Kelsey Rae Barthel’s Beyond the Code features Aurora, known to a few as Luna. As her alter ego Luna, she is a skilled knight and utterly devoted to her master, Cole. During an attempt to expose and ultimately destroy Damon Lexus, a master of ill repute, Luna and Cole find themselves facing the battle of their lives. When the inconceivable happens during a confrontation with Damon’s assassin, Luna makes it her mission to avenge her master’s death and finally bring an end to Damon’s madness. The hunter quickly becomes the hunted when Luna is stalked, threatened, and subsequently saved by the very man sent to kill her.
One of the most striking aspects of Barthel’s plotline is the attention to detail during the numerous action sequences. Beyond the Code is an urban tale of knights, masters, and fascinating skills and features intense and well-drawn scenes filled with sword battles and otherworldly abilities. Readers desiring action will not be disappointed with the frequency of the battle scenes as they permeate the reading.
Ranger’s appearance in the plot was a welcome one. I tend to find some of the more benign moments in fantasies to be the most compelling. For instance, I am sure most readers will find Luna’s heartbreak over Cole to be the most poignant part of the story line, but I see Ranger’s change of heart as the turning point of the book and the most gripping element of the plot involving him and Luna. I felt a much deeper connection between Luna and Ranger than I did between any others. The scene in which Ranger is unable to make himself fulfill his mission to destroy Luna is a touching one in which the author allows the reader a thorough glimpse inside Ranger’s mind. The fact that he questions Luna’s reactions and the intensity of her emotions is moving. As he gives in to his own questions, the reader is offered a much different side of Ranger.
The haunting of Luna by Venom, the assassin she kills, and the flashbacks Luna endures are heart-wrenching. These are some of the most poignant scenes in the entire book and are much of the reason I continued to remain attached to Luna’s character and her ongoing trauma. I was not as compelled by the lengthy battle scenes as I was the deep and moving exchanges between Luna and Ranger.
The toggling between identifying Aurora as Luna did seem to get in the way of my reading just a bit in the first chapters. I found myself rereading in order to make sure I had, indeed, read correctly. Her hidden identity plays a major role in the plot, but does tend to interfere at times with the flow of the text.
Beyond the Code by Kelsey Rae Barthel is brimming with action and focused upon characters who are hellbent on keeping themselves on the right side of things, this piece is sure to appeal to fans of urban fantasies.
Pages: 336 | ASIN: B078V4LC48
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The future will crumble as history re-writes itself in the great time travel apocalypse.
It is the year 2258 when nineteen year old China Winter discovers her ability to cross the veil between worlds. On a quest to find her missing brother Maddox, she finds herself summoned by the father of time travel – Nikola Tesla to help save the whole of humanity; both past and future souls. China must sacrifice so much as she is dragged ever deeper into a treacherous and eternal time war.
Stepping back in time from her steampunk-esque existence, China finds herself caught up in the most incredible battles. Every army that ever existed can materialise in the wrong time or place, at any given moment to lay siege upon the earth. Slipping back and forth between the mists of time, history re-writes itself, playing havoc on the very fabric of reality. Can she survive the world of hauntings, poltergeist manifestations and time slips to save the universe from complete obliteration?
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Invasion, by Roxanne Bland is a blend of werewolf, vampire, fantasy and sci-fi genres, set in the modern world. We follow Kurt, a vampire, Garrett, a mage, and Parker Berenson, the alpha of Seattle’s werewolf pack. They become bound together, despite their struggles and differences in the face of an alien invasion that brings Melera, an old flame of Parker’s, back into the mix. Mag Beloc bursts onto the scene as the real cause of the invasion, who commands a fleet of warships in pursuit of the intergalactic assassin, Melera. And so all the pieces fall into place that make for an interesting narrative as the comrades deal with the magic that binds them and the insurmountable odds of an alien invasion force on Earth.
Roxanne Bland’s novel blends many genres but, overall, follows similar beats that are pretty familiar to science fiction adventure novels. This story stays colorful with it’s interesting use of vampires and werewolves, but at the core of the story, you still have a tale of heroes struggling against one another and the external forces lining up against them.
