The Kinshield Legacy by K. C. May

The Rating: 
Mature Content Rating: PG-13 (for mild swearing, partial nudity, and suggestive sexual content)

We have all heard the story of the Sword in the Stone.  “The one who pulls the sword from the stone in the true king.”  What if Arthur didn’t want to be king?  What if a dark sorcerer did?  How about you read The Kinshield Legacy by K.C. May and find out!

A sword for a king, a destiny for a king, a pitcher of ale for a king.  Will you find this king in a palace, sitting on his throne?  Maybe you will find him out on the road, smiting evil?  Maybe you will find him picking him queen from a line of ladies?  Or, maybe you will find him in a tavern making crude jokes.  This is Gavin Kinshield, the destined king of the land.

The Good:

First of all… what is not good about this book?  Wait… I will talk about that when I get to the bad… so… not first of all… This book is a brilliant masterpiece that any and every fan of a good epic fantasy tale would be dying to read if they knew about it.  Now that you know about it, you should really go and read it.  K.C. May crafts a brilliant world in the classic swords & sorcery style but stays away from the dwarfs and elves and all that.  What stands out to me is the character development.  May uses the third-person shifting POV style magnificently, allowing the reader to get into the head of every character.  I have seen this done very poorly in the past, making the story feel disjointed and wrong, but May pulls it off well.  Just as much time in spent inside of and outside of a character’s head, letting the reader in on his or her inner secrets, desires, thoughts, and feelings, developing well rounded characters with proper motivation.  At no point does a character feel like it’s  just thrown in to progress the story.  Every character is well thought out and well crafted.  I thought at first that knowing so much about every character (good guys and the bad) would take away from the on-the-edge-of-your-seat-suspense, but it does not.  Sometimes suspense is actually built as the POV changes at a crucial moment in the story, leaving the reader hanging on a limb, itching to read more.

Not only are the character well crafted and set in a believably intriguing setting, but as the plot unfolds we learn that there is more to it than just a tavern grunt who doesn’t want to be king.  It has been a while since I have read a book where the plot grabbed me, and I applaud The Kinshield Legacy for this.  The reader truly doesn’t know all the ins and outs of the story until the very end, and even then we are left with enough questions to provide for a sequel.  Though there are many things for this would-be-king and his band of followers to accomplish, by the end of the book the plot is wrapped up well.  A secret plot thread is woven throughout the whole book until a tiny piece of it is revealed at the end giving the reader a dry-mouth-must-read-more feeling.

In places the book has a darker tone (which you can’t really help when dealing with evil sorcerers and demons and the like) which I really enjoyed.  However, The Kinshield Legacy stays light throughout, so this point should not turn off the more squeemish readers.

The Bad:

At the beginning when the POV was jumping around quite a bit, I was a little bit confused and wasn’t sure how all of the story arcs tied together.  Fairly quickly, however, we see the characters coming together into one succinct plot that drives the story.  Not much “action-wise” happens at the very beginning of the book while characters and setting are being developed.  The introduction would have potentially been aided by more draw-you-in moments.

This was “bad” for me, but other might not mind it.  I was really thrown by the author’s use of words in dialogue.  If someone had a slur, or a speech impediment, it came through in between the “quotes.”  Someone might say, “You have bread?” instead of “Do you have any bread?”  I realize that in real life (how boring!  This is a fantasy novel.  Let’s not talk about real life, okay?) that people actually talk like this, but I felt like it got in the way of the readability (similar to how it would get in the way of you understanding someone who is speaking like this, I suppose).  One of the biggest ones that threw me was the use of “awright” instead of “alright” throughout.  Based on its use this may be a “thing” that I am unaware of, but it came across to me as a typo until I had read it enough times to realise that it was done on purpose.

Another thing that I didn’t like, but might not be a problem for some, was the tavern scenes.  Gavin Kinshield makes a number of rude comments, as do many of his friends, and this works to develop character.  The problem I had was the women who came up to him constantly wanting to bed him.  It seemed to me like every time he went for a drink someone wanted to get into his pants!  Though this may be a teen-age boys paradise it isn’t very representative of reality and I felt it came across rather sexist, playing into the idea that all men are pigs and all women are whores.  This was even more surprising to me coming from a female author and I was almost intrigued by the use of sexism in book realizing that it wasn’t just some guy living out his fantasy to have every woman jump him in the bar.  I was pleased, however, there are a few “strong” woman in the book who did not fit this moulded stereo-type, but still even they put up with more that I thought was acceptable.

