Monthly Archives: October 2014

Book Review Wednesday – Fallen Kings

Fallen Kings by Sarah Witenhafer

Amazon Book Description:

Christian Speculative Fiction set in ancient Babylon.

As her father’s only heir, Naamah has been taught how to succeed in a world ruled by men. Despite her ability, she’s powerless to choose her own husband. When the wrong man is chosen for her, Naamah calls on the goddess of love and war to intervene.

Lord Prince Raheil, Keeper of the Sixth Gate of Heaven, arrives with his army in a glorious show of terrifying power. He vies for Naamah’s hand, promising to make her father the earth’s first king and to raise their city to legendary heights. To Naamah, he offers immortality itself.

Only one man stands against the prince and his army – Keenan – the man Naamah’s father first chose to be her husband. He alone can understand the prince’s strange language, and knows Raheil was not sent from the heavens. Pledging all to save the woman he loves, Keenan vows to expose the secret plans of darkness and defeat a warrior sent from the gods.

*The Review Contains Some Minor Spoilers*

I originally picked this book up in July because the summary promised a fight between good and evil and I don’t see many books set in Ancient Mesopotamia especially with fantasy or speculative elements to them. I had intended to review the book in July but I ultimately DNF the first time around. So, I resolved this week to make myself read this book.

Plot – B

The promised plot was that of spiritual warfare and a struggle between good and evil. However, I was ultimately disappointed in how the plot was executed. While there was spiritual warfare, for most of the book, it feels as though it’s a spiritual blitz by evil with no real relief from that which is good. The bad guys are winning due to sheer numbers and the narrators chosen do not do well in establishing a relatable character for the reader to really root for and connect with during the story. In fact, I found myself wanting to backpedal from the narrators and especially the situations they are in.

This plot had great potential but an oppressive darkness overwhelms and smothers the good in this book. I wanted to see Keenan (whose name doesn’t mesh with anyone else’s for some reason) be a strong warrior for God and fulfill his vow as related in the summary. The way the plot turned and twisted didn’t truly fulfill this promise and potential. Naamah…ugh, Naamah is one of the WORST narrators I’ve encountered. She is shallow, selfish, belligerent, and too infatuated/in lust with Raheil to see the truth. Every time she catches glimpses of his true nature, she immediately flits to the frame of mind that he’s gorgeously beautiful and glorious and did I mention beautiful in addition to her later thoughts coming around to how can she make sure he’s not angry with her. Naamah’s brother is mentally handicapped with the mind of a five year old and at first Naamah is very protective of him, almost making her tolerable, but later her protectiveness is wrapped in an arrogance that makes her cruel in her interactions with him, which was unfortunate because her caring for her brother was pretty much her only saving grace. In the middle of the book, we abruptly jump from Naamah narrating in first person to Luralamar (her father) narrating in third person then to Serug a minor character who I could understand as being a narrator then to Keenan who I would have expected to be the secondary narrator and then to another minor character who I sincerely wish had been cut as narrator because he didn’t actually contribute anything to the plot in his scene.

The plot presented in this book didn’t feel as though it fulfilled the promises made in the summary. The ending could stand on its own in addition to leading into the next book with the epilogue. But it wasn’t very satisfying.

Content – F

Content is always the most subjective category for me. However, the content and the execution of said content is a key factor in my assessment. I was extremely disappointed in both areas with this book.

Violence is definitely present. People are injured, beaten, and killed. A woman has a clay tablet thrown at her head and it hits her but she’s able to walk away from it. The most gruesome deaths involve sexual violence toward women who are raped and then torn apart. However, these are described in the dialogue instead of being shown outright. There is a death involving stoning as well but that one was relatively bloodless and short.

The language and general vulgarity present in this book took me by surprise because not one review mentioned it. The first appearance comes from Naamah where she snaps at a panicking couple to “Crawl under the table and p*** on yourselves if you wish.” (Paperback, pg. 56). Considering she is supposed to be the leader in her father’s absence and she has purportedly been trained to interact on the level of diplomacy, I really struggled with how her crassness and belligerence is supposed to give her panicking people someone to look up to in a time of crisis. “Damn” is used several times, only once in a sense of spiritual damnation. Then we get to pages 184-185, which offers up the following: “What monkey’s p***er has dared to haul me from my bed and leave me waiting for two damn hours?” and “How it is the Commander just called his lural a monkey’s – what did you say, Zakar? – ‘a weewee?” Then from the next page is “Does that mean you’d watch my back or you favor your own a**?” I don’t know if the last two were meant to be humorous or not. But, for me personally, they weren’t funny. They were crude and really unnecessary. P***er also shows up again where one brother insults another brother. A** is used frequently after that and not in the context of Balaam’s ass/donkey. Keenan, the resident “good guy,” shouts “God, what has me?” (pg. 189) and “God, this thing hurts.” (pg. 190). Pig’s dung and rat dung are also used in name calling but that’s mild compared to the rest as is the part where one man says “Hang the bastard.” (Paperback, pg. 267). Did people in Ancient Sumer and post-Flood curse? Oh I’m sure they did. However, I am not in favor of writing out curses, especially when it feels anachronistic and too modern for the setting.

Under the same umbrella of vulgarity and language is the sexual content. There are constant references to whores. Naamah calls one woman a slut because she was Keenan’s former mistress (although he did repent of this and set her aside). There is a particularly disturbing scene told through the eyes of Garta (the unnecessary minor character narrator I mentioned before) involving a brothel. The language used is extremely vulgar such as when the eunuch asks him where he “wants to screw your whore in” (pg. 227) and discussing the smell of sex. I had absolutely no desire to read this muck but I waded through it because the impression was given that it would lead to something important and I didn’t know exactly when the important piece would be reached so I couldn’t just skip the next several pages. The important information that the secret tunnel between brothel and tavern was invaded by evil? THAT had already been made clear when Keenan talked to his former mistress after she begged him for help. There was NO justifiable reason for the brothel scene to be included. It was vulgar and gratuitous because it didn’t really contribute to the story. I wish that the author had stayed in Keenan’s POV and just entered the inn bypassing the thirteen pages involving Garta, his wife (who had been pressganged into prostitution), and the brothel.

