Thursday, October 6, 2016

Review: Magic Shifts (Kate Daniels #8)

An ancient enemy has arisen, and Kate and Curran are the only ones who can stop it—before it takes their city apart piece by piece...

Magic Shifts, by Ilona Andrews, is the eighth novel in the Kate Daniels series. Magic comes in unpredictable waves in post-shift Atlanta. Kate Daniels and former Beast Lord Curran have officially separated from the Pack. Kate has claimed Atlanta. Her father has become a scary being in the flesh that lurks in the background ready to intrude at any moment's notice. In the meantime, the couple are adjusting to a new life with a different pace. Though the Pack politics may become a distant memory, Kate is still determined, resourceful and assertive as ever to protect her family and carve a new chapter in her life.

While the couple are thrilled with the change of scenery (living in their own home with Julie), Curran misses the constant challenges of leading a pack of shape-shifters. A new opportunity arises when the Pack offers Curran its stake in the Mercenary Guild--who wants nothing to do with Kate or the Beast Lord. As a veteran merc, Kate takes over the Guild's unfinished jobs in order to build the reputation of her independent investigation agency. But what Kate and Curran don't realize is the Mercenary Guild is far from stable. Between fighting ghouls and searching for a missing shifter, a powerful ancient adversary appears and it is nothing like Kate has ever fought. It plans to destroy not only the Guild but the short break that Kate and Curran have built as well. This challenge forces Kate to face her own innermost fears before it devours her soul.

The Andrews delivered another spectacular addition to the Kate Daniels series. They find new ways to stimulate readers with the otherworld-building and new challenges that makes Kate both stronger and wiser in the end. It marks as a transition of sorts--Kate and Curran have left the Pack. In this hovel, readers are introduced to ghouls, who are persons caught between the living and the dead. They have rational thought but still rely on human flesh to survive. The use of Arabic mythology was also intriguing to say the least. There was a moment during the final battle that I did not think Kate was going to survive as usual--I was on the edge wondering how will Kate overcome this monstrosity. As usual, I enjoyed the humor and spontaneity that Kate portrays even when she constantly faces life-or-death situations. I will continue to root for Kate and Curran because they make the best urban fantasy couple. I highly recommend this book.

Stay tuned for the next novel in the Kate Daniels series, Magic Binds.
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Sunday, October 2, 2016

Review: The Hanged Man (2015, Her Majesty's Psychic Service #1)



The Hanged Man, by P.N. Elrod, is the first book in the new gaslight paranormal fantasy series that takes place in Victorian London. The novel begins on a cold and dreary Christmas Eve in 1879. A forensic psychic is summoned from her home to the scene of a questionable death at a house on Baker Street. A man has hung himself, but by using her abilities to pick up on emotional traces left behind, Alex is able to rule out a suicide. Alexandrina (Alex) Victoria Pendlebury (named after her godmother--Victoria, Queen of England) is confident that the death in question is a magically compromised murder and not a suicide, as the police had assumed. they find the evidence that someone broke into the house, drugged the hapless victim and strung him up to make it look like he killed himself. What’s even more disturbing to Alex is the lack of emotional signature from the perpetrator. Whoever (or whatever) committed this murder, they did it without feeling anything at all.

Then the identity of the hanged man is revealed and Alex’s world comes crashing down around her. This opens up a whole new set of questions, deeply personal ones that fill her with doubt as she struggles to keep her mind on the investigation. Her superiors remove her from the case, but Alex is determined to follow up on leads even if it means setting out on her own. Luckily, she’s not completely alone; newly recruited Lieutenant Brooks maybe new to magic but he is supportive of Alex in this investigation. Then there is the mysterious and enigmatic Lord Richard Desmond who seems to know more a lot of detail about Alex's background. There are assassins and dark magic afoot, and both Scotland Yard and the Psychic Service are going to need all the help they can get. Alex must uncover the deeper issues at stake, before more bodies turn up.

P.N. Elrod is back in action! After I read the entire Vampire Files and Jonathan Barret: Gentleman Vampire series in my undergraduate years, I learned about this new surprising series from her website. It is different from her other book series but I am starting to like the gaslight fantasy genre. Elrod is a great, meticulous writer who can take her readers into the time period that she is writing (whether it's 1930s Chicago or 1870s London, she has done her homework on the culture of the characters and background setting!) I truly felt the mystery and magic unfold in this plot---I was constantly on the edge of my seat throughout the story (from carriage-racing horses to family betrayal and loss). Alex and Lieutenant Brooks have a promising working (and romantic) relationship together. I love how Alex is a brave and smart protagonist who can defend herself in an era where the cult of true womanhood was at its height. Alex skips the domestic sphere and creates a professional career that employs her empathic skills to good use--investigating unsolved mysteries with magical element in the streets of London. I want to know more about the secrets and organization of the Her Majesty's Psychic Service, the difference between seers and precogs, and the occult organization that Alex stumbles upon in solving the mysterious murder. With its blend of mystery, historical, romance, and fantasy, this novel will delight fans and newcomers to the world of Elrod. Watch out Sherlock Holmes, there is a new investigator in town with an empathic touch. I can't wait to read the next novel in this delightful series.

Stay tuned for future updates on this great addition to the gaslight fantasy genre. I know I’m often bemoaning that all books these days seem to be part of a series, but in this case I’m actually hoping there will be more installments. The Hanged Man reads perfectly well as a standalone, but there’s still a lot left to ponder. Just what kind of secrets are the top men at Her Majesty’s Psychic Service hiding? I’d also love to get more background on the organization and its people. It appears that Alex and her Reader skills are just the beginning, seeing as the Service also employs Seers and Precogs and what sounds to me like a considerable R&D department. With all this supernatural talent flying around, I imagine there’s quite a bit of potential for future novels. And last but not least, I think Alex and Lieutenant Brooks have a good thing here going, and it would be interesting to watch their romance (which is just in the first stages of blooming here) develop into something more. I anticipated that I would really like The Hanged Man, I just didn’t know it would be this much. A blend of Urban Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mystery and Romance all rolled into one, it’s sure to appeal to readers with a palate for bold twists and magical intrigue. The writing is simply wonderful, with P.N. Elrod’s prose bringing the period to life in a very expressive and authentic way. The story and characters are very well developed, and if I ever get the chance to catch up with Alex, Brooks, James and the other people in this world again, I know I won’t hesitate
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