Tag Archives: #Supernatural

Jenkins, David Elias: The First Spark (2016)

The First Spark, Independent (2016)
Cover by David Elias Jenkins

Finding a soul-mate is not a given in life. In Free Spark, David Elias Jenkins introduces us to John and Isabella Gaunt who embody what soul-matedness seems to be all about. At first, their soul-matedness was metaphorical. Due to unforeseen circumstances, it later became literal. Their changing relationship brought heartache and a greater purpose in life. Both knew, without a doubt, that their most important contribution to Free Reign would be to bring down Jonas Reach, Emberdark and their bosses. Getting there demands more sacrifice and heartache for both of them. Those opposing them, find a terrifying pair willing to use any and all tools to get their revenge and stop the precursor artifacts that threaten Free Reign’s way of life.

The Watch is Free Reign’s police force. At first, Free Reign’s best, Maeve fights the couple. She misunderstands what they are about. That probably has to do with the level of devastation left behind them. However, once Maeve herself becomes hunted by the same forces John and Isabella are fighting, she realizes that life is even more complicated than she thought. And Maeve is not a naïve character but knows well that certain people “weigh the law down with gold and influence until it snapped.

“The destructive power of the fire elementals had razed the Longshadow district of Free Reign to the ground two hundred years ago. There were still plaques and memorials to the dead from that disaster in the main square.

Yet the very contraption of cogs and wheels that whirs and rattles me down this mountain is powered by that same magic, harnessed and directed to useful purpose. …

“Three sets of headlights glared at her in close formation like the myriad eyes of an arachnid. They separated slightly as the road widened and Maeve could see riders straddling three Angeldarts.” (loc 3939)

Free Reign is a city where magic (thaumaturgy) and technology intertwine into a type of literature called arcanepunk. The title of the story refers to the thaumaturgy that Free Reign is built on. First Spark bleeds magic into the air, ground and water of Free Reign and has made the city a place where strange creatures feel comfortable. Like all cities, Free Reign is a place where cruelty and succor live side by side in a political system that depends on its leaders being as little corrupt as possible.  I know, I know. Impossible.

The First Spark has enough violence to go around, but it is violence with a purpose. I would find it impossible to believe a story about the dregs of society (be they low or high on the social ladder) without violence. The First Spark pretty much shows this darker side of society as it is. I like the job Jenkins has done in blending law and crime, grief and determination and helpful with destructive. The First Spark is a mystery-thriller with lots of action, some violence and pretty broken characters.


The author gave me a copy of The First Spark to review

The First Spark is available on Amazon

Charish, Kristi; Owl and the Japanese Circus (2015)

The world of Owl and the Japanese Circus, by Kristi Charish, is dominated by antique thief extraordinaire, Owl, previously known as Alix Hiboux. Alix’s transformation from archaeology grad student to thief is in part a result of one of the laws we get to know in this urban fantasy. The International Archaeological Association (IAA) operates outside the law of the land in certain cases. Not all archaeological discoveries can be shared with the public. Also, the IAA takes care of their people in the know. Unfortunately for Alix, she fell victim to one such person.

“In exchange for saying, “No, I was wrong, none of the data in that report was falsified, the postdoc and supervisor still remain god apparent, I’m a bad grad student,” I had been verbally promised funding for the next four years and a coveted transfer to the lost city dig site in Ephesus, Turkey. Right after I had signed the paperwork that had legally absolved the university and my supervisor of any wrongdoing, all my funding had been terminated and my transfer had disappeared.”

All of a sudden, Alix was persona non grata in academia. Her reputation was ruined, and she needed to make a living. Turning thief was a matter of getting back at her old university and utilizing her outstanding understanding of the authenticity of antiques and antique languages. She chose her clients carefully (she thought), made sure they never met face-to-face, and paid a courier well to deliver the orders. All went well. Owl made loads of money. And then – poof – vampires. Once the lid is off Pandora’s box, there is no putting the monsters back. When we meet her, Owl is on the run from said vampires.

“I turned around slowly and looked up at the tallest Japanese man I’d ever seen, wearing a pair of designer sunglasses. He wore a tailored suit with diamond cuff links – real diamond cuff links – and matching shoes, but that wasn’t what got the kid. A tattoo of a dragon wound its way around his neck and disappearing underneath his shirt. It was striking, and a stark contrast to the expensive outfit. It was also a signature.”