Naamah is consumed with lust for Raheil. She’s obsessed with him and too many times the descriptions of these two making out toe the line of lewdness. Naamah wrapping a leg around Raheil’s hip and then a description of Raheil’s tongue in her mouth are just some of the examples. I could have lived without that. Concubines sliding their clothes off to enter a bath are handled with less detail. 😐 There is continual reference to bedding women and Raheil refers to Keenan’s prayer interrupting his “coupling” with Naamah. Naamah’s father is seduced by an evil spirit disguised as his wife while in his bath. As mentioned before, Raheil’s soldiers rape many women. Two of these incidents are related through dialogue. And there is a lot of sexual violence throughout. We also see the aftermath of a drunken orgy where Naamah describes one of the concubines as being pinned beneath the man who had used her and Naamah also taunts her. Between the language, general vulgarity, and the sexual content, I almost quit this book multiple times.

On the spiritual side, this is supposed to be a tale of spiritual warfare. But it’s very one-sided and dark and full of despair. Eber and his son Peleg, the ancestors of Abraham, have a brief appearance and appear to only escape death because they’re in the genealogy. There is an angel who saves Keenan twice and Keenan is able to stand up to Raheil as well as understanding the “heavenly” language. HOWEVER, when the demons overwhelm the story and the good guys are picked off like flies, I struggle to see the goodness of God in this book. Naamah prays to Inanna the goddess of war and love to send her a suitor other than Keenan, which is what basically opened Eridu to the coming of Raheil and his soldiers. Probably the biggest thorn for me is the fact that El (God) is set up as a liar in this book. He promised a character that he would marry the girl and have twins and a long line of descendants. The character believes El keeps his promises and is told by someone else that El keeps his promises. We get to the end of the book and this character is sentenced to death through Raheil’s machinations and the character tells the girl that even this other guy is going to be the father of the twins, it doesn’t matter because “In the end, somehow in a way I cannot see, the legacy El has promised to me will be fulfilled.” (Paperback, pg. 390). That was a “Huh?” moment for me and then this character compounds it by stating that if “his promises do not come true…I want you to know it is my failures which prevented them.” (pg. 392). But then El uses the girl to tell him that he is not a failure for focusing on keeping his gold. So the weird and very unfortunate impression I came away with is that El lied, He changed His mind, and His will is thwarted by His chosen people’s shortcomings. That’s not what happened with Abram when he failed to fully trust God regarding the prophesied son and being a father of nations. I just don’t understand how that character’s promise is truly justified in its detour? Rearrangement? I came away asking just who was in control here because it didn’t feel like it was El (God).  I also struggle with the attempt to link the character’s death to Christ’s death because the character didn’t really volunteer. He was boxed in and then forced into surrendering to the planned substitution. His death doesn’t really impact the remaining characters either. There’s some twinges of guilt but they’re easily shrugged off by the characters as Raheil gets them excited about building the Tower of Babel. One character in particular is more concerned about another character’s humiliation than the fact that this character is going to an undeserved death. There was no real point to the character’s death and the parallel to Christ’s death is tenuous at best. The long author’s note at the end wherein Witenhafer basically sets out the entire gospel message does not make up for the offensiveness of her content or the spiritual confusion stirred up regarding El’s promises.

Technical – D+

This book is plagued with typos and formatting errors. Much like the last book by Witenhafer I reviewed, Tamed, You’re is used several times when it should have been Your. Other noticeable swaps include “were” when it should have been “where” and “lighting” for “lightning” as well as “fowl mood” instead of “foul mood” and a horse letting out a great “whiney” instead of “whinny.” There is also a section where a family wants to send for “aide” (an assistant) when what they really wanted was aid/help. The most noticeable homonym error is “loose/lose” Every single time it should be “lose” for a wager or hand being lost “loose” was used. The sole time Raheil speaking unleashing or loosing someone like a bull from the stall  “lose” was used. It was VERY strange how that worked out. Consistent but strange. Sumer is misspelled once as “Sumeria.” There is also the fact that commas are used when they shouldn’t and not when they should. Several times there were quotation marks left off at either the beginning or the ending of a character speaking. Every time an opening single quote was used, the companion ending single quote was missing. There are ellipses missing the last period and once a period traveled down to the next line.

Several times Naamah resorts to telling, such as how she astonished the diplomats with her knowledge and hammered out a trade agreement. Why wasn’t this shown in place of the unnecessary scenes revolving around the brothel and various characters’ lust for each other and power? Anywhere from fifty to seventy-five pages could have been cut, which would have tightened up the plot and avoided the gratuitous vulgarity that plagued this book.

There are also several anachronistic word choices which didn’t mesh with the setting of Ancient Mesopotamia at all. “Manicured” is used to describe Raheil’s eyebrow and that particular synonym of “groomed” didn’t come into use until the 1890s. “Semantics” is also used and is also from the 1890s. Keenan’s former mistress describes herself as being “blacklisted” and while this word came into use around the 1600s, it feels too modern still and it probably would have been better to describe her as being banned or shunned. The most anachronistic word is used is “Transvestite,” which appears twice in regards to prostitutes, because that term didn’t surface until 1922. It has no business being in ancient post-flood Sumer. A good rule of thumb when writing stories set in any time frame before the Industrial Age is to check the word’s date of origin. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has an app that can be used for quick reference when a word doesn’t sound right for the setting. The author indicates in her acknowledgements that she used editors but this book has so many issues that it is difficult to consider this a finished and fully edited book. Due to the length of the book, 426 pages, I cannot help feeling that the book is being rushed to meet a specific deadline and the quality is suffering because of it.

