The White Raven, by Carrie D. Miller

The White Raven - Ebook - 1000

stars-5-0._CB192240867_

 

The White Raven gave me literal chills. Not just once or twice, either. Several times.

 

How many more lives must Aven live through? She’s on lucky number thirteen now. So lucky, in fact, that she settled in modern-day Salem, touting witchcraft freely. A fitting location for the mysteries of Aven’s past lives to haunt her. And everything was off to a great start, too.

 

I could honestly go on about this plot for days, it was that good. The thematic continuity was crafted so well. Not only did the author tackle good versus evil in an excellent way, they tried their hand at karma, too. The subject of karma comes up several times throughout the novel. The way it’s foreshadowed is brilliant. Key events and characters are placed at a point that the reader keeps them in the back of their mind. When the reveal happens, the message is pretty powerful.

 

Witchcraft has so many different renditions in the literary world. I loved the simplicity of magic in this novel. While it’s used often, it never feels like the characters are overpowered. It serves important purpose to the plot, so spells aren’t flashy or showy. The author took their time to make sure they did things right by modern witches, and it shows. The setting gave things a very traditional witchcraft aesthetic. However, modern Wicca makes a giant push for territory. The aesthetic really makes a difference in the tone of the novel. The way it’s written is almost a spell in and of itself. It draws the reader in so far that they lose sight of their own surroundings.

 

Characters came crafted with an expert hand. They had incredible depth. The cast also featured a number of women. The author turned the tables on many common tropes. The women were the stars of the novel, and I loved it. They were the ones in control. This time, it was a guy’s turn to be there as the love interest. I enjoyed the progression and the construction of the romantic subplot, something I don’t say too often.

 

And the ending. Oh, the ending. It was so deliciously evil. I hate it and I love it so much. The most brilliant way to guarantee readership for follow-ups, if there are any.

 

I don’t think I name one thing I dislike about this novel. I enjoyed everything about it–another rarity. This series is now on my watch list, and so is the author.

 

Buy it here!

Advertisements

Assassin: The Killing Grounds, by Simon Corn

6_16_17 Killing Grounds

stars-3-0._CB192240710_

 

Becoming an assassin on the Killing Grounds isn’t easy. It’s merciless. Not just the training. Everything is a competition to be the best. Alara’s come to train with the best. Except–oops. The best goes missing.

 

The author did a wonderful job with the presentation of the Assassin’s Guild. In many ways, it felt different than traditional portrayal. While many stories tend to put emphasis on the importance of the Guild, lots of them fail to elevate that fact. Not so much this Guild. It serves many important purposes. They range from a setting, to a character itself.

 

There’s a few different story lines present. They’re unique to the characters, even though they’re intertwined. All of them are necessary to the plot and serve to push it forward. Alara, I’m very pleased to announce, managed to be female lead without an actual love story. She was fairly well-written, too. The fact that powerful women had positions of power, without being one extreme stereotype or another was awesome.

 

Action scenes weren’t bad. They weren’t wordy and flowy. Nor were they super-technical and dry. A nice medium existed between the two. Character motions and actions did get a little repetitive on occasion. I liked the way the character development played out, for the most part. There were times I felt things were a little too on the easy side for Alara. The ending certainly wasn’t what I was expecting. I liked the twists, but one of them came out of left field. A little foreshadowing would have helped the build-up and make the resolution a little cleaner.

 

Killing Grounds did a lot right in terms of story, development, and characters. There’s some polishing needed regarding the more technical aspects. Paragraphs felt clumped together weird and too long in certain areas. A lot of information came with those paragraphs, so breaking them up would make things easier to read. Sentences, especially towards the end, felt much the same as the paragraphs. The closer it got to the end, the more rushed things felt. There’s a lot happening at once, and some of it feels like chaos.

 

Sequels and follow-ups for the characters are in the works. I’m kind of excited for that. Even the supporting characters were interesting enough that I want to read their personal stories. Whether or not they follow the main plot of Killing Grounds remains to be seen. This has serious potential to be an excellent series.

