Category Archives: Urban Fantasy

Emma Maree Reviews: Blood and Feathers

Today, for their Road Trip Wednesday question for bloggers, YA Highway asked: What’s the best book you’ve read this August?

Well, read on to find out all about it…

 

Book: Blood and Feathers by Lou Morgan

Series: Blood and Feathers , Book 1

Genre: Fiction/Adult/Urban Fantasy (IMO, it’s perfectly suitable as YA crossover fiction too)

Alice isn’t having the best of days. She was late for work, she missed her bus, and now she’s getting rained on. What she doesn’t know is that her day’s about to get worse: the epic, grand-scale kind of worse that comes from the arrival of two angels who claim everything about her life is a lie.

The war between the angels and the Fallen is escalating; the age-old balance is tipping, and innocent civilians are getting caught in the cross-fire. If the balance is to be restored, the angels must act – or risk the Fallen taking control. Forever.

That’s where Alice comes in. Hunted by the Fallen and guided by Mallory – a disgraced angel with a drinking problem and a whole load of secrets – Alice will learn the truth about her own history… and why the angels want to send her to hell.

What do the Fallen want from her? How does Mallory know so much about her past? What is it the angels are hiding – and can she trust either side?

If you’re familiar with my novel Rebel Against Heaven you might guess that this story is very, very up my street. And you’d be  very, very right.

I preordered this book on the spot after reading that description, waited impatiently for it to arrive, then brought it with me from Nairn, to Inverness, to Stornoway and all the way back beforepassing it on to my dad.

The hierarchy laid out in Lou Morgan’s universe is gloriously detailed, with angels split into choirs under each Archangel with powers related to their choir. As a lady who’s spent far too much time with her nose in books about angelic mythology, the amount of effort put into Blood & Feather’s worldbuilding was great to see.

I had trouble empathising with the leading lady, Alice. She seemed to make a lot of decisions without even hinting at her motivations beforehand, leaving me to follow behind her in the dark without a clue what she was up to. But the other characters more than made up for this. The flawed angels are a world apart from their biblical counterparts, with kind-hearted but battle-hardened alcoholic Mallory, a disgraced angel, being the closest to human while cold, aloof angel Gwyn is his apathetic opposite.  The conversations between Alice and the angels were sharp and witty, keeping the story going at a great pace.

I loved the world created here, and I’m excited to see where else Lou Morgan takes this story in the sequel.

Emma Maree Reviews: Blackbirds

Book: Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

Series: Miriam Black, Book 1

Genre: Fiction/Adult/Urban Fantasy

Miriam Black knows when you will die. She’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, and suicides.

But when Miriam hitches a ride with Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be murdered while he calls her name. Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim.

No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

I absolutely adored this book, and here are a few reasons why:

  • A likeable, vivid lady protagonist with a foul mouth and a brutally honest tongue. If anyone’s a fan of Chuck Wendig’s brilliant TerribleMinds blog and his ‘dubious writing advice’, you’ll feel right at home: they’re different people, but they hold a lot of common ground when it comes to creative swearing.
  • Really well-done present tense and timelines. The story moves between two timelines with short, snappy scenes without getting confusing, and the present tense keeps us right there for every moment of the action.
  • I haven’t read adult fiction in a while, since my main reading focus is YA, and there was something refreshing about the gritty no-holds-barred violence and sex in this story. But it’s not for everyone, of course: I know some of you aren’t a fan of (very gratuitous) gore or profanity, so this might not be the book for you.
  • Balanced, likeable characters. Everyone has a strong visual design (Louis looks like Frankenstein’s monster, and Miriam describes herself as “like something blown in off a dusty highway”) and glimpses of backstory that make even the cruel villain’s sympathetic.
  • That cover! You have to admit, that if some fiiiine, eye-catching artwork.

I’ve embedded the first few pages of the story below, which should give you a good feel for the story:

 

A review copy of the novel was provided by NetGalley/Angry Robot.

