It’s the fifteenth book of the Dresden Files. I know some avid readers who say the series has long since become same-old, same-old. Weirdly enough, I’m still engaged.
In the weird version of San Francisco featured in the same author’s “Love Story” trilogy of vampire novels—”Bloodsucking Fiends”, “You Suck”, and “Bite Me”—lives a textbook specimen of the creature known as the Beta Male. His name is Charlie Asher. He runs a second-hand shop (inherited from his father), shares a four-story apartment building (ditto) with his lesbian sister, and can’t believe his luck when a beautiful Jewish girl marries him and has his daughter. But then death swoops down in the form of a seven-foot-tall record store owner whose name, like his wardrobe, is Minty Green. Suddenly Charlie is a widower, a single father, and because he could see Death coming for his wife, he’s Death as well.
He still keeps saying, “I’m just a fry cook,” even though it’s been 19 months since he last wielded a spatula in anger. During that time, he has followed the tug of his psychic senses from one horrific ordeal to another. He has stopped mass murders before they happened. He has staved off a nuclear apocalypse, canceled an alien invasion, and unpicked a snarl in the fabric of space time. He has exterminated nests of serial killers, rescued kidnapping victims from demonic villains and their undead minions, and helped the restless spirits of the dead move on to the next big thing. He has accepted help from spunky old ladies, protected the lives of innocent children, and in all probability, saved the world. But he doesn’t like to think of himself as anything more than a humble fry cook. It’s one of the things we love about Odd Thomas.
In the fourth “Repairman Jack” novel, the rakoshi are back. Those were the blue-skinned, yellow-eyed, man-eating demons from Indian prehistory, who terrorized Jack and his loved ones in “The Tomb”. Now the last rakosh—the one who left his claw-marks on Jack’s chest—has turned up in a freak show at the same quaint Long Island town where Jack battled the otherness in “Conspiracies”. Jack is torn between killing it, to make sure it can never hurt Gia and Vicky again, and leaving it alone to die in captivity. But his decision is complicated by an outbreak of extreme violence, the result of a designer drug that has become all the rage (ha, ha) in the streets of Manhattan.
Siobhan Quinn is a runaway, a junkie, and a tough chick, living by her wits in the streets of Providence, Rhode Island. Things start to get really dark for her when she sees her girlfriend being eaten by a ghoul. She kills it, of course. Under the patronage of a flamboyant character whom she calls “Mean Mr. B,” she soon sets out on a career as a slayer of nasties. Then one inadvertent slaying lands her in the middle of… well, I don’t want to spoil it. Before Quinn figures out what’s going on, she gets turned into a werewolf and a vampire—doubly cursed, doubly damned, an abomination to abominations, etc., etc. Worse, someone (or something) is pulling her magical strings, controlling her transformations, and using her to track down and kill everyone who crossed him or her. Or it.
Many things discouraged me from reading the third book of the Inheritance Cycle. There was the backlash against my mixed review of Book 2, “Eldest”—almost, but not quite, the harshest feedback I have received. There was the disappointment of the film based on Book 1, “Eragon”—a hint that there would be less pressure from fandom in general to stay on top of this series. And finally, there was the thickness of this book, which was supposed to be the finale of a trilogy—whereas, in spite of its length, it turned out to be the third movement in a quartet.
What do a wearh, a manjasang, a nachzehrer, and an alukah have in common? In this sequel to “A Discovery of Witches”, we find out that they are all words for “vampire” used across 16th century Europe, from Oxfordshire to the Auvergne to the Jewish Quarter of Prague. Present-day American witch Diana Bishop has the opportunity to learn about them, not only as a post-doctoral scholar of the history of alchemy, but also as the time-traveling wife of a vampire prince known by just as many names: Mattieu de Clermont, Matthew Roydon, Sebastian St. Clair, Gabriel ben Ariel… One accumulates aliases when one has lived a thousand years or two.
Some trilogies are open-ended. When the author decides to add a fourth book to it, we start to call it the So-and-So Quartet. Since fans of a series are unlikely to regret the arrival of a new installment, this sort of thing is usually embarrassing only to publishers who have invested money in packaging the first three books as the So-and-So Trilogy, and to unsparingly critical readers who notice (sometimes) that the fourth book isn’t quite as good. But what do we do when a trilogy comes to a very definite, final end—like, for example, the Bartimaeus Trilogy, whose human protagonist John Mandrake made the final sacrifice at the end of book three? (Oops. Spoilers!) How does the author get away with adding a fourth book to the series? It’s easy, actually. He makes it a prequel. And he makes it good.
In the sixth Greywalker novel, Harper Blaine—a private eye who has one foot in the world of magic—is doing a little pre-trial footwork for a Seattle attorney when a ghost hires her to solve his murder. Joined first by her pet ferret Chaos, and later by her techie-spook boyfriend Quinton, she spends this book investigating two cases in the Olympic Peninsula, a region of Washington state that may already seem familiar to fans of the Twilight series. Lack of sparkly vampires notwithstanding, it proves to be a mystery fraught with darkness, danger, encounters with otherworldly beings, and a war between mages over control of the energies welling up from a lake full of ancient ghosts.
In the story before the story before the story, four representatives from a peaceful, bucolic valley traveled into the Empire to the south in search of a magician who would build a magical barrier around their valley, protecting it from both northern marauders and the conscripting, taxing powers of the Empire. Eventually a magician named Faheel fixed things so that, as long as the male descendants of Ortahl the miller sang to the northern snows, an ice dragon would keep the pass closed to barbarian invasion; and as long as a female descendant of Urla the farmer fed barley to the unicorns and sang to the cedars, a sickness in the forest to the south of the valley would keep men from the Empire out as well. This protection held for twenty generations.