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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-03-08 01:15
Hidden by Benedict Jacka
Hidden - Benedict Jacka

Hidden by Benedict Jacka
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Whilst rumours of his master's return circulates throughout the mage community, Alex Verus, Diviner and known "outsider", chooses to ignore the gossip and focus on something else entirely, such as rebuilding damaged friendships. An interruption comes in the form of abduction when Anne, his once housemate and valued companion, disappears in her home. Taking it upon himself, Alex doesn't hesitate to stage a rescue mission, which just so happens to lead to a shadow realm, belonging to the one and only Dark mage, Sagash.

(WARNING: This reviews contains spoilers.)

I started reading this series (Alex Verus is nine instalments long), in 2014, as it was one of the few in the genre that had a male protagonist. Being largely into Urban Fantasy at that time, it didn't take a genius to notice the staggering amount of females that dominated. Alex's trouble-making was thus refreshing, yet always struck me as having some issues that I just couldn't ignore. For one, the plot-lines primarily consisted of Alex saving women - not that I have a problem with the odd damsel in distress; I'm not a fragile flower that gets offended by a man coming to the rescue of a lady, but with the amount it happened it got repetitive pretty quickly. The fourth book, Chosen, turned the tables, and Alex was the one in need of saving by the strong females he surrounds himself with. I appreciated that instalment considerably more than the rest, hence my rating of four stars. This one, however, seems to have returned to its roots - the rinse and repeat of Alex being good at everything in full force.

The events that transpired in this one, whilst interesting to an extent, were very clearly filler. However I admit, I actually liked the concept of a shadow realm; the very personal domain of a Dark mage, where their deepest, most sinister creations can take form. In general, I find the darker side of mage society to be far more interesting in comparison to the lighter side. This isn't to say Light mages are dull - on the contrary, there's a lot of shady stuff going on there, but they strike me as far, far too political, at least for my tastes.

There's a part of me wishes the overall tone of the series was more adult, for the simple reason as to allow the malevolence of the Dark to shine through on a much more heinous level. As it was, I felt a little underwhelmed by Anne's recollection of her past - which consisted of her being forced to kill others in an arena. Yes, murder is ugly, but it just didn't shock me as much as I'd like, especially when it's been stated that Sagash was twisted and, most definitely, bad on all counts.

It's at this point that readers are very much aware of Richard, and his impending and much anticipated return. Richard's been a very prominent character from the beginning - Alex has never missed an opportunity to ramble on about his past trauma as his unwilling apprentice. I was hoping there would finally be some sort of reunion or confrontation, and whilst it did happen, it certainly wasn't as explosive as I wanted it to be. Despite being all together anticlimactic, it nevertheless set the foundation for what I assume to be the next book.

As for the characters themselves; Alex still had his obvious faults, but he remained likeable in personality. I'd most assuredly have him as a friend if I could, even if he'd probably get me killed. I've always been fond of Anne, though I considered her a little bit over-dramatic here. Arachne wasn't in it as much as I'd like, but I was thankful for Luna being absent for a large portion. The character I disliked the most was Sonder - he was the definition of annoying, clearly stealing Luna's spotlight in that regard. The introduction of the blink fox was, of course, the most memorable aspect - I hope it returns as a permanent ally! Goodness knows Alex will need it.

Veiled is the next instalment of this series and it was first published in 2015. It's currently on my reading list.

In conclusion - Yet another addition which I considered average, at best, and more than definitely filler. Hopefully the next will be more relevant and include dear ol' Richard!

Notable Scene:

It didn't make me any happier. My crude ability to see the future didn't make me any friends - the opposite, if anything. I had knowledge, but there wasn't anything I could do with it. I was left just as isolated, hating the people who'd ostracised me. Until one cold autumn day when Richard had stepped onto the schoolyard where I was standing, promising me everything I'd secretly wanted if I'd follow him and call him master. And I'd said yes.

© Red Lace 2018

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/03/08/hidden-by-benedict-jacka
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review 2018-02-04 21:13
Games Wizards Play (Young Wizards #10)
Games Wizards Play (Young Wizards Series) - Diane Duane

So much of this is 4-star worthy but there are a few things that knocked off a half-star for me. 


For the majority of the Young Wizards series, Nita, Dairine and Kit have been running from one crisis to another, doing what they could to slow down entropy and defeat the Lone Power. But as they're growing up, they're realizing that things aren't so black and white, and that there are multiple, subtle ways for the LP to work and some of those ways are their in their own doubts, insecurities and assumptions. Kit and Nita are also still adapting to the change in their relationship now that they're officially a couple. 


Nita, Kit and Dairine have been asked to serve as mentors in the Wizard Invitational, an event that happens once every eleven years where young and upcoming wizards get to display their talents and wizardries in what is basically a worldwide wizard science fair. Dairine's and Nita and Kit's mentees prove challenging in their own ways. Mehrnaz is sweet and full of enthusiasm but has some deep-rooted doubts due to her family situation. Penn is an entitled, sexist assmonkey who things he's God's gift to wizardry but he also has something going on deep down.


