The Lights Go Out in Lychford by Paul Cornell: The Stakes and Tension are High in the Penultimate Lychford Novella

The Lights Go Out in Lychford

The Lights Go Out in Lychford

by Paul Cornell
Series: Witches of Lychford, #4

Kindle Edition, 144 pg.
Tor/Forge, 2019

Read: November 19, 2019


Oh, man…I was so glad to be back in this world. Lychford, a tiny little English town that acts as the border between this world and realities beyond our understanding, is a wonderfully conceived and executed setting—just getting to spend time here again was a blast.

I’ve tried three times now to describe this, and I just can’t without letting something slip. So, what’s the publisher say?

The borders of Lychford are crumbling. Other realities threaten to seep into the otherwise quiet village, and the resident wise woman is struggling to remain wise. The local magic shop owner and the local priest are having troubles of their own.
And a mysterious stranger is on hand to offer a solution to everyone’s problems. No cost, no strings (she says).
But as everyone knows, free wishes from strangers rarely come without a price . . .

Judith’s struggle with the effects of aging on her mind—and the way that her use of magic has accelerated them—is wonderfully depicted. Of course, it’s not just Judith dealing with her fading capabilities—her apprentice, her friend and her son also go through a lot trying to help her. This might be the best part of the book.

Autumn is working herself to exhaustion—not to mention loneliness and poverty—trying to rush her preparation for taking over for Judith. She’s also driven by the grave errors of the last book that have really put Lychford in danger.

Something about this one had me on tenterhooks throughout. There’ve been threats to Lynchford and/or the trio of protagonists before, but it all seemed much more likely this time.

The conclusion was simply fantastic and heart-wrenching—with a last line that will drive you to the online bookstore of your choice to try to order the conclusion immediately.

Can you read this without having read the previous entries in the series? Yeah, I guess you could. Cornell provides enough backstory to muddle through. Should you? Nope. I don’t think you’d appreciate everything the way it should be appreciated. Should you read the previous 3 novellas? Yes, and then read this and join me in waiting for the fifth and final one next year.


4 Stars

Fallen by Benedict Jacka: Alex finds power and incredible loss as Jacka ramps up the seriousness of the series.

Fallen

Fallen

by Benedict Jacka
Series: Alex Verus, #10

Mass Market Paperback, 296 pg.
Ace, 2019

Read: November 7-8, 2019

Wars between mages are very different from wars between countries. When countries fight, if they want to attack into enemy territory, they have to go through the other army to do it. Mages don’t. Gate magic let’s strike teams appear anywhere at anytime, attacking and then disappearing back to the other side of the world. You never see mages fighting to take control of a bridge or a mountain pass, because holding those kinds of places doesn’t accomplish anything. When mages engage in combat, it’s for one of two reasons: either they’re fighting over something valuable, or one side is attacking the others base of operations. Otherwise, if one side doesn’t want to fight, they can just leave.

That really sets the tone for this novel—we’re talking all-out war here—the Council vs. Richard Drakh et al. Naturally, because no one really trusts Alex, there are many who still aren’t sure what side of this conflict Alex comes down on.

For the last few books, I’ve been (mistakenly) thinking, “Ah, he’s hit rock bottom now, it’s time for things to get better.” Fallen is, at the very least, Exhibit A for how little I understood things. I was joking the other day with a friend about a theory that Jacka really doesn’t like Alex Verus and is enjoying destroying him bit by bit.

You could make the case that he’s chipping away at Alex’s shell so that he can access who he is at his core. Below how Alex thinks he should act, below how he wants to act—to get to the actual Alex Verus.

That’s probably closer to the truth, but I like my theory a little better.

Early on, Alex tells his readers:

You know things are bad when waking up feels worse than the nightmares.

And that works pretty well as a thesis statement for Fallen. Jacka finds new ways to ruin Verus’ life—up to and including one of the freakiest, strangest and most disturbing magic-induced injuries I can think of.

We’re at the point in this saga where I can’t really say anything about the plot without ruining most of it. So let me summarize it with this: we’re watching that prophecy the Dragon gave Alex work out in his life, he’s figuring out how it’s going to be fulfilled and is working to that end.

Which involves some of the riskiest moves he’s made. Some of which pay off in ways even he couldn’t foresee (some of them don’t work out so well). It’s hard to point to a book when things go as well for our favorite diviner. But as I said before, things go really, really, bad for him, too.

