Tag Archives: dark fantasy

Knight in Retrograde (Dynamicist Trilogy Book 3) by Lee Hunt Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Four students who had hoped to change the world with mathematically based dynamics find their world instead of on the brink of war, as violent protestors rise and a series of hangings around the city grips them all in author Lee Hunt’s “Knight in Retrograde”, the third and final chapter in the Dynamicist Trilogy.

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The Synopsis

Would you trade uncertainty for stagnation, chance for god, invention for inertia, thought for dogma?

Four years have passed since the events of Dynamicist and war is on the horizon. Robert, Koria, Eloise and Gregory went to the New School, hoping to change the world. They thought that mathematically based dynamics, the enlightened age’s answer to wizardry, would give them the power to make everything better.Their hopes were naive.

Protestors are condemning the creation of a new vaccine. The city is seeing a series of hangings; is it murder or sacrament? The cloaked man is back stalking students. The long-absent demons Skoll and Hati reappear and begin slaughtering whoever they meet. But the real question is, will Nimrheal return? If he does, who will die first?

Uncertainty is inspiring fear, and inventions are not making the world better, only more complicated. The terrified civilians don’t want dynamics and reason. They want the word of Elysium and the return of the Methueyn Knights.Koria fears the world faces an awful conundrum: that if the Knights return, Nimrheal will stay.

Will Robert, Koria, Eloise and Gregory choose to transform into angelic knights or, at the cost of such heavenly communion, instead banish Nimrheal? What price will be paid? If a new Methueyn Knight rises, will the age of invention disappear forever?

The Review

What a dynamic and fast-paced final chapter in this gripping epic fantasy! As a relative newcomer to the series, I was highly impressed with the amount of world-building and magical realism the author poured into the narrative. The unique twist of using mathematics as a means of finding control of the magical system this world is governed by was so brilliant and spoke to me as a way to explore how modern science treats our ancient culture’s viewpoints on magic itself, and how the world would look if the two could both exist together. 

The captivating characters were such a powerful force of nature in the narrative, fleshing out the story and keying into the emotional depths that the reader feels towards this series. The reader should be prepared for some shocking twists and turns that will rock the fandom of this growing series, and the way the author wasn’t shying away from the brutality and visceral nature of this world’s events, as well as the fast-paced action the narrative has become known for, made this a gripping story to behold.

The Verdict

Memorable, heartbreaking, and entertaining, author Lee Hunt’s “Knight in Retrograde” is a must-read narrative and the best way to end such a powerful dark fantasy horror and magical realism series. The engaging way the author brought these characters to life both on the page and in the audiobook’s narration was well complimented by narrator Craig A. Hart really elevated the main story overall, and the haunting final chapter in this series will have readers on the edge of their seats. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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Lee Hunt’s epic fantasy book Knight in Retrograde is now available in audiobook format, in addition to eBook and paperback. And there’s a giveaway!

Would you trade uncertainty for stagnation, chance for god, invention for inertia, thought for dogma?

Four years have passed since the events of Dynamicist and war is on the horizon.

Robert, Koria, Eloise and Gregory went to the New School, hoping to change the world. They thought that mathematically based dynamics, the enlightened age’s answer to wizardry, would give them the power to make everything better. Their hopes were naïve.

Protestors are condemning the creation of a new vaccine. The city is seeing a series of hangings; is it murder or sacrament? The cloaked man is back stalking students. The long-absent demons Skoll and Hati reappear and begin slaughtering whoever they meet. But the real question is, will Nimrheal return? If he does, who will die first?

Uncertainty is inspiring fear, and inventions are not making the world better, only more complicated. The terrified civilians don’t want dynamics and reason. They want the word of Elysium and the return of the Methueyn Knights.

Koria fears the world faces an awful conundrum: that if the Knights return, Nimrheal will stay.

Will Robert, Koria, Eloise and Gregory choose to transform into angelic knights or, at the cost of such heavenly communion, instead banish Nimrheal? What price will be paid? If a new Methueyn Knight rises, will the age of invention disappear forever?

About the Series:

The Dynamicist Trilogy examines the difficulties of change in a fantasy setting. This challenge manifests itself through a rigorous magic system where thermodynamic cost is accounted for, and an inventor killing god. Most realistically, the challenge of creating a better world is illustrated by the many mistakes and miss-steps of the well-meaning and intelligent characters. The power and importance of memory, love and hope are ever present.

Universal Buy Link | Amazon


Giveaway

Lee is giving away a $30 Amazon gift csrd with this tour:

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Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47224/?


