Tag Archives: Historical Fantasy

Breaking Time by Sasha Alsberg 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 finds her world turned upside down when a handsome stranger enters her life from another time, and together they discover fate’s plans for them when a rogue threat targets her for a power she never knew she had in author Sasha Alsberg’s “Breaking Time”.

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The Synopsis

Romance, Celtic mythology, and adventure swirl together in this time travel fantasy by #1 New York Times bestselling author, booktuber, and popular Outlander social media influencer Sasha Alsberg.

Fate brought them together. Time will tear them apart.

When a mysterious Scotsman suddenly appears in the middle of the road, Klara thinks the biggest problem is whether she hit him with her car. But, as impossible as it sounds, Callum has stepped out of another time, and his arrival marks the beginning of a deadly adventure.

Klara soon learns she is the last Pillar of Time—an anchor point in the timeline of the world. After being unable to protect the previous Pillar, Callum believes he’s fated to protect her. But now a dark force is hunting the Pillars—and Klara and Callum are the only two standing in the way. They’ll have to learn to trust each other and work together…but they’ll need to protect their hearts from one another if they’re going to survive

The Review

This was such a powerful and entertaining new read! The author did such an incredible job of world-building in this narrative. Each scene felt vibrant and alive on the page, thanks to the author’s incredible handle on imagery in her writing and the atmosphere she builds as the narrative progresses. The striking balance the author struck between the rich mythology of the world she created and the intimate and emotional character growth was superb. As a huge fan of mythology in general, I was immediately drawn into this narrative, but what was really fun was being introduced to new mythological figures and stories, and the intricacies of Celtic mythology definitely drew me into the story so much that I’ll be researching the mythos myself, really adding to the author’s ability to draw readers in. 

Yet it was the rich character development that really drew me in further and further into the story. The multiple POVs were great to have, as they added depth to both Callum’s and Klara’s stories. Their backstories and the eras from which they hail and the instant chemistry and discoveries they make about themselves along the way were truly inviting to behold on the page. Even the antagonist, who emerges from the shadows and strikes into the heart of these two protagonists, was chilling and haunting to behold and did a great job of becoming the hero’s foil in the narrative. 

The Verdict

Captivating, engaging, and brilliantly written, author Sasha Alsberg’s “Breaking Time” is a must-read YA Historical Fantasy meets Time Travel story and one of my top picks for best reads of 2022. The author does a great job of traversing the influences of other series such as Outlander and The Mortal Instruments, and yet feels so original and authentic on its own at the same time, bringing magic back into the Historical Fantasy meets Highland genre. With a twist ending that left this reader eager to read more, you guys won’t want to miss out on this spectacular story. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Sasha Alsberg is the #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of Zenith, the first book in The Androma Saga. When Sasha is not writing or obsessing over Scotland, she is galavanting across social media with her two dogs, Fraser & Fiona. Sasha lives in London, England.

Social Links:

Author website: https://www.sashaalsberg.com/ 

Twitter: @sashaalsberg

Instagram: @sashaalsberg

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sasha.alsberg 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15100575.Sasha_Alsberg 

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Breaking-Time-Sasha-Alsberg/dp/1335284893 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/breaking-

time-sasha-alsberg/1140332910 

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335284891 

Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Breaking-Time/Sasha-Alsberg/9781335284891 

AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/ch/audiobook/breaking-time/id1591477301 

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Sasha_Alsberg_Breaking_Time?id=5TlHEAAAQBAJ 

Please enjoy this excerpt from Author Sasha Alsberg’s “Breaking Time”

Excerpted from BREAKING TIME by Sasha Alsberg, © 2022 by Sasha Alsberg, used with permission from Inkyard Press/HarperCollins.

Callum

1568

“Thomas!” Callum yelled as he left the pub. The wall of crisp night air dizzied him, causing him to stumble over cobblestones that seemed to shift beneath his feet. Drunken laughter muff led as the door slammed shut behind him. 

“Where the hell are ye?” he shouted. His voice echoed through the deserted streets. 

No answer came. 

Lanterns flickered along the main road, setting the heavy fog aglow. In a wee town like Rosemere, the slightest whispers could be heard a mile away. They carried farther than that, Callum knew; the windows around him were shuttered, but candles burned low just inside. How many prying eyes watched from behind the slats? How many would speak of his friend, the disgraced fighter, in hushed voices at tomorrow’s market, over bread bought with the coin they’d won betting on him mere weeks earlier?

Callum clenched his fists. The whole pub had shouted and jeered while Thomas got pummeled that night. Sounds still rang in Callum’s ears: the thud of fist and flesh, the sickening crunch of bone. It was the third time this month that Thomas had lost—only the third time, in two years of fighting.

Brice would be angry.

Master, keeper, devil, father. Brice MacDonald was all of these things to Callum and Thomas. Whatever Brice’s wrath tonight, Callum could not let Thomas face it alone. Not when Thomas had looked after Callum for so long, raised him up from a nipper as well as a real older brother would.

But he would not abandon Thomas like his mother had abandoned him.

The thought sobered Callum. He called again, lowering his voice to a taunt.

“Thomas! You owe me three shillings!” Thomas could usually be drawn out with a jab.

Callum paused, straining his ears for a response but was met with unease instead. An owl watched from its perch atop the baker’s roof, golden eyes unblinking against the dark night sky. The shining orbs fixed on him.

He tore his gaze from the bird and walked on, moving away from the firelight and into shadow.

Even more worrisome than Brice was the fact that Thomas had given Callum his most treasured item earlier that night: his notebook, small sheaths of vellum bound in leather. When he first began carrying it around, Thomas claimed to have stolen it from the apothecary when he went in for a poultice. 

He had kept it on him, always, and had never let Callum lay eyes on what was inside. Yet he had pressed it into Callum’s hand, just before the match tonight. He said something to Callum when he did, but his words were inaudible within the roar of the pub. Then after, he disappeared from the pub without even a goodbye.

Now Callum was wandering the streets, alone.

It was unlike Thomas to behave so strangely, to lose so badly. The Thomas he knew—boyish and rowdy, tough as leather but never mean—had fallen away with the autumn leaves these past months. Instead of spending evenings at The Black Hart Inn, weaving stories he’d learned as a child of selkies and sailors for red-cheeked barmaids until the sun rose, Thomas began to disappear for days, weeks at a time—stretches too long for Callum to explain to Brice. He took a beating or two for it, too. When Thomas returned, he was sullen, sometimes violent, and consumed by a strangeness Callum had no words to describe. His eyes stared but did not see, as distant as stars burning in his skull. If he spoke at all, he told tales of the demons that terrified them as children: like the Sluagh, spirits of the dead who wandered in flocks, flying around the sky like soaring reapers and stealing souls, flesh hanging off them like blackened rags. Or the bean-nighe, banshees, messengers from the Otherworld and omens of death, who lingered in lonely streams, washing the clothes of doomed men. Normally Callum heard of such dark creatures within the stories of heroes, but Thomas’s stories didn’t end in life…but death. He fixated on that fact, as if it were coming for him.

