Beyond the Veil by Pippa DaCosta

Beyond the Veil by Pippa DaCosta

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

“They say I’m half a demon, but I like to think of myself as half human, especially as the demons want me dead.”

Charlie Henderson is living a lie. Her real name is Muse and her attempt at a normal life is about to go up in smoke.

When a half-demon assassin walks into her life, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake, Muse must return to the one man she hoped never to see again and ask for help. The Prince of Greed isn’t known for his charity. The price is high and the cost could tear her apart.

Trapped between the malevolent intentions of a Prince of Hell, an assassin with ulterior motives and her bloodthirsty demon-kin, Muse must embrace the lure of chaos at her core; the demon inside her, in order to survive.

If your ex is the Prince of Greed, you’d better be ready to raise hell.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

I’d only read one of Pippa DaCosta’s other books, City of Fae, before trying out Beyond the Veil.  City of Fae was a book I absolutely loved in part because of the many, many plot twists and surprises.  Beyond the Veil is very similar in that regard: I had no idea what to expect next.  In urban fantasy, that’s kind of a rare luxury and I absolutely treasured it in this book.

Muse is a half-demon that was born in the netherworld and sold into slavery, as is the normal treatment for ‘half-breeds’ if their demon parent does not have them killed.  She spent years being abused before Akil, one of the seven princes of Hell, rescued her for his own reasons and began a relationship of sorts with her.  Then, five years ago she left him to try to live life as a human.  Fast forwardto the present day and things aren’t necessarily working out the best in that regard, especially when the half-demon Stefan walks into her life.  Poor Muse is then forced back into a world where she really can’t trust anyone—particularly anyone who says they’re trying to save her.  And yet she learns and grows despite the hidden motivations of those around her.  She finally becomes stronger and learns to deal with the demon side she has been so afraid of for years.

Muse is of course a fascinating character in her own right but even the secondary charcters in Beyond the Veil are well developed.  Akil certainly is a compelling character; he’s a more terrifying, smarter version of your stereotypical bad boy.  Stefan seems to be a rather horrible character before Muse really gets to know him and learns about his horrific past.  And Nica, Akil’s secretary, has motivations and secrets all of her own despite being completely human and working for a powerful demon who has a penchant for killing liars.  I’m oversimplifying here but I can’t go into detail without spoiling some of the great surprises DaCosta worked into the narrative.  Needless to say, you’ll appreciate the character development that went into all of the characters, not just Muse.

As I said, the plot is incredibly fast paced but it’s also very unpredictable.  There are lots of twists that I didn’t see coming, despite being quite familiar with the urban fantasy genre.  Thankfully Pippa DaCosta once again departs from the expected formula and that makes the story all the more enjoyable.  Trust me when I say that things are almost never what they seem when it comes to her writing.  She’s also created such a rich, well-developed fantasy world that even if the plot were boring, Beyond the Veil would still be a very enjoyable book.  It’s nice to see someone depart from the typical Heaven and Hell version of demons and make them more terrifying than they usually are because of it.

If you love great characters, so many plot twists you’ll be guessing until the end and some incredible world-building, you’ll love Beyond the Veil as much as I did.  I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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Sins of the Warrior by Linda Poitevin

Sins of the Warrior by Linda Poitevin

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Heaven and Hell are at war

The clock is ticking

Homicide detective Alexandra Jarvis’s niece is missing and pregnant with Lucifer’s child, her sister has descended into madness, and the human race has begun a relentless spiral toward self-destruction that Alex is desperate to stop. Now Michael, the Archangel she holds responsible for Earth’s plight, has returned—and he’s demanding her help to track a missing god.

Heaven is losing

Fighting for the very survival of his own realm—and that of humanity—Michael’s only chance to defeat Hell lies in returning Heaven’s long-lost daughter to her throne before it’s too late. But first he’ll have to convince Alex to help him—and to keep her out of Seth’s clutches long enough for her to do so.

