Book Review: The Brittle Riders by Bill McCormick

RGB Trilogy Color I Synopsis: In a far future, Earth had already been visited by an alien race called the Sominids, who came here for the express purpose of drinking and having sex with everyone they could. When one of their infamous parties resulted in the moon being cut in half, and killing everyone who happened to live there, they quietly left. Their encounter with the Sominids had taught the human race many things, primarily that faster than light travel did not exist. Denied the stars, the human race began to dwindle in numbers and terminate all of their space programs.

A thousand years after that, a scientist named Edward Q. Rohta circumvented anti-AI laws, laws which had been on the books for millennia, by creating organic creatures to provide manual labor. Instead of dying after ten years, as promised in the company brochure, they would develop flu-like symptoms and go into hiding. Eventually, fed up with the mistreatment they suffered at the hands of humans they rose up and killed every man, woman, and child on the planet.

This is the story of what happens next.

The Brittle Riders; Apocalypses are funny that way.

Review: The Brittle Riders (Book I) by Bill McCormick was an unexpected pleasure to read. While I love science fiction and fantasy, it took me a while to immerse myself in this new and creative world. This debut novel commences with a preamble establishing the atmosphere that caused the apocalyptic demise of humankind. We’re introduced to Edward Q. Rohta, who is a brilliantly arrogant geneticist (and avowed hedonist). Since the “Plato Wars,” the creation of artificial intelligence was forbidden. Howbeit, Rohta circumvented that law by developing organic hybrids designed to assist humans. The transgenic beings he created were categorized as pseudo-humans and granted no rights. Rohta continued his research, creating more mutated and intermixed species called gen-o-pods, selling them as international slave labor and sex slaves. After fifty prosperous years, a succubus visited Rohta, stating that her contemporaries had studied humanity and deemed humans unscrupulous and indecent creatures that were a blight on their world. War soon followed.

Once the humans were defeated, the gen-o-pods constructed new communities and rid themselves of anything that was reminiscent of their human creators. However, like in all societies, not everyone desired a world of peace. Instead, they launched a war of their own, enslaving other brands (species) they deemed inferior. Xhaknar and Yontar (super soldiers), devastated the new world, and decimated numerous brands.

So, what happens when a succubus, a wolfen, a badgebeth, a rangka, and a braarb walk into the haven bar for a meeting over a few flagons of skank? No, seriously, that’s what happens. What comes next is an intriguing tale regarding those fringe dwellers of the wasteland, and an unfathomable plan by “the dead one,” Geldish.

The Brittle Riders is a well-crafted and intricate tale about these unlikely ‘heroes’ on a quest to free Arreti (formally earth) from its new, tyrannical leader. Author McCormick interweaves the backgrounds and the histories of their brands into an engaging, multi-layered plot. It isn’t merely a good vs evil story. Both concepts are interspersed with gradations of each, creating a compelling tale that you won’t want to stop reading.

As an added benefit, there’s a meticulous accounting of all brand names and descriptions, as well as the new measurements of time, days, years, etc. I referred to it a few times, but after I was well into the story, I didn’t need it. However, it’s always a pleasure when an author includes such details for the readers’ benefit.

The Brittle Riders is full of multidimensional characters, great battles, and the complexities of seeking new allies amongst sectarian brands to benefit the whole of Arreti, whilst rectifying wrongs of the past. In some places, the prose appeared a tad stilted, but once the story unfolded, it flowed quite well. There’s also some adult content, but not overly so. It’s used to demonstrate the turpitude and maleficence of integral characters. Definitely a “Zanubi” of a story, well worth 4.5 stars.

“La’Kyee Shhak.” You’ll understand once you’ve read it.

