Monthly Archives: July 2013

Review of Shannon Phoenix’s Guardian of the Abyss

Guardian of the AbyssI got my copy of Shannon Phoenix‘s novel, Guardian of the Abyss from the Amazon KDP list.

Description from Goodreads:
Buried at sea by the sorcerers who created him, Abaddon is a gargoyle unable to heal himself and unable to replenish his energy. He has lived here for longer than he can remember, with no hope of escape. Time is against him as the sea eats away at him, body and soul.

When her diving partner tries to kill her to take over her company, Sarah finds herself trapped beneath the waves and dying. Having brought light to Abaddon’s dark existence at last, only she can grant him the courage to do what must be done to escape his watery prison.

Abaddon must sacrifice his wings to save her. Sarah must come to terms with being trapped with someone she has been raised to believe is a demon, and face the betrayal that nearly destroyed her and the company she built. Together, they must take on the ocean and their own fears. The consequence of failure is death.

Review:
Guardian of the Abyss wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. Most of it took place in the cave under the sea, which means it was just Abaddon and Sarah alone in the near dark. There were a lot of awkward getting to know each-other moments, a few rushed sex scenes and a couple sweet passages, but almost no action at all.

Once they reach dry land at last things pick up a bit, but I also felt like the story started to unravel a little bit. All of a sudden werewolves, vampires, goblins, etc were introduced and I was left wondering what the society looked like. There had been little previous indication that it was other than modern American up until that point. Plus, despite no introduction to her abilities, Sarah suddenly seemed all powerful and awe inspiring. It didn’t feel like she deserved half the praise she received since she didn’t seem to work at anything. It all just came so naturally. She had no fear of any of the paranormals she suddenly encountered, boldly chastised a powerful gargoyle and somehow brought peace where none had been for hundreds of years. Not to mention saved a species (and we’re never told what makes her special). It was all just too easy for her.

I also had a little trouble with small details like the fact that Abaddon was 2,000 years old, had been stuck in a cave for 400 years, didn’t know what a door knob was, but had no trouble describing something as sub-atomic. Some of his ignorance of modernity was pretty funny though.

For all that, it was still a fun little read. Abaddon was extremely honourable and I enjoyed that aspect of his personality. Sarah was stubborn to a fault and more than willing to take charge and demand what she wants. You don’t see that in PNR heroines too often. Together they were a cute, if occasionally inept couple. Final call: it might not top my favourites, but I enjoyed it all the same.

Review of King’s Mark, by Stephanie Herman

King's MarkAuthor, Stephanie Herman, sent me an e-copy of her fantasy novel King’s Mark.

Description from Goodreads:
Chay isn’t blind; she’s just pretending to be. Some street flies fake disabilities to earn sympathy and extra coin, but Chay took up the blindfold to hide the birthmarks that condemn her. If she slips up and someone realizes what she is, she’ll be tortured and killed.

There is nothing Leti loves better than hunting along the river and practicing his stone carving. Until now, his clan’s protection has allowed him to do just that, ignorant that the birthmarks on his hands brand him a traitor. 

Del Nyla lives in exile and regret, selling her swords to anyone who will pay. Every day, she risks her life in the hope that she might lose it.

These are the remnants of the King’s chosen servants, masterless and scattered. But not for long. Someone is gathering them together.

Review:
King’s Mark falls on either extreme of my mental tally sheet. In some respects it deserves the highest praise and in others it falls rather flat. My criticisms don’t outnumber my compliments, but they are rather major in the grand scheme of literary enjoyment…or at least my own literary enjoyment.

The book had a really interesting premise, but despite its length seemed thin on the important details. There were a lot of plot points the reader just had to take on faith with no explanation. Why did the king leave? What’s up with an immortal king anyway? How was he able to give people the Mark? What was Pris’ relationship to Chay and why was Chay so protective of, not to mention responsible for, her? How was a whole country convinced to buy into the persecution of the Marked they had previously loved so? Who was the Steward? I know what he was, but, who was he? Why were some Marked, Del for example, able to walk out in the open while other Marked were executed at birth? There was a lot of history between Isra, Del, Samuel, and Ket. What was their previous relationship?

Despite these remaining questions the story is an interesting one. It speaks to the dangers of too much power in the hands of too few and the injurious nature of disillusionment. It has strong undertones of the pain that almost always accompanies both the loss of innocence and the mantle of responsibility. It highlights the difficult decisions inherent in fighting for change and the need to accept loss for the greater good. And everywhere people are facing sacrifice of one nature or another.

There was also an interesting cast of characters. The dangerous and emotionally frigid Del. The steadfast and loyal Maro. The naive innocent Leti. The street-smart, battle hardened Chay. The visionary revolutionist Ket. The wounded warrior Ward. The embittered follower Isra. The list goes on. The book is full of strong character types (maybe even archetypes), even if those characters themselves sometimes felt a little shallow. I would have really liked to know more about almost everyone’s past. Because the history in this book played a very prominent role in the story. Honestly, it felt a little bit like I was reading a sequel without book one.

