Diabolist Don Drake returns in the second Burned Man book, this time facing down the spirit of disease and corruption threatening the Earth Elementals below London.
Dominion by Peter McLean picks up right after the first book, with Don, his archdemon patron, and his semi-fallen angel partner getting tricked into dealing with a creature destroying the London Underground. Despite having an archdemon’s power at his fingertips, Don finds himself thrust onto a battleground he’s ill prepared for. Fallen angels, ancient goddesses, a shapeshifting cat priest, and Lucifer himself all compound the issue. London and Heaven may fall, with Don the only one able to stop it.
This is an incredible urban fantasy series that fits in well alongside The Dresden Files and the Iron Druid Chronicles. McLean writes a gritty noir that incorporates the mystical, the supernatural, and the downright crude awesomeness of a drunk magician who can summon demons. This book is filled with violent encounters, swirling magic, and laugh-out-loud moments. It may just be the second book, but this series has the legs to go on for awhile. Get hooked today on this fantastic new series.
Last Call for Caviar ( vol.1)
Destruction, death and blood cultsoh my! Maya Jade has been stranded in the Riviera during what can only be accurately described as Armageddon. Author Melissa Roen creates a rather convincing alternate reality in Last Call for Caviar, one in which the world as we know it is quickly and definitively coming to an end. The earth seems to have entered a purge mode, spewing, shattering and shocking humanity right off of her face. Earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, extreme weather of all kinds are testing the limits of mankind and the results are catastrophic. War rages everywhere as bands fight against bands, governments fight against their citizens, and individuals fight for their lives. The landscape is chaotic.
Yet, in the midst of all this devastation, there are places where champagne still flows lavishly and caviar is consumed in abundance. Tucked away on the beautiful coast of the Côte dAzur, the wealthy hide from the treacherous minefields of the disintegrating world. It is in this glittery, gilded backdrop that Maya finds herselfcut off from the security of family, the safety of civilization, and the love she found in France. Having traveled to the region for school and making a life there because of connections, Maya fell in love with the Riviera. When sexy surgeon Julian steals her heart, Mayas destiny is sealed. After a fated lovers quarrel leads to their separation, and tragic world events lead to a splintering of society, Maya becomes desperate. Should she abandon her hopes of happiness with the love of her life and run tail for home in the US? Should she stick it out on the slim chance that Julian will return to her? Should she cultivate her resources to find another way to survive the end of the world? Is survival even possible? The questions keep mounting as more and more craziness ensues.
With each new episode of insanity, a greater truth is revealed to Maya, a truth that only she seems to understand or see.
Roen is convincing here. Her vision of the end is so well crafted and executed, as I read, the news humming in the background, it seemed not just feasible but utterly possible that Roen herself is a seer. There is nothing overly farfetched here, which makes the fantastical elements of Last Call for Caviar that much more intriguing; any of this could happen at any moment. And thats what made me keep turning the pages (and watching the skies).
A fairly long volume at 302 pages, the book was a swift read, sucking me in from the very beginning. There is little fat here, this is a trim and tone narrative. Maya Jade is a kick-ass heroine, dynamic and organic, nuanced and complex. At turns shrinking violet and fierce lioness, damsel in distress and irreverent daredevil. The plot allows for rich interactions that lend cinematic interest, with intense action, gut-wrenching drama, sensual and haunting sizzle, well-placed comedy, and the type of fantasy/sci-fi that makes you think Could this really happen?.
There really isnt much to complain about here. A word of caution: read the whole book from the Prologue; its incredibly important to understand the story and set you up for Volume 2 (which I started before even finishing volume 1). Small deductions for: cover art, I found myself wanting to turn the book over, but I have never been one for messy eaters; typos, Im sorry to say but there were a few that pulled me out of the story occasionally; and an incomplete and hard to use glossary of terms. These are the smallest of complaints. The meat here is worth the price and then some. I just might feast on this tasty meal again and again. I hate caviar, but I loved Last Call.
Sunborn Rising: Beneath the Fall
Barras world is dying. Slowly, ring by ring, the loft grows darker, less vibrant. With clues left in her fathers research notes, Barra and her friends, Tory and Plicks, must find a proof to show the elders. To save their world, they must Fall and go farther into the darkness than anyone before them.
Sunborn Rising by Aaron Safronoff is a young adult novel set in the imaginative world of Cerulean. Safronoff has built a rich and vibrant world, full of layers. Each of the main characters is unique and complex.
Barra, Tory, and Plicks are typical teenagers still on the threshold of childish behavior, but wanting to be taken seriously in their thoughts and endeavors. As with most coming of age sagas, this leads to trouble. The story really picks up about a third of the way through when the trio makes the discovery that leads to said trouble.
The accompanying drawings are beautifully detailed and allow the reader to see the world of Cerulean through the eyes of its creator. They are reminiscent of the movie Avatar in the vividness and color palette.
Although the descriptiveness of the writing will be sure to appeal to the YA crowd, the author uses a bit of a higher level of vocabulary, so older readers shouldnt feel like they are reading a childrens book. Dont be surprised if you have to look up the definitions of a couple of words.
My one complaint regarding the story is the elders journey to find the wayward trio. It seemed glossed over and summarized in an effort of expediency to move the story forward.
