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Book Review: Lady of Misrule by T.A. Pratt

Lady of Misrule by T.A. Pratt

Title: Lady of Misrule

Author: T.A. Pratt

Series: Marla Mason #8

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 2/5 stars

The Overview: Marla awakens for her month on Earth and finds her allies missing, and an old enemy causing trouble in her home city of Felport, where Marla once ruled as chief sorcerer. Meanwhile, a rather charming gentlemen who happens to be a monstrous exile from beyond our multiverse has decided that murdering gods might be a fun pastime, and he figures he’ll start with Marla. With the help of her former apprentice Bradley Bowman, Marla has to rescue her friends, crush her enemies, and eliminate the aforementioned existential threat–before her month runs out and she returns to the underworld.  -Goodreads

The Review:

I’m my mind, there are two distinct eras of Pratt’s Marla Mason series: Books 1-4, the trad published stories that I’m assuming involved editors over his shoulder telling him to “tone it down a little,” and everything beyond Book 5, the self-published, kickstarted novels where he went hogwild and wrote whatever the hell he pleased. Both have merit, but I find myself missing his earlier works at this point in the series. They always had a brilliant balance of traditional urban fantasy elements and the truly bizarre ideas that make his works so memorable and unique. They’re still among the best I’ve read of the genre. In these later books, however, that balance has all but disappeared in favor of every ridiculous plot point imaginable. I miss the slightly dark, more serious aspects of the first books. At this point, every character is snarky and over the top. Every situation is as far-fetched as possible. And therefore nothing stands out as remarkable because it’s all at level 10. I also don’t like his multiple dimensions twist to the story (introduced in book 5), which the plot keeps coming back to.

Even though they’re not as satisfying, I will concede that these later books have been fun. I didn’t get a lot out of Lady of Misrule, in particular, because at this point in the series, I was hoping for something deeper and more compelling to develop (rather than just one more recycled “let’s fight the big, bad monster” plotline). Unfortunately, I absolutely hated a twist to the story he revealed at the end. It eliminated the single plot point I’d been continuing to discover more about. Woe is me! It’s the pits when an author makes a decision that kills your enthusiasm. It is what it is.

On the whole, I still recommend the first 4 books with unbridled enthusiasm. They’re great. Even through I didn’t care for book 5 (Broken Mirrors), I see its value for plot advancement. I really liked book 6, but have felt a general decline since. I’m not sure at this point if I even want to finish the series. The author kind of crapped on all of the plot elements from earlier books I’d felt any sort of investment in. That said, I still kind of want to know where the story ends. Decisions.

Recommendations: as mentioned (and beat to death) in my review, I’d highly recommend the first four books in this series (plus the first prequel), which are still among my all-time favorites. Books after that, however, I don’t feel I can endorse with confidence. It’s such an interesting and different urban fantasy, I’d recommend it to those familiar with the genre but sick of the same old tropes.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: When the Heavens Fall by Marc Turner

Title: When the Heavens Fall

Author: Marc Turner

Series: The Chronicles of the Exile #1

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: If you pick a fight with Shroud, Lord of the Dead, you had better ensure your victory, else death will mark only the beginning of your suffering. A book giving its wielder power over the dead has been stolen from a fellowship of mages that has kept the powerful relic dormant for centuries. The thief, a crafty, power-hungry necromancer, intends to use the Book of Lost Souls to resurrect an ancient race and challenge Shroud for dominion of the underworld. Shroud counters by sending his most formidable servants to seize the artifact at all cost. -Goodreads

The Review:

Although When the Heavens Fall didn’t knock my socks off, I’m still glad I read it. The elements that didn’t quite work for me were basic plot construction choices, which means the author had all of the world building, characterization, and writing skills, and even executed his vision to my satisfaction, he just didn’t give me a satisfying journey on top of it all. Because of that, I am super excited to dive into his second book and see how a new plot structure with a new cast of characters unfolds. Plus the second book is called Dragon Hunters, which already has my immediate attention. :-)

The first third of When the Heavens Fall was stellar. Turner set a really cool atmosphere with his world building – a rather ominous overtone shrouded with secrets. I knew immediately there was going to be a lot of things to discover about this world, and I couldn’t wait to find out more. He also introduced a handful of POV’s characters, all of whom I really enjoyed reading about (even the “unlikable” ones). He even hinted at several cool magics and gave us a glimpse into some fascinating nonhuman characters.

