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Inspired by Odysseus

Allan Batchelder Author Interview

Allan Batchelder Author Interview

Steel, Blood and Fire is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a fantasy, military, and history as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?

I was, in part, inspired by Glenn Cook’s Black Company series, along with the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson. So much so that I wanted to try my own hand at it.

I found Vykers to be a very well written and in depth character. What was your inspiration for his emotional turmoil through the story?

Here, I think I was most inspired by Odysseus, and his long journey home from Troy. Vykers has a lot of Odysseus’ arrogance — and deadly competence, as well.

The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?

That’s a tough one! Of course Vykers is fun to write. But so is Rem, the actor. That character allowed me to poke fun at the acting profession and relive a few of my own foibles. Then there is Spirk, the idiot. I have a special place in my heart for characters who are not quite up-to-speed, for want of a better term. He also provides a lot of the story’s comic relief. Finally, Aoife was enjoyable for me, because she reminds me of my sisters and wife, to some degree. I really liked looking at the story through her Earth Mother’s eyes.

I understand that you’re also an actor and stand-up comedian. How have those experiences helped you write your stories?

I think those things definitely shape my voice as a writer, the way I hear dialogue, and indulge in opportunities to shameless nonsense. But being an actor has also given me a fair amount of experience wielding a long sword, which comes in handy when writing fight scenes.

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

Actually, you have (kindly) review the first book in an existing four-book series. Steel, Blood & Fire is followed by As Flies to Wanton Boys, Corpse Cold, and, most recently, The Abject God. I am currently working on the series finale, The End of All Things, which I expect will to release in late 2018.

Author Links: GoodReads Twitter Facebook Website

Steel, Blood & Fire (Immortal Treachery Book 1) by [Batchelder, Allan]On the march, around the campfire, and in the taverns, they tell incredible stories about Tarmun Vykers, the Reaper – how he’s never been cut in battle, how he once defeated hundreds of men by himself, how he exterminated an entire people over an insult. These stories make Vykers seem like a god, but he is a man, an arrogant, ruthless and bloodthirsty man. For all that, he may be the only thing standing between the human race and utter annihilation at the hands of the mad wizard who calls himself the End-of-All-Things. Against this backdrop, smaller, lesser folks struggle to fulfill their own destinies, folks like Aoife, burdened with a secret so dark she is driven to do the unimaginable and seek an alliance with fey powers no mortal has ever encountered. 

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Alien Mythology

Natalie Wright Author Interview

Natalie Wright Author Interview

H.A.L.F.: The Makers follows two groups of protagonists under the threat of an alien race. What direction did you want to take this novel that was different from the first book in the series?

The first book deals mainly with the idea that the aliens known as the Roswell Greys (those ubiquitous big-eyed, bulbous-headed aliens) are the alien threat. Book one brings the reader in with familiar imagery and ideas such as the Roswell crash, the Greys and government conspiracy reminiscent of the X-Files.

In The Makers (book two), my goal was to expand on the familiar alien mythology. I introduced my own alien species as well as my own ideas about the Roswell Greys. This expanded the story significantly. Books two (The Makers) and three (ORIGINS) are more epic in scope than in book one (The Deep Beneath).

The characters in this novel are once again intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?

Thank you for that compliment! 🙂 I enjoy writing all of the characters and especially had fun creating the sexual tension between Jack and Anna and also between Erika and Tex (though their tension really amps up in book three ;-).

But overall, I most enjoy writing in Tex’s perspective. Given that he’s only half-human, it’s fun spending time in his head! I like seeing our world through his eyes. Tex has strange, other-worldly experiences with the Regina and the Conexus in The Makers. Those scenes were creepy and fun to write! And his story grows and gets even better, I think, in book 3 (ORIGINS – releasing 8/24/17).

I thoroughly enjoyed the well crafted mystery and the detailed characters. What is your writing process like?

Thank you, again, for your kind words. My writing process is messy! When I first began writing fiction, I outlined extensively. I was an attorney for 20 years, so planning was in my nature!

