For quite a while now, I’ve been thinking I’d like to try to get more book discussions going here. Sometimes in review comments there’s a little bit of discussion about books, but there’s a limit to those conversations since there’s the need to be cryptic or put up big spoiler warnings before talking about a book. So I’m going to try actually doing this and see how it goes, and if I don’t end up merely conversing with myself, I may put up these discussions more often.

I will always make it clear at the beginning of the post that this is a spoiler discussion so anybody who hasn’t read the books knows not to read any further (unless, of course, you don’t care about reading big, nasty spoilers). The initial post will be spoiler free – I will not post anything specific about the books other than in the comments.

For my inaugural discussion, I’ve decided to start with the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews for several reasons. First off, I discovered these books this year and love them! Also, I seem to keep talking about this books with people on Twitter, and 140 characters just doesn’t quite cut it for a conversation. Plus there is so much to talk about! Please note this discussion is intended for all four books so there could be spoilers for Magic Bites, Magic Burns, Magic Strikes and/or Magic Bleeds.

Feel free to write about anything related to the series – what you thought about the books, how you feel about any of the characters, what you think of the mythology, speculation on what will happen in the next book, anything at all!

Read the comments if you want to see my theory about who Roland is, and I would also love to hear other thoughts on the clues we’ve been given so far!

For those who missed it, here is a recent interview with Ilona Andrews. It might give us some more to talk about.

An Artificial Night
by Seanan McGuire
368pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 8/10
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.45/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.35/5

An Artificial Night is the third book in the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire, this year’s John W. Campbell Award winner for Best New Writer. The first two books in this urban fantasy series about faerie are Rosemary and Rue and A Local Habitation, respectively. There has been a very short wait in between books, and both the fourth and fifth books are scheduled for publication next year – Late Eclipses in March and The Brightest Fell in September, continuing the trend of beautifully worded titles taken from Shakespeare.  (Update: The title of the fifth book was changed later and it is now One Salt Sea instead of The Brightest Fell.)

Life is never dull for Toby Daye, a changeling private investigator who does work for the Faerie court. One moment she’s capturing Barghests who have taken over the feast hall of one of the Faerie nobility. The next morning her own personal Grim Reaper shows up at her front door, cheerful and eagerly awaiting Toby’s imminent death. As if that weren’t enough, Toby comes home from breakfast to a frantic call from her friend Stacy who needs her to come look into a situation. Two of Stacy’s children disappeared in the middle of the night, and one of her other children will not wake up.

It turns out other children are missing as well, including a human girl. Toby soon learns that this means Blind Michael is stealing children to become animals and riders for his Wild Hunt. With so many taken, including some who are dear to her, Toby cannot do anything other than try to retrieve the children – even if the appearance of death at her door means this does not bode well for her.

Each book in the October Daye series is better than the last, and this series has become one of my top three urban fantasies (right after the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews and the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs). The second book was a big improvement over the first one, and this latest installment was slightly better than the second one. The plot was tighter with a wonderfully creepy atmosphere in the realms of Blind Michael. It’s dark and there is not a vampire or werewolf to be found – it’s all about the fae.

One of the reasons this book seems stronger than the others may be that it’s not about solving a mystery – the cause of the disappearing children is discovered early in the story and most of the book was about how to rectify the situation. While I mostly love Toby as a character, I’m afraid I don’t actually believe in her as a private investigator. She seems to have issues grasping simple clues in each book, and her ability to solve cases seems to rely more on sheer luck than any actual skill. Perhaps good fortune is part of Toby’s changeling heritage that hasn’t been revealed yet since she did admit in the beginning of this novel that solving her latest case had nothing to do with her prowess as an investigator (plus, she does seem pretty lucky not to be dead by now as often as she’s nearly been so in these three books). When it came to figuring out who took the children, she also didn’t do a whole lot of problem solving but instead came to the conclusion by coincidence leading her to the person she needed to talk to. Admittedly, she’d had a rough morning with Mae, her own personal Fetch who looked like her and was just waiting to carry her off after she died, showing up at her door. Yet I can’t ignore this or think of it as a special case since she’s seemed equally dense at figuring out clues in the previous books.

