The narrator filled in more information. “It wasn’t until this land became my land that the government decided to create an organization to protect women at risk. The Davina Doctrine went against everything that the Willas stood for. Even though they ran the risk of persecution, the Davinas chose to work with law enforcement to expose the evil deeds of the rival sisterhood. President George Washington established secret legislation under Title VI of the Control Act of 1792. The law was enacted to protect the good witches that exposed the evil deeds of their sisterhood.”
The screen went dark. There was only a chair in the center of a dimly lit stage. A single spotlight focused on the top of the blond actress’s head. Wes was right; it was the actress he’d suspected. She had a hit sitcom and two Emmys, and there was some recent Oscar talk about her last movie.
“Yes. There are witches. Living among us. They are women who believe in using their power to protect love and life. And then there are some who use their powers for all the wrong reasons.”
The camera came to rest on her beautiful face. She winked saucily as she placed a triangular witch’s hat on her head. “Welcome to the Witches Protection Program.”
Alastair smiled broadly. “I love that part.”
“That was Jennifer Anis—”
About the Author
Michael Okon is an award-winning and best-selling author of multiple genres including paranormal, thriller, horror, action/adventure and self-help. He graduated from Long Island University with a degree in English, and then later received his MBA in business and finance. Coming from a family of writers, he has storytelling in his DNA. Michael has been writing from as far back as he can remember, his inspiration being his love for films and their impact on his life. From the time he saw The Goonies, he was hooked on the idea of entertaining people through unforgettable characters.
Michael is a lifelong movie buff, a music playlist aficionado, and a sucker for self-help books. He lives on the North Shore of Long Island with his wife and children.
Series: Toby Daye, #13
Hardcover, 301 pg.
Read: September 10-11, 2019
I finally took my eyes off the water, peering at her through the disheveled curtain of my hair. “Are you just babbling at me until I start feeling better?”
“Yup!” Marcia beamed. “Is it working?”
My stomach was no longer roiling. I didn’t trust myself to stand up on my own, but I also didn’t feel like I was about to introduce the barnacles to my breakfast. Again. I blinked. “Actually, yes.”
“Sometimes you need to take peoples’ minds off their problems if you want those problems to resolve themselves,” said Marcia. “Focusing on things can make them worse.”
“Not all problems go away if you ignore them. Most don’t.”
“No, but not all problems can be fixed. Sometimes you have to wait until the situation changes.” She smiled sympathetically. “Like if you’re on a boat and you get seasick.”
Yup. Toby’s on a boat—a sailing ship, to be precise—just the place for someone who hates water. Why is she there? Well, that has something to do with the debt she owes the Luidaeg. The Luidaeg has decided that time is up and it’s now time to pay that mysterious bill she told the Selkies was coming due. And Toby has to come along to help her collect. A couple of months ago, when I listened to the audiobook of One Salt Sea, I wondered what happened to that ominous future event, so that was nice to see. On the other hand, we’re told that this was nearly three years ago, which means it takes only three-ish years for books 6-12 to occur? That’s an eventful life right there.
Because they’re apt to be useful, and because Toby isn’t likely to come nicely without them, the Luidaeg also brings Tybalt and Quentin along on their trip to the Duchy of Ships, where a convocation of Selkies will be held to pay this bill. Due to the significance of this happening, a few other dignitaries come, too—delegations from the Kingdom of the Mists, the Duchy of Saltmist, and Goldengreen—oh, and Gillian (which makes sense for people who’ve read the previous book, Night and Silence).
So we’ve got a group of Toby’s friends, a new Duchy for most of them to visit, a bunch of debts the Luidaeg is collecting, and the fate of an entire race in the balance. What could go wrong?
Naturally, that’s the wrong question. SOmething better to ask is: how many pints of blood will Toby lose while trying to fix what goes wrong and how many others will die? Obviously, I’m not going to answer those, but we need to get our thinking straight.
Something I want to mention before I forget: Before the Sea Witch shows up at her door, Toby’s narration gives a very thorough and succinct recap of the entire series (one of the best of those I’ve read lately, it’s a tricky thing to accomplish) before noting
…there’s a lot of history around here, and sometimes it doesn’t summarize very well.
