Chosen of Trees and of Talons by Jeff Pryor

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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

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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: Diary of a Dead Man by David Listzwan

Dead Man
Synopsis: What would happen if you woke up one day and you couldn’t remember anything at all? Even worse then that, some people are telling you that you are dead. Daron knows not only how that feels, but also what it’s like to be told you held the fate of all life. No one likes to be told they are the Chosen One.

Follow Daron through a magical quest and learn why God created life and death in the first place. Be there with him as he stops Gods children (the Angels and Dragons) from destroying everything out of the name of jealousy. Learn the inevitable fate of mankind.

Review: What happens when a Chosen One awakens in a “heaven” consisting of realms created and controlled by emotion and besieged by god’s disgruntled son? Diary of a Dead Man by David Listzwan opens with this narrative and introduces us to Daron the DragonSlayer: a dreamer soul awakening in chaos, disguised as paradise.

Diary of a Dead Man is a unique glimpse into a world created and abandoned by god. Upon Daron’s awakening, he’s greeted by two spirits (Jim and Brent) who provide him with an identity and a mission. After receiving a crash course in the rules and abilities of the realms, Daron learns that the reason for his “rebirth” is to slay Lucifer. As difficult as that sounds, his journey to find Lucifer is compounded by manipulation, sacrifice, and subsisting within multiple realms that can fade his soul while corrupting his mind.

Nothing is as it truly appears as he travels the realms and meets the spirits controlling them. After slaying a dragon and receiving a mystical sword and shield, Daron trains in a protected realm overseen by Peter, the guardian of the gate to the Realm of Life. Albeit, the year he spent training with Jim and Peter, allowed some significant changes to occur in the connected realms. Lucifer’s army is growing and Daron must find a way to unite the guardian spirits to prevent Lucifer from destroying all life. Once Daron visits the spirit realms: fear, contempt, lust, guilt, curiosity, etc, the imminent war begins.

Diary of a Dead Man is a different perspective of God, heaven, the angels, and creation itself. David Listzwan constantly challenges what/who is considered “good” and “bad” by reconstructing the beginning of time and God’s role in it. He also uses Daron as a savior of sorts. I was reminded of aspects of the movies Dogma and The Matrix III in numerous instances. It was a unique read with many imaginative concepts. 

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: Amber and the Hidden City by Milton Davis

Amber and the Hidden City
Synopsis: Thirteen year old Amber Robinson’s life is full of changes. Her parents are sending her to a private school away from her friends, and high school looms before her. But little does she know that her biggest change awaits in a mysterious city hidden from the world for a thousand years. Why? Amber’s grandmother is a princess from this magical kingdom of Marai. She’s been summoned home to use her special abilities to select the new king but she no longer has the gift, and her daughter was never trained for the task. That leave only one person with the ability to save the city: Amber! But there are those who are determined that Amber never reaches Marai and they will do anything to stop her. Prepare yourself for an exciting adventure that spans from the Atlanta suburbs to the grasslands of Mali. It’s a story of a girl who discovers her hidden abilities and heritage in a way that surprises and entertains.

Review (Adolescent Reviewer): Amber and the Hidden City by Milton Davis is amazing. I loved this book and recommend it to younger readers who enjoy fantasy. The story isn’t only engrossing; I was thrilled to see characters who look like me doing remarkable things.

Amber (the main character) is a young girl with special powers who journeys to the magical African city of Marai. She faces all types of unexpected and thrilling twists and turns along the way.

My favorite character was Aisha, because she can transform. I loved that. Corliss and Bissau were great as well, just not as much as Aisha.

Amber and the Hidden City is a great book and a fast read. I finished it in one night. However, I should’ve been sleeping and my mom wasn’t too happy about that.

I’ve recommended it to my friends and hoping for another book soon.

Book Review: Casting in Stone by Morgan Smith

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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.

Book Review: Pawns -The Wielders of Arantha by Patrick Hodges

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The Synopsis: Seven hundred years in the future, the Jegg – a powerful alien race – invade Earth, wiping out half of the Terran Confederation.

In a hidden base under the Sahara Desert, a team of scientists works to mount a resistance against the invaders. Their plan is to fit an Earth ship with Jegg folding-space technology, and travel to the other side of the galaxy to find a mysterious energy source… one that could help them defeat the Jegg.

But just before departure, catastrophe strikes. Only two of the crew survive and make it to their destination: the team leader’s wife Maeve, and her teenage son Davin. What they find on the distant planet will forever change both the future of their family and their planet, as they enter a race against time… and against impossible odds.

The Review: Wielders of Arantha is a series that I plan to follow very closely. Book #1, Pawns, is one of the best books I’ve read in the past few years. It was an engaging and exciting read, and I enjoyed it immensely. The author knows how to pull the reader in with truly wonderful characters that come alive and grab your attention. This is the author’s strongest achievement, characters that I, as a reader, actually cared about.

The action is done extremely well. Not too much, not too little. It is intermixed with the story progression in a very balanced way, and when the action appears, it carries a well-written air of excitement and anticipation for what happens next. In fact, the entire story pulls the reader along for a magnificent and thrilling ride. I found it difficult to put down, and if I did, I was anticipating picking it back up again to read more.

All in all, this is a really great book, full of all the things that make reading fun. A perfect blend of science and fantastical elements that puts it squarely in the Science-Fantasy genre. I very much look forward to more of this series. The author has a fan, and I’m happy to say I’ve found a new favorite. If you love sci-fi, fantasy, or both, this is a book I believe you will enjoy tremendously.

Book Review: The Olympium of Bacchus 12 by William Speir

William Speir
Synopsis: The year is 2614 – 206 years after Earth was destroyed in a natural cataclysm and the United Earth Planets Confederation (UEPC) became humanity’s new home. Spread across cluster of 8 star systems, the 22 inhabited planets of the UEPC thrived and were at peace for more than 200 years… until they came. In an unprovoked attack, alien invaders wipe out the UEPC’s battle fleet and all major cities on 21 planets. Hidden between two great nebulas on the edge of UEPC space, only Bacchus 12 is spared from destruction. The population of Bacchus 12, along with the survivors rescued from the other UEPC planets, must work together to defend humanity and deny the aliens the prize that they desire most – the mineral Olympium, which exists on Bacchus 12.

Review:  The Olympium of Bacchus 12 by William Speir is an engrossing SciFi tale set two-hundred years after the destruction of Earth. The new UEPC-United Earth Planet Confederation explored and eventually colonized twenty-two planets in numerous star systems. During the colonization, the humans alleviated sports and arts careers, focusing mainly on occupations deemed productive and supportive to their new worlds and mythos. This new system appeared to be functioning flawlessly until a devastating attack caused the UEPC to not only rethink some of their accepted practices, but also unite to defend the surviving population from an unknown enemy.

The Olympium of Bacchus 12 by William Speir is an enthralling novel with well-drawn characters. From the Administrator, Rick Douglas, to the director of the Advanced Weapons Division, Allan O’Connor, the cast is believable with great character growth throughout. One of my favorite examples of that was with Bret and Cindy, the Administrator’s children. Whereas they were a tad frustrating in the beginning, they grew into much more by the end.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the realization that even with the advancements they had made when developing this new structure, they had to adopt many past practices from Earth. The obstinacy and ruthlessness of some characters added to the controversy and suspense of the novel, keeping me turning pages.

With amazing space battles, an intriguing plot, and interesting dialogue, The Olympium of Bacchus 12 by William Speir was a pleasurable and refreshing read. I will be looking for more from this fantastic author.

 

Reviewed for Readers’ Favorite

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