Book Review: Cursed Sight by TG Ayer

Cursed Sight (Dark Sight Book 2)Cursed Sight by T.G. Ayer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

In this second volume of TG Ayer’s “Dark Sight” series, Pythia Allegra Damascus and her guardian Commander Max Vissarion are headed to Peru where Allegra’s visions have shown her an event of massive destruction is soon to occur. Upon arriving, however, she discovers that not everyone is thrilled with her desire to help, perhaps not even the representatives of her home country’s government who are supposed to assistant her – and she has no idea why.

“Cursed Sight” introduces us to several new characters, including the staff who had cared for Aurelia, Allegra’s predecessor as Pythia. I found Mara, Aurelia’s handmaid, to be a delight. She’s a mischievous and cantankerous older woman who’s as sharp as a tack and hides beneath her gruff exterior a deep devotion for the women she serves. I hope we see more of her in future installments.

We also learned more about Allegra’s enemies and a few breadcrumbs were dropped that point to a possible future betrayal that had the potential to be devastating. I can’t wait to see how that develops!

While there were a number of mysteries that kept me guessing up until they were revealed, there were a couple of cases where the foreshadowing was a bit heavy-handed making their eventual revelations a bit too obvious for me. That said, the book as a whole was very enjoyable and has me looking forward to what happens next.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Immortal Bound by TG Ayer

Immortal Bound (Apsara Chronicles #1)Immortal Bound by T.G. Ayer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love urban fantasy, and T.G. Ayer is quickly becoming one of my favorite UF authors. Her Valkyrie series (which begins with Dead Radiance is a great take on Norse lore, and Dark Sight is a promising beginning to her Daughter of Pythia series, which is grounded in Greek mythology. Likewise, Immortal Bound, the first book in her Apsara Chronicles, gets this series off to a solid start.

I was already familiar with both Norse and Greek pantheons and legends before reading the aforementioned books, but this was my first experience with anything involving the Hindu gods and their stories. I have to admit that I was a bit concerned at first about how well I’d be able to keep up with both a whole new cast of characters and a new-to-me cosmic order to boot, but Ms Ayer did a nice job of having her characters provide enough information to foster a basic understanding without resorting to the kind of expository infodumps that can kill the momentum of a story.

As I’ve come to expect from Ms Ayer’s books, the central characters are well developed, relatable, and grow nicely over the course of the story. I especially liked how the relationship between the mother and daughter evolved over the course of events. As for the story itself, there were a couple of plot points that were a rather predictable, but it contained enough twists and turns to keep things interesting, and wraps things up nicely while still leaving plenty of room for more adventures.

The only real complaint I have with the book is a technical one – it has a truly astounding number of typos and editing errors – the *vast * majority of which were minor things (like writing “fist” instead of “first” or “ember” instead of member) that didn’t impede the flow of the story or interfere with understanding what was happening. There were a couple, though, that threw me for a momentary loop – such as a character being referred to by the wrong name or a reference to an object that wasn’t actually introduced until a few chapters later. That technical issue aside, however, I really enjoyed the story and am eager to read the next installment.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Dark Sight by TG Ayer

Dark SightDark Sight by T.G. Ayer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dark Sight gets TG Ayer’s new series “Daughter of Pythia” series off to a good start. Set in an alternate reality where America is known as New Germania and society is based on the Roman Empire, governments around the world hire or consult with oracles to help with solving crimes, averting disasters, strategizing and other such matters. The most powerful oracle is known as the Pythia and is a descendant of Apollo’s oracle at Delphi. When she begins to recieve visions of an apocalyptic-scale disaster in the near future, she must work with officials from the New Germanian government to piece together the clues her visions present in an attempt to thwart the cataclysm.

I really enjoyed this book, though I did have a couple of problems with it. The characters were complex and relatable and the plot avoids most of the more predictable traps often found in urban fantasy and romance novels. The one exception is that that the potential romance between the leads hits a roadblock because one decides to put a brake on things out of fear that the other will reject them if certain information becomes known rather than discussing it. This particular trope is the one that annoys me the most because talking about it would show trust and a willingness to be vulnerable, both of which can actually make a relationship stronger. Plus, if the other person is going to reject them upon learning the information, wouldn’t it be wiser and less painful to find out early on? My other issue with the book is a sub-plot that felt to me kind of like filler. The impending disaster presents numerous opportunities for dramatic tension without needing to add a secondary villain, especially since that section didn’t really provide much additional information that couldn’t have been revealed while resolving the main plot. Fortunately, this detour isn’t terribly long so the story gets back on track quickly.

