Category Archives: Fantasy

Clement, J.A.; The Locket; 2012/2017

Originally The Locket was one of the short stories in the Christmas Lites II anthology edited by Amy Eye.

The Locket takes us back to a time before On Dark Shores begins. A Scarlock before war, poverty and desperate choices visits the life of Nereia. It is also a tale about Yule and family.

“Is it true that I don’t have to go to bed till midnight, Mama?” Nereia cut into her memories, coming away from the window to sit next to her mother. “Papa said that if you said yes, I could stay up and see the actual Yule ceremony this year. May I, Mama? I’d really like to, may I?”

The Locket is a sweet story that had me thinking about all the things I am grateful for and how they have both changed and stayed the same through my life. It also had me re-visiting my thinking on the excuses leaders make for going to war with other people.

I’m not sure my review is completely neutral as I was one of the betas for the 2016 edition of The Locket.


The Locket is available at Amazon UK, Amazon US, Smashwords


My reviews of

  1. On Dark Shores 0: Songs of the Ice Lord
  2. On Dark Shores 1: The Lady
  3. On Dark Shores 2: The Other Nereia
  4. On Dark Shores parallel: The Black-Eyed Susan

Gardner, Richard; Deadly Partnership; 2017

His best hope of escape was to reach the hedge and look for a gap to crawl through.

Deadly Partnership begins with a roundabout introduction of our main character. The story then takes us to Paul Jenkins’ retirement and the decisions that he makes regarding the years ahead. One of those includes living with his sister, Julie, in their child-hood home. Tsk, tsk. Some decisions are disastrous.

At last the medium got to her feet. Middle-aged, she was small and round with short, dark hair and smiling eyes behind her glasses. Julie could imagine her sitting in a tent behind a crystal ball at a fairground, perhaps using the name of ‘Mystic Mary’ or something very similar.

Our first meeting with ghosts comes when Julie attends a spiritualist meeting. The medium turns out to be a true one. If her warnings had been heeded things would have gone differently for quite a few people. Of course, then there would have been no Deadly Partnership. The story weaves its way through secrets, murders, relationships, and has a dash of ghostly activities.

“If I didn’t know you better I’d think you actually enjoyed murdering the poor bastard,”

The main character is fairly well-rounded. He is an example of not judging people from appearances. Paul is a bit mental but he hides it well. Maybe mental isn’t a fair description because his insanity only comes out to visit when his world view is challenged. He does excel at rationalizing his behaviour. Secondary characters are much flatter, but they are essential to the story. Julie is Paul’s sister and Gary is his son. Gary is a pretty good example of how regular people sometimes do terrible things. I expect few people set up appointments to murder someone.

Deadly Partnership has a good plot line and we get excellent examples of rationalization processes. There aren’t many spelling problems. At times confusion about correct word usage arises: “conscious” instead of “conscience”. Quite a few paragraphs need tightening. Lengthy explanations lower the quality of Deadly Partnership.

I was given a copy of Deadly Partnership in exchange for a review


Reviews:


Deadly Partnership is available at Amazon UK and Amazon USA

Mawson, L.C.: Hunt (Freya Snow 1) (2015)

Cover by LC Mawson

There was nothing for Amber to fear in this fight; the ghost was already dead.

Amber is essential to the story of Freya Snow, a girl who was born right before her mother died. Lily bound Amber to Freya as a protector and teacher.

Freya awoke the familiar sound of her sister screaming.

Although not sisters in a biological sense, Freya and Alice have been sisters in the foster system in England. Alice is the only of the two diagnosed as autistic. Alice’s autism is so obvious that mental health professionals are unable to deny it. Freya is another matter. She falls into my category, and, therefore, it was obvious to me that her suspicion that she is also autistic is true. They are the only people who take each other’s hang-ups seriously and know that meltdowns are not tantrums.

She was quiet, bright, and didn’t cause trouble for those looking after her. That was enough for everyone to overlook her trouble making friends, her obsessive nature, and her feeling faint in crowded spaces as “quirks”. It was only because of Alice that Freya recognized a lot of her behaviour as stemming from autistic traits.

