Peace Force is a funny scifi action-comedy about poor Harriet Walsh who finds herself invited to become part of the planet Dismolle’s Peace Force.
As she skimmed the flowery sentences, Harriet realised she had been mistaken. The letter wasn’t a scam or a lottery, and it wasn’t asking for money. No, it seemed to be offering her job … and it wasn’t caring for the elderly.
Harriet was certainly correct in being sceptical of the job offer. Nothing is as she expected when she arrives at the address given. I could never decide if I should feel sorry for Harriet. On one hand, her job with the Peace Force saves her from becoming evicted. On the other hand, there’s Bernie, her senior officer. Bernie and Steve are the only ones working for the Peace Force when Harriet is hired. They serve on a planet whose inhabitants are mainly retirees. There is little crime to be found on the planet. Or at least there was until Harriet arrived at the station.
Peace Force is intended for 14+ audiences according to Amazon and I think that is a fair evaluation. Its comedy is of the farcical and slap-stick variety. The covers aren’t representative of the content although they are representative of the current fashion within scifi covers for female leads. The publishers get a big minus for that. Its blurb is honest and representative of the content.
This is the kind of lighthearted read that is not intended to impress or wow its public but rather divert from whatever life throws at you.
Without strings attached, K. Cross offers a free copy of Miss Mabel’s School for Girls to any and all on her website.
I stared at the lavender flowers on the white china and willed my heart to stop pounding. Papa’s advice whispered through my head like the balm of a cool poultice, settling my nerves (p. 1).
Miss Mabel’s School for Girls is a fun installment in the young adult serial The Network. Miss Mabel’s School for Girls was Cross‘ first installment in the story about Antebellum, a magic world ruled by a government called the Network consisting of five nations with a High Priestess and High Priest as their leaders. Miss Mabel’s school lies in Letum Woods in the Central Network (led by the High Priestess).
I spent years preparing for this. It won’t frighten me now.
I was a terrible liar. Attending Miss Mabel’s School for Girls did frighten me, but so did staying home, forfeiting my only chance at freedom (p. 6).
Given the author’s place of residence (Idaho, US) it comes as no surprise that this is a story about good (Bianca’s side) vs. evil (Miss Mabel’s side). The story is told from the main character’s (i.e. Bianca Monroe, 16 years old) point of view. The reason for Bianca’s desperate need to get into the school and become Miss Mabel’s pupil and assistant is revealed early on. We soon learn that she has been honed for that purpose for many years by her family. During her interview with the Watcher, Bianca is warned that she must not underestimate Miss Mabel.
“This is the third-year corridor. Don’t go in there!” Camille said, pulling me back when I stepped across the doorway. “They get really picky about first-years in their area. Especially Priscilla.” She lowered her tone and spoke behind her hand. “She gets really upset. Her dad is rich so she gets away with it.” (p. 11).
In addition to being a good vs. evil story, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls is also about finding one’s place in the world. On her first day at school, Bianca gains two first-year friends (Camille who has a hard time concentrating on her studies and Leda who is always studying). Bianca enters the Competition for the spot of Assistant and her main competitor is Priscilla, who is from a powerful family. Priscilla also seems driven to win the competition and is terrified of the consequences of losing. Only one person may win, and I expect all of you to know who that person will be.
Most likely it is due to compatibility problems between Kindle and whichever publishing program Cross used that the text sometimes has a stapled underline beginning with a number and the word “Highlighters”. Several authors have commented on similar problems.
The three friends have three girls as opponents. Beautiful Priscilla from a powerful family and her plain friends Stephany and Jade. Reading about these two groups makes it obvious to me which other authors Cross has been influenced by. In Bianca’s case, the threesome’s characteristics are very similar to Harry Potter, Hermione and Ron. Priscilla’s threesome isn’t as obviously so.
Miss Mabel is the beautiful wicked witch. At times her behaviour becomes stereotypically so, but fortunately, Case manages to steer away from stereotype most of the time. There is no cackling. She is probably the character I liked the most.
I glanced up at Letum Wood with an uncertain eye. Nothing in that forest would make this as simple as it sounded. The eerie darkness crept about like a lazy fog, filled with unknown shadows and creatures you couldn’t always anticipate. (p. 52).
I really enjoyed Bianca’s ventures into Letum Wood and Priscilla’s troublesome last trial. I really liked Leda’s courage. Miss Mabel’s School for Girls is a dark story and Cross does a good job creating the atmosphere and emotions required. Thankfully, the author generally manages to steer clear of telling and instead lets us find out things on our own.
