Binary – (R)evolution #2 – Stephanie Saulter

untitledRelease date: April 3rd, 2014
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Age Group: Adult
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

When confiscated genestock is stolen out of secure government quarantine, DI Sharon Varsi finds herself on the biggest case of her career… chasing down a clever thief, a mysterious hacker, and the threat of new, black market gemtech.

Zavcka Klist, ruthless industrial enforcer, has reinvented herself. Now the head of Bel’Natur, she wants gem celebrity Aryel Morningstar’s blessing for the company’s revival of infotech – the science that spawned the Syndrome, nearly destroyed mankind, and led to the creation of the gems. With illness in her own family that only a gemtech can cure, Aryel’s in no position to refuse.

As the infotech programme inches towards a breakthrough, Sharon’s investigations lead ever closer to the dark heart of Bel’Natur, the secrets of Aryel Morningstar’s past… and what Zavcka Klist is really after.

Review:

If you loved Gemsigns, you’ll be blown away by Binary. What an absolutely amazing book this is!

The story starts 5 years after the events in Gemsigns and the Gems have slowly been accepted into society by now. Not that everything’s peachy, there is still a lot of caution and opposition from fundamentalists, but the Gem society is on its way to full acceptance. Mikal has been elected in the City council and there is even a big festival where Gems can show their technology and their way of living, ‘The Festival of the Future’. It’s promising to be quite the event.
In the meantime the Gemtech companies have almost all gone under, but Bel’Natur and Zavcka Klist are still going strong. The company has drastically changed direction, firing most of its staff and rehiring people sympathetic to Gems to start a new era in Infotech. Zavcka has a lot of plans and wants to use Herran’s binary thinking to produce a new kind of product. Aryel is reluctant to let him go to Bel’Natur, but the choice is up to him. Meanwhile detective Sharon Varsi receives prove that genestock, genetic material from the gemtech age, has been stolen from the Archive. Is it true and why was it stolen?

There are a few new characters introduced in this book and some others that were already mentioned in the first book now get a lot more ‘screen time’. First of all there’s Aryel’s adoptive family: Rhys and Gwen, Gem twins who were found in the woods after a mysterious lab went up in fire, and their dad, one of the Remnants, who found them. Of all of them especially Rhys gets a big storyline and I loved reading about him. He’s very smart, but plagued by a mysterious illness. In coming to the city, he hopes he can find out what’s wrong with him, but along the way he also finds love. If you want to read about a heartwarming, lovely romance, than you’ll love this part. It’s LGBT and a romance so well written it made me ‘ship’ them a bit, if I can use the popular term.
People getting more time in the spotlight are Sharon Varsi and Herran, both very interesting characters who get great storylines. Herran really makes a lot of progress socially and it was wonderful seeing him slowly blossom a bit more, getting a bit closer to people and opening up more.

There are a few big storylines in this book that all come together smoothly in the end. We have the stolen genestock and the investigation to find out who was involved and why the genestock was stolen. Then there’s also Rhys’ disease and what may be causing it. Rhys can’t find his genecode anywhere, so there’s another big mystery there. He knows that having his genecode would give a lot of insight in this strange disease. A big part of the story is obviously also dedicated to the new Bel’Natur and Herran’s part in that. In between all these there are also intermezzo’s that are written from 2 point of view characters. I have to admit that I was a bit confused at first and that I didn’t see the second POV clearly at first. But slowly I understood. It’s interesting, because these parts are not explicit, you have to piece together the bits of information you get to understand the past of two of the main characters. It may be confusing at first but when everything comes together and you can see the whole picture I was more than satisfied with all the explanations. I know this part of the review may sound a bit cryptic but I’m desperate not to spoil anything for future readers. This is something you’ll have to piece together on your own and enjoy the story as it makes its connection with all the other storylines.

I would love to write even more about this book, I think I could discuss and talk about it all day. It’s full of interesting themes and characters and has an very entertaining story that will leave you in the dark ’till the end. Honestly, I would recommend this series to anyone who likes an intelligent, exciting, extremely well written science fiction story.

Cover Artist: Raymond Swanland

Biography:

Portrait03Ever since I can remember, I was one of those kids with some tool to draw with in my hands. Mythical creatures, robots and, of course, dinosaurs were strewn, in one form or another, all over my room… and marched across my walls. I never really thought I would be exploring that same world of symbolism and imagination as I grew into an adult. But as fate would have it, I’ve had the tremendous fortune to turn my passion into a living through creating artwork for novels, video games, and feature films.

