Review: Infernal Affairs by Jes Battis

Infernal AffairsThis book was a personal purchase.

I’ve become rather fond of the blend of police procedural and sci-fi and fantasy.  Although it’s certainly true that human beings can be quite creative in the perpetration of crimes, there’s something about the vastness of space or the pervasiveness of myth that rivals even our own species’ inventiveness.  One of the best of these is Jes Battis’s OSI series, and its most recent addition keeps the action and adventure quotient high.

Tess Corday, an Occult Special Investigator, has a pretty full life.  She works the night shift, dealing with all manner of paranormal weirdness, and she’s also the “mother” to two vampiric teenagers.  So the last thing she needs is for a demon in the form of a child to enter her life.  Ru is found lifeless on a beach, but revives on the autopsy table.  He’s on the run from another demon who wants to drag him home to be executed—and said demon makes an unexpected appearance.

Any of that would be enough for one overworked human to process.  But unfortunately, there’s more: the demon bounty hunter apparently knows who her father is.  All Tess knows is that he’s demonic in origin, but she’s never been able to discover his identity—or even his species.  Now she’s closer than ever to tracking down the one being that can shed light into her past.

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Review: After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

After-the-Golden-AgeThis book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Superheroes have been a part of our culture for decades. Figures such as Superman, Batman and Spider-Man are just as familiar to us as any legendary person out of actual history. And these mighty warriors have gained more fame in recent years as the film industry has updated them for the new millennium. Novels, too, have provided us with heroes to admire, and Carrie Vaughn’s newest book joins these ranks. After the Golden Age is a deeply affecting tale of the hero in each of us.

Celia West is an accountant, specializing in the kind of forensic work that helps bring criminals to justice. She lives in a modest apartment and appears to be, for all intents and purposes, normal. But she’s the daughter of Warren and Suzanne West, also known as Captain Olympus and Spark, Commerce City’s greatest superheroes. This makes Celia a favorite target for someone looking for a prime hostage.

But Celia’s efforts to stay out of the limelight are thwarted when her boss assigns her to the Simon Sito case. Sito, the Destructor, has a long and storied history with her family. Forced back into the world of the more-than-human, she is forced to confront—and answer for—secrets about herself that she’s long kept buried. And when her investigations turn up even more shocking secrets, she has to question almost everything that she’s known about the way her world works.

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Review: The Restorer by Amanda Stevens

This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

While I often talk about the importance of worldbuilding, it’s not often that I run across a novel that prompts me to wax rhapsodic about its atmosphere.  The ability to evoke the feeling that goes with a location isn’t one that I run across all the time.  The Restorer is one of those rare stories.

Amelia Gray has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a cemetery restorer, but she also takes after him in her ability to see ghosts.  But there are rules for people like them: “Never acknowledge the dead.  Never stray far from hallowed ground.  Never get close to the haunted.  Never, ever tempt fate.”  Amelia spends years following these rules to the letter, but her job at Oak Grove cemetery will test her resolve to its utmost.

Police detective John Devlin approaches Amelia to help with a murder investigation, one in which the body has been dumped in Oak Grove.  Amelia feels an instant attraction to him, but there’s a very big problem—Devlin is haunted by two ghosts.  The woman and young girl follow him wherever he goes.

Amelia thinks that there may be clues about the murder in the symbolism on the headstones, and she’s the most knowledgeable person in the area on this subject.  But now Amelia herself may be on the killer’s radar, and the presence of the dead is growing stronger by the day.

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Review: Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch

Moon Over SohoThis book was a personal purchase.

I’ve really come to like the recent upsurge in urban fantasy novels that blend the supernatural with police procedural.  The two elements mix well and often create a tense and gripping story.  Ben Aaronovitch has tapped into this with wonderful results.  His second novel, Moon Over Soho, continues the adventures of PI Peter Grant in the streets of a London far different than what you may have seen.

Peter Grant may still be recovering emotionally from the events of a couple of months back, but his partner Leslie is still physically healing from her horrible facial wounds.  While she recovers, Grant works with his mentor Nightingale to improve his ability to control magic.  But the respite isn’t long, and soon there’s another body to deal with—this one emitting the faint strains of a jazz tune.

Now Grant and Nightingale are caught up in a mystery that may have begun during World War II, a mystery that leaves jazz musicians dead for apparently no reason.  And to solve this case, Grant is going to have to turn to someone very close to home: his own dad.

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Review: Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

Midnight RiotThis book was a personal purchase.

Supernatural police procedurals can offer a wealth of plot to readers.  There’s mystery, there’s hard-boiled detective work, there’s some kind of otherworldly being, and often enough there’s a touch of romance or magic.  Midnight Riot packs all of the above into an entertaining and highly readable novel.

London beat cop Peter Grant is about to be assigned out to a boring desk job when he gets involved in a very unusual murder case: the victim was apparently decapitated with a baseball bat.  As this is impossible for a normal human to achieve, the police are understandably confused.  But Grant gets some information about the murder from a strange informant—one who turns out to be a ghost.