It’s a small thing, but it made me smile—McGuire excels at those.
The Luidaeg has got to be just about the most popular character in this series, and we really get to know her so much better here than we have before—and it made me so happy to see this. I’d gladly take another Luidaeg-centric book or three any day of the week. Seeing her at this turning point in all her power and all her grief is just stunning. I don’t think I’d ever felt bad for her (at least not for long), but watching her being resolute in carrying out the duty she was bound to here—while clearly not wanting to go through with it—was moving. Early in the book, there’s a scene between her and a little girl that just about broke my heart. At the same time, she has plenty of great lines and made me chuckle a lot, too. Her interactions with Quentin (and vice versa) might be my favorite parts of the book.
The Luidaeg/Selkie story was strong enough that I don’t care so much about the rest of the book, which is good, because I think it’s one of her weakest. There’s an adventure in Saltmist that seemed pretty perfunctory and while the ending is very clever—and gives Toby a chance to embrace the technicalities of Faerie in a way she usually doesn’t (that is, keeping the letter of the law, but doing a tap dance all around the intent)— it seemed anti-climatic. We have a great build-up and then an almost let-down of a conclusion.
A few quick bullet points that I don’t have the time to expand on (nor do I think I could do them justice without talking too much about them):
- No one expected, I trust, that things between Toby and Gillian would get better after Night and Silence, but it was tough (yet understandable and believable) to read Gillian’s reactions to Toby here.
- There are repeated references to the weakness/susceptibility to harm of one member of Toby’s group—McGuire hit that note so often that I really feared for that character. One that I didn’t realize I liked as much as I did when I feared for their safety and longevity.
- We get to meet another Firstborn! She’s just fantastic and I hope we get to see more of her. Also, the reactions of various members of her descendant races to meeting her in the flesh were priceless.
- Someone’s blind fosterage is getting harder to maintain. That could prove interesting (and in the Toby-verse, interesting usually is defined as calamitous)
- Clearly, Toby’s reputation as someone who topples monarchies has spread far and wide. This isn’t good for her, but will be good for us readers.
- Marcia continues to show more depth and ability than I gave her credit for when we met (which surprises me almost every time we see it)
- What we’re told about future books here (in terms of Toby’s future obligations) is enough to get long-term readers excited (not that we needed the encouragement, really, but it’s nice to know)
This isn’t one of the best in the series—but it features some of the best moments, scenes, events. It’s not a trade-off I’m entirely pleased with, but I can live with it (and thankfully the good far outweighed the less-good). It’s safe to say that a lot won’t be the same again in this world or for many of these characters. Any time I spend with Toby, Tybalt, Quentin, the Luidaeg, etc. is a good time, and I thoroughly enjoyed the read, I just wanted a bit more from an author who usually brings more than you could realistically ask for.
Celebrate 10 years of Jane Yellowrock!
Enter for your chance to win the entire New York Times bestselling Jane Yellowrock series (so far), plus cool Jane swag!
Wow! Jane Yellowock’s really been around for 10 years?!?! (well, 10 years and 2 days) I came to the series around the time book 3 was published, but even having spent 8 years reading her seems to be hard to believe. Since her debut she’s survived 12 novels (many, many vampires and other supernatural sorts have not), several short stories and has even spawned a spin-off. Slowly but surely through these years, Jane and Faith Hunter alike have become real favorites of mine—finding an Urban Fantasy character/author/series better than theses is nigh impossible.
So I’m more than happy to have been asked to help promote this here 10th Anniversary Sweepstakes.* If you haven’t read this series, what better way to jump in? If you have, well, you know what a Major Award it would be. You’ve gotta go enter this thing—you have until the 14th..
* I just hope by doing so I didn’t disqualify myself.
Jane Yellowrock is the last of her kind—a skinwalker of Cherokee descent who can turn into any creature she desires and fights vampires, demons, and everything in between in the city of New Orleans.
