Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.
Sixty-One Nails is a nice introduction to a new series, The Courts of Feyre. This opening book is set primarily in modern-day London with a likable everyman protagonist who suffers through the world's toughest midlife crisis. Sixty-One Nails blends the tropes of urban fantasy with old-school folklore about the Fey and Feyre (how many ways can you spell Fairy - let me count the authors) and mixes in some fascinating English history to create a unique fantasy adventure. The plot is fast paced with a lot of action, but not a lot of violence. The city of London, the surrounding countryside, and the rich English history are all used quite effectively to set the tone and to drive the plot. The writing is strong with a lot of evocative language to build great mental pictures to enhance the story.
Much of this first book is really about Niall Petersen (Rabbit), a middle-aged Joe Blow coming to terms with who he really is and what he will really do with the rest of his longer than expected life wrapped up in a truly engaging plot and the evolution of this central character is interesting and believable within the fantasy context. There is a romantic thread in this first book which does not factor much until the end of the book, but unfortunately, I think it may be a bigger part of the rest of the series. I say unfortunately because I really enjoyed listening to Rabbit's evolving relationship with his mysterious mentor much more than I enjoyed the more trite romantic relationship with the less mysterious and less powerful girlfriend.
Nigel Carrington is very pleasant to listen to and his voice seems to be a good fit for both the style and setting of the book.
With some reservations about the romance introduced at the end of Sixty-One Nails, I intend to continue with this adventure now that Audible has added two more in the series. Most readers of Urban Fantasy will like this new twist to the genre - recommended.
Between Two Fires is a well written 14th century period piece that expertly intermingles vivid scenes of plague ravaged France with Christian mythos to provide a fantastical horror story that reads like historical fiction. I am not a great horror fan so to say I "liked" this book wouldn't be quite right, but I was completely captivated by it. Christopher Buehlman is masterful in his writing - his characters are so genuine, the settings so sharply etched, the plot so intricate and imaginative that I was engrossed throughout the book. I felt a bit dazed at the end of the book coming back to the 21st century after this total immersion experience in 1348.
I have to thank Audible and Troy's review for giving me a nudge to look at this book. I'm don't normally read books in the horror genre, but I am a huge fan of good writing and this book ranks right up there with the best. And, it paints such a clear picture of this period of medieval history that it is likely to be appealing to those who like historical fiction as well as those who enjoy a good scary story.
It's not a book for everyone - the book covers a dark period of history when the Black Death rampaged through Europe and many of the characters are rough, vulgar people so it is not surprising that there are graphic scenes of violence and a fair amount of cursing and crude language in the book. I did not think the violence or bad language was gratuitous, but I know I like to know before hand when a book is one I want to listen to in private. (One oddity in regard to the vulgar language, Buehlman seems to have no difficult referring to various parts of female anatomy in very coarse terms, but male anatomy was demurely referred to as "the groin" and "his verge" which struck me as a little strange.)
Steve West does a terrific job with the narration. He pitches his voice just right to maintain the growing tension through the plot progression and does a good job with voices as well. One tiny criticism - scythe, a word used many times in the novel, does not have a K sound in it. Not a big deal, but I do think audio production people could do a better job picking up that sort of thing.
This is not a book for the faint of heart or those with delicate sensibilities, but it is a fascinating and well-written story.
Miserere is another name for Psalm 51 or literally it means "have pity or mercy" and when you hear Miserere, you will see that this is a Perfect Title for this book. I would not have noticed this debut novel from Theresa Frohock, but saw that it was recommended by both Ilona Andrews and Martha Wells so I decided to check it out. This might be the darkest fantasy I have ever loved. With chillingly evocative language, Frohock creates a tale that is part horror, part fantasy, and completely engrossing. Frohock bases much of the plot/setting structure on Christian mythos, but also uses angel references from the Kaballah and pieces of other religions and that lends some weird and scary "authenticity" to the story. Yet, Miserere is unlikely to offend the religious sensibilities of most of the faithful and it most certainly is not a proselytizing vehicle. It is very difficult to describe this debut novel because it is so different from any fantasy I've read. It probably most reminded me of the horror novel, Between Two Fires (Christopher Buehlman), because of the adept use of Christian iconography and the frightening depictions of pure evil. The angels of Miserere are not the sweet Valentine cherubs - these are the Fallen in all their evil glory and the Seraphim (literally "burning ones") who fight in Woerld to hold back the minions of Hell from the Earth. As good as Frohock is at presenting evil in its purest, scariest form, her "good guys" are not so pure and most are terribly flawed and also quite engaging. Frohock starts the reader in the middle of the story and fills in the pieces as the narrative progresses. If you read the Publisher's Summary, you'll have a good feel for where you are as you start out and this tale pulls the listener in very quickly. Caveats: There is some graphic violence, a little graphic sexual content, and the tone is Very Dark until the ending so this is not a book to listen to if you are having a bad day. On the brighter side, this is a redemption tale and it has a very satisfying ending.
Eileen Stevens' narration is not bad, but not as good as I think this book deserved. Stevens is really skilled with character voices so all of the dialog is quite good. However, she uses sort of a "sotto voce" tone for the the narrative sections like she's telling you a secret or something that I don't care for and she mispronounces some common words (like banal and derisive) which always bothers me.
Miserere has an interesting plot, intriguing characters, wildly imaginative world building, and nice prose - I highly recommend Miserere for anyone who has a strong constitution and can handle this dark fantasy. This is the first in a planned series so I'm looking forward to what else will emerge from the twisted imagination of Theresa Frohock.