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Challenges to Overcome

Anna Musewald Author Interview

Anna Musewald Author Interview

A Small Bronze Gift Called Mirror follows Lydia who is a sixteen-year-old girl living at a boarding school when the headmaster of the school forces Lydia to compete in a mirror contest. What was the inspiration for this very imaginative story?

A quote from Plato’s Apology of Sokrates served as my inspiration for my story:
“something divine and spiritual comes to me, (…) I have had this from my childhood; it is a sort of voice that comes to me, and when it comes it always holds me back from what I am thinking of doing, but never urges me forward.” – Plato’s Apology of Sokrates- 31d. What if we could not only hear this divine and spiritual voice, but also give it a face? Would we be satisfied with the image? Would it be what we imagined it to be or would it be what others expect it to be?

Lydia is a strong-willed, independent teen who takes matters into her own hands. What were the morals you were trying to capture while creating your characters?

Like most characters of the story, Lydia has many challenges to overcome and a difficult task to carry. She faces a lot of issues that people today struggle with. That require many morals and values like self-respect, compassion, altruism and justice. Lydia is a strong-willed young girl, who changes and develops these values as she grows up.

The story has a wonderfully unique take on magic mirrors that’s different from the fairy tale version. How did this idea come to you and how did you develop it into a story?

From the beginning I wanted somebody for Lydia to talk to, because it’s not easy for a child to be left grow up alone. This resulted in the creation of Phoebus, who could prove to be a true friend or an enemy. I tried to show how difficult it is for us today to protect ourselves from bad influences. That’s why the reflections in the mirrors are often shaped by how we perceive ourselves through the manipulation of the others.

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

Currently I’m writing another mystery novel about two very different people, which have nothing in common until they bump on each other. It will be available as soon as the English translation is finished.

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A small bronze gift called "Mirror": A Mystery Novel by [Musewald, Anna]“A small bronze gift called “Mirror” follows the story of Lydia, who is forced to go on the run at the age of 6 when her mother is murdered. Protected by her grandmother, Lydia’s life is shrouded in mystery, compounded by the small bronze gift she was given and which she calls ‘mirror’.

At the age of 12, Lydia is left in the care of Mrs. M, and is given a place at a school filled with unusual characters. When she arrives there Lydia discovers that all the children have the same ‘mirror’ as she does. But it’s when she starts to learn how to use it that the real story unfolds and she must undertake a remarkable journey.”

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Painful Sacrifice

D. Hart St. Martin Author Interview

D. Hart St. Martin Author Interview

In the final installment of the Lisen of Solsta trilogy, Blooded takes us on a gruesome journey as we learn how Lisen will affect the future of the Garlan people. When writing the first book in the series did you know where you would end up in this third book or did it come about organically?

Fractured and Tainted had been written, rewritten and re-formed at least 3 or 4 times. I had a plan for where it was going to go, a plan that would provide redemption for Lisen. Or so I thought. Then the friend, to whom I tell everything, said–after hearing my idea for the finale–“but how does Nalin feel about that?” Boom. Lisen’s redemption would lean on Nalin’s painful sacrifice, something I hadn’t seen until this friend pointed it out. Back to the drawing board. During the year I spent re-forming and rewriting Tainted, I made notes, 11 pages single spaced, to find the story that would bring closure to the series. No organization by plot points whatsoever; the notes were organized based on the date I entered them into the file. Once Tainted was complete, I put the notes together in the order they occurred in the story, then wrote them out on 4 x 6 cards for each scene. I had 57 cards at that point. By the time I finished the first draft, I had 94. I did, however, have the ending when Lisen and Korin are finally alone together all prepared well in advance, including the little bit at the end about the fairy tales (which I had word for word). So, the short answer is yes, it came about organically because I had no idea where I was going when I wrote the first two books.

The cover art for your three books are very well done. What decisions went into the art direction for the covers?

