Category Archives: Fantasy

Braden, J. (2014). Tempt the Devil. (The Devil of Ponong III). Wayzgoose Press.

Cover design by DJ Rodgers

As with the first two novels of this series, I enjoyed “Tempt the Devil“. Braden kept up the good work all through the story.

…. she showed him the slums of Old Levapur, and forced him to look at the bodies of executed prisoners hanging from the fortress walls. Nothing he said would stop her from revealing horrors. (p. 5).

In Kyam’s opinion the Island of Ponong is the prison from which he desperately hopes to escape. But grandfather Zul wants the rule of it so badly that he forced the situation in “The Devil Incarnate“, and, with the unwilling help of QuiTai and Hadre, Kyam was left with no option but take over governorship from Turyat. One year later, the depressed and hopeless Kyam finds himself incapable of fighting back or taking an interest in his new role.

QuiTai craned around as if she’d lost sight of someone. The hairs at the nape of Kyam’s neck rose when her gaze fixed on a shadowy warehouse doorway. He didn’t see anyone, but there was a subtle shift in her face. She turned back to appraise Nashruu, as if suddenly finding her interesting. Her gaze dropped to Khyram. Kyam’s heart caught in his throat. He knew that expression. It was the most frightening look he’d ever seen, and he knew it all too well. QuiTai was thinking.  (p. 11).

On top of those struggles, Kyam’s wife, Nashruu, and her son, Khyram, are sent to join him. Kyam had not seen her for eight years and is worried they won’t get along with each other. She was chosen by grandfather Zul as his wife and grandfather Zul had also chosen the biological father of Khyram. Grandfather Zul thinks he holds Nashruu’s obedience in the palms of his hands.Her loyalty to him will be tested in “Tempt the Devil“. She discovers that he might not be the omniscient person he understands himself to be.

Since Kyam had been named as Turyat’s replacement, the avuncular man had turned from a causal user of black lotus into a vapor ghoul. His belly no longer filled his jacket. Pale skin made his addict’s red lips seem brighter. QuiTai unlocked the typhoon shutters as Turyat advanced on her. Her shoulders tensed. Turyat smoothed a lank strand of hair across his balding head. He had the look of a kicked dog. As QuiTai opened the shutter, she shook her head in one, firm motion. Turyat shouted. He gripped the shutter so she couldn’t close it. (p. 8)

Denying Turyat black lotus from herself or any other seller is the perfect revenge for his ordering of the killing of her family and herself.  Just she rewards crimes with horror, she rewards Vorus’ aid. QuiTai has paid the renowned teacher, Mityam Muul, to teach him how to interpret Thampurian laws.

On the surface “Tempt the Devil” is regarding saving QuiTai from the hang-man. Looking slightly below the surface the story is, as the first two previous novels were, about the consequences of imperialism. Investigating the murders of Ponongese is not done while all stops are pulled if a Thampurian is killed. Usually, a Ponongese is blamed and hung without due process. Except Kyam and Voruus have vested interests in QuiTai’s survival. When she demands to be arrested for the death of Thuryat they both find themselves facing ugly truths about Thampurian rule on Ponong.

Braden’s three stories mimics real world issues with frustrating accuracy.  I’m one of those who thinks that if groups of people can possibly mess things up for themselves, they will do so. There are plenty of examples of a situation like the one the Island of Ponong finds itself in. Desperately clinging to their blinders several characters have to make difficult choices about their world. If you are a fan of strange worlds similar to our own, then Braden is an author for you.


My review of:

  1. The Devil’s Concubine
  2. The Devil Incarnate

Braden, J. (2013). The Devil Incarnate (The Devil of Ponong II). Wayzgoose Press.

As I’m sure you noticed, I loved “The Devil’s Concubine“. Braden begins the second installment of “The Devil of Ponong” series with this sentence:

The morning QuiTai awoke completely sane, she knew Petrof was dead.

If any first sentence is an indication of the quality of its novel, this one is. In “The Devil Incarnate” Braden continues to weave her words together into sounds and images that brought me to the Island of Ponong and its inhabitants. Cultural gaps between the Thampurians and Ponongese are shown, not told, and I have no problem understanding the depths that must be bridged. The greatest one has to do with respect.

