Two Heads Are Deader Than One by Elena Hartwell


Two Heads Are Deader Than One by Elena Hartwell
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (288 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Private Investigator Eddie Shoes is enjoying a rare period of calm. She’s less lonely now that Chava, her card-counting mom from Vegas, is sharing her home. She also has a new companion, Franklin, a giant dog of curious ancestry.
Hoping for a lucrative new case, Eddie instead finds herself taking on a less promising client: her best friend from her childhood in Spokane. Dakota has turned up in Bellingham in jail, where she is being held on a weapons charge. Eddie reluctantly agrees not only to lend her friend money for bail but to also investigate who is stalking her. Soon after Dakota is freed, she disappears again, leaving Eddie to answer to the local cops, including her ex-boyfriend Chance Parker. Has Dakota been kidnapped? If not, why did she jump bail? What are Eddie’s business cards doing on the bodies of two murder victims?

The key to these mysteries lies in Dakota and Eddie’s shared history, which ended when Eddie left home after high school. As a person of interest in both murder cases, Eddie is forced to go in search of the truth, digging into the past and facing her own demons.

She wasn’t going to answer the phone but then she heard a voice from her past…

This is the second book in the Eddie Shoe mystery series. Book one was a good read and this one is also. The stories move quickly, there’s always danger, moments that make you laugh, and you worry about Eddie. She’s a good PI but she’s not real careful about her own safety. The author has her sticking her nose out a little further than necessary but it sure makes for a fun read.

The woman calling her was her best friend in high school. She’s in jail in her town and wants some help with bail money. Dakota manages to make her feel guilty so she goes down and gets her out. But then Dakota goes to ground and she can’t find her. She’s also not answering her cellphone. When she starts to check out her story, nothing she’s told her is true. Even worse, when she opens the door across the hall where it said they had tarot card readings but ran a prostitution ring, she finds a dead man.

The cops have a dead body and lots of blood in another part of the room. But the dead man didn’t bleed. Whose blood was it?

Eddie keeps digging. She even goes back to Spokane to search out old haunts where she and Dakota hung out. There are still secrets in Spokane and when she finds out the truth, she’ll be free from the guilt of an accident at the end of high school that took someone’s life.

It takes the whole story until the clues start going together. It’s a well thought out mystery, you meet more characters from Eddie’s life and her boyfriend is still around. Maybe in the next book they’ll get back together again. Watch for the third book. Eddie isn’t done snooping yet.

Old Bones Never Die by Leslie A Diehl


Old Bones Never Die by Leslie A Diehl
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (274 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Just before Walter Egret is killed in a hit-and-run, he phoned his half-brother Sammy to report that he’d unearthed their missing father’s pocket watch, along with a pile of human bones. The project is put on hold until it can be determined if the site is an Indian burial ground. Then the bones disappear. Now Sammy and his brother’s three orphaned children want Eve Appel to go pro, applying her innate snoopiness to the trade of private investigator. Eve already has her hands full with her two consignment stores. What is she going to do? Sammy and Walter are Miccosukee Indians, and Walter was employed as a backhoe operator on a construction site for a sportsmen’s resort. Was Walter’s death murder or an accident? If the bones belong to Sammy’s father, how did they get there? Delving into these mysteries, Eve is aided by her usual crew of friends and family. This adventure will not only up the stakes for Eve as an investigator, but it will also open her eyes to life possibilities she never imagined. Book 5 in the Eve Appel Mystery series, which began with A Secondhand Murder.

Eve is thinking seriously of becoming a private investigator. She knows of one close to her office who would train her. She knows she’s busy with her consignment shop and the RV they use as a second shop, but she still has spare time and intense curiosity. Would it be too much?

This story is a mix about past and present, death long ago and death currently. With two Indian tribes in the area, future development is beginning in their little town but one is excited about it. It gets even worse when some bones show up at the construction site. The work is shut down until the bones are analyzed. Then the bones go missing, the construction man who found them is dead, and a watch that has been missing for years is missing again. Were the bones part of an Indian burial site? If not, who was it?

The pace moves well, there’s more than one mystery, and it all comes out by end of the story. I enjoyed Eve’s family, her lover and his family, and the mob man she’s friends with. Those close to her know she’ll do what she decides to do but they try to talk her out of it.

The romance in this story is soothing and poor Eve needs that in her life. Especially since someone is trying to kill her now because of her snooping.

