Saturday, November 18, 2017

#Stacking the Shelves #264 (Week Ending 11/18/2017)


Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

Thanks for Shopping by!
With Thanksgiving coming up, I am seriously considering shutting down for 4 days and returning for my Blog Tour on the 27th. No, I probably won't be going anywhere this year. This is a much larger haul than I was expected. I do hope you find something you like!
Hope you have a great weekend!
Shelley

This Weeks Reviews: 


Tuesday - Black Goat Blues by Levi Black (Fantasy)


Thursday - The Rebel by Gerald Brandt (YA, SyFy)


Saturday - Malice of Crows by Lila Bowen (Fantasy/Western)


*REC'D VIA Publishers, Author, Library NETGALLEY *

Upcoming Blog Tours

This Book Is Now Called Spartan Heart.







Friday, November 17, 2017

#Review - Malice of Crows by Lila Bowen #Fantasy

Series: The Shadow # 3
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Release Date: October 31, 2017
Publisher: Orbit
Source: Library
Genre: Fantasy / Action & Adventure

The sequel to Conspiracy of Ravens and third novel in Lila Bowen's widely-acclaimed Shadow series.

The Ranger known as Rhett has shut down a terrible enterprise running on the blood of magical folk, but failed to catch the dark alchemist behind it. And now the Shadow refuses to let him rest.

Rhett must make the ultimate transformation if he has any hope of stopping the alchemist or fulfilling his destiny; he must become the leader of a new Rangers outpost. 

To save his friends, and the lives of countless others, he'll first have to lead them on a mission more dangerous than anything they've ever faced. 





Malice of Crows is the third installment in The Shadow series by author Lila Bowen. Bowen's western landscape is home to some really strange supernatural beasties (Gila
monsters, gorgons, giant scorpions & spiders) as diverse as the human inhabitants. Malice picks up right where Conspiracy of Ravens left off. Rhett Walker (formerly Nettie Lonesome) is the Shadow, as well as a Durango Ranger scout who is pulled to fight evil where ever it might be.

When we last left Rhett and his crew of Sam Hennessy, Coyote Dan, his sister Winifred, and Earl the Donkey who showed Rhett how to unleash his other side, Rhett had just faced off against necromancer Bernard Trevison and won. But, it came with a cost. Trevison skedaddled with 6-year old Meimei, the younger sister of Cora. Cora just happens to be a dragon shifter and healer. Now, Rhett and crew must put an end to Trevison and save Meimei while also facing all sorts of dangerous challenges that are made of wax, gold, and bone.

Rhett's adventures are always interesting with plenty of twists and action. Rhett, as the Shadow, has a tendency of calling trouble no matter where it is. Rhett's crew may not like where the Shadows path takes them, or understand the Shadows path, but none of them have ever expressed a desire to leave and go out on their own. Rhett has come more comfortable with the fact that there his has several personalities pulling in different directions. But, there is a gut punch ending that has left me wary of where this series will go from here. The plus is the addition of Ines, who is a Gorgon. Whether or not she becomes a permanent part of Rhett's posse, we shall see.


PUBLISHING SCHEDULE:
#1. Wake of Vultures (2015)
#2. Conspiracy of Ravens (2016)
#3. MALICE OF CROWS (2017)
#4. Treason of Hawks (2018)






#Review/Excerpt - Siege of Shadows by Sarah Raughley #YALit #Fantasy

Series: The Effigies # 2
Format: E-Book, 448 pages
Release Date: November 21, 2017
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Contemporary

Maia and the other Effigies seek out the true origins of the Phantoms that terrorize their world in this thrilling follow-up to Fate of Flames, which Elise Chapman calls “an immersive and monstrously fun read.”
There’s nowhere to hide. 
Not when you’re an Effigy. No matter where they go, Maia and the other Effigies can’t escape the eyes of the press—especially not after failing to capture Saul, whose power to control the monstrous Phantoms has left the world in a state of panic. It’s been two months since Saul’s disappearance, and there’s still no sign of him, leaving the public to wonder whether the Sect—and the Effigies—are capable of protecting anyone. 
When Saul suddenly surfaces in the middle of the Sahara desert, the Sect sends Maia and her friends out after him. But instead of Saul, they discover a dying soldier engineered with Effigy-like abilities. Even worse, there may be more soldiers like him out there, and it looks like the Effigies are their prime targets. 
Yet the looming danger of Saul and this mysterious new army doesn’t overshadow Maia’s fear of the Sect, who ordered the death of the previous Fire Effigy, Natalya. With enemies on all sides and the world turning against them, the Effigies have to put their trust in each other—easier said than done when secrets threaten to tear them apart.