Excerpt

Knight in Retrograde Meme

As their eyes met, Heylor found himself abruptly pulled away from the handshake and whirled around by the strong hands of his mother on his shoulder. “What in Leylah’s long night happened to your face, Heylor?”

This again.

“It looks like he got trampled across the gizzard by a team of oxen,” said Herevor in a deadpan voice, rubbing his long narrow jaw with his right hand. His fingernails were black with dirt.

“He wouldn’t tell me what happened!” Shelley yelled from the kitchen table.

I don’t want to talk about it.

“Who’s there?” came a new voice from the couch. It was grandma’s broken, warbly twitter. Heylor peered into the den again and saw her slouched low on the half-collapsed couch. Beside her, perched primly with a straight back, sat Constable Lynwen, hands on lap. Heylor had not seen the young woman cross the room and sit down. He had forgotten about her completely, and now there she was beside his grandma.

“It’s me, Grandma. Heylor.”

The old lady squinted at him. She seemed little more than a bundle of thin, wrinkled skin, looking as if she had lost another two inches of height in the months since Heylor last saw her. Looking at her, spine hunched like a question mark and eyes rheumy and clouded with cataracts, felt like a stab in the gut.

“I thought you were out there across the line.”

“I was.” Heylor looked at Lynwen again, sitting beside his grandma. What is she thinking? “I’m back. Where are Heyden, Scrandeyn, and Helloise?”

Jesteyn crossed her arms. “They’re out farm-handing, Heylor. We told you that at the beginning of the season.”

“Sorry, I forgot about the farm work,” Heylor mumbled. “It’s probably a good thing they’re not here.”

“Why’s that?” Jesteyn asked, eyes narrowing. “They’d love to see you. You know that.”

“Why would they?” Heylor spread his arms wide in a surge of frustration. “They must be glad to be away from here. I can’t believe all the junk you have here.”

Herevor flinched for a microsecond before breaking into a mad grin that exposed every one of his missing teeth. “One knight’s junk is another knight’s armor.”

“Oh, for knights’ sake,” Heylor exclaimed, “why is there a wheelbarrow full of cats in the fireplace? What knight is going to make plate out of that? The cat would be better armor! And isn’t that Shelley’s sextant on the bookshelf? She lives in the orchid now. I do remember that. And isn’t that my old cooper’s kit spread out on the shelf yonder? And why do we have three busted telescopes? I’m sure I threw away the bronze one after second year. What isall this stuff doing here?”

“I needed a place to store my spare things,” Shelley replied evenly. “My room in the Orchid isn’t big enough.”

“Those rooms are huge!”

“Nope.” Shelley was not flustered in the least.

Heylor clenched both fists so hard his face hurt where Skoll had gripped it. “What about the cooper’s kit?”

“Heygard thought we should hold on to it for him until harvest is done,” his father answered nonchalantly

“Oh, of course,” Heylor whispered. “What about the telescope I know I threw away?”

“I think I can fix that,” Grandma piped up.

You? You can barely stand up!

“Well, that accounts for one telescope. How about the other two?”

“That’s me,” jumped in Herevor. “I thought I would see if I could make a small version of an Eindarch Eye.”

Heylor blinked. “Did you succeed?”

“Nope.”

Heylor shook his head. Of course you didn’t. “How about the old wheelbarrow?”

Herevor rubbed his jaw again. “Scrandeyn didn’t want it anymore. I figured it could come in handy. Someday.”

“Of course! Of course it could. Someday,” Heylor almost shouted, angrier than ever. Everything about his family reminded him of himself, of his own failings, of killing his friends. In that moment, he despised them like he despised himself. “It’s come in handy for the cat at least. Whose cat is that anyway? No, don’t answer, I know it came from a cousin or was thrown away by someone somewhere. Everything is useful, everything comes back. From everyone. Nothing is trash. It’s all worth something. My hand-me-down clothes probably got handed back and used for another cat’s nest.” He whirled around. “You know what this family is? Sick, crazy hoarders. It’s an illness. You’re so bad that, even when one of you finally throws something out, it gets thrown back by some other member of the family. When they throw something out, you take it. It’s a circle, a circle of junk, a knights-damned hoarding circle! We should study it in the New School. It’s a mathematical singularity for trash. Nothing ever leaves that doesn’t re-enter. There’s no escape from the entropic pull of the Style family’s hoarding circle vortex! No junk is abandoned, no mistakes are left behind, nothing is forgotten or moved on from.” Heylor held his hands up and whirled slowly around. “This might be a big new house, but we’re still just the same old peasants.”

