Monday, January 25, 2016

The Serpent's Shadow

The Serpent’s Shadow: A Penny Dreadful Review

            Exotic ancient magic and a progressive suffragette. A secret society and a well-known fairy tale. One of my favorite authors and Edwardian London. The Serpent’s Shadow, by Mercedes Lackey, is the first of her Elemental Masters series. It is an excellent, engrossing story set in a detailed world. It also contains a very subtle rebelling of Snow White, which I did not realize until somebody poisoned an apple. I found that to be a delightful surprise.
            Dr. Maya Witherspoon has recently emigrated to London from her native India. She flees from the dark magic that has slain her parents. She opens a women’s health clinic to help the chorus girls and streetwalkers of London’s underclasses. She makes a comfortable home for herself, protected by her loyal servants, her several pets, and her cobbled-together magical knowledge. Though her mother was a sorceress, Maya knows very little. Has the mysterious force, the serpent’s shadow, that her mother feared followed her to this small foggy island?
            Mercedes Lackey has a gift for creating interesting heroes. They seem like genuine people. This makes any book by her hand a treat. The Edwardian setting is well-researched and vividly evoked. I feel as if I could take a train to London and actually locate Maya’s clinic.
            I rate The Serpent’s Shadow at four and a half gears out of five. I certainly intend to read the volumes that follow, and I recommend you do the same. It is different, intriguing, and scented with all the species of India.

Your Correspondent from the Bookstore,

Penny J. Merriweather

Monday, January 18, 2016

Jack Cloudie

Jack Cloudie: A Penny Dreadful Review

            Young Jack Keats escapes the noose to serve on an airship no one wants, on a mission no one really things they will survive. Omar ibn Barir is freed by his master moments before everyone he knows is slaughtered. These two boys hold the fate of their continent in their hands. One wrong step, and their countries are plunged into war.
            Master author Stephen Hunt has done it again. Jack Cloudie is fascinating, frightening, and fantastic. The story never quite goes in the direction the reader anticipates, and at times the events are quite brutal. It cannot be said that Mr. Hunt goes easy on his characters. For instance, I was heartbroken at the outcome of poor Omar’s love story, but not for the reasons one might think.
It is a deeply violent and problematic world these characters inhabit. I can’t go too far into the villain’s secrets without spoiling the book, but if only that society were a little more open and equal, a lot of people would still be alive! Then again, if Omar’s society held more equality, then Jack would likely still be in prison and the airship Iron Partridge would be scrap.
            Four and a half gears out of five. This book makes one think and has the reader on the edge of their seat the entire time.

Your Correspondent From The Bookstore,

Penny J. Merriweather

Monday, January 11, 2016

Weird Wild West

The Weird Wild West: A Penny Dreadful Review

            I love a bit of magic and weirdness in my frontier towns. Last December, eSpec Books released an anthology that delivers that in spades. The Weird Wild West, edited by Misty Massey, Emily Lavin Leverett, and Margaret St. Graw, contains many, many great tales of odd goings on.
            There are a great many stories in this anthology, so you will not leave disappointed, no matter what you’re looking for. Aliens, vengeful ghosts, shapeshifters, mad science, and necromancy run rampant across the weird wests of the authors’ imaginations.
            If I had to pick a favorite, it would be a toss up between “Blood Tellings,” by Wendy Wagner, and “Frank and Earnest,” by Tonia Brown. The first is the tale of a boy mature beyond his years. He speaks with the spirits of the dead. The local sheriff needs his help solving a murder in a house haunted by a malicious entity. The ending is beautiful. The second story involves the worst outlaws in the west and a kitten who defeats a mad scientist.
            The variety in this anthology is fantastic. I highly recommend The Weird Wild West for bite-sized adventures in a frontier that isn’t quite ordinary. I rate it four gears out of five.

Your Correspondent from the Bookstore,

Penny J. Merriweather