Don’t let the title fool you, “Girl in Disguise” is no where near the same genre of things like “Gone Girl” or “Girl on the Train” or “All the Missing Girls” –this is not a thriller. I don’t know when thrillers decided to go that route with titles, but this book is actually a historical fiction about the first female Pinkerton Detective, Kate Warne. Not much is actually known about Kate other than she was, indeed, the first female detective and she was hired by Pinkerton himself. There is speculation that she was a widow—something tragic and world altering must have occurred for a woman of her time to seek this kind of employment—and there were rumors she was having a long-term affair with Pinkerton, but none of this has been proven. There are also no verified pictures of her, which, as a spy, I’m sure the real-life Kate was happy for. This lack of substantiated information into Kate’s life allowed Macallister to have a great deal of freedom when writing Kate’s story, and she uses it to take the reader on a fun, historically accurate ride!
“A Dark Inheritance” is a modern vampire story, so you kind of already know what to expect. A woman with a rare blood type catches the attention of several vampires and is kidnapped once she reaches 40, ripped away from her life and her family, and told she can never return to them. Unlike most vampire stories, Tina did not want the attentions of Kalmar, or The Count. She didn’t even know vampires existed and now… well, now she can’t leave his castle and her daughter thinks she’s dead. No matter what Tina does, she can’t seem to escape Kalmar and even the few times she kind of manages it, she finds out that life is exceedingly more dangerous outside his castle walls than within. There were parts of this story that I absolutely loved, and parts that still leave me feeling uncertain, but all in all, I thought “A Dark Inheritance” was a nice twist on a creature type that has been done to death—ha.
This unique and quick fantasy feels like you’re reading a modern day folktale set in the Pacific Northwest. The gods—Old Man Above and First Female—are observing humankind in the forests of Cascadia and have noticed that there seems to be something wrong with them. Humans aren’t acting the way they should, they are being cruel and violent to other humans and animals. Thinking that they somehow got their creation songs wrong, First Female creates a spirit—also named Cascadia—to investigate, and gifted with a flying bear from Old Man Above as well as invisibility and ironic t-shirts she can’t read, sends her to the woods to find out if humankind can be saved. Cascadia is plain though, having no concept of emotion and not being weathered by any kind of life experience, she’s just… unremarkable and therefore ill-equipped to answer the question that First Female has sent her to get an answer for. To help Cascadia, they give her a few tutors in the form of goddesses that teach Cascadia the ways of lust, justice/anger, and hope along with a few men of legend to teach her how to use certain weapons and defend herself. Along with her human familiar Shaylee—a logger with one very clever horse named Blue—Cascadia starts her mission to find out what’s wrong with the entire human race based on just the ill-doings of a few groups in the forest.
“The Gates of Golorath” is one seriously epic fantasy. Garino has taken a page out of such ambitious story tellers as George R.R. Martin when it comes to crafting vast and complicated house lines and the ties that bind them, as well as the fragile balance that many hold for no other reason other than tradition. The book focuses mainly on Angus and Arielle, two “angels” (who felt like elves to be honest) who go to train at the Gates in order to keep the forces of evil from ever being unleashed upon the human realm (I’m paraphrasing). But Garino introduces the reader to A TON of other characters, sometimes even showing us the world through their perspective, thus crafting a world that was so rich and vibrant that sometimes my body ached in sympathy pains for all the trials that our “young” protagonists go through (I say young because even centuries old they are still considered children). We watch as Arielle and Angus essentially go through boot camp so they can better prepare to protect their world, all while the author explains just what they’re protecting against, and why. Most of the action and conflict in this book revolves around house politics and competition for the highest honor, but honestly, I loved it and didn’t mind that the bigger conflict was only hinted at in this first book.
“Heir of Ashes” is one of the most fun non-stop action / paranormal thrillers I’ve read to date. We follow along as Roxanne flees from a science facility that kept her nearly half her life, performing barbarous experiments on her. She’s been on the run for a few years and the scientists are still eager to catch her, giving her no peace from the paranormal bounty hunters sent after her. Roxanne has no idea why this is; she knows she’s different but not the full extent of it, at least, not in a way that would account for the escalating pursuit. However, most other people know what she is, why she’s different, and want to use/cage/unleash that thing in her, but Roxanne doesn’t stop running long enough to truly get those answers. Ultimately, that was my only qualm with this book. For as much as I loved the thrilling, non-stop action and plot twists as Roxanne tries to get away from everyone after her, I needed the book to slow down for a hot minute so I didn’t feel as confused as Roxanne until about 67% into the story.
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