Tag Archives: assassination

Seraphina

Hartman, Rachel. Seraphina (2012). Random House. 467 Pages

Seraphina by Rachel HartmanFrom the Author’s Website

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

First Lines

I remember being born.

In fact, I remember a time before that. There was no light, but there was music: joints creaking, blood rushing, the heart’s staccato lullaby, a rich symphony of indigestion. Sound enfolded me, and I was safe.

Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense, Romance, Young Adult Fiction

The Emperor’s Edge

Buroker, Lindsay. The Emperor’s Edge: A High Fantasy Adventure in an Era of Steam (2010). Digital Only. Self-Published. $.99

I figured “Eh, $.99? Why not?” That’s the problem with Kindle, and instant-gratification low- or no-cost books; “Why Not?” That’s how you end up with a to-be-read list hundreds of books long. I kid you not, it’s gotten completely out of hand, even if you disregard everything except the ones I actively intend to read soon instead of just eventually. That’s how I ended up with Lindsay Buroker’s The Emperor’s Edge.

From the Author’s Website

Imperial law enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon is good at her job: she can deter thieves and pacify thugs, if not with a blade, then by toppling an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters onto their heads. But when ravaged bodies show up on the waterfront, an arson covers up human sacrifices, and a powerful business coalition plots to kill the emperor, she feels a tad overwhelmed.

Worse, Sicarius, the empire’s most notorious assassin is in town. He’s tied in with the chaos somehow, but Amaranthe would be a fool to cross his path. Unfortunately, her superiors order her to hunt him down. Either they have an unprecedented belief in her skills… or someone wants her dead.

First Lines

Corporal Amaranthe Lokdon paced. Her short sword, night stick, and handcuffs bumped and clanked at her thighs with each impatient step. Enforcer Headquarters frowned down at her, an ominous gray cliff of a building that glowered at the neighborhood like a turkey vulture, except with less charisma.

Continue reading

7 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense, Paranormal, Speculative Fiction

Red Glove

Black, Holly. White Cat (2011).  325 Pages. Margaret K. McElderry. $17.99

The Curse Workers | Book Two

Please be aware that because this is the second book in a series, there may be spoilers for the first book, White Cat. Proceed with caution.

Also included in this post, my opinion on “Lila Zacharov in 13 Pieces,” which was a teaser to bridge the gap between White Cat and Red Glove. (I loved it.)

From Goodreads

Curses and cons. Magic and the mob. In Cassel Sharpe’s world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth—he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything—or anyone—into something else.

That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she’s human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila’s been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotion worker mom. And if Lila’s love is as phony as Cassel’s made-up memories, then he can’t believe anything she says or does.

When Cassel’s oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue—crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. But the mob is after Cassel too—they know how valuable he could be to them. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can’t trust anyone—least of all, himself?

Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.

First Lines

I don’t know whether it’s day or night when the girl gets up to leave. Her minnow silver dress swishes against the tops of her thighs like Christmas tinsel as she opens the hotel door.

I struggle to remember her name.

“So you’ll tell your father at the consulate about me?” Her lipstick is smeared across her cheek. I should tell her to fix it, but my self-loathing is so great that I hate her along with myself.

Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Contemporary Romance, Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

A Tale of Two Castles

Levine, Gail Carson. A Tale of Two Castles (2011).336 Pages. Harper Collins. $16.99*

This review is pre-release: It comes out May 10, 2011

Ella Enchanted was one of my favorite childhood books. My mom gave it to me for Christmas in 1998– she’s big on writing dates in books which are gifts– and I’ve read it so many times that a few pages are loose, the spine is falling to pieces, and it’s stained all over. I’ve got an abiding love for Gail Carson Levine, in part because of Ella Enchanted, and in part because she’s got a knack for writing magical stories which children are guaranteed to love.

