RSS

Tag Archives: reading

Eye of the Storm by Frank Cavallo

Today, I’m sharing an excerpt from Frank Cavallo’s new novel EYE OF THE STORM…
9781535327077
On a research mission in one of the most remote regions of the world, former Navy SEAL Eric Slade and Dr. Anna Fayne are caught in a mysterious storm. Catapulted through a rift in space-time, they are marooned on a lost world. 

Struggling to survive and desperate to find a way home, they must confront the dangers of this savage land—a dark wizard and his army of undead—a warrior queen and her horde of fierce Neanderthals that stands against him—and a legendary treasure with the power to open the gateway between worlds, or to destroy them all: the Eye of the Storm.

Excerpt:

Kerr watched the horror unfold beside Azreth.

Down from their perch among the jagged stones and hills, the approach to Storm Crag Pass had been transformed into a black inferno. Shrieks echoed through the skies, as the lightning wraiths struck down warriors and raptors of dark flame soared through the ruined heavens. The beasts climbed in killer sorties, their fiery wings scorching everything in their path. Scalding talons skewered men, carrying them through the air as they died, burned alive and then cast aside like carrion.

True fires stoked by the wreckage of chariots and war machines painted the sky in livid hues of gold and orange. Columns of smoke churned up from the fighting; black plumes on the helms of war gods. Across the burning plain, men encased in shells of hot iron, half-mad from the heat, slashed and tore at each other in a blind frenzy.

It was a death feast. Bodies ravaged by all manner of calamity lay strewn upon the rocky terrain; charred remains that were unrecognizable for the twisted grotesquerie of flesh melted into metal.

Everywhere across the battle-plain the Hordes of Tulkoras fell back. Split into pockets, some were surrounded by the black knights of Tvath, who moved without fear of the dark flames that ravaged the steppe-warriors. Penned in like animals, the trapped hordes-men were slaughtered without quarter.

“The day is lost,” Azreth muttered. “Tarquin has bested my summoning.”

Kerr scoffed at the mystic. He was about to do more, when he saw a figure scrambling up the hill toward them. In a moment he realized it was Slade.

The former SEAL was covered in blood and soot. His chest was heaving as he rushed up from the lower reaches, struggling to make it to the heights of the pass.

Kerr grabbed a jug of water and limped to meet him, leaving his cane behind. When the two met neither said a word. Kerr handed the water to Slade. The warrior took it, nodded and drank every drop.

By the time he’d finished, Azreth had made his way down the hill to join them.

“What happened?” he demanded. “Where is the Queen you swore to protect?”

Slade scowled at the holy man. Instead of an answer, he smashed the clay jug on the rocks at Azreth’s feet.

“We got separated,” he said. “Black smoke. Black knights. Black fire. You can’t see a goddamn thing down there. One minute she was beside me, the next…”

Azreth shook his staff in anger, pointing it at Slade like a school teacher.

“The Queen must not be lost, despite this disaster she has wrought,” he said.

“This is your doing,” Slade said. “If anyone is to blame for this it’s you.”

“I did my part,” Azreth answered. “If only you had…”

Slade didn’t wait for the shaman’s reply. He turned back to Kerr.

“What do we have left to work with here in camp?” he asked.

“Very little, I’m afraid. The reserves have all been called into the fight,” the leper said. “There is nothing but a rearguard.”

“How many men?” Slade asked.

“A hundred, at most,” he said. “And that’s counting the couriers and their lizard-wing mounts.”

“Lizard-wings?” Slade asked, recalling the high flying dinosaurs he’d once witnessed by chopper. “You’re talking about pterosaurs?”

“That may be a word my father did not know,” Kerr answered. “We keep them behind the lines, in a separate camp. How does that help us?”

“You can ride them, can’t you?” Slade asked.

“If you need to, but they’re only for relaying messages.”

“Not anymore they aren’t,” Slade said.

“You’ve never ridden one before,” Kerr replied. “It is not easy.”

“Then I’ll have to be a fast learner,” he answered.

Kerr shook his head. He looked out toward the battle, and then turned his back.