Freya  also happens to be the Hero of Hunt. In typical Hero style, Freya is an orphan, at the cusp of discovering her magic and acts as a magnet for powerful people. Apparently, she has little say over her life.

“I don’t know, getting fostered kind of loses its “special day” status once you get past the tenth time.”

Alice and Freya are about to be parted from each other. Alice has been found by her aunt and Freya will be going to the Big city. Well, larger than the town she is currently living in. She does not expect much of the new family or of the new school. Her expectations will be met but they will also prove invalid. Past experiences do not have to predict the future. She will get a friend. One who is not put off by her behaviour and that friendship sets all sorts of things into motion.

Hunt was well-written. Not great, but fun. I liked it enough to get the next book in line, and White‘s writing was much better. Again, it was freaking amazing to read about a supernatural Aspie girl. Talk about breaking stereotypes. Thank you L.C. Mawson.


Reviews:


Hunt is available at Instafreebie

Davis, Milton & Ojetade, Balogun (ed); Steamfunk! (2013)

Illustrated by Marcellus Shane Jackson

Steamfunk! is my first encounter with the genre. Like all anthologies I have ever read, some of the stories appealed to me while others did not. No wonder really, considering the span of genres. Steamfunk is a US-centric collection of stories that love their steam. I keep on wondering to what extent steam could be an energy source. There are some ideas here that I have not seen before.

According to Balogun Ojetade the Steamfunk! anthology came about because:

The Steamfunk anthology came about from a conversation that I and several authors had online about the lack of Steampunk stories told from a Black / African perspective. We all agreed we would create an anthology in which we would tell such stories. Author Maurice Broaddus suggested we call it Steamfunk and author / publisher Milton Davis agreed to publish it.

They chose the correct person to illustrate the cover. Marcellus Shane Jackson has done a great job capturing the essence of each  story. There are cosmetic problems with my kindle version, mostly to do with ↵. It’s a distraction from the stories themselves.

The Delivery by Milton Davis

In the late 1800’s women needed chaperones to go anywhere. Anthony Wainright paid for one of the puppet-men (steam-powered robot) from GWC Factories to escort his fiancée, Miss Appelgate, from Freedonia to New York City. When they get there, Mr. Wainright has not come to meet them. Instead she is kidnapped by a Beuregard Clinton. Clinton shot the puppet-man and managed to hit one of the steam veins. Mr. Stiles, from the airship, fixes him. The puppet-man is fixed and he and Mr. Stiles must off to find and save Miss Appelgate from her kidnappers.

Tough Night in Tommyville by Melvin Carter

Problem-solvers Rudy and Boatwright get off the hopper at Thomasville. They have been hired by head gang-boss of the underbelly of Thomasville, Stanford “Rip” Tatum, to solve the problem of Rip’s ex and her river-wolf. Grace Baptiste-Neely and Lloyd “Daddy” Green supposedly hijacked and killed people Rip would prefer lived. Plenty of surprises line up to whack them in the face like a marching band on coke.

Men in Black by P. Djeli Clark

The title does not have anything to do with cockroaches invading earth. Whitewood and Blackwood are neighbouring towns. Mainly whites live in one of them and only Blacks live in the other. 40 years after slavery ended tensions still run high and it takes little to get lynching blood cooking. Laurence, from Blackwood, heard his dad say that this next lynching of a coloured man was unjust. So Laurence convinces Big Walter to see what it is all about. Whitewood certainly gets the surprise of its life during the sham trial.

Mudholes and Mississippi Mules by Malon Edwards

Genetic tinkering brought about Aeshna with her compound eyes and insect mouth parts. All she and Petal want is to be left alone. But that cannot be when Aeshna is able to judge a person’s soul and mete out appropriate punishment. Petal is another changed human fitted with a steam clock for a heart and a compost boiler for guts. One day Bald Man Head comes on an errand from the Hanged Man. I liked these two women and the story was fun to read. Especially towards the end.

