A Blackbird in Amber (Blackbird #3) by Freda Warrington

A Blackbird in Amber Cover

A Blackbird in Amber Blurb

The terrible Serpent M’gulfn has been destroyed, but Earth’s future is in peril. Its death has unleashed a chaotic power that may prove more dangerous than the Serpent itself.

Journeying to Gorethria comes Melkavesh, daughter of Ashurek and Silvren, determined to harness the new power of sorcery for good. But can she resist the temptation to claim her birthright – the dark throne renounced by Ashurek?

A ruthless usurper, Xaedrek, has already seized Gorethria’s throne and is working his own warped form of sorcery to restore the evil empire. To save the Earth, Melkavesh must defeat him but she has reckoned without Xaedrek’s seductive charm.

My Reviews of other Books in the Series

A Blackbird in Silver (Blackbird #1)

A Blackbird in Darkness (Blackbird #2)

My Review of A Blackbird in Amber

A Blackbird in AmberA Blackbird in Amber by Freda Warrington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The third in the Blackbird series jumps 25 years into the future after the events of the first two books. It follows Ashurek and Silvren’s daughter Mellorn as she returns to Earth to aid the birth of sorcery. But the Gorethrian Empire has used warped demon sorcery to recover its strength and has returned to invading and enslaving other nations.

My favourite thing about the Blackbird series is the wonderful and well-written cast of characters who have complex relationships and motivations. Main character Mellorn / Melkavesh is a sorceress who sets out with the aim of creating a sorcery school on Earth. Strong willed and charismatic she is a natural leader and draws people to herself.

But she is swayed by her own ego and under the guise of stopping the Gorethrians conquest of other nations, she starts to get swept away with the idea of leading an army and overthrowing the Gorethrian ruler.

I really enjoyed the story. It’s well paced and interesting, and makes sense in the context of the original books – it doesn’t feel tacked on for the sake of continuing the series. I also love the lush descriptions of the world. They brought it to life for me and I couldn’t stop reading. I’m excited to read the next one!

A Blackbird in Amber
Blackbird
Freda Warrington
Fantasy
1988
Paperback
437

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

Lagoon Cover

Lagoon Blurb

When a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself.

Told from multiple points of view and crisscrossing narratives, combining everything from superhero comics to Nigerian mythology to tie together a story about a city consuming itself.

‘There was no time to flee. No time to turn. No time to shriek. And there was no pain. It was like being thrown into the stars.’

My Review of Lagoon

LagoonLagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Aliens land in the water off the coast of Nigeria in this sci-fi first contact novel. What follows is chaos as the city starts to destroy itself through fear.

There are a lot of different voices in Lagoon, some only for one or two chapters. Normally I would find that confusing but here it worked well as it dropped into different people around Lagos to show events rather than having the main characters be everywhere and see everything. It did make it a bit hard to really connect with or care about any of the characters though as it’s a short book anyway and meant that even less time was spent on telling the main characters stories.

I loved the sci-fi side, there were a lot of fresh ideas that made this really interesting. There are African mythology and magic elements mixed in too, but I don’t know anything about African myths and these weren’t explained enough for them to make sense for me. They seemed to be added at random and not add anything to the main story. I’m also not sure why the main characters had powers, or why they were chosen by the aliens.

It’s very original and ambitious, and overall I enjoyed it. I liked the environmental / feminist / religious themes, but I think maybe there was just a bit too much in one book and I found it hard going at times to keep track of the main story. It’s difficult to get into, but I think it’s worth the effort for the fresh and modern perspective on sci-fi.

Lagoon
Nnedi Okorafor
Sci-Fi
April 10th 2014
Paperback
306

The Innocent Mage (Kingmaker, Kingbreaker #1) by Karen Miller

The Innocent Mage

The Innocent Mage Blurb

Enter the kingdom of Lur, where to use magic unlawfully means death. The Doranen have ruled Lur with magic since arriving as refugees centuries ago. Theirs was a desperate flight to escape the wrath of a powerful mage who started a bitter war in their homeland. To keep Lur safe, the native Olken inhabitants agreed to abandon their own magic. Magic is now forbidden to them, and any who break this law are executed.

