Saturday, 28 February 2015

'Ocean-eyes' Enchants!

Read an Ebook Week 2015

Review: The Girl who Sang with Whales

by Marc Secchia

Genre: Fantasy


The lyrical first volume in the new and quite original Islesong fantasy series, The Girl who Sang with Whales is beautifully written and follows the life-current of a young girl with a unique gift.

'Zhisu' for short, Zhialeiana-Susurrus lives alone with her mother on the last tiny island of the last small atoll, on the edge of the great Deep of the World Ocean. Dangers abound, and Zhisu is challenged by them to dive deep for the last of her courage. Sea-dragons are the very least of her worries,

Zhisu's adventures are not limited to overcoming dangers, hardship or abuse. There is a mystery about her origins which lies at the core of her story, and some call her 'Ocean-eyes', or mock her web-foot. Why is she different, and who was her father?
An enthralling journey begins, and Zhisu must navigate shoals and reefs, deeps and mountains, to find her way. Enemies plot against her, and friends equivocate. The loneliness of her heart is highlighted by contrast to the happiness, and unrequited love, of others.

I have to warn you: you may not want to read this book. It's the first part of the series, and the next is not out yet. You may die of longing to know what happens when the last wave breaks, that has swept Zhisu up in its violent surge, before you find out in the sequel. On the other hand, perhaps you should read it. You will not forget it, which will ensure that you won't miss the next part!

Smashwords: Read an E-Book Week 1 - 7 March
Suitable for fantasy fans of all ages, best for YA and young-at-heart adults, I love, love, love this book. Marc, please, PLEASE tell us when the next one's coming out, I can't wait! (There's a comment space right below this post, okay?)


Order from Amazon

Now out on pre-order is an original new Fantasy novella by E. A. Walker called Red and the Wolf. It's a dark, somewhat creepy retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale. 

The release date is April 6, but take advantage of the special Read an E-book Week promotion on Smashwords, running from the 1st to the 7th of March!

Smashwords: Read an E-Book Week 1 - 7 March

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Glorious Feynard!

Review: Feynard

by Marc Secchia

Genre: Fantasy (Grand Fantasy, in all senses!)


Feynard is an uninhibited, fully realised grand fantasy and engages the reader in a wonderful, complex story. The land of Driadorn is under threat from a mysterious blight, and a saviour must be found.

Kevin Jenkins is the quintessential unlikely hero - weak, sickly, abused and hopeless. He spends his life in his room, or in the library of Pitterdown Manor with the books he loves, when he's not recuperating from being the family whipping boy. Sometimes he has strange dreams, and increasingly he dreams of a barefoot girl dressed in leaves. Then there's Great-grandmother Victoria's distinctly strange legacy...

Kevin finds himself in the world of Feynard, an invalid in the care of a honeybear (a healer named Zinfandir), a unicorn and a dryad, who seem to believe that he's some kind of warrior (ha ha). Feynard is in trouble, and someone needs to save the world. Kevin's focus is on wondering how long it will be before he dies of asthma without his pump.

The unicorn is Zephyr, intelligent, amusingly arrogant, and kind. The disturbingly attractive dryad is Alliathiune - whom Kevin irreverently calls "Thooney" when he gets drunk. Alliathiune seems to have the kind and gentle nature of a bramble bush, at least on first acquaintance. Then again, brambleberries are delicious! Among other notable character creatures is the large and endearing swamp Lurk from Mistral Bog nicknamed 'Snatcher'.

The world of Feynard is a wonderfully rich and original creation, which I felt was fully realised. There is a great diversity of lands and creatures, and of the kinds of magic that are used. Flora and fauna of Driadorn and elsewhere are referred to and described, casually or in detail, in a way that comes across as completely natural and as if of a world one has really visited. I find it hard to get across just how well developed every creature is. The dryads in particular, and the unicorns, are revealed in every facet of who and what they are: biology, society, magical abilities, lifestyle and character.

The monsters are scary and their characters are almost as fully developed as those creatures of the 'good' side, with complex motives and their own plans and tactics. The good allies are also not simplistically depicted, and co-operation must sometimes be obtained in spite of divergent motives and priorities.

 The story offers grand fantasy adventure, daunting challenges and a complicated romance - very complicated, because humans and dryads, while related, are not the same species! This is an important part of the amazing - excuse me! - climax to the whole wonderfully complex tale.

Criticisms are hard to point out and frankly I don't really want to criticise this book because I loved it so much! However, I did notice that some character responses, rarely, are a little implausible. Snatcher's heartache, for example, is too readily healed. 
The writing, as always with Marc Secchia, flows well and is easy to read; however, in this book he uses a somewhat larger and more old-fashioned vocabulary than in his more recent books. I prefer this style which I feel is appropriate to the fantasy setting, and the editing seems flawless. 
The pace of the book is very good, although some may feel that the early parts drag a little, especially where Kevin is whining and feeling sorry for himself. Personally, I was very happy with the pace throughout, and hoped for a slightly slower ending - but perhaps that was because I was running out of book, and just didn't want it to end at all!

I have not read such a good fantasy book since Tolkien. Were I to compare this to something, it would be to Terry Pratchett's original Landover book: Magic Kingdom for Sale/Sold!, except that this is far bigger, better and more satisfying. I cannot understand why Feynard is not much more widely known except that, of course, it's Indie.

This is for anyone who loves fantasy - or even just likes it in a lukewarm sort of way. Get Feynard. Read Feynard. Love Feynard. Tell the world!

My thanks to Marc, who provided me with a free review copy for an honest and objective review.