Despite similarities and Miss Mabel’s sometimes stereotypical behaviour, the characters are believable for its US readers. Those who worry about explicit content (violence or sex) need not worry. For readers who enjoy young adult good vs. evil stories Miss Mabel’s School for Girls is a good read.
If you wish to read the stories in chronological order, you should begin with Mildred’s Resistance or you could buy the entire Network serial in one go.
“If space is big and mostly uninhabited, it should be safe to assume that any life-forms who really didn’t get along would avoid spending time in each other’s company.
Unfortunately, the fact that said life-forms could avoid each other doesn’t necessarily mean that they would.
When the Others attacked systems on the borders of Confederation territory, Parliament sent out a team of negotiators to point out that expansion in any other direction would be more practical as it would not result in conflict. The negotiators were returned in a number of very small pieces…”
The Confederation and the Others each consist of several sentient life forms wanting a piece of the other side’s action. Unlike the Others, the Confederation had been at peace for long enough to evolve an inability to kill species they defined as sentient, leaving the Elder races desperate for someone to protect them. As Humans had, already, ventured out into their own solar system, they were uplifted on the condition that they, in effect, become the military arm of the Confederation. Once the Krai and di’Taykan were included into the Conferation, that military was expanded.
Valor’s Choice takes us to a world where another warlike species has been discovered. The Silsviss are tough enough that the military want them to join the Confederation and not the Others. Enter the Human Torin Kerr, staff sergeant for the Sh’Quo Company. General Morris, who has never been in a ground battle, orders Kerr to recall the battleworn Sh’quo Company, supposedly to serve as honor guard for the diplomats. On top of that she is given a brand new second lieutenant, the di’Taykan di’Ka Jarret to train. Their relationship is part of the humour of the story, but not for the reasons one might suspect. Jarret is not a bumbling fool. Instead the humour lies in their preexisting relationship.
Neither Kerr nor Jarret are fools. Both of them know that General Morris is planning on something unpleasant for them. Nothing they can do other than be as prepared as they can. On to diplomat-sitting duty they travel. Fortunately, Huff does not fall into some of the tempting traps that are available to authors. Male and female characters are not stereotyped. Nor are the other marines portrayed as stupid fighting machines. Granted, the extras do not have in-depth personalities, but Huff has tried to bring them somewhat to life. Huff manages to blend the three fighting species into a unit all the while maintaining species-typical behaviour. Valor’s Choice is told in third person from Kerr’s point of view and she is the person who is most three-dimensional. I found myself liking her. Another character I really liked was the envoy from the Silvsniss, Cri Sawyes.
There is definitely entertainment value in Valor’s Choice. In the sense that it draws me in and keeps me reading, it could be called escapist. Yet, escapism isn’t all there is to this story. Power and politics are major themes of Valor’s Choice. General Morris is a political general, i.e. he wants advancement at whatever price others have to pay. I strongly dislike people who intend to use other people’s lives to get there. Even when fighting is inevitable, war-hawks tend to up the tally of dead.
Valor’s Choice is also about specieism. Colourism or culturism are inevitable. Humans are programmed to use pre-existing information upon meeting people who look or behave different from themselves and their contemporaries. Humans, Krai and di’Taykan are all war-like. Disparaging remarks are made about the Silvsniss by the marines, but they aren’t said in the same spirit they use on each other. The three military species have worked out their differences (with the help of translators) and joke about those species-specific behaviours (like eating your grandmother). In many ways they find Silvsniss easier to understand than the Elder races the marines babysit. Nor are the Elder races able to comprehend how bloodthirsty the three military species.
Valor’s Choice is a military sci-fi space opera with fighting on the ground. Except for the last bit. Fighting does not begin until after page 100. For me it was easy to get into and was interesting even when action was slow.
Longing for his own spaceship, Dexter Silvercloud drags his friend Kragor away from his life as a married man to fix a space derelict called Hawk’s Talon. The space ship is stuck in the asteroid field off their planet. Two nights a week are spent fixing up the vessel and Dexter will do anything to buy it. The rest of the week is spent getting enough money together to buy Hawk’s Talon.
One day while traversing the Playground to fetch his friend Dexter stumbled into an ambush. Contrary to stories told around hearths with mulled ale, most ship to ship encounters in the void do not involve catapult shot and ballista bolts flying. Even the rare bombards so often talked about in the story are seldom seen, let alone fired. Only the Federation and the Elven Armada ships are prone to fire at the slightest provocation. Repairs and even ammunition are too expensive for the private ship owner to run the risk.
