Series on Sunday: Mini-Reviews

black lungSince my last Series on Sunday I’ve read these series books:

  • The Black Lung Captain by Chris Wooding
  • Cut to the Quick by Kate Ross
  • Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron

I enjoyed all of them, and while none are in the ballpark of books like Us or House of Mirth, I like to mix in lighter reading, especially while I’m in school. If you’re looking for some fluffy-but-fun summer reads, these are some good picks.

Black Lung Captain by Chris Wooding:

Black Lung Captain is Book #2 in the Tales of the Ketty Jay series, a series that will remind you of the show Firefly. And if you’re like me, you’re constantly looking for things that remind you of Firefly (my latest is the show Killjoys). So that’s why I picked up Book #1, Retribution Falls, and I haven’t been disappointed.

Like Firefly, this series has action, adventure, romance (sort of), and it’s set in an interesting world that blends fantasy and science fiction but without too much of either. My husband likes his books set squarely in the science fiction world, so this kind of hybrid doesn’t do it for him. It’s not really clear in this series where they are, or when, or who’s running things, or how the technology works. But I like that sort of thing, so there you are.

Book #2 moves at a faster pace than Book #1 – as with most series, the introductions and back-stories are mostly out of the way so the story is more of the focus. Darian Frey is the fearless captain, and he’s joined by a motley crew, all of them with issues. This book explores some of the characters quite a bit more, including Crake, who is struggling with his practice of demonology, and Jez, who has been partially “possessed” by an alien race. We also get more of Pinn, who pines away for a fiancée he will never actually marry, and Malvery, a fearless pilot in battle who is deathly afraid of the ship’s cat.

For me, the one downside of this book, and the previous one, is that Captain Frey makes horrible decisions over and over again that endanger the lives of his crew. He’s kind of an idiot and generally makes these decisions for one of two reasons: money or a woman. He’s learning to be a better captain, but he’s certainly learning slowly! I can appreciate that he’s willing to risk everything he has, but not when that includes the lives of all of his crew.

That issue aside, I’ll definitely be reading more, if only for Crake, Jez, Malvery, Silo, Pinn, and Bess.

Cut to the Quick by Kate Rossquick

This is Book #1 in the Julian Kestrel series. I’ve been looking for a new historical mystery series and this might be it. Set in Regency England (mid 1880’s), Julian Kestrel is a “dandy” who appears to be more concerned with his shoes than the welfare of others. But when he’s invited to the country estate of the Fontclairs for a wedding, he finds himself mixed up in murder when a dead girl ends up in his bed. Needing to clear himself and his loyal servant, he sets out to investigate, when everyone else in the house clearly wants to cover things up.

This was a great mystery story in the classic vein: a house full of suspects and everyone has secrets. We don’t learn a lot about Kestrel himself, but I liked that the mystery took front and center, and the story was satisfying from start to finish. Some of the plot I saw coming, and some of it I didn’t. As usual with these types of stories, the obvious solution isn’t the right one, although everyone has done something wrong. I often find the final “whodunit” to be the least interesting part of these stories, and that’s true here as well. Ross keeps us interested throughout, with interesting characters and storylines. Sometimes mysteries can get a little tedious, just one character running around interviewing people. In this book I felt the story was paced nicely and mixed up with good characters and changes of setting.

There’s less focus on history and social issues of the time than I would have liked, compared to Anne Perry and C.S. Harris (both highly recommended if you like this sort of thing). But since I got a little burned out on those series, I’m happy to find this one.

nice dragonsNice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron

I just finished this book yesterday, and was pretty much glued to it after the first 100 pages. Aaron has created a really interesting fantasy world where dragons look like humans most of the time and interact in a world with other magical creatures. Yet they have their own distinct powers and culture. Julius is the youngest dragon in his centuries-old family, and he’s also the weakest. He just doesn’t like to fight, kill, and steal the way the rest of the dragons do, so his mother gives him an ultimatum: toughen up or be eaten. She’s taken away most of his powers and thrown him into the most dangerous city for a dragon: Detroit. Julius meets a mage, Marci, who’s running for her life from a Las Vegas crime lord. Marci needs help, only dragons don’t help humans.

Okay, so the plot is definitely of the “hit-you-over-the head” variety. Julius is struggling to stay nice in a world where being nice means you’re a freak. But aside from that, this book was a lot of fun, with all of Julius’ siblings fighting to manipulate each other and carry out various schemes with Julius as the pawn.

Rachel Aaron is also known as Rachel Bach, author of the science fiction Paradox series, and she’s also known for the Eli Monpress series, which I haven’t read. She writes fun, not-too-serious stories but with a lot of attention to world-building. This is a book where the dragon mythology may be more interesting than our too-nice main character, but I enjoyed every minute. Book #2 of this series will be out in August.

  3 comments for “Series on Sunday: Mini-Reviews

  1. rudejasper
    July 26, 2015 at 11:48 am

    So It feels like this post was written just for me, lol!
    First of all Firefly is one my favorite shows and I am also on the hunt for stories that remind me of it. So I’m interested to hear about Killjoys! I think the Ketty Jay series was on my radar for this reason at some point but it had kind of dribbled off the radar so thanks for the reminder.
    Second, the Julian Kestrel series is one of my favorite historical mystery series! I think book two was my least favorite but books 3 and 4 just get better and better. Sadly there are only 4 books because Kate Ross dies very young from cancer. I think part of my love for the books was that I believed (though never read anywhere) that Ross was influenced by my favorite historical fiction writer Dorothy Dunnett – there are a few elements in her books and in the character of Kestrel that remind me of Dunnett.
    Finally, I just bought Nice Dragons Finish Last on sale so it’s good to see an endorsement of it!

    • July 30, 2015 at 3:54 pm

      Great to hear we have so much in common! And how sad to hear about Kate Ross, I didn’t know that. If she’s compared to Dunnett, I’m sure the next three books will be great. Kestrel was an interesting character but I look forward to seeing him more developed.

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