One does not refuse Mr. Ryuu Kurusawa. Owl has done jobs for him before but never met him or his people.  That is about to change.

“Ryuu Kurosawa, a Vegas mogul known for his Japanese Circus-themed casino, looked up from a white couch and smiled that business smile you come to expect from professional sharks. Not the ones that take your money, the ones that eat you while you’re still screaming.”

In return for retrieving the missing contents of a magical egg, Mr. Kurosawa will hold off the vampires. Or else.

Like most humans I have met, Owl is incredibly inconsistent and willfully blind to her own fears. And, as is the case when we are willfully blind, she does not learn from her mistakes. Even though she now knows that there are supernaturals, she never spots them. For one so focused on the details of archaeology, Owl misses the details of people around her. This leaves her with room for growth.  Quite naturally, she also has huge trust issues. Along with those come a tendency to self-sabotage anything that might lead to friendship. Her tools are language and running away. However, there is some hope.

“You made me nervous the last time I was here. I didn’t know what to make of it, and personal conversations make me uncomfortable, so I did something stupid and decided to avoid you.” I ran my hand through my hair. “I’m a hell of a lot better with inconsequential conversations about vampires and RPGs,” I added, hazarding a look at him. He was still watching me and sizing me up from the doorway. Then he walked back to the outdoor bar and took the seat beside me. “All right,” he said. “We can go back to talking about RPGs and my vampire problems?” I said, maybe a little too hopefully. “No. We can have the conversation you didn’t want to have three months ago, and then I’ll decide whether I still want to be friends with you.”

One relationship Owl would never dream of sabotaging is her relationship with her Egyptian Mau cat, Captain. He goes with her everywhere. At first, I thought that would be a problem because of all of her traveling and her line of work. After a look at the various cat carriers out there, traveling was no longer an issue. When it comes to her line of work, Captain is a potential liability. Traveling with a cat in a carrier makes it easier to be spotted once that detail leaks. However, he is also a vampire alarm. Plus she loves him and he gives her balance.

Owl’s best, and oldest, friend is Nadya. The two met while at grad school. About six months before trouble hit Alix, Nadya suspected something nasty was going on and left for Tokyo. She advised Alix to do the same, but as we know, Alix ended up as Owl. Nadya is extremely smart and business savvy. She lives in the Shiyuba (sp?) district of Tokyo, owns a night club called the Space Station Deluxe and is Alix’s go-to-person when there is need of hacking.

Owl and the Japanese Circus was a fun YA urban fantasy with long-term potential. Definitely recommended.



Available at Amazon

Black, Jenna: Dark Descendant (Descendant I) (2011)


White privilege and male privilege are terms that we in the West are familiar with.

“whites are taught to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative, and average, and also ideal” (Elizabeth Minnich)

The same goes for our patriarchal societies.

In the world of Nikki Glass this is true. Her old and regular life is is part of average US patriarchy where some people are more equal than others. In her new reality with Descendants of Gods turning up all over the place the most equal people are these Descendants. Nikki fell into that life by accident, although the others Descendants seem to have trouble accepting that fact.

In the US, the two largest groups of these Descendants are the Liberi Deorum and the Olympians. Both groups are immortal. They can be killed but that takes a lot of effort and the right kind of killer. Which is how Nikki accidentally became one. She happened to be a descendant who killed a Descendant. Intentional or not, the seed of immortality then passed to her.

I’ve often wondered at the appeal of immortality. Hell, I often wonder why people feel the need to stretch out their lives as long as medically possible. Neither seems very logical to me. Immortality would have to change you immensely as a person. Once all of your original bonds have died, who do you then become? Add to that the side-effects of your new identity and you might even have been the reason your old friends have died. Death-gods, gods of the hunt, trickster gods and war gods all seem to have death as a common problem. How would you contain the desire to cause destruction and mayhem? At what point do regular humans become insignificant to whatever long-term goals you might have?

No wonder the immortals think they deserve preferential treatment. Because Nikki is still a new entry into this life, her bonds to the regular world are strong. Her adoptive parents and adoptive sister are all alive and care a great deal about Nikki’s well-being. Because of her foster-home background Nikki has always been close-mouthed about her life. Talking about her new status is not something she cares to do, but circumstances ignore any such desires. Close-mouthed or not, the truth will out.

