The Guns of Avalon (Amber Chronicles, #2) – Roger Zelazny

Source: Goodreads

There are infinite worlds made of shadow, and only one born of the royal Amber line can navigate them. Among the shadows now move creatures of chaos and darkness, venturing off the black road to incite war, disease, and suffering among the shadow lands. The black road cuts through all, right up to light that is Amber. Corwin of Amber is an expert at navigating the shadow realms, but faced with his own anger and hatred in the flesh, will he be able to overcome it?


The second novel in Zelazny’s epic Amber Chronicles picks up where the first left off, with Corwin recovering form his injuries and going in search of new avenues to the throne of Amber. As we meet a slightly wider cast of characters among the shadow worlds, we also learn more of Amber’s history and the intricate family dynamics. Most importantly, we see the results of Corwin’s curse on Eric – a curse even he doesn’t know the bounds of.

All of these novels are on the short side, but this one actually felt shorter despite it actually being longer than the first. There was a lot of travelling and explanation of how Corwin was morphing the shadows he was passing through, and not a lot of plot or character development. Typical second book slump. The female characters might serve some sort of point in the future, but in this particular volume they felt rather gratuitous. As a man over 100-years-old, you would think Corwin would be a little better at controlling his urges. He also spends a lot of his time thinking about these women, which is why I think they might have some purpose later on – Dara especially. Overall, this installment didn’t wow me, but I’m curious to see where the plot goes.


HHC Rating: 3.5 Stars.



Other Reviews in this Series:
Book 1 – Nine Princes in Amber
Book 3 – Sign of the Unicorn (Review Available July 23rd)
Book 4 – The Hand of Oberon (Review Available August 6th)
Book 5 – The Courts of Chaos (Review Available August 27th)
Book 6 – Trumps of Doom (Review Available September 17th)
Book 7 – Blood of Amber (Review Available October 8th)
Book 8 – Sign of Chaos (Review Available October 29th)
Book 9 – Knight of Shadows (Review Available November 19th)
Book 10 – Prince of Chaos (Review Available December 10th)

Nine Princes in Amber (Amber Chronicles, #1) – Roger Zelazny

Source: Goodreads

A man wakes up in a hospital, sure he is in danger, but unsure of just about anything else. After escaping, he makes his way to the one place where he might find some answers, and ends up unraveling his past – which is decades longer than he imagined – and starts a daring adventure that could lead him to some interesting discoveries about his future.

After more than a year of insisting I was about to start this 10-book arc, I’ve finally finished the first one! My mother read these books growing up and has always raved about them, but it’s actually quite hard to discuss them without any spoilers! The books themselves are short – 100-200 pages – but rich is description and plot, and fascinating in concept. Oberon, the former lord of Amber, the one true city, has disappeared, and his many children are at odds about who should take the throne. Corwin, one of 15 sons of Amber, has been missing for almost a millennium, but even memory loss and near-death experiences cannot prevent him from going after what he believes should be his.

I loved where this story went, and seems to be going, and the character development is absolutely stunning and yet subtle: I felt that I knew them and then realized we as readers had been fed breadcrumbs along the way to make it that way. This was in large part due to Corwin acting in certain ways and then making discoveries about himself and his personality and actions previously. It’s a rather novel way of writing, and I can’t wait to jump into the next book and see what awaits our main character. I’m not even sure if he is a hero or is destined to be the villain. Only time can tell.

HHC Rating: 4 Stars


Other Reviews in this Series:
Book 2 – The Guns of Avalon (Review Available June 25th)
Book 3 – Sign of the Unicorn (Review Available July 16th)
Book 4 – The Hand of Oberon (Review Available August 6th)
Book 5 – The Courts of Chaos (Review Available August 27th)
Book 6 – Trumps of Doom (Review Available September 17th)
Book 7 – Blood of Amber (Review Available October 8th)
Book 8 – Sign of Chaos (Review Available October 29th)
Book 9 – Knight of Shadows (Review Available November 19th)
Book 10 – Prince of Chaos (Review Available December 10th)