Final Grade – D- or 1.5 Stars

I’ll be honest, I found this book to be abhorrent. There was potential here but the content and execution of the content dragged this book so far down that I will never read another book by this author. The author’s note in the back makes me think that the author intends for this book to be passed from Christians to their non-Christian friends. If this were a secular book, I would give it the same rating and I would not pass it on to my friends. Because it is a “Christian” book, I would never pass it on to my undecided friends because it is full of worldliness to the point that godly principles are either smothered or undetectable and the spiritual confusion around the diverted promise. The material covered in this book is of an adult nature and dwells more on the darkness and evil winning than anything else. I would strongly encourage this author to add an adult content warning to her book. I cannot recommend this book to anyone in good conscience.

Fallen Kings is available through both Kindle and Paperback.

 

Next  –  The Land of Flames (The Karini and Lamek Chronicles Book 1) by Cynthia P. Willow

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Tiger’s Paw Snippet – Weekend Writing Warriors – Part 12

Twelfth entry for the #8sunday Weekend Writing Warriors blog hop –


Nevertheless, this had to be done to protect both the Therians and the Elves in the long term.

Movement on the other side of the room caught my attention. I watched, testing the air, as a tall, lithe woman wove her way through the crowd toward me. She moved like a Therian, but I couldn’t catch a scent to identify which branch she belonged to, only the scent of cinnamon and vanilla clinging to her, and she wasn’t using her power in such a way that I could narrow it down beyond the fact that she was definitely among the predators. She sauntered up to me, her lips curving in a slight smile that did not reach her hazel eyes. If this was the Fringe recruiter, it was no wonder so many of the unmated males were falling for it. A pretty smile and promises of more than she said would be more than enough for some of the young males. Then, she twitched the front of her black leather jacket aside just enough for me to see the emblem stitched onto the lower left side of her tan shirt: a paw set within a circlet of ash leaves.


The above is an excerpt from my WIP novella, Tiger’s Paw, the prequel to The Therian Way, my urban fantasy series. This entry is a direct continuation from last week’s, which you can read here.

Tiger’s Paw excerpt (c) Kimberly A. Rogers and kimberlyrogerscfwriter.wordpress.com blog.

 

Book Review Wednesday – Toxic

Toxic (The Trap Series Book 1) by Vicki V. Lucas

Amazon Book Description:

In a fantasy world, a reckless teen must join forces with a determined student and an insecure musician to fight terrifying armies and powerful sorcerers to purify the poisoned water that is sweeping across the land.

While facing global annihilation from toxic water in Eltiria, Kai is trying to save his sister from death. But when he seizes his only chance to make enough money to pay for healers, his plans are torn to shreds, and he finds himself battling monsters as he is chased farther away from his family.

Lizzy travels to a nearby city for safety, only to watch her older brother dragged away from her by monsters from myths. Running for her life, she must find a way to reunite her family as she is thrown into choices that lead her further from what she wants. Taryn knows it is his destiny to save the world through magic and is on his way to begin his journey to greatness. But then his beliefs are challenged as he is thrown off the path he has chosen for himself and into a life he never desired.

Guided by a mysterious winged horse named Eladar, they discover that the world is not what they thought and everything they believed was wrong. Can they locate the source of the poison and find their faith as they battle to find the truth in a world of chaos and destruction?

This book was recommended to me by another author in the Indie Christian publishing circles, so I decided to take a chance.

Plot – A

The plot of saving a dying world from an evil sorcerer may not be one of the most original in the range of fantasy plots, but I thought Lucas did a good job of making it her own. I didn’t feel that I was reading a rehash of a classic fantasy offering, which is always a good thing in my book. There was a distinct storyline that was completed in this book but the cliffhanger was written in such a way that I felt like there should have been more, which is a good way to make me want the next book if only to see what happens next. 🙂

Content – B-

There is no sensuality present in this book. The only language present is found in Kai’s humorous utterances – all inoffensive horse-related “swearing” such as “Stallion stalls.”

The main characters, Kai, Lizzy, and Taryn, do bicker constantly. Even after they’ve been reprimanded multiple times by two different characters, they fight and argue to the point that it really got on my nerves. It was extremely frustrating when these three teenagers (I also wasn’t sure how old they were except that Kai was probably the oldest) would work together for a page or two and I thought they making progress as far as maturity and then it was right back to the squabbling and screaming at each other. This wishy-washy footing with each other is also reflected in their spiritual journey. The spirituality is very clear in this book. There is a clear difference being drawn between the magic fueled by spells and the abilities given by Adoyni and Lesa the divine Prince who paid for freedom of the world with His life. The allegorical aspect is very clear and there is an interesting choice of turning a wind into a character, but the chapters written from his point of view were well done. The worship of Adoyni has essentially faded but while each of the main characters make a decision to believe in Him at different points in the book, they all immediately go back to being wishy-washy and turning back to the goddess. This is a huge frustration in regards to one character who believes then backpedals then believes then backpedals then believes then backpedals right until the very end. I can understand them struggling to keep the faith but I wish “one step forward, two steps back” didn’t apply to all three of them in regards to their interactions with each other and their spiritual journey. I really wanted to see at least one characters stay firm and help the other two stay firm in their own journeys.

There is a LOT of violence and darkness in this book. There are murders, people dying of poisoned water, bloody wounds, and a zombie army. Let me be clear that I despise zombies, I don’t like them on TV, film, or in books. HOWEVER, the Unwanted as they are called are not really the Hollywood type of zombies. At least, they don’t want brains and they can do more than shuffle so I could tolerate them more than usual. They are specifically described in legend as being caught between heaven and hell. These zombies also have black blood that spurts when they get a limb chopped off. There is one character who is badly injured twice and eventually dies from their wounds. Another character is described as losing so much blood from a head wound, I was a bit surprised that they lasted as long without true medical attention even from the head wound. There is also a human sacrifice scene, that wasn’t graphic.

