Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Category: Book Reviews (Page 1 of 16)

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Book Review: Highlords of Phaer by Brock Deskins

It’s Book Review Wednesday, the day I get to talk about the latest book I’ve read and enjoyed. I think you’ll love the new one: a fantasy novel with just a hint of steampunk thrown in for good measure.

Highlords of Phaer

Born a slave, descended of kings, Jareen Velarius just wants to provide the best life he can for his family, but Eidolan is a realm that challenges even the most stalwart of souls.  Caught between his masters (the highborn and sorcerer Highlords) and those brave or foolish enough to strike against them, Jareen struggles to reconcile his role as a dutiful slave and a man who desires to be free, to return his people to a life lost more than a millennia ago.

Auberon Victore, sorcerer, alchemist, son of Overlord Alexis Victore, and Jareen’s master, creates an alchemic compound he is certain will change the world, he just does not know how. Only Jareen sees it for the weapon that could break the sorcerers’ iron grasp. It will change the world, but not in the way his master desires.

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Across the Tempest Sea, a mighty storm has raged for a thousand years, keeping a terrible, long-forgotten enemy at bay. An enemy whose cruelty knows no bounds, only the perpetual storm and their fear of the sorcerer Highlords keeps the necrophages from returning to Eidolan and cloaking the empire in death and darkness. But the tempest is waning, and the dissidents’ freedom may well come at the cost of their total destruction.

My Review: 4.5 Stars

I received this book for an honest review, and I thought I wouldn’t enjoy it half as much as I did. I found myself pleasantly surprised.

The main character (Jareen) starts out without much depth to him, but with just enough hint of something simmering beneath his servile façade. When his world comes crumbling down around him, his response is to strike back—a sentiment I found believable and deepened the character greatly.

The world was rich, well-described, and drew me in. I found myself turning the pages without hesitation, as I wanted to find out what came next. The antagonist was a well-written character, and the story overall was clever, with great plot twists and turns.

It did feel a bit “all over the place” at times, and there were a few parts that lagged—I had to force myself to keep reading, rather than being drawn into the story. However, overall a VERY good book, one I’d highly recommend to any fantasy reader.

Here’s a Taste:

Jareen pulled an arrow straightener from his pocket, giving testament to how frequently Auberon ordered such corrective action. The device was a simple wooden slat the length of a man’s hand and two fingers in width. A hole was bored through each end, the larger one to best accommodate the digits of a man, the smaller for most women—or a child—as the case may be. It was the most effective and humane way Jareen had found to complete the gruesome task.

He held out his palm, gripped the fearful woman’s shaking hand when she laid it in his, and threaded her finger into the apparatus. Jareen caught the woman’s attention and held her gaze with his eyes.

“What is your name?” he asked.

Her frightened countenance broke into a wan smile and she released a nervous giggle. “Grace. Grace Parkin, and I must be going mad to be laughing now.”

Jareen smiled at her, an effect lost behind his mask. “Sometimes the irony in such an absurd situation is so great that, when all other emotion has been exhausted, there is simply nothing more fitting left to do. It is something I have experienced many times, and I do not yet consider myself mad.”

Jareen flexed his wrist and snapped the first bone in her little finger between the joints. Grace’s eyes flashed wide as she cried out. Her knees buckled but she managed to stay upright with the help of Jareen’s supporting hands.

He leaned close and whispered in her ear as he looped the arrow straightener onto her ring finger. “I am going to bend the finger with the knuckle. I need you to act out just as you did a moment ago. Auberon has spies throughout the palace and he rewards those who report violations of his will. Do you understand?”

Grace swallowed and nodded.

Using his body to block Grace’s hand from the prying eyes of the other servants, he rotated it ninety degrees and mimicked the fracturing motion, but this time, allowing the finger to move naturally with the joint.

Grace wailed a bit louder and dropped even heavier than before, her performance not entirely an act as every movement shot pain through her broken finger. Jareen kept her from falling and helped her stand back up.

“Masterfully done.” He tore several strips from a towel and began bandaging Grace’s two fingers together, using the arrow straightener as a splint. “Never forget that both fingers are broken and act accordingly.”

Grace bobbed her head. “I will. Thank you, sah.”

“I am not a sah. I am a slave just as you are.” Tying off the wrapping, he held up his injured arm. “You can begin practicing by bandaging my wound.”

Grace washed out the cut and wrapped it in the remaining strips of linen Jareen had torn. She was grateful for his making extra as she was unsure if she could have managed on her own. She tied off the bandage and stroked his hand before releasing his arm. Jareen was a married man, but he was not immune to the sensual touch of such a young and attractive woman.

“Do your best to stay out of Sah Auberon’s sight. He has likely already forgotten about you, but it is best to avoid his attention whenever possible.”

“Thank you again for your kindness.”

Jareen chuckled. “What a world we live in where breaking just a single bone is considered a kindness.”

About the Author:

Brock Deskins was born in a small town located in rural Oregon. At age twenty, he joined the army and served as an M1A1 tank crewman, dental specialist, and computer analyst. While in the military, he became an accomplished traveler, husband, and father of three wonderful children. His military career completed, attended college to brush up on his skills as a computer analyst and gain new skills as a writer. Brock received his degree in computer networking and is now devoting his full time and limited attention span to writing.

Find the book on Amazon: http://smarturl.it/highlordsofphaer

Independent Author Network: http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/brock-deskins.html

Read his thoughts on his website: http://brockdeskins.com

Connect with him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brocksbooks

Tweet at him: @brockdeskins

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Short Stories by Joshua Robertson

Today, instead of one book for you to read, I’ve got two short stories. They’re both written by Joshua Robertson, the author of Anaerfell. The stories are set in the dark fantasy world he’s created, and they flesh out other details of the world and novels he’s written.

When Blood Falls

Defending against the demons of the Deep has long given Tyr Og’s brethren purpose. When Tyr’s mother is robbed from him during childhood, he loses his will to live. Now, filled with rage and regret, Tyr hungers for a worthy death to bring an end to the futility of his life. In a short tale of blood and self-loathing, Tyr seeks the most honorable path to finally join his mother in the afterlife.

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The Name of Death

Drada Koehn is a fearless, formidable fighter ensnared in a presaged war against the northern humans. When the Speaker foretells their victory upon discovery of the name of death, she sets out to unravel the mysterious prophecy. Now, bound by duty and honor, Drada faces untold horrors with her companions, searching for what may never be found. In a story of unexpected twists, she soon finds that her resolve to see the quest done will be the fortune or doom of her people.

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My Review: 4 Stars

I found both of these short stories highly compelling and fascinating, pulling me into the world. The descriptions were vivid, the scene painted beautifully dark, the action scenes gripping, and the stories well-rounded. They were the kind of short stories I enjoy reading: they introduce a character, give him/her an objective, and reach a clear ending.