I saw her, he’d said of the bean-nighe. I refuse to die. 

It worried Callum, but just as his worry morphed into confrontation, Thomas would come back to himself. This was enough to comfort Callum as he watched Thomas return to tales of ancient heroes and kings. Maybe he accepted his relief too soon since the nights of those stories were fewer these days, and more often Thomas’s speech would turn dark again. He would speak of strange visions, of men who leaped from one world to the next.

They’re coming, Cal, you’ll see. It’s as simple as stepping through a veil.

Who’s coming, Thomas? What veil? Callum asked, and Thomas would laugh.

It was no tale that Callum knew. He’d warned Thomas not to tell it. He didn’t like the wary looks it earned him. It was one thing to be a bard who told these stories for a living, but it was another thing to speak like a madman of evil spirits and fairies as if they were tangible things away from the lyrics of a song or the pages of a book.

Callum reached the end of the main road—the turn for Kelpie’s Close. If you wanted trouble, you found it in Kelpie’s. The narrow backstreet edged Rosemere like a blade pressed against the town’s throat.

A chill clung to his skin. Here, there were no lanterns to light the way, his only guide sparse slivers of moonlight. The wind picked up suddenly, lifting his hair and reaching under his woolen cloak. He tried to shake off visions of the Sluagh hovering above him, raking their cold fingers down his neck.

“It’s as dark as the Earl of Hell’s waistcoat,” he mumbled.

Callum reached for the dirk tucked under his arm and found the carved handle concealed under layers of wool, feeling a sting of guilt. It was Thomas’s knife. Callum had slipped it away from him before the match, worried about what his friend might do in the crowded pub if he got enough drink in him. He tapped it, drawing enough strength to plunge into the darkness.

“Scunner!” he cursed, meaning it. “Where are you?”

A cry pierced the quiet.

Callum’s heart pounded as he followed the sound farther down the alley. He pulled the dirk from under his arm, certain now that he’d need to use it.

“Thomas?”

Unease, cold and metallic, crept up his spine. The alley appeared empty—strange, for this time of night—but the silence was thick, alive with a feeling Callum couldn’t name. He pushed on, deeper into the gloom. “Thomas?”

Another strangled cry, ahead.

Callum broke into a run.

A single lantern flickered a short distance away, casting a wan glow over a lone figure slumped against the wall. A sweep of red hair, bright even in the dim alley.

“Thomas, ye bastard, do ye ken what—”

The insult lodged in his throat. Thomas lay on the ground, his legs splayed at sickening angles. Blood seeped through his shirt, blooming like ink on paper. Callum rushed to his friend and knelt beside him. He dropped the dirk and pressed his hands against the deep slice that marred his friend’s torso. A knife wound.

“Dinnae fash, Thomas, dinnae fash,” Callum repeated, voice tight and panicked. He glanced up, searching for friend or foe, and found no one. “We’ll be back to the pub before Anderson kens we havna paid our tab.” 

Thomas stared up at him with glassy blue eyes. With each shuddering breath, more blood spilled through Callum’s fingers. He ripped the cloth stock from his neck and pressed the fabric onto the wound. It did little to stem the flow of blood. Within a few heartbeats, the cloth was soaked through, red and dripping.

If he pressed any harder, would it be doing more harm than good? Should he call for help, though it might draw the attacker? Callum hadn’t a clue. He wished suddenly, ferociously, that he’d had a proper mother, one whose wisdom he could call upon to calmly guide his hands. However, Thomas was the only family he had.

His only family was dying.

Thomas opened his mouth, but instead of words, a wet cough came out, splattering red across his pale face.

“Dinnae move, Thomas,” Callum shushed him. His uncertainty gave way to desperation, burst from his throat. “Help! Help us!”

His words dissolved into the night air, leaving behind only a tightness at the center of his chest. If he hadn’t taken Thomas’s dirk, he would have been able to defend himself, he wouldn’t be dying in Callum’s arms—

Thomas gasped, but it seemed as if no air reached his lungs.

Lowering his head, Callum gripped Thomas’s hands, though his own were shaking. “I will find the man who did this, I swear—”

Then the world flipped sideways. A blow had hit Callum like a runaway carriage, throwing him against the alley wall opposite Thomas.

Pain exploded along his ribs. Grasping the mossy wall for purchase, he struggled to his feet and wiped blood from his eyes, scouring the darkness for his attacker—and found no one.

“Show your face,” he growled.

A cruel whisper cut through the quiet. “Are you certain?”

The man emerged from the shadows as if he had been one with them. He wore a dark black cloak, in stark contrast to his unkempt, pale hair. Deep set in his face, a pair of amber eyes seemed to emit their own light. Callum’s gaze was drawn to a glinting shape in the man’s hand.

A dagger, dripping with blood.

Thomas’s blood.

Callum’s heart pounded like a war drum in his ears.

The man sighed. “Move along. Unless you’d like to meet the same fate as your compani—”

Callum lunged forward, cutting off the man’s speech with a guttural cry, striking with the speed of a viper.

The man ducked. He whirled around as Callum charged again. He overreached with the arc of his knife, and Callum used the moment to surge upward with a punch. His fist took the assailant in the chin—

And the force knocked Callum back.

He stared. A blow like that would have laid out the toughest fighter, yet the man stood and smiled, rubbing his chin with a gloved hand.

“I’m going to have fun with you,” the stranger whispered. “I like a man with a bit of fight in him. It’s more fun to play with your prey, don’t you think?”

Callum didn’t see the blow coming, only felt the pain searing across his temple as he was thrown to the ground again. 

He lifted his head, vision blurring. He blinked it clear, took in his friend’s ashen face. The sight flooded Callum with rage.

Whoever said to never fight with anger fueling your fists was a fool. Thomas’s best fights had been powered by emotion. Callum wasn’t fighting for money now. Or for Brice. He was fighting for Thomas. Because Thomas was—

“Stay down, little man,” the attacker’s voice hissed.

Callum dragged himself to his feet. His body, corded with muscle from a lifetime of training, screamed for him to stop. Instead he stood, swaying.

“I dinnae believe I’m going to Heaven,” Callum said, raising his fists once more, drawing strength from the familiar ache that radiated through his arms. “But I cannae wait to bring you to Hell with me.”

Lunging forward again, Callum poured everything he had into a single strike. He swung, landing the punch more out of luck than skill, half blinded by blood and dirt.

The man merely flinched, then caught Callum easily by the throat. A grin curled over his face.

How could that be possible?

“My, my, you are a feisty one,” he hissed.

The man lashed out, and pain flared along Callum’s torso. He released Callum and stepped back, red-tinged silver shining in his fist.

