Today I’m excited to be able to share a glimpse of the cover for Anca Antoci’s upcoming release, Blue Shadow Legacy. The third book in the Chimera trilogy, Blue Shadow Legacy looks to be a heart-pounding conclusion.
So, what is Blue Shadow Legacy about?
On the brink of war, the freedom of chimera outcasts and vampires hangs in the balance.
All seems lost when the Council runs coordinated attacks and destroys the Resistance’s secret camps. It’s time for shifters, vampires, and creatures of the Underworld to set their differences aside and make a united front. They expect the Huntress to lead them to victory, but they don’t know the truth about the prophecy that gives them hope. For Rae to save them all, she will be consumed.
After becoming a shadow and training her magic, Rae is ready for a new challenge. Unfortunately, the only constant in her life is that nothing ever goes as planned. When an army of witches gets ready to obliterate what’s left of the Resistance, Rae strikes a deal with a hellhound to save her friends.
An unexpected visit into the Underworld gives Rae a new perspective, an unlikely ally, and a fighting chance, but at what cost?
Anca’s overactive imagination pours into her stories bringing otherworldly creatures to life. She writes about mystical creatures, mystery, and adventure with a hint of Romance.
Her debut novel, Forget Me Not, is the first part of a trilogy published in 2020.
Before starting her writing journey, Anca was active in the blogging community as a fantasy book reviewer. The fanfiction stories she wrote long before she dreamed of being a writer are still popular and available on her blog. Although not as often, she still posts book reviews and book recommendations on her blog www.summonfantasy.com.
Living in Romania, Anca speaks English as a second language and is quite self-conscious about her accent, which is why she never speaks in her videos on TikTok. She loves taking long walks through the parks to recharge her batteries before a writing sprint. She loves cooking and can often be found in the kitchen trying out a new recipe while an audiobook keeps her entertained.
This year has been an amazing one for reading! I was planning on doing a top 10 books that I loved in 2021, but I could only narrow it down to 20. Even that was a difficult thing to do. Eventually I managed to get down to 20 books, but it was hard! So, in no particular order, and after a ton of internal wrestling, here’s my top 20 books of 2021.
*These are books that I enjoyed this year, not necessarily books that were published in 2021.
If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it.
A decade ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extras.
But in their fourth and final year, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students’ world of make-believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent.
If We Were Villains was named one of Bustle’s Best Thriller Novels of the Year, and Mystery Scene says, “A well-written and gripping ode to the stage…A fascinating, unorthodox take on rivalry, friendship, and truth.” (taken from Amazon)
“If you’re looking for a book to suck you in and leave you floored, this one is for you.”
The Resurrectionist of Caligoby Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga
With a murderer on the loose, it’s up to an enlightened bodysnatcher and a rebellious princess to save the city, in this wonderfully inventive Victorian-tinged fantasy noir.
“Man of Science” Roger Weathersby scrapes out a risky living digging up corpses for medical schools. When he’s framed for the murder of one of his cadavers, he’s forced to trust in the superstitions he’s always rejected: his former friend, princess Sibylla, offers to commute Roger’s execution in a blood magic ritual which will bind him to her forever. With little choice, he finds himself indentured to Sibylla and propelled into an investigation. There’s a murderer loose in the city of Caligo, and the duo must navigate science and sorcery, palace intrigue and dank boneyards to catch the butcher before the killings tear their whole country apart. (taken from Amazon)
“A brilliant must-read for fans of books the include grimy, smog-filled streets, shady doings, and ridiculously fun characters.”
The last of a dying breed, a holy warrior must rise up against a growing darkness in Evelium.The most unlikely of heroes, a lowly itinerant mercenary, Umhra the Peacebreaker is shunned by society for his mongrel half-Orc blood. Desperate to find work for himself and his band of fighters, Umhra agrees to help solve a rash of mysterious disappearances, but uncovers a larger, more insidious plot to overthrow the natural order of Evelium in the process. As Umhra journeys into the depths of Telsidor’s Keep to search for the missing people, he confronts an ancient evil and, after suffering a great loss, turns to the god he disavowed for help. Compelled to save the kingdom he loves, can he defeat the enemy while protecting his true identity, or must he risk everything? (taken from Amazon)
“This book would make anyone fall in love with fantasy.“
Aram Raythe has the power to challenge the gods. He just doesn’t know it yet. Aram thinks he’s nothing but a misfit from a small fishing village in a dark corner of the world. As far as Aram knows, he has nothing, with hardly a possession to his name other than a desire to make friends and be accepted by those around him, which is something he’s never known. But Aram is more. Much, much more. Unknown to him, Aram bears within him a gift so old and rare that many people would kill him for it, and there are others who would twist him to use for their own sinister purposes. These magics are so potent that Aram earns a place at an academy for warrior mages training to earn for themselves the greatest place of honor among the armies of men: dragon riders. Aram will have to fight for respect by becoming not just a dragon rider, but a Champion, the caliber of mage that hasn’t existed in the world for hundreds of years. And the land needs a Champion. Because when a dark god out of ancient myth arises to threaten the world of magic, it is Aram the world will turn to in its hour of need.
” It isn’t too often that I call a book perfect, but that’s what Dragon Mage is. It is absolutely perfect.”
