The Dresden Files: Ghost Story: Book Review
Fantasy / October 12, 2016

Ghost Story is the thirteenth book in The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. I am aware that the only book in the series that I have currently reviewed is the very first (Storm Front).  However, Ghost Story is such an unusual entry in the series that it really cries out to me for a review.  Although I am an avowed Jim Butcher fan, I am disappointed to admit that Ghost Story is my least favorite book in the series so far. It is fair to say that I am addicted to the epic adventures of everyone’s favorite wisecracking, pop culture referencing wizard: Harry Dresden.  I have been reading like crazy to catch up with the most recent entry in the series, Skin Game, but Ghost Story derails Harry Dresden’s story and seems to be spinning its wheels without really advancing the overarching plot of the series.  At this point, I am throwing up a *SPOILER ALERT* in the hopes that I will not ruin the books for anyone who is further behind in the series. The plot revolves around Harry’s death at the end of Changes and his struggle to defend his loved ones in the wake of his unexpected termination.  Harry is charged with solving his own murder and returns to Chicago as a shade…

Codex Alera: The Furies of Calderon
Fantasy / October 12, 2016

Furies of Calderon is the first book in Jim Butcher’s high fantasy series,Codex Alera.  My previous review of Storm Front from The Dresden Files already indicated how much I enjoy Jim Butcher’s writing.  Even though The Dresden Files is unquestionably more popular than Codex Alera, I actually prefer the latter. The magic system in Furies of Calderon is one of the series’ greatest strengths.  The “furies” are essentially elemental animals that every person in Alera is connected to by birth. This connection between the Alerans and their furies allows them to manipulate the element that they are most predisposed to in very compelling ways.  While most individuals only are blessed with one fury, it is possible for some to command two separate elemental creatures. Therefore, it is all the more shocking to learn that the protagonist of the series, Tavi, lacks any furies at all.  Tavi is a sort of outcast because of his inability to manifest a fury, but he is living a quiet life with his aunt and uncle (Isana and Bernard) in a small village called a steadholt.  However, a search for a lost sheep quickly plunges Tavi and Bernard into an unexpected battle that sets an entire series of events into motion that will completely change their lives before the tale is done….

The Dresden Files: Cold Days: Book Review
Fantasy / October 12, 2016

Cold Days by Jim Butcher is the 14th novel in the epic urban fantasy series The Dresden Files.  I am happy to report that Cold Days is an excellent return to form after the misfit of the series: Ghost Story.  There is literally no way for me to avoid spoilers in this review, so I highly suggest that anyone who does not want to experience the heart-wrenching agony of having a major plot point revealed by a heartless reviewer does not progress beyond this point. I recognize that there is a sizable group of The Dresden Files community who truly enjoyed Ghost Story.  While I admit that it was a creative take on the series, I ultimately felt lukewarm about the story because Harry Dresden, our favorite stand-up comedian masquerading as a wizard, spent most of the tale on the sidelines.  Butcher’s solution to Harry’s “death” in Ghost Story, in which it is revealed that Harry was “not quite dead” (Monty Python orPrincess Bride style) was a bit too predictable.  Regardless, Cold Days remedies my complaint immediately as Harry is thrust into a murderous plot that finds himself as the hitman (as the new Winter Knight) and his target as one of the most powerful women in all of faeire.  If one…

The Last American Vampire: Book Review
Comedy , Fantasy , Historical Fiction , Horror / October 12, 2016

The Last American Vampire is the second novel in a series by Seth Grahame-Smith that begins with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  The Last American Vampire features Abraham Lincoln’s mentor and comrade, Henry Sturges, from the previous novel and fills in the details of his life and undeath. Let me begin this review by making it clear that I loved Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (check out my review). Seth Grahame-Smith’s formatting of the novel is one of the major reasons that I could not stop reading The Last American Vampire.  Seth Grahame-Smith casts himself as Henry Sturges’ interviewer and cobbles together an account from direct “quotes” from Henry that tie together sections of Seth Grahame-Smith’s writing.  The doctored photos that “prove” Henry’s existence at various moments in history also add to the overall effect.  The result is an authentic feel that makes The Last American Vampire read like a genuine history rather than a fictional tale. Henry Sturges’ adventures range across time from early colonial America to the 1960’s but all of his struggles center around hunting down a rogue vampire who is bent on America’s destruction.  Henry battles Jack the Ripper, Rasputin (my personal favorite), and other “historical” vampires who I will not name in order to avoid spoilers.  He also…

Fantasy Novels: Top 10 List
Fantasy , Top 10 List / October 10, 2016

There is a show by the brilliant British comedian Ricky Gervais called Life’s Too Short.  In one mind-blowingly awesome scene, guest star Liam Neeson remarks, “I make lists all the time.”  If you do not know the context, I highly recommend that you seek out the show or at least watch a clip of the scene.  I will not post a link here because it is copyrighted content, but you really should see it for yourself anyway.  Regardless, Liam Neeson’s statement definitely is true for me!  You can expect to see many different Top lists on the site!In all seriousness, I am not saying that my opinion equals fact, so if you do not like my ranking feel free to post your own.  To kick things off, these are my Top 10 Fantasy Books:       Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien Conan stories by Robert E. Howard (especially the novella Red Nails) A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin Codex Alera by Jim Butcher Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling Soloman Kane stories by Robert E. Howard The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher Rat Queens comics by Kurtis J. Wiebe The Belgariad by David Eddings Elminster by Ed Greenwood

