Category: urban fantasy


Ok, last one of these then the actual game posts will start. I’m planning on doing the game posts from my character’s perspective, so I wanted to do a sort of intro post with who and what the characters were. Also because so far Fritz hasn’t really been a names kind of character, what she’s likely to refer to them as.

So, quick break down:

Alessandra – cat shifter/returning character – Alessandra

Noni – racoon shifter/art student/drug dealer/returning character – Onesie kid

Ben Ayat – Luna Ayat returned to a humanish form – Ben, possibly Bennie

Amaya Ayat – Ben’s daughter – n/a just yet

Sariss – Sith grey Jedi vampire/nerd – the vampire/Sariss

Marie – Lucifuge hunter, dangerous hunter, lawyer? – Scary

Everett – luck mage, constantly high, tattered lab coat and gas mask – Gasmask or some variation there of

Lena – spider shifter, returning as an NPC – Spiders

Raven – one of the BS, mage, returning NPC – Goth

There’s also the rest of the team Fritz belongs to, they get referred to by their names, but the party has not yet met the Specter Ejectors.

 

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I cut the last one because I realized that this had gotten really, really long. It was fun to write though.

Birmingham Saga part two, The Factory is where we start getting a lot of cross over to the current campaign, largely since most of the players are the same and we even have some returning player characters. It takes place five to six years after part one and starts with the party joining resident part time bear Three Fingered Joe, and his right hand opossum/ghost wrangler Bailey, in his campaign of vengeance against the local logging company. It started out kind of not great, due to a lack of actual fighting ability we nearly lost Rowena the raven shifter and her partner in bad decisions and resident trash panda Noni in the very first session. Word to the wise, silver is a werecreature’s bane, but regular bullets can still hurt them. The party quickly discovered that, beyond the Factory we had varying degrees of things in common, with  chameleon shifter Glass trusting not a single one of the rest of the group and thus avoiding socializing with them.

Thanks to a combination of equivalent amount of spiders Lena Spinne having connections with the city’s very own Birmingham Supernaturalists and being a regular at the local occult shop the party wound up finding out about a cult attempting to revive some ancient spirit known as Luna Ayat to wipe the supernatural out of the city. They tracked the cult to its meeting place, gathered as much information as possible before destroying what they could and leaving. This didn’t slow the cult down much though so Bailey, the Spinne, Glass, and magic cat Alessandra returning to hopefully put an end to the threat. Unfortunately for them, arson was not the answer and the spirit escaped possessing the cult leader’s wife and taking the cult leader with it.

So began the string of disappearances that would spur our protagonists to try and fix what they broke. College students were going missing with reports of an oddly dressed stranger being seen around campus.

Chasing that lead with a tip from the Birmingham Supernaturalists gave us a fantastic chance to see Rowena nearly get eaten by a spirit when she flew off after a mysterious voice telling her it had found her teddy bear. Given that Lena was distracted trying to chase down an NPC and that Rowena had flown through a grate too small for any other party member to get through, the epic battle against Mama was waged with thrown stones to break the raven out of her hypnosis.

It was a dead end to say the least.

At least it seemed like it should be, until the odd stranger tore the doors off the old mines that Mama dwelt in and started gathering power seriously. Enough power, we were told by the local mages, to destroy the city. Enough power that the Guardians of the Veil themselves were willing to let us know what was going on, since we seemed willing to fight it. Also because it saves them the trouble.

So we go back to the mines with a mage, Max, in tow. He burns the mummy baddy really well, but having been forced back to spirit form Luna Ayat escapes. Leaving the party tired, injured, and more determined to fight him off than ever.

More disappearances as anyone venturing into the mines fails to return. The party investigated resulting in the acquisition of one terrifying starvation monster that had been eating said people and Mama agreeing to work with Lena if she makes sure that the monster is taken care of. Lost children like Hannah can get into so much trouble if they aren’t looked after.

