The Innkeeper Chronicles Volume 1

Cover of the book The Innkeeper Chronicles Volume 1 by Ilona Andrews

Title: The Innkeeper Chronicles Volume 1
Author: Ilona Andrews
ISBN: 1596068361
Publisher: Subterranean Press
Publication date: May 31, 2017
Page count: 768
Genre: Urban Science Fiction/Fantasy
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 4/5 stars!

Goodreads description:
Meet Dina Demille, a nice Texas gal who runs a seemingly ordinary, quaint B&B. But Dina’s inn is a magic, thinking entity; her fluffy Shih-tzu, Beast really is a beast; and her guests are the kind that no one on earth is supposed to know about: guests like a dethroned galactic tyrant with a massive bounty on her head, the Lord Marshal of a powerful vampire clan, and a displaced—and superhot—alpha-strain werewolf.

So don’t expect a normal stay…and don’t stand too close, or you may be collateral damage.

I used to read a lot of urban fantasy – for a few years, I read it almost exclusively. Needless to say, I got pretty burned out on the UF tropes. I continued to read my favorites (The Hollows by Kim Harrison, Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs), but I didn’t actively seek out new authors in the genre.

All this to say – I can’t believe I missed Ilona Andrews! I am so excited to have found this writing duo through this book (and SO excited that they have so many other books out for me to read!)

This book is an omnibus of three books: Clean Sweep, Sweep in Peace, and One Fell Sweep (as an Innkeeper, Dina has a magic broom, hence the punny titles). Each of the books was released serially and for free on the authors’ website; once each was complete, it was edited and repackaged as an ebook for sale (they currently run $4.99 each). I am desperate for news of when the next book will start being released!

These stories have a lot of humor and a lot of heart. I would often read funny passages aloud to my husband, and he giggled along with me. There is also a bit of romance, but it is not the focus of any book (there is no over-the-top hand-wringing angst, which I tired of in a lot of other UF series. I never wanted to smack Dina upside the head, bonus). But the real stars of the series are the characters. The cranky and overly-dramatic porcupine-like chef, the bloodthirsty, calculating yet charming Caldenia, requisite vampires and werewolves that somehow don’t fall into the usual pitfalls of those beings, the adorable Shih-tzu that guards the Inn, and the Inn itself – Gertrude Hunt is a mysteriously sentient being in her own right. Bottom line: if you enjoyed the Scooby gang vibe in Buffy or the found-family feels in Firefly or Guardians of the Galaxy, you will dig these books. Heartfelt and delightful are the words that most often spring to my mind.

And really, the whole series is worth reading for the alien chef’s take on Christmas alone.

Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

Cover of the book Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova on a white background with tiny yellow flowers

Title: Labyrinth Lost
Author: Zoraida Córdova
ISBN: 1492620947
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication date: September 6, 2016
Page count: 336
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Source: Library
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads summary:
Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Review: 4 Stars!

I really enjoyed this! It has familiar tropes that you can slip right into (heroine who doesn’t appreciate her gifts and acts rashly without understanding the whole situation, a little bit of a love triangle, and a quest to redeem her actions) – but it felt totally fresh. The underworld of Los Lagos was really original – I loved all the fantastic creatures we met there (and some were pretty scary!). The description of the colorful landscape itself was really great – I would *love* to see this is as a movie or mini-series! I can see it as supersaturated, so many purples and oranges…

This book was a page turner – the short chapters might have had something to do with that? Whatever it was, I liked it, I felt like I was flying through it without rushing at all. The pacing is absolutely perfect – no lulls or long drawn-out boughts of hand-wringing.

Alex felt totally believable to me as a teenager – she’s confused, she’s afraid of her magic, she’s unsure of her feelings – but she’s also not taking any shit, she’s brave, and she stays true to herself. Her growth as a character over the course of the book felt really authentic. I worried a bit about The Chosen One trope, but I think the author handled it in a really cool way – I won’t say anymore because I hate spoilers.

Side note: The Devourer reminded me of a scarier, waaaay meaner version of David Bowie’s Jareth, The Goblin King, from the movie Labyrinth (which is one of my all-time FAVES). She had a much more developed backstory though (I mean, who the hell is Jareth? How did he become the Goblin King?!) ANYWAY, she’s a worthy foe, and I want to see someone’s rendering of her cool steel and bone dress and mask.

The system of magic that Córdova created is really cool and original, and I thoroughly appreciated her Author’s Note at the end where she explains what’s real, what she used as inspiration for the fictional pieces, and where you can learn more about each facet.

Also: it’s rad that this book is populated 100% by people of color. And, bonus queer rep. If that’s a thing you try to read more of (I do!), then know that this book has it.

All in all – two very enthusiastic thumbs up to this book. It’s fun, it’s heart-felt, and it’s super satisfying. I will give a side WTF to that epilogue, buuuuut, I guess since it’s the first in a series, we’re just going to have to come back to see what’s up with that in Book 2! Very much looking forward to the next adventure.

Review: Borderline by Mishell Baker

Title: Borderline
Author: Mishell Baker
ISBN: 1481429787
Publisher: Saga Press / Simon & Schuster
Publication date: March 1, 2016
Page count: 400
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: Library
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Photo of the hardcover of Borderline by Mishell Baker on a black and white scarf

I used to read a LOT of urban fantasy. For a few years, it felt like I was reading it almost exclusively, with a bit of straight up SF and fantasy thrown in there. Needless to say…I kinda burned out on it. There are a few series that I still follow or followed to their conclusion (The Hollows by Kim Harrison and Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs, I’m looking at you), but I really started to get sick of all the tropes of the whole urban fantasy sub-genre.  So in recent years I’ve approached urban fantasy warily. 

I’m happy to report that Urban Fantasy and I have had a very happy reunion in the form of Borderline. 😁

Millie Roper is a very interesting character to get to know – I really appreciated seeing the world through her eyes. She has Borderline Personality Disorder, and she’s survived a suicide attempt that resulted in the  double amputation of her legs. She’s been voluntarily living in a psychiatric facility for quite some time when a stranger walks in and offers her a job adjacent to the world that she has left behind – the film industry. Cautious but interested, she agrees. However, she finds herself in a verrry different situation than she anticipated: instead of fetching lattes for executives, her first assignment is to track down a (famous) rogue fey actor who has overstayed his fairy visa. Wait, what? 

Yes there are fairies, but honestly? They’re kind of the least interesting part of this whole story. Really. This is more a story of how the world of fairy and the fey themselves end up affecting people in our world, for better or worse. 

Millie is joined by a very interesting cast of supporting characters, some of which we get to know, some I’m still very curious about. Luckily this is the first in a series, so we have time to do just that!

The pacing is great, the various mysteries (both the main plot and the back stories of many of the characters) unfold slowly and kept me guessing the whole time. 

 Super looking forward to reading more in this world! It’s also nominated for a Nebula for 2016, which is pretty cool – I feel like it’s kind of unusual for urban fantasy to be nominated, but that’s a gut reaction thing – research may prove me wrong. 

What are your favorite Urban Fantasy reads? I’m in the market for more these days. 😉