Tag Archives: urban fantasy

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Dead Until Dark

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse, #1) by Charlaine Harris (Goodreads Author)
Amy Caudill‘s review

This first novel in the Southern Vampire Series by author Charlaine Harris features an alternate universe where vampires knowingly walk among ordinary humans.  As a matter of fact, they are protected by laws regarding discrimination, murder, and illegal harvesting of their blood, which has pharmaceutical properties.

In this universe, Sookie Stackhouse is a waitress at a small-town Louisiana bar and has a secret of her own; she is a telepath who considers herself “disabled” for her inability to control her unwanted talent.  Naturally, she is attracted to the first vampire she meets, a homeboy-newly returned to native lands named Bill Compton, and one she cannot read like a book. 

This unlikely pair must navigate romance, prejudice, and serial murder amid of setting of changing landscapes and values in an unusual urban fantasy setting.

Who is actually killing the young women, all “fang-bangers,” girls who enjoy being bitten by vampires?  When Sookie’s grandmother becomes an unwitting target, the investigation is derailed momentarily, but the police seem determined to pin the crimes on Sookie’s brother.  Meanwhile, Sookie has problems of her own as the vampire hierarchy that Bill must answer to discover her secret gift and want to exploit her talent.

I’ve read a book in another of the author’s series previously, the Aurora Teagarden books, but I had never actually picked up one of this series, which was the basis for the TV series True Blood, until now.  I found the book to be both exciting, with plenty of action, and humorous, thanks to touches such as the “reveal” of Sookie’s boss at the bar as a shapeshifter, and the addition of the dimwitted vampire “Bubba,” a former celebrity whose change into a vampire went very wrong.

With a murderer on the loose, romance, rivalry, and a mafia-style subplot featuring the vampire organization, this book turns cozy paranormal mysteries on its head.  I award Dead Until Dark five stars and plan to read more of the series in the future.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Skin Game

Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15) by Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
Amy Caudill‘s review

This latest addition to the Dresden Files Series shows Harry dealing with the consequences of the last book.  Harry has been marooned on Demonreach Island with a parasite in his head, one that will supposedly kill him without the shielding provided by the guardian spirit of the island.  He’s been isolated from his friends and family for the better part of a year, leaving them to deal with the consequences of a world in chaos after the supernatural community takes advantage of the void left by the destruction of the Vampires of the Red Court, literally at Harry’s hand.

Naturally, when Mab comes to call, she immediately orders him off the island, her only concession to Harry’s survival an earring that prevents the parasite from incapacitating him, at least for the next three days.  After that, unless Harry has successfully completed his assigned mission, is the probable end of Harry’s life.

And what does Mab want Harry to do?  Just join forces with a group of old enemies on a suicide mission into Hades’ domain, yes that Hades, to pull off a daring theft from the Underworld.  Harry is forced to work with the Knights of the Blackened Denarius, those fallen angels who have survived on greed and evil, with only Karrin and later Michael Carpenter, the former Knight of the Cross, on his side, as they break into an impenetrable stronghold to steal the Holy Grail.

This latest book is as exciting as a heist movie, but carries much higher stakes than a mountain of treasure-for inside Hades’ treasure trove are the weapons Mab needs to fight the enemy Outsiders, nightmarish creatures from another dimension.  Who will end up on which side of the conflict?  Who will betray the party, and who will be redeemed in the end?

While several elements of this novel remind me of Ocean’s Eleven and other similar stories, the style and the characters are clearly Butcher’s own, with villains and situations that dovetail nicely into the Dresden chronology.  Some have said the Harry Dresden stories have lost some of their magic over time, but I find the direction the author has taken has given new life to his ever-expanding universe. 

I have only a couple more books to read in the series (for now) and will be sorry to see its end.  Still, I’m sure there are a lot more excitement and world-changing moments to look forward to in the next volume, as soon as I get my hands on a copy.  I award this novel five stars, and recommend it to fans of paranormal stories, epic adventure, and romantic urban fantasy.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Cold Days

Cold Days by Jim Butcher

Cold Days (The Dresden Files, #14) by Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
Amy Caudill‘s review

Having survived his own murder and then a trip through the afterlife (or a reasonable facsimile,) Harry now is somewhat ready to face his sworn duty to the Queen of Winter, Mab. 

