Category Archives: Adventure

Hernandez, Jessica: Capering on Glass Bridges (Hawk of Stone I)

Capering on Glass Bridges, 2015
On Fiaru Island, in the Kingdom of Greylandia, on the world Acu lives the Stone family. We first meet them at the Pairing ceremony of the youngest daughter. Meeting your canonipom and bonding with it is the most important day in the lives of Greylandians. As far as the people we meet know, Kaia Stone (16) is the only person who never did so. The Stones are humans. Canonipoms are not.

A canonipom is about a foot tall and humanoid in appearance, the same gender as its human and similar in nature and looks. Being a companion seems to be its sole purpose. Once a Pairing is complete, the two have a bond that allows telepathic communication.

Soon after the family returned from the bonding, a flird appeared with a message from the Speaker Council on Zavonia. A flird is a type of shape-changer. One form functions as a flying messenger capable of conversation and memorization. Its other form is flower-like. Travel for a flird must be instantaneous because the time it took to go back and forth between Zavonia and Fiaru was, at most, a couple of hours.

The Council invited the Stones to appear before them. Speakers are human magicians whose words, or Utterances, manifest. As with most magicians, talent and work ethics differ between Speakers. To get to the secretive island, the Stone family had travel overnight by ship. The Council of Speakers asked Kaia to go on a mission to the cursed Kingdom of Mar.

Ten years ago, Marians slaughtered the Tivmicians and, thereby, into conflict with one of the Speakers’ utterances:

“Should a group ever seek the extermination of another group, … let Acu’s skies cry blood on that day. Let the plagued realm know only misery, and let it offer escape to none.”

And so the Marians were cursed forever. Or so it seemed. Recently, the Utdrendans (one of the first three races) told the Speakers there was a chance the curse could be lifted. To do so, Kaia Stone of Greyland and Sir Pelliab Blackwell of Darlbent must go to Mar and report the Utdrendan message to King Richard of Mar and discover a cure. Kaia and Pelliab would not have to travel alone. The Council promised to send along two Speakers and five of King Robert’s (brother to Richard) sons. Mr. Stone refused outright to let his 16 year old daughter traipse off into unknown territory. Kaia felt this quest would, finally, give her life meaning and felt devastated by her father’s refusal. However, just as she was about to enter the return vessel, one of the Councillors pushed a flird bulb up her sleeve. If she chooses to go, it will have to be without her family knowing and that worries her.

Capering on Glass Bridges is a hero’s quest story, and that means we know what Kaia will decide. She is our main character and it would be strange if she stayed home. So. We get to meet five princes of King Robert’s 1000 children (busy man), two speakers and a kingsman along with the various people who are part of the adventure. Kaia and Pelliab’s challenge lies in getting to the Kingdom of Mar, then getting to King Richard, then finding out what they and the kingdom need to do to lift the curse. A solution is not found in book one of the duology.

Capering on Glass Bridges is Hernandez debut. It has a good story-line. Genre betas and/or editor would have improved it. Terminology is important and there were inconsistencies. However, there very few spelling/grammar problems, and the plot and creatures fit the “hero’s quest” genre.


Reviews:


The author gave me a reviewer’s copy of Capering on Glass Bridges.


Capering on Glass Bridges is available at Smashwords

Cheek, Kater; Parasitic Souls (2016)

Cover art by: Fiona Jayde Media and Kater Cheek
Cover art by: Fiona Jayde Media and Kater Cheek

About five years before the beginning of Parasitic Souls, the Earth experienced a magic apocalypse. As a result of the apocalypse, some people became magical. The strangest form of magic is SL (spontaneous lycanthropy), in this case to coyote . More common is magical talent. Those who had practiced magic before the apocalypse, like brujas/brujos and witches/wizards, had a head-start. The magically talented are able to use their energy to set wards, make charms or influence people. Scientists study magic in hopes of understanding its underlying principles.

