Review: “He Said, Sidhe Said,” Tanya Huff

Pros: Great Tanya Huff fantasies in short form
Cons: Any anthology is likely to have stories that don’t appeal to you as much as others
Rating: 4 out of 5

 

Tanya Huff’s He Said, Sidhe Said is a delightful anthology of her short stories (a small collection, perfect at its low Kindle price). The problem with anthologies is that it’s almost impossible for every story to suit a given reader’s tastes, but overall this one is of very good quality.

A Choice of Endings: in which an incarnation of the Crone decides to do something small-i important with her last hours–something she’s not supposed to involve herself in. It’s a poignant tale, yet with some nice humor. It’s one of my favorites in this book.

Finding Marcus: A dog has lost his master, and is left making his way from world to world via Gates in order to try to find him. He meets up with a crow who takes an interest in his tale. This is a fascinating little interlude, exciting and sweet.

He Said, Sidhe Said is an amusingly modern tale in which the queen of the fairies takes a most unsuitable lover–and a tale of the lengths she’ll go to in order to get rid of him while saving face. Not my favorite style of fairy story, and I’m not fond of the characters, but there’s some marvelous tongue-in-cheek humor here.

I’ll be Home for Christmas: A woman and her daughter inherit a decrepit house in the country and try to make a new life for themselves there. Unfortunately it seems like disaster after disaster drains the last of their savings, and strange happenings plague their waking hours. The ending is a little abrupt, but very clever and sly, and I definitely enjoyed this one.

Tuesday Evenings, Six Thirty to Seven: In which a woman takes on a very unusual troupe of Brownies, preparing them to become Girl Guides. She has to adapt her usual methods in odd ways, but she’s determined to do right by her little group. This is one of my favorite stories in this anthology–it’s delightful and touching.

Never let them know they’d flustered you. Little girls reacted to weakness like wolves — which was not particularly fair to wolves, who were, on the whole, noble creatures. But saying that little girls reacted to weakness like chickens, who were known to peck their companions to death, didn’t have the same kind of mythic power behind it, even though it was more biologically accurate.

Under Summons: This one takes place in the same world as Tanya Huff’s Keeper novels. I don’t think you need to have read those books to enjoy this story, although it would probably help. This is a nice, quirky little adventure for Diana and her talking cat, Sam, but it doesn’t have quite the emotional resonance of some of the other stories.

Word of Honour: A young woman in need of a job takes on an unusual burden: to take a relic to Scotland and leave it in a certain grave. She faces temptations along the way, even as the relic shows her visions of the past. The ending of the story gave me chills.

 

While it’s true that I find anthologies average out to be less than perfect, I definitely enjoyed a preponderance of the stories in He Said, Sidhe Said–and thus I recommend it to any fan of Tanya Huff, or of quirky urban fantasy.

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Review: “Bayou Moon,” Ilona Andrews

Pros: Fantastic characters & plot
Cons:
Rating: 5 out of 5

William is a changeling, able to shift form into a wolf, governed by its needs and moods. He’s been offered a chance at revenge: revenge against a man, Spider, who slaughtered changeling children. All he has to do is find out what Spider is searching for and get to it first. That search will take him deep into the Mire, the domain of the Mar family. There he’ll meet Cerise, head of the family and a deadly opponent who would do anything to protect her people. Her family holds the key to Spider’s searches, and keeping them alive will take all of William’s wiles.

 

Bayou Moon is book two of the Edge series by Ilona Andrews. Unfortunately I haven’t read book one (I certainly want to now!), but I found I didn’t need to in order to appreciate and understand Bayou Moon. It stands remarkably well on its own.

William and Cerise are my favorite parts of this book. Each one has plenty of depth and their interplay is delightful. In particular, Cerise is a marvelous strong female lead. She has guts and determination; she’s fierce yet proudly human and flawed. Family interactions also take center stage, and they have plenty of delicious complexity to them. Nothing is simple or cut-and-dried. Everything has layers; everyone has motivations. Andrews is also extremely good at depicting not-entirely-human characters, with their own quirks and habits.

Combat in Bayou Moon is heart-stoppingly magnificent, tense, and utterly cinematic. I can easily picture the battles in my mind’s eye. The magics are heady and dark, an almost organic blend of styles and traditions that suits its milieu. My only problem with this book is that now I have to catch up on the rest of the series–it’s too good to miss!

