Monday, February 16, 2015

Review: Archangel's Storm (Guild Hunter #5)

With only their relentless hunt for a violent, intelligent killer to unite them, Jason and Mahiya embark on a quest that leads to a centuries-old nightmare... and to the dark storm of an unexpected passion that threatens to drench them both in blood.

Archangel's Storm, by Nalina Singh, is the fifth installment in the Guild Hunter series. The story focuses on the budding relationship between Jason (one of Raphael's Seven and excellent spymaster) and Mahiya, a princess in arnchangel Neha's kingdom. With wings of midnight and an affinity for shadows, Jason courts darkness. But now, with the Archangel Neha's consort lying murdered in the jewel-studded palace that was his prison and her rage threatening cataclysmic devastation, Jason steps into the light, knowing he must unearth the murderer before it is too late. Earning Neha's trust comes at a price--Jason must tie himself to her bloodline through the Princess Mahiya, a woman with secrets so dangerous, she trusts no one. Least of all an enemy spymaster. As deaths continue to climb and hidden secrets from the past become revealed, Jason and Mahiya must team up together to prevent an apocalyptic war with devastating consequences.

really enjoyed watching the interactions between Jason and Mahiya as they developed from just acquaintances to potential lovers. I don't think any other woman could have been more perfect for Jason. Mahiya's hidden iron will intrigued him enough to draw him in, but it was her pure heart, determination, and untainted kindness in a world of horror that kept him there. As Raphael's spymaster, Jason lives his life in the shadows as he goes undercover to garner the best intel. However, his latest charge will take him out of that comfort zone and into the light. The Archangel's Neha's consort has been brutally murdered and her rage is shaking the world. Neha was already quite unstable prior to his death from the pain of losing her daughter earlier in the series, and if she continues on the path into madness, millions of her subjects will suffer. Neha agrees in allowing Jason to enter her lands, but only with the stipulation that he bind himself to another of her bloodline. As Mahiya and Jason team up to find the killer along the way, they find a passion for one another so unexpected that it threatens to tear apart who they each are at the core.

It seems that all of the characters in the Guild Hunter series carry a plethora of secrets--and scars--from their pasts. Each character is damaged, but expresses it in a different way. This novel reveals why Jason the spymaster, who constantly hides in the shadows, is so closed off from the world. Throughout the book we are given glimpses of those harrowing events, but it is the reveal later in the book that shocked me. Since he endured so much suffering and loss in his childhood, it is truly amazing that he was able to function at all and retain his sanity. He survived this horror by completely closing off his heart to everyone, friend and enemy. Jason does not allow anyone to get close to his deepest and darkest secrets -- Mahiya finally breaks that wall. Overall, Nalini Singh has done a wonderful job in portraying Jason's character so beautifully, showing his thoughtful strength, intellect, and grace. As a side character in the series, it was refreshing to finally read his backstory and make peace with his past.

Stay tuned for the ninth novel in the Guild Hunter series, Archangel's Legion.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: Cold Days (The Dresden Files #14)

Beset by enemies new and old, Harry must gather his friends and allies, prevent the annihilation of countless innocents, and find a way out of his eternal subservience before his newfound powers claim the only thing he has left to call his own soul.

Cold Days, by Jim Butcher, is the fourteenth novel in the Dresden Files series. After being murdered by a mystery assailant, navigating his way through the realm between life and death in Ghost Story, and being brought back to the mortal world, Harry realizes that maybe death wasn’t so bad after all because he is no longer Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard.

He is now Harry Dresden, Winter Knight to Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness. After Harry had no choice but to swear his fealty, Mab wasn’t about to let something as petty as death steal away the prize she had sought for so long. And now, her word is his command, no matter what she wants him to do, no matter where she wants him to go, and no matter who she wants him to kill.

Mab wants her newest minion to pull off the impossible: kill an immortal. No problem there, right? And to make matters worse, there exists a growing threat to an unfathomable source of magic that could land Harry in the sort of trouble that will make death look like a holiday. With little time to waste, Harry must gather his friends, prevent an apocalypse, and pull off the impossible before his newfound powers claim his own soul.

Harry Dresden returns! Sort of, but it's an improvement from the Harry Dresden the wandering spirit the last novel, Ghost Story. Harry is no longer a ghost and back in full (mortal) form. The trade-off is he is now the new Winter Knight for Mab, and he has a crazy mission that he doesn't want to follow. But he has no choice so he investigates the reason behind Mab's order. As usual, he is thrown into the thick of things all paranormal and must prevent another apocalyptic catastrophe.