Enter today for your chance to win all of Jane’s adventures:
- Blood Cross
- Mercy Blade
- Raven Cursed
- Death’s Rival
- Blood Trade
- Black Arts
- Broken Soul
- Dark Heir
- Shadow Rites
- Cold Reign
- Dark Queen
- …and an advanced copy of Shattered Bonds!
Winners will also receive a Shattered Bonds bookmark and an exclusive character card featuring Jane and Beast!
Hardcover, 208 pg.
Subterranean Press , 2019
Read: June 19 – 21, 2019
So about the time that the one German Magic Practitioner hears that Nightengale has taken on an apprentice in Peter Grant, she decides that it’s time for Germany to do the same — keeping the playing field level, and all — she finds that apprentice in a second generation police officer, Tobias Winter. We meet Tobias a few years into things when he’s called away from leave time to investigate something that may be supernaturally related.
He recognizes vestigia right away — although I think the manner of death would be a pretty big tip off, no matter what. A mysterious fungal rot that covers him in precisely the way that fungus doesn’t cover people. I can’t do justice to how creepy it sounds when Tobias narrates it for us — you’ll have to read it.
Tobias is teamed up with Vanessa Sommer, a local police officer who knows the area, knows a bit about the particular fungus, and is super-curious about magic. Naturally, there’s an encounter with a River or two, and an interesting take on regional history — because this is a Rivers of London novel, what else are you going to get?
It’s a quick read with great story and the kind of people that Aaronovich fills his books with — these just happen to speak German and look at things in a different way from Peter and those he usually runs with — Tobias isn’t as funny as Peter, but he’s amusing to read and handles things in ways that Peter doesn’t. Still, at the end of the day, Peter’d be happy getting the same result (and probably would be jealous how little property damage that Tobias inflicts before wrapping up the investigation).
We’ve been given glimpses of what Nightengale and his fellows got involved in during WWII, but here we get more details — from the German point of view. It’s always been clear that happened wasn’t pretty — but I didn’t realize just how devastating it was until now. It’s also interesting to see just how significant it was for Nightengale to make Peter an apprentice. He essentially kicked off an international magical arms race (of sorts). Don’t get me wrong, the main point of this book is to be introduced to new characters, to see how magic is dealt with somewhere that isn’t London — but man, what we learn about things in London is fascinating.
I don’t know how this qualifies as a novella — even a “long novella,” as I’ve seen it marketed. I have several novels within reach of me right now that are smaller than this. It’s a semantic thing, but book nerds are supposed to be into words — so I don’t get it. Two hundred eight pages does not mean novella to me. If someone can explain it (or point to where Aaronovitch or Subterrerean Press explained it already), I’d appreciate it. Just to scratch that intellectual itch.
Aside from what to call this book, I enjoyed it. Tobias is an good character, he’s no Peter Grant, but he’s not supposed to be (in either Aaronovitch’s mind or the German practitioners’). I’d like he and Peter or he and the Nightengale to brush up against each other — or to have extended contact (like FBI Agent Reynolds and the Folly have had). If Aaronovitch decides on writing another novella/novel/adventure with him, I’d jump on it. But I’m not going to be waiting expectantly — if he doesn’t want to write another (or sales don’t justify it), I can be satisfied with just this much that we’ve been given here.
This’d be a great jumping on point for someone who wants to get a feel for the Rivers of London and Aaronovitch’s style. It’s also a great way for devoted fans of that series to dabble in something new, get a fresh perspective and realize that Peter Grant’s world is smaller than he realizes — while enjoying a creative and fun story.
Adam grinned at me, “That which doesn’t destroy us . . .”
“Leaves us scratching our heads and saying, ‘What’s next?'” I said.
There’s always plenty of things that can answer that “What’s next?” question in the land of Mercy Thompson — but Storm Cursed seems to have extra nexts in it. Briggs is such an excellent series writer — there’s always a great mix of classic favorites (Zee, Uncle Mike, Mary Jo and Ben) and the new (Goblin King, the events of Silence Fallen, the baddies of this book) — like a favorite band touring in support of their new album that no one’s heard yet, she sprinkles in enough of the familiar with the new that you can enjoy the songs you can sing along with and appreciate the new for what they bring to the table.
