Drynn

Drynn is a book I stumbled across on Amazon while looking for something new to read. Written by Steve Vera, it throws small town Montana sheriff Skip Walkins into a world he is not at all prepared for. See, entombed in this small town cemetery is a nasty, extra-dimensional bad guy/demon type named Asmodeus the Pale. This bad guy was entombed by a number of mage warriors from his dimension (called Theia) called Shardyn knights.

These Shardyn were trapped on Earth after defeating Asmodeus because Earth has no magic. Thinking that, they made lives for themselves among humans and hoped to find a way back. Except something happened. A killer by the name of Donovan (not sure why that seems strange to me but it does) makes his way to this small town in Montana for some reason he doesn’t fully comprehend. See, Donovan was legally dead for some time and when he came back, he came back changed.

Something about Asmodeus called Donovan to Montana, where he inadvertently released the demon. So Skip has to chase both demon and Donovan across the country. Asmodeus wants revenge on the the Shardyn knights and he’ll stop at nothing.

All in all, I was really surprised by this book. Some of the characterizations were a little ham-fisted I thought. Skip not only gave up a life as a good detective with Philly PD, he also happened to be a crack sniper for the Marines! Of course! But I was pleased to see that while there was a bit of sexual tension there was no actual sex! An urban fantasy book with no sex! Holy shit, I’m hallucinating. Now, I have nothing against sex but it is nice to see that an author can go without it.

Vera left the end of the book in a way that clearly says he is looking to continue in at least one more story.  And I am actually looking forward to it. So it was a good read and cheap on Amazon Kindle but Vera could use a little polishing as a writer. Rating: B.

Slashback

I am a big fan of Rob Thurman. I feel I can safely say that now, since I usually try not to say I’m a fan if I only like a couple of things an artist has done. But I’ve truly enjoyed all the books of Thurman’s I’ve read so far. I am really, really looking forward to the next Trickster (or is it Trixter?) novel. At any rate, Slashback is the latest in the Cal & Niko books. So, fair warning, SPOILERS be here.

Cal has his memories back and he has come to relatively peaceful terms with the fact that he is in fact a monster. Cal is one of my favorite characters. He is a snarky anti-hero. He doesn’t really care or want to do the right thing but he will never, ever let down his brother Niko.

In this book, we get a bit more of Cal and Niko’s back story. I’ll admit that I came into the Cal & Niko series about mid way and I don’t really have a desire to start at the beginning, though I might do so if I run out of things to read from Amazon. 🙂 Thurman goes over previous information in her books, so with the exception of the first book I read, I don’t really feel lost.

At any rate, we learn that Cal and Niko, who moved around a lot due to their drunken harlot Rom mother (I’m not not saying that because she is Rom, she’s a drunken harlot. She’s drunken harlot that just happens to be written as a member of the Romany peoples by Thurman, so please no trolling). We flash back between a particular move and present day as is often the case with the Cal & Niko stories.

In this case, they’re in the northeast somewhere (Connecticut I think), Niko is about fifteen and Cal is about eleven. Niko is working as a janitor at his school to make money to feed them. This means that he doesn’t accompany Cal home at the end of the day, which worries him because they have been chased by Auphe since the day that Cal was born.

One day, Niko comes home and Cal announces the next door neighbor is a serial killer, just as cool as you please before he goes back to his comic book.  Needless to say, Niko does not believe this but Cal insists on investigating. He smells the blood and death from next door when he walks by because his Auphe half increases his senses, especially smell. Cal can’t hardly go by a hospital let alone in one. Used clothing or bedding can, at this point in his young life, cause actual physical sickness.

Now what does this have to do with present day NYC where Cal and Niko now live? Simple, Cal gets attacked by a group of nutball humans who feel they have to save him or cleanse him or some such thing. They try to kill him, which is a bad idea. He sends them to Tumulus (the Auphe home dimension) for just a few seconds and drives them all even more bonkers than they were. But the strange thing about this humans is that they seemed to know precisely where the division between “safe/human” NYC is and the paien (supernatural) NYC begins.

