The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison – Review

Cover- The Angel of the Crows

Published: June 23, 2020

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 448 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

A fantasy novel of alternate 1880s London, where killers stalk the night and the ultimate power is naming.

This is not the story you think it is. These are not the characters you think they are. This is not the book you are expecting.

In an alternate 1880s London, angels inhabit every public building, and vampires and werewolves walk the streets with human beings under a well-regulated truce. A fantastic utopia, except for a few things: Angels can Fall, and that Fall is like a nuclear bomb in both the physical and metaphysical worlds. And human beings remain human, with all their kindness and greed and passions and murderous intent.

Jack the Ripper stalks the streets of this London too. But this London has an Angel. The Angel of the Crows.


Friends. Countrymen. This is not the book you expected based on the amazing synopsis. I mean, the synopsis does say that, but fair warning. This is purely and simply, Sherlock wing-fic (fanfic but give a character wings). I was just as shocked as so many other reviewers seemed to be, but I wasn’t entirely disappointed. It was fun and catered to my love for the mystery solving, brilliant Sherlock Holmes and the ever loyal John Watson. 

To be clear, the characters are not called Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, but rather Crow and J.H. Doyle. Crow is an unusual sort of angel who doesn’t have a building to be guardian to the way the rest of his brethren do. He’s an anomaly and has managed to bend the rules and declares himself the Angel of London. J.H. Doyle (or Dr. Doyle) has rather traditionally been injured during the war in Afghanistan and his injuries have resulted in his return to London where he can’t afford a flat by himself. If you’re at all familiar with the BBC show or the books you’ll guess what happens next. They become fast friends, solve crimes, and have dangerous adventures but this time the author throws in a bunch of supernatural stuff and Jack the Ripper.

Crow and Doyle, while original in some aspects, are comfortingly familiar characters. The cases themselves are thematically on point with the stories as well, though they certainly have minor differences. It was similar enough that I could guess who the culprit would be at each turn. 

While I greatly enjoyed this book, I struggle to rate it because it’s literally Sherlock with supernatural bits and the supernatural parts themselves weren’t all that in depth. The whole angel thing for one could have been so much more detailed! Angels guard a building. If the building is destroyed, the angel usually becomes Nameless and they sort of float about in a drone type state until further notice. The Named angels can’t leave their buildings, but protect them and usually the inhabitants. Crow has managed to avoid this, though I won’t spoil how. Angels can Fall and become evil, but this is merely glossed over. So many of the potentially amazing supernatural elements were just vague. 

This was tremendously fun, but it certainly wasn’t what I expected from Katherine Arden’s latest book. Admittedly, I would hate to have to live up to reader’s expectations following her much loved and acclaimed The Goblin Emperor. If you like Sherlock and/or re-tellings of Doyle’s stories then you’ll more than likely enjoy this as well. Do note that Crow (our Sherlock) doesn’t so much do amazing deduction as what seem to be brilliant guesses. I think this is in part due to Dr. Doyle being the main POV. 

Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha – Review

Cover- Deal with the Devil

Published: July 28, 2020

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: Mercenary Librarians #1

Genre: Dystopian

Pages: 336 (Paperback)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Deal with the Devil is Orphan Black meets the post-apocalyptic Avengers by USA Today and New York Times bestselling author duo Kit Rocha.

Nina is an information broker with a mission–she and her team of mercenary librarians use their knowledge to save the hopeless in a crumbling America.

Knox is the bitter, battle-weary captain of the Silver Devils. His squad of supersoldiers went AWOL to avoid slaughtering innocents, and now he’s fighting to survive.

They’re on a deadly collision course, and the passion that flares between them only makes it more dangerous. They could burn down the world, destroying each other in the process…

Or they could do the impossible: team up.

This is the first book in a near-future science fiction series with elements of romance.


Alrighty then, let’s talk about the new Mercenary Librarians series! First of all, if you want a book with tons of good looking characters who are all highly skilled at something go ahead and add it to your TBR. All the characters are either super hot super soldiers or stunningly gorgeous genetically altered babes. And they’re all soooo touchingly good at heart.

