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The Deck of the Numinon

The Deck of the Numinon is an epic fantasy novel by GJ Scherzinger. The story takes place in a mysterious universe surrounded by magic. Where cities battle each other for dominance and control, and in faraway lands women in convents known as Sybellines study magical artifacts and train in the arts of shapeshifting. When a deck of magical cards with the power to manipulate people and time falls into the hands of a player with malicious intentions, cards are drawn and a series of catastrophic events follows. As generals and diplomats from the different kingdoms blame each other for the destruction of the fabled towers of Safrasco and prepare their armies for war. The Standish general Artis Ferriman enlists Cerra, a bling girl of humble means, as his agent at the embassy in order to find the culprit of the attacks. Cerra sets off on her journey, accompanied by her demon lover Yutan. Unaware that both of them represent cards in play. While dealing with diplomatic life and an unexpected loss, she soon finds an ally in Havi, a Sybelline trainee entrusted with the mission of finding the deck and removing it from the player. As Cerra navigates a mysterious world dominated by greed, lust, and betrayal, she discovers that her mission goes beyond spying, she is a player in the game representing The Queen of Quills and must embrace those qualities in order to locate the “seer” and stop the game before she runs out of time.

The Deck of the Numinon is an engrossing and riveting novel. From the carefully detailed world to the incredibly original plot, The Deck of the Numinon is everything any fantasy reader can dream of. Once you start reading, there’s no putting the book down. It never gets mundane as events play out smoothly, each with schemes and backstories left and right. The author does an incredible job of describing characters that are complex and unpredictable. Cerra, the main character, is a pacifist unwillingly thrown into conflict, which makes her fun to follow. She is blind, yet her remaining senses compensate for that loss, which makes for a different kind of power. She feels the world in a way that any reader can relate and connect with on a personal level, I know I did! As for the writing, the story is extremely well planned and portrayed, and really has to be to accomplish such a deep story on an epic scale. But the language used is quite complex and can be hard to grasp, an important observation for anyone looking for a light read. All in all, I highly recommend this book for its originality and engaging plot. I definitely recommend it to anyone that enjoys Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones.

Pages: 562 | ASIN: B08CQ937B4

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Dark Days

Dark Days is a story about a girl named Maya. who is an outcast because she hasn’t completed a traditional rite of passage known to her people as the Leighesan sect. While being born to the Leighesan sect, she belongs to the Dempsey clan and spends her days training to become the best she can be. Her goal is to achieve knowledge and skill that surpasses people of her age and the elders as well.

Maya must compete in the Cluiche which is an ancient set of games and competitions that, for years, has showcased the best of the best. Little does she know that by competing in the Cluiche, she will not only have the chance to change her future but the prospect of clans everywhere. Learning who she truly is and standing for what she believes is right, she begins her journey with her two friends Jeremias and Willum, and finds support and hardship in places she never thought she would. War is budding on the horizon and the appearance of a figure that for a time only she could see, she knows that time is running out, and her destiny might be coming sooner than she thought.

Dark Days was a compelling read that was consistently entertaining. The book’s ending leaves the reader desiring more as well as wanting to see what happens next. One minor complaint I have is the ending of the book seemed a little rushed. Maya’s strength is inspiring and I admired her ability to not care what others thought of her. It’s a nice change of pace to see such a strong and intelligent female character in a book.

D.W. Saur does an excellent job of developing complex characters such as Maya’s friends Willum and Jeremias. There were times when I wanted to yell at Willum because he wasn’t serious when the stakes were high. This shows the level of attachment I had with the characters and how much I had invested into this epic story line. Maya made some decisions that were a little questionable, and I wish she had been a little more honest with her friends, but I understand where she thought she had no choice. I am still not completely sure who the villain is and am looking forward to finding out in the next book.

Dark Days plunges readers into the depths of a complex dark fantasy world that begs to be explored. D.W. Saur sets up intriguing characters that face some enormous challenges, but watching them overcome them is half the fun of this adventure novel. I look forward to reading the sequel when it comes to fruition.

Pages: 278 | ISBN-10: 1646630491

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A Place Called Wonderland

H.J. Ramsay
H.J. Ramsay Author Interview

Ever Alice continues the story of Alice in Wonderland and finds Alice in an Asylum at 15 years old. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing story?