Three small ships emerged from teh background of floating rocks to close with him. Dexter quickly identified an Ant, a Dart, and the third was little more than a skiff with a sail upon it. Dexter sped up his Gnat, risking the perils of the asteroid field and trying to lose the pursuing ships. Being a Federation scout ship, Dexter was correct in assuming that his was faster than the pirates. They were very familiar with the asteroid field; however, so he was unable to lose them.
The largest one, the Ant, slammed into a pony sized rock, sending one man flying into the void and another to the deck bleeding. Broken planks of wood drifted free, bobbing in the small vessel’s gravity plane. Seeing that gave Dexter an idea.
Yes. You read correctly. Space vessels with wood plating and sails. In space. Sail ships in space. Sorry. I just cannot comprehend why Halstead would choose to place sail ships in space. It makes no sense. Even if they have their own gravity wells. Even though I do not hold space operas to the same rules as most other forms of science fiction. There are minimum requirements that I have, and Halstead keeps on breaking them throughout the story.
One of the reasons I think I kept on reading was because of a fascination with an author who completely disregards physical laws. Plus Halstead’s writing is halfway decent. If only he had chosen a stricter editor and science fiction beta-readers. Sadly, Voidhawk‘s characters suffer from the same lack.
I cannot say that I recommend Voidhawk. If only … I probably would have.
The lamp in the corner flashed on and off like a child was toying with the switch.
Elvis’ head whipped around in my direction.
I ran to the bed and he leapt to the floor. (p. 21)
Unbreakable is about five families who seriously messed in 1776 by opening the door to the demon Andras. Apparently the Black Dove Legion wanted to use the demon to stop the Illuminati from taking over the world. They had planned to use the angel Anarel to hold the demon back. Alas. More than 200 years later, the descendants are still doing damage control.
After Kennedy’s mom is killed, identical twins Jared and Lukas turn up, in the nick of time, to save her life. Yes, yes. I know. This part is extremely predictable. Right away Jared and Lukas seem interested in Kennedy as more than the descendant they are convinced she is. Those who have read my previous reviews know how I feel about these love-triangles. Blech.
Jared and Lukas take her to a warehouse where she meets the other two Black Dove members, Priest and Alara. Warehouse living came about because of the unexpected deaths of the guardians of all five youth. Each youth has their own talent to contribute to the group. They decide to go on a hunt for a mysterious tool they think would drive Andras back to hell.
What do I think of the writing? Somehow I felt like there was too much telling. Or maybe there wasn’t. I think that the problem was in how the information was presented. The story went from a smooth flow to a stilted teacher rhythm. Other than that, the story was well edited and internally consistent. The encounters with the various types of spirits were fun. All in all Unbreakable is the same old, same old. But that is fine. It is a fast read.
I generally post links to well-written reviews of the novel I am reviewing. I don’t think I have ever seen Supernatural, but after all the comments about the similarities, I had to see what Wikipedia had to say. There are definitely similarities, but I think only someone who has seen Supernatural would be provoked.
Unbreakable is the first novel of the Legion trilogy. The second novel, Unmarked, was published in 2014. The third, and final, novel of this serial has not been published yet and I have not found any indication that it will happen anytime soon. Because of that, I recommend you wait before beginning the Trilogy as it is written in serial form.
Ultimately all stories (real-life or fiction) seem to be power. Mainly the power to control ones own and/or other people’s lives. Sometimes that includes war between nations on the pretext of one person. In the case of Truthwitch, that person is Safiya fon Hasstrel.
In the Witchlands series there are three kinds of people: witches, norms and the Cleaved. You have to read the story to find out who the Cleaved are. Witches have all kinds of strange powers. Thus far, I know about Truthwitches, Sightwitches, Threadwitches, Bloodwitches, Windwitches, Earthwitches and Waterwitches. The types cover every degree and permutation within their category. The category witch people on the world of Truthwitch seem to know least about is Truth.