There are two scenes specifically (but, they’re not the only two) that will devastate readers as much as they did Alex. One of which gave us a result I’ve figured was coming (but I figured it would be in book 12, no earlier than 11—again, Jacka shows me how little I know).

While Jacka’s systematically destroying Alex, he weaves in plotlines and characters that you won’t expect, including at least one major magic artifact that you probably assumed we’d never see again. Seeing how Jacka’s using Alex’s past in the way he is was a real plus for me.

You know this was going to be a bad novel for our friends—you don’t call a novel Fallen to fill it with ponies, rainbows and slapstick moments. But man, this was just rough. Hard to read—but totally worth it.

I cannot state this strongly enough—this should not be the first book in the series you read. Horribly entry point, but such a wonderful ride for those who know Alex and his world and struggles. But if you’re a long-time reader, and haven’t had the chance to read this yet—fix that. Pronto.


4 1/2 Stars

Shattered Bonds by Faith Hunter: Jane Yellowrock’s latest just might leave you shattered, too


I’m going to have to spoil a little about Dark Queen, and a little bit of earlier books, too. Read at your own risk.

Shattered Bonds

Shattered Bonds

by Faith Hunter
Series: Jane Yellowrock, #13

eARC, 400 pg.
Ace, 2019

Read: October 24-28, 2019


It didn’t take me too long after starting to read this thirteenth installment in the Jane Yellowrock series to start asking myself: How am I going to possibly write anything about this? I kept asking myself that right up until I finished it this afternoon. Now, an hour past my self-imposed deadline for finishing this post, I’m still no closer to coming up with an answer.

There is simply no substitute for reading Shattered Bonds—no summary, no recap, no review can adequately hint at what the reader will experience. That’s almost always true of any book, but it’s sometimes more true than usual.

Remember Joseph Santana—also known as Joses Bar-Judas, or Yosace Bar-Ioudas. One of Judas Iscariot’s two sons, one of the original vampires? We never saw him at his full-strength, just weak, hungry, and chained up—that is, until he became Brute-chow. He was dangerous and frightening then. It turns out that Sabina was right when she said that Joses was the least-dangerous member of this family. What his brother, Shimon Bar-Judas, does to Jane’s allies and friends before she’s aware that he’s a factor in her life is devastating. What he does once he’s on her radar? Well, it’d take a novel to describe—and hey, that’s what we have here.

Last we saw Jane, she’d basically given up between the grief after the Sangre Duello and cancer caused by using her timeshifting magic and headed off to die. Intervention by Eli, Alex, and Bruiser have brought her back from the edge, but they’re only helping her manage the symptoms (and arguably not doing that much for them). But seeing what Shimon has done, is doing, and what it looks like he will do to her people galvanizes her into action. Sure, she might be dying, but she’s not going to stop fighting—especially if it comes down to protecting those that are near and dear to her, or those that she owes something to.

It occurs to me as I wrote that last sentence—this might be the most I’ve ever admired Jane.

Not only is Jane newly-inspired to keep on living after dealing with Shimon, some of the things she does so she can be/appear strong enough to challenge him gets her thinking of new (and hopefully more effective) ways to fight her cancer. Jane learns new and more ways to use her magic all the time, which has put her in this situation. Now it’s time to see if she can do something to get her out of it.

An unhinged, power-mad, brilliant and cruel predator on the one hand, and seemingly incurable cancer on the other. Yeah, Jane’s got her work cut out for her.

I was musing on things somewhere around the 60% mark, and I started wondering about the title—yeah, sure there were a couple of things early on that you could apply the title to. But I didn’t think Hunter was going to let us get away with anything so simple. So what could she be referring to? And then when I thought about who and what could get shattered? What ties, bonds, or connections could be irreparably damaged in the last 35-40% of the book?

Suddenly, I strongly considered following Joey Tribbiani’s lead and storing this in my freezer. Unlike Joey’s paperback, that would’ve ruined my Kindle, so I really had no choice but to keep reading. I started to compose a list of characters who I’d worried about surviving this novel (up to and including Jane)—and then I abandoned that. Instead, I composed a list of characters in this book (including some who don’t see, just get a second-hand report about), and I came up with one name. Just one. That’s a lot to worry about. I worried less about people making it through Dark Queen—which featured a series of literal duels with some of the most dangerous characters Hunter has created.