My cover artist, Aidana WillowRaven of WillowRaven Illustration and Design, is brilliant, and she definitely knows her stuff. She has taught me a lot about the art of the cover. We began with book II because I’d already created a cover for book I, and I was about to publish II. The process began with bringing Lisen to life. We worked back and forth for quite a while. The plan was to show her pouch through the material of the gown she’s wearing. We worked through several drafts of that. Then we came to the mutual decision that in order for the cloth the gown was made of to be transparent enough to see the pouch, it would end up showing things we thought inappropriate for a YA book. So the pouch disappeared behind the gown. It was a pity, but on the other hand, it leaves some of it up to the reader to fill in for him/herself.

After finishing up the cover for Tainted, we turned to replace my cover of Fractured. My desire was always to show a pivotal moment from the book. For Tainted, it seemed natural to show Lisen up on the top of the mesa after the Farii. For Fractured, the moment she falls apart after running from the chaos in Halorin was an obvious choice. For Blooded, I originally wanted the Garlan throne. Aidana loves slipping into alien worlds, and I had described the throne in the book specifically for her to have fun with. She informed me, in her experienced opinion, that with the covers of the first two books being set outside with a character in them, we needed to guard the brand and stick with that formula. I hated losing the throne (though it does remain in the book), but she was right. So the moment I chose was the one where Lisen and Korin must part after the blood bath in the Khared. (If you look closely, you can see Lisen’s eyes are black because she’s still blind.) This put both Korin and Pharaoh on the cover with Lisen. My artist definitely had a great deal of fun with Pharaoh. Korin was a challenge to be sure. I had some very definite ideas, as did she, but we got through it, and that cover is my favorite.

What were some things you wanted to clear up or wrap up in this final book in the series?

One important thread was what would happen to Lisen and Korin’s baby and whether or not they would finally find each other. The other was Lorain. The first was easy; the second, not so much. I knew what I had to do, but not how to set that up. Then the idea of a truly treasonous act rose up before me as a gift, with a little inspiration from Game of Thrones.

Was there anything that you didn’t have time to get to or wanted to leave open ended?

What I wanted to explore but had no place for in a YA trilogy was who would Lisen be (along with the other major characters) as she grew into her role as Empir. So when I finished Blooded and sent it off to Amazon, I sat back wondering what to work on next. I have several barely touched projects I could have turned to, but Lisen called. Rinli called. And it was at that juncture that I returned to Garla and Lisen 15 years on.

What is the next book that you’re working on? A continuation of the Lisen of Solsta series or a new series?

Yes, the Lisen saga continues. The first book, Protector of Thristas, is already finished and available. It begins 15 years on and follows the relationship between Lisen and Rinli. Let me tell you, a 15-year-out Rinli was an interesting character to place into the mix, and her two younger siblings are complex beings as well. And how has Korin reconciled his two roles–captain of the Guard and Empir-spouse? I answered most of my own questions that hinged on “what next?” and then, at the very end, created one hell of corner to paint myself out of in the book or books that will follow. I hesitate to commit to one or two as the “one” book I’m working on now grows longer and longer and will likely end up broken into two books. But this will conclude the story for me. I have an ending that I find satisfying and look forward to sharing it with others to see what they think.

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Blooded (Lisen of Solsta Book 3) by [St. Martin, D. Hart]“From the award-winning author of Fractured and Tainted comes Blooded, the finale to the Lisen of Solsta trilogy. After committing an act that terrifies her in its calculated coldness, and losing Korin, her valued companion, as a result, Lisen shuts down emotionally, allowing her to perform her duties as the Empir of Garla. But the arrival of a child, an abduction culminating in captivity and a drug called gryl provide Lisen with new insights, and faced with a civil war, she opens up to startling perceptions which offer a unique solution to the conflict.

Will Korin relent and reveal the secret he’s kept from her? Will Lisen come to forgive herself for her self-perceived sins? Will she recover the sense of family support that she once felt on Earth? Will she ever feel anything but alone again? Or will the nightmare of reality overwhelm her as the story concludes in this final volume? In a story that brings traitors to justice and two opposing lands to an inevitable confrontation, Blooded completes the Lisen of Solsta trilogy.”

