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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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A Violent And Often Unpredictable World

Joshua Landeros Author Interview

Pantheon follows a farm girl and an orphan boy whose fates are intertwined as they set out on separate adventures a continent apart. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

My inspiration came from a few different places. A lot of my inspiration came from The Old Kingdom Series by Garth Nix, The Vinland Saga by Makoto Yukimura, and in large part the Monstress graphic novel series by Marjorie M. Liu. Garth Nix has a talent for deep dives with characters who live in worlds quite distinct from our own. Magic is both a source of power but also something toxic to the human body if handled incorrectly. Life and death share the same importance to the story which I wanted to impart in my series as well. 

Vinland Saga takes a youthful character and plunges him into a violent and often unpredictable world filled with schemers and the power hungry. There’s a great emphasis on the duality of men in the many chapters and that was something I definitely wanted to focus on in my story. Loss of innocence is there too and since my characters were going to be young, their teens and early twenties respectively, I wanted them to go through a similar journey.

Monstress does a stellar job at worldbuilding. Quite frankly I find it jaw dropping. The technology, the extensive history, even the multiple factions vying for power, it all comes together beautifully. That masterful level of storytelling was a goal of mine the entire time.

Athaliah and Yaphet both have life-altering experiences on this journey. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Going back to Vinland Saga, I wanted there to be an emphasis on the loss of innocence. In Atty’s case, she starts out as a close-minded hunter and farmer but slowly is drawn to the life of a soldier. Not only that, but she begins to see the world isn’t so black and white. Some of her naivete comes from being so young, but a lot of it also comes from her parents’ decision to hide the world from her. 

In Yaphet’s case, I wanted to have an Attack on Titan-style reveal of a conspiracy and a disastrous lie. Yaphet seeks acceptance and knowledge, but these very things lure him closer and closer to a very dark truth that threatens to shatter the world he knew. The truth is a hard thing to accept. For some it’s impossible, and that is the nature of Yaphet’s journey during the story. For Yaphet, his hardest trial will be self acceptance and forging his own path.

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

I tried to focus on a few different ones. Over time, I developed them and I hope to continue to do so in future Pantheon entries. For me one of the most important was discrimination. Discrimination is a heavy part of human history no matter what continent you’re on, and even in the modern era it’s still a touchy subject. I wanted to make sure this was an integral part of Pantheon whether it be the hate between the Jingsehi and the Sebelians or even the hatred that Yaphet and Atty experience from their own people. 

Just as important was the use of violence and fear to mold minds. Everyone has heard the theme of “people fear what they don’t understand.” In the world of Pantheon, not only is this still very much true, but in the unknown realms, there actually is great evil. The only thing is the characters often misinterpret where the danger truly stems from. Even though I’m building a fantasy world, I still wanted those connections to the world we all live in. As an avid history reader, there was a lot for me to draw on.

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

Great question! I actually have a lot going on. Recently I have been experimenting with Kindle Vella and releasing episodic stories. So far I have launched two, Law of Sacrilege and Pantheon: Genesis. Pantheon: Genesis is actually a continuation of Pantheon (Pantheon #1) and Pantheon: The Phantom (Pantheon #2). It mainly follows Yaphet’s storyline and later will be published as Pantheon: The Contact, the third book in the series. Law of Sacrilege season one will be the next book in the series and will be published as The Vision Prelude on December 7! This story is a prequel that takes place a hundred years before the events of Pantheon and actually explores the world of the Jingseh and beyond. Curious readers can get all the latest news on my website and social media!

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Athaliah Sowell is accustomed to the harsh winters and gentle springs of Sebel. She may be just a young farmhand, but a fire burns within her heart. Her father served in the infamous Hollow Wars, a war that bathed their fields in blood. All for the price of freedom. Even with the newfound peace, smoke is on the horizon. The delicate truce with the other nations teeters on the edge of collapse. As the eldest child of the Sowell family, Athaliah must now take up the mantle. Sebel is a land filled with beauty as well as monsters, but Athaliah has always wanted more. Beyond the shore, her destiny awaits. In the South of Sebel, Yaphet stands on the edge of his clan. By divine law, he was forbidden to learn their sacred rights, cast aside for his abnormalities. However, a sign of providence could prove to be his steppingstone. For as long as he can remember, he’s wanted access to the vast knowledge of the Mystic Order. Before that dream can be grasped, he must be tested. The sacred hunt awaits. Though they are at opposite ends of the continent, the fate of these two are inextricably intertwined. Fans of the adventure, fantasy, and horror will rejoice with Pantheon.

