The Dark Talent

Cover of The Dark Talent by Brandon Sanderson. Art of a team of quirky heroes by Scott Brundage.
Cover art by Scott Brundage. Click through to read an excerpt of book one on Amazon!

Title: The Dark Talent

Series: Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians 1

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Nutshell: The world is not what you think it is. You live in the Hushlands, the territory controlled by the Evil Librarians, who supress your knowledge and technology. But somewhere out there are the Free Kingdoms, a place of unbridled knowledge and wondrous technology. Start your search-

What? Yes, I said librarians. Yes, I meant those nice, little, old ladies with horn-rimmed glasses. They’re sneaky.

Alcatraz can tell you. Alcatraz Smedry was a foster child in despair because he broke almost everything he touched, but when he received a box of sand for his birthday, he learned the truth.

What? Yes, sand. It was a very momentous occasion. Stop interrupting.

His grandfather, Leavenworth Smedry, rescues him and explains that he is the last in a long line of powerfully gifted people. His cousin, Kaz, can speak in gibberish. Leavenworth himself is always late. And Alcatraz? He breaks stuff! So incredible!

What? Of course I’m serious. If I have to tell you one more time…

So Alcatraz embarks on an epic, zany, sarcastic quest to save the world, find his parents, and discover the truth. Like how penguins are rocket-propelled, how France is a deception, and how to use found objects to do almost anything.

Read this book. Read all these books. Read. Every. Page.

That is all the guidance I can give you. Good luck.

 

1 This is the fifth book in a series. The Nutshell will be for the series. The Ramblings will be for the book, with spoilers for previous books.

Read-alikes: Lemony Snicket’s Unfortunate Events is very like this in tone. Randoms is like it more overall.Read More »

The Cloak Society

Cover of The Cloak Society by Jaramey Kraatz. Art by Michael Komarck.
Art by Michael Komarck. Click to read an excerpt!

Title: The Cloak Society

Author: Jeramey Kraatz

Nutshell: Alex Knight is just your average, ordinary supervillain-in-training. He knows, of course, that there are heroes to oppose him, but he has grown up believing that his parents are owed their due, that they will be better for the world if only they’re given a chance. He has also been raised in a top-secret, underground bunker, allowed topside only with permission and two adults. Talk about your controlled socialization. I’m all for homeschooling, but this is extreme.

Alex and his friends are finally given a chance to prove to the world (or at least Sterling City) that they deserve to be rulers when their parents assign them the job of stealing a valuable diamond from the bank. It seems like an easy job until the Junior Justice Rangers arrive. During the fight, Alex acts on instinct to keep one of the Rangers from being killed. That instinct causes everyone to question him, and so he begins to question himself.

Read-alikes: The Artemis Fowl books, by Eoin Colfer, or for the grown-up audience, the Reckoners series by Brandon Sanderson.Read More »

Shadowed Souls

Cover of Shadowed Souls edited by Jim Butcher and Kerrie L. Hughes. Art by Chris McGrath
Art by Chris McGrath. Click through to read an excerpt on Amazon!

Title: Shadowed Souls

Author: This is an anthology

Nutshell:  Jim Butcher and Kerrie L. Hughes put together this anthology of stories about people on the fringes of mundanity, steeped in the supernatural world. As with any anthology, within the parameters the editors set is a great variety.

Molly Carpenter faces the challenges of working for Queen Mab while facing a bizarre cult in Alaska.

Peacock, street thief indentured to some kind of supernatural mob tycoon, steals a soul from Hell.

Elsie Harrington, half-demon, gets kidnapped from a roller derby by the local D&D group.

It’s a dark and occasionally quirky collection of stories for the urban fantasy reader.

Read-alikes: Any of the authors’s other works are of course like this. Jim Butcher and Kat Richardson are the ones I’m familiar with. Simon Greene, though I didn’t care for the book of his I read, is quite like.Read More »

Avalon

Cover of Avalon by Mindee Arnett. Art by Josh Dutra.
Art by Josh Dutra. Click to read an excerpt!

Title: Avalon

Author: Mindee Arnett

Nutshell: Jethro Seagrave is a teen in a predicament. He and the members of his crew are basically indentured to a crime lord, one Hammer Dafoe. (Dafoe? Really? Okay then.) Hammer uses Jeth and his crew to boost ships, stealing the irreplaceable stardrives within. But when his latest job sends the crew into the most mysterious sector of space to steal a ship with a top-secret weapon, Jethro uses the danger to bargain a deal: He gets to go free on his ship in exchange for the job. Hammer gives his word. All Jethro has to do is give him the ship, and find some leverage to help Hammer keep his promise. The secret on the stolen ship might help with that.

