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Apollo’s Raven

Apollo's Raven by [Tanner, Linnea]

When a historical fantasy grips you from the very first page, you know you are in for an excellent read. With Apollo’s Raven by Linnea Tanner, we are brought into the world of the not-so-distant past when Rome set their sights on Britannia. We follow the experience of our protagonist Celtic princess Catrin and her star-crossed Roman lover, Marcellus. On opposing sides of a battle that grows fiercer with every passing day. There is more to this tale than love and war for magic and mysticism are part of the lifeblood of our characters. This is more than a tale of might and magic. This is also a tale of a woman coming into her own as a powerful warrior and a strong mystic. Catrin has faced uncertainty and hardship even within her own family. When pitted against the Roman Empire will she find the strength she needs to survive?

When you write a story that has its base in history, research is a must. You cannot simply write whatever you wish and hope that it makes sense. Tanner realizes this and does her best to research her time period. How people acted, how they dressed, their beliefs and their mannerisms are carefully reviewed in this tale. At the end of the book she does acknowledge that the Celts did not leave much written history. This is a blessing for a writer though, because it leaves an open creative license. Since they didn’t keep records, who is to say that the druids did not behave in exactly the same way they did in this book? This is where the fantasy aspect comes in. Tanner is careful not to get too carried away and the tale feels believable and relatable.

Tanner begins each chapter with a brief excerpt. This gives the reader a sense of where the story is going. This can be a useful tool when you take long gaps between readings. While there is some slightly graphic content, a teenager would find this to be a friendly reminder of what is about to happen and can help jog the memory if they haven’t picked up the book in some time.

The way Tanner portrays women in this book is also very empowering. Our protagonist is a princess, yet she is not fragile. There is no Snow White here. She is forged with fire and metal and trains to be able to reach the pinnacle of fortitude her eldest sister has. For a young woman who is trying to figure out where she belongs in her world, this tale is relatable to other young women in our timeline who are also trying to figure out where they belong.

If you’re looking for something entertaining with a fast, action-paced rhythm, Apollo’s Raven by Linnea Tanner is a definite must. The first in a series this book firmly establishes backstory while also being able to stand alone if necessary. It’s a very exciting read and readers of all ages and genders will find something to identify with in this tale. How will things turn out for Catrin? What will happen with her relationship with Marcellus, scion of the Roman Empire sent to oppress her people? You’ll have to read and find out.

Pages: 400 | ASIN: B06XJQ74H6

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Woofed Cookies

Woofed Cookies

Woofed Cookies by Greg Bauder is an entertaining, but short read. The story follows Peter Moon and his dog named Cookies as they go through a whole breath of conflicts and tribulations. His best friend, Tiger Moss, pressures him into smoking, a strange man keeps appearing menacingly, and Tiger’s little sister is enamored with him. Peter confronts all of these with Cookies by his side who is gifted with a neat little trick; throwing up everywhere at any time.

The book begins with Peter being down on himself for not having a puppy and being alone most of the time, since his mother is a nurse. This situation is rectified, and the book truly begins, when he receives Cookies on his birthday. Bauder does a great job of recalling what it was like to be a preteen and getting into trouble with your best friend. The joy of having a puppy is felt here, even if I question the mother’s recommendation of “flushing the dog poop down the toilet”? I mean, what happened to the garbage can? The rest of the book precedes with what you would normally expect. The story did take some turns that I was not expecting and the point of view with Peter is arm’s length, so you are never really sure what he is going to do as the reader.

I do think that the book reads a little “simple” for the audience I believe Bauder is aiming for, but I can forgive that for the fact he has an entertaining story. To take the everyday, messy occurrence of a dog throwing up and make that the title, is rather ingenious. It also steals the show away from Peter, because I found myself reading the pages looking to see what Cookies was going to do next. The lack of agency on Peter’s part was a little of a let down, especially as a children’s book, but I believe that the escapades of Cookies makes up for it.

The actual pacing of the book is a little choppy and does include two scenes that almost entirely mirror one another, which is kind of strange for a children’s book. I would love it if Bauder could make Woofed Cookies into a series of books of Peter and Cookies and I would not mind at all. There is something timeless about a “boy and his dog” and as a reader I could not get tired of that. This story is a classic paradigm with a new spin and I want to see what else Bauder has up his sleeve.

All in all, I believe that Woofed Cookies is an excellent book to give to your child for an afternoon of adventure.

Pages: 20 | ISBN: 1683946812

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The Wanderer’s Last Journey

The Wanderer's Last Journey (The Orfeo Saga, #4)4 Stars

On a trade visit to Malta, Orfeo – in line to the throne of Pylos – is kidnapped by mysterious strangers. The net is spread far and wide, with heroes from all over the Aegean joining forces in the quest to find the lost prince.

Is Orfeo in danger, though? His captors seem to have strange motives, what exactly do they see him as? A prince, a prophet, a political pawn, or something more? Only one thing is for certain, nothing is as it appears on the surface, and Orfeo must keep his wits about him. This wonderful work of historical fiction will amaze and engage you in equal measures.

With The Wanderer’s Last Journey, Murray Lee Eiland Jr. has woven an astounding and complex tapestry. It has all the makings of a classic fantasy epic, as the rich and evocative world he creates is as intriguing as it is intricate, whilst the narrative constantly keeps us on our toes. Eiland Jr. clearly has an eye for important details, as his simple use of language is restrained and mannered. He writes much like any of the great classical fantasy writers, with simplistic, well-constructed sentences forming the framework for a complex and sprawling narrative. Where he does choose to go into detailed description, he paints for us a clear and colourful picture. The milieu of The Wanderer’s Last Journey, whilst mostly serving as a stage on which to set the players, is perhaps one if the novel’s most astonishing features. This mythical, magical Mediterranean is exotic and enticing, and we are left wanting to learn more about it. As the story expands and speeds towards its thrilling crescendo, its setting is left unexpanded, and one wonder’s whether the novel might have benefited from going into greater detail in this regard. In many ways it is unfamiliar from the Ancient Greece we know and are familiar with, yet it verges upon Virgil and Homer. The Iliad is an obvious reference, and Eiland Jr.’s love of this period is clear on the page.

This novel sets Eiland Jr out as an author of great scope and intention, however one who isn’t afraid to create a world of great depth and complexities. He cleverly weaves multiple storylines and, for the most part, manages to keep on top of this, and keeps all the strands of his stories working together. There are moments, though, where the machinations of the plot seem to get the better of him. The action tends to flit between one character’s perspective and another’s, and whilst this serves to provide us with a huge wealth of storyline, it occasionally distracts from it. It also means, at points, that we aren’t given long enough in each character’s story to form an emotional bond with them, and we are left wondering who exactly our protagonist is. This is perhaps to be expected, though, with a story so vast, and one with so many strands, and for the most part The Wanderer’s Last Journey works well as a rich, entertaining fantasy epic.

Pages: 237 | ASIN: B018RHOIRI

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Return to the Madlands

Return to the Madlands (The Mire Man Trilogy, #3)3 StarsArlo is on a journey across the country to find Constance, a long lost love. Throughout his trip, the reader is treated to his interactions with random individuals, many of whom this reader wishes he could know more about. However, the brief glimpses are more than entertaining. The owner of a motel and the story behind his sword on display, the female police officer who pulled Arlo over for swerving while driving, and Lenny, the former man of faith who shoots a gas station iguana, they all help Arlo along on his journey. Aside from the cast of supporting characters, Arlo is also dealing with his health. With the years of whiskey catching up to him, it made this reader wonder if he would survive long enough to find Constance.

This story is more like a collection of stories, rather than a novel with a driving plot line. While Arlo is technically on a journey that has a defined ending, the real value of the text comes from the small stories that Arlo collects from the people he meets along the way. Many of them share experiences that give the reader plenty to think about, but too many of them are too ready and willing to give “advice”. Most readers will anticipate this pattern of meeting, backstory, lesson. Because of this pattern, many of the lessons lose their weight due to the seemingly formulaic inclusion. If these lessons had been blended into the story with a bit more tact, then they would have a stronger impact.

Regardless, there is still some beauty in watching Arlo learn from these characters. Many of them are from walks of life that do not get much respect in our society. Hookers, drug addicts, hitchhikers. All of these people are human, and they have experiences that Arlo asks about. When he asks, and if the character responds, then the reader is treated to some of the most well-thought lessons in our society

Overall, the novel is entertaining. Arlo is a main character that everyone loves to hate, with his poor decision making skills and general negative views of the world around him. His interactions with the side characters tell a different story, though, and we get to see him grow as a person because of them. Perhaps it is a wisdom that has come with the aging of his character, but Arlo’s transformation from the previous entries, and even from the beginning of this entry, is something to behold.

Pages: 302 | ISBN: 1530041619

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Immortal: Curse of the Deathless

Immortal: Curse of the Deathless3 StarsThis fantasy novel is bursting at the seams with an intricate world waiting to be discovered, not only by the reader, but also by the main character, Asher. He is a college student in a world that appears to be similar to the Earth we know and love, but he is also an immortal. He uses his power to help people with their issues for small fees. This earns him enough money to survive, but it also earns him some powerful enemies and sends him on a trip to learn about his past and parentage.

In the Fae Realm, Asher gets caught up between two feuding noble houses, Summer Court and Winter Court. While he is there to meet his mother, the inhabitants of the realm look to exact some favors from Asher before his quest can reach its end. Will his immortality prove to be a blessing, or will he come to think of it more of a “curse of the deathless”? What will he discover about his birth and will the evil organizations of his home planet come for him?

This novel is gritty, funny, and entertaining. The narration is mostly in third person, although Asher will interject his thoughts directly to the reader whenever he deems necessary. For example, while trying to survive what would otherwise be a fatal sword blow, he thinks “Note to self: Lungs and swords don’t play nice together”.

However, there are some pitfalls that come with a fantasy novel of this scope. The author has created a universe that is seemingly vast and full of magic creatures and objects, of which the reader and the protagonist know very little. Because of this, it gives the reader difficulty when it comes to finding out what is going to happen next. I felt that issues were resolved by seemingly random events which then spawned the next set of events. The plot points come across as if they were written for a video game, as there are checkpoints to be met before the story can progress. For example, Asher has to gain favor with the rest of the family members before his step-sister will let him meet his mother.

If you can ignore these minor issues then you will find an entertaining adventure story in a world that is rich and worthwhile. The universe has plenty of depth, lore, and legend for any fantasy fan. The narration is spectacular despite a couple of minor grammatical mistakes. The characters are fun, and the dialogue is original although parts of the story may be a bit cliché. I’m not sure how nearly every woman in the story came to be so attractive, but there it is.

Overall, this story is quite the undertaking, and I can’t wait for a sequel, which the author seems ready to deliver.

Pages: 319 | ASIN: B01F0ING16

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