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Manifest Destiny: By Any Means Necessary

Manifest Destiny: By Any Means Necessary is the thrilling second entry in the Manifest Destiny series by author Jaiden Baynes. Many centuries have passed since the events in An Unholy Alliance, and the universe has somehow stabilized into a futuristic dystopia, which is rife with issues such as slavery, poverty, mass incarceration, and cannibalism as the lowest tier of survival. 

Readers will enjoy how things in this book also parallel happenings in the first book, although the book takes it to a dramatic and entertaining level. Unlike the first book, which featured a select few characters that the story revolves around, it is hard to find a single character to focus on in this sequel. There is a variety of exciting and fun-to-follow characters. Each character gives readers a unique view of this vast and detailed world. They come from all kinds of backgrounds, and they have all kinds of occupations and different levels of freedom. I enjoyed the diversity in the cast and felt it gave the story an ensemble feel.

The world-building in this book is still spectacular. The author has made some improvements since the first book in the series. The dialogue is amusing and fun and helps to move the story along. This book has a handful of battles, and every encounter drives forward an agenda and provides some social commentary. This book focuses much more on developing this universe’s politics and philosophy, and the dialogue supports that the best it can. 

Manifest Destiny: By Any Means Necessary is a riveting space opera filled with complex world-building and memorable characters. I would highly recommend it to readers of the first book or anyone looking for a fun science fiction story in an expanding and alluring universe.

Pages: 501 | ASIN : B0BPCS6M24

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Odriel’s Heirs

Odriel’s Heirs by Hayley Reese Chow follows a young girl named Kaia. As the first Born of her siblings, she inherited the fire of the dragon. She has three siblings, her twin Bram, younger brother Layf and younger sister Elani. She lives somewhat of a sheltered life because the surrounding villagers believe they are evil. As she starts exploring society, she comes close to some dangerous obstacles. Her father is away fighting a war that she believes she can assist in. Once she realizes that a necromancer has unleashed lost souls onto the humans, she believes it is her duty as the dragon heir to help keep the humans safe. She wants nothing more than to prove that she is strong and a good person to her family and the outside world.

Odriel’s Heirs is a gripping epic fantasy novel from start to finish. The flow of the story was both entertaining and exciting; I was hooked throughout the entire story. The characters are well thought through, and they bring the story alive. The main character is strong-willed and brave, someone a teen girl can look up to and admire. Kaia’s character is one reader can’t help but feel bad about at times because of how she is treated by others for the gift she inherited. However, despite her obstacles, she never losses sight of her goals and always looks for a way to persevere. The secondary characters are written just as well and add additional layers to this fantastic story.

Hayley Reese Chow has combined paranormal and fantasy genres in this adventure for young adults in Odriel’s Heirs. The journey that the author takes readers on is creative and unique. It was definitely one of those books that take you out of the real world and into a new fantasy and amazing dystopian world that you can’t help but get lost in.

Pages: 198 | ASIN : B0838R4DTB

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Disruptions

T.N. Baldwin is back along with Logan, Carla, Junior, and his full cast of beloved characters in the second book of the Magicium series, Disruptions. Having survived their excursion to Shanghai, the group finds themselves going their separate ways in this action-packed adventure. As each character digs deeper into the world’s mysteries, they’re forced to come face to face with who they are and who they’ll have to be to survive. Loyalties are tested and sometimes betrayed when not everything is as it seems.

Disruptions is an incredible addition to the already fantastical series. Baldwin does a superb job of building off the world and magic systems already established in Discoveries. Where he truly shines through is his willingness to experiment with everything we thought we knew before. Logan and Carla, as magi, are constantly interacting with the world around them in new, engaging, and creative ways while staying within the bounds of what Discoveries built. Just like predecessors, Disruptions isn’t overbearing in its worldbuilding, either. Instead, Baldwin has a way of gently easing his readers into his realm without overwhelming them with information – a skill I’m sure plenty of fantasy readers can appreciate. The one thing I did struggle with was keeping track of the characters. Because Logan, Junior, and Carla are on such different paths, it becomes hard to keep track of everything happening and who everyone is. Other than that, I truly enjoyed reading Disruptions.

Disruptions is a gripping epic fantasy novel with exciting characters and world-building. Like in Discoveries, each character is well thought out and, most importantly, well-written. This series will keep science fiction readers engaged and excited for the next book, as the action and adventure are unpredictable. I can’t wait to see what Baldwin has in store for us in the third installment.

Pages: 671 | ASIN : B08CRKGN35

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Pantheon: The Phantom

Pantheon: The Phantom is Joshua Landeros’s second book in the Pantheon series. It is a sweeping fantasy epic that manages to carry on the first book’s story while expanding its world and bringing in enjoyable new characters.