Conclusion:

All in all, this book was great.  I was dying to read more and definitely pick up the rest in the series.  This free book as the first in the series does what it should, drawing me into the world and the writing style of May making me want to buy everything she has every written!  The characters, world, and plot are all well-crafted and believable.

PS.  I also read Soul Sacrifice (actually before I read The Kinshield Legacy) and it is worth your time.  This novella tells the back story of one of the most mysterious characters in The Kinshield Legacy.  I would rate is 4 stars on its own.  The story didn’t draw me in at first, but the ending made up for any pitfalls throughout.

Where you can find it:

Smashwords
Kobo

Diary of the Displaced Omnibus by Glynn James

A DRM-free dark fantasy/horror diary… I mean book… I mean omnibus.

The Rating:

Did you ever keep a diary as a kid (or maybe still do as an adult)?  When keeping a diary, what are most afraid of?  That someone will find it, right?  Not only will someone know all of your deepest and darkest or secrets, but in today’s society they may also post it on the Internet in the form of an ebook for anyone to read.  At least that’s what Glynn James would do… (you sneaky bastard, you).  The question then becomes, however, is your diary worth reading?  What’s going on in that head of yours? Do you just have a boring old life where all you talk about is what you ate fore breakfast (like too many Facebook updates and tweets out there), or do you like in a strange world where light and food are the two most precious commodities.  (Okay, so maybe that part isn’t too strange.  I think that light and food are important, no matter what world you come from/live in.
The Good:

Diary of the Displaced – Omnibus is a collection of the first three books in the DoD series, and it seems like Glynn James is off to a great start.  The book opens with a guy who is lost in a dark world and must find a way to survive, battling starvation and the strange creatures of this land he finds himself in.  The first half of The Journey of James Halldon (book one of the omnibus) does a great job at describing this struggle through the journal entry style.  When reading it truly feels like I am James Halldon, recounting the events of the previous day as I write my journal entry.  Often times the reader is brought out of the action as James says things like “and how I found time to write this journal entry, I’ll never know” or “and now I sit to write this journal entry.”  This narrative style, though it seemingly breaks up the action, puts a fresh twist on the POV that maybe James feel like a real character who is actually writing about his experiences.

A big question I had by only a few “days” into the book was, “I wonder how Glynn James will tackle dialogue in this narrative style?”  I couldn’t conceivable see a way to maintain the out-of-body-diary-writing format while dealing with dialogue.  By about half way through The Journey of James Halldon, the reader is introduced to another character, thus dialogue ensues.  Unfortunately, Glynn James dealt with the dialogue in the regular “put in in quotes” fashion, thus taking away from the diary narrative style a bit.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, and does not take away from the book in any way, but I, personally, was hoping to see some innovation when it comes to dealing with dialogue and heavy action scenes to make the whole book carry on the definitive and distinct narrative style that the tale starts out in.  One thing that I loved concerning this was when a character had to tell a story.  Instead of the story being a series of paragraphs in dry dialogue, Glynn James starts a new chapter entiteled “Adler’s Tale” or something of the like.  The POV then changes to the “diary” of this other character, and they retell their tale.  This kept with the “diary” style nicely, and I applaud the author for this unique and intriguing narrative mechanic.

I found that Glynn James not only had a good handle on how to keep the action moving, but he did an excellent job at keeping the dialogue fresh and exciting.  I enjoyed some of the subtle humour that was employed, and found James Halldon’s internal monologue about the scene added nicely to this.  Such monologue also allowed for great character development of Halldon, who is telling a story of self-discovery (having lost his memory and all) just as much as survival.