I’ve traveled to many places in the world, but there will always be a part of me that’s connected to my home state of California. California is a world hub for everything artistic and spiritual as well as everything extreme and ridiculous. Growing up in and living throughout the naturally and culturally diverse Golden State has certainly ingrained in me many valuable lessons. When it comes to my career as an artist, a couple of the most important lessons were to understand that everyone is entitled to their own ideas and that imagination is a commodity. Whether it was my proximity to Hollywood or my love for epic fantasies, it was quite clear from a young age that my trajectory would take me to some facet of the entertainment industry.

Like a lightning bolt, unusual fortune struck just as I started my professional life when I was introduced to a fledgling video game company called Oddworld Inhabitants. After that, nothing would be the same. Working with and learning from such talented and disciplined artists made me realize the real potential of art in what I came to see as its highest form – Art as storytelling.

Over the next eight years, I worked on all four video games under the Oddworld name in any artistic capacity I could weasel my way into. From conceptual design to cinematic art direction to marketing development, trial by fire in the commercial world was my art school. My work outside of Oddworld flourished as well with many illustrations for fantasy and science fiction book covers, comic books, magazines, tattoos, snowboards, cds, or anything to feed my love of expression. I also continued to learn about the potential of art and storytelling from the teachings of visionaries such as Joseph Campbell and Alex Grey. All the while, the evolution of my artistic direction became clear. If I wanted to change the world, I had to reach an ever larger number of people. I needed my art to cross borders and social classes. I simply needed to tell stories… through film.

Fortunately for me, films were not only on my mind. As I had always known, the creators of the Oddworld universe also intended to take the leap towards film, and in 2005, the time was right. As we closed down production on video games for the time being, we started up our development of feature film storylines. Carrying through the themes of spirituality, consumerism and political exploitation, the films continue much of the momentum started with the Oddworld games.

As the planet presses on into a multi-cultural future where the population gets bigger as the world seems to get smaller, storytelling will only become more important as the language spoken by all. Stories are the voice of the world and I hope to learn to use that voice to ignite my own awareness and to help open the minds of others along the way.

-Raymond Swanland February, 2007

Art:

I love Raymond Swanland’s work. Every cover I’ve seen that was from his hand has made me stop and look at it at bit more. You might know his work from Magic: The Gathering or book covers of books like The Leopard (published by Pyr) or The Six-Gun Tarot (published by Tor). Here are some examples:

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Swordbearer

All these images are the property of Raymond Swandland.

You can find his official website HERE and his facebook fan page HERE.

 

Taliesin Ascendant – The Children and The Blood #2 – Megan Joel Peterson

Taliesin AscendantRelease date: July 27th, 2013
Publisher: Self-published
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 428
Format: E-book
Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review

The war isn’t over.

And new enemies await.

Life on the run hasn’t been easy, but so far, Ashe has survived. But now Carter has ordered her to leave the Hunters and find her family’s people – an order she can’t refuse, no matter how much she wants to stay.

Following his command will bring her into an unknown world, however – a world filled with new enemies and old prejudices that will demand more of her than she can imagine, at a cost higher than she’ll ever be willing to pay.

Review:

I was a fan of the first book in this series: The Children and the Blood, so when the author asked me to read and review the next two books, I was more than willing to put them on my TBR pile. Taliesin Ascendant is the second book in The Children and The Blood series and I think it’s one of the best self-published/indie series I’ve read so far. It has lots of exciting plot twists and is full of action, the characters are interesting, flawed and easy to relate with. It has all the qualities to become a very good Fantasy series.

Taliesin Ascendant picks up where The Children and the Blood left off. Ashe has left the hunters and is carrying out Carter’s last wish: to find the Merlin, the wizards her family were a part of and convince them that the Blood are real and that there is a war coming. When she does find them she is thrust into a new role she doesn’t want and she’s not sure who she can trust. A hunger for power and manipulation have found their way into the leaders of the Merlin and Ashe has to find a way to be heard and to warn them, before it’s too late.
Cole is still on the run with Ashe’s little sister Lily. They find refuge with a lovely couple who own a farm and give them food and a place to sleep in return for helping around with a few chores. But when they are out doing an errand for them, they get captured by people they would never have suspected were even in the vicinity.

Yet again this was an action-packed novel with the story moving on at breakneck speed, throwing you from one surprise into the other, keeping you guessing about who’s on their side and who’s not. This all made for a very thrilling read. The constant suspense, the magical fights, the fear, it gave me goose bumps while I was reading. But it’s not only the action and the fast pacing that make this a good book. The characters are also really fleshed out and are very believable even though there is a heavy Fantasy element in this book. Ashe is the troubled teenage girl who just wants to do good, but can’t always rise against the adults trying to control her life and her situation. This leaves her frustrated and angry. But she’s also very smart and cunning, which gives her a little bit of an advantage. There are times in the book when Ashe faces injustice and such unfair treatment that I made me growl with frustration. You know that feeling when you want to shout at the people in the book: “Are you dumb? Can’t you see that she’s telling the truth and that other guy isn’t? You will all regret this further on in the book!!” Yeah, that. When a book gets me that invested, it must be good.
Cole is still the loving, protective, but insecure guy from the first book. All he wants to do is protect Lily and get her to safety. But that doesn’t seem all that easy. Cole is such a sweetheart, I loved his interactions with Lily and the way he was so protective of her, even though she’s was a stranger to him only a few weeks ago.

