Book Review: “The Hellequin Chronicles: Crimes Against Magic” by Steve McHugh

Crimes Against MagicEvery so often you run across a new author you haven’t read before and they tell you a story that’s unique compared to anything you’ve read recently. Crimes Against Magic by Steve McHugh was one of those books for me. I’ve read a lot of fantasy novels, seen a lot of magic systems, and enjoyed a good tale full of suspense and action plenty of times, but Crimes Against Magic, despite being all of those things, hooked me in pretty well and I wound up reading the whole book in the span of a day and a half.

Nate Garrett is a rather interesting character. He’s been alive for a very long time and he has some very powerful magic he can harness at will. Who he really is, and why he currently lives in modern times is a mystery for the reader, and it remains that way all the way through the end of the book. There are a few hints as to Nate’s past, particularly the flashback chapters that show him taking on evil sorcerers in the 1400s, but even with all of those hints and clues I was left with more questions than answers. Here’s the thing though, I did not mind the mystery in the slightest. It worked. In a lot of other books it would not have, but in this one it worked.

I also enjoyed the setup of Nate being a high-end thief, and being dragged into protecting a girl who lives next door against his will. He soon realizes why she is so important, and then he buys into why he needs to help. He still has a bit of a reckless side while doing so though, which kept things interesting while reading. Nate has a few friends that help him along the way, some of which are mobsters, some who are vampires, and others who just find him attractive. It’s a ragtag type of crew, but they manage to get the job done.

Nate’s past is filled with some very powerful people. Some of them good, some of them very bad, but all of them powerful beyond imagination. I liked how Steve McHugh took old figures of lore like King Arthur and the knights of the round table and reworked their history in a way to make the story seem a little deeper. I wasn’t planning on reading any more than this first book because I only had it as a free offer from Amazon, but McHugh built a world that seems like its worth following along on the ride for a little bit longer.

I don’t know if I can recommend that everyone will enjoy Crimes Against Magic as it does have a decent amount of sex in its pages for a book in this genre, but if that sort of thing is not going to bother you, it might be worth the time to read. It would make a great book to read on a vacation, or day away at the beach. Fun, engaging, and quick to finish, just what that the doctor ordered sometimes.

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Book Review: “Paradox Series: Fortune’s Pawn” by Rachel Bach

Fortune's PawnFortune’s Pawn is one of those books I never thought I would pick up, but I saw someone talking about it on another website and noticed it was on sale. After doing a little bit more looking into what the book was about I decided to give it a chance. What I discovered by doing so was a fun book with some cool science fiction technology, some crazy aliens, and a bit of whimsy all at the same time.

It looks like Rachel Bach has a fun concept going on with this book and likely the two books that follow it to this point. Fortune’s Pawn has all the elements of a good science fiction adventure with a mysterious captain, a brooding character or two, some strange aliens, and plot twists to keep things interesting. Added to all of that was an unexpected romantic element, but it worked really well. Most of the science fiction I’ve read does not feature a female protagonist, and the ones that have featured female protagonists that were set up as very intense, serious, and not inclined to romance. To have Devi Morris, the main character, be a badass mercenary who can still be a bit of romantic was a breath of fresh air. It added a new dimension to the adventure in my mind.

There are two more books (so far) that follow Fortune’s Pawn. The next in the series is Honor’s Knight, followed by Heaven’s Queen. I had no intention of adding yet another new series to my list of series I need to finish someday, but I can’t deny that I really had a lot of fun with Fortune’s Pawn, so these other books are going to have to be added to my ever-growing list of books to read.

Devi Morris is a very dynamic character as the driving force behind the story in Fortune’s Pawn. She’s a highly successful mercenary with years of experience who wants nothing more than to serve as a power armor soldier in her king’s personal guard. To do so she needs to set herself apart from the crowd in a way that even her stellar record can’t do. So, she takes a job as security on board a trading vessel known for its terrible track record at staying out of trouble. The captain of the ship goes through crew members at an alarming rate, but those who can hold their own make a big splash.

Along the way Devi begins to discover some strange behavior by the captain, a budding romance with the ship’s cook, and something about herself she did not see coming. All of that mixed together leads to some very exciting action. Devi finds herself having to make some unexpected choices, and she ends the book with all sorts of new plot developments that should provide juicy adventures for the following books.

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Book Review: “Hollow World” by Michael J. Sullivan

Hollow WorldHollow World is the first book I’ve had sent to me directly from an author with a request for an honest review. Michael J. Sullivan sent me an email a few months ago asking if I’d like to receive an advance copy of the book in exchange for a review around the time the book was supposed to be released. I read the synopsis he had sent along and decided the book looked interesting enough, so I told him to drop a copy in the mailbox and to pick a date he would like the review to be published. As it turns out, the book made it into the hands of readers a bit earlier than he originally planned with an early release by Amazon and the like, but I stuck with the date he had asked for anyways.

As it turns out, I really enjoyed Hollow World. It’s not a long book, Amazon lists it as being 416 pages in length, but it does not feel that long as you read. The narrative is crisp, moving ahead right when it needs to in order to keep the attention of the reader and avoid the pitfall of getting too verbose about mundane things. The cast of characters is kept to a reasonable number, really just a handful, and that helps to make each interaction feel meaningful and significant. Some books get bogged down in supporting characters, but Hollow World keeps the attention on those that matter most, Ellis Rogers and Pax, the two central figures to the story.

