An Urban Fantasy Round-up

I love me a good urban fantasy story, and it’s been too long since I’ve had the chance to read one. I got my hands on a few recent releases and happily curled up on the couch for hours.

Suzanne Johnson’s latest installment in the Sentinels of New Orleans series, Elysian Fields, finds DJ on the trail of a serial killer. But not just any serial killer. One of NOLA’s most infamous criminals, the Axeman, has either a copy cat or he’s been called from the Beyond, and he’s after DJ. DJ’s still dealing with the fallout from her last investigation involving mers and a vindictive nymph, but the new case is a welcome distraction from her impending meeting with the Elven Synod. Even if it is spectacularly gruesome.

All in all, though, I was somewhat disappointed with Fields. When I read murder mysteries, I expect a fast pace, and this one kind of started and stopped. There’s a huge chunk in the middle where DJ has to deal with her elven blood and what the elves want from her, and there’s enough there to warrant its own book. Johnson’s attempts to tie it into the larger serial killer storyline don’t really succeed. And while DJ finally makes her choice between Jake and Alex, I get the sense one triangle’s been resolved, only to have another one looming on the horizon. There’s also some issues with DJ’s reasons for avoiding relationships that are just thrown in there, with no hints from the previous two books. The result is they don’t feel that believable. But it’s still better written than a lot of fiction out there, so Johnson hasn’t lost me as a reader yet. I’ll definitely read the next one, if only in hopes for some DJ/pirate action. Hey, a girl can dream, right?

One of the fantastic things about the Elemental Assassin series by Jennifer Estep is the growth of her main character, Gin Blanco. In Heart of Venom, Gin’s finally got a chance to put her money where her mouth is. She’s always said you mess with her family, she’ll do whatever it takes to protect them, so when Sophia’s kidnapped by the man who almost broke her years ago (Harley Grimes), Gin doesn’t wait to spring into action. But she’s not going to go it alone. She tracks Sophia to Grimes’ compound with back up in tow, then prepares to face off with the fire elemental and his sister, Hazel, on her own, if it means getting Sophia to safety.

The last couple of books had the relationship between Gin and Owen on shaky ground, teetering between an end and a new beginning. We get a resolution to their stand off that makes sense for the story and the overall arc of the series, and I couldn’t have been happier. The best part was not only did we see Gin grow, but we got to see Owen grow as well. We learn more about the Devereaux sisters and Jo-Jo’s developing relationship with Cooper. Honestly, I love this series and can’t recommend it enough. It’s original, fun, and on the whole, action packed and fast paced. My one complaint at this point is we need to see it start winding down. Mab Monroe, the baddie that taunted Gin through the first few books of the series, is dead and buried, so where do we go from here? Estep’s introduced M.M. Monroe, Mab’s heir, but the wayward heir is nothing more than a ghost at this point. There hasn’t been much detail on how this person fits into the world of Ashland and Gin Blanco, and I know I’m not the only one worried the series might go on longer than is necessary. Look for a prequel, The Spider, out by the end of the year.

It’s been two years since the last Kate Daniels novel was released (Gunmetal Magic doesn’t count) and that emptiness is felt pretty keenly in Magic Rises, by Ilona Andrews. Curran’s been shoved into the spot between a rock and a hard place when he’s offered a cure for loupism in exchange for protecting the pregnant daughter of a European alpha bent on negotiating the best deal he can for his daughter’s unborn child. Kate, along with a handful of the usual suspects (Andrea, Derek, Dr. Doolittle), travel with Curran to the Georgian coast to mediate the negotiations and provide bodyguard services. But tensions are high, negotiations don’t go smoothly, and everything gets turned on its ear when their host for their stay turns out to be someone Kate knows all too well.

The writing team of Ilona Andrews offers up a well-blended tale of action, intrigue, and heart-string tugging moments. Amongst the rumblings between the negotiating packs, Kate and Curran’s relationship comes under scrutiny, and they’re forced to evaluate their feelings for each other and what the future holds for them. I can’t remember the non-action part of the story taking such prominence before, but it was a welcome addition. We’ve seen Kate and Curran fight their doubts before and push on, determined to make it work, but those necessary discussions were always pushed aside whenever duty called. Here, they have to deal with it immediately; the situation they’re in demands it. Like the Elemental Assassin series, I highly recommend this one as well. It’s fun, sassy, and the world-building is fantastic.

I’ve still got a few to work my way through (Chloe Neill’s latest Chicagoland Vampires, Biting Bad, among them), so I’m looking forward to some more quality time with one of my favorite genres.

Copies of Elysian Fields and Heart of Venom provided by the publisher(s) in exchange for an honest review.

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