One of the magics discovered is a fountain of youth. Not a particularly ethical magic, but one that might potentially earn the inventor loads of money. Many people would be willing to use this highly questionable form of magic and pay almost anything. However, before this fountain of youth could be sold to the wealthy and unscrupulous, it needs testing. Which is how we meet Lenny.

The apartment was dark except for the streetlight shining rudely through the curtains. Since she had a raging thirst and an urgent need to pee, Fiona got up. She managed to find the bathroom without shinning herself too badly on the birch Ektorp coffee table, and she only had to open four cabinets before finding a cup to drink out of. As she was downing her third glass of water, she heard a non-human voice creak at her through the kitchen window.

“Let me in!”

She dropped the glass on the floor. It bounced and rolled under the table, spilling water everywhere.

Fiona gets called to Clementine, California, by her step-mom’s assistant, Sophie. Fiona’s step-mom, Carlotta, had done a disappearing act. There was little the two girls could do to find her, except wait and hoped that the only thing wrong is a severe hangover. Turns out, Carlotta’s problem is a bit more serious. In fact, her whole demeanor changed from warm and kind to cold and mean. At least towards Fiona and Sophie. Something is up, and the two of them know it has to be bad.

Fiona is 24-years old and born to a messed up mother and father. One of her father’s marriages had been to Carlotta. Carlotta was everything Fiona needed, and she was there for Fiona even after she divorced Fiona’s father. So Fiona has reason to expect Carlotta to, at least, let her sleep on the couch. Instead, Fiona has to shack up with Sophie.

Sophie is 18-years old and the adopted child of adoring and overprotective parents. Because Carlotta is related to her mother, Sophie was able to move to Clementine and apprentice with Carlotta. Up until the personality change, Carlotta had treated Sophie kindly. Now neither Fiona or Sophie has a job, and they certainly have no idea what to do about Carlotta. Should they go back or stay and try to fix things?

Parasitic Souls would be a terrible, and probably realistic, story if they chose to give up. However, the two do not. Things happen, and through them we meet Marcello and Xavier. Marcello teaches magic theory at Clementine Preparatory Academy for Magic and Technology. Xavier is apprenticed to his grandmother, the bruja, Luna. Luna is a woman you do not want as an enemy. The two men are in their early twenties and both of them are interested in the two women. So. Some romance.

Parasitic Souls is a Young Adult story with three types of stories in it. Coming-of-age, romance and “what if”. There is plenty of action, some of it rather unusual. Kater Cheek also manages to thrown in her odd, but cool, sense of humor. I liked it and recommend Parasitic Souls.


Parasitic Souls is available at Smashwords


Kater Cheek gave me a copy of Parasitic Souls in exchange for a review

Carlon, Lee: A God-Blasted Land (The Bastard Cadre I) (2016)

AGBL_Cover-Low-Res
Cover design by Lee Carlon

The Bastard Cadre, episodes 1-14 is the first book of this ongoing serial written by Lee Carlon. I am not used to continually changing stories, but find the concept fascinating. Carlon describes the way he works:

… one thing to note about this serialization is that unlike traditional serializations where the author is bound to the words that have been committed to the page, publishing online allows me to treat The Bastard Cadre as a continuous work in progress. Each episode is complete at the time of publication, but I do update the text from time to time. (peakcity)

Change can be daunting when you are an aspie. Part of that has to do with the accompanying anxiety. I have to go through mental gymnastics to keep anxiety’s influence on my opinion as limited as possible while reviewing The Bastard Cadre.

Newterra is on a world with two suns. Its geography is loosely based on Australia’s. Some of the inhabitants on Newterra might be descended from Earth humans. Others, not so much. Dragons, dualists, descendants and gods are in the last category, although, I’m arguing with myself about the gods. Newterra’s gods are not very old, they fight each other, hold separate territories and 20 years ago they Cleansed the world with a type of fire. The Cleansing took biological lives but not electrical ones. There are still plenty of AIs around. Vehicles can be picked up in almost any city and cleaning bots are still doing their jobs in the larger cities. We enter the world 20 years after the Cleansing and meet a world that has lost numbers and a great deal of understanding of technology.