Callum touched his side, and his fingers came away wet with blood. He watched as crimson spread across his shirt. He tried to take a step, only to crumple to the ground beside Thomas, whose head rested limp against his chest.

Callum had never feared death, but now as he looked into its eyes, terror seized him. 

“Many thanks for the entertainment,” the man said.

To Callum’s horror, he bent low, holding a vial to the spreading pool of Thomas’s blood. He was gathering it.

“If you’ll excuse me, there’s one last Pillar I must find.”

Pillar?

The unearthly amber eyes melted into darkness as his opponent backed away and turned, disappearing into the shadows once more. Softly hissed words echoed in the alley. Àiteachan dìomhair, fosgailte dhomh, Àiteachan dìomhair, fosgailte dhomh…

The words the man spoke were Gaelic, but Callum’s fading mind couldn’t make out their meaning. A dark, mist-like substance rose from the ground and curled around the man’s feet, nearly indistinguishable from the dim of night. Like a sudden fog had rolled in.

Callum sputtered a curse, lacking the strength to spit. He tried to lift himself, but with each breath, pain flared in his side like a web of fire.

“I’m sorry, Thomas,” he croaked. Tears fell freely down his face, mingling with blood and sweat. He pressed his forehead against his friend’s. Grief washed over him at the still-warm press of his skin.

Thomas was gone, and Callum would soon follow.

A shiver raked his body. His eyes drifted shut.

Take me already, he pleaded to the darkness.

And the darkness answered.

No, not the darkness—Thomas’s voice, a memory now, though it was solid as stone.

“Get up, scunner.”

The warmth of the words turned electric, spreading through Callum’s body like wildfire. His eyes shot open and he gasped, breathing in a shock of cold air still sharp with the smell of blood. His fingers found the dirk he’d dropped earlier.

Grief and agony and pain and rage lifted Callum onto his feet, thrumming in him as he charged after Thomas’s murderer, knife raised and eager for flesh. He grabbed blindly, finally grasping a handful of fabric—the man’s cloak. Turning, the man’s eyes widened, making two white rings of surprise in the dark. Callum’s hand grabbed the man’s neck and aimed his dirk at the pale slash of his throat.

Suddenly, they froze. Callum could not move. His hand remained around the man’s neck, the tip of the dirk pressed against his vein. Light flowed around them. It’s not time for sunrise, he thought. Dimly, he noticed markings along the man’s collarbone. Knots carved into his skin.

The man cried out—not in pain, but in anger—but then, the cry was stifled by a rush of silence, so thick Callum thought he might drown in it. His stomach turned violently as the ground seemed to drop out from under him, forcing him to squeeze his eyes shut. He was falling, flying, falling.

I must be dead in the alley. The man must have killed me. This must be death.

A bright glow burned against his lids. He closed his eyes tighter and welcomed whatever might follow, only hoping he’d find Thomas there. A wall of light had formed above, descending as if the sun were pulling him through the sky. His body rose into its searing embrace.

He waited for the long drop to the ground, but it never came.

Callum kept soaring.

Not just through the street.

Not to death’s embrace. 

But somewhere else.

Leaping to another world, like the man in Thomas’s story, Callum thought.

So he leaped. 

Airy Nothing by Clarissa Pattern Review

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

Two boys must traverse a magical London in search of friendship and acceptance in author Clarissa Pattern’s “Airy Nothing”.

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The Synopsis

When you’ve always been told you’re wrong, finding a place that accepts you can be the most magical thing in the world.

John has always seen things others could not see. He runs away to fabled London to find his fortune, but all he finds are grimy streets, rife with hangings and disease. BlackJack is a fast-talking pickpocket ready to show John a new life in the big city. When John first sees Shakespeare’s wondrous Globe theatre, he becomes convinced that this is where he truly belongs. But can BlackJack resist the urge to make some easy coin off of his new, naïve friend? And can John step up to the stage before the beast of the city swallows them both? AIRY NOTHING is a magical period tale of two boys finding friendship, love, and acceptance in seething Elizabethan London.

The Review

This was a remarkable read. The author did a great job of striking the perfect balance between the realism of the character growth and settings with the fantasy element of the magical realism the genre calls for. The way the author explores the world that exists just a shift away from our own world and how the protagonist deals with this world as he makes his way through the streets of London was so unique to see, and the magical nature of the narrative added to the heightened tone and emotions the author was delving into.

Character growth was very prominent in this narrative, and actually made the story what it was. The exploration of sexuality and identity in this narrative was so profound through John’s story, exploring the world’s perspective of a person and standing this against the feelings, emotions, and internal knowledge that a person has about their own selves. The complex relationship not only between John and the magical world of the fae around him but between him and Jack was so moving and kept the reader invested in this story.

The Verdict

Captivating, entertaining, and hauntingly beautiful, author Clarissa Pattern’s “Airy Nothing” is a must-read magical realism novel. The breathtaking scenery and atmosphere the author created mirrored the fantasy and emotional character growth that brought real people to live in a world that feels so much like our own world and really created a gripping story that readers wouldn’t be able to put down. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Clarissa Pattern studied English language and literature at the University of Oxford and has lived in the Oxfordshire area ever since. She has been writing ever since she could hold crayons and scribble across the wallpaper. Aside from writing, she spends as much time with her kids as they’ll put up with, ignores almost all the housework, and has an ever-increasing list of books she’s frantic to read. Her stories have been published in various anthologies over the years, and in August 2021, she released her first novel, a magical, historical YA called Airy Nothing.

Feather and Flame (The Queen’s Council Book 2) by Livia Blackburne Review

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

A renowned war hero who saved Imperial China and became an icon for women warriors everywhere finds herself in new circumstances when she is crowned the heir to the throne of China and must contend with threats within and outside of her new kingdom in author Livia Blackburne’s “Feather and Flame”, the second book in the Queen’s Council series.

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The Synopsis

She brought honor on the battlefield. Now comes a new kind of war…

The war is over. Now a renowned hero, Mulan spends her days in her home village, training a militia of female warriors. The peace is a welcome one, and she knows it must be protected.

When Shang arrives with an invitation to the Imperial City, Mulan’s relatively peaceful life is upended once more. The aging emperor decrees that Mulan will be his heir to the throne. Such unimagined power and responsibility terrifies her, but who can say no to the Emperor?

As Mulan ascends into the halls of power, it becomes clear that not everyone is on her side. Her ministers undermine her, and the Huns sense a weakness in the throne. When hints of treachery appear even amongst those she considers friends, Mulan has no idea whom she can trust.

But the Queen’s Council helps Mulan uncover her true destiny. With renewed strength and the wisdom of those that came before her, Mulan will own her power, save her country, and prove once again that, crown or helmet, she was always meant to lead. This fierce reimagining of the girl who became a warrior blends fairy-tale lore and real history with a Disney twist.