I was a little concerned when reading the Omnibus that it would simply be a case of “this should just have been one book,” especially when I was almost half way through the Omnibus and hadn’t finished the first book, seeing no conceivable conclusion in the near future.  I was, however, pleasantly rewarded with a definite ending to the first book leaving room for more questions to be answered as the series continued, but also giving be a sense of completion plot-wise.  The style of the storytelling and even genre of the book changes a lot as the Omnibus progresses into the second and third books of the series.  The first book (especially the first half) tells a nice survival/horror tale (if horror can be “nice”) with elements of fantasy thrown in.  The second and third books hold to a more standard third person narrative style and move away from survival into a dark fantasy/sci-fi genre.

The Bad:

First things first.  Why are there three books?  The Broken Lands and The Ways should really have been one book.  Though the first book has a nice conclusion, the second does not.  Also, the first book is as long as the second and third put together.  The Broken Lands ends on a cliff hanger, which isn’t bad in itself, but a cliff hanger is not synonymous with, “I didn’t conclude the plot at all guys!  Stay tuned!”  From hence forth I will consider The Broken Lands and The Way to be one entity, because they just make more sense that way.

Book 2-3 moves much quicker than book one, which is not bad in and of itself.  It fits well with the narrative style and genre shifts, but it is implemented in a way that make the story feel rushed.  Book one introduced concepts/people/places in a well paced manner, but book 2-3 does not.  Everything moves so fast and new concepts/places/people are introduce so quickly that it can be difficult to keep track of everything at times.  I say “at times” because it does not detract from the book a whole lot and I only felt that as a whole the pacing seemed a bit off, though nothing specific stood out while I was reading it.  If Glynn James spent more time explaining or using these new concepts that were introduced, I feel like it would have flowed better (and added more words to read, which is never a bad thing… well, I shouldn’t say never.  Words just for the sake of words is a bad thing).  Even in the final chapters (days) of the book there were concepts set up/explained that felt rather shoved in just to tie up loose ends or aid the plot and/or questions the reader might still have.

One minor gripe I have is that there are two “ghost” characters that to me felt like the same “person.”  When one or the other were talking/doing things (omitting their separate introductions) there was no reason to make any distinction.  Glynn James could have said “one of the ghosts” and been set.  In fact, once both characters are in the story, they mostly remain together leaving absolutely no reason to differentiate them.

However, this minor gripe leads into a bigger issue.  Though the character of James Halldon was well done… no one else’s was.  Every other character felt distinctly like a “side character” so much so that I had no reason to distinguish one from another or care about them, their story, or motivations individually.  Basically James Halldon has a mission and the story revolves around that so exclusively that nothing else is really important.  The exception to this is James family who the reader is only interested in because they have a connection to Halldon.

A few spelling/grammar errors take the polished feel away from this work, but nothing too major stands in the way of the reader, and the errors are few and far between.  An interesting stylized “error” is dropping the person pronoun I/me from the beginning of sentences.  At the beginning I thought this to be strange, resulting in many fragments, but as the story progressed I found out that this is Glynn James writing style, and there is nothing wrong with that.  It is seeming on purpose and works well mostly, only rarely making paragraphs feel disjointed.

Conclusion:

Glynn James paints a beautiful dark fantasy world that any horror or fantasy fan will feel right at home in.  There are still enough questions unanswered at the end leaving room for side books / sequels, but the story does have a definite and satisfying conclusion.  I do feel that these books should be read together as an Omnibus and not individually as they play off of each other in a brilliant way that I feel would be lost if read on their own.   The first book can easily be read as a separate entity, but book 2-3 demands that you read the first and does not work on its on.  Overall a great book that I thoroughly enjoyed.  As a side note, not only are all works of Glynn James DRM-free, but I have heard from him personally that he considers himself a “DRM hater.”  Amen to that.

Where you can find it:

Smashwords
Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)

Dragon Fate by J.D. Hallowell

WARNING!  This book is not DRM-free!

The Rating:

What would you like to be when you grow up?  We have all been asked this question, but who has ever been asked what it’s like to be growing up.  If you are a dragon (which you’re not… unless there’s something you’re not telling me 😉 ) and someone asked you this not often asked question, J. D. Hallowell would respond with, “Hey, I wrote a book on that!”

Wait a minute, doesn’t the book description talk about intrigue?  Renegades?  World threatening “bad guys?”  Yes, and so does this book… eventually.

