Review by Caitlin Seal
In Timebound, Rysa Walker tells us there’s a natural order to the world. Socks come before shoes, and usually grandchildren are born after their grandparents. But things tend to get a little wonky when your grandparents are stranded time travelers and one of them is trying to take over the world.
Walker’s Chronos Files series follows the adventures of Kate — a reluctant young time traveler who must help stop her grandfather’s plot to rewrite history. Book one, Timebound, was a fun mix of adventure, intrigue, and history that jumped onto my top ten list for YA and left me excited to pick up the sequel, Time’s Edge, when it hit shelves last October. Read more
Review by Mike Cluff
Golden Son, the second book in the Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown, is not your standard second-book-in-a-trilogy. Often in trilogies the first book is an exciting introduction to a new world, new characters, and, ultimately, a new overall conflict. We praise the new book because it is new, it is exciting, and we are dedicated to the hero and his/her journey. We wait anxiously for the release date of the next book, and when it is in our hands we gobble it up and get a sucker punch to the gut.
The second book in a trilogy usually serves as a machination to build up the ultimate conflict in the third book, more than likely ending halfway through the story arc with a huge cliffhanger. Most second books could never be a standalone story, they are dependent on the rest of the trilogy. Second books are rarely the favorite or topic of discussion. They are necessary, but frustrating. A shell of a book. A journey to the beginning of the end.
There are certain things, horrible things, that a person should never see, let alone experience. These moments carry their own particular flavor of immediate horror, but what about those moments and lifetimes after?
Some people attempt to go back to normal life and have those occasional nights, like Jon Voight’s character at the end of Deliverance, where they wake up screaming from suppressed memories that manifest in dream. Or, in the case of young Eleanor Anders, whose family was slaughtered in front of her, leaving humanity behind helps cover the pain and bury the horror.
However, it is when Eleanor Anders rejoins humanity that she has to deal with the inevitable process of facing her past and living once again as a human.
In Eleanor, Johnny Worthen takes the coming-of-age story and transforms it into a paranormal tale like no other. Eleanor isn’t exactly human and she has a difficult time blending in with the citizens of a small Wyoming town. And to top it off, she’s a teenager. Her adopted mother is dying and Eleanor would much rather just disappear into the wild. That is until, David — the only other human apart from her adopted mother that has ever cared for Eleanor — moves back into town.
I can honestly say that Johnny Worthen has created in Eleanor one of the most multi-faceted (on a few levels one might not suspect), conflicted, and beautiful characters that I have ever read. My one complaint is that we only get snippets of her history, which I imagine the author did on purpose.
In addition to the characters, the quality of writing proves that Johnny Worthen is no accidental author. Readers need to go into the book expecting paranormal elements, but also be aware that this book is very honest (no flashy nonsense) and grounded in a world young adults and adults alike can all easily fit into and accept, but a world that Eleanor cannot. That is what makes the book so compelling.
The first in a new series, Eleanor will leave you wanting more.
Review by Jon Clapier
Talus and the Frozen King by Graham Edwards is a novel set somewhere in the Stone Age with a strong primitive spiritual and magical influence. The main character, Talus, is a wandering bard cursed with intelligence and curiosity. His companion, Bran, is an ex-fisherman/bodyguard who accompanies Talus in the hopes that they can reach the place where the northern lights touch the earth, which they believe may be a gateway to the land of the dead. Talus seeks to find truth; Bran seeks his lost love.
Deadly Curiosities is fantasy author Gail Z. Martin’s first step into the urban fantasy genre. The story follows Cassidy Kincaide, the psychic owner of Trifles and Folly — an antique shop specializing in the identification and neutralization of dangerous magical artifacts. When seemingly mundane objects trigger a wave of fresh hauntings across Charleston, South Carolina, it’s up to Cassidy and her allies to find out what’s fueling the dark magic, and stop it.
Cassidy is aided in her search by two friends. Teag, one of her employees, is a master of martial arts who can weave both information and energy to suit his needs. With them is Sorren, a vampire who has protected members of Cassidy’s family for generations. I was a little skeptical seeing another urban fantasy where the female lead tags along with a powerful vampire guardian. But for the most part Sorren stays in the background and avoids the worst of the cliches.
Martin is clearly in her element when bringing the ghosts of Charleston to life. Cassidy’s investigation is peppered with the stories of pirates and smugglers whose deaths are tied to the evil threatening the city. I’ll admit, I’m a big fan of ghost stories and I loved the touch of character Martin gave to her haunts.
Unfortunately, as the book progresses the pacing stalls out. Between the ghost stories and magic infused battles, the characters sit down again and again to rehash information and review their plans. The writing, which flows well enough during the book’s action scenes, becomes repetitive and clunky in these sections. It’s frustrating to see these problems from someone with as much experience as Martin, especially when they distract from an otherwise fun story.
Despite the bog-down in the middle, Cassidy’s investigation does come to a satisfying conclusion, and urban fantasy fans will likely enjoy this peek at the spookier side of Charleston.
Review by Caitlin Seal