Then came the issue of the wrong wolf. A terrifying beast that wiped out the Moss Rock werewolf pack, leaving only their newest member alive because he panicked and ran. The return of Jonas, him having tried to join the werewolves after the previous party split and having been violently kicked to the curb for being a mere shape shifter rather than a true child of the moon. The party sided with him instead of the kid.

Then came the Buffys, the sorority of vampire hunters finally arriving to deal with the disappearances from five years ago. Their house mother turns out to be the BS’s leader’s grandmother and, getting ready to have dinner with Mrs. Asimi, Bailey is drowned by her own seeing eye ghost both dying and being sober for the first time in a decade.

Some kid started following Allie, leading to the party finding yet more hunters in town and discovering their plans. Which lead to larceny as the investigation party again collected all the information they could before deciding to take as many of the hunters’ weapons as they could. Also large prints of a raven flopping around their living room in ash after Rowena flew in through the chimney. Also also, Rowena nearly dying when the party stopped watching her for five minutes and she decided to play with matches and sliver bullets at the same time.

The kid’s family didn’t make it past trying to hunt Jonas since the party warned him first and brought back up. Mages are terrifying, Sophie thinks you should know that.

Luna Ayat showed up again, offering to help the werewolf kid kill Jonas in exchange for Jonas’ corpse. The party plus max showed up to fight a mummy only to find several. All of them armed with homemade guns with silver ammo. Max nearly died and a mid air battle was fought for his body featuring Rowena nearly dying for the fourth time, Luna Ayat being confused at her just not dying, and Lena anchoring the pile of near corpse, corpse, and bird to the trees. Surprisingly, no one died until our backs were turned and Jonas got himself killed attacking the werekid.

Things kind of snowballed from there. One of the Birmingham Supernaturalists, Raven, had awakened as a mage at some point during the story and got taken. The mummies left at her apartment seemed like a good lead. Though Sophie had also disappeared, having taken a number of things from the Guardians base/occult shop/coffee house. The party set it up with the Buffys for Hannah to serve as a watch dog at the sorority house, as it would leave her taken care of, tracked down the caves beneath Vulcan where Luna Ayat was hiding, and prepared for their epic final confrontation.

Which ended with him surrendering after gun powder stuffed spiders being detonated destroyed his entire army. Both the party and Luna Ayat discovered that Sophie had been playing them against each other the whole time, just as she melted the Vulcan over them. Exploding spiders once again came into play as the near by museum was destroyed to smoke her out and Sophie was curbed stomped by the vast majority of the party.

All this with no permanent deaths, despite Rowena’s best attempts, and Raven being recovered and woken with true love’s spidery spidery kiss.

Well, at least until glass tried to take out the starvation monster in frustration after we let Luna Ayat go.

They tried, they really did. But Hannah didn’t like being stabbed.

I’m finally getting around to writing this out three weeks into the current game. So, not too too far behind, but more than I would like. I think I’ve mentioned before, but this is the third campaign we’ve got for the same World of Darkness setting so there is a fair amount of carry over. Though most of that is from the last campaign since the original one was sort of off on its own. This is sort of a situation where back ground is helpful though, so let’s dig in.

So, Birmingham Saga part one was an all Changing Breeds campaign, everyone was a shape shifter of some stripe. There was Jonas the truly massive wolf were, Blane and Felina the cat shifters, Margaret the crow, and I cannot remember the rabbit’s name.

They wound up doing some work for a goat headed wizard before becoming the targets of a small cell of hunters, selling the wizard out to a vampire so that he would stop disappearing sorority and fraternity kids, and letting said vampire mind wipe the last of the hunters and take his family’s heirloom sword to save our own hides.

It sort of ended there and the characters presumably went their separate ways.

 

 

This came out later than planned. This one’s thanks to the awesome folks at Curiosity Quills Press. Here’s Richard Roberts’ Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Blew Up The Moon. Enjoy!