Readalikes: Timothy Zahn’s Dragon and Rider Series is most like this. His Icarus Hunt is also similar, as well as Star Wars books that feature a primarily space-located Han Solo, such as The Han Solo Trilogy and parts of the Jedi Academy Trilogy.Read More »

The Legend of Eli Monpress

Cover of The Legend of Eli Monpress by Rachel Aaron. Art by Sam Weber.
Art by Sam Weber. Click to read an excerpt!

Title: The Legend of Eli Monpress

Author: Rachel Aaron

Nutshell: Eli Monpress is the world’s greatest thief, and today he has stolen a king. It might be the king of the smallest country in the Council of Thrones, but it’s still the most important person in the country. He and his companions — a swordsman with the greatest magical sword ever and a scrawny shadow child — have big plans for the king. Big plans.

Miranda Lyonette is a wizard from the Spirit Court. Her job is to rein in rogue wizards, such as Eli Monpress. She seems to have arrived in the middle of a bit of a crisis, however.

Add to the mix the King’s long-since-banished brother, and a wizard of the most despicable kind. He wasn’t expecting his brother to be stolen, but you can bet he’ll make the most of it.

Rachel Aaron sets up her characters like a chemist, and then ever so carefully and precisely spills them all together and lets them blow each other up.

Readalikes: I think of Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera when I read this, and Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive. The coverquotes on the book itself suggest Scott Lynch, but Lynch’s books are a lot darker than Monpress.Read More »

Shadowhunters

Artwork from the tv show Shadowhunters.
Click for an excerpt from City of Bones!

The Shadowhunters: Eleven books as a trilogy, a pair of trilogies, and two story collections.

Author: Cassandra Clare

Nutshell: Demons exist. So do a secret race of demon-slayers. They are called the Nephilim, or Shadowhunters.

In the late 2000s, Clary Fray discovers them in New York city, and learns that she is one of them. Her mother not only raised her as a normal human but erased all her memories of the magical world. But now Clary has discovered her birthright, and just in time, as she is about to be a key player in a war between the Shadowhunters and their greatest shame: the twisted Valentine.

In the 1850s, Teresa Gray arrives in London, the city with all the best novels. She’s eager to meet her brother and start a new life after the deaths of their parents, but something’s not right. The women that pick Teresa up at the docks are, frankly, hideous and terrifying, and the place they take Teresa is more like a prison than a home. Then they torture her, forcing her to perform dark magic. But one night, the Shadowhunters raid the place, expecting a den of demons. Teresa is at least as suprised to find a rescuer breaking into her room as the rescuer, one Will Herondale, is to see her there. After a slight misunderstanding (in which Teresa proves quite able to defend her virtue from mysterious young men at midnight) Will manages to hold her off long enough to rescue her, and takes her back with him. This is fortunate, as Teresa has the first warning of one of the greatest threats the Shadowhunters have ever faced.

In the Bane Chronicles, Magnus Bane, reprobate warlock, makes his irreverent, immortal way through the centuries, loving deeply, living wildly, and learning, but not too much. Too much learning is for people who want to be serious. And depressing. Magnus Bane is never serious or depressing. If he starts to show signs of seriousness, he gets himself riotously drunk instead.

And in the Tales from the Shadowhunters Academy, Simon Lewis does some things because of spoilers from the previous books and then some other spoilers happen and then more spoilers.

Read-alikes: There are lots of “Turns out you’re actually a character in a fantasy novel” books like the Mortal Instruments. Try the Iron King, by Julie Kagawa, or the Tryll series by Amanda Hocking. For the Infernal Devices, I find The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross is satisfyingly similar. Any Buffy the Vampire Slayer literature is going to be like this also, though I haven’t read any myself.

Read More »

Nice Dragons Finish Last

Cover of Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron. Art by Anna Steinbauer.
Art by Anna Steinbauer. Click to read a preview!

Title: Nice Dragons Finish Last

Author: Rachel Aaron

Nutshell: Julian is not a very good dragon. At 23, he has never burned down a town. He does not make mortals tremble when he approaches. He hasn’t even made a cutthroat business deal! He has mostly stayed in his room, flying under his mother’s radar and trying to get along with what few siblings she hasn’t eaten.

But his mother is a queen dragon and cannot tolerate a slacker dragon making her look bad. So she dumps him in the Detroit Free Zone (where dragons are illegal, of course) and tells him three things:

1. He gets no more magic.

2. He gets no more dragon form.

3. In his lowly human form, like a mere mortal, he must do something worthy of belonging to the largest dragon clan in the world within a month, or she will eat him.

And if that weren’t terrible enough, Julian’s getting messages from his brother Bob again.

Readalikes: The Dresden Files are rather like this. Read More »