Review: Green-Eyed Demon by Jaye Wells

Green-Eyed Demon

Sabina Kane #3

Written: Jaye Wells [website]

Published: February 22, 2011

Publisher: Orbit

ISBN: 9780316037778

Obtained via: Netgalley

The Blurb:

The clock is ticking for Sabina Kane. She has to save her sister from her mysterious captors. And in order to do that, she has to broker a deal between the mages and the vampires before all hell breaks loose.

But as much as Sabina is focused on surviving the present, the past won’t be ignored. Before she can save those she cares about, she’s got to save herself from the ghosts of her past. Because the past is haunting her. Literally.

My Review:

I have to be honest. I was looking for something to dislike about this book. I wasn’t happy with some of the choices our main character made in the last volume.

(Judgmental? Me? Absolutely, when it comes to fictional characters and whether I spend my time on them. A girl has only so much reading time in the day and must needs be choosy! Why read a book – or continue a series – if you’re not going to enjoy it?)

So, anyway, I was ready to give this book a run-through, be disappointed, and have one less series on my shelf.

Except. Dammit. The characters (and thus the author) have made all the right moves this time. Sabina is finally growing as a person – complete with real feelings! The story was lively and interesting (who could possibly write a boring story that has New Orleans and voodoo??) The ending was satisfying, while still leaving problems to be solved. And I have fallen in love with Gighul all over again.

Ms. Wells has done a very good job on this book. I guess I’ll need to find an arbitrary reason to take some OTHER series off my shelf instead. If you’re wavering on continuing after Mage in Black (like I was), let me tell you that this volume is worth the read. I went from being willing to give up on this series to wanting the next one in the course of one book. I guess all it takes is some voodoo, a midget orgy, a zombie or three, and a handful of drag queens to keep me hooked.

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Previous Reviews:

Mage In Black

Red-Headed Step-Child

Review: Pale Demon by Kim Harrison

Pale Demon

Hollows #9

Written: Kim Harrison [website]

Published: Eos

When: February 22, 2011

ISBN: 0061138061

Obtained ViaNetGalley

Cover Blurb:

Condemned to death for black magic and shunned, Rachel Morgan has three days to somehow get to the annual witches convention in San Francisco and clear her name. If she fails, the only way she can escape death is to live in the demonic ever after . . . for ever after.

Banned from the flight lists, Rachel teams up with elven tycoon Trent Kalamack, headed for the West Coast for his own mysterious business. But Rachel isn’t the only passanger along for the ride. Can a witch, an elf, a living vampire, and a pixy in one car survive for over 2,300 miles? And that’s not counting the assassin on their tail.

A fearsome demon walks the sunlight, freed after centuries of torment to slay the innocent and devour souls. But his ultimate prey is Rachel Morgan. While the powerful witch with nerves of steel will do whatever it takes to stay alive, even embracing her own demonic nature may not be enough to save her.

My Review:

I’ve been a fan of The Hollows since I found Dead Witch Walking on a bookstore shelf in Cincinnati shortly after its release and picked it up, delighted that I’d found a story set in my own hometown. I fell in love with Rachel’s fiery temper, Ivy’s stoic vampire glamor, and Jenks’ fierce disrespect for everything. The series has had its ups and downs. When a certain cast member died, my heart broke (we’ve lost two and this statement is equally true for them both). Rachel as a character has a history of bad choices. Some of those have made me furious (namely, Black Magic Sanction), others I’ve been less upset with but they made me wonder if the story was going in the right direction. I’ve remained steadfast, however, picking up every book each year as they are released (shortly before my birthday – the perfect gift!), and I’m thrilled to say that the ride was so definitely worth it.

Pale Demon is the most thrilling book we’ve seen since  A Fistful of Charms — and is also the absolute best in the series. We finally get a full look at life in the ever after! The stakes are the highest they’ve ever been: Rachel stands to lose what little standing she has left in the witch community, her church, her friends, her freedom, her magic, and quite probably her life. She finds a surprising ally in her nemesis, Trent Kalamack — but Trent also makes it clear that he has his own agenda in going to the West Coast. Rachel somehow has to travel by car to California, get her shunning revoked, protect Trent from a gang of elven baddies, and — oh, yeah — defeat a suddenly-released day-walking demon that has every resident of the ever after shaking in their boots.