His interest in the case leads him to Inspector Nightingale, the one-man task force assigned to solve cases with supernatural involvement.  Grant is now Nightingale’s apprentice, learning not only magic but the secret lore of London, including how to approach the various gods, goddesses and other beings that rule its streets.  As more bodies pile up, Grant must race to find the killer’s identity before all hell literally breaks loose.

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Review: The World House by Guy Adams

This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I’m a little biased towards books that showcase adventures indoors. For most of my life, I’ve had wonderful recurring dreams of exploring vast buildings full of interesting things. So The World House is the kind of book that’s right up my alley. But this house is scarier and more dangerous than my worst nightmares.

All over the world, in varying time periods, people pick up a strange little box and find themselves transported to an odd and frightening place. Taxidermied animals come to life to attack the unwary, hallways extend into infinity, and dark spaces contain faceless phantoms. The house seems to contain everything you can imagine, except for one thing—a way out.

At the top of the house is a locked room. In that room is a prisoner plotting his escape. If he gets out, he will destroy the world.

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Review: Of Saints and Shadows by Christopher Golden

Of Saints and ShadowsThis book was a personal purchase.

Vampires are fiction’s current superstars, but their well-known mythology makes it too easy for writers to stick slavishly to common themes and characteristics. Of Saints and Shadows offers a different look at vampire origins.

Peter Octavian, a private detective and vampire, occasionally helps the police with his unusual knowledge and expertise. But one dark night, a simple murder case blossoms into something much more complicated … and deadly.

It involves the mysterious “Gospel of Shadows,” stolen from the Vatican library. This tome contains the collected knowledge of the church sorcerers who want to eliminate the “Defiant Ones”: the vampires.

Sorcerer Father Liam Mulkerrin has come to the United States to retrieve the book, and start a final holy war against all vampires. Peter and his scattered vampire friends must fight the church’s magic and stop Mulkerrin’s plans.

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Review: The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron

The Spirit ThiefThis book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

What’s the appeal of a thief as a main character? My money’s on the chance to watch a clever plot unfold. With movies like Oceans Eleven and books like The Lies of Locke Lamora, the thief has gone from obscurity in D&D games to a viable guy to root for. New author Rachel Aaron brings a new face to the lineup with Eli Monpress, the thief who wants to be worth one million gold.

We join Eli in prison, captive of King Henrith of Mellinor. After persuading the door to open up and let him out, he does what nobody expects: he steals the king. Hot on the heels of this crime, the wizard Miranda arrives, hunting Eli in the hopes of preventing another crime. Something dangerously magical lurks in Mellinor’s royal vault, and if Eli gets his hands on it, who knows what will happen?

And yet even more dangers are swirling around Mellinor. The throne’s vacancy has left the way clear for Henrith’s exiled brother Renaud to return and take control. The funny thing about Mellinor is that magic is outlawed; and, the funny thing about Renaud is that he’s a wizard. Something is most definitely rotten in the state of Mellinor, and the funniest thing of all is that Eli may be their only hope of salvation.

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Review: Quofum by Alan Dean Foster

QuofumThis book was borrowed from the Yolo County Public Library, Davis branch.

After many years, Alan Dean Foster finally has written his final Pip and Flinx novel, Flinx Transcendent.

But he didn’t just barrel ahead into that last tale. Before that book, he set up some of the events in Quofum, a lackluster first contact novel.

The planet Quofum is a scientific enigma, as it appears and disappears without warning. During one of its appearances, an expedition is sent to study the wayward planet. What the crew finds is shocking: four distinct and intelligent alien species, which clearly couldn’t all have evolved on the planet at the same time. Along with wildly divergent flora and fauna, this presents a nearly impossible mystery.

The crew has no idea that their investigations may touch on the key to defeating the Great Evil that is approaching the galaxy; they’re concerned only with studying this unique planet. And when treachery divides them, their focus shifts to staying alive and finding a way home.

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Review: Acacia by David Anthony Durham

AcaciaThis book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

David Anthony Durham is well-known for his award-winning historical novels, but he recently turned his pen to fantasy and started an epic. Acacia is the first volume in the story The War with the Mein, which blends action and intrigue with a sweeping setting.

King Leoden Akaran is the highest ruler in the world. The empire of Acacia has existed for hundreds of years, and has brought peace to all under its rule. Alas, peace has been purchased at a high price: The king is forced to uphold a bargain that his ancestors made long ago, which requires him to allow traffic in drugs and slaves.

Leoden’s children have grown up ignorant of what lies beneath the kingdom’s quiet, although the older two have some idea of the world at large. All this is shattered when an assassin from the north, one of the exiled Mein warriors, strikes at the king. Wounded and dying, Leoden scatters his children to the winds to protect them.

Little does he know that the poison isn’t merely in his body, but also in the heart of his kingdom.

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