Book Review: The Stone Doorway by Cassandra Scherer

51inPaZ5zIL
Synopsis: Step out of the mundane and into The Vale, where suddenly bullying, family issues, and homework seem trivial. Can the trio defeat the Calego and return, or will they too remain forever young, forever scared, forever seeking their way home?

Review: The Stone Doorway by Cassandra Scherer is an enjoyable, fast-paced YA fantasy. As we learn about the life of Tori McKenna, we are transported from a typical suburban life of a troubled teenager, into a fantastical world filled with both wonderment and anguish.

For Tori McKenna, life has become routine: a requisite for those who yet breathe, but aren’t necessarily alive. With her only comfort coming from her best friend, Allen, and the freedom she experiences running track, Tori feels more a spectator than a participant in her life. After an abusive relationship and numerous family conflicts, Tori hid within herself, until a boy named Dean rescued her from a dangerous situation. When he returns to enjoy a night of pizza, companionship, and stargazing, something happened that changed their perceptions, and their lives.

The Stone Doorway is a quaint tale, following Tori through a difficult time in her life and the struggle to reclaim, or, discover the true strength that lies within her. After a debilitating journey through a Portis, Tori and her friends must confront not only their inner demons, but the torment of physical and emotional ones as well. With Seth’s assistance, she realizes more about herself and possibilities for the future. Will she embrace what can be and forfeit what was, or lapse back into complacency and fear?

A short and fast-paced read, The Stone Doorway has likable characters, instant love attractions, shifting personalities, teenage angst, and some familiar creatures.  An enjoyable story for young fantasy fans.

Reviewed for Readers’ Favorite

Book Review: The Shades of Winter by Morgan Smith

51SaOio2sVL._UY250_
Synopsis:
An aging band of sea raiders set out on one last voyage of revenge, and get a whole lot more than they bargained for.
Tam Isliefsdottir wasn’t planning to end her life in a futile attempt for vengeance, but when your brothers- and sisters-in-arms need you, what can you do? Leaving her son and her granddaughter behind and sailing to the shadowy island of Alvandir, she expected to die gloriously for the sake of her country, her king, and her own reputation.
Nothing is as it is supposed to be, however, and it hasn’t been for the last twenty years. Tam and her Kyndred are in for the surprise of their lives.

Review: The Shades of Winter by Morgan Smith is an exceptional addition to the Averraine Cycle series, and demonstrates why Ms. Smith is one of my favorite fantasy authors. The characters are compelling, complemented by a unique world and inhabitants that entwine into a multilayered plot, entrenching you into a phenomenal story, where you experience every captivating facet with the characters.

The Shades of Winter begins during a late summer harvest in Dyrsholt. Although a necessary task, it’s also tedious: especially for aging sea raiders. This is explicitly so for Tam Isliefsdottir, who relates this fantastical tale from her point of view.

When a ship appears on the horizon, the harvesting halts, and the denizens arm themselves to defend against possible raiders. However, Tam was startled to learn that her Kyndred (brothers/sisters in arms) were sailing into port. After arranging a quick welcoming feast, they meet in the hall for not merely a celebration, but to deliver some astounding news about a raid on a shrine at Heilaegr.

Author Smith provides a fascinating history of the battles, fallen kings, lost comrades, and the state of the current world…and what, if anything, aging warriors can do to soothe old wounds and avenge fallen heroes.

In a world Tam considers made for the young and strong, at times, those more wizened, battle-seasoned, and yearning for past glories, make the most formidable heroines/heroes. With nothing to lose but their lives, Tam and her Kyndred embark on an expedition of vengeance, which escalates into life altering events, unexpected reunions, arcane magic, murder, manipulations, and buried truths resurrected by desperation…not desire.

Morgan Smith has exceptional insight into ancient cultures and ethos, whilst adding her distinctive elan. The detailed sea voyages, attitudes, characterization, and fighting techniques and armaments are impeccable. I appreciate the strong female characters that stood on their own, without the need to lessen the masculinity of the males. They stand on equal footing: in intellect, banter, and battle.

The Shades of Winter by Morgan Smith is an amazing journey with an engaging plot and extraordinary characters. Once the foundation is laid, you’re propelled into a magnificent tale where events and people aren’t necessarily what they appear to be. I can’t wait for the next novel to find out what new adventures are to be had.