But after writing two or three novels, I found that I no longer followed outlines I created. The more experience I get as a writer, the more I focus on character development in my pre-write planning. I write back story, flesh out motivation and details about the characters. For both The Makers (H.A.L.F. #2) and ORIGINS (H.A.L.F. #3), I did not outline the plot. I have a general idea—beginning point, middle point and end point. I focus, for each POV character, on what needs to happen for this character for the story to end.

For The Makers, because there are two separate plot lines, I wrote the Tex and Erika portions all at once, then the Jack and Anna portions, then the U’Vol chapters. I then had to thread them together. Phew!

Writing in this way takes quite a bit more time than following a detailed outline. I generally cut anywhere from 20,000-50,000 words and have to rewrite and revise for months. But I think that because I don’t pre-plan, the story has more surprises than if I planned it all out. When I’m in the flow, the story goes in unpredicted ways. I hope that readers enjoy the unpredictability and surprises in the plot.

What are some writers or books that you felt inspired you and this series?

I was inspired by George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. I know that may sound odd given that the H.A.L.F. series is young adult Sci-Fi—no dragons! But I read all five of the GoT series while writing book one (The Deep Beneath) and I was inspired to make the H.A.L.F. series into a more complex story. Most young adult books follow a single protagonist, often told in first person, and generally in a fairly linear fashion. I wanted to push the boundaries a bit and write a YA book with multiple storylines and point-of-view characters. This idea was in direction reaction to my love of G.R.R.M’s writing style.

I was also heavily inspired by Chris Carter’s work in the X-Files. I tried to emulate the creepy vibe of the X-Files as well as drawing out the mystery the way the X-Files did. You think the “bad guy” is one person, but it may turn out to be someone else—or something else—entirely. Readers of the H.A.L.F. series won’t know all of the answers to the many questions raised until the very end of the series! And I think they’ll be surprised by how it all turns out!

Author Links: GoodReads Twitter Facebook Website

H.A.L.F.: The Makers (H.A.L.F., #2)“The Makers” is the follow-up to Natalie Wright’s multiple award-winning debut science fiction novel “H.A.L.F.: The Deep Beneath.” “We’ve seen grey aliens on T.V. and in movies. We may think we know all about them. But what if everything we think we know is wrong?” Erika Holt dodged death and departed Earth in an alien ship. It wasn’t how she’d planned to spend her senior year. Is Erika on her way to paradise? Or to a hell worse than the underground lab she escaped? The greys rescued Tex from A.H.D.N.A. and promised him a life he could never have imagined. But what will he have to give up to become one with The Conexus? Jack Wilson is still Commander Sturgis’ prisoner, but a promise of freedom comes from an unlikely source. Will his liberation cost more than he’s willing to pay? Caught up in their personal battles and focused on our war with the grey aliens, will any of them realize the true threat that looms over us all before it’s too late? 

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Steel, Blood & Fire

Steel, Blood & Fire

Dark, gritty, and altogether brutal, Steel, Blood and Fire is an archetypal dark fantasy novel. In the first chapter, one of the main character’s hands and feet are amputated, and the story continues in similar fashion from there onward. The setting is fantasy grounded in muddy reality, although there is a vein of consequential magic that adds a little sorcery to this otherwise swords-based world. If you’re familiar with Game of Thrones then you’re familiar with Allen Betchelder’s style; multiple character perspectives, inter-weaved story lines, and a healthy dose of murder. It’s a fantastic modern-style medieval fantasy, and a definite read for any fan of the genre.

When I began Steel, Blood and Fire, my first thought was, “Wow, this is a lot like Game of Thrones.” Then I began to think, “Or is it more of a Witcher book?” As I continued through the novel, I began to decide it was a blend of both. By the end, I thought that perhaps it was its own thing.

The book isn’t afraid to touch on the brutal. In fact, it seems to revel in it. Blood flows freely; rape is the buzzword of the day. It’s a mature novel for sure although it doesn’t quite cross the line, but regularly toes it. A lesser author would have toppled their novel over into prurient pulp.

