Established in 2010, this blog is for all those who love escaping into novels filled with vampires, shapeshifters, demons, witches and even the fae. While our preferences lean toward vampires, you'll see news and reviews from a variety of urban fantasy, paranormal romance and fantasy works both from the adult and young adult shelves.
Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) Emily A. Duncan Published: April 2, 2019 (Wednesday Books)
Purchase at: Book Depository or Amazon
Review Source: Copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review
Reviewed by: Amy
Rating (out of 5): 4.5 stars
Tranavians and Kalyazins have been in a centuries-long holy war ever since the Tranavians had forsaken belief in the gods, and their power, to harness their own blood magic. Kalyazins view Tranavians as heretics as opposed to their own clerics—those who can commune directly with the gods who in turn imbue them with often unimaginable power. All the clerics are believed to be dead…except one.
Nadezhda Lapteva (Nadya) has been living in secret at a Kalyazin monastery, training until her time comes to be the salvation the Kalyazins believe her to be in the war. But when the monastery is attacked—by the Tranavian High Prince—and Nadya has to flee for her life, she runs into a ragtag group of rebels bent on seeing the war end one way or another—up to and including assassinating the King of Tranavian.
Out of other options, Nadya will have to put her trust in these people, including a mysterious boy with dark magic of his own that makes her start to question the beliefs she’s always held true.
I went into Wicked Saints not knowing what to expect. I honestly don’t think I even gave the blurb anything but a glancing read through, but it was enough that I was interested in reading Emily A. Duncan’s debut. I can only say that I was thoroughly blown away by Wicked Saints.
The world is so realized. The push and pull between the belief in gods or the use of one’s own blood as a source of power is so completely conceptualized.
The narrative switches between Nadya’s perspective and that of the Tranavian High Prince Serefin, and gives readers a good glimpse of both sides of the conflict. While Tranvaians are painted as more of the villains in this one, you come to see where they’re coming from with their beliefs. I loved that Emily A. Duncan was very precise in giving both sides and bringing up good counterpoints to both. You see that sometimes not everyone’s beliefs necessarily align with the side their fighting on.
In this way you also see the characters as more than just good or bad. Depending on which side, you understand that people can inhabit both qualities. Nadya has this immense power from the gods, and she wants to use it to end the war, but how far do you go in your quest? What happens when things she does is in opposition to what she’s been taught about the gods? Can you care for someone who is so openly against all that you believe? There are so many questions to postulate, but to do so would allow for spoilers unfortunately.
Suffice it to say, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in picking up Wicked Saints. Emily A. Duncan was wonderful at keeping the story on track while also throwing out little asides of information that I’m hoping will lead to interesting places in the next book.
In an effort to help you keep that to-read list updated, I’ve compiled the hot urban fantasy and paranormal romance releases for April 2019. All dates are U.S. and tentative. Also: Click the title of any book to visit the Amazon page for pre-order or purchase goodness.
I’ve included genre classification with each book: UF is urban fantasy, PNR is paranormal romance, F is fantasy, SF is science fiction, SFR is science fiction romance, YA is young adult and NA is new adult.
Once & Future (Once & Future #1) Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy Published: March 26, 2018 (Little Brown & Company)
Purchase at: Book Depository or Amazon
Review Source: Copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review
Reviewed by: Amy
Rating (out of 5): 3.5 stars
I’d bet on saying that the legend of King Arthur is pretty widely known. So then what happens when you make the legend a reincarnation story where Arthur is tasked with uniting all of mankind under one banner, but somehow failing each time.
Except this time, Arthur has been reincarnated into the body of Ari, a young woman in the future, who pulls Excalibur out of an aged oak tree on what is now called Old Earth, and needs to defeat the tyrannical Mercer Company who has a monopoly on pretty much the entire galaxy and forces people to follow their laws and their rules lest they will cut you planet off from the rest of civilization with a barrier. And helping each Arthur on each quest is Merlin who has been progressively aging backwards with this cycle (#42) finding himself a teenager with a penchant of singing a pop song before conjuring his magic?
(Takes imaginary breath).
Well, you’d have Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy’s Once & Future.
If you can’t tell, the premise is attention grabbing. With all the retellings out there, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a gender-swapped retelling of the Arthurian legend in space. So right away it piqued my interest.
Once & Future has a lot going for it. First and foremost, the diversity and representation is fantastic. Capetta and McCarthy take all the stigmas that are still prevalent today, in regards to gender and identity, and make them a thing of the past. It doesn’t feel like something being forced or check-marked into the story either. It feels honest and refreshing and what we can only hope the world will embrace more in the present.