A Will of Iron by Ray Dean

A Will of Iron is based on the well-known The Ballad of John Henry.

A man is nothing but a man,
But before I let your steam drill beat me down,
I’d die with a hammer in my hand, Lord, Lord,
I’d die with a hammer in my hand

People fighting to keep their jobs from being replaced by new technology is an old and familiar one.

The Path of Ironclad Bison by Penelope Flynn

Zahara and Porter are left in the desert to die. They had both fallen a long way from a steady income with Cross Continental Airship Line. Was all that was left for the two friends a slow and painful death in the desert?

The Refugee by Kochava Green

In the world of Kochava Green humans must extremely careful around bodies of water or they risk the fate of the Lepidoptera larvae. The St. Lauritz All-Mother cloister are extremely lucky in getting a woman from San Lazare wishing to become a novice. The All-Mother cloisters accept women from all walks of life, no-holds-barred.  Sister Amelia brings unique strengths that aid in the survival of the women. She, in turn, finds a new purpose to life. Refugee is one of my favourite stories.

The Switch by Valjeanne Jeffers

Revolutions seldom bring change, only new overlords. Z100 was a key player in the revolution that made women property. Because she had been a spy, she was exempt from those rules. But only as long as she did not marry. She was careful in her choice of men by never having humans for lovers. Life-like robots were her get-out-of-jail card. What is easy to forget is that no matter how tight your security is, all security protocols have weaknesses.

Benjamin’s Freedom Magic by Ronald T. Jones

Slavery is a common tool in human history. One of the many problems with slavery is the de-humanizing of people. In rare cases that might actually work to a slave’s advantage because masters generally do not see slaves or servants. Infiltrating the slaves is the only way our investigator, Sam, sees to find out what Cicero Jensen and Secretary Patterson are trying to hide in Jensen’s barn. In the process Sam learns a bit about himself, his attitudes and how far people will go to keep a secret.

Once a Spider by Rebecca McFarland Kyle

This was another favourite. Nansi is a shape-changing human/spider. Imagine the size of that spider! Her dual identity is a result of her Trickster father. At night Nansi, the spider, fights crime in the city. She is not the only shape-changer. There are wolves and tigers as well. One night, to protect a new-born baby, Nansi kills a tiger. That choice changes her life and the life of the city.

On Western Winds by Carole McDonnell

Through the journal of the Headmistress of a women’s college we learn what happens when the ocean brings a dock, or part of it, to the beach by the college. The dock is to be brought inside the city walls. A short time later, body parts turn up on the same beach. Then a sub-mariner hears a pulse coming from the depths of the ocean.

The Lion Hunters by Josh Reynolds

I really liked this one as well. It is time for the initiation of the Masai boy Saitoti into the ranks of lion-hunters. Eleven lion-hunters travel to Mombasa to meet with Ethiopian Bahati Mazarin. She tells them that there are two lions she wants killed. That is, if they are lions. Rumours would have it otherwise. Bahati Mazarin is coming with them to hunt. Saitoti cannot help but wonder why she is coming along with them or why she specifically asked for their group and hopes it has nothing to do with his history.

The Sharp Knife of a Short Life by Hannibal Tabu

Clara Perry is on the strangest journey of her life. Unbeknownst to her, Clara’s cryogenic chamber was not sitting in Las Vegas waiting to be opened years into the future. Instead, persons unknown had sent her to the planet Pless to introduce them to technology. It turns out Pless has human-like people on it, people who breathe air Clara can breathe, eat food Clara can eat and behave in a manner Clara can relate to. She soon establishes herself as a woman to be reckoned with. Widow Perry breaks gender roles and class roles enabling her integration with people from the various walks of life on Pless. I really liked this story as well. There is something about realistically portrayed strong women that I like. Not that steamfunk is realistic, but I hope you understand what I mean.

The Tunnel at the End of the Light by Geoffrey Thorne

Every ‘jack knew that secrets were death on the rim. But secrets had been kept from the younger generations of Breaktown. When a rip tears Kally Freeman from Other Country to somewhere else, Bannecker Jack does not hesitate to jump after her. “Where did we come from?” “How did we get here?” were questions the child Bannecker often asked his mother. He is about to find out.

