I kind of love, and miss, the days when super heroes had to operate in the shadows. Before the big Marvel movies where everyone knows the super powered vigilante and they are this organized group that is basically just the world police. I like the idea of those super heroes like Spiderman, Batman, or hell, even the Incredibles, where the vigilantes aren’t allowed to operate openly, where they have to hide who they are, and their presence isn’t always welcomed by the police. Alter Ego has a lot of those themes, plus so, so much more! In this fast paced vigilante story, we have secret identities and organizations, generations of heroes, and a well-funded terrorist group opposite our heroes. Coupled with the powers and the gadgets, you have this struggle to balance the person along with the hero, of what it means to put on these different masks, and trying to figure out who the REAL person is, free of the secret identities, and what it means to be a hero; who exactly are the white hats when you operate outside of the law? For as awesome as the abilities were, it was those very real interpersonal struggles that this story presented that I gravitated toward the most.
I’m really excited that more and more Fae type creatures are moving beyond the traditional fantasy genre and more and more shifters are branching out from just the typical werewolf-like monsters. It’s a new era of Urban Fantasy that I am totally here for! And if that sounds like something you’d be down for, then I totally recommend “Dawn till Dusk”! It’s the story of Tarik and Reagan, two characters who are on opposite sides of the conflict between shifters and Fae. In this world, the Fae are not the ruling species, they aren’t the regal, almost snobbish, and all powerful spellcasters you usually see. In Nathra City, the shifters are in control, trapping the Fae in the city and forcing them to live in squalor. The shifters live in luxury, can have all the good jobs, and do mostly what they want, while the Fae struggle to keep their children alive. Tarik is a Fae, and Reagan is a shifter with a really awesome winged white lion form. Tarik hates all shifters with a passion, and Reagan feels for their plight, but is also the Night Enforcer, not just working for the dictator of the city—he’s also her “father”. You can see the tension, the conflict that will come from having two such characters in a world like this, and let me tell you, it’s DELICIOUS!
On the base surface, “A Heretics Guide to Homecoming” is about a young scholar who decides that he wants to experience the world first hand rather than learn about it from books in a library. He wants his difficult questions answered, and he can’t do that from his home country where words have literal weight, and some things are too dangerous to speak aloud. Ronoah embarks on a journey that takes him across the world and expands his horizons, all while he battles an all too real and crippling anxiety. But that is such a simplistic view of what this literary work of fantasy is about. It really is a work of art first and foremost, with lite fantasy elements mainly to add whimsy and wonder. The writing was raw and beautiful, and the metaphors and stories within stories was marvelous. But while it’s an absolutely beautiful read, it is not an exciting one.
The first thing you should know about “Between the Shade and the Shadow” is that it is atmospheric AF. Really, the writing is prose filled, the land is cast in constant darkness where the light can kill our sprites, and there is a dark secret on what turns a shade into a sprite, and where the shade’s loyal animal companion—their shadow—goes when that transformation takes place. Few sprites have the mental capacity to bond themselves to powerful animals, most seem to have foxes, squirrels, or other small woodland creatures. Strong shades can bond to proud eagle owls, but only the strongest can bond to a wolf as our main character, Ahraia, has done. This marks her as someone with incredibly strong mental capacity for casting enchantments, who can create darkness—basically bending trees and making the forest into impenetrable fortresses of night—and eventually lead her people. But there is a price for that leadership that Ahraia is woefully ignorant of, and those who are power hungry around her are all too eager and willing to use Ahraia and the shadow, the wolf Losna, to achieve their own goals, even if that means they have to sacrifice Ahraia herself. This book is as thematically dark as it is literally dark at times, and it’s one of the more epic, high fantasies I’ve read in a hot minute.
Are you like me and hold a special place for Greek Mythology in your heart? Do you also enjoy YA dystopians with some seriously tragic characters? Then let me introduce you to “Helm of Darkness”. In a nutshell, this book is about the classic Greek Gods (Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, you know, that old gang) getting fed up with being forgotten by us mortals. So, in classic Greek God fashion, they destroy the world and make all us mortals worship them once more. How charming. Except there’s this prophecy, because of course, and this prophecy says that two mortals are going to save the day! Usually I am not the biggest fan of these types of tropes, but I was here for it this time.
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