Pre-Publication Urban Fantasy Web Serials I’m Currently Following

I’m following along with the publication of two web serials by veteran urban fantasy authors, and I thought I’d share while they’re running:

Cursed Luck by Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong dozens of books across the fantasy and mystery/thriller genres, including a long history of urban fantasy. In Cursed Luck, she introduces us to a new setting, featuring the curse weaver Kennedy–who runs her own antiques shop in Boston, as she tries to ply the family trade on her own.

Kennedy’s minding her own business, until a whole slew of supernaturals turn up hunting an infamous cursed item–and turn to Kennedy’s family to uncurse it. By abducting her sisters. (Obviously, she’d not letting that stand.)

I’ve been enjoying how the protagonist draws lines for what she won’t tolerate. I’m not fully caught up–I tend to like getting a bit of a backlog so I can read several parts of these kinds of series in one go–but what I’ve read so far has been a fun story.

Ryder by Ilona Andrews (I think the title is temporary?)

This story is set in the same universe as the authors’ Kate Daniels series, following one of the side characters after she’d had time to grow up. In a post-apocalyptic Atlanta with alternating waves of magic and tech, Ryder’s returning home after a long absence.

She can’t actually contact most of her family for world-building reasons and she looks completely different, which leads to an interesting dynamic–she’s back in the city where she grew up, she’s meeting a lot of people that she knows already, but all of them think they’re strangers. That’s an intriguing dynamic to watch unfold.

The story has only started kicking off with her getting into her investigations, but it’s promising, and I’m really enjoying it so far. You might have to use the search bar to find all the parts, but they’re clearly labeled.

A Less Static Take on Vampiric Culture in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines

[The following video probably NSFW]

 

Since a sequel to the original Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is on the horizon a full 16(!) years later, I figured I should review first game now that I’d completed a full playthrough. A dark vampire RPG game from 2004 that I’ve spoken about before, I really liked this one. Not everything about it worked for me, but overall, there are enough interesting concepts and well-executed ideas to be worthwhile.

One of the fascinating things about this game is that it shows a variety of different vampire cultures and perspectives on those cultures.

You’re first introduced to one kind of vampire society, the more archetypical hierarchical structure of the Camarilla. They have clans, they have rules, they have consequences for breaking those rules.

Then you’re quickly introduced to a group of vampires who just go wild. No restrictions and no hiding. As the Camarilla–and other groups of vampires–are all interested in keeping their existence low-key, this really doesn’t play well with a lot of other vampire cultures. Continue reading “A Less Static Take on Vampiric Culture in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines”

Ninth House: An Unforgiving, Gritty Look at Power Dynamics

Words read "Ninth House, Leigh Bardugo". A snake is entwined through the words.

You may have heard some of the discussion about this book, the heavy topics that it deals with. Trigger warnings that people have mentioned. So I will say upfront that, yes, this book tackles some uncomfortable topics. I’d advise anyone interested to look up those trigger warnings beforehand, just so you know what you’re getting into.

That said, I found this to be a powerful story about power dynamics. About how power is used and how it’s abused. And about an angry protagonist who’s been burned by the world reclaiming some of that power. Continue reading “Ninth House: An Unforgiving, Gritty Look at Power Dynamics”

Girl Genius’ Epic Mad Science Steampunk Adventures Introduce Underground Libraries and Underwater Science Labs

A woman with a book, and an elegantly dressed mechanical woman in front of an organ. Text reads "Adventure, Romance, Mad Science! GirlGenius.net".

Girl Genius continues to be one of the more fascinating adventure stories I’ve ever read. This web comic series has been putting out one new page three times a week since…what, 2002? And it keeps adding new fascinating setting and characters, revealing new dimensions to information first introduced over a decade ago. But despite the epic plot, the humor is perfect to keep the tone of the story lighthearted.

A Smart, Practical Heroine Surrounded by Chaos

I really do love Girl Genius. Especially its creative, practical (but sometimes absentminded) protagonist Agatha, who just wants to do right by the people relying on her. And create wonderful inventions that, contrary to expectations, don’t result in mass murder.

Agatha understands the family legacy–both the evil overlord vibe her ancestors had going and the heroism of her father and uncle–but rejects all of those things as a model for herself. I especially appreciate how she refuses to cut ties with her family’s creations just for the sake of public perception. Continue reading “Girl Genius’ Epic Mad Science Steampunk Adventures Introduce Underground Libraries and Underwater Science Labs”

Happy 2020: Round-up for Innkeeper Series and Sagas of Sundry’s Dread

Happy New Year, everyone!

To start off 2020, two things to potentially check out:

Sweep with Me by Ilona Andrews

The next installment of Ilona Andrews’ Innkeeper series is currently running as a web series prior to its official release as per usual with this series. This is an urban fantasy/sci-fi about the Innkeeper Dina, who runs a magical inn that acts as a waystation and point of neutrality for aliens (some werewolf and vampire-like) from space.

I don’t know that I’d recommend this as a starting point for newcomers, though. The beginning very much feels like it builds on the action of the previous stories.

Sagas of Sundry: Dread

I’ve written about this show before (Sagas of Sundry: Dread, and the Chilling, Psychological Story of Five Friends Haunted by their Experiences)–but back then, the series was behind a paywall. Now, it’s migrated to YouTube.

Since the 6-part story is newly accessible, I thought it was worth pointing out again. Here’s a few excerpts of what I’d written about it before.

