Kelsey Rae Barthel’s Beyond the Code features Aurora, known to a few as Luna. As her alter ego Luna, she is a skilled knight and utterly devoted to her master, Cole. During an attempt to expose and ultimately destroy Damon Lexus, a master of ill repute, Luna and Cole find themselves facing the battle of their lives. When the inconceivable happens during a confrontation with Damon’s assassin, Luna makes it her mission to avenge her master’s death and finally bring an end to Damon’s madness. The hunter quickly becomes the hunted when Luna is stalked, threatened, and subsequently saved by the very man sent to kill her.
One of the most striking aspects of Barthel’s plotline is the attention to detail during the numerous action sequences. Beyond the Code is an urban tale of knights, masters, and fascinating skills and features intense and well-drawn scenes filled with sword battles and otherworldly abilities. Readers desiring action will not be disappointed with the frequency of the battle scenes as they permeate the reading.
Ranger’s appearance in the plot was a welcome one. I tend to find some of the more benign moments in fantasies to be the most compelling. For instance, I am sure most readers will find Luna’s heartbreak over Cole to be the most poignant part of the story line, but I see Ranger’s change of heart as the turning point of the book and the most gripping element of the plot involving him and Luna. I felt a much deeper connection between Luna and Ranger than I did between any others. The scene in which Ranger is unable to make himself fulfill his mission to destroy Luna is a touching one in which the author allows the reader a thorough glimpse inside Ranger’s mind. The fact that he questions Luna’s reactions and the intensity of her emotions is moving. As he gives in to his own questions, the reader is offered a much different side of Ranger.
The haunting of Luna by Venom, the assassin she kills, and the flashbacks Luna endures are heart-wrenching. These are some of the most poignant scenes in the entire book and are much of the reason I continued to remain attached to Luna’s character and her ongoing trauma. I was not as compelled by the lengthy battle scenes as I was the deep and moving exchanges between Luna and Ranger.
The toggling between identifying Aurora as Luna did seem to get in the way of my reading just a bit in the first chapters. I found myself rereading in order to make sure I had, indeed, read correctly. Her hidden identity plays a major role in the plot, but does tend to interfere at times with the flow of the text.
Beyond the Code by Kelsey Rae Barthel is brimming with action and focused upon characters who are hellbent on keeping themselves on the right side of things, this piece is sure to appeal to fans of urban fantasies.
Pages: 336 | ASIN: B078V4LC48
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Song follows Rayph Ivoryfist as he gathers his friends to return the prisoners that escaped from Mending Keep. What was your inspiration for the setup of the story and how did that help you create the ending?
It’s a simple idea. There’s a prison break. The worst criminals in the world are released, and one man takes it upon himself, with no funding and no support from the crown, to hunt these fugitives down and end their reign of terror. It’s an idea we’ve seen before, but I got stuck on it, and I thought, “What would make this idea different?” I realized the thing I wanted to focus on was the characters themselves, their relationships, and the relentless nature of their leader. It’s not a crime story. We’ve seen crime stories. Song is an exploration of friendship. So that’s what I focused on. I’ve always had this idea that if real trouble ever hit, I could call on a small collection of men and women who surround me to face off any horror that entered my life. And I think it’s not unique to me. I think everybody has that group of people, that if things really went bad, they could call on to help them fight their way out of it. This book is a love story to that kind of friendship. It asks the question, “If my back was against the wall, and I desperately needed help, who would I call on?”
When you first sat down to write this story, did you know where you were going, or did the twists come as you were writing?
When I started writing the story, I had the prison break. I had the characters of the Manhunters themselves, and I had the villains. But when I write all my books, I do not know exactly how it will end or how the plot will progress. All of that comes to me as I write. This book just kept surprising me. I would write a scene and see that it was going in a completely different direction. I would write something and see a twist coming down the road. I let a friend read this book before it was published. His criticism of the book was that it paid off too many times. He said it reaches one climax after the next. I think Song is unique in the fact that I spend 250 pages setting up four different climaxes. But it wasn’t planned. The book is just complex.
As always, your characters are thoroughly developed. What is your writing process like for creating characters?