Narratives that explore the inner world, and in this case Alice’s inner world, are the ones I am most interested in. I’ve always had a long-standing fascination with psychology. From my academic studies to my work history to my writing, it can be found in nearly every aspect of my life. Since I see things from that lens, when I read the original Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, I saw undertones of mental health throughout the text. To me, this was a girl who had a mental health disorder. When I set out to delve into this, I wanted to stay true to the time period by examining what mental health treatment would have looked like back then, including the use of the asylum, and what would have most likely happened to Alice if she were talking about a place called Wonderland.

Alice is a different character from Lewis Carrol’s Alice. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?

In Ever Alice, I wanted to take Alice away from being this observer-type who is trying to make sense of Wonderland, though there is an element of that, to becoming more of an active participant and throwing reason and logic to the wind. In keeping with my mental health theme, I wanted Alice to ultimately embrace who she was and the beauty of her own mind.

I enjoyed Wonderland and felt it captured the same oddness as the original. What were some themes you wanted to maintain and what were some new themes you wanted to introduce?

I definitely wanted to keep the original coming of age theme, but I also wanted to look at the themes of acceptance and belonging. The idea of finding the persons, places, and situations that fit us and not trying to change ourselves for others or for how we think society wants us to be.  

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

The last several years I’ve been looking at work that I finished and abandoned for one reason or another. Ever Alice was one of those. I wrote it 10 years ago and randomly opened the file one New Year’s Eve and decided I was going to self-publish it. The next book I’m working on is even older, so it’s been collecting dust for a while. Just like with Ever Alice, I’m coming at it with new eyes and really loving the massive changes it’s going through. It’s a big story, one that I see being at least a trilogy. It’s about a girl who has been given the gift of prophecy by the god Apollo and sees the destruction of her home, the mythological island of Atlantis, and she has to grapple with the weight of that information. I’m hoping to have the first book available sometime 2021. 

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Alice’s stories of Wonderland did more than raise a few eyebrows—it landed her in an asylum. Now at 15 years of age, she’s willing to do anything to leave, which includes agreeing to an experimental procedure. When Alice decides at the last minute not to go through with it, she escapes with the White Rabbit to Wonderland and trades one mad house for another: the court of the Queen of Hearts. Only this time, she is under orders to take out the Queen. When love, scandal, and intrigue begin to muddle her mission, Alice finds herself on the wrong side of the chopping block.

Forging of a Knight: Darksiege Triumphant

The sixth installment in Hugo V. Negron’s electrifying fantasy series Forging of a Knight, Darksiege Triumphant, follows Qualtan and his new wife Vanessa, and his right-hand half-orcne friend Glaive as they settle into their new life in the School of the Mages. This is where Qualtan spent much of his boyhood years. Life in the Great Forest only remains idyllic for so long. A significant betrayal within the walls of the School sends Qualtan and his friends into action against the forces of Those That Stand in Shadow in this fast-paced, action-packed novel that is complete with plot twists and turns to keep the fantasy-loving reader duly enthralled.

I have followed this series for a few books thus far and appreciate the depth of both the characters and the plot. Negron has a gift for building both aspects of the novel in a way that is tasteful, rich, and moves the story along. Qualtan, for instance, has a penchant for good over honor. He is inclined to choose the most ethical option available over what is considered “good” in a political sense. However, even his character is multidimensional enough to understand that all his choices have consequences, and at parts of the novel he clearly wrestles with these moral dilemmas. Even though readers are only introduced to Vanessa in the fifth installment of Negron’s series, her character is just as developed. She loves Qualtan and knows in her heart that she has made the right choice in abandoning her previous life to be with him, but she still feels the guilt of her former identity and struggles at times to be at peace with her newfound place in the School.

This installment has multiple story lines that convene, both directly and indirectly, to form one overall story line. These story lines keep the content entertaining and interesting, while still maintaining direction. The authenticity of the relationships between the different characters, such as that between Qualtan and Bartholomew and that between Vanessa and Muirna, truly makes the novel feel as if it is its own world – which, in fact, it very much is.

Darksiege Triumphant is a stellar choice for anyone seeking a dynamic fictional tale that only gains depth as the reader makes their way through the series. I am excited for the next book in the Forging of a Knight series to arrive and look forward to what the author has in store for his readers.

Pages: 432 | ASIN: B07DFPM1Q5

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Trauma and Hard Choices

V. S. Holmes Author Interview

V. S. Holmes Author Interview

Smoke and Rain follows Alea who’s struggling to keep her sanity after her home is destroyed and she’s caught in the middle of a war. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?

