Taken

Just finished the brand new Alex Verus novel yesterday. What’s that you say? It was only released Tuesday? Well that’s just how I roll baby. 😉

Anyway, I won’t go into too many details since the book is brand spanking new and I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone. In this one, Alex is tapped to figure out who is abducting apprentice mages.

Each abduction is neat, very neat. No witnesses, no clues and no trace of abductors or the victims. Even time mage and occasional side kick Sonder is stumped.

And then the Council hires Verus and all sorts of suspicious clues start popping up. And suspicious people, lets not forget them.

So I’ll leave off there so as to not give any more away and just tell you to read it!. A+. Oh and Mr. Jacka…thank you sir may I have another?

Gears of Wonderland

Oh yes, I wanted to share this one too. I am always on the look out for a good steampunk book. There seem to be so little out there to choose from that are really gripping and don’t rely on sex to move the story along. Well, do I have a treat for you!

Go out and buy Gears of Wonderland by Jason G. Anderson. It is just 2.99 for Kindle on Amazon! I had been a little wary about getting the sample for that book because the cheaper books never seem to be quite as good as the more regularly priced, more ‘mainstream’ novels. I was so pleasantly surprised by this.

Now, I have to admit something right now. I have never read Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. I know, I know. Surely some of you out there will think it sacrilege on my part but I just couldn’t get into. I might try again. Perhaps I would have gotten into it if my parents had read it to me as a child. Or if I hadn’t been just totally and completely CREEPED OUT by the animated Disney movie. Dear god that’s frightening to a six year old.

At any rate, I don’t have as much knowledge of the Alice universe as some might. This may be part of the reason I liked this book, since I had a fairly open mind about the universe. So the story starts with innocent British schlub James Riggs getting the metaphorical shaft from both his job and his (total bitch) fiancee. Heading to his best friend’s flat, James’s world is turned upside down by the friend’s murder and James’ subsequent fleeing of the scene.

Someone pushes James into Wonderland through a gate of some sort. James gets picked up by Mad Hatter’s daughter. Your first question might be “why”. Well, because apparently all the Wonderlandians have a mark on their arms denoting their kingdom and their rank in society. For instance, the Queen of Hearts (dead now thanks to assassination) would have a Queen of Hearts playing card on her arm. Her son would be the Knave (or Jack to us Americans). James’s mark is a white knight and a red knight crossed over each other. This is apparently tres weird and prompts the not-so-mad Little Hatter into taking him to meet the very much alive and still quite Mad Hatter.

From there, things just seem to go down hill from there. The Heart Guard is after him on the order of the King (formerly the Knave) of Hearts. Apparently outsiders such as James and the original Alice are considered dangerous. James and Kara the Little Hatter go on the run, searching for Caterpillar (the Oracle) and the reason behind James’s strange mark. On their journey, they meet White Rabbit (not an actual Rabbit, but a mercenary), Grphon (a freedom fighter) and of course the infamous Cheshire Cat among others.

I hope not to give too much away but the premise is that outsiders have the ability to change Wonderland simply through their thoughts. Because of this, the Wonderland that James falls into is very steampunk and almost-but-not-quite Victorian. There are air ships that run on aether, steam carriages, and guns that are reminiscent of the Teslas from Warehouse 13. James influence so far seems to be a bit more subtle in changing the way people talk.

So James goes on an adventure that he never imagined he could in his life. He’s surprised left, right and center but he learns and grows with it. He makes friends, though they might be just as surprised at that as he was, and he finds a place where he belongs.

This is a grand adventure in steampunk and it might, just might, induce me to try and re-read Carroll’s original Alice in Wonderland. And (SPOILER ALERT!!!) while Anderson gave a happy ending, he also left it open for a sequel. I really hope he writes one! Rating A+

Introducing Alex Verus

So one of Amazon’s suggested books actually paid off. Though I really place the thanks firmly in the court of Jim Butcher, who wrote a blurb for Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus novels in which he said that Harry Dresden would like this guy. Since I love Harry Dresden (Oh Jim, please write another novel soon!), I figured I’d give Fated a try.

Jim Butcher was right I think, Harry Dresden would like Alex Verus. While I wouldn’t really call Verus a knock off Dresden, I would say that there are striking similarities between the two. Both are outcast wizards thanks to the misfortune of having a Dark Wizard as a master/instructor. Both have a bit of an unusual way of making a living (Dresden advertises as a wizard in the phone book, Verus owns a magic shop). And both get into, and survive, a lot more trouble than any one person really has a right to see in their lifetime.