There can be no right choices

In a desperate bid to save both their worlds, Alex and Michael must put aside their animosity and find a way to work together in the face of increasingly impossible decisions…and unimaginable sacrifices.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

One of the things I’ve found in a lot of books is that if the main character’s ‘soulmate’ dies, they come back by some miracle or were never actually dead in the first place.  But oddly enough, the Grigori Legacy doesn’t play with those rules as it’s not the sort of book to have a cut-and-dry good versus evil plot.  It definitely doesn’t follow the conventions of the urban fantasy genre and despite missing the ‘soulmate’ in question, I personally wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sins of the Warrior is the darkest book yet in a series of quite dark books.  Alex has to make some awful choices: does she pursue the daughter of God as asked by Michael in order to balance Seth’s power or does she try to focus on saving humanity, starting with her niece who has only days to live?  It’s a brutal push-and-pull dynamic and Alex has to make absolutely unthinkable decisions.  I can’t go into much detail without spoiling some of the shocking twists, but needless to say she has to choose between a) saving humanity in exchange for a possible eternity in Hell if Seth nabs her and b) letting the angels and the Fallen battle it out without her so she can save her niece from certain death.  Again, if you’ve read the previous two books it’s not that hard to predict what Alex chooses, especially given her current state of mind.

The thing I love about Linda Poitevin’s Grigori Legacy is that despite the whole Heaven and Hell existing thing, there is no clear good and evil.  Her God (a woman, no less) is a benevolent creator who gave people free will but arguably takes it a little too far when it comes to not monitoring what Lucifer plots in Hell because she loves him so much.  Her Heaven is one where angels had free will before the fall but had it give it up (along with their soulmates) afterward because God couldn’t bear more of her angels defecting to Lucifer.  Poitevin’s God isn’t one who is cruel or overly nice; she simply is.  And she has flaws of her own, just like her creations.  These are some fascinating characterizations that I’m sure will be very controversial among certain sects but they’re refreshing nevertheless.

Alex goes through a lot in this book.  With her newly gained immortality that she never wanted and the end of the world looming over her as the Naphilim grow, she’s teetering on the edge of insanity.  Yet she still soldiers through with seemingly no regard for her own welfare in a desperate attempt to save everyone that she can, even if it means working beside those she despises, like Michael.  We also get to see some chapters from Michael’s perspective as he wrestles with keeping Alex sane while knowing if she loses her sanity it may be the kindest thing for her because of what she (and the rest of humanity) faces.  Michael was never a sympathetic character in the first three books but Linda Poitevin does an amazing job with his characterization in this last book.  He too goes through quite a bit by the end of the novel.

Basically, if you’ve read the first three books, you’ll probably love Sins of the Warrior.  I know I did.  You’ll be up reading into the wee hours of the morning much like I was in an attempt to find out how Alex’s story finally does end.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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Lazy Sundays: Winter is Depressing

After a reasonably warm October and beginning of November, I think I finally have to make my peace with the fact that the snow is here to stay.  It started snowing only a couple of days ago but I guess it’s not going to melt until spring now.  (Sigh.)  I really, really hate winter.  And I really, really hate taking the bus in the cold because the busses are rarely on time.

This has basically been my Sunday: whining about the weather while knowing full well I live in Canada and so have no right to expect anything but snow in winter.

How has your Sunday been?

Discussion: Finding New Books

One of the things I’ve never struggled with since becoming a book blogger is finding new books and new authors to read.  I mean, I’ve had to close my submissions twice in order to catch up with the absolute deluge of requests that have flooded in.  In addition to that, I of course find new books from the recommendations of other reviewers, book tours companies, NetGalley and general Goodreads browsing.  But I’m curious: how do you personally come across new books?

Do you mostly find them when you’re browsing online or in a bookstore?  Are they mostly recommended to you by friends?  Or are you a fellow blogger and find lots of interesting books from the reviews of other book bloggers?

Let me know in the comments below!

Poll: What is your biggest book dealbreaker?

