, as it fits the 5-15 minutes I have to read when at work.

Considering this is my 3rd read of this book in 10 years and I still enjoyed it, I’m going to call this a good book. I don’t think I’ll read it again for another decade though. For some reason, Tavi the main character seems younger than I remember! (hahahahaa)

I enjoy this series a lot. I’m sure someone else could come along and list all the faults. I simply have no interest in even thinking like that. As long as the series stays this strong, I’ll be a happy and contented camper.

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

In Plain Sight (Arcane Casebook #1) ★★★☆½

inplainsight (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: In Plain Sight
Series: Arcane Casebook #1
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 301
Words: 90.3K

 

Synopsis:

Alex Lockerby is a Private Investigator in the 1930’s, an alternate 1930’s, where magic is real. Alex himself is a Runewright, someone capable of drawing runes and powering them. Alex was orphaned and brought up in a local church ministry and he still has strong ties to the priest that helped raise him. Alex also helps out the police as a consultant, when they’re willing to pay.

The book opens with Alex declaring a dead body to be a murder and that the murderers can be caught at a highly secure facility in a day or two as they attempt to rob it. The next day Alex finds out the priest is dead along with everyone in the rectory. Some sort of magic plague was loosed and the police and the FBI want the perpetrators found before they loose the plague on a high profile case. Alex also takes on a case of a missing brother for an attractive brunette and finds out that the brother was researching new runes.

In a nutshell, Alex sleeps with the brunette, finds out she isn’t the missing man’s sister, tracks down the plague carriers and solves the case of the first murder victim. Everything ties together and comes together in big kablam’y fashion as German Agents are trying to kill some of New Yorks’ finest wizards to start a war in the United States between magic users and non-magic users. He ends up using a rune to save the city from a (non)floating Wizard’s Keep and possibly loses decades of his life. He also finds out that his mentor, a private detective who taught Alex everything he knows, has the forbidden book of magic that most new runes come from. Also turns out his mentor is Arthur Conan Doyle, who faked his death to throw those seeking out the forbidden tome off his trail.

Alex agrees to forget the tome of power and just be a magical PI.

 

My Thoughts:

For a book that is urban fantasy AND taking place in the 1920-1930’s, I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would. I was introduced to this book by a post from Larry Correia. He occasionally does a Book Bomb where he promotes a book of a friend or a new’ish author whose work he likes and encourages all his readers to go buy a kindle copy to push the stats of the book up and make the author more visible. He has done it enough that I guess it works. It worked for me and I managed to snag a copy for 99cents, so I’m not complaining. Especially when I had a digital coupon for 99cents!

As soon as the brunette showed up I knew Alex was going to sleep with her. It’s what detective do I guess. Of course, him deducing that she wasn’t a real brunette from that experience and that leading him to figure out she wasn’t the missing man’s sister had me rolling my eyes. Not to be crass, but just because your pubic hair doesn’t match the color of your hair on your head doesn’t mean you dye your hair. Sigh. Biology, people!

Other than that, this was a fun romp filled with mystery and adventure. Having 3 cases all at once was a bit much but it kept the book from ever bogging down, as any time Alex had downtime from one case he had to immediately continue working on the other two. While I wasn’t exhausted by the end of the book, I “felt” tired 🙂

How runes work isn’t gone into in exhaustive detail. That might be off-putting for some people but for me it was perfect. I just want to know that something works, that there ARE rules and that the character can’t break those rules without consequences. As long as the author doesn’t have Alex pulling rabbits out of his butt to save the day, I’m ok with vague rules of magic. A bit of mystery is a good thing.

