Book Review: Greek Key by K.B. Spangler

 

GK Cover

Buy it HERE from K.B.’S A Girl and Her Fed Store (I imagine she gets more for it here).

Buy it HERE on Amazon (Because sometimes it is simply easier)

So, I have talked about the A Girl and Her Fed universe before. If you read any of my reviews about the Rachel Peng books, then you will be running into some familiar faces here.

We have Speedy and Hope as the primary protagonists this time around. Rachel’s not the focus here and we are, instead, introduced to the universe through Hope’s eyes and seeing her try to solve a mystery that has a lot more to do with the origins of how OACET and the ghosts work in the A Girl and Her Fed universe.

I’m not spoiling much in this review, but if you haven’t read A Girl and Her Fed yet, you might want to back out and go read it before you read on because some of this will go into spoilage as to how the rules of the Universe there work.

SPOILER TAG

SPOILER TAG

SPOILER TAG

The main mystery revolves around an artifact, a piece of the Antikythera mechanism, that is commented on in both the comic and in the Peng novels. They have a piece of a machine that is out of place and out of time for the development of the period. Hope, Speedy, and the Ghost of Benjamin Franklin (I’m not sure if that’s a title or not…maybe I’ll tweet the author to ask) have been discussing the limits of how a ghost can work and how time flows in the A Girl And Her Fed (AGAHF for short) universe.

It boils down to this: ghosts can move backward and forward in time. However, this requires a great deal of power. A ghost gets its power from his/her effect on the world. Also, a ghosts power appears to be limited to the culture in which it was created. This means that most ghosts are quite limited in their power.  Benjamin Franklin’s ghost is very powerful in the United States (as are the other ghosts of the Founding Fathers. And Lincoln…oh dear lord, Lincoln). However, when Hope travels outside of the U.S., Franklin can’t follow / can’t manifest  (side-note: given his years in Europe, I wonder if he can manifest there as well…).

We already know from AGAHF that Franklin can time travel. He did it to help Hope play the stock market so she didn’t have to focus on gaining money and could instead prepare for the coming of OACET and Sparky and a few other slightly more world shattering elements coming to the U.S. (and the world) than whether or not she could pay the bills.  Of course she originally thought he was a drug induced hallucination, but that would be getting off topic and into AGAHF rather than Greek Key.

Panel Post
I’ll just leave this here as an explanation Image is Copyright (C) K.B. Spangler

 

The point being, his power lets him jump forward in time and, unlike many ghosts, he can bring back elements of what he finds in the future. In the comic, he brings back a ring that is linked to OACET so she can call in help from Sparky whenever she needs it. This takes a tremendous amount of power and the ring is only a small thing.

The mechanism piece? It’s a bit bigger. Which means a lot more power would be needed. Not only that, but we’re looking at a time jump that would make Doc Brown jealous.

And without a DeLorean.

Or a Flux Capacitor.

This machine piece that they have found, however, appears to have come from someone a bit more…universal. Think mathematics. Like Universal mathematics.

It’s Archimedes. Yes, that Archimedes.

I told you it was Universal Mathematics.

This has everyone baffled and a bit worried as it was found in a stash that was being supervised by the main antagonist of AGAHF.

Hope, being one of the few who knows the ghost connection in OACET, decides to investigate and she takes along Mike. The pair are psychic and are able to use that ability to tap into the ghost spectrum – though neither is particularly good at it. You do what you can with what you have.

Then we run into an archaeologist, Atlas, (who’s probably not on the up-and-up) and his sister, Darling (who’s definitely not on the up-and-up) and they get involved in examining the mystery as well.

Helen of Troy also ends up entangled.

It’s…complicated.

The story is also a lot of fun. As a fan of AGAHF, I got a lot of satisfaction out of reading the story. Hope is a fun character and Speedy is a highlight as well. They play their typical roles, but those roles are written quite well.

Hope is a strong protagonist. It is immediately obvious that she is in charge of herself and her choices; there’s no damsel in distress here. No one is ‘letting’ her do the things that she does. She is doing them through her action and through her conscious choice. It’s a good message and one that shouldn’t have to be said, but I’m pointing it out because that message is often lost in other media and stories. Hope’s a character that is strong on her own and she happens to be female.

Speedy is still a hyper-intelligent Koala. I don’t really feel the need to elaborate there, but he is enjoyable. However, I’m a Speedy fan and I hear there are those that disagree with him. That’s your choice – I can assure you that he doesn’t care in the slightest.

The mystery of Archimedes’ machine is the central plot of the story and its practically a character in and of itself. The jumping and shifting of ideas and ‘OK, that didn’t work, next plan’ is a lot of fun.

For me this book had a lot to tell. It establishes quite a bit of the rules for the AGAHF universe. The world building is fascinating and I enjoyed those elements a lot.

My major complaint comes from only two elements. My first is Hope’s attraction to Atlas. It seems overplayed and not especially relevant to the plot. I get that it is part of the character of Hope to be easily distracted, but I just did not like the Atlas bit at all. It’s a personal element, but I feel it detracts from Hope’s character to have that be a focus of her distractions. The rest of her jumps, however, are hilarious and/or plot related and I enjoyed them, but the Atlas ones didn’t ping right for me. Maybe it’s my sense of humor.

