Blog Archives

The Shadow: The Last Illusion by Cullen Bunn

Title: The Shadow: The Last Illusion
Author: Cullen Bunn
Series: The Shadow, Vol. 2
Publish Date: June 7th 2016 by Dynamite Entertainment
Genre: Graphic novel
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: The Shadow infiltrates the sanctum of The Society of United Magicians, an esoteric enclave of illusionists who are hellbent on escaping the ultimate trap: death itself!

Learning the secret of the so-called -Last Illusion- from the spirit of escape artist Harry Houdini himself, The Shadow becomes the next target of their murderous scheme. To thwart their plans, he must evade twisted traps and solve spellbinding puzzles, while simultaneously evading the deadly skills of Sandman, the magician assassin. A good (or evil) magician never reveals his secrets… but the Shadow knows!

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Percy Procrastinator says…

A great idea that didn’t work on me.

If I hadn’t read the previous two Shadow books, especially Shadow Year One before reading this one, I would have been more impressed. The problem I had was due to my liking the Shadow and buying into the previous background given. The idea is that the Shadow is being trained by Harry Houdini, which should make me happy as I do like Houdini. But, I think it took too much away from the Shadow’s training I had read before.

The rest of the adventure is well done. The usual suspects are there, backing up the Shadow as well as his own disguises to get information. And the conclusion of the adventure works.

I couldn’t get past that background, though, which didn’t feel like the Shadow’s background. I think if I had read this first, I might have liked it more. As it is, I give it a three. It probably deserves more, but that’s all I can give it.

Advertisements

Those Which Remain by Angela V. Cook

Once again, I plunge into the world of a teenage succubus!

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Title: Those Which Remain
Author: Angela V. Cook
Series: Pieces Duology, #2
Publish Date: January 28, 2018
Genre: YA fantasy romance
Source: Provided by the author

Publisher’s DescriptionIn Into a Million Pieces, seventeen-year-old Allison solved her sister’s murder, barely escaping an attempt on her own life. Now, with the past behind her, Allison is finally getting a taste of teenage normalcy—going to school, hanging out with her best friend, and sharing it all with her loving boyfriend, Ren. Life is good.

But it doesn’t stay that way. It never does for a succubus.

When Allison’s nature draws in a predator, shattering her sense of trust and safety, she realizes the succubus curse is behind all the darkness and heartache in her life. Determined to end it, she tracks down a distant relative with knowledge about the curse. But more questions are raised than answered when Allison meets the mysterious and wealthy Leona Doriano. Suddenly thrust into a dangerous world of money, power, and deadly secrets, Allison must find a way to break the curse—a curse not everyone wants broken—before she’s drawn in too deep.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Percy Procrastinator says…

The author’s previous book, Into a Million Pieces, is a captivating book about the life of Allison and Jade, two teenage twins who are succubi. Ms. Cook really made me care about Allison and Jade, even through their teenage angst, something I don’t usually like. I also enjoyed the mythology of the succubi and wanted to know more. So I was ecstatic when the author emailed me the next book.

Jade’s move to her other family has not been easy. She’s dealing with her teenage angst of fitting into a new school, making new friends, and having a long distance relationship. On top of that, while she loves this new family, including an aunt and grandma, she worries that one of her many secrets will come out and they won’t want her anymore.

Things go well until the holiday and the grandma’s favorite child comes back from college for the break. In a chilling scene, Allison’s dark nature comes out, and the uncle is drunk. Afterward, he threatens to reveal a secret if she doesn’t keep quiet.

That pushes Allison to search for answers about her family’s curse and how it happened. And does she find answers! Answers to questions she didn’t even know she had! The curse has taken her family into even darker parts of human society, and they are pulling Allison into it the longer she stays with them.

The story captivated me and kept me reading until the end. I thoroughly enjoyed the adventures with Allison. I desperately want to give this book a five, but here is why I can’t. The story ends Allison’s journey. I’m sure Ms. Cook could find a way to keep going with her story but I worry it would feel forced. I want to know more! More about the supernatural world, what other supernaturals could be out there, and most important, see what Allison does with the curse and with her knowledge when she is older. I think that could be a great series. As it is, I give the book a high four (which the site editor is rounding to five). If you enjoyed the first book, this cannot disappoint.