Exiled by her despotic brother, Malini spends her days dreaming of vengeance while trapped in the Hirana: an ancient cliffside temple that was once the revered source of the magical deathless waters but is now little more than a decaying ruin. The secrets of the Hirana call to Priya. But in order to keep the truth of her past safely hidden, she works as a servant in the loathed regent’s household, biting her tongue and cleaning Malini’s chambers. But when Malini witnesses Priya’s true nature, their destines become irrevocably tangled. One is a ruthless princess seeking to steal a throne. The other a powerful priestess seeking to save her family. Together, they will set an empire ablaze. (taken from Amazon)
“Savagely beautiful, The Jasmine Throne kept me riveted from the first page all the way through until the last heart-stopping moment.”
In the city of Agatos, nothing stays buried forever.
Only an idiot would ignore his debt to a high mage, and Mennik Thorn is no idiot, despite what anyone might say. He’s just been … distracted. But now he’s left it too late, and if he doesn’t obey the high mage’s commands within the day, his best friends’ lives will be forfeit. So it’s hardly the time to take on an impossible case: proving a woman who murdered a stranger in full view is innocent.
Unfortunately, Mennik can’t resist doing the right thing – and now he’s caught in a deadly rivalry between warring high mages, his witnesses are dying, and something ancient has turned its eyes upon him.
The fate of the city is once again in the hands of a second-rate mage. Mennik Thorn should have stayed in hiding. (taken from Amazon)
Review to Come
We Break Immortals by Thomas Howard Riley
The Render Tracers always say magick users deserve to burn. Aren couldn’t agree more, Keluwen would beg to differ, and Corrin couldn’t care less either way.
In a world where most people use swords for protection, Aren uses tools that let him see what no one else can see, and he takes advantage of loopholes that can undo magick in order to stop the deadliest people in the world. He is a Render Tracer, relentlessly pursuing rogue sorcerers who bend the laws of physics to steal, assault, and kill. But his next hunt will lead him to question his entire life, plunging him into a world where he can’t trust anyone, not even his own eyes.
When Keluwen finally escaped her fourthparents’ home and set out on her own to become a thief, she never thought she would one day be killing her own kind. She honed her magick on the streets, haunted by her past, hunted by Render Tracers, and feared by a society that hates what she is. Now she joins a crew of outcast magicians on a path of vengeance as they race to stop an insane sorcerer who has unlocked the source of all magick and is trying to use it to make himself a god.
Corrin is a sword fighter first, a drinker second, and a…well, there must be something else he is good at. He’ll think of it if you give him enough time. He is a rogue for hire, and he has no special powers of any kind. The most magick he has ever done is piss into the wind without getting any on himself. He is terrible at staying out of trouble, and someone always seems to be chasing him. When he gets caught up in a multi-kingdom manhunt, he finds himself having to care about other people for a change, and he’s not happy about it.
They are about to collide on the trail of a man who is impossible to catch, who is on the verge of plunging the world into ruin, and who can turn loyal people into traitors in a single conversation. They must struggle against their own obsessions, their fears, ancient prophecies, and each other. They will each have to balance the people they love against their missions, and struggle to avoid becoming the very thing they are trying to stop.
All they have to do is stop the unstoppable. Simple. (taken from Amazon)
“We Break Immortals has heart, humor, excellent characters, and violence aplenty. It’s the sort of book that plunges in and never stops to let you catch your breath. It is, in a word, badass.”
Linus Baker is a by-the-book case worker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He’s tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children are likely to bring about the end of the world.
Arthur Parnassus is the master of the orphanage. He would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world will burn. And his secrets will come to light.
The House in the Cerulean Sea is an enchanting love story, masterfully told, about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place―and realizing that family is yours. (taken from Amazon)
“This book is wonderful. It’s comfort in written form. It’s a reminder that happy endings (or maybe happy beginnings) exist, often found in the most unexpected of places, if only we’re brave enough to look.”
Campaigns and Companions by Andi Ewington and Rhianna Pratchett, illustrated by Alexander Watt
Grab your dice and pencil, sit your pets down, teach them to play… and immediately regret your choices.
Hilarious collection of Dungeons & Dragons-themed pet jokes by acclaimed comics creators Andi Ewington, Rhianna Pratchett, Calum Alexander Watt and Alex de Campi
What if your pets could play D&D? And what if they were… kind of jerks about it?
If there are two things all geeks love, it’s roleplaying games, and their pets. So why not fuse the two? It’s time to grab your dice, dust off that character sheet, and let your cat or dog (or guinea pig, or iguana, or budgie) accompany you on an epic adventure! It’ll be great!
…unless your pets are jerks. (taken from Amazon)
“I got a Nat 20 with Campaigns andCompanions (those who know me know that I never roll 20s, so this is a momentous event).”
Jamie is a lonely, anxious kid when he has a run-in with a witch in a remote Somerset village. He’s almost forgotten about it thirteen years later when unpredictable storms and earthquakes hit England – and that’s the least of his worries. Suffering from anxiety, terrible flatmates and returning to his family home after his mother is diagnosed with cancer, he’s got a lot on his mind. But Melusine, the witch of flesh and blood, lures him back with the offer of cold, hard cash in exchange for his help investigating the source of the freak weather; something’s messing with the earth spirit, Gaia, and Mel means to find out who – or what – it is. As they work together, travelling to the bigoted Seelie Court and the paranoid Unseelie Court, meeting stoned fauns and beer-brewing trolls, Jamie must reconcile his feelings about the witch’s intentions and methods all while handling grief, life admin and one singularly uptight estate agent. (taken from Amazon)
“I loved the combination of ordinary and flat-out bizarre, the day-to-day grind and the unexpected.”