Which brings me to Atlas himself. As a character and an antagonist (I won’t go far enough to call him a villain) he’s in the gray area. It could be argued that he’s not even really an antagonist so much as a stumbling point. He’s a pretty face and something for Hope to get distracted by given his amazing Mediterranean body and that’s pretty much it. There is some effort at characterization by having him have a rivalry with his sister, but it doesn’t come off as particularly effective. His reveal and subsequent plot related items come off as convenient and/or out of place when reading and that appeared to defeat the purpose of having him in play. He helps the plot along and gives Hope a few things to think about, but it doesn’t really bring out anything new or interesting in the characters and so he falls flat.

On the whole, though, Greek Key is a strong novel with an interesting mystery. Hope, Mike, and Speedy make up for the lack of a traditional antagonist by fighting with the mystery surrounding the Archimedes device. The solution is a fascinating twist and turn as Spangler develops her world and reveals new and fascinating bits about how the world works in her universe of ghosts and government. For AGAHF fans, this will be a lot of fun. For inductees and those new to the universe, it will be an exciting adventure with a strong protagonist and companions that will lead you into a complex and fun world.

Characters: 4.0 / 5
Plot: 5 / 5
Action: 4 / 5
Value: 5 / 5
Writing: 5 / 5

Overall: 4.2 / 5

 

 

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Book Review: Red Hot Steele (Daggers and Steele Vol. 1)

 

Cover Steele

But the book on Amazon HERE!

Things here have been a little bit crazy as of late, so I haven’t had a lot of time to write.

I have, however, had a lot of time to read. So, I grabbed up my tablet and looked through for something fun but different. The cover for this one caught my eye and it was on a promotion for $0.00 so I downloaded it.

It’s a crack!

This is a detective story that is playing with all of the tropes of a detective story while throwing in elements of fantasy. Apparently there is a movement towards fantasy-crime novels (something I didn’t know) and this was my first full dip into it.

The plot is, pretty much, a standard NCIS, CSI, etc plot. Someone’s been murdered and Jake Daggers (our narrator) has to solve the mystery. Unfortunately (at least according to his perspective at first) he’s just had his long time partner replaced with a newbie fresh from the academy. To make matters worse, the newbie is a woman and an elf. So he has to deal with the newbie and a murder. Lots of fun.

The plot is pretty much straight out of those style outlines, but that’s to make room for the characterization. Daggers is clearly the focus and it shows. He has a fantastic characterization and reading him is just like reading the old detective serials that used to be on the radio. I can hear Howard Duff’s Sam Spade as I read the novel and it’s fantastic. Daggers is not a fantastic role-model – some of his views and perceptions are out of that same era and it makes for him to be very much a throw back of the era. This is particularly true regarding his partner, Steele. And while his view of Steele changes over the course of the story and becomes somewhat better, that doesn’t happen for women in general. It’s a part of the character and the setting, so it makes for good characterization. Daggers has faults – lots of them (women just being one), but he is overall a likable character with a strong voice.

Steele, his partner, does a fair job of standing up to him and its pretty obvious that the rest of his team (there are four total agents on Daggers’ task force) don’t share his archaic views. She even calls him out a few times but, unfortunately, they don’t stick. The rest of the team just let it pass, so it Daggers does come off as a bit of a bully that the reader is expected to excuse. For the most part, I am a forgiving reader and I am anticipating that this will change over the course of the series. It’s an easy place to have character growth and development and I cannot imagine that the author won’t take advantage of it.

But back to the team. The team is interesting, though most of our experience is with Daggers and Steele (imagine that!). Steele gets some screen time and it becomes clear that she’s not going to take Daggers lying down – yet she sometimes lets things slide that make this inconsistent. It’s a significant flaw, and, again, I’m assuming the author is going to fix it eventually.

The answer to the puzzle becomes a bit obvious as the novel gets close to then end, but its still a good solution and fun to reach. The ‘getting there is half the fun’ trope really holds sway through the novel, and the novel is a lot of fun to read.

Despite the flaws of the story, this is a fun book to pick up and read if you enjoy shows like NCIS or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. For the price of free, you really have no excuse not to.

Characters: 4.5 / 5
Plot: 3.5 / 5
Action: 4 / 5
Value: 5 / 5
Writing: 4 / 5

Overall: 4.2 / 5

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW – FIERCE: Sixteen Authors of Fantasy

A Short Review of This Excellent Collection

 

BUY THIS COLLECTION. IT REALLY IS THAT SIMPLE!

uy this collection. At $.99 it is a steal and contains some excellent ‘firsts’ of several wonderful series.  At $.99 you are saving more than $20.00 just to buy these e-books. GET THIS COLLECTION.

Below are some short reviews of the individual stories and pieces:

Mercedes Lackey – Moving Targets 4.5/5 stars.

 

The book possesses typical Mercedes Lackey voice – fun characters in an interesting setting. At least, I think it does -it has been a long time since I have read any of Lackey’s work, so I don’t know if there is a larger continuum that the story fits in to, but it stands just fine on its own if it does.

Essentially, this is a short mystery that, very quickly, evolves in to a classic ‘Scooby-Doo’ style hunt – right down to the talking pet and ridiculous conclusions. It is a lot of fun and makes an excellent opening for the collection. There are a couple of confusing notes, but for the most part this is a fun and simple story.