Dresden awakens inside Faerie's Winter Court with new powers and new debts that must be paid. Summer Knight was the volume that made me love the series since it broadened the Dresden universe, and Cold Days explores the politics and inhabitants of Faerie deeper than ever before. We see Mab in all her crazy glory along with nearly every other important figures, including many unexpected personages of a magical persuasion. And when Harry is given a seemingly impossible task from Mab, of course, he gets drawn into even greater problems and old grudges back in the real world. Not to mention that with new powers come great responsibilities. Harry struggles to retain his posture and logic when the Winter Mantle desires bloodshed, war, and power. Overall, I really enjoyed this story and highly recommend this series. Ghost Story was a disappointment, but Cold Days resurrected the series to its typical Harry Dresden adventure.

Stay tuned for the next novel in the Dresden Files series, Skin Game (Dresden Files)

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Review: Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels #7)

No matter how much the paranormal politics of Atlanta change, one thing always remains the same: if there’s trouble, Kate Daniels will be in the middle of it…

Magic Breaks, by Ilona Andrews, is the seventh novel in the Kate Daniels series. Former mercenary Kate Daniels is the mate of the Beast Lord, Curran. She has to deal with the affairs of the pack in Atlanta. Moreover, she has to prepar her people for attack from Roland, an ancient evil being with god-like powers who also happens to be her biological father. Since Kate’s connection to Roland has gone public, no one is safe—especially those closest to Kate. As Roland’s awakening draws near, Kate is called to attend the Conclave, a gathering of the leaders from the various supernatural factions in Atlanta. When one of the Masters of the Dead is found murdered there, with evidence leading to a shapeshifter, Kate is given only twenty-four hours by her arch-nemesis Hugh to hunt down the killer. And this time, if she fails, she’ll find herself embroiled in a war which could destroy everything she holds dear. With little time to waste, Kate will perhaps embark on her most dangerous mission ever to find the killer and find the truth about her father.

Magic Breaks was amazing and epic. Set in a dystopian world, Kate Daniels and her colleagues face powerful vampires, monsters, and Roland himself in their quest to find the killer of one of the Masters of the Dead. Roland is coming but first she has to head off Hugh (he really needs a whack in the head) who is now trying to start a war with The Pack. That is just NOT going to happen if Kate has anything to say about it. Unfortunately, Curran is busy on another mission and not present to advise Kate. So, she tried to handle things in her own unique fashion, start the fun-o-meter. Magic Breakst includes new characters that add humor and suspense to the storyline. Derek and Ascanio are awesome together, throw in Desandra and you have a full comic tour. Who would have thought of mutant donkeys?? If you haven't read Magic Rises, I suggest you do before you pick up this book. In sum, I can't wait for the epic showdown between Roland and Kate (and her Beast Lord -- Curran isn't missing this opportunity!).

Stay tuned for the eighth novel in the Kate Daniel series, Magic Shifts. In the meantime, check out two novellas about Jim and Dali: Magic Dreams and Magic Steals.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Review: Bitter Blood, Fall of Night, and Daylighters (Morganville Vampires #13-15)

Bitter Blood, Fall of Night, and Daylighters, by Rachel Caine, are the final three books of the Morganville Vampires series.

Bitter Blood: Thanks to the eradication of the parasitic creatures known as the draug, the vampires of Morganville have been freed of their usual constraints. With the vampires indulging their every whim, the town’s human population is determined to hold on to their lives by taking up arms. But college student Claire Danvers isn’t about to take sides, considering she has ties to both the humans and the vampires. To make matters worse, a television show comes to Morganville looking for ghosts, just as vampire and human politics collide. Now, Claire and her friends have to figure out how to keep the peace without ending up on the nightly news…or worse. of Night: Claire never thought she’d get to leave Morganville, but she can’t pass up the chance to finally attend her dream school, MIT. After all, getting to invent anti-vamp devices with Professor Anderson—a Morganville exile herself—sounds like a dream come true…until Claire realizes that there are sinister forces in play, and she’s not the only one with a vampire-related agenda. Without her friends Shane, Eve and Michael, surviving a killer schedule may be hard…but with them, it might turn out to be impossible. Something drastic has happened in Morganville while Claire and her friends were away. The town looks cleaner and happier than they’ve ever seen it before, but when their incoming group is arrested and separated—vampires from humans—they realize that the changes definitely aren’t for the better. It seems that an organization called the Daylight Foundation has offered the population of Morganville something they’ve never had: hope of a vampire-free future. And while it sounds like salvation—even for the vampires themselves—the truth is far more sinister and deadly. Now, Claire, Shane and Eve need to find a way to break their friends out of Daylighter custody, before the vampires of Morganville meet their untimely end…