The Review

As a longtime fan of mythology, history, and Disney, I was absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to review another great book from Disney Hyperion. The author did such a beautiful job of bringing ancient China to life in such a vivid and magical way. The balance the author struck between the Disney story we know and the historical accuracy and mythology of the novel’s backstory within this series was superb. The setting of the narrative felt so alive and the author’s style of writing took on a very cinematic tone, allowing readers to read and bring to life this adventure in their mind’s eye. 

The character development was outstanding in this novel. The way the author delved into Mulan as a person when confronted with her new reality was amazing, as was her relationship with Shang. Not only did the narrative do a great job of tackling the issues of equality amongst the women warriors and showing the balance one must find between showing strength and courage in the face of adversity without losing who they are inside, but the author also did an amazing job of showing politics and power struggles within ancient China, giving Mulan’s story more depth and intrigue this time around.

The Verdict

Action-packed, entertaining, and brilliant written, author Livia Blackburne’s “Feather and Flame” is a must-read historical fiction/fantasy book and the next great addition to the Queen’s Council series. A fantastic series of twists and turns in Mulan’s saga and her battle both with another invading Hun army and her own political rivals will keep readers hanging on the author’s every word. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of this amazing read on June 14th, 2022, or preorder your copy today! 

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Livia Blackburne wrote her first novel while researching the neuroscience of reading at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Since then, she’s switched to full-time writing, which also involves getting into people’s heads but without the help of a 3 Tesla MRI scanner.

She is also the author of MIDNIGHT THIEF (an Indies Introduce New Voices selection), DAUGHTER OF DUSK, and ROSEMARKED (an Amazon best book of the month and YALSA Teens Top Ten Nominee).

Visit her online at www.liviablackburne.com

Interview with Author Mark S. Moore

1)   Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

For me, writing began when I was in high school. I dealt with a ton of anxiety and I withdrew into reading fantasy novels, specifically, the Dragonlance novels by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman. I remember I was sitting in an office at school reading one of their books and being sad it ended so I decided “I’m going to write some more, for myself.” That’s really how I got into writing, I wanted more story, so I made it myself. Oh…and it was absolute garbage, by the way, that awful fan fiction I wrote back then.

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2)   What inspired you to write your book?|

For Rise (and its sequel) the idea came from two different places but morphed into something completely different. I had been watching The Man in High Castle and spending a lot of time listening to Hamilton which gave me this idea of creating an alternative history novel on the American Revolution. I got about two chapters in and felt I was too restrained by factual places and people so I broke out of those confines and made my own world instead. It was liberating.

3)   What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

What I hope people can take away from my book is that it’s not as easy as we may like to think to determine who is good and who is evil in any conflict. Horrific things can be done for reasons that are perceived to be good because we’re all people and we’re all faulty.

4)   What drew you into this particular genre?

The very first book I remember reading was The Hobbit in 2nd grade. From there I went on to read about Greek Mythology and got deeply into a video game, Everquest, which had a pantheon of gods and goddesses and deep fantasy lore. Fantasy was always one of those things that just captured my imagination. Castles, swords, magic? I was sold from the beginning.

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5)   If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

This is a tough question for me because I get to know my characters so intimately, I don’t think there’s much I wouldn’t know about them. Part of my process is building up a real personality that works off logic and grants them agency but it’s agency I understand and anticipate, if that makes sense? A character won’t do something I don’t expect them to because I’ve built up who they are. Perhaps I’d sit down with Cromwell to ask him to dissect multiple military strategies in past conflicts and explain how and where they went wrong. As a brilliant tactician, I believe he would see things that even historians would have missed.

6)   What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

Honestly, probably twitch if one could call it a social media site. The writing community on Twitter is great, but it’s easy to fall into some dangerous habits like follow for follow. Building a platform is difficult and I’ve made a lot of mistakes over the years which is honestly why I started a youtube channel to begin with, to show the kind of things I did wrong and hopefully spare others from those mistakes. For social media, I think it’s important to narrow your focus to what you can be consistent with and whichever platform your target audience uses.

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

 Be kind to yourself. Writing is hard, it’s demanding mentally and emotionally and it can take time. One of the worst things you can do is compare yourselves to others, focus on the things in your control and try to do a little bit whenever you can to get better. That doesn’t mean just writing, but reading, researching, whatever you can because all that incremental progress you do day after day, week after week, when you look back years later you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come.

8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

Good things, I hope! I’m working on a new book and new series that I hope to launch soon. The first draft is just about complete. It’ll be a slight departure from my current books because it’ll lean more heavily into more traditional fantasy.

I want to continue making content to help new writers on youtube, as well. It’s something I’m passionate about because I think it’s important to provide advice in multiple formats to make it as available to those who want to seek it out as possible. I’d like to inspire some people to write who may not yet be ready to put pen to paper or fingers to keys. 

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About the Author

Mark Moore began writing his first book in November of 2015. What started as a hobby quickly morphed into a passion that consumed long nights and lunch hours during his day jobs. With the help of his editor, JMR Literary Services, he published his first book, Rise, in November of 2018 and followed it with its sequel, Stand, in December 2020. His current work in progress is a departure from the low-fantasy genre, focusing on more traditional fantasy.

In 2021 Mark also began collecting his thoughts and putting together a writing advice youtube channel which can be found below with the goal of sparing other authors from the mistakes he’s made over the years and sharing what he’s learned.

https://www.marksmoorebooks.com/

https://www.instagram.com/redbeardflynn/

Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/redbeardflynn

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08QDRXLJ4/ref=x_gr_w_glide_sin?caller=Goodreads&callerLink=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.goodreads.com%2Fbook%2Fshow%2F56687436-stand%3Fac%3D1%26from_search%3Dtrue%26qid%3DLzLSKThfok%26rank%3D1&tag=x_gr_w_glide_sin-20

Stand: The Cost of War (The Ricchan Chronicles Book 2) by Mark S. Moore Review

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

What began as a rebellion turns into a tight-rope walk along with the bounds of morality as a revolution brings a plethora of enemies to the shores of a nation torn asunder in author Mark S. Moore’s “Stand: The Cost of War”, the second book in The Ricchan Chronicles series.

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The Synopsis

Damien Flynn must ask a difficult question; At what point does one cross the line from inspirational leader to tyrant? How much blood must be spilled before the righteousness is irrevocably stained? What began as a fiery revolt against the oppressive rule of Braiton has turned into world-spanning upheaval. Deep-seated ambitions sprout across continents as powerful forces see the unrest in Riccha as the perfect catalyst for change. Would-be conquerors, opportunists, and desperate souls rush to cash in on a vacuum in leadership and growing uncertainty. The sharp blade of betrayal has dug deep. Every painful twist has opened both new wounds and opportunities. As contenders make their moves, who will master the game and who will fall? Find out in Stand: The Cost of War, sequel to the Ozma Finalist debut novel, Rise.