Despite my sarcasm, this was an incredibly entertaining book if you suspend disbelief and accept that this is like a cheesy tv drama. Also, there’s minimal librarian stuff going on here. I was expecting something like near-future Indiana Jones hunting down hidden information and dodging booby-traps. The only booby traps here are the trio of women hunting down the information. Hahahah…. Wow that was awful. I loved them though – they had an incredible bond of sisterhood and they were tough, smart, and always looked out for one another and their little corner of the community. The guys of the Silver Devils were all equally lovable and I just couldn’t help but to ship them!

Spoiler alert! Your ship dreams might come true because this does have a romantic element to go along with the action. It’s just as corny and touching as you might imagine and yeah, it was fantastic. I do think the romance took away from the plot toward the end because it seemed to become the central focus of the story. I was hoping for more data hunting danger but that was definitely not the focus in the latter half. It starts out that way… but then the two groups get together and become friendly and it turns rather character driven.

All in all, it was a fun book and I’m planning to pick up the sequel whenever it might be released. That being said, dial back those expectations if you’re expecting female Indiana Jones searching for hidden data caches because that’s mostly superficial in this installment. I do hope in the next book that the author really shows off the Mercenary Librarian vibe and balances the romance and action a bit better.

The Sin in the Steel by Ryan Van Loan – Review

Cover- The Sin in the Steel

Published: July 21, 2020

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: The Fall of the Gods #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 432 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

A sparkling debut fantasy set in a diverse world, featuring dead gods, a pirate queen, shapeshifting mages, and a Sherlockian teenager determined to upend her society.

Heroes for hire. If you can pay.

Buc:
Brilliant street-rat
Her mind leaps from clues to conclusions in the blink of an eye.

Eld:
Ex-soldier
Buc’s partner-in-crime.

No. Not in crime–in crime-solving.
They’ve been hired for their biggest job yet–one that will set them up for a life of ease.
If they survive.
Buc and Eld are the first private detectives in a world where pirates roam the seas, mages speak to each other across oceans, mechanical devices change the tide of battle, and earthly wealth is concentrated in the hands of a powerful few.
It’s been weeks since ships last returned to the magnificent city of Servenza with bounty from the Shattered Coast. Disaster threatens not just the city’s trading companies but the empire itself. When Buc and Eld are hired to investigate, Buc swiftly discovers that the trade routes have become the domain of a sharp-eyed pirate queen who sinks all who defy her.
Now all Buc and Eld have to do is sink the Widowmaker’s ship….
Unfortunately for Buc, the gods have other plans.
Unfortunately for the gods, so does Buc.


SWASHBUCKLING FANTASY IS  MY NEW FAVORITE TREND. I always need more high seas, high stakes action in my life. It’s so coooool, especially when the most dangerous of them all are lady pirates!

So clearly there’s the pirate element, but The Sin in the Steel also has one of my other favorite tropes – a Holmes and Watson-esque duo. It’s quite well done and doesn’t rip too much directly from Sherlock Holmes. Buc and Eld (the duo) are mostly a delight to read about. Buc (short for Sambucina) has a brilliant memory and pulls her knowledge from the hundreds of books she’s read. Formerly a street rat, she’s moved up in the world and has lofty goals to achieve. Eld is a former soldier (much like beloved Martin Freeman’s Watson) and he carries some baggage from his time in war. He’s the muscle in the group, though Buc is a fair hand with a slingshot and knives. He’s also the more level-headed if the two. In short, I adored them. 

Buc and Eld are introduced while in peril. They stand accused of murder and this world’s version of the East India Trading Company seems to be after their heads. That is, until they ultimately recruit them to find and stop who has been destroying their ships full of sugar. A handsome price is negotiated and thus begins our high seas adventure. Because who sinks ships? Why pirates of course!!!

This seems to be a fairly stereotypical 19th century world, aside from the addition of magic and the tension between the followers of two deities. The magic is interesting- some necromancy, some telepathic type magic, and a seeming inability to be permanently killed if you’re a mage. I get strong explorer vibes and it makes me want to grab my Indiana Jones gear and go exploring caverns, untamed jungles, possibly get chased by cannibals. Also, if you thought Pirates of the Caribbean was an awesome movie, you’ll love this book!

I had a great time reading this and eagerly await the next installment. I’ve done myself no favors because this isn’t out until July and I’ll probably have to wait until July 2021 for the sequel.