“There isn’t enough time,” he replied. “Tarquin has already won. We cannot prevail. Honorable surrender is now our only option. I’m sure his terms will be fair.”

Azreth scoffed. Slade moved in closer to Kerr, grabbing him by the arm.

“You have a problem with me…fine,” he said. “But this is isn’t about winning. It’s about saving her. Which one do you care about more, hating me or helping Threya?”

Kerr looked at him for long, quiet moment, then back out toward the chaos. Finally, he nodded. Slade shook him by the arm.

“Let’s get to those winged lizards,” he said.

#

Khurghe was back on the high ground overlooking the fading battle, Threya beside him again.

“So it comes to an end,” he said.

A messenger came upon them in a rush, dashing up the hill.

My Queen, if you are to withdraw it must be done now. The wizard-king presses the attack,” he warned. “We’re almost overwhelmed.”

Khurghe looked to his queen, who tightened the buckles on her armor.

There will be no retreat,” she said. “Already our best thanes have fallen. I will fall with them.”

My Queen,” he protested. “If we stay, the whole army will be destroyed. At least call down the rearguard so we might have a chance to escape.”

No. It ends here,” Khurghe said. “I will ride out with you. You will not…”

Khurghe did not notice that the messenger no longer paid him any mind.

It was only when Threya called out that he looked up. What he saw stunned him, and left him unable to utter even a word. The scream of a pterosaur peeled across the burning plain. A giant aerial lizard skimmed the rocks from the east, its forty-foot wingspan carried upon the wind. Upon its back, an azure-cloaked rider held a long-bow, launching a hail of arrows upon the Etruscans as his mount swooped through the smoke and flames.

A second winged war-lizard charged against the tide alongside him. Another warrior rode forth upon it, carrying a red-stained scimitar. The shield-less thane was garbed in the armor of a Tulkoras horde. It was Slade. Kerr rode beside him, Azreth seated behind.

The lizard-riders dove down toward the trapped Queen. Flying in a single-line formation, they split the Etruscan ranks, opening a clearing in front of Threya and Khurghe. Hacking and chopping from the back of his pterosaur, Slade led the charge, carving a bloody swath through the wall of black iron, warrior after warrior brought down by his scimitar.

The screeching, enormous aerial reptiles cleared the ground a hundred feet in front of Threya, as the surprised Tvath knights fell back. They broke to either side, yielding a space at least half as wide between their divided lines.

Then, Slade pulled up on his mount, rearing in mid air. He banked hard to the right. Behind him, Kerr and Azreth cut in the other direction. The shrieking lizards circled, leaving the shattered Etruscans behind them as they curled back toward the Queen. One hoplite remained behind, and he charged toward Threya, whose back was against a boulder. Khurghe, seeing an opening, dropped his shield and ran for the safety of Storm Crag, disappearing into the smoke.

Slade brought his lizard down in a dive-bomber fashion, hurtling toward the single remaining Etruscan. When he was within reach, he pulled up, again rearing the animal as it spread its wings like giant sails, braking its momentum.

The knight turned, just in time to see Slade’s sword cut in an arc, splitting the shield of the Tvath thane, cleaving his chest and his throat in one strike. Pale flesh and bone splinters spat outward.

Kerr and Azreth brought their reptiles down beside Slade’s. The beasts folded up their wings as they landed on all fours, where they stood as tall as three men. Looking down from his great mount, the former SEAL sheathed his sword, reaching his hand out toward Threya.

Need a lift?” he said.

About the Author:

cavallo-head-shot-1Horror and dark fantasy author Frank Cavallo’s work has appeared in magazines such as Another Realm, Ray Gun Revival, Every Day Fiction, Lost Souls and the Warhammer e-zine Hammer and Bolter. 
His latest novel, Eye of the Storm, was released in August 2016 by Ravenswood Publishing.

In Eye of the Storm, I try to bring back some of the elements that I like from old time pulp fiction,” says Frank. “It is a throwback to old school adventure stories, combining the pacing and the feel of those classic tales with some newer elements that are not all that common to typical fantasy fiction.”