At least, he better be.  After all, it appears the whole world is going crazy.  There is a conspiracy among the fae, and Harry will have enough trouble sorting out exactly who is on which side.  He also has to kill Mab’s daughter, the Winter Lady, because either Mab or Maeve, or both are crazy, and may be under the mind control of the Outsiders.  Not to mention, none of his friends or family know he’s actually alive.  It’s just another day in Chicago for Harry Dresden.

In a way, this book feels like it’s tying up loose ends of the series, though I know there are already three more books written to date.  Harry has a chance to revisit places he’s been and fought before, as well as come to terms with and forge new relationships with both old allies and adversaries.  He seems to finally be coming into his maturity, and is just realizing, with the help of some very austere advisors just exactly how much power he has at his disposal thanks to events of previous novels.

Harry is a wizard, the New Winter Knight, and now the Warden of an island that officially doesn’t exist but holds a terrifying secret that forces from outside the universe are scrambling to unleash.  He even edges closer to starting a romance with Karrin.  Not bad for his first day on the job as the servant of a Queen the Sidhe.

As always I greatly enjoyed Butcher’s trademark style: his protagonist is as well known for his wisecracks as his courage, heroism, and enormous power.  While Harry may finally be growing up from the immature lone wolf he was in the beginning of the series, the stories remain fresh as the author provides new plots, new situations, and new villains to torture him with. 

I award Cold Days five stars, and am sad I am actually catching up to the end of the series.  I recommend this book to fans of urban fantasy, paranormal adventure, and epic universes that would satisfy both science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Ghost Story

Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

Ghost Story (The Dresden Files, #13) by Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
Amy Caudill‘s review

At the end of the last book, Changes, in The Dresden Files series, Harry Dresden was shot and then fell into Lake Michigan; so he’s dead now, right?  Except his idea of the afterlife never included being shown into a police station in the world” in-between” and meeting Karrin Murphy’s late father, a former Chicago cop. 

Jack Murphy delivers some surprising news: Harry’s stuck in between life and death because some unnamed semi-divine being interfered with his death, three of his friends are in mortal danger if he doesn’t find a way to help them, and he needs to identify his killer if he wants to be able to move on.  And oh, magic doesn’t work the same way here, so it looks like wizard/private investigator Harry Dresden is going to have to solve this case without his powers, without his body, and without being able to communicate with almost everyone he knows.

Fortunately, Harry knows or rather knew, an ectomancer, a person with latent magical ability who can see and talk with ghosts.  Unfortunately, Mortimer Lindquist has a negative impression of Harry because of the danger the late wizard brought into his life while he was still alive.  Persuading Mort to help is hard.  What is even harder is convincing his friends that Harry is actually his own spirit and not a supernatural shapeshifter wearing his face (it’s happened before in this universe.)

Just when Harry has most of them believing, Mort is kidnapped by the evil spirit of a sorceress Harry defeated years before and who wants to use Mort as a stepping stone to acquire a new body for herself.  Harry will not all of his friends and allies, living and dead, to prevent the sorceress from escaping death to rein havoc on the world.

It is interesting to note how author Jim Butcher writes Harry’s change in perspective.  Now that he’s dead, he has time to reflect on his life; his choices, his achievements, and his failures.  They say hindsight is twenty-twenty, but what can Harry do about his past now that he’s dead?  Or is he really?  The other spirits say that Harry is different, he’s dead but not, but exactly what is going on there is a secret the author keeps until the very last chapter, which ingeniously draws other past characters and situations from the larger universe in to set the course for the rest of the series, or at least the next book.

This thirteenth book in the series by author Jim Butcher is full of surprises.  While there is plenty of action, much of the story revolves around solving the mystery at the end of the last book as well as dealing with the consequences of Harry’s absence from being Chicago’s protector from supernatural incursions.  This is one book where I feel the reader will really miss a lot of key points if this is there first venture into this universe.  Still, the story is solid and keeps the reader in suspense and guessing outcomes until the very end, so I give it 4.5 stars and would recommend it, and the series to readers of paranormal and urban fantasy books.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Changes

Changes by Jim Butcher

Changes (The Dresden Files, #12) by Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
Amy Caudill‘s review

This explosive twelfth book in The Dresden Files series begins as Harry’s lost love, Susan, returns from self-exile to deliver the news that first, Harry’s a father, and second, that the daughter they had together has been kidnapped.

