Alas, it is that time again to say goodbye to three entrants. We hope that people have their interest piqued by these reviews and check them out!
Burning Embers by Fiona Jeeves
Review by Kristen/Superstardrifter
This is the story of Feia, who is a foundling living in a temple convent. This world has several forms of magic, known as ‘Spirit Gifts’, and Feia has never shown any ability with them except for the shunned and reviled practice of ‘truth dreaming’. When she manifests power over fire, injuring another girl at the Temple, she is punished and eventually runs away towards the Spire, the capitol of the land, where she believes her father lives, and where she has dreamed that horrible catastrophe is coming. She may be their only warning that trouble is on the way.
I made it to 31% on this one. I just did not like Feia and I found it hard to stay interested in her journey. The quarter of the book that I read was like a series of horrible things that happen to the main character. It varies from ‘lifelong bully brings a knife’ to ‘being locked in a tower for magicking’ to ‘drugged then assaulted’ and I reached my threshold of bad things happening to the main character right around being randomly attacked in the forest and then nearly drowning. Good thing she runs into Obvious McLoveInterest, who saves her life. Credit where credit is due here though.. she saves him too. She’s very sheltered and oblivious to many things, but she at least tries to overcome on her own. Still didn’t really win me over to Feia, but sometimes characters just don’t click. I’d recommend this to fans of YA fantasy with unexpected journeys, unexpected magic, unexpected elves, and probably some unexpected kissing later on. ^_^
The Lure of Fools by Jason James King
Review by Kristen/Superstardrifter
This is the story of Jekaran, who is a teenage boy living in a fairly rural town with his uncle. When Jek’s uncle’s past starts to catch up with him, Jek is forced to flee with his uncle’s magical sword, and accidentally bonds to it while trying to save a woman from thieves. The magical sword gives him the skill of a master swordsman, but also acts as a type of addiction. Oh, and using one of these ‘weapon talis’ as they’re called is punishable by death. Cue shenanigans.
We see this story from several points of view. Jakaran’s is obviously the most prevalent, but we also see the story from the eyes of a few others, including Maely, Jekaran’s friend; Ezra, Jek’s uncle; Kairah, an Allosian (similar to fae or elves) woman; and Jenoc, Kairah’s brother. I will admit that at the very beginning, when the POV was changing between so many people, that I was getting a little irritated by just how many there were. That said, after I got to know the characters a bit better, it did become less irritating and much easier to follow.
The story was paced pretty well and was fairly well edited. I did find a spelling error or two, it definitely didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the story. The characters were mostly good. I liked Jekaran and found myself cheering for him through most of the story. I also really enjoyed Karak, who is a Vorakk (a kind of lizard-man). Karak’s navigation of the human language and culture was interesting and well thought out.
There were a few things that just bounced off me. Mainly, there was a significant swath of this book wherein Maely becomes annoying to the point of eye-rolling. Maely is pretty obviously in love with Jekaran, fourteen-year-old style. So, when Jekaran meets Kairah, a woman that he considers so beautiful that he doesn’t actually ever shut up about it (and I mean he’s nearly constantly internally thinking about how beautiful this woman is, which in itself got old quickly), Maely gets incredibly jealous and starts spouting just chapters and chapters of vitriol at Kairah. This whole teenage-love-triangle-esque nonsense started to sour what was otherwise a pretty engaging story. So, I actually liked the first half of this story more than the second, which is very rare for me.
But, all told I can say that I enjoyed this one even with the rockier second half. It was altogether a quick read, well paced, with an interesting magic system and thankfully some good characters that balanced out the more annoying ones. I can say that I had 6/10 stars of fun with The Lure of Fools.
The Night Of The Bloody Tines by Rogan Feltmate
Review by Graham Austin King
The Night of the Bloody Tines was a book I just couldn’t get on-board with. The blurb on amazon described the book as, “Game of Thrones meets Suits”, and, to be honest, that was enough to pique my interest. The book looks to have been released in July of 2019, is described as a dark fantasy epic, and, though the cover is a bit bland for my taste, the description was enough to intrigue me and I was eager to get started with it.
Right off the bat I’ll admit I’m confused as to what genre this book is supposed to be. The prologue reads like epic (possibly dark epic) fantasy with mention of vampires living in a forest, but then chapter one rolls around and it’s like a completely different novel.
Perhaps this is down to my own understanding of what epic fantasy is. In my head that subgenre deals with a technological level which is roughly equivalent to medieval Europe. The Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time, even The Belgariad, I would all class as epic fantasy, and the prologue to TNotBT (unless I missed something) feels very much like that technological era. Yet when we move into chapter one, there is a massive shift, as items such a cell-phones, ground coffee, and other modern inventions like radios are mentioned. Maybe the author was just using the word ‘epic’ to imply it was a big book. Either way, I’m confused.
I once read Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy and, to my great shame, somehow managed to skip an entire book without realising it. TNotBT left me with much the same feeling. By halfway through chapter one I felt lost and confused as I tried to work out what it was that I’d missed.
Before I go any further, I need to say that whilst it didn’t work for me, The Night of the Bloody Tines might work perfectly well for many others. The prose is well done, the dialogue fluid, and up to the point where I stopped, the editing (in terms of grammar and spelling) is top notch. This is clearly a book that the reader needs to pay close attention to, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Personally, I feel this is a book which needs to introduce more worldbuilding, and far more quickly. Although I’m not asking for infodumps, the drip-feed of information simply isn’t fast enough for me as a reader. I was already thrown by the shift from the prologue to the opening chapter, and left confused as to exactly what the world looked like. Mention of sprites, dwarves, elves and other magical creatures left me wanting more information as to what the world looked like. Perhaps it comes later in the book, but I feel that a good developmental editor would have pointed this need out.
The book begins in earnest with the introduction of a character named Chelsi. A sprite who is applying for a job and soon becomes an assistant of sorts to the Lord Mayor of the city-state of Klinghammer.
Whilst this started out well, the character very quickly shifts from someone firmly established as shy and unsure of themselves, to someone who is overly cocky, and borderline flirtatious with her new boss. This simply didn’t work for me. It felt too fast and forced. The three main characters needed fleshing out and, by the time I stopped reading I didn’t feel like I knew any of them.
Frankly, this book just didn’t grab me fast enough. For me, any book has about ten pages to begin to set the hook. The prologue in this story just didn’t do that, and then the opening chapters left me feeling frustrated and lost. I had no idea what setting this was anymore, and there wasn’t enough worldbuilding or character development to hold onto.
The plot, so far as I understand it, seems to rely heavily on corporate-political machinations, and whilst the early examples of these are very good, they lack depth. More explanation is needed in order to not lose the reader. I think this is a classic case of things making perfect sense to the author, but the vital information having stayed inside his head without making it to the page.
All in all, I found The Night of the Bloody Tines an interesting, if confusing book. It was well written to the point I passed on it, but I feel it’s in need of both more beta-reading, and a better developmental edit.
6.5/10 based on the portion I read.
Author Website: (https://www.roganfeltmate.com/)
Good luck to everyone, and thank you for your submissions!