I also enjoyed how the ties formed between the original Arthurian Legend is utilized as a stepping stone for Ari’s story, but how she continues to subvert everything that Merlin has come to expect in each cycle. Most obvious being that this time Arthur is female. It’s these places that make the story the strongest and works the best. And if I’m being honest I feel like that’s the way it should be because, clearly, this cycle is different, this cycle has the potential to see all the steps through to the very end—to the uniting of humankind—it needed to be different from what’s already been.
However, when the story follows too closely the path set forth in the original Legend—calling out the Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot love triangle—is when it fell into too much melodrama for me. Granted no one has ever said that Arthurian Legend isn’t made of drama, but the problem is that everything felt rushed. I didn’t get to feel the heartbreak because in the blink of an eye we go from an intense attraction, complete with promising backstory, between Gwen and Ari to marriage to heartbreak. Merlin and one of Ari’s knights, Val, find themselves in a similar state of attraction, but I found their relationship a much better slow burn.
This is true for the friendships as well. I loved the interactions between a thoroughly futuristically modern Ari and a centuries old, sometimes stodgy Merlin. Set in his ways and secure in his tasks, Ari throws him for a loop and brings him out of his shell a bit. Ari starts the story off as a fugitive refugee and with Merlin’s influence becomes the face of a revolution. I wanted to see more of the build up from tentative associates to genuine friends.
Overall, Once & Future is an ambitious retelling, auspicious in scope and execution. The adventure clearly isn’t over for Ari and her knights, and I’m interested to see what they bring to the table next.
Seanan McGuire is a favorite author for much of the VBC staff, both under her own name and under the Mira Grant pen name. (Yep, I’m taking this chance to again recommend everyone check out her Newsflesh series starting with Feed.)
1. A place where two roads cross.
2. A place where bargains can be made.
3. See also “places to avoid.”
Antimony Price has never done well without a support system. As the youngest of her generation, she has always been able to depend on her parents, siblings, and cousins to help her out when she’s in a pinch—until now. After fleeing from the Covenant of St. George, she’s found herself in debt to the crossroads and running for her life. No family. No mice. No way out.
Lucky for her, she’s always been resourceful, and she’s been gathering allies as she travels: Sam, fūri trapeze artist turned boyfriend; Cylia, jink roller derby captain and designated driver; Fern, sylph friend, confidant, and maker of breakfasts; even Mary, ghost babysitter to the Price family. Annie’s actually starting to feel like they might be able to figure things out—which is probably why things start going wrong again.
New Gravesend, Maine is a nice place to raise a family…or make a binding contract with the crossroads. For James Smith, whose best friend disappeared when she tried to do precisely that, it’s also an excellent place to plot revenge. Now the crossroads want him dead and they want Annie to do the dirty deed. She owes them, after all.
And that’s before Leonard Cunningham, aka, “the next leader of the Covenant,” shows up…
It’s going to take everything Annie has and a little bit more to get out of this one. If she succeeds, she gets to go home. If she fails, she becomes one more cautionary tale about the dangers of bargaining with the crossroads.
GIVEAWAY OF THAT AIN’T WITCHCRAFT
One lucky winner will receive an ARC of That Ain’t Witchcraft by Seanan McGuire. Fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter. Standard VBC rules apply. You do not have to share on social media, but if you do you get bonus entries. Same goes for the email sign-up, which will get you VBC stuff, book recs, and book updates from Chelsea Mueller.
Note: While this review will be spoiler free, it may reference previous events in the series. If you haven’t yet started the Honey Badger Chronicles, check out VBC’s review of Hot and Badgered.
Stevie MacKilligan might be a genius and former child prodigy, but many shifters can’t look past the fact that she’s a hybrid. Carrying the last name MacKilligan also makes her, and her sisters, outcasts among their own family. The fact that she’s what amounts to a Honey badger/tiger mix in her shifted form, suffers from anxiety, and a general fear of bears doesn’t help matters either. However, Stevie can’t seem to stop cuddling up to panda bear shifter Shen Li.
Shen is pretty content with doing his job as a bodyguard to a jackal shifter and lounging around eating bamboo. He doesn’t really know what to make of Stevie, but she doesn’t really ask his opinion having already made the decision herself. When Stevie ends up embroiled in a conspiracy involving missing hybrids, Shen will stop at nothing to make sure that no one has to suffer the wrath of the MacKilligan sisters.