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: Darkrise by M.L. Spencer

DarkRise Synopsis: Darien Lauchlin betrayed his allegiance to the Rhen when he sold his soul to the God of Chaos. Now the unthinkable has occurred: war between Malikar and the Rhen looms on the horizon. As Darien prepares to lead an invasion against his former homeland, he struggles to unite a diverse people who still view him as the enemy. Darien is forced to abandon his former loyalties and confront the tragedies of his past. With the help of Azár, he embarks on a series of trials that will forge him into the Battlemage his people desperately need him to be. But will the price of becoming a weapon be the last of his humanity?

Review: Darkrise by M. L. Spencer is the fourth book in this unique epic fantasy series (counting the prequel, Darkstorm). If you’re looking for a satisfying conclusion in this novel, you’ll have to wait until the next book (maybe). If you’re seeking an enthralling epic adventure comprising the fantastical elements you love, Darkrise is that and more.

Darkrise continues from where Darklands ended. Malikar and the Rhen teeter on the brink of war if a peaceful solution can’t be achieved. Darien Lauchlin, revered as a hero by some and an enemy to others, is entrenched within a battle not only between civilizations, but also within himself. Regardless of his moral conflicts and waning integrity, he’s determined to ascertain a peaceful solution and stand as a bridge between both worlds. Howbeit, his desires are incongruous to those of his new oath and master. Darien struggles with retaining his humanity, whilst striving to protect it. In doing so, numerous aspects of his life must change as he realizes that in order to attempt the impossible, he must surrender to the unthinkable.

It wouldn’t be a Rhenwars novel without the beloved, misunderstood, and flawed, Quin Reis. He’s continuing his efforts to aid Darien on a separate, perilous journey of discovery and strife. Even so, there’s some interesting facets of his personality that are brought forth along with more insight into who and what he is. Can a touch of humanity deliver him from the turbidity encompassing his soul? One can only hope. As one of the most intriguing characters in the series, Quin Reis never ceases to sacrifice himself for others and continuously advocates for causes that are beneficial to the whole. I do love that numerous so-called ‘demons’ in this series comprise more rectitude and ‘goodness’ than those proclaiming morality and righteousness. Furthermore, those purporting other cultures as savage, display the very barbarity they assign to their nemeses.

With a few darker undertones than the previous novels in the series (at least to me), Darkrise comes closer to having a grimdark edge. Conflicted characters, demons, hell-hounds, magic, torture and war, are all interwoven into a compelling tale that I didn’t want to end.

The one thing that perplexed me was the sudden aberrant behavior of an essential character. Throughout the series and especially in this novel, he remained unflinching and cold (as he should). Even after proclaiming his ‘blood-thirst’ and elation at decimating his enemies (or friends…he’s like that), it completely changed when the opportunity presented itself. It was contrary to everything that he is and previously demonstrated. Perhaps, this aspect was needed to augment another character’s purpose and significance. He certainly benefited from this reversal in characterization. I can’t wait to read the next novel and see.

Darkrise by M.L. Spencer is a captivating read with relatable characters that you’ll care about. The world is richly drawn, enhancing the epic experience. Definitely recommended.

Book Review: Where Shadows Fall by Tom Fallwell

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).

Chosen of Trees and of Talons by Jeff Pryor

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

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.

The Grey Mage by Aidan Hennessy

The Grey MageSynopsis: Before he was the Archmage, he was the Exile…

Driven from his home and made a slave, Aelzandar flees his captors in an unknown land. As the natives turn against him and threaten his life, he is saved by a mysterious cadre who dwell in the Tower of the Magi.

Welcomed into this brethren, he is introduced to their enigmatic master, the Grey Mage Cassian. In this place, Aelzandar feels at peace for the first time in decades.

Aelzandar’s tranquil new life is short-lived when a discovery in the tower destroys this utopian society and drives a wedge through Aelzandar’s new comrades. Deserted by his students and friends, Cassian looks to Aelzandar for help, but what can one slave do against the power of the divine?

Review: The Grey Mage by Aidan Hennessy pulls you in immediately with the pursuit of an escaped elf, Aelzandar, by his Qardleean slavers. Though a short read, The Grey Mage isn’t lacking in action, well-defined characters or interesting plot developments. It’s a novella you could read in one evening and want to read again.