The book is set in Landeros’s world of Avah and follows its people as they come to terms with the events of the first book and struggle to recover from the Hollow Wars. Just as people were hoping things were calming down, a new threat, the Pact of Ram has, arisen. As this new threat rises every allied nation is called to combat it. But who is really behind this new threat, and who can be trusted?

While this may be a conflict that spans nations, Landeros makes the wise choice of focusing his narrative on the everyday people dragged into it. The Phantom primarily focuses on Palkan Sowell, his daughter Athaliah and the rest of their people as they are pulled into a conflict they want nothing to do with.

The book features a diverse range of characters, and Landeros excels at fleshing them out. As in his earlier works, Landeros focuses on characters from all sides of the conflict, emphasizing their motivations, whether political, religious or purely self-preserving. While at first, the lines between good and evil seem clear cut, over time, it becomes increasingly clear that not everyone can be trusted, and even the heroes might have to get their hands dirty.

This is still a sweeping epic, however. When Landeros isn’t focusing on his individual characters, he is writing massive battles that often follow several different perspectives at once. While his writing is excellent across the board, Landeros’s writing is at its best when he is in the thick of battle. His battles are bloody, violent, and well-paced.

The pacing, in general, is excellent. Landeros deftly manages the balancing act of fleshing out the world he has created, forming deep characters, and keeping the pacing brisk. While his characters are enjoyable enough that I would have liked to spend more time with them, Landeros makes the wise choice to keep the plot moving ever onward.

The world-building is excellent here. Landeros has created his own world and filled it with different nations, races, and peoples, all with their own in-depth histories. Thankfully Landeros avoids too much exposition, and the reader gets to learn about his world in an organic way rather than being bogged down in lengthy explanations and exposition. If you’re a fan of fantasy epics, exciting battle scenes, or political intrigue, The Phantom is the book for you. While it might be a good idea to start with the first book if you want to follow everything, as a newbie Landeros made me feel welcome and I was never too lost. Highly recommended.

Pages: 313 | ASIN : B096L6QJT9

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Manifest Destiny: An Unholy Alliance

A beautiful princess named Norne with white hair and royal purple eyes is reading a book in a fantastic city on a planet that is half molten rock, half frozen wasteland. She comes from another planet, and she has superhuman capabilities to boot. She is distracted by a giant man who cannot even speak, and she is disgusted by his nakedness and lack of education. They strike up a mental conversation and go meet the king of the planet together, where this giant of a man, who named himself Chaos, takes the throne with a brutal showing of power.

This is a creative epic fantasy novel that utilizes an interesting blend of high science fiction and high fantasy, the latter more reminiscent of Asian martial arts novels than your run of the mill dragons and castles. There are people in this world that have Power, and there are those who don’t. There are many royal families, their kingdoms span across planets and solar systems, and they establish their dominion with their Power.

The book begins with a short history lesson of the world, and a very detailed explanation of the magic system, so readers will know exactly what they are getting themselves into in the first few pages. This also leaves readers with the impression that the backstory and lore of this world is deep and well thought out.

While the worldbuilding is written with a passion I would have enjoyed the story more if the characters dialogue and interactions had the same depth. The action scenes are very detailed and well choreographed, but they can also be extremely violent, since most of the characters either can’t die or it takes a lot to kill them. Reader discretion is advised, but if you enjoy all-out action novels, then author Jaiden Baynes has written a hard hitting story that you will surely enjoy. The magic system, like the worldbuilding, is also thoroughly explained. The world, the history, and the magic that makes it what it is are very well explained and is one reason I really liked this book.

Manifest Destiny: An Unholy Alliance is an action-packed adventure with tons of depth to the world. Fantasy fans looking for a world that was built with purpose and passion will find plenty to enjoy in this lively adventure.

Pages: 513 | ASIN: B0BNBMQBDJ

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Discoveries

Junior, a monster-hunting Scav, is looking for a better hand in life for himself and his little family. Carla, a magi and teacher, wants an end to the War no matter the cost. Logan, a promising young magi, just wants to go home. Set in a dystopian future, a world where humanity has been forced underground in order to survive, Discoveries: Book 1 of the Magicuim Series follows three strangers on their way to Shanghai to find the answers they’ve been looking for and some that they never wanted to find. Beset by monsters known as abominations, through love, loss, and odd friendships, these three will stop at nothing to get what they’re after.

T.N. Baldwin’s debut novel is a thrilling rollercoaster of action and drama that leaves the reader wanting more. While each chapter focuses on one of the three protagonists, they fit together seamlessly. Baldwin lets the puzzle pieces fall into place with each word and creates something much greater than your average fantasy novel.

Beyond the plot, Baldwin also does a masterful job of weaving characters that have been clearly affected by the world around them. Carla’s skepticism of the Open, Junior’s stern care, and even Logan’s naivety all make sense when considering how they were forced to live. All the characters feel like people just doing their best to survive. They’re relatable and realistic, which makes it so much easier to sink into the world that’s being spun. It’s hard not to feel like one of the group.  

For fans of dystopian fantasy, Discoveries is a great addition to the genre. With a thrilling and original plot, realistic characters, magic, and adventure, this book has something for everyone. I can’t wait to follow Junior, Logan, and Carla through their future adventures.

Pages: 567 | ASIN : B086MY91BT

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I Needed An Outlet To Vent

Stephanie Cotta Author Interview

The Conjurer’s Curse follows a young man who was born with a curse that causes those he loves to die prematurely. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

I got the initial premise due to Covid. Mid-January of 2021, I grew disheartened with the social distancing and how many people acted like everyone could be carrying the “plague.” I experienced something to this extent firsthand, and it left such a bad taste in my mouth, I needed an outlet to vent. So, I laid in bed that night thinking, “What if a teenage boy bore a curse that actually did kill people if they stood in his midst?” I got up that morning and started writing what became the 1st chapter of THE CONJURER’S CURSE.

Also at this time, being shut in and with most places of “fun” closed, I was desperately in need of an adventure. My love for The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien and its adventurous beats inspired me to make this book a fantasy-rich journey. Like Bilbo, I wanted Rowan to explore a new place, setting/environment, or people group in the early chapters, and of course, I had to through in skirmishes with scary monsters and dangerous creatures. Every good adventure story needs to have a monster to face, and THE CONJURER’S CURSE doesn’t shy away from it!

Rowan just wants to belong and not worry about everyone he loves to die because of him. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

I wanted Rowan to have a selfless and integrous heart, putting others’ well-being ahead of his own. He would rather live a solitary, lonely life, than for his life to cause harm to those he loves. I wanted him to be courageous and compassionate, despite the way he was ostracized in his village, and have a strong sense of perseverance.

It was important for me to demonstrate how a positive role model can impact the life of a young person’s identity and future. Many of the attributes Rowan exemplifies he owes to his fourth guardian-mother, Naja. It’s her teachings and her mantra that guide him as he faces tough obstacles.

I also wanted Rowan to have an innocence about him as he went on his journey, so everything felt new and foreign to him—to be naïve at times in the ways people can be treacherous or unscrupulous.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Hope is always a theme I endeavor to show in my stories. Even when circumstances are at their bleakest, the spark of hope is never absent. This has been the case in my own life, so it hits home when I incorporate this belief in my writing. And so, early on, I have a character remind Rowan that there is hope for him, even though he’s cursed. It’s simply an obstacle he must overcome.

I loved exploring Rowan’s search for belonging and acceptance. I think it’s a universal theme everyone can align with, especially young people. To find a home, a place of belonging, individuals you can call family even if they’re not related, is something people may search their entire lives to find. But when you do, to quote my character Tozrah, “Tis a special feeling.”

Rowan also struggles with the shame of who he is, how he looks, the stigma of his birth, his past. This is something I know many people wrestle with. A close loved one experienced the shame and rejection of being abandoned as a baby by his mother, and so much of his struggle to come to terms with this terrible reality is what inspired Rowan’s tumultuous past.

I felt it important to weave forgiveness into Rowan’s story, considering the actions of his mother and the devastation it causes in the lives of her sons—one who forgives and one who does not. Rowan realizes holding grudges or having hatred in his heart will only damage his soul. That is a lesson we can all learn from.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I have finished writing the sequel to The Conjurer’s Curse, and I hope it will be ready a year from now. Aside from that, I am currently working on a YA steampunk fantasy that I hope to finish any day now. It will go through beta readers, and then I’ll be ready to pitch it off.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Seventeen-year-old Rowan is a walking, breathing curse. He just hasn’t realized it yet. 

Since birth, Rowan has been the object of scorn in his village. The reason? He’s a dikyli-an outsider with albino skin and an ominous mark blazoned on his neck. So when his fourth guardian-mother is found dead, all blame falls on him, and he is banished before his life-draining curse can strike again. The only path left to Rowan is clear: He must discover who cursed him and alter his horrible fate-or forever lose everyone he loves. 

From facing treacherous seas, soul-devouring Moonshades, and desert terrors, Rowan battles for his very survival to reach his homeland-the far-off kingdom of Shandria, a land rife with hostilities. Dark surprises and back-stabbing betrayals emerge as two devious Iron Barons-who know the scandalous origin of his curse-plot to imprison him in the Mountain of the Damned with the rest of the accursed. 

To make matters worse, Rowan’s curse threatens to claim another life when he meets Tahira, a spunky, pertly persistent Shandrian who vows to aid him in his quest despite the overwhelming odds. Their alliance of trust and necessity develops into love-a love doomed to end in death if Rowan remains cursed. With the hope of a future hanging in the balance, he must overcome the greatest challenge of his life. For the only way to end his curse is to slay the Conjurer who cast the life-draining spell.

Where Conflict Would Arise

KC J. Hutchins Author Interview

Scars and Scales follows an Omni dragon as he embarks on a perilous quest to unite the lands against a sorceress queen. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

The original idea for this story came from an imaginary game I used to play with a school friend. I liked the adventures so much I brought them home and played the same game with my younger brother and cousin. They would look forward to our sessions as I created more and more scenarios, lands, and creatures while continuing from our last point. It inspired me enough to do some sketches throughout my younger years. When I decided to finally write the tale, I obviously updated it and thought it out a bit more. Believe it or not the ending popped into my brain as I relooked at characters and notes I made. From there, it all clicked together. I could clearly see how many beings were going to be in this company, how each one would grow in their development, where conflict would arise from within their group, and most of all Xerxes. With him, I wanted to make a character who the reader doesn’t know whether to trust him or not. Give them the same feeling his companions have while traveling with him. Thus, why the viewpoint changes between a few of the characters. Beyond this, I didn’t want to write another adventure story where the protagonist slowly learns to become strong. Instead, I created a master of sorts who needs to learn something a plucky protagonist usually possesses, trust.

Your characters are diverse and well-developed. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

I wanted to create characters which play against what one would think. An easy example is the bounty hunting leprechaun Donald. One would usually picture said creature as one who runs away from humans with the use of magic. Not so much in Donald’s case. In fact, he avoids it altogether by using tools and his wit. So, using this sort of basic thought I created each character with it, and this caused the surge in their development. Honestly, I could sit here and go on and on with each character… Alvilda being timid, but strong… Wolfgang with his struggle over his emotions, but controlling them enough to heal and save others… Sindri who speaks with a silver tongue, but isolates himself at the forge to create works he never finishes… Mjusnall the pacifist giant who defends others, including a bounty hunter… But I don’t want to make the answer too long.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Funny enough how this question melds with the other two. I wanted to write, at least with Xerxes, how difficult it can be to trust someone. Because I don’t know about anyone else, but I find it difficult to make friends. Heck, I think I can count the amount of them on one hand. So, I wanted him to show there are others who feel the same. At the same time, I didn’t want to make this bond grow easily… for we all possess some bad qualities, or we made poor decisions at some point in our lives which haunts us. This helps explore whether one can accept the worst in someone and still stay connected to them. Other than that, I’d say there are sprinklings of friendship, duty, and acceptance with a few drops of other themes throughout the story.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

Good question. I find myself drifting between a few projects, but I focus way more on the second book of this series, Shimmer of Scales. The positive feedback gave me such a drive to work on it. So much so I’ve written over a hundred pages of it. When it will be available is the tricky part. Ideally, I’d say it’ll be available in a year. However, there are several factors which pour into it. Money is a big part of it. This book was only made possible through a combination of a relative passing away and working my butt off for years. So, if enough copies are sold (hint hint to the people reading this… though no pressure just thought it would be funny to put this here), or a publisher comes knocking with a decent offer… I can keep on this timeline.

Author Links: Website | Facebook

Ten years has passed since the slaying of the Omni dragons. These tyrannical beings subjected the world of Magitotum by the power they hold, the combined abilities of all other dragons. It was a celebrated day when Delsey, sorceress queen of Mendaxum, and her army slayed these beasts. But oh, how the lands were wrong in this thought. For soon after, the witch set her sight on conquering the rest of them. After destroying their oppressors, who else could oppose her?

Yet, there remains one hope. A single Omni survives known as Xerxes. Freed after ten years of torture, the dragon seeks to unite the lands against Delsey. He believes a mix of creatures in his own company will promote the change he seeks. Wolfgang from the healing werewolf tribe known as MoonClaw is the first to join and proves to be his biggest test. For the werewolf trusts him as much as the dragon trusts other… which is not at all. Who could blame him? Especially since the Omni’s former lover and friends were the cause of his torture and imprisonment. Yet through this journey, Xerxes needs to trust others including a silver-tongued dwarf, a timid yet strong elven princess, a pacifist giant, a bounty hunting leprechaun, and a lazy gargoyle. Together this group faces down the witch outside the fleeing city of Suregarde. The question is… do they possess the strength to succeed?

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