Please Dont Tell My Parents I Blew Up the Moon cover

Bad Penny and the rest of the Implacable Machine are bored out of their minds. Going back to school after a break full of super villainy and fighting heroes both their own age and grown up will do that. So of course they jump at the chance to visit Jupiter and see things no human has before. No human except the ones who already live there. With a homemade space ship and the help of a giant spider the Implacable Machine will see everything from alien invaders to robot overlords and the colonies trapped between them. With any luck, they’ll be able to help the rebels and their new friend get their homes back and be on their way towards heroism.

Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Blew Up The Moon follows Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain pretty directly with the Implacable Machine trying to settle back into day to day school lives. It’s got a really strong start there, giving the reader a taste of how dull things are after Penny and company have gone toe to toe with some of the best of the best but then have to go back to being just kids. It gives the reader one of a number of good reasons why the team is so ready to take up Spider’s offer to see what lies beyond the asteroid belt first hand. But it also pulls back a little to anchor things back in the reality of the setting, which is good because the book goes way out there.

This one feels a lot slower than the previous book, largely due to the necessity of doing all the world building for the Puppeteers and the Jupiter colonies and, and, and. This is unfortunate because it slows the book down just enough that it makes it easy to put down. There are all these places being introduced and their rules and culture and it leads to things feeling a little flat. The Puppeteers are scary aliens that can take over people and force them to do whatever. One of the colonies is very steam punk flavored and people are constantly being told what to do by the automatons that functionally rule the place. It feels sketched out but not quite filled in.

There’s a similar problem with some of the characterization. The new friend character bounces between being totally cool with Penny’s powers and how they work and then freaked out about it and jealous over how her brothers and everyone else react to Penny’s power. It’s like a switch flips when Roberts felt the situation demanded it. It doesn’t tend to feel like it fits, like there should have been more build for it and more awareness on Penny’s part. The final boss of the novel has a similar issue, though I can’t really go into that without spoilers.

There are parts that are a ton of fun, especially early on before they reach the Jupiter colonies. The whole bit surrounding the Red Herring being built is a lot of fun. Plus the little bits of Penny and company in class and their classmates’ reactions to Penny’s power manifesting make for a couple of nice notes that what she’s got going on is out of the ordinary. I’m also interested in seeing how the workings of her power continue to develop, given the way Mourning Dove reacts to it and how much it seems to be capable of when given free reign. I’m really excited to see more of all that as the series continues.

As and over all thing, I enjoyed Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain more than Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Blew Up The Moon. While both needed world building it flowed much better for me in the first book, likely due to being set in our world but with supers.  I would have liked to see more put into the new characters introduced, but I feel like at least a couple of them are going to show up again later, so it seems pretty reasonable that they would get more development then. Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Blew Up The Moon is nowhere near a bad book though and I am very much looking forward to reading the next one, so it gets a three out of five.

Hey all, I’ve got something awesome for you today thanks to Patrick Canning. This is the first chapter of his novel Cryptofauna. I’ve got most of the chapter under a cut for space, but this one is a lot of fun, so enjoy!

Cryptofauna cover

1

St. Militrude’s

Jim grabbed a can of root beer for his suicide. He wasn’t particularly big on sassafras or licorice, but drink choices were limited. The tap water at St. Militrude’s Home for the Insane and Elderly was notorious for its eggy flavor. Mellow Yellow was tasty, but the potassium citrate was known to have undesirable drug interactions. Coke was the obvious front runner, except one of the residents had recently thrown every last can of it off the roof in protest of an earlier bed time.

 The conciliatory can of root beer jostled with the rest of the supplies on Jim’s janitorial cart as he pushed it down St. Mili’s labyrinth of hallways, mercifully quiet during the small hours. A jacket was the next item on the grisly scavenger hunt, because nobody wanted to die cold.

Perhaps surprising to some, a bleak occupation in a bleak setting wasn’t the catalyst behind Jim’s decision to end his life. He wasn’t bitter or depressed; he wasn’t heartbroken or mad at the government. Jim had simply made the classic mistake of thinking about it all too much. He’d always been of the suspicion that if one gave it too much thought, it being the why of it all, those thoughts would inevitably lead to suicide, or at least an absence of reasons not to do it. He’d gone in search of meaning and come up short, and this was pro-level stuff he was contemplating. The defeated janitor would’ve done well to stick to simpler, less fatal issues like why the bee makes honey or why yellow traffic lights were curiously but definitely getting shorter.