Spoiler: Rest easy, Alex Younger fans, nothing to worry about. If your favorite is anyone else? Sorry.

This is actually one of Hunter’s richer titles—you can mine a lot from this one. I don’t want to spend too much time on this point, because Eli does a more effective job than I will (so does Alex, come to think of it), but there’s something striking about the idea that Jane has bonds to shatter. Back in Skinwalker when we met her, she was a lone wolf (sorry, Brute) type of figure—yeah, she liked/loved others (see: Molly) and enjoyed the company of people. But she didn’t need anyone but our favorite witch. She only sought allies when the numbers against her were overwhelming, and even then, she didn’t rely on them much for the important matters. She’s still learning how to. Slowly but surely, Jane has been expanding her social, professional and familial circles—she cares for people, feels responsible for them, and is aided by them.

Ten books ago, there weren’t bonds to be shattered. But now, there’s a wide net of connections branching out from Jane. This makes her more vulnerable, but—when she remembers this—it’s also a source of strength and security. This character development/growth is one of my favorites in ongoing series. Not just because I like seeing Jane grow, but primarily because Hunter’s doing such a good job in depicting it.

I could do a few paragraphs on other bonds, too—think of imprisonment, slavery, history (cultural or personal). But you get the idea.

On a lighter note—only in the Carolinas do you get vamps talking this much about barbecue. It made me smile. Still does.

Last thought—Nell Ingram’s dealing with a lot of changes already, but some of Shattered Bonds is going to spill over into her world and I’m eager to see how that works itself out.

I’ve apparently found some things to talk about—hopefully this whets your appetite enough to grab this (although, I can’t imagine anyone reading this series who needs convincing). A fantastic entry in this fantastic series—action, danger, love, loss, highs, lows, barbecue, and the best hunter—Shattered Bonds has it all.


4 1/2 Stars
My thanks to Let’s Talk! Promotions for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including the book via NetGalley) they provided.

EXCERPT from Shattered Bonds by Faith Hunter: “My Eddie is in trouble!”

SHATTERED BONDS by Faith Hunter, copyright Faith Hunter.

My cell chimed. Beast and I followed Eli to my gobag in the mud room, the small bag hanging on the rack with other winter gear. He swiped the screen, tapped in my security code, and started back to the office, saying, “Molly, it’s Eli—”

Angie Baby screamed, “My Eddie is in trouble! My Eddie! No! No!”

Beast growled, showing killing teeth. My/our heart did a fearful, arrhythmic bump-and-pause, and then raced too fast. Again, I searched for the connection to Edmund. Gone. Severed. As if it had been cut out with a knife. It was a strange sensation, as if a part of my own body had been instantly amputated and I kept searching for it, feeling something but … not the missing part. Ed was mine. Ed was gone.

Molly’s voice came over the phone and my attention swept to the cell. “Sorry, Jane. Angie woke up screaming from a bad dream. We’ve been trying to calm her down, but she grabbed my cell and called.” In the background, we heard the sound of Angie Baby’s screams diminish in volume and the crooning of her father’s flute magic, calming her.

“Eli here. Jane’s big-cat at the moment. Angie may not be having a dream.”

“What’s happening with Ed?” Molly asked, a trace of fear in her tone.

“We don’t know, except that Jane heard Ed through the vamp-binding. Alex is searching for him.”

In the background Angie’s screams crescendoed, the pitch so high it hurt Beast’s ears. She turned her ear tabs down against the noise and thought, Kits… Kits in trouble. Ed in trouble.

“Eli, I—. This is … Has Ed been killed? He and Angle have a blood bond. I don’t know what to do if… ?” Molly’s voice trailed away, uncertainly.

I/we nodded Beast’s head up and down, then back and forth, an uncertain yes / no gesture. We stared at Eli, snarling and licking our jaw, hoping he would understand that this was really not right.

“Jane and Beast are upset too,” he said.

“I think we’ll come visit,” Molly said.

“We have the room,” Eli said.

“Yeah. I’ve seen the sales brochures,” she said wryly.

In the background, the screaming stopped. Evan said, “She’s asleep. Pack fast. More snow is coming.”

Into the cell, Molly said, “We’ll probably have to keep her in magically induced sleep but expect us after nine tonight.”

“The county brined the street but the drive is frozen,” Eli said. “Call if you get stuck.”

“Will do.” The call ended.

