Category Archives: urban fantasy

Rabid Reads: "The Rift" by R.J. Clark

The Rift
self-published (2011)
ISBN B004XD9V82
As if New Orleans hasn’t been through enough in this reality, Ryan Clark has created an alternate reality in which a literal rift into Hell was opened up back in the seventies, turning the city into ground zero for all kinds of demonic carnage. Things are kept in check, however, and a macabre kind of status quo is created. Humans and demons co-existing, more of less, in the Big Easy. And at the center of all, there’s Matt Faustus, a private eye who is possessed–literally.
For Matt Faustus, the whole Hell on Earth takes a very personal turn, particularly since the rift opened on the day he was born–not to mention an especially nasty bugger of a demon became bound to his very soul. Now, he walked with a cross around his neck, and not your run-of-the-mill crucifix necklace either. No, this one basically keeps things relatively in check, though the demon can still do some damage by way of enhancing Matt’s strength and healing abilities.
Having a demon caged in your body is one thing, but trying to hunt another down is something else entirely, and that’s precisely what he has to do when a little girl is abducted from her home by the demon the girl’s affluent family owned. Yeah, some demons wind up as some kind of weird slave labor if you can believe that. As Matt investigates, he crosses paths with all sorts of nasty creatures from the depths of Hell, on this side of the Rift and the other. The worst of which just might be his ex-girlfriend, too.
I gotta say this book was a pleasant surprise. At first glance, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot after reading the plot summary for this one on Amazon. But within the first couple of chapters, with the brash demeanor of Matt Faustus, the fast-paced action he’s thrown into, and the vivid–albeit hellish–landscape R.J. Clark creates in this novel, I was hooked. The pulpy side of things gets a little overdone in spots, and some of Matt’s inner monologue feels way too cliched more than once, but the overall appeal of this book was undeniable.
If you enjoy high-octane action with a heavy dose of the fantastic, you will likely find what you need here.

CymLowell
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Filed under book review, demons, fantasy, horror, Rabid Reads, RJ Clark, The Rift, urban fantasy

Wish List Wednesday #102: Holly Black’s "White Cat"

I’ve been a casual fan of the urban fantasy genre since 2009, pretty much around the same time I started this blog, coincidentally. But, because I don’t fully immerse myself in the genre, I’m often left clueless as to which authors to look for beyond the few I’ve already tried. So, leave it to the plethora of blogs in my Google Reader to repeatedly suggest certain books.
One of those books comes from Holly Black called White Cat. Mixing crime and fantasy is an interesting mix, and was executed expertly I thought with the anthology, Supernatural Noir. But White Cat is directed towards a younger audience I think, and the urban fantasy genre tends to play things a little fast and loose, so the tone of this novel should be slightly less dark than some of the other stuff I’ve read this year.
Still, a story with a protagonist who killed his best friend has to have some dark subject matter. And with a profession such as curse worker, there’s a unique twist to it all that could prove very entertaining.
The reviews I’ve read have been very good for the most part, but a couple of blogs I read didn’t care for it too much, so should I get round to reading this one I’ll have to keep my preconceptions in check.
How about you? Have you read this one, and if so, what did you think?

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Filed under Holly Black, urban fantasy, White Cat, Wish List Wednesday