Jim trudged into the depths of the coatroom, battling a standoffish daddy long legs for nearly a minute before emerging with his white winter parka. He laid the poofy-bag-ofmarshmallows jacket atop the root beer, and pushed his cart to the last stop: the pharmacy.

Because of his plentiful experience with cleaning up other people’s messes and an affinity for his boss, Nurse Gail, Jim had elected to go by pill overdose. It was clean, quiet, and showed respect for the party that was to discover the body.

With an extensive roster of patients in desperate need of daily medication, St. Mili’s pharmacy was a Mecca of dozens of drugs that, when taken in excess, resulted in reliable death. Jim unlocked the mother of all medicine cabinets, perused its dizzying supply of amber bottles, and plucked the relatively obscure and verbally intimidating dikatharide olanzapine. Conventionally used to combat the dreaded tag team of paranoia and psychosis, the drug didn’t cause nausea (again, he really wanted this to be an easy clean up) and with its high levels of liver-busting haloperidol, a successful overdose was all but guaranteed.

Jim parked the supply cart in front of his bedroom door, sandwiched between the king-of ambient-noise boiler room and a storage closet that no one used because a) the door was jammed, and b) it smelled like a wet dog chewing black licorice.

Inside his bedroom at last, Jim locked the door and set the lamp on dim, considering. He sat cross-legged in the center bouquet of his flower-patterned rug, donned his marshmallow jacket, and opened his forced compromise can of root beer. The angry sound of freed carbonation joined a faint rendition of “O Canada” from a dementia-plagued geriatric on the floor above.

Making what he assumed would be his last choice, Jim decided to put liquid in before pills as opposed to the other way around (a traditionally benign but of course hotly-debated topic among the unpredictably opinionated residents of St. Mili’s). He sipped some root beer, and lifted the pills to their manufacturer-unapproved destiny. It was at this moment, in a statistically improbable stroke of luck, that the knob of Jim’s locked door quivered.
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Late again. Sorry all, things have been sort of running in all directions and I feel like I can’t catch up. That aside, this is the first in a series that I’m going to be reviewing the entirety of thanks to the awesome folks at Curiosity Quills Press. Here is Richard Roberts’ Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain. Enjoy!

Please Dont Tell My Parents Im a Super Villan cover

Penelope Akk wants to be a hero like her parents. She knows her power will activate any day now and she’s more than ready to prove herself. When it hits like a lightning bolt of inspiration and leaves her with a new tool that is more than amazing, she’s on her way to greatness. At least, she thinks she is until a confrontation with a hero’s sidekick leaves her and her friends labeled villains. Turns out that no matter how much she wants to be a hero, Penny Akk is really good at being a super villain and her friends aren’t all too ready to talk her out of it. Might as well have fun while it lasts, right?

Richard Robert’s Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain is something of an odd duck of a novel. There’s this whole world built up with heroes and villains and powers. There were aliens that invaded awhile back, but no one’s seen them in forever. Then we have the protagonists sort of getting dropped into all of this. They’re all varying degrees of familiar with the world’s heroes and villains, Penny because of her parents and Clair and Ray due to being into the fandoms, but this is the first time they’re in the middle of it all. It’s odd but easy to go along with.

This book was a lot of fun in a way that I haven’t seen in a while. There’s this massive element of embraced silliness that comes with the whole super villain deal, largely because we’re seeing them as people interacting with, essentially, comrades rather than just antagonists. The little mistakes that Penny makes when telling the Machine to do certain things because she simply hadn’t thought of them are great. They’re a sort of growing pains for a villainous mastermind in training deal. The bits with Clair just goofing around in her bear suit or geeking out about various heroes and villains with Ray do a great job of keeping the tone light and fun.

