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September 9, 2020

6 More Fantasy Novels to Read

by MK French


Last week, I shared 5 books for fans of young adult fantasy that I had read recently. Today, I have 6 more fantasy novels to recommend. 5 of these books are more for adults but as many fantasy novels are enjoyed regardless of the target audience age I also included one young adult novel. 
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The Forgotten Kingdom by Signe Pike

The Forgotten Kingdom
September 2020; Atria Books; 978-1501191459
audio, ebook, print (496 pages); Arthurian fantasy
In 573, Languoreth waits to hear about her son and husband, who are at war with her brother Lailoken. Her daughter Angharad had been studying with Lailoken, but was lost in the chaos of war. She has to find her way home in the midst of the Picts as Lailoken retreats and eventually teams up with the warrior Artur. Languoreth has to hide her belief in the Old Ways as Christianity becomes a bigger power in the area, and Angles are looking to expand their territory. To bring Christians and pagans together to fight off the Angles, Lailoken will work with Artur as Myrddin.

This is the second book in the Lost Queen trilogy, and takes place in early medieval Scotland. I haven't read the first book, but I don't feel as though I'm missing too much to understand this one. There is so much detail in this world, with the different British kingdoms, the differences between early Christianity and the Old Ways, as well as those who would use religion as another means of grabbing power for themselves. In that respect, the problems that the different groups have back then are instantly recognizable for modern readers.

We have split viewpoints because there are actually three different prongs to this story. We follow Languoreth as she's stuck in the castle with the different rumors swirling around her, torn between loyalty to her husband as well as that of her brother, foster brothers, and cousins. There's her twin brother, fighting with the Pendragons against the utter destruction that other kingdoms want to bring against them for fear of the future. Then there's Angharad, caught between these warring nations and then spirited away to learn about the Old Ways with the Picts. There are different cultures and viewpoints along the way, all of which were fascinating to read about.

Signe did an incredible amount of research to bring this time period to life, and following the actual text of the book (we don't actually get a chance to see Myrddin in action, so it's likely in the last book of the trilogy) we are treated to some of the texts and facts that are extant in history. Of course, there's very little known about Languoreth, as most women were erased from early histories, and her research as well as educated guesses to flesh out the story is outlined. That's as fascinating to me as well as the actual text, and I enjoyed reading it as well.

Buy The Forgotten Kingdom at Amazon

Nightmare City by P. S. Newman

Nightmare City
November 2019; Indie; 978-1698565439
ebook, print (359 pages); urban fantasy
Twenty years ago, the Surge brought aspects of dreams to life. These aspects are called Shades and have the potential to run amok and destroy people, property, even cities. Eden Maybrey is a freelance shade hunter, and her latest case is a request that threatens to expose her deepest secret, as well as the lives of those she loves.

In this world, Shades are considered deadly, so harboring them is a federal crime and would lead to punishments for treason. Eden’s dark secret is revealed to the reader fairly early: she is a shade conjured from a comic book about dream hunters and had been given an identity as a human. This exposure would mean her death, as well as the imprisonment of the family she has: Bella Perez, the dreamer that had created her, as well as Bella’s older sister Cecilia Perez, who works with the LA police. They’re her cousins legally, but this is her family by choice as well. Unbeknownst to the outside world, Cecilia’s boyfriend David was a member of an organization that hoped to win rights for benevolent Shades and had helped Eden get a legal identity. His freedom would be at risk as well. Add to this tension is a hunter that hates Shades beyond all reason that Eden has to work with, Shades she dreamed up herself, and the organization that is tasked with eliminating all Shades that wants her to join.

The case was brought forth by Sean Baptiste, David’s brother. He has a doppelganger that shoots fire, and there is a lot of reluctance in revealing the truth of the dream that built the Shade. This adds more complications to tracking down the Shade, who proceeds to wreak havoc in LA and plans to harm David. Eden’s own Shades adds further complications because the Order agent working with Eden wants nothing more than to eliminate him and every other Shade he comes across. He won’t accept that some Shades could be helpful, or that they can serve a purpose for the dreamer. The reader is also aware that Bella is trying hard to control her ability as a dreamer creating Shades, and this adds a little more for Eden to deal with.

