Our Book Reviews
New Avalon: Love and Loss in the City of Steam
By Neal Litherland
From the first paragraph in the first story, Neal Litherland's lush prose evokes the rich history of Victoriana as viewed through a steampunk lens. From alchemists to clockwork machines, the stories build upon the noir tradition, and expand it with Litherland's glittering words that paint a picture that emerges from the mists and shadows of a diverse city, from the highest to the lowest levels.
Not too long, and definitely not too short, the stories provide a short respite from the modern world of technology, taking you to an era of dark intentions and darker results. You can turn the lights off at bedtime, but the imagery is haunting. You might find smoky remnants of Litherland's poetic justice writhing through your dreams.
Love and hate, light and dark intermingle amid the individual tales, tying them together in a cloud of steam. Like real life, the stories rarely have happy endings. Instead, they follow human frailties through the logical, and yet surprising conclusions. Like jewels on a necklace, the words sparkle even as the protagonists struggle through the adversity of life in the City of Steam.
~ Ruth de Jauregui ~ October 2, 2015
By Patricia Briggs
Anyone who knows me well knows that I'm a HUGE fan of Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega series. Night Broken is the eighth Mercy Thompson book and if you ask me, except perhaps for the first book, Moon Called, this latest book is the best in the whole series.
New and interesting characters, Coyote, the Fae and Tad, more troubles with the pack and OMGosh, the way Mercy handled Adam's ex-wife, Christy! I can't say too much or I'll give it all away. Let's just say, I got this book for my birthday and I'm already on the third reread. Yes, it's that good!
Check it out!
~ Ruth de Jauregui ~ April 24, 2014
Shadows of a Fading World Anthology - Four Stars!
Like all anthologies, I liked some of the stories in Shadows of a Fading World better than others. I'm delighted that there were no "stream of consciousness" writing styles, every story was plotted, crafted and well written. I especially liked Neal Litherland's and Ian Creasey's stories. Each had its own defining moments and plot twist that brought the tale above the other good stories in the anthology and the genre.
I highly recommend this anthology to anyone who's looking for some new and different tales in sword and sorcery. At approximately 146 pages, it's a quick read, perfect for a summer afternoon or an evening by the fire.
~ Ruth de Jauregui ~ April 21, 2014
Sadly, it appears that this story isn't available right now.
by Neal Litherland
Now, I’m not a fan of romance in any form, not classic, not historic and definitely not paranormal. But I was pleasantly surprised, while there are romantic elements in Summer People, it’s not what I’d call a romance. No, not at all.
To make this clearer -- I LOVED it!!
Litherland’s writing evokes the lyric prose of Ray Bradbury, Patricia McKillip and John Bellair’s classic, The Face in the Frost. As I read Litherland’s words, I could literally see the café and smell the pastries, teas and coffee.
Yet there was always a sense of something lurking, behind the peaceful scenes of summer and oncoming fall that Neal painted of this New England town. Something ancient and whether for good or evil, the undercurrents slip between the characters -- hidden pasts and secrets that lie just out of sight, amid sunlit leaves and under the streetlights at night. Of music that speaks of beauty and darkness.
Litherland starts off with the peaceful scenes of early morning in the cafe and then slides us subtly into a world of magic and mystery, of the potential of young love, love triangles and awakenings, and then, little by little, shares with us the darkness that lies behind a smile and a promise.
Nope, you don’t get a spoiler, you have to read this lovely tale yourself. It’s just the right length to sit in front of a crackling fire, tea at your elbow, and savor the plot and prose before you go to bed and dream of magical lands just out of sight, just past the trees and meadows of the mundane world.
I have just one small criticism of the story. It wasn’t long enough!!
~ Ruth de Jauregui ~ 2-10-2014
by Alan D. Jones
This fascinating prequel to “To Wrestle With Darkness”, Sacrifices, which is book two of the trilogy, follows the four sisters -- Cil, Deborah, Ruth and Sarah -- who have a destiny to fulfill.
I’m not usually a fan of stories that leap back and forth in time, from the 1700s to the present, but in this case, Jones did a masterful job in not only keeping the story on-track through the centuries, but as the book drew to a close, it all became clear. The story really was in sequence, although at first it didn’t look that way at all
From slavery to sacrifices to victory, the story of the family and their journey from the past to the future is deeply imbedded in not just Christianity, but also ancient mythology, Sacrifices tells us of both Faith and the consequences of actions and reactions, whether well-meant or knowingly stepping off the path of righteousness.
I not only thoroughly enjoyed this book, I’d read it again, and again. There’s depths to the story that will only reveal themselves on rereading, and I’m looking forward to the journey.
The book was provided by the author for review. ~ Ruth de Jauregui ~ 2-10-2014
by Tiffany Trent
This young adult steampunk novel revolves around Vespa Nyx and the Museum of Unnatural History -- and the possibility that she might be the only witch left in this world of magic and technology.