Our main characters, Avril Ethanson, Ethan Godkind and Ranora fi’Intar, all seem to be human. Avril and Ranora are both young and have unusual abilities. Avril can affect electrical impulses. Ranora can read people and cards. Ethan is Avril’s foster-father and has held that role since soon after Avril was born. These three characters give us insight into how Newterra works and what its people are like. Clues to their importance and backgrounds are doled out during the telling of this story. This way of learning about places and people in a story is my preferred one.

Avril and Ethan are scavengers who salvage old tech and barter it for essentials. When we meet them, the past is about to catch up with Ethan. Life has a tendency to mess up our plans and put our procrastinations to shame. There was so much Ethan had planned on telling Avril to prepare him for what might happen. When they meet Beads, the finder, it is almost too late and Avril is in for some gigantic surprises that involve his heritage and potential future.

We learn little about Ranora’s background. She is a talented painter who brings the past to life. Bringing the past to life in her art is probably connected to her ability to read people and objects to uncover “secrets”. Ranora seems to be on her own when we meet her. Being alone in Newterra tends to shorten your life-expectancy. When a bounty-hunter gang shows up, Ranora uses her ability to claim a spot in it. We all make choices in our lives. Some mess life up for us while others bring unexpected gifts our way. Joining the gang was a choice that brought both mess and gift to Ranora, such as bringing her into contact with both Ethan and Avril.

The Bastard Cadre’s intended audience is young adult and older. From the get go we get an action-filled story about fate, betrayal, family and different ways of handling the world. The Bastard Cadre was given to me to review. Recommended.


Reviews:

  • Benjamin Spurlock
  • Leachim
  • N.E. White
  • N.N.
  • Rosie Writes

A God-Blasted Land can be found on Amazon

Jensen, Megg: Anathema (Cloud Prophet I) (2011)

Keeping slaves is generally not something people openly admit  today. Many countries continue this practice and my contention is that most states participate in this tradition while closing our minds and eyes to that fact. Traditionally, people have become slaves either through being conquered by another nation, power-hunger or through criminal acts.

Sometimes being conquered happens via false promises. Such is the case with the Serenian island in Anathema. Serenians were lured by promises of help from the Malborn. Once the Malborn were in force on the island, it took ten years for them to eradicate opposition. Criminals were those who would not obey the three “rules” Malborn leaders had set as a condition of harmony between the two people. “Trust, adore and obey” was what the Malborn required from the Serenians. Once you were deemed a criminal you would either be killed or enslaved along with your entire family. Add to that their military prowess, and the Malborn were bound to win.

Reychel remembers nothing but slavery. At fifteen slaves were branded with their master’s mark. This mark and their shaved heads clearly divided slaves from the rest of the population and it also make it extremely difficult for successful escapes to happen. Kandek, her master, is about to lose two of his slaves, one of whom is Reychel. The other is Ivy, Reychel’s best friend. First out is Ivy.  Fortunately for Reychel, her turn comes soon after. Her escape was public and unusual.

When slavery is all a person has known all sorts of things about being a free person had to be learned. There was a whole network set up to help escaped slaves deal with their new status. Blending in was vital. Both of them also had to come to terms with Reychel having magic powers of some sort. Ivy already knew about hers. Her ability to calm others, even to the point of forcing them to do things, becomes an important element of the story. Learning Reychel’s ability is also essential. The reader knows this long before Reychel does.

Another discovery Reychel ends up making is the value of her friendship with Ivy. Why did Ivy want her rescued, and why is Ivy acting so strange now that they are out of slave quarters? Sometimes people have different opinions of what friendship is and what friends are for.

Usually, slaves weren’t worth enough for a master to mount a search for too long. That was the case with Ivy. Reychel, however, was the exception to the rule. Kandek will not give up. If not for the friendship of one of the militia both girls would have been caught within the first weeks. There is a love interest with Marc, the militia guard. Another discovery about Ivy is the result of that interest.

Ivy is a fun character. Reychel is in line with a young adult hero type. So is Marc. All three are important to the story and the action-filled adventure Megg Jensen gives us.

