Tag Archives: paranormal

Devil's Call by J Danielle Dorn

Devil’s Call by J Danielle Dorn

 

Devil’s Call
by J Danielle Dorn

On a dark night in the summer of 1859, three men enter the home of Dr. Matthew Callahan and shoot him dead in front of his pregnant wife. Unbeknownst to them, Li Lian, his wife, hails from a long line of women gifted in ways that scare most folks―the witches of the MacPherson clan―and her need for vengeance is as vast and unforgiving as the Great Plains themselves.

Written to the child she carries, Devil’s Call traces Li Lian’s quest, from the Nebraska Territory, to Louisiana, to the frozen Badlands, to bring to justice the monster responsible for shooting her husband in the back. This long-rifled witch will stop at nothing​―​and risk everything​―​in her showdown with evil.

Rated: ★★★★
Publisher:  Inkshares
Publication: August 8, 2017
Genre: Western, Paranormal
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this title.

amazon | b&n | book depo

Devil’s Call by J Danielle Dorn

HOLY CANNOLI! Devil’s Call by J Danielle Dorn was amazing from the very first second I picked it up! I knew, from the very first few pages I would love this book, and my hunch was right. It was so much more than I thought it would be. Though it is marked as a horror novel, to me, it fits more as a Western/paranormal. I went into it expecting horror, expecting gore and scares and instead, got the saddest sads I’ve ever sadded. Pacing was fantastic, the writing spectacular, and the story itself remarkable touching and solid.

Now, I know I said it was Western Paranormal, and I don’t want folks that don’t usually lean towards fantasy type novels, or westerns, to be turned away. The paranormal aspect of this story is minimal compared to the actual beauty of the story. Yes, the protagonist is a witch, but what lies at the crux of this story is a sweeping tale of vengeance and love. Li Lian weaves a tale of regret and sadness so palpable, I had to stop myself from weeping. Written as a journal from Li Lian to her child, we understand from the start this will not end well or happy. Yet, I never really understood how sad and dark it could get. It’s the good kind of sad, the kind that makes you feel as though you’ve learned how to better live because of experiencing it.

The novel moved at a steady pace, neither going too quickly to grasp the action, nor too slowly to grow bored. Every single detail given was chosen for maximum impact and given at the exact right time. What was truly remarkable was how perfect the setting is for this tale. The landscape often reflecting the narrative of the story and the turmoil Li Lian experienced. From cities with a gravitas to ground the characters, to the wild plains of the newly charted western United States that mirror Li Lian’s growing recklessness? though that isn’t the right word, it fits well enough, Dorn uses the setting almost as an extra, ever present character that does more than set the mood. It sets the story.

Devil’s Call by J Danielle Dorn is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. The high quality writing and construction never falters. I was left with such sadness, but with also the tiniest bit of hope, which might seem like folly considering how everything came about. Yet, I hope there’s room for a follow-up novel, which I will greedily and hungrily pick up! A definite must read!

A Dream of Ashes by Orlando A Sanchez

 A Dream of Ashes
by Orlando A Sanchez

Mystics.Magic.Murder.
A Fire Mystic.A Ruthless Killer. A Dark Secret.

Ava James is a fire mystic with the Mystic Investigative Division. As a branch of the Enclave, a worldwide mystic organization, the MID is feared, respected and reviled.

When the half-charred body of a Mystic is found, the Enclave sends her to investigate the strange death. Ava finds that all the clues point to the killer being a fire mystic, one of her own. Accused by the Enclave of working with the killer she must solve the case before a secret buried in her past is revealed and destroys her world.

Can she save herself? Will she find the murderer?

Chronicles of the Modern Mystics Book 1

Publisher: OM Publishing
Publication: April 27, 2016
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal
I received this title for free in exchange for an honest review
Purchase: amazon | b&n | book depo
Rated: ★★

A Dream of Ashes by Orlando A Sanchez

Kick ass heroines racing to exonerate themselves is much beloved trope/genre for me. I mean, I’ve loved reading all about Anita Blake’s antics (before it all went to hell in a harem), as well as Sookie Stackhouse’s adventures. So, when I was approached to review A Dream of Ashes by Orlando A Sanchez, I was really excited! Not only was I getting the kick ass heroine, but also a book written by a local author! The novel was certainly fast-paced, sometimes a bit too much so, but the characters were engaging, and the world was interesting, if a bit lacking.

