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Heart of Veridon (Tim Akers)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Heart of Veridon is a weird mix between a film-noir style detective thriller and very weird clockwork fantasy. The juxtaposition of these two dissimilar styles mostly works, but the book inherits flaws from both genres. On the plus side, the story moves quickly and is quite engaging, the supporting characters are unique, the protagonist is consistent, and the setting is distinct and interesting. There isn’t a moment that you feel fully immersed in the setting or feel like you really understand how it functions, but the glimpses you catch into the everyday life are quite different from what you typically see in fantasy. I would definitely recommend this book, but probably more to people who like action and an interesting setting than to people looking for intricate plots and interpersonal interactions.

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Blood Song (Cat Adams)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Blood Song is a generic, urban fantasy, kick-butt heroine, vampire hunter thriller. All the rote copied elements of ditzy urban fantasy with the possible exception of the excruciatingly banal love triangle are present here. The protagonist is very blatantly a wish fulfillment power fantasy, the writing gets very choppy in parts, and the story doesn’t really hold together completely when looked at with all the information. Despite all this, as urban fantasy goes this book is definitely a cut above most of the genre. It moves well, the plot isn’t at any point based on characters making excruciatingly bad decisions, and the setting is actually kind of engaging. This isn’t great literature; it isn’t even a departure from the formula for this genre of books, but if you want to read urban fantasy, then I would say that Blood Song will probably be something of a treat for you, as it is markedly better than most in the genre.

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The Spirit Thief (Rachel Aaron, The Legend of Eli Monpress #1)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
The Spirit Thief is a fairly traditional fantasy romp emphasizing fun and excitement over depth and character building. This is the first in a series, but most of the characters come already fleshed out with at least allusions to fairly extensive backstories. I enjoyed this book; the setting is mostly just traditional medieval style fantasy, but the magic system and mythology were at least fairly distinctly setting specific. Maybe it is due to the fact that this book serves to begin a series, but I felt like the story could have used a bit more work. It feels a bit like the author has the characters up on a shelf like toys, takes them down to play with a bit, then carefully picks them up and puts them back to pretty much the in exact same place they were when the story started. I prefer a bit more character development lasting from book to book other than literally “Oh darn my favorite coat got ripped.” The villain just sort of pops up out of nowhere and doesn’t feel nearly as fleshed out as most of the other characters. I would still say this book does a great job as a fun romp and would recommend it for that, but I feel like there is quite a bit of untapped potential here which disappoints me a bit.

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Debris (Jo Anderton, The Veiled Worlds #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Debris is an imaginative fantasy with a unique setting that has a lot of promise but proved to move too slowly and be too predictable for my tastes. This is the first in a series, so I would excuse the author for not bringing everything to a resolution, but I still found the conclusion rather unsatisfying. The setting is unique. I would be tempted to call it steampunk due to the heavy reliance on fantasy technologies replacing contemporary ones, the dark industrial feel of the cities, and extreme social class disparities, but there really aren’t many gears or cogs in sight, and the technology definitely stems from magical rather than mechanical roots. There is also a heavy reliance on setting-specific myth and legend, which I find a bit tiresome as a narrative device but which works all right here. The protagonist isn’t horrible, but after the introduction I found myself able to predict her entire story arc, which detracted from my overall enjoyment of the book. The supporting characters aren’t really more than set dressing to the extent that it is easy to confuse them with each other. Despite these faults, I would recommend this book for any fantasy fan looking for an interesting, distinct setting and who can forgive a somewhat predictable and uninteresting protagonist and story.

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Undone (Rachel Caine, Outcast Season #1)

2 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Undone is an urban fantasy fish out of water story. I haven’t seen the two combined before, and I felt like there was a lot of potential there. The protagonist is fairly developed and interesting, and although they lack depth, the supporting cast isn’t entirely uninteresting. Unfortunately, problems plague this promising premise. The main issues are that the author tries to shoehorn in some sort of weird semi-romantic sub-plot that doesn’t really compliment the main story or have enough to it to really please anyone looking for romance, the setting is generic-secret-wizards-urban-fantasy (which quite frankly a lot of authors do a lot better), the antagonist sort of comes out of nowhere for no reason, and this is the first in a series, which leads the author to write probably the most frustrating conclusions I have encountered in the genre. There are quite a few urban fantasy titles that I would recommend before Undone, but if you have exhaustively explored the genre then you might find some justification in picking up a copy.