The city, New London, is the fault of Saint Tesla, whose experiments tore loose whole sections of Victorian London, thrusting them into a magical land where an assortment of legendary creatures and the Tinkers live. The Tinkers are reduced to poverty by the time of the story. According to Trent, “…the Tinkers in this book are heavily based on my experiences living in the Sichuan highlands of China with the Baima people, an ethnic Tibetan tribe.” I actually thought that they were based on the Roma but later decided that they were of Asian heritage, so I was happy to read that I wasn’t too far off in my assessment.
The story moves along briskly, following Vespa through her trials with her father, work, aunt, New London society and a young Pedant, who might not be who he claims. While magic is illegal, children in the city are sometimes born with powers -- and abandoned or disowned by their families. The story is filled with mysterious events, magical creatures called Elementals, a dangerous and destructive Waste, plenty of intrigue and a romantic thread that doesn’t muck up the storyline at all. In fact, it’s essential to the story. The famous scientists of our world -- Tesla, Newton, Darwin -- are Saints in the city of New London, where magic is forbidden and the technology depends on a dust called myth.
The threads that tied the story together weren’t obvious and many were subtle hints and portents of things to come, unlike most YA literature. Even the story elements that seemed familiar often ended up in completely different places; the tale took unexpected directions. There were a few spots that I was able to predict what was coming next, but I’ve read hundreds of books; I wouldn’t expect a teen or YA reader to pick up on those nuances. In general, it was not predicable or heavy handed at all, including the ending.
The formatting of the story is interesting, with alternating chapters told in first person, present tense, by Vespa, and third person, past tense, by Syrus, a Tinker. It took me a minute to adjust to this style, but I think that it actually enhances the story line. You’re never trying to figure out which character’s point of view is being followed -- it’s obvious at a glance.
The weaving of fantasy and technology within a Victorian New London make this a unique addition to the world of steampunk. I stayed up until 2 am to finish this story and honestly, I’m looking forward to rereading the book to pick up details that I might’ve missed during the first reading. ~ Ruth de Jauregui ~ 2-10-2014
The Tinker King
by Tiffany Trent
I was lucky and received an ARC copy of the book in an online drawing.
The sequel of The Unnaturalists picks up after the first book. In this book, the Tinker, Syrus, is the main character. His chapters are first person present, while Vespa’s chapters are third person past tense.
With the destruction of much of New London and myth now illegal, the four young leaders of the new society are trying to rebuild their technology, using Syrus’ Tinkers knowledge of machines. But now new troubles threaten them and an ancient enemy rises to oppose their efforts to rebuild.
Again, the twists and turns of the story line are not predictable. I enjoyed this book but I’m hoping that since I read an advance copy, a few details have changed with the publication of the book.
I was a little disturbed at a few spots. For example, at one point there’s a huge disaster, but there was no indication of regret by the main characters of those who didn’t make it through. And the Elementals that were saved simply disappear, with only a few references and questions as to their fate. Also, the ending felt a little rushed.
Other than those details, I once again stayed up much too late while finishing the book. I couldn’t put it down. The details, wonderfully expressed and yet not overdone, including Syrus’ eating utensils, again led me to the Asian heritage of the Tinkers. The story moved right along, keeping me wanting to turn the pages and find out what happens next.
I highly recommend this book, not just to young adults, but to adult steampunk and fantasy fans as well. ~ Ruth de Jauregui ~ 2-10-2014
Three Parts Dead
by Max Gladstone
I just read this book two nights ago and let me say "WOW!" Original, complex, mysterious and I never saw the ending coming! The world building was excellent and the characters were consistent, nothing wishy washy about this book.
I've read a lot of science fiction and fantasy and it's rare that an author "gets it right" straight out of the gate. Not only were the loose ends tied up, but the ending was quite satisfying, with the door open for a second book.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who's interested in a strange new world filled with magic, gods, good and evil. ~ Ruth de Jauregui ~ 10-20-2013
Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser
by Joe Bonadonna
Joe kindly provided me an electronic copy of Mad Shadows and I'll tell you, I'm pretty excited about his writing. I'm captivated by his mastery of the genre! The stories move right along, no dragging, no excess or overblown verbiage and yet he paints a picture of this city filled with humans, magical creatures and plots within plots, while Dorgo tries to find the answers to questions that he's forced to answer. Written with a sense of humor and a bit of the "bad" boy without being filled with graphic images of sex and language, this is a fun romp through Joe's new version of sword and sorcery.
Now, I know you're thinking of classic sword and sorcery like Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian or John Norman's Gor series. Nope. Not even close! For one thing, Joe isn't disrespectful of women. His female characters are strong and intelligent; there's no dumb blondes here! Honestly, Joe's style of writing makes me think more of Roger Zelzany's Doorways in the Sand mixed with the best of Harry Harrison with a swirl of Clifford Simak for flavor and set into a world of magic. I'm really thrilled about this new voice in sci-fi and fantasy.
Parents, I'd rate this story somewhere between G and PG-13. There's some mention of breasts and some descriptions of a lady's assets, a little bit about his desire-to-grope, a little groping and kissing, but when the sex scene comes, it's more like, they kissed and the story continues in the morning. No graphic sex, only a little innuendo.
Just for the record, I received no compensation for reviewing this book, except for a free copy of the book. ~ Ruth de Jauregui ~ 1-11-2013