Friday, June 29, 2012

BlackThorn, DeWayne M Kunkel

Today I am reviewing BlackThorn  by DeWayne M. Kunkel.  It is book one in a series, Chronicles of the Dark Sword. 

The tale begins with fifteen year old Cassius's village being attacked and overrun by raiders.  He is taken captive, with the intent he will be sold as a slave. Now held captive at sea, and tormented by Grel'g, the leader of his captors, the journey begins to go awry; the weather takes a terrible turn and Cassius escapes just as he is about to be sacrificed to apease the sea gods; wounding Grel'g in the process.  He seeks safety in the home of Carl and Winowa, who nurse him back to health and help him get to safety, with their nephew,Gayn; a scribe.

It turns out Grel'g's raiders were not randomly pillaging and plundering - they were eliminating a percieved threat for the evil enchanter Vool, who is less than pleased to discover one young boy has escaped. Telling him that he may have brought about the very thing Vool sought to avert, Grel'g is set back on the hunt for Cassius. B'jorn, Grel'g's overlord fears Vool and fear's Vool's Master even more; realizing he has doomed his people to a dark fate by casting his lot with Vool.

Cassius grows to manhood in the shop of Gayn the scribe, learning to love the craft. After 2 years, a job opportunity comes up that Gayn cannot fulfil as his wife is with child, but Cassius is more than willing to undertake it.  He travels by caravan, journeying to the far city of Elkrum. One night they are joined by a traveling minstrel who tells them there is trouble stirring in the north.  Once he arrives in Elkrum and delivers the contract, he is once again confronted by Grel'g. This time the confrontation is averted by the intervention of one Connell Malkor, known as the Eagle of Kesh.

Evil is afoot; ensnaring Cassius, and Connell.  Eventually they meet Marcos; a man who is much more than a man. He needs a swordsman, and wishes to hire Connell. Marcos is seeking a talisman which was lost in antiquity. As if things hadn't been interesting enough at to this point, things really become involved.  Magic, myth and legend are now entwined in Cassius and Connell's fate. The Evil of antiquity, Sur'kar stirs once again, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance.

This book is well plotted, and the characters are fully fleshed - the reader sees what they see and feels what they feel.  Cassius's adventures are both terrifying and engrossing.  Kunkel has written a true classic in this tale. The one complaint I have is it is definitely not a stand-alone book. Still,  I couldn't wait to get the second installment in the series! And as the author has priced the Kindle editions at .99 it is easy to afford them!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Back From Chaos; Yvonne Hertzberger

Back From Chaos by Yvonne Hertzberger combines fantasy and romance into a compelling novel of politics, intrigue and human nature.   The harmonic balance of nature has been disrupted; a seer see the imbalance and seeks to find the solution. The earth will suffer until men and women find some way to live and work together in harmony and understanding. Certain people are key to the outcome, if the balance is to be righted.

At the outset, war is raging - An arrogant king's decisions have brought calamity on his country. He and his armies are slaughtered, and those he sought to conquer have taken his cities and his castle. Of his family, only his daughter Marja survives. Desperate to bring peace to her country, she agrees to wed the man who has conquered her land, Prince Galen.  What begins as a wary alliance becomes a love match, and the tale shifts to Galen's right-hand man, Klast. 

A spy and assassin who dislikes killing, Klast keeps this secret side of his life well out of the public eye. He is known as a courtier and is admired everyone. Klast is a man of high moral code and personal honor. However, Klast's childhood has left him with deep scars which may never heal.

An incident occurs during which Klast rescues Marja's dearest friend and confidant, Brensa, from certain death, although he does not find her soon enough to prevent her being brutally gang-raped.  He deals with the rapists, and the story that unfolds between Klast and Brensa is both touching and beautiful.

The political intrigue which Galen, Marja and Klast must navigate is fraught with danger. There are enemies close to Galen, and Klast must discover them and eliminate the threat. 

I began reading this book on a rainy Sunday morning, and I was unable to put it down, finishing it just in time to dine on the pot-pies my poor husband had to cook for our dinner if he wanted to eat! I highly recommend this book.  It is SO much more than simply a fantasy novel, or a romance.  This is a gripping story of human nature and the effect we have on the world around us.

Definitely a 5-star novel!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Ring of Lost Souls, Rachel Tsoumbakos

In 'The Ring of Lost Souls' by Aussie author Rachel Tsoumbakos, we are asked to consider, 'What if Fairy Tales were real?"  Well, I think you know reading that line in the book-blurb intrigued me from the get-go!  And joy of all joys - this book more than met my high expectations! The story is set in the real location of Larundel Asylum but that is where the reality ends. I warn you, there is more of horror than of fairies in this tale. But then, true fairies never were the way Disney portrays them until only the last century, so maybe there is a great deal of Faerie.  They were thought to be capricious and cruel, and certainly not good to be involved with!

