Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Shattered Court: A Novel of the Four Arts by M.J. Scott

Series: A Novel of the Four Arts (Book 1)
ISBM 9780451465399 - Paperback $ 7.99
  • Publisher: Roc (April 28, 2015), 336 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.

The blurb:
Entangled in a court ruled by tradition and intrigue, a young witch must come to terms with newfound power and desire—and a choice between loyalty and survival.…

The royal witches of Anglion have bowed to tradition for centuries. If a woman of royal blood manifests powers, she is immediately bound by rites of marriage. She will serve her lord by practicing the tamer magics of the earth—ensuring good harvests and predicting the weather. Any magic more dangerous is forbidden.

Lady Sophia Kendall, thirty-second in line to the throne, is only days away from finding out if she will be blessed—or perhaps cursed—with magic. When a vicious attack by Anglion’s ancient enemies leaves the kingdom in chaos, Sophia is forced to flee the court. Her protector by happenstance is Lieutenant Cameron Mackenzie, a member of the royal guard, raised all his life to be fiercely loyal to the Crown.

Then Sophia’s powers manifest stronger than she ever imagined they would, and Cameron and she are inextricably linked in the process. As a witch unbound by marriage rites, Sophia is not only a threat to the established order of her country, but is also a weapon for those who seek to destroy it. Faced with old secrets and new truths, she must decide if she will fight for her country or succumb to the delicious temptation of power.…

I read The Shattered Court and loved it so much that I searched for M.J. Scott's other books.  

M.J. Scott has created a world where the throne is passed on to women in the royal line whose magic is strong enough to keep the country bountiful and healthy.  The country's tradition and religion has established rites such that women of royal blood who manifest magical powers are directed to marry and undergo a religious rite that binds their magical power to their spouses.  The country's court and culture is much like that of Elizabethan England with its strict mores and social structure.  Our heroine is a lady-in-waiting with a distant tie to the throne but with magical powers that will prove near legendary.

The emergence of magical powers comes at on one's 21st birthday.  Lady Sophia Kendall was far from the throne, only 32nd in line.  But an attack on the Court forces her to hide with Lt. Cameron Mackenzie and she comes of into her powers unexpectedly and without the traditional rites or protections.  Not only does Lady Sophia prove to be exceptional in her abilities and the strength of her magic, she is linked to Cameron and unable to be bound to another.

Sophia is seen as a uncertain power and a potential threat to the status quo.  While the Queen holds affection for her royal cousin, powers behind the throne prefer to remove Sophia's powers and the threat that she poses.  The Queen and her court are reminiscent of Queen Elizabeth of England - powerful, jealous, and a critically important ruler for the small nation trying to rule as best she can.

The young Sophia seeks to serve her Queen and her family but is largely unprepared for the maneuvering and ruthlessness that come with ruling a nation state.  She must learn to balance her principles with political reality and must do so as she fights for her life.  

I found Sophia a winning protagonist - loyal with a deep sense of honor but thrust into an impossible situation. She tries to remain loyal to her Queen but is uncomfortably aware that while she has the Queen's affection, she is not certain of her trust.  As Sophia struggles to prove her loyalty to Queen and state, she must learn to face deadly threats and keep her head.  The love story between Sophia and Cameron adds another layer of uncertainty and fun to a wonderful, engrossing read.  I can't wait to read what happens next!

About the Author:
M. J. Scott is an unrepentant bookworm. Luckily she grew up in a family that fed her a properly varied diet of books and these days is surrounded by people who are understanding of her story addiction. When not wrestling one of her own stories to the ground, she can generally be found reading someone else’s. Her other distractions include yarn, cat butlering, dark chocolate and fabric. She is the author of the Half-Light City novels: Shadow Kin, Blood Kin, and Iron Kin, and Fire Kin.She lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

F Train: A Brooklyn Crimes Novel by Richard Hilary Weber

F Train: A Brooklyn Crimes Novel by Richard Hilary Weber

Beneath Brooklyn's wintry streets, seven people are dead, slumped in their seats on an F train. Fast thinking and good fortune prevent the subway car doors from opening, spilling poisonous gas into the station. It's not long before a frightened metropolis of eight million demands answers: If this was an act of terror, where will these cruel killers strike next?The blurb:

NYPD detective Flo Ott looks closely at the victims. Each of their stories leads to another, one more colorful and complex than the last. A few of these quintessential New Yorkers catch Flo's attention: a mysterious off-duty FBI agent and the beautiful woman next to him, who may have been his lover. Then there's a Russian mobster with more than his fair share of enemies.

As Flo battles false leads, conflicting witnesses, and meddling politicians, her investigation delves into the dark side of the city that never sleeps. Flo becomes convinced that this wasn't a random act of violence, and she fears something much worse may be rumbling down the tracks.

I confess that one reason why I requested and particularly enjoyed the F train is my own familiarity with the book's setting.  Not only do I usually take the F train to get to Manhattan but I pass Farrell's and use the 15th Street/Prospect Park stop.  

The novel begins with a horrible crime on the F train and it's a retired FBI agent that keeps the loss of life from spreading.  As NYPD detective Flo Ott learns more about the victims, digs beyond the apparent relationships to find a web of relationships.  Possible extramarital affairs, Chinese gangs, Eastern European mafia, corrupt cops, and terrorists - Ott's investigation takes her to New York's diverse neighborhoods and it's uncertain whether she'll survive long enough to expose the perpetrators of the crime.

I enjoyed F Train and Weber's characterization of the neighborhoods of NY. Not surprisingly, much of the action occurs outside of Manhattan, giving the reader a glimpse into the gentrifying streets of Brooklyn.  NYPD Homicide Detective Florence Ott (Flo Ott) is a sympathetic and gifted detective.  So, if you're looking for a very NY mystery, pick up the F Train.  

About the Author:
Richard Hilary Weber, a native of Brooklyn - Park Slope born and bred - and a Columbia University graduate, has taught at the universities of Stockholm and Copenhagen, and has been a scriptwriter for French and Swedish filmmakers. He lives in Provence, France.  In 2015-2016, he has plays being produced in London and NY.  F Train is his second novel for Alibi, following his thriller In Flames.  His next Flo Ott crime novel is Fanatics.  Learn more about him and his writing at