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Non-Review: “Micro,” Michael Crichton and Richard Preston

I do a “non-review” when I couldn’t finish a book. I won’t rate it on Amazon or GoodReads, but I don’t mind telling you here why I chose not to finish. If there’s one thing I’ve found over the years, it’s that there are too many good books to spend my time finishing a book that I can’t get into.

Micro: A Novel is by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston. In it, a handful of students with various bio-related specialties get propositioned by an amazing young company called Nanigen. Peter, one of the students (specializing in envenomation), is brother to Eric, one of the bigwigs at Nanigen. Just as the group of students is going to visit Nanigen, Eric dies amid mysterious circumstances. Peter immediately finds evidence implicating Alyson, Eric’s girlfriend and another Nanigen powerhouse, and decides to confront her and her boss.

Naturally that goes horribly awry. The eeeevil bad guy is all-too-happy to explain himself to the camera and to get rid of the pesky students in as complicated and prone-to-mishaps a way possible. Alyson is shown as pathetic, going along with the bad guy in his psychotic plans because she kinda still likes him, or something like that.

All of this was kind of ‘meh,’ but what really did it for me was having the bad guy shrink the students down to roughly half an inch high. This book doesn’t read as though it’s supposed to be a comedy, but I think there’s a reason why every movie that’s had this as its premise has been at least partially a comedy. It’s a silly premise. It just is.

My Kindle tells me I made it through 26% of the book before giving up on it.

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Review: “The Cutting Room,” ed. by Ellen Datlow

Pros: Cerebral horror for film buffs
Cons: I couldn’t connect emotionally with many of the stories
Rating: 3 out of 5

Advance copy provided free by Tachyon Publications.
Expected publication date: 10/14/2014.

 

The Cutting Room: Dark Reflections of the Silver Screen is an anthology edited by Ellen Datlow that is:

…an exploration of the dark side of movies and moviemaking, with views from both sides of the lens.

It’s a bunch of short horror stories that involve films, filmmaking, or some other aspect of cinema. The stories were published in the range of 1985-2005 (apart from one first-time appearance) and there are 23 of them (including two poems). Authors include Edward Bryant, Steve Nagy, Dennis Etchison, F. Paul Wilson, A.C. Wise, Peter Straub, Ian Watson, Howard Waldrop, David Morrell, Robert Shearman, Gemma Files, Stephen J. Barringer, Gary McMahon, Nicholas Royle, Garry Kilworth, Gary A. Braunbeck, Lucy A. Snyder, Douglas E. Winter, Genevieve Valentine, Joel Lane, Stephen Graham Jones, Laird Barron, and Daphne Gottlieb. Titles range from “Tenderizer” to “Filming the Making of the Film of the Making of Fitzcarraldo“.

Normally I’d give a little intro to what I thought, give brief takes on some of the individual stories that struck me as in some way particularly good or bad, then wrap it up. Not this time, however. I’m not going to address individual stories because frankly, not many of them really stood out to me, for a handful of reasons.

There’s a certain similarity of pacing and type of voice in many of these stories that made the book feel monotonous and uninteresting. I love horror and find the anthology’s guiding concept fascinating, so this really surprised me. I had so much trouble picking the book up again after each story that it took me three days to read it, which is unusual (and only happens when a book isn’t holding my interest). There’s a preponderance of rather meta- or high-concept pieces, and while I sometimes enjoy a cerebral or meandering horror, there were too many of these stories strung one after another in here.

Some of the stories are neat but just don’t feel like horror, so they weren’t what I was looking for in this anthology. A handful were eerie or creepy, but many of the rest were just clever or interesting without the emotional frisson of horror.

I have this creeping feeling that I’m going to be told by readers who love this book that if I’d understood the pieces better, or had a better understanding of film, I’d have thought they were great. Maybe they’ll tell me I’m looking for crass scares when I ought to be getting into highly cerebral horror (I’m a fan of Thomas Ligotti so I thought I enjoyed odd, surreal horror, but these stories didn’t give me the same feeling as his). Maybe I really just didn’t get it and people with a ‘higher’ understanding of the art form will be much more impressed. In that case, hopefully my review will allow you to decide whether you fall into that camp that will probably ‘get it,’ or, like me, you’re more likely to feel confused and ‘meh’ about the whole thing.

Lest you think I’m slamming the book, I don’t think it was bad. There’s a reason I’m giving it a 3 out of 5 rather than a 2 out of 5. The stories were clever and some of them did give me that creepy vibe. Sometimes the surreality did seem to be in service to a higher goal rather than pointless or overkill. But when I review a book like this I take notes on each story, and I didn’t end up writing anything down for the majority of the stories present–I just couldn’t think of anything interesting to say about them. I’m disappointed, because the concept was a good one and I’m used to being thrilled by the anthologies Ellen Datlow edits.