Frank’s previously published works include The Lucifer Messiah, The Hand of Osiris, and the Gotrek & Felix novella Into the Valley of Death. He is currently working on a new novel, The Rites of Azathoth, with Necro Publications, due out in February 2017.

Frank was born and raised in New Jersey. He graduated from Boston University with a degree in Communications in 1994 and he earned a JD from the Cleveland Marshall College of Law in 2001. He currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio, where he has been a criminal defense attorney for fifteen years.

Readers can connect with Frank on Facebook, Twitter, and GoodreadsTo learn more, go to http://www.frankcavallo.com/

 
1 Comment

Posted by on October 13, 2016 in Spotlight

 

Tags: ,

Guest Post: Stay Crazy by Erica L. Satifka

Today I’d like to welcome Erica L. Satifka to the blog, chatting about her new release STAY CRAZY, which releases August 16 from Apex Publications.

stay crazy

After a breakdown at college landed Emmeline Kalberg in a mental hospital, she’s struggling to get her life on track. She’s back in her hometown and everyone knows she’scrazy, but the twelve pills she takes every day keep her anxiety and paranoia in check. So when a voice that calls itself Escodex begins talking to Em from a box of frozen chick nuggets, she’s sure that it’s real and not another hallucination. Well … pretty sure.

An evil entity is taking over the employees of Savertown USA, sucking out their energy so it can break into Escodex’s dimension. Escodex needs Em’s help to save his dimension and to keep hers from collapsing. But Em isn’t certain she wants to help Escodex. She has other things to worry about, like staying off the Savertown USA bowling team, busting her sister’s chops about her new found religion, and getting out of Clear Falls, PA.

When her coworkers start mysteriously dying, Em realizes that she may be the only one who can stop things from getting worse. Now she must convince her therapist she’s not having a relapse and keep her boss from firing her. All while getting her coworker Roger to help enact the plans Escodex conveys to her though the RFID chips in the Savertown USA products. It’s enough to make anyone StayCrazy.

Behind the Scenes of STAY CRAZY by Erica L. Satifka

I came up with the story of Stay Crazy while working at a certain small town big-box store that I’d rather not name, but just think of the most obvious American possibility. And while the aliens and interdimensional beings that infest the fictionalized big-box store of Savertown USA are pure speculation, essentially everything else about the store arises from real life. 

Stay Crazy revolves around Em, a young woman with paranoid schizophrenia who goes to work at Savertown USA but gets more than she bargained for when paranormal beings start speaking to her. Because she also experiences voices and delusions unconnected to the store, she’s unsure whether these happenings are even real. The book takes place in Clear Falls, Pennsylvania, a fictional small town whose dying economy revolves around Savertown USA and other service industries. Em hates both the store and the town, but feels herself trapped, unable to return to college due to her illness. When the alien being starts killing off workers, she must join forces with a voice from another dimension to keep this universe from destruction.

My time working at the Store That Shall Not Be Named wasn’t nearly as eventful as that! Like Em, I worked in the frozen food section. The job was monotonous, involving the opening of large pallets of merchandise and the placing of said items on the shelves. Every day started with a corporate jingle, which I’m proud to say I never participated in. Just like at Savertown USA, the store manager read the stock report for the day and congratulated the workers, as if (to paraphrase Em), the work effort of a bunch of small-town rubes would impact the stock price. And as in the book, there’s intense rivalry between the workers in the grocery side of the store and the ones in general merchandise. (The feeling, both in the book and in reality, is that GM workers are a bunch of slackers.)

While Stay Crazy has a lot of important stuff to say about neurodiversity, it’s also intended to be something of a critique of capitalism. Whereas a town like Clear Falls may have supported dozens of small businesses once upon a time, the advent of Savertown USA with its unbeatable low prices directly caused the downtown stores to shutter. Local businesses gave way to one single megacorporation that funneled its profits not to members of the community, but to stockholders that wouldn’t even be able to find Clear Falls on a map. The workers, especially Em’s supervisor Judy Nguyen, realize on some level that the store is evil even if they can’t see the same monsters Em does. But what can they do? There’s nowhere else to work. This is a common situation in real life small towns.

