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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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Three Days to Dead (Kelly Meding, Dreg City #1)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Three Days to Dead is a conventional urban fantasy monster hunting adventure with a strong female protagonist. This is the first in a series. There are some supernatural romance elements, but the majority of the story focuses on overcoming supernatural challenges rather than amorous ones, so I would definitely call this urban fantasy rather than supernatural romance. The pacing is good, the story doesn’t drag anywhere in particular, and the characters are decent. The protagonist has some strange issues that aren’t immediately addressed when you would think they would be, but this is actually an intentional story element rather than an oversight (I think). The setting is original and interesting, but sadly, the whole experience of the book is somewhat tainted to me by the fact that yet again the antagonist’s plan is tortuously complicated when there is no reason for it to be and doesn’t entirely make sense. Still, I would recommend this book, largely because I found it enjoyable to read, and despite its issues it is still superior to most urban fantasy offerings.

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Blood Engines (TA Pratt, Marla Mason #1)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Blood Engines is an edgy, violent urban fantasy. This is apparently the first in a series, which surprised me. The author throws you right into the action with very little explanation of who the characters are and why they are doing what they are doing and just lets the story unfold from there. It’s nice for an author to actually give the audience some credit and not explain every little detail all the time. The only attempts I spotted to lay groundwork for further books in the series are references to people who never actually appear in the book, but this really made sense and worked well in context. You very often get the impression that people just sort of make urban fantasy up as they go along, and this book was a nice departure from that. You feel like you are immediately immersed in a fully thought out world with believable characters and well defined rules. I would definitely recommend Blood Engines to anyone looking for a darker take on the urban fantasy genre.

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Spiral Hunt (Margaret Roland, Evie Scelan #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Spiral Hunt is a contemporary magical urban fantasy adventure story. The setting borrows heavily from mythological sources and interprets their use in present day. Everything magical is, as standard, hidden from mundane eyes, and only a few magical practitioners know the true nature of the world. This is the first in a series of novels, but any groundwork the author lays here for future novels in the series doesn’t adversely affect the course of this book. The characters were fairly complex and interesting, and although I’m not fond of the technique of cribbing from ancient mythology to flesh out your setting, the author does a decent enough job of it that I wasn’t overly offended. The story progresses smoothly, and although the author has a tendency to succumb for the inexplicable urban fantasy fascination of turning their fantasy novel temporarily into sightseeing tours of their respective locations (this time it’s Boston), the pacing is generally brisk and exciting. I would recommend this as a good, although not exemplary, urban fantasy novel.

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Mortal Coils (Eric Nylund)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Mortal Coils is a contemporary mythologically inspired coming of age fantasy novel with a definite young adultish slant. I wasn’t too put off by the lack of mature content, and the young adult elements have more to do with the coming of age story and the protagonist’s relationships and perspective rather than an overly simplified story or dumbed down vocabulary. Honestly, I find the inclusion of traditional mythological elements into contemporary fantasy books a tiresome trend that I wish would disappear given that, in my opinion, any somewhat talented author should be able to come up with more interesting setting material than something produced by, at best, iron age primitives, but the mythological elements are handled adroitly enough here that they didn’t unduly detract from my enjoyment of the book. The pacing is decent and keeps you entertained, although the author could definitely have eliminated substantial largely superfluous sections. This material isn’t boring ,and it fits with the overall setting of the book, but it doesn’t always contribute substantially to the overall narrative. The setting is where the book really shines; it’s a weird, dangerous, magical place that actually feels like it would work. I enjoyed reading this book, so I would recommend it, especially for people who really like re-imaginings of traditional mythological figures, coming of age stories, or the idea of a strange, threatening magical reality overlaid upon our mundane lives.

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Black Blade Blues (JA Pitts, Sarah Beauhall #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Black Blade Blues is a fairly standard urban fantasy “normal person discovers the world of the supernatural” origin story with the twist that the protagonist is a lesbian. I wouldn’t normally mention something like sexual orientation, but the book places a significant degree of emphasis on it, so I thought it was best to mention it as it is a core component of the story. As urban fantasy, the book is all right, but not stellar. This is apparently the first in a series, but I’m not sure I would be inclined to pick up the subsequent volumes. For the most part the book moves well, and the protagonist’s profession as a blacksmith/prop manager is kind of interesting and fun. There are some issues with the way the action is written, and the climax and conclusion drag on quite a bit longer than they really should. There is some hackneyed magical prophesy/chosen one business, but overall the story feels fairly original and interesting. I would overall recommend the book as decent urban fantasy.

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Boyfriend from Hell (Jamie Quaid, The Saturn’s Daughters #1)

2 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Boyfriend from Hell is the beginning of yet another urban fantasy adventure series where a smart, savvy, strong independant woman protagonist is hamstrung by weak inconsistent characterization, a setting that doesn’t really seem to work, and a strange convoluted plot that doesn’t really hold together very well. This is one of those cases where I’m not really even sure what the author is going for. Both the protagonist and the setting seem to be trying to go for very different things at various points of the narrative. It’s clear that the author is holding a lot of backstory back for future books in the series, but I was not so much intrigued by the mysteries left undisclosed as bored by the cliched revelations that we did get in this volume. I really can’t recommend a book this unfocused and inconsistent.

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Vicious Circle (Linda Robertson, Persephone Alcmedi #1)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Vicious Circle is a generic urban fantasy with generic witches, werewolves, and vampires a generic urban fantasy setting that incorporates generic fantasy elements with a generic semi-romance tacked on. I’m not averse to authors using common elements in their sub-genre, but I do strongly feel that if you have no original elements in your setting, then you as the author are expected to work extra hard to make your characters and story memorable. Unfortunately, this wasn’t done in this book, and the story doesn’t really make sense and the characters are forgettable. Even the romance was uninteresting. There’s nothing really objectionable here, but unless you just want some generic urban fantasy with a few romance elements, I would suggest you read something else.

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Once Bitten Twice Shy (Jennifer Rardin, Jaz Parks #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Once Bitten Twice Shy is a standard format butt-kicking, waif-fu practicing, supernatural hunter woman urban fantasy novel. Given the strengths and weaknesses of this sub-genre as a whole, I think that this is probably one of the better examples of it. This is the first in a series, so I can’t comment on the quality (or lack of thereof) of the sequels, but I found this book to have a fairly well developed protagonist who was somewhat of a departure from the tired standard, a setting that was more imaginative than average, and a plot that was fairly coherent and didn’t suffer from a lot of progression through characters acting on willful stupidity. I wouldn’t say that this is the most inspired book I have ever read or anything, but for the genre it was fairly strong and a decent pick if you are in the mood for an uncomplicated urban fantasy.

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The Dwarves of Whiskey Island (S Andrew Swann, Cleveland Portal #2)

2 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
The Dwarves of Whiskey Island is a contemporary mystery fantasy novel that shows great promise in its well-crafted and interesting setting, but is unfortunately hampered by a very poor story that doesn’t make much sense. This is apparently the sequel to another book using the same setting, so perhaps the first one is better. Still, I really wanted to like this book. The setting is very imaginative and captivating, but the plot was almost painful to read. The characters are all idiots who just wander about in ways that happen to progress the plot rather than based on any possible internal motivations or desires. The protagonist is only involved with the plot for the thinnest of contrived reasons, and his continued involvement from the very earliest stages could only stem from lazy writing on the author’s part (or madness on the part of the protagonist which isn’t detailed in the book). I really can’t recommend this book even though I would sort of like to, given my initial attraction to the setting.

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