Miss Violet and the Great War by Leanna Renee Hieber

Genre: historical
Secondary genre: paranormal/war
Format read: audiobook
CW: violence
Rep: mental health

Leanna’s books are so hard for me to review, because I know her personally. We attend the same con, work on the same panels, chat over Twitter, and exchange the occasional letter or email. I love her personality, her vibrancy, and the messages she includes in her work.

That being said, we have vastly different storytelling styles, and while I like the broad strokes she paints, the line-by-line details aren’t really my cup of tea, mostly because I keep thinking about how I would edit the book differently (this is a hazard of being an author; it’s hard to read for pleasure without thinking about how you would change a book).

Set on the eve of the WWI, Violet represents the third generation in the Hieberverse. Her parents fought evil and won. Time for the happily ever after, right?

But since childhood Violet has been plagued by horrible nightmares of men in pits, explosions, and gunfire. It’s not until war breaks out between England and Germany, however, that she realizes these dreams are her calling: to stop the evil her parents defeated from leaking back into the land of the living, she must travel to France and the epicenter of the fighting and attempt to put it to rest once and for all.

Filled with a host of characters readers will recognize from her earlier novels, Miss Violet and the Great War is a part stand alone and part sequel. There’s no need to read the previous books, but you will get more out of this one if you are familiar with the Percy Parker series.

My biggest complaint when reading this was the winding path it took. I’m more action oriented in my books, so I thought, being a war book, this would be a lot punchier from the start. If action isn’t your thing, though, you’ll enjoy the emotional arc of this story as it works through Percy’s childhood, up through the war.

The Spark by Leanna Renee Hieber

Genre: Fantasy
Secondary genre: historical mystery
Format read: hard copy
Series: The Eterna Files vol .5
Positive rep: biracial, epilepsy
Rating: planchet-3

I’m sorry to say that this prequel novella did not live up to my expectations.

While I love The Eterna Files, after reading many of Hieber’s work (all of it, pretty much) I can safely say that her style is definitely suited more to longer works, as for me anything shorter than 300 pages has come out rather flat.

This short little book tells the story of one of the main characters in Eterna, Clarameeting her love interest, Louis–and then losing him, an even that–ahem–sparks the beginning of the series.

It’s a fluffy little meet-cute, but I just feel like it needed more. More of the falling in love, more of them together.

I wanted to see more of how Louis handles Clara’s seizures and her ability to see ghosts, more of their developing romance. I wanted more insight into their thoughts and more plot. I wanted to see more of Louis’s work at combining science with voodoo mysteries. While it still would have been a rather short book, I feel like this needed expanded to double or even triple the length.

It’s a fun read, but not really necessary for the rest of the series.

The Spectral City by Leanna Renee Hieber

Genre: Fantasy
Secondary genre: historical mystery
Format read: hard copy
Series: The Spectral City vol 1
Positive rep: LGBTQIA, addiction recovery
Rating: planchet-3

New York City is changing. As the dawn of the 20th century draws nearer, government and police are being forced to change the way they work, utilizing new technology and old spirits.

Eve Denbury, daughter of Lord and Lady Denbury and a life-long New Yorker, has been blessed–or cursed–with her mother’s ability to see spirits. Except for Eve, it’s not just a feeling–the ghosts are all around her, drawn to her energy. It is through what they over hear and communicate to her that she becomes an integral part of the city’s police force, under the direction of governor Theodore Roosevelt himself.

Eve and her carefully selected team of female psychics are dedicated to giving a voice to the voiceless, be they the minorities, disenfranchised women and children, or the deceased of the city.

But almost immediately things start to go wrong for the “Ghost Precinct.” One of their ghosts mysteriously goes missing. Then threats from a powerful family bring Roosevelt to their offices for damage control. Their primary liaison to the regular police gets replaced without warning, and then a series of mysterious thefts spring up around the city, all tied to a missing little girl.

Young Eve will have to not just keep herself together, but her team, too, if she wants to solve the mysteries and save the life of New York’s most recent missing person.

I wanted to love this book so much. I’ve been looking forward to it for ages, since Leanna is a dear friend of mine. Unfortunately, it just didn’t hit the mark.

The story was good, but my main complaints lay with the pacing, which could be choppy at times. This could have been vastly improved if not for Eve’s inner monologues.

Leanna is dedicated to writing inclusive gaslamp fantasy, and I love the way she brings in other cultures and identities, making them feel natural in most of her work (as they should be). But Eve spent more time thinking about how she wanted to make her time inclusive, and why does racism exist, and why does sexism exist, all without really forming any solid answers. I just wanted a little less thought and a lot more action from her.

I also wanted more from her team members, who felt somewhat two dimensional. It was very hard to keep the broad cast of characters straight, even just remembering who was alive and who was a ghost.

I will continue reading the series, so hopefully these issues will be corrected in later volumes.