Working at Store X was dreary and dehumanizing, but I’m glad I did it, and not just because Stay Crazy wouldn’t exist without that experience. Before I worked there I was political, but not really political. Over my six months with the store, I saw first-hand what happens when unions crumble and profit reigns over all. While I did escape from the store and the town, my hatred of big-box stores remained. I hope that readers of Stay Crazy who didn’t grow up in small towns can recognize the authenticity of Clear Falls and have empathy toward people caught like cogs in the corporate machine.

About the Author
Erica L. Satifka is a writer and/or friendly artificial construct, forged in a heady mix of iced coffee and sarcasm. She enjoys rainy days, questioning reality, ignoring her to-do list, and adding to her collection of tattoos. Her short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Shimmer, Lightspeed, andIntergalactic Medicine Show. Originally from Pittsburgh, she now lives in Portland, Oregon with her spouse Rob and an indeterminate number of cats. Stay Crazy is her first novel.
Twitter: @ericasatifka
~Suzanne~
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 2, 2016 in Guest Post

 

Tags: , ,

Book Review: Awakenings

awakenings

Cal MacDonnell is a happily married New York City cop with a loving family. Seth Raincrest is a washed-up photographer who has alienated even his closest friends. The two have nothing in common—except that they both suffer from retrograde amnesia. It’s as if they just appeared out of thin air thirteen years ago, and nothing has been able to restore their memories. Now their forgotten past has caught up to them with a vengeance.

Cal’s and Seth’s lives are turned upside down as they are stalked by otherworldly beings who know about the men’s past lives. But these creatures aren’t here to help; they’re intent on killing anyone who gets in their way. In the balance hangs the life of a child who might someday restore a broken empire to peace and prosperity. With no clue why they’re being hunted, Cal and Seth must accept the aid of a strange and beautiful woman who has promised to unlock their secrets. The two must stay alive long enough to protect their loved ones, recover their true selves—and save two worlds from tyranny and destruction.

Every time I read an urban fantasy novel – which isn’t often – I remember why I’m not a huge fan of the genre. I had slightly different expectations of this book, in that I anticipated the story to start in our world and move into the fantasy realm and thus be more epic than urban fantasy. This is not the case at all, with the narrative staying firmly rooted in the real world with the briefest of forays via memory of Aandor. I think this book will appeal more to readers who are fans of books like The Dresden Files or even Kevin Hearne’s The Iron Druid Chronicles than lovers of epic fantasy.

This book has a very odd voice in that the exposition often tends toward verbose, almost purple prose in a style that teeters toward being over-written. This makes the book rather descriptive and eloquent at times, which doesn’t seem to gel with the cast of gritty characters including a no-nonsense cop and porn-photographer-cum-frat-boy. The prose style would’ve been better suited to en epic fantasy in fact, but just didn’t quite work in what reads more like a noir novel with a dash of magic thrown into the mix.

I love rich world-building and I’m willing to overlook story issues in fantasy if the world-building is stellar. Awakenings teases with the world-building, mentioning the history and politics, the demographics and societal structure in the other world. Because the action takes place in the contemporary US though, there isn’t time to fully explore Aandor and I found this frustrating and it made it somewhat tricky to really get to grips with the stakes for that world without better understanding how it all worked. There are a lot of hints at the medieval nature of the world and the racial/ethnic disputes happening in the background – all fascinating stuff we never see enough of on the page.

As far as the story goes, I found the beginning a little slow to get off the ground with a lot of changing POVs that I found tricky to keep track. There were also a lot of characters with similar names – and quite a few names starting with C – which confused me at the start. The middle really picks up! Unlike so many books that suffer from a muddy middle, the middle here is where all the interesting action and intrigue lies. It was a real page turner and I struggled to put the book down, but then things started slowing down toward the end. I guess it was possibly a symptom of the author knowing he wouldn’t be able to fit all the story he needed to tell in one book, but not wanting to make the first installment too short, so there were a few scenes toward the end that I found dragged a little, especially with certain POV characters I just didn’t really care about much at all.