Rite of Passage: Blood & Iron by Balogun Ojetade

Warden Clemons tells prisoner John William Henry that he is about to experience the breeze of the Virginia wind and the smell of its dirt again. Only thing is, John Henry will do that by being part of a chain-gang working on laying tracks for The C and O Railway. Oh joy. John Henry uses this as a chance to run away. He is shot but manages to make his way into an opening in the side of a hill.


Reviews:

Ripley, Ron: Berkley Street (2016)


Ron Ripley obviously understands the importance of atmosphere in his story about Shane Ryan. Like most supernatural creatures, ghosts have been tools story tellers have used for centuries. Berkley Street is full of them.

Berkley Street is the first story in the 9-book Berkley Street series. Each book has a satisfactory ending. No cliffhangers. It is about 170 pages long. The last few pages are “Bonus Chapters” that explain how one of the inhabitants of the house became a ghost. Berkley Street begins in 1982 and switches between Shane’s life until his parents disappeared and Shane’s life from the time he moved back into Berkley Street 125. The novel is told as a set of short-stories tied together by Shane’s present day search for his parents.

Shane Ryan is overcome when he sees the property his parents have bought.

“Wow,” Shane whispered. “Wow.”

Shane’s parents laughed happily, and he followed them up the front walk. His father took out the house key, unlocked the large door and opened it. Shane stepped into the biggest room he had ever seen.

A huge set of stairs stretched up into the darkness, and dim pieces of furniture filled what he realized was a hallway. Close to where Shane stood, a tall grandfather clock ticked away the time.

And behind the tick of the second hand, Shane heard whispers.

Someone whispered in the walls.

The house, itself, is strange. On the outside it was designed to look like a small castle. The inside does not know its own composition. Number and size of levels, rooms, doors and passages changes at the whim of one of the ghost mistress.

Shane Ryan is a veteran of the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has been in the middle of plenty of fighting. Yet, nothing frightens him as much as his own house. No matter how scared he is of Berkley Street, Shane has fought his aunt and uncle in court for the ownership of “His monstrous familial home.” The only reason he kept on fighting to return was so he could find his parents, who had been taken by the house 22 years previously.

“What are you saying, sir? Missing? On the road somewhere?”

“From your house,” the chaplain said in a gentle voice. “They’ve vanished.”

Fear is a marvellous emotion. It keeps us out of trouble. Well, unless we let fear rule our behaviour. The permanent residents of 125 taught Shane, the child and teenager, how to use his fear to help him. Most of the ghosts cannot stop emanating fear. Except for when the ghost mistress commands them, they are OK people. We get to know German Carl, Italian Roberto, “the ragman” and “the old man” who all died as adults. Eloise, Thaddeus and Vivienne died when they were young. We also meet the dark ones. All the ghosts play a role in the hunt for the whereabouts of Shane’s parents. Not only the dead have roles in the story of Berkley Street 125 and Shane Ryan. They and his mother and father, aunt and uncle, Detective Marie Lafontaine, Veteran Gerald Beck, and ex-resident Herman Mishal all reveal 125’s character. Shane’s main opponent is the ghost mistress, the one who holds the heart of the house. Her only wish is to add Shane to her collection of ghosts. Shane and the ghost mistress are both set on being the victor of their war. Their tactics are extremely different. Where the ghost mistress uses terror to control others, Shane tries a more diplomatic approach.

Ron Ripley managed to  scare me. Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


Amazon, B & N, Apple, Kobo, Scribd

Yates, A.M.: Stealer (2016)

Cover by Clarissa Yeo

As the bus-doors squealed shut, she fantasized about stealing the rainbow-striped balloon and drifting away to wherever the wind blew. Maybe to wherever her father was.

Victim mentality is difficult to let go. A person gets so wrapped up in what has been that they forget the future does not have to look the same. There are choices. However, getting to that point when one’s self-image seems shot to pieces and one’s position as underdog appears set in stone, is nigh to impossible.

