Frightened monsters. Stolen time. One seriously underestimated damsel.
Katie ran from the magical world years ago. She never planned on being dragged back in by a prophesying clamshell.
The seers believe she alone can prevent an apocalypse of ruined time and broken worlds. Bran the Crow King believes she can save him from his cannibalistic grandfather.
Katie believes they’re all nuts.
One thing is for certain: she’s not waiting around for help. Operation Katie Saves her Own Damn Self is officially on.
5.0 out of 5 stars: My favorite new mythos
By Teddi Deppner
The first thing that drew me to Ruthanne Reed’s writing was actually a piece of art posted on Facebook. A stunning piece of fantasy art for the book “Notte” (which is due out later this year, I think). Then I read an excerpt that caught my imagination. I signed up for her newsletter. She sent out another excerpt that was so compelling that I stayed on her newsletter and marked her in my mind as an author whose style matches my tastes as a reader.
So let’s talk about the Half-Shell Prophecies. I actually thought I was buying a collection of short stories set in her “Among the Mythos” story world, and ended up sucked into an entire novel. A fun, romping, rollicking ride of a novel that was a marvelous introduction to her universe, despite the fact that I wasn’t reading the novels in order. This novel totally stands on its own two feet.
I wouldn’t say I’m picky about heroines, but if I’m honest I have very few female leads that I really like. Katie Lin did not annoy me. That’s huge. She made me smile. That’s even better. I could relate to her. Extremely rare. Things I like about her:
– she’s pragmatic
– she’s bold in the face of fear
– she sees beyond the surface appearance of someone
– she has the ability to love the unlovable and to put up with irritations
– she doesn’t give up
Argh. The list above doesn’t sum her up at all, though. She’s a unique and fascinating character. She’s a person who can do magic who rejects magic. Her genetic heritage makes her hotly pursued for her uterus (that part makes me laugh every time!), and makes it difficult to trust that men really like her for herself. Baby dragons love her. Elven kings are impressed by her. Her uncle is the wizard Merlin. But she’s nothing special, in her own mind. She’d rather just lead a quiet life.
Yeah, that’s a heroine I don’t mind following around. And don’t get me started on the other characters. And the riches of the “pocket dimensions” that exist in parallel to our human Earth, full of magical beings like the Fae, Shadow’s Breath, Guardians and the Kin.
As a kid, my favorite thing was to find a fantasy series that had huge scope and a large, interesting world to explore. As an adult, I have a hard time finding time to read. Ruthanne’s story world fits perfectly between those two things. 15,000 years of story, vivid and original writing style, compelling and engaging characters, all in manageable chunks. Did you know she’s got a bunch of shorter stories? I was actually at her website checking her wiki in order to verify a couple things in this review.
As a side note (for parents who wonder if it’s a book for teens), I’d say this book had enough adult themes and profanity that I’d rate it just a bit beyond PG-13, but probably not explicit enough to be R.
In an endless sea of ebooks out there, I’ve found an author whose style I find delightful, whose words I gobble up, and who promises to provide entertainment for some time to come. Top notch in every way I measure a book. Thank you, Ruthanne. Write on!
5 stars: …And One Seriously Underestimated Damsel
There’s a lot to like about this book.
The story starts with Katie Lin who, while appearing human, is a bit more. Unlike the “Ever-Dying” (“humans” or as J.K. Rowling called them, “muggles”), Katie is magical. In her world, the “Ever-Dying” read about magic but don’t think it’s real, like many people believe about angels and demons in our world.
The book immediately kicks off with Katie on the run with someone from one of the other magical races without a clue as to why she’s running or why she’s being pursued. The rest of the book cleverly reveals what’s happening in the background.
There was quite a bit of world building including multiple races and worlds in an urban fantasy setting and pocket universes if you still need more. The relationship between the races and their worlds and between the races, while derived from classic myth (with some mutation), was consistent and relatively balanced.
In fact, the book had to flip back and forth from the story to explanation about the races and worlds to provide the context for what was happening. This would be a great introductory book to the series where later books could focus just on the story.
The plot, characters, and settings were all plausible and well developed. Each character had its own voice. Many of the races drawn from classic mythology (e.g., the Seelie Fey) reminded me a lot of Kevin Hearne’s books. Some of the faces (e.g., the Fey) might be contrasted with elves but in this world are quite different; “Fey are not woodsy. They’re deep into tech; they love it, and they’re really good at it.” These differences added to the story rather than detracting.
Merlin (“Myrddhin”) turns out to be Katie’s uncle. There are dragons, centaurs, a naga (and other creatures) in the book; there are even “merlions”. At one point, Katie kept her belongings in a duffle-bag of holding. “The Hush” sounded like something out of a recent season of Doctor Who.
