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Diviner’s Fate

“Diviner’s Fate” (The Diviner’s Trilogy, Book Three) by Nicolette Andrews

Published on… TBD
Published as… Epic/Historical Fantasy

About the Book

The man Maea loved is gone. Johai has been possessed both body and soul by the specter. The newly possessed Johai has not wasted time as Maea discovers through the link they seem to share. Johai is plotting with the Biski to start war against the kingdoms. In order to prevent the coming war, Maea goes south to the wilds where the Biski tribes reign in order to search out the Oracle, the only person who seems to know how to help Maea perfect her powers.

The prophecy has awoken and the prophesized day is fast approaching. Everything Maea has learned in her journey will guide her to the final meeting between Johai and herself. The age old battle between the diviners and the specter will end with her. Only one may live. Is Maea ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for love?

The Diviner’s Trilogy

Buy the First Book of the Trilogy For Free at Amazon or Barnes & Noble

About the Author

Nicolette Andrews Author Photo
Nicolette Andrews lives in beautiful Southern California with her husband and two daughters. She is the author of the Diviner’s Trilogy and other works of fantasy. She’s been know to often escape into world of fantasy and has happily been playing make-believe her entire life. When she is not writing, she enjoys gardening, spending time with her family and numerous outdoor activities, including hiking and camping.

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Nicolette Andrews is Visiting! [Tour Stop]

Duchess

“Duchess” by Nicolette Andrews

Published on… 10 May 2014
Published as… Fantasy (Epic & Historical)

Nicolette Andrews’ Quote Art

Nicolette Andrews' Quote Art

About the Book

When Damara, the Duchess of Florett, received a missive from the palace, she knew it could only mean one thing. Her husband was dead. She had prepared herself for this moment ever since he marched off to war. Following the news of her husband’s death, she comes face to face with her husband’s sister, the Queen. She has come to Damara with a request from beyond the grave. Writ on the aging vellum her husband left her instructions and a confession. He was not as he seemed. He was the king’s spy and he died to keep the king’s secrets. In his final letter to Damara, he asks her to find his killer and take his place as a palace spy. Only Damara can unravel the clues her husband left behind in order to find his killer and bring them to justice.

Buy the Book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes or Smashwords

About the Author

Nicolette Andrews Author Photo

About the Author

Nicolette Andrews lives in beautiful Southern California with her husband and two daughters. She is the author of the Diviner’s Trilogy and other works of fantasy. She’s been know to often escape into world of fantasy and has happily been playing make-believe her entire life. When she is not writing, she enjoys gardening, spending time with her family and numerous outdoor activities, including hiking and camping.

~* Website * Twitter * Facebook * Goodreads * Pinterest *~

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Review: “Game of Souls” by Terry C. Simpson

“Game of Souls” by Terry C. Simpson

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 28 February 2013

DescriptionYour soul is your magic. The nobility will stop at nothing to steal it.

Keedar Giorin still remembers the night when soldiers killed his mother. The Night of Blades. He was three, but the memories are written in his mind in blood, flames, scales, and his mother’s mad cackles.

Assigned by his father to save two young noblemen or risk a repeat of the massacre on his home in the Smear, Kasandar’s most lawless district, Keedar dives headlong into the mission. He uses his most secret skill, a magic that could bring the King’s Blades hunting him, a magic that could be a death sentence if reported to the wrong ears.

But even that risk is part of his father’s calculated plan. A plot to determine who was behind his mother’s death, while securing a new ally for their guild, and seeing their people rise from squalor and oppression to strive for the identity and power they have all but forgotten.

Plans, however, do not always follow the path drawn out. What will Keedar do when a count takes interest in his magic? Where will he run to when the hunt begins? Can a young man now growing into his power find a way to defeat the most ruthless of assassins?

Review: I found this to be a very good book, hamstrung by issues that could’ve been avoided by some good beta readers and an editor with a eye for streamlining and smoothing prose. I know that many reviewers rate lower for poor editing, but I don’t, when it’s a matter of proof reading–spelling and grammar. This wasn’t the case here, however. I will elaborate as I go.