Dee is 17 years old and considered an odd-ball. She is taller than most, has unusual hair and a scarred back. Her position on the social status totem pole is low. Laura, her only, and now ex-, friend, left her for a higher place. Predatory kids consider her easy bait.

“Don’t feed the wolves. Never feed the wolves.”

To top it all Dee thinks she is probably insane. She hears and sees stuff that the other kids apparently do not. Take Danny’s broken pencil:

Every tooth mark incised the instrument with Danny’s belief in magic – belief in gods who used magic.

And, the pencil…… It glowed and floated.

Her way out of victim mentality and hiding from the wolves slowly begins when the Vasquez brothers go after Danny. Dee ends up with dog shit in her hair, but facing her fears is slowly becoming possible.

Dee has a strange collection. A broken pencil, broken key-chain, broken glasses, broken lighter, broken needle and broken guitar pick probably do not seem like much to most of us. But Dee senses that these objects represent something more, and the only person with whom Dee dares talk about what she sees and hears is her grand-father. He is also the person who reveals who her father is, a man called River who turned up and disappeared right before his eyes. As it turns out, Dee’s heritage becomes essential to her survival. One day, a guy disappears with her collection. Dee desperately wants her things back but has no idea how to go about that.

Then, she sees a speaking glow bug that calls itself Nid. A a deal is made. Nid’s freedom pays for travelling to the place where the box has gone and making sure Dee gets back, safe and sound, to her family.

Yates has done a great job on her new world. Crescent is both similar and dissimilar to our own world. Society is highly stratified into different Breeds. At top are the “Leaders” and near the bottom are “Stealers”. Guess which one Dee belongs to. The right to naming and defining is a right we fight wars over. Stealers are a perfect example of what happens when the powers that be use their power to re-name. Stealers used to be called “Scouts”.

A scout is a person who seeks information about the unknown, one who goes in front, one who acts as a buffer for those behind while a stealer is a person who takes what does not belong to them. Instead of being part of a team, Stealers are now enslaved by those who can afford to own them. Propaganda has it that the only thing Stealers do well is run from trouble and steal your things. Propaganda also has it that as long as people fulfil the duties Leaders claim each breed must, all needs will be taken care of. As Stealer shows, propaganda in Crescent is as true as propaganda anywhere.

Some of the foreshadowing is obvious and trendy. For instance, Dee and Hunter. If two people meet, and that meeting is hostile, it is likely they will become lovers. Yates copies what has been urban fantasy fashion for a few years by throwing in a competitor for the main character’s affections.

Dee follows in the tradition of mystery parent giving the child great powers. Then something happens and those powers become immense. Although Dee does use her unexpected powers to get out of sticky situations, Yates usually manages to avoid the trap of overdoing it. Yates also writes Dee as a believable confused and surprised young woman in a confusing and surprising situation. Moving to a new culture is difficult. Language, traditions and presentation in Crescent are different to the ones of her own home town somewhere in the US.

Stealer is the first book in a Young Adult trilogy. It is 292 pages. Yates tells a story full of action and adventure with interesting characters, both the main- and the side-characters. I could identify with some of them. Crescent is a fun world with solutions I do think I have seen before. I really liked Stealer and definitely recommend it.


Reviews:


Stealer is available at: AMAZON, SMASHWORDS, Amazon UK, NOOK, APPLE, KOBO

De Pierres, Marianne; Peacemaker 1 (2014)

The Peacemaker series begins with Peacemaker. Peacemaker also has a first installment of the webcomic edition on De Pierres website. De Pierres has called her Peacemaker stories cowpunk, meaning they are Australian Westerns (yes there is such a thing) with possible aliens/paranormal creatures, technologically enhanced humans and animals and an environmentally challenged country. Australia has gone from having its current 500 national parks to only one, Birrumen Park. There was still an outback while Virgin’s father was alive. He started a park lobby because he saw the direction real estate developers were dragging the country in. Now, Birrumen lies, as the last of its sort, in the heart of a supercity and is surrounded by a road, The Park Esplanada. Noise, people and buildings drench the outside of the park.