In spite of the fact that I am hoping there is an explanation for Toby’s less than stellar investigative skills, I do enjoy reading about her. She’s funny with a rather amusing way of phrasing her narration, and she’s certainly not all powerful. Her tough but vulnerable attitude and willingness to dive into danger reminds me a lot of other urban fantasy heroines, but her voice in the second book went a long way toward making me like her. However, I did find myself thinking Toby’s voice was not as strong or full of personality in this installment as the previous one. After some thought, I don’t think that there was a big difference between the second and third book narration, but Toby’s voice no longer seemed as “Toby.” The last book I read by Seanan McGuire was Feed, a novel she wrote as Mira Grant, and I found myself thinking at times that Toby’s narrative style sounded very much like George, the narrator in Feed.

Most of the characters other than Toby are also very enjoyable to read about, both new and old. Luna’s past is explored, and it was fun to learn more about her origins. The rose goblin Spike was fleshed out a little more and even though he can’t speak to Toby, he has his own personality and endearing ways. Tybalt remains my favorite and even though there wasn’t as much of him in this novel as the second one, the parts that were here were very good. Part of his allure is just how mysterious he is so I don’t really mind if that is dragged out a little, especially considering we did get some setup hinting there may be more about him soon. There were also several references to Toby’s mother that made me quite curious about where that may be going. This part of the series is handled very well – even though each book stands on its own with a definite conclusion there are some tantalizing bits to anticipate in future installments.

My personal preference for fae is the darker the better, and I am beginning to wonder just how dark these fae are. Although there are certainly some who are on the creepy side such as this book’s villain Blind Michael, many of them seem to genuinely care about others. There are times they look out for themselves or do good if it benefits them, but I am beginning to wonder if some of the fae are further on the Tinkerbell side of the faery goodness spectrum than I’d initially thought. Since all the important characters are at least partially fae, the average reader may not be able to sympathize with them if they seemed too inhuman, though. It’s a difficult balance to maintain, and there is at least still plenty of blurriness when it comes to motive for many of them.

Although I do have one major issue with the series so far – the main character’s incompetence at her job – An Artificial Night is an entertaining read that kept me turning the pages. It’s dark and eerie with some delightful characters I’m looking forward to reading more about.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC from the publisher.

Reviews of other books in this series:

Other Reviews of An Artificial Night:

This week I got three books to add to the pile (well, I guess technically my husband got one but it’s in a series we both read so I’ll include it). Good thing I’ve actually been reading more books this month than the last few…

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima

This is the first book in a young adult fantasy trilogy, The Seven Realms. I’ve wanted to read this ever since I read Thea’s review at The Book Smugglers but had never actually gotten a hold of a copy of it, so when I was contacted about receiving the first two books for review consideration my answer was an ecstatic “Yes!” It looks like a fun book. The first chapter is available on the author’s website.

Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for himself, his mother, and his sister Mari. Ironically, the only thing of value he has is something he can’t sell. For as long as Han can remember, he’s worn thick silver cuffs engraved with runes. They’re clearly magicked—as he grows, they grow, and he’s never been able to get them off.

Han’s life gets even harder after he takes a powerful amulet from the son of the High Wizard. The amulet once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece so powerful at stake, the Bayars will stop at nothing to reclaim it from Han.

Meanwhile, Raisa ana’Marianna, Princess Heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight. Although Raisa will become eligible for marriage after her sixteenth name-day, she isn’t looking forward to trading in her common sense for a prince with a big castle and tiny brain. Raisa aspires to be like Hanalea—the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But it seems like her mother has other plans for her—plans that include a suitor who goes against everything the Queendom stands for.

The Seven Realms will tremble when the lives of Han and Raisa collide in this stunning new page-turner from best-selling author Cinda Williams Chima.

The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima

The middle book in The Seven Realms trilogy will be released on September 28. Chapter Two is available to read on the author’s website.