For such a short novel, just shy of 300 pages, the plot moved quickly. There was never a dull point in the story and everything that happened was for a reason that quickly propelled the story. This was great, but did have its downfall, mainly being that there wasn’t enough time for the reader to catch their breath. So much happened in so little time that everything seemed to blur together with information not having enough time to sink in.

This small issue bleeds into the larger issue of world building. It’s certain that author Orlando Sanchez knows this world he’s creating. It feels solid. But as a reader, I felt lost. I didn’t know what the enclaves were, what the mystics were, what those special sticks were about. If the action and plot were slowed down just a little to offer some world building explanations, the book would have been tremendously improved.

Character-wise, however, Sanchez was right on point. Ava was strong, but still had her weaknesses and moments of vulnerability. She wasn’t a super-woman, and I loved this. Ghost and his daughter were mysterious and I’d love to know more about them. I’d love to know more about warders and mystics in general, which goes back to slowing the book down a little just go give more world information.

A Dream of Ashes by Orlando A Sanchez is a good first book in a series. The action seems real and well thought out, and the characters are relateable and well developed. The pacing is fast, but hopefully subsequent books in the series will slow it down a little to help readers get a firmer grasp of the world Sanchez has created because it looks to be a good one!

White Rabbit Society Brendan Detzner

White Rabbit Society by Brendan Detzner

 White Rabbit Society
by Brendan Detzner

Andrew is fifteen years old. He’s been sent to stay with his grandmother for the summer while his parents finish their divorce, but the summer’s up and he’s still stuck up in Wisconsin. And his best and only friend is a monster.

Shadow lives under a gazebo in the park. She has a body made of spare parts, she seems to be omnipotent, and she likes to play chess. Andrew doesn’t tell anybody about Shadow. Nobody listens to him anyway.

Andrew’s Uncle Paul comes to town. Andrew didn’t know he had an Uncle Paul. Paul knows about Shadow. Paul knows lots of things. Some of them are things he shouldn’t know; some of them are things no one should know. And he’s interested in teaching.

Unfortunately, Paul isn’t stopping by just to say hello. He’s being pursued, by people interested in his secrets. People interested in Shadow. And soon, people interested in Andrew.

Publisher: Attack Rabbit Press
Publication: July 15, 2016
Genre: Magic realism, Urban fantasy, Paranormal
I received this title for free in exchange for an honest review
Purchase: amazon | b&n | book depo
Rated: ★★★

White Rabbit Society by Brendan Detzner

White Rabbit Society by Brendan Detzner was such an interesting and great read, I’m so happy Mr. Detzner asked me to review his novel! It was extremely well written and reminded me a bit of the magic realism from The Dresden Files, but also seemed bit like The Seer by Grant Palmquist  in that it revolved around a pair of teens trying to understand the weirdness of the world around them. What made this an extra fun book, however, was the extra element of a club/mafia/mob involvement. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I absolutely LOVE heist and mafia/organized crime type books, so that was such a pleasant addition to find.

After being abandoned at his grandmother’s house, Andrew is bored and lonely, which surprise, surprise, leads to his discovery of Shadow, an ephemeral creature that lives beneath a gazebo at the park. He gives Shadow a name and befriends her. She, in turn, struggles to understand what she is, as well as what is the world she is a part of. Detzner does a great job in portraying not only Shadow’s innocence, but also her and Andrew’s naivete.This culminates towards the books ending, which shows just how Shadow chooses to evolve and the actions she takes.