This marks the end of the Morganville Vampires series. With the setting taken place in Texas (and later Boston/Cambridge area in Fall of Night), Claire and the gang (Shane, Eve, and Michael) are put to the test against enemies both supernatural and human alike! In the first novel, a parasitic creature named the draug has finally returned to wipe out the vampire race in Morganville. Amelie creatd the town in the desert so that the draug could not infiltrate the town so easily. With nowhere to run, humans and vampires team up to fight back. In the second novel, Claire receives her wish to attend her dream college (MIT) only to find out it was not so much a blessing. She stumbles upon a secret organization, the Daylighter Foundation, whose mission is to get rid of vampires for good through conversion and death. With her loyalties at stake (should she support humans or vampires??), she must make her decision fast in Daylighters because the future of Morganville depends on her bravery and intellect.

Overall, I enjoyed the Morganville Vampire series because it revealed both the good and dark side of humanity and vampires. Readers would see the town leader's Amelie at her strongest and wweakest moments -- putting a burden on Claire and the gang to provide some order in town. Claire also realizes that Morganville is where she belongs even if her dream was MIT -- but her vampire friends (Myrnin, Oliver, and Amelie), who can be scary but still dependable in nature, were in trouble. Claire grows up into a courageous young woman who has witnessed more action and suspense than your average teenager. She was put into several tough and dangerous situations, but she had the knack for survival and caring for others regardless of their status. I will miss reading about the characters in Morganville -- I highly recommend this series to young adult readers.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Review: Thirst Series #2 (Phantom, Evil Thirst and Creatures of Forever)

Thirst #2: Phantom Evil, Evil Thirst, and Creatures of Forever is the second omnibus in the Last Vampire series by Christopher Pike. is the second three books (four through six) of the popular teen thriller series, The Last Vampire. Reprinted into an omnibus for easier reading, the book description states:

What Alisa has desired for five thousand years has finally come true—she is once again human. But now she is defenseless, vulnerable, and for the first time in centuries, emotional. As she attempts to reconcile her actions as a vampire with her new connection to humanity, she begins to understand the weight of life and death decisions. Can Alisa resolve her past and build a new identity, or is she doomed to repeat her fatal mistakes?

The story of Sita continues, picking up where Thirst No. 1 leaves off. Thirst No. 2 opens with Sita discovering she is human once again. With this realization, this is her opportunity to procreate a child with her Ray. What should have been a blessing later becomes a fast-paced nightmare--because after all, once a vampire, always a vampire. Her baby is born thirsty for blood and with superhuman strength. Sita must decide whether her humanity is worth the cost. Ovearll, Sita's child propels her toward a profound understanding of her long life, opens her up to a journey into her past, and ultimately offers her with an ending that is both astonishing and meaningful for her.

This is technically books 4-6 of the original series. The action passes quickly, making this format preferable to the separate books. In this omnibus, Christopher Pike retains what is perhaps the best aspect of Sita's personality: her introspection of her past and present circumstances. Her introspective monologues are written in such a way that one can actually believe she has lived as long as she has -- 5,000 year old vampire who has pretty much seen it all. There are frequent flashbacks to her past, with each one relating to her present predicament. I believe the blend of the past and present is very satisfying and realistic. Plus, it's nice to read and understand why she does what she does, and not simply read that she does it.

On the one hand, readers should be forewarn that this book includes a lot of "new age" and science fiction themes that may sound farfetched. On the other hand, this is a book about vampires, immortality, spirituality, and redemption -- so this isn't really surprising. Despite this route, Pike created a memorable tale that I will cherish. I can see why Sita is considered the original kick-ass vampire huntress. It doesn't matter what age you are reading these books -- they are a pleasure to read.

Stay tuned for the (brand new) seventh novel in The Last Vampire series, Thirst No. 3: The Eternal Dawn.