The novels strengths lie with it’s well developed characters and their relationships rather than the premise. Kurt, Garrett, and Parker are all fun and dynamic characters. Whether it’s spicy dialogue or intriguing interactions, the well rounded characters are the most appealing aspect of this novel. Although the plot left me wanting more, these character can be anywhere and still be interesting.
The novel has a lot of telling rather than showing as well as descriptions that tend to weigh the action down, making the overall pacing slow. This is something that many readers revel in, but with a plot that involves vampires and werewolves battling aliens! I thought it would faster. I will say there are some really great action scenes as well as a steamy sex scene, so if you consider yourself mature, then this novel is for you.
All in all, if such a wild blend of genres is your thing then this is the book for you. Science fiction fans may find themselves most at home in this world, but fantasy fans will want in as well. Either way, Invasion is sure to please pulp readers of all stripes.
Pages: 305 | ASIN: B0774LYZT9
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Lon Brett Coon’s Panther across the Stars is a stirring historical novel depicting the detailed life of a Shawnee Indian warrior called Tecumseh otherwise known as panther across the stars that was a brave and intelligent warrior who is able to inspire loyalty, devotion and admiration from all that knew him. He battles the palefaces who are his sworn enemies even though he is curious about their strange way, and even befriends the few he could respect. This is a visceral tale of power, passion and one man’s destiny to unite his people in the struggles to save their land and way of life from the white settlers.
Tecumseh, being a proud man, is relentless in his efforts and travels for many months trying to gather support and warriors from other chiefs. Unfortunately the other chiefs do not join the alliance because many of them end up being short sighted. Tecumseh is driven by myth and hope as he battles again and again even though he is not sure whether peace is possible.
This book is a fantastic read. Lon Brett Coon writes in a way that puts the reader in the scene. I felt like I was walking alongside the triumphs and trials of the members. The attention given to the customs of the Shawnee and other tribal nations was enjoyable and detailed. The writing style was both engaging and entertaining. The author excellently paints a portrait of these people’s lives. It is interesting to read about the Shawnee and how they coped with the intrusion of white settlers. Their bravery and courage was outstanding though it leaves one wishing they had had been treated better.
It was heartbreaking to learn about the lies and deceit from the Americans and seeing the Shawnee native land disappearing slowly. We get to watch as they are constantly being moved west as treaties are broken constantly by the white people who are driven by their hunger for more land and ownership of it. This is a novel that deftly portrays the injustices brought upon Native Americans.
I would definitely recommend it for anyone who wants to know more about the history, culture, and battles of American Indians. The author has clearly done his research and kept it as accurate as possible. Tecumseh’s passion for his people is clear and earns him extraordinary friends. Although this novel sheds light on some dark historical times, there’s an undercurrent of optimism that inspires hope in the reader that maybe the Native Americans will win, and save their land.
Pages: 315 | ASIN: B076Y8BTF2
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Set in the world of Perilisc, Jesse Teller returns to this world with another series sure to captivate readers. The Manhunters series starts off with Song, and tells two story lines that intertwine. Rayph Ivoryfist is an immortal magician that has his own personal demons to fight, but is bound by honor to protect the land and the boy he believes to be the next great ruler. When the prison he built is destroyed and all the evil had brought to justice is released he knew he needed help. Rayph than builds his own army of powerful beings, with his old friend Smear at his side. Parallel to the story of Ivoryfist preparing for battle is the story of Konnon, the father that wants a cure for his daughter’s paralysis. To help his daughter Bree, Konnon must work with his partner Glyss. Together the two of them have a reputation for being unstoppable and deadly. They live up to this reputation, knowing each other inside and out. The two pair’s separate missions will unavoidably end them up together in the town of Song, the question is, who is alive in the end?
Jesse Teller has a way with describing the setting that really makes you feel like you are there. The swamps that Rayph visits, you can almost feel the mud clinging to you, smell the decaying woods and animals used for sacrifices, and feel the tension that the people around the main characters create. The level of detail that goes into settings, also goes into the action. While this is great for really getting into things, those with a weak stomach for gore might not be pleased. Teller describes in detail the torture of some characters, and details the death of many. This level of detail may not appeal to all, but Teller can also detail the compassion and love between two characters just as well. The example of Konnon and his daughter Bree. There is no question about the devotion and love he feels for his daughter, it is relatable and pulls at the heart strings. A father’s undying love and willingness to do whatever he must to save her, no matter what the cost is to himself.