Smack!

Heylor’s jaw rung for the second time that day, this time from the big hand of his own mother.

“My face already hurts, Mom! Don’t hit me.”

“I love you, boy, but I know that hurts less than what you’re carrying.” Jesteyn had hit him, but she did not look angry. Her liquid eyes betrayed a different emotion. “What mistakes aren’t you leaving behind? What pain are youhoarding? What happened to your face? It’s your family here. The only way yer gonna get rid of whatever it is, is to share it.”

Heylor started laughing. “That’s so clever, Mom.” He kept laughing and didn’t stop until his nose started running because he was actually crying. Through blurry eyes, he looked over at Lynwen, sitting silently, watching. “I’m sure you want to leave now, Constable.”

“Nope.” Lynwen smiled.


Author Bio

Lee Hunt

Ever try to do things you were really not well suited to? Lee Hunt understands. He was born with only one working lung, but has gone on to be an Ironman triathlete, a sport rock climber, and a professional geophysicist. The poor lung function has been an excellent excuse for his unimpressive triathlon performance—he is among the worst of those able to complete the Ironman under his own power—and is of some service in eliciting a modicum of sympathy for his average at-best skills as a climber. Actually no one on a rock wall really cares about excuses. It’s a climb-or-fall kind of thing.

His marginal ability to breathe is of no use whatsoever in explaining his career as a geophysicist. He was good at that. Lee published close to fifty journal papers, articles or expanded abstracts, has been awarded numerous best paper awards, and was even sent on a national speaking tour to Canadian universities by the Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists. He was born on a farm but grew up near the giant oil sand mines of Fort McMurray and is interested in discussing the environment and the amorality of science. He is also useful at parties in explaining the physics around why, or why not, fracture stimulation might be a risk to manmade structures and the fuzzy cuddly things of nature. Lee’s career helped him appreciate the difficulty in predicting outcomes, the dangers of arrogance—such as thinking you can predict even the smallest thing—and the exigent need to try anyway. He was comfortable and happy being a geophysicist, so after twenty-eight years, he quit to go do the things he was less well suited to.

If you want to hang out with Lee, look for him hiking, cycling, floundering in a lake, clinging desperately to a wall, or at his desk trying to write an entertaining story.

Author Website: https://www.leehunt.org/

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100052376555360

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/DynamicistAuthor

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lee-Hunt/e/B082YFTMCK?ref_=dbs_p_ebk_r00_abau_000000

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A Demon’s Trade (Damned If She Does Book 1) by Kathrin Hutson Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A magical bounty hunter finds herself discovering aspects of her power she never saw coming, and a case she refused to take becomes the one case that she never should have given up on in author Kathrin Hutson’s “A Demon’s Trade”, the first book in the Damned If She Does series. 

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The Synopsis

Demons might not be real. But she is.

As a tracker of curse magic, dark artifacts, and forbidden netherwork, Kali Sullivan is one of a kind, and not just as a bounty hunter. They think she’s a demon. What they don’t know can definitely kill them—and worse.

It only takes one slip to throw a curse into utter chaos. So when an overconfident target gets himself killed before Kali can take him in, she’s left to pick up the pieces. And to figure out which magical nutjob had the bright idea to start tattooing casting circles on their victims.

When staking out another dark-magic suspect reveals far more than who’s behind the attacks on humans, the ghosts of Kali’s past come calling in an unexpected way. Their messages give a whole new meaning to who and what she truly is, and it’s darker than she thought. Especially when the one job Kali refused is the one she really should have taken.

Fans of Patricia Briggs and Kim Harrison will love this action-packed Urban Fantasy Adventure from International Bestselling Author Kathrin Hutson.

*Set in the same universe as Kathrin Hutson’s Accessory to Magic series.*

The Review

Immediately I was drawn into this narrative. The author did such an incredible job of crafting a powerful and captivating protagonist and heroine. Kali is the kind of take-charge hero that readers are instantly drawn to, and the dark nature of not only her character but the world she works in perfectly reflects her conflicting nature as well. The first third of the book immediately draws the reader into the narrative, crafting a job for Kali to take that starts out as a simple dark curse extraction and turns into something far more complex than she could have imagined. I also loved seeing her bond with Heath, how they came together amid her horrifying upbringing at the hands of her father, and how these elements played into the central narrative overall.