The writing is well-executed, with the author’s own voice clearly shining through. There is one trap that Allen Betchelder tends to fall into, and that’s the ‘fear of said’. Every other sentence seems to find a new synonym – characters question, murmur, mutter, bellow, but words are never just ‘said’. It’s awkward to read, and tends to draw you out of conversations that should flow naturally.

In any perspective-hopping plot, characters are one of the most important factors. Fortunately, Steel, Blood and Fire features a strong and memorable, if slightly generic, cast. They come off as slightly one-dimensional, particularly towards the start of the novel, and the inclusion of a comedy group of village bumpkins – who of course meet with terrible fates – struck me as being an attempt at generating some frisson with the grim background. Other than those minor niggles, the diversity and depth of the cast begins to truly shine through around the midway point; from here onward they become much more than the sum of their parts.

Despite my above criticisms, I really did enjoy the story, and it quickly became engaging only a few pages in. If you’re a fan of the genre, particularly Game of Thrones-esque fantasy, you’ll certainly enjoy Betchelder’s offering.

Pages: 548 | ASIN: B00AW53RMQ

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The Queen of Heaven

Ruth Finnegan Author Interview

Ruth Finnegan Author Interview

Black Ink Pearl the screen play was adapted from your award winning novel Black Inked Pearl: A Girl’s Quest. What were some challenges you encountered while adapting your novel?

Well, first I had to learn something about screenplay writing, so so different from a novel. Hadn’t a clue!! But was passionate about doing it so signed up at more than I could afford (worth it) for a course with Voyage Media. It was brilliant. Though this one wasn’t the script I got mentored on then (by marvelous and incredibly patient – I really was clueless to start –  Kathleen McLaughlin) they must have taught me the craft well as have just – wait for it – heard that my ‘Black Ink Pearl’  script (subtly changed title from the book, nothing clever or deep, just to differentiate it) the Genre Winner for scifi/fantasy in the internationally acclaimed (whew!) Capital Fund Screen Play Contest 2017. Doesn’t mean it gets produced, but its certainly a step closer. It will now –  this is the process  for the winners – get put in front of producers (who normally, don’t I know it, ignore any sent-in scripts) in the leading companies worldwide, including China. Still looking for other producers to consider it, so let me know if you know of any. It’s a great read, honest, fantastic in both senses, great actin and characters. Anyway hold your thumbs.

Am just finishing a second, this time based on a Walter Scott novel. If adapting a novel the trick, I now know, and it’s a good one, enjoyable, is to leave out two thirds of the scenes of the original  and rewrite, perhaps utterly change, most of the rest  but at the same time still be inspired by that original story that first caught and moved you. Also always always always – so hard for a novelist – to show, never to tell; show through actions words, and not adverbs or attributed (by you ) inner emotions (if it’s written properly the emotion comes through in the dialogue and the acting, leave it to them). Have had such fun learning all this and seeing the characters of the novels I love through new eyes.

Also to use that funny layout (‘Final draft’ it’s called) that is apparently the ‘industry standard’. And not too many pages – 100 seems to be about right for a full-length feature film.

And don’t expect anyone to be prepared to read it, do it just for love and passion. All the same keep trying and (essential) get as much much feedback and as many times as you can (I had really great fdvice from WEScreenplay judges, not too expensive)  and don’t even think of entering  contests till you’ve got a high mark from one of them (I learned that the hard way

Have been encouraged since then to read somewhere that if you’re successful in one genre people may tell you to stick to that, but actually you’re likely to be successful in another, so – but only if you really WANT to – don’t’t be afraid to try it.

Wow – how did I get  into all this from one simple question …

Film rights are held by Garn Press. Where are you in the process of turning this screenplay into a movie?

Holding our thumbs that we get a deal. We just just might …

If we do get an option, we’d divide the proceeds between us in our agreed proportion, while the (lesser) amount for the screenplay, in which I hold the copyright, would come to me. The good thing about an option for, say, 3-6 months, is that even if they decide ot to proceed with the movie we get to keep that money and once the option time expires can try elsewhere..