It's rare in this series to see wizards who are less then professional and who aren't first and foremost concerned with saving the universe. It's actually one of the things that niggled me in the previous books. How is it possible that every single wizard in existence is so great and wonderful? Well, they're not, as it turns out. It was great to see Dairine rise to the challenge with her mentee, and she delivers some brilliant and much-earned verbal smackdowns throughout the course of this book.


I wish Nita and Kit had taken some notes from her, because they are not as forthcoming or direct with Penn when he's being a jerk (which, admittedly, is not a small portion of the time), and that was just one of things that made this less than 4-stars for me. Nita and Kit spend a lot of time complaining about Penn's behavior but not much time actually confronting him about it. True, it's not their job to teach him social skills or explain why misogyny is bad. If this was someone they were only working with on a one-time mission, that would be one thing, but they have to work with him for three solid weeks under some pretty intense circumstances. That's a long time to put up with his level of obnoxiousness without at least once telling him what is and is not acceptable behavior to them. When they do attempt it, it's not in a way that's going to get their point across.


The other thing that bugged me was that during Interim Errantry (which was written after this book) Kit and Nita seemed to be doing rather well adjusting to their budding romance and figuring out what the new boundaries are in regards to that. Here, they appear to have taken several steps back, and again, not once did they actually sit down and talk about any of it. If they were your ordinary teenagers, I might be willing to give them a pass, but they've proven more than capable of discussing plenty of dicey and awkward topics in the past. You're friends - TALK TO EACH OTHER! 


Still, there is plenty to adore about this book too. Duane's always been very inclusive in representation in her books, but up to now most of the gender fluidity and sexually fluidity has been reserved for alien species. Now we finally get some human characters declaring themselves LGBT and it's great. (Still no in-book confirmation on Tom and Carl though, but I still maintain they're a couple.) Nelaid, Roshaun's father and the one who has been teaching Dairine how to manipulate sun energy after Roshaun's strange disappearance at the end of Wizards At War, and her dad Harry have the most beautiful and epic bromance ever in this book and it's a treat to watch. They really have become a found-family in the most amazing of ways. (And let's face it, Harry needs all the help he can get with Dairine.)  Also, the two other Planetaries we meet here are a hoot, and Nita's prophetic dreams are getting more and more interesting. I figured out what they were trying to tell her by the second dream, but it was still neat to see her and Dairine put the pieces together in the final chapter.

ROSHAUN!!!!!!! HE'S BACK!!! <3

(spoiler show)


The ending got rather rushed, unfortunately, and I really wouldn't have minded seeing more time given between the semi-finals and the finals. And the climax on the moon was both epic and head-scratching. 

Penn's been carrying around a piece of the sun - that for some reason identifies as female even though its basically hydrogen atoms - and he's suddenly able to realize he's been an asshole this whole time. Okay, having a sunspot crammed inside your noggin can make you act up, I suppose. We certainly saw Ronan getting extra cranky (more than his usual) when he had Michael riding shotgun inside him. But as was pointed out, the sunspot still needed something to root onto to get those behaviors intensified, so it's not entirely giving Penn an "out" for his extremely rude behavior.

(spoiler show)

It could have been better paced, and as long as these books are there's no reason why it needed to be so truncated in the last quarter of the book when the rest of it was willing to let the story breathe and the characters drive the action. It was a jarring transition to go from this detailed meandering story to such a quick-paced conclusion. 

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review 2018-01-08 04:08
Alliance in Blood by Ariel Tachna
Alliance In Blood - Ariel Tachna

I was working on my “Best and Worst of 2017” post and realized I still needed to review this because it’s definitely going to end up on my “worst” list.

This is one of the Dreamspinner Press books I bought before I decided to boycott them for knowingly publishing P2P fanfic and then just sort of shrugging and doing nothing when they were called on it. I had given Tachna’s The Inventor’s Companion 3 stars when I read it back in 2011 and liked it just enough to give her books another shot. This turned out to be a mistake on my part.

I finished this a month and a half ago, so apologies if my summary has some issues. Alliance in Blood stars Orlando, a vampire, and Alain, a wizard. Vampires and wizards have been at war for a long time. Although wizards view vampires as dangerous monsters, they’ve decided that they need to try to form an alliance with them because the wizards are also at war with dark wizards and could use some help. The vampires agree to the alliance 1) because it would give them a chance at having the same rights as wizards and 2) because Alain and Orlando accidentally form a bond and discover that wizard blood might allow vampires to walk in the sun again.