The Haunting of Tram Car 015 – P. Djèlí Clark

Source: Goodreads

In Cairo, 1912, Agent Hamed and his new partner Agent Onsi, of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, have a case on their hands. The Superintendent of Tram Safety and Maintenance at the largest hub in the city – Ramses station – insists that one of his tram cars is haunted. Ever since the space between the human world and the spirit world of the Djinn was perforated, The Ministry has been in charge of dealing with any uncanny police matters, which also, occasionally, includes hauntings. But Tram Car 015 is no normal haunting, and it will take all of the agents’ faculties to find a way to exorcise this spirit.

The steampunk-like setting for this story is beautifully imagined, and the suffragist movement created added depth to the world and its characters that I didn’t know I needed, but which absolutely made the story what it is. Deeply engrossing and mysterious, I was sorry it ended so quickly, but was 100% satisfied with the story. I think I just really want this to be a series? and maybe eventually a television series? Maybe I’ve been watching too many episodes of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, but this story seems like it would adapt well to the screen and be just as captivating so long as Clark were at the helm. Personally, I can’t wait to go out and read more of Clark’s stuff, like The Black God’s Drums because this was just so, so good.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

May Bird Warrior Princess (May Bird, #3) – Jodi Lynn Anderson

Source: Goodreads

May Bird is adjusting to life in the land of the living just fine. Her particular brand of fame means that she’s part of the popular crowd in her middle school, and she works hard to stay there. But sometimes she misses exploring her imagination, wandering around the woods of Briery Swamp, and she especially misses her friends from the after-life. But ever since the lake dried up, she hasn’t been able to find a way back. Just when she’s ready to give up hope of ever being able to save her friends, Briery Swamp gets its first snow storm in history and May is swept off on another adventure into The Ever After – only this time, it’s the fate of the universe on the line, not just the land of the dead.

I really enjoyed how this story was told. At the end of book two, May had the choice to return home or stay and fight… and she chose to return home. But now that’s she’s back, she’s ready to take Bo Cheevil head on. Everything is on the line, and May refuses to fail this time. The three year gap between the second and third books allowed May to mature as a human and also weigh all of her options. Her interactions with her classmates and family helped the reader see her as a regular person, and her actions in The Ever After showed her to be a true hero, full of heart, and ready and willing to put the safety of others before her own. This series ended up being 100% delightful, one I got used to the creepy ghouls, zombies, and vampires. There is always something new to discover in The Ever After, and that is always one of my favorite parts of books – especially in middle grade books.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

Other reviews in this series:
Book 1 – May Bird and The Ever After
Book 2 – May Bird Among The Stars

May Bird Among The Stars (May Bird, #2) – Jodi Lynn Anderson

Source: Goodreads

May Bird is stuck in the land of the dead, but for the first time in her young life she doesn’t feel alone. She has Fabbio, and Bea, and Pumpkin, and Somber Kitty. They survived the bogey’s wild chase, and have made it to the train to North Farm, where a letter claims a lady can help them. The road to the north is strewn with the downtrodden, the fearsome, and downright petrifying, but May is determined to get home to her mother in Briery Swamp, West Virginia.

This second book in the May Bird trilogy, rather than being struck down by the sophomore slump, used its time to build up May’s character. Leaping off of May Bird And The Ever After‘s set-up of the world of the dead and May’s presumed destiny, as well as some of the obstacles she will face, May Bird Among The Stars helps May along the path to growing up and becoming who she was meant to be, willing or not. As she pushes to get home, May is unable to put on blinders that would prevent her from being influenced by the world around her. Deserted towns, refugee encampments, souls kept live slaves… It all has nothing, and everything, to do with May Ellen Bird. Word has spread quickly about her entry in The Book of The Dead – That she will vanquish the evil Bo Cheevil and safe The Ever After from certain disaster – but May would rather blend in and stay hidden until she can get home. As she approaches her destination, May must come to terms with what it means to be “The Chosen One”, and how she can only blend in for so long, when she was born to stand out.

