Storm Cursed

Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs

Mercy Thompson is a coyote shape-shifter married to Adam, an alpha werewolf. Adam, with Mercy’s reluctant help, is trying to arrange talks between the fae lords and a U.S. senator. Recently Mercy declared that their region of the Pacific Northwest was under the protection of Adam’s pack, so she gets to take care of supernatural problems that crop up. Mercy and werewolf Mary Jo need the help of Larry the goblin king to take care of a goblin issue, then they’re off to deal with twenty miniature zombie goats. Miniature zombie goats are a bit of comic relief before there’s serious trouble at the home of Elizaveta, the local grey witch. There’s gruesome evidence of black witchcraft there (feel free to skim that chapter), but unexpected help comes from amnesiac werewolf Sherwood and vampire Wulfe, who turns out to have a lighter side. Plenty of action, a fair amount of humor and great dialogue keep the pages turning quickly. I listened to the audiobook, skillfully narrated by Lorelei King. Moon Called is the first Mercy Thompson book; another, Smoke Bitten, is expected in 2020. Readalikes include books by Ilona Andrews and Kelley Armstrong.

Brenda

Early Riser

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

This is an unusual, quirky book by the author of the Thursday Next series, set in an alternate Wales. Charlie Worthing has just joined the Winter Consul Service and heads out on his first assignment, only to get trapped in Sector 12 when the trains stop running. Winters are so long and bitterly cold that most people hibernate, bulking up before their long sleep. Some unfortunates turn into Nightwalkers, sort of zombies who can work menial jobs. Charlie has many adventures as he tries to make it through his first winter awake and investigates a viral dream about a blue Buick. Darkly humorous and witty with an appealing protagonist.

Brenda

The Raven Tower

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

This is an impressive first fantasy novel from an award-winning writer of science fiction (Ancillary Justice, etc.). The narration is very unusual, as the narrator is apparently a god, who is telling the story of Eolo, the genderfluid aide to warrior Mawat, who returns from battle to find his father missing and his uncle on the seat of power. Hamlet, anyone? But not really. The narrator is one of many gods, and its story takes place over millennia as well as in the current time. Gods can work together and lend their powers to others, be tricked out of their powers, and face very dire consequences if they lie. They include the Raven, a group of mosquitoes, a large meteorite, and a silent forest. Eolo is both Mawat’s defender and the behind-the-scenes investigator, searching for the truth of the missing ruler and uncovering some secrets of the gods. A challenging but very rewarding read; this seems to be a stand alone fantasy, but the author has written other stories set in Eolo’s world.

Brenda

 

Time’s Convert

Time’s Convert by Deborah Harkness

Historical fantasy readers will enjoy this richly detailed novel. Vampire Marcus must stay away from his young fiancée Phoebe for 90 days after she becomes a vampire. In Paris, Phoebe’s struggle to adapt to her new strength, speed, and interests are often funny. While staying in the French countryside with his parent Matthew and Matthew’s wife Diana, Marcus relives his years as a boy and young man in the American Revolution, where he learns to be a medic. Matthew and Diana, a witch, have their hands full with twin toddlers Becca and Philip as their powers emerge. Becca has a tendency to bite and Philip has summoned a griffin named Apollo. This book is a good introduction to Harkness’ novels. Her All Souls trilogy begins with A Discovery of Witches. Francophiles may also enjoy Time’s Convert, as well as Outlander fans, with an intriguing blend of history, magic, and romance.

 

Brenda

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The Dream Gatherer

The Dream Gatherer by Kristen Britain

This book has a novella and two short stories written to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Green Rider, first book in a fantasy series featuring Karigan G’ladheon. This is also a good place to start reading the series. Green Riders have minor magical talents and are called to serve as the King’s messengers. Estral, Karigan’s friend, narrates these tales. Lost on the road, she visits Seven Chimneys, where the Berry sisters are coping with a ship that has materialized in the middle of their house and use a dream lantern to draw dreamers to a party. The other stories tell some of the history and legend of Sacoridia. If you’re in the mood for compelling fantasy writing with some suspense and humor but don’t have the time for a long epic, this is an excellent choice.

Brenda

Starless

Starless by Jacqueline Carey

I really enjoyed reading this lush, compelling, standalone fantasy. Richly detailed with a strikingly unusual narrator, this story definitely exceeded my expectations. Khai has been raised in the desert by the Brotherhood of Parkhun, chosen to be the shadow or protector of a royal princess born the same day. Khai is trained by warriors and a thief, as well as an unlikely seer, facing his first opponent at age 9. Khai’s gender is non-binary, but that’s not a spoiler to anyone but Khai. The princess Zariya, youngest child of a very long lived king, has some physical problems from a childhood illness, but is brilliant, beautiful, and strong-willed. Later the pair journey across their starless, island-filled world in search of answers to a prophecy and companions to help in their quest. One reviewer compared their quest to Tolkien, but it reminded me more of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis. The gods are creatively depicted, and include a giant octopus who’s an oracle. Giant sea worms tow their ship, and not all their companions are human. This is the first book I’ve read by Jacqueline Carey; I may try her Kushiel series next.

Brenda

Red Waters Rising

Red Waters Rising by Laura Ann Gilman

Isobel is riding with her mentor Gabriel, exploring the hot, humid southern portion of the Devil’s West, in the third book of the trilogy which began with Silver on the Road. Isobel is the young Left Hand of the territory; arbitrator and sometimes enforcer in this magical land. As Isobel and Gabriel approach the Mudwater River (aka the Mississippi), everyone they meet seems increasingly uneasy. Gabriel is feeling the call of the River while Isobel may be too closely connected to the land of the territory. In the city of Red Stick they may be facing a riot, or another flood. An imaginative, well-drawn book set in an alternate 19th century North America, which leaves room for more stories in the Devil’s West.

Brenda