Long ago a human beautiful woman Eithne became involved with Finnbheara, the King of the Fairies. Unfortunately, Finn was married to Una, who took exception to the whole thing. Eithne was also a witch, and she made a magic potion which was to keep Una asleep for  100 years, but which had only worked for a season. Somehow the magic potion linked Eithne and Una, and gave Una a conscience, which turned out to be bad for Finn.

When Eithne discovered that Finn was also the King of the Dead and sacrificed humans on Halloween, she had been disgusted, but still she hung on to him. Eithne is forced by circumstances to marry a human King, Amairgin. He conspires with Una to force Eithne to magically banish Finnbheara from Ireland to 'the ends of the earth, a place not yet discovered or conquered'. This act has the unforeseen consequence of binding the four of them for eternity, in a complex cycle of rebirth.

The 'ends of the earth' turns out to be Australia. Living in Melbourne, Isobel is recently divorced and has also recently lost her job. She takes up running as a hobby, and frequently finds herself passing by the ruins of an abandoned mental asylum, Larundel. One day she finds a simple gold wedding band on the grounds, and puts it on.   Strange events begin happening, some things which call Isobel's sanity into question.

A ghostly 'bird-lady' named Maisy, urges her to 'kill them all'.  When Isobel asks who she should kill, Maisy replies 'the lost souls.' Things go downhill from there.

This tale winds though modern pop-culture and the events of her past-lives which involve Larundel. Isobel struggles to to discover who Maisy was and what ties them together. All the while she is struggling with this mystery, Finn and Maisy watch her, as ghostly entities.

Friends do not always have her best interests in mind, and what she has always believed of herself is proven to be a myth.

This story has more twists and turns than a country road. Just when you think you know what is going on, you find you were off track. The ending is unexpected and I highly recommend this tale to everyone who likes a good paranormal fantasy.

I enjoyed Rachel Tsoumbakos' first book, Emeline and the Mutants, an off-beat take on vampires, zombies and the cure for HIV. Both books are available for Kindle at

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Dark Lover, J.R. Ward

Dark Lover by J.R. Ward

Quite honestly, if I had not been able to get this for the Kindle, I would never have read it, simply because the cover is so embarassingly romance-novel-like and I would never have picked it up. Dark Lover can only be described as an urban fantasy, although it is also listed as paranormal-romance. I very rarely read romance novels, as usually they don’t interest me. However, I had a friend who had read this and LOVED it, so I thought why not take a little trip to the darkside and check out a romance novel. I am very glad I did. This is NOT your Mama's Romance Novel! This is about big, bad vampires and the completely separate society that they exist to protect. I warn you now; there is a great deal of profanity and some graphic sexual content in this novel.

The story begins in a nightclub. Darius, a vampire and high-ranking member of the ‘Black Dagger Brotherhood’ asks a personal favor of Wrath, his leader and King. Darius wants his friend to help his unacknowledged half-human daughter, Beth, through the transition that all vampires go through at the age of 25. Wrath and indeed ALL of the Brothers has a bad attitude, being somewhat xenophobic, and refuses Darius’ request. Wrath is the only pure-blooded vampire left in the world, and Darius believes that if his daughter drinks Wrath’s blood during her transition, she will survive it and then he will be able to acknowledge her.

Unfortunately, Darius is killed in a car-bomb explosion as he leaves the nightclub. Wrath then makes the decision to find Darius’s daughter and honor his friend’s last request. Wrath is an interesting character. He refuses to acknowledge his birthright and rule the vampires as king for personal reasons. He is also known as ‘the Blind King’ as he is blind, but one would never know that upon meeting him. Ward describes him as having a ‘cruel mouth’, and his appearance inspires terror in all who see him. All of the Brotherhood are big, well over 6’5” and skilled in the martial arts.

Vampires were created by the ‘Scribe Virgin’, and The Brotherhood exists to fight the strange once-human cult that preys on them, ‘The Lessening Society’. Lessers are the dregs of human society, always men, who have been altered by ‘the Omega’ and are used to hunt vampires. They are somewhat dead, no longer sexually capable, and smell like baby-powder. Lessers are also formidable enemies of the vampire society, and they are responsible for the death of Darius. In Ward’s world, vampires do not drink human blood; they drink the blood of other vampires.

Their society is very rigidly constructed, and the rituals of their religion are central to it. Worship of the Scribe Virgin who takes a personal interest in their lives is the underpinning of their culture. She represents their God, and The Omega represents their Evil.

The battles that the Brotherhood fight against the Lessers are graphic and not for the weak of stomach. The equally important battles between Wrath and his Brothers as they try to convince him to rule their society as he was born to are really well done, and the characters of the Brotherhood themselves are quite clearly drawn. Each male is an individual, with demons of his own to fight.

The story of Wrath and Beth sucked me in and refused to let me go. If you are looking for a big, broad adventure with a certain amount of adult content this is the book for you!