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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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It’s Do or Die

D. Hart St. Martin Author Interview

D. Hart St. Martin Author Interview

In Book II of the Lisen of Solsta series, Tainted takes readers back to the land of Garla and introduces us to the dangerous land of Thristas. What was the inspiration for these fantastically imagined worlds?

Truthfully, I based them on my home of Southern California with the cooler areas to the west of the mountains and the desert to the east. My picture was more of Rome or Greece at the height of their power than of some middle European medieval land, and the white-marble and columned Avaret Keep exemplifies the architectural feel I was looking for. When it came to Thristas, I love the desert. Lisen’s response of awe as she and Korin come through the Pass and she sees Thristas for the first time expresses my feelings about the deserts of California. Most people see deserts as dry, sterile places, but they teem with life–both animal and plant life. My inspiration was to show the breadth and depth of this life and its influence on a people who had lived there for many generations, establishing a culture separate from Garla’s and giving their lives a meaning dependent on no one save themselves.

Lisen develops as a dynamic, heroic character, constantly fighting her surroundings and learning more about herself. How did you tackle character development in this story that is different from book 1?

Lisen is, of course, a work in progress. It is absolutely essential that she struggle to find who she is in this mess that she sees as her life. All bets are off for her. It’s do or die, and as she begins to realize that she cannot win without cheating and that she must win in order to fulfill her mother’s hope for her, she also recognizes that she must find a way to become a person who she isn’t quite yet. I loved exploring her hidden spaces and corners, seeking out the fortitude within her to make it possible for her to do what she does at the end of the book. And when the degree of her ferocity came to me one day driving home from the grocery store in the guise of that moment when she cuts off her braids and then tells Nalin she never was a hermit, I knew I’d found the Lisen she needed to find on her journey.

There is a holiday in this story called Evenday/Evennight. How did you come up with this idea and develop it in your story?

You will note that in Garla, they call it Evenday because they live and work under the light of the sun. On the other hand, the Thristans call it Evennight because the center of their lives, the time conducive to productivity, is in the dark, away from the searing heat of that very light the Garlans worship. This day on earth is called the vernal equinox, and I saw the Thristans as being closer to nature and therefore more likely to attach a more spiritual importance to it than the Garlans. Hence their centering of an entire ritual around it, while the Garlans celebrate it more casually. A lot of the Thristan culture revolves around something akin to the nature-centered cultures of our own world, including Wicca.

Where does the third book in the Lisen of Solsta series take readers?

Two major questions remain. What happens to Korin and the special “package” he carries away from Lisen and Avaret at the end of Tainted? And what the heck are they going to do about the unstoppable Lorain? Lisen has seen Thristas for herself and is apparently the first Empir to have done so, and that alone puts her in a unique position in her dealings with Thristas as their “Protector.” I think, however, that the most fascinating aspect that opened itself up to me for inquiry was how the miracle of child-bearing might affect a man. I explored and hopefully resolved the questions and conflicts raised by the events in the first two books by digging deeper into both Garlan and Thristan culture and by opening up the possibilities for redemption for Lisen but only if she can accept the fact that as Empir she has responsibilities that sometimes require desperate and even cruel measures to fulfill them.

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Tainted (Lisen of Solsta Book 2) by [St. Martin, D. Hart]

“In Fractured, Lisen Holt, Valley girl, beach lover, learned she doesn’t belong on Earth. Re-adapting to Garla, the place of her birth, proved difficult, but the greater challenge was learning that she is the Heir-Empir and must confront her brother for the throne. Witnessing her only friend’s murder, defending her own life with forbidden power, and succumbing to possession by her friend’s soul left Lisen fractured, with little hope she’d ever recover.

The story grows darker in Tainted with Lisen and her guardian companion, Korin, traveling to the great desert of Thristas. They hope to find safety in the anonymity of the barren wilderness, out of the range of Garlan spies. There, Lisen learns the ways of Thristas and its fierce people who view Garla’s Empir as a tyrant. In an effort to prove their sincerity, Lisen and Korin participate in the Farii, the spring fertility ritual which changes everything for Lisen. She returns to Garla with a brilliant but damning plan that she believes will ensure her victory against her brother.”