Siege of Shadows is the second installment in author Sarah Raughley's The Effigies series. 16-year old Maia Finley has taken her place as the fire Effigy alongside Lake, Chae Rin, and Belle, who has been an Effigy for 6 years. Each of the Effigies have the power of different elements like fire, earth, water, and air. Each one of the Effigies can also summon weaponry unique to each of their elements. There are four Effigies at any time. When one dies, one replaces them almost immediately. For Maia, her time came after an encounter with the villain, Saul, in NYC.

Outside of her rugged training alongside her teammates, Maia is also expected to be a public figure in the fight to re-capture Saul, the man who has managed to harness the power of the phantoms and their destructive nature. That means that she and the others are expected at different events, parties, and yes, even an awards show in Toronto. But, things aren't at all normal these days. 2 months ago, the Effigies stopped Saul, but he escaped with some inside help from those they work with. They also have to scurry round from place to place to discover the origins of the phantoms, as well as their own beginnings since Maia is apparently the center of Saul's new world order.

Right out of the gate, Raughley sends her Effigies into a mystery that just can't be explained. Maia and her team are out to capture Saul who has somehow managed to avoid being detected for two months. But, instead discover a mysterious boy who tells Maia that there are other Effigies she has no knowledge of, it sets up a test of wills, skills, shocking revelations, and a broken trust between not between the Effigies & the Sect, but the council who oversees the Sect, and her own teammates, especially Belle, who hasn't been the same since the loss of Natalya who Maia replaced. Belle believes that Maia knows who killed her friend and mentor and is like a bulldog refusing to let things go until she gets an answer. 

Siege of Shadows does a lot of traveling from place to place including Prague, Madrid, & Toronto. There is a lot of curious situations, betrayal, revelations, and a shocking ending. I will say that it would be best for you to read the first book in the series before jumping into this story. I am just going to come out and state that this book nearly ended me. The author takes a step into the strange and unusual with one of her characters, no spoilers, and I am really shocked that she ended the book in this fashion. I am one who isn't a fan of killing off characters for the sake of entertainment purposes. It makes zero sense to do so in the middle of a series like this. Now, the author has to explain why she did what she did and then come up with a way to fix the situation since the series would have to be completely changed if she doesn't.  



Siege of Shadows
Images

1


“I NEED TO THROW UP,” I said.

Not the kind of words that inspired confidence before a secret mission. Still true, though.

Our helicopter’s electromagnetic armor protected us from the phantoms outside, but I could still hear them thrashing in the sky, screeching through the violent Saharan winds that battered the metal. Between the howls and my motion sickness, my stomach was lurching. “No, really, I feel nauseous.”

“Oh, so it wasn’t just me, then?” On the opposite bench, Lake laughed nervously as she finished strapping on her parachute with the help of the agent assigned to monitor us. “It’s actually kind of funny, but my lungs seem to be having a hard time, um, inhaling.” Lake pulled at the maroon fatigues she wore under the vest, the same as mine, then turned to the agent. “Are you sure this parachute vest thingy is supposed to be on this tight?”

Mine was definitely a bit too cozy, but then one did have to be serious about safety measures before taking suicide jumps out of a flying vehicle.

“God, you two are so pathetic.”

Chae Rin. For the purpose of the mission, she and Belle were in other helicopters, but I could still feel her biting presence. Her laughter battered my skull through my inner earpiece. “Like, is this your first mission? Suck it up.”

“Excuse me for showing a bit of humanity,” Lake bit back. Somehow it sounded even more dramatic in her British accent.

