Book Review – Black Horses for the King

TITLE: Black Horses For The King
AUTHOR: Anne McCaffrey
PUBLISHED: 1996
FORMAT: Mass Market

According to the introduction, Black Horses for the King is an Arthurian Legend, but from a direction that we don’t normally get the story.  I’m not a huge fan of Arthur stories, but I thought that a combination of McCaffrey and a new angle would make this interesting.

The story follows Galwyn, apprenticed to his uncle because his father sucked at life.  Lord Artos crosses his path and Galwyn jumps ship (literally) to get away from his uncle and go on an adventure like he wants.  He has an ease with language and is considered an asset to the group.

I liked the writing style for the most part, although there were some wordings that were a little clunky because she was trying to sound old fashioned with how she talked.  But the blatant “screw everything that isn’t my way” was totally unpalatable.   At one point, for instance, Galwyn makes a big deal out of being thankful that his Uncle was only his mother’s sister’s husband and not actually a blood relative because he was pagan.  And no wonder he was a bad person because, duh, he was pagan.

And I’m totally of the opinion that I don’t care what a character is or isn’t, but there better be a damn good reason for making fun of everything.  And there was’t a lot that justified the total pagans-are-shit treatment.  (Because they’re not me and my way is right doesn’t cut it)

In the end, I decided that the book was way too soap box and way too unpalatable to finish. I decided the review was valid, but because I only got through the first 40ish pages, I’m not going to give this a number review.  Voice good, soapbox bad.  Rating ?/5.

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Book Review – Chaos Choreography

Title: Chaos Choreography

Author: Seanan McGuire

Format: Paperback

Year Published: 2016

Chaos Choreography is the fifth (and newest) book in the InCrytid series. After two books focusing on Alex Price, Verity’s brother, we’ve returned to Verity (not, surprisingly, their little sister Antimony, who has several short stories but not a full novel) and her husband Dominic (married in Vegas on their way across country back to Verity’s parents, in an attempt to keep her parents from killing him due to his status of an ex-Covenant member).

The plot starts in earnest when Verity receives an email from Dance or Die, the reality dancing contest that she was in before moving to New York. They’ve decided to do a “returning stars” type of show, and she’s invited. Verity agrees, and finds herself thrust back into a world she thought she’d left behind.

Unfortunately, her old world is about to collide head-first into her new one. Coming back from an elimination round, Verity stumbles across the bodies of the two people eliminated. The problem is, nobody else finds the bodies and when she (and the two Cryptids who are also in the competition with her), go to look again, the place where the bodies were have been cleaned by magic.

Unable to ignore it, Verity’s family sends back-up in the form of her grandmother, who spends her time traveling between dimensions and therefore looks no older than Verity, with Dominic close on-hand.

There were several twists in the story I didn’t see – I called the leader of the big bads fairly early on, but the henchman I didn’t see coming – and I loved Verity’s relationship with her roommate – the way that they are so close, but that Lyra doesn’t really let Verity get away with everything’s she’s doing that’s outside the character of a normal dancer. The big climatic scene was loads of fun and ultimately satisfying. 4/5 stars

Book Review – Pocket Apocalypse

Title: Pocket Apocalypse

Author: Seanan McGuire

Format: Paperback

Year Published: 2015

Pocket Apocalypse is the fourth book in the InCryptid series, and the second to follow Alexander Price. The book starts out with Alex’s girlfriend asking him about werewolves, so it basically starts with a bang.

As it turns out, Alex knows a lot about werewolves – he’s encountered them before – but what he tells Shelby doesn’t reassure her. Her family, who handles the cryptid population in Australia, have started to encounter werewolves. In a place where they’ve never been before, which means that they have a huge problem. So before he really knows it, Alex finds himself on a flight bound to face down one of his biggest fears. And Shelby’s family.

Alex finds that things are run very differently in Australia, and it’s not made any easier by the fact that Shelby’s father hates him. Unfortunately, he’s about to face a new danger – on a trip out, he’s bitten by a werewolf and now must face the danger that he will become a mindless, raging beast, unless he isn’t actually infected or he manages to find a cure.

The story keeps ramping up the tension, but does so in a believable way. I did see two of the major plot points coming (the leader of the werewolves and the “surprise” person who had been bitten), but that may have been because I’m powering my way through the author’s books. There were less twists in this than the previous book, as well.

An excellent offering to the series – 3/5 stars.

Book Review – Half-Off Ragnarok

Title: Half-Off Ragnarok

Author: Seanan McGuire

Format: Paperback

Year Published: 2014

The third book in Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series, Half-Off Ragnarok is the first of two books focusing on Alexander Price. I was very eager to get to his book, because I loved his interactions with Verity in her books. I didn’t enjoy the books quite as much as I expected. (Not to say that they were bad, but Alex didn’t grab me quite as much as Verity did. I think because he doesn’t present emotionally the way Verity does.)

