Sunday Book Review: More from All Things Urban Fantasy

Bone magic, jinns, lost princesses, and alternate realities – check out these urban fantasy novels which hit the shelves between June and December.

 

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californiabonesicon-staricon-staricon-staricon-star Fans of MISTBORN are going to love Greg van Eekhout’s West Coast take on the magical heist story in CALIFORNIA BONES, with its alternate Los Angeles, quirky ensemble of thieves, and introduction to osteomancy. Though I devoured it with the same gusto that the Hierarch devours the bones of Daniel’s father, the narrative moves very quickly, cramming several books’ worth of story into a single novel. There are so many fascinating aspects of the world van Eekhout’s created that I want more time to get to know its intricacies, and I think the relationships, in particular, suffer for the speed. Continue reading…


magiccityicon-staricon-staricon-staricon-star Short stories are a difficult form to master in any case, but when it comes to sci-fi and fantasy, the author has an even tougher challenge: building an entire world in just a few pages. As with any short-story collection featuring multiple authors, some of the contributions to MAGIC CITY: RECENT SPELLS, edited by Paula Guran, are more successful than others. Ultimately, I think the anthology does a great job of showcasing many different interpretations of ‘urban fantasy’ and gives readers the chance to discover something new. Continue reading…


scorchedicon-staricon-staricon-staricon-star SCORCHED by Erica Hayes: wherein a young woman by the name of Verity Fortune is a telekinetic Batgirl in a city with a rogues’ gallery to rival Gotham’s. Appropriately nicknamed, the Gallery – part mafia, part supervillain cabal – wages a never-ending war against the ‘augmented’ Fortunes, who run the multinational Fortune Corp by day, and masquerade at night in various superhero guises. It’s Verity who gives this novel its Christopher Nolan-esque grit right from the start, after she escapes an asylum where she was held and tortured for nine months, with a shattered memory and little control over her powers. Continue reading…


thefirewishicon-staricon-staricon-staricon-star In THE FIRE WISH, Amber Lough takes her readers to a magical Baghdad where humans and jinn are at war. Two girls from opposite sides of the conflict find themselves caught in the middle when the human Zayele forces a wish from Najwa the jinni in order to escape an arranged marriage. The novel starts out of the gate strong with wonderful detail and engaging characters in a non-Western setting, but about three-quarters of the way through, the pace shifts as though in a hurry to reach the ending, a haste which is especially odd when the book then comes to an abrupt stop. Continue reading…


onepastmidnighticon-staricon-staricon-staricon-star Mix the short-lived NBC show Awake with the Gwyneth Paltrow movie Sliding Doors, and put the protagonist in high school, and you get ONE PAST MIDNIGHT by Jessica Shirvington. (Also known as BETWEEN THE LIVES.) Unlike Jason Isaacs in Awake, however, Sabine has been shifting between two lives for as long as she can remember. Though there’s some confusion early on about the mechanics of Sabine’s double lives, not to mention the unlikely reality of a young girl living in two universes without going mad, Shirvington paints a beautiful portrait of a lonely, desperate girl struggling with a lack of identity. Despite the extraordinary circumstances, the push to meet other people’s expectations at the cost of personal expression is something a lot of adolescents can relate to. Continue reading…


buriedlifeicon-staricon-staricon-staricon-staricon-star In a future where bureaucracy and totalitarianism have supplanted capitalism as our national language, the city of Recoletta’s own police force has a hard time getting permission to do its job. In Carrie Patel’s THE BURIED LIFE all information is compartmentalized and strictly need-to-know, which makes solving a series of murders amongst the elite very difficult. Not that that stops a couple of investigators looking for the truth. Continue reading…*

*Note: THE BURIED LIFE was delayed due to a change of ownership at the publisher, but is finally being released. Do yourself a favor and read this one.