Then, we have the adults in the story, Paul playing a major part. This is where the mafia/heist elements come into play, as well as family secrets. Paul and his flashbacks are simultaneously one of the best and most informative parts of the book, but also what brought this book down a star. The way he entered into the knowledge of magic, forced his way into the White Rabbit Society, even his birth and upbringing, are all so intriguing and interesting, yet we only see brief instances of these events. Detzner cuts through the present day story with bits of the past, as well as bits of the present with other characters, and it simply doesn’t work as effectively as it could. Were it only cuts between Paul’s past and Andrew’s present, it would make White Rabbit Society much more effective. However, cutting between Paul’s past, Andrew’s present, and then various other side characters from the Society, it just gets too jumbled and confusing. I lost track of who some characters were and how they fit into the story or with each other.

If you’re into urban paranormal/magic realism stories a la Dresden Files, but with a stronger human touch, I wholeheartedly recommend you pick up White Rabbit Society by Brendan Detzner. It is solidly written, well developed, and has a strong plot that really makes me want to check out more his writing.

About the Author

Brendan Detzner writes in a big messy pile of different genres and formats. His work is sometimes funny, sometimes scary, and usually very strange. He lives in Forest Park, IL and runs the Bad Grammar Theater reading series in Chicago. He can be contacted at brendandetzner@yahoo.com.

– via his official website.

You can also support Brendan via his Patreon page

The Flame and the Arrow by Emigh Cannaday

The Flame and the Arrow by Emigh Cannaday

 The Flame and the Arrow
by Emigh Cannaday

Aspiring rock star Annika Brisby thinks she knows where her life is going until she steps through a broken portal that leaves her stranded in a realm of fairies, vampires, and other mythical beings. Unable to return until it’s repaired, she’s rescued by wood nymphs who believe her sudden arrival is no accident. After being taken in by a prominent family of elves, Annika finds herself struggling to resist the seductive spell of their youngest son,Talvi. Equal parts arrogant and alluring, the notorious heartbreaker seems like the perfect distraction for her homesickness. Her new friends warn her that she’ll probably regret ever laying eyes on him,and what begins as a casual fling quickly burns too hot to handle. By the time Annika learns the consequences of their forbidden trysts,Talvi’s already under her skin and dangerously close to her heart. But on the journey home she discovers that there’s a mountain of secrets that he’s not telling her, and Annika can’t help wondering who’s really in danger.

Book 1 of the Annika Brisby series

Publisher: Silver Poplar Press
Publication: November 11, 2010
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Supernatural, Paranormal
FREE on amazon kindle, recommended to me by author
Purchase: amazon | b&n | kobo
Rated: ★★★★

The Flame and the Arrow by Emigh Cannaday

Reading the synopsis, I wasn’t sold on The Flame and the Arrow by Emigh Cannaday, I have to be honest. I thought this sounds cheesy, and doubted it would do anything but bore me. But, I thought hey, it’s free, the author was incredibly lovely in her email, and the cover looks AMAZING. Plus, if I hated it, I could always just stop. I have never been happier to be wrong about a synopsis in my life! This was such a fun and fantastic read, once I started it, I just kept going until I finished it (which meant going over my treadmill time at the gym just because I didn’t want to stop!)

The writing is solid. It is clear Emigh Cannaday knows what she’s doing. Conversations sound realistic and are fun. It feels natural, especially the banter. Her characters seem flat at first, but as they charm each other, you find yourself enamored with them as well. Annika isn’t just a wannabe rock star. She is a legitimate character that is strong and stands up for herself, while at the same time, able to show vulnerability and recognize when she’s wrong. Talvi is such a charmer and such a cad, I am absolutely smitten with him. The world building is good. I can’t say amazing, simply because most of book was more focused on characters and relationships, rather than building the world up. However, I’d love to know more about all of the supernatural and paranormal creatures and the homelands. Maybe in the second book, The Silver Thread, we’ll learn more.

The Flame and the Arrow by Emigh Cannaday is an absolute treasure. It’s fun, smitten, captivating, and really just grips you. The more you read, the more entangled you become and the more attached you grow to everyone involved in the novel. Cannot wait to start the second one!