While I have read this particular volume in the past, I have been faithfully going through the series in order this year, and so I picked up a number of points and details that would have been lost on me before.

As readers of the series would know, the former reporter for the tabloid Midwestern Arcane was caught and turned into a half vampire years earlier when following Harry into a dangerous situation.  After, she left Chicago, and Harry, to join a South American group of individuals, like herself, who managed to resist the bloodlust that would complete their transformations into full vampires.

Before Susan and Harry can attempt to sort through their issues, they have to locate their daughter, Maggie, who has been taken by the Red Court vampires, to be used as a human sacrifice in a blood ritual that could have devastating consequences.  A timely visit from Harry’s godmother, a faery of the Winter Court, grants Harry a piece of his mother’s legacy just in time to help locate Maggie and provide a means of travelling across continents in a very short time.

When the White Council appears not ready to intervene, desperation leads Harry to seek assistance from the least likely of allies; Johnnie Marcone, and Queen Mab of Winter included.

In a series replete with epic climatic battles, this book stands out because the stakes, the assembled cast, and the overwhelming odds still fail to prepare the reader for the surprising revelations in this ultimate battle of good vs. evil in Butcher’s universe.  Following the conclusion with a stunning last-page murder is almost over the top and makes this reader wonder why? How? Who? And when can I get a copy of the next book in the series?

I would recommend this book to any reader of paranormal, urban and fantasy stories, as well as those who enjoy action and epic stories.  While reading prior books in the series is not necessary for enjoyment, there are a number of details the casual reader may overlook, such as the long-standing relationships Harry has with a number of recurring characters and the lore Butcher has specifically developed for this vast universe. I award this latest effort five stars and plan to read the rest of the series, including books #16 and 17 that were just released, as soon as I have time.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Shadowed Souls

Shadowed Souls by Jim Butcher

Shadowed Souls by Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author) (Editor), Kerrie L. Hughes (Goodreads Author) (Editor)
Amy Caudill‘s review

I picked up this anthology of short stories for some “lighter” reading after having concentrated on a number of 500 page plus novels recently.  I appreciate the theme the collection contained; i.e. supernatural “monsters” that are not evil, or necessarily seeking to do bad things, but only trying to live their lives. 

While the anthology had an impressive list of contributing authors that have won awards and sold numerous books, the stories themselves felt like a mixed bag to me.  Some I really liked and enjoyed; others not so much.

While all the stories were very well written, some appealed to me more than others.  As a writer myself, I understand the challenge in developing characters into living, breathing entities for a reader’s imagination in only a limited number of pages, as well as creating an entire plot from introduction to climax.

One of the better stories in my opinion is by one of the editors, Jim Butcher, called “Cold Case,” and is a story from late in the Dresden Files series featuring a pair of the minor characters, Molly and Warden Ramirez, who rarely get much individual attention on the page.  Unfortunately, I had already read this particular short story in a different collection of Butcher’s, but it is a very good one and I didn’t mind reading it again.

Among the remaining stories are several that are humorous, including one by Seanan McGuire called “Sleepover” that includes a very different viewpoint of a succubus trying to live an ordinary life, which is interrupted by a group of human nerds who kidnap her in an attempt to force her to help rescue one’s kid sister from a bogeyman.

One of my other favorites from the anthology is Kevin J. Anderson’s “Eye of Newt” which features one of his series regulars, named Dan Shamble, who is a zombie and a private investigator.  Dan has to help his client, a talking newt, recover a stolen eye from an improbable group of suspects.

The remainder of the stories included contained a number of unlikely heros/monsters ranging from a woman who carries the soul of her dead twin sister to a huntress who has been raised from the dead to lead another member of her organization out of literal hell.

For readers who enjoy a plethora of paranormal characters, or who are looking to sample fare from their old or new favorite author, this collection offers a number of possibilities in a book that can be read one short story at a time, or collectively in a few short hours.  I give it three stars, and recommend it to any fan of the paranormal genre-romance, detective or urban fantasy.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Turn Coat

Turn Coat by Jim Butcher

Turn Coat (The Dresden Files, #11) by Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
Amy Caudill‘s review

Harry Dresden, wizard/private investigator of Chicago, has faced a lot in the last few years.  He’s helped stop warlocks, necromancers, and a host of creatures from Faerie from destroying the world, multiple times.  He’s fought, and trained, other wizards in a war against the Red Court of Vampires.  He should have a little credibility with the White Council of Wizards, right? 