Asher left his coastal village to make his fortune. Employed in the royal stables, he soon finds himself befriended by Prince Gar and given more money and power than he’d ever dreamed possible. But the Olken have a secret; a prophecy. The Innocent Mage will save Lur from destruction and members of The Circle have dedicated themselves to preserving Olken magic until this day arrives. Unbeknownst to Asher, he has been watched closely. As the Final Days approach, his life takes a new and unexpected turn.

My Review of The Innocent Mage

The Innocent Mage (Kingmaker, Kingbreaker, #1)The Innocent Mage by Karen Miller
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The story itself was ok, if nothing special. Asher appears to be a down to earth commoner, but he’s actually ‘The Innocent Mage’, a special snowflake who is destined to save the kingdom.

More interesting is Gar, a prince of a race of people all born with magic. Unfortunately, Gar was born without magic and is considered a cripple. He’s not allowed to become ruler and is passed over in the succession in favour of his younger sister.

I think this suffers a bit because I recently read Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy and there are a lot of similarities with it. Both feature a young, naive man who becomes a right-hand man to a prince that cares deeply for his people and is clearly the best person to become the next king.

Robin Hobb’s series is much more subtle and clever than the Innocent Mage, which looks juvenile in comparison. Maybe if I hadn’t just read that I would like this more.

There are other problems with it too though. Karen Miller writes her characters as very obviously ‘good’ or ‘bad’. There are no nuances allowed. Her good characters are kind, caring, and wise. They ignoring their own needs and health to work tirelessly for others.

Bad characters go around shouting and badmouthing everyone and work for their own pride and desires only. Every time a good character tries to do something good, they pop up to try to stop them. They overdress and overeat and in my mind, I couldn’t stop myself picturing them wearing black and wafting dalmatian skin capes around every time they show up to throw a spanner in the works.

Asher irritated me from the first moment he appeared on page. He’s written to be almost perfect, his down to earth nature and lack of regard for authority endure him to everyone he meets. Well, those that are written as ‘good’ characters anyway. He can do no wrong and everyone loves him.

At one point he’s in a javelin competition against a bad guy. The bad guy has been the champion of the javelins every year since he was young. Asher has been training with a javelin for a few weeks, and only learnt to ride a horse a year ago. Guess who wins?

Personally, I think Asher is just rude. He spends the whole book pointing out other people’s faults, and taking offence every time for perceived disrespect every time he has a conversation with someone.

Honestly, by the end of the book, I was rooting for the bad guy to win.

It’s not badly written, it’s 600 pages and I read the whole thing. It could just use a bit more imagination. It looks like the second book will have a lot more magic in it, and if I come across it I would probably buy it.

The Innocent Mage
Kingmaker, Kingbreaker
Karen Miller
September 2007
Paperback
642

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge Blurb

A sharp and funny urban fantasy for “new adults” about a secret society of bartenders who fight monsters with alcohol-fueled magic.

College grad Bailey Chen has a few demons: no job, no parental support, and a rocky relationship with Zane, the only friend who’s around when she moves back home. But when Zane introduces Bailey to his cadre of monster-fighting bartenders, her demons get a lot more literal. Like, soul-sucking hell-beast literal. Soon, it’s up to Bailey and the ragtag band of magical mixologists to take on whatever—or whoever—is behind the mysterious rash of gruesome deaths in Chicago, and complete the lost recipes of an ancient tome of cocktail lore.

My Review of Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge

Last Call at the Nightshade LoungeLast Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, bartenders are all that stand between us and monsters called Tremens that roam the night, hunting feeding on people.

Luckily the bartenders have a secret weapon – magic powers they can gain by mixing perfect cocktails using specially distilled alcohol.

