Podcast Review #139: The Shadow of Black Wings

the-shadow-third-cover-2502Title: The Shadow of Black Wings
Author: James Calbraith
Genre: Steampunk Fantasy
Released: 13 February, 2013
Located: Podiobooks, iTunes
Formats Available: podcast, ebook
Rating: PG – 13 for violence

Occasionally, it’s not what you know, it’s whom you know. Such is the case with The Shadow of Black Wings. I don’t know the author, Mr. Calbraith. Shocking, I know. The truth is, I was minding my own business a couple of weeks ago when I caught a tweet mentioning someone in my twitter circle had narrated a story. Again, shocking. I know. However, this was a bit different, because although this person does podcast, to my knowledge, she has never narrated a story before. She is also from my homestate and knows people I know. So yes, sometimes, you get a review by choosing the right narrator.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: It is the sixteenth year of Queen Victoria’s enlightened rule and the world trembles before the might of her ironclad navy and the dreaded Dragon Corps. The largest ship ever built sails from the Brigstow Harbour on a journey to the mysterious lands of Orient. Its load – a regiment of the Royal Marines and one Bran ap Dylan – freshly graduate in Dracology at the Llambed Academy of Mystic Arts.

In the empire of Yamato, sealed from the rest of the world for the last two centuries, a wizard’s daughter Sato witnesses her father joining an anti-government conspiracy. Her friend Nagomi, training to be a priestess, is haunted by dark visions that she must keep secret. Neither of them is aware that a change is coming to Yamato… on the wings of a dragon.

A detailed and fast-paced historical fantasy based around the turbulent opening of Japan to the West in the middle of the 19th century, “The Shadow of the Black Wings” is the first volume in “The Year of the Dragon” saga.
(Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: The production of The Shadow of Black Wings is far from the best I’ve heard. It is also far from the worst. There are many reasons for bad production. Low quality source recordings. Poor production skills. Numerous other reasons. I have no idea what the issue was here. I will say that the production improved as it went along. My main complaint was the amount of compression or noise reduction used during the first episodes. It left the narrators voice sounding a bit electronic. As I said, this was less noticeable as the podcast went along. Perhaps I became accustomed to it, but I don’t believe so. The production was average and thus I graded it accordingly.

Grade: C

Cast: The narrator is Kate Sherrod. Kate is an acquaintance on Twitter and she and I grew up 70 miles from each other in a somewhat remote area of the country. She is the reason I initially listened.

Interestingly, I’ve never actually met Kate, and I also have never listened to her podcast (sorry Kate, my time is taken up with fiction), so I had no idea what her voice would sound like or if I would find her reading enjoyable.

I am happy to say Ms. Sherrod did a great job. I’m happy because I hate to give poor grades to people I know when they’re deserved. And I DO give poor grades to ANYONE that earns them. Ms. Sherrod does the reading without tons of character voices, but the vocal inflection and tone serve her well.

Grade: A

Story: The Shadow of Black Wings combines elements of traditional fantasy and steampunk quite well while also falling in line with being an alternative history. The dragons and their role in this world is different than those I’ve encountered before and I hope to hear more of them in books two and three (yes, it’s a series).

Grade: A

Verdict: Rule 1 for making Odin happy: DON’T use book one of your series as an overblown preface. Tie up SOMETHING! If all you’re doing in the first book is setting up the rest of the series, it makes me angry. Angry enough not to buy the rest of the series? Yes. (And yes people, I often buy the print version of the podcasts I review. If you can, so should you.) Now authors, you might disagree with me. That’s okay. I stick with this, and in the end, this is my venue, but feel free to send me a comment explaining why I’m wrong. I’ll continue to disagree with you, but I’m happy to let others express their opinions here. Okay, the rant is finished.

I liked The Shadow of Black Wings. Quite a bit actually. So much in fact, that I’ll probably go ahead and buy the next two books in the series. I felt the elements of this story were fresh and told a story that hasn’t been told before, which in and of itself is refreshing. So, while I don’t like providing spoilers of any type, as long as you don’t mind being left with no answers and many questions, I do recommend The Shadow of Black Wings. Enjoy!