The Review

The author did such an amazing job of expanding upon the world-building and history-style storytelling within this fantasy world while infusing even more political intrigue and suspense. The true nature of war and rebellion takes center stage in this narrative as the author explores the cruelty and hardships that a war can bring, and how it impacts those fighting in that war. 

Aside from the incredible genre-bending story that this narrative tells and the balance of political intrigue and action, what really drew me into this sequel was the balance of character development the author found. Showing the real consequences those who fought up till this point in the series not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well really added a depth and emotional pull, especially to a couple of characters who have become quite pivotal to the rebellion overall, and also exploring this world’s version of relations between the Indigenous people of the land and the warring factions of settlers from another continent was so inspiring and fantastic to see crop up in a fantasy-driven narrative.

The Verdict

Captivating, entertaining, and thought-provoking in its delivery, author Mark S. Moore’s “Stand: The Cost of War” is the perfect sequel and a must-read for fans of historical fiction meets fantasy. With a rich tapestry of cultures the author crafted and memorable characters you cannot help being attached to, the book’s shocking moments will keep you invested all the way through. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Mark Moore began writing his first book in November of 2015. What started as a hobby quickly morphed into a passion that consumed long nights and lunch hours during his day jobs. With the help of his editor, JMR Literary Services, he published his first book, Rise, in November of 2018 and followed it with its sequel, Stand, in December 2020. His current work in progress is a departure from the low-fantasy genre, focusing on more traditional fantasy.

In 2021 Mark also began collecting his thoughts and putting together a writing advice youtube channel which can be found below with the goal of sparing other authors from the mistakes he’s made over the years and sharing what he’s learned.

https://www.marksmoorebooks.com/

https://www.instagram.com/redbeardflynn/

Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/redbeardflynn

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08QDRXLJ4/ref=x_gr_w_glide_sin?caller=Goodreads&callerLink=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.goodreads.com%2Fbook%2Fshow%2F56687436-stand%3Fac%3D1%26from_search%3Dtrue%26qid%3DLzLSKThfok%26rank%3D1&tag=x_gr_w_glide_sin-20

Rise: Birth of a Revolution (The Ricchan Chronicles Book 1) by Mark Moore Review

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

A young man finds himself at the center of a complex revolution in author Mark Moore’s historical fantasy novel, “Rise: Birth of a Revolution”, the first in The Ricchan Chronicles series. 

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The Synopsis

Finalist for the 2019 OZMA Fantasy Fiction awards, Chanticleer International Book Awards

Damien Flynn finds himself in the midst of growing turmoil that he foresaw but was not equipped to handle. Denied the quill for speaking his mind, he finds himself shackled to a path spiraling downward. A brush with death can do wonders to help one re-evaluate their priorities and their morals but it remains to be seen just how Damien will proceed with his newfound perspective on mortality.

Political espionage, assassinations, scandalous affairs, underhanded deals, and dirty politics threaten to plunge the known world into chaos with Damien Flynn in the middle.

A powerful general, buoyed by a second with fractured morals, provides early and tangible victories but success brings attention they may not be ready for. Erudite and ruthless cunning stalks the would-be revolutionaries with pragmatism and patience. A threat of extinction that looms over every step forward.

Damien Flynn must draw lots, he must choose a side; the wrong choice could end his life, so could the right one.

The Review

This was such an engaging and rich story. The way the author wrote this book readers were able to get the fantasy feel with this fictional world and countries that many readers will see mirror our own world, but the narrative also gives a healthy dose of history, drama, and action. As a fan of history and the American Revolution as a whole, the attention to detail the author brought out into this narrative shows the parallels between the real-life revolution that birthed the United States and the rebellion of Ricchan. 

The novel’s heart however comes from its rich tapestry of characters. Not only are the interactions and bonds formed between these characters so inviting, but the complexity of this cast of characters is so profound to read as this first novel in the series comes to life. What was also amazing to see was how these characters on all sides of this conflict really highlight the concept of war and the horrors it always wrought in our own world are perfectly mirrored in this narrative, showing how these horrors can happen on either side of a conflict, and the “heroes” of war are not always as apparent as say WWII, where villains like Hitler and the Nazi Regime were so clearly outlined. More often than not, the true “villains” are those few in power who rule a people and force them into these conflicts. 

The Verdict

A mesmerizing, action-fueled, and brilliant historical fantasy novel, author Mark Moore’s “Rise: Birth of a Revolution” is a must-read first novel of the author’s THE RICCHAN CHRONICLES series. The adrenaline-fueled narrative will keep readers not only entertained but engaged in the character’s overall arcs and a shocking twist ending will change the dynamics of the world the author has created leading into the highly anticipated sequel. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Mark Moore began writing his first book in November of 2015. What started as a hobby quickly morphed into a passion that consumed long nights and lunch hours during his day jobs. With the help of his editor, JMR Literary Services, he published his first book, Rise, in November of 2018 and followed it with its sequel, Stand, in December 2020. His current work in progress is a departure from the low-fantasy genre, focusing on more traditional fantasy.

In 2021 Mark also began collecting his thoughts and putting together a writing advice youtube channel which can be found below with the goal of sparing other authors from the mistakes he’s made over the years and sharing what he’s learned.

https://www.marksmoorebooks.com/

https://www.instagram.com/redbeardflynn/

Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/redbeardflynn

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPUuN1cUwQDgJYOdC8Uvccg

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07KJW8RRF/ref=x_gr_w_glide_sin?caller=Goodreads&callerLink=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.goodreads.com%2Fbook%2Fshow%2F43084591-rise%3Fac%3D1%26from_search%3Dtrue%26qid%3Dcudu9hE1yc%26rank%3D2&tag=x_gr_w_glide_sin-20

The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker Review

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

A half Reaper, Half-Shinigami warrior must find her place in the underworld and life as a whole while trying to earn the trust of the Goddess of Death in 1890’s Japan in author Kylie Lee Baker’s “The Keeper of Night”, the first in the series of the same name.

The Synopsis

Julie Kagawa meets Scythe in this captivating and evocative journey into Death’s domain as one soul collector seeks her place in the underworld of 1890s Japan. Book 1 of a planned duology.

Death is her destiny.

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough yearns for the acceptance she has never found among the Reapers who raised her. When the Shinigami powers she can no longer hide force her to flee for her life, Ren and her younger brother—the only being on earth to care for her—travel to Japan and the dark underworld of Yomi, where Ren hopes to claim her place among the Shinigami and finally belong.

But the Goddess of Death is no more welcoming than the Reapers who raised her, and Ren finds herself set on an impossible task—find and kill three yokai demons, and maybe, just maybe, she can earn a place in Death’s service. With only her brother and an untrustworthy new ally by her side, Ren will learn how far she’ll go to win the acceptance she craves, and whether the cost of belonging is worth any sacrifice.