Truthwitches have not existed for about 200 years. That is, until Safiya became one. In the past, people in power wanted a Truthwitch by their sides because Truthwitches knew if people were lying. They were either loved or hated thing. Imagine politicians having to speak in front of congress/parliament knowing that a Truthwitch was there to “tell” on them. Or if you had a sister/father/daughter who happened to be one. Truthwitches were often murdered. Over those 200 years information about Truthwitches has been hidden or destroyed. All Safi knows about her powers is that they can tell whether any person is lying. Due to the danger, Safi tries to hide her witchery from as many people as possible. But she sucks at being inconspicuous. Fortunately, she has level-headed Iseult to hold her back. Sadly, there is only so much Iseult can do no matter how level-headed or good at strategizing she is.
Iseult is a Threadwitch. “Threads” are ties that bind people together and to life. Except for their own, other Threadwitches’ and those of Bloodwitches the world is filled with threads that Threadwitches can see. These threads bind people together to varying degrees, but can also be bound into stones to help members of a thread-family find each other. Unlike most Threadwitches, Iseult cannot make threadstones nor is she able to control her feelings (stasis) as much as a Threadwitch must to keep those around them safe.
Both women are trained in martial arts and fighting with various weapons. Both started fighting by themselves, but soon became an unbreakable team and later Threadsisters. The two of them have trained together for years, and that is the only thing that saves them when they are unfortunate enough to encounter the Carawen martial monk Aeduan. To make things worse for them, he happens to be a Bloodwitch, a type of witch no longer thought to exist. Bloodwitches can smell a person’s blood and the witchery within it. Like bloodhounds, they follow blood-smell across continents. It is debatable whether anything can kill them. Safi and Iseult fear Aeduan smelled their witchery and so they run, run, run. And they will need to run far as not only Aeduan, but also the guards, soldiers and Hell-Bards of Emperor Henrick end up being after them. And then, of course, come the Purists.
Purists are non-magical people who do not want others to have powers they do not have themselves. They are an odd and violent group. Real life history is full of what people like that are able to do in the name of “purity”.
Another important encounter for the two women is Prince Merik of Nubrevna who is a Windwitch. Windwitches control air currents. Prince Merik has been sent on a diplomatic mission to Emperor Henrick, except he has problems with his temper. Not setting air on the Guild leaders he is meant to make trade agreements with is nigh to impossible. To make matters worse, he already knows that most Guild leaders have no interest in a trade agreement with Nubrevna. In fact, the opposite is more likely. Nubrevna is full of magic but empty of most other things that keep people alive.
Truthwitch is the first story in what looks to be a 4-novel & 1-novella series. Number two, Windwitch, has already been published. According to Goodreads the next stories are titled Sightwitch (novella), Bloodwitch, and untitled. The story is written in third person – my favorite POV and has been well edited. Considering the people Dennard works with, anything else seems impossible. Its musicality drew me in.
Plotwise, Truthwitch has been told many times – both in fantasy and in real life. War, peace, growing up, freedom, starvation, death, love and hunting others are all topics we have heard before. As is magic. But the refreshing thing is our main pair, Safi and Iseult. They are both amazing and annoying at the same time. Humour abounds between them. Their support of each other, even when blame could be placed on the other person, is not often seen in teen fantasy.
I’m not sure any of the characters are particularly likeable from the onset. But they are fun all the way through. Even when I think they ought to be drowned. But then drowning does not always help get rid of them. What seems inevitable is that a pairing off of at least two of them will happen. It would be nice if it didn’t, or at least if it did not happen in the usual YA-fantasy manner = love-triangle. Truthwitch is one of the better stories I have read.
The relative merits of my weapon of choice all became a little academic when my phone began to play the Mexican Hat Dance. I rummaged in my pocket, wishing I was better at technology so that I could change the ringtone or at least mute the damn thing. It’s hardly appropriate for a Specialist Funeral Director to have such a chirpy tune ringing out across a graveyard. I pulled the phone out and stabbed randomly at the buttons, trying to silence the thing. It was then I realized that in doing so, I had inadvertently stood up, revealing myself to the dead head.
“Hello?” Detective Inspector savage’s voice sounded incredibly loud. Somehow, I’d managed to put him on speakerphone. “Are you there, Coffin?”
The dead guy spun round. He looked fast for someone who had died a few weeks ago and just finished the impossible journey from six feet under the soil to the surface. He also looked like every one of the days of those weeks had taken its toll on him. His face was bloated and grey, the skin splitting around his forehead to reveal white bone and a lining of something creamy. He gave a low growl from his black lips which gave me a lovely view of his yellowed, uneven teeth.
“Hi, Savage, can I ring you back? It’s not a good time right now.”
Savage was one of those people who never took the hint. “It won’t take a minute, Coffin. We’ve had a report of an open grave in a place called Hampton Green…”
“I’m dealing with a lich, right now, Savage, I can’t really…” I didn’t finish the sentence. The dead guy launched himself forward and rammed his shoulder into my gut, grabbing me round the waist and forcing me backwards onto the ground. (ch. 1)
Blood, Bone and Coffin is a prequel to Demons. It is a novella about the Specialist Funeral Director whose job it is to lay the undead to rest. Sometimes the police give him work to do. Usually, they do not call him at such an inconvenient time as the one in the quote. Or perhaps Coffin learns how to silence his cell-phone.
What begins with the request to lay a zombie to rest, ends up being a search for the killer of residents at the Twilight Grove Nursing Home in Hampton Green, England.
BB&C is a fun little paranormal whodunit with odd people all over the place. Recommended.
I completely agree with the criticism of some of the reviewers of Obsidian Son. Much in the way of the Paranormal Romances I have read, Obsidian Son has a bizarre view of looks and what attracts people to each other. Instead of big cocks, there are big racks. The main character is shallow, obnoxious and has few redeeming qualities. In addition, there is a lack of research. Finally, there are grammatical problems.
In spite of all that, I had fun. Imagine what Shayne Silvers could have accomplished with a better team. So many of the authors I read, or try to read, claim their stories have had editors and beta-readers. As does Silvers. Hmmm. Who are these editors and beta-readers?
I still had fun. This is an urban fantasy interspersed with mythological and magical creatures. The main character has magic, is wealthy and is extremely attractive to the opposite gender. Some of that attraction is because of out-of-control magic. There are dragons. They are the best part of the story. Really fun dragons.
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.
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, given 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.
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 an excellent 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.
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. Upon arrival they cannot find Mr. Wainright. Instead, Miss Appelgate is kidnapped by Beuregard Clinton. Clinton shot the puppet-man and managed to hit one of the steam veins. Mr. Stiles, from the airship, fixes him. After that the puppet-man and Mr. Stiles set off to find and save Miss Appelgate from her kidnappers.
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, like a marching band on coke, line up to whack them in the face.
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.
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.
Zahara and Porter are left in the desert to die. Finances had fallen a long way from their steady income with Cross Continental Airship Line. Was all that was left for the two friends a slow and painful death in the desert?
In the world of Kochava Green, humans must be extremely careful around bodies of water or they risk the fate of those infected with Lepidoptera larvae. St. Lauritz All-Mother cloister is extremely lucky when a woman from San Lazare wishes to become a novice there. 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.
Revolutions seldom bring change, only new overlords. Z100 had been 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 she forgot is that all security protocols have weaknesses.
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 their owners generally do not see slaves or servants. Infiltrating a particular group of slaves is the only way our investigator, Sam, has to find out what Cicero Jensen and Secretary Patterson try to hide inside Jensen’s barn. During his investigations, Sam learns a bit about himself, his attitudes and how far people will go to keep a secret.
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.
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. A decision is made to bring the dock inside 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.
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 comes with them on the hunt. Saitoti cannot help but wonder why she is going with them and why she specifically asked for their group. He hopes it has nothing to do with his own background.
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 Clara’s 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.
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.
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 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.
Pritchard asked me to review her story about a potential future.
At some point in the future the huge division between rich and poor became the excuse revolutionists needed. As with all revolutions, all that had changed was who was in power. From the descriptions in the book we are in a fairly small Monarchy. Citizens are divided between seven sectors. The central one is the capitol city. The other six sectors produce what the population needs to survive, including members of the military. The military is made up of the oldest children of people in six of the sectors. Constance is one such youth. These youth are sent to the capitol the year they turn 16.
Once there, the group of teens first go through an induction week that is supposed to break them. After that, they are given whatever job society (Lex) thinks they qualify for. Once Constance has been inducted into the Brigadiers, she must follow orders (just as we would expect of any soldier). There is romance and all of the other relationships we often find in young adult stories.
Monarchy is not a finished product. It did have potential. With more editing and a couple of beta-reads it would have been fun. Basic stuff like getting “pallet”, “palette” and “palate” right.
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 of. 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, reaching for that choice, 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 spot. 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 things 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. In spite of being left with dog shit in her hair, facing her fears slowly becomes possible.
Dee has a strange treasure 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 appeared and disappeared right before his eyes. As it turns out, Dee’s heritage becomes essential to her survival. One day, a guy steals her collection and disappears into thin air. Dee desperately wants her things back but has no idea how to go about it.
