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review 2018-05-22 19:14
A Curious Beginning / Deanna Raybourn
A Curious Beginning - Deanna Raybourn

London, 1887. Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb. She thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But the baron is murdered before he can reveal her secrets. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker must flee from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.


I can hardly wait to meet this author in August at the When Words Collide conference here in my city! I really enjoyed this novel and have already requested book two from my public library.

I appreciated the main character, Veronica Speedwell, a great deal. It’s very much the trend now, to rewrite female characters during the Victorian era, giving them bigger ideas and more autonomy. I think of The Lie Tree and Jane Steele, both of which I have also enjoyed a great deal. I’m also reminded of the Amelia Peacock character in Elizabeth Peters’ series, about a feminist female archaeologist in the Victorian era (this series began in 1975, so it could probably be considered the grandmother to this current batch of novels). Veronica is determined to remain single and support herself through providing natural history specimens to collectors. She is also enamoured with foreign men, enjoying dalliances while abroad to collect those specimens.

Stoker is a very attractive love interest for Miss Speedwell, despite the fact that she has decided against marriage and has rules about not getting involved with Englishmen. (Actually, her pursuit of sexual liaisons while abroad seemed the most unlikely part of this novel, for me, there being no reliable birth control during that period). He is bad tempered, less than cleanly, and often surprised by Veronica’s sass. He also sports tattoos that make him a little too 21st century to be entirely believable, but I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt because I enjoy his character. Plus, he has great potential to clean up well.

There are plenty of twists and turns in the plot, but I don’t think I am alone in thinking that the very slow-burn romance between Veronica and Stoker is the best aspect of the book.

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review 2018-05-18 18:04
The Bloodsworn / Erin Lindsey
Bloodsworn - Erin Lindsey

As the war between Alden and Oridia draws to its conclusion, the fates of both kingdoms rest on the actions of a select group of individuals—and, of course, the unbreakable bonds of blood...
Unbeknownst to most of Alden, King Erik, in thrall to a cruel bloodbinder, is locked away in his own palace, plotting revenge. To save her king, Lady Alix must journey behind enemy lines to destroy the bloodbinder. But her quest will demand sacrifices that may be more than she can bear.
Meanwhile, as the Warlord of Oridia tightens his grip on Alden, the men Alix loves face equally deadly tasks: her husband, Liam, must run a country at war while her brother, Rig, fights a losing battle on the front lines. If any one of them fails, Alden could be lost—and, even if they succeed, their efforts may be too late to save everyone Alix holds dear...


I liked this book just a little less than the first book. And as I sat down to write this review, I realized why. I’ve accidentally read book 3 before book 2. Oops! That would explain all the references to events in the past that I was unfamiliar with. I enjoyed the book anyway (and I’ll read book two when it becomes available at the library), but that explains why I sometimes felt like I was in the fog.

The main reason that I would remove half a star from my rating is the amount of agonizing that Lady Alix, Prince Liam and King Erik do during the course of the novel. All three of them flagellate themselves over decisions they’ve made. Now, most people regret some actions from their past, but don’t most of us also realize that there’s no use dwelling on our mistakes and move on? Do what you can to right the situation and move forward.

I think perhaps this is the author’s way to prove to her readers that these are “good people.” Evil people are sure they are doing the right thing, good people are forever questioning their own motives.

Nevertheless, fantasy is my happy place and I have to appreciate that a woman with a sword saves the day as often as any of the men do. The author will be at a conference that I’m attending this summer and I’ll be most interested to hear what she has to say on any number of topics.

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review 2018-05-14 18:46
The Bloodbound / Erin Lindsey
The Bloodbound - Erin Lindsey

A cunning and impetuous scout, Alix only wishes to serve quietly on the edges of the action. But when the king is betrayed by his own brother and left to die at the hands of attacking Oridian forces, she winds up single-handedly saving her sovereign.

Suddenly, she is head of the king’s personal guard, an honor made all the more dubious by the king’s exile from his own court. Surrounded by enemies, Alix must help him reclaim his crown, all the while attempting to repel the relentless tide of invaders led by the Priest, most feared of Oridia’s lords.

But while Alix’s king commands her duty, both he and a fellow scout lay claim to her heart. And when the time comes, she may need to choose between the two men who need her most…


Another one of the authors who will be featured at When Words Collide this August. She has attended before, at the point where this book had just been published (as a panelist, but not a featured guest). Gotta like a book cover which features a woman with a big-ass sword!

Alix Black is an engaging main character, as she scouts for the army, fights when necessary, and sorts out her feelings for the men in her life. She has a bit of a tendency to act first and think later, which causes some complications! It also keeps her from being entirely a Mary Sue character—she makes enough blunders to keep her grounded.

For those who detest love triangles, you may want to give this book a miss, but if you have tolerance for such plot devices, this one resolves itself before the end of the volume. A bit predictably, but very sweetly.

I was impressed enough that I immediately put a hold on the second book at my library and I’ll be looking forward to hearing the author at this summer’s conference.

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review 2018-04-30 19:47
The Warded Man / Peter Brett
The Warded Man - Peter V. Brett

As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise—demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards—symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night.


Peter Brett is coming to my city in August to the When Words Collide conference. I was interested to try at least one of his books before that event and where better to start than with the first book in the Demon Cycle.

Although I read a lot of fantasy, especially urban fantasy, I haven’t read many books that feature demons in any serious way. Brett makes them into a seriously scary force to be reckoned with, but gives humanity a set of symbols—the wards—with which to protect itself. You’ve got to maintain your wards carefully, because if they get worn or smudged, you’re hooped!

Enter Arlen, who makes it his life’s mission to learn as many wards as possible and to use them effectively. He explores old ruins in search of more information, trying to get humanity back on even footing with the corelings (as the demons are known). Eventually, he takes warding to the next level, becoming in some ways a human ward against the demonic forces.

The intertwining of the lives of the three main characters felt a little forced to me—as a reader, I could see it coming from miles away, and yet it didn’t feel natural. Despite that, I really enjoyed the basic story-line and I’ve put a hold on the second book in the series. I’ll be interested to hear Mr. Brett speak at the conference this summer.

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text 2018-04-26 10:26



acuteness of mental discernment and soundness of judgment.
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