First off, the prologue was very good. I found it to flow well and be very gripping. And the opening of the first chapter was also great. This is a good writer with a wonderful grasp on imagery. Later on in the story, the post-auction scenes were succinct but powerfully chilling.

The magic system (and its racial relevance) and religion created in this fantasy world was also fascinating, and well presented. Our author did not just “info dump” the whole thing on us, but spaced it out so we could learn it gradually. I really appreciate that in books.

The characters were, on the whole, good. They were interesting and engaging, and our younger characters showed a lot of growth through the story, which given what they were subjected to, was necessary and realistic. While the more focused and obsessed, older and set-in-their-ways-and-goals characters, obviously didn’t do as much growing. But that was okay.

There were many intriguing elements introduced in this world, things that I really enjoyed. It dragged a touch here or there, but over all, it was a very engaging read. If these had been everything to it, it would have been an easy 5.

Unfortunately, there were a lot of places where the prose was very rough. It’s not grammatical inaccurate, but it does not flow smoothly. There are areas that it’s awkwardly phrased and arranged, or is repetitive. Repeating words or facts too much makes you feel like you’re stuttering while reading, and that pulls you out of your experience.

The other issue I had–and why I mentioned beta readers–is that I stumbled over a few places that felt like continuity issues. One seemed to be a character being one age in one chapter and then suddenly two years older two chapters along, when two years had not passed in the story. At least not that we were told. There were a few other things, but continuity in such matters is important to me. I don’t like having to flip back to make sure I didn’t misunderstand something.

Given the above issues, however, I can’t call this a 5. But it is a solid 4 Fireballs and I would recommend it to readers who enjoy high fantasy.

4 Fireballs

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Review: “Guiamo” by Marshall Best

“Guiamo” by Marshall Best

Available from: Smashwords
Released on: 14 December 2012

Description: Guiamo Durmius Stolo, an exceptionally gifted young Roman boy, is abandoned in Gaul in 60 B.C. Recognized by the gods as having world changing talents, he is given a weapon that directs his destiny forever. First of nine in the epic The Chronicles of Guiamo Durmius Stolo series.

Combining legitimate legends with actual historical events, Marshall Best weaves an epic story that portrays the ancient world as it might have been, a world which the ancient historians recorded as fact; a time when gods ruled the earth and strange creatures dominated the land. It is the era of civilized conquerors exploring distant and primitive new lands. Scant recordings left to us today only touch on the fringe of the fantastic and brutal reality that existed in those distant lands of the west. Into this age, young Guiamo enters the world stage as the great game-changer, and by his hand the gods and beasts become destined to disappear into myth and legend.

Review: There is a very delicate line when writing historical fiction to balance between the historical and the fiction; too much of the latter and it can feel unrealistic to the time and events it’s portraying, yet too much of the former and it feels like a thin veil of a story to cover a history text book.

In the case of this book, it felt like the author was trying to write in the styles of both ancient saga–where things are Told, in depth characterization is not required, and achievements are what’s shown–and modern storytelling, yet in trying to be both, it failed to convincingly be either.

I felt like the beginning was primarily Tell, which I don’t enjoy in modern fiction unless it’s very engaging. This wasn’t. What we saw had small glimmers of good character–like Guiamo is honest and hardworking–but is mostly focused on skills he’s learning, like a systemic skill-up for what he’ll need later in this book and series. But without emotional attachment, I don’t really care what happens to the character.

The primary thing that is supposed to show how “extraordinary” he is, is how hard he works to feed his dog. I guess for some that’s enough, but to me, it wasn’t. It was “of course he fed his dog,” rather than “look how great he is.” And then when the dog is quickly set aside later on, it makes it look less like a real attachment and more like a device. (Although he is brought back later, it still feels like device.)

All authors have to use devices and conveniently convenient things, but you have to hide them, because when they’re obvious, they remove the reader from the experience.

