Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: Flash Gold by @GoblinWriter

Flash Gold by Lindsay Buroker – 4 stars

Eighteen-year-old Kali McAlister enters her steam-powered “dogless sled” in a race, intending to win the thousand-dollar prize and escape remote Moose Hollow forever. The problem? Fortune seekers and airship pirates are after her for the secret to flash gold, her late father’s alchemical masterpiece.

With her modified rifle and a pocketful of home-made smoke bombs, Kali wouldn’t normally hide from a confrontation, but taking on a whole airship single-handedly is a daunting task. Unfortunately, the other racers won’t assist her–they’re too busy scheming ways to sabotage her unorthodox sled.

When a sword-slinging stranger shows up, wanting to hire on as her protector, she’s sure he has ulterior motives, but he’s the only one interested in helping her. The question is…why?

This short story is an introduction to a steampunk series starring a female lead and her male protector sidekick. I assume there will be romance in the rest of the series, as this story sets the relationship up with that as the obvious outcome. The writing is good, the characters are fun, and the action is entertaining.

The story is so logical it’s predictable, and the flash gold of the title is a fantastical element (literally and figuratively) that seemed a little bit of a stretch to me. Given more story to flesh the concept out, I think it’d be brilliant.

As a setup for more, the story works fine and it was well worth the time I spent reading it. I recommend this for anyone who enjoys Wild West steampunk, and it would probably appeal to fans of Weird West as well, as there are hints of such things to come from the series.

Book Review: Lightning Rider by @JenGreyson

Lightning Rider by Jen Greyson – 5 stars

Time traveling was not on today’s agenda.
Racing to intercept her thieving soon-to-be-ex, Evy Rivera is thrown back to ancient Spain with no rules, no guidance, and brand new, badass lightning bullwhips.

~ ~ ~ ~ Tesla’s Time Travelers. Book 1 ~ ~ ~
Nikola Tesla’s time machine is no secret.

But what of his time-travelers? Men and women hand-selected and trained to alter history and save mankind. Again and again and again.

Evy Rivera is one, as is her father and his father before.

Too bad they didn’t know until yesterday.

Now, Evy must come to grips with being mankind’s guardian while learning the craft of arcing—traveling through time via white-hot bolts of lightning. Following orders has never been her strong suit and with a misogynistic tutor, she’ll be lucky to survive her first alteration: assassination of a Spanish legend.

This is the first story told in first person, present tense that I’ve ever truly liked, and I’ve tried a number of them. Evy is an incredible character full of life and fire, vulnerability and sass. Constantine is a fantastic foil for her and the rest of the supporting cast holds up their end. The time travel makes sense, which is a daunting feat.

The romance surprised me at first, then it felt very natural. Masterfully handled and bittersweet, I can’t wait for the chance to dive into the second book.

Although I think this book is awesome, I suspect it will appeal to women more than men. If you like sassy female narrators, though, you’ll like this book.

Book Review: Skeins Unfurled by @KmVanderbilt

Skeins Unfurled by K.M Vanderbilt – 3 stars

When the murder of a god shatters a thousand years of peace, chaos reigns among the known worlds. Even the Norns, blinded and stripped of their powers, cannot see how it will end.

Left without guidance, some gods choose to make their own fates. Others cannot. Old ties are torn apart while new ones are forged. And amidst that tenuous balance, ancient secrets emerge. War looms on the horizon.

In a struggle where battle lines constantly shift and allies just as quickly become enemies, nothing is sacred. For some, the end comes sooner than Ragnarok.

This book is aptly named. The threads of the plot, all tightly woven at the beginning, unravel until it’s unclear what matters and what doesn’t, and what the central conflict is. The writing itself is rich and delightful. The plot is somewhat confusing. it follows several characters, many of whom are obviously modeled on their namesakes from mythology, and all of whom are trying to push their will on some part of the multiverse.