Technical – A-

This book was well-edited. I think there were only three places where there was a punctuation error – a period missing or an extra space was between the opening quotation mark and the word. There were some issues with the narration. First, when we jumped to a different secondary narrator for a few sections, it was so far into the book that it felt a bit jarring to me. Second, one of the biggest difficulties for multiple narrators in the same place is avoiding the “I just went through all this with the other character” feeling, and while this particular sensation was avoided, there were pacing issues because we kept jumping back in time with the narrator switches, especially in regards to the final battle.

Final Grade – B or 4 stars

Overall, the book was okay. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it. There were some interesting decisions in regards to the narrators. But, I liked the feel of a fantasy world with winged horses (Archippos) and good and evil locked in conflict. The zombies…I can tolerate them this time. I do hope the more irritating aspects for the heroes’ characters are grown out of over the course of the next book. I will probably read Book Two just to find out what happens. I recommend this book for fans of fantasy books dealing with spiritual warfare and those who like Christian fantasy employing zombies. Recommended for ages 15 and up.

Toxic is available through Kindle and in Paperback.

Next Week – Fallen Kings by Sarah Witenhafer

 

Book Review Wednesday: The Seahorse Legacy

The Seahorse Legacy: Book Three of the Eyes of E’veria by Serena Chase

Amazon Book Description:

a Pirate, bound by a centuries-old oath — a Knight, determined to prove her calling — a Legacy, demanding surrender

As Keeper of the Seahorse Legacy, Cazien de Pollis is a King among pirates, divinely appointed to dispense justice on the seas. Bound by the sacred oath of a long-dead ancestor, he must fulfill a contract to wed the green-eyed Oracle’s Daughter named therein—or risk losing everything he and his people hold dear. But at nineteen, with the identity of his betrothed only recently revealed, Cazien resents the contract—and the urgency within him to see it satisfied.

Erielle de Gladiel returned from the quest for the Remedy, changed. Not only are her formerly-blue eyes now a brilliant shade of green, but she must don gloves to hide inky evidence that her prophetically-bestowed title, the Oracle’s Daughter, demands more from her than the task already completed. Erielle’s dearest-held dream is realized when she is knighted by her King, but unbeknownst to her, that very honor jeopardizes the prophesied purpose to which she and Cazien have been called.

Just as Cazien summons the courage to collect his bride, dark rumors and darker deeds crawl up the coasts, calling its guardians, the Seahorse Pirates, into action—and Cazien away from Erielle. But even though the Oracle’s Daughter knows nothing of the contract to which she has been consigned, Cazien’s enemies have somehow learned of his interest in Erielle. And if they reach her before his ancestor’s weighty oath is executed, the Seahorse Legacy will be forfeited . . . and darkness will be given reign.

The third book in this series-within-a series, The Seahorse Legacy begins an epic re-imagining of the classic Grimm fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses which will conclude in Eyes of E’veria, Book 4: The Sunken Realm, coming in 2015.

*This Review May Contain Minor Spoilers*

I bought this book because I loved the first two books in the series. I was also eager to see two minor characters take the stage.

Plot – A-

The plot of The Seahorse Legacy is based on the Grimm fairytale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. The clearest reference to the fairytale is in a dream Erielle has where she is dancing until the soles of her slippers are worn through. There is also a quest to find out who is responsible for a series of disappearances in the middle of the night and rescue the victims if they can. The ties weren’t as clear this time as they were with the first two books but that didn’t really detract from the plot. However, there were several times when the plot was dragged out due to stupidity on part of Cazien and Erielle, especially Erielle. The ending is more of a cliffhanger this time around and the plot definitely cannot stand alone without its companion.

Content – B-

This book is not nearly as clean as the previous offerings. There is a lot of bloody violence. Erielle stabs a man in the thigh and then cuts off his hand. He conveniently dies of blood loss before he can be questioned. A character is killed offscreen but the way she is found is a bit gruesome. Another female character is whipped, beaten, and then branded. This punishment seemed gratuitous to me because it was almost as if she were being punished by the author because of her previous actions.

I felt like I was reading completely different characters this time around and it wasn’t a good thing. Eirelle was a bit brash and headstrong in the previous books, mainly due to her obsession with being the first female knight, but now she’s arrogant, rude, unlikeable, and more than a little foolish. She comes across as a stereotypical feminist rather than a girl who can grow into a strong woman without bashing men. I was more than disgusted with her because she doesn’t grow as a character. Instead, everyone is out to get her and the moment she starts to show some sense it is immediately squashed and blame is turned back on the men in her life and work. She doesn’t want to be seen as anything but a knight but she also reminds people that she is a Regent’s daughter. She was portrayed as intelligent and seeing things others didn’t in the last book but this time she buries her head in the sand and refuses to acknowledge anything. Her redemption is not shown and I dearly hope that Eirelle is vastly improved on in the next book because this spoiled, arrogant brat is not interesting. King Jarryn who was so wise and so likeable in the last two books has been replaced by an arrogant and antagonistic man who shows no forgiveness or trust to Cazien who is SUPPOSED to be an ally. He makes such a big deal about Cazien being a pirate and therefore not a man of honor that I was taken aback. Jarryn is the one who loses face in these encounters and feels completely out of character. His queen excuses as his soft heart but I had to think about it and remember that Eirelle had essentially taken the place of his missing daughter until Rynnaia was found to even begin to justify his reactions. I wish someone had pointed that out in the book. Julien, Eirelle’s brother, was a bit out of character too, especially toward the end where he believes that his sister fooled around with their host. Cazien, well, we didn’t get to know him well enough in the last two books for there to be an obvious dramatic shift in character, but of everyone he was the most likeable and sympathetic character.

