Book Talk

This is the place for book reviews and book-related round-ups or lists. I read all sorts of things, but book reviews here will mostly be of the science fiction, fantasy, YA, historical fiction, or contemporary fiction variety. My reviews are based on a) how much I enjoyed reading a book and b) the quality of the writing; there is not an exact balance or recipe for how I come up with my final rating, but those are the points I consider. Also, I read a LOT more books than I do full reviews on, so if you want the full rundown of activity, find me on Goodreads. You can also check out my list of Recommended Reads.

Book Review: Raven Song

Raven Song (Inoki’s Game #1)

by I.A. Ashcroft.

Raven Song A century from now, after widespread nuclear war, humanity is clinging to a few select cities, kept safe from radiation by their force field domes. Jackson is a legit businessman and less-legit smuggler, making ends meet and sailing through life. And it would be smooth sailing, except for some troubling dreams, hallucinations of extinct ravens, and his own finicky magic. Then a big government contract lands in his lap, and it’s too good to pass up. Except the cargo is not a thing, but a person. And she is definitely not normal, definitely not local- and very much about to be in a world of trouble and need help. Jackson suddenly finds himself smack in the middle of a power struggle between the government, a rogue agent, and the magic-wielders, with his own power and destiny suddenly come calling.

This book has an interesting mix of science fiction and fantasy elements. On the sci-fi side, you have the anti-radiation tech, questionable experiments, and time travel. On the fantasy side, you have magic powers, mysterious beings, and dreams that maybe aren’t really dreams. And, surprisingly, this all works well together. There’s not a jarring dissonance between these difference forces, they’re just all part of the world.

Jackson as one of the two main characters is… ok. For someone who is supposed to be a successful smuggler, I found him frustratingly naive and even willfully ignorant at times. My annoyance at him would occasionally draw me out of the story. It did get better, after a certain near-death experience turning point. Anna, the other main character, I found much more intriguing. Her bewilderment and temper (depending on the situation) were equally believable. I very much want to know more about her back story: how she got from her past to this present. We get enough of that for a first book in a series, but she is definitely the hook that will get me to read book 2.

The minor characters tended to be a bit one-note, unfortunately. Frank was your typical gruff older sidekick-slash-father-figure. Agent Walker was like a copy of Agent Smith from the Matrix, sunglasses obsession and all. I am intrigued by the starry-eyed figure that appears in Jackson’s dreams, and whom I suspect is responsible for his adoptive history.

The part of this book that REALLY didn’t work for me was the entire Tony storyline. To me, it was a messy, gimmicky way to reveal a certain government project. There were so many (better!) ways this could have been handled. It didn’t advance the Anna storyline (other than I guess to give her an excuse to stretch her powers, which again could’ve been done a better way). And it certainly didn’t advance Jackson’s storyline, aside from a childhood trauma that has no other bearing on the story, and vague hints at Jackson’s destiny. It was a clumsy way to separate the two main characters, and by the time they are reunited, not a whole lot has changed, so what was the point?

That aside, the rest of the plotlines were more interesting. I want to know more about the history of the magical Order and their exact beef with Jackson. I want to know more about Anna’s history and how she ended up there. I want to know about both of their powers and the why behind them. By the end, I was even curious about Agent Walker and his apparent crew.

So, there’s potential here. And I will be picking up book 2, though I’ll have to wait awhile for it. If you like dark urban fantasy with a smidge of sci-fi, give this a try.

I give it 3.5/5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Raven Song

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Book Review: Black Fall

Black Fall (The Black Year Saga #1) by D.J. Bodden. Jonas Black is your typical teenager- 16, with a girlfriend, school, and favorite playlists he can’t live without. Sure, he has a missing/dead father, and mother he barely sees, but no one is 100% normal, right? Then strange things start happening and he learns just how far from normal his family (and he) is. The world he thought he knew is really just the surface. Vampires, werewolves, ghosts, zombies, demons – they are all real, and dangerous. And, of course, all balanced in an ongoing political struggle for power and […]

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Book Review: Ninth City Burning

Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black. The future of Earth is threatened when an alien race suddenly appears in our skies, wielding a power we have no idea how to combat. Cities disappear, and it looks like the planet will be overrun, when humanity discovers it can wield this new power, too. Or at least, some humans can. Enough to fight back. This sparks a centuries-long war spanning planets and realms. Things are much the same year after year, with each side gaining and losing ground again and again. Then the tactics of the alien force change, ever so […]

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Book Review: The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) by N.K. Jemisin. Sometime far, far in the future, Earth (is it Earth?) is unrecognizable. The landmasses have shifted into one big, volatile continent called The Stillness. Every few centuries or so, this volatility causes a fifth season. It’s a different animal from the other four (spring, summer, autumn, winter); always inhospitable to life, it can vary in its length (months, years, decades) and the specific calamity involved. This book opens at the dawning of a new fifth season. The story is told via 3 characters: Demaya, a young girl from the countryside; […]

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Book Review: The Invisible Library

The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1) by Genevieve Cogman. An inter-dimensional library tasked with collecting rare works from the the different alternate realities. Do you really need more of a hook than that? I didn’t. Turns out, being a Librarian for this particular library is a lot like being a spy and thief. Add in some time travel, some steampunk flavor, a few paranormal creatures, and more, and you have the makings of a delightfully entertaining read. And it was, at least, delightfully entertaining. This is a book you read for fun, not for Deep Thoughts or Social Commentary. […]

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Book Review: The Fire Sermon

The Fire Sermon (The Fire Sermon, #1) by Francesca Haig. Some time in the future, a nuclear disaster devastates the world. 400 years after that, humanity is still around but has been changed drastically. Every single person is born with a twin. One twin comes out healthy and ‘normal’ (the Alphas) and the other inevitably has some kind of deformity or abnormality (the Omegas). And despite society’s best efforts to segregate these two types, one hard fact remains: whenever one twin dies, so does the other. They are irrevocably linked. When Cass and Zach are born, it’s not clear which […]

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Book Review: The Butterfly Crest

The Butterfly Crest (The Protogenoi Series #1) by Eva Vanrell. Elena grows up in Japan with two loving parents, until a tragic car accident takes them both from her. Raised by her mother’s best friend in New Orleans, Elena finds herself years later in a job she hates with no love life to speak of. Then out of the blue she gets a letter from a bank in Japan about an inheritance from her mother that no one knows anything about. What she finds in Japan is a curse- and it changes everything she thought she knew about her family […]

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