Jocelynn Drake, Dead Man’s Deal, Harper Voyager, ISBN 9780062117885, 371 pgs., $14.99

This is the second book in Drake’s Asylum Tales universe. In this one, tattoo artist Gage, who has managed to escape the ivory towers to become a wizard in exile, now finds himself in debt to a local criminal who has control over Gage’s brother as well as information on Gage.  Gage finds himself forced to do what the crime boss wants or his friends will bear the dead manconsequences.  While this is going on, Gage is trying to stay alive while being hounded by some wizards with grudges, he’s trying to help the elves figure out why they have gone barren, and he’s managed to get himself in the middle of a rebellion against the ivory towers.

This is a lot for one guy, and it’s a guy who’s self esteem and sense of self worth is not all that high to begin with.  I did comment in the review of the first book that the protagonist read like a woman even though the character was male.  That has been fixed in this book.  But there are still some issues here.  first of all there’s just too much being thrown at this character.  No one, I don’t care who they are, becomes the pivot point for four or five major problems all at the same time.  And the guy is not superman so while I can buy his figuring out one I can’t quite grasp his figuring out them all.

The book essentially moves from one crisis to the next to the next and they are all life threatening.  And, to add to the indignity, none of them involve tattoos, which is kind of this guys specialty.

I don’t know. I liked the book enough to read it all the way through to the end but found myself getting poked in the eye each time I was asked to suspend disbelief one more time.  I can do it once, maybe twice but the third time is a bit jarring.

I’m going to recommend it because I think the series has potential if Drake can just ratchet it back a bit.

And, if you’d like to get your very own copy to see what I am talking about all you have to do is click right here: Dead Man’s Deal: The Asylum Tales

Into The Woods, Kim Harrison, Harper Voyager, ISBN 9780061974328, 513 pgs., $24.99

Kim Harrison is the creator of the Hollows series, a universe where magic and reality intersect just outside of Cincinnati. The Hollows, a place where elves and humans and warlocks and grandmothers and vampires and businessmen and werewolves and pixies all co-exist. Sort of. 10 novels make up the serieinto the woodss so far, each centering on Rachel, a witch in trouble and her vampire room mate. As the series has progressed characters have been added and grown and progressed as well.  A while ago a non-fiction book about the Hollows came out.  Now there is this anthology.

Eleven stories make up this book.  Seven involve the Hollows and the other four are supernatural additions.  The seven which involve the Hollows include a new novella and two new short stories.  The other four short stories have been published elsewhere but are collected here for the first time.

Needless to say, if you are a fan of the series this is a must read.  I would add that even if you have not read the series this anthology works as a stand alone since short fiction usually does not require a lot of background to work in the first place.  So, if you just like supernatural fiction there is actually no better place to go than here.

Harrison is a gifted writer with a very smooth writing style.  Her ability to create characters that you relate to is a genuine gift.  I do have to admit that I think she is in best form in her longer works but there is still plenty of enjoyment to be had here.

Definitely recommended for those who want to know more on the background of many of the characters and who want to fill in a few holes that were left in the novels.  It’s all here for the taking so go ahead and enjoy.

And if you want your very own copy all you have to do is click here: Into the Woods: Tales from the Hollows and Beyond (Hollows Story Collection)

City of Ghosts, Stacia Kane, Del Rey, ISBN 978-0345515599, 416 pgs, $7.99

Ches Putnam has a problem–a number of problems actually. The guy she likes won’t talk to her after he finds her with another man, she’s been put under a binding spell which won’t let her talk about her latest assignment, she’s being required to tell everything to the guy who runs theCity of Ghosts downside neighborhood where she lives, and she’s being forced to work with a woman who’s her antithesis. Oh yeah, and the case she has could possibly undermine the church which is the only thing controlling the supernatural chaos that surrounds everyone. As she begins to investigate just what is going on she’ll come face to face with nasty after nasty all while trying to put her own life in order. Assuming she survives, she’ll still have to deal with the chaos of her own, drug hazed life.

This is the third book in the series and it continues to follow protagonist Ches Putnam as she does her work for the Church of Real Truth and struggles to keep her life in some semblance of order. This is not an easy task since Putnam is a major drug addict. And this is, perhaps, one of the things which kept me from fully enjoying the book. First, I don’t have too many issues with picking a drug addict as a protagonist but there are certainly identification issues involved here. While most of us readers do want to identify with the protagonist I can’t imagine too many who would really want to be an addict who can’t seem to get through any five minute period without her next fix. I think this also works against the competence of the protagonist as I am not sure you can be that high, for that period of time and yet function as well as she does.

