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Book Review: Ptolemy’s Gate by Jonathan Stroud

Title: Ptolemy’s Gate

Author: Jonathan Stroud

Series: Bartimaeus #3

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: Nathaniel 17 treats Bartimaeus worse than ever. The long-suffering djinni is weak from too much time in this world, near the end of his patience. Rebel Kitty 18 hides, stealthily finishing her research on magic, demons, and Bartimaeus. She has a daring plan that she hopes will break the endless cycle of conflict between djinn and humans. But will anyone listen to what she has to say? Together the trio face treacherous magicians, a complex conspiracy, and a rebellious faction of demons. To survive, they must test the limits of this world and question the deepest parts of themselves. -Goodreads

The Review:

It’s official: Bartimaeus is a new favorite series.

I cannot believe I let this one collect dust on my shelves for so many years. I had an inkling I’d like it, so I saved it for a rainy day… [Note to self: stop doing that!!! Read the best books now!]. I imagine had it not won for book club, I would’ve continued passing it up for several more years. Almost 20 was long enough.

For me this series had a Harry Potter-level of addictive quality. I was completely absorbed. I loved the atmosphere Stroud created, and couldn’t get enough of the demons. Picture if you will a story of magic and mayhem set London – evoking nostalgia of the muggle-heavy sections of Harry Potter where you get to see how magic in the world affects us very sadly ungifted people. It’s “magical” quality was strong through all three books and one of the reasons I found it so compelling.

I liked this third book as much as the first one. It gave me backstory on a couple of characters that I’d been craving from the beginning. Beyond that the pacing was on point, the characters had arcs I found completely satisfying, and the action was gripping. And it all culminated into one of the best endings I’ve read in ages. Truly a slam-dunk!

Recommendations: if you want a great story that will make you feel like a kid again, this is the series for you. It has the added bonus of being presented in a sophisticated, completely accessible for adults format with great humor and witty dialogue. The footnotes are everything, so I’d recommend going the print or ebook route for this one.

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by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Trouble with the Cursed by Kim Harrison

Title: Trouble with the Cursed

Author: Kim Harrison

Series: Hollows #14

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Rachel Morgan, witch-born demon, has one unspoken rule: take chances, but pay for them yourself. With it, she has turned enemies into allies, found her place with her demon kin, and stepped up as the subrosa of Cincinnati—responsible for keeping the paranormal community at peace and in line. Life is . . . good? Even better, her best friend, Ivy Tamwood, is returning home. Nothing’s simple, though, and Ivy’s not coming alone. The vampires’ ruling council insists she escort one of the long undead, hell-bent on proving that Rachel killed Cincy’s master vampire to take over the city. Which, of course, Rachel totally did not do. She only transformed her a little. With Rachel’s friends distracted by their own lives and problems, she reaches out to a new ally for help—the demon Hodin. But this trickster has his own agenda. In the end, the only way for Rachel to save herself and the city may be to forge a new understanding with her estranged demon teacher, Al. There’s just one problem: Al would sell his own soul to be rid of her. . . . -Goodreads

The Review:

I love spending time with Rachel Morgan.

As the series initially ended at book 13, these latest three novels have felt like bonus books (continuing the storyline before book 13’s epilogue). It’s always a joy to read more in a series you thought ended. And I have to say, these revamped (pun) books are every bit as good as the rest of the series.

Anything to do with the demons in this world, and I’m so there. I love their unpredictability and enigma quality that always has me guessing who’s side they’re on (well, they’re probably always on their own side, it’s just a matter of whether or not Rachel’s agenda lines up with theirs… it’s an ongoing conflict I just can’t get enough of). In these recent novels we’ve explored them more than ever before, and it’s highly satisfying.

Million Dollar Demon (#15) was awesome, but the ending was a bit lackluster compared to others in the series. This one, however, was a grand slam of events that had me up into the wee hours finishing. I love it when books careen to the end. The book also introduced a few new plot points throughout that I can’t wait to see expanded on later. Harrison really knows how to keep hooking my interest with new elements.

There’s a writing tool some storytellers use to perpetuate the plot that drives me crazy. The whole “I’m too emotionally distraught to have a two minute conversation with you… one that could save everyone a lot of trouble” is one I’ve always found unrealistic. Most people tend to WANT to talk about the major things that have affected them in life, given the proper opportunity and safety of expression. Especially if said information is critical in someone else’s decision-making. But in this case, that would’ve cut out almost two books of conflict and we wouldn’t have had a story. So, while I wish things had been presented in a different way, I can begrudgingly admit that I still enjoyed the time we spent getting to the point of revelation. There were enough other good things going on, so I can overlook its use… but I still hate it lol.

At this point I’m committed to reading any new Harrison book that pops up and hope we’re not quite finished with this series yet (some research shows there will be at least two more books). I’ve no idea what direction those new books will take, but the groundwork laid to this point in the series assures that I’ll enjoy the ride.

Recommendation: if you want an urban fantasy with slower pacing, great characters, intricate spell work, and a story that only gets better with time, this is a great pick. While this isn’t quite my favorite series in the genre, I can say with confidence that it contains my single favorite moments within the genre. Good stuff. :)

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by Niki Hawkes