The fast-paced action in this novel and the atmosphere the author crafts from the dark urban fantasy genre add to the air of mystery and suspense that this series of murders associated with Kali’s jobs has on the reader. The way Kali’s backstory and her personality as a whole come into play later into the narrative are so unique and perfectly mirror how trauma can follow us well past the moments we experience it, and if we aren’t careful to confront that trauma it can hold a grip on us all until we do so. 

The Verdict

A memorable, entertaining, and beautifully written novel, author Kathrin Hutson’s “A Demon’s Trade” is a must-read urban fantasy story. The twists and turns in the narrative and shocking revelations in the book’s final chapters will have readers hooked instantly, eager to learn more about the next entry into this brand new series. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

International Bestselling Author Kathrin Hutson has been writing Dark Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and LGBTQ Speculative Fiction since 2000. With her wildly messed-up heroes, excruciating circumstances, impossible decisions, and Happily Never Afters, she’s a firm believer in piling on the intense action, showing a little character skin, and never skimping on violent means to bloody ends. Kathrin is an active member of SFWA and HWA and lives in Vermont with her husband, daughter, and two dogs.

For updates on new releases, exclusive deals, and dark surprises you won’t find anywhere else, sign up to Kathrin’s newsletter at kathrinhutsonfiction.com/subscribe.

https://www.kathrinhutsonfiction.com/

Father Daniel’s Compendium of the Undead (A Cry in the Moon’s Light) by Alan McGill Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Author Alan McGill brings readers an exclusive and truly inspiring new collection of the history, the characters, the lore, and the information you’ve been waiting to get your hands on as he takes you into the world of his fantasy and horror series, (A Cry in the Moon’s Light), with this brand new collection, “Father Daniel’s Compendium of the Undead”. 

The Synopsis

Father Daniel and his Right Hand of God Order are a secret society fighting hideous creatures of the night. Gathering relics and creating weapons for decades at a place called The Forge. The Forge was built at the face of a silver mine below the Abbey on Feldberg mountain. The monks there compiled this Compendium at the Abbey in hopes it may help you understand the story that is A Cry in the Moon’s Light. Dispelling myths, retelling legends and digging deeper into the characters and places you love from the story. There are over 75 illustrations from various artists along with detailed descriptions and some spoilers where the past and future collide! Everything you need to fight evil.

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The Review

The author did such a brilliant job of taking readers into the world that he created. From the incredible artwork that brought so many of these characters and settings to life for the readers to enjoy, to the complete breakdown of the character’s histories, along with the various myths and legends that made up this fantasy narrative, made this companion book to the first novel in this series such an important and integral book within itself to have. 

The way the author incorporates historical figures, iconic myths, and local legends within the Eastern European setting into the background as subtly as possible was such an inspired and instrumental choice when developing this entire mythos. These established elements added weight and genuine curiosity to the narrative, allowing readers to delve deeper and deeper into the newly crafted history this story employed and getting fans eager to jump head-first into more stories if the author should add more to this vastly grown world.

The Verdict

An informative, fun and exciting new compendium and partner read to an already amazing fantasy horror series, author Alan McGill’s “Father Daniel’s Compendium of the UnDead” was a must-read collection for fans of the first book in this A Cry in the Moon’s Light series. The detailed approach to this mythology and the emotional connections established to this world will have readers on the edge of their seats wanting more, and that is always the sign of such a truly talented writer and gripping fantasy series. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Alan McGill is an American author who lives in an old farmhouse with a clowder of cats. Alan was close to his grandparents, who grew up during the Great Depression. They were married young and remained together until his grandmother’s passing. His grandfather served in the Navy during WWII and was a gifted storyteller who wove humorous tales about tough events. Alan grew up listening to these stories of right and wrong and watching fictional heroes–such as the Lone Ranger, Adam West’s Batman and Captain America–stand up to bullies and protect those who count not protect themselves. This inspired him to always do what was right in his own life and shaped his love of storytelling. He is a multi-genre author whose debut novel, A Cry in the Moon’s Light, combines horror, romance, and mystery. As with all his books, A Cry in the Moon’s Light centers on characters who strive to do the right thing regardless of the adversity they face. The book focuses on the theme of love–a pure and deep love that defeats all evil.

https://www.instagram.com/alanmcgill14/

https://cryinthemoonslight.podbean.com/

A Cry in the Moon’s Light (Book 1) by Alan McGill Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young woman’s journey to be at her grandmother’s side proves deadly as she must cross the Dark Forest, and finds gruesome village murders, dangerous wolf packs, and a castle that holds more secrets than answers in author Alan McGill’s “A Cry in the Moon’s Light”, the first book in the series of the same name. 

