Tag Archives: Mercedes Lackey

Must Read Urban Fantasy

I was sitting at my laptop the other day browsing through books to read, deciding what I wanted to reread when I realized that more and more these days I find myself leaning more towards urban fantasy over any other genre. I don’t know what it is about the genre that makes me love it so much, it can be difficult to find a decent book or series to read, and most seem to be erotica posing as fantasy. That got me wondering just what urban fantasy series there are out there that are fun to read, without being overly full of gratuitous sex and violence.

These are the top three or four authors and series I could think of who do an amazing job with the genre, and as I’m always looking for something else to read I would appreciate any other suggestions people may have for me.

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher:

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Harry Dresden — Wizard Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.”

His name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden–conjure by it at your own risk. Harry is not just the only publicly practicing wizard in Chicago (look him up, he’s in the yellow pages), he’s also a licensed private eye, and an occasional consultant with the CPD. When the monsters decide it’s time to come out and play, it’s Harry Dresden who stands between them and the people of the city.

While I have heard people claim its rough getting through the first few books in the series, I can honestly say I never had any such problem. After I stumbled across these books while looking for something else at my local used book store, I burned through all 8 books that were available at the time in a matter of weeks, and was impatiently waiting for the next book in the series soon after. To me the Dresden Files has everything that’s needed for a great urban fantasy series.

First there are the characters. Harry Dresden is the wise-ass wizard who doesn’t know when to shut up or stand down. Time and time again he gets kicked in the teeth, but gets right back up again to face down the big bad monster threatening his beloved Chicago. Murphy is the mandatory tough as nails cop who has stumbled across the secret world that Harry lives in and is smart enough to know she can’t face it all on her own.

There are entire courts of vampires secretly trying to rule or destroy the world, a hidden world of demons and fae who live by morals and laws most mortals would struggle to understand, and a plot that links each book so subtly that you can only see the edges of it in the beginning of the series.

Unfortunately for me the Dresden Files has made it difficult for me to enjoy and other urban fantasy series as much as I probably would have if I had read it first.

The Mercy Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs:

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“I was going to fight vampires, and my name wasn’t Buffy–I was so screwed.”

I struggled for years after finding the Dresden Files to find another book or series in the sub genre that didn’t pale in comparison, or feel like a cheap knock off to me. For me Moon Called by Patricia Briggs was that book and series. While most of the preternatural world can trace its origins back to Europe, shifters are rooted firmly in Native American myths and legends. As such they don’t always follow the same ancient rules and laws that govern the rest of the preternatural world.

Mercy Thompson is a Shifter who can take the form of a coyote at will. This series follows Mercy as she struggles to survive in a world of territorial and powerful werewolves, vampires and fae. All while attempting to keep her maintain her garage and keep her job as a mechanic.

For me the best part of this series is the world and culture that Briggs has built up around the werewolves. It’s so well thought out that it would be easy for me to believe that such a world is hiding in the shadows of society, waiting for the perfect time to come out to the public. Anyone who is a fan of vampire or werewolf fiction would absolutely love these books. Briggs even manages to balance the romance with the rest of the story, which I’ve noticed that not many urban fantasy authors can do.

The Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews:

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“What kind of woman greets the Beast Lord with ‘here, kitty, kitty’?”

With the Kate Daniels series Ilona takes all the greatest trope of urban fantasy–the secret hidden world of magic, vampires, and shape shifters and completely throws it out of the window. Instead we get an alternate version of Atlanta where magic and technology come in waves, while one is active and working the other is not. During a magic wave you may see a banshee screaming from a telephone pole out in front of your house or a magical war being fought in downtown Atlanta, but you won’t have use of telephones, television or cars. When the technology is up you may not have access to your magic, but you can you’ll have electricity and and the telephones will work again.

In this bizarre alternate Atlanta most of the world is controlled or protected by various guilds and organizations. Kate Daniels works for the Mercenaries Guild, when the magic suddenly comes up and you have a giant fire-breathing lizard loose in your neighborhood, Kate Daniels is going to be the one who responds (For a reasonable fee!).

This is another series where for me the deciding factor was the amount of thought and detail put into the various preternatural groups that exist in the world. This time its not just werewolves who hide among us, but werebears, wererats, and any other type of lycanthrope you can think of. Vampires are mindless creatures being controlled by the People, a group of power hungry necromancers who mentally control the dead.

The only thing I didn’t really realize until I was through the majority of the first book is that this is mostly paranormal romance. By the time I realized that fact though it was too late to go back, I was already hooked, and I am more than glad for it. To me the Kate Daniels series is that anyone of the genre must read!