Michael G. Manning – The Blacksmith’s Son – 3.5/5 stars

 

The book starts out slow, but picks up pace after 75-100 pages. The descriptions and characters are enough to keep someone reading, but if they aren’t given a chance the book may come off as somewhat lackluster. Fortunately I found the descriptions of the conflict and Mordecai’s motivations to be a lot of fun and well worth the wait. I especially liked when he finally gets to working against the antagonist (who’s a tad two dimensional) and how he tries to play off of the others idiocy. On the whole, a solid first effort.

K.F. Breene – Chosen 4.5/5 stars

I haven’t read any of Breene’s work prior, but a quick amazon search reveals she has a lot of work out there. That library of work shows in the writing of Chosen.

The hook is a typical one for the fantasy genre (it’s almost a trope!) but Breene plays it quite well. There’s a prophecy that says that a warrior will rise to free the Shadow Warriors to freedom. Typical fantasy, right?

Breene plays with the trope quite well and shows that it doesn’t have to be boring to follow through on such a hook. Her characters are very three-dimensional. Shanti, despite being a bit of a prodigy, comes off as very human. Her concerns are real and her history/backstory actually does come in to play in a reasonable way. The conflicts are not forced for her and they play off as very real as Shanti learns what her role in the future of her people is to be. Or at least is offered some good examples and reasons to consider how she is going to use her skills.

There are some hints of the authors other line of work with romance novels leaking in as well. These characters get naked an awful lot. It’s not a bad thing, but it does seem a little…weird given the conflict that Shanti is supposedly on the run from.

There are a couple of odd moments and some weird language that breaks the immersion of the story – phrases that just feel out of place.

On the whole though, this is a fun read and one you should check out.

Morgan Rice – A Quest of Heroes – 2.5/5 stars

This is one of the few let downs, I felt, in this collection. Compared to other works in this collection, it’s just not up to standard.

We have a boy who wants to serve the king in the way that the rest of his family (all brothers) do – guarding and protecting a powerful artifact (the series’ Sorcerer’s Ring) in the service of the King. Thorgrin is, of course, the youngest son and feels he has a lot to prove to his father and his mother, who largely don’t want him to serve anyhow.  This of course leads to his rebellion and leaving.

It all feels very typical and, while there is some world building and characterization, it never really stands out or makes a major impression. Maybe it is the​ lack of significant development on the characters. They all feel very two dimensional and fairly straight forward. The other problem is that the book is short. You reach the end and go …wait? What? What happened? It leaves a dissatisfied feeling. I know there are more in the series – it consistently appears in my ‘More from Kindle’ feed of recommended reading, so it’s probably a set up for more books, but I can’t help but feel it was a bit of a let down.

Michael James Ploof – Whill of Agora 4.5 / 5 stars.

So, we have the titacular Whill and his party of companions – a dwarf, an elf, and a justifier.  No, seriously, it’s a fun party with a lot of dynamics to it.

In all reality, this book feels like the beginning of an ‘epic’ series – there is a lot of world building. We have remenants from an old war -5000 years ago – and a country long at peace since then. Similarly, we have a king who wants to change that by invading another continent. At the same time we have a dark elf with some half-dragon hybrids who also want to cause trouble.

Will and Company have to stop it. There is a lot of world building in this novel which makes it a LOT of fun. I enjoyed reading and the one trouble I had with the novel came in the characters. While the world takes a lot of detail and complexity, the characters were very easy reads. Someone is either GOOD or EVIL. There is no in between and there is very little examination of the morals of their decisions or character.

Daniel Arenson – Requiem’s Song 4/5

Had a chance to read this one while on a trip in the car. Glad I had my tablet.

Requiem’s song is an excellent mix of detail and character. Here we have a world where we have a group who can transform in to dragons that are in hiding. We get through a lot of gory detail and precise description of the oppression the dragons have experienced. In very specific detail.

But, the world is compelling and the characters complex. I had a lot of fun reading this and enjoyed having a lot to mull over as I read. It helps that the story is interesting – I like their rise up and the ‘rebels’ recognizing that their actions will have actual consequences. My only qualm with the story is that I sometimes lost track of who was who and the person I was supposed to be excited for in the shifting mass of characters that were thrown at me.

Kate Sparkes – Bound 4/5

An interesting, if used premise with some well done characters.

In this world magic is banned and hunted down. One of our main characters hunts magic users, the other is a young lady who has always had a fascination for magic but knows better than to trust it. When she manages to save a sorcerers life things get complicated.

The fun part of this story comes in the characters. You’re going to get images of the tragic parts of Romeo and Juliet when you get to know Rowan and her betrothed – and not in a good way. It becomes clear that this is a central plot element and you get to ride out the shifting pulses of Rowan’s feelings as she tries to make both her new perspective and her old fit in to one unified vision.

It’s a fun romp, if a bit predictable. I wish there had been more world building, but the author was focusing more on relationships and character than on the environment in my opinion.

David Adams – The Pariahs

This is still on my to read list, but if it is anything like Adams’ other works, I am certain it will be excellent.

Amy Raby – The Fire Seer  4/5

I read this and had flashback to NCIS. It was GIBBS. If Gibbs had magic. That’s a good thing.

We have our main character, Taya , who is sent to investigate a series of murders. The trick? Her old nemesis, Mandir, is her bodyguard. To her it feels rather like a setup. Despite this, she launches her investigation and starts to discover things about her companions, and her world, that she just wasn’t prepared for.