Synopsis

Twelve year-old Elodie has just set out on her first adventure, and her first step toward adulthood. It is time for her to head to Two Castles and become an apprentice, though she cannot afford a short apprenticeship, so she must commit to the 10-year “free” term. Despite her parent’s wishes– that she apprentice to a weaver, Elodie seeks out an apprenticeship with the Two Castles mansioners.

Things don’t go according to plan, and Elodie soon finds herself working for the dragon Meenore and brushing up on her skills of “deduction, induction, and common sense.” But something is wrong in Two Castles, and Elodie’s job will not be as easy as it first seemed.

First Lines

Mother wiped her eyes on her sleeve and held me tight. I wept onto her shoulder. She released me while I went on weeping. A tear slipped into the strait through a crack in the wooden dock. Salt water to salt water, a drop of me in the brine that would separate me from home.

Father’s eyes were red. He pulled me into a hug, too. Albin stood to the side a few feet and blew his nose with a honk. He could blow his nose a dozen ways. A hong was the saddest.

Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Children's Fiction, Fairy Tales Retold, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense, Young Adult Fiction

Patient Zero

Maberry, Jonathan. Patient Zero (2009). 419 Pages. St Martin’s Griffin. $14.95

Joe Ledger: Book One

This post is long-overdue. When I read Rot & Ruin, I was thrilled. I’d found a zombie book which was also about humanity. I had to find out if the author had more in him, so I went out of my way to pick up Patient Zero from the library. I devoured it in a little under a day, and spent a little over an hour gushing about the pair of them to my mother, who has now decided that she needs to read it. And then, life happened.

I got sucked-in to a writing project– yes, I also do creative writing– and a few old forums that I haven’t been on in ages. I got extra hours at work, I’ve been on a fierce job-hunt, and reading has really fallen by the wayside. I am attempting to get myself back on track, which will likely happen as a direct result of me setting myself a posting-schedule.

Synopsis (via Goodreads)

When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week there’s either something wrong with your world or something wrong with your skills… and there’s nothing wrong with Joe Ledger’s skills.  And that’s both a good, and a bad thing.  It’s good because he’s a Baltimore detective that has just been secretly recruited by the government to lead a new taskforce created to deal with the problems that Homeland Security can’t handle. This rapid response group is called the Department of Military Sciences or the DMS for short. It’s bad because his first mission is to help stop a group of terrorists from releasing a dreadful bio-weapon that can turn ordinary people into zombies. The fate of the world hangs in the balance…

Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Adult Fiction, Book Review, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery & Suspense, Paranormal, Sci-Fi

Zombies vs Unicorns (Anthology)

Black, Holly & Justine Larbalestier (ed) Zombies Vs Unicorns (2010). 415 Pages. Simon & Schuster. $16.99

The thing which actually made me want to read this anthology was Diana Peterfreund’s addition “The Care and Feeding of your Baby Killer Unicorn,” which is set in the same universe as Rampant. However, I am glad I took the time to read this, since I enjoyed almost every story in the book (at least on some level.)

The offerings are mixed, but are all labeled as either “Team Zombie” or “Team Unicorn,” with only one (I think) that has both zombies and unicorns. Additionally, the top corners of the pages are also marked by either a Zombie or Unicorn logo, making quick-scans for specific stories easy. A few of them were sweet, one or two romantic, and a couple actually bleak. I’m glad I took the time to read this, though.

Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Horror, Humor, Paranormal Romance, Romance, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Trickster’s Queen

Pierce, Tamora. Trickster’s Queen (2004). 444 Pages. Random House. $8.95

Daughter of the Lioness Book 2

I actually own two copies of this book; a hardcover copy, because I could not wait for it to come out in paperback, and a paperback copy, because I hate having part of a series in paperback, and part in hardcover. It has to be all the same, for the sake of my shelving system; hardcovers go on the top shelf, paperbacks go on the lower shelves and series are grouped, so when I have to either put paperbacks on the hardcover shelf, or hardcovers on the paperback shelf, I get a bit grumpy.