However, in Jacka’s wizarding world, mages don’t negatively effect technology and in fact use it regularly. Light mages and Dark mages have a sort of status quo where neither group will rock the boat. They went through a costly war and no one wants to repeat it. Each mage generally specializes in one thing (i.e.-fire magic, water magic etc) and gets really good at it, rather than Dresden who can do a great many things but seems to just favor fire.

In Fated, Alex Verus is unceremoniously thrust back into the world of mages because of his magic. Alex is a diviner, meaning he can see the future. All futures. He’s spent his whole life learning to control it so he doesn’t go mad. It makes it very easy for him to avoid trouble…unless he isn’t looking for it. Which he wasn’t when an old friend dropped by his shop in Camden (North London) and tried to recruit him, on the down low of course, for the Council.

Alex refuses and not long after not one but two Dark mages try to forcibly recruit him…for the same task. Alex has to find out what it is that everyone wants him for, who is after it and a way to get his friend Luna out of trouble with those very same people. Luna is a literally cursed young woman who is trying to break into the wizarding world with Alex’s help. She has a family curse where good things generally happen to her…at the cost of bad things to those immediately around her.

I found this book so engaging that I immediately bought the second book, Cursed. After foiling a bunch of Dark mages in the last book, Alex has become okay to work with in the eyes of the Council. So he’s getting more jobs, which means more wizard street cred but also means more trouble. Helping the one guy on the Council that he can stand, Alex finds himself at the bad end of a number of assassination attempts over the course of a couple of days.

Turns out that someone is trying to harvest magical energy out of magical creatures, such as barghests (a sort of feral, magical dog) and a sentient spider named Arachne. Trouble is, Alex is rather fond of what most mages consider mere monsters. So he agrees to investigate. If only Luna didn’t go and get herself in trouble again. *sigh* I have a feeling that this is going to be a trope for Jacka, though I do hope I’m wrong. Luna has potential to be pretty bad ass just like Molly from the Dresden files.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that I didn’t go into too much details on these books. They just came out recently (Feb. 28 for Fated, May 29 for Cursed). I’ve just started the third novel, Taken. It is promising. So, if you all love the Dresden Files as much as I do, I (and Jim Butcher) highly recommend Alex Verus to you. A and A respectively.

Beyond the Blue Moon

After catching up on Sandman Slim, I felt in the mood to revisit some Simon R. Green. Specifically, I felt like re-reading Beyond the Blue Moon, the final book in the Forest Kingdom arc. These books have been out quite a long time, but even so, I suppose I should just warn for spoilers if you haven’t read them yet.

Beyond the Blue Moon starts out in Haven with Guard Captains Hawk and Fisher who, along with all other Guardsmen, have been called in to quell a burgeoning riot on the docks. The human workers aren’t happy with the zombie scab labor. They really don’t want to hurt these people who are just trying to provide for their families the only way the can. Of course, it all goes to hell in a hand basket quite quickly.

Hawk and Fisher make it through the riot-cum-zombie massacre thought skill and sheer bloody mindedness but they pay a heavy emotional price for it. They didn’t kill anyone they knew but they didn’t want to kill anyone in this case. Most of the now dead were only trying to make a living. They’re feeling a bit depressed about their circumstances and wondering how to change it when they get an unwanted visitor.

Allen Chance is the official Questor for the Forest Kingdom and he has come to find Prince Rupert and Princess Julia, legends of the Dark Night, to figure out how who killed King Harald. Needless to say, they are less than pleased by this but they hear out the young man who is quite earnest. And he has a bloody great dog who talks. In the end, they decide that this is just the impetus they need to get the hell out of Haven. But they don’t go quietly. They raid the Guards stores and take out every criminal they could never lay hands on because they were too well connected through bribes and politics.

When they get back they find that the murder of Harald isn’t the only thing they have to deal with. There are all sorts of political factions vying for control of the court, most of whom want to Queen out of the way in one form or another. Plus something called the Inverted Cathedral has popped up-or in this case, down, hence the inverted. Hawk and Fisher have to figure out what the Inverted Cathedral is for, how to stop the Blue Moon from coming back and, if they have time, find a killer. Just another day in the life of Hawk and Fisher.

It is an excellent novel, an excellent series. A+. Read it!

Devil in the Dollhouse

Oh Richard Kadrey. Please keep writing Sandman Slim stories. I do adore them. 🙂 The Devil in the Dollhouse is a Sandman Slim short story. It focuses on Stark’s first few interactions in Hell as the new Lucifer. He’s trying to play all factions against the middle so that no one remembers that Stark was just a plain old human rather than a fallen angel like the rest of them.