Goblinby Eric Grissom, illustrated by Will Perkins
A young, headstrong goblin embarks on a wild journey of danger, loss, self-discovery, and sacrifice in this new graphic novel adventure.
One fateful night a sinister human warrior raids the home of the young goblin Rikt and leaves him orphaned. Angry and alone, Rikt vows to avenge the death of his parents and seeks a way to destroy the man who did this. He finds aid from unlikely allies throughout his journey and learns of a secret power hidden in the heart of the First Tree. Will Rikt survive the trials that await him on his perilous journey to the First Tree? And is Rikt truly prepared for what he may find there? (taken from Amazon)
“Masterfully told and beautifully illustrated, Goblin is an unforgettable journey, full of both action and heart. “
Belfast, 1914. Two years after the sinking of the Titanic, high society has become obsessed with spiritualism, attending séances in the hope they might reach their departed loved ones.
William Jackson Crawford is a man of science and a sceptic, but one night with everyone sitting around the circle, voices come to him – seemingly from beyond the veil – placing doubt in his heart and a seed of obsession in his mind. Could the spirits truly be communicating with him or is this one of Kathleen’s parlour tricks gone too far?
Based on the true story of Professor William Jackson Crawford and famed medium Kathleen Goligher, and with a cast of characters including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini, The Spirit Engineer conjures a haunted, twisted tale of power, paranoia and one ultimate, inescapable truth… (taken from Amazon)
” The Spirit Engineer is an engrossing book that delves deep into the subjects of loss, paranoia, belief, and what can happen when a person’s beliefs are questioned.”
The Emperor is Dead. Long live the Emperor. Lin Sukai finally sits on the throne she won at so much cost, but her struggles are only just beginning. Her people don’t trust her. Her political alliances are weak. And in the north-east of the Empire, a rebel army of constructs is gathering, its leader determined to take the throne by force. Yet an even greater threat is on the horizon, for the Alanga–the powerful magicians of legend–have returned to the Empire. They claim they come in peace, and Lin will need their help in order to defeat the rebels and restore peace. But can she trust them? (taken from Amazon)
“… a wild ride full of action, betrayal, and heart-in-your-throat plot twists. Nothing happens as expected, and it’s fantastic.”
Charlie Hall has never found a lock she couldn’t pick, a book she couldn’t steal, or a bad decision she wouldn’t make. She’s spent half her life working for gloamists, magicians who manipulate shadows to peer into locked rooms, strangle people in their beds, or worse. Gloamists guard their secrets greedily, creating an underground economy of grimoires. And to rob their fellow magicians, they need Charlie.
Now, she’s trying to distance herself from past mistakes, but going straight isn’t easy. Bartending at a dive, she’s still entirely too close to the corrupt underbelly of the Berkshires. Not to mention that her sister Posey is desperate for magic, and that her shadowless and possibly soulless boyfriend has been keeping secrets from her. When a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie descends back into a maelstrom of murder and lies. Determined to survive, she’s up against a cast of doppelgängers, mercurial billionaires, gloamists, and the people she loves best in the world ― all trying to steal a secret that will allow them control of the shadow world and more.
Review to Come
The Infinite Towerby Dorian Hart
Horn’s Company saved the world of Spira.
The Black Circle erased it.
Now Dranko, Morningstar, Kibi, and the rest of the team have a lot of work to do.
In order to mend their broken reality, the company must venture to distant Het Branoi — The Infinite Tower — in search of a third Eye of Moirel. Only then will they be able to travel into the past and stop the Sharshun from changing the course of history.But Het Branoi is a bizarre and deadly place, a baffling construction full of mystery and danger, of magic and chaos, with unexpected allies and terrifying monsters. Horn’s Company will need courage, perseverance, and more than a little luck if they are to find the Eye and discover the terrible secret at the heart of the Infinite Tower.
“Read this series for an escape into a fantastic new world, peopled with some of the best characters you’ll ever read.”
Kell Kressia is a legend, a celebrity, a hero. Aged just seventeen he set out on an epic quest with a band of wizened fighters to slay the Ice Lich and save the world, but only he returned victorious. The Lich was dead, the ice receded and the Five Kingdoms were safe.
Ten years have passed Kell lives a quiet farmer’s life, while stories about his heroism are told in every tavern across the length and breadth of the land. But now a new terror has arisen in the north. Beyond the frozen circle, north of the Frostrunner clans, something has taken up residence in the Lich’s abandoned castle. And the ice is beginning to creep south once more.
For the second time, Kell is called upon to take up his famous sword, Slayer, and battle the forces of darkness. But he has a terrible secret that nobody knows. He’s not a hero – he was just lucky. Everyone puts their faith in Kell the Legend, but he’s a coward who has no intention of risking his life for anyone…(taken from Amazon)
“Author Stephen Aryan crafted an incredible book in The Coward, one that provides an excellent view both of what the fantasy genre can be, and the complicated yet beautiful morass of life.”