When I write a character, I like to do away with all archetypes. I think they get in the way. When I meet somebody in real life, I don’t think to myself, “Oh, that person is an underdog.” or “Oh, I know people like this. This guy is a survivor.” Those aren’t the kind of things that hit me when I meet someone. So why would I think that when creating a character? A lot of people talk about knowing the motivation of your characters. But motivation is pliable. I can tell you why Rayph does a thing because I want him to do it. The traits I like to concentrate on are my characters’ hang-ups, the things that bother them, the things they cannot tolerate. I think too often writers create characters in a bubble. They try to describe their character in artificial terms. They create a character outline or a character spreadsheet. They try to create their character in a sterile environment. But that’s not how we get to know people. I like to think about character creation as going to a soup kitchen and meeting people there. Real lives, real problems.
What is the next story that you’re writing and when will it be published?
Well it’s already written. The entire Manhunters series is completed. I will be doing some rewrites and final touch-ups of course, but the story’s already been told. The second book in the series comes out April 15th. It’s called Hemlock, named after the city that is the poison capital of my world. In this story, the main villains the Manhunters find themselves up against are vampires. These are not vampires as we know them in the modern world. I took inspiration for my vampires from the original legends. This is before Anne Rice, stories centuries older than Bram Stoker. In the original vampire legends, they were all monsters. No good, no mystery, no romance, just vicious monsters. When they were hungry, they were pale. After they fed, they took on a ruddy complexion. And when they were full, they were a close shade of purple, because their bodies were suffused with blood. My vampires are old and powerful, nearly immortal, and diabolical. Vampirism spreads like a poison, like a plaque, and the Manhunters fight to stem the tide. So look for it April 15, 2018.
Some of the darkest minds in Perilisc attacked Mending Keep, releasing all its prisoners. Despite his strained relationship with the crown, Rayph Ivoryfist calls old friends to his aid in a subversive attempt to protect King Nardoc and thwart terrorist plots to ruin the Festival of Blossoms. But someone else is targeting Rayph, and even his fellow Manhunters might not be enough to save him.
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Steel, Blood and Fire is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a fantasy, military, and history as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
I was, in part, inspired by Glenn Cook’s Black Company series, along with the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson. So much so that I wanted to try my own hand at it.
I found Vykers to be a very well written and in depth character. What was your inspiration for his emotional turmoil through the story?
Here, I think I was most inspired by Odysseus, and his long journey home from Troy. Vykers has a lot of Odysseus’ arrogance — and deadly competence, as well.
The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
That’s a tough one! Of course Vykers is fun to write. But so is Rem, the actor. That character allowed me to poke fun at the acting profession and relive a few of my own foibles. Then there is Spirk, the idiot. I have a special place in my heart for characters who are not quite up-to-speed, for want of a better term. He also provides a lot of the story’s comic relief. Finally, Aoife was enjoyable for me, because she reminds me of my sisters and wife, to some degree. I really liked looking at the story through her Earth Mother’s eyes.
I understand that you’re also an actor and stand-up comedian. How have those experiences helped you write your stories?
I think those things definitely shape my voice as a writer, the way I hear dialogue, and indulge in opportunities to shameless nonsense. But being an actor has also given me a fair amount of experience wielding a long sword, which comes in handy when writing fight scenes.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
Actually, you have (kindly) review the first book in an existing four-book series. Steel, Blood & Fire is followed by As Flies to Wanton Boys, Corpse Cold, and, most recently, The Abject God. I am currently working on the series finale, The End of All Things, which I expect will to release in late 2018.
On the march, around the campfire, and in the taverns, they tell incredible stories about Tarmun Vykers, the Reaper – how he’s never been cut in battle, how he once defeated hundreds of men by himself, how he exterminated an entire people over an insult. These stories make Vykers seem like a god, but he is a man, an arrogant, ruthless and bloodthirsty man. For all that, he may be the only thing standing between the human race and utter annihilation at the hands of the mad wizard who calls himself the End-of-All-Things. Against this backdrop, smaller, lesser folks struggle to fulfill their own destinies, folks like Aoife, burdened with a secret so dark she is driven to do the unimaginable and seek an alliance with fey powers no mortal has ever encountered.
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The Mystery of St. Arondight’s tells the story of six teenagers on a mysterious quest full of adventure and suspense. During a camping trip among an abbey’s ruins, Suze, Claire, Jerry, Melody, Simon, and Sarah witness phantom flames, living skeletons, and a haunted crypt. The supernatural phenomenons raise questions that lead the group on a mysterious quest across Europe. To make matters worse, they are pitted against a crazed doctor and his menacing lackeys searching for the same answers. As the young adventurers search for clues, they uncover secrets about the legends of King Arthur, his queen, and his loyal knights.