On the downside, the dialogue felt a bit stiff and stilted. The stories also relied heavily on a reader understanding the world built in his novels, so as someone who hasn’t read them, I felt a bit lost sometimes.

Still, if you enjoy a good action-filled short story set in a dark fantasy world, these are worth the read!

Here’s a Taste:

When Blood Falls

Vaghor did not budge. He pushed his tangled, red hair from his eyes. “Your mother is dead, and your father is a madman. We all know it. Why can you not accept it?”

“What of your father, Vaghor Fhar?” Tyr rolled the name off his tongue venomously. His voice carried further than he intended. “Your entire family is nothing but a legacy of half-wits and drunkards. Best hold your tongue unless you welcome death.”

He noticed the other sentries shuffle backward as he bellowed.

Tyr felt Gharkis close the distance from behind him with a single step. The man attempted to pull Tyr’s attention from Vaghor’s glaring gaze. “Where is your sister, Tyr? She had gone with you, did she not?”

“I bet she is dead, too,” Vaghor flared his nostrils, his eyes darkened with hate.

Tyr’s chest tightened. His deep voice rattled from his lips. “She is dead. Killed by a bear.” Gharkis grated from behind him with a sense of sympathy. His footsteps crunched against the ground as he moved away.

“Let him be,” Gharkis said.

Vaghor puffed his chest, inching closer. “Mother killed by a Witiko. Sister killed by a bear.” Vaghor cocked his chin, and clicked his tongue. “Where is the bear? We need food and resources.”

Tyr explained with a single word. “Taken.”

“Taken?” Vaghor echoed.

“Vaghor,” Gharkis warned.

“No,” Vaghor pressed. His breath was hot against Tyr’s frozen cheek. “We should expect better from Tyr Og, the son of an Elder.”

Tyr’s muscles instinctively flexed, causing his injured arm to throb from shoulder to wrist. “Bah! You haven’t been outside of Almdalir for three months. Try to provide before demanding from those who keep your belly filled.”

Vaghor growled, balling his fists. Gharkis reached past Tyr to calm the giant, only to have his hand swatted away by Vaghor. The Ispolini sneered. “Are you wishing to join your sister and mother?”

“I welcome it!” Tyr’s left hand clamped onto the jugular of Vaghor seconds before his fist connected with the giant’s nose and upper lip. Bones crunched. Blood gushed.

It was not enough.

 

The Name of Death

Seigfeld dipped his head. “I found Farthr chained in a hollow in that cave, captured and meant to be eaten by the Witiko scum. He had watched handfuls of his own—and humans—slaughtered at the hands of the demons.”

Drada felt her heart twist, the smoke of the fire burning her nostrils. “Your sister?”

Seigfeld turned his eyes from her. “Forever lost. Farthr agreed to help find her, unsure if he had witnessed her death among the many humans. We searched for a while, but the tunnels beneath the mountain ran long and deep in more directions than the two of us could have ever traveled in a single lifetime.”

Wrylyc looked over his shoulder, scrunching his hooked nose. “I don’t understand how Farthr disapproves of this story.”

“He is shamed to have been captured,” Drada said matter-of-factly, “and you stole from him an honorable death. He would have died with his brethren in that cave had you not come along.”

“He would have been eaten alive,” Seigfeld protested.

“Ah,” Wrylyc grinned, “but the Svet have eaten the living, even their own battle-fallen, since their creation.”

Drada recoiled, catching bile in her throat. She filled the space with words. “So, he is bound to you now because you saved him from an unsavory death?”

Seigfeld dipped his head in acknowledgement.

“Absurd,” she replied. “A life of servitude is far worse than a glorified death. He should have sought more Witiko in the caves to kill.”

“Oh, we killed many more in the search of my sister—”

“I hear little mourning for her in your breath,” Drada challenged, folding her arms.

Seigfeld continued, “…but many paths were so thick with the demons, we were forced to retreat.”

“Retreat?” Drada scoffed. “I know few who would be so eager to tell a story of defeat.”

Seigfeld’s gaze darkened from across the fire. “You do not know the horrors—”

“No. I do not. Because Uvil do not know fear.”

The clipping of Farthr’s hooves against the ground drew their attention. Towering over them, crossbow in hand, he stared at Drada with a haunting gaze, the darkness looming behind his massive breadth. His words fell on her like a curse. “You will.”

About the Author:

Joshua Robertson was born in Kingman, Kansas on May 23, 1984. A graduate of Norwich High School, Robertson attended Wichita State University where he received his Masters in Social Work with minors in Psychology and Sociology. His bestselling novel, Melkorka, the first in The Kaelandur Series, was released in 2015. Known most for his Thrice Nine Legends Saga, Robertson enjoys an ever-expanding and extremely loyal following of readers. He counts R.A. Salvatore and J.R.R. Tolkien among his literary influences.

Find the stories on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/When-Blood-Falls-Joshua-Robertson-ebook/dp/B01MQZTIS4/

https://www.amazon.com/Name-Death-Joshua-Robertson-ebook/dp/B01N2XQYPY/

Read his thoughts on his website: http://www.robertsonwrites.com/

Tweet at him: https://twitter.com/robertsonwrites

Follow his on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJoshuaRobertson/

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Book Review: Hometaker by Dean Wilson

Today, for Book Review Wednesday, I have a book I’ve been looking forward to: the FINAL book in The Great Iron War series by Dean Wilson. I’ve read the books since the beginning, and I’m thrilled to have closure to the story of Jacob, Whistler, Rommond, and all the others.

Hometaker

The Resistance races against time to complete the missile-launcher known as the Hometaker, capable of opening a gateway to the land the Regime came from, and exposing the Iron Emperor for all the evils he has done.

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Everything rests on the secrecy of the mission, but from day one tongues are wagging. The atmosphere is like dynamite. An overheard word could light the fuse. With no time left on the clock, General Rommond is forced to make an audacious plan: finish the construction of the Hometaker on the move, driving straight towards the enemy, who have assembled in unimaginable force.

The Great Iron War is coming to an end. It’s all or nothing—their world or ours.

My Review: 4 Stars

What I loved about this story: The circle is closed!

After years of reading these great books, I was happy to finally reach the end and receive that satisfying conclusion to the story. It did the rest of the series justice and closed the story in a way that I felt good about. Not necessarily a “happy  ending”, but the fitting ending the series deserved.

I LOVED the various plot twists and turns in this book. I’m not going to spoil anything, but I’d have to say “I didn’t see that coming!” They totally caught me by surprise, and I found they made for a much more realistic plot.

What I didn’t love: I felt the book was a bit more “rushed” than the previous ones. There were parts that felt downright choppy and “first draft” than Dean’s usual writing style.

But all in all, it was a satisfying ending to a book series I’ve enjoyed from the very beginning. Can’t wait to see what comes next!

Here’s a Taste:

And so the fire came.

The first jet of flame reached out over thirty metres. There was no one in its path, but it fulfilled its aim: sending fear before them even faster. The light illuminated the black armour and black masks. Even the coverings of the eyes were dark. These troops did not really need to see. They were here to burn everything.

Rommond’s men split apart, spreading out as he gestured for them to take cover. They hid behind the upturned landships, but only those at the front of the battlefield. They could not retreat any further or they would leave the carrier exposed. If that was set alight, the aim of it all was lost.

Rommond used a rifle from one of his fallen comrades to make his first shot. It only had a single bullet left, with most already wasted on the mines, but it was enough. There were a lot of fallen rifles littered around the sand, and not enough hands to use them. The bullet struck one of the closest fire-flingers straight in the forehead. He halted suddenly, then toppled forward, still clutching his flamethrower. His mate instinctively unleashed a jet of flame before him, but was still out of range to hit the general.

Then the other Resistance fighters unleashed a spray of bullets into the oncoming force, killing several of them, making them look a little less daunting than they did before.

And then the gas came.

The first came in a barrel, launched from a modified artillery gun parked far back with the troop carriers, which formed a black wall across the horizon. The barrel burst open in the midst of the Resistance soldiers, swiftly unleashing a green cloud of vapour, which spread out in all directions, thick and blinding. They were now the vermin-killers, here to weed out the rats.

Rommond yanked open the escape hatch of the upturned landship he hid behind and crawled inside. On its side, it was difficult to get his bearings, but this was not the first time he was in a vehicle like this. He quickly rummaged through the debris, pushing the bodies of the driver and gunner out of the way. He was certain that there was a gas mask in there somewhere, but he could not find it. He could barely see anything. If it was not the night, which entered with him, it was the dark of the interior itself. Everything was charred from the explosion that knocked the vehicle over, even the faces of its unmoving occupants. Even the gas mask that he eventually put his fingers on. Much of it was burned clean through.

He clambered swiftly back outside, where the green cloud was expanding, and the black-masked horde was approaching. He could no longer see his companions, but he could hear periodic gunfire, along with the screams and shouts of someone, punctured by his vomiting. If he was lucky, he would vomit blood. It would be over quicker then. Yet it would never be over quick enough.

Rommond dived out into the clear air, dodging a wall of flame that spat out from a nearby gun, and charged towards another fallen landship. That one was less damaged than the previous, but it was a lot more out in the open, in the eyeline of the fire-flingers, and not long before it was in their jet-line as well. He pulled at the escape hatch door, but it would not budge. It was buckled slightly on one side. Brute force alone would not do it, and yet he had to try. He could already feel the good air fleeing from the battlefield, not just from his frantic tussle. He could already see the sky darkening, not just from the encroaching night.

He felt a sudden heat and only narrowly missed the lashing tongue of flame that came at him. It singed the whiskers of his moustache and left little embers in the rim of his cap. As he span away, he unleashed his pistol, firing two shots. It was more than he needed, he knew, but he was caught off guard. That would get you killed. Yet, having no bullets left would do it too.

The fire-flinger crashed to the ground, almost falling into his own flame. It was then that Rommond thought to grab the gas mask from the corpse. It remained just a thought, however, because another approached behind him, and another, both alive and breathing fire.

Rommond barely had time to pull the trigger before a stream of fire whisked by him as he ran. He was forced to dive into the toxic cloud, gasping one last puff of fresh air before he disappeared inside. From there, laying with his back on the ground, he could barely make out the shapes of people and objects outside. He had to hope they were as blinded by their goggles as he was by the stinging vapour. He also had to hope they did not stray too far, because he was going on guesswork now to fire his remaining bullets.

The first clearly hit, because he heard the squelch of flesh, and the squeal of the man it entered. The second struck metal, and the third seemed to make no noise at all. Who knew what it hit further afield. The fourth—there was no fourth, he realised, as the revolver clicked idly. He was out. He knew his pistol was out too. That one he had kept track of. There were cartridges and bullet boxes in the landships. He even recalled feeling one as he searched for the gas mask, but never thought to grab it in the frenzy.

And now his breath was out too.

He gasped, feeling the first needle-points of the gas prick away at his lungs. He coughed, then tried to disguise the cough, knowing it would lead the fire-flingers to him. He covered his mouth and nose with the edge of his coat and tried not to suck in any more of the noxious fumes, but his lungs chugged along like little pumps and pistons on autopilot. If he took a breath, he would soon die. Yet if he did not breathe, he would die even swifter.

Better to burn than go like this, he thought.

So he rolled back out into the open, where he was greeted with a breath of fire.

About the Author:

Dean F. Wilson was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1987. He started writing at age 11, when he began his first (unpublished) novel, entitled The Power Source. He won a TAP Educational Award from Trinity College Dublin for an early draft of The Call of Agon (then called Protos Mythos) in 2001.

He is the author of the Children of Telm epic fantasy trilogy and the Great Iron War steampunk series.

Dean also works as a journalist, primarily in the field of technology. He has written for TechEye, Thinq, V3, VR-Zone, ITProPortal, TechRadar Pro, and The Inquirer

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Hometaker-Steampunk-Dystopian-Action-Adventure-ebook/dp/B01N6CF5VT/

Read his thoughts on his website: http://www.deanfwilson.com

Connect with Dean on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deanfwilson

Tweet at him: https://twitter.com/deanfwilson

Google+: https://plus.google.com/+DeanFWilson

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Book Review: The Tao of Book Publicity by Paula Margulies

For today’s Book Review Wednesday, I’ve got a non-fiction book that offers a lot of excellent information on book publicity…

The Tao of Book Publicity: A Beginner’s Guide to Book Promotion

In The Tao of Book Publicity, publicist Paula Margulies outlines the basics of book promotion and explains how the business of publicizing a book works. Designed for beginning authors but also useful for those with some experience in book publishing, The Tao of Book Publicity provides information on the importance of writing a good book and the need for developing a platform, as well as how-to explanations for developing publicity material, including front and back cover text, press releases, Q&As, media and blog tour queries, and newsletter and media lists.

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The Tao of Book Publicity also covers social media, book pricing and sales, book tours and media interviews, and author websites. In addition to explaining how book publicity works, this valuable handbook explores practical topics such as publicity costs, timing, and considerations when hiring a publicist.

Simple, straightforward, and informative, The Tao of Book Publicity includes expert advice on all aspects of book promotion and is a go-to reference guide for beginning and experienced authors alike.