This definitely reminds me a lot of Buffy the Vampire slayer – a young woman that doesn’t really know where she’s going in life fights monsters while building friendships. That’s a good thing for me, and there are enough unique elements in here to give it it’s own personality.

I loved the diverse mix of characters and they had unique and distinct personalities. They brought the book to life and their interactions with Bailey were often entertaining.

Bailey isn’t the nicest person in the world, she isn’t instantly everyone’s best friend and the people around her don’t think she’s amazing. I kinda love her for this. She’s not a special snowflake and has to prove herself and work at her friendships.

My big problem with this book though is that it doesn’t go in much for explaining things. It’s quite short and mostly action, which makes for a fun read, but a bit of depth would have helped it all feel more real.

Bailey is an overachiever who has left university and lost all direction. It doesn’t go into why Bailey has gone straight home to her parents and not tried to get herself a job. It seems out of character for her, so it could have done with a bit more explanation for her motives for it to make sense.

While working for Vincent, Bailey seems to build a close relationship with him. This happens mostly off page though and it means that events later in the book aren’t as moving as they perhaps could have been.

The Tremens aren’t really explained either, what they are or where they come from. They just appear and the bartenders kill them.

So, in the end, this is a lot of fun, but look at it too closely and it might all fall apart. There is enough good stuff to make up for it though, and it’s well written.

If there’s a sequel I’ll be all over it.

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge
Paul Krueger
Urban Fantasy
June 7th 2016
288

Advent (Advent Trilogy #1) by James Treadwell

Advent Cover

Advent Blurb

For centuries it has been locked away
Lost beneath the sea
Warded from earth, air, water, fire, spirits, thought and sight.

But now magic is rising to the world once more.

And a boy called Gavin, who thinks only that he is a city kid with parents who hate him, and knows only that he sees things no one else will believe, is boarding a train, alone, to Cornwall.

No one will be there to meet him.

My Review of Advent

Advent (Advent Trilogy #1)Advent by James Treadwell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Seriously, I never thought I’d say this about a book, but this is a story that would have been better without the fantasy and magic.

Gavin is 15 and he sees things that everyone tells him aren’t really there. Mainly a woman he calls Miss Grey. His parents are fed up with him and angry because they think he’s pretending, and when he finally told a teacher about the things he’s being seeing he’s suspended.

Am I being naive but why would his school even suspend him for this? Why wouldn’t they talk to his parents and try to get him to go to the doctors or a psychiatrist?

Anyway, when he gets to Cornwall his aunt has disappeared, and he meets some unusual people while he’s looking for her at the house where she works as a housekeeper or something. What he doesn’t do is go to the police though. Oh no, that would be far too sensible and require some actual action on his part.

It’s very slow moving, we barely cover two days, and it’s a longish book. People were saying random things that didn’t seem to fit with the story, and having long conversations without actually saying anything. There’s a lot of random rhymes dropped all over the place that are supposed to help or provide clues, but actually just waste time. Gavin doesn’t listen to them anyway and he doesn’t actually do anything.

Things just happen to him and even the ending wasn’t anything to do with him. His reason for being in the story is never explained. We’re told that he’s special, but not why, or what he’s supposed to do. We do get a lot of page time spent on him walking around without shoes on though.

My favourite parts were when Gavin was travelling to Cornwall and when he had just arrived. I think the story of Gavin as a teenager who sees things and has been sent away because his family can’t cope with him worked better than when the magic and fantasy were introduced. I like the almost simplistic writing style for this bit, but then when the fantasy side comes in it gets very dramatic and overblown, and kinda confusing.

So overall it’s just a boring, confusing mess. I can’t understand why it’s over 600 pages long when nothing happens.

Advent
Advent
James Treadwell
Young Adult Fantasy
614

All Good Things (The Split Worlds #5) by Emma Newman

All Good Things Cover

When the mysterious sorceress, Bea, offers her a chance to earn true freedom, Cathy makes a deal with her. But can she and Sam work out the best way to navigate Bea’s plans for the future without becoming another of her victims?