Disclosure: All of my connections with anyone involved in this production, I opened with.

Book Review #23: Suave Rob’s Double X Derring Do by J. Daniel Sawyer

Title: Suave Rob’s Double X Derring Do
Author: J. Daniel Sawyer
Publisher: Artistic Whispers
Release Date: 2012
Available Formats: ebook, paperback

While I was on hiatus, I knew the world of authors that I am privileged to be allowed to peak in on would continue to evolve and progress. Little did I realize, however, just how prolific J. Daniel Sawyer would be during this period. Recently Mr. Sawyer provided a couple of titles for review. I finished the first, Suave Rob’s Double X Derring Do last night.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: One Surfboard. Two X-Chromosomes. All Man. Climbing Olympus Mons put him on the map, and children everywhere tune into watch every time he skydives from a space station, but Suave Rob Suarez is just getting started. Together with his childhood hero and his stunt partner, he’s gonna stage the biggest daredevil stunt the universe has ever seen: Surf a supernova. Or die trying. (Stolen from Smashwords.com)

Setting: The future. I’m not quite sure when. I’m not sure if the author stated, but to be honest, I’m terrible with dates in books. In this version of our future, sports and the culture surrounding them seem to remain pretty much as they are in the 21st century with athletes attaining superstar status with the prestige and groupies that goes with that.

Also in this time, stream gender reassignment surgery is somewhat routine and gender is a choice each individual is free to make without fear of reprisals.

Plot: Our hero and his trusty compatriots are looking for a new high. Everything has been done. The real danger has been removed from the equation and this situation is unpalatable for Suave Rob. One night, he and his soon to be partners devise a plan that will change that. Death, and the excitement that brings, are back on the table.

Characters: The only characters worth mentioning are Rob, Jeff and Tuppler. And truthfully Rob, who is telling the story in first person, (and the title character) is the star of the show.

Odin’s recommendation: Mr. Sawyer doesn’t know how to write anything that isn’t well researched. Either that or he knows a bit of everything. (Ed. note- I have talked with JDS to quite an extent and firmly believe it is the latter.) This book doesn’t go heavy on the science, but there is enough there to make the casual reader believe the details might work. Mr. Sawyer also doesn’t write things to just amuse himself. There always seems to be a point.

With the point of gender reassignment surgery becoming common place, the recurring discussion of it here seemed to be just a bit pedantic. However, that didn’t keep me from enjoying the story Mr. Sawyer had to tell. Suave Rob was a fun story, full of macho athletes and death defying do. I would be surprised not to see Suave Rob again and I predict Mr. Sawyer has another hit on his hands.

Suave Rob’s Double X Derring Do is a relatively short book and most will easily be able to read it in several settings. Just make sure you’re reading somewhere laughing out loud doesn’t get you carted away.

Podcast Review #138: Other Peoples Heroes

1792929Title: Other People’s Heroes
Author: Blake Petit
Genre: Comic book superhero fantasy
Released: 12 July 2011
Located: Podiobooks, iTunes
Formats Available: podcast, ebook
Rating: PG – 13 for violence

Like many boys, I grew up reading comic books whenever I could. Being one of three boys that shared most things, that meant comic books with missing pages and rips galore. (On an aside, who else remembers large dots used for colored printing?) In the 90s I went through a period of being a serious comic collector. The stories were fantastic.

During the time I listened to Escape Pod, Jeffrey DeRago’s Union Dues stories were some of my favorite. However, since then, I’ve also found (and reviewed) at least one comic book podcast that should have stayed hidden.

So when I found Other People’s Heroes I knew I’d listen, I just didn’t know what I’d find.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: Josh Corwood has spent his life admiring the superheroes that protect Siegel City. He’s wanted to join them, wanted to be like them… but eventually, had to settle for reporting on them from the sidelines. When an undiscovered talent reignites his hope to join the world’s protectors, he suddenly discovers that their world isn’t everything he’d been led to believe. Surrounded by false idols, Josh decides to turn the tables on them and reveal the greatest con game in history… and hopefully, in the process, find the real heroes that have long been gone. (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: The production of Other People’s Heroes , in my memory, was very good. I do provide this caveat however: I listened to Other People’s Heroes during my hiatus and write these reviews from memory, so it is possible that the production isn’t quite what I remember.