I feel like Hollow World fills a unique position in the genre of science fiction. The story begins with a classic time travel element as Ellis Rogers uses a homemade time machine in his garage to travel into the future in search of a possible cure for his terminal illness. When he arrives in the future he discovers an Earth where nature has retaken the surface and society lives almost entirely underground. Known as Hollow World, the massive underground city is home to amazing technology, artificial intelligence systems, and a human race devoid of gender. All of this falls into the typical science fiction realm, but over the course of the book, the technology seems to take a back seat to the story Michael J. Sullivan wants to tell. On the surface that sounds counter-intuitive to the idea of science fiction, but it worked perfectly. The technology is put to use when it needs to be to further the action, but otherwise the author lets the story shine through instead of using technology gimmicks.

Hollow World also deals with a lot of other things not typically found as major themes in science fiction. Themes such as homosexuality, individuality, liberal vs. conservative viewpoints, religion, and many more. It was refreshing to see a science fiction novel deal with some of these themes head on instead of side-lining them as an afterthought behind sweeping action scenes and superior technology.

Ellis Rogers and Pax are two very well-conceived characters that I really connected with. Pax was my favorite of the two, but I think that was because I spent most of the book trying to put together all the details about what made him so special compared to the other genetically engineered humans in the Hollow World. I enjoyed Pax’s approach to plot events and loved the reveal of his secret towards the end. The time travel was also refreshing because it was not bogged down in minute details. Ellis found some research, had the educational background to see where the work had gone wrong, make the fix, and travel through time. Sullivan did not waste a lot of time on the intricacies of time travel, rather he used it as a mechanism to get the story moving and that was all.

Hollow World was a pleasant surprise as I read it and I’m glad I took the time to give it a try. I read a lot of mainstream science fiction and fantasy and often begin to feel like I’m reading the same thing over and over, but Hollow World broke me out of that cycle for a few days, which was nice. I would be very interested in reading a follow-up to this book, or maybe another book set in the same universe that isn’t a direct sequel.

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Book Review: “The Seafort Saga: Voices of Hope” by David Feintuch

Voices of HopeVoices of Hope turns the tables entirely on what a book in The Seafort Saga can expect to be when you read it. The previous four books in the series were all written with a first person point of view, all of them from the view of Nicholas Seafort. With this book, everything is still written in the first person, but there are several different viewpoints, all of which are very central to the events that take place.

Philip Tyre Seafort, Nick’s son, is one of those viewpoint characters. Along with him are Pook, a trannie from New York; Mr. Chang, a neutral trader trannie; and Jared Tenere, the son of Adam Tenere, Nick’s assistant. The chapters written from Pook and Chang’s viewpoint are all written using the very thick trannie accent, which can be a little difficult to get used to understanding.

It was rather strange to go from seeing through Nick’s eyes for every book and then switch to the eyes of characters I’d never met before. Voices of Hope takes place about 15 years after Fisherman’s Hope, after Nick Seafort has spent a period of time in various political offices and then retired to what he hoped would be a quiet life out of the public eye. This is Nick Seafort however, so of course he does not get his wish.

Almost all of the action in this book takes place in the trannie world on the surface streets of New York City. Jared Tenere finds himself lost in their world while trying to run away from his father and Philip tries to track him down and winds up fending for himself against the trannies as well. Soon enough they are tangled up every which way with Pook and Mr. Chang and their world. The trannies are losing their source of water as the government routes the water to new skyscrapers they are building. By the end of the book the trannies are revolting against the government, tearing down skyscrapers, and going toe to toe with the military forces sent to quell them.

Nick Seafort is present from time to time for a lot of these events, but he is always shown through the eyes of another character. On the whole I did not mind that approach, but I also was hoping to see a little more of him to observe how he continues to change as a person. In what little interaction there was, the chapters from Philip’s point of view were the most informative. Nick loves his family very much, but he still struggles with the balance between duty and love. Towards the end of the book he is part of the action much more often, almost entirely alongside his son and at that point the author really starts to show how age, time, and being a father has helped change him for the better. He has even added a little bit of sneakiness into his dealing with other powerful figures as a result of his time in politics.

From my understanding, Voices of Hope is a unique entry into this series. The final two books revert back to being from the viewpoint of Nick while staying in the first person. I wonder if David Feintuch made the conscious decision to write Voices of Hope differently because in order to set up the remainder of the story he needed the reader to see things from a different perspective. Hopefully be the end of this month I’ll be able to finish the series and see how everything finally turns out for Nicholas Seafort.

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Up Next: “Crimes Against Magic” by Steve McHugh

Crimes Against MagicThe valiant quest to clean off my Kindle continues with another book I got as part of a Kindle Daily Deal for a dollar. It looked rather interesting, so I decided to give it a chance. It looks like there is a bit of time travel involved with this book as well as what I think might be some good old-fashioned adventure filled with magic and mystery. I hope the book doesn’t let me down because if it turns out to be good there are two more for me to read that are currently available.

I always love finding a good new author to enjoy and I’m hoping Steve McHugh can be one of those for me this time around. I really need a good new fantasy and magic type series to sink my teeth into while I wait for new books from authors I usually read.

Ten years ago, Nate Garrett awoke on a cold warehouse floor with no memory of his past—a gun, a sword, and a piece of paper with his name on it the only clues to his identity. Since then, he’s discovered he’s a powerful sorcerer and has used his magical abilities to become a successful thief for hire.

But those who stole his memories aren’t done with him yet: when they cause a job to go bad and threaten a sixteen-year-old girl, Nate swears to protect her. With his enemies closing in and everyone he cares about now a target for their wrath, he must choose between the comfortable life he’s built for himself and his elusive past.

As the barrier holding his memories captive begins to crumble, Nate moves between modern-day London and fifteenth-century France, forced to confront his forgotten life in the hope of stopping an enemy he can’t remember.