The Good:
Hallowell definitely thought a lot about this book before and during the writing process.  The highlight of and primary content in Dragon Fate is watching a dragon growing up.  Throughout this journey the reader has to opportunity to learn about dragon anatomy, biology, chemistry, culture etc.  Dragons being present in a fantasy novel is nothing novel (oh noes!  The puns!).  Mostly, however, they are involved mostly like any other non-character object would be in the world building process.

Author: “Let’s see here.  In order to make a good fantasy novel I need magic, swords, elves, mountains, forests, bad guys, heroes… oh, and dragons.”

Dragon Fate not only uses dragons because it is the thing to do, but it is about dragons.  Some would say that this book is a concise introduction to dragons.  If you don’t know anything about dragons, read this book and you will know everything there is to know about them: growth rate, diet, flight, fire-breath, etc.  I applaud Hallowell for putting so much thought and effort into what it means to be a developing dragon.

Something else that stands out in Dragon Fate is the relationship between dragon and rider.  This is by far the best part of the book.  The reader gets to experience their relationship as it buds and grows through the whole process of dragon development.  The dragon and her rider have a special bond that is not easily broken (unless you consider death easy… and if you do, don’t spread it around unless you want to be locked in a padded room wearing nothing but a straight jacket).

The Bad:
I could sum this up just by saying “the first two thirds of the book,” but that would be boring and doesn’t explain a whole lot.  Why did this book only deserve 2 stars?  Well, it was a hard choice between 2 stars and 3 because the last third of the book is actually pretty good and definitely deserves 3 or maybe even 4 stars.  This is where the plot starts picking up, and things happen, the story moves forward.  For the first two thirds of the book, however, we are simply watching a dragon grow up.  If you are a parent and you just loved sitting and staring at your kids while they grew, this may be the book for you.  It is not necessary the growing up that is the problem, but the way that it was done.

Like I said, what was good about this book is all of the time and effort put into what it means to be a dragon growing up, but this unfortunately doesn’t translate into good writing.  Most of the description was Delno (the protagonist) asking a question and the dragon, or someone else who knows a lot about dragons, answering.  This leaves giant sections of the book for extensive dialogue and in-depth explanation of the inner workings of dragons.  Unfortunately this is neither thought provoking or engaging from the reader’s stand-point.  Have you ever had someone explain something to you with such great detail that your eyes begin to glaze over and you lose focus on what they are even saying?  I can’t imagine how Delno didn’t experience this, because as a reader, I sure did.  This is the only issue with this book, but it is a big one.  If it takes two thirds of a book for the action and plot to finally start, many people will put it down not knowing if it will ever go anywhere.  I was tempted a number of times to set it aside for something else more engaging, but I pressed on and found that eventually it gets better, but you have to drudge through a lot of less than engaging sections before getting there.

When a book is done, usually the plot ends.  Yes, Dragon Fate has an ending, but I wouldn’t say it is a good one.  There is some conclusion and certain elements of the plot get resolved, but a lot is left unanswered.  I found myself wanting to know more about the characters in the story and the cultures of the world and less about the dragons and their anatomy.  I suppose this leaves room for the sequel, but what was introduced was not finished in an climactic way.  Because only the last third of book focused on plot and character development, a lot of it felt like Hallowell was done explaining about dragons and now just wanted to rush to the end to get the book over with.

There were a few spelling grammar errors that I noticed, but all in all this did not take away from the book.  Mostly they were incorrect or missing words and there maybe 4 or 5 in the entire 377 page book.  This, at least for me, was not a big issue at all, but it wouldn’t hurt for Hallowell to give it one more run through with the editor(s).

Conclusion:
All in all, this book was bearable, but barely.  I enjoyed the ending and I was glad to see the book through, but the journey there was like pulling teeth in slow motion.  Sometimes it is necessary to pull teeth, but if so, do it and get it over with instead of dragging it out like some sadistic dentist.  I hope that Dragon Blade (the second book in this series) progresses the plot better and does away the extensive explanation of the magic system and the inner workings of dragons, these having already been explained in this title, but am not crossing my fingers.  Dragon Fate had great potential and a good plot, but it was all fairly poorly implemented and left me feeling dry and unengaged by the tale.

