Friday Fiction Feature: The Dead Assassin

fictionreboot2Vaughn Entwistle’s The Dead Assassin is a direct sequel to The Revenant of Thraxton Hall (2014). Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde, having successfully survived their first paranormal investigation, are pulled into another, this time in relation to a series of bloody murders occurring across London. The killer leaves behind a mutilated corpse and seems to punch through solid walls to get to a target: who could want all these men dead and who could hire an assassin of such strength?

Revenant (reviewed on this blog by Susan Jacobsen) was an entertaining if uneven read; Assassin is an excellent sequel with a solid last half demonstrating that many of the narrative kinks from Revenant have since been worked out. Entwistle toys with the edges of a steampunk Victorian universe without quite committing to it, allowing him to stay firmly within the bounds of the historical personalities he has chosen as main characters. His use of steam and clockwork technology is closer to the Victorians’ fascination with mechanical engineering than to a steampunked twenty-first century vision of the nineteenth century. Nevertheless, fans of Gail Carriger and Cherie Priest will enjoy the nods to ‘what might have been.’

22545438Assassin starts with a bang: Conan Doyle and Jean Leckie, a recent acquaintance from a spiritualist society, are in the midst of a mostly innocent dinner when a blood-soaked policeman staggers in looking for Doyle. A murder has been committed and Doyle is needed. Oscar Wilde shows up as if on cue when Conan Doyle is searching for a cab to the crime scene and voila. A murderous Frankenstein’s monster is introduced within the first twenty pages and, really, it just gets better from there. Entwistle builds on Revenant’s vision for a London brushed by the paranormal, introducing the horrifically charismatic Rufus DeVayne as well as a cryptic Fog Committee and a TORCHWOOD-esque security organization run out of Buckingham Palace.

Assassin also enlarges — or, perhaps, tantalizingly hints at — on Conan Doyle and Wilde’s private lives with a slightly more delicate hand than Entwhistle used in Revenant. There are several passages of dialogue that brush the edges of Wilde’s life, particularly around his relationship with his wife, Constance, and with the ‘invert’ community of London, that it would have been wonderful to see expanded. Conan Doyle, too, with his struggle between faithfulness to his dying wife Louisa and his attraction to Jean Leckie, has introspective moments that could have been expanded upon most enjoyably.

Assassin, however, is first and foremost an adventure story and Entwistle never forgets that. A denouement that includes a chase on a steam motorcycle, lions, deadly cocktails, and megalomaniacs delivers beautifully on the build-up.

Friday Fiction Feature

FictionReboot2Welcome back, ladies and gents to the Friday Fiction Feature and your usual host Tabatha! This week we continue the monster theme, so quickly grab your silver and stakes, get under the covers, and join us for some really sharp fiction!

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Starting off this week’s feature is the reason we’re so vamp’ed for the 2nd edition monster mashup:

Villagers by Brandy Schillace

Villagers (Jacob Maresbeth Chronicles #2)I know, I know, it’s bad form to toot your own horn, but Brandy isn’t writing this, Tabatha is, so I get to toot all I want! And this week we’re celebrating the release of The Jacob Maresbeth Chronicles Book 2: Villagers where Brandy brings us back to Newport News and the thrilling world of love, adventure, and teenage journalism! (Also in kindle!)

It’s not easy being the only unofficial vampire at Newport News High–especially when your sister starts dating the local jock (and first-class jerk) Tony Peterson. Convinced that Tony is up to something, Jacob and his best friend Henry hatch a plan. Jake’s investigative journalism doesn’t break up Lizzy’s romance, but it does lead him to some unexpected twists. Teaming up with co-newsie Trish Cohen, Jake and Henry take on a suspicious case of bike thefts–in between trips to the hospital for more tests (and more needles).

Will Jake be able to thwart an increasingly prying medical community to keep the blood supply flowing? Will Peterson and his posse clean Jake’s clock?
More importantly, will Jake ever get a date to Homecoming?

Now that I know you’re all as excited as me for the release of the Maresbeth sequel, lets see about some vampires who are a little more certain of their monstrous status.

How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks 

How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire (Love at Stake, #1)Our next contribution features a new kind of identity confusion with a heroine who desperately wonders, ‘Do I have what it takes to stay a dentist?’ before she even knows what a sharp career path that can be. And so, without further ado, I present a book with a title I just couldn’t resist repeating: How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire

Roman Draganesti is charming, handsome, rich…he’s also a vampire. But this vampire just lost one of his fangs sinking his teeth into something he shouldn’t have. Now he has one night to find a dentist before his natural healing abilities close the wound, leaving him a lop-sided eater for all eternity.
Things aren’t going well for Shanna Whelan, either. After witnessing a gruesome murder, she’s next on the mob’s hit list. And her career as a dentist appears to be on a downward spiral, because she’s afraid of blood. When Roman rescues her from an assassination attempt, she wonders if she’s found the one man who can keep her alive. Though the attraction between them is immediate and hot, can Shanna conquer her fear of blood to fix Roman’s fang? And if she does, what will prevent Roman from using his fangs on her?

Vampire Crush by A.M. Robinson 

Keeping with the romances that really suck, Vampire Crush shows a normal world with a normal, intelligent, girl suddenly caught between the desire to uncover the mysteries of a high school full of students who want to stay after classes end, and the more baffling conundrum of cute boys.

Vampire CrushI swear, my life was always totally normal.