I liked Dark Descendant  by Jenna Black. It was fun, funny and full of near-death experiences.


Dark Descendant available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-million

Soucy, Glenn: Blood Tithe I (2010)

Blood tithe

First off, I love this cover.

Blood Tithe is a serial. Too many questions are left unanswered at the end for it to be anything else. Obviously, I recommend that you begin with this novel. I believe Blood Tithe is Soucy’s first novel and it bears signs of just that. But Soucy manages to overcome most of those problems by keeping his characters interesting and active.

“Once someone is altered, they can gather energy from every living thing.  If they take that energy and wrap it around their heart, and then give it to another person, it creates a Blood Tithe. From then on, every time the original person collects more energy, the one he made the Blood Tithe automatically gets their fair share.” Glenn J. Soucy

I have been trying to remember what five-year olds are like while reading Blood Tithe. I can see a person his age falling for the temptation of the forbidden. You do not have to be five to fall for the forbidden. But five is how old Jeremy is when he goes against the commands of his parents and finds his life irrevocably changed. The point in his life when the sins of World War II genetic research comes back to haunt a community. I loved the tension Soucy managed to keep going full pace when Jeremy met Howler and his desperation during their subsequent meetings.

If Jeremy had been my son, would I have become afraid of him? Ideally, my answer should be a resounding no. As most of us end up learning, reality and ideals often do not blend. I really do not know which parent I would have become.

When we meet Jeremy at 13/14 life has become dire. He has done something he feels awful yet justified about in an eye for an eye sort of way.

In choosing to jump from Jeremy as little to Jeremy as teen-ager Glenn Soucy has undertaken a task that many authors shy from for good reason. Blending the two without getting details wrong or messing up on details is where we see that a stricter editor would have made Blood Tithe great.



Reine, S.M.: Death’s Hand (The Descent I) (2011)

death's hand

What is it that makes a great author? I feel certain all wanna-be authors have wanted to know the answer to that. To me a great author is one who manages to reach her audience in a manner that lets the reader remember her. S.M. Reine is one such author.

Another important quality that Reine handles well is keeping the flow going. Death’s Hand shows Reine’s skill at drawing the reader into the world of Elise Kavanagh and James Faulkner almost immediately. Remaining in the world of Elise, the kopis, and James, the aspis, was no effort at all. I am always gratified when an author manages to do that to me.

Our introduction to Elise and James is when James finds Elise surrounded by 12 female corpses on a plain in Russia. She is barely alive and even unconscious. We then jump briefly to a time ten years before that when Elise is handed her first kill by her father. Yes, I agree – perhaps you ought to be more than seven years old before you kill your first demon. After that we jump to the present (11 years after James found Elise) and meet an Elise and James who are both in retirement from the killing business.

Business is the wrong word to use for what the pair did. Elise is a kopis or sword while James is an aspis or shield. Their job used to be to make certain angels and demons kept humans from knowing about the supernatural world. Sometimes they had to kill to make that happen and the pair were always on the run just to keep alive. So, retirement makes sense and Elise has to use a pseudonym so she will not tip her clients off as to her identity.

Throughout Death’s Hand we go back and forth in time and we get glimpses of how Elise and James have ended up where they have and why Elise feels such a need for a semi-normal life. But the past has a tendency of catching up with us one way or another. Elise and James are no exception to that rule.

Elise is the kind of heroine that I enjoy reading about. Her strength is amazing and based on the scars of her past. Her past has left her highly vulnerable and one way to deal with that is to skunk the people who come into her life. All except for her room-mate Betty. Betty is the one thing in Elise’s life that Elise loves unconditionally. For some reason Betty has been the armor-piercing bullet that needed to get past Elise’s defences and keep her somewhat grounded. We all need friends like that.

James, on the other hand, seems to dislike and fear Elise at the same time as he feels the need to protect her. Granted, Elise is a force to fear, but then so is James Faulkner, the witch. Indeed, a very powerful witch at that. Hmmm?


Duncan, Sophie: The Diablo Ouija (Haward Mysteries) (2011)

Cover art by Natasha Duncan-Drake

Sophie Duncan is the author for The Diablo Ouija. For the time being, you can get the short story for free.

