You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Urban Fantasy’ category.

Benedict Jacka

Alex Verus, book 1

Orbit (2012)

ISBN: 9780356500249

Reviewed by Stephanie Gunn

Fated is the first book in the urban fantasy Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka.

In this series, magic is real, with the mages of the world divided into Light and Dark. Alex Verus, the protagonist of the series, is affiliated with neither side. Instead, he looks after his own interests.  Alex owns and runs a magic store in Camden, North London, the Arcana Emporium. He is a diviner – what he calls a probability mage – able to see all possible branchings of the future due to choices made. He has a friend who sees herself as his potential apprentice, Luna, who is the recipient of a family curse which reflects bad luck onto everyone around her. The events of this book are set into motion when Luna brings Alex a strange magical cube, which thrusts them both into conflict with the Light and Dark mages. Read the rest of this entry »

DJ Daniels

Dragonfall Press (2012)

ISBN: 978-0-9806341-9-8

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

What the Dead Said is a novel based around a good, original idea, which somehow never comes to full fruition. Although the novel is not bad, it lacks a single realistic, credible character for the reader to engage with, and the plot is vague and unfocused. The result is a novel that isn’t terrible, but never really catches your interest either.

In Sydney in 2021, the barriers between the worlds have become porous. Suddenly ghosts are everywhere, and worse, everyone can see them. Most ghosts aren’t very nice – some are positively unstable. So most people find it unsettling to spend each day navigating a world now populated with ghosts. In addition, the ghosts like to interfere with the human world. They play nasty pranks (such as frightening some people to death), and although they’re happy to give testimony about such matters as their own murder, you can’t be sure they’re telling the truth. Vampires have come out of the shadows and act as a sort of intermediary between ghosts and humans, but that’s only a minor comfort as most humans don’t like vampires much either.

Kevin Hearne

The Iron Druid Chronicles, book 3

Random House (2011)

ISBN: 9780345522481

Reviewed by Stephanie Gunn

Hammered is the third book in Kevin Hearne’s urban fantasy series, The Iron Druid Chronicles.

Atticus is a two-thousand-year-old druid, the last of his line. He has kept himself alive for an extended period by use of magic and herbs, and by keeping out of the way of gods. In the first book of this series, events transpired that brought him to the attention of too many gods, and he made choices that led to the events in this book, which sees him dealing with Thor, the Norse god of thunder.

This book continues in the same vein as the first two books: the general tone is light and humorous. Unlike the first two books, the reader is given a decent amount of Atticus’ personal back story for the first time, with information given specifically about a lost love of his, paralleling one of the motivating storylines of the book: the slaughter of the vampire Leif’s family by Thor.

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Kevin Hearne

Iron Druid Chronicles, book 2

Del Ray

ISBN: 9780345522498

Reviewed by Stephanie Gunn

Hexed is the second book in Kevin Hearne’s urban fantasy series The Iron Druid Chronicles, following on from Hounded.

This series follows two-thousand-year-old druid Atticus O’Sullivan, kept young by magic, as he moves through the modern world. As well as himself, the last of the druids, the world also contains other supernaturals: vampires and shapeshifters exist, and so do all of the gods and goddesses.

Atticus has been living quietly, and when the series begins is running a New Age bookstore, using his magic to tend the earth and to treat customers complaints with his special blends of herbal teas, curing anything from rheumatism to unwanted love. During the first book in the series, his attempt at a quiet life was shattered, and as the second book begins, he finds himself the target of many, including a group of witches intent on destroying him.

On the surface, this book is a light, humorous urban fantasy with lots of shoutouts for geek readers. Atticus is a mostly likeable character, and his perspective is easy to slip into, even if his voice does usually feel much too young for his supposed age most of the time. His dog, Oberon, whom Atticus converses with telepathically, is a particular source of amusement.

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Kristen Painter

House of Comarre, book 3

Orbit (2011)

ISBN: 978-1-84149-971-0

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

Bad Blood is the third in the House of Comarre series; there are at least four books in the series. Book two, Flesh and Blood, is reviewed here. Like book two, book three is challenging to follow if you haven’t read earlier books in the series. Although there are strengths to the books individually, I would strongly recommend that intending readers start with book one.

In this volume a spate of violent serial murders are striking fear into Paradise City (a renamed Miami). All of the girls bear a resemblance to Chrysabelle; a real Commarre – a human bred to provide blood to vampires. As well as bearing a superficial resemblance to Chrysabelle herself, each victim was a fake Comarre, who sold their inferior blood to vampires who either didn’t know better or didn’t have access to a real Comarre.

The murders are only one sign of a breakdown in the centuries old covenant which has enabled humans to live in blissful ignorance of the supernatural world right under their noses. With the breakdown of the covenant, it’s getting harder to ignore. And with Halloween coming, it’s likely that human noses will be well and truly rubbed not only in the existence of the supernatural, but in how dangerous it is.

Kristen Painter

House of Comarre, book 2

Orbit (2011)

ISBN: 978-1-84149-970-3

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

Flesh and Blood is book two in the House of Comarre series; there are at least four books in the series. None appear to stand alone – they are written as instalments of a series and there isn’t a lot of recapping for people who haven’t read the earlier book (or books). They are well written and have considerable strengths, but it’s not really a series you can jump into part way through and fully enjoy.