This urban fantasy novel has a tag line on its summary that it doesn’t have vampires or werewolves. What it has are random dreams coming to life, which aren’t necessarily benevolent at all. It’s an interesting take on urban fantasy as well as dystopia, given the gritty and grim atmosphere that is beneath the surface of the novel. It definitely makes you think about the phrase “be careful what you wish for,” and I can’t wait to see what happens next in the series.

Buy Nightmare City at Amazon

A Game of Wings and Marks by Rebecca Crunden

A Game of Wings and Marks
June 2017; ebook (249 pages); urban fantasy
Octavia Coal finds the angel Tamiel, who had broken the law against falling in love with a human. He is now hunted by his fellow angels, so Octavia, her brother Caleb and Tamiel’s lover Jack are on the run. They find Zev, the Demon of Games, and hope to play his game in order to keep Tamiel alive. Octavia has to be the Healer of Raphael, the archangel and Commander of the Irin. This makes her a target for both angels and demons and might be the biggest mistake of all.

Language is a bit choppy in the beginning as we’re tossed into the action right away. Olivia is a good person for helping the bloody Tamiel and offering to help him however she can, which puts her right in the thick of things. Her family is supportive, and she’s learning more about the angels and demons. By extension, we do as well, and it’s a pause before the action picks up again. This time it’s less of the angels-want-to-kill Tamiel kind, but more of the angels and demons verbally sparring, with Octavia in the middle as a romantic interest.

A lot of times the romantic triangle is overdone and there’s a clear choice for the girl involved. Here, there really isn’t. As much as Zev is a demon, he is honest in his dealings with Octavia and never oversteps the boundaries she sets. Raphael is the angel she’s tied to as his Healer, and he fights his growing love for her even as it’s obvious to everyone else. There are mentions of past abuse, that abusive father coming after her again, and drug use, as well as liberal sprinklings of F words throughout the text. I wasn’t turned off by this, as I found Octavia to be a likable character. She didn’t ask to be involved, but her need to help others overpowered her sense of safety. Even as she was told about different demons and the plots of angels in the past, she didn’t hold it against the ones she knew. That open-minded nature is an admirable trait, and the very one that draws people closer to her.

I liked the world-building in the book and was drawn into it as the story really picked up. It didn’t end quite where I expected it to go, but it fit all of the characters and was a neat ending that still holds the potential for more.


Melody of Three by S. D. Reeves

Melody of Three
November 2019; Riversong Books; 978-1946849625
ebook, print (333 pages); paranormal
Christaan de Rein returns to Liverpool after nine years’ banishment to investigate murders, but the city is in chaos. People with fairy blood are dead, the Forum Magicae has fallen apart and the Curators are under siege. On another world that doesn’t know a thing about Earth, Niena has a cursed lyre that could save or destroy both worlds.

Melody of Three is the first book in the Evercharm Trilogy, so there has to be a lot of description to set up Rein’s world as well as the one Niena lives in. As a result, even though it starts with action in the prologue, the first half of the novel proceeds rather slowly. Terms are tossed out without much explanation, further slowing down the pace of early chapters as the reader tries to puzzle out what they mean. I admit I skimmed through some of the explanations in early chapters. There are fairies killing humans with some fairy blood in them, there’s Rein trying to wade through bureaucracy and international guilds being hard to contact… This isn’t a start that really draws me in or makes me care about any of the characters.

I do like that fairies from stories are as real as characters created for this book. Oberon is the traditional king of the fairies, and is Niena’s grandfather; he isn’t necessarily a fearsome creature here, however. He does manage to impart wisdom to Niena, and when captured she is remarkably cool under pressure. Overall, though, the pacing of the story didn’t really hook me in, for all that it is well described and the plot itself is fascinating. For those that like detailed worldbuilding and a very slow, episodic story style, this is perfect.

Buy Melody of Three at Amazon

Blood & Ash by Deborah Wilde

Blood & Ash
January 2020; Te Da Media; 978-1988681351
audio, ebook, print (316 pages); urban fantasy
Ashira Cohen is the only female private detective in Vancouver, in a world that is aware of magic. About ten percent of the world’s population is magical, a trait that is inherited, and they have to register and belong to magical Houses to regulate their behavior. Ashira grew up mundane until getting bashed in the head reveals a tattoo hidden under her hair. Now she has blood magic, a very rare type with its own problems, and she has to spend more time with her nemesis Levi, the head of House Pacifica. Trying to find a missing girl and solve the mystery of magical smudges killing people, Ashira also is trying to figure out why she was warded and what to do with her magic.

I love urban fantasy novels, snark, and mythology. This book is a mix of all three and liberally sprinkled with curse words. Magic is superimposed on our older world as per other urban fantasy novels, and it’s written in first person. Ash is the type of woman that has to be seen as tough with her snark and suspicion, and of course, the tension with Levi is more than just name-calling. I enjoyed the fact that Ash is Jewish, and that her heritage played a role in some of the mythology even though she’s secular. Magic had come from a group of men trying to reach God, but instead of just those ten getting magic, it was set loose on the world. Apparently, Jezebel from the Bible wasn’t just the handmaiden of a different Goddess, but one that had tried to remove that magic. This also explains in part why golems are used to patrol the area where the missing children were kept.

I like Ash and her best friend Priya, who does her computer hacking. She tries to do good despite her tough-girl fa├žade and straddling the magical world once she discovers her power is rough for her. There’s the “legal” magical world with the House system, as well as the “underworld” ruled by the Red Queen. As the first book in the series, this is the worldbuilding for the magic and mayhem that will be inherent in the rest of the series. Ash is a fun character to ride around this world with, and I look forward to seeing the rest of the series. I happen to have gotten this as an audiobook, and the narrator Hollie Jackson did a great job. She has a wry twist to her voice with Ash’s snark, does the accents when the characters try to affect them while going undercover, and sounds gruff for Levi and Ash’s attempt to impersonate Levi as well as Ash’s neighbor Arkady Choi. I enjoy the side characters as much as Ash, and Hollie brings them all to life really well, making my walks much more fun.

Buy Blood & Ash at Amazon

Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa

Night of the Dragon
March 2020; Inkyard Press; 1335091408
audio, ebook, print (496 pages); YA epic fantasy
Fox shifter Yumeko had given up her piece of the Dragon scroll to save everyone's lives. Master of Demons Genno now has all three pieces of the scroll and is ready to summon the Great Kami Dragon on the night of the Wish. Yumeko and her companions have to stop Genno from completing the ritual and sending the entire empire into chaos. There is yet another player in this game, however, and he's about to make his move.

This is the third book in the Shadow of the Fox series, and I had missed the first two books. That meant I had a bit of catching up to do in figuring out who was who and what the relationships were. It didn't take me long to figure it out, because the relevant information from the prior two books was woven into the conversations as we switched from Yumeko's POV chapters to Shadow clan assassin Kage Tatsum's chapters. It probably also helped that some of the terms were familiar to me, in the weapons and roles that characters played. I watch enough anime to know about yokai, fox spirits, shrine maidens and their talisman magic, or how ninjas move and attack. That familiarity helped me catch up and focus on the plot, rather than who the characters were.

Night of the Dragon proceeded rapidly, and it didn't feel like a long read at all. I was able to race through it until the end, and I was shocked by a lot of the twists along the way. Maybe they would have been telegraphed better if I had read the first two novels, but I was still attached enough to the characters to feel the shock and loss along with them. The ending was bittersweet, and the epilogue definitely helped to make it better. I really enjoyed reading this book, and the epic level dangers involved.

Buy Night of the Dragon 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 a golden retriever.

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2 comments:

  1. I really love the concept of fox shifters, recently read Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee and thought it was great. I'll have to give Shadow of the Fox a try soon

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for sharing, I’m always on the look out for new to me authors!

    ReplyDelete

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