We all have dealbreakers for books, as we do with most things in our lives.  One of the biggest dealbreakers for me (one of the only things that will actually make me put a book down) is poor grammar and spelling.  I get that a lot because I read a lot of self-published works but I have to remind myself that self-publishing is no excuse for multiple editing slip ups.  I’m talking about run-on sentences, no commas, basic grammar errors, etc.  I don’t mind one or two words that have minor misspellings because even professionally published books have those on occasion.  But when it’s one or two per page?  That, my friends, is a dealbreaker.  So what are your dealbreakers for books?

Spindle by W. R. Gingell

Spindle by W. R. Gingell

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

She’s not a princess . . . but then, he’s no prince.

Polyhymnia is deep in enchanted sleep. High in a tower, behind an impenetrable barrier of magical thorns, she sleeps, dreams, and falls ever deeper into her curse.

Woken by a kiss, Poly finds herself in an alien world where three hundred years have passed and everyone she has ever known is dead. Luck, the enchanter who woke her, seems to think she is the princess. Understandable, since he found her asleep on the princess’ bed, in the royal suite, and dressed in the princess’ clothes.

Who cursed Poly? Why is someone trying to kill her and Luck? Why can’t she stop falling asleep?

And why does her hair keep growing?

Sometimes breaking the curse is just the beginning of the journey.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Spindle by W. R. Gingell is almost a perfect retelling of Sleeping Beauty—almost.  Despite the amazing world-building, the characters and the plot Spindle fails in one simple way: exposition.  Or rather, lack thereof.

Now, I’m not the sort of person that loves an info-dump at the beginning of the book.  I prefer a slow revealing of the main character’s backstory and the story of the world the author has created.  But in Spindle there is an infuriatingly small trickle of information.  Poly wakes up to find a rude, somewhat forgetful wizard broke her spell and thinks she’s the princess.  She has magic hair that won’t stop growing.  She has a spindle in her pocket but can’t seem to remember that it’s there.  Poly accidentally takes them not to Luck’s (the wizard’s) village during a journey spell but to an entirely fictional world because she was holding a book.  And through it all, Luck keeps insisting she has magic while Poly blithely denies it, even though she constantly demonstrates magic.  It’s really, truly infuriating.  As I said, I don’t need a bunch of information in the beginning but Gingell leaves the readers even more confused than Poly for a minimum of 35% of the book.  Even after the 35% hurdle, things aren’t really explained adequately until the 50-60% mark, which is just a little bit ridiculous.  I can understand conveying the confusion of the main character but it just shouldn’t be this frustrating or last this long.  It was only out of sheer stubbornness that I kept reading past the first half of the book.

However, when backstory was finally revealed to us, the readers, it is fascinating.  Gingell has created an amazing world where magic is studied as a form of science but still tries to outfox even the most clever efforts to unravel its mysteries.  There are three types of ‘magic’ and all of them are very, very different.  The world Poly wakes up to is 300 years after her time and the world has definitely moved on.  The kingdom is now a republic, the fashions have significantly changed, there are two countries instead of three because of the war that started when the castle was put to sleep, etc.  She has to navigate this crazy new world with an unhelpful Luck, who seems oblivious to everything but his own studies and Onepiece, a dog who turns out to be a boy.  It’s a vibrant, imaginative world but it’s just so incredibly frustrating that instead of revealing a little bit in the beginning, we get huge amounts of information dumped on us after the 50% mark.

Poly herself is a pretty cool character.  She was just one of the princess’ ladies in waiting and was the target of most of the princess’ wrath.  But she’s stubborn and becomes more and more self-assured.  After sleeping for 300 years she’s desperate to get to the bottom of the curse and when Luck doesn’t seem to be all that interested in helping her, she tries to find out on her own despite the remnants of the curse.  Once she’s in Luck’s village she quickly adapts to modern life and tries to help the villagers deal with their absent-minded wizard who is supposed to take care of their little magical troubles (like the fact that the wild magic of the Forest keeps moving the fields).  Luck is a very frustrating character in the beginning but you do see glimpses of how smart and sweet he really is.  Poly and Luck make a very interesting duo.