I’m really impressed by this series so far and I look forward to reading the third book very soon. The story is complex and there were a few twists there that I totally hadn’t seen coming. The different wizard ‘clans’ and the war between them may be a bit confusing at first, but when everything fits together it’s really interesting to consider all the consequences this brings with it. A very entertaining book!

Blood and Iron – The Book of the Black Earth #1 – Jon Sprunk

Blood and IronRelease date: March 11th, 2014
Publisher: Pyr
Age Group: Adult
Pages: 428
Format: Paperback
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Set in a richly-imagined world, this action-heavy fantasy epic and series opener is like a sword-and-sorcery Spartacus.

It starts with a shipwreck following a magical storm at sea. Horace, a soldier from the west, had joined the Great Crusade against the heathens of Akeshia after the deaths of his wife and son from plague. When he washes ashore, he finds himself at the mercy of the very people he was sent to kill, who speak a language and have a culture and customs he doesn’t even begin to understand.

Not long after, Horace is pressed into service as a house slave. But this doesn’t last. The Akeshians discover that Horace was a latent sorcerer, and he is catapulted from the chains of a slave to the halls of power in the queen’s court. Together with Jirom, an ex-mercenary and gladiator, and Alyra, a spy in the court, he will seek a path to free himself and the empire’s caste of slaves from a system where every man and woman must pay the price of blood or iron. Before the end, Horace will have paid dearly in both.

Review:

Jon Sprunk’s previous series, The Shadow Saga, were books I immensely enjoyed and which put Jon Sprunk firmly on my radar. I was extremely excited when I read about his new book, Blood and Iron, coming out, the start of a new series called The Book of the Black Earth. I’d been looking forward to it for quite a while and when I got a review copy in the mail from the lovely people at Pyr, I was ecstatic. After reading it I had to put it aside for a while. I didn’t start writing my review ’till several weeks after I finished the book because I’m torn about this one and I always have difficulty writing reviews about books that pull me both ways.

I am a pretty slow reader, I wanted to start reading right away, so I could finish before my finals started. Sprunk’s writing didn’t disappoint at all and in just a few days I turned the last page. As I was hoping and expecting, Blood and Iron has the same writing quality as the Shadow Saga has. Sprunk writes in a very engaging style that makes the story come to life around you.
In this first book of his new series, Sprunk takes us to another part of the world he created in the Shadow Saga books. Nimea and the events of the Shadow Saga books are mentioned, so we can situate this new story in time and space in comparison with the other books. This setting is very different from what we’re used to in the previous books. The country Horace ends up in after he is shipwrecked is very Middle Eastern or North African, with deserts-like landscapes and scorching temperatures. I like reading books with these kind of settings now and again, it is a welcome change from the Western world building that is very abundant in the Fantasy genre. The worldbuilding on itself was pretty great, I loved to read the descriptions Sprunk wrote about this new part of his world. He has a gift of keeping it simple and vivid at the same time.
Blood and Iron has many noteworthy themes that all add to the story such as slavery, political intrigue, religion, magic, trauma and romance. All of these are not individually overrepresented, but are woven together in a well-balanced and enjoyable whole.
So where did it go wrong for me? It’s hard to put a finger on it. I think most of it was due to the characters. Though some have interesting storylines, I just couldn’t get myself to really be invested in them. Horace is a man with a past that haunts him, who ends up in the hands of slave traders in Akeshia, a foreign empire, after his ship perishes during a storm. But Horace isn’t just any guy, it turns out, during another freakish storm Horace performs an amazing piece of magic that makes the storm abruptly disappear. There are quite a few people who have these magical abilities in the Akeshian Empire, but once again Horace is special. Where the others get immaculata when they use their magical abilities, Horace does not. That and he’s extremely powerful. I’m not quite a fan of the “ordinary guy has super magical powers he didn’t know about and becomes hero”, so maybe that was one of the things that didn’t sit well with me. It could also be Horace’s personality, because I didn’t like him at all. The other two main characters Alyra and Jirom I liked better. Alyra lives in the palace, where Horace eventually also ends up, and works as a handmaiden for the illustrious and mesmerizing Queen Byleth. Alyra is clever, loving and daring and she had an interesting role to play. Jirom is a hardened fighter/gladiator/mercenary, who was also sold as a slave and brought to a training camp for the Queen’s army. Jirom is a wonderful character, who maybe didn’t have a storyline that had a lot of purpose in this book, but I’m sure it will become important in books to come.
Other interesting secondary characters were Lord Mulcibar and Lord Astaptah, the first a wise father figure to the Queen and Horace and the latter a mysterious man who’s pretty hard to fathom. The Queen started out as a cruel, dazzling woman, but the more we got to know her she turned out to be a frustrated girl about to lose her throne and exploiting her beauty. I wasn’t particularly a fan of her character, I would have liked a bit more consistency where she was concerned.

While I like Sprunk’s style and I enjoyed parts of what he tried to do here, I’m not overly impressed. The book just didn’t leave as much a mark on me as I had expected it to. Were my expectations too high? Maybe. I’m sure there are plenty of people who will enjoy this book, but I expected just that little bit more. If you’re in for a quick and enjoyable Sword and Sorcery tale, then I suggest you give it a try because it is after all an enjoyable read.

Covers: ‘TimeBomb’ by Scott K. Andrews & ‘The Slow Regard of Silent Things’ by Patrick Rothfuss

Two covers have caught my eye today. One is the edition Gollancz is publishing of the novella Patrick Rothfuss wrote about Auri, a character I have loved reading about in his books. I think the UK cover is beautiful, it’s very mystical and it really looks like a sweet tale about the girl we all fell in love with in the books. I’m looking forward to this one and the cover has only made me more eager to get my hands on it.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things will be released on the 28th of October this year in the UK by Gollancz and on the 4th of November in the US by DAW.

The Slow regard of silent things

The University, a renowned bastion of knowledge, attracts the brightest minds to unravel the mysteries of enlightened sciences like artificing and alchemy. Yet deep below its bustling halls lies a complex and cavernous maze of abandoned rooms and ancient passageways – and in the heart of it all lives Auri. Formerly a student at the University, now Auri spends her days tending the world around her. She has learned that some mysteries are best left settled and safe. No longer fooled by the sharp rationality so treasured by the University, Auri sees beyond the surface of things, into subtle dangers and hidden names. At once joyous and haunting, THE SLOW REGARD OF SILENT THINGS is a rich, atmospheric and lyrical tale, featuring one of the most beloved characters from Rothfuss’ acclaimed fantasy series.

 

The second cover is for a book published by Hodderscape: TimeBomb by Scott K. Andrews. It’s the first in a YA trilogy and has an interesting cover. The synopsis explains why there is a girl falling on the cover with two cities, one upside down, above and below her and it seems to me there is an exciting tale behind this all. Definitely a book that gets a place on my wishlist!

TimeBomb will be published on the 9th of October this year by Hodderscape.

TimeBomb

New York City, 2141: Yojana Patel throws herself off a skyscraper, but never hits the ground.

Cornwall, 1640: gentle young Dora Predennick, newly come to Sweetclover Hall to work, discovers a badly-burnt woman at the bottom of a flight of stairs. When she reaches out to comfort the dying woman, she’s knocked unconscious, only to wake, centuries later, in empty laboratory room.

On a rainy night in present-day Cornwall, seventeen-year-old Kaz Cecka sneaks into the long-abandoned Sweetclover Hall, determined to secure a dry place to sleep. Instead he finds a frightened housemaid who believes Charles I is king and an angry girl who claims to come from the future.

Thrust into the centre of an adventure that spans millennia, Dora, Kaz and Jana must learn to harness powers they barely understand to escape not only villainous Lord Sweetclover but the forces of a fanatical army… all the while staying one step ahead of a mysterious woman known only as Quil.

 

What do you think of these two new covers?

Spotlight: The Final Frontier by H.M. Irwing

About the book:

The Final FrontierH.M. Irwing excites readers with captivating sci-fi action adventure full of action, adventure and suspense deep within ‘The Final Frontier’

War tore apart Johua, a ruling planet in space where power meant everything and corruption of power ruined not only Johua but all other planets awakened to space travel. A team of Johuan scientist devised a plan that would contain if not eliminate their foe, the Ovions. The plan involved the introduction of EM1, an emotional management technique, that would curb the rage within the Ovions that the Johuan scientists believed drove them to unfailingly overpower the otherwise genetically equal Johuans. But unrest is stirring amongst the Johuans. A plan is hatching to rid the universe of its Ovion protectors and to amass the wealth of the awakened worlds for Johua.