The various villains that the team winds up rubbing shoulders with are likewise really entertaining. A special focus is given to the other mad scientists, who each have their own particular theme or type of tech that they specialize in, but it winds up being a bit like seeing all the members of this one club grouped up. They rib each other and joke around about their various inventions and how they work. There’s this fantastic character, Apparition, who I feel like I would read a book about on her own. Another character Lucyfar feels like she could also be a favorite of mine later on in the series. Plus, the villains take the protagonists seriously and treat them like they know what they’re doing. The heroes don’t, which feels a little weird all said.

There are a handful of places where it feels like the team winds up doing villainous things because the plot demands it rather than because it fits entirely with what’s going on with the characters. I also found myself wishing that more was done with Miss A, the sidekick who kicks off the Inscrutable Machine’s villainy, because she felt like she could have been such a fantastic antagonist for them. In addition to that, her whole plan to flush out the children of super villains that she’s convinced are at her school is terribly irresponsible and breaks with the idea of not making it personal that’s sort of threaded through a lot of the discussion of hero/villain dynamics. She’s pretty implicitly breaking the understood rules with that and I want to see something come of it.

That said, there’s time for something to come of it, and I’m interested in seeing what comes next. There’s a lot of promise to the world here and Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain gives really good bones for the series to come. It earns a four out of five and I’m going to be coming back to this series later on.

Well, this isn’t when I intended to post this. Life kind of ate my ability to get this one polished up for Friday, which is unfortunate. Having finished the series and written reviews for all three books, I find myself kind of wanting to do a spoiler-y overview of the whole deal. Talk about the things I enjoyed more in depth and bring up a few of the places that I think it could have been stronger overall. That might be a project for later. In any case, here’s Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Fourth Closet by Scott Cawthon and Kira Breed-Wrisley. Enjoy!

FNaF The Fourth Closet cover

The past isn’t easy to escape. Charlie died, John was there when it happened, but a woman with her face showed up at the dinner days later. He’s certain it wasn’t her no matter how the rest of their friends insist. Some things aren’t meant to be forgotten. There’s a new pizzeria in Hurricane, Circus Baby’s Pizza. Kids are disappearing again. Just like ten years ago. Strange things are happening, Charlie isn’t herself and nothing she’s doing or saying adds up. Jessica doesn’t want to believe John, but what if he’s right? Carlton, Jessica, Marla, and John have a few more answers to find if they want to lay the past to rest.

I have mixed feelings on this one. Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Fourth Closet is meant to be the final book in the trilogy started back in The Sliver Eyes. There are a number of good moments here, places where things just click and they work really well. But clunky scenes and spots where things just don’t feel solid are also interspersed throughout. There’s been this B movie feel to the books so far. Things haven’t needed to makes absolute sense because it’s been fun enough to make up for it, there’s only so serious you can get with haunted animatronics after all. The Fourth Closet tries to be a more dramatic book, so a lot of the B movie vibes don’t carry as well.

Part of this is down to how rushed the various story lines can feel. We go from the question of if the new woman was Charlie to the reveal of her being an antagonist in what feels like no time at all. There’s a lot early on of John’s life falling apart due after Charlie’s death that drags on for a couple chapters, but doesn’t really do anything once the story gets rolling. There’s a lot that feels like it should have been introduced earlier and allowed to build longer for better impact. A lot of things feel like they should have been given more weight within the story but where cut short to rush on to the next thing.

That’s sort of the major thing for me on this one. When The Fourth Closet lets characters be the focus within the plot it can work really, really well. There’s a bit where resident fashion girl, Jessica, is trapped by the antagonists and has to keep safe and try and figure out what they’re doing. The reader gets to see her forcing herself to think on other things to stay calm, we get to see her being competent and focused. Her confrontation with one of the animatronics is one of my favorite parts of the book. Another character, Carlton, gets a lot of really good lines that reflect his previous funny man characterization. But then he also gets a really nice character arc that picks up his feelings of having failed his best friend from The Silver Eyes. Even Charlie and Circus Baby get a couple of nice moments, though I wish there had been more lead up to those moments.

