The Best Novels I Read in 2016

Yeah, I should’ve done this earlier, but I just needed a break from 2016 for a couple of days. Most people do this in mid-December or so, but a few years ago (before this blog), the best novel I read that year was also the last. Ever since then, I just can’t pull the trigger until January 1.

I truly enjoyed all but a couple of books this year (at least a little bit), but narrowing the list down to those in this post was a little easier than I expected (‘tho there’s a couple of books I do feel bad about ignoring). I stand by my initial ratings, there are some in the 5-Star group that aren’t as good as some of the 4 and 4½ books, although for whatever reason, I ranked them higher (entertainment value, sentimental value…liked the ending better…etc.). Anyway, I came up with a list I think I can live with.

(in alphabetical order by author)

Morning StarMorning Star

by Pierce Brown
My original post
I was a little surprised (but not really) today to see that every book in the trilogy made my year-end Best-Of list — so it makes sense that this one occupies a space. But it’s more than that, this book was an exciting emotional wringer that ended the trilogy in a perfect way. I can’t recommend this one enough (but only for those who’ve read the first two). When I was informed a month ago that there was going to be a follow-up series? I let out a whoop, thankfully none of my family noticed, so I don’t have to feel too silly.
5 Stars

A Star-Reckoner's LotA Star-Reckoner’s Lot

by Darrell Drake
My original post
I’m afraid if I start talking about this one that I’ll spill a few hundred words. Let me just slightly modify something I already wrote and spare us all the effort (that could be better spent actually reading these books). I’m afraid I’ll overuse the word imaginative if I tried to describe what Drake has done here in the depth I want to in this book about pre-Islamic Iran. You haven’t read a fantasy novel like this one before — almost certainly, anyway — but you should.
4 1/2 Stars

Blood of the EarthBlood of the Earth

by Faith Hunter
My original post
This probably should be a dual entry with Blood of the Earth and Curse on the Land, but that felt like cheating. Between the two, I thought that this was a slightly better work, so it got the spot. While remaining true to the Jane Yellowrock world that this springs from, Hunter has created a fantastic character, new type of magic, and basis of a series. I love these characters already (well, except for those I wasn’t crazy about previously) and can’t wait for a return trip.
4 1/2 Stars

BurnedBurned

by Benedict Jacka
My original post
I’m just going to quote myself here: I’ve seen people call this the Changes of the Alex Verus series — and it absolutely is. I’d also call it the Staked in terms with the protagonists coming to grips with the effects that his being in the lives of his nearest and dearest has on their life, and what that means for his future involvement with them. Which is not to say that Jacka’s latest feels anything like Butcher’s or Hearne’s books — it feels like Verus just turned up half a notch. It’s just such a great read — it grabs you on page 2 and drags you along wherever it wants to take you right up until the “He is not actually doing this” moment — which are followed by a couple more of them.
5 Stars

Fate BallFate Ball

by Adam W. Jones
My original post
Since the Spring when I read this, I periodically reminded myself to keep this in mind for my Top 10, I was that afraid I’d forget this quiet book. It’s not a perfect novel, there are real problems with it — but it was really effective. I fell for Ava, just the way Able did — not as hard (and only in a way that my wife wouldn’t mind) — but just as truly. This one worked about as well as any author could hope one would.
4 1/2 Stars

All Our Wrong TodaysAll Our Wrong Todays

by Elan Mastai
My original post
My all-time favorite time-travel novel, just a fun read, too. I will over-hype this one if I’m not careful. So, so good.
5 Stars

The Summer that Melted EverythingThe Summer that Melted Everything

by Tiffany McDaniel
My original post
I’m not sure what I can say about this book that others haven’t — this trip into a magical realism version of the 1980’s Mid-West will get you on every level — it’s entertaining, it’s thought-provoking, the language is gorgeous, the characters are flawed in all the right ways. I wish this was getting the attention (and sales!) that it deserves — I really hope its audience finds it.
5 Stars