Anyway, Trickster’s Queen is a continuation of Trickster’s Choice,which opens in Spring, with Aly and the Balitangs returning to Rajmuat, the capital of the Copper Isles. With the death of Duke Mequen Balitang, as well as King Oron and Prince Bronau at the end of the preceding volume, the political environment of the Copper Isles has been transformed. It is a country on the verge of revolution, or civil war, a country ready for a new queen from an old royal family; Sarai Balitang.

Alianne Cooper, daughter of legends, spymistress for the Balitang household, Duani of the raka revolution has come into her own. She is done living in her parent’s shadow, and has become irreversibly entangled in the conflict in the Copper Isles. This book takes off, with rapid pacing, drama, conflict, surprises, and battle. It is the climax which Trickster’s Choice was building toward, and sets up a very interesting finale.

First Lines

As the ship Gwenna glided through the entrance of Rajmuat harbor, a young woman of seventeen years leaned against the bow rail, taking in her surroundings through green-hazel eyes. Despite her white skin, she was dressed like a native raka in sarong, sash, and wrapped jacket.

Thoughts

In the first volume, each chapter was preceded by an excerpt from things Aly read, or conversations Aly had with family members while growing up. For example, Chapter 10 is prefaced with:

Assassins approach a problem differently from soldiers, you see. They can’t lay siege, they can’t offer an honorable fight. In their trade numbers are dangerous. An assassin’s advantage lies in folk missing him when he’s about. He hits hard and fast, then goes. Once you’ve tried to kill the first time, the target has the wind up. Failure the first time means it’ll be that much harder to get close a second time. – Told to Aly when she was eleven, in a conversation with her father*

These excerpts from Aly’s life made it more acceptable for her to know so much about spy work, because she had been trained from childhood. Having an idea of where she had received her knowledge (from her father, grandfather, mother, etc.) made a difference as well. It was a nice touch, which helped to ground Aly, and round out her story. These bits are lacking from Trickster’s Queen, which is unfortunate, because I really appreciated them.

This volume takes off, picking up speed rapidly, and racing toward the conclusion. Aly has grown up quite a bit since she left Pirate’s Swoop in a huff. She is not alone, others have grown, and are growing up with her, though much of it happens off-page. There is some unexpected character development, and a few unpleasant surprises for Aly. (There are pleasant surprises, too.)

It is almost a pity to leave Aly and the Copper Isles; there is still a lot to be said about the islands and their new queen. (Though it has been said that there will be a set of books dedicated to her, later.) It is also very, very fun to get to read about the children of some old favorites (Daine and Numair’s new baby, for example), and it is clear that Pierce has grown as a story teller since she first put Alanna’s story on paper.

The volume gets a 4.5/5, and the series gets a 5/5. If you are a fan of Tortall, you will most likely enjoy this series.

___________________________________________

* From Trickster’s Choice, Page 232.

1 Comment

Filed under Book Review, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult Fiction

Starcrossed

Bunce, Elizabeth C. Starcrossed (2010). 351 Pages. Scholastic.$17.99

I’ve been eying Starcrossed since I read A Curse Dark as Gold, and an opportunity to read it finally presented itself. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of starting this book in the evening, and I could not bring myself to put it down. It was 5am when I finally went to sleep. It’s a wonderful adventure story for fans of fantasy and political intrigue.

Synopsis

In a world with seven moons, there are seven gods who each have their roles, and who were once worshiped equally. Eighteen years before the novel starts, everything changed. The followers of Celys– the Great Mother goddess– declared war against the followers of Sar– the patroness of magic– and by extension all other gods. To be a magic user or a Sarist is to be a treasonous heretic, which is punishable by gruesome death. In this dark, unbalanced world, a cruel king rules, aided by Lord High Inquisitor Werne the bloodletter. The only hope for the common people is the hope that King Bardolph will name Prince Wierolf as heir, rather than Prince Astilan (who is known to be as cruel as his uncle.)