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Review: “Blood Trail,” Tanya Huff

Pros: Engaging, interesting, and tense
Cons:
Rating: 4 out of 5

Vampire Henry Fitzroy has a favor to ask of Vicki Nelson–Vicki is an ex-cop and current PI, and he knows a few werewolves who could use her help. Someone’s killing them with silver bullets, but thanks to incredible marksmanship and careful planning, they can’t catch his scent. They have no idea where to start looking, particularly since their small town doesn’t offer many places to hide. It’ll take the instincts of a trained investigator to figure out who’s shooting at them–before they lose anyone else.

 

Blood Trail is the second book in Tanya Huff’s “Blood Books” vampire series. It can also be found as the second half of the omnibus volume The Blood Books, Vol. 1 (Blood Price / Blood Trail). Blood Price is the first volume of the series, and while not as stunning as, say, Huff’s more recent Confederation novels, is still a good vampire/police tale. Blood Trail is even better, with great pacing and plenty of tension.

I love Tanya Huff’s take on werewolves. This book was originally published in 1992, well before most of the modern shapeshifter urban fantasies, and she dove right into the notion of what makes werewolves different from both wolves and humans. Thinking about those more recent tales, I particularly appreciate that she delves into the realm of shapeshifter sexuality without simply stopping at an easy combination of dominance/submission and the ol’ one-true-mate standby. Pack sexuality is much more interesting, and has some complex family dynamics.

Vicki’s relationships with the two men in her life–Henry, and her ex-partner Mike Celluci–are getting complicated. She and Henry are dancing around the question of where they’re taking things next. Mike isn’t quite willing to let go of Vicki yet, and doesn’t trust Henry even a little. Celluci is in danger of stumbling into Henry’s secrets, especially when he decides to follow Vicki out into the countryside. His unwelcome involvement in the werewolves’ business forces both him and Vicki to face questions about ethics, morality, and the law that neither of them wants to deal with. I appreciate how Huff explores this part of their personalities and relationship; she doesn’t hand-wave it away, nor does she draw it out too far. I also like the fact that Vicki’s relationships aren’t cut-and-dried. She’s allowed to have feelings for both men, and each of those relationships is very different.

Ms. Huff employs her usual skill at creating fascinating secondary characters. The werewolves have a ton of personality as they shift back and forth at a moment’s notice, displaying both animal playfulness and predatory dangerousness. Their natures and personalities interfere with Vicki’s attempts to keep them safe, and they have difficulty coming to grips with a danger they can’t see.

The plot isn’t terribly complex, but manages to provide plenty of tension. The pacing is fantastic, and I got completely caught up in the dangers of the climax!

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Review: “Blood Price,” Tanya Huff

Pros: Interesting tale with good twists & turns
Cons: A bit slow; didn’t wholly pull me in
Rating: 4 out of 5

 

Blood Price is the first installment in Tanya Huff’s Blood Books. It can also be found as the first half of the omnibus volume The Blood Books, Vol. 1 (Blood Price / Blood Trail). This is an older book, originally published in 1991, and while it has some of Tanya Huff’s trademark style and voice, it isn’t as intense as her more recent offerings.

 

Vicki Nelson has retired from the Toronto police force due to vision problems. Now she’s making a living as a private investigator, and a new client wants her to find a vampire–more specifically, a vampire that, according to the tabloids, is terrorizing Toronto. Even Vicki can’t deny that she hasn’t yet found any rational explanation for the horrific killings sweeping the area. Her former partner, Mike Celluci, wants her to leave the whole thing alone. Writer Henry Fitzroy quickly becomes the only ‘partner’ Vicki feels she can trust–and Henry is a vampire, although he insists the killings are being carried out by something else entirely. Soon everyone is in danger: Vicki, Mike, Henry, Vicki’s client, and the entire city along with them.

 

Tanya Huff exhibits some of her usual skill with characters–even with the extended cast of extras I rarely became confused, because the characters had real personality. I enjoyed her curmudgeonly main character, Vicki, as an antidote to the standard urban fantasy heroine, and loved Vicki’s on-again off-again combative relationship with her ex-partner.