This writer’s style is easy to read, she closes up any gaps in the story line and she’s made me want to read another in this series. Eve and Sammy are a joy to read about.

An Act of Murder by Mary Angela


An Act of Murder by Mary Angela
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (228 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

In the sleepy college town of Copper Bluff, South Dakota, English professor Emmeline Prather is enjoying the start of a new semester. But when one of her students dies working on the fall musical, it disrupts life on the small, quiet campus. Although the police rule the death accidental, Prof. Prather has good reason to suspect foul play.

Unmasking the murderer proves much more challenging than finding dangling participles, so Em recruits fellow English professor Lenny Jenkins for assistance. Together, they comb the campus and vicinity for clues, risking their reputations and possibly their jobs. After an intruder breaks into Em’s house, Lenny advises caution—and perhaps a change of address. Em, on the other hand, is all the more determined to forge ahead, convinced they’re on the brink of an important breakthrough.

The new semester brings more than just new classrooms full of students for Professor Emmeline Prather.

Professor Prather is an English professor at a small university who is still adjusting to the dynamics of the world of higher education. Although Professor Prather finds herself in some unique social conundrums, she often looks to her friend and colleague, Lenny Jenkins, to bail her out. When the unthinkable happens and one of her students is found dead, Professor Prather and Lenny both consider there may be foul play.

Mary Angela does a great job bringing Emmeline Prather to life. When readers often think of English professors, they often reflect back to their childhood or college years. Professor Prather is definitely one English professor that I may have had in the past. Interwoven into the main character’s personality is subtle traits and quirks that I have seen in many English professors that I have had in the past. Yet, as a reader, we get to see a unique glimpse into the world of Emmeline Prather and see how the English professor’s world works from the inside out.

The plot is believable and the supporting characters are fun and have quirky traits all their own. The mystery itself, which provides the core of the plot, constantly keeps the reader guessing. The fun relationship the Professor Prather and Lenny have keeps the reader coming back. The social dynamics between faculty and student are very much at work in the book just as they are at every university.

This was a fantastic read and a lot of fun! Since this is the first book of the Cozy Mystery Series, I look forward to reading many more and cannot wait to see what Professor Emmeline Prather gets herself into next time!

The Assassin’s Kiss by J.A. Kazimer

KISS
The Assassin’s Kiss by J.A. Kazimer
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (260 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Julia abandoned Nate Taylor on their wedding night after finding him in the arms of her stepsister, Sara. Now she is set to marry again, this time to a man who shares her upper-crust background. But Nate won’t sign the annulment papers.

Ready to resort to murder if necessary, Julia storms Nate’s houseboat in the Florida Everglades, just in time to survive an attack by a group of assassins Nate believes are targeting her. He should know; he’s an assassin himself–a little detail he never shared with his ex. Nate works for a secret government agency known as OPS. With the help of his fellow assassins, Nate tries to identify the attackers and the reason for their deadly quest.

Meanwhile, the reluctant travel companions flee north to Nate’s eccentric hometown of Gibsonton, and later to a comfy cabin in the woods. Julia becomes better acquainted with her mysterious ex, the true man behind the gun.

Seeing this new side of Nate, will Julia continue to resist the powerful chemistry between them? Will they solve the mystery before one of them is killed trying?

Nate Taylor and Julia have some seriously complicated history together. Both of them have been hurt by the other – Julia by Nate’s lies and Nate with the way Julia could just up and leave their marriage in the middle of the night without a backward glance. But now Julia is moving on. She has a proper, decent new fiancé and a wedding – a real wedding – just around the corner. Only she’s discovered Nate never signed their annulment papers, and now she is forced to deal with him and their broken vows.

This is a really interesting book. I liked how for a refreshing change both Nate and Julia have been seriously hurt by each other – there’s not just one wounded party here. They each need not only to forgive each other, but also admit to their own faults. I found in regards to the romance side of the plot, this made for quite a complicated story. There’s no real “bad” person in their relationship – they’re both equally to blame for different reasons. There’s a mountain of secrets, unresolved feelings and conversations that should have been done long ago. All of this is like a huge weight between the two of them. And this, along with a complicated, interesting assassination plot is what is explored through most of the story. I don’t feel readers looking for a solid, already-together couple, strong in their romance and facing their issues together will enjoy this. For the majority of the story – even though Julia and Nate have sex a number of times – there’s so many secrets, omissions and unspoken feelings looming between them they can’t trust each other and continually expect to be let down by one another.