The Dresden Files: Skin Game: Book Review
Fantasy / October 10, 2016

Skin Game is the 15th book in Jim Butcher’s urban fantasy series that chronicles the wizardly adventures of Harry Dresden.  If you are a fan of heist stories, then Skin Game is likely to be your favorite entry in The Dresden Files because it revolves around a plan to break into Hades’ own vault in order to retrieve the Holy Grail. SPOILER ALERT:  At this point I must warn anyone who has not read the entire series that there is no way for me to review this book without spoiling previous books in the series. Nicodemous, a returning Denarian villain from earlier in the series, uses Harry’s position as the Winter Knight to force him to join his quest.  Harry brings along Karrin Murphy and also joins forces with many other returning characters including Hannah Asher, Anna Valmont, and Binder.  Skin Game features some of the most engaging intrigue and double-crossing in the series as Harry tries to navigate his way through Nicodemous’ web of lies and while constantly working to undermine Nicodemous and his allies.  As one would expect, there are plenty of Indian Jones references as Harry and his companions work their way to the Grail. Skin Game finally marks the return of one of my…

The Dresden Files: Storm Front: Book Review
Fantasy / October 10, 2016

Storm Front is the first book in the urban fantasy series The Dresden FIles by Jim Butcher.  For anyone who is unfamiliar with the genre, urban fantasy is characterized by its setting in a city during the modern day.  Although my favorite fantasy novels tend to be set in a medieval type world, it is wonderful to imagine what it would be like if magic existed in our scientific and technologically driven historical era.  I would take the ability to conjure fireballs over a microwave any day, but I digress … Harry Copperfield Blackstone Dresden is a wizard who works with the Chicago police department’s Special Investigations division.  As most (sane) readers would expect, the vast majority of the police officers think that Harry Dresden is a crazy and expensive charlatan.  Karrin Murphy, the head of Special Investigations, harbors doubts of her own but also recognizes that Harry Dresden is remarkably effective at explaining otherwise inexplicable cases.  Storm Front revolves around Dresden’s investigation of a brutal murder that leads him into the realm of the supernatural, complete with fairies, vampires, and a warlock. Indeed, the cast of secondary characters is truly impressive.  The adorable, yet tough-as-nails Karrin Murphy is probably the most prominent example of Jim…

The Complete Chronicles of Conan: Book Review
Fantasy / October 10, 2016

“Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet.” -Robert E. Howard, The Phoenix on the Sword Have you heard of Robert E. Howard?  While I hope that you have heard of him, you are certainly not alone if you have not. I am ashamed to admit that I did not even know about him until five years ago. Let’s try this again: Have you heard of Conan the Barbarian? While I love Arnold Schwarzenegger in all of his 80′s action glory, his Conan portrayal does leave a bit to be desired. Conan’s brute strength is important, but his quick wits and natural instincts are just as important to the character’s development as his ability to cleave his enemies in twain with a ginormous blade. That leads me to wonder how Robert E. Howard’s Conan achieved lasting fame, whereas the author himself seems only be truly known within a niche audience.  Whether you love (or hate) the various films versions (of highly varying quality) of Conan that have crept up over the years, you owe it to yourself…

White Heart of Justice: Book Review
Fantasy , Romance / October 9, 2016

White Heart of Justice is the third installment in Jill Archer’s Noon Onyx series.  For anyone who is unaware of the series, Noon Onyx’s post-apocalyptic world is populated by demons (the victors of Armageddon) and a host of unique fantasy creatures.  The series focuses on Noon’s developing magical power, relationships, and many adventures in the unforgiving, demon haunted world of Halja.  For additional background information, check out my reviews of Dark Light of Day and Fiery Edge of Steel. As in Fiery Edge of Steel, White Heart of Justice sends Noon beyond the comforts of St. Lucifer’s Law School to the uncharted, near-mythical fringes of her world.  As the story begins, Noon is focused on winning the Laurel Crown Race in order to win the right to choose her fourth-semester residency.  As it turns out, the Divinity (the school of Angels) is still upset about Noon’s (sort of accidental) destruction of a priceless statue.  To make amends and win the Laurel Crown Race, Noon sets out to retrieve the legendary White Heart sword from the ice-tortured outpost of hell known as Tartarus. Once again, Jill Archer’s secondary characters prove to be as interesting as her main character.  Noon’s carefree and…

Fiery Edge of Steel: Book Review
Fantasy , Romance / October 9, 2016

Fiery Edge of Steel is Jill Archer’s second installment in her Noon Onyx series.  Archer’s novel is set in an engrossing fantasy world brimming with magic, creatures, and plenty of opportunities for adventure.  Fiery Edge of Steel essentially takes all of the best elements from the first novel in the series, Dark Light of Day, and improves upon them to create an exciting and thought-provoking narrative. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the series, my review of Dark Light of Day provides plenty of background information about the post-apocalyptic, demon haunted world of Halja.  In short, Noon Onyx is training to be a Maegester because she can control the forces of waning (destructive) magic due to the drop of demon blood in her lineage.  Because of their power, Maegesters are tasked with controlling the demons in Halja, arbitrating disputes, and may even be called upon to execute a demon in extreme cases. While Dark Light of Day focused on Noon’s myriad struggles coming to terms with her waning magic and her new life at St. Lucifer’s Law School, Fiery Edge of Steel sweeps Noon to the edges of New Babylonian civilization into the unknown.  When a resident of a distant outpost, known as the Shallows, sends a complaint to the Demon Council regarding the Patron Demon Vodnik,…