Tag Archives: urban fantasy

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.

 

 

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Haunted Be the Holidays

Haunted Be the Holidays by Heather Graham
Haunted Be the Holidays (1001 Dark Nights #91; Krewe of Hunters)by

Heather Graham (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

  

This novella addition to author Heather Graham’s Krewe of Hunters series features a disturbed would-be performer that focuses his vengeance on an unknowing rival whose only crime is her relationship to the man the criminal hoped to impress.

Haunted be the Holidays brings back a number of past “Krewe” members and recounts the further adventures of the author’s ever-expanding universe.  While this novella will have significant appeal to those who have followed the series from the beginning, reading of prior books is not strictly necessary to enjoy this one.

Krewe book alums Brodie and Dakota “Cody” are settling into their new life in Washington D.C., where Cody has accepted an active role in the productions of the historic Global Tower Theatre, now owned by Adam Harrison and ran by the spouses and partners of Krewe members.  Unfortunately, a street performer whose mask resembles that of a character in a play Cody is performing in sends Cody’s senses on alert.  What threat could a simple mask hold?  When the first body appears, disguised as a vampire and lying dead in a fake “cemetery” on Halloween, Cody, Brodie, and the rest of the Krewe will have to find out.

Though the basis for the plot includes a twisted failed actor who is seeking revenge for perceived slights, those details are not revealed till near the end of the story.  What precede it are a quest for the identity of the killer, research into the history of the theatre, and a search for any ties to Cody, who is threatened on-stage by a drugged performer.

However, the author merely implies that the killer may be descended from an illegitimate child of an historic pirate that once owned the Globe Tower, without tying that directly into the plot, as would typically happen in a Graham story.  To me, this loose plot point seems like a missed opportunity.  Instead, the killer just “happens” to choose the theatre for his finale, simply because his chosen victim is working there.

Luckily, the story’s climax makes up any weak points in the plot with a grand performance, literally, on center stage that includes a life-and-death struggle with the assistance of four benevolent ghosts.

I give this e-book four stars, and recommend it not just to fans of Graham’s books, but any who are interested in paranormal romantic mystery stories.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Grave Peril

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

Misdirection, a ghost with the power to cause and control nightmares, and attacks from multiple factions in the supernatural world makes this third installment of The Dresden Files the most exciting adventure yet.

Something has stirred up the ghostly denizens of Chicago, leading to frenzied attacks on unsuspecting living residents.  Harry Dresden, modern day wizard, with the help of Michael, one of God’s Knights of the Sword, is working overtime to put out supernatural fires and save innocent lives from assaults the average citizen can’t even see.

When a mysterious entity, dubbed “The Nightmare,” is able to enter homes uninvited and undetected, against all rules of the paranormal, Harry has more suspects than answers.  Something is attacking Harry’s friends, and Harry himself, and the clues lead to a sorcerer named Kravos whom Harry and Co.  defeated months ago.  Only Kravos is locked up by the Chicago PD, or is he?

While all this is happening, Harry is also on the radar of a major player in the vampire court, Bianca, and in trouble with his faerie godmother, Lea, over a bargain he made in a life-or-death situation.  Plus, when the Nightmare attacked him, it stole a large chunk of his magical power and gained the ability to impersonate him.   Harry may be in more trouble than he can handle this time.

I’ve read several of Jim Butcher’s novels and collections in the past, but this is the first time I have read through the series in order.  I was pleasantly surprised to see how the relationships between different characters, especially that of Harry and Susan, have developed, and already am aware of a major upheaval coming for them in future books.  I’m also looking forward to seeing how Harry’s relationships with other characters, friends and enemies, continues to change, as many of the major baddies/allies/rival powers survived to come after Harry again.

Overall, this book is the best of the series to-date, and a good choice for any reader who wants their paranormal detective story with a side of mayhem and romance.  I give Grave Peril five stars and recommend it to anyone looking for a good read.

 

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Fool Moon

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, #2) by

Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

  

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s very own modern day wizard, is back, in a sequel where his enemies outnumber his allies.  Harry is in hot water with the police and officially under scrutiny by FBI Agent Denton due to unfortunate rumors he’s in league with local crime boss Johnny Marcone following the events of the first book in the series, Storm Front.  He’s also on the outs with the women in his life, Lt. Karrin Murphy, his girlfriend, Arcane reporter Susan Rodriguez, and his former apprentice Kim, all because he’s trying too hard to protect them from the chaos that is his life.

A series of grisly murders committed around consecutive full moons lead a suspicious Lt. Murphy to seek Harry’s help; could werewolves be involved?  The case proves more complicated as multiple types of “weres” start coming out of the woodwork, leading to an epic battle inside the headquarters of Police Special Investigations.  With lycanthropes, loup-garou, hexenwulfen, and true werewolves running around Chicago, Harry has his hands full.

As the body count rises, Harry is not sure who’s bad, who’s good, who’s innocent, and if the killings are the result of “animal” instincts, or if someone is using the cursed as a smoke screen for pre-mediated murder.

Will he continue to blame himself for those who are injured or killed simply by being close to him, or will he learn to trust and accept help from his friends?   Ultimately, Harry finds himself in a battle against his own darkest instincts, with the lives of his friends, and the true nature of humanity at stake.

I read a couple of Jim Butcher’s books last year after being introduced to the series in a book club, and decided I enjoyed them enough to read the entire series in order.  Fool Moon is one of the best I’ve read to date, and I award it five stars, with recommendations to anyone who enjoys urban fantasy, paranormal stories, and crime dramas with a side of romance.