You can’t always run from danger…
Haunted by the loss of his mother and sister, Han Alister journeys south to begin his schooling at Mystwerk House in Oden’s Ford. But leaving the Fells doesn’t mean danger isn’t far behind. Han is hunted every step of the way by the Bayars, a powerful wizarding family set on reclaiming the amulet Han stole from them. And Mystwerk House has dangers of its own. There, Han meets Crow, a mysterious wizard who agrees to tutor Han in the darker parts of sorcery—but the bargain they make is one Han may regret.

Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna runs from a forced marriage in the Fells, accompanied by her friend Amon and his triple of cadets. Now, the safest place for Raisa is Wein House, the military academy at Oden’s Ford. If Raisa can pass as a regular student, Wein House will offer both sanctuary and the education Raisa needs to succeed as the next Gray Wolf queen.

The Exiled Queen is an epic tale of uncertain friendships, cut-throat politics, and the irresistible power of attraction.

Miles In Love by Lois McMaster Bujold

This was the last set of Miles books I didn’t own (at least until CryoBurn comes out next month). I still need to read Memory before getting to this one, but my husband recently picked up the next book he had to read in the series and started going through the rest (and has now finished them all, including this one and the one after it). This omnibus edition contains the novels Komarr and A Civil Campaign and the novella “Winterfair Gifts.”

Two complete novels and a short novel in one large volume:

Komarr—Miles Vorkosigan is sent to Komarr, a planet that could be a garden with a thousand more years of terraforming; or an uninhabitable wasteland, if the terraforming project fails. The solar mirror vital to the project has been shatteredby a ship hurtling off course, and Miles Vorkosigan has been sent to find out if it was an accident, or sabotage. Miles uncovers a plot that could exile him from Barrayar forever—and discovers an unexpected ally, one with wounds as deep and honor as beleaguered as his own.

A Civil Campaign—On Komarr, Miles met the beautiful Vor widow Ekaterin Vorsoisson, who has no intention of getting married after the heartbreak and betrayal of her first experience. But Miles has a cunning plan to change her mind. Unfortunately his clone-brother Mark and his cousin Ivan have cunning plans of their own, and the three-way collision of cunning plans threatens to undo Miles’s brilliant romantic strategy.

“Winterfair Gifts”—Miles and Ekaterin make elaborate preparations for their wedding. But Miles has an enemy who is plotting to turn the romantic ceremony into a festival of death.

Lord of the White Hell: Book One
by Ginn Hale
346pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 9/10
Amazon Rating: 5/5
LibraryThing Rating: N/A
Goodreads Rating: 4.7/5

Lord of the White Hell: Book Two completes the Lord of the White Hell duology by Ginn Hale. Book One came out in the middle of August and Book Two was just released today. Since the second book picks up right after the first one and this is one book split into two parts, I would strongly recommend starting with Lord of the White Hell: Book One instead of the second volume.

As this is a continuation of the first book, I am going to skip the plot summary and refer to my review of Lord of the White Hell: Book One for those who are not familiar with these two novels. If you have read the first book, you know what the books are about and there is really no need to discuss what happens in the beginning since it’s really the middle and I’d like to write about the book without spoiling it. In this review, I’ll cover some of the differences between this and the first book and what I thought of both books as a single entity.

First of all, I loved the second half of this book just as much as the first one. It did take me a little bit longer to get to the same level of complete absorption as in the first, but before long I was just as swept up by the story. Although it did suck me in pretty quickly, I thought I might not enjoy it as much as the first part for a little while. This was mainly because there was a lot more sex, and I do have a tendency to get bored with a lot of sex scenes. They did not drag on for too long before moving on, though, and they also were often integral to character development so I didn’t mind them as much as I thought I would. However, I still much preferred reading about the various characters, the cultures and mythology, and the curse.

Both books are very heavy on character development and relationships between the characters, and so many of the characters came across as real and likable. Kiram, the scholarly boy with the genius for mechanics, and Javier, the lord controlling the white hell, are of course the best drawn as the main protagonists the books focus on. Yet reading about any of them was immensely enjoyable, and all the friends from the academy had such a wonderful camaraderie shown through humorous, smoothly written dialogue. Even childlike Fedeles, whose conversation mainly consists of singing the names of his favorite horses, shines as sweet and good-natured – and was a character I really cared about in spite of the fact that he is not even normally coherent.