Then, she sees a speaking glow bug that calls itself Nid. A deal is made. If Dee frees Nid, Nid promises that Dee will travel safely to the place where the box has gone and that Dee will make it back to her family, safe and sound.
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 define 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.
I really liked Stealer. Some of the foreshadowing is obvious and trendy. For instance, Dee and Hunter. If two people meet, and that meeting is hostile, it is almost written in stone that they become lovers. In addition, Yates throws in the required competitor for the main character’s affections. Dee follows in the tradition of a mystery parent giving their child great powers. Then something happens and those powers become immense. For the most part, Yates avoids overdoing it. Yates also writes Dee as a believably confused and surprised young woman in a confusing and surprising situation. Moving to new cultures is difficult. Language, traditions and presentation in Crescent are different to the ones of her own home-town somewhere in the US. Yates tells a story full of action and adventure with interesting characters, both main- and side-characters. I could identify with some of them. Crescent is a fun world with solutions I do not think I have seen before.
Satyr playing the aulos. Creusa Painter. ca. 400–390 BC.
Bacchanalia (Bakkheia) scene on sarcophagus (210-220)
Cover art by Alison Buck
Dionysus and Satyr by Karadin
I recommend reading The Janus Cycle before you continue with Dinnusos Rises. As the story moves along, we reconnect with the paranormal members of Sunset Haze: Patrick (violin+half-fey), Faye (flute+dream walker), Jack (acoustic guitar+half-fey), and Ellen/Jessica (voice+medium/ghost). Neal lets them practice in one of the club’s rooms in exchange for the occasional session downstairs. Their abilities draw people. We also reconnect with Tilly, Pandora and Frelia.Toward the end of The Janus Cycle, we read:
“… Janus was once this great place where nobody gave a fuck and you could just have fun, but then some bloody kids who don’t have a clue tried to steal your vibe.”…
“You just need to move on, he declared. “Look around you – this, what we have here tonight – isn’t it that feeling, that craziness you were looking for? You are Janus. Let those kids keep the empty shell. You can make a new one!” (The Janus Cycle, p. 217)
“… Victorian, with high ceilings and sash windows. It’s big, too. … If the main bar ever gets too rowdy and you fancy some quiet, there’s a whole labyrinth of rooms on the upper floors you can get lost in. One of the city’s old canal ways runs along the back of the building.” (Dinnusos, p. 14)
Neal and Tristan became a couple in The Janus Cycle. Dinnusos is owned by Neal. His partner painted magical murals, on most of the walls of the club, that appear to have prophetic value for some of the main characters. You can find Dinnusos in Yesterville:
“A place of urban decay and broken streetlamps. Vagrants and outcasts. Faded signposts and overgrown gardens. Thrifty means and humble dreams.” (Dinnusos, p. 14)
Tej Turner has used the same writing style he used in The Janus Cycle. There is an overarching story with chapters that get told from a different point of view, allowing us to catch up with the life of the individual and keeps the story going at the same time. Taxus Baccus (TB) is an environmental organization led by Jardair, Jack’s wuduwāsa father (Turner plays with the Greek and Roman pantheons throughout the story). Until TB arrived at Jack’s house (a squat), Jack and his pet squirrel, Nuttles, lived on their own. Their lives go from quiet to chaotic in a matter of hours. TB travels from town to town addressing, in their own way, environmental issues each town struggles with. Tej Turner uses Taxus Baccus to address the fragility of our supposed right to free speech and the right to live our lives as we wish.
“It seems to me that this country is run by sociopaths with gloating expressions and oily hair. They wander around Westminster with their leather briefcases, selling off public assets to their pals from boarding school and members of their extended family who have vested interests. All the while, class war is waged through an ever-encroaching succession of draconian legislations. They will not rest until they have rounded up everyone into the rat race because they, by fortune of birth, are the big cats. The the more rats there are, the more they have to dig their paws into.” (Dinnusos, p 62)
Dinnusos Rising contends that it we, the general populace, make such methods possible through our complacency and docility. The percentage of people who turn up for various elections certainly seem to support that contention. Westminster uses various media to pimp their message to the public
“… the news channels and tabloids were doing their utmost to demonise us. Footage and photos were being carefully selected, and it seemed their cameras only had spare film for the more outrageous members f the movements … They never told the public why were were doing the things we were doing. They made us seem like rebels without a cause.” … (Dinnusos, p. 72)
Through The National Conciliation Act (NCA), Westminster intends to cement the corporatocracy we see strengthening its hooks into various governments around the world.