An audacious novel of feminine rage about one of the most prolific female serial killers in American history–and the men who drove her to it.
They whisper about her in Chicago. Men come to her with their hopes, their dreams–their fortunes. But no one sees them leave. No one sees them at all after they come to call on the Widow of La Porte.
The good people of Indiana may have their suspicions, but if those fools knew what she’d given up, what was taken from her, how she’d suffered, surely they’d understand. Belle Gunness learned a long time ago that a woman has to make her own way in this world. That’s all it is. A bloody means to an end. A glorious enterprise meant to raise her from the bleak, colorless drudgery of her childhood to the life she deserves. After all, vermin always survive.
“This book combines fact, rumor, and creative license to weave a tale both unsettling and engrossing.”
Adam Binder has the Sight. It’s a power that runs in his bloodline: the ability to see beyond this world and into another, a realm of magic populated by elves, gnomes, and spirits of every kind. But for much of Adam’s life, that power has been a curse, hindering friendships, worrying his backwoods family, and fueling his abusive father’s rage.
Years after his brother, Bobby, had him committed to a psych ward, Adam is ready to come to grips with who he is, to live his life on his terms, to find love, and maybe even use his magic to do some good. Hoping to track down his missing father, Adam follows a trail of cursed artifacts to Denver, only to discover that an ancient and horrifying spirit has taken possession of Bobby’s wife.
It isn’t long before Adam becomes the spirit’s next target. To survive the confrontation, save his sister-in-law, and learn the truth about his father, Adam will have to risk bargaining with very dangerous beings … including his first love. (taken from Amazon)
” White Trash Warlock was a supernatural show-down combined with complicated real-life problems.”
2021 has been an amazing year for fiction. I have read so many excellent books, any of which would make a wonderful gift. For this year’s list, I picked books that are either the first in their series (as opposed to a continuation of a series) or standalones. You can find last year’s adult recommendations here: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: 2020 Adult Fiction Edition.
The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
This is the most surprising, delightful, and heartwarming book! It is a hug in print and I loved every single moment of it. You can read more of my gushing about it here.
Paladin Unbound by Jeffrey Speight
Paladin Unbound would be an excellent gift for fans of the fantasy genre, readers who are new to fantasy, or people who play tabletop roleplaying games. Basically, it would make a great gift for 99% of the people I know (I’m still trying to convince a few friends to give fantasy a go). You can read my review here.
The Spirit Engineer by A.J. West
Loosely based on a real person and real events, this book sucked me in and kept me feverishly turning pages. It is so well written, and would be a great gift for readers who like mind-twisting, psychological reads. You can find my review here.
The Resurrectionist of Caligo by Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga
This book was so much fun! The Resurrectionist of Caligo would be perfect for readers who like a healthy dose of mystery in their fantasy. You can find my review here.
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
Complex and beautifully written, The Jasmine Throne will keep readers engrossed. This would be a great gift for fans of books that have great worldbuilding, political machinations, and twists aplenty. You can read my review here.
Every now and again, I’ll hear someone say “I don’t like fantasy,” even though they’ve never read any. Of course, everyone has their own preferences in literature, which is totally fine, but I sometimes think that what people mean is that they don’t like a certain type of fantasy. There’s much more than just swords and magic when it comes to fantasy (although I happen to love books that have swords and magic).
Here are a few sub-genres, with explanations, as well as examples of books that fit into each category. Of course, I’m in no way an expert, and some of these books can fit quite comfortably in multiple sub-genres. Talk to me! Tell me what I got right, what I messed up, and what I missed completely. Here goes nothing!
Since my original post, I have learned about and read a few new subgenres, which I am now adding to the list. Let me know what you think!
High Fantasy: High fantasy is probably what comes to mind first when people hear “fantasy.” There are some characteristics that separate high fantasy from other kinds of fantasy. First of all, it’s very character-focused. The choices made by a single character, or a few, are most important. High fantasy is set in its own world with its own defined rules of magic. A common theme is good vs. evil.
Examples: The Swans’ War trilogy by Sean Russell; The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman; The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
Epic Fantasy: Epic fantasy is, well…epic. It usually consists of a threat to the entire world and has a large cast of characters, as opposed to the few that characterize high fantasy. While The Hobbit, for example, is high fantasy, The Lord of the Rings is what I would classify as epic fantasy. There’s a larger cast of characters, and a danger to the entire world. Examples: Game of Thrones; Wheel of Time; Lord of the Rings
Low Fantasy: Low fantasy is characterized by magical events that intrude on daily life in a normal world.
Examples: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett; American Gods by Neil Gaiman; Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Sword and Sorcery: Well, aside from the obvious (swords and magic), think romance, and adventure. Sword and Sorcery is a bit on the pulpy side (nothing wrong with that). I always picture 80’s era Sylvester Stallone as the movie equivalent of a Sword and Sorcery hero. Examples: Conan the Barbarian; Legend by David Gemmell. Honestly, I’m on the fence about including Legend here, as it doesn’t seem as pulpy as other Sword and Sorcery books, but I’m drawing a blank on other examples. What would you add to this category?