Genre: Mystery/supernatural/horror web series/RPG Continue reading “Happy 2020: Round-up for Innkeeper Series and Sagas of Sundry’s Dread”

Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Titles

I was super surprised to discover I’d never actually done a list for this topic before? And since That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday is having a free topic, now is a great time to remedy that. Including all of the covers would defeat the purpose of having the titles stand on their own, so this post will have to do without.

Titles can do a lot to pique our interest, but it is genuinely hard to pull off even when the author/marketing team wants to–because often it’s more important to have the title match the genre and brand. I find that very few titles stick out. These are the ones that really impressed me (please note that I haven’t read all of them yet):


Dead Witch Walking

Did I say that authors have to choose between cool titles and branding? Because here’s Kim Harrison, proving that’s not always the case. This is still the greatest urban fantasy title I’ve ever come across even over a decade post-publication. Continue reading “Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Titles”

Legendary Gives Us a Heroine Who Knows the Value of a Good Bluff

The background is a spades playing card. The text reads "New York Times Bestselling Author Stephanie Garber, Legendary, A Caraval novel."

I reviewed the first book, Caraval, here. 

Caraval is a magical carnival where participants compete to win a prize. At the previous Caraval, Scarlett competed to save her sister Tella and win their freedom. But Tella hasn’t shared all of her secrets, and those secrets will have her competing in the next Caraval–where she’ll have to choose who to save, and who to sacrifice.

In a way, Tella had been the hidden protagonist of Caraval. Scarlett might have been the narrator, but she was walking on a path that Tella laid out for her. Tella’s decisions drove the entire plot of the book. So it was super exciting to get the next book from her perspective, because though I like Scarlett, Tella has so much more agency.

And true to that promise, Legendary starts us off by revealing a whole heap of Tella’s secrets and motivations. She’d had access to way more information than we’d known (through the eyes of her sister) in the first book. And she’d tracked down that information because she’s been fighting fate for a long time now–and she’s not about to stop now. Continue reading “Legendary Gives Us a Heroine Who Knows the Value of a Good Bluff”

Suspense and Arcane Horror in Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Crystal Palace One-Shot from Critical Role

 

(The show starts around the 6-minute mark, as it doesn’t seem to be autoplaying from there properly.)

Victorian London is holding its annual cat show at the Crystal Palace–an exhibition center made of glass, now fallen into disrepair. It is under the guise of this event that six enterprising professionals are hired to “procure” an artifact from the closed portions of the building for a collector. A world-trotting explorer, an enterprising daughter of Japanese ambassadors, an archivist from the British Museum, an engineer previously employed by Edison, a spiritualist, and a veteran now employed by the gentlemen collector paying for this enterprise–all of these people venture into the depths of the Crystal Palace to find much more than what they were looking for.

A cross between historical fiction and arcane horror, this is a role-playing adventure with a cast of professional voice actors. And it’s awesome. Continue reading “Suspense and Arcane Horror in Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Crystal Palace One-Shot from Critical Role”

5 Character Traits I Love (And Want to See More Often)

This is an interesting Top Ten Tuesday prompt (by way of That Artsy Reader Girl), that I’m interpreting as characteristics I’d like to see in protagonists. And there are definitely personality traits I want to see more of in heroes (especially female heroes, who usually get a much more limited range of characteristics to work with). I’ll be ignoring the stuff I think is already pretty common, like various types of compassion or diplomacy.

Here’s five things I wish more protagonists would be:

Awkward

There’s a stereotypical notion of awkwardness, but the reality is way more varied than we usually get to see in fiction. As someone who’s pretty awkward myself, I want more representation of that range. And I want those kinds of characters to be mostly unapologetic about how they are.

Examples: Beka (Terrier), Keyleth (Critical Role)

An image of a pendent, with a creature's head on it, with the words "#1 New York Times Bestsellling Author Tamora Pierce, Beka Cooper, Terrier, 'Tamora Pierce is a pillar, an icon, and an inspiriation.' - Sarah J. Maas, #1 New York Times bestselling author" Continue reading “5 Character Traits I Love (And Want to See More Often)”

Night and Silence by Seanan McGuire: Another Layer of Secrets Is Revealed, as Our Protagonists Recover from the Last Book’s Ordeal

A woman with a knife. The text reads "New York Times Bestselling Author Seanan McGuire, Night and Silence, An October Daye Novel"

If I needed any more evidence that grad school was driving me hard here it is: I didn’t even realize the latest October Daye novel had been out for a year. My ultimate auto-buy series, the one that’s reached a dozen novels now without my interest in the story dipping even a little.

Yeah, wasn’t expecting that. But now I’ve finally caught up with my favorite series…just in time for the next book to come out.

Centuries of Backstory Catching Up with Our Protagonists

The protagonist of these novels is Toby Daye, a part-fae detective whose heritage is so convoluted even she’s still figuring it all out. Daughter of a powerful but absent blood worker and a human man, Toby has had to carve a place for herself in a world that didn’t want her. She’s built her own circle of support, solved mysteries, been declared a hero of the realm…and made ridiculously powerful enemies. (Though to be fair, her greatest enemy had already been in place the moment she was born.) Continue reading “Night and Silence by Seanan McGuire: Another Layer of Secrets Is Revealed, as Our Protagonists Recover from the Last Book’s Ordeal”