I do feel like John was the major weak point in the character work though. Any empathy for Circus Baby sort of hinges on the reader being familiar with her from the games’ lore, she really needed that lead up as more than just another monster. But that’s sort of expected at this point, the Five Nights at Freddy’s novels are an alternate universe to the games but still pull heavily from them. John doesn’t really have that excuse. He’s billed as the protagonist of this novel, but then he doesn’t really do anything that any of the other characters couldn’t have. Most of what he does do is bone headed and could have been easily worked around. He’s the not love interest who seems desperate to be in love with the idea of Charlie rather than the character herself. The other characters have their own lives going on outside of the plot, things that happen outside of undead murderers and possessed robots. John doesn’t have that and is a much weaker character for it. He needed something outside of his feelings regarding Charlie to work.

I feel like that’s as far as I can go without delving into major spoilers. In a lot of ways, I feel like The Fourth Closet should have been broken up into two books and more time given to both the new batch of missing kids and Charlie and not Charlie. It’s very wanting in more room to spread out and show the best of itself. There are some legitimately tense scenes here that I really enjoyed. There are some emotional scenes that are good, but that could have been so much more if only we had more time to process them. There’s the big reveal that could have been so awesome, if it had been built up better or if characters were given time to react to it and themselves process it. It’s fun, but flawed in serious ways, which nets Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Fourth Closet a three out of five. I’d revisit this series again if another book was released.

So, it took a little longer than to the end of the night. But , it turns out I had a bit more to say than I’d thought. Worse things have happened. I spent two weeks tracking down a copy of the second book in this series, here is Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine Complex. Enjoy!

Heroine Complex cover

Aveda Jupiter is San Francisco’s super heroine, stopping demonic invasions as they crop up throughout the city. She’s brilliant at it and fantastic with the crowds. Unfortunately she’s also brilliantly difficult to work with, at least for anyone except her assistant Evie Tanaka. Unfortunately for Evie posing as Aveda Jupiter, being her while the real Aveda is out of commission, is much more difficult than just working for her. Stopping the incoming demonic invasion might just be easy by comparison.

Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine Complex was a total impulse pick for me while I was visiting my folks awhile back. The cover was cool and the blurb sounded fun. It kind of reminded me of some of the stuff I read back in high school. Plus, I just like the concept of the sidekick having to take on super hero level stuff and, through that, becoming a hero in her own right.

I liked Evie a lot, she opens up as the book progresses and lets herself have her feelings instead of keeping them locked back. Evie starts out so afraid of her feelings, afraid of what could happen if she felt strongly enough to trigger her powers. She’s afraid of the damage she could do if she lost control again. But then she’s forced to play the hero and the love interest is brought in and her feelings for him grow. She learns to not be afraid of them or of herself, which is a plot line that I enjoy greatly. It feeds into that character coming into her own, thing that I tend to enjoy so much.

I do wish less had been as reliant on the love interest, Nate, as it felt like it was. The book starts with Evie and Nate being almost at odds. He’s this big grump who serves as the team’s physician and demon researcher, he doesn’t do his share of chores around the HQ, and he’s inflexible in his methods. At least until Evie as Aveda needs a body guard/date to an event and it’s revealed that he looks really good in a suit. Then long moments are given over to Evie and Nate having couple moments and he becomes Evie’s rock. It interrupts the story and, since I’m not really here for the romance, drags more than a little. Admittedly, my issues here are almost entirely to do with how much page space the romance takes up rather than with Nate himself. He’s a solid character and it was nice to see him come out of his shell a little as he and Evie got closer.

The romance was mentioned in the blurb, so I expected it, but it felt fairly sudden and out of nowhere.  They were at odds and then they weren’t. He was an off putting grump and then he wasn’t. The turnaround is fast and I find myself wishing that there had been more of a slow burn thing going on. I also find myself wishing that it had eaten less of the page count just on its own, that more had been done make it feel like a break from the plot that gave Evie a much needed break from being something she wasn’t. It could have given a great view into her growth rather than feeling like the reason for it. This is one of the things that reminds me a lot of the stuff I was reading a decade ago and it’s the only bit I feel like I could have done without.