 Normal house, normal family, normal school. My looks are average, I don’t have any superpowers, no one’s showing up to tell me I’m a princess – you get the picture. But when my junior year started, something not normal happened. There were new kids at school . . . new kids with a wardrobe straight out of a 19th-century romance novel, and an inexplicable desire to stay at school until sundown.

And on top of that, James Hallowell showed up. James, who stole my sandwiches in fourth grade and teased me mercilessly through middle school. James, who now seems to have the power to make my heart race any time he comes near.

But something weird is going on. Because James rarely goes out during the day. And he seems stronger than your typical guy. And he knows the new kids, all of whom seem to be harboring some kind of deep secret. . .

Chibi Vampire by Yuna Kagesaki

Chibi Vampire, Vol. 01In Yuna Kagesaki’s Chibi Vampire we’ve got a vampire as confused as Jacob and with even more baffling symptoms. While Brandy’s intrepid journalist can’t decide if drinking blood makes him a vampire, this next monster knows she’s a vampire, but hasn’t quite figured out the drinking blood part.

Karin is a cute little girl who also happens to be a vampire… with a twist. Once a month, she experiences intense bleeding from her nose – we’re talking gushers! In other words, she’s a vamp with blood to spare, so rather than stealing blood from humans she actually gives her blood to them.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Another in the line of my never-ending quest of fill academia with adventure, I bring you The Historian

The HistorianTo you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history….Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. The letters are all addressed to “My dear and unfortunate successor,” and they plunge her into a world she never dreamed of-a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history.The letters provide links to one of the darkest powers that humanity has ever known-and to a centuries-long quest to find the source of that darkness and wipe it out. It is a quest for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the legend of Dracula. Generations of historians have risked their reputations, their sanity, and even their lives to learn the truth about Vlad the Impaler and Dracula…Parsing obscure signs and hidden texts, reading codes worked into the fabric of medieval monastic traditions-and evading the unknown adversaries who will go to any lengths to conceal and protect Vlad’s ancient powers-one woman comes ever closer to the secret of her own past and a confrontation with the very definition of evil. Elizabeth Kostova’s debut novel is an adventure of monumental proportions, a relentless tale that blends fact and fantasy, history and the present, with an assurance that is almost unbearably suspenseful-and utterly unforgettable.

Vampire by Richie Tankersley Cusick

VampireFinally I will leave you with another book whose cover just dares you to leave it behind, Vampire. With all the old staples: a haunted house, monsters, solitude that isn’t quite as solitary as you think, hunky men, and a threat which dates back to dear old Vlad, this book doesn’t miss a thing.

It’s Darcy Thomas’ summer home: the Dungeon of Horrors, owned by Jake, the gorgeous green-eyed uncle she’s just met. But the gory fun turns to terror when real bodies are found with the mark of a vampire on their throats–and Darcy is targeted as the next victim.

High Stakes

Listen up fiction lovers! Series editor Tabatha Hanly here, and today on the Fiction Reboot we have a very special treat: the release of the first Jacob Maresbeth Chronicles novel High Stakes by our very own Dr. Brandy Schillace!

high-stakes-frontcoverNormally these types of features would include some background on the author, maybe why she chose to write in Young Adult Fiction or why her novels focus on the intersections of myth, medicine, fantasy, and reality, but in this case I think we regular readers probably have all of those answers, and while the fascinating Dr. Schillace might be worth talking about some more, it’s more fun to get to the book right away (but here’s some Brandy-centric info for the curious).

For many of you, this is a long-awaited event- having read the first chapter here on the blog, you want her to hurry up and give us the rest already! And now she has! Available in bookstores today, High Stakes offers all the thrills, chills, and awkward teenage spills of a young not-a-vampire dealing with something much more terrifying than drinking blood: girls.

“I’m not a vampire,” insists Jacob Maresbeth, teenage journalist for the school paper. But what is a vampire, really? What happens if you have all the right symptoms, but are a living, breathing sixteen-year-old boy?

Diagnosed with a rare disease, Jake can’t help but wonder. After eight years in and out of the Newport News hospital, he’s had it up to here with doctors, diseases and dishonesty. After all, Jake’s father, respected neurologist Franklyn Maresbeth, has been hiding some of his more unusual symptoms for years… particularly that part about drinking blood.
In High Stakes, Jake records his summer vacation in the home of his maiden aunt, the bangled and be-spectacled Professor Sylvia. If that isn’t bad enough (and it is), Jake and his theatre-loving sister Lizzy must keep the “unofficial” details of Jake’s disorder a secret from Aunt Sylvia’s seductively beautiful graduate student, Zsofia. Will Jake survive a whole month pretending to be an invalid? Will Zsofia weaken his resolve with her flirtatiously dangerous Hungarian accent? Will Jake lose his heart–in more ways than one?

Speaking as one of the privileged few to have read an early edition of High Stakes, I promise it’s engrossing, entertaining, and unexpected, besides, it’s got a pun right in the title, what more could you ask for? (you know…because of the vampires… stakes… nevermind). As always, Brandy’s skill with smooth, witty, debonair characters… that’s a lie– Jake trips over his own tongue and his own head, but don’t worry, that’s even better than if he were funny on purpose. But whether it’s the protagonist himself, his clever little sister Lizzy (little sisters are always the smartest) or the fuzzy academic aunt (whose absent-mindedness may hit a little close to home for some), or even the sultry graduate student (someone has to give us a good name!), someone in The Jacob Maresbeth Chronicles will leave you pestering Brandy for the sequel which will be coming out shortly after High Stakes!