My Review: 5 Stars

I purchased this book from Paula at a local author event, and I have to say that I found it VERY helpful. It contains a lot of useful information on book publicity–which, as most people don’t understand, is different from marketing.

The book has information on smart marketing tips, but it also takes a look at book publicity. It’s a great look at the ins and outs of publicity, how to find a publicist you can trust, and a lot more.

It’s definitely a must-have for authors who want to be as effective as possible with their book launches–a handy road-map to success as an author!

About the Author

Paula Margulies is the owner of Paula Margulies Communications, a public relations firm for authors and artists. She has received numerous awards for her essays and books, including her nonfiction handbook, The Tao of Book Publicity, her historical novel, Favorite Daughter, Part One, her debut novel, Coyote Heart, and her short story collection, Face Value: Collected Stories. She has been awarded artist residencies at Caldera, Red Cinder Artist Colony, the Vermont Studio Center, and Centrum. Margulies resides in San Diego, California.

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01CS5DS6W/

Visit Paula’s website: http://www.paulamargulies.com

Tweet at her: https://twitter.com/paulamargulies

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Duel to the Death: Conor O’Leagaire

I, Andy Peloquin, challenge you, Michael Bolan, to a duel to the death! But it is not we who will fight, but our characters…

In the black corner, weighing in at 180 pounds, standing a cool 6 feet tall, the Hunter of Voramis!

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Tale of the Tape:

  • Superhuman reflexes, strength, speed–think Captain America, but stronger
  • Thousands of years of weapons training
  • Body has accelerated healing factor–can survive a sword to the heart (can be killed by drowning, iron weapons, beheading, and suffocation)
  • Cannot be killed by anything but iron
  • Accursed dagger that heals him when he kills
  • No magical abilities whatsoever
  • No hesitation to kill if he perceives opponent as a threat/obstacle to his desires–classic anti-hero

In the green corner, standing at 6′ 2″ and weighing a solid 220, we have Conor O’Leagaire of the Fianna.

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Tale of the Tape:

  • Has spent most of his two hundred years of life running, climbing, fighting, and hunting
  • Descendant of the old gods of Ireland (who were in fact the angels who took neither side in the Great Fall, and were subsequently exiled from Heaven, but not cast down into Hell)
  • Directly descended from Lugh Lamfada, an anthropomorphisation of the sun; the Dagda, who represents the earth; Manannan MacLir, the god of the sea; and the Morrigan, goddess of battle
  • Effectively the coalescence of earth, air, fire and water.
  • He has no soul
  • Graceful and athletic, and determined
  • Prefers to fight with a bastard sword and a small buckler, but will happily switch to longstaff/ spear, double axes, or projectile weapons

Two enter the ring, only one can leave alive!

How would (your character) kill the Hunter? Two centuries of fighting and training has given Conor the confidence to face any challenge. His skill with his bastard sword would be a match for any opponent–human or otherwise.

To kill (your character): The Hunter would try to overwhelm Conor with his inhuman speed, strength, and skill. Not even someone with considerable magical abilities can survive Soulhunger’s bite–it was created to kill demons.  All he has to do is pierce Conor’s skin with Soulhunger, but he has no idea there is no soul for the dagger to consume.

The warriors are well-matched, each with centuries of experience under their belt and a calm confidence in their own skill. They circle their opponent, looking for a weakness to exploit. A quick test of skill, a lighting series of attacks and parries, and they would fall back to continue circling.

The Hunter’s inhuman speed would give him an advantage, but Soulhunger’s ability would be negated by the fact that the Fianna warrior has no soul. Conor’s skill and reflexes could keep him away from the Hunter’s blade long enough to find a way to defeat the half-demon assassin.

Winner: Too close to call!

Want to find out more about this Irish champion who would dare challenge the legendary assassin of Voramis to the death? Click here to read about him …

 

Who do YOU think would win? Did we get the match-up right? Leave a comment below and let me know…

Want to match your character against the Hunter? Click here to enter your protagonist/antagonist in a duel to the death!

 

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Book Review: The Stone Bridge by Michael Bolan

It’s Book Review Wednesday, and today I have a book I’m very excited about. I read the first two books in this series—Book 1: Sons of Brabant and Book 2: Hidden Elements—so I was very happy to finally close off the trilogy. And what a way to go!

The Stone Bridge

The Rapture continues to wreak havoc across Europe in its quest to acquire the elemental Seals, the only thing preventing the Devil’s Bible from purging the world in fire. Brought to Prague by the Fianna, the Seals’ only protection lies in the secrecy that shrouds them.

Reinald, leader of the Rapture, enlists the world’s greatest minds to free the Devil’s Bible from the depths of Prague Castle, where it has languished under lock and key for centuries. Meanwhile, the plans of the Four Horsemen unfold, wreaking havoc and misery across the entire continent.

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Not content with forcing his siblings from their ancestral home, Reinald sends a vast army to harry and persecute them, forcing them to flee ever eastwards. Taking shelter with their friends, Willem, Leo and Isabella commit to one last act of bravery, making a final stand to defend the city of Prague.

As each nation commits its final resources into the conflict, all roads lead to the Stone Bridge that divides Prague, where the Sons of Brabant and their Fianna allies will face the ultimate test of their strength.

My Review: 4 Stars

I’ve been waiting for the end of the series for long enough, so was VERY glad to get the final book to find out what happens to Willem, Leo, and Isabella.

I thought the story with the “mundane” foes—Reinald and the Rapture—was excellent. The battle scenes were well-written, the narrative smooth and intriguing, and the characters gripping. Each character had something unique to keep me interested. Heck, even the villain had something that made him relatable. A well-done book overall!

The part about the Devil’s Bible and the seals was a bit “meh”. While the seals were the most important part of Book 2, they lost my interest beneath the physical confrontation between Reinald and his minions and the main characters. In fact, I could have done without that entire part of the story and still LOVED reading about the war and politics of the timeframe in the book.

All in all, not as good as Book 1, but a fitting end to the trilogy!

About the Author:

Michael Bolan: nomadic Irish storyteller

It took Michael Bolan over two decades of running in the corporate ratrace to realise that all he actually did was tell stories.

There was no Damascene revelation for Bolan which caused him to pen his first work of fiction, “The Sons of Brabant”. An avid reader, he simply felt that he could do as good a job as many of the authors he read and decided to put his money where his mouth was.

Living and working in many countries left him with smatterings of a dozen languages and their stories, and his love for history focused his ideas on the Thirty Years War, the most destructive conflict that the continent has ever seen.

Now living in Prague (again), Michael brings alive the twisted alleys of the 17th century and recreates the brooding darkness of a fractured Europe, where no-one was entirely sure who was fighting whom.

