Book Review: Blood Orbit by K.R. Richardson

Blood Orbit
A Gattis File Novel
K.R. Richardson
Pyr, May 2018
ISBN 978-1633884397
Trade Paperback

Blood Orbit is a fascinating look at crime fighting in the distant future, set on a terra-formed planet and peopled by segregated and mixed races whose skin color often depicts their spot in the hierarchy. Sound familiar? In fact, nobody cares much when all sixteen patrons in a jasso (night club) are massacred in a dreadful, execution style blood bath. Motive for the crime is nebulous, but the powers that be want it either solved or swept under the carpet as quickly as possible.

Eric Matheson, a member of one of the most elite families in all the universe, has redirected his life to take on the duties of a rookie ofice, a private police officer, for the corporation that runs the planet of Gattis. By some fluke, he is selected to assist the lead inspector, D.J. Dillal. Dillal has recently undergone a surgery to integrate his brain with a highly evolved computer and is still healing, which, considering the stress he’s under to solve this crime, is in doubt. It’s apt to kill him first, especially as time is running out before the corporation considers destroying a whole race of people. An underground is fighting the corporation, but it’s a puzzle whether they’re working for the people’s good, or only their own benefit.

Peopled with an amazing cast of diversified characters, and with a plot that could be ripped from today’s headlines, this is a book to draw you in and keep you reading. At 492 pages, you’ll find complete, and satisfying, world-building.

My one complaint with the book concerned not the story or the writing, both of which are excellent, but the tiny, rather faded print. With my eyes not being what they used to be, I could only read for short periods of time, although if I could’ve, I would’ve.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, September 2018.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder, Four Furlongs and Hometown Homicide.

Book Review: Covenant’s End by Ari Marmell

Covenant's EndCovenant’s End: A Widdershins Adventure
Ari Marmell
Pyr, February 2015
ISBN: 978-1-61614-986-4
Hardcover

In this adventure, the final book of this particular series featuring the thief,Widdershins, Shins returns to the city of Davillon, killing an ogre along the way. To her surprise, the city is on lockdown. She actually finds it more difficult to enter the city than it was to escape it. Almost the first thing she does is discover the mummified body of her beloved mentor laid out in one of her hideaways. When she returns to the Flippant Witch tavern, which she owns, having left it in the hands of her friend Robin, she learns the city has been taken over by her nemesis, Lisette, of the Finders Guild. And Lisette is being used by an evil God for their own purposes, one of which is to destroy Shins.

Oh, did I mention Shins has a personal God living inside her, as well. Olgun is a major part of the reason she’s survived as long as she has, as he lends her special powers. Still, there’s nothing certain that she’ll get through this as she struggles to reclaim the city.

I wish I’d gotten in on the first of this series before reading the final episode. Certain world-making features left me a bit up in the air, but the characters were good and carried the plot through to the end. There’s a lot of humor, a great deal of angst, and a ton of action. It’s amusing to see the powers Olgun helps Widdershins develop, and finally, the story concludes on a satisfactory note.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, April 2016.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

Book Review: Superposition by David Walton

SuperpositionSuperposition
David Walton
Pyr Books, April 2015
ISBN: 978-1-63388-012-2
Trade Paperback

Sometimes, today’s science fiction becomes tomorrow’s reality. In the case of Superposition, I sincerely hope not.

When physicist Brian Vanderhall shows up one winter night at Jacob Kelley’s home, they haven’t seen each other since Jacob quit his job at the New Jersey Super Collider. And when an excited and distraught Brian shoots Elena, Jacob’s wife, in demonstration of his momentous discovery, trouble looms. It turns out Elena is not harmed as the bullet passes right through her, a phenomenon due to a previously unknown probability wave. Jacob slugs Brian and runs him off, but that is not the end of things.

Unfortunately, the discovery is fraught with inconceivable hazards. A new species, which Brian calls the varcolac, is brought forth by the wave and proves to be violent, super strong, and dangerous. They can split into many versions, and worst of all, they can cause everyone else to split, too. Which is exactly what happens when Jacob goes to check on Brian at the NJSC. There he finds Brian dead, murdered. Jacob and his friend, Marek, who has gone there with him, are attacked by varcolacs and barely escape. Yet, a bit later, Brian shows up in the car, very much alive. The split, it turns out, creates two of the same person. And when the varcolac follow Jacob home, they kill one version of his family, while the other version escapes and disappears.

The police bring one Jacob to trial for Brian’s murder, even as the second Jacob searches for the murderer, his missing family, and the end of the varcolacs.

