A new edition of Inside the Blogosphere went up today at Grasping for the Wind, in which several of us discussed our methods of library organization. It’s complete with pictures so there’s also plenty of opportunity for library envy.

Magic Bites
by Ilona Andrews
272pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 7/10
Amazon Rating: 4/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.81/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.94/5

Magic Bites is the first book in the Kate Daniels series by husband and wife writing team Ilona Andrews. The second and third books in this urban fantasy series are Magic Burns and Magic Strikes. Magic Bleeds, the next novel, will be released on May 25 of this year.

Kate Daniels is a sword-and-magic wielding mercenary living near Atlanta, Georgia. When a magic fluctuation hits and her careful warding spells are down, she finds a vampire in her house. The vampire is controlled by Ghastek, who has a brief conversation with Kate in which he asks her if she has seen her guardian lately. Then the vampire rather abruptly leaves, as Kate wonders why they were watching her for long enough to get in as soon as her wards were no longer functioning.

Kate immediately calls the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid and asks for Greg, only to discover he was recently killed on the job. Since there are not many creatures powerful enough to kill the knight-diviner, Kate is quite shocked by this. Even though she normally avoids the Order, Kate goes there and obtains permission to investigate what happened to Greg personally – landing her right in the middle of a conflict between the People, who control the vampires, and the Pack, the shapechangers.

Magic Bites throws you right into the story and world, and it can be a bit confusing at first since it is not an urban fantasy setting with paranormal creatures in a modern world that otherwise closely mirrors our own. There are fluctuations in which magic works and technology no longer works and vice versa. Right in the first paragraph, one of these changes occurs – Kate’s magical defenses go down and her TV immediately starts up. Since it just happened without explanation, though, it wasn’t until later that I got an idea of what that really meant. While I definitely prefer being shown what is happening like this to long infodumps, there are times I would have liked a little more detail and a better idea of what was going on. (Although it’s also completely possible that I missed a lot of the obvious due to being sick when reading this.)

Even though it does have some of the usual urban fantasy creatures, they are a bit different from the norm. While there are vampires, they are creepy, quite ugly and not some sort of sexy, charming almost-human being that draw women to them like magnets. They roam the streets controlled by necromancers, who use them to do their bidding. Also, instead of being limited to a werewolf pack, the Pack consists of many different types of shapeshifters – werewolves, were-rats, and assorted were-cats including a were-lion at the head of the Pack.

There’s definitely a lot of interesting world-building here, but there’s also a lot left unexplained that I hope is explored more in future books. It would be nice to know how the world got this way and more about how magic works as well as the magic/tech waves. That’s part of the fun of reading a series, though – all the unanswered questions and the anticipation of which ones will be answered in the next book.

The first half of this book was a little hard to get into. The world was an interesting place, but it took a while for the plot to pick up as Kate went from place to place talking to various people trying to solve the mystery of who murdered her guardian. Once the story was set up some and the main characters were introduced, it started getting a lot easier to get into and I found myself really enjoying the second half, especially as I found myself caring more about Kate and what happened to her. Curran’s increasing role didn’t hurt, either, as I liked the Beast Lord from the moment he showed up and told Kate to call him “Lord” when she said she needed something shorter to call him than ‘The Leader of the Southern Shapechanger Faction.’ (And Kate completely deserved that after she decided to try to get the most powerful shapechanger in the region – who turns into a gigantic lion – to come out by calling ‘Here kitty, kitty, kitty.’)

In spite of being the first person narrator, Kate has a lot of secrets she’s holding back. For some reason, she is afraid of leaving any of her blood around (which is a bit tough being a mercenary who ends up wounded and bleeding a fair amount of the time), but never reveals why she’s so afraid to do so. She’s obviously powerful, but Kate just may be even more so than she’s letting on. Personality-wise, I wouldn’t say she’s that out-of-the-ordinary – she’s tough and a bit of a smart ass. It does seem as though we’re told she’s competent but not really shown it since she does say things that should get her into trouble with those one might not want to mess with. Often she acts like that to cover up how scared she really is, but it does seem like someone would have taught her better than that by now. Toward the end I did find myself sympathizing with her far more as she seemed to develop more as a character and I felt I better understood where she was coming from, though.

Other than some slowness, my main complaint was some continuity issues. There was one part where someone made an accusation and then Kate was blamed as the one who made it instead. That confused me and I had to go back and reread that part to make sure I remembered it correctly, and sure enough, it was not a suggestion made by Kate. Overall, I also felt the plot was much weaker than the world and some of the characters. It seemed rather contrived at times and not like it was naturally progressing toward a conclusion.