Michael writes while liberally soused in gin, a testament to Franz de le Boë, who was mixing oil of juniper with neat spirit while the thirty Years War raged around him.

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Stone-Bridge-Book-Devils-Bible-ebook/dp/B01MST4KEB/

Read his thoughts on his website: http://www.michaelbolan.org

Tweet at him: https://twitter.com/michaelbolan225

Connect with him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michaelbolan225

 

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Interview with E.M. Whittaker

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing a good friend of mine and fellow writer E.M. Whittaker. EM and I both started our writing journey around the same time. She’s been a huge encouragement to me throughout the process. We’ve learned a lot of the same lessons, and I can’t wait to see where her writing takes her.

Hey, EM, tell us a little about yourself and your background?
My name is E.M. Whittaker and I write urban fantasy/paranormal mystery with different elements, such as dark fantasy, horror and crime. Some of this stems from going to school for criminal justice – other elements are taken from real life experiences, which make the characters more realistic about their decisions and backgrounds.

I started writing back in middle school with fanfiction stories, but transitioned into writing fiction in 2012. After five drafts and several short story acceptances, my first book will release on December 3, 2016.

What genre are your books?
Urban fantasy/paranormal. Depending on the material, it can contain elements of dark fantasy, horror, crime, suspense and romance.

My first series will not focus on romance, simply because the main characters are finding closure about their spouses. My second series definitely has this factor incorporated, but it won’t be X-rated or erotica proportions.

So, what have you written?
Right now, I only have Turbulence, and it’s releasing on December 3rd, 2016.

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Drift is pending release between late March and early April of 2017, after editing is complete. However, Holly Heisey’s done some amazing stuff with my covers, and you can see the comparison for branding. Both covers received excellent feedback from readers.

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In addition to my two book releases between December and March of 2017, I’m also involved in several anthologies. An NDA prevents me from promoting some projects, but I can show you ones I’ve been given permission to advertise and discuss.

The first one is called Black Magic Massacre. Cover art drawn by Stephen Cooney, and edited by John Ledger.

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The story is about 10,000 words, but this focuses on another character who’s featured in her own series after The Renegades Saga ends called The Soulstealer Chronicles.

Soulstealer: The Dark Mistresses’ Enigma, features a hybrid mage/shifter named Eileen Fraser and her demonic symbiote, Ilda Lovox. They are Keith Travis’ antagonists in Injustice, his prequel story releasing sometime in 2017. Known as Soulstealer, Eileen’s backstory begins after her memories and identity were wiped and sealed away to serve the Sect’s needs. After a chance encounter in her previous kingdom, one entity reminds her of her purpose and her quest for redemption begins.

(This story does not have zombies, I promise.)

Eileen becomes a support character in book three, but the short story ends as Travis is spying on Aviere in Chapter Ten of Turbulence. So it’s a tie-in for the series, but it worked out well.

The other anthology is also with JEA Press called Nocturnal Nightmares.

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The story featured is called Phantasm, which also ties directly into my first series, The Renegades Saga.

Phantasm features Keith Travis, the male protagonist assigned with a female mafia mistress to stop their rivals from destroying Charm City. However, this anthology focused on nightmares, and it was more horror based. So I took from an instance inside Travis’ backstory, which was shorter than I intended.

Since this short was accepted, I’ve decided to feature a standalone based on this character at the request of beta readers from my first book. If you want to hear an excerpt, I did a reading for Wicked Little Things: Nocturnal Nightmares Before Christmas, which you can listen to on the computer.

If this book is part of a series, tell us a little about it.
Turbulence is book one of five in The Renegades Saga, featuring Aviere Mye, a previous donna of the mafia looking for closure about her loved one’s disappearances after losing her own territory. When she starts her own investigation, she is a capodecina – a person who runs a unit of ten or less and can be specialized in performing assassinations. She’s also the famous Poisoner of Charm City, which earned her a less than favorable reputation, despite being the best at her profession.

Her dream is to become a professional street racer like her mother and leave the life of crime behind her; but when a copycat murders her bosses using her methods, Aviere’s forced to work for her hated nemesis for protection.

This single action begins her journey into finding answers into her loved one’s disappearances while trying to balance her family life, her dreams, aspirations and keeping her enemies at bay—including her new partners, Keith Travis and Shawn Peters.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
In this series, I have two main characters, because their stories tie close together.

Aviere Mye’s special because she’s a catgirl with a genetic mutation and no hope of a cure, yet continuously struggles to live life to the fullest. Her plate’s pretty full, considering she’s constantly a target for everyone she encounters. But she’s managed so much in a short span of time, despite the hardships she and her family endure, such as perfecting her craft, pulling people together and accepting everyone despite their racial and cultural differences.

Oh, and her night job – racing the streets for money so she can make expensive medicine for herself and others in need.

She becomes the “unofficial” leader in her three-man cell, comprising of a mage, a shifter and a human – three factions constantly at war within Baltimore City (or Charm City, if you prefer).

Keith Travis became a main character by accident, because he was Aviere’s antagonist. He still is, but it depends on the situation. As someone working on the opposite side of the law, his boss forces him with Aviere for protection, but his experiences with shifters remains jaded after a series of bad events. Because he’s the mage in this situation, he’s required to balance the use of his powers with the skills from his job in law enforcement.

I think the reason he’s special is because he offsets everything Aviere’s cast aside as she became cold and reckless. He’s the type of person who’s willing to accept changes as necessary and finds that she becomes a beacon of hope in his dark-infested world. Over time, he shifts from wanting to use her to helping her – despite history repeating itself at the last book. Just as Aviere forces Travis to hone on his weaknesses he fears and to embrace his strengths, he does the same for her. It takes a special person to allow someone to fall and constantly pull them up, allowing them to draw strength when they have none left to give and learn from their mistakes.

The two share a bond laced with tragedy and turned it into something important – one where romantic bonds aren’t necessary. Good stories don’t need romance to draw readers in and make them care about their blight. With the loss of their spouses comes the need to survive, and that’s what I wanted to show. Character development is important, not just romance at the first man who passes, even if the protagonist and antagonist hate their guts.

To read more about Aviere Mye and her talents, please reference the Duel to the Death post Andy made on his website.

 

What’s more important: characters or plot?
I find the best stories contain both of these elements. A perfect story contains these in an equal balance. Without one, there cannot be an epic story.

If you have too much characterization, you may risk info dumping a backstory and readers will grow bored. If you have too much plot, the reader can’t get to know the characters for themselves or associate with them. Sure, you can have a plot driven book, but I’m reading it because I CARE about the characters, not to just see the plot end. A good book will have you emotional and attached to the characters at the end of the story, leaving you with either satisfaction or demanding more.

