Silver on the Road Review

Silver on the Road by Laura Anne GilmanSilver on the Road
Book 1 of The Devil’s West
by Laura Anne Gilman (2015)

On her sixteenth birthday, Isobel chooses to work for the devil in his territory west of the Mississippi. But this is not the devil you know. He’s a being with immense but limited power, who deals fairly with people looking for a deal, and who makes sure they get what they deserve. His wild west needs a human touch, and that’s where Izzy comes in.

Trained to see the clues in and manipulations of human desire, Izzy sets out to learn the ways of the territory. She will find herself, and what it means to be the devil’s hand, on the endless road.

Pin for laterAdd to Goodreads or see more reviewsMy result: Recommended
4 Stars - Recommended

Book Review

Silver on the Road delivers an original fantasy in the endless plains and arid foothills of the Old West. If you like a western setting, you’ll love. Landscapes are perfectly rendered and beautifully described. The grammar and prose is just rural enough to feel natural, without ever leaving you to decipher chicken scratch dialogue. You’ll get a feel for life on the road, from the sway in the saddle to the daily rituals of camp and campfire.

Book Quote: Silver on the Road, Laura Anne GilmanBut it’s not just the stunning setting that makes Silver on the Road a worthy read. Izzy, the devil’s hand, and Gabriel, an experienced rider who shows her the ropes, are nuanced characters to travel with. Their friendship evolves slowly, through shared silences and long miles. It’s a joy to see characters brought to life without the need for much dialogue, as they learn to read each other’s actions through experience.

The fantasy element is subtle, almost magical realism. It’s embedded in the land, in the traditions of unclaimed territory and the road that leads across it. For much of the story, it’s possible to not take much notice of the magical forces that shape events. But as Izzy and Gabriel track down a strange darkness come to the territory, they face forces more comfortably in the realm of heroic fantasy. It’s a slow-paced read, but richly rewarding for its realistic characters and rich settings.

Recommended for:
* Old West historical setting
* Vivid descriptions and subtle magic
* Believable characters that bond through shared experiences

If you like Silver on the Road, check out these book recommendations!

Drift and Dagger Review

Drift and Dagger by Kendall KulperDrift and Dagger
by Kendall Kulper (2015)

Mal used to have a home, a best friend, and a secret. He lost all three the day Essie Roe exposed him as a blank: someone unaffected by magic. Everyone hates and fears blanks—even Mal.

Now Mal travels the world in search of dangerous magical relics with his partner in crime, Boone. When they learn of a dagger that steals magic, Mal may have found a way to even the score.

Pin for laterAdd to Goodreads or see more reviewsMy result: Recommended
4 Stars - Recommended

Book Review

Let me get this out of the way first. Drift & Dagger is a companion book to Salt & Storm, which I’m not at all interested in (too much romance for me). But Drift is a heist novel in a fantasy setting, and you know how I am about those. Reviews say it can be read separately, and even advise reading Drift first, so I did. And yes, Drift stands alone just fine.

Drift & Dagger is set in nineteenth century New England, at the height of the whaling industry, and you can practically smell the salt in the air. The world is saturated with magic, for everyone but Mal. But what makes him an outcast also makes him a uniquely-skilled thief. His quest for an illusive artifact will take him around the world, delivering enough capers and narrow escapes for anyone else who might share my weakness for con men. (If you do, check out my list of Ten Heist Novels to Fall For.)

But it’s character which keeps the story grounded. If you like morally ambiguous heroes driven by painful pasts, Mal is your man. His childhood friendship with Roe, revealed in bittersweet memories, provides the context you need to understand Mal and the quest for revenge that drives him. Drift and Dagger is a fun, fast fantasy in a unique setting, and only a minimal amount of romance.

Recommended for:
* Fast-paced heists with magic
* Flawed, morally ambiguous heroes
* Unique historical setting

If you like Drift and Dagger, check out these book recommendations!

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Top Ten Canon Couples

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Canon Couples

Alana & Marko, Saga Series by Brian K. Vaughan
They fell in love across a battle line, and that brutal war is nothing compared to what they’ll have to do to stay together and raise a forbidden child. They’re fierce, clueless, idealistic, naive and stubborn. I’m rooting for them against all odds.

Patroclus & Achilles, Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
You can’t find a love story more tragic than one out of a Greek epic, and Miller’s prose makes the world of the Iliad come to life. I knew how it would end, and fell in love anyway.

Rachel & Trent, The Hollows Series by Kim Harrison
My favorite series for character development over time, and nowhere is that better illustrated than through the eventual relationship of Rachel & Trent. They start as adversaries, then eventually friends and ultimately lovers. But it’s not hate turn to love. It’s personal growth, through a crazy series of hardships, that changed them both from what they were at the beginning. Their journey made them ready for love, and perfect for each other.

Amaranthe & Sicarius, Emperor’s Edge Series by Lindsay Buroker
Sicarius is a quiet, deadly assassin who everyone fears. Amaranthe is the goofy, slightly obsessive leader who dares to order him around anyway. She teaches him to smile and use his skills for a purpose. He stays at her side no matter what, and gives her the courage to take on the impossible. They’re just adorable.

Xena & Gabrielle, Xena: The Warrior Princess, TV show
They’re strong women in different ways, bring out the best in each other, and stay together to the end. What’s not to love? Plus, it proved awesome women could be surrounded by men without belittling or being threatened by them, and two women could find love without treating every man who came before as a place holder. Waaaay ahead of its time.

Darrow & Mustang, Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown
NO BOOK 3 SPOILERS PLEASE!
He’s a damaged protagonist who needs her reminders to treat the people around him with kindness. She’s a privileged member of a brutal society blinded to some aspects of that society. They’re capable of violence and betrayal, and will break your heart again and again. But they complement each other so well that it makes me want for it to all work out in the end. (No guarantees.)

Lucius & Narcissa, Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
My love of this canon couple is based on fanfiction and art as much as on JKR’s books, but whatever. Slytherin love all the way.

Finnikin & Evanjalin, Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta
These two come together as refugees cast out of their kingdom, and have to reclaim a home for their people. But it’s seeing how they change and grow stronger together afterwards when they thought the hardships would be over that makes them one of my top canon couples.

Jamie & Claire, Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon (& TV show)
Theirs is a real marriage, with moments of doubt, fear and violent disagreement. They function as equals, in a time when that would be shocking, and their relationship is a constant series of negotiations and rebalancing. For all its swoon-worthy origins, I’ve never seen a more realistic portrayal of marriage over the whole series.

Vin & Elend, The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson
Vin grows from a paranoid street kid to a confident warrior, and Elend from a political theory geek to a wise leader. They see potential in each other long before anyone else, and bond for who they are on the inside.

What I learned:
I like my ships:
* Partnerships between equals
* Long-term relationships > Happily ever afters
* Series couples > Standalone romances
* Fantasy > Science Fiction
* Books > Television

The Fantasy > SciFi preference is mostly a side effect of reading more long series in fantasy. My science fiction picks are usually standalones, and less likely to contain a pairing at all.

Who are your favorite canon couples?

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s topic is a freebie Valentine’s Day list.

Last Song Before Night Review

Book Review: Last Song Before NightLast Song Before Night
by Ilana C. Meyer (2015)

Long ago, poets were Seers with powerful magic. Then the enchantments of Eivar were lost. Now a song is only words and music, and no more.

But when a dark power threatens, two poets must restore enchantment to the land. The road to the Otherworld, where the enchantments reside, will imperil their lives and test the deepest desires of their hearts.

Pin for laterAdd to Goodreads or see more reviewsMy result: Recommended
4 Stars - Recommended

Book Review

If you enjoy music, bards, and lyrical descriptions of the arts, then you’ll love this song-infused fantasy world.

Last Song Before Night takes a while to start moving, but the world is rich and interesting. It’s a book to take your time with. Flowing prose complements the story, creating the feel of music on the page. It’s a pleasurable escape to savor as you read, and the story pacing picks up a lot by the end. Overall, Last Song Before Night is a solid fantasy with a lyrical feel.

Recommended for:
* Music lovers
* Fantasy fans
* Lyrical prose

If you like Last Song Before Night, check out these book recommendations!

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Watching The Magicians

Introducing a new feature: What I’m Watching
Any science fiction & fantasy fan will tell you it’s not just about the books. So I’m trying a new blog feature. I’ll feature something I’m watching, on television or in theaters. It could be brand new or decades old, but I’ll try to talk about current stuff asap. Let’s talk television and movies!

What I’m Watching: The Magicians
When: Premiered Monday, Jan 25
Where: Television; SyFy Channel
Why I watched: Classic fantasy tropes grow up big time. Whether you think of it as Harry Potter: The College Years or a story about a boy who never forgot Narnia, there’s something here for all long-term fantasy fans. I enjoy the books, and I’m hoping it translates well on the small screen.

My verdict for the show: Optimistic

Three episodes in, I’m enjoying Magicians. It’s a complex story with a lot of different layers, but so far they’re doing a good job balancing plot lines. The characters are close to how I imagined, and the magic feels both exciting and scary. SyFy has delivered both intense action (episode 1) and strong character work (episode 3), so I’m hoping they’ve got the range to do Magicians right.

As a book fan, I’m satisfied so far. And my husband and sister-in-law, who have not read the books, are enjoying it too, so it seems to pass the newbie test as well. It’s too early to call it a win, but I’m liking its chances!

Sound off!

Are you watching? Interested?

What do you think? Whether you’re new to the world or a book fan, sound off in the comments! Please clearly mark any spoilers, including whether they’re show, book, or whole series spoilers!

Based On:

The Magicians by Lev GrossmanThe Magicians by Lev Grossman
Series: #1 of completed trilogy
My rating for the book: 5 stars – I had intense emotional reactions while reading, both positive and negative. But I obsessed over it for weeks afterwards. So five stars for provoking such a complex, layered response.
My progress: I read book one several years ago, and am planning to read the completed trilogy this year.

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Ten Tales of Old West Fantasy

Ten Tales of Old West Fantasy

I’ve spent most of my life west of the Mississippi, where ghost towns and ramshackle homesteads dot the landscape. It’s the history that lingers on in the land I know best. The Old West is a favorite setting of mine, especially when mixed with my favorite genres. Whether it’s weird western horror, steampunk adventure, western-influenced dystopia or historical fantasy, you’ll find something to hunker down with here.

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae CarsonWalk on Earth a Stranger, Rae Carson (2015)
Genre: historical fantasy, young adult
Series: Gold Seer Trilogy
When & Where: Gold Rush era, California
The story: Lee has the power to sense gold in the world around her, and people will do anything to control her. In California, where gold abounds, she can be herself for the first time.

Killer of Enemies by Joseph BruchacKiller of Enemies, Joseph Bruchac
Genre: dystopian, fantasy, steampunk, cross-genre, young adult
Series: Killer of Enemies (2013)
When & Where: post-apocalyptic, American Southwest
The story: When tech stopped working, the monsters got loose, and Lozen started hunting. Her powers are tied to an Apache legend. As her ancestors foretold, Lozen is destined to be a hero.

Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. BelcherSix-Gun Tarot, R.S. Belcher (2013)
Genre: steampunk, weird western, horror, historical fantasy
Series: Golgotha
When & Where: 1869, Nevada
The story: Golgotha, Nevada is a town of secrets, with monsters lurking in the shadows. But the abandoned mine hides a new threat. If it can’t be stopped, the darkness emanating from its depths will swallow everything.

Silver on the Road by Laura Anne GilmanSilver on the Road, Laura Anne Gilman (2015)
Genre: heroic fantasy, western, historical fiction
Series: The Devil’s West
When & Where: Old West era, Western Territories
The story: The Devil controls the Territories, making deals with mortals but always trading fairly. At 16, Isobel signs on to become the Devil’s left hand, unseen in the shadows.

Blood Red Road by Moira YoungBlood Red Road, Moira Young
Genre: dystopian, young adult
Series: Dust Lands Trilogy (complete)
When & Where: post-apocalyptic wasteland
The story: A girl sets out across the wasteland in search of her kidnapped twin brother. Along the way, she meets up with a girl gang of revolutionaries and the daredevil Jack. And finds the strength to take on a corrupt society from the inside. Perfect for fans of Mad Max: Fury Road.

Flash Gold by Lindsay BurokerFlash Gold, Lindsay Buroker (2011)
Genre: steampunk
Series: Flash Gold Chronicles
When & Where: Gold Rush era, Yukon territories
The story: Kali enters her steam-powered “dogless sled” in a race, whose prize money will let her escape forever. But fortune seekers and airship pirates want the secret of her father’s alchemy, flash gold.

The Gunslinger by Stephen KingThe Gunslinger, Stephen King (1982)
Genre: horror, Western, fantasy, post-apocalyptic
Series: The Dark Tower (complete, 7 books)
When & Where: Western style fantasy world
The story: Roland Deschain is the Last Gunslinger, on a mysterious quest through a desolate world. Leaving death in his wake, he pursues the man in black, an evil being who can bring the dead back to life.

Karen Memory by Elizabeth BearKaren Memory, Elizabeth Bear
Genre: steampunk, alternate history
Series: Standalone
When & Where: late 1800s, Seattle
The story: Karen guards the girls at a high class bordello. An injured girl arrives at their door, followed by a man with a mind-control machine. When a body turns up in the trash, it’ll take a lot for the ladies to stay safe.

Alloy of Law by Brandon SandersonAlloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson
Genre: epic fantasy, steampunk, magic
Series: Mistborn #4; #1 of followup series
When & Where: fantasy world
The story: 300 years after the Mistborn trilogy, the land is on the cusp of modernity. But Waxillium may not be able to put away his guns just yet. Alloy of Law works as the beginning of its own series, so don’t be afraid to give it a try whether you’ve read Mistborn or not.

Stranger by Rachel Manija Brown & Sherwood SmithStranger, Rachel Manija Brown & Sherwood Smith
Genre: post-apocalyptic, western, adventure, young adult
Series: The Change
When & Where: future Los Angeles
The story: The area once called Los Angeles retains its cultural diversity, but its technological marvels have faded to legend. A teen prospector arrives with a bounty hunter on his trail and a precious artifact in his pack. Life in the frontier town of Las Anclas will never be the same. My review

Pin for later

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s topic is historical settings.

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Ten New Books To Read

Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Books To Be Read

My TBR is all about looking forward, and many are not yet released. I’ve included release dates after each title to make things easier. Here’s ten of the books I’m looking forward to right now.

Ten new books to read:

1. Into the Dim | Janet B. Taylor | March 2016
2. The Girl From Everywhere | Heidi Heilig | Feb 2016
3. The Abyss Surrounds Us | Emily Skrutskie | Feb 2016
4. Silver on the Road | Laura Anne Gilman | Oct 2015
5. The Steep and Thorny Way | Cat Winters | March 2016
6. A Criminal Magic | Lee Kelly | Feb 2016
7. Ghost Talkers | Mary Robinette Kowal | July 2016
8. Truthwitch | Susan Dennard | January 2016
9. Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard | Lawrence M. Schoen | Dec 2015
10. In Midnight’s Silence | T. Frohock | June 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books I’ve Recently Added To My TBR.

Girl with Ghost Eyes Review

The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M. H. BoronsonThe Girl with Ghost Eyes
by M.H. Boroson (November 2015)

It’s the nineteenth century in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and Daoshi ghost hunters keep malevolent spiritual forces at bay. Li-lin, the daughter of a renowned exorcist, is a young widow burdened with yin eyes—the unique ability to see the spirit world.

When a sorcerer threatens Chinatown, only Li-lin can stop his plans. Navigating the dangerous alleys and backrooms of a male-dominated Chinatown, Li-lin must confront evil spirits, gangsters, and soulstealers before the sorcerer summons an ancient evil that could burn Chinatown to the ground.

Pin for laterAdd to Goodreads or see more reviewsMy result: Recommended
4 Stars - Recommended

Book Review

The Girl with Ghost Eyes boasts Chinese magic and spirits from Asian mythology, and a turn of the century Chinatown full of complex, nuanced characters. With a spirit world layered just over ours and mythical creatures that spill over to threaten reality, it’s got the hallmarks of urban fantasy. But well-researched folklore and the intricate customs and structure of San Francisco’s immigrant community at the century’s end make this debut fantasy feel like nothing you’ve read before.

If you’re looking for rich, folklore-based fantasy in a vivid moment of history, The Girl with Ghost Eyes will satisfy. The vibrant life of Chinatown’s immigrant community is revealed with an action-packed punch.

Recommended for:
* Fantasy in a rich historical setting
* Spirits and magic from Chinese folklore traditions
* Cultural immersion with vivid characters and lyrical language

If you like The Girl with Ghost Eyes, check out these book recommendations!

Top 5 Fantasy Releases – September 2015

Top Five Fantasy Releases for September 2015

September promises to be a good month for fantasy. With new series from Jim Butcher and N.K. Jemisin, plus several promising debuts, there’s plenty here to keep fantasy fans busy reading. Here are the top five most intriguing fantasy novels for adults this September. Don’t miss these great new releases!

Add The Fifth Season to Goodreads or see more reviewsThe Fifth Season by N.K. JemisinThe Fifth Season – N.K. Jemisin
Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun’s husband murders their son and kidnaps their daughter. The mighty empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years collapses. Worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent, a great red rift opens, spewing enough ash to darken the sky for centuries. Now Essun must pursue her family through a deadly, dying land. The world is falling apart, but Essun will break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.
The Fifth Season comes out August 4 from Orbit.
By the author of the Dreamblood series!

Add The Aeronaut's Windlass to Goodreads or see more reviewsThe Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim ButcherThe Aeronaut’s Windlass – Jim Butcher
Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. He’s taken the side of Spire Albion in the cold war with Spire Aurora by attacking their cargo vessels. But when Predator is damaged, Grimm is offered a deal: join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for restoring Predator. But the conflict between Spires is merely the beginning. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for ten thousand years, has begun to stir.
The Aeronaut’s Windlass comes out September 29 from Roc.
By the author of The Dresden Files and The Codex Alera!

Add Sorcerer to the Crown to Goodreads or see more reviewsSorcerer to the Crown by Zen ChoSorcerer to the Crown – Zen Cho
Zacharias Wythe, freed slave, proficient magician, and Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers, ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up. But a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift sets him on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain and the world at large.
Debut author!

Add The Traitor Baru Cormorant to Goodreads or see more reviewsThe Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth DickinsonThe Traitor Baru Cormorant – Seth Dickinson
The Empire of Masks is coming. They’ll conquer Baru’s island, rewrite her culture, criminalize her customs, and dispose of one of her fathers. But Baru is patient. She’ll swallow her hate and join the Masquerade to learn the secrets of empire. She’ll be what they need. And she’ll claw her way high enough up to set her people free.
Debut author!

Add Updraft to Goodreads or see more reviewsUpdraft by Fran WildeUpdraft – Fran Wilde
In a city high above the clouds, danger hides in the wind and the ground is lost to legend. Kirit Densira cannot wait to pass her wingtest and trade at her mother’s side. When Kirit inadvertently breaks Tower Law, the city’s secretive governing body demand she become one of them. To save her family from censure, Kirit must give up her dreams and train at the Spire. But the Spire hides secrets that could change her city forever.
Debut author!