I enjoyed this book enough to seek out the next 3. I plan on binge reading them all this month, along with the Hall of Fame SF collections, just to break up my reading rotation. Planned shake ups are much better than suddenly going off the reservation and crashing and burning. Here’s to hoping the next books are just as interesting.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

The Great Hunt (Wheel of Time #2) ★★★★★

greathunt (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Great Hunt
Series: Wheel of Time #2
Author: Robert Jordan
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 1072
Words: 276K

 

Synopsis:

From TarValon.net and authored by Toral Delvar

The book begins a few weeks after the end of The Eye of the World. Rand has remained in Fal Dara, practicing the sword with Lan, even though he had said he would get as far away as possible. Any plans he had to leave are shelved when a contingent of Aes Sedai visit, the Amyrlin Seat among them. Rand is questioned by one of them, Liandrin of the Red Ajah, who uses the Power on him to try and get answers to her questions. Moiraine convinces the Amyrlin, Siuan, that Rand must be allowed to go his own way, and that she will be there when he needs her.

Trollocs attack the town, freeing Fain from the dungeons and taking with them the Horn of Valere and the dagger, which are within the same chest. They leave Dark Prophecies on the wall, linking Luc with Isam, Lan’s cousin.

Rand is brought before the Amyrlin, Moiraine and another Aes Sedai, Verin, who has realized that Rand must be the Dragon Reborn. They tell Rand that he was born on Dragonmount at the end of the Aiel War, where Tam, his father, found him. They also tell him he is the Dragon Reborn, which he refuses to accept.

Moiraine convinces Rand to follow after the Horn, telling him it is important that Mat gets the dagger back. As the Aes Sedai are leaving, an arrow is shot from one of the towers, which only just misses the Amyrlin, though it might have been meant for Rand.

They set off after the Horn, using a man called Hurin, who can smell violence, to locate it. Perrin and Mat see Rand with the Dragon Banner Moiraine gave him, and Perrin reasons that Rand can channel. Fain, meanwhile, is beginning to show increasing abilities, which enable him to take control of the Darkfriends and stake a Myrddraal to a door.

Lord Ingtar, the leader of the Shienarans, tells Rand that Moiraine has made him second in command. Rand enters a room in a deserted village and experiences strange flashbacks. During one night, Rand, Loial and Hurin are transported to an alternate world via a Portal Stone. Rand wakes to find a heron branded into his hand. Hurin is able to use his abilities to keep on the trail, so they set off after the Horn. On the way, they meet Lanfear, calling herself Selene. She spends much of her time imploring Rand to seize greatness. They see a memorial of the victory of Trollocs over Artur Hawkwing and realize that in this world, all animal life has been destroyed. Eventually they find another Portal Stone, which Rand uses when they are under attack by creatures known as grolm to transfer them back to the real world. They find they are ahead of the Darkfriends, as Hurin had been smelling where the Darkfriends were going to be, not where they have been. Rand and Loial sneak up on them, and take the Horn and dagger back.

The head on to Cairhien, outside of which they see a sa’angreal in the form of a giant great statue which Rand feels calling to him. Rand is taken for a Lord, and gets mixed up in Daes Dae’mar; the noble houses begin sending him invitations, which he just burns, leading to invitations from greater and greater Houses, eventually leading to invitations from the King and Lord Barthanes, the King’s main rival.

Rand sees Trollocs in the city, and ends up in the Illuminators chapter house when he tries to flee them. His actions lead to the chapter house burning down. He meets Thom, who survived the Myrddraal in Whitebridge. While Rand visits him, the Darkfriends steal the Horn back.

Ingtar and the rest of the Shienarans are joined by Verin, who claims that Moiraine had sent her. They meet an Aiel claiming to be seeking He Who Comes With the Dawn, but Verin says they have seen no signs of him. They then catch up with Rand and the others.

Hurin traces the Horn to the manor of Lord Barthanes. The group uses an invitation to attend a party Barthanes is throwing. Here, they discover that Fain has taken the Horn through the Ways to Toman Head, on the Aryth Ocean, where Barthanes, a Darkfriend, says he will wait for Rand. The Waygate in Barthanes’ manor is blocked by Machin Shin, which tries to come out when they open it, although Verin insists it can’t be controlled. The following day Barthanes is found dead, his body completely ripped apart, presumably by a gholam. Thom’s girlfriend is killed by men working for the king who was suspicious of his involvement with Rand and his presence at Barthanes party. Thom kills the king.

They try a Waygate outside a nearby stedding. In here they meet more Aiel, which is unusual, as Aiel never leave the Waste. Mat tells Rand they are searching for him, as he is the only Aiel they know. Rand is not amused. Loial is nervous, since he doesn’t have permission to be outside his own stedding. He meets a female Ogier, Erith, who he is attracted to. The Waygate outside is also blocked by Machin Shin. They try using a Portal Stone. Something goes wrong when traveling through the Stone, enabling them all to experience many lives they could have led if circumstances had been different. In each of them, Rand is defeated, hearing the words “I have won again Lews Therin” as he dies. They arrive in Toman Head in autumn, having actually lost time due to their use of the Portal Stone.

In Falme, Fain meets with the Seanchan High Lord, Turak, claiming to be a descendant of men who kept their oaths to Artur Hawkwing. Fain gives him the chest with the Horn and dagger in it, though he is only interested in the dagger. The High Lord opens it and intends to present it to the Empress. Bayle Domon is also taken to see Turak, as one of the Seanchan, Egeanin, believes that his interest in the Age of Legends may prove interesting.

The girls head for Tar Valon, beginning lessons in the use of the Power on the journey. It becomes apparent that Nynaeve cannot channel unless she is angry, but when she does, she is very strong. Egwene starts having dreams of Rand, and one of the Aes Sedai, Anaiya, suspects she may be a Dreamer. In Tar Valon, Egwene befriends Elayne and Min, and meets Elayne’s brother, Gawyn, and their half brother, Galad, who Egwene is immediately attracted to. She also sees Logain, who looks utterly forlorn. Both Gawyn and Galad fall for Egwene. Nynaeve is raised immediately to Accepted. Passing three times through a ter’angreal that is perhaps connected to Tel’aran’rhiod, she first fights Aginor. She is then forced to abandon the Two Rivers, then Lan, in order to prove her desire to be Aes Sedai.

Liandrin comes to tell Egwene and Nynaeve that their friends are in danger and that they are both needed to help them. They agree to go with her through the Ways, bringing Elayne and Min with them. When they come out of the Ways, they are met by a group of Seanchan and it becomes apparent that Liandrin belongs to the Black Ajah. Nynaeve and Elayne escape but Egwene and Min are captured. Egwene has a collar fastened to her neck, which gives another woman total control over her. She is told she is a damane and the woman her sul’dam.

Nynaeve and Elayne stay around to try and figure a way to rescue Egwene. Nynaeve eventually discovers a way to use the Power to remove the collars; these make her angry enough to channel just by looking at them. Nynaeve arranges with Bayle Domon to take them away from the area. They release one damane and capture her sul’dam by using the collar, much to the sul’dam’s surprise. They then go to rescue Egwene.

Moiraine visits with two old Aes Sedai, Vandene and Adeleas, who she believes to know more about Dark Prophecy than anyone else. Whilst there, they are attacked by a Draghkar that is warded in some way so that Aes Sedai cannot detect it. They believe this means it was sent by one of the Black Ajah.

Mat, Rand, Perrin, Ingtar and Hurin enter Falme, to try and retrieve the dagger and the Horn, after Verin warns them that the Seanchan may sense a man channeling. They go to the house of the ruling Seanchan lord. Rand kills him, and they escape with the dagger and the Horn. Rand sees Egwene and decides he cannot leave her behind. Ingtar reveals that he is a Darkfriend, but wishes to return to the Light, and stays behind to prevent them being caught. They end up between two large armed groups: Whitecloaks, led by Geofram Bornhald and Seanchan. Mat blows the Horn to enable them to escape safely. The Heroes, led by Artur Hawkwing, appear, claiming to know Rand and telling him they need the Dragon Banner to be able to fight. Perrin raises it and the Seanchan are driven back. Rand is involved in a fight of his own, against Ba’alzamon. This duel is visible in the sky, with the pattern of their fight influencing the battle below. Eventually, Rand decides to let Ba’alzamon strike him, so that he can strike Ba’alzamon, who disappears.

Rand is severely wounded, and Min, Elayne and Egwene are drawn to him. Min keeps him warm, and is greeted by Lanfear, who tells her that Rand is hers.

 

My Thoughts:

Ok, this shows Jordan’s writing in top form! In the first book the characters really annoyed me on several occasions but in this book, I don’t think it happened once. Yes, they were still them, but the fingernails on chalkboard aspect wasn’t there. A big part of it is that they’re going their separate ways and aren’t in one big group, where everything gets ratcheted up annoyance-wise. I don’t think I’m going to have as much to say about this book as the previous, but here I go.

As I mentioned, the characters were much more palatable. It helps that Matt is pretty much sick and out of commission for the entire book because of not having the dagger. His obsession with getting it back makes him more focused, less mischievous and not a dick. Nynaeve isn’t a witch the entire time because she’s getting a solid dose of humility with starting her training as an Aes Sedai. I in no way advocate violence against women, but my goodness, Nynaeve makes me want to stuff a sock in her mouth and spank her til she cries. But she’s not nearly so insufferable this time around. We also get to see just how smart she is when the rescue for Egwene happens. I needed to see another side of her and thankfully Jordan provides that. I think Rand is the one who changes the most though and as the main Main Character, he needed to. He’s maturing and growing up and beginning to take on some of the responsibility that the Dragon Reborn is going to have to shoulder.

Darkfriends and the Black Ajah and the Seanchan and the Forsaken. The book starts off with a gathering of darkfriends, with hints that some extremely powerful people are part of the dark cabal. Jordan moves Darkfriends from a group of hick villagers who lust after power (like we saw in the first book) to a real Cabal of the powerful. The Black Ajah goes from being something that nobody really believes to having it shoved in our faces with the selling of the girls to the Seanchan by one of the Black Ajah. They haven’t really amped up their threat level in terms of power but have definitely made their move into the larger storyline. The Forsaken, namely Lanfear and Balzaman, show just how divided the Forsaken are, with each having their own goals alongside trying to return the Dark Lord from his prison. Finally, the Seanchan and their chained, trained and battle ready slave women who can channel. I found it almost heartbreaking to know that the descendants of this worlds version of King Arthur had turned into a stratified slave society.

The world continues to grow at a very organic pace. As our various groups of villagers go out into the greater world, they learn about the world they inhabit and we as readers are along for the ride. I think Jordan made the right choice with starting out with ignorant characters, as it doesn’t feel like we’re having information shoved down our throat. What the characters learn, we learn. It is also becoming apparent that this world does nothing but cycle through Ages. Thankfully we readers aren’t running for our lives so we have time to think about what “X” could mean AND we have several viewpoints all feeding us input. It is no wonder this series spawned a rabid fandom that thrived on speculation.

To do the whole Wheel thing, I’ll end where I began with this review. Jordan’s writing is as good as I could ask for. Not once during these 1000 pages was I bored, or confused or overwhelmed. I might not have understood everything but I was never flailing. It takes consummate skill as an author to guide your readers like that and Jordan showed a deft and masterful hand that way. I ended up giving this the Best Book of the Year tag as I enjoyed every part. I suspect several of these WoT books will get that tag this year 🙂

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

The 10th Kingdom, Disc 1 (2000 Mini-Series)

10thkingdom

 

This disc went on a lot longer than I was expecting. It was almost 3 hrs long.  I just looked on Wikipedia and the whole mini-series is 10 hrs, so I’m guessing each disc is going to be of equal length. Considering how much I enjoyed this, that is a good thing.

The quick and dirty synopsis is that Prince Wendell, of the 4th Kingdom, is due to be crowned king soon.  The Evil Queen, who killed Wendell’s parents, is in magical prison but with the help of the Troll King, escapes and makes Wendell change places with her dog. Wendell, as a dog now, escapes through a magic mirror into New York City, where he meets Virginia and her father. The Evil Queen sends the Troll King’s 3 children after Wendell as well as Wolf, who was also being kept in Magical Prison. They all follow Wendell through the mirror into New York. The troll siblings claim the land, which they think is the mythical 10th Kingdom, for the trolls.  The trolls and Wolf track down Wendell to Virginia and her father Tony’s apartment.Wolf falls instantly in love with Virginia. Magical, funny things happen and everyone heads back through the magic mirror to the 4th Kingdom.

Virginia and Tony, along with Wolf and Wendell (who can talk to Tony due to some of the magical shenanigans back in NY) are all being chased by the Troll Siblings. They get split up, come back together and begin chasing down the magic mirror so they can return to NY.  We get a history lesson of the land that brings us up to speed. The Troll King reneges on his deal with the Evil Queen and decides to take over the 4th Kingdom for himself. The Evil Queen realizes Wolf isn’t going to help her and sends her Huntsman after the group. Our Gang runs into a group of Gypsies and Virginia gets cursed with Rapunzel hair. At this point Prince Wendell is now a gold statue of a dog due to Tony getting greedy with a Midas spell. He’s getting dragged along by Tony on a little cart. Wolf hides them from the Hunstman so he can find the Woodsman, a man with a mythical axe.  This axe can cut anything, including Virginia’s ever growing hair and that will break the curse. Of course, Virginia sneezes at the most inopportune time and gets captured by the Huntsman while Tony and Wolf attempt to track her down to rescue her.

I have obviously left out a lot of details, but needless to say, I was amused. The digital FX were definitely dated but thankfully there is very little of that. The actors carry the story and I want to talk about a couple of them.

 

virginiaanddad

Virginia and her dad Tony

Virginia is played by Kimberly Williams. She’s a waitress whose mom left when she was 7 and her dad, while loving her, is pretty self absorbed.  All she wants is to lead a normal life and open her own restaurant. She is the epitome of “the little feisty girl” and at one point even pushes Wolf out of a second story window with a broom. How can you not love that? Tony is played by John Larroquette and my goodness, is he good in that role. He gets a magic bean that grants him 6 wishes, but they all go wrong in various ways and that is what leads him to jump through the mirror.  He has the bumbling, selfish yet lovable dad thing down pat. He is such a jumble of good, bad and mediocre that you know he’s going to get in trouble, and yet you can’t wait to see HOW he’s going to get into trouble.

 

virginiaandwolf

Virginia and the Big Bad Wolf

Wolf is played by Scott Cohen, and much like Laroquette, really nails the part. He’s constantly rubbing his eye with his forearm, howling, making little in the throat dog noises and saying things like “huff , puff”. Being part of the Nine Kingdoms, he’s very much our channel into the thinking of that land. Since he’s with Virginia and Tony so much, it helps explain a lot.

 

princewendell

Prince Wendell

Wendell is actually 2 characters here. One is the Real Prince Wendell in a dog’s body that is with Virginia, Tony and Wolf and the second character is Dog in Prince Wendell’s body.  He is played by Daniel Lapaine. He only has to do the voice over for the dog part but where he really shines is as Dog ala Prince Wendell. Whoever was directing definitely gave a lot of thought to what a dog would be like who suddenly had a human body. He’s constantly on his hands and knees looking for bones. There is one scene near the beginning where he’s in the carriage and they’re racing along and his head is out the window with his tongue lolling out, exactly like how you see dogs in cars today. Priceless! He’s not to fond of being a human, but since the Evil Queen is his master, he does what she says, because she’s his master. Very dog like 🙂

 

evilqueenandtrollking

The Troll King and The Evil Queen

Now we come to the main villains of the piece. The Troll King is rescuing his inept kids from prison at the beginning of the movie and that is how he gets involved with the Evil Queen. He is played by Ed O’Neil and I don’t envy him having to wear all that makeup and prosthetics. I bet it was wicked uncomfortable. He’s not particularly bad, he’s just a troll who wants everything, now.  The Evil Queen, played by Dianne Wiest, was a just a bit of a let down. We’re told she’s evil and that she poisoned Wendell’s parents (hence her being in prison) and her plans for taking over the 4th Kingdom certainly make her SOUND evil. She didn’t come across as an Evil Mastermind though, more of a tired woman going through the motions, rather harried instead of being in control. Part of the issue is she doesn’t have as much screen time, but then, neither did the Troll King.  I don’t know that I would have noticed it so much if it weren’t for how well I thought the other actors portrayed their characters.

 

I’ve been doing some looking around as I was writing this and it turns out there are about a bajillion different releases of this miniseries starting out with vhs up to a more recent bluray. Turns out that 10hr run time was for tv, as this was released in 5 episodes, each being 2hrs with ads. Various video releases range from 6 to 8hrs. We’re watching the Hallmark/Artisan version from 2000 and the runtime is 417 minutes in full screen.  This was not episodic in we viewed it, but was put together as one big movie.

While I had a lot of fun watching this, I was also glad to take a break after the first disc. 2 3/4 hours was enough for one session.

 

bookstooge (Custom)

For Love of Distant Shores (Tales of the Apt #3) ★★★☆☆

forloveofdistantshores (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission 
Title:
For Love of Distant Shores
Series: Tales of the Apt #3
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 364
Words: 118K

 

Synopsis:

Amazon and Me

For Love of Distant Shores features the exploits of scientist-cum-adventurer Doctor Ludweg Phinagler, as recorded by his (semi-)faithful assistant, Fosse.

A maverick academic, Phinagler is able to charm almost everyone he meets… except for his fellow academics at Collegium, with whom he is frequently at odds. In part to escape the resultant animosity and scandal, and in part to satisfy his own thirst for knowledge, Phinagler mounts a series of expeditions to the far-flung corners of the world (regions which the author always knew were there but which the main narrative of the novels never allowed him to fully explore). In the process, he confronts ancient mysteries and deadly dangers that the majority of kinden would scarcely believe exist.

In the first story, Phinagler and Fosse explore an underwater lake and barely escape slavery and vivisection.

In the second story they head to the Desert of Nem to find lost treasure and find a mad Slug Magician instead.

The third story has them hiking into one of the great forests to track down the Kinden who built a mysterious tower. Not only do they find the kinden, they find 8 wasps who seem to have immortality through being reborn using the aforementioned Kinden as hosts.

The final story has them crossing the Great Sea and discovering a new land where the people don’t talk their language, appear to have no kinden and can apparently change shape. The story ends with Phinagler vowing to come back and Fosse retiring so she can have a polygamous relationship with 2 of the men she met.

 

My Thoughts:

Sadly, each of those Tales of the Apt books has been slowly going downhill for me. With the final story ending up with a menage a trois arrangement, I was very disappointed.

I liked the format of 4 novellas (they’re not really short stories) making up the book. Very pulp. Definitely riffing on the 1900’s Adventure Stories. Yet still fun.

Character wise, I wouldn’t have minded if the main characters had died each time and been replaced. Phinagler was an egotistical jackass and Fosse was a gambling lowlife. I have to admit, there were times I was really hoping they’d die. I really didn’t like them.

The stories themselves were great. I like a good Adventure Story and these were definitely that. Well, I didn’t like the final story, but that is because I knew it tied into his Echoes of the Fall series and I really didn’t care for that series. The other 3 though, they were cool.

There is one more book of short stories in this series and I believe it is by different authors, so we’ll see how it goes.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)