It becomes clear after a while that there is a creature much more powerful than them pulling the strings of these weirdos, as that creature attacks Cal in the home he shares with Niko. It takes a while, but eventually we get the connection between their recollections and their current situation. The creature that is controlling this modern day nutballs was the same creature that was controlling the serial killing next door neighbor.

Now they know who it is, they have to figure out what it is and how to kill it. I won’t go into too much detail on that part, being that it’s a fairly new book. But I do strongly recommend this one: Rating A. And I recommend the rest of the Cal & Niko books and Rob Thurman’s Trickster novels.

The Gaslight Chronicles

The Gaslight Chronicles written by Cindy Spencer Pape are, in my opinion, steampunk on easy mode. Where as Whitechapel Gods is a hard slog to read, these books are very easy to get through. In fact, I read the book Photographs & Phantoms in under an hour at lunch today. These are short books that are a bit formulaic but are at least modestly entertaining.

They follow the Order of the Round Table, made up of the descendants of the original Knights of the Round Table. As in King Arthur and Merlin. While I have not yet seen one of the knights who is descended of Arthur himself, I have read of those who are descended of the other knights and Merlin himself.

The books follow one of the knights or his family members as they run into a supernatural problem of some sort. While pursuing this problem, they get introduced to the plucky female love interest. Both parties are insistent that they are either a) not attracted to the other party or b) looking for love/marriage. Inevitably, the supernatural problem brings the two people together, they realize their love (sometimes in days, sometimes in actual weeks or months!), get married and have little hellions of their own. I mean, children. 😉

This is the basic plot of every single one of these books, so you know what you’re getting in to. That said, it is a bit like a soap opera or reality TV show, a guilty pleasure. They’re Harlequin romance novels set in a steampunk era. I do think that Pape does a good job in steampunk. And I will probably keep reading these stories because they are cheap and easy. But if you are looking for a real awesome steampunk, go for Gail Carriger.

The books are as follows: Steam & SorceryPhotographs & Phantoms, Moonlight & MechanicalsKilts & Kraken and Cards & Caravans. Considering that they’ve only been published starting in March 2011, I’m certain there will be many more of these little steampunk stories. Overall, I think I’d rate them a C+/B-. Entertaining but not great. And I probably wouldn’t buy them if they didn’t average about 3 dollars a go.

Kate Locke

So I decided to try this book God Save the Queen by Kate Locke on a whim. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read another steampunk-y type book since I’ve read a bunch of them lately but this one was really more of an alternate history modern fantasy book with a bit of steampunk in it. Instead of cell phones (or mobiles for you Brits out there), the have “rotaries” (and boy do I feel old for having used rotary phones). Instead of computers they have “logic engines”. A lot of the phrases have a steampunk type feel but it is most definitely set in the 20 century.

The basis behind this book is that the Black Plague transformed people into supernatural creatures (in this case, vampires and werewolves and goblins). “Full blooded” plagued people were considered aristocrats. Or I should say, full blood vampires were considered aristocrats. The werewolves in the UK were in one single gi-normous pack lead by The Alpha (Vexation ‘Vex’ MacLaughlin-such a silly great name).

It was accidentally discovered that full-blooded weres and vamps could have children with a certain segment of the human population. Human female courtesans are highly paid and respected by the plagued community for being able to produce half bloods (halvies).  Halvies are used for protection against humans seeing as halvies can go out in the day time while most full bloods cannot (I’m still not sure if full blooded weres can go out in the day).

Queen Victoria never died, she turned out to be a full blooded vamp. Prince Albert was killed in a human insurrection in the mid-1930s, rather than dying in the late 1800s. There was no World War I or World War II.

The main character is Alexandra (Xandy or Xandra) Vardan is a Royal Guard, whose job it is to protect Victoria. We are introduced to her trying to find a younger sister. That search turns into a somewhat convoluted investigation into faked deaths and sinister scientific/medical experiments on halvies which may include Xandra herself.

Who can she trust? Will she find out what happens to her sister? What are these experiments? We only get a few answers in this book but it is clear that this is going to be an arc, so I’m not too upset by some of the loose ends. It is a very interesting book. And the follow up Long Live the Queen was just as good. I really suggest reading it. Rating: A.