My issues with this book started in the author’s introduction and just got worse from there. In her introduction, Tachna writes: “I can very proudly state that I've never read a vampire story. Not Anne Rice, not Laurel K. Hamilton, not Bram Stoker. The closest I've ever come was a monologue I read in seventh grade called ‘Dress of White Silk.’” (4) I’m pretty sure that Tachna intended this as evidence of just how original her vampire story was going to be. However, as someone who has read and enjoyed a lot of vampire stories, I just found it insulting. Not having read a subgenre’s foundational works isn’t something for someone writing in that subgenre to be proud of, and it also isn’t necessarily an indicator that the work is going to be original, just that the author will have absolutely no clue whether it’s original or not. I also wasn’t encouraged by Tachna’s misspelling of Laurell K. Hamilton’s name.

The introduction went on to say that Alliance in Blood was originally just the first part of one very long novel that Tachna was forced to break into separate novels in order to make it more likely that a publisher would accept it. This brings me to one of Alliance in Blood’s many problems: its poor pacing. Most of the book is devoted to Orlando and Alain testing the effects of Alain’s blood and the blood of other wizards on vampires, all while angsting and panting over each other like horny teenagers. Sometimes characters recounted events for other characters’ benefit, which readers had to suffer through even though these events had already happened on-page. I have a feeling that Tachna’s one long book could have been much stronger if she had just ruthlessly edited it and cut out any unnecessary scenes.

Well, it might have been better. Pacing wasn’t the book’s only problem. Another huge issue was the way it missed all emotional notes that weren’t directly related to Orlando and Alain wanting to have sex with each other. Relatively early on in the book, Alain’s best friend Thierry’s not-quite-ex-wife was killed by dark wizards. Hardly anyone seemed to care or remember that this had happened. I could sort of accept Thierry’s reaction as his way of trying to keep it together and continue doing his job. I was disgusted by Alain, however. Instead of worrying about his best friend, he could barely keep his hands and mind off Orlando, a guy he’d only known for maybe a day.

Orlando and Alain’s relationship moved unbelievably fast. If I remember right, the whole book took place in the space of maybe three days. In that time, Orlando and Alain declared their love for each other, Alain allowed Orlando to brand him, and they ended up with a bond that put Orlando completely at Alain’s mercy. They had one absolutely ridiculous argument where Alain was supposedly in the wrong, and all I could think was that Orlando was expecting someone who was almost a stranger to basically read his mind and know automatically how he felt.

After many chapters of almost nothing new happening, the book ended with sequel bait (a bunch of vampires and wizards pairing off, with varying degrees of willingness) and a wooden and boring big battle. I’m glad that this was the only book in the series that I purchased, because I have no desire to continue on with this series.

Additional Comments:

I have no idea if this was a formatting problem or if it was intentionally done, but there were no scene breaks - the book moved smoothly from one scene to the next in the space of a paragraph. In one instance, this had the unfortunate effect of making it look like Orlando was calmly drinking espresso at the edge of a bloody battle like it was no big deal.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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text 2017-12-04 13:03
Bear With Me by Everleigh Clark
Bear With Me (Mates of Bear Paw River Book 2) - Everleigh Clark,Wizards in Publishing

Bear With Me by Everleigh Clark is book Two in the "Mates of Bear Paw River" series. This is the story of Jane and Bo. I have read the previous book, but feel this can easily be a standalone book.
Jane has been running with her son, Liam for a while trying to keep them both safe. Now she is in Bear Paw River hoping this place will keep them safe. When Bo first sees Jane he knows that she is his mate. But first he has to find out what she is running from and to prove he is her mate.
Really enjoyed their story...loved Bo for sure!



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review 2017-11-11 21:24
Interim Errantry (Young Wizards #9.3, 9.5, 9.7)
Interim Errantry: Three Tales of the Young Wizards - Diane Duane

Three novellas? More like two short stories and a novel, because the third story is way too long to be a novella.


Not on My Patch and How Lovely Are Thy Branches are cute little holiday-centered shorts, the first for Halloween and the second for Christmas. Not a whole lot to say about them, but they were fun and it was nice to see the kids hanging out and being friends without their lives in mortal peril. 


Life Boats is entirely from Kit's POV, which is unusual and a nice change up from the shared POVs. Our friendly Earth wizards are off to help a planet evacuate before the planet's moon can fall apart and crash into it. So you know, no big deal. ;) Except that some of the planet's population don't seem able to or willing to leave, and no one can figure out why. This was not as terrifying a story as I thought it would be, given the world-ending premise, and it's wrapped up in a true YW way. There's a lot more hanging out, meeting and making new friends, and quite a bit of ... er, grown up talk as Kit and Nita are still figuring out their new relationship. I do like what this set of stories did for showing their friendship and how much their affections for each other have grown, and went some way to convincing me this is a good pairing and not just forced because of course the girl protag and the boy protag ALWAYS have to end up a couple. 


I don't think I've mentioned it much, if at all, in other reviews for this series, because I was so wrapped up in the emotional hangover, but these NME editions are not the best edited. There are a lot of simple mistakes in the text throughout the series, and while the last couple of books have been much better, this one almost seems to be making up for those. Extra words, missing words, misplaced words - if the writing wasn't so strong, I'd be more annoyed by this, but I felt I needed to mention it at last.

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