 

Buy it here!

Savage Swords, by Viel Nast 



Conan the Barbarian indeed. Savage Swords is a parallel that draws from the comics. 
As Gonan leads an expedition through the dangerous jungle, they find out precisely how dangerous. 
It’s got lots of action and it’s not as sexual as I figured it would be. There’s an alpha male theme to be sure, but it’s not a domineering one. There’s not a lot of dialogue, so most of the tone comes through narration. The reader feels like a jungle observer watching from afar. The writing style is drawn-out and kind of flowery, in a way that oozes machismo. For the most part, it suits the narrative. 
It was a quick read, designed to set up their own, custom world. Perhaps the serial will surprise readers with a unique take on an older series. 
Buy it here!

The Rashade’, by R. Tran

Mara is the only woman allowed in the League, a fighters guild for men only. She’s dedicated her life to tracking down the man that killed her father. Good news! She’s finally on his trail!

 
Things started slow. About halfway through they pick up and the story itself gets real good.

 
What stood out to me about the novel was the world building. As the reader progressed with Mara, they get introduced to two very distinct cultures. Complete opposites, at that. Mara goes from a male-dominated society to a female-dominated one. What surprised me the most was that both of those cultures were at peace with each other. Transitioning between the two takes some crafty deception. Despite that, there’s a general feeling of mutual respect.

 
I liked the characters and, for the most part, their characterization. Given the constraints of the society created, the women were well-written. They didn’t exactly conform to stereotypes, and that sold me.

 
There were some things I had difficulty with. Like the frequency of the marriages without knowing a person, but still throwing ‘love’ around. I tried to take them with the cultures of societies present, which made things a little easier. I almost want to say that part of the reason is because things jumped around a lot and so time felt a little distorted. It did serve to further the internal conflict of both the plot and character development. So, there was that. And I can say that I enjoyed the main romantic subplot.

 
A lot of the story gets told through dialogue. It gets awkward and clunky real easy. Since there was so much, it seemed forced sometimes. Don’t get me wrong–I’m a huge fan of the story construction. There was enough conflict to go around, both internal and external. All the characters got their turn in the spotlight. There wasn’t one specific character that needed saving. There wasn’t one character to do all the saving. Learning curves for fighting and interactions were appropriate, and the development was noticeable.

 
The reader gets to learn about the characters and world little by little instead of getting told everything all at once. And most of the characters get their fair share. Description lacked in some areas. The narrative broke up in weird ways.

 
I did like this novel, even if there is editing needed. It doesn’t feel as polished as it should. Even with that, though, the story is one that will gradually suck the reader in and keep them.

 
Buy it here!

Blessedly Bound, by Lucretia Stanhope



A witchy tale of how to not meet family. Gwen Hensley moves to Kansas to find out why her grandmother died. She ends up finding out more than she bargained for, in more than one way.
Being the first novel in a series, it sets up an awful lot for later. Things start intense, then settle down the farther into the narrative the reader gets. Because it spends so much time setting up for the future, there’s a little less time devoted to the present. The reader gets a good grasp of the characters and backstory. However, things feel a little flat. An emotional connection with the characters wasn’t present. On the surface, the reader recognizes that the situation is a tragic one. The style and tone help that. There’s a dark, somber feel to it. The characters even have a dark, somber feel to them. Only, they get overshadowed by the divergent plot lines.
Each of the characters did have their own plot line. Their stories wound up intertwined, yet distinct. I liked that. There was lots of foreshadowing that created a good level of tension. The writing style overall was well suited to the narrative. The dialogue does get clunky in some areas.. It doesn’t flow like natural conversation. It did well to prevent telling the reader too much information at once. Gwen knows only as much as the reader, which helped to develop the mystery and the character interactions.
The unique situations of the character were a huge draw. There’s not a lot I can say without giving spoilers, but the sexual tension was insane. Most of the placement was good. Some of the progression left me scratching my head. Some of it could be the lacking character depth and back story.
I liked the way the magic was set up. A lot of times it’s overpowered and used as a convenience. The magic contained in this novel didn’t feel like that. It falls back on a popular trope, but maintains a different feel than most. I will admit I’m excited to see how the build-up comes to a head.
Not a bad read overall. The narrative is set up for big things to come, and I’m kind of excited to see where it goes. While the main story for this novel gets tied up at the end, there’s so many questions left for the future ones.
Buy it here!