Military Fantasy: This is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s basically military life in a fantasy setting, often following one solider, or a small company. Examples: The Codex Alera by Jim Butcher; The Black Company by Glen Cook
Grimdark Fantasy: Don’t expect happily ever after’s or the archetypal heroes. Grimdark is marked with violence, morally gray as well as completely amoral characters. It also doesn’t shy away from violence. Examples: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff; The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
Dark Fantasy/ Gothic Fantasy: This sub-genre incorporates themes of death, fear, and romance. It has a darker tone, and elements of horror. Think Edgar Allen Poe- goes fantasy, and you’ve got the general idea. Examples: Black Sun Rising by C.S. Friedman; Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan
Urban Fantasy: This is interesting in that there are a few different routes urban fantasy is known to take: either a separate fantasy world with rules that are similar to ours or, conversely, our world with fantasy elements mixed in. Go figure. Examples: Jackaby by William Ritter; City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
Arthurian Fantasy: This is fantasy based directly on the myths and legends of King Arthur. Examples: The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart; The Once and Future King by T.H. White
Superhero Fantasy: This is fantasy based on the character of a superhero. Easily defined. Examples: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson; Vicious by V.E. Schwab
RPG Lit: Combining fantasy with role playing games, the main character is generally aware that they are in a game-type world. Stats. are very much a part of the book, and the characters interact and progress through the book as they would an rpg. Examples: The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini; Path to Villainy: An NPC Kobold’s Tale by S.L. Rowland
Fairy Tales: Starting as children’s stories, lately there have been many re-imaginings of these books that are marked by fantastical elements and magic. Examples of fairy tale retellings: Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer; Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik; House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig; A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow
Portal Fantasy: I argue that this is a sub-genre in its own right! This would be books in which the characters leave their own world through a portal/door/etc, and travel to a world with different rules than their own. Often, fantasy elements such as magic are present. Examples: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.
Fantasy of Manners: I’m a little newer to this subgenre ( Thank you to Way Too Fantasy for telling me about this one). You won’t see many dragons or violent battles. This subgenre is defined by its wit and its use of words as weapons. There is often a sort of hierarchy and the battles tend to be more involved with social maneuvering. I tend to picture Jane Austen-meets-fantasy. Examples: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke; Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton
Sword-free Fantasy: Sans fantasy violence, sword-free fantasy uses wondrous, reality-free worlds to explore very real emotions and relationships. Look for themes of family, love, self-acceptance, or self-discovery. Examples: The Living Waters by Dan Fitzgerald; The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune; Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson
Viking-Inspired Fantasy: This subgenre could go a few different directions. It could borrow from heavily from Norse mythology or it can be set in a world that borrows elements from the Norse mythology or Viking way of life while still having its own mythologies or pantheons. Examples: The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwyne; The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson
Fantasy Comedy: Irreverent and witty, fantasy comedy often takes a humorous look at the fantasy genre, either creating new and entertaining fantasy worlds that focus on humor, parodying common fantasy tropes, or even poking lighthearted fun at specific works of fantasy. Examples: The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True by Sean Gibson; Harpyness is Only Skin Deep by D.H. Willison; Iliad: The Reboot by Keith Tokash
Time for you to weigh in! What did I get right? What did I mess up? What am I still missing? Let’s talk!
Once upon a time, there was a socially awkward, book-obsessed nerd. This nerd (let’s call her Jodie, shall we?) loved to read. I mean, loved it! Her house was filled with books, her mind was filled with books, and she loved talking about books with everyone she knew. Now, every main character has a flaw (or two, or three) and one of Jodie’s flaws was that she had a hard time not talking about books. This could easily make her an incredibly annoying person to be around. Fortunately, she happened to know a wise wizard. This wizard (also known as her husband) suggested a magical cure to Jodie’s fatal flaw: start a book blog!
Now that we’ve all learned why I am not an author, let me sum up the rest of the story: today is my third blogging birthday. After nearly seven hundred posts, let me share a bit of knowledge with you: I am not an expert. At all. What I am, though, is grateful. I was completely surprised to realize that blogs don’t have to exist in a vacuum. I’ve met some amazing people and read some incredible books thanks to book blogging. I’ve been fortunate to have authors and publishers trust me to review their books, and I’ve tried genres that I didn’t even know existed a few years ago.
I have noticed a fair bit of discouragement lately from bloggers (I’ve been discouraged myself). Imposter Syndrome seems to be rearing its ugly head a lot. So, here is a short sampling of some of the amazing reviews that have caused me to spend way too much money on books. This is nowhere near a complete list, but you all rock. If you happen to find yourself on this list, please consider adding your own list of book bloggers who have added to your reading enjoyment.
I’m excited to be joining a book tour for The Love-Haight Case Files book 2, an urban fantasy like no other.
Smart and fast-moving, The Love-Haight Case Files (#2) was loads of fun! Book two follows Evelyn Love and co. as they try to solve a case with pieces missing (quite literally, as zombies are involved). The tongue-in-cheek humor combined with just the right amount of action to create a book that drew me in and kept me highly entertained.
The reader is treated to a world where humans and OTs (other-than humans) exists more or less symbiotically. While OTs have their own sets of obstacles to overcome, they aren’t actively hunted- at least not normally. So when a group of zombies is kidnapped (body-snatched?) while leading what can best be described as an interactive tourist walk, lawyer Thomas Brock and Evelyn Love take on the case.