So in essence, my goal is to achieve this balance and have readers enjoy my work, which is why my answer remains as such.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Since this was a first book, I have quite a few things I surprised myself with. I’m talking mistakes, because everyone messes up their first book.

I found I write sentences backwards and don’t notice typos that aren’t highlighted. I mean, I replaced shut the door with sh*t so many times, someone joked about it while reading it once. I was mortified, but it’s stuck with me and one reason I decided to hire an editor and proofreader.

I also found that some topics are not worth researching, and others you need specific key words for. Don’t ever look up crotch rocket on Google for motorcycles unless you’re prepared for some racy pictures. True story.

Last, I blew my first cover and it was a flop. Lighting issues made it impossible to read as an ebook cover, so I had to commission someone else to redo the entire thing. Holly Heisey was the best investment I’ve made, and she’s agreed to do the covers for the rest of my series and standalones. I’m impressed with the detailed covers and how she also managed to work in awesome page break illustrations to fit the theme for my series.

We’re also planning to overhaul the cast page sometime next year when she has openings, since she books quickly.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I use a working outline, meaning I write my major plot points (about 2-3 per chapter) and then write the first draft. Sometimes, the actions may not work while others fit like a puzzle. When this happens, I can step back and use what’s working to incorporate more of those elements into those that don’t mesh together.

However, the characters don’t always behave. This depends on if they evolved throughout other chapters or not. I found that my second draft of Drift, several characters started showing themselves more, which means the book will be longer than the first. Some evolutions stay while others go, such as if the humor fits the dynamic or if the action fits that character’s reaction. This might change a chapter or two, but changing stuff works if it moves the story and motivates your readers.

What are you working on right now?
I’m in the process of editing Drift, which is book two. Hopefully I won’t need five drafts this time, but I only anticipate two. I’ve got a deadline to hand this in by January for a March/April release. I learned with Turbulence that rushing editing’s a bad idea, so I’m giving myself more time to perfect this story. I used this for NaNoWriMo instead of my original idea.

In January, I’m planning on drafting Break (book three) while I’m waiting for edits. From there, it’s a matter of picking which standalone novel I want to work on, since I can’t work on just one series of characters for a certain amount of time. Basically, I sprinkle it out a little so I don’t burn myself out.

The standalone I wanted to write for NaNo isn’t ready, because I have to go back five years before the series begins, where a character’s mindset is completely different than portrayed inside The Renegades Saga. Once I’m past Drift, I should be able to write Travis’ story effectively, since it’s a subplot in the second book and the two characters involved are almost opposite personalities verses where they stand in the current universe.

I anticipate a 2017 release for Injustice – just not sure when, because this was the question posed the most by beta readers.

Also, I’d like to release a personalized collection of short stories in an anthology within the universe, because there were some ideas that didn’t make it into the book. Readers love learning information about characters, especially ones they can associate with, so it’s really a treat for them.

For other projects, check out my status page – I’m updating it as projects are completed.

On top of my workload, I’m still continuing to write short story submissions and query around to build up my portfolio. So I’m always busy with a project – there’s never a real day off in my home.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Read, of course. What writer doesn’t like reading? I tend to read paranormal, urban fantasy, sci-fi, fantasy and dark fantasy. I’m also into intellectual stuff, so every once in a while, I read psychological books and self-help.

Drawing’s another. In fact, you can check out my doodles. It’s one way I conceptualize characters.

I found I like cooking, too. Since learning about gluten/dairy intolerance, I’ve learned to make my own food and lost weight doing it. It wasn’t always fun, but it’s a great way to let out anxiety when I’m having a bad day.

I also like gaming. RPGs and hack/slash are my thing, but I hang out on Final Fantasy 14, too. My current guilty pleasure is Hyrule Warriors.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Readers can read some of my stuff on my website, Amazon, and my bio on J Ellington Ashton Presses’ website.

https://www.amazon.com/E.M.-Whittaker/e/B01NABA6X9

 

 

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Book Review: DCs Dead by Michael Fisher

It’s Book Review Wednesday, and I’m going to stray a bit from my usual haunt (fantasy) to head way out into the left field of horror. This isn’t your typical zombie book, but it’s well worth the read.

DC’s Dead

A small cabin in the mountains of Virginia, once a refuge from the hectic rush of city life, may now be the only refuge for life for these self-labeled DC Freaks.

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Not your mama’s Cabin in the Woods.

My Review: 4.5 Stars

A group of six DC locals finds themselves in a zombie apocalypse, but how many of them can survive long enough to reach safety? Is there such a thing? The undead cannot be stopped, cannot be avoided. But zombies are not the only threats to survive!

The fast-paced story will have you on the edge of your seat. Prepare to devour this book in a single sitting—you will not want to put it down!

A zombie horror story that will sink its undead fangs into your imagination!

Here’s a Taste:

The reporter continued to speak for a bit about the fallen soldiers buried in Arlington when the camera picked up some activity near the graves.

The President is due to speak in a few moments.  Wait a minute!  There appears to be some sort of commotion going on down there, some sort of a fight.”   The microphone was picking up the sounds of people screaming while it appeared that the mourners were being attacked.

“Who the fuck would attack a Memorial Day celebration?”  Fish asked, looking confused as he took another drag from his menthol.

“I have no idea,” Bobby said, as he popped the top on yet another Mountain Dew and drank deeply, wiping any stray droplets from his dark goatee with the back of his hand.

The chaos at Arlington continued to escalate, while the reporter was trying to encourage the cameraman to get the best shots possible without putting himself in any danger.  A hero without concern for himself, he was not.  The mic started picking up an arrhythmic slapping sound, like someone beating a tenderloin chop against a sidewalk.

“What is that?  No, it cant be.”

Carl Mackenzie, the reporter, looks around confusedly, a look of denial mixed with absolute horror as realization hit.  Pointing behind the camera, the reporter started visibly shivering.  The cameraman rapidly panned around, focusing the camera and microphone on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  It sounded like the slapping noise was coming from inside the Tomb, the sound of many hands beating on stone.  The camera turned back to the running crowd, zooming in on the details, FCC be damned.

The screen filled with the decomposing features of a large man in a rotten US Marine Corps dress uniform, taking a large bite from a matronly woman’s throat. Bright red arterial blood sprayed across his worm-eaten features.  The camera hit the ground, skidding until it stopped at a skewed angle and pointing at the fleeing cameraman.  He had only gotten a few yards when he was taken down by a group of what appeared to be Green Berets, their ragged dress uniforms hanging from their emaciated frames, the berets staying in place, stitched on by the undertaker.  The Presidential motorcade could be seen speeding off in the distance. The audio switched back to the anchor in the studio.