Recommended.


Reviews:


Anathema can be found at Amazon

Edghill, Rosemary: The Warslayer: The Incredibly True Adventures of Vixen the Slayer, the Beginning (2002)

http://www.carolheyer.com/fantasy-art.html
Cover art by Carol Heyer

Rosemary Edghill does her usual cracking job writing The Warslayer.

“A terrible power has been unleashed in the land of Erchanen. Long was it prisoned upon the peaks of Grey Arlinn, until foul mischance freed it once more. Now it stalks the plains of Serenthodial, and Great Drathil is no more than an abode of shadows. We are a simple gentle people, without the arts of war, and we knew that only the greatest warrior who ever lived could help our people in their hour of greatest need. You are she.”

Quite understandably, Gloria (Glory) McArdle is a bit skeptical to being approached by three apparently insane (like all conventioneers) fans who are taking fandom to the extreme. What she gets instead is a new world.

It isn’t often a stuffed elephant gets to have a major supporting role, but Gorden, the elephant, does. Glory depends on him for comfort in all the strangeness and he is also in an essential place when one of the Allimir needs him. Or at least Vixen thinks that when she and Belegir are seeking the will of the Oracle. Comfort objects are important tools in emergencies and daily life. I think it is safe to say that Vixen’s new life is traumatic.

Vixen also brings her highly impractical costume including a real and blunt sword. It was thought that, for the sake of realism, the role as Vixen required learning to fight with a real weapon. Well, kind of fight. She discovers that her choreographed moves are of little use and improvisation is a must. In fact, having been an Olympic gymnast is far more important to Glory’s survival.

“The terrace directly below was still clear. It was an eight-foot drop. Glory turned away from the stairs and jumped.

They hated having her do her own stunts on TITAoVtS, because if she got hurt, production stopped dead, but in fact she was damned good at it, and the stuntpeople had taught her a few helpful tricks. She held the sword well out from her body and threw herself into a forward somersault, landing on her feet, crouching to absorb the impact – just like the vaulting horse, that – and backing up quickly against the wall. …”

Getting back to Earth after her arrival on Erchane requires the help of the Oracle. Belegir, the head wizard, goes with her as a guide. When they get there, Glory discovers that the Alimir aren’t as peaceful as they had told her. The walls of the temple are full of paintings of Allimirs’ killing.

“You-told-me-you-didn’t-do-things-like-that-” she growled in a low husky feline rumble, leaning over until she was staring right into his eyes. “You said you didn’t know how!”

Well, once upon a time, the Allimir had been a murdering horde killing everything in their way. Kind of like humans. Then, somehow, the old hero, Cinnas, banished War from Erchanen. But that enchantment only lasted one thousand years. And this magic was what the Allimir wanted Vixen to repeat. Like many of us they wanted another to deal with the consequences of their actions. I guess that fits with how my generation seems to feel about the future of the Earth. NOT our problem! Please solve and fix our mistakes and intentional shit. Because that is how we humans are, isn’t it? But Gloria is fully aware of her limitations.

“Well, cheer up. You’ve got me, now. When She sees that, She oughtta wet herself laughing. C’mon.”

The style of story, sword and sorcerery, kind of gives the ending away. As with most adventure stories the odds seem impossibly stacked against Vixen.

The Warslayer is an odd, yet profoundly pleasing, adventure tale with lots of action, humour and food for thought. Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


The Warslayer available at Amazon UK

Bishop, Anne: The Pillars of the World (Tir Alainn) (2001)

Reading to my daughter continues to be a pleasure. Our journey through the land of fantasy brought us into the world of Anne Bishop and the trilogy The World of the Fae.

The Pillars of the World is the first book of the series. It works well as a stand-alone novel. Bishop takes us in to a world where one man’s fears changed two countries into places where the gap between the powerful and the powerless becomes unbridgeable. Now the turn has come to Sylvalan.

