Friday, October 24, 2014

The Fallen, by Lee French and Erik Kort

This week we are going deep into a character study, set in an amazing post-apocalyptic world, where magic and mayhem are as natural as breathing. The Fallen, by indie authors Lee French and Erik Kort is one of the better books I've read so far this year.

But first, THE BLURB:
For hundreds of years, the Blaukenev clan has wandered across Tilzam, from one end to the other and back. Each wagon carries history, love, laughter, pain, sorrow, and secrets. Their greatest secret of all may be Chavali, the clan Seer.

Spirits claim/use/save/damn her.

With her gift/curse, nothing surprises her anymore, no one keeps secrets from her. She, on the other hand, has more than enough secrets to keep. Secrets of her own, secrets of her clan, secrets of the world, secrets she even keeps from herself.

There are always people who want secrets.
Some will do anything to get what they want.

The Fallen is the foundation of the story of The Greatest Sin, of a world adrift from its God that desperately wants Her back. Chavali's comfortable, predictable life will be ripped apart and burnt to ashes as she's forced into the middle of that struggle. Change, she hates it passionately. It hates her right back.

Chavali is flat out an awesome character. I can't tell you how many times I wanted to smack her as I read this story. She is feisty and full of passion, stubborn and wrong-headed at times. The Blaukenev clan is unique, joyous and full of life, an enclosed nomadic society that lives in the world and yet outside it at the same time. Their passion for life leaps off the pages.

The contrast between the two societies that Chavali finds herself living in is night and day. In both societies she is forever apart from the rest, both because of her gift and because she is something entirely separate--Blaukenev, and later, Fallen, and a seer cursed with a gift she has little control over.

This is not a romance, though there are tender moments, this is not a book of battles, although there are plenty of those. This is a book about the human journey of life and death that one woman experiences, and it is gripping.

The greatest accolade I can give any story is to say I didn't want it to end. The sequel to this book is due out on October 27, and I intend to be there to get my copy.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fire Born, by D. M. Raver

This week I am exploring Fire Born, the first book in the forthcoming Flight Moon series. Author D. M. Raver sets this tale in Misca, the alternate world in which her epic fantasy, Brother, Betrayed is also set.


Flight Moon was once the prized dragon of Gorusk. Swift and fearless, she oversaw Shirr's army with deadly beauty. But a dragon is never subservient to a human, even if he is the banished king of the Black Waste. Her plans to assassinate Shirr are thwarted. Barely able to escape, Flight Moon flees to Arnith.

Bleeding and exhausted, Flight Moon knows Shirr will eventually catch up to her. She's saved just enough strength for one last fight.

Twins are born in the kingdom of Arnith. A boy with silver hair like his elven grandmother, and a girl with a secret. A secret that if discovered, risks her life and the lives of her entire family.

Barely two weeks old, Fornala is already condemned to death. Bavun, the high mage, believes her physical deformity is a curse laid upon those who abuse magic. For this she must be sacrificed.

A dragon and an infant girl, both outmatched with impossible odds, may find strength in each other. What should kill them both, only makes them stronger.


The book begins with a family being attacked. One of twins, the infant girl, Fornala, was born with no legs, and as such she is looked upon as being a curse. The local man in charge, a mage, declares that she is "not yet aware of what she is," and decides to remove the curse by removing her, and she is taken from her parents to be killed.

At the same time a dragon is being pursued by her former allies, and has chosen to flee to the city where Fornala's life hangs in the balance. A battle involving great quantities of magic ensues over the place where the infant girl is to be executed and a terrible accident occurs. Somehow Fornala and Flight Moon are "blended."

The story moves right along, from scene to gripping scene, and as the characters are introduced, the sense of history that is driving the plot is also revealed.

All of D. M. Raver's works involve the history of Arnith, and the significance of certain truths that form the crux of each tale. I'm glad to see her exploring dragons again in this tale, as Flight Moon is an awesome, very real character--A dragon who is a traitor, merged with an infant girl who is an outcast.

I highly recommend this work of fantasy. The characters are compelling, the plot moves in unexpected directions, and even though it is clearly the first installment in a series, the ending is satisfying.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Dry Patch of Skin, by Stephen Swartz

I love it when an author approaches an old tale with completely new eyes. A Patch of Dry Skin is most definitely a new take on the old tale, and I must say it's about time! Indie Author Stephen Swartz has put together a well-crafted tale that is both a horror story and a morality tale.

But first, the Blurb:
The truth about being a vampire: It is not cool, not sexy. It’s a painful, miserable existence.

