A Country Among Countries is a political thriller inside of a space opera that’s filled with intriguing characters up against tough obstacles. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did it change as you wrote?
There were two story elements that needed to be accomplished. The first was winding down the incidents at Ganymede, and the second was getting the majority of characters to Mars because of the approaching mid-series conclusion in the next book. It was tough for me, and don’t feel like I’ve told half the story that I wanted to tell in this particular novel. One major events in the story is the rejection of Mat’s ore at A40, thus leading to the decision to go to Mars.
The story is filled with intriguing characters. Who was your favorite character to write for?
Ludwick or Mat. Ludwick because he’s so easy to write, and Mat because of his personal values.
The science inserted in the fiction, I felt, was well balanced. How did you manage to keep it grounded while still providing the fantastic edge science fiction stories usually provide?
Well I did do my research with regards to propulsion, fuel, speed, orbit and gravity. I like novels with ‘real science’ in them, but because it’s fiction you can hedge a little bit. But it is a balance. I believe my audience is educated, and they’ll know when I push the tech too far out of bounds. I just tried to make it as realistic as possible without the benefit of an engineering PHD.
This is book three in your Harmony series. What can readers expect in book four?
Rashomon’s War will conclude this part of the series. The events surrounding Modi’s take over of Mars will likely be quick, and the majority of the story will be found in the resolutions for the characters, and most of those were determined by Book 2, Year of the Child. (psst. then we start again in a new timeline.)
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Stolen Time (Community Chronicles Book Two) by Jenn Lees is a time travel fiction story about a dystopian future. The book begins in the Scottish Highlands in the year 2056, then jumps back to Present Day. After the U.S. Stock Market crash, plunging the world into chaos, Scott Campbell saves Caitlin Murray from a mob, but there’s something strange about him. He acts like he knows her, and he seems to know future events. He claims that he must protect her because she’s needed for her coming role as a great leader. Caitlin thinks he’s crazy, until he proves that everything he’s said is true. Will Scott be able to keep himself and Caitlin alive amid violence and the fall of human society? Or will his act of traveling to the past change everything about the future?
This book has an interesting premise and I enjoyed reading the story. Although it is Book Two in the Community Chronicles, this story can be read without reading the first book. The Glossary of Scottish Words at the end of the book is helpful for readers unfamiliar with some of the terms used by the characters.
The author’s descriptions of the chaos and struggles for immediate survival were vivid and I could picture what Caitlin and Scott were seeing and experiencing as they escaped from Edinburgh. But then the book got bogged down a bit by a slow pace when they hid out in a cabin in the Highlands, while Scott taught Caitlin survival and fighting skills. This section did not hold my interest as well as the rest of the story, when they were in constant danger.
The portions of the story that take place in Present Day were told primarily from Caitlin’s point of view. At the beginning, I felt just as confused as Caitlin since I didn’t have a clear idea of what was going on and I didn’t know why Scott acted like he knew her when she first meets him. It is only later that he tells her the details of their relationship. Once Scott revealed their connection in the future, I would have liked to see more glimpses into his “past” with scenes from his point of view. In either case, this slow build up and reveal was intriguing and, I thought, the best part of the novel.
I liked the interactions between Caitlin and Scott, and I enjoyed the romantic element in the story, which showed a love that spanned across different timelines. As soon as I finished the story, I immediately wanted to start reading Book Three in the series, Rory’s (Caitlin and Scott’s son) story.
Pages: 280 | ISBN: 0987644807
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For the Devil Has Come with Great Wrath by Emma Plant provides a glimpse of what havoc the Devil and his disciples wreak when they come to earth for the End of Days and in search of Emma Plant. Emma, a young Office Manager, notices that things aren’t quite normal in the valley where she lives. Accidents and fatalities are on the rise, and Emma herself is even visited by strange people and creatures that seek to do her harm. She is visited one night by two gnomes who explain the devastation that is taking place and seek to whisk Emma away into the mountains that overlook the valley. Their goal is to hide and protect Emma from the Devil while he wages war against civilization. It is in the mountains that Emma is introduced to more fantastical creatures, such as witches and fairies, and it is also where she begins to make a new life for herself – a life that is a far cry from the one she once knew.
Author Emma Plant adds interesting fantasy elements to her novel by the inclusion of a variety of mythical creatures, such as gnomes, fairies, witches, demons, and other creatures. The novel is entertaining in that each type of fantasy creature has its own magical powers that are displayed throughout the novel. For example, Ben and Ella, the gnomes that help protect Emma have the ability to shrink larger items in order to be able to carry them easily. Another interesting element of the novel is that, apart from the demons, these characters work harmoniously together. Abela, the witch, provides guidance and protection to Emma, the fairies provide powers and protection to the gnomes, and so on and so forth. These magical characters add a creative depth to the novel.
However, I felt that there was a lack of detail and explanation in the novel. I did not understand why demons are inhabiting earth and wreaking havoc. More importantly, I did not understand what the Devil wanted with Emma. What exactly makes her the center of his attention? I think that there wasn’t enough explanation given to fully develop the events. I felt like there was an overabundance of ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing’. So, I felt I was reading long sections of text rather than an organic delivery of information while the story is unfolding. But with this story being part of a trilogy, I feel much more comfortable knowing that there is two more books on the horizon that will dig deeper into this world and it’s characters.