I enjoyed the writing in the book. “…the unexpected only works once.” “Response is indicative of essence.” “…exsanguinates the grandeur.” +1 for using the word “kajigger”.
One of the phrases used in reference to the book, referring to Katie Lin, is “…and one seriously underestimated damsel”. This needs to be on the cover.
5 stars: Fun Visit to the Mythos
by an Amazon reviewer
I read this online on her website and then again when she released the book.
My first exposure to Ruthanne Reid’s writing was with The Sundered. I love that book. I’ve read it several times because I enjoyed the world she built. I loved it so much, I sought out her other writing, only to be a little sad that she was still working on her other novels, but also glad that she was releasing free short stories on her page.
I read them all.
I love this concept of these multiple races and dimensions and I fell in love with it. The creativity and the intent behind what she’s creating is awe-inspiring. I love that all her stories are linked, yet so different in many ways. They are tragic and hopeful and intriguing.
This book is the sequel to The Christmas Dragon. I enjoyed that short story, so I was happy to revisit the world in this one. Katie is a fun and realistic character in many ways. A woman who wants normalcy after being born to a family that is decidedly not normal. She’s destined for things she does not want and it’s a fun ride.
Once you start delving into the universe (because it is incredibly too vast to just be a world, I’m sure you’ll be clamoring for more, just like I am.
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CHAPTER ONE: PUPPY-DOG EYES
This kind of pub is always gloomy, you know? It’s like the owners are inviting chicanery. Might as well hang a sign on the door that says Dark Deeds Welcomed Here.
Whatever. I won’t be here long. Bran is easy to spot thanks to the light in his hands.
I have to admit it: he’s striking. He leans over his rough wooden table with the perfect amount of poise and slumping, somehow combining strong shoulders and ill motive just enough that no one bothers him. Of course, they could also be leaving him alone because of the light leaking through his fingers.
Maybe I’d better start at the beginning? Yeah. A little less exciting, but it’ll make a lot more sense.
My name is Katie Lin, and two months ago, I adopted a baby dragon.
Well. Technically, the dragon adopted me. Also technically, the dragon is now with my uncle, who’s keeping it because also-also-technically, the baby is really the fulfillment of a prophecy about the Starling child and might be able to lead the Red and Black dragon clans closer to peace.
It sounds grand, doesn’t it? Epic adventure of a lifetime?
Maybe for someone who didn’t grow up in a magical household. I stepped out of that life a long time ago, and I ran all the way to America to prove it.
My uncle knows where I am. The rest of my family doesn’t, and I intend to keep it that way.
I had a sweet little setup in the woods of New Hampshire: a pretty little one-bedroom rental, a decent job translating and digitizing paperwork at a venerable old legal practice in Portsmouth, and no ties to anyone around me.
I mostly live without magic too. It’s nice. Nicer than you think.
Do you have any idea how unpredictable life gets when everyone has magic? The Ever-Dying—purebred, nonmagical humans—read books and think magic would be so neat. Well, it’s not neat. It’s frogs in your underwear drawer because your brother is twelve. It’s suitors who only want you for your ancestral uterus and assume waking you at midnight with a sky full of rainbows and singing trees is the way to prove they deserve to have it.
It’s going to school with others of your kind, and when they’re told your last name is Lin, losing any chance of making friends because nobody wants to mess with that branch. And I do mean Branch.
See, my family is of the Kin. Kin—the only kind of “human” who can do magic—which simply means some nonhuman thing diddled our ancestors, giving us the gene. There are a lot of Kin out there, too, but only nine family names ended up symbolized by the infamous Branch of the Kin.
Look, see it there in the Wheel?
No? Look closer.
Behold the Branch of the Kin—which is symbolic because we branch off from the magic users, get it? My family, the Lins, are the pointy leaf right at the top.
Yeah, you bet your patootie it’s condescending, but we didn’t get a say. Yet another reason I wanted out.
Anyway. I nearly got my wish. Sure, a baby dragon showed up on my doorstep, but I delivered him to safety and got back home with only a mild crush on the Fey who helped me (a victory, I assure you—Fey are really pretty, and he was nicer than most).
Back to work. Back to ordinary dentists and taxes and nobody caring that my last name is Lin. Back to awesome neighbors who helped me shovel snow (or sent their kids to do it, which is the same thing), and awesome cider and beautiful trees and square American accents and nobody making live snakes spring out of their fingernails or walking around waving big iron wands like swords.
It all went south the day Bran the Crow King showed up at my door.
I was on my way to work. Real work, a real job—which required me to be there on time, which meant leaving ass-early in the morning due to icy roads and thirty-five-miles-per-hour speed limits because New Hampshire.