My initial inspiration sprung from an image from an old National Geographic: ruins in a desert. I was drawn to the idea of waking up to find everything you ever knew was gone or changed. As the story and characters developed over the next years, I realized I wanted to explore the effects of trauma and hard choices on these imperfect characters, as well as what makes–and ultimately breaks–a hero.

There were so many memorable characters in this book for vastly different reasons. Who was your favorite character to write for?

This is so tough! I always have a pet character for sure, often a side character. My favorites to write were Bren and An’thor, and later in the series Mel and Azimir–everyone needs an Azimir in their life! I think I’m drawn to the side characters because their development is much more organic. Planing out the main arcs is rewarding when things fall into place, but it takes a bit of the magic of discovery out of writing the main characters. Those supporting roles have a lot more surprises up their sleeves for me!

I always enjoy deep world building in my fantasy novels and I enjoyed being immersed in yours. What were some themes that guided your world building?

I’m an archaeologist by trade, which means I study people, their tools, and the places they impacted. Basically, I study ancient trash. I’m fascinated by societies on the fringe, whether marginalized, or forgotten, or destroyed. I wanted to untangle what happens when old, faded kingdoms collide with religion–both new and old. Throughout the series we see nations dragged from faded glory to an unfamiliar, more modern world. Politics change, faith changes, and so do the heroes who originally saved the world. As someone who has studied and existed on the fringes for most of my adult life, I was determined to show all the varied social layers of a world and how war, faith, and community impact the characters from each of those layers.

This is book one in your Blood of Titans series. What can readers expect in book two?

Lightning and Flames picks up shortly after Smoke and Rain, and it delves into the complicated and imperfect relationship between Alea and Arman, particularly under the pressures of approaching war and all the choices before for them, both as budding heroes, and as people. I also got deeper into what it looks like when a kingdom fails, and we watch Bren determine whether he wants freedom, or the responsibility his father left to him.

The other installments in the Blood of Titans world–Madness and Gods and Blood and Mercy–take place in the aftermath of those choices and dissect how the characters navigate their changing places in the world and–if there is a place for them at all. One thing that all my work touches on is the psychology behind war and peace, from the classic epic fantasy scale to the smaller interpersonal and internal.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Bookbub

Universal Preorder: books2read.com/bloodandmercy (only .99, price goes up to 5.99 after release weekend!)

What happens when heroes are as broken as the world they must reforge?

A mad king’s genocide destroyed Alea’s home and left her sanity in tatters. Wracked with grief, she now faces a lonely life in a strange city. The war has other plans. Caught in the crossfire between the gods and their creators, Alea’s new friend Arman abandons his idyllic jeweler’s life–and his humanity–to protect them both from the coming terror.

Across enemy lines, bastard lieutenant Brentemir Barrackborn is horrified by the blood on his hands. If he has any hope of redemption–or surviving the war–he must choose between his newfound family and the gods he worships.

As Arman and Brentemir’s sacrifices grow, Alea realizes that only the darkness inside her can end the bloodshed.

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Mad Max & Sweet Sarah

Mad Max & Sweet Sarah (Greek Mythology Fantasy Series Book 3) by [Ellie Collins]

Max’s life is about to change, and he isn’t sure how he feels about it. When his estranged father invites him to stay for two weeks during the summer, Max begrudgingly agrees. Adjusting to life outside of Hawaii, the only home he has ever known, is bad enough, but he also faces meeting a half-sister with whom he seems to have nothing in common. Between maneuvering a new relationship with a sibling he’s only just met and fighting his own inner demons who try to sabotage his newfound father/son dynamic, Max has an interesting summer ahead of him.

Mad Max and Sweet Sarah, by Ellie Collins, follows the newly-blossoming family relationship between Max, the father he has never met, and a half sister who already adores Max before they are ever introduced. Collins, always a teller of poignant tales for young readers, has hit the nail on the head once again with this beautiful story of two siblings getting to know one another and learning more about themselves in the process.

Collins, an accomplished fiction writer known for incorporating fantasy and Greek mythology into her story lines, is adept at bringing her readers messages of hope and building environmental awareness through her work as well. In Mad Max and Sweet Sarah, Collins has created a character, Sarah, who is easily unlikable at the outset and reshapes her throughout the plot. She desperately wants to be a sister and, even moreso, to have a brother. Readers will enjoy watching her attempt to cure all that ails her ever-changing family. In addition, Collins is clearly environmentally-conscious, and it shows in her work. She brilliantly weaves effective messages into the interactions between her characters.