“Okay,” I said. “I’m seriously throwing up now.”

“Swallow it,” a voice snapped at us through my earpiece.

It was the glorious lack of compassion I’d come to expect from Sibyl Langley, director of the Sect’s European Division. The woman had spent the last two months unapologetically delivering me directly into harm’s way, so I knew it was stupid to expect anything else.

“You’re a mean lady,” I complained.

“So I’ve been told. But I’ll get over it, and so will you.”

She was at the London facility, monitoring us from Communications, which meant every stupid thing I said would be heard by an entire room full of people who were probably endlessly thankful that they were several thousand miles away from danger. Lucky bastards.

“Now,” Sibyl continued, “we only have five minutes before we get to the drop site. This is a sensitive mission. We’re going over the mission details one more time.”

“Seriously?” Chae Rin sounded annoyed. “You know I typically like to relax before flinging myself headfirst into danger.”

“We’ve got one shot here to capture Saul, so I want to make sure you are one hundred percent clear on what you need to do today. Now stop talking.”

Only one shot. But that’s how it was with Saul, the man who’d somehow managed to harness the power of the phantoms to reign terror upon the world. Under his command, phantoms had attacked cities, including mine, and murdered thousands. I’d seen it with my own eyes, seen the bodies left in the wake of his cruelty. We Effigies—Lake, Belle, Chae Rin, and me—came together in the first place to stop his murderous spree, to find out who he was and why he was wreaking havoc. We captured him, yes, but we weren’t able to uncover all of Saul’s secrets. Maybe we would have if he hadn’t escaped.

We almost had him. Two months ago in April, we stopped Saul from blowing up a train full of innocents, but he still managed to get away. The Sect had been trying to track his frequency all this time. Didn’t have a lead for weeks—until today. In that respect, Sibyl’s urgency was understandable. Needless to say, since Saul had escaped from Sibyl’s custody in London, she was under immense pressure from the world’s governments and Sect higher-ups to deliver his head on a platter.

Which is where we came in.

I peered at Lake, who busied herself by fiddling nervously with the pair of goggles the Sect had given us to guard against the sandstorm. Neither of us was particularly keen to face Saul again, but this was our job. We were the Effigies. He was the terrorist. No-brainer.

I gave her my best reassuring nod anyway. “Okay, so this is a simple grab mission. We capture Saul and get out, hopefully with our limbs still attached.”

“With Saul, nothing’s that simple,” said Sibyl, and I could almost see her straightening her back, brow furrowed. “On the one hand, according to our intelligence, Saul’s hideout should be at these coordinates.”

They flashed on the monitor bolted in the corner, just above Lake’s head. She twisted around to see it too—the blinking red square above a satellite image of desert dunes.

“Nice to see Saul found a hole to hide in,” I said. “With all the other dirt-dwelling creatures.”

“Fitting for him, annoying for us, since we’re the ones who have to ferret him out.” Chae Rin’s voice came through loud and clear in my inner ear. “Scratch that—I’m the one who has to ferret him out.” She paused. “None of you pay me enough.”

“Yes, Chae Rin will dig out the hatch,” Sibyl said. “His bunker should be approximately one hundred feet below the surface. Lake will aid in the descent from the helicopter.”

“You guys don’t pay me enough,” Lake muttered under her breath.

Sibyl’s sigh was enough to quiet them both down. “We have a lock on his spectrographic signature, so we can confirm that he’s still at the location.”

Spectrographic signatures were how the Sect was able to trace phantoms—and, when they needed to, Effigies. The Sect could trace the frequency of a special mineral, cylithium, existing naturally in both. For us, it pops up on the Sect’s radar whenever we use our powers, even if they can’t tell from the signature itself exactly which Effigy they’re tracking. But Saul wasn’t like the rest of us Effigies. Somehow, he’d found a way to mask his frequency. If we’d kept him in Sect custody for a little longer, we might have been able to find out how. But for now all we could do was chase him down along with the questions he’d left in his wake.

A shiver suddenly tightened the muscles in my arms. I guess I was still getting used to thinking of Saul as an Effigy like us.

