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Fantasy Book Critic

Updated: 2017-11-22T13:33:34.213-05:00


Interview with Craig Schaefer [Part II] (Interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author WebsiteRead Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Long Way Down Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The White Gold Score Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Redemption Song Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Living End Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of A Plain-Dealing VillainRead Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Killing Floor BluesRead Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Castle DoctrineRead Fantasy Book Critic's review of Winter's Reach Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Instruments Of Control Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Harmony BlackRead Fantasy Book Critic's review of Red Knight FallingRead Fantasy Book Critic's review of Glass PredatorRead Fantasy Book Critic's review of Double Or NothingRead Fantasy Book Critic's review of Cold SpectrumRead Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Craig SchaeferRead Fantasy Book Critic's Harmony Black Series Interview with Craig SchaeferRead Double Or Nothing Cover Reveal Mini-Interview with Craig SchaeferRead Part I of Fantasy Book Critic's In-depth Interview with Craig SchaeferContinuing on from yesterday, here's part II of our grand interview with Craig. Herein he talks about the various intricacies of his series, author branding, Tarantino comparisons and more...Q] All your series have complex female characters. Be they be a protagonist (Harmony, Jennifer) antagonist (Navarasi, Nessa) or even a conflicted character (Caitlin, Hedy, Livia), they are fascinating nonetheless? What’s your thought process in writing such wonderfully complex, yet lethal women? CS: I would say that it’s the same process I undergo for creating male characters – give them motivation, desires, fears, an inner life – but there’s a little more to it than that. Female representation is really important to me. I exert that worldview into my books by making sure female characters are the driving force they deserve to be, just like in the real world. They can be heroes, villains...sometimes just figuring out their place in life, like people do. They’ve gotta be real people. My bottom line is, until fleshed-out and complex female characters are considered the absolute baseline expectation for any writer – just like male characters are now – there’s still a lot of work to be done. It should be so common that nobody even notices. Q] Even though your series embraces a number of urban fantasy tropes, you also have made a rather strong effort to twist reader expectations and keep them entertained. What are your thoughts on these tropes in general and how did you decide what tropes you wanted to utilize and which you didn’t? CS: Here’s where I make people mad at me, if I haven’t already: I don’t actually like urban fantasy all that much, as a genre. There are some urban fantasy authors doing fantastic work out there and I’m proud to call several of them friends of mine, but the vast majority of the field leaves me cold. I haven’t even read most of the Dresden Files (though I have huge respect for Jim Butcher as an author, which is why I gave him that tiny shout-out in the fourth Faust novel. Couldn’t take my lead character to Chicago and not tip my hat…) What excites me as a writer is the potential that comes from mingling genres – and, well, when I mingle fantasy and anything in the modern world, that makes me an urban fantasy writer. The early entries in the Faust series are the most traditionally-UF-ish of my books, because I was finding my voice and confidence (I still am, but I’m a little closer now) and I felt like I “had” to adhere to certain tropes for the books to sell; for instance, making Faust a detective-ish character – something I enjoyed poking fun at in The White Gold Score – rather than the occult gangster he was intended to be and has finally blossomed into. At the same time, because I didn’t want to get lost in the shuffle, I set a ground rule that still exists today: no vampires, no werewolves, no fairies. I largely wanted to avoid the classic “kitchen sink” urban-fantas[...]

Interview with Craig Schaefer [Part I] (Interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author WebsiteRead Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Long Way Down Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The White Gold Score Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Redemption Song Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Living End Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of A Plain-Dealing VillainRead Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Killing Floor BluesRead Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Castle DoctrineRead Fantasy Book Critic's review of Winter's Reach Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Instruments Of Control Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Harmony BlackRead Fantasy Book Critic's review of Red Knight FallingRead Fantasy Book Critic's review of Glass PredatorRead Fantasy Book Critic's review of Double Or NothingRead Fantasy Book Critic's review of Cold SpectrumRead Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Craig SchaeferRead Fantasy Book Critic's Harmony Black Series Interview with Craig SchaeferRead Double Or Nothing Cover Reveal Mini-Interview with Craig SchaeferCraig Schaefer is an author whose books I’m besotted with entirely. It’s rare for me to enjoy somebody’s works to such an extent and it’s fair to say that Craig Schaefer has joined a select few authors in my mind whose books I will read without any hesitation. I’ve always wanted to ask Craig some very specific questions about his books and the characters within as well as his plans for the future.He was very kind to answer all of them and since there were so many. I’ll be splitting them into two parts. So without any further ado, enjoy part I…Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic Craig. In your previous interview you spoke about how and when you decided to turn yourself into a wordsmith. Can you talk to us about your childhood & early adult life? What were your some of your hobbies? CS: Childhood? Shitty. I was a nerd in the 80s, before it was cool to be a nerd. It’s kind of amazing now, with so many “geek” pastimes blown up and gone mainstream; our biggest movies are based on comic books, Vin Diesel talks fondly about playing Dungeons and Dragons, video games are as popular as TV really is a different world. It’s hard to remember that there was a time when computer games were a weird and arcane hobby, comics were considered the domain of pimple-faced basement-dwellers, and D&D was a gateway to Satanism. (This is also why I have zero patience for modern-day geeks who want to dangle from a cross and pretend to be social outcasts. No, you aren’t. No. You aren’t. All this stuff we love is cool now. Be happy about it, damnit.) Like most writers, reading was an early and voracious hobby. I more or less lived in the local library; it was my safe harbor, and the gateway to a hundred worlds. When I discovered role-playing games, I latched onto those as well; they were an early creative outlet, and weeks spent lovingly detailing my campaign worlds were an early taste of the joys of writing. Q] I had read that from the age of four was when you realized that you wanted to become a writer. What was the delay in you finally realizing your wish? CS: Partially, getting my life together. My mental illness (obsessive-compulsive disorder and mild depression) went undiagnosed through my childhood and young-adult life. It wasn’t until I moved out on my own and grew a little that I was able to figure out that something was wrong with my head, and that I needed to do something about it. It always feels awkward, talking about that. But that’s why I talk about it. Because I know – because some have told me so – that a number of my readers are grappling with mental illness as well. And despite the ongoing social stigma, there’s nothing to be ashamed about that, any more than one would be ashamed of diabetes or a broken leg. So I need to be open about it in the hopes that other people feel safe to be open about it, and that’s how we collectively make that stigma go into the trashbin of history where it belongs. From there it was just…life. Working payche[...]

The Fifth SPFBO Semifinalist Update (By Mihir Wanchoo)


So far we have had four semifinalists and each book has been of a different kind. It seems that this time around, we at Fantasy Book Critic have an abundance of richness in the variety of titles, genres and quality. As we are getting through our lot, we are down to the last fifteen titles and it’s becoming tougher & tougher to sort through the titles.As with our previous lots I’ve tried to read at least five chapters or 20% of the book (whichever was longer). However with this lot, all of the books were so much fun that I read through all of them. So here are my concise thoughts on each of them: Where The Waters Turn Black by Benedict Patrick – This is the second standalone volume in the Yarnsworld series and it is a wonderfully heartwarming story. The plot has a very folksy charm to it and the main character was one of the most engaging ones I’ve read about recently. All in all, this volume made me a big fan of Benedict Patrick and the unique world he has weaved.The Arbiter by M.M. Perry – The Arbiter was an interestingly dark story and the way the author streamlined that darkness was fun to read. I got a strong Terry Brooks vibe in the way the author set up the story and the characters as well. This story touches upon racism & slavery in a very quick way and while this seems to be a standalone story, I wish the author writes more in this milieu.The Half-Killed by Quenby Olson – The Half-Killed is and interesting historical story with strong supernatural undertones. This story was an excellent surprise and I have to point out how much I enjoyed Quenby Olson's  characterization and plot. This book was one of those books that I didn't want to complete because of how much I was enjoying the story.The Waterfall Traveler by S.J. Lem – The Waterfall Traveler is an interesting title that combined YA fantasy and engaging characters. I liked this title because of it's main character Ri and in spite of its YA nature (as I'm not a big YA fan). However the plot pace was a bit slow in places and the ending thankfully made up for it (while it was predictable, it was still a lot of fun to read).Windsworn by Derek A. Siddoway – Windsworn was an intriguing book that focuses on Gryphons and I liked that aspect. This book reminded me a lot of Eragon  (but better written) with regards to the training & bonding aspects between the main character & her gryphon. The gryphons in the story aren't at the same level as those featured in The Black Gryphon by Mercedes Lackey but since this is the first volume of the trilogy, I could overlook that. This book was so enjoyable that I wanted to read more in this trilogy because of how the author utilized the tropes and how enjoyable the story was. In this lot, four books really struck my eye and it was a tough call between The Arbiter, The Half-Killed, Windsworn & WTWTB and ultimately I had to go with the book which was the most unique in this lot because of its unusual world setting and charming characters. So without any further adieu our fifth semifinalist is Where The Waters Turn Black by Benedict Patrick. My commiserations to all the other four authors. This was a tough call and I want to give a special shoutout to Quenby Olson & Derek Siddoway. Their books deserve a wider readership and I would love to review their future books on our blog.[...]