Every Heart a DoorwayEvery Heart a Doorway

by Seanan McGuire
My original post
Here’s a book that doesn’t have to worry about attention or audience, it has one — and it’s probably growing. It deserves it. Short, sweet (and not-sweet) and to the point. I may have to buy a two copies of the sequel so I don’t have to fight my daughter for it when it’s released.
5 Stars

Lady Cop Makes TroubleLady Cop Makes Trouble

by Amy Stewart
My original post
Stewart took the really good historical crime novel she wrote last year and built on that foundation one that’s far more entertaining without sacrificing anything that had come before. We’ll be reading about the Kopp sisters for a while, I think.
4 Stars

Genrenauts: The Complete Season One CollectionGenrenauts: The Complete Season One Collection

by Michael R. Underwood
My original post
Yeah, here I am again, flogging Underwood’s Genrenaut stories — whether in individual novellas, audiobooks, or in this collection — you need to get your hands on this series about story specialists who travel to alternate dimensions where stories are real and what happens in them impacts our world — Underwood has a special alchemy of Leverage + The Librarians + Quantum Leap + Thursday Next going on here, and I love it.
5 Stars

There were a few that almost made the list — almost all of them did make the Top 10 for at least a minute, actually. I toyed with a Top 17 in 2016 but that seemed stupid — and I’ve always done 10, I’m going to stick with it. But man — these were all close, and arguably better than some of those on my list. Anyway here they are: What You Break by Reed Farrel Coleman (my original post), Children of the Different by SC Flynn (my original post), Thursday 1:17 p.m. by Michael Landweber (my original post), We’re All Damaged by Matthew Norman (my original post), A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl (my original post), and Mechanical Failure by Joe Zieja (my original post).

I hope your 2016 reads were as good as these.

Pub Day Repost: Curse on the Land by Faith Hunter

Curse on the LandCurse on the Land

by Faith Hunter
Series: Soulwood, #2eARC, 352 pg.
Roc, 2016
Read: October 13 – 15, 2016

Weeks after the events of Blood of the Earth, newly-minted PsyLED agent Nell Ingram comes back from the training center, “Spook School,” ready to dive into her new role. It seems she comes back just in time for a case that’s right up her alley — strange and magical things are up, and seem to be tied to land. Something big, something powerful and something no one’s really seen before — which sounds a lot like Nell. So instead of doing the grunt work, the Probie work, she’s in the front of this investigation.

The presence of Brother Ephriam in the Soulwood she lives is also still around and doing something that also seems to be involving the tree on her former Church’s compound. She needs to address this, she knows, but the threats to the general public and local wildlife take priority. She also seems reticent to deal with this problem and confront the actions that led to his presence in the wood, so she’s glad for the distraction posed by her job.

For all the regulations and devices that PsyLED brings to the investigation of magical goings-on, I appreciate how often those things fail to do anything to solve the problem. They’re helpful in guiding the agents, in informing their actions, decisions and conclusions — but it’s not the be all and end all. Throughout the novel, there’s this interesting intermingling of magic and technology that’s done in a way I’ve not really seen before (although, I think it’s what Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant wants, but he’s a long way from getting it).

Nell’s continued obsession with foods that cannot be found at a Farmer’s Market and her growing familiarity with pop culture (particularly movies) continue to be fun — they ground the character as well as provide much-needed comic relief.

I think Nell could be the best new character I’ve read this year. She’s not your typical kick-ass heroine, nor is she the (possibly more) typical damaged-yet-kick-ass heroine. She’s a strong woman, determined, and stubborn. Her strength doesn’t come from her magic powers, her job, or anything else. She’s always been strong, but the circumstances of her life have slowly revealed to both herself and those around her, just how strong she is (from what I gather, the stubbornness and determination have been evident all her life). Which is not to say she’s all strength — she’s a nurturer (not just of her plants), she’s caring, and she’s nowhere near invulnerable (physically or emotionally). She’s also pretty clever and as her education moves beyond the solely autodidactic, we’ll see that demonstrated more and more.