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Mestlven: A Tale from Perilisc

Mestlven: A Tale from Perilisc

Mestlven is the latest book in the Tales from Perilisc series by Jesse Teller. I found this to be the best book yet by Teller. The last novel Chaste left many characters in turmoil. This time Teller takes us to the city of Mestlven. Here we learn about Sob and her past. We learn about her obsession with stealing jewels and how she became the deadly assassin that she is. We also discover just how troubled and deep her instability runs and why she became this way. Joining her in this novel from the past is Emily, the young girl in Chaste that she saved and took under her wing, and Sai the swordsman that was her friend and companion on their last adventure. In this story, though, Sai is no longer her friend but an unfortunate enemy that she shares an understanding with. Teller introduces several new characters that the story line focuses on as well, Mort, the priestess of the Pale, Saykobar, a wizard of immense power, and Donnie the Ego, the young man that runs a mass crime ring. Together their destinies intertwine and we see the full savage and cruel world that Perilisc is, where modern decencies are nowhere to be found and suffering is common place no matter what your station in life is.

Mestlven is the town Sob is from, the castle Sorrow Watch, was her home when she went by the name Meredith and was married to Malcolm. She was content in that life, even though her true love Stephan, Malcolm’s brother, was dead. Malcolm loved Meredith and together they had a child, a girl named Megan. This is the baby she always referred to in Chaste. Her life however was destroyed when a group came and murdered her child and Malcolm. This set her insanity into full swing and a series of events that followed lead her to become the deadly assassin she is. Sob returns to Mestlven to exact her revenge on the people that ruined her life. The town of Mestlven is a haven for the depraved, dirty, greedy and perverted. Their perversions know no bounds and Sob means to rid the town of those that soil her home. She shows no mercy to those that made her this person. The goddess of death, The Pale, sends Mort into Mestlven to assist Sob in getting her vengeance. The Pale works in gross and morbid ways, such as taking a disease from one and then sending to another that the Pale wants to inflict pain and suffering on. Mort has the skills to do the bidding of the Pale and her works coincides with Sob’s.

Mestlven is a well composed story line with dynamic characters. Jesse Teller is able to bring their minds to life, their personalities are deep and complex. Sob’s story is heartbreaking and despite her clear insanity the reader can’t help but feel great compassion for her and want to see her achieve her goal of vengeance. So many of the other characters are not what they seem from beginning to end. You’ll end up loving characters your supposed to hate, and characters you trust will betray you. I won’t say that there is a happy ending, but sometimes you settle for just having peace. Teller has composed another great novel and I look forward to reading where the story line of Perilisc will go next.

Pages: 330 | ASIN: B06X8YNCF1

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A Frontier With No Kings

M. Walsh

The Jinxed Pirate has a delightful cast of characters from the mercenary to the tragic warrior princess with a splash of other-worldly beings as well. How did you set about creating such a colorful cast of characters?

I enjoy playing with tropes and conventions usually found in genre stories, and I guess most of my characters came about from just asking questions. Not necessarily looking to deconstruct, but seeing what can happen if a story or character zigged where it might normally zag in a more traditional telling.

What happens if a hero, who’s been led to believe she is the Chosen One, ultimately discovers her destiny meant absolutely nothing? What if the proverbial “Hero’s Journey” ended, not with a great triumph or even a bang, but a fizzle? To exist in a world where there really is tangible, objective “pure evil” … for one thing, just how surreal would that be, but also how would people define their morality in the face of it? And in such a world, where demonic creatures just ARE evil, what if one somehow turned out to be a decent, kind-hearted person? We’ve seen plenty of roguish scoundrels who love a good fight … but wouldn’t something have to be severely wrong with such a person to get that much enjoyment from violence?

I also like mixing tropes or concepts from different genres and seeing how they gel or clash. For example, even though he doesn’t actually appear in The Jinxed Pirate, the Enforcer is essentially a slasher-movie villain thrown into a fantasy adventure. I like seeing what can happen when varying genres intermingle.