Pantheon

Pantheon is the first of a two-part novel by Joshua Landeros. It takes place in the world of Avah, which has known peace for a generation after the devastating Hollow Wars. However, when a chieftain of the Midland Plains on the continent of Sebel tracks down bandits who’d raided his village’s crops, he finds hints of a conspiracy and a heretical cult that are plotting to overturn the peaceful world order. The story is told through the eyes of the chieftain’s daughter Athalia as she travels around Sebel and through Yaphet Orinse, an orphan raised by the venerable Asum of Giganato Shrine, who has seen disturbing visions of war.

Among Pantheon’s highlights is Landeros’ impressive world-building. He gives us enough information about Avah and Sebel that it feels like a real place without overwhelming the reader with a deluge of unneeded history and geography. He’s especially good at letting the reader know that there’s more to the world than what we see – for instance, Yaphet is close to the Asum of Giganato but not a member of the inner circle of the shrine the Asum leads, meaning that he and the reader have an almost but not quite insiders’ view of this part of the story.

The plot moves at a moderate pace. Much of the novel is spent accompanying Athalia on her travels and Yaphet in his training. These chapters make the reader invested in these characters’ lives. Still, Landeros regularly gives us a glimpse of the larger story, so no chapter is wasted space, and the reader always feels like he’s progressing. Landeros’ prose is serviceable; there are no Shakespearean turns of phrase, but it’s never awkward or unclear, either, and he excels at describing the action. However, readers should be aware that the novel does end on a cliffhanger, so those wanting the complete story will need to continue to the second novel.

Pantheon is a captivating dark fantasy novel that immerses the reader into a new world without feeling overwhelmed. The exciting adventure that the two protagonists undertake will give readers a feeling of horror as they encounter strange and dangerous beasts, and at times there is a sense of the more significant danger brewing under the surface as the delicate balance of peace is being disrupted.

Pages: 268 | ASIN : B088SY6PF4

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Deity’s Soulmate: Edition 2

Deity's Soulmate (The Goddess Training Trilogy #1)

Move over, Homer. These aren’t your gods and goddesses anymore. Angelina Kerner puts a whole new spin on the pantheon of Greek and Roman gods in her book Deity’s Soulmate. Our usual suspects are there: Athena, Zeus, Hera, Hermes, Hades and others. We’re introduced to a new structure of the world thanks to the first person perspective of a young goddess, Gardenia. At first, we’re not sure who she is as she leads us through the universes to the Milky Way Galaxy. She comes across humanity in their bloody splendor immediately. This shatters what she has been taught about humans. Not all is what she has been told. It’s time for Gardenia to learn the real way of the world. She has a place in her family’s pantheon, but will she be twisted around the thread of a Fate first? This entertaining story about gods, goddesses, dragons and the creation of worlds is the first installment in what is sure to be an amazing trilogy.

While most of us have perceptions about the gods and goddesses from ancient Greece and Rome, seeing Hera in a black suit with white stilettos is definitely an interesting image. Kerner builds her world in a fascinating way. Yes, there have been more ‘modern’ interpretations of such heavenly beings before, but the way Kerner does it makes the reader feel like this is how they have always been. Her description on the creation of galaxies and worlds, giving each god and goddess an entire mini universe to be responsible for is an interesting take on the creation myth. She does not deny the science of a world being born yet the way she peppers that in with the mystical ability of the gods and goddesses seems natural.

This book is more than just what the gods and goddesses get up to in their spare time. Gardenia is a very new, very young goddess. She is scorned by the majority of her family and she strives to show them she is not someone to be taunted. However in the beginning she is just that: young. Barely alive for eighteen years, which is less than a wink for immortal beings; she is taken advantage of and manipulated by the Fates. Even on the brink of death she does not give in. She is a strong, fiercely independent young lady. She realizes she’s been dealt a bad hand at life and is determined to make more out of it than anyone expects. To this end, she journeys. She travels across galaxies in her search for teachers older than her family: dragons. These mystical beings that hold the power of creation yet can’t be bothered with using it.

A coming of age story is wrapped up inside a mystical journey. Not only is Gardenia searching for herself, she is striving to rise above the path that has been laid out for her. The eternal question on whether or not someone can change their ‘fate’ is addressed in this delightful read. Deity’s Soulmate by Angelina Kerner sports beautiful illustrations and a fantastic story to match. Will Gardenia change her future? Or will she be a pawn of the Fates? Only time will tell.

Pages: 180 | ASIN: B06Y1GCCF5

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Heroic Fiction

Murray Lee Eiland Jr. Author Interview

Murray Lee Eiland Jr. Author Interview

Zurga’s Fire takes place in historical Greece and the rest of the Mediterranean and is broken up into four books filled with short tales of adventure. What was the inspiration for this third book in the Orfeo Saga?