Review: Romance in Four Seasons

by M. D. Gardner

Genre: Romance, Short Stories


Delight in Four Seasons

A delightful collection of four romantic cameos: the reader is surprised by Gardner's originality, delighted with the wit, wooed by the charm of each story and, most essentially, moved emotionally. In at least one case the being charmed by the story is wickedly deceptive; in another it's pleasurably satisfying.

The stories in order are: Bus Stop, The Big Four-O, Checkout and Ideal Match. I don't have a favourite, they're all good - but I must confess I needed a tissue at the end. Just one; I'm a man.

Gardner writes in a clean and subtle style; one is easily deceived into thinking the writing simple. Only when you consider the impact the author has had on the reader do you begin to realise how carefully the words have been put together. The editing is absolutely professional, although I feel that the quality of the current cover image is well below what the collection deserves.

If you enjoy romance, or good short stories, and especially if you'd like something other than the usual formulaic output of the big romance publishers, grab this one!

Currently Reading:

The Girl Who Sang with Whales

by Marc Secchia

Monday, 16 February 2015

The Librarian Gladiator: Tournament of Hearts

Review of Tournament of Hearts

by Dustin Bilyk

Genre: Fantasy


Extraordinary, Bold, and Riveting. Those are the adjectives that come to my mind when I want to describe Tournament of Hearts, the first novel in the brand new Librarian Gladiator series. This is powerful stuff!

The story offers an immersive YA and adult fantasy in which the most striking feature is the rampaging power of the imagination of the author. The story holds the reader's attention and moves at a rapid pace through a complex series of events. The writing is a little on the raw side but there is great talent here.

Hamelin is a mediaeval-style village isolated by a mountain wall (and more) from its world. There is a particular structure to the layout and administration of the village, and the reasons for this become clear in the course of the story. The unfolding of the background to Hamelin's situation is one of the strong points of this book.

Neven Fairchild is the librarian of the title, an unwilling gladiator in the life-and-death Tournament of Hearts. While a prospective reader might wonder about a comparison to the Hunger Games, I would advise them not to. Bilyk's world is fantasy all the way, and too clearly an original vision. Characters tend to be just a little larger than life, in the nature of a fantasy, and are extremely well depicted in a concise and effective style. Bilyk devotes equal attention to all his characters, both good and evil. Neven, Talpus (a real he-man), Delgado (a player of the angles) and Reoni (a fiery young woman and an enemy) are leading human characters, but the large cast includes creatures vaguely reminiscent of harpies, called the Jagisado, together with other strange humans and some of the most horrible monsters I have yet come across.

Neven's name has been drawn in the Tournament, and at the same time he begins to discover his own abilities, origins and purpose. He frantically searches for answers within the framework of the stresses placed upon him while time ticks away. If Neven loses in the contest, which many people confidently expect, not only will he die but his father as his only present relative will be killed along with him. On top of that, the life's work of their entire bloodline will be lost. The stakes could hardly be higher, could they?

The writing style is good and flows well, but is badly flawed by the poor editing. If this is to be an honest review, I have to say that - but I must add that this will not keep me from reading Dustin Bilyk again. He creates a fantasy that is just too good to stay away from! Perhaps I should mention that there is also a fair amount of foul language, although I did not feel that it was gratuitous. Bilyk's world is richly detailed, vividly presented and demands you return for more. The story is excellent and had me flicking pages as fast as I could go, all the way through.

If you are extremely sensitive to editing flaws I would suggest waiting for the paperback which I predict will be forthcoming before too long. Writers with this amount of talent are generally picked up by mainstream publishers at some point, and the editing gets done. I should add that Dustin Bilyk has promised to release a cleaned up version, so I'm not just guessing in the dark!

All other fantasy fans, get yourself a copy and dive in. I recommend this very, very highly. Five stars, less one for the editing.

Currently Reading


I'm just about finished, and - WOW! I'm feeling extremely spoiled to have enjoyed two amazing fantasy books one after the other. Review coming just real soon now!

Added to my To Read list:

Romance in Four Seasons
by M. D. Gardner

Friday, 6 February 2015

Broken People

Review of Broken People

by Ioana Visan

Genre: SF / Thriller 


A Fantastic Kaleidoscope

A strangely fascinating work, nominally SF, Ioana Visan's Broken People is hard to categorise. A complex cast of characters revolve in suspense about the Nightingale Circus's visit to Bratislava, and the plot tends toward that of a thriller - but really, this is all about the broken people.

Because of the circus setting and the oddly deformed people, I found it strange enough to be a little challenging to get into the book, but by the end of the second chapter I was hooked. Not so much by the story, but by these same weird characters. Visan enabled me to engage with not only the protagonist (incidentally one of the less engaging characters) but with nearly all of the vividly drawn individuals within these pages.
Every character has her or his strengths and weaknesses, many artifically augmented or damaged, and each one has found ways to live life fully. This book is something of a prose poem celebrating the variety of being human across a fractured view of abilities and handicaps.

For me, the most disappointing element was the climax in which the protagonist's motives (or rather, his directors' aims) are revealed. I felt that this was very weak - and seemed worse because of the great strengths of the book in all the other areas. But this is a personal feeling, and other readers may not agree.
The action scenes and the denouement of the story as a whole are, on the other hand, wonderfully done.

The plot and pace were very good, and the romance was really beautifully done, with great subtlety and insight.

On the whole I was very impressed and strongly recommend this book to anyone who likes the description.

I received a free copy of the Kindle edition of this book for the purpose of providing an honest and objective review.

Currently Reading:

by Marc Secchia

About 25% and enjoying it...