About a third of the way through and we’re seeing more Show and more glimmers of character, but it’s still somewhat bloodless and not enough. The dialog often comes across as clunky and heavy-handed. (Perhaps trying to sound natural to the time period, but it doesn’t come across smoothly.) And our characters, including Guiamo, read somewhat two-dimensional. Like more was spent on historical realism than character realism.

Ultimately, Guiamo proves a somewhat inactive narrator. He’s pulled along by events, and never rebels and rarely questions what he’s doing or being told to do or when he’s told about what his “extraordinary” fate will be. Here in, I think, lies one of it’s biggest battles between ancient saga and modern story.

One of Guiamo’s big character facets is that he’s very bright and is an inventor, but it’s overused. There were literally scenes where I stopped reading and thought, “Did he invite fire and the wheel too?” Or he’d be the only person to come up with an often simple idea that made everyone else figuratively smack their heads and say, “Brilliant!” This is okay in small doses, but not when it happens as often as it did in this book.

Yet, there were some things I liked about the story. I liked what good character traits there were to Guiamo, he just lacked balanced flaws. The anthropomorphizing of the spear was cool, and I did like the dog angle, when it was presented. I liked the druid stuff, too. And there were some sweet moments towards the end.

The prose was technically competent and I do have some minor curiosity about what will come of the saga, but I don’t see myself reading the second book. This book clearly wasn’t for me, but obviously works well for others. Once again, I’m the salmon swimming upstream, but it just didn’t hit the notes I wanted. So, I give this 2.5 Fireballs.

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Review: “Bakkian Chronicles, Book III – Amulet of Aria” by Jeffrey M. Poole

Bakkian Chronicles, Book III – Amulet of Aria by Jeffrey M. Poole. I purchased this on my own. You can get your own copy at Amazon.

Description: Realizing they can no longer keep the future king safe, bodyguards Steve and Sarah escort the Lentarian prince, Mikal, back to his home world to not only determine the best course of action, but also to verify the king and queen haven’t become targets themselves.

In Mikal’s home world, dragon raids are on the rise. The dwarves are preparing to go to war, and the evil sorcereress has managed to reach across time and space to attack Mikal on his protector’s home world. Their only hope to save Mikal from Celestia and her minions lies with the recovery of a piece of an ancient talisman believed lost centuries ago. Having the ability to enhance the holder’s jhorun, namely their magical talent, to unheard of levels, the amulet pieces must be found before they fall into the wrong hands.

But are they too late? Don’t miss the exciting final chapter in the Bakkian Chronicles!

Review: This review is going to sound rather reminiscent of the past reviews for the first two Bakkian books, which isn’t a bad thing. It means that Poole maintained consistency through his trilogy, and that’s a plus. Again remembering the nature of the tale, I went into it with the right mindset and was not disappointed. It’s another breezy fantastical jaunt with familiar places and characters.

Again, as I’ve said before, the adults (at least the Earth ones) reading more like teenagers or college kids than their actual ages (though I guess that’s subjective to each person) is a little odd, but they’re very likable characters. So I get over that. Plus we get little happy glimpses into these old friends and the epilogue was a nice touch. I also noted that one of my complaints from book one (Steve not seeming to be as realistically impacted by dramatic events as he should be) was noted in this book by way of referencing that he was strongly affected. I don’t claim at all that I think it was my review that prompted it, but simply that I liked seeing it.

My only complaints this time were a few moments of “why didn’t s/he just use their power to do [fill in obstacle that was kept as-is rather than magically gotten out of thus making it feel a little plot-contrivance-y]”, and the ending battle seemed to lack a little something for me. I don’t know what, precisely, but the little something that would make it really feel like the final battle of a trilogy… And admittedly, the light-heart of the book (as evidenced in some semi-adolescent moments mid-battle) made it hard to take the Big Fight as seriously as one might otherwise, but these are minor gripes.

Despite these little things, this was a solid conclusion to a solid fantasy trilogy. It’s reminiscence to Xanth–which stood out to me even more this time around–is said as a tribute to the author, since I am such a long time Xanth fan. (Even the fan submissions at the end strongly smacked of Mr. Anthony and I thought that was awesome.) So anyone looking for that light, fun romp through a fantasy world should definitely check out Lentari.

