Tough Traveling: Enforcers


The Thursday feature “Tough Traveling” is the brainchild of Nathan of Review Barn, who has come up with the excellent idea of making a new list each week based on the most common tropes in fantasy, as seen in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones. Nathan has invited anyone who is interested to come play along, so be sure to check out the first link for more information.

This week’s tour topic is: Enforcers

Some people are made to give orders; others are made to make sure they are carried out. Be it through muscle or guile there are just some people you don’t want to hear are looking for you.

Tiara’s Picks

colorThe Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

This was a bit of a tie for me between Hrun the Barbarian and the walking treasure chest. Both are formidable in their own right with Hrun wanting to prove his glory as a hero’s hero. Nothing can make Hrun stand down… after we talk about payment in glory or riches, that is. The chest just wants to make sure it keeps its owner safe. If that means biting off a few fingers or terrorizing a hapless crew of sailors, then, so be it.

6a9a5-libriomancerLibriomancer by Jim C. Hines

Lena Greenwood is a book character pulled from her pages and made flesh by a Libriomancer (a person who makes book characters and objects real). Lena was created to be a lover, not a fighter. While she is certainly a lover, she is not helpless, and she will take down anyone who threatens the people closest to her.

Dragon Age The Masked EmpireDragon Age: The Masked Empire by Patrick Weekes

The Orlesian Empire is one embroiled in bloodthirsty politics disguised with the innocent sounding name “The Game,” and when you’re the empress or emperor of such an empire, you’re a prime target. Luckily for Empress Celene, her honor guard is Knight Michel de Chevin who’s more than willing to do whatever it takes to protect his empress and carry out her orders. No task is beyond him.

Mogsy’s Picks:

47d13-theboneseasonThe Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

In a city which has declared war on “unnaturals”, anyone with psychic abilities, clairvoyance or other kind of supernatural power have to hide it away. People like the main protagonist Paige Mahoney live in fear under Scion’s all-seeing eye and are in constant danger of being taken away by guards if they are discovered.

The MechanicalThe Mechanical by Ian Tregillis

The enforcers in The Mechanical are on the lookout for dissent among the human and clakker population. They are a specialized kind of clockwork soldier, called centaurs because of their frightening four-legged gait and four arms, all the better to catch and tear their victims apart if they try to run.

The Young ElitesThe Young Elites by Marie Lu

As the leader of the Inquisition, it is Teren’s job to hunt down the super-powered youth calling themselves the Young Elites. His targets include the protagonist Adelina Amouteru as well as Enzo, the Young Elites leader. It is believe that they and all the malfettos with special abilities are dangerous and vengeful, and must be destroyed to save the nation from them.

Wendy’s Picks

81229-bitten_ep101_102_d11_sw_0069Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

The Alpha leads the pack, but it is his second that strikes fear into the hearts of any mutt that dares cross them. Not that Jeremy Danvers can’t take care of himself, but no one wants to get on Clay’s bad side. Death would be the least of your concerns.

Throne of the Crescent MoonThrone of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

Adoulla’s magic can only get him so far, especially at his age, so it is good that he has Raseed at his side, the whirling dervish of an apprentice whose blades are all about the righteous justice. Too bad he’s bound by those pesky morals…

Kushiel's DartKushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey

As a Casseline brother, Joscelin’s role is a simple one: guard his charges with his very life. And if that still isn’t enough, then be willing to take theirs and his own with the dreaded “terminus.”

Crown of MidnightCrown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

What happens when the world’s deadliest assassin becomes the King’s Champion? Lots more dead people, that’s what.

Comic Stack 04/01/15 – 5 Graphic Novel Recommendations

I’m going to be a little lazy this week because I haven’t had a chance to read any of my comics this week or last week, which is why I didn’t post last week (also it was my birthday week last week). I’ve been traveling with work and working on a new project, which has made me choosier about what I’ve been reading, and sadly, it hasn’t been my comics. I have a load of comics waiting for me to read them, though, and I’ll be sure to get back on my #1s next week (hopefully).