The mythology of vampires took a back seat to the characters and plot, which I appreciated. There was no need to delve too deeply into every detail of how they operated when the actual vampiric character, Henry, had much more to give to the story. Henry also manages to avoid many of the standard cliches, and I love that he writes bodice-rippers for a living!

The hysteria of the city increases as the body count rises, with people suddenly willing to believe in things they normally wouldn’t, resulting in all sorts of danger for our good-guy vampire. I enjoy the roadblocks thrown up by that, as well as some of the dark consequences.

The actual what’s-going-on was interesting, and the plot resolved in surprising and unusual ways. The book was on the slow side, especially compared to Huff’s recent offerings. It took a while to pull me in, but I very much enjoyed it once things got going.

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Review: “Contamination” Boxed Set, Books 0-3, T.W. Piperbrook

Pros: Some decent zombie action
Cons: Too many logical inconsistencies; flat characters
Rating: 1.5 out of 5

 

Warning: This review will contain spoilers.

 

Contamination Boxed Set (Books 0-3 in the series) by T.W. Piperbrook is a tale of the zombie apocalypse (even if it isn’t called that). One day people go crazy; their eyes turn black and they become mindless killing machines. A few people seem immune and scramble to find safety. Unfortunately, someone’s behind the mysterious zombification of their neighbors, and that someone wants to make sure everyone dies. Goons with guns are chasing down those few people who are left. Our heroes need to avoid zombies and humans if they want to survive.

There are a few good tense moments early on in Contamination Zero. Unfortunately it then takes on a distinctive Walking Dead vibe, complete with lawman raiding the station for guns and trying to protect his kid. The burgeoning zombie menace is also pretty standard fare, reducing the tension dramatically. There are a few odd details–these aren’t the digging-out-of-a-grave type zombies, so why would some of them have tattered shoes and dirty teeth on night one of the plague? Also, we quickly find out that the contamination came via some combination of poisoned food supply and water supply. Given the vagaries of who’s eating/drinking what, and how much, and when, how did nearly everyone manage to turn at almost the same time on the same night?

Book one (the second book) picks up with a different group of people. They of course include the requisite geeky guy whose glasses end up taped together and who seems most concerned with whether or not the young woman is impressed with him. There’s less of a Walking Dead vibe this time around. I was a bit confused, however. There’s a zombie in this installment who seems… calculating. He seems to be less mindless than the others. Yet this never goes anywhere, never gets remarked upon, never leads to any revelations. This could have led to interesting plot material, but it doesn’t.

Book two introduces us to the bad guys behind the zombie plague. Unfortunately this creates more problems than it solves–and I don’t just mean for our heroes. Apparently the plague is, for the moment, limited to a handful of southwestern states. Vectors include several sources of food (ground beef is mentioned) and local water sources. In the case of food, you wouldn’t be able to guarantee that enough people would eat a given type of food. In the case of water, there would have to be an awful lot of bad guys to treat every water source in several states simultaneously. It just doesn’t add up. Also, if it’s only affecting a chunk of the United States, then where’s the National Guard? Why aren’t there helicopters, planes, convoys of troops, CDC researchers? It’s as though the rest of the world has shrugged and forgotten those states existed.

The bad guys all act like psychotic thugs, making it exceedingly difficult to imagine them being as well-organized and -disciplined as would be required for the setup we’re asked to believe in. They’re going town-by-town to kill off stragglers instead of waiting for the zombies to kill off people for them. They’re also trying not to waste their ammo on the zombies, because the zombies will die off within several weeks. Well that’s great and all, but in doing all of this they’re losing as many of their own people to the zombies as they’re managing to kill off from the survivors. All they’d have to do is hang out on the borders of the contaminated area, tell people they’re there to help, and then hand a poisoned bottle of water to any survivor that comes along. The bad guys are acting like particularly brainless stereotypical militia-types, only we’re supposed to believe they have vast resources and contacts spanning most industries.

Which brings us to… why on earth did they try to wipe out the population using a plague that turns people into mindless killing machines for several weeks? How does that make any kind of sense? Wouldn’t it be better to infect or poison them with something that would just kill them outright? Hell, if it were a poison instead of a virus then there wouldn’t be all these immune people, which eliminates one more messy step of a messed-up plan.

In book three we spend some time with the man who’s behind the zombie contamination. Unfortunately he makes no sense whatsoever. He’s a pea-brained narcissistic knife-obsessed thug who spends all of his time working out and pretending to be one of his own minions. And yet we’re supposed to believe he’s masterminded biological warfare against an entire region of the United States, and apparently has enough influence over the government to get them to ignore the whole thing. Anyone with the kind of smarts, money, and resources that he supposedly has should be able to think of ten better ways to get what he wants than by engineering a zombie apocalypse.

