Tag Archives: urban fantasy

Review of Riot Baby, by Tochi Onyebuchi

I picked up a copy of Tochi Onyebuchi‘s Riot Baby when it was Tor.com‘s freebie book of the month.

Description from Goodreads:

Rooted in foundational loss and the hope that can live in anger, Riot Baby is both a global dystopian narrative an intimate family story with quietly devastating things to say about love, fury, and the black American experience.

Ella and Kev are brother and sister, both gifted with extraordinary power. Their childhoods are defined and destroyed by structural racism and brutality. Their futures might alter the world. When Kev is incarcerated for the crime of being a young black man in America, Ella—through visits both mundane and supernatural—tries to show him the way to a revolution that could burn it all down.

Review:

Really excellent in a devastating sort of way. The characters are eminently relatable—her with her anger, him wanting to flee to peace, and their mother’s constant fear for their safety. This is a book that looks clearly at the constant trauma of living with systemic racism and police brutality, tracing the lives of the main characters from Rodney King to Dylann Roof and beyond. It highlights how omnipresent and relentless the destruction of black potential, bodies, and lives is in America. I think it would be difficult to read Riot Baby and not be affected. Highly recommended.

Review of City of York (Kingdom in Darkness, #1), by A. Person

I received a paperback copy of City of York from the author, A. Person.

Description from Goodreads:

The Kingdom has been around for as long as mud has been on the planet. Magic abounds—and dragons are its physical manifestation. Once vibrant and proud, they now live in varying states of depression after having their wings clipped. New dragons have not been created since that fateful day, and the magical force has only dwindled with the passing of each dragon.

The Community, the residents of the Kingdom, are no longer the dominant beings in the world. They have ceded that title to humans, or as they inconsiderately call them, Cromies. To ensure the Kingdom’s survival, the Council of Elders made the monumental decision to concentrate all the magic in one place: New York City. From the far corners of the world, the Exodus occurred. Dubbed the City of York by this mythical Community, here they all follow the Order to stay concealed and not bring harm to the general population. Unbeknownst to the inhabitants at large, the Community lives among them.

In the present day, Emily and her friends Cat and James run a start-up news organization. Their quest to inform the public has them unexpectedly crossing paths with members of the Community. When it is discovered that they have an affinity to magic, they are all provided guides, and they immerse themselves in this hidden world.

A motley cast of additional characters is encountered along the way. Prominent among them is Hollister McAvoy, who is a magically made billionaire. He has harnessed the power emanated by dragons and brought cheap, renewable energy to the city. While the Cromies rejoice, he continues to work toward his ultimate objective. There is an age-old prophecy that foretells the dawn of a magical revival. With access to money and technology, he aims to fulfill it by creating prosthetic wings and returning dragons to their former prestige. Can the Kingdom remain in darkness when dragons once again fly?

Review:

Reviewing this book is difficult for me. So, I’m going to start with a note. I accepted a copy of this book from the author for review. Unfortunately, there was some time between when I got the initial email and when I investigated the book on Goodreads to see if I wanted to read it. The result was that I missed the fact that though “Emily and her friends Cat and James run a start-up news organization” they are in fact teenaged journalist. (In all fairness, Person’s email did say this, but I depended on the book blurb in the moment.)

This means that I expected an adult fantasy book, but found myself reading a lower young adult (almost middle grade) book. One with a tendency to purposefully mix metaphors and spells with names like bye-bye boo-boo. I was not pleased with this discovery. Of course, that’s not the book’s fault. But I mention it because it 100% affected my enjoyment in reading it and I think it would be unfair to not mention it.

Outside of the disappointment around genre, I found the book to have too many characters, depend too heavily on its quirkiness, and lack a satisfying conclusion. That’s not to say it was without positives. If you do enjoy silly witticisms, this will be right up your alley. The world the book builds is interesting, the writing is clean and it’s well-edited.

I think, sadly, this is just a case of the wrong book for the wrong reader. A tween-slash-lower teen would probably really enjoy it. With that in mind, I intend to see if my 13yo would like to read it (maybe even review it) and then I’ll put it in the Little Free Library.

Review of Awakened (The Oracle Chronicles #1), by Moni Boyce

I picked up a copy of Moni Boyce‘s Awakened as a freebie on Amazon.

Description from Goodreads:

Secret lineage, a ruthless vampire, and forbidden love.

Willow Stevens dreams of stardom are eclipsed by the real nightmares of a sinister man haunting her dreams. Unbeknownst to her, Eli Walker, her hot but snobbish co-worker, may know the reason nightmares plague her, but their history shows he is more prone to reject her, than help her.

Then Willow passes out at work only to wake in Eli’s apartment. There she has her chance to learn more about her heritage. But, knowing why the vampire king stalks her doesn’t make the nightmares disappear. If anything, they become more real as she now faces off against a slew of creatures she’d always believed were myth.

That Eli is one of those creatures is just her luck. Secret witch guild or not, his natural ways are casting spells her heart can’t escape. As a Protector his only focus should be her safety. Anything else is forbidden. He plans to stay in task, but some women break a man, or tempt him to break the rules.

Can Eli keep Willow alive and safe from the vampires long enough for her to grow her own powers or will both cast aside rules for a reckless passion that will only lead to danger?

Review:

Not very good, not totally horrendous, but not great either. The book has an interesting world and premise and an absolutely gorgeous cover, but it needs more editing, the writing is amateurish at times, and the transitions are often clunky. Plus, I had some serious suspension of disbelief issues with the plot and I found both Willow and Eli unlikable. She’s 26 and he’s even older, but they both act like children, and she’s especially self-centered, bratty, and easily manipulated.

As for the problem being able to suspend belief, which is something exceptionally hard for a book to overcome, it was two-fold. One, the book goes on and on about how important it is for her to learn to defend herself. So, it made no sense to me that the Protectors had followed her years and years instead of teaching her to defend herself until it’s basically too late. It’s not like they didn’t know there was a threat.

Secondly, all of the angst around the romance subplot could have and (and IMO should have) been completely bypassed if someone had simply told Willow that Protectors are forbidden from having relationships with Oracles. I don’t mean this as telling the author how to write her book, simply that as a reader I couldn’t understand why the characters were creating all the unneeded drama and hurt when it would make a million times more sense than the BS lies Eli rolls out for her

Lastly, it’s also the only book I’ve ever read with a warning before the epilogue like this:

If you plan to continue with this series, there’s an epilogue…but I suggest you stop here if you don’t like cliffhangers and don’t plan to continue. Thanks for reading!

It seems pointless because, even if you don’t read the epilogue (which I didn’t since I have no intention of continuing the series), the book ends with Willow injured, and both she and Eli unconscious. So, it’s already a cliffhanger.

All in all, I’m sorry to say the book just wasn’t a winner for me.