Amidst death, deceit, and the struggle for freedom, friendships are tested, families are destroyed and heroes are forged as the battle to control the Split Worlds rages on to its climatic conclusion.

All Good Things (The Split Worlds, #5)All Good Things by Emma Newman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was so happy to get my hands on an ARC of All Good Things! I’m a big fan of this series, I’ve been avidly following Cathy’s journey through the first four books and I was excited to see how the story would conclude.

Cathy has been on a massive journey. From the scared young woman in the first book to the Duchess of Londinium trying to effect social change, she has now grown into a true leader, Princess Leia rebel style.

For the first few books, Cathy was mainly ineffective, complaining but not actually doing anything. In the last two books she has made grown in confidence, started caring about other people, and made some real changes, but what she does here is just brilliant. I love the way this book ended.

The side stories were neatly wrapped up too. Though I do feel like there was a lot of wrapping up in this book, and at times a lot of the stories felt rushed. Will and the Fae princess, for example, seemed to be a bit crammed in.

I’m not happy about what happened with Lucy. She has been such a strong character through the series and very supportive of Cathy, and I don’t like the way she was treated at the end.

Max and the gargoyle have been my favourite characters by far. I’d love to see some more of them, I feel like Cathy’s story might be done but those two have a lot of work to do now.

This has been one of my favourite series and I’m sad to see it end, but I’m also excited to see what Emma Newman does next.

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

All Good Things
The Split Worlds
Emma Newman
Fantasy
June 6th 2017
350

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

All the birds in the sky

All the Birds in the Sky Blurb

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during middle school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.

But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever growing ailments. Little do they realise that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together—to either save the world or plunge it into a new dark age.

A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the Apocalypse.

My Review of All the Birds in the Sky

All the Birds in the SkyAll the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What an unusual book! All the Birds in the Sky mixes magic, sci-fi, climate change, other universes and the end of the world.

There’s a bit of Jonas Jonasson style farce in, especially at the start (2-second time machine!). When it jumps to Patricia and Laurence as grown ups the setting reminds me of the world in Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood, with added hipster style.

It feels to me like a lot of thought has gone into the near future setting and the technology they have. It felt realistic and vibrant and I loved the mix of magic and science.

There’s a strong sense of humour running through it and I really liked the writing style, but some parts were a little confusing. Nothing is explained at the start, I felt a little like I was thrown into the middle of a story. Most of it slowly started to make sense, but some bits felt unfinished. I’m not sure really what the point of Mr Rose was.

I liked Patricia and Laurence, they seem warm, mostly kind, and very human. They are both outcasts but see the world differently, and they have some very funny observations on life. I liked the diversity of the other characters and they all had distinct personalities.

Five-star rating from me because all the good bits far outweigh the few flaws in it. It’s odd and unusual and truly is a wonderful gem of a book. Normally I like finishing books so I can start the next one and I rush through them, but with this one, I wish it were twice as long.

All the Birds in the Sky
Charlie Jane Anders
Sci-Fi
January 26th 2016
432

The Magician’s Workshop, Volume One by Christopher Hansen

The Magician's Workshop

The Magician’s Workshop blurb

Everyone in the islands of O’Ceea has a magical ability: whatever they imagine can be brought into existence. Whoever becomes a master over these powers is granted the title of magician and is given fame, power, riches, and glory. This volume of books follows the journey of a group of kids as they strive to rise to the top and become members of the Magician’s Workshop.

Layauna desperately wants to create beautiful things with her magical powers, but all she can seem to do is make horrible, savage monsters. For years she has tried to hide her creations, but when her power is at last discovered by a great magician, she realizes that what she’s tried to hide might actually be of tremendous value.

Kai just wants to use his powers to have fun and play with his friends. Unfortunately, nearly everyone on his island sees him as a bad influence, so he’s forced to meet them in secret. When one of the creatures they create gets out of control and starts flinging fireballs at their town, Kai is tempted to believe that he is as nefarious as people say. However, his prospects change when two mysterious visitors arrive, praising his ability and making extraordinary promises about his future.