I’ll also say that the theme music for
Other People’s Heroes nailed it and added to the listening experience.

Grade: A-

Cast: Other People’s Heroes is a self read by author Blake Petit. Mr. Petit nailed it. I don’t know if he modeled Josh Corwood off of himself, but I do know that he really did read his main character with flair and understanding.

Grade: A

Story: Other People’s Heroes follows in the vain of many novels based off of comics in the respect that it starts off by letting us know that not all supers are really all that heroic. Union Dues, Secret World Chronicles and Playing for Keeps all have done similar things, each in their own way. I still found the devices Mr. Petit used in Other People’s Heroes fresh and fun and the listener was engaged throughout.

Grade: A

Verdict: I admit. I LOVED this story all the way through. It was fun. It had the feel of a comic that I could have shared with my kids and not be afraid of what the next page would bring, while still being written by an adult with an adult audience in mind. If you enjoy a story of a persons humanity being worth more than any super power, give Other People’s Heroes a listen. I think you’ll be glad you did.

Disclosure: Nope. Don’t know Mr. Petit. At all.

Podcast Review #137: Deadly Games (Emperor’s Edge #3)

Title: Deadly Gamesheight_167_width_100_EE3_audible
Author: Lindsay Buroker
Genre: Fantasy with Steampunk elements
Released: 7 December 2012
Located: PodiobooksiTunes
Formats Available: podcast, ebook
Rating: PG – 13 for violence

Regular readers of this blog should recognize author Lindsay Buroker’s name by now. I’ve reviewed the previous two books in her Emperor’s Edge series and was excited to find she had released book 3. Does it measure up?

On to the review.

Synopsis:

When you’ve been accused of kidnapping an emperor, and every enforcer in the city wants your head, it’s hard to prove yourself an honorable person and even harder to earn an imperial pardon.

That doesn’t keep Amaranthe Lokdon and her team of outlaws from trying. When athletes start disappearing from the Imperial Games, they may finally have an opportunity to show the emperor that they’re on his side. If she and her comrades can get to the bottom of such a public mystery, they’re sure to get the credit.

But plans go awry when Amaranthe’s own men start plotting against each other, the new ally she’d hoped to acquire tries to turn her in, and her best fighter—and closest friend—disappears.

Maybe getting involved wasn’t such a good idea after all… (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: Deadly Games is produced by the same team that produced the first two books in the The Emperor’s Edge series, Darkfire Productions. I remain a fan of this production company. They do a very nice job of making sure all of the audio elements of the story blend nicely together and that no individual element overpowers anything else.

Grade: A-

Cast: Ms. Buroker makes the very wise decision to continue having Starla Huchton narrate her novels. With each novel, Ms. Huchton makes Ms. Buroker’s characters more her own. At this point, I seriously cannot imagine hearing these stories narrated by anyone else. Unless it was Sean Connery, and that is just being silly.

Grade: A

Story: With Deadly Games, we venture more towards the fantasy world and less the steampunk once again. However, by this third book, I forgot (or quit caring) about this, as the world was comfortable to slide back into and all the elements just fit. I can appreciate a world where different elements of science and magic exist simultaneously AND interact on occasion.

Grade: A

Verdict: It is very difficult to write a verdict for an individual book in a series that you have all ready gone on record as enjoying. However, Deadly Games, did add quite a bit to the Emperor’s Edge series back story and I found this even more interesting than I might otherwise have. Did I enjoy it? Immensely. Do I recommend it? Indubitably. Should you listen to all the books in this series? Um.. why are you still here? Go. Download. Now.

Disclosure: I’ve never met Ms. Buroker. Since the review for EE, i have begun following her on Twitter (@goblinwriter). I was offered nothing in return for this review.