Stacking the Shelves: 4/11/20

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly (or in my case monthly) meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and it’s all about sharing the books you’ve added to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. You can include books you buy in a physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts, and of course ebooks!


Received for Review:

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Ashes of the Sun by Django Wexler
I was DELIGHTED when this arrived on my doorstep! Orbit knows my mind and I get some very exciting ARCs from time to time. It’s got revenge and magic and siblings trying to reunite!

The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey
This is an exciting start to a new post-apocalyptic series by M.R. Carey. A review of this will be posted soon, so keep an eye out!

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini
I got a partial eARC of this from Tor right after featuring it as a Waiting on Wednesday book! I’m excited to get a little taste of this before its September release. Also, first contact with aliens is always exciting and I just love the cover.

Driftwood by Marie Brennan
“A strange place of slow apocalypses”. I was sold after reading the synopsis and it’s surprisingly short, so it will be a pleasant diversion! Thanks to Tachyon Publications for the eARC.

The Vanished Queen by Lisbeth Campbell
Another lovely cover, this time with two people taking on a despotic king who probably killed the queen. Thanks to Saga Press for the eARC.

The Loop by Jeremy Robert Johnson
A science experiment gone wrong infects a community with an uncontrollable urge to do violence. This certainly sounds like an edge-of-your-seat thriller! Thanks to Saga Press for the eARC!

The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty
OH MY GOSH!!! The end of the trilogy is nigh! I’ve really been loving this series (obviously) am a little enthusiastic about finishing this up and seeing what happens. Many thanks to HarperVoyager for the eARC.

My Purchases:

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I haven’t been purchasing many physical books and have mostly just been getting them in OwlCrate boxes. The Kingdom of Back is from my March OwlCrate and is quite a lovely edition. I did end up purchasing Thunderhead and The Toll by Neal Stephenson after being TOTALLY blow away by Scythe. However…. Thunderhead did not arrive, though my tracking said it was delivered. Guess a phone call to customer service is in order.

Last but not least, I have a couple audiobook purchases. I picked up Dragonslayer by Duncan M. Hamilton and The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix.

Waiting on Wednesday: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme originally hosted on Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. This is a great way to share upcoming released you’re excited about!


Cover- To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

I am INTRIGUED! I was a tremendous fan of Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle as a youngling and I’m very curious to see how his writing has matured over the years and how he does sci-fi. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars is the story of a xenobiologist who discovers an alien relic on an uncolonized world and it sounds like it leads into a first contact type of story. I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on this monster (800+ pages!) in September 2020!

Waiting on Wednesday: Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme originally hosted on Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. This is a great way to share upcoming released you’re excited about!


Cover- Deal with the Devil

O. MY. GOODNESS. A post apocalyptic book where data and knowledge is ultra valuable and it just sounds so awesome! Deal with the Devil is the first book in the Mercenary Librarians series and I’ve got my fingers cross that this will be a hit since the early reviews are fairly glowing. It just sound SO DARN COOL. Sign me up!

The Monstrous Citadel by Mirah Bolender – Review

Cover- The Monstrous Citadel

Published: November 5, 2019

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: Chronicles of Amicae #2

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 416 (Paperback)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

The Monstrous Citadel is the sequel to Mirah Bolender’s City of Broken Magic–a fast-paced, adventure fantasy where a bomb squad defuses the magic weapons of a long forgotten war.

Amicae, City of Sweepers, survived the Falling Infestation which nearly destroyed it thanks to the efforts of Laura and Okane. While the ancient monsters have been beaten back for the moment, new and more monstrous dangers face them in the form of belligerent bureaucracy, dangerous gangs, grasping Sweepers bent on personal glory . . .

And Rex, the City of Kings, who breed their own kind of monstrosity.

Laura and Okane must go to Rex to reclaim the secret weaponry that keeps Amicae safe and come face to face with a horrifying truth about the Rex and their designs on all of Orien’s cities.


City of Broken Magic was one of my favorite books from 2018 and I was desperate for the sequel as soon as I turned the last page. Well, the sequel is now here and The Monstrous Citadel suffered a wee bit from the sophomore slump. 