Follow the adventures of Kai, Layauna, and a boatload of other characters as they struggle to grow up well in this fantastical world.

My review of The Magician’s Workshop

The Magician's Workshop, Volume OneThe Magician’s Workshop, Volume One by Christopher Hansen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Magician’s Workshop has one of the most unusual magic systems I’ve seen. It’s all based on the idea that everyone can create projections – illusions that work on the senses. So you can make people see, hear, feel and taste things.

There’s also the idea that everyone has a colour inside them. A test at age 16 will show if someone has a colour inside them or if they are void.

I’m not entirely sure what the colours are or what they are used for though. There are no big info dumps here, which is great because I hate those, but also it doesn’t really explain things.

The culture and the world took me a while to get to grips with, the magic system was slowly revealed so I was starting to understand that, but there are so many different ideas and story lines going on that it took me the entire book to start feeling like I had a grip on the world.

I think there are about 5 different viewpoints, and it doesn’t spend very long with any of them so the stories didn’t go anywhere. Not much happened, I think the whole of this book was just setting the scene. Hopefully, the story will get going in the next book.

The characters are supposed to be around 16, which for the world it’s set in appears to be when they start to be considered adults. It didn’t fit with the way they acted though, I was fully convinced I was reading about 11 year-olds until the text mentioned their age.

I liked the writing style, and I liked the ideas and the characters, but I would have been happier with fewer viewpoints and more story.

I received a free copy from the author in return for an honest review.

The Magician's Workshop, Volume One
The Magician's Workshop
Christopher Hansen
Young Adult Fantasy
November 8th 2016
247

The Circle (Engelsfors #1) by Mats Strandberg

The Circle

The Circle Blurb

One night, when a strange red moon fills the sky, six school girls find themselves in an abandoned theme park, drawn there by a mysterious force. A student has just been found dead. Everyone suspects suicide. Everyone – except them.

In that derelict fairground an ancient prophecy is revealed. They are The Chosen Ones, a group of witches, bound together by a power, one which could destroy them all. But they soon learn that despite their differences they need each other in order to master the forces that have been awakened within them.

High school is now a matter of life and death. Because the killing has only just begun

My review of The Circle

The Circle (Hammer)The Circle by Mats Strandberg translated by Sara Bergmark Elfgren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Circle is a Swedish Young Adult novel. Set in the small town of Engelsfor in Sweden, The Circle follows six teenagers at the local high school that find out they have magic powers.

For the first few chapters I was a little confused by all the different characters as the viewpoint jumps between the girls, but by the middle of the book, I had them sorted. They are all very different and there is enough character development to start getting to know each of them.

Not all of the girls were very likeable and they didn’t get on with each other, this conflict and the regular action keeps the book moving nicely.

There wasn’t enough use of their magic powers for me though, for most of the book the girls struggled to understand what they were and had no real idea how to use them. It might be more realistic this way, but I want to see more magic!

It’s long for a young adult book, but it all wraps up nicely at the end, no cliffhangers here! So even though there are sequels this can be read as a one off.

I will be reading the next book though, I want to see them getting the hang of their magic powers and using them a bit more.

The Circle
Mats Strandberg
Young Adult Fantasy
June 7th 2012

Hello, Moto by Nnedi Okorafor

hello moto

There is witchcraft in science and a science to witchcraft. Both will conspire against you eventually.

My Review of Hello, Moto

In Hello, Moto, technology and magic merge into one very interesting short story.

Philo had been in Jos when the riots happened. I knew it was her and her wig. A technology I had created. Neurotransmitters, mobile phones, incantation, and hypnosis- even I knew my creation was genius. But all it sparked in the North was death and mayhem.

It left me with more questions than answers and it’s a massive cliffhanger ending, but I feel like that’s a good thing.

You definitely need to use your own imagination when you’re reading this.

Read for free at Tor.com

Hello, Moto
Nnedi Okorafor
Fantasy
Online Short Story