One of his advisors (name is eluding me at the moment but I’m sure if you looked up demonology on the web, you’d come across it), convinces him that something needs to be done about what is essentially Hell’s out-house. And not in a bathroom sort of way. Well actually, it is that too come to think…Anyway, this area is supposed to hold demons and souls so bad they give other demons the heebie-jeebies.

Stark is good at kicking ass but he’s not very good at politicking or out thinking his opponents so he’s basically talked into this trek.  There are three rings of challenges to get through, each hard than the last but they weren’t really physical challenges so much as mental/emotional ones.

Turns out these challenges weren’t so much keeping demons out as keeping the uber-scary demons in. And rather than demons it is demon, singular. He claims to be the original Lucifer, the one who was the original cast out. Well, considering that there is a Sandman Slim full sized novel due out in a couple weeks, you can hazard a guess as to who wins this showdown.  😀 Anyway, loved the story because it whetted my appetite for more Sandman Slim. Read it. A

Good Omens

Man, I haven’t read Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett in years but I just finished it up yesterday. I forgot how great this book is! It is right up my alley. Plenty of dry British humor, great descriptions an a good story.

Good Omens follows the exploits of demon A.J. Crowley and angel Aziraphale as they try to avert the apocalypse by influencing the upbringing of who they think is the Antichrist.  Think is the operative word because the boy they think is the Antichrist, a young American named Warlock, really isn’t. The Satanist nuns  that were supposed to switch out the Antichrist with the American baby accidentally switched him out with a baby of a regular old stodgy British couple instead.

Instead of growing up with Crowley and Aziraphale’s respective interference, the Antichrist grew up in a regular human home with a regular human family and friends. And that just throws a monkey wrench in the whole end of the world bit. So if you’re looking for good book and are a fan of either of these authors, I highly, highly recommend Good Omens. This book came out a long time ago but I would love to see more of Crowley and Aziraphale. Please? 🙂 A+ book.

Butcher Bird

I just finished reading Butcher Bird by Richard Kadrey on my commute home (woot public trans). It was interesting enough that I’d be willing to read a sequel if he wrote one. But I’ll be honest, it took me a while to finish this one. I picked it up after I read the third Sandman Slim book (love those books!). I felt that Butcher Bird was slower to start than Sandman Slim. I stopped after a few chapters and went off to read a few (okay, a lot) more books. I recently came back to it and I must have been in the mood for his dark and snarky style of writing because I ploughed through what I had left.

Butcher Bird features a tattoo artist by the name of Spyder. It starts out with him and his lesbian best friend called Lulu trading worst way to die suggestions at their favorite dive bar in San Fran. Sometime during the drinking, he meets a blind lady by the name of Shrike. Not long after, he gets beat to shit by a demon while taking a piss in the alley next to the bar. Shrike saves his as with some cool swordsmanship (you heard me, the blind chick is a sword master. Pretty sweet). But this incident leaves Spyder with something he never wanted. The truth. Or the sight. Or whatever term you want to use for suddenly “seeing the world the way it really is”.

Spyder takes this suddenly seeing demons thing pretty cool. I’d probably be freaking the fuck out but Spyder’s all like “huh…weird”. Wondering if he got hit just a little too hard by his demon mugger, he goes to find Lulu. Only to find that Lulu isn’t exactly Lulu any more. She’s been selling off pieces of herself to these weirdos called the Black Clerks to be able to keep doing smack and not look like it. I pictured the Black Clerks a bit like The Gentlemen from Buffy, only talkers.

Not long after this, Spyder finds Shrike again and gets pulled into this sort of supernatural intrigue with her. Her partner’s been murdered and she needs a man to stand with her and look tough and intimidating. Spyder apparently fits the bill, being tattooed from neck to feet. The pair of them get hired to go to Hell (literally, not figuratively) to retrieve a powerful book from a demon.

I won’t say too much more because spoilers. 🙂 After this assignment is made though, the book really starts to pick up. I guess I felt the beginning as a bit too exposition-y. Richard Kadrey’s interpretation of Hell in this book is a bit different than the version in the Sandman Slim books. Sandman Slim is a much darker, much more chaotic place. I’m not quite sure how to describe his vision of Hell in this book. His characterization of Lucifer is quite interesting though. All in all, I’d say this is a solid B, maybe leaning just a hair to B- because it took so long for me to finish.