Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Guest Interview with Donna Maree Hanson!


Today, I'm happy to share my interview with Australian spec-fiction author Donna Maree Hanson. I found Shatterwing when I was new to Netgalley. The book had the word "dragon" on the cover so I clicked. I was taken by this dark and original fantasy and have enjoyed her work ever since.

Recently I had the opportunity to ask her anything so I decided to challenge her on a broad range of topics!

History question: Tell me about Shatterwing. What can you share about where the ideas for the characters came from?

Shatterwing came about through an amalgam of ideas. I had the idea of Salinda and Brill for a short story that just kept going. I couldn’t make it finish where I wanted it to. Editor friends said to write the novel. Nils came about from a writing exercise in a workshop with Trudi Canavan and I really liked him.  Garan and the Skywatchers came from another exercise about a world with a lot of moons and Shatterwing. The idea then sort of developed about what life would be like when meteors fell all the time. Then somehow, a mystery to me, it all came together into one story. The characters all started existing on the same world. Danton and the Inspector came fairly early on in the piece too, but after the others. I guess the lesson for me is never throw anything out.

Dragon question: I love dragons, all kinds. What are your favourites?

That’s a hard one. I don’t usually read dragons so I can’t answer that. I’m more exposed to dragons through film, although I have my expectations that dragons are magical and friendly and good. But I think mine are more like the ones in that movie Reign of Fire. I grew up watching Godzilla and I guess that’s my biggest influence. Big monsters smashing things.

Biography question: Which other books do you have available? Can you offer us a glimpse of anything in the works?

Apart from Rayessa and the Space Pirates and the sequel, I write paranormal romance under the pen name Dani Kristoff. They are a bit sexier than my other fiction. I have two series going there. One featuring witches in Sydney, and it’s a bit of fun. Then the darker one called The Sorcerer’s Spell, which is dark and a lot hotter set in Canberra. I’ve got some books trying to find a publisher. One young adult steampunk type thing called Ruby Heart. I’ve got another YA series in the works (drafting/revision etc) and I’ve been working on an SF romance in November. It sounds like a lot but I’ve been very unproductive this year. I had a bad bout of RSI.

Science question: How is your writing den different in the summer than in the winter?

I live in Canberra so we have hot dry summers and chilly frosty Winters. This year I’ve been a bit of a vagabond, writing upstairs and downstairs, writing with friends and with my partner. I’ve only recently moved into my office which I had made into a craft room. Now I’m doing a PhD in 2016 I need to get organised and sort everything out. I have craft stuff and millinery stuff all over the house. I will have to learn discipline. This summer though we have a new deck and my office opens onto it. I’ll be able to stretch my legs and go gaze at the mountains.

Quick answer: Hogwarts letter or your first Pokemon?

Hogwarts!

Nature question: Where can you be spotted in the wild next year? Are you attending any bookish events?

I think I have two conventions planned next year. The National Science Fiction Convention (Contact) over Easter and Romance Writers of Australia in August. I am hoping to get to the World Science Fiction Convention in Finland in 2017. Now that I’ll be doing a PhD and giving up my lucrative salary, attending events will be harder. The hardest part of studying full time is the zero dollars.

Survival question: Imagine we’ve made it through zombies, virulent flu and meteors. With the new year coming, what new skill would you resolve to learn in order to barter with others and rebuild? (Personally, I’d learn cheese making but then I’d have to find cows).

I think carpentry and design. I’m useless at both but recently with the help of YouTube I’m learning some design drawing. I’m good with a hammer so I figure I might make a good carpenter when there are no more critics alive to poke fun at my efforts.


Dragon Wine Book 1: Shatterwing by Donna Maree Hanson.


Dragon wine could save them. Or bring about their destruction.

Since the moon shattered, the once peaceful and plentiful world has become a desolate wasteland. Factions fight for ownership of the remaining resources as pieces of the broken moon rain down, bringing chaos, destruction and death.

The most precious of these resources is dragon wine – a life-giving drink made from the essence of dragons. But the making of the wine is perilous and so is undertaken by prisoners. Perhaps even more dangerous than the wine production is the Inspector, the sadistic ruler of the prison vineyard who plans to use the precious drink to rule the world.

