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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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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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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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Monster (A Lee Martinez)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Monster is a strange urban fantasy adventure. There is hunting of supernatural creatures, but it really doesn’t fit into the standard mold of urban fantasy where that is the focus. It feels a bit more like a tour through a weird and deranged shadow world that mirrors our own, the only difference being the inclusion of the magical. I quite liked this book. The characters aren’t exactly relatable or even necessarily likable, but they have a certain sense of rightness in the odd dystopia the author has overlaid on our contemporary reality. Among all the oddities that the author presents, there is an undercurrent of normal everyday life. These are people whose principal ambition isn’t to topple a dark lord or save the world from destruction, but to spend a quiet evening at home drinking a beer and watching TV. I liked this book a great deal, and would heartily recommend it to fans of contemporary fantasy that departs a bit from the standard formula.

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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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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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