One thing that really stood out to me while reading The Love-Haight Case Files is the creativity the authors put into both their world and the characters in it. The way the OTs interact both with humans and society is incredibly clever. Take the missing zombies, for example. Before being snatched up, they ran what could best be described as a tour walk- meets haunted house, where they “chased” human tourists who pay for the experience of running from the shuffling, brain-eating undead. That idea just made me smile.
And the characters! They are so much fun. From the corporeally challenged Thomas Brock, to Pete the World of Warcraft-loving gargoyle, each character was a blast to read about. I loved how Pete contributed to breaking the case open. It was both hilarious and nasty. In fact, he might have been my favorite character, although I was also a fan of the werewolf P.I.
The mystery itself was well-thought out, and it was fun watching the characters solve the who and the why. While I enjoyed the villains, the core group of characters were so much fun that the whodunnit part of things was just icing on the cake.
In one way, The Love-Haight Case Files is very much a mystery thriller. In another, it’s a delightful urban fantasy. Either way you look at it, it’s a highly entertaining book.
About the book:
ASIN: B098K6SG49 Publisher: Craig Martelle, Inc (September 20, 2021) Publication date: September 20, 2021 Language: English Genre: Paranormal Mystery Thriller Check it Out on Amazon:http://mybook.to/LoveHaightBk2
About the authors:
USA Today best-seller, Jean Rabe’s impressive writing career spans decades, starting as a newspaper reporter and bureau chief. From there she went on to become the director of RPGA, a co-editor with Martin H. Greenberg for DAW books, and, most notably, Rabe is an award-winning author of more than forty science fiction/fantasy and murder mystery thrillers. She writes mysteries and fantasies, because life is too short to be limited to one genre–and she does it with dogs tangled at her feet, because life is too short not to be covered in fur. Find out more about her at http://www.jeanrabe.com, on social media, or sign-up for her newsletter here: https://jeanrabe.com/sign-up-for-my-newsletter/
Donald J. Bingle
Donald J. Bingle is the author of eight books and more than sixty shorter works in the horror, thriller, science fiction, mystery, fantasy, steampunk, romance, comedy, and memoir genres, including the Dick Thornby Thriller series (Net Impact; Wet Work; Flash Drive), Frame Shop, a murder mystery set in a suburban writers’ group, Forced Conversion, a near future scifi thriller, GREENSWORD, a darkly comedic eco-thriller and (with Jean Rabe) The Love-Haight Case Files, Books 1 & 2, a paranormal urban fantasy series about two lawyers who represent the legal rights of supernatural creatures in a magic-filled San Francisco. He also edited Familiar Spirits, an anthology of ghost stories. More on Don and his writing can be found at www.donaldjbingle.com and on social media. Sign-up for his newsletter here: https://www.donaldjbingle.com/newsletter-sign-up
Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I was unable to post nearly as often as I wanted to during Self-published Authors Appreciation Week. I have been planning on giving this tag a go for ages, however, so I can’t let the week end without taking this opportunity to finally get it done. I don’t know who came up with the original tag, so please let me know if you do. I’d love to credit them.
These are all self-published books, which goes to show (yet again) that any stigma against self-publishing is completely without merit. I encourage you to read off the beaten path!
Best Book You Read So Far This Year
Dragon Mage by M.L. Spencer
This is actually a three-way tie at the moment (I reserve the right to add to this number at any given time), but since I think everyone and their brother should read Dragon Mage, I’m going to go with this one. Aram is one of the most wonderful main characters I’ve ever had the pleasure to read about. I’ve gushed at length about the book here, but there really isn’t a single thing that I didn’t love about Dragon Mage. Definitely read this book, if you haven’t yet.
Best Sequel You Read So Far
The Infinite Tower (Heroes of Spira Book 4) by Dorian Hart
Both my oldest and I are loving this series. From the characters and their relationships, to the world-development and the fantastical creatures, this hits every checkmark on my list of favorite things in fantasy books. It’s quickly become one of my most given fantasy recommendations and for good reason. Not only am I looking forward to seeing what happens next, I am planning on rereading from the beginning of the series before too much longer. You can find my review here.
New Release You Haven’t Read Yet
Pawn’s Gambit by Rob J. Hayes
Why haven’t I read this yet? WHY???
Most Anticipated Release for the Second Half of the Year
Mirror in Time by D. Ellis Overttun
I’m not going to say too much because my review is still forthcoming. I’ll just point out that any reader of sci-fi needs to add this to their tbr right now.
Path to Villainy: An NPC Kobold’s Tale by S.L. Rowland
I honestly expected a fun, entertaining little story. I got that and more. It was more violent than I expected, but it was also much more thought-out than I expected. Path to Villainy: An NPC Kobold’s Tale was a blast to read and I’ll be on the lookout for more from this author.
Favorite New Author
I’ve decided that M.L. Spencer could write a book about sandpaper and I’d pre-order it.
Newest Favorite Character – Merovich
Small Places by Matthew Samuels
Merovich was a delight. They were so child-like and sweet, while at the same time they invented the most dangerous of things. I loved that juxtaposition. Honestly, all of the characters in Small Places are fantastic. You can find my review here.