COVER REVEAL: Black Cross by J. P. Ashman


I'm much obliged to J. P Ashman for giving us this opportunity to host the cover reveal for the revised edition of his debut BLACK CROSS. Here's what Jon had to say about how this book cover came to be:"The new cover for Black Cross came about due to the unfortunate cessation of contact between my previous artist and I. The original cover did what I wanted it to and it'll always hold a special place in my writing career. However, after a seriously tough year for me personally, a good friend of mine (Taya Latham) encouraged me - persistently for six weeks - to let her run a crowd funding campaign to snag a new cover artist. I'd fallen away from my writing and my muse was dead. I needed an injection of confidence and enthusiasm and she was sure this would work. i was skeptical, but agreed.""She was right, I was wrong.""It worked a charm! A feckin' powerful charm!""Taya, along with many friends from the awesome online fantasy community - you all know who you are and I love you all - banded together and financially and emotionally supported me in my search for a new series artist. I had three in mind... and one of those contacted me before I could contact her! Win!""Pen Astridge, artist to authors such as Mark Lawrence and Graham Austin-King, enthusiastically approached me and offered her services. I snapped her hand off. Not her drawing hand that would be stupid.""With an incredible level of energy and interest, Pen dived into the new cover of Black Cross, knowing through discussions with me that I desired a character based cover like so many beautiful pieces out there at the moment. She worked and showed me, altered bits and bobs and impressed me. She came up with stunning ideas and projected her and my imagination onto the new cover of my debut novel. Sergeant Falchion came alive!""Pen also came up with a gorgeous Black Powder Wars series logo, with crossed cannons and gnomish grenados. Her fonts are stunning and the colours make the cover pop. She's over the moon and threw her all into it. I'm equally as happy, if not more so. We hope you are too!""Now comes the cover for Black Guild, the second book in the tales of the Black Powder Wars, which releases soon - ARCs are already out and about!""I look forward to seeing this cover in print - the hardback dust cover is incredible - and I look forward to seeing reader photos in the future, both of Black Cross and the books and covers to come! Thanks to Mihir and Fantasy Book Critic for this cover revelation, and to the awesomeness that is Pen Astride, Taya Latham and the rest of you beautiful lot!" As you can see how gorgeous a cover, Pen has created for Jon and I can't wait to see how it looks in physical form. I'll be hoping to review it when Jon releases the revised edition and will love to see how he has progressed as a writer. Checkout the blurb for the book below...OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Arcane magic can be a ruinous power, despite admirable intentions. A mysterious scroll finds its way into Lord Severun’s hands, enabling him to release a dangerous experiment upon Wesson. With Sergeant Falchion unable to forgive himself for aiding the wizard, and desperate factions taking advantage of the devastating aftermath, Falchion embarks on an arduous quest alongside friends and strangers alike. However, even if their attempt to seek aid is successful and the city is saved, they risk revealing a secret that threatens much more than Wesson alone. From a fantasy world not too dissimilar to our own dark and bloody histories, the beginning of an epic tale is told. Incredible magic is unleashed, allies become enemies; unlikely friendships are forged, and a foul plot is discovered that will shatter the long lasting peace of Altoln and her allies, plunging them into a gritty, brutal conflict that falls far from the fluffy fairytales of old. [...]

Cold Spectrum by Craig Schaefer (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author WebsiteOrder Cold Spectrum HERERead Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Long Way Down Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The White Gold Score Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Redemption Song Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Living End Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of A Plain-Dealing VillainRead Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Killing Floor BluesRead Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Castle DoctrineRead Fantasy Book Critic's review of Winter's Reach Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Instruments Of Control Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Harmony BlackRead Fantasy Book Critic's review of Red Knight FallingRead Fantasy Book Critic's review of Glass PredatorRead Fantasy Book Critic's review of Double Or NothingRead Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Craig SchaeferRead Fantasy Book Critic's Harmony Black Series Interview with Craig SchaeferRead Double Or Nothing Cover Reveal Mini-Interview with Craig SchaeferAUTHOR INFORMATION: Craig Schaefer was born in Chicago and wanted to be a writer since a very young age. His writing was inspired by Elmore Leonard, Richard Stark, Clive Barker & H. P. Lovecraft. After reaching his 40th birthday he decided to give in to his passion and since then has released twelve novels in the last three years. He currently lives in Joliet, Illinois and loves visiting museums and libraries for inspiration. 

 OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Criminologist Harmony Black is a witch with a loaded Glock. Her partner, Jessie Temple, is packing fierce lupine heat. Together, they’re part of Vigilant Lock, an elite FBI black ops group dedicated to defeating criminals with supernatural connections. But when they uncover a demonic conspiracy in the highest ranks of the government, it appears that everything Harmony and her friends have worked for, fought for, and risked their lives for might be a lie. Framed for a casino massacre, Harmony and Jessie are on the run—in the real world and in their own. From the seedy casinos of Atlantic City to the steamy bayous of Louisiana and the imposing facades of Washington, DC, there’s not a soul on earth they can trust. The only way they can clear their names is to take down the conspiracy from within and uncover the truth behind a secret that both the government and the powers of hell want to keep buried. . FORMAT/INFO: Cold Spectrum is 333 pages long divided over forty-six chapters with a prologue, an epilogue and an afterword. Narration is in the first-person, via Harmony Black solely for the chapters and via third person for the prologue and epilogue via Nadine, Linder, & Bobby Diehl. This is the fourth volume of the Harmony Black series which is a spin-off to the Daniel Faust series. October 31, 2017 marks the North American paperback and e-book publication of Cold Spectrum and it was published by 47 North (Amazon Publishing). Cover design is by David Drummond. 
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Cold Spectrum is the hotly awaited fourth volume of the Harmony Black series. This volume follow right on the heels of Glass Predator literally and figuratively as the main plot is set in under two days of the events of Glass Predator.As the story opens, we see our Circus team huddling together and trying to figure out how to best survive and how to expose Linder. Things however are not going their way as someone higher up in their shadowy department is orchestrating events and forcing them on the run. Soon they realize their only way out is to connect with the sole remnants of Douglas Bradford’s team who have been hidden from Glass Predator’s virtual eye. This search will take them to Atlantic City via a detour to Portland (on the west coast) and finally a trip to the Louisiana bayous. Harmony, Jessie & team really are on tenterhooks as their own agency is now hunting them and the one of their own squads (Panic cell) is on to them as well.This book is potentially dealing w[...]

SPFBO Semifinalist: The Songweaver's Vow by Laura VanArendonk Baugh (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author WebsiteOrder The Songweaver’s Vow HEREAUTHOR INFORMATION: Laura was born at a very early age and never looked back. She overcame her childhood deficiencies of having been born without teeth and unable to walk, and by the time she matured into a recognizable adult she had become a behavior analyst, an internationally-recognized and award-winning animal trainer, a costumer/cosplayer, a chocolate addict, and of course a writer. Laura writes historical and fantasy works as well as non-fiction in the art and science of behavior and training. She live in the state of Indiana and is often traipsing in the Midwest as an active cosplayer.OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: She tells Greek legends to entertain Norse gods -- until one of her stories leads to murder. When Euthalia’s father trades her to Viking raiders, her best hope is to be made a wife instead of a slave. She gets her wish – sort of – when she is sacrificed as a bride to a god. Her inhuman husband seems kind, but he visits only in the dark of night and will not allow her to look upon him. By day Euthalia becomes known as a storyteller, spinning ancient Greek tales to entertain Asgard’s gods and monsters. When one of her stories precipitates a god’s murder and horrific retribution, Euthalia discovers there is a monster in her bed as well. Alone in a hostile Asgard, Euthalia must ally with a spiteful goddess to sway Odin himself before bloody tragedy opens Ragnarok, the prophesied end of the world.FORMAT/INFO: The Songweaver’s Vow is 304 pages long divided over thirty-nine chapters and an author’s notes section. Narration is in the third person via Euthalia solely. This is a standalone story. February 21, 2017 marked the e-book & paperback publication of The Songweaver’s Vow and it was self-published by the author. Cover design is provided by Damonza. OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The Songweaver’s Vow was a book whose blurb details were a hook that I simply couldn’t resist. The story had an intriguing mix of historical fiction (to a minor degree) and Norse mythology (majorly) and also one of the most original SPFBO entries (in terms of plot) that I’ve read so far in the past three years.The plot begins with Euthalia who’s travelling along with her Greek father and whose ship gets accosted by men whom we later find to be Vikings. She’s been selected as a slave or a dragon bride who is to be given to the dragon. Not knowing what that means, Euthalia is terrified and faces an uncertain future. Things however take a turn for the strange when she faces a kind persona who doesn’t reveal himself but tells her that she is his bride. Soon she’s transported to a different land wherein she finds one of the villager woman named Birna waiting to meet her. Soon she finds that she is in Asgard of yore and that she’s wedded to one of the sons of Odin but she never sees him (as he only comes in the pitch black of night & forbids her from visiting in the daylight).Thereafter she meets the various personae of the Asgardian court such as Thor, Odin, Loki, Freya, and more. But she still doesn’t know who her husband is and soon her curiosity leads her down a path wherein all the horrible Norse legends come in to play. Soon Euthalia realizes how twisted the fates can be and how capricious the gods truly can be. What I loved and enjoyed about this book was the way the author had presented this story. To the average reader (due to the advent of the Thor Marvel movies) there’s some background knowledge of the whole Asgardian entities. For readers with a definitive knowledge of Norse mythology, they will certainly enjoy how the author portrays Asgard and all of its inhabitants. From Euthalia’s point of view, it’s an interesting thing to see as she’s a person from an age wherein knowledge wasn’t easily available and we the readers having knowledge of the events & personae will certainly enjoy the thrill that the [...]