The Fire Seer is a lot of fun and it’s the characters that really sell it. I love a good mystery and this story has all of the elements – suspense, curiosity, a believable ‘bread crumb’ train. But most of all we have a charming and charismatic narrator who sells us on the story. Taya is a lot of fun to read and to follow and she is what makes the Fire Seer a joy to read.

  1. Greenwood – Magic of Thieves3.5/5

This one shows up in my ‘You might also like’ feed a lot as well. I love the cover.

Anyhow, we have a decent opening – magic has been banned and Ilan has been born with the gift. To keep from being prosecuted and killed, she hides with a group of thieves lead by the brigand Rideon.

There is a lot of potential in the story. It opens up fabulously with a lot of excitement and interesting detail. Then it just…kind…of…peters off. It’s not that it is a bad story. There just isn’t a lot to keep you reading and certainly not enough to make me want to go back to the story and re-examine it. I like Ilan OK, and the plot is similar. It’s worth a read, but I don’t know that it’s one that I would go back to on a rainy day when the kid is asleep.

There is a lot of potential and I know there are some sequels out there. Grab this one and treat it as an introduction. If this is the first part of a greater world, then that world definitely deserves a chance.

David Dalglish – The Weight of Blood 3.5 / 5

There is a lot here that could have been great, but the devotion to violence and gore sort of lost me.

I love the concept of the story – a pair of half-orc brothers want to escape poverty so they join up with a powerful mage who makes him commander of his undead legion. They get their wish – but with a twist! It could make for a lot of fun given that the protagonists  Harruq and Qurrah are half-orcs – a traditionally evil race in most fantasy fiction.

Which proves to be its downfall.  Harruq and Qurrah are definitely protagonists, but they certainly don’t feel heroic. And their motivations and thoughts don’t really pull them in to anti-hero either. No matter how I looked at them as I read, I never really felt connected to them (Heroic) or understood their plight and sympathized (anti-hero). Maybe it was because I was busy counting femurs and gallons of blood – I’m not sure.

I do like that there is a conflict set up and that the brothers, ultimately, are faced with coming in to conflict with each other. It would have been nice if there was some more development there but it felt kind of rushed and a little bit too ‘simple’ initially. This is clearly set up for a series, so I see why it is ‘simple’ initially – I am sure there are more layers for later, but there should have been some more focus here in novel one to keep a reader interested. The concept has a lot of possibility in it – there’s no reason to hurry through and ignore the potential.

K.J. Colt – Bear Heart 5/5 stars

OK…it’s Klawdia! One of my favorites from Concealed Power and the Meligna series.

Once I realized that, I was super excited. I won’t say this is an unbiased review because Klawdia is a fun character that I enjoy in Meligna. That we have a story explaining her origin and some fun details of Meligna was enough for me.

Even without that though, we have a fun story with some interesting details about a complex character.  Again, I can’t be sure how much of this comes from Meligna and how much of it is straight from Bear Heart, but Klawdia as the protagonist sells us on this tribal world. That she is forced in to a conflict that relates to her personal honor and passage is fitting and her feelings regarding the help, and cheating, she is offered are complex but understandable. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and strongly recommend it.

Shae Ford – Poison 4/5

An interesting concept – I like how the title sort of wraps everything together.

This is a prequel to a larger world that I have not heard of, so I apologize if I miss some of the details.

Our protagonist is Olivia who doesn’t quite work with the rest of her people. She is separated by her powers as well as her personality – as I read her I kept having flashbacks to Hotaru Tomoe from the Sailor Moon franchise – which doesn’t help matters as the situation within the kingdoms devolves.

I find her inner conflict to be the central ‘villain’ of the story and Ford, through Olivia, makes a good battle of it. There are several forces on the outside as well, but they don’t play up as much as the Olivia vs Herself conflict does – and it is a fight she is slowly losing.

Which, while it is the central conflict of the story, feels a bit predictable. I never got the sensation that Olivia would ever be able to win the fight against ‘the Poison.’ Usually in a story like this we are given some inkling of hope – and indeed Ford does place a few inklings like this – but none of the proposed solutions ever comes off as possible or even truly considered as options through Olivia.

Having a protagonist lose is fine – it can make for a fun and interesting conflict, but the conflict felt so pre-destined that I didn’t really believe any of Olivia’s attempts or other items. Which is a shame, because Ford clearly likes his character and was having a fun time trying to create an interesting protagonist. It just doesn’t come off as something that ultimately was going to work out.

Endi Webb – The Maskmaker’s Apprentice 3.75/5

We have a rebel, Elu, who pushes against his role in his community and ultimately plunges the world in to danger. Majora’s mask style.

And really, I could have swapped Elu in with Link and his companion Thora in for Skull Kid and we’d have the basics of the plot. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and the added elements to it certainly make this a better story than Majora’s Mask (please note – I am not someone who enjoyed Majora’s Mask. I was a Skyward Sword fan – yup I’m *that* Zelda guy) was. That I am comparing this to a Zelda game is a compliment in and of itself – there is no franchise in gaming I enjoy more than the Legend of Zelda.

The trick here is that there wasn’t enough development to the world to make me care that Thora was going around destroying things and unleashing evil. I wasn’t attached to the setting or the characters and that made it a less interesting book.

One big saving grace is Elu and Thora though – they are interesting and Elu’s personal considerations and conflicts are a high point of the storytelling here. They make the story interesting and sell it even with its weaker world development and lack of sympathetic population.

Michael Wallace – The Dark Citadel  3.75/5

There are wizards, griffins, and bad guys OH MY!

No, seriously. That should sell you on the story right there.

The Dark Citadel is a grisly fantasy with a huge cast of characters. Which is probably its greatest strength and its biggest failure. There are a number of protagonists and the antagonists they deal with only make it harder to track everyone. It’s kind of like Game of Thrones, only not as compelling. The violence combined with the sex and grisly scenes just are not my cup of tea.

This book was not designed for me as a reader. It’s not something I would grab off of the shelf, but it is well constructed and there is a lot of good character development if I could just keep the characters straight and the violence down. While I did not enjoy it immensely, this is a big genre at the moment and something there are probably a lot of readers out there for.

Terah Edun – Blades of Magic 4.5/5

The story is fairly simple – we have Sara, the daughter of a disgraced imperial commander. Her father was killed for deserting and, given what she knows of her father, this has always bothered her. This leads her to develop her sword skills and make some living wages to support herself and her mother for much of her early life.

When she comes of age, and a few tragedies, she finds herself working with the Mercenary Guild and beginning to unravel what really happened with her father and the Emperor. There are a number of sub plots and loose threads introduced and expanded on and it’s well balanced between resolution and mini-mystery.

I’ve always enjoyed Edun’s work and this is no exception. Sara is a fine main character and fun to follow along with. I also enjoyed Ezekiel as a bit of a challenge to Sara and her developing skills. That a `Battle Mage’ can transform in to a Berserker – like a classic Berserker – is also interesting and makes her accessing her abilities feel like there is some actual consequence to her magic use.

The other secondary characters felt a bit more static than I generally enjoy, but it comes off to me more as her getting things established than any kind of laziness on her part. To put it simply, this is a new aspect to her world and she is getting it prepared for the future. That static-ness makes it so that she can focus on Ezekiel and Sara and the mystery of Sara’s father while introducing elements that can grow in the future. Sara and Ezekiel are charming enough that I’m willing to be patient with those characters and I look forward to grabbing the sequel when I have a chance.

The world and society that Edun has built is interesting. It appears to be linked to her Courtlight series (which I am a huge fan of (I still need to finish the last book)), but this area and part of the world feels unique and distinct in comparison to what we read in the other series. It’s much more Roman/Greek-ish (for lack of a better phrase) over in these cities and for Sara. I also like the Mercenaries and their role and reaction to Sara. I don’t want to spoil it, but it makes significant sense given the world and the way Edun has established their purpose.

On the whole, this is an excellent new world from a great author. I encourage everyone to give it a shot when they have a chance. It’s completely worth the price asked at $2.99. I see there is a print price and, if Edun ever comes to my area for a convention or something, I’ll probably grab a print copy to get it signed.

 BUY THE COLLECTION HERE!

Book Review – Sworn to Ascension

Sworn

Click HERE to buy a copy of Sworn to Ascension on Amazon.com

Please note, I was given a copy to read on my Kindle for a Review

Book Six of Courtlight continues the drama and characters that we have grown to love.

So, I won’t bore you all with character details or bits and pieces on the major trinity. If you’ve been reading Courtlight, then you know the three major names and the secondary characters as well. So I won’t go through the introductions of everyone and assume you know them by now. If not…maybe you should check out a different review. I have reviewed them all so far, so feel free to check mine! 🙂

Anyway, this picks off almost immediatly after Sworn to Defiance. Ciardis Weathervane is struggling to balance out the bond she has formed with her two significant males – Imperial Heir Sebastian and Kith daemoni Thanar both of whom she is soulbonded to. One soulbond is rare enough but two of them is starting to strain Ciardis’ abilities. Given that Sebastian and Thanar both want her attentions and cannot manage to agree on much doesn’t really help matters. The struggle within the trinity is the major character conflict within the story and Edun does a fantastic job of using it to add stress to the characters and allow for growth as the three explore their limitations and understandings of each other.

Outside of the three is the mission to the fabled city of Kifar – a city lost to the empire in that no one goes there anymore. It doesn’t help matters that it is on the other side of a desert and that, within that desert are marauders that, you know, murder imperial citizens to keep them away from the city (or so it appears). Add in a rather irate dragon and the fact that the ‘Emperor’ wants Sebastian dead (or so it is speculated) and you have a setup for a good plot.

And Vana has a major appearance in the story. As I said in a previous review, I really like Vana and the growth she causes in Ciardis. Sworn to Ascension is no exception to that rule. Vana provides some excellent insight for Ciardis to consider AND moves forward several elements from previous books that were left unresolved. And, you know, she gets to be Vana and that’s just awesome.

It is clear that Edun has some very detailed ideas of where she wants her characters to be within the plot and the events. Furthermore, it is also clear that she is having a *lot* of fun playing with her characters and allowing them to bounce off each other in unique and interesting ways. The main trinity (Ciardis,Sebastian, and Thanar) are all given excellent opportunities to grow by the secondary character trinity of Terris, Christian, and Raisa. The interactions within the characters are more complex than in previous novels, but it doesn’t feel forced. Terah Edun seems to have a real talent for characterization and interaction and it is in full force for Sworn to Ascension. I often didn’t realize how far I had read in the book until after I turned off the app to go to bed – that’s how much fun I was having with the characters.

