Swords of Deception by Rowan Staeffler is a gripping fantasy novel revolving around Ellemar Vancel, who has been living her life as a hostage for almost three years, with permission to move only within the boundaries of the city. Her crime? She practiced her powers without supervision. One black day three years ago, rogue council member Celeana Maar wreaked havoc in the Witches Academy, and after a severe tussle, left Ellemar Vancel deeply wounded and deformed. Ellemar carries the painful memory of this traumatic incident to this date and wishes to find Celeana to take revenge on her. However, her mission is interrupted by the Council. The Council of Witches holds that a member cannot kill anyone. The novel begins with Ason informing her that the Council has finally granted her wish, and she can undertake her mission to track down Celeana.
Swords of Deception is the first book in A Sword of Deception Novel series, and the story is to be continued in Book 2, Swords of Revelation. This dark fantasy novel si short but potent. With little room to spare the chapters are succinct and the story is relentlessly propelled forward through a series of wild turns and electrifying revelations.
Within this adventurous story is an emotionally invigorating relationship between Ellemar and Ason which is subtle yet deep and provides ample dramatic punctuations to this action filled story. The work carries a light sensual undertone, especially towards the ending, without being too graphic.
Swords of Deception has a unique plot with crisp prose that will appeal to fans of The Witcher. This is a thrilling dark fantasy novel that will appeal to both young adult and adult readers who are interested in a sword and sorcery story that knows how to deliver a well defined and entertaining hero’s journey.
Pages: 227 | ASIN: B097Q4VK1T
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Beyond Sunlight follows a woman who’s normal life is shattered when a dark underworld is revealed to her and she’s turned into a vampire. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
In my books I often like to place ordinary people into extraordinary circumstances, where they have little or no control and are forced to survive and adapt to the new situations before their destiny is revealed. I wanted the same to happen to my main protagonist, Melanie Brace, who is a normal human wanting what most of all humans need, health, love of her family and enjoyment of life. When she turns into a vampire, her life takes on a new meaning as she discovers another, dark and exotic parallel world with its unique set of rules and traditions. The inspirational setup for this story came from several sources, the movie Interview with the Vampire, the Lawson Chronicles, written by a writer Joseph F. Mertz and another writer named Michael Romkey. Creating my own vampire world was a very interesting experience indeed.
Melanie is a fascinating character that was well developed. What were some driving ideals behind her character’s development?
Since I was a kid, I liked to draw and throughout my teenage years and my four years of college, I studied Fine Art and Graphic design. Melanie is a character that I molded practically from what you might say a rough clay, but I gave her many characteristics from my own personality. The gender issue here is even more relevant, because in making Melanie, I got into a deeper touch with my feminine side. Like me, Melanie is an artist, albeit a much better one (grin) and she is strong, independent, honest and dependable, and above all loyal to her friends and remains a law abiding citizen even after she turns into a vampire. The main driving ideals behind her creation were my own principles of loyalty to my family and friends and never compromising my principles in the face of injustice.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
When I sat down to write the story about Melanie, I studied other works of dark fantasy involving humans and vampires. Vampires are traditionally seen as creatures of darkness and mystery, the ultimate predators hiding among humans in plain sight. Since the world was introduced to Dracula, a legendary fictional vampire immortal based on a real Romanian nobleman and ruler Vlad the Impaler, vampires have been transformed from beings of terror into charismatic and intelligent men and women, who use their incredibly long life experience to do good or evil. In this book I wanted to explore such themes as a second chances in life, overcoming physical and spiritual demise and ultimately discover a vampire world not much through magic as through science, giving a logical and believable explanation about the origin of vampires. We cannot know of light without knowing the darkness.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am currently working on the final book of the Age of Magnus Trilogy, which takes place one thousand years after the events in the second novel titled Age of Magnus The Iron Dawn. In this conclusion of the trilogy, the readers who are familiar with the previous two books will discover a unique world dominated by intelligent machines, where humanity is now divided into those who had found a true paradise in empire of Magnus and those who continue to fight more than nine centuries against their crushing defeat. In this third book, titled Age of Magnus Keepers of the Rain, the main protagonist, the most powerful A.I. in the world and ruler of planet earth has to make a decision whether to let humans devolve or offer them another shot at greatness as a species without the old sins that might follow them in a new era of love, war and space exploration. The book should be available in 2022.
Posted in Interviews
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Beyond Sunlight tells the riveting tale of Melanie and her normal human life that gets flipped upside down when she meets a mysterious stranger in a jazz club. Although impressed by his musical talents and chivalric nature, she could have never guessed what he would tell her that night. Suddenly, her peaceful life is shattered as she learns about her imminent death from cancer. Matters get even more complicated when Martin, the handsome stranger, confesses he belongs to an ancient species called Urtama and is a vampire.
The story is presented to us in the form of journal entries, and the the narrative flows casually from the first person point of view. This invites readers in and helps them relate with the protagonist and sympathize with her situation. Melanie is faced with many hard decisions while navigating her new life as a nightwalker. She displays grit and efficient survival skills which gives her an edge that kept me rooting for her.
Unlike other vampire novels, Melanie is not a damsel in distress waiting for her knight in shining armor to save her from the perils of the big bad world. She is independent and adept at not only defending herself, but also protecting those she cares about. She doesn’t tolerate any kind of disrespect aimed towards her or her loved ones. In fact, she values family bonds and it is this faith in kinship that dictates her behavior. The best thing about Melanie is that she questions everything, choosing to work out her options and evaluating them before finalizing. This also helps readers follow the story and understand everything that’s happening.
It is also important to note that there is no unnecessarily long and dramatic love triangle in the story which is often featured in most supernatural romance stories. Instead the story focuses on building the lore and details of the legend behind the Urtama race and the justifications for the need to dispose of human food consumed by night walkers. This keeps the story grounded and engaging.
Beyond Sunlight is a thrilling supernatural thriller that deftly building an intriguing backstory. I recommend this book to readers who are interested in dark fantasy stories with a formidable female lead.
Pages: 478 | ASIN: B095BL2GSJ
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The Walrus: Monster in the Mist by Alan J. Paul, follows the story of the curious and superhero obsessed pre-teen boy Paul A. Tonetti, Jr. Paul is clearly obsessed with superheroes from the DC comics and consistently compares them to the popular Marvel superhero brand. I was pulled in by the deft character development. Right from the beginning, and really even from the title of the book, I was intrigued with the story.
Author Alan J. Paul writes with a unique imagination and creativity, you could compare his writing to the popular late author C.S Lewis. With vivid descriptions of alluring characters, we’re able to imagine how each character looks especially with Paul’s creative metaphors and his use of superhero comparisons. He also brings in the aspect of children using their imagination to run away from their toxic family drama, using the reality vs imagination fantasy concept to great effect. You can also see how the author uses his superhero knowledge to his advantage in this book, as comic fans will appreciate the references.
It has been awhile since I have read a book like The Walrus. This is a story with great depth, but it’s laid out methodically. The ever present sense of something sinister lurking on the fringes seems to permeate the story in a way that make it hard to put this book down, and impossible to forget the pensive feelings it instills in you.
I related deeply with Paul’s mother and his aunt’s relationship, even though it does not play a big part in the book, the author does briefly touch on the sister relationship between Annette and the main character’s mother, mainly because I have such a close relationship with my own sister and believe that your sibling or siblings are the ones that are always there for you. I was a bit suspicious of George B. Albert’s character because of how Paul idolized him, making him seem a bit too perfect to be true. It sets up a riveting character study that evolves slowly throughout the story.
This is a dark urban fantasy novel that goes in unexpected directions. The Walrus: Monster in the Mist is an enthralling horror novel with a premise that utilizes superhero’s in a unique way.
Pages: 218 | ASIN: B09354L47M
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Nicholas Powter’s The Gauntlet of Pong Wu is a tragic story of love, family, and treachery. Set in the mystical land of Pong Wu, this story follows the life of Antatirgo, a local chief’s daughter. While the story begins with two warriors dueling for her hand in marriage, things soon take an apocalyptic turn.
Demons invade her village and she is tragically separated from her sister Wytgo. In a last-ditch attempt to save herself and find her sister, she lets a demon possess her after he promises to help her. Ultimately, this decision takes her down a dangerous path, one of pain and unexpected challenges.
As expected from a story with gods, angels, and demons, a lot of the language used in this book is quite unique – this particular story posses a flair for horrid descriptions and uses a lot of old English terms. While this adds authenticity to the spellbinding narrative that immerses you in the well-crafted world, I think it can be overwhelming at times. While the dialogue is substantive and sincere, delivering much of the emotional impact of the novel, I felt it was ponderous at times and ti was hard to nail down who was talking.
These minor quibbles aside, the plot of The Gauntlet of Pong Wu driving this riveting story forward is absolutely enthralling and sets up some very impactful scenes that will stay with you long after you’ve put the book down. The author has a way of always keeping you on your toes. This epic paranormal fantasy novel expertly depicts how much one is willing to endure for the love of family. I really enjoyed the ending to this dark fantasy novel as well, it is quite tragic and unpredictable, and left me with a lot of mixed feelings, which I think is what a good novel is supposed to do.
The Gauntlet of Pong Wu is an emotionally charged adventure novel with a rich backstory and fascinating characters that make it hard to put this book down.
Pages: 97 | ISBN: 198229065X
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The Chronicles of AzzaNation follows a collection of unlikely heroes who must face a sadistic King to save their nation. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
The world of AzzaNation was born out of a high school creative writing assignment. At the time I was struggling with ideas of perfection and legacy, so I created a world where humans were expected to be perfect or near-perfect for the good of the species. Anyone who didn’t live up to this standard during their educational years was executed. Harsh I know! But sometimes I feel like that is the pressure we put on ourselves, especially in those formative years. The short story was well received by my instructor and he encouraged me to keep writing. So, I decided to develop this world further, and worked on it off and on as a passion project for the past ten years or so.
I’ve always been inspired by epic and melodramatic stories where the fate of an entire world hangs in the balance. Larger than life stories like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings always leave a huge impression on me, and I wanted to create a world for myself and for readers that would emulate that immersive experience. I fall in love with well-developed worlds and intriguing characters, so that is where I started. I wanted heroes that you love and a villain that is terrifying. In the case of the latter, I made King Grindaull who has led humanity down this dark path. He is a man who represents lust for power, greed and cruelty, and I think that when we are faced with someone like that we have two choices: put your head down and let them continue, or stand up to them in whatever way you can.
Leo Exe is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?
In many ways Leo reminds me of all my insecurities. He’s full of fear, and he constantly doubts himself. Which may not sound fun at first glance, but the more I explored these traits of his, the more I was able to help him work through those insecurities. He’s put into situations that test him at every turn, and through these moments he gets to face those insecurities head on and decide if he’s going to let them define him. Will he run or will he fight? Will he survive at all costs, or is there something he is willing to lay down his life for? These are the questions I asked myself, and in turn asked Leo, and I didn’t often know what his response would be.
Out of all the characters in The Chronicles of AzzaNation Leo feels the most real to me because he is constantly learning and adapting how he sees the world, and I look forward to exploring his development further throughout the series.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
Family, Loss and Grief were big ones for sure. I also wanted to explore the idea of holding onto hope and belief in yourself, even when things seem too dark to handle. There is always a reason to keep going, and even if that reason changes throughout your life, you need to hold onto whatever it may be in that moment, and if you really need help, then look to those you love, because I guarantee they will never lose faith in you.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am working on the second installment in the Chronicles of AzzaNation series, which is titled The Final Storm. It takes place in the aftermath of the first book, as a new threat to AzzaNation emerges. It should be ready for release next year in 2022!
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The Chronicles of AzzaNation: Dawn of a New Age by Matt Mihilewicz is a mesmerizing and expansive science fiction fantasy story following an unlikely battle between the tyrannical leader of AzzaNation and a young man, Leo Exe. The Brotherhood of Light, a powerful resistance group recruits Leo to attack the King and his Royal Army for the terror they have created. Alongside is Diandra, a woman with strange powers that allows her to control the energy surrounding her. Leo and his unlikely friends come together to take down the evil leader and bring back the light to AzzaNation.
Leo Exe is a compelling and likable protagonist- he’s a bit Aladdin-esque. He’s poor, struggling, and with an odd but strong moral compass. He is the definition of a reluctant, unlikely hero as he gathers his limited resources to fight against the despot. Diandra is also a strong, compassionate, and rebellious character. She uses her powers and training in capturing natural energies to help Leo out of difficult situations. I would have loved to read this story from her point-of-view– she has the coolest powers and is unintimidated in the face of danger.
The novel opens with an intricate map of AzzaNation that I would frequently flip back to while reading about the various places and interesting terrains. I’m always a fan of maps and illustrations of any kind in fantasy books– they provide a depth to world-building that wouldn’t be there otherwise. The author also provides a sort of preamble in the beginning, giving a short history of AzzaNation and setting the stage for its characters later on.
This is not by any means a light read but it is extremely engaging. The author dwells on all the characters and sceneries, creating vivid and realistic visions even out of simple meditation scenes. The pace is slow but it makes the build-up even more intense. There are a lot of side plots happening and many hoops that Leo has to jump through to get to achieve his final goal. This is not a cut-to-the-chase action thriller. This was a very rewarding read because of the slow-burn nature. I am invested in seeing the fate of AzzaNation, the Brotherhood, and of course, Leo. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in escaping to a different and a much more fantastical world.
Pages: 248 | ASIN: B08XPDZSQF
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The Roadside Paradise traveling circus appeared as Athena’s savior, picking her up at a truck stop and encouraging her to join the show, accepting her almost like family. Athena, however, had, to a degree, sought out Roadside Paradise, hoping that the circus would provide answers to certain events of her past and help her find her sister. It shocked her to learn that the owner, known only as V, knew why she was there. It shocked her even more to learn about the incredible happenings within the show. When V tells her that he can help find her sister, Athena must learn to put aside her doubts and suspicions and allow it to happen.
Into Oblivion by K.J. Amidon is the first of the three part Roadside Paradise series and introduces us to Athena, V, Doc, and the rest of the troupe. With Athena as the initial focus, the plot quickly establishes her as a tough, no nonsense kind of person, hinting strongly at her troubled past without revealing everything too quickly. With the introduction of the circus and its many personalities however, Athena becomes more complicated, as she navigates the waters and tries to decide how much to reveal and to whom. She is quickly forced to admit that she has an ulterior motive for being there when she’s faced with Doc and V who legitimately have supernatural abilities. Almost as soon as they’re introduced, it becomes clear that the Roadside Paradise isn’t “just” a circus. Into Oblivion is an intricately and well crafted story about one person’s personal mission amid worldwide secret societies. It escalates quickly… and is a fun ride the entire time.
Into Oblivion has a lot going on and at times it feels like it’s telling two different and distinct stories. But as it twists and turns and new reveals are made, Athena’s story slowly becomes more intertwined with that of the circus, and V specifically. Because it’s part of a series, there are few resolutions by the end, but by that point you’re invested- not just in learning if the characters reach their goals, but also in finding out more about V and his history. Athena is the main character, but V is also an equally intriguing character.
I was frustrated initially with what seemed to be an overly busy storyline, I was nonetheless hooked very early on and was excited to see how it all started to come together. I hope the next two parts of the book tie everything up well and I’ll so we can see who comes out on top!
Into Oblivion is a complex urban fantasy novel infused with captivating paranormal elements that make this a must-read for any reader looking for a book that has an alluring mystery driving it.
Pages: 197 | ASIN: B0714DDHJ6
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