Rabid Reads: "King’s Justice" by Maurice Broaddus

King’s Justice (The Knights of Breton Court II)
by Maurice Broaddus
Angry Robots (2011)
416 pages
ISBN 9780857660824
I missed out on reading the first book in Broaddus’ Knights of Breton Court series, King Maker, so when I won this ARC copy of the sequel via Goodreads, I wondered if I was going to be stepping into a book with no idea of the backstory. Thankfully, Broaddus sets the stage early on in the book by re-introducing the major players and the stakes leading from the first book into this one.
It also helps that the series is a non-too-subtle Arthurian legend with a modern day backdrop, so a little familiarity with who some of the characters represent and their relationships was a nice break.
Instead of King Arthur, we have King James White (I wonder if he is inspired from author Wrath James White, a collaborator with Broaddus on a novel called Orgy of Souls), along with his girlfriend, Lady G, and mentor of sorts and resident crazy man, Merle. The kingdom, as it stands, is a drug-infested section of Indianapolis called Breton Court. Gang violence has escalated to a degree that White has stepped in as a would-be peacemaker, but forces are at play to sabotage his efforts.
The cast of characters is a bit lengthy, but Broaddus kindly offers a list of the players at the beginning of the book, reminiscent to the start of stage plays. Definitely comes in handy when scenes switch and a new character enters, and I’m left wondering, “Wait, who is that again and in which gang or alliance are they connected?”
The fantasy element is a more understated than I had anticipated, but it is there and used to great effect. I mean, you can’t have a real world setting and then have mystical battles waged in the middle a major American city. People might notice. Those with the magical abilities are relatively few, seemingly extensions from a bygone era with faeries and dwarves also making appearances.
Colvin, as the lead villain was an intriguing nemesis for King, as well as the contentious relationship he had with his sister, Omarosa (I still can’t read that name without thinking of the crazy lady from The Apprentice). And some of the supporting characters are real treats, like Lee and Cantrell, a pair of mismatched police officers, and Naptown Red, a villain on the rise leading into the next book.
I liked the book, but I still think I would have had a better appreciation for it had I read King Maker first. So, I’ll likely give this book a second chance when the third–and presumably final–book in the series, King’s War, comes out. Then, I can read all three in a go and see the sweeping epic unfold in one fell swoop. I’m also even more inclined to look for Maurice Broaddus’ other works, including the previously mentioned Orgy of Souls, his Dark Faith anthology, and another book with an enticing title, Devil’s Marionette.
CymLowell

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Filed under Angry Robot Books, book review, King's Justice, Maurice Broaddus, Rabid Reads, urban fantasy

Wish List Wednesday #96: Kalayna Price’s "Grave Witch"

Back in October, I won a giveaway over at Angela’s Dark Faerie Tales. I won a $10 Amazon.com gift card courtesy of Kalayna Price to help promote the debut novel of her Alex Craft series, Grave Witch.

Urban fantasy is a genre I’ve been gradually warming up to more and more over the last couple of years, thanks to authors like Cassandra Clare, Jaye Wells, Richard Kadrey, and others. So, I was figuring I’d use the card to snatch up Kalayna’s book.

I hadn’t used Amazon.com before though, and being Canadian made the shipping costs crazy. So, I’ve kept it on my wish list all this time.

I did happen to see a paperback copy of the book on Book Depository, on sale for less than $6, though. I think that could be a real steal, so I have it in my basket and will be ordering it soon enough. Meant to get it months ago, but I guess the same could be said for a lot of books.

What books have you been meaning to buy and just haven’t gotten around to yet?

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Filed under Alex Craft, Grave Witch, Kalayna Price, urban fantasy, wish list, Wish List Wednesday

Rabid Reads: "Sandman Slim" by Richard Kadrey


Sandman Slim
by Richard Kadrey
Eos (2009)
388 pages
ISBN 9780061976261



I would say Richard Kadrey demonstrates a rapier wit in his novel, Sandman Slim, but it’s less like a rapier and more like a sawed-off shotgun. James Stark, the protagonist and narrator of this story, is brash and about as antihero as a character can get. Hell, this guy makes most antiheroes look like boy scouts.


Stark has a pretty good reason for being so pissed off, though. He’s been in Hell for more than a decade, and upon learning his girlfriend has been murdered back on Earth, he’s busted out of Down Town (Hell’s nickname for itself) to return to L.A. and find the people responsible: his former circle of magician friends who sent him to Hell in the first place.


I suppose this novel fits nicely in the urban fantasy genre, what with it set in Los Angeles predominantly and has plenty of demons and magic, but the tone of the novel seems to defy the conventional idea of that sub-genre. There’s more anger permeating through the text–it is a revenge tale after all. The quick-witted one-liners and fight scenes do lend themselves to that action-oriented fantasy adventure.


The beginning of the story sets the stakes really well, introducing important characters and alluding to others that appear later. But the first act seems to spin its wheels for a bit. It kind of meanders, or deviates, from the overlying mission Stark is on. It’s entertaining, yes, but I had to wait a hundred pages or so for the book to really kick into high gear. But when it did, the book was impossible to put down.


