Review: A MEDDLE OF WIZARDS (and a #giveaway) by Alexandra Rushe

Time for a book review! …(And stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog on my 2017 reading list and 2018 goals.)

Today, on its release day, I’m reviewing A MEDDLE OF WIZARDS, a debut fantasy from author Alexandra Rushe. and the first in a new fantasy series.

ABOUT THE BOOK: Welcome to Tandara, where gods are fickle, nightmares are real, and trolls make excellent bakers . . .Raine Stewart is convinced she’ll die young and alone in Alabama, the victim of a chronic, mysterious illness. Until a man in a shabby cloak steps out of her mirror and demands her help to defeat a bloodthirsty wizard….Raine shrugs it off as a hallucination—just one more insult from her failing body—and orders her intruder to take a hike. But the handsome figment of her imagination won’t take no for an answer, and kidnaps her anyway, launching her into a world of utmost danger—and urgent purpose….Ruled by unpredictable gods and unstable nations, Tandara is a land of shapeshifters and weather-workers, queens and legends. Ravenous monsters and greedy bounty hunters patrol unforgiving mountains. Riverboats pulled by sea-cattle trade down broad waterways. And creatures of nightmare stalk Raine herself, vicious in the pursuit of her blood……But Raine isn’t helpless or alone. She’s part of a band as resourceful as it is odd: a mage-shy warrior, a tattered wizard, a tenderhearted giant, and a prickly troll sorceress. Her new friends swear she has powers of her own. If she can stay under their protection, she might just live long enough to find out . . .

WHAT I LIKED BEST:

The worldbuilding is fascinating, both rich and diverse. I love a good multiverse, and you’ll find it here. Shifters? Got ’em. Trolls? Love ’em. Elves? Wizards? Yes and yes. There are also old gods and giants and goggins and sea-cattle. But the world is never forced or confusing. The author manages to weave it together artfully, without resorting to heavy backstory. We find out about the strange new world she inhabits–and the centuries-old grudge against her new family–right alongside heroine Raine.

And while Raine does fall into the “human girl falls into a new world and discovers she has powerful, as-year-unknown powers” trope, she’s not your normal heroine. First of all, she’s from Alabama and is sickly and alone but for a quirky ghost named Mimsie. When she’s jerked from Earth into the land of magic and mystery, she doesn’t come upon her new powers right away. For most of the book, she’s culturally (and sometimes literally) adrift, so we learn her heart long before we–and she–even begin to suspect her powers.

WHAT I LIKED LESS:

I’m admittedly not a big reader of epic fantasy, but they seem to be primarily of two schools. There’s the LORD OF THE RINGS school, where underdogs are on a quest, traveling from spot to spot and meeting evil and obstacles (and unexpected aid) along the way. Then there’s the dark and violent SONG OF ICE AND FIRE school, where politics and treachery and violence are the norm. I’m generally of the dark and treacherous fandom, where A MEDDLE OF WIZARDS is definitely written as a quest with Raine traveling through various lands on her way to seek aid in learning to fight the evil wizard. BUT this is the first in a series, and the book grows darker and more deadly as it progresses. From the very satisfying ending to this book, it’s clear that Rushe has plans to take the FLEDGLING MAGIC series into darker and more treacherous territory. So I’ll be waiting for book two.

CONCLUSION: 

This is a strong beginning to a new epic fantasy series. There might be some romance in the future (I have my eye on one dark, mysterious character), but this is not fantasy romance by any stretch. It introduces us to a fascinating new world with big stakes and big characters who are deeply and wonderfully drawn. I’m looking forward to book two, and give this one five big gators!

Want to win a copy of A MEDDLE OF WIZARDS? Leave a comment with your favorite type of fantasy character (elf? wizard? faery? hobbit?) to enter for a copy in your choice of print or digital. The winner will be announced on Monday, January 15.

Review: Stillhouse Lake, by Rachel Caine

Time for a book review! I was able to pick up an early copy of this new suspense novel from author Rachel Caine (of Morganville Vampires and Weather Wardens fame…and I did love the Weather Wardens). It was released on July 1 by Thomas and Mercer.

ABOUT STILLHOUSE LAKE: Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom. With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace. But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop. 

WHAT I LIKED: This is one of those books I flew through—so much so, I thought it was a short book. It wasn’t; it was just that hard to put down. Rachel Caine has created a set of characters it’s hard not to fall for: the determined, diligent Gwen, her teen daughter going through an eye-rolling, goth phase, and her geeky son in whom she sees haunting echoes of his father. This is a family on the edge, perpetually on the run, but who want desperately to settle in and live a normal life. Stillhouse Lake seems the perfect middle-of-nowhere location…until it isn’t. The suspense is taut. The question marks—who’s doing what to whom, and why—are well developed with multiple suspects. And how does the jailed serial killer husband fit into the whole puzzle—or does he fit at all?

WHAT I LIKED LESS: I’m probably naïve. Okay, I’m naïve. It’s hard for me to imagine that Internet trolls and fanatic groups are obsessive enough to be harassing the spouse and children of a serial killer years after the fact—even if she was suspected for a time of being part of his evil. Don’t people have better things to do? Then again, I read political crap on Facebook and think, maybe it’s not so implausible after all. So you have to suspend disbelief that there are such people out there.

CONCLUSION: This is a great beginning to a new series. A few other reviews I’ve read have complained about a cliffhanger ending, but I didn’t find it a cliffhanger at all. The immediate conflict was resolve with just enough questions to keep the series going. Book two, KILLMAN CREEK, will be released in December.

I give STILLHOUSE LAKE a rare five gators!

 

Have any of you read STILLHOUSE LAKE yet? Do you have plans to? If you’ve read it, what do you think?