 

Book Review: The Pellucid Effect by N.W. Moors

51dGbLZEDsL Synopsis: When the Cymrian refugee ship lands on the planet Manx, they find a peaceful people, the Manxi, already living there. The two different peoples live side by side for many annums, but the Cymrians are the only ones who gain powers from the pellucids in the Singing Caverns.

Mic is a Manxi who dreads the idea of his Cymrian friend, Anais, gaining such powers he will not receive. He worries it will cause a rupture in their budding relationship. Anais is convinced Mic will be the first Manxi to receive pellucids but is it just a vain hope?

Are the Singing Caverns sentient? Do they bestow powers when there is a need, and if so, will Mic and Anais use them to confront the enemy who invades Manx?

Review: The Pellucid Effect by N.W. Moors is an interesting fantasy with a touch of science fiction. It begins with a young Manxi hunter, Aaz, pursuing some prey for his impoverished family’s dinner. Most of his planet, Manx, is barren and the inhabitants lead primitive, but happy lives. When Aaz encounters a group of Cymrians that crash land on their planet, all of their lives and futures are irrevocably changed.

All of the Manx inhabitants have pale features and hair, whereas the Cymrians have golden complexions, dark brown eyes, and raven hair. Despite their outward and technological differences, the Manxi Elders and the Cymrian leader, Osiris, reach an amicable agreement to share both resources and the planet. Shortly after establishing this new agreement, Aaz leads Osiris to a cavern system under the mountains, bespeckled with glistening pellucid stones. Until that day, the stones were dormant. Howbeit, they enlivened when Osiris entered, humming and merging with their new Cymrian host.

Each Cymrian entered the cavern, merging with pellucid stones, granting them exceptional magical abilities. With these new powers, Manx began to flourish, establishing guilds for the magic users to discover and use these gifts to better the lives of all people.

The story continues a century later with two interesting new characters: Mic- a Manxi, and Anais- a Cymrian. They are best friends, but both have deeper feelings for the other. Mic is disheartened since they’re approaching a mandated assimilation ceremony in the ‘singing caverns’ that will dictate their futures depending on which pellucid stones merge with them. No Manxi has ever received a stone, and once Anais’ assimilation is complete, she’ll join her guild and Mic will be forced to accept an occupation designated for those deficient of magical abilities.

Though pervaded with foreboding, Mic completes his ritual regardless of what changes will inevitably impact his life. At times, our deepest desires can also lead to our greatest desolation.

The Pellucid Effect is an engaging tale with intriguing, likable characters. The improbable romance Mic and Anais attempt to forge is littered with trials, prejudices, despondency, and angst. The Manxi and Cymrian people never mated outside of their own species. Anais endeavors to change that.

I enjoyed The Pellucid Effect, and read it in one sitting. Although I felt the ending was a bit rushed, I wasn’t dissatisfied. There were some interesting and important characters introduced near the end that I wanted to know more about, and an antagonist that needed more screen time and development. A pleasure to read. 4.5 stars.

Book Review: Kurintor Nyusi by Aaron-Michael Hall

KN-Front-SEALSynopsis: As the gods battle in the heavens, darkness descends on earth.

The Keepers of Nine guide the primordial Kurintor warriors protecting the mortal world from the demons of Ashemohn. But after a god’s corruption empowered their demon goddess, Sokka, her manipulations have brought the Kurintor to the brink of extinction.

Can the Keepers of Nine awaken the Kurintor descendants in time to defend the Fifth Kingdom, or will the eidolons Sokka has sent forth destroy them?

It isn’t prophecy, destiny, or a birthright, that will decide the fate of the mortal world.
It is choice.

Review: Kurintor Nyusi is one of the most exciting and refreshing books I’ve read in a long time. The plot was not the usual fantasy fare, the world not like the usual worlds you find in the genre, and the characters…well, it was the characters that made this tale a pure pleasure to read. The author has created something very unique, and this is sure to be an award-winning story.

Through the eyes of these believable and well-portrayed characters, the reader is treated to a wonderfully enthralling experience, seeing the world through their eyes and coming to care for each and every one of them. We feel their emotions, share in their pains and joys. Even the antagonists. Nurisha, Xavion, Qaradan, Zuri, Alyelu and so many more. Yet, while there are plenty of characters, I did not feel overwhelmed at any time while reading this book.

This is fantasy as it was meant to be, not focused on creatures and landscapes, or even on the events, but on the people who live them, and we get to experience it all right along with them. I cannot say enough about how well-written this story is. This is an author all fantasy fans should keep their eyes on, and I highly recommend reading Kurintor Nyusi. I am anxiously awaiting the next book, and if this book is any indicator, the next will be magnificent! It deserves more than a mere 5 stars.

