Friday, February 28, 2014

The Realmsic Conquest

One of the most unique indie books I have recently read is the The Realmsic Conquest, written by indie author A. Demethius Jackson. This is most definitely a book no major publisher would touch, because it is completely written in prose, committing that most heinous of crimes loudly decried in any modern writing group—that of telling the story. Not only does he tell and not show, he does it in rhyme, four stanzas to a paragraph, each numbered 1 through 4. I discovered this most unusual book by accident, through Twitter.

First the Blurb:

Throughout its history, the kingdom known as the Realm has never known peace. From its establishment, it has possessed the gift of magic, which is a treasure that exists no other place in the world! As a result, the Realm has endlessly defended itself against conquerors, but now faces its greatest peril.

As our heroes battle the wicked and unlock mysteries, they must also face overwhelming circumstances as they are guided by ancient lore on a quest to find the greatest treasure their kingdom will ever know... peace.

My Review:
The characters Leoden and Kelm open the story, speaking in verse, discussing the problem and what to do about it. I’m not going to detail the story. Instead I will give you my impressions.

This book written completely in verse that young people can understand, but with a style that holds interest for the adult readers also. The author states in his foreword that he initially conceived it to be in the style of The Canterbury Tales or Beowulf, but in modern simple verse:

1.       It was our fate, a fall from grace
2.       that led us here this time and place.
3.       I pondered deeply inside of my mind
4.       the questions for answers too hard to find.

Because it is written in verse, the reader is an observer, and does not become an immersed part of the tale as one does in typical narrative-style tales. But this is not a bad thing, if the reader is in love with poetry and words that rhyme.  The story is good, the characters are interesting and their deeds are large and bold.

The Author does not use words that are hard to understand or obscure, and his telling of the tale is like that of a bard, or a shaman around a campfire. It is mysterious and captivating in an almost foreign way.

My background is in Anglo-Saxon studies and Old English literature so I found the concept of an epic tale told in modern rhyme refreshing. I think any young person who, as I most certainly did, loves popular music as much for the lyrics as the music might be attracted to this book, as will people who enjoy poetry for the sake of the words.

When we modern, civilized people were roving tribes, we told epic tales about the fire at night. Now we are no longer tribal, no longer in harmony with our environment. But in our digital world we feel the need to remember that fundamental part of us, which is why we read books detailing epic fantasy and go to the movies. All in all, I am giving it 4 stars for telling a good tale, for originality, and for keeping an essential traditional part of our global human culture alive.  

Friday, February 21, 2014

Wicked: Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Wicked Years), Gregory Maguire

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

This week I listened to the Audible Book, Wicked: Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Wicked Years), a fan-fiction of the original Kansas fantasy, The wizard of Oz by L.Frank Baum. It was written by Gregory Maguire and copyrighted 1996 by Harper-Collins. The book is read by John McDonough, who gives it a folksy sort of narrative. As a member of Audible, I was offered the book for $4.95, which I thought was a great price.

The Blurb:

Heralded as an instant classic of fantasy literature, Maguire has written a wonderfully imaginative retelling of The Wizard of Oz told from the Wicked Witch's point of view. More than just a fairy tale for adults,Wicked is a meditation on the nature of good and evil.

Elphaba is born with green skin, a precocious mind, and a talent for magic. An outcast throughout her childhood in Munchkinland, she finally begins to feel as though she fits in when she enters the University in the Emerald City. While she hones her skills, she discovers that Oz isn't the Utopia it seems. She sets out to protect its unwanted creatures, becoming known as the Wicked Witch along the way.

Narrator John McDonough draws you in to Maguire's magical world of witches and talking animals, making it possible to believe in a land somewhere over the rainbow.

My Review:

This novel is not a book with which to while away the miles on the long drive to Disney Land with the kiddies. It contains adult language and content including violent imagery and sexual situations. Munchkinland is a dirty place. The people have issues with infidelity, drunkenness and drug abuse, along with rabid fundamentalism and political upheaval.

The protagonist of the book, Elphaba Thropp is a green-skinned girl who later becomes known as the Wicked Witch of the West. She is given this nickname because of her sister Nessa's nickname (the Wicked Witch of the East, who was so named by her political opponents) and NOT for any wicked deeds. She is an animal rights activist.

After a rugged childhood, she attends college at Shiz, where she meets Galinda, the social climbing ‘good’ witch, who is her roommate, and with whom she becomes close friends. She teaches Galinda how to think independently. She also meets Fiyero Tigelaar, the prince of the Arjiki tribe in the Vinkus. She later has an affair with Fiyero while she is involved in the resistance movement against the Wizard of Oz. This leads to Fiyero’s apparent murder by the Gale Force, the Wizard's secret police though the body is never found. His murder causes her to abandon her revolutionary ideals.

This is a tale of anarchy, political intrigue and human failings on a grand scale. The characters are well drawn, and Oz is vivid in all its tattered glory. McDonough’s narrative is perfect, taking you into the twisted world and making you believe it could really exist.

