Guest Post: ‘Good Vs Evil’ by Michelle L. Johnson

Michelle JohnsonGood vs. Evil is a common theme in fiction. After all, without it where would all of our beloved superhero stories be, from Superman to Batman? The inner struggle of those characters, the good vs. evil within themselves, is a large part of what makes them interesting.

In my novel DIVINITY, though, don’t assume that the traditional good vs. evil, angel vs. evil, rules apply. They don’t.
Every character – angel, human, and even the terrifying A’nwel – has an agenda. They each have a role to play, and a purpose that guides their actions.

When our main character Julia discovers that she is half-human and half Archangel, her agenda is to simply understand who she is, to learn about her family, and to understand how to use her own unique powers. Her agenda quickly converges with those of the Archangels, each of whom have their own sense of who Julia is and what she might become, and her human family, friend and business associates, each of whom wants or needs something from Julia as well.

The Archangels in the world I have created are more interested in keeping a balance between good and evil than in destroying evil. They understand that evil is a natural part of humanity, and each Archangel has a role to play to ensure that balance is maintained.
Then, there’s the A’nwel, the dark and terrifying creature that our heroine, Julia, must face. It has immense power, and frightens the Archangels because they can’t see it, nor have they ever encountered anything like it before. It threatens to destroy the balance in humanity that the Archangels strive to protect. Only Julia can see it, and only Julia has the power to confront it.

(Let’s be clear now: the A’nwel is not the devil, nor a demon, nor anything we traditionally think of as evil. There are no devils or demons in DIVINITY. I was very careful to steer away from the traditional “if it fights with the angels it must be of the devil” theme.)

As the story develops, we get to know each character and discover the many aspects of each character’s agenda. What makes DIVINITY so much fun is watching as the different agendas intersect. We discover that each agenda isn’t inherently good or evil, but that how the characters see it – how you as the reader see it –defines a character or an action as good or evil.

Imagine, if you will, a chess board on a swivel. Chess masters use them a lot to practice their game by playing against themselves. If one side is white and one side is black, does that mean that they are good and evil? Or can it just mean that they each have the desire to win, and so they will play with their agenda in mind.

So when I write from any character’s perspective, I swivel the board around to see the game from their point of view. I believe this makes for well-rounded characters. Human characters – even when they’re not. This approach to writing gives me a unique ability to see what each character wants and what they need to do in order to get where they want to go.

What I didn’t count on when I started writing was the number of characters playing the game. My chessboard has many sides to it. Each character’s moves ripple across the board, interacting with the moves of others, in surprising and unpredictable ways, ways that I hope make the reader wonder if good or evil really exists, or if we all see things based on our own agenda.


Michelle L. Johnson was born in Ohio and adopted by Canadians. They traveled all over North America, and when they weren’t on the road Michelle could be found with her nose buried deeply in the pages of a book. With all of her travels and adventures, she hopes to bring some of her unique perspective to the pages and to entertain others the way all of her heroes have for her. When she’s not hanging out with her feathered friends, she’s busy being a literary agent with Inklings Literary Agency. She says wherever she hangs her coffee mug is her home, and right now that’s a toasty warm Jacksonville, Florida with her happy Cocker Spaniel and her small family.

About the book:

DivintyWhen Julia climbs into a flaming car to save a trapped child, she’s left wondering why either of them survived. Then she learns that her father is the Archangel Gabriel, and that she is half human, half Archangel. With guidance from Michael, the most powerful Archangel, Julia sets out to discover her own history and explore her angelic powers. But her journey is cut short when an evil force, invisible to human and angel alike, tears her world apart. Now Julia must fight through her despair, harness her newfound gifts, and risk her very soul to stop the A’nwel and protect the family she never knew she had. What she doesn’t know is that Archangels have secrets too.

Divinity hits shelves on the 23rd of September.