Honorable Mention: Mercedes Lackey

I was going to put Mercedes Lackey’s urban fantasy books on this list, but I quickly remembered she has four different series in the genre. The great thing about her four different series to me is that they all exist in a shared universe that spans hundreds if not thousands of years, and there are cameos from the same characters across all the various books set in her world.

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Best Books of 2014

As 2014 draws to a close, it seemed fitting to look back over the past year and share our favourite reads. There are some duplicates, and there are quite a few we didn’t review… but read on, and share your thoughts!

Meagan’s (ARamone):

What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, by Randall Munroe

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What If? is a good read for scientifically-minded and just plain curious people alike. With often high-end science being explained in a down-to-earth, accessible way, this book is going to make you laugh while also making you think.

Dragons at Crumbling Castle, by Terry Pratchett

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A collection of Pratchett’s earliest work, written and published in his teenaged years, Dragons at Crumbling Castle gives us a look into the mind of a young but already skilled author. A true delight for all Pratchett fans, and a must-have for fans of his work.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things, by Patrick Rothfuss

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This book focuses on Auri, one of the most relatable characters in The Kingkiller Chronicles, and takes us through a typical week of hers. Rothfuss’ writing makes her odd logic and justifications seem perfectly normal, making this book a delightful read for any fan of the books.

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No True Way by Mercedes Lackey : Review

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In March 1987, Mercedes Lackey, a young author from Oklahoma, published her first novel, Arrows of the Queen. No one could have envisioned that this modest book about a magical land called Valdemar would be the beginning of a fantasy masterwork series that would span decades and include more than two dozen titles.

Now the voices of other authors add their own special touches to the ancient land where Heralds “Chosen” from all walks of life by magical horse-like Companions patrol their ancient kingdom, dispensing justice, facing adversaries, and protecting their monarch and country from whatever threatens. Trained rigorously by the Herald’s Collegium, these special protectors each have extraordinary Gifts: Mindspeaking, FarSeeing, FarSpeaking, Empathy, Firestarting and ForeSeeing, and are bonded for life with their mysterious Companions. Travel with these astouding adventurerers in sixteen original stories.

I don’t know if I would be the voracious reader I am today, if not for the librarian at my local library, who handed me a copy of Arrows of the Queen back in the fifth grade. So it should be no surprise that I pick up every book by Mercedes Lackey that comes out each year, including the anthologies she edits, despite the fact I’m not a fan of anthologies in general.

While I haven’t read anything by the majority of the authors in One True Way, Lackey proves yet again that she knows just how to pick the perfect authors to help flesh out her world. The best part of these anthologies is the fact that we often get a look into locations or gifts on Velgarth that we don’t get to see in the main series.

I’m never entirely sure how to review the few anthologies that I do read, this time I figured I will just review each story as I read it and see how that goes. I will do my best to keep spoilers out of each short stories and hope no one really notices how many time I say something is my favorite story in the anthology.

 

The Whitest Lie by Stephanie D. Shaver:

The Whitest Lie tells the story of Wil, who attempts to decrypt a series of documents left behind by his late wife using his odd version of Foresight. This short story is one of my favorites for two reasons. First we get a look at a version of Foresight we’ve seen before, instead of just seeing confusing flashes of the future, Wil can focus and get glimpses of all points in time, past present and future. Secondly we get a look at what happens in Haven almost directly after Arrows Fall. It was interesting to get an idea of the events that lead up to Winds of Fate.

Old Loom, New Tapestry by Dayle A. Dermatis:

While she raised four children of her own who grew up to be Chosen, Lady Syrriah Trayne never expected to be chosen herself, or to find herself with an extremely powerful gift of Empathy. That is often the case with Heralds though, it is those who least it expect it who find themselves living the life. This story was a great example of the one belief that keeps Valdemar running strong. A Companions choice is never wrong and they are always chosen for a purpose. The events of Old Loom, New Tapestry show that although she came to it late in life, Syrriah was always destined to be a Herald.

The Barest Gift by Brenda Cooper:

In most of Mercedes Lackeys Valdemar books it is the Heralds with the powerful gifts who end up saving the day. It is not always the biggest most powerful gifts are needed though. Sometimes it is the smallest most inconsequential gifts that are needed the most. Just as it is not always the Herald who is there to save the day, but the innkeepers daughter who is there to save the Herald. It is stories like The Barest Gift that make me wish we got to see the world outside of Haven and the Heralds a bit more often than we get to.