We start off with the typical mini-adventure featuring Mary Jo, Ben and Mercy — with a little bit of Larry mixed in. There’s a goblin on the run from law enforcement after causing some mayhem in California who thought the Tri-Cities would be a safe place to lay low. Boy, was he wrong. This goblin accomplishes a lot of other things, though. He brings Mercy and the pack into a new part of the area and the law enforcement there, for starters.
This sets things up perfectly for Mercy and Mary Jo to come to the aid of said law enforcement when it comes to a very strange supernatural outbreak. Miniature zombie goats. ’nuff said.
Zombie goats — no matter their size (as important as it is to Mercy and Stefan) don’t just show up one day. They’re the product of witchcraft, and with Elizaveta still in Europe following Silence Fallen the Ti-Cities is ripe for new witches to move in and usurp her. I’m not going to tell you if they’re successful or not, but they sure make things interesting for the defenders of the area like Mercy and Adam. This also gives Sherwood Post, the mysterious wolf sent by the Marrock to be a part of this pack after something happened that he can’t talk about/remember involving witches. He apparently picked up a thing or two, and gets the chance to demonstrate that.
I’ve liked Sherwood since he showed up the first time, and now I’m super-intrigued by him.
There’s a big, summit-like meeting between representatives of the U.S. and the Fae leadership in the making — and the Pack has a lot to do with making sure it happens without a hitch. Naturally, for reasons that are unclear (at first), the new witches in town are working to disrupt it for their own ends. Because there’s not enough going on without that — an excess of nexts, really.
Speaking of excess — Coyote is lurking in the background of many of these events and he’s determined to keep Mercy in the middle of things, for his own reasons. If he’d just been up front with her, I think she’d have been on-board without hesitation (and certainly seems glad to have helped once she figures out his play). Instead, he manipulates her into doing what he wants — which is bad for the character, good for the reader, because he’s so much fun to read, especially when it comes at Mercy’s expense.
No matter what happens in a Mercy Thompson book — they’re filled with fun, and it’s easy to fool yourself into only remembering the fun parts and pushing the darkness and trauma aside in your memory until the next book comes along and reminds you just how messed up things can get for Mercy and the rest. This book is no exception — but in may ways the evil they confront this time is a special kind of Evil that requires at least one capital when you talk about it. What happens throughout this book, what’s uncovered here — especially the last few chapters — is probably the most inherently disturbing that Briggs has given us yet. I wondered at more than one point, if even Atticus O’Sullivan could hate witches as much as Mercy does (for good reason!). I decided the two would probably end up in a tie, but that Mercy has more recent evidence for her prejudice.
There’s something that happens in the climactic battle scene that I want to talk about more than I want to talk about anything else in this book — because in the long run it’s going to be bigger and more important than anything else that happens or I’ll eat my hat. It’s so small, so quick that it’d be easy to miss — 2 sentences on one page, then twelve pages later 2 more sentences. And Briggs has at least one novel’s worth of plot seeded right there. I love when I see an author do something like that and make it look effortless. And I think I’m underselling it. But I’ll have to leave it there — maybe in book 12 (or 15) when it happens, I’ll remember to say, “Remember that thing I didn’t talk about in Storm Cursed? This is it.”
Overall, this is another very solid entry in an incredibly reliable series, and I’m already excited to see what happens in book 12. Still, I get the feeling that Briggs is holding back a lot lately — here more than usual. Maybe it’s to keep the tone light, maybe it’s to keep the page count in check. Maybe it’s just me. But it seems to me that the last few books could’ve easily been deeper, darker, and more exciting, if Briggs would just allow that to happen — like she’s pulling her punches. As much as I love these characters, this world and Briggs’ writing, I just can’t get as excited about them as I want to. This is a great read — please don’t misunderstand me — but it could be better, it feels like it’d be easy for her to make it better. So I’ve got to stick with 4 stars — which feels like I’m pulling my punches, too.
|I didn’t know these woods. I’d never been to Maine before, and [didn’t have any of the family bestiaries to prepare me for what I might find. There are cryptids everywhere in the world, which only makes sense, when you consider “cryptid” means “science doesn‘t know about it yet.” New species are discovered every year, brought into the scientific fold and lifted out of cryptozoological obscurity. These days the word mostly gets used to mean the big stuff some people say is real and other people say is a big hoax, like Bigfeet, unicorns, and the occasional giant snake.