The big hope to find a producer with funding and enthusiasm to actually make the movie (or just  possibly, a television series, but would be best for the big screen). Both I and the publishers (Director is wonderful Denny Taylor, by now a real friend) would both love to see our mystic fantastic story disseminatedto wider audiences, I think it would really really work as a movie and that is inspirational sybolism – not pushed at them – would get through: but we’d ONLY want it if as a high-concept movie, we’re  not in it just for some  trashy commercial fix however lucrative.

Let’s say you’ve got the movie deal and you have to pick some actors for your film.Which actress/actors do you think would be perfect fits for your characters?

 Emilia Clarke (fabulous in ‘Game of Thrones’ – also filmed in Ireland as this one could and should be)   ) as the lead, Kate.   She;’s interested I hear

Daphne Alexander (now gathering a great reputation in London and Broadway) as Deirdre, Kate’s mother (or as Kate if Emilia couldn’t), sh’ed be brilliant, and warms to the novel, I know she’d be prepared to be involved.

Idris Elba as the hero Christy – he’s such an intelligent as well as talented actor/person, and shares my feeling for Africa.

Judi Dench (I was at school with her, so know her and her commitments, she just might be persuaded) as the Queen of Heaven.

Rawiri Paratene as (the complex and difficult) character of) God. He’s less well known up here than in his native New Zealand but I thought he was the real star as the grandfather/tribal chief in ‘Whale Rider’

Do you have any other plans for your novel Black Inked Pearl: A Girl’s Quest?

Absolutely: an audio book is on the way with a brilliant illustrator, also a colouring book around the novel’s key themes. It’s already had a spin-off in its prize-winning fairytale prequel, ‘Pearl of the seas’ (that will soon be an audio book too, with musical background), and there will now be a whole series, taking children, gradually, through aspects of the story from age nought upwards in a series of (probably) five children’s books, text by me, fabulous illustrations again by amazing silk artist Rachel Backshall.

All these just arrived, no deliberate planning by me. Enjoy it.

Bye for now everyone, get back with any comments or questions.

Author Links: Facebook | GoodReads | Twitter | LinkedIn | GarnPress | Open University

Black Inked Pearl: A Girl's QuestAn epic romance about the naive Irish girl Kate and her mysterious lover, whom she rejects in panic and then spends her life seeking. After the opening rejection, Kate recalls her Irish upbringing, her convent education, and her coolly-controlled professional success, before her tsunami-like realisation beside an African river of the emotions she had concealed from herself and that she passionately and consumingly loved the man she had rejected.

Searching for him she visits the kingdom of beasts, a London restaurant, an old people’s home, back to the misty Donegal Sea, the heavenly archives, Eden, and hell, where at agonising cost she saves her dying love. They walk together toward heaven, but at the gates he walks past leaving her behind in the dust. The gates close behind him. He in turn searches for her and at last finds her in the dust, but to his fury (and renewed hurt) he is not ecstatically recognised and thanked. And the gates are still shut.

On a secret back way to heaven guided by a little beetle, Kate repeatedly saves her still scornful love, but at the very last, despite Kate’s fatal inability with numbers and through an ultimate sacrifice, he saves her from the precipice and they reach heaven. Kate finally realises that although her quest for her love was not vain, in the end she had to find herself – the unexpected pearl.

The novel, born in dreams, is interlaced with the ambiguity between this world and another, and increasingly becomes more poetic, riddling and dreamlike as the story unfolds. The epilogue alludes to the key themes of the novel – the eternity of love and the ambiguity between dream and reality.

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The Rashade

The Rashade' (Chronicles of the Coranydas Book 1)

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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The False Prophet

The False Prophet (Stonegate, #2)

The False Prophet, by Harry James Fox, is set in a post-apocalyptic America where a plague wiped out a large majority of its inhabitants. The remaining populace, left angry and bitter, instigated wars and caused even more deaths while seeking retribution from various groups of people. With all remnants of modern civilization long gone, their society was essentially thrown back into the dark ages. At the opening of the book, the son of a mysterious prophet named Hiram Abaddon now seeks to continue his father’s legacy of dominion over any that do not support him.

The book has Biblical references with the main opposition to Abbadon (the False Prophet) consisting of Christians. The story plays out like one would imagine the tribulation as discussed in the Bible, with Abbadon seemingly synonymous with the Antichrist. One man, Donald of Fisher, along with a group of comrades, sets off to gain support in the fight against The False Prophet. The book is definitely picks up speed as the story progresses; the first half is slow to build and relatively uneventful but does well to setup the rest of the story. In this way it reminds me of Game of Thrones, in that it was a lot of information upfront, but once you were caught up, you were hooked. When news reaches Prophet City that there is an uprising, the story line really picks up and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Right from his introduction in the story, The False Prophet’s character is intriguing and easy to hate. Which is a perfect setup and a stark contrast to Donald of Fisher. The fact that the False Prophet is easy to dislike and connect with as an enemy really helped to keep my interest piqued. Although I felt like Donald’s character could of used more depth, it could easily be that I wanted this depth because his character was also so intriguing and begged to be explored.

Personally, I love the Biblical undertones of the story and the fact that a lot of the chapters open with a Bible verse helped to give insight into the chapter’s direction. I also like that the Biblical alignment is less obvious than in some other books that have attempted to use a similar setting or premise. Because of how it is done, I think this book will be more appealing to the general public than to a very specific niche. Overall, I find The False Prophet to be a fascinating and entertaining story. I can’t wait for the next one!

Pages: 368 | ASIN: B01N6PZUU0

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Plenty to Satirize

Victor Schwartzman

Victor Schwartzman Author Interview

King of the Moon is a story is about the strange, entertaining, and hilarious life of the king. What was your inspiration for the wild journey you take readers on in only this one week of the kings life?

I have written all my life, and as an adult generally had projects. King of the Moon was the latest—it was time, again, to write I novel. I’ve tried previously but was never happy with the results. For a while an idea had been in the back of my head about someone dying and waking up on another planet as its King. I decided to give the idea a try. The first chapter worked out pretty good, and then the second, and then, with rewrites, it was a year later. Why the subject matter? Our current world demands satire! I look at everything from the current Presidential election campaign to environmental issues to personal politics.

I found this novel to be a cutting piece of satire. What is one thing that you hope readers take away from your novel?

That they enjoyed it and want to read it again.

Most of the book takes place in the kings head, his thoughts and ruminations. What was your writing process to ensure you captured the essence of this character?

Well, each chapter had to satirize something. Sometimes low fruit, sometimes stuff high on the tree. Each chapter had to advance the plot. It also had to advance the main character. For example, it was after the first four chapters that I stopped and figured out what the rest of the novel would very roughly be. Short chapters. For satire, I started with the urge to have Kings and Queens instead of a democracy. Fox News and its impact on media played an important role. People fighting each other rather than a common enemy. Trading jobs for environmental pollution. Our world has plenty to satirize. Also, I played with Game of Thrones and Star Wars, two favorites.

What is the next book that you are working on and when can your fans expect it to be out?

The next book? The first seven or so chapters, unedited, are on http://www.redfez.net, along with a bit of my poetry and short fables. I started this graphic novel (is there another name for what I’m doing?) in 1994. There are 26 completed chapters. Currently I am going back and editing the chapters. As the original desktop publishing software no longer functions with modern Windows, I can only edit the PDFs, but that will do. It is fine tuning. The graphic novel? It is the story of a failed social services manager who wins the lottery. He uses the money to start a community newspaper. To prove he is a good manager, he only hires people who had been fired. He also deliberately creates problems.  Each chapter of the novel is one issue of the newspaper. This originated over 20 years ago, when there were community newspapers. Each issue is complete, with news articles, movie reviews, a comic strip and, on the end page, a puzzle.  You find out what is happening through those, along with the classified ads. It is reading fiction obliquely. It is reading fiction as if the novel was a newspaper and you could flip from article to article, choosing what you read.  The plot for each of the six characters progresses clearly, at least to me. Why have I spent so long working on this? I started almost as soon as I had my first computer. There is something about the concept. I love the format, which allows me to work in jokes and sarcasm.

Author Links: GoodReads

Buy Now From Amazon.comA satirical novel where Gulliver’s Travels meets Star Wars via Game of Thrones. Look into a dimension where everyone grows up believing Fox News! Plenty of jokes and cheap shots! A look at one week in the life of a new King who does not want to be King!

King of the Moon

296055854 StarsKing of the Moon by Victor Schwartzman is a story about a young king who truly does not want to be king.  The book focuses on one week in the life of the king and everything that he has to deal with from politics to courting women.  It is a hilarious satirical look at other works of art such as Gulliver’s Travels, Star Wars, mixed in with Game of Thrones. There are moments of jokes (some of which are dirty such as the title of Chapter 2), and cheap shots.  Just a few things that makes a book incredibly entertaining, especially for someone who may not enjoy reading.

This was definitely an interesting story straight from the beginning.  Some of the sentences get confusing while reading them such as “I needed it cleared because I needed to get my head clear to me I clearly needed to get out of here!” the multiple uses of “clear” shows how silly the English language is, and the lack of punctuation makes it difficult to understand what Schwartzman is really trying to say.  Readers are in the head of the king, so they get his silly random thoughts from dancing like Gene Kelly to trying to make serious decisions for the kingdom. It is an interesting idea that the king gets reincarnated, though the king doesn’t come back at birth. He comes back as twenty seven year old man. I’ve read a lot of stories where people who are reincarnated start out from birth, but this is the first story that I’ve read where the person gets reincarnated as an adult and I enjoyed the originality in the way that it was presented.

Schwartzman does a great job at presenting the inner thoughts of his character in a way that reflects how many of us think, random and all over the place. He pokes fun at a lot of different things; some are obvious while others seem a little more allusive. There is even a little bit of romance in the tale for those who enjoy romance. Dialogue between characters was funny and natural, transitions and description scenes were not forced nor were they too extensive. Everything fit perfectly and made the reader get lost in the story, in turn losing track of the time! A lot of things happen within this one week of the king’s life, but it keeps things interesting. It keeps the story moving and the readers interested to see what will happen next.

There are many different literary genres wrapped into one story. There is truly something for everyone in this book. I would recommend this to anyone who wants a good book to read regardless of preferred genre. If you are not much of a fan of reading, even you will enjoy this book.  It is hard to find something that is not entertaining about this book. I would give it a rating of 4 out 5 because frankly it felt like there was more story to be told. The story really leaves the reading wanting more, and hoping to see more things by Victor Schwartzman.

Pages: 450 | ASIN: B01D83TNPI

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Liefdom | A Tale From Perilisc

Liefdom: A Tale from Perilisc4 StarsOne tough thing about writing fantasy books is that the reader doesn’t show up already knowing what’s possible. This genre is set in a world of mythical creatures and magic, by definition being completely different than our own.

Liefdom is one such book, centered around the conflicted and hyper violent fairy, Gentry Mandrake. The book is written in a sparse and compelling style, one that keeps the action flowing from page to page but sometimes manages to pass over exposition that might connect the reader to the circumstances and stakes of the conflict at hand. It’s subtitle is “A Tale From Perilisc”, Perilisc being the fictional universe in which the author Jesse Teller sets many of his books, and as such the book is a bit tricky to follow for readers who are not already familiar with the author’s broader world.

This is a challenge for the genre in general, not for Liefdom in particular – indeed its focused prose style proves to be one of its strongest assets, keeping the reader engaged and entertained even when the action itself isn’t abundantly clear. The murkiness just comes with the territory; what are the limits of magic in general and for any given fight in particular? Could a hero or villain use magic to get themselves out of a scrape or are they in real trouble? The answers to these issues and more may be obvious to fans of the genre and of this series in particular, but setting an entire story in a universe where magic isn’t peripheral or incidental (like in Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones) but is instead foundational to the existence of the entire cast of the book may make the story opaque and forbidding to the uninitiated newcomer.

The story itself is brisk and full of action, violent action. The plot starts with a birth and a bang and very rarely lets up, barely given the reader any room  to breathe. Almost every character in the story finds themselves the subject of some form of brutal torture at some point or another, the hero most of all. It feels like more than half the book is devoted to describing some form or feeling of pain. That said, though, it never feels like too much – the book is well-crafted enough such that the constant presence of pain feels unrelenting rather than overdone.

Plot-wise, no narrative acrobatics really present themselves. Gentry Mandrake is Different and Talented and must make peace with his Difference to use his Talents to save those he loves and indeed the broader world, facing both rejection and scorn at home and unfathomable all-consuming evil when he walks out the front door. There’s plenty of fantastic magic, shape-shifting and aura fights and threats of immortality, all compelling and fun.

In all, Liefdom is a strongly written book with a pleasant plot that features an extraordinary amount of violence and pain in a way that never becomes overbearing. If all of that sounds like your cup of tea then you’ll probably feel right at home.

Pages: 255 | ASIN: B01FWP8WS4

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The Empty One: The Fallen Conviction

The Empty One (The Fallen Conviction, #1)4 StarsIf there’s one thing I can guarantee about this book, it’s that you’ve absolutely never read anything like it before. And that’s no small thing—fantasy as a genre has a bad habit of being predictable, and this book certainly is not that. If you’re looking for new form, experimental writing, and a very unique voice, then this is the book for you.

The form is really intriguing: it’s written like a cross between the Bible and Beowulf, with annotated lines and a very deliberate rhyme scheme (all the lines are end rhyme, which is certainly unique in the modern fantasy genre market). The book is biblical in the sense that a lot of the sentence structures seem to mirror the historical books of the Bible, i.e. “1.2.29 For whosoever believed in other than Lialthas was surely deviant, as was the plain truth as seen by his narration!” The text is also reminiscent of Beowulf in that it has a very tried-and-true formula of an “epic”, with a lot of focus on character development throughout the story. Quite a few of the names have pseudo-Scandinavian roots and the focus is very much on masculine honor, value, etc.

The actual plot is a bit hard to follow, which is the only thing I wasn’t crazy about in this book. Typically, fantasy novels are very plot-driven and follow a certain pattern, but this book completely breaks that pattern (which, don’t get me wrong, can be very good sometimes, but I’m not sure if it works here). The central idea is that there are two groups of people who worship two different gods: the Alakans worship the goddess Akala (who are presumably the good guys), and the others worship Lialthas (definitely the bad guys), and they wage a centuries-long battle that, on the surface, looks like a religious war, but, as we continue to read, we learn the reasons for their fighting are much more complicated. The plot moves incredibly quickly, with at least one major plot event per five pages, so anything beyond that will be a spoiler alert. Suffice to say there is quite a bit of action—it is an epic, after all—and definitely not for the faint of heart, since there are definitely some violent and gory scenes. If you’re a fan of old Norse mythology or Anglo-Saxon epic poetry, you’ll feel very comfortable reading this.

That typical “pull” you get from regular fantasy books is still lurking here, but it’s a bit more obscured than, say, Lord of the Rings or A Game of Thrones. I found myself staying up late because I was so engrossed in reading the book; however, not for the typical reasons I would with other novels… more because I appreciated the uniqueness of the structure and freshness of the author’s voice than the fact that I was attached to the characters or really cared about the movement of the plot. Readers who feel bored with the current state of the fantasy genre: this is for you.

Overall, I’d absolutely recommend this book if you love fantasy but would like to move outside of the typical fantasy novel and into something more unique (“avant garde fiction”, if you will). Even if it’s not something you may personally enjoy, I can definitely see this being a great read for a reader who wants to learn more about using narrative poetry and other old-school fiction elements in modern fantasy.

ASIN: B0198UC43I

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