Book that Made You Cry
The Archive by Dan Fitzgerald
I don’t often cry over books or movies. This one had me tearing up, though. Author Dan Fitzgerald used it as a kind of mirror, to show the best and worst in all of us. It was beautiful. Find my review here.
Book that Made You Happy
Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable by Susanne M. Dutton
Oh, how I loved this book! The mystery was great, the author nailed the characters, and the ending was absolutely perfect. This was a brilliant homage to the foremost Consulting Detective. You can find my review here.
Most Beautiful Book You Got this Year
Sairō’s Claw by Virginia McClain
I mean…look at it! Gorgeous!
What Are Some Books You Need to Read By the End of the Year?
Oh, jeez! My tbr has a longer life expectancy than I do, so this is one of those questions that could be answered with many many titles. I’m looking forward to : A Troll Walks Into a Bar: A Nori Urban Fantasy Novel by Douglas Lumsden, Sacaran Nights by Rachel Shaw, and A Ritual of Bone by Lee C. Conley are a few that come to mind.
It’s been a magical week on Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub! Magic is often a staple in a good fantasy world. One of the many things I love about magic in urban fantasy is the dichotomy between magic and machine. Can they coexist? And if so, how would one interact with the other?
Tabitha from Behind the Pages weighs in on magic in the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews.
When I found out Jodie over at Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub was doing a project based on magic systems I had to join in! Unique magic systems are a key element to the fantasy books I truly enjoy. While characters certainly play a large part in what I love, I need the magic system to be a worthy component as well. Today we’ll take a look at the magic in the urban fantasy Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews.
The series takes place in Atlanta, Georgia after a magical apocalypse has accosted the world. People tried to advance technology and did not take the proper precautions. Now waves of magic are tearing the world apart. When a wave of magic hits, all technology dies. Cars, phones, guns, electricity you name it. When the magic is up, the tech is down. And the skyscrapers that cities were known for? Those have been turned to rubble unless enough people shell out the money and magic to protect them. People have developed magical vehicles (noisy as hell), that can clunk around and run when the magic is high. But when the magic wave ends, you’ll still be stranded.
The main rule of magic in the world of Kate Daniels is that technology and magic cannot coexist. Anyone with the slightest bit of power can use magic, and sometimes that means those who are a bit foolhardy may summon nasty creatures from another world. You might even wake up a God who starts destroying the city. My advice is to not dabble in magic unless you know what you are doing.
And while there aren’t exactly spells, wards can be drawn for protection and certain individuals can use their magic in specialized ways. Take for instance the vampires. They are undead mindless killers. However, if you can use your magic to pilot them, they are weapons and tools. The Masters of the Dead are a group of magic users who keep hoards of vampires locked up for their uses. While piloting a vampire they can see and hear everything their chosen vessel can see, and they can even use its vocal cords to talk. But sending a vampire into battle can be tricky. If it is destroyed and the magic user piloting it does not remove their mind from the vampire in time, it could have devastating results for the magic user.
Then you have Kate Daniels, whose magic is in her blood. As part of the mercenary guild, she is called in to clean up the magical messes the police can’t handle. She can manipulate a vast amount of magic due to her heritage, and she has an affinity for the undead she is loath to use. As the series progresses, you’ll find that her blood can be used in a variety of ways. For the sake of keeping this a spoiler-free post, you’ll just have to read the series to find out. 😉 But it’s never a good idea to only rely on magic, so Kate is a skilled swordswoman for when the magic is down.
The magic system of the Kate Daniels series increases in intensity with each book. Ilona Andrews has paced the series to gradually show the increased strength and chaos of the magic that has been unleashed. As readers progress, they will find all manner of supernatural creatures and magical mayhem cropping up from the magic waves. And Kate Daniels is right there in the thick of it trying to keep her city together as best she can.
About the blogger:
Hello everyone! My name is Tabitha and I run a review blog called Behind the Pages. It’s my little corner of the internet where I geek out about books. I’m an avid fantasy reader, but dabble in other genres from time to time. Book blogging has allowed me to connect with so many other people who love reading as much as I do. I hope you enjoy this snippet of my bookish thoughts!
During this weeklong discussion on magic in fantasy, we’ll be talking about the truly fantastical magic system. But there are also magic systems that I like to think of as “reality-adjacent”, ones that have a basis in the scientific. After all, things that seem completely normal to us now would seem completely inexplicable and magical to people from, say, the 1400s.
The magic in The Wolf in the Blood fantasy series by author David McLean falls into the second category. I’m happy to be able to get a close look at how “realistic” magic operates in his books.
Teaching physics to barbarians – magic in a really real world
How real is your magical world? If it’s wholly fantastic, great! Magic can just exist. It’s not necessary to look behind the curtain. It can just be so, and you can write about how it’s used, not why it works.
But if your world intersects with the modern, real* world, I think you have to keep it real.
I write ultra-naturalistic fantasy – a world recognisably our own, working in the same way, but with magic and monsters. This is not a novel idea. But for magic and monsters to exist in a really real world and not be rendered hopelessly implausible by physics, you have to think through how the universe works on a fundamental level. This is great fun.
