The Spirit War

Cover of the Spirit War by Rachel Aaron. Picture of a man standing on the side of a mountain by Sam Weber.
Art by Sam Weber. Click through to read a preview on Amazon!

Title: The Spirit War

Series: The… Chronicles of Eli Monpress? 1

Author: Rachel Aaron

Nutshell: Eli Monpress is looking for his next big score, and checking on his slowly burgeoning bounty, when he gets a shock. The most ordinary member of his crew is now the most wanted. The island nation, Osera, is offering the entire worth of their country for Josef. What’s more, Josef is turning himself in.

Meanwhile, Miranda Lyonette is finally getting some answers from the shapers. Answers that point to a dark conspiracy surrounding the very nature of reality. If only people would stop having their regular old wars, she could get some serious progress made on saving the world.

Readalikes: I’ve still only got Stormlight and the Codex Alera for you.Read More »

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 »

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 »

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 »

Star Wars: Scoundrels

Cover of Star Wars Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn. Art by Paul Youll.
Art by Paul Youll. Click to read a preview!

Title: Star Wars: Scoundrels

Author: Timothy Zahn

Nutshell: This book is very easy to describe in a nutshell:

Han Solo Does Ocean’s Eleven.

For those of you not sold, or not familiar with Ocean’s Eleven (Get thee to the library. Get, I say!) Han Solo is looking for work between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. He would go pay Jabba with his Rebel Reward Credits (trademark!) but, alas, they were stolen. By a pirate. Stupid pirates. He’s approached by a man with a job: Break into the most secure vault on the planet, owned by a high-placed member of Black Sun, the criminal syndicate which makes Jabba look forgiving and generous by comparison. All Han has to do to be set for life is come up with a team, bang out a plan, and pull off a heist. In two weeks. Say it with me: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this….”

Read-alikes: Most other Star Wars books involving Han Solo (There’s a trilogy named for him you could start with). Most other Timothy Zahn novels (although the Icarus Hunt is the one most like an actual heist). I confess, the only other titles I can come up with are actually movie titles like Ocean’s Eleven and Leverage. Read More »