Peacemaker is told by Virgin. She is our main character.  She was pretty much raised in the park by her father. He taught her to not trust anyone, least of all those closest to her, and he passed on his love for the park to her. Virgin is passionate about keeping the Park out of the hands of real estate developers. As long as the tourists keep coming, the Park still has a chance.

… the company scientists deemed it too environmentally fragile to handle the impact of permanent residents. Tourists did enough damage.

And we had to have tourists.

The Park saved Australia’s tourism industry and tourists save the Park. My daughter just did her BA dissertation on eco-tourism. Many places depend on tourists to stay alive, but tourists bring their own set of problems that aren’t compatible with keeping a place “untouched”. Inhabitants make concessions like the Wild West theme of Birrumen. The future we see in Peacemaker is a likely one. Humans don’t have the intelligence to control our population growth or ecological foot-prints.

Benny, Virgin’s horse, and the Park both ground Virgin when the chaos of outside becomes too much. Both are filled with technology. Benny has been augmented with recording equipment, and endurance and cognitive enhancers. All of his augmentations send information back to Totes, the park tech, and then on to the company storage and processing centre. Birrumen has all sorts of measuring equipment to make sure the park is left as undisturbed as possible. An electromagnetic field above the park keeps unwanted people out and the view in.

No human is supposed to be in the park after dark. One evening Virgin forgets her phone inside and has to go back in.

Even though I’d been ranger here for a few years, I was suddenly a little nervous. The sand and rock and palms that I knew so well during the day had taken on an eerie quality.

The company didn’t like us “on board” (their expression for being in the park) after dark – something to do with insurance. I always pushed that directive to the limit because I like to see the sunset. …

As I bent to fumble with the pump, I felt my phone underfoot. Then another sound attracted my attention – muffled voices from the other side of the semicircle of palms that skirted the Interchange area.

Voices? Impossible! I was the last person out of the south-east sector every day. Park scanners and satellite imaging confirmed it, as well as my own visual sweep.

I picked up my phone and crept towards the sound, my boots silent on the sand. There were two of them, arguing, but I couldn’t get a handle on the thread. …

A strangled cry got me running toward them, hauling my pistol free from my holster. …

But the pair had fallen down onto the sand.

I flicked my phone light on and shone it at them. Only one person was there. Blood trickled from a small, deep wound on his neck.

Impossible! There were two! …

Weirdness arrives in the form of a crow. Virgin is attacked and wounded but manages to escape. On top of that, Virgin is late in picking up her new partner, Marshall Nate Sixpence. Then her imaginary friend from her childhood reappears, a large wedge-tailed eagle called Aquila. Virgin thinks she is going insane because she is the only one who sees her. Except she isn’t. Nate can also see imaginary friends. Hmmm. Maybe they aren’t as imaginary as Virgin thinks. Nathan calls them disincarnates.

Her life is turned on its head. She goes from routine to chaos, from safety to one life-threatening situation after the other. Some constants remain. What is going on? Virgin’s investigative journalist friend, Caro, helps Virgin many times. Her boss, Bull Hunt, Superintendent of Park Ecology, remains on her side even when the police go after her. He used to be friends with her father and has continued to take care of her.

In some ways Virgin is a loner. She certainly thinks of herself as one, but tends to gather friends because of the way she treats people. Blunt but tries to protect the weak. Some of those friends are interesting cases. Totes, the park tech, is one such. Even though he bugs her apartment, Virgin keeps him on because she believes he is on her side. Chef Dabrowski feeds her and is as much of a surrogate parent as she will let him. She is the kind of person who does not want to be a burden to the people loves, yet does her best to help the very same people. Her personality appeals to my Asperger.

This is my favorite De Pierres series thus far. Her writing is compelling and the story asks interesting questions, is fun, full of action, full of interesting characters and has a great female lead. Plus it’s in Australian English. So, a definite yes from me.


Reviews:


Winner Aurealis Award– Best Science Fiction Novel, 2014


Peacemaker can be found at:

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