Even though Sunborn Rising is the first part of a two-part series, it doesnt end in a huge cliffhanger. While it sets up for the second half of the battle, it provides a satisfying close to the first chapter. That isnt to say you wont be left wanting to know what happens next, but you also wont feel like you were left with no answers to the saga that took place.
The Midnight Land: Part One: The Flight
The Midnight Land: The Flight by E. P. Clark is an impressive debut novel in scope and talent. Part one in a fantasy series influenced heavily by Russia and its lore, The Midnight Land: The Flight follows the journey of Slava, the Empress’s younger sister. Gifted with clairvoyance and the ability to see into people hearts and reveal their true nature, she is both powerful and powerless. Suffocating under the Kremlin’s brew of toxic emotions when offered a chance to join an expedition off to map out the Midnight Lands to the far north she takes it and begins to grow into her own. Still, out in the wilderness, she will have more to contend with than just the cold.
I really enjoyed The Midnight Land: The Flight by E. P. Clark it’s an original, and ambitious fantasy, perfectly executed. It starts off slow, but not ploddingly so, and Clark does enough to grab your interest and hold it from the very first line. She sets it in a matriarchal culture, but does it in a way that really brings to light some of the embedded aspects of our own male-centric culture while peppering it with a range of strong and assertive female characters.
Slava herself is quieter, used to life in the Kremlin and living in the shadow of her sister, but she almost seems to go through a coming of age arc, as she gets stronger in her magic and more confident in herself. I often thought she was younger than she actually was until the story progressed further. A great story that part epic saga, part fairy tale and part fantasy, The Midnight Land: The Flight and one that I can’t wait to read more of.
Survive Marooned on Planet Tau Ceti g
Very often, science fiction novels tend to be heavier on the drama and fiction than on the science, especially those where the plot involves characters attempting to survive on an alien planet. This novel, however, turns that entirely on its head, placing the science first and foremost. It doesnt entirely neglect the story, but it does place more focus on the characters discoveries than on their plight.
Said plight is thus: The ship Copernicus has encountered a meteor swarm over the planet Tau Ceti g, one which destroys the ship and forces the few survivors to the planet below. The survivors manage to send off a distress call, but even with the ability to travel faster than the speed of light, it might well be years before any rescue arrives. Until then, they must use their wits and skills to live on an alien planet which they are almost entirely unprepared for.
Even though we never see the whole of the planet, Tau Ceti g could very easily stand out as its own character. It has a fascinating ecosystem, and I felt as though I was reading not about the product of someones imagination but about an actual planet that could truly exist in some distant (or perhaps not-so-distant) solar system. Everything felt very well researched and wonderfully put together, and I will admit that at times I almost found myself more intrigued by what new wonders the survivors would discover than by how or if they would make it back to Earth. Thats not to say I didnt care what happened to the characters; their peril was very real, and as the book progressed, I often found myself on the edge of my seat, eager to figure out not only whether the characters would live or die but how they would manage to survive. For anyone whos felt that science fiction novels are a little too close to fiction but dont want to sacrifice any of the excitement, this book is a welcome relief.
Dreamtime: The Gil-Garem
Dreamtime: The Gil-Garems story involves Edmund Mortani, a soldier who fought for the Sorisentine Dominion during the Garemoth Wars. In those wars, he lost his wife, Eurydice, on a mission. He continues to be haunted by dreams and visions of her 10 years after the war ends. When robot attacks begin again, Edmund suspects the Gil-Garem have come back to life, even though they appeared to be eradicated a decade earlier.
From the start, it is clear that Dreamtime: The Gil-Garem was once a screenplay. Character actions are written in the present tense, and several errors in grammar, spelling, and formatting show that a good spell-checker and the Chicago Manual of Style were not contributing resources to this sci-fi epic. Upon finishing the book, I found out the author had created a hybrid tense system for writing around his screenplay format. While it was a good effort, subverting English grammar didnt completely iron out the difference in experience between screenplay and novel, and, ultimately, the author would have done better to start from scratch and use proper storytelling conventions.
Its difficult for a reader to grow attached to a character without even knowing what they look like. If this book were to be made into a movie, viewers would have the luxury of seeing what Edmund looked like, as portrayed by an actor, along with the other characters and the scenery. For the first several chapters, I felt blind, like I was feeling my way along the narrative with indistinguishable human beings and nondescript robots doing things. While it might have slowed the pacing, I would have enjoyed the book more for its ability to paint a clear picture of the action in my mind.
The atmosphere of the book reminded me of a Star Trek fan fiction, intriguing in its development and ideas, but amateurish in its execution. However, a major strong point the book has going for it is its action sequences. Edmund and his crew go on missions to determine what the robots are and where theyre coming from, and the fight scenes are described in richer detail than many of the other elements of the book. Clearly depicted scenery, deeply developed characters, and a coherent adventure plot are the cornerstones of a good sci-fi novel.
I will gladly enjoy a several-hundred-page space opera because I know from its in-depth world and character building, as well as the narratives ability to paint clear pictures and develop tension and conflict that its good science fiction. In addition, good science fiction addresses deeper themes: the search for utopia, the human condition, the hubris of man, or leadership under duress. While some broader ideas were touched upon, such as Edmunds sense of loss and the relationship between artificial and organic intelligence, the themes werent completely clear.
Dreamtime: The Gil-Garem was a good start; the shell of a more developed story, but it is sure to leave readers wanting more.