Planet of Men: Book 2 of Enigma follows Peter Blackwood as he tries to save his planet Enigma from the lurking dangers of invasion and the alien red cloud. Accompanying him are a ragtag bunch of rebel smugglers as he tries to find and activate the Heart of the Sun before it is too late. Despite his personal struggles and sacrifices, Blackwood has to keep a brave outlook in the face of danger, inventing new, ingenious strategies and tactics to keep the enemy armies at bay.
The starting scene of the book immediately drew me in. The way the author kept lulling me into a sense of calm and then suddenly bringing in the action was startling and always kept me on edge. Peter Blackwood, the protagonist is one of the most relatable protagonists I have read in awhile. He is brave and trying to do his best in the hostile situations he keeps finding himself in. This is not to say that he does not have flaws, because he does. And the fact that we are let in to see him fighting his internal and external demons adds to his wonderful and very real character. He represented a persons desire for freedom and equality, without losing their humanity. I could almost see him as being the male equivalent to Katniss Everdeen of the Hunger Games.
The female characters in this story were also depicted as strong and inspiring. Both Sachiko Nomura and Lita Sandir were both well fleshed-out characters. Their lives existed beyond being simply narrative tools for the story, and I loved both of their personalities.
The imagination behind the weapons and battle methods used in the story were impressive. I usually find myself zoning out in fantasy fiction books when an extremely complicated and difficult-to-follow action sequence comes up. However, that was not the case here. David Crane is an expert at keeping the reader engaged throughout the scene, while keeping it easy to follow.
The insidious presence of the alien red cloud was also one of the most unique antagonistic presences I have come across in sci-fi. The omnipresent danger always lurking around the corner, catching every single misstep- I got chills at the simple but terrifying reality of the situation. This was a gripping book and perfect for anyone with an interest in science fiction and fantasy.
Pages: 231 | ASIN: B008D535S8
Banks and O’Neil are on a mission, and they have a defined target: Clint Holden. Obtaining access to one Clint Holden will not be the easiest of tasks, though. Making their way from their own world to Clint’s is the first obstacle. Finding him among the masses of country folk is their second. Standing, unknowingly, in their way is Jason Cooper, a washed-up police officer still biding his time on the force. Banks and O’Neil face some interesting obstacles as they search for Clint Holden and seek to accomplish their mission. If they can get past Cooper, finding Clint will be a breeze, or will it?
Requiem, Changing Times, by R.J. Parker, is an adventure of otherworldly proportions. Peppered with humor, steeped in suspense, and filled with everything fantasy fans seek, Parker’s novel delivers it all.
I enjoy humor in any fiction book I read. Some plots call for it more than others. Parker understands this better than anyone. Throughout this unique plot alternately set on Earth and beyond, Parker manages quite well to give lighthearted lines to his cast of characters. Their exchanges are welcome breaks to some of the more intensely focused exchanges.
One aspect of the book that did tend to interfere with the flow was the introduction of accents by some of the characters. Rather thick and intricate accents permeate much of the reading and require some rescanning of text to fully grasp the character’s intent. While I am all for accents and a true-to-life feel, these accents seemed to halt the flow somewhat.
Parker introduces Clint and Corbin as relatable characters readers will appreciate and find likable. Watching the entire adventure unfold with school-age boys as the key protagonists makes the story all the more relatable. Readers who want the feel of the adventure stories from their youth will find Requiem, Changing Times right up their alley. Complete with school drama and a teacher every reader will love to hate, Parker’s novel sets up a fantastic background for the two main characters, Clint and Corbin.
I highly recommend Requiem, Changing Times to any reader seeking a new science fiction fantasy. Those of us intrigued with stories of the extraterrestrial will find Clint and Corbin’s adventure a fast-paced quick read for its length. Memorable characters and a unique set of circumstances involving the two young boys make Requiem, Changing Times a must-read.
Pages: 450 | ASIN: B07XY439NX
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Forging of a Knight: Knighthood’s End finds Qualtan on the run and his friends turned against him. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?
This was a natural progression for Qualtan – an event that was brewing and would have been triggered if not by the situation he found himself in, then by someone or something else. This can be seen in the stories leading up to this one:
He had started out as a starry-eyed knight-to-be, hopeful to become a knight as his father had been before him. In Book One of the series (Forging of a Knight) – he travelled to Turinthia, the heart of the Alliance, to become a knight.
