Tag Archives: Magic

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

V.E. Schwab ’s A Darker Shade of Magic had been on my to-read shelf for quite some time, but imagesmy current graphic novel obsession has prevented me from picking it up. Just this past weekend, I decided I was ready for some adult science fiction again, so I picked up the first in her trilogy of three books. I was instantly hooked after the first couple chapters and finished it in a couple of nights.

A Darker Shade of Magic takes place in London, but it’s not the London that you or I are familiar with. Think if your world had three parallel levels that were stacked on top of each other and were only accessible by a few select people in the world. This is the London of A Darker Shade of Magic. We immediately meet Kell, who is our main character, and find out that he is one of very few called the Antari. He was born with magic in his blood, and this allows him to access the other Londons. He refers to them by color: his London is the Red London which is full of magic, the Grey London is a place like our own world where magic is scarce, and the White London is a world that has been ravaged by war. Kell is often called on by his king to deliver messages from world to world, but he may have a side job or two as well while visiting the other Londons.

Schwab takes her time in developing a plot, but this doesn’t cause the novel to drag at all. In the meantime, she is creating a beautiful world (or worlds in this case) and making sure that all of her characters are intriguing as well. The reader truly can visualize the world that Kell lives in and the worlds that he travels too before the action even gets started.

Almost halfway through the book, we begin to get into our plot which introduces our other main character, Lila. Lila is a pickpocket in Grey London, but quickly finds herself thrown into a parallel world battle for a stone that may allow an Antari to access a London that no longer is accessible. We also meet Holland at this point who is another Antari, but he is employed by the monarchy of White London. Kell and Lila embark on a journey that will take them through many worlds and many close calls as they try and keep the stone out of the hold of the evil king and queen of White London.

This book is a wild roller coaster ride and I’m looking forward to where the next two books lead. The next book, A Gathering of Shadows is already available and the last book will be out next February. If you like your science fiction with only small amounts of fantasy mixed in, I highly recommend this as your next book!

Formats Available:  Book, Audiobook, E-book

Reviewed by Sara, Okolona Branch

Key series by Nora Roberts

Sometimes family isn’t just about the blood that runs through your veins.  Sometimes family is also the bond you form in your most desperate of hours when it seems like all hope might be lost, and the love that grows from that, that could last a lifetime. This is what I often call my heart family, the ones who’ll stand beside me no matter what happens, not because we share blood, but because we share our hearts.

So, if you take that concept of a heart family, throw in a couple of Welsh and Celtic gods, cursed sister souls trapped in a box for a few thousand years and throw in the incredible writing skills of  Ms. Nora Roberts, what do you come up with?  Why that would be the KEY series of course.

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So our trilogy begins with three beautiful strangers who all live in Pleasant Valley but have never actually met, all of them twenty-something professionals on the verge of a major career change… or possibly a crashing and crushing end of those respective careers?  The first story (Key of Light) focuses on Malory Price, the art expert and manager for the town’s most successful gallery.  She knows her art and her customers too well, and quickly tangles with the owner’s new trophy wife (who, well, doesn’t know art) and puts her career and her future on the chopping block.  

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Second comes (Key of Knowledge) and Dana Steele, the town’s highly skilled and super well-read librarian, and the go to girl for world class trivia challenges, who’s fighting both nepotism and budget cuts within the ;system’.  Third comes (Key of Valor) and Zoe McCourt a struggling but talented hairstylist, and warrior hearted mother to 9 year old Simon who has a jealous salon manager who’s bent on seeing her fired.

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All three ladies are brought together on one dark and stormy night (yes, the classic line is finally brought to life in this series) for a cocktail party hosted by the mysterious Rowena and Pitt, an old souled couple who own Warrior’s Peak, the ethereal fortress of stone high up on the hill that overlooks Pleasant Valley… guardians of the valley, or so it seems. Shockingly, they are the only three guests to be invited, and there seems to be no connection between the three ladies at first, other than, of course their eerie and striking resemblance to the ‘Daughters of Glass’ a trio of demi-goddess sisters whose souls were cursed three centuries ago.

And therein lays the challenge of the gods…literally.  Can this valiant trio of women of women, in just one short cycle of the moon, find one of three lost keys?  These keys can, when brought together, unlock the prison box, and release the souls of those three trapped demi-goddesses before it’s too late and the curse lasts forever.