While this series (at least so far) is ultimately about Nell, the characters she’s surrounded by shouldn’t be ignored. In Blood of the Earth, Nell’s embraced by her PsyLED team as part of a family, an intact and nurturing alternative to her blood-relatives. It almost seemed like an idealized replacement, but the events of this novel make it clear that it’s nowhere near ideal. Several members of the team are effected by the events here in ways that will not be able to be glossed over — both as a result of their work on the case and from arcs that carry over from the Jane Yellowrock series. The latter, I found particularly satisfying, while the former intrigue me and I’m eager to see how they play out.

We can’t forget Nell’s literal dysfunctional family, either. However strange and foreign they may seem to us (odd that these humans seem less familiar than the nonhumans in the books), the efforts on their part to restore and repair their relationships with Nell — while she does the same — are encouraging and heartwarming. Her brother, in particular, is fast becoming a favorite. Their new openness to the culture around them and the . . . lack of overt hostility and aggression to the magic and magical beings in Nell’s life is great to see, while they retain much of their religious/cultic faith. I hope there are a few bumps along the path, just to make it more realistic, however.

I almost forgot to talk about Hunter’s writing — it’s as great as ever. I think her use of magic — particularly large-scale workings — in these two books works better than it does in the Yellowrock books. Her characters, settings, dialogue, and other writerly demonstrations make this world rich and real. She’s among the best and most consistent in the UF field these days and I’m eager to get my hands on whatever she’s got coming out next.

I left Blood of the Earth wondering how Hunter could make this into a series –and I’m still wondering how this works long-term, there are only so many things you can do to the earth/plants/trees in an area, right? Can Nell function hundreds of miles (or more) from Soulwood? Is she much use in a skirmish between rival Vampire clans or the like? Sure, she was able to do some damage to the creatures in the first book, but at what cost? While I don’t see how it’d work for a full novel (this is where Hunter proves me wrong), it’d good to see Nell acting in a more supportive role on the team — getting coffee, filing reports, etc. — while the weres take down some monsters, or something. I do see how these books function as a series when it comes to the characters, however — it’s just how to keep the stories/cases interesting that I don’t see long-term, but I’m looking forward to Hunter educating me.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Roc via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this. And would’ve received it from Let’s Talk! Promotions, too, if I hadn’t already downloaded it. So I guess I should thank them, too.

—–

4 1/2 Stars

Curse on the Land by Faith Hunter

Curse on the LandCurse on the Land

by Faith Hunter
Series: Soulwood, #2

eARC, 352 pg.
Roc, 2016

Read: October 13 – 15, 2016


Weeks after the events of Blood of the Earth, newly-minted PsyLED agent Nell Ingram comes back from the training center, “Spook School,” ready to dive into her new role. It seems she comes back just in time for a case that’s right up her alley — strange and magical things are up, and seem to be tied to land. Something big, something powerful and something no one’s really seen before — which sounds a lot like Nell. So instead of doing the grunt work, the Probie work, she’s in the front of this investigation.

The presence of Brother Ephriam in the Soulwood she lives is also still around and doing something that also seems to be involving the tree on her former Church’s compound. She needs to address this, she knows, but the threats to the general public and local wildlife take priority. She also seems reticent to deal with this problem and confront the actions that led to his presence in the wood, so she’s glad for the distraction posed by her job.

For all the regulations and devices that PsyLED brings to the investigation of magical goings-on, I appreciate how often those things fail to do anything to solve the problem. They’re helpful in guiding the agents, in informing their actions, decisions and conclusions — but it’s not the be all and end all. Throughout the novel, there’s this interesting intermingling of magic and technology that’s done in a way I’ve not really seen before (although, I think it’s what Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant wants, but he’s a long way from getting it).

Nell’s continued obsession with foods that cannot be found at a Farmer’s Market and her growing familiarity with pop culture (particularly movies) continue to be fun — they ground the character as well as provide much-needed comic relief.

I think Nell could be the best new character I’ve read this year. She’s not your typical kick-ass heroine, nor is she the (possibly more) typical damaged-yet-kick-ass heroine. She’s a strong woman, determined, and stubborn. Her strength doesn’t come from her magic powers, her job, or anything else. She’s always been strong, but the circumstances of her life have slowly revealed to both herself and those around her, just how strong she is (from what I gather, the stubbornness and determination have been evident all her life). Which is not to say she’s all strength — she’s a nurturer (not just of her plants), she’s caring, and she’s nowhere near invulnerable (physically or emotionally). She’s also pretty clever and as her education moves beyond the solely autodidactic, we’ll see that demonstrated more and more.