I have not read book one, so was very much picking this up as I went along. It was reasonably easy to pick up the basic plot, but many of the motivations were a little murky to me, and there were past events that seemed critical to events in this novel but which were never fully explained here. In addition, there were some really important things about the relationships between characters that appeared to be very dependent on events in the first novel – referred to in passing here but again not clearly recapped.

Chrysabelle is a Comarre, one of a group of humans bred to provide blood to vampires. It’s not clearly spelt out, but I assume that this is part of the covenant which has allowed the supernatural world to exist side by side with humanity, with most humans entirely ignorant of it. It appears that Comarres and their relationships with vampires are governed by a complex set of traditions and rules. However, Chrysabelle appears to be somewhat isolated from the Comarre House in general, and it’s not particularly clear if she is, indeed, still technically a Comarre. (Not clear to me as a new reader, that is.) Read the rest of this entry »

Narrelle M Harris

Pulp Fiction Press (2007)

ISBN: 9780975112922

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely (this review was first published in December 2008)

There are a lot of supernatural dark fantasies about at the moment, so for Pulp Fiction Press to take a chance on a relatively unknown author in this genre, they must believe the story is something special. In this case, it’s a pleasant surprise to find they were not far off the mark. In The Opposite of Life, Harris has taken quite a different turn in the paranormal field

While there’s nothing terribly new here, the treatment of the protagonist and the vampires involved in the story is just a little unusual. This is especially evident in the description of Gary, the vampire that our hero, Lissa, gets to know best:

The brightly coloured tropical shirt was a dead giveaway. It was unbuttoned, revealing a faded green T-shirt which tightened slightly around the middle and flowed over the top of equally faded blue jeans. His mop of untidy, light brown hair topped a round, pale face. Beneath the fringe, a pair of hazel eyes blinked owlishly at us.

Later, he’s referred to as “… the tubby guy in the tropical shirt”. A far cry from the ridiculously gorgeous brooding vampires normally encountered in this type of book! It makes a nice change. Read the rest of this entry »

Trent Jamieson

Orbit (2011)

ISBN: 978-0-7336-2485-8

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

DISCLAIMER: Lorraine Cormack is a judge for the Aurealis Awards. This review is the personal opinion of the writer, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging coordinator or the Aurealis Awards management team.

The Business of Death is the title of an omnibus edition of the Death Works Trilogy. It includes the three books Death Most Definite, Managing Death, and The Business of Death. It is particularly useful to get all three books in one volume because they work best when read together. Read individually, they’re pretty good, but read together they have additional depth which makes for a much stronger story.

Steven de Selby has a massive hangover and wants to avoid going anywhere near his workplace. That shouldn’t be too hard, it’s his day off. But then in the space of just a few minutes, his day goes to hell. Someone starts shooting at him in the food court, and even worse, a dead girl warns him to run. A very attractive dead girl who definitely shouldn’t be hanging around. Steven knows this for sure because he works for Death; it’s his job to help usher souls on to the Underworld. He knows there shouldn’t be a dead girl there, and he doesn’t think anyone would want to kill him.

In a matter of hours, things get worse; all his workmates, which include essentially all his friends and family, are also targeted by whoever wants him dead. A lot of people are dying. The dead are rising – which isn’t a new thing, but is a bad thing – and it looks like Brisbane is on the way to a Regional Apocalypse. Steven realises that someone wants promotion to the top job – Death itself – and that kind of promotion only comes after a lot of blood is shed. So Steven needs to find the “applicant”, stop him or her from tipping the region into chaos, save his own life, and do something about the dead girl who hasn’t crossed over. And he needs to do it fast.

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Laini Taylor

Hodder and Stoughton (2011)

ISBN: 978-1-444-72263-5

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

From the opening page of the book – “Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.” – the tone of Daughter of Smoke and Bone is set. While at times dramatic and heart-wrenching, the storytelling always has an element of wry humour which is appealing and entirely readable, capturing the personality of the protagonist and engaging the reader completely.

Seventeen-year-old Karou lives an astonishing double life. A gifted artist, she attends art school by day, prowling the streets of Prague with her friends and enjoying the world at large. But there is so much more to Karou – raised by monsters, she owes everything to Brimstone and his dark underworld. As a human, she runs “errands” for him all over the world, collecting, of all things, teeth, for a use she doesn’t understand. It’s not always safe, but it is never dull. Eventually though, her dual worlds come unraveled, as Brimstone and her monster friends are torn violently from her. Karou does not understand why this terrible thing has happened, but she is determined to use all the resources she commands to find out.

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Tracey O’Hara

Dark Brethren, book 2

Harper Voyager (2011)

ISBN: 9780061783142

Reviewed by Stephanie Gunn

Death’s Sweet Embrace is the second book in Tracey O’Hara’s Dark Brethren urban fantasy series. The first book was Night’s Cold Kiss.

In the Dark Brethren world, humans and parahumans live together in an uneasy truce. Parahumans in this world include the Aeternus (vampires) and Animalians (shapeshifters). The first book in this series focused on the Aeternus and the Venators, humans who hunt rogue Aeternus. Specifically, the book’s protagonist was the Venator Antoinette Petrescu, and the main story arc followed her relationship with the Aeternus Christian.

The second book shifts focus to the Animalians, the focal character also changing to a snow leopard shapeshifter, Kitt Jordan. Kitt was a minor character in the first novel, a lecturer in parahuman forensic pathology. She is called to be part of a task force investigating a serial killer targeting young shapeshifters; the task force also includes Antoinette. Her work also brings her back into contact with the werewolf Raven, her one-time lover, and her estranged twin daughters.

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