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Epic Fantasy Review: The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

The Black Prism (Lightbringer, #1)The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent Read. Right now for me, it’s a 5.

In the Black Prism, Weeks betters what he did with Night Angel.

The Prism offers a wealth of fantastic worldbuilding, good characters, action, war strategy, political intrigue, and plot twists to keep one coming back for more.

The magic system is well laid out. Simply put, a percentage of the populace known as Drafters have the ability to harness colors through light in a skill called Chromaturgy. This basically takes a force of will and belief to create Luxin which then can be used for everything from buildings to machines to weapons to fireballs. There are other subtleties. Let’s say I enjoyed it very much.

The characterization is good. The characters feel real and are engaging. You can sympathize with some and others you want to kick in the butt. At times, one of them can get annoying with his personality traits, and well almost a second personality. They more than served the story, the plot, the politics and scope of the world.

As usual from Weeks, when the action gets going, it gets going. The clash of Drafters reminds me of the Secret Wars comic books, as they do incredible things. Of course there are touches of mundane fighting, but when you have the magic embedded in this world, that takes a back seat.

The end was well worth the ride, adding another twist in a book chock full of them. Some people might carry on about tropes or cliches, but for me, it’s all about how they’re presented. After all, there’s just about nothing that can be done that is completely original. This is why I base my reviews of my enjoyment, rather than technical merits.

That is to say, I enjoyed this book immensely. Well done, Mr.Weeks.

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Shadow’s Master – Epic Fantasy Review

Shadow's Master (Shadow Saga, #3)Shadow’s Master by Jon Sprunk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this series and this final book. While the first book was my favorite, Shadow’s Master had a lot going for it. Sprunk’s action as always is top notch and so are his descriptions and setting. Caim, I got into right away and was totally engrossed, watching as he follows blindly into the teeth of danger.

This time around, I found myself less attached to Josey. Something about her felt lacking. This may have been because I was so into Caim. Then there was the questionable feats she managed considering her state. Despite this flaw, by the time I got to the meat of her situation when her major obstacle arose, her PoV made for better reading that caught me up, although I did find myself wondering “How did she do that and not …” I’ll chalk it up to what Hirsch tells her at the end.

Beyond that, the battles were thrilling and the magic at the climax was something to behold. Some may find a fault with Caim’s grasp of being able to do what he did, but the man was special in many ways. This time around there were no great plot twists, but the unfolding events were nicely put together at a pace that should keep any reader going.

I would recommend this series to any of my fantasy friends. Thank you for the good read, Mr. Sprunk. I look forward to what you write next.

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Author Interview : Anastasia V. Pergakis

So today begins my weekly author interviews. First up is Anastasia V. Pergakis, fantasy author of Cleanse Fire. Without further ado:

Terry C. Simpson: What is your book about?

Anastasia V. Pergakis: Cleanse Fire is a fantasy adventure novel, although I tend to think of it as an action thriller and the characters just happen to be elves. It appeals to both men and women readers as it has plenty of fight scenes, bad-ass girls, and a bit of romance too.

Terry C. Simpson: What inspired you to write this particular story?

Anastasia V. Pergakis: My Dad served in the US Army for twenty years. As a writer, I had the urge to write a story about him, telling the world about his dedication to this country. When I began writing the book however, I realized that I could never do justice to him, or any soldier for that matter.

So, I resorted to my passion – fantasy. Now, while the story as it exists now is completely fictional, the characters and story line are all in dedication to my Dad and all soldiers who have served, are serving, and will serve in the military. It is my hope that, even though in fantasy form, the story of a soldier’s sacrifice and dedication to their country still shines through.

With all that in mind, a portion of the sales will be given to the Wounded Warrior Project.

Terry C. Simpson: What writer influenced you the most?

Anastasia V. Pergakis: I don’t think any one writer influenced me. My critique partners are both published authors and they were definitely the support I needed to keep going. We talk to each other literally every day. They are two of my biggest fans and best friends. But so many other writers have been a big help to me over the years. I could never name them all. Each one helped me in one way or another. But, if I was to give credit to just one (okay two), it would be my crit partners. They’ve been with me for over two years now – everyday.

Terry C. Simpson: Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

Anastasia V. Pergakis: I’ll answer this in reverse. I have no real favorite. They’re all dear to me and hold some quality that I like.

The Kinir Elite is made up of six elves. They are the Special Forces in their country. They have unique and specialized training that allows them to handle missions of all kinds, ranging from hostage rescue to information gathering to “spy” work.

The team is led by Captain Derac Vidor. He’s feircly loyal to his country and its people. He lives and loves the military life he leads and has no urge to do anything else. He has a chip on his shoulder though. His wife died in a fire a decade before the book and he blames himself for it. So he has this harsh exterior that most find rather prickly. But his team softens him up a little and he slowly becomes more relaxed – at least as relaxed as a soldier like him can be.

Kie Shaphros also has a rough exterior that she wears to protect herself. Her childhood was dominated by fear and loneliness so she hides behind a false “bitchy” sort of attitude so no one notices. She prefers to train to doing anything else and reads battle strategies for fun.

Tyn Lamblin, Derac’s childhood friend, is the balance I think on the team. He’s calm, exuding an air of peace around him. He takes his faith very seriously, praying often – especially after a battle. He has an almost unhealthy love for his swords, but we won’t talk about that now.

The two youngest – and sometimes wildest – on the team are Jardel Olen and Aeli Edisbaan. Jardel is often seen by others as unruly and unpredictable. Fierce in battle, he would still prefer to be laughing it up with his friends in a tavern somewhere. Aeli is seen as a bubbly, air head type. She loves brushing her hair and cares a little too much about how she looks. But, she’s a genius – mad scientist sort of genius.

Last but not least is Rakan Surat. He is the veteran on the team, serving longer than all of them. He turned down the promotion to Captain (which is why Derac carries the rank). He prefers training to fun. Generally a sour sort of attitude (think grumpy old man), Rakan is often seen sitting to himself.

Terry C. Simpson: How long did it take you to write your book?

Anastasia V. Pergakis: I wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo in 2009. I let it sit for over a year, as I had another book I was trying to edit for publication. I lay that one down though, fed up with trying to fix it and getting no where. So I pulled Cleanse Fire out of the file in January of 2011.

I joined a workshop of sorts called Edit Palooza where a group of authors got to work personally with an editor for one month. It was a wonderful experience for sure and I learned a lot about how to self edit during that time. It took another two months after that for more editing before I began submitting to agents and publishers.

I submitted it around for about 5 or 6 months before I realized, I didn’t really want to go that route. It didn’t sit right with me. So, I began doing research into the indie publishing world and today, I’m pleased to say, my book is published.

Terry C. Simpson: How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

Anastasia V. Pergakis: It depends on the story honestly. Cleanse Fire I started planning at 11:30 pm the night before NaNo started. But I have another book that I spent a month world building and character developing before I started writing. It all depends on how cooperative the characters are honestly. Yes, my characters talk to me! They are the ones that tell me the story, so it’s really up to them how much information I know before I start writing. And even if I have it all planned out, they still throw in a surprise or two!

Terry C. Simpson: What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?

Anastasia V. Pergakis: I think every writer wants a reader to walk away from their book feeling satisfied and entertained. I’d love it if people walked away feeling like they had just been on a great adventure and like they made new friends with the characters in my book. Since my characters talk to me as if they were sitting next to me in the room, I hope that my readers feel a similar connection – like they are (or could be) a real person sitting there telling their story.

Terry C. Simpson: What was the most difficult part about writing the book?

Anastasia V. Pergakis: Oh this is a tough question! There were times where I was stuck on what to write next or a scene wasn’t coming out right, but that’s seems like a “normal” issue for a writer to have to me. It’s just one of those things we deal with in this business. And I’m lucky enough to have two crit partners, that like I said, I talk to everyday, so they were always around to bounce ideas off of or give me the missing piece of inspiration I couldn’t get a hold of.

I think the hardest part really was deciding when my book was actually DONE. You know, when it was honestly ready to be submitted and published. It took a lot of encouragement from my crit partners and my husband to finally let it go and begin submitting. I’m a perfectionist at heart, so it was really difficult for me to realize I had to let it go, or I was never going to be finished with it.

Terry C. Simpson: What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?

Anastasia V. Pergakis: HAHAH! No. Setting a word count each day for me would just lead to disappointment. I’m a stay at home Mom with a very active three year old son, so I write when I get a free moment. My husband is very supportive of my writing, so he’s really instrumental in me being able to write at all honestly. On his days off, he keeps our son occupied and out of hair for a few hours and I get to just write as fast as my fingers can type! So, while I don’t have a set word count every day, I do feel off if by the end of the week, I haven’t written anything. I write more in spurts, getting 4,000 words in one day…but then not writing at all for the next three. The main thing for me, is that I set a goal to have the entire first draft or edit done by a certain time – say in a month or two months, whatevet the case may be. That way, I still reach my goal, but I don’t have to stress over “Oh no! I didn’t write yesterday!”

Terry C. Simpson: What’s been the most surprising part of being a writer?