(Always assume the giant snakes are real. The alternative is finding yourself being slowly digested in the belly of something you didn’t want to admit existed, and while I’m as fond of healthy skepticism as the next girl, I’m a lot more fond of continuing to have my original skin. As in, the one I was born with, not the one the snake has left me with after a little recreational swallowing me whole.)
After Annie, Sam, Fern and Cylia leave Florida and the disaster that was left in their wake, they bounce around a little before settling on something that is about as non-Florida as you can get on that side of the country — central Maine. They find a house that needs a tenant for a few months while the owner is off to Europe and settle in to enjoy a time off the roads to regroup, rest and recuperate.
Ahh, such a good idea.
But first, they meet a neighbor, James Smith. It turns out that he’s a sorcerer, who’s itching for a fight with the Crossroads for the way they fulfilled (or didn’t) a deal with a friend of his from a few years’ back. Annie owes the Crossroads something, and it just might come time to pay up — which isn’t good news for James. If that wasn’t enough, Leonard Cunningham — Annie’s Covenant connection and the presumptive future leader of the group comes to town on her tail.
So much for the three R’s.
Annie’s solution to the problems she faces here is so… Annie. On the one hand, this is obvious, she’s a different character than Alex or Verity — and this series has never been the kind where the Price kids are interchangeable. But there is just no way that Verity or Alex would even consider doing what Annie tries. In many ways, she reminded me of Harry Dresden with the way that she dealt with the final problem. No, not by throwing a lot of fire, snark and energy around, but by coming at the problem in a way that you just don’t see coming (although, that’s not ruling out snark and fire) that seems more than a little reckless. Up to that point, Annie and crew had reminded me a lot of Sam and Dean Winchester and their crew.
This was really such a great way to wrap up this Annie arc — it’s going to be hard to put her aside for a book or three. Verity’s a lot of fun, Alex is a great reluctant hero who’d rather be researching things — but Annie? Annie’s really my kind of Urban Fantasy character — in the vein of Dresden, Atticus O’Sullivan, Ree Reyes, etc. And her friends are a lot of fun, too. The only thing this book is missing that’d really make it fantastic are the Aeslin mice — their absence is felt, particularly because Annie can’t stop thinking about them. Of all the things that McGuire has brought into my life, these mice are my favorite — and it’s been too long since I’ve had a decent dose of them.
I’m not sure how to talk about this without digging into details — and I’m this close to tossing out my spoiler policy and pulling an all-nighter to produce 20-30 pages about the InCryptid Dire Straits Trilogy. So much of what makes this book work is as its the culmination of this trilogy-within-the-greater-series. While I don’t think the book is perfect, I don’t remember a single problem I had with it — and felt the same way while reading it. Everything worked — the voice, the characters, the villains, the stakes, the challenges, the solution, the emotions, the quips, the action. I spent a good deal of time unsure how many of Annie’s little group were going to survive, and this isn’t normally that kind of series. I don’t think I actually shed a tear at the height of the novel — they weren’t far from the surface. This met and exceeded every expectation I had for this book and made me rethink my estimation of the series as a whole.
This is easily the best of this very good series — in fact, were this the final book in the series, I’d be satisfied. I’m very, very glad that it isn’t — please don’t misunderstand — but if it were… Heart, humor, thrills, and a very clever conclusion, pulled off in a way that the whole series has been leading to, but you don’t see coming. I don’t know how McGuire can equal it — much less top it. But since we’re talking Seanan McGuire, she will, probably not in book 9, but soon. Go get it — you’ll be better off if you start with #1 (Discount Armageddon), but you could get away with starting at #6 (Magic for Nothing), you can still appreciate a lot of the goodness if you jump on here, but you’ll miss so much you won’t enjoy it the way you could.