“Later on we will be interviewing MP, Mr. Ben Fitzgerald, to see if he can shed any light upon rumours Westminster is considering bringing in new legislation which will grant authorities more power to dismantle anti-social behaviour.” (Dinnusos, p. 92)
The NCA bans political demonstrations and movements like Taxus Baccata. It would give Westminster the power to shut down any business charity or organisation which was perceived as having a “subversive agenda“. They could tighten restrictions on the internet. It would become illegal for employees to speak badly about the companies they work for and turn civil disobedience into a criminal – rather than civil – offence.
Pandora’s workplace, Fibertine Investment Bank (FIB), is a great example of a corporation that wants the NCA passed. FIB invests in corporations around the world and outwardly appear to be concerned about ethical corporation issues. They even have their own Ethical Practices Officer. However, when Pandora tries to bring ethical issues to the attention of her boss, Mr. Watts, he reminds her of FIB’s business motto:
“Business is blameless,” … there is no need to feel guilt, or worry about facing consequences. (Dinnusos, p. 92)
Corporatocracy is not the only topic Turner addresses. Friendship represented by Pandora and Frelia, Faye and Tilly, and Jack and Tilly is a complicated dance. Trust is betrayed, destructive and healthy decisions are made, and new beginnings are all part of the friendships in Dinnusos Rising. Turner also shows us individual experiences with self-harm, suicide ideation, drugs, abuse, sexuality, and gender. We see how falling in love may affect other relationships. Again, Tilly is the one who meets most of the challenges. She is also the youngest of our characters.
Dinnusos Rises is well-edited, well written, has fleshed out characters, and presents current issues in a package filled with action and adventure. Both Dinnusos Rises and The Janus Cycle are excellent contributions to discussions about the above topics. Dinnusos Rises has my whole-hearted recommendation.
Steel is an historical fantasy about a girl who is thrown into the past and who desperately wishes to return to what she did not appreciate until she thought it was lost. It is an action-filled coming-of-age story set in beautiful Bahamas on the Diana, captained by Marjorie Cooper. It is a story about choices, and how those choices define us. What Steel is NOT, is a swashbuckling romance.
A large wave surged under them then, sending the boat rocking steeply. Jill, the world-class athlete who’d never yet lost her balance in a fencing bout, fell. Stumbling back, she hit the side of the boat and went over. Grabbing uselessly for the edge, she rolled into the ocean. ….
Waves pitched her, her sunglasses were torn away, the water was cold, shocking after the tropical air. She couldn’t catch her breath – swallowed water instead. Flailing, she searched for up, groped for the surface – couldn’t find it. Her lungs were tightening. It had been sunny a moment ago – where was the sun?
Someone grabbed her. Hands twisted into her clothing and pulled her into the air. She clutched at her rescuers, gasped for air, heaving deep breaths that tasted of brine, slimy and salty. But she was out of the water. She was safe. She wasn’t going to die.
Many people talk about pirates as if they lived a romantic life. Many historical eras seem to leave people longing for them. But there was nothing to wish for in days that were usually all about survival. Marjorie Cooper is the Captain of the pirate ship Jill ends up on. Cooper and the rest of the crew quickly realize that Jill is completely clueless about everything that has to do with a pirate’s life. Suspicions about her being a spy for Edmund Blane (another pirate) are soon squashed by her ineptitude. Even fencing, a sport Jill thought she excelled at, was of a whole different caliber in the Bahamas in the late 1800’s.
Jill could only shake her head – no, she’d never fought for blood. Not real blood. Only ranks, medals, and maybe a college scholarship. She bowed her head, embarrassed, when tears fell. She wiped them away quickly. Her still-wet hair stuck to her cheeks. Salt water crusted her clothing. However much she wanted to sit down, pass out – or drop the rapier, which she wouldn’t have been able to raise again if Henry came at her in another attack – she remained standing before the captain, as straight as she could, which wasn’t very at moment.
“What’s your name, lass?”
“Jill. Jill Archer,” she said, her voice scratching. She only just noticed that she was thirsty.
“And, Jill, how do you come to be adrift in the wide sea so far from home?”
The tears almost broke then, and she took a moment to answer. “I don’t know.”