In Book Two (Forging of a Knight, Rise of the Slavekeepers), Qualtan fulfilled his dream, joining the Order of the Bearded Lion, the knights of Turinthia.
Book Three (Forging of a Knight, Prison Planet of the Mah-Lahkt), Qualtan transcended his role, from knight to hero, alongside the Arch-Mages and the heroes of the School against the forces of Shaz, leader of Those That Stand in Shadow, within a prison planet forged by angels.
Throughout these adventures, Qualtan was made fully aware how King Prelance, ruler of Turinthia, felt about his companion and friend, the half-orcne former thief Glaive. As his orcne Kind had followed the villains of the series (Those That Stand in Shadow), they were usually viewed with hostility and mistrust, leading to the same concerns being raised against him, despite his good intentions. Even Qualtan’s own uncle, a powerful Arch-Mage who had gifted him many of his powers and his magic sword, felt the same. At first Qualtan merely felt at odds with these opinions, but hadn’t thought it necessary to act against them, until Book Four (Forging of a Knight, The Stolen Thief).
In Book Four – the cracks began to tell – when Glaive goes missing on a mission for the King, Qualtan’s request to search for him is refused. Realizing the King’s denial is based solely on his prejudice against the former thief’s half-orcne heritage, Qualtan decides to go anyway against his King’s wishes. In doing so, he encounters the technology-using elves known as the Dokahlfar and their dwarf minions the Vartahlfar, as well as befriending and allying with a rag-tag group of orcnes, the hated foes of the Alliance. Imprisoned for his impertinence, Qualtan at last decides that there is no reason for him to feel obligated in following such a King, no matter his other merits.
This brings us to this tale, Book Five (Forging of a Knight, Knighthood’s End). This time, the assumed evil acts of a spiritual being known as a Kubare’ that Qualtan frees from captivity (and eventually falls in love with), brings upon the King’s hatred again, who imprisons the Kubare’ to banish her back to her nether realm. The enduring ill-will towards his friend Glaive, and Qualtan’s punishment for rescuing him, laid the groundwork for the knight’s final stand against his King. Qualtan again chooses to follow his own scruples to free the Kubare’ and go on the run, leaving his knightly Order, his King, and many of his friends behind, while being branded a traitor, to pursue his forbidden love As we know, sometimes taking a stand for what you believe in can be challenging, difficult, and result in quite a few sacrifices, especially when it goes against the status quo. This is what Qualtan experiences here.
There were so many well developed characters in this book. Who was your favorite character to write for?
There were many! Glaive with his cynical, sarcastic, suspicious of authority personality is of course a favorite, and balances nicely with Qualtan’s initial naivete about his role as a knight, as well as the knight’s maturity, going through experiences that show him sometimes there is evil in good and good and evil with the result being a nice, muddy mess that doesnt fit nicely into “good” and “evil” compartments. Discovering that growth was fun.
Another would be Jesepha, the knight. Although her role is limited here, she began as a male knight amongst others in the background. I felt they all sounded too much alike, too generic, so I switched one of them from male to female. In doing so it created her storyline along with her mentor Bartholomew’s, a senior knight, and took some of the tales into a completely different path than what I had originally intended. She basically created herself, and I had to modify the stories accordingly – its an amazing treat to see that happen!
I enjoyed the shifting of loyalties and friendships throughout the book. What were some themes you wanted to explore in this book?
Redemption is definitely an ongoing theme in the series – second chances. Bartholomew gets one in Book Two, Glaive you can say throughout, as he adjusts from being a street urchin, thief, to working for a smuggling gang lord, to working side by side with knights, Kings, and famous wizards!
Of course this applies to the Kurabe’ for this story, and perhaps even to the Queen of the Kurabe’ as shown by her decision at the end? Who knows?
This theme also revolves around simply not taking someone or something at face value, or assuming the worst without taking the time to dig a little deeper. Glaive’s unfair treatment by the King, same for the Kurabe’, are prime examples of this.
What is the next book in your series that readers should pickup after this book?
Book Six – Forging of a Knight, Darksiege Triumphant – the title says it all. A betrayal from the School leads Darksiege, last of Those That Stand in Shadow, with the means to achieve ultimate power at last. A mighty artifact, divided and cast into different realms, will spell doom if found. Qualtan, Glaive, Cassandra, and Bartholomew will travel to places dark and terrible, including present-day Earth, to prevent Darksiege from gaining the victory he craves, but all is not as it seems.