Despite these issues, I found myself drawn into the book’s world and the characters’ lives enough that I was dissapointed to find I’d have to wait a bit before the next volume is released. There’s considerable promise in this book, and having read her Valkyrie series (which begins with Dead Radiance I know how fresh Ms Ayer’s writing can be.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Dead Radience by TG Ayer

Dead Radiance (Valkyrie, #1)Dead Radiance by T.G. Ayer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have a great love for books that use Norse lore as a basis, so checking out this series was pretty much inevitable for me – and I’m glad I did. It’s one of the better ones I’ve come across. Author TG Ayer mines the rich treasure that Nordic myths provide and keeps the main core of the various characters reasonably close to the source material while giving them a unique spin to make them her own. She gives Asgard and its denizens the sense of ancient grandeur and magical wonder they deserve interwoven with the culture and technology of today, giving the series depth and relatability.

Ayer also does a nice job of keeping the story fresh by subverting some of the tropes that are all too common in the Urban Fanfasy genre. There were a number of times throughout the 5-book series where I thought I knew exactly where something was heading only to be surprised when it played out in an entirely different way. That’s something I appreciated so much, I’m now checking out some of her other series in the hopes that they, too, will provide such freshness (and in the case of Dark Sight – the only one I’ve finished so far – that’s been the case.)

View all my reviews

Book Review: Gears of Fate by Wilbert Stanton

Gears of Fate (Forgotten Gods #1)Gears of Fate by Wilbert Stanton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book free in exchange for an honest review.

“Gears of Fate” is a fun read, but it gets off to a bit of a slow start. The world the story takes place in takes a bit of explaining, and the idea of the Norse and Greek Gods working together felt a bit odd to me – though that may be more a function of my great love for the Norse Gods and their lore than anything else. The biggest hurdle for me to overcome, though, was that the lead female character came off rather spoiled and self-centered, leaving me wondering how enjoyable taking a journey with her would be. Thankfully, once the preliminary “setting up” of the story is done and we’re off to the adventure, we see that there’s much more to her than that initial impression suggested and I quickly succumbed to her charms.

The slow-ish start aside, the only real issue I had with the book is that while the steampunk elements work beautifully in the sky-city setting, there are times when the characters are on Earth that it feels a bit tacked on. So much of the Fae world has a natural and organic sense to it that having a creature need its engine wound or seeing a fairy with metal wings jars a bit, though by no means did it stop me from enjoying the story and the world in which it is set.

I particularly liked the way that the author avoided many of the tropes found in the young-people-on-an-impossible-quest genre, and he does a nice job of providing just enough foreshadowing that when a late-in-the-book twist is revealed, it doesn’t feel like it came from out of nowhere.

While this book is subtitled “Forgotten Gods #1” I was quite pleased to find that the story didn’t leave me hanging, waiting months to find out how things turn out. In fact, I initially thought it was a stand alone book, though there is easily plenty of room left for more stories to be told, and I look forward to visiting this world and these characters again.

View all my reviews

Book Review: “The Chosen of Anthros” by Travis Simmons

The Chosen of AnthrosThe Chosen of Anthros by Travis Simmons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book free in exchange for an honest review.

“The Chosen of Anthros” is the 4th book in Travis Simmons’ “Harbingers of Light” series and picks up where “A Lament of Moonlight” leaves off – with our heroes having finally found their way through the forest and ready to head into the Harbinger settlement.

This entry in the series is full of surprises as we learn more about both the Harbingers and the plague in general and the characters specifically. Once they reach the settlement, each of the characters is given training and tasks that keep them separate much of the time, and Simmons does a nice job of spreading the story between them, giving each the chance to grow individually. There are also the beginnings of what might turn out to be a sweet love story, which is a nice touch amongst the seriousness of the rest of the events.

As a lover of Norse mythology, I like how Simmons uses various aspects of the stories to tell an original tale – not just a retelling of established lore. While he uses different names for some of the gods, it’s still pretty clear who they are (especially if you’re at all familiar with the myths) but it allows him to endow them with different characteristics, making them fresh.

This installment ends with a shocking cliffhanger – which sometimes can be rather off-putting. In this case, however, it just makes me that much more eager to see what happens next.

View all my reviews

Book Review – “A Lament of Moonlight” by Travis Simmons

A Lament of Moonlight (Harbingers of Light, #3)A Lament of Moonlight by Travis Simmons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

As the 3rd book in the “Harbingers of Light” series, “A Lament of Moonlight” serves mainly to move the story from one book to the next, rather than present a tale of its own. It does so in fine fashion, as author Travis Simmons once again provides solid character development and several dynamic action scenes.

The setting, once again, is the Fey Forest, which our heroes are traveling through in hopes of reaching the Harbinger of Light settlement, where Abigail can learn to control the Wyrd magic brought on by the shadow plague. The stakes are raised when the group finds itself on the wrong path, meaning that instead of exiting the forest near the elven city and harbinger refuge, they must travel considerably further both in the forest, and from the forest exit to the city .

I’m really enjoying this series. The books are not overlong which helps them maintain a brisk pace – but they’re not so short that story details get left by the wayside. The mythology Simmons is unveiling as the story builds, while based on the Norse mythology, deviates in various ways, so that even if you’ve read a ton of Norse-based stories, there are plenty of surprises amongst the familiar.

View all my reviews

Book Review: “The Darkling Tide” by Travis Simmons

The Darkling TideThe Darkling Tide by Travis Simmons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This reviews contains spoilers for the first book in the series, “A Plague of Darkness.” 

In “The Darkling Tide,” the 2nd book in Travis Simmons’ “Harbingers of Light” series, we rejoin Abigail, Leona, Rorick and Daphne on The Singer’s Trail as they travel through the Fey Forest in search of the elf city and the community of Harbingers that they hope will help Abigail learn how to control the Wyrd powers that accompany the plague. Celeste, the Light elf who had been guiding them has been recalled to the elf city. With Celeste gone and the others new to this world, Daphne is their only guide. The further they travel, however, the harder it gets to resist the pull of the darklings along the sides of the warded trail.

Simmons continues to develop the characters, with each of them facing difficulties that challenge them in unique ways and force them to make choices for which they may not truly be ready. And while Abigail is undergoing a transformative change due to the plague she carries, in many ways, it is little Leona who faces the greatest hurdles. In the first book, she had to sacrifice her beloved doll, Skuld – who frequently spoke to her and gave her guidance –  in order to save her sister and their friends – killing the attacker in the process.  Now we start to see how the experience is weighing on her.

The story had a lot of action to it and moves at a nice, steady pace. We learn more about Agaranth, get a chance to see the elf city, catch a glimpse into the politics between the dark and light elves and meet a few new characters, including Daniken a dark elf who causes trouble between Abagail, Rorick and Leona.

The middle book in a trilogy is usually the trickiest. We’ve already been introduced to the main characters and had the world established in the first volume, and the its ending is really only a resting point, since the third book contains the climax and denouement. As a result, middle books can sometimes feel flat.  Simmons has managed to avoid that here. The characters experience a number of gains and setbacks, while the tension slowly builds to lead us into the final episode. I’m really curious to see how it all turns out!

View all my reviews

Book Review: “A Plague of Darkness” by Travis Simmons

A Plague of ShadowsA Plague of Shadows by Travis Simmons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Travis Simmons has put together nifty combination of Norse mythology and his own imaginative world-building, creating a unique universe in which to spin tales with familiar touchstones and wholly new ideas. He has taken element of the Noise cosmos and given them original names, which I found was a nice way of signalling that while this universe may be inspired by the Eddas, Epics and Sagas, it was not a retelling of any of the older stories.

