Son Of the Right Hand: Book of Ze’ev 2 by John Baltisberger

John Baltisberger takes everything great from Treif Magic and amplifies it with this sequel. As a result, Son of the Right Hand feels simultaneously more intimate and far more epic than the earlier installment in the story of Ze’ev.
Months after the intense conclusion of Treif Magic, Son of the Right Hand picks up after Ze’ev has had time to recuperate. With remnants of the cult scattered into the wind at the end of Treif Magic, Ze’ev has been hunting them down and bringing them to justice. As we follow Ze’ev into what he believes to be the hideout of the final members of the cult, he discovers something far more hideous and terrible than simply a couple of cultists.
Just when Ze’ev thinks he’s earned a well-deserved break from the darkness, an old friend reaches out with terrible news of a gruesome tragedy. Time is running out as another girl has gone missing, and Ze’ev doesn’t know if he can bear the weight of another failure. His struggle to do the right thing and bring his friend some closure brings him face-to-face with a monster from deep in the history of serial killer lore.
If that’s not enough, the past isn’t through with Ze’ev, as his superiors present him with what might be the greatest challenge he’s faced so far. Sandy, the young woman he saved in the previous book–kicking off the events that nearly ended his life–is to be taken into his care. Her brief encounter with the darkness coexisting within our world has tainted her in the same way Ze’ev was tainted as a young man. Now, it’s up to him to teach her how to navigate the world as she now recognizes it.
As everything collides in a tumultuous–and possibly fatal–climax, Ze’ev makes a deal that has consequences he may not be able to live with.
Fans of John’s religious horror masterpiece, War of Dictates, will be pleased to see some crossover from characters in that epic poem as Ze’ev crosses the boundaries that separate our world from the worlds of the things that live in the shadows. That scene alone is worth the price of admission. If you haven’t already read the Splatterpunk Award-nominated War of Dictates, then you need to address that shortcoming post haste.
Notable, within the narrative, we get to act as stand-in students as Ze’ev ruminates on what and how he will teach Sandy. This is brought to greater fruition as we experience her first lesson. The expositionary dialogue is fascinating and internally justified within the story, at no point detracting from the flow of the story.
It’s a damn shame that the next book isn’t already out because this one absolutely leaves the reader wanting more, and impatient too.

This title is also available through http://www.godless.com or via the Godless app on your favorite Apple and Android platforms. I recommend checking Godless out at the earliest convenience. It’s the new home for indie horror. The link is below:

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

The City We Became is vastly different from the other books I’ve read by N.K. Jemisin. She manages to put the “urban” in urban fantasy in a way I’ve never seen from another author aside from maybe James Blish’s Cities In Flight (Okie) series. The urban fantasy tale is a huge departure from the straightforward fantasy I’d been accustomed to from Jemisin while adding a nice touch of cosmic horror into the mix.
Take a little bit of L. Frank Baum and a bit of Neil Gaiman and add a whole lot of the worldbuilding and myth creation fans of Jemisin are already familiar with, and you’ll end up with some idea of what The City We Became has in store for you. It’s as much a character study as a sweeping, grand fantasy tale‚Ķanother thing fans of Jemisin should be expecting.
Jemisin fills this book to the brim with social commentary on a wide variety of topics from gentrification and art criticism to racism (overt and subtle) and mistrust of law enforcement. The six primary characters (representing the five boroughs as well as one individual representing the whole of New York City) take on lives of their own even as they come together and find their place in the synergy of a whole.
I will admit that I didn’t enjoy this book nearly as much as I’ve enjoyed the Inheritance and Broken Earth trilogies, but it’s only the first book of a series that I certainly still enjoyed enough to read what’s still to come.

Hunter by Mercedes Lackey: Narrated by Amy Landon

Mercedes Lackey’s Hunter is the beginning of a trilogy that starts off feeling like it’s got a fair amount in common with a some of the more popular post-apocalyptic YA series; books written by Marie Lu, James Dashner, Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth, and others. Though this novel does slip away from that feeling of being geared toward a young adult audience as it progresses, that feeling never quite dissipates altogether.

Lackey does manage to set herself apart from those other authors by deviating from the trend of dystopian science fiction and instead embedding within her post-apocalyptic America a dark fantasy environment that fans of her other books will recognize as being where she truly excels. My first experiences with Mercedes Lackey were thrilling, slow burn, dark fantasy standalone novels and series. She truly plays to her strengths with this first installment of the Hunter trilogy, and it pushes her into a whole different ballpark from those contemporary post-apocalyptic authors I’d mentioned previously.

We follow Joyeaux Charmand as she leaves the comfort and relative peace of her mountain enclave where she has trained to be a hunter, an individual capable of magic and the ability to summon “hounds” from another realm in order to combat a veritable plethora of monsters and creatures collectively referred to as “Othersiders” throughout the story. Borrowing from folklore from any and all cultures around the world, Lackey populates this version of America with creatures that may be familiar to some and unfamiliar to others (depending on your own cultural heritage or exposure to others). Joyeaux (Joy) is called to Apex, a massive, protected city on the East Coast where anyone with the skills to be a hunter are supposed to be sent for the purpose of training and employment by what is a strange military government.

It was after Joy arrived in Apex that I began to see strong correlations with The Hunger Games books, in that these hunters are treated as celebrities and forced to perform for cameras that are constantly monitoring them. That’s where the similarities disappear.

There is action, ample supernatural and fantasy elements, some horror, a bit of romance, a decent bit of intrigue and political thriller mixed into the narrative, and a great deal of character development. As an introduction to a trilogy, Lackey spends a great deal of time on the world-building, and she does an excellent job.

As I had picked this up as an audiobook, I feel it is worth noting that the narration captures Joy’s simpler perspective and relative (though not overwhelming) naivet√© to a degree I found impressive. The voices are largely distinct and easily discernible as separate characters.

November 2012: The Beginning of Something Special

The morning begins with a mist draping the world outside just like it has for the last 70 days. It’s one of those heavy, pervasive sort of fogs that occludes everything further than half a block away. His mind automatically drifts towards numerous horror films he’s seen as he crosses the threshold from his warm living room into the chill, almost suffocating air beyond. The atmosphere is conducive to that particular variety of musing, and he finds himself catering to it quite frequently.
It is with these disjointed thoughts fluttering through his mind that he begins walking across the dead lawn towards his car parked along the curb. He is halfway across the distance when he catches a subtle movement with his peripheral vision.
He glances towards the skeletal hedge of branches that marks the property line and sees a piece of that must have blown into it with the breeze during the night.
He turns with a momentary surge of irritation from the worn footpath to the curb with the intention of pulling the garbage from the branches, there aren’t many things that annoy him more than having stray refuse blowing around and winding up in his yard. It looks so tacky.
The bag rustles a little bit more audibly as he approaches and he notices somewhere in the corner of his rational mind that there is no breeze that should be producing the apparent motion. There’s probably an animal of some kind in there, a rodent or something, he tells himself.
He decides to exhibit a bit of caution when extracting the trash.
As he reaches for it, a pair of large arthropod limbs extend from beneath the side of the bag, causing him to jump back, startled. He watches it with unwavering attention as the limbs probe around a little bit and the whole thing shifts just slightly as additional armored appendages stretch out before the trash creature scurries away across the neighbors lawn.
It is going to be one of those days, he thinks to himself as he returns to the path towards his car, his eyes scanning the visible distance in search of any other surprises that might be awaiting him.