Category Archives: Fantasy Reviews

Book Review: Hounded, by Kevin Hearne

Title: Hounded

Series: The Iron Druid Chronicles (Book 1)

Author: Kevin Hearne

Publisher: Random House LLC

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

I’m pretty stingy on my five star ratings. Five stars means you wowed me; you expanded beyond the genre and gave me something I’ll want to read again. This book did both those things, and what’s even cooler is that the author perfectly captured the city of Tempe, Arizona where I grew up.

Hearne did a great job integrating things, including Arizona locations and culture, Celtic legends and lore, and even some Indian mythos in the mix. Atticus was something of an eternal college kid, but the humor in the writing was so infectious, I pretty much just embraced it. His Irish wolfhound was hysterical with his fascination with Genghis Khan and poodles, and the entire Celtic pantheon were a hoot. I particularly liked “the Morrigan,” the sexy goddess of death.

The action was fast-paced, as was the dialogue and overall style of the book. This is urban fantasy at it’s finest, with an immediate threat and a lot of finagling with supernatural entities in order to survive. A touch of romance, a good heaping of humor, and lots of monster blood. What made this book different was the druidic aspect, as well as the setting.

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A couple annoucements: Free downloads for review!

I have two announcements today. First, from now until April 25, you can sign up at Story Cartel for a FREE download of my YA fantasy novel Journey To Landaran in exchange of an honest review. I’m trying to garner more reviews for Amazon which will open up more doors to promote the book. The link is here:  http://storycartel.com/books/journey-to-landaran

And second, I’ve entered the book into the Indie Excellence Awards!  Here’s hoping it does well.

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Review on Midwest Book Reviews

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Yay, a “real” review by a journal and not a blog!

I wish they had a better organizational system on their website, but you can check out the review by eBook Senior Reviewer Diane Donovan here:  (Scroll down; it’s the thirteenth one on the page.) http://www.midwestbookreview.com/mbw/apr_14.htm#donovan . Since the book was young adult, it also made the Midwest Book Review children’s fiction newsletter as well: http://www.midwestbookreview.com/cbw/apr_14.htm#donovan (sixth one down on that page.)

And because it’s a pain to scroll, here it is in its entirety.

Journey To Landaran
Judy Goodwin
Diamond Print Press
1480 W Page Ave, Gilbert, AZ 85233
eBook: ISBN-13: 9781310098789
Print: ISBN-13: 9780615917474
eBook: $3.99, Trade paperback: $14.99, 321 pages
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/journey-to-landaran-judy-goodwin/1118827756?ean=978061 5917474
http://www.amazon.com/Journey-Landaran-Book-Spirit-Volume/dp/061591747X/

Journey To Landaran is Book One of the ‘Spirit Mage Saga’, and is young adult fantasy at its best, presenting a map and an old (230-year) woman who holds onto a fading hope that a seven-times granddaughter living an isolated rural life will give birth to the last generation with the Life Talent that has condemned Korva to be one of the last Great Protectors of her era.

Her desires for peace are about to be answered as she makes the discovery that, indeed, Arlene is about to give birth to not one but two Talents: forces that will change the world.

Tavish and Aidah manage to successfully grow up in a small village with no evidence of their strange abilities: but that peaceful time is about to come to a close as they began to manifest Talents of their own. It’s obvious that Tavish is a Firestarter, but Aidah fears she’s also developing her own Talent … a force that will both compliment and supersede her brother’s formidable powers.

Time for a journey and a mission: one that could not only change the world, but lead nations to war (after all, with the ability to read minds, travel through dreams, and possess bodies, the sky’s the limit.)

Or so it seems to twins who face danger at every turn, struggling with undeveloped powers and their evolution and the designs and schemes of those who would harness such for their own goals.
Mature young adults will find this no simple saga: it’s permeated with the hearts and minds of some who are good and some who are evil.

A swirl of secrets revolve around their efforts, challenging both to new perspectives and to setting aside personal comfort for the greater good: “Brenton didn’t need to know any of this. He was burdened enough with the care of them, and his thoughts were bleak….If he knew what Rangwar was doing to his niece right under his protection, it would devastate him. She couldn’t do that to him. And Tavish – well, he’d shoot flames if he knew, and run off to defend her honor. And Derg – he’d probably die of shame like he always said he’d do if he failed in his role as guardian. She didn’t really know what he’d do, but it would be to harm himself, of that she was certain. He always kept things inside. Just like her.”

From deaths that need avenging to inner struggles to find courage against all odds, Journey To Landaran is as much about the hunt for personal bravery as it is about handling outside forces, spreading darkness, and strange new powers. The focus is on Aidah, in particular, and her growth and perspectives fuels an already-volatile story of powerful twins who go out into the world to seek their destiny.

As the two become immersed in events that preclude war, Journey To Landaran also is about developing social and political savvy in a changing world – and while its conclusion is open-ended, suffice it to say that great changes take place between the story’s opening and its conclusion.

Keep in mind this is Book 1: as such, look for more great things as Aidah and her brother find their talents affecting a world-changing battle.

–Diane Donovan, senior eBook reviewer, MBR

Review: Luck in the Shadows, Lynn Flewelling

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Book: Luck in the Shadows (Book 1 of The Nightrunner Series)

Author: Lynn Flewelling

Publisher: Random House

Genre: Fantasy

I found this an enjoyable read. It’s basically in the genre of thieves (my favorite in this category is Robin Hobb) and it takes a little bit to start to get a good world view. There’s a lot of politics going on and I didn’t feel a solid grasp of things, but one gets the sense of the humans only vs. more open-minded factions. The adventure carried me along well, and I particularly liked Alec, the young apprentice thief/spy.  Nysander is also interesting as the wise old wizard mentor.

The magic system seems interesting, mostly in that each person has an animal form innate to them. The shape-shifting provided some amusing moments in the book, as well as some insights. There’s a large theme of changing appearances–almost every main character undergoes a change in appearance at least once in the book. This goes along with the whole spy thing, but it makes me wonder if there is a deeper meaning.

There are also some interesting foreshadowing elements, particularly concerning the master thief, Seregil, and his apprentice Alec. Father, brother, lover–it will be interesting to see how they move through the different types of relationships that are not blood but more roles. (Back to that roles/appearance thing again.)

I’m curious to see where this goes next–I read it thanks to a ton of recommendations. It didn’t wow me, but I couldn’t really find any fault with the plot. As I said, I think I’m still getting to know the characters.  I give this a basic 4 out of 5 for that.

Author Interview: Elle Jacklee

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I know I usually post my author interviews on Thursdays, but that’s the day I’m starting my new job. I have no idea if I’ll time to post anything then, so I’ll go ahead and offer this week’s feature early. Meet Elle Jacklee, who has written a middle grade/YA fantasy. It’s getting some pretty good reviews over at Goodreads! Check her out here: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6547901.Elle_Jacklee

1.  What first drew you to writing?

When I was seven years old and having a lot of fun reading, I decided that I wanted to write stories in the hopes that people might enjoy them as much as I enjoyed other people’s stories. That’s still my goal today.

2.  I understand you’ve written a middle grade YA novel. What drew you to this particular age group?

That’s the age that I was when I began reading the books that had the biggest impact on me. I think that the transition to middle grade/YA books, which are typically more complex, more mature, and (hopefully!) even a little more intriguing than the kinds of books kids in that age range had been reading previously, can be an exciting step. If a child of that age hasn’t already fallen in love with reading, it’s that genre of books that might spark that passion. If my stories can do that for someone, that spells success for me.

3.  How challenging is it to write for a younger audience?  Do you employ any strategies?

I don’t consciously employ any strategies. I actually am quite comfortable writing for this age range. My target audience is at that fun place, somewhere between being still young enough to really be able to throw themselves into a story that is whimsical and fantastical, yet old enough to appreciate plot twists that can puzzle and surprise. It’s really the best of two worlds!

4.  Tell me about the book.

The Tree of Mindala centers around Miranda Moon, an almost-twelve-year old girl whose vivid imagination has a way of getting her into trouble. She embarks (unexpectedly!) on an adventure with her straight-laced, pessimistic younger brother, Marcus. They arrive in Wunderwood, a place where magic flows through the trees and somehow, everyone already knows their family name. Coincidentally, an evil warlock, Thornton Crow, has just been freed from a long banishment, and resumes his agenda to find The Tree of Mindala, the source of all the magic in the realm, and seize it for his own. Miranda and Marcus discover branches of their own family tree that they hadn’t even known existed. And that Thornton has a score to settle with anyone in their bloodline. Especially them.

When Miranda discovers just how Thornton came to be freed from his prison, she realizes its up to her to stop him. She must decide if she can carry out the task that will either save Wunderwood or doom it forever.

5.  Who is your favorite writer, and why? If I have to pick one, then it has to be C.S. Lewis. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was my favorite book when I was a middle grader myself (and is still on my short list today). I fell in love with his Narnia and all the characters who resided there. But there are so many other writers that I love equally nowadays, like Jeff Wheeler, Lindsay Buroker, and J.K. Rowling to name a tiny fraction. They all have an amazing talent for creating new, vivid worlds that provide the escape I’m looking for when I pick up a book.

6.  You and I share a similar theme in our novels–magic flowing directly from nature. How did you come up with this magical system, and is there a message behind it?

I’ve always been a lover of the outdoors and I find nature really fascinating and magical in a very real way. It’s nature’s tendency to maintain a delicate balance along with my belief in the connection that we all have to nature that comprise the underlying theme of The Tree of Mindala.

7.  What was the hardest part about publishing your book?

After much careful consideration, I chose to self-publish, which was relatively easy. The hard part is the marketing! I think it’s safe to say that most writers would rather be writing 😉

8.  Tell me about your next project.

I am currently working on the next book in the Wunderwood series, The Triad of the Tree. It picks up about a year after the end of the first book. Events during Miranda’s and Marcus’ first trip to Wunderwood have compromised the health of The Tree of Mindala to the point that it cannot be saved. A new Tree must be planted before the original Tree dies, or else, not only magic, but people will die with it. By ancient decree, only the Triad, a group chosen by magical means, can open the box that contains the seeds which must be planted. The problem is the Triad has been broken. Restoring it will be much easier said than done. And time is running out…

Book Review: The Gauntlet Thrown by Cheryl Dyson and Xina Marie Uhl

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Book: The Gauntlet Thrown (Book 1 of the Gauntlet Trilogy)

Authors: Cheryl Dyson and Xina Marie Uhl

Publisher: XC Publishing

Year: 2012

I found this free, and apparently it still is available free as a way to promote the series, a practice that I’m not sure is that great an idea. That being said, I found this an enjoyable read in a pretty straightforward sword and sorcery milieu. The book also had quite a few humorous moments, and in general this is a light-hearted book suitable for young adults and up.

The book starts with a classic Enemy Mine scenario: Brydon captures Toryn as the man tries to ambush and kill him. As Brydon is on an important quest to earn the hand of his land’s princess, he decides to take his enemy with him. Thus starts a grand adventure.

I had a few nitpicks with the story–it seems like every female that Brydon and Toryn meet are attracted to them, which I found rather unrealistic and a little silly after a while. However the plot itself is engaging, and the world is very well done, with different alliances and politics for each country. This is one of those “simple quest becomes very complicated very quickly” stories, and each new twist kept me interested. By the end I was a little concerned about the size of the cast. I think the next book’s danger will be falling into Robert Jordon’s trap of a cast that is too large and complicated. It would also be nice to see some relationships solidify beyond the Brydon/Toryn bromance.

All in all I thought this was a decent read, well worth a look. I think the writers should charge something more than free for it, but that’s just me. Free works when it’s an incentive to read something to get into a series, but I think far too many people don’t even read the free novels they download, whereas if they paid for it, they’re more likely to take the time to read it.

Book Review: The Goddess’s Choice

Book:  The Goddess’s Choice

Author: Jamie Marchant

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Reliquary Press

Rating:  5 stars

I don’t give five stars lightly, but I really felt this book deserved this rating. I understand it’s a retelling of a fairy tale, but I wasn’t familiar with the original tale. You don’t need to be familiar with that to enjoy this book. It’s a classic fantasy in every sense of the word with a brave hero, a daring and confident princess, a depraved villain, and magic horses. Who doesn’t like magic horses?!

Robrek makes the long journey from poor peasant boy to the knight trying to save a kingdom. While I enjoyed his journey, what made this book particularly good was the other journey, the journey of a princess who must do everything in her power to save her kingdom and the people she loves. Samantha has the unenviable role of trying to solve mysterious murders, deal with a king who has gone mad, and find for herself a suitable consort in order to take the throne. There is enough intrigue to keep things interesting, and of course a love story as well.

I received a copy of this book before it was published but it took me a while to read it. I see that it seems to be doing pretty well, and I want to add that while this book was either small press or indie press published, the editing is smooth, and the writer knows what she’s doing. This is absolutely of the same quality as any large press book.

I look forward to seeing what else Ms. Jamie Marchant has in store.