The Dancing Crow is an urban fantasy tale about Ares, a vampire prince who goes into hiding from his own kingdom. He creates a gang of followers and together they try to protect innocent humans and stop them being taken as blood slaves by other ruthless vampire royalty.
This is an action packed story with lots of blood and gore from multiple battles. The author has created a world filled with mythical creatures and most of the action takes place in and around an unnamed city. There is a large cast of characters, many living in their own gangs and at times, it was hard to remember who they all were. Although the main plot of this story ends in this book, there is also an opening left for the continuation of the series.
I liked the mythical creatures and Ares was likeable for his principles and his sense of humour. However, I thought that his character needed deeper development to back up the purpose of the whole story arc. There was also room to make some of the other main characters more rounded and unique; at the moment too many of them act and sound too similar which makes them harder to picture.
Overall, I liked the story idea, but it still needs a bit more attention to the plot and the characters, then a good polish and tidy up; there were too many editing and proofreading errors for me to ignore.
Life as we know it is coming to a close. Vampires emerge from the shadows to rip dominant species on Earth from our grasp. There is no hope.
Or… is there? An unusual hero rises up from the depths of the city streets to fight for mankind. He’s a powerful vampire gang leader named Ares, and while he has plenty of flaws, he tries to stay true to his morals as much as possible. Blood runs like a river down the streets as the vampire war erupts all over the world, and magic starts to kindle from the slumber humanity locked it in.
Can Ares and his gang manage to pull through for at least his city and the innocent humans that reside there? Or will they fall like the rest? Time is ticking as the vampire tyrant known as Ash Elapid claws his way up through the ranks and tries to take the city, and nearby kingdom, for his own. Eventually this leads Ares to unusual allies, like a half-dragon and tasmanian devil shapeshifter.
Of course, saving his city isn’t the only thing on his mind. A vampire hunter known as Cecelia, indoctrinated heavily due to a religious cult, is trying to off him. While she’s a miserable failure, could she prove to eventually rise up and slay him?
Many humans are blind as to how vampires truly work, on top of all this. Not only are they very much alive, a sister humanoid species to them, but methods such as sunlight (which vampires are sensitive to since they’re nocturnal), holy water, crosses, and the light do not work to kill them. Some got it right with silver, at least, which is a deadly poison to vampires. None of that matters now–humans were taken off guard and will likely never recover.
Small areas of harmony can be established if people like Ares have any say in it.
This is the “Crow Version” of Book 1 in the “Kingdoms of Blood” series. The other version, Red Viper, features Sam Viper, a half dragon, and Darcia Deville, a tasmanian devil shapeshifter.
Garkain is an urban fantasy set mainly in Australia. Raised through the foster care system in America, Amelia has recently been reacquainted with her real family, but she discovers that they are a family of Garkain, a branch of vampires. Amelia is told that she is a special child because her parents were a Garkain and a Larougo, similar to a werewolf, but from a forbidden union. Members of The Colony invite Amelia to visit their home to take part in an unbinding ceremony to unlock her paranormal powers. Just what those powers will be can only be speculated upon.
I liked the idea of the Australian setting, which was refreshing in this genre, but I thought that the story needed to put more emphasis on the Australian context, particularly with the dialogue and historical background. The storyline worked well, but occasionally it was rushed and left me wanting more details or explanations to make it all believable. The last third of the story was the weakest and I thought it needed a bit of reworking especially with the odd epilogue; it introduced new details which I felt would have worked better in the main narrative. This is the first story in this series and there were hints of what is to come, but I wouldn’t say that the ending hooked me enough to want to continue.
I read an ARC of this story, so some of my concerns may be resolved with the final publication.
Amelia was dropped at a hospital in Houston 25 years ago. After searching for her biological family for years she receives a vague text: “It’s time for you to come home, we need you, the Colony needs you.”
The Colony is a secret society in the Outback of Australia, driven from Europe in 1788 to the prison colony of New Holland to begin anew. Her mother is Garkain, her father Larougo. Two different bloodlines, two different societies. One Vampire, one Werewolf. Given away instead of killed, she’s being called home for a purpose.
She’ll agree to things she thought she never would, become things she never thought existed, and agree to a bargain that will change the Colony forever.
Shelley has been reading The Starfolk Arcana by Martha Dunlop
What a beautiful, mystical, and engaging novel!
The story follows Beth and Jonan, who are fated to be together. There are also a host of other characters who play important secondary roles in the development of the story and who add a deeper dimension and understanding to the lives of the main characters. Beth has hidden her psychic abilities incredibly well, but everything changes when she is drawn to the man with the violet eyes in such a way that confuses and frightens her.
When a ‘celeb’ begins to spread fear throughout the town by tapping into everyone’s fear of the spirit world, Beth and Jonan become targets. It’s up to them to stop her before she destroys everything. Jonan also has the task of helping Beth understand her destiny after he has spent many lifetimes searching for her. The link between the characters and the Starfolk Tarot pack was a lovely touch.
The author creates a rich world full of intrigue, well-rounded characters, and plenty of reference to spirituality and the psychic realm. If you’re a fan of this style of urban fantasy fiction, you’ll adore this book.
I loved all the characters and could connect easily with them. Beth is the strong, independent woman who guards herself against harm and who most of us girls can deeply relate to. Jonan is a careful hero, and Amelia is the bad element you love to hate! The author knows how to build relationships between the reader and the characters as you are fully invested within the first few chapters.
I look forward to seeing how the rest of the trilogy plays out.
I highly recommend it.
They’ve spent lifetimes being pulled apart. This time, they’re ready to fight.
After years of hiding her psychic abilities, Beth meets Jonan – the man with the violet eyes – and starts to feel like she belongs for the first time. Jonan has waited lifetimes to be with the woman who haunts his dreams. Drawn together by deeply buried memories from before birth, they try to make sense of a soul connection that opens windows into both their histories and their destiny.
But when a woman from Jonan’s past starts weaponising their emotions and stirring up hate, distrust and a fear of the supernatural, Beth and Jonan find themselves targeted in a wave of suspicion.
Only they can see what she is doing. But can they hold out against her bombardment and be true to who they really are, or will they allow The Fear to tear them apart?
Cursed Is book one of The Thrice Cursed Mage urban fantasy series.
Mac Brennan wakes up in a dustbin which is about to be emptied, knowing little more than his name. One arm is blackened with runes that he didn’t think he had before.
Stinking from other people’s rubbish, Mac goes to a laundrette hoping to steal some clean clothes. However, he gets involved in a fight to protect a woman from two thugs that he later discovers are werewolves.
In his search to find out who he is and why he can only remember wisps of images from his past, Mac joins a vampire and a druid in a daring kidnap rescue.
This is a fast paced action packed story with much fighting and talk of weaponry. The narrative flows smoothly as Mac causes chaos with his often outrageous behaviour towards others in the paranormal world. I liked Mac and his action hero image. Some of the names of weapons that he used and other references to comic book heroes tended to go over my head, but generally I enjoyed this book.
My name is Mac Brennan and that’s the only thing I can remember about myself. Not why I woke up in a dumpster. Not why my right arm is as black as pitch and covered in glowing red tattoos, and certainly not why a vicious death cult is after me.
Actually, that last part isn’t true. I know why the death cult is after me. It’s because I saved that damned girl from them. I didn’t know who she was at the time, but I’d have done it anyway. I just don’t like it when girls get beat up, call me old fashioned.
Still, I can tell she’s hiding something behind those devilish eyes, and if I want to find out what it is, I’ll have to help her.
My name is Mac Brennan. I have no memory, and I’m a werewolf-hunting, hellfire-flinging version of Faust himself.
Grave Dance is book two of the Alex Craft series of urban fantasy novels. Alex is a grave witch who can raise ‘shades’ (images and memories of the dead) to help with investigations. Called in to help with a case where only feet are left, Alex is frustrated by her inability to aid the police as much as she would like.
In a separate incident Alex and some friends are attacked on the street and a rift between magical planes is left at the scene. Someone is also collecting souls before the victims are due to die. But when her close friends are taken, Alex must cross to the fae world―and there may not be a way to return.
I downloaded book two as soon as I’d finished book one, as I wanted to know where the author would take us in the development of Alex and her fae skills. I was not disappointed; more mythical creatures and visits to the fae world added to the mystery storyline. This could easily become a binge-read series for me.
Whoever said dead men tell no tales obviously never met Alex Craft.
After a month spent recovering from a vicious fight with a sorcerer, grave witch Alex Craft is ready to get back to solving murders by raising the dead. With her love life in turmoil thanks to the disappearance of Fae Investigation Bureau agent Falin Andrews and a shocking “L” word confession from Death himself, Alex is eager for the distractions of work. But her new case turns out to be a deadly challenge.
The police hire Alex to consult on a particularly strange investigation in the nature preserve south of Nekros City. The strange part: There are no corpses, only fragments of them. A serial killer is potentially on the loose, and Alex has no way to raise a shade without a body, so she’ll have to rely on the magic of others to find leads. But as she begins investigating, a creature born of the darkest magic comes after her. Someone very powerful wants to make sure the only thing she finds is a dead end—her own.
Catch up with my review of book #1 in the series (Grave Witch) here.
Grave Witch is book one of an urban fantasy series. Alex Craft is a private investigator who can raise ‘shades’, which are images and memories of the dead. She’s also on first name terms with ‘Death’, a collector of souls. After a magical awakening, the human and paranormal worlds partially co-habit, and this story takes place in the newly formed city of Nekros.
A serial killer is invoking dark magical rituals for empowerment. It becomes personal after a shade attacks Alex and a police officer takes a magical bullet meant for her. The case appears to straddle both the non-magical and the paranormal worlds. With a target on her back, Alex must work with homicide detective Falin Andrews to untangle the mystery. But is Falin all that he seems?
I discovered this series from a recommendation by a book blogger. The mix of modern and paranormal worlds appealed to me, if you like witches, fae, gargoyles, ghosts and mythical creatures then you might enjoy this. There’s crime and a touch of romance to add to the mix; I liked Alex and am interested in seeing how her character develops as the series unfolds.
Grave witch Alex Craft can speak to the dead, but that doesn’t mean she likes what they have to say.
As a private investigator and consultant for the police, Alex Craft has seen a lot of dark magic. But even though she’s on good terms with Death himself—who happens to look fantastic in a pair of jeans—nothing has prepared her for her latest case. Alex is investigating a high profile murder when she’s attacked by the ‘shade’ she’s raising, which should be impossible. To top off her day, someone makes a serious attempt on her life, but Death saves her. Guess he likes having her around…
To solve this case Alex will have to team up with tough homicide detective Falin Andrews. Falin seems to be hiding something—though it’s certainly not his dislike of Alex—but Alex knows she needs his help to navigate the tangled webs of mortal and paranormal politics, and to track down a killer wielding a magic so malevolent, it may cost Alex her life…and her soul.
Satan’s Sword is book two of the urban fantasy Imp series. (See my review for Book #1 A Demon Bound here)
Samantha Martin (Sam) lived undetected in the human world for forty years, until she was asked to kill a rogue angel. Since then, several rumours have spread about her, which to Sam’s innocent surprise, seem to have raised her profile among the paranormal societies.
In this book, Sam’s foster brother Dar asks her to pick up a demon artefact from a group of vampires, leading to more ups and downs and quandaries for Sam. In a brilliantly comic scenario, Sam tries to make money out of squatters at her new canal side property; I loved this part.
These books are filled with humour as Sam leaves a trail of death and destruction in her path. Her demon powers and lust for blood are counteracted by her passion, loyalty and crazy nature. At one point I had tears of laughter rolling down my face and I chuckled through several other incidents while reading this. I like this series, the author has put a fresh twist on paranormal beings and it works well for me. I can’t wait to see what adventures there are in book three.
Samantha Martin is an imp, bound by an angel who allows her to live among the humans . . . as long as she follows his rules. It’s not easy for an imp to follow the rules, especially when Sam’s brother, Dar, finds himself in hot water. He needs her help to retrieve an artifact from the vampires, or the powerful demon he owes a favor to will enslave and torture him for centuries.
It should be a simple courier job, but with demons nothing is simple. Sam reluctantly attempts to help her brother, trying not antagonize the vampires or the demon gunning for him, all while chafing to comply with the restrictions her angel has placed on her as a bound demon.