Thampurians respect only their male elders. When grandfather Zul states something as fact, younger generations are not allowed to gainsay him nor to disobey him even if their knowledge is greater than his. The Ponongese, however, are not bound by such rules. Age or gender do not automatically buy a person respect. Instead, titles are given on the basis of power and understanding. While speaking with people, QuiTai is called “grandmother”, “aunt”, “daughter” and “little sister” depending on the issue at hand. Even little children may be called “grandmother” if they are the most knowledgeable about a something. Even though QuiTai is a very powerful woman, her employees may call her “aunt” if the topic at hand denotes equality or if there is a close relationship. Oddly, enough, the Thampurians seem to fear this system. Or perhaps it isn’t all that strange after all.

In this story, QuiTai wants to find out who hired Petrof to kill her, Kyam Zul desperately wants to leave the island, and grandfather Zul plays games with deadly consequences.

Grandfather Zul is too much of a coward to speak directly to Kyam about what he wants to do.  Despite having articles of transport signed by Governor Turyat and Chief Justice Cuulon, grandfather Zul has pressured Thampurians into denying Kyam transport back to Thampur. In spite of his cowardly ways, Kyam cannot find fault with the old man. He claims “It is not our place to question him” even when  Hadre tells Kyam

He gave me a direct order not to tell you that he was here. He didn’t have the balls to tell you the bad news to your face, so he ran away and left it to me.”

In a sense, this is a “coming-of-age” story for Kyam. His blind devotion to Grandfather Zul is challenged over and over. Fighting facts, Kyam mostly blames others for the choices he is forced to make, and one wonders whether Kyam has the courage to face the truth about the old man.

Kyam is not the only one who has a difficult time removing his blinders. Major Voorus was hit hard when he discovered the truth about the slaves on Cay Rhi. Slowly he realizes that “honor” is just a word used by those in power to control the behavior of the masses.   “Honor” must be redefined into something he can live with. He and Kyam have a defining moment when Voorus expresses his doubts. Both of them are forced to make a choice. Sadly, both judge the Pongonese on the basis of what a Thampurian would do.

They’re just waiting for any excuse to slaughter us, and she has that excuse, Zul.

Fantasy and science fiction, more than any other kind of fiction, allows the reader to relax and look away from what their socialization has told them to think. Stories like “The Devil of Ponang” opens the door to issues like racism, culturalism, genderism and classism without telling us what to think about them. My own ideas of right and wrong have changed thanks to such literature, even when facts were not able to get through my noggin.

QuiTai grieves. Petrof killed her daughter, her family and had tried to kill her as well. In “The Devil’s Concubine” he killed her spouse, Jeezeret. “The Devil Incarnate” continues her grieving lessons as even more essential parts of her life cease. Yet she is not allowed time to grieve. Instead people demand more and more of her. Once a person manages to pull a miracle out of their sleeve, such as freeing slaves, even more unlikely deeds are expected of them. As the new incognito Devil, she also has obligations to the Ponong underworld.

You’re running out of black lotus.

I envy none of these three for what they go through in this novel, but I did enjoy reading about them and the rest of the characters in “The Devil Incarnate“.


My review of “The Devil’s Concubine

Braden, Jill (2013). The Devil’s Concubine. Wayzgoose Press

Cover design by DJ Rogers

With “The Devil’s ConcubineBraden blows a breath of fresh air into fantasy literature that seems swamped with poorly edited stories. I am having a difficult time trying to find fault with it. You seriously need to get this story. Right now (6th May 2018) you can get it for free on Amazon.

The Devil’s Concubine” is part of a series called “The Devil of Ponong“. Currently there are three books in the series. I want more of them They all have proper endings without cliff-hangers and the “problem” is resolved during the novel. The over-arching story is a political drama set in a fantasy world that carries a Far East spirit. It deals with some of the consequences of having your country stolen from you. Braden seems to have done her homework with regards to what it means to be “the protected” and “the protectors” in a protectorate. Dehumanization, corruption, blinders, hopelessness and courage are all topics that are shown, not told, in the story. In fact, “The Devil’s Concubine” is delightfully free of preaching, and manages to put a face to both sides.

The Ponong island chain lies between the Sea of Erykoli and Te ‘Am Ocean, a strategic position that grandfather Zul took advantage of. When he was younger, he invaded Ponong and laid her under the Thampur as a protectorate, with Levapur as the capitol. As with many protectorates in the real world, the Thampur sent their unwanted riff-raff to Ponong. They made up the militia, the government and the bureaucracy. The Thampur consider the Ponongese to be uncivilized and barely human. What that means, in practical terms, is that the Ponongese lost all of their rights. They were not allowed to grow crops, to hunt, to teach their culture or language to the young, or to hold any important positions. When we meet them, anger is simmering under the surface. Some readers belong to cultures that have invaded and some readers belong to cultures that have been invaded.

