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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Sixteen-year-old Eva is a witch who lived in Spain, in the year 1230. She met a boy named Jonathan who would become her whole world. Everything was normal until she was faced with challenges that will change her life forever.
As a healer, her job is to help people, but there are forces that will try to prevent that. There is a war coming and Eva and her friends must do everything they can to survive.
Can they fight their way against the dark forces that are surrounding them? Her wits and inner strength helped everyone who encircled her to survive but will she be able to survive herself?
Supernatural creatures, royal backstabbing and many more await you in this thrilling novel that will take your breath away.
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Voice of a Crimson Angel is an intimate and thrilling story that leads up to your debut military science fiction book. What was the inspiration that made you want to explore a prequel?
Creating VOCA was something that was on my mind for many years, but it seemed too monumental a task to handle. It wasn’t until I was in the midst of writing Ballad of Demise that I began to see a grand tale in the making. I took that single scene of Julissa Marconi from Reverence and then imagined what her life had been like up to that point and after. That was the only push for the new trilogy. Many reviewers asked questions about how the characters got to where they are, so I figured it was an opportunity to give them answers. It turned out to be a fun experience.
Your currently studying history at the University of Riverside. How has your major helped you write your story and develop your characters?
A TON. The sad but fascinating aspect of history is that the story of the oppressed vs. an oppressor is a familiar one. From ancient Rome to the Spanish Empire, to the British and French empires, superpowers have always had their reign unimpeded for decades before eventual collapse. I wanted to build up the history of the United Nation Republic before it too faces its ultimate crisis. Whether it is still standing when the dust settles is to be determined in future installments.
I also drew influence from the revolutionaries of old, people such as Che Guevara and George Washington. Once the VOCA trilogy is completed, I believe people will see the connections in a new light. History was also a valuable tool in discovering how a revolution starts. First come the words, then the fight to crush those words, and then bullets. The term ‘regime change’ is one perhaps not widely known by the average person, but it is an unquestionable factor in global history. The U.S. has often played a pivotal role in such operations, among them Guatemala, Vietnam, and Iran. The more I read, the more The Expansion seemed very possible.
When writing, do you look at current events, and use them as a springboard for ideas or try to incorporate them into your story?
Current events play a big role most definitely. In VOCA Part I, we see a world where warfare is basically common place. The majority of the people either ignore or don’t care about the conflicts abroad. Once again, I looked to the U.S. The U.S. has been involved in some sort of war for almost its entire history, from the Civil War, Spanish-American, the World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and now the war on terror. Vietnam was the first U.S. war to not split the American conscious on a massive scale. Since 9/11, the U.S. hasn’t slowed down its war game, now in Niger, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries. Despite this, there are no longer large protests confronting this reality. As we listen to music and watch the latest films, the war machine goes on expanding.
These issues, primarily our war driven economy, were the focal points for me in writing the VOCA trilogy.
Any chance you’ll write a prequel that shows the rise of Chancellor Venloran? Kind of like how Star Wars episodes 1-3 showed the rise of Darth Vader? In either case, what do you think that would be like?
I actually have played around with this idea, and the framework is definitely there. I can imagine a young Venloran who sees his country struggling and decides to act. In a way, he’d be comparable to Joseph Halsey, which would be a great foil. It would take time to plan out, especially since I have much planned for the Reverence series. The idea is very tantalizing, though. As of now, I’ve only hinted at the rise of the UNR. For this envisioned ‘prequel-prequel’, I would go in depth to the formation of the UNR Party itself.
The evilest of deeds start with the best of intentions.
Julissa Marconi’s life has never been quite the same since her husband slipped into a coma. Her relationship with her daughter is hanging by a thread, she’s lost all her friends, and she’s retreated to the bottle amidst her sorrows. Truth is, Julissa is struggling to find a reason to wake up in the morning. That all changes when the mysterious Dr. Neeson offers her a chance to discover the truth, and reclaim her life. With the help of the scheming Captain Halsey, Julissa finally has a reason to fight again. She’ll have to act fast, however. Her nation, the United Nation Republic, is hungry for aggressive expansion and the ravenous Chancellor Venloran will stop at nothing to achieve his own twisted goals. Return to the world of the Reverence series with Voice of a Crimson Angel Part I: Persecution, the long-awaited story that sets the stage for the entire saga.
Posted in Interviews
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The Literary Titan Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.
Gold Award Winners
Silver Award Winners
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In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree takes place in the 1860s and follows the lives of three people trying to find their way in post-Civil War America. What was the inspiration for your characters; the Henry the ex-slave, Clara and lieutenant Elliot?
I have always been an omnivorous reader. From horror to historical and most genres in-between. The American western is genre that seems to have sort of faded into obscurity over the last thirty years or so. I suppose I can understand why. A lot (not all) of it had become dusty, formulaic, trope-worn, overly-romanticized, and historically inaccurate. I set out to write a story set somewhere between the gold rush and the turn-of-the-century. Something with a different kind of hero from the gunfighter or bank robber. Something that would dust off the genre, add some real humanity, and hopefully spark some renewed interest in this fascinating and sometimes troubling time period.
Henry as the main protagonist was an easy choice. I read a short once, about a man who was freed after the civil war and went on to become a well-known cowboy in Texas. The man had a remarkable way with horses. He was the inspiration for Henry. The challenges African Americans faced even after they were freed from slavery were monumental, and so many extraordinary men and women overcame this adversity and went on to live noteworthy lives.
With Clara I wanted to highlight challenges that women of the period faced. Their oppression can’t be compared equally to African American’s enslavement, but neither can it be marginalized. I also used her character to showcase the disconnect between wealthy easterners and the reality of what was going on in the rest of the country.
John Elliot’s inner conflict wasn’t that uncommon for soldiers both during the civil war and the years following. I have read truly heartbreaking letters sent home disillusioned soldiers from the period, particularly ones from soldier’s involved in what could arguably be called the Native American genocide.
This novel gave a good view of life in 1860s America for slaves and Native Americans. What were some themes you tried to highlight throughout this novel?
Henry and Clara’s relationship is touching but anchored with fear and a desire to find their way to the right side of things. What served as the basis for their relationship while you were writing?
Henry and Clara’s relationship is one of self-discovery for both of them. Henry begins to forgive himself, and finds that he is still capable of love. Clara discovers that her prejudices were misinformed. Her interactions with Henry, and his honesty, later affects how she later handles John’s disturbing revelations.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
I have two novels in the works. One is a contemporary drama about a twelve-year-old whose parents both die tragically less than two years apart. He’s subsequently injected into the foster care system and eventually runs away hoping to find an estranged grandparent who lives off-the-grid in Montana. The second is about a man searching for his daughter years after a global catastrophe. Both novels should be released in 2019.
In 1865 a shadow hovers over the nation: the shadow lingers still…
Born into slavery, Henry’s young life is spent working in tobacco drying sheds on Missouri plantations. Freed at the onset of the Civil War, he’s alone, starving, and on the run from Confederate militiamen.
Five years later, Clara Hanfield, the daughter of a powerful New York shipping magnate, escapes her tyrannical father and travels west in pursuit of John Elliot, the man she loves. John, a U.S. Army lieutenant, was sent to the Dakota Territory where he discovers a government conspiracy to incite an all-out war with the Indians; a war meant to finally eliminate them as an obstacle to the westward expansion.
Henry finds himself caught in the middle.
Aided by Clara, John, and his native ally, Standing Elk, Henry must battle hatred, greed, and the ghosts of his past during this turbulent and troubling time in American history.
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In Empyrean two empires are stuck in a struggle for control and suspicion has been raised about Skae’s true motives towards the Brin. How did you approach this book in the Brin series to keep things fresh?
I always had an overall general idea of how I wanted to wrap up the series so there were several hints along the way about the Skae and Gorvin empires. I wanted to follow a single family of Brin over a long span of time so creating individuals across generations was an essential part of the story. As in real life, even close relations have very different personalities so the new generation of characters in each book helped keep everything fresh with new perspectives. As the stories progressed, there were many alterations and details that changed as new inspirations hit, but the overall arc did not change too wildly from my original thoughts.
We delve deeper into the two cultures history and motives in this novel. What were some guiding principles for you as you were creating these empires?
As each book came to life, I strove to add greater depth to the universe the characters lived in. This was partly by design, but also the result of my learning more about how to write such an epic tale. Remember, Hegira was my first ever attempt at writing. Even though this is all happening in a different universe than ours, there still had to be certain laws of physics to follow and all the technologies had to abide by those rules. Some few alterations and extensions to our physical laws helped make it an interesting scifi universe, but straying too far would create too much disbelief. I wanted everything to be based on actual theories of what could be possible, then make it so. (yes, an intentional Picard reference.)
You were able to expertly balance technical jargon with easy prose. How did you strike that balance and was it purposeful?
I spent 35 years in the science classroom trying to explain complex scientific concepts to 7th grade students. I guess I developed a knack for doing this which carried over into my story-telling style.
Will this be the last book in the Brin Chronicles or do you plan to continue this series?
Yes, this is the final book of The Brin Archives. It was surprising to discover how much I would miss all these characters when I was finally done writing their story, but it is time to move on to a new project. Maybe someday, if fame and fortune hits and all my adoring fans demand a fourth novel in the series, then I might revisit all of them again. (it could happen… right?)
In this conclusion to The Brin Archives, Maliche Rocker must risk everything including his family’s reputation and even his life, to uncover the truth about the Skae. For over three hundred years the Brin have believed the Skae to be their benefactors, and the race that rescued them from extinction. But recent revelations by a group of young Kolbri, the offspring of Brin and Kolandi mating, tell a disturbingly different story.
Three Kolbri, including Maliche’s son Jontar, must use their unique abilities to telepathically connect with technology, and discover the truth about the Skae once and for all by undertaking a perilous journey through thousands of years in space and time, unravelling the history hidden from them by Skae. During this expedition, Jontar and his two companions must encounter the Gorvin, hated enemy of the Skae and supposed instigators of the current interstellar war.
What turned the Skae and Gorvin into mortal enemies? What is the true cause of the war responsible for the destruction of hundreds of worlds over thousands of years? Will Maliche and his small group find the truth and avert disaster both at home and across the galaxy? Can his wife, Ryma, hold the Brin government together long enough for Maliche to succeed? Only time will tell.
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The fifth installment of the Reverence series, Voice of a Crimson Angel, by Joshua Landeros is both an intimate and thrilling look at the lead up to his debut military science fiction series. Julissa Marconi’s life was pulled apart after her husband went into a coma. Her relationship with her daughter is on the brink of falling apart, friends have disappeared from her life, and the only solace she finds is at the bottom of a bottle. This all changes when Dr. Neeson offers her an open door to change her life and with the help of allies like Captain Halsey, and she grabs the opportunity to fight. The ever-scheming Chancellor Venloran has his own designs afoot for the expansion of the United Nation Republic.
With this new trilogy Landeros is giving background and context for his series, while also showing that the ever present villain of Venloran has been around for a long time in all of his power. If you’ve already read all the way up to Ballad of Demise, then this is another superb excuse to dive back into this torn apart world of super soldiers and war.
Landeros still manages to deliver on his strengths of dialogue and action. The beginning of this novel might start slow, but it picks up that familiar fast pace I have become accustomed to from this writer. Still heavily leaning into the military science fiction legacy, Landeros uses this to full effect in the near future of the United States and pushes it further with the backstory development of characters we haven’t either met or gotten fully developed in past stories.
While, the ending clearly makes room for a sequel, the novel itself is still satisfying on its own merit. It will be a treat to see where this new series goes and if there is something new waiting for us at the end, which we can hope. This stage setting series should please fans of the books and of science fiction in general with the way it keeps to the best tropes, while making fresh the well trampled ground of such narratives. Landeros keeps pushing his world deeper and expanding the horizon of both the characters and story line while managing to give readers a ride they won’t soon forget.
Pages: 207 | ASIN: B079H4FBKS
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In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree, by Michael A. McLellan, takes place in the 1860s and revolves around the lives of three people trying desperately to find their way in post-Civil War America. Henry, a man freed from slavery but never free from the horrors he endured, finds himself assisting Clara Hanfield in her quest to reunite with Lieutenant John Elliott, the man she loves and her father loathes. All three are caught up in the government’s plot to push the Native Americans from their land once and for all. Fate has dealt quite the hand to Henry, and his introduction to Clara and her mission to find John poses yet another obstacle to Henry’s quest to find the freedom and peace he deserves.
McLellan’s writing is simply breathtaking. The richness of the language he gives his characters immediately reels in the reader. The exchanges between Henry and Eliza are tender, and her early attempts to refine his speaking habits are affectionate and determined. The trials the two endure to survive as slaves in the South and their attempt to escape the lynch mobs running rampant tore at my heart. McLellan’s words ring all too true. Henry and Eliza’s story is painful, tragic, and well-crafted to convey the horrific circumstances of the era.
Clara’s rescue by Henry is one of those moments in the book worth rereading. Henry, for all intents and purposes, is making amends in any way he can for the loss he has suffered and the guilt he feels for that loss. Sweeping in and pulling Clara from the hands of the enemy, Henry begins a friendship he never could have seen coming. Theirs is a touching relationship punctuated with fleeting moments of light-hearted banter and anchored with fear and a fierce desire on both their parts to find their way to the right side of things. Clara, described as being much like her father, uses it to her advantage as she faces insurmountable challenges on her journey with Henry. Hers is a character refreshingly unlike any other I have read in the genre of historical fiction.
Randall breaks my heart. He is one of those characters the reader will root for from his first appearance. Without giving away too much of Randall’s subplot, I will say that from those first moments of indecision with Clara at West Point. I wanted to see Randall come out on top. The backstory involving his own child and his love for Clara makes for a unique connection and offers the reader all the more reason to admire Randall.
I am giving In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree an enthusiastic 5 out of 5 stars. McLellan has written a piece of historical fiction incorporating elements for every reader. His plotlines involving a family divided and the tragedy surrounding Henry’s life as a slave intertwine to create a beautiful story of friendship, trust, and stand as a testament to the strength of the human spirit. I highly recommend this book to any fan of novels from the Civil War era. McLellan’s characters are truly unforgettable.
Pages: 268 | ASIN: B071YMXDQL
Posted in Five Stars
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The Nightbreaker follows a paladin named Daniel as we’re introduced to the conflict between the gods of darkness and light and their conflict on the Mortal Plane. What made you want to write this prequel novella to your Broken Pact Trilogy?
Daniel has a major impact on the history of the Mortal Plane. His secret affair with Lio is the catalyst that directly leads to Lio’s fall and the creation of the Grey God’s Pact. Without Daniel, the world as we see it in the Broken Pact trilogy wouldn’t exist. Without spoiling too much of the next book in that trilogy, Daniel and what happened to him plays a larger role in the story, and how Trent and Ren deal with their own parallels to the Paladin hero.
Daniel is on a mission to defeat Rexin before he plunges the Mortal Plane into darkness. Do you feel that Rexin is Daniel’s antithesis, or did you want them to compliment one another?
I first came up with the story as my spin on the classic dragon-slayer tale where a hero must travel away from the kingdom to kill the beast that threatens to destroy it. Daniel is a conflicted character though, as he struggles with the nature of his birth and the way that he is viewed by society. It made sense for Rexin to be a physical manifestation of the darkness that Daniel sees in himself. In order to overcome this external force he doesn’t just have to banish his own darkness, but accept it and use it.
The battle of good vs evil is a theme we see often in fantasy. Do you think the Gods of Darkness and Gods of Light represent this contrast or is there a grey area?
I’ve tried to take the classic good vs. evil tale and add grey areas within each of the factions. Lio, the villain of the Broken Pact trilogy, is a fallen God of Light, who only fell because of his love for a mortal and his natural desire to avenge him. Daniel commits an objectively evil deed at the end of The Nightbreaker to defeat Rexin the Blasted. Although the Gods of Light and the Gods of Darkness represent that classic dichotomy, the individuals who makeup and serve those groups fall into somewhere between good and evil in their personal morality, which makes their interactions all the more interesting.
What is one thing that people point out after reading your book that surprises you?
I’m usually surprised at many of the little world-building details that people pick up on. I try to seed references to other stories and events in the world that I have planned so that sometime in the future when those stories are written the whole series will feel like a more cohesive whole. It’s a really cool feeling though when people catch some of those now, and ask me, “What’s up with that? When do I get to find out what that meant, or who they were talking about?” My answer: keep reading.
In the years before the Grey God’s Pact, the Gods of Light and the Gods of Darkness waged war upon the Mortal Plane. Fighting alongside them were armies of men and monsters. The Champion Daniel, a Paladin of the Light, leads a band of warriors into the wilderness to defeat one such being, Rexin the Blasted, before the creature engulfs the entire Mortal Plane in an endless darkness.
Daniel, scorned for his heritage as the child of a rapist, must first come to terms with his own identity and what he is willing to do in the name of the greater good. Sometimes wicked deeds can destroy wicked things.
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The resistance fighters have suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of Chancellor Venloran. With many of his enemies dead or imprisoned, the Chancellor is ready to move to the final phase of his scheme: The International Summit. The historic event is just hours away, drawing leaders from all over the world to the United Nation Headquarters in New York City. Venloran believes peace through dominance is at last at hand.
At the same time, Will is hell bent on launching an assault on that very night, though the remaining troops are weary and few in number. The renegade cyborg has the help of tech experts Alex and Bri, along with pilot Gabriella, but the opposition may be more than they can handle. Awaiting any threat are the Chancellor’s deadliest soldiers, among them the cyborg hunter Aliss Howard and Will’s very own former superior officer, General Kane. Looming in the back of Will’s mind is the reality that innocent people will have to die to see his vengeance finally realized.
As both sides prepare to collide, none are aware that an unscrupulous politician, Secretary General Vanzetti, is eager for the bloodshed to begin.
Check out the finale of the End of Knighthood Arc and prepare for a thrill ride. The Reverence Series transcends the science fiction genre and will entertain readers of horror, war, fantasy, and even the western.
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