Consequences Unforeseen by Elizabeth A. Vaughan:

This story was interesting in that it shows an aspect of Valdemar that we rarely see in the books. What happens in the kingdom after one of its many wars, and what life is like out in a country estate. Surprisingly this turned out to be one of my favorite stories in the anthology, and I really hope it gets continue in next years anthology.

Written in the Wind by Jennifer Brozek:

Here we get a good explanation of why even after the end of Storm Breaking it is still rare to find a Herald Mage. This was one of the saddest stories I’ve ever read, I feel like I will be recovering from it days from now. I found it to be one of the more moving and better written stories in the anthology. I really hope Mercedes Lackey moves out of Valdemar’s past and back into its future one day.

Nwah by Ron Collins:

I found this story as it was a bit odd, being told from the point of view of one of the Kyree. Although we get glimpses of the Kyree throughout the series, this is the first time I’ve truly understood just what it means to bond to one of the Kyree. It is always interesting to see the Velgarth through the eyes of one of its non human inhabitants. From Nwah we get a fairly good idea just what the Kyree are possible of when their lives are in danger.

Spun Magic by Kristin Schwengel:

Stardance is one of the fabled Tayledras, more commonly known to the rest of the world as the Hawk Brothers, and this is the story of her mastery test. While I enjoyed this story (As I’m sure I will every story in this anthology) and thought it was well written, it was not one of my favorite stories; I feel like stories of the Tayledras dealing with the after effects of the Mage Storms have been overdone.

Weavings by Diana L. Paxson:

This is another story that I enjoyed quite a bit, it has everything I love about a story set in this world. There is a Herald and his Companion, strange and dangerous creatures coming out of the Pelagir to attack people, and interesting an interesting variation on a known Gift. It’s nice to see a series that has been going strong for 28 years now still has some interesting tricks up its sleeve!

A Wake of Vultures by Elisabeth Waters:

Here we get another really detailed look at one of the minor gifts only briefly touched upon in the main books. Animal Mindspeech. A fascinating look at exactly what it is an what you can do with it, as well as a look into one of the religions only briefly mentioned in the books.

 Maiden’s Hope by Michele Lang:

This one is little slice of story about what happens around the Forest of Shadows and Errolds Grove after the events of Owlknight. While there are no appearances by any old friends there are references to them an the healing sanctuary at K’Vala Vale. After finishing it I find myself really wishing we knew exactly what happens to Darian and Keisha,

Ex Libris by Fiona Patton:

I didn’t think there would be horror stories in this anthology, but to me that is exactly what this story is. Books are disappearing one by one from an elderly scholars personal library and Sergeant Hektor Dann, of the Haven City Watch, is determined to find out who and why. Ex Libris is an interesting look into the life and work of the City Watch.

A Dream Reborn by Dylan Birtolo:

I was a bit uncertain about this story at first, but it grew on me rather quickly. It is interesting to get glimpses at the future of Valdemar in a good portion of these short stories. This story is a good reminder that not every hero is a Herald.

Forget Me Never by Cedric Johnson:

The discovery of never before seen gifts, or gifts that manifest themselves in odd ways seems to be a common theme in the majority of these short stories. Forget Me Never is a good example of this, as they don’t even have a name for the gift revealed in it yet. Though, I feel like Mag’s has this same gift in some small way.

Beyond the Fires by Louisa Swann:

Swann’s story gives us a look into the life of a Tedrel camp slave, and it is a horrible life to live. The only thing that kept me going through the story was the fact that I already knew the outcome of the Tedrel Wars.

A Brand from the Burning by Rosemary Edgehill and Rebecca Fox:

This story was fun mainly because it gives us a look into the early life of an important character in the history of both Valdemar and Karse. At this point in her life Solaris is nothing but a young orphan girl with no idea what future has in store for her. While she may be young and naive in some ways, you get the occasional glimpse of just who, and what, she will one day be.

Vixen by Mercedes Lackey:

While every story in this anthology really expands the world of Velgarth and the country of Valemar, it is no surprise to me that Mercedes Lackey’s story is my favorite of the lot. First, it’s the only story about a real healer in the anthology, and it’s always nice to learn some more about an ability or gift that’s not explained all that well throughout the books. Then there is the fact that it’s the first new story I can think of featuring Vanyel Demonsbane since the end of the Magic’s Price trilogy. Vanyel is a fascinating character like always, and you get a good idea once again why he quickly gains the nickname Magic’s Pride from his fellow Heralds. Vixen is a sharp tongued healer with no time for bullies or fools, and together they make a great team as they face down massive lizards an spiders.