Misogyny is said to be the hatred and dislike of girls or women. Personally, I believe it is more about fear of the perceived power or potential power of women and girls. Add to that a hunger for an increase in one’s own power and a religion or belief-system is born. Adolfo, the Master Inquisitor, the Witch’s Hammer, carries his misogynism and power hunger to extremes.

She’d never heard of the Evil One until Master Adolfo came to stay with Baron Hirstun. But she knew with absolute certainty that there was such a creature, that the Evil One did, indeed, walk the earth.

And its name was Master Inquisitor Adolfo, the Witch’s Hammer.

He was the very breath of Evil with his quietly spoken words and the gentle sadness in his eyes. Those things were the mask that hid a rotted spirit.

Oh, yes, treat the witch gently so that she may repent. Don’t look upon her limbs so that you won’t be swayed by lust.

The soul-rotted bastard just didn’t want those men to see the welts, the cuts, the burns he had inflicted on her to “help” her confess. The hobbles provided a clever excuse for why she couldn’t walk well. And he certainly hadn’t hesitated to indulge his lust. His rod was as much a tool as the heated poker and the thumbscrews.

While many witches in Sylvalan certainly have enough power to defend themselves, they also have a creed that states “do no harm”. Sometimes such beliefs are also taken to extremes. Not even saving themselves or their loved ones will bring the witches to use their magic to harm another person. Many of them end up being murdered after severe torture and forced confessions to crimes never committed. All for the sake of one man’s insatiable hunger and fear and other men’s envy.

Adolfo’s and his inquisitors’ distrust and dislike of the witches spreads to the rest of the population. We all know what happens when people flock together like sheep following the voice they want to hear rather than that little voice inside their own heads screaming STOP! The few who do try to stop what is happening end up being accused of the crime of “consorting with the Evil one” and killed.

All because of one man’s fears.

Not only the inquisitors regard witches as a lower species. The Fae in eastern Sylvalan consider themselves supreme beings of the earth. To take one’s pleasures with one of the non-fae is considered a right, but if a male fae should happen to breed a child upon one of the lesser species children are not taken care of. Female fae place the baby on the door-step of the father not wishing to sully Tir Alainn with mixed breeds. Tir Alainn is the home of the Fae, the place they venture out from when they want to play with those of lesser worth.

Definitely recommended both as a read-alone and read-together book.


Reviews:


Translations:

Abbey, Lynn: Rifkind’s Challenge (2006)

Rifkind's Challenge - Lynn Abbey
Cover art by Julie Bell

Stories about strong female characters have always been important to me. In my younger days these stories were difficult to find. Usually the women depended on a man to be heroic and choices we laud in women were not acceptable in the so-called “weaker sex”. Female authors have been just as guilty as male authors in perpetrating this stereotype. But some authors dared break through unwritten rules and wrote about women who might still struggle to be accepted by readers. Rifkind is one such woman. Her author is Lynn Abbey.

Rifkind’s Challenge is about adventure taking place in a medieval type of society. There are necromancers, possessions, zombies, strange power and sword fighting. Rifkind is tiny and usually underestimated by her much larger opponents. The smart ones quickly learn no to. Other opponents cannot deal with a woman defeating them. Often they end up with their entrails hanging out due to that stupidity.

Rifkind’s Challenge is about difficult choices we make in life. Rifkind leaves the Ashereen because of her dreams. As eldest son to Chief Hamarach, Tyrokon is supposed to take over; but with his handicap, he would just be putting his clan into danger. Chief Hamarach asks Rifkind to go with Tyrokon part of the way. Cho considers himself Tyrokon’s second and goes along. He happens to be Rifkind’s son. Tyrokon ends up being a mediator between Cho and Rifkind. Their family skills are complicated by Rifkind’s fame, youthful appearance and abilities.

“Where does she come off fighting like that? She is a healer … a healer! Isn’t that enough? Does she have to have men’s honors, too? Who does she think she is?”

I have not read the previous two installments in this series, but Rifkind’s Challenge works well as a stand-alone novel and is a great sword and sourcery adventure.

Recommended.


Reviews:


Rifkind’s Challenge available at Scribd.com