There are only two people that stand in his way. Brill, a young royal rebel who seeks to bring about revolution, and Salinda, the prison’s best vintner and possessor of a powerful and ancient gift that she is only beginning to understand. To stop the Inspector, Salinda must learn to harness her power so that she and Brill can escape, and stop the dragon wine from falling into the wrong hands.

Dragon Wine Book 2 :Skywatcher, the follow on book is also available in ebook and print.


Donna Maree Hanson is a Canberra-based writer of fantasy, science fiction and horror. She also writes paranormal romance under a pseudonym. She has had about twenty speculative fiction short stories published in various small press and ezines since 2001. In January 2013, her first longer work, Rayessa & the Space Pirates, a young-adult, science fiction adventure romance, was published with Harlequin’s digital imprint, Escape. In 2006, she won a Varuna Long Lines Fellowship for her novel in progress, Dragon Wine, which is now to be published by Pan Macmillan’s Momentum imprint as Shatterwingand Skywatcher. Donna is also active in the science fiction fan community, having run two National Science Fiction conventions in Canberra.






Friday, 18 December 2015

Review: The Scarlet Plague by Jack London


'An old man, James Howard Smith, walks along deserted railway tracks, long since unused and overgrown; beside him a young, feral boy helps him along. It has been 60 years since the great Red Death wiped out mankind, and the handful of survivors from all walks of life have established their own civilization and their own hierarchy in a savage world. Art, science, and all learning has been lost, and the young descendants of the healthy know nothing of the world that was—nothing but myths and make-believe. The old man is the only one who can convey the wonders of that bygone age, and the horrors of the plague that brought about its end. What future lies in store for the remnants of mankind can only be surmised—their ignorance, barbarity, and ruthlessness the only hopes they have?'


*****


This is my first Jack London story though I did read an alien invasion short story which declared to be written in his style. The Scarlet Plague was first published over a hundred years ago and though set in 2073, describes our "current times".

For a tale a century old London describes the quick degradation of our society in a dark and straightforward manner. There have been enough post apocalyptic novels written in the meantime that the general themes and actions of people falling upon each other in times of trouble still stands.

 I also found it interesting how a story set a hundred years ago pictures the technology of today and gave the old man's past a steampunk feel. His descriptions of "talking through the air", simplified for his audience of "savage" grandsons could easily be tech today or in a spec/fic steampunk world something else entirely.

The story is short but definitely fits as post-apocalyptic and is a nice addition to Dover's Doomsday Classics collection.

If you expect anything post-apocalyptic or dystopian to have a spunky, tough teenage girl at its centre or if you rail against misogyny in all forms and can't see past it even in a work created in a time when it was far more prevalent than it is now then this might not be for you. If you like the genre, definitely take this one on. As a reader, I feel it's important to go back and experience classics in my favourite genres. Not just to see how they were different, but to see how the genre has grown and which things about them continue to make the genre strong and popular.

I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Review: The Bloody Quarrel Episode One by Duncan Lay


The prince is dead.

Fooled by the treacherous King Aidan, Fallon has shot down the one man he trusted to save his beloved nation of Gaelland. And yet, when the King could grind Fallon underfoot, he draws the simple farmer and fighter closer, making a hero of him.

Embroiled in plots beyond his comprehension and weighted with the guilt of the prince's murder, Fallon must tread carefully if he is to accomplish the task that first brought him to the cursed capital: rescue his wife, Bridgit, and the rest of his village from Kottermani slavery. If he and his hopelessly ensnared men can survive, they may yet find redemption.

Meanwhile, across the ocean, Bridgit is rallying those around her to spring an escape. But who can be trusted? The ever-present danger of traitors and liars among the slaves, and even among her fellow Gaelish, is poison to her plans. 

With an ocean between them and fouler nightmares looming, Fallon and Bridgit will be driven to their very limits to escape their prisons, find each other, and bring justice to Gaelland.

Perfect for fans of Robin Hobb and Joe Abercrombie.


*****

Episode One starts up right where The Last Quarrel leaves off, with the death of Prince Cavan. Fallon and his men assume the worst, they'll pay for the murder, but instead find themselves in the King's debt; following orders with the promise of freedom for Bridgit and the other kidnapped families.

