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June 22, 2018

3 Novels for Fantasy Fans

by MK French

Fantasy is a huge genre and today I have magical realism, paranormal and epic. Do you have a preferred subgenre of fantasy?
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Snow City by G. A. Kathryns

Snow City
February 2017; 978-1542858076
ebook, print (270 pages); magical realism
Echo Japonica used to be someone else before she came to Snow City, but she doesn't like to think of that. Snow City is an idealized dream that she had created, and eventually, it starts falling apart.

Echo's language has an odd cadence to it, with very archaic word choices and arrangements that makes me feel as if she's translating between languages when she speaks. She outright states that the convolutions of her language is a refuge, and the other characters definitely comment on it. It's odd that there's a ghost named Charity that can eat and sleep and is solid enough to need clothes, can cry yet not get wet in the rain. Charity's origins are fairly clear, though the way that Echo takes to her and assumes the role of guardian has an almost dreamlike quality to it. Even the sharp turn that the story takes, complete with violence reminiscent of our news reports, has that same sense of dream logic to it. The end of the novel carries the same essence to it, bringing everything to a logical close.

I'm not sure how I feel about some of the characters, to be honest. Echo's circuitous language puts me off a bit, but I understand her motivations. Charity is sweet, and I really liked her and felt bad for her as more of her troubles arose.

Buy Snow City at Amazon

Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

Sparrow Hill Road
May 2014; DAW; 978-0756409616
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); paranormal
Rose Marshall was run off the road and killed in 1952. This turned her into a hitcher, a ghost that has to hitchhike her way through the twilight, and she often tries to guide the dead where they need to go or help those that can be saved from dying in car accidents. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Because Rose is a ghost, she exists in a liminal space between living and dying. Her story bounces around in time as well as space, moving around the United States and touching on all the lives or unlives she had touched in the years since her death. There are a lot of other types of ghosts mentioned in this book, some of whom are relatively harmless, some of whom are dangerous. Rose has been dead a long time and has maintained her sense of humor and morality. That doesn't stop her from walking away from those that manage to hurt her, but she isn't vindictive. The other characters we meet along the way,

This was originally published in 2014, and information included in the back of the book tells us about Rose's origins as an RPG character and topic of songs that Seanan had written. Fans of Seanan's work definitely will love this one if they haven't read it yet. Rose is a wonderfully three-dimensional character, and one that is great to get to know in this novel. She took on a life of her own, as all great characters do, and her story will continue in this summer's "The Girl In The Green Silk Gown."

Buy Sparrow Hill Road at Amazon

The Prophecy & The Book of Shadows (Books 1 and 2 of the Different Series) by Blue Diana

The Prophecy & THe Book of Shadows
April 2018; Quirky Publications
ebook (330 pages); epic
Sasha Henson had always known she was part of a prophecy, but it hadn't happened yet. "The Prophecy" follows her story as she tries to escape the World Council and the prophecy itself. "The Book of Shadows" follows Lorelei, the only one in a family of witches without any magic. Her strange dreams lead her to stumble on a secret that could destroy the world.

We're dropped right into the middle of the Shadow World as "The Prophecy" opens, with Sasha being the Protector of the centuries-old prophecy. She works with a number of people that are introduced rapid fire, and Sasha is able to work with both the light and dark sides of magic. Because of this and her place within the prophecy, she was tasked with doing a number of unsavory tasks for the World Council. It rather amounts to policing the Shadow World, keeping tabs on various supernatural creatures and their interactions with humans.

There are sharp time skips between parts of the book. I've never been a fan of that in any novel, and that hasn't changed for this one. Some of the sentence structure is stilted and awkward at times, particularly when finally getting some background about Sasha's family that had been glossed over earlier in the book. Further editing could smooth out those sections and make it flow better, as well as catch punctuation and homonym errors. ("Peaked" instead of "piqued" is probably one of my pet peeves in all kinds of fic!)

Sasha is skilled with magic and has a lot of power, but her personality seems to be all over the place. It might be because of her youth, though she has been training since a very young age and is supposed to be treated as a special consultant for the police. I have more expectations for her behavior, and the inconsistencies with it wind up irritating me. Michael is the police officer that she is tasked to work with, and he's a more emotionally stable character. I definitely identify with him more but feel a disconnect with all of them. The abrupt ending to the book makes me glad that the two volumes are packaged together.

The same sentence and paragraph structure from the first book of the series continues in the second. It's an abrupt start with Lorelei waking on her thirteenth birthday, with a lot of family banter and teenage conversation. Sasha is eventually name-checked as running a spec ops team, but this is in passing and not something Lorelei is paying attention to at the time. Later, it's clearer how the two books are linked together. The point of view for most chapters alternate between Lorelei, her mother Marie and her aunt Nicolette. Chapters are marked with whose point of view we're in, and we do eventually learn why Lorelei is a witch with no powers, as well as the curse and some of the history behind the families.

The idea behind the books is definitely a solid one. There are interesting sequences in both books, but the execution made it difficult for me to really emotionally connect with any of them. I kept reading with the hopes that the intensity would build up and I would find something to really dive into, but it wasn't there. The curse or the mention of gods and goddesses didn't really intrigue me, and the magic spells mentioned didn't really fascinate me. I can't help but feel that an editor could restructure these books to make them more engaging to read.

Buy The Prophecy & The Book of Shadows at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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