The flipside to the romance, something that I really enjoyed quite a bit, was Evie’s history with Aveda. This friendship that they’d had since they were grade schoolers that had kept solid for years and years through being social outsiders and the initial demon portal, through Evie’s power erupting horribly and Annie’s rise to super heroism and reinvention as Aveda Jupiter. It’s a friendship that’s gone a bit sour with Aveda’s whole super heroine diva thing and the way she tends to steamroll Evie’s thoughts and feelings on issues. Evie’s there to deal with Aveda’s temper tantrums and to guide her into better moods when things aren’t going her way, but then there doesn’t seem to be a ton she gets out of it aside from a pay check and fulfilling a sense of loyalty to her oldest friend. It was nice to see that have to change as Evie continued to stand in for Aveda and the public loved her and her power. It was nice to see how their relationship changed and strengthened as the plot rolled on.

That’s really where I land on this one. Heroine Complex was a fun nostalgic read for me. The characters were awesome and, while I could have done with less of the romance aspect, I’m definitely reading the other two books in the series. I want to spend more time with these characters, to see them grow and continue to come into their own. I want to see what Sarah Kuhn does going forward and how a world with demon portals and super heroines continues to develop. I’m giving Heroine Complex a four out of five and noting that the second book is already on my desk waiting for its chance to be read.

This was later than planned, still working on fixing that. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a long time. Thanks to  James Aquilone, here is Dead Jack and the Soul Catcher. Enjoy!

Dead Jack and the Soul Catcher cover

Dead Jack, the best zombie detective in Shadow Shade, saved Pandemonium from certain destruction. It was totally him. The cost was high though, Oswald hasn’t woken up since her took the blast from the Pandemonium Device exploding. Without Oswald there Jack’s fallen off the wagon, spending his days in a haze of dust and Devil Boy. He hasn’t had a case in weeks. Lucky for Jack an old army buddy from his living days, Garry, has tracked him down with the promise of finding their souls. Just, get someone to translate the diary Garry stole, find the alchemist who has their souls, and dodge the neo-Nazis that want to use his sidekick to wipe out Pandemonium. Nothing difficult for the best zombie detective in Shadow Shade. Right?

Dead Jack and the Soul Catcher follows a book that I enjoyed a great deal, removes a big chunk of what I liked about it, and still leaves me waiting for the next book. The last book gave us a noir style detective with all the tropes associated, but then never tried to make him right or to present his behavior as correct. Dead Jack is a massive jerk, and that’s great because he gets called on it. Here though, Oswald is out of the picture so that element of humanization is absent. Instead we get more of Dead Jack the character instead of Dead Jack the plot device, we get into his history as he’s forced to deal with feelings and memories and a lot of things that he generally doesn’t.

A lot of Jack’s memories tie into his time in World War 2, particularly dealing with his death and the horrific experiments visited upon him. The way he became Dead Jack. This works pretty fantastically to show the reader more about the man Jack had been, especially when that man and the zombie we know don’t line up quite right. That’s a fantastic draw for me. Tie it in with Dead Jack seeming to soften up to his companions a little and I’m excited to see where his characterization goes from here.

Now, the group of neo-Nazis who had been experimenting on him follow Garry into the story. They’re after the diary and him again, but more than that, they want Oswald as part of a plan to steal all the souls in Pandemonium. They are the biggest threat of the book, bigger than dark elf prison guards or giant spiders or the devil himself. They have the ability to potentially bring Pandemonium to its knees. They’re weirdly obsessed with their uniforms and how nice they are. The book manages to strike a balance between making it clear that they’re fanboys for the original Nazis and that that is ridiculous and making it clear that they are an actual threat to Pandemonium and very dangerous. It also makes it incredibly satisfying when they get punched.