Sixteen year-old Digger is not concerned with politics or religion, she is merely concerned with surviving. (Something which was much easier before she and Tegen were ambushed by Greenmen.) Now Digger is on the run, alone, and unable to trust anyone. When a group of drunk nobles offer her a chance to escape Gerse, she takes it. Soon, Digger is disguised as Celyn Contrare, safely hidden in the snow-bound, remote Bryn Shaer, working as lady’s maid to Lady Merista Nemair. What was looking to be a quiet winter in the castle, waiting for spring, is quickly turning into the most dangerous situation Digger has ever been involved in.

First Lines

I couldn’t think. My chest hurt from running, and I wasn’t even sure I was in the right place. Tegen had given my directions to a tavern on the river– was this where he’d told me to go, if things went wrong?

It didn’t matter. I had to get off the streets. Behind me, the Oss splashed moonslight over a row or fiverside storefronts, bright enough for me to make out the sign of a blue wine bottle and the short flight of stairs down into the alley. Down was shadows and safety. I took it.

Thoughts

I was entranced from the first, unable to stop reading for fear that I might miss something.* The world is unique, the characters strong and dynamic, the writing effective and descriptive without meandering. All told, it’s a very well-done book which I truly enjoyed reading.

Digger is a fascinating character; a runaway with a mysterious past whose only goal until recently has been to survive. She’s a clever girl who uses her wits and some thieving skills to get by** and until recently has been under the radar. We meet Digger as she realizes that Tegan has died– a death she spends most of the book getting over; he was her lover as well as her partner– and that she must get out of the city. Things don’t ever seem to get easier, but her determination keeps her going. It is perhaps the fact that she keeps going, rather than lapsing into self-pity that makes her so very interesting. She is a strong character, a girl who can (and does) kick butt.

Surrounding Digger is an equally as interesting and important supporting cast; Meri most especially, but also the others stuck at Bryn Shaer. There is a mystery surrounding the place and the people, a mystery which Digger uncovers. There is a lot more going on in this novel than can be resolved in 351 pages; there is at least one more volume (Liar’s Moon) coming.

As a whole, I thought the book was well-done and very, very interesting. It moves along much more quickly than A Curse Dark as Gold did, which makes it more appealing to people who need faster pacing. This story gets a 5/5, and if you like fantasy with political intrigue at all, I would strongly suggest reading it.

____________________________________

* When I’m reading, I’m not seeing words on the page, rather, it’s like my own mental cinema. I sometimes forget that I can “pause” by closing the book.

** Character-wise, Digger reminds me of Tamora Pierce’s Aliane Cooper. Setting-wise, she reminds me of Beka Cooper. However, Digger’s story is unique enough that the similarities are not a bad thing.

The story continues in Liar’s Moon, release date TBD

2 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Paranormal

Kiss Me Deadly (Anthology) Part 1

Telep, Trisha (Editor). Kiss Me Deadly (2010). 430 Pages. RunningPress. $9.95

Review: Part 1 (Part 2, Part 3)

This was a definite impulse grab. I was at Borders, looking for a specific book, though at the moment I can no longer remember which book I sought. I don’t think I remembered what I was looking for then, either. When I walk into a building which contains more than a few books, I tend to get a little sidetracked. So I was staring at the Y.A. Paranormal section, feeling a little concerned for the sheer quantity of Twilight-knockoffs — we all know them, they’re the generic vampire romance that has exploded since sparkly vampires were first published — and my eye fell upon Kiss Me Deadly. I had a moment of oh dear, not another, but I’m such a fan of anthologies as a way to sample new authors that I couldn’t help picking it up.