While really interesting and deeply emotional, I found personally it was all tinged with sadness. I can fully appreciate how far both Julia and Nate need to come to reconcile, but I didn’t find it romantic or sexy how Julia just always expected Nate to lie or let her down. How when Nate wasn’t walking away “to keep Julia safe” he was expecting her to leave him. It lessened the impact of their growing relationship and any romance the story held for me. There were good reasons for everything that occurred, the author did an amazing job of explaining all the misunderstandings, and a few of the plot twists revolving around Julia and Nate’s job were really fantastic. But personally, when I read a romance story I want the emotional connections to be steeped in romance. In any good romance one would always expect conflict and problems – and had Julia and Nate started to trust each other when they escaped the first assassination attempt, had they made significant progress toward mending their relationship bridges and had there been more hope than distrust I’d have loved this book a hundred times more.

Having said all this – readers who prefer an edgier style of romance story, readers who like proper conflict, deep-seated issues of distrust and a long, hard road to relationship recovery should find this an amazing story. Both the hero and heroine really have to work HARD for their Happily Ever After – and readers who crave these stories should find this a wonderful read, good and long with plenty of plot twists to sink your teeth into. I personally found no fault at all with the plot/action side of this story. Complicated, twisted and with plenty of surprises I loved the clear thought, planning and depth the author put to this story. There is much to really enjoy and commend to this story and one I can happily recommend to certain readers.

Four Dog’s Sake by Lia Farrell

FOUR
Four Dog’s Sake by Lia Farrell
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (264 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

On a hot, humid July 4th evening in Rosedale, Tennessee, a young man is dead on arrival at the hospital where Dr. Lucy Ingram works. Lucy recalls the affable young man, Chester Willis, from an earlier visit. The death is pronounced a suicide from an overdose of the insulin used to treat his diabetes, but Lucy isn’t convinced. The man just wasn’t the suicidal type. She pushes for another autopsy, and they find an injection site proving that someone else administered the deadly dose. Later in the week his ailing father dies as well. Now there is the matter of the father’s will.

Who stood to benefit if Chester was taken out of the equation? The easy answer is Chester’s brother Rick, who is in debt and has an expensive fiancée. Then there’s Brooke, the struggling massage therapist the old man befriended. The will has made her a wealthy woman.

Sheriff Ben Bradley and Lucy’s boyfriend chief detective Wayne Nichols are on the case, along with newly appointed investigator dory, Ben’s girlfriend Mae December, and the rest of Ben’s office staff. Soon they must accept that there will be no easy answers. The heat has tempers flaring, and Wayne, Ben, and Mae are distracted: Wayne by his changing relationship with Lucy and by having to cope with dark episodes from both their pasts, Ben and Mae by his reelection campaign and the couple’s upcoming wedding. Then there is cupcake, the new basset hound puppy owned by Ben s son Matthew, who becomes the fourth canine to take up permanent residence at Mae’s house.

He was a healthy young man who had diabetes and was here to care for his father who has congenital heart disease. And, yet, he was the one who died first…

The author does an amazing job of character development. There are a lot of players in this story but they are all interesting and it takes all their skills to determine Chester was murdered and who the killer was. I found myself caring about them all. I even enjoyed Mae’s four dogs.

Mae helps Sheriff Ben with his cases. She’s good at getting people to talk to her. When you add in a doctor and coroner and all the folks from the cop shop, Ben has a real good team. He’ll need it for this case. There’s a lot of action in this read and it all flows well. Ben has to sort out what he finds out and figure out what’s important and what’s not.

The old man knew he was getting close to death. He had made his will leaving the majority of his wealth to his two sons. When Chester died, he changed his will. The oldest son is trying to contest it after his father’s natural death. Was it one of the two inheritors that killed Chester? Who else would have cared about him?

There are secrets in everybody’s closet in this story. The author stayed ahead of me. I had one suspect, then another. It isn’t until the very end you get the motivation of the killer. This is a fast paced cozy that keeps your attention all the way through. I’ll be watching for more in this series.