The Diablo Ouija is a Haward Mysteries short story. The Haward Mysteries are about the police officers Remy and Theo Haward at the Sorcerous Crimes Taskforce’s, Murder Squad. With a name like that for a task-force you can probably imagine that their investigations most probably involve something inexplicable. The title of the short story also makes it obvious we are dealing with the super-natural/para-normal.

I’m not saying the twins are insane, but a little unorthodoxy is the least of their qualities. They are on the look-out for an incredibly dangerous magical item: (drumroll) The Diablo Ouija. Three teenagers are already dead and Remy and Theo suspect they have not seen the last victims yet. When they turn to Theo’s old boss, retired DCI Swanson, for information about the old case, they discover something they had not previously known, something that will lead them into dangers untold.

Like most brothers, Theo and Remy are very different. In spite of their differences, they are willing to go to any length to make certain the other brother is safe. The Diablo Ouija tests their loyalty to each other. We get plenty of creep-factor but no tipping over into horror. An enjoyable tale.

Baum, Spencer: The Demon Queen and the Locksmith (2009)

Cover art by Stingya

The Demon Queen and the Locksmith is a fun read about three kids who have to save their town from a terrible threat. To aid them, they gain supernatural powers and assistants.

Spencer Baum has done a good job in portraying lonely Kevin and his newfound friends Jackie and Joseph. They come off as three likeable kids who manage to struggle their way through an extraordinary situation. I think that is what I like the most about The Demon Queen. Sometimes books for a younger audience portray angsty or heroic kids. Fantasy is kind of predisposed towards protagonists like that. That can be fun. But the greatest characters are the ones that are grey.


Angell, Lorena: A Diamond in my Pocket (The Unaltered I) (2012)

a diamondA Diamond in my Pocket is book one of The Unaltered Series.

What would you do if you one day discovered you had an unexpected ability? Like running fast, really fast. Fast enough to break the world record. It would be a great ability to have if you had to run away from trouble (or maybe to).

Callie Courtnae suddenly discovers this ability and is asked to join a school in Montana that specialises in youth with record-breaking abilities. She goes and discovers that the people at her school are extraordinarily beautiful and a lot quicker than she herself is. Hmmm, I smell a rat.

The premise for A Diamond in my Pocket is pretty good. It is difficult to come up with something new in the world of fantasy. But Angell manages to put a couple of twists in that I don’t think I’ve read before. However, however, however. The characters needed a bit more work and the novel tightening. I wish A Diamond in my Pocket could have fulfilled its potential, because it did have plenty of that.

Aaronovitch, Ben: Rivers of London (US: Midnight Riot) (Rivers of London I) (2011)

Cover artist “Rivers of London”: Stephen Walter
Cover artist “Midnight Riot”:

Before starting on the Peter Grant series – mystery books – Ben Aaronovitch was busy in the writing business. He has been involved in screenwriting, audiodramas, television-series, short stories and spin-off novels. While being mainly an author, Aaronovitch has also had the great pleasure (as so many other writers) of supporting his writing habit with non-writing jobs.

On his blog he states that the Peter Grant series was in part influenced by these sources:

Rivers of London

When Peter Grant gets out of being assigned to the Case Progression Unit by being sent to Chief Inspector Nightingale, he “left in a hurry before he could change his mind, but I want to make it clear that at no point did I break into a skip.” Brits. Gotta love them.

What Peter discovers when he gets to DCI Nightingale is that magic does exist and so does everything else paranormal literature delves into. His and DCI Nightingdale’s job (being the only representatives of that side of life) is to regulate the super-natural community, making sure they uphold the laws.

Rivers of London is at heart a mystery. A serial-killer is on the loose making use of magic in her/his/its killings. It is vital that Nightingdale and the rest of the Met find the serial-killer before more people are found without their faces. Peter has his chance at being a detective at the same time that he has to negotiate peace between the lower and upper sides of the Thames (mother and father Thames). His baptism into the super-natural community is at times frightening for him and delightful for us.

While a mystery with death and mayhem, Rivers of London is a light-hearted novel. There is plenty of humor and an irreverent look at society that I enjoy.

Thus far, Rivers of London is the only book in the series that I have read. I do believe I am going to read the next one as well. Aaronovitch manages to balance humor and action in true British style. I like Peter Grant’s distracted manner, something that gives us insight into his character but also into the city of London.

