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New Megiddo Rising

New Megiddo Rising (The Apostates #0)4 Stars

New Megiddo Rising is a prequel novella to The Apostates series. The prologue sets the stage in 19th-century Mexico. The Governor of Coahuila y Tejas visits a settlement headed by a polygamous preacher named Brigham Wainwright. The preacher lies to the governor, assuring him that he will contact the American government and discourage the flow of illegal white settlers to Mexican territory. He then reveals to his captain that his plan is to do exactly the opposite with the aim of overthrowing the Mexican government. The story then shifts to an undetermined time in the future, where people have neural implants and live in a dystopian America shattered by war and climate change. The main characters are: Ayane Inoguchi, who lives in a church-run orphanage; Prescott, a Prelate of the church of New Megiddo; Kate Schrubb, daughter of the President, who is next in line to inherit the office; Inquisitor Rodrigo of the Law of Virtue Enforcement (LOVE); and Evan, an “apostate” teen living in the slums of Los Angeles.

Each character has their own story to tell, but there is no overall plot tie all these stories together. Instead, the narrative follows six characters through their lives, and telling us how much they’ve changed (or not changed) by the end of their story. Each person is different, but all are controlled by the Church of New Megiddo. The church controls everything and has no regard for quality of life or personal freedom. Anyone the church doesn’t like is called an “apostate” even high-ranking individuals who become inconvenient. There’s also a drug called database that causes hallucinations and addiction.

The author does a great job of describing how absolute power corrupts absolutely. The Church of Megiddo and the Schrubb regime display every classic symptom of corrupt leadership: assassinations to remove dissent, laws that don’t apply to the elite, Orwellian doublespeak and mind control, just to name a few. It’s a setup that can only result in rebellion and civil war, and this worldbuilding is the best part of the book.

Evan is the most sympathetic character, and it’s hard not to like him. He’s young and living in the slums, but when he is rescued by a martial arts teacher, his skills ultimately get him off the street and into the ranks of the enforcers of church law.

New Megiddo Rising is a collection of origin stories of important characters in the novels, which explains why none of the stories overlap: none of the characters have met yet. This makes it a great piece of bonus material for fans of The Apostates series. Readers who are already familiar with their favorite characters can fill in the gaps in their stories with what they know from the novels. Unfortunately, despite the good world-building and setup of this evil empire, there are too many gaps in the character backstories to make it a cohesive novella for new readers.

Pages: 121 | ASIN: B015DS2FN8

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Shackled Scribes

The Shackled Scribes4 StarsShackled Scribes is a fantasy piece that takes place in a world powered by runes and those that carve them for the worm rulers in power. The story opens with Cyesko, an interesting character. He strives to be a respected rune scribe, partly due to his addiction to Ichor, a golden liquid that he receives as payment for his runes. He is a bird-like creature who has spent most of his life being a weak rune scribe, but that all changes when he runs into Tialina, a female bird creature who is naturally gifted in rune scribing. When he takes part of a rune she created, it sends him on a new path of stronger rune creation. However, those new runes bring new problems.

Soon, he begins to wonder who this woman was and how she became so powerful, as well as some truths that change how he sees the world around him. Meanwhile, Tialina has discovered the consequences of using rune power so often, and begins to look for a solution that might change the world.

The strength of this story lies in its world. It is unique in almost every respect, and the characters respond and react as one would expect under those circumstances. It is also a world that is well-defined. There were not many times when this reader ever felt lost or confused by the introduction of a new mechanic or function in the world. The details are revealed in such a fashion that makes the reader desire more, and gives enough of those details in a timely pace that also keeps the reader satisfied.

The plot is entertaining and straightforward. There is not a lot hiding in the details of the story, and some readers might find the actual conflicts to be a bit generic, despite the rich and unique setting. Regardless, the story moves quickly and the reader will be anxious to find out how these characters progress through the troubles where they find themselves.

Overall, the story is well worth the read. Some of the ideas are very far-fetched, but that creativity makes the reading interesting. If you can deal with ideas that aren’t much like any of the traditional magic we find in contemporary fantasy, then this will be a book for you. It is a unique setting with interesting characters. I hope that there will be more adventures in this realm.

Pages: 195 | ASIN: B01KDG6OKA

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