Special Note:
I did not purchase this book, but was gifted it by the author.  As there is currently no way to buy a DRM-free version and I wanted to check out this title, I directed my concern to Hallowell and he gave me a copy Dragon Fate as well as Dragon Blade both DRM-free.  Hallowell assures me that he is currently working on offering e-book versions of these two title for purchase on his website, and the copies sold there will all be DRM-free, but until this feature is implemented, there is no sane way to purchase these titles.  If you are interested in this book, I would encourage you to contact the author directly or wait until you can purchase a DRM-free copy directly from him.

Where you can find it:

Nowhere DRM-free

Osric’s Wand: The Wand-Maker’s Debate by Jack D. Albrecht Jr. & Ashley Delay

A story about wand, maker’s, and the debates thereof.

The Rating:

“I just want to be a dude.” Osric says.
“Oh, but you can’t!  That would make a boring story!”  Boom!  The earth shook and things exploded.
“Oh noes!  I am trapped under a pile of rubble!”
“Not today!” Buzz Lightyear comes swooping in and blasts away the rock.
“Fine!” Osric pouts.  “If you’re going to be like that, I guess I will save the world!” And he flies away on a dragon.

Note: This is not a true representation of the book in anyway.  Some characters and event are loosely based off of Osric’s Wand but are heavily screwed for comedic effect.  Also, Buzz Lightyear is a purely fictitious addition on the part of this editor

What did this book not do well?  We will get to that, but first… the good.

Teh Good (yes I wrote “teh” on purpose):
I was drawn into this book right from the start.  A mystery is afoot and though not a lot happens at first, the author draws you in by describing the world and the character’s thereof.  Now, this is not the type of dry description you would see as a caption on a painting, but the description of the painting itself.  A picture is worth 1,000 words, and though the author does not use that many (though I never counted them, so if there is a 1,000 word description, don’t hold it against me) the world feels full of life.  This is what made me fall in love with the book right from the start, because the writing within me surges with passion and is humbled in respect of an author who can describe something so vividly that I am pulled into the world to a point where I don’t want to leave.

If the description is what sold me, the dialogue is what kept me reading.  I have seen (and written, sadly) enough slap-stick dialogue to notice good writing in between the “”s when I see it.  The author uses humour fabulously as the characters foil off of each other that will keep you engaged and interested in what they have to say.  A number of times I caught myself laughing without realizing it and my wife had to ask me what was so funny.  If a work of art gets me laughing or crying (or illicits any other strong emotion, I guess) I give it two +s, or thumbs up.  Whichever you prefer.

I enjoyed the author’s use of the third-person omniscient POV.  It have seen this done very poorly in the past, and this was a beautiful refresher.  Though it was told from such a perspective, I still felt like I was engaged in the story-telling, and not reading as if engaged in an out-of-body experience.

Teh Bad (no, that was not a typo):
“Why is there any bad, Daniel?  If you gave this book 5 stars, shouldn’t it be perfect?”
While this is a good question, I also have a good answer (well, at least I think it’s good).  I have never before rated a book 5 stars because of this very question.  The problem is that I can be cynical enough that there is always room for improvement.  Unless I would rather read the book through in its entirety than eat, work, and any other business that is required of my body, I don’t know if it truly deserves a 5 star review.  That being said, I was torn for a while in deciding whether to rate this 4 or 5 stars.

Now for my reasoning (finally, I know.  Get to the point already, eh?)  It is better than most books that I have rated 4 stars. (Yes, all that build up for such a simple reason.)  Though it has some faults I believe it is an exceptional book.

The first fault it has is probably also what I liked the best about this book.  Sometimes the descriptions and world-building elements can be lengthy enough that it breaks up the action quite a bit.  This happens less and less as the story progresses, but this is probably due to the fact that more “action” is happening.  This bring me to my second problem with this book.  Not a lot happens.  Yes there is some action and fighting and stuffs, but that doesn’t make it an action driven tale.  The backbone of this story is not the story itself but the world-building.  The plot doesn’t jump all over the place, but it isn’t as it seems.  The story starts out telling you it will be about a guy trying to prevent a war, and then its about some mysterious wand… but that’s not actually the plot of the book.  A lot of this is set up (I presume) for the second book, but the plot is actually about dragons (say no more to prevent spoilers).  The reader only finds out about the plot about halfway through the book, and the action doesn’t pick up until the final quarter.