Fanart by DeaDiscordia
Upper left: Beverley Brook, “daughter” of Mama Thames and goddess of a small river in South London
Bottom left: Police Constable Lesley May
Centre: Police Constable Peter Grant
Upper right: Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, head of the Folly and the last officially sanctioned English Wizard.
Bottom right: Molly; The Folly’s domestic helper.

Nevill, Adam: Apartment 16 (Formerly known as “Down Here With the Rest of Us”) (2010)

Apartment 16 - Adam Nevill

Creepy! I think that’s the best description I can give of Apartment 16. I couldn’t read the whole thing because it was too creepy for an old lady. But if you enjoy horror, then this is the book for you.

The writing is excellent. Adam Nevill uses all of his writing tools with a gifted hand. It’s not often I get this creeped out by a novel, but this time the author won. You know the tight feeling you get in your chest when something is too freaky. Quite frankly, I was scared shitless.

Most likely it was Seth’s descent into madness and the experiences that brought him to that point that did me in. His experiences seem similar to the experiences that Apryl’s aunt Laura had when she slowly lost her grip on reality. Or perhaps it could be said that both Laura and Seth got to know a new kind of reality. Apryl’s experience with Apartment 16 at the very end of the book shows us that what went on with Apartment 16 was very real indeed.

Apryl has inherited an apartment in London. In her apartment block there is an apartment that is a bit off. But opening the door to that apartment would be unwise in the extreme. You see, this apartment is haunted, and it’s out to get you. If it catches you – well you know how it goes. You’d better not be caught and that leaves Apryl in a tighter and tighter spot as the novel progresses.



Apartment 16 on Amazon UK

Haunted houses in London

Kay, Guy Gavriel: Under Heaven (2010)

Under Heaven

Under Heaven affected me profoundly. I believe it was the depth of Shen Tai’s mourning for his father and his offering to his father’s spirit that moved me most. Imagine setting yourself the task of burying all the bones from a battle twenty years past in order that those spirits might find peace. A more appropriate place for restless spirits than a battleground I cannot imagine.

Kay went on to say that he’s interested in how the course of a person’s life can change in a moment, and how “small moments and events can ripple outwards.” Whether it’s an individual or the life of a people, he pointed out, “significant consequences can begin very inconsequentially. That’s one thing that fascinates me. The other thing that fascinates me is how accident can undermine something that’s unfolding, something that might have played out differently otherwise.”

To Kay, “the human condition is redolent with this aspect of randomness, and I try to work that into all of my books.” (CBC Books)

The choices Shen Tai, his older brother and their younger sister, Shen Li-Mei, make end up having both intended and to a great extent unintended consequences. All three discover that assistance and opposition comes in many forms and sometimes from unexpected quarters.

In this story there aren’t any really bad people. There are mainly just people with the regular gamut of human emotions and with varying degrees of ability to do something about their desires. While the Tang Dynasty was a better place for women than the ones before it, women held less room in society than men. As with most places in the world today, women had to be a lot more creative in their maneuvering than men did. Their accepted roles were also very different from the one men were able to hold. To become a warrior like Wei Song, one who even guarded a man, was not something that was open to most women (much like today).

Reading about the role of women was both a painful process but also a delight. Delightful because of the intelligent and brave women I got to meet and painful due to the few changes that have happened in the world when it comes to the roles of women and how true their power is.

Under Heaven is a fairly dark story. Considering the times and the rebellion it portrays that is no wonder. I am trying to decide if I would call it dark fantasy, but I don’t know if that would be appropriate. I love its complexity and many threads that all come together one way or another in the end. What an awful race we humans are. It really is rather sad to see us revealed in all our terrible glory. Under Heaven was an intensely touching book that left me thankful for having found it. According to the author, his goal in writing is to keep the reader turning pages. It worked.


Women of the Tang Dynasty

Song Dynasty (the Kitai Empire in Under Heaven)

An Shi Rebellion (simplified Chinese: 安史之乱)

Hua Mulan (Chinese: 花木蘭): female warrior

Uyghur Khaganate

  • Winner of the 2011 Sunburst Award for Adult Litterature
  • Nominated for the 2011 World Fantasy Best Novel
  • Nominated for the 2011 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature