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Book Review – Twelve Kings in Sharakhai

This book took a long time for me to read, but it was absolutely not the book’s fault at all. When I first started to read Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu, I was sidelined by other obligations and just never had enough time to read more than a few pages of the book at once. I’m sorry, but I would have struggled to stay engaged with even the most suspenseful page-turner at that time.

Sharakhai cover

I put the book down on purpose once I realized that I really liked it, but my snail’s pace was hampering my enjoyment of the story. Once the rest of my life was organized again (as much as it ever is, really), I went back to give this book the time that I thought it deserved, and was not disappointed.

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai is the first book in a series titled The Song of the Shattered Sands, which is supposed to run to six books total. This fantasy novel is set in the desert city of Sharakhai and has a Middle Eastern or Arabic feel to the names, cultures, and details. The main character is Çeda, a pit fighter and courier for those customers who don’t want their business known. Sharakhai is ruled by twelve seemingly immortal Kings, and Çeda is determined to kill all of them because she blames them for the death of her mother when she was just a child.

It is a tall task for a pit fighter to go up against the mystical rulers of Sharakhai, and Çeda flounders trying to figure out how to avenge her mother. She has been left with only her mother’s book and the skills and knowledge of how to sneak to the fields of the adichara, deadly trees with forbidden blooms that grant the user a hypervigilant state.

The story opens on B’eht Ihman, the night on which the asirim (undead slaves of the Kings) search the city and claim several of its inhabitants. While this is a death sentence, it is also supposedly an honor to be chosen. It is forbidden to be out on the streets, a law which Çeda routinely flaunts. On that night, one of Çeda’s courier jobs goes wrong when her best friend, Emre, is nearly killed. She is also cornered by one of the asirim who wears a crown, whispers mysterious words to her, and plants a kiss upon her forehead.

There is more to the plot that Çeda’s desire for revenge, for the Kings of Sharakhai have numerous enemies, including neighboring states and a more organized ruthless rebel force, the Moonless Host. Their plot threads all begin to intertwine as Çeda is drawn into the secrets surrounding the Kings, solving riddles that are seemingly the keys to their demise.

The book begins by telling its story through mainly Çeda’s point-of-view, alternating the current day with flashbacks showing her time with her mother. These flashback scenes become more sparse once we have learned the necessary information, and other characters add to the narrative, including Emre, Ramahd (an emissary from another state), and even one of the Kings. This structure worked well for me, but as more characters are introduced, it did require some concentration to remember all of the political relationships between them.

I truly enjoyed Çeda’s tale and found her to be an enthralling and realistically drawn protagonist. Some of her secrets and foreshadowed events were obvious early on, but I believe that was an intentional decision by the author, as more of the excitement of the story comes in how she pulls off what she does. But this book also ends as one volume of a series should – with many unanswered questions. One aspect of the plot is wrapped up so there is still some satisfaction to be had, and it doesn’t end on a huge cliffhanger. The next book (With Blood Upon the Sand) is already available, and I plan to pick it up soon.

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Mini Book Reviews – October 2017

I haven’t had as much time as I would like to read and write reviews, so here’s just a quick attempt to summarize some of what I’ve read this past year:

Zero World by Jason M. Hough – part science fiction, part spy thriller, this book was a lot of fun. I particularly liked that I could never truly anticipate where the author was going with the plot. The twists were intriguing and the world set up by this novel holds a lot of potential for more. I can’t even describe it more without giving something away.

The Spirit Ring by Lois McMaster Bujold – a historical fantasy novel by one of my favorite authors. This story is set in Renaissance Italy and follows a young woman’s plight when she witnesses the murder of the local ruler. Using the bits of metal-magic that her father taught her, she has to rid the city of evil. I listened to this as an audiobook and enjoyed it, like most of Bujold’s work. However, it took me two tries to get through it, mostly because I was too busy to listen regularly.

Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals by Hal Herzog – I took a break from fiction to read this fascinating book about how people relate to animals in modern society. Even though I love the idea of non-fiction books, many are not written in a way that makes them easy to read. However, this book was engaging and allowed me to consider many new perspectives.

The Stand by Stephen King – It seems that this is considered one of King’s best works, but I did not enjoy it as much as some of his other books. I listened to this as an audiobook, and if I had read the physical book, I’m not sure that I would have made it through. I like the opening premise well enough: a deadly strain of flu escapes from a military research facility and kills most of the population. The spread of the flu and each character’s struggles as they deal with their friends and family dying, and the fall of most of civilization was a darkly fun read. However, most of the book then moves on to become a classic struggle of good versus evil with a lot of Christian mythologic overtones, which just isn’t very interesting to me. The antagonist is distant and never felt like enough of a threat, and the day-to-day activities of the characters dragged down the plot.