What a fantastic break-out novel for author S. M. Porter! The plot was littered with suspense, adventure, action, a little romance – everything you need to create a great story. I enjoyed trying to figure out clues the characters had to find and the puzzles they discover.
I love history, especially history of the Middle Ages, and I find the legends of King Arthur fascinating. Porter ties these interesting topics together by using an archaeological dig as the setting, which I believe serves as the perfect venue for a novel like this. Her experience working on dig sites allows her to explain ruins, decaying bodies, and crypts in amazing detail that pulls the reader into the story.
Due to her experience with fencing, Porter makes the fight scenes lifelike. She uses her experiences to provide another level of understanding within the novel. Suze and Simon both fence, and there is a scene where one of the characters must fight a knight. Porter’s understanding of weaponry allows her allows to describe swords and shields in detail, pulling you right into the action.
Overall, I think The Mystery of St. Arondight’s is a great story with a fantastic plot, but some parts were confusing. The characters were lovable, and Porter described teenage friendships and interactions in a humorous but true way. As relatable as the characters are, I do think they needed more character development. Each character did grow throughout the story, but I felt like there development was too obvious.. I also had a hard time with the constant point of view changes. The book is primarily in first person from Suze’s point of view, but as more characters and plot developments are introduced, the point of view switches from first person to third person. I think a novel with this many point of view changes should have been written completely in third person.
I loved the mix of history and paranormal in the story and was fond of the characters. I am impressed by Porter’s ability to draw experiences from her life and describe them in such a way that makes you feel as though everything in The Mystery of St. Arondight’s really happened. My biggest criticisms are the character development and the point of view changes, but those wouldn’t keep me from reading this novel again. I hope Porter continues to follow the adventures of Suze, Jerry, Claire, Simon, Melody, and Sarah. I can’t wait to see what happens to them in the future!
Pages: 393 | ASIN: B01L0CQT42
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Wyatt is an average kid with aspirations of serving in the Imperial Army when a strange dream leads him down a harrowing path that changes his life forever. What was the inspiration for the original and fascinating idea at the center of The Humming Blade?
The story is, in all honesty, the story I would’ve wanted to read in my youth. The Campbellian hero is relateable for a lot of reasons, and that blueprint is, in many ways, the blueprint for Wyatt’s journey. A dream or a prophesy are often found in those stories, and this is no different. Wyatt has to discover not only what it means to be a hero, but also what it means to truly have no say in the major life events that define the book.
I find the world you created in this novel brimming with possibilities. Where did the inspiration for the setting come from and how did it change as you were writing?
All of my ideas start out very small – a place, a specific thing, a person, etc. The Humming Blade was born of the idea of a world where the things everyday people see are built upon the bones of of something much older, greater, and harder to understand. It became necessary to make this setting familiar, because it had to feel easy to understand and subsequently easy to subvert. The idea that the familiar and the normal can be built upon the foundation of something completely alien is something that I love to think about our own world all the time. I think that dreamers like me will really find an easy home in this setting.
Wyatt is a well developed and intriguing character. What was the inspiration for his character traits and dialogue?
Wyatt is a little bit of every late-teens kid – smart, fast-learning, driven, and well-meaning. He’s bored of the only hand he feels is available to him and desperately wants to find a way out, which is certainly a feeling that I know a lot about. He’s something we’ve all been or all will be at some point in our lives. But he has a few bad traits of teenagers, too – he’s a bit mouthy, selfish, and stubborn. His motivation for most of this story is not to save the world or avert catastrophe; he just wants his mom back home where she belongs. He’s forced into making choices that he never wanted to make, and realizes that maybe the old and familiar life he lost wasn’t so bad after all.
I enjoyed the ending of the novel, although it left some things unanswered. What will book two cover and when will that be available?
The ending was definitely a deliberate choice on my part. Wyatt will begin the next book struggling with the ramifications of what happened, as well as a greater question: what place is there in the world for the “Chosen One” once he has fulfilled his destiny? What does he do now that he’s served his purpose? All throughout the first novel, the reader sees glimpses of things happening behind closed doors. Those scenes are like seeds – in book two, those seeds will grow and bear fruit. As far as when the book will be available, I hope to have it written soon. The first thirty-thousand or so words are already written, and the rest will come easily. I’m working on another project (some stories just have to be written!), but once that draft is complete and I’m off editing it, writing will resume on The Humming Blade’s sequel.
Wyatt Arden thinks he leads a pretty normal life. He lives on a boring, everyday farm outside of a sleepy little town called Ven, doing boring chores for his mom when he’s not in school. He yearns for a chance to enlist in the Imperial Army and bring some excitement to his life, but he’s sure that will never happen. Wyatt soon learns that it only takes one strange dream for everything normal about his life to change. In that dream, he envisions a beautiful, powerful sword, a blade linked to deep magic and even deeper mysteries. The dream precedes an unexpected series of events that lead Wyatt into a harrowing, life-altering struggle for the lives of his friends, his family, and the world as he knows it. Wyatt must face vicious killers, dark schemers, and beings of such great power that their existence was erased from history. His only weapon? The Humming Blade.
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The Mansion’s Family follows Savannah and Ellie as they try to restore the magical balance of the world. What were some themes that you felt were important to highlight in this story?
One of my major themes was the idea of good and evil inside each person, and how no one can be entirely one or the other. Ellie and Savannah are seen at first glance as pure and good, and in The Mansion’s Family, they must face their own darkness. The theme of family was of course another important one. I wanted to start a discussion about the different kinds of families, what makes a family, and the effects (both good and bad) your family can have on you.
Are you a fan of the fantasy genre? What books do you think most influenced your work?
I’ve always been a huge fan of the fantasy genre. Books like the Harry Potter series sparked my love of fantasy and magic. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials was a huge inspiration, mainly for the idea of other worlds. Inkheart is another. I love the concept of a book coming to life in the real world, an idea that has influenced my books later in the series.
What is one pivotal moment in the story that you think best defines Savannah and Ellie? Did any of the characters development occur organically through the story or was it planned?
I think a pivotal moment is when the girls discover the cause of the storm, and learn their part in preventing another one. The decision they have to make forces them to take a hard look at themselves, and come to terms with the fact that they can’t (and shouldn’t have to) always be the world’s perfect image of “The Senka Twins.” A great deal of the character development was organic. When I first started writing the series, I thought my main theme would be good vs evil, and have nothing really to do with families. When family themes began to emerge, I decided to just let them, and I’m glad I did.
Where does the story go in the next book and where do you see it going in the future?
I’m at the point where the story splits into several directions. I’ve recently published a prequel, Acapella Angels which tells the story of Ellie and Savannah’s parents. I have another prequel in the works, reaching further back, all the way to the world’s beginnings. Continuing the present timeline, Twisted Twins will pick up where The Mansion’s Family left off. This will reveal what’s in store for Eva, Jordan, and Dece. In the future, I want to keep the series moving between the magical world and our own world. Sent from a Dream will have the characters meeting their author, and from there on, these worlds will be forever connected.
The cause of the storm remains a mystery, and June fears there could be another. She enlists the help of the Senka twins, but the girls only grow frustrated after hitting dead ends. Ellie is far more curious about what she and Savannah might find on the other world, and eventually, June agrees to let them go. Exploring the other world, the twins discover far more than what they bargained for. Secrets of the past are revealed, both in the mansion, and beyond the shadow cave. Though Jerome remains bound in the forest, the trap grows weak, and a battle is coming. Ellie and Savannah are no warriors, but they still have an important part to play. This time their mission is not to rebuild, it is one of great sacrifice. They discover a secret of their magic, one that will allow them once again to keep the mansion’s people safe. But the price may be too high to pay.
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Soul Searcher takes place in a world where magic is as common as breathing, but a soul transfer goes terribly wrong. This is an intriguing setup to an epic fantasy novel. What was your moral goal when writing this novel and do you feel you’ve achieved it?
I wrote a good portion of Soul Searcher while I was working as an Adult Felony Probation Officer. Working in such a position gives a person the opportunity to experience many different views of why we are here, in this life. One such outlook was the need to obtain immediate gratification without forethought of the moral costs or consequences: addiction. Another outlook was the sometimes jaded, superior opinion many in the field get when working in that environment. Mordeth was addicted to the power of his position and the euphoria of the magical weave, and he felt he was justified in what he was doing. This addiction made him impatient, and his superiority caused him to other the criminals, to make them less than he. Mordeth’s straying from the moral code of society led to his downfall and to wasted years. He forgot he was supposed to serve instead of being served.
Rork is an intriguing character that knows little about his past. What were some of the trials that you felt were important to highlight the characters development?
First and foremost, Rork felt he needed no one. That is false. No matter how strong or independent, we all need someone. Everyone has unique traits and skills, but no one person is perfect. We all have weaknesses, and Rork sure had his. In discovering friendship, Rork improved his place in the world and brightened his existence. Also, Rork lacked faith in a power higher. He needed to learn to believe and have faith; his ax, Retorter, could not hack its way through everything. In the end, that was his redemption.