If this sounds confusing, it kind of is, especially if one isn’t up on probability waves and physics. I must confess I soon spotted the murderer, but there are no spoilers in this review. I’ll leave the next reader to it. The book is well-written, with well fleshed out characters, and moves right along. I can’t stop without mentioning the author has invented a terrific new product. I think Smartpaper is right on the horizon.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, September 2015.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

Book Reviews: Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd and Reaper’s Legacy by Tim Lebbon

Hunting ShadowsHunting Shadows
An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery #16
Charles Todd
William Morrow, January 2014
ISBN 978-0-06-223718-7
Hardcover

Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd is yet another thrilling historical mystery in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series.

Charles Todd is actually a mother-son writing team and I was fortunate enough to hear the mother part of the team talk about their writing process at a Malice Domestic a couple of years ago. Mother and son live in different states, so this is a fascinating collaboration of two gifted writers.

Hunting Shadows is well-written and equally well researched. The novel takes place in 1920s England, where Inspector Ian Rutledge, haunted by his experience in World War I, is called to Cambridgeshire to solve a double murder. The local police are puzzled by a phantom killer and it is up to Rutledge to find and bring the murderer to justice.

Todd brings the terrors of the trenches alive. The voice of Rutledge’s killed friend Hamish is buried deep in his subconscious, commenting on the case and pointing him in different directions. Other characters in this novel are equally tormented by their war experiences.

Apart from the novel’s well-rounded characters, I especially liked the setting. There is the continuous underlying danger of the Fen country’s fog and marshes. Throughout the novel, I felt as if I was walking around the small town of Ely along with Rutledge, questioning witnesses, driving in his motor car and trying to make sense of a world that had just been shaken to its core by a World War.

For anyone who enjoys historical mysteries, this is another gem that should not be missed.

Reviewed by Anika Abbate, April 2014.

 

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Reaper's LegacyReaper’s Legacy
Toxic City Book Two
Tim Lebbon
Pyr, April 2013
ISBN 978-1-61614-767-9
Hardcover

There are so many things I love about this story. First are the characters, which should always be the heart of a good book. Here we have two basic main characters, Lucy-Anne and Jack. They are part of a small group of teens who have snuck into London, a city that has been closed off from the rest of the world for a few years due to a contagion that was released within it. This contagion has killed many but for some it has given them advanced psychic abilities.

Lucy-Anne has come to London in search of her brother while Jack has come to find his family, only to learn that his father has developed a psychic ability to kill. This is so extraordinary that he is hunted by the government and his sister and mother are being held prisoner by that same government. While Jack seeks to save his family, he finds that he is also affected by the contagion that was released, while his close friends were not. He struggles with the changes within him and to keep his humanity in tact while protecting those he cares about. His gifts are extraordinary and have been bestowed upon him directly by a woman known as Nomad.

On the other hand, Lucy-Anne was born with certain gifts and coming to London may have enhanced them or maybe has given her the freedom of trusting those gifts. Either way, she splits from Jack and his group, joins with a boy called Rook, and together they search for her brother.

The world that Tim Lebbon has created is both fascinating and original. I don’t want to give away too many details, but I like the fact that in this genre of “Armageddon fiction” he has created a scenario where the battle is being fought on a smaller scale which makes it more manageable and relatable to the reader than most. His details are fantastic, at times wondrous or horrifying, depending on the circumstances and both main characters struggle to achieve their goals, knowing that they might not like what they find either within others or themselves.

It is clear that both are tied to either saving or ending the city, both have links to the mysterious Nomad and while now separated, belong together to fight their battles.

The only complaint I have about Reaper’s Legacy is the ending. Like many books in this genre, the book ends mid-story, to be picked up in the next book. I guess I’m old-fashioned but I prefer my books to have a complete, more satisfying ending while hoping and expecting the story to continue. This quibble is small and probably dated, but it won’t stop me from reading the next book in this series and I suppose that’s the point.

Reaper’s Legacy is a good book that is well worth the read.

Reviewed by Erin Farwell, April 2014.
Author of Shadowlands.

Book Review: Earth Star by Janet Edwards

Earth StarEarth Star
Janet Edwards
Pyr, April 2014
ISBN: 978-1-61614-898-0
Ebook
Also available in hardcover

Jarra is now 18 and finishing the first year of her history degree. After the dramatic rescue in Earth Girl, she’s slowly getting used to her new found family. But things are changing. A new threat has come to Earth. Will Jarra be able to save them all and will there be an Earth left to return to?

You know what they say about the second novel being the most difficult book to write but fortunately for us, the second Jarra Tel Morath novel is a good one! After the dramatic events at the end of Earth Girl life slowly gets back to normal for Jarra. While most people on her course accept and respect her, there are still some there who are quite happy to make her life a misery. But things are different now. She’s found a new family and discovered that her true parents are in the military.

In this outing, a strange threat has come to Earth and the military have sprung into action. Keeping their movements a secret from the rest of the Earth’s population is an arduous task and it’s inevitable that someone will let the cat out of the bag. This is when Jarra steps in to play her part and some unexpected characters find themselves with their own role to play.

All in all, this is an excellent second outing in the Earth series. Jarra’s character is developed further with more connections made to her true parentage and extended family. We also see more happening with her relationship with Fian and the obstacles they have to face as a couple and it’s nice to see how they tackle those challenges together and individually. It will be interesting to see what happens after this since Jarra ends up becoming pretty important to the military so her future is looking more and more intriguing. So I say well done to Janet Edwards, you’ve created a future that any young reader would love to delve into.

Reviewed by Laura McLaughlin, April 2014.

 

Book Review: Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

Earth GirlEarth Girl
Janet Edwards
Pyr, March 2013
ISBN: 978-1-61614-766-2
Hardcover

Jarra is about to turn eighteen and soon she will embark on her college course. The trouble is, she wants to apply to an off-world university and teach all the norms that an ape girl can be just as good as they are. It’s not her fault she can’t leave Earth and not her fault her parents abandoned her. But when events on Earth take a dramatic turn, the norms sure are glad she’s there.

This is a young adult novel, set hundreds of years in the future. By this time, William Crane has developed the portal system, allowing humans to jump from planet to planet and colonise the galaxy. Each colony has slightly different ethos and moral code but ultimately, there is peace between humans. Jarra is a teenager that happens to be ‘handicapped’. Devoid of a critical gene that would allow her to portal between worlds, she is one of a small group that cannot ever leave Earth. But she’s passionate about history and is adept at archaeological digs by the time she’s off to college. Determined to prove herself she applies to an off-world university to study history since they spend their first year on Earth studying pre-history anyway. What starts off as a plan for petty revenge on the ‘norms’, changes dramatically when she begins to realise that they aren’t as bad as they seem. Before she can tackle their prejudices against the ‘apes’, she needs to tackle her own and make peace with her affliction.

This book is chock-full of great characters with a plot that is interesting and engaging. It was good enough that I finished it in one sitting and I wonder whether there will be any more to come as I would like to see what Jarra gets up to when she finishes her course. I think that young adults will like this title and I would definitely recommend it. Check this one out, just don’t go off planet…

Reviewed by Laura McLaughlin, March 2014.

Book Review: Lost Covenant by Ari Marmell—and a Giveaway!

Lost CovenantLost Covenant
A Widdershins Adventure
Ari Marmell
Pyr, December 2013
ISBN 978-1-61614-811-9
Hardcover

Widdershins has returned to Davillon, a ghost in the crowd come to visit the dead. But her journey leads her to another city. Dogged by spies and enemies she must fulfill a debt. But that debt brings with it pain and suffering and not just for her. Can she save the Delacroix family in time or will their enemies bring the old family crumbling down? Good thing the Gods are on her side…well, maybe just the one.

This is a post medieval-esque romp revolving around a likeable lead with a murky past. Widdershins, or Shins as she likes to be called is a former thief from Davillon but who spends most of her time in this title sprinting around Aubier looking out for the distant family of a man who cared for her but is now dead. She has unnatural skills with weapons, agility and speed but you find that these are being helped along by someone of a higher power. There is much to like in this title, especially since it is well written and contains interesting characters. The plot was interesting, full of action and hints of double crosses and betrayals. It has a great pace to it and it alludes to previous adventures and more yet to come.

But there are a few points in the book that I didn’t like. Firstly, Shins converses with and is aided by a God of which she is the last, sole worshipper. In turn, this god, Olgun, gives her assistance such as extra speed, more perceptive hearing etc. which they both use to her advantage. After all, if she dies, so does Olgun. But it’s the manner of their conversing that began to irritate me after a while. The conversation you see is all one-sided. Shins answers each of Olgun’s questions by repeating what the god has said with her answer tagged on the end. Now, while this God inhabits her body and communicates with her via her mind, he/she seems unable to know her thoughts unless she speaks them aloud. Maybe this has been addressed in previous books but for me, it was irritating and awkward. For instance, I’m sure the reader would have been able to keep up if Olgun’s conversation was, say, in italics while Shins stayed in normal font. Then at least, the reader could be in on the joke while other characters were left in the dark. As it is, we’re just as ignorant as they are and have to work out what’s being said by ourselves. Like I said, it’s irritating. Also, the author sometimes tries too hard to make Shins funny. I mean, I get it that she’s strong yet vulnerable with a sarcastic wit but at times, it all seems overdone and forced. And finally, one last gripe…there are too many instances of gaping, gawping and general slack-jawed expressions among the characters, giving the impression that most people run around with confused and shocked faces most of the day. While this might be true in certain towns in Ireland (more due to the Guinness if I’m honest), I don’t think it should be the case here.

I’d still recommend this book though and I think that if the author was willing to smooth out some of the more irksome points, he’d have a romping great series that would do well with any number of teenagers and adults alike.

Reviewed by Laura McLaughlin, February 2014.

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