“On the other hand, like I said, with Saul, nothing’s that simple. For several days after the train incident, Saul’s spectrographic signature had been unstable, as if he couldn’t control his ability to mask it from us. Your encounter with him may have destabilized his psyche.”

“Well, you did kind of cut off his hand,” Lake said.

I sure did. Not that he didn’t deserve it.

“Then the trace went dead—until now. But we can’t let our guards down,” Sibyl continued. “Even though we’ve traced him to these whereabouts, there’s a risk he could—”

“Disappear,” I finished for her. One of the many perks of being able to vanish at will.

“Hang on.” Lake fidgeted against her parachute straps. “If he ends up poofing before we get there, then wouldn’t this whole thing be a waste of time?”

She sent a worrying look past me, and I knew why. Following her gaze, I turned and peered through the window behind me, into the sunset peeking through the torrent of dust.

Where the phantoms were waiting.

“We knew it was a risk,” Sibyl answered. “But we may not get another chance. Capture Saul. And if the situation doesn’t permit, then gather as much information as you can from his hideout. I want to know what he’s been doing and, more important, who’s been helping him.”

Right. Saul didn’t have his ring anymore, which meant he couldn’t control phantoms. So why would he pick a hideout in the middle of a Dead Zone? Surely an area protected by society and technology would have been the safer choice for someone who didn’t want to get ripped apart in a phantom free-for-all. The only way he could last for so long in an unprotected area was if he’d had help from the kind of black-market tech commonly used in illegal Dead Zone trafficking networks.

Speaking of tech. I dug my hand into the lower left pocket of my thick vest and pulled out the sleek metal ball that had been nestled inside—one of three antiphantom devices we’d been given. Lake and I had this one. Belle and Chae Rin each had their own.

“We can only do so much to keep the phantoms at bay as you’re reaching your drop sites,” Sibyl said. “Once you land, it’ll be up to you to activate your handheld APD at your specific coordinates by entering in the code.”

“Hopefully before we get eaten,” Chae Rin added.

On the monitor, three little blue lights flashed around the blinking red square indicating Saul’s hideout, each four hundred meters away from the site. Together, they made a perfect triangle. The three APDs—or antiphantom devices—worked as a trio. It was why we were in separate planes. Each antiphantom device had to be set up at its respective corner of the triangle. Lake and I took the southern coordinate, Chae Rin the northeast, and Belle the northwest. Chae Rin and Belle had to activate their devices at their respective coordinates within the same time frame that Lake and I activated ours. As long as we didn’t screw anything up, we’d be able to triangulate a protective field around Saul’s hideout. It would be large enough for us to maneuver and bring in extra troops if need be. With Saul, we had to be ready for anything.

“We’ll be monitoring you from here in Communications via satellite.”

The agent came back in from the cockpit. “Thirty seconds to the drop site,” he said. “Get to your positions.”

Her dark brown skin graying by the second, Lake pulled the goggles over her eyes and motioned at me to do the same. “This is just bloody fantastic. You know, I just got my first Teen Viewers’ Choice Awards nomination since leaving that evil girl group. The damn awards show is in a couple of weeks, and those hags are going to be there because they got several nominations they clearly don’t deserve.” She said this all in a single breath. “I’d better not get killed before then, I swear to god.” She fitted the goggles around her eyes. The strap pinned down her long black ponytail. “No way am I giving them the satisfaction of my death.”

“Technically, we got nominated,” I corrected her, putting on my goggles. “Didn’t think you’d be this excited over a Canadian awards show. Honestly, I forgot it was even happening.”

Vancouver resident Chae Rin snorted through my earpiece. “I’m not even mad at the shade you just low-key threw at my country.”

“You’re going to be okay, though, right, Lake?” I asked her.

Lake hesitated. “Yeah. I think. Maybe. You?”

I hesitated too. The past few weeks had been a learning experience for the both of us. We were both stronger now, but we’d always been paired with one of the other girls if we weren’t fighting in a group. This would be a test for both of us.

“We can do it,” I said, and despite the painful pounding in my chest, I think I actually believed it. “Yeah. We can. You, me. All four of us. We can do this.”