“The Final Frontier”, a captivating fantasy/sci-fi romantic novel written by author H.M. Irwing is narrated from the point of view of its main character, the bio-engineered smuggler and fugitive from the insular Johuan race, Sim Drewal and several other key characters. Sim an outsider student at a Johua military academy until she unwittingly killed a depraved instructor by using a power called “blue” is now on the run. She is scooped up by the Ovions, a virtuous, formidable Johuan guardian-peacekeeper caste that upholds justice throughout the United Awakened Worlds. They reveal Sim’s incredible origin; Sim and her three secret siblings are superior beings who were created by a missing mad scientist named Bimas Chawley. The Ovions want to use Sim to track him down, because someone is planning to use Chawley’s stolen technology to trigger a universal catastrophe. Meanwhile, it appears that the corrupted Johuan ruling class is moving to eradicate the Ovions and their associates. This all leads the story to an obscure planet—Earth in the year 2020—which allows the story to embrace culture-shock comedy with the alien beings trying to acclimatize themselves to Earth. Other story elements that add to this cosmic level of excitement includes a female U.S. president, hints of the existence of a divine creator, a Gaia-like spiritual force and bat-like winged angelic beings.

A page-turner space fantasy adventure, “The Final Frontier” will stir readers’ imagination on the mysteries of space and for them to unravel its secrets. It will make them experience the journey of the characters from one planet to another deep within the vast universe. Filled with intrigue, humor, political drama and fast-paced action, this volume will make readers crave for more.

Buy the book on: The Publisher’s website | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About the Author:

H. M. Irwing is the author of the bestselling The Final Frontier, the first of The Ovion Archives series. Irwing contemplates life and fantasises over the frontiers of space from the great Down Under. With Australia as a base, there is no stopping the creative juices of one great fiction writer.

Website | Goodreads 

Gemsigns – (R)evolution #1 – Stephanie Saulter

GemsignsRelease date: March 28th, 2013
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Age Group: Adult
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Humanity stands on the brink. Again.

Surviving the Syndrome meant genetically modifying almost every person on the planet. But norms and gems are different. Gems may have the superpowers that once made them valuable commodities, but they also have more than their share of the disabled, the violent and the psychotic.

After a century of servitude, freedom has come at last for the gems, and not everyone’s happy about it. The gemtechs want to turn them back into property. The godgangs want them dead. The norm majority is scared and suspicious, and doesn’t know what it wants.

Eli Walker is the scientist charged with deciding whether gems are truly human, and as extremists on both sides raise the stakes, the conflict descends into violence. He’s running out of time, and with advanced prototypes on the loose, not everyone is who or what they seem. Torn between the intrigues of ruthless executive Zavcka Klist and brilliant, badly deformed gem leader Aryel Morningstar, Eli finds himself searching for a truth that might stop a war.

Review:

I absolutely loved this book. Let’s start with that. I think it’s the most intelligent, realistic science-fiction book I’ve read in a long time. It’s a pleasure to read and feels like a real window into the future, though as a scientist I’m not so sure we’re anywhere near the knowledge that’s displayed here. But still, it could happen and at the same time it also has so many aspects that are already present in our society that it all seems eerily familiar somehow.

This book deals with the same problems as X-men for example, where mutants are shunned and feared. This time however the mutations are manmade instead of evolutionary. At some point humanity faced The Syndrome, a disease that could only be cured by genetically mutating humans so they would be resistant to this disease. But with such successes in genetic engineering, why stop with disease resistance? Soon enough, Gems were made not only for making healthy babies but also genetically modified to serve a certain economical purpose. If you put it bluntly, it’s a breeding program to make the lives of humans easier. Gems are mostly recognizable by their hair, which is brightly coloured, even phosphorescent.
The story starts sometime after the Declaration. This is a set of laws passed to give Gems more freedom, because they were always living under the authority of the Gemtech’s before that. It is however not entirely sure the Gems can just live alongside the other humans, the Gemtech companies for example would rather have some control left over them. And then there’s the ethical side of things, will the people allow it? Because this is a whole new race of humans, modified and engineered. Are they for example a danger to society? Maybe a gene got modified that shouldn’t have been, and that only shows effects on the long run?
To debate and make a final decision about the Gem’s freedom, a conference is being held with all the significant people involved in the whole thing. One of them is Eli Walker, a scientist who has been assigned the task of investigating and learn more about the Gems and write an objective report about his findings. The Gemtech companies try their best to manipulate him into their point of view, but when Eli meets with some of the Gems and slowly integrates in their society he (and we) see that they are not all that different from us. We follow his story in the few days before the Conference and during the Conference itself.