The only major flaw in the story is that it doesn’t feel like much is resolved. The conclusion is a bit weak in that it doesn’t feel like there was any major progress on the ‘outside’ conflict related to Kifar. We get several major details dropped (I won’t spoil them) and then a big ol’ smasher and the story ends. It practically screams ‘SEQUEL COMING’ – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it falls under the flaw category because it does feel more ‘hanging’ than any of the previous Courtlight novels.

Still, Sworn to Ascension is an excellent book with some amazing character writing. I was swept up in to it and lost track of time so well that I had to brew 3 cups of tea and only drank one of them hot – I’d forgotten the other two times. Grab this baby up.

Characters – 5.5/5
Plot: 5/5
Action: 3/5
Value: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Total Rating: 4.7/5

Book Review – Concealed Power

Concealed Power

Click HERE to buy Concealed Power on Amazon.com

K.J. Colt’s premier novel in the Healers of Meligna is a solid start with a few hiccups along the way.

You have to give the protagonist Adenine credit – if I were thirteen and had to deal with the series of tradgedies that she faces at the beginning of the novel, I think I would have lost my mind. Add on to it that I’m blind (or at least treated that way – more on this in a bit) and I have full justification for curling up in to a ball and crying. Adenine, however does not do so and, instead, manages to find ways to adapt as life throws curve ball after curve ball at her. I won’t spoil too many here as the curve balls make for the majority of the fun of the story, but make sure you’re thinking and being as suspicious as our protagonist.

The world setting is, unfortunately, somewhat generic. We have a town that doesn’t especially stand out in terms of fantasy literature. We’re in a nation recovering from a war and a death plague, but there isn’t a lot of detail given to those events to make them stand out from other such starters. If there is any weakness to this story, it is that the setting feels generic for a good 1/2 the book. We start to see some unique details begin to emerge, but the story finishes (I won’t say ends as there are a pair of sequels) just as we begin to get in to the uniqueness of the world.

Fortunately the characters make up for it. Adenine herself is a round and fully developed 13 year old and entirely believable in that role. Similarly, her broken mother, her Doctor, and her friend/Dr’s assistant, are all given opportunities to develop and be explained. Each of them has a unique personality and, more than that, are given opportunities to screw up/make significant mistakes that Adenine is able to pick up on that first alert the reader/Adenine that something funny is going on. These hints all cascade around you and when the puzzle finally breaks your brain goes AH! and wants to re-scan it to see if it was really set up that far back. You’re even more satisfied when it turns out that “Yes, yes it was.”

The characters are the selling point here, and the major tool that the author uses to engage the reader. There are some graphic scenes and some parts that are a bit scary (13+ please, at the minimum) but, on the whole, this is an enjoyable piece of fiction/literature that you should enjoy especially at the ‘free’ price it is currently listed.

NOTE: This story is also available in a pair of bundles linked at the end of this review.

Characters – 5/5
Plot: 4/5
Action: 3/5
Value: 5/5
Writing: 4/5
Total Rating: 3.95/5

Click HERE to buy it as a part of the EPIC Bundle (14 Fantasy Novels for $.99)

Click HERE to buy it as a part of the Healers of Meligna Boxed Set ($5.99)

White Tower

Click HERE to buy The White Tower from Amazon.com!

I bought the paperback version of this novel from a local vendor (sorry Amazon. I love my little stores too) and finally had a chance to sit down and read it. On the whole, this is a good story with a lot of fun elements to it.

The story opens in a classic fantasy opening with Damion being tasked by his father with a quest that, at 11 years old, he doesn’t really understand. However, that there is terror and Dad involved, he commits to the promise of delivering ‘The Key’ to the White Tower.

Jump forward and Damion is now a young man working on a farm when his promise to his father comes back to his mind, setting him off on a quest to finish what it was he was supposed to have done more than a decade ago. Unfortunately, things don’t go especially smoothly as a number of complications arise. For one thing, the farmer’s daughter has a son who decides to follow Damion. For another, he has absolutely no idea where the White Tower is. Add on to that a rather sinister figure hunting for him and a little bit of young adult attraction and you have all of the elements of an excellent story popping up.

Damion is an interesting and fairly well developed character, especially for a premier novel. Some of the ‘first’ books that I read on my Kindle forget that ‘first’ is often ‘last’ and will forget to have an identifiable protagonist. Not so in The White Tower. Damion is a pretty well rounded character who reminds me, more than anything else, of Peter Parker – he is determined but flawed with a great deal of heart and concern for others. He’s not an excellent swordsman or a lone-wolf adventurer; he is an every man with the flaws that entails. And those flaws do actually matter – the cost him opportunities and respect in many cases when he meets someone with a greater skill set than his own. Damion recognizes that and works with what he has. His determination to ‘always keep his promises’ is noble, but also comes in to conflict with the story as well and creates for some good character dynamics.

The secondary cast, on the other hand, is a bit less rounded. The Princess and her bodyguard are memorable, but not as well developed as our protagonist. She reminds me far too much of Princess Leia in ‘A New Hope’ when Luke and Han show up and she doesn’t really move on from that state very well. There are some moments of character development, but they feel a bit forced to me. Our main antagonist (I won’t spoil the book with specific names here because it is somewhat important to the plot) is similarly evil. How do we know he is evil? Well, he uses mind control and crushes windpipes right at the get go and only gets worse from there. So, he is easily identifiable as evil and we know not to like him.