I had a very difficult time determining who to feel sympathetic for, who the actual main characters are, and who should be labeled a bad guy. This is a story with flexible and gray morality, which is appealing in itself, but makes the characters challenging to suss out. I further found it confusing that the place labeled Midgard had little in common with Viking era Earth. Obviously, this is a fantasy tale, but with it using Earth-sourced religions, I expected it to use Earth as the basis. Dodriki is clearly not Earth.

The book felt like it would have made much more sense had the Breadth Key series come first and this been offered afterward as a backstory for the world. As a minor point, it amused me to see that a prequel had a prologue.

Overall, I recommend this for people who enjoy fantasy but have only basic/minimal knowledge of any of the involved mythologies, as advanced or in-depth knowledge will probably only cause the types of confusions I suffered.

Book Review: Sky and Dew by @HollyHeisey

Sky and Dew by Holly Heisey – 5 stars

In the Hallows, words are magic, and words can kill.

Sky took a vow of silence and left the world above to keep her city’s magic alive. Now, she wanders the Hallows as an acolyte of the Lost Emperor – an unseen legend from another world whose words fuel the magic above. But when her lover breaks their vow of silence and falls deathly ill, Sky must descend to the deepest depths of the Hallows to beg the Lost Emperor’s help. What she finds, though, is a tragedy that spans centuries, and Sky will stop at nothing to make it right.

Part otherworldly epic and part nonbinary love story, Sky and Dew is a standalone short story.

An enchanting short story about love and loss, Sky and Dew masterfully depicts a fantastical place with very human people facing horrific choices. I wanted it to be longer so I could spend more time rolling around in the beautiful writing.

The magic is fascinating, the setting vibrant, and the characters complex. As I read, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the scene in 300 with the woman who was filmed dancing underwater to be the oracle. This story has nothing to do with that one, but it gave me the same sense of grace and wonder, mystery and horror.

I heartily recommend this story.

Book Review: The Owl Goddess by @JennyTwist1

The Owl Goddess by Jenny Twist – 3.5 stars

The boy watched the star fall. It fell very slowly, and it was not one light but a multitude of lights spinning lazily through the night sky. Then great silver fish flew through the sky and other mysterious lights began to appear on the mountain. At last a great thunderbolt struck the ocean. The sound was flat and hollow and unbelievably loud, as if a giant had stamped on the earth. And the sign of the Goddess appeared in the sky – the sign of the Sacred Mushroom. These are the events that mark the arrival of the Atlantis, the doomed starship, bringing new gods who would change the life of the boy and his people forever.

This charming story takes the Greco-Roman mythology and recasts it as a fantastical story of aliens shipwrecked on Earth. The conflicts are relatively simple, as are the characters, making it a refreshing change of pace from hard, gritty epics about challenging moral choices.

The story does sometimes slow down with minutia or with a section of exposition here or there, but the subject matter is entertaining, making it easy to slip through. It’s a quick, easy read not requiring much thought to enjoy.

People who love Greco-Roman mythology will get a kick out of this story.

Book Review: Amaskan’s Blood by Raven Oak

Amaskan’s Blood by Raven Oak – 3 stars

Her name was Adelei.

She was a master in her field, one of the feared Order of Amaska. Those who were a danger to the Little Dozen Kingdoms wound up dead by her hand. The Order sends her deep into the Kingdom of Alexander, away from her home in Sadai, and into the hands of the Order’s enemy.

The job is nothing short of a suicide mission, one serving no king, no god, and certainly not Justice. With no holy order to protect her, she tumbles dagger-first into the Boahim Senate’s political schemes and finds that magic is very much alive and well in the Little Dozen Kingdoms.

While fighting to unravel the betrayal surrounding the royal family of Alexander, she finds her entire past is a lie, right down to those she called family. They say the truth depends on which side of the sword one stands. But they never said what to do when all the swords are pointing at you.

Amidst her enemies, in a land from the darkest reaches of her past, she must decide if she is to be more than another brainwashed puppet. No matter her choice, she must fight to do what is just and right to save the people of the Little Dozen.