This plot/action issue has its good and bad points.  I was not initially impressed by the “I’m going to save the world” plot and was almost happy to see that, in the end, that is not what this book was about.  I also though, given the length of the book, that this plot would have to be rushed in order to get through it by the end.  Because of this it is almost better that the plot is not as it first appears, but instead there is a single conflict that is resolved nicely by the end.

Conclusion:
This book is beautifully written and despite the minor plot disruptions, it is one of my favourites.  It is full of colourful description, humorous dialogue, and some great concepts when dealing with magic and its various elements.  Oh, also talking animals.  That’s a thing.

Where you can find it:

Smashwords

Rise of the Aligerai by Kira R. Tregoning

A DRM-free Urban Fantasy tale

The Rating:

Would you rather have wings or hold destructive magic at the tips of your fingers? In Rise of the Aligerai you can do both! The first in an urban fantasy trilogy (I presume. Kira R. Tregoning shows that she is editing the second book as well as writing the third… so at least a trilogy anyway.)

This is a story of parallel realities… but not really. It’s a story about some college girls just trying to find their place in the world… but not really. Well, what does the description say? “Sita Newbury and her college roommates must protect both Earth and Corá from soul-stealing occultists or face the destruction of both worlds.” I guess that’s the best we’re gonna do.

If you have read this plot synonsis, you have read the book. Don’t get me wrong this is very lengthy book (164,000), especially for the price tag (free)… but is it a good book? I put that book at the top of my to-read list because I haven’t seen any hype at all about it, and thought it deserved at least one person to read it and say what they think. I guess I am that one person.

Tregoning gives a thank you in the forward of this book for all those who helped her via beta-reading, editing, or just general encouragement. The editing quality of this book really shines, as I don’t think that I found any poor grammar or spelling (not that I was reading with the criticizing eye of an editor, so there might be a few poorly placed commas or something). For such a lengthy book this must have taken a lot of time and I applaud Tregoning for doing this. There is nothing worse than struggling through poor editing to try to find the gem underneath. With the poor spelling/grammar out of the way, the read is free to find the gem… but there is no gem here.

Tregoning has a great idea for a great story, but that’s where the greatness ends. There is such great potential in this story for mystery and suspense, but the writing style throws that out the windows. It is told from a third person omniscient perspective to the point that the reader becomes very omniscient. There were a few parts in the story where the potential of a plot point or character drew me in, but soon enough the mystery was revealed to the reader in very plain words… and usually more than once.

For example (Minor Spoilers): At the beginning Sita Newbury is attacked. She then goes to college afterwards like nothing happens and the reader is left wondering what that was all about. Once arriving there they meet some guys (because who wouldn’t as a girl at college). The story switches perspectives to one of the guys (the attacker from the beginning) who avoids eye contact with Sita as to not be recognized. Nice hint, but not obvious. Then we switch back to Sita who thinks, I recognize that guy, but where from? not bad, but making it a little more obvious. At this point the reader knows that this guy is the attacker so the writing can go one of two ways A) reveal them to be who the reader thinks they are B) throw in a twist and be like, “actually, just kidding! You were wrong!” Tregoning chooses the former, but in a really bad way.
“That guy is bad news! He works for the enemy.”
“I knew I recognized him! He attacked me house.”
“That’s right, that was him.”
“What? He attacked your house?”
“Yes.”
“Yes.”
–Scene–
“You know, she remembers you attacking her house.”
“Well I did, so good on her for having a memory.”
–Scene– The next morning
“I can’t believe he would attack your house!”
“Well, he did.”

This is a glaring fault of this book that rears its ugly head time and time again. The reader is not left with any suspense at all. Though sometimes the characters may not know what is going on, the reader does, so it makes it less interesting when they find out, making the story predictable. One of the main drives of a good plot that keeps you reading is wanting to know what happens next. If you already know what happens next, why are you reading?