 

I think anyone who is a fan of Mercedes Lackey should go out right now and buy this anthology, there are a lot of great stories, and the return of many old faces. As for anyone who hasn’t read any of her books should pick up a copy of Arrows of the Queen at the first possible chance, they won’t regret it!


Closer to Home by Mercedes Lackey : Review

CloserMags was once an enslaved orphan living a harsh life in the mines, until the King’s Own Herald discovered his talent and trained him as a spyt. Now a Herald in his own right, at the newly established Heralds’ Collegium, Mags has found a supportive family, including his Companion Dallen.

Although normally a Herald in his first year of Whites would be sent off on circuit, Mags is needed close to home for his abilities as a spy and his powerful Mindspeech gift. There is a  secret, treacherous plot within the royal court to destroy the Heralds. The situation becomes dire after the life of Mags’ mentor, King’s Own Nikolas, is imperiled. His daughter Amily is chosen as the new King’s Own, a complicated and dangerous job that is made more so by this perilous time. Can Mags and Amily save the court, the Heralds, and the Collegium itself?

Whenever I pick up one of Mercedes Lackeys new Heralds of Valdemar books I momentarily find myself back at the Spring Valley Library in Las Vegas back before I was the reader I am today. I always catch myself wondering if I would still have this almost all consuming love of fantasy if the librarian there hadn’t handed me my first copy of Arrows of the Queen. There was something about the series that really grabbed my attention and refused to let it go, and to this day there is nothing I look forward to more than the next Mercedes Lackey book release. The Heralds of Valdemar books set the standard by which I have judged every other author and book that I have in the last fourteen years.

While my love of these books is very clear, It is not too difficult to explain the beginning of almost any of Misty’s Valdemar books, they tend to all follow a similar format to start out with. You take an abused or socially stunted outcast and have them Chosen by one of the magical Companions of Valdemar and follow them through their early days of schooling where they quickly discover a dangerous plot that they are perfectly suited to solve. Take that basic format and have it span thirty-four novels, seven anthologies and over two thousand years of history and you get something that is both complex and amazing to read.

Closer to Home is the first book set in Valdemar to really change up that format and I have to say I found it to be better than any other book in the series. Mag’s is already a Herald, we have already had five book describing his years as a trainee and his quest to find out the truth behind his own past. Now he returns to Haven to take up his job as a Herald spy, an almost duplicitous position that I am still a little surprised to find among the Heralds, an organization who by their very nature are honest and open. Yet in this book we get to see Mag’s hide the truth of what he does from his friends and the nobles of Valdemar while he attempts to ferret out plots against the kingdom.

When I look back at Arrows of the Queen and realize that if it were to release today it would probably be classified as YA, it’s a little shocking to see how dark and mature Closer to Home is in comparison. Like any other book or author I enjoy reading, I found myself up till way past my bed time unable to stop reading until I knew just how the story was going to end. Unlike most books or authors I read, the moment I woke up I picked up the book and started it all over again. Now I only have the long and torturous wait until the next book’s announcement and release, I’m not quit sure how I will bear it.

Now if I wasn’t very clear in my ramblings above, I will be as clear as possible here–this book is simply amazing. It is one of the better Valdemar books to date, and to the many people who didn’t enjoy the Foundation series that came before it, the Herald Spy books are shaping up to be so much better. Anyone who is a fan of Mercedes Lackey should definitely pick this book up, and anyone who is a fan of reading and fantasy in general should start reading the entire series. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

Closer to Home is set to be released on October 7th by Penguin Publishing.

I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory : Review

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The rulers of tiny, impoverished Swansgaard have twelve daughters and one son. While the prince’s future is assured, his twelve sisters must find their own fortunes.

Disguising herself as Clarence, a sailor, Princess Clarice intends to work her way to the New World. When the crew rebels, Clarice/Clarence, an expert with rapier and dagger, sides with the handsome navigator, Dominick, and kills the cruel captain.

Dominick leads the now-outlawed crew in search of treasure in the secret pirate haven known as The House of Four Winds. They encounter the sorceress Shamal, who claims Dominick for her own—but Clarice has fallen hard for Dominick and won’t give him up without a fight.