And what is their reward, just for accepting the challenge that they, at first, think is totally crazy?  Why $25,000 of course…each, upon acceptance of the contract, with an ultimate prize of $1 million for each woman should all them succeed in their quest.

And little do these three ‘sisters’ know that they are beginning the quest of a lifetime, (of many lifetimes and of many trios of women as it turns out) a friendship and sisterhood is quickly formed, and a family (of sorts) is born.

Enter Simon, the spitting image of his ‘pulled herself up by her bootstraps’ mom Zoe, whose spirit simply cannot be tamed and whose curiosity and energy knows no bounds.  Then there’s Flynn, Dana’s step-brother and his incorrigible beast of a dog Moe (if that’s what you dare to call an animal which is more wooly mammoth than actual pooch).  Flynn falls hard for, and ON, Malory the first time they met, with the help of Moe who has so much energy to burn he might be considered a hazard.  He’s a flirt (Flynn and Moe) and may just be more than Malory bargained for.  So, can she, the woman who’s planned her life out in detail and reset her plan yearly get passed the goofiness of Moe to fall for Flynn too. 

And Flynn is only the beginning.  He’s also one part of a ‘trinity’ himself, with two childhood best friends who all share a long history in the valley. 

One, Jordan, is the famous author and golden child success story of Pleasant Valley. He has a heart filled with regrets over a decision made in haste when he was no more than a boy, who, as a man, still pines for the woman whose heart he callously broke and for the love of the one woman he cared for, but sacrificed far too easily because he didn’t understand that real love, with that one, good woman (Dana) could cure any pain in his heart, even that of the loss of a parent.  Can Dana forgive the man, and risk her heart again to the boy who broke it?

The other friend is Brad, the rich boy from town and the heir apparent to the town’s lumber dynasty.  He fell head over heels for a woman he never met (Zoe) just from seeing her face in a painting.  Zoe, the poor white trash girl, who’s mom cut hair out of their trailer to feed her family, who never believed someone like him could fall so hard and so fast for a girl like her, much less the 9 year old that’s part of the package. But, alas, those are stories for the two sequels…ones well worth getting to know.

Formats Available:  Book, Audiobook

Reviewed by Tracie, Southwest Branch

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

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We all have those lists of books waiting for the day when we might actually be able to read them.  How this title stayed on my list for so long seems like a mystery.  Humor, romance, adventure – this novel has it all.  While marketed toward an older teen audience, this can easily be enjoyed by an adult reader.

Samhain, nicknamed Sam, floats through life.  He is happy to work in a gross fast food restaurant, happy to drop out of college, happy to be nothing special.  Until the day that Sam learns he is very special.  Gifted with an ability hidden from him at birth by his mother, Sam must quickly learn the ways of Necromancy.

His goofy, big mouth nature seems to continually land him in deeper trouble till it looks like there’s no hope.  Thankfully, he isn’t in it alone.  Armed with good friends and a pack of werewolves, Sam must find a way to accept his true nature and defeat a really, really bad dude.

If you think this title isn’t for you, you’re likely wrong.  It does have elements of fantasy and magic but it mostly centers on accepting who you are, growing up, and finding confidence.  Sam is a loveably sarcastic main character, the dialogue is well written, and the plot is well developed (though at times predicable). Music lovers will appreciate the chapter titles (which are all song lyrics).  Readers will find themselves eagerly turning pages to find out Sam’s triumphs and failures.

This all around light and feel good novel by Lish McBride is highly recommend.

Formats Available: Book

Reviewed by Lindsay, Southwest Branch

Twelve Great Reads

Can you believe it? 2013 is almost over. And you know what that means…end of the year time is Best of the Year time!

So here is a list of some favorite comics from the past year. They may or may not have been published in 2013. Many of the titles are ongoing series so I have just named each series as a whole rather than any specific volume.

All of these works can be checked out from LFPL. I have also named the author and main artist for each title (except for #12 where there were multiple artists over the course of its run, sometimes even in the same issue).

Due to the variety of stories being told, it was difficult to rank the items in order of preference. Instead, they are listed below in alphabetical order.


American Vampire by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque

What if vampires were evolving? What if one of the meanest, low-down gunslingers of the Wild West was the first of a new breed of stronger, faster vampires? Stephen King himself adds his macabre touch to this tale of horror and revenge across the decades.