The Synopsis

In a time of castles, muskets, and hideous creatures of the night, a beautiful woman travels across the treacherous Dark Forest to be by the side of her dying grandmother. With only a young carriage driver to protect her, she must use her wits and all of her courage to cross the wild country—and to evade the mysterious beast who stalks her.

What follows is a tale full of horror, mystery, and romance: gruesome murders at a village hidden deep in the forest, a castle that holds dark secrets, and a black wolf leading a deadly pack. Nothing is as it seems, and this journey has only just begun. The beautiful lady in the carriage will learn that only love can defeat evil, but is it love or danger that cries out to her in the deceitful light of the moon?

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The Review

I was hooked immediately with this book. The author did such an amazing job of crafting a narrative that was both emotionally investing and chilling at the same time. The story was written in a way that felt like historical fiction meets Brother’s Grimm meets folklore all at once. The nods and homages to classic fairy tale style storytelling elements and themes were felt immediately, but then did such a great job of taking readers immediately into a right turn that held gruesome mayhem and terrifying creatures, and then made a completely new turn into heartbreaking and heartfelt romance and drama. 

The character growth in this narrative made the story everything it was. The horror, the scares, the heart, all of it wouldn’t have been possible without such strong characters and their bond to one another. From the young woman seeking to care for her grandmother to the loyal carriage driver hoping to protect her, and the creatures she shares a mysterious connection to, each of these characters felt dynamic and grand in their design, and yet very human and emotional in their motives and interactions with one another, making this such a superb read.

The Verdict

A brilliant, shocking, and immensely engaging read, author Alan McGill’s “A Cry in the Moon’s Light” is a must-read paranormal fantasy and romance reader. A fantastic blend of gothic horror meets iconic fairytale lore, the author crafted such heart and connectivity into the narrative that readers will be eager to want more, and the fact that the author had turned this into an audiobook-style podcast as well made this such an interactive story that holds so much promise for more stories within this universe. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Alan McGill is an American author who lives in an old farmhouse with a clowder of cats. Alan was close to his grandparents, who grew up during the Great Depression. They were married young and remained together until his grandmother’s passing. His grandfather served in the Navy during WWII and was a gifted storyteller who wove humorous tales about tough events. Alan grew up listening to these stories of right and wrong and watching fictional heroes–such as the Lone Ranger, Adam West’s Batman, and Captain America–stand up to bullies and protect those who count not protect themselves. This inspired him to always do what was right in his own life and shaped his love of storytelling. He is a multigenre author whose debut novel, A Cry in the Moon’s Light, combines horror, romance, and mystery. As with all his books, A Cry in the Moon’s Light centers on characters who strive to do the right thing regardless of the adversity they face. The book focuses on the theme of love–a pure and deep love that defeats all evil.

https://www.instagram.com/alanmcgill14/

https://cryinthemoonslight.podbean.com/

Slewfoot by Brom Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young Englishwoman who moved to a Puritan Colony alongside her new husband finds herself quickly a widow and must learn to survive in a patriarchal society. At the same time, a powerful spirit awakens, and together with the woman they must discover who they are and how to survive in this judgmental and deadly world in author Brom’s “Slewfoot”.

The Synopsis

A spirited young Englishwoman, Abitha, arrives at a Puritan colony betrothed to a stranger – only to become quickly widowed when her husband dies under mysterious circumstances. All alone in this pious and patriarchal society, Abitha fights for what little freedom she can grasp onto while trying to stay true to herself and her past.

Enter Slewfoot, a powerful spirit of antiquity newly woken… and trying to find his own role in the world. Healer or destroyer? Protector or predator? But as the shadows walk and villagers start dying, a new rumor is whispered: Witch.

Both Abitha and Slewfoot must swiftly decide who they are, and what they must do to survive in a world intent on hanging any who meddle in the dark arts.

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The Review

This was such a brilliantly written novel. The author did an incredible job of finding a balance between the historical fiction aspect of the narrative by exploring the Puritanical society of that era and the way it mirrors modern-day sexism, and the mythology and culture of the land settled originally by the Native American people, and later taken over by the Puritans. This clash of cultures allowed for the exploration of magic, nature spirits and so much more in this dark fantasy and horror read. 