After Aelzandar encounters two spellweavers, Donal and Pedr, he’s both grateful and bemused. He wasn’t accustomed to mere human barbarians being blessed with such abilities. However, he learns that their master, Cassian the Grey, sent them to liberate him and escort Aelzandar to his tower (which is an ancient ruin of Eldaran elves) where Cassian teaches his students the Art. During a cursory meeting with Cassian and his paramour Vanaja, Aelzandar agrees to remain as the “school’s” cook in exchange for his lodging. But when he’s invited to an excavation in the west wing, some extraordinary developments unfold that shape the remaining story and his future. A secret room, a powerful relic, and an ancient evil manipulate a few to conquer the many. A battle of good vs evil ensues and the victor isn’t necessarily predetermined.

With fast action, relatable characters, secret portals to a forbidden land, and magical battles, The Grey Mage by Aidan Hennessy is an enjoyable and engaging story. There weren’t any huge plot twists or surprises, but it didn’t need them. It was an intriguing read with a satisfying end. I’m looking forward to more.

Reviewed for Readers’ Favorite

Book Review: Bad Reception by S.C. Wright

51+eJclwuNL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_ Synopsis: Listening to your parents is hard work. As a teenager, you’re always right, of course, but to them everything you do comes up short. Kana is nearing the end of her teenage years and is already a young woman. With no career prospects, no goals in life, she just can’t seem to attain her family’s expectations. On her nineteenth birthday, an accident caused by her own shortcomings causes a domino effect of chaos turning her life from boring and mundane to terrifying and supernatural. Kidnapped by a vampire and her chauffeur, she ends up the hostage of a host of strange creatures: Chloe, a mild mannered Cajun vampire. Vincent, a Welsh werewolf with a penchant for piracy and a history of drug abuse. Gabriella, a Spanish immortal who cannot die, and her daughter, a shapeshifter. Will she finally find her way back home to her family? Or is family more than blood and kin?

Review: Bad Reception by S.C. Wright isn’t usually the type of fiction that I read. Albeit the synopsis was interesting: a vampire, a werewolf, an immortal, and a shapeshifter? Who wouldn’t raise a brow at that cast of characters?

S.C. Wright captured my interest in the first chapter. We meet Kana and her son Michael, on a train headed into the “unknown.” She’s having a rough time managing her son until she notices a gentleman in the car with her. After introducing herself to him (Theodore Schmidt), the tale truly begins. The circumstances for Kana being on this particular train are interesting, and that’s what greets us in the first chapter.

She begins telling Theodore (in exchange for something she wants) about why she is traveling alone in such a foreign place with a toddler. As is mentioned in the blurb, Kana is miserable at home. She feels unloved and unappreciated by her mother and sister. This goes to the extreme, but is indented to help you understand more of Kana’s reactions to certain situations.

An unfortunate accident on her 19th birthday sets a world-wind of events into motion. Her kidnapping by a vampire and an immortal is only the beginning. Meeting the werewolf and similarly fascinating characters propels this book forward. Each has their own backstory, and we learn more of why they respond to Kana in different ways.

It’s difficult to write this review without giving away any of the more intricate details. Suffice it to say, Kana ends up in a situation that she could’ve never dreamed of with a group of “people” only thought of as imaginary.

Parts of the story are a bit jumpy as well as some of the slang. Bad Reception is an interesting tale for young adult readers. I found myself laughing in a few areas and saddened in others. The cast of characters isn’t vast, but they’re fairly well-developed. However, I would’ve liked a more in-depth explanation or showing of certain characters unique abilities. That would’ve definitely made the story more enthralling. I would recommend this book for YA readers. There’s a bit of a language, but it isn’t overly used. The book needs some editing, but that did nothing to take away from my experience.

Book Review: Dragonblood Throne by Tom Fallwell

Dragon Blood
Synopsis: Orphaned as a young child and growing up alone in the forest, Delina lives a life of isolation; her only companion a saber-toothed panther. Her strange eyes frighten those she occasionaly encounters, so she keeps to herself, until a young, wounded warrior ends up at her doorstep. As she nurses him back to health, she discovers she is more than just a young woman with unusual eyes, she is a dragonblood, destined to become the ruler of Almar.

Now hunted by the dark sorcerer who murdered her father, usurped his throne, and killed all her kin, she must find out how she can release the essence of the dragon inside her to defeat him. Everything depends upon her willingness to embrace her legacy and reclaim the Dragon Throne.

Review: Dragonblood Throne Legacy by Tom Fallwell was a very enjoyable fantasy novel. Delina’s character was well-written as were her motivations for multiple decisions she made throughout the story.

After being isolated for most of her life, she struggles to trust a young warrior that she’d nursed back to health. Although she feels an attraction (beyond physical) to him, her dealings with others makes her extremely cautious. With an unknown past and mysterious eyes, she’s been labeled a witch, and lost most of her family due to the same. Her only companion is a saber toothed panther (Morlok) who has protected her since she was a child.

Once Merrick convinces Delina of impending dangers, she journeys with him and learns more about herself and her family. Not only is she a dragonblood, she’s the rightful ruler of Almar. Now, she must choose to embrace her heritage and become who/what she’s meant to be, or she can reject that heritage and succumb to the forces of Kargoth: the malefic usurper who murdered her father.

Dragonblood Throne Legacy is full of magic, fantastical creatures, and intrigue. There were a few places that caused my brow to raise, but the story as a whole is a good one. All of the expected fantasy elements are present with some new creatures called Malcoraths as well. Author Fallwell redefines what a dragon is, and entwines those aspects into a forward-moving plot.

Being a lover of characterization, I’m always searching for “why” a character displays certain behaviors. I never truly understood Kargoth’s motivations for his abominable acts, but that didn’t take away from my reading enjoyment.

Easily 4.5 stars and recommended for fantasy lovers: young and old.

Book Review: Casting in Stone by Morgan Smith

Synopsis: They said ill winds blew at her back. They said she was cursed, a hex, a jinx, a hissing in the dark. And it was true: everywhere she went, no matter what she did, misfortune seemed to follow in her wake. But that, of course, wasn’t the worst of it.

The evil that seemed to track Caoimhe throughout her life had caused so many tragedies. She fled her old life, trying to lose herself in anonymity , but the unholy circumstances of her birth, and the machinations of those who sought to use her existence to further their own schemes followed her still. Can she overcome a long-dead evil and finally be free?

This epic fantasy tale of medieval swords and sorcery will appeal to young adult and adult readers alike.

Review: Casting in Stone by Morgan Smith is an expertly crafted tale set in a wondrous mythical world. The protagonist piqued my interest and I was immediately plunged into a story that I couldn’t put down.

Casting in Stone is told from Caoimhe’s point of view and starts with a devastating tragedy and mystery. Each chapter is more intriguing than the last, weaving a stimulating tale: the mysteries of Caoimhe’s birth, childhood, benefactors, and a host of peoples spinning their webs of deceit and manipulation.

Most of the story takes place in Rhwyn. However, through flashbacks, we are introduced to different places, times and given greater pieces of the tragedies of Caoimhe’s life. Starting with the hatred of her parents and shunning of all those about her, save her grandfather.

The characters are well thought out and described. I found myself empathizing and rooting for Caoimhe. Though, she seemed an unlikely hero, she was also an inevitable one. Her past was devastating and cruel, and yet, she survived by repressing any emotion. In truth, she may have had the greatest emotion and loyalty, especially for her sister, Meryn.

The level of intrigue is mind-blowing with just the right amount of twists and surprises to keep you interested, not frustrated. I read this book in one sitting and started looking for book II as soon as I finished. Morgan Smith has written a fabulously engrossing tale filled with believable and fallible characters. There’s just the right amount of magical/spiritual elements as not to overshadow the story, but to enhance it.