Side Trip to Kathmandu by Marie Moore

SIDE
Side Trip to Kathmandu by Marie Moore
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (188 Pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

Sidney Marsh’s job as a New York travel agent is on the line. On her last two tours, she and her colleague Jay ended up smack in the middle of murder and mayhem. Their sleuthing sideline did not endear them to their employer, Itchy Feet Travel, so naturally they are relieved when their wealthy friend Brooke requests their presence on a no expense spared tour of India and Nepal. Another agency has made the arrangements, so all they need do is sit back and enjoy the ride.

Well, not quite all. Brooke has enlisted them to keep a sharp eye on their fellow travelers, all “friends” who have grown rich from the demise of others. After surviving an attempt on her life, Brooke is certain the culprit must be one of the five: a handsome Scotsman, a Bollywood actress, an investment banker, a Parisian filmmaker, or a twice widowed blonde. Many of the tour accommodations prove to be as dodgy as the reputations of the travelers themselves. After one of the members of the moving house party dies of an apparent heart attack, everyone’s nerves are on edge. Sidney can hardly be blamed for assuming a deadly game is afoot… or for falling for Adam, the doting Scotsman. Now, if only she can unmask the killer before the killer beats her to the punch.

Sydney Marsh sits in her boss’s office at Itchy Feet Travel and listens as he gives her the next assignment, one which she will share with her friend and fellow travel agent Jay Wilson. The thought of a luxury tour to India excites her until her boss tells her that this is her final chance. He goes on to say, “And I really mean it this time. Your last two trips were disasters.” Sidney tries to defend herself, saying that the murders which happened on her last trips were hardly her fault, but her boss won’t listen. He only tells Sidney that “on the trips you’ve been leading lately, stuff happens. Bad stuff. People die. It may be just bad luck, it may not be your fault, but somehow it happens. And if your luck doesn’t change—and I mean right now—you are out of a job.”

Sidney is a delightful young woman, and she and Jay work well together. They are very glad that their wealthy friend Brooke has insisted that Sidney and Jay lead this tour. The only problem is that once they are in India, they discover that all the arrangements have already been made and they aren’t needed at all. Instead, Brooke lets them know that she wants them to discover which of her friends is a murderer.

The descriptions of India and Nepal are fantastic, and the reader quickly becomes another member of a fantastic tour. The sights, sounds, smells, and even tastes of these countries is conveyed in a vivid and exciting way. And the characters on the tour are certainly very different and each seems to have secrets they don’t want to reveal. Mysteries abound in this exotic location, especially after one member of the tour dies.

This is a fun novel, but I do have to admit that I guessed the murderer early on, although I didn’t know all the details until the end. Personally, I would have preferred a bit more mystery and then, when the action did heat up quite dramatically, everything was resolved rather too quickly for my tastes. However, I learned a lot about countries I’ve never visited and the atmosphere was very well done.

Readers who enjoy a cozy mystery, especially one that takes them to new locations, are sure to find Side Trip to Kathmandu to be a delightful experience.

Due for Discard: An Aimee Machado Mystery by Sharon St. George

DUE
Due for Discard: An Aimee Machado Mystery by Sharon St. George
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (342 Pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

Aimee Machado is thrilled to be starting her first job as a forensic librarian at the medical center in the town of Timbergate, north of Sacramento, California. Her ebullient mood is somewhat dampened by her recent breakup with her former live-in boyfriend, Nick Alexander. And then there’s a little matter of murder: on Aimee’s first day on the job, a body is found in the hospital Dumpster, soon identified as her supervisor’s wife, Bonnie Beardsley. Aimee’s heartbreaker of a brother and best friend, Harry, just happens to be one of the last people to see Bonnie alive, but he is hardly the only suspect. Bonnie was notorious for her wild partying and man-stealing ways, and she has left a trail of broken hearts and bitterness. Aimee is determined to get her brother off the suspect list. Aimee’s snooping quickly makes her a target. Isolated on her grandparents’ llama farm where she fled post-breakup, she realizes exactly how vulnerable she is. Three men have pledged to protect her: her brother Harry, her ex, Nick, and the dashing hospital administrator with a reputation for womanizing, Jared Quinn. But they can’t be on the alert every minute, not when Aimee is so bent on cracking the case with or without their help.

Aimee Machado lands the perfect job, as a forensic librarian at Timbergate Medical Center in Northern California. She is living in a converted bunkhouse above her grandparents’ barn because she’s broken up with her boyfriend and still has graduate school loans to pay off. But this new job is just what she needs. Everything is going well until her boss’ wife is found murdered and her brother, Harry, becomes the prime suspect. Aimee will do anything to save her brother.