It was also bit slow to get moving. The main characters don’t even meet until half way through the book and some still never interact beyond introductions. This left me feeling like I was reading two or three parallel stories, as opposed to one strong, interwoven tale. As an example, I really loved Del and Maro’s interactions, but Maro never even met the younger Marked and, though he effected Del’s decisions, he played no notable role in the main events. Meaning his thread of the story never felt fully tied in.

Lastly, I had a lot of trouble with the characters’ ages. Both because they weren’t always explicitly stated, Leti was somewhere between 13-15 for example, and because some of the characters just seemed far too young for the characters they play. For example, Chay seemed to have a particular flare for whipping people, adult people, to revolutionary action but then about 90% through you find out she’s supposed to be twelve. Seems a little too young to be taken seriously. Then sometimes their ages contradict their lives and/or the timeline. Unless I misunderstood, Del was roughly 25, but Maro who was 19 grew up listening to tales of her battle prowess. Was she sent to war at 5ish? All in all the ages felt a little like a muddled mess.

The writing, however, is really superb. Character’s had regional speech patterns that gave everything a bit of colour. Heck, there was even an amazingly communicative mute. That can’t be easy to write. I especially appreciated the fact that Herman didn’t flinch from the tragedy. People died, sometimes in horrific ways, with no reasonable expectation of rescue. Anything less would have compromised the integrity of the story.

King’s Mark is worth picking up, worth the time it takes to read. Just go in knowing all of your questions won’t be answered, knowing that you just have to accept some things as the way it is. But when facing the dyeing, morally diseased corpse of the city of Durata maybe it’s unreasonable to expect anything else.

Review of S. Hart’s Swordmaster Dasan

swordmaster dasan 1

Swordmaster dasan 2

swordmaster dasan short
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Some time ago I grabbed free copies of S. Hart‘s Swordmaster Dasan short stories. Being the manga addict I am, I adore the covers. I tend to avoid posting about short stories/novellas/novelettes (whatever you want to call them), but these deserve a little attention so I’m making an exception. All three are currently free on  Smashwords and the first is also free on Amazon.

Deciding how to structure this was a little awkward, so just try to bear with me. 

Descriptions:

Book One:
Swordmaster Kyo Dasan is known for both his abilities and bitterness regarding visitors throughout the territory, seemingly comfortable only when alone.

Localem Arada, nicknamed Loki for his tendency to find trouble wherever he goes, finds himself at the mercy of the man he needs totrain him. Despite his reluctance, he agrees to the Swordmaster’soffer regarding alternative means of payment.

Book Two:
It has been three years since Kyo has seen his student when an opportunity to cross paths with him presents itself. He immediatelydiscovers that Loki has gotten into trouble again, and intervenes.

Reviews:

Book One:
I find that I really like Hart’s writing and characters. Granted there is little to this story except A LOT of sex, but hey that’s what I picked it up for so it’s not really anything to complain about. The world building felt a little week, but especially so since there appeared to be some quite detailed races/peoples/societies involved. This book is apparently set in the same universe as Hart’s Playing with Tigers series, which I haven’t read yet. I get the feeling that a lot of the lacking social details are set out in those Tigers books, because the author has obviously taken the time to develop them even if not seen here. Either way I still found the story easily followable and I adored Loki and Kyo.

I had to drop a star because some of the earlier sex scenes felt almost like rapes even if Loki had consented. I had a hard time relaxing into that. That’s just me though. Hart even warns in the introduction that the Swordmaster Dasan books arn’t “meant to display safe or proper bondage practices,” so I can’t claim to have been unprepared. It’s fiction afterall. I can appreciate that. But like everyone, I have my own personal limits.

A fun, well-written read.

(As an aside I actually couldn’t help by imagine Kyo as the Onime-no-Kyo from Samurai Deeper Kyo. They really look nothing alike, but between the name and the constant cruelties my mind made the leap and wouldn’t let it go.)

Book Two:
Yep, it just keeps getting better. Kyo and Loki are wonderful characters. Hart seems to excel at creating situational tension that tugs at the readers heart strings without ever feeling sappy or over played. Often I’m not even certain where it comes from, only that it’s there. Here you really feel both Kyo and Loki’s frustration, even as they steadfastly refuse to acknowledge it. They simply drive each-other to distraction…and are very very hot together.

Loki does seem to have accomplished A LOT in the three years he was separated from Kyo. He seems to have accrued too much experience in so little time. But he also grew up and returned very much a man…very much the man Kyo needs. If only Kyo would get out of his own way on the subject. I love their dynamic.

The writing here is just as crisp and wonderful as in the previous book. I did notice a minor tendency to reuse stock phrases, but nothing off putting or technically incorrect in any manner. The plot thickens up a bit in this volume too, which is nice. The books ends at a fairly natural point, but there is obviously going to be a third book. (There better be a book three and I’m fairly sure I’ve seen mention of it somewhere.) I can’t wait.

Yunan Holliday:

At barely 20 pages there isn’t much to it, but it’s a fun little short to tide us over until book three comes out. Plus, I think we should all start celebrating Divainya Rekeshna.