I really like the growth in Bridgit. Through the use of her strengths, being a mother, running a house and as wife of the village lawman, she becomes a cautious and clever leader. She gets tough when she needs to be though we see enough of the old Bridgit, occasionally weak and hopeless, to appreciate how much strength she has to draw on to look after herself and the others in Kottermani slavery.

When it comes to Fallon, several times I dearly wanted to shout some sense into him. We start to see "the Bridgit" in him as much as we see "the Fallon" in Bridgit. I very much want to see them together again.

The action rifles through this episode from beginning to end and continues to be well done. Even with the wait from the first book, I didn't feel I'd forgotten anything nor did I notice any parts of the first book had been overly rehashed.

My kindle read this to me on my commute which is appropriate I think since it was written on a commute. The movement seemed to enhance the urgency of the story. I definitely recommend taking this series up.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Review: 2016 Young Explorer's Adventure Guide



The 2016 Young Explorer's Adventure Guide is the second collection of science fiction short stories aimed at middle grade readers. The first, of course, is the 2015 Young Explorer's Adventure Guide.

I highly recommend this collection. I love the variety of "young voices" it contains as well. From kids making first contact to piloting starships the range of adventure is fantastic. I treated myself to one or two a day and am definitely going to read the 2015 edition.

The only thing I didn't like is the collection contains almost exclusively (if not completely) female lead characters. I would have preferred a balance. In spite of this, it's still a first class read.

Oh, and it has Nancy Kress!

I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.



Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Review: Earthman Jack vs the Ghost Planet by Matthew Kadish


Jack Finnegan only has to worry about dealing with school bullies, suffering through detention with his homeroom teacher, and getting noticed by the girl of his dreams... at least until an army of evil aliens invade Earth. Suddenly, this teenage slacker finds himself at the center of a galaxy-spanning conflict - where the lives of everyone on the planet are in jeopardy, soldiers use Quantum Physics to become superheroes, and the enemy uses some mysterious form of magic to make themselves practically unstoppable. The secret to ending the conflict and saving the universe may lie in a powerful ancient spaceship, which it seems can only be flown by Earthmen. Now, Jack and a rag-tag group of allies must overcome impossible odds, defeat an unkillable enemy, rescue the princess of the galaxy, and save the universe from a threat more terrifying than any it has ever faced. Can this underachiever rise to the occasion and become the hero Earth needs? The fate of all life in the galaxy may rest in his hands.

*****

I really liked this fun sci-fi. It had planet busting alien ships, bullies, evil robots, heroes and a princess.

I must admit I started this book with a groan. The introduction was a rather wordy 'historical' look back from the future and I wondered what I'd gotten myself into. Kids my daughter's age would be a great audience for this book but I know from experience she would have lost interest reading the introduction and put it down.

But then the story started and my initial opinion was completely and humbly forgotten.

Earthman Jack got ambitious and didn't let up.

With each new challenge, Jack grew up a little more. Who would have thought mastering video games would one day save your life? Honestly, I don't think that anyone other than a fifteen year old Gamerbox master could have pulled this off. Surrounded by great sidekicks and bad guys who get plain worse every time you turn around, Jack faces every plot twist with more guts and humour than I thought possible.

Earthman Jack vs the Ghost Planet is a fun and exciting for everyone galactic adventure. Like the car chase that doesn't let up, this one takes over and drives you along. I truly look forward to finding out what Kadish does with this amazing world (err, eight star systems) he's created.

I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Review: Aurora Eden by Amanda Bridgeman


The future starts now …

In the wake of the tragic events in Centralis, Captain Saul Harris stands with the weight of the world on his shoulders. With the truth of UNFASP revealed, he realizes that he must embrace his ancestry if he is to survive the coming onslaught. But how far will Harris go to protect the future? Will he sacrifice life as he knows it and become a Jumbo? Or can he face the future as a common man?

Meanwhile Sergeant Carrie Welles has been left devastated by what has happened. Uncertain of the future ahead, and with her nemesis, Sharley, on the brink of control, she struggles to pick herself up. But she is left surprised when help comes from the unlikeliest of places.

As her life veers off in a direction she never expected, Carrie soon understands that she is running a course with a destiny that lies far beyond her control. A destiny that is strangely aligned with her Captain’s.


*****

Aurora: Eden is fifth in Amanda Bridgeman's Aurora series and picks up shortly after Aurora: Centralis leaves off. I felt the transition between the first four books, the balance between the team dealing with the losses of the past and the dangers in their future and finally, as I've come to enjoy, the capital A Action at the end.

I must admit to having become fan-girly about this series. I love the action, the enhanced soldiers and the fact the women are allowed to be women. I disagree with any suggestion Welles and the other women in these books receive unequal treatment due to their gender. I agree with the reality in the Aurora series. Regardless of training, enhancement or opportunity I'll take a strong woman in a futuristic novel over one who is assumed able to take on an opponent ten inches taller and a hundred pounds heavier. Strong women are okay.

Now I must also admit that Ms. Bridgeman has my heart on a string when it comes to the Aurora crew. After the unfathomably strong yank she gave that string at the end of book four Aurora: Centralis, I tried hard to hold back on my attachment to the crew but for me it was a losing battle.

Where the other novels in the series gave us a prologue to position Sharley and mainly filtered his actions through the POV of the Aurora crew, Eden gives us tastes of Sharley's men throughout. For me, this drove Bridgeman's tension high. Considering the backgrounds of Sharley's new recruits, I approached the battle I knew must be coming with huge apprehension. The way she moved quickly back and forth through all the action at the end really worked. I was left anxious about so many things at once and considering that one string that got pulled at the end of Aurora: Centralis the thought Ms. Bridgeman had the courage to pull it again was always there.

Sticking with this series is easy for me. It's a great story with strong, consistent and very real characters. Each book ends with a bang though each bang is different and exciting and I've never been left to feel I've seen it before even though the players (for the most part) remain the same.

This is a series I will continue to invest my time in. No hesitation. My deepening attachment to the Aurora's crew makes each book better than the one before and for me, that's the number one sign of a great series. They grow, they change and through it all, their choices, both easy and hard, are understandable.

I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Review: The Night of the Long Knives by Fritz Lieber


I was one hundred miles from Nowhere ― and I mean that literally ― when I spotted this girl out of the corner of my eye. I’d been keeping an extra lookout because I still expected the other undead bugger left over from the murder party at Nowhere to be stalking me.
Welcome to Deathland, a postapocalyptic nuclear desert where kill or be killed is the law of the land. The radiation-damaged survivors of this ravaged region are consumed by the urge to murder each other, making partnership of any sort a lethal risk. But when two drifters forge an uneasy truce, the possibility of a new life beckons.
Written by a multiple Hugo Award–winning author and one of the founders of the sword-and-sorcery genre, this novel-length magazine story first appeared at the height of Cold War paranoia. Fritz Leiber's thought-provoking tale addresses timeless questions about the influences of community and culture as well as the individual struggle to reform.


***


I've been in s slump when it comes to post-apocalyptic stories. I wasn't really sure why. Might have been my recent selections were variations on "how can we quickly turn everyone into zombies so we can get on with the scenes involving axes and shotguns."

That would be it.

The Night of the Long Knives is very, very different. As a "Classic" edition from Dover Publications, it promised to offer a very different style of writing, one I enjoy reading the likes of Dick and Bradbury, and I was not disappointed.

I have to admit I didn't read the part of the blurb about social commentary until after I finished the book. For me, growing up in the seventies, there was still the very real fear of nuclear disaster so I was quick to align myself with the post-nuclear setting. Also, it skipped the whole "how we wiped ourselves out" part and dunked us head-long into life as it is after the disaster.

I liked the futuristic elements and the rebuild society. The mystery of the flying craft the characters find themselves in and their decisions to remain mistrustful and look after themselves first. And of course the knives.

The Night of the Long Knives is not a long read, as they go, and I enjoyed the characters and story. Definitely recommended.

I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Review: Dinosaur Amigurumi by Justyna Kacprzak


Geared toward practitioners of amigurumi, the Japanese art of crocheting stuffed dolls, this is the only how-to book dedicated to dinosaur patterns. Learn how to crochet fourteen adorable prehistoric creatures to cuddle, from familiar species such as Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops, and Stegosaurus to Mosasaurus, Edmontosaurus, and other lesser-known but equally lovable varieties. 