 

Our Lady of the Streets – The Skyscraper Throne #3 – Tom Pollock

Our Lady of the StreetsRelease date: August 7th, 2014
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Age Group: Adult
Pages: 438
Format: Hardcover
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Four months ago, Mater Viae, the Goddess of London, returned from London-Under- Glass to reclaim her throne. And ever since then, London has been dying.

Streets are wracked by convulsions as muscles of wire and pipe go into spasm, bunching the city into a crippled new geography; pavements flare to thousand-degree fevers, incinerating anyone and anything touching them. Towers crash to the ground, their foundations decayed.

As the streets sicken, so does Beth, drawn ever deeper into the heart of the city, while Pen fights desperately for a way to save her. But when they discover that Mater Viae’s plans for dominion stretch far beyond London’s borders, they must make a choice: Beth has it within her to unleash the city’s oldest and greatest powers – powers that could challenge the vengeful goddess, or destroy the city itself.

Review:

This is the last book of the Skyscraper Throne trilogy and with every last book in a series I go in with heaps of questions. Will I like the ending the author has come up with? Will it be a happy ending, sad, satisfying, disappointing? I’m always excited and anxious to find out, especially if it’s the end to a series I really liked, like this one.
We’ve been on quite a journey with Beth and Pen, seen so many magnificent and unimaginable things through their eyes and we’ve learned so much along the way, about friendship, about equality and about the fact that appearance isn’t important at all. With Our Lady of the Streets I honestly couldn’t have wished for a more perfect end to this trilogy.

Pollock has packed his last book in the trilogy full of action, new aspects of his imaginative London and gut-wrenching emotions. I was glad to see many of the interesting characters we met in the previous two books making an appearance in this one, though there might be a few surprises when it becomes clear who’s siding with who.

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The Barrow – The Barrow #1 – Mark Smylie

The BarrowRelease date: March 4th, 2014
Publisher: Pyr
Age Group: Adult
Pages: 613
Format: Paperback
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Action, horror, politics, and sensuality combine in this stand-alone fantasy novel with series potential. Set in the world of the Eisner-nominated Artesia comic books.

To find the Sword, unearth the Barrow. To unearth the Barrow, follow the Map.

When a small crew of scoundrels, would-be heroes, deviants, and ruffians discover a map that they believe will lead them to a fabled sword buried in the barrow of a long-dead wizard, they think they’ve struck it rich. But their hopes are dashed when the map turns out to be cursed and then is destroyed in a magical ritual. The loss of the map leaves them dreaming of what might have been, until they rediscover the map in a most unusual and unexpected place.

Stjepan Black-Heart, suspected murderer and renegade royal cartographer; Erim, a young woman masquerading as a man; Gilgwyr, brothel owner extraordinaire; Leigh, an exiled magus under an ignominious cloud; Godewyn Red-Hand, mercenary and troublemaker; Arduin Orwain, scion of a noble family brought low by scandal; and Arduin’s sister Annwyn, the beautiful cause of that scandal: together they form a cross-section of the Middle Kingdoms of the Known World, brought together by accident and dark design, on a quest that will either get them all in the history books, or get them all killed.

Review:

‘The Barrow’ is an epic fantasy adventure, set in the world of the Artesia comic books, by the same author and illustrator, Mark Smylie. For those of you who are familiar with the Artesia comic books, ‘The Barrow’ follow Artesia’s brother, Stjepan, on a dangerous quest to retrieve a fabled sword from the tomb of notorious Demon King. The story is some sort of prequel to the Artesia comic books and is as such accessible for new readers. If you don’t know anything about the comic books, as I did when I first started this book, you’ll have no trouble following or enjoying the story at all. Artesia herself only makes a few brief appearances in this novel, but if I’ve heard correctly, we’ll learn more about her in the sequel to ‘The Barrow’.

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Spotlight: ‘Return of the Wizard King’ by Chad Corrie

About the book

rotwkuscoveraAfter nearly eight centuries, the last wizard king seeks a return to Tralodren. But doing so requires the manipulation of some mercenaries oblivious to his goals.