The second problem with this book is coupled with the first in that again I think it stems from the writing style. Everything is explained vs. shown. If the reader and characters need to know about a concept, there will be a dialogue section explaining it in great detail leaving a dry taste in your mouth. After the explanation nothing more need to be said because the other characters make sure to ask all the obvious questions along the way and clarify multiple times just to be sure that the reader gets it. Often-times concepts are explained more than once by different characters in different situations.

And the third problem? This book has basically one character… But wait? doesn’t the book description say “Sita Newbury and her college roommates?” Sure it does, but there are all one character. There are 5 girls who are part of this Aligerai, but they are all the same. All of them are the happy go lucky pre-teen squealing-at-everything-in-site-because-I-can person. Despite the fact that I find these people annoying in real life thus have no desire to encounter them in a fictitious world, I saw no reason to have five of them. The story would have worked just as well with just Sita Newbury at college. When they are all in a room together talking, it really doesn’t matter which one of them says what because they all will pretty much say the same thing in every situation. For the first third of the book I didn’t even remember their names because they were always together and talking, so it was basically irrelevant.

The Conclusion:
With all of these problems, why then did I give it 2 stars? Well, I thought about it for a bit, but I don’t think that it deserves one star simply out of respect for all of the work the author put into this. If someone sat day at their favourite text editor one evening, wrote until their fingers bled, opened paint and scribbled or a while for cover-art, and then posted the book… that is a one star review. This book is well editing, the plot is well thought out, it had some neat (though not new) concepts when it comes to magic and for this it deserves 2 stars.

Where you can find it:
Smashwords
Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)
Kobo

The Emperor’s Edge by Lindsay Buroker

A DRM-free Steam-punk Fantasy tale

The Rating:

There once was a woman named  Amaranthe Lokdon.  She loves her job as an enforcer, hunting down thieves and all manner of evil that may cross her path.  One day she is called on specifically by one of the higher-ups in down to do a special project.  Imagine her excitement!  … And you’ll have to imagine more than that, because that’s all I’m going to tell you about this wonderfully crafted story by Lindsay Buroker.  Oh, and one more thing.  there is an assassin   His name is Sicarius.   You will have to read it to find out the rest… the question is, should you read it?  Short answer: yes.  Long answer: read the review, okay?

Buroker does a good job at setting up the story and putting in place elements that will play well into the story later on. The characters are pretty good, though often predictable, but I enjoyed the humour in the dialogue spurred on by different backgrounds and world views. I am quite amazed at how good the book is despite the fact that not a lot happens. There is a single plot thread that develops slowly throughout the story, but though the pacing is a little slow, I was impressed that Buroker kept the tale engaging throughout.

I was not completely convinced by the plot.  Amaranthe Lokdon devises this plan off of the top of her head, and it definitely feels like an off-the-top-of-her-head plan.  It didn’t convince me, and I am glad to see that, though this is what drive the story, Buroker didn’t just have the other story characters go along with it “just because that’s what the story’s about, okay!”

All in all, the plot points that were unconvincing and left me hanging, asking “Why” in the first half of the book were rectified by the second half. The biggest problem I had throughout was “Why is Sicarius even hanging out with these untalented folk and entertaining such an unconvincing plan?” I was happy to see that this was tied up nicely by the end and it didn’t not leave me in want. I will say, however, that such seemingly glaring character flaws and plot holes at the beginning of a book could turn a lot or people off, thus they would never finish it and find out that it is actually good. It kind of gave me that thriller feel where you don’t really know the whole story until the very end (and even then a lot is left for your imagination… or for the other many books in the series 😉 ).

The Conclusion:
A good fantasy read. I didn’t find anything in Buroker’s writing to make her work stand out from the crowd (other than not being awful like many self-published indies these days. 😉 :P). She didn’t do an excellent job at description, action, dialogue, plot, characters, and all things that make up a book, but rather a well rounded good job. IMHO this is better than doing excellent at one thing (i.e. description) but completely failing at another (i.e. dialogue). If you like fantasy/steam-punk this is for you.

Where you can find it:
Smashwords
Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)
Kobo