I felt like the climax was not as climactic as it could have been. Emma spends nearly two years hiding in the mountains. During that time, she reunites with a former flame and they have a family together. Much has happened to her as a person, but it’s a small detail in what, I felt, was the overall point of the novel. Towards the end of the story, Emma is hiding out in Abela’s house when the Devil decides to unleash his wrath on the valley that was her previous home. I expected that the Devil would eventually make his way up to Abela’s home and try to take Emma away. But I expected a battle between the Devil, Emma, and her protectors up in the mountains; however, the devastation doesn’t make its way to the mountains and stays contained within the valley. I felt that there was no real climax or resolution that is reached by the end of the novel. Ultimately, I felt like this novel lacked character development that makes me invest in the characters. For the Devil Has Come with Great Wrath by Emma Plant is a fascinating fantasy story with many opportunities for a surreal story that plays off of biblical legend.
Pages: 251 | ASIN: B01L0FLHY6
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After a serious car crash, Stefan comes round from a coma with a case of amnesia. Eva, his younger sister, is the only one who can see that Stefan is not really Stefan at all…When a strange letter arrives, written in gothic handwriting and addressed to Stefan, saying there has been a terrible mistake and signed by a mysterious ‘Hyacinthe’, the puzzle starts to unravel. Along with Eva, Stefan’s friends, Kim, Thomas, Harry, and Andrew must try to solve the mystery but to do that they will have to take part in a dangerous race, called The Game of Life.
Anna Musewald’s A Game of Life is a YA fantasy and mystery novel which draws you in from the first page. The prose is so easy to read; it is witty and enchanting and feels perfect for a YA audience. In spite of the simplicity of the language, it doesn’t feel at all patronising or one-dimensional. The ‘game’ from the title is quite complex, with lots of imaginative systems and challenging tasks set for the players which really immerses the reader in the experience. I loved the inclusion of Greek myth, such as Apollo and the Sirens, woven through the narrative. The plot is in the vein of The Hunger Games and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire which could make it seem derivative, but with an original and inventive spin, it manages to feel fresh and exciting. Meaningful themes of friendship, loyalty and bravery flesh out the fun storyline.
The pacing is excellent; I was instantly engrossed by the opening chapter and the book never let me go! We are drawn in by the question of what has happened to Stefan and led through a number of rabbit holes and strange happenings. The revelation isn’t made until the end which kept me greedily turning the pages, and there are also plenty of action scenes to keep the reader hooked until the final page.
I had total belief in the characters, who all have distinctive personalities, and I loved the way that the friendships and rivalries are portrayed, showing the tangled and complex nature of relationships. The relationship between Stefan and Eva is particularly poignant and depicts the protective and intuitive nature of sibling relationships. The dialogue is funny and clever, and the conversation seems very authentic for a group of young people.
One of the aspects that I enjoyed the most was the setting of Parsi and the fully formed ‘underground’ city created by the author which is full of fantastical and magical detail. Musewald excels at writing surroundings and conjures up place in a beguiling and descriptive way so that the reader feels as though they are on the journey with the characters.
This is a great addition to the young fiction genre, full of twists and turns, mystery and suspense; I enjoyed the journey immensely. I gobbled it up in one go, and I can’t wait for another riveting story from Anna Musewald.
Pages: 202 | ASIN: B01M0ZBKXP
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Dark, gritty, and altogether brutal, Steel, Blood and Fire is an archetypal dark fantasy novel. In the first chapter, one of the main character’s hands and feet are amputated, and the story continues in similar fashion from there onward. The setting is fantasy grounded in muddy reality, although there is a vein of consequential magic that adds a little sorcery to this otherwise swords-based world. If you’re familiar with Game of Thrones then you’re familiar with Allen Betchelder’s style; multiple character perspectives, inter-weaved story lines, and a healthy dose of murder. It’s a fantastic modern-style medieval fantasy, and a definite read for any fan of the genre.
When I began Steel, Blood and Fire, my first thought was, “Wow, this is a lot like Game of Thrones.” Then I began to think, “Or is it more of a Witcher book?” As I continued through the novel, I began to decide it was a blend of both. By the end, I thought that perhaps it was its own thing.
The book isn’t afraid to touch on the brutal. In fact, it seems to revel in it. Blood flows freely; rape is the buzzword of the day. It’s a mature novel for sure although it doesn’t quite cross the line, but regularly toes it. A lesser author would have toppled their novel over into prurient pulp.
The writing is well-executed, with the author’s own voice clearly shining through. There is one trap that Allen Betchelder tends to fall into, and that’s the ‘fear of said’. Every other sentence seems to find a new synonym – characters question, murmur, mutter, bellow, but words are never just ‘said’. It’s awkward to read, and tends to draw you out of conversations that should flow naturally.
In any perspective-hopping plot, characters are one of the most important factors. Fortunately, Steel, Blood and Fire features a strong and memorable, if slightly generic, cast. They come off as slightly one-dimensional, particularly towards the start of the novel, and the inclusion of a comedy group of village bumpkins – who of course meet with terrible fates – struck me as being an attempt at generating some frisson with the grim background. Other than those minor niggles, the diversity and depth of the cast begins to truly shine through around the midway point; from here onward they become much more than the sum of their parts.
Despite my above criticisms, I really did enjoy the story, and it quickly became engaging only a few pages in. If you’re a fan of the genre, particularly Game of Thrones-esque fantasy, you’ll certainly enjoy Betchelder’s offering.
Pages: 548 | ASIN: B00AW53RMQ
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