The Enigma Dragon: A CATS Tale, by Charles Breakfield and Roxanne Burkey, is a fascinating tale of technological wonderment. The CATS (Cyber Assassin Technology Services) team has assembled from various global points with a singular goal and an overwhelming need to discover the source of North Korea’s missile supply. The team of equally capable and delightfully eclectic personalities masterfully manipulate a world of technological advancements as they handle their own personal crises–one after the other. The authors have created an amazing team of players ranging from married couple, Julie and Juan Rodriguez, to the villainous Marge. The globetrotting CATS team does not disappoint.
My favorite member of the CATS team is likely not the choice of most readers. I was completely enthralled with the story line involving Jamie. It is not often I reread chapters during the first read of a book, but I found myself lost in the tale of loss and despair described in Jamie’s chapter. His is a plot I would love to see further developed in subsequent Enigma books.
Julie and Juan Rodriguez are a couple like no other. The love they show for one another is enviable and not often found in books of this genre. The authors have given Juan some incredible monologues in which he, in no uncertain terms, declares his undying love for Julie. Julie, a dedicated CATS team member, is also a doting mother and exudes power in every way.
Marge, a vile and loathsome woman of pure evil, is the one character readers will revel in hating. The authors have expertly stretched out her character development to slowly reveal exactly how twisted and demented she really is. Without revealing too much about Marge’s wonderful plot twist, I will say I found shock, horror, and satisfaction tied up in one neat package before the end of the book.
Connie, like Jamie, holds a storyline in her hands like a beautiful package just awaiting the untying of its bow. Her dialect alone is a refreshing addition to the dialogue provided throughout the book. She is a loving, cunning, and especially memorable character addition who shows up late in the plot but deserves a regular place in the lives of the CATS team.
My only complaint regarding this book is the excessive use of acronyms. Many of them are humorous and all are quite effective in their descriptions and uses, but I found them to be a bit distracting as I read as many of them are in excess of five letters.
Breakfield and Burkey have created a book fraught with danger, tinged with grim backstories, and peppered with romance. They have indeed achieved a perfect mix of genres in the guise of a technological thrill ride.
I would recommend this book to any reader eager to break into the science fiction genre. The long list of highly relatable characters makes this particular piece the perfect choice for anyone who has been hesitant to step into science fiction with a techno taste.
Pages: 493 | ASIN: B0767QD12G
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Capricorn by Jerry Veit is a pulpy thrill ride. Set in a dystopian world where a city has fallen to criminals and other underworld scum, we follow the hero, Montague, who deals out his own brand of justice. A man who clearly has a dark past of his own struggles with his unrelenting anger until he meets Capricorn, a beautiful young woman. They instantly have a connection but their meeting is cut all too short when a group of thugs kidnap her. Montague is driven by his pledge to Capricorn and undergoes seven trials in order to enter Mammon’s domain wherein his love is imprisoned.
The story is given in play format. The format does not detract from the story itself, although it would do well in audio format. The world of Capricorn is an interesting mix of fantasy, dystopian, and urban fantasy. There are even some themes and symbolism of classical mythology and the Judeo-Christian mythos thrown in for good measure. The world building itself walks a fine line of being just complex enough to make the world feel alive.
Typical of Veit, Capricorn is a story driven by fast actions and passionate motivations. Montague is a not quite anti-hero, but embodies similar traits of the archetype, especially by how he deals out justice. He seems to sway back and forth over the line of being good or bad, although he bears everything that is thrown at him. The trails follow a somewhat formulaic method, but still give the reader certain checkpoints.
This brings up the antagonist, who in some stories helps define the protagonist. Named the Demon, but later Mammon, Veit does some interesting things when the Demon clashes with Montague and it was these moments that will make the reader keep reading until the end. A traditional quest story set in a world that is so strange but familiar to us. Montague does seem to exist in a vacuum and does come across as too singularly minded, which tends to alienate the reader somewhat. This is circumvented by the pure romance and chemistry that Capricorn and Montague have for one another. The adventure, danger, and risk also keep this story lean and fast-paced.
Overall, Capricorn is a fun read for more mature fans of pulp fantasy, urban fantasy and dystopian fiction.
Pages: 136 | ASIN: B00IPSZQCQ
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Fleeing the Shadows is a satisfying follow-up in the continuing Dangerous Loyalties series by Phyllis A. Still. Continuing only days after the events of the previous Defiance on Indian Creek, we are swept away as our brave, thirteen-year-old heroine, Mary Shirley, must flee with her family deeper into the Kentucky frontier. They seek to escape the British loyalists who dog their every step, but as they run farther from colonial territory proper, the family finds themselves in equal peril and at the mercy of Native American braves. Mary’s Papa relies on her to do what is right and help protect their family.