The gladiator sold his soul for revenge. The knight’s a bigot. The dwarf only cares about regaining his honor. Even the wizardess seems too bookish for anyone’s good. But they’ve all been hired by a blind seer and his assistant to retrieve some forgotten knowledge kept hidden away in some jungle-strangled ruins.

Get in. Get out. Get paid. At least that’s what they thought. Instead, they uncover hidden agendas and ancient power struggles threatening to take the world to the brink of annihilation.

Welcome to Tralodren, a world rich in history, faith, and tales of adventure 
of which this story is but one of many.

 

“Here be roaring monsters to be fought, characters who come vividly to life,
and fell magic… A wild ride. Highly recommended.”
–Ed Greenwood
New York Times Bestselling Author, Creator of The Forgotten Realms

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Spotlight: ‘The Flood Dragon’s Sacrifice’ by Sarah Ash

About the book:

The Flood Dragon's Sacrifice

With artwork from Marcelle Natisin

A special spotlight today! I met Sarah Ash at LonCon3 last week (yay!) and she told me she had released her new book ‘The Flood Dragon’s Sacrifice’ earlier this year. I really love Sarah’s work, so I’m quite excited about this one. Sarah’s also one of the sweetest authors I’ve ever met and her books were the first I reviewed on this blog, back when it was still in Dutch, so her work is special to me! Be sure to check out her other books as well!

Synopsis:

Two rival clans. Two sacred pearls, the Tide Jewels, that can summon the Tide Dragons to protect the empire. Two young men, Kaito and Naoki, one a Black Crane healer, the other a Red Kite shinobi, are sucked into an ancient, unresolved conflict between the gods of land and sea, when the exiled Red Kites steal the Tide Jewels and re-ignite a bitter clan war. Kaito must find a way to restore the emperor’s jewels – but how can it be done without betraying his own clan or angering the gods?

Interested? Go and buy it over here, here or here!

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Into The Fire – The Detainee Trilogy #2 – Peter Liney

Into The FireRelease date: July 3rd, 2014
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Age Group: Adult
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Ageing ‘Big Guy’ Clancy thought escape from the Island would be enough, but with the punishment satellites gone hell has been unleashed.

Having escaped the Island – a wasteland that housed those no longer able to contribute to society – ageing ‘Big Guy’ Clancy thought his fight was over. But they have returned to the mainland to find that it is not the haven they anticipated. With the punishment satellites that kept them on the Island – and the city under control – gone, hell has been unleashed. Clancy is about to discover that his work is far from over.

Review:

This review may contain spoilers from the first book, The Detainee, so I would advise to only read this review after you’ve read the first book.

At the end of The Detainee, Clancy and his companions managed to escape the island and were making their way to the mainland, full of hope. No time has passed at the beginning of Into The Fire and we see all of the people from the island reaching the shore and experiencing the mainland for the first time again. We all know by now that Clancy, though he doesn’t think so, is a pretty clever dude. He notices right away that something isn’t right and that there’s more going on than meets the eye. Pretty soon it’s clear that they’ve gone out of the frying pan and into the fire (I see what you did there!). With the satellites down, there is no easy policing system on the mainland anymore either. The City has erupted in chaos, there’s looting everywhere, violence around every corner and a palpable fear. It also seems like the Media Giant, Infinity, has taken over control of the city. They come eerily close to Big Brother from 1984. Clancy, Lena, Jimmy, Delilah and the kids have to find a place to hide again if they want to survive. The people working for Infinity have no mercy and are not afraid to kill off everyone that comes along their path.

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Loncon3: post-con blues

Loncon3. Where to begin? I’ve been back two days now and I’m pretty sure I left my head and heart somewhere in London. I’ll try and give you all a report of my highlights during this amazing con, while feeling very sad that it all went by so fast.