Overall, I don’t think this book really knows what it wants to be and so vacillates between detective noir, urban fantasy, YA contemporary, epic fantasy, and mystery. Consequently, there were many chapters I loved and then there were several I didn’t really care for at all because it felt like they didn’t really belong and could’ve been part of an entirely different book. The ending will also undoubtedly leave some readers frustrated and feeling cheated. I went into this book knowing it was the first in a series so the ending didn’t surprise me but if you prefer books even in a series to have a sense of closure at the end of book 1, this one might not be for you.

Interesting story, some interesting feminist views and portrayals of women, fascinating secondary world, some lovely language, but overall it didn’t quite come together for me in the way I needed it to to really love this book. Awakenings gets 3.5/5 splats from me.

3.5 inksplats

Review by Suzanne.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author for a fair and honest review.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 5, 2016 in Reviews

 

Tags: ,

Book Review: Shadowshaper

Look at that stunning cover! I didn’t even care what the book was about, I knew I had to have it as soon as I saw that cover and I dived right in without even reading the blurb.

shadowshaper

Cassandra Clare meets Caribbean legend in SHADOWSHAPER, an action-packed urban fantasy from a bold new talent.

Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer of making art, hanging out with her friends, and skating around Brooklyn. But then a weird zombie guy crashes the first party of the season. Sierra’s near-comatose abuelo begins to say “No importa” over and over. And when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep…. Well, something stranger than the usual New York mayhem is going on.

Sierra soon discovers a supernatural order called the Shadowshapers, who connect with spirits via paintings, music, and stories. Her grandfather once shared the order’s secrets with an anthropologist, Dr. Jonathan Wick, who turned the Caribbean magic to his own foul ends. Now Wick wants to become the ultimate Shadowshaper by killing all the others, one by one. With the help of her friends and the hot graffiti artist Robbie, Sierra must dodge Wick’s supernatural creations, harness her own Shadowshaping abilities, and save her family’s past, present, and future.

Firstly, hooray for having a character of colour on the cover of a YA fantasy novel!! Like a million stars just for that. Secondly, hooray for a diverse YA urban fantasy novel! Have more stars! And this novel was written by a real life Puerta Rican from the very suburb in which the story is set. All the stars, book, have them all!! I’m a huge fan of diverse books and an even greater fan of diverse books written by diverse authors.

But okay, onto the story. This was a fun, colourful, different and refreshing read. I don’t read a lot of urban fantasy but I happened to really enjoy the books by Cassandra Clare and can definitely recommend this novel to fans of the City of Bones series. Shadowshaper, however, was a lot more awesome because it felt so fresh. This novel presents Puerta Rican mythology to the reader, something I sadly knew nothing about until I picked up this book. And, despite having been exposed to a great number of books, TV shows and movies set in New York city, this story took me to Latin suburbs I’ve never explored.

While the plot is good and definitely kept me turning pages, there were times in the first quarter or so that left me wondering about the stakes and wondering whether the characters should be more concerned. Turns out they should’ve been, but the story takes just a teeny tiny bit too long to get started. Once it does, however, it kicks into top gear and doesn’t stop until the very last page. I loved discovering the shadowshaping world along with our narrator Sierra, who, having been denied her own heritage, wakes up to who she is on a lot of different levels throughout the story with the help of her wonderful friends and Haitian love interest.

What I truly loved about this book was the characters and the portrayal of Latin, black and mixed-race characters – nothing smacked of tokenism, every character felt real and necessary and an organic part of the story. I also received a crash course in Spanish and NYC slang. The voice is strong but not off-putting and Sierra was extremely relatable. I loved that she took charge and didn’t hesitate putting others in their place when they deserved it, calling out her aunt on racism, her grandfather on sexism and so on. This book explores feminism within the Latin community and closer knit family as well as what it means to be a Latin teenager growing up in NYC. It opened my eyes to a lot of things I never even thought about.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am really looking forward to reading more by this author, particularly if his future works contain more Puerta Rican mythology. Fascinating premise, great characters and superb writing, this book scores 4/5 glorious ink splats from me.