This week however, I thought I’d do something a little different and recommend five graphic novels for readers that aren’t necessarily of the X-Men or Batman variety, that can be picked up by serious and casual readers alike.


Julio’s Day by Gilbert Hernandez

I cheated on this one and just copied and pasted a mini-review I wrote for this when it first came out. I’m sorry… sorta. This is a slice of life comic that opens up with the birth wails of Julio and ends with his death rattle 100 years later in the same house and in the same bed. Even though there are many iconic things that happen from 1900 to 2000, the comic kept the impact of such events insular, choosing to focus on the small scale impact of these events and how they did or didn’t affect Julio’s family. Things like the stock market crash happened and the family acknowledges it, but what does it mean to a family that’s already poor? What does it mean to a family already used to just getting by? This book also focuses on the people in their communities and how they impacted Julio and his family’s life, as well.

This story was filled with dark family secrets, loneliness, betrayal, mental health issues, racism, turning sexual tides, and many other things. While that seems so much for one graphic novel, the pains and joys in this story are told with such simplicity, often times without words or with only dialogue that says so much without the characters ever going into full details such as Julio’s sister telling him, “I don’t feel so sad when somebody dies, Julio, because they fly away to explore the stars and planets. When it’s our turn we join them in exploring the universe.” The art, the pacing, everything was just right for this story.

Chew1Chew Vol. 1: Taster’s Choice by John Layman

The story revolves around Tony Chu, an ex-cop who now works for the FDA. Tony is a cibopath. That means he gets psychic impressions from anything he eats—except beets. He lives in a world where the FDA is now running things after a severe case of avian flu killed millions of people. Because of this, chicken is banned, replaced by a chicken substitute while the real thing is considered a black market commodity. Tony is recruited—but not entirely by choice—by the FDA after using his “gift” to bust a serial killer. They want him to use this same gift to help their special crimes division. And this is where Tony’s adventures really begin.

The premise of the series sounds a bit bizarre, but the story is well-written and fast paced. It’s full of dark, dry, morbid humor. You’re not overwhelmed with information about this new world. It’s presented to you in bites (no pun intended). I found by the third part that I was totally immersed in this story and really laughing out loud at some of their antics. I have to applaud the writer for creating this imaginative world where food plays such an integral role right down the name of every character—both major and minor—in the series so far.

Other reviews of the series: Taster’s Choice Review by Wendy.

PrincelessPrinceless Book One: Save Yourself by Jeremy Whitley

Princeless follows the quest of Princess Adrienne to free herself and her sisters from their fate of waiting for a prince to save them from their towers. From the beginning Adrienne has rebelled against the idea of princesses being passively saved by princes, asking her mother, “Who has the kind of grudge against this beautiful princess that they would lock her in a tower?”

This is a cute story, for sure, but it’s so much more than that. Adrienne questions a world where women are expected to be second class citizen. Yes, this is a story about gender binary, but it’s not preachy. It’s a cute story whose moral simply is girls can be strong and boys don’t always have to tough, that boys and girls aren’t boxed in by their gender. This is exactly the kind of story I want to read to my daughter. I love comics, but it’s often hard to find something age appropriate or that I’m willing to expose my children to the “lessons” in them. Read my full review here. Read Wendy’s review of volume two here and a chat with the creator, Jeremy Whitley.

28DL28 Days Later by Michael Alan Nelson

There are so few comics that are made based on a movie rather than vice versa that really impressed me. At the heart of things 28 Days Later really is Selena’s story. American journalist, Clint, tracks Selena down at a refugee camp in Norway after the events of the movie 28 Days Later. He wants to enlist her help in getting into London, which has been quarantined, so he can tell the real story of what happened there. How could that go wrong? End sarcasm.