The universe that Stacia Kane has built is definitely an interesting one; full of supernatural beings with deadly intent controlled only by the Church which, itself, is controlling society. Kane moves her protagonist through this world, and through the downtown world which parallels it, with equal aplomb. It’s a unique setting that feeds the action in a natural way and keeps pushing the action forward.

I enjoyed this book just like I enjoyed the first two in the series although, as noted above, I struggled a bit with protagonist credibility. That aside there’s plenty of action and a world that’s interesting to be in which makes the whole package very entertaining. Recommended if you are looking for a new, and different, urban supernatural fantasy fix.

If you’d like to get your very own copy of this book all you have to do is click right here: City of Ghosts (Downside Ghosts, Book 3)

Angel’s Ink, Jocelynn Drake, Harper Voyager, ISSBN 9780062117854, 338 pgs., $14.99

Jocelynn Drake

Jocelynn Drake (Photo credit: rtbookreviews)

Jocelynn Drake is best known for the Dark Days series. With Angel’s Ink she sets off in a new universe, albeit one still framed by the urban fantasy genre. In this case the setting is a tatoo parlor in a world where magic and magical creatures exist but under the aegis of the Ivory Tower, the mage ruling body. Gage is a tatoo artist who has turned his back on the tower and has been allowed to live although it’s often touch and go on that point. Working for Gage is an elf and a troll. The thing about Gage’s tatoos is that he imbues his ink with materials that often render them more than just body art. A good luck symbol will bring good luck, a love charm affection and wings a cancer cure. It’s the latter that gets Gage into hot water not only with the tower but with Death himself.

I have to admit that I found Drake’s previous series to be a bit waffly.  That is I found it to be inconsistent.  Partially because she was doing things in terms of structure that changed the lay of the fictional landscape.  So, I entered here with some trepidation.  What I found was an engaging story, albeit with some big holes in the plot, like why did the tower allow Gage to remain alive when they killed everyone, else.  Odd behavior from powerful wizards I think.  And there were a couple of other places where characters seemed too conveniently placed.  But, hey, I can suspend with the best of them.  Having said all that I have to admit that one thing kept throwing me over and over and that was that I, for some reason, kept thinking of the male protagonist as a woman.  So, when he checks out a female customer, I’m going, whoa, wait, when did she become a lesbian.  And then realized that the character was male.  Stuck with me through the whole novel.

In the long run I found myself enjoying the book and I have the sequel or second book depending on whether or not there is a third, sitting in my read pile right now.  So, it’s good enough to recommend although if you are a stickler for realism in your fiction then this may not be the best choice for you.

To get your very own copy, you can go here:Angel’s Ink: The Asylum Tales

Ever After, Kim Harrison, Harper Voyager Books, ISBN 9780061957918, $27.99, 435 pgs

ever afterEverything’s going to hell. Quite literally. Or maybe it’s just that hell is being destroyed and letting everything loose. Well, not hell literally but the Ever After, the place where demons live. Whatever the case, Rachel Morgan is the one responsible for it all. Sort of. At least she’s being held responsible for it by the demons who are not looking forward to being destroyed in the process. She holds herself responsible as well and is working hard trying to find solutions. The problem is that the whole thing is being manipulated by Ku’Sox Sha-Ku’ru, the soul eater, who has vowed to destroy her, or have her destroyed, whichever comes first.  Rachel finds herself in an unusual position, having to team up with Elf Trent Kalamack, which brings its own dangers.  Trent is just as likely to get her destroyed as the demons.  The whole thing is a mess and full of complications, which is usually the case when Rachel Morgan gets involved.

This is the eleventh book in the hollows series, assuming you don’t count the non-fiction book or the collection of shorter tales.  And it’s one of the final books in the series as well.  Harrision has done her usual expert job of crafting a story that twists and turns at a fairly frantic pace pulling in all the characters and placing them all at perilous risk.  It’s tightly plotted and wonderfully written.  There’s not a mis-step in the whole thing and it’s pure enjoyment from beginning to end.  Of course this assumes that you’ve been keeping up.

I’ve enjoyed this series, which I consider one of the best of the supernatural romance genre although it’s more heavily weighted on the supernatural side.  I think Harrison does a great job with balancing her characters.  It’s tough to write strong women in a field dominated by men and Harrison does this very well.  I’m going to miss the series when it concludes.  This is one of the few series where, when a new book comes out, I have no fear of adding it to my reading pile because I know it’s going to be enjoyable.  Definitely recommended and if you have not yet had the chance to get into this series there is no time like the present.