This Land of Oz is amazing and wonderful, but is not a place I would ever want to find myself.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Legend of Vanx Malic - Through the Wildwood, M. R. Mathias

I've become both enamored and aggravated by a series from indie author M.R. Mathias, the Legend of Vanx Malic. I love it, it pisses me off, and I love it. Book one, Through the Wildwood is intriguing, irritating, and left me feeling like I had just met my future ex-boyfriend--from the outset I was enchanted by the whole notion of the badboy bard, but knew the relationship was gonna turn ugly. It did, and I loved it anyway.

The Blurb:

A half-zythian bard named Vanx is in chains for bedding the Duchess of Highlake. The Duke wants him dead, but his wife secretly sent their daughter to buy his freedom from the slave markets.

This is bad news, for bad things can happen to an ill guarded caravan in the mountains. When the duke's mercenaries attack to kill the adulterous prisoner all hell breaks loose. Now, the only way Vanx and the Princess of Highlake can escape the duke and his men is if they can somehow make it through the Wildwood, a place that no one has ever returned from before.....

My Review

I think my favorite line in this book comes a little more than halfway through the book. "I usually show up in a place riding in the lap of luxury and leave in chains." That completely describes Vanx Malic. He is a slave to his libido, which has led to being sold as a slave in actuality. Not only that, but a badass duke wants him dead, as Vanx rather publicly humiliated him by making the duke's wife very happy.

M.R. Mathias sets the scene well, describing the environment just enough that the reader's mind fills in the gaps. The beasts are awesome, and the atmosphere of barbaric splendor reeks of old-school sword and sorcery novels.

I love the way Vanx is portrayed. He is out there, warts and all, charming, roguish, and rather like my favorite barbarian, Fafhrd. The female characters are two-dimensional, though, which is why this is really the sort of tale Fritz Lieber would have written. Alas, I adored Fritz in all his currently politically incorrect glory, and so I love this tale.

It's an adventure, raw, violent, sexy if you're a man, sexy if you're a girl who can't walk away from the badboys. I'm giving it 5 stars despite the fact I yelled at the book several times. (My husband is used to that.) The fact Mathias was able to involve me in the tale to that extent deserves the high rating.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Cold, by Aura Burrows

As my regular readers know, I'm always looking for great, inexpensive reads by indie authors. I have stumbled across a wonderful website,, that is something completely revolutionary in this ever-changing industry. I’m completely enthralled with this gorgeous library of the mind!  They bill themselves as the world’s premier episodic network - “Like television…only in book form. Episodic literary series from some of today's most talented writers in written and audio format.”  They truly are television in book form, a way of combining listening and reading that allows the mind to roam freely throughout the entire experience.

OMG!!! I’m hooked!!! And it’s only $3.00 a month for an amazing supply of books in serial from!  So far I have become addicted on “The Cold” by Aura Burrows. I can read it for myself, or listen to the wonderful narrative by Willow Wood, which is how I’ve been absorbing this compelling tale. I don’t watch television, but I have developed a great fondness for audio-books, as they allow me to spend my evenings immersed in the completely visual world that is created when one listens to a good tale, that is well-read. They’re perfect for long trips in the car. One of my own books, a novella, is in the process of being turned into an Audible book at as I write this post—I can’t tell you what a thrill that is.

So now that I’ve gotten my squeeing like a little girl out of the way, we can get down to my review of indie author Aura Burrows’ wonderful urban fantasy serial, The Cold.

The Blurb:
I was a warm and at times emotionally heated lady, until several drinks too many one night. Now there is nothing but cold. Cold hands, cold body, cold heart. Yet I live amongst the warmth of others and must learn to adjust quickly. Because now…I am a vampire.

My Review:
First of all, each episode averages about 10 minutes, so it is easy to either read on the PC or listen while working in the kitchen.  The Cold is told in the first person, which is the only way this particular tale could be told. In episode one, our protagonist (who is not named until chapter 7) is a young gal, unhappily employed in data-entry, and recovering from a bad break-up with a long-time boyfriend. She over indulges and gets completely out of hand, passing from the ‘merely intoxicated’ stage to the ‘toss the bitch out’ stage. 

She is removed from the situation by a stranger, an enigmatic blond man with slight accent. When she wakes, completely naked in a strange place, the man gives her a few terse instructions, leaves her a set of clothes (hers were covered in vomit, apparently) and vanishes.

It takes her a while to realize that she has been changed into a vampire.

Each episode of this serial is about her impressions of the first hours of her new life, the first days and learning the rules of the road in her new society. I love seeing this new existence through her eyes as she makes each unsettling discovery. She is not a terrible person, but she is not a human and never forgets that as she  finds ways to cope with her situation.

I just finished the first season and have enjoyed every episode of this journey into a vampire’s “life”. I highly recommend you check out and see what else is out there. I honestly think this website and other online sources of free and affordable literature will be great forces in shaping our ever-evolving publishing industry, at least on the indie front.

In the meantime, I am going to start on the second season!