Set in the land of Boahim, Amaskan’s Blood is an epic fantasy novel full of adventure, magic, assassins, and political intrigue. This first book in a series by author Raven Oak explores the themes of family and what it means to both find and lose one’s self.

Overall, the story itself is fine. The world is rich and feels real, detail is enough to form a good picture without being too heavy. The plot moves along at a good pace.

Magic is not an important part of the story. This is a low-magic tale that takes place in a kingdom where its use is hated and feared. When it is introduced toward the end, it’s minimal and unimportant.

I found the main character, Adelei/Iliana somewhat difficult to swallow as the ‘best of the best’ assassin, but she passes muster as someone who’s good at it. Emotions seem to get in the way for everything except killing people, which is, I suppose, reasonable. I just felt like she fell apart at strange times while holding it together in moments that struck me as roughly equivalent. She seemed less capable and competent than everyone declared her to be. Perhaps this was intentional.

The book uses a number of flashbacks, all of which are well done in themselves, but the story doesn’t transition between present and past well. In several places, I had to go back and re-read because the story showed the past without a clear shift. Some flashbacks do have a clear marker. The ones that don’t are confusing.

The other issue which made this book difficult to read was one of style. Throughout the book, there are passages where identifying the speaker is challenging, either because two different people speak in the same paragraph, or because one person speaks and another acts in the same paragraph.

This tale explores what family really is and means, and toys with the matters of trust–its creation, breaking, and re-forging–and justice. The writing is, aside from the points noted above, quite good. I recommend this book for avid readers of fantasy not put off by a lack of magic use.

Book Review: Clockwork Twist: Waking by Emily Thompson

Clockwork Twist Book One: Waking by Emily Thompson –  4 stars

Twist has never left London, until today. Now he’s traveling on an airship—with a crew that insists they’re not pirates—on his way to find the clockwork princess because he’s the only one who can fix her.

In true Neo-Victorian style, Clockwork Twist is set in a lush and vibrant world where thing are as you might expect in 1878. That is, of course, if fantastic creatures like djinn, faeries, kitsunes and vampires were commonplace. An increasing number of people are being born with supernatural senses, called Sights. While airship tourism is sweeping the globe, air-piracy is also on the rise.

Twist is among the Sighted, but his Sight is unusual. While others might be able to see and hear over great distances, find anything they can imagine anywhere in the world, or even recognize every type of flower by scent alone, Twist’s Sight shows him only damage. Whenever he touches a broken clock or machine, he can instantly understand the damage and can fix it easily. If he touches a person, even for a moment, his mind fills with a terrible vision of whatever trauma or pain once broke them. Naturally, he’s chosen a solitary existence and shuns all human contact.

Unfortunately, thanks to his seclusion, Twist is also unfamiliar with everything beyond his own clock shop, hidden away on a quiet and ever-drizzly London street. When a treasure hunter arrives at his door with proof that they have found the fabled clockwork princess—Twist’s favorite old fairy tale—it’s up to Twist alone to bring her back to life.

The continuing series of Clockwork Twist begins with book one: Waking. Join Twist as he embarks on his first adventure, and find out first hand if he can actually survive it.

One part mad adventure, one part wonder, and one part steam, this story is quite entertaining. I had a hard time putting it down and a harder time not picking it back up again. Twist is yanked out of his comfortable little world and learns more about himself than anything else. The character of Twist particularly captured my attention. He’s very Victorian and just daft enough to be blindsided by himself.

The supporting cast are vibrant and alive, the world is detailed, and the mythos has that layered feel of robust world-building.

My two complaints: One, the typos are quite numerous starting somewhere in the middle. Some are funny. Others made the sentence difficult to understand, which is rough on immersion. Two, Twist drives me mad with his utter lack of self-awareness. I’d like to throw something at his head.

Anyone interested in steampunk but not put off by fantastical elements such as ghosts, kitsune, and supernatural sight, will enjoy this book. It’s appropriate for ages ~15+, as it has no sex or graphic violence, but does have some semi-mature themes and was clearly written for adults. I recommend this especially for LGBT teens.