The world, on the other hand, is very well developed. It appears to be a sort of post apocalypse world. There are instances of the old world occasionally – broken down roads, some bits and pieces of electricity, even a minor villain named Holland – to hint at the fact that *something* happened in the past that resulted in the downfall of humanity that has left us in a sort of lurch. There are hints and some good revelations in the story (again, I try not to do plot spoilers in reviews) but that really only deals with the layout. The culture and societies all have unique elements and interact believably. There is a lot of the depth to this world and I look forward to reading the sequel.

Given the ending, I am assuming a sequel at least.

On the whole, this was a fun read. I strongly encourage readers to pick up a copy of ‘The White Tower’ for an excellent Holiday read. 🙂

Characters – 3.5/5
Plot: 4/5
Action: 4/5
Value: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Total Rating: 3.95/5

Book Review – Blades of Magic (Crown Service #1)

Book Review – Blades of Magic (Crown Service #1)

Blades

By Terah Edun

Click HERE to buy it on Amazon.com

I grabbed this book as a part of the promotion when book two launched. The author had it up for free as an enticement to check out the sequel. I’ve been busy with my students and conferences, but I managed to find some time to do some reading and this is one of the books I was determined to get through. Of course, that meant that I missed the sale and grabbed it at $2.99.

Totally worth it.

The story is fairly simple – we have Sara, the daughter of a disgraced imperial commander. Her father was killed for deserting and, given what she knows of her father, this has always bothered her. This leads her to develop her sword skills and make some living wages to support herself and her mother for much of her early life.

When she comes of age, and a few tragedies, she finds herself working with the Mercenary Guild and beginning to unravel what really happened with her father and the Emperor. There are a number of sub plots and loose threads introduced and expanded on and it’s well balanced between resolution and mini-mystery.

I’ve always enjoyed Edun’s work and this is no exception. Sara is a fine main character and fun to follow along with. I also enjoyed Ezekiel as a bit of a challenge to Sara and her developing skills. That a ‘Battle Mage’ can transform in to a Berserker – like a classic Berserker – is also interesting and makes her accessing her abilities feel like there is some actual consequence to her magic use.

The other secondary characters felt a bit more static than I generally enjoy, but it comes off to me more as her getting things established than any kind of laziness on her part. To put it simply, this is a new aspect to her world and she is getting it prepared for the future. That static-ness makes it so that she can focus on Ezekiel and Sara and the mystery of Sara’s father while introducing elements that can grow in the future. Sara and Ezekiel are charming enough that I’m willing to be patient with those characters and I look forward to grabbing the sequel when I have a chance.

The world and society that Edun has built is interesting. It appears to be linked to her Courtlight series (which I am a huge fan of (I still need to finish the last book)), but this area and part of the world feels unique and distinct in comparison to what we read in the other series. It’s much more Roman/Greek-ish (for lack of a better phrase) over in these cities and for Sara. I also like the Mercenaries and their role and reaction to Sara. I don’t want to spoil it, but it makes significant sense given the world and the way Edun has established their purpose.

On the whole, this is an excellent new world from a great author. I encourage everyone to give it a shot when they have a chance. It’s completely worth the price asked at $2.99. I see there is a print price and, if Edun ever comes to my area for a convention or something, I’ll probably grab a print copy to get it signed.

Characters – 3.5/5

Plot: 3.5/5

Action: 4/5

Value: 4/5

Writing: 4/5

Total Rating:  3.75/5

Book Review: Megatokyo Endgames: The Tower of Kartage

Tower

Click HERE to buy the book from Amazon.com

So, for those of you that aren’t aware, Megatokyo is a webcomic/manga (depends on who you ask) that follows the adventures of Piro and Largo when they get stuck in Japan with no money to return (I swear, I’m not making that up). It was one of the first ‘big’ webcomics and it has since, for the most part, fallen in to obscurity. This is most likely due to the Artist/Writer, Fred Gallagher, updating at a glacial pace. I still strongly recommend the webcomic. The art is fantastic and the world he is working on in it is a lot of fun to visit – there are very few places that have zombie godzilla, magical girls, origami ninjas, and others all co-existing.

One of the key elements of the backstory, however, is the mystery of what happened in Endgames – an MMO that Fred has made up for his world. It is the WoW of the Megatokyo world and an event caused the entire game to shutdown. Piro, one of the main characters, and his character, Pirogoeth, were involved somehow in stopping it. So was Largo’s character. It has been hinted at and examined a few times, but we’ve never really gotten in to the nitty-gritty of the event.

The Endgames novels, however, are beginning to crack that nut.

Even if I were not familiar with the Megatokyo universe, I would still have enjoyed the story. The Tower of Kartage focuses on Pirogoeth – a young magic user from the Free Territories. She has been brought under the tutelage of Socrato ; a powerful magic user in his own right so that she can learn how to better harness her abilities. Through the course of the novel, we get to see Pirogoeth struggle with mastering her abilities as well as the flaws inherent in the system of government of the Endgames world.

