All Things Urban Fantasy Book Review Round-Up II: Electric Boogaloo

From demonic circuses to water elemental murder mysteries, alien exchange students to World War I-era necromancy, my urban fantasy book reviews from January to June.

allianceicon-staricon-staricon-staricon-star While the first book in the series, THE PALADIN PROPHECY, is set up as a thriller, Mark Frost’s ALLIANCE showcases all the best attributes of an old-fashioned quest. If you like young adult, adventure, conspiracies, and stories about slightly sinister boarding schools for children with ‘special’ talents, then you’re going to enjoy ALLIANCE. Continue reading…


hangwireicon-staricon-staricon-staricon-star If Tim Powers wrote THE NIGHT CIRCUS, the result would probably look a lot like Adam Christopher’s HANG WIRE. A number of seemingly random ideas – including an exploding fortune cookie, a serial killer, and a semi-retired Hawaiian god – form together to create a mystery, tangled in history, surrounded by evil. Some emotional depth is sacrificed for the density of the plot, but each of the characters is fully-formed and multi-layered, and make for an engrossing read. Continue reading…


alienatedicon-staricon-staricon-staricon-staricon-star This YA romance is given surprising depth with a background of xenophobia in a world not far removed from ours. At the center of Melissa Landers’ ALIENATED is the sweet and honest love story of Cara Sweeney and Aelyx of the L’eihr, an alien race that offers humanity a cancer cure upon making first contact. The parallels to present-day fears of ‘aliens’ are familiar without being heavy-handed or preachy, and we’re gifted with a protagonist who does not go easily into the role of L’eihr champion, but shows the reader exactly how and why she falls in love with one. Continue reading…


fire&floodicon-staricon-staricon-staricon-star The first novel in Victoria Scott’s new YA series is CATCHING FIRE, THE GOLDEN COMPASS, and The Amazing Race all rolled into one. But imagine if Katniss couldn’t hunt, or Lyra couldn’t communicate with Pantalaimon. Now imagine that they were still determined to do whatever it took to save those they loved and you’ll understand Tella Holloway’s dilemma in FIRE & FLOOD. Continue reading…


ghosttrainicon-staricon-staricon-star With this sequel to THE SHAMBLING GUIDE TO NEW YORK, Mur Lafferty returns her readers to a world of vampires, zombies, dragons, and gods, most of whom are just looking for ways to pass their lengthy, or even immortal, lives. The pressure’s on Zoe Norris in GHOST TRAIN TO NEW ORLEANS, as the urban jungle she’s scouting for her next supernatural travel guide recognizes her as a rare creature known as a citytalker, and doesn’t want to let her go – especially when she’s determined to go straight into danger. GHOST TRAIN is a fun urban fantasy, with some clever ideas in a rich setting, but it’s tripped up by repetition, a few too many characters, and some flaws in the internal logic of the universe. Continue reading…


themidnightwitchicon-staricon-staricon-staricon-star Downton Abbey by way of Anne Rice, THE MIDNIGHT WITCH is a touching period romance, set against a backdrop of a dying class system and a secret magical war over the ability to raise the dead. Though the exact purpose of the Lazarus Coven and their sorcerer rivals, the Sentinels, is vague, Brackston does an excellent job of painting Lilith Montgomery’s classic struggle between her duty to her craft and her heart. Continue reading…


Lagoonicon-staricon-staricon-staricon-staricon-star In LAGOON, Nnedi Okorafor poses the question: what if first contact with aliens took place not in New York, London, or Tokyo, but the beach city of Lagos, Nigeria? The answer is something that is both utterly human and uniquely African. In addition to stunning detail of both city and marine life, Okorafor fills this novel with a dozen points of view, but rather than confusing the narrative, those sections allow the reader to experience all sides of the encounter that leads to some of Nigeria’s darkest days, and to understand why different people react so differently to something ‘alien.’ Continue reading…


FoundrysEdgeicon-staricon-staricon-staricon-star A traditional set-up with a good helping of charm, THE FOUNDRY’S EDGE by Cam Baity and Benny Zelkowicz packages a lot of common YA fantasy tropes in an unconventional wrapper. Though the biggest ‘surprise’ of the novel is revealed in the first third of the book, it’s a dark twist with far-reaching consequences, and that edge turns the first Book of Ore from a predictable story to an adventure worth taking. Continue reading…


turningtidesicon-staricon-staricon-star TURNING TIDES by Mia Marshall is framed as a locked room murder mystery where the ‘room’ is an isolated island full of water elementals, and the primary suspect in the deadly explosion is the only person present who can control fire. Even though most of the crowd think the answer is obvious, the question of whodunit is paced nicely throughout the novel, and the unmasking of the culprit at the end would do Hercule Poirot proud. By then, however, the book is about much more than a single death, and I wanted the punishment to better fit the crimes. Continue reading…


thedarkworldicon-staricon-staricon-star For the first few chapters, THE DARK WORLD by Cara Lynn Shultz couldn’t hold my attention. I found the start of the book clunky, over-flowing with adverbs and unnecessary speech tags. The author wastes paragraphs on everyone’s hair, but skips over important emotional moments, like when Dottie the ghost girl tells the main character she killed herself because she was a pregnant teen in the ‘50s. Even the action scenes felt flat. Then Logan Bradley appeared, and the book got a new life. Continue reading…

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