What really stuck out as awe-inspiring though was the character growth of the cast of characters. The strength and evolution of protagonist Abitha were fantastic to read, as she represented the women who were mercilessly targeted in this society for daring to go in any other direction other than “God’s Will”. The villainous townsfolk who target Abitha is complex yet gripping as the protagonist’s foil in this narrative, while the mysterious and powerful being of many names, including Slewfoot, gave a challenging performance that straddled the line between hopeful ally and bloodthirsty demon. 

The Verdict

A remarkable, magical, and entertaining read, author Brom’s “Slewfoot” is a perfect horror read this Halloween. The folklore, mythos, and chilling atmosphere and tone will thrust readers into this haunting historical fiction and dark fantasy thriller, and the author’s incredibly chilling artwork will keep readers up at night for sure. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Born in the deep dark south in the mid-sixties. Brom, an army brat, spent his entire youth on the move and unabashedly blames living in such places as Japan, Hawaii, Germany, and Alabama for all his afflictions. From his earliest memories, Brom has been obsessed with the creation of the weird, the monstrous, and the beautiful.

At age twenty, Brom began working full-time as a commercial illustrator in Atlanta, Georgia. Three years later he entered the field of fantastic art he’d loved his whole life, making his mark developing and illustrating for TSR’s best-selling role-playing worlds.

He has since gone on to lend his distinctive vision to all facets of the creative industries, from novels and games to comics and film, receiving numerous awards such as the Spectrum Fantastic Art Grand Master award and the Chesley Lifetime Achievement award. He is also the author of a series of award-winning illustrated horror novels: Slewfoot, Lost Gods, Krampus the Yule Lord, The Child Thief, The Plucker, and The Devil’s Rose. Brom is currently kept in a dank cellar somewhere just outside of Seattle.

https://www.bromart.com/

What Once Was Mine (Twisted Tale #12) by Liz Braswell Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

The latest novel in acclaimed author Liz Braswell’s TWISTED TALE series hones in on the infamous story of Rapunzel from Disney’s Tangled, but flips the script when Rapunzel’s mother is given the wrong flower to heal her during birth, and Rapunzel is born with silver hair as white as the moon and given destructive power instead in the latest book in the series, “What Once Was Mine”. 

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The Synopsis

The 12th installment in the New York Times best-selling series asks: What if Rapunzel’s mother drank a potion from the wrong flower?

Desperate to save the life of their queen and her unborn child, the good people of Corona search for the all-healing Sundrop flower to cure her—but mistakenly acquire the shimmering Moondrop flower instead. Nonetheless it heals the queen, and she delivers a healthy baby girl with hair as silver and gray as the moon. With it comes dangerous magical powers: the power to hurt, not heal. For her safety and the safety of the kingdom, Rapunzel is locked in a tower and put under the care of powerful goodwife, Mother Gothel.

For eighteen years Rapunzel stays locked away, knowing she must protect others from her magical hair. But when she leaves the only home she’s ever known, wanting only to see the floating lights that appear on her birthday, she gets caught up in an adventure across the kingdom with two thieves—a young woman named Gina, and Flynn Rider, a rogue on the run. Before she can reach her happy ending, Rapunzel learns that there may be more to her story, and her magical tresses, than she ever knew. 

The Review

What a fun and truly entertaining take on the classic story of Rapunzel and the Disney version in the film Tangled! Truly, the story does a great job of laying the groundwork for this retelling by introducing a brother whose sister is in the hospital being treated for cancer and decides to retell her the story of her favorite movie while adding his own twists on it to help keep her mind occupied. This really added a personal and human element to this fantasy retelling, especially when readers learn of this story point’s origin in the author’s afterward.

The haunting, atmospheric tone that the author lays down in the tale of Rapunzel is great to see unfold. The inclusion of magic and witchcraft into the narrative to explore this twist on her origins was great to see unfold. Yet it was the characters that really sold this story, from the inclusion of characters like Countess Bathory, a new villain based on the historical figure to be included alongside Mother Gothel, to Gina, whose strength and partnership with Flynn give them both a stronger voice in the narrative overall. 

Yet it was Rapunzel and Gothel who stole the show. The protagonist’s knowledge of her origins (up to a point), and her desire to keep others safe was a unique twist on her character, as was her complex and emotional relationship with her “mother”. Gothel’s manipulations and selfishness took up all-new levels in this retelling, and the action-packed final confrontation these two had in the midst of a shockingly larger confrontation was powerful for the story Tangled began all those years ago.

