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REVIEW:  Agamemnon Frost and the Crown of Towers by Kim Knox

REVIEW: Agamemnon Frost and the Crown of Towers by Kim...

Guest review from Mary Kate.

Dear Ms. Knox:

I have to say – once again you have delivered an absolutely toe-curling, delicious mystery wrapped in romance. I fell in love with Frost and Mason all over again! In this continuation of their story, we find Mason in a steampunk version of 1800s England wracking himself with guilt and self-sacrifice over Agamemnon Frost – his friend, mentor, fellow transfigured, and the man he is head over heels in love with. Unfortunately, not only is Frost engaged to the lovely, damaged Theodora, but they’re embroiled in a war against the Martians, who are trying to take over the world through superior technology and mind control.

Agamemnon Frost and the Crown of Towers Kim KNoxThe first thing that really struck me about this installment was the progression of the relationship between the two main characters. It went from zero to steamy in a hundred. Not only were there a few passages that melted my computer screen and fogged up my glasses (in a good way, I promise), but the underlying tenderness between the pair was maintained. This wasn’t simply a hit it and quit it gay erotica, it was romance in the truest sense of the word. Despite their differing stations and the complexity of their working relationship, the genuine caring and love between the two was evident in every word written. It felt like a behind-the-curtain peek into the foundation of a legendary love story. My one very minor quibble with the relationship aspect was that there wasn’t enough sex. Oh, I know, more sex might have been over-indulging in a good thing, but what there was pegged my delectable meter off the charts.

The main plot was good – the story moved at a good pace without bogging down. The mystery was juicy enough to keep me turning the pages, though I did get lost every now and then in the more technical details. It felt as though some of those were glossed when they could/should have been explained just a little bit more. Whenever Mason and Frost discussed the people who had been “hollowed out,” because I had no real comprehension of the process, I could only imagine an evil Martian with a giant straw, hollowing out humans the same way we hollow out eggs during springtime.

 

The ending seemed a little abrupt, and while it wasn’t too pat, I wanted to see a bit more in the way of dialog with Pandarus. Every great story tends to have the villain making a mustache-twirling speech at the end, while cackling madly. Unfortunately, for as big an evil as Pandarus was made out to be, he was surprisingly ineffectual. It seemed as though the conclusion focused much more on the relationship aspect of the story and much less on the mystery / overall plot. A deux ex machina was employed which, despite phenomenal storytelling, left me feeling just a little bit cheated – though not cheated enough that I put the book down. In the grand scheme of things, it was a small blip on the radar. I was reading the book for Mason and Frost, mainly, with the plot secondary. I’m sorry, I admit it. My name is Mary Kate and I’m a big fan of a well-written love story.

 

There was one other small little thing you carried through from Hollow Ships to hint about in Crown of Towers that made me oddly happy. In Hollow Ships, Mason sees a desolate landscape that, to him, represents the end of the world – what happens if Pandarus isn’t stopped. In this book, Mason and Frost stand together and look out at a very similar landscape that seems to represent the Martian homeworld – also known as what could possibly happen to Earth. To me, it was a lovely bit of symbolism. In the first, Mason is alone. In the second, Frost and Mason are standing together. It’s a stunning and powerful visual, all by itself.

 

Thank you for writing such a wonderful series, filled with pride and pitfalls, relationships that aren’t always easy, and a stunning mystery! B

 

Mary Kate

 

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REVIEW:  Close to You by Stacia Kane

REVIEW: Close to You by Stacia Kane

Close-to-You

THE HOLIDAYS ARE HELL

Churchwitch Chess Putnam has seen, and banished, her share of ghosts, but not of the Christmas Past variety–the holiday has been illegal since the Church of Real Truth defeated the undead and took control of the world in 1997. Yet when she and her boyfriend, Terrible, make a trip to an abandoned auto junkyard, they find more than the rusted auto parts and spare tires they’d bargained for. They also run across a creepy Miss Havisham-type hell-bent on reuniting with her long-dead husband just in time for Christmas–even if it means taking Chess and Terrible down with her into the City of Eternity…

If Chess and Terrible don’t manage to keep these ghosts in the past, they won’t have a future…

Dear Ms. Kane,

No, I’ve never read any of the books in this series before. I hadn’t even read the other review we’ve posted at DA by Shuzluva a few years ago because frankly dystopia books aren’t my thing. Which makes it all the more bizarre that this little short story caught my attention at netgalley. I think it was the line on the cover “A Downside Ghosts Holiday Story” that did it. Ghosts during the holiday? Sure, why not and maybe that will cut through the usual saccharine sweet Christmas books that start appearing each year about now.

As I said, I knew nothing about this world you’ve created before starting this short story but as Shuzluva mentions, the world building is great. It’s laid out with elegant simplicity yet is succinct enough to fit in the length of this story and still leave room for the actual story. I’m very impressed since a lot of times when I read works this short, with no need for filling in the blanks, I feel cheated – but not here. I am curious, though, as to why Terrible sounds like an ESL pirate hillbilly.

The story quickly moves from background set up to – whoa – seriously creepy old lady to the slam bang finale. I had to think that if I lived in this world and had seen what Chess apparently has that I would have picked up on it sooner that Something Is, not just wrong but, Terribly Wrong. But then there’d be no act 3 which frankly is actually fairly hilarious, in a ghastly ghostly, raising the dead kind of way. The nativity figurine flinging, Christmas tree bashing, holiday village house hurling ending had me laughing my ass off even as Chess and Terrible attempt to keep these determined ghosts in check, stay alive themselves and keep Chess from going into withdrawal.

This usually isn’t my genre of choice but I enjoyed this one enough that I just might check out some more of Chess and Terrible. But it will be a long time before I can hear that Carpenter’s song without picturing this hoarders house from holiday hell. B

~Jayne

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