HHC Rating: 4 Stars.

Other reviews in this series:
Book 1 – May Bird and the Ever After
Book 3 – May Bird Warrior Princess(Review available on May 21st)

Dealing With Dragons (The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, #1) – Patricia C. Wrede

Source: Goodreads

Princess Cimorene of Linderwall has very proper parents. She is nothing like her six elder sisters. Her hair is black and unruly. She avoids her dancing classes to fence with the castle armsmaster, learn magic with the court magician, practice economics with the court treasurer, or bake in the castle kitchens. Bored out of her mind, she summons her fairy godmother, who is no help whatsoever. So she runs away. Cimorene takes up the perfectly acceptable life of being a dragon’s princess, but she is nothing like the other captive princesses. She finds a place where her abilities (math, declining latin, cooking, baking, cleaning, magic) are welcomed and even useful. Now if only the knights and princes would stop showing up trying to fight Kazul and carry Cimorene off to live happily ever after.


Every year when International Women’s Day rolls around, I think of Cimorene. Wrede didn’t write her as a feminist. Equality is something that Cimorene takes as a given, not something she has to fight for. Anything that isn’t based in equality is just absurd, regardless of what is deemed ‘proper’ by the governing bodies. Cimorene is strong, smart, curious, and stubborn. She is, in short, my favorite literary character ever created and I hope I can write characters half as cool as her someday. I read this book at least once a year, usually more, and it is one of the biggest inspirations in my writing, equal to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time and Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted. I bring a copy with me any time I babysit and read it to my charges regardless of age and gender because it never fails. This book is pure magic.

Dealing With Dragons is not a romance. It is about Cimorene finding her place in the world and turning it into her best life. When life gives you lemons, make fresh-scented soapy water. Trust me, it can solve most of your problems.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Other books by Patricia C. Wrede:
Sorcery & Cecelia, Or, The Enchanted Chocolate Pot

Gift of the Shaper – D.L. Jennings

Source: Goodreads

Thornton Woods has always lived in the small village of Highglade, where he assists his father, Olson, in their forge. On a routine trip into the neighboring town of Lusk, Thornton and his best friend, Miera, barely escape from black-clad thugs who claim to want something other than money from the pair. Their return trip moves even more dangerous, and by the time they reach Highglade, Thornton’s father is nowhere to be found. Convinced the thugs have kidnapped him, the young apprentice will stop at nothing to find the only family he has. With the help of Ynara and Kethras, two of the near-mythical cat-like race known as Kienari, Thornton and Miera set off on the thugs’ trails. Along the way, they make discoveries about their world, it’s creation, and the parts they must play in it’s continued existence.


I first discovered this book through Instagram, of all places. The author had reached out to me about a book we mutually loved and later offered to send me a copy of Gift of the Shaper. I became wrapped up in the semester’s coursework, but we’ve stayed in touch and I was able to read his book during my Christmas break. You guys. This book is really well done. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve become friends with the author. Sure, there are a few moments where I’m pretty sure I missed a character walking into a room or mounting/dismounting a horse or two, but those are tiny things that probably only I would catch.

Gift of the Shaper is a debut, high fantasy novel, set in a world where select groups of people can channel the magic of creation or destruction to do their will. Into the middle of this conflict are thrust a young blacksmith’s apprentice and his childhood best friend, completely unaware of the danger lurking just out of sight. The world building is smoothly done, the reader learning about the land through characters and their actions, rather than being info-dumped on. The characters themselves are strong stock, each one an individual with physical differences and personality quirks that make this book one of the most racially and culturally diverse that I’ve read in a while.

In addition to the rich world and cast, Jennings implemented some of my most favorite tropes, which I won’t discuss here to avoid spoilers. There were characters I loved, and characters I loved to hate, like Captain Durakas, who may be in the running for the most sexist person in Gal’Dorok. But every single person had a purpose and a connection to the story, and that’s what made me love every second of it. Now I just have to wait for Jennings to finish writing the sequel.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.