First I have to say that traveling to the UK is like going home. I’ve been to London more times than I can count now and I’ve always loved it so much. Every time that Eurostar gets out of the tunnel there’s this immense feeling of “Finally, I’m back!”. I had to get up really early to get the train and we arrived at the convention a bit before noon. There was a massive queue to get through registration, so that took us another hour and a half (could even have been more, I lost track of time somewhere around the hour mark). We missed the opening ceremony due to this, but used the rest of the day to browse and get a feel of where everything was located. We met up with Sorcha, who we met at the World Fantasy Convention last year in Brighton and went to the talk with George R.R. Martin and Connie Willis, which was good fun. Seeing George R.R. Martin for the first time is exciting and I fangirled for a bit there (actually I did that every time I saw him during the weekend, but oh well). We also won 3 limited edition G.R.R.M. quote posters from the lovely people at the Harper Voyager UK stand in the dealer’s room.

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Loncon3: Convention Excitement

Hi everyone!

It’s been quiet here for a while, because I’ve been busy with some really exciting stuff. It feels like my surgery earlier this year gave me my life back. I feel healthier, happier and stronger and I’ve been filling my days with all kinds of activities. This also means that I have less time to read and blog, but I’m still here and I’m still going to post reviews and SFF related stuff now and again.

Most of you might know that tomorrow the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, named Loncon3, kicks off in London. I’m attending and I’m super excited about this long weekend of geeky excitement. This will be my second convention, after WFC last year in Brighton and I’m hoping it’ll be just as fun and interesting as then. I’m also doing my first cosplay at the convention, so that’s a bit scary too. But most of all I’m looking forward to getting back in touch with the people I met last year and to meeting new people who share the same interests as I do.

There are some big names coming and some of my favourite authors will be there, so expect me going all fangirl now and then. I’ll be updating my twitter during the convention and I’m planning on writing a few posts about the convention when I get back to make sure you can all relive the 4 days with me again.

I’m currently packing my bags, which is all kinds of frustrating because I want to pack all the things, but obviously I can’t. I’ve settled on 5 books to get signed and just one DW t-shirt (though I wanted to bring more). I’m also packing my sports gear because I read in the programme that there would be quidditch and since I’m missing a training with my team here in Belgium this weekend, it seemed perfect to catch up on at Loncon.

Everything is now ready for a perfect 4 days of SFF fun. If you’re also attending, tweet or comment or come and say hi when you see me wandering around the convention!

5 female authors’ books I grew up with

In summer I always get a bit nostalgic and what is more fun than to be nostalgic about books? The discussion about how female authors should get more time in the spotlight and how the world of Fantasy and Science Fiction is dominated by males seems to have died down a bit, but beneath the surface it’s still there. I’ve always been pretty quiet when arguments like these flare up again, because I fell in love with Fantasy books written mostly by female authors when I was a teenager. Of all the series I’ve read in my teenage years, the female authors are pretty dominant. So I always felt a bit out of touch when people were discussing this subject. I think it’s because most of those books are Young Adult books and they tend to be written more by female than male authors (correct me if I’m wrong). But thinking about that I revisited a few series that I read and re-read numerous times when I was younger.

I’ve been reading books since before I had to learn it in school. I had all the Roald Dahl books and soon started in Marc De Bel’s books after that. From there I was led into the more psychological and heavy subject books of Dirk Bracke, but eventually I found my way into the Young Adult Fantasy world. (Ok, I skipped a lot of other books I read, but I don’t think Paddington Bear is a meaningful contribution to this post). I have no idea if they’re well known or not, but I wanted to introduce them to you. So here we go!

Cornelia Funke – Inkworld

inkheart trilogy

First up is a series that I know is well known, because they made a movie based on the first book, Inkheart. I only read the first 2 books in this series, but instantly fell in love with the story. You see, this book tells a tale about books and the magic contained in books and their characters. I can remember I found all these amazing quotes about books in there and wrote them all down in a notebook. I felt so much emotions reading those quotes, because they rang true with how I felt about reading and books. Not only that, but this is just a great story full of magic, adventure and suspense. I must have re-read the first book several times and only found out this was a trilogy much, much later. I have to find the time to read that third and last book someday.

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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?

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