Category Archives: Reviews

The Queen’s Blade by T.C. Southwell

The Queen’s Blade was a quick, light, well-written read.  Taking place in a fantasy world it’s the story of two kingdoms caught in an ancient and on-going war.  One side (home of lush, fertile farmlands and valleys) has a queen, the other (a desert kingdom) has a king.

In order to end the war Queen Minna-Satu calls forth an assassin to kill the king and capture his heir.  While there are three main characters (Blade, Minna and the Prince) there is no forced love-triangle.  It’s well written, entertaining and had several points in its favor.

The first:  The world was presented with no tedious explanation.  No lengthy chapters detailing how everything came to be; instead, it just jumped right on in and let the reader get to the good parts.  The story.

Second:  The idea of animal familiars, while a little simplistic, was interesting enough that  I actually wanted some back story.  Everyone had one, everyone had a trait (the man with the boar familiar was big and stocky; the man with the fox familiar was said to be sharp featured and clever, etc;).

Third:  It was well-written and while reading it I had the sense that the author actually knew what they were doing.  Southwell had a backstory in mind that was hinted at and shaped the story without boring the reader with exposition.  The characters didn’t act like mindless puppets in a romance novel.  (Boy sees girl, loves her despite everything, gives in to every demand, etc;)  No swooning, only a little mooning.

All in all it was worth the downloading.  However, I’m not sure I was caught enough to want to spend $30 on buying the rest in the series, and another $8 on the two prequels.

I’d recommend it for fantasy fans who want a light take on familiar tropes.  However, be warned that while there are no explicit scenes (one fight scene and a handful of assassinations) there are adult subject matters dealt with in this book that deal with children, violence and mentions of abuse.  It’s never gone into in detail, but some people might be put off by it.

The Queen’s Blade is book one of an eight book series; none of the other seven books are free.  Her website can be found at:  T.C. Southwell Fantasy

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The Congregation by Aric Mitchell

The Congregation was a hard book to get involved in.  In essence, it’s about monsters, single mothers, Cain and Abel and … killing?  Despite the title, the book had very little to do with religion, though the location did take place in a building that was briefly referred to as a church.

The basic plot involves a character who kidnaps and kills women, then turns their bodies into giant monster zombie-things that shamble around trying to kill other people.  In the middle of this we have a pair of brothers and their sister, a single mother, her child, and a cop (raised by a single mother).  While there are other people randomly thrown into the mix, they have little purpose.

In fact, this whole book felt very disjointed to me, like it was trying to be two or three different books at the same time, but not one of the three was developed enough to give the book a direction.  For a horror book it left me confused as to where the horror came from or what it was doing.

The characters we were introduced to were tissue-paper thin stereotypes … sort of.  The single mother was … a single mother.  The cop was a guy.  The two brothers were two guys.  Their sister was … there.  To be honest, that’s pretty much my review of the book.

It was there.

I don’t recommend it, I won’t keep it on my kindle, and I have the feeling that, given a week, I won’t even remember it.

The author has no other published works.  He can be found at Twitter as aricmitchell.

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UnEnchanted by Chanda Hahn

UnEnchanted is a YA novel and is one of the better written attempts to cash in on the Twilight craze.  Throw in a bit of Grimm (the TV series), faeries, fairy tales gone wrong and you have a mildly entertaining book.

The basic plot isn’t that complicated:  Our heroine Mina Grime – with the tried and true Bella Swan personality of clumsy! and unpopular! – discovers she’s the descendant of the Brothers Grimm who were tricked by ancient fairies to fill a magic book (a Grimoire, of course) with captured stories.

But the stories aren’t your typical fairy tales.  They’re been shifted, adapted and turned into modern re-tellings, some of which are actually clever.  In the first book we see Hansel and Gretel as well as Red Riding Hood.  Chandra’s clever twist in the Red Riding Hood story caught me rather nicely by surprise!

However, there are flaws with this book.  The main character is a better done Bella, but it’s still a wincingly obvious un-character who has flashes of being her own, interesting and flawed person … only to be shoved back into being Bellamina Grimm.

I enjoyed this light little YA romp enough to buy the sequel, Fairest which takes on Cinderella in a cleverly twisty fashion.  UnEnchanted is worth the read and worth the price.

The author has three published books, two in the UnEnchanted series, with a fourth coming out soon.  Her website is:  Chandra Hahn: Books

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Dragonchaser by Tim Stretton

Dragonchaser is a fantasy novel with mermaids, magic, slaves and political intrigue set in a pseudo-roman/greek time period.  The book starts when the main character, Mirko, rescues a mermaid.  So far, so good; standard heroic set up …

But wait!

He’s a bouncer at a brothel, exiled from his homeland for reasons unknown, and works as a spy and – eventually – a galley master on a boat crewed by slaves and owned by a conniving, unpleasant, would-be Peremptor of the city.  So, not so much a standard hero novel.

In this city of Paladria politics are almost as much won though popular opinion as coin and scheming, and one way of winning the favor of the crowd is for a politician’s ship to win a series of races against other ships.  Throw in a love interest or two, and a handsome rival, and you’ve got the makings of what could be an interesting story.

However, I never really felt all that attached to Mirko – or any of the characters, really.  The villains were mortal, human and petty (which is refreshing; a cartoonish villain can do more to ruin a story than any insipidity on the hero’s part) and the story moved along at a good, steady pace.  I just never felt drawn in.

To me it felt like I was reading the second draft of a book, one where you could see the potential in the story and how, with a little effort, it could turn into something fun.  I enjoyed the way Stretton brought magic into the story and how nicely all the pieces were lined up.  Nothing felt forced, plot-wise, and nothing felt fake.  It just felt a little … unfinished.

Because everything was so neatly planned out it seemed as though Mirko had little more to do than go where he was told to go, see what he was told to see, do what he was told to do, and then to move on to the next page.  I never got the sense of urgency from any of the characters, or the sense that the events of the story were bigger than they were.

But even with that, it was a solid read and well-written.  While I would have wanted more from the story, I wasn’t left feeling cheated or like I’d wasted my time.  For a free book it was well worth the price, though it’s not one I’ll be keeping on my kindle.

It does not appear as though a sequel is in the works, though the other has two other books available at Amazon for purchase and several short stories up at his web page.

Author’s Website:     Acquired Taste

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