Much like Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device this isn’t a super serious book and it plays with familiar tropes. I enjoy it all the more for that. This was a fun read, it maintains the quality of the first book, and it leaves me impatient for the next one. So, yeah, Dead Jack and the Soul Catcher gets a five out of five. If James Aquilone keeps this up he’s going to wind up one of my favorite authors.

I’m later than I meant to be. After spending the first half of the week stressing out and not getting anything done I kind of crashed yesterday and got even more nothing done. I also hit PM instead of AM scheduling it, which it A+. But I’m back now, so it’s all good. This one is thanks to the awesome folks at Curiosity Quills Press. This is Sarah Madsen’s Weaver’s Folly. Enjoy!

Weavers Folly cover

A run gone bad leaves elven thief Alyssa D’Yaragen, Lysistrata when she’s on a run, with a fantastic opportunity. All she has to do is work with the guy who made the last run go bad for her and steal some data from a company. A super high profile mega corporation , Americorp, whose security is guaranteed to give both of them more than a run for their money, but still. The pay and challenge are way too good to pass up. Complicating things somewhat her ex, Tristan, shows up begging forgiveness and offering a too good to be true opportunity for information gathering. More complicated even than a cheating ex are the sparks that fly when she meets gorgeous Seraphina Dubhan, feelings and all that. When she becomes the target of magical attacks any other concerns have to take a back seat to keeping her friends out of the cross fire and surviving. Surviving and, of course, getting the Americorp job done.

I initially found myself comparing Sarah Madsen’s Weaver’s Folly to a number of things, mostly Shadowrun. The whole protagonist is a highly specialized thief in a world with both magic and cyber punk style tech is what does it I think. Magic and technology not working together is also a similarity, but I feel like that is a sort of ground rule thing. You don’t want to give a character supercharged magic powers and a cybernetic body to keep them from getting worn out using them, so it’s a functional limiter in the world of the story.

I like that a lot actually. It separates the main character from a near necessary set of tools and forces her to rely on other characters, particularly Logan.  It also gives her an edge that most other characters simply can’t access while forcing her to keep it a secret. I feel like more weight could be given to the secrecy aspect later in the series, but it does make a degree of sense. I feel like this would go hand in hand with more focus being brought in on the elven aspect of the magic, or the elven aspect of Alyssa.

The characters interest me more than the magic though. There are a few places where the interactions are a bit stiff, but most of those feel like they’re meant to be a little awkward. I like most of the characters and enjoyed seeing Alyssa and Logan working together. I wanted to see more of Alyssa’s roommate and more of Seraphina, the mysterious woman Alyssa winds up crushing on. Alyssa herself has an interesting thing going on with regard to where she belongs between Arcadia and Atlanta. She has people she cares about in both places and both places are part of her. It was interesting to see her think on that some.

Weaver’s Folly feels like a first book in a couple of ways. This is largely due to some clunky exposition early on, a couple of things get explained in a block immediately upon being brought up rather than later where they would have flowed better. The bit with light elves, like Alyssa, and dark elves historically hating each other was a particularly jarring example. I would have liked to have seen more on that throughout, since it seems like it should be important in later books.

That kind of ties into my other issue, there’s this prophecy early on that comes back up a couple of times and it feels like it should tie really heavily into one of the antagonists. It feels like it should but the support for that connection isn’t there, just boom here’s an antagonist. This was really frustrating for me for a lot of reasons, but a lot of it boils down to looking back and seeing places where foreshadowing might have been attempted but wasn’t done well enough or consistently enough to add up to anything. It wound up feeling like it had been shoved in at the end to lead into the next book.

The thing at the end affected my reading of the book more than anything else. Stumbles are an expected thing in the first book in a series. But I flat don’t like it when the end of a book feels like the prologue to the next. That said, there’s enough that Madsen did well in Weaver’s Folly that I was already planning on reading the next one when it comes out. I liked her characters and would have liked to have seen more of them. The separation between cyber punk Atlanta and deeply magical Arcadia is fascinating to me. I’m curious about the specifics of how magic works here. The whole of the book leaves me wanting more and for that, Weaver’s Folly gets a four out of five.