I know it wasn’t an author’s name that grabbed me, because I have to admit that I do not know a single author from this volume. (Though I did also grab Shiver while I was there, because as a fan of romance, paranormal, and young adult, it seemed like a reasonable combo.)I think it was the Editor’s Note which opened the volume which got my attention;

Love in the time of… Zombies?

Somehow, that just doesn’t have the classic ring of Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s famous novel Love in the Time of Cholera* …  my bet, after titles like Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter**, is that this is likely in some publisher’s pipeline somewhere, probably slated for publication next year, or the year after that. (Intro)

Anyway, in a sort of gimmick-y “paranormal = horror” way, there are 13 stories in this volume. Because I do intend to talk at least a little bit about each of them, I’m going to cut this into several posts.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Adult Fiction, Book Review, Contemporary Romance, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Historical Romance, Horror, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Romance, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Alchemy and Meggy Swann

Cushman, Karen. Alchemy and Meggy Swann (2010). 159 Pages. Clarion Books. $16.00

Margaret Swann has never been a normal girl. Deformed since birth, she has been treated as an outcast, as a tainted soul, cursed by a demon while still in the womb. She’s called “witch” or other more awful names. When Meggy leaves her small town for London, there is no love lost between herself and those she is leaving behind. Despite that, she almost immediately wants to go home, back to her mother’s alehouse, back to what is familiar, if not welcoming.

In London, she is told she has been “summoned” by a man Meggy only knows as “Master Peevish.” It is revealed to her that Master Peevish is an Alchemist, that he expected an able-bodied boy, not a crippled girl, and that he is her father. Her relationship to her father is distant– he never knew anything about her, having been too absorbed in his “science” to stay at a small alehouse in a small town. When he realizes that Meggy’s legs will stop her from being the ideal servant, he ignores her. There is little to say about Meggy and her father, and what there is to say should be read about, rather than spoiled here.

Because people from Meggy’s old village were superstitious, and fell into the category of “cripples were cursed by the devil,” she has never really had friends. The one exception to this is Louise, her pet goose, who was also crippled in a way. Unfortunately, one of the first things Louise does in London is annoy Master Peevish, so Meggy must re-home her only friend. With some help from Roger (her father’s ex-servant/apprentice) Meggy manages to find a place for Louise where nobody will eat her.*

Then, Meggy must learn to make her own way in London. Roger has always been friendly to her, but he is busy now, working with an troupe of players. The cooper next-door is kind, but has his own problems to worry about. There are many other people that Meggy meets while running errands for her father, or trying to fill her stomach. Through her adventuring, she figures out that people can be kind, and that she, herself is kind sometimes.

There are more life-lessons for Meggy before the book is through. Things happen which make her realize that she is strong, despite her disability, and that she can make her own fate instead of having it made for her. Like Cushman’s other heroines, Meggy is a strong girl, and she does alright, in the end.

In Conclusion:

Meggy is the sort of heroine you’re rooting for, despite her being a bit of a jerk in the beginning. She softens, over time, as she realizes that not everyone hates her. The language is a bit dense at times, but if you just keep going, you adjust, (much like Scones and Sensibility) and by the end the language feels natural. There’s a bit of a blurb at the back about the history included in the story, which crams a bit of extra education in there.

Overall, I feel like this was a good book, though I definitely prefer some of Cushman’s other titles a bit more. It scores a 3.5/5– I liked it, but I’m not going to be rushing out to buy my own copy any time soon.

__________________________________

* When I was a kid, my parents got me one bunny. But, they thought, the bunny might be lonely. We’ll get him a friend! Which might have been fine, if the bunnies hadn’t then err… bred like rabbits. We went from one, to two, to five, to thirteen or fourteen at the peak. I gave away bunnies to anyone who would take them if they would promise to never eat it. Of all the animals I’ve kept as pets, chickens are the only ones I’ll eat, because they were dumb and smelly and annoying. Bunnies are soft and snuggly and friendly, and the idea of eating one freaks me out.

4 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Children's Fiction, Fantasy