Despite some weird time skips that weren’t really indicated in my Kindle copy (although that’s probably just a NetGalley formatting issue), the plot was amazing.  It’s not exactly fast-paced but there’s a lot of self-discovery and character development once you get past the information-starved beginning.  Gingell has created just an amazing world and despite my frustration with the beginning, I would absolutely love to read more about Poly and Luck or even just about other characters in this world.  W. R. Gingell has a great thing going here but the beginning is a huge deterrant to prospective readers.  It’s hard to convey but despite the rough beginning I really, really loved this book and if my review has intrigued you at all, I would encourage you to give Spindle a try.  It’s far better than many fairytale retellings I’ve come across.

I give this book 3/5 stars.

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The Witch of Napoli by Michael Schmicker

The Witch of Napoli by Michael Schmicker

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Italy 1899: Fiery-tempered, seductive medium Alessandra Poverelli levitates a table at a Spiritualist séance in Naples. A reporter photographs the miracle, and wealthy, skeptical, Jewish psychiatrist Camillo Lombardi arrives in Naples to investigate. When she materializes the ghost of his dead mother, he risks his reputation and fortune to finance a tour of the Continent, challenging the scientific and academic elite of Europe to test Alessandra’s mysterious powers. She will help him rewrite Science. His fee will help her escape her sadistic husband Pigotti and start a new life in Rome. Newspapers across Europe trumpet her Cinderella story and baffling successes, and the public demands to know – does the “Queen of Spirits” really have supernatural powers? Nigel Huxley is convinced she’s simply another vulgar, Italian trickster. The icy, aristocratic detective for England’s Society for the Investigation of Mediums launches a plot to trap and expose her. Meanwhile, the Vatican is quietly digging up her childhood secrets, desperate to discredit her supernatural powers; her abusive husband Pigotti is coming to kill her; and the tarot cards predict catastrophe. Inspired by the true-life story of controversial Italian medium Eusapia Palladino (1854-1918), The Witch of Napoli masterfully resurrects the bitter,19th-century battle between Science and religion over the possibility of an afterlife.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

One of the many things Michael Schmicker does well in The Witch of Napoli is bring to life the late Victorian era.  He brings to life the grubbiness and beauty of Italy’s cities and its countryside.  He absolutely captures the obsession with bringing the scientific method into every aspect of life that used to be taken for granted, particularly the spiritual side of life.  And best of all, he captures the individual struggles and triumphs of his various characters beautifully.  Even if you don’t like the narrator, Tomaso, you will find at least one character to love and for me that was Alessandra herself.

Alessandra is a fiery woman who believes absolutely in the spirits she summons.  She’s opinionated and she doesn’t take kindly to insults, perceived or real.  And because of her fiery temper, she is also passionate in both love and hatred.  Her story is fabulous and she really does grow as a charcter throughout the novel.  Despite the fact her story is told through Tomaso’s eyes (the young reporter and photographer who follows her around), Alessandra herself is never secondary.  There are a lot of times her personality outshines Tomaso’s, although that may just be from my perspective.  Don’t get me wrong—Tomaso is not a bad or even a boring character.  It’s just that Alessandra absolutely outshines him.  Tomaso goes from a wide-eyed young man to a somewhat cynical, yet hopeful man who learns to find his way in life.

The plot is not exactly fast-paced but Michael Schmicker’s writing style is beautiful and he lavishes time on character development.  At the same time, there are many interesting plots and subplots and some pretty terrifying scenes when Alessandra calls on the spirits.  So it’s an interesting book but it’s not fast-paced.  The only reason I was somewhat disappointed in this book is that the ending was very unsatisfying.  I would have loved for a less abrupt conclusion, even though I knew that such a conclusion was inevitable.  The abrupt ending just leaves you rather empty in comparison to the rest of the novel, which spends more time on most major plot points.  It’s not enough to make me dislike the plot as a whole but it was a little disappointing after the masterful twists and turns that were well explained earlier in the book.

In the end, The Witch of Napoli is an amazing book that fell a little flat in the end.  There are some absolutely amazing charcters and great plot twists in addition to a beautiful writing style.  I would absolutely still recommend it to anyone who loves a taste of the supernatural in their novels or anyone who just loves an amazing main character.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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