A Saving Stone, by Mark Marks

5_29_17 Saving Stone

stars-3-0._CB192240710_

A child’s ability to see the future used for good. A court of lovely, friendly people. A bit of political intrigue. A Saving Stone has the elements of a good story.
 
This one’s a bit of a diamond in the rough. On the one hand, I liked the plot. On the other, the writing style was not suited for the narrative.
 
I adored the characters. Both their personalities and their interactions. Since the narrative focuses on royalty, I expected things to be dry and stuffy between people. They were all so lovely. Don’t get me wrong–there were conflicts. All the characters didn’t get along 24/7. What they did was recognize mistakes, and learned from them. From there the reader sees their character development. While some might find it boring, I enjoyed it beyond belief. There were plenty of other plot elements to keep the story interesting. Not all the characters had to be conspiring anti-heroes. It was nice to see something different.
 
I like how the author lulled the reader into a false sense of security midway through the book. There’s a definitive pace change between the build-up and the climax. After some of the things Arden had to endure, I expected a different ending. Not that I’m complaining about that; books that break stereotypes always get me. Like how the women were treated with respect. Their male counterparts weren’t looking to usurp or belittle them. Things were fun and flirty, but never disrespectful or creepy.
 
There were quite a few things I liked about this book. That being said, however…
 
The writing needs some help. The style fluctuates between adult-sounding and childlike. Sometimes it’s in the wrong spot. Interaction dialogue gets awkward. Narration jumps forward in odd spots, sometimes without warning. It does a whole lot more telling than showing. The entire narrative is almost exclusively written that way. It builds up to some great moments and then sort of falls flat because of the way it’s written.
 
I like the way the plot got executed. The writing for it needs some help. Despite that, characterization continues to keep hold of the reader. There are, of course, ways in which that could expanded as well, but it was a highlight of the novel. I was a big fan of the ending, and I didn’t really have many questions left. I would love to re-read a polished version of this novel.
Buy it here!

The Shadow Above the Flames, by Daniel Swenson

5_26_17 Shadow Above the Flames

4 stars

Released on June 6th, 2017!

A dragon and a modern setting walked into a bar. Now Henry, ex-military and his brothers’ shadow, has to extract Rick from said bar. And by bar, I mean Ireland. That’s almost the same thing, right?

 

In some ways, Shadow Above the Flames felt like a retelling of the Hobbit. Except there was a small military group instead of dwarves. A data core instead of the Arkenstone. No kingly madness, but the brothers overcame differences that had them distanced.

 

I liked the fact that the author got creative with the modern setting. Mutated squirrels, lizards, and other animals caused problems for the intrepid heroes. Besides the dragon, that is. It managed to separate the novel from common fantasy stereotypes. They were still there, just presented in a way that they didn’t feel overused. The setting also served to offer some great solutions to the conflicts. Plot devices were well thought out. They allowed for unique situations. I liked how the story itself progressed. Things occurred in a logical manner, and at the right time. Not too fast or too slow. There was quite a bit of action, which served to make the story feel fast-paced. Everything served a distinct purpose to further the plot.

 

Dialogue and narration were a little awkward and clunky in some areas. That, in turn, made character interactions a bit forced and unnatural sometimes. Narration and dialogue also had the same tone on occasion. While it was universal, changing the tone could have enhanced reader experience. Description favored telling rather than showing. It doesn’t have the whimsical voice that a lot of fantasy novels have. Which, given the setting, worked out in its favor for the most part. The reader still gets a very good vision of what’s going on.