Lake’s gaze drifted to the window. “Sure about that? It’s looking pretty bad out there.”

“Yeah.” I squeezed my hands tight. “We’re a team.”

We were a team now.

Lake seemed a little taken aback, but she gave me a resolute nod nonetheless.

“At least let’s try not to die,” I added with a half smile.

One minute to the drop site. It was go time.

“Remember,” Sibyl said. “You have to activate the three APDs at the same time. We haven’t found any evidence of other human hostiles in the area, but stay on your guard. Gather up whatever information you can, and then give the signal for retrieval.”

“Roger that.”

Belle. She’d been so silent this entire time I’d almost forgotten about her, but she was in her own chopper, listening, quietly preparing. Her voice had the serenity expected of an Effigy who’d been handling suicide missions since childhood.

How I wished, as I wiped my sweaty palms on my fatigues, that I could have siphoned even a tenth of that confidence. But I’d spent the last two months away from home training for situations like this. I couldn’t wuss out now.

Lake and I nodded at each other. Twenty seconds. Ten seconds. The hatch opened.

“Begin the mission.”

At Sibyl’s word, I leapt out of the helicopter. The long snouts of serpent-like beasts snapped in my direction, baring their ivory teeth. Dark smoke sizzled off their black, rotting hides, their ghost eyes shining against the dimming light of the darkening sunset. They knew us intuitively. Effigies, creatures of magic like them.

But we were their enemy.

They launched at us, but the helicopter’s EMA did its job. The Sect’s protective electromagnetic armor was top-grade, stronger than what even rich people could afford for their cars and yachts. The field stretching out from the helicopter’s armor had a wide enough circumference to keep us momentarily safe from the phantoms even as we descended, but I knew that if they didn’t tear us apart, the desert winds would. The wind whipped past my skin, battering against my goggles, tossing my clothes and my thick, curly hair relentlessly. The force was so great, it was all I could do to keep my lips pressed against the onslaught.

A few seconds of falling and I could already start to see the Sahara desert below.

“Deploy your parachutes,” Sibyl ordered.

We did. The upward force hoisted me up with a jerk so violent I thought I would snap in two. The wind was too gusty for an easy descent. I could feel it veering me sideways.

“Lake,” Sibyl yelled.

Through my goggles, I could see Lake’s arms raised in front of her, her long, thin legs kicking in the air. I could almost imagine her closing her eyes, her breath straining under the pressure of maintaining the delicate balance needed to control her element.

Trap and release.

The words Lake always used whenever she trained me in elemental control. For Lake, it came naturally, but controlling a torrent like this over such a wide area would be difficult even for her.

She did the job; the air around me calmed and I could breathe normally again. But I knew it was only a moment of respite. Even with the darkening sunset reflecting off my goggles, I could see them through the glare: the phantoms twitching and twisting in the desert wind, their long, serpent-like tails floating behind them. Waiting. The helicopter’s EMA had good reach, but soon we wouldn’t be able to rely on it anymore. The second we were out of this protective bubble, we’d be on our own. Survive or get eaten.

Eventually, a male voice from Communications confirmed what I knew and dreaded. “Thirty seconds until the subjects leave the EMA circumference.”

“You’re close enough to the ground for a safe fall,” said Sibyl, “but you’ll need to detach your parachutes immediately once you’re out of the safety zone.”

The horrible minutes between now and the time we set up our APDs would be a free-for-all. We’d have to be fast.

We’d have to fight.

Twenty seconds. Ten seconds.

“Good luck, girls.”

The phantoms’ cries pierced the skies. They were ready. So were we.