Despite the cold weather, I was spiffed up in stockings and heels, a cute little trumpet skirt with matching jacket, and a pearl-button blouse (old employer syndrome has its quirks), when I opened my front door to find it occupied.
The Crow King. Bran to his friends, of whom I was not one. The last time we met, he’d kidnapped my uncle and trapped him in a roc’s head for no reason.
He’s Shadow’s Breath—one of the People of the Darkness—and his real form is huge, red, and strangely cracked like old earth. He has big black horns and big blue eyes and a dark aura so strong it’s a physical force. But of course, he wouldn’t show up like that.
The form he took was drop-dead handsome in a Hollywood pirate-rogue way. His rumpled black hair was just soft enough to emphasize his sparkling blue eyes and nut-cracking-sharp jawline. Last time I saw him, he’d worn a plain white t-shirt and jeans. Today—on my porch, uninvited—he’d added a black buckle-and-button wool number that probably cost more than my car, manly boots a Japanese rocker would be proud to wear, and a smile.
“Kate!” he said.
I slammed the door.
Okay, I thought. I needed to get to work. Mr. Danner didn’t care about inclement weather or traffic jams; he cared about results, and he wouldn’t appreciate me hiding out in my house all day. I peeked through the peephole.
Yup, Bran was still there. “Kate!” he called again. “We need to talk!”
I didn’t want to waste a sick day on him, dammit. “No, we don’t! Go away!” Did I mention that last time he’d also made noise about impregnating me because he’d always wanted some Lin in his bloodline? Told you being magical sucked.
He didn’t go away.
I swear I considered climbing out the window, silk be damned. I considered calling the police—but if he stayed and they came, he’d hurt them, and if he left and they came, I’d look crazy. I would’ve considered other things, but that annoying banging sound was really getting in the way of my planning. Oh, wait. That sound was my head, knocking against the door in abject and complete frustration.
Bran was still there.
I decided to strong-arm it.
“Kate, we need to talk,” he tried again as I physically shoved him out of my doorway (he let me, okay?) and locked up.
“No, we don’t. Go away.” Downside of ice in winter: you can’t really run anywhere, especially in heels. I settled for a sort of slow, sliding march, trying to say with my every inch that this conversation was over.
“I need your help,” he said, following.
“Nope.” Beep-beep went my key fob. Fifteen more feet.
“I really do, and you’re the only one who can help me.”
“Ask my uncle. Oh, wait, is he not your friend anymore after what you pulled?” I wobbled, turning pulled into a longer word than planned.
“Of course he is.” Bran looked shocked. “Why wouldn’t he be?”
Told you the whole roc-head thing made no sense. “Leave me alone,” I said. Bran was royalty. I should probably have said “please.” I didn’t. Oh well.
The bastard got between me and my door handle at the last moment. “Please. Please.” He got down on his knees in the snow. “Please.”
He wasn’t supposed to say “please.”
Could I get in on the passenger’s side and slide over the armrest? Well, I could, but not without giving the world a show. “Bran. Can I call you Bran? I don’t owe you anything. You’re terrifying to me. You kidnapped my uncle. Did I write you? Did I leave you my email address? No! Leave me alone!”
Damn. I was shouting. This little cul-de-sac only housed me and the Gigueres, and they were a vigilant little family. I looked over.
Nobody was opening blinds or doors yet. But they would if this kept up, and they’d ask if I were in trouble and needed help.
And this guy would hurt them. He wouldn’t see anything wrong with it.
Beyond that bit of reasoning, I could never explain what I did next. “Get in the damn car. Passenger side. You’re coming with me to Portsmouth.”
The weird thing is he did what I said without arguing.
He said nothing as I navigated the roads, muttering at traffic lights that didn’t go my way and hoping old Danner wasn’t in the office yet.
My car was considerably heavier on the right-hand side with him sitting in it. This was not how I’d pictured my morning. “So aren’t you, like . . . in line to be king of the Darkness, or something?” I said, which was inane and probably rude, but he’s the one who barged into my life, so.
“Okay. That’s not usually an ‘unfortunately’ kind of thing.” It was hard not to look at him. I know the form he wore wasn’t real, but damn, he’d done it right: the hint of stubble, the proportion of jawline to the length of throat he showed above his wool coat, the long-fingered hands that rested on his well-appointed lap—hands that managed to look dangerously powerful and dangerously beautiful at the same time.
All for me? He shouldn’t have.
I braked to let a school bus pass (an empty one—told you this was early in the morning) and made a slow right turn onto Highway 101. Finally, plowed and salted roads! Praise be!
