It’s no secret that I’ve always loved the Phantom of the Opera. I adore tragic love stories and gothic vibes. So really, this review shouldn’t surprise anyone as “Phantom Song” was inspired by the original Phantom of the Opera, and the author does some truly marvelous magic weaving in the original with the far-future world she’s built with the Toccata System. How the original phantom of the opera house is brought back with the ghost, and the Phantom Angel guarding over the city (which, honestly reminded me a bit of Batman but I kind of loved that, too) while also being the masked opera star of Landry City… This story was a perfect homage to a classic while braving its own unique path. I loved getting to know Claire, and seeing her beautiful relationship with Iz, as well as having Henry and Astra return. Plus, this book has creepy AI, murderous cyborgs, and themes of prejudice that apply to many groups and peoples today. Really, what's not to love?
Where “Hilt Cyan” starts is not where it ends, at all. Go with me on this one: Meet, Georgia, a mercenary sniper with cat ears that lives in a steampunk-esque world full of magic and floating land masses that make up the different lands, and where magic functions in a unique way in each area. A world that is both incredibly advanced with flying hover-limos, and fairly primitive with characters still needing to empty out chamber pots. The main character comes from a broken home, one where her being a lesbian is problematic; a sin against their bird-like god. Her sexuality is partially what sets Georgia on the path she’s currently on. Kicked out of her home and struggling to survive, Georgia is in and out of prison, until she nearly gets caught taking out her latest contact. Enter Henry, the VP of a high tech company that offers Georgia the chance to become something greater, to become someone with a purpose and unlimited power—he offers her the chance to become a Shiron, as long as she can survive a death match competition first. No pressure, right?
One of my favorite things in sci-fi is the question of what it means to be human, and when do machines cross that line into being truly alive, capable of free will, of questioning their makers, of wanting to be a part of this thing called “life”. “Urban Heroes” leans hard into that question and I love it. You have the main character, Calista, who is on the run from the uprising between man and machine she was accidentally a part of. Calista is a pilot, which means she has an almost symbiotic relationship with her ship all for the low, low price of trading her arm for a robotic one. Calista runs in with people who have more machine parts then actual machines, and yet they are offered more rights than the true robotic AI populating their world. Which is occupied by floating cities now that the world has kind of crumbled away, or something. With Calista is Axton, who pretty much everyone and their mother wants to get their hands on. Why? That is slowly teased out over the course of this very short book, and I loved the tragedy that was Calista and Axton. This book makes you think, question what is truly alive, breaks your heart, and leaves you wanting more. Maybe too much more?
I am not the biggest reader of dystopian novels, or at least, pure dystopian. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve read anything in the genre mainly because I haven’t seen a lot of exciting things done in it. But, behold! Allow me to introduce you to “Reactive” and Tatum City! The world our MC, Lune, occupies has been destroyed—nuclear fallout is kind of what is alluded to but I'm not sure. Strange beasts roam the wilds, and safety can only be found in the walled cities. But some cities are far from safe. Lune is kidnapped from her loving mother, and given to the leader of Tatum City where she is constantly beaten, as everyone around her tries to break her spirit. But that never stops Lune from going for the one thing she wants more than anything else: to be reunited with her mother who she hasn’t seen for 11 years. The only way to do that is to win the three deadly Trials. Winning just one Trial means you get the right to have a better job, and additional benefits for your family, but winning all three means you are given a boon of your choosing, and Lune would do anything to win and choose her freedom. Well, almost anything.
“Demon’s on the Dalton” is the second in the Hell Hole’s serial trilogy, and picks up pretty immediately from where the first in the series left off. Although, this book spends a decent chunk early on recapping and re-familiarizing the reader with what happened in the first novella, so if you don’t read the first one, I don’t think you’ll be totally lost, though I do think the excitement of the first book is higher than in the second. We get Angela’s perspective this time as our trio of survivors race across the Dalton. The majority of the story is spent with our characters in their vehicle, barely able to stop to pee on the side of the road before all manner of hell spawn is on top of them. Their mission is still primarily to survive, to get to Fairbanks, and safety. But as the U.S. military mobilizes and starts their counter attack, their mission shifts, becoming more than just survival, but helping the powers that be to end the unending wave of demonic creatures that are pouring into our world.
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