Underneath all of Collins’s obvious plot lines lies an important one on trust between both family members and friends. The author uses a relatable cast of young teen characters to communicate a pertinent message of betrayal. Collins uses her characters’ growing relationship to highlight typical drama and its consequences. Readers will appreciate the growth shown by Max from beginning to end.

Mad Max and Sweet Sarah is a beautifully-crafted tale of family, trust, and growth among family members and between two hurting young souls. Teen readers will enjoy Collins’s writing style and more than appreciate her ability to relate to her audience. Ellie Collins is an amazing up-and-coming author with a superb talent for spreading joy with her words.

Pages: 128 | ASIN: B0849PBY3J

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Forging of a Knight: Knighthood’s End

Forging of a Knight: Knighthood’s End by [Hugo V. Negron]

Forging of a Knight: Knighthood’s End is the fifth installment in Hugo V. Negron’s “Forging of a Knight” series.  The book series takes place in a magical, mythical world drawing heavily upon folklore and where numerous societies with feudal systems reside in the greater universe. The series follows the journeys of Qualtan, a knight who wields the powerful and coveted Goldenflame blade, Glaive, his half-orcne best friend and trusted partner, and many other rulers, knights, and creatures with whom they interact in the ongoing fight against the heinous agenda of the Evil Order.  The “Knighthood’s End” installment guides readers on an arguably more personal battle involving Qualtan – the events that transpire as he finds his true love in Vanessa, a Mah-Zakim, and the journey of Qualtan and Vanessa in securing their freedom to love.

This book features many different types of characters and creatures, some common fixtures and other illustrations pulled from the depths of Negron’s vast imagination. The author does a fantastic job at creating the imagery needed for the reader to conjure in mind each of these magical characters and creatures. He displays the same talent for expressing imagery in his illustrations of the different worlds that Qualtan, Glaive, Vanessa, and other characters in the story traverse. The Great Forest, for instance, with its idyllic scenery and woodland creatures roaming about, contrasts greatly with the dark, terrible, and grotesque world of the Mah-Zakim.

The development of the story is done in such a way that, even if the reader was not already familiar with the series, they not left in the dark in regard to former battles or happenings from previous installments and how they play into the current plot. My only comment is that the author could have elicited more emotion and dimension in each character; I found that the characters at times fell too deeply into their respective tropes (ex. Qualtan as the hero, Glaive as the disgruntled but loyal sidekick, and Vanessa as the hopeless lover fighting against herself). The interactions between the characters, along with references to past struggles they have mutually faced, still adequately depict the strong ties that bind the characters to each other; a great example of this bond is the brother-like companionship between Qualtan and Glaive that remains steadfast even during the moments when they have their differences.

Forging of a Knight: Knighthood’s End is overall a great read for anyone who has an interest in a well-written and carefully crafted story where knights, kingdoms, gods, magic, and other elements of folklore rule, with some seeking the greater good and some seeking no benefit outside themselves. The plot of the story is rich and enjoyable, and it should spark reader’s interest in delving into the rest of the series.

Pages: 432 | ASIN: B07DFPM1Q5

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Smoke And Rain

Smoke and Rain (Blood of Titans: Reforged Book 1) by [V. S. Holmes]

Alea has darkness inside of her. After a mad king destroyed her home, Alea is on the brink of insanity trying to figure out how to end this brutal war. It’s only a matter of time before the darkness takes over her mind. In the enemy territory, little does Alea know that a lieutenant by the name of Brentemir Barrackborn is guilted for his actions and wants redemption. But, how is he going to get his redemption amidst this terrible war? Grappling with their sanities, Alea and Barrackborn have to figure out how to come to terms with their grief.

V.S. Holmes hits the mark with this incredible fantasy adventure that utilizes a unique writing style to tell a vivid story. We’re introduced to some rather complex, and rather bleak, characters that we get to see develop throughout the story from multiple perspectives. And with this I felt a lot more connected to these riveting characters. Having such lively characters makes the intense battle scenes all the more dramatic and theatrical.

Alea is a strong character that I rooted for consistently. Arman, Kam and Wes bring levity to an otherwise dark novel. But what I really enjoyed was the depth to which the backstory is created. If you like intricate world building then you’ll enjoy this book. Most of the world building happens in the beginning of the book, but it pays off once you get through it and feel immersed.

Sword & sorcery fans will find what their looking for in V. S. Holmes dark fantasy novel Smoke and Rain. A bit slow to start, but with memorable characters, a rich world, and sharp storytelling, this is easily my favorite novel of the month.

Pages: 452 | ASIN: B014APUYFG

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