Tag Archives: gaslamp fantasy

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Book Review: Vanished, by Nicole McKeon

I picked up a copy of Nicole McKeon‘s cozy gaslamp fantasy, Vanished.

vanished coverEccentric social outcast Lady Gwenevere St. James knows many secret things: magic, alchemy, artifice, and even the truth about the long-forgotten faeries. But she does not know why common criminals are using rare and dangerous magic to kidnap orphans from the streets of New London.

After rescuing one young girl, Gwen vows to save the rest, no matter the cost. But the handsome Scotland Yard inspector is also investigating the case, and he thinks Gwen knows far too much about the kidnappings to be innocent.

To save the children, Gwen must dodge the Inspector, bully a coven of witches, and outsmart her marriage-minded mama, all while managing a wily young pickpocket and a headstrong raven. But an unexpected secret hides at the center of the mystery, one that will force her to confront the most painful event from her past, and possibly sacrifice her future.

my review

I enjoyed this but wasn’t blown away by it. I liked Gwen well enough, but she’s no Alexia Tarabotti (though she is trying very hard to be). The plot kept me interested, but there were no big surprises. Even the villain is fairly obvious. I liked the world, but it’s slapdash and thin in places. For example, almost everyone in a world of humans, witches, elves, and dwarves—all of whom use magic of sorts—doesn’t believe in fae magic despite knowing fae existed. Like, why not? That makes no sense to me. The children were cute but didn’t seem to be a necessary component of the story. The hero was noble and appreciateable but kind of bland. All in all, I don’t regret reading it, and I would read another in the series. But I’m not rushing out to buy the next book, either.

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Other Reviews:

Review: Vanished by Nicole McKeon

Vanished: Book One of the Gwen St. James Affair by Nicole Mckeon

 

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Book Review: Stariel Quartet, by A. J. Lancaster

Before I get to the review, a quick housekeeping note. I’ve returned to university and am now working on a Ph.D. As such, the time I can give to reading fiction (my favorite thing) is sadly constricted. It will likely take me a little while to find my feet and my new normal. But at the moment, I’m experimenting with reading and reviewing series instead of individual books. (I even made a whole post asking for omnibus recommendations.) This makes for longer posts a lot of the time but also allows for more time between postings. But I also acknowledge that I don’t usually tend to be quite as detailed when I’m reviewing several books together.  So, I may not stick with it. But for now, expect series reviews more often than individual book reviews.

OK, on to the review.


I initially saw A.J. Lancaster‘s Stariel Quartet recommended on Tiktok. It was on my radar. So, when I saw book one, The Lord of Stariel, come up as a Kindle Freebie, I nabbed it. Then I bought the rest of the series (The Prince of Secrets, The Court of Mortals, The King of Faerie, and A Rake of His Own) one by one as I finished each preceding book.
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The Lord of Stariel is dead. Long live the Lord of Stariel. Whoever that is.

Everyone knows who the magical estate will choose for its next ruler. Or do they?

Will it be the lord’s eldest son, who he despised?

His favourite nephew, with the strongest magical land-sense?

His scandalous daughter, who ran away from home years ago to study illusion?

Hetta knows it won’t be her, and she’s glad of it. Returning home for her father’s funeral, all Hetta has to do is survive the family drama and avoid entanglements with irritatingly attractive local men until the Choosing. Then she can leave.

But whoever Stariel chooses will have bigger problems than eccentric relatives to deal with.

Winged, beautifully deadly problems.

For the first time in centuries, the fae are returning to the Mortal Realm, and only the Lord of Stariel can keep the estate safe.

In theory.

my review

I binged these books, reading them back to back with nary a breath between. So, I’m just going to go ahead and review them the same way. In a sentence, I adored this series. I will 100% be looking for more of Lancaster’s work.

I love a practical heroine, and Hetta is eminently practical. She’s also strong, loyal, brave, and witty. In fact, the whole cast (and the narrative itself) has a dry, witty character to it that I enjoyed. It startled more than one laugh out of me. I think it’s the narrative tone that I liked most about the books.

I also can’t tell you how much I loved the characters. Even the ones that I didn’t initially care for, such as Jack, I came to like in the end. (And the bonus book about Marius and Rake was a joy.) Family is important to each of them in their own way, and the reader feels this. I’d like to see a few other side characters get their happily-ever-afters.

The mystery was a little easy to predict, the villain overcome a tad too easily, and the pacing is a little off at times. But overall, I’m not sad to have read the series. In fact, I’ll miss it now that I’m finished.

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Other Reviews:

River.Me – Stariel Series Review

 

 

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Book Review: No Land For Heroes, by Cal Black

I accepted a review copy of No Land for Heroes, by Cal Black, through Reedsy. The book was later featured over on Sadie’s Spotlight too. You can hop over there for an excerpt, author interview, playlist, and chance to win a copy of your own.
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Mildred Berry is down to her last four bullets…

In a wild west where the only things more dangerous than outlaws are dragons, Deputy Berry is struggling to protect her town and keep her family fed. As a last resort, she robs a train for ammunition only to find that the cargo she needs so badly was owned by war hero Frederic Rousseau.

The same Frederic Rousseau whom she served during the Amelior Civil War. The same Frederic Rousseau she’s been hiding from for the last five years.

Millie knows a secret that could ruin Rousseau’s life, and he’ll stop at nothing to keep her from telling the truth. With her violent past bearing down on the life she’s built for herself, Millie has to decide how far she’ll be willing to go to keep her town safe.

my review
I realize that it’s only May. So, it’s far too early to be choosing my favorite book of 2022. But, honestly, when the time comes, I won’t be surprised if No Land for Heroes is on it. I loved this…and I’m saying that despite being someone who tends to be reserved in their praise. But I adored these characters…all of them.

Ok, yes, I disliked Gilbert in the beginning, before he shed some of his smarmy act. I felt sorry for the poor dragon, who was just following its instincts. And I was a little uncomfortable with the way this seemed to re-imagine the aftermath of the American Civil War without ever acknowledging it as the source material, thereby sidestepping the issue of enslaved peoples. I wasn’t even sure if the ‘secessionists’ were against freeing the victims of the African slave trade or if such peoples of color were entirely replaced by elves, orcs, and such in this re-imagined scenario. (Or if the war was about something else entirely, though I find this unlikely.) I suppose I could say the same about the way Millie’s heritage was very clearly using some Indigenous American stereotypes.

But I felt like there was a lot of diversity and positive representation in the rest of the book (and it’s outside my lane to truly make a judgement here), that I still greatly enjoyed the story.

I liked the way Black played with gender expectations. I laughed often. The plot rolls along at a good clip. The writing is snappy and fun to read. And the ‘found family’ is strong in this one. I wholeheartedly recommend this book and look forward to more.

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Other Reviews:

No Land for Heroes by Cal Black