While this series (at least so far) is ultimately about Nell, the characters she’s surrounded by shouldn’t be ignored. In Blood of the Earth, Nell’s embraced by her PsyLED team as part of a family, an intact and nurturing alternative to her blood-relatives. It almost seemed like an idealized replacement, but the events of this novel make it clear that it’s nowhere near ideal. Several members of the team are effected by the events here in ways that will not be able to be glossed over — both as a result of their work on the case and from arcs that carry over from the Jane Yellowrock series. The latter, I found particularly satisfying, while the former intrigue me and I’m eager to see how they play out.

We can’t forget Nell’s literal dysfunctional family, either. However strange and foreign they may seem to us (odd that these humans seem less familiar than the nonhumans in the books), the efforts on their part to restore and repair their relationships with Nell — while she does the same — are encouraging and heartwarming. Her brother, in particular, is fast becoming a favorite. Their new openness to the culture around them and the . . . lack of overt hostility and aggression to the magic and magical beings in Nell’s life is great to see, while they retain much of their religious/cultic faith. I hope there are a few bumps along the path, just to make it more realistic, however.

I almost forgot to talk about Hunter’s writing — it’s as great as ever. I think her use of magic — particularly large-scale workings — in these two books works better than it does in the Yellowrock books. Her characters, settings, dialogue, and other writerly demonstrations make this world rich and real. She’s among the best and most consistent in the UF field these days and I’m eager to get my hands on whatever she’s got coming out next.

I left Blood of the Earth wondering how Hunter could make this into a series –and I’m still wondering how this works long-term, there are only so many things you can do to the earth/plants/trees in an area, right? Can Nell function hundreds of miles (or more) from Soulwood? Is she much use in a skirmish between rival Vampire clans or the like? Sure, she was able to do some damage to the creatures in the first book, but at what cost? While I don’t see how it’d work for a full novel (this is where Hunter proves me wrong), it’d good to see Nell acting in a more supportive role on the team — getting coffee, filing reports, etc. — while the weres take down some monsters, or something. I do see how these books function as a series when it comes to the characters, however — it’s just how to keep the stories/cases interesting that I don’t see long-term, but I’m looking forward to Hunter educating me.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Roc via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this. And would’ve received it from Let’s Talk! Promotions, too, if I hadn’t already downloaded it. So I guess I should thank them, too.

—–

4 1/2 Stars

Curse on the Land Q&A with Unit 18

Faith Hunter answers questions from the Beast Claws, her Street Team. These questions are directed towards two of the members of Unit 18, Occam and Tandy.

Q – Occam, what are your intentions towards our Nell?
Occam – Well hell. That woman is ornery as a mule and prickly as a pear cactus. You gotta understand that she’s been through things no woman should ever have to suffer. And she came through it strong and wise and smarter than I’ll ever be. I can’t pursue her like a were-leopard. She done been chased to hell and back. I got feelings for her, but I understand that Nell holds all the cards. And she might not want me. Ever. In any form. Though she did pet my ears. Wonder if she knows that grooming a werecat like is a mating ritual. All I know for sure is Nell Nicholson Ingram ties me up in knots.
Q – Occam, how do you feel about working with a unique being like Nell?
Occam – Nell is amazing. I knew she was something special when I first met her land. Soulwood hums with power and might and unexplored potential. When I walk onto it, it’s like laying down in a whole field of catnip. And then there was Nell, so full of piss and vinegar. Though she’d call it spunk. She’s all prim and proper. She’s also smart and kind and stronger than anybody I ever met. Working with her is like rolling around in that catnip field while simultaneously being beaten with a cat-a-nine tails.
Occam, You seem to have developed a good rapport with Nell. Is it her kind of magic that draws you to her or just her unique personality you find intriguing and irresistible?
Occam – Short answer, yes. (doffs hat and sit at the bar) Anyway a tired man can get a beer in this joint?
Q – Tandy, if you could move to Nell’s woods Do you think you would find yourself drawn to Nell, or is just the woods that call you?
Tandy – I love Nell’s wood. But the person Nell is becoming scares the Lichtenburg lines off of me. Besides, Nell feels too strongly. I think Nell would change me in ways I might not like and before I even realized what was happening.
Q – Tandy, so if it’s Nell’s nature that is drawing you, what kind of dynamic (if any) would develop between you and Mud (the character)?
Tandy – little girls and older men are a cult thing. I’m staying as far away from that child as I possibly can.