Another plus for this book is that it works as a stand-alone novel, even though it’s the first book in a trilogy (or maybe series) that usually forebodes some kind of cliffhanger or “to be continued” moment. Sandman Slim is a very satisfying reading experience all on its own, so I was spared the aggravating feeling that comes with so many books that serve as jump offs for trilogies.


I’ll be looking forward to reading the sequel, Kill the Dead, in 2011. Fantasy tales with a barbed-wire tattoo instead of a tramp stamp are a welcome change of pace.

CymLowell

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Filed under book review, fantasy novels, Rabid Reads, Richard Kadrey, Sandman Slim, urban fantasy

Book Chick City’s Horror & Urban Fantasy Reading Challenge 2011

I’m not usually into the reading challenges, but this one is right up my alley. Carolyn of Book Chick City fame is hosting more than one reading challenge on her blog, including a Mystery & Suspense Challenge and even a Stephen King Challenge. I may sign up for the King one too, but I’m unsure just how many of his novels I’ll actually read next year–I think my number of King novels read for 2010 was a half-dozen.

As for reading a couple dozen horror and/or urban fantasy novels in a year? I’ll likely have read that many by the time the snow thaws.

If you’re interested in signing up for the reading challenge too, head on over to Book Chick City and see the challenges she has to offer. It should be fun to see what titles people choose to read through the year. Might be a good way to add some books to the ol’ wish list.

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Rabid Reads: "Armageddon Bound" by Tim Marquitz

Title: Armageddon Bound (Demon Squad series)
Author: Tim Marquitz
Published: Damnation Books (2009)
Pages: 306
Genre: Urban Fantasy; Horror
Digital ISBN
978-1-61572-001-9
Print ISBN: 978-1-61572-000-2

Urban fantasy, in my few experiences within the genre, tends to steer away from the perceived vulgarity of the horror genre even though there are horror elements that appear in many a UF title. Armageddon Bound isn’t as timid when it comes to walking that line, and that is thanks largely to the protagonist and narrator of the tale, Frank Trigg–Satan’s nephew and reluctant Antichrist.

To set the stage, God and Satan called a truce, made amends, and abandoned the universe fifty years ago. Today, Heaven, Hell, and little ol’ Earth are on their own. And things are not going so well. Angels and Demons are still fighting, humans are still doing what humans do best, and poor Frank Trigg is caught in the middle. Once destined to be the Antichrist, he long since shirked his birthright and now makes do as a hired hitman of sorts with Demonic Resistance and Containment (DRAC).

DRAC is an anti-Armageddon faction comprised of wizards, telepaths, and other supernatural entities, doing what they can to prevent the End Times. Since there are no tog dogs anymore to pick up the pieces, the End Times truly mark the end of everything rather than a new beginning. Still, there are forces at work trying to jumpstart an Apocalypse. But it’s not just DRAC that Frank finds as his allies, as Frank has an angelic cousin, Scarlett, a demonic mafia-style boss, Baalth, and others he doesn’t exactly get along with. Not to mention his ex-wife, Victoria, who may or may not have put a hit out on him.

The noir-esque elements are at peak volume, with the story being a blend of heroism and cynicism coming from Frank Trigg. I mentioned him as the source of much of the vulgarity in the novel. Well, it’s not a piece of gory fiction, if that’s how you took the statement. Instead, it’s his inner monologue that drips with puerile and lewd thoughts. The guy can’t even think about his own cousin without fantasizing about her sexually.

Quentin Tarantino’s Foxy Brown meets Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings it is not, but the mish-mash of styles gives it a vibe I ended up liking. To stray from movie references to video-games, it felt a bit like Grand Theft Auto mixed with God of War. But enough “this-meets-that” stuff, the book stands out to me. Let’s leave it at that. And as the first book in a series, it caps off nicely like a stand alone novel, so readers can give it a try and not feel like they’re only reading a prologue.

I thought the book was more urban than urbane, more ribald than refined, but Armageddon Bound was a fun read. And that was enough for me.

You can find another review of this title at: Fantasy Book Critic

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Filed under Armageddon Bound, book review, Demon Squad, horror, Rabid Reads, Tim Marquitz, urban fantasy