Batman: The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

One of the best of DC’s New 52 storylines. Scott Snyder (who is also the primary writer for American Vampire) deftly continues the building of Gotham’s most important character – the city itself – that he began in the Gates of Gotham. We are introduced to the shadowy Court of Owls and to the Talons, an army of immortal assassins in service to the Court, as they decide to show Batman who really runs Gotham.


Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and David Aja

Action and comedy mingle in this fast-paced look at the life of the non-powered superhero. It’s just a man with a bow tackling problems with femme fatales, Russian mobsters, and the training of a sidekick…er, partner. The writing by Matt Fraction is quick and witty, and the art by David Aja is a perfect fit.


I, Vampire by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino

A minor character from J.M. DeMattheis’ run on House of Mystery is now the star of his own title in the New 52 universe. The background of Andrew Bennett, the titular vampire, is revealed along the way as he battles the plans of his lover, Mary Queen of Blood, to lead a worldwide vampire revolution against humanity’s dominance over other species.


The Manhattan Projects by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra

Imagine a world where The Manhattan Project was but one undertaking of a long-running government program to investigate and master exotic science for the benefit of the U.S. Many important scientists from the mid-Twentieth Century work there but one, Robert Oppenheimer, is harboring a secret of his own that will threaten the very existence of The Projects.


The Massive by Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson

The Massive is not just another post-apocalyptic tale. It examines what it would mean to be an ecological activist in the wake of multiple events that trigger permanent disastrous climate change. Brian Wood – best known for creating DMZ and his work on various X-men titles – keeps this exploration from becoming didactic or boring by focusing on the mystery of a disappearing ship which the main characters are seeking. Plus they have to battle pirates!


Mind the Gap by Jim McCann and Rodin Esquejo

This para-scientific thriller is about a woman admitted to the emergency room after being beaten into a coma and what her place is in an unfolding conspiracy. The protagonist, Elle Peterssen, finds herself conscious but separated from her body. She is in an indeterminate spiritual realm and wants to get back to the real world. While Elle struggles to return to everyday life, there is a lot of drama involving her friends, her family, and a mysterious stranger who seems to be orchestrating events from the shadows.


Morning Glories by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma

Morning Glories is part prep school drama, part Lost-style conspiracy, and all fun. Nick Spenser – creator of Infinite Vacation, a title that almost made this list – keeps the intrigue and the action going without skimping on characterization. Love them or hate them, you definitely want to know what happens to these characters.


Revival by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton

What if a zombie outbreak happened only in a small, rural Wisconsin town? And said town has to struggle with the reintegration of its newly revived citizens into society? Not only that but it has to face the pressure from the rest of the world that is pushing at the boundaries of a CDC quarantine zone. Revival is subtitled “A Rural Noir” and that is exactly what it is. Tim Seeley doesn’t back away from showing the macabre and horror inherent in the situation. What else would you expect from the creator of the infamous Hack/Slash series?


Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Two alien races are at war but love unites a couple of soldiers from each race as they are pursued by their respective forces who wish to punish them for their treason. They also have to figure out how to take care of their newborn child and deal with overbearing parents! Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ space opera never turns into corny pastiche even though its core story is as old as Shakespeare and is filled with stock science fiction trappings like space battles, mercenaries, and robots.


Saucer Country by Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly

This series has been described by its creators Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly as “The West Wing does The X-Files,” and they deliver on the promise of those words. Arcadia Alvarado, the Governor of New Mexico, is about to make a bid for the Presidency when she is abducted by aliens. As her staff struggles to keep her campaign from faltering, Arcadia hires Professor Joshua Kidd, a Harvard sociologist who has studied alien abduction, to help her get to the truth of UFOs and the alien agenda.


The Shade by James Dale Robinson

The Shade (a.k.a. Richard Swift) has been a super-villain since the Golden Age of comic books, primarily serving as nemesis to both the Jay Garrick and Barry Allen iterations of The Flash. But he is also an immortal who gained his powers in the same period which saw Charles Dickens rise to fame. In fact, Dickens was a great friend of The Shade when he was still a normal man. In this series we find The Shade in a morally ambiguous place as he has decided to change his super-villain ways and save his descendants from assassination by a mysterious opponent.

-Tony-