This was an enjoyable book, but there were drastic changes in the cast thanks to the events in book one and I just didn’t like them. The major new characters introduced were Sweepers from another city brought over to help out Amicae. At risk of spoilers I won’t go into more detail here, but the new folks were simply untrustworthy from the start and it wasn’t subtle. It was a strong right hook of “something’s not right with these people” but it wasn’t revealed until a bit later what exactly was sketchy. 

Fortunately, Laura and Okane were still pretty awesome. Laura is a take-charge kind of girl and Okane is more comfortable with his new place in society. He’s still quite shy and I remain glad that the author didn’t throw these two into a relationship. I’m breathing a sigh of relief – they can just be friends and co-workers! PLATONIC! 

Most of the plot is heavily centered on dealing with the new Sweepers, but the more interesting bits are scattered about. The Amicae gangs are leaning on the Sinclair Sweepers and the rogue sweepers from the city of Rex are still a threat and these two things really help keep the story lively. I’ve also really enjoyed getting to see some new scenery this time around and I think the world building is really cool. The history of the cities and infestations is sprinkled throughout the story and honestly, I’d love to have some more of that!

Like I said previously, this book has the sophomore slump and while enjoyable, I didn’t like it nearly as much as the first book. I’ll definitely read future installments and I hope the pace picks back up. I’m confident it will, as things were starting to get wild in the latter portion – running through the wild lands, panicked escapes, and the bloody crazy Rexians.

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey – Review

Cover- Magic for Liars

Published: June 4, 2019

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy, Mystery

Pages: 336 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magic. She is perfectly happy with her life—she has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It’s a great life and she doesn’t wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha.

But when Ivy is hired to investigate the gruesome murder of a faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach.


Magic for Liars is a murder mystery set in a private high school for magical students, though it reads a little more noir detective story than Harry Potter-esque fantasy. Ivy Gamble is a PI with a drinking problem and a troubled relationship with her family. She also has no magical ability to speak of – seems her sister Tabitha got all the magic. When a faculty member is found bisected in the library, Ivy is called in by the headmistress who suspects it was more than a theoretical magic spell gone awry…

I’ve seen few reviews of this book and sadly none of them have been particularly glowing. I, on the other hand, really enjoyed this book and found it to be rather touching. Ivy and Tabitha haven’t gotten along for most of their lives – Tabitha manifested magical ability and she was sent away to a prestigious private high school for mages where she absolutely blossomed. Ivy finished out her years at her regular ol’ high school and dealt first hand with stressful family issues that Tabitha dealt with only distantly. Ivy is obviously very resentful of her sister and acutely feels the disparity in their lives from looks to careers. As Ivy investigated the murder of the faculty member (a close friend of Tabitha’s) the sisters make an awkward effort to get to know one another again. Those particular scenes felt so genuine and I wanted so badly for them to get along. 

The actual investigation portion almost was second fiddle to what was going on in Ivy’s headspace. She interviews students and faculty alike and she finds some clues, though since magic is involved (something Ivy is unfamiliar with since Tabitha was so distant from her) she has either has to get assistance or puzzle it out on her own. I thought the book ended well and the resolution was pretty satisfying, though I can’t say I was surprised when the picture finally came together. In a way, I’m glad I could actually guess whodunnit and the author didn’t have to suddenly reveal all this information that the reader wasn’t privy to.

Overall, I thought this was a great, somewhat emotionally touching read, the latter of  which kind of surprised me. I can see why some people may have found this boring. Like I said, the mystery part is almost secondary to what’s going on with Ivy and her sister and even the budding relationship between Ivy and one of the handsome teachers. Despite this (or perhaps because of this) I loved it.

City of Lies by Sam Hawke – Review

Cover- City of Lies

Published: July 3, 2018

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: Poison Wars #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 560 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:

I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me… 

Outwardly, Jovan is the lifelong friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible Heir. Quiet. Forgettable. In secret, he’s a master of poisons and chemicals, trained to protect the Chancellor’s family from treachery. When the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army lays siege to the city, Jovan and his sister Kalina must protect the Heir and save their city-state.

But treachery lurks in every corner, and the ancient spirits of the land are rising…and angry.