Yes, we have here the classic story-making trope of taking the crew on that oldie-but-goody “the cross-country road trip”. But there’s nothing old or tired about the story we’re getting. I’d have read this straight through if I could have, and when I finished I wanted to pick it up and read it all over again. I may have gotten an advanced galley from NetGalley but this won’t stop me in the least from making sure the hardcover is pre-ordered so that I can devour it once more on the release date.

Kim Harrison is a master storyteller, one who knows her craft very well. Check out her website sometime, her writing posts are of a phenomenal help to aspiring writers. I have never picked up a book by Kim (or her alter-ego, Dawn Cook) that I haven’t enjoyed tremendously. Her young adult series is also a wonderful tale to read — even for adults.

If you’re not reading this series, then you are simply missing out. Buy it now at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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Review: A Christmas Carroll by Leanna Renee Hieber

A Christmas Carroll

A Midwinter Fantasy Anthology

Strangely Beautiful #2.5

Written: Leanna Renee Hieber [website]

Published: Dorchester Publishing

When: Digital release in November, 2010 with a trade paperback release in October, 2011

ISBN: 0843964219 (digital version)

Obtained via: Publisher

Cover Blurb:

You have ventured through the wardrobe and down the rabbit hole. You’ve beheld the Fading Lands and glimpsed the ivory spires of Minas Tirith. A star now rises over three other kingdoms, and over three heroic couples, all deep in winter’s thrall:

Visit Leanna Renee Hieber’s Strangely Beautiful Victorian London, “strange in its happenings and mood and beautiful in its romance and language.” -Booklist
Haunted though these soot-stained urban alleys may be, a lonely headmistress and a gallant vicar shall here reap the season’s blessings.

Travel to Meridian and Sylph Valley, L.J. McDonald’s “mesmerizing, magical world [readers] won’t want to leave.” -Library Journal
Immensely powerful creatures called battle sylphs vie for dominance here, while fulfilling every wish of their queens. But what woman shall rule the mighty Mace?

Discover Helen Scott Taylor’s land of The Magic Knot, which is “wonderfully creative and lusciously sexy.” -The Chicago Tribune
In the frosty North, in the ice palace of Valhalla, Sonja’s life depends upon unraveling the mystery of the Crystal Crib–and upon winning the love of Odin’s son.

My Review:

Note: This review covers only A Christmas Carroll and not the other novellas in this volume.

This novella is the perfect compliment to the first two Strangely Beautiful volumes. The major conflict was resolved at the end of Darkly Luminous, but there were definitely ends left untied. Namely, Michael had confessed his love for Rebecca, Headmistress of Athens Academy, but would she return that love? Would they find the happiness that had been delayed by two decades?

Hieber has a talent for making the eerily supernatural a perfectly normal phenomenon. Reading her words, it is not unreasonable to imagine that one could look up from the turn of a page to see a Victorian ghost come gliding through a wall. The language, like the previous volumes, is lovely and ephemeral and obviously carefully chosen to evoke the time period in question.

This novella focuses on the importance of love and friendship, and the power of the light to turn back the darkness. Which, really, is an over-arching theme throughout the whole of the books, but it is particularly poignant in this one. The departed spirit of a lost member of the Guard arranges a dangerous quest through twenty years of history to fight despair and guilt — and to bring a pair of soul mates together.

A Christmas Carroll is a must-read episode, and probably my favorite in the Strangely Beautiful universe. It may be possible to read the novella first, but it would have major spoilers for the first two books, so I don’t recommend it. We’ll be receiving a third volume (a prequel) titled The Perilous Prophecy of Guard and Goddess in May. There is also a turn-of-the-20th-century volume in the works, to round out the quartet. If you like the Victorian era, Gothic architecture, Dickens, or love stories then this series is a good one to try.

Buy it at Amazon.

Note: Don’t forget to enter our giveaway for a copy of the 1st book in the series: The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker.

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Review: Pack of Lies by Laura Anne Gilman

Pack of Lies

PSI #2

Written: Laura Anne Gilman [website]

Published: Luna

When: February 1, 2011 (Although some stores may have it out now.)

ISBN: 0373803249

Obtained Via: NetGalley

Cover Blurb:

FUNNY HOW LIFE CAN TURN YOU UPSIDE DOWN…

My name is Bonita Torres, and eight months ago I was an unemployed college graduate without a plan. Now I’m an investigator with the Private Unaffiliated Paranormal Investigations team of New York. Pretty awesome, right?

The Cosa Nostradamus, the magical community, isn’t quick to give up its secrets, though. Not even to fellow members. Not even when it’s in their best interests. So we’ve been busting our tails, perfecting our forensic skills, working to gain acceptance. The team’s tight… but we have our quirks, too. And our Big Dog, Benjamin Venec…well, he’s a special case, all right.

But we can’t give up. We’re needed, especially when a case comes along that threatens to pit human against fatae. But one wrong move could cost us everything we’ve worked for…

My Review:

Making the focus of your mystery a sexual assault is either a very brave or a very stupid thing for a writer to do. Readers are way more uncomfortable with rape than they are with murder or other violent crimes. The success or failure of the story depends on whether you’re a good enough writer to pull it off. Laura Anne Gilman carries the sensitive subject well, resolving it in probably the only way that it could have been.

When Bonita Torres and her fellow PUPIs (I’m still not sure whether to love or roll my eyes at that acronym) are brought in on the case of an attempted rape, they believe it’s an open and shut case.The female companion of a ki-rin is assaulted by two Talented males, and one of them is killed when the ki-rin retaliates. Since the ki-rin is a unicorn-like fatae, complete with the unicorn’s requirements for virginity in its companions, nearly everyone involved assumes the ki-rin’s attack is justified. Open. Shut. Done.

Except heightened tension between the human Talents and the non-human fatae community means the city is ready to erupt into violence and war, and this attack could be the match that lights the inferno. Once the surviving male from the assault swears that the whole thing was a setup, that the girl had asked to meet the pair and that it hadn’t been rape, it becomes essential for the team to discover the truth – and fast. The case devolves into a he-said/she-said nightmare with no evidence that can prove either side.

This is where the whole thing could’ve broken down into a tangle that would have caused the story to fail. It didn’t. Gilman handles the twisty situation with a dignity that a lot of authors couldn’t have done. We don’t get to meet the surviving attacker “on-camera” but it would have been difficult, I think, to make all sides look sympathetic, even with the situation that’s been set up here. In the end, I think the reader is shown a fundamental truth: nobody wins when violence is done, not the attacker and certainly not the victim.

Since this is the second series Gilman has set in this version of NYC, the world is fully realized and extensively built. Something about the main characters didn’t grab me, though. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have the benefit of starting with the first in the series. I don’t know. Bonnie’s emotional reactions seemed just the slightest bit off. Then again, her emotions are being manipulated without her knowledge for the first half of the book, and this is a character who is very different mentally than I am, so maybe that’s all it is. She’s not written badly, she just doesn’t make me love her the way other characters have in the past.

I’m still reading through the first set of Cosa Nostradamus books. (I’m on book three. Maybe I’ll tell the story sometime of why I’m coming so late to that series.) So it’s possible there are bits of history missing that would better flesh out the characters. We’ll see.

Pack of Lies is certainly a solid story for the series, handling a delicate subject with grace, and I’ll definitely be giving the characters another go at reeling me in. I’m going to give this book a hopeful three and a half stars, with a look toward going back to Hard Magic for another go-round.

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Review: The Heir of Night by Helen Lowe

The Wall of Night Book 1 The Heir of Night

The Wall of Night #1

Written: Helen Lowe [website]

Published: Eos

When: September 28,2010

ISBN: 0061734047

Obtained via: Publisher (ARC)

Back Cover Blurb:

If Night falls, all fall . . .

In the far north of the world of Haarth lies the bitter mountain range known as the Wall of Night. Garrisoned by the Nine Houses of the Derai, the Wall is the final bastion between the peoples of Haarth and the Swarm of Dark—which the Derai have been fighting across worlds and time.

Malian, Heir to the House of Night, knows the history of her people: the unending war with the Darkswarm; the legendary heroes, blazing with long-lost power; the internal strife that has fractured the Derai’s former strength. But now the Darkswarm is rising again, and Malian’s destiny as Heir of Night is bound inextricably to both ancient legend and any future the Derai—or Haarth—may have.

My Review:

I’m pretty late in this review, since the book came out in September, but I really wanted to talk about it. I finished this book awhile ago but life has kept me from my review. This book, though, deserves to be talked about and so here I am, late to the party, but with a case of wine in hand (figuratively speaking anyway).

When Eos offered up advance reader copies of this book, I jumped at the chance even though I knew nothing about the book. I’ve had good luck with Eos’ fantasy offerings as a whole, so I figured even if I’d never heard of the author before that I probably wouldn’t be disappointed. Man, am I glad that not only did I make that jump but that I actually managed to snag a copy.

I have to admit to a few misconceptions going into it. The cover art, though beautiful, is pretty misleading. I mean, we have a huge dark castle looming out of a creepy-looking forest and a cloaked figure in the foreground holding aloft a lantern. I thought for sure that this was a vampire book. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Make no mistake that this is a fantasy novel – and if you don’t believe me, one look at the blurb will prove it. It has a very slight science fiction flavor, in that the history of the Derai seems to be that they came to Haarth from a distant world. But it’s a science fiction flavor the way the first couple of Pern books were science fiction — only by the most remote of the world’s origins and (for this book, at least) that seems to have little bearing on the story.

In point of fact, we don’t learn much about the Darkswarm who are the sworn enemies of the Derai, or of the Derai people themselves. This novel focuses mostly on Malian, Heir to the House of Night, daughter of the leader of the foremost of Derai houses; and on her new-found friend, the young Kalan, who is a sort of apprentice priest at the local temple. They are separated from those who care for them, lost in the mountain-sized warren of the House while the treacherous and mysterious Darkswarm attack the House and Temple both.

This is another volume with more questions than answers, though I think not on the scale of Brandon Sanderson’s. The compelling portrayals of the main characters are comparable though. Both Malian and Kalan are young and naive but brave and they both live in a harsh world and culture. Their characters are vivid and both make choices believable for their age and experience.

The Derai seem to be a brutal people, one who put much stock in war and in physical might. There is also an undercurrent of treachery that sours their fearlessness into something dark and sort of bitter. I wanted to know more about the Derai, but I was also relieved when Malian begins the fantasy-series-required “hero’s journey” at the end of the book. The Derai and the Wall of Night they protect are just the tip of the enigmatic iceberg. The reader is given many teasing hints of more – and just as strange – cultures and peoples of Haarth.

I’m sold on this world, and on the characters. I want to know more. I think Helen Lowe has given us a unique new twist on the old “coming of age” fantasy trope and I can’t wait to see what else she’s going to do with it. Not only that, but now that I know from her website that she’s also a poet, I understand the beautiful imagery of this novel. The language here is gorgeous and unobtrusive. You’ll only notice how musically the words go together if you’re looking for it, otherwise you’ll just see the beautifully painted pictures of the scenes described. (Unless, of course, you don’t see pictures in your head**. Which boggles my mind, but is possible. Doubtless even if so, you’ll be able to appreciate this book anyway.)

The good news – at least for my overseas readers – is that I delayed in my review enough that now those in the United Kingdom can look forward to their local Heir of Night debut. The book is set to be released in March 2011, per the sidebar on the author’s website. Don’t feel bummed, US readers – you can pick up The Heir of Night now and still look forward to the sequel, coming out this fall. If you’re not convinced, then hear it from the author’s own lips over at John Scalzi’s Whatever feature: The Big Idea

Buy it at Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

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**I was going to link, here, to an article I read by (I think) CE Murphy about how she doesn’t see images in her head when she writes and had no idea that anyone could even do that until she’d met someone who’d explained it to her. Except that I can’t find it. Oh, well.

Review: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings

The Stormlight Archive #1

Written:  Brandon Sanderson[website]

Published: Tor

When: August 31, 2010

ISBN:  978-0765326355

Obtained via: Purchase* (I also won an ARC in a contest, but ended up buying a copy as well.)

Cover blurb:

Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soilless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.

It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.

One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.

Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by over-powering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.

Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.

Speak again the ancient oaths,

Life before death.

Strength before weakness.

Journey before Destination.

and return to men the Shards they once bore.

The Knights Radiant must stand again.

My Review:

The Way of Kings is Sanderson’s very ambitious magnum opus, a projected 10 volume epic fantasy, of which this is the first. As an added bonus – if you get mugged after purchasing this book, you can use all 1,000 pages of it to beat your attacker senseless.

All the arm cramps I got from trying to read this thing in bed were totally worth it. I received an Advanced Reader Copy, but ended up running out to buy the hardcover edition because I kept hearing that all the wonderful art was so much better in the final copy. It was the truth, and I don’t regret my purchase at all.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Brandon’s other work: everything from the Mistborn books, to his stand alone Warbreaker to his Alcatraz series with Scholastic. I’ve been following his work since shortly after it was announced that he would be finishing Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. He’s done remarkably well with that series, in my opinion.

Finishing someone else’s epic series with their notes, however, is a very different animal from successfully carrying off your own. Does he manage it? I think it’s too early to tell.

The Way of Kings is its own world and it’s a highly complex one. We’re shown elements ranging from a harsh alien landscape complete with new and frightening wildlife to an intricate political system with multiple peoples and countries. The only problem is that the world is so vast that we’re shown only the merest of glimpses of anything.

The world is beautiful, hypnotic and deadly. Yet we get only the smallest taste of the banquet that’s hinted at throughout the story. For every element that’s shown, there are at least a dozen questions that we’re left wondering about. Why do noblewomen cover their left hands? What exactly is the nature of the fabrials? Where does the power for lashings come from? That doesn’t even cover the series’ big mysteries, those are just world-building questions.

We’re ultimately left with more questions than answers, and Sanderson’s treading a very fine line between leaving the reader wanting more and leaving the reader frustrated beyond endurance. Does it work? It did for me, but I think it’s going to depend on the willingness of the reader to wait for answers.

No one builds worlds like Brandon Sanderson – it’s his signature, what he’s famous for and he does it like a master. The Way of Kings is no different – in fact, if it’s possible to go too far with world-building, then he might have managed it. There might be too much information here, but the way Sanderson builds worlds leaves the reader wondering whether that information is extraneous or whether it will be vitally important later on in the series. Or maybe I’m just pissy that I’m going to have to wait until at least 2012 to see book #2.

It’s a good thing that the characters carry so much of the book’s emotion. Dalinar, Kaladin and Shallan – three of our major characters – are vitally alive. They hold within them brutal strength, desperate hope, and an innocent ruthlessness. Kaladin’s storyline especially is spell-binding, and I’ll be forced to wait for the rest of the series if only to find out what happens to him.

You have plenty of time to pick up and plow your way through this massive tome before the next volume hits shelves. This is probably for the best, because this is a story that will require multiple readings to wring out all its juices.

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Buy the book at Amazon or B&N.

Review: The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

Brenna YovanoffThe Replacement

Written: Brenna Yovanoff [Website]

Published: Razorbill, Hardcover

When: September 21, 2010

ISBN: 9781595143372

Obtained via: Publisher

Cover blurb:

Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, Mackie comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement—left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is slowly dying in the human world.

Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with an oddly intriguing girl named Tate. But when Tate’s baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.

* * *

The Replacement is a book of the Others, the Fae Ones, the Creatures who live under the hill. It’s also the story of a teenage boy who feels a lot different than the rest of his friends: a little odd, a little sickly, a little strange. You may be thinking, “But doesn’t this describe every teenage boy who ever lived?” And it does.

But Mackie is different.

Mackie is a Replacement, a creature left in an empty crib the night the REAL Malcolm Doyle was taken away. Sickly from the constant touch of iron, a substance that – to Mackie – is deathly poisonous, he never should have survived to grow up in the first place. However- in a twist that resonates with me most strongly – the unconditional love of his older sister, Emma, has given Mackie the strength to reach near-adulthood. But Emma makes a deal with the creatures of the slag heap to get Mackie an otherworldly medicine for his illness, and this draws them both into a centuries-old web of lies and illusion that has haunted the town and caused the sacrifice of dozens of babies.

This book is a macabre hyperbole of teenage existence: the angst, the unhappiness with one’s parents and with where one comes from, the desire to fit in that pairs with the secret feeling that one really just doesn’t and maybe never could. That need that one feels, as you’re coming to adulthood, to prove oneself. To be a good person. To save the world. And to make out with that really cute girl/guy from English class…

Mackie struggles with all of these things throughout the book. He also deals with the ghastly but somehow piteous creatures who live beneath the slag heap, and he finds himself caught in the middle of a rivalry between two Fae sisters (though they’re never called that in the book).

Through it all, though, is that theme of love and the way it can transform us if we let it. Emma has loved Mackie enough that he still lives, years after he should have become too ill to survive. The creatures of the House of Mayhem, under the slag heap, become beautiful when they go out on stage to play music for the town and receive their adoration. Mackie’s friends love him enough to risk their lives and the safety of their town to go underground and try to rescue a missing child.

The Replacement is an excellent coming-of-age, finding-yourself tale for the YA crowd, with just the right amount of teenage angst – making it compelling to adults rather than annoying. The publisher has billed it as “Edward Scissorhands meets Catcher In the Rye” and they’re not wrong. I also love the haunting (US) cover art.  The Replacement’s release date is September 21st, so you have just enough time to jot it on your shopping list and go out to pick it up!

Buy The Replacement: Amazon | B&N | Indie Bound

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Writer's Resources for June 9th through June 29th

These are writers’ resource links I’ve found helpful and/or interesting for June 9th through July 18th:

Writer’s Resources for June 9th through June 29th

These are writers’ resource links I’ve found helpful and/or interesting for June 9th through July 18th:

Review: The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Hieber

The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker
The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker

What can I say about Leanna Renee Hieber’s The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker? I could say that it’s elegantly written, with vivid prose that somehow reminds me of The Secret Garden. One could say that comparison is caused merely by the book’s setting in the Victorian era – but I remain convinced that it’s really the prose. Ms. Hieber evokes the setting not only with her descriptions but with her voice and choice of words – which, to my mind, is a sign of a remarkable author. While reading this book, I could almost have sworn that I was back in my Advanced English class, pounding my brain against the many metaphors of Dostoyevsky, Dickens, Kafka or Shakespeare.

Except that none of the above (with the exception of the great Bard himself) managed to capture my attention the way that Percy Parker did. I admit that it was slow going at first. The first 85 pages or so reminded me far too much of that English class, and contained less ghostly action than I would have liked. Also, Percy is like many a teenager – despite her era – and her angsty “Woe is me, I am so ghostly” mantra really grated my nerves. (This, however, is a sure sign that the author has managed to pen a realistic teen point of view, as explained in this review over here. Truly, it is a mark in the author’s favor when a teen character annoys me.) By contrast, once I hit that one-third mark into the book, everything started to roll and I read straight through to the climax in a single evening. Or, early morning, as the case may be.

As for the story, let me sum up. Miss Percy Parker is an eighteen year old girl who’s been raised in a convent. Her mother died and left her with a phoenix pendant and no memories of her. Her only friends have been the ghosts that she can see and speak with. Most live humans who see her believe she is a ghost herself ; she looks as if all the color had been bled from her hair, skin, and eyes. She is accustomed to the fear of those she meets, so her habit is to don gloves, scarf, and dark glasses.

Percy arrives at the start of the book for her first semester at Athens Academy in London, right smack in the middle of the Ripper’s reign of terror. Something about the murders has stirred up the ghostly population of London, and there recently have been many malicious hauntings. These hauntings are combated by a mysterious group of men and women who call themselves the Guard. These six men and women had been possessed by beings of great power at a young age, and tasked with the fulfillment of a prophecy. The Guard have also been long-awaiting their missing seventh member. Except that just when they think they have found her, they realize they have two candidates!

To say more here would spoil the fun, but suffice it to say that it is a delightful tale of trust, betrayal, friendships, and ghostly hauntings. Had I known that this story was so intertwined with the ancient mythology of Persephone and her descent into Hades, I would have made more of an effort to finish sooner. I should have realized it was more than a passing acquaintance, however, when it is said that Percy is not the character’s full given name…

I admit that much of my opinion is affected by the unique take on the old mythology that I’ve loved for decades. I do not begrudge the liberties Ms. Hieber has taken with the story; and I recommend that you shouldn’t either. Some of my affection for the story and the author also lies in the fact that she hails, originally, from my neck of the woods in Southwestern Ohio. I don’t believe I’m too biased, but draw your own conclusions.

On the other hand, I do remain a bit skeptical as to the pace with which Percy’s romance with her mathematics teacher, Alexi, developed. I am, however, always a cynic in that aspect and as such will keep my skepticism mostly to myself. This was not the rollicking, rough and tumble world of the urban fantasy I’ve been reading lately. No, if those books are like whiskey straight from the bottle, then Percy Parker is sipping chardonnay from crystal glasses at a dinner party. I feel smarter for having read it, and I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see this title listed on required reading lists in some distant future. If you want an intelligent, entertaining read – then may I suggest you run right out and pick up your copy now?

[xrr rating=4/5 imageset=tiny_star]