18506004icon-staricon-staricon-staricon-star When a wicked bishop starts a witch hunt in Bavaria, orphan Rune finds herself targeted – but unlike most of the so-called witches caught in the net of hysteria, Rune really does have powers, and a reason to fear for her life. She also has an ally in the son of the local magistrate (called the Electorate), after he nearly tramples her with his horse. What follows in FOREST OF WHISPERS by Jennifer Murgia is a young adult romance, but, more importantly, a story about confronting the past, accepting where you come from, and embracing your strength. Continue reading…


17399160icon-staricon-staricon-staricon-star Though the world of SNOW LIKE ASHES by Sara Raasch is a bit uninspired in its construction, Raasch more than makes up for kingdoms named after seasons and capital cities named for misspelled calendar months with Meira and the other refugees of the Kingdom of Winter. An aspiring soldier, desperate to be important to her people and her lost homeland, sixteen-year-old Meira struggles with being kept off the battlefield and forced into a world of political machinations. She’s a pawn, she’s a symbol, she’s a hero – much like THE HUNGER GAMES Katniss, all Meira really knows is that she wants to survive. That, and she’s in love with her best friend, the once and future king. Continue reading…


thelastchangelingicon-staricon-staricon-star THE LAST CHANGELING by Chelsea Pitcher is Ordinary People-meets-Maleficent – and if that sounds like a strange combination, that’s because it is. Almost all of the information given in the blurb on the back of the book is actually kept from the reader for more than a hundred pages, and Elora’s motives for attending a human high school are extremely vague. Instead of a faerie war, we mostly get Taylor’s still-fresh grief over losing his younger brother and the torment of his high school. Elora’s ‘otherness’ (not to mention otherworldly beauty) gives Taylor something to focus on aside from his family’s pain, but it’s a long time before the reader gets to know her endgame. Continue reading…


waistcoats&weaponryicon-staricon-staricon-staricon-star If you missed Sophronia Temminick’s Finishing School adventures as much as I did, you’ll love Gail Carriger’s latest trip to Madamoiselle Geraldine’s and the lessons in proper spycraft within the pages of WAISTCOATS & WEAPONRY. The wider supernatural world closes in on Sophronia and her friends as the werewolf drama that set the events of Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series into motion occurs while the ladies are learning the art of the bladed fan. With her friend Sidheag personally affected by pack dynamics, Sophronia has no choice but to get involved herself. It’s always a delight to go back to school with Carriger, though, like Sophronia’s first outing, WAISTCOATS & WEAPONRY feels more like a stepping stone in a larger story than its own novel. Continue reading…


athousandpiecesofyouicon-staricon-staricon-staricon-star A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU by Claudia Gray is a charming, romantic adventure across multiple universes, though as with many fantastical stories built on a vague, pseudo-scientific premise, the souffle falls if you poke at it. As long as you’re the type of reader who can ignore inconsistencies in the rules of made-up technologies, Marguerite’s dance between dimensions in pursuit of revenge, love, and loss should spark your imagination. Continue reading…


BabaAliicon-staricon-staricon-star In this retelling of ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,’ Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Day Al-Mohamed have mixed a little machinery with magic while delving into the Arabian culture, and bringing us a protagonist whose heroism is in his dedication – dedication to his craft, his family, and his desire to to what’s right. BABA ALI AND THE CLOCKWORK DJINN is a breath of fresh desert wind, and if the book suffers from some plotting and pacing missteps, it’s still a charming oasis for fantasy lovers looking to enjoy something a little less Western. Continue reading…


suspicionicon-staricon-staricon-star SUSPICION by Alexandra Monir is pitched as a modern version of the classic thriller Rebecca, and it definitely creates that vibe, along with a pretty solid mystery, and a dash of The Princess Diaries. Between that and the romance of reconnecting with a first love, this book didn’t need anything else – but it’s ‘urban fantasy,’ and so magic must appear. It’s rare for me to wish a story lacked a supernatural element, but with SUSPICION enough is happening that the subplot about an ancestor with an unusually green thumb and the inheritance of “Elemental” powers just unbalances the plot.

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