Our reviews in this series…

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

The Shadow: Year One Omnibus

Title: The Shadow: Year One Omnibus
Author: Matt Wagner
Publish Date: 2014 by Dynamite Entertainment
Genre: Superhero
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionThe Shadow has enjoyed nearly a century of enduring popularity as the first and greatest hero from the golden age of pulp magazines. Here, for the first time, is unveiled the origin story of how the Master of Men returned to America following his many adventures abroad in the aftermath of World War I. How did Lamont Cranston launch his legendary crusade against crime, assemble his vast network of covert operatives, and meet his lover and companion, Margo Lane? A treat for longtime Shadow fans and a perfect introduction to the character for a whole new generation of readers. Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men? The Shadow Knows!

Collects the complete ten-issue storyline (#1-10) from The Shadow: Year One, including a pin-up gallery of over 50 comic book covers (by top-tier artistic talent including Alex Ross, Matt Wagner, Chris Samnee, Wilfredo Torres, Howard Chaykin, and more), plus hand-drawn sketch covers.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Percy Procrastinator says…

I love the Shadow. I read many of the novels and comics as a kid. When it was rebooted in the late 80s as a comic series, I was there. Sadly, it didn’t last long, nor did another revival a few years after that one. I knew that Dynamite had started another series in 2011, but it was only twenty-four issues. They also put the Shadow in a series called Masks, pairing the Shadow with some of his contemporaries.

The Shadow: Year One is a compilation of a new series, again by Dynamite. I should probably step back and explain Year One.

A lot of comic book publishers are taking their known characters and doing a new look at them, called Year One. Most of the time, if you reboot or start a new Batman, Superman, X-Men, or other known series, the author will just jump into their story, assuming the reader knows how these heroes got started. Or if they do an origin, it’s usually a quick version of it.

Take Batman. His parents are killed in front of him and he vows to get revenge on all criminals who make people fear them. Bruce Wayne then disappears for a dozen years or more before coming back as the Batman. And we start when they are established and look in on their current story.

Year Ones ask the question, how easy was it for them to turn into the superhero we know? Where did Bruce go to learn to fight? How did he arrive back in the city? How did he earn the support of Commission Gordon? (Batman Begins pulled heavily from Batman Year One, if these questions sound like it answered them.)

This is no exception. The comic is written from Margo Lane’s standpoint, which serves to keep The Shadow shrouded a bit of mystery. The city is dealing with a masked figure gunning down criminals. It’s just the Shadow, though, not his usual group of agents, including Margo Lane herself.

I found this to be quite wonderful! I think that’s why I like trades now where they do tell an entire story, rather than getting individual issues. We see Lamont Cranston arriving back in New York, acting the playboy. We find out why he has come to NY and who he is fighting. We learn a bit about his powers and eventually who he is, which thrilled me! We also see him save Margo and then make her one of his agents. We see one of his early disguises at the police HQ when he needs to learn information on what the police know. And we see the start of his organization. By the end, it’s not done, but it’s a start. And the ideas of many of the Shadow stories before it are woven into it well, surprising even me a few times. I also liked the evolution that will happen between what he uses now and what his organization will use.

If I have any complaint, it’s two-fold. There is a lot of 30s slang that was tough to follow. It also took a bit to learn the characters because the art wasn’t as crisp or clean as I would have preferred to distinguish the many characters. I also think they needed a bit more foreshadowing of several things. However, still a great story and a solid four from me.

The Joker: Death of the Family by Scott Snyder

Title: The Joker: Death of the Family
Author: Scott Snyder
Series: Batman Vol. 2
Publish Date: October 22, 2013 by DC Comics
Genre: Superhero
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: After having his face sliced off one year ago, The Joker makes his horrifying return in this new epic that features Batman’s entire network of partners in crimefighting, including Batgirl, Catwoman, Nightwing, Robin, the Teen Titans and more. While The Joker threatens the very existence of Gotham City, these heroes –and villains–must find a way to survive.