Each project features complete, well-illustrated instructions, plus full-color photos of the finished model. The patterns are easy to follow and are suitable for crocheters at all skill levels, from novices to experienced hands.


*****
This book of crochet dinosaurs was too cute to pass up. I've crocheted little animals before with whatever leftovers I had at hand (mass produced until I had blisters for the tween to sell for entrepreneur project) and decided to do these right. Armed with the right sized hook from the store and the recommended yarn I ordered online, I got started.

This is my Dimetrodon in progress.


I found the pattern devilishly simple and ALL the stops and starts along the way were entirely my own doing. For me, the starting place for each round seemed to wander so I started using a stitch marker so my own semi-inconsistent crochet habits don't make my dinosaurs' heads all crooked. Otherwise, I just keep doing what the pattern says and it takes shape.

The Cotton-ish yarn by Vickie Howell Bernat and hook size make a nice tight piece and I've had no issues with stuffing popping out between the stitches. The recommended yarn is very smooth, however, and combined with the slick metal hook taking my time has paid off.

I definitely recommend this book of patterns. These little guys will make terrific stocking stuffers for kids (and adults). If you're looking for something a little different to get into (or a project you can tuck in your purse or tote to work on whenever) this will definitely keep your hands busy.

Oh, and they are completely addictive.

Does this book motivate me to strike out on my own, experiment and see what sort of shapes I can create? Yes. For that reason alone I give it full marks.

I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.



Sunday, 9 August 2015

Review: Ours to Save by Shona Husk


Micah Stone sees Solitaire as a fresh start. With twenty years’ experience in the agriculture industry, he hopes the colony won’t make the same mistakes that were made on Earth.

To most people, Micah looks like a member of the well educated elite, but he’s really a Gaia activist. Not only did he lie about his daughter’s age to get her on board, but his partner is one of the most dangerous women on Siren.

Felicity Valez was once an Army explosives expert, and she was also a member of the radical Gaia Movement. After being sentenced to life for sedition, she wound up on Siren. To protect her partner and daughter while they’re on board, she needs to make sure that no one links the family together.

But her liaisons with Micah have been noted. And when her daughter’s life is threatened Felicity will do the one thing she promised Micah she’d never do again: rig an explosive that will kill.

No one on Siren is safe.



***

Ours to Save is the seriously explosive finish to the ES Siren series by Shona Husk, Denise Rossetti and Mel Teshco. Yep, used an adverb. THE adverb. Couldn't help it. With Unity so very, very close, the passengers on ES Siren have a lot more to think about than landing and hard work. A prisoner faction has infiltrated all corners of the ship and refuses remain under the jailors' control.

This ninth and final episode of the series adds an element we haven't seen before.

A family.

I really felt for Micah and Felicity. I loved how they were presented and wanted them to succeed and have the happy ending they never got on Earth. Both are brave and willing to give it all up for each other and their daughter.

I liked how Husk combined the action from book seven, Ours to Embrace, and my feelings for the rebels I got to know in book eight , Ours to Share, and put me in the unenviable position of needing both sides to succeed. Not only do we see the tension through to the end but we also feel the isolation of those for whom the stakes are highest while they are so very helpless to take action.

Again, I appreciated how very well Husk, Rossetti and Tescho built nine stories together, each contributing three and nailed their consistency of plot, voice and world building.

I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Review: Ours to Share by Mel Teshco


If stealing from the rich to give to the poor is a crime, then Silo Warrick is a felon of the highest order.

A gifted horticulturist found guilty of stealing from the elite greenhouses, Silo is also an extraordinary musician, and therefore the perfect con to throw onboard the Earth Ship Siren. Though he’s promised a fresh start on Solitaire, Silo’s not about to believe his captors.

But his disgust of the elite is about to be challenged by highbrow lovers Cloey Pederson and Jasmine Hewitt. They aren’t the arrogant and superior snobs Silo has learned to hate, even though trusting them is a whole ballpark out of his league.

One woman might whet Silo’s carnal appetite; two is cause for all his wet dreams to come true. But are Cloey and Jasmine double the trouble or twice as nice?