I didn’t tell Captain Fearnly that I was joining the garda as part of a plot to exonerate my parents and find a four-thousand-year-old mummy — and there is no place to enter this type of thing in the online application, so I just kept it to myself.
Last year, when Thomas Lennon was a guest on Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show #371, they spent some time talking about this book. I knew I had to give it a shot almost immediately. When I got home and found it on Goodreads, I was a little disappointed to find out it was for the MG crowd — I didn’t get that impression at all from his description (I may have missed something while driving). Still, I put it on the “To Read” list and kept an eye out for its publication. It still sounded like a good time.
And boy, oh, boy it was.
Ronan Boyle is a young man who watched his parents get arrested (in the middle of a family game night) and put into prison. They’re academics, and were found guilty of selling antiquities that belonged to the Irish government. As noted above, Ronan joined the Irish police as an intern, primarily as a way to . Until one night when he was recruited to help dealing with a leprechaun (he was the only one the right size to get where the leprechaun was keeping something). He did well enough with that assignment that he was immediately recruited for Garda Special Unit of Tir Na Nog — the supernatural division.
We follow Ronan through his training — imagine Hogwarts summarized in a hundred pages or so (although this is a shorter course of training) — what he and his fellow cadets (including a girl who thought she was a log for most of her life, and a medium-sized bear that may or may not have been a fellow cadet) go through is unlike any training program you’ve seen or read about. Yet it’s familiar enough that it feels comfortable. Then we see Ronan and his compatriots begin their garda careers in earnest.
Meanwhile, Ronan makes a little progress with the investigation to clear his parents. He also makes friends — from multiple species — and decides that he really likes berets. He’s a very unlikely hero — not terribly coordinated, skinny, as physically un-intimidating as you can possibly imagine with poor eyesight. He also has a strange obsession with Dame Judi Dench (not that Dench isn’t worth obsessing over, it’s just not someone many teen boys fixate on)
All in all, an entertaining story steeped in Irish lore, myth and culture — all very well-researched and lovingly told. I’d probably recommend it just on these grounds.
But it’s the way that Lennon tells this story that seals the deal. His voice is chatty, whimsical and infectious. The imagery, language, and overall feel is hilarious. Yes, I’d recommend the book just on the characters/plot. But I’d also recommend it for voice and style alone. For example:
It was a mysterious garda officer named Pat Finch, whose ghoulish face is so crisscrossed with bright red veins that it looks like a map of hell drawn by a monk in a medieval lunatic asylum. Pat Finch looks like what a heart attack would look like if it could walk around eating fish-and-chips and saying terrible things about Roscommon Football Club’s starting lineup.
“There’s a leprechaun navy?”
“Yes. Probably the least reliable fighting force in the known world,” replied the captain. “The leprechaun navy is basically a heavily armed musical-theater troupe with two boats.”
If you know Thomas Lennon as a performer, you’ll be able to “hear” significant portions in his voice. I think I saw that he does the audiobook,which is good — because otherwise you’d have to find someone who can do a decent impression of him to really pull of the cadence and rhythms of the text.
Oh, you must read the footnotes. All of them. They’re the best use of fictional footnotes since Lutz’ The Spellman Files or Bazell’s Beat the Reaper — except these are MG appropriate.
Hendrix’ illustrations fit the mood perfectly. Intricate, goofy, and skillful. They’re not essential, but they add a very welcome touch to the text.
This is ideal for MG readers who like early Riordan, but wouldn’t mind a bit more silliness and an Irish focus. Or for those who liked Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant books. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, ignore that (or go read them after you read this). It’s just a fun, goofy read with a touch of adventure. Perfect for MG readers or adults who don’t mind reading MG if it’s well-done. This is. At the end of the day, you need to pick up a copy just so you can read the back cover blurbs by Weird Al and Patton Oswalt, really. Of course, then you’ll want to read the thing based on what they say. So just save yourself the effort and get it.
The ending sets up at least one sequel and you can bet that I’ll be waiting for it.