Aimee is young and inexperienced, but she is also very determined. Not only does she care about her brother, but also she feels responsible for the fact that he is the main suspect. The police investigator, Marco Bueller, is determined to pin something on Harry because Harry had stopped Marco’s brother, Tango, from raping Aimee, resulting in Tango being sent to prison. While Marco isn’t in charge of the investigation, he is influencing Connie Keefer, the DA. Aimee is sure that no other suspects are even being considered, so she starts investigating.

While this is a fun cozy mystery, I wish that the characters had more depth. It took me quite awhile to get hooked into this story and I’d figured out much of the mystery early on. There were a lot of details that I didn’t know, but it wasn’t hard to figure out the bad guys. In addition, lots of action is just reported after the fact. It would have been nice to experience more of it.

The final capture is dramatic, with good tension and excitement. I also loved all the animals, especially the llamas, the cat, Fanny, and the cockatiel, Bosco. I never realized that llamas were such good watch animals.

Fans of the cozy mystery will enjoy watching Aimee as she hunts for clues and suspects, putting herself in danger, as she works to uncover the truth.

Last Words-A Coleridge Taylor Mystery by Rich Zahradnik

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Last Words-A Coleridge Taylor Mystery by Rich Zahradnik
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (237 pgs)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

In March of 1975, as New York City hurtles toward bankruptcy and the Bronx burns, newsman Coleridge Taylor roams police precincts and ERs. He is looking for the story that will deliver him from obits, his place of exile at the Messenger-Telegram. Ever since he was demoted from the police beat for inventing sources, the 34-year-old has been a lost soul. A break comes at Bellevue, where Taylor views the body of a homeless teen picked up in the Meatpacking District. Taylor smells a rat: the dead boy looks too clean, and he’s wearing a distinctive Army field jacket. A little digging reveals that the jacket belonged to a hobo named Mark Voichek and that the teen was a spoiled society kid up to no good, the son of a city official. Taylor’s efforts to protect Voichek put him on the hit list of three goons who are willing to kill any number of street people to cover tracks that just might lead to City Hall. Taylor has only one ally in the newsroom, young and lovely reporter Laura Wheeler. Time is not on his side. If he doesn’t wrap this story up soon, he’ll be back on the obits page—as a headline, not a byline.

If you like your mysteries on the gritty side I’d say this one’s definitely for you. The opening drew me in with the down on his luck, Coleridge Taylor finding what could be his ticket out of writing obituaries for his employer. He’s easily likeable and along with this main character you start to think something isn’t right when he stumbles across the body of a teenager who supposedly froze to death…but did he?

From that moment on I was hooked. All the characters are well-drawn and although I’m not always a fan of mysteries with a corruption and hit-list type theme, this one did keep me reading just to find out if I was right about my theories as to how far the corruption went and would Coleridge pay the price for his inquisitiveness.

Mr. Zahradnik did a great job portraying the color and culture of the time. If you want to read about a slice of New York history during the 1970s then you’d probably enjoy this mystery for that reason alone.

It’s fast paced and the dialogue is natural sounding and I felt true to that era. With so many books now set during modern times with its cell phones and all the new gadgetry that can help a sleuth solve the crime, I found this one a refreshing change and will look for more in this series.

Three Dog Day: A Mae December Mystery by Lia Farrell

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Three Dog Day: A Mae December Mystery by Lia Farrell
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (288 Pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

It’s bitter cold in Rosedale, Tennessee, the most frigid January in decades. The kind of chill they used to describe as requiring sleeping with three dogs just to make it through the night. Mae December has found yet another body, this one on the banks of the Little Harpeth River. It’s another murder for her boyfriend, Sheriff Ben Bradley, to investigate. Only Mae’s broken her wrist, which makes helping out with the case difficult. That’s okay, because the murdered man was found near a puppy mill, and all evidence points to the owner as the killer. Surely the case will be a slam dunk. Mae’s injury also hampers her ability to run her dog boarding business and care for the three pit bull puppies she’s fostering, so she hires Ray Fenton, the kid who blew the whistle on the now-shuttered puppy mill. Meanwhile, Sheriff Bradley’s office manager, Dory Clarkson, struggles to pass the physical tests that will allow her to fulfill her dream of becoming a deputy, Mae and her friend Tammy are busy planning Tammy’s Valentine’s Day wedding to the brother of Mae’s deceased fiancé, and Detective Wayne Nichols must revisit his painful past as he fights to free his foster mother from prison. Rosedale is the last place you’d expect to harbor a killer. Now the sheriff’s department must solve its third murder in a year.