When the author contacted me, she made a very good case for me to read and review this book. A book where the protagonist self-harmed, had mental health problems and believed she was in love with an incubus and it was mutual, seemed very appropriate for me. I am not a big reader of paranormal books (I love horror, but have found that a lot of paranormal books focus more on romance and erotica, both genres, particularly erotica, that I don’t usually read). Unfortunately for me, the book had a fair amount of paranormal elements, well, the version of paranormal that I’m not so fond of and that outweighed (at least for me) the other aspects.
The story is told in several parts, always in the first person, from the point of view of Sofia (she prefers to be called Fia, and insists on it for much of the book). In the first part, we meet her when she is at a mental health facility and she is introduced to a new doctor that reminds her of a man from her past, Henry. At the insistence of this new doctor (she seems to be experiencing hallucinations, as she sees the Henry from her past and her sister, Melanie, who died some time back, while she is conversing with the doctor), she starts telling the story of how she got there.
Hers seems to be a story of grief and revenge. Sofia’s sister, Melanie, died in suspicious circumstances (of a Heroin overdose but the details are not straightforward), and she blames two men whom she is determined to get revenge on. To that effect, she visits a strange character, Henry. The rest of this part is the story of her obsession (that seems mutual) with this man she knows little about, but the more she learns, the weirder it gets. Sofia is grieving for her sister’s death, and self-harms (this part is graphic and realistic), smokes, drinks, hardly eats and seems to barely function. Her life is on a downward spiral until she meets Henry. And then things get… well, much worse. I know some readers don’t appreciate first person narrations, and although I normally don’t have any issues with them, this one I had difficulty with. Although I empathise with the protagonist’s predicament, her sudden love for a guy who is, at best a contract killer, and at worse… a demon, I did not find it that easy to understand (I know is standard fare in the genre, but perhaps that is one of the reasons why I don’t read it, as I find the suspension of disbelief a bit beyond me). Although we are not told her age, to me she seemed to act younger than the rest of the details of the story indicated she was. Perhaps it is to do with something she herself comments later in the book. She states she cannot remember who she was before all changed and we are not given any indication of the type of person she was, making it difficult to create a clear psychological picture in our minds. Of course, that is not helped by her mental state. Her constant mentions of the way the man looks, how attractive he is, his mahogany hair (I almost stopped reading when I read about it for the umpteenth time), and also the way she always describes herself by contemplating herself in a mirror and never just talks (but mutters, scowls, groans, hisses…), and uses adjectives and adverbs randomly (and some wrongly) made it a hard read for me. (It made me think of much of the advice written about how to improve one’s writing that needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.) I appreciate the author’s note saying that she did the correcting herself and that this was the second edition, but it would benefit from some professional editing. (I have noticed that the book has now a new cover, so it might be that there is a more recent version that has corrected some of these issues).
Part 2 shows us (after a brief interlude in the present day) Sofia a year later when Henry has left her life and she has become a Bleeder. I won’t describe the entire plot in detail, but let’s say that Henry isn’t quite gone and she ends up near Doncaster and…
Part 3. We are back in the mental health institution and Sofia makes some interesting discoveries about the doctor she has been talking to that make her question her insanity.
If you follow my blog and my reviews, you’ll know that I am always intrigued by narrators, especially unreliable narrators, and due to her mental state, Sofia is very unreliable. I have mentioned my difficulties with the writing style (that might have been solved and I know some of the issues are personal, so, do check the book and see what you think). It is difficult to talk about the characters as everything is filtered through Sofia’s disturbed mind. I have already talked about her. Henry, well, due to her adoration it is difficult to get any clear sense of what he is like (a dark hero, I guess). I liked his friend William much better. He is politically incorrect and has a sense of humour, something that gives us a bit of breathing space from the emotionally charged story that dominates most of the book. Some aspects of the plot are intriguing, and the UK locations and the idea of folds in space where our world connects to ‘Hell’ I found interesting, but I felt that the book would be better appreciated by younger readers and those more interested in the romantic and paranormal aspects of the story.
From the point of view of the mental health issues, I think the book might be difficult to read for people who self-harm and who have lost somebody recently. Some of the descriptive writing is well achieved, especially when Sofia finds herself lost in the woods, and the first person writing makes us share in her confusion and fear. As a psychiatrist, I must clarify that some of the events described would never take place in a hospital, but this is a novel.