In Half-Off Ragnarok, Alex and his maybe-yes-maybe-no girlfriend Shelby find themselves in the middle of a series of murders. But not regular murders – no, the murderer is definitely a cryptid. As Alex works to solve the murders, he discovers that Shelby isn’t as unaware of his world as he thought.

I figured out who the murderer was several scenes before Alex and Shelby did but I did not figure out his backstory. That was as much a surprise to me as it was to them.

I enjoyed the story. Alex thinks very differently than Verity does, and once I got used to that, it flowed very smoothly. I also liked that Sarah, Alex and Verity’s cousin, is still healing from what she had to do to save Verity in Midnight Blue-Light Special. There’s not a “magic fix” for this, even in a world with magic.

I also liked that Alex’s relationship with the crytid community is so differently than Verity’s. He’s still trying to protect them, but his focus is also on studying them scientifically, so rather than connecting to them emotionally at first, he connects to them via their physicality.

Equally, I enjoyed that the twists about the murderer kept coming, right up until the end. a good book, and enjoyable in the series. 3/5 stars.

Book Review -Midnight Blue-Light Special

Title: Midnight Blue-Light Special

Author: Seanan McGuire

Format: Paperback

Year Published: 2013

The sequel to Discount Armageddon, Midnight Blue-Light Special follows Verity Price as she approaches the end of her time in New York, and the deadline for her decisions about which life she’s going to choose – her dancing career, or the family business. Unfortunately, that’s not the only thing going wrong for her. Her maybe-boyfriend shows up with news: the Covenant is head to New York to “evaluate” him and to “purge” New York of anything non-human.

Not exactly something Verity will stand for. Now not only is it a choice between worlds, it’s a fight for her life and the lives of all those she protects. To make matters worse, one of the Covenant members is a distant cousin, who might be a better match for Verity than anybody else the Covenant could throw her way.

To be honest, I never bought that Verity was going to walk away from the family business. Even though she loved dancing, it never felt as important to her as she thought it was – some of that might have been because the focus of the books is on the cryptid communities and their problems, so we get very little focus on the dancing, but even when we have Verity and dancing, it seems more like we’re told how much she loves it, rather than having it be shown to us in the text. So when she realizes (about mid-way through, give or take) that she’s obviously going to chose her family’s career for her, it didn’t feel like the sudden realization I think the author was going for.

And in a similar vein, I also never bought that Dominic was going to return to his pre-Verity teachings and betray her and her family. Not just because he was in love with her (although that was part of his reasoning), but because his world-view had shifted and there was no way it was shifting back.

Interestingly, although the book is written in first-person, there is a portion written in Verity’s cousin Sarah’s POV – still first-person. It’s necessary for the way the book is told – Verity is captured and knocked unconscious, so for there to be tension for the reader as well as the other characters, we can’t know what is going on with her at first – but I wonder if it could have been told in a way that didn’t necessitate a change in POV. The two girls do have distinct voices and very different world-views, but I pretty much prefer my head-hopping to happen in third-person.

Despite some minor issues I have, the climax of the book makes up for a lot. Verity is tortured and the after-affects of that torture are not just pushed away when she tries to escape. (And the whole escape scene takes place while she is stark-naked, which is also not a thing that really happens.)

All in all, I didn’t think this was the strongest book, but the high points were very fun. 3/5 stars.

Book Review – Echoes of a Giantkiller

Title: Echoes of a Giantkiller

Author: E. Jade Lomax

Format: Paperback

Year Published: 2015

Echoes of a Giantkiller is the second story in the Leagues and Legends series by Lomax (review of Beanstalk here). I’m already on record for loving the way she writes, so I’ll try to restrain myself here.

Giantkiller starts almost immediately where Beanstalk leaves off – Jack, Gray, Rupert are off to the Mountains, tracking Laney as she travels with mage kidnappers to find out where they’re going. Of course, things can’t go smoothly with this group. Not only do they need to keep Laney (and then themselves) safe, Jack and Gray are forced into confrontations with their pasts.

I liked how the secrets came out organically – that Jack’s are basically thrust in his face until he can’t avoid, and that Gray’s sneak up on him until everybody has no choice but to notice.

George the Dragon Slayer. I loved George – it’s nice to have two strong female characters who are so different from each other. And it’s nice to see the changes in George from Jack’s perspective – we can tell she’s changed by the way they react to each other.