Let’s see if Bob Thompson at the Kennedy Memorial can shed any more light on the situation.  Bob, what’s going on over at there?”

The picture changed to yet another skewed view, this time of the memorial built to honor the nation’s youngest President who was struck down in his prime.  The screen picked up shuffling figures in uniforms and formal wear alike, slouching along but paying the camera no mind.  A zombie clothed in the dress uniform of the US Air Force stumbled over the uneven stonework around the Eternal Flame at the center of the Memorial.  It fell face first onto the metal gas jet that was the Eternal Flame. The rotting flesh extinguished the fire.

About the Author:

Michael Fisher, Fish to his friends and family, has worn many hats in his long life. He’s done a little of everything, including US Navy Hospital Corpsman, club DJ, security specialist, psychiatric technician, painter, and currently, father, Mason, author and tattooer, not necessarily in that order. He has a love of ugly Hawaian shirts. He also bears a passing resemblance to Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski.

Michael is on staff at J. Ellington Ashton Press as an author, editor and also designs book covers under the name Meister Arthur Dunkel. He is also a member of the Horror Writers Association.

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/DCs-Dead-Michael-Fisher-ebook/dp/B00N738A68/

Read Fish’s thoughts on his website: epicfishtales.com,

Connect with him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MichaelFisherAuthor/

 

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Book Review: Life is a Roller Derby Run by a Sphinx by Allison Hawn

Today I have a real treat for you, a book I found to be ABSOLUTELY hilarious! It’s a collection of real life stories that will have you thinking, “How the hell does so many weird things happen to one person?”

Life is a Roller Derby Run by a Sphinx

Some people refurbish classic cars, others make quaint quilts, and a few still gather together to play Dungeons and Dragons in basements.

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Author Allison Hawn doesn’t have time for these pursuits. Instead, she spends her days dodging every weird, dangerous and surreal happening that the universe can fling in her direction. Follow Allison on her “bizarre magnet” life as she narrowly escapes the clutches of a giant territorial raccoon, barely avoids death by “burrito bomb” and pulls off the chocolate heist of the century. Find a hilarious escape from your reality by stepping into hers.

My Review: 5 Stars

OH MY GOD!! I haven’t laughed this hard since the last time I read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or Terry Pratchett. Who knew non-fiction stories could be so hilarious.

With every new story, I found myself wondering what the author had done in a former life to deserve so much random weirdness around her. I blasted through this entire book in one sitting—and was incredibly sad to reach the end of the collection of stories. SO MUCH FUN!

Here’s a Taste:

Some children are lovely little gifts from heaven. Other kids are more like trials sent to test parents’ perseverance, cunning and ability to get crayon off of a variety of surfaces.

I was more of the latter; I pretended to be a dinosaur during church, thought I was a Power Ranger and World Wrestling Federation wrestler all rolled into one (that poor furniture) and built very elaborate spaceships from everyday items and sometimes essential machine parts.

Not only was I handful, I was a rather clever one. I had learned to read at an early age and by the time I turned four I already had most of the Nancy DrewThe Boxcar Children and The Hardy Boys under my literary belt. Add in the fact that I watched as many episodes of Murder, She Wroteand Matlock as I could find, and I was a regular criminal mastermind in the making. I gobbled up mystery stories faster than the newest Lone Ranger movie bombed and was forgotten.

Of course, with my rambunctious little brain, I began to wonder if I could pull of a caper that not even Nancy Drew or Jessica Fletcher could solve!

I plotted, I planned, I drew schematics, I built models of vaults and banks out of Legos.

Now keep in mind, at four years old you really don’t have to have an exact goal in mind. I wasn’t out to steal the Hope Diamond or ransack a museum for priceless art. I was just plotting crime in general.

My parents, knowing I lacked the income and resources to pull off a liquor store robbery, much less a fantastical heist, weren’t too concerned about my little ‘flights of fancy’ into the heinous world of crime.

I knew that my plans could succeed, as a Brain without a Pinky could, if only I had a goal to focus them on.

Then came the day my mother made her wonderfully delicious peanut-butter-chocolate-chip cookies. These cookies are melt-in-your-mouth good. If we could give these cookies out to every world leader simultaneously, there would be World Peace, because it’s impossible to feel aggressive or angry while eating one.

She baked an entire batch in the afternoon, and I had been granted one cookie. The rest, she informed me, would have to wait until after dinner. I tried to reason with her, dinner was a full two hours away. My pleas went unanswered. I watched sorrowfully as my mom put every remaining cookie into the giant strawberry shaped cookie jar far back on the kitchen counter and wandered off to do something else.

I stood in the kitchen staring daggers at that cookie jar, reveling in how unfair the situation was. I could still smell the cookies, and still had the taste of peanut butter and chocolate in my mouth.

Suddenly, it hit me like a Mac truck hits a sleeping armadillo, this is what I had been scheming for! This was my crime of the century! Well… at least crime of the day… let’s be real here.

I ran back to my room digging through my catapult designs, ideas for a mind-control laser and blueprints of someone else’s house that I had found while playing outside one day. None of it seemed to help my cookie situation.

I snuck back towards the kitchen to do some reconnaissance. Crawling, army-style on my belly, I crept down the hallway, listening intently for any adults. No one was about. I stood up and wandered towards the kitchen counter, realizing that I was far shorter than it was and the cookie jar was all the way back on the counter near the wall.nMy thoughts turned to the kitchen chairs, which could be drug over, but I needed to determine where my mom was first, in case the noise would alert her.

I found my mom in the living room folding clothing. I nonchalantly wandered in, “Hi mom, you don’t have any reason to go to the kitchen anytime soon do you?”

My mother’s eyes narrowed, “Why?”

“No reason,” I said as I darted away, congratulating myself on not making her suspicious at all.

About the Author:

Allison Hawn was born in Idaho and has spent her life obtaining adventures. The daughter of a musician, she was
brought up all over the United States with occasional dalliances into foreign lands. She holds a degree in psychology from Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho, where she also had a weekly humor column with a small time newspaper “The Crusader.” She is also the author of two collections of short, bizarre, humorous stories titled “Life is a
Circus Run by a Platypus” and “Life is a Pirate Ship Run by a Velociraptor.” She currently resides in Spokane, Washington, where she works with the homeless, domestic violence victims, and other disenfranchised populations as a case manager, but calls a myriad of locations home.

Read her thoughts on her website: http://circusplatypus.blogspot.com/

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Life-Roller-Derby-Run-Sphinx-ebook/dp/B01KYZNDHC

Connect on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/platypusringmaster

Tweet at her: https://twitter.com/AllisonHawn

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Book Review: The Prince’s Son by Deborah Jay

It’s Book Review Wednesday, and today I’m going back to my roots with epic fantasy. It’s not a book I expected to enjoy, but one I was glad I kept reading by the time I finished!

