Wolf Moon – Charles de Lint

483d72be92ae109597762795a51434f414f4141Kern has been on the run for years, ever since he knew he was a werewolf. As the story starts, he’s being pursued by a harper who’s able to conjure a fearsome beast to come after Kern. He’s chased to the edge of a cliff, and falls into the river below. The river folk find him, and get him to an inn, where Ainsy, the innkeeper, brings him back to health. He and Ainsy fall in love – here seems to be a place where he can find a family. But soon the harper comes to this part of the valley, and Kern may be in danger of losing all that he’s come to love.

What struck me most about this book was how quick it was. It’s published in 1988, and is standalone. (It’s pure fantasy, not like de Lint’s Newford books.) It strikes me how much fantasy seems to have pivoted to long, involved series lately. I read this book in two nights, and the action takes place in no more than about a month. It was nice to have a quick story to run through, without then having to track down ten more books to finish things off. Don’t get me wrong – I love the ten book series as well, but it’s nice to get these standalone stories in the mix as well.

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The Prince of the Pond – Donna Jo Napoli

84d4200a71514e5597531577041434f414f4141This is a kid’s book (I read it in a about twenty minutes, so I wouldn’t even give it full YA status). And it’s surprisingly dark.

This is the story of the Frog Prince, while he’s a frog. He meets up with a lady frog in the pond near the house of the hag that turned him into a frog. The lady frog is completely confused by the newcomer – he doesn’t seem to know anything about being a frog.

He gradually figures things out, and he and the lady frog go on to have kids. Which turns out to be an interesting experience for her, as he actually wants to take care of them.

So after all that, where the frog family basically learns to be human, he gets turned back into his princely form when he thinks he’s saving one of his kids. And that’s that. It was actually surprisingly sad, which I wouldn’t expect to run into until at least a true YA level book.

The Hills Have Spies – Mercedes Lackey

770a76585e90120596a45347067434f414f4141I’m thoroughly enjoying the series about Mags and Amily – I’m so glad Lackey opened up a new period in Valdemar to write about. This latest series is a number of years after the events of the last – with Mags and Amily having had three children, and Sedric and Lydia taking over as King and Queen, and having four children of their own.

Mags and Amily’s eldest – Peregrine, Perry for short – has been training with his father on spycraft pretty much since he could walk. He’s thirteen now, and when Mags has an opportunity to go investigating some strange happenings in the country, he decides to take Perry along.

They’ve gone to visit a Herald who retired out near the Pelagir Hills. Arville’s gift is luck, so when he says there’s something weird going on on the other side of the border, people listen. What they find is far more dangerous than they could ever have bargained for. Perry and Mags don’t immediately agree on how to handle it, which leads Perry to make an impetuous decision he may not be able to get himself out of.

I loved that this story is about someone who’s not going to be a Herald – the events of this story make it clear to everyone that Perry isn’t Herald material. That’s not meant in a bad way- it means his gifts lie in a direction that a Herald can’t easily handle. I like that Lackey has decided to go there. The Heralds are naturally the center of the stories about Valdemar, for obvious reasons, but it’s actually nice to explore how other people can help, since it’s always been clear that Valdemar is a land that actually welcomes that.

Side note – I’d love to know who came up with the cover, because while it’s cool to look at, I can’t see what it has to do with the story.

Tongues of Serpents – Naomi Novik

4ce78ceffa6921f597a52665867434f414f4141I held onto this book longer than I really should have – I thought I was missing the book between the last one in this series I had read, and what I still had on hand, but I was wrong. So I could have read this at least a year ago. Oops.

Temeraire and Laurence have been transported to Australia due to the events of the last book (the small matter of them not wanting all of the French dragons to die horribly of a dragon plague.) Temeraire it too value for the full sentence of Laurence’s treason to be carried out, so that’s why they’re in Australia, which is fully as rough as it was in our real history of this time period.

They’ve been given a few eggs to start a new covert in Australia. They’re inferior eggs of course, due to their disgrace, which means that the officers on hand to potentially captain those dragons aren’t the best. When the most promising of the eggs is kidnapped, Laurence and crew are off across the whole of Australia to find it.

What they find instead is the set up of what will likely be the end of this series (though there are still several book left), and I’m definitively interested to see where that’s going – they’re all in for quite the potential show down among world powers. I can’t wait to see what happens next. (But have to track down that book first- my library doesn’t have it. Boo!)

The Spectral City- Leanna Renee Hieber

9d1fc91068eab07596931447351434f414f4141Eve has always been able to see ghosts. Her childhood was colored by their presence, but she’s grown into her power as a medium, and even gained some associates that help her with her work. But as women in the late 19th century, it’s hard to be taken seriously, especially when one is talking about using ghosts to help solve crimes. When Theodore Roosevelt gives her his backing, they’re able to form their own precinct within the NYPD, using their ghostly contacts to help solve, and sometimes prevent, crimes.

Just as the precinct is up and running, Maggie, who’s Eve’s most reliable ghostly contact, disappears. The other ghosts can’t get a sense of her at all, and everyone is distraught to find her gone. At the same time, they have a complaint lodged against them by a family that they have never heard of, for supposedly sending their ghosts in to disturb them. If you’ve read enough mysteries, it’s pretty clear the two are connected, though the way to that connection is good storytelling.

I enjoyed this book. I’m not sure I feel like it was wrapped up quite correctly, but I can still see that there’s more that needs to be explored in future books, so I’ll chalk that up to style rather than sloppy writing. I like the characters, and the set up is definitely promising.

Ruin and Rising – Leigh Bardugo

93fa8047c13c3f7596a614b7141434f414f4141Alina and Mal have escaped the Darkling’s invasion of the Little Palace, and know that they need to search for the final of the three amplifiers that will allow Alina full use of her power. They think that the firebird that has that amplifier can be found in the valley where they both were born, and orphaned. But first, they have to find their way out of the underground cathedral where they’ve been sort of imprisoned by their sort of allies, and get back in touch with Prince Nikolai.

I was pleasantly surprised by how this trilogy wrapped up. Alina and Mal’s star-crossed lovers theme was starting to get a little too well developed, and I was a little afraid of where that was going to go. The big finale sort of went where I had feared, but then was able to wrap things up into a neat little bow in a way I had not expected. Kudos to the author for finding a way to stay true to her magic system, and still end with a happy ending.

I’m happy the author is still playing with stories in this world – it’s an interesting magic system and society she’s set up, and while I think it’s a good thing that Mal and Alina’s story is mostly wrapped up, I’m glad the world-building goes on.

The Prophecy Con – Patrick Weekes

6eeb362ada915cc59714b676a51434f414f4141This book has the same madcap dash through time that the first book in the series had. Loch’s crew is fresh off saving the world when another crisis is thrown at them – this time it’s a stolen book, at the same time the neighboring Empire just might throw its undead army at the Republic.

It turns out there’s also some wider forces at work, with the missing Ancients possibly manufacturing a return to this world that they left many centuries ago.

I think my biggest impression of this book is “fast paced”. The whole thing felt like a dead run. There are some fun character moments – the interactions are what I enjoyed in the last book – but maybe not as many in this story.  It’s been a while since I read the last book though, so it’s hard for me to tell.  I guess my main lesson here is that I need to try and read books in series closer together.