It’s another strong 4 Fireballs for this third installment.

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Review: “Dreams of Azenaria” by Conrad W. Acosta III

Dreams of Azenaria by Conrad W. Acosta III. I purchased this on my own from Amazon.

Description: * You must find your way to Azenaria – Pray that you never do *

Once a wonder of the world, the great city of Azenaria now stands blackened and dead. Her streets, once paved with gold, are now filled with the wreckage of crumbling buildings and the invading armies of nature.

Deep beneath the ruin and decay, lies an ancient power that threatens the destruction of an ancient race known as O’orn. Only the three Ritchell men can decide the fate of the O’orn, but it will take three generations for the fight to be decided.

A full refund will be given to anyone trapped in Azenaria after the sun goes down, unless you are captured by the Chumra.

Dreams Of Azenaria, Book I of the epic fantasy ‘Azenaria’.

* You will get lost in Azenaria – Pray you can find your way out *

Review: This is one of those reviews that is going to be tricky to rate properly, because I have conflicting opinions. I liked the story, but the execution of said story fell a little short for me.

The story itself was very intriguing. I really liked how Acosta wove through the three timelines. I liked the mysteries presented, and when we got to the “future” story line, I really liked where it went towards the end (on the mountain). The use of memories and dreams as guiding factors was also interesting. While I didn’t find the character as fully fleshed out/three dimensional as they should’ve been, they were still good enough to make you root and hope for them; carry you through the story.

That being said, I had some trouble getting through the story. I found the writing to be overly drawn out. I love the quote from The West Wing, “Anyone in my family who uses five words when they could have used ten just isn’t trying hard enough.” But not as much when it comes to writing fiction. Too many words bogs down your story, and inflated prose tends to be a turn-off for me. Admittedly, I’m of a more succinct style, but these reviews are my opinions, after all.

With the events that do happen, this book could have lost–in my opinion–1/4 to 1/3 of its excess wording, including passive language when active would have been better, repeating things that we had already been told multiple times, and inflated words just  for the sake having words…this book would have flowed a lot better and been an easier read. It felt, to me, like a book that was trying too hard to be “epic.”

It also balanced oddly between intriguing mystery and things (like explanations and revelations) being too simplistic/too easily done.

All that being said, I found it an interesting story. I’m not sure if it’s enough to carry me to the next book, but it may be. As ever, it might just be me, but I have to go with 3 Fireballs on this one. I give the story 4, but the execution brought it down for me.

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Review: “Journey to Altmortis” by Thaddeus White

Journey to Altmortis by Thaddeus White. I purchased this on my own from Amazon.

Description: Never steal from a thief.

Years ago the Brothers Whitworth stole priceless heirlooms from Thaddeus and Lynette Falchester, but when the siblings learn of their whereabouts the hunt is on. The Whitworths have broken into the dead city of Altmortis, rumoured to hold the ancient treasures of the Kuhrland.

Accompanied by assorted ne’er-do-wells, they brave the harsh Kuhrisch winter, a forest dripping with blood and a village of monstrous demons to reach the remote city.

But when Thaddeus and Lynette delve into the depths of Altmortis they find more than robbers lurking in the shadows…

Review: I read this book because I read White’s first book, Bane of Souls, and I enjoyed it. This one is set in the same world and refers to events and characters from the first story, but is not precisely a sequel because it’s not picking up where that left off. It follows different characters off on their own plot, but I was told by the author that this book would have more of the Kuhrisch. Since I really liked that race of folk, I knew I wanted to read this one.

On the whole, this book was good and I did enjoy it.

There is kind of a meandering quality to the plot, which is interesting to read. It didn’t really, to me, feel like it was building any sense of urgency and some things happened that didn’t seem to have any real point in terms of the story arcs, but it never wandered in a way that was uninteresting. White is a very competent writer and he pulls you along fairly effortlessly through the story, from point to point, even when you pause at times and say… Was there a point?