Pongon is a jewel of an island consisting of many people, but mainly the Ponongese who are shiftless humans with fangs and slitted eyes. Being shiftless is looked down upon by shifters. Top dog in Levapur are the Thampurian human/seadragons. There are also the violent Rujicks who are human/werewolves,  and the Ingosolians who shift between genders. We meet two other shiftless races on Ponong. The Li Islanders are cattish human and the Ravidians have a bony neckruff and a dewclaw for gutting.

QuiTai is our main character and my favourite person of the story. I would love to see more women like this in literature. She has one handicap, being a woman in a man’s world – much like our own, and is not taken seriously by the extremely misogynistic Thampurians and Rujicks. She is probably the most intelligent person on the islands, but has only been allowed roles as acolyte, actress, prostitute, and mistress. Even though she is considered the Devil’s concubine, QuiTai is the reason the Devil hold top “dog” position of the island’s criminal world. She is feared, despised and hated – even by those who should be grateful for her interventions.

Like a school of jewel-toned tropical fish on the reef, the crowd in the marketplace suddenly veered away as QuiTai stepped off the veranda of the sunset-pink building into the town square. They cringed back as she sauntered through the stalls, as if instead of her bright green sarong she were clothed in poison. She’d decided long ago it was their guilt that made them unable to meet her gaze, not judgment. The Devil’s concubine had nothing to be ashamed of.

Against her plays the Thampurian male Kyam. He is an intelligent male who wears the blinders of the conqueror. As a disillusioned exile he is unable to accept his place in life. He refuses to face the political realities of Ponong and he despises the Ponong for being “less than”. Both of them fight for what they believe. QuiTai fights  for the rights of the Ponong while Kyam fights to retain his belief in the ways of the world. A lot of walls must fall for any real change to happen. Where Kyam can use might to retain status quo, QuiTai has to use her wits against the Devil, the Thampur and even the Ponong to even stay alive.

While at first glance it seemed a simple enough request, QuiTai and Kyam Zul both operated in a world beneath the surface. She found his note rather cryptic. Normally people begged her to plead with the Devil on their behalf, but he’d called for the Devil’s arrest too many times to dare beg for that kind of favor. No, Kyam Zul wanted to discuss something with her. How intriguing. If he’d resorted to asking his biggest enemy in Levapur for a favor, he must be desperate.

This is such a great story.

Guards! Guards! (1989)

My review of Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! from my Terry Pratchett blog.

Terry Pratchett and me

Guards! Guards! begins with an Ankh-Morpork brought to her knees by the fiascos of its previous rulers and the manipulations of its present Patrician, Lord Vetinari. Lord Vetinari has worked hard to subvert any thought of traditional social contract between ruler and the ruled. He has created organized crime/intricate guild system and subverted Ankh-Morpork’s police force/Watch. Its officers are no longer considered a threat to those who break the “law”.

The city wasa, wasa, wasa wossname. Thing. Woman. Thass what it was. Woman. Roaring, ancient, centuries old. Strung you along, let you fall in thingy, love with her, then kicked you inna, inna, thingy. thingy, in your mouth. Tongue. Tonsils. Teeth. That’s what it, she did. She wasa … thing, you know, lady dog. Puppy. Hen. Bitch. And then you hated her and, and, just when you thought you’d got her, it, out of your, whatever, then…

View original post 806 more words

Bishop, Anne; Daughter of the Blood (Black Jewels I) (1998)


Anne Bishop‘s Black Jewels trilogy is one of my favorites and I have read it four or more times. One of the reasons I like it so well is that  it is NOT a romance. Well. I don’t think so. Daughter of the Blood is book one of that trilogy.

In the gray world above, I hear myself howling with laughter. Far below me, in the psychic abyss that is part of the Darkness, I hear another howling, one full of joy and pain, rage and celebration.

Not just another witch coming, my foolish Sisters, but Witch.

We move between the three realms of the Blood: Kaeler, Hell and Terreille. Kaeler and Hell are considered dark realms, places where old rules of protocol still rule. They share the main site of the Queen of the Dark Realms’ seat, The Black Mountain, also called Ebon Askavi. Hell is a Realm of forever-twilight, a realm for the demon-dead who are not yet ready to go to the Darkness and their Guardians. Kaeler is for the living.

