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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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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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Kiss Of Steel (Bec McMaster, London Steampunk #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Kiss of Steel is a steampunk adventure that borders on the edge of supernatural romance. There is a quite a bit of imaginative steampunk setting, and there are many interesting facets to the world, but the dominant feature of the story is the protagonist’s love life, and the love scenes teeter on, then careen over, the edge of what I would consider pornographic. This is a the first in a series of novels, but I didn’t feel like that contributed negatively in any way to the book. The plot actually makes a good deal of sense, and aside from the protagonist’s love interest having an instant magical attraction for her that doesn’t make any sense, the plot is logical and comes to an eventually satisfying conclusion without any horrible cliffhangers or contrived plot points. If you are a fan of steampunk or fantasy and also like romance, I would definitely recommend this book, as it is one of the better examples of this type that I have read, although my experience isn’t that vast.

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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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The Covenant Rising (Stan Nicholls, Dreamtime #1)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
The Covenant Rising is a swords-and-sorcery dystopian adventure novel. This is the first in a series, and while it isn’t constantly apparent, there is clearly a lot of groundwork being laid throughout the course of the book. The characters are enjoyable. I’m not sure if they are the most unique, but they are entertaining enough and well written. The setting is fairly standard swords-and-sorcery with an overlay of political dystopia. It’s interesting to see things that are familiar fantasy conventions being employed by a magical police state. There are a few too many prospective characters for my tastes, and the author has an annoying habit of cramming all the descriptions of places into the first two paragraphs every time the perspective changes, but overall there isn’t too much to complain about. This book really excels in the action sequences. They are really well described and feel very dynamic. I would recommend this book if you like lots of action and fighting, but maybe not so much if you just like to luxuriate in the fantastical and the strange, as much of what is in the book will be familiar to fantasy fans even though it is repurposed here.

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