Collecting: Detective Comics 16-17, Catwoman 13-14, Batgirl 14-16, Red Hood and the Outlaws 15-16, Teen Titans 15, Nightwing 15-16, Batman and Robin 15-17, Batman 13, 17; & material from Detective Comics 15, Suicide Squad 14-15, Batgirl 13, Red Hood and the Outlaws 13-14, Teen Titans14, 16; Nightwing 14, & Batman 14.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Percy Procrastinator says…

I don’t follow comics that closely, despite all of my comic reviews. As such, I don’t know why DC did a reboot back in 2010 called the New 52, ending all lines and restarting 52 of them. And DC did it again with another reboot and followed that by going back to the previous lines and comic numbers! I can’t answer any of that, sadly, or know if there is an answer why. What I do know is that when they did the New 52, they waited a whole year before bringing back the most well-known villain:

The Joker

Right off the bat (heh, no pun intended), when I look at the list above of how many comics this contains such that I didn’t have to get all of those titles on my own, I’m very happy for this trade. Further, it puts them in a chronological order of sorts, rather than all titles from the same line together. If they had done that, we would have gotten the finale after the fourth issue and the rest would have been backstory, rather than the gripping story they wove.

The Joker’s back and he’s crazier than ever. We are shown that this time, not told. He kills. He maims. He tortures. And that’s just to his friends, much less the good guys. This is a story of the Joker making Batman pure by getting rid of all of the baggage that holds him back. And that’s the Batman’s “family” of Batgirl, Nightwing, Robin(s), and Catwoman. They all have to go if Batman is to be the pure good guy to Joker’s bad. And the Joker just wants to have fun.

****SPOILER TO FOLLOW THIS DISCLAIMER****

I’m really torn about whether to say this spoiler or not. A story should stand on its own even if it’s spoiled or it might not have had much story. At the same time, some might not want to know anything other than this:

I enjoyed it. It’s a good story. I will quibble below but enjoyed the read and felt what they did with Joker was well done.

Now, if you want no spoilers, don’t read further.

spoiler

space

*****YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED*****

Sadly, and here’s the spoiler, it doesn’t work.

At the end of it all, the writers couldn’t mess with the continuity of the other titles, so none of the family was hurt. There are slight hints that there is a fracture between them, but I don’t doubt it will be resolved a few issues later in all their own titles. None of the main characters die. Oh, the Joker still kills some known secondary characters, but Nightwing, Batgirl, Catwomen, and Robin are all okay.

For that reason, DC’s title is misleading. They wanted it to conjure images of Death In The
Family, when Joker killed then-Robin, Jason Todd. I think this does Joker a disservice. I think by hyping him up and then having him not do it weakens the character. This Joker would have killed them or done something to them, not let them all live.

The thing is, I still give this a solid four, even with my disappointment in the ending. The ride we go on to get there is fascinating. The Joker does kill several secondary characters from several titles and, as I said, he might fracture the relationship between Bruce and the others, but it will soon be status quo. What he does in the meantime, though, entertains in the most macabre way. I think Harley has it the worst. The psychology of her story is good, as well as the psychology of the Joker. I just think it’s too bad they couldn’t have done something a bit more permanent.

A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne

The author of the beloved Iron Druid Chronicles delivers a high fantasy series rich in magic, history, and culture.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

A plague of giantsTitle: A Plague of Giants
Author: Kevin Hearne
Series: Seven Kennings 01
Publish Date: October 17, 2017, Del Rey
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Provided by publisher

Publisher’s DescriptionFrom the author of The Iron Druid Chronicles, a thrilling novel that kicks off a fantasy series with an entirely new mythology–complete with shape-shifting bards, fire-wielding giants, and children who can speak to astonishing beasts.

MOTHER AND WARRIOR
Tallynd is a soldier who has already survived her toughest battle: losing her husband. But now she finds herself on the front lines of an invasion of giants, intent on wiping out the entire kingdom, including Tallynd’s two sons–all that she has left. The stakes have never been higher. If Tallynd fails, her boys may never become men.

SCHOLAR AND SPY
Dervan is an historian who longs for a simple, quiet life. But he’s drawn into intrigue when he’s hired to record the tales of a mysterious bard who may be a spy or even an assassin for a rival kingdom. As the bard shares his fantastical stories, Dervan makes a shocking discovery: He may have a connection to the tales, one that will bring his own secrets to light.

