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February 27, 2023

A Couple of Fantasy Novels to Read

by MK French

There are so many books to be read that sometimes you miss books when they first come out. Today, I'm featuring a couple of fantasy novels that you might have missed when they were new releases.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

Lifeforce by Annie Rodriguez

book cover of young adult fantasy novel Lifeforce by Annie Rodriguez
February 2019; Green Writers Press
ebook (224 pages); YA fantasy

Gillian Cassidy's mother died when she was sixteen, throwing her life into a tailspin so that she no longer wanted to be an immortal. Her then-boyfriend already made the leap and is determined to be with her forever.  Eight years later, Sean haunts her dreams. Gillian's scared, and not sure if she should turn to Addie, a short-tempered vampire, or Forrest Wolfe, a lycan who’s in love with her. Though she's studied magic, it's not the answer.

Reading this book reminds me of watching a show on the CW, like the Vampire Diaries. Characters are preternaturally pretty, and their jobs don't fit the timeline. For example, eight years ago Addie was a nurse, but now she's a surgeon. Medical school is four years and a surgical residency is six years of training, and no one in the hospital treats her like she's a resident. Forrest can be a surgeon because he's immortal, but Addie specifically was turned eight years ago. On top of that, Gillian is apparently trusted as the one to run the blood bank. While I'm not as familiar with the training involved to run it, I'm sure it's more than a few years. Yes, I'm stuck on the timeline, because it doesn't make sense to me!

Other than that, this is very much melodrama. We see Gillian's despair both in the past and the present, and how the more she pulls away from others she's left with more of her emotional pain. Her magic works on her life force, so that the more she forces herself to push past her exhaustion to work a spell, it drains her physically as well as emotionally. Vampires and werewolves also have life force, though that hinges more on blood than energy. That at least puts a limit on the extent of magic Gillian can do especially when injured.

As for Sean... he was such a specter in Gillian's dreams, and she was terrified of him enough to try to push Forrest away. But I didn't find him creepy or scary at all. When he did show up, he was a sulky child having a temper tantrum that turned bloody. I don't mean to belittle the terror that comes from an emotionally abusive relationship, but I didn't see enough of that in the extended flashbacks. He was a petulant teenager who was upset Gillian wanted to be with her dying mother. That's a brat, and I wanted to smack him upside the head. Maybe because of that I didn't find him a convincing enough villain, and the showdown at the end felt rushed. I would have liked to see more horror and blood, more creepy behavior and hints of violence from Sean, more reasons for Gillian's fear, and why the others were worried about him. All in all, a solid foundation for a series, and hopefully the next one has a tighter plot. 

Buy Lifeforce at Amazon

Ghost Talker by Byrd Nash

book cover of gaslamp fantasy novel Ghost Talker by Byrd Nash
October 2022; Rook and Castle Press
ebook (170 pages); gaslamp fantasy

In Alenbonné, Elinor Chalamet uses her skill as a medium to hunt for her father's killer when a body is found. This seems to work well until Tristan Fontaine, the Duke de Archambeau, takes over the case and places her under house arrest.

This is the first volume of the Madame Chalamet series, a six-volume gaslamp fantasy series. It combines ghosts, the Victorian era's sensibilities, and the detective skills of Sherlock Holmes. At a short 41,000 words, it's a quick read and an introduction to the rest of the world of the series. The Duke takes great pleasure in denouncing frauds, and he considers Elinor to be one such fraud. She does have actual ability, however, and correctly identified the body, which then put her under royal jurisdiction ahead of a trade agreement between nations. We see her work as a ghost talker for her usual clientele as well as tracking down the body's killer.

I enjoyed Elinor and her no-nonsense stance, especially as she refuses to be intimidated by the nobility. Tristan has his own secrets, which likely get revealed in future stories of the series. It's a fun jaunt into a world of ghosts, possessions, and the social mores that we usually see in Regency or Victorian-era stories. I'll definitely be looking into the rest of the series. 

Buy Ghost Talker 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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