So my favorite character in this book: Rupert. Oh, man, do I have Rupert feels. I’ll be honest, he wasn’t my favorite in Beanstalk, but I adored him here. (Mild spoilers, but they won’t make sense until you get to this point.)

Rupert saved people quietly, his hands wrapped around theirs, explaining things in a low voice while he brought them back into balance.

Jack thought it was very fitting.

Laney loses her place as my favorite in this book, but not because she is any less awesome, but because everybody else steps up their game. I can’t wait to see what she does.

I’ll admit, I didn’t like Giantkiller as much as I liked Beanstalk. At first. Then I re-read both of them and seeing all of the earlier hints put in Beanstalk that pay off here, and seeing how all the threads tie together here, made them so much better. I’m pretty hard pressed to pick a favorite now.

4/5 stars, and I can’t wait until Remember the Dust comes out.

). I’m already on record for loving the way she writes, so I’ll try to restrain myself here.

Giantkiller starts almost immediately where Beanstalk leaves off – Jack, Gray, Rupert are off to the Mountains, tracking Laney as she travels with mage kidnappers to find out where they’re going. Of course, things can’t go smoothly with this group. Not only do they need to keep Laney (and then themselves) safe, Jack and Gray are forced into confrontations with their pasts.

I liked how the secrets came out organically – that Jack’s are basically thrust in his face until he can’t avoid, and that Gray’s sneak up on him until everybody has no choice but to notice.

George the Dragon Slayer. I loved George – it’s nice to have two strong female characters who are so different from each other. And it’s nice to see the changes in George from Jack’s perspective – we can tell she’s changed by the way they react to each other.

So my favorite character in this book: Rupert. Oh, man, do I have Rupert feels. I’ll be honest, he wasn’t my favorite in Beanstalk, but I adored him here. (Mild spoilers, but they won’t make sense until you get to this point.)

Rupert saved people quietly, his hands wrapped around theirs, explaining things in a low voice while he brought them back into balance.

Jack thought it was very fitting.

Laney loses her place as my favorite in this book, but not because she is any less awesome, but because everybody else steps up their game. I can’t wait to see what she does.

I’ll admit, I didn’t like Giantkiller as much as I liked Beanstalk. At first. Then I re-read both of them and seeing all of the earlier hints put in Beanstalk that pay off here, and seeing how all the threads tie together here, made them so much better. I’m pretty hard pressed to pick a favorite now.

4/5 stars, and I can’t wait until Remember the Dust comes out.

Book Review – Discount Armageddon

Title: Discount Armageddon

Author: Seanan McGuire

Format: Paperback

Year Published: 2012

 Discount Armageddon (which I will never spell correctly the first time) is the story of a girl. A girl who really loves to dance, and who wants to be a professional ballroom dancer. Unfortunately, this girl was born into a family who work with creatures of fairy tales and legends, and she will have to choose which path to follow, because she can’t follow both.

Meet Verity Price. After doing very well on a reality dancing show, Verity is in NYC trying to decide if she wants to pursue her career in ballroom dance, of if she wants to fall back onto the family business of cryptozoologist. Unfortunately, life gets in the way. A member of the Covenant of St. George, who pretty much have a “shoot to kill” order for the Price family as well as any cryptid that they see, has arrived in Manhattan, and cryptids are going missing. They’re going to have to work together to find out why, and to stop it all before the rest of the Covenant descends on the city and ruins Verity’s life in the process.

I enjoyed the book a lot. Verity is a fun heroine, one who knows what she’s worth and isn’t about to let other people tell her otherwise. And although she’s not sure which way she wants her life to go, both choices are presented as valid options, with both their pros and cons. I also liked that even when Verity is shagging Dominic’s brains out, that she doesn’t really trust him to have her best interest at heart and even though it hurts when she runs up against the brick wall of his convictions, she’s not willing to back down.

(As an aside, it was fairly obvious that Dominic was going to change his mind about how he interacted with the cryptids, but the change of mind was very sudden, and not believable. Some of this comes from the first-person POV, as we don’t get to see Dominic change his mind, and some of it is that Verity pretty much just believes him.)

I also really enjoyed Verity’s friends and family (I particularly loved the way she interacted with her old brother Alex, and am excited to learn the third book is about him). The world-building is not showy, but gradual, and every time you need more information, it comes out organically.

The villains – one is very easy to spot, as the text tells you about it, and the other I suspected pretty much on introduction, but even knowing about them doesn’t diminish enjoyment in the story.

While I enjoyed reading about the mice, I would never want to live with them. Verity is a stronger person than I am.

I have the rest of the series on hold at the library, and am looking forward to delving more into this world. A solid 4/5 stars.

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