Book Review #22: Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffith

Greyfriar CoverTitle: The Greyfriar (Book One of the Vampire Empire Series)
Author: Clay and Susan Griffith
Publisher: PYR
Release Date: 1 November 2010
Available Formats: ebook, trade paperback

One of the series that PYR has released that I’ve been interested in for a while was the Vampire Empire series. I like vampires that are not emotive, wimpy caricatures of the dark creatures that scared me as a child. I don’t mind a good vampire now and again, but the overall trend of “Twilighting” them has left me cold of late. I’m a fan of steampunk and when I read the synopsis of a steampunk vampire novel, I was hooked.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: In the year 1870, a horrible plague of vampires swept over the northern regions of the world. Millions of humans were killed outright. Millions more died of disease and famine due to the havoc that followed. Within two years, once-great cities were shrouded by the gray empire of the vampire clans. Human refugees fled south to the tropics because vampires could not tolerate the constant heat there. They brought technology and a feverish drive to reestablish their shattered societies of steam and iron amid the mosques of Alexandria, the torrid quietude of Panama, or the green temples of Malaya.

It is now 2020 and a bloody reckoning is coming.

Princess Adele is heir to the Empire of Equatoria, a remnant of the old tropical British Empire. She is quick with her wit as well as with a sword or gun. She is eager for an adventure before she settles into a life of duty and political marriage to a man she does not know. But her quest turns black when she becomes the target of a merciless vampire clan. Her only protector is the Greyfriar, a mysterious hero who fights the vampires from deep within their territory. Their dangerous relationship plays out against an approaching war to the death between humankind and the vampire clans.

Vampire Empire: The Greyfriar is the first book in a trilogy of high adventure and alternate history. Combining rousing pulp action with steampunk style, Vampire Empire brings epic political themes to life within a story of heartbreaking romance, sacrifice, and heroism.(Stolen from PYR’s website)

Setting: As the synopsis states, this is an alternate history of our current world. The setting of this first book in the trilogy takes place in several well known earth cities. I especially liked the time spent in Scotland at Greyfriar’s castle. Travel is accomplished by boat, foot and dirigible. Swords are still used in the 21st century. Much of our known sciences are nonexistant in the world the Griffith’s have created, or have been retarded due to the influx of the vampire menace. Steam is still at the height of technology and the world seems a bit larger and more isolated than the one we know today.

Plot: The Princess Adele, in an act of self sacrificing heroism has been separated from her human escort and is being in danger of a horrific death at the hands of vampires when she is rescued by the mysterious hero, Greyfriar. It is hard to say much more about the plot without spoiling some of the story. Suffice it to say, I think most adult readers will have figured out much of what is going on before things are revealed in the story. I will go on record as saying that this really mattered little to me in terms of whether I enjoyed the story or not.

Characters: In this first book of the series, we are introduced to Adele, Greyfriar and Prince Gareth, the vampire prince that chooses to go against his breeding in an effort to be more than his nature would dictate. Adele and Gareth are both well written and will have readers cheering them on from scene to scene.

Odin’s recommendation: I did enjoy The Greyfriar and will say that I think PYR has made another excellent addition to it’s catalog. I was a bit disappointed upon discovering that The Greyfriar was yet another vampire love story, however, it isn’t in the same vein (sorry.. couldn’t resist) as much of the pulp that is enthralling readers today. I enjoyed the issues the authors required the characters to face and the way the storyline progressed in what I will characterize as a logical way. Also, these vampires are not the vampires of our earth’s legends, though there are many similarities. If you like vampires and can appreciate that occasionally one might crave redemption, go out and buy a copy of The Greyfriar. You won’t be disappointed.