City of Lies wasn’t a book I had heard too much about, a few positive reviews here and there, nothing more. Based off one of those reviews and the rather intriguing synopsis it seemed like something I was perfectly in the mood for at the time. Also, that opening line really sealed the deal…

The main character, Jovan, has been trained since the tender age of seven to become the next proofer (basically a food taster) for the Chancellor to protect him from assassination attempts. We’re introduced to Jovan and his best friend and heir to the Chancellor’s seat, Tain, as they are travelling back to Silasta. They arrive unexpectedly early from their travels and are present at a dinner where the Chancellor (Tain’s uncle) and Jovan’s uncle (Council member and food tester) are poisoned. They cannot be saved, as it is something no one has ever seen before and no known antidote seems to work. This of course unstabilizes the city, as does the army of vengeful country folk that arrives on the doorstep of Silasta shortly after. Much of the book is spent with the city under siege, which honestly can get somewhat tedious at times. Fortunately, there’s plenty of other action and subterfuge to keep the reader occupied.

I found the book to be genuinely enjoyable and would highly recommend the audio format, as the narrators’ performances were excellent. The characters were likable from the outset of the book, which sadly isn’t always the case and can be a significant factor in how much I like a book. If it takes me 300 pages to even remotely care for the characters, the rating will suffer in my opinion. Jovan and his sister Kalina are both have different weaknesses and sometimes surprising strengths. Tain made for a diverting side character and I was surprised to find he was wise for his young age, though still a touch brash at times. The plotting, the murder, the battles…. There was much going on in the book and there was never a dull moment, though it wasn’t overly contrived either. Perfectly balanced, as all things should be.

Overall I was really pleased with the book and I already have my eye on the sequel, Hollow Empire, when it comes out later this year. Like I mentioned, the audio format was pretty awesome and I liked that there was both a male and female narrator to differentiate between the Jovan and Kalina chapters. I’d like to continue the series in the audio format if possible because I liked it that much!

The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi – Review

Cover- The Consuming Fire

Published: October 16, 2018

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: The Interdependency #2

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 320 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:

The Interdependency, humanity’s interstellar empire, is on the verge of collapse. The Flow, the extra-dimensional conduit that makes travel between the stars possible, is disappearing, leaving entire star systems stranded. When it goes, human civilization may go with it—unless desperate measures can be taken.

Emperox Grayland II, the leader of the Interdependency, is ready to take those measures to help ensure the survival of billions. But nothing is ever that easy. Arrayed before her are those who believe the collapse of the Flow is a myth—or at the very least, an opportunity that can allow them to ascend to power.

While Grayland prepares for disaster, others are preparing for a civil war, a war that will take place in the halls of power, the markets of business and the altars of worship as much as it will take place between spaceships and battlefields. The Emperox and her allies are smart and resourceful, but then so are her enemies. Nothing about this power struggle will be simple or easy… and all of humanity will be caught in its widening gyre.


I started listening to this during a long car ride a few weeks ago and then had to restart it because I fell asleep. It wasn’t boring or anything, I was just exhausted and Will Wheaton’s voice carried me into sleep. Once I awoke from my dreamy slumber I began again and well, I was thoroughly engrossed in politics, scheming, and the like.

The Interdependency is on the verge of chaos as the flow streams weaken and collapse and Cardenia, aka Emperox Grayland II, is trying to keep it together. Even if that means she has to make up some BS prophecies/visions to sell the citizens. The Nohamapeton’s are still up to their scheming, though it’s been somewhat hampered by *gasp* AN AUDIT. The beaurocracy will get ya every time. Kiva Lagos, in charge of the audit, has the most “EFF YOU” attitude of any of the characters here and while kind of amusing, it seems immature for someone in her position. Marce, while remaining totally smitten with Cardenia, must go off on a dangerous secret mission through space. OoooOOOOoooo!!!

The Consuming Fire was a likable book, though it didn’t seem as harrowing as the first. Sure, there were moments of danger, but I was reasonably sure everyone was going to live. There were some excellent moments reminiscent of Game of Thrones politics – Countess Nohamapeton had a very Olenna Tyrell/TELL CERSEI IT WAS ME moment and Grayland/Cardenia had a very HOW DO YOU ANSWER THESE CHARGES… LORD BAELISH moment. I greatly enjoyed both of those things and I’m looking forward to the next book.