 

Henry and Rick, as characters, felt fleshed out. They’re noticeably different at the end than at the beginning. It felt like a little less attention got paid to the minor characters. That didn’t do a whole lot to detract from the story itself, though. As a whole, they were all good.

 

I did have one or two questions left at the end. There was a pretty awesome epilogue, so if we’re lucky, there might be future installments? It sets things up to get a whole lot more dangerous. I’d love to see where it manages to go, and what kind of world the author is creating.

Question for Authors

There’s a local convention coming up at the end of July. They do a sci-if/fantasy book exchange. I was thinking that if authors were interested in donating a physical copy of their novel, I would enter it in said book exchange. Signed copy, possibly? 

There’s a limit of three, however. The decision would be made by random drawing of those that signed up? 

Of course I’d leave a note with both mine and the authors information asking the reader to provide their thoughts via review and/or social media. 

Anyone interested in contributing? 

Pnaramakhia, by Flavio Verna Santonocito

5_22_17 Pnaramakhia

stars-5-0._CB192240867_

Fusion of steampunk and fantasy is neat. Not only does it cater to unique landscapes, but new story devices, as well. Use of magic takes on so many new possibilities. Pnaramakhia utilizes all the above.

 

The author went down to the nitty-gritty and created a whole new landscape from the ground up. Because of that, there’s a lot of information the reader needs. Instead of spelling it all out at once, it’s peppered all throughout the novel. It’ll take a second to adjust to the linguistics of a new culture. It’s like getting dropped into a country you only know some of the language for. The beginning felt a little clunky because of that. After that, it was pretty smooth sailing. There’s still a lot to learn, but it gets much easier.

 

Two siblings are on a mission to kill an ancient beast. There are some…complications along the way. They’re separated, and that’s when the novel branches into the many different storylines.

 

Now, the best part: the entire novel. The story blew me away in ways I can’t even describe. From what I’ve heard about Game of Thrones, this is so much better. There’s so many overlapping story-arcs that all blend seamlessly with one another. Political subterfuge, mystery, the undead…each served to bulk up the main narrative. It’s long, but the way everything is set up, it’s perfect. The author manages to pull the wool over the readers’ eyes for the majority of the novel. The answers to things are never so simple. The sequence of succeeding events wound up crafted in such an exquisite way.

 

The characters were great. Every interaction is a performance to marvel at. The writing style complimented it in all the right ways. It didn’t have the long, drawn-out, fantastical tone of traditional fantasy novels. Still, there was plenty of wonderment to go around, as description doesn’t lack. The environment came to life right along with the characters. A great amount of detail and thought went into constructing this new society, and it shows. The same goes for the characters. Dialogue flows right. It changes tone between characters. Perspective changes are smooth and easy. The list of things I could compare this to for references keeps growing.

 

This was one of the most satisfying novels I’ve read in a while. It was my first foray into steampunk fantasy and it set the bar awful high.

 

This is a must-read.

 

Buy it here!

 

A Merchant in Oria, by David Wiley

5_21_17 Merchant in Oria

stars-5-0._CB192240867_

Poor little Firion. All he wanted to do was establish himself in the markets of Oria. Once he gets there, he winds up embroiled in something of a mystery. And the receiving end of a fist.

 

This was a cute little novella. In such a short amount of time, the author manages to convey enough information that the world doesn’t feel flat. To be perfectly honest, the way it was set up made it read like a side quest in Skyrim. That helped with envisioning the setting. There was some interesting character development to be had. Some of it ended up entangled in the romantic subplot, but that honestly made it better.

 

I liked the steady progression of things. Characters felt alive and well. Description wasn’t exactly lacking, but it wasn’t heavy. It was a weird equilibrium where the reader can fill in the blanks. The writing style changed according to what was happening. It was long and fantastical for exposition. Short and sweet for everything else. Dialogue didn’t feel clunky.

 

A quick and easy fantasy read. It was cute, funny, and tied things up at the end. Characters and story were both engaging. It was a well-written, fairly original storyline.

 

 

Buy it here!