“A Plague of Shadows” is the first book in the “Harbinger of Light” trilogy, in which we meet Abigail – a young woman who has found herself having to step into a more adult role of caring for the home and honey farm after her father is injured in an accident – along with her younger sister, Leona, and their neighbour Rorick. They live on the world of “O” which has been under attack from darklings – shadowy creatures capable of performing evil magic and tend to leave death wherever they’ve been. Touching or otherwise coming in contact with a darkling puts a person at a high risk of being infected with the darkling’s shadow and become a darkling themselves.

When Abigail shows symptoms of the plague, her father decides it’s best to send her to Agaranth, the world he originally came from and where his brother and sister still live. That world is also beset by darklings, but unlike O – where the Light Guard “cleanses” anyone who comes down with the plague and punishes people for even talking about the magical or mystical – people on Agaranth have learned to control the plague and even make use of the magic abilities it brings. Because Leona it’s showing signs of becoming a budding seeress, which is, of course, heavily frowned upon by the Guard, and Rorick’s parents are dead, Abagail’s father sends them with her on the journey.

Of course, things don’t go quite as planned, and that’s where the meat of the story kicks in. I was actually surprised how fast the book went. At one point, I’d thought I was no more than maybe a third of the way through, only to find is been reading longer than I’d thought and was nearly 3/4ths done. It’s a truly engrossing story.

The scene where Abigail and friends travel from O to Agaranth is remarkable in describing the World Tree and the rainbow bridge connecting to each of the nine worlds and a heavenly-like plane (with hints of something much darker below.) A guide they meet on the bridge tells them (and us) about this universe and some of what may lie ahead, but because the information is presented while the characters are also exploring this core of the cosmos, it flows more naturally than such expository passages sometimes can.

I have to admit part of the fun for me was in recognizing where’s he’s included Norse elements in somewhat different guises and under somewhat different names and how the old and new mesh together – but he’s done this smartly so that even if you’ve never heard of the Norse, you can still enjoy this tale.

View all my reviews

Book Review: “Erato” by Sharon van Orman

Erato (The Sophia Katsaros Series # 2)Erato by Sharon Van Orman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Erato by Sharon van Orman

The last time we saw Dr. Sophia Katsaros, she had just returned from a trip to Greece – where she’d gone to find her missing brothers – only to discover an entirely unwelcome guest waiting in her apartment. She soon learns that she’s been targeted by the Enforcers of the werewolf pack who have come after her because no one who learns the secret of the pack is allowed to live.

When she begins finding gruesome messages being left for her as warnings, she decides to go to the pack alpha and get him to call off the dogs, as it were. There she learns that her situation is even more precarious because someone has been killing wolves from the pack and Sophia is the number one suspect. She offers the alpha a deal – if he’ll call off the Enforcers, she’ll prove she isn’t the killer, and use her scientific skills to help him find out who is. So begins a uneasy alliance and a trip back to Greece to track down a killer.

As in “Lykaia,” the story is told from multiple perspectives, with Sophia as the main narrator, written in first person. We also follow one of the Enforcers, see a few scenes from the killer’s point of view, and learn more about the Dryad and Dryad magic in general. I found the system that van Orman has set up for the Dryad magic to be quite interesting. I also liked that as skeptical as Sophia was to start with, as she becomes more excepting of the magical world, you can sense a greater openness in her in general. 

Something I really appreciated was that even though it was obvious that the pack alpha and Sophia found each other attractive, there was no insta-romance to be had here.  They were working together out of necessity and each had very good reasons not to trust the other. While their relationship warmed up some throughout the course of the book, it would have felt cheap to have them jump into bed with all of the questions that is still lingered.

We also spend more time with Illyanna, the girlfriend of one of Sophia’s brothers and mother of her soon-to-be-born niece. The friendship between Sophia and Illyanna is a lot of fun, especially as they learn more about the magical world. There was a natural easiness between them that carried over from the first book as they bonded over their mutual love for Sophia’s brother, and I hope that we are not done with their story.

“Erato” does a great job of wrapping up the story begun in the “Lykaia,” and the pair make for a very satisfying tale. Dr. Sophia Katsaros is an easy character to like and the world van Orman has created has a great balance of the fantastical and the realistic. There are some nice threads that could be easily woven into additional stories – and I sincerely hope they are.

View all my reviews