How did you balance magic and its use throughout the story to keep it believable?
I wanted magic to be addictive, to siphon life with each usage. It may cost seconds, minutes, hours, days or years of life with the depth of the draw. A Mage-Lord could instantly light a torch with a wave of his hand and only lose seconds of his life–about the same amount of time it would have taken to physically light it– or she could wield destructive power and lose years of life. A mage would have to balance his or her current need with the cost and danger, because accepting the weave is addicting and dangerous.
What is the next book that you’re working on and when can your fans expect it out?
I am working on Shadow Court. Rork’s redemption is complete, but his atonement is ongoing. Rork has to face all he did as Mordeth, and that man’s sins are far reaching. Shadow Court will be out January 2017.
Soul Searcher: The Reckoning details the journey of one man, Rork, as he strives to find his past and answers to the strange memories and images which have plagued him for the past ten years. In making this journey, he will discover who he really is…and was. Along the way, Rork gathers to his side an enigmatic forester with ties to a long-forgotten race, that young man’s secret protector, and a boisterous islander with pride as large as the open canyon country. In the end, Rork finds himself torn between what he must do for himself and what he can do for others around him, for he learns of friendship and caring, and that it hard for a man with only half a soul. The past cannot be changed, and for some, the reality of that may prove too much to accept.
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Silverblood Demons follows Kylar as he is plagued by demonic dreams that have turned sexual and led him to father three children. What was the inspiration for this interesting and provocative idea?
Thank you so much for asking that question. Since I was Kylar’s age I have been having ‘exactly’ those experiences. Sometimes they would happen day after day, and at other times it would stop for a year or so. After countless nights of terror I began to realise (I’m British, hence the ‘s’ in realise) that despite the supernatural element to the sexual advances upon my body, I would find myself in a weird and wacky way not entirely ‘unhappy’. Part two of the answer is that after talking about this to a close friend that teaches acting classes at her college, (The character Kat in my novel was inspired by this friend) she suggested that I write a book about my experiences and that led to Silverblood Demons being born 🙂
In a whirlwind fashion Kylar is plunged into an unexpected quest to rescue the daughters he never knew he had. What were some influences for the relationship between Kylar and his daughters?
Wow, I never even asked myself that question. Hmm, I guess if I dig really deep, in a flashback kinda way, I’d have to say that the daughter’s my first wife and I lost during her miscarriages may have led to me bringing them back to life in a way that I could reconnect with them again…
There is a lot of well developed characters in Silverblood Demons. Which character was your favorite to write for and why?
Lol, I really can’t select just one without upsetting the rest of my novel’s sister’s and daughter’s etc. They are in many ways, different aspects of who I am in my imagination, or would like to be when faced with real life’s challenges. Sometimes when I’m dreaming I think they visit me (Yeah I know it sound like I’m really ‘out there’ and then again, maybe I am?) they seem to give me clues about which direction I should take in my life.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will that be published?
It’s going to be the 2nd book of the trilogy Daughters of Darkness and is going to be called
Silverblood Sister’s (Yup, that’s a Hungry Monster exclusive title reveal!!!)
It’s currently in progress and I’d like for my cast to hurry up and get their collective acts together by midsummer 2017 so that we can all find out what happened to…
Twenty three year old Kylar has finally had enough of the demonic nightmares that have been plaguing him since childhood. Deciding to learn why some of them have turned so sexual, he seeks answers at a close friend’s occult bookstore where she reveals to him that he has been used by demons to father three girls while in a semi-state of sleeping. Soon after, he also learns that he has two estranged sisters that have incredible powers and together they set out on a journey that takes them to literal Hell and back in an effort to rescue his daughters. While embarking on this quest, he struggles internally with an existing relationship with his current girlfriend. It becomes further complicated when an ex-girlfriend, Sin-dy, that has never given up on the idea that one day they would be together again, also joins him as they face off several times with the demon Ophelexa and her sidekicks. One of his daughters, a natural born warrior, fifteen year old Amber, becomes an integral part of the battle to take back home not just her siblings, but millions of other teenaged virgin girls held in a ‘Paradise’ in Hell that are destined to be used in a fiendish plot to give birth to more demons and ultimately control all of Earth’s inhabitants. Risking everything for everyone comes along with a heavy price that is paid by all that set out on this epic battle that has more beginnings than endings.
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