The Prince’s Son

Nessa Haddo has been raised to pursue what every young noblewoman needs: a suitable husband. Unfortunately for her, as a younger twin, her prospects are limited. Things start to look up when she lays eyes on the handsome foreign envoy sent to escort her sister to an arranged marriage, but her romantic fantasies quickly entangle her in events beyond her darkest nightmares.

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Compared to his last mission, ex-spy Rustam Chalice’s new assignment sounds simple: wrangle an unwieldy bridal caravan across a mountain range populated by bandits, trolls, werecats, and worse, try to cajole a traumatized princess out of her self-imposed isolation, and arrive on time for the politically sensitive wedding. What could possibly go wrong?

Meanwhile, Lady Risada—the woman who haunts Rustam’s dreams—is struggling to adjust to a normal life. All her carefully honed assassin’s instincts scream warnings of foul play, yet she can find nothing obviously amiss.

And deep in the halls of a mountain clan, an old enemy plucks his victims’ strings with expert malice.

My Review: 4 Stars

This book started out a tad slow for my tastes. It was the classic romance-heavy fantasy story at the beginning: two people pining for their impossible love, a girl envious of her sister’s happily ever after, and romance out the wazoo.

The story picked up at about the 20% mark, and it kept up a steady pace all the way to the end. The characters were well-written and fleshed out, and the book was beautifully free of grammar mistakes, punctuation errors, and typos (a personal pet peeve of mine).

I give it four stars because the story was a bit more focused on the romantic side of things than I’d like. A lot of the characters are defined by their feelings for others, rather than having the romance be a subplot in a larger story.

But overall, it was a well-crafted fantasy tale I’d recommend for any fantasy readers.

Here’s a Taste:

Small tapping sounds drew Risada’s attention back to the stairwell. About two thirds of the way up, the crouched figure was driving something into the wall. Without fully straightening, he moved across to the spindle opposite and wrapped something around it before tugging it taught.

“You promised no one would get hurt!” Bel protested. “If they trip over that they might break their necks!”

“That, my sweet Bel, is the idea.”

Risada’s maid took a step back, and although she faced away from the corner where her employer hid, her horrified comprehension radiated from her stiffened back all the way down to her shaking knees.

“And now, dear Bel, it’s time for your reward.”

Bel turned and fled, straight towards the entrance beside Risada’s hiding place. Risada caught the glint of steel in the assassin’s hand and barely stopping to think, thrust out a foot and tripped the running girl. A hefty dagger whistled through the space where Bel’s torso had been a moment before. Bel squealed and scrabbled along the ground, stumbling to her feet as she vanished around the corner.

Risada peeked around the shoulder of the statue shielding her and her eyes met those of the man on the stair. He shrugged. “Oh well, this wasn’t how it was supposed to happen, but I suppose it will do as well.”

Lowering her estimation of her opponent’s professionalism for wasting time on speech, Risada slipped her small dagger from its concealed sheath beneath her breast, and assessed the situation. Screaming for help would do nothing. As Bel had stated earlier, the guards were all outside at this time of night, and the bedrooms were towards the back of the house, so too far away for anyone to hear. Bel had vanished, but whether she would raise the alarm was doubtful; she would probably think only of herself. Risada’s sole weapon was her small dagger, and she was hardly in peak physical shape for this sort of work.

On the other hand, as she watched the cocky son-of-a-whore swaggering down the staircase towards her, she realised she still possessed an element of surprise. He clearly had no idea she, like him, was a trained assassin.

“Please,” she added a small quaver to her entreaty. “You don’t have to do this.”

“Oh, but I do. My employer would be so put out with me if I didn’t tidy up after myself, and although it would have been neater if you’d just tripped the way you were meant to, at least now I don’t have to leave the outcome to chance. And with any fortune your husband will find my wire instead; that way I get both of you at once.”

The over-long speech was clearly designed to intimidate Risada into staying put while his long strides ate up the tiled floor space between them, and Risada obliged. She had the best cover she could, given the circumstances, and was also between the villain and the large dagger he’d thrown at Bel. Risada was under no illusion that would be his only weapon, but it was probably his favourite.

Keeping the hand clutching her own dagger hidden behind the stone figure, she allowed her eyes to widen, imitating fear. “We can pay you. Twice what your employer offered. Three times!”

The spy shook his head. “This isn’t about money; it’s about honour and revenge. You—”

Mid-sentence, he lunged. Anticipating the tactic, Risada’s reactions carried her around the statue and out of range of the stiletto that spiked the air where she’d stood.

Still not realising his mistake, her adversary wagged his head and tutted. “If you hold still, I’ll make it quick.” He slithered a foot smoothly in her direction, shifting his weight with such subtlety his movements were almost imperceptible. “I—”

Making the fatal error of repeating his pattern, Risada sidestepped his lunge with ease, despite her compromised balance. In fact, in the thrill of the moment, she barely noticed her cumbersome bulk, her muscles reacting with the smooth skill of years of training, adjusting her posture as though she simply stood on uneven ground.

Her erstwhile foe crashed to one knee before keeling over to slide down the front of the stone statue, leaving a gory trail in his wake. His fingers fumbled with the tiny jewelled hilt sticking out of his ribcage, the blade sheathed with precision between the fourth and fifth rib with its tip penetrating his heart. He had the good grace to laugh, tiny red flecks bubbling at the corners of his mouth. “Always knew over-confidence would get me in the end. Who would have thought you, of all people, would be a player? He coughed, scarlet spittle staining his skin. “Goddess, you’re fast enough to be Dart. But you can’t…”

A dawning look of comprehension crossed his face even as his eyes began to glaze.

Risada said nothing to confirm his guess; she didn’t need to.

About the Author:

Deborah Jay writes fast-paced fantasy adventures featuring quirky characters and multi-layered plots – just what she likes to read.

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Living mostly on the UK South coast, she has already invested in her ultimate retirement plan – a farmhouse in the majestic, mystery-filled Scottish Highlands where she retreats to write when she can find time. Her taste for the good things in life is kept in check by the expense of keeping too many dressage horses, and her complete inability to cook.

Jay’s debut novel, epic fantasy THE PRINCE’S MAN, won a UK Arts Board award, and was an Amazon Hot 100 New Release. THE PRINCE’S SON is second in the series, but can be read as a standalone story.

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M1NKYVB

Read her thoughts on her website: http://deborahjayauthor.com/

Tweet at her: https://twitter.com/DeborahJay2

Stalk her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DeborahJay

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