I liked that In a Badger Way still enforces the bond between the sisters. More focus is placed on Stevie, of course, but Charlie is still stressing out, and Max’s own story was subtly built up in bits and pieces throughout. Honestly, the sisters are the main proponent of this series. Much to the detriment of Shen and Stevie’s building relationship I’m (sort of) afraid. I like Shen and Stevie together. He’s a good balance—much like Charlie’s significant other Berg—which is good with all the chaos the MacKilligans have in their lives. I wanted more of a spark, but I’m okay with him being the steadfast partner, especially considering all the sisters have to deal with this time around.
Is it strange that I get a feeling of glee any time Charlie, Max, and Stevie have to take matters into their own hands and kick some ass? I find myself smiling every single time someone underestimates them or just plain doesn’t understand whom they’re dealing with. It’s a delight seeing the sisters put people in their place, and with the entire MacKilligan clan, including their misbegotten father, coming together for a funeral opportunities abound.
I felt like the main issue concerning the hybrids gets intermittently lost in the crowd of everything else that happens throughout the story, but it’s hard to fault it too much when, overall, it’s just a fun read. I don’t think every author could pull off the amount of quick changes from one story thread to the next and in the end have things end up so comprehensible, but Shelly Laurenston has perfected this kind of storytelling.
I loved that we got to see more of the MacKilligan family in In a Badger Way, for better or worse, and the not completely unheard of idea that they might care more for Charlie, Max, and Stevie than previously thought. I’m excited to see where Max’s story takes us next because with this group literally anything is possible. No joke.
Demon Bewitched (Demon Enforcers #3) Jenn Stark Published: March 18, 2019 (Elewyn Publishing)
Purchase at: Amazon
Review Source: Copy provided by the publisher in exchange for and honest review
Reviewed by: Amy
Rating (out of 5): 4.5 stars
Note: While this book will be spoiler free, it will reference events from its prequel series. If you haven’t yet started the Immortal Vegas series, check out VBC’s review of Getting Wilde.
Stefan is the next member of the Syx up for redemption and, as the title Demon Bewitched might suggest, we find Stefan having to pose as the consort for the high priestess of the Scepter Coven who is gathering her power in order to defeat the age-old demon Ahriman as is foretold in their grimoire.
For as long as she can remember Cressida has been told she’s special, powerful. That she will lead the coven against Ahriman. But when she takes Stefan as one of her consorts in order to expand her power, she begins to question everything she’s ever been told.
Stefan finds himself drawn to the young witch who has been put in such a place of authority. Cressida reminds him of the reason why he became a demon in the first place and therefore he tries to keep his distance, get the job done, and earn his redemption. Which proves to be easier said than done.
Stefan has earned the place as my favorite member of the Syx—at least thus far. We didn’t really know much about the Syx, aside from Warrick, before this series began and I’ve enjoyed meeting and learning about each of them, but Stefan immediately just got my attention. He’s snarky and bold. He just has this pop of personality that jumps off the page and commands attention. Plus, he brings a much-needed reality check to Cressida, who kind of seems oblivious.
I’d say the thing that irked me the most was the off-feeling I got in regards to the coven. I mean from the very first page, as much as Stefan stood out, the coven also stood out for the fact that things just didn’t add up right. I felt like these were things right in front of Cressida’s face yet there’s little to no acknowledgement that something is wrong. It’s an interesting idea and I think that feeling of wrongness is intentional, but I just felt like, in the end, it still didn’t piece together well with how things wrap up. Almost like Cressida stumbles upon answers haphazardly as opposed to figuring things out on her own regardless of how much they might change her perception of the coven.
I liked the way that this book builds upon the varying ideas of what it means to be redeemed and how it has differed for each member of the Syx. I wish I could talk about Stefan’s exact case without giving any spoilers because it’s an interesting idea about belief and faith and accountability.
I enjoyed the application of the marriage of convenience trope in demon form in Demon Bewitched. I always love when I can spot a good trope and see how it can be used across genres. Stefan and Cressida’s early interactions are quite comical as they each make assumptions about one another that are off the mark. Stefan in taking Cressida’s youth as inexperience, and Cressida seeing Stefan’s demon self as horrendous. What brings them together is, at first, their common goal and from there they learn that assumptions are usually wrong.
I continue to enjoy this series apart from the Sara Wilde stories. With three more books to go, I’m even more interested in learning about the other members of the Syx and seeing where their redemption takes them in the end.
Need a new paranormal romance fix? Are you there for all the “mine” action of mates? Then today’s feature is for you. We have an exclusive excerpt from Marie Johnston’s Angel Fire, the first in a new PNR series.