So, even though he set the stage brilliantly, where he took the story left a little to be desired. The multiple POV’s were actually part of the problem. They were perspectives from each aspect of the mystery surrounding a magical book, and the reader learned very early on what was going on. So it was a case of dramatic irony as the characters slowly got onto the same page as the reader. The use of dramatic irony usually drives me crazy, but I will say at least its use here allowed the reader to dig into the motives of all aspects of the conflict, which in itself is entertaining, I just wish I hadn’t know quite as much upfront.

Another issue that perpetuated this problem was pacing. It’s okay to have all of your characters focused around a single problem, but after the first third of the book, every time the character perspective switched, nothing significant had happened. Everybody just kind of maintained status quo for a good bulk of the book and so at times it felt like we were switching POVs just for the sake of and not because that perspective had something interesting and new to show us. So for that reason, I feel the book could have been stronger had the plot been tightened with a bit more focus within each POV. This is also likely the main reason why it took me a full two weeks to get through.

All that said, I still have an overall positive attitude towards the book and thought the things it did well, it did really well. I love the world and its dynamics and can’t wait to explore more of it, I liked the characters and hope they get a little more depth in the future, and appreciated the writing style and overall voice. This was a buddy read with some friends at Fantasy Buddy Reads, and there were a lot of comments referencing similarities to Erikson’s Malazan series, so chances are if you liked that one this one will give you some kicks.

Recommendations: this is a slow burn fantasy that built a great foundation to this cool world and had a cast of highly interesting characters (even if they were a tad flat). This wouldn’t be the first book I handed to someone if they needed a recommendation for a good fantasy, but it’s definitely one I would talk positively about with someone who is well read in the genre. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great start and I can’t wait to see more of what this author can do.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Top Three Thursday [2]: Series I’m Keen to Start in 2018

Top Three Series I’m Keen to Start in 2018

This is a new feature hosted by Fantasy Buddy Reads over at Goodreads. Blog posts aren’t required to participate, but I thought it would be fun to compose one, anyway. :)


Admittedly, the series I’m most excited to start often changes from week to week, but luckily there have been a few I’ve been eager to get to for several months now:

Malice is the first in the Faithful and the Fallen fantasy series that several friends in my Fantasy Buddy Reads group are seriously losing their shit over. It’s evidently a slow burn, multiple POV series that sounds right up my alley. We have a buddy read for this starting in May.

Burn for Me is the first book in the Hidden Legacy series by Ilona Andrews and it seems to be getting the same amount of positive attention as her Kate Daniels series. As I am now a Kate Daniels super fan, I’m going to trust everybody who says to ignore the super ridiculous & cheesy covers and look forward to diving into more works by these brilliant authors.

Unclean Spirits is the first book of The Black Sun’s Daughter Series by MLN Hanover… A pen name for an author you may recognize as Daniel Abraham or one half of James S. A. Corey. Because I absolutely loved the Long Price Quartet and the Expanse series, respectively, I am hoping this urban fantasy will also knock my socks off. We have a buddy read for this one also starting in May. I can’t wait!

Honorable Mentions (meaning I’ve already started them this year): Unhewn Throne by Brian Staveley & Malazan by Erikson/Esselmont


What series are you looking to start in 2018? :-)

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Coming Soon: Wizard for Hire by Obert Skye

Title: Wizard for Hire

Author: Obert Skye

Series: N/A

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Release Date: March 6, 2018

The Overview: Fourteen-year-old Ozzy lives near Portland, Oregon, and is desperate for help. His scientist parents have been kidnapped after discovering a formula that enables mind control. Their work was so top secret Ozzy is afraid to go to the police, but without help, he fears he’ll never find his parents. Then he stumbles across a classified ad in the local newspaper that says “Wizard for Hire. Call 555-SPEL.” Ozzy has read about wizards in books like Harry Potter, but wizards couldn’t actually exist today, could they? After Ozzy meets the wizard Labyrinth–aka Rin–he’s even more skeptical. -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

That interesting cover has my immediate attention (Shadow Mountain always has the coolest covers)! I read the first few of Skye’s Leven Thumps series several years ago and thought it was a cool middle grade series. I’m looking forward to picking this one up to amuse my inner 10 yr old self. It doesn’t look to be part of a series (based on the info I have at the moment), will which means I can pick it up without messing up my incomplete series challenge. #win