One of Teller’s greatest skills is relationships. Not romantic quest love relationships, but bonds between people and spirits. These bonds draw the readers in sometimes more than the story lines do because they are so powerful and relatable. As I read Song, I felt the bonds that form between Rayph and his army. The magic that makes it so they can all be connected is just a piece of the puzzle, they genuinely build a brotherhood and work as one. Konnon and Glyss while not blood brothers move as one unit together, they are bound and know each other so well there is no need for words. It is a great read for the relationship factor alone. If you enjoy studying and reading about human (or in this case non human) relationship Teller will not disappoint. Through his use of many magical creatures from humans, to fairies, to demons, all working together for a common goal the passion for survival and willingness to put all differences aside for is apparent. Perhaps it is a good lesson for modern society, put our differences aside and work together to defeat the evil looking to rip our world apart.
Pages: 319 | ASIN: B074GP13JC
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The Rashade, written by Rebecca Tran, tells the tale of Mara, a purposeful and strong willed woman whose life mission revolves around avenging the death of her father. Mara is a trained soldier, a skilled fighter and is determined to find the man who murdered her father (whilst she was forced to watch), leaving both physical and emotional scars that haunt her nightmares. As she sets out on her epic adventure she will meet new friends, new enemies and finally face off with the evil mage Laran who has his eyes set on taking over her homelands.
The Rashade is the first book in the Chronicles of the Coranydas series and delivers an adventure filled with magical characters, valiant warriors and a determined young woman who has her eyes set on avenging her father. The story begins with Mara applying for leave through the High Priestess, who also happens to be Mara’s mother. Mara is a trained soldier in the League and hopes to use her time away to finally face the evil Laran.
The Rashade has similar tones to books such as Deltora Quest and Game of Thrones as the main characters set on an adventure where there are tombs, priestesses and sword fights that will leave the reader on the edge of their seat in anticipation. Epic battles crossed with a burning desire to destroy an evil man will mean the reader will be captivated until the very end.
Not everybody is who they seem and I thoroughly enjoyed the progression of each character as we learned more about their life through the unexpected relationships that develop. The characters come from a variety of backgrounds, ranging from soldiers to priestesses to mages- humans who possess magical powers and mysterious grey eyes. Romance, swordsmanship and magical weapons will intertwine into a plot line that is consistently entertaining.
Mara and Kess are friends who set off together after decisions made by the High Priestess. Kess is sometimes shy, sometimes brave and the reader will quickly begin to appreciate his ability to be there when Mara needs him most. But Mara is an independent and strong woman, and it was a breath of fresh air to read about a woman warrior, rather than the typical man going into battle.
The Rashade has elements of olden day romance with flirting consisting of showing ankles in a bar, arranged marriages and oaths that stand the test of time. The outfits, swords and horses will throw the reader into an era that was far before our time. It was easy to get lost in a world of fantasy and transported to a place where magic and priestesses exist and readers will be pleasantly surprised at how easily time gets away when you are lost in the pages of The Rashade.
I would recommend this to anybody looking for a fantasy novel with twists and turns that result in a heart-stopping conclusion. I look forward to reading the other stories in the series!
Pages: 425 | ASIN: B01N211HHR
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Kathryn Berryman’s Erinland infuses Christianity into ancient rites while catapulting 21st Century characters into a 9th Century Viking war. Two teens, Amy and Richard, serve as threads in an intricate tapestry of historical fiction. Sharing the weave is Aiden, a monk protecting valuable antiquities with his life.
The story moves along through the points of view of one of the three most important characters. When Amy and Richard land in their respective, opposing villages, they are fully embraced. Both are long-awaited reincarnations of gods of the time. We’d expect the teenagers to feel displaced and confused, but they adapt quickly.
Berryman provides much in the way of Viking history, landscape, and relic description. Erinland is driven by her vast interest in these. We learn much lore through the tale of these ordinary, troubled children endowed with extraordinary powers from the glorious beings they represent. Berryman’s depictions of the cultures during the time are lovely and detailed as she describes their villages, clothing, and lifestyles. “The kransen, a gilt circlet worn on the head by unmarried girls, is removed from the young bride to be. It is a symbol of her virginity. The kransen is wrapped up by the bride’s attendants and put away until the birth of her eldest daughter who it will pass to.” (Page 194).
In Berryman’s desire to share her knowledge, she writes long monologues. These establish her as a credible authority on ancient history, but do so at the expense of natural dialogue. After suddenly being transported in time, the three primary characters are plunked down and force-fed tons of information. “Richard listened closely to Vagn as he spoke. It was a lot of information to absorb.” (Page 325).
The lack of meaningful exchanges sacrifices character development. This is particularly true for Amy, but less so for Richard. Relating to the characters is essential for us to want to read on.
Because war is the foundation of the plot, we may find it difficult to suspend belief when we are told the teens can learn how to become warriors in a few afternoons. Berryman relies upon descendent memory to take care of the problem. “Familiarise yourself with our ways. Your memories will return. A son of Odin retains his father’s essence and with it his memories and might.” (Page 183).
In the end Erinland is a fascinating story that fuses mythology with well-choreographed battle scenes.
Pages: 278 | ASIN: B01MR9IAQL
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This God, I, is a novel based around a group of teenagers turned Japanese superheroes as they band together in a battle against evil. Where did the inspiration for the thrilling action come from and how did it develop as you were writing?
I’ve always been a fan of comic books, anime and the action genre, so I’ve had ideas brewing in my head on how to construct a story full of car chases, paranormal battles and science fiction. For the scenes with domestic terrorists, I read about the history of nationalist extremism in the United States, such as Ruby Ridge, Waco and the Oklahoma City bombing, and tried to emulate what I learned. For super-powered fights, I had to come up with creative ways the heroes and villains could use their surroundings.
Japanese anime styled characters cross political extremists which sets the tone for this action packed adventure. What were some ideals you hoped would drive the narrative of the story?
Every character needs a believable motivation, and a political agenda can provide just that. Our cultural backgrounds and political views are a reflection of who we are as people, and I sought to create characters that would embody their various ideals and principles. While the extreme villains use their powers to force their ideas onto the world, the heroes have to be open-minded, consider all sides and work together to come to a reasonable conclusion. It was important for the heroes to put their values above the need to win at all costs, lest they end up just as bad as the people they’re fighting.
The superheroes come from a range of backgrounds and have a varied mix of super powers. How did you balance the characters powers to keep them interesting yet believable?
Every superpower has been thought of before, so it was important that my characters would utilize them in different ways, such as turning a roller coaster into a giant robot or controlling a crowd’s emotions to ignite a protest. It was also essential for every ability to serve a purpose, either to move the plot forward, reveal more information and create an action-packed spectacle.
This God, I is book 2 in the series. Where will book 3 take the characters?
In “The Genocide Gene,” Chikara and her friends travel to Africa to stop two demented brothers from starting a civil war and committing genocide. Along the way, they have to save hundreds of kidnapped schoolgirls and take on merciless rebel groups.
“Japanese superhero Chikara Kaminari has accepted her destiny: to save mankind from powerful political extremists. Joined by her friends, the empathic Renka and the shadow-controlling Gen, Chikara journeys to America to rescue her friend Michiko from the Ayn Rand- obsessed billionaire, Chillingworth.
As they search for their adversaries, Chikara and her friends encounter a murderous cell of homegrown terrorists called RAMPAGE (Revolutionary American Militant Patriots Against Government Enslavement). This militia of neo-nazis, white supremacists and anti-government extremists will stop at nothing to bring down the public sector, and only the three heroes can stop them before their war on the state claims innocent lives.
The future hangs in the balance as Chillingworth lures the world’s most powerful leaders to the United Nations. Using Michiko’s mind-controlling voice, he seeks to lead the Earth into a new era of selfishness and Anarchy. The heroes have to stop him, but the conservative Chikara and the socialist Gen have different definitions of the term “save the world.” While one wants to stop the plot, the other wants to control the politicians his own way. The three must put aside their disagreements and work together before America’s most extreme ideologues tear the world apart.”
Posted in Interviews
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Sicania Rising is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a fantasy, history, and adventure as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
My aim was to write a novel embracing events from an earlier time period that had not been explored. Drawing on the legendary battle of Camicus and the siege by the Minoan fleets provided the novel with a solid central theme to build upon. However, the novel during the adding of the campaigns drew on the beliefs of those involved giving the story a vibrancy that evolved during the conflicts that followed.
The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
Thanks for the positive comments. It was challenging drawing together the character’s and rewarding when they developed their roles within the novel. Because of the historical background, Sancunthian he supported other figures such as Paiawon and Rhadys adding new layers to the novel.
I enjoyed the detail and historical accuracy of the novel. Did you do a lot of research to maintain accuracy of the subject?
Yes the book required a lot of research that involved all the figures within the novel covering books from my own library and the purchase of new books. Having visited Sicily and Crete several times it allowed me to build a clear picture of the islands when writing about the varied locations used within the novel.
JOURNEY BACK IN TIME AND FOLLOW THE CAMPAIGNS IN THE WESTERN SEAS FOR CONTROL OF THE ANCIENT SEA TRADE ROUTES AND THE POWER, RICHES AND CONTROL IT DELIVERS. PHAECIAN SEA CAPTAINS LED BY PAIAWON, AEACUS AND RHADYS BATTLE WITH ARIUKKI, KOKALUS, THESANIS, ENNA and CARAUSIUS. FOLLOWING THE PASSING OFF HAMMURABI THE ANCIENT WORLD SAW THE LEADING POWERS BATTLE TO CONTROL THEIR BORDERS AND LANDS AS THE CITY STATES IN THE EAST FOUGHT BITTER INTER- CITY STATE WARS PROTECTING THEIR VITAL TRADE ROUTES AND SECURING ALLIANCES. WITH THE WESTERN SEA TRADE ROUTES OFFERING NEW MARKETS AND RESOURCES THE RIVAL POWERS ALL LOOKED WEST AND THE ISLAND OF SICANIA WITH ENVIOUS EYES.
Posted in Interviews
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In Stephen S. Arend’s Soul Searcher The Reckoning Part One the reader will find themselves on an incredible journey that will not only take them to the heart of battle but to the depths of the human soul. In a world where magic is as common as breathing, a soul transfer goes terribly wrong. The Mage-Lord Mordeth is attempting to complete a magic ritual where he can obtain a sliver of immortality. Thwarted and split in two the reader will meet the protagonist of Arend’s tale: Rork. A crafted man with half a soul and even less emotion, Rork prowls the world trying to deny the dreams he has which give small betrayals of his involvement with Mordeth. A large man who has been alive for only ten years Rork finds that he is missing much and is less than reluctant to find out where exactly he came from and how.
Arend does a wonderful job when it comes to emotion in his tale. Rork is full of rage and anger for a variety of reasons. He has been alive for a snippet of time. All he knows is battle and the haunting dreams that plague his sleep. Due to his firecracker temper which is liable to go off at the drop of a pin Rork finds himself saddled with an unexpected package: the scout Bregan. It seems like oil and water have met and are now expected to become friends. Rork immediately voices his disapproval over traveling with the young whip but what he will ultimately learn from his adventures with the scout. Both are more like boys in the beginning and Arend captures the metamorphosis into men quite well.
In a fantastically described world where magic is woven with intricacies even the smallest detail is given quite beautiful description. It is quite easy for the reader to picture the story in their minds as they read. You won’t be left guessing what expression the characters were wearing or what color the trees are when you read Soul Searcher.
For a first part Arend does masterfully in capturing the readers’ attention and lays out the ground work for subsequent tales. Information is freely given yet there is still more to be learned. These are key elements in any piece of work that is meant to go longer than the tome at hand.
With carefully crafted battle scenes and delicate explanations of magic Stephen Arend knows what his novel is about and is diligent in conveying the story to the reader. He takes the relationship between two unlikely friends and uses it to tell his tale. He doesn’t over embellish the tale which can be a major faux-pas for many fantasy writers. He uses his skills to convey the story in all it’s glory without diminishing the importance of the relationship between the two men. Other writers would gloss over the importance they play for each other and how they are essential to the development of each man’s personality,
Soul Searcher is a fantastical novel that is sure to delight those who read it. It’s not a fluffy piece where magic is used to make tarts and cakes. This is an involved and epic tale that is sure to keep your eyes glued to the words until the very end.
Pages: 222 | ASIN: B01IQP0QOU
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