The Review

Wow, that was truly a captivating and visceral reading experience. The author has expertly crafted an original YA Fantasy/Historical Fiction horror tale that will not only entertain audiences but introduce many readers to the rich mythos that exists within Japanese folklore and the culture as a whole. The balance of Asian and European mythology that the author explores is great, but what really is amazing to see is how the European lore is very much a secondary component to the narrative, serving more as a stepping board for the character’s beginning arc rather than taking up the majority of the novel’s mythos. 

The characters were so unique and rich to watch unfold. The protagonist herself was interesting, as she really toed the line between morality and her dark origins the further and further she went on her journey. Seeing how her brother and this new ally of Ren’s served as devil and angel on her shoulders throughout this journey, highlighting the hardship of having others tell you who you are while you are in the middle of trying to decide that for yourself. 

The Verdict

A mesmerizing, haunting, and emotionally driven YA Fantasy and action novel, author Kylie Lee Baker’s “The Keeper of Night” is a must-read novel for YA Fantasy and horror fans this fall! Incorporating truly chilling mythology and brilliant character growth, the shocking final chapter and cliffhanger of an ending will have readers on the edge of their seats, eager for the next entry into this amazing duology. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

About the Author

Kylie Lee Baker grew up in Boston and has since lived in Atlanta, Salamanca, and Seoul. Her writing is informed by her heritage (Japanese, Chinese, and Irish), as well as her experiences living abroad as both a student and teacher. She has a B.A. in Creative Writing and Spanish from Emory University and is currently pursuing a Master of Library and Information Science degree at Simmons University. In her free time, she watches horror movies, plays the cello, and bakes too many cookies. The Keeper of Night is her debut novel.

SOCIAL LINKS:

Author website: https://www.kylieleebaker.com/

Twitter: @KylieYamashiro

Instagram: @kylieleebaker

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56030267-the-keeper-of-night

BUY LINKS:

Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/the-keeper-of-night/9781335405661 

Porter Square Books: https://www.portersquarebooks.com/signed/signed-keeper-night-hardcover

Indie Bound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335405661

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-keeper-of-night-kylie-lee-baker/1138317760?ean=9781335405661 

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Keeper-Night-duology/dp/1335405666/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=the+keeper+of+night&qid=1613326691&sr=8-2

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Kylie_Lee_Baker_The_Keeper_of_Night?id=6asJEAAAQBAJ

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ph/en/ebook/the-keeper-of-night

Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/dk/book/the-keeper-of-night/id1540957269

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Q&A with Kylie Lee Baker

Q: What was the hardest scene to write in The Keeper of Night? What was the easiest?

A: The opening scene was probably the hardest to write because I had to introduce a complex magic system. The Reapers control time, and that kind of power makes the story vulnerable to a lot of plot holes if you don’t word it carefully. It’s such a powerful tool that it raises the question of why there’s ever any conflict at all, or why any battle is ever hard for Reapers. I needed to address that very early on so the whole world wouldn’t fall apart, while still making the story move forward. 

The easiest scene to write was an argument between Ren and Neven, when Neven tries to dictate Ren’s identity, and Ren responds: “Why am I the only one with no say in who I am?” That was one of the first scenes I wrote, and it contains a lot of my raw feelings about how biracial people are treated. Very little of the dialogue changed from the first draft of that scene. The challenge, then, was to build up the rest of the book to bring the reader to the point where that question, and that very emotionally charged scene, made sense. 

Q: Did you hide any secrets in your book? (names of friends, little jokes, references to things only some people will get)?

A: I wouldn’t really call these hidden secrets, but a lot of details about the British Reapers are a huge nod to the Black Butler anime, which fans of that show might notice. For instance, the Reapers in The Keeper of Night are known for their poor vision, much like the Reapers in Black Butler who all have to wear glasses, which are important details in both stories. Neven’s love of cats came from Sebastian Michaelis, the titular character from Black Butler who is inexplicably obsessed with cats. Another reference (unrelated to Black Butler) is to Alfred Lord Tennyson–Ren often refers vaguely to themes in his poetry, but she’s talking specifically about a poem called “Love and Death” in which love defeats death, which is something she probably should have internalized a bit sooner. 

Q: What do you hope people remember about The Keeper of Night?

A: I hope people remember how complex, traumatic, and powerful Ren’s existence as a biracial character is. I hope that this gives people more respect for the uniqueness of biracial identity, and that biracial readers feel solidarity in their struggles. 

Q: Did The Keeper of Night have a certain soundtrack you listened to while writing?

A: I listened to an acoustic cover of Sia’s “Elastic Heart” and Billie Eilish’s “You Should See Me in a Crown” a lot when writing, because those songs reminded me both of Ren’s vulnerability and thirst for power. I also distinctly remember sitting in a coffee shop in Seoul listening to RM’s “Tokyo” while writing some of the first scenes in Japan. It has a very cold, lonely, wistful atmosphere that I tried to emulate. 

Q: What is your dream cast for The Keeper of Night?

A: This question is hard to answer, partially because I don’t often imagine real people when writing, and partially because the pool of mixed race white/Asian actors who you can discover through a quick Google search is much smaller than for actors of other races, not even taking into account things like age or face shape. The closest I can come for Ren is Pom Klementieff (who plays Mantis) with black hair. I know she’s Korean, not Japanese, but she also grew up estranged from that culture, much like Ren. Timothee Chalamet with blonde hair is probably the closest match for Neven, since I’ve heard a lot of people say he looks like he should have been a wealthy Victorian child, and Terada Takuya for Hiro–he’s very silly at times, and very sharp at other times, much like Hiro. 

Enjoy this Exclusive Excerpt from “The Keeper of Night”

chapter two

At the far edge of London, somewhere between nightmares and formless dreams, the Reapers slept by daylight.

The only way to enter our home was through the catacombs of the Highgate Cemetery, through a door that no longer existed. It had been built there long ago, when the Britons first came to our land and Ankou carved a hole in their world so that Death could enter. But humans had sealed it shut with layers of wood, then stone, then brick and mortar, all in the hopes of keeping Death out.

By the nineteenth century, humans had mostly forgotten about the Door and what it meant. Then, when the London churchyards began to overflow with bones, the humans had searched for a place just outside of London to bury their dead. By chance or fate, they’d built their new cemetery right on top of the Door. It turned out that Death drew all of us close, even if we weren’t aware of it.

No streetlights lit the path through Highgate at night, but I didn’t need them to find my way home. Before I’d even passed through the main gate, Death pulled me closer. All Reapers were drawn to him, our bones magnetized to the place of our forefather. As soon as I entered the cemetery, a humming began just under my skin, like a train’s engine beginning to whir. My blood flushed faster through my veins as I brushed aside the branches of winter-barren lime trees and low-hanging elms. My boots crunched shattering steps into the frosted pathways as I ran.