Book Review: Going Forth by Day by: Mary Woldering

51nU70ZsCEL._SY346_Synopsis: Marai, a former shepherd who discovered a fallen ‘star’ and was gifted with amazing abilities by the unearthly Children of Stone, has been separated from those he loves. Kept apart by forces seeking to control all of them, they must independently grow to understand their own powers while continuing their journey to wisdom. Will they be reunited? Will Marai rise up and begin to Go Forth By Day? Will those who care for him survive without his guidance and love?

Going Forth By Day, the second book in the Children of Stone series, is the story of Marai’s companions, Ariennu, Deka, and Naibe-Ellit. Through their involvement in the lives of the royalty of ancient Kemet, new alliances form, loyalties shift, and the comfortable lives of some are shaken to their core.

Blending history, ancient literature, mythology, classic archetypes, and personal inspiration, Woldering takes the reader on a speculative and emotional journey through the ancient world with detailed and thought-provoking characters whose stories weave themselves into the tapestry of history.

Review: Going Forth by Day by Mary Woldering is the second installment in the Children of Stone series. As with her debut novel (Voices in Crystal), Woldering delivers exceptional world-building and characterization. The intricate details and setting attest to not only the extensive research, but also Woldering’s delight in immersing her readers and herself into this world.

Going Forth by Day opens with Marai’s wives: Ariennu, Deka, and Naibe-Ellit, awaiting the return of their beloved husband. Mariai’s sojourn to commune and study under the Great Count Prince Hordjedtef is nearing its end, or so his elder wife, Ariennu, believed. With the Children of Stone’s silence, and recent turbid visions, the sister wives have grown trepidatious. That trepidation amplifies when the inspector priest, Prince Wserkaf, arrives at their home with a contingent of peacekeepers.

After receiving some perplexing instructions from her stone, Ariennu prepares her sister wives for a journey that will alter every aspect of their lives.

Going Forth by Day details the sister wives’ disparate lives after an inimical separation and numerous perilous circumstances. Ariennu contemplates their futures, and attempts to decipher the Children’s warnings, whilst maneuvering into positions to impede their enemies’ plans, thus reclaiming their lives. Howbeit, the power, position, and manipulations of their ‘captors’ isn’t so easily surmounted.

Rife with magic, compelling characters, betrayals, enigmatic prophecies, and awakenings, Going Forth by Day is a fascinating read, laying the foundation for the final novel, Opener of the Sky. I can’t wait to read the climactic end to this diverse and enthralling epic trilogy.

Book Review: Where Shadows Fall by Tom Fallwell

51fjR1JEIQL
Synopsis: When the Rangers discover that a deadly and horrific dragon of unspeakable power has been loosed upon their world, they must find a way to destroy the monster before the creature of shadows burns them all into oblivion. Complicating their efforts, the discovery of a secret and hidden dragon cult that worships the monster, and a conspiracy of dark forces from the realm of shadows, threatens to destroy the peace their world has known for centuries and bring war to the people of Hir.

Struggling to survive the deepest of betrayals, the Rangers face a dark and foreboding time, as the world of Hir changes dramatically around them.

Review: Where Shadows Fall by Tom Fallwell is the second installment in the Rangers of Laerean trilogy. Although I thoroughly enjoyed A Whisper in the Shadows (Book I), this one had more gravitas, originality, and a richer plot. Author Fallwell fully conceptualized the land of Hir, and introduced some interesting and relatable characters. Baric and the Rangers are back, and facing some inconceivable nemeses (Grom’shikar: Agents of Chaos).

Where Shadows Fall continues after the devastation in Book I. However, the great protectors of Hir (Rangers of Laerean) didn’t anticipate the repercussions wrought from past decisions or the corruption and betrayal that roiled beneath the surface of fallacious comradery and brotherhood. Once revered as men and women of integrity, the Rangers must defend themselves against the denizens they swore and oath to protect.

With some nice action sequences, a few surprising deaths, and new allies, Where Shadows Fall was a quick and engaging read. There weren’t many plot twists, but the storyline doesn’t need them. There was plenty of magic, new species, and dragons to keep any fantasy lover satisfied. I would have liked to have seen a few things: more problems solved by the characters rather than by the magic, a strategic and intelligent antagonist remaining that way, and a little more consistency with one main character. Those are not gripes, just observations from one reader.

If you love fantasy filled with magic, new species, battles, and dragons, you’ll enjoy this series. I’ve already purchased book III! (Grom Nar! You’ll understand once you read it).

The Outcast by Mukul Rana

outcast
Review: The Outcast by Mukul is a high fantasy that opens during an intermittent peace tethered by a brittle filament. That filament is shattered when the king of Britia beheaded a prophet conveying unfavorable news regarding his people’s future. After the prophet’s pronouncement, the king waged a war against his Viking enemies, ordering the deaths of every pregnant woman.

The Outcast by Mukul is an extremely fast-paced story with a plethora of mystical, fantastical, and historical elements. The author introduces characters quickly with images and short biographies inline with the text. With mysterious rangers, corrupt kings, deities, ents, shifters, dragons, and lore, there’s something for everyone in this action-packed tale. Some of the modern day vernacular was a bit jarring, but not enough to keep me from enjoying the story and these uncommon “heroes’” quest to discover more than they previously knew existed.

If you enjoy fast-paced adventure novels with a few recognizable characters and concepts, you’ll probably enjoy The Outcast. The ending will leave you wanting to know more.

Pigeon by Daniel Zadow

51SJBb1HvQL._SL442_
Synopsis: For Simon, the plaintive cries of desperation emanate out from him to find a semblance of who he was. In doing so, he calls to the depths within his mind and awakens psychological manifestations that help remind him of his past.

The pigeon visits him and begins to wake up the old Simon by removing the masks, which cover a past made up of something from another world.

On this journey, Simon uncovers all the secrets trailing back to where it all started in Germany.

Review: Pigeon by Daniel Zadow is a complex tale detailing Simon’s misanthropic existence and his esoteric ruminations regarding his life, and innumerable memories of past events that he’s compartmentalized within a layered mind pervaded with obfuscation and dubiety. Facets of his deliberate masking emerge after he’s visited by the spirit of a pigeon who crashed into his window and subsequently died. Through the pigeon, the masks Simon has meticulously incorporated over the years begin to dissipate, revealing versions of interconnected lives, secrets, and objectives. The pigeon, or spirit, edifies Simon’s mind whilst piquing his curiosity and assisting in alleviating the enigmas plaguing him. As Simon reflects on past events and lives, he’s introduced to the Intractable Energy Agency, and rediscovers knowledge that he already possessed, yet suppressed. Through this journey of rediscovery, Simon realizes why he is where he is, and his importance to this world and limitless others. After numerous immersions into past events, characters, and epochs, Simon traces his origins back to Schrödinger and his wave emitter that creates a link-up to the Many Worlds Portal.

Pigeon by Daniel Zadow is an intriguingly outré and multifarious glimpse into the life and mind of Simon Parsons. The stream of consciousness style of the narrative is captivating, propelling you through aspects of varying characters’ existences, spanning epochs, genders, and realms (both physical and metaphysical). Pigeon is definitely a well-written and intelligent narrative detailing events from Arosa, Switzerland, 1920 to New York, 2030. I found myself rereading most of this novel to ensure that I fully grasped the conceptualization that Zadow intended to convey. Pigeon is a compelling read that left me with a few questions regarding the veracities of the mind versus the fabrication inserted to mask or expunge undesirable realities.

Reviewed for Readers’ Favorite

Chosen of Trees and of Talons by Jeff Pryor

32877517
Synopsis: Hope is a fragile thread. Imprisoned for over four-hundred years, the Arneisian people tenuously held onto that thread. Generations were born and generations died. Sons were Chosen and given to the sorcerers who imposed the chains of slavery on their people, hoping the one foretold would Return to lead them from their prison. The thread of hope is tested as a new group of boys is Chosen. Their secrets will free the Arneisians or break that thread forever. The survival of a magical forest is in the hands of a young brother and sister. A father refuses to accept their destiny, and fights to protect them from the dark creatures who hunt them. A husband and wife only hope to reunite as he leads an army while she attempts to uncover spies for her king. Their futures, as well as the fate of kingdoms, hang in the balance as a boy fights to fulfill his destiny amid the gathering storms of war.

Review:  Chosen of Trees and of Talons by Jeff Pryor is an impassioned epic fantasy with a multi-layered, in-depth plot encompassing a complex world filled with intriguing characters, creatures, and magic.