Anastasia V. Pergakis: Another tough one! I’m often amazed how supportive other writers are. In my offline life, I’m a painfully shy type of person and I don’t have a lot of friends as a result. So I feel sort of secluded most of the time. But online? Whew. I have friends from all over the world that give me advice, support me, hold my hand when I need it, and listen to me rant and rave about anything and everything. I think that surprised me the most when I got into this industry, was the shear amount of people willing to help me succeed – and we’ve never even met!

Terry C. Simpson: What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Anastasia V. Pergakis: I know this sounds a little cliché, but seriously – just keep writing! Write until you’re sick of it then write some more! If you get stuck on a book, write something else. Write a blog post even! Just keep writing. The more you write, the better you will get at it. I have 16+ novels in some stage of writing and/or editing right now. It is a long and hard road being a writer, but you are NOT alone. Sometimes it feels that way, I know. But just remember, there are plenty of other writes out there ready and willing to lend you a hand. So, just keep at it! It’ll all pay off in the end I promise.

Terry C. Simpson: What advice would you give other novelists about book promotion?

Anastasia V. Pergakis: Find something that works for you, and stick with it. There are so many ways to promote your book now a days that it can be extremely overwhelming. Manage your time wisely! You don’t want to be all promotion and no writing! I mean, what kind of writer doesn’t write, right? Another writer once told me that three social media sites is more than enough for one person to handle. Find three and go at it at full speed! Don’t stretch yourself too thin with too many social media sites, forums, groups, blogs, etc.

Also, since I promote offline as well, watch your budget! I know this seems like a common sense sort of thing, but it can be really easily to get excited and caught up in the rush and before you know it – you’re totally broke. Pace yourself!

Terry C. Simpson: How have you marketed and promoted your work?

Anastasia V. Pergakis: I began setting up my ‘fan base’ years ago on twitter and facebook, so I’m posting there as regularly as I can. On facebook I have my author page and a page just for the Kinir Elite series. I also belong to a few groups for Indie authors that aren’t so much for promoting my book to the group, but they share places where I can promote or request reviews.

I got into blogging about two years ago. That in turn introduced me to many bloggers that do interviews and book reviews as well. I had a few already ask for interviews and I’m going to be sending out requests to more as well.

Then there are the writing sites, forums, and other groups online that I’m a member of, specifically geared toward my book – fantasy.

For offline promotion, this weekend I’ll be visiting the colleges here in town to put up flyers on their message boards. Since the book has a strong military them, I’m also going to be getting in contact with the infantry base here as well. Then of course there are the libraries and book stores!

So, I’m going to be really busy the next few months but it’ll all be worth it in the end. And truthfully, I enjoy it.

Terry C. Simpson: What words would you like to leave the world when you are gone?

Anastasia V. Pergakis: Oh wow. Great question. Two things come to mind. One, I have a terrible fear of being forgotten. I want to be remembered. I want to know that I touched someone’s life through my own life, actions, or even my writing, in a way that resonates with them for many years after. Two, is the fact that I lived my dream. I kept going and working hard until I reached it. And I kept going even after that. My dream was to be a published author and I am. But now, I’m reaching for more! I have more stories to share, more people to meet. When I’m gone, I want my life to inspire people. The idea that “She did it, so I can too.”

Terry C. Simpson: Have you written any other books?

Anastasia V. Pergakis: I’m writing the first draft to the next book in the Kinir Elite Chronicles, currently titled Fire Renewed. I also have another unrelated series, The Faery’s Tale Saga. It needs a major rewrite, as I wrote it many years ago, when I was still brand new to writing. It’s an epic fantasy series: quest of honor, prophecy, etc. And of course the many other stand alone novels I have: The Story of William Archer is about a knight-turned-pirate, defying the ‘evil’ King and The Ryn and Ciyme Adventures about a girl and her tiny (hyper) dragon protector trying to save her family from the vicious lizard people. I have more books in the works, in some stage of writing or editing, but these are at the front of my mind most of the time. They will be gracing the shelves soon!

Terry C. Simpson: Where can people learn more about your books?

Anastasia V. Pergakis: The Kinir Elite Website: (The team does the blogging there, not me!)

Facebook Fan Page:

Facebook Personal Page

Author Website 

Twitter

Print version will be released on Dec 21, 2011. People can preorder print versions at the website:

Order Kinir Elite

Other buy links:

Amazon (US)

Amazon (UK)

Smashwords

 
 

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Epic Fantasy Novel, Princep’s Fury reviewed

Princeps' Fury (Codex Alera, #5)Princeps’ Fury by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me start this review by saying that I am a Jim Butcher fan. I love the Dresden files. I like the Codex Alera series. On to the review.