Are Darksiege and his opponents in a true quest, or have they been deceived into playing a much deeper game? Will Qualtan be forced into an unholy alliance with his mortal enemy to uncover the TRUE foe that menaces them all?
And after the overwhelming excitement of Book Six, there’s barely enough breath left to take on Book Seven, Against the Alliance – the finale to this current series of Forging of a Knight, which should be out later this year. Despite warnings from the Kings of the Alliance and the elves of Hermstingle, Qualtan moves forward with his own knightly Order, prompting war against his former allies. Only one thing can save them all: for Qualtan to reproduce the quest his uncle and father had undertaken to defeat Those That Stand in Shadow many years ago – to find the gemstone-eyed Master of the Great Beasts, the Dragon King, and bring him back in time to stop the war.
All the threads are tied, the sub-plots resolved. Whatever happened to Elizabetha, Arkonis, and Horga, the giant? What became of Romulax the evil druid? What of Darksiege’s servants, Bakal and Karash? How did Qualtan’s uncle and father uncover the Dragon King? What will happen to the School, the Alliance, and the Order Qualtan wishes to lead?
All the supporting cast are here – the knights, the Kings, the Arch-Mages, Prince Termenon, the Kubare’ Queen, Snowflake, faces from the past (some surprisingly forgotten about), Death himself, and very possibly…the Dragon King.
The war is coming…
Book Five in the Forging of a Knight series! For the sake of a forbidden love, Qualtan will find himself on the run with a Mah-Zakim to free her from her curse, or be consumed by it. No longer a knight, his friends now turned against him, how great will the price be that must be paid? Can a Mah-Zakim truly love back, or has the curse that has followed the First Knight for so long come true at last?
In Crocotta’s Hackles we follow Lluava’s mission to uncover the truth about the Incarn and how that affects her future. What were some ideas you wanted to explore in this book that were different from the first two books?
Crocotta’s Hackles differs from the first two books in a number of ways. For example, both Issaura’s Claws and Ullr’s Fangs deal predominately with the Kingdom of Elysia’s human-oriented society who comprise the ruling class. The native Theriomorphs, a shapeshifting race, have been forced to assimilate into the human culture. Most Theriomorphs have altered their clothing, switched their religion, tweaked their names, and lost touch with the customs, social institutions, achievements, and arts of their own culture. In Crocotta’s Hackles, both readers as well as the main character, Lluava, discover what Theriomorph society was like before being conquered by humans. In a sense, I wanted to express the tragedy and loss of forcing a people to assimilate into another culture and lose their own in the process.
I also wanted to showcase women-in-power in a world that is primarily patriarchal. By the third book, readers are already familiar with Lluava’s warrior-type personality. In Crocotta’s Hackles, I introduce other strong women whose strengths might not be physical, but their gifts and talents are no less impressive. Other aspects that I wanted to flesh out were the interrelated concepts of the Incarn, prophecy, fate versus free will, and the ever-present questions of whether Theriomorph gods exist, and if so, do they care about their people? Lastly, I wanted to make it very clear that no race is entirely good or evil. There will always be individuals and subgroups that defy stereotypes.
I liked how you handled the point of view in Lluava’s dual form. How did you plan this part of the novel?
As a Theriomorph, Lluava Kargen’s point-of-view is intrinsically different from a human’s simply because of her birthright. All Theriomorphs are born with the ability to transform into an animal form, their dual form as they call it. They not only think and act like humans but also have innate abilities including hyperactive senses and instincts that is indicative of their animal nature.
Lluava’s dual form is a white tigress. Unlike humans, she has keener night vision, better hearing and sense of smell, and a sixth sense for oncoming danger. In this book, she struggles with a darker side of herself, and it appears to be a losing battle. When this aspect of her personality is triggered, she experiences a telltale alteration of vision, and the world appears in tints of blue and green—the colors that felines can see. If she succumbs to that darker side, she risks blacking out. When she loses control, the white tigress takes over, leaving bloodshed and carnage in its wake. Her fear of losing herself creates a dichotomy within her, and she does not know if she can ever trust herself in her animal form.
Fear of the “Beast”, as well as the “monster within”, has existed for centuries. From werewolves and vampires to the terror of Jaws and serial killers, the phobia of bloodthirsty beasts and losing oneself to a darkness persists in many forms. I wanted to fuse these fears with Lluava’s more-than-human viewpoint previously established in the earlier books. This was an entertaining and unnerving concept to play with and explore.