Codex Born (Magic Ex Libris #2) by Jim C. Hines – I started to read this series because I loved the concept of a class of magicians who could magically pull technology, monsters, swords, etc. from books. I listened to this as an audiobook and it went quickly. I found the narrator a little off-putting at first, but then grew used to him. The narrative sneaks in some backstory for one of the characters in small excerpts through the regular chapters. I couldn’t always follow the numerous rules about the magic, but the plot moved quickly and the characters are unique.

Here is what I’m currently reading:

Twelve Kings in Sharakai (The Song of the Shattered Sands #1) by Bradley P. Beaulieu – the first book in an epic fantasy series, set in a desert land with a well-developed mythos and world. I’m enjoying this one a lot so far, but I had to start from the beginning again when I had been too busy for several months.

Artemis by Andy Weir – I just snagged an ARC of this book by the author of The Martian at New York Comic-Con. It’s really good so far, and is the book I’ve been reaching for first this week.

Tongues of Serpents (Temeraire #6) by Naomi Novik – It’s been quite a while since I read any of this series, basically because there hadn’t been any more out yet at the time. It looks like Novik is up to nine books now, so I’m going to catch up. Dragons fight alongside human soldiers in the Napoleonic Wars. This volume sees our main character and his dragon sent to Australia after committing some treasonous acts in the previous volume.

How about you? Have you read any good books lately?

The Shannara Chronicles Recap – Episodes #1 and 2

So I’ve decided to write up a brief recap or review for season 2 of The Shannara Chronicles because: 1) it’s a fun show, 2) I read the books a long time ago, 3) I like to write things, and 4) I love Game of Thrones, but there are already plenty of sites that write about it (and really, there’s not much to cover for it between now and 2019).

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Photo courtesy of Spike TV.

Season 2 starts off quickly with the episodes Druid (#1) and Wraith (#2). The first episode shows us Eretria in the immediate aftermath of season 1 before jumping ahead to events a year later. We see that Eretria has found a new place in the world and a new lover, Lyria, yet she still wonders why Wil and Amberle never came looking for her.

Wil has also found a new life, training to be a healer with the gnomes. Trouble starts when a stranger comes seeking healing, but turns out to have other reasons for seeking out a Shannara.

By the end of the first episode, the show has already set up two antagonists. General Riga is an elf who believes that magic is too dangerous and wants to rid the world of magic-users. The other enemy is one of pure magic, as Bandon, corrupted by an evil sword, tries to resurrect the Warlock Lord, originally destroyed by Wil’s father in the book, The Sword of Shannara.

The action moves quickly as Eretria and Lyria are kidnapped by rovers, who are then interrupted by a bounty hunter, Garet Jax. Wil is pursued by Mord Wraiths, summoned by Bandon to seek out the Warlock Lord’s skull, necessary to bring him back. Interesting associations start to take shape as more is revealed about the new characters.

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Photo courtesy of Spike TV.

Lyria is revealed to be a princess, daughter of Queen Tamlin, ruler of the human kingdom of Leah, while Wil’s companion is Mareth, who can use some type of illusion magic and claims to be the daughter of Allanon. Where is that pesky druid, anyway? Well he’s been busy running back and forth to everyone trying to keep the world safe. He flees Skull Mountain to meet with King Ander before ending up back in Leah with most of the rest of the cast.

All together, the season is off to an intriguing start. The show is just as beautiful as season 1 was, both in the locales, special effects (I really like the fiery Mord Wraiths), and costumes. And like season 1, The Shannara Chronicles doesn’t shy away from killing off characters we like in season 2 either.

What were your favorites scenes so far? What do you think of the new characters? Let me know in the comments below!

Fan Movie Fun – The Hunt for Gollum

I caught the end of a television show about fan films a few nights ago. I did not realize that this was such a phenomenon, but apparently it is! The show discussed several films quickly, but I wanted to find out more. I’m a huge fan of the LotR books and films. I almost ran off to New Zealand when they were being filmed. So of course I had to check out this fan film: The Hunt of Gollum.

hunt-for-gollum-poster

The production value in this movie is amazing, especially when compared to the official films. While the plot may be confusing to anyone not familiar with LotR, the actors are well cast to look like those from Peter Jackson’s version. The voices are spot-on, especially Gollum. Even the music manages to echo that of the trilogy without quite copying its themes. At only 40 minutes in length, it’s worth a look for any fan of Tolkien and the film versions of LotR.

Check out the trailer and then the short film over at youtube.

 

I have some random links for everyone today!

 

Here is an article on tor.com discussing the recent 2015 Eisner awards and how comics are becoming more diverse in many ways.

I have several book reviews that went up over on Book Spot Central in the last few months. In case you missed them over there, they are:

Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress

ApocalyptiGirl: An Aria for the End Times (graphic novel) by Andrew MacLean

Shattering the Ley by Joshua Palmatier

Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb

Link

Looking for a Few Reviewers

Is anyone out there interested in becoming a book reviewer? I’m looking for a handful of new reviewers over at Book Spot Central for genre novels. The site covers mainly fantasy and science fiction, but books with some mystery or romance elements are fine. You can also review graphic novels.

Benefits include the ability to get a Net Galley account where you can find e-book advance review copies of the latest books. If you may be interested, fill out the form below explaining why you want to write book reviews and a link to anything similar that you’ve written (or paste it into the other box if it isn’t available online).

Ken Liu Giveaway at Fantasy Scroll Mag

Hey, my friends over at Fantasy Scroll Mag are having a giveaway for Ken Liu’s first novel, The Grace of Kings. One prize is a signed copy of the book!

Other prizes in the giveaway package include a two-year subscription to the magazine and the Year One anthology e-book. It’s easy to enter, and you can make multiple entries. Check it out here:

Fantasy Scroll Mag Giveaway!

New Fantasy Short Fiction

I have a new short story that just came out at the end of October! It takes place in one of my favorite settings, the City in the Tower. A mysterious Master rules over the population while an ancient battle rages in the snow fields outside. Seretia is a windsinger, a practice forbidden in the City, but one that is valuable to the Master. When faced with a crippling decision, she has no alternative but to seek out the truth behind the Master’s war.

Find Winter Into Spring in the October 2014 issue of Outposts of Beyond from Alban Lake Publishing.

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Book Review – Magic Teacher’s Son

Magic Teacher’s Son
Book 1 of The Magician’s Gold Series
By David Harten Watson
Pen-L Publishing 2014

In the debut novel by David Harten Watson, we are introduced to the land of Eldor, a place that contains both familiar and fresh elements of the fantastic. The magic worked by the characters is a creative invention, with just enough rules and structure to prevent a free-for-all of spell-slinging. White magic must be powered by either silver or gold, with spells of longer duration or greater power requiring gold. In opposition to this, sorcery uses bones, blood, or the death of a living creature to fuel its effects.

MagicTeachersSonFrontCover-200Pran is the magic teacher’s son of the title, studying in a one-room schoolhouse outside the village of White River Junction. The novel opens as Pran sneaks out of his home to participate in a Circle of Sorcery, at which neighborhood hooligans gather to practice illicit black magic. Accompanied by his friends, Pran watches Sekar, the leader of the circle, as the teen summons a fire nymph for demonstration. Despite the allure, Pran avoids performing any sorcery himself and manages to escape the ridicule of the older boys.

Pran’s home realm of Eldor is at war with Marakna, a place where sorcery is commonplace. While his older brother is a Magician in the Eldorean Army, the conflict itself has little effect on Pran’s day-to-day life. However, after a chance encounter with a traveling Truthseeker, Pran learns that a terrifying prophecy has just come to light. Within a week, all of Eldor’s gold will vanish, leaving the country powerless to defend itself against the Maraknese sorcerers and possible invasion. Pran has been designated to lead a quest to return some amount of gold to Eldor by traveling with three others to the legendary realm of Earth. As with most prophecies, there are hints and riddles, but not enough guidelines to make the quest a comfortable process.

The first volume of this series follows Pran’s quest to discover his companions and find his way to Earth. David Harten Watson describes this world with prose that is straight-forward, while capturing a true feel for the interplay between teenage characters. The military structure of the magical army was an outstanding touch that allowed the battle scenes to unfold with clarity. Pran is a likeable hero, and this book was a joy to read. It’s about overcoming challenges, friendship and trust, making choices, and protecting your home. Magic Teachers’ Son is a solid introduction to the world that the author has crafted, and I’ll be looking for the next book in this marvelous series.

This Sounds Cool!

Here’s another one. I really like the artwork on the cover and the blurb sounds intriguing.

Stolen by K.A. Krisko. $3.99 from Smashwords.com
There are strange beings in the woods, and young Rioletta Eris has seen them. Many doubt her story, but Rioletta eventually realizes she has opened the door to a secret history. For a century, the Councils have relied on their charter to save them from the disaster that ruined their cities. Have they been on the wrong path all along?

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