I recall feeling this way during certain sections of Bane of Souls, but in Journey to Altmortis I found it consistent throughout, making it feel a part of the story telling rather than uneven pacing.

Interestingly, in the light of Thaddeus and Lynette being the “main” characters, I found this a book that is built on the foundation of the secondaries. In truth, I found the brother and sister–while having their interesting points–to be kind of bloodless characters. Him more so than her, she had some life to her at times, but generally speaking they just did things and moved the plot but I never felt very engaged by them.

The secondaries, however, were great. I loved Fritigern and Anja–two Kuhrisch, big freakin’ surprise–and I thought Pretty Pierre turned out to be quite an interesting character, while Roger was…well, we’ll be nice and call him very colorful.

When we discover the Big Bad in the city of Altmortis, I was initially almost a little disappointed…having expected something “more,” I guess, but as I read on, the concept grew on me and I thought where White went with it was pretty cool. In general, the whole ending moved at a nice clip and with some interesting stuff, and I did particularly like the very end. But I’m a little twisted that way.

So, I can’t really rave about it, cause I did have my small issues with it, but it’s a solid story carried along in a good narrative voice. This one gets another solid 4 Fireball rating, and I believe I’ll keep on reading White’s work.

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Review: “Bane of Souls” by Thaddeus White

Bane of Souls by Thaddeus White. I received this story free in exchange for an honest review. You can purchase your own copy at Smashwords.

Description: The trade festival of Mascezad is normally a time of plenty for Horst and his trader uncle, but when they visit Highford Horst finds himself conscripted by the city’s mages. Unable to return to his own people and abandoned by his uncle, his fortunes go from bad to worse when he discovers that the city is being terrorised by a spate of murders, and the killer has a particular taste for dead mages…

Review: I almost was turned off from the story because there were so many terms and names and history just dumped into the first few pages that my eyes crossed a little trying to keep track of it. Fortunately, it started moving better after that and I was able to move along with it.

Over all, I liked the world building. There were points when there was too much information and other times when things weren’t fully explained that I would have liked to have seen. I really liked the Kuhrisch. If there’s a big, barbarian brute of a person or race, I’m all about it. So, I like the Kuhrisch and Horst and Rufus. A lot.

(Like, I’m SO all about the Northmen in Joe Abercrombie’s stuff. The Kuhrisch felt similar but not identical, and I liked that.)

The mix of familiar real life stuff — the use of French terms and German names, for example — is interesting, as well as the mixing of the mage magic, like fantasy and paranormal together. The mage combat was fun to read and I liked how they had balancing weakness, like how tired they are after “shifting” animal forms.

This book was interesting to read for me. It moves well enough and I enjoyed it, generally speaking, and curiosity compelled me, but I didn’t feel a lot of tension for most of it; not till the end. Horst was kind of just pulled along till the very end and I would have liked to have seen him take control more, but where we went with Francis was a surprise and interesting.

The story was interesting, though I found it was overwritten in some areas and in others it kind of dragged and wandered. There was an almost pointless feeling to a lot of it, things happening that I wasn’t sure why or didn’t fully grasp how it all tied in (except maybe sequel fodder) and yet even so, I did enjoy it. I didn’t really mind and it never made my eyes cross trying to finish it.

Singular points I really enjoyed: the Kuhrisch, the tree, the snow bear, White has a very amusing way of writing about dogs, and I liked the concept of the Dames and their counter-point nature to the golems.

I hear tell from the author that the next book will have a lot of focus on the Kuhrisch, so I will definitely be checking that out. For this one? 4 Fireballs.

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Review: “Primae Noctis” by Aimery Thomas

Primae Noctis by Aimery Thomas. I received this book free in exchange for an honest review. You can purchase your own copy at Amazon.

Description: Humanity had passed far beyond any reasonable expectation of redemption. The dark veil of fear and night would descend upon every person on Earth.

A frightful, new age had begun.

It was the first night of humanity, now known as the Calamity: a time of global crisis that led to the deaths of more than 99% of the world’s 13.6 billion inhabitants.