In book two, there is a break from school and Kiram goes home to the Haldiim district in Anacleto. At first I was concerned that this meant there wouldn’t be as much time spent with the characters I’d come to love so much, but it didn’t end up being a problem since some of them lived nearby and others visited. Also, this allowed a firsthand look at the Haldiim and how their way of life contrasted with that of the Cadeleonians. It was particularly refreshing that even though they were more open-minded and less strict than the Cadeleonians, they were not portrayed as perfect in every way. Even though they allowed people to marry a person of either gender and seemed in general more lenient, the matriarchy still had some of the same pitfalls as a patriarchy. Marriages were still often made based on forging an advantageous connection with another family, and mothers still refused to give their sons certain freedoms. Regardless of culture, everyone seemed human with their own strengths and flaws – even compassionate Kiram was not immune to some prejudice when it came to the Cadeleonian religion.

The conclusion was very exciting, and every plot thread was wrapped up. Even though it had a satisfying resolution, it does feel like there is room for sequels since more adventure is probably in store for Kiram.

Although it had many similarities to Wicked Gentlemen, such as the examination of two conflicting cultures, a character driven story and a romance between two men from opposing societies, Lord of the White Hell was not as prettily written. Even so, it is a stronger story, although perhaps I think that because I usually prefer longer stories with more time to get to know the characters.

Lord of the White Hell is highly recommended to readers who enjoy character-driven fantasy with some romance and focus on social structures. It had me captivated from start to finish and is easily one of my favorite books I’ve read so far this year.

My Rating: 9/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC from the publisher.

Reviews of other books in this series:

Read Excerpts:

Read an Interview with Ginn Hale

Sep
12
2010

Killbox
by Ann Aguirre
368pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 8/10
Amazon Rating: 5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.33/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.72/5

Killbox, the fourth book in the Sirantha Jax series by Ann Aguirre, was released on August 31. The other books in this space opera series are Grimspace, Wanderlust and Doubleblind, in that order. There will be six books total in the series with Aftermath scheduled for September 2011 and Endgame for September 2012.

Please note that since this is the fourth book in a series, there will be spoilers for the first three books. This is a series that I would definitely recommend reading in order beginning with Grimspace (review).

After leaving Ithiss-Tor, Jax sends a message that she is quitting her job as a diplomat the first chance she gets. It’s not that she doesn’t want to do her part to save humanity (and any other species that refrains from hostile actions such as devouring the flesh of anyone it feels like eating) – but diplomacy has never really been her strength. Instead, she takes an apprentice jumper and begins teaching him how to traverse grimspace.

Daily life is not as safe as it used to be, and for some peculiar reason the Morgut appear to be targeting scientists. As more and more people are attacked by the deadly Morgut, Jax and her friends realize that there are serious consequences to destroying the corrupt Farwan, which at least had a large number of patrols dedicated to aiding those in trouble. The Conglomerate comes to the same realization and offers March a position as commander of a new armada – with free reign to be “creative” due to limited funding and the urgency of defending the universe. Although it is a lot of responsibility, it’s also impossible to refuse, and the crew begins gathering a force of mercenaries of ill repute as the last hope against the Morgut threat.

After the political diplomacy in Doubleblind, this book packs in a lot more action. In spite of (or perhaps because of) this, it actually took a little longer for me to get emotionally involved in Killbox than the previous three novels, although I was very much emotionally involved by the time it ended. The beginning is not at all slow, quite the opposite – I was just being impatient about wanting to see certain threads from the last book picked up. The previous installment dealt a lot with Vel, my favorite character in the series, and I was hoping to see some of the parts about him from it followed up on some more. Although it took a little while to get to them, there were definitely some great scenes with Vel that I’m now hoping to see continued in the next novel.