Slowly, Jill learns what it means to be a pirate and also what it means to be an adult. Basically, that meant work. The kind that left her little time and energy to plan, to regret or to think about her family. Wood had to be kept free of mold, sails had to be mended, ropes had to be spliced, the ship had to be emptied, barnacles removed and repeat. During a beaching of the Diana for barnacle removal, the ship’s prisorner, Doctor Emory, tried to signal his friends in the hope that they would see his signal and rescue him. Having signed their articles, Jill does not feel the same way. In part that is because of Marjorie Cooper, who wasn’t as bad as many of her crew. She rescued slaves but also looted the “enemy”. Battles were fought and magic rapier tips kept on appearing. During a large part of the story, the Diana chased Blane while Jill became more and more integrated into the crew.
Often, Jill found herself thinking that she should tell her siblings, Tom and Mandy about her experiences. She wonders if her family misses her. She regrets her moping, when, really, there was nothing to mope about. Slowly she goes from being an unaware, privileged, white, middle-class girl to learning some of life’s more difficult lessons. One is that very little in life can be taken for granted. A difficult lesson to learn is that when you feel helpless it is easier to follow orders you do not understand rather than to disobey. What happens when a point that seems like one of no return appears? What then? Jill learns what obsession looks like and how it brings danger to others. She learns about the dire consequences some choices have and how some of those consequences reach far into the future to bring a 16-year old girl into the past to right them.
I think A Cast of Stones fits the Harry Potter age range. Patrick W. Carr’s writing is technically excellent. The story is well-edited and the text flows from sentence to sentence. As far as plots go, A Cast of Stones is stereotypical epic fantasy and much of it reminds me of other stories. Readers should be able to tell how the trilogy will end after finishing A Cast of Stones. At times Carr fell for the temptation to moralize. In spite of this, I recommend it for readers who need clear HEROs. Errol is definitely that. He starts as one by being an orphan. However, the way we find him at the beginning of the story is atypical of the Heo story.
Cruk grunted and grimaced his imitation of a smile. “The boy’s got the right of it. He is pretty useless.”
Errol nodded with satisfaction. “See?” (p.103)
That uselessness is due, for the most part, to his alcoholism. A few years earlier, when he was 14 years old, Errol experienced something traumatic enough to drive him to drink. Being an orphan made it easier to go down that road. Because he is our HERO, we know he must find his way to a heroic personality.
In the village Errol grew up in, the leader of the boys, and the “chosen one” is Liam. He has most of the qualities that make up good leaders: Magnetic personality, is talented at everything he works to achieve, smart, tries to do what is right (but also what is kind) and lives as he preaches.
“We’re all the same,” Liam said. “I just concentrate and try really hard at everything. Anyone can do it if they just try hard enough.”
Errol stared. Did Liam really believe that?
“Now,” Liam said, “recite the vowels and consonants.”
He really did. (116)
In spite of his near-perfectness, Errol admires Liam. And so does every other person Liam meets. Paritcularly women. But Liam is not affected by this adoration and seems not to notice it. Errol and Liam are joined by Martin, Luis and Crux. All three have secrets they hide from the “boys” (19 years old) and pasts they need to pick up again. Martin and Luis are meddlers and Crux a protector. He is also a tough teacher for Errol who lacks most “civilized knowledge”.
‘Cruk’s eyes narrowed. “You’ll have to learn on the way. I’ll teach you. First lesson, don’t ever annoy your teacher.”‘ (p.82)
At times, the methods employed by meddling Martin and Luis are highly questionable. They, appear to believe that “the end justifies the means”. For churchmen and believers, they do not have much faith. In fact, that could probably be said of most of the church leaders we meet in this trilogy. Faith in their deity’s power is low.
The religion we learn about in A Cast of Stones is similar to the Roman-Catholic faith. Three-in-one godhead, celibate priesthood, rituals and hierarchies are close to identical to the RC church. Except for the magic bit that its Readers employ. Any magic but Reader-magic is forbidden and magic-users are usually killed. Rulers inherit their power but each ruler is invested with his (yes, his) powers. The old King has no heirs, which is why a new one must be found. Errol and Liam play an important role in picking the new ruler. No wonder people want to stop them.
One of the people who tries to hinder Errol from fulfilling his heroic destiny is Abbot Morin. He also believes that “the end justifies the means”. Some of his means carry a high price for both Errol and himself. However, everything that is thrown his way is meant to mould Errol into the Hero he most likely needs to become before the end of the trilogy. The trilogy is set up as a combination of serial and series. Certain threads are tied up while others remain tantalizingly open, much as most Hero trilogies do. I enjoyed it.