Sixty years later, and with the guidance of the Archonae, the survivors live in an idyllic society of secure and protected cities designed to elevate humanity to its full potential and prevent the problems of the past from recurring.

However, not everyone is content with life in the new utopia.

Primae Noctis follows a diverse cast of characters through an expansive, future world:

Nan Allegra is a political historian with outspoken views. She is in pursuit of a mystery that no one else seems to care about, but could be of critical importance to the future.

Archon Devlin is responsible for the Recovery, a global programme to recycle the remains of the former cities of Earth into useful, raw materials. He is deeply concerned with the future direction of humanity.

Jones is a man who doesn’t remember his first name or his past, but hopes to change the future. His mission is to assemble a group of citizens in the world’s second-largest city to aid him on his quest.

Reginald Mullen is a Knight charged with protecting the citizens from the dangers of the Wilderness. He finds strength in ensuring a secure future for the citizens of his city.

Franklin Murakami is an administrator and designer at the largest nanotech production facility in the world. His designs help to shape the future.

Sylvie Mathieu is an AIC administrator in Republica. She has never engaged in an intimate relationship with anyone, and only cares about the future of her daughter, Leila.

Henry Roston is an engineer who lives a carefree existence and spends his leisure time in the Entertainment District of the city. For him, the future is the present.

Primae Noctis is the first in a trilogy of high-concept, science fiction novels filled with action, intrigue, and suspense.

With a tasteful modicum of violence, sexuality, history, and philosophy, Primae Noctis was written for the adult, hard science fiction audience by author, Aimery Thomas.

Review: This is going to be a really difficult review to write, because I’m kind of conflicted in what I thought about this book. To give you an idea of how many thoughts I’ll be wrangling, I should explain how it works. As I read, I take notes — usually stream of consciousness stuff and first reactions — on my iPhone. I then email said notes to myself, put it into a document and try to turn it into a review.

Primae Noctis is epic length, over 650 pages in its print version. I have four Word pages worth of notes to condense.

Admittedly, the majority of them never see the review. They are reactionary, unpolished, and often relate to spoilers. Still, I have to make sense of the melee to write a decent review. And since I had a lot of thoughts about this book, it’s a lot of melee! I need a sword and shield just to survive it, I think…

…but I digress.

I think I generally liked it, but still found it a little hard to read. Thomas is a very exacting writer, which is okay, but for my tastes, it makes the writing kind of dense. I had been concerned about the “hard” science fiction angle, but the tech/science wasn’t a problem. It was mostly that everything world-building related seems to be described in detail, down to clothing and food. Thomas reminds me of a sci-fi Robert Jordan. That works very well for a lot of people, but I apparently am a little hyper when reading. I tend to want to keep up a quicker pace.

And when the writing is too exact, it can make you feel disconnected from the story and characters, it’s harder to feel what they feel and can give the prose an almost bloodless quality at points. It’s a delicate line and the writing in Primae Noctis tended to straddle the fence for much of the beginning.

I felt like the story dragged through much of the first 40% (roughly 250 pages). The first several chapters don’t seem to see many things happening, but just introduce you to the characters. Which is fine, we need to know them, but I like to see more plot at the same time. I would rather more plot and less world building details. But again, this could just be me.

There was a real feel hearkening back to the cinematic days of “Logan’s Run” and its like, which I think was part of my problem: everything seemed to be written out like describing a movie visual with every detail. I prefer things a little fuzzier, so I can make my own pictures.

Semi-related to the “hearkening feel,” the book had a strange quality of sliding between originality and stereotype. I found the world building and technology to be very precise and intriguing, even if I didn’t feel like I needed to see as much as I did. I liked the cohort marriage idea, though I worried that the book would end up demonizing the idea as being part of the “bad” society, but that didn’t happen. (Hopefully it won’t in the next book.) There were elements of the story — such as the history of the Calamity and the connections of the Anarchon’s early comrades, along with a few other things — that stood out and I liked.

Yet on the other side, a lot of the book didn’t feel very new or ground breaking in the genre. Which is fine, few books truly do and no story can be truly original, but with a book of such heft, I guess my expectations got a little high.

Sometimes it felt like character development was sacrificed for world building: emotional reactions in scenes went from A to C without time on B. Like, person A says something that person B reacts hugely to, when what A said wasn’t yet that big a deal You want to see more emotional build up before B hits the ceiling. To understand it and feel it yourself. Such as the Reveal talk between Jones and Nan. I would have liked to have seen more foreshadowing in Nan before she accepts it so easily.

And sometimes there were large events that caused interpersonal schisms, but we only returned to those characters when things were good again. We didn’t see the changing and the healing, even if we saw the breaking.

Despite the slow start, around 40% there is a Major Event, and things really do start picking up after that. While what I said above about sacrificing a bit of a character and a little too much world building remains true, it wasn’t as pronounced. Emotional reactions we saw started making sense.

In fact, it almost felt like I was reading two different books. In the first half, I didn’t really like how many of the female characters were portrayed, but that improved in the second half. The prose felt a little bloodless in the first half, but that improved in the second. None of the characters really “grabbed” me in the first half, but they did in the second… etc., etc.,

I did like a lot of elements of the story. By the end, I was very much keeping my fingers crossed for the cohort, and I liked Jones and Prospero a lot. I ended up liking Reg and Alysha and Ito, too. I thought the Major Event around 40% was well done, if naturally harsh, and I thought Ito’s Big Scene towards the end was very well done.

So, here’s where I’m conflicted. If I would review/rate this book based on the first half, I probably wouldn’t like it. Just on the second, I would… but since I usually judge a book more by how it ends than by how it starts, I’m going with I liked it. Although I struggled early on, I did get into it in that latter half and I want to know what happens next enough that I’ll probably get the next book.

I think I gotta give this one 3.5 Fireballs.

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Review: “The Apples of Avalon” by Eden Harding

The Apples of Avalon by Eden Harding. I received this free from the author in exchange for an honest review. You can find your own copy at Amazon.

Description: Mankind has lived in ignorance long enough.

Nothing much changes on Avalon Farm. Jack Reeve nurses his pain, grows apples and makes hard cider, unaware his quiet life is about to be torn apart.

All Jack wants is time to rebuild his life following the loss of his wife. He is learning to ignore the strange sensations that assault him and which he doesn’t understand.

When Sara Goodwin turns up he knows he should send her away, but the young woman sparks something inside Jack he believes had died years before and he offers her a job. He has no idea Sara is on a mission, and that her mission is Jack.

While Sara watches Jack others watch Sara. Older, colder beings who have existed alongside man for millennia, always staying in the shadows, biding their time. Now they believe their time has finally come.

The world is changing and the couple become an unknowing focus for the forces of change. When on Halloween night those forces show their hand Jack and Sara know nothing can continue as it has. To survive Jack must fully accept who he is and embrace the abilities he has long fought to suppress. The adversaries arrayed against the small group on Avalon Farm are powerful, and soon Jack is no longer able to tell friend from foe.

And then, of course, there are the Jamaicans. And everyone has underestimated the Jamaicans.

Review: Jeez, a few more reviews like this and no one will ever want me to review their work again. I really hate doing it and I know that most reviewers don’t even post reviews if it’s under three stars. In this case, it is my hope that as a fellow writer as well as reviewer, some of what I say might be able to help and thus even at a lower rating, I will be posting.

That being said…

This book started out well for me. It jumped right into things, introduced characters right off. For the first four chapters, I liked it a lot and found it flowed well. I liked Jack, and Sara, and the Jamaicans rocked it pretty hard. There was a strange deficiency of commas in sentences where a comma really was needed, but aside from that, I was enjoying it.

(There’s this t-shirt that reads: “Let’s eat grandma. Let’s eat, grandma. Grammar saves lives.” Those were the kinds of sentences that needed the commas.)