Once I start thinking about these question, several characters start to take shape, and then it’s a matter of throwing them all together and taking them to their logical—or absurd, or surreal, or horrific—conclusion.

Who was your favorite to write for?

I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise my three main leads—Katrina, Krutch, and Lily—are my favorites. I’m not sure I could pick one, especially as their arcs fluctuate with the story. Katrina is the most fun to write when she’s tormented about her past and trying to rein in her temper. Krutch is most fun when things get out of his control and he’s frantically trying to bluff or botch his way through trouble. And Lily when she’s conflicted about her own nature and trying to be a good person in spite of what she is.

I feel like the world you’ve created in The Jinxed Pirate is brimming with possibility. What was your inspiration for Graylands and how did it evolve as you wrote?

Most of my main protagonists were created separately, and I only had a vague notion they would exist in the same world. Since most of the archetypes and tropes I liked playing with—destiny, good & evil, etc.—were best suited to fantasy, I needed a sandbox for them. So Graylands began as a pretty stock Tolkien-esque world of medieval villages, knights, wizards, and demons.

When thinking about what I wanted my world to be, it occurred to me the standard fantasy setting is usually modeled after medieval Europe because that’s what Tolkien did. However, Tolkien based Middle-Earth on that for a specific reason. He wanted to create a distinctly European mythology that was based on Europe’s history and culture.

As an American, we don’t really have a medieval times in the United States. The closest we have is the frontier times and Wild West. So I decided to take the standard medieval country of knights, swords, and wizards and depict that through an American frontier/Wild West filter, and as a result, Graylands took shape as a land where people would flee their ‘old world’ for the new one—whether for freedom, escape, or to just disappear. A frontier with no kings or emperors and a loosely defined system of law, ideal for my cast of misfits, difters, and outlaws.

The pirate Krutch Leeroy is an intriguing character that is meticulously developed. What were some hurdles in the story that you felt were important to the characters development?

When I first began outlining the story, I thought Katrina would be the more active figure in Seba. I assumed she would pose as a mercenary and infiltrate Clock’s organization while trying to find Jagger, leaving Krutch as a more passive, almost comic relief character. Everyone would assume he was the mastermind behind everything, when in reality he’d be trying to mind his own business.

But after the first draft I realized that wasn’t going to work. Katrina didn’t reach Seba until the mid-point of the story, and our introduction to the city and its various players wound up through Krutch’s POV. He needed to be more engaged and active, otherwise we would’ve been left with a tedious series of scenes where Krutch meets someone, they talk at him, and he doesn’t react. It also created a question of why he doesn’t just leave if he doesn’t like these people bothering him.

So I needed Krutch to actually want to be in Seba and have a goal. It soon occurred to me that a logical question to address was, if everyone believes Krutch Leeroy is this dangerous bad-ass, why doesn’t he embrace it and enjoy himself? If his attempt at playing a hero in The Ghost Princess blew up in his face (literally), maybe he should try playing villain?

Audra and how he responded to her was also important. In the first draft, she was an unwanted companion tagging along against his wishes, and it was fairly obvious she might be trouble. So I adjusted her character to make her more appealing and have him more open to a relationship with her, which turned out fitting with the other protagonists being tempted by a seeming ally—Scifer for Katrina, and Dust for Lily.

Running with that, I was pleased to find Krutch developed a pretty solid arc through the story that fit thematically with the other characters’ efforts to find themselves and decide who they want to be—or, in Krutch’s case, what he isn’t.

The Jinxed Pirate seems like it’s ripe for series. Is there another book in the works?

Yes, definitely. As of right now, I’m debating whether to jump into the third book or to try something different, but the Graylands story will continue. We’ll see Vincent Dune and his army steamrolling around the country, which will lead to conflict with Trayze Kilnerova and war for control of Graylands.

Everyone’s going to get caught in the middle of this coming battle. Lily, by chance, finds herself a target of Trayze. Katrina and Krutch will both get caught up in this mess, and they will actually meet in the next book, finally. Lock is searching for Cassie, and as Dune was the one who kidnapped her, he’s going to end up going in that direction. Cassie, meanwhile, is trying to find her way home and along the way might find “help” from a certain scar-faced serial killer. And there’s the Elder Demon the Jackal unleashed flying around.