There’s lots of danger, excitement and battles, and Aguirre continues to maintain an excellent balance between moving the plot forward and developing the characters. At first it did seem as though there was more adventure and less of the character moments, but there were some – they were just mainly with March. Ever since the second book, I’ve much preferred reading about the friendships Jax has developed to the romance, especially her relationships with the alien Vel and the ship’s mechanic Dina, an exiled princess. By the time it reached the big cliffhanger ending, not only had there been some fantastic conversations with both Vel and Dina, but it had definitely also taken me on an emotionally harrowing journey. The last 50 – 60 pages made me cry not just once but twice (which rarely happens at all).

Another major highlight is the return of some characters we haven’t seen since the very first book, but the most rewarding part is the development of Jax herself. She continues to grow as a character and has changed so much since the first book. Even better, just how much she has grown is shown through her actions – we’re not just told she’s not the same Jax but we’re shown time and again that she has come a long way since the first book. It did get on my nerves a little that we were told she wasn’t the same so many times instead of just letting her deeds speak for themselves, but considering the story is told from Jax’s perspective, I don’t think it’s unrealistic. Someone who has undergone as much of a metamorphosis as she has over the course of this series is probably going to be continually amazed by the contrast between how she reacts now and how she would have reacted just a short time ago.

The writing itself has also improved since the first novel. While is still mainly straightforward and sometimes fractured prose as it’s told from Jax’s perspective in present tense, there were a couple of phrases and observations that struck me as lovely. The turmoil at the end especially was very moving.

It was somewhat annoying that March and Jax were apart yet again in this book. Although the reason behind it was logical, the fact that it keeps happening over and over again is making it feel contrived to me. It’s starting to seem like every book needs to have a new dilemma for keeping some tension in the romance so it doesn’t get stale before the final book.

Overall, this is a strong addition to the Sirantha Jax series. It has plenty of action and adventure, the characters continue to grow, and the writing has matured since the first book. One final word of advice: do have a box of tissues handy and be prepared to curse the book for ending where it does.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: Review copy from the publisher.

Read Chapter One

Other Reviews:

Reviews of other books in this series:

This month I bought one book for National Buy A Book Day. (I also decided to also make it “Buy Cookies and Caramel Mocha Day” at the Borders coffee shop – I hadn’t been to their cafe in a long time and didn’t realize just how delicious their cookies were but they were soft and chocolatey and really, really good. Maybe I need to make this a monthly holiday.) Every once in a while I try to go over there and buy a book or two that I know I want to read. We had a bookstore on our mall that I can’t remember not having there that closed down recently and I really don’t want the same thing to happen to our Borders!

Elfland by Freda Warrington

Somehow I had completely missed this book until I read Sarah’s review at Bookworm Blues. It sounds like it is just my type of book – a character-driven story with captivating prose. I had already decided I must read this when I looked for it at the bookstore, and then I found it and opened the cover and what do I see under the “Praise for Elfland” section?

Elfland is an absorbing and gripping journey into a world where the otherworldly shivers alongside us, unseen. – Storm Constantine, author of the Wraeththu Chronicles

Wraeththu Chronicles is of course one of my favorites ever for the same reasons this book sounded appealing to me. It turns out some of Freda Warrington’s other books have been published by Immanion Press, Storm Constantine’s publishing company.

Another Aetherial Tales novel, Midsummer Night, is coming out in the US in November. Each novel in the series is supposed to stand alone.

Elfland is an intimate, sensual novel of people—both human and Aetherial—caught between duty and desire. It is a story of families, and of Rose Fox, a woman born to magic but tormented by her place in her adopted world.

Led by Auberon Fox, a group of Aetherials—call them the Fair Folk, if you will—live among us, indistinguishable from humans. Every seven years, on the Night of the Summer Stars, Lawrence Wilder, the Gatekeeper, throws open all gates to the Other World. But this time, something has gone wrong. Wilder has sealed the gates, warning of a great danger lurking in the realm beyond them. The Aetherial community is outraged. What will become of them, deprived of the home realm from which their essential life force flows?

Rose Fox and Sam Wilder are drawn to the lands beyond the gates, even as their families feud over Lawrence’s refusal to do his duty. Struggling with their own too-human urges, they discover hidden truths that draw them together in a forbidden alliance. Only by breaching the dreaded gates and daring the danger beyond can they confront that which they fear most— their otherness—and claim their birthright.