Curse on the Land by Faith Hunter Book Tour

Welcome to our Book Tour stop for Curse on the Land. Along with this blurb about the book and author I’ve got a pretty unusual Q & A with the author, Faith Hunter, coming up in an hour or so. She’ll be answering some questions directed towards two of the characters in the novel. And then a little later this morning, I’ll post my 2¢ about the book (assuming I get them finished — I’m running a little late today).

Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of this post for a chance to win Soulwood books and more!

Book Details:

Book Title:  Curse on the Land by Faith Hunter
Publisher:  Roc
Release date:  November 1, 2016
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Length: 352 pages

Book Description:

Before Nell Ingram met skinwalker Jane Yellowrock, she had no one to rely on, finding strength only in her arcane connection to the dark woods around her. But now she has friends in the newly formed PsyLED team to keep her grounded — even if being part of the agency responsible for policing paranormals comes with dangers of its own…

After training at the PsyLED academy, Nell returns home to her woods to find the land feeling sick and restless. And that sickness is spreading. With the help of her team, under the leadership of agent Rick LaFleur, Nell tries to determine the cause. But nothing can prepare them for the evil that awaits: an entity that feeds on death itself. And it wants more….

Author Bio:

Faith HunterFaith Hunter, fantasy writer, was born in Louisiana and raised all over the south. She writes three Urban Fantasy series: the Skinwalker series, featuring Jane Yellowrock, a Cherokee skinwalker who hunts rogue vampires. The Soulwood series, featuring earth magic user Nell Ingram. And the Rogue Mage novels, a dark, urban, post-apocalyptic, fantasy series featuring Thorn St. Croix, a stone mage. (There is a role playing game based on the series, ROGUE MAGE.)

Under the pen name Gwen Hunter, she writes action-adventure, mysteries, and thrillers. As Faith and Gwen, she has 30+ books in print in 29 countries.

Hunter writes full-time, tries to keep house, and is a workaholic with a passion for travel, jewelry making, white-water kayaking, and writing. She and her husband love to RV, traveling with their rescued Pomeranians to whitewater rivers all over the Southeast.

Find Faith online at her website FaithHunter.net, her blog, on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

GIVEAWAY!

There is a tour-wide giveaway for 5 copies of CURSE ON THE LAND, 2 sets of the Soulwood novels (BLOOD OF THE EARTH & CURSE ON THE LAND), and a $25 gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Giveaway runs October 17th to November 12th. If you’d like to share, the Rafflecopter code is below.

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If the widget isn’t showing up, just click here.

My thanks to Let’s Talk! Promotions for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

Pub Day Repost: Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter

Blood of the EarthBlood of the Earth

by Faith Hunter
Series: Soulwood, #1eARC, 384 pg.
Roc, 216
Read: July 5 – 8, 2016

Nell Ingram had her life turned up side down by Jane Yellowrock when she came through her land on a vampire hunt. Months later, a PsyLED team — led by good ol’ Rick LaFleur — comes to her for help and to offer her a job. Nell had been raised in a cult that seems to be involved with — on some level, anyway — with an anti-supernatural terrorist group who seem to be kidnapping local girls.

God’s Cloud of Glory Church, the cult that Nell was raised in (and that her family is still immersed in) is involved with some petty harassment of Nell — although some leaders are leaning more toward horrifying harassment. LaFleur, Paka and Pea help her get out of one tight spot. But that won’t be enough to stop them, it did however, lead to the line: “[Pea] she looked like something out of a fairy tale, one of the old stories that was fluffy on the surface but dark and bloody underneath.” Nell’s magic takes a major step further in development at that point, too.