Once, the Blood had ruled honorably and well. The Blood villages within a District would look after, and treat fairly, the landen villages that were bound to them. The District Queens would serve in the Province Queen’s court. The Province Queens, in their turn, would serve the Territory Queen, who was chosen by the majority of the darker-Jeweled Blood, both male and female, because she was the strongest and the best.

Back then, there was no need for slavery to control the strong males. They followed their hearts to the queen who was right for them. They handed over their lives willingly. They served freely.

Back then, the Blood’s complicated triangle of status hadn’t leaned so heavily on social rank. Jewel rank and caste had weighed just as heavily in the balance, if not more. That meant control of their society was a fluid dance, with the lead constantly changing depending on the dancers. But in the center of that dance, always, was a Queen.

Terreille, while supposedly not a dark kingdom, has no honor any longer due to the influence the High Priestess of Hayll has had on the Realm for centuries. Rules of Protocol no longer apply and Queens do exactly what they want no matter how depraved.

Just once, I’d like to serve a Queen I could respect, someone I could truly believe in. A strong queen who wouldn’t fear my strength. A Queen I could also call a friend……………..

She was a scrawny little thing, about seven years old. Calling her plain would have been kind……………

“I-I heard you. You wanted a friend.”

Lucivar Yaslana is the first of our main characters who meets Witch, the one whose coming was prophesied. He was given to Queen Zuultah to do with as she wished as long as he was kept alive and whole. She is typical of Terreille Queens, Queens who do not show care for their subjects or for the people in their courts. It is a dangerous realm to be male or female with dark birth jewels or even to be landen (those without jewels).

He was tired and old, and the loneliness he carried inside him all his life had become too heavy to bear. He no longer wanted to be a Guardian, one of the living dead. He no longer wanted the half-life a handful of the blood had chosen in order to extend their lifetimes into years beyond imagining. He wanted peace, wanted to quietly fade back into the Darkness………..

This girl was alive! ….. She couldn’t be more than seven years old………

Then she turned and looked at him. As he watched the summer-sky blue eyes change to sapphire, the surf swept him away.

Ancient eye. Maelstrom eyes. Haunted, knowing, seeing eyes….. Witch.

Saetan Daemon SaDiablo, the High Lord of Hell, the High Priest of the Hourglass is another main character. He becomes Jeanelle Angelline’s father of the heart. His highest wish is fulfilled almost 50.000 years after its foretelling. Through that meeting, Witch finds a person who promises to teach her to the best of his ability and to never lie.

Daemon let out a cry as the jar slipped from his hands and shattered on the bathroom floor. He sank to his knees, hissing as a piece of glass sliced him, and stared at the powder, tears of pain and frustration welling in his eyes. Without the powder to help heal the wounds, he might still be able to heal them to some extent, still be able to stop the bleeding … but he would scar. And he didn’t need a mirror to know what he would look like.

*No!* He wasn’t aware of sending. He was only trying to relieve the frustration.

A minute later, as he knelt on the bathroom floor, shaking, trying not to vent the sobs building in him, a hand touched his shoulder.

Daemon twisted around, his teeth bared, his eyes wild…..

The touch, when it came again, was hesitant, cautious. He shivered as it gently probed his back. Shivered because along with exhaustion and dismay, that gentle touch was filled with a cold, cold anger……….

The reason for the 50 whiplashes was that Daemon augmented Saetan’s power to save Witch. Using power for anything is forbidden without his owner’s permission. As far as he remembers, his entire life has been in the ownership of Dorothea, the High-Priestess of Hayll. Daemon is know as the Whore of Hayll and The Sadist, due to how he reacts to continuously having his body rewarded to Queens or Ladies loyal to Dorothea.

……….. Two black leather books appeared, floating before her. She took one, leafed through to the last written page, called in a pen, and made a notation.

That contract was finished. It hadn’t taken the fool as long to die as she would have liked, but the pain had been exquisite. And the money had been very, very good.

She vanished the book and opened the other one, checked the entry she needed, wrote out her menu, and with a flick of her wrist sent it to the kitchen………

Surreal’s mother was murdered when she was 12 years old. After that she survived as a street-walker. Sometimes she killed her clients. Daemon saved her from her brutal life by taking her to good Red Moon house where they could teach her how to be a better paid whore in a safer environment. Daemon taught her how to hide bodies and kill discretely. She owes him a great deal.  Surreal is the fourth main character of Daughter of the Blood.