Thursday, November 16, 2017

#Review - The Rebel by Gerald Brandt #Science Fiction @dawbooks ‏

Series: San Angeles # 3
Format: E-Book, 352 pages
Release Date: November 14, 2017
Publisher: DAW/Penguin
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Science Fiction / Action & Adventure

The Rebel is the third and final installment in Gerald Brandt’s near-future science fiction San Angeles series
Kris Merrill is a member of a small insurgent group operating within a multi-level metropolis that stretches from San Francisco to the Mexican border. Her attempt at rescuing Ian Miller failed, leaving her alone and her unborn son without a father. The insurgents don’t trust her, Kai has disappeared completely, and Pat is trying to control how Kris should mourn the loss of Ian. Without the trust of the insurgents, Kris is relegated to low level assignments for them, and trying desperately to keep her pregnancy a secret. She is alone.
War has started between the corporations. The people living in the lower levels of San Angeles have become the victims, starving and being rounded up to be soldiers in the war. Torn between working with the insurgents as they become more like the corporations they are fighting, and helping the people of the lower levels, Kris doesn’t know what to do. Facing the return of an enemy who will stop at nothing to have revenge, Kris struggles with loss and discovering who she really is.



The Rebel is the third and final installment in author Gerald Brandt's San Angeles trilogy. Set in the year 2141, The Rebel is a cyberpunk, science fiction, action adventure novel with plenty of unexpected twists. Brandt has created a world where large corporations (SoCal, Kadokawa, and IBC) control most of the world's resources and production. Kris Merrill is a resident of the sprawling West Coast megapolis known as San Angeles. She's former motorcycle courier who found herself unexpectedly entangled in a deadly web of corporate politics, assassins, and underground rebellions.

It has been 2 weeks since the ending of The Operative and Kris's life hasn't exactly changed for the better. The boy she loved is dead, she's 8 weeks pregnant, two of the corporations are on the brink of a full-scale war, and the insurgents she chose to join, don't fully trust her because she attempted to save someone who was captured by the evil corporations. They've also become rather like those they are fighting against. Instead of helping the lower level citizens who are struggling to feed themselves thanks to the higher levels keeping the best food and water, they're fighting amongst themselves.

I've been calling Kris the protagonist of this series because the story really does revolve around her life as both a courier and now a insurgent intent on taking the large corporations down that control every aspect of life. Let me say this. Kris is a mess. But, she's not a Mary Sue character who runs away from trouble at every turn. Thanks to the training she was given at boot camp, she can handle her own against most any challenge that comes to her. However, she spends a whole of time feeling sorry for her situation. She has no real purpose in this story, until she finally finds one in an Aunt who she ran away from years before, and a mission that is so dangerous, there is no guarantee she or her baby will survive. 

One could say that the synopsis does a decent job of explaining the story without fully diving into any spoiler issues. There are several other secondary characters worth mentioning. The first is Dr. Bryson Searls, the son of Doc Searls who has helped Kris and the rebellion. Bryson's story takes place entirely on So Cal Sat City 2 where he is being forced into building plans for a quantum jump drive. The others are Pat, an operative formerly of Meridian who has PTSD issues, and Kai, who knew Kris's parents and ran away before they were killed. 

Andrew Ito is probably my favorite character in this whole story. Why? Because his story takes place onboard Kadokawa Sat City 2 which is on the front lines of a war between Kadokawa and So Cal. At any moment, millions could be killed in an instant if So Cal chooses to attack. His choices are above and beyond anything that Kris or her insurgents could ever dream about. His choices actually stand out because he makes a choice against the orders of those above him, and doesn't fear the consequences. 

The author does a fairly good job of wrapping up the series, but perhaps the ending was a bit on the rushed side. After all, Kris makes a snap decision that takes place onboard a Sat City and all hell breaks loose. I would have loved to see Kris onboard the station sooner. This is the real place where her enemies are. Enemies who have put a target on her back for whatever maddening reason they can come up with.