He still looked out the window. All the authority I’d sensed when we met the first time was still there; this was not a man to cross, not a man whose ire you’d be smart to raise. This was a man who could command the shadows to do what he said.
But there was something else there—something pressing the authority down, something hiding the ego and pulling his attention far away from me: fear.
I swallowed. That wasn’t good. If this guy was afraid, whatever was after him had to be awful.
Bran sighed deeply. “It’s my grandfather.”
Was I supposed to know what that meant? “Okay?”
“The Raven King.”
I damn near drove us off the road.
One braking recovery later, we crept along at the speed limit while lunatics passed me on the left. I said nothing; my hands trembled like windshield wipers across dry glass. “That’s . . . bad.”
“Yes. Yes, it is. He’s after me. I have nowhere else to go.”
Of course I laughed! The Raven King? He’s ancient! Crazy powerful and crazy crazy! And what, now he was coming after the guy in my car? Welp, I was dead. He was dead. We were both dead.
It’s long been my theory that if you can’t laugh when death snarls in your face, you’re just going to cry, and that’s useless. Might as well laugh and have a good time on your way down.
Bran let me laugh. Weirdly enough, I think he understood why.
“Are you nuts?” I finally said. “What am I supposed to do, get blood on you?” I navigated onto Interstate 95—which, to my happiness, had been even more effectively plowed. I was making good time. For all the good it did me.
“No, you’re not getting blood on me.” He didn’t even smirk or turn it into a weird flirt; the guy must have been genuinely terrified. “You’re going to help me find Notte and fight my grandfather back.”
Have you ever had a weird day so weird that you suddenly became certain you were dreaming and decided to treat it as such until it proved itself real? Me neither, but this one came close. “Bran. Honey. I can’t help you.”
“Yes, you can.”
“No.” Turn signal, go around the slow granny. “No, I can’t.” Windshield wipers on to shove the random flurries out of my vision. “I’m not even in practice. I can’t do anything fancier than spells to make tea and remove really bad stains.”
“I knew you’d say that.”
“I don’t think you knew I’d say that.”
“No, I knew you’d say that, so I brought proof.” He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out half a clamshell.
“Um,” I said, like one does.
“The answer is the Lost Lin,” said the half-a-shell in a high tinny voice, vibrating slightly in his hand. “Find her, and she can take you to one of his children. From there, your path will be easy enough.”
It took me a moment to speak after that.
“What. The hell. Is that?” I said, taking my exit.
“I’ll tell you when you agree to help me,” he said with a smirk.
Great. Now a clamshell was ruining my life.
Portsmouth, already. It’s such a pretty New England town, even prettier than Cabot Cove in Murder, She Wrote. The speed limit dropped again, and I managed it, idling past the loveliest historical million-dollar homes you ever did see, all done in tasteful stone or “appropriate” period colors, just so quaint and adorable that you can’t help picturing it ready for Christmas with lights and garlands and maybe a few Victorian-era children singing on the corners.
He didn’t fit here. Magic did not fit in my world. I had to get rid of this guy, and soon. “I don’t know Notte. I don’t know his children. I don’t know any vampires at all. Get out of my car.”
Bran smiled as if I’d said the opposite of those things and tucked the shell back into his pocket. “You mean you don’t know you know a vampire. I’ll come with you! We’ll spot him together, and I’ll get out of your hair. How’s that?”
I pulled into the parking lot behind the two-story clapboard home Danner had converted to his offices. It’s yellow, by the way—that particularly odd New England yellow that doesn’t quite look like pee, but close enough.
The flurries had turned wet and nasty. It was a good thing I had a parking permit. Otherwise, well . . . historical towns do have their downsides, and lack of parking is always one of them.
I locked my car and faced him down. “Listen. To me. I don’t. Know. A vampire. And even if I did, you didn’t need to come to my house to see who I hang out with.”
“Did you just give me permission to spy on you?” he said with a lazy smile anyone more susceptible would be writing about for pages, but not me. Nope. Just two sentences are all you get.
“No!” I shook my hands at him. “Are you crazy? No! I am not giving you permission to spy on me!”
“Then I had no choice but to ask for help, did I?”
“You didn’t give me a choice in helping you! You just . . . showed up!”
And he looked confused! “I thought that was the better option. I’m not an expert in Ever-Dying protocol, Kate.”
“Do not call me Kate.”
“If you were still under your family’s umbrella, I’d know the proper channels, but as it is—”
The North Church clock tower suddenly chimed the time.
“Dammit! I’m late!” I spun away from him, slipped wildly on ice and caught myself, and lunged for the door beside the discreet sign that said “Danner and Danner, Attorneys at Law.”
Of course he followed me in. The stupid clamshell told him to.
I should’ve just called in sick and stayed home.