Nell coming to grips with the fact that she has some sort of magic is the heart of the novel. Well, that and her doing a better job of leaving the cult. Technically and geographically, she’d moved on — but her mind and lifestyle are largely conditioned by the Church. Her involvement with the PsyLED team (and their crappy diet) leads to some of the most entertaining parts of the book — her introductions to Krispy Kreme donuts and pizza are fantastic.

There really aren’t that many ways that Nell and Jane are similar — they are both deliberately and stubbornly independent, they both start out not understanding really who or what they are, and both of them are really good at ignoring the one vital, pivotal and fairly obvious thing until it’s almost too late. But things kept moving well enough that I was able to ignore it (although I probably talked back at the book a lot every time this point came up).

But it’s not just about Nell — LaFluer’s got a whole team with him. While he’s prominent, he’s really a secondary character (Paka and Pea are more so). Frankly, I was relieved by that — I really expected this to be Ricky-Bo and his Amazing Friends — I would’ve read that, but I’m not sure how psyched I was for it. Instead, Nell and the others on the team are great characters to meet and spend time with — and I want to spend more time with them all. It’d take too much space to talk about the PsyLED team as individuals, so let’s leave it with the aggregate: a very promising and entertaining ensemble.

Nell’s family are a strong presence (even before we met them) and should prove to be good fodder for character growth and even future plot (I just hope it’s not a well they go back to too often). The same can be said for the rest of the world we’re introduced to here.

The plot involving the church, the terrorists, the kidnappings is pretty strong and moves well. The resolution is violent, but not as much as it would’ve been in a Yellowrock book. Nell’s magic is different (and her team uses fewer firearms and knives). I’m not sure how to talk about this pre-release, maybe in book 2, it’ll be easier. Let’s just leave it with Nell et al. deal with things in a way that’s true to the genre, but doesn’t feel like every other UF around. Nell’s what Atticus O’Sullivan might be without his sword (maybe).

There were two pretty glaring errors that I noticed: Nell at one point identifies someones actions as stemming from their being postmillennialist (I’ve never met a postmillennialist like this, I think she meant post-tribulation premillennialist) and she identifies a Biblical quotation as from Acts, when it was from Romans. There are three explanations that I can think of for this: 1. Honest mistakes that will be fixed between the ARC and official release; 2. It’s been long enough since Nell’s been involved in the cult and her memory for details like this is foggy; 3. It was a cult, and they’ve mis-educated their people. I could be convinced of #2, but it’d take some work; #1 or #3 I could completely buy.

Why do I continually underestimate Faith Hunter? It’s only been in the last few Jane Yellowrocks that I pick them up with high expectations and I came to this curious, but unsure that she could do anything distinctive from Yellowrock. That ends now — Hunter blew me away with this one, yeah, it’s in the Yellowrock ‘verse — and it fits in it — but it couldn’t be more different. I’m not sure how this is a series, it’s a great stand-alone, maybe a duology. But I don’t see how this keeps going (but Hunter’s better at this than I am, so I’m willing to believe it is one — especially with these characters). I really want to give Blood of the Earth 5 stars, but I’m going to hold off going too far in my raving over this series until I see how Hunter follows up. Which may be stupid, but it’s what makes sense to me.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC via NetGalley with major thanks to Roc, I appreciate this greatly.

N.B.: As this was an ARC, any quotations above may be changed in the published work — I will endeavor to verify them as soon as possible.

—–

4 1/2 Stars

Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter

You know how long I’ve spent on this thing? How many posts I haven’t written because I’ve been trying to finish this one? The worst thing is that I liked this book and not just a little bit, I liked this one a lot. So why was this so hard to write? Don’t know, don’t care. It’s done…wish it was a little better.

Blood of the EarthBlood of the Earth

by Faith Hunter
Series: Soulwood, #1

eARC, 384 pg.
Roc, 216

Read: July 5 – 8, 2016


Nell Ingram had her life turned up side down by Jane Yellowrock when she came through her land on a vampire hunt. Months later, a PsyLED team — led by good ol’ Rick LaFleur — comes to her for help and to offer her a job. Nell had been raised in a cult that seems to be involved with — on some level, anyway — with an anti-supernatural terrorist group who seem to be kidnapping local girls.