Having read the previous book in the series, this was a welcome return to the world of Dangerous Loyalties. Still has a great YA voice that carries the reader away with her pages. The novel has a faster pace to it, considering the family is always running from something and danger seems to lurk around every bend. For a historical YA novel, Still does not hold back on making sure that we feel the desperation of the family in every chapter. This anxiety is only enhanced as the family drives deeper into the wild unknown North American frontier.
Still keeps the reader much more on the edge of our seat with this narrative, because the stakes or that much higher. If the first could be called a ‘slow burn’, this can be called a ‘flash fire’. The story rips right off the page. The setting of the summer of 1775 keeps the historical urgency matching the urgency of this very personal story, but the overarching nationwide feelings are much more muted in this second book of the series by virtue of the very present danger. At times the narrative leans on the setup of the previous too much to be a true standalone narrative, but as a second book it works perfectly well enough.
Mary continues to carry the bulk of the family’s worries as her Papa makes increasingly difficult and sometimes questionable decisions of what they should do, while running from the loyalists, even while Indians shadow their every step. Mary is still dealing with the emotional turmoil after delivering the dispatches and her Papa only makes this worse. Overall, Fleeing the Shadows is a stirring, nail-biter of a read and will be sure to please fans of the first book of the series.
Pages: 212 | ASIN: B072C23D6R
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GROND – The Raven High by Yuri Hamaganov is a sci-fi book set around 70 years in the future. On a post-apocalyptic Earth, there are no resources or clean water left, and the pollution has caused giant storms across the planet. Our main character is Olga, a young girl who is one of seven biologically engineered post humans called ‘The Changed’. They work in ships above Earth using their abilities to create nanomaterials that help remove the pollution below. This book follows on from the events of the first, and starts with our main character Olga in training.
The start of the book, and for parts throughout, is very dialogue heavy, and occasionally it can almost feel like a script with fast speech between the characters. However, this is no way a hindrance as the dialogue is interesting and smooth – you feel as if you are reading a real conversation between two people. Dialogue for writers is often hard to perfect, it can feel as if people either have the knack or they don’t. If this is the case Hamaganov definitely has the knack.
What makes the writing even more impressive is that the author also translates these books himself from Russian to English. Portraying dialogue and actions sequences in two different languages is no small feat and Hamaganov has executed it well. However, occasionally there are a few incorrect sentences or words in the book but these in no way make the novel unreadable and are easily forgiven.
The action in this book is enjoyable, and while it is happening you realise you care for the characters involved. Olga’s ‘nanny’, an android there to train Olga for her purpose, is an excellent addition to the character line-up who acts as a parent figure and genuinely cares for Olga’s success and safety. As a reader, this is a character who adds a caring and nurturing theme to the book, and makes you empathise more with Olga and any danger she may face.
Overall, if you are looking for a fun sci-fi novel to read, this is a good one to pick up. It’s fun and not too long, and you can be sure that if you enjoy it enough there will be another 6 books as the author plans to make this an 8 book series.
Pages: 190 | ASIN: B06XCFT4D1
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False Gods is a classic tale of angels and demons with a modern twist. Following his adoptive father’s untimely death, young Cormac is inducted as the Seventh Sentinel. Under archangel Michael’s celestial watch, Cormac acquires a team of quick witted, and often-times humorous, powerful beings. Sworn to protect mankind and his loyal sentinels from the ever-impending threat of demons and evil forces, he is thrust into the steep learning curve of what it means to serve his Lord. Cormac must now confront not only his worst nightmares, but the missing pieces of his past as well.
In the first few pages of False Gods, I felt much like what I imagine Cormac did in his first few days as the Seventh Sentinel; confused and unprepared. It felt as if I had been dropped into the halfway point of a dense novel. At first, it drove me crazy. I couldn’t keep characters straight, and between the jumble of formal language and modern day jargon it took me a while to surmise this was taking place in present day. Not to mention Cormac and his team are traipsing all over the globe to the point where I had to drag out a map. Albeit, I started to enjoy the confusion. As small pieces came into focus I quickly became fully invested in Cormac’s journey.
Cormac, young and freshly out of being sworn in as the Seventh Sentinel, quickly realizes that his life is now filled with danger at every turn. He acquires a team of powerful individuals, each with their own strengths. The reader watches as Cormac stumbles through his first few weeks of this new position under the watch of mighty angels. Like any hero’s journey, he is given a quest, one that will lead Cormac and his team all over the world in search of artifacts. That is, unless demons get to them first.
This book was so poignant and filled with emotion that it left me wanting a bit more at times. False Gods is on the razor’s of emotional drama and a non-stop celestial action with faint notes of romance and intimacy.
The writing is skillfully crafted around Cormac and he comes to life right in front of you, his disposition immediately so infectious in a way that makes you wish you could be one of his paladins. The loyalty of his team and his emotional confrontation with his past grips you harder with each page. The quiet and intimate moments between characters, such as Noelle and Connor, or Cormac and Rachel, are visceral and evocative. Cormac’s team of gifted paladins are a bit hard to keep straight, the descriptions come to light very quickly in the beginning and are easily lost as the story becomes more involved. However, their personalities start to differ, and by the time the book comes to a close I found myself touched by each individual’s support for their Seventh Sentinel and clinging to Cormac’s unwavering determination.
Pages: 312 | ASIN: B01B7FMFDG
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“Japanese teenager Chikara Kaminari, while heartbroken by the death of her mother, inherits a strange black ring. Her mother’s will tells her to share it with her best friend, Renka, and a socialist student named Gen, so that they can save the world from political fanatics. Guided only by cryptic clues yet honor bound to obey her mother, Chikara does as she’s told. As the three develop extraordinary abilities, including emotional manipulation and control over darkness, they set out to uncover the origin of the ring and its connection to their mind-controlling school bully, Michiko.
Their destiny becomes clearer as Michiko’s power grows beyond her control, setting a classmate on a murderous rampage. As predicted, dangerous extremists appear, seeking to use the ring’s power to force their political views onto all of humanity. Chikara and her friends must put aside their partisanship and become the heroes they were destined to be.”
The Onryō by Rocco Ryg is a science fiction fantasy set in Japan. It is reminiscent of a traditional manga where teenagers are the main characters and take on heroic roles with outlandish situations. Some of the outlandish situations include the supernatural elements that writers often feature in Japanese manga and their other works. The book follows the main character, Chikara, through mostly a third person point of view. You get to see the thoughts of Chikara along with other people who she comes in contact, which is vital. Additionally, the main character makes exponential growth from beginning to end.
The first line of the book immediately draws you in. The writing of the book comes off as a very well done first draft that could use a bit of reviewing. Some of the emotions are not explored much, there were minimal grammatical mistakes, and there was one instance in which what was explained did not match what was said beforehand. The writing style increasingly gets better as you continue reading it. As such, it could have done with a bit more reviewing before publishing, but it does not keep one from enjoying the book.
You can tell from reading it that the person is a fan of Japanese cultures, as it reads like someone who knows about the culture and admires it rather than from an individual who was born in Japan. But again, it does not keep you from enjoying the book. The author was clearly influenced by their love of manga, as it was mentioned throughout. Additionally, there were many manga elements within the book, such as focusing on teenage girls, supernatural powers, and teenage romance
The plot of the book was interesting, but a little slow moving. However, it picked back up toward the end. The written action parts are genuinely some of my favorite scenes of the book. The supernatural elements are fascinating and the way it was incorporated not only made sense, but it is an exciting read. Although, the book did have stereotypical women in some places, it still led to some intriguing plot developments and character clashes.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys manga, Japanese culture, and action. It contains much fast-paced action, which is exciting. I can only expect the sequel to be better than the first as the writing and character development of the story improves as it goes on, making any future works by the author promising. The ending of the book, while slow to build, was fantastic. I loved the ending and the change in the main character. It made me want to read the sequel.
Pages: 237 | ASIN: B0058KSKHW
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Soul Searcher takes place in a world where magic is as common as breathing, but a soul transfer goes terribly wrong. This is an intriguing setup to an epic fantasy novel. What was your moral goal when writing this novel and do you feel you’ve achieved it?
I wrote a good portion of Soul Searcher while I was working as an Adult Felony Probation Officer. Working in such a position gives a person the opportunity to experience many different views of why we are here, in this life. One such outlook was the need to obtain immediate gratification without forethought of the moral costs or consequences: addiction. Another outlook was the sometimes jaded, superior opinion many in the field get when working in that environment. Mordeth was addicted to the power of his position and the euphoria of the magical weave, and he felt he was justified in what he was doing. This addiction made him impatient, and his superiority caused him to other the criminals, to make them less than he. Mordeth’s straying from the moral code of society led to his downfall and to wasted years. He forgot he was supposed to serve instead of being served.
Rork is an intriguing character that knows little about his past. What were some of the trials that you felt were important to highlight the characters development?
First and foremost, Rork felt he needed no one. That is false. No matter how strong or independent, we all need someone. Everyone has unique traits and skills, but no one person is perfect. We all have weaknesses, and Rork sure had his. In discovering friendship, Rork improved his place in the world and brightened his existence. Also, Rork lacked faith in a power higher. He needed to learn to believe and have faith; his ax, Retorter, could not hack its way through everything. In the end, that was his redemption.
How did you balance magic and its use throughout the story to keep it believable?
I wanted magic to be addictive, to siphon life with each usage. It may cost seconds, minutes, hours, days or years of life with the depth of the draw. A Mage-Lord could instantly light a torch with a wave of his hand and only lose seconds of his life–about the same amount of time it would have taken to physically light it– or she could wield destructive power and lose years of life. A mage would have to balance his or her current need with the cost and danger, because accepting the weave is addicting and dangerous.
What is the next book that you’re working on and when can your fans expect it out?
I am working on Shadow Court. Rork’s redemption is complete, but his atonement is ongoing. Rork has to face all he did as Mordeth, and that man’s sins are far reaching. Shadow Court will be out January 2017.
Soul Searcher: The Reckoning details the journey of one man, Rork, as he strives to find his past and answers to the strange memories and images which have plagued him for the past ten years. In making this journey, he will discover who he really is…and was. Along the way, Rork gathers to his side an enigmatic forester with ties to a long-forgotten race, that young man’s secret protector, and a boisterous islander with pride as large as the open canyon country. In the end, Rork finds himself torn between what he must do for himself and what he can do for others around him, for he learns of friendship and caring, and that it hard for a man with only half a soul. The past cannot be changed, and for some, the reality of that may prove too much to accept.
Posted in Interviews
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In this exciting follow-up to The Mage Sister, Arinda and Jahx are married, but Jahx has been troubled by bad dreams. They’ve spent several months together to let their magic blend and settle, and their love for each other grows. During that time, Arinda hatches a plan to start a school for magicker girls, right alongside the one for boys at Vespith academy. Of course, she’s met with stiff opposition, but this is Arinda, and she’s determined to get her way. As word gets out about her her work, Nathan receives a notice from Chilharia that they are interested and excited about setting up a girls’ school. Not long after, Tenaria follows suit, but the prospect of visiting alarms King Nathan. While Chilharia is on good terms, Tenaria is just short of openly hostile. Jahx flies into a rage, refusing to go and demanding that Arinda stays in Rowan as well.
Despite Jahx’s disagreement and refusal to let Arinda go, Nathan wins the argument. Jahx, Arinda and the rest of the Royal party embark on a journey that seems innocent enough, but the Danforth family of Tenaria is known to be overly ambitious, even dangerous. What was supposed to be a pleasant exchange of ideas becomes something so terrible that it could rip Kynllaria apart.
Jeanne Bradford brings back some of the best characters from her first book and introduces us to new kingdoms and their people. I do recommend that you read The Mage Sister before Children of Fi. The events of the first book shape some of the events of this sequel. There’s also a good deal of history revealed here, expanding on the reasons which drove the legendary Fiaryn and his followers to abandon their old world and take the gate to Kynllaria.
The conflicts and revelations of the past are a driving force in this novel. Cullen, the Master Healer of Rowan, is both a friend and defender of Arinda’s plan to educate girls in magic, and his experience with, and connections to Tenaria play a key role in the story. Jahx battles his past and Nathan fights for the future. Nathan’s wife, Queen Catherine, also proves to be a woman of strength, cunning, and devotion. As with the first book, sometimes the bickering and temper tantrums get to be a bit much, but in one case, one of those temper tantrums turns out to be a good thing! As the group from Rowan traverse the other kingdoms, they meet new friends, old enemies, and uncover secrets and spies within their midst.
This is a good read, and Ms. Bradford has a real talent for pulling the reader along in one direction, and just when you think you know what will happen, the wheel turns, and you’re off on another adventure. Battles are fought against overwhelming odds, and everyone is in danger. It keeps the story fresh and exciting! The end of this book was a real shock for me, and I’m looking forward to more from this author.
Pages: 341 | ASIN: B01CN19ZOA
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