REBEL AND HERO
Abhi’s family have always been hunters, but Abhi wants to choose a different life for himself. Embarking on a journey of self-discovery, Abhi soon learns that his destiny is far greater than he imagined: a powerful new magic thrust upon him may hold the key to defeating the giants once and for all–if it doesn’t destroy him first. Set in a magical world of terror and wonder, this novel is a deeply felt epic of courage and war, in which the fates of these characters intertwine–and where ordinary people become heroes, and their lives become legend.


Percy Procrastinator says…

I was very nervous about reading this series. The reason is quite simple—authors that I like for one series rarely catch me with their other series. Butcher’s Codex Alera and Cinder Spires didn’t thrill me as much as the Dresden Files, and Armstrong’s Cainsville series didn’t quite live up to the Women of the Otherworld series for me. While there are a few exceptions to this, this seems to be the general rule in my experience.

Kevin Hearne defied my expectations. This was an excellent start to what I hope is a gripping series, as gripping as his Iron Druid Chronicles.

Hearne manages to weave a tale of six peoples in six kingdoms that pulled me into their story. Each one has its own kenning, or magic, they practice. The titular giants make up the only nonhuman group, but the diversity of the humans astounds. Not so much in speech, as the story is recounted by a bard to a group of refugees, but in culture and appearance, each kingdom comes alive. When the bard mentions the Canopy, I knew he spoke about Forn. The best stone workers hail from Rael, while water kennings are from Brynlon. Only Ghurana Nent, or Nentians, stand alone with no kenning.

The title quickly comes into play as the giants of Hathrir, with their fire kenning, come to invade Ghurana Nent while at the same time, the other side of the continent sees Brynlon and Rael invaded by Bone Giants. Both deal with giants but in very different ways.

We learn about all of this from the bard Fintan as he entertains refugees of Byrnlon with what happened during all the “plagues.” Fintan gathered journals from people close to the events and shares with everyone. He then weaves a tale, switching back and forth from character to character. This allows us to learn about each people and their kenning and also how each invasion progresses.

I was hooked after fifty pages. I wanted to know what was going to happen next. Would one giant invasion succeed while another failed? Would Abbi take up the spear to honor his family? Will Tallynd keep pushing herself beyond her limits? I wanted to know!

I did get this book as a physical book, and I appreciated that a lot due to the map in the front cover and the cast of characters in the first pages until I got to know them all. While I could have read it on an ebook, I think having those things available did help.

If I have any complaint about this book, it’s where it ended. Not everything was wrapped up, and I expected that, so that was fine. I do think that a few smaller things could have been explained in only four or five more pages, and that would have been more satisfying. That is not going to stop me from giving this a five-star rating! If you are a fan of Hearne, run out and get this now!

[Editor’s note – please don’t run as we would hate for you to fall and get injured.]

Luna_Lovebooks_100

Luna Lovebooks says…

I must admit when I saw the cover, even after reading the synopsis, my mind went straight to Vikings. I am not sure why. But what I got instead was one wild ride and a great start to a series with myths all its own.

The story is told from multiple points of view. All these views contribute to the overall story of how the giants came to the different lands. To be honest there are almost too many points of view. While each is distinct, I still found myself wondering who was who and what magic they could possess.

It took me a while to get intrigued and drawn in. I am not sure if this is because there were so much world building going on or the fact that I struggled to keep everyone straight, even with a little guide at the beginning as to who was who. Each character has his/her own nation, customs, language, and magic or kenning.

badge3v4I think I will have to rate A Plague of Giants at 3.5. The beginning didn’t flow well since there were so many characters but once I got used to the way the story was progressing it smoothed out. I haven’t decided if I want to continue the series yet but I hope my fellow readers will give it a try for themselves.

Other recommendations…

Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne, Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series, Raymond Feist’s Riftwar Saga, Feist and Wurts’s Empire TrilogyThe Glass Spare series by Lauren DeStefano, Swords & Fire series by Melissa Caruso

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

%d bloggers like this: