I am a big fan of fantasy, a big fan of crime and mystery novels, and a big fan of sarcastically dry characters. “Storm Front”, on the surface, absolutely ticks all those boxes. We’ve got a sarcastically dry wizard who consults with the Chicago police department when murders don’t make sense in the traditional manner. I absolutely love, love that premise! And I did go in knowing that Harry, as an MC, is written to be chauvinistic, and have been assured that he, as a character, gets better in that regard, so I tried to not let that bother me as I was reading. So why did a book that ticks so many of my boxes end up being kind of… meh for me?
What do you get when your cross the concept of Jurassic Park with a B horror movie? You get the fast-paced “Monsterland”, that’s what. “Monsterland” is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a theme park full of real-life monsters, namely zombies, vampires, and werewolves. The premise being that vampires and werewolves have always lived amongst us, just hidden, until a plague that created zombies sweeps the planet and now a billionaire mogul, Vincent Konrad, decides to make a theme park housing all these monsters for “study”, and profit obviously because why make a theme park out of it if you didn’t want to make cash? Wyatt, one of our many MC’s (but the main, main one) idolizes Vincent and wants nothing more than to go to the park opening night. He gets his wish, but of course everything changes and this supposedly “safe” park is anything but. Things escalate FAST once Wyatt and his friends are in the park, perhaps too fast to really get a feel for, well, anything. Hence the B movie vibe…
I had to take my time with this review so it wouldn’t devolve into a jumble of screeching and excited gurgles. But trust me when I say that this book is like riding a roller coaster while tripping. But, you know, in the most masterful way possible. Muir is easily, and quickly, becoming one of my favorite authors; not only can she craft such a gothic and macabre, gory and intensely beautiful world, but she successfully uses ALL THREE types of POV’s in this book in order to build the most amazing mystery and the best pay out for said mystery that I’ve read in a long, long time. Which makes writing a review for this book so, so hard… I don’t want to say anything for fear it mat spoil something, which would ruin everything. But let’s give it a try, shall we?
Imagine waking up naked, in a cell with two rotting corpses, and then a man in rags with two katana’s breaks down your prison door and basically says “come with me if you want to live”. That’s how we start “The Last Day in Hell” where our main female MC, January, wakes up confused, not knowing anything about herself or who she was, not even her real name, the only fact she knows is that she is naked, dead, and the date she died. When our main male MC, Jack, and his crew find her they explain the world January suddenly finds herself in, and how they have to traverse this hellscape full of monsters in order to reach a door that could potentially lead them out of Hell if they are chosen. They don’t know why they are in Hell to begin with, so proving themselves worthy of getting out of this place becomes difficult when no one really knows what to do in order to atone. The book starts off action packed and full of intrigue. I originally loved the premise of this story, but the more I read, the more I realized this book just wasn’t for me.
“The Changeling” feels like two books in one. You have the contemporary fiction of a young black family navigating their new life changes when welcoming a baby in New York City, which includes dealing with the racism they face as very bookish people—Apollo is a book man, hunting down rare books, and Emma is a librarian. But it’s also a story that closely aligns with the traditional folklore around changelings (I won’t go into details just in case you aren’t familiar and want to be completely surprised by this novel). Marrying those two stories is tricky, at the best of times, but Lavelle does a fabulous job, for the most part, of weaving a chilling, slow burn contemporary thriller with a fantasy horror story. The effect is a literary fiction that I can totally see college or advanced High School students dissecting in their English classes. But the connections between these two worlds wasn’t always there, so the author had to take great leaps on occasion, plus there is just one thing I cannot forgive Emma for…
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