Magic Bites is strongest for its unique setting, which is an alternate world but more original than “the modern world with vampires and werewolves.” It had a somewhat rocky beginning, but the second half was a big improvement over the first one and left me eager to find out more – especially since the next two books are supposed to be much better than the first one.

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: I bought it.

Read Chapter One

Other Reviews:

The Thief
by Megan Whalen Turner
304pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 7.5/10
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.17/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.10/5

The Thief is the first book in The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. The other books in this YA fantasy series are The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia and A Conspiracy of Kings (which was released today). The Thief won the Newbery Honor Book Award and is an ALA Notable Book and ALA Best Book for Young Adults.

According to Gen, he can steal anything. This proves not to be an idle boast when he successfully swipes the king’s seal; however, bragging about this accomplishment lands him in prison. Each day seems the same as the one before in the king’s dungeon, so Gen does not know how much time has passed when the magus has him brought to a room in the palace. Although the magus believes Gen to be rather stupid for blatantly advertising his thievery, he can’t deny that Gen had to be quite skillful in order to avoid being caught in the act. So the magus informs Gen that he has a choice: he can either steal an unnamed item he desires or he can become one of the disappearing prisoners who is never seen nor heard from again. This is a rather easy decision for Gen and the next day he leaves on a journey with the magus, his two apprentices and a soldier in order to retrieve the mysterious object.

This review will probably be a bit shorter than normal since giving away too much about this novel would be doing a great disservice to future readers. The whole story is told from the first person perspective of Gen, who leaves out a lot of important details and is a rather misleading narrator. He doesn’t outright lie and he drops a lot of hints by what he does choose to share for information, but he doesn’t fill us in on the totality of what is happening until the very end. The conclusion is fantastic and reaching the end does make one want to go back and reread the book to catch all the little allusions to parts of it.

There are times before the wonderful final pages that the plot does meander a bit and there is more description about the journey and the land than necessary at times. The writing style is very engaging, though, and the scenes in which the characters are interacting come alive. When he’s not being overly descriptive, Gen is a very fun protagonist – he’s arrogant yet perfectly likable and charismatic.

Although it has some differences (such as the existence of guns), the fantasy world is based on Greek mythology and contains different gods reminiscent of their pantheon. During the group’s travels, they tell a few stories about the world’s mythology, many of which are fueled by the conflict between the Earth and the Sky. The Sky was created by the Earth as one of its companions, but the Earth made the mistake of creating the lakes so the Sky could see its reflection in them. Once it caught a glimpse of itself, the Sky thought itself far superior to the round, boring Earth and so the dissension between the two began. All these stories are fairly short and interesting, and they were a nice touch for providing further information on the setting.

Although there were some slower parts, The Thief was an enjoyable book, especially after discovering what had really been going on. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: I bought it.

Other reviews:

What a crazy week. I haven’t had much spare time so I still need to finish up that review of The Thief and write one for both Magic Bites and The Gaslight Dogs.

This week I used up the rest of my bookstore gift card on three books and also received three review copies.

Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews

I had told myself I couldn’t get this one until I reviewed the first book in the Kate Daniels series, but I had to kill some time waiting around one day this week so I decided to go ahead and use up my gift card to the bookstore. The first book was good enough to make me want to read the rest, but I probably wouldn’t be in such a hurry to do so if I didn’t keep hearing that each book in this series is better than the last. Hopefully I’ll read both this and the third book before Magic Bleeds comes out in May but with so many different books to read, who knows.

As a mercenary who cleans up after magic gone wrong, Kate Daniels knows how waves of paranormal energy ebb and flow across Atlanta like a tide. But once every seven years, a flare comes, a time when magic runs rampant. When Kate sets out to retrieve a set of stolen maps for the Pack, Atlanta’s paramilitary clan of shape shifters, she quickly realizes much more is at stake. The stolen maps are only the opening gambit in an epic tug of war between two gods hoping for rebirth, and if Kate can’t stop the cataclysmic showdown, the city may not survive.

Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

From what I’ve heard about this series, I figured I’d better have the third book nearby for after I finish the second one. These are what I’ve been saving my gift card for anyway and I’ve read the first one now so it seemed like a good time to get them. Plus I did really like Curran, and I’m really curious about what Kate is hiding from us as readers about herself so I can see this series becoming very addictive if it does indeed get better and better…

Drafted into working for the Order of Merciful Aid, mercenary Kate Daniels has more paranormal problems than she knows what to do with. And in Atlanta, where magic comes and goes like the tide, that’s saying a lot.