4 inksplats

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 27, 2015 in Reviews

 

Tags: , ,

Book Review: Empire of Night

This is book 2 in the Age of Legends series. Over here, you can read my review of book 1 Sea of Shadows. I knew I would return to this series because I adored the characters, and I’m really glad that I did because what I felt was lacking in book 1 was delivered in spades in book 2!

empire

No blurb this time because it would give away too many spoilers. This is going to be a spoiler-free review as well, so I won’t be discussing too much of the plot. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that this book kept me turning pages way past my bed time!

Book 2 picks up almost exactly where book 1 leaves us, weaving recaps of book 1 into the narrative in a way that didn’t feel like a major info dump. While book 1 was mostly about two girls traipsing through the wastes and battling legendary beasties, book 2 dives straight into what I thought was lacking in the first book: political intrigue! Book 2 introduces quite a few new characters which not only adds to the world-building but also forces the characters to grow and change in unexpected ways. Again, the girls are split up by circumstances and must face their own trials and tribulations, but the book never lets you forget that this story is first and foremost about the sister-bond between Moria and Ashyn. There is romance, but it always comes second to the love between the sisters which I found most refreshing.

While I found the world-building a little confusing in the first book, book 2 reveals far more about the cultures and construction of this fantasy world that seems to be a mesh between East and West, with a tendency toward 17th Century Japan although I think Armstrong does well to avoid some of the cliches while still introducing recognizable elements of the culture. There is also mention of foot-binding which was a Chinese practice, but the caste system comes straight out of Edo-era Japan. Coupled with the northern cultures we’ve only begun to get a taste of by book 2, I would say the world in this series isn’t a borrowed version of the ancient East so much as an continental amalgamation which I found really different from the vast majority of Euro-centric fantasy.

While there are no openly LGBT+ characters in the series – yet? – same-sex relationships are mentioned several times and seem to be accepted if not quite the norm. I’m not quite sure how this would work in a society very much concerned with family and lineage, but I hope that Armstrong explores this in the final book.

I cannot talk about the plot without giving away major spoilers. This book is all about the plot! There is substantial character development as well, but what kept me turning the pages was the political intrigue and wondering who the girls could trust, or who might betray them next. What I do absolutely love about this story is that the girls are both strong, independent young women who aren’t strong because they act like men. They are still young girls with a rather narrow if slowly broadening understanding of the world and people who use their significant skills to help themselves and others while not being afraid of asking for and accepting help when needed. Too often, strong female characters are written like male characters as if any show of femininity is somehow a show of weakness, but this is definitely not the case in this novel where the girls can do battle just as easily as they can chat about pretty dresses.

If I have any criticism of this book, it’s that the ending was a punch in the gut and is going to make the wait for book 3 a special kind of torment. While book 1 wasn’t my favourite, book 2 was excellent and I strongly recommend giving this series a chance because I’m sure it’s going to finish on a high! 5/5 splats for Empire of Night.

5 inksplats

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 28, 2015 in Reviews

 

Tags: , , ,

Book Review: The Girl at Midnight

While this title has been languishing on my TBR pile for a while, it was still a bit of an impulse grab at the library because I saw it sitting looking pretty on the shelf and just had to take it home with me.

TGaM

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

This book has been compared a lot to the beloved Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. I read the first book in that series and can see where readers may find similarities. In both books we have a pretty sassy heroine who flits about the world through magical doorways. There are mythical creatures in both series – demons and angels in Laini Taylor’s books, anthropomorphic dragons (Drakharin) and birds (Avicen) in Grey’s. To be honest, that’s where the similarities ended for me. I don’t understand why some reviewers see The Girl at Midnight as a ‘rip-off’ of Taylor’s series. It’s really not, and, to be honest, I strongly preferred The Girl at Midnight – Although Taylor wins hands down when it comes to exquisite writing, world-building, and description.