The readers are shown Selena’s life before the infection. It’s just glimmers of who she used to be intertwined with the action of the story and doesn’t intrude on the main storyline. Looking back on this comic now it kind of reminds me how of Michonne was handled in the show when they started showing more of her back story, but this predates that (I believe, but I could be wrong) and that is not a bad thing. I’m a sucker for good back stories.

Saga1Saga, Volume One by Brian K. Vaughan

I love this book, but it took me forever to read it because I wasn’t sure I’d like it. After getting the first issue free, I was immediately hooked. Two soldiers from opposite sides of a war fall in love and bring a life into the world. Now, they’re fleeing to find a life for their family. This is part military sci-fi, part romance, and all excellent. However, I will admit that it is strange and it won’t be everyone’s bag. However, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s just so completely different from what readers might expect. There’s so much I want to say about it, but it would just spoil the whole thing. You can check out a review by Wendy here, though, for volume 2!


Rat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe

I’ll let the description speak for itself:

A pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire, and they’re in the business of killing all god’s creatures for profit.

It’s also a darkly comedic sass-and-sorcery series starring Hannah the Rockabilly Elven Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarven Fighter, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric and Betty the Hippy Smidgen Thief. This modern spin on an old school genre is a violent monster-killing epic that is like Buffy meets Tank Girl in a Lord of the Rings world on crack!

Despite the LoTR reference, this was absolutely superb! Thanks again to Wendy for gifting it to me for my birthday last year!

Waiting on Wednesday 04/01/15

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that lets us feature upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick:

Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig: September 4, 2015 (Del Rey)

I was like aasfdsfjkjlsdfffff;;; when I first saw the nerdgasm-inducing news about this book on I reacted just as you would expect from someone who just found out two of their favorite things are coming together in one epic package. Chuck Wendig. Star Wars.  MUST READ.

And that’s not all. Aftermath is significant because it will bridge the Star Wars timeline between Return of the Jedi and the much anticipated upcoming Star Wars film Episode VII The Force Awakens. That’s pretty huge. As a Chuck Wendig fan with a rabid love for Star Wars, I really can’t wait to get my hands on this one.

Aftermath“Journey to The Force Awakens.

The second Death Star is destroyed. The Emperor and his powerful enforcer, Darth Vader, are rumored to be dead. The Galactic Empire is in chaos.

Across the galaxy, some systems celebrate, while in others Imperial factions tighten their grip. Optimism and fear reign side by side.

And while the Rebel Alliance engages the fractured forces of the Empire, a lone Rebel scout uncovers a secret Imperial meeting…”

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books You Recently Added To Your To-Be-Read List


Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. They created the meme because they love lists. Who doesn’t love lists? They wanted to share these list with fellow booklovers and ask that we share in return to connect with our fellow book lovers. To learn more about participating in the challenge, stop by their page dedicated to it and dive in!

This week’s topic: Ten Books You Recently Added To Your To-Be-Read List

Tiara’s Picks

AchillesThe Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

This book is Miller’s debut book, which reimagines Homer’s The Iliad. As a big fan of history and mythology, there was no way I couldn’t add this book to my TBR pile. Add the fact that I love imaginative retellings of old stories. I never get tired of them. I’ve even added this book to my upcoming reads pile as well since I am very excited about this one.

GeminiThe Gemini Effect by Chuck Grossart

From what I can gather from the description of this one, it’s probably a military sci-fi story with zombies. I hate zombies, but I’m willing to give anything with zombies a chance because I like to think I’m a fair person that can actually overlook that part if I think that a story is done well enough for me to actually enjoy that aspect. As with many zombie, it’s biological in nature and treated as biowarefare by the United Stated, and the U.S. prepares to unleash everything it has on its own people survivors or not.

HornsHorns by Joe Hill

Yeah, this is the book the movie that Harry Potter… I mean, Daniel Radcliffe starred in recently. I think I’ll use its short synopsis to give you the gist of the story: “Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with a thunderous hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.”  I’ve watched the movie with my husband, so I’m aware of where its going. However, I still want to see how the book compares to the movie.

