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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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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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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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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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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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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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