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Touched By An Alien (Gini Koch, Alien Novels #1)

1 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a fairly standard sexy woman empowerment urban fantasy, with the requisite romance side plot. This is the first in a series, and it really shows. There is a lot more establishing material than really deserves to be in one book, there are too many characters for too little plot, and the story feels a bit like something the author mushed together as an introduction without disturbing the real plot. Books like this make me think the author is just following a checklist of things usually included in the genre rather than trying to create anything unique. I wouldn’t recommend this book because if this were the only urban fantasy ever written I suppose it would pass muster as it outlines most of the ideas in the genre, but when there are other books out there that are simply better in every way, I don’t know why anyone would bother with this one.

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Discount Armageddon (Seannan McGuire, InCryptid #1)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Discount Armageddon is a fairly standard kick-butt-yet-sexy-woman-monster-hunter style urban fantasy. In a refreshing twist, the author doesn’t seem to take her genre as deadly seriously as many in the genre do, and focuses more on fun than trying to gross the the reader out with gore or merely masquerading as fantasy when the real goal of the book is an attempt at pornography. There’s still some gore and sex, but it isn’t the emphasis, and the rest of the book is more about fun and silliness. The characters are better than average for urban fantasy, with the exception of the rather uninteresting love interest, but to actually make an interesting male love interest seems like it might violate a rule of the genre. The story is fine without any egregious plot holes, the pacing is quick, and there isn’t any endless sightseeing endemic to urban fantasy books set in real cities. Even though it isn’t deep or nuanced, I would recommend Discount Armageddon; it succeeds in its goal of just being fun and deserves to be recommended based on that fact.

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The Age of Ra (James Lovegrove, The Pantheon Trilogy #1)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
I’m not really sure what category to put The Age of Ra in. The story is basically what I would think of as military sci-fi, and it has quite a few elements of that type. That said, it also has an active sentient Egyptian pantheon that powers most of the weapons. I suppose I will just call it both fantasy and military sci-fi and move on. The story isn’t great, as is common with military sci-fi. There’s a lot of exciting fighting, which is fairly well done, but it is described in that genre’s typically detached, removed manner that lessens the excitement somewhat. The characters aren’t great either. The protagonist is a bit flat, and the love interest is barely there. I don’t hold any particular fascination with the Egyptian pantheon of gods, and someone who does might have a lot more interest here, as they are portrayed very well for their traditional strange personalities from what I can remember. Everything comes together in this book fairly well, but the elements it is composed of just aren’t good or interesting enough for me to recommend the book overall.

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Hunter’s Run (George RR Martin, Gardner Dozois, Daniel Abraham)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Hunter’s Run is an anomaly in my experience, a book that was worked on for several decades by several authors that actually came out well. I’m not a particular fan of any of the authors involved in the project, and yet together they managed to make something that I really liked. The story is a straight up hard sci-fi adventure, but there are a lot of more subtle psychological elements thrown in that give the book real emotional hooks to sink into the readers. The setting is standard profligate expansionist, capitalist, ecologically disastrous, humanity exploiting a beautiful, pristine, wild, alien world, but other than this tired device, everything is quite original and interesting. The protagonist shows real character growth throughout the book, and while initially the bizarre alien scenery is more interesting than his personal journey, eventually the psychological element proves to be the real strength of the book. I would definately recommend this book to any hard sci-fi fans and I hope you will pick up a copy yourself.

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Thirteen Orphans (Jane Lindskold, Breaking the Wall #1)

2 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Thirteen Orphans is a contemporary urban fantasy adventure novel. The book starts off fairly well and manages to be quite imaginative, but terrible pacing problems make the book unpleasant to read. This is the first in a series, but that doesn’t really hurt or help this particular book in any way I can see. Other than the pacing and a few repetition issues, there really isn’t much to complain about. The characters are relatively interesting without any tired cliches, the plot is a little contrived but fairly original, and the setting is original and intriguing. It is very regrettable that the author didn’t have the services of a more strict editor or this book could have been excellent. Overall, I just can’t recommend something that moves so agonizingly slowly despite what other strengths this book has.

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