Chosen of Trees and of Talons begins after a devastating war. Once the Arnesians were defeated, their king, Je’Hail Mulnaro, had to surrender his life along with his wife, and last Truthseer in exchange for his people’s survival. Although they’d foreseen that The Ones (their enemy) wouldn’t hold true to this agreement, it was the only chance to save his people. After insuring his children were hidden and safe, King Mulnaro prepared a journal and a few magical objects he hoped would aid his people in the future to free them from The Ones and the darkness they serve.

Chosen of Trees and of Talons by Jeff Pryor is an extremely detailed tale with a host of characters. The story is told from numerous points of view throughout the world. After the initial betrayal and the imprisonment of the Arnesians, we learn what The Ones’ plans for these once powerful people are. If they can find a prophesized child amongst the Arnesians, they can unleash the true darkness. In order to do this, they ‘choose’ young men each year from their prisoners that show a particular magical ability. Over the centuries of the Arnesians imprisonment, The Ones have bastardized history, filling the past with alternate facts where the Arnesians were evil aggressors and The ‘goodly’ Ones barely survived their genocidal attempts. Most Arnesians hate their ancestors for these evil acts and praise The Ones for allowing them to live, and giving them the opportunity to redeem their people.

Chosen of Trees and of Talons is far too complex with the different guilds, kingdoms, beasts, sentient forest, magic users, mythos, and betrayals to do it justice in a short review. It was an engrossing read with numerous interesting characters both ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ I’ll be looking for the next novel to see what’s become of some of my favorite characters and creatures alike.

Reviewed for Readers’ Favorite

Shiva XIV by Lyra Shanti

61h-cv5JM8L._SS300_
Synopsis: Prophecy rules, science rebels, and the fate of all depends on a boy named Ayn.

Predestined to become the great messiah of his people, Ayn must save his galaxy from disease and war. But when an unknown enemy threatens everyone he loves, the destiny he thought was his spins out of control.

A coming of age story amidst galactic turmoil, Shiva XIV has action, romance, mysticism, and magical creatures. Join Ayn and his friends as his journey to become a heroic legend unfolds!

*Adult themes, intended for mature teens and up.

Review: Shiva XIV by Lyra Shanti is an interesting mix of science fiction and fantasy that blends both genres without an overly complicated plot. This unique tale begins with the birth of Queen Amya’s son (Ayn) who is proclaimed by the High Priest of Deius as the Neya Bodanya. This is a messiah, of sorts, and the second coming of The Great Adin.

Immediate conflict arises from not only within the holy order ruling Deius, but also the factions against the religious aspects and implications of such a proclamation. Whereas Deius has been ruled by The Council of The Holy Dei, many of its denizens reject the council and prefer science to that of religion and prophecy.

Regardless of this opposition, Ayn is groomed as the Neya Bodanya, and sheltered within the confines of the temple. During this time, his interaction with his mother is minimal, while the High Priest, Meddhi-Lan, raises him as more of a son than a student.

The Uh-Ahm galaxy was in turmoil due to the draining of plasmic energy, which is their power supply. After the decimation of one world (Hun), many people turned to their spiritual leaders for guidance as others sought a scientific explanation, thusly fracturing the already brittle filament in which peace and cooperation had been tethered throughout the galaxy.

Ayn is extremely conflicted and apprehensive regarding his importance to the Un as a whole, and his ability to shoulder the responsibilities of his position. His dubiety and confusion is amplified by his inability to accept an abnormality from his birth.

After reaching his fourteenth year, a devastating event separates Ayn from not merely his home, but also his planet. The way this event takes place, had me re-reading a few sections to see if I’d missed anything. I hadn’t. The subsequent events introduce Ayn and his new companion, Zin, to a new world and the struggles that come with it.

Although this is science fantasy, most of the elements appear more a futuristic version of Earth. This is especially so once we experience Xen. With the pawnshops, trains, vending machines, lounges, hotels, etc, it’s like two teens escaping to New York in hopes of becoming stars. However, there are a few species mentioned, hover cars, and the like that keep you in the sci fi element.

Shiva XIV was an enjoyable read with a few interesting characters. Many questions and hints are woven into the plot to cause the reader to wonder what might happen next, and what some characters true relation might be.

Although I love male characters that can also be sensitive, there was quite a bit of crying and pouting. Some of it is understandable, given Ayn’s age, naivety, and inner struggles. However, it started losing its effectiveness when the tears were so prevalent.  In addition, the overuse of exclamation points was a bit jarring. It took a bit of getting used to, but didn’t take away from my reading experience. I’d like to see how Ayn’s story unfolds and where some of the treacheries, alliances, and instant love romances lead.