Anyways… unfortunately, about a quarter of the way through, we started hitting bumps. By the end of the story, I felt like I’d been a beta reader rather than a reviewer. The book, to me, could have used a few more beta readers and structural editors. There were inconsistencies, jarring errors (word swaps that confused entire sentences), and a terrible habit of repeating itself.

You don’t need to beat a reader over the head by telling them the same things multiple times. Unfortunately, I found this book doing that a lot.

I also found it very inconsistent. There were big build-ups to scenes, “We need to talk” and “I want answers” where a couple questions were asked, vague answers given, and then they moved on. It was conversational dancing that at first made sense, but then felt like a plot device to draw things out. Jack wavered from stalwartly wanting to know things in one scene and waffling in the next. I could only handle Sara’s inner thoughts versus her actions so many times, too.

There were several chapters in points of views that I found unneeded, where nothing new was given to story or characters. In some cases, it was just more repetition. For example, the chapters from Owen and Gage. I also found Delane’s unnecessary, even though I liked him, and even Sharp’s ended up feeling mostly useless.

What bothers me about this sort of thing is it feels like a ploy to add length to a story. I felt like this story would’ve been tighter and cleaner if it had been much shorter, given more tension and impact.

The point of view changes and repetition could really pull you out of the story and ruin any tension being built. Especially when there’d be big build up and then drop off, such as a dramatic fight scene that would end and then be followed by day-to-day scenes and little apparent effect on the characters, at least not as much as you’d expect. It was hard to see more attention paid to describing Alaine’s body than to Jack’s reaction to his “dark encounter” while learning his powers.

Sadly, by the climax sequence, I found myself not sympathizing as much with Jack or Sara. Both felt too inconsistent, waving between overreacting to some things and underreacting to others, and despite the power they were supposed to have, often didn’t seem that bright. The events of the climax itself felt illogical in some places, although I can’t say exactly where without spoilers, but it felt like things done for drama’s sake rather than because they really made the most sense in the story.

The ending of the second to last chapter should have been given more treatment in the final chapter, which felt kind of like an afterthought to the story. As I know it’s the first book in a trilogy, at least some big events that we don’t see much of make sense since we’ll see more of them later, but I still think more should’ve been done in that last chapter, especially with two characters that were supposed to be very important but were left out entirely as to what happened to them. (Two I liked very much, so this bothered me.)

There were a couple specific inconsistencies that made me tilt my head and go, “Huh?” Like saying that Helen had her first child young, but if she was in Jack’s class, she’d be about 42 and thus had her fifteen year old when she was 27. I don’t know any corner of the world that’s considered brow-raising young. And I think — though I’m too lazy to go back and check — that Owen’s wife was named Pattie the first time she was mentioned, but then later she’s Megan, and Gage’s wife is Patti.

After reading all of this, I’m sure you’re wondering if there was anything that I did like, and the truth is that there was.

I liked the over-all idea of the story and concepts of the characters. I think it has a lot of potential. Some of the scenes were fun and while some of the magic elements I thought were a little over-the-top (I’m a magical minimalist), I still liked it. There was also a “twist” later in the story that I dug on, and the idea of the “big” twist (relating to Jack) was good, though not given enough space, I thought.

And I loved the Jamaicans, but there wasn’t enough seen of them! They rocked, and Grammy showed some mad skills, but we didn’t get to see nearly enough about them and they didn’t get enough credit. Some of the illogic of the climax dealt with them, and I was kind of annoyed about that.

And I didn’t like how they were continuously referenced as “amoral” when they didn’t really show any serious lack of morals. In fact, they were more loyal, honest and hard working than any of them. Some of the guys slept with some housewives that threw themselves at them? Personally, I say “amoral” is a harsh word to throw on that. And that was really it, unless you’re that against pot.

So, alas, I find myself in the sad position of having to give this 2 Fireballs. And I feel just awful about it. Ultimately, maybe these are all just my issues and what annoyed me wouldn’t annoy someone else. I always grant that. There are plenty of books out there getting raves that I don’t like at all, so there’s that. This is just my ever so humble opinion, put out there with the hope it’ll help.

I don’t know if I’ll be reading the next book, but I am curious so I may.

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