Emma Maree Reviews: Smoulder


smoulder coverBook:
Smoulder by Brenna Yovanoff

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Dark Fantasy

Being the youngest daughter of the Devil has never been easy. Daphne’s father has no time for her, her mother no interest, and her status in the upper echelon separates her from the working-class demons that populate Lucifer’s metropolis. When her brother and only confidante goes missing, life in the restrictive city of Pandemonium becomes intolerable. Now, in an attempt to find him, Daphne sets out for Earth – and finds it larger and more chaotic than she imagined: a dazzling expanse of noise, dirt and random violence. Despite her bewilderment, she navigates the mortal world with growing fascination, gaining an ally when she saves a dying boy from her father’s minions. For Truman Flynn, the last year has been one long downward spiral, but when Daphne arrives just in time to save his life, he finds himself unexpectedly glad to have another chance. Together, Daphne and Truman go in search of her brother, braving the hazards of Las Vegas and the perils of first love, even as it becomes increasingly clear that her brother might have had a secret and compelling reason for leaving. Lucifer’s agents aren’t the only creatures on the prowl, and Daphne soon finds herself the target of a plan to rid the world of demons for good. Now she must evade a demon-eating monster, rescue her brother from an angelic zealot, and save the boy she loves from his greatest enemy – himself.

Known in the US as ‘The Space Between’, Smoulder is The Replacement author Brenna Yovanoff’s second novel. I picked it up after reading this great review by my critique partner, and I wasn’t disappointed

In Smoulder, Hell goes up in flames every night when the furnace at the heart of the city opens. Everything is made to withstand the fire: metal gardens filed with iron flowers, museums with blast-proof vault doors to protect Earth items, and the nearly indestructible demons themselves.

The story had me hooked from the very first chapter, where we meet Lilith: bold, defiant, and unapologetically female, the Prologue shows her rejection by Adam and her exit from Eden, to the night-time beach where she first meets Lucifer. Chapter 1 cuts us to the future, where we meet Daphne: one of Lilith’s many daughters, with the metal teeth and Lucifer’s blood in her veins.

Daphne and Truman are chalk and cheese: Daphne’s detached and withdrawn, reacting very little to some of the horrific things she witnesses. Truman is a damaged, self-destructive young guy, but he’s powerfully open in his reactions. I absolutely love how Yovanoff brought this suicidal, alcoholic chain-smoker to life without watering down his issues.

And there are plenty of other interesting characters hiding in Smoulder’s world: a soul-collecting demon with a red mohawk, the suave and charming Lord of the Flies Beelzebub, and the angelic servant and demon killer Dark Dreadful — a monstrous woman built to kill the almost unkillable.

This was a unique, dark read with an expertly crafted world. If you like dark, fast-paced YA be sure to pick it up.

 

Emma Maree Reviews: “The Daughter of Smoke and Bone”

“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.”

This is one of those books that’s hard to sum up in a review because I am ridiculously in love with it. Laini Taylor takes the old story of an angel falling in love with a devil and makes it new and original. It’s not the only cliche she freshens up either – Taylor takes heroines with a secret, angels fighting demons, magic boy-meets-girl, and turns it into a vivid fantasy series.

But that’s not where I got hooked – it was the opening scene that got its claws into me. In a beautifully described, snowy Prague our protagonist Karou wearily shrugs off a man jumping out at her from the shadows. The man is her ex, Kaz, and he’s got a surprise in store to try a win her back… a surprise involving his appearance on stage during her life drawing class.

It’s just hilarious, watching Karou trying to deal with the whole class seeing her ex naked–and the humor doesn’t end there, with Karou returning to the shop of the demon she works for and wryly recalling the ram-headed demon’s last attempt at a sex ed talk.

And this is all before the real story begins:

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself? – Goodreads

Author Laini Taylor

“The Daughter of Smoke and Bone” really shines at dropping hints for you to piece together – by the end of the story, all the little details slot into place and you see how Laini planned everything perfectly from the start.

The book is split into three parts – part 1 lets you fall in love with Karou and her life as an errand girl for a shop full of loveable demons, part 2 introduces a flame-eyed angel Karou can’t keep herself away from, and part 3 is full of surprises and secrets.

It’s coming out this week in the UK, and I cannot recommend it enough. It’s a captivating, stay-up-all-night-to-finish it fantasy story that takes everything cliche and tired and makes it shine. I can’t wait for UK readers to get their hands on this – and I can’t wait for the sequel!

“The Daughter of Smoke and Bone” is released on September 29th!

Thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for providing a copy of the work for this review. This review is based on the ARC, and may not represent the final content.