Quotes & Excerpts

You are here because Fate invited you. You cannot go back the way you came. I suggest you go forward instead. With that, the mystical being walked back into the woods as silently as it had emerged.
– Chapter 4 // a most magical creature

“I think we are all away that modern humans have a tendency to leave nature worse for the wear after they’ve set foot on it,” Nikola said, and glanced towards Annika. “No other creature does what humans do to their environment. They poison their land, their water, their food… they even poison the air they breathe. It affects all living things, from the enormous whale to the tiny ant, and humans only grow more ignorant and disconnected from the land as time goes by. They chew down the forests that serve to clean the air, but unlike termites who only feed on dead wood, humans are indiscriminate. They are the only animal that is capable of such intelligence and yet do such asinine things.[…]”
– Chapter 21 // a different living legend

“[…] None of us know the amount of time we have in this life. I could die tomorrow. So could you. Or, we might live a long life without ever having the adventure that is true love, simply because we were afraid to take a chance.”
– Chapter 37 // discipline 

About the Author

Emigh CannadayAfter bouncing around from Paris to Portland, Emigh Cannaday now lives in Wisconsin with her husband and a pack of Welsh Corgis. She grew up drawing, painting, and writing down her elaborate daydreams that focus on nature, intuition, and a bit of magic. She spends her free time testing out new recipes in the kitchen and playing with houseplants and horses.

She also co-hosts the Wine Wars podcast, a show dedicated to all things wine and Star Wars. Find her on Facebook, Instagram,Pinterest and Twitter to get the latest author updates and connect with other fans.

Night Shift by Charlaine Harris

Night Shift by Charlaine Harris

 Night Shift
by Charlaine Harris

At Midnight’s local pawnshop, weapons are flying off the shelves—only to be used in sudden and dramatic suicides right at the main crossroads in town.

Who better to figure out why blood is being spilled than the vampire Lemuel, who, while translating mysterious texts, discovers what makes Midnight the town it is. There’s a reason why witches and werewolves, killers and psychics, have been drawn to this place.

And now they must come together to stop the bloodshed in the heart of Midnight. For if all hell breaks loose—which just might happen—it will put the secretive town on the map, where no one wants it to be…

Book #3 Midnight, Texas series

Publisher: Ace
Publication: May 2015
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, witchy
I received this title for free in exchange for an honest review
Purchase: amazon | b&n | book depo
Rated: ★★★

Night Shift by Charlaine Harris

Finally! Third book into the series and things are really picking up! Night Shift by Charlaine Harris takes a huge step forward in story after spending books 1 and 2 building up the characters. Finally, the town starts getting looked into. Characters finally wonder why they all ended up settling in Midnight. Considering all of their talents, the chance it’s a coincidence is statistically close to zero. So how did this tiny nowhere town manage to attract them all?

It all starts with a suicide. The second suicide in the same apparent location that sends up warning signals to the residents, and not only because of the media and legal fallout from having the suicide spot investigated. Something there is drawing folks to the Midnight crossroads and convincing them to kill themselves, and somehow, they all connect to Fiji, in one way or another. Turns out also that those books Lemuel has been obsessed with are all about why Midnight is such a strange melting pot of supernatural. It’s incredibly convenient, but considering these books are a light, fun read, something that can be overlooked.

Speaking of overlooked, Bobo finally realizes exactly how Fiji has been feeling for him and decides to make a move. Except, it’s the wrong move and sends Fiji into a fierce, resentful anger. It doesn’t hurt that there’s also a deliciously available weretiger right there anxious to pick up the pieces. Will Fiji finally move on from Bobo? I wish she would!

If you’ve read the first two books of the Midnight, Texas series, you’ll finally get some form of payoff with Night Shift by Charlaine Harris. Just don’t expect it to be amazing. The climax was fun, but campy, much like the series itself. If you want something heavy or serious, this is definitely not your book. But if you don’t mind small town gossip and campy supernatural issues, this is sure to be a fun read.

Quotes & Excerpts

“[…] How can she buy my food if she doesn’t make any money today?”
Fiji had explained that on slow days, she still made a little money. But if the show was closed (reasoned Mr. Snuggly) she would not make any, and therefore he might go hungry. He padded into the little pantry and counted the cans of cat food. He would be good for a week, and in that time she would get tired of staying in bed with [SPOILER] and she would open the shop to sell things.

– Chapter 38
(This quote, and this cat, made the book for me honestly. Such a cat thing to think about. Reminds me of my own babes)

What Others Are Saying

*Roadside Reader is not affiliated with any of the websites listed above*

Day Shift by Charlaine Harris

Day Shift by Charlaine Harris

Day Shift
by Charlaine Harris

There is no such thing as bad publicity, except in Midnight, Texas, where the residents like to keep to themselves. Even in a town full of secretive people, Olivia Charity is an enigma. She lives with the vampire Lemuel, but no one knows what she does; they only know that she’s beautiful and dangerous.

Psychic Manfred Bernardo finds out just how dangerous when he goes on a working weekend to Dallas and sees Olivia there with a couple who are both found dead the next day. To make matters worse, one of Manfred’s regular — and very wealthy — clients dies during a reading.

Manfred returns from Dallas embroiled in scandal and hounded by the press. He turns to Olivia for help; somehow he knows that the mysterious Olivia can get things back to normal. As normal as things get in Midnight…

Book #2 Midnight, Texas series

Publisher: Ace
Publication: May 2015
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, shifters
Personally purchased title
Purchase: amazon | b&n | book depo
Rated: ★★½

Day Shift by Charlaine Harris

The second book in the Midnight, Texas series, Day Shift by Charlaine Harris picks up the thread started in Midnight Crossroad of normal humans doing bad things. It was so refreshing to see in Crossroad how you could have a community full of paranormal folks, and your mind starts to think about all of the magical ways and reasons a person was murdered, only to discover it was a mundane crime by mundane folks all along. Day Shift continues the trend and does it well, but leaves readers ready for something more.

The title alone should give readers a clue as to what they can expect — day walkers only in this tale, mostly. Lemuel is away researching the books he just picked up from Bobo at the end of Crossroad, leaving Olivia alone to work and deal with her murderous urges and bouts of rage. Here, readers get to learn some of her back story, the reason she moved to middle-of-nowhere Midnight, Texas, and just what her impressive array of skills include. There’s also Manfred, whom we see stretching his psychic skill a bit more. AND SURPRISE SPECIAL GUESTS WHO I WISH WOULD BECOME SERIES REGULARS. I won’t spoil who they are, but they were both in the Southern Vampire series so……

Plot is very basic. The mystery isn’t that hard or surprising to solve. You’re ready for it to be a mundane mystery, so the “twist” doesn’t really have an effect. That pretty much knocks off a star and a half for me. It isn’t dull, it just doesn’t feel like it’s a step up from Midnight Crossroad, more like a sidestep Harris uses to worldbuild.

Day Shift by Charlaine Harris feels more like a filler type novel that works to help set up characters and backgrounds for the next few books in the series. Still, it’s fun, quick, and easy to get through. Hopefully, the third in the series, Night Shift, can build some momentum and actually get the series going. Characters are great, premise great, but after book 2, I’m ready to dig into town mysteries and meatier stories.

What Others Are Saying

*Roadside Reader is not affiliated with any of the websites listed above*

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

 Midnight Crossroad
by Charlaine Harris

Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town.

There’s a pawnshop (someone lives in the basement and is seen only at night). There’s a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own).

Stop at the one traffic light in town, and everything looks normal. Stay awhile, and learn the truth…

Book #1 Midnight, Texas series

Publisher: Ace
Publication: March 2014
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal
Personally purchased title
Purchase: amazon | b&n | book depo
Rated: ★★½

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

I was a big fan of the Sookie Stackhouse series (the show, not so much.) But, for some reason, I just hadn’t been able to really get into Charlaine Harris’ other series’ (Lily Bard, Aurora Teagarden.) But, when I read about Midnight Crossroad, it felt like something different and yet, familiar at the same time. I was intrigued enough to buy the book and give it a once over. Well, let me tell you, I am HOOKED! Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris is a fantastic urban fantasy read that feels like it should be read under the sun, with a fun drink in hand. I mean, there’s murder and mystery of course, but it still feels light. It feels fun. It feels quirky.

To start, if you aren’t a fan of kitsch, you might not like Midnight Crossroad. From the character names, Fiji, Bobo, Manfred, to location names Witch Light Road, Midnight Texas, to the local internet company Magic Portal, the entire town is just overwhelmingly ridiculous, in a cutesy way. All of the characters are so colourful, even the stern Reverend has a certain flair. What Harris does really well, is that they also feel heavy with history. When Manfred moves to town, he can tell immediately that there are so many layers to the people and Midnight itself, that he wants to know more, but can’t. Why? Because Midnight is a town for those looking to be forgotten, to become unknown and lost. Which is why Manfred’s arrival is the catalyst to a startling change in the status quo. Manfred needs to be known, he needs his name to be recognized. He actively promotes himself and his work as a psychic in a town where folks cater to each other only and actively work on staying under-the-radar.

The characters are what really sold me on the Midnight, Texas series being a winner. Plots, stories, relationships change from book to book in a series. Sometimes they build, sometimes they don’t. But, if you don’t have strong, likable characters, there’s no point in starting any series. Now, the plot of Midnight Crossroad is interesting, and kinda funny (not haha, just interesting.) Bobo’s girlfriend up and left one day. No one has heard from her. Then, they find her corpse. Now, everyone is wondering who did it, how, and why. The interesting part is how as a reader of urban fantasy, you automatically start thinking okay, let’s see who has the abilities to do something like this. You start coming up with all of these elaborate magical scenarios, because past experiences have shown it’s always something. Which is why I love the route Harris took with Crossroad, showing you these bad guy, racist, NRA bikers that don’t have enhanced abilities suddenly just be the baddies. A couple of normal folks kicking up trouble in a paranormal town. It’s great to see a bit of role reversal.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! Especially now as summer approaches, it feels like a fantastic urban fantasy to read while on a beach. It has solid, fun characters, a murder mystery, small-town country charm, and is a super easy read. Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris is genuinely enjoyable and fun to read through, and I cannot wait to finish the second in the series!

What Others Are Saying

*Roadside Reader is not affiliated with any of the websites listed above*

Spells of Blood and Kin by Claire Humphrey

Spells of Blood and Kin by Claire Humphrey

 Spells of Blood and Kin
by Claire Humphrey

Some families hand down wealth through generations; some hand down wisdom. Some families, whether they want to or not, hand down the secret burdens they carry and the dangerous debts they owe.

Lissa Nevsky’s grandmother leaves her a big, empty house, and a legacy of magic: folk magic, old magic, brought with Baba when she fled the Gulag. In the wake of her passing, the Russian community of Toronto will depend on Lissa now, to give them their remedies and be their koldun’ia. But Lissa hasn’t had time to learn everything Baba wanted to teach her―let alone the things Baba kept hidden.

Maksim Volkov’s birth family is long dead, anything they bestowed on him long turned to dust. What Maksim carries now is a legacy of violence, and he does not have to die to pass it on. When Maksim feels his protective spell fail, he returns to the witch he rescued from the Gulag, only to find his spell has died along with the one who cast it. Without the spell, it is only a matter of time before Maksim’s violent nature slips its leash and he infects someone else―if he hasn’t done so already.

Nick Kaisaris is just a normal dude who likes to party. He doesn’t worry about family drama. He doesn’t have any secrets. All he wants is for things to stay like they are right now, tonight: Nick and his best buddy Jonathan, out on the town. Only Nick is on a collision course with Maksim Volkov, and what he takes away from this night is going to crack open Nick’s nature until all of his worst self comes to light.

Lissa’s legacy of magic might hold the key to Maksim’s salvation, if she can unravel it in time. But it’s a legacy that comes at a price. And Maksim might not want to be saved…

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication: June 14, 2016
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Witchy, Paranormal
I received this title for free in exchange for an honest review
Purchase: amazon | b&n | book depo
Rated: ★★

Spells of Blood and Kin by Claire Humphrey

Baba had been dead for four days by the time Lissa got to speak with her.

This is how Spells of Blood and Kin by Claire Humphrey begins, and boy is it a great first line! A solid debut novel by Ms. Humphrey, the book features solid character building, and an incredibly interesting take on kitchen witchcraft featuring what seems like eastern European berserkers. However, at points, it does feel like perhaps there may have been chunks edited out as the story seems to jump around or over certain points, leaving it up to the reader to make of it what they will.

Humphrey does a good job depicting the grieving process with Lissa. It doesn’t feel over the top or hysterical, while at the same time manages not portray Lissa as cold or uncaring. It’s a sombre, sober portrayal of grief that fades to the background during the novel, but is still felt; which is appropriate considering Baba and her death is the catalyst for everything in the novel.

Hearing of Baba’s death, Lissa’s somewhat estranged step-sister Stella decides to visit to help see Lissa through such a trying time, or so she says. In actuality, she’s running away from her life in London and looking to start anew in Toronto, while at the same time looking to form an actual relationship with her step-sister. Lissa, unaccustomed to the company, is resistant at first. It seems being a witch’s apprentice left her little to no time to socialize or understand how to be around people. The bonding done between the two was well done and believable. They’re different, and remain different, but understand and appreciate the other. It’s great to see each sister take the other one under their wing.

The undercurrent of romance between Lissa and Stella’s coworker, Rafe, whom I loved was fun! It was definitely just a small background thing that I want more of! I’m not really a fan of romance, but maybe I just really liked Rafe? The perfect mix of approachable, relatable working class man with hints of an upper class upbringing, I just kept thinking I WANT ONE! I think, he might be a big part of why I’d like to see a follow-up to Spells of Blood and Kin.

But, then we get to the flip side where I’m uncertain I’d like to know more about this world and the “kin” section of the story. On the surface, it’s pretty cool and interesting. The kin seem like berserkers, humans that have been tainted with insatiable blood lust where they are always looking for a fight. Constantly drinking and fighting, theirs is a constant internal struggle to retain their humanity. World weary Maksim is forced to deal with the return of his raging frenzy after Baba dies. Tagging along is progeny Augusta who sees the world a bit differently than her maker. Their relationship is interesting and I’d love to see more back story between them. That said, this is where the story clipping I mentioned earlier happens.

There seems to be something going on, unsaid, with the three kin you see in the book. This is getting to mild spoilers right now, so if you want to read the book, TURN AWAY AND STOP HERE. It is said that Augusta is into women; that she is a lesbian. It is alluded to that Maksim is gay. It is alluded to that Nick is angry with himself for being unable to maintain a heterosexual relationship, is possibly bisexual/pansexual, and in love with his best friend Jonathan. That being said, these three potential lgbtqa* characters are the three infected characters that are full of rage, always drinking, always a danger to society. Then, we have Lissa performing what is essentially an illegal spell to leash Maksim’s nature, which infuriates Augusta claiming that it isn’t natural what is being done to him. That’s not something I want to read. That’s not something I’m comfortable with. I don’t know if I’m reading this incorrectly? Especially since I know that the author has written queer friendly material before. Maybe I’m missing the point?

I hope that there’s a follow-up simply to see the inclusion of heterosexual kin, which funnily enough is never something I expected to say — that a book needed more straight people. But in this case, I think having a straight person be afflicted as kin would at the very least dissuade me from jumping to conclusions as to what sort of commentary one can jump to. The writing is solid, the relationships are great, the magic simple but believable, Spells of Blood and Kin by Claire Humphrey is a solid debut novel.

What Others Are Saying

  • Have a review? Drop a comment to be added on

*Roadside Reader is not affiliated with any of the websites listed above*