Full of swashbuckling adventure, buoyant magic, and irrepressible charm, The House of the Four Winds is a lighthearted fantasy romp by a pair of bestselling writers

The House of the Four Winds (A Dozen Daughters, #1) is the first book in a new series by veteran authors Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory. Reading new books by Mercedes Lackey is always a difficult thing for me do, not because I dislike her books — she is without a doubt my favorite author, but because her Valdemar books have set such a high standard that any of her other books do not compare. James Mallory on the other hand has only a few books that I have read, all written with Mercedes Lackey, and each one better than the book written before it. I am more than happy to say the House of the Four Winds stands up very well when compared to anything else either author has written. With swashbuckling pirates, strange magic, and hidden treasures this story has a bit of everything it needs to grab your attention and never let you go.

With her family unable to provide the support and dowries of her and her eleven sisters, Princess Clarice of Swansgaarde sets off into the world in attempt to make a living for herself in her chosen career, a master swordsman, but to be considered a master requires the experience and reputation she does not have. To get both of these things Clarice disguises herself as the well-off traveler Mr. Clarence Swann and signs on with the first merchant ship that will take her on as a passenger. When the crew of the ship she has chosen finds itself forced to mutiny Clarice and the rest of the crew are quickly labeled pirates. She soon finds herself sailing in search of hidden treasure and a way to clear the names of the crew, all while attempting to keep anyone from discovering her secret.

There were only a few minor issues that irked me with this book, one of which was Clarice being a princess. It is made very clear she is from a duchy, part of a larger kingdom, so would she not be merely a lady until she married into the peerage? The only other issue I had is that this book was supposed to take place in an alternate version of earth, one with additional countries and a strange magic, but other than a few similar names there was not much to suggest that we shared a common world in any way, which disappointed me to a small degree.

That being said, this is definitely a book I think everyone should pick up and read. While it seems to be more romance than anything else, it has a great plot with an interesting magic system. The characters are very believable and enjoyable that you can connect with on many levels. Not to mention it’s written in part by Mercedes Lackey, and I don’t think I would be able to live with myself if I didn’t do what I could to convince everyone to pick it up and read it. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

Already I find myself obsessively checking to see if the sequel has been announced yet, and if so, when it will be published.

The House of the Four Winds is set to be released August 5th by Tor Books.

I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


Interview with Mercedes Lackey

As with Brandon Sanderson, I had the opportunity to interview best-selling fantasy author, Mercedes Lackey over this past weekend at the World Fantasy Convention here in Toronto. Admittedly, this one wasn’t that great as far as interviews go, simply because I hadn’t been properly prepared for it, as it was completely unexpected. Here’s what I did ask though.

As a bit of a disclaimer, I’d like to say that while nothing written below is false, it isn’t exactly word-for-word what was said. I didn’t have an audio recorder during this interview, so this is just what I was able to write during our conversation.

= Mercedes Lackey, and = Rebecca (Myself)

R: Hi Mercedes, thank you for this.. Just a few questions, will you ever be restarting the “Ask Misty” section on your website?

M: No, I can either answer questions all day, or I can write. I can’t do both.

R: Alright, and by any chance do you plan on writing about the history of the Sunsinger or Shadowdancer? Or will we just have the songs you’ve written about their story?

M: Nope, never.. There will only be the songs.

R: Okay, and earlier during your reading you read a bit of your secret project… I’ve been told that it was excellent, but not much more than that… Can you tell me a bit about it?

M: Well, there isn’t a publisher for it. The story is going to be taken to auction, and it’s a Young Adult post apocalypse novel.

R: Alright, well I look forward to hearing more about that.. And somewhat related to that, what can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?

M: Well, there’s the next book in the Elemental Masters series, Steadfast, which will be out June 2013. Other than that, there are two series that I’m currently working on with James [Mallory]. They’re both trilogies, and at the moment are untitled, but Tor has bought the first book of each. The first one is kind of like a mix between the Student Prince, Pirates of the Caribbean and a bit of magic.. So those will be out at some point.

R: I’ve never heard of The Student Prince.. but I’m sure both trilogies will be excellent.

as to how I’d never heard of the Student Prince/explained what it was.>

R: Well, I’ll have to look more into that, and I just have one last question, who is your favourite author?

M: That’s rather broad.. Depends, which genre?

R: Fair enough.. Favourite fantasy author?

M: That would have to be Charles de Lint, definitely.

R: All right, thank you.. That’s all the questions I have.

M: No problem, you’re very welcome! If you think of anything else, do feel free to ask.

So yeah, now after the fact I have a bunch of questions I should have asked her.. But I’m glad I asked what I did. This was also my first face-to-face interview, so I was a bit nervous about it.
Any ways, she was very kind — so, thank you Mercedes for the interview!

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