Book Review: The Thirteen Hallows by Michael Scott and Colette Friedman

Hey there!

Urban fantasy has been my fiction “drug” of choice over much of the last 5-10 years. So I was excited to get a chance to read the new book from Michael Scott (author of The Alchemist, The Magician, and The Sorceress from the young adult series The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel) and playwright and screenwriter Collette Freedman who’s recently been named one of the Dramatist Guild’s “50 to Watch.”

But be warned. The Thirteen Hallows is not for the faint of heart. This is by far the most violent and bloody urban fantasy I have ever read. Sex, gang violence, and sadism are mixed with a deep background rooted in folkore, history, and magic for quite a powerful combination that drives this story through to the explosive conclusion.

So what exactly are these “Hallows”? Items imbued with magical power to keep a race of demons from invading our world. Each item has a “Keeper” who was given one of these items to look after decades ago and has been influenced subtly by them over the years. But now someone is brutally murdering the Keepers in London and stealing their precious Hallows.

Then take poor Sarah Miller, a 20-something living with her ungrateful family and working in a dead-end job. When she happens upon an old woman being assaulted by two punks, she could turn away and pretend it wasn’t happening like everybody else, or she could help. Something compels her to help the woman fight off her attackers and get her to safety. From that point on, her life is not her own and she’s on a journey down the proverbial rabbit hole.

It doesn’t take long before the police are after Miller, following a trail of bloody murders across the city. As her options diminish, she finds herself in the company of Owen, the nephew of the woman she saved. And the two rush to stay ahead of the police and save the Hallows before they’re used to let an unspeakable evil into our world.

The history on the back-end of this adventure is compelling. There are threads woven through Christianity, World War II, myths and legends that tie everything to some interesting characters in the present day. I don’t want to spoil the discovery process, but where the violence put me off a few times, the story kept pulling me back in.

I’ll be curious to see where Scott and Freedman take the story in the next book. If you’re a fan of darker urban fantasy, The Thirteen Hallows should be right up your alley. There’s definitely more in store for Sarah and Owen as they get further wrapped up in the saga of the Hallows!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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Book Review: Awakenings by Edward Lazellari

Hey there!

Urban fantasy is one of my guilty pleasures these days. In a time where the modern world is full of fear, uncertainty, and doubt, it’s nice to believe, even just for a brief moment, that there’s a little more magic in the world and anything is truly possible. It doesn’t hurt that there have been some great new urban fantasy stories to read lately, such as Alex Bledsoe’s The Hum and the Shiver.

In Awakenings, author Edward Lazellari introduces us to an unlikely group of heroes in a multiverse where a little magic still exists here on Earth. Cal MacDonnell, Seth Ramcrest, and Daniel Hauer live lives very different from one another. One is a cop. One is a photographer/pornographer. And one is a 14-year-old student. But one thing connects them all. Thirteen years ago they seemed to just wink into existence. None of them remembers anything before that night that haunts their dreams.

Now, thirteen years later, events are conspiring against them. Cal finds himself on patrol with his partner when they encounter a giant with a sword. Seth meets an unusual lady who leads him away from his apartment shortly before it explodes in a fireball. And Daniel can’t seem to get through a single day without incurring the wrath of his principal, his step-father, or bullies at his school.

Awakenings is the first book in a series and Lazellari’s fantasy debut. It mixes actual multidimensional theory (M-theory, an outgrowth of string theory in physics) and the idea of multiple universes separated by thin membranes with a story that interlinks the lives of people in two separate worlds for quite an intriguing setting. Obviously not all the secrets of the series are revealed in the first book, but I’m curious to see where Lazellari is taking things.

My only beef with the book is the fact that the ending defies fantasy series convention a bit. Usually each book in a series will take a few of the overall story threads and keep a few going from book to book but resolve a few in each book. This leaves you wanting to know more but satisfied that least a few things have been wrapped up. Lazellari ends Awakenings more like the season finale to a TV show where you’re left hanging until the next season starts back up. Regardless of whether it was intentional or accidental, I’m now on the hook to read the next book in the series.

That said, the writing itself is excellent. Early in the book he describes the lack of sensation as a character gets her head chopped off:

“She heard a creak behind her. Before she could turn, there was a swish, like the sound of a switch whipped through the air. Then silence. Not a drop of rain, not a squeak; someone had pulled the plug on the whole world…”

I’m definitely intrigued by the idea of a multiverse based on String theory where on the other side of one of the membranes from Earth is a world of magic locked in a medieval struggle. And the Odd Couple-vibe of Cal and Seth working together just adds to the intrigue.

Check out Awakenings on bookstore shelves today!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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Book Giveaway: The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe

Courtesy of the kind folks at TOR Books and PR by the Book, I have an extra copy of Alex Bledsoe‘s recent release The Hum and the Shiver to give away to one lucky reader.

Unfortunately, because of my limited shipping budget, I can only offer this to United States residents… But all you have to do is leave a comment below and I’ll contact the winner via e-mail on October 14, 2011!

Check out the interview with Bledsoe and my review of the book to see if it might tickle your fancy. I think it’s one of the more creative, lyrical urban fantasies I’ve read in a while!

–Fitz

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