The one member of the Wardens (police force) of the White Council who has always held a grudge against Harry shows up on his doorstep, wounded and hunted, accused of murder and treason.  Will Harry risk everything he’s worked for, his friends and family, to prove Morgan is innocent?  And what will be the price Harry has to pay?

Meanwhile, a large Native American shapeshifter supernatural being is hunting Harry and Morgan, and will stop at nothing to get what he wants, including taking Harry’s brother hostage.  How does the shapeshifter tie in with the traitor, or traitors inside the Council, and who are their allies, wizard, vampire or otherworldly being? 

Harry sees only one choice-call out all the players, to one spot, on one night, in a battle royal for the ages. 

This eleventh book of the series features a Harry that is showing signs of character growth.  He’s beginning to plan his responses instead of just rushing into danger impulsively.  He actually devises his next several steps ahead in order to trip up the traitor/traitors in a way that will provide proof to the Council of what is really going on under their noses, not that he shares that information with the reader until after the fact. 

While there are those who still do not trust him, he’s managed to impress several members of the High Council, including Listens-to-Wind, who offers to mentor him in higher magic’s. His future looks bright, at the same time his world is still in turmoil.

The White Council officially denies the existence of the Black Council, despite the evidence that their counter is working to undermine them.  Thomas, in recovering from the torture the skin walker did to him, has “fallen off the wagon” and returned to feeding on the sexual energy of humans.  And now Harry, with a select few believers, is planning their own little group to investigate the conspiracy and risk being labelled traitors themselves.  Of course, all this is just par for the course for Harry Dresden.

This book is has a different feel to some of the earlier books of the series.  No longer is Harry involved in relatively small plots against a few people or the citizens of Chicago, but the whole world is at stake.  Meanwhile, a more grown up Harry still shows the sarcasm, humor, and concern for others that drew me in to the books in the first place, backed up by his constant need to deal with paranormal forces that exist unseen and unknown in the middle of a modern day city.

I award this book 4.5 stars, for shear energy and plot depth, as well as character development.  The only thing I found at fault was the fate of several members of Harry’s friends and family, who were sacrificed as the stakes become ever higher in the conflicts erupting in the author’s universe.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : white knight

White Night (The Dresden Files, Book 9) by [Jim Butcher]


white knight

by Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
Amy Caudill‘s reviewApr 28, 2020

When the magical inhabitants of Chicago begin dying under mysterious circumstances, Harry Dresden, wizard and warden of the White Council, uncovers links that may prove the deaths are in fact murders and not the suicides under which they are disguised.  At the same time, a shadowy figure is masquerading as a warden to make the magical community believe Harry may be the culprit.  Harry will have to join forces with an old flame, his strangely reluctant brother, a fellow warden Carlos Ramirez, and some old enemies to clear his name and stop the violence.

This latest volume in The Dresden Files features a large group of returning supporting characters from Jim Butcher’s Dresden universe.  We see Molly, the young warlock Harry took as his apprentice in Proven Guilty to save her life, struggle within the confines of her training and desire to prove herself as a magic wielder and adult.  We see Karrin Murphy, who was chastised and demoted within the Chicago P.D. for assisting Harry but still determined to fight supernatural forces at his side. 

There is a very humorous scene where Johnny Marcone, the mafia boss of Chicago, attempts to “handle” Harry when Dresden pays a visit to one of Marcone’s establishments.  There is also a later scene between Dresden and Harry that I believe sets up nicely some foreshadowing to the events revealed in the trailer for the upcoming release of Peace Talks, due out in July.

Harry, by this point in the series, has grown and evolved from where he began in the first book, Storm Front.  He is less impulsive, more likely to plan, and more willing to accept help from others, even those reluctant to offer help.  The amount of aid he is able to command proves crucial in the pivotal scene where he returns to the stronghold of the White Court vampires and faces not only the current enemies, but also the larger force behind the conspiracy, in an epic battle that involves vampires of multiple factions, ghouls, wizards, mercenaries, and a trip into the Nevernever.

This latest book by author Jim Butcher is a multi-level story that not only contains an absorbing mystery for Dresden to solve, but also details major events happening around the larger universe, with political, ethical, and military implications for the wizarding society that lies unseen by most of humanity.  The sense of foreboding that Butcher gives the reader builds an almost irresistible suspense for the next works in the series.