Princep’s Fury is a good book.

However if you’re expecting the witty, grit of the Dresden files, and the surprising outcomes Dresden has to offer then you may be disappointed. This series so far did have a couple twists but at this point, Princep’s Fury is a straight forward all out action, war, magic with some wartime strategy added that takes you along for a fast ride.

The Plot: The Vord are about to crush Alera unbeknownst to Tavi who has ventured off to the Canim lands as an ambassador. Tavi must find a way to deal with the Canim while the issue of him being the First Lord’s heir is up for debate in Alera. In Canea, they find out just to what extent the Vord incursion has expanded while at the same time having to deal with the ever aggressive, warlike Canim. In Alera, the First Lord sends Isana to seek the help of Antillus from the Shield Wall and broker peace with the Icemen after hundreds of years of war. A daunting task indeed. Amara and Bernard are given their own covert task which can make or break First Lord Gaius’ defense. Thrown in between is Aquitane’s move to finally consolidate power to himself. This simply all leads to war. And I loved it.

Scenes and Style When it comes to laying out the world, its creatures, his magic, the strategy used incorporating both the land itself and the furies, Butcher does an excellent job that at times makes me go “WoW!”. I simply love the furies, but then I’m a fan of almost all elemental magic.

The style of writing though at times left something to be desired. In the space of a couple pages, he must have used “he said quietly or she said quietly” about 6 or 7 times. This happened all throughout the book and sometimes the repetitions like this grated me. There were just too many examples for me not to notice.

Characters The meat and potatoes of the book. Combined with the scenes, the action, the magic and at times the plot is why I gave this book four stars. Seeing Tavi grow from having no magical power to what he is now, seeing him learn to lead men, learn to solve problems both small and large and seeing him strategize is an absolute pleasure. Of ocurse there’s his relationship with Kitai and seeing that grow gives us a few laughs, but also helps to establish Tavi even more. Reading Amara and Bernard and seeing them work as one shows the bond they’ve developed and touches me in many ways. Isana is as concerned as ever for her son, her peoples and others she doesn’t quite understand but does not arbitrarily throw them under the bus. Fidelias is as slick as ever, hiding what he truly is. The comparative differences between Marcus and Crassus are a nice touch. Of course watching the Vord Queen and the Canim as a whole are like individual characters and I find myself engrossed in both their worlds and trying to understand them. You will too.

Overall There’s not much more to say here. If not for the tendency to be repetitive during some parts of the dialogue and at times the constant attachment of adverbs to dialogue tags and repeating those, I may have given the book a 4 and a half. As it stands, everything else makes up for that hiccup and Princep’s Fury makes for an engrossing read that leaves you breathless from its neck breaking pace and had me wanting to read First Lord’s Fury. Which of course, I did. Pick up the series if you haven’t read it yet. It’s worth it.

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Posted by on September 12, 2011 in Reviews

 

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Epic Fantasy novel, Shadow’s Lure review

Shadow's Lure (Shadow Saga, #2)Shadow’s Lure by Jon Sprunk
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Death, despair, political intrigue, sword and sorcery, plots intertwined within plots. Sinister characters who will stop at nothing to accomplish their goals, those who believe in the greater good and suffer for it, clans on the edge of eradication unless they succumb to the will of evil. In the middle again is our man Caim, now in the North, seeking out his past and his future, drawn by the very darkness and shadows that are his birthright. Kit, in love and torn away from her beloved Caim and caught in her own perils. Josey, struggling to become what she feels it takes to be a good ruler as the remnants of the Church and the True Faith pit the people themselves and a dark, near unstoppable assassin against her.

The above is a small portion of what Shadow’s Lure brings to the table. Weaved in a dark, gritty tale of intense action scenes, intrigue, deception, and men and women calling into account the things that drive us: love, survival and defending what we believe, the book quickly becomes one that you don’t want to put down.

Whether you side with evil, good, or the grey, it’s there for you in gobs and gobs of excellently written prose. In Shadow’s Son, I thought Jon Sprunk outdid himself with his ability to weave action and description together. Well, this is even better. Last time, I was so caught up in the action, I didn’t harp on the plot and characters. Well this book pulls me in so many different directions, I cannot begin to say which part of it is better.

What I can tell you is if you haven’t read this series, go get it. Dive into the world. Feel Caim and Josey’s pain and loss, relish in their victory and cringe in their despair. You won’t regret it. I didn’t and look forward to Book 3 of Shadow Saga.

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Posted by on August 17, 2011 in Authors, Reviews

 

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