Podcast Review #136: We’re Alive

Title: We’re Alive (Seasons 1-3)
Author: Kc Wayland
Genre: Zombie Apocalypse Audio Drama
Released: 4 May 2009 – 5 December 2012
Located: iTunes
Formats Available: podcast
Rating: R – for violence, language and adult situations

Hi. Yup. Been awhile. I haven’t reviewed anything for awhile, but that doesn’t mean my headphones have been idle. Awhile back I was perusing the iPhone Podcast App featured selections and discovered We’re Alive. Yes, I realize that I’m late to the party, but I listened to all three seasons in a relatively short amount of time to make up for the fact.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis:

For Army Reserve Soldier Michael Cross, the world as he knew it ended in an instant. One minute, he’s in college, and in the next, rioters are roaming the highway around him, breaking into cars, and literally tearing people apart. This is the day the dead walk. This is the world of We’re Alive.

We’re Alive: Features chapters packing performances and sound effects that rival movies and prove that modern audio drama is undead and well. Join our survivors as they band together, struggle to fortify a safe haven known as the Tower, and discovers that zombies are far from the worst thing in a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles where the rules of human decency no longer apply.

Little food. Little water. Little hope. Who is lucky enough to say “We’re Alive?” (Stolen from the production’s website.)

Production: This is a full scale audio drama with a full team of creative people. If you want to see the full listing of production and cast folks, click here. Regardless of whom deserves the credit, credit is due. We’re Alive is a lavish production and I do mean that very favorably. Attention to detail is evident in every episode. If there is any downside to a production this well done, it might simply be that the listener ends up taking the experience for granted.

Grade: A+

Cast: If you wish to see a full listing of the cast, click here. All cast members do a superb job. Looking at their bios, I am not surprised to find that many are professional actors. We’re Alive should be a nice addition to their resumes, as I have not yet found a character that I felt was cast incorrectly. The following are what I would consider the main characters:

  • Jim Gleason as Michael
  • Shane Salk as Angel
  • Nate Geez as Saul
  • Elisa Eliot as Pegs
  • Claire Dodin as Riley
  • Scott Marvin as Burt
  • Tammy Klein as Kelly
  • Jay Olegario as Datu
  • Blaire Byhower as Lizzy

Each of these actors do a phenomenal job of reading life into their characters and have  a right to be proud of the experience they are bringing to the listener.

Grade: A

Story: Ah. The story. What initially made me listen? I really don’t know. What kept me listening? The story. The story grabbed me quickly and kept my interest firmly piqued. I can honestly say that while listening there were occasions when I wished my commute was a bit longer so I could have finished an ep, or perhaps started another.

Grade: A

Verdict: Let me preface the verdict by stating I’m not really a fan of zombies. I don’t like the Walking Dead. I quickly tire of blood and gore being the sole reason for a movie. I will never watch a zombie love story. I don’t care if the undead have a predilection for brains. So, that being said: We’re Alive. A Zombie Apocalypse audio drama/soap opera spanning 4 years all ready and not setting up for the next season until fall of this year. Can I really recommend this? YES. We’re Alive is more than the characters running from one site to another being chased by zombies. The description of the action doesn’t dwell on “gross out” factors but instead tells an intelligent story about characters that I’ve grown to care about (though some I care about in a “I wish you’d die” kind of way) accomplishing reasonable tasks in order to provide for themselves and those around them. This is more of an action story (or yes, soap opera) than it truly is a modern zombie movie for the ears. Not to say the zombies aren’t original (another necessity if you’re going down this path) and don’t provide a nice touch.

If you are at all tempted, give We’re Alive a listen. Then leave a comment and tell me what you thought about it.

Disclosure: Simply stated, I know no one involved in this production.

Song Review #1: Say by Kayla Yvonne

Song: Say
Artist: Kayla Yvonne
Release date: 25 October 2012
Available on iTunes

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As I said when I reviewed Alex White’s Maiden Flight of the Avenger soundtrack, I don’t assume to be a professional music (or any other type of) reviewer, but I do know what I like. And what I don’t like.

Early today, I was sent a release notice to a new song by one of my favorite people. I had heard this song as it developed from a simple guitar accompanied acoustic performance, but I hadn’t heard it in its final form, so I quickly went to iTunes to give it a listen.

So, on to the review.

Say starts with a short rhythmic intro that gets the listeners attention. The song then segues nicely into the vocals. The vocals start out quite softly and Kayla Yvonne shows that she is capable of holding to the key, regardless of volume. No auto tune needed.

As I was listening to the song, a coworker asked if the Cranberries had finally released new music. While I can’t say I believe Say sounds like something by The Cranberries, I can say I can hear a similar lilting vocal style in parts of this particular song.

The song itself is a nice blend of musical elements and left this listener pleasantly wanting to hear more.

Verdict: I can honestly say at the low price of .99¢, I found this song a steal. So go steal it.

Disclaimer: I have known Kayla Yvonne for a good number of years and have watched her grow as a local artist. I hope that she continues to record and will soon have more songs available for purchase.

Podcast Review #135: The Gorilla Poet

Title: The Gorilla Poet
Author: Keith Hughes
Genre: Science Fiction Romance
Released: 10 October 2010 – 30 December 2010
Located: iTunes, Podiobooks
Formats Available: podcast
Rating: R – for violence and adult situations

Keith Hughes was first reviewed on this blog with his wonderful time travel story Borrowed Time. Even after having enjoyed that story so much, I was a bit hesitant to try The Gorilla Poet. I really don’t know why. I just was. I finally decided to give it a listen in May of this year.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: What if by simply Writing a Word you could build a wall, light a fire, or cloud someone’s mind? In an environment like this Alan Porter struggles to use his talents to overthrow a totalitarian government that controls the masses by controlling Words. Access to Writing materials is restricted, and creating Verse without a license is severely punished. Raised in this atmosphere of systematic censorship, Alan heeds the irresistible call of Words to create a better world.

Now Alan gathers people who will fight with him to bring about a society based on freedom. In a war where the weapons are stylus, paper, and Words, he is the only one who can lead the battle and show the way to victory, a fight that Alan Porter wages even long after his death, because he is the Guerrilla Poet. (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: Mr. Hughes does a good job of editing and producing his own podcasts. There isn’t a lot of production that is obvious, and unless you are adept at production, there really isn’t a better compliment I can think of. I like listening to podcasts like The Gorilla Poet that don’t try to impress me with anything but story. It also makes it easy to grade.

Grade: B+

Cast: Mr. Hughes does, to my knowledge, all of his stories as self reads. The Gorilla Poet was not an exception. Mr. Hughes has a reading style that is a bit unique and I suspect readers will either like it or they won’t (way to cover my bet there, eh?). For me, the style of the narration fits his stories well and I quite enjoyed it.

Grade: A

Story: The Gorilla Poet is unique among the many stories I have read or heard. That in and of itself goes a long way towards keeping my interest. Add to that it was a truly good story and that makes it a slam dunk. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have an issue or two with it. The Gorilla Poet is a story imbedded within a story. You know the kind told in flashbacks. You know, the kind that – if you’re like me- you hate. I truly believe this story could have been told as an initial story and perhaps a sequel. I’m probably a minority, but I would have preferred that. I truly do hate flashbacks. But as you can see, my personal preference holds no sway in the grade here.

Grade: A

Verdict: So, why did I wait so long to listen to The Gorilla Poet? I have no idea. I shouldn’t have. And if you haven’t listened to it yet, I recommend you rectify that. However, I do warn you, it can be a bit of an emotional ride.

Disclosure: My disclosures have changed. Although I still follow Mr. Hughes on twitter (@edgizmo) and found him to be a nice addition to my stream, I’m no longer active on twitter and haven’t had an open conversation there in over 4 months. Needless to say, I was not asked, or offered anything, for this review.

Book Review #21: Wrayth by Philippa Jane Ballantine

Title: Wrayth (A Book of the Order)
Author: Philippa Jane Ballantine
Publisher: Ace
Release Date: September 2012
Available Formats: paperback, ebook

Regular readers of this blog will know that Ms. Ballantine is one of the few authors on my “must read” list. I’ve enjoyed all of her published works very much and am still waiting for some publisher to be smart enough to pick up Weather Child. So when the third in the Book of the Order series, Wrayth, became available I quickly ran out and bought a copy. (In an effort to be open, I later received a copy from Ace.)

On to the review.

Synopsis: In the Empire of Arkaym, the Order of Deacons protects and shelters the citizens from the attacks of the unliving. All are sworn to fight the evil forces of the geists—and to keep the world safe from the power of the Otherside…

Although she is one of the most powerful Deacons in the Order, Sorcha Faris is still unable to move or speak after her last battle. Even her partner, Merrick Chambers, cannot reach her through their shared Bond. Yet there are those who still fear Sorcha and the mystery of her hidden past.

Meanwhile, Merrick has been asked to investigate a new member of the Emperor’s Court. But when Sorcha is abducted by men seeking Raed Rossin, the shapeshifting rival to the throne, Merrick must choose where his loyalties lie.

Setting: This story takes place all over Arkaym, reaching into the borderlands of the realm. We travel by magic, by airship, and in the form of a geistloard. Interestingly enough, very little of this story is taken up with travel. Ms. Ballantine has succeeded in crafting a world, that by book three feels like you’re slipping in to a pair of your favorite running shoes – comfortable and secure. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it here once more, Ms. Ballantine is a master at building worlds without letting the construction get in the way of the story. The world unfolds as the story needs it to, not as a writing exercise that entices the reader to skip ahead.

Plot: One of the things I have enjoyed about Ms. Ballantine’s series to date is that they don’t follow a cookie cutter template and don’t simply rehash similar themes in each book. It is also one of the few fantasy series of late that doesn’t include an overarching quest that drags the protagonists across the globe and back. Each book, while part of the greater whole, stands on its own in terms of plot and story. Wrayth allows us to learn a bit more about two of the main characters families and provides us with a reason for Sorcha’s strength as a Deacon of the Order. I have a feeling this revelation will come to play deeply in future books.

Characters: Raed, Sorcha and Merrick continue to grow and evolve. Each of them plays a pivotal role in Wrayth, and without counting pages, I’d hazard it is a more equitable distribution than in previous books. However, other supporting characters are beginning to emerge with their own personalities and strengths. I admit, I wanted to know more about the Grand Duchess’s experience before I turned the last page and can only hope this character is revisited in the next book.

Odin’s recommendation: Go buy Wrayth. Buy several copies. If you haven’t yet, be sure to buy the first two books (Geist and Spectyr) too. Read them. Give them as gifts to those you know that prefer to live in a fantasy world where things go bump in the night. You’ll be glad you did.

Ms. Ballantine has earned her place of preference on my bookshelf with consistent writing, imaginative stories and well fleshed out characters. I look forward to Harbinger, the next (and last?) book in the series. For purely selfish reasons, I do hope Ms. Ballantine has more stories set in this world, and I do hope Ace rapidly ties her into sharing them.

Borrowing from Monty Python: “I’m not dead yet!”

I’m sorry. Seems like I’ve been saying those words a lot lately. It doesn’t make them any less true. I say them to you now.

Why? Because if you’re reading this now you are probably a subscriber to this blog, and I have rather quite disappeared without warning for a bit over four months.

I’m sorry.

Having said that I will say, be prepared for intermittent posts in the future. I’m not sure at this point what kind of regularity I’ll be able to maintain in the future.

My reasons for this are my own and I choose to keep it that way. I will say only that my life is not the unending joy I once believed it to be. I pray it will one day be again. Those of you that have been praying the same on my behalf, you have no idea how indebted I am to you. Please accept my thanks.

I know many of the readers of this blog have different fundamental beliefs than I do. That’s okay. However, I cannot state how firmly I believe I wouldn’t be here now without The Lord providing for me directly and through some of you that He has placed in my life.

I end with the title song by the band MercyMe off the album The Hurt & The Healer You can hear it here: YouTube video

Finally, at this time, I have no immediate plans to return to Twitter. Again, my reasons are my own.

Thank you. Sincerely.

  • View from Valhalla Podcast

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