Tag Archives: Mike Reeves-McMillan

Book Review: Aukland Allies by Mike Reeves-McMillan

AucklandAllies_MRMCover_rev104Genre: Urban Fantasy with Steampunk Highlights

Description: As bit players in the world of magic, Tara, Sparx, and their clairvoyant acquaintance Steampunk Sally are careful to stay clear of New Zealand’s supernatural politics. So after Sally uses her powers to win a little money at blackjack, it’s a nasty surprise when hired goons come after them.

Hitting the streets, they try to find out who these Blokes in Black work for, why such a dangerous and powerful figure has his sights set on three magical nobodies–and how to protect themselves.

Another fun read from Mike Reeves-McMillan, author of the Gryphon Clerks series. Disclaimer called for as usual; I beta read for Mike (and vice-versa) and I beta read this book. What I usually expect from Mike is a book with very deep and powerful characterization, but a bit of a disorganized plot that could be tighter.

Aukland Allies is an exception to that rule. It’s fast-paced, with a well-knit story line that blends a thrilling struggle against nefarious foes of awesome power with nerdy personal conflicts and a bit of off-beat romance.

The story is set in Aukland, New Zealand, where Mike lives. That’s an unusual setting for urban fantasy. Most UF stories are set either in the United States or in the UK. But it works well, and the descriptions of the city and its barely-tamed environs are a large part of the book’s considerable charm. One delicious scene has Sally overcoming an armed and magically potent attacker using local wildlife as a weapon, in a way that strangers from the northern hemisphere would never expect.

Aukland Allies is not only a great story in its own right, but it has the potential to start an urban fantasy series that’s unusual and way above average. It’s got a subculture of magical practitioners, with shadowy, authoritarian people in positions of power, fascist nasties like the Blokes in Black, and much youthful rebellion and challenge to fossilized tradition.

Applying my usual objective system, I’m going to give Aukland Allies five stars. This is the first time I’ve done that for one of Mike’s stories, but this one has superior characterization and writing (as his usually do), and also a superior plot.

If you like urban fantasy, geek culture, or occult stories, get this book.

It’s available at Amazon and other outlets for $2.99.

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Book Review: Hope and the Clever Man by Mike Reeves-McMillan

HopeAndTheCleverMan_rev_58Hope and the Clever Man is the second volume in the Gryphon Clerks series or universe. The first volume, Realmgolds, I reviewed here. One of the main characters from Realmgolds, the Realmgold Victory, appears as a minor character in Hope, which like the other books in the Gryphon Clerks universe is an other-world fantasy with a steampunk feel (although it’s not true steampunk, as the technologies are mostly magical).

Hope is named for the main character, Hope at Merrybourne, a young student of the arcane. We learn of her troubled relations with her mother and her deep self-doubt that obscures her considerable talent, and that she is a very pretty woman who doesn’t know it. The story takes Hope through her school years and her conflicts with other students, which reflect both class conflict and the battle of the sexes, and puts Hope in a bind of her own making that limits her achievements in school. After graduating, she becomes part of the Realmgold’s project to nurture magical technology, and joins the Clever Man Works, where we meet Dignified Printer, the “clever man” and master of the Clever Man works, his gnome assistant Bucket, and other gnomes. We also learn of the enslavement of the gnomes to the dwarves, and this makes up a lot of the conflict and the story line as the tale continues.

The struggle of the gnomes to liberate themselves, along with Hope’s personal struggle to recover from her mistake during her school years, which has left her with an unpleasant curse, and the development of new technologies that feed into the gnome liberation struggle while resulting (as usual for new technologies) in unforeseen consequences, is the story that Hope and the Clever Man tells, but as is often the case with Mike’s work, that story is less important than the unfolding of the characters, particularly Hope herself.

The plotting in Hope and the Clever Man could definitely have been tighter and constructed so as to increase the flow of tension to a climax. On the other hand, the characters are deep, believable, admirable, and sympathetic, with enough leavening of flaws and shortcomings to make them human (or quasi-human in the case of the gnomes). The writing is also very good, as Mike’s style and abilities as a wordsmith continue to evolve and improve. The rather slack plotting prevents me from giving the book five stars, but it definitely deserves four.

Hope and the Clever Man is available for $4.99 from the Amazon Kindle Store.

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Book Review: Realmgolds by Mike Reeves-McMillan

Realmgolds-CoverDesign_1024h-196x300Realmgolds by Mike Reeves-McMillan is an other-world fantasy with original and unusual world-building. The title of the book comes from the title in the fictional culture for a head of state. A “gold” is a member of the wealthy elite (the society also has “silvers” and “coppers,” meaning exactly what one would expect), and some golds are government officials at various levels (Localgolds, Countygolds, etc. on up to the Realmgold). The society also includes an admixture of human and quasi-human persons: dwarves, gnomes, centaurs, and beastheads. The official policy is equality and tolerance, but a “human purity” movement exists that rejects the rights and equality of quasi-humans. The movement is associated with a rebellion against the existing authority in the nation of the main character, Determined, of which he is the Realmgold.

The story is a weaving of political intrigue, battle, social protest, and romance, with the interaction between Determined and Victory, the brusque, capable, no-nonsense Realmgold of his southern neighbor (a more centralized, wealthier, and more advanced nation) being at the heart of the plot.

All in all, it’s a great story idea and a wonderfully-crafted plot. The execution, unfortunately, left much to be desired from my perspective. The book could have been about twice as long, with more time given to character development and action alike, and even more so it could have — and I think should have — been written more intensely and with greater reader immersion. Much of the time, I felt like I was reading a newspaper account of great events after the fact, rather than living through them. The story deserved a greater intensity of feeling. Even though most of it was written from the point of view of Determined, the central character, and even though Determined went through a hurricane of change and turmoil, from budding romance to revolution and reconquest, his emotions seemed a bit washed out. This story deserved to be painted in day-glo. Instead, it comes across as pastel.

As I’ve seen in the past with Mike Reeves-McMillan, the technical quality is superb. This is one independent author who understands the importance of good editing and formatting. Errors are all but nonexistent. Other indie writers can use his work as a standard of excellence to strive for in that regard.

Despite which, I found Realmgolds disappointing after my enjoyment of The City of Masks by the same author. I hope that he takes this critique to heart and that future efforts on his part show greater depth and intensity, as the products of his fertile imagination deserve.

Realmgolds can be found and purchased on Amazon.

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