Mae December has found another body. She is out walking Lulu, one of the dogs in her boarding kennels, along a trail that a friend had recommended when Lulu finds a body at the edge of the river. As Mae and Lulu make their way back up the bank to get back on the trail, Mae slips in icy mud, breaking her left wrist as she falls.

Thus begins the third Mae December mystery, and while Mae is slowed by a broken wrist, she is not stopped. She is soon involved in investigating a puppy mill as well as the murder.

Mae is a wonderful main character, well-developed with both strengths and weaknesses, so that she seems very real. She is supported by a host of characters, including her boyfriend, Sheriff Ben Bradley, her best friend Tammy, and one of my favorites, Dory Clarkson, who runs the sheriff’s office and aspires to become a detective.

The plot has several different threads, some closely linked and one, more distantly. The story does stand alone, in that the reader doesn’t need to have read the first two books in the series. However, the plot thread that revolves around Detective Wayne Nichols might be a bit difficult to get into right away if you haven’t read the first two. While there are a few references to Wayne early in the novel, we don’t actually meet him until Chapter Nine, and the transition to his story seemed a bit abrupt. That being said, Wayne’s case is one of deep complexity, concerning issues of social justice, so I found it to be compelling.

The chapters are titled by the date and the name of the person from whose perspective the chapter is told and this allows for a variety of perspectives without any confusion on the reader’s part. The different points of view allows for a greater depth to the plot, and I enjoyed that aspect of this novel.

Three Dog Day is a wonderful cozy mystery, and a great addition to a lovely series. It is sure to offer a lot of entertainment for mystery fans.

City of Tigers by Leif Chappelle

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City of Tigers by Leif Chappelle
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, YA
Length: Full Length (282 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Raised by his mother in the small town of Havlandsby, young Sigurd watches the projektors make their rounds, keeping the town lit and warm in the dark, cold winters, ensuring that water fills the wells. Their communion with the elements is as old as the world itself, but the projektors are losing their influence, and fewer of them are being born. Their duties are slowly being taken over by inanimate objects—the machinae—and the people they serve are fleeing their homes in droves for the cities.

After Sigurd’s mother dies, he joins the exodus to Tigrebyn, the City of Tigers, where he must fend for himself among the petty thieves and heartless merchants. Finally Sigurd meets Ragna, who has taken it upon herself to track and protect the remaining projektors, now punished for practicing the ancient art of projeksjon and labeled conspirators against the Crown. Sigurd’s particular art is nothing as mundane as bringing forth light, warmth, and water. Sigurd can command the very air to transform the sounds in his head into complex musical compositions, conducting an invisible orchestra of instruments and effects.

The professors at the University, who answer to the Queen, wish to use Sigurd’s gift to invent the greatest machina yet—but first they must bend the young man to their will.

Sigurd never knew his father. When his mother dies, they tell him he will have to go live with his uncle, her brother. He doesn’t like that idea, so he leaves the village and moves to the city. You can hide in the city, can’t you?

This story is a mix of machina and magic; the machina are almost steampunk in nature and the magic is done by projeksjon. The author has created a world with have and have-nots. Those that are part of the castle and the university have the machina. Those that don’t live there have to depend on their own skills to get along. The gap between the two groups is large and those who are at the bottom resent it.

Sigurd catches their attention by using a power he doesn’t know he owns. He has also found two more children his age, a brother and a sister and they have unusual powers. They also aren’t aware of it. Not knowing what they are capable of is dangerous. Sigurd somehow causes a fire in the square and becomes a wanted terrorist. He’s still not even sure he’s done it, but he has to hide.

This is a long convoluted tale. The children are caught in the middle because they are orphans. The queen and her consorts are playing games with other people’s lives. Sigurd becomes friends with the lady that leads the revolutionary group. You never really know what’s going on or who’s who.

The author’s words flow well, the story keeps you interested and wondering, and it’s a fast ride to the end. I’m afraid I’m not sure I understood the ending. It was odd to me and left me wondering about the other characters. Maybe I missed something as I read or maybe I needed a more obvious explanation, but I didn’t get it. I did enjoy the read, the world building and the characters. That made it worth reading. Why don’t you give it a try and see what you think?