I give this book five stars, and can’t wait to get my hands on the next novel soon.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Proven Guilty

Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher
Proven Guilty (The Dresden Files, #8) by

Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

Where do you cross a line between evil deeds and good intentions?  The eighth installment in the Dresden Files series has Harry asking just this question as, in carrying out his duties as a Warden of the White Council of Wizards, he must report the daughter of a friend for working forbidden magic.

A practitioner of black magic has summoned a number of beings from the faerie realm that feed on fear, and take the forms of monsters highlighted in a local horror-movie “con.”  Only instead of being fictional like the on-screen characters, these “fetches” of faerie land actually kill, and keep killing, until Harry can locate the summoner who brought them into Chicago and stop them.

Young Molly Carpenter, (the oldest child of Harry’s friend and occasional comrade-in-arms, Michael, one of the Knights of the Cross) is involved in the “con,” and with several of the victims, but until he unwittingly turns the monsters against her, Harry is unaware of her true connection to events.  By then, she’s already been taken captive to the Nevernever, and the strangest group of questers imaginable must follow.

Harry is joined by SI Detective Karin Murphy; his half-brother, the vampire succubus Thomas; a armor-wearing Charity Carpenter, who has issues of her own with Harry and magic in general; and is aided by the Summer Lady and her Knight as the company ventures into the heart of Winter, the stronghold of Queen Mab.  Will they be able to find Molly, and save her from a fate worse than death?  Will they even survive the quest?

And should they return successfully, will Harry have to see Molly put to death by the White Council for breaking one of the laws of magic?

Jim Butcher just seems to keep getting better and better in this series.  The “universe” he has built keeps expanding; with characters, subplots, and major storylines continually building on each other and spiraling outward with each successive novel.  Harry Dresden has come a long way as a protagonist, from a lone wolf wizard to a friend, brother, comrade, and mentor to a whole family of characters.

While each book can be read as a stand-alone, to really understand the background I recommend reading the entirety from beginning to end, as I’m working my way through currently, anticipating the release of the sixteenth book, Peace Talks, in July of this year.  I award Proven Guilty five stars and recommend it to readers interested in paranormal and urban fantasy series, as well as readers of paranormal detective stories.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Blood Rites

Blood Rites by Jim Butcher
Blood Rites (The Dresden Files, #6) by

Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

  

This latest adventure involving Chicago’s only consulting wizard begins with a typically unexpected situation- Harry is running from a winged monkey throwing flaming excrement at him while carrying a box of puppies- and this is only the opening scene.

Harry Dresden is quickly assisted by Thomas, a White Court energy vampire who wants Harry to do him a favor in return.  Naturally, Harry’s protective nature leads him to agreeing, and soon is on his way to meet Arturo Genosa, an erotic film producer who is under a curse that is killing all the women around him.

The source of this malocchio “evil eye” is elusive; all Harry really knows is that it is driven by vengeful hatred, and there are plenty of suspects surrounding the strangely affable porn maker.

Of course, Harry has more than one scary situation to deal with- a war that he accidentally started with the vampires of the Red Court has attracted the attention of a powerful Black Court vampire who is also a wizard, and who has it in for Harry.  Harry is forced to form an assault squad, consisting of himself, Lieutenant Murphy, a mercenary named Kincaid, and his old mentor Ebenezar McCoy to attempt to take out the Black Court vampires and their thralls before the citizens of Chicago become a feast for the most dangerous of the undead.

All the while, the conspirators who created the curse on Genosa are waiting in the wings, to unleash their final assault on Harry and his newly-discovered half-brother, as revenge against Harry’s mother, who died giving birth to Harry.  If they all survive, Harry will have something he’s only dreamed about his entire life, an actual family.

Author Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series is well-known for its deep plots, outrageous battles, and tantalizing glimpse into the paranormal, but readers can also be delighted in the growth of the characters as the series progresses.  Having been previously introduced to the series by means of an anthology, I am reading through the novels in order and am continuously amazed how much detail and thought are placed into the development and continuation of plot and character development as the series ensues.

Harry Dresden, a wizard with enormous power and potential, is showed as a flawed individual with emotional issues, insecurities, and doubts- in short, a human being that the reader can sympathize with while also cheering him on as he battles the supernatural and struggles with day-to-day living.

In my opinion, The Dresden Files keeps getting better and I award Blood Rites a well-earned five stars.