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The Jinxed Pirate (Graylands, #2)“Graylands is where people go when they don’t want to be found.

Within this unsettled country of drifters and outlaws is a city where the worst of the worst gather. A place of thieves, brigands, and murderers known as Seba. In Seba, law is an illusion and order is kept through cruelty and bloodshed.

On the run from Sentry Elite and bounty hunters, supposed pirate Krutch Leeroy finds himself in this bloody city where his infamous reputation garners him the attention of Seba’s various feuding powers. Despite his efforts to lay low, Krutch is soon caught in the center of backstabbing schemes and deadly plots.
Meanwhile, after the disaster on the Blind Cliffs, fallen princess Katrina Lamont finds herself nearing rock bottom. Her drinking and temper worse than ever, she sets out on a desperate quest to find what remains of her people. Her journey will also lead her to Seba, where she will tread the line between salvation and damnation.

Amidst this are the Synclaires–a family just moved to Graylands in the hope of a fresh start. However, chance of fate and rash decisions will draw the family into a sinister plot that threatens to bring tragedy and doom to their door

As Krutch, Katrina, and the Synclaires face threats from all sides, they will each unwittingly find themselves caught in a battle that may destroy the delicate balance keeping Seba from consuming itself in chaos.”

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A Small Bronze Gift Called Mirror

A small bronze gift called "Mirror": A Mystery Novel4 Stars

Lydia is a sixteen-year-old girl living at a boarding school. Her mother died when she was young and her grandmother Maria raised her. On her sixth birthday, Maria gave Lydia a bronze mirror and told her to treat it like she would treat herself. She grew up on the run, moving at a moment’s notice, trying to stay one step ahead of a killer with a scarred face. Maria thinks Lydia will be safe at the school, so she leaves her there, then disappears. The boarding school is reserved for students with mirrors like Lydia’s. Unlike regular mirrors, these show the reflection of a spirit. Lydia learns to talk to the reflection that she calls Phoebus. She has a few friends, but she’s obsessed with finding her grandmother.

When the headmaster of the school forces Lydia to compete in a mirror contest, Lydia and Phoebus hatch a plan to run away and find her grandmother. They escape after the contest, and a helpful stranger sets them on the trail of a conspiracy that goes back centuries. But the Managers of the reflections are in pursuit, and Lydia becomes a fugitive. She and Mario—a friend of her grandmother—chase clues all over Europe. They discover the truth of Lydia’s past, and uncover a hidden power that could change the world.

There are some good things to like about this book. Lydia is a strong-willed, independent teen who takes matters into her own hands. Growing up like a fugitive has taught her to be resilient and resourceful, the same skills she needs to uncover the secret of the mirrors. It’s not hard to understand Lydia’s plight or her determination to get to the truth. Many of the people she meets are also in hiding, traumatized by the past, or possibly lying to her to keep her from the truth.

The story is wonderfully original, a unique take on magic mirrors that’s vastly different from the fairy tale version. I also enjoyed that friendship plays such a big role in the story. Calypso, her dearest friend at school, helps her understand her own mysterious mirror, and they become as close as sisters. Mario is the son of a man who died to keep Maria and Lydia safe. Together, Calypso and Mario give Lydia the knowledge, strength, and courage that keep her going. There’s a nice glimmer of budding romance with Mario, and that was fun to read as well.

The biggest problem with this novel is the translation. The translator has done the author a great disservice, and my poor reading experience was in no way Ms. Musewald’s fault. She has written an original, exciting story that is completely overshadowed by the translator’s errors. There are multiple problems on nearly every page, with bad spelling, punctuation errors, missing words and confusing sentences. The novel was a chore to read, but I stuck with it because Lydia is such a strong young woman and her story is so compelling that I had to see it through to the end.