Faithless by Graham Austin-King (Reviewed by Michael E. Everest)


Official Author WebsiteOrder Faithless HEREOFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Graham Austin-King was born in England. From a young age, his interests ran from fantasy novels to computers and tabletop gaming. Having previously worked in the fields of journalism, international relations, and law, he found himself returning to his love of fantasy and creating rich worlds. He has finished his debut fantasy trilogy focusing on the Fae and decided to do something different with his next work. He currently lives in the south of England with his family after living in the northern part of the country and Canada. OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: The temples of the Forgefather have fallen. The clerics and defenders that could once be found across the nine lands are no more. Priests huddle in the great temple, clinging to the echoes of their lost religion. But the Father has fallen silent. There are none who still hear his voice. The mines of Aspiration lie far below the temple's marble halls. Slaves toil in the blackness, striving to earn their way into the church and the light. Wynn has been sold into this fate, traded for a handful of silver. In the depths of the mines, where none dare carry flame, he must meet his tally or die. But there are things that lurk in that darkness, and still darker things within the hearts of men. When the souls bound to the great forge are released in a failed ritual, one novice flees down into the darkness of the mines. The soulwraiths know only hunger, the risen know only hate. In the blackest depths Kharios must seek a light to combat the darkness which descends OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Faithless is Graham Austin King’s second major outing, following on from his debut trilogy Fae: The Riven Wyrd Saga. Faithless, a standalone self-published novel, is a grimdark low-fantasy for fans of Mark Lawrence, Anna Stephens and Peter V Brett.Told through two point of view characters, Wynn a newcomer-come-newbie-miner to the subterranean realm of Aspiration, and Khareos a priest of the Forgefather, Faithless embodies the suffocating atmosphere of the mines its (mostly) set in, whilst somehow retaining a ‘breath of fresh air’ quality for readers looking for something a little different than the usual grimdark fair. The Good: Next-level’ world building, second-to-none level to detail and attention, sympathetic and believable characters, a claustrophobic atmosphere throughout, and a kicker of a twist. The Bad: There’s a balance to be struck with world-building, exposition, detail and descriptions, and at times this weighed too far to the heavy side for me, which in turn made the pace of the story suffer for it. The Ugly Truth: Faithless is one of those rare books where it achieved exactly what it set out to do. It’s an uncomfortable read – but that’s a good thing. A sense of claustrophobia that pervades throughout, corrupt priests, a faith seemingly built on falsities, lies and hard labour, slavery, punishment, perversion and purity for the sake of progress. As I eluded to above, the story does suffer from some pacing issues, but it’s well worth persevering for the reward at the end. As the saying goes, ‘a diamond in the rough’, well this is a ‘diamond in the deepest and darkest of roughs’ there is – human nature. Full Review: People often ask ‘what is grimdark?’, and I feel that I could hand them ‘Faithless’ as an answer. It’s grim (an exploration of intimacy vs invasiveness, hope vs hardship, faith vs – well, it’s in the title, – faithlessness) and it’s dark (the exploration does lead down some pretty dark paths, oh, and it’s set in a mine…a mine!). Faithless is told through the experience of Wynn, who is sold into slavery, and Khareos, a priest who arguably seeks to buy freedom through faith. Wynn is the author’s tool, in this case a miner’s pick, used to chip away at the world and explain its surface to[...]

The 2017 BookNest Fantasy Awards (by Mihir Wanchoo)


The second Booknest awards shortlist was posted this previous Saturday (14th October) and I had the privilege to be one of the six bloggers who helped in creation of the long list. A huge thank you to Petros T. for enabling me to be a part of these awards.The awards for each of these three categories are beyond eye-catching to say the least and here are the nominees in each category:Best Traditionally Published Novel- A Plague of Swords by Miles Cameron- Age of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan- Assassin's Fate by Robin Hobb- Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet- Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire- Red Sister by Mark Lawrence- Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan- Skullsworn by Brian Staveley- The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin- Wrath by John GwynneThere’s some great books in the traditionally published category and I believe it will a tough fight between Mark Lawrence, John Gwynne, Robin Hobb, Michael Sullivan & Brian Stavely as all of them have written amazing books and have a very passionate fan base. Among all the titles in this category, in my mind, the two strongest titles are Red Sister & Skullsworn and I’m having the hardest time in deciding who to vote for.Best Self Published Novel  - A Keeper's Tale by J.A. Andrews- Darklands by M.L. Spencer- Faithless by Graham Austin King- On the Wheel by Timandra Whitecastle- Revenant Winds by Mitchell Hogan- Sufficiently Advanced Magic by Andrew Rowe- The Fifth Empire of Man by Rob J. Hayes- The Heart of Stone by Ben Galley- The Mirror's Truth by Michael R. Fletcher- A Dragon of A Different Color by Rachel AaronThis is another tough category as there are so many amazing titles and quite a few are in the running for the SPFBO title this year. I have read quire a few of them such as ADOADC (Rachel Aaron), SAM (Andrew Rowe), TFEOM (Rob J. Hayes), Darklands (M. L. Spencer), THOS (Ben Galley), TMT (Michael R. Fletcher). I’ve read all of these aforementioned titles and can vouch for their amazing nature. In this category my vote was divided between TFEOM and ADOADC and right now I’m leaning a tad towards TFEOM for its insane finale, mind-blowing characters and an ending twist that would have made GRRM proud.Best Debut Novel- Blackwing by Ed McDonald- Gilded Cage by Vic James- Godblind by Anna Stephens- Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames- River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey- The Bear And The Nightingale by Katherine Arden- The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark- The Dragon's Legacy by Deborah A. Wolf- The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis- Age of Assassins by RJ BarkerThe best debut category, I believe is the true group of death. This year has been a phenomenal year for debuts and it shows with Ed McDonald, RJ Barker, Nicholas Eames, Katherine Arden, Anna Stephens, etc. This category is anybody’s guess and honestly I’m sad that Alec Hutson didn’t make the cut. He would be another contender for sure. In this category, I’m having the hardest time selecting my choice as it changes with every hour. I’ll be waiting to see who wins eventually.So dear readers please go ahead and vote for your choices in the aforementioned categories. The voting ends on 31st October so make your votes count  [...]

GUEST POST: The Unreliability of Magical Surveillance. by Tom Doyle


In my American Craftsmen trilogy, psychic spies (farseers) can view intel across the distances of time and space (farsight). Their visions guide the missions of magical and mundane soldiers, and they play against the farseers of hostile powers. I want to look briefly at some of the popular stories of magical surveillance. The use of magical or psychic means to view across space and time is an old idea. Yet few of the stories that come immediately to mind view such power as an unambiguous good for the wielder. In the story of Snow White, the evil queen uses a magic mirror for scrying. Like many such devices, the mirror is a two-edged weapon. On the one hand, the mirror demonstrates what powerful surveillance can accomplish; for example, the attempt of Snow White and the huntsman to fake her death fails because of it. On the other hand, the mirror seems to be driving the queen to her eventual destruction by doling out only as much information as she requests and no more.In The Lord of the Rings, we have the Mirror of Galadriel, the palantíri, and the Ring itself. All of these are in their own way unreliable. The Mirror of Galadriel shows Sam a vision of an industrializing Shire that momentarily discourages him from his mission, when his mission is the one hope of Middle Earth. Denethor’s palantir gives him true intel, but only what Sauron wants him to see, and so he goes mad with despair. In turn, Aragorn is able to use Saruman’s palantir to nudge Sauron into rushing his attack. The Ring seems to serve as a sort of tracking device, but only when Frodo puts it on does it work well enough to zero in on him. (By the way, Palantir Technologies is the name of a big data analysis, counterterrorism company, as anyone who’s taken the DC metro over the last few years knows from its ads.)In the original Oz book, the Wicked Witch of the West only had one eye, “yet this eye was as strong and powerful as a telescope, and could see everywhere in the Winkie Country.” (In the film, this was changed to a crystal ball.) Yet this eye, which clearly helped her enslave the Winkies, also led to her doom, because it’s explicitly stated that Dorothy would not have been able to find the Witch, but the Witch was able to find Dorothy.In the Dune books, Paul Atreides has an incredible power of precognition, but he has difficulty seeing the actions of opponents scheming under the protective umbrella of a Spacing Guild Navigator because the Navigator is also a precog. In the end, Paul’s foresight only leaves him with one tragic choice. The most famous oracle of Classical Greece was at Delphi. Scholars think that it may have in part functioned as an intelligence gathering and exchange point, and it was particularly effective for guiding the Greeks in their founding of colonies. But the oracle could also be notoriously ambiguous and potentially disastrous to the unwary and hubristic. According to Herodotus, one such oracular prediction was that if Croesus made war on the Persians, he would destroy a mighty empire. That empire turned out to be Croesus’s own. Finally, related to the ambiguous oracle is the unheeded prophecy. Cassandra is the archetypical example; her ability is precise and accurate, but no one believes her anyway. Many stories of biblical prophecies are similar--the prophet clearly warns that if bad behavior continues, disaster will surely follow, yet we have fewer stories of the prophecy being avoided than fulfilled.I’m uncertain as to why the limitations of farsight are such a consistent theme in our stories about it. However, the Dune series points out a particular problem of perfect prescience--under the God Emperor of Dune, history as we understand it comes to a halt. Perfect prescience may not eliminate free will, but it may negate its force in the universe.Or perhaps any power without a limit or fla[...]

SPFBO Semifinalist: The Woven Ring by M.D. Presley (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author WebsiteOrder The Woven Ring HERE OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Born and raised in Texas, Matthew D. Presley spent several years on the East Coast and now lives in California with his wife. His favorite words include defenestrate, callipygian, and Algonquin. The fact that monosyllabic is such a long word keeps him up at night. He’s also worked as a professional Hollywood screenwriter who has written for Chinese TV serials as well. When not writing, he also makes jewelry for fun. This is his debut book. OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: A fantasy re-imagining of the American Civil War, The Woven Ring pits muskets against magic, massive war machines against mind readers, and glass sabers against soldiers in psychic exoskeletons.In exile since the civil war that tore the nation of Newfield apart, former spy and turncoat Marta Childress wants nothing more than to quietly live out her remaining days in the West. But then her manipulative brother arrives with one final mission: Transport the daughter of a hated inventor deep into the East. Forced to decide between safely delivering the girl and assassinating the inventor, Marta is torn between ensuring the fragile peace and sparking a second civil war. Aided by an untrustworthy Dobra and his mysterious mute companion, Marta soon discovers that dark forces, human and perhaps the devil herself, seek to end her quest into the East.CLASSIFICATION: Think Mark Lawrence's edgy characters mixed in with Brandon Sanderson's excellent world-building skills and you will have an exact answer to what awaits within this amazing debut.  FORMAT/INFO: The Woven Ring is 292 pages long divided over thirty-four chapters and a prologue. Narration is in the third person via Marta Childress mostly and a few others. This is the first volume of the Sol’s Harvest series.July 10, 2016 marked the e-book & paperback publication of The Woven Ring and it was self-published by the author. Cover art and design is provided by Amit Dutta. OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The Woven Ring is M. D. Presley's debut book and a glorious introduction to the world of Soltera. This title is another one that I was lucky enough to be graced with in this year’s SPFBO. This book was one that stood out to my mind based on its blurb and the fact that it was a fantasy reimagining of the American civil war in a secondary fantasy world. I dove in with a lot of expectations and was rewarded immensely. It was an easy semifinalist pick along with The Songweaver's Vow.The story begins in two timelines in the world of Soltera. The first track starts nineteen years ago as we meet Marta our protagonist a six year old girl who faces a terrible situation. The first line of the book sets up the scene wonderfully “Marta was mad. Carmichael had lied to her. Again!” While this line & scene might not seem particularly vicious, we soon learn what truly has happened and how much of a twat Carmichael is. The second timeline opens up nearly nineteen years later, Marta is no longer a fresh-eyed girl. She’s a veteran of the civil war that has shaken their nation and left her scarred emotionally & physically. She however is tasked by her elder sibling Carmichael to hunt down a person whom she hates more than her brother. Thus begin the two timelines as we see Marta’s painful evolution into the person that we meet in the second timeline. Very few titles capture the reader’s interest by offering more than one surprise. This debut book not only has spectacular world building but it also manages dual storylines very coherently. Let’s talk about what captivated me so strongly about this book. Talking about the world & magic system mentioned within. I have to note when it comes to books that have spectacular world-building, often times the book’s plot and chara[...]

The Third SPFBO Semifinalist Update (by Mihir Wanchoo)


With the first & second semi-finalists already chosen, it was high time that we went through the other titles. I have to apologize in this regard as work had caused my reviewing to take a backseat. Cindy had a family emergency which also took most of her time. As I had explained in my 2017 SPFBO introduction post. We’ll be ideally selecting one book semifinalist from every five books. These book groupings are random and sometimes we might have no semi-finalists or we might have more than one in one group. As with our previous two lots I’ve tried to read at least five chapters or 20% of the book (whichever was longer). So here are my concise thoughts on each of them: The Songweaver’s Vow by Laura VanArendonk Baugh – This book was the third book based on the blurb and the excerpt and this book completely blew me away. The story is set in pre-historic times and features a Greek girl among Vikings, and Norse gods of yore. Plus she has to navigate her survival there with just her wits and her stories. The author’s characterization and lovely prose made me a fan and once I finished it. This book was a straightforward semifinalist for me. More to come in review next week… Dybsy by A.M. Macdonald – Dybsy is an interesting fantasy-SF hybrid story that I enjoyed reading but ultimately I couldn’t select to go forward. Let me be clear, the author has made it a very simple story to follow and the pace is terrific as well. The one thing that’s mars the read to a certain degree is the simplistic characterization. This book would be better enjoyed by 14-year old me but 34 year old me didn’t quite enjoy it to the same degree. A valiant effort and the author has to be lauded for this imaginative hybrid story with shades of Ender’s Game & Ready Player One (though with a lot less  pop culture references). The Defenders' Apprentice by Amelia Smith – The Defender’s Apprentice is a classic fantasy story that will certainly have its fans. Amelia Smith does a good job of introducing her world and the relatable POV characters however its scope is limited because of the very predictable storyline. This is not a dig against the book and it certainly is for younger readers of fantasy. However for most genre readers (like myself) it doesn’t offer anything startling or original to mark itself out. A decent story that I liked but couldn’t really say that it would make me pick up the next book. The Hiss of the Blade by Richard Writhen – The Hiss Of The Blade was a book that I had high hopes for as I often enjoy darker turns of fantasy. This book was a bit on the shorter side and while it offered some dark thrills. It didn’t quite seem that cohesive plot wise. I liked how the author set up the story with a gruesome murder and the noir shades to the story were very interesting however the characterization was a bit flat. Overall this is a story with some terrific scary bits to it but the execution wasn’t all that good which is why the story seemed more than a bit dry and I couldn’t care much for it. The Woven Ring by M. D. Presley – This was another surprise for me as while the blurb seemed intriguing, this book blew me away completely. Let me be clear, this book has its odd bits to it but so far in the three years of SPFBO and among all the titles which I’ve read. This book has the best world-building showcased that I’ve ever come across. Not to say that’s the only plus point but featuring a dual storyline akin to Mark Lawrence’s Thorn trilogy. The author gives us a superb female anti-hero who will make readers admire & dislike her in equal parts. This book for me is the biggest surprise in SPFBO and I’ll be talking more about it in the proper review next week. Think Mark Lawrence's edgy characters meets Brandon S[...]

SPFBO: Interview With A. W. Exley (Interviewed by Cindy Hannikman & Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author WebsiteOrder Nefertiti's Heart HERERead Fantasy Book Critic's review of Nefertiti's HeartAnita W. Exley's Nefertiti's Heart really captivated both Cindy & me as evidenced in our review. It had the perfect mix of characterization, plot pace & Victorian settings that made the story so compelling. We were more than thrilled when Anita agreed to answer a few questions about her writing, the Artifact Hunter series & herself. So read ahead to get to know her better, checkout the gorgeous covers of her books and lose yourself in a captivating world. Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic. To begin with, could you tell us a little about yourself, your background & your interests? AWE: I'm Anita and I live in rural New Zealand where I have horses. I used to be a forensic accountant, until I realized it was more fun to sit at home and kill people ;) I'm one of those people born in the wrong era - I ride sidesaddle, adore hats, wear a corset, and was steampunk long before I ever heard the word. Q] Can you tell us what inspired you to be a writer in the first place, what experience you went through in finishing your book, & why you chose to go the self-publishing route? AWE: As cliché as it sounds, I'm one of those people who has always written. Books were my escape as a child and creating my own worlds was a natural extension of that, I just never finished anything! lol When I took a parenting break from my accounting job, I was looking for something to keep my mind engaged and decided to take the plunge and finish writing a book. From there it grew as I became more focused and I hit the query trenches trying to land an agent (hint: I failed). I had a friend who gave up on querying despite agent offers, and she headed off into indie waters and encouraged me to follow. Q] Please elaborate how the genesis of Nefertiti’s Heart occurred. How long have you been working on it? Has it evolved from its original idea (if any)? AWE: I had written a young adult steampunk novel that failed to interest agents, so decided to try my hand at an older novel with different characters. I have always loved Egypt and wanted to finally use my Egyptology studies! I was staring at my text books, trying to figure out a way to bring ancient Egypt into a steampunk England when I decided to do it via an ancient artifact. I was fascinated by the story of Nefertiti and Akhenaton and once the idea of the mechanical heart popped into my mind, the story grew from there. I think it took me about a year to write the book after that. Q] Many writers have a muse, who directs their writing, and others do not seem to be affected the same way. Which group do you fall into? What is your main motivation and source of inspiration? AWE: I listen with envy to other authors who say how their muse pours forth words onto a page. I have to hunt my muse with a sack and a tranq gun. I'm a very slow writer and spend a lot of time turning a scene over in my head before I write it down. I tend to start with the seed of an idea (like a mechanical heart and a killer intent on finding it) and often the ending, then I have to work backwards and figure out how it all unfolded.Q] Nefertiti’s Heart is the first volume in the Artifact Hunter series. The series is completed so could you talk about what the readers can expect next in the series? AWE: Life becomes more complicated for my heroine as she adapts to life with the villainous viscount and the secrets he is keeping. Queen Victoria succumbs to megalomania brought on by an artifact from Hatshepsut, a powerful woman who became a pharaoh. Cara needs to figure out how to get the necklace off the queen before she takes over the world. Then someone intent on keeping a decades old secret uses a fiddle that on[...]