I’m not a physicist, and I didn’t fancy writing a textbook on if-magic-was-real physics. So I came up with some basic rules to apply in my books.
It’s consistent with general relativity. For it to be otherwise is universe-breaking. In my world, magic appears to be a fundamental interaction, like electromagnetism. It’s the force which changes other forces. If this sounds unlikely, bear in mind scientists discovered a new fundamental force just this year (probably). Magic has time translation symmetry (it always works the same way) obeys conservation of energy (you can’t create it or destroy it, only transform it) and is subject to entropy (actions have irreversible consequences). It affects thermodynamics (fireballs), evolutionary biology (dragons), gravity (massive flying dragons) and spacetime (wormholes and time travel).
Everyone knows. You can’t casually slide fantasy into the gaps of the real world like a dudebro into your DM’s and expect no one will notice. How do you hide how the universe works? Humans understand physics at a deep level which far surpasses the ‘mystic scrolls of wisdom tropes of fantasy (I am not putting down mystic scrolls – you do you, scrolls). Even in a hellish dystopia where magicians are routinely wiping minds on a planetary scale, all it takes to know is looking and everyone can. The logical contortions are too great to sustain that narrative in a really real world. I do feel that if magic was real, Richard Feynman would have written an amusing book on the subject. So no need for secret wizard school, Harry.
It’s weird and unsettling. The universe is strange, man. However strange your magic system is, quantum mechanics has it beat. Science grapples with the deep profundities of existence, including ethical and moral questions about free will and agency as inferred from physical laws. I’ve applied these to my world. So magic is a force, but it may also be sort of sentient and vaguely malevolent, with limited agency and unknowable desires. Using magic is profoundly invasive. It never helps. It only hurts.
It’s accessible (but dangerous). Anyone can use gravity. Jump up and down – you are a puissant gravity user. But defying gravity is hard (song lyrics have misreported this). So it is with magic. In the in-world olden days, magicians of towering supremacy tried to bend it to their unconquerable wills, and sometimes succeeded but often failed. But so could anyone. The consequence of failure is pain – it consumes their energy and scars them with a biting rust. People understand it according to their lights – I set my third novel in 51 BCE. It features a Roman legionary, an Irish druid, and a Sri Lankan princeling. None of them could know about relativity or quantum anything. Consequently, they treat magic as, well, just that. And that’s fine. You don’t need to teach physics to your barbarian, after all. But even modern people will have different views. Magic? It’s all a conspiracy, my dude. It said so on The Magic Channel, it must be true…
About the author:
David McLean is the author of three books – THE WOLF IN THE BLOOD (2018), THE WOLF CURE AND OTHER STORIES (2019), and THE NINE WIVES OF RANDAL RHIN (2020), published by Swordsaint Press in the UK. You can buy them on Amazon and read free chapters and stories on his website. His next book, FOX SILVER, will be out in early 2022. Follow @SwordsaintPress on Twitter.
The thing about Night Watch is it’s cool, but it’s also a bit problematic. I am still sorting out whether I think the cool factor is enough that I can forget some of the parts that I had issue with. Basically, this review is going to be a rambling mess. So, let me roll up my sleeves and get right to it!
The premise of the book starts with a familiar concept – that of the otherworldly surrounding the everyday- and takes it in a new and creative direction. Anton is a low-level Light magician (meaning he’s one of the “good guys”), talented but not amazingly so. He is also a member of the Night Watch, a group of Others -such as magicians and shape changers- who keeps an eye on the other side (the “bad guys”-cue the menacing music). The other side, the Day Watch keeps an eye on the “good guys” as well. Both sides do this to make sure that everyone is adhering to the uneasy truce that has existed between those of the Light and those of the Dark for ages. Sounds pretty similar to many other books so far, right? From there it goes in an entirely different direction.
In the world of Night Watch, there are humans without a trace of the otherworldly, there are those on the side of light, those on the side of the dark, and potentials. Potentials are “Others” that have not chosen a side. Usually they are newly discovering their powers, but there are also rogues, etc. and sometimes they require the intervention of the Day Watch or the Night Watch. There’s an assumption that the two watches grudgingly work together, but that is only true on the surface. Their quiet war has become one of subterfuge and manipulation, and Anton finds himself squarely in the middle of it.
The pacing is very different than what I expect from a book of this nature, but it works. There is a lot of introspection and musing on the nature of “good” and “evil” and the sometimes blurry way they can be viewed. When does doing something good cause more evil? When is it acceptable to do nothing? Does the long game justify sacrifices along the way? These are questions that plague Anton, making for an interesting main character. While the world is engaging and the tricks and twists along the way are truly fascinating, it is this part of Anton’s character that makes Night Watch truly unique.
So, what did I find problematic? Some of the things the author said when referring to women, people of other nationalities, and lesbians were a bit on the offensive side. It was never quite enough to make me want to stop reading the book, but it did rankle at me. On the one hand, Night Watch was written several years ago, which could very well contribute to certain viewpoints, so it is something I tried not to focus on too much. However, it did bother me.
The creativity in the storytelling and the pondering of choices elevated this book above some of the others of this type that I’ve read. This is a reread for me, although it’s been at least fifteen years since my first time reading it. I think I enjoyed it more then than I do now, but Night Watch is still an enjoyable book, and one worth reading.