***
Ours to Share is the eighth book of the ES Siren series by Mel Teshco, Denise Rossetti and Shona Husk. It takes us from departing Earth and the troubled lives the Unity bound passengers escaped, the fallout of a catastrophic micro-meteor shower and in this final trio of stories some of the prisoners onboard prepare to make their own way when it comes time to landing on their new home.

Where book seven, Ours to Embrace, and book nine, Ours to Save bring on the action, Ours to Share is a definite loop in the series' path. While there's still danger, there's a certain gentleness to the story. I liked the basic and open relationship between Cloey and Jasmine and adding Silo brings on a great sweetness to their trio.

Book eight had me changing sides to the prisoner rebellion. At the end, I wanted to go with them wherever Cloey, Jasmine and Silo wound up. I have found that with this series, the more I read, the more I feel the desperation and hope spread so thickly through the world Teshco, Rossetti and Husk created. If you're looking to pick a couple of books in the series and read them I don't think you'll be disappointed but you will definitely feel their world's pull if you experience them all from the start.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Review: Ours to Embrace by Denise Rossetti


She’s sweet, serious and prim - and she’s messing with his head.

Shuttle pilot Cory Olsen figures he’ll live fast and die young. After all, his is one of the most dangerous jobs on the Earth Ship Siren. Out among the stars, on the long journey to the penal colony on Solitaire, Cory parties hard, laughing and loving, no commitments, nothing serious.

Which would be fine if he could ignore Bella - Prisoner 2844 - and move on to the next pretty face. He can’t work out where he’s going wrong. The woman’s all lush temptation - skin like velvet, mouth like honeysuckle - but Bella’s crankier than his temperamental shuttle craft and twice as mean.

Since Bella’s doing seven years for sedition, she can’t afford entanglements of any kind, not with her old associates and especially not with a handsome, reckless flyboy who makes her laugh at all the wrong moments. With tension on the Siren reaching fever pitch, a ruthless leader emerges from among the convicts. When violence starts to escalate, rebellion seems inevitable.

If Bella’s not careful, she could lose a lot more than her wary heart. She could cost Cory Olsen his life.
 



***

Has it been a year already? Just about. Almost a year since I saw three gorgeous ES Siren covers on Netgalley and click, click clicked. Now books 7, 8 and 9 are out and I'm set to poke around to see if there might be more in the works.

I've become a big fan of Rossetti's "grown up" characters. For me, they bear a maturity I respect and I find I "get" them from the moment they appear on the page before me. While all three contributors to this series pulled together the brilliant task of fitting their pieces together, Rossetti's characters feel the most "right" to me.

The last trio of stories in the series ramps up the action and raises the stakes in a big way. With pressure building from the loss of one of the three ships, overcrowding and dwindling resources the official command begins to lose control to a brutal faction determined to rewrite the way humans succeed on Unity.

Bella and Cory are fantastic together and this episode sets the scene for the next two in the series.


I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Review: Dark Horse by Michelle Diener


Some secrets carry the weight of the world.

Rose McKenzie may be far from Earth with no way back, but she's made a powerful ally--a fellow prisoner with whom she's formed a strong bond. Sazo's an artificial intelligence. He's saved her from captivity and torture, but he's also put her in the middle of a conflict, leaving Rose with her loyalties divided.

Captain Dav Jallan doesn't know why he and his crew have stumbled across an almost legendary Class 5 battleship, but he's not going to complain. The only problem is, all its crew are dead, all except for one strange, new alien being.

She calls herself Rose. She seems small and harmless, but less and less about her story is adding up, and Dav has a bad feeling his crew, and maybe even the four planets, are in jeopardy. The Class 5's owners, the Tecran, look set to start a war to get it back and Dav suspects Rose isn't the only alien being who survived what happened on the Class 5. And whatever else is out there is playing its own games.

In this race for the truth, he's going to have to go against his leaders and trust the dark horse. 


***

Okay, so I can be shallow. I requested this one because of the pretty cover and the intriguing blurb. That said, there's nothing shallow about Dark Horse.


The thing I love most about this book is everyone, and I mean everyone, has an angle. Some wear it on their sleeve and others surprise you, sometimes not for a good long while. With several races and political agendas, nobody fits neatly into their role. So many times I found myself muttering no, no, no as something amazing I didn't want to see twisted the plot and ramped up the story.

My favourite character is Sazo, the AI. There's something so chilling and unpredictable about him. He's also inquisitive, immature and very,very likeable.

Rose and Dav are great together. This isn't a Mars Needs Moms trope novel at all. No contrived setup puts them together.

Dark Horse is action packed and full of surprises and backed up by a comfortable and well-built world.

I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Review: Equilibrium by CS Sealey


Generations after the Spirits abandoned the world, two mortal empires stand on the brink of a final battle to end a centuries-old conflict. Ayons in the north, Ronnesians in the south.

Washed up on the shore of a foreign land, Angora is thrust into a war not her own. Proclaimed one of twelve legendary mages – representatives of the Spirits – she is charged with protecting the innocent with magic beyond her imagination. However, when her allies mercilessly misuse their own powers, she begins to wonder which side of the conflict is the more righteous.

After the abduction of their ruler, the Ayons launch an invasion capable of destroying the Ronnesians once and for all. As the war rages on, Angora's friends fight bravely as strongholds fall before the mighty crimson wave of the Ayon army.  

But when all seems lost for the Ronnesians, a spark of hope is found in an infamous assassin and a fragile rebellion rising from the dust.



***

I began reading Equilibrium when the first instalment was offered on Netgalley and have been hooked, working my way through the first four episodes as they released. When the complete edition came up, I celebrated with cake and requested it. Episode 5 will be out this week and 6 two weeks after that.

In Equilibrium, Sealey shares her amazing rich and balanced world in six parts if you go through the serialized version. Each Episode is in itself a great story with a huge cliff-hanger, which I loved. Knowing the next instalment was just a couple of weeks away only added to the tension of the wait.

I also love Sealey's writing. She easily immersed me in the story without overloading detail or losing me in overdone descriptions. I became fond of so many characters on both sides of the conflict. Some I lost, some surprised me. All were well developed. Even secondary characters brought much to the story and remained memorable and true throughout the book.

Equilibrium is one of my very top 'sword and castle' fantasy finds of the past few years. The richness of character, detailed scope of setting and consistent storytelling voice set Equilibrium apart for me.

So very fitting Equilibrium ends with wind and water. Not the violent clash with which it begins but instead something soft and final. I think I held my breath through the last dozen chapters to the point where drawing a full breath hurts.

Thank you to Netgalley and Momentum for the opportunity to read Equilibrium.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Review: Equilibrium Episode 3 by CS Sealey


The Ronnesians are forced to answer for their deception, which comes at a deadly price.

Lord General Archis Varren, intent on avenging the murder of his predecessor, has traced the assassination contract to the Ronnesian Mayor Challan, one of Queen Sorcha’s most valued supporters.

Meanwhile, Vrór viciously attacks the Ronnesian capital of Te’Roek, luring Angora back from her self-appointed mission in the north. The two Leikas finally come face to face and their ensuing battle takes them far from the city. But is this fight one Angora can possibly win?

In the aftermath of the attack, Varren hatches his plan to cripple Queen Sorcha’s power at its very source and the equilibrium begins to tip.



***

Episode three takes us from a magical invasion of the Ronnesian palace to a major shakeup in the balance between Ronnesia and Ayon. In my reviews of Episode 1 and Episode 2 I talked about Sealey's rich and easily digested writing. Love her style. Nothing impedes my enjoyment and understanding of her story. She easily carries me through the pages.

If you haven't read a serialized novel before this is a great one with which to start. Each piece is well thought out as not only a self-contained tale but also grabs you from the previous one and leaves you *needing* the next.

Favourite things? Zoran Sable of course though we only check in with him in Episode 3.  King Samian becomes my second favourite character.

And the thing that happened to that character at the end? I'll only say I've gone to a happy place in my head with an alternate ending where it doesn't hurt so much. I'll be in an accepting state of mind for Episode 4.

I promise.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Review: Equilibrium Episode 2 by CS Sealey



As their empire faces crushing defeat, the Ronnesian mages are forced to make an impossible choice.

Three years since the last of the twelve legendary mages were revealed, the politics of war have shifted. Determined to try for unity, King Samian reaches out to the Ronnesians with an offer of marriage, a bloodless end to the war and a vision for a peaceful future. Yet Queen Sorcha is wary of deception.

While politics governs the leaders, others are moving in secret to deal the Ayons a fatal blow, in the hope of tipping the balance permanently in the Ronnesians’ favor.

But instead of faltering, the Ayons swiftly retaliate and the first wave comes crashing down. As the northern defences strain and begin to buckle under the force of the crimson army, the Ronnesian mages are forced to break the unwritten rule to save their empire from destruction.



*****

Episode 2 is (of course) the second of six episodes in CS Sealey's serialized novel Equilibrium. The scope grows and the stakes rise. 

I have to say Sealey's writing is a real treat. Her prose is strong and clean while remaining both easy to understand and vivid. I feel like I don't have to work to keep up yet she keeps the pages turning and the action intense. Whether a battle or a simple argument, conflicts are clear and balanced without leaving me feeling shortchanged on anything.

I'm also intrigued by the mercenary/assassin, Sable. We first meet him in Episode 1 and in this episode his part in the plot brings him closer to the primary characters. I have all sorts of ideas how he might fit in and look forward to seeing if any of them are correct.

Looking forward to more magic and mayhem. Equilibrium continues to be a very enjoyable read.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Review: The Last Quarrel: Episode 4 by Duncan Lay


Fallon and Prince Cavan are getting closer to the truth. They are tantalisingly close to discovering who is really behind the evil inside the country. Or is this all a trap and they are merely about to blunder into it? Meanwhile Bridgit, without her husband and son, is discovering that she has also left her fears behind and, just when they most need it, her enslaved people are getting a most unlikely leader …


**

This is shaping into a really enjoyable series. With each episode, the stakes rise and Fallon and Bridgit's problems get much, much bigger. Each episode is well paced, building on the tension of the previous and as with the others, the ending had me jump right into the next.

I also like the world Lay has built grows with each episode without losing its roots in the settings and places of earlier episodes.

No idea how everything will work out but I will find out very soon. Lay has surprised me so many time all I can do is hold on tight and keep reading.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Review: Equilibrium: Episode 1 by C.S. Sealey



The Spirits' ancient equilibrium is brought into being when the twelfth mage is finally found. But Angora is unlike those who have come before her and she refuses to blindly accept her fate.

The Ayons have mysteriously retreated from a far-reaching southern offensive, ordered back by their newly crowned king. 

In the aftermath of this battle, Angora is washed up on the shore of a foreign land, bruised and battered, determined to keep her past a secret from all. Rescued from slavers, yet immediately falling prey to others, she is thrust into a war not her own.

Proclaimed one of twelve legendary mages, Angora is charged with protecting the innocent with magic beyond her imagination. 

But a dark future awaits her and her friends as the Ayon threat begins to swell once more in the north.



***

Personally, I'd find writing a multi-POV, two warring nations, episodic fantasy novel a grand and intimidating task. With different kinds of magic, people and places not always what they seem and a ton of world building and placement of characters within not to mention grabbing the reader's attention and endearing us to the right characters AND doing it all in the first instalment is no small achievement.

Episode 1 of Equilibrium proved to me these insecurities are my issues entirely. Sealey puts all these pieces together in a balanced way, settling me in to her world and presenting an intriguing introduction to the story. Her intimate knowledge of her world and characters is clear and I appreciate how solid her pace and tone is. I understand Equilibrium has been in the works for several years and I felt her mastery of this work in her consistency through the chapters.

Equilibrium has been serialized into six parts. This first one follows young Angora though we meet the mages of Ayon first and get to know them before we learn they are set to be the enemy. Sealey gives us a good sense of the internal challenges in both Ayon and Ronnesia, both have good and bad, equilibrium, in themselves. I found this balance to be well presented since I like both sides thus far.

This instalment puts Sealey's players in place and introduces us to both sides. They have been at war for a long time and both suffer their own turmoil.

Ambitious? Yep, you bet but so far quite digestible and I've enjoyed watching Sealey's world take shape. I look forward to more magic, intrigue and fantasy in the next instalment.

I received a copy via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.