At the same time, far out to sea (so far at least), the Void is creeping slowly towards the kingdom.Through the novel we learn that Socrato sees something in Pirogoeth that he believes will be able to help stop the Void from continuing forward and engulfing the world forever. We’re never really told what the Void is or why it is there, but we do know that, somehow, Pirogoeth is supposed to be helpful in stopping it.

Pirogoeth is…not the most likable protagonist I’ve ever read. She is extremely cold and she has social issues. She doesn’t react to things very well and, at times, can be downright mean. She has very little attachment to any of the other characters, and what little attachment she shows feels a bit forced. This is consistent with the way she is portrayed in the comic on which the Tower of Kartage is based, but it’s a difficult thing to become at all attached to or invested in her. She’s not fully developed and she does little to encourage a reader to come close.

I did like Socrato, for what we saw of him. He reminds me a lot of the Monitor from DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths; he is immensely powerful and is trying to find a way to stop untold destruction and has turned to finding others to help him. Unfortunately, we’re never really given any evidence that he really has a plan to stop the Void either, so the conflict feels hollow and misplaced. This knocks Socrato down a few pegs as well.

The pacing of the story is fine, and I enjoyed reading it as something to go with at night. It was nice to revist the Endgame world and play around in it a bit, but I can’t help feeling that there could have been more to the story. With the exception of solving one political issue, there aren’t really any victories to celebrate. Pirogoeth lacks the charm of Harry Potter at Wizard School , so that makes it harder to stick with than I eexpected I would still have read the book – the mystery was interesting – but I probably wouldn’t have been quite as devoted as I was without the Megatokyo label on it.

On the whole, for Fans of Megatokyo, this is a solid read. New folks, however, may find the chill of the main character a bit much to deal with and a challenge to justify the price of the book.

Characters: 3.5/5
Plot: 4/5
Action: 2.5/5
Word Count 5/5
Price: 4/5
Overall: 3.75/5

Some Fun Writing

Alista assessed the Murinsat with a glance, “That pair,” she said, pointing to a pair guarding a quartet of terrified noblewomen, “Ready Vicor?”

The half-orc nodded, his blade coming from its scabbard. The two charged across the room, Alista in quick steps to match Vicor’s tremendous stride. Vicor’s swung his blade forward as he reached his opponent, the full weight of his towering form crashing into the hastily raised rusty axe wielded by the murinsat. There was a snapping of wood and a shriek of pain as the axe head separated and was driven into its wielder’s arm.

“Sloppy, Vicor,” Alista declared, blocking the knife her own Murinsat was attempting to strike with.

“Effective though,” he replied, stepping out of the way of a clumsy swing from his opponent.

Alista nodded, parrying the dagger, “That may be,” she slashed low, tearing across the Murinsat’s belly. The creature screamed and dropped, “But it’s not safe.”

Vicor rolled his eyes and shifted his blade in his hand and fell in to one of her instructed stances. The goblin paused its attack, confused at the sudden shift. Vicor took that hesitation and thrust, his blade sliding through the Murinsat easily, “Better?” he asked to his bodyguard, pulling his sword from the dying monster.

Alista huffed at his tone, “Make sure and clean your sword,” she replied.

Book Review – The Third Kingdom (and some on Terry Goodkind)

So, I’m getting back on the horse.

The summer is over and I can finally sit down and write again! YAY! I’ll be watching for more challenges and really working on my book over at Scrib. I’m going to get this sucker done.

But that’s not what we’re here for. We’re here for a Book Review. I normally don’t do ‘full on’ New York Times style authors, but I wanted to do something on The Third Kingdom because I really liked the Sword of Truth books. I like them enough that my mother got me a signed copy of ‘Faith of the Fallen’ (my favorite in the series). There was a LOT of fun and adventure in the series. I may even have named my daughter after Kahlan.

Terry Goodkind finished the Sword of Truth series with Confessor. I really did enjoy the series and had fun reading it. There were some slow parts, but I made it through the Wheel of Time, so that’s not really a major issue.

However, after reading The Third Kingdom, it is clear that Goodkind is tired of writing Richard and Kahlan.

The series has always had a certain amount of violence and direct confrontation about the action and reaction of suffering, pain, and emotional trauma. I expect that in a Sword of Truth novel. But now? As I read what happens, it feels like Goodkind just isn’t happy with being stuck in this world anymore. Given his devotion to the ideas of freedom and choice, I can’t help but think that he is beginning to resent writing more and more about these two characters.

I’m not saying the novel isn’t good. It’s as well written as any of the other other Goodkind novels I have read (and much better than Pillars of Creation in my opinion). The villain is interesting, the introduced characters have talents and quirks that add some depth to the world of the Sword of Truth. I liked the plot – Spoiler alert: Not quite Zombies are present – and the action, like all of Goodkind’s books, comes at an excellent pace. The fighting is vividly described and fun to read as it whirls around.

But Goodkind comes accross as tired and resentful. Maybe I am reading too much in to it, but it feels that way every time he is forced to address Richard and Kahlan. Since Richard is the main protagonist, this happens fairly often. I like the series, but I don’t like the tone of this novel. I’ve got a copy of Severed Souls here to check out, but I’m going to go through some other works first to clear my head and see if I’m reading to much in to The Third Kingdom. I guess we’ll see.

Writing: 5/5
Characterization: 4/5
Plot: 5/5
Flow: 3.5/5
Value: 5/5
Total rating: 4.5 / 5