God’s Cloud of Glory Church, the cult that Nell was raised in (and that her family is still immersed in) is involved with some petty harassment of Nell — although some leaders are leaning more toward horrifying harassment. LaFleur, Paka and Pea help her get out of one tight spot. But that won’t be enough to stop them, it did however, lead to the line: “[Pea] she looked like something out of a fairy tale, one of the old stories that was fluffy on the surface but dark and bloody underneath.” Nell’s magic takes a major step further in development at that point, too.

Nell coming to grips with the fact that she has some sort of magic is the heart of the novel. Well, that and her doing a better job of leaving the cult. Technically and geographically, she’d moved on — but her mind and lifestyle are largely conditioned by the Church. Her involvement with the PsyLED team (and their crappy diet) leads to some of the most entertaining parts of the book — her introductions to Krispy Kreme donuts and pizza are fantastic.

There really aren’t that many ways that Nell and Jane are similar — they are both deliberately and stubbornly independent, they both start out not understanding really who or what they are, and both of them are really good at ignoring the one vital, pivotal and fairly obvious thing until it’s almost too late. But things kept moving well enough that I was able to ignore it (although I probably talked back at the book a lot every time this point came up).

But it’s not just about Nell — LaFluer’s got a whole team with him. While he’s prominent, he’s really a secondary character (Paka and Pea are more so). Frankly, I was relieved by that — I really expected this to be Ricky-Bo and his Amazing Friends — I would’ve read that, but I’m not sure how psyched I was for it. Instead, Nell and the others on the team are great characters to meet and spend time with — and I want to spend more time with them all. It’d take too much space to talk about the PsyLED team as individuals, so let’s leave it with the aggregate: a very promising and entertaining ensemble.

Nell’s family are a strong presence (even before we met them) and should prove to be good fodder for character growth and even future plot (I just hope it’s not a well they go back to too often). The same can be said for the rest of the world we’re introduced to here.

The plot involving the church, the terrorists, the kidnappings is pretty strong and moves well. The resolution is violent, but not as much as it would’ve been in a Yellowrock book. Nell’s magic is different (and her team uses fewer firearms and knives). I’m not sure how to talk about this pre-release, maybe in book 2, it’ll be easier. Let’s just leave it with Nell et al. deal with things in a way that’s true to the genre, but doesn’t feel like every other UF around. Nell’s what Atticus O’Sullivan might be without his sword (maybe).

There were two pretty glaring errors that I noticed: Nell at one point identifies someones actions as stemming from their being postmillennialist (I’ve never met a postmillennialist like this, I think she meant post-tribulation premillennialist) and she identifies a Biblical quotation as from Acts, when it was from Romans. There are three explanations that I can think of for this: 1. Honest mistakes that will be fixed between the ARC and official release; 2. It’s been long enough since Nell’s been involved in the cult and her memory for details like this is foggy; 3. It was a cult, and they’ve mis-educated their people. I could be convinced of #2, but it’d take some work; #1 or #3 I could completely buy.

Why do I continually underestimate Faith Hunter? It’s only been in the last few Jane Yellowrocks that I pick them up with high expectations and I came to this curious, but unsure that she could do anything distinctive from Yellowrock. That ends now — Hunter blew me away with this one, yeah, it’s in the Yellowrock ‘verse — and it fits in it — but it couldn’t be more different. I’m not sure how this is a series, it’s a great stand-alone, maybe a duology. But I don’t see how this keeps going (but Hunter’s better at this than I am, so I’m willing to believe it is one — especially with these characters). I really want to give Blood of the Earth 5 stars, but I’m going to hold off going too far in my raving over this series until I see how Hunter follows up. Which may be stupid, but it’s what makes sense to me.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC via NetGalley with major thanks to Roc, I appreciate this greatly.

N.B.: As this was an ARC, any quotations above may be changed in the published work — I will endeavor to verify them as soon as possible.

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4 1/2 Stars