To get your very own copy you can go here:Ever After (Hollows)

Divine Misdemeanors: A Novel, Laurell K. Hamilton, Ballantine Books, ISBN 9780345495976, $7.99, 384 pgs

Français : L'auteur Laurell K. Hamilton lors d...

Image via Wikipedia

Merry Gentry is a princess of faerie. She could have been queen but decided not to take the position. She’s also a private eye in Los Angeles where she serves as the liaison between the human world and the world of fey. She’s also pregnant and, therefore, highly protected by her two bodyguards, Frost and Darkness. She’s also fairly horny most of the time, which would explain the pregnancy as well as a number of other things in the book. Needless to say if you don’t like your urban fantasy mysteries interspersed with sex you should probably avoid this book. Of course you would not be picking up Laurel K. Hamilton if you were not looking for that as well as an interesting story.

This is the eighth book in the Merry Gentry series and it continues the story of Merry, princess of faerie, as she tries to turn her self-imposed exile into a positive situation by creating a new order outside the world of faerie. She has a lot of support since the faerie court is quite cruel and often deadly. What she does not have is a really good handle on all of the other fey who are running loose in the area. Some of them are up to no good and this creates problems not only for Merry but for the humans who are just trying to go about their business.

This is an interesting book. It’s not a new concept; there are any number of writers doing this setting and situation, but few add as much spice to mix as Hamilton does. Like many of her other books, Hamilton does not fool around with plot and quickly gets things moving in interesting ways. Often she is ahead of the reader which creates an interesting process of trying to follow as she maintains a plot pace just before you. The characters are interesting, the story is interesting and there are no few twists involved before you get to the end. And there is an end which is a great thing. Sure there are loose ends as well which will lead to the next book in the series but the main problem is resolved in a satisfactory way. Fans of Hamilton have already read this book and enjoyed it. Others should feel safe to pick it up if they are looking for a good, sexy, urban fantasy. Recommended.

To order the book at Amazon click here Divine Misdemeanors: A Novel

Black Magic Sanction (Hollows Series), Kim Harrison, Eos, ISBN 9780061138041, $7.99

Cover of "Black Magic Sanction (Rachel Mo...

Cover via Amazon

This is the eighth book in Kim Harrison‘s Hollows series. This time witch Rachel Morgan has to deal with the coven, which has shunned her and wants her imprisoned or at least lobotomized so she’s no longer a black magic problem for them. Rachel also has to deal with Trent Kalamack, elf and tycoon industrialist who wants Rachel on a short leash or incapacitated as well. And then there’s the demon who has marked her and who is showing her black magic. Add in Pixie Jenks who has his own issues to manage, Ivy who is a vampire and similarly engaged, Pierce a dead witch in another person’s body who is a black magic user and apparently on his own side, and some men from Rachel’s past who are proving much more trouble than they are worth and there’s a lot going on that Rachel has to manage.

Rachel’s plans seem to continually come to bad endings and her power over her own destiny seems small. If she’s not able to pull together many of those who are working against her then there is no way she’ll be able to get the coven to change their mind. I’ve enjoyed this series up to now. This time though the book feels overly fat, overly fluffy, and in need of a good edit. It’s hard to tell whether this is the writer going on unchecked or a change of editors
or just market forces which say bigger is better, but as I read I could not help but keep saying to myself this should be shorter. There’s a lot going on but much of it is ancillary to the main plot which could have also been tightened and made sharper in focus. The one feeling I kept coming away with was that the author didn’t have a solid plot but did have three subplots and decided to weave them all together. This is pure speculation on my part of course but that’s certainly what if feels like.

I think that there is enough here for long time fans to still enjoy. The characters that they have come to know are all present, and if the overall situation for Rachel has not significantly changed it is at least a side note which they could enjoy.

If you are new to the series, I would not recommend this book as the jumping in point. Go back to the first book and start there. By the time you get here you will have decided for yourself. I have the next book in the series in my read pile and I do plan to read it so take that into consideration when you read this.

Buy Black Magic Sanction by clicking here

More by Kim Harrison
The Hollows:
* Dead Witch Walking
* Every Which Way But Dead
* The Good, the Bad, and the Undead
* A Fistful of Charms
* For a Few Demons More
* White Witch, Black Curse
* Black Magic Sanction
* Pale Demon
Graphic Novels:
Blood Work
Madison Avery:
* Once Dead, Twice Shy
* Early to Death, Early to Rise
The Anthologies:
* Dates From Hell (anthology with other authors)