Not everyone welcomes the Gems with open arms. A group of religious extremists plan on eradicating the Gem society one by one. They start of by attacking them, but it soon turns into something much worse. Reading these passages were horrifying, but also eye opening. Things like that are happening now, today and you don’t always think about that and about the injustice of it. Maybe when it’s a headline on the news we feel anger and pity, but after that it slips our minds again. This book really gave me that ‘jolt’ I needed to focus more on problems like this and recognizing how cruel and unfair it is and how prominent it is in our society. No one has the right to harm others because they’re different or they don’t have the same opinions or religion as they do. The interesting thing here is that one of the POV’s is the ‘leader’ of this religious sect, the Godgangs, and I think the author really nailed how people like him think and how they justify their actions.
One of the other characters that is more on the ‘evil’ side of the scale is Zavcka Klist, who has a prominent position in Bel’Natur, one of the major Gemtech companies. She’s manipulative, slick and would kill for the goal she has set for herself and the company. She wants control and she’d do anything to get it. She really has an interesting part in this whole story.
Aryel Morningstar is the non-official leader of the Gem society and also a bit of a mystery. She wears a huge cloak that’s hiding something that’s on her back. The only thing people have ever seen is the lump it makes under her cloak, but no one knows what it really is, though there has been speculation about some sort of weapon. She also has a vague history, no one knows where she came from or who/which company made her. She is the centre point of this story in my opinion. She’s so charismatic and clever her character practically leaps off the pages. I loved reading about her and Saulter really kept me guessing about her GemSign ’till the very end.

The end will leave you holding your breath, waiting for what’s to come. This was one of those endings that plays in my head like a movie scene with epic music in the background. It’s also a well-rounded ending, it leaves space for more, but it doesn’t leave you behind with an enormous cliff-hanger and that frustrating feeling that always comes with that. Highly recommended, a very intelligent, realistic and entertaining science fiction book well worth a read.

Wendigo Fever – Warden #1 – Kevin Hardman

Wendigo FeverRelease date: April 27th, 2013
Publisher: I&H Research Publishing
Age Group: (Young) Adult
Pages: 106
Format: E-book
Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review

Part lawman, part tracker and part magician, the Wardens are monster-hunters – tasked with protecting the people from the various, nightmarish creatures that have invaded the world of men. However, despite being descended from a long line of Wardens, 16-year-old Errol Magnus believes it to be the absolute worst job on the planet: How could a single occupation simultaneously be the most boring, abominably stupid and extraordinarily dangerous profession imaginable? 

But when his older brother Tom – the current Warden for their region – goes missing, Errol has no choice but to enter the Badlands, where monsters abide in mind-boggling numbers, to find him. During his search, Errol crosses paths with – and finds himself stalked by – the legendary Wendigo, a monster with preternatural strength and speed, as well as enhanced senses of sight, smell and hearing…and an insatiable hunger for human flesh. 

Now Errol must do the impossible and not only escape from the monster (something no one has ever done before), but also avoid the unearthly legacy it leaves on all its victims – a terrifying curse known as Wendigo Fever.

Review:

Enjoyable, but far too short a story to really call this a book. Wendigo Fever feels more like a small peek into a bigger tale that has some potential. Errol is a teenage boy who lives with his brother Tom, in a world where magical creatures are everyday business. Most of these creatures aren’t the good kind however and Errol and his brother have the job to protect the people from these monsters. They live right outside the Badlands, the most dangerous part of the country. You’d think hunting monsters and being some kind of hero would be a teenage boy’s dream, but for Errol it’s not. He doesn’t want to take that responsibility. In his own words: “How could a single occupation simultaneously be the most boring, abominably stupid and extraordinarily dangerous profession imaginable?”

The book starts off on a funny note, giving us more insight in what Wardens are all about as Errol tries to handle one of the monsters. I liked the idea of using some sort of magic, more particularly drawing “Wards” to handle these creatures. As it turns out, Errol isn’t really that good yet in doing the Warden job. Not long after first failure his brother leaves on some sort of mission and fails to show up again. Reluctantly Errol takes over his job and tries to help a nearby family with some kind of ghost. But then someone shows up claiming that Tom was supposed to come by his house but never showed up. Getting worried now, Errol decides to try and find his brother.
This is where the story takes a turn from funny and magical to creepy and gory. Along the way Errol finds a cabin full of body parts. The cabin belongs to a Wendigo and unfortunately Errol awakens the monster that promptly starts stalking him. A Wendigo isn’t your regular monster, it’s a cursed, man-eating beast that will stalk and play with its pray until it’s so paranoid it will literally walk into his arms. This paranoia and the associated hallucinations are called Wendigo Fever. I really liked the constant tension of the beast stalking them, the fear and anticipation for when it will shows itself again.

The only things I missed here were real character depth and a longer story. It really was too short for the potential that it has and I think the characters would also have benefitted from a 100-something pages more. I now have a superficial idea of how the characters think, what their characteristics are, but I could have used more. Especially as I put so much importance on connecting with the characters in the book I’m reading.

