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Monday, November 25, 2013

Indie Review - The Belgrave Daughter

This week for my Indie Review, I have the privilege in participating in a "Blog Tour" for a new young author's debut novel.  Zara Hoffman's book, The Belgrave Daughter is releasing today and Ms. Hoffman has asked a number of blogs to participate and review her book throughout the week.  The entire list of blogs discussing her book are here.  There is even a raffle for free copies of the book, here.

Zara is a 16 year old author I recently met on Twitter.  She gave me a copy of the eBook for an honest review as a part of her blog tour.  You can find the novel on Amazon.

The Septemgeminus Prophecy states: "A powerful sorceress with blood laced in gold sevenfold shall determine the fate of the world."

Fawn Belgrave's magical powers are the coveted prize in a bet between God and the Devil.

When she meets Caleb, the dark angel assigned to seduce her, Fawn's life is turned upside down.

In order to do a fair review, I must first be honest and say I am not the target audience for this book.  The book is a young adult fantasy romance with witches, angels, and demons about a college age woman.  As a mid-thirties father of three and fan of high fantasy and science fiction, this book is not one I would normally pick up and read.

As I've said in the past, my reviews are here to encourage independent authors and to connect them with potential readers.  Ms. Hoffman's debut work is worthy of such a review.

I was most impressed with the emotion expressed throughout the novel.  Fawn Belgrave experiences a series of ups and downs throughout the book, and the author does a wonderful job of conveying believable emotion throughout the novel.  She wrestles with love and lust, trust and betrayal, loneliness, etc. and I could empathize with her feelings and reactions throughout.

Ms. Hoffman often jumps between the thoughts of several different characters throughout the story, and the effect can be jarring at times.  Several times, we read the inner thoughts and feelings of Fawn and then Caleb in the matter of a couple of paragraphs.  It can be difficult to follow along, and I would suggest Ms. Hoffman try and maintain a single point of view for each scene in order to help clarify the flow of the story for the reader.

I found Ms. Hoffman's descriptions of magic, heaven, hell, and supernatural beings fascinating.  She has created a universe full of intricate rules and details, and I felt she stayed consistent throughout.  But, as a new reader to this world (and this genre in general), I found myself wanting more explanation.  I would have appreciated a little more time spent building up the world early in the story.

When I started reading The Belgrave Daughter, I was worried I would not be able to finish the book.  It is a genre of story that I do not seek out, and it deals with characters and situations that at first do not resonate with a reader like me.  That said, as I continued reading, I needed to see where the story would go.  I found myself fascinated by the characters, and quickly read through the book's 156 pages.

I commend Ms. Hoffman for finishing an endeavor of this nature at such a young age.  I am impressed that she is willing to tackle very difficult subjects, like spirituality, betrayal, forgiveness, love, and even depression.  I believe Ms. Hoffman should continue writing, as I am certain she will only improve her craft as she continues. 

The Belgrave Daughter is a romantic young adult modern day fantasy.  I recommend it to anyone who enjoys these types of stories and is looking for a quick read from a growing young author.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Indie Review - Call of the Herald

Call Of The Herald, is the first in the Godsland series of young adult fantasy novels by Brian Rathbone.  You can find Brian's books at  Several, including Call Of The Herald, are available as eBooks for free.  I downloaded this book free from Brian's site, as I recently met him on Twitter and appreciate his tweets throughout the day.

Echoes of the ancients' power are distant memories, tattered and faded by the passage of eons, but that is about to change. A new dawn has arrived. Latent abilities, harbored in mankind's deepest fibers, wait to be unleashed. Ancient evils awaken, and old fears ignite the fires of war. When a Catrin Volker, a teenage horse trainer, inadvertently fulfills the prophecy of the destroyer, she becomes the most feared and hunted person on all of Godsland. With the help of her friends, she must convince the world that she wants only peace.

Mr. Rathbone has done a wonderful job of creating a world and letting us know about it progressively as each chapter of the story unfolds.  Catrin's homeland is separated from the wars and troubles of the rest of the world, but that quickly changes when the great Zjhon empire determines the prophesy of their destruction can be undone by attacking Catrin's home and killing the coming "Herald."

I was very impressed with the amount of detail Mr. Rathbone used to describe the rural community Catrin lives in.  It is obvious that the author understands this lifestyle (his website hints that he grew up with a farming background), and his love for horses particularly shines through.  That said, this detail also slowed the story at times, and Mr. Rathbone occasionally used farming, boating, and horse training language that I was unfamiliar with, as I'm much more a city boy.