The Girl at Midnight is a little be Neverwhere-ish in that there is a hidden world operating in tandem with the human world, a world divided into the scale-adorned Drakharin and feathered Avicen. These two are, of course, at odds with each other and a human girl – our protagonist Echo – gets caught up in the middle of all the action as she goes in search of the mythical Firebird. At the mention of the Firebird, I was hoping for a stronger tie-in with Slavic folk-lore and was disappointed when the Firebird in this story seemed completely disconnected from the traditional mythology. Not that it isn’t cool in its own right in terms of the story world, but it’s a lot more Phoenix than fiery peacock from Russian fairytale.

It’s a little tricky to talk much more about this story without spoiling the plot. Suffice it to say, there was a twist, but I saw it coming from about halfway through the book. That said, it was still fun to see how the characters coped with the revelation even if it didn’t elicit quite the OMG reaction in the reader as I think the author intended.

The true strength of this novel lies in its characters, and not just the protagonist. Actually, Echo is possibly the least interesting of the lot. This book has multiple POVs, switching between various characters sometimes erratically. At first, I found this irritating because I was struggling to connect with Echo. In the end, I’m glad the author chose to give the reader personal time in the other characters’ heads because they were a fascinating bunch. I strongly preferred the chapters from the dragons’ perspective. Caius and Dorian all but stole the show, Dorian in particular who seemed to suffer the most internal conflict which made him the most interesting character even if he was relegated to the periphery. His interactions with the Avicen were some of the best scenes – particularly the snappy dialogue between Dorian and peacock-ish Avicen named Jasper. I could easily have spent the entire book in their POVs, following their story rather than Echo’s. This is both a positive and negative, I guess, because the story was meant to be Echo’s but there was so much going on with the side characters that I sometimes resented returning to Echo when I found other characters more compelling. I was particularly pleased to see the LGBT characters getting so much page time and even POV chapters of their own. Hooray for a diverse YA fantasy read!

In conclusion, I really enjoyed this book and appreciated the fact that the romance element took a backseat to the plot. I also really enjoyed the exploration of supporting characters even if the switching POV chapters sometimes felt disruptive. I think there could’ve been more nuanced world-building, but this is only book 1 so perhaps more details are coming in book 2. While I don’t find myself too emotionally invested in the protagonist, I am absolutely enthralled by the supporting characters and hope that book 2 continues to follow all the story threads presented in book 1. Ultimately, this was a fun urban fantasy read and scores 3.5/5 ink splats from me.

3.5 inksplats

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 23, 2015 in Reviews

 

Tags: , , , ,

Book Review: The Phantom Cabinet

Once again, I find myself writing a horror review when horror really isn’t my preferred genre. I didn’t quite realize how horrific this book was though, going into it, otherwise I might’ve reconsidered. Incidentally, I’m really glad I did read this one!

*For the sake of full disclosure, please note I received a review copy from the author of this title. This has in no way affected, influenced or otherwise coloured my perception of said book though*

phantom cabinet

WHEN HEAVEN AND HELL DON’T EXIST…WHAT DOES? Space Shuttle Conundrum collides with empty atmosphere, passing from known reality into the realm beyond life. At the same time, a dead newborn is resurrected amidst a hospital-wide poltergeist infestation. What connects these ghastly occurrences, and how can the fate of humanity rest on a single boy’s shoulders? As the haunted Douglas Stanton spends his adolescence an outcast—his only friend the ghost of a long lost astronaut—a porcelain-masked entity lurks in the shadows, planning Douglas’ demise. Because Douglas is the key… the key to the door… the door between what we know and what we fear. And when the key is turned…realities will come crashing together. Step into The Phantom Cabinet…

What made me want to read this novel was that cover! It instantly reminded me of Faceless from Spirited Away, while the shiny moth-man eyes called to mind the bunny from Donnie Darko, and lastly, that text is just so retro, the cover seemed to promise a bizarre and intriguing read. The Phantom Cabinet was certainly both bizarre and intriguing.

Imagine if the film Event Horizon (which gave me nightmares for weeks!) met The Ocean at the End of the Lane in a dark alley one night and their tryst produced a literary love child. The offspring of that union would be this book, a bizarro novel that serves up gruesome horror with a liberal splatter of pitch black humour. The opening scene, reminiscent of Event Horizon, had me simultaneously chuckling and cringing. In fact, the humour in this book only hightlights the horror, making the truly bleak moments all the more soul shattering. That, or I have a seriously warped sense of humour.