BY MARIE JOHNSTON
Concentrating, Bryant descended to the human realm. It was a skill he wasn’t granted until he’d become a warrior. His parents posed as missionaries on Earth and he’d been at their mercy to travel back and forth, but he’d learned to respect the responsibility of keeping their kind secret from humans. The consequences were severe and unalterable.
Before he’d dressed for walking among the human realm, he’d folded his wings into his back. Another skill his kind was granted. With his wings morphed, his back looked like any other human’s. He’d built his tolerance and could maintain a morph for days with no ill effects other than a mild ache between his shoulder blades.
He descended to a secluded spot in a shopping mall in Dallas, Texas. Never had he been so grateful for his familiarity with the human world. He’d traveled long and far enough that he had many approved places land when he arrived in the realm.
With his wings morphed seamlessly into his back, an ability their kind used to blend with humans, Bryant strode purposefully through the corridors. Few people milled about as it was near closing time. His footsteps were soundless on the marble floor. A black ball cap with a Cowboys logo was drawn down to conceal his face and scars. He ducked his head and tucked his arms into his brown bomber jacket. Since he was in a shopping mall, he kept it simple in a black T-shirt and jeans and black boots.
He had made a concerning discovery of glitter-laden human clothing while searching Odessa’s dresser. Not glitter decorated clothing, but glitter on her clothing. Frowning, he had pawed through the drawers and searched pockets for any sign of where she might be. He had even found an undergarment drawer. It had been…an awakening…searching through tiny scraps of vibrantly colored cloth that were considered underwear. Brassieres with dainty, lacy cups and narrow straps. How in the world they were expected to contain Odessa’s impressive bust, he had no clue. But he was suddenly, insatiably curious.
Regardless, he had made it through her drawers and finally found a pen with a bank logo on it. Bryant quickly searched bank records, a handy skill he and his team had acquired. Sometimes getting to a possessed human in a place archmasters could be engaged required extensive investigation into a target’s life and activities. Walking up to someone in the middle of the grocery store, grabbing their forehead, chanting incantations, and then disappearing into another plane while the body flopped limp to the floor didn’t go over well with humans. Or with his boss.
Bryant had found only cash withdrawals and regular deposits from a company called Little Time in Odessa’s bank records, and judging from all the glitter he found, it was either a strip club or a craft store. A quick search revealed that it was a children’s clothing store.
Relieved, but more than a little perplexed, Bryant had located the mall with the store. All he had to do was take the escalator up to the third level and find out if Odessa was there. He chose to ignore the fact that if they had consummated their sync, he would feel her presence like a beacon anywhere on the earthly realm.
ABOUT ANGEL FIRE
He doesn’t have to like his new mate, even if she is the only angel to accept him.
Bryant should’ve behaved himself. Now he’s been ordered to find a mate. Easier said than done when a bloke like him looks the way he does in a realm full of angels. He’d rather be fighting the good fight in the human realm. But mating the ravishing female that claims him shouldn’t be a hardship. If only her father wasn’t the reason for his scars.
Perhaps mating the surly, scowling warrior wasn’t Odessa’s best idea. But she’s committed, and he’s…frustrating. Enticing. Carrying a grudge she knows nothing about. Yet, when her boss winds up dead and she’s attacked, he’s there to save her.
Digging into the danger Odessa’s facing uncovers an ambitious plot against the realm. Good thing Bryant’s a persistent guy. He’ll stick to Odessa’s side and keep her safe, all so he can let her go in the end. Because one thing he’s learned about the down to earth angel is that she deserves better than him.
Except Odessa doesn’t want to be rid of the loyal warrior. But that’s an argument for a day when someone’s not trying to kill them.
Marie Johnston is an award-winning writer of paranormal and contemporary romance, and a RITA® Finalist. Marie decided to pursue her passion for writing and traded in her lab coat for a laptop to write her first book ever, Fever Claim. She lives in the upper Midwest with her husband, four kids, and two kittens. Other than hanging out with her family, Marie enjoys reading, movie dates with her hubby, getting outside on sunny days, and the all too rare – girls’ night out.
Today’s Win It Wednesday brings some heat with supernatural sexy times from Christine Feehan’s Carpathian series. Avon has been reissuing the earlier books in the series with updated covers (see pic to the right), and it’s a great excuse to dive into these books (or re-read). Luckily, I have a copy of Dark Fire with the updated artwork on my desk waiting for one lucky VBC reader to claim it.
Also, in case you’re worried, Dark Fire is book six, but these work as standalones. You’ll get a new couple in the book. So you’re safe to dive in.
Details about the book are below, and then, of course, your chance to win Dark Fire is at the end.