I was equally impressed with the author's description of magic in the book.  Magic is a foreign and rare thing for the people of the Godsland, and so magic is described from Catrin's view as she becomes aware of it around her.  The true source of the magic (nature, divine, etc.) is kept hidden through much of the book and I expect its secrets will continue to come out as the story unfolds in the rest of the series.  I enjoyed this approach, as it kept me interested, and it made magic feel like an integral part of the story.

The book starts slowly, as Catrin's life is simple and slow paced.  It took me a while to come to care for her and her friends, but as the pace of the story picked up I found myself riveted and had no trouble flying through the last half of the book.

The book is written in third person, but primarily from Catrin's point of view.  I found myself a little confused at times, as the book jumped to random characters' points of view from time to time in order to explain a parallel part of the story.  I had no context for several of these characters, and I wonder if Mr. Rathbone will bring us back to them in the future.

I enjoyed Catrin's story, and look forward to reading the rest of the series.  While the book does not end on a cliff hanger, it is obvious there is a lot more story to tell.  Lots is left unfinished and many questions are unanswered.  I am excited to read the rest and find out what happens.

Call Of The Herald is a strong opening to what looks to be a fun, magical, epic adventure for adults and young adults.  I recommend this book to anyone looking for a fantasy novel with a detailed, fleshed out world and the time to read what I expect is a compelling series.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Upcoming Posts

Happy Monday to you.  Here are a few updates on what's been on the site recently and what's to come over the next few weeks as we head into the holidays.


Last week I posted the fourth review of an indie pub'd book here at  I hope my reviews help you find books from independent authors that you can connect with and enjoy.  Have you read any of these books?  I would love feedback on my reviews, both positive and negative. 

Over the next three weeks, I have three more books that I will review.  I am currently working through reading them.

  1. First up is Brian Rathbone's Call of the Herald - The first book in his Drawing of Power trilogy.  Brian has many of his books available for free through his site, and so I grabbed the first book to review.  You can see many of his books here.
  2. Next, I am reading Zara Hoffman's debut novel, The Belgrave Daughter.  I am actually participating in something I haven't seen before: a "Blog Tour."  The week of November 25th, leading up to the release of The Belgrave Daughter, Zara has partnered with Grape Vine Book Tours to feature reviews of her new book across several blogs (2-3 each day that week).  I think this is an interesting opportunity, and I look forward to participating.  My review will post on that Monday.  You can see more about Zara's book tour here.
  3. Finally, I am going to read and review an independently published book that is not fiction.  I follow Rayne Hall on Twitter and try and converse with her when I can, as she has been writing for many years and really understand twitter.  Along with fantasy fiction, Ms. Hall also writes books about writing.  I'm going to read her book Writing About Magic and review it on the site on December 2nd. 

Short Stories / Ryndaria

Over the last six Fridays, I posted six "flash fiction" short stories.  A few months ago, I would never have believed I would get that much done.  I plan to continue posting one story a week through the end of the year.  This Friday, I hope to have part three of my series of stories about Kundit the dwarf and the city of Faubersil.  I think this will take four to six stories total to tell the entire tale. 

After that, I would like to come back to some characters I wrote about previously.  To do so, I want to take a poll.  You'll notice a poll on the right side of the site.  This lists the various characters I've written about so far. 

I will run the poll for two weeks.  After the poll closes, I will write a story about whichever character gets the most votes. 

You might notice more than six characters listed on the right.  I wrote a few stories in the past (before I learned the "flash fiction" approach) to go along with some miniatures I painted.  If you liked those characters, vote for them. 
Here is a list of the characters in the poll, and a link to stories about them:
  1. Shadow (Shadow's Lament)
  2. Aelar & Aelar Jr. (The Trouble with Junior)
  3. "King" Cedric (Treason)
  4. Helick Stonecleaver and the white Dragon (Giants and Dragons and Orcs, Oh My!)
  5. Kundit Fauberhand (Obsession and Voices In The Dark)
  6. Charis the Halfling (Halfling Sleuth)
  7. Kurssix the Lich (Godslayer)
  8. Dhenir the elf (Truce Forged)
Please leave comments and questions below about the poll and any of its characters.

Thanks, as always, for reading.  Come back Friday for another story!


Friday, November 8, 2013

Flash Fiction - Voices In The Dark

Welcome to another Flash Fiction Friday post.  I said last week's story was the first part of a much larger story.  This week, I couldn't leave Kundit, Sendar, and Tanas alone, so I wrote part two of the story.

If you missed last week, I suggest you read it first - here.

On Monday, I'll talk more about painting and other generic thoughts.  I have three books on deck to review, and I plan to review all three  in consecutive weeks starting two Mondays from now.  I'll talk more about that next week.

Enjoy!  Remember, please leave a comment.  If you want to chat more, you can find me on Twitter or Like me on Facebook with the links on the right hand side of the site.

Voices In The Dark

Kundit's prey was close. The dwarf wizard tracked the fleeing human to a series of old tunnels.

Instead of heading toward the surface world, as expected, the cunning illusionist delved deeper into the mountain. Kundit spent a significant number of coins on scrying rituals to track Tanas down.

Kundit's spells led him below the city of Faubersil. He recognized the dwarf carved halls. Decades earlier, he dwarves driven mad by an ancient, evil dragon in these very tunnels.

“You shouldn't have come.”

The voice echoed from the tunnels ahead of the dwarf.

“I don't want to hurt you,” the voice whispered, this time directly behind Kundit. He spun around and drew his wand from his belt.

“Like you hurt my brother?” the dwarf said into the hall. He turned back around and crept deeper into the old tunnels.

“I gave him what he wanted!” The voice grew in pitch and echoed all around. “He gets to be with his beloved, dead wife, forever.”

Kundit forced himself to ignore the illusionist and continue his search.

“You need to stop.” Kundit recognized desperation in the voice. “You can't find us. He'll make me kill you.”

The dwarf tried to hide his surprise at the mention of another, but he stutter-stepped and stumbled.

“Tricks won't save you this time, Tanas.” Kundit straightened up and pressed on through the winding corridor. His wand glowed then faded as he cast a spell to see through Tanas' illusions.

“Leave,” the voice whispered from behind.

“Me,” from up ahead.

“Alone!” Tanas' yell echoed all around Kundit.

“You're coming back with me, Tanas.” Kundit steadied himself, trying to sound calm. “I need your help to cure Sendar.”

Kundit could sense the mad mage was close. The illusionist's ventriloquist trick grew more erratic the further in Kundit moved. He had Tanas cornered.

Kundit wanted to hurt his brother's tormenter, but he knew only Tanas could lift the curse that left Sendar in a permanent hallucination.

“Don't make me kill him!” The yell echoed from further ahead, no longer a magical trick. Kundit held his wand out, ready to counter anything Tanas cast.

“You don't have to kill anyone.”

The dwarf came to a corner and peaked around. Tanas stood in the middle of a large empty room, probably the abandoned entry of an old dwarven keep.

“Don't come any closer!” Tanas pointed a small wand toward Kundit with one shaking hand. In the other, he held a sword up and back near his head. “Don't make me kill him.”

Kundit barely heard the last sentence as Tanas mumbled to himself. The dwarf stepped out from cover, wand up.

“You're not going to kill anyone Tanas.” He walked toward the distracted human. “Come back with me and we can save Sendar. He doesn't have to die.”

Tanas looked up, eyes wide. Sweat ran down his face. His hands trembled, and his head twitched as if he tried to hear something.

“I won't kill him!” he cried as he plunged his red-hued blade into his own chest.

“No!” Kundit rushed to the dying human.

As the dwarf approached, Tanas lay in a growing pool of blood. Kundit sobbed, realizing the one who could save his brother was dead.

Then, Kundit noticed the sword.

He recognized the pommel of the weapon, formed from the same purple dragon's scale his brother stole.

He pulled the magnificent blade from the dead man's body and held it up, not noticing that no blood stuck to the reddish-silver metal.

The sword was the key. Kundit understood the sword held the secrets to solving all his problems.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Indie Review - James & The Dragon

James & The Dragon, by Theresa Snyder, is a children's fantasy novel, available on Amazon (here).  I met Ms. Snyder on Twitter, and she is a delight to converse with online.  She gifted a copy of James & The Dragon to me for an honest review.

What would you do if you were adopted by a dragon? When ten-year-old orphan James nearly drowns in a bog, he finds himself rescued by Farloft, a centuries old dragon with a glittering collection of treasures and an even richer collection of stories. But, dragons and boys are not meant to live together – or are they? When Laval – a wizard harboring a secret hatred for Farloft finds out about James, he sees his chance for revenge.

Theresa Snyder's tale of a dragon and two very different humans pulled me in from the start.  She has created a powerful, character-driven story.  These three characters are easy to understand and relate too, yet complex enough that they don't come across as caricatures. 

Farloft the dragon especially steals the show.  The ancient, thoughtful, and caring dragon lives a self-imposed exile, bitter toward and separated from humans, but his true feelings and nature come out as he gets to know James.

The world Ms. Snyder created is harsh and cold.  Though the kingdom itself comes across a bit bland at times, this actually serves the story.  Ms. Snyder contrasts this present darkness with fantastic stories of the world's past, as told by Farloft.  Tales of magic, war, and powerful wondrous items setup what I expect will be further intrigue in future books of the series.

Ms. Snyder markets her book on Twitter as geared toward nine to eleven year old boys.  This is fitting, as James, an orphan in a plagued land, is about ten years old in the story.  I gave James & The Dragon to my own nine year old son to read, as I think he will really enjoy it.  I expect this will be a series we can share together.

Ms. Snyder's writing is clear and concise, and easy to read.  The book is well edited and the story and plot flow without any hiccups.  I am confident my nine year old will fly through the book's 60 pages in short order.  I look forward to his reaction to this tale.

The first book of The Farloft Chronicles grabbed me and would not let go.  The story builds up to a fitting climax and satisfying ending.  Ms. Snyder has done a wonderful job creating a world I look forward to going back to. 

James & The Dragon is a great story for young boys.  I found myself taken back to the innocence of my own youth, when dragons were terrifying and yet awe inspiring.  I highly recommend this story to anyone looking for a fun, magical tale.  This is a story any dragon-loving reader should pick up!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Flash Fiction - Obsession

Welcome back!

This week, I experimented with my story writing.  Most of my stories are "scenes" that describe the action in close detail.  I tried to pull back a bit when writing this story.  I wanted it to come across as a tale of history.

Sendar's story takes place back in Ryndaria's history.  I expect this to be the first in a series of stories to tell the story of Faubersil and the ancient dwarves and their magic. 

As always, I would love feedback.  How does the story flow?  Do you have any major questions?  I hope it leaves you wanting to know what happens next!

I included a couple pictures of my latest miniature painting work as well.  This is Kundit, the dwarf wizard and a lizardman.  I think these are two of my best paint jobs yet!  I hope you enjoy them.

Thanks for reading.  Next Monday, I should have my review of Theresa Snyder's James & The Dragon ready!


Long ago, Sendar Fauberhand, a dwarf of the ancient dwarven city Faubersil, grieved the loss of his wife Cora. A terrible disease afflicted the dwarf while she was still young and before the couple had any children.

To dull his suffering, Sendar hired Tanas, a powerful human illusionist, who lived in the city under the mountain. In those days, the greatest wizards of Ryndaria were dwarves of Faubersil, and spell casters from all over the world lived and studied magic in the city.

Tanas cast spells of enchantment on Sendar, allowing the dwarf to believe his wife lived again. Sendar would see his wife alive and well. He spent his time with this false reality, but these illusions lasted only a short time. Sendar spent his modest wealth reliving the fantasy, until no money remained.

Sendar's need for the illusion overwhelmed the poor dwarf. He ate little and ignored friends and relatives. His every thought was of seeing his wife again.

As the days went by, Sendar would scrounge up enough coins for a short visit with the illusion. Each time his desperation grew as reality flooded back.

The cycle repeated for weeks until Tanas refused to continue. “I hate seeing you do this to yourself,” he told the dwarf.

The illusionist offered an alternative. With the right components, he could create a magic wand that would summon the illusion of Sendar's wife for a short time each day.

Sendar focused his time on gathering what items he could for the wizard until only one element remained.

The final ingredient for the wand was the scale of a purple dragon. The unmatched intellect of purple dragons allows them to control the minds of others. They are skilled enchanters and illusionists, and their scales store a portion of that power.

Sendar knew he could not buy such a rare scale nor find a dragon, but he felt blessed by fate. He knew who had such a scale and how to get it.

Sendar's older brother, Kundit, kept a dragon scale in his study where he taught magic at one of the city's prestigious universities. Decades earlier, Kundit, a well known and esteemed wizard, coordinated a raid to defeat such an ancient dragon.

The creature burrowed close to Faubersil and tormented and corrupted the minds of many citizens. The battle with the dragon, and its charmed minions, cost many lives, but the dwarves defeated the beast.

Sendar went to his brother, asking for help with his obsession. He apologized, telling Kundit he wanted to move on with his life and reconcile with the family. Sendar deceived his brother and stole the scale.

Before Kundit recognized his brother's deception, Sendar delivered the scale to Tanas. The human completed the ritual, but instead of a wand, as he promised, Tanas forged an enchanted sword. The human wizard used the power of the blade on Sendar and fled the city.

Kundit found Sendar near death and babbling his wife's name. Though the younger dwarf healed of his physical wounds, he remained cursed by the evil blade, lost in an hallucination of his wife.