I enjoyed the story very much, the way it started off rather light and then turned into a real horror/suspense story was a nice surprise and I also liked the idea of the Wardens and the different monsters roaming about in this new fictional world. I maybe also missed a little more worldbuilding, but yet again, in a hundred pages you can’t really be that elaborate about the world. I think we got a decent view of the Badlands and some of the lands on the periphery, where Errol lives. But I am a needy girl and I would have loved to see more, to experience more.
Overall, I would say this is a story with a lot potential, but that misses some things to really become a book that leaves an impression.

New Featured Series – (R)evolution by Stephanie Saulter

You might have noticed that I don’t really stick to the “one featured series per month” thing. That’s because life sometimes has other plans for me and throws plans and ambition my way. As such I have decided to just read at my own leisure and post when I finish a book or have time to compose a post about the series. This has been an extremely busy year for me and I know the blog has suffered sometimes, but I still want to commit myself to posting, simply because I love doing it.

So for the next featured series, I’m going to do one that I hadn’t planned. I started reading Gemsigns a few days ago and the second book Binary is already waiting on my shelf. Even after a few pages of Gemsigns, I knew this was going to be a good book and a very interesting one too. I decided I wanted to dedicate the blog to the (R)evolution series and spread the word about this intelligent story. It’s just two books, so people who want to read with me and discuss the books afterwards are more than welcome. You can read what the books are all about below, have a look!

 

Book I: Gemsigns

GemsignsHumanity stands on the brink. Again.

Surviving the Syndrome meant genetically modifying almost every person on the planet. But norms and gems are different. Gems may have the superpowers that once made them valuable commodities, but they also have more than their share of the disabled, the violent and the psychotic.

After a century of servitude, freedom has come at last for the gems, and not everyone’s happy about it. The gemtechs want to turn them back into property. The godgangs want them dead. The norm majority is scared and suspicious, and doesn’t know what it wants.

Eli Walker is the scientist charged with deciding whether gems are truly human, and as extremists on both sides raise the stakes, the conflict descends into violence. He’s running out of time, and with advanced prototypes on the loose, not everyone is who or what they seem. Torn between the intrigues of ruthless executive Zavcka Klist and brilliant, badly deformed gem leader Aryel Morningstar, Eli finds himself searching for a truth that might stop a war.

 

Book II: Binary

untitledWhen confiscated genestock is stolen out of secure government quarantine, DI Sharon Varsi finds herself on the biggest case of her career… chasing down a clever thief, a mysterious hacker, and the threat of new, black market gemtech.

Zavcka Klist, ruthless industrial enforcer, has reinvented herself. Now the head of Bel’Natur, she wants gem celebrity Aryel Morningstar’s blessing for the company’s revival of infotech – the science that spawned the Syndrome, nearly destroyed mankind, and led to the creation of the gems. With illness in her own family that only a gemtech can cure, Aryel’s in no position to refuse.

As the infotech programme inches towards a breakthrough, Sharon’s investigations lead ever closer to the dark heart of Bel’Natur, the secrets of Aryel Morningstar’s past… and what Zavcka Klist is really after.

 

About the Author:

Stephanie SaulterStephanie Saulter is a speculative fiction writer and the author of Gemsigns and Binary, the first and second books in the ®Evolution series. Binary has just been published in the UK and Commonwealth; Gemsigns will be released in North America in May.

Stephanie is working on the third book of the ®Evolution, Gillung, in between doing press for the UK publication of Binary and the US launch of Gemsigns. She’s used to changing gears, having previously been a real estate developer, restaurant manager, corporate executive, public policy wonk, management consultant and creator of the Scriptopus online writing app. She doesn’t have a poor attention span; on the contrary she finds lots of things interesting, and figures you learn more by doing. Few of her jobs would appear to have any relationship to her Humanities degree (literature and anthropology) from MIT, but she would disagree. She lives in London.

“I never knew you were like that…” – Guestpost by Geoffrey Gudgion

People have said some strange things to me since Saxon’s Bane was published.

“I never knew you were like that,” an elderly lady from my local church said to me one Sunday.

“Like what?” I asked. The question made me stop in my tracks, and the departing congregation flowed around us.

She shuffled, making that eyes-lowered squirm with which Christian ladies of a certain age simultaneously mention and avoid mentioning delicate subjects. “Well, you know…”

“No, I don’t know. What’s the matter?” I sensed that the subject causing her such embarrassment was of a reprehensible and possibly sexual nature, and my mind raced in a frantic ‘Oh-God-what-have-I-got-to-be-guilty-about’ way. I drew a blank, but the worry remained.

“I read your book.”

Ah. Huge sigh of relief. Saxon’s Bane includes pagan practices and probably isn’t a book that the vicar would read from the pulpit.

“And?”

“Your character, he, err, notices women.”