I stumbled through jagged rows of ice-cracked tombstones on uneven ground and through a village of mausoleums, finally reaching the gothic arched doorway of the catacomb entrance. The pull had grown unbearable, dragging me along in a dizzy trance as I descended the stairs into the cool quietness of damp bricks and darkness. The labyrinth would have been unnavigable if not for the fervent pull.

At last, my hands came out to touch the wall where the Door used to be, but now there were only damp bricks and an inscription on the arch overhead that read When Ankou comes, he will not go away empty in rigid script. I dug one hand into my pocket and clutched my clock, pressed my other hand to the bricks, then closed my eyes and turned time all the way back to the beginning.

Time flowed through the silver-and-gold gears, up into my bloodstream and through my fingertips, dispersing into the brick wall. Centuries crumbled away, the mortar growing wet and bricks falling loose. One by one, they leaped out of their positions in the wall and aligned themselves in dry stacks on the ground, waiting once again for construction. Objects were easy to manipulate with time, for I could draw from their own intrinsic energy rather than siphoning off my own. Rather than paying in years of my own life, I could borrow years before the bricks crumbled and quickly repay the debt when I put them back.

I stepped through the doorway and the pull released me all at once. I breathed in a deep gasp of the wet night air, then turned around and sealed the door behind me. The bricks jumped back to their positions in the wall, caked together by layers of mortar that dried instantly, the time debt repaid.

The catacombs beyond the threshold spanned infinitely forward, appropriated as resting places for Reapers rather than corpses. Mounted lanterns cast a faint light onto the dirt floors and gray bricks. It was almost Last Toll, so only the last Reapers returning from the night shift still milled around, their silver capes catching the dim light of the tunnels, but most had retreated to their private quarters for the morning.

I turned right and hurried down the block. The low ceilings gave way to high-arched doorways and finally opened up to a hall of echoing marble floors and rows of dark wood desks. Luckily, there was no line for Collections this close to Last Toll.

I hurried to the first Collector and all but slammed my vials into the tray, jolting him awake in his seat. He was a younger Reaper and seemed perplexed at having been awoken so unceremoniously. When his gaze landed on me, he frowned and sat up straight.

“Ren Scarborough,” I said, pushing the tray closer to him.

“I know who you are,” he said, picking up my first vial and uncapping it with deliberate slowness. Of course, everyone knew who I was.

He took a wholly unnecessary sniff of the vial before holding it up to the light to examine the color, checking its authenticity. The Collectors recorded every night’s soul intake before sending the vials off to Processing, where they finally released the souls into Beyond. He picked up a pen from his glass jar of roughly thirty identical pens, tapped it against the desk a few times, then withdrew a leather-bound ledger from a drawer. He dropped it in front of him, opened the creaky cover, and began flipping through the pages, one by one, until he reached a fresh one.

I resisted the urge to slam my face against the desk in impatience.

I really didn’t have time to waste, but Collections was a necessary step. I didn’t consider myself benevolent in times of crisis, but even I was above leaving souls to expire in glass tubes instead of releasing them to their final resting place, wherever that was. And besides, a blank space next to my name in the Collections ledger meant a Collector would pay a visit to my private quarters to reprimand me. The last thing I needed was someone realizing that I’d left before Ivy could even report me.

But when the Collector uncorked my fourth vial and held it up to the lamp, swirling it in the light for ten excruciating seconds, I began to wonder if I’d made the right decision.

The bells of Last Toll reverberated through the bricks all around us, humming through the marble floors. In this hazy hour between night and day, the church grims came out in search of Reaper bones to gnaw on. Night collections had to be turned in by then, while day collections had to be processed by the First Toll at dusk.

The Collector sighed as he picked up my fifth vial. “I’m afraid I’ll have to mark your collections as late.”

My jaw clenched. “Why.”

“It’s past Last Toll, of course,” he said.

My fingers twitched. The lamp on the Collector’s desk flickered with my impatience, but I took a steadying breath.

“I was here before Last Toll,” I said, trying to keep my voice even.

“According to my ledger, your collections still have not been processed,” he said, spinning my fifth vial in his left hand.

I sighed and closed my eyes. Of course, I knew what he was doing. Chastising a “latecomer” would earn praise from higher management. It was the easiest way for him to climb the ranks—to exert his power over the half-breed. He would be praised for his steadfastness and gain a reputation as a strict and immovable Collector, while I could do nothing to complain. I could explode his lamp and send glass shards into his eyes, but that wouldn’t make him process my vials any faster. The fastest way to get out of there was subservience.

“Forgive me, Reaper,” I said, bowing my head and dropping my shoulders. I let my voice sound timid and afraid. “I apologize for being late.”

The Collector blinked at me for a moment, as if surprised that I’d given in so quickly. But he looked young and power-hungry and not particularly perceptive, so I wasn’t too afraid that he’d see through my tactic. As expected, he sneered as if I truly had offended him, finally beginning to process the fifth vial.

“It’s a great inconvenience to both Collections and Processing,” he said, “though I wouldn’t expect a half-breed to understand the workings of the educated Reapers.”

The only believable response to his goading was humiliated silence, so I hung my head even further and tried to make myself as small and pathetic as possible. It wasn’t hard, because the memory of the night’s events was still wringing my heart out like a wet rag and my skin prickled with nerves so fiercely that I wanted to claw it all off and escape before Ivy could find me, yet here I was, brought to my knees before a glorified teller. I imagined being a High Reaper, being able to reach over and smash his face into his blotter and shatter his owlish glasses into his eyes for delaying and insulting me.

His lamp flickered more violently and he paused to smack it before finally finishing with my last vial. He placed all seven in a tray and pressed a button that started the conveyor belt, sending the souls down to Processing. The moment he put a black check next to my name in the ledger, I stood up straight and turned to leave.

His hand twisted into my sleeve, yanking me back.

I shot him a look that could have melted glass, but he only pulled me closer.

“There’s the matter of your sanction,” he said.

“My sanction,” I said, glancing around the office to see how many people would notice if I simply twisted the Collector’s neck. Too many.

“For your tardiness, of course,” he said, smirking sourly. From his position stretched across the desk, the lamplight caught in his glasses and turned them into two beaming white moons.

The standard punishment for failing to make curfew was a night on the pillory, hands and feet nailed to the wood and head locked in a hole that was just slightly too tight, letting you breathe but not speak. The other Reapers could pull your hair or pour mead over your head or call you a thousand names when you couldn’t talk back. But the worst part wasn’t the nails or the insults. It was the Reapers who did nothing but look at you and sneer like you were nothing but an ugly piece of wall art, like they were so perfect that they couldn’t fathom being in your place. And far worse than that was my own father and stepmother walking past me and pretending not to see.

“Come back at First Toll,” the Collector said. “We’ll find a nice place to hang you up by the Door.”