There is sensuality in this book almost from the very beginning. Starting in chapter Two, when Jarryn challenges Cazien as to whether he would disgrace Eirelle to force her to fulfill the Legacy Oath. There is also a scene where some pre-teen boys are peering through a hole in the wall of a brothel. There is an absolute obsession with mentioning Eirelle’s purity. The romantic aspect is replaced with Eirelle being suspected of being a doxy. The strange part is she’s too innocent to know that a girl at a tavern in the seedy part of town was one of the ladies of the night but then she takes insult at implications that she’s not virtuous and then after an encounter where a man proposes she indulge in a dalliance with him, she doesn’t understand when a foiled kidnapping attempt where the men are being very straightforward about wanting to despoil her results in a knight asking if she has been harmed. It didn’t make any sense and almost seemed like there two Erielles. One who was aware of the seedy side and one who was so innocent as to be ridiculous. But then again she also blindly ignores the fact that the men are after her and not the Ryn. Even though this is not the first time they tried to kidnap her. There is also a rumor put about that she was ruined by their host, which even Julien suspected was true, even though that is not what happened. A female character is also described as being groped while she is tied to a ship’s mast for a whipping. The only reason a female character wasn’t raped was due to the author carrying her out of that trouble at the last minute. There is also a wedding scene that smacks of dubious consent and being under the influence, which I hope is addressed in the next book. The language used in this book is also tied with the sensuality. We moved from hints at a woman having nighttime customers to a madame whose girls serve as “entertainment” to the use of doxy and whore and receiving a harlot’s brand.

Spirituality is at a low compared to the previous books. Eirelle who is supposed to have pledged herself to the First when she was a child doesn’t really reach out to Him this time around. The Legacy is a way by which Cazien can follow the will of the First, which was interesting. But he too is fighting the First’s will. I did like that there wasn’t as much gasping in shock when the First spoke to the characters because the First doesn’t speak to them in their minds. Instead, the characters are on a journey where they know His will and now they have to actually choose to follow it the way they are supposed to, which I liked because there was a more obvious struggle and it avoids the feel of Deus Ex Machina. I do think that Eirelle in particular will need more attention to her relationship with the First.

Technical – A-

The book was well-edited. There were only a couple of punctuation errors. However, there were a few occasions where I felt like I was being told the exact same information that I had already gone through with the other character. As I mentioned earlier, this book relied more on contrived difficulties to keep the plot stretched out. In particular, Eirelle’s vexing foolishness regarding her midnight writings (I’m not going to take them to anyone until halfway through the book  when my hand is forced because it HAS to be a far off prophecy). It was excusable the first couple of times but once it continued, it took on the feel of deliberate self-sabotage. Another contrived difficulty was that Rynnaia’s sense of honor kept her from undoing the block on Eirelle’s thoughts, which allowed a particular crisis to take place. It felt like Chase lost her unique voice and writing style in this book and that proved to be a distraction to me as a reader.

Final Grade – B or 4 Stars

Overall, the book was likeable and I do plan to buy the next book so I can find out what happens and if the characters are redeemed. However, I was very disappointed that the excellence and subtlety Chase showed in handling difficult situations in the first two books was conspicuously absent, especially in regards to sensuality. It felt like she was trying to mimic other authors instead staying true to her own writing style and this book definitely suffered because of it. I finished this book and asked myself, “What happened?” Something I hate to experience. I’m still willing to give the next book a chance but I sincerely hope she goes back to her original voice and writing style. I recommend this book for fans of reimagined fairytales. Parents, be prepared to discuss the material covered in this book with your older teens. Recommended for ages 17 and up.

The Seahorse Legacy is available through Kindle.

Next – Toxic (The Trap Series Book 1) by Vicki V. Lucas

Book Review Wednesday – Storm Siren

Storm Siren  by Mary Weber

Amazon Book Description:

“I raise my chin as the buyers stare. Yes. Look. You don’t want me. Because, eventually, accidentally, I will destroy you.”

In a world at war, a slave girl’s lethal curse could become one kingdom’s weapon of salvation. If the curse – and the girl – can be controlled.

As a slave in the war-weary kingdom of Faelen, seventeen-year-old Nym isn’t merely devoid of rights, her Elemental kind are only born male and always killed at birth – meaning, she shouldn’t even exist.

Standing on the auction block beneath smoke-drenched mountains, Nym faces her fifteenth sell. But when her hood is removed and her storm-summoning killing curse revealed, Nym is snatched up by a court advisor and given a choice: be trained as the weapon Faelen needs to win the war, or be killed.

Choosing the former, Nym is unleashed into a world of politics, bizarre parties, and rumors of an evil more sinister than she’s being prepared to fight . . . not to mention the handsome trainer whose dark secrets lie behind a mysterious ability to calm every lightning strike she summons.

But what if she doesn’t want to be the weapon they’ve all been waiting for?

Set in a beautifully eclectic world of suspicion, super abilities, and monsters, Storm Siren is a story of power. And whoever controls that power will win.

*Minor Spoilers Included in This Review*

I bought this book because I was excited to see a true fantasy offering coming from a well-known Christian publisher that didn’t involve dragons. That and the cover was beautiful.

Plot – C+

 The plot described in the book description was one that made me sit up and pay attention. I WANTED to read THAT story, especially since it was coming from a Christian publisher. The plot that I read was barely connected to the description. Well, to be fair, it was strongly connected to a specific part of the story: “the handsome trainer.” However, the focus on him and Nym’s “craving” for him overwhelms the story to the point that everything else promised is shoved to the background. There was suspicion, but most of it revolved around is the evil cuckoo-lander going to get her claws in the trainer and does he really feel something for Nym. There are little teasers of the political intrigue I was interested in but again it is pushed back as serving to throw Nym in turmoil over the trainer. Super abilities and monsters were there. Well, the monsters were more flesh-eating horses and then the bolcranes, who made a short appearance toward the end of the novel, so it still didn’t live up to the promises made in the summary. The ending was a hot mess and very contrived because all of a sudden we’re running back to yank some of the forgotten subplots to the fore. However, due to the plot’s overwhelming focus on Nym and “handsome trainer,” the other two crucial characters are neglected until it’s convenient to trot them out and I couldn’t care less about them. I couldn’t believe the key elements to the ending because as a reader, I had no investment beyond surface characterization in these two people and yet I’m supposed to believe that Nym has such a strong connection with them? I could not suspend belief that far. The plot ends on a cliffhanger complete with a “What will happen to ‘Name?’ – Find out in Book Two out next year.”

Content – D

I struggled with how to grade the content due to both the material being handled and HOW it was ultimately handled. And of course, the content is where the subjective nature of the review shows the most. That in mind, I was still appalled by the content being offered in this book.

Violence is one of the central themes of this book. There is violence against slaves, violence against innocent civilians caught in the war, murder, attempted murder, and self-harm. This violence is on the page and in your face. There is hardly anything left to the reader’s imagination. The most disturbing instance is the two pages (10-11 in the hardback version) where a little girl is constantly in the process of being strangled by her slave collar, out of thoughtlessness at first and then out of malicious intent. There is a lot of blood starting from page 6 where it “gushes” from Nym’s split lip. I don’t mind violence when it has a purpose to the story but I’m not a fan of when there’s blood everywhere and it feels there’s too much page space devoted to describing how that blood is dripping or gushing or shimmering in a pool on top of brutalization. If there had been more scenes providing a breather from the blood and violence or if some of the bluntly violent scenes had been written where the violence is implied but not shown in brutal detail, I would have found it more tolerable and I wouldn’t feel like the important moments of violence had the intended emotional impact but by the time I got to those two key points in the book, pages 69-71, I’m already thinking ‘great, more blood.’ The blood and brutalization and violence occurred so often that it crossed the line into overkill.

I believe that this book was written to help address the issue of cutting and self-harm among teenagers based on the reader’s guide in particular. Nym cuts herself in a sort of warped penance. She talks about how much she wants to cut “a memorial” into her skin. However, I do applaud Weber for being upfront about how cutting is damaging and not the right solution as Nym is told by Eogan. That is one of the positives in this book.

Technically, there is no language in this book. However, the obvious in-world curses being used aren’t the most subtle euphemisms either. “What in the hulls,” “Son of a bolcrane,” and “mother-of-kracken” for example, with the first two being the ones that made me shake my head a little. Not very subtle but not as egregious as it would have been had she not made these “in-world” curses. However, the language can be crass at times, particularly whenever Breck is on the scene. Considering she could have been a very empathetic character and we are expected to believe that she is like a sister to Nym (based on Nym’s reactions), I would have expected her to do more than be crude and mean-spirited and constantly insult Nym.

As I mentioned before the plot focuses on Nym and the “handsome trainer;” however, I cannot bring myself to refer to it has romance. Instead, there is sensuality by bucketful and lust and poorly disguised innuendo dripping off the page. Adora, a character who could have been developed into a worthy and interesting antagonist, is reduced to being a creepy, vindictive and lustful woman with “a harem of menfolk.” Her main function is not the political intrigue, save in the background, but to cause angst between Nym and Eogan because she wants him for herself. A fact which brings this particular gem: “She’s grinning and twittering her hands to and from her mouth, as if she’s blowing him kisses while at the same time deadly serious about whatever she’s saying. Her eyes flash to me once, but after a quick sweep over my appearance, they’re back to her heart’s one pant-worthy desire. When Eogan strides back to us, the peacock-frog-queen stands a moment longer, watching him with raw, unabashed hunger before turning a smug gaze onto Colin and me.” (Hardback, pg. 120-121).

Now don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have been too troubled by this particular passage IF it had been standalone or at least been combined with other instances in a more measured manner. But the innuendo and lust has been present since the beginning with the lustful slave owners wanting to see Nym showing off more skin (again tolerable due to the scenario) and it is the defining aspect of Nym and Eogan’s relationship, a term I use loosely. I like romance and I can even get behind attraction at first sight if it is well-written and the characters develop both individually and in their relationship. Unfortunately, I never felt comfortable or very impressed with how Nym pines over and “craves” Eogan. She starts out by commenting on how beautiful he is but how she still doesn’t like him, which is fine but then there’s this overkill sensual description: “I open my mouth and the stupid heat hurls itself even hotter, like summer petals bursting against my cheeks, my neck, my barely covered chest. I swallow and move my gaze down his perfectly cut, gray-vested suit that smells of honey and pine and effortlessness…And his eyes are no longer just on me but on all of me. Taking in my height, my low-cut gown, my nervous fingers…My breath lets out in a whoosh of chuckles, and it hits me how much I crave him near me, setting me at ease. Just like I crave the way my hand feels in his, my skin with his, even if it’s just his job of calming me. His fingers keep mine as he watches me laugh, until his lips part and his expression opens, as if he’s allowing me a glimpse into his soul. To show me something beautiful. Merciful. Incomprehensible. Because it’s the recognition that he craves being near me.” (Hardback, pg. 135). What does effortlessness smell like anyway? 🙂 Word choice aside, I found myself rolling my eyes in disgust and exasperation at this display. First with Nym’s dress leaving her chest less than covered because it was already spelled out when she first put on the dress on page 124 and then at how the emotion they feel is described as craving and after a grand total of NINE days (pg. 137). Twelve pages (and ten days) later he is “liquefying” her insides then they have yet another encounter: “He leans in and his fingers are cupping my face and slipping down, down, down my skin until I gasp at the craving welling up inside me…Adora’s warning flares in my head, but I don’t give a blast because his touch is lightning, burning me alive and breaking me down.” (Hardback, 163). Ironically, a couple lines down he is described as sliding his fingers farther to her neck but the way that encounter was written gave me the impression of leaving her face by a lot. And then on page 176 Nym comes to the realization that she loves him. After she craves him and he craves her in addition to how she continually harps on how gorgeous and beautiful he is.