AfterTheFallAfter the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress

In the year 2035, an ecological disaster has destroyed the Earth, but 26 survivors are housed by an alien race in a sterile environment called the Shell. As the survivors begin to die out, they find a way to change this disaster using brief time portals, which lead them to a brilliant mathematician, Julie Kahn, in the year 2013.

The Prophecy ConThe Prophecy Con by Patrick Weekes

This is the sequel to The Palace Job, which I enjoyed very much. It was a humorous caper that was just plain fun. I immediately downloaded it to my Kindle after finishing the first because I knew this was something I was going to read in coming weeks. This book’s summary asks the question: “Who would have thought a book of naughty poems by elves could mean the difference between war and peace?” I can already tell this is going to be another mad adventure  that’s going probably going to have me chuckling as much as the first one. I love a good time! (Side Note: If you utilize Kindle Unlimited, these books are available to read without charge, and they both utilize Whispersync. The audiobook is included with the first book, and the audiobook price is reduced to $2 for this book once you download it through Kindle Unlimited.)

WrittenThe Written by Ben Galley

The book touts itself as Lord of the Rings meets Sin City. It’s no secret that I’m no fan of Tolkien, but I am a huge fan of Sin City. This book promises dragons, drugs, magick, death, and the deepest of betrayals with a reluctant hero (of course), so I’ll forgive its Lord of the Rings comparison if it delivers on everything else.

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

Strange ThingsA man of faith travels to a new galaxy to spread his faith about the Bible (the book of strange new things) to the inhabitants of this galaxy. While he spreads the Gospel, he leaves behind a wife who sends letters that become increasing fearful as apocalyptic events begin to unfold on earth. The premise of this already interested me, but I don’t know for some reason, a part of me is hoping that this book is beautifully tragic in much the same way as Mandel’s Station Eleven, which transcended so much of the dystopian/apocalyptic genre.

Light FantasticThe Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

Until The Color of Magic, which I read a couple of weeks back, I hadn’t read anything by Terry Pratchett. I’d been meaning to get around to doing that, and I am friends with a few people who absolutely adore his Discworld books who’d been encouraging this for some time. With Pratchett’s recent passing, a friend decided to do a complete read through of the series, and I decided to join him in this endeavor. We’re not going in chronological order but story order. We’re working out way through the Rincewind novels. I met Rincewind in the The Color of Magic, in which he’s quite possibly the world’s worst wizard (but not exactly his own fault), and now in this book the fate of the world rests on him. This is sure to be fun.

Wendy Darling by Colleen Oakes

Wendy DarlingAs I mentioned above in The Song of Achilles, I love imaginative retellings. I’ve read quite a few Peter Pan retellings, including Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson, The Child Thief by Brom, and Tiger Heart by Peter David–all of which were magnificent books. This will be the first retelling I’ve read that will be Wendy-centric. Certainly, she played her roles in the other books, but this will be the first I’ve read that focuses on her. Unfortunately, it won’t be out until October. Boo!

Madame LillyMadame Lilly, Voodoo Priestess by Dormaine G.

In 1800s, Odara, a creole woman, isn’t interested in partaking in  the plaçage (a historical event where wealthy white men of the time took common law wives among women of color and provided for them; these marriages weren’t official, but had some contractual duties attached to them) way of life until she meets Henry Nicolas. After entering an arrangement with him, she learns about his sadistic side. After enduring this man for years, Odara turns to voodoo to help settle her score, even if means a great cost. New Orleans is always an interesting setting for the supernatural, especially voodoo. Plaçage is a part of historical events I have a keen interest in, so I can’t wait to see what the author has done with that, as well.

Book Review: The Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu

A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

TheRebirthsOfTao-144dpiThe Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Book 3 of Tao

Publisher: Angry Robot (April 7, 2015)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a way to end things. Hands down, The Rebirths of Tao is my favorite book of the trilogy. It’s everything that made the first two books such a joy to read, but on steroids. The stakes are higher, and the action is more intense. The humor is laugh-out-loud funny, the character relationships much more emotional. It’s got love and betrayal, smiles and tears, politics and espionage, sword fights, kung-fu, unlikely heroes, dastardly villains, aliens, starry-eyed teenagers, Brits who love bacon, and much, much more. Now that’s what I’m talking about.

Just like how there were several years between the first and second books, we once again we jump ahead in time for book three, catching up with the Tans many years since the events at the end of The Deaths of Tao. In spite of this, Rebirths is not a book you can read on its own; you will miss too much information from the previous two novels. So if you’re thinking of starting the series, you may wish to skip to the bottom of this review to see my general thoughts and avoid spoilers for books one and two.

The stage is now set for all out open conflict between the two Quasing factions, the Prophus and the Genjix, and thanks to Jill Tan’s involvement in the Great Betrayal, the whole world is now aware that aliens have walked among them, manipulating history since time eternal. Humanity is understandably not too happy about that. Jill, Roen and their son Cameron have been on the run for years, hiding from anti-Quasing governments and Genjix agents alike.

But now the Genjix are stepping up their plans to terraform the earth, a process that would destroy the planet and make it uninhabitable for all life except the Quasing. The Prophus in turn are trying to prevent this from happening, securing the extraction of a rogue Genjix scientist with knowledge of these terraforming facilities. However, the Genjix have no intention of failing. With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, you have all the makings of a perfect storm.

One thing I noticed from reading this series is that Wesley Chu has grown as an author with every book, and The Rebirths of Tao is his best work yet. The writing is noticeably more polished than in the previous novels, and the story flowed very well with absolutely no lulls at all. It’s also fascinating to see the series evolve, as we’ve experienced some drastic changes from book one to book three. We started The Lives of Tao with a quirky personal tale about a nerdy, out-of-shape IT guy and his transformation into super-secret agent, but things took a more urgent, direr turn in the sequel The Deaths of Tao, which also saw the Quasing conflict expanded onto a global scale.

The Rebirths of Tao is once again a new kind of story all together, but it retains a lot of the elements which made the first book so fun and addictive. The Quasing war situation is as bleak as ever for Roen and his family, and yet the humor is alive and well. Cameron Tan is now fifteen years old so for the first time in this series we have a teenager’s point-of-view, and Wesley Chu pulls it off nicely (ever think of writing YA, Mr. Chu?) I didn’t think it was possible, but I liked reading Tao and Cameron’s interactions even more than I enjoyed Tao and Roen’s. Tao is the “third parent” in this scenario and some of his reactions to the thoughts and behaviors of an impulsive, hormonal teenaged boy are downright hilarious! The dialogue in this book is probably my favorite aspect, especially the banter between Cam and Tao, between Jill and Roen, between Roen and his “imaginary Tao”, and between Roen and Marco (these two guys damn nearly killed me with laughter).

I also love sci-fi novels about unconventional aliens, and the Quasings fit the bill with their unique physiology and complex symbiosis with human beings. We know from the first two books why the Quasing split into two factions, and the assumption is that the Prophus are the benevolent, peace-loving ones. The truth is more complicated than that, however, and it may surprise you. This book delves further into the nature of Quasings, as well as the role human history played in shaping the Prophus-Genjix war. Speaking of which, if you’re a history buff, you’ll really get a kick out of these books; Chu still regularly makes references to historical events that Quasings have secretly taken part in, as well as famous figures who have served as hosts.

I’ve enjoyed every moment of this trilogy, and as a reader it’s also awesome to see a series that ends even more strongly than it began. The author has done a great job building upon the story since the first book. We’ve also seen fantastic character development particularly when it comes to Roen, who has grown immensely as a person from when we first met him. Sure, he’ll never reach Adonis Vessel levels of excellence, but he’s taken his new responsibilities in stride and has never failed to do the best he can as a Prophus agent, husband and father.

I highly recommend these books if you like sci-fi thrillers and comedy. This third book was everything I’d hoped for, a wonderful end to a trilogy that has been a wildly entertaining ride from the get go. It’s funny, action-filled, and manages to tie up all the loose ends that count, while still leaving things open-ended enough for future stories set in this universe. I look forward to the announced follow-up sequel series The Rise of Io.


Other reviews in this series:
The Lives of Tao (Book 1) (Mogsy), The Lives of Tao (Book 1) (Tiara), The Lives of Tao (Book 1) (Wendy), The Deaths of Tao (Book 2)

Book Review: Touch by Claire North

A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

TouchTouch by Claire North

Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Orbit (February 24, 2015)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Does the idea of a unique, sc-fi thriller excite you? Read this book. Love wild, mind-trip movies like Inception? Read this book. If you’re looking for a smart, entertaining, and psychologically hard-hitting novel, this is what it looks like. READ THIS BOOK.

Touch was, in a word, fascinating. “Have you been losing time?” I don’t think I can ever hear or read this phrase again without getting a shiver down my spine. Imagine, if you will, a group or species of near-immortal people (they call themselves “Ghosts”) that can jump from body to body, taking their hosts over and seeing through their eyes, feeling what they feel. They can choose to be anyone they want, live any life they want…and all it takes is a single touch – and JUMP. Whether the possession is for two seconds, two days, or twenty years, the hosts won’t remember after the Ghost jumps away to another body again. Have you ever looked at your cellphone and see a call you don’t remember making? Or found yourself somewhere, without knowing how you got there? Have. You. Ever. Lost. Time?

Our protagonist is one of these Ghosts, given the name “Kepler”. The story begins with Kepler dying in her/his latest body Josephine Cebula, gunned down in a Turkish Metro station by a man who is clearly aware of Kepler’s nature and unique abilities. Kepler jumps bodies in pursuit of the mysterious killer hoping to get answers, and ends up wearing the killer’s body itself. Someone or some organization has been hunting down and destroying the Ghosts, and Kepler is determined to find the truth and avenge her/his beloved Josephine.

This book is getting lots of love from me based on the inventiveness and ingenuity of the premise alone. It’s especially a great read if you enjoy what-if stories and thought experiments, though imagining possible scenarios based on the theories in this novel might take you places you don’t want to go. Imagine being an unwilling victim of a Ghost, waking up having no idea where you are, with these people you don’t know who claim to be your children, finding out it’s suddenly twenty years later, and the last thing you remember is shaking hands with a stranger – a lifetime ago. Imagine the violation and trauma of knowing someone else had been in your body, using it doing God knows what. Imagine the memories and experiences you’ll never get the chance to have, because precious time was stolen from you.

Some Ghosts give very little thought to their hosts but Kepler is different, having cherished her/his hosts through all the centuries he/she has been jumping bodies. But everyone, even Ghosts, have their limits when pushed, and will do anything it takes to stay alive. At times, Kepler might come across as selfish and callous, but these situations only arise when he/she feels threatened and cornered. Small consolation for the victims who lose their lives because of Kepler’s actions, perhaps, but it does make me think slightly better of her/him.

This book reads like a mystery for the most part, relying on the unknown and strategically dropped hints to keep the plot moving evenly along, though it also has a handful of the most memorable action sequences I’ve ever read. Claire North makes good use of a Ghost’s body-jumping talents, almost taking them to gimmicky heights, to write some insanely good gunfight scenes. Just think about it. Yes, they are as awesome as you can imagine.

Of course, it also wouldn’t be such a unique book if it didn’t present its own set of potential problems. There will be moments of confusion, and it can’t be helped. The narrative jumps around a lot because of the constant body switching. There are flashback chapters that help us understand the main character, but they can also break up the pacing and slow things down. The story builds and builds and gets so complicated at times that it stumbles over itself. But for me, all that is a small price to pay for such an incredible and original story. As always, YMMV!

All told, Touch was a delightful surprise. Above all, I adored the concept and I think this would make an excellent movie, if only someone could pull it off (quick, someone send a copy to Christopher Nolan!) Thrilling, imaginative and entertaining, this book kept me reading well into the night.


Book Review: The Exile by C.T. Adams

A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The ExileThe Exile by C.T. Adams

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Series: Book 1 of The Fae

Publisher: Tor (March 10, 2015)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

C.T. Adams has written books as Cat Adams, a dual-partnership writing team with Cathy Clamp. I’ve never read anything by either author before, so I was looking forward to starting out with Ms. Adams’ first solo full-length novel The Exile, especially since I love stories about the fae.

The protagonist Brianna Hai lives a double life as necessitated by her own very nature. By day the half-human, half-fae young woman runs an occult shop selling innocent knickknacks to tourists, while hanging in her home is a magical painting which acts as a portal between our real world and the world of the faerie. As the daughter of High King Leu of Fae, Brianna enjoyed a childhood living amongst the wonders and delights of her father’s realm until her mother, a powerful human witch, changed the Veil that separated the worlds. All crossings between them are now governed by a new set of strict rules.

One day an unexpected attack by doxies on her apartment lands Brianna and her colleague David and his brother Nick back in Leu’s court, where she also discovers that her father may be in trouble. Having spent most of her life living as a human, Brianna is unused to the dangers of Fae politics, but she’ll have to deal with them in order to bring herself and her friends safely home.

This was a great book; I loved the story. However, from a technical standpoint, I stumbled a little with the writing.

The Exile will wow readers with a luscious, excitement filled plot. There’s very little downtime as we’re ushered from scene to scene, and something important happens in every one. The book is also filled with rich, beautiful descriptions of the Fae world, everything from the surroundings of King Leu’s palace and the huge variety of different fae that live in his magical domain, right down to the finest details about what the court lords and ladies wear and to the decadent food they eat. I seriously loved this.

I also enjoyed the characters and was impressed with Brianna most of all. The author paints a very unique picture of the fae, but at its heart they are still the conniving tricksters that make their stories such a delight. Being able to survive their world of ruthless politics and backstabbing is no mean feat, but Brianna manages to navigate this quagmire with aplomb. Despite being rusty in her knowledge of the ways and traditions of the fae, she’s frequently able to use her quick thinking and resourcefulness to get out of trouble.

The writing itself was what I struggled with most of all, along with the pacing of the story. Simply put, too much happens much too quickly, and not exactly in a way that’s desirable. The plot elements and the events in the timeline feel disjointed, particularly because there are so many character perspectives and so many point-of-view changes, all within a relatively short period of time. This gives the book an aura of confused, disorganized energy. Stylistically, there’s also something about Adams’ prose that I find distracting. I get jarred out of my immersion when I come across passages like:

“Nick didn’t consider himself overly modest, but he had never particularly liked being naked in front of strangers…”

Apparently, Nick has had plenty of experience to be naked in front of strangers…or it sounded that way in context, at least. Also, I imagine not too many people do, so I find his musing sort of unnecessary. Another example:

“Ulrich’s voice sounded strained and strange.”

Strained and strange? I imagine the former would already suggest the latter. Little redundancies like this along with other instances of awkward phrasing gave me pause and stalled my reading somewhat.

That said, overall The Exile was a pretty good read. It’s entertaining and grabbed my attention right away, which is by far the most important criterion, especially considering that it’s the first installment of a series. It’s an urban fantasy, but to me it also feels very different from the usual standard UF fare. The way things are going, I believe these books will go above and beyond simply chronicling the main character’s life and her immediate interactions and surroundings. Instead, the world-building feels very important too, and the narrative seems just as focused on the bigger picture. To me that means future plot developments will probably surprise us with large scale repercussions for both the human and fae worlds.

I’m definitely planning on sticking around to see what happens next.


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