POV in Daughter of the Blood is everyone’s but Witch’s. What we learn about Jeanelle Angelline is what they share. Anne Bishop managed to make each of the four POV different from the others. Daughter of the Blood is a dark story that does not pander to those who need people to be simple. Instead, it shows us how differently people handle horrific experiences and how fragile our hold on reality is. Some of the story bears the mark of a first novel.

I’m fairly certain this is a serial you either really like or dislike. Some call it fluff and superficial and others call it magical and amazing. It is representative of the 1990’s and early 2000’s fantasy literature, before urban fantasy and glossy vampires became the rage.

Pratchett, Terry; Pyramids (1989)

I reviewed “Pyramids” on my Terry Pratchett blog.

Terry Pratchett and me

“But here, away from the great centres of population, where the Circle Sea meets the desert, there is a line of cold blue fire. Flames as chilly as the slopes of Hell roar towards the sky. Ghostly light flickers across the desert.

The pyramids in the ancient valley of the Djel are flaring their power into the night.

The energy streaming up from their paracosmic peaks may, in chapters to come, illuminate many mysteries: why tortoises hate philosophy, why too much religion is bad for goats, and what it is that handmaidens actually do.”

As the Discworld unfolds, the stories become more poignant. Yes, gags, plays on words, and downright bizarreness are plentiful. Except, this isn’t why Pratchett remains one of my alltime favourite authors. Real world people and events (even historical) are. Pyramids is sort of about Egyptian history, all boy boarding schools (particularly final examinations), family, coming…

View original post 1,030 more words

Gorman, K.; Black Dawn (Eurynome Code 1)(2017)

Karin Makos has a secret she wants to keep under wraps. Her sister knows about it. After all, Nomiki was another child experimented on. In Black Dawn, Karin is our protagonist. We get to know her sister through Karin’s dreams. Black Dawn is told from a third-person perspective as seen from Karin’s point of view and everything we find out about her universe is what Karin experiences and thinks.

Karin, Marc and Soo-Jin  are scavengers, travelling in the Nemina, chasing First Gen Earth objects – like beer cans. They travel to abandoned sites/worlds to find goods and sell them on to collectors. Karin is the overqualified pilot, Marc owns the Nemina and Soo-Jin is their First-Gen specialist and marketer. They are both Karin’s side-kicks and play vital seconds to her in different episodes of this novel. Karin is the only three-dimensional character.

After a successful run someone enters their space ship and attacks all three while they sleep. Abruptly waking from a dream …

She sucked in a breath.

It was a man – or, at the very least, a very life-like, man-shaped shadow. Tall, with edges that blended into the room’s already significant darkness, he stood against the wall with no definition to him, only darkness. she couldn’t see any features, not eyes or the rumples where clothes might be, or – heck, were those arms?

Karin is forced to use her special ability or die. An ability that becomes more and more difficult to hide as the story progresses.

Light pricked through the blackness. The white droplets on her arm still shone, dimmer than before, but persistent.

She brought her hand up. Muscles shaking, she pushed energy into the light. It shivered at her touch like water under a full moon, waxing, growing. The thing’s hand moved into her eyes. A fingertip brushed through her skull like the touch of a feather. She cringed, pulled away. Then she pushed back.

Light exploded from her skin.

The black think shrieked.

Karin confronts her dilemma many times during Black Dawn. To use or not to use. She knows what to expect if people find out about her ability, yet it may be that her ability can save people from the effects of the Shadow people. Few individuals find themselves with both a talent that might save many along with a tendency to freeze in dangerous situations. Karin does. If she had been all alone in the situations in Black Dawn, the novel would have ended much sooner. However, our shero works hard to control her panic attacks and manages to pull through each time.  Black Dawn might be about learning to trust yourself and others. It’s also about needing to use gifts/talents if you want them to grow and about trying to not let past decisions rule current ones.

We find out about Karin’s background and genetic modification as the story develops. Even though it is a serial, the Black Dawn ends at a good spot rather than in the middle of a climax. The story is a science fiction space opera low on technology but high on action/drama/adventure. There is no graphic violence or  sexual content. I liked the prose and do not think I have come across plots with Shadows attackers in them. This was an entertaining story that is the first of a trilogy. Recommended.