The Verdict

A haunting, magical, and engaging dark fantasy take on this Disney classic, author Liz Braswell’s “What Once Was Mine” is a brilliant story and one of the year’s top contenders for the fantasy novel of 2021. A gripping tale of magic gone wrong, betrayal, and the bonds between mothers and their daughters, the addition of a more grounded narrator and a rich tapestry of mythology from beyond Disney’s typical storytelling background made this story shine brightly. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of this incredible book today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

After the sort of introverted childhood you would expect from a writer, Liz earned a degree in Egyptology at Brown University and then promptly spent the next ten years producing video games. Finally she caved into fate and wrote Snow and Rx under the name Tracy Lynn, followed by The Nine Lives of Chloe King series under her real name, because by then the assassins hunting her were all dead. She also has short stories in Geektastic and Who Done It and a new series of reimagined fairy tales coming out, starting with A Whole New World—a retelling of Aladdin.

She lives in Brooklyn with a husband, two children, a cat, a part-time dog, three fish and five coffee trees she insists will start producing beans any day. You can email her at me@lizbraswell.com.

https://www.lizbraswell.com/

The Unwilling (The Barrier Lands #1) by Kelly Braffet Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young woman with no name and no history soon discovers she’s anything but ordinary, as she finds herself caught between two powerful figures hoping to use her special gifts for their own purposes in author Kelly Braffet’s “The Unwilling”, the first in the Barrier Lands series.

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The Synopsis

A penetrating tale of magic, faith and pride…

The Unwilling is the story of Judah, a foundling born with a special gift and raised inside Highfall castle along with Gavin, the son and heir to Lord Elban’s vast empire. Judah and Gavin share an unnatural bond that is both the key to her survival… and possibly her undoing.

As Gavin is groomed for his future role, Judah comes to realize that she has no real position within the kingdom, in fact, no hope at all of ever traveling beyond its castle walls. Elban – a lord as mighty as he is cruel – has his own plans for her, for all of them. She is a mere pawn to him, and he will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

But outside the walls, in the starving, desperate city, a magus, a healer with his own secret power unlike anything Highfall has seen in years, is newly arrived from the provinces. He, too, has plans for the empire, and at the heart of those plans lies Judah… The girl who started life with no name and no history will soon uncover more to her story than she ever imagined.

An epic tale of greed and ambition, cruelty and love, this deeply immersive novel is about bowing to traditions and burning them down.

The Review

What a rich and dark fantasy the author has crafted! The narrative is greatly layered between the YA Fantasy from the two main protagonist’s POV, and the darker, more spine-chilling fantasy and horror that the journey takes readers on. The atmosphere and tone the author set for the novel really elevated the reader’s experience, drawing them further and further into the mystery and history of this world.

The mythos and the character growth was the most prominent aspect of these narratives. The shocking cruelty of the antagonists and heartfelt bond the protagonists and the supporting characters made with one another elevated the emotional undercurrents of this book, while the rich history and mythology the author developed opened up some pretty mind-blowing and thought-provoking fantasy elements that left readers eager to read more.

The Verdict

A masterful, creative, and emotional dark fantasy read, author Kelly Braffet’s “The Unwilling” is the perfect start to a brand new mythos and series. The rich historical and mythological development the author wrote and the engaging way the characters not only drew readers in, but the engaging interactions between these characters really made this novel shine brightly. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Kelly Braffet writes stories about unhappy people making bad decisions, occasionally with magic. She is the author of The Unwilling (available 2/20 from Mira Books), Save Yourself, and Last Seen Leaving; her first novel, Josie and Jack, has been made into a feature film starring Olivia DeJonge, Alex Neustaedter, and William Fitchner, and directed by Sarah Lancaster. Her writing has been published in the Fairy Tale Review, Post Road, and in several anthologies, as well as on Salon.com. She is a graduate of Columbia University and Sarah Lawrence College.

She is married to the tall and immensely talented writer Owen King. He’s dreamy. For more, see www.kellybraffet.com.

The Marionettes (Marionettes #1) by Katie Wismer Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

One of the last remaining blood witches learns the spot she thought was all but hers in the prestigious witches league is anything but, and her future and her survival all depend on her work in the trials in author Katie Wismer’s “The Marionettes”, the first in the Marionettes series.

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The Synopsis

A betrayal. A deadly secret. An unlikely ally.

Valerie Darkmore’s entire life has been building up to this moment—her initiation into the Marionettes, the prestigious league of witches sworn to serve the vampires. As one of the last remaining blood witches, her spot is almost guaranteed. At least, so she’d thought.

