Review of Pocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire (DAW, March 3, 2015) This is the fourth novel in the InCryptid series about the Price family of cryptozoologists and their adventures saving humans and cryptids (monsters to some) from each other. In this volume Alex’s girlfriend Shelby must go home to Australia to deal with a werewolf infestation and Alex goes with her as an expert (having dealt with them before, which no one else in Australia has). Of course the boyfriend accompanying as science know-it-all from America doesn’t get a very good reception, so Alex ends up battling the locals and the werewolves. There are some good hand-to-hand combat scenes as well as some gun action. This results in characters getting seriously banged up in this volume. The werewolves are hiding in plain sight so there are several betrayals and complicated plot twists when people switch sides. The universe McGuire has imagined contains several interesting species (more are evident in Verity’s volumes, Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special), many of which are hunted by the Covenant of Saint George. This means they have a love/hate relationship with humans and their society. The Prices generally judge people by actions and not species, but getting other humans to do this is difficult. Alex and Verity don’t really interact with each other except in flashbacks so it would be great to see them and their partners all together in one book. Alex has traveled outside the US with a native guide but it would be interesting to see other parts of the InCryptid world, perhaps with a cryptid guide. Your Humble Reviewers have science day jobs so this urban fantasy with a scientific viewpoint was just our thing and we wish we had found it earlier as we had to catch up on the three previous volumes! For a realistic world with monsters, this is the best setting we’ve seen and the scientist characters make it seem more plausible. Most other urban fantasy series have a fighting/investigating character who isn’t a scientist so it’s easier to have a world where science doesn’t know about monsters. McGuire’s Alex Price is trying to figure out how to get other scientists to discover the smaller monsters so that eventually nothing is hidden. From a science perspective this gives a different feel to the universe and makes it less likely to trigger our science “baloney-meter”. This is a fast-moving, well-written, and entertaining series which would be a good read for any urban fantasy fan. Also, the characters reflect the real world so it is a very inclusive series. Everyone should find someone like them as a character in the series, and the cryptids are as varied as the humans so the cultural clashes are sometimes of legendary proportions (just like some people make them in the real world). Review of Demon Child: Celestial Battle Book Two by Kylie Chan (Harper Voyager February 24, 2015) This is the eighth book in this series, the first volumes of which were available in Australia long before they reached the US. The series is a kung fu and Chinese mythology based urban fantasy which depicts the Chinese heavens and gods. The author has obviously done her homework to develop this setting. Emma and her family are all likable characters who have some issues. All types of people are depicted in the stories and the realities of our world influence how they are treated by heavenly society as well. The fighting scenes are realistic up to the point where magic (that is, godly powers) is invoked. The godly characters in the setting are quite powerful but there is balance between them so no one controls everything. The visual descriptions of locations in heaven and hell are quite well-done with each having a different feel from places on the same plane. The Hong Kong descriptions are detailed enough to make you feel that you are there. The uniqueness in location and divine pantheon make this series better than the run-of-the-mill urban fantasy set primarily in the US. The characters are well-described and three-dimensional. The gods all have spouse and children issues just like the humans, so they don’t really appear that different from humans other than the fact their issues could have some serious consequences. The way demons are presented makes them interesting and complex, not black and white like in some European mythologies. Also because the mythology is different, the plot can be based on a myth but it may still be a mystery to those unfamiliar with the myth. Also, Chinese myths have been presented from different points of view and the “winner” depends upon from whose viewpoint you are looking. If you like magic-heavy urban fantasy or Asian-influenced series then this is for you! Can’t wait for Black Jade (Celestial Battle Book Three)!
- Review: Queen of None by Natania Barron
- Newsletter 2020.1: Voices Rising, Kwame Mbalia, Scott Reintgen, Kim Stanley Robinson, Madeline Miller, and more
- May Newsletter: Zeno Alexander, Valerie Nieman, Lewis Shiner, Free Comic Book Day, Star Wars Day, and more
- January Newsletter: Robin Kirk, Holly Black, illogiCon with Annalee Newitz, and more
- February Newsletter: Colson Whitehead, John Darnielle, John Kessel, the Playthrough Gaming Convention, and more