SPFBO Review "Neferiti's Heart: The Artifact Hunters Book 1" by A.W. Exley (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo and Cindy Hannikman)


OVERVIEW:  1861. Cara has a simple mission in London – finalise her father’s estate and sell off his damned collection of priceless artifacts. Her plan goes awry when a killer stalks the nobility, searching for an ancient Egyptian relic rumoured to hold the key to immortality.Nathaniel Trent, known as the villainous viscount, is relentless in his desire to lay his hands on both Cara and the priceless artifacts. His icy exterior and fiery touch stirs Cara’s demons, or could he lay them to rest?Self-preservation fuels Cara’s search for the gem known as Nefertiti’s Heart. In a society where everyone wears a mask to hide their true intent, she needs to figure out who to trust, before she sacrifices her own heart and lifeANALYSIS: (Mihir)  Nefertiti’s Heart is an intriguing book that popped up in Fantasy Book Critic’s lot. Firstly it was a top 3 contender with its gorgeous cover art and the blurb was exciting enough for me to get started on it early on. The book’s blurb details our protagonist’s hurry to sell off her father’s estate for reasons that become crystal clear in the first few chapters itself. Cara Devon is a person who’s been shaped by her teenage/adolescent years and those hardships have left mental, physical & psychological scars on her. These scars inform her current behavior and outlook in life wherein she has decided she wants nothing to do with her dad and his precious collection. Cara’s struggles are further compounded when she learns that some of the items in her father’s collections are prized by similarly focused individuals who share even less morality than her recently departed father. There’s also the concern that her father’s death wasn’t a natural one and due to which Scotland Yard detectives are very much intrigued by her and her whereabouts. There’s also the Viscount who’s interested in her legacy and a Scotland Yard officer who wants the truth to be uncovered. These are the main characters in play and there’s a serial killer at work too. These are the tangled threads that author A. W. Exley puts into play in the first volume of The Artifact Hunters series. The book ends on a strong climax which solve the mystery presented in this first volume but sets up a romantic plot thread that will resolve over the series as well gives us a colorful cast of characters to follow. What I loved immediately about this book upon starting it was the characterization beginning with Cara. She’s a formidable character who will intrigue the reader with the hints about her past and her resoluteness in her wish to be rid of her father’s legacy. I was immediately drawn to her and as the story progresses we find that there’s more to her grit. The story is almost a thriller with some solid romantic overtones to it and I felt that as a thriller lover, I was able to enjoy the story and even the romance. I can’t speak to how well the romance is crafted since I’m not that big a romance reader but the story held up for me. A word of caution though there’s some dark stuff within with regards to Cara’s backstory and it might not be palatable to everyone. Any plus point about the book was its streamlined pace and the mystery at its core. In this regard this book was a definite surprise as it managed to successfully mold aspects of the thriller, romance & steampunk genres in its fold confidently. Lastly the book cover is an eye-catching one and was in the top 3 from our lot. The not so fun parts to this story, well there’s the whole romance buildup which takes place between our protagonist and the Viscount which doesn’t quite add up. For example our heroine doesn’t like been touched but is strangely drawn to the count[...]

First Watch by Dale Lucas (Reviewed by Michael E. Everest)


Official Author WebsiteBuy the book HEREOFFICIAL BLURB: Humans, orcs, mages, elves, and dwarves all jostle for success and survival in the cramped quarters of Yenara, while understaffed Watch Wardens struggle to keep its citizens in line. Enter Rem: new to Yenara and hungover in the city dungeons with no money for bail. When offered a position with the Watch to compensate for his crimes, Rem jumps at the chance. His new partner is less eager. Torval, a dwarf who's handy with a maul and known for hitting first and asking questions later, is highly unimpressed with the untrained and weaponless Rem. But when Torval's former partner goes missing, the two must consort with the usual suspects -- drug dealing orcs, mind-controlling elves, uncooperative mages, and humans being typical humans -- to uncover the truth and catch a murderer loose in their fair city. OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: ‘The Fifth Ward: First Watch’ is the action-packed debut to Dale Lucas’ Fifth Ward Series. One of Orbit’s many, and varied, debut novels to be released in 2017, the ‘First Watch’ is a genre crossover of fantasy and crime, lauded as ‘Lethal Weapon meets Lord of the Rings’. Playing on elements of ‘buddy cop’ tv shows, including the friendship between the two leads, a human newbie and a veteran-watchwarden dwarf, the story explores what the ‘boys in blue’ do when there isn’t a dark lord/lady threatening to destroy the world, in this welcomingly familiar and fun story. THE GOOD: A nice step-change from recent releases (grimdark and epic-tomes, specifically), ‘The First Watch’ is an easy read, both in terms of structure and style. Familiar for its obvious links to police/cop tv shows (even in the way it’s episodic in its storytelling), and even more so for its familiar faces of fantasy (humans, dwarves, elves and orcs), yet different for its willingness to explore something that not a lot of other books do: what do the good guys do day-to-day? THE BAD: On the note of ‘easy read’ and ‘episodic’, the story does suffer slightly from tension issues, in that it doesn’t really peak at any one point. Instead, chapters read like episodes of said police/tv cop shop, with their own self-contained level of tension, issues, climaxes, and where appropriate, cliffhangers. Also, maybe because all of this (the fantasy and crime elements) feels striking familiar throughout, it doesn’t do anything ‘new’. THE UGLY TRUTH: ‘The First Watch’ is the perfect summer read, if you’re looking for something light and easy to dive into ‘by the pool’ (or in my case, between kids asking ‘come play, dad, come play!’). It’s easy to pick-up and start again from where you left off, thanks to its structure, lending itself a page-turning pace, even though it suffers from some tension-issues. I’ve never read a ‘boys (and girls) in blue’ story in fantasy before (and I’m fully aware of the many urban fantasy books out there) but I was struck by how familiar this felt to me. Between the elements of high(er) fantasy and the down-in-the-gutter lows of crime, whilst the ‘middle’ of the two was original, I didn’t feel that there was anything ‘new’ or ‘genre breaking’. Plenty of genre ‘definers’ here, but I felt that there was a missed opportunity to really take this somewhere new. That being said, this is a case of ‘do cross the streams’, as it was ‘new and exciting’ (in buzzword terms), and I highly recommend it to readers looking for something between bigger, badder readers, because you’ll still have plenty of ‘badass’ in ‘The First Watch’. Full review: This is probably one of the trickiest reviews I’ve had to write to date. I really enjoyed [...]

The Second SPFBO Semifinalist Update (by Cindy Hannikman & Mihir Wanchoo)


With Alec Hutson’s The Crimson Queen becoming our first semifinalist, its high time we nominate our second semifinalist. As I had explained in my 2017 SPFBO introduction post. We’ll be selecting one book semifinalist from every five books. These book groupings are random and sometimes we might have no semi-finalists or we might have more than one in one group. With this group, my co-editor Cindy was super instrumental in selecting our semifinalist and helping with reading through our second lot. As with our earlier lot we tried to read at least five chapters or 20% of the book (whichever was longer). So here are Cindy’s and my concise thoughts on each of them: The Rift (J. T. Stoll):Cindy’s thoughts – This book had a very fast pace feel to it straight from the start. It was easy to read 10, 20 or even 30 pages in one sitting without realizing it. Unfortunately, in an effort to bring readers a fast pace, the book seemed to suffer. While it was easy/fast to read, it felt like I was reading a cliffnotes version of a story. It was almost like we were skimming the surface and not really getting to know characters/worlds or anything. This prevented me from being invested in the story.Mihir’s thoughts – The Rift was an intriguing mix of portal & urban fantasy and as Cindy pointed out, it was a very quick read however it felt rushed. The world and magic system didn’t quite feel detailed or well-explained hence both of us didn’t feel strongly enough about it. Warcaster (J. C. Staudt):Cindy’s thoughts – When reading standard fantasy books, I look for 2 things – a unique plot or amazing characters I really want to go on a journey with. Warcaster doesn't have anything wrong with it, but it doesn't have that “it factor” or the spark to make it stand out from the dozens of fantasy books out there, either. Mihir’s thoughts – I liked Warcaster’s blurb and had high hopes from this book. The story however didn’t quite match my expectations and while the story was very simplistic. The characters and plot pace did help the story but not enough to make it a standout one. Another title which started well but couldn’t carry through on its execution.Wrath of the Exiled (D. N. Pillay):Cindy’s thoughts – I liked where this was going in terms of word building, but it suffered from too much information at times. The novel had a very babbly-feel to it and the story seemed to wander with things that just didn't seem to matter to the main plot. Mihir’s thoughts – This book is an ambitious one and it is easily apparent as you read the story to see the author’s efforts in crafting it. The storyline does promise a lot of bombastic stuff and the author lays down some pretty cool concepts however the characterization mars the story as its seems very archetypal. Forgotten Relics (Tiffany Cherney):Cindy's thoughts – On the surface this sounded amazing. Space pirates/a space setting, but this just didn't have that spark or it factor that made me want to continue past my (personal) set number of pages (approximately 65 – 75 pages). There wasn't anything that inspired me to read on. Nefertiti's Heart (A. W. Exley):Cindy’s thoughts – There are some weighty topics/scenes in here and a lot of romance, but I was captivated. I wanted to follow the characters, see what happened to them, and learn more about everything. It was these reasons that I voted to put it through to the semifinals. Mihir’s thoughts – This story was an intriguing mix of historical fantasy and steampunk plus the author laid out the story intriguingly. What I loved most about was the inherent mystery within the main plot and the thriller aspect of the stor[...]

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty (Reviewed by Will Byrnes)


Official Author WebsitePre-order the book HEREOFFICIAL BLURB: Step into The City of Brass, the spellbinding debut from S. A. Chakraborty—an imaginative alchemy of The Golem and the Jinni, The Grace of Kings, and Uprooted, in which the future of a magical Middle Eastern kingdom rests in the hands of a clever and defiant young con artist with miraculous healing gifts. Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of eighteenth-century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles and a reliable way to survive. But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to question all she believes. For the warrior tells her an extraordinary tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling birds of prey are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass—a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound. In Daevabad, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. A young prince dreams of rebellion. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences. After all, there is a reason they say to be careful what you wish for . . .OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: It’s time to polish that special lamp gathering webs in the attic, put a fine edge on your bladed weaponry, remind yourself of ancient tribal insults and outrages, dust off that list of wishes that is around here somewhere and vacuum your magic carpet. You are about to be transported.(“The Magic Carpet” (detail), 1880, by Apollinary Mikhaylovich Vasnetsov © State Art Museum, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia/Bridgeman Art Library)Nahri, our Aladdin here, is a twenty-year-old thief and con artist, working marks in 18th Century French-occupied Cairo. She has a gift for discerning medical maladies and another for treating them. She is adept at languages and at parting the unwary from their money. When she is called in to help deal with a 12-year-old girl who is possessed, she rolls her eyes and opts to have a bit of fun trotting out an old spell that has never worked before. The difference here is that she tries it in a language she seems to have known forever, but which no one else has ever heard. Turns out the girl really was possessed, by a particularly nasty entity, and turns out that Nahri’s little experiment summoned a very scary djinn. In a flash, the evil possessor spirit and a large number of its dead minions are on her like decay on a corpse. Thankfully, the djinn is there to save the day, with extreme prejudice. This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.(Djinn by Naznamy)The frustrated pursuers have made Cairo a no-go zone for Nahri, so she and the djinn, Dara (which is a small portion of his entire name) head for the place where people of his sort reside, the world capital of the magical races, Daevabad, the Brass City of the title. To call Dara a hottie would be a bit of an understatement. Handsome? For sure. Incredibly powerful? Fierce in battle? Be afraid, be very afraid. Able to leap tall minarets in a single flying carpet? You betcha. As if [...]

GIVEAWAY: Owl And The Electric Samurai by Kristi Charish


Kristi Charish’s The Owl series is a series that has mixes the fun of urban fantasy along with the rollicking action of adventure thrillers. Kristi Charish & Fantasy Book Critic are glad to be giving away two copies of Owl And The Electric Samurai to Two Lucky Winners!!! 

There are two copies up for grabs. The trade paperback copy of Owl And The Electric Samurai is open for everyone in USA & Canada. The Audible version is open internationally to all folks.

To enter, please send an email to with your Name, Mailing Address, and the subject: OWL. Giveaway will end on 12:01 PM, 27th August 2017 and will be open to participants in the US/CANADA (paperback) & WORLDWIDE (Audiobook) regions! 

Thank you for entering and Good Luck! 

1) Open To Anyone WORLDWIDE
2) Only One Entry Per Household (Multiple Entries Will Be Disqualified)
3) Must Enter Valid Email Address, Mailing Address + Name
4) No Purchase Necessary
5)Giveaway will end on 12:01 PM, 27th August 2017
6) Winners Will Be Randomly Selected and Notified By Email
7) Personal Information Will Only Be Used In Mailing Out the Books To The Winner 

SPFBO: Interview with Alec Hutson (Interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author WebsiteOrder The Crimson Queen HERERead Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Crimson Queen Alec Hutson's The Crimson Queen was our first SPFBO Semifinalist and as you can read in my review yesterday, it's really apparent why. Alec was kind enough to answer a few questions while preparing for his marriage. I owe him more than just a thank you for his time.  In this interview, you'll learn more about his beginnings on the writing path as well as how The Crimson Queen came into being. Read ahead and get to know more about Alec and  be sure to grab a copy of The Crimson Queen. You won't be sad when you do.Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic. To begin with, could you tell us a little about yourself, your background & your interests? AH: Hi! Thanks for the questions! I grew up in a small town on the north shore of Massachusetts (the setting for one of HP Lovecraft’s short stories, actually). My aunt owns a rather large independent bookstore, and I was surrounded by books from a very young age. I always loved fantasy and have a memory of lugging Ed Greenwood’s Spellfire into my third-grade classroom for show-and-tell. 

 I went to Carleton College and studied mostly history, majoring in political science. Up until my senior year I thought law school would be my route, but as graduation hurtled closer I realized that I didn’t really want to be a lawyer - it just seemed like a natural path for my skill-set (high school debate captain, good with the words, etc). So instead I applied to writing programs, and was accepted into the one at NC State run by John Kessel, the eminent science fiction author. About this same time, I’d started dating a girl who was working at the same bookstore as me. Before we’d even met she was planning on going to Shanghai to teach English with her sister, and she convinced me to defer my writing program for a year and join her in China. That was fifteen years ago, and I’m still in Shanghai (though the girl I arrived with is now happily married to a doctor in New York). The interval has been an exciting and fun time, to be sure, but I do wonder how my life would have been different if I’d taken the other branch back in 2003 and gone off to get my MFA. Q] Can you tell us what inspired you to be a writer in the first place, what experience you went through in finishing your book, & why you chose to go the self-publishing route? AH: I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I remember writing, illustrating and binding a book in the first grade based off of the old King’s Quest computer games. I published fantasy stories in my high school’s literary magazine. I loved creating and having written, but I can’t say I have the same compulsion to write that some writers speak of. The act of writing isn’t enjoyable for me. It’s like a wrestling match, and while I do feel tremendous satisfaction when words I’m happy with are on the page, it’s also exhausting. During my twenties I tried several times to write a book. I always got 50k words in or so, and that nagging little internal critic would convince me to throw it aside. For The Crimson Queen, I joined the story-sharing site Wattpad when I’d hit the word count where self-doubt usually came crashing down hardest and started posting chapters. The reception was quite good, and honestly it was the readers there that pushed me to finally finish. After I had a first draft done I started researching the query process. For those who haven’t done it, it’s pretty horrible. Slaving away over a hooky blurb, then dispatching these queries to lit[...]

SPFBO Semi-Finalist: The Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author WebsiteOrder The Crimson Queen HEREAUTHOR INFORMATION: Alec Hutson was born in the north-eastern part of the United States and from an early age was inculcated with a love of reading fantasy. He was the Spirit Award winner for Carleton College at the 2002 Ultimate Frisbee College National Championships. He has watched the sun set over the dead city of Bagan and rise over the living ruins of Angkor Wat. He grew up in a geodesic dome and a bookstore, and currently lives in Shanghai, China. OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Long ago the world fell into twilight, when the great empires of old consumed each other in sorcerous cataclysms. In the south the Star Towers fell, swallowed by the sea, while the black glaciers descended upon the northern holdfasts, entombing the cities of Min-Ceruth in ice and sorcery. Then from the ancient empire of Menekar the paladins of Ama came, putting every surviving sorcerer to the sword and cleansing their taint from the land for the radiant glory of their lord. The pulse of magic slowed, fading like the heartbeat of a dying man. But after a thousand years it has begun to quicken again. In a small fishing village a boy with strange powers comes of age... A young queen rises in the west, fanning the long-smoldering embers of magic into a blaze once more... Something of great importance is stolen - or freed - from the mysterious Empire of Swords and Flowers... And the immortals who survived the ancient cataclysms bestir themselves, casting about for why the world is suddenly changing... CLASSIFICATION: The Crimson Queen showcases the best of Robert Jordan’s worldbuilding skiils, laced with Terry Brooks’ fluid characterization and topped off with a pinch of David Gemmell’s heroic fantasy escapades. FORMAT/INFO: The Crimson Queen is 422 pages long divided over forty-three POV titled chapters with a prologue and an epilogue. Narration is in the third person via Keilan Ferrisorn, Janus Balensor, Alyanna, Holy emperor Gerixes, Xin, Senacus, Wen Xenxing the black vizier, and Cein d’Kara. This is the first volume of the Raveling series. December 3, 2016 marked the e-book & paperback publication of The Crimson Queen and it will be self-published by the author. Cover art and design is by Jeff Brown.OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson is at first appearance a book that might cause your eyes to glaze over it. Its cover has an unusual shade of yellow in its background along with a generic appearance of an old city. That however would be your first mistake. This book since its release in late 2016 has been slowly making waves and was slotted in to the 30 books afforded to us. Of the first batch of books that I read, it was the best and hence was our first semi-finalist.The story blurb again talks of an old cataclysm which shaped in the world into what it is currently. The main story opens in a very Wheel Of Time fashion with the prologue showcasing someone or something that is old, possibly immortal and talking of events that will change the world. The story then opens us by showcasing the life of Keilan Ferrisorn who lives in a small fishing village and has a sorrowful past that impedes his village life. Janus Balensorn is a person who we quickly learn has more to him than just a honeyed voice and an arresting manner. Senacus is a paladin of Ama and one of the Pure, a sect of Templar-like knights who have powers and seek to stamp out magic. Senacus’ path brings him in conflict with certain wielders of magic and his path to Ama will be sorely tested. There are a few more characters but th[...]

"The Metropolitans" by Carol Goodman (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)


Visit Carol Goodman's Website HereOVERVIEW: The day Japan bombs Pearl Harbor, four thirteen-year-olds converge at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where an eccentric curator is seeking four uncommonly brave souls to track down the hidden pages of the Kelmsbury Manuscript, an ancient book of Arthurian legends that lies scattered within the museum's collection, and that holds the key to preventing a second attack on American soil. When Madge, Joe, Kiku, and Walt agree to help, they have no idea that the Kelmsbury is already working its magic on them. But they begin to develop extraordinary powers and experience the feelings of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, Morgan le Fay, and Lancelot: courage, friendship, love...and betrayal. Are they playing out a legend that's already been lived, over and over, across the ages? Or can the Metropolitans forge their own story?"FORMAT: The Metropolitans is a standalone children's novel. It is a blend of historical fiction, mystery and fantasy. It stands at 368 pages and was published March 14, 2017 by Viking Books for Young Readers. ANALYSIS: I have always enjoyed middle school/children's mystery/puzzle/adventure novels. When I saw The Metropolitans was being compared to The Mixed Up Files of Basil E. Frankweiler with a National Treasure twist, I was super excited. Unfortunately, the book had a few too many unbelievable parts to it that I was unable to really enjoy the novel. Essentially, The Metropolitans tells the story of 4 13-year old children during World War II who through some twist of fate end up together and working towards a common goal. That goal is to help divert a potential Nazi attack on New York City. The only way to prevent the attack is to run around the Metropolitan Museum of Art finding pages from a mysterious manuscript that will help them decode a message from a known enemy spy. While working to prevent the attack, the children start developing these weird powers that seem like they are straight out of Arthurian legend. Throughout the story, the children learn more about their powers while exploring some of the pressing issues of the time (such as Japanese internment camps, mistreatment of Native Americans, homeless in the city, and the loss of family due to death). On the outside, it looks like this novel might turn out to be something wonderful and even fun to read. There were just too many distracting aspects of the novel that really prevented this novel from being all that it could be. The first distracting aspect of The Metropolitans was the overuse of 1940s slang by one character. I fully understand that times change and terms that are used in the 40s, such as malarkey, hunky dory, swell) would seem awkward today, but this just seemed forced. Only one character in the entire book used this slang language and each and every time she spoke she used it. I found it difficult to believe that these terms would be so widely used that they would be used by one character every time she opened her mouth, yet not one of the other characters ever uttered these time-specific terms. Another distracting aspect was the instant friendship between the four main characters. In a children's novel I understand there isn't a whole lot of time to devote to developing friendships, but this novel took quick friendships to the extreme. Literally, within a matter of an hour or two, all the characters went from complete strangers who had never seen each other, never interacted and they became best friends forever. The main characters practically could not live without the thought tha[...]

2017 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off Grand Giveaway (by M. D. Presley)


Okay, this is it: The big score, bonanza, mother lode, pot of gold, and proof that I own a thesaurus. So many 2017 SPFBO books are now up for grabs, we decided to break this bunch into two glorious grab-bags for two lucky winners. To enter, leave a comment here on the blog, or head on over to Fantasy Book Critic’s Facebook page and SHARE this post to enter for a chance to win. I assure you, you’ll be glad you did. or lose, we hope everyone found a fantasy book by a self-published author they were unfamiliar with. And please, if you did find something here in our SPFBO giveaway, leave the author an Amazon/ Goodreads review and tell your friends. Reviews and word of mouth weigh nothing, but they’re more valuable than gold (and mithril) to us authors. And now, without further ado (adieu?), our first winner will receive not only digital copies of our FIRST, SECOND, THIRD  and SIXTH, but also the following great books: Ben Galley: The Heart of Stone Social Blurb: Merciless. Murderer. Monster. He has been called many names in his time. Built for war and nothing else, he has witnessed every shade of violence humans know, and he has wrought his own masterpieces with their colours. He cared once, perhaps, but far too long ago. He is bound to his task, dead to the chaos he wreaks for his masters. Now, he has a new master to serve and a new war to endure. In the far reaches of the Realm, Hartlund tears itself in two over coin and crown. This time he will fight for a boy king and a general bent on victory. Beneath it all he longs for change. For something to surprise him. For an end to this cycle of warfare. Every fighter has a last fight. Even one made of stone. S. J. Lem: The Waterfall Traveler Official Blurb: All eighteen-year-old Ri wants is to cure her adoptive father Samuel from his hallucination-inducing illness. Everyone in her village tells her it's impossible. But when she meets two newcomers in the forest—a gruff rogue with a vendetta against the gods and a charming fugitive with the power to travel through water—she'll be torn away from Samuel and swept across the sea to an oppressed city governed by a ruthless tyrant. Once there, she'll not only have to confront Samuel's unlawful past, but a vicious evil that threatens all mankind. In this tale of bravery, friendship, and unexpected love, Ri must discover her own strength to save the men she cares for. Ulff Lehmann: Shattered Dreams Official Blurb: If one looks too long into the abyss, the abyss looks back. Drangar Ralgon has been avoiding the abyss's gaze for far too long and now he turns to face it. For a hundred years the young kingdom of Danastaer has thrived in peace. Now their northern neighbor, mighty Chanastardh, has begun a cunning invasion. Thrust into events far beyond his control, the mercenary Drangar Ralgon flees his solitary life as a shepherd to evade the coming war and take responsibility for his crimes. In Dunthiochagh, Danastaer's oldest city, the holy warrior Kildanor uncovers the enemy's plans for invasion. As ancient forces reach forth to shape the world once more, the sorceress Ealisaid wakes from a century of hibernation only to realize the Dunthiochagh she knew is no more. Magic, believed long gone, returns, and with it comes an elven wizard sent to recover a dangerous secret. Mercenary[...]

The First FBC SPFBO Semifinalist Update(by Mihir Wanchoo)


Our First SPFBO update is a bit overdue, as I had explained in my 2017 SPFBO introduction post. We’ll be selecting one book semifinalist from every five books. These book groupings are random and sometimes we might have no semi-finalists or we might have more than one in one group. With our first group, these were the five titles that I went with and keep in mind I tried to read at least five chapters or 20% of the book (whichever was longer). Before I made a decision whether I wanted to continue or skip to the next one. Here are my brief-ish thoughts on each of them: The Slave From The East (Victor Poole) – This book was an interesting one and the blurb while seeming a tad generic promised a lot. The opening chapters details Ajalia, a slave who will being one has her wits and strength hidden within. The first few chapters detailed an intriguing world however the characters weren’t that strong to hold my interest and after five chapters I chose to skip it.The Crimson Queen (Alec Hutson) – The Crimson Queen began with a very typical fantasy trope however the characterization kept me interested as we are introduced to quite a few more. The world settings weren’t quite detailed as I would have liked but the flow of the book kept me hooked all the way till the end.The Burglar of Sliceharbor (Jason Holt) – This book was a nice comedic fantasy and had a bit of a Terry Pratchett vibe to it. The story opens up in the city of Sliceharbour which has a variety of animalistic/humanoid races and then introduces us to our main character a crane. The story however seemed very much like a draft and could have served with a couple more rewrites IMO.The Lion Mistress (R. A. Steffan) – The Lion Mistress was a book which seemed very intriguing based on the blurb and it was a decent read. I must say that it begins on a dark note and the chapters that I read introduced a protagonist who is scarred on the outside & inside. The story however wasn’t as intriguing as I liked it to be and in the end I think it wasn’t a book for me.Absence Of Color (S.K. Wee) – This was a very intriguing title and even though this seemed like a YA book, the author certainly has managed to infuse a certain amount of darkness into the story. This was a story that I certainly enjoyed and in the end it was a contest between this title and another dark debut.So without further adieu our first semifinalist is The Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson. Many congratulations to Alec and I’ll be reviewing TCQ next week and hopefully will be able to interview the author as well. [...]

A Dragon Of A Different Color by Rachel Aaron (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author Website  Order “A Dragon Of  A Different Color” HERERead Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Nice Dragons Finish Last"Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "One Good Dragon Deserves Another"Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished"Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "The Spirit Thief" Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit Rebellion” Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit Eater” & “Spirit’s Oath” Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit War” Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Spirit's End"Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Fortune's Pawn"Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Honor's Knight"Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Heaven's Queen"Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Rachel AaronRead Eli Monpress series completion interview with Rachel AaronRead Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Rachel BachRead Fantasy Book Critic's Heartstrikers interview with Rachel AaronRead Fantasy Book Critic's Second Heartstrikers interview with Rachel AaronRead "Why A Nice Dragon" by Rachel Aaron (Guest post)AUTHOR INFORMATION: Rachel Aaron lives in Athens, Georgia with her family. She has graduated from University of Georgia with a B.A. in English Literature. She has been an avid reader since her childhood and now has an ever-growing collection to show for it. She loves gaming, Manga comics & reality TV police shows. She also posts regularly on her blog about publishing, books and several other intriguing things. OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: To save his family from his tyrannical mother, Julius had to step on a lot of tails. That doesn’t win a Nice Dragon many friends, but just when he thinks he’s starting to make progress, a new threat arrives. Turns out, things can get worse. Heartstriker hasn’t begun to pay for its secrets, and the dragons of China are here to collect. When the Golden Emperor demands his surrender, Julius will have to choose between loyalty to the sister who's always watched over him and preserving the clan he gave everything to protect. CLASSIFICATION: The Heartstriker series is an action-packed urban fantasy series with a strong dose of comedy, post-apocalyptic SF themes and dragons. FORMAT/INFO: A Dragon Of A Different Color is 506 pages long divided over seventeen numbered chapters with a prologue and an epilogue. Narration is in the third person via Julius Heartstriker, Chelsie Heartstriker, Algonquin, Bob “Brohomir” Heartstriker & one more person who will have to go unnamed because of SPOILERS. This is the fourth volume of the Heartstriker series. July 28, 2017 will mark the e-book & paperback publication of A Dragon Of A Different Color and it will be self-published by the author. Cover art and design is by Anna Steinbauer.OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: A Dragon Of A Different Color is the fourth Heartstriker book and the title is a strong indicator about the plot of the book for those who want to take a stab at guessing. The plot of this book literally starts moments after the shocking events of No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished. We see Julius who is very distraught upon learning about the shocking death that was the climax of NGDGU. He's also not entirely prepared to learn about what events have befallen Amelia & Bob. To add to it, Julius and the other heads of the Hearstrikers council soon learn that they are being invaded by the Chinese dragons and to top to it [...]

2017 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off Giveaway Part IX (by M. D. Presley)


All good things must come to an end, and we’re going out with a bang on this, our last giveaway before the massive Grand Prize. Four lucky winners will get this great selection made up of four of Fantasy Book Review’s biggest bruisers including a misguided savior, a goddess’ influence, a new partnership and a new take on Merlin. To enter, leave a comment here on the blog, or head on over to Fantasy Book Critic’s Facebook page and SHARE this post to enter for a chance to win. I assure you, you’ll be glad you did. Jennifer M Baldwin: The Thirteen Treasures of BritainOfficial Author Website, Twitter, & Facebook pagesOfficial Blurb: 1,400 years is a long time to be asleep. Even for a wizard. Especially for a wizard who has to stop an ancient prophesy from coming true.

By the time Merlin wakes up from his enchanted sleep, it’s 1985, the legendary Thirteen Treasures of Britain are missing, and his magic is starting to fade.

To make matters worse, in twelve days’ time, it will be Midsummer’s Day: the prophesied day when the old gods will return to Britain and wreak havoc on its people. If the Treasures fall into the wrong hands, the gods will rise, thousands will die, and Britain will be utterly transformed by chaos.

In the old days — the days of Camelot and King Arthur — Merlin would’ve sent someone else on the quest for the Treasures. But now, with time running out and everything at stake, he’s ready to take up the quest himself.

The search for the Treasures will take him from the realms of Faerie to the Land of Dreams, and from the streets of Glastonbury to the distant reaches of the solar system, where he’ll meet friends and foes alike, including Arthur Pendragon, Morgana Le Fay, and a panther-like creature called the Cath Palug — the “slashing cat” with a taste for king’s blood. D. Thourson Palmer: Ours Is the StormOfficial Author Facebook & Twitter pages 
Official Blurb: Revik Lasivar knows he is a savior. He knows he will never be defeated. He knows he is fighting for good. 

Everything Revik Lasivar knows is a lie.

Revik is the last scion of a legendary family, destined to deliver his kingdom. Ahi'rea is the nomad seeress fighting to destroy it. Her power of foresight and ruthless tactics threaten to undo all Revik’s efforts, so he embarks on a last crusade to destroy her and her people. When the savior and seeress cross swords, however, the deceptions they uncover will change both of them, and their world, forever. J.C.Hart: Serafina’s FlameOfficial Author Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram pages  Official Blurb: When the goddess calls, how will you respond? 
Carmel must break free of her captivity to honor her son's dying wish, and in doing so try to reconnect with the goddess she believes abandoned her. Vana, who struggled so hard to keep her daughter safe, now has to leave her people to rescue her from a threat she never saw coming. And Aida, once stolen, has now been returned, but she'll never be the same again. 
Serafina's Flame is the story of these three women and how their lives intertwine. Can they put the past behind them in order to save their people? 
Can they rekindle Serafina's Flame? Catharine Glen: The Rose CrownOfficial Author Twitter, Facebook, & Goodreads pages 
Official Blurb: Elite soldier Mar[...]

2017 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off Giveaway Part VIII (by M. D. Presley)


Our three-week giveaway now winding down, we certainly haven’t run out of steam with this smattering of Ventureadlaxre books. Four winners will be treated to violent fairies, magic derived from gemstones, and even a dying Earth beset by insects. To enter, leave a comment here on the blog, or head on over to Fantasy Book Critic’s Facebook page and SHARE this post to enter for a chance to win. I assure you, you’ll be glad you did. Jesse Teller: Liefdom: A Tale from PeriliscOfficial Author Website, Facebook, Goodreads, & Twitter pages Official Blurb: A zealous guardian in a peaceful city, Gentry Mandrake is a fairy unlike any other. Cast out and hated for his differences, his violent nature makes him wonder at the purity of his soul. He hunts for belonging while fighting to protect the human child bound to him. Explore the mythical realm of The Veil, the grating torture of the Sulfur Fields, and the biting tension between power and purpose in this wondrous struggle against a demonic wizard and his denizens. Can Mandrake overcome such terrible foes to defend those he loves? RS McCoy: The Killing JarOfficial Author Website, Facebook & Instagram pages Official Blurb: Earth is dying, circling the drain on life support. The future of the human race depends on space exploration, but they’re running out of time. Parasitic insects are systematically killing the best scientific minds but no one knows why.  Mable Wilkinson is the last hope to figure it out, she just doesn’t know it yet. For years, her resourcefulness, intelligence, and penchant for problem-solving have put her at the top of a very short list of researchers, only she doesn’t want to be part of it.  Cast out at sixteen, Mable wrote off the problems of the world long ago. Now, her focus is on Hadley, her adopted little sister, and teaching her to survive in the cut-throat underground. Instead, both Mable and Hadley fall into the hands of the program’s recruiter, Silas Arrenstein, and he’s determined to have one of them. Mable can join up with the man and program who killed her brother, or she can leave Hadley to the same fate. Kay L. Ling: Beyond the Forest Official Author Website, Facebook, Twitter, & Pinterest pages   Official Blurb: Lana can draw arcane powers from gemstones. When she started reading the folklore, it sounded farfetched. She should have closed the books right then and walked away. Special abilities are nothing but trouble. Someone always wants you to do something impossible. Or dangerous. Usually both. Like going through a portal to save an oppressed race in another world. In this case, gnomes, whose ruler happens to be a gem master queen with unimaginable powers. Lana decides an exploratory mission seems harmless. She can visit the other world and come up with a plan. Who knew there would be flying serpents, carnivorous insects, and goblin-like mutant gnomes? Or that she'd end up in a dungeon while the queen decides whether to kill her or turn her into an enchanted creature? The gem master hopes to rule Lana's world next, and has already set plans in motion. Lana is determined to escape from the dungeon, but then what? She has two potential allies with gem powers, and she's afraid of both. But with two worlds in danger, and time running out, she may have to trust them. *---[...]