But when Kate’s werewolf friend Derek is discovered nearly dead, she must confront her greatest challenge yet.

Wings of Wrath by C. S. Friedman

I really enjoyed the first book in the Magister trilogy so I have been waiting for this one to come to paperback for a little while. Of course while I was at the bookstore I had to look for it and then pick it up once I found it… In this world, a sacrifice is required in order to use magic and it was a very compelling concept.

A masterwork of fantasy from the author of Feast of Souls…

Kamala, a peasant woman, has claimed the powerful sorcery of the Magisters as her own-the ability to draw on the power of the human soul without dying for it. But in her rise to power she finds herself hunted by the brotherhood, and flees to a land where spells are warped by a fatal curse. A land that even Magisters fear…

The Poison Throne by Celine Kiernan

This is the first book in the Moorehawke trilogy. It is coming out on April 7 and the second book (The Crowded Shadows) is coming out in July 2010. According to the author’s website, the third book (The Rebel Prince) is coming out in Fall 2010. The tagline one the front cover really intrigued me – “Friend. Father. Kingdom. Which one would you sacrifice?” There’s just something about difficult choices that grabs me so I’m looking forward to reading this one. An excerpt is available on the author’s website.

Young Wynter Moorehawke returns to court with her dying father – but she finds her old home shadowed with fear. The king has become a violent despot, terrorizing those he once loved. His son and heir Alberon has fled into exile and now there are whispers everywhere of rebellion. Meanwhile, Alberon’s half-brother Razi has been elevated to his throne. He struggles to meet his King’s demands while remaining loyal to his beloved brother and to his friend-Wynter.

And at the heart of matters is a secret that no one dares speak of. A secret so large it could tear the kingdom in two and Wynter is at the heart of it all. Her father lies dying. Her king is mad. Her friends are divided.

She must choose- her father or her dreams, her friend or her king, her duty… or her love.

Tsunami Blue by Gayle Ann Williams

Tsunami Blue is coming out on March 30. I can’t find much other information on this book other than the blurb so I’m not sure if it’s the start of a series or not. All I know is it’s paranormal romance about a woman who can predict tsunamis and every time I flip it open, I see something about coffee. Maybe that’s a sign I should read it…

With her badass rain boots, her faithful dog, and the ability to predict the monster tsunamis that have reduced the US to a series of islands, Kathryn O’Malley isn’t afraid of much. Cut off from all society, she takes to the airwaves as Tsunami Blue, hoping to save something of humanity as the world around her crumbles. But Blue should be afraid—because her message reaches the wrong ears.

Now she’s the target of ruthless pirates known as Runners who want to use her special talents for their own profiteering—as soon as they can find her. Blue’s only shot at survival lies with the naked stranger who washes up on her rocky beach. A man who might just be working for Runners himself. Torn between suspicion and attraction, the two will have to navigate a surging tide of danger and deceit if they hope to stay alive.

Secret of the Dragon by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

This is the second book in the Dragonships of Vindras series, which is supposed to be six books long. I must admit, I’ve never read any of the Dragonlance books. It was just released in hardcover on March 16.

New gods are challenging the old high god, Torval, for rulership of the world. The only way to stop these brash interlopers lies with the five Bones of the Vektia Dragons—the five primal dragons hidden away by the dragon goddess, Vindrash, during the creation of the world. Without these dragons, one of the new gods, Aelon, cannot seize power. The only hope of the Vindrasi lies in finding the dragon bones before the followers of Aelon can use them to destroy the old gods. But the Vindrasi gods have a traitor in their midst…

In the land of mortals, Raegar, a Vindraisi turned Aelon warrior-priest, searches for the spirit bones. The gods have a champion of their own—Skylan Ivorson, sea-raider and high chief of the Vindrasi clans, and sworn enemy to Raegar. But Skylan is a prisoner on his own ship. The ship’s dragon, Kahg, has vanished and some believe he is dead. Skylan and his people are taken as captives to Sinaria, where they must fight in a game known as the Para Dix. The fates of men and gods and are dragons are rushing headlong to destruction. Skylan can stop the calamity, but only if he discovers the secret of the dragon.


Last night I finished reading Karin Lowachee’s The Gaslight Dogs so the poll for what to read next is now closed. It was a close race between Changeless and Servant of a Dark God, but Changeless won by 1 vote so that will be next.

As much as I’d like to stay and finish a review, I’m afraid I have to go clean now. Yuck.