Wednesday, November 15, 2017

#Review - The Thorn of Dentonhill by Marshall Ryan Maresca #Fantasy

Series: Maradaine # 1
Format: Paperback, 400 pages
Release Date: February 3, 2015
Publisher: DAW/Penguin
Source: Library
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Urban

THE IMAGINATION-CAPTURING DEBUT OF AN EXCITING NEW FANTASY TALENT
Mixing high fantasy and urban fantasy, debut author Marshall Ryan Maresca brings a fresh voice in his darkly original The Thorn of Dentonhill. Veranix leads a double life: struggling magic university student by day, and armed vigilante fighting organized crime by night. Veranix is an underdog battling to find justice against mages and drug lords far more influential and violent than himself. Maresca provides a street-level fantasy perspective, emphasizing the perils and pitfalls of urban life in a potent story about revenge and power.
Veranix Calbert leads a double life. By day, he’s a struggling magic student at the University of Maradaine. At night, he spoils the drug trade of Willem Fenmere, crime boss of Dentonhill and murderer of Veranix’s father. He’s determined to shut Fenmere down.
With that goal in mind, Veranix disrupts the delivery of two magical artifacts meant for Fenmere’s clients, the mages of the Blue Hand Circle. Using these power-filled objects in his fight, he quickly becomes a real thorn in Fenmere’s side.
So much so that soon not only Fenmere, but powerful mages, assassins, and street gangs all want a piece of “The Thorn.” And with professors and prefects on the verge of discovering his secrets, Veranix’s double life might just fall apart. Unless, of course, Fenmere puts an end to it first.



The Thorn of Dentonhill is the first installment in the Maradaine series by author Marshall Ryan Maresca. Protagonist Veranix Calbert has been compared to Batman and Harry Potter. I disagree. I think he's more like Robin Hood. Here's why. Veranix is a vigilante as well as a struggling magic student. His father was murdered, his mother was poisoned with a drug called effitte that has left her more of a zombie than alive, and the man who is responsible, Willem Fenmere, has been attempting to push his product into the neighborhoods surrounding the University of Maradaine which Vee attends.

There is so much more to Veranix than meets the eye test. I am thankful I had the opportunity to come back to the first two installments in this series, after reading book # 3, thanks to my library. Had I not, I would not have learned about how Vee ended up with a magical cloak and rope that have saved his butt more times than I care to count. Vee is a different sort of protagonist. After his family absconded from Aventil, he was raised in a traveling circus. He's good with a bow and arrow. He's like an acrobat who can quickly escape from dangerous situations. But, he also holds himself partially responsible for what happened to his parents.

He's also got a really interesting support system in place. Let me introduce you to Kaiana Nell. Kai is a half Druth, half Napolic groundskeeper at the university. She is also the only one who knows what Vee does at night and she knows that Vee is the Thorn. She is a character you need to pay attention to. Not just because of their relationship, because it's more of a best friend situation with familiar backgrounds and horror stories to tell rather than a romantic type. She can also more than hold her own against taunting and name calling.

As I mentioned, Vee is a 3rd year magic student at the University of Maradaine where he is roommates with the most intelligent student at the school; Delmin Sarren. Delmin is at the top of his class in all areas of magic study while Vee is struggling not to be kicked out. Delmin had zero clue that Vee is a vigilante until he can no longer hide what he's been doing from his friend and roommate of three years. In coming installments, you will understand why Delmin's knowledge of the Thorn is actually a good thing. There is one thing that separates the two however. Vee is a much more talented mage than Delmin is. 

Aventil is also the place where Vee's cousin Colin Tyson is a Rose Prince Captain. Think the Gangs of New York where you have a variety of gangs that are attempting to hold onto their own neighborhoods. In a way, they are more like a really large family instead of a bunch of desperate hooligans. Colin and Vee's relationship is super secret to the point where nobody knows. Especially after what happened to Colin's father. If anyone found out about the Thorn's true identity, all hell would break out. Colin and Vee's relationship really gets tested. Colin promised Vee's father that he would ensure Vee's safety and that he will graduate and not become one of the Rose Princes. 

But, it's really hard when Vee is the vigilante known as the Thorn who is trying his hardest to rid the streets of Fenmere and his toxic drug. This story is really a strong start to the series. It is a high fantasy academy adventure that's rarely been seen before. It focuses on the shadowy realm of organized crime and the gangs who call Aventil and Dentonhill home. Veranix aka Thorn is an extraordinary hero who is attempting to do near inhuman things in order to rid the world of Fenmere and his goons. Yes, this is a story of revenge. But, at the backdrop of the story is tragedy and violence and dangerous politics with plenty of action, magic, and relationships that are tested at every angle.