Pages: 231 | ASIN: B06XFM4N9H

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Blooded

Blooded (Lisen of Solsta, #3)4 Stars

In the final installment of the Lisen of Solsta trilogy, Blooded by D. Hart St. Martin takes us on a gruesome journey as we learn how Lisen as Empir of Garla will affect the future of the Garlan people. After ascending to the throne, Lisen must make major decisions while facing her own physical and mental battles alone, especially when she’s captured by rebel Thristans for a period of time. On the verge of a devastating war, Lisen and the holders of Garla face the bloodthirsty Thristans in a battle that reveals the truth of the hermit’s prophecy and whether peace can ever truly arise between the two nations.

In Blooded, the concluding piece of the Lisen of Solsta series, Lisen becomes Empir Ariannas—without Korin at her side, though, she struggles with this new sense of authority. As a result, Nalin becomes a vital figure who assists Lisen with developing the knowledge and skills needed to rule over Garla, and he becomes even more important when Lisen is captured by rebel Thristans. Blooded also follows Korin’s return to his homeland, Thristas, and he experiences his own dilemmas, as he realizes his connection to Lisen is much deeper than he originally thought—in this world, where gender norms are shattered, men or women can carry a child, and Korin is carrying his and Lisen’s baby (unknown to Lisen).

Hart St. Martin’s impressive fantasy world construction throughout the entire Lisen of Solsta series kept me so absorbed in the story that I couldn’t put this last book down—I had to know how the series ended because I felt genuinely invested in these carefully-constructed characters. For example, along with everyone else in Garla and Thrista, Lisen resembles a human, but she has a flat chest, a furry belly, and a marsupial-like pouch. In Blooded, we learn more about the “unpouching” or birthing process in this world by witnessing two important “outcomings” or births. St. Martin makes these moments suspenseful and full of emotion by showing two birthing events from different perspectives.

While Korin is raising his and Lisen’s child in Thristas, Lisen faces her own mental struggles when she realizes that the Thristans are planning to go to war with Garla. This climactic moment in the plot, where Lisen and her Council devise a plan for war, showcases the dynamic development of both Nalin’s and Lisen’s characters throughout the series.

During Lisen’s abduction by the rebels, Nalin becomes a strong-minded, confident leader, commanding Lisen’s Council to make major decisions in Lisen’s absence. On the other hand, Lisen sets aside her typical sarcastic, sassy attitude and at times she reveals her emotional turmoil a bit more, as she feels overwhelmed by death piling up around her and the possibility of war. Bala, a significant character from Tainted, becomes instrumental to the plot of Blooded once she’s granted a spot on Lisen’s private Council—when the Garlans go to war, Bala shows her true colors as an assertive leader for her troops.

It’s rare to find a series of books that keeps your interest until the very end, and the end of Blooded and the Lisen of Solsta series left me feeling a great sense of closure. With characters that felt so real within a uniquely constructed fantasy world, this series captures the best aspects of the fantasy genre while also pushing the genre’s boundaries through constructing a gender non-conforming world.

Pages: 420 | ASIN: B00R8K8XXQ

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Tainted

Tainted (Lisen of Solsta, #2)4 Stars

In Book II of the Lisen of Solsta series, Tainted by D. Hart St. Martin takes the reader back to the land of Garla and also introduces us to the dangerous land of Thristas. After overcoming a harrowing event, Lisen must develop her strength in order to fulfill her destiny: to become the Empir of Garla. With the loyal Captain Rosarel at her side, Lisen hides away in the desert lands of Thristas, growing in ways she’d never imagined. Tainted by dark impulses that threaten to destroy her, Lisen must ultimately decide which promises she’ll break and which promises she’ll keep.

After reading Fractured, the first book in the Lisen of Solsta series, I was pretty psyched to read Tainted. The book begins where the first one left off—Lisen of Solsta, the heroine of the story, is recovering from almost succumbing to madness beyond the point of no return. Once she’s fully recovered, she continues her trek with Captain Korin Rosarel to Avaret in order to face her brother, Ariel Ilazer, who is currently ruling as Empir.