From the office, I heard the Kid’s voice in quiet conversation with Grégoire, Blondie’s and Alex’s voices barely loud enough to pick out, even with Beast’s ears. Grégoire was in France with Edmund. Good. That meant up-to-date info. I / we trotted to him.

“Send me everything you have,” Alex said.

“Oui. My people do so now. Dieu vous garde en sécurité.”

“You too, dude.”

I heard a connection end and felt a smile tug at my Puma lips. Only Alex would call a royal-born, centuries old, powerful vamp dude.

 

 


Read the rest in Shattered Bonds by Faith Hunter—how can you not?.


My thanks to Let’s Talk! Promotions for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including the book via NetGalley) they provided.

BOOK SPOTLIGHT (and Giveaway): Shattered Bonds by Faith Hunter

Today I welcome the Book Tour for the hot-off-the-presses Jane Yellowrock novel, Shattered Bonds by Faith Hunter. Along with this spotlight post, I have a tantalizing excerpt to share. Then, I’ll be giving my take on the novel a little later. Those links’ll work when the posts go live in an hour or two.

Oh, and don’t forget to scroll down to the bottom of this post to enter a Giveaway for probably the coolest prizes I’ve hosted a Giveaway for.

Book Details:

Book Title: Shattered Bonds by Faith Hunter
Publisher: Ace Books
Release date: October 29, 2019
Format: Paperback/ebook
Length: 400 pages
ISBN: 9780399587986

Book Blurb:

Jane Yellowrock must dig deep and find strength within herself if she is to survive in the latest novel in this New York Times bestselling series.

Jane Yellowrock is vampire-killer-for-hire, but her last battle with an ancient arcane enemy has brought her low. She seeks retreat in the Appalachian Mountains to grieve the loss of her friends, and to heal—or to die—from the disease brought on by her magic.

But malevolent elements in the paranormal community still seek to destroy Jane, and a terrifying foe stalks her, even into the safety of the hills. With nowhere to run and her body failing, the rogue-vampire hunter and her inner Beast must discover a way to defeat this new threat, and find a form that gives her a chance to fight another day.

About Faith Hunter:

Faith HunterFaith Hunter is the New York Times and USAToday bestselling author of the Jane Yellowrock series, the Soulwood series, and the Rogue Mage series, as well as the author of 16 thrillers under pen the names Gary Hunter and Gwen Hunter. She has 40+ books in print.

Faith collects orchids and animal skulls, loves thunderstorms, and writes. She likes to cook soup, bake homemade bread, garden, and run Class III whitewater rivers. She edits the occasional anthology and drinks a lot of tea. Some days she’s a lady. Some days she ain’t.

For more, see www.faithhunter.net
To keep up with her, like her fan page at Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/official.faith.hunter

Faith Hunter’s Social Media:

Official Faith Hunter Facebook fan page ~ Goodreads ~ Twitter ~ Website

Purchase Links for Shattered Bonds:

Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ The Book Depository ~ Indiebound ~ Audible

Giveaway!

Prizes include a necklace made by Faith Hunter, Amazon gift cards, and copies of Shattered Bonds! Open to US residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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(in case the Rafflecopter widget doesn’t appear, just click here)

My thanks to Let’s Talk Promotions for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including the book via NetGalley) they provided.

Teaser Tuesday: Witches Protection Program by Michael Okon

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Fantasy
Date Published: 09/30/2019
Publisher: WordFire Press
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Wes Rockville, a disgraced law-enforcement agent, gets one last chance to prove himself and save his career when he’s reassigned to a 232-year-old secret government organization. The Witches Protection Program. His first assignment: uncover a billion-dollar cosmetics company’s diabolical plan to use witchcraft for global domination, while protecting its heiress Morgan Pendragon from her aunt’s evil deeds. Reluctantly paired with veteran witch protector, Alastair Verne, Wes must learn to believe in witches… and believe in himself. Filled with adventure and suspense, Michael Okon creates a rousing, tongue-in-cheek alternate reality where witches cast spells and wreak havoc in modern-day New York City.

EXCERPT

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

 photo michael okon headshot_zpsiqsvv7ru.jpg
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.

Contact Links

The Unkindest Tide by Seanan McGuire: The Luidaeg takes Center Stage in this Water-filled Adventure

The Unkindest Tide

The Unkindest Tide

by Seanan McGuire

Series: Toby Daye, #13

Hardcover, 301 pg.
DAW Books, 2019

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.


4 Stars