Then there is bald boy, I mean Colin, who is continually described as being shirtless, kissing his biceps, flexing his stomach muscles, and flirting with/drooling over women ranging from Adora to Nym. Apparently, this is explained away by his being a seventeen or eighteen year old boy. Other than this exaggeration, there are a few moments where we see him truly caring about his sister but they aren’t enough to fully flesh him out for me and make me truly care for him.

Now to the point that well and truly vexed me. The spirituality present in this book is barely detectable except in one particular scene. After we learn a lot about the demon Draewulf and Nym dwells on how her craving for Eogan helps her to control her powers, there is finally a mention of the Hidden Lands’ creator. In the Valley of Origin, there is an opportunity to develop the Christian worldview and this creator who hasn’t even been mentioned more than a handful of times before now. This scene did not play out at all like I expected or hoped. Instead, there’s a character specific revelation that is still focused on Eogan and Nym’s relationship. Then there is an encounter with the ancient magic of the Valley of Origin: the magic is “stirring me, inhabiting me even as it’s whispering that it’s incapable of inhabiting evil. The thought emerges that, therefore, there must be a goodness within me that predates my curse.” (Hardback, pg. 201). I have a very big problem with this passage. I believe Weber was probably trying to go for the message that Nym has self-worth because she is created by the “Hidden Lands’ creator” but this passage reads as Inherent Goodness, which goes completely against Scripture! Where is God? His apparent counterpart for the world doesn’t even factor into this important scene except as the Valley being a place of worship and we know more about the evil entity than we do about this “creator.”

I advocate both subtle and overt Christian worldviews on fantasy novels because both have their strong points and both work for different novels but I firmly believe I should be able to discern a difference between a Christian novel and a secular novel. Honestly, if I had not known that Thomas Nelson was a Christian publisher, I never would have suspected this book to be a Christian YA novel. This was even more troubling to me than the constant craving going on in the book.

Technical – C-

This book avoided any prominent typos or errors of that nature. However, the style and its execution didn’t impress me. I’ll be honest, books written in present tense drive me nuts and the few books that I’ve read where it was tolerable and the author skilled enough to get away with using present tense were third person. The language style is juvenile and the word choices leave me wondering at times why she didn’t pick a different word. The actual description besides Eogan being gorgeous and beautiful is lackluster at best. The world has an incomplete feel to it and I wish Weber had spent more time painting the picture of the world and the its inhabitants.

One of the most annoying things about the book was how Nym counted: Five, ten, fifty (pg. 2) and basically every other time she was counting something. Ironically, on page 3 she makes fun of a slaver who counts out one, two, three. Then there is the fondness for using a word three times when it would have sufficed and kept the pace from staggering to a halt if the word had been used once. Such as the aforementioned instance where Eogan’s fingers sliding down her face, which resulted in the unfortunate implication and confusion when suddenly his fingers were only just moving to her neck and the most irritating example for me is where a paragraph is broken up so that we received a staggered repetition of “falling” on page 316. Was it supposed to be dramatic or convey Nym’s emotions more clearly? Perhaps but for this reader, I was too busy groaning in frustration at the style choices.

The second most annoying thing about the book is that because it is written in first person, the reader relies on the narrator to convey why characters are important and to make me feel for them, but this book falls short. Colin, who is important beyond the brainless bicep kissing thing, is constantly referred to as “bald boy.” I could not connect to him at all. There was nothing significant about him except the annoying qualities and that Nym calls him “bald boy.” We run into the same trouble with Adora and Breck. Nym’s narration of their actions and words do not forge a strong enough connection between them so that I, as the reader, would believe the endings involved. The narration is also very choppy and distracting.

Final Grade – D or 2 stars

This book had SO much potential. Going into it, I thought this book would be a BRILLIANT example of Christian fantasy and since it was published by Thomas Nelson, it could have potentially opened a lot of doors for authors of Christian fantasy seeking traditional publishing. I finished the book feeling that I had been invited to a gourmet dinner and was served half a plate of beets instead.  

I expected so much of this book because it was published by a major Christian trad publisher and the premise was excellent. But the ultimate execution fell short in so many places and the amount of brutality, sensuality, and general crudeness was not appropriate for a YA novel, especially due to the lack of a true breather between any of these elements. I am also extremely disturbed by the lack of a discernable Christian worldview in this novel. A reader’s guide and a few “creator protect you” thrown into the mix does not a Christian book make. Perhaps the spirituality issue will be addressed in the next book. But, I don’t care enough about these characters to pick it up. I am disappointed in this book because what it could have been seemed to be sacrificed for the hope of a crossover into ABA YA and I just think it fell far short of the goals. I do not recommend this book for anyone.

Note: I struggled for two weeks to write this review without forgetting the good points or descending into an unhelpful rant.

Storm Siren is available through Kindle and Hardback.

Next – The Seahorse Legacy: Book Three of the Eyes of E’veria by Serena Chase

Character Interview with Ireic from The King of Anavrea

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Today I’m happy to be a part of the blog tour for Rachel Rossano’s newest book, The King of Anavrea. I always enjoy reading character interviews because it lets me get a feel for the characters before I read their story and sometimes the interviews compel me to move their story from “maybe” to “must have now!” 🙂 So I’m very excited to introduce Ireic.

Welcome, Ireic. Can you give us a little background about yourself for those who have not read your brother’s story?