There is an exceptional cast of characters in this book. Who did you enjoy writing the most?
Although I always enjoy writing Lluava, in this book, my favorite character to write was High Priestess Yena. She is very complex. Driven to do right by her people and the gods in which she believes, Yena is fierce, regal, mysterious and a dark beauty. She is a powerhouse; beware any human or Theriomorph who stands in her way. Her seeming ability to know what is to come gives her an exceptional advantage and her unshakable faith kindles her inner fire. I can still hear her sharp keel of laughter even though I have moved onto other projects. Yena will always be by my side for better or worse.
What can readers expect in book four, Giahem’s Talons?
The final book, Giahem’s Talons, chronicles the last stand for the Elysians as they struggle to fend off those that wish to destroy their kingdom. Readers will learn more about the mysterious Obsidian Guard, experience some of the power of the Incarn, discover the Raiders’ true leader, and mourn the loss of those that fall in the midst of battle. War is dark and dismal for all sides, and this book does not shy away from that hard truth.
“According to legend, when the world was young, Crocotta, Queen of the Gods, discovered her mate’s faithlessness. She vowed to prevent future threats to all matrimonial pacts henceforward, but for her it was too late. The child born from the illicit coupling was a warrior goddess—one whom Crocotta would seek to destroy throughout eternity. Now that the Raiders’ elite army is threatening the kingdom of Elysia’s northern borders, seventeen-year-old Lluava must leave the familiarity and safety of her native land to venture into the wilderness. Her mission is to discover others like her who will come to Elysia’s aid; her hope is to unravel the secrets behind what it means to be Incarn. But what she finds could destroy everything.”
Torn between two worlds, Sarah is fighting to be a part of her husband’s European culture while struggling to hold on to her own. She & Sir Matthew Galahad were married as children without their opinion nor consent. Despite their arranged marriage, they form a friendship that blossoms into something beautiful. When tragedy strikes Matthew becomes desperate to save a woman he did not choose & never thought he would love. He sets off on a perilous mission to retrieve a fabled chalice. It is the only thing that can save his dying bride. With the help of Prince Arthur & the knights, Matthew battles mythical beasts & unimaginable horrors in his quest for the holy grail…
Jim Riley’s book, Murder in the Atchafalya, is the story of treasury agent, Kristi Blocker who bravely delves into the swamps of Louisiana to solve the murders of her two fellow agents. Things go bottom side up relatively quickly for Kristi. Some villainous figures force her hand, and she defends herself. Subsequently, she flees deeper into the unfamiliar bayou. She finds herself literally up a tree in order to survive the elements and alligators. Lucky for Kristi, Federal Agent, Hawk Theriot shows up on the scene none too soon.
The book begins with Kristi looking for answers about the murdered agents. As quick as a blink, tables turn and turn back as there is a power struggle between the agent and a man who could be involved in the murders. Quick-witted Kristi proves over and over that she will never give up without a fight, and she can generally outsmart anyone in her path. With a new teammate in Agent Theriot, the pair seems like an unstoppable duo.
This is a great book that will keep readers interested from the very first page. The agents always have tough and dangerous work to do. It feels like there is danger around every corner. Tackling, gunslinging, and dodging bullets paired with the already dangerous Louisiana bayou compounds the hazard. This builds the excitement level and keeps things interesting. There is hardly a dull moment. All of these things make the book a real page-turner with the makings of an action movie. I did notice a few (very few) errors in the book. Over all, though, it was very well-written, exciting, and an enjoyable read.
Readers will likely notice the good vs. evil sort of theme that is prominent in age old tales present in Atchafalaya. Our hero figures are met early in the book as they are fighting the forces of evil from the jump. We are thrown into the good guys fighting the bad, and the bad fighting back. The main characters are likeable, and there are corrupt, menacing characters that readers will love to hate. It doesn’t hurt that the agents are smart, capable, tough, and charismatic.
I also love the use of local color in the book. I can just see the store called T-Bob’s Grocery that is frequently mentioned. The language of the Louisiana natives, as well as their customs and cuisine are present throughout the book. Hawk shops for crawfish and shrimp boudin in the store, helping to bring that undeniable Louisiana basin feel.
Riley made a fan of me. I really enjoyed getting to know the characters, and would love to see where they go from here. I enjoyed Riley’s writing style and the southern influence that crept in. I highly recommend it.
Pages: 209 | ASIN: B084SPW5G6
Stuart Duffelmeyer has no idea what is about to hit him. He’s a loner in his own right, a guy with few true friends, and has a complete inability to foresee his own downfall. When a group of “friends” arrange to give him a night to remember, he agrees with no second thought. No one in the room on that fateful day could ever have dreamed that Stuart was deeply tied to the supernatural and protected in his most vulnerable moments by forces more powerful than anything any of them had ever seen.
Stuart Duffelmeyer and the Masters of Plagues, a novel by Dewey Reynolds, lays out the experiences of one Stuart Duffelmeyer–a successful young man who yearns for a relationship and genuine friendship. Stuart is easily coerced and falls for almost anything. When he agrees to meet up with the group of his NYU classmates at a hotel, he is unknowingly walking into a trap. What they don’t know is that Stuart is covered in a veil of protection none of them can see–even Stuart.
Reynolds takes the story of a bullied man to a whole new level. With the introduction of the supernatural via an alienesque rat, the author gives his main character a unique depth. I have to admit that I didn’t see this aspect of Stuart’s experience coming in the first few pages. The author blends the supernatural into the story line quickly and smoothly.
There are eight characters in addition to Stuart who play an important role in his demise. Any more than three key characters tends to cause confusion for readers. I found myself rereading and double checking myself as I tried to keep these eight characters straight. This, along with the repetitive nature of some dialogue and exchanges, keeps this book from being perfect.
Reynolds does a magnificent job of developing Stuart’s character throughout the story. A clear picture is painted of a young man who is isolated, ridiculed by others, but grows increasingly determined to change his life. Nowhere else will readers find a weak character more strongly developed, nor will they find a better example of overcoming bullies.
Stuart’s otherworldly experiences make his story even more enthralling. The powers he is offered are representative of the power inside the victims of each and every bully. By creating a fantasy with a relatable main character, Reynolds has given readers a new kind of hero–one who is strong in ways readers can not only appreciate but cheer.
Fans of fantasy and those who yearn to cheer for the underdog will find a new favorite character in Stuart Duffelmeyer.
Pages: 286 | ASIN: B07YXCXG61
The Warramunga’s Aftermath of War is book two in your Warramunga Trilogy. What were some new ideas you wanted to explore in this book that were different from book one?
When predators crawl out from the ruins in the aftermath of war…
My second book, The Warramunga’s Aftermath of War, which takes place after the end of World War II in early 1946, deals with the trafficking of children from the war-torn Philippines. I lived in the Philippines for 11 years from 1969 as VP with one of the major mining companies there. I learned a great deal about the havoc and suffering during the Japanese occupation, as well as some of the terrible things that happened later as criminals took advantage of the chaos in the aftermath of war. I felt a need to write about this.
I enjoyed the diverse characters in this book. Who was your favorite character to write for?
I enjoyed writing about all the characters in the book but probably Jacko O’Brien is the most pivotal character of them all. His friendship with Jamie Munro is an essential part of the story, as is his innate ability, being part aborigine, in tracking and bushcraft. His half-sister, Sarah, plays a big part and almost all the other non-criminal characters are based on real characters I knew well or worked with, both Australian and Filipino.
I enjoyed the mystery that drove this story. Did you plan this before writing or did it develop organically while writing?
A bit of both. I knew what I wanted to write about, and I knew the locations well. Once started, however, it did develop organically as I progressed with the writing.
What can readers expect in book three of the Warramunga Trilogy?
Book 3, Skills of the Warramunga, also takes place soon after the end of the war and deals with the consequences following the war, this time on the Malayan peninsula where war criminals are plotting to overthrow the authorities and gain control over the population of Malaya. I have also worked in this region and know it well.
The Warramunga’s Aftermath of War encapsulates the investigation into the post-war activities of a major criminal organisation with tentacles to the USA, Australia and South East Asia. When a fishing boat is discovered in distress in rough seas northwest of Darwin in late 1945, former army officer, Jamie Munro, and educated half-caste Warramunga aborigine, Jack “Jacko” O’Brien, who head the CIS in Darwin, are called on to investigate child smuggling operations financed by a shadowy ring of wealthy paedophiles.
This book is the second book of a trilogy. This follows The Warramunga’s War detailing the meeting of Jamie and Jacko on the battlefield during the Second World War and their activities working together with MI6 in intelligence during the remainder of the war.