In a decision to keep her safe, Korin takes Lisen to Thristas, a desert land with a unique way of life. Under the guise of two former Guards in love, they discover that Lisen must commit to cultural rituals that threaten to change their relationship. I’m always a sucker for romantic subplots in fantasy novels, and this twist creates a romantic tension that continues to develop throughout the novel, morphing into a love triangle once Nalin’s feelings become revealed.

Even with the romantic subplot, Lisen develops as a dynamic, heroic character, constantly fighting her surroundings and learning more about herself. St. Martin does an excellent job with maintaining strong values in Lisen— overcoming gender norms, Lisen fights off forces that try to weaken her, and she continually quips sassy, sarcastic remarks. It’s fun to watch Lisen adapt to different environments, especially once she discovers her true purpose in life. Even while Korin and Lisen continue with combat training, Lisen has her own plans, as she secretly trains her mind and develops her necropathic powers.

What excited me most about this sequel was how intricately St. Martin wove the other characters into the plot. My favorite example of this is in a chapter about “Evenday/Evennight,” a holiday in the land of Garla and Thristas. Ariel and Lorain, his soon-to-be spouse and the mother of his unborn child, have a drastically different Evennight than the other characters— especially Korin and Lisen, who experience Farii, a Thristan fertility ritual. Through taking various characters’ perspectives, St. Martin creates unique vantage points for the reader during such a heightened moment in the plot. There’s a few characters that I wished were featured more often, such as Bala and Titus, but I wouldn’t be surprised if those characters play a bigger role in the third book.

After weaving multiple characters’ perspectives throughout the novel, the final chapters, filled with fast-paced action and a few plot twists, bring all the characters’ paths together in a masterful way. Ending with a cliffhanger regarding the fates of Korin and Lisen, I can’t wait to see what happens next in the final book of the trilogy.

Pages: 350 | ASIN: B00GCYAYVS

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The Jinxed Pirate

The Jinxed Pirate (Graylands, #2)5 Stars

Adventures like these don’t come very often. Riddled with intrigue and building up a world The Jinxed Pirate by M. Walsh is a definite read. We have a delightful cast of characters from the mercenary to the tragic warrior princess with a splash of other-worldly beings as well. All of their lives and paths will come together in an excellent adventure where you might find yourself rooting for the bad-guy without realizing it. Each character is on a journey of sorts and where it leads them is anything short of ordinary. What happens when the warrior princess can’t save her people? What about the mercenary who doesn’t seem all that interested in what he’s doing? Our title character himself even seems to shift his shape depending on what his needs are. The carnal animal driven only by his desires. These all come together with fantastic story-telling and riveting action to create a beast of a tale.

The language in this book is intellectual without being dry; descriptive without being desperate. Walsh knows how to craft a tale and the way the narrative flows demonstrates an excellent grasp of a writer’s tools. Our prologue and epilogue are written in the first person, yet we don’t know much about who is showing us this world. The rest of the tale is told from the third person and that effortless transition really speaks to how well Walsh has command over the story. Some authors can let the tale run away from them and it ends up becoming nonsense. Walsh takes on a large task, and delivers.

While this book appears to be part of a series, it can stand alone just fine. It is rare to find an excellent book that is part of a larger tapestry that can be enjoyed on its own. The Jinxed Pirate achieves that sense of completion without discounting the possibility of the world being expanded either before or after the events we read about.

In the first few chapters we are introduced to our cast of characters. The descriptions that Walsh provides enhances the image in the mind of the reader. The reader is also not overwhelmed by excessive information. There is a delicate balance to be struck here and Walsh appears to be no slouch with his craft. The imagery and information flow effortlessly together.

If you’re looking for an excellent read with the potential to be wrapped up in a bigger world, The Jinxed Pirate by M. Walsh is a must-read. Too often writers attempt to create worlds that span multiple books but rely to heavily on the audience consuming every single volume in order. Enough backstory is explained in this edition that prior knowledge of the world is not required. This only proves to intrigue the reader and assist in capturing their attention and desire to know more. This is not a book to be underestimated. Readers will not go wrong adding this to their ever-growing pile of ‘must-reads’. This reviewer suggests that, perhaps, you place this one near the top.

Pages: 494 | ASIN: B06VWKX52Q

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