It took every ounce of restraint I had left to keep my expression calm. This was the part where I was supposed to say, Yes, Reaper, and bow, but he was lucky that I hadn’t smashed his glasses into his face with my fist.

As if he could smell my defiance, he pulled me closer. His glasses fell out of the lamplight, revealing a deep frown.

“Scrub that look from your face,” he said. “Remember that I’ll handle your collections in the future.”

The future, I thought.

Luckily, I didn’t have a future.

The light bulb flashed with a sudden surge of power, then burst. Glass shards rained down over the desk, forcing the man to release me as hot glass scored his hands. Some of his paperwork caught fire, and he frantically patted out the flames with hands full of shards.

“Yes, Reaper,” I said, bowing deeply so he wouldn’t see my smirk as he sputtered about “bloody light bulbs, I knew we should have kept the gas lamps.”

Then I turned and rushed off to the West Catacombs.

Excerpted from The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker, Copyright © 2021 by Kylie Lee Baker. Published by Inkyard Press. 

Before We Disappear by Shaun David Hutchinson Audiobook Review

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

A young man must decide between the woman who has given him a home and the young man who has stolen his heart in turn of the 19th century America in author Shaun David Hutchinson’s “Before We Disappear”. 

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The Synopsis

It’s a new star-crossed romance about the magic of first love from the acclaimed author of We Are the Ants and Brave Face, Shaun David Hutchinson.

Jack Nevin’s clever trickery and moral flexibility make him the perfect assistant to the Enchantress, one of the most well-known stage magicians in turn-of-the-nineteenth-century Europe. Without Jack’s steady supply of stolen tricks, the Enchantress’s fame would have burned out long ago.

But when Jack’s thievery catches up to them, they’re forced to flee to America to find their fortune. Luckily, the Enchantress is able to arrange a set of sold-out shows at Seattle’s Alaska–Yukon–Pacific World’s Fair Exposition. She’s convinced they’re going to rich and famous until a new magician arrives on the scene. Performing tricks that defy the imagination, Laszlo’s show overshadows the Enchantress, leaving Jack no choice but to hunt for the secrets to his otherworldly illusions. But what Jack uncovers isn’t at all what he expected.

Behind Laszlo’s tricks is Wilhelm—a boy that can seemingly perform real magic. Jack and Wilhelm have an instant connection, and as the rivalry between the Enchantress and Laszlo grows, so too does Jack and Wilhelm’s affection. But can Jack choose between the woman who gave him a life and the boy who is offering him everything?

It’s a stirring tale about the magic of love from award-winning author Shaun David Hutchinson.

The Review

This was such a magical read (pun intended)! The author does an incredible job of crafting an alternate history setting with a magical realism story element while still incorporating the hardships and struggles of not only that era but the struggles of the youth in the LGBTQ community. The theme of family and finding one’s place in the world was felt in every chapter of this book, and really captured the heart of the narrative.

The characters were so engaging to read. The alternating perspective of protagonists Jack and Willhelm were so interesting to see unfold, as they came from very different paths in life by the time they found one another, and yet found a sense of belonging and home within one another’s lives. The background of magic, both real and more illusion-based, was fascinating to see unfold, especially considering the era of the narrative.

The Verdict

A brilliant, heartfelt, and engaging YA Magical and LGBTQ Historical Fiction, author Shaun David Hutchinson’s “Before We Disappear” is a must-read (and listen) book of 2021.  The perfect book to grab as we head into the fall season, the balance of history, magic, and LGBTQ-forward romance was amazing to see in this novel, and I look forward to reading more of this amazing author’s work. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Born in West Palm Beach, Florida, Shaun grew up twenty minutes north in the town of Jupiter. He has three brothers (two older, one younger) and a half-sister.

Shaun attended Jupiter High School before going on to Florida Atlantic University, where he studied medieval and renaissance literature. Shaun has also studied emergency medicine, gaining his EMT certification, and firefighting. Ultimately, he ended up working with computers designing databases, building apps, and coding websites before publishing his first book, The Deathday Letter.

Shaun currently lives in Seattle, WA and works full time as an author. In his free time, he enjoys baking, running, designing 3D environments for virtual reality, and reading.

http://shaundavidhutchinson.com/

https://www.amazon.com/Before-We-Disappear/dp/B08TSPMKS2/ref=tmm_aud_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1632448823&sr=8-1

Water Sight (Last of the Gifted Book 2) by Marie Powell Review

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

As the Kingdom of England threatens to take over Wales, two siblings must use their magic gifts to save their home. Yet one must choose to save their sibling, or the love of their life, in author Marie Powell’s “Water Sight”, the second book in the Last of the Gifted series. 

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The Synopsis

Wales, 1283: A world at war

Catrin can see the future in a drop of water.

Her brother Hyw can take the shape of any bird or animal.

Only their magic can thwart the invading English forces determined to bring down the country.

The Prince of Wales needs three magical relics to rally the straggling Welsh forces. Catrin’s gift of Second Sight may be the only hope for success—if she can outwit the English lord who wants to use her gift to capture the prince.

Her brother Hyw is on the run with the prince and the dwindling Welsh army. To escape the betrayal dogging their heels, Hyw takes refuge in his evolving gift—until shifting shapes puts his humanity in jeopardy.

With Hyw trapped in his magic and her betrothed in an English jail, Catrin faces an impossible choice: save her brother, or save the man she loves.

The Review

An incredible read, author Marie Powell showcases a strong mastery of the fantasy/historical fiction style storytelling that has become so popular over the years. The protagonists, brother and sister Hyw and Cat, are well rounded, and the author does an amazing job of highlighting the well-rounded nature of each hero, flaws and all. 

The emotional core of the story is Cat’s struggle to not only save her people but protect her brother and the man she loves all at the same time while helping to fight off the English invaders led by King Edward. The amount of history the author was able to incorporate into the narrative was amazing. As a history buff, it was incredible to learn more about the era before Wales officially became part of England, when revolts were fought to maintain their independence and kingdom. The fantasy elements feel natural as the story progresses, as each hero’s power leads to difficult choices that many readers will be able to identify with. 

The Verdict

An amazingly written, emotionally driven, and fantasy-fueled read, author Marie Powell’s second entry into the Last of the Gifted series, “Water Sight”, is a must-read for fans of the historical fiction/fantasy genres. Action-packed and evenly paced, this is the perfect end of 2020 fantasy book for all readers, but especially fans of the YA genre. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Marie Powell’s castle-hopping across North Wales to explore her family roots resulted in her YA historical fantasy Spirit Sight (Last of the Gifted Book 1). Book 2, Water sight, will be released in fall 2020. Among other degrees, she holds a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing from the University of BC. Marie lives on Treaty 4 land in Regina, Saskatchewan, and her writing workshops are popular across the region.