Oh, that. Perhaps she had an innocent understanding of the male psyche. I explained that the main character was a single, heterosexual man in his thirties who has been cooped up in hospital for four months, when his only female company had arrived carrying a hypodermic needle. He may suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress, and is certainly a little insecure. He’s courageous but stubborn, emotionally incontinent, and flawed. Yes, he notices women. Is that a problem?

The elderly lady made a slight flutter with her hands, vaguely indicative of an area below the waist, before she repeated herself. “I never knew you were like that.”

It was an early lesson for me in being a published author. The autobiographical element is assumed, but assumed selectively. Female characters may be “well drawn” but the male protagonist can only be me. His strengths are my aspirations, and his weaknesses are mine. I wonder what reaction Sebastian Faulks had after writing his brilliant novel Engleby in the ‘voice’ of a man you’d want to scrape off the bottom of your shoe. Perhaps after you’ve written Birdsong and Charlotte Gray your readers take a more balanced view. For those of us still establishing our literary credibility, it’s worth remembering that although good stories match flawed good against complex evil, the trick is to make the flaws appealing.

The reality, of course, is that there is inevitably some autobiographical content. As I wrote Saxon’s Bane the characters became so well known to me that I was able to become the individual I had created, even the female ones, and as I set them loose they’d tell me how each scene must develop. The boundary between self and artifice became so blurry that I sometimes had to stand back and unpick myself from this world of my own creation.

I’ve found I can also write from a female point of view, with a little help and critiquing from my wife and from women at my writers’ group.  Over half of my next book is written in a female ‘voice’, and I’m told it sounds totally authentic. I shall be fascinated to hear readers’ feedback, if and when it is published. Will the few, lyrically-crafted moments of female sexuality be dismissed as ‘pure male fantasy’? Will someone again say “I never knew…”?

It is a strange and delightful thing, this ability and willingness to craft a female persona from within a male brain. I think that by the time I finished Saxon’s Bane I may even have been a little in love with one of the female protagonists.

“Great character, that Eadlin,” a man said about her after Saxon’s Bane was book of the month at his book club. “Wonderfully fleshed out.”

“Excuse me?” I looked in vain for signs that the double-entendre was intentional. Eadlin’s character, I should explain, has an earthy, girl-next-door sexuality. She has curves.

“No, I mean she’s well rounded.”

It’s great to watch someone else dig themselves into a pit of their own making. I wish, eight months after the book was released, that I’d made notes of the best remarks that have come my way. Some have been amusing, like the ones I’ve shared. Some have been gloriously, ego-boostingly flattering, while some have been crushing, like the local independent bookseller who declined to stock because she was “inundated with local authors”.

But the prize for the funniest has to go to my wife’s mother, who held on for some time to the view that her son-in-law should be out earning a salary rather than indulging in all this writing stuff.  My wife rang her up when Solaris bought the English language rights to Saxon’s Bane.

“Wonderful news, Mummy! Geoffrey’s got a publishing contract!”

“Oh.” A pause. “But has he got work?”

About the author:

GeoffreyI was a scholarship kid who was never bright enough to realise I’d have been happier as a writer than a businessman. Until, that is, I had a spectacular row with my boss and stepped off the corporate ladder. Long before that epiphany, I left school at 17 to join the Royal Navy, and was later sponsored by the RN to read Geography at Cambridge University. I made my first attempts at writing fiction during long deployments in warships. In a subsequent, business career, I consistently failed to reconcile writing with being CEO of a technology company.

I live in the Chiltern Hills between London and Oxford. When not writing I am an enthusiastic, amateur equestrian and a very bad pianist. Both passions have been known to creep into my writing.

You can find more about Geoffrey on his website, twitter or Goodreads.

About the book:

Saxon's BaneFergus Sheppard’s world changes forever the day his car crashes near the remote village of Allingley. Traumatised by his near-death experience, he returns to thank the villagers who rescued him, and stays to work at the local stables as he recovers from his injuries. He will discover a gentler pace of life, fall in love ¬ and be targeted for human sacrifice.

Clare Harvey’s life will never be the same either. The young archaeologist’s dream find ¬ the peat-preserved body of a Saxon warrior ¬ is giving her nightmares. She can tell that the warrior had been ritually murdered, and that the partial skeleton lying nearby is that of a young woman. And their tragic story is unfolding in her head every time she goes to sleep.

Fergus discovers that his crash is uncannily linked to the excavation, and that the smiling and beautiful countryside harbours some very dark secrets.

As the pagan festival of Beltane approaches, and Clare’s investigation reveals the full horror of a Dark Age war crime, Fergus and Clare seem destined to share the Saxon couple’s bloody fate.

Buy the book on Amazon or The Book Depository.

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