From reading the reviews I know that many readers love this novel and the series, so don’t let me put you off. I would advise you to check a sample of the book and to try it if you enjoy paranormal novels with a big dose of romance and you don’t mind first-person narrations. Ah, there is some sexual content, although not extremely explicit (and it does not take up much of the book).
Soho barmaid, Fia Taylor, unwittingly hires a hitman to kill the two murderers of her sister Melanie – only to find that Henry Blaire, the man she hired, is a centuries old incubus with a lust for human life and a mission to end anyone that knows his secret. Fia must run for her life. Will she survive? That is not the question…why does she end up in an insane asylum, muttering only his name? That is the more pressing matter…
About the author
Michaela Haze lives in a small village outside London, with her two big white fluffy dogs. She is the author of the urban fantasy series, “Daemons of London”.
Burner is an urban fantasy set in Chicago. The book opens with a detailed warehouse scene and a very angry ghost attacking medium Kim Phillips, who wants to help her.
Kim has a special ability: together with her spiritual partner Priya, she helps ghosts pass over to the light; she’s a ‘burner’ but as a police detective, she also tries to find answers as to why the ghost remains.
Emma Murphy was a student and her life ended with violent abuse. During her “sending”, Emma leaves details of her murder and a partial vision of her killer. This burning leaves Kim exhausted, and during the night she has a vivid and frightening dream, one which continues on other nights. At police headquarters, her interest in this case leads Kim’s boss to suggest she partner up with detective Riley Cross. Research reveals Emma was an apprentice medium, and the death of one of her own community shocks Kim.
When Emma’s murder is followed by several more, all mediums, Kim is very confused; who would want to target mediums, and why? An attempt to “read” a knife for psychic residue leaves Kim badly injured, and she’s sent home for enforced rest. Here she reads diaries left by her grandmother, and the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place.
I like books about the paranormal, and the seven different affinities of mediums was an interesting slant; however, I had expected there to be more about each of the different affinities to add some layers to the writing. I was left not understanding several of their special abilities until the final reveal. It was also surprising that Kim didn’t use her own mentor or Emma’s mentor and Aunt, other than with general police procedures, I thought they would have been quite obvious sources of knowledge for the case; I don’t think this was thought through enough.
The very tentative hints of romance between Kim and Riley did little for my reading experience; it was definitely awkward, but as this is the first in a series I’m sure there will be more for them in later books. In this book, if Kim’s character had been developed further with more feminine traits the idea may have worked better. Currently Kim read as a very masculine figure “scrubbing her face with her hands”, on occasion. This being a very masculine move. I’m not sure how many women, even with only the basics of make-up on, scrub their faces with their hands as a typical gesture. At one point I even questioned if Kim was in fact a male character; much of the book read as if she was.
I liked the idea behind the book, but for me there were areas and characters which were under-developed. I was never convinced as to what truly had been discovered all those years ago and was a little disappointed in that I guessed the culprit before the police. Also Kim did the clichéd “head off to get the villain on her own with no backup” scenario, which has been overdone many times. If my points seem harsh it is only because this is a saturated genre and new books really do need to step up, above and beyond, to be competitive.
Homicide detective Kim Phillips isn’t like the other officers of the Chicago Police Department. She’s quiet, isolated, and she can speak with the dead. Born with the ability to see into and interact with the afterlife, she is a Burner: a person tasked with hunting down dangerous spirits and sending them to the other side.
When Kim exorcises the ghost of a young girl, she’s dragged into a new and unsettling case, one where people like Kim are being killed. The only problem? There’s no connection between the victims, and no proof that they were murdered in the first place. Kim has to catch the killer before he finds his last victim and unleashes an unknown evil on the world.
Burner, the first book in the Affinity Series, is a dark exploration of how life and death are only separated by a single breath and how even those with power can be powerless.
About the author
From an early age, J.S. Lenore has always been passionate about books and storytelling, but it wasn’t until high school that she started writing her own stories. Starting with fan fiction, Lenore found some minor success writing under the handle p1013. Burner, the first book in the Affinity Series, is her first foray into novel-length fiction. Set in Chicago, where Lenore was born and raised, it’s a dark tale about life and death, the ways that people define themselves, and how our histories can impact our futures.
J.S. Lenore now lives in Indianapolis with her husband, daughter, three cats, and zero ghosts.