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews

Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews

Title: Magic Binds

Author: Ilona Andrews

Series: Kate Daniels #9

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: Mercenary Kate Daniels knows all too well that magic in post-Shift Atlanta is a dangerous business. But nothing she’s faced could have prepared her for this… Kate and the former Beast Lord Curran Lennart are finally making their relationship official. But there are some steep obstacles standing in the way of their walk to the altar… Kate’s father, Roland, has kidnapped the demigod Saiman and is slowly bleeding him dry in his never-ending bid for power. A Witch Oracle has predicted that if Kate marries the man she loves, Atlanta will burn and she will lose him forever. And the only person Kate can ask for help is long dead. The odds are impossible. The future is grim. But Kate Daniels has never been one to play by the rules… -Goodreads

The Review:

It’s official: Kate Daniels is my favorite urban fantasy series.

It continues to deliver with incredible consistency (aside from the first book), and I’ve loved every moment along the way. It has the perfect balance of action, mystery, humor, and romance. The romance isn’t a huge focus, but it’s done soooo well. Curran is a great example of how to present a strong male lead who doesn’t sacrifice masculinity for sentimentality (he also never loses his backbone/identity/complexity, something I appreciate immensely). The relationship between he and Kate is my favorite aspect of the series because it feels organic and realistic (compared to other relationships in the genre). The relationship is not cheesy or sickly perfect, but filled with real-people arguments and issues, and it’s a totally hilarious delight watching them work through some of them. I especially love that the authors don’t ever put them through senseless conflict and misunderstandings just for the sake of perpetuating the plot. It’s a relationship born of two strong-willed people trying to figure out how to not fuck it up. I love it.

What’s more, even the side characters are rounded and realistic (spawning several fantastic novellas, all of which I’ve read and enjoyed), making every aspect of this series that much more rich, vibrant, and immersive.

Magic Binds was a strong penultimate novel that has me agonizing for the final book in the series. I can’t believe I waited so long to get to this point in the series, but I’m equally delighted I don’t have to wait as long for the conclusion as the die-hard fans who have been keeping up to date with the series for years. All I can say is, Magic Triumphs is definitely in my top three most anticipated releases of 2018. I can’t wait!

Recommendations: if you’re an urban fantasy lover, Kate Daniels is a must-read! I’ve read a lot of good ones, but Kate takes the cake as my favorite, and that’s a fact. If you can get past the mediocre first book, you’re in for a fantastic series that gets better and better with each installment!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Bout of Books Read-a-thon! (6)

Bout of Books

Bout of Books is my favorite Read-a-thon, and since my Goodreads group has started our first Team Reading Competition at the beginning of the year, this seems like a great way to rack up some points. :) I’m actually going to make a concerted effort to read a little more this week rather than just tracking status quo like normal.

Here’s a little more about the event:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 8th and runs through Sunday, January 14th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 21 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

Niki’s Goals:

1. Consciously spend more time at work listening to audiobooks instead of watching Netflix.
2.
Finish at least 5 books from my TBR Tackler Shelf.
3.
Choose reading before bed (instead of apps) every night this week through the Read-a-thon.

Here’s a look at the books on my immediate radar:
(subject to change if I see something shiny)

I’m halfway through a couple of these, so having a head start is nice. Four of them are scheduled Buddy Reads that I’m concerned not having time for, so a concerted effort this week for this challenge will help keep my on track for my most over-scheduled Buddy Read month to date.

 Daily Updates:

 Monday:

Pages: 153 / Books Finished: 0
A good start page-wise. Comparatively.

 Tuesday:

Pages: 227  / Books Finished: 2

 Wednesday:

Pages: 239  / Books Finished: 0
I will say this is the most pages I’ve ever maintained for this challenge

 Thursday:

Pages: 167 / Books Finished: 0
It felt like I wasn’t as focused yesterday.

Friday:

Pages: 184 / Books Finished: 2
2 Finished books – booya! 

Saturday:

Pages: 192  / Books Finished: 0

 Sunday:

Pages: 230  / Books Finished: 0

Total:

Pages: 1392 / Books Finished: 4

Yes!! This is the single best Read-a-thon I’ve ever done! I usually don’t even break 1000 pages. And considering how long the books are that I’m reading, 4 books completed is awesome! :D

by Niki Hawkes