The fictional universe laid out by Tolkien in Lord of the Rings was probably the series that got me thinking along the lines of an extended saga. I liked the way Tolkien used ancient sources to create heroic fiction. At the same time I wanted to be more historical like Robert Graves and his series I, Claudius. I wanted to write something that would not be fantastic, and which would not re-tread well known history. The Bronze Age offered scope to speculate. There are few written sources, but what there is offers scope to invent characters and place them in historical context.

Zurga’s Fire introduces the issue of nomads and how they impact civilization. I had been researching nomads for my other interest, Oriental carpets. Nomads were very effective warriors, and they could overwhelm sedentary societies. They did have one weakness, and that was leadership. Every group from that lead by Attila to Ghengis Khan eventually fell apart. A charismatic leader is essential for nomads. In Zurga’s Fire the leader of the nomads is eventually undone not so much by a face to face challenge, but by a crisis in leadership.

Why did you go with the format of short stories told as a collection?

This is a very good question. I really did not think about the format before I started writing the series. I wrote many short stories over a period of years that were never published. Looking back that was probably a good thing. I always liked reading short stories. I think I have a short attention span. The result is that I am quite comfortable writing short stories and I have structured my Orfeo Saga that way too. Many books in the Orfeo Saga are made up of two different stories which are divided into books. In contrast my other series about a Los Angeles based private eye (the Bart Northcote series) are entire novels.

I felt that the characters in this book were complex and well thought out. What was your favorite character to write for?

I think that the character I had the most fondness for was “Zurga.” I gave him a rather ridiculous name because the character went by many names. This name suggests that you cannot take the character seriously. Zurga likes to deceive people as to his true intentions, as well as build up a mythology around himself. Zurga realized early on that he would not be fully accepted. No one would ever select him as a leader. In contrast his protege Orfeo can become a leader. Again I was well aware of Orpheus in the Greek pantheon. While Orpheus was a gifted lute player, he is also credited introducing civilization to savages. My Orfeo character has some similarities with Orpheus, but I have taken all supernatural elements away.

I think of Zurga’s Fire as a historical adventure tale. Did you do any research to keep the setting and characters true?

I studied ancient and modern nomads for years. I read about them, their social structure, history, and particularly art. Many of my research trips were to see nomads making textiles, particularly Turkish speaking people. I knew that for the Bronze Age there were not good historical sources, so I filled in the blanks with what I understood from more modern nomadic groups. I tried to capture their lifestyle in the novel, without going into the nuts and bolts of their society. The interesting thing is that the Greeks had recently settled by the Bronze Age. In the novel they were well aware of the kind of enemy they faced. The same pattern repeats throughout history many times. A group settles and then the next group of nomads impinges on them. Every sedentary group has the same choice. They can fight or they can flee. For Zurga’s Fire I wanted to show how the nomads being horse riders and archers had an advantage. Sedentary society, with farmers, had fewer people who would naturally take on a warrior role. They could fortify cities to stop nomads, but that does not always work. That is the tension I wanted to accentuate in the book.

What does the next book in the Orfeo Saga take readers?

The next book is also divided into two main parts. The first part takes the characters to the New World. There has been a huge amount of scholarly speculation about the contacts between the Old and New Worlds. I think that there must have been limited contact between these two areas, but I am not sure that it occurred as early as the European Bronze Age. However, there was likely early contact. There was a report that a scientist had found traces of cocaine as well as nicotine in Egyptian mummies as early as 1000 BC. I think it is important to look at evidence with an open mind but have a healthy skepticism about big claims.The Orfeo Saga volume 4 has a bit more humor in it than other books in the series. I also thought it was important for Orfeo to take a greater role in his own fate. His teacher disappears during this story.

Part II of the book deals with the rise of Sparta. This is not as far-fetched as some people think. Archaeology is pushing the date for Spartan civilization further back in time. I try to post interesting links to the archaeology on my Facebook page.

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Zurga's Fire (The Orfeo Saga Book 3) by [Eiland Jr., Murray Lee]The Getae inhabited the region on either side of the Lower Danube River, in what is today northern Bulgaria and southern Romania. They were in contact with ancient Greeks from an early date. Herodotus – writing in the 5th century BC – extols their martial spirit: “…when it lightens and thunders, they aim their arrows at the sky, uttering threats against the god; and they do not believe that there is any god but their own.”

They ruthlessly incorporate conquered people into their society through enslavement, and are prepared to kill those who are not useful to their plans. They have no need for the luxuries of city life. Fighting in troops of mounted archers, they mock individual heroes. Getae have a long history of reducing enemies in deadly hails of arrows while not getting close enough to lose warriors in single combat. Here Orfeo and his warriors must deal with an expanding Getae empire during the heroic age of Greece. Vastly outnumbered, can they stop an invasion that threatens not only their lives, but also their entire culture?

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