Every writer needs to sit down at some point, list out his major plot points, and ask the question: WHY? Why does it need to be a plague instead of a poison? Why does it need to be a zombie plague? Not in terms of what the writer wants from the story, but in the context of the world and its inhabitants. It seems as though that question never got asked, and has no answer.

There’s some definite bad dialogue, flat, stereotyped characters, and details that make no sense. But I’m not going to spend space on those because they pale next to the plot holes you could drive a truck through.

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Review: “Magic Breaks,” Ilona Andrews

Pros: Stunning climax to several of the plot threads in the Kate Daniels series
Cons: Hard to wait for more!
Rating: 5 out of 5

 

Magic Breaks is book seven of the fantastic Kate Daniels series by husband-and-wife writing team Ilona Andrews. I read book six first, then went back to read the entire series. (I actually read book six twice, and it’s rare for me to re-read books.)

In Magic Breaks, Curran is called away to deal with a problem elsewhere and Kate has to go to Conclave in his place–frankly she’d rather stab herself with a rusty fork, but that’s the price of being Consort to the Beast Lord. Hugh, her father’s warlord, has set plans in motion to start a war between the Pack and the People, leaving Kate scrambling to head that plan off at the pass. Of course all that gets complicated when Hugh’s own impatience to capture Kate for her father sends him after her–and her friends, who are nothing more than leverage to him. Somehow Kate has to keep her friends alive, stop a war, and oh yeah, survive. And if she manages all of that, she’ll still have her ultra-powerful father to deal with when she’s done.

 

The inevitable confrontation between Kate and her father is coming fast, but there’s a lot that can happen between now and then. Hugh’s psychotic rampage through Atlanta is just the start, and will leave quite a few casualties in its wake. The action, tension, and danger ramp up fast and hard in this installment, and I was glued to the pages from start to finish. There are plenty of surprises, and I was thrilled to finally see Kate’s father put in an appearance. The authors manage to deliver on six books’ worth of promise without falling short, and it’s tough to live up to that kind of buildup.

The characters are, as always, fantastic. I still love the sarcastic, push-and-pull relationship between Curran and Kate. They love each other madly, but that doesn’t change the fact that they both have prickly, proud personalities, and the dynamic there is wonderful. The chemistry is unusual and out of this world. Kate is pushed even further into her reluctant role as protector of those she cares for.

The worldbuilding is just divine. Many urban fantasy/paranormal series try to keep new books interesting by introducing more unusual things at every turn. One book will deal with vampires, the next shapeshifters, while the next introduces witches, and the one after that faeries… you get the idea. It’s a case of kitchen-sink-itis that after a while makes many worlds feel all too similar to each other. The authors of the Kate Daniels series instead provide us with new and wonderful characters and plot developments, maintaining a strong, vibrant, unique feel to their world throughout.

I can’t rave nearly as much as I’d like to, because I don’t want to risk giving away the unusual and wonderful developments from Magic Breaks. There are plenty of unexpected events, there’s action to spare, and the revelations fly fast and fierce. All I can really say is that it lives up to those six books of setup and yet leaves me absolutely wanting more!

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Review: “Magic Slays,” Ilona Andrews

Pros: Wow!
Cons: I thought it started out a little slow
Rating: 5 out of 5

 

Magic Slays (Kate Daniels) is book five of the Kate Daniels series by husband-and-wife team Ilona Andrews. I started with book six, Magic Rises, and loved it so much that I had to go back to book one, Magic Bites to read the whole series (followed by Magic Burns, Magic Strikes, and Magic Bleeds). Other than a slightly rocky start to the narration in book one–and in the first book of a series that isn’t a real sin–the series has been nothing other than superb. Magic Slays hooked me slightly slowly, but then I’ve been overdosing on thrillers lately, so my threshold is a little high. And it doesn’t matter anyway, because the events of the book were so spellbinding that anything else was swept away. The first thing I did when I finished the book was go out and get book seven (Magic Breaks).

[W]hen Atlanta’s premier Master of the Dead calls to ask for help with a vampire on the loose, Kate leaps at the chance of some paying work. But it turns out that this is not an isolated incident. Kate needs to get to the bottom of it–and fast, or the city and everyone dear to her may pay the ultimate price…

I’ve been looking forward to seeing Julie–Kate’s ward–take on more of a role in these books, and she finally does in Magic Slays. We get to see bits of her growing up and the ways in which she’s affected Kate’s life and outlook. We also get to see the delightful push-and-pull of Kate and Curran’s relationship through all of its ups and downs as they try to work out the boundaries of what they have between them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a literary relationship quite like it, which is a joy. They’re rough and gruff and have difficulty with their emotions, and when they aren’t sparring with words then they’re either loving each other fiercely or pounding the crap out of each other–and they’re well enough matched that they can do that, which each of them needs in a partner. It’s fantastic.

The stakes are high in this installment, with the lives of every being that’s so much as touched by magic in the Atlanta area in danger. This is enough to get even the fractious groups of that area to work together, but they still bicker and squabble, and the anti-magic group has moles in a handful of places. It’ll take everyone–Masters of the Dead, Pack, witches, druids, mercenaries, and more–to track down the bad guys and penetrate their formidable defenses. It’ll take way more than that for Kate to save the lives of the people she loves.

The characters are beautiful, with depth and so much personality. The relationships are delightfully prickly, especially Kate and Curran’s. I avidly ate up the new scraps of information about Kate, her childhood, and her heritage–the authors have managed to draw that out at a perfect rate, always providing new information and a new perspective on things while leaving more to come. The revelations and action came at a breakneck pace, and I could barely set the book down once I got sucked in. At one point toward the end I had to get up and take care of something else and I just could not stop thinking about the book the entire time.

The Kate Daniels series of books by Ilona Andrews is one of my favorites. I hope the books and revelations keep coming fast!

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Review: “Magic Bleeds,” Ilona Andrews

Pros: Great plot progression & relationship movement
Cons:
Rating: 5 out of 5

 

I’m completely addicted to the Kate Daniels series of books by the husband-and-wife team that writes under Ilona Andrews’s name. I happened to read book six (Magic Rises) first, and went back to read the rest of the series. Magic Bleeds is book four. The narrative is smooth and compelling, neatly conveying Kate’s voice and personality in everything she does. I absolutely love all of the characters, from the complex and compelling mains to the wide variety of delightful secondaries. Even the side characters have their ongoing plots, rocky relationships, evolving personalities, and more. We don’t see much of Julie in this installment, but it looks to me like we’ll see more in the next book.

In this installment, from the back of the book:

When she’s called in to investigate a fight at the Steel Horse, a bar on the border between the territories of the shapeshifters and the necromancers, Kate quickly discovers there’s a new player in town. One who’s been around for thousands of years–and rode to war at the side of Kate’s father.

This foe may be too much even for Kate and Curran, the Beast Lord, to handle. Because this time Kate will be taking on family…

We’ve been gradually finding out more about Kate’s mysterious, powerful biological father as the series progresses, and now we find out she has other family as well, dangerous family she knows almost nothing about. The new, deadly force in town comes straight out of old legends, and is capable of spreading heinous diseases–although that seems to be the least of the problems they’ll face. Even the Order’s impenetrable headquarters could crumble before this onslaught, and the Guild will be brought to its knees. Without Kate and Curran’s combined forces and powers, Atlanta doesn’t stand a chance.

All of this is complicated by Kate and Curran’s on-again off-again kinda-sorta-relationship. The two come from very different worlds. Kate was taught not to put her faith or trust in anyone. Curran’s instincts and actions fulfill shapeshifter norms, which aren’t something Kate understands. The frustrations, disconnects, and clashes between these two are some of the best I’ve seen in rocky romantic relationships in books. Normally I just want to hit the characters over the head and tell them to stop being idiots and get together, but with these two it’s easy to see how hard it is for them to compromise for each other and understand each other’s way of thinking. It makes the relationship all the sweeter and hotter whenever they do manage come together.

I caught a glimpse of my smile in the wall mirror. Very little cordiality but lots of homicidal maniac. I dropped the smile before I caused an interagency incident.

Of course their problems with each other are nothing compared to the problems Kate will have with the shapeshifters under Curran’s rule. Most of the Pack sees humans as inherently inferior, and in order to hold her own as Curran’s partner she’ll have to prove herself a worthy alpha. That means killing all those who challenge her, and she doesn’t have the regenerative power they do. She’ll be lucky if she survives to hold a relationship with him.

I really felt some payoff in Magic Bleeds for the plot threads and relationship threads we’ve been following, and it’s wonderful. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, which will catch me up to where I began.

I just had to stay cool. Zen. No punching in the face. Punching would not be Zen.

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