Spoiler-Free Review: “The Queen’s Rising” by Rebecca Ross

Hi, everyone. I just got back from Ishigaki in Okinawa, and it was a few days’ rest I desperately needed. Keep an eye out for photos and blog posts.

While on my trip, I read a book I’d been waiting to read for a while. I’d seen it on Twitter and immediately fell in love with the cover. It was a debut fantasy novel by American writer Rebecca Ross, someone I’ve come to admire deeply. I bought it and read it any spare minute that I wasn’t playing about on the beach or sampling the delicious Okinawan food.

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“Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron. Growing up in Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her. While some are born with a talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she chose knowledge. However, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—she is left without a patron. 

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, she reluctantly accepts. But there is much more to his story, for there is a dangerous plot to overthrow the king of Maevana—the rival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

And now, with war brewing, Brienna must choose which side she will remain loyal to: passion or blood.”

I felt a pull to this book immediately, and from the first page, I knew I’d made the right choice. Ross writes with flair and explains details flawlessly, using sights and smells, especially, to really suck me into the world without going overboard on description. Brienna was sort of the anti-Mary-Sue; it was refreshing to come across a character who struggled with her pursuits. She was not gifted with art or music like her patron sisters, and eventually chose to passion in knowledge, working hard to catch up to her classmate. This book also defied stereotypes, and things which I thought I saw coming a mile away turned out to be entirely different than I expected. There were also twists that made me audibly gasp, which I think annoyed some of the surrounding travellers.

Some reviewers so far have complained that there was no action until later in the book, but I genuinely enjoyed exploring the world that Ross created, with its scents and beautifully described Magnalia House, the school in which Brienna studied. I don’t believe that all books should have brushes with death to hook you in from the first page, and I was gently seduced into the story. Ross’ prose is just gorgeous. I felt aching in my heart reading this book, an inspiring envy, and was captivated by the story she told.

I recommend this gorgeously crafted novel to any lover of fantasy, who enjoys discovering new worlds and learning rich and unique histories. Although there were several questions left unanswered at the end of the story, this is a fantastic stand-alone tale that I hope every book lover reads. I give The Queen’s Rising five stars out of five.

5stars

Get The Queen’s Rising on Amazon US
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Spoiler-Free Review: “Angst” by David J. Pedersen

Day 39

I’ve just finished reading a fantasy novel called Angst, written by David J. Pedersen.

“When Angst turned 40, he knew it was over. Angst had longed to be a knight of Unsel, to make his mark in history, to be remembered for heroic deeds and wondrous acts. He grew up knowing he was destined for something great, but now it is too late. Not only is 40 far too old to become a knight, Angst is one of the few able to wield “the magics”.”

Most protagonists in fantasy novels are young and gifted, destined from birth to be the hero and saviour of the story – often not relatable at all. One of the first things that draws readers to David Pedersen’s Angst is the fact that the main character is the exact opposite of this stereotype.

Angst is the perfect name for this character: he is unsatisfied with his life, a gift that should have been cherished makes him an outcast, and he spends his life in skull-numbing boredom. After turning forty, he believes his dreams of becoming a knight, and subsequent hero, are over. That is until he draws a sword that has been unmovable for as long as anyone can remember. It just might be up to Angst to get to the bottom of the problems plaguing Unsel… once his back stops hurting.

Angst is just an adorable character. Pedersen cleverly captures the mid-life crisis, urge to become something bigger and better, and the fearless, cheeky flirting of a forty-year-old. It was really interesting how these elements fit nicely into a fantasy story.

The story itself was incredibly creative and I’ll have a hard time forgetting many different aspects of the world of Ehrde, including places, beasts, and the concept of the Vex’kvette. I found that I was carrying the book around with me so I could read it on the train and during my lunch breaks.

There were a few things I wasn’t sure about. Something we find out about Heather, Angst’s wife, could have been foreshadowed, along with several other things. I also couldn’t bring myself to like the character Rose, although that is personal preference because I’ve heard she’s a very popular character. Nevertheless, this was a fun story to read and I look forward to reading the next one! I give this book four stars out of five.

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Spoiler-Free Review: “Eyes of the Hunter” by Rosa Marchisella

Day 32

‘Sup, everyone! Hope you’re staying warm.

I recently read a book called Eyes of the Hunter, a new fantasy novel by Rosa Marchisella.

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“Prince Erin, heir to the throne of Simanthea, spent a lifetime protecting a dangerous secret no one can know. Not even Caley, Erin’s best friend and devoted bodyguard. 

But even the most tightly guarded secret can’t be kept forever. 

When Caley discovers the depth of Erin’s deception, his rage explodes like wildfire and devoted guardian turns to terrifying bounty hunter. To survive, Erin must outrun the past and evade the Eyes of the Hunter.”

As a lover of fantasy, I gobbled this one up.

After birthing six daughters, Queen Marianna is terrified that if she fails to produce a male heir to the throne of Simanthea, her life will be forfeit. The kingdom rejoices when the birth of a baby boy is announced, and the queen insists that only she care for the baby, whom she names Erin.

She hires a boy, Caley, to protect her son with his life. I truly loved this beginning to the book. I sympathised with the queen, a kind soul who had been basically used by the king “as a breeding mare” for his desire to have a son. Caley was also introduced well, being a shy and quiet boy but delivering when it mattered most. He won the right to become Erin’s guardian.

As a child, Caley was blamed for something he didn’t do and we get a taste of the king’s merciless heart and lack of empathy. When the secret comes out and Erin is forced to run, the atmosphere of the story goes from quiet contentment (if tense) to full-blown excitement and fear.

Caley goes from solid protector to hunter. We see Erin survive, a feat which would not be easy for a pampered member of royalty. However, with Caley’s teachings, Erin can find ways to get through some tough times, which is a little ironic for Caley since he’s now chasing the person he taught.

Rumours fly like wildfire through the land about the hunter, some far-fetched and some not far from the truth, keeping us on our toes as to what Erin will do to shake Caley off, because he always seems closer.

I really enjoyed this book. It was easy to read and Marchisella creates vivid descriptions. I know when I’ve read a good story because my mind wanders to think about the characters at times when I’m not reading, and as this happened a lot, I know the writer did extremely well in creating a world into which I could invest my time and heart.

There were some things that I wasn’t sure about; for example, some skills and knowledge that Erin had were not mentioned before so they could have been foreshadowed. I also felt that another character got the raw end of the deal towards the end of the story but, as we know, life is unfair, and that is possibly what Marchisella was trying to convey.

I recommend Eyes of the Hunter for lovers of fantasy, especially fantasy with rich worlds. I found myself wanting to know more about the kingdoms, what lies beyond the oceans. I’m hoping for a sequel to this engaging tale! Overall, I give it four stars out of five.

4stars

Get Eyes of the Hunter on Amazon US
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Playing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Again

Day 28

Guyyyyyyys. It finally arrived.

Hnng.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is a fantastic game and one that was played for thousands, probably millions of hours worldwide in the late 00s. As a lover of fantasy roleplaying games, I did my fair share of exploring, Oblivion gate closing, questing, and guilding. My younger brother, Calum, fell in love with the game and that was the first of many he ended up playing.

Upon finishing Skyrim and Dragon Age and listening to the Oblivion soundtrack I knew I needed to play it again. I never knew until recently (which might have saved me a lot of trouble) that the Japanese and the American PlayStations are the same; as in, you can play an American game on a Japanese console and vice-versa. I found Oblivion for a fairly reasonable price on Amazon, waited several weeks for it to arrive, and was suddenly jumping on the spot.

Would it be just as magical as when I first played it? Video game graphics have come along way since 2006. But as the music played, I was a happy teenager again, ready to dive into Tamriel and close shut the jaws of Oblivion.

Sometimes when you play a game for the nostalgia, it ends up being a bit disappointing. Last year, when I still had my Wii U, I downloaded Pokemon Snap which, to my delight, was available on the virtual console.

I finished it in about two hours thinking was that it? As a kid I spent weeks exploring the levels, taking photographs, collecting items and wondering where I needed to go to unlock new stages and new Pokemon. I’m not saying that it isn’t a good game; I just didn’t get the joy out of it that I did as a child because now I already know where all the secrets and items are.

Oblivion, however, is still as perfect and awesome and insane as it was twelve years ago, and I’m ready to waste time I could be spending reading, writing, or having a social life completing quests and helping Martin Septim realise his destiny as king. For the Emperor!

The Queen’s Alchemist is Now Available in Paperback!

Day 23 [New Year’s Resolution]: The Queen’s Alchemist is Now Available in Paperback!

Hi, everyone! How’s your week going so far?

Though not my debut book, The Queen’s Alchemist is (so far) my only published book on Amazon. After several of my students asked me to give them paperbacks of it, I decided to publish it in print, not just as an ebook. That’s good news for those who prefer paper to ebooks!

AlchemistPrint copy

The cover was designed by the talented Victoria Cooper, who creates covers for thebookcoverdesigner.com. You can also check out her Facebook page.

The paperback is just $5.99, and it’s a great stocking filler, so give it a try! Don’t forget to tweet me if you decide to purchase it.

Get it on Amazon UK
Get it on Amazon US
Get the eBook

Time to Vote! Which Cover Do You Like the Best?

Day 17 [New Year’s Resolution]: Time to Vote!

Hello, children. I’ve almost finished my new story, A Bard’s Lament.

Veilig is a respected town, enriched by the blackstone trade. However, a dark secret lies underneath the village. Guards and nobles turn a blind eye as Elf girls are captured from the wars and taken to what Ella and her sister call ‘The Rathole,’ a prison of drugs and prostitution. With debt hanging over her head and the captain of the guard keeping an ever-watchful eye over the village, what can Ella do to help? After all, she is only a bard…

I hope you’re looking forward to the release as much as I am! There are just a few more details to sort out. I’ve narrowed it down to three covers. Ignore the titles for now, as they’re just examples by the designer. So, which do you like best?

cover vote

Please comment below or send me a tweet to cast your vote! I’ll post the results in a couple of days.

Thanks!

Short Story: The Queen’s Alchemist

As well as blogs and articles, I also love to write fiction. If you like fantasy, check out my short story, The Queen’s Alchemist, available now on Amazon! It’s free on Kindle Unlimited or $1.99.

The Giants War rages in the north, and Queen Cassandra fears threats from the neighbouring kingdom will tear her fragile empire to the ground. Inside the palace, however, greater threats lurk in the shadows under false promises of loyalty and in the slums, there are whispers of forbidden magic. These seven stories tell tales from the Kingdom of Atharron, the homeland of the Mage Lords.

QUEENSALCHEMIST3D

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Get it on Smashwords

Writing The Queen’s Alchemist was a lot of fun, and it’s a short introduction to the Mage Lords of Theldiniya and their origins. I hope you enjoy this short story and be sure to Tweet me if you decide to buy!