Good reason to avoid that situation, thinks Stefan Székely. He's too busy falling in love with TV reporter Penny Park, anyway. Until one day when she notices he has a dry patch of skin on his face.

At first it's annoying, nothing to worry about, some weird skin disease he can treat with lotions. However, as his affliction worsens, Stefan fears that his unsightly problem will ruin his relationship with Penny.

If only that was all Stefan has to worry about! He soon realizes there is a lot more at stake than his handsome face. To save himself, Stefan must go in search of a cure for the disease which is literally destroying him inch by inch. If only his parents had told him of his family's legacy.

My Review:

This is a deep book--I found myself thinking about it long after I finished reading it. Stefan Székely is an interesting character. He's a successful phlebotomist, his parents have died, he's approaching middle-age, and has finally fallen in love with a woman he could spend the rest of his life with.

Unfortunately, he has this little eczema problem, which begins slowly, and soon escalates to tragic proportions. Confused and just wanting it to go away, Stefan consults doctors, seeking treatment through progressive western medicine, to no avail.

Penny is a strong woman, but the disfiguring disease is sometimes too much for her. If Stefan is to keep Penny, their romance has many bumps to overcome, and some of those are insurmountable. Salvaging his romance with Penny becomes Stefan's obsession. 

Stefan has a high sense of morality, and when he accidentally discovers that blood relieves the symptoms, he is faced with making terrible choices, none of which are good for either his career or his relationship with beautiful Penny.  

Things really take a change for the strange when he seeks an unusual treatment in New Orleans. This tale takes the reader all over the world, and into some dark places. The characters he meets along the way are wonderfully portrayed. The sense of history in each location is there, underpinning the story, and his journey becomes a quest for salvation--one he may not achieve. The ending of this tale is both surprising, and is really the only way it could have ended when you think about it.

All in all, I give A Patch of Dry Skin 5 full stars. This is a classic horror story with a non-traditional twist.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Land of Nod, The Child by Gary Hoover

I've been a fan of Gary Hoover's  LAND OF NOD, a YA Scifi action adventure since the first book in the series, The Artifact. The series deals with Jeff Browning's search for his physicist father, and is as enjoyable from an adult perspective as any series of books I've read. The first two books in the series cover the disappearance of Jeffery Browning Sr. and his son Jeff's discovery of an artifact in his father's locked office that is really a portal to another dimension. Realizing his father has gone through the portal, Jeff follows him, armed only with his baseball bat. 

He finds himself in a world that is full of dangerous, prehistoric creatures, and is glad he has his trusty bat as he must make good use of it. Eventually he meets a family who give him hope that he will find his father. The world is strange and has many amazing technologies, and yet they are awaiting the advent of one special person, the Prophet--and they believe Jeff is that person. It's a lot for a teenager to take in, but he embarks on helping them with the war they are fighting against the Pheerions. The Child is the third and final book in the series.

But first, THE BLURB:

In this action-filled conclusion to the Land of Nod Trilogy, Jeff Browning needs every one of his newfound powers to face increasingly difficult challenges as he travels across an ocean for an inevitable showdown with a ruthless warlord.

Jeff believes the fate of the world that has adopted him depends on his success, and he is determined to find his father and go home – or die trying.

The book kicks off with Jeff being thrust into a battle. He is desperate to get a locket that may have fallen into enemy hands. He is still armed with his trusty bat, and as with the lockets, it's so much more than a simply bat in this strange world.  He is unsure if the side who he is traveling with are the good guys or the bad guys, and the officer in charge of him, Major Abel, seems like a cold, unfriendly woman. He also fears his father may be working with the Pheerions, 

Jeff is a great character. He's a bit cocky like any fifteen-year-old, and and also humble. He is loyal to his friends and thinks about the wider view of things, and his actions reflect that. The worry that his father may be on the side of the Pheerions, combined with the fact that he has a friend who is a Pheerion makes him wonder what is really right and wrong. He has an ally who is an assassin, and who may have killed two people Jeff cared about. His growing realization that things are not as cut and dried as Major Abel would wish colors his viewpoint.

More than anything, Jeff fears what he will become in his efforts to find his father and get home to his mother.

All in all this is a great finish to an excellent series. If you have a young science-fiction fan in your family this is a perfect series. Written for a wide range of readers, this series is not 'dumbed-down' in any way.  Hoover writes with respect for his readers, and this final book in the series reflects that commitment to excellence. It is a tale full of the core truths of hard-scifi: plausible science, a moral dilemma, and a cast of fabulous characters. It is well plotted and has a terrific and satisfying conclusion. I am giving this book 5 full stars.