I am Ireic Theodoric, King of Anavrea. My older half-brother, Trahern, was removed from the line to the throne by my father shortly before father died, making me heir. I tried to convince Trahern to take the crown, but he refused. I can’t say I blame him.

You were a reluctant Crown Prince in The Crown of Anavrea and now you are a reluctant king. Can you tell us some of the ways you have grown to accept this burden of leadership?

I am a military man. From a young age I trained with the army. Leading campaigns, marching, taking and giving orders, and the structure of the military life was a far cry from politics and governing a nation. Politicians don’t take orders well. Thankfully Trahern has made himself available to teach me how to manage them. However, even though I am learning the right strategies, I struggle not to give into the impulse to be more direct. Reason and logic seem like superior tactics compared to lies and fancy speeches. It will become second nature someday, I suppose. Someone has to rule.

Can you tell us a little about your bride? What makes your relationship a challenge? How does she surprise you?

Lirth Parnan is the only daughter of the King of Sardmara. I signed a treaty with her father that included our marriage as a show of good faith. Only after I signed did I learn that she had spent the previous five years in captivity. When I rescued her, I discovered further reason to regret my new alliance. You see, Lirth is blind. I don’t mind so much as my advising council does. They have a problem with anyone with imperfections being part of Anavrean nobility. They take great exception to Trahern’s wife because she was a slave before he married her. Imagine what they had to say about Lirth.

Other than my problems with the council, the relationship aspect of marriage hasn’t been too challenging. Lirth is a beautiful woman. She constantly surprises me with her strength and grace. For a woman who cannot see, she is very perceptive. She does suffer from nightmares. Remnant memories of her kidnapping will wake her in the middle of the night frequently. Also, she is a follower of a god she refers to as the Kurios. I have been in contact with an esteemed teacher of the Kurios’ way. He sent me a book to read. I am hoping it will give me further insight into my wife’s faith. Her belief in this being seems to be the only thing holding her together at times. One can’t help admiring something that powerful. I need all the help I can get at this point.

In The Crown of Anavrea, we learned that you and your brother did not have a close relationship growing up due to familial tension. Will we be seeing Trahern again?

Yes, I am sure you will. We spent a great deal of time together before he gave me his final answer about whether or not he would take the throne. We found we liked each other. I am a frequent guest at their home just over the border in Braulyn, much to my personal guard’s chagrin. Despite refusing the crown, Trahern remains supportive of my efforts to rule well. He knows I need help. I foster hope that our children will be able to grow up together, reclaiming a bit of what was lost during our childhood.

Can you give us any hints on what might surprise us the most about your story?

I am not sure. Many parts of my own story surprise me. I am king, aren’t I? I am a bit concerned about the rebellion part of the tagline. I can’t see how that is going to resolve into a happy ending.

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A reluctant king, a blind queen, and a marriage that sparked a rebellion…

Ireic Theodoric, King of Anavrea, constantly battles with his council over who will run the country. When the council insists on a treaty with Sardmara, he agrees. However, the treaty quickly becomes an arranged marriage. Ireic offers up himself for the sake of Anavrea. But after he signs, no princess appears.

Lirth Parnan, only daughter of the king of Sardmara, survives alone in a cold, damp tower room. Baron Tor kidnapped her in an attempt to control her father. No one came to claim her. She suspects her father considers her flawed beyond use in his political games. After five years of waiting, her hope of rescue wanes with her health.

After Ireic fights his way into Lirth’s tower, he realizes the depths of her father’s deception. Instead of being an answer to his problems, Lirth creates new ones. The council will not accept her as queen, but Ireic has sworn an oath that he will marry her. His choice could cost him his throne, perhaps his life.

Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00O0FVMK8

Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/480731

View the Book Trailer at http://youtu.be/gsbTU8hv3QE

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Rachel Rossano is a happily married mother of three children. She spends her days teaching, mothering, and keeping the chaos at bay. After the little ones are in bed, she immerses herself in the fantasy worlds of her books. Tales of romance, adventure, and virtue set in a medieval fantasy world are her preference, but she also writes speculative fantasy and a bit of science fiction.

 

Rachel Rossano loves to interact with readers.

Blog ~ http://rachel-rossano.blogspot.com/

 Twitter ~ http://twitter.com/RachelRossano

Facebook ~ http://www.facebook.com/RachelRossanoRambles

YouTube ~ http://www.youtube.com/anavrea

GoodReads ~ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1430209.Rachel_Rossano

Tiger’s Paw Snippet – Weekend Writing Warriors – Part 11

Eleventh entry for the #8sunday Weekend Writing Warriors blog hop –


A woman with all the characteristics of a typical Elf, slight ethereal glow, doe-like eyes, and slightly pointed ears, brushed her hand against my arm. Baring my teeth slightly, I allowed her to catch the faintest glimpse of the tiger within. Her emerald green eyes widened and I could smell her fear spike sharply before she whirled away, vanishing back into the crowd. Other Therians watched her leave then cast searching gazes toward me until I glared, forcing those who considered interfering to back down for fear of a confrontation that would injure innocents. But, there were at least six Therians who merely hid their smiles of approval from the Elves surrounding them. I’d spent the last four months scaring Elf maidens as a part of my cover, a Therian who wasn’t quite content with the Therian Way, hoping to be approached by the Fringe recruiter. So far the distasteful action had yet to gain me what I wanted, the recruiter. It was not in keeping with the Therian Way to be cruel to those who were weaker than oneself…I should have been protecting them instead.


The above is an excerpt from my WIP novella, Tiger’s Paw, the prequel to The Therian Way, my urban fantasy series. This entry is a direct continuation from last week’s, which you can read here.

Tiger’s Paw excerpt (c) Kimberly A. Rogers and kimberlyrogerscfwriter.wordpress.com blog.