The academy is full of sabotage and secrets as the tasks begin, and Valerie quickly realizes she has more than her spot on the line. Her survival seems just as uncertain.

The closer she gets to the final trial, the more she learns everything—and everyone—around her isn’t quite what it seems.

The Review

I can honestly say this was one of the best New Adult and Dark Fantasy reads I’ve read not only this year but in a long time. The amount of world-building and mythos the author was able to fit into the narrative was not only entertaining but made the world within this book feel seamless and immersive. The freedom with which the author incorporates not only the two main classifications of supernatural beings, (vampires and witches), but other powerful beings as well that don’t always fit into the typical supernatural fantasy read helped elevate this narrative to new heights. 

Yet it was the characters that really brought the heart and depth of emotions to this story. Protagonist Valerie is complex and the twists and turns of her journey take her to showcase strength and determination that defines her as a must-read new fantasy hero. Her relationships also help define not only her journey but the reader’s journey with this story as well, from her best friends at her school to her strained relationship with her mother and sister, and the evolving bonds with her partner through the trials and the human boy she’s loved for years. 

The Verdict

A mesmerizing, haunting, and engaging dark fantasy that is not to be missed, The Marionettes is a must-read book of 2021 and a contender for the best Dark Fantasy of the year. The shocking final chapter and cliffhanger of an ending will keep readers desperate for more of this enthralling new series, and it will be very interesting to see where the next book in the series takes these incredible characters. If you haven’t yet, grab your copy of this book today, and if you enjoy it, preorder book two in the series, due out this winter. 

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Katie Wismer is a freelance editor and author of romance (sometimes contemporary, sometimes paranormal) and poetry books.

Be the first to know about upcoming projects, exclusive content, and more by signing up for her newsletter at katiewismer.com.

When she’s not reading, writing, or wrangling her two perfect cats, you can find her on her YouTube channel Katesbookdate.

https://www.katiewismer.com/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-J7x7Lf2YQ8i527YNO2iLw

Thread of Souls: Book One: Phantom Five by Scott & Ashley Roepel Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A group of adventurers must overcome their differences to face a world of deadly magic, monsters and the undead as they seek answers to the shocking murder of a high priest in authors Scott & Ashley Roepel’s “Thread of Souls: Book One: Phantom Five”. 

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The Synopsis

The sudden death of a high priest in a sleepy coastal village has rocked aspiring Paladin Zok’s world. Finding evidence of murder, he can trust no one in the temple as a dark plot unravels itself. Zok teams up with a group of adventurers to seek answers deep within the desert.

He’s joined by a nomadic Druid who is haunted by visions of a calamity, and an orphan thief who is chasing her kidnapped sister across the planes. And by a boisterous pirate, an enigmatic Wizard, and a Ranger fugitive of war. If they cannot put aside their differences, they will not survive the world of occult magic, interplanar monsters, and hungry undead that await them.

And halfway across the land, Taliesin and Ruuda are two fugitives from their oppressive homes. They venture out in a world where they must hide their identity or risk execution.

The Review

This was such a fun and engaging fantasy read. Detailed with both character backstory and mythology, the authors have done a masterful job crafting a story with both magical and larger-than-life action that blends with personal narratives that really connect the cast of characters with the reader. 

The balance of dark fantasy and character growth really elevates the narrative here. The danger and stakes of this fantasy world are made apparent early on in the story, as one of the main characters watches her sister taken right before her eyes by a large flying creature out of a nightmare. Yet it is the bond between the characters that really steals this story, as the blend of humor, charm, and heroism mixes with the personal problems each of these characters faces with their pasts and futures. It speaks of the classic swords and daggers, hero’s journey elements of adult fantasy novels that fans have come to know and love over the years.

The Verdict

An exhilarating, thrilling, and breathtaking fantasy-driven story, authors Scott and Ashley Roepel’s “Thread of Souls” is a must-read novel for fantasy fans of 2021! The first in an exciting 8-part fantasy series, the authors have created a brilliant and engaging story that hosts the magic and wonder that so many fans of the fantasy genre have always loved, and fans will not want to miss out on this series for themselves. Be sure to grab your copy today!

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About the Authors

Scott and Ashley Roepel are a husband and wife team of writers, creators, and travelers. They are co-founders of Tal & Ru Travels LLC which is focused on entertaining and engaging content. Deep lovers of fantasy, the two of them are avid D&D players and content creators.

https://talandrudungeonloot.com/

https://www.instagram.com/talandrutravels/