Okay, but what is this book about?

Our protagonist is Douglas Stanton who, like Cole Sear, can see dead people in all their gory detail. Douglas is haunted but unlike Cole ‘I see dead people’ Sear, he is also a conduit, allowing restless spirits to pass through from the afterlife, termed in this novel The Phantom Cabinet – which may or may not be a sly reference to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari wherein the big bad manipulated an innocent to commit atrocities. Something similar happens to Douglas as the third person narrative tells his story – via disembodied ghost voice – starting from his miserable birth and following Douglas into adulthood. In this way, the novel is a twisted coming of age story, dealing with middle school issues such as playground bullying and learning to talk to the opposite sex, to teen problems like underage drinking and doing more than just talking to the opposite sex. Of course, while all this relatively normal stuff is happening, a lot of increasingly abnormal stuff is happening too, leading the reader inexorably closer to the novel’s fated ending. I won’t spoil anything for potential readers, but I will say that there was really only one way this story could end. While somewhat predictable, it was a satisfying conclusion to this strange, sometimes poignant, often hilarious, always horrifying tale.

As far as the horror goes, things get pretty gruesome and Thompson certainly doesn’t shy away from detail. (Consider yourself warned!) The writing is quite magnificent with some turns of phrase that made me take a moment to simply appreciate the syntax. I’m not talking overly purple prose here, but rather a frank yet creative way of setting the scene and describing characters.

This book was heading for a fine five ink splats given its unique and enthralling plot, and fabulous writing, but there was one thing about the writing that bugged me. Now I know how boys can talk to one another and that teasing and ragging can be taken to exquisite new heights when it comes to name-calling and playground denigration. While I’m all for authenticity in voice and authenticity in character, the number of times femininity was used derogatorily – like a boy telling another boy not to be such a girl or such a bitch – became annoying after a while. I don’t think this was the author’s attempt to sneak in some kind of misogynistic agenda, but I did notice these references and they irked me. Even more likely to offend, however, were the multiple uses of the word ‘faggot.’ Now again, I’m all for authenticity, so if this word had been used by a specific character because that character was an asshole – or genuinely wanted to call people a bundle of twigs – I’d understand, but this word was used a little too liberally for my sensibilities. Perhaps it’s just a part of the book’s greater irreverence, but I know it might offend some readers.

I didn’t expect to enjoy The Phantom Cabinet as much as I did. This book was a pleasant surprise and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys bizarro fiction or to readers of horror who are looking for something a little different. It gets 4 ink splats from me.

4 inksplats

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 2, 2015 in Reviews

 

Tags: , ,

 
M.D. Thalmann / Satire and Sci-fi

M.D. Thalmann, a novelist and freelance journalist specializing in satire and science fiction, lives in Phoenix, AZ with his wife, children, and ornery cats, reads too much and sleeps too little.

Indie Authors Press

Indie Publishing House

Greyhart Press

Publisher of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Thrillers

Joseph D'Lacey

My pen is my compass. I appear to have lost my pen.

This Is Horror

The Voice of Horror

reviewsm8

Book, comic and sometimes film reviews

The Talkative Writer

Musings by speculative fiction author Karen Miller

Cohesion Press

Here to Stay

Dirge Magazine

Dark Culture and Lifestyle Magazine

The SplatterGeist

You are most welcome, GEIST.

Indie Hero

Brian Marggraf, Author of Dream Brother: A Novel, Independent publishing advocate, New York City dweller

Paws in the Porridge

'She is like a muse...who kicks people in the face.'

Matthew Sylvester

father, author, martial artist

meganelizabethmorales

MANNERS MAKETH MAN, LOST BOYS FAN & PERPETAUL CREATIVITY.

Shannon A Thompson

You need the world, and the world needs good people.

Victoria Davis/ badass blogger

All at once small pieces of my life, work , hobbies, and interest hit you all at once.

Poetic doodlings in C Minor

My journey, inexpertly wrapped in myth and mystery

K.M. Randall

author | editor