ABOUT DARK FIRE
There is always a price to pay…
So Darius warned her when she accepted a position with his traveling troupe. And gazing mesmerized at the merciless slash of his mouth, the implacable resolve on his face, the soulless emptiness of his black eyes, Tempest was afraid to ask what it was.
She had always been different, apart from others. From the moment his arms closed around her, enveloping her in a sorcerer’s spell, Darius seemed to understand her unique gifts. But did his kiss offer the love and belonging she sought, or a danger more potent than his own panthers?
Somewhere deep inside herself, Tempest realized she knew the answer. She had no choice but to accept the velvet stroke of his tongue, submit to the white-hot heat piercing her skin, welcome an erotic pleasure like no other….
GIVEAWAY OF DARK FIRE
One lucky winner will receive a copy of Dark Fire by Christine Feehan. Fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter. Standard VBC rules apply. You do not have to share on social media, but if you do you get bonus entries. Same goes for the email sign-up, which will get you VBC stuff, book recs, and book updates from Chelsea Mueller.
Note: While review will be spoiler free, it does make reference to previous books in the series. If you haven’t started yet, check out VBC’s review of Written in Red.
In Etched in Bone, book five of The Others series, we met Jana Paniccia, a recent police academy graduate who interviewed for a sheriff’s deputy position in the small town of Bennett. Wild Country follows Jana and the rest of Bennett’s new residents, as well as those in the nearby village of Prairie Gold, as they try to rebuild after the Great Predation which left the town deserted.
Wild Country was slow starting as I got to know the large cast of mostly brand new characters in both towns. But once I felt invested, I couldn’t put it down. This world and its characters continue to fascinate me, even seven books in. I especially enjoyed the relationship between Jana and her new boss, Sheriff Virgil Wolfgard.
But even with all the new characters, I don’t feel like there’s much newness in Wild Country. Despite having three different settings, the plots of the last three books are quite similar with a human resident’s family member coming to town and causing trouble with the Others. The timelines of all three books also overlap so events from Etched in Bone are repeated in Wild Country from Bennett’s POV. I’m left feeling like the series hasn’t progressed at all in that time.
And that lack of progress is driving me crazy! At the end of Etched in Bone, I was all set to follow Jana to her new home. But the first spin off book, Lake Silence, took us to the town of Sproing instead. I spent that book getting invested in those new characters and was looking forward to learning more about the shifters there, only to go back to Jana and back to events in the previous book.
As much as I love the world of the Others, I’m frustrated by the seeming lack of a series plot. Admittedly, I’m a very series-focused reader. I suspect that the first series arc also gave me certain expectations for the next one. But I can’t help but wonder if Bishop plans to alternate between the two new towns or go to another new place entirely, or if there’s another book in the works at all. I hate the idea of leaving these characters that I’ve spent so much time getting to know.
When it comes to Win It Wednesday, I’m usually trying to find a new, shiny author or series for everyone to discover. Those series that I can wave the flag of book rec on, and get to point the winner to book one in the series.
Sometimes, though, you just need the new, much coveted book in a series. When it comes to Anne Bishop, much of the VBC crowd is familiar. You guys loved The Others, and the spin-off series World of the Others is your catnip, too. So, Wild Country, came out at the beginning of March. If you didn’t already snag your copy, or just want a print edition, here’s your chance. This Win It Wednesday giveaway is for Anne Bishop’s latest, Wild Country.
ABOUT WILD COUNTRY
In this powerful and exciting fantasy set in the world of the New York Times bestselling Others series, humans and the shape-shifting Others will see whether they can live side by side…without destroying one another.
There are ghost towns in the world—places where the humans were annihilated in retaliation for the slaughter of the shape-shifting Others.
One of those places is Bennett, a town at the northern end of the Elder Hills—a town surrounded by the wild country. Now efforts are being made to resettle Bennett as a community where humans and Others live and work together. A young female police officer has been hired as the deputy to a Wolfgard sheriff. A deadly type of Other wants to run a human-style saloon. And a couple with four foster children—one of whom is a blood prophet—hope to find acceptance.
But as they reopen the stores and the professional offices and start to make lives for themselves, the town of Bennett attracts the attention of other humans looking for profit. And the arrival of the outlaw Blackstone Clan will either unite Others and humans…or bury them all.
GIVEAWAY OF WILD COUNTRY
One lucky winner will receive a copy of Wild Country by Anne Bishop. Fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter. Standard VBC rules apply. You do not have to share on social media, but if you do you get bonus entries. Same goes for the email sign-up, which will get you VBC stuff, book recs, and book updates from Chelsea Mueller.