A Local Habitation
by Seanan McGuire
400pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 8/10
Amazon Rating: 5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.5/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.17/5

A Local Habitation is the second book in the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire. The first book in this urban fantasy series is Rosemary and Rue, and I would definitely recommend beginning with that novel since it tells a lot about the different characters and the world. Even though A Local Habitation just came out earlier this month, the third book, An Artificial Night, will be released in September 2010.

The morning after a drunken girls’ night out, Toby receives a visit from her liege lord, Sylvester Torquill. Sylvester is worried about his niece January since he hasn’t heard from her in three weeks when she normally calls weekly, but due to area politics, he cannot visit her in Tamed Lightning without raising the suspicions of those nearby. Since January is his only living relative other than his daughter, Sylvester would like to make sure she is ok. So he requests that Toby go visit her for 2 or 3 days to check up on her while bringing his page Quentin along for the educational experience. Although she’s not ecstatic at the thought of playing baby-sitter, Toby cannot refuse her liege lord and sets out to Tamed Lightning.

Toby and Quentin arrive at January’s computer software company where they meet several of her employees and get a snack before they get to talk to January herself. At first January does not trust that her uncle actually sent them, but once she smells Toby’s magic, she is convinced they did indeed come from Sylvester. January insists that nothing is wrong, but she seems very nervous and Toby gets the feeling she is lying and something is not right with the place. The next morning when she and Quentin return to January’s office, she discovers her instincts were right – one of January’s employees was just murdered and this is not the first time this has happened.

While the previous book was enjoyable, this new installment was a big improvement. Although I was eager for more by the end of the first novel, Rosemary and Rue did take a little while to get going and immerse me in the story, but this one had me hooked right from the start (it probably did not hurt that the first chapter had a lot of Tybalt, who is my favorite character). The pacing was much better since there was not a dull moment from the beginning to the end. Although there were still quite a few infodumps like the first book, they were also spread out better and they also contained enough humor that reading them was not tedious.

The books in this series are told from the first person perspective of Toby, and her narrative voice seemed much stronger in this book. Her comments had a lot of personality and wry humor – she seemed a lot more alive and likable. Although she was still tough at times, the softer side of her that was sometimes apparent in the first book seemed more at the forefront and she seemed more confident, more like she fit into the fae world even though she’s trying to keep one foot in the human world in which she chooses to live. It wasn’t hard to see that she really cared about many of the other characters. Even though she initially complained about feeling like a baby-sitter to Quentin, she got over it pretty quickly since she liked the kid and had fun with him and they (mostly) got along very well.

Very little of this novel takes place in San Francisco as most of it happens in Faerie. This was great since the world of Faerie is a wonderful place to visit and contains many different types of fae – Daoine Sidhe, Cait Sidhe, Kitsune, and a dryad living inside an information tree in a computer to name a few. Toby is half Daoine Sidhe, half human and cannot do much magic at a time without wearing herself out, although she does have very powerful blood magic due to her mother. She’s not magical enough to be good in an offensive battle, but she does have a few handy tricks up her sleeve and finding out more about what she could do was interesting.

There were several new characters introduced since it mostly took place at January’s computer software company, but there were some old favorites as well. Sylvester was occasionally present, and Quentin and Connor were both major characters. Fortunately, Tybalt was also there quite a bit – he and Toby are so fun together, especially early on when Toby was drunk. At the end of the first book, he was my favorite character and by the end of this one, I loved him even more.

Although there are some great humorous moments, there is also plenty of tragedy. This novel can be on the darker side – Toby is not perfect and not everything always works out for the best. If something does go wrong, it’s not all magically fixed at the end like some books. Personally, I love this about them but those who like their perfect happy endings may want to look elsewhere for reading material.

My main complaint is that as much as I liked Toby, there were some times I couldn’t believe how stupid she was being. It would be a spoiler to explain that in detail, but basically she had a lot of clues that something wasn’t quite right and you would have expected her to figure it out a bit earlier with the observations she made.

Overall, A Local Habitation is a lot of fun to read and is an even better novel than the first book in the October Daye series. It had great pacing, plenty of both dark and humorous moments, an intriguing look at Faerie and some memorable, three-dimensional characters (if a bit slow-on-the-uptake on occasion). After reading this one, I am very glad the next book is due this fall because I’m very invested in this series now.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: I received an ARC (thus the lack of quotes – I was about to quote some of the drunk conversation between Toby and Tybalt but then realized I’d better not since you’re not supposed to quote from an ARC without checking against the final copy).

Reviews of other books in this series: