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Underlord of the Netherworld

Underlord of the Netherworld by [Jinsei, Juna ]

Decades after the fateful battle with the ruinous shadow monster, the Neverlanders are living comfortably in the afterglow of victory and harmony. As families grow and tribes evolve, the congruous balance amoung civilizations has nourished fairies, men, and mermaids alike. All good things must inevitably come to an end though, and with the abruptness of a sudden treacherous storm, the Neverlanders once again find themselves prey to a cataclysmic force, an invading army of Malomen. Author Juna Jinsei returns to the Neverland series with Underlord of the Netherworld, once again brilliantly melding age old wisdom and youthful spirit into this daring tale of life after Peter Pan.

As a fan of the first title in the series, The Essence of Neverland, I had naturally high hopes for this sequel. There was a charming poignancy to the first book, as impactful as it was impressive. Author Jinsei certainly did not disappoint with the caliber of thoughtfulness infused into this followup story. The profoundness of self-discovery is every bit as present, although the lessons themselves have shifted somewhat. Again, I really have to applaud Jinsei’s remarkable talent for exploring significant themes with such clever insight and casual relatability.

Although Underlord of the Netherworld may be lacking some of the more macabre moments entailed in its predecessor, the story is still steeped with hearty action, interjected on occasion by gut-wrenching moments of tragedy. The invasion of Malomen, a swarthy society of bloodlusting sea creatures, has brought with it the tides of war. Despite the love and unity shared among the Neverlanders, the cruel reality of battle leaves many villages devastated, ravaged by the unwelcome army. These passages were particularly moving to me, written with such vividness and sincerity that I couldn’t help but to imagine vast cities of war-torn wreckage, not unlike those we sometimes see on the news. In fact, much of the conflict within The Underlord of the Netherworld can be paralleled to our society’s current political struggles. Despite their progression and intelligence, the Malomen have little regard for the lives of the foreign land-faring civilizations, seeking to claim those territories as their own. Their lust for conquest is driven by greed, and fueled by ego, pride, and racial tension. I was incredibly impressed at Jinsei’s ability to craft such strong parallels to modern society, while remaining loyal to the setting and tone of Neverland and its inhabitants.

True to the style of the first novel, Underlord of the Netherworld earnestly explores the powers of communication, compassion, and community. Without spoiling any of the juicy bits, I will say that the resolve comes together beautifully, with a respectful nod to the opening title. It is almost incomprehensible to me how casually Jinsei weaves the severity of self-discovery into the light-hearted nature of the characters. Without being too stuffy or, alternatively, too childish, Underlord of the Netherworld is the perfect balance of altruistic deeds and daring actions. I’d happily recommend this book and will be crossing my fingers for the next title in the series!

Pages: 248 | ASIN: B06XS121SH

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Fractured: Lisen of Solsta

Fractured (Lisen of Solsta, #1)4 Stars

Lisen is not your average seventeen-year-old hermit in the mystical land of Garla.  D. Hart St. Martin’s first book in the Lisen of Solsta series, Fractured, takes us on Lisen’s complicated journey of discovering her destiny in a land where people will pay a high price to obtain power. After spending seven years on Earth, Lisen is brought back to Garla to fulfill her fate: become the Empir, bring peace to Garla, and prevent her tyrannical brother from taking over the throne. With the aid of nobles, captains, and magical hermits, Lisen learns how to adapt to the pressures of her new life, embrace her destiny, and win the battle raging inside her head.

Fractured by D. Hart St. Martin is a captivating story of heroism, greed, and fulfilling one’s destiny; but what makes this novel so unique is how the characters, and the world itself, break gender stereotypes and social norms. Fractured is Book One in the Lisen of Solsta series, and this book focuses on the life of Lisen Holt, or rather, Lisen of Solsta. The novel begins with the kidnapping of seventeen-year-old Lisen on a beach in California. Once she comes to her senses, Lisen finds that she’s been taken to Garla, a world that resembles the magical-medieval world of Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. Astonished with every new discovery she makes, Lisen learns about her new “home” in Solsta, the land of hermits (people with mystical powers who are removed from society). Most interestingly of all, Lisen discovers that she used to live there as a child, but due to a prophetic vision, her guardians hid her away on Earth for seven years to ensure no harm came to her. Thus, when she returns to Garla and Solsta, Lisen feels both uncertainty and vague familiarity, and her memories (and necropathic skills) slowly return over time.

What I loved most about the novel is that it plays with the idea of who (or what) is truly in charge of shaping our “path” in life. It calls into question the idea of fate, and Lisen initially pushes against her destiny when she’s told that she’s the heir of Garla. Lisen also suffers from a memory lapse and must go through extensive training with Captain Rosarel and Holder Corday before she can take over as Empir (or ruler), in order to prevent her tyrannical brother from ruling Garla. I find this theme particularly interesting when combined with the “hero’s journey” plotline, as Lisen is much more complex than the archetypical “hero.” Throughout the novel, Lisen goes through stages of grief once she discovers she can no longer access her old life back on Earth, but several events throughout her journey prove what her life’s purpose truly is.

While some of the minor characters’ voices (such as Eloise and Nalin) were drowned out by the main characters, Lisen is truly brought to life through Hart St. Martin’s fluid and compelling writing style. I thought Lisen’s personality was fun and authentic; Hart St. Martin accurately captured the sassy attitude of a teenager who’s forced to learn a whole new way of living (I mean, who wouldn’t be sassy about that?). While she seems to have accepted her fate by the end of the novel, it’ll be interesting to see where Lisen’s “destiny” takes her next.

Pages: 317 | ASIN: B0098RN2KG

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An Incurable Optimist

Jim Cronin Author Interview

Jim Cronin Author Interview

Recusant is a science fiction adventure story that chronicles the journey of two peoples through time where their lives and struggles are intertwined over more than a millennium. What was one thing you hoped to accomplish in this novel that you were not able to do in book one of the Brin Archives?

I wanted to expand on my efforts to tell a precautionary tale about intolerance and prejudice. I also wanted to expand the world of the Brin and fill it with more locations and people. In book one, my very first attempt at writing anything, I was learning how to become an author. With Recusant, I hoped to expand my wings and see what I could do. I hope to continue this learning process in the third and final installment of the series.

Many of the occurrences in the story parallel important issues in our world such as slavery, greed, lack of tolerance, and abuse of power. Was there anything taken from real life that you used to develop this story?

Oh yes. As a teacher, I listened to stories from many of my students of color about how they experienced the world in unbelievably different ways than I ever had seen. I also have several nieces and nephews of color who, unfortunately, have to deal with a world of prejudice and intolerance. I have always believed science fiction was a wonderful avenue to address these sort of issues in a stark, but relatively non-offensive way. Back in the early days of the civil rights movement, my family was very involved in helping end many of the immoral abuses of the times. It is unbelievable to me that we are still dealing with the same issues today.

I became fond of Jontar and Maliche. Their spirit and ability to love, trust, and overcome adversity appealed to me. And I enjoyed the courage and tenacity of Vidad and Neas. What was your writing process to ensure you captured the essence of the characters?

I am an incurable optimist, so I believe in the basic goodness of people. Neas and Vidad were named after my sons (anagrams) and looking back on their character, I guess loosely based on their caring and loving nature. My editors are always on my case about making my characters too nice. I have had to really work hard to resist the desire to have all of my protagonists turn away from their evil ways and repent. An evil spirit is difficult for me to comprehend.

What can you tell us about book three in the Brin Archives series?

Book three is tentatively titled Empyrean. I jump several years into the future where the Brin and Kolandi are coexisting. Maliche now leads the government of the planet, but learns some disturbing facts about their supposed benefactors, the Skae. To learn the truth, Maliche finds a way to escape from the Skae overseers and travels with several companions, including his son into the space. The offspring of a Brin and Kolandi mating develop not only an immunity to the Gorvin virus that trapped the Kolandi on their planet, but also have the ability to mentally connect with, and manipulate any technology, and the cosmic strings found in space. This is an adventure of time travel, new worlds and species, and the discovery that not everything is as it once seemed. The fate of the entire galaxy is in their hands.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Recusant (The Brin Archives Book 2) by [Cronin, Jim]In this sequel to Hegira, the Brin are thriving on their new world, but will greed, prejudices, and old rivalries tear apart their grand civilization? Maliche Rocker, descendant of The Saviors, uncovers a terrible secret and must fight those in power, including members of his own family, to save thousands of innocents from the cruelty of his own people.

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Recusant

Recusant (The Brin Archives #2)5 Stars

I was delighted to discover the writing of Jim Cronin in Recusant, the second book of his series, The Brin Archives. This fantasy/adventure/science fiction tale chronicles the journeys of two peoples, the Brin and the Kolandi, through time. The story depicts two different species whose lives and struggles are intertwined over more than a millennium.

Maliche Rocker, descendant of the original “saviors” of the Brin race on their new planet, was a very talented archeologist, and therefore, an embarrassment to his family, as most of the Brin people believed that genetics was the only honorable profession. Maliche came into possession of an article which enabled him to not only glimpse, but to experience the long-forgotten past of their forbearers. The history that subsequently unfolds will shake the very foundations of the Brin and their beliefs.

Many of the occurrences in the story parallel important issues in our world (past and present), such as slavery, greed, lack of tolerance, and abuse of power. A meaningful example of this is in some of the Brin people’s willingness to abuse another race. This corresponds with humans’ tendency to justify the abuse of others that may be different from us by demeaning their worth, and labeling them as undeserving of compassion. Because of this, the tale can strike home with many readers, allowing them to fully engage.

I lost myself in the narrative, as it felt quite real; palpable. I became truly fond of many of the characters, especially Jontar and Maliche. Their spirit, along with their ability to love, trust, and to overcome adversity particularly appealed to me. In addition, I loved the courage and tenacity of Vidad and Neas. I was totally absorbed, and could not put the book down.

The artful approach of the author in interlacing past and present to reveal, bit by bit, the characters’ missions, secrets, fears, and ambitions, is fresh and exciting. Although I enjoyed the creativity of Cronin’s unique approach, I did have to go back and re-read certain sections a couple of times to determine what was actually transpiring (and in which timeline). It is not absolutely necessary to first read Recusant’s predecessor Hegira in order to enjoy this book, however, I feel it would be helpful.

Mr. Cronin has created a reality with this series which will captivate and enthrall readers, young and old, for many years to come. I highly recommend Recusant, and the entire Brin Archives series.

Pages: 269 | ASIN: B01KTVTMNK

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Voodoo Child

Voodoo Child (Zombie Uprising, #1)4 StarsWilliam Burke’s Voodoo Child is an engaging, if not slightly creepy, adventure to a tropical island plagued by greed, witchcraft and humanity. With Maggie Child as our main character, this strong female lead finds her life turned upside down when a tour in Iraq ends up landing her in a research facility. After undergoing an intense experiment it’s her wits and savvy that spring her, and fellow captive Glen Logan, from their captors. Using her family connections Maggie ends up bringing Glen along for the ride as they escape to the Caribbean Island of Fantomas. Neither of them is prepared for what lies ahead. The island has descended into chaos thanks to the joining of a money-hungry woman and one of the strongest spirits in Voodoo lore. This isn’t a tropical vacation that will leave you with a tan. You’ll be lucky to leave with your body intact.

Don’t let the eighty-four-chapter count intimidate you. Many of the chapters are short, carrying important information in succinct little pages. Burke knows how to engage his audience as his cast of strong female leads aren’t ready to lay down and accept their fate. Maggie, Sarafina and Lavonia are the three main characters of this tale and they couldn’t be more different from each other. On one hand you’ve got Maggie, who is an army chopper pilot who isn’t afraid of anything and not about to take sass. Sarafina is the lovely Voodoo priestess who has inherited her title at a young age, but don’t let her youth fool you. Lavonia is a greedy former beauty queen looking to make a fast buck and is ill-prepared to deal with the consequences of her desires. These three cross paths in the most interesting of ways on the small island of Fantomas. Burke weaves his tale and captivates his audience with ease.

Voodoo Child is the first book in a series and it does an excellent job of setting the stage for the story to come. The first volume can make or break a series and Burke seems to understand that as he lays out the world in which his characters live. The relevant characters have their back stories tenderly flushed out and the basics of Voodoo, which is an obvious major part of the tale, are carefully explained. Since Voodoo is a real religion Burke must have had to research and ensure that what he is portraying in his story is correct. The care in which he takes in explaining the various rituals reveal that he did indeed do more than spend five minutes Googling the subject.

If the chapter count hasn’t scared you off you’ll find yourself entangled in a mess of zombies, arrogant humans and spiteful spirits out to take what is theirs. The chaos has meaning and while there are horrific moments in the story none of them feel overdone or out of place. If horror stories are your thing, you’ll definitely find what you’re looking for within the pages of Voodoo Child.

Pages: 333 | ASIN: B01H9E4HDA

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